Does the Bible Teach that Jesus is God?

Category: Bible/Christian Worldview 41

Is Jesus God? Most people believe that Jesus was just a good man. Many of them will even think that Jesus was an extraordinary teacher and very well may be the best man to have ever lived. However, most come to the conclusion that there is no way that he could be divine. What does the Bible teach about this? Does it actually say that Jesus and God are the same? Does it really teach us that Jesus is the same God that is presented in the Old Testament? (Jesus does say in John 10:30 that he and the Father are one). This article will examine what the New Testament teaches us concerning Jesus’ divinity.

Jesus is called by the names of God

The first, and most obvious place to start, is “does Jesus or anyone else call him God?” The answer is yes! Jesus is given the different divine names that the Jews and Greeks used for a divine being.

1. Jesus is called Yahweh. Yahweh is one of the most important and common of the Hebrew names for God in the Old Testament. In many English translations it is simply translated as LORD (all capitals). It is in Exodus 3 that we first learn about this name. It is in this chapter that God appears to Moses in the burning bush. When Moses asked God how he was to refer to Him, God said “I AM WHO I AM…This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

Yahweh is a shortened form of I AM WHO I AM. Scholar Ron Rhodes notes that “The name conveys the idea of eternal self-existence. Yahweh never came into being at a point in time for He has always existed.”[1] In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as “I AM.” John 8:58 says, “I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus was drawing a contrast between Abraham, who was a created man, and himself, who was uncreated (eternal).

2. Jesus is called Kurios. This is the New Testament Greek equivalent of Yahweh. “Used of God, Kurios carries the idea of a sovereign being who exercises      absolute authority.”[2] It is often translated as Lord (lower case except for the “L”) in English translations. “To an early Christian accustomed to reading the Old Testament, the word Lord, when used of Jesus, would point to His identification with the God of the Old Testament (Yahweh). Hence, the affirmation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Kurios) in the New Testament constitutes a clear affirmation that Jesus is Yahweh, as is the case in passages like Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, and Philippians 2:5-11.”[3]

This is very important. Romans 10:9 say, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Paul tells us here that in order to go to heaven, you must believe that Jesus resurrected and you must believe that Jesus is Lord (Kurios). Essentially you must believe that Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. In order to be saved, you must believe that Jesus is the same God who said “Let there be light” in Genesis 1 and who appeared to people like Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the Prophets. Quite simply Jesus is the “I AM” of the Old Testament in human form.

3. Jesus is called Elohim. Elohim is the first Hebrew name for God in the Old Testament. “In the beginning Elohim [God] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The name literally means “strong one.” Its plural ending (im in Hebrew) indicates his fullness of power. “Elohim is portrayed in the Old Testament as the powerful and sovereign governor of the universe, ruling over the affairs of humankind.”[4]

The prophet Isaiah says that the Messiah will be both Elohim and Yahweh (40:3): “Prepare the way of the LORD [Yahweh]; make straight in the desert a highway for our God [Elohim].” Isaiah 9:6 says: “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God [Elohim], Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

4. Jesus is called Theos. This is the New Testament Greek word for God and is the equivalent for the Hebrew Elohim. In John 20:28, Thomas says about Jesus, “My Lord and my God [Theos].” He is called Theos in other parts of the New Testament. In Acts 16, a jailor comes to salvation by believing in Jesus. Verse 31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Verse 34 then says that he “rejoiced, having believed in God [Theos] with all his household.” Believing in Christ and in God is seen as identical acts.[5]

Theologian Wayne Grudem notes other passages where Jesus is referred to as Theos: John 1:1; 1:18; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; and Hebrews 1:18.[6]

Jesus has the attributes of God

Jesus is eternal. John 1:1-2 says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” “The word was in this verse is an imperfect tense, indicating continuous, ongoing existence. When the time-space universe came into being, Christ already existed (Hebrews 1:8-11).”[7]

Jesus is self-existent. Since Christ is the creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), Christ himself must be uncreated. Colossians 1:17 says of Christ, “before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Jesus knows all things. Jesus knew the future (John 11:11; 18:4), specific details that he would encounter (Matthew 21:2-4), and knew that Lazarus had died (John 11:14). He also knew people’s thoughts (Mark 2:8).

Jesus is all-powerful. Jesus created the world and sustains it by His own power (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3). While on earth He controlled nature (Luke 8:25), physical diseases (Mark 1:29-31), demons (Mark 1:32-34), and even raised people from the dead (John 11:1-44).

Jesus is sovereign. Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and the angels, authorities, and powers have been made subject to him (1 Peter 3:22). Revelation 19:16 says that he is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He even has the authority and power to command the angels. Jesus says that the angels are his in Matthew 13:41, whereas the angels are in other places called “the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9; 15:10). Jesus even had the authority to redefine the Sabbath – one of the Ten Commandments (Mark 2:27-28).

Jesus is present everywhere. Matthew 18:20 says that Christ taught,” Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Jesus never sins (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 1:9; 4:15; 7:26). Only God is perfect.

Jesus will judge the world (Matthew 25:31-46). Theologian Millard Erickson notes, “The power of judging the spiritual condition and assigning the eternal destiny of all people belongs to him. Certainly this is a power only God can exercise.”[8]

Jesus forgives sins. Mark 2:5 is one place in Scripture where Jesus forgave someone’s sins. The reaction of the Jewish scribes present shows that only God can forgive. If Jesus was not God this would have been a perfect time for him to clear up any misunderstanding.[9]

Jesus possesses the Authority of God

Jesus never said anything like, “Thus says the Lord…” He said things like “I say unto you…” “He never retracted anything He said, never guessed or spoke with uncertainty, never made revisions, never contradicted himself, and never apologized for what He said. He even asserted, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away’ (Mark 13:31), hence elevating His words directly to the realm of heaven.”[10]

Jesus Performed Miracles

Jesus performed many miracles during his earthly ministry. These included turning water into wine (John 2:7–8); walking on the water (John 6:19); calming the storm (Matthew 8:26); raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43–44); restoring a shriveled hand (Luke 6:6-11); healing the blind (Luke 18:35-43); and feeding 5,000 men and their families (Matthew 14:19).

Jesus Is Worshiped as God

Jesus is worshiped as God in the New Testament. He was worshiped by the angels (Hebrews 1:6), the wise men (Matthew 2:11), by Thomas (John 20:28), the other disciples (Matthew 28:17), a blind man (John 9:38), a leper (Matthew 8:2), a woman (Matthew 15:25), and Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9).

Scripture is crystal clear that only God can be worshiped (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10). The very fact that both humans and angels worshiped Jesus shows us that the New Testament writers believed that He is God.

Old Testament Passages that also support that Jesus Is God

Rhodes includes two Old Testament passages in his writing on the divinity of Christ that teach that Jesus was God. First, only God can save someone. In Isaiah 43:11, God says, “I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.” This shows us that “(1) a claim to be Savior is, in itself, a claim to deity; and (2) there is only one Savior—the Lord God. It is thus highly revealing of Christ’s divine nature that the New Testament refers to Jesus as ‘our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).[11]

Second, God asserted in Isaiah 44:24: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself.” “The fact that God alone ‘makes all things’ (Isaiah 44:24)—and the accompanying fact that Christ is claimed to be the Creator of ‘all things’ (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)—proves that Christ is truly God.”[12]

But… (some objections answered)

There are, of course, some objections people have with the New Testament teaching that Jesus is God. First, Jesus is called the “Son of God.” Because he is called a Son, Jesus must be some kind of lesser God than God the Father. However, what most do not realize is that among ancient peoples, Son of could have the meaning of “one who has the same nature as.” Jesus was the son of God in having the very nature of God (John 5:18, 10:30, 19:7).[13]  

Second, Jesus said that the Father is “greater” than him (John 14:28). Does this not mean that Jesus is less than the Father? Rhodes notes, “Biblically, however, Jesus is equal with the Father in His divine nature (John 10:30). He was positionally lower than the Father from the standpoint of His becoming a servant by taking on human likeness (Philippians 2:6–11). Positionally, then, the Father was ‘greater’ than Jesus.”[14]

Third, Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the “firstborn of creation.” Does this not show us that Jesus is a created being and thus not truly God? “Biblically, however, Christ was not created but is the Creator (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). The term firstborn, defined biblically, means Christ is ‘first in rank’ and ‘preeminent’ over the creation He brought into being.”[15]  

Fourth, Jesus said that no one knows the day or hour when he will return except the Father (Mark 13:32). Skeptics claim that this means that Jesus is not all-knowing, and thus he cannot be God. “Jesus in the Gospels sometimes spoke from the perspective of His divinity and at other times from the perspective of His humanity. In Mark 13:32, Jesus was speaking from the limited perspective of His humanity (see Philippians 2:5–11). Had he been speaking from His divinity, He would not have said He did not know the day or hour. Other verses show that Christ, as God, knows all things (Matthew 17:27; Luke 5:4–6; John 2:25, 16:30, 21:17).”[16]  

Fifth, and lastly, Jesus prayed to the Father, so how can God pray to God? “Biblically, however, it was in His humanity that Christ prayed to the Father. Since Christ came as a man—and since one of the proper duties of man is to worship, pray to, and adore God—it was perfectly proper for Jesus to address the Father in prayer. Positionally speaking as a man, as a Jew, and as our High Priest—‘in all things He had to be made like His brethren’ (Hebrews 2:17)—Jesus could pray to the Father. But this in no way detracts from His intrinsic deity.”[17]

Conclusion

It is very clear that the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is God. He performed miracles, is uncreated, created the universe and everything else, is called “God,” and will judge the world (among other things). All of this shows us that Jesus is the same God that is in the Old Testament and that the only way to be saved is to believe that he is that God and that he rose from the grave for our sins.


[1] Ron Rhodes. “Is Jesus God?” In The New Answers Book 2. Ken Ham ed. (Green Forest: Master Books, 2008.) Pgs 163-164.

[2] Rhodes, 164.

[3] Rhodes, 164. Also, see Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.) Pgs. 544-545.

[4] Rhodes, 164.

[5] Ibid. 164-165.

[6] Grudem, 543.

[7] Rhodes, 165.

[8] Millard Erickson. Christian Theology. 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.) Pg. 701.

[9] Erickson, 701.

[10] Rhodes, 166.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 166-167.

[13] Ibid., 169.

[14] Ibid., 169

[15] Ibid,. 170.

[16] Ibid., 170.

[17] Ibid., 170.

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