Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Questions

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Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Non-exhaustive answers to hard and relevant questions…

Question:  Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Lots of people believe Jesus is God (I am one of them).  And lots of people believe He isn’t (Richard Dawkins is one of them).  There are plenty of people on my side, and there are plenty of people on his side.  One thing is for sure:  we aren’t both right.  Jesus is either God or He isn’t; there’s no middle ground on this question.

There are a number of authorities to which we can appeal to answer this question.  We can appeal to faith, because God has opened our eyes to see the reality and truth that Jesus is God, eternally existent as the Son and equal in nature and essence with the Father and the Spirit.  We can appeal to tradition, pointing to a counter-cultural movement that began with an unlikely band of deserters-turned-apostles which grew into the world’s largest religion.  Or we can appeal to the Bible, which surely makes the case for the divinity of Jesus.

You will search in vain for an explicit declaration of divinity from Jesus’ lips, at least one that will clearly silence His critics.  And this is not cause for alarm:  Jesus Himself was intentional about this as He spoke, and God the Spirit was intentional about this as He inspired the writing of the Scriptures.  So how can we be sure He is who we claim Him to be?

The claim is there is you’re willing to see it.  Or perhaps more accurately, the claim is there if God opens your eyes to see it.  We can look at several passages to give us the chance to test our sight.

  1. In John 8:58, Jesus responds to the religious leaders who are questioning whether or not He considered Himself to be greater than their father, Abraham.  Here, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  This may seem innocent enough to us, but the Jews picked up stones to kill Him for this statement, because they heard the connection He made to Exodus 3:14, where God gives His name to Abraham:  “I Am Who I Am.”
  2. In John 10:30, Jesus responds again to the Jewish leaders who are questioning Him.  They ask Him:  “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vs 24).  Jesus answers them:  “My Father…is greater than all…[and] I and the Father are one.”  This must have created some drama for monotheists who daily recited the Shema:  “Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).  And it was:  they picked up stones to kill Him once more.
  3. In John 20:29, Jesus had His best chance to clarify his lack of deity if He wanted to do so.  Thomas, who had doubted the risen Christ even after his closest friends told him about Jesus’ appearance to them, finally lays his own eyes on the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side.  He says, “My Lord and my God!” (vs 28), and Jesus, rather than correcting him, accepts the statement and makes a teaching point of faith.

Jesus had many opportunities to simply say, “I am God,” but He chose not to.  Perhaps this has to do with God’s design:  “…their ears can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).  Whatever the reason, He was nuanced in His responses on purpose, which may lead people like Richard Dawkins into darkness, but He means for us to declare the light of this truth to the world, that God took on flesh to do what we could not do ourselves:  pay the price for our sins.

There are many other passages in Scripture that point to Jesus’ divinity.  Where else do you see the Bible pointing to Jesus as God?

  • Name roy

    Hey, I’m just a simple Christian brother, like yourself. I have no website or blog. When I talk to Muslims about the Trinity, which they call polytheism, I ask them why they believe in many trinities? While they accuse me of blasphemy, I find it no surprise that just as Jesus drew on the Physical to draw parallels to the supernatural, so He also designed our world with several trinities in it. I wrote an article on it if you are interested, but here is the point-form.
    3-D
    Past, Present, Future,
    Matter, Energy Phenomena
    Mind, Body, Soul

    Besides, if it is too crazy for them to believe Jesus and God were separate, then why not just say that God left heaven, (as if that were possible — but don’t tell them) came down and became a man. (If He is God, He can even do that!) Then, let’s say, He died on a cross to make a public description for the heinity of sin (my word) and raised Himself (He is God) from the death He subjected Himself to. Christians are happy, Muslims have nothing to say – without limiting the infinite ability of God to do all things.

    Roy
    Incidentally, for the JW, there are MANY references to the deity of Christ in Rev 22 alone.
    For the Mormon, I just ask: Who is our Savior? Then we talk about Tit 2:10-13. I let them answer the questions –

  • CT

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Roy. I’d love to see the article if you want to send it over (ct@cravesomethingmore.org) or post a link here. The 3 dimensions that keep showing up in life are interesting pointers.

    I’ve found one of the stumbling blocks for many Muslims is the term “Son of God” translates in some languages as the literal son of God (i.e. the product of a physical, sexual union of God and Mary), which they decry as heresy (as would we). Clarifying that point often helps open up the discussion.

    In the same way, there’s often confusion about whether or not we’re polytheists (as you mentioned). Trying to explain the Trinity can be difficult, but I have often approached it in terms of the functions each member fulfills (i.e. God the Father draws and saves by the atoning sacrifice of God the Son those quickened by God the Spirit). It’s certainly a tough thing to comprehend–but oh so glorious!

  • Debbie

    Chris, Thank you for this. I learned a lot and have been better equipped through your ministry of the word. Blessings. Debbie

  • http://www.jodylynne.blogspot.com Jody

    Colossians has much to say about Jesus being God.
    He(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. and through him to reconcile to himself all things.(Colossians 1:15-20
    And Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…"
    Love these verses, 'the exact imprint.' Awesome.
    My recent post De-Friended Part 2

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Chris_Tomlinson Chris_Tomlinson

      I love Colossians 1 as well; there's some seriously deep theology going on in that chapter. I used to meet with some Jehovah's Witnesses–we were both trying to convert the other =)–and I would go back to Colossians 1 regularly. There is great beauty in short sentences there. As you say: Awesome.