Jesus – Fully Human AND Fully GOD – a summary

December 21, 2009 — Leave a comment

The last post included a summary of the biblical and historical explanation for the Fully-Human Jesus. Here we look at the Fully-God nature of Jesus.  The Divine Son of God has made it possible for us to become like himself – as Peter said, to become “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Our Lord saves us by becoming what we are, by sharing totally in our humanity, thereby enabling us to share in what he is.  Thus through a reciprocal exchange of gifts he takes our humanity and communicates to us his divine life, reestablishing that communion between Creator and creation which sin has destroyed.  (K. Ware,  pp. 52-53)

Again, I’ll include a detailed excerpt from the ESV Study Bible article on Christ’s Divinity.

The Deity of Christ

Many passages of Scripture demonstrate that Jesus is fully and completely God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1, 14).

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18).

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 9:5).

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5–7).

. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” . . . And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Heb. 1:8, 10).

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:1).

Jesus’ Understanding of His Own Deity

Even though the passages cited above clearly teach the deity of Christ, this truth is often challenged. Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God and that these verses were written by his disciples who deified him because of the impact he had on their lives. Jesus, it is claimed, only saw himself as a great moral teacher on a par with other religious leaders. However, Jesus’ understanding of his own deity in the Gospels does not support this perspective. He clearly saw himself as God. This can be seen primarily in six ways.

1. Jesus taught with divine authority. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28–29). The teachers of the law in Jesus’ day had no authority of their own. Their authority came from their use of earlier authorities. Even Moses and the other OT prophets and authors did not speak in their own authority, but would say, “This is what the Lord says.” Jesus, on the other hand, interprets the law by saying, “You have heard that it was said. . . . But I say to you” (see Matt. 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). This divine authority is shown with staggering clarity when he speaks of himself as the Lord who will judge the whole earth and will say to the wicked, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). No wonder the crowd was amazed at the authority with which Jesus spoke. Jesus recognized that his words carried divine weight. He acknowledged the permanent authority of the law (Matt. 5:18) and put his words on an equal plane with it: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18); “Heaven and earth will pass away, butmy words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

2. Jesus had a unique relationship with God the Father. When he was a young boy, Jesus sat with the religious leaders in the temple, amazing people with the answers he gave. When his distraught parents finally found their “lost” adolescent, he replied by saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Jesus’ reference to God as “my Father” is a radical statement of a unique, intimate relationship with God, of which he was already fully conscious. Such a reference by an individual was unprecedented in Jewish literature. Jesus took this unique personal address to another level by referring to God the Father using the affectionate Aramaic expression ’Abba’.

3. Jesus’ favorite self-designation was the title Son of Man. The phrase “a son of man” could mean merely “a human being.” But Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man (implying the unique, well-known Son of Man), which indicates that he sees himself as the Messianic Son of Man in Daniel 7 who is to rule over the whole world for all eternity:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13–14).

Jesus establishes his divine authority as the glorious Messianic Son of Man by declaring that he has the power to forgive sin and is Lord of the Sabbath: “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home’” (Mark 2:10–11); “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath’” (Mark 2:27–28).

4. Jesus’ teaching emphasized his own identity. Jesus came teaching the kingdom of God, and in it he was the King. His teaching dealt with many topics but was centrally about himself. His question to his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15), is the ultimate question of his ministry.

5. Jesus received worship. Perhaps the most radical demonstration of Jesus’ belief that he was God is the fact that when he was worshiped, as he sometimes was, he accepted that worship (Matt. 14:33; 28:9, 17John 9:38; 20:28). If Jesus did not believe he was God, he should have vehemently rejected being worshiped, as Paul and Barnabas did in Lystra (Acts 14:14–15). That a monotheistic Jew like Jesus accepted worship from other monotheistic Jews shows that Jesus realized that he possessed a divine identity.

6. Jesus equated himself with the Father, and as a result the Jewish leaders accused him of blasphemy:

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:17–18).

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” [a clear allusion to the sacred divine name of Yahweh; cf. Ex. 3:14]. So they picked up stones to throw at him (John 8:58–59).

“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. . . . The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man,make yourself God” (John 10:30–33).

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” [a reference to Daniel 7; see point 3 above]. And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death (Mark 14:61–64).

Implications of Christ’s Deity

Because Jesus is God, the following things are true:

1. God can be known definitively and personally in Christ: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18); “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

2. Redemption is possible and has been accomplished in Christ: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

3. In Christ risen, ascended and enthroned we have a sympathetic high priest who has omnipotent power to meet our needs: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15).

4. Worship of and obedience to Christ is appropriate and necessary.

Historical Misunderstandings of Christ’s Deity

The earliest and most radical denial of the deity of Christ is called Ebionism or Adoptionism, which was taught by a small Jewish-Christian sect in the first century. They believed that the power of God came on a man named Jesus to enable him to fulfill the Messianic role, but that Christ was not God. A later and more influential Christological heresy was Arianism (early 4th century), which denied the eternal, fully divine nature of Christ. Arius (c. 256–336) believed Jesus was the “first and greatest of created beings.” Arius’s denial of Jesus’ full deity was rejected at the Council of Nicea in 325. At this council, Athanasius showed that according to Scripture Jesus is fully God, being of the same essence as the Father.

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