Was Jesus God?
In this article, my aim is to provide a Biblical foundation for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. This article is a mere introduction to the doctrine and further study is recommended.
John 1:1-14 is one of the clearest passages in Scripture that testifies to Christ’s full divinity. Let’s take a look at verses 1-3 and verse 14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… 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 1:1-3, 14
The author of the Gospel of John, John the Apostle, wrote to inform readers of Jesus Christ’s true identity. Jesus is the Word according to John 1:14, which speaks of His incarnation through the Virgin Mary. Jesus, who is the Word, is also referred to as the Son later in this chapter. Verse 14 says that He, “the only Son from the Father,” was made flesh and dwelt among mankind. This can only be said of Christ Jesus. I want to make clear that as we walk through these first few verses I am talking about Jesus Christ. John starts in verse 1 by saying that the Word was in the beginning with God and “the Word was God.”
Aside from alluding to the Trinity, these verses explicitly state that the Word is God and He is equal to God. Following this in verse 2, John makes it clear that the Word (Jesus Christ) existed alongside God in the beginning before creation. The third verse clearly explains that not only is Jesus Christ God, but He is also the Creator of all things. Verse 3 says that the Word made all things that were made. This precludes Him from being a supernatural being that God made. Jesus is the creator of all things and He existed before “any thing that was made was made” (John 1:3). This passage clearly testifies to Christ’s full deity.
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
God the Father is actually the one credited with making this statement according to verses 1 and 2 (follow the pronouns all the way to verse 8 to see this) so we know it is Him addressing the Son (Jesus) . He credits the Son with being the one who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,” and He says of the Son, “the heavens are the work of your hands.” According to God the Father, the Son, who we know is Christ, is God the Creator, and His “years will have no end.”
Christ, according to the Father, existed before all of creation alongside Him (the Father) and He (Christ) will continue to exist forever after creation passes away. Christ is eternal. This means He has no beginning and no end. This is an attribute only God possesses (Psalm 90:2, 96:5, Isaiah 43:10-11). Anyone who denies the truth presented in these verses is also denying that the omniscient Father has accurate information regarding the Son. It is worth mentioning that Hebrews 2:10 and Colossians 1:16 explicitly state that all created things are created for Jesus Christ. God the Father is identifying Jesus, who is God the Son, as God.
Perspectives of Human Witnesses
We can also gain insight from analyzing the claims Jesus made. I want us to look specifically at two of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees.
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 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.
Jesus is healing people on the Sabbath as indicated by verses 15-16. The Jews were angry about this because it was a violation of the Law (Deuteronomy 5:14). In response to the Pharisees’ accusations, Jesus says His Father (who is God according to Luke 10:21-22) has been working until now, and that He (Jesus) is working as well. In other words, Jesus is telling them that they are accusing God, who is actively working all things together according to His purpose, including working on the Sabbath (Ephesians 1:11), of breaking the law. Obviously, God is above the Sabbath and perfect (Psalm 18:30), thus incapable of breaking the law. Jesus is basically saying that to accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath is to say that God the Father has broken it too. The Father is above the Sabbath. Christ teaches in Mark 2:27-28 that He also is above the Sabbath. In this passage we have a clear statement from Jesus saying He is God.
In verse 18, John, the author of this Gospel, says that the Jews understood Christ to be calling Himself God. Not only that, but John Himself asserts that Christ “was even calling God his own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The witness here is three-fold. The Pharisees understood Jesus was equating Himself with God. Jesus said that He is divine, and John, the writer, understood from Jesus’ statement that Jesus is equal with God. Neither John, nor the Pharisees was confused by Jesus’ words when He revealed Himself as God in the flesh.
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
In John 8, we see that Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham. This fact refutes the idea that Jesus was simply human like you and I. No ordinary human who lived during the first century, like Jesus, could claim to have existed before Abraham (who lived over 1,000 years before). I must note, however, that the Jews would probably not have been angry enough to kill Christ if He were only claiming preexistence.
I think we can grasp the situation better when we know what Christ means when He says, “I am”? Christ is saying here that He is without beginning or end. To say, “I am” means He not only existed before Abraham, but that He did so eternally. Also note that the text says Abraham “was” which indicates Abraham came into being, but “I am” is used for Christ. This signifies He was never brought into being just as John says in John 1:1-14. Chrysostom, an early church Father, says this:
As the Father used this expression, ‘I Am,’ so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There are many who will try saying, “Thomas is calling Jesus his Lord, and then crying out to a second being, God”. Is that what the text says? The key words to understanding this passage, which describes an event after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, are, “Thomas answered him”. Thomas is speaking directly to Jesus. Every single word in the statement that follows is to Jesus Christ. Jesus, according to Thomas, is both Lord and God. Jesus does not rebuke him as others do (especially others who were acquainted with Christ) when they are referred to as God or receive praise (Acts 20:26, Rev 19:9-10, Rev 22:8-9). Once again, we have indisputable scriptural evidence that Jesus is God.
Christ is Explicitly Called God
Jesus is identified as God by the apostles in numerous places. Below are some of the times Jesus is plainly addressed as God.
- Romans 9:5- To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
- 2 Peter 1:1- 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.
- Colossians 2:9- For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
- John 9:36- He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”
It is important to note that Jesus does not correct the man that worships Him. If the man did not believe Jesus was Lord, he would be guilty of idolatry. The man believed that Jesus was truly God.
Many more passages can be used to substantiate the deity of Christ that I do not have space to share here. He had the authority to forgive sins which only God can do (Luke 5:20-21). Scripture also teaches that He is Life and the giver of Eternal Life (John 14:6, John 10:28). Please notice that only God gives life. Mere prophets do not claim this. God works through them to resurrect the dead, but Jesus is claiming to be the source of resurrection power (John 11:25).
There are many great theologians who have preached sermons (many of which are on Youtube for free) and/or written books on this topic. I encourage you to continue this study with resources provided by people like James R. White, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, and Conrad Mbewe. I hope this article was helpful.