Was Jesus God?


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THE FAMOUS BRITISH SCIENTIST, JOSEPH PRIESTLEY made scientific history when he heated mercuric oxide and produced a gas which caused a candle to burn more brightly than in air. He had discovered oxygen. His scientific fame was matched by an equal and opposite infamy, for Priestley, you see, was a Unitarian minister. To most Christians the question of Jesus' divinity — whether or not He was God in the flesh — is a done deal. Few doubt that Jesus was the genuine divine article, no ifs, ands, or buts. Priestley believed otherwise, seeing Jesus Christ as a created being rather than very God in essence.

We know Priestley was right about oxygen, but was he right about Jesus Christ? Do Unitarians have a legitimate insight that the rest of Christendom would do well to heed? Was Jesus Christ God in the flesh or merely a man, a creation of God by either fiat or procreation? The evidence weighs in in favor of Jesus' divinity; Joseph Priestley's Unitarian views were wrong.

Before we consider specific scriptural evidence for establishing the divinity of Jesus Christ, we need to think big — let's consider powerful arguments for the same truth implied in, but not stated directly by, Scripture.

God Who wouldn't suffer

One of the strongest proofs of God's goodness and care for His created children is found in His willingness to let Jesus Christ die an agonizing death for their atonement. If Jesus were a created being, as Unitarianism avows, that means that God created someone to endure the agony of death as our atoning lamb, which implies that God created someone else to go through it on His behalf so that He could avoid experiencing such pain Himself. Such an idea should be rejected outright as contrary to the biblical image of God alone as the selfless, suffering Savior of mankind.

The pointlessness of human existence

Unitarians agree that Jesus was everything His heavenly Father ever hoped for. Stop and think. If God could create one such perfect being, He could surely do it again. Any theology that claims He could do it only once faces insuperable obstacles. Why could He do it only once? Did that supreme act of alleged creation exhaust God's power?

Scriptural silence on creation of Jesus

Scripture abounds with references to the material creation; it is mentioned over and over as a mighty work of God, one that we should consider carefully and learn from (Rom. 1:20). Yet Unitarians would agree that the creation of mankind's Savior, Jesus, must rank considerably higher on the ladder of importance in the grand scheme of universal history. Why, then, the silence? Surely more coverage would be given to the creation or begettal of the Savior than to the creation of the mere physical stage on which He would play His saving role.

Jesus' divinity and the oneness of God

Conclusions about the divinity or otherwise of Jesus invariably walk in lockstep with, and are usually founded upon, opinions as to the oneness of God. To gain an appreciation of the difficulties involved in dealing with Jesus' divinity one must be familiar with this issue. All agree, without exception, that both Testaments teach the existence of only one God. Having all agreed with the above proposition, the fun then begins. You see, the New Testament, in using such titles as "Son of God" (Matt. 8:29 and others) in reference to Jesus seems to suggest that Jesus was God. If He was God, and He had a Father in heaven who was God, doesn't that make two gods?

Unitarians solve the problem by denying divinity to Jesus. Trinitarians resolve the issue by believing in the existence of one complex being who comes in a number of "parts" or "persons".

Jesus + God = one being

Jews, Unitarians and bitheists all labor under the false assumption that Jesus on earth constituted a separate being from His father in heaven, and that, likewise, the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ in heaven is a second being. They assume it to be self-evident that Jesus was (and is) a distinct Being from His heavenly Father; that is their Achilles' heel. Truth is, Jesus, both then and now, was not and is not a separate being at all but an integral part of the One True God. This conclusion is perfectly logical if one accepts two premises:

  1. Only one God exists;
  2. The historical Jesus was God in the flesh.

Passages showing Jesus' divinity

A number of passages confer divinity on Jesus. Jews often assert that nothing in the Tanakh (old Testament) ascribes godness to their Messiah, which is why no Jew today looks for a supernatural being as their future King. However, some Old Testament passages show the Messiah to be divine.

The prophecies of Zechariah are, according to Jewish commentator Rev. Dr. A. Cohen "rich in Messianism" (1948, p. 268). He says of the King introduced in 9:9 ("your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass") that "This can only refer to King Messiah" (p. 305). Now to a vital point: speaking of this great King, 14:9 identifies him with "the L ord " (Yahweh), Israel's God. Then 14:16 adds:

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the L ord of hosts.

This King is explicitly identified with the L ord of hosts. In addition, 6:12-13 call this king "a man" who will both sit on the throne and also be a priest! What could be plainer? The descendant of David who is to sit on the millennial throne is divine. Those who believe the New Testament don't need me to tell them who that is to be.

As for the New Testament, a few passages explicitly call Jesus God (e.g. Titus 2:13), others ascribe to Him attributes that are elsewhere ascribed to God (such as "grace and truth" of John 1:14), while others make a connection between Jesus and God that imply an identification (such as "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" — John 14:9).

The serious seeker would be well-advised to do an in-depth study of the chief passages for himself. They include, in addition to those already mentioned: John 20:28, Acts 20:28, Philippians 2:5, Colossians 1:15-20, 1 Timothy 3:16; 6:15-16, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:3, 6-8, 1 John 5:20, and 2 Peter 2:1. I believe that the impartial seeker will discover that Jesus truly is God.

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