Is Jesus God?
Who is Jesus, called the Christ, or Messiah, by His followers and in the Bible? Christians claim Jesus is God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who comprise a three-person tri-unity called "God." What does Scripture say?
1. Who is God?
- "God" is mentioned in the first verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). In the original Hebrew this is "Elohim." This is the plural form of the singular "El." Throughout Scripture this plural form is used in referring to the God of the Bible.
- God refers to Himself in Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.' " Here the plural form of God is emphasized with the words "Us" and "Our".
- That God is one is attested to in the book of Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One" (Deut. 6:4). Here the Hebrew word for "One" is "echad" which means a composite unity. There is the notable absence of a different Hebrew word for one, "yachid," which means an absolute unity. If God wanted to emphasize only one person as being God then "yachid" would be more appropriate. But the use of the word "echad" in this significant verse attesting to the oneness of God supports the plurality of God's oneness.
- God is an eternal being, having no beginning and no end: "Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Psalm 90:2).
- God is unique, there is no other: " 'You are My witnesses,' says the Lord, 'And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me' " (Isa. 43:10).
2. The name of God
- "God," or "Elohim," is not God's name, but rather His title and position.
- God's name in the Bible only appears with the consonants, "YHWH." This is called the Tetragrammaton. This is pronounced as "Yahweh," or by some "Jehovah."
- God's name "Yahweh" is represented in the English Bible as "Lord." (Note the difference from "Lord" which is lower case.)
3. Jesus is Yahweh
- Isaiah writes, "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: 'I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself' " (Isa. 44:24). Yet the writer to the Hebrews attributes God the Father as saying to the Son, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; . . . You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands" (Heb. 1:8a, 10). Yahweh claims to be the Creator alone, yet God the Father not only attributes the Creation to the Son, but says He is God whose throne is forever.
- Jesus came to us from Yahweh: "Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken
in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now
the Lord God and His Spirit Have sent Me" (Isa. 48:16). The one speaking this
refers to two others, the "Lord God" and "His Spirit."
- Who is speaking here? It is not Isaiah, for the Lord is speaking in the first person from the previous chapter up to this point. A few verses before verse sixteen identifies the speaker: "Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together" (Isa. 48:12 - 13). He who is speaking and saying that "the Lord God and His Spirit Have sent Me" is the "First" and the "Last."
- The "First" and the "Last" is defined just previously in Isaiah: "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God' " (Isa. 44:6).
- Jesus claimed the title of "the First and the Last" in the book of Revelation: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,' . . . Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, . . . out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death' " (Rev. 1 10 - 18). (Emphasis added.)
- Jesus, the First and the Last, identified as Yahweh in Isaiah 44:6, was speaking in the Isaiah passage saying, "the Lord God and His Spirit Have sent Me." The apostle John records Jesus conversation with the Pharisees: "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me' " (John 8:42).
- Before Jesus' birth an angel instructed Joseph on what to name Him: " 'And
she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save
His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin
shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel'
which is translated, 'God with us' " (Matt. 1 21 - 23).
- The name "Jesus" means "Yahweh is Salvation."
- Another translation of "Jesus" is "Joshua." This was a common name among the Israelites, as was others ascribing aspects of who Yahweh is. But children were named in honor of who God was to remind the people of God. It was not to claim that their child was God.
- But the angel said Mary's son was to be named Jesus because He would bring salvation: "for He will save His people from their sins." It was not as a reminder that there is a God in heaven who will bring salvation, but it is this newborn child who is the one bringing salvation. He is "Yahweh is Salvation." Hence the following quote, "and they shall call His name Immanuel." This means "God with us" showing Yahweh has come to earth as this child.
- The apostle Peter said, "Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of
Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom
God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is
the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief
cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name
under heaven given among men by which we must be
saved" (Acts 4:10 -12). (Emphasis added.)
- "Jesus" is the only name under heaven by which we must be saved.
- Isaiah quotes Yahweh, "I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior" (Isa. 43:11). And again, "And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me" (Isa. 45:21b). For all these scriptures to be true requires that Jesus be Yahweh.
- The apostle John began his Gospel regarding God coming to earth: "In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was
in the beginning with God" (John 1:2). And, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
- The "Word" is called "God." The Word that "became flesh and dwelt among us"
is Jesus. Yet Yahweh says, "Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there
be after me" (Isa. 43:10b). And again, "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last: Besides
Me there is no God' " (Isa. 44:6).
- Yahweh says there will be no God formed before or after Him. Jesus, called "God" by John, was not a created being: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting" (Micah 5:2). (Emphasis added).
- For Jesus to be called "God," and for Yahweh to say "Besides Me there is no God" means that Jesus is part of that "composite unity," the "One" that the Bible says that God is (Deut. 6:4).
- John said, "and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." Yahweh says, "I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another" (Isa. 42:8b). Yet Jesus prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5). God will not share His glory with another, yet Jesus speaks of the glory He shared with the Father before creation. This shows the Father and Jesus being one together.
- The "Word" is called "God." The Word that "became flesh and dwelt among us" is Jesus. Yet Yahweh says, "Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after me" (Isa. 43:10b). And again, "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last: Besides Me there is no God' " (Isa. 44:6).
- Scripture speaks of the "mystery of godliness":
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory." Titus 3:16
- Each phrase in this verse is referring to God. It starts with God being manifested in the flesh, this being the incarnation of God as Jesus, and ends with God being received up in glory, the ascension of Jesus to Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
4. Scripture shows Yahweh is the Savior, and shows Jesus is that Savior
Scripture shows only Yahweh is Savior, yet Scripture intersperses references to God as Savior with references to Jesus as Savior, showing they are the same.
- "For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (Isa. 43:3).
- "Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me" (Isa. 45:21b).
- "Yet I am the Lord your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me" (Hos. 13:4).
- ". . . you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
- ". . . God my Savior" (Luke 1:47).
- "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
- ". . . the Christ the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).
- Regarding Jesus, "Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).
- Regarding King David, "From this man's seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior - Jesus -" (Acts 13:23).
- ". . . the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).
- ". . . God our Savior . . ." (1 Tim. 1:1).
- ". . . God our Savior" (1 Tim. 2:3).
- ". . . we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men . . ." (1 Tim. 4:10).
- ". . . our Savior Jesus Christ . . ." (2 Tim. 1:10).
- ". . . God our Savior" (Titus 1:3).
- ". . . the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior" (Titus 1:4).
- ". . . God our Savior . . ." (Titus 2:10).
- ". . . our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
- ". . . God our Savior . . ." (Titus 3:4).
- ". . . Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:6).
- ". . . our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:1).
- ". . . the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 2:20).
- ". . . our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . ." (2 Pet. 3:18).
- ". . . the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14).
- ". . . God our Savior . . ." (Jude 1:25).
5. The Incarnation: Why there is confusion about Jesus being God
Scripture shows Jesus is both God and a man. This causes confusion in some who fail to distinguish the special role Jesus has as a man from His eternal Being, glory, and power as God.
- Scripture says "God is Spirit" (John 4:24), and, "No one has seen God at any time" (1 John 4:12). God, a spirit being, is transcendent to His creation, the heavens and earth. Mankind has no reference point to understand what this entails. No one on earth has seen God in His glory and splendor.
- Jesus did not simply come to earth to show mankind the glory of Himself as God. This would represent the eternal Almighty God as a person with a human body. When Scripture says "God was manifested in the flesh" and "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" it means Jesus took on a human body and what people saw was a man. As a man Jesus was of the same substance as any other human. This was separate from Jesus' concurrent state of being God.
- God's plan of redemption required an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. This was typified in the Law of Moses by a spotless lamb that was sacrificed for sin. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus he said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
- As a substitutionary sacrifice, Jesus had to be of the same substance as
those He was a sacrifice for. God says, "The
soul who sins shall die" (Exe. 18:20).
As a substitute for those who would receive punishment for sin, Jesus had to be
a perfect man according to the standard of God's righteousness. This is why the
lamb to be sacrificed had to be spotless and without blemish. The spotless
perfection of Jesus, as a man, means He did not deserve punishment for sin.
This allows Him to be a substitute for those who do deserve punishment.
- Hebrews states, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same . . . Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:14a, 17).
- To be perfectly righteous means Jesus had to fulfill all the Law of Moses
that God required of any human being. This required Jesus to walk on the earth
as a man in full dependence and trust in God as any other person is required to
do. This required Jesus to not use His power as God but rather to depend fully upon
the Holy Spirit, and walk with perfect faith in God.
- Paul the apostle writes of Jesus, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6 - 7).
- Scripture shows the sin of Adam and Eve has propagated to all of mankind, who inherit a sin nature: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
- Only a righteous person could be the "Lamb of God" that brings redemption. The Bible contrasts Adam and Jesus: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19).
- The only person who could walk in perfect righteousness would have to be
one without a sin nature. This eliminates all the descendants of Adam. The
only one who could fulfill the role of a Savior from sin is God Himself.
- Isaiah writes, "Then the Lord saw it, . . . He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him" (Isa. 59:16b, 17).
- Again, Matthew quotes Isaiah, " 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us' " (Matt. 1:23). Jesus did not have an earthly father from which to inherit Adam's sin nature.
- Even the works Jesus performed were done in the power of the Holy Spirit and not by His power as God. Regarding these Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12). And indeed, the Apostles are recorded in Scripture as doing the same type of miracles that Jesus did. In order for Jesus to be perfect under the Law so that He could be that spotless "Lamb of God," He lived His life on earth as a man in every aspect as required by the Law. This self-limitation may cause some to think He was not God, but it was a self-limitation required for Jesus to walk fully as man.
6. Jesus as High Priest and Intercessor
Jesus' role as High Priest may also be a cause of confusion about Jesus being God.
- A High Priest in Israel was chosen from among the people to be an intercessor between the people and God. He oversaw the sacrifices required to atone for the sins of the people before a Holy God.
- The book of Hebrews shows, "But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:11 - 12).
- The book of Titus says, "For there is one God and one Mediator between
God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:5).
- In His role as a man, Jesus is the Mediator between God and men.
- Romans states, "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and
furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also
makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34).
- In Jesus' role as High Priest, Mediator, and Intercessor, He is "at the right hand of God."
- The eternal state in the new heavens and earth shows Jesus as Intercessor seated with God: "And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him" (Rev. 22:3). There is one throne, "of God" and "of the Lamb."
- John writes in the book of Revelation, "Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful.' And He said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son' " (Rev. 21:5 - 7). In chapter one of Revelation Jesus identified Himself as the "Alpha and Omega."
- Jesus' role as High Priest does not diminish His Being as God.
7. A belief and faith in Jesus is required for salvation
- Jesus said, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins, for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).
- Jesus said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).
- Jesus said, "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (John 10:37 - 38).
- "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me' " (John 8:42).
- Jesus said, "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).
- Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32 - 33).
- Paul writes, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). And again, "For 'whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved' " (Rom. 10:13). Paul quotes from Joel 2:32 which uses God's name "Yahweh." Confessing Jesus as Lord is to confess Him as the Almighty God, Yahweh.