The Person of Christ (04): His Undiminished Deity
Over the past few articles, we have pondered a great miracle; that a Person could be born without a human father. Now we go on to contemplate another great miracle in connection with the birth of Christ; that God could become a Man, and yet still be God.
As far as the title “His Undiminished Deity” is concerned, we must establish the fact of His deity, before we deal with the issue of whether or not it was diminished. Thus, our happy task for this month is to consider evidence from the Scriptures for the deity of the Lord Jesus.
Actually, we have already seen abundant proof of His deity in earlier articles, those entitled “His Underived Eternal Sonship.” There, we saw Him to be the eternal Son of God. This alone is more than sufficient to prove His deity since eternity is an attribute of deity. Although humans will never cease to exist, all have a time when their existence began. Not so God; not only will He exist forever, but He never began to exist. He and He alone is eternal. And, since the Lord Jesus is the eternal Son, He must be God.
But our conviction as to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ does not rest solely on the fact of His being the eternal Son. It is also based on clear references in the Scriptures.
Consider Isaiah 9:6 which previously we have observed to be pertinent to our study, with its references to the Lord Jesus as the “Son … given” and the “everlasting Father.” It has another highly instructive phrase: “His name shall be called … The mighty God.” That this verse is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ is undeniable, and the reference to Him as God could not be clearer. Yet, in the face of such evidence, so determined are some to deny His deity that they go to desperate lengths to try to explain away this verse. This is how: they say that He is “the mighty God,” but not “the almighty God.”
It does not need much analysis for us to see the folly of such a statement. For one thing, if One is called “God,” then that establishes the Person as “God” whether the adjective used to describe Him is “mighty” or “almighty.” In addition, there are other references in the Old Testament to “the mighty God,” and in each case there is not the slightest doubt that it is the LORD, Jehovah, Who is being referred to. Indeed, one of these references is only one page away from the verse currently under our consideration. In Isaiah 10:21 Jehovah is called “the mighty God,” and no one would suggest that it is a diminution of His deity that the word “mighty” is used of Him instead of “almighty.”
Then we come to the first verse of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The ensuing verses show beyond all doubt that “the Word” is the Lord Jesus. What could be clearer than the statement “the Word was God”? This verse shows that He is God, distinct from the Father, but one with Him in essence. Both Father and Son equally possess deity.
Indeed, it is so clear that, as with the Isaiah reference, cultists clutch at straws to try to do away with it. They translate it as “the Word was a God.” Their excuse for doing so is that (in the Greek) there is no definite article before “God.” However, this explanation does not hold water. As with the Isaiah passage, we do not have to go far from the verse under consideration to see how empty it is. Consider verse 6 of the same chapter: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” There is no article before “God” there, yet they do not insert the word “a.” And it is so for verses 13 and 18 also. In both those verses, “God” has no article before it, yet no one thinks the phrase should be translated “a God” in either case. Their only reason for doing so in verse 1 is in an (highly dishonest) attempt to dilute this unequivocal statement of Christ’s deity. Moreover, they claim to believe in only one God, yet, by inserting the “a,” they are, in effect, teaching that there is more than one God.
In Psalm 45:6, we read, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1:8, indisputably referring to the Lord Jesus: “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” In the light of New Testament revelation, it is clear that the Psalm is messianic, speaking of, and to, our Lord Jesus, Who is directly addressed as “God” in both the Psalm and its New Testament quotation.
In John 8:58, the Lord Jesus says: “Before Abraham was, I Am.” This was quoted in an earlier article to show that He is eternal. But, just as surely, it shows His deity, with the use of the words “I am,” the title which God used of Himself in Exodus 3:14: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Those who heard the Lord Jesus using the term “I Am” of Himself, certainly understood it as being a claim to deity, for we read in the following verse that they took up stones to cast at Him – the punishment for blasphemy.
From these Scriptures, and many others, an honest inquirer will conclude that the Bible teaches the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we are ready to move on: did He retain His deity when He came to earth? That will be our consideration next month, in His will.
The Person of Christ (04 Pt2): His Undiminished Deity
In last month’s article, we considered Scriptures that show the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. These Scriptures do not refer specifically to when He was in this world. So the question must be addressed: Did He retain His deity when He came to earth?
The answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes.” Our purpose in this article is to look together at some references that show this to be so.
The way in which the Lord Jesus Christ, while on earth, spoke of God as His Father constituted a claim to deity. John chapter 5 verse 18 shows this: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
In John chapter 10 verse 30, the Lord Jesus states, “I and My Father are one.” This does not merely mean that they were united in their purpose; it indicates that they are one in essence – both are equally possessors of deity. The response of His listeners (v31) confirms this: “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” Had He been claiming only that He and God were one in aim and purpose, there would not have been such a vehement reaction. Anyone purporting to be a teacher among the Jews would have claimed that his goal was that the will of God be done. No, this statement was a direct assertion of His deity, and His hearers well knew it, hence their desire to give Him what a blasphemer could expect – being stoned to death. Indeed, they explicitly say this, in verse 33: “For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God.”
These Scriptures show that His enemies had no difficulty in understanding exactly what His words regarding His relationship to the Father meant. How tragic it is that some who claim to be His friends seem to have such a problem in accepting His unequivocal assertions.
How wonderful are the ways of God. The bitter enemies of our Lord, in their reactions to His words, unwittingly provided strong testimony to the reality of His claims. Centuries later, we read their words and actions, and, in the wisdom of God, their opposition is the very thing that shows the reality of His deity in full relief.
Their reaction to the healing of the man sick of the palsy (Mark 2:1-12) gives us another example of this. The Lord tells the man, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” (v5). The scribes respond: “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (v7). Their second point was correct: only God can forgive sins, and the Lord Jesus did not dispute this fact. Where they were wrong was in their first point: failing to recognize that the One Who had forgiven this man’s sins is indeed God. And, by healing the man, He proved that He had the authority to forgive sins (v10), in other words, that He is God. Thus, once again, the opposition of His enemies is marvellously used by God to show the very opposite of what they were trying to prove.
After His resurrection, when Thomas saw Him, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Without doubt, Thomas believed that this Man, with Whom he stood face-to-face, was God. Had Thomas been mistaken, the Lord would not have hesitated to correct him. On the contrary, He fully accepted the ascription of deity. Equally, He accepted worship, not only after His death and resurrection (Matt 28:9, 17), but also before (Matt 8:2; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20). This all stands in sharp contrast to the angel before whom John fell down to worship in Revelation 22. The aged apostle is told, “See thou do it not for I am thy fellowservant … worship God.” The Lord Jesus never said any such thing to any of His worshipers, for, in worshiping Him, they were worshiping One Who is God.
The epistles also bear witness to this truth: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16). Truly the One Who came is God manifest in flesh; He did not cease to be God when He came. Paul also writes: “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9). The word “Godhead” here does not just denote the attributes of God; it signifies much more – the very essence of deity. Let this come to us in its full force: these two words, “Godhead” and “bodily,” are together, side by side, in one verse. Why? Because they are both true of our Lord Jesus Christ, One, Who uniquely has a body in which the fullness of deity permanently dwells.
Well could He say, “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him” (John 5:23). There is no such thing as giving the Father His due and not giving the Son His due. Anyone who denies the deity of the Son is no friend of God’s. John makes the same point in his first epistle (2:23). “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” The Scriptures are clear: anyone who denies the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ is not saved.
It would be a happy thing if we could rest the case there and move on to our next subject. However, Satan hates the truth of Christ’s deity, and he has used his agents to cast doubt upon it, by the misconstruing of certain statements of Scripture. These we must honestly consider. We will do so next month, Lord willing.
The Person of Christ (04 Pt3)): His Undiminished Deity
Last month, we saw that our Lord’s deity was not diminished by His coming into the world. However, some attempt to deny this truth. The purpose of this article is to consider Scriptures that they use (or, rather, abuse).
The “rich young ruler” addressed the Lord as “Good Master,” or “Good Teacher” and asked Him, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” The Lord replied, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt 19:16, 17). Some claim that here the Lord Jesus is saying that He is not God, however, the opposite is the case.
The man was mistaken on two counts. First, he thought that he could get eternal life by his own works. Second, he only recognized Jesus as a good teacher, not as God. The Lord’s response points out the inconsistency of what the man was saying. If He is not God, the man cannot rightly call Him “good.” If He is “good,” He must be God. Thus, He is not denying that He is “good” or that He is God. He is showing the man that He is “good” because He is God. Contrary to it being a denial of His deity, it is an affirmation of it.
Another Scripture often quoted by those denying Christ’s deity is His statement, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). However, in last month’s article, the first statement we considered was His enemies’ acknowledgment that He was “making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Are these two verses from John’s gospel contradicting each other? No! The key, as always, is the context (14:28). The disciples were sad because He was about to leave them. But if their love for Him was as it should have been, they would have been glad for His sake. Why? His Father was in glory, being worshiped in heaven. In contrast, He, the Lord Jesus, was in humiliation, in a world where He was not acknowledged. In that sense, at that time, the Father was “greater” than He, not greater in essence (both were equally God), but greater in that He (the Father) was in a sphere where His glory was seen and recognized. That difference would soon be no more. The Lord Jesus would be glorified “with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (17:5). The disciples should have been glad about that.
We now turn to John 5:19, where the Lord Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Some think this indicates that He had no power. But look at the setting. The Jews, angry at Him for healing on the Sabbath, accused Him of working against what God had ordained (v16). In response, He pointed out that, contrary to working against God, He was working in total harmony with Him (v17). Then, in the subsequent verses, He showed just how close this “working relationship” was; so harmonious that it was impossible for Him to do anything outside of the Father’s will. Thus, when He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself,” it was not a matter of what was physically impossible (as if He had no strength to do anything by Himself), but of what was morally impossible (that He would ever act independently of His Father, or in opposition to Him). Only One Who is God could truthfully say this. So, as before, a verse used by those who try to deny His deity is seen to be a clear statement of it.
Consider Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man … neither the Son, but the Father.” This, some claim, shows that, on earth, He was not omniscient. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their commentary, summarize two alternative interpretations of these words. “Whether it means that the Son was not at that time in possession of the knowledge referred to, or simply that it was not among the things which He had received to communicate — has been a matter of much controversy.”
Our Lord’s omniscience when on earth is explicitly stated and frequently alluded to: “Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things” (John 16:30); “Lord, Thou knowest all things” (John 21:17). For example, He knew people’s thoughts (Luke 6:8). In light of this, the second view stated above (that it was not among the things that He had received to communicate) is, in the view of this writer, the correct understanding. It fits with the context in which the words were spoken, that the day and hour of His return is entirely the prerogative of His Father). It is also in harmony with Acts 1:7 when, also speaking of the time of His return, He spoke of “the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” The precise time of His return in glory was exclusively the Father’s responsibility, and He (the Lord Jesus) happily left it with Him (the Father). It was not that He was ignorant of the date, but that, being outside His sphere of responsibility, He did not choose to have anything to do with it.
There are other Scripture references in which “not knowing” is also used in a sense that cannot mean “ignorant of.” For example, Luke 13:27, Acts 7:18, and 1 Corinthians 2:2. In each of these cases, the word “know” is the same as in Mark 13:32. They show that someone can “not know” something in a sense other than being in ignorance of it.
In a different context, we read, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:12; 10:17, quoting Jehovah’s words in Jer 31:34). This does not mean that He is ignorant of our sins, or lacks the ability to recall them, and no one suggests that this negates God’s omniscience. The Lord Jesus’ words in Mark 13:32 do not negate His omniscience either.
What about the phrase “made Himself of no reputation,” sometimes translated “emptied Himself” (Phil 2:7)? This we shall consider, but not until we reach the next subject, “His Uncompromising Humanity.” And that must wait until next month, in His will.