by Rolaant L. McKenzie
Who Do You Say Jesus Is? | The Incarnation | The Crucifixion | The Resurrection
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'" (Matthew 16:13-15)
This is a question that theologians, historians, philosophers, and common folk have pondered for centuries. Who was Jesus? Was he just a good man or philosopher who left us with some virtuous teachings to live by? Was he just another prophet? Or was he a madman or who thought he was divine, or an impostor who claimed to be God? Did he even really exist, or was he just a fabrication of men who lived nearly two thousand years ago?
Jesus asked His disciples who the people of His day thought He was, and they gave answers ranging from John the Baptist to one of the prophets of olden times come back to life. But then He turned the question to them, His followers of a few years. Who did they think He was? Before any of the disciples answered, Peter gave his reply: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter expressed his firm conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. This showed that he believed Jesus to be more than just a mere man with some good ideas, but deity in the flesh. As the passage says, Jesus Christ declared Peter to be blessed, since one could only profess such a conviction by revelation from God the Father.
Today, as in centuries past, attacks have been made on the deity of Jesus Christ. These attacks have come from three directions.
The first attack promotes an exalted view of man. This view holds that all men are divine beings. In other words, all men are little 'gods'. While it true that man is divine, it is only because he was made in the image of God. He has divine potential, and by God's grace he can become a partaker of the divine nature. But if Jesus is divine only in the same sense that man is divine, then He was not God, but merely an exalted man. And there is a great difference between an exalted man and God.
The second attack promotes a smaller view of Jesus. This view attempts to explain away the great things said of Christ in the Bible and in history. Scientists and humanistic philosophers brush aside as irrelevant or ridiculous anything that cannot be conformed to their theories. They deny, declaring as superstitions of unenlightened men, miracles and other supernatural events. And they believe that if given sufficient time, they will be able to explain away everything supernatural and divine about Jesus, reducing Him from God to a mere man that fits within their parameters.
The third attack promotes the idea of an extended and diminished deity. Those who maintain this view claim to believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, yet the definition of deity they hold to is so elusive and negative that it has the end result of not being deity at all. They believe Jesus to be a good and perfect man, that this is the essence of His Godhood. If Jesus was God only in this sense, then His Godhood is quite diminished and even fragile.
If these attempts to deny the deity of Jesus of were to succeed, the following would be the natural consequences.
If Jesus was merely a good man, then the Bible is not the word of God, but merely a good book on the same level as other literature.
If Jesus is not God, then men have no Savior, since He could not forgive sin just by being a good man. Some say Jesus was a great and wise Teacher and good man, stopping short of calling Him God. Yet this great, wise, and good Teacher said that man is need of a Savior and that He is the only Savior men can come to for forgiveness of sin and salvation. If it is true that Jesus is not God, then He has deceived and misled people and declared as truth a lie. So if Jesus is not God, He is not even a good man.
If Jesus is not God, then there is no salvation for men. Salvation without a Savior is like a car without gasoline. Whatever feelings we may have of being saved or changed lives we may experience would be all a delusion.
If Jesus is not God, then there is no heaven. For if He is not God He did not rise from the dead. And if He did not rise from the dead then neither will we. When we die we remain dead and rot in our graves as those who have gone before us.
Plain and simple, either Jesus was God or He was not. If He was not God, then He either was deceived about Himself or deceived others about Himself. Was He deceived about Himself? Did He deceive others about Himself? Was He deluded or mentally unbalanced? There is no evidence that was. On the contrary, He was calm, self-contained, uttered sound judgment in every position He took, and was sane in every respect. Therefore this alternative must be rejected. But was Jesus a deceiver, a fraud, an imposter? When examining His life and teachings, it can be seen that He was the epitome of truth and goodness. His influence on humanity has been to recreate people who are trustworthy, dependable, at peace with each other, and reconciled to God. This alternative likewise must be rejected. So we return to the first proposition, the only remaining alternative. Namely, that Jesus is God.
But this argument does not fully satisfy, since saving faith comes not as a result of logic or mental processes, but life experience. People realize Jesus is God as they learn to know Him and seek to live for Him.
The Bible testifies to the deity of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to prove that Jesus was God come in the flesh. In the opening chapter he says, "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 saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 14) Near the conclusion of his Gospel he says, "But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31)
The following is a small sampling of Biblical passages that affirm the deity of Jesus Christ:
The only way to get rid of this clear testimony of the Godhood of Jesus would be to dismiss the Bible altogether, tear out this passage (and numerous others), or alter the text of Scripture. These are the methods used by those who deny the deity of Christ. The weakness of these methods is apparent in that they seek to prove something using a certain document but then start rejecting portions of it they find objectionable.
Jesus is God because He lived like a God. No man has ever, nor could, live as He lived. If He was only a man, then other men could perfectly follow His teachings and live the kind of life He lived. But all fall short of the perfect life He lived. Jesus' teachings were as perfect as His life. It is not difficult to conclude that because He lived like a God that He is indeed God.
Jesus is God because of His humanity, which was genuine. Though He possessed divine power, He never used it for Himself. He went by a plain title, "the Son of man". It takes a truly big person to go by a plain title. Jesus took on this title for Himself to emphasize His humanity. But as with plain titles on big men, Jesus' humanity stressed in the "Son of man" title was so large and all-encompassing that He was more than a mere man, but God.
Jesus is God because He died like a God. When one considers His trial and crucifixion, the agony He went through and the words He spoke, one can see the unearthliness, the supernatural, the divine about Jesus. Unlike the death of men who go down in defeat, Jesus' death was victory! He died like a God because He is God.
Jesus is God because He did things only a God could do. He claimed to forgive sin, and proved this ability by removing the penalty. Recall the story of the paralytic man. The first thing Jesus told him was that his sin were forgiven. His opponents accused Him of blasphemy, because by forgiving sin He was making Himself equal with God, who alone could forgive sin. But Jesus answered this charge by say, "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'?" In other words, what is easier to do? Forgive sin, or remove the penalty? Then to prove His authority to forgive sin He said, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." He forgave, then removed the penalty. His Godhood was demonstrated. The religious leaders of His day were to blind to see the evidences of the deity of Jesus. They crucified Him for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. Jesus had many opportunities to deny this, but He let the charges stand. He could not deny Himself.
Jesus is God because of what He does in the lives of countless people today. His continuing power to forgive sin and regenerate lives, making them partakers of the divine nature, testifies to His Godhood. For He does what no philosopher, teacher, or religious leader can do. He does only what a God can do!
Jesus is God because of His influence on the world. One can see this in the rapid spread of Christianity in first several centuries. How could the disciples of Christ go from being cowards who ran and denied Him on the night of His arrest and subsequent cruxifixion, to men that persecution, deprivation, and martyrdom could not deter from telling the world about Jesus. What caused this dramatic change? They had been witness to His resurrection. They saw Him die; they saw Him raised from the dead. They were convinced beyond doubt that He was God. Could a mere man have brought about such a change in others? No, only a God could have. Jesus' influence on the world has been too great and far-reaching for a man to have produced it. And it continues to grow to this day and age, and there is nothing powerful enough to stop it.
Because of all that has been said, and many other things that could be said, the deity of Jesus Christ has been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. It is up to those who continue in disbelief and denial to prove that Jesus is not who He claimed to be. But they cannot, since it is impossible to prove a negative. It is the folly of men that causes them to persist in disbelief. Even demons believe and tremble!
If Jesus is not God, then who could replace Him? Surely none of the many religious leaders and teachers that have come and gone on the world scene. None of them could bring forgiveness of sin or salvation. None of them died for humanity and conquered death by rising from the grave. There is only one Savior. Jesus Christ! Without Him there is no other savior. No one else who can save from sin and the penalty of sin.
The same question Jesus posed to His disciples almost two thousand years ago confronts us today? Who is Jesus to you? Did he even exist? Was he just a good man? Or is He the fullness of deity in bodily form (Colossians 2:9) who was sent to make salvation available to us (John 3:16)? These questions are important because if Jesus is not who He claimed to be, then we have no Savior and His authority to forgive sin would be invalid. If Jesus is not our Savior, then we have no means for our salvation and He would be a liar, and the Bible would be a lie, for it declares that Jesus Christ is the only name by which we may be saved (Acts 4:8-12). And without a means for salvation, we are all doomed and our faith would be in vain.
But if Jesus
is all He claimed to be and the Bible is reliable and true,
then by faith we can accept Him and have the salvation He secured
for His people. We would be able to say with conviction along
with Peter that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living
God" (Matthew 16:16); and also along with the Apostle Paul
that Jesus "is God over all". (Romans 9:5)
|Who Do You Say Jesus Is? | The Incarnation | The Crucifixion | The Resurrection|