Introduction (Written by Jason Petersen)
This is a comprehensive seven-part article on the Deity of Christ that is written by Evan Osborne. Seven arguments can be used to show that Christ was God in the flesh. The seven parts to this series is listed below. The reader can feel free to click on any of the links below so that they may easily access the parts.
Written by Evan Osborne
A very effective way to argue for the deity of our Lord is to point to the unique characteristics of God (known in theology as “incommunicable attributes”) that Christ himself has/fulfills. This argument is powerful, because, if Christ possesses attributes that only God can possess, then he must be God. I will be pointing out six specific attributes in my defense: independence, eternality, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability.
When we say that God is “independent,” we mean that he depends on nothing but himself. Scripture teaches directly that God is an independent being (Exodus 3:14; Acts 17:24-25), so any being that is absolutely independent is also God. As it so happens, there is biblical evidence that Jesus is independent. In John 5, Jesus, after healing a man by the Pool of Bethesda (vv. 1-15), is speaking in vv. 16-47 of the authority that he has been given by the Father, which the Jewish leaders took to mean that Jesus was claiming to be God (v. 18). Though Christ, in his State of Humiliation (this is the theological phrase referring to Christ’s first coming when he was in the state of humility) was dependent on the Father, as John 5 indicates, there is a statement in the text that points to Christ’s independence. In v. 26, Christ says, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” If a being has life in himself, and is not dependent upon anyone/anything for his life, then he is independent. Any independent being is God, so we can conclude here that Christ is God.
An eternal being is one that is without beginning or end, timeless, causeless, etc. Scripture is quite clear that God is eternal (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:1-4; Psalm 102:12; Jeremiah 10:10; Habakkuk 3:6; Romans 16:26; Revelation 1:1; 4:8), but it is also clear that Christ is eternal as well:
Isaiah 9:6: This passage is a messianic prophecy about the coming of Christ. In the text, he is called “everlasting Father.” In Hebrew, the term “ab” is used, which, though it is translated as “father,” it tends to mean “possessor of.” For example, in Exodus 6:24, Abiasaph is mentioned, whose name means “father of gathering.” It’s clear that this means that he was a gatherer. Also, Abialbon (2 Samuel 23:31) means “father of strength,” which simply means that he was strong. Lastly, Abigail (2 Chronicles 2:17) means “father of exultation.” That “father of” can mean “possessor of” is clear. Applied to Isaiah 9, Christ as “everlasting Father,” is an eternal being, and therefore God.
John 1:1: The Prologue of John has one of the highest christologies in all of Scripture. The text begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Since v. 3 points to the fact that Christ is the Creator of the universe (more on that in my next article), the “beginning” spoken of here must be that of the universe. Since time is a property of the universe, there is no time before the beginning. Therefore, anything before the “beginning” is timeless, and therefore eternal. Well, in John 1:1, at the beginning the Word (Christ) “was” (this is the term “eis” in the Greek text, denoting an existence before that which was stated, in this case, “the beginning”). If he is before creation, he is before time, is therefore timeless, and is therefore eternal.
Revelation 1:8: In this text, Jesus is referred to as the one who was, is, and is to come. His statement of “was” points to his pre-existence (spoken of in John 17, especially v. 5), “is” points to his present existence, and “is to come” denotes his everlasting existence, which will never end. This phrase presents Jesus as transcendent over time, and he is therefore eternal.
Revelation 22:13: Christ is spoken of as the “Beginning and the End”/”First and the Last”/”Alpha and the Omega.” He is before and after even time itself, and is therefore eternal.
We may define omniscience as the attribute of knowing all things. God is taught to be omniscient (Job 37:16; Psalm 139:1-6; 1 John 3:20), so if Christ is omniscient, he is God. There are a number of texts that teach the omniscience of Christ. I will discuss two such texts:
John 16:30: As Christ is finishing his private ministry with his disciples (John 12-16), he finishes by telling them that he will shortly be returning to the Father (v. 28). The disciples understand Jesus’ teaching, and point to the fact that he taught with clarity, without figures of speech (v. 29). Through their understanding of his teaching, they realize his omniscience, and in v. 30 proclaim, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” His disciples understood that he was omniscient.
John 21:17: A part of John’s record of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (John 20-21), Christ reinstates Peter, after the debacle of Peter’s denial of Christ (cf. Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18,25-27). Christ asks Peter a number of times if he loves him, and when Peter affirms, Christ gives him specific commands. The last time Christ asks Peter this question, Peter responds with, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” We have another apostolic confession of the omniscience of Christ.
Omnipotence is generally understood to mean that one has all authority, and can do all things. It is easily ascertained from the Bible that God is omnipotent (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17,27; Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37; 18:27), yet this omnipotence is also applied to Christ:
Matthew 28:18: The Great Commission (vv. 19-20) is not without foundation. Christ’s reason for giving such a command is that, according to v. 18, he has “all authority on heaven and earth.” He is an omnipotent Lord.
John 10:17-18: A more extensive exegesis of this text is found in my first article in this series, “The Deity of Christ I: Christ’s Claims to be God,” but, in passing, vv. 17-18, speaking of Christ’s authority to give his life and take it up again, suggest that he is an omnipotent being.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24: Paul, speaking of how the foolishness of the gospel is used by God to bring salvation, says in v. 25 of 1 Corinthians 1 that God’s weakness is stronger than man’s strength. It is convincing that this is speaking of the omnipotent power of God. In such a context, this same power is applied to Christ in v. 24, demonstrating to us that Christ himself possesses the very omnipotence of God.
Ephesians 1:21-22: Paul, speaking of the great riches we have in Christ (vv. 3-19) speaks of how even the power that we have is based upon Christ’s power, which Paul describes as “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” Paul understood the omnipotence of Christ.
Colossians 2:10: Christ is the very foundation of knowledge and wisdom (v. 3), and any form of knowledge that does not conform to his authority is deceptive and hollow (v. 8). Paul gives as the basis for Christ’s authority in epistemology as his deity (v. 9, I will be further discussing the testimony of Colossians 2:9 to the deity of Christ in a later article). As God, he would have to have omnipotence. And according to v. 10, he does: ” He is the head over every power and authority.” So, even arguing apart from Colossians 2:9, we can assert that Christ is God simply from v. 10: If Christ is omnipotent, he is God, Christ is omnipotent, therefore he is God.
We define omnipresence here as the idea that a being exists everywhere at once. God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23-24), yet we also find the same attribute being used of Christ:
Matthew 18:20: In vv. 15-18, Christ is speaking of church discipline, speaking of the conflict that exists between believers. In v. 19, he speaks of the agreement of believers (the antithesis of vv. 15-18). In this context, he utters, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Since believers gather all over the world, the only way this can be accomplished is if Christ is omnipresent.
Matthew 28:20: Again we look at the Great Commission, the church’s marching orders. After giving the command to 1.) make disciples, and 2.) baptize them, Christ assures his disciples in their work, declaring, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” This denotes omnipresence.
Mark 7:24-30: I preface this text by saying that it is not as powerful of a testimony to Christ’s omnipresence than others, but I believe it to contribute to the biblical evidences. In Mark 7, a woman whose daughter was possessed came and begged Jesus to heal the girl. After some refusal (for a legitimate reason), Christ, without going to the girl, told the mother after their conversation that the girl was now healed. If Christ is omnipresent, this healing is conceivable. If he is not, it isn’t.
Luke 7:1-10: Similarly, a Roman centurion sent people to ask Christ to heal the centurion’s servant. Christ also heals the servant without going to him, another picture of Christ’s omnipresence.
John 4:46-54: Here again we have another case of Jesus healing someone without physically being present with them, in this case an official’s son.
Colossians 3:11: Colossians 3 (a close parallel of Ephesians 4) speaks of Christian sanctification under the language of “putting on the new man.” This new man is in Christ, and according to v. 11, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” This is only consistent with the idea of Christ being omnipresent.
Immutability refers to the idea that a being’s nature never changes. God is immutable (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; Romans 1:23; James 1:17). Christ is also described as immutable:
Hebrews 1:10-12: The theme of Hebrews is that the New Covenant under Christ is superior to the Old Covenant. To argue this, the author of Hebrews (whoever it is) points out the superiority of Christ. In Hebrews 1, the author is writing on Christ’s superiority over angels, and in this text, vv. 10-12, speaking of Christ’s eternality and immutability, actually cites one of the texts I just referenced above, Psalm 102:25-27. This psalm undoubtedly refers to God’s immutability, so the fact that it is used in Hebrews 1 shows that even Christ is regarded as immutable.
Hebrews 13:8: In giving some concluding exhortations in vv. 1-7, the author of Hebrews stops and notes that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” According to this, Christ never changes.
There you have it. We’ve looked at numerous texts speaking of Christ’s attributes, and while there are certain texts that may seem incompatible with these attributes (for example, some argue that Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 deny the omniscience of Christ), I assure, you I will address them. This will probably be done in another series of articles defending the humanity of Christ (though I encourage you to read for yourself on these difficult topics). I hope this has been another encouragement, and I pray that you use this to further defend the faith.