The deity of Christ is one of the most essential doctrines within the Christian faith. The concept of the Trinity - three in one, much like a pyramid (one pyramid, three sides) has been part of Christianity since its inception, contrary to popular belief. The preservation of Scripture, particularly the New Testament, has been remarkable, and the eyewitness accounts of the events of Jesus' life described in the Gospels provide a historically and archaeologically attested record of His life. Writings of the early church fathers along with the writings of Pliny the Younger (Governor of Bithynia in 112 AD) shows that, as opposed to the view that Christ's deity as God developed at the Council of Nicaea in the third century, that this belief has actually been around since the very beginning. (Photo credit: No copyright infringement intended, all rights belong to Visual Bible International and THINKFilm - The Gospel of John (2003) starring Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus)
In two past entries, "Is Jesus Really God?" and "Did Jesus Claim To Be God?", many internal and external evidences were provided which, this ministry believes, demonstrates that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, that He received and accepted worship as God, and that after research done on the different empty tomb theories, the resurrection is the only valid explanation. "But if Jesus was God," some ask, "what about this passage... or this phrase... or this verse..." In the two aforementioned entries, many such objections concerning Jesus as God were answered, such as His names as the "Son of Man" - actually a reference to Daniel 7, which the Jews knew would be their Messiah, or the "Son of God," meaning that He was not the Father's Son in the biological sense, but in relationship sense, or rather "in the same nature of" (see Philippians 2, Hebrews 1), or "Son of David," showing that He was fully God and fully human at the same time, descended from the line of King David.
However, in this entry, there have been questions about other such objections, and we will attempt to answer these in an orderly, logical, and coherent fashion.
Objection 1: Jesus is called the "firstborn" over Creation in Colossians 1:15. Doesn't this mean Jesus is a created being, and therefore not God?
The text in question, 1st Corinthians 1:15-17, says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." To say that the phrase "firstborn" indicates that Jesus is a created being, as certain cults and denominations do by citing this verse, is unbiblical. John 1 clearly claims that Jesus is the Creator God. To say that Jesus is a created being not only conflicts with John 1, but with much of Scripture. Take John 17:5, which illustrates the pre-existence of Jesus, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (emphasis mine).
Note that verse 15 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God." The word "image" means likeness or copy, and when compared with Hebrews 1:3 we read, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word..." Though Jesus took on human likeness, Jesus is "in very nature God" (Philippians 2:6). When we see the phrase "firstborn over all creation," it is referring to Christ's pre-existence as God. Jesus is not called the "first-created," but the "firstborn." The Greek word for firstborn, "prototokos," designates priority. Jesus is the eternal Creator, and as noted in Hebrews 1:2-4 and John 1:10, the world was made by Him and through Him. In Near East culture of the time, the firstborn was not always specifically the eldest child. Firstborn, more often than not, referred not to birth order but to rank. The firstborn in a family was the one who possessed the inheritance and leadership.
Psalm 89:27 says, "I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth." Five times aside from Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called the firstborn of God the Father, in Romans 8:29, Hebrews 1:6 and 12:23, Revelation 1:5, and Colossians 1:18. Evidently, the term, or phrase "firstborn" proclaims the sovereignty and priority, as well as authority, of Jesus, not a created nature, but an eternal one. Recall that Jesus is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is God, not a created being.
Objection 2: Jesus said in John 14:28, "The Father is greater than I." Doesn't this mean He is not God?
|Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus|
John 14:28 says, "You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I" (emphasis mine). Understand the verse in its context: this was spoken by Jesus during what is known as the upper room discourse - before His resurrection. Jesus made similar statements in the Gospels, but does this show that He is not God, if the Father is greater than He? To understand the basis of these statements, the incarnation of Christ needs to be recognized. Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus was temporarily "made lower than the angels," and Philippians 2 reveals that Jesus "limited," or "emptied," Himself of particular things, such as limited omniscience (touched on later in this entry). However, simply because Jesus, who is God, did not utilize His attributes at every moment does not negate His deity as God. If God does not continually create, He is still the Creator. When this happened, when Christ "limited" Himself, and allowed Himself to be subject to the Will of God the Father during His time on earth. Once Christ was resurrected, He was then given "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).
"Another thing to consider is the fact that subservience in role does not equate to subservience in essence. For example, consider an employer/employee relationship. The employer has the right to make demands of the employee, and the employee has the obligation to serve the employer. The roles clearly define a subservient relationship. However, both people are still human beings and share in the same human nature. There is no difference between the two as to their essence; they stand as equals. The fact that one is an employer and the other is an employee does nothing to alter the essential equality of these two individuals as human beings. The same can be said of the members of the Trinity. All three members (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are essentially equal; i.e., they are all divine in nature. However, in the grand plan of redemption, they play certain roles, and these roles define authority and subservience. The Father commands the Son, and the Father and the Son command the Holy Spirit."
Indeed, Jesus had "made himself nothing" (Philippians 2:7) while on earth, and when He rose from the dead, His full deity was restored. Once we understand the nature of Jesus' incarnation, similar statements and other such things said by Christ are much clearer, such as another objection we will examine later in the entry.
Objection 3: If Jesus is God, why did He pray to the Father?
To understand the answer to this objection, consider John 5:19-27, which says, "Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.'"
Verse 23 conveys that the Father sent the Son, and we understand that Jesus did not become the Son of God the moment He was born in Bethlehem, but has always been the Son of God, since before the universe came to be (Isaiah 9:6; John 17:5, etc.) As with the prior objection, Jesus was subject to the will of the Father while on earth, because Jesus had been temporarily "made lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9) and had "limited" Himself while on earth, and was therefore subject to the will of the Father. Note also that no theological or biblical issue exists with the Son praying - or rather, communicating with, the Father. The example set by Jesus concerning prayer is one we ought to follow. If Jesus, who was sinless, prayed/communicated with/to the Father - how much more we, who are in very nature sinful, ought to pray! The praying of the Son to the Father demonstrates the relational sense of the Trinity. There is no issue with the Son, in His position while on earth, praying to the Father - Jesus' claim as God still stands firm.
Objection 4: If Jesus is God, why was He called the only "begotten" Son of God in John 3:16?
The text in question is John 3:16 which reads in the KJV, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (see also 1st John 4:9). This phrase, "only begotten," occurs in the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the NKJV. The phrase translated as "only begotten" is the Greek "monogenes," which is also translated in English as "only" or "one and only." The TNIV says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (emphasis mine).
According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, the Greek "monogenes" has two essential definitions. The first, "pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship," used in Hebrews 11:17, for example, when the text calls Isaac the "only begotten son" of Abraham, even though the Biblical record clearly shows that Abraham also had Ishmael (Genesis 16) as well as the six children from Keturah (Genesis 25:1). However, the phrase "only begotten son" is used in Hebrews 11:17 because Isaac was the only son born to Abraham and Sarah - the only child born under the covenant with Abraham. The second definition from the Greek-English Lexicon is defined as, "pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind." This is the definition generally attributed to the "monogenes" found in John 3:16.
Note that John is also the only writer in the New Testament who refers to Jesus with this word (see for example: John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1st John 4:9). In his Gospel, which early tradition says was written or dictated (possibly to Ignatius or Polycarp) in Ephesus, St. John was writing to answer the claims of early Gnostics that Jesus was not God, and that He was not God the Son, hence the reason for the Johannine emphasis on the deity of Christ. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) do contain references to the deity of Christ, but it was not their focus, and as such is not as heavy in references. Jesus was the Son of God in that He is in very nature, God, yet Christians, who are called the "sons and daughters of God," are only so because of faith through God the Son. There is no issue, the deity of Christ, as with the previous objections, continues to stand firm.
Objection 5: Why was Jesus baptized, if He was God and sinless?
This is a common question and objection, and an understandable one. Why, if Jesus was sinless as the New Testament claims (Hebrews 4:15, for example), would He need to be baptized, as John baptizing others was baptism of repentance? St. John the Baptist asked the very same question in Matthew 3:14, "I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me?" To which Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Note that in neither Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's account is it said that the baptism of Jesus was for the purpose of repentance of sins. There are a variety of reasons, however, why Jesus was baptized.
For example, it signified the start of Christ's ministry. We read in Luke 3:21-23, "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.' Now Jesus Himself was about thirty years old when Jesus began His ministry." It was also important that Jesus was publicly recognized by His forerunner, John, through John's ministry. John the Baptist was the "voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD...'" (Isaiah 40:3), the one whom God said, "I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me" (Malachi 3:1a). John acknowledged Jesus as the one promised to Israel as the Messiah, the Lamb of God.
The baptism of Christ also demonstrated His approval of John's baptismal ministry, which was certainly needed when the authority of John was called into question after his arrest at the hands of Herod. But perhaps the most significant point is the fact that the fullness of the Trinity is embodied within this event: the Father speaks from heaven of the Son, and the Spirit descends upon the Son, who then begins His three and a half year ministry. Jesus was not baptized for sins, as He was sinless. He was baptized as a signifier that His ministry had begun, He was baptized to show the embodiment of the Trinity, He was baptized to show His approval of what John was doing, as well as several other reasons. Christ's baptism in no way negates His status as God.
Objection 6: Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? None are good - but God alone." Does this mean Jesus is not God?
Mark 10:17-19 says, "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Did Jesus try to rebuke or correct the man for calling Him good? No, Jesus never says, "I am not good." He says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone" (see also Matthew 19:16-17).
Jesus had announced that He was fully God as well as fully human - and in fact was killed for claiming to be God (see John 5:18; 10:33, etc.). Having been "made lower than the angels," as previously noted, Jesus was technically in a lesser position to the Father, so the verse can also be taken within that context. It can also be looked at as a rhetorical question, essentially, "Do you think I am God?" By asking the young ruler to give up what he had, Jesus is calling the man to follow Him, therefore following the commandment: Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Matthew 22). By following Jesus, who is God, we are putting Him first, which is in keeping with the first commandment, "Do not have any gods before [God]." If we put something, be it a god, a material possession, or the like, before our Creator, then we are breaking this commandment. Thus, when Jesus brought up the commandments, the final commandment the man had yet to fully achieve was following Jesus - keeping the first commandment, essentially. Mark's narrative is seen in the context that he shows a progressive revelation of Christ's deity, culminating in Mark 14-16.
In John 10:11 Jesus declares Himself the "good shepherd." If Jesus declared Himself good, and He has also declared Himself God (see John 10:30, among other references), therefore, logic dictates that since Jesus did not deny He was good, but asked in the rhetorical sense, it follows that Jesus claimed to be good, as well as claiming to be God, and since only God is good, Jesus was also indirectly claiming deity.
Objection 7: If Jesus is God, why did He call God "My God?"
Though answered in a previous entry, it may be best to once again address this question. While on the cross in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Many believe that here, Jesus is demonstrating that He is not God. However, this is not the case. Jesus is actually quoting from Psalm 22:1, a Psalm of David written nearly 1000 years before the birth of Christ. By citing Psalm 22, Jesus knew that we could later go back and check the entire Psalm, and indeed the New Testament writers quoted from this particular Psalm elsewhere for a good reason: parts of it depict the scene of the crucifixion! For example, "they pierce my hands and my feet...", "They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment," "All who see me mock me, they hurl insults..." and the passage, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me" (Psalm 22:14), many believe refers to the fact that Jesus' heart burst, or ruptured, and when the soldier speared His side, John 19:33-34 records that it brought "a sudden flow of blood and water," showing that His heart had ruptured.
Aside from this, when Jesus cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?", it also signified that the Father, for the first time in all of eternity, had to turn away from the Son, and for the first time, both were disconnected, and not only did Jesus experience extreme loneliness because of this, but all of the sins of mankind - past, present, and future - were placed upon him then. Elsewhere, such as John 20:17 and Revelation 3:2 and 12, when Jesus calls the Father, "My God," this is also not a claim that He is not God. Though Jesus is God incarnate, He is still separate from the Father. The Father is the God of the Son, and this does not negate the fact that each is part of the whole, as stated prior, much like a pyramid - one pyramid, but three sides, though each one may be different. Indeed, the Father even calls Jesus "Lord" and "God." In Psalm 110:1 we read, "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."
Also, when the Father is quoted as speaking of Jesus, we read that "...about the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever...'" (Hebrews 1:8). The Father calls the Son - God, and the Son calls the Father - God. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. Though the Trinity is a rather complex and difficult to understand relation, it is still biblical, and it is what we know of the nature of God. God is not a human, and since, aside from things such as multiple personality disorder, one person is normally not three, it is difficult for our fallible minds which are tied to linear time and not eternity - to rationalize that God is one yet three (Although eternity has been set in the human heart, see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Objection 8: Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Doesn't this mean that Jesus does not know everything, and therefore is not God?
First of all, it is important to note that not every manuscript has the phrase "nor the Son." Second, as noted in previous objections, Hebrews 2:9 and Philippians 2 teaches that Jesus limited particular characteristics of His deity when He took on human flesh, and thus was at times limited in His knowledge, though not always. Although Jesus was fully God at the time He said this in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, Jesus had emptied Himself of some of His attributes, and as such did not - at the time - know the day or hour of the first phase in His second coming. Much like the Father, the Son has the ability to restrict His omniscience at certain times (take the testing of Abraham, for example). When Jesus was resurrected, however, He knew the day and the hour, and once again had "all authority" (Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:7). Jesus is now fully aware of when He will return - but at the time He had said that He did not know the day and the hour, His omniscience had been restricted.
Objection 9: Colossians 3:1 says that Jesus sits at the "right hand of God," and therefore cannot be God, correct?
Not necessarily. God is called the Father, God is called the Son, and He is also called the Spirit: the Trinity. Jesus (who is God the Son), sits at the right hand of the Father (who is also God). This is not a polytheistic teaching, anymore than saying that a 3-in-1 container is three separate containers. Following the line of previous objections, if the Father calls the Son, "God," and the Son calls the Father, "God," there is nothing wrong with one calling the other "God," as both are one part of the whole. Succinctly put, St. Paul clears up any misconceptions in Colossians 2:9, a few verses before, in which he states, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."
Objection 10: 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Doesn't this mean Jesus is merely a man, and not God?
Jesus Christ was unique in history, and will forever remain so. Jesus, when He became flesh, was both fully God, and fully man. Consider: a man can be both a father and a son at the same time. Likewise, Jesus was both man and God, and His humanity did not negate His deity. In fact, latter in 1st Timothy 3:16 we find that Jesus' incarnation (God in the flesh) is affirmed by St. Paul.
"The acknowledgement of one God is not only in this text, but also in several others (Deuteronomy 6:4; Malachi 2:10; Mark 12:32; 1 Corinthians 8:6, etc). Not one in person (for there are three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who are God). The word "God" should be understood as a form of being, not a particular person. Just as there is only one "mankind", there is only one "God". This is not a denial of Jesus' Godhood, but an affirmation of the exclusivity of Godhood."
It is clear, after examining the deity of Jesus in three separate entries, including this particular one, that Jesus was called God by others, He claimed to Be God, He was condemned for calling Himself such, His resurrection validated His claim as God, it is therefore reasonable to assume that Jesus is God. He was worshiped and received worship, He forgave sins, He raised Himself to life, and He will return again one day.
 "If Jesus was God, why did He say "The Father is greater than I" in John 14:28?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 27 Jul 2011.
 "Is Jesus God?." Answering The Atheist. Looking Unto Jesus, 5 October 2003. Web. 28 Jul 2011. < http://www.lookinguntojesus.net/ata20031005.htm >.