We come now to an absolutely vital point in Christian doctrine—one around which controversy has raged all through the Christian era. Satan's ceaseless attack has been directed against the doctrine of the Deity of Jesus. If that doctrine is allowed, it puts everything in Scripture in proper perspective. The miraculous birth of Christ, His miracles, His speech (either directly or by powerful implication claiming to be what He was), His death and His ascension can all be looked at in a right way.
In the early Christian church and all down the ages Christians have cherished this as a very cardinal doctrine of their faith.
Pliny, the younger, writing to the Roman Emperor Trajan, reports to his imperial master with the impartiality of one who is reporting facts, elicited in cross-examination of the Christians, "The Christians meet before daybreak, and sing among themselves, a hymn to Christ as God." The Emperor Adrian writing to Servian describes the population of Alexandria as divided between the worship of Christ and the worship of Serapis. Lucian, in the 2nd century A.D., said with contemptuous sarcasm, "The Christians are still worshipping that great man who was gibbeted in Palestine."
In those far-off days every Christian worshipped Jesus as God. Alas! in these last days apostasy has set in the Christian church, and you can find professing Christians, who deny the very Deity of our Lord. This is the rock upon which they split. The person of Christ becomes to such "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence" (1 Pet. 2:8), but how vital is their mistake, for we read, "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Luke 20:18).
It is upon no isolated passage of Scripture that the claim of our Lord's Deity is made. There is abundant evidence. The whole life, acts, and speech of Jesus would be wicked to the last degree were they not all they claimed to be, were He not "God ... manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16); whereas such was their character and such His Person that He could say, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).
What mere man could say this? Such an expression could not have fallen from the lips of Moses or Isaiah, or John the Baptist or Peter or Paul. To have made such a claim in their case would have been unspeakable blasphemy, and would have utterly destroyed their testimony as servants of the Lord; but in our Lord's case to have said less would have been for us unspeakable and irreparable loss.
We stand here on the brink of a fathomless mystery, and we may go no further. The Lord Himself states the limits of our possible knowledge on this profound subject. "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father" (Matt. 11:27). The person of Jesus is an inscrutable mystery, which no human intelligence can understand. The intellectual powers and wit of men are of no use here. It must be so. If I, a mere creature, could understand the Creator, I should no longer be a creature. The lowly Jesus here on earth, the Son of Mary, a true Man among men, ever was, is, and ever will be God. Who can understand this mystery? No wit of man can, but faith can receive and rejoice in the testimony of Scripture, and the heart can bow in lowly adoration like Thomas of old and say, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).
Isaiah, the royal prophet, could write, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). Here we have predicted of the same Person that He is a Child of Days and the Father of Eternity. Would an uninspired writer in his wildest dreams have ever put upon record such an impossibility from a human standpoint? And yet it is blessedly true, and the whole glory of God and the blessing of man depends upon the great truth of Christ being "God ... manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16).
In the same way John writes: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1, 2). "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Here we have affirmed—
1. The pre-existence of the Word before all things created.
2. His distinct personality in the Godhead.
3. His full Deity.
4. His true Humanity.
The affirmation is as distinct as can be on all these heads. Substitute the name of Abraham or Moses, or Isaiah or Paul, or any servant of the Lord for the Word, and how blasphemous would be the substitution. But in learning what John by inspiration has to say of the Word we have a sense of fitness and proportion, and without such knowledge we should have no adequate sense of the Person and work of our adorable Lord.
Take the titles of the blessed Lord as given in John 1, and they can fit no other person.
The only-begotten of the Father.
Christ—Messias (The Anointed).
The Lamb of God.
The Baptizer with the Holy Ghost.
Jesus of Nazareth.
Son of God.
King of Israel.
Son of Man.
This is a dazzling galaxy of glory to be compressed within the compass of one short chapter.
Take the self-assertion of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of John. Self-assertion in man is wrong, his place is in the dust; in the case of the Lord entirely necessary, for unless He revealed who and what He was we should never have known the truth as to His person. The true knowledge of Christ is necessary for the foundations of our faith, and it comes to us by revelation only.
Chap. 6:48, "I am that Bread of Life."
Chap. 8:12, "I am the Light of the world."
Chap. 10:7, "I am the Door of the Sheep."
Chap. 10:14, "I am the Good Shepherd."
Chap. 11:25, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life."
Chap. 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."
Chap. 15:1, "I am the True Vine."
To these may be added similar assertions recorded by the same writer in the Revelation.
Chap. 1:8, "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty"
Chap. 1:17, 18, "I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [hades] and of death"
Chap. 3:7, "These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth"
Chap. 3:14, "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God."
Chap. 22:16, "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star."
Scarcely one of these titles could be applicable to the blessed Lord if He were not a Man and had not died. For instance, how could He say, "I am the Resurrection," had He not died and risen again? And yet how could they be predicted of Him unless He were also God? What creature could answer to this description? But admit that Jesus was "God manifest in the flesh" and all is plain and simple and understandable.
But there are three instances in the Gospel of John where the assertion is of absolute Deity.
Chap. 8:24, "If ye believe not that I AM [He], ye shall die in your sins."Chap. 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM."
Chap, 18:6, "As soon then as He had said unto them, I AM [He], they went backward, and fell to the ground."
The other assertions could not have been made unless He had become Man; yet in the light of His atoning death and glorious resurrection, they involve in the fullest sense His Deity as giving character to His humanity—one blessed Person. What mere creature, the greatest conceivable let it be granted, could say, "I am the Light of the world," and how could He be the Light of the world save as "God manifest in the flesh," and in the light of His death and resurrection?
The claims are of the loftiest nature, universal in their character, stretching back to timeless eternity, and looking forward to timeless eternity, presenting Jesus as the exclusive Depository of blessing to man. Such claims are either absolutely true and blessed beyond words, or else they must be the most blasphemous assertions conceivable. But no base man could ever have conceived such assertions. They must be true in the very nature of things. The moral sense of the child of God bows in deepest assent and worship. We are overwhelmed in the presence of such an One.
His whole manner of life was in accordance with these claims. He lived, moved and had His being in the true knowledge of His Person. He never acknowledged a mistake, for He never erred. He never apologized for His words or actions. He stated what He was, but never argued about His claims. He stated them, and that was enough. He claimed to be the Son of Man again and again. See Daniel 7:13, 14 to understand what this means.
When He said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30), the Jews took up stones to stone Him. When asked why they would stone Him they answered, "For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a Man, makest Thyself God?" They quite well understood the loftiness of His claims.
When He performed miracles there was an ease and dignity comparable to no one else. He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43), and death itself yielded its prey, yet when Peter gave healing to the lame man he used the words, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6), and explained that "His Name through faith in His Name hath made this man strong" (verse 16), and disclaimed that it was by any power or holiness of his own by which the miracle was performed. The Lord uses no name but His own. He made no such disclaimer as Peter did. He acts as the Son of God—equal with God.
Yet, how beautifully He takes the place of the lowly dependent One, sent by the Father to do His will. He tells us that He says nothing, and does nothing, but what His Father bids Him say and do. Though this is blessedly true, yet He ever acted as One who was "God manifest in the flesh," yet ever the dependent One of the Father. Who can understand the unity of such a Person? None but the Father.
He could claim to be greater than the temple; Lord of the sabbath; greater than Jonas; greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:6, 8, 41, 42). He could say to His disciples, "Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am" (John 13:13).
He was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). In truth the resurrection proves all that Christ claimed to be. God would not have raised an impostor. As soon as Saul of Tarsus learned that the One, whom he treated in his blind zeal for God as an impostor, was at the right hand of God, in a moment his proud will was broken, and he who persecuted to the death God's people, preached the faith which once he destroyed.
No historical event has better proof than that of the resurrection of Christ, and that resurrection was God's seal upon every word that Christ spoke, every deed that He did, and especially upon the character of the work that He did upon the cross. The resurrection is the Divine upholding of every claim made by Christ.
Hebrews 1:6, says, "And again, when He bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him." Would God call upon the angels, a higher creation than man, to worship that Babe born in Bethlehem's stable and cradled in its manger, were He only the child of Joseph and Mary, that and nothing more? Impossible! To ask the question is to answer it.
Colossians 2:9 says, "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." There is no ambiguity about this statement. It could not be more concise—it could not be fuller. Ten words, yet an ocean of meaning is conveyed.
1 John 5:20 affirms of Jesus, "This is the true God, and Eternal Life." Could affirmation be more direct?
It is one mark of anti-Christian religions, masquerading as Christian, that they one and all unite in denying the Deity of Jesus. On other points they differ widely, but in this they agree, betraying their common origin, as Satanic. The branches of a tree may travel in contrary directions, but they are supported by the same trunk and fed by the same roots.
I well remember a man, who had been delivered from one of these anti-Christian systems, and who had travelled a considerable distance to thank me for his deliverance through reading a pamphlet, which I had been privileged to write on the subject, saying with great emphasis and joy, "It was that verse that set me free, 'And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee BEFORE THE WORLD WAS'" (John 17:5). That one verse is sufficient, if understood, to destroy utterly all the anti-Christian religions in the world.
The subject is so immense, the Scriptural proofs so numerous, that one is only able merely to quote in a very desultory surface fashion a mere tithe of what could be said on this entrancing theme.
It is a vein of purest gold, which the believer will find profitable in working out from Genesis to Revelation.
From Chap. 7 of The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith by Algernon J. Pollock. London: Central Bible Truth Depot, [n.d.]