The Deity of Jesus
There are those who deny the Deity of Christ. Of those, there are some who believe in the inerrant Word of God, yet allege that Jesus Himself never claimed to be God. Those who would make such a claim are simply wrong. Either they have never read the New Testament or simply refuse to acknowledge the abundance of evidence of Jesus’ claims of Divinity.
This paper will demonstrate that Jesus certainly did claim to be God; both indirectly and directly. The scope of this study will be on the Gospel of John and deal with the direct saying of Jesus as recorded by His apostle John.
The Gospel of John is full of saying of Jesus in which He indirectly claims Divinity. Of these are His sayings regarding His authority over temporal life and death, His authority over eternal life, His heavenly origin, His claims to be the Messiah, His power to forgive sins, the titles of Divinity He claimed for Himself, His authority over the Holy Spirit, and His equality with the Father.
God is life itself. All living things owe their existence to Him and Him alone. “God created . . . every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21). God told the Israelites in a song that He Himself wrote “I put to death and I bring to life” (Deut. 32:39). Nehemiah writes “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Neh. 9:6). What then are we to make of Jesus’ claims over life? How can anyone have power of life and death but God? There are instances of prophets of God in both the Old and New Testaments who raised the dead, but in all instances it was God working through the prophet. The prophet had no power of life and death. No prophet ever even suggested such a thing. Jesus however did claim authority over life and death. When the Jews demanded a miraculous sign, Jesus replied “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). John then says “But the temple he had spoken of was his body” (John 2:21). Notice here that Jesus said I will raise it. Jesus is claiming to have the power to raise the dead.
Jesus claims this power in a number of other passages in the Book of John. In John 5:21, Jesus says “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.” Jesus could not possibly be clearer about His power to raise the dead; He claims the power to raise whomever He wishes. He reiterates this again in John 10:17-18, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” So Jesus claims the authority over both life and death.
Not only did Jesus claim authority over temporal life, He also claimed authority over eternal life. Jesus told the woman at the well “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John. 4:13-14). He also told a large crowd “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). Here Jesus is telling the crowd that their eternal destiny is in His hands. Notice here that Jesus did not say “My Father will raise him up,” instead He says I will raise him up.
We find further support for Jesus’ authority over eternal life in the words He told Martha after Lazarus died, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). So Jesus has authority over this life and the life to come.
The sayings of Jesus also point to the fact that He had heavenly origins. Unlike humans, whose eternal home is on earth, Jesus tells us that His home is heaven: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13). Jesus also says “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus tells a crowd of Jews that He stood in the very presence of God the Father: “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father” (John 6:38). Jesus also said that He was returning to His Father in heaven: “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:28). Moreover, we know that Jesus was glorified in the presence of God when He was in heaven. In fact, He claimed to share in the glory of God: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). When talking about the Father, Jesus talks about the glory “I had with you.” But we know from Isa. 42:8 that God will not give His glory to another: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another.” So how can Jesus receive what God never gives? The implication is that Jesus is God.
Jesus constantly referred to Himself by the title “Son of Man.” This is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14 where the Son of Man “was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”
When the Samaritan woman told Jesus “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us” (John. 4:25). Jesus responded: “I who speak to you am he” (John. 4:26). However, the Old Testament makes it clear that the Messiah is God. The prophet Isaiah writes of the Messiah “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Here we see the title “Mighty God” used to refer to the Messiah. This very title is used of God in the very next chapter: “A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God” (Isa. 10:21). So the logic is easy to follow: the title “Mighty God” refers to God; and since this title is assigned to the Messiah, the Messiah must be God; and since Jesus Himself claims to be the Messiah, Jesus is claiming to be God.
Whenever we sin, we sin against God. This is why David says “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13), even though it was Uriah the Hittite that he killed. All sin we commit is ultimately directed against God, even though there may very well be other people involved in the sin. This is why only God can forgive sin. Who else can remove a debt owed to God but God? Yet this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus said to the Jews “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). Jesus claims the authority to dismiss a debt owed to God.
God is Light. David writes “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1). Micah writes “Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (Micah 7:8). Yet Jesus claimed to be the light of the world: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12). Here Jesus is claiming for Himself, that which was previously only claimed by God.
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Holy Trinity. The fact that the Holy Spirit is God can be determined from Acts 5:3-4. Here the Holy Spirit is referred to as God: “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” Thus lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God.
In John 14:26, Jesus says that the Father will send the Holy Spirit: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Yet, two chapters later Jesus says that He will send the Holy Spirit: “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This only makes sense if Jesus is God. Here Jesus is clearly claiming authority that He Himself has ascribed to God. Furthermore, how could a mere prophet send God? If God is sovereign, no one can “send” Him. Also, Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit will come to testify about Him: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:16). Why would God (Holy Spirit) testify about Jesus? The conclusion can easily be drawn. It is Jesus, the second member of the Trinity that sends the Holy Spirit.
Jesus puts Himself on the same level as God by directly associating Himself with the Father. This is demonstrated by claiming that He is due the same honor as the Father: “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:23). Jesus even makes it clear that you cannot honor the Father unless you honor the Son. When Jesus comforts His disciples about His leaving, He tells them “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” The inference is obvious; to know Jesus is to know God. Jesus even claims that all that belongs to God belongs to Him. Jesus tells His disciples “All that belongs to the Father is mine” (John 16:15).
Since no mere prophet would make these claims of Divinity, and since God would certainly not authenticated a message from a false prophet, the only explanation is that Jesus is God.
In addition to the indirect claims of Deity, on a number of occasions Jesus directly claimed to be God. There is a clear example of this in John 8:58. In this instance, the Jews accused Jesus of being demon possessed for claiming that whoever keeps His commands “will never see death” (John 8:51). When the Jews mocked Him for claiming to be greater than Abraham, Jesus replied “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” This was a direct claim to Divinity. This was a reference to the Old Testament when Moses asked God His name. God responded with “‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14). So here Jesus is ascribing the very name of God to Himself. The Jews clearly understood exactly what Jesus was saying which is why “they picked up stones to stone him” (John 8:59).
This was not an isolated incident. Again in John 10:30 Jesus claims to be God when He told the Jews “I and the Father are one.” And again the implication was clear to the Jews who responded to Jesus’ statement by again trying to stone Him “for blasphemy,” they explained their attempt to stone Him by telling Him: “because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).
In yet another incident, the Jews persecuted Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. He told them “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). The Jews took this is a direct claim to be God. John records their response: “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
So we see that Jesus directly claimed to be God. His claims were not veiled in mystery, but open and clearly understood by those He addressed.
Surely there can be no doubt that Jesus made numerous direct and indirect claims to be God. Indirectly He claimed His Divinity by claiming to be the Messiah. Old Testament writings make it clear that the Messiah is God. Jesus claimed to have authority over life and death. In fact He even claimed to be Life as well as the light of the world. He also claimed to be from heaven where He enjoyed the glory of the Father. He told His followers to honor Him just as they honor Father.
Jesus also made a number of direct claims to Deity. He claimed to be the God of the Old Testament by ascribing the sacred name “I AM” to Himself. He also claimed to be one with the Father. The audiences clearly understood that He was claiming to be God. John records that the Jews tried to stone Jesus on more than one occasion for the blasphemy of being equal to God.
Just from the Gospel of John alone the evidence is undeniable. Jesus claimed to be God in a number of passages, under a number of circumstances, to a number of different audiences. No one can read the Gospel of John and deny that Jesus absolutely considered Himself God.