The Incomparable ChristThe Deity of Christ
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, “Most people you run into today don’t mind believing Jesus was a great man or even a prophet . . .”
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: . . .but they don’t want the Jesus with all authority and power because that means accountability.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
Do you believe that Jesus was God? Does it really matter? Listen as Nancy addresses those questions while teaching before a group of women.
Nancy: Today as we continue our series on "The Incomparable Christ," preparing our hearts leading up to the Passion of Christ and Easter week, we want to look today at the deity of Christ and answer this question: Who was Jesus? Is He or is He not God?
When we talk about the deity of Christ, that’s the question we’re addressing: the God-ness of Christ; the fact that He is God. I’m going to start by affirming what the Scripture teaches in many places but, for example, 1 Timothy 3, verse 16: “God was manifested in the flesh” (NKJV).
When Jesus came to this earth and was born in Bethlehem as a little baby, that was God being manifested in the flesh—the Incarnation, we call it—God taking on human flesh. This is the doctrine of the deity of Christ. The fact that He is God is foundational to Christianity. If that is not true, the whole structure crumbles.
As Oswald Sanders says in the book we’ve been following along, The Incomparable Christ, “If Jesus is not God, then there is no Christianity, and we who worship Him are nothing more than idolaters.”
This doctrine of the deity of Christ, the fact that He was God is hugely important. So it should come as no surprise to us that throughout history there have been challenges to His deity, attacks on His deity. People have disputed this—even within the church.
In the fourth century, for example, going back hundreds of years, there was a bishop named Arius. He believed and taught that Jesus was a highly exalted but created being. He was not uncreated and eternal as the Father is.
So the first council of the whole church met together in 325 A.D. in Nicea (a town in modern-day Turkey) to answer the question: Who is Jesus? The creed that came out of that council, the Nicene Creed, is still recited in many churches today. That creed affirmed that Jesus was of the very same nature as God.
Now, today there are many modern-day religions that deny the deity of Christ. Let me just name a few:
- Unitarians believe that Jesus was “a son of God” but not “the Son of God.” They don’t believe He’s unique, incomparable Christ.
- Mormons believe that Jesus was created by God and is a "brother" to Satan, that Jesus was once just a man who lived on another planet. He eventually progressed to be equal to God, and He came to colonize planet earth with "gods to be" or humans.
- Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ was only a perfect man, not God in the flesh and that prior to His earthly life He was Michael the Archangel, the first in rank of created angels.
So when those people come to your door to discuss religions with you and use some of the same words and Scriptures that you’re familiar with, know that they are attaching different meanings to many of those same words and concepts and Scriptures.
- Muslims believe that Jesus was a virgin-born prophet but not God.
So we have different religions that deny the deity of Christ, but what’s particularly interesting to me is that over the past 100 years there has been a concerted effort on the part of some so-called biblical scholars to debunk the deity of Christ.
You may have heard the term “the search for the ‘historical Jesus.’” The objective of that movement is supposedly to give us a picture of the “real Jesus” by "separating historical fact from mythology" and in order to do that, they have had to deconstruct the biblical record.
This philosophy, the search for the "historical Jesus" is rooted in the philosophy of naturalism. That’s the belief that if something cannot be scientifically proven, it can’t be true. This belief rejects the supernatural. Therefore, the biblical accounts of Jesus being born of a virgin, walking on water, performing miracles, being raised from the dead, those things they say cannot be factually true. These are Bible scholars coming to this conclusion. But what happens is it calls into question the reliability of the whole of Scripture.
The Jesus Seminar is the best known proponent of this philosophy. It started in 1985 with a team of radically liberal “scholars” (so called) who assembled to review the New Testament and determine which portions were true and which portions were not. Now, right away you have trouble in River City. You’ve got problems because of the very thought that maybe some of it isn’t true.
In 1998 the founder of the Jesus Seminar published twenty-one theses in the organization's newsletter. Those theses include this one: “We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine.”1
The core issue at the heart of all of this is this question: Is Jesus really God? There are no serious thinkers today who deny that He was a historical figure. There’s a lot of evidence to support that. The debate is over whether this Jewish rabbi who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago was actually God in the flesh.
It’s interesting; you hear a lot of talk along these lines. I’m convinced that people are intrigued by Jesus. They can’t deny Him. They can’t do away with Him. But they want a human Jesus or at least one who is more human than God. They don’t mind a Jesus who is a good man, a great moral teacher and philosopher, or even a prophet, but they don’t want a Jesus with all authority and power because that means accountability.
This watered down perspective on Christ—He’s a good man; He’s a prophet, but He’s not really God. He didn’t do these supernatural things. This perspective on Christ has been given a lot of airtime by the mainstream media. There are many news magazines, TV specials, popular books in the last twenty or thirty years including such things as Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code.
In that book Dan Brown asserts a notion that has become popular in recent years, and that is "the doctrine of Jesus’ deity, His divine nature," says Dan Brown, "was invented some 300 years after His death by church leaders at the Council of Nicea who wanted to solidify their control. So they declared Jesus to be God."2 He’s saying they concocted that doctrine 300 years after Jesus died.
In The DaVinci Code, Brown claims that "until that moment in history [that is the Nicean council in 325 A.D.], Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless."3
Millions of people bought and read The DaVinci Code and believed what it said, even though it’s total fiction. So the question is: Is Dan Brown right? Or is the Scripture right? (Audience responds: Scripture) We know the Scripture is right, but if you were talking to someone who is more influenced by The DaVinci Code than by the Scripture, could you show them from the Scripture that the deity of Christ was not a doctrine invented 300 years after Christ’s death?
Let me give you a few evidences:
The fact is, 700 years before Jesus came to earth in human form, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah and said that He would be God. You’ll often hear Isaiah 9, verse 6, quoted around Christmastime:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given . . . [who’s it talking about?—Jesus]
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied of His birth and said, “He will be God. He is God.” This was not invented 300 years after Jesus came to earth.
Again, we ought to quote this verse more than just at Christmastime, but Isaiah 7:14:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, [not exactly a natural happening] and shall call his name Immanuel.
What does that mean? “God with us” The Son of the virgin is God.
Jesus Himself claimed to be equal with God. You see it all through the Scripture: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”(John 14:9).
There’s a lot of biblical evidence and testimony that supports the doctrine of the deity of Christ. What do we mean, again, by that doctrine, the deity of Christ? It means that Jesus Christ was of the same essence as God the Father.
I came across a book while I was preparing for this session by two co-authors that’s very helpful on this point. It’s called Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. In this book, the authors present evidence for the deity of Christ under five categories that are arranged using the acronym H-A-N-D-S.
Let me just give you an overview, and if you’re interested in knowing more of this, you can go pick up a copy of that book:
H: First of all, Jesus shares the honors due to God. We see in the Scripture that the Son is to be honored, worshiped, and loved just as we honor, worship, and love the Father. He shares the honors due to God.
- A: Secondly, He shares the attributes of God. Attributes unique to God—His omnipotence (He’s all powerful), His omnipresence (He is everywhere), His omniscience (He knows everything). These are attributes ascribed to God, but they’re also attributes in the Scripture that are ascribed to Christ. He shares the attributes of God.
- N: Jesus shares the names of God. Names that are given to God in the Old Testament you see given to Jesus in the New Testament: Lord, Savior, King, I AM, and many others. He shares the names of God.
- D: Jesus shares in the deeds that God does. There are many deeds in Scripture, works that are the exclusive prerogative of God in the Old Testament that are ascribed to Christ in the New Testament.
For example, we read that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. But in Colossians chapter 1 we read that Christ created all things (see v. 16). The same in John chapter 1; He created all things. “Without Him was not anything made that was made” (v. 3). He’s the creator and the sustainer of the universe.
We see Jehovah God exercising sovereign control over the forces of nature, and we see Jesus in a boat on a storm-tossed sea exercising control over the forces of nature.
We see God forgiving sins, and we see Jesus having the power to forgive sins. Jesus shares in the deeds that God does.
- S: Number 5, Jesus shares the seat of God’s throne. He exercises authority over all things. He exercises divine judgment. He is exalted above all created things, including angels. We see God seated on the throne exercising authority and judgment, and we see Christ seated on that same throne.4
So, some supporting evidence that Scripture presents Christ as of the same essence as God the Father.
I’ve been memorizing and meditating some in the book of Colossians over the past couple of weeks while I’ve been working on this series. It makes it clear in the book of Colossians that Christ is God: “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Colossians 1:19 tells us.
Then in Colossians 2, verse 9: “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
Granted, it’s a mystery. Granted, you cannot figure it out with a rationalistic, naturalistic mind. If you don’t believe in the supernatural, you can’t believe in the deity of Christ. That’s why these Jesus Seminar, so-called theologians have set out to disprove the deity of Christ, because they don’t believe in the supernatural. But the fact is, there is reality above and beyond what we can experience with our natural mind and senses, and part of that mystery is that “in Christ the fullness, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
In his classic apologetic book called Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis has a famous challenge to those who say Jesus was a great moral teacher, but they reject His claim to be God. You may have heard this quote before, but I think it’s so good that it warrants reading it again. He says:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
He either knew that what he was saying wasn’t true, in which case he was a liar, or he didn’t know it was true—he was deceived—in which case he was nuts. That’s what C.S. Lewis is saying.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.
See the challenge there? If He’s who He said He is, then He is Lord.
Now, most of us affirm intellectually that Jesus is God. So the question I want us to ponder here for a few moments is: So what? What are the implications of His deity? If Jesus truly is God, what difference does that make? I’m afraid that many of us as followers of Christ give intellectual assent to these truths that we don’t ever really change our lives. It’s not enough to know these truths. They’re supposed to radically shape and change our worlds.
So what’s the “So what?” of the deity of Christ? Well, let me mention two or three of them:
If Jesus is God, or should I say: Since Jesus is God . . .
First, that means it’s possible for us to know God. We can know Him through Christ, who we’re told in Colossians chapter 1, verse 15: “Christ is the image of the invisible God.” We can’t see God, but Jesus came to this earth, put on a human body so that we could see the image . . . the “spittin' image” as we say . . . of the invisible God.
Nobody in this room has ever seen my father Art DeMoss. He’s been with the Lord now for over thirty years, but people who knew him say that when they look at me, they see a female Art DeMoss. (Laughter) Big eyes. Now, I’m not the EXACT image of my earthly father, but I look a lot like him.
Jesus is the exact image of God. He doesn’t just look like God; He is God, and He made God known to us. That means God is knowable! You can know Him today because Jesus Christ who came to this earth manifest Him, revealed Him, made Him known to us.
Then here’s another implication: Since Jesus is God, He is exalted above all other men, all other rulers, all other religious leaders, and all other so-called gods. He is the incomparable Christ, no one like Him. And as such, He is to be worshiped, revered, honored, exalted.
I think in our generation we’ve done a lot to emphasize the humanity of Christ. He’s a brother; He’s a friend who wants to relate to us intimately. We’re going to talk about the importance of His humanity in the next session, but I’m afraid that some of us have lost a sense of His transcendence, His greatness, His sovereign Lordship. That means that we’re to have an attitude of reverence and awe toward Him
Then, thirdly: Since Jesus is God, that says to us that He is exclusively the way to God. If He is not divine, then He is just a man. And if He was just a man, it would be foolish and idolatrous to worship and follow Him. He could not be “the way, the truth, and the life” if He is not God (John 14:6). But if He is divine—and He is—then His claims are all true.
That means that Christianity is not just one of many religious alternatives from which we can choose, as many, many people would have us believe today. “You have your religion. I have my religion. Don’t give me any of this bit about yours being the only true religion.” People will try and intimidate you today, and if they don’t try and do it to you, they’ll try and do it to your kids in college, your young adults. “You believe that’s the only way?”
Christians are getting intimidated today by those who would say, “Yours is just one religious alternative.” No! “There is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” other than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). There is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ.
You’ll see this a lot of times on Larry King. He’ll bring John MacArthur or somebody like that and say, “Are you telling me that no one can be saved except those who believe in Jesus?” There are not many Christian leaders today who have the courage to do what John MacArthur does have the courage to do and say, “That’s what I’m telling you, Larry.” That’s the truth.
The book I referenced earlier, Putting Jesus in His Place, the authors quote a scholar name John Hick, who wrote The Myth of God Incarnate. John Hick is a well-known opponent of the doctrine of the deity of Christ. After quoting a lengthy section from Hick's book, the authors of Putting Jesus in His Place has this to say:
Hick has seen more clear than most that if Jesus was uniquely God incarnate, then he is also uniquely the way to God. That is what really offends people. Almost no one minds a strong affirmation of belief in Jesus. To suggest, however, that without Jesus people of other religions are missing something of eternal importance is regarded by many as an attack on the right of people to believe whatever they want. In an age when so many reject the idea that anyone's viewpoint is superior to another's, that Jesus is regarded as uniquely God incarnate is the epitome of intolerance.
That's how the world views it. But if Jesus is God, then there is no other way, there is no other god. Our claim that Christianity is true hinges on the doctrine of the deity of Christ.
If we accept that Jesus is God, that premise, then we cannot accept the concept of religious pluralism—that all religions are equally valid and true. If Jesus is God in the flesh, then what God has said about sin and salvation and judgment is mutually exclusive with religious beliefs that deny those truths or religious systems that promote or offer any way to God other than through Christ.
The founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ Himself, claimed to be God. He demands the total allegiance of His followers, and when we proclaim His deity, when we say, “Jesus is Lord. Jesus is God,” we’re really saying, “I’m dethroning all the other gods of this universe, including those idols in my own heart, and I’m setting up Christ as Lord.”
Now, when we do, that means we have to obey Him. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) So another implication of the fact that He is God, if He is Lord—and He is—if we call Him Lord—and we do—then we will worship Him, honor Him exclusively, trust Him—trust His promises—and obey Him as Lord.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been addressing an important topic. It’s often disputed and doubted today, but Jesus was God. It’s a central core belief that we need to maintain.
If you missed any of today’s message, you can hear it again at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s where you can catch up on any message you’ve missed from our current series, "The Incomparable Christ." Nancy?
Nancy: Was Jesus really God? It’s such an important question and one I’m glad we were able to address on today’s program. You have friends and co-workers who may be asking that same question. “Was Jesus really God?” Well, I hope today’s program has helped you think through what you would say to somebody who isn’t so sure.
Studying the Word of God is so important and so powerful. I’m so thankful that God allows us to study His Word together each week day on Revive Our Hearts. This program is made possible thanks to support from listeners like you. So if you find this kind of teaching helpful, would you consider supporting the ministry with a donation?
Leslie: When our listeners give this week, Nancy, we’ll say "thanks" by sending the book we’ve been studying together. It’s called The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders. And you’ll also get the companion journal. The questions in the journal will help you dig deeper in this teaching and help you live it out practically.
We’ll send one book and journal per household with your donation of any size. Ask for The Incomparable Christ when you call with your donation The number is 1–800–569–5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.
“The little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” This idea shows up in a popular Christmas carol, but it’s probably not true. Nancy Leigh DeMoss paints a picture of a fully human Jesus who cried, ate, slept, got hungry, and felt emotions. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
1Robert W. Funk. “The Coming Radical Reformation: Twenty-one Theses.” The Fourth R, Volume 11,4, July/August 1998. http://www.westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/funk_theses.html
2Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 2003, pp. 233-234.
3Ibid. p 324.
4Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
Topics: The Son