How is Jesus fully God and fully man, yet one person? A couple weeks ago my family and I began considering this question in our family Bible reading time, guided by Wayne Grudem’s discussion of it in Chapter 26, “The Person of Christ,” of his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). Since then we’ve considered Jesus’ virgin birth, his humanity, and his deity, and this week we’re considering how his deity and humanity are united in the one person of Christ.
“God” Used of Jesus
Although in the New Testament “God” (<i>theos</i>) usually refers to God the Father, in several passages it refers to Jesus. Some of them are:
– “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV except where otherwise noted).
– “Thomas answered him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!'” (John 20:28).
– “From their race [the Jews], according to the flesh, is Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5).
– “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
– “But of the Son he [God] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever'” (Hebrews 1:8, quoting from Psalm 45:6).
– “Simon Peter…to those who have received a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).
“Lord” Used of Jesus
Sometimes the word “Lord” (<i>kyrios</i>) just refers to a person who has power over others, but in the Greek Old Testament it also translates one of the words used in the Hebrew Old Testament for God, “Yahweh.” Thus a Greek-speaking person in New Testament times would have recognized “Lord” in appropriate contexts to refer to God. In many New Testament passages it is used in such a way of Jesus. Some of them are:
– “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11; the angel of the Lord to shepherds about Jesus).
– “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight'” (Matthew 3:3; quoted from Isaiah 40:3 as referring to John the Baptist in preparing the way for Jesus).
– “There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
– “You, Lord, laid the foundations of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Hebrews 1:10; quoted from Psalm 102:25 as referring to Jesus).
– “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16; describing Jesus in his second coming).
Other Claims to Jesus’ Deity
Besides using “God” and “Lord” of Jesus, the New Testament contains other passages that claim deity for him. A few of the ones discussed by Grudem are:
– When Jesus told some Jews that Abraham had seen his day, they asked him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). He replied, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), claiming for himself the name “I AM” that God gave as His name in Exodus 3:14.
– In the closing of the book of Revelation Jesus asserts, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13). In light of God the Father’s declaration in the opening of the book, “I am the Alpha and Omega” (1:8), Jesus’ assertion constitutes a claim to deity.
– Although “son of God” can refer to all Christians (Romans 8:14, 19, 23), there are several passages in which it refers to Jesus as the unique Son of God, especially in the Gospel of John, including the ever-popular John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV, the version from which I memorized it as a child).
Jesus’ Possession of Divine Attributes
Besides containing passages that claim deity for Jesus, the New testament contains passages that describe actions done by Jesus that point to his being divine. A few of the ones referred to by Grudem are:
– Jesus showed his omnipotence when he calmed a storm (Mark 4:39), multiplied bread and fish (Mark 6:41), and changed water into wine (John 2:6-10).
– Jesus showed his omniscience when he knew the thoughts of some scribes (Mark 2:8), saw Nathaniel under the fig tree from afar (John 1:48), and knew “from the beginning…who it was who would betray him” (John 6:64).
– Jesus showed his sovereignty when he forgave a paralytic’s sins (Mark 2:5), his demonstrating his power to do so by healing the man (Mark 2:8-12).
– Jesus showed his immortality by taking up his life (John 2:19-22; 10:17-18).
Grudem discusses the “kenotic” theory that Philippians 2:5-7 teaches that Jesus gave up some of his attributes while on earth, concluding that what Jesus gave up was his heavenly status and privilege rather than divine attributes (pages 549-552).
The Necessity of Jesus’ Deity
Grudem suggests and explains briefly three reasons, besides that it is taught in the Bible, why Jesus had to be fully divine:
1. Only someone who is infinite (God) could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all who believe in him.
2. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).
3. Only someone who was fully God could mediate between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
He also observes that throughout history groups which have given up belief in the full deity of Jesus have soon drifted out of the Christian faith.