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New Horizons

Doctrine 101: The Deity of Christ

Edward N. Gross

Our religion has long been called Christianity (Acts 11:26). Why is it not called Biblianity or Churchianity, since the Bible and the church are so important to us? Because Jesus Christ is the most important element of our faith. He is called "the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2), and is both the head of the church (Col. 1:18) and its chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). He is the one who bought us with his own blood (Acts 20:28) and to whom, then, we belong (Rom. 14:7-9).

No Christianity can be any greater than the Christ in whom it believes. It cannot be any more attractive, useful, or viable than the one on whom it is established. As a mountain cannot rise any higher than the mass of rock that constitutes it, so Christianity cannot ascend an inch beyond the substance of its Rock—Jesus Christ (Pss. 19:14; 61:2; 1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:6-8). No Christianity can offer more nourishment and hope to the world than what can actually be found in its Christ. So, carefully weighing the claims of Jesus will forever remain the great duty of all who would study or consider Christianity.

Was Jesus simply a man, or was he God incarnate in human nature, the God-man? If any study deserves your best effort, it is this one. For if Jesus was merely a man, then he cannot offer us any more than any other special person. And to follow him, hoping that he will be able to deliver what only God can deliver, would be a delusion. But if Jesus Christ is God, and all his claims are truth (John 14:6), then to follow him is to choose the wisest path—the one leading to life now and forever (John 8:12, 31-32). And not to follow him is to oppose our Creator, Preserver, and Judge (Col. 1:16-17; John 5:22; 2 Cor. 5:10)—a rather risky and foolish position to take.

Jesus claimed to be God, possessing divine characteristics like eternity (John 8:58; 17:5), omnipresence (Matt. 18:20; 28:20), and omnipotence (John 5:17; Rev. 1:8). He allowed and commanded worship of himself (John 9:38; Matt. 28:9; John 5:22-23; 14:1). He used and accepted titles belonging only to God (John 1:29, 49-51; 6:35; 20:28). He claimed to be sinless (John 8:46), to speak only truth (John 18:37), and to command the angels of heaven (Matt. 25:31; 26:53). He made promises that only God can keep: to forgive sin (Matt. 9:1-7), to send the Spirit (John 15:26), to answer prayers (John 14:14), and to give eternal life (John 10:28). His claims to deity were so clear that his opponents sought to kill him for them (John 5:18; 10:33; Matt. 26:63-66).

Without supporting evidence, Jesus could have been dismissed as a harmless lunatic. But the New Testament clearly reveals that he cast out demons, healed every conceivable illness, and even raised the dead—all in his own name. He could miraculously control nature. He conferred many of these powers upon others, who exercised them through faith in his name. Beyond this, he spoke as no man had ever spoken, and predicted future events accurately. He showed such wisdom, love, grace, patience, justice, courage, tenderness, and truthfulness that multitudes followed him. Some wanted to make him their earthly king, and others gave him the rule over their souls.

He gave himself to die for millions of others and, following his indisputable resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to go and proclaim salvation through him to the whole world. And this they did with much opposition and at great personal cost, many refusing to renounce his deity even at the cost of their lives. The pages of the New Testament are filled with thousands of people whose lives and words proclaim that Jesus is Lord. And their efforts have established believers in Christ who for ages have worshiped and lived for him.

It is vital to establish the doctrine of Christ's deity as strongly as any truth can be established. Each evidence for it is another anchor cast deeply into our souls, holding this pivotal plank of our worldview in place against the hurricane-force efforts of Satan and humankind to displace it.

This, then, is the great question of the ages, the answer to which determines the destiny of our souls: is Jesus God? To truly believe and answer yes, is forever to set the course of your life in loving, worshiping, and following him. To answer no, or to remain uncertain, is to set your sails to the winds of human opinion and feeling. They can take you on travels far and wide—but not very high, as the sea of human experience is limited by how far the human mind has power to go. That ship can take you no farther. Its destiny is Despair, and there you will forever disembark.

But the Captain, who is the God-man, promises to take you far beyond the scanty scope of man, up into his eternal home, where you can bask in the matchless light of his glory and truth forever. So, carefully consider the implications of this pivotal doctrine today.

This third in a series of articles on basic Christian doctrines was written by Dr. Edward N. Gross, pastor of Gwynedd Valley OPC in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2000.

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