By Jon Topping | September 12th, 2022
The deity of Christ is a foundational element of Christianity, even to the point that, if you deny it, you can’t be considered a Christian. However, there are different groups that believe the Bible is good, but who also deny that Jesus is God. Two groups that come to mind are Muslims, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In both of these cases, they have great respect for the Old and New Testaments, but they will claim that the Bible never says that Jesus is God, and instead, that only the Father is God. Because there is debate on an issue so crucial to the faith, it’s important to evaluate the reasons for why Christians believe in the deity of Jesus Christ.
There are a few ways that a Christian can go about showing that Jesus is God. While some of the arguments are more helpful than others, each argument aids in building a very strong case for the orthodox Christian position. This page is a reference to each type of argument, and then each one of these points will be linked to a full article on the topic that goes into further detail.
Jesus accepted worship: There are many places in the biographies of Jesus called the Gospels where we find Jesus being worshipped. We also see in quite a few places where Scripture explicitly says that only God is to be worshipped. In the cases where Jesus is worshipped, He doesn’t correct the people worshipping Him, and instead, accepts it. However, when we see figures like angels being worshipped, they are very quick to correct the misunderstanding, and point out that they are not God, and thus do not deserve worship. Because of these points, it seems clear that
Jesus understood Himself to be worthy of worship, and thus, God.
How Jesus refers to Himself: When reading the Gospels, we also see numerous places where Jesus says some very odd things about Himself. Jesus says that if you’ve seen Him then you’ve seen the Father, that He existed before Abraham, that He can forgive sins, and He even refers to Himself as “I AM” at one point. His divinity claims were so obvious that the people who were present picked up stones to stone Him to death for blasphemy. If Jesus wasn’t claiming to be God, then why would the people want to stone Him for blasphemy? Once evaluating this evidence, it seems clear that Jesus did in fact refer to Himself in ways that show He considers Himself to be God.
How the biblical authors understood Jesus: In addition to Jesus’ opinion of Himself, we can also read what the authors thought of Jesus. When John wrote his Gospel, there are many places where he uses language that links Jesus to God. One very clear example is the opening of John, where he says that the Word was with God and the Word was God, and then he elaborates, showing that this “Word” is Jesus. If the Word is with God, and also is God, and Jesus is the Word, then obviously John considered Jesus to be God. We also find different places in the New Testament where the author infers that some Old Testament passage was actually referring to Jesus, even though it is quite clearly referring to YHWH (God).
If the authors of the New Testament treat passages about YHWH as if they apply to Jesus, then clearly the New Testament writers thought of Jesus as being YHWH.
How the Early Church understood Jesus: A common accusation from non-Trinitarians is that the earliest Christians weren’t Trinitarian, and didn’t believe in the deity of Christ, until the conversion of Rome. It was at this time that the religion got polluted. However, we can read quite a few of the Church Fathers before the conversion of Rome that affirm that Jesus is God. These men wrote before any of the councils, before Christianity had power, and at a time too early for any corruption to have occurred in their theology. They refer to Jesus as “Lord” (which had special meaning in terms of divinity), they refer to Jesus’ blood as the “blood of God”, they call Jesus “God in man”, they call Jesus eternal, they say Jesus was God appearing in human form, that it was Jesus in the burning bush who met Moses, they explicitly call Jesus God, and they even form arguments to prove that Jesus is called both God and Lord of Hosts. Any time someone wrote something contrary to this it was immediately condemned and argued against. This is actually the reason for many of the meetings the Christians had to firmly solidify their Christian doctrine. They wanted to condemn the heresies that deny the true nature of Jesus Christ as God. After looking at the Early Church writers, we can see that
even the very earliest Christians had an understanding of the deity of Christ.
The terms “Son of God/Man”: Both of the terms “Son of Man” and “Son of God” have important meanings in this discussion. Interestingly, some scholars argue that the term “Son of Man” implies divinity more than the term “Son of God” does. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man on many occasions, and it even seems as though that was His favorite way of referring to Himself. When looking at the prophetic understanding of this figure, it shows that Jesus was actually saying something quite profound about Himself. Jesus was quoting from Daniel 7, where it describes the Son of Man with characteristics like riding on the clouds, and being given an eternal dominion of power, and that everyone everywhere would serve Him. Further, when His disciples acknowledged that He is the Son of God, it seems as though there was something very special and unique being said, and Jesus says that they received this knowledge from God the Father.
Miracles as evidence: We’ve shown that Jesus, His disciples, the New Testament writers, and the Early Church all held to the deity of Jesus Christ. However, is there any reason to think they were correct? An interesting question to ask yourself is, what sort of evidence would be acceptable to prove Jesus’ claims to divinity? It would seem miracles would be the best, if not the only, way to support this kind of claim. That’s exactly what we find, not only in the Gospels, but also in other Christian writing, as well as non-Christian writing, and even in the writings of the enemies of the faith. Everyone involved understood that Jesus was doing things no normal human could do. While the enemies explained it as being magic (or something similar), we still see that Jesus was in fact verifying His claims. Then, in Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus said that the way He would prove Himself would be by His resurrection. If you’re interested in evidence for the resurrection, check out my Ultimate Questions podcast.
Prophecies as evidence: Another type of evidence to verify what Jesus said about Himself is through the prophecies found in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament we find many references to the future messiah, and these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In many cases, these were supernatural things that would be impossible by human means, and in other cases they were prophecies that were fulfilled before Jesus was capable of trying to fulfill them (for example, prophecies about His birth). We also see prophecies about Jesus and the messiah that link the identity of the messiah to YHWH. While it might seem strange to argue for the deity of Christ by showing the Old Testament predicted Jesus as the messiah, there’s an important logical connection to make here. The Old Testament predicted a messiah. Jesus then fulfilled these prophecies, which makes Jesus the messiah. The messiah has authority, and should be listened to. If the messiah, Jesus, then makes divinity claims, we should listen to Him.
Problems with the deity of Christ: Even after evaluating all this evidence (and the articles that are linked to them), some still don’t believe in the deity of Christ. In order to justify their position, they point to different problematic areas of Scripture. For example, Jesus asks why someone calls Him good, when only God is good. In another place Jesus tells Satan that only God is to be worshipped. In order to truly give a strong argument for the deity of Christ, these challenges need to be answered. To give the answer briefly, in these passages Jesus is not actually denying that He is God. The way it’s worded still allows for the possibility of Jesus being God, so there is no direct contradiction.
After evaluating all the evidence, we can show that Jesus thought of Himself as divine. Additionally, His disciples, the people who wrote the New Testament, and the very earliest Christians all believed Jesus to be God. We can then see that Jesus verified His divinity by His miracles, His resurrection, and then also through fulfilling the prophecies about the messiah in the Old Testament. Not only that, but the deity of Christ stands up to the biblical counter arguments made against it. All this considered, Christians have very good reasons to believe in the deity of Christ.
Jon Topping is a speaker with Engage International and is based out of Canada.