Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is the Baby in the Manger Really God?

Who is Jesus, the baby lying in the manger? Is He really God? 

This is the most important question of all of history. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Muslims say Jesus was a prophet.  Hindus say He is one of millions of “gods.” Jehovah’s witnesses say Jesus is the archangel Michael. Buddhists say He is an enlightened teacher. Scientologists say Jesus is a “thetan” (Don’t ask me what a thetan is; I don’t read science fiction!). Liberals say He was a peace-loving hippie.

Of the many opinions, C.S. Lewis is probably the most helpful yet when he gave us a very useful framework in his famous book Mere Christianity. It is known as the “trilemma.” Lewis wrote that Jesus is either a liar (for He deceived many) a lunatic (He deceived Himself) or else He is Lord (He rules over all, just as He said). Let us examine the evidence from Scripture.

There is much in Scripture that teaches clearly the divinity of Christ.[i] First, we could look at direct statements about His divinity:

·         “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…..The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1-3, 14).

·         “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:5-7, emphasis added).

·         “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

·          “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:1-3, emphasis added).

If we had time, we could look at His fulfillment of scores of OT prophesies (i.e. Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 7:13-14), and specifically those where the Greek word “Kurios” (Lord) is applied to Jesus, translating the Hebrew “Yahweh” or “Adonai.” We might also consider His divine miracles over nature (Matthew 8:23-27; 14:13-21, 22-36; John 2:1-11), over sickness and disease (Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:18-26) and even over death (John 11:38-44; Matthew 28:6). Too, there are the titles given to Jesus by others
such as  "Immanuel”—which means, 'God with us'” (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus’ Own Claims Regarding His Divine Nature.

Nevertheless, let us look at several of Jesus’ many claims to be God. For space considerations, we will do this in outline form:

1. He called Himself the Son of Man. "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30).

a. Note that the title “Son of Man” is used by Jesus of Himself about 84 times.

b. This name is rooted in Daniel in the OT. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He 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” (Daniel 7:13-14).

c. Thus Jesus utilized this divine ascription and for Himself regularly and saw it as crucial to revealing His identity.

2. He is without sin.  “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?” (John 8:46). Not even His brothers could verify His sins. Would this be a challenge you would take upon yourself? Pilate likewise said, “I find no guilt in this man.”

3. He judges the world. “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. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:21-22).

4. He is able to forgive sin. Consider this event: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:5-11).

5. He rightly receives worship. “Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:28). If this was a mistake on Thomas’ part, there was never a more important moment for Jesus to correct His disciples—unless He actually is worthy of their worship!

a. Jesus does not correct Thomas for worshiping Him, instead He hands out blessings, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

b. Notice too that the author of the Gospel, John, breaks into the narration in verse 30 and says, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30). In other words, this is the whole reason I wrote!

6. He has all authority. “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matthew 28:18). Only God has all authority. 

7. He gave Himself great titles. The ascription of divine titles to Jesus such as “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13, compare to 21:6-7).  

8. He is eternal. "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58).

a. We know that the divine name (Yahweh, as expressed by the four Hebrew letters YHWH) means “I am.” Grammatically, if Jesus had not meant to give Himself the very name of God here, He would have said “I was” or “I existed.” But His claim is twofold: not only is He pre-existent, but He takes God’s very sacred and holy Name unto Himself.

b. Notice how the Pharisees get it clearly by attempting to throw stones at Him! There was no equivocation there. They understood His claim and were ready to stone Him for it.

9. He is One with God. His most obvious claim is: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30).
a. Again, notice how the Pharisees clearly understood this by saying, "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Pastor Matthew Everhard is the senior pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow on Twitter @matt_everhard.

[i] It is beyond the scope of this article to show Jesus' full humanity as well, but orthodox Christian theology holds that Jesus is God and man; one person in two nature. The reader would do well to refer to the Chalcedonian Creed for more in this area. 

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