Understanding the Deity of Christ

In my last post, I offered five evidences showing how the Bible teaches that Jesus was a human being. The humanity of Jesus is not really controversial, because it is accepted by most faith systems as well as secularism.

In this post, I want to offer evidences of how the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God the Son. The deity of Christ is a much more controversial issue. Even some groups who self-identify as Christian do not ascribe to the orthodox view that Jesus Christ is God.

But, as I’ve asserted before, the Bible should be permitted to speak for itself. And when read plainly, it teaches that Jesus Christ is God. He is God the Son, the second member of the triune God.

Here are five evidences that show how the Bible teaches that Jesus is God.

  1. Jesus had divine origins. While Jesus’ fetal development and growth into adulthood were typically human, his conception was not. The Scriptures claim that He was concieved in the womb of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, clearly evidencing his divine origins (Luke 1). Also, as the eternal Word, he exists eternally in fellowship with God (John 1).
  2. Jesus performed miracles. Over and over again the gospels portray Jesus as healing the sick, exorcizing demons, commanding non-human nature, and even reviving the deceased. No mere mortal can calm a storm with a rebuke (Matt 8), cast out a legion of demons (Mark 5), or revive a man deceased for four days (John 11). The Bible provides these as evidence that Jesus is God.
  3. Jesus claimed equality with God. Many people believe that the Bible never says Jesus claimed to be God. But Jesus identified himself as the Jewish Messiah (John 4), claimed oneness with the Father (John 10:30), and identified himself as the Son of God (Luke 22:70). In Judaism, these are claims of deity. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, would have known this, yet he made such claims anyway, equating himself to God.
  4. Jesus ascribed to himself names of God. Jesus not only claimed equality with God, but claimed names of God for himself. Two well-known Jewish titles for the God of Israel are “I Am” (Ex 3:14) and “the First and the Last” (Isa 44:6). Jesus elevated himself above Abraham, claiming the title “I Am” (John 8:58). And having died and risen to life, he also claimed to be “the First and the Last” (Rev 1:17–18, 2:8).
  5. Jesus shared the essence of God. John 1:1 not only identifies the eternal Word as being with God, but also as having the nature of God. In the Greek, the anarthorous predicate nominative is not an indefinite noun (“a god”). It emphasizes the nature of the Word.[1] Thus, the Word has the same nature as God. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 echo this idea, stating that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ.

Does this solve all of the interpretive difficulties involved with understanding the person of Jesus Christ? Certainly not. Perhaps the most important issue, reconciling two natures in the identity of one indivisible person, has not been answered (this will be addressed in an upcoming post).

But we need not solve every puzzle to observe what the Bible plainly teaches. When the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, it says that Jesus is God. He is God the Son, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, but sharing the very same nature. And he exists co-equally and co-eternally as the second member of the Godhead.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 45.

Understanding the Humanity of Jesus

There is no denying the breadth of impact Jesus Christ has had on the world. We need only look at recent news headlines or skim a grade level history book to recognize how far-reaching his influence has been throughout the world during the last 2000 years.

But just who is this Jesus? Is he a fictitious myth? Or perhaps a first century spirit-person? Many efforts have been undertaken to reconstruct the so-called ‘historical Jesus’ and distinguish him from the alleged theological legend often referred to as the ‘Christ of faith.’ What many of these efforts have in common is an intentional disregard for the plain witness of the Scriptures.

But the Scriptures should be allowed to speak for themselves. And their witness concerning the person of Jesus Christ should not be arrogantly dismissed. This post is the first in a series about who the Bible says Jesus is. The rest of this post will focus on what is probably the least controversial topic of the series, the Humanity of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is a human being.

Pause for a moment and reflect on that idea. Jesus Christ is a human being.

For all that he said and did, and for all the controversy surrounding what may or may not have happened 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ is a human being. And the Bible plainly teaches that he is fully-human. Here are some of the Scriptuiral evidences for his humanity.

  1. Jesus experienced typically human birth and growth. Jesus was conceived as a human fetus, in the womb of a human woman, developed according to a typically human pregnancy, experienced human birth and circumcision, and grew as a normal human child (Luke 2).
  2. Jesus had typical human needs and weaknesses. He experienced hunger (Matt 21:18), thirst (John 19:28), fatigue (John 4:6), sleep (Mark 4:38), agony (Luke 22:44), and death (John 19:33–34). Death, in particular, distinguishes him as a corporeal, temporal being.
  3. Jesus experienced typically human emotions. As one  scholar notes, “Jesus expressed joy (John 15:11) and sorrow (Matt. 26:37); He showed compassion (Matt. 9:36) and love (John 11:5); and He was moved to righteous indignation (Mark 3:5).”[1]
  4. Jesus possessed a human spirit. This one is a bit more controversial. But He was vulnerable to temptation, demonstrating his spiritual weakness (Luke 4:1–13; Heb 4:15). He also experienced great sorrow in his soul at facing death (Matt 26:38). Both are traits of the human spirit, supporting his humanity.
  5. Even after the resurrection, Jesus was fully-human. Jesus’ resurrection body was the same body that was crucified, bearing the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:25–29). It was corporeal (Matt 28:9, John 20:17), composed of “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:39), and able to eat (Luke 24:42–43).

Thus, the Bible plainly teaches that Jesus Christ was fully-human. Whatever else Jesus was, he was human. Sure, some of these traits are not exclusively human, but considered together, there is no more reasonable alternative view. And there are a few interpretative difficulties, like how Jesus didn’t sin, and how his resurrection body could violate natural laws, but these are easily answered (and will be in a later post). Regardless, they do not preclude Jesus’ humanity, nor do they contradict the clear teaching of the Scriptures: Jesus was truly—and fully—a human being.

[1] Walter D. III Draughon, “Incarnation,” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. by Chad Brand et al., (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 813.

Understanding the Law of Moses

Every so often I hear a Bible teacher speaking about the Law of Moses. I praise the Lord for faithful teachers who are willing to address difficult, controversial issues like this. After all, the Law features prominently in both the Old and New Testaments. So anyone who desires and attempts to study and apply the whole counsel of God has to come to grips with this topic.

What I want to share in this post is a few observations from a small passage that have helped form my thinking about the Law. This is not an in-depth theological analysis of the Law. Instead, I hope my observations give you a few nuggets that provoke your curiosity and motivate you to dig into the Scriptures for yourself!

In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul discusses the Law of Moses at some length. His letter is theologically corrective (Gal 1:6–9). It seems outsiders had infiltrated the Galatian congregation and they insisted that obedience to the Law (or portions of it) was necessary for justification (2:17–21) and Christian perfection (3:1–4). With this in mind, Paul writes the following:

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
(Galatians 3:19–25, NKJV)

From this passage, I’d like to offer just a handful of observations about the Law of Moses:

1. Context: the Law was given in response to sin.

Paul says that the Law “was added because of transgressions.” So God gave the law to address specific, sinful practices of the people because, without the Law, the people would continue in their sinful behaviors.

2. Duration: the Law functioned until Christ came.

Paul qualifies that the authority of the law was to function until the Seed should come. Who is this Seed? Previously in the same chapter, Paul argued that the Seed of Abraham refers to Jesus Christ (3:16). So the Law in some sense had a divinely-appointed expiration date linked with the advent of Christ.

3. Mediation: the Law was mediated by angels.

Paul claims that the Law was mediated by angels. But wasn’t the Law given by God on Sinai? I’ll offer this nugget: remember that God’s angels communicate God’s messages and minister to God’s people. This is an issue of agency (“how” the Law was given), not of source (“who” gave the Law—God).

4. Function: the Law keep guard over God’s people.

Here we find one of the “why”s of the Law. One reason that God gave the Law was for the purpose of guarding Israel from sin and its consequences. Now, Israel did fall into sin and was temporarily exiled. Regardless, God intended to bring forth the Christ from the nation of Israel, and the Law fuctioned in some way to keep guard over Israel until Christ came.

5. Method: the Law is a tutor to bring us to Christ.

Paul explains that God ordained the Law to function by method of instruction. Anyone who reads the Law (Exod 20–Num 10) will clearly see the very detailed nature of the Law. God cares about every aspect, even the smallest details, of our lives. Interestingly, Paul indicates that the Law even now functions in this way.

Obviously, all of these observations could (and should!) be studied in much greater detail. Again, my goal is not an in-depth analysis. Rather, I hope I’ve provoked your curiosity and motivated you to dig into the Scriptures for yourself. May the Lord bless your time with Him in His Word!

Understanding the Parables of Jesus

Lately for my daily time with the LORD I’ve been spending time in the Gospel of Luke. Personally, I tend to spend a lot of time in the Gospels of Matthew and John, so reading through Luke has been refreshing. But it has also been challenging. I’m sure many of us can relate to reading through portions of Scripture and coming away more confused than when we started. Well, that’s how I felt after reading Luke 13.

For over a week I have been wrestling over different interpretations of the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Luke 13:18–19). It is one of the few parables that appears in all three synoptic gospels, but it is one of many parables that Jesus does not explain. After reading a handful of commentaries and speaking to a few brothers in Christ, I have found two prominent, competing interpretations of the parable. Hopefully you can understand why this has left me rather confused about the parable!

In this post, I’m not going to offer my interpretation of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Instead, I want to share with you what one brother in Christ shared with me, which the LORD is using to help me begin to understand Jesus’ parables.

I am a strong advocate for letting Scripture interpret Scripture. What this means is that whenever we interpret a passage, the interpretation must align with the rest of the Scriptures. And whenever we interpret difficult passages, we do our best to consider what the Scriptures say elsewhere on the topic.

My difficulty with the Parable of the Mustard Seed was which Scriptures should inform my understanding of the passage. On the one hand, the Parable of the Sower, which Jesus explains, identifies birds with Satan. On the other hand, a few different Old Testament prophesies use tree/bird imagery to depict a great nation (tree) and the nations (birds) that benefit from the rule of the great nation. So what is the mustard tree? And how do the birds relate?

Well, I could go on about context, audience, culture, etc. Indeed, these aspects of any passage are very helpful. But regarding the parables of Jesus, as my brother in Christ shared with me, Jesus has provided us a key to understanding the parables, and His explanation should be our starting place for understanding His parables.

One parable that Jesus does explain is the Parable of the Sower. And in Mark 4:13, Jesus says that understanding the Parable of the Sower is the key to understanding all of the rest of His parables:

And He said to [His disciples], “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? (NKJV)

So all of Jesus’ parables are linked. To understand any of Jesus’ parables, we need to first understand the Parable of the Sower. And, thankfully, Jesus explains it for us. Context, audience, culture, and so forth still have their place and certainly do help us understand the finer points of each distinct parable. But we do well to heed the words of Jesus Himself, using His explanation of the Parable of the Sower as our starting point, and principle reference, for interpreting His parables.

So if, like me, you’re struggling to understand a parable that Jesus told, try spending some time with the LORD, prayerfully studying the Parable of the Sower and His explanation of it. And may God bless your time with Him in His Word!