That might sound a bit of a silly question, but I am not sure how many believers can actually give a definitive answer and explain their reasoning. Some might say Jesus is God as is the Father, some say He was made by God before creation, or even one of many who have attained to some level of divinity. But what does the Bible actually say?
What does John say?
For Western readers the clearest explanation is probably found in the book of John, in fact John starts his Gospel with establishing Jesus’ identity. Something to bear in mind when we read John’s Gospel (actually when we read the whole New Testament), is the story of creation as John pulls on this over and over again as he unveils the mystery of God’s promised new creation.
The Bible starts off with the words, “In the beginning…” Genesis 1:1; every member of the Jewish community from the age of about three would have known the next word – God. John, without any concern about just how radical he was being, starts his Gospel with the same words; he wants his readers to be in no doubt about what he is saying when he writes, “In the beginning…” John 1:1. He knows that Genesis declares that it was God who was in the beginning, the source, the originator of everything visible and invisible, and without apology unpacks his version by saying “In the beginning was the Word…”. Every trained hearer would know that John was saying Jesus is God, so why did he say Word? It would take a full article (if not a book to develop that idea), but for now let’s understand Word (Greek logos) as ‘God’s full self expression”.
Did you say Jesus is God?
So far we have “In the beginning was God’s full self expression”, and then in anticipation of our uncertainty John underlines what he has said with “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. If we approach this with the attitude of ‘what is John trying to say?’ then it is very straightforward, Jesus is God; after this John gives another underline by explaining that everything came into being through Him. John is saying, “Yes He really is God, yes I know there is only one God, and yes He was with God and yes He is God.”
EP Clowney puts it this way, ‘The Word was with God, God’s eternal Fellow; the Word was God, God’s own Self.’
I think the confusion sets in when we start to project what we think is reasonable onto the Bible’s text, rather than allowing the passages themselves to define what is true. Having said that, and this was a big jump for John’s first readers who believed in the one God who is revealed in the Old Testament, John isn’t asking anyone to abandon the truth of the Old Testament, rather he is saying that what we assumed has to be redefined or expanded.
John doesn’t let up quite yet, he want’s us to be absolutely sure of what he is saying, and so in John 1:18 he writes “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him”. I am aware that there are a lot of older translations that aren’t as specific as this, but that is because they are based on newer manuscripts. If you read the NAB, LES, NLT, ESV, GNT, ESV etc. they all highlight Jesus divinity and equality with the Father; it is important to remember here that whilst John clearly says Jesus is God, he isn’t saying that Jesus is the entire God head. In fact it is Jesus’ insistence that He speaks the words of, and does the will and works of the Father, that get Him into so much trouble.
In order to keep this post at less than 25,000 words, let’s finish by highlighting three extra points that John makes. Firstly, when John says that Jesus is one with the Father, we need to take that first to mean, one in will and purpose, the same way we Christians are supposed to be. Of course it goes further than that when we remember John 1:1, but it is more practical than mysterious – but even so, still blasphemous to many in His audience.
Secondly, we have Jesus’ immensely provocative declaration in John 8:58, when He tells His critics ““Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” When they heard this they picked up stones to kill Him, why? Because Jesus declared Himself to be “I Am”, the cryptic name of God from Exodus 3:14.
Finally, John starts to wrap his Spirit inspired testimony up in John 20:31, and it is no accident that the verses just before record Thomas’s sudden appreciation of who Jesus is, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (20:28). John wants us to be in no doubt about who Jesus is and how we are expected to respond.
I suppose the question we have to ask now is, so what? Maybe we can begin to answer that by considering that God is holy, just, far above sin and every evil, and yet rather than hand us over to our fate, He turned up in person and met sin, death and the devil in open combat. God Himself secured our eternal future, He didn’t send an angel or train up one of Adam’s descendants, because neither could deliver. Yahweh God, loves us/ you, so much that He personally suffered death on our behalf, and at His glorious resurrection unleashed His new creation on an unsuspecting world.
God loves you so much that He personally suffered on your behalf tweet
Go well my friends 😀
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