Is Jesus Christ God?
Simply put, we believe that Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God. C.S. Lewis wrote:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can either shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.1
There is no more essential a belief in Christianity. However, it is a belief that has had to be defended constantly throughout the centuries from those who attempt to distort or deny the deity of Christ.
Some Background: Council of Nicea
But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about [Jesus] being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The first major historic event defending this belief was the Council of Nicea in AD 325 which declared Arianism to be a heresy. Arius was the presbyter of Alexandria and taught that Jesus was created by God and therefore was not coeternal with the Father. This teaching shares strikingly similarities to the modern-day teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses who also deny the eternality of Jesus and believe in a Jesus that is an intermediary between the Creator and creation.
The Nicene Creed was a result of this council and includes, in part:
I believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.2
In this creed the distinction between begotten and made was clarified, denying the Arian concept that Christ was a created being. He is not similar to Deity, He is Deity.
For this topic, we will exclusively be examining what the Scriptures say. This is a purely theological discussion requiring no examination of extra-biblical evidences, but assumes the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.
The Scriptural Evidence
The following sections quote and explore the Scriptural evidence that Jesus Christ is God. While the following is by no means exhaustive, it does establish that Scripture testifies that Jesus Christ is indeed God.
Jesus Claimed to be God
Jesus made the unmistakable claim that he was God. The first example of this is:
"Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."" (John 8:58 ESV)
His Jewish audience understood that He was applying to Himself God's title, which was given directly to Moses at the burning bush:
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"" (Exodus 3:14 ESV)
To help provide stronger evidence that Jesus was claiming to be I AM we can look at the reaction from the Jews he was speaking to. Scripture says: "So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple." (John 8:59 ESV). In the Law, there were several offenses where the punishment prescribed by God was stoning, however only one fits this situation - the Jews were going to stone him for being one who "blasphemes the name of the Lord" (Lev 24:16 ESV). None of the other stoning offenses are applicable to this situation, they are: child sacrifice (Lev 20:2), being a medium or spiritist (Lev 20:27), not observing the Sabbath (Num 15:32-35), serving other gods (Deut 13:6-10, 17:2-5), being a defiant son (Deut 21:18-21), pre-marital sex (Deut 22:21), and adultery (Deut 22:24). As you can see, only blasphemy, misusing God's name, makes sense.
Later in His ministry, Jesus would make another claim that He was God and met the same response. In this case the Jews' reason is given; this not only further supports the interpretation of John 8 above but it gives another example of Jesus directly claiming to be God. This is what Scripture says:
""I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God."" (John 10:30-33 ESV)
The Jews understood with perfect clarity that Jesus was claiming to be God. That a mere man (in their view) would make this claim was blasphemy and they sought to exact the punishment that God established for this crime.
Finally, when appearing to John on the island of Patmos, Jesus had this conversation with him:
"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV; see also Revelation 22:13)
Here again we see Jesus using a title that belongs to God, this time one recorded by the prophet Isaiah:
"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god."" (Isaiah 44:6 ESV; see also Isaiah 48:12)
This again clearly identifies Jesus as Deity.
Jesus is the Creator
Jesus is referred to as having created the world and all that is in it, something that is clearly taught as being a work of God. Paul wrote:
"For by him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 1:16 ESV)
Of course, in Genesis we read that God is the Creator:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
A further, and perhaps even clearer, testimony to this comes from the writer of Hebrews who penned:
"And [of the Son God says],
"You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end."" (Hebrews 1:10-12 ESV)
The author was quoting directly from Psalms 102:25-27. In that Old Testament passage, the psalmist was applying these words to God. Here however, they apply to Christ without qualification or the need of any justification.
The fact that Scripture teaches that Jesus created the world means that He is indeed God.
The Testimony of the Apostles
There are several passages in scriptures where the apostles call Jesus God. However, it is this first passage that provides the strongest evidence they were correct:
"Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."" (John 20:28-29 ESV)
It is important to note that at Thomas' declaration that Jesus was his "Lord" and his "God" that Jesus did not correct or rebuke him. Had Jesus not been God, this would have been a blasphemous statement as established earlier in the discussions surrounding the passages from John 8 and 10. If He were just a prophet or some other created being it is inexplicable that He would allow Thomas to make such a statement unchallenged.
The following are several passages of Scripture that show the other apostles also considered Jesus to be God. First, in his letter to the Romans, Paul clearly explains that Jesus is God:
"To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:5 ESV)
Also in his letter to Titus, Paul assigns the title God and Savior to Jesus:
"... waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:13-14 ESV)
This same title is used by Peter in his first letter:
"Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1 ESV)
Of course, one of the most prominent confessions of Jesus' deity comes from John at the start of the Gospel he penned:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1,14 ESV)
In verse one, John's three statements bring out the different aspects of the nature of the Word: 1) His preexistence, 2) His distinctness and 3) His deity. In the 14th he goes on to tie these truths in to the truth of Jesus' incarnation. Once again we have the clear testimony that Jesus is God.
If the Scriptures are to be trusted, there is no other conclusion we can draw other than Jesus Christ is God.
References and notes
1. C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity" (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56
2. "The Nicene Creed" online source
While any direct quotes are referenced by endnotes, the following texts were used to create this article:
Piper, John, "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ" (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001)
Sproul, R.C., "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992)
Douglas, James Dixon, ed., "The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974)
Barker, Kennith L., Kohlenberger, John R. ed., "Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994)
Slick, Matthew, "John 10:30-33. What made the Jews want to kill Jesus?" online article