We have 4 Sundays until Christmas, so I’m going to have a short series on a theme that is most pertinent to the season.
Remember when Jeremy preached for us a few months ago, and his theme from Acts 3 was, “I Give You Jesus.” Well, that’s really all I have to give you. No money. No stuff. But I can teach you about Christ.
So I want to give you Christ for Christmas. Which is the name of this short series: Christ for Christmas.
Or, perhaps more precisely -- Christology for Christmas. I want to teach you over the next 4 weeks 4 important doctrines concerning the person of Jesus Christ.
And to keep with the glorious reality of the fact that this season brings us to remember the fact that Christ has come to us, I’m going to move in these doctrines from far to near. From that which makes Christ unlike us to that which makes him more and more like us. From his transcendance more and more to his immanence.
So the first facet of the person of Christ that I’d like to present to us all is one that goes back to the very beginning. It’s a truth about Christ that a person cannot deny and still be able to say that they believe the Gospel. It’s a quality about Christ that comes to the forefront of discussion every time you hear a knock at your door and see two well-dressed neighbors representing the local Kingdom Hall.
Have you ever been in a conversation with JWs or with Mormons and had the topic of the deity of Christ arise? The question of whether or not Jesus is God?
JWs will explicitly declare that Jesus is NOT God. They’ll argue this from some of the statements that they think Jesus made, and they’ll argue it by corrupting the very text of Scripture. They inaccurately change John 1:1 from saying, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The JW version of this verse reads that “the Word was a God.”
It is an objective fact that any credible Greek scholar will tell you without doubt that this is a blatantly wrong translation from the Greek text. Yet, sadly, you can’t really get anywhere with a JW by driving that point harder and harder. I’ve tried.
A similar contention is made by those in the LDS faith. They would deny the fact that Jesus is God simply because Jesus prayed to the Father. And, again, they are typically so entrenched in that view that there’s little to be said that will overcome it.
So why then do we hold to this doctrine so aggressively? Why do we make no room for potential other views regarding the deity of Christ?
Even if someone seems to have a coherent argument against the deity of Jesus, why is it that the elders of this local church would run up here and wrap my face in duct tape if I ever made the slightest deviation from the idea that Jesus is “the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” (Taken from the Nicean creed of 325 AD)
We hold this doctrine firmly because it is one of the foundational truths concerning the whole of our faith. Like the Trinity. Like the virgin birth. Like substitutionary atonement. Like justification by faith alone. Like the authority of Scripture.
Without the truth of the deity of Christ, Christianity falls miserably apart.
So the first gift I want to give you in the series -- the first facet of Christology for Christmas that I’ll be giving us all is this: The doctrine of the deity of Christ.
And the outline that I’d like to follow could be thought of as a series of three questions.
What does Scripture teach about the deity of Christ?
Why is it important to rightly understand the deity of Christ?
How is the Christian helped by affirming the deity of Christ?
1. What Does Scripture Teach About the Deity of Christ?
I had a list of bullets that would have themselves kept us here until 2pm. So I narrowed it down to 4. And then I reviewed the sermon and narrowed it down to 3.
So here are just 3 of many Scriptural evidences of the deity of Christ -- of the fact that Jesus himself is fully God.
1. Christ is God because of his Eternal Existence -- Jesus, as God, exists eternally without beginning or end.
Listen to what John the Apostle writes about Christ -- the living Word, as he calls him, in John chapter 1.
John 1:1-3 - “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Then verse 10 - “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”
And the point of these verses is not merely to lead us to think that Jesus showed up on the scene sometime before creation -- but rather that he existed eternally in the past, such that he had no beginning. He was, as verse 2 explicitly states, “in the beginning with God.”
If Jesus was with God at the beginning, then what John is saying is that he existed already at the beginning with God. When it came time to create, God and the Word were present.
From our limited human vantage points, we must realize that there exists an important line of demarcation at this thing which we call, “the beginning.” -- The beginning indicates that point in eternity in which God ceased to be the only being that existed, because he spoke other beings and objects into existence by his word.
And so at the time of the beginning -- or we could say, before the beginning, what is the only thing that was? God was. And if the Word was in existence already at this beginning, it means that he must have been God.
We can also conclude from this that God is completely separate from creation, since he existed before and without it. So we know that Jesus the Living Word is uncreated, and is separate from creation, and was in existence from eternity past. He is the one, as Isaiah says in Isaiah 57:15, who “inhabits eternity.” He is, as Moses wrote in Psalm 90, “from everlasting to everlasting.”
Paul echoes the words of John when he writes in Colossians 1:16-17 - “For by him 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
He is before all things, both in existence and in priority. And he is essential to all things not only coming to be, but he is also essential to all things remaining to be.
This Christ is no created thing. He is no lower being. He is the highest being. He is none other than God.
Hebrews 1 couldn’t make the eternal existence of Christ any more clear. The author there writes, in verses 1 to 4 -
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
It is clear here that the Father ordained for the Son to be the creator of all things -- so that the Father would be the decree-er and so that the Son would be the do-er. Yet that in no way makes the Son any less than the Father. Such that, as verse 3 states, the Son is the shining forth of God’s glory -- he is the one who makes God’s glory visible -- and he is the exact imprint of God’s nature -- he is very God of very God, as Nicea tells us.
Again, we see that Christ is God because he has existed eternally, because he is from outside of creation.
And one other text that makes the eternal existence of Christ clear is what we often read at this time of year, from Isaiah 9:6.
There the prophet is speaking of the coming Messiah-King, who would be born so that the government would be upon his shoulders. And that his name would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
What created being is referred to as “everlasting father?” None. Only the one who exists from before the beginning, who is eternally God -- only such a one can rightly be called “everlasting father.”
Thus Christ is deity because of his eternal existence.
2. And, secondly, Christ is also God because of his Divine Power -- Jesus Christ does the things which only God can do.
We’ve already mentioned the work of creation. Only God can speak and make every stuff out of no stuff. And Scripture says that Christ is the one who does this; therefore Christ is God.
Again I’ll quote Colossians 1:16-17 - “For by him 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
And then we have Jesus’ own means of demonstrating his deity to John the Baptist in Matthew 11.
Remember, the great prophet was imprisoned, and he sent word to Christ via his disciples in order to get just one more bit of validation that he had spent his life blazing the trail for the right Messiah. This is the story in Matthew 11, beginning in verse 1 --
“When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.””
What does Jesus offer to John as evidence of his Messiahship? He suggests that he is divine, because he does only what God can do.
He gives blind people vision.
He gives lame people the ability to walk.
With a word he instantly destroys every last infectious bacteria from inside of those who suffer from leprosy, and with that same word creates from nothing new skin and muscle and vascular tissue which had been missing from the disease.
He makes deaf people able to hear.
He raises dead people to life.
And perhaps the most miraculous of all -- He proclaims with his own authority how broken sinful souls can have the Kingdom of Heaven.
All this evidences his Messiahship. All this evidences his deity, for he does the works which only God can do.
We also have a brilliantly recorded passage in John 10, beginning in verse 31, where the Apostle tells us of a time where the leaders of Israel are ready to put Jesus to death on the spot because he does the unthinkable -- he claims to be God.
And so we read of Jesus defense of such a statement beginning in verse 31 --
“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.”Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.”
The Lord’s point is that he can make the claim to be God precisely because he does the words which only God can do. He says, in effect, don’t just take my word for it -- believe the works! See what I do, and realize that I am God!
And then what irony we see here -- Jesus tells them that he’s God, and then he tells them that he’s God because of what he can do, and then he escapes from their hands -- likely another miraculous work in and of itself.
So Jesus is God because of his Eternal Existence, and because of his Divine Power.
3. And Christ is God, thirdly, because of his Declared Deity.
You’ll remember the great vision that Isaiah the prophet had, as recorded for us in Isaiah 6:1-5 --
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!””
This is is a vision of none other than God himself, right? It cannot be mistaken for any other.
John the Apostle offers us his inspired commentary on this account in John 12, beginning in verse 37. Jesus is grieved because so many of his people evidence hardness of heart to not believe in him, and so John says that this reality fulfills what was spoken of the prophet Isaiah -- look at John 12:38 -
“So that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
And then let’s not miss what John tells us is true concerning the motivation for Isaiah’s prophecy. He says in verse 41 -
“Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
You can easily skip over this verse as you read through the Gospel of John, but may we not pass over its significance, nor over its clarity concerning the person of Christ. John is saying that Isaiah saw who? Whose glory did the prophet see? Of whom then did he speak and write?
Of him -- the context is clear that this is Jesus that John is referring to. Isaiah in his vision of the Lord high and lifted up in splendor and majesty -- he saw the King, whose glory caused the prophet to call himself unclean and unworthy -- and this great God is none other than Jesus Christ himself.
What is more, Jesus knows who he is, and so he never tells his worshippers to direct their praise elsewhere.
When Paul and Barnabus were heralded as false gods at Lystra they tore their clothes and urged the people to stop treating them wrongly. They said in Acts 14:15 - “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.”
But after Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, after cleansing the temple, after healing the blind and the lame, the innocent children were crying out to him - “Hosanna to the Son of David!” They were worshipping him in childlike awe and delight.
But the priests and scribes were indignant, Matthew says in Matthew 21:15, because Jesus was willingly receiving this adoration that would have been reserved only for the God himself. And so Jesus silences his accusers by quoting from Psalm 8 -- a text which speaks of how all creation will praise God for his name is majestic in all the Earth. Jesus says to them in Matthew 21:16 --
“Have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
His point is this -- “Don’t you guys get it!? I’m supposed to receive this praise, because mine is the majestic name of God himself.”
Because Jesus never dismisses divine veneration, Scripture explicitly indicates that he is God.
And I could go on and on about how Scripture presents Jesus to be God:
Jesus commands prayer to God in his name. And since the only name which could ever turn the ear of God is his own...we must conclude that Jesus is equating himself with God.
When Thomas saw the wounds of the resurrected Christ in John 20:28 he cried out, “My Lord and my God!”
As I quoted earlier, Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the “exact imprint of [God’s] nature.”
Jesus prays this in John 17:5 - “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
And in John 8:58 Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Friends, the Scriptural support for the Deity of Christ is not scant. It is abundant and clear and it is more than sufficient to convince us that Jesus is 100% God.
So clear is this truth that it is an essential truth of Christian belief. Yet it is an essential truth not only because Scripture teaches it clearly, but also because of its important connection to other necessary biblical truths.
This leads us to our second main question for this morning as we look further into the deity of Christ. We have first considered the question of what Scripture teaches about the deity of Christ, and now we’ll look to answer this question -- Why is the doctrine of the deity of Christ important?
2. Why is the doctrine of the deity of Christ important?
There are again a number of things we could point to as being necessarily connected to the fact that Jesus is 100% God. But I’ll just give 3 of the most important ones that I see in Scripture.
The first is this -- that the deity of Christ is necessary for the perfect righteousness of Christ.
1. The Deity of Christ is Necessary for the Perfect Righteousness of Christ.
We need to answer the question -- How could Jesus as a man live perfectly? Or, how could a man live a life pleasing to the standard of what an eternally holy and righteous God demanded?
Well, the only way that even makes sense as a possibility is if that man actually was God. Only because Jesus is God could Jesus live a perfectly pleasing-to-God life.
We’ve considered many times the importance of what happened at the baptism and the transfiguration of Christ, recorded in Matthew 3 and Matthew 17 respectively. But on both occasions we have recorded for us a truly amazing thing -- for at both events God the Father could not refrain from audibly voicing his great pleasure for the Son. It’s as if we are given a glimpse of the kind of glorious love that the Trinity held for each for all of eternity past -- for the Father rips open heaven both times in order to proclaim, “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
We have to realize that God cannot be pleased by anything less than the standard of pleasure that he has in himself. And so if God proclaims that he is pleased with this Jesus, the ONLY way this can be true is if Jesus is equal to God.
Then in Mark 10:18 we read of Jesus’ words to a man who called him, “Good teacher.” And the Lord replies by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Jesus is saying this in order to change the man’s misconceptions about true goodness, because he figured he could attain to goodness on his own. He thought that by externally keeping some major commandments he could the favor of God.
The problem is, God is only pleased with goodness to the standard of his eternal perfection. So Jesus says that to that standard of goodness, only God himself is truly good.
And so if Jesus is to be good enough to secure God’s favor for his people, he absolutely has to be God. Because there is none but God who is good to that degree.
Thus Jesus must be God in order to have perfect obedience.
We’re familiar with one of the blessed titles that is given to Christ -- the title, “Lamb of God.” And what this title refers to is the fact that God has selected Jesus to be his sacrificial lamb.
The Israelites in the OT were instructed once a year at Passover to select their most perfect lamb from their flocks to use as a sacrifice for their families. It had to be a lamb without blemish. It had to be pure and innocent. It had to be the best they could find.
And so God found the best he could find for his lamb. In order to once and for all atone for the sin of his people, God had to select an absolutely perfect lamb -- it had to be a lamb who would perfectly assuage God’s wrath. It had to be a perfectly innocent lamb so that God could lay on him the iniquity of others. This Lamb had to be perfect to the measure of the very goodness of God himself.
And this truth leads me to the second reason why the deity of Christ is utterly important -- not only because of the need for perfect righteousness, but also because of the need for Jesus to be a pleasing sacrifice.
2. The Deity of Christ is Necessary for Christ to be a Pleasing Sacrifice.
When I speak with JWs or Mormons, it’s my habit to immediately say to them that the Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus is God, and that it is absolutely necessary for this to be the case in order for my sin to be atoned.
I tell them that the only thing in the world that gives me ANY hope at all that my sins have been forgiven and cast into the deepest part of the sea is because God himself bore fully the eternal penalty that they deserved.
No mere man could atone for an eternal weight of sin.
You see, it was an innumerable number of sins that Christ bore, and each one of them came with an eternal penalty because they had been committed against an eternal being. And therefore Jesus had to be God in order to fully take upon himself all of the Father’s wrath for sin.
If Jesus was not God, then none of us would have the slightest hope of atonement for our sin.
Look at Hebrews 10.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
The text is so clear that one sacrifice is sufficient to atone for all sin, for he has perfected all those who are being sanctified. And he is rewarded with being granted the seat of honor at the Father’s right hand. His task is complete.
But his task is complete only because he is God. There is no other way in which a one-time bearing of sins while on the cross could fully cover an infinite degree of sinfulness, unless Jesus is God.
So the deity of Christ is important because Jesus needed have perfect righteousness, and because Jesus needed to be a pleasing sacrifice. But also his deity is important because he needed to have a powerful resurrection.
3. The Deity of Christ is Necessary for Christ to have a Powerful Resurrection.
In John 10:17-18 we read these words of Christ -
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
The only thing Jesus needed to have from the Father in order to lay down his life and then take it up again was the directive to do so. He needed no help. He needed no empowering. He needed only the word of the Father to go ahead and do so.
Remember that he also said in John 2:19 - “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
There is an amazing thing in these statements -- Jesus indicates that the Father has given him the charge to both lay down his life and to take it up.
But who can obey that?
What person has the inherent ability to separate their soul from their body and then to reunite it to the body again at will? Who can raise up the “temple” of his body on the given day?
The answer is that only the one who has creative authority over soul and body can do that -- the answer is that only God has that ability. So the only way for Jesus to be able to accomplish this facet of the plan of salvation is if he is indeed God.
And a really really important implication for us concerning the fact that the deity of Christ empowers him to be capable of resurrection is what we read in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 -
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Because of the powerful resurrection of Christ from the dead, all in him shall be made alive. You, in Christ, shall be made alive. You are spiritually alive in Christ forever because of regeneration. You will be physically alive in Christ forever because of the resurrection.
And this is why Paul can continue on in that chapter to say this, in verse 54 -
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because Christ is God, we have victory over death. That’s why his deity is important.
So we’ve examined Scripture’s claims concerning the deity of Christ. And we’ve considered why it is so necessary that Christ truly be very God of very God. So with the time remaining let’s look at just a couple of ways in which we all can be practically helped because of the deity of Christ.
Our third question, then, is this:
3. How is the Christian helped because of the deity of Christ?
We actually just finished considering one way in which we are helped -- in knowing that we, too, will be raised because Christ our God is raised.
Such hope this is which comes to our hearts when we come face to face with our own physical limitations, or with the bitter reality of death. What comfort it is to know that we’ll be raised in perfection as Christ is raised in perfection when we see how broken and sinful we are.
And another help we already alluded to is that the deity of Jesus is what allows us to pray! It would be an understatement to call that helpful.
And here are 3 more ways in which Christians are helped by knowing that Christ our Savior is indeed God. And I’ve put them in form of questions for us to ponder.
1. How else can we know God but by knowing someone who is indeed God?
God is a spirit. We have a spirit but we are not all spirit. God inhabits eternity. We are finite and cannot hope to fathom what eternity even is. God is incomparably holy and pure. We are still marbled with every kind of sin.
So how can we hope to know him?
John Owen puts it this way: “We behold ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6). Otherwise we know it not, we see nothing of it; that is the way of seeing and knowing God, declared in the Scripture as our duty and blessedness...He, and he alone, declares, represents, and makes known, to angels and men, the essential glory of the invisible God, his attributes and his will.” (51-52)
Basically, we’re hopeless to know God apart from Christ -- because he is God. That’s how the deity of Christ helps the Christian.
And thinking on that reality leads me to a second question that indicates how we are helped because of the deity of Christ.
2. What did it require for God to do to make himself known to me?
Friends, for God to even be known by his sinful creatures required his giving to them of no less than himself. God gave us God so that we might know God. And he gave us himself in the glorious person of Christ, who himself is God.
You all know that I like to use rhetorical questions in my sermons. I love to ask questions that stimulate thinking. And sometimes questions can leave us in a sort of blessed, silent, humbled moment of contemplation. One such rhetorical question is that which the Apostle Paul asks of the Roman Christians in Romans 8: 32 - “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God did not spare his own Son. God did not spare his own self in the person of the Son. God gave him up for us all.
Thus the question for those for whom God gave up the Son is this -- “how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
God will give us all things because he already gave us that which is the greatest thing in the Universe. Nothing is greater than God, and God has already given us himself in Christ, who is God.
And a final question that I’ll ask as we think about how the deity of Christ helps us -- it is this:
3. How can I give worship and thanks to this God who has given me all things?
How dare I think for one second that I have anything at all to offer God that he would accept favorably. But yet I long to worship and praise him for what he has done for me.
And yet again the answer is found in precisely the same place as what caused it to be asked in the first place -- we answer it by looking at the deity of Christ.
So how do we worship this great God?
We worship him through Christ who is God. Turning our minds to Christ is the same as turning our minds to God. Singing to Christ is the same as singing to God. Serving Christ is the same as serving God.
All this because Christ our Lord and Savior is himself very God of very God.