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Did Jesus and the inspired Bible writers claim that Jesus possessed Deity? Was He God in the flesh? Did He possess the characteristics of Deity? Did He do the works and accept the honors and glory of Deity?
Some people, would claim to believe in Jesus, would yet deny that Jesus is God in the same sense that God the Father is God. Others believe that Jesus did not possess the characteristics and power of Deity, or that He did not possess these characteristics while on earth.
It is not the purpose of this study to deny or in any way belittle the humanity of Jesus on earth. He was both God and man, God in the flesh. Several verses we will study will confirm this. However, the purpose of this study is to focus on Jesus' Deity, not on His humanity.
God is infinite; we are finite. Our human limitations make it impossible for us to fully comprehend God (Romans 11:33-36; Job 26:14; 11;7; 36:26; 37:5,23; Isaiah 40:28; 55:8,9; Deuteronomy 29:29). Therefore, neither this nor any other study will answer all questions about God.
However, by faith we can accept as true whatever the Bible says about God and specifically about the Deity of Jesus. We can believe revealed truths even when we cannot fully explain how they can be so or answer all questions about them. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9-11; 2 Timothy 3:16,17).
For example, we can believe that God is eternal and that He answers prayer. But who can fully grasp the concept of eternity or explain in detail how God can hear and answer the prayers of so many people? Likewise, we cannot explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time, yet we must still believe and not deny the Bible teaching.
The following definitions are my summary of Bible teaching. I will not cite specific Scriptures at this point, but our study will show that these definitions fit Bible teaching.
"God" - The eternal, independent, self-existent Supreme Monarch or Ruler who created the universe, sustains its existence, and who therefore possesses absolute power and sovereignty over all created things. God alone is infinite in knowledge, power, and holiness. Hence, only God is worthy to be worshipped as Deity by man.
"Godhead" - same as God.
"Deity" - The essence or substance of God. The state or quality or condition of being God.
"Godhood" - same as Deity.
"Divine" - possessing Deity; having qualities or characteristics possessed by God.
"Creation" - Everything that has been created or brought into existence by the supernatural power of God. The creation includes the earth, the heavenly bodies, and everything in or on them, including plants, animals, and men.
Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This refers to the characteristics of Deity. God's laws have changed from Old Testament to New Testament in harmony with God's eternal plan. His works also change (He is not, for example, still dying on the cross). Jesus also took on the characteristics of man, but He could never lose the qualities of Deity.
God's nature cannot change. If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever possessed the characteristics of Deity, then they always possessed them and always will possess them. They may choose at times not to exercise certain powers, but they must always possess those powers.
To say that Jesus (or the Father or the Spirit) ever at any time failed to possess any characteristic of Deity is to (perhaps unknowingly) deny His Deity. God could not lose the characteristics of Deity without ceasing to be Deity. That is impossible. God cannot cease to be God.
Some people claim that Jesus could not possess Deity, because they say that would make two gods (the Father and the Son); whereas the Bible says there is only one God.
We agree the Bible teaches there is one God and that singular pronouns are used to refer to God - Deuteronomy 4:35,39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-13; 44:6-8,24; 45:5,6,14,18,21-23; 52:6; Matthew 4:10. [See also 2 Samuel 7:22; 1 Chronicles 17:20; Exodus 20:3-6; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13-15; 32:39; Psalm 86:10; Zech. 14:9; Mark 12:29; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; James 2:19; 1 Timothy 2:5]
The question is how is God "one" - in what sense? Is God one individual, or could several individual beings constitute one God?
The word "God" does not necessarily mean a single individual, such that "one God" is equivalent to one individual. God simply means Deity, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, whatever possesses the characteristics of Deity and therefore deserves to be worshipped. God is one, but not necessarily one individual.
John 17:20-23 explains how the Father and Son are one - even as believers should be one.
But believers are not one individual; they are many different individuals. We are united as one body, one church, united in faith, practice, goals, character, etc. (Acts 4:32; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Ephesians 1:22,23; 2:14,16; Philippians 1:27; 2:2; etc.)
Sometimes believers are referred to by plural terms that emphasize the plurality of individuals - 1 Corinthians 12:12,14,18,20; Romans 12:4,5; etc. But sometimes singular terms are used to emphasize the oneness or unity of the church - Ephesians 5:25,26 ("it" is translated "her" in NASB & NIV; the Greek pronoun is feminine); Ephesians 4:3-6,16 ("itself"); Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 5:16; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-28; Galatians 3:28; Romans 12:4,5.
Likewise, Jesus said He and His Father are "one" (John 10:30; 17:20ff). But are they just one individual? The one God or Godhead consists of plural members just as the one church consists of many members
Another illustration: Genesis 2:24 says a man and his wife become one.
The man and wife are still two separate individuals, but in marriage they are united. So God can be so united as to be called "one," yet three separate individuals. [Note that "man" can refer to all humanity or to a particular individual who possesses humanity.]
The singular pronouns used for God emphasize God's oneness, while the plural pronouns point out the plural individuals in that one God. This is completely legitimate grammatically.
Statements affirming the oneness of God are intended, not to deny there are a plurality of individuals in God, but to contrast to the plural gods of heathen idol worship. The contexts are not discussing the relationship of the Father to the Son, but are contrasting the true God to the plurality of different gods such as heathen idol worshipers embrace. Heathen gods have different character, possess authority in different areas of life or different areas of the earth, and often disagree and even war among themselves. They differ in their beliefs, purposes, teachings, and their wills for men. In contrast, the Bible teaches that we worship a united, harmonious God with one will and plan for us.
So to affirm that Jesus possesses Deity is not to deny the concept of one God. We can believe in one God and still believe that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all possess Deity.
[Note, for example, the context of virtually all the passages above - Deuteronomy 4:15-40; 6:4,14; 32:15-21,35-39; Psalm 86:8-10; Isaiah 41:21-23,29; 42:5-8,17; 43:9-13; 44:6-19,24; 45:5,16-23; 46:5-10; Matthew 4:9,10.]
The evidence for Jesus' Deity is considered in the following sections:
Copyright 1995, 2005, David E. Pratte
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Number of Individuals in God
Jesus' Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Jesus as Savior from Sin
Significance of Jesus' Resurrection
Saul's Conversion & Jesus' Resurrection
Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.