I've been told that Jesus never claimed to be God, since He prayed to the Father and called the Father His God. Why do you believe Jesus is God?
Whatever and whomever people think He is, one thing is for sure: there has never been any single person in the history of the world that has received more focus, attention and scrutiny than the man Jesus Christ. That Jesus actually lived is a historical fact, not only from the Bible, but also from many non-Biblical sources. The question we want to answer here, however, is perhaps one of the most important we can ask about Jesus: Is He God?
This question has enormous ramifications, not only for Christians, but for non-Christians as well. If Jesus is not God, then the Bible cannot be trusted, and Christians must then question everything they believe about their faith, about God, about Jesus Himself. For the unbeliever, if Jesus is God, then everything we as Christians say about Jesus is true, which means unbelievers need to pay serious attention to the Bible and what it says about life, death, and the hereafter.
As we consider this important question, it’s useful to ponder how we should go about questioning if Jesus is God. Since we are examining a historical person, we should ask the same questions we’d ask about any other historical person. So for example, if we were researching someone who lived thousands of years ago, think about what you’d examine. You’d want to know what the person said about himself, what others said about him, what the person did, how he lived, etc. When you put all of this together, you’d have an objective view of who this person was. That’s how we’ll consider Jesus, with a focus on His deity.
Perhaps the first thing to examine is what Jesus said; that is, did He claim to be God? According to Scripture, He did indeed.
Jesus’ first claim to deity is found in His confrontation with Satan. In Matthew 4, Scripture says that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by Satan. The temptations demonstrate that Satan knew Jesus was God, as do Jesus’ responses.
Jesus here claims that God alone is to receive worship. Yet, later in the gospels, Jesus receives worship but does not tell His disciples to stop. The angel in Revelation stopped John from worshiping him, saying worship God, yet Jesus does not prohibit people worshiping Him.
A good example is Matthew 28:9:
In John 5, by calling God His own Father, Jesus made Himself equal with God and, as a result, the Jews sought to kill Him. Furthermore, Jesus claims to be able to do the same things the Father does, which only God can do, namely, raise the dead and give life. Finally, He claims that He will receive the same honor God the Father receives. This could not be a more clear claim to deity:
Confirming that only God can put to death and gives life. Deuteronomy 32:39 says,
In the John 5 above, Jesus claims this same power, making Himself equal with God. In John 8, Jesus again makes His claim of deity to the Pharisees:
When Jesus said, “I am”, He was claiming the name of God. This is what God told Moses was His name, and the reaction of the Jews shows they clearly understood what Jesus was claiming.
In John 14, Jesus also claims equality with God:
In John 10, Jesus is even more direct:
Notice Jesus claims He does the same as the Father (gives life, claims equality with the One who is greater than all). Proving that He indeed was claiming to be God, we continue reading in John 10 that the Jews tried to kill Him for making this claim:
Only God can forgive sins, yet Jesus made the same claim. In Mark 2, we read,
Clearly, Jesus’ own words show that He claimed to be God.
Continuing our examination of Jesus’ claim to deity, we now want to consider what others said about Jesus. Those who knew Jesus best were His apostles and disciples, and they wrote a lot about Jesus. They were the authors of the New Testament, which gives us more evidence of Jesus’ deity.
John 1 says of Jesus,
This is a clear and direct statement of Jesus’ deity. Moreover, the word “dwelt” means “tabernacled”, which is the reality of the picture of Christ when God resided in the tabernacle with the Israelites in the wilderness. When He was born, He “tabernacled”, or dwelt, with men in the flesh.
John goes on in v. 18:
The apostle Thomas declared plainly of the risen Christ,
While all of Jesus’ apostles were Jewish, consider the unique case of Paul. Unlike the other apostles, Paul was a formally trained Pharisee, and likely knew the Old Testament far better than the other apostles. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6 makes clear that God is one, and Paul would have known this particular verse well:
It would be unconceivable for a monotheistic Jew, especially a Pharisee like Paul, to view God as some polytheistic being. Rather, Paul effectively states that Jesus is God. Furthermore, Gentile Christians clearly viewed Jesus as God as well. If they saw Jesus as “another” God, they would not have been persecuted, especially by the Roman emperor. Pagan Gentiles had many gods, and if Jesus were simply one more, Christians would have been accepted. Instead, they saw Jesus as the one true and living God, and for that they were persecuted.
(Of course, Scripture has a triune view of God, which we refer to as the Trinity (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). You can read more about the Trinity in this article.)
Speaking of God, Acts 20:28 says,
Thus the apostles equate Jesus with God. And Paul says in Titus 2:
Here again, Jesus is equated with God. Romans 9 states:
Hebrews 1, quoting Psalm 45, says,
Paul and John aren’t the only ones claiming Jesus is God. In 2 Peter 1, we read,
Peter also equates Jesus with the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 1:
Confirming the triune nature of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Peter says in 2 Peter 1:
So, we have more evidence from those who knew Him best that Jesus is God.
Before Jesus was born, the Jews had the blessing and privilege of being given the very word of God. When He became a man, Jesus made an incredible statement about God’s word:
Is that true? Let’s see. Isaiah 7:14 says,
The word “Immanuel” literally means “God with us.” This was written about 700 years before Christ’s birth. The New Testament agrees:
Prophesying of the coming Messiah, Isaiah 9 says,
God confirms that Jesus is this Son:
This Son is equated with God the Father, confirming Jesus’ claim that He and the Father are one. In Isaiah 45, God declares,
This is the same description of Christ in the New Testament:
Notice here that Paul testifies to both Christ’s humanity and His Deity. Psalm 110, a Messianic Psalm, also testifies to Jesus’s deity:
Isaiah 44 says,
In Deuteronomy 32, God is called a Rock:
Paul makes this same connection in 1 Corinthians 10,
Genesis 1:1 says,
Of Jesus, John says,
Isaiah 43:11 says,
Much, much more could be said here, but Scripture is clear that the Old Testament testifies to the Deity of Christ.
Continuing our examination of whether or not Jesus is God, we now turn to what He did. If God did appear in the flesh, what would He be like? Surely, He would be able to do things that no mere human could do, including not sinning. He would also know all things (omniscience), He would have power over all things (omnipotence), and be able to be everywhere at once (omnipresence). Does Jesus meet the test?
First and foremost, Jesus was not like any human. He was born of a human virgin, but His Father was God. Because his father was not human, Jesus was born sinless since He was not in the line of Adam, through whom all people are born sinners. Unlike Adam, Jesus lived a perfect life. Hebrews 4:15 says,
Jesus knows all things. Prior to His death and resurrection, He told the Pharisees to destroy the temple of His body and in three days He would raise it up (John 2:19). He knew men’s thoughts. Luke 5 says,
Luke 6 says,
Since He created all things, Jesus had power over all things. He controls nature. In Mark 4 we read,
Deuteronomy 32:39 tells us,
Only God can give life and put to death, yet Jesus demonstrated this same ability. When Lazarus was sick, Jesus tarried before coming to see him, to ensure he would be dead when He got to him, knowing He would bring him back to life.
Jesus is also omnipresent. Prior to His resurrection, He did not exhibit this power; He claimed it later. Speaking of God, Psalm 139 tells us,
Matthew 18 says,
Matthew 28 says,
Only God can be in more than one place at the same time.
Jesus predicted His death and His resurrection. In Matthew 26, He says,
As we saw above, only God knows the future, and only God has the power to put to death and to give life. Yet again, Jesus claims this power for Himself. John 10 says, “17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.””
That Jesus lived and was crucified is a matter of historical record. Even the Jews could not come up with a credible explanation for Jesus’ resurrection. This is recorded in Matthew 28:
If Jesus died and stayed dead, surely his scared disciples would not have had the courage to steal His body from Roman soldiers. Surely the Jews would have been able to find a body. They Jews did not even try to find a false cadaver to counter the fact that Jesus rose from the dead; instead, they came up with the story above.
Perhaps one reason why the Jews stuck to their story is that Jesus’ resurrection was testified to by many witnesses. 1 Corinthians 15 says,
Only God can put to death and give life.
Given the evidence, it’s difficult to dismiss the Deity of Jesus Christ. He claimed deity for Himself. His disciples testified to His deity. His life testified to the fact that He was no mere human, but was indeed God. The only logical conclusion is that Jesus is indeed God. This is a comfort for the Christian, and a warning for the unbeliever. We rejoice with the apostle: