Christian orthodoxy states that Christ is the Redeemer of men. So do many unorthodox groups who call themselves Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. Yet many erroneously claim that He is not God incarnate. The Muslims state he is simply a prophet, like Mohammad. The Mormons believe he is the created brother of Lucifer. The Jehovah Witnesses believe he is the created archangel Michael. Muslims don't call themselves Christians, so I am not going to deal with them here specifically. And while Mormons and JW's claim to be Christians, we will see that they cannot make that claim since they don't know who the real Christ is.
Both the Mormons and the JW's claim that Christ is the redeemer of mankind, although their works also add to the equation. But can a creature redeem humanity? Is it possible for a created being to perfectly adhere to the moral law of God? Was Christ a mere man? Was he an angel? Without addressing the error of works salvation in this post, (which may be done in a future post since all religions apart from biblical Christianity believe this in one form or another), I would like to address the aspects of the nature of Jesus Christ and present some clear bible passages which affirm the deity of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel"(which means, God with us).Matthew not only points to the fulfilled prophecy spoken of in Isaiah 7:14, but he also makes a vividly explicit statement to the meaning of this birth. The one who is conceived is "God with us".
John 1:1-5; 14Here, John also makes an explicit claim to the deity of Christ. Not only does he state it clearly in verse 1 by stating "the Word was God", but he also attributes this abstract concept of the term "word" to a person. This "word" became flesh and tabernacled among us, according to verse 14. That person is Christ, the focus of John's gospel.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 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.
The reason John uses the phrase "and tabernacled (or dwelt) among us" is because that is how the Jews related to God. God dwelt among His people in the old testament. He would dwell among His people in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and lead them by resting upon the tabernacle. The people would have seen the direct correlation being made by using that wording. Not only did this Word who is God become flesh, but He also dwelt among the people.
John also puts to rest the idea that the Son of God was a created being when he states in verse 3 that "all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made." That statement is pretty clear in affirming that NOTHING has been made apart from the Son. According to Mormons and JW's, the Son was a created being, but how can this be so? He cannot have created himself! That verse would have to read "except for him, not anything was made that was made."
If he was a created being, then he had to have played a role in his own creation, since nothing was made without him. This simply cannot be so.
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For 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. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.Again, verse 16 explicitly states that all things were created through him and for him. It does not say nearly all things, or all things besides himself. It shows that everything in heaven (that would include angels), and everything on earth was created through him. How? He is the Word of God. God spoke. Christ is the expression of the Father. This is a complex mystery of the relationship within the Godhead that I confess I do not fully comprehend. But I do see clearly that all created things were created through him and for him.
"But look, verse 15 says that he is 'firstborn' of all creation! See? He is created. It says it right there!" That is the canned answer to all who use this verse to attack the deity of Christ, but this doesn't take into account the cultural aspect of the term 'firstborn'. What did that mean to Paul? What did it mean to the Colossians to whom he was writing? We must take all of Scripture into account, so if one part says nothing was made without him, then this verse can't mean that something was made without him (namely himself). It means quite simply that Christ is the preeminent one. When the Jews would speak of being the firstborn, that term didn't mean merely that the child was the oldest in the family. When spoken of the male, it meant that he is the heir of the family possessions. They are entitled to all their father owns when he either dies, or gives it freely (as seen in the parable of the prodigal son).
Furthermore, we see in Psalm 89 the following:
Psalm 89:2-28David, speaking of Christ in a prophetic sense, states that the Father will make (establish, appoint) the Son the firstborn, and then in classic hebrew style, interprets himself in the next verse via parallelism by saying that firstborn means to be "highest of the kings of the earth." He will be established in his rightful place in inheriting all the Father owns. So using the proper technique of letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it can be plainly stated that when the term "firstborn" is used in Colossians 1:15, it is NOT speaking of his "spiritual birth" or any other such means of creation. It is speaking plainly about his position of authority OVER creation.
26He shall cry to me, 'You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.'
27And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
Now for the passage that prompted this blog entry.
Psalm 49:7-9These verses display the problem with simply acknowledging the humanity of Christ without taking into account his other nature, namely his deity. The psalm writer shows by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit his understanding of the price of sin. He acknowledges not only the heavy price for it, but the inability for a mere man to pay it. An infinitely holy God is infinitely offended by sin, therefore the finite man must pay an infinite price which he is unable to do for himself, let alone any others. If this is so (and it cannot be denied for any who believe Scripture is the inspired word of God), then if Jesus Christ were merely a mortal man, he would be unqualified to atone for the sins of anyone, let alone the myriad of people mentioned to be atoned by his blood in Scripture (Heb 9:14; 1Pet 1:2, 19; Rev 1:5). There has to be more to this Jesus than mortality and manhood.
7 Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.
So would being an angel make his atonement able to cover the sins of a multitude? Let us examine this point.
First of all, the word angel is the hebrew word mal'ak and the greek word aggelos. Both words simply mean "messenger". So the word angel is simply one who brings a message from someone. In the case of the Scriptures, that someone is God. Now Christ was much more than a mere messenger.
- He was heralded in as the Redeemer and the Lamb of God by John the Baptist (John 1:29)
- He was called the King of the Jews (Matt 2:2, 27:11)
- He was known as the Messiah, which means 'Anointed One'. (John 1:41; 4:25)
- He was the Son of God (Matt 8:29; 14:33)
- He was the Son of Man (Jesus used this title for himself countless times)
- He was the Son of David (Matt 9:27; 15:22)
Was Christ nothing but an angel? Let us look at the letter to the Hebrews. In fact, the first two chapters deal specifically with this topic and I encourage you to read them right now. I shall take a few verses and expound on them here.
Heb 1:3-5Why does the writer state that he "became" more superior to angels? Was he simply an exalted angel? No. He was made lower than the angels first (Heb 2:7). And after his work was accomplished, he was raised up to the right hand of God, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
3 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. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
"You are my Son,
today I have begotten you"?
"I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son"?
Heb 1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,The angels are not worshiped in Scripture (Rev 19:10; 22:9). The only one worthy of worship is God Almighty. You might say "what about the angel of the LORD in the old testament?" But what or who is angel of the LORD? It was a theophany. A manifestation of the presence of God. The angel of the LORD is referred to AS God in Genesis 16:7-13, Genesis 22:11-17, Exodus 3:2-4, Judges 2:1-3, Judges 13:18-22, Psalms 34:7 and Zechariah 12:8. So this title "angel of the LORD" is not speaking merely of a created angel, but is more specifically speaking of a manifestation of God Himself.
"Let all God’s angels worship him."
So we have dealt with some of the explicit claims of his deity and some of the most common objections to it. Much more could be said, but this is, after all, a blog post and not a book!
I would gladly address any specific objections or points in the comments.
May God be glorified in this post. Amen