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Trinitarianism: Jesus Christ Son of God

When I was twenty years old I read in a couple of books and heard it taught at a couple of conferences that Jesus Christ was the greatest leader to have ever lived. I thought to myself that if he was the greatest leader that ever lived and if I want to be a great leader, then I should study him and see what I could learn.

I began to read the Gospels to learn about who Jesus was and what he did. On my journey I had a New Living Translation Student Bible that my mom had given me several years earlier. I had not read it much. Honestly, I don’t know if I had ever opened it. But, when I was ready to read the Bible it was available so I opened it and began to read the Gospels about the greatest leader who ever lived.

Trinitarianism - Jesus Christ Son of God

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: “Holy Trinity” by Hendrick van Balen

My eyes were opened as I read story after story of this man who walked the earth doing miracles, teaching, and mentoring his disciples. I began to realize is that Jesus was not just a great leader, he was the Son of God.

Today’s post looks at how Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human. Whole books have been written about Jesus Christ, therefore this blog post barely scratches the surface. I hope it can serve as a spring-board for future study of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

TRINITARIANISM
Jesus Christ Son of God

I. THE DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST[ref]This outline on Jesus Christ Son of God is adapted from some notes I received from J. Scott Horrell while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary[/ref]

Most conversations about Jesus affirm that he was a real human being that lived on earth. However, the one doubt a lot of people in the world have is if he was God. The fact that Jesus was God was clearly explained in Jesus’s own words, by the Gospel writers, and by the authors of the New Testament letters.

A. Explicit Testimonies

1. Jesus’s Own Words

During one of Jesus’s teachings in the Gospel of John he was telling the people about how Abraham looked forward to Jesus coming as Savior of the world (John 8:56). The people responded to Jesus that he was a young man and asked Jesus how he could have seen Abraham (John 8:57). Jesus answered them:

I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:58, NLT)

Jesus is making two important points here. First, he connected himself with the statement of God the Father in Exodus 3:14 where God appears to Moses in the burning bush. When God told Moses to go and tell the Israelites it was time to leave Egypt, Moses was unsure if the people would listen to him. So God told Moses to tell the people that “I AM WHO I AM” (Exod 3:14) sent him. By saying, “I Am” Jesus in effect said he was God. Second, Jesus said that he was not “created” at some point in time, he was God he had always existed. In other words, there was never a time when Jesus did not exist. This matches Colossians, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation . . . He existed before anything else (Col 1:15, 17, NLT, emphasis added).  Also see John 1:1-3 below.

Later in John’s Gospel Jesus confirmed what he said earlier about being God.

The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30, NLT)

Seems to be pretty clear to me that Jesus knew he was God and told others that he was God.

2. In the Gospels

In addition to Jesus’s own words that described himself as God, the Gospel writers made comments that were intended to help the readers and listeners understand that Jesus was God. The most clear example of a Gospel writer saying that Jesus is God was from the Gospel of John.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” (John 1:1–3, NLT)

The “Word” of course is Jesus Christ. It can be nothing else because the Gospel of John is all about Jesus Christ as the central focus of the book (John 20:31). Also see John 1:18; 20:28-29.

3. In the Letters

In the New Testament letters there are various statements that affirm Jesus was God. The most clear is in Paul’s first chapter of his letter to the believers in Colossae.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15–20, NLT, emphasis added)

Let’s take a brief look at this passage and see what stands out to say Jesus was God. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (v. 15), Christ existed before anything else was created (v. 15), Christ is supreme over all creation (v. 15), Christ was part of creating everything in heaven and on earth (v. 16), Christ existed before anything else (v. 17), Christ holds all things together (v. 17), Christ is the head of the church (v. 18), Christ is supreme over all who rise from the dead (v. 18), Christ had God in him (v. 19), Christ reconciled everything back to himself (v. 20).

This seems to make it very clear that Jesus Christ was God! For more examples of how New Testament letters explain Christ was God see Phil 2:5-11; Col 2:9; Heb 1:1-14.

B. Indirect Testimonies

In addition to the direct evidence of Jesus describing himself as God, the Gospels saying he was God, and the author of New Testament letters saying he is God, there is an extraordinary abundance of indirect evidence that Jesus Christ is God.

1. Jesus Christ’s Divine Attributes

The attributes of Christ (or his qualities) show us that he was God. These are attributes that are not shared with humanity which are often called the incommunicable attributes of God.

  • Pre-existence. Jesus has existed with God forever. Like I said earlier in this post: there never was a time when Christ was not. See John 1:1-3; 8:58; 17:5; Col 1:15-19; Heb 1:2-3.
  • Omnipresence. Jesus is God and is present everywhere. Like God he can be everywhere at the same time. See Matt 28:20; Col 1:16-17.
  • Omnipotence. Jesus is also all-powerful. There is nothing he cannot do. See Matt 28:18; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3.
  • Immutability. Jesus does not shift or change. He is the same as he always has been. See Heb 13:8.

2. Jesus Christ’s Divine Works

The things Jesus did tell us that he was God.

  • Miracles. One of the main reasons the Gospels were written was so that people could see Jesus Christ was God. Only God can do the miracles that Jesus did in the Gospels. See Isa 35:5; Matt 9:25; Luke 7:11-15; John 5:26; 9:1-11; 10:18; 11:17.
  • Forgives Sins and Judges All Things. This was something only Jesus could do because he was God. See Matt 9:2; Luke 7:48; John 3:18; 5:22-23; 8:11.
  • Created and Sustains the Universe. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was with God when the universe was created and that Jesus actively holds everything in place. See Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3.
  • Lordship over the Holy Spirit. To some extent, Jesus has a level of authority or “lordship” over the Holy Spirit. See John 15:26; 16:7; 20:22.

3. Christ’s Divine Titles

The titles given to Jesus tell us that he was God.

  • “Lord” (Matt 21:3; Gal 1:19; Col 3:24)
  • “Son of Man” and “Son of God” (Dan 7:13-14)
  • “Alpha and Omega” (Rev 1:8; 22:3)

4. Worship of Jesus 

Throughout the Gospels Jesus accepted worship which showed that people clearly thought that he was God. This can been seen in Matt 2:8-11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; John 9:35-38; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3.

II. THE INCARNATION AND HUMANITY OF JESUS

Like I mentioned above, the doctrine that Jesus was a human being is less challenged, but still equally important. Christianity believes that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human. This is called the “Hypostatic Union.” 

A. The Incarnation

The incarnation of God is how Jesus was God but became a human being. The incarnation is most clearly described in Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi. 

Though he [Jesus Christ] was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8, NLT)

Paul was writing to the believers in Philippi and took a short portion of his letter to explain how Christ was fully human while on earth. Christ never ceased to be God while he was on earth, however he did “let go” of some of his attributes while he was human. As the NLT puts it, “he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (v. 6). Christ didn’t hold on to his rights and privileges as God. Instead, he subjected himself to human authorities and wicked people who wanted to kill him. Because of this, Christ “gave up his divine privileges” (v. 7), took the place of a “slave” (v. 7), and was born as a human being (v. 7). This was Christ’s way of humbling himself so that he could die for our sins (v. 8).

Other passages make it clear that Jesus was God who became a human. See Heb 2:14-15; John 1:14; Rom 1:3-4; 1 John 1:1-4.

B. Christ’s Humanity

Jesus Christ was God who became a person. He was a human just like everyone else. Jesus did not merely “appear” to be human. He truly was human. The author of Hebrews explains Jesus’s humanity well.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NLT)

Jesus “became flesh and blood” (v. 14) because if he needed to die for our sins he had to be flesh and blood. This was the way that Christ could free us from our flesh (v. 15). Also see Phil 2:5-7 and 1 John 1:1-14.

III. ORTHODOX BELIEFS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST

Any discussion of Jesus Christ should include a list of the “orthodox” beliefs about Jesus. As Christians we cannot truly call ourselves Christians if we do not hold to these six beliefs about Jesus Christ.

  • Pre-existence. He was not a created being. He has always existed with God the father. Neither Mormons nor Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to this.
  • Virgin Birth. Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, not by man. 
  • Consciousness of Divine Sonship. Jesus knew that he was the Son of God while on earth. He did not receive an “awakening” or “enlightenment” at a later time in his life. He always knew he was God.
  • Literal Miracles. The Gospel writers recorded the miracles of Jesus as evidence that he was God’s Son–the Messiah–awaited for from the Old Testament prophecies.
  • Foreknowledge of Death. When Jesus went to the cross he knew what he was doing.
  • Literal Physical Return to Earth. Just as Christ came to this earth once he will come again both literally and physically.

I give you this list because there have been lots groups that have developed errors in their theology relating to Jesus Christ and Trinitarianism. Just to name a few are the Docetists (1st century), Ebionites (2nd century), Arians (4th century), Apollinarians (4th century), Nestorians (5th century), and Eutychians (5th century). Yet Christian orthodoxy strongly maintains that Christ has always existed, was birthed by the virgin Mary, knew that he was God’s son, did literal miracles, knew about his death in advance, and will have a literal physical return to earth. 

IV. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

A. Jesus was fully God and fully human.

One of my goals for this post is for you to see that Christ was fully God and fully human. He was one hundred percent of each. Christ was not only a little bit of God or somewhat human. He was fully God and fully human. This is what is called the Hypostatic Union. One of the reasons I really like Chip Ingram‘s small group materials from Living on the Edge is because he often says in his teachings, “Christ was fully God and fully man” which is solid Christian theology. We can never go wrong when we affirm that Jesus was fully God and fully human. 

B. Because Jesus was fully human he has been through everything I am going through.

Not only did Christ become fully human so that he could be the substitute for our sins (Heb 2:14-15), but one of the benefits of him becoming human was that we can relate to him. Christ never sinned, yet he was tempted to sin (Matt 4:1). As humans made of flesh we too are tempted to sin. Yet we do not have to sin because we have been freed from slavery to sin (Rom 6:1-14).  

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at ChristopherLynnScott.com.