DEITY OF CHRIST. The clearest and fullest expression of the deity of Christ is found in the Nicene Creed which was originally presented at the Council of Nicaea, a.d. 325. In the Eng. Book of Common Prayer the tr. appears as follows: “...one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made.” Set forth in this statement is every possible effort to make clear that Christ is “Very God of Very God.” Closely allied with the word “deity” is the more general word “divinity.” Deity is the stronger word, the absolute one. It can be argued that there is a “spark of divinity” in every man; not so with the word “deity.”
Only one person has ever made such claims for himself—Jesus Christ. His claims embrace the idea that what He teaches God Himself teaches, that what He has done only God could do, and that in His full personality there is an absolute oneness with God. To assert Himself in any way at all, is to assert God. Anyone making the claims for himself that Jesus Christ makes for Himself must be either mad and perverted or his claims must be true. Since the former simply cannot stand in the light of other evidence available one is forced to conclude that the latter is established. Jesus Christ is what He claims to be: “Very God of Very God.” The character portrayed in the gospels and reflected in the epistles will not allow man to believe that the one “altogether lovely” is a deceiver or self-deceived: “Si Non Deus, Non Bonus.”
In the NT He is expressly called God as seen in the order of the words in John 1:1, “...καὶ̀ θεὸ̀ς ἦν ὁ λόγος.” The absence of the article shows Theos to be the predicate, and the predicate precedes the verb for emphasis: the Logos was not only with God, He was God. (Cf. John 1:18, “The only begotten God,” Rom 9:15.) In Titus 2:13 there is a careful declaration of His deity, “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” or, in another type of approach, the address of Thomas (John 20:28), “My Lord and my God,” goes unrebuked by Christ in the presence of the disciples with their Jewish heritage (see also Phil 2:6; Col 2:9; Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20).
OT descriptions of God are applied to Him. The descriptions, the support of oral tradition, the writers of the gospels, Paul in his Jewishness: none of these could have allowed for the treatment of Christ as He appears in Scripture apart from their acceptance of the truth of deity; indignation because of blasphemy was the normal automatic reaction of the Jews to Christ’s assertions of His relationship to the Father. Take, for example, the frequency of prophetic support in Matthew’s gospel: Matthew 3:3, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (note also John 12:41 with Isa 6:1; Eph 4:7, 8 with Ps 68:18). 1 Peter 3:15 reads, “reverence Christ as Lord,” while Isaiah 8:13 reads “The Lord of hosts, him you shall regard as holy.” The NT writers move much too easily between the OT God, whose name is ineffable, to Jesus’ name for their point not to be self-evident.
As is attested in any systematic theology other evidences of a scriptural support for the deity of Christ are legion. For example, Christ possesses the attributes of God: omnipotence (Matt 28:18; Rev 1:8); omnipresence (Matt 28:20; Eph 1:23); omniscience (Matt 9:4; John 2:24, 25; Acts 1:24; 1 Cor 4:5); truth (John 14:6; Rev 3:7); love (John 3:16); holiness (Luke 1:35; John 6:69; Heb 7:26). “In him was life” (John 1:4; 14:6). He possesses the attributes of eternity (John 8:58; Col 1:17; Heb 1:11; Rev 21:6) or self-existence or immutability. The works of God are ascribed to Him in such things as the creation of the world, the upholding of all things by His power, the raising of the dead, and the judging of the world. His name is associated with God’s name upon a footing of equality. The titles of deity are applied to Him. He is willing to receive honor and worship due only to God, and His equality with God is expressly claimed. So the arguments run. There may be reasons why the deity of Christ might be controverted, but such reasons cannot be drawn from any serious acceptance of Scripture.
Every person who knows himself to be saved and who has the assurance of communing with Christ is by the nature of the experience driven to give his Redeemer the highest place and bow before Him in worship. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb 13:8) is not only a description of Christ’s eternal essence but is also a useful description of the unanimous report in every age and in every place of the presence of Christ. Christian experience, rather than speculation, compelled the formulation of the doctrine of Christ’s deity. Indeed it may be said that one does not think so much of the attributes of God and then apply them to Christ as that he sees Christ and knows what God must be like.
Bibliography See Creeds, Systematic Theologies (Hodge, Strong, Berkhof); Dorner, History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, 5 vols. (1863); Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (1877); Bruce, The Humiliation of Christ (1881); Sanday, Christologies Ancient and Modern (1910); Mackintosh, The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ (1912).
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