Hello, and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for your Christian convictions. Often, we want to make a moral point or talk about the exclusivity of salvation, and those two things often rest on us first proving that Jesus was actually God, right? If he’s not God, then why does He get to tell us how to live?
And some people today, perhaps unknowingly, acknowledge this point when they will say things like, “Well, where did Jesus talk about homosexuality? Where did Jesus talk about… ” and then fill in the issue. Now, I think this is often actually a smokescreen, because if you could demonstrate that Jesus actually did hold the view of marriage or sexuality that you hold, these people likely would not change their mind. They’re just trying to add Jesus onto what their authority already is, and it’s not Jesus or the Bible, often times. Now, there are exceptions.
But nonetheless, what we need to demonstrate that Jesus is God, and therefore has the authority to tell us how to live. He has the authority to say that salvation is found in no other name under heaven and earth, only in His, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
So, where did he claim to be God? Now, there’s more to the case for Jesus’ divinity than the recorded claims of Himself, but let’s just start there. Let’s start with how the people closest to Him record Him talking about Himself. Today, this is going to be woefully incomplete as a demonstration of the deity of Jesus, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and so we’re going to start here.
In John 8:56, Jesus says to the religious leaders,
”Your father, Abraham, was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”
Now, let’s just pause there, because the punchline’s coming, but that says a lot in and of itself. He’s claiming while standing there at 30 something years of age that Abraham, the guy who lived thousands of years before, actually saw His day, that he saw Jesus’ day, or perhaps more accurately, the second person of the Trinity’s day.
How could that be unless Jesus has always existed? Right? So, there’s a point to deity, right? Always existing, that’s an attribute of God. Preexistence. Eternality. These are attributes of the divine, but this passage actually continues.
“You are not yet 50 years old. How have you seen Abraham? And Jesus said to them, I tell you the solemn truth. Before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”
That sounds grammatically incorrect, doesn’t it? “Before Abraham came into existence, I am.”
Well, in order to understand this, we have to understand the Old Testament name of God, how God revealed Himself. In Exodus 3, we see Moses saying to God,
“If I go to the Israelites and tell them the God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me what is His name? What should I say? And God says to Moses, “I am that I am.” And he said, you must say this to the Israelites. I am has sent you.”
So, when Jesus says, “Before Abraham came into existence, I am,” He is claiming to be the same one of God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament. He is claiming to be God. You might say, okay, that sounds like a stretch. Are we just reading that like these two words are in the same two places? Does that matter? Well, let’s see how the Jews responded after He said that.
Okay, and here’s what actually happens. Verse 59 says,
“Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden from them, and went out of the temple.”
Why would they try to stone Him and kill Him for simply saying a grammatically incorrect sentence? They wouldn’t. They understood He was claiming to be God. They put it together. He claimed that Abraham saw His day, and then He claimed to be the I am, the God, Yahweh of the Old Testament. They put it together, and so for the crime that they consider to be blasphemy, they were going to kill him. Isn’t that interesting?
So, this is Jesus claiming to be God. In John 10, verses 30 and following, Jesus says this,
“The Father and I are one.”
Now, you might be thinking, okay. What does that mean? Does that mean they’re identical? Well, no. Actually, the grammar, and this doesn’t so much translate into English, but words in Greek and in other languages have genders. So, when one thing refers directly to another thing, the genders are going to match, but the one in this case does not match the Father. It doesn’t match I, either.
Okay, and so what’s going on here is Jesus is saying, the Father and I, we are one thing. We are one essence. We are not identical to each other. Jesus is not the Father, but both Jesus and the Father are God. They are one. Now, this does not imply a oneness in purpose, like Mormons might say. No, there’s a deeper kind of metaphysical claim being made here, that Jesus and the Father are one essence, one being, but they are not identical with each other. They are separate persons.
And you might say, okay, well that seems like a stretch. Is that really what’s being said? Well, let’s see once again. How did the people he was speaking to understand him? Verse 31, the very next verse.
“The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death, and Jesus said to them, I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of these good deeds are you going to stone me? And the Jewish leaders reply, we’re not going to stone you for a good deed, but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”
And so they understood the point I am conveying to you, that He was claiming to be God when he said the Father and I are one. He wasn’t claiming a oneness of purpose. They would have probably claimed they were aligned with God on purpose. No, He was claiming to be God, to share in the essence, the divine essence of God. The same way when he said, “Before Abraham existed, I am.” He was claiming divinity there, and He’s claiming it in John 10.
Well, let’s look at another passage here in John. John 18:4. This is where Jesus is in the garden. He’s going to be arrested. It says,
“Then Jesus, because He knew everything that was going to happen to Him, came and asked them, who are you looking for? And they replied, Jesus the Nazarene, and He told them,” (and this is what my translation says. We’re going to come back to this). He says, “I am He.”
So, verse 6 tells us,
“When Jesus said that to them, they retreated and fell to the ground.”
Now, He’s saying, I am He. You might be saying, you might be thinking, well, is that simply referring to the person they’re looking for? They said we’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, and He says, “I am He.”
But here’s the thing. In the original language, He does not exist in that sentence. It’s a valid grammatical interpretation of the original language, but nonetheless it does not exist. It’s the same two words in Greek that Jesus used before when He claimed to be I am. εγω ειμι (ego eimi). That’s the Greek for I am. That’s the same two words He uses here.
Now, those two words are used in other places, and no one’s claiming to be God. So, why would I say here that maybe the best way to understand this actually is Him replying I am. The reason I say that is because they fall back to the ground. They retreat and fall to the ground. You don’t do that to someone unless you think they’re claiming to be God, and maybe you actually believe them. So, I think this is another example of Jesus claiming divinity in John by claiming to be the I am.
There are many other examples we could point to how Jesus, in His behavior and in His words, claims to be God. He accepts worship. He forgives sins. He teaches authoritatively. Recall the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “You have read, but I say to you.” No one today should ever say that if they’re talking about scripture.
You should never start out a sentence saying, you have read in scripture, but I say to you. The word but in the middle there is just a huge problem there unless you are God, unless you can authoritatively perhaps reinterpret what had been said before and add to it and progressively reveal more of it.
There are many other examples, like I said, but Jesus clearly believes himself to be God. He even says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. You can’t claim that unless you’re a lunatic, a liar, or you’re God. But if you’re a liar, you’re not going to go to the cross for that claim, and if you were a lunatic, you can’t explain the postmortem appearances, the after death appearances of Himself to His disciples.
The evidence for the resurrection rules out the claim that he was just a crazy person, because no one sacrifices their life for a crazy person they saw die and then claimed to see alive. Unless He was actually alive.
Now, other biblical authors make the claim that Jesus was God, too. This does not actually happen that frequently. Jesus does not walk around claiming to be God. Paul does not, in his letters, often just say Jesus is God. I’ll tell you why that is in a minute, but let’s look at some examples where other writers do claim just straight out that Jesus was God.
In Romans 9:5, Paul says
“to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, the Messiah, who is God over all.”
He is saying the one who came by human descent, and he says, “who was the Christ”, that’s Jesus, is God. He’s claiming right there that the Christ was God, that Jesus was God.
In Titus 2:13, Paul says,
”We wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.”
Grammatically, God and savior refer to Jesus Christ. It’s not like our God and our savior. No, it’s our God and savior. He is both of those. He is both God, and He is savior, Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 1:8, we have another passage.
“Of the Son, He says, your throne, oh God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is a scepter of your kingdom.”
So, of the Son, that’s the Son of God, it says, “He says, your throne, oh God.” He is referring to the Son as God. Now, this verse says of the Son, He says. Well, who’s the He? Well, the previous… the antecedent there, what it refers back to is God. So, God is saying, of the Son, your throne, oh God, is forever. God is calling the Son God. That seems confusing.
This actually leads me into my point about why the New Testament does not often just come straight out and say Jesus is God. It says it in so many other ways. There are verses where Paul uses almost every preposition under the sun to say that Jesus is God. Everything was created through Him and by Him and for Him, and He holds it all together. I think it’s Colossians 1.
There are numerous other passages where Paul uses different prepositions for the Father, or God, and complementary prepositions for Jesus showing like you can’t separate them. What the Father did, the Son did. What the Son did, the Father did, often times.
Now, the Father didn’t go to the cross. Jesus did. But nonetheless, when you pay attention to this, you will see that often times. Like in Romans 8, Paul is going to put God, the spirit of God, Christ, and the spirit of Christ in parallel and use them interchangeably to show these are one being. There are multiple persons, but there’s one being in God. That’s the doctrine of the Trinity, which we’ve talked about before and probably can’t talk about enough.
But why in this passage, and why throughout the New Testament, does the author not often say Jesus is God? Here’s why. The Jews were strict monotheists. They believed that God was one. There was one God, and he was understood to be a singular entity. So, if you have someone now claiming to be God, their understanding, rightfully so, understandably so, is going to be that whoever’s claiming to be God is that singular entity.
So, when Jesus, if he came on the scene and claimed to be God, they’re going to think He’s the God of the Old Testament. They’re not going to understand that He is claiming to be God and that the Father is also God. They’re not going to understand that. It’d be the same way today. If you looked up a yard company and it’s like Paul’s Yard Company, and you call and you say, is this Paul? And the guy on the other end of the phone says yes. Okay.
And you set up a time for him to come mow your yard, and you’re thinking, I just spoke to Paul. And a guy comes, and you say, are you Paul? And he said, yes. I’m Paul. And what he might be referring to is I am Paul’s lawn company. Okay. He might not actually be the same guy you talked to on the phone.
Is it disingenuous? Is it lying for him to say that he’s Paul and that the first guy you talked to said he was Paul? No. They’re both Paul. They’re both Paul’s lawn company. Now, this is probably a very inadequate analogy for the Trinity just like every other analogy is, but my point is you’re going to understand this guy to be claiming to be the first guy you talked to on the phone, when actually there’s another way to understand it.
But you would not understand that unless someone explained it to you, and that’s what’s going on with the doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament. If Jesus went around just claiming to be God, they’re going to understand Him to be talking about the Father. In fact, most of the places in the New Testament where the word God is used, it’s referring to the Father, not the Trinity, not all three persons together. Although sometimes that does happen.
It’s referring to the Father. That’s why in this Hebrews 1:8 passage it says,
“Of the Son, God,” you could substitute the Father, “says your throne, oh God, is forever.”
And so the word God is used in different ways in the New Testament.
Sometimes it refers to the Father who is God, and sometimes it refers to the being of God, the triune unity of the multiple persons who are God. And yes, that’s kind of a mind trip. And no, there is no other analog in the natural world for that. We will never find an analogy that fits. If you think you found one, I mean, maybe you have, but I would be very, very suspicious. I’ve never heard one that matches.
And that shouldn’t surprise us that nothing in the created world is actually a good analog for our creator. That should not surprise us that God is distinct and unique among everything, that the creation is not like the creator in its essence.
So, all that to say Jesus claimed to be God. He demonstrated His deity by forgiving sins, teaching authoritatively, healing, accepting worship. So, if you claim to be divine and you accept worship, you’d better be divine or it’s a sin, right? We should not worship man. We only worship God. Then you have Paul and others claiming that Jesus is God.
Sometimes they just can’t help but say it. They say it in so many other ways, and perhaps we’ll talk about those in the future, but sometimes they just come straight out and say our great God and savior Jesus Christ.
Or perhaps in Romans 9,
“To them belong the patriarchs, and from them by human descent came the Christ,” that’s Jesus, “who is God.” So, I hope you’ll be encouraged in remembering that Jesus is God, that we can demonstrate this from the scriptures.
Well, I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.