No, this chart does not represent the number of foreclosures in California. It shows the number of active members in the group known as “Jehovah’s witnesses” across the United States. Jehovah’s witnesses have grown exponentially in the last few decades, but their denial of Christ’s deity has remained the same. Are they wrong?
We can’t afford to be wrong about Jesus Christ. In 1 John 2:23, we are warned that “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” If we deny or disregard the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, we have denied the Son and called Him a liar. And tragically, those who deny the Son “do not have the Father.” God has no part with them. If on the other hand we accurately confess Christ, we have a wonderful promise that we “have the Father also.”
So, who is the Son, and how can we make sure we’re believing in the right one? Was Jesus merely a moral man? A great prophet? A wise teacher? The “highest” of all created beings? No, none of these phrases adequately describe Him. He is not merely a moral man; He is the holy fulfillment of God’s Law (Matt. 5:17). He is not just a teacher; He is the author of all wisdom (Col. 2:3). He is not only a prophet; He is the living Word of God (Jn. 1:14). He is not the “highest” of all created beings; He is the very one who created all things (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). Jesus Christ is God.
Although there are many verses in the Gospel of John that teach the Deity of Christ (e.g. John 1:1, 14; 8:59; 10:30; 20:28), one of my favorites is John 5:17. In this passage, Jesus has just healed a lame man and been accused of violating the Sabbath. In response, Jesus makes an incredibly bold statement: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” To our ears, it may sound harmless at first, but to a first century Jew, Jesus has just thrown down the gauntlet. Notice two claims to deity in this verse:
- First, Jesus claims to work in the same way as God. Obviously, God does not stop His work on the Sabbath day. Even when humans rest, God continues to sustain life, cause crops to grow, keep stars on course, and sovereignly superintend over all events. Our powerful creator never ceases to work. (And we can be very thankful He never takes a day off or falls asleep on the job!) Even the Jewish leaders acknowledged this. But here’s the rub. Jesus claims equality with God when He says “My Father is working…and I Myself am working.” Two verses later, He adds, “whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (Jn. 5:19). That’s a pretty bold statement. Jesus has the same power and prerogative to work on the Sabbath as His Father does. In fact, Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Lk. 6:5). Jesus is God because He does the work of God.
- Second, Jesus claims to have a unique relationship with God. Notice that Jesus does not call Him “the Father” or even “our Father,” but “My Father.” Jesus has a unique and intimate union with His heavenly Father that has existed from eternity past; He knows and loves His Father to a degree that you and I will never fully appreciate. The Jews immediately sensed what Jesus was getting at here. They knew He “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). And because they rejected this claim to deity, they sought to kill Him. Nevertheless, Jesus is God because God is uniquely His Father, and Jesus is the only begotten (one-of-a-kind) Son of God (cf. Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).
While never violating the monotheism of the Old Testament (Deut. 5:7; 6:4-5), Jesus expands our understanding by showing that God is actually three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus claims to be equal with God in both the way He works and in the way He relates to His Father. And unless we accurately believe in Jesus as God the Son, we do not have God the Father.
While preparing for tonight’s Good Friday service, I came across this quote by Charles Spurgeon in the book Pierced for our Transgressions. It’s a beautiful summary of the gospel, originally published from one of Spurgeon’s sermons in 1895. I’ve updated a few of the words into more modern English.
Trembling sinner, look to Jesus, and you are saved. Do you say, ‘My sins are many’? His atonement is wondrous. Do you cry, ‘My heart is hard’? Jesus can soften it. Do you exclaim, ‘Alas, I am so unworthy’? Jesus loves the unworthy. Do you feel, ‘I am so vile’? It is the vile Jesus came to save. Down with you, sinner; down, down with yourself, and up with Christ, who has suffered for your sins upon Calvary’s cross! Turn your eye there; see Jesus only. He suffers. He bleeds. He dies. He is buried. He rises again. He ascends on high. Trust Him, and you are safe. Give up all other trusts, and rely on Jesus alone, alone on Jesus, and you will pass from death unto life. This is a sure sign – the certain evidence – of the Spirit’s indwelling, of the Father’s election, of the Son’s redemption, when the soul is brought simply and wholly to rest and trust in Jesus Christ, who ‘has once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.’
John the Baptist has to be one of the strangest figures in all the Bible. Here’s a guy who wanders around in the desert, never cuts his hair, eats a steady diet of locusts and wild honey, clothes himself in camel hair, and spends his time preaching and plunging people under water. Let’s just say John the Baptist probably wouldn’t have made it on the cover of GQ Magazine.
But for all his peculiarities, John was a humble and holy man who deeply loved and profoundly understood the Messiah like no prophet before him. In John 1:29-30, we get a glimpse of the passion and affection John had for Jesus Christ. John’s heart must have skipped a beat that day he saw Jesus walking toward him…
The next day [John] saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ”
These words of John reveal three central truths about Jesus Christ:
- Jesus is our great sin-bearer. By calling Jesus the “Lamb of God,” John instantly applies the entire Old Testament sacrificial system to this one person, who would offer Himself once-for-all for the sins of the world. Jesus didn’t come to save the Jews only, but to save all people from all the nations of the world. Whoever will confess their sins and cast themselves completely upon Him can receive eternal life. By dying on the cross, Jesus Christ bore the sin we’ve committed, and endured the wrath of God that we deserved. Yet through His shed blood, our sins were “taken away” as far as the east is from the west. Praise God!
- Jesus is a genuine human being. In verse 30, John the Baptist calls Jesus “a Man.” Jesus was not a mythological figure, or some kind of apparition. He was a literal, flesh-and-blood human being who dwelled upon this earth at a fixed point in time. His virgin birth, public ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection are some of the most well-documented and indisputable events in human history. And because Jesus was a genuine human being, He was able to represent the human race as our “second Adam,” living the life of perfect obedience that the first Adam never achieved (Romans 5:19).
- Jesus is the eternal Son of God. John humbly acknowledges that Jesus “has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” This is quite a statement, since John was born six months before Jesus! Yet John rightly understood that Jesus Christ had always existed as the eternal Son of God. Jesus points to this reality again and again in the Gospel of John when He declares He has “come out of heaven” (6:38) and has been “sent” by the Father (4:34; 17:18; etc.). So, while John identifies Jesus as a man, he immediately identifies Him as something more than an ordinary man. Jesus Christ is the God-Man, the only-begotten Son of God, who was sent by His Father to seek and save those who are lost.
Let us listen to the words of John, and fix our eyes completely on the One whom he described. Jesus Christ alone is our glorious sin-bearer, our perfect representative, and the eternal Son of God.