Some critics of Christianity argue that Jesus never claimed to be God and that early Christians did not even hold to the belief. They maintain that Jesus was not worshiped as a deity until several hundred years after His death. Can our faith withstand these attacks or will they crumble in light of Scripture? Let’s find out.
The Son of GodJesus’ assertion that He was the Son of God is what compelled Israel’s religious leaders to plot His execution. Jesus was not claiming to be simply a child of God, like you or I. Rather, by claiming to be the Son of God, He was actually claiming to be God. They knew it and He knew it.
In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke records a well known story of Jesus’ boyhood. At 12 years old Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his family for Passover. When their group left to head home, Mary and Joseph thought he was somewhere in their caravan. After a day’s journey, they couldn’t find Him and returned, panic-stricken, to Jerusalem. Upon discovering Him in the temple, astonishing everyone with His wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures, they scolded Him as most parents would. This was His response…
And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
Not yet a teenager, Jesus knew His identity as the Son of God. He repeated this claim many times. For example, in Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus affirmed Peter’s proclamation that He was the Son of God and then proceeded to refer to God as His Father.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
When Jesus came to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, Martha found Jesus and lamented that her brother would not have died if He would have come sooner. During their conversation, she professed her belief that He was the Son of God.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
There are many other scriptures throughout the gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament that proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (see Jesus Christ, Son of God) and, as I mentioned previously, it is for this reason His own people sought to crucify Him.
But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” (Matthew 26:63-66; see also John 5:18, Luke 22:66-71 & Mark 14:60-64)
Jesus Accepted Worship
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped
Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:31-33)
Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:38-39)
Many others fell down before Him in worship during His time on Earth and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. If you have not read through the four Gospels, now is a great time to start.
Other Indications of His Claim to Divinity
The very first verse of the Gospel of Mark recognizes Jesus as God, and a few verses later, Mark tells us of the baptism of Jesus, when
…immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:10-11)
Similarly, John begins his Gospel with a proclamation of Jesus as part of the triune God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
Then, he expands on this in verse 14…
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Matthew also has a lot to say about the divinity of Jesus very early in his writing.
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Finally, Luke’s gospel refers to Jesus as the Son of God twice in the first chapter alone.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
From these examples alone we can conclude that all of the Gospel writers believed that Jesus was God. However, there is so much more evidence throughout the New Testament scriptures that Jesus’ followers worshiped Him as God that, as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Consider the following.
Jesus forgave sins, as only God can do.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7)
Jesus said that He was Lord (i.e. master, owner) of the Sabbath.
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
Jesus used the title of God from the Old Testament, “I Am,” for Himself!
Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:57-59)
Jesus told His disciples that He was one with the Father.
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
The Apostles and New Testament writers believed (and taught) that Jesus was God.
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:27-29)
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… (2 Peter 1:1-2)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:14 & 18 ESV)
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)
Even the demons knew that Jesus was God (and trembled).
For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. (Mark 3:10-12)
As we have seen, the New Testament clearly demonstrates that not only did Jesus proclaim Himself God, but His followers from the beginning (some even before the resurrection) worshiped Him as God. Even His enemies knew exactly what He was doing and had Him killed for it. So, despite the claims of Dan Brown, Bart Erhman and others, it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus was only made into a God three or four hundred years after His death. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.Tags: apologetics, Bart Erhman, Dan Brown, Jesus is God, Son of God