The Christ we worship

 In Apologetics, Doctrine, False Teaching, Theology, Worship

Andrew Lansdown and I have been colleagues at Life Ministries for over 30 years.  But, more than that, we have been friends.  There are few people that I am closer to than Andrew, and I suspect he may think the same of me.

From time to time when I have been criticised because of the content of an article I have written in Life News, Andrew has faithfully come to my defence. Likewise, when Andrew has been the subject of criticism, I have defended the soundness of what he has written.

This brings me to the previous edition of Life News (October – December 2018), leading up to Christmas. Andrew wrote the cover page devotional-cum-gospel article entitled, Jesus, forever man for us.  From a biblical, historical, and orthodox perspective, one would have thought that the article would have been welcomed by all true believers. And in fact several of our readers did comment favourably on it.

But, sadly, a long-time acquaintance of mine, whom I previously regarded as a Christian brother, wrote two emails to me that were highly critical of Andrew’s article.

My acquaintance was somewhat reserved in his first email. He asked about the title of Andrew’s article, Jesus, forever man for us, and what I thought it meant.  He asked if I could understand and explain what Andrew meant by the sentence, “In a way deeply paradoxical and mysterious, the incarnation inaugurated a change in the changeless Godhead.” He claimed that he was “not looking at the theological implications of what is being said, just the simple, straight forward reading, in English, of the statement.” However, I sensed that he was not being forthright, but setting a trap in order to confront both of us, so I responded to him, “by writing that you are not looking at the ‘theological implications’ I suspect that you are flagging that at some level you do disagree with Andrew’s statement.”

His second, far longer email, sadly confirmed my suspicion. It contained an outright denial of the deity of Christ, and the incarnation. He wrote, “Jesus Christ … was no more the one and only TRUE GOD, than you or Andrew.” He even insulted the Christ we worship as “that holy thing”, “the monster that you claim to worship.” And, as though Andrew and I were the originators of a new heresy, he berated us by saying, “who gave you or Andrew the authority to come up with this great big lie, the lie of the incarnation?”

Andrew and I have been aware for some time that this man often attends Christian gatherings where he attempts to insinuate his views. In this article, I do not intend to give further oxygen to his complaints, but rather to develop from Scripture some of the wonderful claims that Andrew made in Jesus, forever man for us.

Andrew wrote, “John tells us that the Word, who from the beginning both fellowshipped with, and possessed the nature of, God—the Word, through whom every created thing came into existence—this Word ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’”

The Scripture fully supports Andrew’s statement:

John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word”. John begins his gospel with an astonishing statement about Jesus Christ that could never be made of any mortal human being.  He begins by verifying Christ’s deity in the first phrase of the first sentence of his gospel. He does this by focusing on Christ’s eternality; “In the beginning was the Word”.  But this is not the only passage that deals with that matter. In the remainder of this article I intend to offer very little commentary.  I will simply quote verse after verse, and let the Scripture speak for itself.

Continuing on the eternality of Christ

  • “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
  • “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).
  •  “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3).
  •   “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

When John claims that the Word was from the “beginning”, beginning is absolutely defined by other passages making the same claim in Scripture. Note the terms used to describe the Son in the verses above: “whose origins are from old, from ancient times”; “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”; “without beginning of days or end of life”, and; “I am the First and the Last.”

Andrew then continues his article by writing that the Word “fellowshipped with … God.” Of all of the relationships in history, there is none that is more intimate than the relationship between the Father and the Son: The following passages illustrate this point:

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
  • “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” [literally “who is in the bosom of the Father”] … (John 1:18).
  • “And a voice [God the Father] from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).

Furthermore, not only did the Son enjoy an eternal, intimate relationship with Father, he also, as Andrew continues in his article, “possessed the nature of God.” Consider, for example, that:

The Son possesses the fullness of deity

  • “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form … He is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9-10).
  • “he [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:2-3).
  • “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

It is important to understand that “firstborn” means that Jesus is preeminent over creation and not that he is a created being. This is confirmed by the following verses, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). He is the Creator, not the created!

The Son accepts the names of God

  • “And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b).
  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).
  • “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 1:18).
  • “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28).
  • “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:5).
  • “we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).*
  • “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom’” (Hebrews 1:8).
  • “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (2 Peter 1:1).*

The name JEHOVAH in the OT is applied to Jesus in the NT

  • Old Testament: “Hear my prayer, LORD [Jehovah] … In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:1, 25-27).
  • New Testament: “But about the Son he says … ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” (Hebrews 1:8, 10-12).
  • OT: “the King, the Lord [Jehovah] Almighty … said, ‘Go and tell this people: “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed’” (Isa 6:5, 8-10).
  • NT: “‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:37, 39-41).
  • OT: “When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—that you, Lord [Jehovah] God, might dwell there” (Psalm 68:18).
  • NT: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it [the Scripture] says, ‘When he [Jesus Christ] ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’” (Ephesians 4:7-8).
  • OT: “The Lord [Jehovah] Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he … will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare” (Isaiah 8:13-14).
  • NT: “As you come to him [Jesus Christ], the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him … Now to you who believe, this stone [Jesus Christ] is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and, ‘a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall’”(1 Peter 2:4-8).
  • OT: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord [Jehovah] will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls” (Joel 2:32).
  • NT: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. … For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord [Jesus Christ] will be saved’” (Romans 10;9, 12-13).
  • OT: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord [Jehovah] make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3).
  • NT: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness’, “Prepare the way for the Lord [Jesus Christ], make straight paths for him’” (Mark 1:2-3).
  • OT: “they [the Israelites] spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then the Lord [Jehovah] sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died” (Numbers 21:5-6).
  • NT: “We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes” (I Corinthians 10:9).

Jesus plainly declares that he is God

  • OT: “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ … ‘This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation’” (Exodus 3:14-15).
  • NT: “That is why I told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (John 8:24, ISV).

Many translations insert the word “he” so the verse reads, “I AM he”. However, while adding “he” makes the comment sounds less awkward in English, it also clouds what Jesus is really saying; i.e., he is claiming to be God.

  • NT: “So Jesus told them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own authority. Instead, I speak only what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28, ISV).
  • NT: “I’m telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may believe that I AM” (John 13:19, ISV)
  • NT: “Jesus told them, ‘I AM’. … When Jesus told them, ‘I AM,’ they backed away and fell to the ground” (John 18:5-6, ISV).
  •  NT: “Jesus told them, ‘Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, before there was an Abraham, I AM!’ At this, [Jesus’ claim that he was God] they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the Temple” (John 8:58-59, ISV).

Beyond the titles JEHOVAH and “I AM”, Jesus is also called by several other names in common with the Father. These names include “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15); “The Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 22:12-13); and “Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:13).

Jesus Christ shares God’s glory

  • OT:I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isa 42:8).
  • NT: “And now, Father, glorify me [the Son] in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5).

Jesus Christ is worshipped

Scripture is emphatic that God alone is to be worshipped. Elect angels (Revelation 22:8-9) and holy men (Acts 10:25-26) reject worship when given to them. Yet, Jesus embraced worship.

  • OT: “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).
  • NT: “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped’” (Revelation 5:11-14).

There are many other passages where Jesus is offered, and receives, worship.  For example, see Matthew 2:2, 2:11, 14:31-33, 28:9, 16-17, John 9:35-38, and Hebrews 1:6. All of the Scriptures quoted affirm the Nicene Creed when it speaks of Jesus Christ as, “the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”

My old friend caustically asks, “who gave you or Andrew the authority to come up with this great big lie, the lie of the incarnation?” Firstly, the straightforward answer is that the incarnation is not a lie. Secondly, we take our authority from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who reveal this truth through the prophets and apostles in the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

Much, much more could be written about this topic. I have merely quoted some of the verses in Scripture that affirm Christ’s divinity. I have left many passages unmentioned. I have offered little commentary.  Nor have I considered (because of space constraints) that Jesus Christ is prayed to, believed in and followed after. He forgives sins, mediates on behalf of believers, sits at the right hand of the Father, will return again, judge the world and reign eternally. And yet, on the basis of the passages cited, the deity of Christ is beyond question for anyone who believes the testimony of Scripture.

What should our response be? We should worship him with all of our hearts and serve him with all of our zeal. For the Psalmist writes, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:11-12).

My dear colleague Andrew concluded his fine article Jesus, forever man for us by writing that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us “to usher in the age of God’s grace. He did this to give all those who receive him by faith the power to become children of God.” Praise God for loving us so much that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. Praise God for the wonder of the incarnation.  Praise God that his one and only Son, God of very God, took on our humanity, lived a sinless life among us, gave himself for us, and now pleads as the God-Man on our behalf.  Andrew’s article, Jesus, forever man for us beautifully reflects the wonder of Christ taking on, and retaining, our humanity.  What a mystery! What a blessing!

 

For additional information, see Andrew Lansdown’s essay, “The Deity of Jesus”, published in the October-December 2015 issue of Life News. It can be viewed on Life Ministries’ website at www.lifeministries.org.au/the-deity-of-jesus/

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