BIBLICAL BASIS FOR CATECHISM
The Deity of Christ
THE CLAIM OF CHRISTIANITY
The Claim: Jesus is God the Son
Whatever else Christianity claims, its ultimate claim is that 2,000 years ago God (the Son) came to the earth to reveal the Father to us and then to die to save us from our sins [which is based upon the fact that we are initially in a hostile relationship with God (Rom. 5:6-11)]. During His lifetime Jesus claimed to be God the Son. His resurrection from the dead validated His claims to deity.
Now the title "God the Son" may surprise some because we normally think of Jesus solely as being "the Son of God." Although both "Son of God" and "God the Son" mean the same thing, I use the title "God the Son" because it highlights the deity of Jesus.
Now some think that the title "Son of God" makes Jesus less than God. It does not. For example, a son of man is not less than man because he is a man's son; on the contrary, because he is a son of a MAN, he actually is going to be man. The same holds true for Christ: being Son of God indicates that He is God. Whereas Jesus is not the Father but the Son, He is nevertheless as much God as the Father is.
Moreover, according to the New Testament, Jesus being the Son of God means that He gives us perfect information about the Father. Whereas it is truly in a limited sense that on earth children are like their parents, it is perfectly true in the case of Jesus and the Father. Because He is the Son, Jesus is the spitting image of His Father. We no longer have to wonder what God the Father is like. We have seen Him perfectly in Jesus, His Son (John 14:9; see also John 8:33-44).
The Significance of the Resurrection
Before looking at the evidence for the resurrection, the event which is supposed to provide compelling evidence that Jesus is God the Son, we first need to understand exactly the reason the resurrection would validate Jesus’ claims to deity. The reason is that the resurrection is the kind of event which only God Himself could perform. The resurrection of Christ was not merely resuscitation from the dead which happens occasionally during surgery. Rather this resurrection was the radical transformation of the body of Jesus into such a glorious state that He will never die again. It is the kind of event which only God Himself could do. If the Father resurrected Jesus after Jesus made the claims to deity, then either one of 2 things is true: Jesus is God the Son like He said, or else God resurrected and validated a blasphemer, something the perfect God would never do.
Jesus' Claim to Deity
Some will claim that Jesus never declared Himself to be God. The following though are just a few examples of the way Jesus declared Himself to be God:
• Jesus accepted the worship people rendered unto Him. That may not seem all that startling; however, when you compare Jesus' response to the responses of others in the NT who received worship, it is startling. Some examples: Acts 10:26; Rev. 22:9. In other instances, people who were not God accepted the worship due to God alone and were struck down dead (Acts 12:22-23). Jesus neither rejects the worship people render Him, nor is He struck down dead when He accepts their worship. By accepting their worship (John 9:38-39), He is implying that He is God (the Son).
Probably the most dramatic example of this is in the experience of Doubting Thomas. When Jesus first appeared to the disciples on that first Easter evening, Thomas was not with them. After the other disciples report to Thomas that Jesus had appeared to them, he claims that he will never, no never believe Jesus is risen until he for himself sees in His hands the print of the nails, and puts his finger into prints and thrusts his hand into Jesus's side. Eight days later when Jesus appears to all the disciples, even Thomas, Thomas responds: "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28).
• Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12). Now Jesus didn’t just claim to forgive sins people committed against Himself; anybody can do that and not imply that they are God. Jesus forgave sins which people committed against OTHERS. That is an activity which only God can legitimately perform. For example, if I forgave you for hurting somebody else, I would either need to mind my own business because it is none of my business or else I would be God. When the Jewish religious leaders hear Jesus making this claim to forgive sins, they accuse Him of blasphemy, that is they claim that He is declaring Himself to be God.
What is even more interesting than the charge the Jewish religious leaders leveled against Jesus is Jesus' response to the leaders: He doesn't correct them. He is implying that He agrees with the charge that they are leveling against Him: He IS declaring Himself to be God the Son. The only difference between Jesus and the religious leaders is that He is declaring that He has not committed blasphemy because He actually is God the Son!
• In Exodus 3 we see God appearing to Moses instructing him to deliver His people from the Egyptians. Whenever Moses asks God for His name so that the people will believe him, God replies that His name is “I Am that I Am,” that is, His name was “I Am.” In one of the most dramatic scenes in the Gospel of John Jesus applies to Himself the divine name no less than 3 times (John 8:24, 28, 58). The first 2 times, the Jews don’t quite get what He is doing. The third time though was the charm. Jesus is making such claims for Himself that the Jews claim that He is making Himself more important that Abraham, the father of the Jewish race and the friend of God. To show you how much more important He was than Abraham, Jesus says: “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, ‘[Abraham lived 2000 years ago and] You are not yet 50 years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I AM!’” At this point the lights click on; the Jews finally realize that Jesus is claiming to be no one less than God Himself. At this point they pick up stones to stone Him because they believe that He has committed blasphemy (see John 8:12-59).
Again, now what is interesting is not only the response of the Jews but the response of Jesus Himself. If Jesus was not claiming to be God, then all He would have had to do to clear the matter up was to correct their misunderstanding. The truth though is that not once did He ever say they misunderstood Him. The gospels claim that they did get the drift of His meaning; it’s just that they didn’t like it.
THE EVIDENCES FOR THE RESURRECTION
When it is all said and done, if the resurrection occurred, then Jesus is truly God the Son; if the resurrection did not occur, then He is NOT God the Son. So what are the evidences that Jesus truly rose from the dead.
The Empty Tomb
Now an empty tomb does not prove that Jesus rose from the dead; HOWEVER, if Jesus was resurrected in the way that NT claims He was, then the tomb in which He was buried must be empty. Well, the tomb is empty and no body has ever been produced to show that He did not rise from the dead. In fact, the claims of Jesus' early opponents show that the tomb is empty. Jesus' opponents never produced a body, something which would have totally destroyed the claims of Christianity; rather they claimed that His disciples actually stole the body from the tomb after overwhelming the Roman guard which had been sent to protect that body from being stolen by His disciples (Matt. 27:13-15). When Jesus' opponents made this claim after Easter Sunday morning, what are they admitting? They are admitting that the tomb is empty! Now the reader has to decide for himself which account for the empty tomb is more believable:
Many people from the time of Jesus claim that Jesus not only died and rose again but that they also saw Him die on the cross and then met Him after He rose from the dead. (See John 19:35; 20:30; 21:24; Acts 1:1, 2; 10:39-41; 2 Pet. 1:16). Paul actually claims in 1 Cor. 15:1-8 that at least 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus at the same time. Whereas 500 people can be guilty of mass hysteria, they will not be guilty of mass hallucination. (What is so important about 1 Cor. 15 is that NT scholarship has universally declared Paul to be its author and that he wrote it within 25 years of the resurrection. Whereas NT scholarship may doubt Pauline authorship of 9 of his letters, 1 Corinthians along with 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians are universally believed to have come from the hand of Paul; these are called the "indisputable letters"--see Markus Barth in his Commentary on Ephesians.)
So, are these witnesses credible? Evidence:
• These "eyewitnesses" backed up their claims by suffering terribly for those claims. Paul lists in 2 Cor. 11 all the terrible ordeals he went through because he claimed that Jesus had not only risen from the dead but that he himself had seen the risen Jesus: "23 . . . in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren ; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak ? Who is led into sin without my intense concern ?" Paul goes on to say that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then Christians are of all people most to be pitied because they are suffering for a lie (1 Cor. 15:19).
Moreover, There is no evidence at all that any of those who claimed to witness the resurrection ever broke ranks and claimed that they had made it all up. If at least some of the 500 had claimed it was all fabricated, serious doubts about Jesus’ resurrection would be legitimate. None did though, even though it cost many of them their lives. To die for a lie when you think it is true is one thing; to die for a lie when you know it is a lie is quite a different matter. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose if they were propagating a lie. That seems highly unlikely and totally illogical.
• The fact that the first witnesses were Jews supports the claim that they were credible. Few people realize that the last people on earth to make up the claim that God would come to earth and die and rise again would be the Jews. Now if the first Christians had been Egyptians, Romans, or Greeks, etc., no one would have blinked an eye at their claim that Jesus was God the Son. HOWEVER, from the very beginning the Jews were taught that God was so transcendent that in no way would He ever become a man in order to die and rise again. For this reason, when you read the Gospels, the disciples are almost like Laurel (from Laurel and Hardy), always having a dumb look on their faces while scratching the top of their heads. They didn't "get it" according to the apostles until AFTER they had seen the resurrected Jesus. Only then did they understand the OT predictions that Jesus would die and rise from the dead (John 12:16; 20:9).
The Jewish Christians claiming Christ would become a man and die and rise again would be like 2 men who had never seen the sun. The first man claimed that the sun was blue, while the second claimed that the sun was yellow. Now if both came in one day and both said that they had just seen the sun and that it was indeed yellow, who would you more likely believe, the one who had said all along it was yellow or the one who changed his mind after he claimed he saw the sun? Definitely the latter. In the same manner the fact that the Jews unlike the other pagans claimed that God would never come as a man to die and rise again are the very ones who claimed He did. What changed them if the resurrected Christ was not the one who changed them?
• Now what is interesting about Paul’s list in 1 Cor. 15 is that it does not include the women who were actually the first witnesses of the resurrection. Their story is found in the Gospels. Why in the Gospels though and not in 1 Cor. 15? The reason is that whereas 1 Cor. 15 serves as a type of legal document which could hold up in a first-century court of law, the Gospels are historical narratives. In the first century, women were not considered credible witnesses; as a result, Paul would not have listed them. On the other hand, the Gospels are dealing with history. The authors of the Gospels actually faced a crisis as they wrote the Gospels. If they included the women as witnesses, they were going to hurt their credibility. If they deleted the women, then they didn’t tell the truth. They opted to tell the truth even though it might hurt their credibility. This just affirms more and more their claims. The authors of the Gospels would have never included women if the women had not been eye-witnesses. The presence of the women in the Gospel accounts adds further convincing evidence for the truth of the resurrection stories.
• Paul and his radical conversion. Let's suppose that Christ actually has not risen from the dead. Then how do you explain Paul? Probably more than any other human being, Paul is responsible for the spread and triumph of Christianity. What is interesting about Paul is that before his conversion, he was on the fast track to becoming one of the most important rabbis Judaism had ever seen (Gal. 1:13-14). So what changed him? He claimed it was the resurrected Christ. If the resurrected Christ did not change Paul, then who or what did?