Jesus claimed to be God. The New Testament claims Jesus is God. The early church believed Jesus is God. Jesus is God. The Deity of Jesus is one of several most important truths in all of Christianity. As important as the deity of Jesus is, does a person have to believe Jesus is God before he can be saved? Is the Deity of Jesus something the Christian can grow to believe after salvation?
The gospel message includes a series of significant facts which must be believed for salvation. These facts include the death of Jesus on the cross for sin, the guilt of the individual, the resurrection of Jesus and the willingness of God to give salvation to those who trust Him. The Bible also teaches a person must believe Jesus is God to be saved.
Romans 10:9 connects the confession of Jesus as God with salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Whenever the New Testament always uses the title Lord to refer to Jesus it is always a declaration of His Deity. The title hearkens back Jehovah, the name of God given in the Old Testament. To call Jesus Lord is to declare that He is God. Romans 10 promises you will be saved if you confess the Lord Jesus. Believing the Deity of Jesus is clearly a condition of salvation.
1 John 5 says that those who are born of God are those who believe Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 4:15 says salvation is given to those who confess the Deity of Jesus. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” John 20:31 says eternal life comes through believing Jesus is God the Son. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” These verses plainly declare that believing the Deity of Jesus is essential for salvation. No one can be saved without first acknowledging that Jesus is God.
Likewise, any one who denies the Deity of Jesus is not saved. First John is equally plain on this point. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” Denying the Deity of Jesus is proof a person is not saved, and those who deny Jesus make themselves His enemies. They are antichrist.
The Bible claims Jesus is God. The New Testament gives an abundance of evidence that Jesus is God. If you believe He is God who died for your sin and rose to life again you can be saved.
Early in Jesus’ ministry as He was teaching in the region of Galilee He was confronted and opposed by the Pharisees. They charged Him with violating the Sabbath day laws and then they accused Him of being in league with Satan. Then while Jesus taught from a house in Capernaum his mother and brothers stood outside. They sent a messenger inside calling him to come outside to them. Jesus’ response to their request is shocking to us.
Jesus answered the messenger with, “Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35) This seems surprisingly callous. How can the perfect Son of God disregard his mother and insult his brothers?
The events leading up to that moment are important. Matthew 12 presents a series of confrontations with the religious leaders. Every interaction in that chapter reveals the attempts of skeptics to shut Jesus down. The call of Jesus’ family to interrupt His teaching and come outside takes place after multiple attempts by the Pharisees to discredit Jesus.
Jesus replied in the way He did because the call of his family is interfering with His ministry. Their actions, whether intended or accidental, were in opposition to the will of God. This was not an interruption to the personal ambitions of Jesus. He was not being petty and peevish because they were inconveniencing His own plans. They were asking Jesus to stop doing the will of the Father. Jesus would not be deterred from the task given to Him by God the Father.
His commitment to the will of God was evident early in Jesus’ life. At the age of 12 Jesus stayed in Jerusalem after His parents began the journey back to Nazareth. His parents finally found him after three days of searching. When they found Jesus He was in the temple discussing the Word of God with the teachers of the law. His mother rebuked him because she and Joseph had searched for him with sorrow. Jesus’ response was, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Jesus’ commitment to doing the will of God was unchanged twenty years later. Nothing was going stop Him from being preaching the message of repentance.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry He taught His disciples, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) Jesus’ taught that serving the Lord must be most important, even more important than family. Everything must take second place to God. Jesus modeled that attitude when confronted by His family. He made clear that the work of the Lord was most important to Him.
Jesus’ response seems a bit harsh. When seen in its proper light it is understood as a faithful response to a distraction from the work of preaching the message of His kingdom it. Jesus was not being unkind. He was refusing to be turned aside from the most important task. He was showing that nothing is more important than the message of salvation. Even family.
A light hearted question has been bouncing around the church for the last several weeks. Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Did He clown around and crack jokes with the disciples? This intriguing question is made more interesting by the absence of any direct Biblical statement on the subject. Care must be taken to avoid carelessness or irreverence in attempting to answer this question. However, from this seemingly silly question can be drawn some reasonable conclusions about the character of Jesus.
Laughter is not evil. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Provers 17:22) Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to laugh. In Luke 6 Jesus promises those who weep now will laugh in days to come. Jesus was fully human, but without sin. Laughter and humor are not sinful things. One can reasonably assume Jesus found humor in life.
Some important disclaimers must be made about what Jesus’ humor may have been like. Jesus never said anything that was trivial or pointless. Everyone will give an account of every idle word spoken. (Matthew 12:36) Jesus never said anything that was idle or would bring Him into disfavor with God. Jesus never found sin amusing. He did not joke about immorality or idolatry. He did not find amusement in any wickedness. (Ephesians 5:3-4) He did not make fun of others or find amusement at their expense. (Ephesians 4:31-32) Jesus’ humor was always a holy humor. (Hebrews 4:15)
Many of Jesus’ parables present situations which are ridiculous, ironic, absurd or unexpected. These shocking statements may have been humorous to some of his hearers. The statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” is a ridiculous statement. It’s absurdity is humorous- and pointed. The parable of the men who were invited to a feast but offered a bunch of lame excuses has an element of humor because of the ridiculousness of the situation. People that swallow camels whole but struggle to choke down gnats are a humorous example of great folly. The ludicrousness of lighting a candle and hiding it under a basket is evident and may have caused some of Jesus’ hearers to smile at its obvious absurdity.
Care must be taken to not confuse humorous situations or ridiculous comparisons with comic joviality. Jesus was not a humorist. His teachings and works were earnest and serious. Nor should we read anything as if Jesus said something merely to be funny. Every parable and contrast taught eternally important truths.
Despite all that has been said about the possibility of Jesus having a sense of humor, the Bible never describes Jesus as laughing, telling a joke, or pulling a prank. A person can safely assume Jesus had a sense of humor but the Bible is completely silent about it. We have the definite statement, “Jesus wept,” but nothing comes close to stating, “Jesus laughed.” Why the silence on Jesus’ humor? The Bible doesn’t tell us that either. The best answer seems to be found in the statement that Jesus was “A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” A jesting Jesus has little place in the New Testament record of His tragically serious work to redeem men through His death on the cross.
In a recent conversation someone mentioned that the death of Jesus seemed to be such a waste. This individual wondered that if Jesus was such a great teacher, who taught people to love one another and who did kind deeds for others, wouldn’t God’s plan have been better served by Jesus remaining alive?
Many people understand Jesus’ life and ministry to be all about teaching people to love one another. The author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Douglas Adams, said, “(Jesus) had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.” But what if Jesus was doing something other than trying to convince people to be nice to one another? What if Jesus’ crucifixion was not the interruption of Jesus’ ministry but its purpose? The death of Jesus was not a failure in God’s plan. Jesus’ death was the plan.
A few days before His crucifixion, knowing that His betrayal and death were near, Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27) Jesus came into this world to die. When He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples that He could call down twelve legions of angels to deliver Him from the hands of the Roman soldiers, “But how shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:54) The death of Jesus was no accident, no failure in His Divine plan. It was the plan all along.
Jesus did not come to earth to show mankind how to be more loving. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10) “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) The angel told Joseph that when Mary had given birth, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” The apostle Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
Jesus became a man that He might save men from sin. The problem of humanity is not unkindness, hate or poor education. The problem of humanity is sin. Mankind’s sin can not be corrected by a valiant effort to be better or by a great example of love. The problem of the world is a deep seated one that can never be rooted out by any person’s effort.
The death of the Son of God for our sin shows how terrible the problem of sin is. God graciously provided a means by which a substitute could take the place of the sinner. The wages of sin is still death, but God made a way for an innocent victim to die in the place of the guilty. Jesus was the innocent One who died in the place of the guilty. Christ’s death was the plan all along because His death is the only way the sin of men can be taken away.
A recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research indicated that over 3/4 of Americans believe “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father.” This finding is astounding because it shows that many Americans hold to a belief that contradicts one of the most significant tenets of Christianity. The doctrine of the deity is Jesus is shared by all Christian denominations except the Christian cults. From the very earliest days of Christianity, Christians have affirmed that Jesus is the eternal God.
The Athanasian Creed declares, “The Son is uncreated”, “The son is eternal” and “The Son was neither made nor created.” These statement are merely a reflection of the clear New Testament teaching that Jesus is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) The words of John 1:3 make it impossible for Jesus to be created by God. If nothing was made apart from Jesus making it, then Jesus Himself could not be a creation. He must have eternally existed, as John 1:1 teaches. He was in the beginning with God because He is eternally God.
Why then does Colossians 1:15 describe Jesus as “the firstborn of every creature?” The word “firstborn” in Colossians speaks to rank, not birth order. Paul is saying that Jesus is the chief over all creation. This becomes obvious in the next couple verses as Paul goes on to say, “By Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by Him, and for Him . . . that in all things He might have the preeminence.” Jesus is Creator and He is supreme over His creation. This great position is His so all will know He is most important.
Why then is Jesus called “the only begotten Son” of God? Jesus is the Son of God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is not the Son of God because in eternity past the Father caused the Son to come into existence. Jesus is the Son of God because that is the title given to Him in Scripture which describes the eternal relationship which exists between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God because He is God the Son who was begotten of God as a human being. The begottenness of Jesus is not a description of how the Son came to exist, but of how the Son became a man.
The New Testament consistently declares that Jesus is God, the Creator of all things and the Savior of men. He is “the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) Jesus was not created by the Father. He had no beginning and will have no ending.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a city of the province of Judea, under the rule of Herod the Great. Herod was the king of Judea appointed by the Roman government to oversee the region. Jesus was born into a captive nation under the dominion of the mightiest empire the world had known. Why then? Why was Jesus born in the Roman Empire instead of into a Jewish kingdom? Why not earlier in history? Or later?
The Bible says in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons.” God’s Word does not give the reasons why Jesus was born when He was. Scripture makes clear, though, that Jesus was born at a very precise time, a time determined and prepared by God for the redemption of men. Jesus was born at exactly the right time.
Some Biblical factors shaped when Jesus was born. Following the covenant between God and Israel the Jews constantly rebelled against God. Their rebellion eventually resulted in the nation being conquered and many Jews being taken captive by the Babylonians. The prophet Daniel was one of those taken captives. He knew the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and knew when the time of captivity was coming to an end. As Daniel prayed God showed to him things that were going to happen in the future. God showed Daniel that the Jews were going to be returned to Jerusalem and that the temple would be rebuilt. God said the Messiah would be in Israel 483 years after the command to restore Jerusalem. Jesus was the Messiah and was in Jerusalem 483 years later, just as God had promised. This does not answer the why but it does show that Jesus was born precisely when God intended.
Historically there were advantages to Jesus being born at that time in history. The Middle East and Europe were under the control of the Roman Empire. A large portion of the world’s population was united together by Roman government, Roman peace and Roman roads. This aided the spread of the gospel. This was a rare time for Jerusalem in which Jews were under outside domination but were at relative peace. By 70 AD the city of Jerusalem was besieged, the temple destroyed and the Jews scattered. Nearly two thousand years would pass before the Jews would once again have a kingdom in Palestine. Greek was the common trade language of the Roman Empire, aiding the spread of the gospel across broad regions through the use of a common tongue. God does not tell us that Jesus was born at that time because of these historical advantages, but they help us see some of the wisdom of God’s determination.
God was not showing favoritism to the Roman Empire by sending Jesus at that time. Nor was God arbitrary in determining that Jesus would be born during that era of world history. The birth of Jesus was precisely when God determined it would be. He rules over all things and worked specifically in the world to prepare things for the incarnation of God the Son.