Tagged: deity of Jesus

Jude and his divine half-brother

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 6: Who Are Those Guys? How Apologists Identify False Teachers.

Previously: Who Are Those Guys? How to Identify False Teachers.

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For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

A doctrinal gem often overlooked in Jude is a reference to the deity of Christ. In verse 4, Jude describes “certain men” who are guilty of “denying our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Immediately after this warning, he offers examples from Jewish history, beginning with the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness: “Now I want to remind you, though you know all these things: the Lord, having first of all saved a people out of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe” (v. 5).

Note that Jude calls Jesus “Lord” in verse 4, and then he refers to the “Lord” of the Israelites in the very next verse. The Lord who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and then destroyed the apostates can be none other than the Lord Jesus.

In fact, many of the earliest manuscripts of Jude actually say “Jesus” instead of “the Lord” in verse 5, and this is most likely the original meaning. Several modern translations, including the New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), and the NET Bible all refer to “Jesus” rather than “the Lord” in this passage.
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The humanity of Jesus

Birth_JesusEvangelical Christians often find it necessary to defend the deity of Christ, especially in conversations with those who vigorously deny this biblical truth.

For example, Muslims hold Jesus in high regard as a virgin-born, miracle-working, sinless prophet, but draw the line at the notion of a mere messenger being divine.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, by comparison, grant Jesus the status of “mighty god,” a created archangel who is recreated as a man and then, after dying on a first-century torture stake, is recreated once again as an exalted archangel.

In our efforts to defend the deity of Jesus, however, we also have to grapple with the unique challenges His humanity presents.
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Did Jesus ever claim to be God?

Jesus of ChristianityMuslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists often argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” They assert that Christians have corrupted or misinterpreted the New Testament, or they reject the Bible outright.

But for those willing to consider the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament writers, and the convincing evidence that their words are accurately preserved, we may point our unbelieving friends to seven ways that Jesus does, in fact, claim deity.

First, Jesus calls Himself God. In John 8:58 He tells the religious leaders, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” These words hark back to Exodus 3 where God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush as I AM, or YHWH. The Jewish leaders clearly understand Jesus’ declaration of deity.

Second, Jesus claims equality with God. In John 10:30 He states, “The Father and I are one.” His frequent reference to God as Father – especially by the intimate Aramaic term Abba, or Father dearest – rankles the religious leaders. John writes, “This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him … He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

In His high priestly prayer, Jesus anticipates once again sharing the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). This is a telling claim, for the Old Testament makes it clear that God does not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8, 48:11).

Also note that more than four dozen times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man – a term that illuminates the Messiah’s deity (Daniel 7:13-14).

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10 Biblical Truths Denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses

Every Christian should reject the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses’) claim to be the only true church because it denies 10 key Biblical truths.

1. The Trinity.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The clergy’s God is plainly not Jehovah but the ancient deity, hoary with the iniquity of the ages – Baal, the Devil Himself” (Charles Taze Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, p. 410).
  • “The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the trinity doctrine” (Let God Be True, p. 101).

The Bible says:

  • There is one true and living God who exists as three distinct co-equal, co-eternal persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The divine persons of the Trinity are specifically mentioned in John 14:26, 15:26; 2 Corinthians 13:13; and 1 Peter 1:2). In addition, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each is referred to as deity in Scripture (John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
  • The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are described as deity using similar terms: Omniscient (Matt. 9:4; Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 2:10); God (John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Peter 1:2); Lord (Luke 2:11; Rom. 10:12; 2 Cor. 3:17); almighty (Gen. 17:1; Rom. 15:19; Rev. 1:8); truth (John 7:28; 1 John 5:6; Rev. 3:7);  eternal (Ps. 90:2; Micah 5:2; Heb. 9:14);  powerful (Jer. 32:17; Matt. 28:18; Luke 1:35; Rom. 15:19; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:5).

2. The deity of Christ.

The Watch Tower says:

  • Jesus is the first creation of Jehovah; Jesus then made all “other” things (see Col. 1:16 in the New World Translation).
  • “… the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God…. The fact is that Jesus is not God and never claimed to be” (Should You Believe in the Trinity? pp. 14, 20).
  • “… the true Scriptures speak of God’s Son, the Word, as ‘a god.’  He is a ‘mighty god,’ but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah”  (The Truth Shall Make You Free, p. 47).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus is the virgin-born Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-23; Luke 1:35). He is eternal God, the Creator, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3, 10, 14; 10:30; Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-3).

3. The personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “… The holy spirit is the invisible active force of Almighty God that moves his servants to do his will” (Let God Be True, p. 108).
  • “The Scriptures themselves unite to show that God’s holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will” (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1543).
  • “As for the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the so-called ‘third Person of the Trinity,’ we have already seen that it is not a person, but God’s active force”  (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 24).

The Bible says:

  • The Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune Godhead (Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19-20). He is described, not as a force, but as a person. Jesus never refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it.”  Further, scripture tells us the Spirit is a divine person because He testifies (John 15:26), guides (John 16:13), leads (Acts 8:29), commands (Acts 16:6-7), appoints (Acts 20:28), intercedes (Rom. 8:26) and speaks (Rev. 2:7). He can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32), lied to (Acts 5:3-4), grieved (Eph. 4:30) and insulted (Heb. 10:29).
  • The Holy Spirit is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son (Acts 5:3-4).

4. Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “Jesus died as a ‘ransom sacrifice’ to buy back what Adam lost: the right to perfect life on earth” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).
  • Jesus died, not on a cross, but on an “upright pole, stake or post” (www.watchtower.org).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus died on a cross (Matt. 27:32, 40, 42; John 19:19, 25, 31; 1 Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 6:12, 14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20, 2:14; Heb. 12:2).
  • Christ’s death on the cross paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

5. Christ’s bodily resurrection.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “This firstborn from the dead was raised from the grave, not a human creature, but a spirit” (Let God Be True, p. 276).
  • “At death, Jesus’ human body was ‘disposed’ of by God’s power, and Michael [Jesus in his pre-earthly state] rose from the dead as the ‘resurrected Jesus Christ.’ Since angels are invisible, Jesus fabricated physical bodies resembling His original body to convince His disciples that He had risen from the dead. Since 1914, when Jesus’ ‘invisible presence’ on earth began, He has been reigning from heaven, awaiting the future battle of Armageddon in which He will rid the earth of human governments and set up ‘Paradise’ under ‘Jehovah’s Kingdom government arrangement’” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 4).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus rose physically from the dead, and our future resurrection depends on it (Matt. 12:38-40; 28:5-10; Luke 24:39-43; John 20:19-29; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-8, 12-26; 1 Peter 1:18-21).

6. Christ’s physical and visible return.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “Since 1914, when Jesus’ ‘invisible presence’ on earth began, He has been reigning from heaven, awaiting the future battle of Armageddon in which He will rid the earth of human governments and set up ‘Paradise’ under ‘Jehovah’s Kingdom government arrangement’” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 4).
  • “Christ Jesus returns, not again as a human, but as a glorious spirit person” (Let God Be True, p. 196).
  • “Some wrongfully expect a literal fulfillment of the symbolic statements of the Bible. Such hope to see the glorified Jesus coming seated on a white cloud where every human eye will see him … Since no earthly men have ever seen the Father … neither will they see the glorified Son” (Let God Be True, p. 186).

The Bible says:

  • Jesus is coming back physically and visibly one day (Matt. 24:29-31; John 14:3; Acts 1:9-11; Titus 2:13; Rev. 19:11-16).

7. Salvation by grace through faith.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The four requirements for salvation are: 1) taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ; 2) obeying God’s laws and conforming one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible; 3) belonging to and serving with God’s one true channel and organization (that is, the Watchtower Society); and 4) being loyal to God’s organization” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).
  • “Salvation is earned through a combination of faith plus good works. True Christians can have no assurance of eternal life. They must work toward perfection throughout this life, and then throughout Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth. Next they must pass the final test of Satan (during which Satan is released from the pit to tempt all faithful Witnesses one last time) before God will grant them eternal life. If they fail at any point they are at risk of annihilation (eternal destruction)” (10 Questions & Answers on Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 7).

The Bible says:

  • Christ’s death at Calvary paid our sin debt and purchased our salvation so that everlasting life is received by grace through faith in Jesus (John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
  • Believers are eternally secure based on the finished work of Christ at Calvary and the faithfulness of God (John 5:24; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:28-39; Heb. 7:25; 10:14; 1 Peter 1:1-5).
  • All who receive Christ by faith enter immediately and everlastingly into Christ’s kingdom (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 10:9-10, 13).

8. Consciousness of the soul after death.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “… the claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not Scriptural” (Let God Be True, p. 68).

The Bible says:

  • There is conscious existence after death (Luke 16:19-31).
  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10). Heaven also is a place of everlasting conscious existence, and the believer’s soul/spirit goes there upon death (2 Cor. 5:8).

9. Everlasting punishment for unbelievers in hell.

The Watch Tower says:

  • “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) Because it is wholly unscriptural; (2) it is unreasonable; (3) it is contrary to God’s love; and (4) it is repugnant to justice”  (Let God Be True, p. 99).
  • “Would a loving God really torment people forever? … The wicked, of course, are not literally tormented because, as we have seen, when a person is dead he is completely out of existence…. And it is also a lie, which the Devil spread, that the souls of the wicked are tormented …” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 81, 88-89).

The Bible says:

  • Hell is a place of everlasting conscious existence, where the unbeliever is forever separated from God (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10-15).

10. Heaven as the destination for all believers.

The Watch Tower says:

  • Only 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will be in heaven. “So this ‘congregation of God’ is made up of all Christians on earth who have the hope of heavenly life. In all, only 144,000 persons finally make up the ‘congregation of God.’ Today, only a few of these, a remnant, are still on the earth. Christians who hope to live forever on earth look for spiritual guidance from members of this ‘congregation of the living God’” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 125-26).
  • “Many millions that have lived in centuries past and who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses will come back in a resurrection and have an opportunity for life. Many now living may yet take a stand for truth and righteousness before ‘the great tribulation,’ and they will gain salvation” (www.watchtower.org).

The Bible says:

  • All believers have God’s promise of a home in heaven, will go there instantly upon physical death, and will return with Christ to earth one day (John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 19:11-16).
  • There is no opportunity for salvation beyond the grave (Luke 16:19-31; Heb. 9:27).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips