This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
In the last column, we explored God the Father as creator. Now, let’s consider the first of several passages that reveal the Son as creator.
John 1:3 – “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”
After establishing that Jesus is both eternal and divine, as well as a distinct person from the Father (vv. 1-2), John declares that the Son created “all things.” This simple statement sets Christianity apart from Gnosticism, a religious movement that severely threatened the infant church, particularly in the second and third centuries.
While diverse, Gnosticism generally held to two overarching beliefs. First, salvation is obtained primarily through special knowledge obtained in secret rituals. In fact, the term gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” This secretly obtained knowledge enables a person to escape the corruption of the world, particularly as it resides in the physical body.
Second, Gnostics embraced dualism. That is, they believed the material world is inherently evil, while the spiritual realm is intrinsically good. So, salvation is achieved by escaping the body – freeing the “good” spirit from the “evil” flesh. This may be one reason the Greeks on Mars Hill berated Paul for preaching the resurrection of the body (Acts 17:32). After all, if the body is evil, who wants a resurrected one?
In any case, Gnostics faced the challenge of explaining who created the world. If God is pure spirit, and if matter is corrupt, how can the two be reconciled? Gnostics devised their own creation story.
Muslims, 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).