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What We Believe about the Deity of Christ

At Christmas time the air is filled with the lyrics of familiar hymns and carols about the birth of Christ. For example, there is "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in which are the words, "O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel." Emmanuel means "God with us." Does this mean that Jesus was God in the flesh?

Another Christmas carol is "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," in which we sing, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th'incarnate Deity." Once again, are we to believe that Jesus Christ was God?

Still another carol, "O Come, All Ye Faithful," says, "God of God, Light of Light; lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb: very God, begotten, not created; O come, let us adore him." 

These Christmas carols simply affirm that which is taught in the Bible: that Christ is and always has been fully God. He is the second Person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. At the fullness of time he was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit and born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea. This is what we call the incarnation: God took on human flesh. This means the baby Jesus in the manger was, at the same time, both God and man. He is both holy God and sinless man in one person.

While throughout history and in our own day many people have denied the deity of Jesus Christ, it is clearly taught in the Scriptures of both Old and New Testaments. Here is a sample of Bible verses that affirm that Christ is God:

• “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

• “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD [Hebrew Yahweh]; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)

• “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel (which means God with us).” (Matthew 1:23)

• “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; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)

• Jesus said to a group of Jews, "Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)

• Jesus said, "I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

• “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21)

• “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [“Firstborn” in the Bible does not always mean first in order or time. It can and often does mean first in importance or preeminent. See, for example, Psalm 89:27.] 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. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell….” (Colossians 1:15-19)

• “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily….” (Colossians 2:9)

• We are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

• John 20:28 – Doubting Thomas, when he touched Jesus’ hand and side and saw that he really had risen from the dead, said, “My Lord and my God!”

• Romans 9:5 – Jesus is called “God over all.”

• Philippians 2:9-10 – Jesus is called the Lord, and at his name every knee will bow.

• Hebrews 1:8 – God the Father says about the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

• James 2:1 – Jesus is called the "Lord of glory."

• 2 Peter 1:1 – Peter refers to “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

• 1 John 5:20 – Jesus is called “the true God and eternal life.”

The fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin displays his deity. That he performed miracles, forgave sins, and rose from the dead—all these things display his deity.

What's at stake? Do we lose anything if Jesus Christ is not God? Yes indeed, we lose our salvation! Only God can accomplish our salvation. Only someone who is himself God can endure the wrath of God on the cross. Only someone who is God can rise again for our justification after being dead and buried. Only someone who lived a perfectly sinless and holy life can give us his righteousness and satisfy the demands of God’s justice.

If Jesus is not God, he’s nothing more than a good example to follow--which we cannot possibly do. If he’s not God, he is no Savior and we are all lost.

The Westminster Larger Catechism #38 puts it like this:

Question: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?

Answer: It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.