Jesus Never Claimed To Be God!
Christians often hear Muslims assert with flair, “Jesus never claimed to be God anywhere in the four gospels.” In one sense this is a true observation. There is nowhere in the four gospels where the Lord Jesus Christ ever uttered the statement, “I am God.” So, our Muslim missionary friends rest their case assuming that they have discovered an irrefutable argument that the Lord Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. And often, they suggest that this claim was a Pauline addition to Christian doctrine.
However, little do they know, their observation is really further evidence for the truth of the doctrine of the Tri-unity of God and Deity of Christ.
Let’s assume for the moment that the Lord Jesus Christ had said, “I am God.” What would the significance of this claim have meant to His Jewish hearers? It would have meant one of the following erroneous claims:
He was identical to the God of the Old Testament – Identity.
He was an additional God to the God of the Old Testament – Polythesism.
He was one of the different manifestations of the single personhood of God – Sabellianism.
To some of His hearers, the statement, “I am God,” would have meant that the Lord Jesus Christ was claiming to be identical to God and that He was only a man in outward appearance or semblance. In fact, this was one of the heresies that arose during the days of the Apostles of Christ in which Christ’s true humanity was not acknowledged. In the first and second epistles of the Apostle John, there is a condemnation directed toward those who claimed that Jesus Christ was not come in real human flesh (1 John 4:3).
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7 (NIV)
It is true there were various instances in the Old Testament when a theophany of God appeared in human form. These theophanies were instances of a divine appearance in a human form. For example, the father of Samson, Manoah, saw a theophany of the LORD before the birth of Samson.
He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.”
Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched:
As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground.
When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.
22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!” Judges 13:18-22 (NIV)
However, Jesus was not a theophany of God who only appeared to be a human being. So, if the Lord Jesus Christ had said, “I am God,” many would have taken it to mean that Christ was denying His humanity and that He was claiming to be God of the Old Testament in a theophanic manifestation.
However, the life—birth, life, death, and resurrection—of the Lord Jesus Christ was not a theophany of God. The Savior possessed a real human nature from the blessed virgin Mary. Hence, if Christ had said, “I am God,” as our Muslims friends demand, it would have been a denial of His real humanity. And, without the real humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, He could not have been the Savior of Sinners. Because, the penalty of sin is death, and the Lord Jesus Christ could not have really died upon the Cross of Calvary, as our Substitute, if He had not possessed a true human nature. So, no wonder the Apostle John called a person who denied the real humanity of our Savior, a “deceiver and the antichrist.”
To other of His Jewish listeners, it would have meant polytheism or Greek paganism. The Jews knew the scriptures of the Old Testament prophets where they studied the one true God under various names, such as: Adonai, El, Elohim, or Yaweh. The Israelites understood too that these terms referred to a single Supreme Being who is the Creator, Sustainer, Governor, and ultimate Judge of the universe. So, if the Lord Jesus Christ had stated, “I am God,” these other Jews may have thought that Jesus was claiming to be another God alongside the God of the Old Testament scriptures. Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ never claimed to be another God in addition to the God of the Old Testament scriptures. He taught there is only one Being, God, who exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To some individuals, it would have meant the identification of His person with the total personhood of God (Sabellianism). Sabellianism is the idea there is one personal Deity who may be understood in different ways. For example, in human terms, one person may be understood in different personal ways too, One person may be simultaneously a father, a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle, or a grandfather. These various terms do not mean that one person is many persons. The heresy of Sabellius was the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were terms that referred to one divine person who may be considered in these three different modes. But, the Holy Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinctly different persons within the one God.
So, if the Lord Jesus had said, “I am God,” this may have been interpreted to mean that Jesus was claiming He was identical to the total personhood of God. But, the Lord Jesus Christ never claimed to be the totality of the personhood of God. If it were true that the Lord Jesus Christ had said, “I am God,” it would have be evidence against the doctrine of the Trinity. The Lord Jesus Christ is not the entire personhood of God, as the statement, “I am God,” would entail. The person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son and not the person of the Father nor the Holy Spirit.
Instead of making the claim, “I am God,” the Lord Jesus Christ properly described Himself in terms of the divine Son in a manner that no created being could share. Throughout the gospels He asserted over and over that He is the divine Son of God. When the New Testament scriptures are seriously examined, we discovered that Christ taught that the one God exists eternally in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In His person, He claimed a distinction from the personhood of the Father and the Holy Spirit in various ways.
I and my Father are one. John 10:30 (NIV)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Mark 12:29 (NIV)
Son and Father:
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:21-24 (NIV)
Son and Holy Spirit:
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. John 15:26 (NIV)
Furthermore, the Lord Jesus Christ said that He is the divine Son who is the eternal begotten Word of the Father.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. John 1:1-4 (NIV)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)
So, if Christ had preached, “I am God,” it would have been understood as a denial of the deity of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Secondly, and more importantly, it would have been a denial of His humanity. The Lord Jesus Christ had to possess a real human nature in order to die as a sacrifice for sinners upon the Cross.
Two Christian scholars note that the Lord Jesus Christ presented Himself as the divine Son of God.
This is not the same thing as saying that each of the three divine Hypostases apart and by Himself is God. On the contrary, the Son and the Holy Spirit are God only by virtue of the eternal divine Oneness, in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and only one God. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ never and nowhere said that He, apart from the Father, was God; nay, rather, always and everywhere He taught His own Deity as resulting from His oneness with the Father. — C. G. Pfander in Miftah-ul-Asrar 1
§ 3. That Christ claimed to be fully divine is hardly open to serious dispute by those who accept the Gospels as containing a substantially true account of apostolic experience of Him. It is true that He never made the unqualified assertion, “I am God, ” which by Jewish minds would have been taken to mean either an identification of His Person with that of the Father (Sabellianism) or the proclamation of a second God (Polytheism). He described Himself in terms of divine sonship—that was sharply distinguished from any in which His listeners could participate, and one that involved internal relations to the Father which cannot be enjoyed by created persons. — F. J. Hall in Dogmatic Theology: Vol. VI, The Incarnation 2
Last edited 08-14-2002