Jesus of Nazareth carries many titles; an enlightened teacher, a wise sage, the most famous figure in history, the list goes on. Regardless if one is a follower of his teaching, he is admired by the world. However, our view of Jesus can often be obscured by his universal admiration and the normalization of Judeo-Christian values in the culture. We are so used to seeing his words embroidered on decorative tapestries that it is easier to see him as a good example than it is to grasp the significance of who this carpenter from Nazareth claimed to be; namely, God.
There are many Bible passages that teach us the deity of Christ (cf. John 1:1; John 1:18; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1), however, I will primarily focus on passages that showcase how Jesus shares the same role as God.
Human-Agent, or God-Man?
Something astounding in Jesus’ ministry is that he accomplishes what God the Father promised to accomplish. In Isaiah 45:5-7, it says,
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.
The context of this passage is that Yahweh, the LORD, is going before King Cyrus to destroy idols and to judge the nations. The passage goes on to say that God does this so thateveryone may know that it is he, the God of Israel, who is the true Lord of all. The rest of Isaiah 45 demonstrates this point further by explaining that people from other nations will come and swear to who the Lord is (Is. 45:14; v. 13-25). This is the question that is on trial in Isaiah 45: who is the Lord? The answer is Yahweh, the God of Israel. The point is that the role of “theLord” cannot be delegated to mere human beings, nor can it be entrusted to human prophets with a divine and enlightened message. No human agent working on God’s behalf will do. This role of “the Lord” belongs to God himself. What is astounding, then, is how Jesus fits into all of this:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:8-13).
So, if the nations are said to confess that the name of the true Lord is the God of Israel (Is. 45:14), and Jesus is the same Lord of the Jews and Greeks (Rom. 10:9-13), there seems to be two different “Lords” doing the same thing. Yet, Paul sees no contradiction here. In Romans 10:12, Paul draws upon Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:26-27, both of which show that 1) Yahweh alone is God, 2) he alone is to be believed in, and 3) belief in him will not put us to shame. And yet, even as Paul is quoting these passages, he attributes them to Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 4:12).
It is the confession and belief in Jesus’ name that saves us and does not put us to shame (Rom. 5:1-5). If the LORD in Isaiah 45 is who the nations will confess and swear to, and if we must confess that Jesus is the true Lord in order to be saved (Rom. 10:9), then Jesus’ role and identity is the same as God’s. Paul is not replacing Yahweh with Jesus, nor is he saying Jesus is acting as a mere human agent of God. No, Paul is saying Jesus, the Son, is to be identified with the God of Israel. Jesus and the Father are distinct, but they are one God. To call on and believe in God for salvation is to call on and believe in Jesus Christ.
The Eternal Son
Once again in Paul’s writings, we see the inclusion of Jesus in the divine identity of God. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses issues in the community of the church by going back to Theological Truths 101: knowing God and loving God:
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8:3-6).
The question here is not whether you know things about God, but if God knows you- and we all know that God is one, Paul says. Paul is affirming Old Testament monotheism by referring to Deut 6:4, called the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Paul affirms that this should be common knowledge for the church. It was important for Israel to know that the God who is one was their God. Likewise, it was also essential for the New Testament church to understand that the God of Israel was also their God.
Now notice what Paul says in 1 Cor. 8:5-6, “there are many so called gods...for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” The one God isthe one Father and the one Son. This is why Paul can say Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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” (Col. 1:15-16).
He can say this about Jesus and then say about the Father, “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” and not at all be inconsistent (Rom. 11:36). Why? Because Jesus and the Father are one God:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed…. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17:1-5, v. 11b).
So, why does this all matter in the first place? Because people are wondering what God is really like and we are tired of people telling us about him. If Jesus is merely another prophet, a wise sage, or an enlightened teacher, he is just another person telling us things about God. But if we recognize the truth of the divinity of Christ, then we realize the beautiful truth that in the scriptures, we not only encounter someone telling us about God, we encounter God himself. As a professor once told me, “There is no resource of God that we have not come to in Jesus. In Christ, we come to all the power and all the wisdom of God.”