In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).
ehovah's Witnesses are
well-known for their denial of the deity of Christ. According to their theology,
Jesus was an incarnation of the supreme archangel, not God in human flesh.
The historical name for this teaching is Arianism. Arius was a fourth-century heretic whose doctrine was opposed by Athanasius and condemned at the council of Nicea in 325. Arius's doctrine of the Incarnation was virtually identical to that of modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses. Arius even used many of the same arguments JWs employ today. Athanasius brilliantly responded to Arius and exposed his distortions of Scripture. Athanasius's work entitled On the Incarnation stands as an effective reply to the Jehovah's witnesses.
But for the moment let's ignore the writings of Athanasius, the documents of the Nicene Council, and every other historical and theological source except Scripture itself. Is it possible to demonstrate conclusively from the Bible alone that Jesus Christ is set forth in Scripture as God? I believe it is. And I am convinced that those who reject Christ's deity must therefore also reject the plain meaning of the Word of God.
At least eight lines of argument combine to make the biblical case for the deity of Christ:
We need only sample a
few key passages to make the point:
Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm and was recognized as such by Jewish scholars centuries before Christ. In Acts 13:33, Paul affirms that this psalm has a Messianic meaning. The psalm closes with these verses, "Worship [Jehovah] with reverence, And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (vv. 11- 12).
There the phrases "Worship [Jehovah] with reverence" and "Do homage to the Son" are parallel. And as is typical in Hebrew poetic parallelism, this means the two phrases are logical equivalents. Worship [Jehovah]" means "do homage to the Son." Moreover, this psalm presents the Son as Someone in whom believers can take refuge—a Savior who is God's own Son, identical in character and rank with God the Father.
Psalm 110 is identified as a Messianic Psalm by the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 5:6; 7:17). Here David calls Him Lord: "The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand, Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet" (v.1). Jesus Himself quoted this verse in Matthew 22:43-45 to demonstrate that He existed before David and was superior to any earthly king. The word translated "Lord" in that verse does not necessarily designate deity. It is a Hebrew word that often applies to an earthly Master. So it's only a single piece in the puzzle—not particularly significant by itself, but when weighed with the rest of the evidence, its full meaning becomes clear.
Other Messianic prophecies are even more clear in ascribing deity to the Lord's Anointed One.
Isaiah 9:6, for example, is a clear promise of the Messiah. It gives a string of names that apply to Him: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [or, "father of eternity"], Prince of Peace." An earlier prophecy by Isaiah, found in Isaiah 7:14, gave Him the name Immanuel, which literally means, "God with us."
Micah 5:2 prophesied that Messiah's birthplace would be Bethlehem, and it spoke of Him with these profoundly important words: "From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."
In Malachi 3:1-2 we find one of the clearest, most vivid prophecies of the coming Messiah. Mark 1:2 identifies this verse as a prophecy of Christ:
Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
Notice that it portrays Jesus as Lord (this is the Hebrew word Adonai), who is coming to His temple. And He is coming to do a work of divine judgment.
At this point the
well-trained Jehovah's Witness would want to make a distinction between the word
Adonai, which is translated "Lord" in most English Bibles, and the Word
Jehovah (or Yahweh), also translated "Lord" in most English
Bibles. If you want to tell the difference between the words in most
translations, when the original is Adonai, the word "Lord" will appear in
capital and lowercase letters; when the Hebrew word is Jehovah, the word
"LORD" will appear in capital and small capital letters.
Let's suppose our hypothetical Jehovah's Witness points out that in all the verses I have cited so far, the word Adonai has been employed, not Jehovah. Since the Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jehovah is the one true name of God, any passages that apply the term Jehovah to Christ would conclusively destroy their entire theology. Are there any such verses?
There certainly are. Psalm 23:1, for example, says, "Jehovah is my shepherd." Jesus very clearly applied this passage to Himself in John 10:11, 14 when He said, "I am the good shepherd." And the writer of Hebrews also applied this passage to Christ in Hebrews 13:20, when he wrote, "The God of peace . . . brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord"— Jesus our Jehovah.
In Isaiah 6:5, when Isaiah saw his vision of heaven, with the Lord high and lifted up, he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord [Jehovah] of hosts." Yet the apostle John, referring to this same incident, writes that Isaiah saw Christ's glory, "and he spoke of Him" (Jn. 12:41).
In the famous prophecy of John the Baptist found in Isaiah 40:3, Jesus is called Jehovah: "A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for [Jehovah] in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God."
And in Jeremiah 23:5-6, a very crucial text for the doctrine of justification by faith. This verse introduces a new name for God, Jehovah Tsidkenu, "Jehovah our righteousness." Notice to whom it is applied: "Behold, the days are coming," declares [Jehovah], "When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. [This is very clearly a messianic prophecy.] In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, '[Jehovah] our righteousness'" (Jer. 23:5-6).
Here's a very familiar passage, Joel 2:32: "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of [Jehovah] Will be [saved]." Both Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 quote that passage, applying the title Jehovah to Christ.
The simple fact is that Jehovah's Witnesses do not witness to the true Jehovah of Scripture. They reject His own witness and the witness of His Word that Christ Himself is Jehovah who came to earth in human flesh.
In Isaiah 10:20, we
find the expression, "Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel." The Holy one is said to
be no less than Jehovah Himself. And in Acts 3:13-4, Peter tells the men of
Jerusalem, "You delivered up [Jesus], and disowned in the presence of Pilate,
when he had decided to release Him. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One."
In Isaiah 44:6 we read, "Thus says [Jehovah], the King of Israel and his Redeemer, [Jehovah Sabaoth]: 'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me." That verse in and of itself offers strong proof for the Trinity, because it differentiates between Jehovah and His Redeemer Jehovah. But it also reserves for Jehovah God this expression "the first and the last." That title surfaces again in Revelation 1:8, where it is again applied to Jehovah: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." No question about who owns that title. Notice, too that it is a title that can hardly be shared with any created being: the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the One who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty. Yet at the end of the book of Revelation we read these words again, this time spoken by Jesus Christ: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 22:13).
In Isaiah 43:11, God speaks: "I, even I, am Jehovah; and there is no savior besides Me." Did you realize the title "Savior" is reserved in Scripture for God? This verse says so in the plainest possible terms. "I am Jehovah; and there is no savior besides Me." That is why Paul, writing to Titus, did not shrink from applying the name God and the word Savior both to Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13 says this:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.
Zechariah 12:10 includes a most interesting prophecy. In context, this is Jehovah speaking. Verse 4 tells us so. Then verse 10 says, "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first- born." Who was the One who was pierced? It was Christ. And John 19:37 specifically applies this text to Christ.
Deuteronomy 10:17 says, "[Jehovah] your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God." Yet Revelation 17:14 applies the title "Lord of Lords" to the lamb, Jesus Christ: "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."
eternal, as we noted in Micah 5:2, and in His titles, "the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
He is omnipresent. In Matthew 18:20, He said, "Where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst"; and in Matthew 28:20, He promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
He is omniscient. On the night Christ was betrayed, the disciples told Him, "Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God" (Jn. 16:30). Later, Peter appealed to Christ's omniscience in his own defense, John 21:17: "Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.'" In Revelation 2:23 Christ describes Himself in these terms: "I am He who searches the minds and hearts.
He is omnipotent. Philippians 3:21 says He "will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." Hebrews 1:3 says He "upholds all things by the word of His power."
He is immutable, unchanging. This attribute could never be true of any created being. Yet Hebrews 1:10-12 says, speaking of Christ,
Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; And they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; As a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end.
Hebrews 13:8 is a familiar affirmation of the immutability of Christ: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever."
In summary, Scripture says Christ embodies every attribute that is true of Jehovah, Colossians 2:9: "For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form." And Hebrews 1:3 says Christ "is the radiance of [Jehovah's] glory and the exact representation of His nature. Jesus is Jehovah God.
Jesus does works that
God alone can do. For example, Christ created "all things." John
1:3 says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made
that was made." If that is true, then He himself could not be a created being.
Colossians 1:16 says the same thing in more detail, ruling out the possibility He could be any kind of archangel: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him." Verse 17 takes it a step further and pictures Him not only as Creator but also as Sustainer: "And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
He oversees the operation of divine providence. In John 17:2, Christ prays to the Father, "Even as Thou gavest [the Son] authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. Ephesians 1:22 echoes that: "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church."
He forgives sin. This was a huge controversy in Jesus' earthly ministry. Matt 9:2-7 and Mark 2:5-10 give the accounts of how the Pharisees were offended that He forgave sins. In Mark 2:7 they ask, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" They understood clearly the implications of His authority.
He has the power to raise the dead and judge final judgment. In John 5:22, Jesus said, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." That is a very explicit claim of deity, and in verse 24, Jesus even makes the basis of judgment the issue of whether someone hears His word or not. Acts 10:42 says Christ "has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead." Acts 17:31 says the same thing. 2 Timothy 4:1 says "Christ Jesus . . . is to judge the living and the dead."
It is He who will bring us into the fullness of glorification. Philippians 3:21 says He "will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory." In Revelation 21:5 He says, "Behold, I am making all things new."
Jesus Himself in Matthew 4:10 said told the Devil, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" If Jesus Himself were only a creature, He would have been guilty of hypocrisy, for He himself received worship. Not once did Jesus ever rebuke anyone for worshiping Him. Never did He refuse anyone's worship. In fact, He corrected those who scolded others for worshiping Him, as in John 10, when Martha was angry that Mary sat at His feet. And in Matthew 26, He rebuked the disciples for being indignant that a woman had anointed Him with expensive ointment.
Listen carefully to these verses, and remember that in every case Jesus welcomed the worship that was offered to Him:
Contrast Jesus' response to worship with Peter's response when "Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him" (Acts 10:25). Verse 26 says, "Peter raised him up, saying, 'Stand up; I too am just a man.'" Acts 14:11-18 tells of a similar episode in Paul's ministry, when he and Barnabas refused the worship of an entire crowd. Then in Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, we have angels refusing worship from the Apostle John. In 22:9 the angel says, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God."
Scripture explicitly states that the Son is to be worshiped. John 5:22-23 says, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." Jesus placed Himself on the highest possible level when He made Himself an object of our faith, John 14:1: "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me."
You want ultimate proof that Jesus is not an angel? Hebrews 1:6 says that when the Father brought the Son into the world, He said, "And let all the angels of God worship Him."
Let's move on to the two final lines of argument that prove Jesus is God. I have saved the strongest for last. For if Jesus is God, you would expect the Bible to say so in the strongest of terms. And in fact it does.
John 1 is a favorite text of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The people who come to your door are thoroughly trained in how to respond if you show them John 1:1. Turn to that passage and let's look at the first three verses:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
This is a very strong statement on the deity of Christ. Every phrase is significant. "In the beginning" harks back to Genesis 1:1 and sets the beginning of John's gospel in eternity past, before anything or anyone was created. B. B. Warfield wrote,
What is declared is that "in the beginning"—not "from the beginning" but "in the beginning,"—when first things came to be, the Word, not came into being, so that He might be the first of those things which came into being, but already was. Absolute eternity of being is asserted for the Word in as precise and strong language as absolute eternity of being can be asserted. The Word antedates the beginning of things; He already was.1
The next phrase, "the Word was with God," only strengthens the assertion of deity in this passage. It means that from all eternity, the Word coexisted with God, alongside Him, in personal inter-communion with Him. In Warfield's words, "He has been from all eternity God's Fellow."2
This eternal relationship between God and the Word is underscored by a phrase in John 1:18, "the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father . . . ." Jesus Christ was eternally in the bosom of the Father, somehow distinct from God yet at the same time identical to Him. By the way, the New American Standard translation in v. 18 is accurate; in the Greek, the literal wording is, "the only-begotten God"—another straightforward proof of Christ's deity. The whole principle of the Trinity is wrapped up in this expression, "the Word was with God."
But let's return to the third phrase in John 1:1, for this is the part Jehovah's Witnesses feel they can answer: "The Word was God." That is precisely and literally what this text says in the Greek. A well-trained JW will attempt to convince you that our translation is faulty. In the Greek, they will tell you, the word God lacks any definite article (quite right). Therefore, they say, an indefinite article must be supplied: "The Word was a God." That is bad Greek and totally unwarranted. Was is what is known as a copulative verb. You may have called it a "linking verb" in grammar school. It simply connects the noun on one side with the noun on the other The Word was God. "God" in that sentence is a predicate nominative. It can only be translated the way you find it in most Bibles: "The word was God." To insert the word "a" is both bad Greek and bad grammar.
Jehovah's Witnesses have produced their own Bible with their own translation. And they have a handful of Greek scholars who have tried desperately to defend this translation. But what these JW "scholars" do not tell their own people is that there are dozens of places in their Bible where they are forced by common sense to violate the very rule they want to try to impose on John 1:1. I'll give you two examples from this very same context. If we followed the JW construction and added the word "a" every time the definite article is missing, here's how a couple of other verses from John 1 would read:
So John 1:1 is the achilles' heel of the Jehovah's Witnesses' theology, and
that is why every JW is taught what to say when it is brought up. But their
answers are not at all satisfying to anyone who knows the smallest amount of
Greek grammar, and their denial of Christ's deity is easily debunked merely by
the context of this verse. You needn't be shaken by the JW arguments on this.
Of course, there are more verses in the New Testament that explicitly call Jesus God. Remember, as we saw earlier, that when Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and My God," Jesus did not rebuke him, but commended him for his faith (Jn. 20:29).
Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 refer to Jesus as "Our God and Savior." Romans 9:5 says He is over all God, blessed forever. Philippians 2:6 says He existed from all eternity in the form of God. And 1 John 5:20 says, "We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."
One of the best verses to challenge JWs with is Hebrews 1:8, because it is as clear in its affirmation of Jesus' deity as John 1:1, and the typical JW will not have been indoctrinated with a canned answer. This verse quotes God the Father, who is speaking to the Son: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." The quotation comes from Psalm 45:6, where the attribution of deity is absolutely unambiguous in the Hebrew. (Unfortunately, the JWs' New World Translation has heedlessly and deliberately changed the meaning of both texts, translating Hebrews 1:8 as "God is your throne," and artifically forcing their translation of Psalm 45:6 to fit that meaning. But the statement "God is your throne" makes no sense whatsoever in either context. The whole point of Hebrews 1 is to show that Jesus is higher than any angel. That is the point that needs to be pressed when you discuss this text with a Jehovah's Witness.)
Finally, if Jesus is
God, we might expect Him to say so. Have you ever wondered why He didn't simply
state, "I am God?" and put an end to any possibility of confusion?
Actually, He did. What He says in John 8:58 was to His Jewish audience a far more explicit statement than if He had merely said "I am God." It is important to see this passage in its context. In verse 53, we see that the Pharisees were becoming uncomfortable with Jesus' claims, beginning to suspect that He was putting Himself on a level of authority no mere man would have any right to. They said:
53 "Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?"
54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God';
55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.
56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
57 The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.
Notice that these men understood precisely what Jesus was saying. And because
He obviously also understood what they were asking, His reply is all that much
more significant. He was telling them He was God, using the name Jehovah Himself
had revealed to Moses at the burning bush, "I AM." He could have made no
stronger claim of deity. If that had not been His meaning, if he were
claiming only to be the firstborn angel, He would have said, "before Abraham was
born, I was."
The gospel of John includes a whole series of statements Jesus made about Himself using this name "I AM"—I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6); I am the good shepherd; I am the door; I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world. Each one of these statements, studied in context, reveals that He was making claim after claim of absolute deity.
The biblical evidence for the deity of Christ is conclusive. It is overwhelming, irrefutable evidence. In fact, what we have covered here is only a representative sample. I haven't even mentioned John 10:30, "I and the Father are one." That, and many other similar passages could be adduced to prove even more conclusively that according to Scripture, He is God.
So much evidence cannot be swept aside or ignored. You either believe it, or you condemn yourself to an unthinkable eternity. In fact, Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24). There Jesus holds forth His "I am"—without a predicate—as the object of our faith. He is very obviously setting Himself in the place of God, and He can do that only because He is God. Those who know that Scripture is the Word of God can only believe, and join in the worship of Him at whose name every knee shall bow.