Tag Archives: Trinity

Did Jesus Claim He was God?

Perhaps at first glance, a modern person wouldn’t think that Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus didn’t use later, more familiar, Christian terminology. He didn’t refer to Himself as the “Second Person of the Trinity,” but He did identify Himself with God in a thoroughly Jewish way, in accordance with the language and expectations of His contemporaries.[1]

When He declared, “I have come,” He indicated that He had a supernatural origin.[2] When He forgave sins, He claimed divine authority.[3] His enemies recognized the implications of such a claim.[4]

Jesus applied the title “Son of Man” to Himself in a unique way that clearly implied to contemporaries He was claiming equality with God. He consciously acted in ways that corresponded to God’s actions in the Old Testament [5] and claimed (divine) power to choose people to carry out his purposes.[6]

Jesus’ miracles also confirmed that God was personally and supernaturally acting through Him in history. In the Gospels Jesus demonstrated divine power by calming the stormy seas, healing sickness, restoring deformed body parts, and raising the dead to life.[7]

Jesus accepted reverence and worship that Paul, as a mere man, rightfully rejected, and Jesus even claimed authority over the angels of heaven.[8]

His enemies may not have been aware of all of these things and their implications, but they were certainly aware of enough of them to realize Jesus identified Himself with God. In fact, it was a key part of the case they made for His judgment and execution.[9]

[1] “To get a genuinely biblical ‘high Christology’—a strong identification between Jesus himself and the God of Israel—you don’t need the kind of explicit statements you find in John (“I and the father are one,” 10:30). What you need is, for instance, what Mark gives you in his opening chapter, where prophecies about the coming of God are applied directly to the coming of Jesus.” Wright, How God Became King, p. 90 and following

[2] “When one examines these sayings of Jesus, the closest matches with them in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition are statements that angels make about their earthly missions (within the Old Testament, see, e.g., Dan 9:22–23; 10:14;11:2). I found twenty-four examples in the Old Testament and Jewish traditions of angels saying, “I have come in order to…” as a way of summing up their earthly missions. A prophet or a messiah in the Old Testament or Jewish tradition never sums up his life’s work this way.” How God Became Jesus p. 97

[3] Matthew 5:17; Mark 10:45; Luke 12:49; 19:10; Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5-11; Luke 5:20; 7:47-50

[4]Mark 2:7; see also “When one examines these sayings of Jesus, the closest matches with them in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition are statements that angels make about their earthly missions (within the Old Testament, see, e.g., Dan 9:22–23; 10:14;11:2). I found twenty-four examples in the Old Testament and Jewish traditions of angels saying, “I have come in order to…” as a way of summing up their earthly missions. A prophet or a messiah in the Old Testament or Jewish tradition never sums up his life’s work this way.” How God Became Jesus p. 97

[5] For example, he chose 12 disciples as the foundation of a new Israel that would carry out God’s plans in the world.

[6] Matthew 11:27

[7] Mark 4:39; 5:21-24; 6:30-44; 45-52; 9:25; Luke 4:39; 5:1-11; Matthew 12:9-14; 17:24-27

[8] Luke 24:52, Acts 10:25-26, Matthew 13:41; 25:31

[9] Mark 2:7; Mark 14:63-64

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Why do Christians Believe God is Triune?

Christianity isn’t founded in a philosophical perspective that evolved into a religion. Christian faith resulted from the revelation of God to the human race through Jesus Christ.

The Gospels make it clear that Jesus’ disciples misunderstood Him throughout His life. They thought that, as the promised Messiah, He would use supernatural power to set up an earthly kingdom. Consequently, when He was arrested and crucified, they lost hope (Matthew 26:56, 69-75). But at this point of despair and hopelessness, God revealed His redemptive plan. Jesus rose from death and physically appeared to His disciples in a glorious form (Luke 24:36-49; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

In the face of such a stupendous event, the disciples no longer had doubts regarding Jesus’ identity. Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared, believed the testimony of His resurrection was too good to be true (John 20:24-26). But when he found himself face-to-face with Jesus, his response was simply: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

The apostles believed that Jesus is divine, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34; 14:16, 26; 16:13-15; 20:21-22). They believed in the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without ever questioning the foundational biblical truth that God is One (Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; Ephesians 4:3-6; James 2:19).

The starting-point of the Trinity is, naturally, not a speculative one, but the simple testimony of the New Testament. We are not concerned with the God of thought, but with the God who makes His Name known. But He makes His Name known as the Name of the Father; He makes this Name of the Father known through the Son; and He makes the Son known as the Son of the Father, and the Father as Father of the Son through the Holy Spirit. These three names constitute the actual content of the New Testament message. This is a fact which no one can deny (Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God, “Dogmatics,” vol. 1).

Although the biblical writers don’t use the terms Trinity or triune God, the Bible clearly teaches that God exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Peter 1:2). Each of these divine persons has His own personal characteristics and is clearly distinguished from the other persons (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15). Each divine person is equal in power, being, and glory, and each person is called God (John 6:27; Acts 5:3-4; Hebrews 1:8). Each has divine attributes (Hebrews 9:14; 13:8; James 1:17), and each performs divine works and receives divine honors (John 5:21-23; Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14). In regard to His being or essence, God is one; but with respect to His personality, God is three.

This issue is basic to Christian faith. The doctrine of the Trinity (like the doctrine of the incarnation to which it is closely related) expresses some of the most profound and mysterious truths about God and His relationship to His creation. As the great church leader Athanasius pointed out, our salvation depends upon the incarnation. If Jesus were not both truly God and truly man, His death wouldn’t be sufficient to atone for our sin.

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, gives the following concise definition of the Trinity:

Within the one essence of the Godhead we have to distinguish three “persons” who are neither three Gods on the one side, nor three parts or modes of God on the other, but co-equally and co-eternally God.

Although this theological definition is helpful, it is important to realize that none of us can have direct knowledge of God. His characteristics can only be described by analogy, and no analogy is perfect.

 

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