Is Jesus God? If you answered with a quick, firm “yes,” read on. Recent polls show a whopping 96% of Americans believe in “God.” Obviously, considering the state of American Christianity, something doesn’t quite add up. Dare we assume that 96% of Americans believe in the Christian God? Do we all have the same “god” in mind when we confess faith?
Now think about the center of Christian apologetics: that Jesus Christ is God. Please don’t excommunicate me just yet, but if you were to ask me, “Is Jesus God?” I would respond with another question. “Which ‘god’ are we talking about?” Most evangelical Christians, when sharing the Gospel, assume that Jesus’ identity is in question, while God’s isn’t. In other words, we think everyone basically agrees with us about who God is, and so all we must do is simply proclaim Jesus’ divine link to Him.
Declaring the divinity of Jesus by stating matter-of-factly that He is God does not really resolve anything until we have painted the biblical picture of the true God. Yet in the past 200 years, fundamentalists and evangelicals have defended Christ’s divinity without stopping to consider how God’s identity is also under attack. Why? Liberal theologians have taught that Jesus was not divine and should not be worshipped as God in the flesh. Conservative Christians have rightly recoiled from such heresy, but while simply affirming Jesus’ deity might stifle the theologians, it provokes a “so what?” from the person on the street.
“Jesus is God” can’t be true until we get past all the other “gods” masquerading under the Christian “God” label. Muslims worship an impersonal, distant “god” (Allah, in Arabic), but is the Muslim-god the same as ours? Most Americans will line up to sing “God bless America.” Yet considering the Deist beliefs of several of our forefathers (and a growing segment of the population today), this Clockmaker-god does nothing more than put the clock together, wind it up, put it up on a shelf, and go about His business or back to His rocking chair. If the god that is in mind is one of these, saying “Jesus is God” is incorrect. Jesus definitely is not that god.
A Christian who knows his Bible and has a clear picture of God can be telling the truth when he says, “Jesus is God”, and at the same time, the person listening (perhaps with a Deist concept of god) may be hearing an outright lie. Jesus’ divinity is not the only issue at stake here; God’s very identity is under attack too.
Some readers might affirm that “Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” in order to eliminate many pluralistic gods. But where does that leave our Jewish friends, since they would easily affirm the same statement? You might say, “Jews and Christians share the same God! It’s just about Jesus that we don’t see eye to eye.” By saying this, Christians make a glaring misrepresentation of Yahweh – the Great I Am.
God is not God apart from Jesus. It is pointless to try to define the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob apart from Jesus Christ. That is the pluralistic problem plaguing so many Christian factions today. Since you can’t explain the Bible’s God without involving the Trinity, you can never fully explain how “Jesus is God” makes any sense at all.
Since Christians believe in a triune God – Yahweh in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we actually undermine the divinity of Christ by claiming that our God is the same as that of our Jewish friends. As Christians, we believe Jesus is so important that you can’t define God’s identity apart from Him.
So what’s the answer? What can help us get through some of the theological red tape and bring us to the point where we can once again make a firm statement for the Gospel?
Here’s the statement that I recommend you chew on a little bit: GOD IS JESUS. When you see Jesus, you are seeing God, not just because Jesus is God, but also because God is Jesus. Jesus is the One who shows us who God is and what God is like.
Of course, “God is Jesus” is a statement that has its own interesting theological snags. We can start heading backwards by asking, “Which Jesus is God?” since people don’t agree on Jesus’ identity either! Still, I believe we can more easily define Jesus’ identity and how it relates to God’s Person than we can trying to go the other way around.
So, looking ahead for the 21st century, how can we move forward in our Gospel proclamation? Let’s teach people who Jesus is; show them how Scripture describes Him; tell about His atoning sacrifice on the cross; proclaim Him as Lord. Then, utilizing the biblical portrait of Jesus, tell people, “That’s who God is. That’s what God is like! That’s God in human flesh.” You want to know God’s identity? Meet Jesus. God is Jesus.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog