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Few people today doubt that Jesus existed as a man walking the earth. Most are aware that Christians embrace Him as Messiah. But they balk at the claim that He is truly God. Most moderns have heard that Jesus’ divinity was invented by some fourth-century church influencers. But the New Testament is clear that this belief did not evolve but is rooted in the life of Jesus and His early followers. We can address this issue by tracing how the New Testament answers the six big questions about Jesus: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Who? Virtually overnight, Jesus’ followers refer to Him as Lord (Greek kyrios). By the first century, many Jews had started using a Greek translation of the original Hebrew Scriptures, and one of their practices was using kyrios to translate both the Hebrew Yahweh (God’s covenant name) and the Hebrew Adonai (God’s title “Lord”). The Christians adopted this practice as a way to express who Jesus is: the “Lord” of God’s people (1 Cor. 8:6). Yet Jesus is not some sort of second deity added to the pantheon. He regularly refers to Himself as the unique “Son” of the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:21–22), and He stands in special relationship to the divine Spirit as well (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:32–33; Rom. 8:9). Father-Son-Spirit—Jesus Himself implies the concept of the Trinity, even if He does not use the word (Matt. 28:19). Finally, the Father even addresses Jesus as “God” (Heb. 1:8).

When we catch this glimpse of the throne shared by Father and Son, it is stunning to see the heavenly hosts worshiping Him.

What/How? If Jesus is on the divine side of the line, it should be no surprise that He does what only God can do. Two defining activities of God are creating and sustaining the universe. Yet somehow the New Testament also states that the Son is rightly considered the One who created and upholds all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). He doesn’t do it with magic or nanotechnology, as Hollywood might portray it. He does it with the “word of his power” (Heb. 1:3)—just as only God can do (see Gen. 1). Not only this, but Jesus does many other things that only God can do: unilaterally forgiving sins (Mark 2:7), controlling weather (Luke 8:24–25), and reading people’s hearts (5:17–26). Like Father, like Son.

When? For Jesus to be fully God, He cannot become God. By definition, God must always be. The New Testament bears this out about the divine Son. He was “in the beginning” with God before creation (John 1:1). He claims, “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). He was active during the life of Israel, for He led the Israelites out of Egypt (Jude 5) and served as the true spiritual Rock that nourished them (1 Cor. 10:4).

Where? If the Son existed before being born in the flesh in Bethlehem, then where was He? He states unabashedly that He “comes from above” (John 3:31) and that He has “come down from heaven” (6:38). Yet the One who descended from heaven has also re-ascended to heaven (Eph. 4:10), and there He reigns at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:55; Rom. 8:34) and sits on the same heavenly throne as the Father (Rev. 7:17; 22:1).

Why? When we catch this glimpse of the throne shared by Father and Son, it is stunning to see the heavenly hosts worshiping Him (Rev. 5:13–14; 7:9–12). Why does it matter that we get the divinity of Jesus right? If He is truly God—and only if He is truly God—then He must be worshiped as such. If He is not God, then doing so is blasphemous. From the earliest days, the disciples bowed in worship before Jesus (Luke 24:52), prayed directly to Him (Acts 1:24; 1 Cor. 16:22), and sang hymns to Him “as to a god” (as attested by the Roman bureaucrat Pliny the Younger around AD 112). Even the angels are commanded to worship Him (Heb. 1:6).

Tying it all together, then, the Apostle Paul makes a stunning claim: because Jesus was in the form of God in eternity past (when), accomplished salvation (what), and returned to heaven (where) bearing the name above all names (who), He is—as God the Son—worthy of worship from all corners of heaven and earth (why) (Phil. 2:5–11).

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From the November 2022 Issue
Nov 2022 Issue