Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Deity of Christ in the Gospel of John

The Gospels reveal the God-man Jesus Christ. In Luke, we have studied the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus. We have concluded that this was, in fact, the birth of the Messiah, God in the flesh, the Savior of His people. In our January 30 study of these early chapters of Luke, the “Coram Deo” suggested that an exciting discovery could be made in reading the gospel of John.

Of the four Gospels, John has the most specific references to the deity of Christ. Beginning with the first verse of the first chapter, John affirms that Jesus is more than simply a chosen person: He shares in the deity of God Himself. G. E. Ladd has written, “Jesus’ consciousness of deity is expressed both in sayings about His unity with the Father … but especially in the ‘I am’ sayings [here Ladd cites and quotes 6:20; 8:12; 10:7; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:1].

“In addition to such sayings are several where Jesus designates Himself simply by the words I am (cf. 4:26; 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5–8). This is a phrase almost impossible to translate literally; in most contexts, the simple 'I am' is not meaningful in English [compare renderings of the NASB (“I am He”) and NIV (“I am the one I claim to be”)]. But in John 8:58, the RSV [and similarly, the NASB and NIV] translates ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ The language is much stronger in Greek than in English. Before Abraham was born (genesthai), I am (ego eimi) [thus, the NASB and NIV translations].

The Jews picked up stones to throw at Him because of this seemingly blasphemous statement, but He escaped them. In John’s gospel, the hostility and opposition of the Jews was incurred because the implicit claims of Jesus’ language made Him equal with God (5:18)—indeed, of claiming to be God (10:33). Jesus in no way refuted these charges.

“Background for these ‘I am’ sayings, especially those used absolutely, is … found … in the Old Testament. God revealed Himself to Moses as ‘I am who I am’ (Exodus 3:14).… This expression is the most authentic, the most audacious, and the most profound affirmation of Jesus of who He was. By this idiom, Jesus lifted Himself far above all contemporary messianic hopes and claimed that in His life the historical epiphany of God was taking place.

“Thus more explicitly and more emphatically than the other New Testament writers does John declare the divinity of Jesus Christ as eternal Son of God.…”

At the time of his writing near the close of the first century, many, both inside and outside the church, were challenging the doctrine that Jesus could have been both fully God and fully man. Subsequent history bears the scars of this ongoing struggle. In our day, the deity of Christ continues to be assaulted on all fronts with considerable force. Outside the church, nonbelievers and proponents of the cults have challenged this doctrine. Within mainline denominations, some have joined in disavowing Jesus as God, the second person of the Trinity. Stripped of His deity, He is instead portrayed only in His humanity. If this is the case, we are left not with a Savior from our sins, but only with a man whose life stands as an example to us and nothing more.

Hopefully, you have read the Gospel of John in an effort to discover the uniform witness to Christ’s deity. Set aside time this Lord's Day to study each of the passages listed below. Record the heart of each verse on a sheet of paper. You may also want to mark these verses in your own Bible for later reference: John 1:49; 2:11; 3:16; 4:26; 5:25; 6:33; 7:29; 8:58; 9:37; 10:30; 11:27; 12:32; 13:13; 14:11; 15:1; 16:28; 17:1; 18:11; 19:7; 20:28; 21:14.