It is the firm conviction of this writer that in Jesus Christ we meet the Living, True God who has become flesh. In this post I will attempt to explain what I mean when I say "Jesus is God." Oxford scholar and former atheist Alister McGrath noted that, "Through Jesus Christ, whom we recognize to be God incarnate, a direct and personal encounter between ourselves and God is made possible."(1)
The Old Testament prepares us for one of the greatest breakthroughs in human history. It is as though we were looking at a beautiful painting only through a peep hole. Once we are in full focus of the painting we know and experience more than what our previous reality could see. Previously we only saw a glimpse. Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering servant. Psalm 22 reads about a righteous sufferer and in Malachi 3:1 it is “the Lord” God who will suddenly come to His temple. Indeed, in the tabernacle of the wilderness it was God Himself who tabernacles with Israel. Luke 1:68 records:
NET | "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people.
Here it is God, the Lord or Yahweh of Israel, that has come to help and redeem. We read “blessed be the Lord” because He has raised up a “horn of salvation” in the house of David. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt by His mighty act. Jesus brings deliverance and redemption to mankind yet Jesus is not simply an agent of God as was Moses. In this instance as in others God serves as His own messenger. He is God in the flesh, God Incarnate. In the tabernacle in the wilderness it was God Himself that dwelled therein and not merely an agent. When you see Jesus you see God (John 1:1, 14, 18; John 20:28; John 14:9-10).
For the Unitarian or Socinian this can be acceptable only if we mean Jesus is God in merely a representative fashion. As we have seen, what is said about Jesus transcends what can be said of simply an agent or shaliach. Moses nor any of the apostles are ever worshipped. Trinitarians believe that Jesus is God but He is the second of three divine, eternal persons who can each be called God.* The term “God” in their thinking is much like a senate or council but with more complexity in which the three divine persons share in Godness or the divine nature. What is said about Jesus transcends Him merely being a divine being or an Incarnate angelic figure. This writer as well as Oneness Pentecostal theology rejects both views when asserting that Jesus is God.
The same God of the Old Testament who speaks as a He now comes as one of us. It is only by looking at Jesus that anyone has truly ever seen God. This does not mean that Jesus looked like God to those around Him; however, the external appearance of God is Jesus (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4). While on earth Jesus was fully and completely man and fully and completely God without confusion. The Trinitarian will have little problem here as long as one actually means Jesus is God the Son. My Unitarian friends will stumble here and even suggest some sort of logical contradiction. For them Jesus could not be God. In reality, this is simply untrue. The Incarnation may better be considered a hopeful paradox but to say it is a contradiction of logic would be to militate against the nature of God. God is truth and all truth is God's truth.
There is nothing that does not allow God, who created all things, to enter into His own creation. There is nothing illogical about Him appearing in human form. When we speak of the Incarnation we are not saying human nature is divine nature. Or that God stopped being God in order to add human nature to His existence. For there to be a logical contradiction we would need to be saying one thing is another thing in the same instance and in the same respect. Peter Kreeft notes:
“it is not a simple self-contradiction to say that one person can have two natures, though it is a simple self-contradiction to say that that person is both one person and two persons, or one nature and two natures, at the same time. There is even something of an analogy in ourselves—we are both material and immaterial, spatial and nonspatial, visible and invisible—for we are both body and soul...the Incarnation, however miraculous, is not a self-contradiction. Therefore the Incarnation is possible.”(2)Saying Jesus is God and man is not a logical contradiction. If we were saying that Jesus is a square circle then that would be a logical contradiction. Circles and squares are from the category of shapes. To say Jesus is one and the other in the same instance and at the same time would be a contradiction. That is also like saying red is blue or blue is red in the same instance and at the same time. Red and blue belong to the category of colors. To say Jesus is blue and yet red at the same time and in the same respect would be a contradiction. This is not the claim of Christians today who assert that Jesus is God and man.
Jesus is a man but is not the same as every other man who has existed. It is not contradictory for there to be a circle which is also blue to indeed be a circle. God and man may be different but that in no way means they are logically incompatible. Jesus as God and man cannot be a square and a circle but He can be a blue circle. As a blue circle Jesus is both shape (circle) and color (blue) without any contradiction. God and man are different but it does not follow that because they are different then they are also logically incompatible.
Jesus then not only reveals what it means to be divine but what it also means to be truly human. Are we confident that we fully understand what it is to be human? Often we are content that we know what it is like to be human. We are human after all. Is that all there is though? Could it be that through Jesus Christ we see what it is like to be truly human?
The fact that something seems paradoxical does not make it true or false either. Science and quantum theory point us to the inevitability of paradox and seeming contradiction. This however is usually because our knowledge is partial or superficial. We must always realize that our reality or worldview may be partial or incomplete. From the standpoint of the scientific observer an electrons velocity can hardly be determined. This is true though from the standpoint of the finite observer. This does not mean that the electron is actually randomly moving or confused.
Jesus being uniquely God and man is not a logical contradiction. While on earth Jesus chose to be humbled and die as a man and a slave to mankind (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-11). If it is impossible for Jesus to be God then one must first presuppose that God cannot enter into His own creation. As we have seen in the Angel of the LORD texts the God of the Bible does and certainly can appear in theophanic forms as well as unique divine appearances as the messenger Himself. In Christ the invisible has become visible.
1) McGrath, Alister E. (1997) Studies in Doctrine (186) Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids Michigan.
2) Kreeft, Peter, Tacelli, Ronald K. (1994) Handbook of Christian Apologetics © 1994 by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. All rights reserved.
* Trinitarians will assert that Oneness Pentecostals contradict the persons of the Trinity but one must presuppose the Trinity first. This article is not intended to address this argument.