The Surprising Sayings of Jesus Christ: Who Was Jesus Christ? - Part 2

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The Surprising Sayings of Jesus Christ

Who Was Jesus Christ? - Part 2

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As addressed in the previous article in this series, Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Peter responded, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16)—which Jesus affirmed (Matthew 16:17). We examined the significance of Jesus coming as the Christ, the Messiah. But how are we to understand His being the Son of God?

To some of Jesus' day, "Son of God" was simply a title for the messianic king of the line of David. For, when God promised David that He would establish a perpetual dynasty through his descendants beginning with Solomon, God said, "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son" (1 Chronicles 17:13).

"This remarkable statement," notes The Nelson Study Bible, "affirmed that the dynasty of David had such an intimate relationship with God that its kings would be considered God's sons in an extraordinary way" (note on verse 13).

But was Jesus simply a special royal heir of David?

It is vital that we understand the truth. John wrote: "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15). He further explained that "only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" can live a godly life of overcoming sin (1 John 5:5, New International Version). Indeed, John said, "whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23).

So Jesus' identity is of supreme importance. It is essential, therefore, that we study who He was—who He is. As we will see, He made some rather surprising statements about His identity.

The only begotten

The issue is further clouded by Scripture's reference to the angels of the spirit realm as "sons of God" (Job 38:7). Even Adam, the first man, was a "son of God" (Luke 3:38). In both cases, God is "Father" through producing these beings through an act of creation. Converted Christians, spiritually begotten through the Holy Spirit, are also referred to as "sons of God" (Romans 8:14-16), a fact we will examine more in another article in this series.

Yet Jesus said He was God's "only begotten Son" (John 3:16, emphasis added throughout). The apostle John still called Him that even long after there were many Spirit-begotten Christians in the world (1 John 4:9). Clearly, then, Jesus' identity as the only begotten Son of God was unique.

Today, many understand that this crucial aspect of Jesus' unique identity is to be found in His virgin birth. They are certainly on the right track. Let's notice what happened.

When Christ's mother, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph but still a virgin, an angel announced to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

When Mary miraculously became pregnant, an angel assured Joseph, ". . . That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). Jesus, then, had a human mother but no immediate human father. Rather, God the Father was directly His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true of no other person who has ever lived. According to Luke 1:35, this is why Jesus was called the Son of God.

Furthermore, it should also be recognized that Jesus' conception was not only physical, but He was begotten to a spiritual life empowered by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Although converted Christians are spiritually begotten of God at some point in life—after they repent of having lived in opposition to Him—Jesus' spiritual conception as God's Son happened at His physical conception, which again makes Him unique. At no point was Jesus ever converted to God's way of righteousness, for, though He would grow in spiritual wisdom (Luke 2:40-52), He was never unconverted. He was, from conception, the perfect Son of God.

Making Himself God?

Jesus' claims of being the Son of God were too much for many in His day. They accused Him of blasphemy when He "said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18). In fact, Jesus provoked them all the more by saying things such as "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30). Again, the Jews cried blasphemy "because You, being a Man, make Yourself God" (John 10:33). They saw His claim of an intimate family relationship with God as placing Himself on the same level as God—and that, to them, was impossible.

But was Jesus actually claiming to be God? Let's examine the possibilities.

We clearly see hints that Jesus existed even before His human conception. Referring to an event that occurred before the creation of mankind, Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Yet was Jesus really around thousands of years before His own birth? And, if so, might He not have been as one of the angels, which would of course be quite remarkable in itself?

The clearest revelation came when Jesus was directly asked, "Whom do You make Yourself out to be?" (John 8:53)—and was then challenged over His age in regard to His claim of knowing something that Abraham had thought almost 2,000 years before. "Then the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?'" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:57-58). Then the astonished crowd tried to stone Him to death (John 8:59).

Why did His statement so incense the crowd? Not only was He claiming preexistence, He was claiming to be God! The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains: "'I am' implies continuous existence, including existence when Abraham appeared. Jesus was, therefore, asserting that at the time of Abraham's birth, he existed. Furthermore, I AM was recognized by the Jews as a title of deity. When God commissioned Moses to demand from Pharaoh the release of the Israelites, he said, 'This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM has sent me to you"' (Exodus 3:14). [One scholar] states that 'the phrase harbors within itself the most authentic, the most audacious, and the most profound affirmation by Jesus of who he was" (1981, Vol. 9, p. 99).

This amazing truth is revealed elsewhere in the New Testament as well. Of God, the "Rock" of Israel in the Old Testament (compare Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 18:2), the apostle Paul explained, "That Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Yet how could this be? And who, then, is God the Father?

In the beginning

To help explain, the apostle John began his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-3; John 1:14).

Paul confirmed that God "created all things through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9; compare Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus, then, was no mere man or angel. He was God, along with the Father.

The many scriptures that refer to God the Father and Jesus the Son, who is also God, help us to understand that together They constitute a family—the God family. That family, at present, has two divine members—God the Father and another called the Word, who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. (As mentioned earlier, we will examine the role of converted Christians as members of the family of God in a future article.) As our free booklet Who Is God? explains in more detail, various scriptures do show that there is only one God, but the one God is the God family.

Within that family the Father is preeminent. Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). Jesus explained that He serves as the Father's spokesman:

". . . I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught [or instructed] Me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). And "I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak . . . Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak" (John 12:49-50).

It was in this capacity that Jesus could function as the "Word" of God—speaking and carrying out what the Father instructed Him, even commanding the universe into existence (Psalm 33:6).

No, Jesus Christ did not appear on the scene just in New Testament times. He was the "Lord" who interacted with people throughout the entire Old Testament. Yet what of the Father? He was, it may come as a surprise, generally unknown to mankind before Christ came in the flesh. In fact, one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to reveal the Father (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 17:25-26).

To see this more clearly, consider that, although Abraham walked and talked with God, and Jacob wrestled with Him (see Genesis 18; Genesis: 32:22-32), John 1:18 says, "No one has seen God at any time." Jesus Himself told the Jews that they had "neither heard His [the Father's] voice at any time, nor seen His form" (John 5:37). Yet God had spoken the Ten Commandments to all Israel (Exodus 20:1).

This all makes much more sense when we realize that, though there are distinct references to the Father in the Old Testament (as in Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13), it was Jesus Christ who interacted with mankind as God on the Father's behalf.

God with us

No wonder Jesus was to be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), "which is translated, 'God with us'" (Matthew 1:23).

At His incarnation (coming in the flesh), the Word "emptied" Himself of the glory and might He had had as God with the Father (Philippians 2:7, New Revised Standard Version). For as a man, He explained, "I can of Myself do nothing" (John 5:30) —nothing supernatural of Himself, that is—and "the Father who dwells in Me does the works" (John 14:10).

Yet, although Jesus was no longer omnipotent while in the flesh, He was still God—the same divine Person who had created the universe. So others rightfully worshiped Him (Matthew 2:11; Matthew 8:2; Matthew 9:18; Matthew 14:33). While human Jesus certainly was more than just a man, being Immanuel, God made flesh. But He was human in the fullest sense, for "in all things He had to be made like His brethren . . . For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15).

Just like the rest of us, Jesus, who constantly referred to Himself as the Son of Man, fully experienced life in the human flesh and was subject to all of its temptations—feeling the pulls of the flesh and of Satan's spiritual broadcast of wrong moods and attitudes (compare Ephesians 2:2). Yet Jesus never gave in and, thus, never sinned (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6), the sinless Jesus, our very Creator, laid down His life to pay the death penalty for the sins of all mankind, becoming a sacrifice for us so we could live eternally (John 3:16; Isaiah 53:1-12). In love for us, He died an agonizing death by crucifixion.

Yet that was not the end of the story. Before His death He had prayed to the Father, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5).

Thus, three days and nights after His burial, Jesus was resurrected to divine spirit life—restored to His former glorified state, again with inherent divine power (Colossians 2:9; Romans 1:4). And we are still to worship Him, even as we worship the Father (John 5:23).