Was Jesus God? Was He man? Or was He the God-Man or God in human form?
“I and my Father are one” John 10:30.
Perhaps the greatest of these questions was the Arian controversy in the fourth century A.D. A man named Arius held that Christ was not of the same substance with God, but He was of like substance. The difference in the spelling of the two Greek words was what we call i or an iota subscript, an i written below the line. Arius was opposed by Athanasius. It was said that the Christian world was divided by an iota subscript. Arius’s view that Christ was of like substance held that Christ was a created being and less than God. Athanasius said that Christ was of the same substance or God in flesh. In A.D. 325 the Council of Nicaea decided in favor of Christ being of the same substance with God. Arius’s view continued to gain followers, especially in the eastern part of the empire. At one point it seemed that Arius and his like substance view would prevail, but at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381, the decision of the Council of Nicaea was ratified. This settled the matter for the time being. But there are still some who question the full deity-humanity of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of this message is to show that Jesus did indeed declare His oneness with God the Father.
The Good Shepherd
The Feast of dedication took place on the 25th day of the Jewish month Chislev, the same month as our December. So this event took place on our Christmas. Antiochus had defiled the Jewish temple by sacrificing a sow on the sacred altar. The body was boiled in a large pot. Then the residue was used to sprinkle the temple walls, thus totally defiling it. This act provoked a victorious Jewish rebellion led by Judas Maccabees. In 165 B.C. the temple was cleansed and rededicated. The Feast of Dedication commemorated this event. Since it was one of the lesser feasts, Jesus probably would not have attended it had He not been in nearby Judea. John noted that “it was winter” (v. 22), the rainy season. We read this events in the non canonical book first Maccabees.
This explains why Jesus was walking on Solomon’s Porch, a covered, colonnaded area running the full length of the temple area on the eastern side. It was at this time that the Jewish religious leaders, literally, suddenly formed a circle about Jesus (v. 24). Doing so, they made a demand. “How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” Literally they said, “Until when do you lift up our souls.” They were still fretting over their verbal defeat during the Feast of Tabernacles. He had held them in suspense. Jesus had deliberately avoided using the term “Christ” in public. The Jewish idea was that of a political-military figure. He would lead a revolt, throw off the Roman yoke, and establish His kingdom in which—with Him—the Jews would rule the world. Jesus avoided use of “Son of David” for the same reason.
If only He would say, “I am the Christ,” they could charge Him before Pilate as a threat to Roman supremacy. It was now only a few months before Jesus’ death. His popularity with the people was great. So the rulers were desperate for grounds on which to charge Jesus. Jesus had called Himself the Son of God. But His favorite term of self-designation was “Son of man.” It had messianic connotations but without the political-military aspect. But, as always, He refused to be drawn into their trap.
Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom in people’s hearts. This calls for a Suffering Servant Messiah, not a political-military Messiah. His kingdom is to be spread through proclaiming the gospel, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). No, Jesus did not pose as a political-military Messiah. Neither should His followers assume such a role in an endeavor to achieve spiritual goals.
His identity and equality with the Father
Jewish leaders asked Him, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly,” He did not say yes or no. Instead, He replied in His own way and time. What He said left no doubt that He was the Christ. But He did not simply say yes. Indeed, He said far more. Jesus began by reminding them that He had told them previously who He was, but they refused to believe Him. Furthermore, His works done in His Father’s name had not evoked their faith (vv. 25-26).
Then Jesus reopened the matter of His being the Good Shepherd, about which they had debated during His visit three months previously (John 10:7-18).
They had not believed in Him because they were not His sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (v. 27).
Then Jesus made a tremendous statement: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (vv. 28-29). Here is one of the great passages on the security of the believer. And it came from Jesus Himself! “Perish” renders a verb from whence comes the name Apollyon, one name of the devil. It may mean to go to hell. Literally, Jesus said, “Most certainly, no one of My sheep will go to hell.” “Neither” renders a strong negative. So again, “Most certainly, no one snatches them out of My hand.” Furthermore, His Father is greater than all, and, literally, “Nothing [man, devil, or thing] is powerful [enough] to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” We may stumble, lose our grip on our Heavenly Father, but we do not fall. He is holding on to us.
In Colossians 3:3 Paul said, “For ye are dead [to the old life of sin], and your life [salvation life] is hid with Christ in God.” “Is hid” translates a verb that has in it the idea of a lock. So our salvation life is protected by a double lock: with Christ, in God.
Then Jesus gave His plain answer to the Pharisees’ question, “I and my Father are one” (v. 30). Jesus mentioned Himself first because the question concerned His identity. Note that He still did not use the word Christ. But He said more. He asserted His identity and equality with the Father. In plain words Jesus claimed to be God in flesh ( read John 1:1,14). To the Jews, this was blasphemy, punishable by death by stoning (v. 31). There were no stones on Solomon’s Porch, but so enraged were these Jewish leaders that they went after stones. Jesus asked for which of His good works were they planning to stone Him (v. 32).
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33). In John 5:18 the charge was “making himself equal with God.” But here it is “being a man, makest thyself God.” Jesus called Himself God!
Jesus called Himself God!
Since His first visit to Jerusalem in His public ministry, the Jewish leaders had opposed Him. In each subsequent visit, their opposition became more venomous. This was the worst. His “hour” had not yet come. Jesus would die, but it would be according to the Father’s will, not from mob violence. So immediately following this incident He left Jerusalem, not to return until His time had come. However, before departing, He justified His claim to deity.
Jesus first appealed to the Scriptures. Assuming that these Jews were Pharisees, this was the ultimate in authority. He quoted from Psalm 82:6 where unjust judges were called “gods.” If this be true, He asked, why then did they propose to stone Him for blasphemy because He claimed to be God? (vv. 35-36). Because, as they would agree, “the scripture cannot be broken.” These judges were unjust. But Jesus is the One “whom the Father hath sanctified [set apart for God’s service], and sent into the world.” Of course, these Jews would deny this claim. So Jesus cited His works as evidence that this was true (vv. 37-38). “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”
“If I do” (v. 38) expresses a condition assumed as being true. And even though people do not believe in Him as a person, by the works He does, literally, they may come to know, and keep on believing that He and the Father are one. Only minds prejudiced hopelessly against Jesus can deny that Jesus did the works of God.
So we return to our question: Was Jesus God? He certainly and emphatically declared that He was. There is yet one more question to answer, and no one but you can answer it. Who is Jesus to you? The Bible presents Him as God’s virgin-born Son, God Himself in flesh for human redemption. History declares Him to be the greatest Person who ever lived. He is the supreme Teacher and perfect Example in doing God’s will. All of these are important beyond the ability of human language to express.
What is your personal relationship to Him? In the final analysis, for you that is the supreme question. How you answer it determines the quality of life you live on this earth and in the ever-unfolding eternity beyond. I pray that you will receive Him as your Lord and Savior. For anything less than this is to deny Him. Your acceptance or denial of Him has eternal consequences! Accept Him today.