In Korea, we can easily see the people who approach us with the magazines, The Watchtower and Awake. They are called Jehovah's Witnesses. Socially, the JWs are best known for their practices of refusing: (1) to serve in the military; (2) to salute the flag; (3) to celebrate Christmas, birthdays, or other holidays; and (4) to give or to accept blood transfusions. For this reason, they are seen as being an antisocial group in Korean society. Doctrinally, they denied the doctrine of the Trinity because the word ‘Trinity’ does not even appear in the Bible. They believe that Jehovah is the only true God, the creator of all things, but Jesus was God's only direct creation, not part of the Trinity. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is closely related to the doctrine of two natures of Jesus Christ. If we confess that Jesus Christ is the same the substance of God, we also believe the Trinity. However, if we believe that Jesus Christ is inferior to God, we deny the Trinity. Thus, the questions raised here are: Is Jesus fully God, equal and one with the Father? Why is it so important? How do we prove it?
Biblical Statements of Jesus’ Divine Nature: “Who do people say that I am?” (Mk 8:27)
The proper answer of the question, 'Who is Jesus Christ?' is always founded upon the biblical representation of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, it is clear that Jesus is presented as one with the Father. Furthermore, Jesus is presented there as both human and divine. Christ reveals both the divine and human nature in so speaking and acting as God and as man.
1) The actions of Jesus reveal a divine identity.
Through his actions, Jesus Christ shows his unique identity of being both human and divine. Jesus saw himself as one who had authority over the temple (Mk 11: 15-19), over the demons (Mk 1:27, 32-34), over sickness and diseases (Mk 1: 29-31). Also, we can see that Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytics, woman, and other people (Mk 2:7, 2:5). Jesus’ miracle-working activity we can see in the Bible is another way to show his identity (Jn 2:11).2) Who carried out these behaviors? Who has this authority? The answer is simple and clear. Only God can do this. Only God has the authority over all things. Only God can forgive the sins. Only God can perform this miracle. So, we should confess Jesus is both God and Human.
2) The words of Jesus reveal a divine identity.
Another way Jesus disclosed his identity of both God and Human was through His speech. This is found in His use of “Amen”, which means “I tell you.” The Bible refers to this expression as the single word that revealed the Jesus’ identity of both God and Human. This sentence occurs as a divine declaration in Old Testament. In particular, the Gospel of John revealed Jesus’ divine nature by this expression, “I am saying”. In John, it can be found seven times (John 4: 26; 6:20; 8:24, 26,58; 13:19; 18:5,6,8). These seven occurrences of “I am saying” show that Jesus is the one who brings us the eternal. Who can give us eternal life? Only God can give us the eternal life. Thus, the series of saying reveals the unique identity of Jesus Christ being equal with God.
3) The cross and the resurrection of Jesus reveal a divine identity.
In Isaiah 40-55 and Philippians 2, God reveals Himself in achieving for us the atonement in the self-sacrifice and self-humiliation of His Son on the cross. The nature of God’s love is revealed in God’s redemptive act in the incarnate and crucified Christ. The self-giving and self-sacrificial aspect of God’s nature is revealed in the suffering of the cross of Christ. Christ conquered death and was raised from the dead because he is God by nature, so that he can be grasped from the curse of Christ to the victory of Christ. Through Christ's victory over sin and death, Christ, at the same time, testifies that he is God by nature. Thus, the history of Jesus, his humiliation and his exaltation, is the unique act of God’s giving of himself, in which he demonstrates his deity to the world by accomplishing salvation for the world.
Why is it so important that Jesus is fully God?
The Christian doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ is often discussed in terms of "incarnation." Incarnation is a difficult yet important word, summarizing the basic Christian belief that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Far from being an optional extra, something which had accidentally been added and which now requires removal, this doctrine is an essential and integral part of the authentically Christian understanding of reality.
Many heresies such as Jehovah’ Witness and Mormons which denied the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ appear to envisage their denying as establishing a new, more relevant and universal version of Christianity. Historically, Christianity has regarded the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ as essential to its identity, and any attempt to eliminate or radically modify them would seem to lead to a version of Christianity which is not continuous with the historical forms it has taken in the course of its development.
If the traditional historical framework is declared to be wrong, the consequences of this declaration for each and every aspect of Christian theology must be ascertained. Discard or radically modify the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation, and the idea that Jesus Christ is both God and Man becomes a dogmatic assertion without foundation, as assertion which many of more humanist inclinations would find offensive. It is perhaps significant that many critics of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ were themselves originally attracted to Christianity through precisely the theology they are now criticizing. And what, it must be asked in all seriousness, is the converting power of an incarnation-less Christianity? The faith that Jesus Christ is fully God is what kept and keeps Christianity growing and spreading. The sheer vitality, profundity and excitement of the Christian faith ultimately depend upon these.
Furthermore, the Bible, especially the New Testament represents Christ as acting as and for God in every area of crucial relevance to His acting and speech. When we worship Jesus Christ, we worship God; when we know Christ, we know God; when we hear the promises of Christ, we hear the promises of God; when we encounter the risen Christ, we encounter none other than the living God. The idea that Jesus Christ is fully God is the climax of Christian reflection upon the mystery of Christ - the recognition that Jesus Christ reveals God; that he represents God; that he speaks as God and for God; that he acts as God and for God; that he is God. We are thus in a position to take the crucial step which underlies all Christian thinking on the incarnation - to say that, as Jesus Christ acts as God and for God in every context of importance, we should conclude that, for all intents and purposes, he is God.
A further vital consideration concerns the whole doctrine of redemption, the fulcrum of the Christian faith. If God has not redeemed us through Jesus Christ, the entire gospel is false, and the Christian hope little more than a cruel illusion. The electrifying declaration that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ has as its central presupposition that Jesus is God. In her essay ' Creed or Chaos'(1940), Dorothy L. Sayers wrote: “The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to the New Testament, it is Jesus who is the Savior. The New Testament texts making this suggestion would include Matthew 1:21 (which speaks of Jesus saving his people from their sins), Luke 2:11 (the famous Christmas message of the angels: ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you’), Acts 4:12 (which affirms that salvation comes through Jesus), Hebrews 2:10 (which calls Jesus the ‘author of salvation’). Therefore Jesus is fully God. (Athanasius argues that Jesus is God incarnate. The logic of his argument goes something like this: Only God can save. Jesus saves. Therefore Jesus is God.)
Why is Christ as the fully God of such importance to the Christian faith here and now, and some twenty centuries after his death? The answer is clear and simple: Jesus Christ’s significance lay in his being God incarnate. Jesus Christ is fully God because He is our Savior -- and the Bible stands as witness.
Reverend and Doctor Jin O. Jeong is an assistant pastor for Korean congregation at Zion Lutheran Church, Belleville, IL. He graduated from Luther University and received a Ph.D from Yonsei University. He was also a Research Fellow at Hebrew University and Visiting Scholar at Yale Divinity School. Tel: 618-920-9311 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org