In Korea, we can easily see the people who approach us with The Watchtower and Awake magazines. They are called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Socially, TJs are best known for their practices of refusing to: (1) serve in the military; (2) salute the flag; (3) to celebrate Christmas, birthdays or other holidays; and (4) give or accept blood transfusions. For this reason, they are considered an anti-social group in Korean society. From a doctrinal point of view, they denied the doctrine of the Trinity because the word ‘Trinity’ does not even appear in the Bible. They believe that Jehovah is the one true God, the creator of all things, but Jesus was the only direct creation of God, not part of the Trinity. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity is closely related to the doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ. If we confess that Jesus Christ is the same as the substance of God, we also believe the Trinity. However, if we believe that Jesus Christ is inferior to God, we are denying the Trinity. So the questions raised here are: Is Jesus fully God, equal and one with the Father? Why is this so important? How to prove it?
Biblical statements of the divine nature of Jesus: “Who do they say I am?” (Mk 8,27)
The correct answer to the question: “Who is Jesus Christ?” is still based on the biblical representation of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, it is clear that Jesus is presented as one with the Father. In addition, Jesus is presented there as both human and divine. Christ reveals both divine and human nature by speaking and thus acting in God and in man.
1) Jesus’ actions reveal a divine identity.
Through his actions, Jesus Christ shows his unique identity as being both human and divine. Jesus considered himself the one who had authority over the temple (Mk 11, 15-19), over demons (Mk 1, 27, 32-34), over diseases (Mk 1, 29-31). Also, we can see that Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytics, the woman and others (Mk 2: 7, 2: 5). Another way of showing his identity is Jesus’ miraculous activity that we can see in the Bible (Jn 2:11). 2) Who performed these behaviors? Who has this authority? The answer is simple and clear. Only God can do this. Only God has authority over all things. Only God can forgive sins. Only God can perform this miracle. So, we should confess that Jesus is both God and Human.
2) Jesus’ words reveal a divine identity.
Another way in which Jesus revealed his identity as 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 only word that revealed the identity of Jesus as both God and Man. This phrase appears as a divine statement in the Old Testament. In particular, the Gospel of John reveals the divine nature of Jesus with this expression: “I say”. 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 say” show that Jesus is the One who brings the Eternal to us. Who can give us eternal life? Only God can give us eternal life. Thus, the series of sayings reveals the unique identity of Jesus Christ being equal to God.
3) The cross and resurrection of Jesus reveal a divine identity.
In Isaiah 40-55 and Philippians 2, God reveals himself by making the atonement for us in the self-sacrifice and 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 aspect of self-giving and self-denial of the nature of God is revealed in the suffering of the cross of Christ. Christ overcame death and rose from the dead because he is God by nature, so that he could be seized with the curse of Christ at the victory of Christ. By Christ’s victory over sin and death, Christ, at the same time, testifies that he is God by nature. Thus, the story of Jesus, his humiliation and his exaltation, is the unique act of the gift of himself from God, in which he demonstrates his divinity 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 but important word, encapsulating the fundamental Christian belief that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Far from being an optional supplement, something that had been added by chance and now must be deleted, this doctrine is an essential and integral part of the genuinely Christian understanding of reality.
Many heresies such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who denied the Trinity and divinity of Jesus Christ seem to view their denial as establishing a new, more relevant and universal version of Christianity. Historically, Christianity has viewed the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ as essential to its identity, and any attempt to eliminate or radically alter them would appear to lead to a version of Christianity that is not continuous with the historical forms it took during its development.
If the traditional historical framework is declared to be erroneous, the consequences of this statement for every aspect of Christian theology must be verified. Dropping or drastically altering the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and the idea that Jesus Christ is both God and Man becomes a dogmatic, baseless assertion, one that many more humanistic inclinations would find offensive. It is perhaps significant that many critics of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus Christ were themselves originally drawn to Christianity through precisely the theology they now criticize. And what is, it must be asked very seriously, the power of conversion of a Christianity without incarnation? The faith that Jesus Christ is fully God is what has kept and keeps Christianity growing and spreading. The pure vitality, depth and excitement of Christian faith ultimately depend on it.
Furthermore, the Bible, especially the New Testament, represents Christ acting as and for God in all areas of crucial importance to his action and his word. 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 meet the risen Christ, we meet no one other than the living God. The idea that Jesus Christ is fully God is the culmination of Christian reflection on the mystery of Christ – the recognition that Jesus Christ reveals God; that he represents God; that he speaks like God and for God; that he acts in 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 in God and for God in every context of importance, we must conclude that, at all useful purposes it is God.
Another vital consideration concerns the whole doctrine of redemption, the backbone of the Christian faith. If God has not redeemed us through Jesus Christ, the whole gospel is false and Christian hope is little more than a cruel illusion. The electrifying statement that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ has as a 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 a man, then He is totally irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is totally irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary for the salvation of the relevance that a man rightly believes in 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 from the angels: “Today in the city of David, a Savior was born of you “), Acts 4:12 (which asserts that salvation comes through Jesus), Hebrews 2:10 (which calls Jesus” the author of salvation “). So Jesus is fully God. (Athanasius argues that Jesus is God incarnate. The logic of his argument goes like this: Only God can save. Jesus saves. Therefore, Jesus is God.)
Why is Christ, as fully God, so important to the Christian faith here and now, and some twenty centuries after his death? The answer is clear and simple: the importance of Jesus Christ lies in the fact that he is God incarnate. Jesus Christ is fully God because he is our Savior – and the Bible is the witness of this.
The Reverend and Doctor Jin O. Jeong is the Assistant Pastor of the Korean Congregation at Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville, Illinois. He graduated from Luther University and received a PhD from Yonsei University. He was also a scholar at Hebrew University and a visiting scholar at Yale Divinity School. Phone. : 618-920-9311 Email: [email protected]