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Christmas Fundamentals: The Deity of Christ

December 5, 2012

Far and away my favorite version of the story of Jesus’ birth is that found in John 1. I know, John’s gospel doesn’t say anything about Mary, Joseph, inns, shepherds and all the other features that make for such great seasonal decorations. I love it because of the massive theology conveyed in such an incredibly brief section. In fourteen verses, John conveys the deity of Christ, His creation of everything, His Messianic role, His salvation of men and His revelation of God to mankind. John’s argument in those first fourteen verses is very straightforward. The Word is God. In the Word is life and light. The Word became flesh and lived among men. The rest of the book of John unfolds the life and death of the Word, giving evidence to the claim that Jesus is God the Son. As we think of Jesus this season, we must think upon His deity. The deity of Jesus is another of those crucial doctrines without which there is no salvation and no hope.

 If Jesus was not God, this entire holiday is a stupid waste of every one’s time and money. If Jesus is not God, we might as well celebrate the birth of Santa Clause, revel in the resurrection of the thanksgiving turkey and wait expectantly for the second coming of the Easter bunny. The Bible states very plainly that Jesus is God. Despite the assertions of some cults, Jesus during His earthly ministry unmistakably claims to be God. John’s gospel reveals several such claims. In John 4:25-26, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that He is the Messiah. In John 8:58, Jesus claims to be eternally existent and takes for himself the name of God. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” The claim to have existed before Abraham is bold, but the the application of the Divine name, “I AM” to Himself is a claim of Deity. It is the same as if I was to travel into a Muslim country and say, “I am Allah.” The Jews understood Christ to be taking as His own the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush. This name, I AM, from that time forward became the primary name by which the Jews knew God. Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 is that He existed before Abraham, that He spoke to Moses from the bush and that He is God. The Jews, not believing Jesus to be God, were outraged and responded by picking up stones to stone Him. In John 9:35-37, Jesus tells the formerly blind man that He is the Son of God. In John 10:31, Jesus’ claim to be God is even more plain. There He says, “I am my Father are one.” Every Jew present understood exactly what Christ was saying. The claim was unmistakable, Jesus was claiming equality with God the Father. He was claiming to be God. In response to His claim, the Jews immediately began picking up stones to stone him. Instead of slipping away from them, as He did in John 8, Christ asks them for which good work they were stoning Him. The Jews response was they were not stoning Him for good works, but “because that thou being a man, makest thyself God.” Jesus knew Himself and proclaimed Himself to be God.
Not only did Jesus claim to be God. He accepted as true the claims of others about Him. John the Baptist announced that “this is the Son of God.” Nathanael said to Him, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God.” Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Peter said, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God.” These claims, just from the book of John, make it undeniably certain that the Bible tells us Jesus is God, that Jesus Himself claimed to be the Son of God and that His disciples claimed during His life that He was the Son of God.
The deity of Christ, the fact that He is God, is crucial to our understanding of Christmas. If Jesus was a remarkable teacher and prophet but nothing more, then we have nothing to celebrate. If Christ is not God, we are believing a fraud and should mourn rather than celebrate. Because Christ is God, we have the privilege of remembering and celebrating the most remarkable event that has ever happened. Santa Clause’s abilities to exceed the speed of light, manipulate mass, suspend time and spy on every child in the world doesn’t compare to the Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign God of all, becoming an infant for the express purpose of growing to adulthood and dying on a cross to redeem men from sin. The happiness of family and friends and fellowship does not compare to the joy that is ours because God chose to clothe himself in human flesh. As you celebrate Christ this Christmas, remember John’s summary of his gospel, and the real marvel of the Christmas season, in John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
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