Who Do You Say I Am?

From the Gospel of John:

No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known (Jn 1:18).

The only God has revealed God?! That presents a thorny conundrum for the anti-Trinitarians.

Our earlier post, Is Jesus God?continues to generate much criticism and denial. At first it was the Russellites (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bible Students) who sought to correct our theology; now it is the Unitarians and United Church of God who take issue with our scriptural interpretation.

These groups either denied the deity of Christ, or acknowledged His divinity while rejecting the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity which they condemned as polytheistic and in conflict with the ShemaHear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! [Dt 6:4]

A Unitarian said, “God and Christ are obviously separate individuals worthy of receiving worship.” So they accept the person of Jesus Christ as worthy of worship even though that is at odds with another passage that teaches, He is God; there is no other besides Him (Dt 4:35).

Not to mention that it violates the First Commandment, You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex 20:3).

Yet the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ is a god, but not God.

Puzzling, too, is that contrarians generally believe in the personhood of God and Christ, but deny the individuality of the Holy Spirit. A Unitarian told us that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but a spirit. Well, isn’t God a spirit? Jesus said to the woman at the well, God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24).

One of our critics said that the Holy Spirit has no independent thought because it simply carries out the will of the Father. Jesus said to His disciples:

My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work (Jn 4:34).

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (Jn 6:38).

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you (Jn 14:26).

We sometimes wonder why common sense isn’t one of the gifts of the Spirit!

Sects and cults—even some liberal denominations—share a misconception about the nature of God, and the personage of Jesus Christ. Anti-trinitarians will say that He is a created being, the Archangel Michael or the spirit brother of Satan. They reference all the New Testament scriptures which declare Jesus Christ to be subservient to the Father.

In Paul’s letter to the assembly at Phillipi we learn this:

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (Php 2:6-7).

In this passage of scripture Paul reveals that Christ, existing in the form (morphe) of God, emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives in order that He might fulfill God’s plan of redemption. This is a marvelous revelation that Jesus so humbled Himself to surrender His divine equality and assume the form of a servant.

Let’s take another look at our opening passage:

No one has ever seen God (theon)the only God (theos)who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known (Jn 1:18).

Now, the older translations were influenced by the Vulgate such as the King James version which reads more familiarly:

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son…He hath declared Him.

The anti-Trinitarians will seize upon this mistranslation as evidence that Jesus Christ is a created being, and not pre-existent.

We received every commonly debated refutation; that no one has ever seen God, and God cannot die so how can Jesus be God?

Jews understood that no one could face the spirit nature (Shekinah glory) of Almighty God and live. However, there were numerous Theophanies or Christophanies in the Tanakh (Old Testament) where God (Christ) would appear incarnate or as an angel of the Lord. We have one such event recorded in Ge 16:7-14 regarding Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant.

Recall that Sarai had banished Hagar from Abram’s household; and, while in the wilderness, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and offered her blessings. Hagar called the angel, LORD, and said (Ge 16:13): You are a God who sees. Have I even remained alive after seeing Him? 

Hagar knew that she had seen God (and lived!) so she called the place Beer-lahai-roi which means the well of the living one who sees me.

Another good example of a Theophany (also in Genesis) is the account of Jacob wrestling with a man all night long (Ge 32:24-30). At daybreak the man asked Jacob to let him go, but Jacob replied he would not do so until the man blessed him. The man (incarnate Christ) called Jacob, Israel, which means you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed (Ge 32:28). Jacob said to the man, Please tell me your name. The man replied, Why is it that you ask my name?

Recall that Moses asked God the same question and God said, I AM WHO I AM (Ex 3:14).

Then the man blessed Jacob. So Jacob named the place Peniel (which means the face of God), for he said, I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved (Ge 32:30).

Perhaps chapter 18 in the Book of Genesis is one of the more remarkable accounts of our Lord’s incarnations. Here we read that the Lord (accompanied by two men, or angels) appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. Abraham bowed himself and addressed the One as My Lord (Ge 18:3). The story follows that the Lord tells Abraham that Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son; and, as the men departed, the Lord said (Ge 18:17), Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? And the Lord told Abraham of His plans to destroy Sodom.

[We believe, too, that Melchizedek was an Old Testament incarnation of Jesus Christ. See our post, Is Jesus God?]

Now, to those who say that God cannot die, but Christ died so he can’t be God may we first establish that God is eternal. He tells Isaiah, I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last, I am He (Is 41:4b). Here, God establishes that He is before and after all things.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John writes that when he saw the vision of the Lord he fell to his feet like a dead man; and Christ spoke to him saying:

Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive evermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:17-18).

I am the Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8).

He who spoke through Isaiah the prophet, I am the first and the last, is the One who spoke to John, I am the Alpha and Omega.

He is the One who said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.

Who is the great I AMWho is the Alpha and Omega? Obviously,  He is God.

Our Lord and Savior told His disciples:

I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one has taken it from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (Jn 10:17-18).

Jesus Christ is God. He died on the cross for your sins, and after three days—by the power of God—our Redeemer rose from the dead to fulfill the prophecy of Hosea (Hos 13:14):

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O death, where are your thorns? Oh Sheol, where is your sting?

The mystery of God cannot be fully understood. We error mightily attempting to explain the LORD by the foolish wisdom of men.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God proclaims:

Understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me (Is 43:10-11).

Recall our earlier quote from John that Christ existed in the form (nature or substance) of God. The substance (substantia) of God is really the essence of the Trinitas doctrine as defined by the early church father Tertullian. The unorthodox will argue that the word Trinity can be found nowhere in the Bible, but neither can we find the word rapture.

Tertullian very clearly upheld the monotheistic understanding of God, but sought only to define the nature (or form) of God as evidenced by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He used (as we do) the example of the sun which exists substantially and visibly, but also in degrees. It emits light (visible and invisible), electromagnetic radiation, heat; and exerts gravitational influence on the solar system. Radiation and flares are forms of the sun’s substance just as a singular God is the form of divine substance with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being the emanation (or manifestation) of His power. As the sun is greater than the sunbeam so, too, is the Father greater than the Son (as it is written, Jn 14:28c).

It is so important to understand who is Jesus Christ. The religious leaders understood His claim to be God, and that’s why they sought to have Him arrested. We have recorded in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John a very revealing exchange between Christ and the Pharisees who engaged our Lord in a lengthy debate, and were so confounded by His piercing answers that they simply shrugged and asked (Jn 8:25), Who are You? It was a rhetorical question because Jesus’ claim to have been taught and sent by the Father was an exclamation of His deity. At the end of the chapter, Christ simply testifies, Before Abraham was born, I Am (Jn 8:58); and John writes that the Scribes and Pharisees picked up stones to stone Him.

When Jesus walked with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Phillipi He asked them, Who do people say I am? They answered John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. But who do you say I am? And Peter answered, You are the Christ (Mk 8:27-29).

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel  (which means God is with us) (Is 7:14)

Friends, the Lord Jesus Christ is asking you this moment, Who do you say I am?

Next: Bible Students Exposed