In the Messianic Community a lot of debate swirls around the subject of the Deity of Yeshua. Much of the debate and disagreement is a matter of semantics. Some people prefer the forthright, unambiguous "Yeshua is God." Others prefer more subtle wording, and opt for expressions like "divine nature," or "incarnation of the Word," or "manifestation of God," or "angel of the LORD," etc.
Some people's attempts to answer the Deity question are so ambiguous that they sound like a denial of Yeshua's Deity. Unfortunately, some explanations do in fact amount to an unambiguous denial of Yeshua's Deity.
There is no Bible verse that plainly says "Jesus is God," but there are plenty of verses that lead to that unavoidable conclusion. Space in this short article will not allow for a lengthy exposition of all the Bible passages, so I will mention just a few of the passages where Yeshua's Deity is very obvious.
I. THE WORD MADE FLESH
John 1:1 & 14
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." This alone should be enough to prove the Deity of Yeshua. If the Word was made flesh, and the Word was God, then we can say that God was made flesh.
This is simple logic that even a child can understand. I realize this line of reasoning is "linear Greek logic" rather than "cyclical Hebraic thought," but that makes it no less true. Those Greek guys weren't wrong about everything, you know.
The Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation tries to deny Yeshua's Deity by saying that the Word was merely "a god." The reason they say this is because when the Greek text says "the Word was God," there is no definite article "the" before "God." The JWs claim that if the Greek text does not say that the Word was the God, then the Word was merely a god.
You don't even need to know Greek to disprove this idea. All you need is a Greek-English interlinear New Testament, and you can see several places where "God" is written in Greek without the definite article "the." And all these verses refer to God, not to "a god" - unless you want to believe that John the Baptist was a man sent from a god, that we become children of a god, that we are born of a god, that no one has seen a god, and that Nicodemus said Yeshua was a teacher come from a god. (See John 1:6, 12, 13, 18 & 3:2, all of which lack the definite article.)
II. WORSHIP ONLY GOD
Matthew 4:10 & Luke 4:8
"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
Yeshua made it unmistakably clear that only God is to be worshipped. We are not to worship mere mortal men nor even holy angels. Yet Yeshua received worship from people on several occasions.
In Strong's Concordance you can find at least 14 places where people worshipped Yeshua. Unlike the angel who stopped John from offering worship that belongs only to God (Rev. 22:8f), Yeshua freely received the worship that people offered Him. And when the Bible says people "worshipped" Yeshua, it uses the Greek word proskuneo, the very same word that is used in Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8, the verses that say we are to worship only God. The fact that Yeshua accepted worship which belongs only to God is further proof of His Deity.
III. PRAYER TO YESHUA, OR NECROMANCY?
Acts 7:59 & 9:6, 17 & 22:17-21
Necromancy is attempting to communicate with the spirits of those who have departed from this earthly life. Necromancy is forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:11.
If Yeshua were a mere man and not Deity, then Stephen and Paul and Ananias would all be guilty of necromancy, because all three of these men communicated with Yeshua after He left this earth.
As Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, "Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit." Paul conversed with Yeshua on the road to Damascus and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Ananias communicated with Yeshua when Yeshua sent him to lay hands on Paul.
I have heard some people say that prayer and praise should be offered only to the Father, and never to the Son. Prayer to the Father does seem to be the norm. However, that does not rule out prayer and praise to the Son. The communication that Stephen, Paul, and Ananias had with Yeshua was certainly prayer. In regards to giving praise to Yeshua, the Book of Revelation describes the Lamb receiving praise many times. (See Rev. chapters 5, 7, & 14.).
IV. THE STATUS OF THE SON
Hebrews chapter 1
The Book of Hebrews begins by proclaiming the superior status of the Son of God over that of angels. Yeshua is the One by whom the worlds were made; Yeshua is the express image of God's person; Yeshua upholds all things by the word of His power; Yeshua is to be worshipped by all the angels. (See Heb. 1:3-6.)
Yeshua's Deity becomes even more obvious when He is addressed as "God": "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8).
Without the Deity of Yeshua, how can Yeshua be addressed as "God"? If Scripture calls the Son "God," then we must conclude that the Son is in some sense God. If the Bible calls the Son "O God," we should not be afraid to proclaim Him as God.
V. THE FATHER AND SON OF EQUAL VALUE AND WORTHY OF EQUAL HONOR
In John 14:28 Yeshua said, "My Father is greater than I." Some take this to mean that Yeshua is less than Deity and therefore not Deity. But in John 5:23 Yeshua said, "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him."
The Greek word translated "honor" not only means to respect; it also means to fix a value upon. If the Son were a lesser Deity than the Father, He would not be worthy of equal honor as the Father nor be as equally valuable as the Father.
How then is the Father greater than the Son? This greater-lesser aspect is not about the Divine nature; it is about the respective roles of the Father and the Son. The Son willingly submits Himself to the Father's authority. As Paul says, "the head of Messiah is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). But this headship role of the Father does not deny nor diminish the Divine nature of the Son.
To illustrate, consider the respective roles of a husband and wife. Right before Paul says "the head of Messiah is God," he says "the head of the woman is the man." So the headship of man over woman is patterned after the headship of the Father over the Son. My wife submits to my authority, but that does not lessen her human nature. In regards to authority in our family, my wife would say, "My husband is greater than I." Yet she is just as much a human as I am, and is worthy of equal respect and is of equal value as a human. In the same way, the Father is greater in authority than the Son, yet the Son is just as much Deity as the Father is.
VI. THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS
1 Timothy 3:16
"And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
How can it be said that God was manifested in the flesh without the Deity of Yeshua? How can it be said that God was justified in the Spirit and seen of angels without the Deity of Yeshua? How can it be said that God was believed on in the world and received up into glory without the Deity of Yeshua?
Some people refuse to accept the truth of Yeshua's Deity only because they cannot understand it or explain it. How could Yeshua be God in the flesh and yet pray to God in the heavens? Was Yeshua praying to Himself? Was He praying to an empty heaven? How can there be two (or three) God-beings when Yahweh is one?
It is natural that questions like these arise. But these are natural questions that arise from the natural man, and "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him" (1 Cor. 2:14). The idea of God taking on a body of human flesh seems foolish to the natural man, but "the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Cor. 1:25).
A man does not need to understand the "how" of a spiritual truth in order to believe it. Many spiritual truths are proclaimed in the Bible without explaining how they work. How is it that the lifting up of hands is regarded as the evening sacrifice (Ps. 141:2)? How is it that our old man was crucified with Messiah when we were not yet even born (Rom. 6:6)? How is it that we are now seated in heavenly places when we are still here on earth (Eph. 2:6)? How is it that Yeshua was slain from the foundation of the world when the Crucifixion took place thousands of years after the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)?
We believe these Biblical truths simply because they are stated in the Bible, even though we do not fully understand how they are possible. We should likewise believe the testimony of Yeshua's Deity because it is stated in the Bible, even though we do not understand how it is possible.
When Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16 about God being manifested in the flesh, he introduced this by saying "great is the mystery of godliness." A mystery is something not yet fully revealed, something partially hidden. The Bible tells us everything we need to know to live a life that pleases God, but it does not explain everything about the anatomy of God. Some of the details of God's anatomy are none of our business. They are among "the secret things [that] belong to Yahweh our God" (Deut. 29:29).
Even with the testimony of the Scriptures, we still only "know in part" and "see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:9, 12). So it should not surprise us if we cannot fully understand the mystery of God with our finite, flawed human minds. Much of the Deity debate amounts to "doting about questions and strifes of words" (1 Tim. 6:4). We are like a bunch of blind-from-birth people arguing about various shades of color.
VII. THE IMPORTANCE OF YESHUA'S DEITY
If so many details about God are unfathomable mysteries, why is it important to believe in Yeshua's Deity? To give a simple answer, because the Holy Bible proclaims it. A denial of Yeshua's Deity is a denial of the truth of the Scriptures - not just the few verses discussed in this brief article, but other verses that proclaim His Deity in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
If people are uncomfortable saying the three-word statement "Yeshua is God," and prefer to word it differently, I do not object. Sometimes it's probably wiser to word it somewhat differently, depending on who you are talking to. But don't let yourself be persuaded to deny the Deity of Yeshua because of pressure from others or because of your inability to understand it and explain it. There are lots of things we believe about the natural material world and about the invisible spiritual world without understanding them and without being able to explain them. If we can believe all these things, we should have no difficulty believing in the Deity of Yeshua when we have the sure testimony of the Scriptures proclaiming His Deity.
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Image: If I May But Touch, by Daniel Botkin, from his Monochromatic Monotheistic Gallery on danielbotkin.com