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A Biblical Case for the Deity of Jesus Christ

Shawn Kelley

GSEM 626: Contemporary Adventist Theological Issues

February 22, 2018


The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a movement that was born out of the Great

Disappointment of 1844. The church at that time was an amalgamation of various different

denominations, and thus, various doctrinal beliefs were represented among the people. Perhaps

one of the most striking differences in belief regarded the deity of Jesus Christ. Some held that

Jesus was neither eternal nor God. Others held that he was not eternal but was still God. Still

others held he was both eternal and God.

Only after several decades of humbling the spirit and searching the scriptures did the

church to come to the conclusion that “God the Eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ.”1

While this may be the official belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, there is a growing

trend among the laity to again question the deity of Jesus Christ.

The answer to the question of Christ’s deity has consequences that will echo throughout

eternity and should not be taken lightly. Paul was very clear in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 that anyone

who preached ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν “another Jesus” than that which is found in the scriptures is

condemned. Paul used the Greek word ἄλλον to firmly deny the belief that there can be more

than one view of Jesus that does justice to all the Biblical material.2

It is the purpose of this research paper to present a strong case in favor of Christ’s deity

by focusing on the biblical proofs that Christ is part of the Trinitarian formula, that he possesses

the names of God, that he possesses the characteristics of God, that he is equated to God, and

that he is directly referred to as God. These evidences are arranged to gradually move from

implicit statements of Christ’s divinity to more explicit statements of Christ’s divinity.

The first category of evidence regarding the deity of Jesus is his inclusion in the various

Trinitarian formulas found throughout the New Testament. These references to Christ are

Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe … A
Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines (Silver Springs: Pacific Press, 2005) 43
Robert A. Morey, The Trinity: Evidences and Issues (Iowa Falls: World Publishing, 1996) 281

important since, “His equality with God the Father is taken for granted”3 in them. While it is true

that deity is not explicitly stated, it is heavily implied, and thus, begins giving us hints that Christ

was more than a man. It is also important to note that various authors of the New Testament are

represented in these verses. This shows that Christ’s deity was not a concoction of one man but

believed in by all the apostles.

The first scripture that contains this implicit equation is Mark 1:9-11; here we see God

the Father present, speaking from the heavens that were torn open, we see God the Son receiving

an anointing for his divine mission, and we see God the Holy Spirit descending from heaven.

The second scripture that contains this implicit equation is Matthew 28:18-20. These

verses, most commonly referred to as the Great Commission, contain several evidences of

Christ’s deity and will be revisited throughout this paper, but for now the focus will be on the

Trinitarian baptismal formula outlined here. Within these verses, Jesus states that we are to

baptize “them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”4 This is

significant since we know that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”5 When

these two verses are combined together we see that the God Christ is reconciling to world to is

defined as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The third scripture that contains this implicit equation is 1 Peter 1:1-2. Peter’s greeting

here is unlike any other in the New Testament. Rather than defending himself as Paul does, Peter

begins by expressing what a relationship with God is like and defines that relationship by

including God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.6

Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Believe … A
Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines (Silver Springs: Pacific Press, 2005), 51
Matt. 28:19
2 Cor. 5:19
Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 43

The fourth scripture that contains this implicit equation is 2 Corinthians 13:14. Earlier in

2 Corinthians,7 Paul made the declaration that God was reconciling the world to himself through

Christ. Here at the close of the book, Paul describes the God that we are reconciled to and again,

like Matthew 28:18-20, it is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

While it is acknowledged that the Trinitarian formula is more of an implicit argument, it

does raise one’s awareness that Jesus Christ may be more than just a man. The next category of

evidences, however, is more explicit in nature and gives firm evidence in favor of Christ’s deity.

The first name of God that Jesus possesses is none other than Immanuel. In Matthew

1:21-23 an angel appears to Joseph with instructions regarding the messiah’s birth. Joseph is to

name the child “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”8 This was to fulfill the

prophecy of the foretold Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”9 This is not “God with us” in the

sense that he is on humanity’s side, but rather, this is “God with us” as one is present with one’s

spouse, personally and intimately. Thus, we should interpret Immanuel to state that God will

come down and be with us both physically and relationally.

The second name of God that Jesus possesses is the name “ku,rio,j” which is

translated as Lord. Prior to the New Testament being written, the Old Testament was translated

from Hebrew to Greek. This is what we refer to as the Septuagint. When the Septuagint was

created, the translators took the name Yahweh, which specifically referred to God the Father, and

translated it as ku,rio,j. Thus, ku,rio,j became the new name of the Lord God. The New

2 Cor. 5:19
Matt. 1:21
Isa. 7:14

Testament writers would then take these Old Testament passages that referred specifically to

Yahweh but apply them to Jesus Christ!10

A wonderful example of “ku,rio,j” being used to call Jesus God is Romans 10:9,13.

In Romans 10:9 Paul says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in

your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It was required of every early

Christian to refer to Jesus using the name that was reserved for only Yahweh! “Then in verse 13

comes the Old Testament proof text. Quoting now from Joel 2:32: ‘For everyone who calls upon

the name of the Lord will be saved.’ They take this Old Testament passage about Yahweh from

Joel and apply that to Jesus Christ and say if you confess that Jesus is Lord, then, just as the

Scriptures promise, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”11

Another example occurs in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Here, one sees the primitive church at

prayer. How is it that they are praying? They are praying to Jesus and referring to him by

Yahweh’s Greek title ku,rio,j.

One last example occurs in 1 Corinthians 12:3. “Therefore I want you to understand that

no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is

Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, not only does Paul refer to Jesus by Yahweh’s

Greek title of ku,rio,j but he says that the Holy Spirit of God actually causes us to refer to

Jesus in this manner. In other words, God causes you to refer to Jesus as God.

The third name of God that Jesus receives is the title “the son of man.” Critics often try

citing this statement to show that Christ never identified as God, but rather, as a man. While it is

true that in Ezekiel this phrase is used to denote a human being, it does not mean this phrase only

William Lane Craig, “Doctrine of the Trinity (part 2)” Reasonable Faith.
trinity-part-2/ (accessed March 28, 2018)

denotes a human being. Jesus is not referencing what we see in Ezekiel but rather what we see in

Daniel 7:13 and in Daniel 7:13, “son of man” takes on a very different meaning indeed.

In Daniel 7:13 we see that “the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days and is given a

kingdom and power and glory.” Jesus references this passage “most strikingly at his trial where

he tells his judges that men will see him, the Son of Man, sitting on the right hand of power and

coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62). … there can be little doubt that in Daniel, and the

use of it made by Jesus at his trial, the Son of Man indicates a supernatural figure of power and

glory who stands on God’s side of the great divide rather than man’s.”12

The fourth name of God that Jesus receives is the title o` qeo,j. o` qeo,j literally

translates as “the God” and is often reserved for only speaking about the Father. However, there

are times when the New Testament writers come right out and say that Jesus is “the God” or “o`


The first place where o` qeo,j is used to refer to Jesus is in Titus 2:13 which states we

are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus

Christ…” This verse is clear that not only is Jesus Christ the Savior but that he is also God.

Critics of this passage try to separate God from Jesus Christ by saying Titus is referring to two

different people. They interpret the passage to say that we are waiting on both God the father and

the Savior Jesus Christ. While it can be twisted to mean this in the English the Greek makes it

abundantly clear that we are waiting on one being that is both God and Savior since the

possessive pronoun appears at the very end of the verse.

Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 30
William Lane Craig, “Doctrine of the Trinity (part 3)” Reasonable Faith.
trinity-part-3/ (accessed March 28,2018)

“In Greek, it is tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon. Here it is literally ‘the great God

and Savior our.’ The possessive pronoun comes at the end of the phrase. And then follows Iesou

Christou – Jesus Christ. So the definite article at the beginning and the possessive pronoun at the

end brackets the phrase “our great God and Savior,” Jesus Christ.”14 This necessitates that the

adjectives “God and Savior” refer to the same entity, in this case, Jesus Christ. Thus, o`

qeo,j, is being used here to refer to Jesus.

The second place where o` qeo,j is used to refer to Jesus is in John 1:1. The portion

of the verse that is pertinent here is the final phrase “kai. qeo.j h=n o` lo,goj.” While

a word for word translation would be “and God was the word” the correct translation based on

Greek grammar directly equates Jesus to God when it says, “and the word was God.” This

second translation is correct “because if there is only one definite article ("ho"="the") in a clause

where two nouns are in the nominative ("subject") form ("theos" and "logos"), then the noun

with the definite article ("ho"="the") is the subject. In this case "ho logos" means that "the word"

is the subject of the clause. Therefore, " . . . the Word was God" is the correct translation and not

"God was the Word.”15

Addressing Jesus Christ with the names normally only reserved for God makes it plainly

clear that the New Testament writers certainly believed that Jesus was God. The New Testament

writers would further solidify their belief that Jesus was God by showing us he possesses that

characteristics of God.

The first characteristic of God that Jesus possesses is creatorship. Jesus was the creator.

This teaching can be found in various parts of the New Testament written by various authors

Matt Slick, “John 1:1 The Word was God” CARM. https://carm.org/john-1-1-word-was-god (accessed March, 28,

again showing that this is not the thoughts and interpretations of just one man but of all the

apostles collectively.

The first verse where we see the creatorship of Jesus Christ comes from Colossians 1:15-

16. “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things

were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or

rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

In order for this verse to be used properly, we need to clear up a common misconception.

Many Adventists who believe Christ is a created being point to the word “firstborn” and assert

this must mean Christ was the first created being.

It is important at this juncture to understand that the Greek word for firstborn,

πρωτότοκος, has two main meanings. The first meaning of πρωτότοκος denotes some sort of

temporal reality. The second meaning of πρωτότοκος is to denote sovereignty of rank.16

Opponents of Jesus’ deity will assert the first meaning for this passage while those proponents of

Jesus’ deity will assert the second meaning. The question that must be asked at this point is,

“which meaning did Paul have in mind when he wrote Colossians 1:15-16?” Both the timeframe

of writing and the immediate context make it highly unlikely that Paul had the first meaning in

mind, but rather, the second.

Concerning the timeframe of the writing, Michael Green rightly asserts that it had been a

long time since the word first born meant first in time. That definition had fallen out of favor. By

the time of this writing, it denoted more the idea of priority in rank.17

Concerning the immediate context, “Stripped from its context and from other Pauline

statements about Christ this phrase might be understood to include him among created things…

Peter T. O'Brien, Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon (Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002) 44
Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 20

But the context makes it plain that the title cannot refer to him as the first of all created beings

since the immediately following words, which provide a commentary on the title (ὅτι),

emphasize the point that he is the one by whom the whole creation came into being. Further,

apart from the incompatibility of this thought with the teaching of Paul in general about the

person and work of Christ, such an understanding is not required by the word πρωτότοκος

(“firstborn”) itself.”18

These two evidences leave little doubt that Jesus as firstborn does not denote that he was

created but rather that he is sovereign over creation. With that in mind, we can accurately read

verse 16 where it is said that, “all things were created through him and for him.” (emphasis

mine) Again, Michael Green rightly states that this verse makes it clear that “all was made by

him and for him.”19

The second verse where we see the creatorship of Jesus Christ, and by far the strongest,

comes from John 1:3. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing

made that was made.” This verse is an airtight proof that Jesus Christ is the uncreated creator.

Due to the law of excluded middle only two categories present themselves here. Either

something was created or something was not created. There are no other options. Also, according

to the law of non-contradiction, a thing cannot be both created and not created. This means the

categories are mutually exclusive. Any particular thing can only belong to one category. Which

category does Jesus belong in? The wording of the verse makes it clear “all things were created

through him” (emphasis mine). “Everything that ever came into being owes its existence to

Jesus, who caused it all to happen. If Jesus caused all created things to come into existence, then

He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could

Peter T. O'Brien, Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon (Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002) 44
Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 20

not have been created.”20 This verse proves two things in one stroke, not only did Jesus create

everything that exists, but by necessity, he must be uncreated, and thus, he is eternal.

The second characteristic of God that Jesus possesses is the ability to forgive sins. In

Mark 2 a paralytic man is brought before Jesus. When Jesus “Jesus saw their faith, he said to the

paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven.’”21 Every person present understood the significance of

this statement. They blurted “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can

forgive sins but God alone?”22 Who can forgive sins but God alone indeed! The answer is no

one. Every single person present understood that Christ was claiming deity in this moment which

is why they accused him of “blaspheming”. Not only did Jesus claim to be able to forgive sins

but he proved he could.23

The third characteristic of God that Jesus possesses is total authority over everything in

heaven and on earth.24 All is his, all belongs to him, and all is at his command.

The fourth characteristic of God that Jesus possesses, and perhaps the strongest, is that he

received worship. The Bible is clear that God alone should be worshipped and any time we

humans worshipped one of his messengers, the human was rebuked, and their worship was

redirected to God. “I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but

he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the

prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’”25

Greg Koukl, “The Deity of Christ: Case Closed” Stand to Reason. https://www.str.org/publications/deity-of-christ-
case-closed#.Wr0bIS7wapo (accessed March 28, 2018)
Mrk. 2:5
Mrk. 2:7
Mrk. 2:10-12
Matt. 28:18
Rev. 22:8-9

Not only do we see this worship of Jesus occurring at almost every stage of his life, but

we never once see him refuse this worship and redirect it back to God. He accepted this worship

because he was, in fact, God.

The first time one sees Jesus receiving worship is during the birth narrative in the gospel

of Matthew. Here the magi arrive in Jerusalem and announce to Herod their intention to worship

the one who has been born king of the Jews.26 The magi would successfully find the child and

when they did so “they fell down and worshiped him.”

The second time one sees Jesus receiving worship occurred after Jesus and Peter walked

on water. After the two returned to the boat and the wind and the waves calmed we see that those

in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”27

The third and fourth time one sees Jesus receiving worship occurred immediately after

his resurrection. The first instance came from a group of loyal women who had been his

disciples. “And behold, Jesus met [the women] and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and

took hold of his feet and worshiped him.”28 The second instance occurs immediately after the

women inform the disciples that Jesus was alive. “16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to

the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him,

but some doubted.”29

A few critics will point out the phrase “but some doubted” as if this was sufficient

evidence to state that Jesus was not God. This is of no concern. The Bible is clear on which

disciple doubted. That disciple was Thomas. However, we have biblical evidence that this

Matt. 2:2
Matt. 14:33
Matt. 28:9
Matt. 28:16-17

doubting Thomas became convinced that Jesus was both Lord and God and fell to his knees in

worshipping him.30 This is the fifth time we see Jesus receiving worship.

The fact that Jesus Christ possesses characteristics that can only belong to God is

sufficient evidence that he too must also be God. However, God goes further and places several

verses in the Bible equating Jesus to God.

The first instance where the Bible equates Jesus to God is Isaiah 9:6. Isaiah is perhaps

one of the most famous messianic prophecies in the entire Old Testament. Here, a common

Hebrew idiom is used where a future event is written in the past in order to show its certainty.

The promise is of a Messiah who will act as a great light to lead us out of a great darkness. This

great light is given many names in verse 6 such as Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.

However, our intention is to focus on the other two titles. According to this scripture the Messiah

will also be called “Mighty God, Everlasting Father…” These two titles directly equate the

Messiah to God the Father and bestow upon that Messiah divinity. If one believes that Jesus is

the Messiah then one must believe in his divinity by necessity.

The second instance where the Bible equates Jesus to God is John 4:26. Here we see a

Samaritan woman speaking to Jesus regarding the coming Messiah. Jesus utters something here

that would leave any Jew or Samaritan speechless. He equates himself to the “I Am”, the same I

Am that appeared to Moses at the burning bush.

“The Greek phrase of 4:26 (lit., “I am — who speaks to you”) holds a term that is

peculiar to the Fourth Gospel and will recur with some frequency: “I am” (Gk. ego eimi). This

expression may be a mere self-identification (so the NIV, NRSV, etc.) but the pronoun “he” in “I

who speak to you am he” does not exist in the Greek sentence. The phrase is emphatic and

unusual. As we will see later (8:58), it is not always just a term of self-identification that bears a
Jn. 20:28

predicate (e.g., “I am the bread of life,” 6:48). It is also the divine name of God uttered on Mount

Sinai to Moses (see Ex. 3:14). When this term (Heb. Yahweh) was translated into Greek, it

became ego eimi (“I am”), and throughout John we will see Jesus’ absolute use of this phrase

without a predicate to disclose more of his divine identity.”31

The third instance where the Bible equates Jesus to God moves along the same lines as

John 4:26 in that Jesus equates himself with the Father but this time it is even clearer in the

English. In John 8:58 Jesus boldly proclaims “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I

am.” Again, this is a direct referral to God in the burning bush of Exodus 3. Those present

clearly understood that Jesus was claiming deity and in response to this “they picked up stones to

throw at him”32 which was the punishment for such a crime.

The fourth instance where the Bible equates Jesus to God is Philippians 2:6. Here the

Bible says that Jesus was, “in the form of God.” It is essential here to understand the Greek that

is being used. The word translated as “form” in the English comes from the Greek word

morfh/|. This Greek word is meant to denote the outward visibility of an inner reality. In other

words, “It means that Jesus had always been one with God; …that the Father has openly

bestowed on him the sacred name of God, for it is to the divine love and judgment as brought to

us by God-become-flesh that every knee will eventually bow.”33

As one looks at the verses presented here, it becomes increasingly clear that the Bible

writers equated Jesus to God. In addition to the verses presented here, we have four clear

references where Jesus is directly called God.

The first instance where Jesus is directly called God is in John 20:28. Here Thomas,

while worshipping Jesus, refers to him as both “my Lord” and “my God.” This is weighty

Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 148
John 8:59
Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 24

evidence indeed! Recall earlier that we established God had two names in the New Testament

period. First ku,rio,j,, which was the name translated from Yahweh in the Septuagint, and

second, o` qeo,j.. In this passage Thomas grants both labels of deity to Christ while he is in

the process of worshipping him! In other words, Thomas explicitly equates Jesus to God.

The second instance where Jesus is directly called God is Hebrews 1:8-10. In this

passage, Jesus is being shown as supreme over every other living being. This is shown through

various statements made by God concerning Jesus. In verse 8 one sees God describe Christ in the

following way. “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of

uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’”34 In this passage God himself explicitly refers to

Jesus as God.

The third instance where Jesus is directly called God is Romans 9:5. In this passage, Paul

is discussing what God made available to the world through Jesus Christ. In discussing this Paul

states that from the Israelites “is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Paul is

quite clear in this passage that Jesus is God and that He is God to all.

The fourth and final instance where Jesus is directly called God is Colossians 1:19 and

2:9. William Lane Craig rightly states that these are the strongest statements of Christ’s deity in

the entire Bible. The verses read “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” and

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” respectively. For each of these verses it is

essential to understand the various Greek words for “dwell” and “divinity” as they leave little

doubt that Paul is clearly stating Christ is God.

The Greek language has two different words for “dwell.” The first Greek word for

“dwell” is parokein and it denotes a temporary dwelling, like a house. The second Greek word

Heb. 1:8

for “dwell” is katoike,w and it denotes a permanent dwelling.35 Paul specifically chose

katoike,w here to make it clear that whatever was dwelling in Jesus Christ was a permanent

characteristic. So what exactly then dwelt in Jesus? This question is answered with the Greek

meaning of “divinity.”

In the same way that Greek has two words for “dwell”, it also has two words for

“divinity”; one that is weak and one that is strong. Paul specifically uses the strongest word,

qeo,thtoj, here to show the divinity of Jesus. To make it even more emphatic he links it with

the word swmatikw/j. “[Paul] is claiming as powerfully as words will allow that the

inconceivable has taken place, and that Almighty God has made his permanent home in Jesus of


The four verses presented here leave no doubt in the reader’s mind what the Bible writers

believed regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ. They believed he was God.

It has been the goal of this paper to build a cumulative case in favor of Christ’s deity by

focusing of five categories of evidences. The question of Christ’s deity is not one to be taken

lightly and its answer is of infinite significance to each and every one of us. To paraphrase C.S.

Lewis, if Jesus is not God then he is of no importance. However, if he is God, then he is of

eternal importance. The one thing he cannot be is of moderate importance.

Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 22
Ibid, 22


Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000

Green, Michael. The Truth of God Incarnate. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977

Greg Koukl. “The Deity of Christ: Case Closed” Stand to Reason.

(accessed March 28, 2018)

Matt Slick “John 1:1 The Word was God” CARM. https://carm.org/
john-1-1-word-was-god (accessed March, 28, 2018)

McKnight, Scot. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996

Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists

Believe … A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines (Silver Springs: Pacific
Press, 2005) 43

O'Brien, Peter T. Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon. Dallas : Word,

Incorporated, 2002

Morey, Robert A. The Trinity: Evidences and Issues. Iowa Falls: World Publishing, 1996.

William Lane Craig. “Doctrine of the Trinity (part 2)” Reasonable Faith.
s2-doctrine-of-god-trinity/doctrine-of-the-trinity-part-2/ (accessed March 28, 2018)

William Lane Craig. “Doctrine of the Trinity (part 3)” Reasonable Faith.
s2-doctrine-of-god-trinity/doctrine-of-the-trinity-part-3/ (accessed March 28,2018)

“On my honor, I promise to maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and personal

responsibility on this assignment,