What does the phrase “deity of Jesus” mean? That’s the focus of this article. To get started, we need to know that “deity” refers to Jesus being God. In fact, he is the Second Person of the Trinity.
And the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all share the same divine nature.
But Jesus is unique because he is both fully God and fully human. And the doctrine of the deity of Jesus—the truth that he is fully God and fully man—is exclusive to Christianity.
In brief, the deity of Jesus means he is God and the Second Person of the Trinity. But it also implies additional core doctrines of Christianity. For example:
- Jesus is also fully human through the miracle of the virgin conception (incarnation)
- Jesus lived a sinless life
I. “Deity of Jesus” Means Christ Is God
Jesus lived during the early first century AD. He has had a more significant impact on the entire world than any other person. In fact, Christianity is based on his birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection.
Without a doubt, the deity of Jesus is an essential doctrine of Christianity. The evidence that Jesus is God comes from several sources. For example:
- Jesus claimed, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)
- John wrote that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, John 1: 14)
- Paul proclaimed that Jesus was God manifested in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16)
1. Jesus Claimed to Be God
Undoubtedly Jesus made it clear he is God. For instance, he claimed to be:
- Messiah-God (Mark 14:61-64)
- Jehovah (Yahweh) sharing God’s glory (John 17:5; cf. Isa. 42:8) and calling himself “I AM” (John 8:58; cf. Ex. 3:14)
- Equal with God by forgiving sins (Mark 2:5, cf. Isa. 43:25), being honored as God (John 5:23), and having the power to raise and judge the dead (John 5:21, 25, 29; cf. 1 Sam. 2:6; Joel 3:12)
- God by accepting worship and titles of deity (Matt. 8:2; Matt. 9:18; Matt. 15:25; Matt. 20:20; Mark 5:6; John 20:28)
- To have equal authority with God (Matt. 5:21-22; 28:18-19; John 13:34)
- God by requesting prayer in his name (John 14:13-14; 15:7)
2. The disciples acknowledged Jesus to be God
Moreover, Christ’s disciples were his closest companions during his three-year ministry. They, above all, would be in the best position to judge whether Jesus’ claims to being God were legitimate.
The disciples were clear in:
- Declaring Christ’s deity (Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3)
- Calling Jesus by God’s names (John 1:9, John 4:25-26, 42; Eph. 5:28-33; Rev. 1:17; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 21:2; Rev. 22:13)
- Ascribing acts of God to Jesus such as forgiving sins (Col. 3:13; cf. Jer. 31:34), judging the world (2 Tim. 4:1), and saving the world (John 4:42; cf. Isa. 43:3, Isa. 43:11)
II. Jesus is a Member of the Trinity
Since we have shown that Jesus is God, it’s time to review his role as the second Person of the Trinity.
Christians believe that our one God exists as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.
If that doesn’t make complete sense, you’re in good company.
- The Trinity is a Christian mystery that our finite minds cannot fully comprehend
- We only know about it because it is in the Bible
But that doesn’t mean we can’t “apprehend” something about it. A famous illustration of the Trinity is the triangle.
A triangle helps us apprehend how three persons can share one divine nature
- Picture a triangle with each corner labeled Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. These three corners are distinct from each other.
- The corners must also exist simultaneously for a triangle to be a triangle. In other words, without three corners: no triangle.
- The triangle illustrates how all three members share one divine nature.
This illustration shows how three distinct persons (corners) share one divine nature (triangle).
However, while Christians believe Jesus is fully God (Col. 2:9), we are also convinced that he is fully human.
But how is that possible?
III. The Virgin Conception (Incarnation)
For Jesus to be fully human, he would have to have been born into humanity, much like you and me. The act of God being born in human flesh, then, is an integral part of Christianity.
It’s something we call “the incarnation.” In short, the incarnation refers to Jesus (i.e., God) taking on bodily form in the womb of a virgin named Mary. Jesus being miraculously conceived in the virgin Mary is called the “virgin conception.”
Matthew 1:18–25 and Luke 1:26–38 give insights into how this chain of events–both natural and supernatural–came to pass. These events are: (1) the virgin conception and (2) Jesus’s birth.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a young virgin (Luke 1:34) engaged to Joseph (Luke 1:27). Before marriage, she became pregnant without ever having sexual relations (Matt 1:18). And she remained a virgin until she delivered Jesus.
The miracle of the virgin conception involved all three members of the Trinity. God the Father sent God the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus in the womb of a virgin named Mary.
IV. Why Was the Virgin Conception Necessary?
So, Jesus was conceived in a virgin. If you’re like many of us, though, your natural response to that might be, “Why?” In other words: Why was the virgin conception necessary?
In short, the virgin conception kept Jesus from inheriting humankind’s “sin nature” (Eph. 2:3).
Let’s unpack that statement.
The concept of the “sin nature” goes way back. In fact, our “sin nature” goes back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden (Gen. 3). Subsequently, every human has inherited a “sin nature” from our parents (Rom. 5:12-15; 1 Cor. 15:22). As a result, every baby naturally conceived by a human father and mother has inherited a sin nature.
What’s more, the bad news is that our sin results in three deaths (separations):
- Separation from God (spiritual death)
- Physical death (when our soul and physical body separate)
- Eternal death (the separation from God we would have had in hell unless he intervened)
Consequently, that is why Jesus, who is God (Col. 1:15, Col. 1:19), came to earth and became human. But there was a significant difference with Jesus. He did not inherit a “sin nature.”
V. Why Didn’t Jesus Inherit This Sin Nature?
Jesus didn’t inherit a sinful human nature (Heb. 2:17) because of his supernatural conception by God (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35). Instead, he took on a second, perfect human nature (Phil. 2:6–7). In other words, Jesus is one Person with two natures. He is fully God and fully human.
To illustrate, let’s return to the triangle example of the Trinity. Now we place a circle touching but not overlapping the corner labeled Jesus.
This circle represents Jesus’ perfect human nature. The touching of the circle to the triangle is called the hypostatic union.
The circle touching the triangle is a simple but profound illustration.
- It represents the combination of divine and human natures in Jesus
- It shows how Jesus had both a divine nature and perfect human nature
Notice I said “both.” This distinction is critical. I am not saying that Jesus is half God and half man. He is, on the contrary, fully God and fully man. Jesus is one Person with two distinct natures.
1. What is a “nature?”
The word “nature” can be confusing. It refers to all the attributes or characteristics that make up something. And that includes a being, whether God or human. For example:
- God’s divine nature is all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and infinite
- A finite human’s nature is limited in knowledge, power, and abilities
Therefore, the deity of Jesus refers to his eternal divine nature. Additionally, it relates to his second nature. This second nature is a perfect human nature.
- Jesus’ human nature is perfect. But it is still finite and distinct from his divine nature (Phil. 2:5-8)
- Jesus is fully human in all points except sin (Hebrews 4:15)
VI. Evidence that Jesus is Fully Human
Unquestionably, there is clear evidence of Jesus’ humanity. For example, Jesus:
- Was miraculously conceived in his human, biological mother named Mary (Matt. 1:23; Gal. 4:4)
- Was born after Mary’s normal nine-month pregnancy (Luke 1:26, Luke 1:31) and natural childbirth (Luke 2:6-7)
- Had ad a legal, non-biological, human father named Joseph (Matt. 1:18-19)
- Was born of the Jewish tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:14)
- Grew like any other human being into a young person (Luke 2:40, Luke 2: 42-52)
- Had human relatives, including “brothers” (John 7:5) and “sisters” (Mark 6:3); and he was related to John the Baptist (Luke 1:36)
- Was human. He had the three dimensions of personality—including intellect (John 2:25), emotions (John 11:35), and a will (John 6:38)
- Experienced hunger (Luke 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), and tiredness (John 4:6)
- Felt physical pain at his crucifixion and the pain of separation from God the Father (Mark 15:25-34)
- Experienced death (Acts 2:24)
- Possessed a fully human spirit and soul (John 12:27; John 13.21; John 19:30)
VII. Proof of Jesus’ Sinless Life
Moreover, Jesus lived a sinless life because he did not inherit a sin nature. But is there any proof? Yes!
Significantly, both Jesus’ disciples and enemies testify to his sinlessness.
For example, Jesus’ enemies who declared his sinlessness included:
- Pilate (Matt. 27:24)
- The Roman centurion at the crucifixion (Luke 23:47)
- Judas (Matt. 27:4)
Jesus even confronted his enemies, saying, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46). Despite this challenge, none could.
Additionally, Jesus’ disciples and writers of the New Testament affirmed his sinlessness, including:
- Paul (2 Cor. 5:21)
- The writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:15; Heb. 7:26).
- Peter (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 Pet. 2:22)
- John (1 John 3:5)
VIII. The Theological Importance of Christ’s Sinlessness
Without a doubt, Christ’s sinlessness is essential to our salvation. To clarify, the gospel (Rom. 1:16) affirms that Jesus died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
How does that work?
Because of our sinfulness, we deserve God’s punishment. And that means eternal separation from him in hell. Why?
As sinners, we cannot be in the presence of a sinless, perfect God. Our sinfulness also explains why we experience a spiritual separation and physical death. Ultimately, we will be separated from God eternally in hell unless we accept Jesus as our Savior. In the deity of Jesus, then, we find hope!
Jesus had no sin of his own. And because he was sinless, he could take on our sins (2 Cor. 5:21).
1. How did the Israelites deal with sin in the Old Testament?
In the Old Testament, God commanded the people to sacrifice spotless animals. Their sacrifice covered or atoned for the nation’s sins. In this way, God could be reconciled with his chosen people.
The Passover lamb was the first sacrifice God commanded of the Israelites living in Egypt (Ex. 12:14). The sacrificed Passover lamb’s blood was applied to the Israelite’s doorframes.
If God the lamb’s blood on the doorframe of a house, he would “pass over” that home. And he would not permit “the destroyer” to enter (Ex. 12:23). But any home without the lamb’s blood on the door frame had their firstborn son killed that night (Ex. 12:12-13). This final plague convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt.
2. Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb
In this way, Jesus was the ultimate Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19). Just as the blood of the Passover lamb released the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, Christ’s blood freed Christians from slavery to sin (Rom. 8:2).
But what is the most significant difference? The Israelite’s annual sacrifice of a Passover lamb had to be repeated. But Jesus’ sacrifice was enough. No more sacrifice is needed!
IX. Why Did Jesus Have to Be Both Fully God and Perfectly Human?
Because of our sinfulness, we are spiritually separated from God. Further, we cannot do enough “good works” to earn our way into heaven. Good works are not the “admission ticket” to heaven. Instead, we need to remove the spiritual separation between God and us.
That is to say, God the Son (Jesus)—while retaining his full God nature—took on a second, perfect human nature. And he was sinless.
Because he is fully God and perfectly human, Jesus bridges the chasm between humans and God.
- As God, he could reach to God
- As a human, he could reach humans
Being both God and human allowed Jesus to act as a mediator between God and humans (1 Tim. 2:5).
- As a human, Jesus could represent all humans
- Being sinless, he could be our substitute and suffer for humankind’s sins
- Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross was on our behalf. It took away all the punishment we should have received from God for our sins
- Since he is fully God, Jesus has the power to save us!
X. Answering Skeptics Questions to the Deity of Jesus
Many people ask two crucial questions regarding Jesus’ Deity:
- If Jesus is God, why did he experience thirst, tiredness, and suffering?
- If Jesus is a human, how can he be all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal?
These are great questions. And the answer is simple yet profound: “Jesus has two natures!”
Now, to explain that further: Jesus is not just God or just man. He is both fully God and fully human. He has two natures. So any question about Jesus must be asked as two separate questions!
- One question refers to his human nature.
- The second question relates to his divine nature.
For instance, consider the following questions:
“Did Jesus get hungry or tired or suffer?”
- As a human: “Yes”
- As God: “No”
“Did Jesus know all things?”
- As God: “Yes”
- As a human: “No”
Making this critical distinction helps us defeat any claims of contradiction. For example, the New Testament simultaneously speaks of Jesus being:
- Weak (Matt. 8:17), yet omnipotent (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:3)
- Ignorant of something or growing in knowledge (Luke 2:52), yet all-knowing (John 2:23-24; Acts 1:24)
- Limited (2 Cor. 8:9), yet eternal (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17)
Consider the following passage that demonstrates both natures simultaneously (John 13-14). Here, we read of Jesus eating dinner because he was hungry (human nature).
Now before the Feast of the Passover … During supper … (John 13:1-2)
During the meal, Jesus declares his divine nature. He says,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father, also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7)
XI. What’s Your Next Step?
The deity of Jesus refers to the truth that Jesus is fully God and fully human.
And we ought to rejoice about Jesus’ two natures. Christ had to be both divine and human.
- He needed to be divine to have the power to save us
- He needed to be human to represent us adequately
Further, as a human, he was tempted in all points, just like us. That means he understands our human experience (Heb 4:15).
So, we can trust that Jesus not only hears us but understands us as we pray and live our spiritual lives. And most importantly, he has the power to help in every circumstance.
And what’s more, the resurrected Jesus is still alive in heaven mediating between God and us (1 Tim 2:5). He is continuously in God the Father’s presence, interceding for us (Hebrews 4:15). He is still representing us while powerfully sustaining our salvation!
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—. Systematic theology, volume one: introduction, Bible. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers 2002), 259
—. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 122
Ryrie, C. C. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 284-289