Who is Jesus?

Many people today believe all religions are essentially the same

and worship the same God…that simply is not true.

The messages of numerous religious leaders throughout history proclaim their particular beliefs to their followers. Confucius, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed are several of the better-known religious leaders. In the past two hundred years others, such as Joseph Smith and Charles (Taz) Russell, have risen up for a season and then died. Most of these leaders met resistance of some sort, but none to the level that Jesus encountered. Jesus is the name that evokes a myriad of emotions and responses in people of all cultural and religious thinking. No other person has received such microscopic scrutiny. When Jesus was on earth, many devoted their lives to Him, while others wanted to kill Him. Some thought He was a great leader; others said He was a deceiver. Many were persuaded God sent Him to earth, yet others strongly felt that He worked through the power of Satan. So, who is Jesus? This is undoubtedly one of the most debated questions of all time.

Today, ask several people what they think of Jesus, and do not be surprised if no two responses are the same. Even now, Jesus’ name still stirs up a wide array of responses. Some give Him the highest respect; others think He is a charlatan. Some people love him with their whole heart; others despise him. Many frequently swear by Him. By doing so, some are taking His name in vain and others are giving Him the highest praise.

Worldwide there are many religions, and virtually all of them acknowledge Jesus. Only a few organized groups recognize most religious figures; however, most acknowledge that Jesus lived and had great influence. This alone demonstrates the importance of knowing as much about Him as possible. Although many religions recognize His existence, there is wide disagreement concerning who He is. Some claim Jesus was just a good man and a prophet, others say He was a created being of some sort, still others say He was the Son of God. Only one of these positions can be right. If one religious group believes Jesus is a good man and a prophet, they are directly at odds with those believing He is the Son of God, as well as with those believing He is a created being. If Jesus is the Son of God, He cannot be part of creation, for these viewpoints directly oppose each other. Clearly, the fundamental question is: Who is Jesus?

Many people today believe all religions are essentially the same and worship the same God. From the Biblical perspective, that simply is not true. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Bible says Jesus is THE WAY, not a way. The Bible teaches He is the way to the Father. A proper understanding of His identity is required for a person to know the Father God. In addition to every major religion acknowledging Jesus, our Julian calendar centers on His birth (A.D., B.C.). Secular merchants and media acknowledge Easter Sunday as the day commemorating Jesus’ resurrection. Since Jesus impacts society in so many areas, understanding of His identity becomes a critical focus. For one seeking the truth, the beginning point of research should be gaining as complete an understanding of His identity as possible. This would include gaining all the information available about who He is. There are differing opinions on this, depending on the source of material.

Believing only one religion can be right seems arrogant and offensive to some individuals. In a zealous effort for achieving unity and peace, people often are willing for compromise. Unfortunately, compromising truth leads to error. It is not brash to believe you have the truth. The following sports example illustrates this point. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010. It is not brash for them to say they were the best team in the National Football League for the 2010 season. This fact is in the record books. Knowing the truth about Jesus should bring pride and confidence in that belief. It is not necessary to put people down during a disagreement. Rather, lovingly explain the areas of controversy and let listeners check them out for themselves. One will never win others over by putting down their beliefs. My advice to Christians is to share the Jesus that you know. It is important to explain the distinctions between Christianity and other beliefs, focusing mainly on the claims of Christ.

Jesus is one of the most controversial figures in history. Many people today say He is the Son of God. This statement is Biblically correct. Unfortunately, many religious groups say Jesus is the Son of God, but their meaning is very different from that of evangelical Christianity. When questioning them, it becomes apparent they actually believe He was a created being of some sort. Therefore, in today’s spiritual climate, stating Jesus is the Son of God is incomplete. What then, is the best way to portray Jesus and clearly distinguish Christianity’s core belief? To agree with the Bible’s teachings about Jesus, Christians must proclaim Him as God in the flesh.

1 John 2:22-23 reads, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?…Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either.” This verse reinforces the fact that a wrong belief about Jesus’ identity ultimately means one does not know the Father either. Denying the Son’s deity is also denying the Father. What does the Word of God say about this issue? In John 4:25-26 we find the terms Christ and Messiah are synonymous. Jesus was telling the woman at the well that He was the Messiah. The Old Testament foretold the Messiah’s deity. Isaiah 7:14 reads: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” In Matthew 1:23 we learn the term Immanuel means God with us.

Someone recently commented that many parents name their sons Immanuel, inferring it is not significant that Jesus was given that term. Human parents naming a son Immanuel is quite different from God stating that Jesus was to be called Immanuel. God told the prophet Isaiah that Jesus was to be given this title. His messenger Isaiah foretold the Messiah’s deity many years before His birth. Later on, Isaiah recorded another prophecy about the coming child (Messiah). Isaiah 9:6 states that the child would have many titles. The child’s most important title is Mighty God. Think of that! The prophet, under God’s direction, clearly enunciated that Jesus would be deity. That was a powerful statement! The prophets wrote that the Messiah (Jesus) was to be deity! Zechariah 12:8-10 provides insight on Jesus. Verse eight says that in the end-times the “Lord” will defend Jerusalem. He will destroy their enemies. Verse 10 gives a vivid description of the Lord. It states that the Jews will “…look on Me whom they pierced.” Since the Lord Jesus is the person they pierced, it would indicate that He is deity.

The Old Testament often refers to the deity of Messiah and Jesus, and this teaching prevails throughout the entire Bible. The New Testament contains many passages teaching and referring to Jesus and His divine claims. In John 5:18 the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming equality with the Father, which enraged them to the point of seeking to kill Him. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, was stating that He was equal with God the Father. The Jewish leaders just could not cope with His claims. In John 10:27-33 the Jews again observed that Jesus was claiming to be God. The Jews did not comprehend how a man could also be God. This claim by Jesus infuriated them to the point of wanting to stone Him. Looking back, I am amazed that the scribes and Pharisees could not figure out who He was. These religious leaders had studied all the prophecies about Messiah and His deity. When they actually looked at Jesus in His bodily form, however, they did not believe He was truly deity conceived by the Holy Spirit.

John 8:58 records a conversation in which Jesus referred to Himself as I AM. God was talking to Moses at the burning bush when He referred to Himself as I AM (Exodus 3:14). God’s annunciation of His identity was something Moses never forgot. In John, when Jesus referred to Himself in the same manner as God did when He spoke at the burning bush, the conclusion is evident. He was claiming to be God! The unbelieving Jews of that era understood this claim, for in John 8:59 they attempted to stone Him for what they thought was blasphemy. Their hardened hearts and lack of spiritual understanding kept them from the truth.

Biblical Affirmation of Jesus’ Deity

The Gospels note several incidents reaffirming Jesus’ deity. In Mark 2:5-7 Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic He was about to heal. The scribes reasoned in their hearts that He was blaspheming, because only God can forgive sins. They were partly right—forgiving sins is one of the prerogatives belonging only to God. Human beings forgive others in order to restore a strained or broken relationship. A simple mortal cannot restore another person’s standing before God. Jesus was exercising divine authority in forgiving the man’s sin or He was blaspheming.

Jesus exhibited power over nature. In Luke 8:22-24 we read that Jesus got into a boat with His disciples. When they encountered a windstorm so fierce that waves of water began to fill the boat, the disciples woke Jesus because they were terrified. In verse 24, Jesus spoke the word, the wind ceased, and the lake became calm immediately. This incident contributed to the disciples’ initial understanding that Jesus was more than a mere mortal.

Matthew 14:22-33 relates the account of Jesus walking on water. Perhaps you have heard the statement: “If you think you are perfect, try walking on water.” Walking on water demonstrated Jesus had power over nature – an attribute exclusive to God! Some might argue that Peter’s walking on the water proved humans have abilities and powers that Jesus displayed. Careful reading of the passage reveals that Peter asked Jesus to command him to come to Him on the water. Peter was able to walk on the water only at Jesus’ direction. If Peter had been able to walk on the water with his own ability, he would not have started sinking moments later when he took his eyes off Jesus and started focusing on the stormy waves. Additionally, he would have been able to regain his position on the waves and resume walking if he had the power within himself. It was not Peter’s power that enabled this feat; he was depending entirely on Jesus’ supernatural attribute!

Exodus 34:14 instructs God’s people not to worship anyone but the Lord God. He is a jealous God and worshipping anyone or anything else is idolatry. In John 9:6-38 we find the story of a man blind from birth. Jesus restored his sight by putting clay on his eyes and directing him to go wash it off. In verses 35-38, the man whose sight was restored came back, wanting to know who Jesus was. When Jesus told him He was the Son of God, the man believed and worshipped Him. According to this account, Jesus received and approved of the man worshipping Him. No one knew the Scriptures better than Jesus did. The last command of the Bible is found in Revelations 22:9 where we are told to “Worship God.” Jesus’ response to the blind man leaves two possible conclusions: Either He was a lunatic of epic proportion, or, He was God in the flesh!

Finally, in John 2:18-22 Jesus made a prophetic statement that I believe was the most astounding prediction of all time! He prophesied that His body would be destroyed (crucified) but that in three days He would raise Himself from the dead! Think about it. Jesus stated He would rise from death by His own power. Undoubtedly, this was the most awesome display of power the world has ever witnessed. In today’s world, an atomic bomb would be the biggest display of power ever known. Bombs are illustrations of the power to destroy; Jesus’ display of power was to save lives! Jesus’ statement was so amazing even the chief priests and Pharisees could not forget it. After Jesus’ crucifixion, they went to Pilate asking for a secure watch on His tomb, because they remembered His prophecy in Matthew 27:63 that stated, “…Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’” One of the best Scriptures for defending the deity of Christ is John 2:18.

In John 10:17-18, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about this issue. In verse 17, He stated that “I lay down my life that I may take it again.” In verse 18, He explained further by saying, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Jesus was telling them that no one could take His life; He would lay it down. He also reminded them that He had power to take it again (raise Himself), just like He stated in the John 2:18-22 passage.

In John 5:21-26 Jesus expounded even further on this subject. In verse 21 He stated, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” Here, Jesus told us that just as the Father has power to raise the dead, He also has the same power. Jesus can give life to anyone He wishes. There are no exception clauses in Jesus’ statement in verse 21 or anywhere else. Power to raise “whoever He wills” means Jesus was able to raise Himself from the dead. In John 5:26 Jesus stated that “as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” Jesus had the same power over life and death, including His earthly life, as the Father does. Since Jesus lived on this earth as God, He obviously had the power to raise Himself from the dead.

Jesus told Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” Philip most certainly had a hard time grasping the meaning of those words. It was difficult for all the disciples to comprehend that God could take on human form. Once again, the statement has only one logical conclusion. If Jesus was just a man or a created being, He could not have made that statement to Philip. It was another precise declaration of His deity. Jesus was God in the form of man on earth. He came to reveal Himself to humanity and to pay the required price for our sins.

In Paul’s epistles, we find the deity of Christ mentioned repeatedly. Paul often uses the terms Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus, or Jesus Christ our Lord in his writings. In these passages, the Greek word for Lord is kurios, meaning “supreme in authority.” The many references to the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament present another Biblical claim that there is no authority above Him. If someone is truly supreme in authority, there cannot be another higher than that person. It does not mean Jesus is over God; rather, that they are equal (John 5:18). Romans 10:9 tells us if we want to be saved, we must confess the Lord Jesus and acknowledge that He is supreme.  Apart from believing in the deity of Christ, there is no salvation.

Experts now estimate there are over 1,100 recognized cults and they all stumble at the deity of Christ. I have read many definitions of a cult. Most are wordy, complex and difficult to understand. All cults have particular nuances and are unique in some way. Many cults contain perversions and brainwashing purposely meant to draw people into deception from which it is difficult to break away. I have studied the main cults in depth and have a basic knowledge of most new ones. Since all share one common factor, defining them is easier than many think. This common distinction is the core of the Christian faith. My definition is simply this: A cult is any religious organization that denies the deity of Christ.

Most cults believe and teach that Jesus is a created being of some sort. Each has a little different twist, but generally, they share that conclusion. One of the most common passages used to teach this is Colossians 1:15-16. Verse 15 states that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. The cults use this statement to teach that He is the highest creation of God. The term firstborn actually refers to a position of priority; that Jesus is the chief over creation. Verse 16 gives clearer understanding. It states, “For by Him (meaning Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth.” If Jesus is a created being, that statement cannot be true. If Jesus is a created being, then all things were not created through Him! The passage actually contradicts the cults’ own teaching when interpreted for what it says. One must beware taking a verse out of context and twisting it into a false teaching.

The Bible tells us plainly that if we do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, we do not have God. We must have the correct understanding of who Jesus is, for if we do not, we do not know God! Since denying the deity of Christ is the central, common thread of all cults, distinguishing true believers from the false is uncomplicated. Although it can be determined easily, do not think it lacks importance. To the contrary, it is vitally necessary for me to know what my church believes. If I am uncertain, I need to ask for clarification. Should my spirit raise a red flag regarding the issue, I must investigate for myself. If I learn the leaders of my church do not believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, I have the responsibility to get out of it as quickly as I can! It is imperative to make the belief that Jesus is deity, God in the flesh, my number one criteria for selecting a church fellowship.

Further Evidence

In II John 9 we see just how important Jesus is. This Scripture tells us:

 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God.”

Without a proper and complete understanding of who Jesus is, we do not know God.

Knowing Jesus’ true identity is not optional—it is imperative.

Jesus’ claims of deity separate Him from all other religious leaders. Scorn for His claims arose early in His earthly ministry and persist to this day. The scribes and Pharisees were among the first groups to reject His declaration that He was God (Luke 5:21). Other religious, political and social groups of that time also rejected His claims. One of the most interesting accounts occurred at the time of His resurrection. In Matthew 28:4-11 we find the account of the angelic announcement. Verse four declares, “…the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men” when they heard the angelic statement concerning Jesus, “…for He is risen, as He said.” They heard the angel’s pronouncement, and they knew that no one came and stole Jesus’ body from the grave. Yet, verse eleven tells us some of the guards went into the city and reported to the Jewish leaders what had happened. Then, they accepted a bribe from the Jewish leaders to spread the lie that the disciples stole His body while they slept. This was probably one of the most conspicuous rejections of Jesus’ claims in all of history. They were firsthand witnesses to the resurrection announcement and knew it was true. Yet, favor with the Jewish leaders and greed for money was more important to them than the truth. Regrettably, the spirit of the Roman guards continues to this day.

Rejection of Jesus’ claims has continued throughout the centuries. Today, the secular world mocks His claims of deity. Believers should not be surprised, for the Bible states that those who do so have the spirit of Antichrist because of their unbelief (1 John 4:3). We definitely can expect the unbelieving world to reject His claims.  

Jesus Claimed to be God

People denying the deity of Christ overlook His claims. The Bible shows in at least nine places where Jesus claimed to be God. In John 5:18 the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. This assertion enraged them to the point of wanting to kill Him. In their judgment, it was blasphemy for a man to claim to be God (equal with God). In John 10:31-33 the Jews again understood that Jesus was claiming to be God and, “…took up stones again to stone Him.” John 8:57-59 records a conversation between Jesus and the Jews. During this exchange Jesus referred to Himself as I AM. In Exodus 3:14 God talked to Moses at the burning bush, identifying Himself as I AM. I AM is the name of God. Therefore, when the Jews heard Jesus make His claim of deity they threatened to stone him, but He escaped their rage.

Previously, I pointed out that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah or Christ, and several Old Testament passages prophesied that the messiah would be God. There are three places in the Gospels where Jesus claimed to be the Christ, thereby claiming to be deity. During Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well as recorded in John 4:25-26, she declared, “‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ).” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am He.” In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus asked His disciples who people thought He was. After they named several religious teachers and prophets, Jesus asked directly who they thought He was. Peter stated, “You are the Christ…” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this o you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Mark 4:61-62 relates the interrogation proceedings during the trial of Jesus prior to His crucifixion. The high priest stood up before the entire group and began asking Jesus to answer false accusations that witnesses had just made against Him. Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. The chief priest again asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ?” Jesus simply responded by saying, “I am.” After that statement, they condemned Jesus to death. Jesus knew before answering that would be their response. As we have read in several Scriptures, Jesus claimed to be the Christ to the woman at the well, to His disciples, and to the rulers of Israel!

In Mark 2:28 Jesus referred to Himself as Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus referred to Himself as “The Lord” in the Mark 11:1-3 passage. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again referred to Himself as Lord in Matthew 7:21-23. In chapter one, we discussed the Greek word for the term Lord, which means “supreme in authority.” This is an important distinction in these three passages. In each, Jesus referred to Himself as Lord, which means He told them He was the ultimate authority. If someone is the ultimate or supreme authority, there cannot be anyone or anything above him. This raises a very important question. If someone claims to be the supreme authority, who is he claiming to be? In the previous nine passages, Jesus made some powerful statements and claims. Claims of such magnitude make the choices much clearer. Jesus was indeed claiming to be Lord (supreme authority) which is another statement of deity. There cannot be any questions or uncertainty on this point. When someone claims a certain identity, as Jesus did, the claims are true or the person is a liar, for there is no middle ground.

Many world religions believe that Jesus was just a good man and a prophet. Some individuals go even further. They believe that Jesus’ earthly identity is secondary since we all believe in the same God. John 14:1-10 teaches differently. Jesus stated in verse one there is a difference between believing in God in heaven and believing in Him. In verse six, Jesus reminded Thomas that He was the only way to the Father. A correct knowledge of Jesus’ earthly identity is imperative to knowing the Father. He told Philip in verse nine: “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” Jesus made a bold statement in verse ten that summarizes who He is: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” It is very clear in the Scriptures that anyone who does not believe in the deity of Christ on earth is ultimately rejecting God! The scribes and Pharisees were looking for Messiah to come. They knew all the Old Testament prophecies about Him and that He would be deity. They were looking for the Christ and some even thought John the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Most of the scribes and Pharisees rejected Jesus’ claims, resulting in His denouncing them for not believing. The religious leaders’ knowledge and wisdom was for naught, because they denied that Jesus was Messiah (John 5:39-40). At first only two from their group, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, believed Jesus was the prophesied Messiah (John 19:38-39). It was not until after the resurrection that other religious leaders believed (Acts 6:7). Jesus’ teaching is clear. If you reject His earthly claims of deity, you are lost. The issue of Jesus’ identity on earth is paramount and no areas of negotiation exist. Any compromise on this issue is tinkering with the foundation of the faith.

Those who state that Jesus was just a man on earth overlook other critical evidence. There are several instances where Jesus displayed divine attributes and power. Scripture records two examples where Jesus exhibited His creative power. John 2:1-9 relates the account of Jesus turning the water into wine at a wedding. In verse nine we read about “the water that was made wine…” The word made is the same word used in John 1:3, where it refers to all things being made through Jesus. We know that John 1:1-3 is referring to Jesus because in John 1:14 we are informed that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” on earth. The Greek word for both usages is ginomai, which means, “to cause to be.” Here, Jesus exhibited the creative power that belongs only to God. No man anointed by the Holy Spirit has that power! We know that because Colossians 1:16 tells us that Jesus created all things in heaven and on earth. Nothing was created except through Him.

We find another account of Jesus exercising creative power in Luke 9:12-17. This time Jesus fed the multitude with five small loaves and two small fish. Verse 14 tells us five thousand men were in the group. It is safe to assume that women and children were also present. We cannot say with certainty, but some Bible scholars estimate at least eight to ten thousand people gathered to hear Jesus’ teaching that day. This record describes Jesus feeding the group with the five loaves and two fish, and after all ate and were satisfied, “twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.” This was undeniably a miracle, but even more than that! In Webster’s Universal College Dictionary, the word create is defined as “to cause to come into being, as something unique.” What Jesus did clearly fits that definition. He caused food to come into being and it surely was unique. Jesus clearly exhibited creative power in this passage, which is a prerogative belonging only to God!

Jesus exercised the divine attribute of omniscience, which is the ability to see all and know all. There are several passages where Jesus demonstrates this attribute of God. In John 4:46-53 Jesus healed the nobleman’s son. The healing, however, is not the focus. When the man saw Jesus in Cana of Galilee (verse 46), his son was at Capernaum. Jesus healed the boy even though he was miles away from him, and told the father in verse 50, “Go your way; your son lives.” The point is that Jesus had knowledge of the boy’s healing even though He was not in his presence. The question is: How did Jesus know the man’s son was healed if he was not there? There is only one legitimate answer: He was exercising His omniscience.

The Son of God demonstrated His omniscience in other cases as well. There are several passages stating that Jesus knew or perceived people’s thoughts (Matthew 9:4, 12:25; Luke 5:22, 6:8). There have been cases in my life when someone told me they knew what I was thinking. The major difference in those situations was the individual, based on previous experience or information, anticipated what I might be thinking. That person felt he knew me well enough to predict my thoughts. In some instances, the individual was right, but even then it was anticipation, not actually knowing my thoughts. These passages teach that Jesus knew their thoughts! In John 6:64 the Bible tells us that “…Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” Jesus knew what was in their hearts all along.

Several years ago, I met with a young man in the local county jail. We were talking about the differences between the Bible and the Quran. Initially, he stated they complemented each other. To this opinion, I pointed out the major difference between the two teachings, which is Jesus’ deity. The Quran presents Jesus as only a good man and a prophet. We talked at length about that issue. At the end of our conversation, we agreed on two major points. First, we agreed the identity of Jesus is the major difference between our beliefs. Second, we agreed that only one of us can be right. Jesus is the most important issue of the faith. Knowing His true earthly identity is imperative.