ARTICLES

The Divinity of Christ

By David Clayton

In undertaking to write on this topic I am aware that I am treading on sacred ground. I am mindful of the fact that there is the need for caution and reverence in approaching this subject. I have not undertaken it without earnest prayer and much thought. Yet I am also aware that this article is necessary because there is much confusion, misunderstanding and assumption in this area, as a consequence of which multitudes are in darkness concerning the true identity and nature of Christ.

Every word of inspiration is given to us for our learning. By these words God is seeking to help us to understand divine truths; both simple and profound. It is my conviction that in studying these words of God and in carefully comparing them with each other, we will be enabled to come to a proper understanding of the truth concerning Christ's divinity, provided we are submissive to His Spirit and will drop all traditional and preconceived ideas. Some will emotionally and foolishly declare, “do not discuss this subject! It is too sacred for discussion!” Yet, this is the spirit of the Papacy, for it is the Papacy which first introduced the concept that things which God has revealed in His word were too high for the contemplation of human minds and consequently forbade the study of the Scriptures.


Contradictions

Some who claim to be earnest Christians have embraced the following ideas all of which they claim to be the truth.

1. God gave His Son to the world to show His love for men, but the one whom He gave was not truly His Son.

2. Jesus Christ is God and God cannot die, yet Jesus Christ died on Calvary.

3. A human sacrifice could not atone for the sins of the world, yet only the human part of Christ died. His divine nature did not - could not - die.
4. Death is an unconscious sleep, yet Jesus raised Himself from the dead, therefore must have been conscious in death.

When a reasonable person, seeking for understanding points out these impossible contradictions and seeks for an explanation, there is none forthcoming. He is told that these things are an “impenetrable mystery,” and that it is harbouring on blasphemy to even question whether these things are true. By such methods the father of lies has kept men in darkness ever since the mystery of iniquity first reared its venomous head in the Christian Church.

Is Jesus Christ Truly God?


I have discovered that many times people spend a lot of time arguing unnecessarily, sometimes for many hours, simply because both parties have different understandings of a particular word. Therefore let me clarify my words at the beginning.

The word “God,” when used with reference to the true God has two applications in the Scriptures.

1. Firstly, it is used as a title with reference to the Supreme Being in the universe, the One who is over all others, the source of all things.

2. Secondly, it is used to refer to the qualities and attributes of divinity.

When the word, “God” is used as a title to refer to the supreme Being in the universe, how many Beings, or Persons does it refer to? If the Scriptures are true, then it can refer to one Being only. In this sense, the Father is, “the only true God (John 17:3),” there is but “one God, the Father (1 Cor. 8:6),” there is “none other [God]but He (Mark 12:32),” there is but “one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:6).” These verses clearly declare that the supreme Ruler of the universe, the One who is above all others, barring none, is, God the Father.

However, the word “God” is used in a few places with reference to the fact that Jesus, as the Son of God possesses all the attributes and qualities of divinity. One striking example of this is John 1:1 where it says, “the word [Jesus] was with [the]God [the Father]and the word [Jesus] was God (a divine Being, possessing the attributes of God).” Please note that in the Greek Scriptures the word the, the definite article, is before the word God when used with reference to the Father, because it is speaking of a particular person. However, it is not used when the word refers to Christ, because then, it is not referring to a person, but to a quality. It is not saying that Jesus, or the Word was the person, God. He was not the same Person He was with, but He had the attributes, the qualities of God, or of divinity.

Jesus then, is truly God by nature!! He possesses all the fullness of the godhead (Col. 2:9). He possesses “all power [exousia - authority, not dunamis as in Matt. 6:13]” in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). The ability to give life, to create, to know all things, to see all things, to do all things are His. The apostle Paul declares that in His pre-existence He was “in the form of God (Phil. 2:6),” that He is “the express image” of God (Heb. 1:3),” that He is before all things (Col. 1:17) and that He upholds all things “by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Therefore, none can deny the divinity or godhood of Jesus Christ. To do this, one must first of all deny the Scriptures.

Yet, even as we take account of the truth of the full divinity of Jesus Christ, we must also acknowledge, if we are honest, that the Bible consistently speaks of God as a single individual Person, and makes it clear that this Person is exclusively, God the Father. The following verses illustrate this truth clearly.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Cor 8:6)

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4:6)

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Rev 21:22)

These verses are just examples. There are dozens more which teach the same truth. How then can we reconcile ttwo truths, both of which are clearly taught by Scripture, yet which seems to contradict each other?

(a) That Jesus is God by nature, fully divine.

(b) That there is only one God, who is the Father.

Human Inventions

Several, and varied are the ways in which men have sought to harmonize these truths, yet few have taken the simple route of merely accepting all that the Bible says on the matter. Instead, they have “sought out many inventions (Eccl. 7:29).”

(a) Some have concluded that Jesus and the Father must be the same Person operating in different roles at different times. These persons are often referred to as the “oneness” or the “Jesus only” people.

(b) Others have chosen to redefine the word “God.” Instead of the word referring to a single great, almighty individual who is Lord over all, they have decided that the word really refers to a divine “substance.” A mysterious entity which is made up of three parts, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all three together making up God. This is the popular concept of the trinity which was formulated by the Catholic Church and which has been embraced by the majority of Christian denominations.

(c) Others, notably the Seventh-day Adventist Church, have concluded that the word, “God” is a collective noun, which really refers to three Gods (!) working together in unity. The SDA church will deny that it teaches or believes in three Gods. However, semantics will not deny the truth. The SDA belief in three co-equal, co-eternal, co-omnipotent Beings who are not related to each other clearly teaches Tritheism, a doctrine of three Gods, even though it is claimed that the three are one in the sense that they are united in character, goals and purposes.

(d) Some, like the Jehovah's Witnesses have felt that in order to preserve the truth that the only true God is the Father (John 17:3) they had to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, and so they have concluded that Jesus was a created being who has been elevated above all other created beings, thus making Him into a kind of god, but not a divine being in the same sense as the Father.

All these theories have been formulated in an attempt to reconcile the two truths mentioned before: (1) That there is only one God. (2) That Jesus Christ is a divine Being, equal with God. Sadly and unaccountably none of these theories have attempted to harmonize ALL the biblical evidence. Indeed they have all served to becloud the truth in a fog so dense that the only explanation, which they can give to the inexplicable contradictions of these theories, is to declare that the subject of God is a mystery. That the particular theory (depending on which group you encounter) must be accepted and its contradictions and inconsistencies assigned to the realm of “mystery.”

The Bible truth, however, is so wonderfully plain and simple that every child who reads the Bible without being poisoned by human influence will readily discern it. Over and over the Scriptures declare that Jesus Christ is the “Son of God,” the “only begotten Son of God.” In this wonderfully simple, yet profound truth lies the clear answer to the seeming contradictions.

A True Son, Subject To God

Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be the only begotten Son of the only true God, the Father. Truly begotten (why do I need to emphasize this when the Bible says it so clearly?), truly the Son of God. Brought forth from the Father's own substance, begotten (not created), in the distant eternity past, He became at birth a separate, distinct Person from the Father, of the same kind of “substance” but not (as the Nicene Creed suggests) sharing the same “substance” as the Father. (not consubstantial - The Nicene Creed suggests that He partakes of the same identical substance as the Father, making Him and the Father a part of the same being. In actual fact He was separated from the Father's substance, but became a separate individual when He was begotten, possessing the same nature, being of the same kind of substance.) He possesses by inheritance all the attributes and qualities of His Father, therefore is truly divine, is truly God in His nature in the fullest possible sense. Yet we can clearly see how the Biblical insistence that there is only one God, the Father, is also true, because the Father is the source of all things - the absolute highest authority, even above Jesus Christ. This relationship between Father and son where Jesus is ruler over all, but still subject to His Father who is God over all, including Jesus, is brought out in 1 Cor. 15:27-28:

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Here we see that it is God (the Father) who put all things under Christ, but that He Himself is not subject to Christ. Rather, even though Christ rules over all, He is still subject to the Father. This plain biblical teaching, divorced from the “mysteries” invented by human minds explains simply and clearly how Jesus Christ is a divine Being, God by nature, and yet, how it is still true that the only true God is the Father.

Who Died On Calvary?

Every false idea builds a wall of other falsehoods around itself. This is a necessity in order to answer the contradictions which inevitably result from every lie. Yet always, whenever this wall, or chain of lies is examined it is found to be rotting at the foundations, full of gaping holes which cannot be patched by all the lies in the world. Thus it is with the falsehood of the three-in-one, or the one-in-three god. Let us examine some of the stones in this decaying wall.

Those who insist that Jesus Christ is the eternal, almighty God, Himself, encounter serious difficulty in explaining the death of Christ. You see, the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot die. This is impossible (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet the Scriptures plainly declare that Jesus Christ died for our sins

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Heb 2:9)

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Heb 2:14)

Jesus Himself declares, “I am He that liveth and was dead…” (Rev. 1:18).

Believers in a three-in-one God attempt to navigate this difficulty by suggesting that Jesus Christ was made up of two distinct and separate personalities. There was the human side and there was the divine side. They claim that the human side died, but the divine did not, because of course, God cannot die. Yet this unscriptural suggestion only creates a greater difficulty. If it were true that only the human part of Christ died while the divine part continued to live, undisturbed on the eternal plane, then we would have two serious accusations to make against God. The first is that God has provided only a human sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. Can a human sacrifice suffice to redeem humanity and satisfy the claims of God's broken law? The second accusation would be that God Himself did not make a sacrifice at Calvary. What He really would have done, according to this theory, was create a human being in Mary's womb, then come to share the body of that human being for thirty-three and a half years, but when that being was put to death on Calvary, He abandoned him and left him to pay the price alone. If this is true, what sacrifice then did God make? It would not be God who suffered, but rather the poor human creation, the son of Mary whom God allowed to suffer and die.

According to the teachings of this theory, Jesus Christ must have been a three-part being. First, there was the human body, secondly there was the human spirit or mind, and thirdly, there was the divine spirit. What part of this being did God give? It must have been the divine spirit. This spirit, according to this theory, was the second person of the godhead and was a part of Jesus which could be separated from the rest of Him. The human body and human spirit were created in Mary's womb. Their existence began the year, the month and the day that Mary became pregnant. The creation of this human part did not require a sacrifice on God's part. God's sacrifice consisted of the divine spirit which He placed in that body, the Being who had been with the Father from the days of eternity.

Yet if that Spirit did not, and could not die, but left the human part at the moment of death to continue conscious existence, would the death of this being have demonstrated the love of God? Could we then agree that God poured out all heaven in one gift, that the Son of God suffered and died for our sins, if all that died on Calvary was a human being, created for the purpose of being sacrificed?

These are the foul, rotting timbers by which the doctrine of the three-in-one God is supported.

Divinity and Humanity Combined

Only in the truth will we find an end to all these contradictions. The truth is simply and clearly outlined in the Scriptures. The word of God plainly declares that the divine, pre-existent Son of God became a human being. He did not merely visit a human body, only to depart when that body got into trouble. He became a human being. It is what He was. It was His new identity.

(John 1:14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…

(Heb 2:9) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels….

Yet we need to understand something before we go any further. No matter what form He took or how weak He became, Jesus Christ could never cease to be who He really was, that is, the only begotten Son of God. As long as He existed He would always possess the nature He was born with. He could not cease to be who he was, and because He was God's Son, He possessed the divine nature.

As an illustration of what I mean, we may dress a man in the disguise of a chimpanzee, but he will still be a human being. Or, we may cut off his hands, legs and remove his tongue so that he cannot speak, but he will still be human. What he is cannot change, because the spirit within him is a human spirit. His identity does not depend on how he looks or upon how much of his human capabilities he retains, but upon the nature of the spirit within him. In the same way, Jesus' divinity did not rest in the glory of God, or in the power of God (Jesus Himself said that these belong to the Father for ever. Matt. 6:13). ). Remember He accepted human flesh, but his spirit or mind was the pure. As A. T. Jones said:

“He is the seed of David according to the flesh. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Don't go too far. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh, but the mind [spirit] was ‘the mind of Christ Jesus.” (1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 327)

His divinity consisted of the fact of His identity. He was God's Son. He possessed the mind, the characteristics, the nature of God, whether in human or divine form. Therefore He was divine, whether in heaven or on earth. Whether possessing all power, or having laid it aside.

The Hallmark of Divinity

The quality of God which is most emphasized in the Scriptures is His love; His selfless character of love. John stated that, “God is love.” (John 4:8). Not that God has love, but that God is love. It is His identity, His nature, His character. Jesus declared it when He stated, “there is none good but one, that is God (Matt. 19:17).” Again, when Moses beseeched God to show him His glory, the Lord passed by before him and rather than giving Moses a demonstration of His awesome power, He proclaimed to Moses His awesome character of love and mercy, justice and truth (Ex. 34:6,7). These cases illustrate the truth that the true identifying mark of the true God is not how much power He has (although all power is His), but rather, the purity and holiness of His character. Many believe that the chief attribute of divinity is absolute power. This, however is not true. The greatest attribute of divinity is a pure holy character of perfect love. This is why Jesus could say in such an unqualified way to Philip, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father (John 14:9).” Clearly, He was not referring to the Father's literal visible glory, for no man can see this and live (Ex. 33:20; 1 Tim. 6:16), but rather to God's pure character of love..

Satan possesses a great deal of power and he would like humans to think that this power makes him God. However, even if he could raise the dead and create life this would not make him into God. God is good and God is love. This, Satan will never be. This is why, as God tries to reveal Himself to the world through Christian men and women He does not focus so much on giving them supernatural gifts and abilities to impress the world with His power. These gifts Satan can, and does counterfeit. However, there is one thing which the devil cannot reproduce and this is God's love. Therefore Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).”

The point I am making in all of this is that when Jesus was on earth, He did not in Himself, possess the divine power of God. All this glory and power He laid aside. All His miracles were performed by the Father, dwelling in Him by the holy Spirit (John 14:10). This divine power in a sense belonged to Christ, because as He said, “All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you (John 16:15) .” However, these things were not His inherently.

The Difference with Christ

We find then, that Jesus was a partaker of divine power, through the indwelling of His Father's Spirit. We also may become partakers of divine power and the divine nature by the indwelling of that same spirit. But was this the only sense in which Christ was divine? If we partake of the holy Spirit will we become divine in the same way that Christ was divine? Absolutely not! Christ had one quality which we will never have. Something which would set Him apart from all creatures and proclaim His divinity in trumpet tones even if He were to take the form and abilities of a worm. This quality was His character of infinite love and goodness. This was His divine nature, His “spirit of stainless purity (DA 461).” This was what He was, regardless of whether or not He possessed all the powers of God, or only the limited abilities of humanity. No other being in the universe possesses such a character except God the Father. This is why Jesus, even when on earth was truly divine although He had laid down His power and glory. It was because His character, His spirit, His nature was the same divine, pure, holy character of matchless love which had existed with the Father from the days of eternity. His divinity was not in His power, but in His character.

The power and the glory belong to the Father. He is the source of all power. The power and authority which Christ possessed both in His pre-incarnation and after His return to heaven were bestowed upon Him by His Father.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Mat 28:18)

For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; (Col 1:19)

This is why the Scripture says that although it was Jesus Christ who did the actual work of Creation, yet it was God who created all things by Him. It was by means of God's power at work in Him that Christ accomplished the creation of the entire universe. (Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2)

“I do nothing of Myself,” said Christ; “the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.” “I seek not Mine own glory,” but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all… {DA 21}

Did Divinity Die?

Now that we understand this, let us return to the question: Did divinity die on Calvary? We have seen that there were two aspects to the divinity of Jesus Christ. First, there was the divine Spirit and power of the Father dwelling in Him, and secondly, there was His own divinity, His character, His nature of perfect love and purity. The Bible makes it clear that Christ Himself died. He was made lower than the angels specifically so that He could die. (Heb. 2:9,14). But what is death? Death is a separation of body and spirit where the body ceases to function and the spirit lapses into a state of unconscious sleep. This is exactly what happened to Jesus. Look at how Ellen White describes the state of Jesus while He was dead:

“When He closed His eyes in death upon the cross, the soul of Christ did not go at once to heaven, as many believe, or how could His words be true—”I am not yet ascended to my Father”? The spirit of Jesus slept in the tomb with His body, and did not wing its way to heaven, there to maintain a separate existence, and to look down upon the mourning disciples embalming the body from which it had taken flight. All that comprised the life and intelligence of Jesus remained with His body in the sepulcher; and when He came forth it was as a whole being; He did not have to summon His spirit from heaven…” (3SP 203, 204).

There was no part of Jesus which remained alive and conscious on another plane. Jesus Christ was the begotten Son of God, possessing in His own nature the pure spotless character which belongs only to divinity - to God and His Son. Therefore it was a divine Being who died on Calvary. It was a divine sacrifice that was made for the redemption of mankind and not merely a human substitute that suffered and died two thousand years ago.

Yet it should be obvious that though Christ Himself, the divine Son of God died, yet The life of the Father could not die. This life, the holy spirit which had been in Christ working in and through Him, could not die, and it is in this sense that Ellen White could be correct in saying, “divinity did not die.” {1SM 301}

It is very simple. Jesus said, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die…(John 11:26).” What did He mean by this? Do not Christians die just the same as unbelievers? It seems that way. However, the following quote from Ellen White explains better than I can what He really meant:

“Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,—not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal.” {DA 388}

It is because Christ's life has become our life that we can never die. We do die, Just as Christ died. We pass into the unconscious sleep called death in which the body ceases to function and the spirit returns to God. But since Christ's life has been joined to ours and “our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3),” then as long as Christ is alive, we cannot die.

Similarly, the life of Christ was united to His Father's. The Father's life was His life in the same way that his life is our life. It was in this sense that it may be said that “divinity did not die.” The life and power of the Father which was in Christ could not die. However, Christ Himself died as fully, as totally, as completely as any human being has ever died. It is this understanding alone which fulfills all the specifications of the word of God.

Let us briefly re-examine the main points.

a. Jesus is truly, literally the Son of God, begotten from the Father's own substance in the eternity past.

b. Jesus is a divine Being. This divinity of Christ is manifested in the fact that His pure, spotless character of perfect love is exactly like that of God's.

c. Jesus' divine nature and character are His, inherited from His Father by birth. However, His authority and power have been given to Him by the Father and therefore could be laid aside by Christ in His incarnation. Please note, He could and did lay down divine Power but He could not, and did not lay aside His divine nature and character. If He could have done this, He would have ceased to be the Son of God and would no longer have been divine.

d. Jesus is God in the sense that He has the nature and qualities of God, but He is not God in the sense of being the Supreme Being in the universe. That description applies to God the Father alone.

e. Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God died fully and completely on Calvary. His divine life did sleep in death. However, the divine life and power of the Father, the holy Spirit which filled Him during His life on earth could not, and did not die. In this sense, divinity did not die, even though the divine Son of God truly and fully died.

Restoration Ministries

Restoration Ministries is dedicated to the promotion of the truths contained in the word of God. In particular to the restoration of those truths which have been cast down to the ground and trampled underfoot by the papacy, and adopted by her daughters.

Our purpose is to motivate men and women to commit themselves wholly to the task of personal preparation for the coming of the Lord, and to the taking of the final warning message to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

Website: www.restorationministry.com

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