The Deity of Christ
Jesus Christ was not merely a great teacher and a good man. He was (and is) God incarnate in human flesh, the living Word of God. As a summary of the evidences of this tremendous fact, we should look briefly at His unique claims, unique birth, unique life, and unique death. The greatest evidence, that of His resurrection, is discussed in Appendix 16.
The Claims of Christ
To all human appearances, the Lord Jesus Christ was merely a rather obscure itinerant preacher with no formal education, who ministered for only 3 1/2 years in the small Roman province of Palestine with a motley group of disciples, and was finally executed as a criminal.
Yet He made amazing claims concerning Himself, claims which -- if not true -- would have branded Him quickly as either a madman or a charlatan. His claim to be the Son of God, in fact, led to His arrest and execution.
Remarkably, however, these very claims have proved themselves for almost 2000 years to be amazingly fulfilled prophecies. Consider the implications of just four of them.
"I am the light of the world" (John 8:12)
Millions of His followers through the centuries have tested and proved the reality of this promise. They have unanimously testified that they have found "the light of life" in following Him. Furthermore, His life and teachings, His atoning death and resurrection, have served as the theme and inspiration for the world's greatest music, art, literature, schools, hospitals, and philanthropy.
"My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35)
Although He never wrote a book or even a sermon, His teachings are the most read words in all the world's literature, universally acknowledged as the greatest, most memorable, most uplifting words ever spoken. He is universally acknowledged as the greatest Teacher who ever lived.
"If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32)
His death as a condemned criminal, lifted up and impaled on a tree, was hideous and brutal, yet the story of it has indeed drawn men of every nation and age to believe on Him as their atoning Savior and Lord. His cross has been an inspiration to all classes and types of men, women and children.
"The gates of hell shall not prevail against my church" (Matthew 16:18)
The "church" founded by Christ, the variegated congregation of all those who believe in Him as the Son of God and redeeming Savior, has endured intense persecution through the ages, and yet continues to make converts in every land and time, even in spite of ecclesiastical apostasy and sinful hypocrites among its members.
The Birth of Christ
The birth of Jesus Christ was absolutely unique among all births in human history. The birth itself was a normal human birth, but His conception was altogether miraculous, as a special creation by God in the womb of a chaste virgin. Like the body of the first Adam, that of "the last Adam, . . . the Lord from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47) was directly formed by God and planted as a unique divine "Seed" in Mary's womb, free from an inherent sin-nature and from any transmitted mutational defects, "as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).
His birth was uniquely the focus of many ancient prophecies, all fulfilled in Him.
Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:1-17).
New thing in the earth (Jeremiah 31:22; Galatians 4:4).
Divinely prepared body (Psalm 22:9; Hebrews 10:5).
Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22,23).
Reconciliation of David's lines (Jeremiah 22:28-30; 23:5-6; 33:15-17).
Jechoniah's (Solomon's) line (legal) through Joseph (Matthew 1:6,12,13).
Nathan's line (biological) through Mary (Luke 3:23,31).
In addition to the prophecies, evidence of their fulfillment in the virgin birth are the direct historical records of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:30-35).
It is implied in other books (Mark 1:1; John 1:1-15; Galatians 4:4).
The Miraculous Life of Christ
The life and teachings of Jesus Christ have influenced the world more than those of any other man who ever lived. They are inexplicable if He was only a man like other men. Though truly human -- in fact, man as God had intended man to be -- He was also God, the God/Man.
The Miracles of Christ
His supernatural power was frequently demonstrated in mighty miracles, miracles that only the Creator could do (turning water into wine, raising the dead). They were never carnal or capricious miracles (note Matthew 12:39 and Luke 23:8,9, for example), but always were used to meet some immediate specific human need (Matthew 4:24).
His miracles also were used to authenticate His claims and to generate faith (note John 2:11, 23). In writing the final Gospel, the Apostle John selected seven mighty miracles of creation which Christ had performed (feeding a multitude with only a few loaves and fishes) in order to prove to his readers that "Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31).
There have been other so-called miracle workers throughout history, but none like Jesus Christ.
The Teachings of Christ
Similarly the world has known many great teachers, but none whose teachings have had the everlasting impact that those of Christ have had. They were always given authoritatively, without any doubt or reservation (Matthew 7:28,29; Luke 4:32), yet were always gracious in expression (Luke 4:22; John 7:46), except when hypocrisy was so blatant as to require His judicial condemnation.
His apparent equipment for teaching was minimal (education, research, travel, etc.), but His words were always exactly appropriate for the occasion. No one can think how they could have been improved, and He never had to retract or apologize for anything He said.
Most men, even those who reject His deity, acknowledge Him as the greatest Teacher of all time.
The Sinless Life of Christ
All men -- even great and so-called holy men -- are sinful in some degree, and will admit it unless they are madmen. But the Lord Jesus, unique among all men who ever lived, never sinned, either by commission or omission. He always did exactly what was right.
This was acknowledged even by His enemies, those who betrayed and crucified Him (Matthew 27:4; Luke 23:4). His closest friends, those who knew Him intimately and would have observed His actions closely, also recognized His sinlessness (1 Peter 2:22; Acts 10:38; 1 John 2:2; 3:5). Peter said He was our perfect Example (1 Peter 2:21-24).
Furthermore, Christ Himself claimed to be sinless (John 8:29,46; Luke 5:20,21). This was no pious boast, but simply an expression of reality. He exemplified perfectly purity of life (Ephesians 5:1-4), perfect control of His words (Colossians 4:6), and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).
The unique union of "very God" and perfect Man in Jesus Christ has been called by theologians the hypostatic ("substantive") union. The mystery is difficult to understand, except by faith, but His miracles, His teachings, His life, His death, and His resurrection are impossible to explain any other way.
The Remarkable Death of Christ
All men eventually die, but no one can simply volitionally die and "give up the ghost" (a phrase used by all four Gospel writers) as Jesus did when all the Scriptural prophecies concerning His death had finally been fulfilled (John 19:28-30). Though His cross and His death were intensely cruel and hideous, they have been amazingly magnetic, attracting men and women of all times, places and types to Himself, just as He had prophesied (John 12:32,33; Galatians 6:14).
In order to document that His death was a physical death and that His coming resurrection would be a bodily resurrection, the fact of His burial also required strong authentication. Preparations beforehand were made by Joseph and Nicodemus with a new tomb and garden arranged near the site of crucifixion. All the necessary burial clothes were at hand so that He could be buried by loving hands as soon as He was dead. Thereafter, the authorities alone controlled access to His tomb as long as His body was there. Consequently, both His friends and His foes knew that He had indeed died and was buried, so they could later verify His bodily resurrection.