"Jesus is God!" read the sign at a demonstration at a Jehovah's Witness convention. The Jehovah's Witnesses scorned the sign, sure that Christendom had learned this teaching from Satan himself. The Christian holding the sign stood all the more proudly, sure that only spiritual blindness could keep the Watchtower adherents from recognizing the fact that "Jesus is God."
One thing is certain-- the Jehovah's Witnesses, The Way International and other groups with similar beliefs do not really understand the phrase, and Christians may do as much harm as good by emphasizing it.
What Do Cults Think "Jesus is God" Means?
Cultists often understand the phrase to mean things that the Christians never intended to communicate. Many of them assume that when a Christian says "Jesus is God," he or she means, "Jesus is not human." V. P. Wierwille of The Way International, for instance, liked to emphasize that the Savior had to be "one of the flock," that is, fully human, and so could not have been God. Christianity has always emphasized that Jesus Christ certainly was human. In fact, Christ was as fully human as He is fully divine, for "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).
When other cult members hears "Jesus is God," they think that Christians believe that "Jesus is the Father." They believe this is totally unscriptural, since the Bible maintains a distinction between the Father and the Son, as when the Father calls out "this is my Son" at Jesus' baptism.
The cults are right on this count. Jesus is not the Father. The "Gospel in a nutshell," John 3:16, clearly says that the Father sent the Son, not that the Father is the Son.
The "Jesus Only," or "Oneness" groups like the United Pentecostal Church do believe that Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Because of this, evangelicals have uniformly counted them as outside the realm of orthodox Christianity.
When other aberrational groups hear "Jesus is God," they think Christians are saying, "There is more than one God." I remember speaking with an ex-witch who had published accounts of her conversion to Christianity in which she stated that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were three gods.
The Bible in no way teaches that there is more than one true God. Christianity continued to believe the ancient Jewish statement of faith recorded in the "Shema," Deuteronomy 6:4, "the Lord is One." The prophets emphasized this repeatedly as worship of other gods infiltrated Israel, and the New Testament carried on this belief.
Jesus Christ: Fully Man and Fully God
The Biblical faith since the time of Jesus has held that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine. Just as He is just as human as you and I, so He is also just as much God as is the Father Almighty. While this is not humanly possible, with God all things are possible.
Several Bible passages which speak of the nature of Christ emphasize both aspects of his nature. For instance, Philippians 2:6-9 states that Christ took the "form of a man" while quoting a passage from Isaiah, substituting the name "Jesus" for the name "Lord." John 1:1-18 states that the Word "became flesh" while saying that the Word "was God."
The ancient creeds of the Church which have been held by all Christians throughout the centuries have kept in balance these two truths about Jesus Christ. On the one hand, the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds all describe the humanity of Christ-- that He was born, suffered and died. But they also describe the divine nature of Jesus Christ-- that He is God of God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.
Pseudo Christian religions like the Jehovah's Witnesses and The Way International understand the fact that Jesus was human, but find it hard to accept that He could be God as well. In order to reconcile their limited human ability to understand spiritual things, they use unscholarly devices to rewrite or reinterpret passages of the Bible which speak of Jesus' divine nature. Books such as The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way's Word, Jehovah's Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse, and Why You Should Believe in the Trinity (see response card) detail many of these feeble attempts.
Say What You Believe-- and What You Don't Believe
When witnessing to people about the true nature of Jesus Christ, it is wise to state not only what you do believe, but also what you don't believe. Sometimes it is useful to do this in the form of a question: "Say, what do Christians mean when they say 'Jesus is God?'" You may be amazed at the misconceptions held by many, especially those in aberrational religious groups. Be ready to emphatically agree with them that Jesus is human, that He is not the Father, and that there is only one God. While this may bewilder them, at least they will not reject Biblical teaching as a result of a misunderstanding. Be ready then to take the next step of explaining that Jesus is both God and man.
How can this be? We can easily understand that Jesus is a man because this is well within our experience. We know what human beings are like, and that He shows all the signs of being one. But God is entirely different. We know nothing of what a God-being is like, having never been one. He dwells in a dimension far different and other-worldly. Nicodemus also asked, "How can this be?" Though he studied the Scriptures, he did not understand Jesus' words about heavenly things (John 3:1-21). The Saducees also studied the Scriptures but could not accept the resurrection because they could not accept the power of God. The same is true of many in the cults today, who study the Scriptures, yet can accept neither heavenly things nor the power of God, because it is outside the realm of human experience.
The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ as God, and of the Father as God, and of the existence of only one God. How can we do anything but accept that God knows Himself better than we?
John P. Juedes C. 1995
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