The early Christians were accused by the Romans of stealing glory from Caesar, and by the Jews of robbing glory from God (Yahweh). Christianity is criticized by some as being “too Jesus focused.” But is that what the apostles thought? Let’s hear again from Paul as he writes to the Colossians about Jesus.
“He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19 ESV).
Paul writes that God is pleased to have Jesus as the preeminent person in the universe. But the Old Testament clearly teaches that God will never relinquish his preeminence to a created being (Deut. 6:4, 5; Ps. 83:18; Prov. 16:4; Is. 42:11). Isaiah speaks clearly of God’s (Yahweh’s) preeminence.
“Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to my name.” (Isaiah 45:22, 23 NLT)
But how can both Jesus and Yahweh be preeminent? There may be a clue in Genesis, where the Hebrew word used for God the Creator is plural (Elohim). And, when Isaiah states that God alone created everything, the Hebrew word for God (Yahweh) is also plural. Dr. Norman Geisler concludes, “Biblically speaking, there is more than enough evidence to conclude that the fundamental nature of God is portrayed by the Scriptures as a plural oneness.”
Paul attributes to Jesus the same words of honor Isaiah attributes to Yahweh:
“Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.
Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11 NLT)
This passage reveals that before Jesus became a man, he had the full rights of the Godhead. Paul also tells us, “that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Over seven hundred years before Christ, God tells us through Isaiah that He alone is God, Lord, and Savior:
“Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Savior” (Isaiah 43:10,11).
We are also told in the Old Testament that Yahweh alone created the universe. That “every knee shall bow to Him.” That He is “the Lord, the King of Israel.” “The Redeemer.” “The First and the Last.” Daniel calls Him “Ancient of Days.” Zechariah speaks of God as “the King, the Lord of Hosts who will judge the earth.”
But in the New Testament we hear John call Jesus “Savior,” “The Alpha and Omega,” “The First and the Last,” “The King of Kings” and Lord of Lords.” Paul tells us “every knee will bow to Jesus.” It is Jesus alone who the apostles tell us will judge our eternal destiny. Jesus is the preeminent Lord of the universe.
Packer argues that Christianity makes sense only if Jesus is fully God:
“If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about his life and work would be truly mountainous.
“But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father’s agent in creation, ‘through whom also he made the worlds’ (Heb. 1:2 RV), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked his coming into this world, and his life in it, and his exit from it. It is not strange that he, the Author of life, should rise from the dead….The Incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.”
If Jesus is Yahweh, then the Christian message is that God Himself came to earth, allowed men to spit on Him, mock him, and nail Him to a cross as a supreme sacrifice for our sin. God’s perfect justice could only be satisfied by God Himself as the payment for our sin and unrighteousness. No angel or created proxy would suffice. Such an act of condescension demonstrates the immensity of the Father’s love as well as the high value He places upon each of us (See “Why Jesus?“) . And this is exactly what the apostles taught and so fervently preached.
In his parting words to the Ephesian elders, Paul encouraged them to “shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28 NASB). Paul is echoing Zechariah’s prophecy where God (Yahweh) says,
“In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem….and they will look on Me whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son (Zech 12:8a, 10b).
Zechariah reveals that the one pierced on the cross was none other than God, Himself. Thus, we see that Jesus Christ brings Old and New Testaments together like separate instruments harmonize to create a beautiful symphony. For, unless Jesus is God, Christianity loses its central theme. But if Jesus is God, all other major Christian doctrines fit together like pieces of a puzzle.” Kreeft and Tacelli explain:
- “If Christ is divine, then the incarnation, or ‘enfleshing’ of God, is the most important event in history. It is the hinge of history. It changes everything.”
- “If Christ is God, then when he died on the cross, heaven’s gate, closed by sin, opened up to us for the first time since Eden. No event in history could be more important to every person on earth than that.”
- “If Christ is God, then, since he is omnipotent and present right now, he can transform you and your life right now as nothing and no one else possibly can.”
- “If Christ is divine, he has a right to our entire lives, including our inner life and our thoughts.”
The apostles made Jesus Lord of their lives, wrote of him as the Creator, and worshipped him as preeminent. These first hand eyewitnesses were absolutely convinced that God had visited planet earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, who will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, as well as our eternal Judge. In his letter to Titus, Paul reveals Jesus’ identity, and God’s purpose for our lives:
“For the grace of God has been revealed bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.  (Titus 2:11-13 NLT).
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