In Genesis, the God of the Bible is revealed as Creator of everything from the tiny atom to the magnitude of space with its billions of galaxies. Thus, it would have been heresy for a Jew to think an angel or any other created being was the Creator. Isaiah confirms that God (Yahweh) is the Creator:
“This is what the Lord, the Creator and Holy One of Israel says…I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the millions of stars are at my command….I, the LORD Almighty, have spoken!” (Isaiah 45:11a, 12, 13b)
So, did the apostles view Jesus as part of creation, or as the Creator?
When Jesus’ disciples gazed at the stars on dark evenings, they most likely didn’t even dream that the Creator of those stars might be in their very presence. Yet after his resurrection, they saw Jesus with new eyes. And before he left earth, Jesus began to unfold mysteries to them about his identity.
Recalling his Lord’s words, John begins his gospel by revealing who Jesus is:
“In the beginning the Word (logos) already existed. He was with God, and he was God….He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him and this life gives light to everyone.” (John 1:1, 3-4)
Although scientists now believe the universe had a beginning from nothing, they can’t tell us who was there to start it all. John reveals that before creation, “the Word already existed” and was “with God.”
So who or what is this pre-existent Word? John’s next words clarify who he is talking about: “the Word was God.”¹
As a Jew, John believed in one God. But John is talking about two entities here, God and the Word. Jehovah’s Witnesses, who teach that Jesus was created, erroneously translate this passage to mean the Word is a god rather than the God. But New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce writes that “rendering the phrase as “a god” is a frightful mistranslation because the omission of the indefinite article is common with nouns in the predicative construction.”²
Therefore, John, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, tells us:
- the “Word” existed before creation
- the “Word” is the Creator who created everything
- the “Word” is God
Thus far, John has told us that the Word is eternal, created everything, and is God. But he doesn’t tell us whether the Word is a force or a person until verse 14.
“So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father” (John 1:14, NLT).
John clearly refers here to Jesus. Furthermore, in his epistle he confirms it:
“The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).
John tells us that “nothing exists that he didn’t make.” If nothing existed apart from him, it follows that Jesus couldn’t have been a created being. And according to John, the Word (Jesus) is God.
Unlike John, the apostle Paul, (formerly Saul) was a bitter opponent and persecutor of Christians, until Jesus revealed himself to him in a vision. Years later, Paul reveals to the Colossians what he had learned of Jesus’ identity:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of creation. For by Him all things were created…all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17 NASB).
Paul reveals several important things in this passage:
- Jesus is the exact image of God
- Jesus is the “first-born” of creation
- Jesus created everything
- Jesus is the reason for creation
- Jesus existed before everything
- Jesus holds creation together
What does “exact image of God” mean? Bruce remarks: “To call Christ the image of God is to say that in Him the being and nature of God have been perfectly manifested–that in Him the invisible has become visible.”³ Thus, God being visible in Christ coincides with Jesus’ own words to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
In verse 15, the Greek word for “first-born” (prototokos) means “supreme” rather than in the temporal sense of “born after.”4 According to Bruce, Paul is referring to “Christ’s pre-existence and cosmic activity in creation” and “denotes not only Jesus’ priority but also his primacy.”5 What makes this clear is verse 16 which tells us that everything in the universe was created both through Jesus Christ, and also for him.
In verse 17, we see the eternal Christ sustaining creation. According to Paul, every atom, each DNA strand, and all the billions of galaxies are held together by the power of Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus is the one from whom everything originated, the one for whom it was created, and the one that holds it all together.
The New Testament book of Hebrews6 also reveals Jesus as the Creator of everything. Its opening passage reflects Paul’s words to the Colossians:
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command” (Heb. 1:1-3a)
Just as John and Paul reveal, the author of Hebrews tells us that prior to Jesus becoming a man, God created the universe through him. And Hebrews also reveals Jesus Christ as the one who sustains it.
Verse 3 speaks of Jesus as the “perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature.”7 The Greek word here means that “the Son is the effulgence, the out-raying of the glory of God’s glory.”8 This statement, that Jesus is the “perfect imprint” of the infinite God, confirms that the apostles believed Jesus is fully God.
The author of Hebrews then goes on to tell us that Jesus is not only superior to the prophets, but he also is far above the angels.
“This shows that God’s Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is far greater than their names” (Heb. 1:4).
John Piper explains why Jesus is vastly superior to angels:
“No angel in heaven ever received such honor and affection as the Son has received from all eternity from his Father. As great and wonderful as angels are, they do not rival the Son….The Son of God is not an angel—not even the highest archangel. Rather God says, ‘Let God’s angels worship him!’ (Hebrews 1:6). The Son of God is worthy of all the worship that the hosts of heaven can give—not to mention ours.”9
The author of Hebrews then discloses the deity of Jesus:
“But as to the Son, He [the Father] says to Him, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever….’” (Heb. 1:8 Ampl.)
Later in Hebrews, we learn that Jesus Christ “is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” a clear statement of his eternal deity (Heb. 13:8). A created being is not the same today as yesterday because there would have been a time when he didn’t exist. It would be difficult to construe these passages in Hebrews to mean anything other than the fact that Jesus is the God spoken of in the Old Testament, who along with His Father and the Holy Spirit, created the universe.
The apostles must have been appalled to learn that the one they had seen bleed and hang suspended on a Roman cross is the very One who created the tree it was made from as well as the men who nailed him to it.
The above post was excerpted from “Did the Apostles Believe Jesus Is God?”
¹Martin writes, “Contrary to the translations of The Emphatic Diaglott and the New World Translation (of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) the Greek grammatical construction leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is the only possible rendering of the text….Jehovah’s Witnesses in their New World Translation Appendix 773-777 attempt to discredit the Greek text on this point, for they realize that if Jesus and Jehovah are “One” in nature their theology cannot stand….” Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany, 1974), 75.
²F. F. Bruce, The Deity of Christ (Manchester, England: Wright’s [Sandbach] Ltd., 1964
³F. F. Bruce, “The ‘Christ Hymn’ of Colossians 1:15-20,” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 1984): 101.
4D. Guthrie & J. A. Motyer, The New Bible Commentary: Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), 1144.
5Bruce, ‘Hymn’, 101-102.
6Although the author of Hebrews is unknown, some scholars believe it was written by Paul.
7The Amplified Bible, Zondervan
8Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. II (Grand Rapids, MI:, Eerdmans, 1986), 41.
9John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 33.