Is Jesus Truly God? How the Bible Teaches the Divinity of Christ, by Greg Lanier. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020. Pp. 144. $16.99 (softcover). ISBN: 978-1433568404. [Reviewed by Marco Barone]
When we study the incarnation of the Word, we approach the mystery of mysteries, looking into the unfathomable abyss of Jehovah’s mightiest miracle: the second person of the Godhead assumed the human nature and became a true man, like us in all things but sin, for our salvation. Such a wonderful event requires an explanation within the boundaries of Scripture’s claims and of what can be deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence. In Is Jesus Truly God?, the author succeeds in meeting that requirement.
In the “Introduction,” Lanier announces that the goal of his book is not only to demonstrate that Jesus is fully God, but also to show how the Scriptures reveal this fact (15). The author successfully does that through careful, deep, but clearly explained exegesis of numerous biblical passages.
Chapter 1 discusses the eternal pre-existence of the Son as the second person of the triune God. The author clearly explains how the New Testament writers appealed to the Old Testament (Is. 6, Ezek. 1, Dan. 7, Ps. 110) in order to show that the Son is the God of the Old Testament, and, therefore, was at work during that dispensation (39).
Chapter 2 demonstrates that Jesus’ expressions of closeness and intimacy with the Father make sense only on the basis of the truth of the Son as being begotten from the Father. The chapter ends with a helpful reminder:
It is worth reflecting on how Jesus’s use of Abba—and the full depth of his sonship to the Father—might shape how Christians should think of their own relationship to the Father. We are urged by the Spirit to, like Jesus, call out to ‘Abba’ in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. By virtue of the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ, our relationship to the living God has been transformed from one of enemy to one of adopted sons and daughters. (54-55)
Chapter 3 shows “how the New Testament authors, through interacting with Scripture in profound ways, make clear that the one true God revealed in the Old Testament is now fully disclosed to include (and to have always included) the divine Son” (58). Lanier summarizes the New Testament writers’ strategy as follows:
The Son of God manifested in the flesh of Jesus Christ can be considered really and truly God, in the way later formalized in the creeds, only if he is and always has been the ‘one god’ of Israel disclosed in the Old Testament. He could not become this; he had to always be this. And that is precisely what the New Testament authors labor to convey in reading the Old Testament afresh in this direction. By applying Lord/kyrios, YHWH passages, divine prerogatives, divine metaphors, and the ‘I am’ phrase to Jesus, the New Testament communicates this truth: he who is God in the Old Testament was, is, and always will be inclusive of the Son as the second person. (75)
Chapter 4 explains how the New Testament contains instances of the worship of Jesus, and how the nature of such worship is the same as that which is directed to the one true God. The author shows how the New Testament Christians focused on being partakers of Christ, and he concludes with some food for thought for the contemporary Christian:
The real spiritual union Christians have with the risen and ascended Lord Jesus should stimulate more precise reflection on the nature of the Christian life…We should see the Christian life as one in which Jesus, who abides in us by his Spirit, is producing the obedience of faith from within us, as the outflow of a renewed heart. By uniting you to himself, Jesus molds you into conformity with himself through Christ-shaped worship in all of life. (92)
Chapter 5 focuses on the inner relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is far from being beside the point of the book. On the contrary, “any discussion of a divine Christ must necessarily factor the divine Spirit, or else it is woefully incomplete” (94). This edifying chapter expounds on the most blessed fellowship between the three divine Persons who, in turn, share themselves by the Holy Spirit with the saints: “From start to finish, the individual Christian life is one of fellowship with the Triune God…the Trinity should be an enriching reality that shapes how one lives” (104-105).
Chapter 6 discusses some clear passages (Tit. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 5:19-20; John 1:1, 10:33, 20:28) and other less clear passages where Jesus is addressed as Lord and God. The concluding warning is appropriate: “These passages reveal the need to take the task of reading Scripture closely, word for word, for all its worth. Precision matters for doctrine, and doctrine matters for life” (118).
The “Conclusion” expounds four biblical passages (Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-4; John 1:1-18) which “combine elements of the preceding chapters: preexistence, divine sonship, use of the Old Testament, divine prerogatives, worship, and so on” (120). These are amazing passages that teach the supremacy, sovereignty, and creative power of the Son over all things, passages that (coupled with the preceding ones discussed in the book) reveal how the “New Testament authors did not feel the need to defend or prove the idea that Jesus is God. They assumed it. It was the inescapable conclusion toward which they were all drawn…It shows up everywhere in the New Testament, even in places one might not expect. It was the air they breathed” (126).
The book offers an orthodox Christology in agreement with the biblical teaching as expounded in the Ecumenical Creeds. This point is not secondary, considering that many in the church world are trying to revise and even reject the teaching of those ancient creeds. One minor criticism is that the book, although intended for the general public, often contains reading suggestions in the footnotes that are too advanced for the non-academic and/or difficult to acquire. Apart from that, the book is both deep and readable, ideal for both group and personal Bible study. It is a doctrinally reliable guide that leads the reader to appreciate more the infinite glory of the Captain of our salvation, our Lord and God Jesus Christ.