Ronald H. Hanko is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church, Houston, Texas.
1.The testimony of Scripture (continued).
The evidence of Christ’s divinity as found in Scripture is of many kinds, and taken all together is clear proof that He is everything: that His people believe Him to be. We must not be swayed, either, by the arguments or numbers of those who deny Him, into thinking that this evidence is anything less than incontrovertible. The failure of so many to receive this truth is not due to any defect or insufficiency of Scripture, but to the willing ignorance of unbelief, sustained by the testimony of an evil conscience that this Christ is indeed the God before Whom every heart must be tried.
The evidence is found first of all in the Old Testament, though in some ways not so clearly as in the New Testament. What the Belgic Confession says of the doctrine of the Trinity is also true of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity, that “that which appears to us somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New” (Article IX). Nevertheless, even in the Old Testament, the testimony is unmistakable.
There are already in the Old Testament a number of passages which name Him God without any qualification whatsoever. In Psalm 2:11 He is called Jehovah. The Hebrew parallelism makes it very obvious that serving Jehovah with fear is exactly the same as kissing the Son. In Psalm 45:6 He is addressed as God in His glory as the King and Husband of the Church. This passage is applied in proof of Christ’s divinity in Hebrews 1:8 as first evidence in support of the fundamental argument of that book, that He is better than the whole Old Testament.
In Isaiah 7:14 He is called Immanuel, which is interpreted in Matthew 1:23 to mean that He is God with us, and inJeremiah 23:5 He is named “Jehovah our Righteousness.” Counting all these, however, there is still no passage so powerful as Isaiah 9:6. There He is not only named “Almighty God,” but identified with the eternal Father. Certainly this is a passage to confound the skeptics, since it leaves even the believer at a loss for words to explain how He, the Son, so named in personal distinction from the Father, can nevertheless be called the Father. Even the New Testament has no parallel. Closest in the whole New Testament is Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and my Father are One.” For lack of any better argument against the testimony of this one great verse, one unbelieving commentator simply calls it “an unparalleled monstrosity.” But to us who believe it testifies that His Name is indeed “Wonderful.”
There are also in the Psalms and Prophets many passages, which though at first glance have nothing to do with Christ Himself, are nonetheless directly applied to Him in the New Testament. An example isPsalm 102:25-27, a passage which speaks of God’s creative work, but which is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:10-12. Two such passages from the Prophets are Joel 2:32 (quoted in Romans 10:13) and Isaiah 45:23 (quoted in Rom. 14:10, 11). The latter passage is especially interesting because it is in Isaiah part of God’s Word to Israel that He is God alone (Isaiah 45:22). But the point here is simply that the whole of Scripture so takes the divinity of Christ for granted that any reference to God is by that very token also a reference to Christ. The stubborn and insolent unbelief of the unbeliever in the face of such a testimony is frightening. What shall his judgment be when he stands before the judgment throne of Christ in the end of all things!
In the historical books of the Old Testament the evidence is to be found in a careful study of the appearances of the Angel of Jehovah (Angel of the LORD in the KJV). This Angel, Who appeared especially in the days prior to the kingdom and the prophets, Who always appears as a deliverer and savior, is deliberately identified with God. The prophet Hosea so identifies Him when speaking of. Jacob’s wrestling with Him at the brook Jabbok: “Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto Him: he found him in Bethel, and there He spake with us; even the Lord God of Hosts; the Lord is his memorial” (Hos. 12:4, 5). Thus Manoah, Samson’s father, says after the appearance of the Angel bringing the news of Samson’s birth, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (Judges 13:22). And Hagar names the place where the Angel appeared to her, Beer-lahairoi, “the well of Him that liveth and seeth me” (Gen. 16:14).
Also in each case the work of this Angel is the work which only God can do, the work of giving the covenant seed (Gen. 18:13, 22:2), of bringing judgment (Gen. 18:17ff), of forgiving sins (Ex. 23:20), of cursing and blessing (Judges 5:23), and of protecting the people of God (Dan. 3:28, 6:22).
The argument that these passages are not to be applied to Christ is answered in Malachi 3:1 where this Angel is called the Messenger of the Covenant (angel and messenger are the same word in Hebrew). This Messenger of the Covenant is preceded in His coming by another messenger who .prepares His way, an obvious reference to Christ and to His forerunner. And so Christ Himself interprets the passage in Matthew 11:10.
All this teaches us something about the importance of Christ’s divinity. Even before He appears in the flesh as Savior, He appears as God. Therein lies the who1e significance of His Godhead for us. If He is not God, then we have no Savior.
The clearer testimony of the New Testament is so large that it is possible to look at only a few isolated passages and at some of the different ways in which this truth is presented.
In the New Testament there are at least ten passages which call Him God (John 1:1, 18, 20:28; Acts 20:28;Rom. 9:5; (II Thess. 1:12—literally, “according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ”) I Tim. 3:16; (Tit. 2:13—literally, “the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”) Heb. 1:8; (II Peter 1:1—literally, “through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”) and I John 5:20). It is not surprising that in many of these references the original Greek text of the New Testament has many variations, for there have been from the beginning many attempts to weaken this powerful testimony. One of the first modern translations into English, the Revised Standard Version, is often criticized for following other readings and weakening the testimony of Scripture to Christ’s divinity. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and other nay-sayers argue concerning those passages, where no appeal to textual variations is possible, that the Greek text leaves room for the interpretation that He is a god, and not the God. But Scripture itself, foreseeing their unbelief, speaks of Him specifically as the God in such passages as John 20:28, Romans 9:5, and I John 5:20. In light of these passages it must also be clear that such passages as John 1:1, which do not have the word “the,” nevertheless mean to speak of Him as God in the full and complete sense.
Scripture adds to this a testimony concerning the attributes and praises of God. All the incommunicable attributes are ascribed to Him, that is, all those of which there is no reflection in the creature, even when clothed with the image of God. He is omnipresent: “And no man hath ascended up into heaven, .but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13); omniscient: “. . . in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3); omnipotent: “Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (I Tim. 6:15); and eternal: “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (I John 1:2). Even the communicable attributes of God, of which there is also some reflection in the creature, are ascribed to Him in a wholly unique sense. He has life in Himself as the Father does (John 5:26), is the Holy One (Luke 4:34), and is Wisdom (I Cor. 1:25), Light (John 8:12), Righteousness (I Cor. 1:30), and Truth (John 14:6); and does not merely receive these graces for Himself or bring them to us.
Likewise, the works of God in creation are ascribed to Him. This is the first argument of Hebrews 1 in showing His glory as God, for it is in creation first of all that God reveals His power and divinity, and reveals it in such a way that even the heathen are left without excuse (Rom. 1:18-21). From that viewpoint it cannot even really be said that the heathen who perish without receiving the Gospel never come into contact with Christ, for though they do not know Him in the Gospel as Savior and Redeemer, they do know Him as the one through Whom all things were created and by Whom they are upheld and governed (Col. 1:15-17, John 1:3, Eph. 3:9, Heb. 1:3). In connection with Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:2, 3, we ought to note that He is not only God the Creator, but, the God of providence as well, and that as God the whole purpose of the creation is to be found in Him, for “all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
In closest possible relation to the revelation of His power in, creation stands the testimony of His miracles. In His miracles He does on a small scale what God does every day in creation, multiplying fish in the waters, and bread through the sowing of the seed, changing water into wine by causing the grapes to drink His water and sunlight on the hills, and healing every bruised knee and scratched finger. As Athanasius says in his little book, On the Incarnation;
Who, seeing the substance of the water changed and transformed into wine, fails to perceive that He Who did this is Lord and Creator of all waters? For to this end He went upon the sea also as its Master, and walked as on dry land, to afford evidence to them that saw it of His Lordship over all things. And in feeding so vast a multitude on little, and of His own self yielding abundance where none was, so that from five loaves five thousand had enough, and left so much again over, did He show Himself to be any other than the very Lord Whose Providence is over all things?