Imagine you are talking to a non-believing friend about Christianity and he asks you, “Why do you think that Jesus is God? Is this really a teaching of the Bible?”
How would you answer your friend? To which verses would you point him if you were put on the spot?
This question is deeply important, for in John 8:29, Jesus says, “If anyone does not believe that I am he, he will not see life.” The Greek phrase behind the English “I am he” could also be translated as “I am.” This phrase appears in other passages in John’s gospel (8:58 and 18:5), and should be understood as referring to Jesus’ divine identity (see Exodus 3:14). Jesus is saying that if we do not believe that he is God, we will not see life. Thus, the stakes are high! Therefore, it is our duty towards our neighbors, coworkers, and friends to be prepared to explain the truth of Jesus’ divinity when asked.
The New Testament attests to the divinity of Jesus both explicitly and implicitly. In this post, we will examine five passages which explicitly teach that Jesus is God and three ways Jesus is implicitly acknowledged as God. Knowing both the explicit and implicit ways the Bible speaks of Jesus’ divinity will both equip us for evangelistic conversations and assure doubting Christians about the truthfulness of the doctrines they believe.
Statements Explicitly Teaching Jesus’ Divinity
There are at least seven places in the New Testament where Jesus is explicitly given the title “God” (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1). However, we will restrict our study to the five statements which occur in the writings of John and Paul.
John’s gospel begins and ends with clear statements of Jesus’ divinity. In the opening verses of his gospel, John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (1:1, 18). And in one of his concluding scenes, John records Thomas’ worshipful remarks after Jesus lets him touch his pierced hands and side: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). Interestingly, Jesus does not rebuke Thomas for worshiping him. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13, which states, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:4). Thus, we rightly understand Jesus’ acceptance of Thomas’ worship as a tacit acknowledgement of his divine identity.
Turning now to the writings of Paul, we see that he refers to Jesus as “God” in two of his letters. First, his letter to the Romans, Paul lists the privileges the Jews have enjoyed as God’s chosen people. Among these privileges, Paul mentions that “from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:5). Second, writing to Titus, Paul encourages believers to live godly lives while we await the appearing “of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). In both of these passages, we see that Paul very clearly identifies Jesus Christ as God.
These five statements (along with the other two listed above) explicitly teach that Jesus is God. I encourage you to choose one of the verses discussed above and meditate on it this week. You might also memorize it along with the reference to have ready for your next evangelistic conversation.
Stories Implicitly Showing Jesus’ Divinity
There are many other passages in the Bible which implicitly teach that Jesus is God. Many of these verses show Jesus doing what only God does. First, when Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic in Mark 2:1–12, he is doing something that only God can do. Second, when Jesus walks on the water in Mark 6:45–52, he is performing actions that are limited to God alone in the Old Testament (see Job 9:8, Isaiah 43:16, and Psalm 77:19). Third, when Jesus receives praise (Rev. 5:11–14) and prayers (Acts 7:59–60; Rev. 22:20) from God’s people, he is receiving what God alone should receive (see Ex. 20:1–4 and Psalm 50:14–15).
These verses, along with many others, implicitly show us that Jesus is God. They are not as straightforward as the seven verses mentioned above, but they may be helpful in persuading non-believers or doubtful Christians who have some degree of Bible knowledge.
A few years ago while on the campus of Purdue University, I was unexpectedly asked why I believed that Jesus is God. A believing friend and I had been drawn into a conversation with two Mormon missionaries sent from Utah to evangelize students on Indiana college campuses. We talked with them for several hours, discussing many topics related to Mormonism. However, we ended the conversation discussing whether Jesus was really God (the historic position of the Christian church), or whether he was ultimately a created being as taught in the Book of Mormon.
Unfortunately, my friend and I left that conversation realizing that we had been woefully unprepared to defend the full deity of Jesus from the Bible. We were caught off guard, unable to give a defense for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
I encourage you to keep the verses discussed in this post ready in your mind as you evangelize your lost friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Meditate on them, memorize them, or write them on note cards. We can be thankful that the Scriptures are clear about the divine identity of Jesus, but we must strive to keep the relevant verses ready in our minds. May we be ready for the next time we are asked why we believe that Jesus is God incarnate.
Chad Lawrence (BS, Purdue University) serves as a Discipleship Class Teacher at Oak Park Baptist Church. He lives in Jeffersonville with his wife, Kaci, and their daughter.