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The Deity of Jesus: Is Jesus an Eternal Member of the Godhead or a Created Being?


III. Jesus Possesses the Unique Characteristics of God.


Do the Scriptures claim that Jesus possessed the unique characteristics of God? Has He existed eternally as the eternal Creator? Is He all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and everywhere present (omnipresence). Is He unchanging (immutable) and infinitely holy and righteous? Was He God in the flesh?

Note: This article continues a series of studies about Jesus' Deity: His names, character, works, and honor. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.

Certain characteristics are unique to God. No one but God - surely no created being - can possess them. Our purpose is to consider whether or not Jesus possesses these qualities. If He possesses the character which only Deity can possess, then this confirms that He possesses Deity. To claim He possesses these qualities when He is not Deity would be blasphemy.

Note that some passages already studied make general claims which necessarily imply that Jesus possesses the qualities of Deity. He possesses all the fullness of Deity (Colossians 2:9). He is the very image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), and had the form of God (Philippians 2:6). He also wears the unique names of God. It follows that He must possess the characteristics of God.

Let us consider these qualities individually to see whether or not the Bible affirms that Jesus did possess them. Remember that, if Jesus ever possessed these qualities, then He has always possessed them and always will possess them (Hebrews 13:8). Deity cannot cease to be Deity and cannot lose the characteristics of Deity.

A. Eternally Existent

Eternal existence is a unique characteristic of God.

Jehovah the true God has always existed and always will exist. He was not created. There was never a time when God did not exist. He is the everlasting Maker or Creator of all temporal, created things. The power of eternal existence is inherent in His nature (self-existence). He is the "living" God.

The names of God demonstrate this eternal nature. "Jehovah," "I am," and "First and Last" all imply eternal self-existence (see on the names of God). Note also the following:

Psalm 90:1-4 - Jehovah is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Hebrews OLAM). [Cf. Genesis 21:33; Isaiah 40:28; Deuteronomy 32:40]

Psalm 93:2 - His throne is "established from of old" (Hebrews ME-AZ). He is "from everlasting" (Hebrews OLAM).

Isaiah 57:15 - God "inhabits eternity" (Hebrews AD).

Habakkuk 1:12 - He is "from everlasting" (Hebrews QEDEM).

Psalm 55:19 - He "abides from of old" (Hebrews QEDEM).

[See also Deuteronomy 33:27; Jeremiah 10:10; Psalm 29:10; 9:7; Revelation 1:4; Exodus 15:18; Job 36:26; Romans 16:26; Isaiah 57:15; etc.]

Jesus possesses the characteristic of eternal existence.

Jesus is not a created being but existed eternally.

The names of God which imply eternal self-existence are used for Jesus (see the study of the names of Jesus: "First and Last," "I am," and "Jehovah").

Micah 5:2 - A ruler would come from Bethlehem, but his goings forth were actually "from of old" (Hebrews QEDEM), "from everlasting" (Hebrews OLAM). That this is a prophecy of Jesus is confirmed by Matthew 2:4-6.

Isaiah 9:6 - He is called "Everlasting" Father (Hebrews AD).

Psalm 102:24-27 - His "years are throughout all generations." The heavens and the earth are temporary so they will perish, but His "years will have no end." Hebrews 1:8,10-12 prove this was spoken to Jesus.

Isaiah 43:10,11 - No God was formed before Jehovah (the true God), nor will any be formed after. Hence, either Jesus is a false "god" (which surely contradicts the Bible), or else He is eternal like the Father.

Many passages show that Jesus was not created but is the Creator of all created things.

In another study we will consider in more detail regarding Jesus' role in creation. But consider briefly these passages:

John 1:3 - All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. Either He created Himself (which is absurd), or else He is eternal.

Colossians 1:16 - In Jesus were all things made, whether in heaven or on earth. Surely He did not make Himself, hence, He is not created.

Revelation 5:13 - Every created thing gave praise to the Father and the Lamb. Jesus is classed with the Father, not with the created things.

Romans 1:25 - Created things should not be worshipped, but we will see that Jesus accepted worship. Hence, He is not a created thing, but is the Eternal Creator.

Jesus is not a created being (as some claim). He is the eternal Creator. Eternal existence is a characteristic that only God can possess, and He surely cannot lose it. Yet Jesus possesses this characteristic.

B. All-powerful (Omnipotent)

Unlimited power over all created things is a unique characteristic of the true God.

Men and created beings may have some power over some other created things, but this power is limited. Only God's power is unlimited such that He has all power over all created things. Nothing is impossible for God. He has the power to do anything with His creatures that He chooses to do.

Matthew 19:26 - There are things men cannot do, but with God all things are possible. Hence, this is a unique characteristic of Deity.

Job 42:2 - The Lord can do everything and no purpose of His can be withheld from Him.

Jeremiah 32:17 - God made heavens and earth. Nothing is too hard for God. [Mark 14:36; Genesis 18:14]

Acts 17:24 - God made the world and everything in it since He is Lord of heaven and earth.

1 Chronicles 29:11,12 - Everything in heaven and earth belongs to God. He reigns over all.

Psalm 50:10-12 - Everything in the earth belongs to God.

Psalm 24:1,2 - The earth and everything on it belongs to the Lord because He made it.

Deuteronomy 10:14 - Heaven, earth, and everything in it belongs to God.

Matthew 11:25 - God is Lord of heaven and earth.

Psalm 97:9; 83:18 - God is most high above all the earth.

Note the connection between creation and unlimited power. God possesses all authority over all that He created. Because He made it, it belongs to Him, and He has the right to do all whatever He chooses with it.

[Isaiah 33:22; 10: 21; 43:13; Psalm 146:10; 10:16; 115:3; 135:6; Genesis 28:3; 35;11; 43:14; 48:3; Daniel 4:35]

Jesus possesses unlimited power because He made and owns all things.

Matthew 28:18 - Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and on earth.

Philippians 3:20,21 - Jesus is able so subdue all things to Himself.

Colossians 1:16 - All things were created through Jesus and for Him. This is exactly the point we studied already regarding Deity. Jesus made everything, so all exists for His purposes and pleasure.

Revelation 17:14; 19:16 - Jesus is "King of kings and Lord of lords." He has authority above that of all the created things.

John 3:31; Romans 9:5 - Jesus is "above all" and "over all."

Acts 10:36; Romans 10:12 - Jesus is "Lord of all."

Philippians 2:9-11; Ephesians 1:21 - Jesus has the name which is above every name. His "name" includes His authority. Hence, every knee in heaven and on earth must bow to Him and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

John 16:15; 17:10 - Jesus possesses all things that the Father possesses. Jesus rules over all by right of ownership. He owns all by right of being Creator of all.

Isaiah 9:6 - Jesus is called "Mighty God." [Cf. Revelation 1:8 and the discussion of "First and Last" above.]

Note that unlimited power does not mean that God does everything He has power to do; rather, it means He has the power to do whatever He wills or chooses to do. For example, God still has power to destroy all men by means of a flood, but He voluntarily limits His power and does not exercise it because He has so chosen (Genesis 9:8-17).

Likewise, while on earth, Jesus still possessed all power because He was still God. But in order to fulfill His purpose here as a human servant (Philippians 2:6-8), He limited His use or exercise of His power, so He did not use it in any way that would conflict with His purpose as servant (Cf. Matthew 26:53,54). He was often said to completely conform to the will of the Father even as all humans should. After His resurrection, all His glory and privileges were given back to Him by the Father, so He again fully exercises all power which was His by right from the beginning.

Some passages imply that Jesus is yet in some sense subject to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; 11:3). While we do not claim to understand all about the inner workings of Deity, these passages do not deny or belittle Jesus' Deity. Deity, as shown by the passages above, involves ownership, rulership, and unlimited power over the created things. Jesus possesses this in the same sense that the Father does.

C. All-Knowing (Omniscient)

Unlimited knowledge is a unique characteristic of Deity.

This characteristic is strongly tied to God's unlimited power. Because God has power to do everything He chooses to do, it follows that He has the power to know everything He chooses to know. God is unlimited in wisdom and knowledge in the same sense that He is unlimited in power. Unlimited power implies and results in unlimited knowledge.

Psalm 139:1-6 - God knows everything about us. Such knowledge is beyond our ability to attain unto. [Cf. v7-18]

Hebrews 4:13 - No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are open before His sight. [Psalm 33:13-15]

1 John 3:20 - God is greater than our hearts. He knows all things.

Psalm 147:4,5 - God counts and names the stars. He is mighty in power. His understanding is infinite. (Note the connection between His power and His knowledge.)

1 Kings 8:39 - Only God knows the hearts of all men. He will use this power in order to judge men (Jeremiah 17:10; 11:20; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 7:9). Man cannot know what is in the heart of a man unless the man somehow reveals it (1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Samuel 16:7).

The ability to know everything He chooses to know and, in particular, to know what is in the hearts of men, is a unique characteristic of God.

Jesus possesses this unlimited wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:2,3 - In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.

John 16:30; 21:17 - Jesus' disciples claimed that He knew all things. He never contradicted this claim nor rebuked them for it.

John 2:24,25 - Jesus had the ability to know what was in the hearts of all men without being told. Note that this was expressly stated to be a unique power of Deity, yet Jesus possessed this power and He exercised even while on earth. [Cf. Mark 2:8; Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 5:22; 6:8; 9:47; 11:17]

Revelation 2:23 - Jesus searches the minds and hearts in order to reward men for their works.

Again, this unlimited knowledge rests on the Divine power to do whatever God wills. God knows because He chooses to know. But we learned previously that God's power is exercised or not exercised according to His will. He knows things only when it suits His purpose to exercise His power to know them [cf. Genesis 11:5; 18:20,21]. It follows that He may at times choose not to exercise this power to know certain future things, just as He may choose not to exercise His power to do certain things.

In this way, while He was on earth accomplishing His purposes as a servant, Jesus did not always exercise this unlimited power to know all things. Mark 13:32 lists one thing in particular that He did not know. We conclude, based on the above passages, that it did not serve His purposes on earth to exercise His power to know this matter.

Yet Jesus possesses the Divine power to know all things that He chooses to know, just as He possesses Divine power to do all things that He chooses to do.

D. Everywhere Present (Omnipresent)

The ability to be everywhere at once is a unique characteristic of God.

Man is limited by a physical body, hence he can be only in one place at any one time. God, however, is spirit and can be everywhere in the universe at the same time. This power, however, is also related to His unlimited power to act and to know. God is present everywhere in the sense that everything everywhere is in His presence - He can see, know, and act in all places at once.

Psalm 139:7-12 - Wherever man is, God is there seeing him and knowing what man is doing.

Jeremiah 23:23,24 - God fills heaven and earth. He is at hand as well as afar off, so no one can hide that God cannot see Him.

Acts 17:27 - Men everywhere can find God because He is not far from each of us.

It is because of this unique characteristic of God that He is able to know all things that men do, to read the hearts of all men, and to hear and answer the prayers of all of His people wherever they are. [1 Kings 8:26,27]

Jesus also possesses this unique characteristic of God.

Matthew 18:20 - Jesus is present in the midst wherever two or three are gathered together in His name.

Matthew 28:20 - He promised the apostles He would be with them always, even to the end of the age.

We have already seen that Jesus has all power and can know all things, including what is in the hearts of all men. This is the fundamental concept of being present everywhere.

While on the earth, Jesus limited His power by taking on a physical body, being physically present where that body was. Nevertheless, He possessed the power to be everywhere at once, a unique characteristic of God, in that He is able to see, know, and act upon events no matter where they are.

E. Unchanging (Immutable)

Immutability is also a unique characteristic of God.

Man's character is flawed, hence we must continually be changing our character to make it what it ought to be. But God's character is perfect - without flaw - therefore it never needs to change and never does change. We have already studied certain characteristics unique to God. These characteristics He has always possessed and always will possess.

Malachi 3:6 - I am the Lord, I do not change.

James 1:17 - With God there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Numbers 23:19 - God is not a man who needs to repent. [1 Samuel 15:29]

To suit His eternal purpose, God has changed the laws and commands He has given to men, and He has at times changed what He does to suit His purposes. But His own character is what never changes. It follows that God can never lose His Divine characteristics. God cannot cease to be God and cannot cease to have the character of God.

Jesus possesses this characteristic of never changing.

Hebrews 1:12 - The earth and heavens will change (be destroyed), but you are the same. This is addressed to Jesus (v8). (This is a quote of Psalm 102:25-27 which says the same.)

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hence, Jesus also possesses this unique characteristic of Deity. He is not like men who change but like the Father who does not change.

Note again that, since Jesus possesses this particular characteristic, it follows that Jesus always has and always will possess all the other characteristics of Deity. If He ever is (or was) Deity, and if He does not change, then He always is (and was) Deity. If He ever possessed the characteristics of Deity, then He always possesses those characteristics.

In order to accomplish His purposes, God may voluntarily choose at times not to exercise or use certain abilities. Jesus did this while on earth in order to fulfill His role as a human servant (Philippians 2:6-8). But He cannot lose or surrender the characteristics, else He would cease to be God and that is impossible.

F. Infinitely Holy & Righteous

Infinite holiness is a unique characteristic of God.

Man is not always holy (Romans 6:10-23; 1 John 1:8,10), but God is sinlessly perfect. He is always holy, just, and righteous. He never sins nor needs to repent of sins.

Leviticus 11:44; Psalm 99:5,9; Revelation 4:8; 16:5. He is the "Holy One of Israel" - Isaiah 41:14,16,20; 43:3,14,15; 47:4.

Only God is truly holy - Revelation 15:3,4; 1 Samuel 2:2.

Jesus also possesses this characteristic of holiness.

Acts 3:14; 4:27,30; 13:35; Hebrews 7:26; John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:20-23; Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35 (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5).

Conclusion

Jesus possesses all the unique characteristics of God. But since only Deity possesses these characteristics, and since Jesus possesses them, it follows that Jesus must possess Deity. This confirms what we have learned in other studies of the passages that call Jesus God or other names for God. Jesus possesses true Deity even as does the Father and the Holy Spirit. These three together constitute the Godhead, the one true and living God we worship.

Click here to continue this study by considering the works of Deity done by Jesus.

Note: This article continues a series of studies about Jesus' Deity: His names, character, works, and honor. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.

(C) Copyright 1995, 2005, David E. Pratte
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