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Specifically, we will look at claims that He personally made for Himself and claims about Him that were made by other people in His presence.
Some people say that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, God in the flesh, eternal, the Savior and Judge of mankind, etc. Such people generally argue that such claims were legends or myths that developed long after Jesus died. They may be skeptics, atheists, or agnostics who deny Jesus was from God at all, or they may claim to believe in Jesus as just a great man or a prophet. In any case, they deny that He Himself made - or allowed to be made - claims that He was the Son of God, etc.
We grant that, if Jesus did make such claims, that of itself would not prove that the claims are true. The evidence to substantiate His claims is another subject. But if He made superhuman claims, that of itself narrows our options. Either those claims are true or false. There would be no middle ground.
Jesus and His disciples warned against false teachers.
Matthew 7:15-20 - Beware of false teachers.
Matthew 15:13,14 - If the blind leads the blind, both fall into the ditch. God will root up all such leaders.
If Jesus made religious claims that are not true, then He would stand condemned by His own teaching. He could not possibly be a good man and a great teacher, but would be a false teacher who contradicted His own teaching.
[2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; Acts 20:28-30; 1 John 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:2-4; Titus 1:9-14; 2 John 9-11; Romans 16:17,18; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Peter chap. 2]
Specifically, the Bible severely rebukes those who make or accept untrue claims of religious exaltation.
Matthew 23:5-11 - Jesus severely rebuked religious leaders who seek to be exalted religiously beyond their proper position.
Acts 10:25,26 - Peter forbade Cornelius to worship him, because Peter said he himself was just a man. [Rev. 22:8,9; 19:10; Rom. 1:25]
Acts 12:20-23 - Herod allowed people to call Him a god, not a man. He did not make the claim, but was slain for simply allowing others to make it on his behalf.
So, even if other people made untrue claims that improperly exalted Him, Jesus would be required to rebuke them. If He did not do so, He would stand condemned, even if He Himself did not make the claims. So we will examine claims He personally made and claims that He allowed others to make about Him.
The Bible contains the only eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life and teachings. Many Bible writers repeatedly claimed that they were writing accounts of events they personally witnessed or had heard directly from those who were eyewitnesses.
John 15:27 - He told His apostles that they would bear witness of Him, because they had been with Him from the beginning.
John 21:24 - John wrote his personal testimony and testified that it was true. [John 20:30,31]
2 Peter 1:16-18 - Peter denied they had followed fables about Jesus. He claimed instead that they were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
Many Bible writers argued that their record of the life and teaching of Christ was based on eyewitness testimony. If their record is not accurate, they themselves acknowledge that it should be rejected as false testimony.
Much evidence substantiates the historical accuracy of Bible writers, but again it is not our purpose to present this evidence. The point is that, if we do not accept the Bible record, then we know nothing about Jesus' claims. To reject parts of the Bible record about Jesus, while still claiming to believe in Jesus, is nonsense. If we do not accept the Bible record as valid history, then we cannot possibly know what to believe about Jesus.
Further, Jesus gave His approval to the teachings of His apostles, saying they would be inspired by the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:16; John 16:13). So we should conclude that anything they taught about Him had His approval. This includes especially the things they claim He personally said or that was said with His obvious knowledge.
So let us consider Jesus' claims. As we study, ask yourself: Are these the claims of a mere man, even a great prophet? What Bible prophet would make such claims: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul? If someone today were to make such claims and we concluded the claims were false, would we still consider Him to be a good man?
[1 John 1:1-3; Luke 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 15:14,15; Acts 1:8,21,22; 2:32; 10:39-41]
"Christ" is the New Testament word for the Messiah, the anointed ruler of God's people as predicted in the Old Testament. "Son of God" refers to Jesus' special relationship to the Father - a unique position no one else has - the only begotten Son (John 3:16). Did Jesus claim such positions?
Matthew 3:17 - At Jesus' baptism, the Father spoke from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 17:5 - At the Transfiguration the Father again spoke from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." He said this is why we should listen to Jesus. Both of these occasions were witnessed by other people, and in both cases Jesus accepted the statements without objection.
Matthew 16:13-17 - As it is today, some people in Jesus' lifetime thought that He was just a prophet. But in contrast, Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Rather than rebuking Peter, Jesus said that the Father Himself had revealed this to Peter.
John 4:25,26 - When the Samaritan woman suggested that Jesus might be the Messiah (Christ), Jesus directly acknowledged that was who He was.
John 9:35-37 - He told a blind man He had healed that He was the Son of God.
Matthew 26:63-66 - During His trial in the presence of His enemies, Jesus acknowledged that He was the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus also allowed various people to make such claims for Him on other occasions: Matthew 14:33; John 11:27; 1:29,34,49; 6:69.
Did any other true prophet ever make such claims? Did God ever give approval to any other man to make such claims? John the Baptist expressly denied such claims for himself (John 1:19-22; 3:28).
What kind of man would Jesus be to make and allow such claims, if they were not true? Yet He not only allowed others to make such claims for Him, He praised them for making them, He made them Himself, and eyewitnesses say that God the Father audibly made such claims for Him.
[Cf. Matt. 8:29; 12:41,42; 22:41-46; John 12:13.]
John 1:1-3 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." All things were made through Him. The "Word" refers to Jesus (v17), the only begotten of the Father who became flesh and dwelt among us (v14). This claims that Jesus is a separate individual from the Father (He was with God), and yet He Himself possesses Deity (He was God).
This is what Bible writers repeatedly claimed for Him (Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-8). Remember that mere men were rebuked or even killed for allowing such terms to be used for themselves. So, did Jesus knowingly allow people to uses names of God in referring to Him?
After he saw proof of Jesus' resurrection, Thomas addressed Jesus as "my Lord and my God." So, Thomas here called Jesus "God."
If Jesus did not possess Deity, Thomas' statement would have been blasphemy, and Jesus should have rebuked Him. Instead, Jesus praised Thomas and pronounced a blessing on everyone who believes the same (v29)! Then John proceeded to claim that His record of Jesus' miracles gives us all reason to believe in Him (vv 30,31).
The Father said to Son, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever" (quoted from Psalm 45:6,7). Note that the writer claims that God the Father Himself here addressed Jesus as "God" (cf. vv 1-9).
On both of these occasions people personally addressed Jesus as "God," and in one case God the Father is the one who so addressed Him! Both times Jesus allowed and accepted such language without objection.
Various passages show that these are terms for Deity emphasizing God's eternal self-existence (Rev. 1:8; 21:6,7; Isaiah 44:6; 43:10; 41:4; 48:12). But note Jesus' use of these expressions:
Revelation 2:8 - "These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life." (Compare Revelation 1:17 where vv 10-20 show that Jesus was speaking.)
Revelation 22:13 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." Jesus is speaking, as shown by vv 12,16,20.
So, "First and Last," "Alpha and Omega," "Beginning and End" are terms for Deity, yet Jesus used them to refer to Himself.
Exodus 3:13-15 - When God called Moses to lead Israel from captivity, He said, "I AM WHO I AM." He told Moses to say that "I AM" had sent him. This expression also describes the eternal, self-existing, unchanging nature of God. (See also Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10,13; 46:4; 48:12.)
John 8:58 - When questioned about how He could be old enough to have seen Abraham (vv 56,57), Jesus said, "...before Abraham was, I AM." His statement clearly claims eternal existence, just like God used "I am" in Ex. 3:14. The Jews recognized this significance and tried to stone Jesus (v59).
So, here is another unique name of God that Jesus used to refer to Himself. Again, what mere human would dare speak of himself in this way? Did Moses or Elijah or Paul? Such would have been blasphemy. Either Jesus' claims are true, or else He is not a good man at all!
[Cf. John 5:18; 10:30]
Many people claimed that Jesus was the Savior and giver of eternal life, but we will consider cases where this was claimed by Him or in His presence. (See John 4:42; Luke 2:11; Eph. 1:7; 5:23; Acts 5:31; Titus 1:3,4; 2:13,14; 2 Peter 1:1,11; 2:20; 3:18; Col. 1:13,14; Acts 4:12.)
Mark 2:3-12; Luke 7:48,49 - Jesus claimed to have power to directly forgive sins. This is a work only God can do.
Matthew 20:28 - He came to give His life a ransom for many.
Matthew 26:28 - He shed His blood for many for remission of sins.
John 8:24 - People who do not believe in Him will die in their sins.
[Luke 24:47; John 1:29,36; 12:47]
John 14:6 - I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.
John 3:13-15 - Jesus claimed He came down from heaven so that whoever believes in Him can have eternal life. [6:40]
John 10:27-29 - My sheep hear my voice and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
Jesus never classed Himself with sinful creatures in need of salvation. He is the Savior! He claimed He could forgive sins and would die to give people remission of sins and eternal life. What true prophet or angel ever claimed such power?
If Jesus is not who He claimed to be, how could these expressions be anything but blasphemy? His own claims compel us to believe either that He was a very evil man or else He is the Divine Son of God.
[John 6:35,40,51; 8:51; 9:5; 11:25; 15:5]
This is again claimed for Him repeatedly in the New Testament, but we will note cases where He was personally involved in the claims. (See Phil. 3:20,21; 2:9-11; Col. 1:16; John 3:31; Rom. 9:5; 10:12; Acts 10:36; Eph. 1:21; Isa. 9:6.)
Matthew 28:18,20 - Jesus claimed to possess all authority in heaven and on earth; therefore, men should obey all His commands.
Matthew 10:34-37 - We must love Him more than we love our closest family members, else we are not worthy of Him.
Revelation 19:16 - Jesus wears the name "King of kings and Lord of lords." He has authority above the highest of kings and rulers. [17:14]
Imagine what kind of person would make such claims, if He were merely a human prophet! Would such a person be a good man and a great religious teacher?
[John 14:15; 16:15; 17:10; Matt. 7:24-27; 5:21-48]
Again, this is a work only God could do (see Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 50:6; 96:10,13; Romans 2:3,5,16). Yet the gospel often claims that Jesus will do it. We will focus on passages where Jesus was present when the claim was made. (See 2 Cor. 5:10; Acts 17:31.)
John 5:22 - He said that the Father has given all judgment to Him.
Matthew 16:27 - He will come in glory with the angels and reward all men according to their works.
Matthew 25:31-46 - All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will send them into eternal punishment or eternal life.
Again, what true prophet or good man ever made such claims? If the claims are not true, what kind of man would Jesus be to make them?
As studied earlier, Jesus and other Bible teachers taught that only God deserves to receive worship. Men do not deserve religious honor such as is addressed to God. (See Matt. 4:9,10; Acts 10:25,26; Rev. 22:8,9; 19:10; Rom. 1:25; Ex. 34:14; Isa. 42:8; 48:11; Rev. 9:20; 14:9-11; Ex. 20:3-6; Deut. 6:13-15 Matt. 23:8-12.)
Yet Jesus often allowed people to worship Him religiously and offer Him religious honor such as belongs only to God.
Matthew 14:33 - After Jesus had calmed a storm, the disciples worshiped Him saying He is the Son of God.
John 9:38 - After Jesus healed a blind man, the man said he believed and he worshiped Jesus.
Matthew 28:9,17 - After His resurrection, His disciples worshiped Him.
Luke 24:52 - After He had ascended back to heaven, they continued to worship Him.
So Jesus accepted worship as an act of religious honor. If He was just a man - even if He was a great prophet - His own teachings would absolutely forbid this.
[Matt. 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; Mark 5:6; Heb. 1:6; John 20:28,29]
John 5:23 - All men should honor the Son "just as" they honor the Father. To fail to so honor the Son is to fail to properly honor the Father.
John 17:5 - Jesus asked that, after He died, the Father would glorify Jesus with the glory He had with the Father before the world was. Jesus was glorified with the Father in eternity.
What prophet or truly great religious leader ever made such statements or received such glory with God's approval? Either Jesus is far greater than just a man or just a prophet, or else He is a fraud, a cheat, and a liar. He would not be a good man at all, let alone a great religious leader.
[John 16:15; 17:10]
Consider carefully all we have examined regarding Jesus' claims. Who else in the history of the world has ever made such claims and continued to receive a great following? The very nature of such claims compels us to reckon with such a person. We cannot be neutral or ignore Him. We must accept Him for exactly who He says He is, or else we must reject him as a liar or a lunatic or both. Surely he cannot be a good man and a great religious teacher, but just a human being.
So, just by themselves the claims of Jesus compel us either to reject him as a liar, cheat, and fraud, or else to accept Him as the Divine Son of God, the Ruler of the Universe, and the Savior of the world. There is no middle ground.
But Jesus not only made these claims, He also offered evidence to substantiate them. He fulfilled prophecy and accurately predicted the future. He did great miracles, and He arose from the dead. Each person must honestly deal with the claims Jesus made and with the evidence those claims are true. (See Matt. 9:1-8; 17:1-5; 14:25-33; Luke 24:25-27,44-46; John 5:36,39; Matt. 16:21; 17:22,23; 20:17-29; 26:20-25,33-35; John 13:21-27; 5:28,29; 6:40,44; 10:24,25,37,38; 14:10,11.)
What will you do with Jesus? Have you accepted Him as your Savior by believing His word and obeying Him? Are you following Him faithfully?
Copyright 2003, 2011, David E. Pratte
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Why Should You Believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible?
Jesus' Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection
Jesus as Savior from Sin
The Bible Claims to Inspiration
Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection
Significance of Jesus' Resurrection
Saul's Conversion & Jesus' Resurrection
Deity of Jesus: God in the Flesh
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.