The Doctrine of the Deity of Christ
December 11th, 1955 @ 8:15 AM
THE DOCTRINE OF THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-11-55 8:15 a. m.
The sermon this morning following our commitment at this eight-thirty hour that we are preaching on the doctrines of our faith. The sermon this morning is on The Doctrine of the Deity of Christ – that Jesus is none other than God incarnate, God in the flesh, God made manifest, God walking and talking and tabernacling among men.
Now, our text was the one that we read this morning in unison in the twentieth chapter of the Book of John: "Thomas answered and said unto Him, ‘My Lord and My God’" [John 20:28] and then the closing of the writing of the Gospel by John. The twenty-first chapter is an appendix written after the book was completed. John closed his gospel with these words:
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing ye might have life through His name.
That Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, He is declared so in the Scriptures. He is called God in the Word of God.
In John 1:1, the beginning of the Gospel of John, the apostle writes those words familiar to all of us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Jesus was God.
In the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the eloquent author, quoting from the Bible, says, "But unto the Son He said." He said what? "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom" [Hebrew 1:8]. Speaking to the Son, the Lord Jesus, He says, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" [Hebrews 1:8]. And again – now he quotes again – and under the sun, he says:
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands:
They shall perish; but Thou remainest; they shall wax old as doth a garment;
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, they shall be changed:
But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
And once again, out of a multitude of things, in the second chapter of the Book of Titus, in the thirteenth verse, Paul has a studied, direct declaration of the deity of Christ when he says: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" [Titus 2:13]. Paul learnedly, studiedly, deliberately, directly, as though he had carefully thought out that epithet, that description: "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." This doctrine of the deity of the Lord Jesus is the supreme and essential claim of the Christian religion. It is the heart from which radiates all the veins and arteries of our faith, and it is the center around which circulates all spiritual reality, the hope for humanity, and the promise of eternal life itself.
It is the claim of the Lord Jesus. He claimed to be God manifest. Before the high priest at the Sanhedrin the night He was tried, the high priest stood before Him and said, "I adjure Thee by the living God, tell us, art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" [Matthew 26:63] And on trial and under oath, and to the supreme representative of the Hebrew nation and the presiding officer of its highest court, the Lord replied, "I am. I am. And henceforth," He said, "thou shalt see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" [Mark 14:62]. It is that doctrine upon which the church of Jesus is built.
"Who am I?" [Matthew 16:13] And Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" [Matthew 16:16]. And Jesus said, "Upon this rock," the rock of the deity of the Son of God, "and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" [Matthew 16:18]. This is the cardinal foundation for all of our faith and all of our doctrine. And if this can be shaken, if the doctrine of the deity of Christ can be moved, then all the rest of the theological superstructure totters and falls. So this morning, we look at the doctrine of the deity of the Son of God.
I have four avowals to make, and the first one is this: Jesus said – what He said, only God could say. No man could speak words like that Man spake. No man could say what Jesus said and not either be a blasphemer or a madman or what He was,God incarnate in the flesh. I have written down here just some of the amazing, stupendous, unbelievable claims that Jesus spake concerning Himself. Listen to them. He said – – and these are His words:
I am the light. [John 8:12]
I am the way. I am the truth. [John 14:6]
I am the vine. [John 15:5]
I am the life. [John 14:6]
Ask in My name. [John 14:13]
I will rise from the dead. [Matthew 16:21]
Eat My body, and drink My blood. [John 6:54]
Keep My commandments. [John 14:15]
I am the resurrection. [John 11:25]
I am from above. I am the light of the world. [John 8:12]
I came down from heaven. [John 6:38]
Before Abraham was, egōeimi, I, I AM – double. [John 8:58]
All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. [Matthew 28:18]
I am greater than the temple. [Matthew 12:6]
A greater than Solomon is here. [Matthew 12:42]
I am Lord of the Sabbath. [Matthew 12:8]
He that has seen Me has seen God, has seen the Father. [John 14:9]
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [Matthew 11:28]
You call Me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am. [John 13:13]
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall never pass away. [Luke 21:33]
Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. [Matthew 26:64]
This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins. [Matthew 26:28]
I will raise you up at the last day. [John 6:44]
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age. [Matthew 28:20]
The Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father; and then shall He reward every man according to his works. [Matthew 16:27]
Who could say that but God Himself? Any man speak like that Man would be a mad man were he a man! Those are the words, those are the prerogatives of God Himself.
Words that would sound blasphemous and ridiculous on the lips of anybody else sound so beautiful and are received so wonderfully when Jesus says them. Look at this precious and beautiful word: Matthew 11:28-  :
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
What man of you who has any humility at all would stand up in the presence of the congregation this morning and say, "For I am meek and lowly in heart"? It’d be vanity itself. But let Jesus say it, and somehow it fits. It is He. It’s our Lord. He’s the Son of God.
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, I counted last night, there are six places in that chapter alone where the Lord quotes from the law of Moses and says, "You have heard that it hath been said," then He will quote from Moses. Then the next stanza is, "But I say unto you" [Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44].
Who is this who dares to aggregate the Word written by the finger of God?It is He who first wrote the thing Himself and now in a new dispensation and in a new commandment bids His disciples observe some higher and spiritual reality. No wonder the officers of the temple when they came to arrest Him came without Him saying, "Never man spake like that Man" [John 7:45-46]. He said things only God could say.
The second avowal is this: what Jesus was and what He is only God Himself is. In the eighth chapter of the Book of John, the fourth gospel, the Lord turning to His critics, His enemies, said, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin? [John 8:46] Show a fault or a blemish in My life." Was there ever, ever any man anywhere who had any sense of his own soul’s status whoever stood up and said intelligently with any idea that others would believe it that, "I am pure, set apart, removed, morally perfect and sinless"?
He is the ideal man. Search for another through all of the millions of the human family.
Moses. Ask him, "Are you the ideal man? Are you sinless? Are you perfect, Moses?" I can see Moses as he would reply, "Ideal, sinless, perfect, I? It is not I." Why immediately it’d come before the mind of Moses striking in anger murdering a man [Exodus 2:11-12].
"David, great king, is it you, the ideal and the perfect man?" David in astonishment: "I? I?" [2 Samuel 11:1-27]
Socrates, the best of all of the ancient Greeks. "Socrates, we’re looking for the perfect man, the ideal man. Socrates, is it you? Is it you?" Socrates would have been amazed: "I? I?"
But when you come to the Lord Jesus: elevated, separate and apart, without flaw or blemish [1 Peter 1:19] – no sin in Him – like God as God would be were He made man.
It is impossible even for the great literary authors of our human family even to create in imagination that ideal man. Victor Hugo [1882-1885] wrote so wonderfully of the peasant class of France and created a character that’ll live forever: Jean Valjean in his Les MisÃ©rables . But no one would find in Jean Valjean the Christ.
Alfred Lord Tennyson [1809-1892] , the poet laureate, created one of the most beautiful characters in literature: King Arthur of the Round Table. But ask King Arthur, "Are you the Christ, the ideal man?" He hasn’t been created – not by thought or imagination or genius of literary author.
But somehow, even His enemies saw in Jesus of Nazareth one set apart, one sinless and perfect. Pilate, after he examined Him came forth and said, "I find in him no fault at all" [John 19:6]. Pilate’s wife sent him word, saying, "Don’t be involved with that righteous, just Man" [Matthew 27:19]. Judas who betrayed Him came and said, "I, I have betrayed innocent blood" [Matthew 27:4]. The thief who died by Him on the cross said, "For this man hath done nothing amiss" [Luke 23:41]. And the centurion who presided over His execution raised his voice, saying, "This was none other than the Son of God" [Mark 15:39].
And through these years, through these years, these men who have followed the Lord Jesus and loved Him have found all of those ideals in Him that each one in his separate profession sought in superlative and celestial numbers. One of our brilliant and eloquent preachers of a generation ago was named Cortland Myers, and I copied from him this thing about Jesus; and it’s alphabetical:
To the artist He is the one altogether lovely.
To the architect He is the Chief Cornerstone.
To the astronomer He is the sun, s-u-n, of righteousness, the Bright and the Morning Star.
To the baker He is the Living Bread.
To the banker He is the riches of the world.
To the biologist He is life itself.
To the builder He is a sure foundation.
To the doctor He is the great Physician.
To the educator He’s the great Teacher.
To the engineer He’s the true, the straight and the living Way.
To the farmer He is the sower and the Lord of the harvest.
To the florist He’s the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
To the geologist He’s the Rock of Ages.
To the horticulturist He’s the True Vine.
To the judge He’s the righteous Judge of all men.
To the juror He is the faithful and true witness.
To the lawyer He’s the great Counselor and Advocate.
To the newspaper man He’s the good tidings of glad things.
To the philanthropist He is the unspeakable Gift.
To the philosopher He is the wisdom of God.
To the preacher He is the Word of God.
To the sculptor He’s the living stone.
To the servant He’s the good Master.
To the statesman He’s the desire of all nations.
To the student He is the incarnate truth.
To the theologian He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
To the toiler He’s the giver of rest.
To the sinner He’s the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. And to the Christian, to us, in the words of Thomas our fellow disciple, He is our Lord and our God.
He is what only God is, Jesus is.
The third avowal: He did and He does what only God could do. Without effort, apparently, all control, creation, re-creation, was invested in His blessed hands. He could speak to the tempest "be still" and it stills [Mark 4:39]. He could say to a paralytic, "Stand up!" And paralyzed all of his life, the paralytic stood up [John 5:5-9]. He could say to a man that had never seen, "Be opened," and his eyes had light again [Luke 18:42-43; John 9:1-7] ; to a deaf man, "Hear," and the deaf could hear [Mark 7:31-37]. He could say to the leper, "Be clean," and the leper was cleansed [Matthew 8:1-3]. And He could say to the dead, "Come forth," and the very dead stood up to live again [John 11:43-44]. The Lord Jesus.
And the great, the incomparably great attestation to the deity of Christ is that miracle of all wondrous miracles. He said, "I will be crucified, and buried, slain and killed; but the third day I shall rise again" [Matthew 16:21]. And according to His own prophecy, and according to His own heart’s commitment, He yielded up His life [Matthew 27:50]. He died voluntarily [John 10:17-18]. He gave Himself for our sins [Galatians 1:3-4]. And they wrapped Him in a long, winding sheet and put in many pounds of spices in order that His body might be preserved [John 19:39-40] for they thought He would see corruption – that that body would turn back to dust.
But the Lord had said, and they had forgot – or they staggered at the immensity of the problem involved – He said, "The third day I shall rise again" [Luke 18:33]. And after they had slain Him, an Arimathea Joseph, asking for His body, taking it down from the cross, placing it in his new tomb, a great stone rolled upon the door [Matthew 27:57-60] and sealed by the Roman government [Matthew 27:62-66] – according to His word, the third day, the third day, He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-9].
And according to Romans 1:4: "Jesus Christ declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." Where is there any man who dare could say, "I will die, be slain, crucified, buried, but the third day I shall live again. I shall be raised from the dead"? That is the work and the power of God. He did what only God could do: Jesus, God manifest in the flesh.
The last avowal is this. The Lord Jesus inspires a hope in humanity that is God inspired. There’s built up within us, all of us who adore and worship Him, there is built up in us all of that faith, and love, and holy commitment that is the very woof and warp, that is the very heart and center of religion itself. About Jesus, in the preaching of Jesus, in the loving of Jesus, in the committal of our lives to Jesus, there is the very heart and center of worship itself. And I say that is a hope. That is an encouragement. That is the engendering of a holy dedication that lies through life and unto death itself.
Because he loved the Lord Jesus and worshipped Jesus as God, Paul laid down his life on the headsman’s block. And the executioner took away his life for Jesus, love of the Lord. And he did it triumphantly and gloriously [2 Timothy 4:6-8].
And for the same love of the Lord Jesus, James’ head was severed by the sword of Herod [Acts 12:2]. And for the same love of the Lord Jesus and the hope he had in Him, aged John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9]. And from those first Christian disciples unto this present day of martyrdom and suffering in this world, there are those by the millions and the uncounted millions who have bowed in His presence, who have owned Him as their God, and have found in their souls and in their hearts that fullness and that glory of the consciousness that the Lord is with us. And when we love Him, we’re loving God – His very self.
Scratched on one of the palatine walls – the ancient Roman palace – scratched on one of those walls dating back to the 200’s AD, scratched on one of those walls was a caricature, and it was this. Some fellow who was scorning and ridiculing had scratched on the wall a picture of a man with an ass’s head hanging on a cross, and in front of the man with the ass’s head hanging on the cross was the figure of another man in the attitude of worship. And underneath was the ill-spelled inscription, "Alexamenos adores his God."
In a little lull in the massacre of the Armenian Christians at Schezwan, one of the KÃ¼rdisavages was overheard to say, "Who is this Lord Jesus they are calling upon?"
As the Christians of the ancient Roman Empire, these modern Christians who were martyred, in their death agonies, called upon the name of Jesus like Stephen did when he bowed down to pray for his enemies [Acts 7:59-60].
That’s the hope. That’s the faith. That’s the love. That’s the dedication that is engendered in the hearts of those who love and adore the Lord Jesus.
And my thesis is that that is religion itself. That is the true worship of God Himself. The feeling is the feeling of God. The love is the love of God. The faith is the faith of God. The trust and the worship is the worship of God. When I name Jesus, I name God. When I love Jesus, I love God. When I serve Jesus, I serve God. When I worship Jesus, I worship God. When I’m obedient to Jesus, I’m obedient to God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [John 1:1] : the doctrine of the deity of Jesus.
Now, in the moment that remains, let us sing our hymn. Is it "Only Trust Him"? Let us sing our hymn. And while we sing the hymn, while we sing the appeal, somebody youto give his heart to the Lord, trusting Jesus, or to put his life in the church, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? "Here is a family of us. We’re coming this morning hour, Pastor," or, "just one of us." As the Lord shall lead the way and make the appeal to your heart, would you come? Would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?