THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-5-64 10:50 a.m.
On radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Deity of Christ. We have been preaching on what God is like. And the last Sunday morning, before the intervening Easter series of special services, the message was on The Mystery of the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. And the message this morning is on the second person of the Godhead, God the Son, Jehovah, Jesus, The Deity of Christ. We approach this subject with deepest reverence and with godly fear. The most stupendous miracle of all time and of all ages, and the most inconceivably significant of all the revelations of God is the incarnation, the Word made flesh.
An Alpine guide, with his tourists, was approaching the crest of some great lofty Matterhorn in the Alps. And the guide as he came to the crest of the awful precipice did so with extreme caution, on his hands and on his knees. But the man he was guiding was walking up to the top of the precipitous peak. And when the guide turned around and saw him, he seized him and pulled him down, and said, "On your knees, sir, on your knees." The mighty rushing stormy winds, coming up that vast cliff of rock, pulled the man into the abyss, "On your knees, sir, on your knees."
And as I read it, I thought, standing as some of you have on the peaks of some of those mighty Alps, and looking over God’s creation, the very mountains and the sky above and the panorama before cry to the man God made, "On your knees, sir, on your knees." But out of all of the vast panoramic works of God in heaven above and earth beneath, there is no mighty miracle like the incomparable incarnation; God made flesh.
In the first chapter of the first letter of Simon Peter, verse 10, the apostle says of this incomparable incarnation, the coming of the Lord Christ into the world, the apostle Peter says of this, "The prophets themselves earnestly sought and diligently looked to find a meaning and an answer, they prophesied of it," but it was beyond their imagination or understanding. And in the twelfth verse of the same chapter the apostle Peter says, "And the angels in heaven desired to look into it."
It was a stupendous intervention of God in human history beyond what prophet or angel could conceive of. And when we approach the subject of the deity of Christ, the incarnation of God, we do so with deepest consciousness of our mental and spiritual limitations, living in a house and a frame with a mind that is warped by human fog, and sin, and failure.
After I had prepared a sermon on the deity of Christ, Thursday night I brushed it all away. This isn’t adequate. This isn’t commensurate. This isn’t congruent. This isn’t worthy. I brushed it all away, pulled down again those heavy tomes on theology, and waded through their endless pages again.
Were we speaking of a man, then the mind of another man could apprehend him, delineate him, describe him, ferret out the reasons for what he did, measure his achievements, write all about him. But this exalted One with whom we have to do is first of all God overall, blessed forever, the fullness of him that filleth all in all [Ephesians 1:23]. And no mortal and finite man could ever plumb the depths of the meaning of His majesty or scale the limitless heights of His deity.
Because of the finiteness of our understanding and the circumscriptions and limitations of our knowledge, the deity of Christ is met with so vast different responses among men. There are those who scoff at it and scorn it; the liberal, the modernist, the Unitarian, to them Jesus is just another man like Socrates or Confucius. A good man, yes; a wise man, yes; a great man, yes; but yet a man still, a mere man. They refuse the revelation altogether.
There are those who when they read of it, and hear of it, find a veil over their hearts. As Paul said of his own nation, "Even to this day, when Moses is read, there is a veil over their hearts" [2 Corinthians 3:15]. And when the Lord said to His own people, "I and My father are one [John 10:30], and he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" [John 14:9, 10]. "And Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad. In unbelief and rejection they said, Thou are not fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? And Jesus replied, Verily, I say unto thee, before Abraham was, I am" [John 8:56-58]. "And they took up stones to stone Him. And the Lord said, For a good work that I have done, which one do you stone Me for? And they replied, For a good work we do not stone Thee; but because of blasphemy, for Thou being a man hast made Thyself God" [John 10:31-33].
To them inconceivable because of the veil over their hearts that remains to this present day. There are those who are blinded by Satan in unbelief and are led into esoteric and strains and blasphemous systems of faith and religion. The apostle Paul wrote, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world, Satan, in whom the god of this world hath blinded their minds that believe not, lest the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" [2 Corinthians 4:3-4]; the systems of false religion in Africa, in India, in the Orient, in the Levant, blinded by the god of this world. But to us who humbly and reverently believe, who accept, who trust, there is a glory, and a gladness, and a wonder that is to us indescribable, and unspeakable, and unpronounceable! There’s not a song that can delineate it. There’s not a poem that can describe it. There’s not an orator or a preacher commensurate with it.
I took our hymn book, and I turned to the section on praise and adoration. And I found there this same unspeakable inability to say the reverential awe and praise we feel in our souls toward the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. For example, Samuel Medley born 1738,
O could I speak the matchless worth
O could I sound the glories forth which in my Savior shine!
I’d soar and touch the heavenly strings
And vie with Gabriel as he sings
In notes almost divine.
Can’t, but would, if I could.
Charles Wesley, the hymn we just sang;
O for a thousand tongues to sing,
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace.
Bernard of Clairvaux, born 1091, wrote one of the most beautiful, beautiful hymns in any language. In it he says,
No voice can sing,
No heart can form,
Or can the memory find,
a sweeter note than Jesus’ name,
Oh Savior of mankind.
Or Charles Gabriel,
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene
Or Thomas Oliver’s, born 1725,
While the angel choirs are crying
Glory to the Great I Am
I with them will still be vying
Glory, glory to the Lamb.
Oh, how precious, oh, how precious is the sound of Jesus’ name to us who believe! Standing in the presence of the deity, the Godhead of Jesus Christ, our response is beyond word, or language, or song, or poem, or sermon. It is one of reverential awe and wonder and godly fear. "To your knees, sir, to your knees, sir"; on your knees in the presence of the great God and our King – this, this is the clear and unanimous voice of the Holy Scriptures.
In preparing this sermon, I have left out literally hours and hours that I have longed to preach. And in God’s grace maybe I shall in time, in the days. The unanimous, the unanimous revelation of God, the coming of our Lord, the incarnation of the great Jehovah, God in our midst, the Word made flesh; for example, I choose just the introduction, in Isaiah 40, beginning at verse 3:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Who is it, this messenger before his face? Who is it this messenger is to introduce? "Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Where all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." This is the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God as it is written in the prophet Isaiah.
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain shall be brought low. And all flesh shall see the salvation of our God." This is the beginning of gospel of Jesus Christ – John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of our God."
And when I turn to the gospel of John and read there of the introduction to the Baptist, "John bare witness and cried, saying, This is He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me" [John 1:15]. And twice in verse 15 and in verse 30, and twice, and twice is that marvelous testimony of John the Baptist recorded: "And He was before me."
I have copied out of the Scriptures the passages, some of the passages in which Christ is specifically called God. I’ll not take time to read them. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [John 1:1]. And my text, "And Thomas answered and saith unto Him, My LORD and my God" [John 20:28]. Every attribute, every work, every nomenclature, every delineation that is attributed to God is also said of Jesus Christ. Jesus possesses the attributes of God, and I have copied out the Scriptures. All the attributes of God are the attributes of the Lord Christ. His name is associated with God upon an equality, and I’ve copied out the Scriptures.
And the word of God and the works of God are attributed to Jesus, and here is the long list of Scriptures. I haven’t time even to refer to them. There is nothing said of God but that is also said of Jesus. There is no attribute, there’s no quality, there’s no work but that is of both God and Jesus. "He that honoreth the Son," John 5:23, "He that honoreth the Son, honoreth the Father. And he that dishonoreth the Son, dishonoureth the Father."
Jesus, Jehovah God; this is the clear and plain revelation of the Holy Scriptures I hold in my hand. But after all, maybe this is the theological concept to be debated in ecclesiastical circles. This is something for preachers to preach about, for theologians to theologize about, for ecclesiastics to argue about. Let us see if the revelation of God, that the Lord is Christ, that Christ is Jehovah God, let’s see if it is corroborated in human experience. In your life, you be the laboratory; you take the test tube. You light the Bunsen burner; you follow the thermometer. You take the equation.
If it cannot be corroborated in my life, then it is a theological concept that is metaphysical, esoteric, unattended with pertinency to me or to anybody else! If the great truths of the Word of God are not such as can be verified by the experience of man, then they are no longer truths. They are philosophical, metaphysical theories, and hypothesis, and debatable propositions. So let us take the revelation of God. Let us take the Holy Scriptures ascribing Jesus as deity and see if it is so in our lives. So we begin. Let’s start with prayer. Let’s start with prayer. Well, let’s try it.
Suppose I get on my knees. I’m going to pray now. All right, let’s name all the great men of the past. I’m going to pray to Alexander the Great. I’m going to pray to Julius Caesar. I’m going to pray to Frederick the Great, to Charlemagne. I’m going to pray to Wellington, the deliver of the English nation. I am going to pray to Washington. I’m going to pray to Lincoln. Name any of the great of the earth and let me pray to them. Immediately, there is a revulsion in the soul. No man in his right and mortal mind is going to bow in prayer and call on the name of any man of flesh and blood. Try it. Try it. These things of religion are not philosophical propositions. They’re not esoteric theories. They are flesh and blood! Try them. Try them.
All right let me try it then. I bow my knees. "Lord, this child is sick unto death. O blessed Jesus, lay hands of healing and spare the life of the child." I’ve done it many times. Felt nothing but an answering reply from God. Try it. See. Taste and see that the Lord is real [Psalm 34:8]. "Lord, I bring to Thee the derelictions, and the sins, and the mistakes, and the shortcomings of my life, and in the blood of Thy cross, Lord, forgive. Forgive." See. See. Or, "Lord, in the desperate weakness of my soul, and lacking wisdom, O God, O God, remember me. Remember me." See! These are not philosophical, theological hypothesis. This revelation is the truth of God, our Lord and our God.
Or let’s take another one. Let’s take another one. In preparing this sermon I felt almost disrespectful in doing these things, in thinking them, much less in preaching them in the pulpit. But I don’t know how else to illustrate it. Speaking of the deity of Christ, when we worship Him as God and when we reverently come before Him and bow and call on His name, it not only is the truth of the Book I hold in my hand, but it is the very truth and blessing of life itself!
Now let’s take another one and I don’t mean to be facetious, but I say I don’t know how to frame it. Or let’s take one other. I’m going to have a baptismal service at 7:10 tonight as we do every Sunday night. At the eight fifteen o’clock service there came a young man, and he said, "I take Jesus as my Savior, and tonight I want you to baptize me."
"Fine," so I go to the baptistery. Now I’m a great admirer of mighty, mighty men of the days past. And I raise my hand and I say, "And I baptize you, my brother, in the name of Justinian, and Ptolemy, and Antiochus Seleucus." Or maybe I am a great devotee of science, and I raise my hand and I say, "And I baptize you, my brother, in the name of Copernicus, and Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton."
I’m not being blasphemous. I’m just trying to say it the best I can think to say it. You let me stand in the baptistery and raise my hand and say, "And upon an open, unashamed confession of your faith in Jesus as Lord, I baptize you, my brother, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." There is an inanity, and a ridiculousness, and a blasphemy about one. There is a holiness, and a reverence, and a godliness in the other. See. See.
Let us take another one. "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up into heaven? This same Jesus shall so come as you have seen Him go away" [Acts1:11]. And by the millions, and by the millions, and by the millions, God’s children look up into the heavens, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" [Revelation 1:7]. "He which has testifieth these things saith, Surely, I come quickly [Revelation 22:20] Amen. Amen. Haste Lord, come quickly. Come quickly." And when I gaze heavenward and my heart lifts upward, and the Lord says, "Your redemption draweth nigh" [Luke 21:28 ], there is with it a godliness, and a saintliness that is not known in any other experience in life.
All right, try it. You know anybody looking for Jupiter? You know anybody looking for Juno? You know anybody looking for Isis or Orsiris, or Mercury, or Neptune? You know anybody looking for Caesar? Anybody looking for Charlemagne? Anybody looking for any of the great gods of the men of the past? But when we bow and lift up our faces and say, "Lord, come quickly. Come quickly," there’s a godliness in the prayer that is like the blessing that comes to those who read the Book of the Revelation. Try it. See.
May we take another one? May I speak of the light, and the life, and the glory that streams from the cross of the Son of God? "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" [John 1:4].
As you know I went around the world one time visiting our mission fields. The indescribable darkness and poverty of this world is beyond what a man could say in words; and the horror of the blackness, of the conquests of atheism and infidelity and superstition and fear – O God, how does the Lord look upon it? Yet as I went around this earth and visited these places, wherever, wherever there was a community of Christian believers, in the heart of Africa, in the idolatry of India, in the wanton disregard of human life in China or the Orient; wherever there was a little community of Christian believers, there it seemed to me God had come down to dwell among men. A little church with a star pointing heavenward; an orphan’s home; a leper colony; a school; a hospital; a dispensary, and that in the midst, in the midst of the violent darkness of communism, or Buddhism, or the idolatry of Krishna, and the unspeakable, unspeakable squalor of India. See. See if experience does not corroborate the deity of the Son of God.
May I take another one? May I speak of the words that He spake? "Never a man spake like that man" [John 7:46], said the officers sent to arrest Him. He referred to Himself as the Son of Man, the Son of Man. What if any man you ever saw in your life went around referring to himself as the Son of Man? Born of flesh and blood, the Son of Man? It’d be ridiculous and inane beyond anything to describe it. But when He says, "The Son of Man, I the Son of Man" [Matthew 16:13] it fits. If you and I were to say, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am meek and lowly in heart", you’d say, "Why, that unabashed boldfaced hypocrite, referring to himself as meek and lowly in heart. Why, he ought to be more humble." But when Jesus says it, "For I am meek and lowly in heart: ye shall find rest for your souls" [Matthew 11:28-29], it somehow is apropos of the gentle Jesus. Or when He says, "I and My Father are one" [John 10:30]. "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father" [John14:9]. All the God we’ll ever know is the God in Jesus Christ. To any man, it’d be blasphemous to say those words, "I am the resurrection, and the life" [John 11:25]. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" [John 14:6]. But in Jesus, they fit.
Or what man would dare to say, "This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins?" [Matthew 26:28] Jesus, my Lord, and my God.
I take time for one other, then I’m through: the worship accorded it. Worship, adoration, which is due to no one but unto God; even the apostles refused the worship of men. When Simon Peter came into the household of Cornelius, Cornelius felled at his feet and worshipped him, and big fisherman Simon Peter pulled him up and said to Cornelius, "Stand on thy feet; I also am a man" [Acts 10:25-26].
And at Lystra, when the Lycaonians sought to worship Paul and Barnabas, they rent their garments, and ran into the multitude and said to them, "This thing, this thing, we are men of like passions as you" [Acts 14:14-15]. And when John fell at the feet of the angel in the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation to worship the angel, the angel said, "Do it not. Do it not: for I am of thy fellow servants: worship God" [Revelation 22:8-9].
No man that ever lived, no created being in heaven above receives worship, no right man and no unfallen angel, and yet, and yet in the ninth chapter of the Book of John when the Lord found the blind man they had cast out, the Lord said, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" And he said, "I do not know Him Lord that I might believe on Him." And the Lord said, thou hast both seen Him and heard Him, and it is He that speaketh unto thee." And the blind man fell on his knees before the Lord Jesus, and said, "Lord, I believe. I believe." And then John writes, "And he worshipped Him. And he worshipped Him" [John 9:35-38].
And when the Lord ascended up into heaven in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, as He stretched out His hands to bless them, the disciples worshipped Him [Luke 24:50-52]. And in the Revelation, the song they sing, the redeemed and the saints, and angelic orders of glory, "All the praise unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood; to Him, be glory, and dominion, and power forever and ever" [Revelation 1:5, 6], my Lord and my God. The only God you’ll ever see is Jesus, the only God you’ll ever feel is the Holy Spirit, the only God there is, is the Father. And in heaven, you’ll not see three Gods. You’ll see Jesus. You’ll see Jesus; God incarnate, the Word made flesh and raised from the dead.
Robert Browning, the incomparable Victorian poet, Robert Browning wrote a letter to a dying friend. And in that letter he recounted the famous story of Charles Lamb. In a gathering of the literary great of London, Charles Lamb said, "What would we do if the great of the past were to enter this room?" He said, "Is Shakespeare were to enter the room, we would all rise in respect. But if Jesus were to enter the room, we would all kneel in reverence and adoration."
Our place is by the side of the angels in glory who bow in love, and adoration, and reverence before the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels and men prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all.
[All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name, Edward Perronet]
And Thomas answered and said, "My Lord and my God" [John 20:28]; the deity, the Godhead of Jesus.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, somebody you to give his heart in trust and in faith to the Lord, make it now. Make it now. A family you to come into the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, make it now. "Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today." A couple you or one somebody you, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, into the aisle, down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. We approach the subject in deepest reverence, godly fear
B. There is no miracle like the incomparable incarnation (1 Peter 1:10, 12)
II. Our limitations
A. So much we cannot understand; we are limited by our finite mind (Ephesians 1:23)
B. There are those who abjectly refuse to accept the deity of Christ
C. There are those who hear, but with a veil over their heart (2 Corinthians 3:15, John 10:30, 14:9-10, 8:56-58, 10:31-33)
D. There are those who are blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
E. To us who believe, we are unable to express our words, praise, adoration (2 Corinthians 8:6)
III. The incomparable revelation and the sacred record
A. The introduction by John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3-5, John 1:15, 30)
B. He is specifically called God by the apostles (John 1:1, 20:28)
C. The attributes, words and works of God are attributed to Jesus (John 5:23)
IV. Corroborated in human experience
A. Prayer (Psalm 34:8, John 14:6, 16:23-24)
B. Baptism (Acts 19:5)
C. Looking for His return (Acts 1:11, Revelation 1:7, 22:20, Luke 21:28)
D. The spiritual life that streams from His cross (John 1:4)
E. The words He spake (John 7:46, Matthew 16:13, 11:28-29, John 10:30, 14:9, 11:25, 14:6, Matthew 26:28)