The Deity of Christ
April 5th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr W. A. Criswell
4-5-64 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Deity of Christ, the godhood, the godhead of Jesus. In your Bible, if you will turn to the twentieth chapter of the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, beginning at verse 26, John 20:26, and I shall read to the end of the chapter; the deity of Christ:
And after eight days again the disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
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 believing ye might have life through His name.
And the text: “My Lord and my God” [John 20:28], an address from Thomas to Jesus. Before these series of services that surrounded Easter, I delivered a message on the mystery of the Trinity. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. Elohim, plural. “And the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2]. God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, but there is another strange and mysterious person revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Nebuchadnezzar one time, peering into the fiery furnace, asked, “Did I not cast three into the fiery furnace? But I see four; and the countenance of the fourth is like unto the Son of God” [Daniel 3:24-25]. Throughout the Old Testament there is a person who appears again and again and again. He is called the Angel of the Countenance [Isaiah 63:9]. He is the called the Angel of Jehovah [Genesis 22:15]. He is called Jehovah Himself [Genesis 22:16]. And as we enter the story of the New Testament, the Angel of Jehovah never appears again, for He has become incarnate. The Lord God of the old Bible has become flesh and blood and bone and body, and has been given a name, Jesus [Matthew 1:20-25]. As we approach this subject of the deity of Christ, we do so with godly fear and with reverential awe.
An Alpine guide was approaching with his tourist the top of a vast, rocky precipice, a Matterhorn, in those high and rugged peaks. And the guide approached the top of the crest of the mighty peak on his knees and on his hands, but the tourist behind him was walking up to the edge of the precipice, and when the guide, turning, looked at him, he pulled him down and said, “On your knees, sir, on your knees.” Those great, mighty gusts and storms and wind, to a man standing on the top of that mighty precipice would be pulled into the vast abyss. When I read the story, I thought of our proper place as we approach this awesome and fearsome revelation. The only way to study it and to speak of it and to approach it is “on your knees, sir, on your knees.”
In the first chapter of the first letter of Simon Peter, in verse 10, Simon Peter says that this manifestation, and revelation, and incarnation of the Lord God is something that the prophets earnestly desired to look into and to search out, and they diligently sought to understand it [1 Peter 1:10]. Then in the twelfth verse, Simon Peter says, “And the angels in heaven desire to look into these things” [1 Peter 1:12].
How God, the great Lord Jehovah God, could become a man is one of the most infinite of all of the mysteries revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. We are limited in our studying and in our approach by our finite minds warped and hurt by sin, our fallen natures. There is so little that actually we can truly comprehend.
Thursday I had my sermon prepared for this hour. Then Thursday night I brushed it all aside and pulled down those heavy tomes of theology and started all over again. If we were speaking of a man, even the greatest of men, we might apprehend him and delineate him and explain him, but this Lord Jesus who is our subject today is first of all God over all, blessed forever, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all [Ephesians 1:22-23].
Were He just born of a man and of a woman, were He just a human being as we are, we might say all of this and all of that and encompass His entire life with perfect and clear understanding. But who can scale the limitless heights of the deity of our Lord, or who could plumb the infinite depths of His meaning, and majesty, and glory? Because of the infinitude of His person and the incomprehensibleness of His nature, because of our finite understanding, there are reactions to the deity of Christ that have been waged and debated in the theological world ever since the Lord appeared in the earth.
There are those who categorically brush aside with contempt and scorn the very thought that Christ is God. The liberal, the modernist, the Unitarian, the mundane, earth-bound philosopher, to him it is inconceivable. It is unthinkable that God could ever appear in flesh [Matthew 1:23]. There are those who have a veil over their hearts, and they never receive and accept this revelation from heaven [2 Corinthians 3:14-16].
The apostle Paul—writing of his own people, of his own nation—the apostle Paul said, “Even to this day, when Moses is read, there is a veil upon their hearts” [2 Corinthians 3:15]. And when the Lord said such things as this, “Verily, I say unto thee, Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.” And they said to Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto thee, Before Abraham was, I AM” [John 8:56-58]. And they took up stones to stone Him. And when Jesus asked, “For what good work that I have done do you stone Me?” And they replied, “For a good work we stone Thee not, but because Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God” [John 10:31-33]; the veil upon the heart [2 Corinthians 3:15].
Then there are those whom the god of this world has blinded and substituted other systems of faith and belief. The apostle Paul wrote:
If our gospel is hid, it is hid unto them that are lost:
In whose minds the god of this world hath blinded their hearts in unbelief lest they shall be converted,
and lest upon them the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God, should shine.
[2 Corinthians 4:3-4]
And we have the systems of religion in India, and Africa, and Asia, and the Levant. The god of this world has blinded their minds, but to us who believe, who have been saved, as we stand before this incomparable revelation we find there are no words to say, there are no hymns to sing, there’s no poetry to disclose, there’s no oratory to comprehend the marvelous, marvelous revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
In our hymn book I took the subject “Adoration and praise” and I just copied down one hymn after another, glorious hymns. And in every one of them, and in every one of them, you will find the writer, the author, finding himself unable to express his wonder and awe before the deity of Christ. For example, Samuel Medley who was born in 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.
[“O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth,” Samuel Medley, 1789]
If I could just say it. Or Charles Wesley, who was born in 1707:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.
[from “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” Charles Wesley, 1739]
There is no more beautiful hymn ever written than this of Bernard of Clairvaux, who was born in 1091.
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus’ name,
O Savior of mankind!
And what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
[“Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Century]
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene.
[“I Stand Amazed in the Presence,” Charles H. Gabriel, 1905]
O God of my salvation,
My Redeemer from all sin;
Moved by Thy divine compassion,
Who didst die my heart to win;
I will praise Thee, I will praise Thee,
While the angels choirs are crying,
“Glory to the great I AM,”
I with them will still be vying-
Glory, glory to the Lamb!
O, how precious, O how precious
Is the sound of Jesus’ name!
[“O Thou God of My Salvation,” Thomas Olivers, 1769]
I just took the hymn book and looked at those songs of praise and adoration. To us who believe there is no voice that could say, no song that could portray, no poem that could delineate, no sermon adequate for the reverential awe and love and adoration we feel in the presence of God our Savior.
Now this is the great truth revealed in the Word of God, the deity of Christ. In the fortieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and the third verse:
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 and hill shall be made low: 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.
Now in the third chapter of the Book of Luke, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea,” and on and on it dates:
The word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country round about Jordan, preaching…
As it is written in the book [of] the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
and on and on. “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” [Luke 3:6].
Do you notice who it is that the great announcer—in the prophetic voice of Isaiah—that the great announcer is saying is coming? “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. And all flesh shall see it together, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” [Isaiah 40:3, 5]. And when Luke quotes that same prophecy, this is John the Baptist whom Isaiah was speaking of. This is John the Baptist, and he came preaching and saying, “Make ready the way of the Lord, a highway for our God, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” [Luke 3:4,6].
Who is it that John the Baptist was introducing? He was introducing the great Jehovah Lord God incarnate in human flesh [Matthew 1:23]. And in this Book, Jesus is specifically called God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1:1. John 20:28, our text, “And Thomas saith My Lord and my God.” Romans 9:5, “Israelites, whose are the fathers, and of whom concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” a direct, studied, definite avowal of the deity of the Son of God. Hebrews 1:8, “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” First John 5:20—listen: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us understanding, that we may know Him that is true. This is the true God, and eternal life, this Jesus.” “This is the true God and eternal life” [1 John 5:20].
All the things in the Bible that are said about God are also said about the Lord Jesus. I have copied here passage after passage. Jesus possesses the attributes of God. I have copied here passage after passage. His name is associated on an equality with God. I have copied here passage after passage. The words of God are ascribed to, the works of God are ascribed to Jesus. There is nothing that is said, there is no attribute described, there is no work of the great Lord God that is not also said and described of Jesus Christ.
Now I hasten to the part of this message that meant so much to me in its preparation. These things I have spoken of are in the Bible. This is the revelation; Jesus, my Lord and my God [John 20:28]. Now I speak, and as briefly and as summarily as I can. I speak. Can that be corroborated in human experience? It’s in the Bible, yes, definitely, clearly, certainly, the revelation of “Jesus as God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us” [Matthew 1:23, John 1:14]. This is the revelation of the Bible. Is it confirmed in human experience? What of our hearts? What of our souls? What of our minds? What of our lives? Is it corroborated in your life and in mine that Jesus is our Lord and our God?
I have several things to say. First, it is corroborated in prayer, in prayer. Did you ever get down on your knees? Try it. Try it. This is something of human experience, something of your heart. Did you ever try getting down on your knees and praying to Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlemagne, Frederick the Great, Wellington, Washington, Lincoln, any man who ever lived? Why don’t you try it? Get down on your knees and pray, “O Lord Wellington, the deliverer of the English nation at Waterloo; O Lord Wellington,” or “O Julius Caesar,” or “O George Washington.” Why don’t you try it? Simply because there is something in the human soul that revolts at such an idea of bowing the knee before a mortal man.
But get down on your knees and take a burden to the Lord God, and call on the name of Jesus and see if it doesn’t fit. “Lord, my sins, the burden of my sins; O Jesus, in Thy blood, wash my sins away” [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. “Lord, the illness that is come upon the child; Lord, lay hands of healing, lay hands of healing.” “Lord, I need strength and help, blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus.” Try it in experience. See if it doesn’t fit. Prayer to Jesus; “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, in My name” [John 14:13]: prayer.
Baptism, baptism: suppose I were to stand in the baptistery and say, “Upon a confession of your faith in Justinian, and Ptolemy, and Antiochus Seleucus, I baptize you my brother in the name of Justinian, and Ptolemy, and Antiochus Seleucus.” Or, “I baptize you, my brother, as a full-fledged scientist in the name of Copernicus, and Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton.” There’s something about it that is ridiculous. It’s silly. But if I stand in the baptistery and say, “My brother, upon a confession of your faith in Jesus as Lord, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; amen” [Matthew 28:19], there is something that fits, that fits; baptism.
The return of our Lord; “You men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up into heaven? This same Jesus shall so come again as ye have seen Him go” [Acts 1:11]. And by the millions do we stand waiting for the coming of our Lord from heaven. But does anybody today stand expecting Jupiter to return, or Jove to return, or Mercury to return, or Venus, or Osiris, or Isis, or Neptune? It’s unthinkable! And does anybody expect Caesar, or Alexander, or Charlemagne, or Frederick the Great? Experience, search your own soul. Doesn’t it fit? “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him… Even so, come Lord Jesus” [Revelation 1:7]. Doesn’t it fit? Again, the stream of life that pours from the cross, from His blood, from His sobs and His tears [Matthew 27:26-50].
I went around the world—as you know—visiting our mission fields. Some of you are missionaries here who are listening to me preach this day. Wherever there is a little Christian community, there is a little colony of heaven, a little church with a spire pointing up toward God. But oh, the darkness! The darkness of Gautama the Buddha, who sits in his round, rotund, overfed form, in absolute nonchalant indifference to the misery, and the woe, and the ignorance, and the poverty, and the squalor all around him, and the devotees looking forward to some nirvana where all feeling and all response have vanished away. Or Confucius’ world of ancestor worship, bowing down to the traditions of the past as they bind their feet; or worshiping at the shrine of a Krishna in the unbelievable idolatry of India.
Search it for yourself. There, in the community of Jesus: the Christian hospital, the orphan’s home, the doctor’s clinic, the little schoolhouse, and the church where the blessed hope of our Lord is preached. Oh! “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men!” [John 1:4] Search, search; see if experience does not corroborate the revelation of the Word of God.
Or may I speak of His words, how they fit? “Never man spake like that Man [John 7:46]. How they fit! He will call Himself the Son of Man [Matthew 16:13]. How foolish and how ridiculous would it be for one of us to refer to ourselves as the Son of Man, born of flesh and blood, as though we were something else? Yet when He refers to Himself as the Son of Man, it fits. Or the blessed Lord as He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you… for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest for your souls” [Matthew 11:28-29]. If a man goes around here saying, “I am meek and lowly in heart,” how, oh, it’s almost—his egotism is blasphemous. But when the Lord says it, “I am meek and lowly in heart” [Matthew 11:29], you just sort of say in your own soul, “Ah, blessed, blessed, gentle Jesus.” Or the sublimest words ever written: “I am the resurrection, and the life” [John 11:25]. Whoever said that but Jesus? No man. Yet how they grace His lips when He speaks those words. Or “I and My Father are one. I and My Father are one” [John 10:30]. “No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” [John 14:6]. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. Why, that would be blasphemous on any other lips, but on Jesus they fit.
All that we know of God, we know it in Jesus. And that he that has seen Jesus, and he that knows Jesus, knows God. Or “This is My blood of the new testament… shed for the remission of sins” [Matthew 26:28]. If a man were to say that, it’d be blasphemous. But for Jesus to say it, how blessedly gracious and true, that God should give His life for our sins. In experience, try it.
I have another moment. Let me add another one: the worship of Jesus as God. The worship of a mere man, even though he is an apostle, is idolatry and unthinkable! When Simon Peter came into the household of Cornelius, Cornelius fell at his feet to worship him, and big Simon Peter, “Pulled him up and said, “Stand upon thy feet. I also am a man” [Acts 10:25-26].
And when at Lystra they assay to make sacrifice unto Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Barnabas ripped their garments and ran among the throng, saying, “Do it not! We are also men of like passions with you” [Acts 14:14-15]. Even an angel refuses worship in the twenty-second chapter of Revelation: “And I John, I fell at the feet of the angel to worship him. And the angel said, See thou do it not: for I am of thy fellow servants… worship God” [Revelation 22:8-9].
Yet in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, when Jesus found that blind man whom they cast out of the synagogue, Jesus said to him, He said to him, “Dost thou, dost thou believe on the Son of God?” And the blind man said, “Lord, I do not know who He is that I might believe on Him.” And the Lord said, “Thou hast both seen Him and heard Him, and it is He that speaks unto thee.” And that blind man made well said, “Lord,” calling Him God, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him, and he worshiped Him, and he worshiped Him [John 9:35-38]. And as Jesus ascended into heaven, He extended forth His hands to bless them, and was taken up from them [Luke 24:51]. And they worship Him, and they worshiped Him [Luke 24:52].
Robert Browning, England’s great Victorian poet, was writing to a friend in his last illness, and he recounted that famous story of Charles Lamb, when a group of the literati were gathered as a group in London and Charles Lamb said, “If the great of the past were to come into the room, what would we do? If Shakespeare were to come into this room, we would rise, we would stand in respect. But if Jesus were to come into this room, we would kneel; we would kneel in reverence and worship.”
Try it for yourself: bow before Him, call upon His name. Open to Him your heart and see if He is not the Lord of life and the Prince of glory [1 Corinthians 2:8; Hebrews 2:10].
All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels and men prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all.
[from “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet, 1779]
“My Lord and My God” [John 20:28].
We stand and sing our invitation hymn. On the first note of the first stanza, somebody to give his heart in trust to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing the hymn, come and stand by me, while we stand and while we sing.