The Deity of Christ
January 18th, 1970 @ 7:30 PM
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-18-70 7:30 p.m.
Will you turn with me to the first chapter of the Gospel of John? John chapter 1, we shall read out loud together the first fourteen verses. On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message, The Self Revelation of God – The Deity of Christ. It is a doctrinal message and is the introduction to the series of sermons that shall be delivered each Sunday evening on the Gospel of John; and this is the first one. On the radio, take your Bible and with us in this great auditorium—and it would amaze you, you who are seated at home, how many people are in this vast convocation tonight—read out loud with us the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John. Now together, all of us:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that trust on His name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
If Matthew is a presentation of Christ the King, and if Mark is a presentation of Christ the Son of Man, and if Luke is a presentation of Christ the Suffering Servant, the Healer of humanity’s hurt, preeminently and uniquely the Gospel of John is a delineation and a presentation of the deity of Christ, the Godhood of Jesus.
Now in keeping with that, I have chosen some of the words in the New Testament that present the deity of the Son of God, the self-revelation of God, the self-manifestation of God in Christ. Looking at Him, we see the Father [John 14:9]. Looking at God, we find our eyes blinded by the vision; “For no man could see God, and live” [Exodus 33:20]. But we see Jesus, and seeing Him, we see God. So the Gospel of the apostle John begins, “In the beginning was ho logos, and ho logos was with God”—pros ton theon: face to face, eternal equality and identification—”and ho logos, the Word was God” [John 1:1]. There is not in ancient Greek philosophy a more common term than that one of logos. We’ve taken it over into the English language in all of these “-ologies” is from logos: geology, biology, zoology, oh, in a thousand ways will you find that word in combination; logistics, logic—we haven’t time for those things—ho logos, logos: in that Greek world there were two ideas that were contained in that word logos. One is the idea of idea itself, concept, word, purpose, design, logos. And the other is the idea of expression and revelation: the active God, the God who manifests Himself, logos.
Now in that ancient world when the Bible was written, and when John wrote, and when John used that metaphysical, philosophical Greek term, in that day, there were Hellenistic Jews, there were Greeks, the Alexandrian Philo, who used the word logos to delineate the expression of God, the God who acts, the God who manifests Himself in human history and human time. That’s the way Philo, the Hellenistic Jew of Alexandria, used the word logos. The ancient Greek philosophers used the word to refer to how it is that an all pure transcendent God could come in contact with impure matter; the whole Gnostic system of philosophy. Now John writes this Gospel, and he says to the Hellenistic Jew who is seeking to describe theocratic revelation, and he says to the Gnostic Greek philosopher who is trying to figure out how an all pure and infinite God could come in contact with finite and impure matter, John writes that, “The knowledge you seek is found in Jesus of Nazareth; that He is ho logos. He is the manifestation of God; He is the expression of God; He is not only the concept and the idea, but He is also the manifest reality.” When we see Christ, we see God. And the only God we shall ever see is the manifestation of God in Christ Jesus.
Now, John will write in his first epistle like this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, ho logos, the Word of life;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and we bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and which was manifested unto us;)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.
[1 John 1:1-3]
Do you look for a manifestation of God? That is it, John says. “And we saw it, and heard it, and handled it with our own hands, ho logos, the manifestation of God” [1 John 1:1]. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews begins in the same way:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners in time past spake unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.
That’s God, ho logos, the manifestation, the revelation of God. All the God you’ll ever know and all the God you’ll ever see is in Jesus our Lord. “In the beginning, en arche en ho logos, was the Word” [John 1:1].
Now in all of the expressions of his use of that word logos, he puts ho in front of it, “the”: ho logos, ho logos; always “the Word.” Our Lord is not a concept of God; there were many concepts of God in the ancient Greek Roman world, just as there are many concepts of God in this modern world. But Jesus Christ is not a concept of God, nor is He a revelation of God; He is the, ho logos, He is the concept of God, and He is the revelation of God. There is none other [Isaiah 45:5]. Our Lord said, in the fourteenth chapter of this same Gospel of John, Ego, ego, “I,” eimi—and He repeats the “I” again: “I am,” Ego, ego, “I,” eimi, “I am,” he hodos kai he aletheia kai he zoe. Ego, “I,” eimi,” I am,” he hodos, “the way”—not “a way”—he hodos, “the way”; kai, “and,” he aletheia, “the truth”—not “a truth,” but “the truth”; kai he, “and,” he, “the,” zoe, “the life” [John 14:6]. There is none other [Isaiah 45:5].
Oh, but how dogmatic is this Bible? And when a man preaches the Word of God, how dogmatic is that man who’s preaching? But the truth of the revelation of God is no different from the truth of the manifestation of God in any other area of life. The same dogmatic hand that put together this universe [John 1:1-3], is the same dogmatic hand that wrote that Bible [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21], for truth is first and above all things uncompromising and dogmatic!
Mathematical truth is like that: two plus two is four, period, exclamation point, without discussion; two plus two is four! Mathematics is dogmatic. Physics is dogmatic. By the scientific centigrade gradation, water freezes at zero, and water boils at a hundred degrees centigrade, the thermometer that the scientist uses; very dogmatic! It doesn’t freeze at one below zero, or two below zero centigrade; it freezes at zero [centigrade]. And it doesn’t boil at a hundred and one, or a hundred and two, or ninety-nine, at the pressure of the sea it boils at a hundred [centigrade]; very dogmatic. Chemistry is very dogmatic. Water is H20: two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, and you’ve got a molecule of water; very dogmatic. Geometry is very dogmatic. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line; very dogmatic.
“Ha, ha, ha! oh, but I’m a liberal! I don’t believe in that stuff. I push it around, and according to my own concepts I believe. All that dogmatic stuff you say,” says this liberal, “that water boils at a hundred degrees centigrade, is that what you believe? I personally believe that water boils at two hundred degrees centigrade, and you say that’s a hundred degrees. I don’t believe water boils at a hundred degrees centigrade,” and he puts his hand in the water: “Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!” Very dogmatic.
“You say two plus two equal four. I don’t believe that; I’m liberal. I’m broad-minded.” And he goes down to the bank and he deposits ten dollars, and he goes down and he deposits ten dollars more, and he writes a check for a hundred dollars, and the bank calls him in and says, “Look here, you’ve got a hot check here.”
“Oh!” so says this liberal, broad-minded somebody, “that’s what you say, that ten plus ten might equal twenty. But in my broad-mindedness I say ten plus ten equal a hundred.” And the bank official calls over a man, and they take you to the funny farm to observe you. Yeah, just looking at you, you’re something to behold. “Why, I don’t believe that old mathematical business about geometry, that geometrical axiom, that the shortest distance between two points is one line. I don’t believe that.” So down here in the middle of the city of Dallas, when you got a straight line right down the middle of Akard, you’d say, “I’m broad-minded and liberal. I’m not going down that street like that,” and you weave in and out on both sides, and after you’ve had both bumpers, and both back ends, and both front ends, and all the sides banged up, the cop comes along, and he says, “We’re going to put you in the clinker; we’re going to put you in the hoosegow.”
You see, you’re not quite as broad-minded and liberal as you think you might be. For if it is truth, all truth is alike. Whether it is God’s revelation of spiritual truth, or whether it is God’s demonstration of physical truth, it’s all alike: it came from the same Lord God, it is a revelation of the same omnipotent hand, and it is of all things dogmatic! It allows for no discussion. God says it, and it’s that way forever. And that’s the way God wrote the Book: He is not a truth, a way, a life, or a word, a concept; He is ho logos, the Lord God, truth, life, revelation, and everything. That’s what the Book says about Jesus; the deity of our Lord.
Now, another word that represents and presents the deity of Christ: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; the most famous sentence in human literature, John 3:16. Monogenes, monogenes, translated “the only begotten Son,” the only begotten, monogenes Son; monogenes. Well, it refers to two things: monogenes, “the only begotten.” It refers first to eternal generation: He always was the only and unique Son of God, Jesus. Angels are the sons of God by creation [Job 1:6, 38:7]; God created them. Men are the sons of God by adoption [Galatians 4:5]; we are born again into the kingdom of God [John 3:3]. But Christ is the unique and only Son of God by eternal generation: He always was pros ton theon, “face to face with God,” essential deity [John 1:1]. Monogenes: the only and unique expression and revelation of God [John 3:16].
Now that word monogenes refers also to His manhood, His incarnation: “And the Word was made flesh,” monogenes,” the only begotten Son of God” [John 1:14], down here in human form. He is the great God-Man; and never did hyphen mean so much. The great God-Man: He conjoined God and man together into one. He is the God, and only God; the Man, and the representative federal head of the new Adamic race, the God-Man Christ Jesus; both of them conjoined, commingled in the Lord Jesus.
There are many religious approaches, and speculations, and philosophies, that look upon God as being transcendent, far above us. Mohammedanism is like that. In its definition of Allah, he is a great super-sovereign, and we’re just pawns in his omnipotent hands, that’s all; removed and far away; and we are just like chess figures, and he just pushes about at his own will. The idea of God in Gnosticism was remove, remove, remove, remove, and that’s where they got these aeons that you read about in philosophy: up there at the beginning was the removed transcendent God, then under Him was the creation, then under Him another, and another and another, on and on, another and another, and finally down through infinite emanations, you got one that finally touched evil matter. That was ancient Hellenistic Gnosticism, philosophy. Another one in ancient literature was the Epicurean. They are described as being atheists. Actually they were not: they believed in God, but He was so far removed, and where He was they didn’t know, but He was so far removed that He had no care whatsoever for the world. Now those were typical of the conceptions of God that you read, as men have thought of His being transcendent, untouchable, unreachable, indescribable, unknowable.
Well, human religions are like stalagmites: from the ground of things they reach up and up, and they try to touch, and they try to rise, and they try to soar, and they try to reach, but they never succeed; those stalagmites. But God in Christ is like a stalactite coming from above and reaching down and down and down. And once in a while, you’ll find a stalagmite reaching up from the ground of things, and a stalactite reaching down from the heaven of things, and they meet; and there is one solemn column joining the earth below and heaven above. That is the monogenes, the only begotten God, reaching down from heaven and reaching up from the earth, both God and man conjoined in Christ Jesus: monogenes, “only begotten.”
There is another word that describes the deity of our Lord. Paul wrote in the second chapter of Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be held onto, to be grasped, to be equal with God, God of very God” [Philippians 2:5-6]. The word is morphē, morphē, morphē, “form”: “The form of God,” and it refers to all of those essential characteristics and qualities that make a thing what it is; the form of the thing; all of those qualities, and descriptions, and characteristics, and delineations that make whatever a thing is the thing itself. For example, a sword is a sword because of the form of the thing. It is a piece of metal, but it is a sword because of its form as, say, differing from a shovel. The sword is the sword because of the morphē of it, as different, I say, from a shovel. The form makes it a sword or a dagger. A dipper is a dipper by the form of the thing, as different, let’s say, from a saw or from a hammer; it is a dipper; the form of the thing is the thing itself.
That’s why it is ludicrous to take baptism in the New Testament and make it something else: because the baptism is the form of the thing itself. Baptism is a burial and a resurrection [Romans 6: 3-5], and when you do something to break the form, you break the thing itself because the thing itself is the form of it. And if you change the form, you don’t have the thing itself.
That’s the same with God: the form of God was Jesus before He emptied Himself of those prerogatives and characteristics.
Now, briefly, while I’m talking about this passage, let me say what it is that Paul refers to about the deity of Christ, using the word morphē, “the form of God” [Philippians 2:6]. You read here in this passage, Paul is referring to all of those qualities of majesty and glory that Jesus had, of which He emptied Himself, He denied Himself, poured Himself out into another morphē; took upon Him the morphē, the form of a servant [Philippians 2:7]. And being found and made in the likeness of a man, He humbled Himself. He poured Himself out of the morphē of God into the morphē of a man, the form and shape of a man. Now, what Paul is talking about is, in the morphē of God, whatever that morphē is, in the morphē of God, He was glorified, and worshiped, and adored by all of the hosts of heaven [Philippians 2:8-11].
The Latin will speak of the morphē of a Roman consul, the morphē of a Roman consul, and you could easily distinguish him and see him, the Roman consul, the general that ruled the land or the island, the Roman consul. Why, you couldn’t help but look at him; in purple, in an ivory chair, with twelve lectors preceding him, each carrying the fasces, the insignia of authority, and dressed in majestic robes; the morphē of a Roman consul. Christ had the morphē of God in glory; all of the accouterments, and embellishments, and bignesses, and honors, and worship of God Himself [Philippians 2:6].
One other, Paul wrote again, in the first chapter of Colossians, “Who,” this Lord Jesus, “who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.” And the Greek word is eikon, eikon, “image”; Christ is the eikon, the image of God [Colossians 1:15]. Now, immediately the word “image” brings to our minds “likeness,” “likeness,” the eikon of God, the image of God; but not an adventitious, mechanical, accidental image like one egg is like another egg, or one automobile may be like another automobile. Nor image in the sense of imitation, the figure of the emperor is impressed upon the coin, not that. But it is a generative image, like the features of the parent are found in the face of the child. Jesus is like that: of God, He is the image of God, the features of God are in Him by generation; not by imitation, not by mechanical inadvertence, but by generation He exhibits the features and the qualities of God. And oh, in this Bible, how sometimes that is marvelously expressed and said. In this passage, for example, that I read from Hebrews:
God hath in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image, and the express image of His person,
“The express image.”
The Greek word there is an unusual word: it’s “character,” character, character. Christ is the express image, the character of God. Now the Greek word “character” was what you’d take a style, and cut in wax or cut in a stone; they call that a character. And because they wrote like that, a character came to be a piece of the alphabet, a character in the alphabet, something that you would cut in a stone or mark down on a piece of paper, and then from that ultimately came to the description of the man himself, his character. But when the word is used here in the New Testament in the Greek language, the word “character” refers to the incision, the incisiveness, the mark, the impression, the cut, the character itself. And what the apostle here is saying is that on Christ are the marks, and the image, and the likenesses of God, impressed upon Him [Hebrews 1:3].
I went through our mint one time in Philadelphia, and there was that machine, just “rdrdrdrdrd,” like that fast, making all those dimes and nickels and quarters and what have you, putting down, stamping the die on that piece of metal, pressed in it. Just like that die, take that slot and look at it, and you’ve got that die above, and that die beneath, just expressed exactly. That’s what the Bible says about Jesus. He bears in His person the image, the die, the express person of God [Colossians 1:15]. That’s what God is: incised, cut in Jesus Christ. That’s what God is.
He is the voice of the infinite silence; the Word of the infinitude that you never hear. He is the glory of that brightness that, if a man were to see undiminished and unveiled with his flesh, he couldn’t bear it. He is the delineation and description of the undelineable and undescribable God. He is the unknowable, and the unheard, and the untouchable, and the invisible, all of it expressed in Jesus our Lord, the God of this universe in Christ, the God-Man, Christ Jesus.
And those that were around Him felt that in Him. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, “But whom do you say that I am?” and Simon Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:15-16]. And Thomas, when he said, “I do not believe men rise from the dead, and except I put my finger in the print of the nails in the hands, and thrust my hand in the side, I will not believe”; and the Lord appeared before him and bid him, invited him—just as He invites you—”Come and see, try, put forth your hand, and behold the nail prints; and put forth your hand, and thrust it in My side,” and Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God” [John 20:25-28].
Now, Jesus had that same description of Himself. He said, He is the One that said, “I and My Father are one” [John 10:30], and He is the One that said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, hath seen God” [John 14:9]. To look at Jesus is to see the manifestation and the reality of God.
“Oh,” you say, “what a confrontation for my mind and my soul and my heart.” Well, there are three possibilities, and only three. There are not four, nor two, nor one; there are three possibilities in our confrontation with Jesus Christ. One: we can persuade ourselves that He was a victim of self-delusion. He had ideas and persuasions of self-grandeur, and He spoke of those things identifying Himself with God. He was self-deceived; that’s one possibility. Just as you go to the asylum, and there will be the messiah, and he dresses in a long white robe, and he grows a long beard, and his hair hangs down to his shoulders, and he says that he is the messiah: he is self-deceived, he has illusions of grandeur, but they are paramount, lucid, plain, patent delusions, because he is incompetent, he is silly, he is insane, he has to be put away. Would you have thought that of Christ? “Never a man spake like that Man!” [John 7:46]. Read it, read it, there is not in literature, old, new, by any man, by any genius, whether his name is Homer or Hesiod, whether his name is Shakespeare or Milton, or any other of all mankind, there is no one that could begin to approach the sublimity of the words of the Son of God. And I haven’t time to speak of His life and His deeds. Jesus was insane? Look at Him, the most majestic figure that ever walked the face of God’s earth. Self-deluded? That’s one possibility. Impossible.
All right, the second possibility is He deceived us; He purposively deceived us and deluded us. He was evil. He knew He was an imposter, but He deceived us. That’s another possibility. Well, if Christ purposely deceived us, what an astonishing, unbelievable thing that He would perpetrate the hoax by dying on the cross—unimaginable, and unthinkable, unreasonable, and unacceptable.
And the third possibility: that He was what He said He was. C. S. Lewis wrote a little book—your fellow Britisher, one of the greatest apologists for the Christian faith of all time, recently died. Over the British broadcasting system, he had a ministry beyond any man in the earth as an apologist, a lawyer, a pleader for Jesus. One of his little books he called The Case for Christianity. I quote from that book by C. S. Lewis. Quote:
I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really silly thing that people often say about Him. Namely, “I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept His claim to be God.” That’s the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man, and said the sort of things Jesus said, would not be a great moral teacher. He’d either a lunatic on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg, or else he’ll be the devil of hell; one or the other. You must make your choice: either that Man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman, or something else. You can shut Him up for a fool. You can spit at Him and kill Him for a demon. Or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But don’t let us come with any patronizing manner about His being a great human teacher: He hasn’t that choice to us.
End quote. It is one or the other. He was an insane fool, or He was an evil demon who deceived us, or He was what He said He was: our Lord, our Master, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Messiah, our Christ, our Mediator, our hope, our life, our blessing, and our God.
Well, how do you like that? I call that real preaching! Isn’t that right, choir? That’s right. That’s right. I tell you when I open that Book and preach what’s in that Book I feel like a man who’s standing on solid rock. Oh, the assurance and the blessedness, the comfort, dear Lord; what Christ is and does and means to us! That’s why we’re here Sunday by Sunday, loving His name, praising Him for all that He has done for us. Pray to Him every day, love Him every minute of the way, adore to be a servant in His household. O Lord, that such grace and love should come down to me; blessed, blessed Jesus.
Well, lad, you got me a song there to sing? Choir, let’s sing it. Let’s sing it, and while we sing it, a somebody you come to give your heart to the blessed Savior, the wonderful Jesus, come, come, and welcome. God’s in it. A family you to come: “Here I am.” A couple you, a one somebody you, oh, what a blessedness, a sweet privilege, the open door God hath placed before us. To give your heart to the Lord, to put your life with us in the circle of this dear church, a youth you, a child you, a man you, a wife, a woman, a girl, anybody you, while we sing this song, come, make the decision now: “When we stand on our feet, I’m going to stand up coming.” Into that aisle, or down one of these stairways, and to the pastor, do it tonight. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 1:1-4, Matthew 8:23-27
1-18-70I. Four Greek words that express the deity of Christ
A. Logos – “word” (John 1:1)
1. Greek philosophical word carrying double meaning
a. Used by Hellenistic Jews to describe manifestations of God
b. Used by Greek philosopher to describe relationship between infinite and finite
2. John speaks to both
a. The Word is a divine Person, incarnate Christ (John 1:3)
3. As language expresses thought, so Christ is expression of God
4. System of theology in the use or absence of definite article (John 1:1, 14:6)
B. Monogenes – “only begotten” (John 1:14, 18, 3:16)
1. His eternity
2. His incarnation
C. Morphe – “form” (Philippians 2:6, 8-9)
1. Refers to the summation of characteristics that make a thing what it is
2. Used by Romans to refer to glory and dignity of high office
D. Eikon – “image” (Colossians 1:15-17)
1. Presupposes a prototype, an originalII. Those around Christ came to unique conclusions
A. He is the Christ, one with the Father (Matthew 16:16, John 20:28, 10:30, 14:9)
B. Possible interpretations of these claims
1. Jesus was self-diluted and had visions of self-grandeur
2. Jesus purposively set Himself to deceive us, being evil