Who Do You Say I Am? Looking at the Epistles | The Word Made Flesh, part 4 of 4

Mark.and.Judy Theology

We are going to wrap up our study of the deity of Messiah Yeshua in this section by looking at the legacy and understanding passed down from Yeshua to His apostles. We are going to see that Yeshua very clearly communicated His deity to His disciples (who became His apostles when He sent them out). From Thomas’ confession until each of their gruesome, lonely deaths, the twelve disciples all proclaimed both the Messiahship and deity of Yeshua, even with their dying breath.

Stephan, the First Martyr

Acts chapter 7: We have now fast-forwarded some time since Yeshua’s ascension to Heaven. The immersion of the Holy Spirit had come upon the Believers in Jerusalem, and their community was growing, while still remaining within the context of greater Judaism.

Stephen had been brought before the council under false charges and was asked to give a defense for himself. Stephen seemed successful in disputing the charge that Yeshua taught against the traditions of Moses. He did succeed in angering some of the members of the Sanhedrin, but he didn’t cross the line of incurring their wrath until he said something specific.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Acts 7:54-60)

Why was Stephen martyred? You could assume that the Sanhedrin didn’t like being called stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and mind. But we can see from the text that it wasn’t until he said “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” that they stoned him.

Stephen said something that warranted the death penalty, namely, that the “Son of Man” was standing at the right hand of God. Equating Yeshua with God was blasphemy – a crime requiring stoning – just as they attempted with Yeshua throughout the Gospel of John.

Only God Can Be Worshiped

And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you [Peter] to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”  (Acts 10:22-26)

Just to review, God does not allow worship of any man or entity other than Himself, ever.

You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.  (Exodus 34:14)

You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods.  (Deuteronomy 6:13-14a)

This word for “worship” in the Acts passage above is the Greek, προσκυνέω (proskuneo), which is the word we get “to prostrate” from. Peter knew he was only a man and kept Cornelius from worshiping him. This “worshiping” wasn’t an issue of paying homage or respect. It was worship, as in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 6, which Peter knew. This is the same word for “worship” found in a Scripture in the previous section:

Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.”  (John 9:35-38, emphasis mine)

Yeshua accepted the worship, προσκυνέω (proskuneo), from those He healed. And from Mary. And from Thomas. There was no contradiction, because He is God.

Judge of the Living and the Dead

Another title that Messiah Yeshua is given that belongs to HaShem is the Judge of the Living and the Dead.

“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he Jesus is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”   (Acts 10:42-43, emphasis mine)

In Genesis 18, Abraham received three visitors. In the first segment of this series, we spoke about the fact that this was God and two angels. This is clear from a plain reading of the text.

Notice what Abraham calls the Lord – the Judge of all the earth.

Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”   (Genesis 18:22-25, emphasis mine)

Now, fast-forward to the Apostolic Scriptures and we are going to see that Yeshua is the Judge:

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him… For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.   (John 5:22-23, 26-27)

Remember what the Pharisees asked last week in John? “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But here in Acts we see Peter saying that not only is Yeshua is the Judge of the living and the dead, but also that we have forgiveness of our sins through Yeshua’s name.

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom…”   (2 Timothy 4:1, emphasis mine)

Savior

One of the major titles and roles of HaShem throughout the Tanakh is “Savior.”

“They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt.”  (Psalm 106:21)

“For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place… I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who  have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord. “And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”  (Isaiah 43:3, 11-13)

God, HaShem, is clearly the Savior of Israel and the world.

But Yeshua is also called Savior:

Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior! Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together… Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  (Isaiah 45:15, 21-22)

Yet I have been the Lord your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me.  (Hosea 13:4)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope…  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth…  For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.   (1 Timothy 1:1, 2:3, 4:10)

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11)

And they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”  (John 4:42)

He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.  (Acts 5:31-32)

It has been argued that Yeshua was simply acting as savior on God’s behalf, and if this was the only witness we had in Scripture to support his deity, that could argument could be supported. But I hope that you’ve seen by this point that it is just one piece of the bigger picture.

“Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Isaiah 45:21-23)

Yeshua = θεός (Theos)

So far we have spoken of a few titles that Yeshua shares with HaShem, one evidence towards the idea that they are the same essence. Now we are going to look at passages of Apostolic Scripture that pointedly say, without any allusion or metaphor, that Yeshua IS God. This is a very big deal, because, as we see in the passage above, God does not share His position or name with anyone.

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5)

θεός THEOS (theh’-os): God, a god

Theos is the Greek word that is used for “God” by Rabbi Shaul in this verse. This is the same word, used by Thomas in John 20, which we looked at in the last section. It literally means what it is translated as, “God.” This could not be said more plainly – Shaul literally said “the Messiah Yeshua is God.”

Here is another:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11, emphasis mine)

God says in one of the Isaiah passages above that every knee will bow to Him and every tongue confess allegiance to Him alone. Here, Yeshua is receiving worship using the same verbiage. Yeshua is the vehicle through which every person on earth will bow their knees in surrender and confess their allegiance to God.

Furthermore, Rabbi Shaul says that God put on human flesh and walked the earth as Yeshua, who was found in appearance as a man. In fact, Shaul says Yeshua is “the image of the invisible God”:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:15-20, emphasis mine)

And here in his letter to Titus, Shaul lays it out again, this time, doing two things – first of all he uses the same language to describe both God and Yeshua, secondly, he calls Yeshua God directly:

“But at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”   (Titus 1:3-4, emphasis mine)

“Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect… Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”   (Titus 2:9-10, 13, emphasis mine)

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”   (Titus 3:4-6)

Rabbi Shaul obviously believed and taught that Yeshua was indeed God in flesh.

But he wasn’t the only one to believe that. As well as Stephen, and Thomas and John, both of whom we looked at last week, we have Scripture from Peter to say the same thing:

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 1:1)

Peter is directly calling Yeshua the Messiah God and Savior.

The King of Kings and the Lamb on the Throne 

One commonly-used title for Messiah Yeshua is the “Lamb of God.” We see this title used by Yochanan the Immerser:

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’” (John 1:35-36)

As the prophet tasked with the job of preparing Israel for the Messiah’s coming, we can be assured that he knew well the appropriate titles and role of the Messiah.

Peter also calls Yeshua the Lamb of God, known before the foundation of the world:

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:18-20)

We are going to wrap up our study by taking a look at the last book of the Bible, Revelation.

Revelation is mostly known for its end-times prophecy, but it also contains fantastic imagery of the throne of God in heaven.

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’”  (Revelation 5:11-12)

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’”  (Revelation 7:13-17)

We see here in these verses that Messiah Yeshua, the Lamb of God, occupies the throne in heaven and receives worship. As we discussed previously, we are to worship God and God alone. We also saw that God shares His glory with absolutely no one, yet the Lamb is in the center of the throne in heaven and receives open worship.

If we go a bit farther into Revelation, we see another title of God given to the Lamb, Yeshua:

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14, emphasis added)

This is a title God reserved for Himself, yet we see it being applied to the Lamb, too. The only explanation for this is that they are one. 

“Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1)

And again:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”  (Revelation 19:11-16)

We also see this in the writings of Rabbi Shaul:

“…to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:14-15)

Yeshua is sharing not only the titles, but the throne of God with the Father:

“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb… There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 21:1, 3-4)

If Yeshua was not the essence of God himself, this would be a pretty big problem, as the Scriptures tell us that God is a jealous God and doesn’t share his glory with anyone else:

“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)

God will not and does not share His glory with anyone. Not with a viceroy or a delegate or a stand-in. He will not share His glory with another. The Lamb is God and Yeshua is that Lamb. Yeshua is God.

Yeshua is both the image and the fullness of God. He is both the image and the essence of Adonai. Yeshua said, “No one has seen God,” and also “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

When Abraham received the three visitors at the Oaks of Mamre and one of them was God, that was the physical image of God – Yeshua. When Moses saw God in the burning bush, that was Yeshua.

When the 74 elders of Israel ate and drank before the Lord in Exodus 24 and He didn’t raise His hand against them, that was Yeshua. When Joshua worshiped the Captain of the Armies of the Lord of Hosts, that was Yeshua. When God appeared to Manoa and his wife, Samson’s parents, that was Yeshua.

When God reveals Himself in physical form to anyone, He does it through the person of Yeshua.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying those instances were exact DNA replications of the physical body of Yeshua of Nazareth. What I’m saying is that those were all the same person as Yeshua, not that His physical body was exactly the same.

These are all instances when God made Himself known by His distinct Word, who we know as Yeshua of Nazareth.

Conclusion

As you can see from the 4 weeks we’ve spent on this topic, we are not building our approach to God or the Messiah, Yeshua, from one passage of Scripture in isolation. We have been extremely careful not to build our Christology off of one word, one verse, or one person’s writings. We have taken a fairly broad survey of the entirety of the Scriptures to build our understanding of this complex topic.

In the first section, we saw the complexity and distinction within God between the “Lord God”, the “Angel of the Lord,” and the “Spirit of the Lord.” We found that as Abraham told Isaac “God will provide Himself a lamb.” Indeed, the second week we saw how God said in several places that He would give Himself to ransom Israel. He not only provided Himself a lamb, He provided Himself as the Lamb.

In the third section, we walked through the gospel of John who wrote with the express purpose of showing that Yeshua of Nazareth is both Messiah and God incarnate so that we would believe in Him and have life. We saw how John took the contemporary Jewish understanding of how God used His Word to interact with His creation and showed that Yeshua Himself was that Word. In this section, we’ve seen how Yeshua’s disciples and the early apostles understood Yeshua – as both Messiah and God incarnate.

When we take the entirety of the Scriptures together, both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, we see a very clear picture of God as Creator, King, and Messiah. There is no ambiguity. It’s very clear: Yeshua the Messiah is God.

He is the image of the invisible God in Whom the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell in bodily form (Colossians 1). He’s God’s “public face,” if you will. Yeshua is the Word of God made manifest so we can know and see the Father through Him.

In 2 Corinthians, Rabbi Shaul warns his readers not to be led astray by ideas about Yeshua that are different from what he has taught. He scolds the Corinthians for entertaining these other ideas:

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”  (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)

Who we believe Yeshua is matters. It matters because only God should be worshiped – if Yeshua is not God, then to worship Him is idolatry. It matters because God should receive the worship He deserves – if Yeshua is God and is not being worshiped as such, we are denying God the honor and worship owed Him.

And it matters most of all because our salvation is through our Messiah Yeshua. It is through Him that we have access to the Father, and through His Spirit that we have relationship with God.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.”  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

God has revealed Himself to us through the person of Yeshua, Who is God, blessed forever, Amen.