Dr. Richard Bauckham, scholar at Ridley Hall in Cambridge, is known as a foremost authority of historic Christianity. The basic thesis of his book, “Jesus and the God of Israel,” is that worship of Jesus as God was seen by the early Christians as compatible with Jewish monotheism. “Early Christianity, consciously using their Jewish theological framework, created a king of Christological monotheism by understanding Jesus to be included in the unique identity of the one God of Israel. The earliest expression of this to which we have access—in use in the first Christian community’s history—was the understanding of Jesus’ exaltation in terms of Psalm 110:1—“The Lord says to my lord: sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Jesus is viewed by the early Christians as seated on the divine throne in heaven as the one who will achieve the eschatological Lordship of God as the unique rule and reign of God over all things in order to bring about the healing and restoration of the world.
Bauckham points out that the Jewish faith would have five tests that described “Yahweh’s God-ness”. These five descriptors were only used to in describing the nature or work of Yahweh. They are:
- God is known through his narrative identity (Who God is in story…dealing with creation, nations, Israel, The name of YHWH names God in his unique identity).
- God is the sole sovereign Ruler over all things (all others are subject to God’s rule).
- God will achieve his eschatological rule (When all creatures acknowledge YHWH’s sole deity).
- God alone may and must be worshiped (worship is acknowledgment of God’s sole deity).
- God alone is fully eternal (self-existent from past to future eternity).
Not only do other gospel writers in the New Testament apply these unique characteristics to Jesus, Jesus himself regularly declared that he was indeed divine, God having come in human flesh. Some of the examples of Jesus’ self-declaration as God are listed below:
Luke 5: 21-25—Who can forgive sins but God alone? Jesus forgives sins and heals a lame man. (Pharisees cry blasphemy, which means that this man is claiming to be God.)
John 8:58—Before Abraham was I AM (Jesus uses the name for himself that is reserved for God himself).
John 10:30—“I and the Father are one.” (Pharisees pick up stones to kill him because he is a man claiming to be God.)
John—I AM statements: “I am …” bread of life, light of the world, the door, good shepherd, resurrection, vine, way, truth and life (The “I am” statements are clearly the self-utilization of Yahweh’s exclusive name).
John 14:6-9 “I am the way, the truth and the life.” … “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” …
Luke 23:3—“So Pilate asked, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.”
Matthew 14:33—Jesus receives Worship, Luke 24:52 Jesus receives worship after the resurrection, John 20:28 Jesus receives worship from Thomas “My Lord and My God”
The early church debated this reality for 300 years, but not the reality that Jesus was fully divine. Arius led a group of early church fathers believed that the Son of God did not become incarnate. Athanasius was the leader of the majority that believed that only God can save, which all agreed with, but that only by becoming human could God touch and heal the sin of humanity. The Council of Nicea met in 325 A.D. and affirmed that Jesus Christ is fully divine and that he is fully human, the second Adam, and representative of the human race. So then, God became human and participated in our humanity and our condemnation to destroy death and open the way to heaven.
The Nicene Creed is a creed we use here at First Presbyterian Church to affirm that we stand with the church through the centuries in believing in the divinity and humanity of Jesus. The words recited directly about Jesus in the creed are:
And we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
The gospel writers taught the Jewish monotheistic understanding of God and freely applied these descriptions to Jesus. John 1, Acts 2, Colossians 1, Philippians 2, Hebrews 1, and Revelation 1 are the core passages that speak of Jesus as being the divine one, come down to humanity. Here is an assignment, Read through these passages:
- Place an N next to a verse that speaks of Jesus’ narrative identity as the one unveiling God in history.
- Place an S next to a verse that refers to his Sovereign rule as God (others are subject to him).
- Place a W next to a verse that you see that Jesus is to be worshipped as God.
- Place an E next to a verse that speaks of Jesus being eternal, and thus God.
John 1—1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Acts 2— 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
Colossians 1— 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Philippians 2— 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Hebrews 1—1In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Revelation 1- 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
 Jesus and the God of Israel, Dr. Richard Bauckham, Eerdmans Publishing, p. 233-253
 Ancient Future Faith, Robert Webber, Baker Books, p. 63-65