There was an article in the paper a couple of years ago about the Nativity Scene in St. Albans, West Virginia. It included a picture of the scene, because it was so unusual: it had a stable, some sheep, camels & a donkey, and even some “visitors” – wise men – but that is it! There was nothing in the stable – no Mary, no Joseph, and no baby Jesus! It was revealing that the two town officials that were contacted had differing stories about why it was that way. The parks superintendent said that the Holy Family was left out because of “separation of church & state” concerns. Interestingly, the mayor (the politician!) said it was just a technical difficulty – you know, too hard to get all those characters to fit inside the stable! Either way, it is definitely ironic that the One the nativity scene is supposed to celebrate was left out: Jesus Christ!
Unfortunately, that is how it often is – people celebrate everything at Christmas except Jesus. We celebrate “family” – and it is great to get together with family at Christmas; we exchange gifts, and that is wonderful. There is even this “mystical” thing we call “the spirit of the season.” But oftentimes, Jesus Christ Himself is left out. So for the next 3 weeks, I want us to focus on the One the season really celebrates: Jesus Christ, with a “mini-series” I am calling: “The Christ of Christmas.” The messages will all be based in the book of John, chapter 1, and we will look at what that great chapter teaches us about Who He is, and what He came to do for us. We will begin this morning by looking at John 1:1-3:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
These verses proclaim that the Christ of Christmas was and is God!
QUESTIONING THE DEITY OF JESUS
There is much misunderstanding today about who Jesus is. When Jesus was walking on earth, in Matthew 16:13, He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” And they gave all kinds of answers: “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” You get all kinds of answers today about who Jesus is: a good man, an inspirational leader, a great teacher, a great example. But the Bible teaches that the Christ of Christmas was not just a good man or great teacher; it tells us that He is GOD! This is a fundamental teaching of the Christian faith, and yet there are many today who reject that teaching.
For years, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have gone door to door promulgating their beliefs, and one of the things that they teach is that Jesus is not God (they even warp and twist the passage we are looking at this morning in order to deny His deity!). The Mormons teach that Jesus was not “God” in the sense that we think of God – the very first, uncreated being. They teach that Jesus was created, as a lesser being than God the Father, and that Lucifer is His brother! But it’s not just cults who deny Jesus’ deity: many even of the mainline denominations have given up on the idea that Jesus is God.
Greek Orthodox Bishop Dmitri Royster in Dallas said a few years back that many people had been coming to his church, because some of the other churches in the area had rejected traditional doctrines – like the Deity of Christ. As an example, he said he was teaching Greek to a class of seminarians at Perkins School of Theology (A Methodist seminary at SMU in Dallas), and he asked the class how many of them believed in the divinity of Christ. They asked him what did he mean by “divinity”. He said after he defined it (that it meant that Jesus was not just a divinely inspired teacher, but the Son of God, and God Himself) not ONE student in that seminary class would agree! This was in a Methodist seminary!
Many today have either given up the doctrine that the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem was God, but the Bible clearly teaches it, and it does so very strongly in this passage:
SCRIPTURE TEACHES THE DEITY OF JESUS
John 1 teaches that Jesus is God. In fact, it teaches it repeatedly and emphatically:
–:1 says “in the beginning was the Word.” The term, “The Word”, here is speaking about Jesus, as is made clear later. So right off the bat in John 1, John teaches the Deity of Christ, by teaching that He was “In the beginning.”
It is interesting to compare where all 4 gospels begin. Mark begins with John the Baptist. Matthew goes back to Abraham (1:1) and the beginning of the Jews. Luke traces the genealogy all the way back to Adam. But John goes to “the beginning”! You can’t go back any further than that! The One who existed before everything else existed is God! This scripture teaches the pre-existence of Jesus; that is, that He existed before anything else, and thus it also teaches that He is God – the One who existed from the beginning.
–Then it goes on to say, “The Word was “with God.” A fairly literal translation of the Greek would be: “The word was ‘face to face’ with God” or “in relationship with God.” This is evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity: from eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have been “face to face” in relationship with each other — before anything else ever came into being or was created.
–Then, as if that wasn’t clear enough, the verse just clearly goes on to state: “AND THE WORD WAS GOD”! You can’t put it any more clearly than that – in English! In the original (Greek) language, it IS even more emphatic; the word “God” is in the emphatic position: “GOD was the Word.” The Greeks would put the word that they want to emphasize first, and John does that here: GOD was the word! It is really emphasizing that “the Word” that John is talking about here, Jesus Christ, was and is God!
— Then, to be even more specific, verse 3 goes on to say, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being.” Just to make sure that we clearly understand how much “God” Jesus is, the Bible emphasizes here: He is the God who made everything. Everyone knows Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So here the Bible says, when you think of the God who “in the beginning created the heavens and the earth” — that is Jesus! That is how much “God” He is. He is not just “a god”, or some minor god. He is THE God – He’s the One you think about who created everything in the beginning – that is HE! In fact, it clarifies it even more, saying: “without Him, nothing came into being that has come into being”! In other words, NOTHING that was created was made without Him! Jesus is God!
— And it is even stronger than that. Because it says “nothing came into being that has come into being” apart from Him, the scripture is also asserting that Jesus Himself never “came into being.” EVERYTHING that “came into being” was made by HIM. He Himself does not fit in the category of ever “coming into being” — because HE made everything that “came into being.” He is the Prime Mover; He is before all things; He was the Creator of everything and was uncreated Himself.
So John 1 has this repeated emphasis: Jesus is the One who existed from the very beginning; He existed that way face to face with God the Father; He IS God, and He is that creator God of Genesis 1 who made everything, and was never created Himself. John 1:1-3 could hardly contain a stronger statement that Jesus Christ, the Christ of Christmas, was and is God.
B. But it is not only John 1 that teaches the Deity of Jesus. Many other scriptures do as well. Lest you think that John 1 is some kind of aberration or oddity in the New Testament, let’s look at some other passages that teach the same thing. We don’t have time to look at all of them, but we’ll survey a few:
— First of all, throughout the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly called “Lord” and “Savior” – which are Old Testament synonyms for God. (Matt. 12:8, etc.)
— Matthew 1:23 Jesus is called “GOD with us”!
— Philippians 2:9 says that Jesus was given “the Name which is above every name …” – that was a Jewish synonym for God! They felt like the name of God was so holy, that they didn’t want to pronounce it out loud, so when they would refer to the name of God, often times they would just say: “The name which is above every name.” So how powerful is it then, that in Philippians 2 the Bible says that Jesus is “the name which is above all names” — and at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that “Jesus Christ is LORD”?! What a powerful proclamation that Jesus is God!
— The whole first chapter of Hebrews is about the superiority of Jesus to the Law and the angels, and it says in :8, “Of the Son He says, “Your throne O GOD is forever …”. Here the Bible specifically says that the Son is God!
–Colossians 2:9 “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” That is even on the surface a strong verse regarding the divinity of Christ, but it is even more powerful when you understand the context and words involved here.
Paul was writing the book of Colossians to combat the teachings of the Gnostics, who taught that the ultimate “god” was what they called the “fullness” (the Greek word “pleroma.”). This “pleroma” or “fullness” of God, they said, is so beyond us that we cannot directly communicate with Him. So in between us and God there have to be numerous beings they called “aeons” or “archons”, who were god-like rulers and beings who could give humans wisdom. They taught that the “God” of the Old Testament was one of these, and that Jesus was also one of these. But God made it clear here in Colossians: in Jesus all the FULLNESS — the “pleroma” — of Deity dwells in bodily form. Jesus is not some “sub-god” to the Pleroma or fullness of God. JESUS IS THE PLEROMA! He IS the fullness of God! There is no one who is more God than Jesus is! Herschel Hobbs, who was a great pastor/theologian from FBC OKC in the 1900’s, wrote that this verse in Colossians 1:9 is THE single greatest verse in all the Bible regarding the deity of Jesus. He is not a “part” of God, or some “offshoot” of God, or a “sub-god”. He is the “FULLNESS” of Deity. In other words, all that you can think of when you think of God – that’s who Jesus is. He was and is 100% God!
C. But not only do other inspired writers teach the deity of Jesus, Jesus Himself also taught His Deity. One of the big lies that I have seen promulgated in various places is the assertion that the followers of Jesus called Him God, but that Jesus Himself never claimed to be God. Again, this is completely disproved by the words of Jesus Himself in scripture:
–Matthew 26:63-65 “The high priest said to Him: ‘I adjure You by the Living God, that You tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself. … “Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has blasphemed!’”
It was obvious that Jesus had made Himself very clear to the Jewish court. They knew exactly what He was saying. In fact, that expression He used, ‘You have said it yourself”, is an idiom that in their language was very similar to our expression: “You said it!” For example, when someone asks you: “You aren’t going to the lake, are you?” and you say: “You said it!”, that’s just another way of saying “yes!”, right? And that is what Jesus was saying here: “You have said it yourself!” In other words, He was saying, “Yes I am!” It is obvious that they understood it, because they tore their robes and called it blasphemy. They knew that He was claiming to be God.
— In John 8:56-59 Jesus told the Jews: “Before Abraham came into being, I AM.” And the Bible says the Jews who were listening to Him picked up stones to stone him, because they knew what He was claiming: that He, Jesus, was the great “I AM” who appeared to Moses in Exodus 3 and told him that His name was “I AM.” It was a clear claim that He was Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.
–John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” (Again, lest there be any misunderstanding about what Jesus meant, the JEWS had no doubt: it says “they took up stones again to stone Him”. And verse 33 records them saying, “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God.” They knew exactly what Jesus was saying! He was clearly “making Himself out to be God”!
–John 14:9 Philip had said to Jesus, just show us the Father, and that is enough for us. Jesus responded: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father!” Jesus is saying, you are not going to see any more of God than Me! I am God!
–John 20:28 after the resurrection of Jesus, when Thomas saw Him, he called Him “My Lord and My God”. Now notice this: In Acts 14:13-15, when the people of Lystra began to worship Paul & Barnabas, those 2 men ran to the people and protested, “we are men like you!”! They would not allow the people to worship them. In Revelation 19:10, when John fell to worship the angel that was speaking to him, the angel stopped him and said, “Do not do that; I am a fellow-servant of yours.” But when Thomas fell to worship Jesus, and said, “My Lord and My God”, what did Jesus do? He did not stop Thomas; He did not rebuke him. Instead Jesus said, “Because you have seen, have you believed?” Jesus did NOT stop him and say, no, Thomas, this isn’t right. He said, Thomas, you only believe this because you have seen it. But he did NOT correct his claim that He was Lord & God because that is exactly who He is!
The New Testament is very clear that Jesus Christ claimed to be God. You know, we live in the United States of America, where we have great freedoms. If someone here does not want to believe that Jesus is God, they have all the freedom our nation provides to hold that belief. But do not allow anyone to try to tell you that the New Testament doesn’t teach that Jesus is God. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that Jesus Himself never claimed to be God. The Bible is absolutely clear: Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, was and is God.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE REGARDING THE DEITY OF JESUS?
Somebody may say, well, so what; what’s the difference whether Jesus was God or not anyway? It makes ALL the difference!
I remember several years ago, when we were living in Tulsa, the Tulsa World newspaper interviewed several pastors during the Christmas season and asked them what the Virgin Birth of Jesus meant to them, and they printed the responses in the paper. One pastor of a so-called “church” said that the Virgin Birth didn’t mean anything to him, that he didn’t believe it. He said the meaning of Christmas is that a poor child was born 2000 years ago, and no one cared about him. He said it is a story of the socio-economic inequalities that need to be addressed in society!
Now, that may raise your hackles, but you know what? If Jesus isn’t God, then that guy’s right. If Jesus isn’t God, then Christmas is just a story about a poor family, and how no one would help them. That’s it. If Jesus isn’t God, that’s all it is. If Jesus isn’t God, then if there is a god, the Deists may be right, he is just “out there” somewhere, but he is far removed from us, and we cannot possibly have a relationship with Him, or know Him. If Jesus isn’t God, then why pay any more attention to His words than to those of Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil? If Jesus isn’t God, then there is no such thing as forgiveness of sins. And He may be an interesting story, but He can’t do anything for you, and He is not worth devoting your life to.
But if Jesus IS God; it is a whole different story!
–If the Christ of Christmas is God, then when Mary gave birth to that child that day, it really WAS “Immanuel” – and God came to be with us! He’s not just “some unknown god out there”, but He really did care enough about us to become one of us, and live with us. If Jesus is God, it means that God cares! God loves us! God is with us!
–If the Christ of Christmas is God, then you don’t have to wander around, looking for direction for your life – GOD has spoken to us through the teachings of Jesus. And He will speak to you, and direct your life as you spend time in His word, with His Spirit speaking to your heart.
–If the Christ of Christmas was God, then your sins can really be forgiven, because that baby grew up to die on the cross to pay for our sins with His blood.
–If the Christ of Christmas was God, then He can change your life, if you will commit your life to Him. He changed the lives of the Disciples. When Jesus was arrested & crucified, all His disciples ran away. They ran away and hid. And yet, 40 days later, they were standing in the streets, boldly proclaiming Jesus, against all persecution and threats? What happened? They saw Jesus alive. Because He is God, He changed their lives. It is one of the strongest evidences for the reality of Jesus Christ – the change He made in those disciples. But He is still changing lives today, of those who commit their lives to Him. How many testimonies have we seen, right here in our church, of those whose lives have been rescued from drugs, marriages brought together, lives turned around, who have gone from hopeless to HOPE – because Jesus changes lives.
The question is often asked: “How can believing in some guy who lived 2000 years ago change my life today?” The answer is, because it wasn’t just “SOME GUY” who lived 2000 years ago! It was GOD who came to earth that day in Bethlehem: the One who was “in the beginning with God”, and who was and is God Himself. And though He died on a cross 2000 years ago, Romans 1:4 says “He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” and He lives today. Jesus Christ is not just “some guy.” He was not just good man, or a religious teacher who lived 2000 years ago. The Christ of Christmas is God. And because He is, He will change your life, if you will respond to Him the way that Thomas did, and fall at His feet, and call Him what He is: “My Lord and My God!”