November 2008 Issue
Jesus Christ ~ The Eternal
Son Who is Fully God
by Steven A. McKinion
The Person and work of Jesus Christ
is continually belittled in this post-postmodern age. Cults and
sects would reduce Him to a created being, and an increasingly
secular society dismisses Him altogether. But the identity of
Jesus Christ is absolutely essential for a genuine Christian Gospel.
To preach or believe in any other than the biblical Jesus is eternally
The opening sentence of the paragraph about Jesus in the Baptist
Faith and Message states that Jesus is "the eternal Son
of God." Nestled near the end of the paragraph is the assertion
that Jesus Christ is "fully God." In both of these statements,
the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message stands in continuity
with all of the great creeds and confessions of historical Christianity.
Scripture itself makes these confessional statements abundantly
The Confession - "You
are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"
The central confession of the Christian faith was expressed
by Peter (Matthew 16:16) and Martha (John 11:27)-Jesus is the
Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Whatever else
Christians may believe, of greatest importance is that Jesus Christ
is the Son of God. There is no Christian Gospel absent this confession.
Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the
living God, serves as the climactic mid-point of Matthew's Gospel.
Upon hearing this confession, Jesus affirmed that this confession
did not come from "flesh and blood," but was a revelation
given by His Father in heaven (Matthew 16:17). Mark opened his
Gospel with the same apostolic teaching-the simple yet profound
affirmation: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God (Mark 1:1).
Part of Luke's strategy early in his Gospel was to point out
the significance of the confession that Jesus was indeed the Son
of God. In Luke 1:35, the angel announced to Mary that the Son
she would bear would be the Son of God. In Luke 2:49, after Jesus
had stayed behind in the temple
when His parents began their trip home, He explained to them that
He had to be about His Father's business. At Jesus' baptism, God
the Father declared, You are My beloved Son. I take delight
in You! (Luke 3:22). During the temptation narrative, the
devil affirmed the essential Sonship of Jesus on two occasions
(Luke 4:3, 9). Still very early in His messianic ministry, Jesus
was confronted by an evil spirit who cried out that Jesus was
the Holy One of God (Luke 4:34). Luke points to this amazing
identity in the opening chapters of his Gospel so that the reader
will begin to share his conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son
of God. By the end of the Gospel, no one is surprised at Jesus'
clear answer to the direct question in 22:70 from the chief priests
and Pharisees, "Are you the Son of God?"
The apostle John described the purpose for his Gospel in very
clear terms: 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 (John 20:30-31, KJV).
The apostolic preaching and teaching in the early church reinforced
this fundamental confession time and time again, both in the early
sermons of Acts and the didactic passages in the Epistles.
When the Ethiopian eunuch requested baptism, Philip informed
him, If you believe with all your heart, you may. The eunuch
then confessed, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
(Acts 8:37). Following Saul's (Paul's) conversion, he immediately
preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the
Son of God (Acts 9:20).
Years later, in one of Paul's high christological affirmations,
he made an extraordinary claim: God, through our response in repentance
and faith, has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred
us to the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13).
The writer of Hebrews expressed similar language in the prologue
to his book: In these last days, He has spoken to us by His
Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom
He made the universe. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact
expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful
word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right
hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:2-3).
He goes on to state in 1:8-9, but about the Son: Your throne,
O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is
a scepter of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
this is why God, Your God, has anointed You, rather than Your
companions, with the oil of joy. In these passages, Jesus
is clearly identified as the Son of God who is eternal.
Simply stated, the central confession of the Christian faith
is the affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living
The Deity - "Our God
and Savior Jesus Christ"
Many non-Christian groups, including the Mormons and Jehovah's
Witnesses, exploit confusion regarding the term "Son"
to claim that Jesus is a created being who is inferior to the
one true God. Non-Christian groups may hold Jesus in high esteem,
but do not confess that He is fully God in the flesh. In our confession
as Christians, we embrace the reality that as the Son of God,
Jesus is "fully God." According to the Bible, the Person
of Jesus and His ability to save - His divine sonship - is grounded
in His eternal co-equality with the Father and an affirmation
that He is indeed God. When Christians confess that the Son is
"of the same essence as the Father"1
they mean that whatever the Father is as God, the Son is as well.
Jesus' very being is that of God.
Scripture acknowledges that Jesus, as the Son, is fully God.
In the well-known prophetic statement in Isaiah 7:14, God promised
the future virgin birth of a Son. What is significant about this
promise is that the Son would be called Immanuel, a term translated
in Matthew's birth narrative, God with us. There is no
denying that in the mind of the biblical writer this Son was fully
God. How else could God be "with us" in this Son? Only
two chapters later, the promise of a future Son is reiterated.
Isaiah 9:6 says this Son will be called the Mighty God,
and eternal Father. In other words, the promised Savior
in Isaiah is the one true, eternal God.
John's Gospel begins with the affirmation that Jesus Christ
is fully God. John refers to Jesus as the "Word" of
God. The background to this term is Psalm 33:6, in which the Bible
tells us the Word of God created the heavens and the earth. John
simply picks up on this idea from the Old Testament that the Word
of God was the one who created everything. And, since Genesis
1:1 tells us it is God who created the heavens and the earth,
God and His Word must be one and the same being. John's insistence
that the Word, who is the Creator from Genesis 1 and Psalm 33:6,
became incarnate (verse 14) has the sole purpose of acknowledging
that Jesus Christ is fully God.
Paul follows the same line of thinking in his letter to the
Colossians in one of the most important and remarkable passages
of Scripture. Beginning in verse 15 of chapter 1, Paul claimed
that the Son is the image of the invisible God. With this
statement the Bible claims that the Son is the way in which God
is seen. An image is an exact presentation of something. In other
words, the Son is God, not simply someone who looks like God.
When a mother looks at a picture of her child, there would be
no confusing the picture with the genuine article. A photograph
of a daughter may suffice when the father is on a trip away from
home, but it is no substitute for her actual presence. Colossians
is telling us that when we see Jesus we see God, not just a picture
When Jehovah's Witnesses wish to paint Jesus as a creature,
they turn to the end of verse 15, where Jesus is called the
firstborn over all creation. But they misunderstand Paul's
point - the word for "firstborn" had a rich tradition
in Jewish literature as a recognized title for the Messiah. The
church fathers uniformly affirmed this messianic reference as
pointing to Jesus' priority to creation and His sovereignty over
all creation.2 This term does not imply
a point of origin, but rather a position of privilege.3
Paul was not suggesting Jesus was born first before all creation,
but that He held a privileged position of prominence over all
creation, and in verse 16 he details Jesus' role in creation.
In other words, after saying that when you see the Son you see
God, Paul elaborates further by telling us that the God you see
when looking at Jesus is the God of Genesis who created everything
Paul reiterates the point of Jesus' identity with God in verse
19 when he says that the fullness of deity dwells in him.
There is no mistaking the Bible's message in Colossians 1: Jesus
is the Creator of the universe and all that is in it. There is
one true God, and He is Jesus.
The climax of the biblical affirmation that Jesus Christ is
indeed fully God can be found in the great hymn of Christ in Philippians
2:5-11. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ did not think equality
with God was something to be grasped, for He was, by nature,
the very form of God. Even more telling is the description
of the resurrected Jesus. The text says that, having been obedient
to the death of the cross, Jesus has been given the Name that
is above every other name. This Name is the one at which every
knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. What
Name is this? Using similar phrasing, Isaiah the prophet foretold
this in Isaiah 45:21-24:
Who predicted this long ago? Who announced it from ancient
times? Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other God but Me, a
righteous God and Savior; there is no one except Me. Turn to Me
and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there
is no other. By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth,
a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every
tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said to Me: Only in the
LORD is righteousness and strength.
The Name to which Jesus has rightful claim is the Name of the
LORD, or Yahweh. God revealed His Name to Moses at the
burning bush (Exodus 3:14). In fact, Jesus specifically and boldly
proclaimed that very Name when He declared in John 8:58, Before
Abraham was, I am. Only in this Name is there salvation (Acts
4:12). And now, the Bible equates Jesus as the LORD. In fact,
the Name "Jesus" means "Yahweh is salvation."
The incarnate Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
David, and all the other prophets of the Old Testament. He is
the prophet greater than Moses, the King greater than David. He
is the God who created all things out of nothing by means of His
own power. He is the God who promised redemption and then delivered
on the promise by His own incarnation. In taking on our humanity
He subjected himself to death on the cross and then was raised
from death. His resurrection conquered not only sin, but also
death and hell, humanity's three-fold enemy since the Fall in
the Garden of Eden.
There is but one God to whom we bow the knee and confess our
utter devotion. This one God is the God of the Bible Who has made
everything that exists, things that are visible and invisible.
He created the world and made it inhabitable for human beings.
He then created a garden and put two people in it. After their
sin He promised offspring who would be the remedy for their sin,
the One who would restore their life. This One was the Son, Jesus
Christ. As the eternal Son of God, He reveals the Father because
they are both God. He is able to redeem us because He is God.
And this one true God has a name. His name is Jesus.
In Romans 10, we are told that saving faith is faith in Jesus
Christ, the Son of God. In a passage reminiscent of Philippians
2, Paul tells us that to be saved we must confess "Jesus
as Lord." The Christian gospel is not a story of the death
of a first-century Jewish rabbi. It is not the ethic of a great
teacher or a call to follow His perfect example. Instead, it is
the message of God at work reconciling us to Himself.4
As Christians, there is one Jesus in whom we are to have faith.
He is the God of the Bible, who made us, who reveals Himself to
us in Scripture, who took on flesh to die on the cross for us,
whose resurrection makes life possible for us, and who is coming
again to establish His Kingdom forever through a restoration of
His creation. This is Whom we confess. Jesus Christ, the eternal
Son of God, fully God, Who for us and our salvation became a man.
1. The Nicene Creed.
2. For an excellent treatment of this term, see J. B. Lightfoot,
Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon
(Macmillan, 1879; rpt.,Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), pp. 146-150.
3. Richard R. Melick, Jr., "The New American Commentary,"
Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Broadman Press, 1991),
4. 2 Corinthians 5:19.
Steven A. McKinion is a member of New Covenant
Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina; and professor of theology
and patristics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Wake Forest, North Carolina.
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