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Embracing the Mystery: Defending the Full Deity and Humanity of Christ in Scripture

by | Apr 19, 2023

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From the earliest days of Christianity, the deity of Christ has been under assault. Even as the apostles walked the earth, they encountered those who sought to undermine Jesus’ divine nature. Time and again, they stood firm against such falsehoods, guided by the Holy Spirit and the testimony of their own experiences. In the centuries that followed, the battle continued to rage as various heresies sought to chip away at this central truth of the faith. Even today, we find that certain sects persist in their attempts to cast doubt upon the divine nature of Christ. Throughout history, however, the unwavering testimony of Scripture has provided a sure foundation for those who believe in Jesus as fully God and fully man.

In biblical times, the Gnostic movement posed a significant threat to the deity of Christ. These sects claimed to possess secret knowledge, offering a path to salvation that bypassed the physical world they deemed corrupt. They believed that Christ was a divine being distinct from Jesus, the man. The Apostle John, in his first epistle, strongly refuted this heresy, asserting that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, fully divine and fully human (1 John 4:2-3). Another early heresy, Arianism, led by Arius of Alexandria, denied the full deity of Christ, suggesting that he was a created being, subordinate to the Father. This challenge was ultimately confronted and defeated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which reaffirmed the biblical truth that Jesus is coeternal and coequal with the Father.

In our modern age, the deity of Christ still faces challenges from various sects and groups. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that Jesus is a created being, the archangel Michael, and not equal to God the Father. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) professes that Jesus is one of many gods and was once a man who achieved godhood. Despite these and other attempts to discredit Jesus’ divine nature, the unshakable truth of Scripture remains our guide and anchor. By standing firm on the biblical testimony of Christ’s full deity and humanity, we can confidently weather the storms of false teaching and hold fast to the truth that Jesus is, indeed, the eternal God in human flesh.

In the pages of the Holy Scripture, Colossians 2:9 rings out like a resounding proclamation, stating, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” This truth stands in stark contrast to the falsehoods that were threatening to derail the Colossians’ faith. The Apostle Paul penned these inspired words to remind them—and us—that the secret to spiritual victory is found in a deep-rooted relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Now, you might wonder who this “him” refers to. Well, actually, you probably don’t wonder, as it’s pretty clear, as the context leaves no room for doubt. But, we’ll delve a little more deeply into who he is, anyways. The verses before this mighty statement make it abundantly clear that “him” is none other than Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul verbally paints a compelling portrait of our Savior as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the church, and the reconciler of all things. Jesus Christ is the one in whom the fullness of deity dwells.

Let’s break this down to understand it better. The phrase “whole fullness” combines two Greek words: “pan,” meaning all or whole, and “pleroma,” meaning fullness. “Pleroma” was a term that carried weight in religious and philosophical circles, pointing to the totality or completeness of something. In the context of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, it is being used to demonstrate the complete and perfect nature of God is fully present in Christ.

But what does “deity” mean? The Arians, for example, did not completely reject the deity of Christ, but they held a view of Christ’s deity that was different from the orthodox Christian understanding. Arianism, a theological position named after its primary advocate, Arius of Alexandria, proposed that Jesus was a divine being but not equal to or co-eternal with God the Father. According to Arianism, Jesus was created by God the Father and, therefore, had a beginning in time, making Him subordinate to the Father.

The word, “deity,” does have a generic meaning, but in the context of Colossians 2:9, it is being used in a very specific way. Here, Paul uses it to describe the divine nature or essence of the only true God and to point to the totality of God’s divine attributes, like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence—all of which are present in Christ.

The New Testament is filled with verses that confirm Jesus Christ’s deity. For instance, John 1:1 asserts, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This passage identifies Jesus, known as “the Word,” as fully God. Likewise, Philippians 2:6 reveals that Jesus, “being in the form God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”

In Philippians 2:6, the word translated as “form” is the Greek word “μορφή” (morphē), which, in this context, refers to the essential nature, character, or appearance of something. When the verse states that Jesus was “in the form of God,” it means that He shares the same divine attributes and characteristics as God the Father, highlighting His full deity.

As we continue to explore the New Testament, we find more passages that highlight Jesus’ divine attributes. John 10:30 sees Jesus proclaiming, “I and the Father are one,” testifying to his unity with God the Father. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is described as “the image of the invisible God,” reflecting God’s divine nature. And in Hebrews 1:3, we read that Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”

Jesus’ earthly ministry further demonstrated his divine nature. He performed miracles—like healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, and raising the dead—proving his power over nature and ability to transcend physical laws. Moreover, he forgave sins, an authority reserved for God alone.

The word “dwell” implies residing or making a home in a specific place. In this context, it means that the fullness of God’s divine nature resides or is present in Christ. The word “bodily” is significant as it proves Christ’s physical existence. In Colossians, false teachers were claiming that physical bodies were inherently evil and salvation could only be achieved through secret knowledge or mystical experiences. But Paul refutes this by arguing that Christ’s physical body was the dwelling place of the fullness of God’s divine nature. This highlights the importance of the incarnation—the belief that God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

As we face the ongoing battle against those who seek to undermine the deity of Christ, let us cling to the unchanging truth of Scripture. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, issued a sobering warning against those who preach a different gospel: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8). Those who deny His deity, who twist the Gospel message, or who lead others astray with false teachings stand under God’s condemnation. So be vigilant, discerning, and wise, and hold fast to the truth revealed in God’s Word, and avoid being ensnared by those who would distort the divine nature of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, being ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you.

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