I was recently talking with someone, a fellow believer, about Jesus. Now I’ve had a habit for years of referring to Him by using the names Jesus and God interchangeably. I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve done it for as long as I can remember since becoming a Christian. As the conversation continued the following statement came up:
“I’m not convinced that Paul actually believed that Jesus was God.”
Now this person is older and carries authority and I didn’t really feel like it would be appropriate in the setting we were in to get into this more with him (though I hope we will have a chance to pick it up sometime later), but this is a HUGE statement. And to be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this or something like it so I figured, why not do a little research in the Bible and see what Paul wrote.
1 Corinthians 8:6
“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
1 Corinthians is considered by many scholars to be one of the first books of the New Testament to be written, and here Paul identifies that there is one God who is the Father. But he continues by saying that Jesus shares the exact same attributes that the Father has, namely creator and sustainer. By likening Jesus to God the Father in this way Paul is putting Jesus at the same level as the Father.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Here again, Jesus is likened by Paul to the Father. In Genesis 1 God creates the universe and everything in it. How did He do this? By speaking it into being. It was by the Word of God that everything physical came into being, and Paul is here telling the Christians in Colossae that it was by Jesus that all things were made (see also John 1). Furthermore, he’s saying that everything was made for Him and that Jesus is what holds EVERYTHING together. Last I checked, no man can hold the universe together… that’s a God thing.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Some other translations such as the New Living Translation read, “…though He was God…”. Paul is making it clear to us that Jesus is not simply a man, nor is He a man that was raised up by God (or anyone else for that matter); what Paul is doing is reiterating and clarifying the prophecy of the suffering Messiah from Isaiah 53. He’s saying that Jesus is God, who humbled Himself and added to his divinity the nature of humanity.
“But Dan,” you might be saying right now, “it sounds like you’re just kind of reading into these verses what you believe. Paul didn’t come straight out and say, ‘Jesus is God’.” Well in that case…
“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
And just to drive it home:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
So just to be perfectly clear: Yes. Paul did, without a doubt, believe and proclaim Jesus to be God.