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The Deity of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 3, 2022 12:01 am

The Deity of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 3, 2022 12:01 am

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is much more than another prophet. Today, R.C. Sproul concludes his overview of apologetics by defending the deity of Christ.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. There are many people in the church who agree that the Bible is the Word of God, but they have a vastly different understanding of what the Bible actually teaches. So now the task becomes not one of debating the nature of Scripture, but now the task becomes one of examining carefully what the Scripture teaches. Very large, the world is skeptical of the Bible, so we must be equipped to defend it and the truth it proclaims. But Christianity in the 21st century has a unique battle. Even Christians today argue over what the Bible says.

Here's Dr. R.C. Sproul on the importance of uniting around the authority of Scripture. We come now to the section in our study of apologetics where we conclude the lecture series by looking in the final analysis at the significance of what we've examined so far. Obviously, the scope of the science of apologetics goes far beyond the two questions that we've examined.

In all of this time, we've only looked at two issues, and that is the case for the existence of God and secondly the case for the divine origin of the sacred Scriptures. Now, as I said, the issues that come up in apologetics go way beyond these two questions. In every generation, in every age, competing secular philosophies collide with the truth claims of Christianity.

And so through the ages, Christian apologists have had to duel, as it were, with these competing philosophies because Christianity is not a religion so much as it is what we call a life and world view. That is, the content of Christianity defines the meaning of human existence and how this world in which we live is related to the existence of God. Now, in any worldview or life and worldview, you're dealing with a system of thought.

That system of thought may or may not be consistent internally and coherent, but at least most systems seek to be coherent and to speak to a wide diversity of issues that come along. And so Christianity is concerned not just about how we worship or how we sing or how we pray, but it's interested in the character of God. It's interested in the question of cosmology, that is, how this world is constructed.

Does this world operate by internal fixed laws that are independent from the power of God, or does nature itself depend every moment for its power and operations upon this transcendent God who creates it in the first place? Issues of anthropology, are we as human beings created in the image of God for a purpose and therefore our lives have meaning and significance, or are we grown-up germs that I suggested before, cosmic accidents who have no significance in the final analysis? So how we understand God determines how we understand the world, and how we understand God and the world determines how we understand our place within the grand scheme of things. And so again, Christianity as a life and worldview is always in competition with and on a collision course with alternate systems of thought. And so today's apologists might have to duel with the existentialists or the analytical philosophers, where in the past empirical philosophy and positivistic philosophy was being debated among Christianity. And I'm sure that whatever is in vogue tomorrow in the secular world will provoke new questions and new issues and new responses from the Christian community. One of the things that we enjoy as Christians, having had 2,000 years of practice dealing with alternate systems, is that when we are confronted by a new philosophical challenge to the Christian faith, where we have to defend ourselves afresh in a new generation, we at least have the advantage of 2,000 years of reflection on issues that tend to come up over and over and over again in the arena of public debate.

One of the problems new philosophies encounter is that they don't have that backlog of resources concerning their points of vulnerability. That gives them an advantage as they come on the scene, nobody's thought about the points of vulnerability that they might have, and yet when they are exposed to the philosophy of the second glance, they tend to have a short lifespan, so that alternate philosophies come and go through church history while orthodox Christianity remains standing in the gap. But again, in dealing with all of these things, we have to understand the relationship between the Bible and what we called earlier natural revelation, what we can learn from a study of reality apart from what it says in the Bible. Because once we establish the Bible as the Word of God, the Bible as the Word of God tells us that in addition to the information that we get from it, that God also reveals truth through the heavens, through nature, and so when we're studying in the scientific lab certain elements of our experience, we are still trying to think God's thoughts after Him.

We're trying to discern the imprint of the Creator in the realm of nature. Again, historically, the great theologians and apologists of church history have all agreed that all truth is one and that all truth meets at the top, so that what God reveals in the Scripture in the final analysis will not contradict what He reveals to us outside of Scripture in the realm of nature. And conversely, if God reveals some truth in nature, that truth that is known through nature will not contradict what is found in the Bible. Now, when we establish, however, the first two premises that we've sought to regard here, the existence of God and the authority of the Bible, as I said, we have gone ninety percent of the way in the task of apologetics. Even though there may be ten thousand more questions that we have to deal with by establishing the authority of the Scripture, the last ten percent would include those ten thousand issues that can be dealt with by a careful study of what Scripture says. Because Scripture, again, tells us something about the origin of man, the origin of the cosmos.

It tells us the nature of truth itself. It speaks to us about issues of ethics that we are fiercely divided on, such matters as homosexual behavior, abortion, and the like. All of these issues are addressed by Scripture. But here's the problem that we have. We have people within the church who disagree on issues of how we regulate marriage and divorce and sexuality and the like.

These debates that we're seeing in the newspaper every day. And the problem is complicated because some people in the church agree that the normative authority to settle these issues is Scripture, while others within the church say, no, I don't submit to the normative authority of Scripture. So they want to look somewhere else to establish a basis for their truth claims. For example, in the sexuality debates that have torn major denominations into shreds in our lifetime, we see reports coming to bear to the denominations from modern psychological theory or psychiatric theory that completely ignore the teaching of Scripture. Because those who advocate such views say that contemporary psychological theory trumps whatever ancient view was communicated in the Scripture, assuming that the Scripture, of course, is not God or the Word of God, because we know, I would think, that if God Himself were to be heard to speak on an issue and the American Psychiatric Society differed with God, who would you believe?

It would certainly acquiesce to God's Word on the matter as being final. But again, the problem is not everybody inside the church, not to mention outside the church, agrees that the Bible is normative. And that's why it is imperative that that authority be established early in the whole process of examining truth claims, so that you can have an authority that you both submit to. But then the plot thickens when we realize that there are many people in the church who agree that the Bible is the Word of God and are willing to submit to the authority of the Word of God, but they have a vastly different understanding of what the Bible actually teaches. So now the task becomes not one of debating the nature of Scripture, but now the task becomes one of exegesis, of examining carefully what the Scripture teaches.

And so then all of the questions about what process do you use in discerning what Scripture teaches, what's called the science of hermeneutics, or the rules of interpretation, that comes into play when we're dealing with issues of biblical interpretation. One of my close friends in ministry is John MacArthur in California, and we have worked shoulder to shoulder defending the truth of the authority of the Bible. And I really don't know anybody that I think has a higher view of Scripture than John does, or is more devoted to the study of the Bible.

And yet as close as we are in so many points, there are points that we don't agree on. For example, Christians who believe in the authority of the Bible, some believe that we ought to practice infant baptism. Others say, no, we ought not to, because there's no explicit command to baptize infants in the New Testament, nor is there an explicit prohibition. And so the two sides that are so divided on a question like that have to rely upon inferences drawn from what the Bible does teach on the implicit evidence from Scripture. And you take somebody who's a close friend of mine like John MacArthur, and he has done his homework, and he studies the Bible and church history and the theological issues here, and has come to the conclusion that the church ought not to be engaged in infant baptism. On the other hand, I am convinced that the implicit evidence of Scripture overwhelmingly affirms the propriety of infant baptism. And so there we are, both committed to the authority of Scripture, differing on a point like that.

But here's the good news about those disputes. I know when I'm engaged in a discussion like that with my friend John MacArthur, that if I could show John MacArthur that infant baptism is the biblical way, I have no doubt in my mind that no matter what he's said on the matter in the past, no matter what associations he has with religious groups, whatever love lines exist right now, John MacArthur would unhesitatingly affirm infant baptism. And he is equally sure that if he could convince me that infant baptism were not a biblical principle, that I would abandon it in a heartbeat. So we differ, we differ on a matter that we both think is important, but at least we have the same authority and we can have a discussion together as Christians, both trusting the other person's commitment to the authority of the Word of God. You see, that's a totally different situation and environment from debating with somebody who doesn't affirm the Word of God. Let me give another example of that, like abortion. I wrote a book several years ago on the case against abortion.

And since I was writing not only for an orthodox Christian audience, but more broadly to the culture, I tried to establish the case not only on a biblical basis of exegesis, but also on the basis of natural reason and arguing from nature and so on against the principle of abortion on demand and dealt with the medical evidence that deals about whether the unborn fetus is personal, whether it's alive, whether it meets the standards of biology in cases like that. And so in that realm, I had to go beyond the Scriptures to deal with the issue. But with Christians, I'd stick with the Scripture.

I wouldn't have to go outside into the natural realm because the Bible is not silent on matters of that sort. But again, backing up, I say I want to bring this to a conclusion by saying that there are many, many questions. For example, does the Bible teach that Jesus is the Messiah? If the Bible is the Word of God and the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, then QED, Jesus is the Messiah. One of the great disputes that the church has had to deal with throughout history is the deity of Christ. And the question of the deity of Christ is a question that the church wrestled with for the first 300 years of her existence, because the people in the early church were certainly sensitive to the charge that was coming against Christian theology that Christianity was violating a cardinal principle of biblical truth, namely the monotheism that is the hallmark of the Old Testament faith, that historic Judaism clearly declares that God is one. And if we believe in monotheism, how can we attribute deity, not only to God the Father, but also attribute deity to Jesus Christ? Doesn't that manifestly demolish historic monotheism? That's why the church came to the position of the Trinity of distinguishing among the three persons of the Trinity, but saying that the three persons of the Trinity, though they must be distinguished among each other in terms of subsistence or in terms of personae, nevertheless in the Godhead remains a singularity of essence, of deity, insisting that God is one in essence, so that though the differences among the persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are real and important distinctions, those real and important distinctions in the Godhead are not essential distinctions.

Now let me pause for a moment. When I use the word essential here, I want to be careful, because sometimes we say that something is essential, and what we mean by that is that it is of supreme importance and is so important that it can't be negotiated. That's not the way I'm using the term here. When I say the differences in the Godhead among the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are not essential, I don't mean to suggest they're not important or that they're not real. They are real, and they are really important, but they do not mean a difference in the essence or the being. God is one being. Now again, why does the church teach that Christ is divine?

Well, let me just take a few moments to just give a few references to that. In the gospel, according to St. John, in the prologue, the opening verses of this text, we have an extraordinary affirmation about Christ. Which affirmation is so extraordinary that this text, more than any other, busied the Christian intellectuals of the first 300 years in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity? John's gospel begins with these words, 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 were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Now let me just stop there in these initial verses of John's gospel. This is, in these words, a bombshell that fell on the playground of ancient thinkers, where John begins this message by saying something that at first glance sounds contradictory. He begins with these words, In the beginning was the Word, or the Logos, N-R-K-A-N-O, Logos. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Now notice that in that phrase, the Word was with God, we see a clear distinction between the Word and God. So, it would be obvious at this point in the text that John is talking about something that was with God at the beginning who must be distinguished from God, because that which is with something else is not identical to that something else.

But then in the very next breath he says, And the Word was God. So in one sense, the Logos is distinguished from God. In another sense, the Logos is identified with God. And here we have this eternal, self-existent Logos that in some sense is distinguished from God, and in another sense is identified with God.

Do you see the makings of the Trinity already here in effect? Incidentally, when the term with is used here, it is used in a significant way. There are at least three different Greek words that are translated or can be translated by the English word with. There's the word sun, which is S-U-N, but comes over in English by the prefix S-Y-N. We synchronize our watches, we get them together, or we have synonyms, words that mean the same thing basically. The sunugage in Israel was the place where people gathered together with each other, so the withness of sun is the withness of being together. Then there was the withness of metta or para, either one, which can mean alongside of.

If you see two people walking down the street side by side, they are with each other in a side-by-side metta or para relationship. But the word that is used here in John's gospel for with is the Greek word pros, which forms incidentally the root of the word prosopon, which is the Greek word for face. And what we have here is a togetherness, a withness, that is not just being together in a group or alongside of each other, but in a face-to-face relationship. So what John is saying is that from the beginning, the Word has been with God in the closest possible relationship that two distinct persons can have, face-to-face relationship. But when we explore the essence of this relationship, suddenly the distinction falls aside because the logos was God. So, again, we see reason for a Trinitarian formula that says that God is one in essence but three in person. Of course, this isn't the only text.

This was the major text that kept the people busy for 300 years. But there are a host of texts in the Scripture that indicate the deity of Christ, not the least of which is that He, Jesus, a Jew, accepted worship from people. After the resurrection, John comes and worships Him, saying, My Lord and my God. You remember when the apostles received worship from people.

They completely repudiated it. When angels received worship from people, they were rebuked for worshipping them. But when Christ received worship, He welcomed it and acknowledged it. And He says, before Abraham was, I am. And throughout the Gospel of John, the formula, ego, emi, the double use of the verb to be, which translates the Old Testament Hebrew phrase, Yahweh, is self-consciously used by Jesus. Jesus takes upon Himself the very name of God. Jesus declares to those who are with Him that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, that He has the authority in this world to forgive sins. The message that Jesus taught regarding His deity was not missed by His contemporaries.

It's because they understood what He was saying that they took up stones to kill Him, saying, This man, being a man, declares himself to be God. Well, those are just a few cases where the apologist has to go through the entire New Testament and give the defense for the deity of Christ based upon the testimony of Scripture. Because remember, when we established the authority of Scripture, we began with the Scripture as a basically reliable historical document. From there we came to a knowledge of Jesus as a true prophet. Then we went from Jesus as a true prophet, certifying that the Scriptures were more than simply generally reliable but were nothing less than the Word of God. And then we go to the next step, that those Scriptures that are certified now as the Word of God declare that Jesus is more than a prophet, that He indeed is the Son of God, the eternal Logos. And again, this is just one example of how once the Scripture is established, we go to the Scripture to settle all of the other controversies that arise within the church, particularly about the truth claims of Christianity.

Christians can disagree on many things, but the divinity of Christ is not among them. Thanks for listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday. We have heard another lesson from Dr. R.C. 's role series, Defending Your Faith. As we study the history of classical apologetics, R.C.

is equipping us to defend the existence of God. And we'd like to send you this entire series. There are 32 messages on 11 DVDs. Simply contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will send them to you. You can call us at 800-435-4343, or you can make your request online at We'll be wrapping up this series next Saturday, so I hope you'll take advantage of this opportunity to request these important lessons for a donation of any amount. Just ask for Defending Your Faith.

Again, our number is 800-435-4343, and our online address, Next week we're going to feature the question-and-answer session that wrapped up this series, and here's a question that one of the audience members asked. R.C., why would a Creator let the human race mess up His creation like we have, and what about injustice?

Why doesn't He just step in and fix it? R.C. will answer that and other thoughtful questions next week here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 19:44:28 / 2023-03-02 19:53:07 / 9

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