Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses—Part 2

Author Tim Barnett Published on 09/12/2015

(Notes for the video “Witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses”—available in our store—are below. See Part 1.)

Point #2: Jesus Is Directly Identified as God

One of the challenges that have been raised is that Jesus never came right out and said, “I AM GOD.” However, this simply is false. In fact, Jesus did make direct (or explicit) claims to be God. Let’s look at two of them together.

(A) Jesus’ Direct Claim for His Deity—John 8:56–58

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” [57] So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [58] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” [59] So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Notice that Jesus makes a grammatically poor statement. He says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Technically, he switched the tense in mid-sentence. He should have said, “Before Abraham was, I was.” However, Jesus is trying to communicate two important points. First, Jesus was telling the Jews that he existed before Abraham. Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, didn’t start existing at the virgin birth. Second, by saying “I AM,” Jesus claimed to be the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush.

Exodus 3:14 says, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”’”

When Jesus takes the name I AM, he is calling himself the eternal, self-existent One, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It would have been obvious to any first-century Jew that Jesus was explicitly claiming to be God, because every Jew in the first century would have known Exodus 3:14.

(B) Jesus’ Direct Claim for His Deity—Mark 14:62–64

Next, let’s look at Mark 14:61–64. It says:

[61] Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” [62] And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” [63] And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? [64] You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

Jesus knew his hour had come, so he provided a direct answer to the high priest’s question. He replied, “I am.” This has a double meaning. He is saying, “I am the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the Blessed (the Son of God)” and “I am the I AM.”

If he had stopped there, they would have crucified him. But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus says, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Caiaphas knew what this meant. This was a reference to the vision Daniel had of the end times. By using the title “the Son of Man,” Jesus was pointing to a divine-human figure prophesied in Daniel.

Daniel 7:13–14 says:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. [14] And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Notice verse 64 of Mark 14: “You have heard his blasphemy.” But what exactly did they hear? Notice they didn’t hear him use the words “I am God.” However, what they heard was equally obvious that he was claiming to be God.

Point #3: Jesus Is Indirectly Identified as God

(A) Jesus’ Indirect Claims for His DeityATTRIBUTES (He has the characteristics of God)

Jesus in the New Testament is described by the same attributes as the God of the Old Testament.

The LORD is my shepherd. (Psalm 23:1) SHEPHERD I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)
It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. (Psalm 75:7) JUDGE And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31–33)
I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6) FIRST AND LAST I am the first and the last. (Revelation 1:17)
The LORD is my light. (Psalm 27:1) LIGHT I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11) SAVIOR This is indeed the Savior of the world. (John 4:42)
I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Isaiah 42:8) GOD'S GLORY Glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:5)

(B) Jesus’ Indirect Claims for His DeityACTIVITIES (He acts as if he is God)

Forgave Sins Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven!” In response, the scribes said, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5–11)
Gave Commandments Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Furthermore, Jesus was fond of saying, “You have heard it said...but I say to you...” (Matthew 5).
Requested Prayer in His Name He said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [14] If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14). If Jesus is not God, then this would be the strangest thing.

(C) Jesus’ Indirect Claims for His DeityADORATION (He is worshiped as God)

On multiple occasions, Jesus also receives adoration (or worship) as if he is God. For instance, the magi worship him (Matthew 2:11), his disciples worship him after he calms the storm (Matthew 14:33), the blind man worships him after he heals him (John 9:38), and the women at the tomb worship him after his resurrection (Matthew 28:9).

All of these people worshiped Jesus without him giving one word of rebuke. This only makes sense if Jesus thought he was God. In fact, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). Yet he received worship!

(D) Jesus’ Indirect Claims for His DeityADDRESS (He is referred to as God by others)

Jesus is repeatedly addressed as God in the New Testament. Paul says,

“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5).

Peter says, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). See also Titus 2:13. When we look at the New World Translation, we find that its authors make a very deceitful change to the text. In fact, they know it’s deceitful. Let me show you.

2 Peter 1:1 in the NWT says, “Simon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have acquired a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.” In this verse, it sounds like there are two people being referred to: our God and the Savior Jesus Christ. But jump down to verse 11. Second Peter 1:11 says, “In fact, in this way you will be richly granted entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Now how many people are being referred to? Just one.

But if you understand the original Greek text, you will see that these phrases are almost identical, with the word “God” being exchanged for the word “Lord.” Yet in the first, they make it about two, not one. They add a definite article “the” in front of the word “Savior.” There is actually a rule in Greek that guarantees that this kind of construction is about one person, not two. It is called the Granville Sharp Rule.

John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). But the NWT says, “the Word was a god [theos].” They will tell you that there is no definite article [ho theos], thus it must be translated a god. However, if you skip down to John 1:6 in the NWT you will see that they don’t follow their own rule. It reads, “There was a man sent from God [theos], whose name was John.” Here there is no definite article either. But they don’t translate it a god.

Thomas affirmed that Jesus is God in an amazing affirmation (John 20:27–29). John writes,

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Jehovah’s Witnesses will say that Thomas was talking to two people. He turned to Jesus and said “my Lord” and then turned to the heavens and said “my God.” However, the text actually says, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” In addition, this is almost the identical construction of Psalm 35:23. And David is referring to one person, Jehovah!

(E) Jesus’ Indirect Claims for His DeityASSOCIATION (He is equally associated with God)

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one” (John 10:27–30).

Jesus is not saying that the Son and the Father are one person. They are distinct persons. Jesus is saying that the Son and the Father are one nature. Both have the divine nature!

Point #4: Common Objections to Jesus' Deity

(A) Objection #1: Jesus Denied Being God in Mark 10:17–18

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ [18] And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’”

Of course, there is a world of difference between denying that He is God and merely asking a question. Jesus is not denying his deity. In fact, Jesus seems to be asking if this person realizes the implications of what he is saying. What he is asking is, “Do you realize what you are saying when you call me good? Are you saying that I am God?” As we have already seen above, Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.

(B) Objection #2: God the Father Is Greater than Jesus in John 14:28

Jesus said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

Here Jesus is saying that he is subordinate to the Father. He is not referring to the divine nature. He is only talking about position (or office).

To answer this objection fully, one must have a proper understanding of the Trinity. The Trinity is not that three gods are one god, or that three beings are one being. That would entail a contradiction. The doctrine of the Trinity is that one God is three distinct persons. You can think of one triangle having three distinct corners. The three persons share one divine nature.

(C) Objection #3: Jesus Did Not Know Some Things in Mark 13:32

Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

This sounds like Jesus is not omniscient. But we know God is omniscient. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God. This is a classic argument used by Muslims and JWs.

But the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus does not entail a logical contradiction either. Orthodox Christianity holds that when the second person of the Trinity became incarnate, He added a human nature (he didn’t subtract anything from His divine nature). Therefore, we are correct in saying that Jesus is fully (or truly) God in His divine nature and fully (or truly) human in His human nature.

When skeptics ask a similar question, “Was Jesus tempted?” they think they have trapped the Christian since the Bible says that Jesus was tempted and that God cannot be tempted. However, the informed Christian can easily respond by breaking the question into two different questions. First, can Jesus be tempted in His divine nature? No! Second, can Jesus be tempted in His human nature? Yes, he was tempted, but he didn’t succumb to temptation.

At this point it should be clear that Jesus (and his followers) thought he was God. And there are no good reasons from Scripture to think that he’s not God.

Why does it matter that Jesus is God? Well, Jesus’ substitutionary atonement was accepted for one reason: God accepts only His own righteousness. The righteousness of a man or an angel is insufficient to hold up to the holy and perfect standard of God’s righteous law. Nothing outside of an act of God can save mankind from spiritual bondage and death. Jesus (the God-man) was the only suitable sacrifice because He was the righteousness of God. That is why it matters.