Can We See Jesus’ Deity During the Incarnation?
It is one thing for us to believe that Jesus was a real human who lived. It is another thing altogether for us to believe that he is God and that he was true God when throughout the entirety of his life. Wilhemus a Brakel noted that the deity of Christ can be demonstrated in four ways:
- He is called God everywhere in Scripture
- He is eternal, infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent.
- He has created heaven and earth and still governs and upholds the same
- He must be and was honored, worshiped, believed, and served.
In these ways, the deity of Christ was on full display even though he went about “incognito” as a true human.
Jesus is Referred to As God Throughout Scripture
The incarnate Lord’s mission was prophesied in Psalm 45:7 which reads, “Therefore, God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions.” Since the incarnate Jesus was described as “God” during his incarnate ministry even in the prophetic passage, his true deity must be accepted, or the prophecy must be rejected. Likewise, Jeremiah 23:5-6 prophesied that Jesus would be called “the LORD Our Righteousness” (NASB 2020). The very next verse spoke of the LORD which seems to be a reference to the Father rather than the incarnate Lord Jesus. Both the Father and the Son here are described as being “the LORD.”
In the New Testament the deity of Christ is acknowledged as well. Matthew 28:19-20 records Jesus’ command for the disciples to make disciples and baptize those disciples “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit.” The three share the same “name.” The Father, Son, and Spirit are one God. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “In the very same way there is One Essence of God, and One Nature, and One Name; although in accordance with a distinction in our thoughts we use distinct Names; and that whatever is properly called by this Name really is God; and what He is in Nature, That He is truly called—if at least we are to hold that Truth is a matter not of names but of realities.” The incarnate Lord himself claimed divine status.
Romans 9:5 described Jesus as “the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:5 affirms the eternal deity of Christ. Brakel wrote:
It is beyond all controversy that the reference here is to the Lord Jesus and His human nature. Of the very same Person it is said immediately (as in one breath) that He is God who is to be blessed for ever. I repeat, as in one breath, for nothing separates these two clauses, neither a period, nor a colon, but only a comma, upon which follow the words oJ w\n (who is), which always refer to the antecedent and relate to whomever had just been mentioned. The Lord Jesus is therefore the God who is blessed forever, this expression being a description of the eternal God.
Jesus is “God blessed forever,” he was not described as God “temporarily” in eternity before the incarnation and then God again after the ascension. Paul affirmed the “forever” nature of Jesus being “God blessed.”
1 John 5:20 also affirmed that Jesus is truly God as we read, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one. We are in the true one—that is, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Jesus’ true deity is affirmed in that he is “the Son of God” who is able to give understanding “of the true one.” Then John affirmed that Jesus, in his incarnation was “true God and eternal life.” If the Logos was not fully present in the hypostatic union, none of these affirmations could be true.
Jesus is Eternal and Immutable
Eternality is a necessary attribute of God. If God came into existence, then there would, by necessity, be something greater than God. Therefore, the Trinity, and the Trinity alone, is correctly described as eternal. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “There never was a time when He was not. And the same thing is true of the Son and the Holy Ghost.” This divine nature, including his eternality, never changed. “What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself.”
Prophetic passages described Jesus’ eternality. Micah 5:2 prophesied the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and also affirmed that his “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (cf. Matt 2:6; Jn 7:42). This verse affirmed the incarnation of Christ and the eternality of Christ. This twofold description highlighted the humanity and also the deity of Jesus as the one who is eternal. Jesus was described as “everlasting Father” (Is 9:6). Jesus affirmed that “before Abraham was I AM” (Jn 8:58). The ascended Lord described himself as “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end…who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Rev 1:8). Matthew Barrett wrote
if God changed from good to better, we would have to ask what perfection was lacking. His wisdom? His power? His knowledge? His love? We might also ask whether God is at the mercy of such a change or if such a change is voluntary. If he were at the mercy of such a change, then God would be impotent, vulnerable to the will of another, no longer the most sovereign being, no longer the most supreme being.
God, through the prophet Malachi, said, “I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (3:6). Even though philosophers and theologians struggle to understand immutability, the Scripture (like God) remains and God has “no variation or shadow due to change” (Js 1:17). Psalm 102:25-28 was cited as a reference to the incarnate Lord. Notice what it says about Jesus’ immutability. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.”
Jesus was All Knowing (Omniscient)
Christ’s omniscience during the incarnation is a particularly important doctrine since it is, perhaps, one of the more difficult divine attributes to grasp. Divine omniscience in the person of Christ is difficult because the human mind is so clearly evident in various ways (Lk 2:52).
Even though attributes of human intellect are affirmed and displayed, the divine intellect is also affirmed in Scripture. John 2:25 affirmed that Jesus “knew what was in man.” This affirmation is more important once the affirmation is seen to be a typical affirmation of deity (1 Kgs 8:39). The woman at the well in John 4 went away telling everyone, ““Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (Jn 4:29).
Jesus Did Divine Works
Jesus’ deity was demonstrated in the works that Jesus accomplished. Jesus affirmed his deity through the works that he did (Jn 5:36, 10:25, 37-38). Brakel wrote, “He who has created heaven and earth, upholds and governs everything, of Himself performed miracles, regenerates man, and resurrects the dead—He is the true God. No one denies this (cf. Jer 10:11-13; Isa 44:25-28). Since this all applies to Christ, however, He is therefore the true God.”
Creation and Upholding of the Universe
The New Testament affirmed both that Jesus was the Creator of the universe (Jn 1:3) and that Jesus “upholds and governs everything.” The continual work of universe care was taught in Colossians 1:17, “in Him all things consist” and again in Hebrews 1:3 which teaches that the Son “upholds all things by the word of his power.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms that “there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Brakel wrote that these descriptions of Jesus work in creation was “Through Him, that is, not as a means or instrument (for even then He would have existed prior to creation), but rather through Him as the energizing cause, since the preposition “through” refers to the initial energizing cause.”
These passages, especially 1 Cor 8:6, are important to the “continuous” work of the Logos. In 1 Corinthians 8:6 the continued existence of “all things” and the existence of humanity depends on the “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” That Paul used the name “Jesus” to refer to the divine work of universe care implies that Jesus maintained the universe even during the incarnation. Jesus continual divine work to uphold creation was also affirmed by the Son in John 5:17 when he said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” The Jews sought to kill Jesus because his words were “making Himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18). If Jesus were not equal with God during his incarnation, he could not have made such a bold claim.
Christ performed miracles by his own power. Jesus healed many as “power was coming from him” (Lk 6:19). Jesus healed as the woman touched his garment (Lk 8:44). The first miracle Jesus performed was when he turned water into wine at the Cana wedding in John 2. He healed Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5. He fed the 5000 in Mark 6:30ff. He walked on the water in Mark 6:45-52. He healed the blind man in Mark 8:22-26. In John 11 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
His disciples witnessed all these things and came to the conclusion that he was the Son of God. They did not determine that he was just a prophet or miracle worker through whom God worked. They determined that he was in fact the Son of God. Peter confessed in Mark 9:29, “You are the Christ.”
The ability to give life is a particularly divine characteristic. God is able to give life because he has life in himself. God exists a se. Bavinck summarized “He is self-existent. He existed before all things, and all things exist only through him (Ps. 90:2; 1 Cor. 8:6; Rev. 4:11). In an absolute sense he is Lord (אָדוֹן, κυριος, δεσποτης), Lord of all the earth (Exod. 23:17; Deut. 10:17; Josh. 3:13). He is dependent on nothing, but everything depends on him (Rom. 11:36).”The aseity of God provided the starting point for Aquinas’ discussion of God’s attributes in the Summa. God is the logically and ontologically necessary self-existent Being. Therefore, God must be simple, immutable, and impassible.
God raised the dead through prophets in the OT and others in the NT. Jesus’ ability to raise the dead was categorically different than the miracles worked through God’s servants in the rest of Scripture. The difference between God working through his servants and the Son of God himself working was noted in John 5:21, “for just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” This unique power of the Son was explained in John 5:26, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.” This power over life pertained to physical life and to spiritual life as well (Jn 5:28-29). Bavinck highlighted the divine life and subsequent power to give life when he wrote, “being all-sufficient in himself and not receiving anything from outside of himself, he is, by contrast, the only source of all existence and life, of all light and love, the overflowing fountain of all good (Ps. 36:10; Acts 17:25).” Jesus’ life-giving power was directly related to his true deity. Life is given “in his name” (Jn 20:31).
Jesus Received Worship
God alone is worthy of worship. This is an honor which is peculiar to God alone. Brakel wrote, “He who must be honored in like fashion as the Father—in whose Name one must be baptized, whom one must worship, in whose name one must believe and in whom one must trust—is the true God (cf. Isa 42:8; Matt 4:10; Jer 11:5, 7). All of this applies to the Lord Jesus, and thus He is the true God.”
Jesus received this peculiarly divine honor and worship from humans during his incarnate life. If Jesus was not truly God, the reception of that honor and worship would not have been appropriate. Jesus said, “all will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn 5:23). After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the apostles worshiped him (Lk 24:52).
What Does Jesus’ Deity Mean to Christians?
The deity of Christ is vital for our Christian religion and for our Christian hope. The beginning of our hope is that we have a divine sacrifice. Jesus had to die because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Isaiah 53:6 teaches us that “on him was laid the iniquity of us all.” Colossians 1:21-22 explained that we “once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Jesus was the Christ who “died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Pet 3:18). We see that “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Through his death, Jesus purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Only the death of God himself could possibly win all these treasures.
Hebrews 2:14-18 encapsulates all that the death of Christ accomplished. In the CSB, it reads:
Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.
Notice first, that Jesus “shared in their humanity” (NIV). It was through this “sharing of humanity” that Jesus destroyed the one holding the power of death.
Having been made like humanity in every respect, Jesus was then able to be tempted, to sympathize, and to die. Without true human existence, God could do none of these things. This is why God became man or why the Logos added humanity to his person. He became man so that man could become godly.
 Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 29.13.
 Brakel, Reasonable Service, 495.
 Gregory Nazianzen, “Oration 29.4”
 Eternality, by definition, could not change.
 Gregory Nazianzen, “Oration 29.19.”
 Matthew Barrett, None Greater, 95.
 Brakel, Reasonable Service, 496.
 Brakel, Reasonable Service, 497.
 Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 150.
 Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2 150.
Brakel, Reasonable Service, 497.