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The Nature and Mission of Jesus

by Doyle Lynch

Matthew 16:13-18

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He *said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.

The most important doctrine of Christianity involves the very nature and mission of Christ. It is our confession of Jesus as the Son of God (meaning he is equal to God) and as our Messiah (our Savior) that puts us in a right relationship to God.

Yet many who know not Scripture (or the power of God) claim that Scripture does not clearly state that Jesus is God and that salvation is only found in him.

Verses supporting the Deity of Christ

Matthew 1:20-23

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us."

Jesus was to be called Immanuel, God with us. From the beginning of the New Testament, we are told that Jesus is God with us.

Matthew 11:25-27

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

We learn here that no one knows the Father except the Son. However, we can know the Son (who came to us as a man) and through him we can know the Father.

John 1:1-5, 14, 18

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 came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

This passage again confirms that God became a man (Jesus) and it is through Jesus that we know God. The fact that we can only know God through Jesus is also confirmed in John 8:18-19.

John 5:15-18

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."

For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

Here, we see a pattern that is repeated in John. The Jews are upset with Jesus because he equates himself with God and want to kill him. Jesus generally referred to himself as the son of man, identifying himself with us. When he did refer to himself as the son of God, he associated himself very closely with God. To be the son of God is to be of the same nature as God. This is why the Jews were upset with him.

It is also important to note that we, too are sons of God, but only through Jesus.

John 8:57-59

The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

Jesus again equates himself with God. The phrase "I am" in Hebrew is Yahweh, the name of God. He uses this term in reference to himself several times (see also John 18:5). He further states he is God by stating he existed before Abraham. The Jews understood Jesus to equate himself with God and was ready to stone him as a result.

John 14:6-11

Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip *said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.

Here, Jesus again states that he and the Father are one. He also goes on to state that the only way to come to the Father is through him. Salvation is found in Jesus alone.

John 17:11, 20-21

"And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.

"I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.

Not only is Jesus one with God, but we can be one with God through Jesus.

John 20:26-29

And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, "Peace be with you." Then He *said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus *said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

Kuros, the Greek word for Lord, is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Adonai, which was used to refer to the Divine name of God, Yahweh. Jews substituted Adonai for the Divine name out of fear of using the Lord’s name in vain. The Bible refers to Jesus as Lord, equating him with God. The passage here removes any doubt of that association. Thomas plainly calls Jesus, "My Lord and My God." Jesus affirms this by stating that blessed are those who believe this without having seen him.

Philippians 2:5-8

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus "existed in the form of God." The Greek word for form is morphe. It refers to the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision--its external appearance. It also refers to what is intrinsic and essential, not just what is outward.

Jesus was equal to God, but "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." The Greek word grasped also means to hold on to or retain. Instead of coming in all his glory and splendor, Jesus "emptied Himself." The Greek word emptied also means to make void or of no effect.

In this passage, we learn why Jesus refers to God as being greater than himself. He took the "form of a bond-servant," (the form of a slave). Jesus became a man, "in the likeness of men" and took "the appearance of a man." As a man, he refused to exploit his Deity. See the temptations of Christ in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-12. He was tempted as God, not man (man is not tempted to do things only God can do).

Colossians 1:15-20

And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Jesus is "the image of the invisible God." The Greek word image is sometimes used to refer to the moral likeness of renewed men to God. However, Jesus is the image of the invisible God, referring to his very nature. 2 Corinthians 4:4 also refers to Jesus as being "the image of God."

The Greek word for "first-born" here refers primarily to the position of first-born. Jesus is to have "first place in everything."

Here we also note that by him all things were created. In Genesis 1 (and Hebrews 2:10), we learn that God created everything. The only way Jesus and God could have both created everything is if they are one and the same. There are other times to that the attributes of God are also used to describe Jesus.

We also see here that the "fullness" of God dwells in Jesus.

This passage also reveals why God became a man. He became a man "to reconcile all things to Himself...through the blood of His cross." Man’s sin separates him from God. God became a man (Jesus) and did not sin. He then took our place and died for our sin. We are united to God through Jesus--he puts us in his place. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9).

Colossians 2:8-10

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

In Christ, "all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." Note that all, not just part, of the Deity dwells in Jesus. He is God become man.

Hebrews 1:1-3

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Jesus is "the radiance of His glory." The Greek word for radiance means also brightness. Jesus has the radiance of God because he is God. The Greek word for glory also means majesty and splendor. Jesus has the splendor and majesty of God because he is God.

Jesus is also "the exact representation of His nature." The Greek word for exact representation is charakter. It refers to a stamp or image burned in creating an exact representation of the original. Jesus’ nature (or substance) is an exact representation of God’s nature.

In this passage, we also see that after Jesus had finished his work of atonement, he returned to heaven and took his place beside God.


In church history, we know that there was a long debate over the nature of Christ. Was he only Divine (Gnosticism) or only a man (Judaism). The disciples and Paul also had to fight these mistaken beliefs. As you can see in the above passages, they went to great lengths to show that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. These passages were written less than 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our understanding of Christ goes back to the disciples themselves, it did not evolve over several hundred years.


Definitions from Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

Scriptures from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.


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