by Robert G. Witty
Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction?, Dr. Witty proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this final installment the author confronts us with Jesus' claims that He is God.
The integrity of the Gospel portrait must demonstrate truth not only in Jesus' responses to affirmations by others but also in His own claims about Himself.
What were Jesus' claims? Did Jesus teach the truth about Himself? In unequivocal clarity Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God with the ability to forgive sin and to give eternal life to believers. Four affirmations by Jesus adequately demonstrate His practice.
Climaxing His claim to be the bread of life, Jesus declared that He had Deity power to bestow eternal life, saying, "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 1 am the bread of life" (John 6:47-48).
In John 10:7-9,27,28, Jesus emphasized that His Deity ability to save by giving eternal life was unique and exclusive by saying, "I tell you the truth. I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers…I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved….My sheep listen to my voice….I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish…." By these statements Jesus not only claimed authority as God to save those who come to Him for eternal life but He condemned all others who claimed to be saviors as thieves and deceivers.
To His disciples Jesus was even more specific in his Deity claim to exclusive ability to save, saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus claimed the power of Deity.
Just before Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the grave, the Jews raised the question of Jesus' identity. His response defies misinterpretation: Jesus said, "I and the Father are one."
Then the Jews picked up stones to stone him, "…for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (John 10:32-33). Jesus' hearers accused Him of blasphemy because they understood that He was claiming to be God.
In John's record of Jesus' high priestly prayer, Jesus specifies that His unique power to save rests upon a unique relationship to the Father: "For you granted him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is life eternal: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:2-3).
These examples afford sufficient evidence to enable fair judgment to choose between three possible alternatives, only one alternative of which can be correct:
1) Jesus was truly God declaring His Deity to mankind as the only Savior for lost humanity; 2) Jesus was deceived Himself and was deluding others into a false hope about His power to save; or, 3) Jesus was evil and sought deliberately to deceive others. Only one choice can be correct!
Henck Johnson was stating the only reasonable judgment when he declared: "Christ was either the grandest, guiltiest of imposters, by a marvelous and most subtle refinement of wickedness, or He was God manifest in the flesh."
Great scholars see that only one choice is reasonable! Jesus is the Son of God! And because the testimony of Jesus stands true, the validity of the Bible stands equally true-because Jesus declared: "Do not think that 1 have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 1 tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt. 5:17-18).
Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and Internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.