West London Alliance Church

Why Not Make It Obvious?

The past few weeks I have been thoroughly enjoying a book which I expect to be one of the best, if not THE best, books I’ll read in 2018: God The Son Incarnate by Stephen J. Wellum. Wellum’s goal for this book is to “help Christians in local churches and evangelical seminaries to know the biblical presentation of Jesus Christ …” (28). One of the topics, therefore, that he must deal with is the divinity of Jesus. After a rigorous and enlightening section on the divinity of Christ, Wellum poses a question that many Christians and non-Christians alike ask: Why doesn’t the Bible make Jesus’s divinity more obvious?

Wellum poses the question this way, “Given that the title [God] makes such a strong affirmation of the deity of Christ, some have questioned why it is not used more extensively in the New Testament. Why, for example, do we not find statements such as "Jesus is God" throughout the New Testament writings?” (206). Wellum proceeds to answer his own question with three responses.

First, Wellum notes, the Bible does refer to Jesus as God. John, Paul. Peter, and the author of Hebrews all apply this title to Jesus. For example, John bookends his gospel with references to Jesus as God: John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (ESV) and 20:28 has Thomas saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” 

Second, the way in which the Bible employs the title “God” is in order to preserve the Trinitarian relations. Wellum explains, “The God of the Bible is a triune God, and repeated use of the title theos could lead to confusion. Normally in the New Testament, theos refers to God the Father, and in Trinitarian formulas "God" always denotes the Father, never the Son or the Spirit. … As a result of this distinction, theos virtually becomes a proper name for God the Father. Thus, if theos was used in reference to the Son as his proper name as well, linguistic ambiguity would emerge. … The New Testament, then, is very careful in how theos is applied to Jesus in order to underscore Trinitarian relations” (207).

Finally, Wellum continues, the Bible works to maintain the full humanity of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is fully God but he is also fully man. Wellum clarifies, “If “God” had become a personal name for Christ, interchangeable with “Jesus,” it is not hard to imagine that the humanity of Christ would have been diminished” (207).

The Bible does refer to Jesus as God, but it does so in a way by which the Son’s distinction from the other members of the Trinity remains clear, and the full divinity and humanity of Christ is also maintained. Wellum asserts, and I agree, the divinity of Jesus is addressed and is obvious for those who aren’t predetermined in their opposition to the truth. Furthermore, the Bible uses the term for “God” in reference to Jesus wisely and judiciously in order to clearly indicate that Jesus is God the Son incarnate.

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