Serving the High Plains

Popular objection: Jesus never said 'I am God'

I’m seeing a particular objection to Christianity repeated often on the internet. It started, I believe, among some Muslims, but has spread to the larger culture.

The objection is this: In the Bible, Jesus never claimed to be God.

He never said, “I am God. Worship me.”

I’m not sure what has made this criticism so popular recently. Can I be harshly direct and say it’s stupid? Maybe not. Maybe I should be lighthearted about it and say it’s “all hat and no cattle.”

It’s a vacuous statement either way, especially if you’ve ever bothered to read the Bible once. If you have, you surely know that the teaching method of Jesus about himself is rarely direct. What Jesus prefers to do is take you by the hand and walk around a particular truth, pointing you at it and referring to it.

The objection that he never said the words, “I am God,” implies that he must not have thought he was. The ascription of deity to Jesus was not something he wanted or approved of, according to this thought.

But there’s not much to this, when you’re willing to read what he did say. He claimed to be the light of the world; the bread of heaven; the good shepherd (see Psalm 23:1); the judge of all people; the forgiver of sins; the living water; the way, the truth, and the life; the source of life after death; and, one who existed in glory before the creation of all things. This is a small sample.

I think what this objection is doing is criticizing the Lord for his willingness to put all the evidence in front of you and let you come to your own conclusion. The Bible in general, and Jesus specifically, teach in a manner that is quite plain and open, without simply slapping you upside the head with a truth-hammer.

It’s plain, though often indirect. Unless you come to it with an agenda, it’s hard to misunderstand on this point. But it’s not going to spoon feed you. It points to the truth and invites you to do with it what you will.

On another level, though, Jesus did in fact directly claim divinity. He just didn’t use the words “I am God.” These objectors act like that’s supposed to be significant. He claimed to be the Son of God, and the Jews who heard him tried to stone him for using the phrase, a phrase that implied equality with God.

His favorite title for himself, though, was “Son of man.”

You might hear this and think it’s really a claim to humanity. But in Daniel 7:13-14, the Son of man is a divine figure, with judging and ruling authority over the whole world. Again, when his opponents heard this, they knew it was a claim to deity.

The claims of Christ are so unmistakable that, as C. S. Lewis noted, we have only three options in evaluating him. He’s either a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord. He clearly thought he was God. If he was wrong, that was either intentionally lying, or it was mad raving.

But if he was right, then you see what last Sunday’s Easter celebration was all about.

Gordan Runyan is pastor of Tucumcari’s Immanuel Baptist Church and author of “Radical Moses: The Amazing Civil Freedom Built into Ancient Israel.” Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 
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