Monday, August 27, 2012

Is Jesus Really God? Witnessing to Jews and Mormons

One of the fundamental tenants of Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. This central issue is one that separates Christian theology from that of the Jews and the Mormons. This is not intended to pick on these other groups, but to lovingly show them what the Bible has to say on the matter (and to help Christians do the same).

The Jews believe in the Old Testament, and they rightly understand that God promised to send a Deliverer to His people. Unfortunately, they have rejected Jesus as that Messiah, and therefore, they have also rejected the New Testament. (Messianic Jews do believe that Jesus is the Messiah)

The Mormons believe that Jesus was the Son of God. When they come to your door they will be sure to tell you as much, but they are not as forthcoming with what else they believe. They believe Jesus was just one son of one god. They believe that Lucifer is the brother of Jesus, and that God is one of many gods (and that they will one day be a god over a planet just as Yahweh is). Mormons believe in the entire Bible, but they also believe that the writings of Joseph Smith are inspired.

That both groups believe in at least part of the Bible is very helpful. That means that we can use the Bible to show them truth (this is not a luxury we have when witnessing to an atheist or Muslim, for example). So here are some basic biblical points that affirm that Jesus is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God.

The Old Testament teaches a Triune God

The opening sentence of the Bible tells us that “In the beginning the Gods created the heavens and the earth.” The use of the Hebrew Elohim is plural, which means that God refers to Himself as being plural, and Genesis 1 shows three members of that Godhead. The second verse says “the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) moved upon the face of the waters,” and in verse 26, “Let us make man in our image.” As Adam was created with body, soul, and spirit, we see man as also being triune in the image of God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 further makes the same point: “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

The Old Testament prophesied of Jesus’ incarnation

Micah 5:1-2 predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 11:2 said that the Spirit would descend on Him.

Jeremiah 23:5 prophesied that He would come from the line of David.

Psalm 110:4 said that He would be a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.”

Genesis 3:15 said He would come from a woman (all others in Scripture come from a man—thus hinting at a virgin birth).

Isaiah 7:14 further points to the virgin birth.

Psalm 72:10-11 predicted that kings would come and bow down to Him.

Hosea 11:1 said He would be called out of Egypt.

Isaiah 9:1-2 said He would also live in Galilee.

Isaiah 53:4 foretold that He would be beaten for our sins.

Isaiah 35:5-6 mentioned that He would heal and give sight to the blind.

Psalm 78:2 predicted that He would teach in parables.

Isaiah 53:9 said He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied that He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Psalm 69:4 and 8 say that He will be hated for no reason and be rejected by the Jews.

Psalm 41:9 said He would be betrayed by a friend with whom He shared bread.

Zechariah 11:12-13 further said that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, which would later be used to buy a potter’s field.

Isaiah 50:6 said He would be beaten, have His beard pulled out, be mocked, and spit on.

Psalm 22:16 informs that His hands would be pierced (hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented).

Psalm 69:21 foretold that He would be given vinegar for His thirst.

Psalm 34:20 said none of His bones would be broken.

Isaiah 53:5-7, 12 show many things that happened in His death.

Psalm 22:18 says that people will cast lots for His clothes.

Every one of these prophecies and more were fulfilled in the New Testament. If you were to ask a Jew, “Who am I describing?” and then you list any one of these prophecies, they would know you are talking about Jesus. But these are all Old Testament verses that they know, so why do they reject Jesus?

The struggle for the Jews is the same one their 1st Century ancestors struggled with; they confuse the prophecies about the Messiah’s first coming with the ones about His second coming. The people on earth at the time of Jesus, including His own disciples, thought Jesus was coming to set up an earthly throne and establish heaven on earth, but that will not happen until His second coming.

The suffering Savior idea didn’t make sense to the Jews then, and that is why so many miss it still today. But the prophecies, especially of Isaiah, rightly predicted that the Messiah would be bruised, crushed, pierced, beaten, and finally killed.  

(Read Part 2)

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