This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
In previous columns, we saw how John and Paul affirm the deity of Jesus. Here, we briefly survey the witness of the author of Hebrews, as well as Peter.
Hebrews 1:2-3 – Note several truths about Christ’s deity in these verses. First, God made the universe through Jesus. That is, Jesus is the Creator. When the writer of Hebrews says “through him,” he does not mean that Jesus is a secondary cause of creation; rather, Jesus is the agent through whom the triune God made everything. This verse corresponds with the testimony of John, who writes, “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3).
Next, the writer tells us the universe (aionas) was made through Jesus. This word means more than kosmos, or the material world. It may be rendered “ages,” and it means that Jesus is responsible for the existence of time, space, energy, matter – and even the unseen spiritual realm.
Next, we are told that Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.” That is, Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The author uses the Greek word apaugasma, a sending forth of the light. Jesus is divine radiance clothed in human skin. He is “the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The author of Hebrews goes on to describe Jesus as “the exact expression” of God’s nature. The Greek word rendered “expression” is charakter, used to describe the impression made by a stamp or a die on steel. Put another way, Jesus is the precise imprint of deity in human form, the perfect, personal emblem of divinity. This reminds us of Paul’s words in Colossians 1:15: “He is the image (eikon) of the invisible God.”
Finally, the writer assures us that Jesus is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” This is in the present tense. The same Creator who called everything into existence now holds everything together in divine sovereignty.
Hebrews 1:8-9 – This is perhaps the most stunning statement of Christ’s deity in all of Scripture because it comes from the lips of God the Father: “Your (Jesus’) throne, God, is forever and ever.” It is a quotation from Psalm 45:6-7, and it affirms the many statements Jesus made concerning His deity throughout the Gospels. Like His throne, Jesus’ existence is eternal, and He rules His kingdom in justice.
Some may object that Psalm 45, in its original context, addresses the king of Israel, perhaps Solomon. Robert Bowman and Ed Komoszewski respond: “The Israelite king was not, of course, literally God. Like Isaiah’s prophecy about a boy named Immanuel who prefigured the Messiah, who really would be ‘God with us’ (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23), the psalm speaks in the immediate ‘horizon’ about the Jerusalem king who also prefigured the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and the true eternal King.”
Even so, if the writer means to call Jesus “God,” why is God called “your God”? As in John’s writings, affirmations of Jesus as God, and of the Father as Jesus’ God, are placed side by side with no sense of contradiction (e.g., John 20:17, 28; Heb. 1:8, 9). Through the Incarnation, Jesus became a human being, part of the created order, and as such He properly honors the Father as God (see Rev. 3:12).
The witness of Peter
2 Peter 1:1 – “Simeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those who have received a faith equal to ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As with Paul in Titus 2:13, Peter places a single article (“the,” tou) before the phrase “God and Savior,” establishing that both nouns apply to the same person. In this passage, however, Peter focuses, not on the return of Christ, but on His righteousness. Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, God the Father “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
When believing sinners trust in Jesus, our sins are imputed, or charged, to the account of Christ and reckoned as paid in full. At the same time, Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed, or transferred, to us. It is the greatest exchange of all time: our sins for His righteousness. As a result, we are justified, or declared in right standing with God.
As the prophet Isaiah puts it, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isa. 61:10).
Next: Jesus as the firstborn