In this series, I am going to go through the inspired letters of Paul to show how this beloved Apostle proclaimed the absolute, essential Deity of Christ. I will point to texts where Paul clearly describes the risen Jesus as the God of Israel who became flesh.
There are various ways in which the Apostle Paul identifies Jesus as the physical enfleshment of Jehovah God Almighty, such as describing Christ as the one Lord in the same context where specific Old Testament [OT] texts that speak of Jehovah are ascribed to him. Case in point:
“one Lord (heis Kyrios), one faith, one baptism… But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up FAR ABOVE all heavens, that he might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:7-10
In this passage, the blessed Apostle has directly quoted the following Psalm,
“Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” Psalm 68:18
And taken the language of this particular OT text,
“Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:23-24
And applied them to the risen Christ, and does so within the same chapter where Jesus is expressly said to be the one Lord. More on this last point later.
That Christ is the very Jehovah who has ascended far above the heavens to reign supreme over all creation is reiterated elsewhere by Paul,
“and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;” Hebrews 7:26
And confirmed by some of the other inspired New Testament [NT] writers:
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven… He that cometh from above is ABOVE ALL: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is ABOVE ALL.” John 3:13, 31
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22
Now since the Hebrew Scriptures attest that Jehovah alone is exalted far above all creation,
“that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18
“For thou, LORD, art high ABOVE all the earth: thou art exalted FAR ABOVE all gods.” Psalm 97:9
And that he alone sits enthroned on high,
“Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,” Psalm 113:5
It is, therefore, evident that the inspired NT writings do emphatically affirm that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God Almighty who became flesh (even though he is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit).
This isn’t the only instance where Paul applies OT passages about Jehovah to the risen Christ:
“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13
The Apostle has cited two OT passages,
“Therefore thus saith the Lord, [even] the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious [stone], for its foundations; and he that believes [on him] shall by no means be ashamed.” Isaiah 28:16 LXX – Cf. 8:14
One of which is expressly about needing to call upon the name of Jehovah for salvation:
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” Joel 2:32
In proclaiming that salvation comes from confessing Jesus Christ as Lord whom God raised from the dead.
What this shows is that Paul has basically described Christ as the Jehovah whom everyone must call upon in order to be saved!
In fact, the blessed Apostle attests that Christians were characterized by their practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus:
“unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2
To say that this is remarkable would be putting it mildly since the Hebrew Scriptures are emphatic that true believers are those who call on the name of Jehovah alone:
“And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” Genesis 21:33
“Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.” Psalm 99:5-6
“Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live… Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul… I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD… I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:2, 4, 13, 17
“The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
As if Paul couldn’t shock his readers any further, he states that Jesus is the Lord of the living and the dead before whose judgment-seat everyone must stand and give an account:
“For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:9-12
The blessed Apostle cites the following OT passage as being fulfilled on the day when Christ will judge all creation:
“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Isaiah 45:23
That Christ shall be the Judge on the day in which every knee will bow and swear allegiance to the Lord is made explicitly clear by these next verses:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
Paul has once again taken an OT citation, which speaks of the whole inhabited earth worshiping Jehovah, and attributed to Jesus, thereby identifying the risen Christ as that very Jehovah whom all creation must and shall eventually confess and worship!
The Apostle wasn’t alone in this proclamation since other inspired NT writers concur with him that Jesus is the Lord of all creation who shall judge the living and the dead:
“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)… And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” Acts 10:36, 42
In light of the foregoing, what more does the NT need to say in order to convince a person that the first generation of Jesus’ followers, many of whom were monotheist Jews, all worshiped Jesus as Jehovah God in the flesh?
I’ll have more to say in regards to Paul’s Christology in the next installment https://answeringallah.com/pauls-divine-christology-pt-2/