Modern readers of the Bible are often let down by their ignorance of the Old Testament Jewish culture and the biblical context. The Jews avoided talking about God directly, fearing to break the second commandment (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain). God was often referred to indirectly, “the Most High”, “the Almighty”, “Heavens”, “the Great King” or “the Judge”. Christ also says that He is God and affirms His Divinity using this language, understandable to his contemporaries and fellow tribesmen.
Jesus refers to Himself as the King, the Judge (eg Mt 25:34), the One who sends the Prophets (eg Mt 23:34), the One who is spoken of in the Old Testament prophecies, etc. In Biblical terms, this cannot mean anything other than clearly identifying with God. Christ also makes other statements that cannot be interpreted any differently than as a testimony of His divine dignity. He speaks about the forgiveness of sins (“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”), He calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath (“For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath”) and testifies of His sinlessness (John 8).
The Gospel episode where Jesus drives the merchants out of the Jerusalem temple is also very characteristic. Pouring out the coins of the money changers, overturning their tables and expelling them from the temple, He clearly says, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:16) Speaking of the Son having one divine nature with the Father (“The Father and I are one” (John 10:30), Jesus affirms this more than once. One of the most vivid references to this is contained in the Savior’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of His suffering on the Cross (“May all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you…”) (John 17:21)
The people surrounding Jesus understood His words very well. It is no accident that the Jews, when asked by the Savior why they wanted to stone Him, answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God” (John 10:33).
Another complication may arise here. As often as Christ calls Himself God, He also speaks of himself as a man or the Son of Man. How can a person be God and man at the same time?! This is the great mysterious truth of the Christian faith. All Holy Scripture (especially the New Testament) testifies that Jesus Christ is both the perfect God and the perfect man. Possessing two natures, He combines properties and actions of both God and man. This truth can never be fully comprehended or understood but it can be believed in.
The fact that Jesus is not only God, but also a man like you and me is very important for our salvation and understanding of the Savior’s redemptive mission. God appears on earth in a human form and lives like all people do. But He does it the way that no other man can, that is without committing a single sin and in full accordance with the will of God. Finally, He voluntarily gives himself up to suffering and death, dying in perfect obedience to the Father and in perfect love for people.
So, based on the Holy Scriptures, the Church believed from the very beginning that Jesus Christ is God, incarnate on earth in human form. Jesus Himself speaks of this, and so do the authors of the Apostolic Epistles that are part of the New Testament. This faith was expressed in more precise terms at the Ecumenical Councils where it was formulated in conciliar definitions or dogmas constituting the fundamental truths of Christianity.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds