As a young Christian one of the most influential preachers/theologians, regarding my own theological development, was Mark Driscoll and so despite a quite spectacular and public ‘fall from grace’ I still possess a fondness for Driscoll and the material he has produced.
It was somewhat ironic, then, that just as I reached one of his books on my reading list there was a bit of a stir online about Driscoll preaching again. As it transpired there was such a kick back to the prospect of his preaching again that in the end Hillsong uninvited Driscoll. However, that did not deter me from reading Vintage Jesus.
Unsurprisingly Driscoll uses some vocabulary, turns of phrase and illustrations which cause a little discomfort in Vintage Jesus. The book is of course vintage Driscoll (being published in 2007). However, as J. I. Packer comments in his recommendation, ‘This book reveals Mark Driscoll as a highly powerful, colourful, down-to-earth catechist’.
I found one section of this book particularly helpful – the list of evidences that Jesus is God. I have not included all of them, but here are the eight I appreciated most:
- Jesus said he came from heaven
Driscoll remarks, ‘Jesus did not merely claim to have peeked into heaven…Instead, Jesus boldly claimed to be God who lived in heaven but came down from his eternal home to visit the earth as a man’ (pg. 17-18). Moreover, the ‘claim to be God incarnate has never been made by the founder of any other world religion’ (pg. 18). Therefore, we have a unique claim, by Jesus himself, that he is indeed God.
It is perhaps in John 6 that Jesus states this most explicitly when he says ‘I have come down from heaven’ (v. 38). Those listening grumbled “How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (v. 42). Is Jesus God? Well, he said he came from heaven.
- Jesus called himself the Son of Man
The title ‘Son of Man’ is an Old Testament title which carries many connotations. Among these are the concepts of Messianic rule and Deity. Speaking of himself, Jesus taught his disciples, ‘Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Mt. 24:30). For the disciples, who would have known their Old Testament’s very well, this was an inescapable claim by Jesus that he was God. Is Jesus God? Well, he said he was the Son of Man.
- Jesus performed miracles
Saying is one thing, but doing is another. Indeed, some of Jesus’ ‘miracles are without human precedent. For example, the Gospel writers tell of the disciples, men who were seasoned fishermen, terrified by a raging storm and begging Jesus to rescue them. He rebuked the storm with one powerful command and there was immediately quiet calm. Creation obeyed the command of Jesus.’ (pg. 20-21) The fact that Jesus demonstrated his Deity through miracles is further supported by the admission of his enemies that he performed inexplicable miracles (Jn. 11:47). Is Jesus God? Well, he performed many miracles.
- Jesus said he is God
Driscoll correctly notes that ‘Jesus clearly, emphatically, and repeatedly said he was God…He was not killed for his nice deeds or pithy parables, but for claiming to be God’ (pg. 21-22).
For the Jews listening to Jesus teach, one of starkest claims that he is God came as Jesus stated ‘before Abraham was, I am’ (Jn. 8:58). Effectively Jesus pronounced to the Israelites ‘I am YHWH’. The personal, covenant God who led you out of Egypt and into the Promised Land – I am He. Is Jesus God? Well, he gave himself the title.
- Jesus said he was sinless
There is a careful caveat presented by Driscoll at this point. The claim to be sinless must be a credible claim. Others have claimed to be sinless, and yet these claims have not been credible. Perhaps the best way to offer credibility to Jesus’ claim is to note that those who knew Jesus most intimately, Peter, John and James, testified to his sinlessness (1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 3:18; 1 Jn. 1:8; 3:5; Jas. 5:6). Moreover, even some of Jesus’ enemies testified to his sinlessness (Mt. 27:3-4; Lk. 23:22; 23:47). Is Jesus God? Well, he said he was sinless and a lot of others (both friend and foe) agreed with him.
- Jesus forgave others’ sin
On a number of occasions Jesus forgave sin (for example, Mk. 2:5; Lk. 7:48). In doing so he was making a pronouncement that his listeners would have understood only God able to make. As Driscoll writes, ‘In making this claim, Jesus is inviting us to confess our sins to him so that we may be forgiven through his substitutionary death and bodily resurrection. If he were not God, our sin simply could not be forgiven by him’ (pg. 25). Is Jesus God? Well, he forgave sin.
- Jesus taught people to pray to him
Driscoll understands this as beginning in John 13-17. On a number of occasions Jesus encourages the disciples to pray in his name (14:13-14; 15:16; 16:24), and by doing this encourages prayer to and through him. On this point I am not totally convinced. However, it is clear that the first disciples somehow understood that prayer was to be offered to Jesus (Acts 7:59). Is Jesus God? Well, Jesus taught people to pray to him, and they did.
- Jesus said he was the only way to heaven
In a very famous (and very offensive) verse Jesus proclaims ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14:6). In other words, there is salvation, forgiveness of sin and passage to heaven found in no one else but me. This is yet another claim to Deity, as Driscoll explains: ‘Because heaven belongs to God, it is God alone who determines who is granted access to it and who will live with him forever there’ (pg. 26). Is Jesus God? Well, he said he was the only one who could take people to heaven.
Losing the Argument
I do not pretend to have presented an unassailable, apologetic response to sceptics in the above. Having Jesus say a lot of things, and his best friends write it down to back up Jesus’ statements, is very unlikely to convince someone that they are wrong. Indeed, if you are a sceptic the above will not make any impact on you unless the Holy Spirit takes his Word and plants it deep in your heart, shaping and fashioning you into the likeness of Jesus.
On the other hand, if you are a firm believer in the God of the Bible, in Jesus Christ as Saviour and the Scripture as the inspired Word of God, then the above eight evidences that Jesus is God should bring great joy and comfort to your soul. All that Jesus accomplished was accomplished because he was God in the flesh. He came from heaven, as the Son of Man, performing miracles to back up his claim to Deity, lived a sinless live, forgiving others’ sin, teaching people to pray to him and ultimately displaying that he is the way, and the truth, and the life.
So if you’re a sceptic I will have lost the argument, but if you’re a believer I trust I have whetted your appetite to pursue further these eight evidences that Jesus is God.