Witnesses To The Deity of Jesus Christ
In our last study, we saw the powerful message of the Apostles on Pentecost. Peter presented Jesus as being “exalted to the right hand of God” and made it clear that people had to repent. Thousands of Jews became believers that day and were baptized. The Holy Spirit performed many wonders and signs through the Apostles and the believers continued steadfastly in the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Everyone had everything in common. They sold their possessions and goods and divided the money among everyone as anyone had need.
An important question here is what happened to the Apostles’ teaching about the Deity of Jesus Christ? Did that change in any way during the months and years that followed Pentecost? We don’t have to look far to find the answer to our question. The Book of Acts is filled with evidence of that belief.
The Apostle Peter called Jesus Christ “the Holy One and the Just” and told Jews in Jerusalem that they had “killed the Prince of life.” Peter claimed that “faith in His name” was what healed people (Acts 3:14-16). Peter also reminded the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel and the Prophet Moses had promised centuries before (Acts 3:18-26). Peter was as bold in his proclamations about Jesus with the chief priests, scribes, elders, and rulers of Israel as he was with the people on the streets of Jerusalem. Peter stood up to them after he was arrested and told them they had “murdered” Jesus by hanging him on a tree, but “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31) That statement greatly angered the chief priests and rulers and they plotted how to kill Peter and the other Apostles.
The rulers of Israel had more to be concerned about than just the Apostles. The Jews who were believing the Apostles’ teaching were also becoming a problem. Their faith and knowledge was growing stronger every day. A powerful example of that was a man named Stephen. He was described as a man “full of faith, power and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5, 8). Stephen’s teaching and wisdom was so powerful that a group of men secretly induced men to lie about Stephen and say that he spoke blasphemous words against Moses and God. The group stirred up the people, elders and scribes to seize Stephen and bring him to the ruling council. False witnesses came before the council and lied about what Stephen was teaching.
The council looked at Stephen and his face was like that of an angel (Acts 6:15). The high priest asked Stephen if the things being said against him were true. That question gave Stephen the opportunity to proclaim one of the most powerful messages in the Book of Acts. He began with God calling Abram out of Mesopotamia and continued to rehearse the history of Israel through the days of Moses. Then, Stephen aimed his message directly at the priests and elders of Israel.
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” Acts 7:51-53
That enraged the rulers and they gnashed at him with their teeth, but Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. That’s when Stephen said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56) When the rulers heard Stephen call Jesus the “Son of Man” and place Him standing at the right hand of God, they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord. That’s because Stephen was equating Jesus with God Himself. They dragged Stephen outside of the city and stoned him to death. Even as Stephen was dying, he asked God not to charge the sin against the men who were killing him (Acts 7:57-60).
We see evidence of what people believed about Jesus from the teaching of the Apostles. For instance, Philip had been chosen along with Stephen to help the Apostles with the daily feeding of the widows in Jerusalem. Many of the disciples were scattered after Stephen’s death, including Philip who went to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to the people there. Acts 8 tells us that Philip worked miracles before the people – casting out demons and healing the sick – and the people believed Philip’s message and there was great joy in the city (Acts 8:6-8). What was Philip’s message and what did people believe about Jesus?
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:26-37
Philip preached what he had been taught by the Apostles – he preached Jesus. What does that mean? According to what we see in Acts 8, it means Philip preached that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Keep in mind that the eunuch did not have time to attend seminary and learn what to say when people asked him theological questions. He said what he believed at the earliest moment of his faith – “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” That was the Apostolic teaching.
In our next study, we’ll look at the beginning of a huge shift in the way God worked with people on earth. When God changed the rules of the household, did He also change the message about Christ’s Deity?
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”