Jesus' Attributes of Deity
by Dudley Ross Spears
The attributes of God are the characteristics or qualities of Deity. As ice is cold and fire is hot just so God Almighty is eternal, immutable, omnipotent, righteous, holy, etc. Man may not possess full knowledge of all the attributes of Deity, but generally they are five in number. They are eternity, immutability, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Jesus Christ was Deity before, during and after His time on earth. He was both God prior to becoming man (John 1:1), but as a man did not cease to be God on earth (John 1:14; Matt. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:16).
The Kenosis Theory holds that in order for Jesus to be fully human it was necessary for Him to divest Himself of certain divine qualities and attributes. It is argued that He could not have retained the divine attributes of omnipresence or omniscience. Some have contended that He did not retain the holiness of God while He lived here among men. Some admit that He may have retained some of the essential qualities of Deity, but not all. Others make the irresponsible argument that he "limited" those attributes to the extent that he was no different than any ordinary man. Please consider this matter a bit further in light of the five divine attributes listed above.
1. Eternity. The birth of Jesus was prophesied in Micah 5:2 as follows: "But thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." The "ruler of Israel" was to be born in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:6 cites the first part of the prophecy. But the prophecy also says that his "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This refers to Jesus. Psalm 90:2 says that God is "from everlasting to everlasting." The Hebrew writer assures us that his years will not fail (Heb. 1:12) and that he is the same forever (Heb. 13:8).
2. Immutability. This refers to the changeless nature of Deity. Of Deity, the Bible says, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6). The eternal nature of God cannot change. God, once God, cannot become un-God. From the mouth of the weak prophet Balaam come these words. "God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will not do it? Or has He spoken and will not fulfill it?" (Num. 23:19). If Christ was, is, and continues to be immutable, He was, is, and always will be God. Hebrews 1:8 refers directly to Jesus as God. "But of the Son he says, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom." Verses 10-12 continue reference to Christ by saying, "And Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they will perish, but thou remainest: they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantel thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years will never end." Is Jesus immutable? Was He immutable in nature before, during, and after His time on earth? Yes. He is God. He did not divest Himself of His immutability when He took on human flesh.
3. Omnipotence. Omnipotence means all powerful. The term Almighty One applies to Deity. Before His birth, Isaiah prophesied that a child would be given to Israel, a Son, whose name would be called, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). While He was on earth as a man, His superhuman power was recognized. The elements of nature obeyed His simple words, "Peace, Be still." Jesus firmly claimed that "All authority in heaven and on earth" was given to Him (Matt. 28:18). (Please note, no time is stated when this transaction took place Ė see Matt. 11:27). Since Jesus was Deity before, during, and after His time on earth, and since He demonstrated the powers of Deity, He did not divest Himself of this attribute when He became a man. Paul could rejoice in his weakness that the power of Christ might rest on him (2 Cor. 12:9).
4. Omnipresence. Godís presence is wherever He wants it to be (Psalm 139:7-12). Advocates of the Kenosis Theory argue that as a man Jesus was limited to the location of his physical body. They argue that He had to have divested Himself of this attribute of Deity, or severely "limit" it so that he virtually did not have it. Read this statement of Jesus. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven" (John 3:13). How do you explain His statement that while in the flesh He was "in heaven." Adam Clarke makes this observation. "... the Son of Man who is in heaven; pointing out, by this, the ubiquity or omnipresence of His nature: a character essentially belonging to God; for no being can possibly exist in more places than one at a time, but He who fills the heavens and the earth." (Commentary on John 3:13).
Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Was Jesus speaking only of the church of the future? He was Deity "before, during, and after his time on earth" was he not? It is marvelous that Jesus did not say where several hundred are gathered together, but where two or three are gathered together. No matter how many small groups were together in His name, Jesus is with them. Jesus did not divest Himself of the attribute of omnipresence when He became a man.
5. Omniscience. This means one has all knowledge. 1 Chron. 28:9 says of God that He "searches all hearts and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts." In Acts 15:8 He is described as "knowing the hearts." Literally this means, "the knower of the hearts." This is said of Jesus (John 2:23-25). Deity "knows all things" (1 John 3:20). It follows that since Jesus was Deity "before, during, and after His time on earth," He has all knowledge. He did not divest Himself of this attribute. He knew the hearts of men (Matt. 9:1-6). He knew what was being discussed far from His presence (Matt. 17:24-27). Peter recognized this attribute in Jesus when he exclaimed, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17). Jesus affirmed His all penetrating knowledge by saying, "And all the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts" (Rev. 2:23).
The Deity of Jesus during His time on earth is manifestly demonstrated by the attributes of Deity He demonstrated over and again. When He became a man, He did not cease to be Deity, He took in addition to His Deity, the fashion of humanity. His Deity was not reduced at all by His becoming a man.
by Dudley Ross Spears