Christians have always confessed that Christ is divine – not a being less than or subordinate to God, but God himself. Heretics in the early church fought against this doctrine; modern-day cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses still rail against it. But the deity of Christ is one of the fundamental truths of biblical religion. Jaroslav Pelikan explains this well in the first volume of his Christian tradition series (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition [100-600]):
“Amid the varieties of metaphor in which they conceived the meaning of salvation, all [early] Christians shared the conviction that salvation was the work of no being less than the Lord of heaven and earth. Amid all the varieties of response to the Gnostic systems, Christians were sure that the Redeemer did not belong to some lower order of divine reality, but was God himself. The oldest surviving sermon of the Christian church after the New Testament opened with the words: ‘Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as of the judge of living and dead. And we ought not to belittle our salvation; for when we belittle him, we expect also to receive little.’”
“The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: ‘It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ…or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs…we cherish.’ The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described the Christians as gathering before sunrise and ‘singing a hymn to Christ as though to [a] god.’ The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: ‘Our Lord, come!’ Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that ‘God’ was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and services as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his bog and is used with permission.