In my first article in this series I discussed the attempt of Zane Hodges and the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) to remove Deity from the Biblical concept of Jesus as “the Christ.” Hodges’s fraudulent arguments regarding the Samaritans in John 4 were exposed.
The purpose of this article is to show the Biblical concept of “the Christ” involves Deity, and that this is necessary for salvation. Future articles will show the truths of His death and resurrection are equally important truths of the gospel necessary for salvation today.
I. The New Assault From the GES
In recent days I have become aware of new arguments from GES regarding the Lord’s titles, “the Christ, the Son of God” that are troubling to many fellow believers in the Free Grace community. The latest round of attacks claims neither “the Christ” nor “the Son of God” is a title that involves His Deity.
Readers of my previous article will recall Hodges argued the lost must only believe in Jesus as “the Christ” but not “the Son of God” in his article “How to Lead a Person to Christ” . In it, he defined “the Christ” as “the Guarantor of eternal life to all believers.” Hodges conceded that “the Son of God” is a title that involves the Lord’s Deity but denied the lost must believe it (contrary to John 20:31).
The GES recently added a new twist. This new GES approach admits, in accordance with John 20:31, that the lost must believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God” but suggests that neither title involves His Deity. They argue the words “anointed” (from which we get “Christ”) and “sons of God” were applied to other people in the Old Testament so we cannot insist on a unique meaning in reference to the Lord.
Let us observe the arguments of GES editor Jeremy Myers. In a recent blog post to Myers, I countered Hodges's prior argument that divorced “the Christ” from “the Son of God” in John 20:31. I pointed out “the Son of God” is appositional (it gives explanation) to “the Christ” throughout Scripture. Myers responded:
Regarding the biblical usage of the term “Christ” I did not get this from some “GES Mantra” but from the lexicons and word study tools that are available in any Bible college or Seminary. Even without the Lexicons and word study tools (since they sometimes make mistakes) a word study that can be done by anybody will reveal that since Cyrus is called the Messiah in Isa. 45 (check the Hebrew), the term cannot and does not inherently refer to deity. Extrabiblical literature confirms this as well.
Regarding the term “Son of God” the Biblical usage doesn’t fit your claim either. After all, we have the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, as well as the statement in Hos. 1:10 that Israelites were sons of God. Even from the mouth of Jesus, we are told that we will be sons of God (Mat. 5:9). The argument that these are plurals and when used of Jesus it is singular won't work due to the most basic of grammatical rules that plurals are used when referring to groups, and singulars are used when referring to a single entity.
You are right that in John, the terms “Christ” and “son of God” are in apposition, but if neither "Christ" nor "Son of God" inherently refer to deity, then it is quite likely that in the days of Jesus, someone could believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and NOT understand, know, or believe that He is divine. 
Myers noted in a second response:
Carson has an excellent discussion of the word “Messiah” as well, in which he points out that not only is Cyrus called a Messiah in Isa 45:1, but also the king of Israel (1 Sa 16:6; 2 Sa 1:14), the high priest (Lev 4:3), and the patriarchs (Ps 105:15). (Carson, p. 155-156). The term Messiah (or Christ) therefore, cannot inherently mean “God.” Again, nearly all the commentaries state this. 
Does Myers not realize his argument is self-refuting? If we cannot identify an essential concept of “the Christ” that is different from Cyrus, high priests, prophets, and patriarchs, then neither could we accept the GES definition of “the Christ.” Apparently, I do not have access to any of “the lexicons and word study tools that are available in any Bible college or Seminary” because I cannot find one that gives the GES definition of “the Guarantor of everlasting life to all believers.”
Myers’s error is alarmingly elementary. He confuses the lexical meaning of words with theological concepts that come to be technically described by certain terms.
This is a simple matter of recognizing the difference between a broad meaning and technical usage of a word. For example, the word “Bible” comes from a word meaning “book”. The Greek word “biblion” (transliteration) is used for any book. Even in English we sometimes use the word “bible” as an idiom for an authoritative book. For example, we could refer to the “Engineer’s bible” or the “the bible of Italian cooking”. These usages would not convey Divine inspiration. However, it is also possible for us to refer to “the Bible”, and any Christian will know exactly what we are talking about. Although the “Divine inspiration” is not necessarily inherent to the word “bible”, the true concept of “the Bible” certainly involves Divine inspiration.
In seeking whether “the Christ” is a concept that involves Deity, we would not look in a lexicon as Myers suggested. A lexicon will tell us that “Messiah” or “Christ” means “anointed” but it is simply not the job of a lexicon to explain theological concepts that can be signified by the technical application of a term. And contrary to Myer’s argument, every Biblical lexicon notes there is a technical usage of the term “the Messiah” or “the Christ” that applies to a single promised figure unique from any other person to whom the term is applied. The lexicographer leaves it to the theologian or Bible student to search the Scriptures to find “what is the essential concept of this particular, unique person called ‘the Christ’?”
I would like to suggest a passage that will help answer this question:
II . “What think ye of the Christ?”
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘LORD,’” saying: 44 ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, TILL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR FOOTSTOOL’?” 45 “If David then calls Him ‘LORD,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.
This passage is especially appropriate for several reasons. There is no way to read this passage without concluding there is a single figure called “the Christ” who is uniquely set apart from any other “anointed” person or thing. The Lord Jesus talks about the concept of “the Christ” without speaking of Himself directly. This clearly distinguishes this passage as one that speaks of the essential concept of “the Christ.” His question will expose the deficient concept of “the Christ” held by the Pharisees and also lead to the true concept of “the Christ.” His teaching also confirms the Deity of “the Christ” has been taught since this term was first applied to Him in Scripture.
In regards to the context of the passage, this discussion took place after the Lord Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and second cleansing of the Temple. The Pharisees responded by plotting “how they might entangle him in his talk” (22:15). After a series of questions from the Pharisees (22:15), Sadducees (22:23), and Scribes and Pharisees (22:34), the Lord Jesus asks His own question unrelated to any of their own. In fact, it is the only preemptive question we know the Lord asked to a group of religious leaders, as if to suggest they neglected the most important question of all, “what think ye of the Christ” when plotting their own questions. However, this discussion did not take place in the midst of religious leaders alone but “all the people” at the Temple (cf. Luke 20:45), so that “the common people heard Him gladly” (cf. Mark 12:37). It is likely that His connection of “the Christ” and “whose Son is He?” relates to the charge of the High Priest shortly thereafter, “tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Mt. 26:63).
Several points about this passage can be made in regards to the efforts of GES proponents to divest Deity from the essential understanding of “the Christ”. These points will center around three questions.
Question 1: Is there a unique Biblical concept “the Christ” distinguished from other “anointed ones?”
Myers argued that Deity “cannot” be conveyed by the concept of “the Christ” because the Hebrew word for “anointed” is also applied to others. But if the answer to the question above is “yes,” Myers’s arguments are irrelevant. If so, we can then move on to the next question: does the Biblical concept of “the Christ” convey Deity?
Notice the Pharisees clearly understood there was a single figure called “the Christ.” These Pharisees did not respond, “which king, prince, prophet, priest, table, lampstand, pillar, wafer, burnt offering, shield, or thing are you talking about? There are many anointed ones.” They understood the term referred uniquely to one individual. This simple point refutes Myer's misguided argument.
Furthermore, the Lord’s question, “What think ye of...” implies there is an essential concept of “the Christ”. The Lord did not expect the Pharisees to respond, “Well, sir, ‘christ’ means anointed.” That went without saying. The Lord was not asking the Pharisees to look in lexicons available at Bible colleges for the lexical definition of the term. He asked about the Biblical concept of “the Christ.”
Now let’s consider the next question:
Question 2: Does the Biblical concept of “the Christ” involve Deity?
In light of this passage, the obvious answer to this question is “yes”. The Lord quoted Psalm 110:1 for the fact that it conveys the Deity of the Christ. The Pharisees were unable to answer His question because they were unwilling to admit “the Christ” is not just the Son of David but also the eternal Son of God. His question, "whose Son is He?" cannot be answered apart from His Deity. This is clear from the Lord's follow up question: "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord?" Since crossless gospel proponents tend to blunt statements that refer to Christ's Deity, several points will prove this quotation of David conveys Christ's Deity:
1. David called the Christ “my Lord.” The fact He is David's Lord/Master while also David’s distant descendent puts Him in a unique category that requires His Deity. The Hebrew commentator Delitzsch remarked:
“The inference which is left for the Pharisees to draw rests upon two premises, which are granted, that [Psalm 110] is Davidic, and that it is prophetico-Messianic, i.e., that in it the future Messiah stands objectively before the mind of David...Since the prophetico-Messianic character of the Psalm was acknowledged at that time...the conclusion to be drawn from this Psalm must have been felt by the Pharisees themselves, that the Messiah, because the Son of David and the Lord at the same time, was of human and at the same time superhuman nature; that it was therefore in accordance with Scripture if this Jesus, who represented Himself to be the predicted Christ, should as such profess to be the Son of God and of divine nature.” 
2. David called the Christ “my Lord” a thousand years before Christ's arrival. This implies His eternal existence. As Micah foretold, “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,” (Micah 5:2).
“If he was then David's lord if he was his superior--if he had an existence at that time how could he be descended from him? [The Pharisees] could not answer him. Nor is there any way of answering the question but by the admission that the Messiah was divine as well as human; that he had an existence at the time of David, and was his lord and master, his God and king, and that as man he was descended from him.” 
3. Other NT passages apply this Psalm to Christ’s Deity. In Hebrews 1:8-13, the author sets forth Christ’s Deity from Pslams 45:6-7; 102:25; and 110. It is likewise applied to His deity in Acts 2:34-36 where Peter calls Jesus “Lord and Christ.” Also, Psalms and other OT prophecies clearly refer to the Deity of the Christ (e.g. Psalm 2:2-12; 45:6-7, 11; 72:17). Why insist on a meaning here that is less?
4. The phrase “Sit thou at My right hand” is used throughout Scripture to refer to Christ’s unique heavenly reign with the Father from within the Godhead during the time between His ascension and second advent (cf. Ps. 110; Mt. 26:64; Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:33-36; 5:30-31; 7:55-58; Heb. 1:3, 13). In fact, this claim was part of the basis for the High Priest and the Sanhedrin to call for Christ's death sentence on account of blasphemy (Mt. 26:63-66).
If Jesus was NOT pointing out the Deity of “the Christ,” then what was He describing? The Pharisees already knew “the Christ” would be sent from God. They already knew “the Christ” would have the highest authority of any man. They already knew He would have a unique relationship with God. Yet, if that was a sufficient understanding of His Sonship, why did He challenge them?
Question 3: Is the Deity of the Christ, as the Lord taught in Matthew 22:42-45, essential to the issue of salvation?
Crossless gospel proponents are likely to argue that while Deity may be part of the true concept of “the Christ,” it is just one of many truths about “the Christ” that are not essential for salvation. They attempt to separate the “evangelistic” meaning of “the Christ” in the Gospel of John from the meaning in other Gospels.
Well, the Gospel of John also proves one must know “the Christ” as God in order to receive eternal life. I focused on Matthew 22:41-46 in this article because it is helpful for dealing with the new GES arguments regarding the terms “the Christ” and “the Son of God” together. Several observations demonstrate the relevance of the Lord’s point in this passage to the issue of salvation:
First, the Lord is certainly speaking to lost people in this passage about “the Christ.” Not only does He speak to the Scribes and Pharisees, but His audience includes “all the people” at the Temple (Luke 20:45), so that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). In order to prepare them to recognize Himself as “the Christ”, it is important they have the right concept of “the Christ.”
It is significant the very first issue He brings up relates to the nature and Deity of Christ. Notice the Lord did not first ask, “what think ye of the Christ? what does He guarantee by faith alone?” Although the true concept of “the Christ” actually does involve His work and role as Savior, the very first matter that arises is His nature as the Son of God: “what think ye of the Christ? Whose son is He?”
How contrary to the stated practice of a crossless gospel advocate who criticized me for leading a Jew “away from eternal life” due solely to the fact that I shared verses on the Deity of the Christ when I gave the gospel to him!  Apparently, the Lord Jesus Himself was unaware of the pitfall of teaching Christ’s Deity to lost Jews when He spoke the words of Matthew 22:42-45!
The Lord’s words clearly show the true concept of “the Christ” includes truth about His nature. Jeremy Myer's non-Deity definition of “the Son of God” still does not escape the fact that this speaks of His relationship to God. Even this exceeds the three-point “saving message” checklist of GES. If Myer’s non-Deity definition were true, the title “the Son of God” would still convey Christ’s unique relationship to God. How could this title square with the crossless gospel proponents’ denial that it is essential for the lost to believe there is one God in order to be saved?
Lastly, some general observations can be made about the question “whose Son is He?”
It is notable that the term “the Son of God” was not specifically applied to the Messiah in rabbinical literature prior to the time of Christ. Oscar Cullman noted,
“The difficulty lies in the fact that no known ancient text definitely calls the Messiah ‘Son of God’.” The reluctance of the Pharisees to admit the Christ is the Son of God (Mat. 22:41-46) and the condemnation of Jesus for His claim to be the Son of God (Mat. 26:63-65; Mk. 14:61-64; Lk. 22:67-71; John 19:7) evidence the emphatic teaching of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus, that the Christ is the Son of God. If the concept “the Son of God” only conveyed the significance given to it by Myers, i.e., that the Christ would have a unique relationship to God or serve some unique function, the Pharisees would have had no problem agreeing the Christ is the Son of God in Matthew 22:41-46.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John parallel each other in demonstrating the significance of “the Son of God” in the narratives. Matthew records both a negative (unbelieving) and positive (believing) response to this title. A short time after this discussion with the Pharisees took place, the High Priest charged Jesus at His trial before the Sanhedrin, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63). When He answers affirmatively, He is charged with “blasphemy!” Positively, His identity as “the Son of God” means that He is worthy of worship: “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:33). Jews were strictly taught that only God was worthy of worship. Worship of any other would be idolatry. Matthew certainly expects us to see that “the Son of God” is a Divine title.
This is paralleled in the Gospel of John. There is an antagonistic response to His claim to being “the Son of God”: “the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He…also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). To Pontius Pilate the Jews exclaimed, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” On the other hand, there is a believing response to His identity as the Son of God: “Jesus…said unto him, ‘Dost thou believe on the Son of God?’ He answered and said, ‘“Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.’ And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.” Both the negative and positive responses show “the Son of God” signified Deity. Matthew and John totally agree on the significance of this term. In light of this, the Gospel of John’s requirement to believe in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31) specifically highlights the necessity of believing in His Deity.
The Relationship of This Passage to Salvation Texts:
Myers argued neither term “the Christ” nor “the Son of God” refers to Deity. In fact, he argued the singular “the Son of God” cannot legitimately be taken differently than the plural “sons of God.” But Jesus Christ Himself referred to the Deity of the Christ to explain “whose Son” He is. He explained the Christ is the Son of God by quoting David in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord...” He quoted this to prove He is more than just the son of David--He is the eternal Son of God. The Lord's point may be represented like this:
A. Question: what think ye of the Christ? whose Son is He? (v. 42 asked)
B. Premise: David spoke of “the Christ” in Psalm 110:1 (v. 43)
B. Premise: David calls Him “my Lord”, i.e., He is Divine (v. 44)
A. True answer: the Christ is the Son of God, i.e, He is Divine (v. 42 answered)
The Lord Jesus’ explanation of Christ’s Deity by the quotation of Psalm 110:1 is appositional to the question, “whose Son is He” which is appositional to the first question, “what think ye of Christ?” The only true conclusion one can reach, given the Lord’s premise, is that “the Christ” is “the Son” of God and that this specifically speaks of His Deity.
It is no wonder that He put together the questions, “What think ye of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This appositional relationship of “Son” to “the Christ” does not only appear in the question form of this passage. The title “the Son of God” is appositional to “the Christ” throughout Scripture including the salvation text of John 20:31:
“...You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:18)
“…I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63)
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61)
And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Luke 4:41)
“Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69)
“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)
“...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
We could go on (e.g. Acts 8:37; 9:20; 2Cor. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 3:6; 5:5; 1John 2:22; 5:20; 2John 3, 9).
Dozens of passages describe Him as “the Christ, the Son of God” or interchange the terms “Christ” and “Son.” Several passages indicate the lost must believe on “the Son” or “the only begotten Son of God” (See John 3:15, 16, 18, 36, 5:23-25; Acts 13:33-39; Rom. 1:4, 16; 1John 4:14; 5:5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 20).
The relationship between these terms is further reflected in 1John 5:1 and 5:5. in 1John 5:1, we read: “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God....” while in 5:5 we read: “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” It is not as though the content of v.1 one summarizes one message to salvation while v. 5 summarizes a different route. As we have already seen, believing that Jesus is “the Christ” (v. 1) necessarily involves believing He is “the Son of God” (v. 5).
This title certainly emphasizes His Deity, just as Christ did when He used Psalm 110:1 to explain “whose Son” He is. The Apostle John wrote, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
The Lord Jesus showed the true concept of “the Christ” involves Deity. Though the Pharisees could not argue with the Lord’s premise, they still refused to reach the same conclusion in Matthew 22:41-46.
I plead with “Crossless” gospel advocates to change their minds and avoid the same hard-hearted response of the Pharisees.
 Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).
 See Jeremy Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 2:29 PM.
 See Jeremy Myer’s comments on When Simple Faith is Not Enough (August 29, 2007). Blog comments posted 9/03/07 1:39 PM.
 C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Reprinted 1978), Volume 5, Psalms, by F. Delitzsch, Psalm CX, pp. 184-185.
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible (Electronic version). Notes on Matthew 22:45.
 E.g. “It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term.” See Zane Hodges, “How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000), p. 4.
 In a thread at the blog site of GES that was removed by GES without explanation, I stated: “Three days ago I witnessed to an Orthodox Jew in the parking lot of a grocery store. He told me that in Jewish theology, it is impossible for someone to be God and a man. The first verse I showed him was Micah 5:2. He looked at [it] for a minute quietly before responding...”
Due to this statement, GES apologist Antonio da Rosa replied, “It is a fact that you may have turned such a one away from eternal life.”
 Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, trans. Shirley Guthrie and Charles Hall, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 274. He also notes, “The passages in II (4) Esd. (7:28f., 13:32; 37–52; 14:9) can hardly be considered as examples, because they point to the pais in the sense of the ebed Yahweh and do not refer directly to the sonship.” Cited by Kenneth W. Wilson, “Is Belief in Christ’s Deity Required for Eternal Life in John’s Gospel?” Chafer Theological Journal (Fall, 2006).
Originally appeared September 27, 2007