Chapter 3: What A Mighty God We Serve
Words like “might”, “power”, and “great” tend to be overused in our day and time. Their meanings have become so watered down that we now have “great” hot dogs, “great” cars, and “great” clothes. So, too, the word “mighty” is overused. We say something is “mighty fine.” Sportscasters refer to a head coach as a, “mighty fine football coach.” In a Biblical context, the meaning of such a word should never be so diluted.
Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave us some revealing word pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the terms are not comprehensive, there are dozens and dozens of other terms, yet they paint one incredible, multifaceted picture of the Lord.
The term “mighty God” has been studied for centuries. One prominent preacher of the twentieth century said, “The literature which has been written on the subject is a study in itself.”
The words “mighty God” have also been translated, “The Illustrious One,” “The Eradicator,” “The One who gives light to men,” or “The Shining One.” Dr. Alexander Maclaren tells us that the word “mighty” implies “one who is victorious in battle” — a conquering hero.
In the Hebrew word for God (El) there is a root meaning of strength. When the word is a proper name, it can be translated, “the mighty One,” “the strong One.” This term was the most common general description of deity in the ancient Near East. The word could stand alone, or it could be combined with other words to create a compound term for deity. When compounded, it would also identify the nature or function of God.
According to Vines, “This tradition of the Hebrew ‘el as a “God” who revealed Himself in power and entered into a covenant relationship with His people was prominent in both poetry (Psalm 7:11; 85:8), and prophecy (Isaiah 43:12; 46:9). The name of ‘el was commonly used by the Israelites to denote supernatural provision or power. This was both normal and legitimate, since the covenant between “God” and Israel assured an obedient and holy people that the creative forces of the universe would sustain and protect at all times.” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).
The short title El (from which some scholars say “Elohim” is derived) is the most primitive Semitic name, and its root meaning is probably “to be strong.” It is translated some 250 times as “God,” and used in circumstances where the great power of God is indicated. El brought Israel out of Egypt. Nothing is too difficult for someone who created the world and now rules it. The mighty God created the powerful waves that crash against the mighty rocks on the seacoast. He is, in every way, the mighty God.
Why? Because the other word used here by Isaiah is “gibbor” which also means strength or might. By implication the word refers to a powerful warrior, or a champion. The word appears 159 times in the Old Testament. The essential thought behind it is one of power, strength and victory.
When the two are put together, “El Gibbor” translates, “The Mighty Strong One.” Read carefully these words by Warren Wiersbe, from his excellent study, His Name Is Wonderful. “What a paradox that a babe in a manger should be called mighty! Yet even as a baby, Jesus Christ revealed power. His birth affected the heavens as that star appeared. The star affected the Magi, and they left their homes and made that long journey to Jerusalem. Their announcement shook King Herod and his court. Jesus’ birth brought angels from heaven and simple shepherds from their flocks on the hillside. Midnight became midday as the glory of the Lord appeared to men.” (Page 46).
When Jesus Christ is prophesied as the “Mighty God” it is a reference to deity. Jesus is the Son of God and God Himself. What the Messiah came to do could only be done by God. Only God can redeem sinful man; only God can forgive sin; only God can conquer death, hell and the grave; only God can overcome Satan; only God can promise new life; only God would be willing to go to the cross to die for unworthy sinners. The “Mighty God” is the God of reconciliation.
When the angel appeared to Joseph he said, “Call his name Immanuel,” which being interpreted is “God with us.” While Isaiah may not have known the full implications of the trinity, he believed in the incarnation of God. He prophesied, and hoped for, the day when God would come to earth in human flesh and offer a once-for-all sacrifice.
Through the years, there has been much debate over the deity of Christ. Some will call him a prophet, a teacher, a good man, but not God. They might acknowledge His goodness, but not His God nature. To deny the deity of Christ is to call Him a liar.
In I John 2:22 and 23, we read, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (NAS) If Jesus Christ is not God in flesh, if He is not the mighty God, then every Christian is an idolater. We are worshiping a god who isn’t God. We are violating the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other God before me.” The one sin God hates above all others is idolatry. To deny Jesus Christ as the mighty God is to reject every prophecy and revelation of the Old and New Testament.
If Christ is not the mighty God, then those who have died believing in Christ are damned to hell. If He is not mighty God, then our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain and we are still dead in trespasses and sin.
He is mighty God because all history is incomprehensible without Christ. A.H. Strong, in his Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, page 52, defines God as “the infinite and perfect spirit in whom all things have their source, support and end.” We must add one note to this; the infinite and perfect spirit in whom all things have their source, support and end became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth.”
The famous author and apologist C. S. Lewis wrote a classic work entitled, Mere Christianity. On page 40-41 he writes, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”
Then Lewis adds: “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
If you are going to determine who mighty God is, you have to go to the source – God’s Word. Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah wrote his prophecy. It is the cornerstone of all prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah was able to see into the future and give us an inerrantly accurate picture of the birth of the Savior. The Jews received this news as a prophecy of a coming King. This King would come . . . and forever alter human history.
This was no ordinary child. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). This son would be ‘given,’ not born. The term ‘given’ speaks of Christ’s preexistent deity. “Although He existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. . .” (Philippians 2:6,7, NAS).
When Jesus walked the face of the earth, He never backed away from claiming to be God in flesh. He said, “I and my Father are one.” In John’s gospel, the fourteenth chapter, beginning in verse eight, we read, “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.” (NAS)
This statement is a clear affirmation by Jesus Christ of His deity. Jesus did not claim to be ‘a’ God; He made emphatic claims to be God. Oswald Chambers said, “The characteristics of God Almighty are mirrored for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore if we want to know what God is like we must study Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle Paul affirmed his belief in Jesus as the mighty God. “…whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5). “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9,10). “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11).
Notice the word “appearance” in the Philippians passage. The word “appearance” is, in the Greek, “morphe”. It means, “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision” or “external appearance.” King James uses the word, “form.” It is the sum total of the qualities that make something what it is. When Christ is described as being in the “form” of God, He is the sum of all characteristics which make up the being called God.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because He said so. The union between God the Father and God the Son will allow no divorce; they are one. This is the explanation of Christ’s incredible impact on the world. There is no other explanation for His mark on history than God came and dwelt among men. No mere human has ever affected the course of human events like Jesus.
The Scriptures talk about the fulness of time. Yet, Jesus’ birth was predicted before the printing press. He was born hundreds of years before mass communication. He arrived in an obscure, unknown village in the eyes of the world. He lived in poverty, a mere carpenter. He was raised in relative obscurity. No royal training, no pedigree, no position of influence. For a time, as a child, He was exiled to Egypt. The very town of his upbringing, Nazareth, was synonymous with that which is little and least. He traveled in a small circle. He never wrote a book (so to speak). He never wrote a song, but has inspired millions of songs. Yet, here we are thousands of years after His birth, death and resurrection, and his influence marches on. All the lines of history converge upon Him.
While he never earned a degree, men with dozens of degrees search His simple teachings to try to fathom the depth of His words. The least that was ever said about him; “He went about doing good.” The most significant thing said about Him? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” At his death, the Roman guard said, “Surely, this man is the Son of God.” In life and in death, He casts history’s longest shadow. No one can explain Him. No one can put His life in a nice neat package. He is the mighty God. The prophecies, His birth, death and resurrection all prove this. The fact that He will one day sit upon the throne of judgement should be a consternation to His enemies and a consolation to His people.
The whole gospel is fulfilled and contained in Christ. This mighty God demands more allegiance than any monarch, dictator or general who has ever lived. The difference is, He has the right to make such a demand. No wonder Isaiah calls Him “mighty God.”
©1998 Michael C. Catt. All rights reserved.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.