Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

John MacArthur’s Exposition of our Lord’s Use of Psalm 110:1

Sam Shamoun

In light of our recent rebuttal to Paul Williams’ post of a meme from a unitarian heretic’s misuse of Mark 12:28-34, we’ve decided to switch gears by quoting a conservative interpretation of our risen Lord’s appeal to Psalm 110:1 which is found in all three Synoptic Gospels; an exegesis that seeks to honor and treat the biblical texts for what they truly are, namely, God-breathed revelations.

Here is the passage in question:

“While Jesus taught in the temple, He said, ‘How can the scribes say that Christ is the Son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’” David himself calls Him “Lord.” How then is He his Son?’ And the large crowd heard him gladly.” Mark 12:35-37 – cf. Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44

The quotation that follows is taken from The MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 2015, pp. 209-213. This is the commentary series produced by noted Christian Pastor and Scholar John F. MacArthur, a man committed to the absolute authority of the Holy Scripture and devoted to serving the risen Lord in holiness and truth. Parts of MacArthur’s exposition of Mark can be read here.

… Verse 1 proves that the messiah could not be merely a man, since David referred to him as his Lord.

Jesus' simple argument was so powerful and convincing that when it became widely known after the New Testament was written, many Jews, to avoid the obvious reality, denied the historical view that Psalm 110 was messianic. Instead, it was argued that it referred to Abraham, or Melchizedek, or the intertestamental Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus. Modern liberal scholars, who deny Christ's deity and the infallibility of Scripture, have argued that David was simply mistaken in viewing the messiah as his Lord. However, all of those arguments require rejecting the revealed truth that David himself called the messiah his Lord because of revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Further, God declared to David's Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies beneath your feet." Elevating the Messiah to His right hand, a reference to the divine position of power (cf. Ex. 15:6; Pss. 20:6; 44:3; 60:5; 89:13), symbolizes His being coequal with the Father in rank and authority, and essentially affirms His deity. Messiah's rule will be absolute, as God will put His enemies beneath His feet or, as Luke writes, "make [his] enemies a footstool for [his] feet" (Luke 20:43)… The Old Testament, then, reveals not only the Messiah Jesus' humanity as David's son but also His deity as David's Lord, exalted at the right hand of the Father. Here is the incomprehensible, infinite truth that Jesus is both fully God and man… The conclusion to this passage is anticlimactic and tragic. From the majestic heights of Jesus' profound wisdom and masterful exposition of Psalm 110 proving His deity, the reader is plunged into the depths of the hate-driven rejection by the nation's hardened leaders, as well as the amused apathy of the large crowd, who merely enjoyed listening to Him, but two days later would later cry for His execution. Some hated Him, others were entertained by Him. None, apparently, fell on their faces in the presence of almighty God incarnate to repent and confess Him as Lord and Savior.

And the following lengthy excerpt is taken from The MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24, published in 2014, pp. 153-158. Portions of this commentary can also be read here.

Christ's point is that if the Messiah was merely a man, as the Jews taught, why did David refer to him as his Lord? No Middle Eastern father, least of all a king, would call his human son Lord. Jesus' simple argument was so powerful and convincing that when it became widely known following the completion of the New Testament, many Jews abandoned the historical view that Psalm 110 was messianic. Instead, some held that it referred somehow to Abraham; others to Melchizedek; and still others to the intertestamental Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus. Contemporary liberal scholars, who deny the deity of Jesus and the veracity of Scripture, have argued that David was simply mistaken in viewing the Messiah as his Lord. However, in Mark's account of this incident Jesus introduced His quote of Psalm 110:1 by saying, "David himself said in the Holy Spirit" (Mark 12:36; cf. Acts 4:25). Thus, to deny that what David wrote is also to deny the truthfulness of the testimony by the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ… 

As both David's son and David's Lord, Jesus is fully God and fully man. Scriptures declares Him to be the eternal Word (John 1:1) who became flesh (v. 14), and His humanity is clearly evident in Scripture. He "was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3), and "kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). The writer of Hebrews says that "since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same" (Heb. 2:14). Later in that chapter he adds that Jesus "had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). Jesus became hungry (Matt. 4:1-2) and thirsty (John 4:7), and got tired (John 4:5-6; cf. Matt. 8:23-24). Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, including joy (Luke 10:21), grief (Matt. 26:37), love (John 11:5, 36; 15:9), compassion (Matt. 9:36), amazement (Luke 7:9), and anger (Mark 3:5).

But Jesus is also fully God. John 1:1 states that "the Word [Jesus; cf. v. 14] was God." He took to Himself the sacred name of God (YHWH; Ex. 3:14) when He said to His opponents, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). That the Jewish leaders (unlike modern cultists) understood clearly what He meant was evident from their reaction; they attempted to stone Him for blasphemy (v. 59; cf. Lev. 24:16). In John 10:30, Jesus claimed to be the same essence as God the Father. Once again the Jews attempted to stone Him for blasphemy, because "being a man [He made Himself] out to be God" (v. 33). When Thomas addressed Him as God (John 20:28), Jesus accepted that affirmation of His deity and praised his faith (v. 29). Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus "existed in the form of God" (i.e., that He is God by nature), and Colossians 2:9 adds that "in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." Titus 2:13 calls Him "our great God and Savior," and 2 Peter 1:1 calls Him "our God and Savior." In Hebrews 1:8 God the Father said to Jesus, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." 

Many names or titles used in the Old Testament to refer to God are used in the New Testament to refer to Christ:

  • YHWH (cf. Isa. 6:5, 10 with John 12:39-41; Jer. 23:5-6)
  • Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23:1 with John 10:14)
  • Judge (cf. Gen. 18:25 with 2 Tim. 4:1, 8)
  • Holy One (cf. Isa. 10:20 with Acts 3:14; cf. Ps. 16:10 with Acts 2:27)
  • First and Last (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12 with Rev. 1:17; 22:13)
  • Light (cf. Ps. 27:1 with John 8:12)
  • Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 16:23, 29; Lev. 19:3 with Matt. 12:8)
  • Savior (cf. Isa. 43:11 with Acts 4:12; Titus 2:13)
  • I AM (cf. Ex 3:14 with John 8:58)
  • Pierced One (cf. Zech. 12:10 with John 19:37)
  • Mighty God (cf. Isaiah 10:21 with Isa. 9:6)
  • Lord of lords (cf. Deut. 10:17 with Rev. 17:14)
  • Alpha and Omega (cf. Rev. 1:8 with Rev. 22:13)
  • Lord of Glory (cf. Ps. 24:10 with 1 Cor. 2:8)
  • Redeemer (cf. Isa. 41:14; 48:17; 63:16 with Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12) 

Jesus Christ possesses the incommunicable attributes of God (those that are unique to God and have no analogy in man):

  • Eternalness (Mic. 5:2; Isa. 9:6)
  • Omnipresence (Matt. 18:20; 28:20)
  • Omniscience (Matt. 11:23; John 16:30; 21:17)
  • Omnipotence (Phil. 3:21)
  • Immutability (Heb. 13:8)
  • Absolute sovereignty (Matt. 28:18)
  • Glory (John 17:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; cf. Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

Jesus Christ also did the works that only God can do:

  • Creation (John 1:3; Col. 1:16)
  • Providence (sustaining creation) (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3)
  • Giving life (John 5:21)
  • Forgiving sin (Mark 2:7, 10)
  • Having His word stand forever (Matt. 24:35; cf. Isa. 40:8)

Finally, Jesus Christ accepted worship, even though He taught that God alone is to be worshiped (Matt. 4:10), and Scripture records that both men (Acts 10:25-26) and angels (Rev. 22:8-9) refused worship:

  • Matthew 14:33
  • Matthew 28:9
  • John 5:23
  • John 9:38

(see also Phil. 2:10 [cf. Isa. 45:23], Heb. 1:6) 

Another way of demonstrating Christ's deity is to ask the question, "If God became a man, what would we expect Him to be like?"

First, if God became a man we would expect Him to be sinless, because God is absolutely holy (Isa. 6:3). So is Jesus. Even His bitter enemies could make no reply to His challenge, "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?" (John 8:46). He is "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:26).

Second, if God became a man we would expect His words to be the greatest words ever spoken, because God is omniscient, is perfectly wise, and has infinite command of the truth and the ability to perfectly express it. Jesus' words demonstrated all that. The officers sent to arrest Him reported back to their superiors, "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks" (John 7:46; cf. Matt. 7:28-29).

Third, if God became a man we would expect Him to display supernatural power, because God is all powerful. Jesus controlled nature, walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, dominated the kingdom of Satan and the demons, supernaturally avoided those who tried to kill Him, and performed miracles too numerous to be counted (John 21:25).

Fourth, if God became a man, we would expect Him to exert a profound influence over humanity. Jesus did. He changed the world like no one else in history.

Fifth, if God became a man, we would expect Him to manifest God's love, grace, kindness, compassion, justice, judgment, and wrath. Jesus did. 

Jesus Christ was in every way the exact representation of God's nature (Heb. 1:3). But although they never confounded His infinite wisdom, refuted His matchless words, or denied His powerful miracles, the majority of the Jewish people and their leaders ultimately rejected Him. They failed to hear and obey God incarnate's voice (cf. Heb. 3:7), but instead hardened their hearts against Him, just as their ancestors had done (v. 8). For all those who, like them, "go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries (Heb. 10:26-27). Truly, "it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). 

What a marked difference and stark contrast in the way a committed Bible believing Christian handles God’s inspired Word from someone who has no respect or regard for the biblical texts. May our risen Lord of glory enable us by his majestic Spirit to show the same kind of respect and care for his God-breathed truths that MacArthur and others like him do, and may he strengthen us to pursue him with radical love and holiness in the same way that he has empowered servants like MacArthur to do so.