Biblically speaking, the gospel (good news) is the substitutionary and sacrificial work of Christ—not the work of man in his response, faith, repentance, good behavior, etc. Besides passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which we will deal with shortly, Paul makes this point clear in Romans 1:1, 3, “The gospel of God . . . concerning His Son.” So, the gospel in and of itself has nothing to do with man, but everything to do with the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God the Son. We must not confuse the work of Christ, which is the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ cross work—with the response of faith in Christ, repentance, obedience, etc. Salvation is solus Christus (through Christ alone), thus, Hs work being the very ground or cause of justification, and faith being the very alone instrument.

The gospel then is comprised of all essential theology of the Christian faith since it involves the person, nature, and finish work of Christ. Simply, the gospel is the atoning work of God the Son, in incarnation, death, and resurrection. And trusting Him alone for salvation (Rom. 10:9, 13; 1 Cor. 15:3-4 [see discussion below on this passage]; 2 Tim. 2:8).      

 

In expanded detail, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith include:      

 

  • The person of the Son is truly God and truly man, the two natured person—being distinct from the Father who sent Him (John 1:1, 14, 18; 5:17-18; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 4:2-3; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8).  

 

  • The sending of the Son to earth from the Father out of heaven (John 3:13, 16-18; 6:38; 16:28).

 

  • A literal descendant of David, born of a virgin (2 Tim. 2:8[1]; Matt. 1:18; Rom. 9:5; Gal. 4:4).

 

  • The perpetual (ongoing, permanent) incarnation of the Son—the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14; 2 Tim. 2:8; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7).

 

  • The Son’s substitutionary (vicarious) atoning sinless life (preceptive obedience) and cross work (penal obedience) as the very ground of justification, which removed the sin-guilt and God’s wrath due to us for our sins (Gen. 15:6; Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; John 6:37-39; Rom. 5:6, 8, esp. v. 10; 8:32; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

 

  • Salvation (justification), then, is through faith alone “apart from works” (Acts 10:36, 43; Rom. 4:4:4-8; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9).

 

  • Jesus’ real death and physical resurrection (John 2:19-21; 19:30; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Titus 2:13).

 

  • His accession to the Father (John 6:62; 16:10, 28; 20:17; Acts 1:10-11; Heb. 10:12-13).

 

  • His (physical) second coming (Acts 1:10-11; Titus 2:13-14; 1 John 2:28).

 

  • The concept of the Trinity—namely, one true eternal God revealed in three distinct persons (see chap. 3 above).   

The person (unipersonal, i.e., distinct from the Father, and Holy Spirit), nature (truly God truly man) and finished completed work (justification through faith alone) are necessary and indispensable to the Christian faith. They also imply other important doctrines such “total inability,” that is, in man’s unconverted spiritual state he cannot (no ability) please or come to Christ (John 6:44; 8:43-44, 47; Rom. 3:10-18) due to the inherent sin-guilt (imputed sin) of all men resulting from the first sin in the Garden. These doctrines constitute the key ultimate test in which distinguishes genuine Christianity from false non-Christian (atheistic) religious cults and world religions.

All must be affirmed in a basic sense, and none can be denied. Further, one cannot affirm some of these, but not the others. For example, Roman Catholicism (as discussed below) officially embraces the Trinity, deity of Christ, the incarnation, virgin birth, and Jesus’ resurrection. However, because Roman Catholic doctrine rejects that the alone work of Christ is the absolute and sufficient means and ground of justification, Rome falls outside of Christian orthodoxy (cf. Gal. 1:6, 8)—hence, non-Christian.

Thus, it is not the Jesus of biblical revelation that Rome embraces, rather a different Jesus and a “different gospel.” Therefore, all things pertaining to the gospel are “essential” theology. Whereas secondary theology is any doctrine that is not essential to one’s salvation—namely, any doctrine that does not fundamentally deny or distort the nature and/or finished work of Christ (e.g., the OT Law, spiritual, gifts, method of water baptism, eschatology [i.e., end-time teachings], etc.). Again, the sufficiency of the gospel is the work of the Christ. and justification through faith alone is the only recognized gospel.    

[1] “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant [spermatos] of David, according to my gospel.” 

The mission of John the Baptist was to proclaim the need for spiritual repentance and the coming Messiah. John the Baptist was the one about which Isaiah prophesied in Isa. 40:3: “A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for LORD [YHWH]; construct in the desert a road for our God.…” (cf. John 1:23). According to Christ, John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to come prophesied in Mal. 4:5-6 (cf. Matt. 11:14).[1] And John the one who baptized Jesus as recorded in John 1:29-34; Matt. 3:13-17: Mark 1:9-11; and Luke 3:21, 22.

John’s gospel account provides some theological details not found in the synoptics. In John 1:29, we read that Jesus came to John to baptized: “On the next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”

 Using a “lamb” for sacrifice was very familiar to the Jews:

  1. Used as a sacrifice at the Passover (Exod. 12:12:1-36).
  2. Lamb was “led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7).
  3. A Lamb was used in daily sacrifices (Lev. 14:12-21).

 

Thus, John sees Christ as the Lamb signifying the final and sole infallible “ultimate sacrifice,” which takes away the sin of the world. This concept is found throughout the Apostle John’s writing. This is especially seen in Rev. 5:6-14:  

6  “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slaughtered. . . . 8 When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. . . . 9 And they *sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. . . . 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders. . . . 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing.’ 13 And I heard every created thing which is in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, or on the sea, and all the things in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.’ 14 . . . And the elders fell down and worshiped.

A symbolic “Lamb” is frequently used in reference to Christ in two primary ways: As a suffering servant and as a sacrifice.   

  1. The Lamb as the suffering servant. As mentioned, the symbolism is seen and derived from Isa. 53:7: “He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers. So He did not open His mouth.” Note, this text (Isa. 53:7) is specifically applied to Jesus in Acts 8:32. Also, all the servant-songs occur in the latter section of Isaiah (40-55). The NT links John the Baptist (John 1:23) with the first part of this section of Isaiah (40:3). Jesus is related to the suffering servant in other places in John’s Gospel (John 12:38 and Isa. 53:1).

 

  1. The Lamb as the Passover sacrificial lamb. In the OT, the Passover lamb is actually a real animal. John uses the Passover symbolism of Christ repeatedly in his literature, especially in relationship to the sacrificial death of Christ. Note the following:

I. Jesus was condemned at noon on the Day of Preparation, which was the day before Passover (John 19:14). Thus, Jesus was going to die at the very time the priests would be slaying the lambs in the Temple.

II. Exod. 12:22 indicates that hyssop was used to smear blood on the doorposts in the Passover procedure. Whereas in John 19:29, hyssop was used to give Jesus the wine on a sponge.

III. Exod. 12:46 indicates that the bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken. Whereas in John 19:36, Jesus’ bones were not broken, which was a fulfillment of Scripture (Ps. 22:16-17).

 

So, in John’s gospel we see both, the Lamb as the suffering servant and as a sacrifice. We see this same reference in Heb. 10:10-14:

10 “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ephapax [‘once for all time’]. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES ARE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”—

Thus, His work was perfectly completed, that is, finished for all time (Tetelestai, John 19:30). As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5:7: “… For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

 

Back to our text, John 1:29: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” It is in this context that Christ – “Removes, takes away the sin of the world.” 

The term “takes away” (NASB) is from the Greek verb, airō, which carries the basic meaning of “to raise from the ground, take up, lift up.” Note the following exegetical points:

  1. Grammatical. The verb here is a present tense participle and it’s articular (i.e., has the article, “the”)— ho airōn, literally, “the One taking away.” The present tense action, indicates a literal non-figurative taking away, raising up, removal of sin by the atoning sacrifice of Christ—not He will take away the sin, but rather He is the one taking away the sin—which is then applied to the sinner at faith. The atonement and thus, the removal of sin and the wrath due to us because of sin is a definite action completed at the cross.

 

  1. Lexical. The first century Koinē Greek meaning of the verb in this passage is “to bear away what has been raised, carry off; to move from its place. . . . to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation, or to cause that sin be neither imputed nor punished” (Thayer)[2]; to “carry away, remove (to move from one place to another)” (BDAG).[3] Additionally, the verb appears ninety-seven times in the Greek NT (NA28). In every single place, the verb denotes a literal removing or taking something away. Only in one place (1 Cor. 6:15) is it used figuratively.

 

Therefore, due to the meaning and tense of the verb, one cannot legitimately impose a universal meaning upon the term “world” (kosmos). The present tense action of the verb (an actual “taking away”), and John’s own soteriology (cf. John 1:13; 3:15-17; 6:37-39, 10:15; 1 John 2:1-2) would prevent this pretext.   

Universalists and Inclusivists. Because of the semantic import and tense of the verb, Universalists and Inclusivists will appeal John 1:29 to teach that all men in “the world” will be saved regardless if they believe in Christ or not. They will interpret the verb airō (“takes away”) here properly (i.e., a literal, not hypothetical, removal of sin); yet improperly interpret the term “world” to mean “all men” inclusively, without exception. Thus, the Universalistic/Inclusivistic depends on an unbiblical pretext assuming that the term “world” carries a universal meaning here—namely, every single person universally will have their sin taken away.                                 

However, note the hermeneutical (interpretative technique) error they make: Both Universalists and Inclusivists do not consider the various meanings of the term kosmos (“world”) how it was normally used in a first century significance. Many times, it was used to denote the world of the Jews and Gentiles. For example, many first century Jews assumed that salvation was for them alone—God’s “chosen” people. So, in John 3:16, Jesus used “world” as a “corrective” to this false notion to Nicodemus, thus, in this sense, ‘For God so loved the Jews, and even the Gentles.’

In the NT, kosmos (“world”) carries a wide range of meanings, depending on the context. Similarly, the Greek adjective pas (“all, every”), can mean “all” or “every” inclusively (e.g., Rom. 3:23; Col. 1:17-17), but others times, it can also mean all kinds, or as many as (Matt. 4:24; or Acts 22:25: “[Ananias to Paul] ‘For you will be a witness for Him to ALL [pas] people of what you have seen and heard.”

Thus, “all” in the sense of all in the region, or “all” kinds of people (kings, rulers, Jews, Gentiles, men women, slaves, free etc.), and not every single person in the world. Kosmos is also similar. In the NT, kosmos has at least eight clearly defined separate meanings defined by its surrounding context: 

  1. Used to signify every single person, Rom. 3:19. 
  1. Used to signify non-believers, John 1:10; 15:18; Rom. 3:6. 
  1. Used signify only believers, John 1:29; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. 
  1. Used to signify Gentiles in contrast to Jews, Rom. 11:12. 
  1. 5. Used to signify the world system, John 12:31. 
  1. Used to signify the earth, John 13:1; Eph. 1:4. 
  1. Used to signify the universe as a whole, Acts 17:24: “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.”
  2. Used to signify the known world (not everyone inclusively)—Jews and Gentiles, Rom. 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” 

So here in John 1:29, in light of the verb’s meaning as a literal non-figurative sin being “taking away,” removed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the verb being in the present, not future tense, the “world” would be the world of believers. By the blood of Christ, He purchased and removed the sin of men from “every tribe, language, people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The world of believers is shown love through the giving of the Son so that they will have eternal life through faith in Him.

Thus, John’s statement here defines the efficacy and intent of the Son’s atoning cross work. “Behold, the Lamb of God, the One taking away the sin of the world,..” both Jews and Gentles—the good news of the gospel!


Notes

[1] Also cf. Matt. 17:11-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:16-17.

[2] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

[3] Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. by Frederick W. Danker (BDAG).

 

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“I and the Father are one.”

Ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν (Egō kia ho Patēr hen esmen), lit., “I and the Father one we are”).     

Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be equal with and truly God (Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view, which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (i.e., the same person). Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use it as a so-called proof text. Aside from the fact that throughout chapter 10, Jesus and the Father are clearly differentiated as two persons (vv. 15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38). But note the following points regarding verse 30 that refutes Oneness theology:      

No agreement in conservative recognized Christian scholarship with a Oneness interpretation. Neither historically nor contemporaneously has any Christian writer interpreted John 10:30 in a modalistic (Oneness) way. Rather, all standard scholarly sources (patristics, commentaries, grammars, lexicons et al), interprets the passage in the plain intended way within the defining context: The person of the Son claiming equality with the distinct person of the Father.

Plain reading. Jesus simply says, “I and the Father ARE one.” Only by pretexting can one read something into this text beyond the simple plain reading.                              

The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—contextually indicating a unity of essence, not personal identity. If Jesus wanted to identify Himself as the Father (same person), He certainly could have used the masculine heis to indicate this (e.g., John 12:4; Rom. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al.). In this passage, the Father and the Son are the subjects of the sentence (egō, “I,” Patēr, “Father”—both in the nominative case). The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is the predicate nominative and it precedes the plural verb esmen (“are”). The predicate nominative is describing the essential unity of Jesus and the Father.[1] In others words, Jesus is explaining that the Father and Son are—one thing, not one person. In the context of unity, not identity of person, the same neuter adjective is used in John 17:21, where Jesus prays that His disciples “may be one [hen]” even as Jesus and the Father are one.  

The plural verb esmen (“are”). Again, in sharp contrast to the false Oneness interpretation (Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), and not a singular verb such as eimi (“am”) or estin (“is”) in which case, the passage would read: “I and the Father am/is one.” Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. Rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His nor His Father’s hand (same words of YHWH in the LXX of Deut. 32:39[2]).


NOTES

[1] Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature” (Robertson, Word Pictures).

[2] Note the same phrases used in both in Deuteronomy (LXX) and John: Deuteronomy 32:39: “And there is no one who can deliver ek tōn cheirōn mou [‘out of the hands of Me’].” John 10:28: “they will never perish; and no one will snatch them ek tēs cheiros mou  [‘out of the hand of Me’].” Verse 10:29: “no one is able to snatch them ek tēs cheiros tou Patros [‘out of the hand of the Father’].”  

 

 

 

“But of that day or hour NO ONE KNOWS, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone”

Unitarians, esp. Muslims and JWs use this passage (among others) to show Jesus is not God. 

First, throughout the OT and NT, Christ is presented as ontologically truly God and truly man (Exod. 3:6, 14; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:13-14; John 1:1, 18; 5:17-18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; Phil. 2:6-11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:6, 10-12; 2 Pet 1:1; Rev. 1:7-8; 22:13). His claim to be God were unambiguous (Mark. 14:61-64; John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58 et al.; 10:30; Rev. 1:7-8; 22:13; etc.).       

 

So was Jesus ignorant of His Return?  

The simple response has to do with the verb oiden (“knows”). Instead of ignorance (Jesus not “knowing”), we see the verb oiden (perfect form of eidō) in a “preeminent sense” in that, the verb oiden takes the force of the Hebrew stem hiphil. Verbs with the hiphil has a causative or declarative sense. Thus as here: “I make known, cause, promulgate, declare.”  

 

In 1 Cor. 2:2, the same verb is used in this sense, where Paul states: “I determined ‘to know’ (eidenai from eidō) nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified,” that is, I cause or determined to make known, nothing among you, but Jesus Christ.

So in light of the verb oiden (“to know”) taking the force of the Hebrew stem hiphil (as in 1 Cor. 2:2), the literal sense would be: “But of that day and that hour none can cause or declare to you to KNOW (that is, none has authority) to cause to make known— not the angels, neither the Son, but, preeminently, the Father alone—He will reveal or declare it.

Therefore, in Mark 13:32, the verb takes the force of the Hebrew hiphil stem (causative or declarative sense)—i.e., in a “preeminent sense” (as in 1 Cor. 2:2). Thus, the Son “knows” the day and hour of His return, but the one who will make known, cause, promulgate, or declare is the Father alone. A proper exegesis erases any notion of the Son being ignorant of His return. 

“To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen” (Rom. 9:5, NET).

 

 

 

“In Him”

1 Cor. 1:30: “But it is due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”  

Rom. 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Cor. 5:17, 21: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Eph. 1:4: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

 

The ἐν (“in”) + the dative construction was a favorite linguistic formula of the Apostle Paul. For example (NA28th), ἐν αὐτῷ (“in Him”) appears 23 times and ἐν Χριστῷ (“in Christ”) appears 73 times in his literature.[1]

As with all prepositions, the meaning of preposition ἐν is determined by its object, which in Paul’s formula is either singular dative nouns such as Ἀδὰμ (“Adam”), σαρκὶ (“flesh”), νόμῳ (“law”), πνεύματι (“Spirit”), Κυρίῳ (“Lord”), or the singular dative pronoun, αὐτῷ (“Him”). Note that when Christ is the object of ἐν (“in Him,” “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” etc.),[2] a few views have been suggested among standard scholarship as to the semantic of the dative in the prepositional phrase.   

For example, dative of sphere (i.e., locative, “in the realm/sphere of”); instrumental dative (i.e., dative of means/instrument, “by means [instrumentally] of”), and a couple other semantic views have also been posited. Wallace (GGBB) points out, that the dative expressing sphere is a frequent usage especially with ἐν + the dative, as in Eph. 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him [ἐν Κυρίῳ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.”

However, it seems that the predominant meaning (i.e., of scholarly opinion, e.g., Lightfoot, TDNT, NIGTC et al.) of Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula, when referring to Christ (or other persons in the Trinity) denotes “in union with Christ,” that is, being identified and unified with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. Consistent to Paul’s Adam-Christ antithesis, which is well exampled in such passages as 1 Cor. 15:22, where Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula denotes “in union with”: “For as in [union with] ADAM [ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ] all die, so also in [union with] CHRIST [ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ] all will be made alive.” Turner sees that “Adam is a representative man ‘in’ whom all mankind was viewed. . . . But the instances with en are predicated of Christ or the Gospel and mean ‘in the sphere of’” (cf. Matt. 3:11; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13). 

Many other passages in Paul’s literature, which involve the ἐν + the dative formula, denote union or identification with Christ in contrast to condemnation, sin, law, flesh, etc. For example, Romans 6:11: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God IN CHRIST [ἐν Χριστῷ]; 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST [ἐν Χριστῷ] Jesus.”

In this sense, men walk to two territories, either “in Christ” or “in Adam, in the flesh.” Union and identification with one or the other. Being “in Christ,” therefore, is tantamount to being in union with Him. So Lightfoot observes, “ἐν Χριστῷ, i.e. ‘by virtue of our incorporation in, our union with, Christ.’” It is in that sense, then, that as the old man is ἐν ‘Αδάμ and the Jew ἐν νόμῳ, the believer are ἐν Χριστῷ. So Eadie rightly says, “Believers were looked upon as being in Christ their federal Head, when they were elected.”

Further, note the contrast of being ἐν σαρκὶ (“in [the] flesh”) and being “in Christ/“in the Spirit” with emphasis on the indwelling of the Spirit in Rom. 8:9: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Thus, being ἐν Χριστῷ is set in contrast to being ἐν ‘Αδάμ (“in Adam”) in 1 Cor. 15:22 and being found ἐν Χριστῷ is set in contrast to being ἐν νόμῳ (“in the Law”) in Phil. 3:6-9.

 Conclusion

The ἐν + the dative formula (esp. Paul’s near exclusive use of ἐν Χριστῷ) undeniably expresses the love that God the Father has for believers, which is shown by His electing them to the adoption of sons placing them in union with His Son (Eph. 1:4-5). Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula linguistically denotes “in union with Christ,” that is, being identified and unified with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. Hence, Paul can say, “Therefore I, the prisoner ἐν κυρίῳ [‘in the Lord,’ not, ‘of the Lord’]” (Eph. 4:1). Paul also uses this signifying formula to denote the unbreakable union believers have with the Father and the Spirit—viz. union and identification with the triune God.    

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-Notes 

[1] Aside for three places in Peter, ἐν Χριστῷ appears only in Paul.

[2] Ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν Χριστῷ, ἐν Κυρίῳ.

γώ εμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”)

Matt. 14:27: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I [egō eimi, ‘I am’]; do not be afraid’” (NASB et seq.).  

Mark 6:50: Same Greek phrase as in Matt. 14:27: ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit. “I am, do not be afraid”).  

John 6:20: Same Greek phrase as in Matt. 14:27 and Mark 6:50.    

John 8:24: “…for unless you believe that I am [egō eimi], you will die in your sins.”

John 8:28: “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [egō eimi]. . . .”

John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am [egō eimi].”

John 13:19: “From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may believe that I am He [egō eimi].”

John 18:5, 6 (repeat by narrator), 8: 5 “They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, ‘I am He’ [egō eimi]. And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 Now then, when He said to them, ‘I am He’ [egō eimi], they drew back and fell to the ground. . . . 8 Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He; [egō eimi] so if you are seeking Me, let these men go on their way.’” Note, in 13:19 and 18:5, 6, 8, the pronoun “He” was added by translators – indicated by italicization.

 Jesus’ unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι, egō eimi (“I am”) Jesus’ unpredicated[1] egō eimi (“I am”) claims are some of the clearest affirmations of the Son’s deity and eternality. As mentioned below, in the OT, this title was a reoccurring claim of YHWH alone denoting His eternal existence (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4). So of course, virtually all unitarian groups  (esp. Muslims, Oneness advocates, and JWs) deny this truth of the distinct person of the Son, Jesus Christ as being coequal coeternal and coexistent with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit).

However, as pointed out repeatedly, even if one rejects Jesus’ “I am” claims as claims of deity, the deity of Christ, the Son of God, are well established in the content of John’s literature (John 1:1, 3, 10, 18; 3:13; 5:17-18; 6:20; 9:38; 10:27-30; 17:5; 20:28; 1 John 1:1-2; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13).        

In John 8:24, Jesus declared, “. . . for if you should not believe that ‘I am’ [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.). Some standard translations add either a predicated clause or the pronoun “He” after the “I am” phrase (cf. KJV, NIV, AMP[2] et al.). However, all extant NT Greek manuscripts containing John 8:24 have no stated predicated clause or predicate such as “He” after the Greek phrase egō eimi. This is true of all Jesus’ egō eimi affirmations.[3]

Additionally, there is clear textual and contextual justification to support that Jesus’ claims of being the unpredicated “I am” and thus, true God and true man. Any added predicate is merely a decision made by the Bible translator. Although the unpredicated divine declaration, “I am,” in John 8:58 is accepted universally as a divine claim among most biblical scholarship (esp. in light of v. 59), not all scholars agree that 8:24 is a divine claim, which is reflected in various translations.

Some translations, however, see the “I am” claim in 8:24 in the same sense as in John 8:58—namely, an unpredicated divine title, such as the NASB 2020 ed. Also note, the ISV 2008 ed. reading: “That is why I told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (caps. theirs); and the Aramaic Bible in Plain English 2010 ed.: “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins” (caps theirs). In fact, this translation translates every one of Jesus’ egō eimi phrases as, “I AM THE LIVING GOD.” So Vincent sees 8:24, 28, 58; and 13:19 as a “solemn expression of’ Jesus’ ‘absolute divine being’” (Word Studies).   

It should also be noted that these particular occurrences of Jesus’ “I am” claims are not syntactically the same as other claims, which include the phrase “I am,” such as, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” “I am the bread,” etc., which all contain a clear and stated predicate contra the several unpredicated “I am” statements of Christ. Thus, the burden of proof would rest on the one attempting to show otherwise.

Sometimes, JWs appeal to John 9:9 where the blind man uttered, “I am” (egō eimi). However, the clause is neither syntactically nor contextually equivalent to the unpredicated egō eimi statements of Christ in the gospels. – See our article on John 9:9 and the JWs also see The NWT and John 8:58

 

The Egō Eimi OT Septuagint (LXX) Background

Many associate Jesus’ egō eimi (“I am”) declarations with God’s declaration to Moses in Exod. 3:14: “God said to Moses, I am that I am.’[4] Although, the phrase in the Greek LXX of Exod. 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn, “I am the One”) is not syntactically equivalent to Jesus’ unpredicated egō eimi claims, it does denote the same semantic: YHWH’s eternal existence.[5]     

Notwithstanding, there are places in the OT, where YHWH alone claimed to be the unpredicated egō eimi, which were syntactically equivalent to that of Jesus’ egō eimi claims— clearly denoting His eternal existence (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4, from the Hebrew, ani hu). Further, in Isa. 41:4, YHWH’s claim of being the “I am” is joined with His claim to be “the first, and with the last” (cf. 44:6; 48:12). While in the NT, only Christ claimed to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17, 2:8; 22:13). Hence, when Jesus claimed to be the unpredicated egō eimi, in John 8:58, for example, which was sandwiched between other divine implications and syntactical features,[6] the Jews, against the backdrop of the LXX, clearly recognized the semantic force of what Christ was claiming: “They picked up stones to kill Him” (John 8:59).

This was a legal stoning according to Jewish law (Lev. 24:16). In fact, the Jews understood and responded in the same way (wanting to kill Christ), when Jesus made other unique claims of deity—as in Mark 14:61-64- claim: Son of God and Son of Man, “coming with the clouds of heaven”; John 5:17-18– claim: Son of God, “making Himself equal with God”; John 10:26-33- claim: giving eternal life to the His sheep, being essentially one (hen) with the Father, and being the Son of God.

 Marked Progression. Christ’s claims of being the “I am” were not isolated. In John 8, in which most of Jesus’ “I am” claims were recorded, there are many additional claims of Christ as to His preexistence and deity (cf. 8:12, 19 [esp. the “I am” clams in vv. 24, 28, 58], 40, 51), which led up to His crowning claim of being the absolute, “I am,” that is, I am the Eternal One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim. Thus, contextually, Jesus’ “I am” claims were unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, the YHWH of Deut. 32:39 et al. And the Jews knew this—for they wanted to kill Him for blasphemy (John 8:59)!  

 

Conclusion

The unambiguous claims of Christ to be ontologically equal with God, God in the flesh, and yet distinct from the Father are abounding both in the OT (esp. as the angel of the LORD) and in the NT (e.g., Exod. 3:6, 14; Matt. 12:6; 14:27-33; Mark 6:50; 14:61-64; John 8:24, 58 et al.; 3:13; 5:17-18; 10:26-30; 17:5; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13 et al.)    

However, as pointed out repeatedly, Even if one rejects Jesus’ “I am” claims as claims of deity, the deity of the Son of God are well established in the content of John’s literature (John 1:1, 3, 10, 18; 5:17-18; 8:24, 54 et.; 9:38; 6:20; 10:27-30; 17:5; 20:28; 1 John 1:1-2; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13 et al.).  When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and verse 8, we read that the “fearless” Romans soldiers “fell to the ground.” What would cause Roman soldiers to fall to the ground? So powerful were Jesus’ divine pronouncements that it caused His enemies to shudder to the ground.  

Believing that the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, is truly God and that His cross work is the very ground of justification (apart from works), is essential for salvation.

  

“You will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (John 8:24, ISV).


Notes 

[1] Unpredicted, i.e., no supplied predicate modifying the subject, “I am.”      

[2] However, in Mark 6:50; John 6:20, the Amplified trans. reads: “Take courage! It is I (I AM)! Stop being afraid.”

[3] Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24; 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8.

[4] Hebrew, ehyeh aser ehyeh.  

[5]. In Exod. 3, the angel of the LORD (viz., the preincarnate Son) appeared to Moses and spoke to him from the burning bush (v. 2). He had identified Himself to Moses as YHWH and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vv. 4, 6). In response to Moses’s question regarding His “name” (v. 13), verse 14 of the LXX reads: “And God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the Being’” (γ εμι ν, egō eimi ho ōn). As mentioned, this phrase is not an exact syntactical parallel to Jesus’ unpredicated egō eimi claims (John 8:24, 28, 58 et al.), but the semantic consequence is the same—namely, expressing eternal existence. Also note, the articular participle ho ōn (“the one being, existing”) follows the egō eimi phrase in Exod. 3:14. The present tense participle ōn (from eimi, “I am, exist”)—linguistically denotes, “existing, being, subsisting” (context and grammatical features determine its durational aspect). Thus, with the article, “the One who is always, timelessly existing.” So the egō eimi phrase is intensified by the subsequent articular participle: “I am the One being, timelessly existing.”   

In warranted contexts, the articular participle can denote timeless, eternal existence. It is used of God the Father in Rev. 1:4 and the Son in 1:8 (and Father or Son in 4:8). However, aside from Rev. 1:8, the articular participle is applied specifically to the Son at John 1:18: “… the one and only God who is [ho ōn, lit., ‘the One who is always, timelessly existing’] in the bosom of the Father. . . .”); 3:13 (M, TR); 6:46; and Rom. 9:5. In these passages, the articular participle denotes the Son’s timeless existence. Regarding John 1:18, Robert Reymond remarks, “The present participle ὁ ὢν [ho ōn] . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father’” (Systematic Theology, 1998, 303). So Vincent sees the articular participle in John 1:18 as “a ‘timeless present’ expressing the inherent and eternal relation of the Son to the Father.” The anarthrous participle ōn (“being, subsisting”) can also carry this linguistic force. Robertson observes the participle in Heb. 1:3 [hos ōn, “who is”] as denoting “Absolute and timeless existence (present active participle of eimi) in contrast [as pointed out above] with γενόμενος [genomenos] in verse 4 like ἦν [ēn] in John 1:1 (in contrast with ἐγένετο [egeneto] in 1:14) and like ὑπάρχων [huparchōn] and γενόμενος [genomenos] in Php 2:6f” (Robertson, Word Pictures). Therefore, although the phrase in the LXX of Exod. 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn) is not an exact syntactical equivalent to John 24, 28, 58 et al., it is semantically equivalent YHWH claim of eternal existence. Whereas the exact syntactical parallel (i.e., the unpredicated egō eimi) is found in the LXX of Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4—, which are exclusively applied to YHWH.

[6] To laser light His eternal existence as God, in John 8:58 for example, Jesus asserted a sharp verbal contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning denoted by the aorist verb, genesthai (“was born.” from ginomai, “to come to be”), and His eternal existence denoted by the present indicative verb, eimi (“am,” as in egō eimi, “I am”). Thus, a “came to be” vs. “I am always being” contrast. The same verbal contrast can be seen in the prologue of John, where the imperfect verb ēn (“was,” from eimi) denoting the Word’s unoriginate eternal existence, which is exclusively applied to the Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10. This verb is contrasted with the aorist egeneto (“became”) which is also from ginomai, which refers to all things that came into existence or had a starting point (e.g., the creation, vv. 3, and 10; John the Baptist, in v. 6). It is not until verse 14 that egeneto is applied to the Word (pertaining to His incarnation): Kai ho Logos sarx egeneto, “And the Word became [ginomai] flesh.” The same verbal contrast (Christ as eternal vs. created things) is found in Hebrews  1:3-4, where the present tense participle ōn (“always being”) is set in contrast with the aorist epoiēsen (“He made”) in verse 2 and participle ōn being in contrast with the aorist genomenos (“having become”—referring to the incarnation) in verse 4.

And the same in Philippians 2:6-7 where the present participle huparchōn (“existing/always subsisting”) in verse 6 is set in contrast with the aorist verbs, ekenōsen (“emptied”) labōn (“by taking”), genomenos (“having been made”) and heuretheis (“having been found”) verses 7 and 8. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal preincarnate Son and all things created. See also 2 Corinthians 8:9 where we find a syntactical parallel with Philippians 2:6-7—viz., participle vs. aorist. Participles— ōn, “rich being” (2 Cor. 8:9) – huparchōn, “in the nature of God being (Phil. 2:6). Aorist indicatives— eptōcheusen,He became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9) – ekenōsen,emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7). Hence, Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “that You, through His poverty [i.e., His incarnation], might become rich” (in glory and righteousness). Also, the same linguistic contrast is found in the LXX of Psalm 90:2 (89:2)—namely, the aorist ginomai is set in contrast with present indicative eimi:

Before the mountains existed [or “were born,” genēthēnai, the aorist of ginomai], and [before] the earth and the world were formed [plasthēnai, the aorist infinitive of plassō], even from age to age, You are [ei, the second person present indicative of eimi].     

 

Patristics (early church Fathers) are not a valid hermeneutic to interpret the content of the NT. However, we do know that contained in the vast quantity of pre-Nicaea literature, the early fathers did hold consistently and decisively (within the limitations of their cultural vernacular and doctrinal expressions), the Christological essentials of the apostolic teaching particularly regarding monotheism and Jesus Christ as God incarnate within a trinitarian concept. We also we find significant theological descriptions as to Son’s atoning cross work.  

For example, note a few of many remarkable theological terms and phrases that the apostolic Father, Ignatius bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107) applies to Christ in his “genuine” letters:


Ἀγέννητος
(agennētos, “There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn [ἀγέννητος], God in man, true life,” Ephesians 7:2). Ἀγέννητος was technical term meaning unbegotten, unborn, unoriginated (Kelly, BDAG, Liddell et al.) distinguishing God (here, the incarnate God) from creatures.    


Ὁ γὰρ
θεὸς ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός (Ho gar theos hēmōn Iēsous Christos, “For our God, Jesus Christ,” Romans 3.3). Ignatius frequently referred to Christ as θεὸς (theos, “the/our God”) or similar phrases, and does so in distinction to the Father (e.g., Rom. prologue; Eph. 18; Polycarp 8.3 et al.). Further, contra the erroneous claims of Oneness advocates, there is no place in the Greek of Ignatius’s genuine letters where grammatically he says Jesus is the Father; rather Ignatius always differentiates Jesus from the Father—as two distinct divine persons.


Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὃς πρὸ αἰώνων παρὰ πατρὶ ἦν
(Iēsou Christou, hos pro aiōnōn para patri ēn, “Jesus Christ, who before the ages was with the Father,” Magnesians 6.1). In affirming the preexistence of the person of the Son, in distinction to the Father, note the syntactical similarity of Magnesians 6:1 and John 17:5.

First both John and Ignatius use the prepositional phrase, παρὰ (para, “with, alongside of”) + the dative case indicating a clear distinction of persons (John 17:5- παρὰ σεαυτῷ, παρὰ σοί, “together with Yourself,” “with You”; Magnesians 6:1- παρὰ πατρὶ, “with [the] Father”).

Second, both passages use the preposition πρὸ (“before”) indicting the actual preexistence of the person of the Son (John 17:5- πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἴναι, “before the world was”; Magnesians 6:1- πρὸ αἰώνων, “before [the] ages”).         


ἐν αἵματι θεοῦ
(en haimati theou, “by the blood of God”; “being imitators of God, and having your hearts kindled in the blood of God, you have perfectly fulfilled your congenial work,” Ephesians 1.1). This most interesting phrase resembles Paul’s statement in Acts 20:28: “the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.”  

Although the phrase in Acts 20:28 (διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, lit., “with the blood of His own”) could be translated as “with the blood of His own Son” (possessive genitive, NET, CEV), Ignatius’s meaning is unambiguous (pre-Nestorian). In his Intro to the same letter (Ephesians), he refers to Jesus Christ as τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν (“our God”). Thus, for Ignatius, the “by the blood of God” would be the blood of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ.            

Many more statements of Ignatius could be cited. Although Ignatius, along with other important apostolic Fathers (and subsequent ones), lacked modern articulation of doctrinal words and phrases, Ignatius did indeed clearly hold to an essential Christology, where salvation is through the blood of incarnate God the Son, preexisting before the ages, παρὰ πατρὶ (“with the Father”).        

Aside from the Christological affirmation in v. 6 (“who always subsisting/existing in form/nature of God”), one of my favorite sections of the Hymn is found in vv. 7-8: “But He EMPTIED Himself [reflexive – a self-emptying], TAKING [the means of His self-emptying] the form/nature of a bond-servant BEING MADE in the likeness of men. 8 BEING FOUND in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED Himself [reflexive – a self-humbling] by BECOMING obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”   

Paul in vv. 10-11, concludes his hymn by showing that Jesus is indeed the YHWH and prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23—before whom every knee shall bend and every tongue confess.                   

In Paul’s hymn, he provides an illustration of the ultimate example of humility (viz., God becoming flesh), the entire gospel is presented in this brief hymn (the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son in distinction from the Father, His incarnational emptying and perfect obedience, atoning cross work, and exaltation).

Thus, this is a good diagram of content for Christians (esp. evangelists) in their proclamation of the gospel.  

Hebrews 1:6 (last clause):

 

  • NASB: “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

 

  • New World Translation[1] (NWT): “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

 

  • Greek NT (all eds.): Kai proskunēsatwsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (lit., “And worship Him all [the] angels of God”).

 

  • LXX[2] (Deut. 32:43, the author’s OT source [also cf. Ps. 96:7]): Kai proskunēsatōsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (Brenton’s ed., same rendering as Greek NT).

 

Last week, in our weekly First Love Radio Show, Pastor James Tippins (Grace Truth Church, Claxton, GA) and I had a fantastic discussion regarding some of the specific places in which “worship” (proskuneō and latreuō)[3] was applied to the person of the Son in a “religious” context[4] (esp. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 3:38; Heb. 1:6 and Rev. 5:13-14).

 

Hebrews 1:6 – a few noteworthy points:

 

  1. The Father’s command to all the angels to worship the Son was in the aorist imperative (proskunēsatōsan). Linguistically, this was the strongest and most “urgent” way to issue a command in biblical Greek—appearing in both the Greek NT (all eds.) and in the LXX (see above).

 

  1. The NWT. As most of us know, that the JWs’ unique and distorted translation, the NWT, replaced the word “worship” (as in virtually all recognized Bible translations) with “obeisance” (honor, respect, etc.).

 

  1. Lexically. The verb proskuneō is from pros (“toward”) and kuneō (lit., “to kiss”). Thus, “prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet. . . . to express … submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance … do reverence to, welcome respectfully” (BDAG).

 

  1. Context. The verb could mean either religious “worship” (reserved for God alone, cf. John 4:24) or “obeisance” with no connotation of religious worship at all. But as we know: Context always governs!—thus it determines the verb’s meaning.

    The defining and surrounding context of Hebrews 1:6 is clearly in the heavenlies (it does not get more “religious” and holier than that!) and the affirmation of the eternal Son. Moreover, in the prologue of Hebrews (viz. chap. 1), the author presents a vivid contrast between all things created (angels, heavens, and the earth) and the eternal Son, Creator of all things (vv. 2, 3, 10-12[5]). It is this defining context, therefore, that indicates the meaning of proskuneō in verse 6—namely, divine religious “worship.”        

 

The JWs argue in a theological circle, which starts with unitarianism and ends with a denial of the deity of Christ. Hence, the NWT arbitrarily removes “worship” at the places applied to Christ (e.g., Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:8-9; John 9:38; and of course, Heb. 1:6). Interestingly, from 1950 to 1970, in Hebrews 1:6, the NWT read, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” Consequently, for over twenty years, the JWs actually taught that “all the angels” worshiped Jesus (who they identify as Michael, the “created” archangel)—a frustrating fact they cannot deny. It was not until the 1971 ed. that “worship” was finally removed being replaced with “obeisance” in Hebrews 1:6.

 

Furthermore, from 1898 to 1964, the Watchtower (the JWs leadership), has taught that “worship” is properly given to Jesus—it’s a matter of (accessible) record. Note these examples: 

 

 “Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father and his agent in the creation of all things, including man” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898, July 15, p. 216).

 

“Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father, Jehovah….”  (Watchtower, 1939, Nov 15, p. 339).

“[W]hosoever should worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus….” (Watchtower, 1945, p. 313).

 

In the 1945 Yearbook, it clearly defines the purpose of the Watchtower Society (in part):

“The purposes of this Society are…. to go forth to all the world publicly and from house to house to preach and teach Bible truths. … and send out to various parts of the world Christian missionaries, teachers and instructors in the Bible and Bible literature and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus.”

 

In 1964, they finally changed their view and taught that worshiping Christ was idolatrous: “It is unscriptural … to render worship to the Son of God” (Watchtower, 1964 Nov 1, p. 671). The inconsistencies of the Watchtower are and have been astounding! 

 

Jesus Worshiped as God

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[6] on several occasions. These are some of the clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels:

 DANIEL 7:14: “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might SERVE Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.” The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God.

The same term (pelach) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.” Further, the LXX translate pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; see also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14). Even though some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), but in a religious context (which vv. 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).[7]

 

MATTHEW 14:33: “And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][8] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is remarkable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His repeated “I am” claims and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000. In verse 26, we read that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition”). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (v. 27).

 

Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid? In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. However, we read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.”

The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming He was God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-63; John 5:17-18; 10:30-36; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:1, 3); the author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and the OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al). 

 

JOHN 9:35-38: “[Jesus] said [to the blind man that He healed], “’Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’ 38 And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.” As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and “Lord”—thus, a religious context (cf. Dan. 7:9-14).

 

REVELATION 5:13-14: “And every created thing … I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].” Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:6 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; Heb. 1:3).

 

In spite of the NWT’s devaluation of the Son, the denial of His cross work and a denial of the triune nature of the only true God, both the OT and NT affirm that Jesus Christ was properly worshiped as God. The Son is “the great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); “the only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4); the Theos-Christos (“God-Christ”) who saved a people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 1:5) whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification.

 

Let us, along with all the angels, worship Jesus Christ, “the Lord of glory,” unceasingly.


NOTES

[1] The NWT is the Bible translation of the JWs—published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (i.e., the corporate name for the JWs).

[2] LXX is the abbreviation of the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek OT).

[3] These terms are the primary terms denoting worship or reverence, honor depending on the context (e.g., John 4:24; Rom. 12:1). 

 [4] A religious context is any such context where spirituality, holiness, and/or divinity exists.  

[5] Verses 10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX). Thus, the Father directly addresses the Son (cf. v. 8) as the Yahweh (LORD) of that Psalm—the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

[6]  See note 4 above. 

[7] Many modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage. However, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Furthermore, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7:9ff. with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

[8] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as with Matt. 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. In Hebrews 1:6, the setting is in the heavenlies—hence, the Father commands “all the angels” to give religious worship to the divine Son.

 

HEBREWS 2:9: “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (huper pantos geusētai thanatou, lit., “on behalf of all, might taste death”).

As with other biblical adjectives and nouns, which left hanging, could denote universality (viz. “all/every,” “whole,” “world,” etc.), the latter phrase “He might taste death for everyone” is also naturally pretexted as a “proof text” by those who hold to a universal propitiation/atonement.

But does not this text read plainly: “He might taste death for everyone”? Yes, it does. However, the extent of huper pantos (“on behalf of all, everyone”), for which Christ tasted death, is indicted by the defining context. Hence, the “everyone” according to the author are  

*All those who are “sons to glory” (v. 10).

*All those “who are sanctified . . . from one Father” (v. 11; cf. John 6:37).

*All those who the “children whom God has given” to the Son” (v. 13; cf. John 6:37, 39)

*All those whom Christ set “free . . . who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (v. 15).

*All those who are descendants of Abraham (v. 16), and

*On behalf of all those for whom the Son made propitiation (v. 17).

So, Yes, Christ “tasted death for everyone” inclusively, that is, He made propitiation on behalf of “all” the ones the Father gave to Him, who the author of Hebrews calls, “sons to glory.”