“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB).

 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement.  However, I will say at the onset, one cannot set passages against other passages. For definitive atonement is taught clearly throughout Scripture (e.g., Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; John 1:13; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9; 11:5; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al.). In opposition to the Arminian understanding of this passage, in brief,            

 

  1. The context of chapter 3 is the second coming of Christ, not This point is very important as to a correct interpretation of v. 9.

 

  1. In vv. 1-2, Peter addresses his specific audience to whom he is writing (, the elect, cf. vv. 1:1ff.): “beloved, the second letter I am writing to YOU [ὑμῖν, SECOND person plural pronoun]. . . . 2 that YOU should remember the words spoken beforehand. . . .”

 

  1. However, in vv. 3ff., Peter uses THIRD person plural pronouns and verbal references to refer to a different group —namely, the “scoffing mockers”: “Mockers will come [ἐλεύσονται] with THEIR mocking following after THEIR [αὐτῶν] own lusts” (v. 3), “it escapes THEIR [αὐτοὺς] notice” (v. 5).  

 

  1. Then in v. 8, Peter refers back to his own reading audience (the elect) using second person plural references: “But do not let this onefact escape YOUR [ὑμᾶς] notice, beloved,”—contra the third person reference group—“them,” the unsaved scoffers.  

 

Therefore, in light of Peter’s own defining context (second coming of Christ) and the clear differentiation he makes between the two groups (scoffers and the elect), we now can simply and appropriately interpret v. 9:

 

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as SOME [third person plural—the scoffers] count slowness, but is patient toward YOU [ὑμᾶς—second person plural—his audience, the elect], not wishing [βούλομαι, lit., “purposing, intending”] for ANY to perish [“any” of “YOU”], but for ALL [i.e., All of “YOU”] to come to repentance.” Hence, God does not purpose or intend any of His elect to perish, but all come to repentance and life in His Son: “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me. . . . 39 [and I will] raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37, 39).    

 

One more note, there is a variant of the pronoun in v. 9 in which the TR contains—ἡμᾶς (“us”), “but is longsuffering to us-ward. . . .” (KJV). However, both variants (“you” or “us”) affirm the same thing.   

 

John 3:16

Universal Invitation or Promise to the Elect?

 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Problem: Although John 3:16 is arguably one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible, it is one of the most misapplied and misinterpreted passages in the NT. Basically, the problem is two-fold: 1- Coming to the text with the presupposition of universal atonement (i.e., Jesus’ atoning cross work was for every single person, but for no one in particular). Thus, many “traditionally” quote the KJV mistranslation of the Greek adjective pas (“all/every,” which the KJV renders as “whosoever”). 2- Along with pas, a universal meaning is also imposed on the term kosmos (“world”).

 

The following are some main features of John 3:16 and the surrounding context, which are key in attaining a correct understanding of the passage.     

 

  • Greek rendering. Houtōs gar ēgapēsen ho theos ton kosmon hōste ton huion ton monogenē edōken, hina pas ho pisteuōn eis auton mē apolētai all’ echē zōēn aiōnion – literal rendering: “To this extent, indeed, loved the God the world, that the Son, the one and only, He gave, in order that every one believing in Him not should perish, but shall have life eternal.”

 

  • The context actually starts in vv. 14-15 dealing with the snake in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:6-9) with which Nicodemus would have been familiar. The particularities of the event are contextually interrelated with John 3:15-16. Note a few contextual facts: I, the bronze serpent was the only means of healing/deliverance for “only” God’s people (the Israelites), which relates to trusting in the Son as the only means of salvation, II, verses 14-15 read, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” Verse 15 contains the Greek conjunction hina (“that”) signifying a purpose and result clause. Thus, the purpose of the Son’s cross work (being “lifted up”) was for the result of every one believing in Him will have eternal life.

 

  • The affirmation of God’s redemptive love to everyone believing. The extent of God’s love is shown by His sending His Son into the world, to the ones believing, and give them eternal life.

 

  • Houtōs. Although most translations translate the Greek adverb as “so,” a literal and more accurate translation would be, “in this way, in this manner, in such a condition, to this extent”—to express the actual result. Hence, the love of God is demonstrated in the giving of His Son in order to bring about the eternal life of believers.

 

  • Kosmos (“world”). Due to the presupposition of autosoterism (self-salvation), chiefly promoted by Arminians, kosmos is presumed to mean every single person, thus embracing the “traditional” (not exegetical) view of a universal atonement.However, many who misinterpret kosmos are unaware that in the NT, kosmos has over a half of dozen clearly defined meanings. It can denote every single person (cf. Rom. 3:19); non-believers (cf. John 1:10; 15:18); believers (cf. John 1:29; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9); Gentiles, in contrast from Jews (cf. Rom. 11:12); the world system (cf. John 12:31); the earth (cf. John 13:1; Eph. 1:4); the universe as a whole (cf. Acts 17:24); the known world (i.e., not everyone inclusively [cf. John 12:9; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:5-6])—the point is this: only context determines the meaning of kosmos.

    Although kosmos can have various meanings, rarely does it carry an all-inclusive “every single person” meaning. For example, we know that the “world” in verse 16 is not the same “world” that Jesus does not pray for in John 17:9; nor is it the “world” that John speaks of in 1 John 2:15, which we are not to love. In first century vernacular, the normal meaning of “world” was the “world” of Jews and Gentiles—as John’s audience would have understood (cf. John 12:17, 19). Contextually, then, in verses 16 and 17, kosmos (and the adjective pas, “all/every” as discussed below) is clearly comprised of all or every one believing, both Jews and Gentiles (same as John 1:29; 12:47; etc.).

 

Again, the Arminian universal understanding of “world” and “all” in verse 16 would make verse 17 endorse universalism (i.e., all of humanity [world] will be saved). It is true that God intends to save the “world” through His Son, but it is the “world” of the believing ones that He saves—namely, “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks” (1 Cor. 1:24; cf. Eph. 1:4-5); men “from every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9); “all that the Father gives” to the Son (John 6:37-40, 44); it is the world for whom the Son dies and “gives life” (John 6:33) and “takes away” their sin (John 1:29)—as the surrounding context (vv. 14-15 and vv. 17-19) indicates. It would be biblically untrue to read into kosmos a universal (all of humanity) meaning.

 

  • Pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing”). As mentioned, many use the mistranslation of the KJV (“whosoever”) to assert the view of a universal non-definite atonement. However, the phrase in Greek teaches no such thing. Rather, it is a promise of eternal life to all the ones doing the action of the present active participle, pisteuōn, “believing”—“Everyone now believing” has eternal life.

 

  • The Greek adjective pas (as in pas ho pisteuōn) means “all/every.” First, there is no idea here that indicates a universal undefined invitation to salvation, as many assume. Second, it is incorrect to translate pas as equaling “whosoever”— as in “whosoever will believe,” rather than what is stated in the original: “all, everyone who/whoever is now believing.” In fact, most modern translations accurately render the phrase pas ho pisteuōn as “whoever believes” (NKJV, NASB, NIV); “everyone who believes” (NLT, Holman, NET); or, and most literal, “every one who is believing” (Young’s lit.).

 

  • Pisteuōn (lit., “believing”). The verb here is a present active participle—denoting a present ongoing action—“believing.” In John’s literature, present active participles (on-going actions) are normally used in soteriological (salvation) contexts to denote the life of a true Christian (e.g., John 5:24; 6:35, 47, 54; 1 John 5:1, 5). Grammatically, the adjective pas (“all/every”) modifies the participial phrase ho pisteuōn (“the one believing”). As noted, both verses 15 and 16 contain the same participial phrase: pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing” or “all the believing ones”).

 

Verse 17- Hina- (“that”). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” If one were to stay consistent in maintaining the notion that “world” in verse 16 refers to a universal “all” without exception, then he would have to accept a notion of universal salvation in verse 17.

 

Syntactically, the sentence starts with the postpositive conjunction (gar, “for”- “For God so loved the world”), which carries an explicative force to the continuation in the previous verse (hina, “so that”). The postpositive carries the meaning of “truly therefore, the fact is, indeed.” It is a “particle of affirmation and conclusion” (Thayer). Next, notice the adversative conjunction (alla, “but”) and a purpose and result conjunction (hina, “that”). The adversative conjunction demonstrates a contrast (“but, rather”) or an opposing idea. The postpositive clearly conjoins the contextual meaning of “world” in verses 16 and 17—it cannot be semantically divided.

In fact, the postpositive (“for”), the adversative conjunction (“but”), and the purpose and result conjunction (hina, “that”- lit., “in order that”) appear in verse 16.[1] Hence, the literal rendering would be, “Therefore, the fact is, God did not send the Son into the world for the purpose of judgment (condemnation), rather, for the result of saving the world.”  

 

In 1 John 4:7-10, John himself provides an excellent commentary of John 3:16:

 Both (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7-10) speak of God’s love, the sending of His Son, and how the sending of His Son is a manifestation of God’s love, specifically in verse 9:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us.”

 

  • John 3:16: “He gave His only begotten Son.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.”

 

  • John 3:16: “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10: “so that we might live through Him. . . . but that He loved us and sent His Son to bethe propitiation for our sins.”

As mentioned, the term “world” in 3:16 (meaning the world of Jews and Gentiles) is not a universal statement. 1 John 4:9 clearly affirms this meaning: “The love of God was manifested in us.” The “us” to John is identified in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another” – (Christians, both Jews and Gentiles).

 Summary:  

  1. The meaning of kosmos (“world”) in verses 16 and 17 is defined by the context: “all the ones” doing the action of the verb (“believing”)—i.e., both Jews and Gentiles. To suggest that “world” in verse 16 carries the meaning of “every single person,” would necessarily imply universalism or inclusivism in verse 17.  

 

  1. The KJV rendering, “whosoever” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek phrase, pas ho pisteuōn (lit., every one believing”).

 

  1. The adjective pas (“all/every”) grammatically modifies the verb (“believing”), all, without limit, the ones believing. Thus, in biblical contrast to the Arminian traditional understanding of verse 16 (viz. a universal atonement), verses 15-17 is God’s infallible promise, through the cross work of His Son—to provide eternal life to all the ones believing in Him. To them alone, He manifests His love by saving them.

 

  1. The Arminian interpretation of John 3:16 is generally based on a traditional understanding and not an exegetical one.Notes 

[1] “For [gar] God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that [hina] whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but [alla] have eternal life.”

 

 

THE PREEXISTENCE OF THE SON


But of the Son He says. . . . “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .” (Heb. 1:8, 10)[1]

The preexistence and deity of the distinct person of the Son, Jesus Christ, has been a main theme in Christian education as well as the basis of many hymns of the Christian faith. The preexistence of the Son has been a laser light in early Christian Councils and resulting creedal documents. That Christ preexisted with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the very foundation of historic biblical Christianity. Christ Jesus clearly affirmed the magnificent truth of both His deity and preexistence many times in His earthly life (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 12:6, 18; Mark 14:61-62; John 2:19; 3:13; 5:17-18; 6:35-40 [esp. v. 38]; 8:24, 58 et al; 10:28-30; 16:28; Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13). In addition, according to various passages in the NT, the preincarnate Christ is identified as the YHWH of the OT in many places.[2]

In point of verifiable fact, the NT evidence of the preexistence of the Son is massive and unambiguous. We will examine some of the more significant passages that clearly and exegetically affirm this:  

 

  • John 1:1
  • John 1:18 and the significance of the articular participle ὁ ὢν.
  • The “sent from heaven” passages
  • The eternal ἐγώ εἰμι (“I am”) claims of the Son
  • John 17:5
  • The Carmen Christi (Phil. 2:6-11)
  • The Son as the agent of creation, the Creator Himself (esp. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; and Heb. 1:10-12)

 

 Unitarian Assumption: Being vs. Person

 When discussing the Trinity and/or the deity of the Son with “unitarian”[3] groups, we must be aware of their starting theological commitment—namely, God is one person. In other words, every time “one” is applied to God, the unitarians read into the term “one” as person (e.g., Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5; etc.). Hence, by default, the unitarian reinterprets monotheism to mean unipersonalism, although, there is no passage in the OT or NT, which clearly identifies God as “one person.”[4] It is upon that fundamental premise, which unitarian groups such as Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals launch their attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ, thus, rejecting any notion that “another” person (Jesus) is God.

This biblical misunderstanding of monotheism also confuses “being” with “person.” Simply stated, “being” (an ontological reference) is What something is, while “person” is Who something is. Scripture presents one eternal God, that is, one Being, revealed in three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, because the Scripture presents a triune God, the Christian church has consistently and tenaciously held to and affirmed the Trinity and preexistence of the person of God the Son.

 

 Biblical Data of the Preexistence of the Person of the Divine Son:  

 

JOHN 1:1

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[5]

 

From a theological and grammatical standpoint, the three clauses of John 1:1 powerfully and effectively refute the theology of every non-Christian group that denies the full deity of Jesus Christ and His distinction from God the Father. Consider the three clauses of John 1:1:

  

John 1:1a: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (lit., “In [the] beginning was the Word”).

 In the first clause, we find the affirmation of eternality of the person of the Word (Christ). First, unlike the Stoic view that the impersonal Logos/Word was merely the rational principle of the universe, in the prologue (vv. 1-18), John presents the preexistent Word as possessing personal attributes. Thus, the content of the prologue radically and clearly militates also against the Oneness impersonal abstract thought or concept view of the Word. Thayer says of the Logos of 1:1, “oJ λόγος denotes the essential Word of God, i.e. the personal (hypostatic) wisdom and power in union with God. . . .”[6] “The Logos is not,” says Lenski, “an attribute inhering in God . . . but a person in the presence of God. . . .”[7]

Simply, the first verb ἦν (“was”) here is the imperfect indicative of εἰμι (“I am, exist”). The force of the imperfect tense indicates a continuous action (or repeated action) normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word did not originate at a point in time, but rather in the beginning of time, the Word ἦν already existed. Thus, linguistically, the Word was existing (“ἦν the Word”) prior to the time of the ἀρχῇ—before “the beginning.” Also, note the verbal contrast between ἦν and the aorist ἐγένετο[8] (“came into being,” cf. v. 3). The aorist indicative normally indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past.[9] In the Prologue of John, ἦν is exclusively applied to the eternal Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10, while in verses 3, 6, and 10, the aorist ἐγένετο is applied to everything created. Not until verse 14 does ἐγένετο refer to the Son denoting His new added nature—“the Word became flesh.”[10]

John 1:1b: καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν (lit., “and the Word was with the God”). The second clause of John 1:1 teaches the absolute personal distinction between the eternal Word and τὸν θεόν (i.e., the Father).[11] John envisages a marked distinction between two persons.[12] Of all the prepositions that John could have utilized, which can mean “with” (e.g., ἐν, μετά, παρὰ, σύν), he chose πρὸς (lit., “facing”/“toward,” with the accusative, θεόν as the object of the preposition). Hence, πρὸς with the accusative clearly indicates that the Word was “at, with, in the presence of . . . God.”[13] Robertson explains the significance of the preposition in John 1:1b:

With God (πρὸς τὸν θεόν). Though existing eternally with God, the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Πρὸς with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1 John 2:1 we have a like use of πρὸς. . . .[14].Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. BDAG specifically points out that πρὸς at John 1:1b indicates the meaning of “by, at, near; πρὸς τίνα εἶναι: be (in company) with someone.”[15] Thus, the distinct person of the Word was always in intimate loving fellowship with the Father, before time.      

 

John 1:1c: καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (lit., “and God was the Word”). The third clause of John 1:1 teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. Here we read one of the clearest and unequivocal affirmations of the deity of the person of the Word in the NT. John accentuates his high Christology by first showing that the person of the Word (the Son) was eternal, that is, preexisting (1:1a) and that the eternal Word was distinct from Father (1:1b). Then, John presents the very marrow of the gospel: “The Word was God” and “the Word became flesh (v. 14).  

That the Word was fully God and distinct from the Father (τὸν θεόν) is clearly accentuated by the context and grammar. In the inspired syntax of the clause, John uses the “emphatic” conjunction (i.e., “especially, in fact”) followed by the anarthrous[16] θεὸς (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος). Grammatically, the anarthrous[17] θεὸς is a preverbal predicate nominative. The PN describes the class or category to which the subject (λόγος) belongs.[18] Hence, the anarthrous preverbal PN θεὸς points to the “quality” (essence) of the Word, not the identity (person). In view of John’s theology, along with the grammar and context, the highest semantical possibility for θεὸς in 1:1c is qualitative.[19] 

If John would have written θεὸς as articular in 1:1c (ὁ θεὸς), then, John would have been saying that the λόγος is the same person as in 1:1b, τὸν θεόν (viz. God the Father)—but he did not. Even more mismatched is an indefinite rendering of θεὸς (“a god”) in 1:1c, as we find in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NWT (“and the Word was a god”). Of course, this idea of the Word being a created indefinite god (“a god”) clearly clashes with John’s own view of the Word within the content of his literature. In the prologue, the Word is presented as eternal (1:1a), the Creator of all things (v. 3), Life (v. 4), the “one and only/unique God” who is always [ὁ ὢν][20] at the Father’s bosom (v. 18). Hence, an indefinite rendering (“a god”) although grammatically possible, would be theologically impossible in light of John’s own monotheistic theology. John 1:1 expresses the marvelous truth of the preexistent person of the Word—who was God and existing with God. He is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20), the Creator of all things who became flesh in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “In three crisp sentences,” says Warfield,  

he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God. . . . In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is “with,” He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God . . . John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self (emphasis added).[21]  

 

John’s own commentary of John 1:1 in 1 John 1:1-2:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

Note the remarkable similarities with John 1:1, both attesting to the deity, preexistence, and unipersonality (a distinct person) of the Word: 

  

John 1:1: “In the beginning [ἀρχῇ] was the Word [ἦν ὁ λόγος], and the Word was with God [ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν].”

1 John 1:1-2: “What was [ἦν] from the beginning [ἀρχῆς] . . . concerning the Word [περὶ τοῦ λόγου] of Life. . . . which was with the Father [ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα].”      

 

Both John’s gospel and epistle use the same and highly significant Greek nouns, prepositions, and verbs to denote “the Word” and His relationship with the Father. Both use ἀρχῇ and the imperfect verb ἦν indicating the preexistence of the person of the Word. And both use πρὸς indicating the eternal Word’s intimate relationship with (distinct from) God the Father. Further, the prepositional phrase in 1 John 1:2 (the Word was πρὸς τὸν πατέρα) identifies “God” in John 1:1b as the Father, who was with the Word: “and the Word was with God”—that is, the Word was with the Father, not was the Father.[22] Also note that in both John’s Gospel and epistle, the Word is referred to as “Life,” which is a distinguishing epithet used of the Son throughout John’s literature (cf. John 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 5:12) and “nowhere else used of the Father.”[23]

 

JOHN 1:18

 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”[24]

 

The passage is the ending bookend of John’s prologue: “The Word was God” – the “one and only God who is [always] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John makes the assertion that God the Father is invisible and the “the only God,”[25] and John presents the Son as distinct from the Father in intimate fellowship being continuously at the Father’s bosom. John also points out that it is the “unique”[26] God the Son, the eternal Word made flesh who “explains”[27] the Father.

 

ὁ ὢν

As it relates to John’s recurring presentation of the preexistence (and deity) of the person of the Son (cf. 1:1a, 3, 10), the apostle now affirms the Son’s timeless existence in the bosom of the Father. In the phrase μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς (“only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father”), the articular participle, ὁ ὢν (“who is”) is used to affirm the very same thing as in John 1:1b—namely, the person of the Son preexisted with the Father. Just as the present active participle ὑπάρχων in Philippians 2:6 communicates the perpetual existence of the divine Son (as discussed below), more than a few passages, where the context is warranted, contain the present active participle ὢν (from εἰμί), which also linguistically denotes the Son’s eternal existence.[28] In explicit reference to the Son’s eternality, the present active participle is used both articularly (ὁ ὢν) and anarthrously (ὢν). Two such examples of the articular form of the participle are in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5 both pointing to the Son’s eternality.  

  • John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ὁ ὢν, e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

 

  • Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ὁ ὢν, e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

 

Note that within the defining context of both passages, both authors refer to the Son as θεὸς, which further supports the affirmation of the Son’s deity and His preexistence. Systematic theologian, Robert Reymond remarks on the significance of the articular participle in John 1:18: “The present participle ὁ ὢν . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father.’”[29] In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the articular present participle ὁ ὢν to denote YHWH’s eternal existence: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Also note, the ἐγώ εἰμι phrase precedes the participial phrase here (cf. also John 8:58 et al.).

We moreover find the use of the anarthrous present active participle ὢν, in contexts where the deity of the Son is clearly in view. In Hebrews 1:3,[30] the present active participle (i.e., ὃς ὢν) “marks the Son’s continuous action of being, which denotes total and full deity.”[31].It “refers to the absolute and timeless existence.”[32] Furthermore, the present participle ὢν (εἰμί) in Hebrews 1:3 is set in contrast with the aorist participle γενόμενος (“having become” from γίνομαι) in verse 4.

This same verbal contrast (present/continuous past vs. a punctiliar action) is also seen, as mentioned above, in the prologue of John where the imperfect indicative ἦν (εἰμί) is set in contrast with aorist indicative ἐγένετο; as in John 8:58, where the present indicative εἰμί is set in contrast with the aorist infinitive γενέσθαι; and, as in Philippians 2:6-8, where the present participle ὑπάρχων in verse 6 is set in contrast with the following aorist verbs in verses 7 and 8—ἐκένωσεν, λαβών, γενόμενος, and εὑρεθεὶς. In each case, we find a vivid linguistic contrast between the preexistent Son and all things that came to be. Lastly, in Revelation 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5, the articular participle ὁ ὢν is used to denote the “timeless existence” of God. In 1:8, articular participle applied to the “Lord God” is especially amplified by the title, “Alpha and Omega”: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is [ὁ ὢν] and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” As to the speaker in verse 8, some have pointed to the Father (cf. v. 4). However, identifying the Son as the speaker is more compelling and more contextually apparent (esp. in light of vv. 7 and 22:13). Adding to that is the fact that the articular participle ὁ ὢν is applied specifically to the Son at John 1:18 and Romans 9:5 (and the anarthrous participle at Heb. 1:3).

Therefore, John 1:18 is an excellent example of the preexistence of the person of Christ. As the theological bookend of the prologue, John ends as he began—with the affirmation of the Son’s deity. Both passages present the person of the Word, the Son of God, as θεὸς; a distinct person from the Father (πρὸς τὸν θεόν – ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς); and His preexistence. The articular participle ὁ ὢν in John 1:18 (as well ὑπάρχων in Phil. 2:6) carries the same linguistic idea as that of the imperfect ἦν in John 1:1a—namely, the Son’s preexistence.    

   

The Divine Son “Sent From Heaven”

 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28).

 

In the NT, there are countless examples of the person of the Son as being “sent” from heaven. In fact, at least forty times in the Gospel of John we find references of the Son who was sent by the Father (cf. John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51, 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28). The many passages that present the sending of the preincarnate person of the Son are written plainly and in normal language. Further, in John chapter 6 alone, nine times Jesus specifically refers to Himself as coming down “out/from the heaven”: ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“out of, from the heaven”; vv. 32 [twice], 33, 41, 42, 50, 51); ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“from, out of the heaven,” v. 38); and ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (“from heaven,” v. 58). These passages naturally affirm that the preincarnate Son came out from heaven down to earth.

John 6:38 is most remarkable in its claim. Jesus said that that He came down out of heaven not to do His own will, but the will of the One having sent Him. The text reads: ὅτι καταβέβηκα ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με· (lit., “For I have come down from out of the heaven not in order that I should do the will of Me, but the will of the One having sent Me.” Note that grammatically an aorist participle is usually antecedent to the main verb.[33] Here the main verb is the perfect indicative καταβέβηκα (“I have come down”) and πέμψαντός (“having sent”) is an aorist participle. Consequently, the Father’s action of sending His Son, signified by the aorist participle, occurred before the Son’s incarnation—thus, before the action of coming down from heaven to earth.[34]     

Even more, this shows clearly that even before the incarnation, the person of Christ, God the Son, possessed His own will distinct from the Father’s will, yet in perfect harmony—destroying the Oneness Pentecostal position of a unipersonal God.[35] In others words, before coming down from heaven and becoming flesh, this text reveals that the person of the Father and the person of the Son each possessed His “own” will: ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν (“to do the will of Me”) – τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με (“the will of the One having sent Me”). We see the same in Philippians 2:6 where the preexistent   Son performed the action of the verb ἡγήσατο (“consider, suppose”) before the action of His self-emptying (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν), that is, His incarnation. Hence, in John 6:38 (and Phil. 2:6-8), the preexistence of the Son and Triune nature of God is clearly being expressed.

 

The Son’s claim to be the Eternal ἐγώ εἰμι

 

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24)

There are several places in the OT where the LXX records YHWH as referring to Himself as ἐγώ εἰμι (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 48:12, etc.).[36] At these places, the LXX translates the Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I am He”), as the unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am.” This was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH, which the Jews clearly understood. Plainly, the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι was a recurring linguistic epithet of YHWH denoting His eternal existence. So, when Christ makes this unmistakable claim of Himself, we find the response of the Jews was most appropriate according to their theological understanding of the title and their denial of Christ as God.               

The ἐγώ εἰμι (“I am”) declarations of Jesus mainly appear in the Gospel of John (viz. John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8). However, other gospels recorded them (e.g., Mark 6:50). It should also be considered that Jesus’ claims to be the ἐγώ εἰμι was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but there is marked progression starting in 8:24 and climaxing in 18:8. Keep in mind, the full deity (and full humanity) of Jesus Christ, Son of God, was a main theme in John’s literature (cf. John 1:1, 18; 5:17-18; the “I am” clauses; 10:30; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13; etc.). However, I will say at the outset that the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son does not rest merely on Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι affirmations nor on any other single passage. Rather, the entire content of biblical revelation in both the OT and NT unambiguously presents Christ as Lord and eternal God.

Regarding the several occurrences of Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι claims, most translations see John 8:58 as an absolute unpredicated claim.[37] However, most add the pronoun “He/he” (e.g., NKJV, NASB, NIV et al.) after the “I am” clause at John 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and verse 8 (and Mark 6:50) in spite of the fact that the pronoun is not contained after ἐγώ εἰμι in any Greek manuscript. These instances of ἐγώ εἰμι lack a clear supplied predicate. Hence, the ἐγώ εἰμι phrases such as, for instance, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” “I am the gate,” etc. all have clear predicates following ἐγώ εἰμι. Whereas, as exampled above, the specific ἐγώ εἰμι claims of the Son (and of YHWH in the LXX) have a definitive context[38] justifying an unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι—namely, an unmistakable claim of deity (again, as the Jews clearly perceived, cf. John 8:59).

As acknowledged by the mass of scholarship, the particular ἐγώ εἰμι statements of YHWH in the LXX[39] and Jesus in the NT are crystal clear affirmations of deity and thus, eternality. For example, along with John 8:58, R. E. Brown sees 8:24 and verse 28 as non-predicated, that is, absolute.[40] Anderson observes that John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 and 18:5, 6, 8 occur “in the absolute having no predicate.”[41] See also Robertson[42]; Jamieson-Fausset-Brown[43] Daniel Wallace[44]; Philip Harner[45] et al. all who attest to the unpredicated absolute ἐγώ εἰμι claim of Christ.[46]

              

 JOHN 17:5

 

“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”[47]

 

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father, He commands[48] or requests the Father to glorify Himself together with the Father with the glory that He had or shared (ᾗ εἶχον) with (παρὰ) the Father before the world was (πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι). According to the Son’s own words, He preexisted with the Father before time. The exegetical significance is undeniable:

 

  1. The glory was shared, between the Father and the person of the Son. It is the divine glory that YHWH does “not share” with anyone else (cf. Isa. 42:8). Notice that the glorification applies to both the Father and the Son here, which they shared before the creation. It is not glory apart from the Father; rather the Son possesses glory alongside the Father. The glory of which Jesus speaks is a “Me with You” glory. No creature can make this claim. This unique glory here is a defined glory exclusive to YHWH alone (as in Isa. 42:8). The Apostle John applies the “glory” that Isaiah saw (cf. Isa. 6:1-3; LXX) to the Son in John 12:41. John even uses the same terms as the LXX of Isaiah.[49]  

 

  1. The Son is presented as a distinct person from the Father— παρὰ with the dative. The glory that the Son had was “with” the Father. Grammatically, when the preposition παρὰ (“with”) is followed by the dative case, which occurs twice in this passage (παρὰ σεαυτῷ, “together with Yourself,” παρὰ σοί, “together/with You”), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.”[50] In fact, in John’s literature, παρὰ with the dative is used ten times (John 1:39; 4:40; 8:38; 14:17, 23, 25, 17:5 [twice]; 19:25; and Rev. 2:13).

In every place, παρὰ with the dative carries a meaning of a literal “alongside of” or “in the presence of,” that is, “with” in a most literal sense —thus, nowhere in John’s literature does para with the dative denote “in one’s mind—unless one sees John 17:5 as some kind of exception.  In point of fact, all standard lexicons (regarding παρὰ + dat.),[51] recognized Greek grammars,[52] as well as and the mass of biblical scholarship[53] firmly attest to the fact that John 17:5 exegetically presents an actual preexistence of the divine Son who shared glory together with (in the presence of) the Father, before time.  

Regarding the particular grammar of John 17:5, Ignatius in his letter to the Magnesians (c. A.D. 107) uses the same prepositional phrase, as in John in 17:5 to affirm the preexistence of the divine Son: “Jesus Christ, who before the ages [πρὸ αἰώνων] was with the Father [παρὰ πατρὶ] and appeared at the end of time” (6). Specifically, Ignatius uses παρὰ with the dative, as in John 17:5, denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father. And he employs the preposition πρὸ to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.” Thus, Ignatius, following the apostolic tradition, envisages the Son as preexisting παρὰ (“with/in the presence of”) the Father, πρὸ αἰώνων—“before time.” 

 

  1. The glory that the Son had/possessed (ᾗ εἶχον)[54] was in His preexistence. We read that the glory that the Son possessed and shared together with (παρὰ) the Father was πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι (“before the world was”). The preexistence (and deity) of the Son is a running theme in John’s literature: The person of the Son was sent from heaven (cf. John 6:38; 3:13; et al.); existing before the beginning (ἀρχῇ, John 1:1a); was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3, as discussed below); the μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν, that is, the unique God, the One who is/being always in the bosom of the Father (cf. John 1:18); the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). So that the Son possessed glory with the Father before the world was is consistent with John’s theology. It was “not just ideal preexistence,” says Robertson, “but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side . . . ‘before the being as to the world.’”[55]Likewise, Reymond further comments on the Son’s eternal preexistence as taught in John 17:5:

 

The Gospel of John witnesses that Jesus claimed eternal preexistence: “Glorify me, Father,” Jesus prayed, “with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (John 17:1, 5), indeed, with “my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This claim in Jesus’ part to an eternal preexistence with the Father is not an aberration, for he speaks elsewhere, though in somewhat different terms, of that same preexistence.[56]

The exegesis of John 17:5 reveals that the person of the Son shared glory with the Father, corresponding with 1:1b: πρὸς τὸν θεόν. This divine glory, says Christ, ᾗ εἶχον (“I had”), that is, always possessed it πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι (“before the world was”), corresponding with Hebrews 1:3: ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ. Hence, the Son is (ὢν – always, timelessly) the radiance or effulgence of the Father’s glory and the “exact representation of the nature of Him.” Hence, vividly consistent with the Christology of the NT, John 17:5 underlines the Son’s preexistence, deity, and distinction from the person of the Father.    

 

PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11—Carmen Christi 

Who [Christ], although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”) and also as the Kenosis Hymn (from κενόω, “to make empty”) was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the preexistence, incarnation, and the full deity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The context of Philippians 2 is clear: Paul stresses to the Philippians that they ought to act in a harmonious and humble way. Paul then instructs them to have an attitude in themselves “which was also in Christ Jesus”—humility (v. 5). Which then leads Paul in verse 6 to present the ultimate act of humility: Christ, who was always subsisting as God, emptied Himself taking the form/nature of a bond-servant and becoming obedient to the point of death.

In these seven short verses, Paul provides a beautiful delineation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This Hymn to Christ as God systematically encapsulates Jesus’ nature as subsisting as God (preexisting), His incarnation, His cross-work, His exaltation, and His distinction from God the Father whom He glorifies. Unquestionably, Paul positively affirmed the two natured person of the Son implicitly and explicitly in virtually every one of his epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 2:18ff; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13).

 

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων. In verse 6, Paul utilizes very specific terms to bolster his case in which he plainly asserts that Jesus was always subsisting as God: “Who although He existed in the form of God.” The active participle, ὑπάρχων denotes a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting.[57] Hence, Jesus, the Son of God (cf. 1:2; 2:9, 11), did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time, rather He always existed as God, just as Paul definitely expressed. While μορφῇ (“form,” NASB, “nature,” NIV) denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the preexistent Christ.”[58] It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, here it means “that our Lord in His preincarnate state possessed essential deity.”[59] “The noun μορφῇ implies not the external accidents, but the essential attributes.”[60] Warfield clearly expresses its semantic force:

“Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is . . . When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most expressed manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God.[61]

 

To deny that the Son was truly the μορφῇ of God is to deny that the Son was truly the μορφῇ of man “taking the form of a bond-servant.”

οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. We then read that the person of the Son did not ἡγήσατο (“consider, regard”) “equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Although the noun ἁρπαγμὸν (“a thing to be grasped”) has been a point of continuous discussion among biblical scholarship, the term must be interpreted in light of the participial phrase μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, which safeguards against any denial of the Son’s personhood and deity.   

ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών. In verse 7, we read that the person of the Son, who was always subsisting in the nature of God, voluntarily ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν (“made Himself nothing”) μορφὴν δούλου λαβών (lit., form/nature of a slave having taken”).

Note the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτὸν (“Himself”). The force of the reflexive pronoun here indicates that the subject (the Son) is also the object (i.e., the one receiving the action of the verb—“emptied”). Hence, it was the Son who emptied Himself. We see the reflexive pronoun in verse 8, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν (lit., “He humbled Himself”) denoting the Son’s self-humiliation in His glorious self-emptying incarnational work and obedience to death on the cross. The aorist active participle λαβών (semantically, a participle of means)[62] describes the means or manner of the Son’s emptying. Thus, the Son emptied Himself by means of  “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” The Son’s incarnational work was not an emptying or subtraction of deity, again, verse 6 shields against such a notion. Rather, it involved an addition to His divine nature—God the Word became flesh.   

 

The divine Son preexisted before performing the action of the participles describing His incarnation. In verse 6, the Son, in His prior existence as God, performed the action of ἡγήσατο before performing the actions of the three following aorist participles in verses 7 and 8 (λαβών, γενόμενος, εὑρεθεὶς) describing His self-emptying. In other words, syntactically, the participial phrase, μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων and the verb ἡγήσατο are antecedent to the participles in verses 7 and 8 denoting His self-emptying incarnational work: “having taken,” “having been made,” having been found”—namely, verse 6 indicates His preexistence as the person of God the Son in His preincarnate state (see notes on John 6:38 above). Verse 6, points to the preexistent Son as asarkos, in μορφῇ θεοῦ, and in contrast, verses 7-8 points to the Son as ensarkos, μορφὴν δούλου.[63]

In verses 10-11, Paul concludes his high Christological Hymn with the affirmation that Christ the Son was the fulfillment of the “future” prophecy in Isaiah 45:23. Starting in verse 9, Paul states the purpose of God highly exalting the Son and bestowing on Him “the name which is above every name,” which was for the result that (note the ἵνα clause in v. 10) “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow . . .  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 10-11). In Greek, κύριος in the emphatic position (κύριος Ἰησοῦς χριστός), intensifying his argument that Jesus is the κύριος, that is, the YHWH and fulfillment of the future prophecy of Isaiah 45:23.[64]     

  

Jesus Christ the Son, the Unchangeable Creator of all Things

 The Scriptural evidence for the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is overwhelming. Both the OT and NT present the Son as the very object of divine worship (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14). In addition, the NT presents that the Son was the agent[65] of creation, thus, the unchangeable Creator of all things. That Jesus was the Creator of all things is additional and irrefutable proof that He preexisted as God. For if the Son were the actual Creator, that would mean that He 1) existed before time, thus, was not a part of creation, 2) coexisted with the Father, and hence, 3) is a distinct person alongside the Father, as co-Creator.

We will examine John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2, 10, which contain a weighty amount of exegetical substance affirming the Son as the actual Creator.     


 
JOHN 1:3

 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

 

That the Son was the actual Creator is entirely consistent with the Christ that John preached. As shown, in 1:1, John presents the Word as the eternal God distinct from the Father. In verse 18, the apostle refers to the Son as the μονογενὴς θεὸς (“unique God”) who is always existing (ὁ ὢν) in the bosom of the Father. As previously discussed, in the prologue, the apostle presents a well-defined contrast between all things created or that had origin (signified by the aorist ἐγένετο; cf. vv. 3, 6, 10, 14) and the eternal divine Word (signified by the imperfect ἦν; vv. 1, 2, 4, 9).

In verse 3, the apostle further declares of the divine Word that πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο (lit., “All things through Him came to be”). We see the creative activity viewed as “one event in contrast to the continuous existence of ἦν in verses Jo [hn] 1, 2. . . . Creation is thus presented as becoming (γίνομαι) in contrast with being (εἰμι).”[66] What fortifies the argument even more is John’s usage of the preposition διά followed by the genitive αὐτοῦ. This is a very significant aspect as it relates to the exegesis of the passage. In Greek, διά followed by the genitive indicates agency (or means).[67] The preexistent Son was not a mere helper of sorts, or mighty helper, rather He was God the Creator of all things as the apostle so clearly states. In such a comprehensible and undeniable way, the Apostle John presents the Son, the eternal Word, as the Creator of all things.[68]

 

COLOSSIANS 1:16-17

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

To interpret properly these (and any) passages in Colossians, a coherent understanding of Paul’s main purpose for writing the book must be first apprehended. Mainly, this letter was written to serve as meaningful refutation to the proto-Gnostic spirit versus matter ideology. The Gnostic system did not allow Jesus to be the Creator of something as inherently evil as “matter.” In light of this, Paul provides a clear anti-Gnostic polemic by firmly demonstrating that Jesus the Son of God did in fact create all things. Note the clear and forceful (and even redundant) way he literally presents this:

That in/by Him [ἐν αὐτῷ] the all things [τὰ πάντα] were created … the all things [τὰ πάντα] have been created through Him [δι’ αὐτοῦ] and for Him [εἰς αὐτὸν]. 17 He is before all things [αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων], and the all things in Him [τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ] hold together.”[69]

 

  1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter adjective πάντα, which indicate that the Son was the actual Creator of all-encompassing things (cf. Eph. 1:11). To reinforce his refutation, Paul definitizes the adjective, τὰ πάντα—Jesus is the Creator of “the all things.”

 

  1. Paul utilizes four different prepositions to magnify his affirmation that the Son was the Agent of creation: All things were created “by/in Him” (ἐν + dative; vv. 16, 17); “through Him” (διά + genitive; v. 16); “for Him” (εἰς + accusative; v. 16); and, He is “before all things” (πρὸ + genitive; v. 17). Clearly, Paul is speaking here of the Son, not the Father (cf. v. 14).

 

  1. As a final point, as with John 1:3, Paul specifically states that “the all things” were created δι’ αὐτοῦ (“through Him”). As observed above, we find the preposition διά followed by the genitive grammatically revealing that the Son was the actual Creator Himself. There is no stronger way in which Paul could have articulated that the Son was the real and actual agent of creation.[70] If Paul wanted to convey the idea that the Son was merely “in view” of the Father or an absent mere conceptual instrument of creation (as Oneness advocates assert[71]), he would not have used διά with genitive.[72]

 

HEBREWS 1:2, 10

 In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. . . . And, “You Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .”

The prologue of Hebrews systematically affirms the preexistence and deity of the person of the Son, Jesus Christ whom the Father commands “all the angels” to worship (v. 6). Relative to the preexistence and creatorship of the Son, verses 2 and 10 communicate both truths in an exceptional way. As with John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17, the prepositional phrase, δι᾿ οὗ (“through whom”) affirms the apostolic teaching that the Son was the agent of creation. Here we have again, the preposition διά followed by the genitive case: “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom [δι᾿ οὗ] also He made the world” (emphasis added).[73]

Contextually, as we saw in the prologue of John (ἐγένετο vs. ἦν), the core line of evidence that the author presents of the eternality of the Son is a precisely crafted and defined contrast between creation (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 2-3, 8-10).

Since verse 5, the author has been exclusively quoting the Father. In verses 10-12, in reference to the divine Son (πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς, v. 8), God the Father applies Psalm 102:25-27[74] to the Son. Notice first, the Psalm is a reference to YHWH as the unchangeable Creator of all things. Second, the Father is speaking to the Son and not merely about the Son.[75] Specifically, the referential identity of the pronoun σὺ at the beginning of verse 10 (“And, You”) we find back in verse 8, πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν–“But of the Son He [the Father] says.” Irrefutably, it is God the Father directly addressing the Son. In verse 8, θεὸς appears in the nominative for the vocative of address (ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς).[76]  

However, in verse 10, the actual vocative of κύριος (κύριε) is used, which bolsters the author’s argument even more: “You, Lord [κύριε], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands.” This so unequivocally and irrefutably verifies that the person of the Son preexisted as “the God” and as the YHWH of Psalm 102, the unchangeable Creator of all things. Conclusively, the prologue of Hebrews is one of the most theologically devastating prologues in all of the NT for Oneness defenders. Not only does the prologue affirm the deity and eternality of the Son as well as the distinction between the Father and the Son, but also it clearly presents the Son as the actual agent of creation, the Creator Himself.

 

Conclusion

 To deny the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son is to deny the Son of God of biblical revelation. “Whoever denies the Son,” says the apostle, “does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. John 5:23; 8:24; 1 John 5:20). Scripture is crystal clear:  

 

  1. The OT presents the preincarnate person of the Son who is identified as YHWH and the Angel of the Lord (cf. Gen. 16:10-11; 19:24; Exod. 3:6, 14; Judges 6:11-24; 13:16, 21; Isa. 6:3, 8, 10 [cf. John 12:39-41]; Dan. 7:9-14 et al.).

 

  1. John 1:1 (and 1 John 1:1-2): The Logos was existing prior to the beginning. He was a distinct person, who was πρὸς τὸν θεόν, and He was θεὸς as to His nature who became flesh.

 

  1. John 1:18: The Son is the μονογενὴς θεὸς and ὁ ὢν (always existing) in the bosom of the Father.  

 

  1. John 6:38: The person of Christ exercised His own will distinct from the Father’s will, in His preincarnate existence, that is, before coming to earth.

 

  1. John 8:24 et al: Christ the Son claimed He preexisted as the eternal God— ἐγώ εἰμι.   

 

  1. John 17:5: The person of the Son shared/possessed divine glory παρὰ (together with) the Father, πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι—before the world came to be.  

 

  1. Philippians 2:6-11, the ultimate act of humility: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was always being in the nature of God, emptied Himself by having taken the very nature of man and became obedient to death on a cross; He was the fulfillment of the Isaiah 45:23 prophecy, the YHWH before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess—“to the glory of God the Father.”           

 

  1. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2: God the Son was the agent of creation—the Creator of all things.

 

  1. Hebrews 1:10-12: God the Father directly addressed the Son as the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

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[1]
Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical citations within this work are from the New American Standard Bible (1996).

[2] For example, compare Psalm 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1, 3, 10 with John 12:39-41 (thus, Isa. 6:8); Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13 and many more (cf. also Dan. 7:9-14; Isa. 9:6; Micah 5:2). Aside from the NT affirmation, which identifies Christ as the YHWH of many OT passages, the OT identifies the Angel of the Lord as YHWH (e.g., Gen. 16:10-11; 19:24; Exod. 3:6, 14; Judges 6:11-24; 13:16, 21 et al.).       

[3] A unitarian or unipersonal belief of God is a radical view of monotheism (μόνος, “one,” and θεός, “God”), which sees God as “one person.”  Thus, a distinction needs to be made between religious groups that are unitarian in their doctrine of God and the official Unitarian religion itself. The former would include such religious systems as Judaism, Islam, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., Jehovah’s Witnesses), Oneness Pentecostals, etc., while the latter is applied exclusively to the Unitarian Church as a religious denomination. Thus, unitarian (in lower case) will be used throughout this work to refer to the unipersonal theology, but not necessarily the Unitarian Church.

[4] The OT uses many plural nouns, verbs, adjectives, and plural prepositions to describe the one true God emphasizing His multi-personal nature. Note these examples: plural nouns – Genesis 1:26 (“Our image, likeness”); plural verbs- Genesis 1:26; 2:18 (LXX); 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; 54:5 (Heb., “Makers,” “Husbands”); Psalm 149:2 and Job 35:10 (Heb., “Makers”); Ecclesiastes 12:1 (Heb., “Creators”); Daniel 7:27 (Heb., “Most Highs” or “Highest Ones”); plural prepositions- Genesis 3:22 (“one of Us”); and plural adjectives- Proverbs 30:3 (Heb. and LXX, “Holy Ones”). Also, there are many places in the OT where YHWH interacts with or does something on behalf of “another” (distinct) YHWH as in Genesis 19:24 (cf. Hosea 1:7-8); the angel of the Lord references who was identified as YHWH (e.g., Gen. chaps. 18-19; 22:9-14; Exod. 3:6-14; 23:20-21; Num. 22:21-35; Judg. 2:1-5; 6:11-22; 13:9-25; Zech. 1:12; etc.). Further, places such Hebrews 1:10-12, we read of YHWH (the Father) interacting with, that is, directly addressing, the Son as the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator of all things. Many other examples can be cited clearly showing that the true God of biblical revelation is multi-personal. In point of fact, these plural references of God and YHWH to YHWH correspondences can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism. 

[5] Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, En archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos. Unless indicated, all citations from the Greek NT are from the Novum Testamentum Graece: Nestle-Aland, 28th Rev. ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012). 

[6] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996). 

[7] Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1943).

[8] From γίνομαι (“to become”).

[9] Cf. Herold J. Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 49.

[10] The same verbal contrast (εἰμι vs. γίνομαι) is seen in John 8:58. 

[11]  Generally, articular (with the article) nouns point to identification, while anarthrous nouns point to essence, nature, quality.  

[12] The preposition πρὸς (“toward”) generally denotes intimate fellowship between person(s). In relationship to John 1:1b, the specific phrase πρὸς τὸν θεόν occurs twenty times in the Greek NT. In each occurrence, πρὸς differentiates between a person or persons and God. The only exception is the three times where the neuter plural article precedes the phrase (viz. Rom. 15:17; Heb. 2:17 and 5:1). Thus, they are not syntactically the same as John 1:1b. In John 1:1b, εἰμί (in the imperfect form, ἦν) precedes the phrase, whereas in Romans 15:17; Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1, the neuter plural article τὰ (“the things”) precedes the phrase. Πρὸς τὸν θεόν expresses the distinct personality of the Logos, which other prepositions (such as, ἐν, μετὰ, παρά, or σύν) would have obscured.  

[13] Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 39.

[14] A T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1930-33), 5:4.  

[15] Bauer, W. 2000. A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd. ed. Rev. and ed. by Frederick W. Danker (BDAG) (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 875.

[16] Anarthrous words are words that lack the article (“the”). Thus, John 1:1c literally reads, “God was the Word,” not “the God was the Word.”   

[17] A noun that lacks the article is anarthrous,   

[18] Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (GGBB) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 262, 265.

[19] Ibid., 196: 269).

[20] See discussion below pertaining to the linguistic import of the articular participle ὁ ὢν in both John 1:18 and Romans 9:5.  

[21] Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 190-92.

[22] Both nouns, “God” in John 1:1b and “Father” in 1 John 1:2 are articular, thus, both signifying identification—viz. the person of the Father, with whom the Son preexisted, ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν/πατέρα.         

[23] Wallace, GGBB, 327.  

[24] θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.       

[25] This is the ESV rendering. While the updated NIV incorporates both variants (μονογενὴς θεὸς and ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός): “the one and only Son, who is himself God.”

[26] The adjective μονογενὴς points to the uniqueness of the Son (from μονος and γένος). He is the “one and only” or “one of a kind” God the Son, that is, “The unique God who was near the heart of the Father” (Wallace). The Lexical evidence of the compound Greek adjective is quite weighty. For example, 

BDAG: “Pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind) of something. . . . μονογενὴς υἱὸς is used only of Jesus. The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences. . . . See also . . . vs. 18 where, beside the reading μονογενὴς θεὸς (considered by many the orig.) an only-begotten one, God (acc. to his real being; i.e. uniquely divine as God’s son .  . . or a uniquely begotten deity.”

Louw and Nida: “μονογενὴς, pertaining to what is unique in the sense of being the only one of the same kind or class — ‘unique, only.”

Liddle and Scott: “μονο.γενὴς, μουνο- (γένος) the only member of a kin or kind: hence, generally, only, single.”

Newman:  “Unique, only.”

Lightfoot (Epistles): “μονογενὴς, unicus, alone of His kind and therefore distinct from created things. The two words express [πρωτότοκος and μονογενὴς] the same eternal fact; but while μονογενὴς states it in itself, πρωτότοκος places it in relation to the Universe. . . . The history of the patristic exegesis of this expression is not without a painful interest. All the fathers of the second and third centuries without exception, so far as I have noticed, correctly refer it to the Eternal Word.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE): “In these passages, too, it might be translated as “the only son of God”; for the emphasis seems to be on His uniqueness, rather than on His Sonship. . . He is the son of God in a sense in which no others are. “μονογενὴς describes the absolutely unique relation of the Son to the Father in His divine nature; πρωτότοκος describes the relation of the Risen Christ in His glorified humanity to man”

TDNT: “What Jn. means by ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός . . . . When Jn. speaks of the Son of God, he has primarily in view the man Jesus Christ, though not exclusively the man, but also the risen and pre-existent Lord. The relation of the pre-existent Lord to God is that of Son to Father. This comes out indisputably in 17:5. . . Jesus is aware that He was with God, and was loved by Him, and endued with glory, before the foundation of the world. This is personal fellowship with God, divine Sonship. . . . In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because He alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only-begotten Son of God.” To maintain that in Jn. the pre-existent Lord is only the Word, and that the Son is only the historical and risen Lord, is to draw too sharp a line between the pre-existence on the one side and the historical and post-historical life on the other.”        

[27] The verb ἐξηγήσατο (from ἐξηγέομαι) is from which we get the English term, “exegete.” Thus, God the Son is the one who exegetes the Father perfectly and continuously (cf. John 14:6; Heb. 1:3).     

[28] Cf. Murray Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 157-58.

[29] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 303.

[30] As noted below, the prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between things created (viz., angels, the heavens, and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) whom the author presents as the unchangeable Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10-12).

[31] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:17-18.

[32] Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 1998), 516.  

[33] See Ernest DeWitt Burton, Syntax of the moods and tenses in New Testament Greek (University of Chicago Press, 1892), sec. 134; Mounce: “The aorist participle indicates an action occurring prior to the time of the main verb” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Zondervan 2003], 237). Wallace: “The aorist participle, for example, usually denotes antecedent time to that of the controlling verb” (Wallace, GGBB, 614; cf. also 555). See also A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934), 860. 

[34] A similar construction to John 6:38 is found in the last clause of John 8:42: ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἥκω· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν (lit., “I indeed from the God came forth and am here, not even indeed of Myself have I come, but He, Me sent.” The aorist indicative ἀπέστειλεν (“sent”) is antecedent to the perfect indicative ἐλήλυθα (“I have come”). As in 6:38, the sending of the Son was before the coming to earth.                   

[35] For an exegetical refutation to Oneness unitarian theology see Edward L. Dalcour, A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism, 4th ed., available at www.christiandefense.org.    

[36] Although the LXX of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalent to 8:58, it does provide a stark presentation of eternality that is tantamount in meaning to Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι statements. In the LXX, YHWH responds to Moses’ question, not as ἐγώ εἰμι, as in John 8:58, rather, as ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν. Both ἐγώ εἰμι and ὁ ὢν are incorporated. As we saw in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the articular participle, ὁ ὢν, in these contexts, denotes timeless existence—“the One eternally existing.” While Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 are not strictly equivalent in wording, they are indeed equivalent in meaning. And, to say again, in such places as Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12 (LXX) we do see the precise equivalent of the unpredicated phrase ἐγώ εἰμι as in John 8:58 et al.

[37] As previously shown, Jesus contrasts Abraham’s origin: πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι (“before Abraham was born”) with His eternal existence: ἐγὼ εἰμί (“I am”).   

[38] The recorded ἐγώ εἰμι claims by the Christ John 8 begins in verse 24.    

[39] As seen (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12). Note that in Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12, YHWH claim to by the ἐγώ εἰμι are in apposition with the title “First and the Last,” which are only applied to Christ in Revelation.     

[40] R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII (Anchor Bible Series, vol. 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), 1:533-38.

[41] Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel (Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010), 21.

[42] Cf. Robertson, Grammar, 879-880.

[43] In their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, it pointed out that the language of John 8:24 as “so far transcending what is becoming in men, of those ancient declarations of the God of Israel, ‘I AM HE’ (Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 43:13, 46:4 , 48:12)” (Volume 3: Matthew to Ephesians).

[44] Cf. Wallace, GGBB.

[45] Cf. Philip B. Harner, The ‘I Am’ of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Johannine Usage and Thought (Paperback – Minneapolis, Minn., 1970), 4.

[46] Even more, the early church saw Jesus’ “I am” claims as an absolute claim to deity (e.g., Irenaeus, Against Heresies, in Philip Schaff, Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, 1:478; Origen [ibid., 4:463]; Novatian [ibid., 5:624-625]; Chrysostom [ibid., 14:199]). 

[47] Καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σεαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοί.

[48] The first part of the text reads, Καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ (lit., “And now glorify Me You, Father”). Note the aorist imperative verb, δόξασόν. The most common usage of the imperative mood is for commands. However, the imperative can also denote a request. On occasion, “the request imperative will be used by a superior when addressing an inferior” (Wallace, GGBB, 485). Here in this text, the imperative is in the aorist (δόξασόν) stressing the urgency of the command or request. Since the Son is biblically presented as ontologically coequal with the Father (cf. John 1:1c; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3), His “commanding” the Father to glorify Him would not infringe on the doctrine of the Trinity—one divine person commanding another divine person of the same ontological class or category. Although it is possible that the imperative here can be one of request, it is the assumption of unipersonalism, denying that the Son is a divine person coequal with Father, that we find a natural and automatic rejection of the imperative of command. Even though the plainness of the passage cannot be denied (the Father and the Son sharing glory before time)..  

[49] John 12:41, εἶδεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ (“he [Isaiah] saw the glory of Him [Jesus]”) – Isaiah 6:1, 3: εἶδον. . . . τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ (“I saw. . . . the glory of Him [YHWH]”).

[50] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 378; BDAG, 757.

[51] Cf. Thayer, Lexicon, “II. [παρὰ] with the dative,” as applied to John 17:5.

[52] Cf. Wallace, BBGG.

[53] Cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 230. 

[54] The imperfect εἶχον denotes that the Son possessed this glory; the glory that the preincarnate Son “Actually possessed” (Marvin R. Vincent, “Commentary on John 17:5” in Word studies in the New Testament, 6 vols. [Nabu Press, Charleston: SC, 2010]).    

[55] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:275-76.

[56] Reymond, Systematic Theology, 230.

[57] Cf. Thayer, Lexicon, 638; BDAG, 1029.

[58] BDAG, 659.

[59] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books 1986), 261.

[60] J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: Macmillan, 1894), 108.

[61] Warfield, Biblical Doctrine, 177.

[62] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 630.

[63] 2 Corinthians 8:9 contains the same contextual-linguistic regarding the Son’s incarnational work. Note that both passages contain present tense participles denoting the Son’s prior existence as God: πλούσιος ὤν (“rich being”) – μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων (“in the nature of God being”) and both contain aorist indicatives denoting the Son’s self-emptying: ἐπτώχευσεν (“became poor”) –  ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν (“He emptied Himself”).      

[64] Paul cites Isaiah 45:23 in both Romans 14:11 and loosely here in Philippians 2:10-11. both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 contain future indicatives: “every knee will bow [κάμψει] . . . every tongue will confess [ἐξομολογήσεται]” indicating the future certainty of the event. However, Paul modifies the original tenses and moods of the verbs in Isaiah and Romans (to aorist subjunctives) to make Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause (cf. Wallace, BBGG, 474). The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son and bestowing on Him “the name which is above every name” was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” thus, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23—hence the fulfillment of Isaiah’s (future) prophecy.   

[65] In the NT, agency is commonly expressed in three ways: ultimate agency (the ultimate source of the action; the one directly responsible for the action— ἀπὸ παρά, ὑπὸ + the genitive); intermediate agency (that which the ultimate agent uses to carry out the action— διά + the genitive); and impersonal agency (that which the ultimate agent uses to perform the action— ἐκ, ἐν + the dative; cf. Wallace, GGBB, 431-32). Biblically, then, the Father was the source (ultimate agent) of creation, the Son being the intermediate agent in that He carried out the act for the ultimate agent (cf. ibid, 431). That the Son is the intermediate agent of creation does not mean that He was a mere “helper” of sorts, or a secondary agent of God, but rather, He was the actual agent of creation—namely, that which the ultimate agent (the Father) used to carry out the action—namely, the Creator of all things. This grammatically point is specifically revealed in several NT passages (viz. John 1:3, δι’ αὐτοῦ; 1 Cor. 8:6 [δι’ οὗ]; Col. 1:16 [δι’ αὐτοῦ]; Heb. 1:2 [δι’ οὗ]; 2:10 [δι’ οὗ]). 

[66] Cf. Robertson, Word Pictures, 1932: 5:5).

[67] Cf. Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 31; Wallace, GGBB, 368; BDAG, 225)

[68] Another interesting note pertaining to our contention that the Targum may have been the source of John’s Logos theology. Both the Targum and John present the “Word” as the Creator of all things. For example, note the targumic rendering of Isaiah 44:24: “I am the LORD, who made all things; I stretched out the heavens by My Memra.” And Isaiah 45:12: “I by My Memra made the earth, and created man upon it; I by My might stretched out the heavens.” In fact, there are many other places where the Targum identifies the “Word” (Memra) as the Creator of all things, as John explicates in 1:3 (cf. also Gen. 14:19 [Neofiti]; Ps. 33:6; Isa. 48:13; Jer. 27:5; etc.).

[69] It is worth mentioning how Oneness Pentecostals erroneously treat these and other passages that speak of the Son as the Creator. They argue that it was unitarian God, the Father alone (Jesus’ divine mode), who created all things. However, it was the mere “plan” of the future “Son” (i.e., Jesus’ human mode) that the Father had in mind. UPCI authority and Oneness author David Bernard explains: “Although the Son did not exist at the time of creation except as the word in the mind of God, God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world” (David K Bernard, Oneness of God, 116, cf. 117). Thus, their exegesis of the Scripture always starts with their assumption of unitarianism. 

[70] In 1 Corinthians 8:6 and, as discussed below, in Hebrews 1:2, διά is followed by the genitive signifying the Son as the agent of creation (cf. Heb. 2:10). 

[71] Oneness teachers along with other unitarian groups (esp. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims) argue that the Son could not have been the Creator because passages such as Isaiah 44:24 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 teach that God (viz. the Father) alone created all things. But as consistently pointed out, Oneness teachers assume unitarianism/unipersonalism in that they envisage God as one person—the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity, in contrast to a unitarian assumption, teaches that God is one undivided and unquantifiable Being who has revealed Himself as three distinct coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons. The three persons share the nature of the one Being. As fully God it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24), the Son was the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10), and the Holy Spirit is the Creator (cf. Job 33:4). For the one God is indivisible and inseparable (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5). Therefore, passages like Isaiah 44:24, which speak of God creating by Himself and alone are perfectly consistent with Trinitarian theology. Again, the three persons are not three separate Beings; they are distinct self-conscious persons or selves sharing the nature of the one Being. Unless one clearly realizes what the biblical doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches, the doctrine will be confounded and misrepresented ether as tritheism or Modalism. 

[72] Although Paul does use the accusative case in verse 16 (αὐτὸν), but he uses it after the preposition εἰς meaning “for” or “because of” and not after διά.

[73] As seen above (esp. n. 65), διά with the genitive denoting the Son as the agent of creation appears in John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; and 2:10.  

[74] From the LXX of Psalm 101:25-27.

[75] Here the Father clearly differentiates Himself from the Son (esp. in light of vv. 8-9).

[76] The fact that the nominative θεὸς with the vocative force is used does not remove in any way the meaning of direct address. The usual way of addressing God in both the LXX and the NT was the nominative for the vocative (cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 272; Wallace, GGBB, 1996: 56-57; also cf. John 20:28; Rev. 4:11). So common was the nominative for the vocative that every time θεὸς was directly addressed in the NT, only in one verse (Matt. 27:46) does θεὸς actually appear in the vocative case: θεέ μου θεέ μου“My God, My God.”

 

Oneness advocate and popular TV evangelist T. D. Jakes (of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, TX) has changed (reworded) his doctrinal statement regarding God. His old statement read:

THREE DIMENSIONS OF ONE GOD. . . . Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority. We believe in the Father who is God Himself, Creator of the universe. (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1).

Here his denial of the biblical definition of the Trinity is crystal clear. Describing God as “THREE DIMENSIONS” and saying God is “Triune in His manifestations” is decidedly Oneness, not Trinitarian. His statement before this one (1998) read in part: “God-There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three Manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

But as of recently, he changed it again, going back to the 1998 description: “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” As we can see, the “Belief Statement” on the Potter’s House website: http://thepottershouse.org/explore/belief-statement/) still provides a unitarian and distinctly Oneness concept of God- using the term “manifestations” (thus avoiding the use of “Persons”) to describe God is consistent with Oneness doctrine, not Trinitarianism.

For those who still defend Jakes insisting that he holds to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and not Oneness theology, please refer to the Potter’s House website and read his own Belief Statement. Denying the Trinity denies the biblical revelation of the nature of God. See A Concise Look at Oneness Beliefs.  

 

  

 

The vicarious life and cross-work of Jesus Christ does not put the elect in a potentially saved state; rather it secured salvation for the ones that the Father gave to Christ (esp. John 6:37-40, 44).

Christ’s death also secured reconciliation for His elect (cf. Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 9:12). He voluntarily gave Himself as a ransom for His chosen, on their behalf (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 8:32; Gal. 1:4; 3:13; Eph. 5:25-26; 1 Thess. 5.9-10; 1 Tim. 2:6): “For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people” (Luke 1.68).

Note the usage of the Greek preposition huper (“on behalf of,” “instead of”) to describe the actual and literal substitutionary death of Christ: “[the Father] delivered [paredōken; i.e., delivered up for sacrifice] Him over for [huper, lit., “on behalf of”] us all” (Rom. 8:32; emphasis added); “who gave Himself for [huper] our sins” (Gal. 1:4; emphasis added; cf. 3:13); “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for [heauton paredōken huper] her” (Eph. 5.25).

Further, to emphasize the nature of the substitutionary work of Christ on the behalf of His elect, the preposition anti is utilized in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for [lutron anti] many” and Matthew 20:28, which reads identically. After careful lexical and linguistic study, Greek scholar, Daniel Wallace, concludes:

In summery, the evidence appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of viewing anti in Matt. 20:28/Mark 10:45 as meaning in the place of and very possibly with the secondary meaning in exchange for. . . . (GGBB, 367).

In 1 Timothy 2:6, Paul combines the compound antilutron and huper to clearly denote what Jesus Christ literally did for His people—a ransom in their place: “who gave Himself as a ransom for [antilutron huper] all.” But because of His great love and mercy for His chosen, He not only invites them, but infallibly deliverers them: “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

As Paul rightly says, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1.30). He literally substituted Himself on behalf of His people absorbing the wrath that was due to our account because of sin. His cross-work satisfied the requirements of God’s law.

It was the perfect justice of God, which required that the perfect demands of the law should be met (cf. Rom. 3:25-27). Christ Jesus perfectly met those requirements by His active (preceptive) and passive (penal) obedience whereby substituting Himself (both in perfect His life and death) in our place.  

Many Christians and non-Christians alike downplay the biblical presentation of God’s wrath for the unregenerate and their final abode in hell—namely, “everlasting punishment.” The Universalists, Inclusivists, and groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses boldly reject the “biblical doctrine” of hell. While this doctrine can be quite difficult to comprehend and thus, accept, biblical doctrine is not determined by emotion or philosophy, but rather by the exegesis of the text. God’s Word is true regardless if one accepts or rejects it (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

 

The Nature of Hell

  1. The biblical authors used many terms to describe the final abode of unregenerate, e.g., “hell,” “Hades,” “the lake of fire,” “black darkness,” “eternal punishment,” “eternal flame/fire,” “eternal destruction” (cf. Matt. 18:8; 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 7, 13; etc.).

 

  1. Matthew 25:46 reads: “And these will go away into eternal [aiōnion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aiōnion] life.” The term “punishment” is from the Greek word, kolasin, which *recognized* lexicographers define (in first cent. Koinē Greek) as “punishment”/”chastisement” (e.g., Thayer, BDAG, et al).

 

  1. Revelation 20:10 reads: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The word “tormented” is from the Greek word basanizō, which is defined by Thayer as “being vexed with grievous pains.” Basanizō is also used in Luke 16:23 and, as discussed below, Revelation 14:11 and 20:10. In contrast to the doctrine of Annihilationism, logically one must be awake or conscious to actually experience or (as these texts above plainly indicate) receive “punishment” and “torment” (i.e., being “vexed with grievous pains”). Annihilationism teaches that when the wicked die they are totally destroyed ceasing to exist—however, a person that does not exist cannot be punished or feel anything such as torment.

 

The Duration of Hell: Aiōn, Aiōnios

Eternal fire for the unregenerate is a biblical reality. Jesus said it was. It was for this reason that Jesus died (cf. Rom. 5:8-10). Those who are not imputed with the righteousness of Christ through faith in Him, will be cast out into hell where they will endure eternal punishment: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Here the word “eternal” (aiōnion) is used BOTH to describe the DURATION of life that believers will have and the “punishment” (kolasin) that the unregenerate will undergo—thus, the punishment is endless just as the “eternal life” is endless for believers.

Commenting on this passage (viz. on the phrase, kolasin aiōnion, “eternal punishment”), renowned Greek scholar A. T. Robertson observes, “[aionios] comes as near to the idea of eternal as the Greek can put it in one word.”  Those that deny the never-ending duration of God’s wrath (hell) do so primarily on emotional grounds (e.g., distorting the love of God) and a faulty understanding of the Greek terms aiōn (“age”) and aiōnios  (“eternal”/“everlasting”). The Greek word aiōnios is from the root word aiōn meaning “age.” The Universalists and others who deny the never-ending duration of hell point out that the term aiōnios does not always mean “eternal,” but can refer to a temporary or finite period of time. However, note the following details:

 

  1. CONTEXT determines meaning. Words are defined by their context. It is a great error in hermeneutics to limit words to one meaning when they may have multiple meanings as with the majority of Greeks words—it always depends on the context. It is true that the term aiōnios can be used to indicate a temporary non-eternal state (as in Rom. 16:25). However, just because the root (aiōn) of the term aiōnios means “age” it does not mean that every time the term is used it indicates temporality. For example, Paul uses aiōnios to describe God’s eternal nature: “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal [aiōnion] dominion! Amen” (1 Tim. 6:16). It would be heresy to translate aiōnion here in a temporal sense making God’s dominion temporary—for His sovereignty is everlasting.

 

  1. Lexical Support. The lexical support for aiōnios as denoting the concept of eternal/everlasting life for the believer in passages such as John 3:16; 6:47; 10:28; etc. is unquestionable. Equally, the lexical support for aiōnios as denoting the concept of eternal/everlasting damnation in passages such as Matthew 25:41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:11; 21:10; etc. is indisputable. Aside from passages where aiōnios means “eternal” life (as seen above) and denoting God’s eternal nature (e.g., Rom. 16:26), Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (1985) states: “Aiōnios is also used . . . of the judgment of God, from which there is no appeal, Heb. 6:2, and of the fire, which is one of its instruments, Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7, and which is elsewhere said to be ‘unquenchable,’ Mark 9:43. The use of aiōnios here shows that the punishment referred to in 2 Thess. 1:9, is not is not temporary, but final. . . .”

 

Below are brief excerpts taken from one of the most utilized and scholarly lexicons, Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG), which provides a most comprehensive analysis of aiōnios regarding the “everlasting” duration of both life and damnation (hell): “aiōn formulaically- eternal [Rev.] 14:11; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5. . . . aiōnios “without beginning or end; of God (Gen 21:33; Is 26:4). . . . Very often of God’s judgment [Jer 23:40; Da 12:2; Ps 76:6; Mt 18:8; 25:46; Mk 3:29; 2 Co 6:7; 2 Th 1:9; Jd 7]. . . . pert. to a period of unending duration, without end. . . .” (32-33). Therefore, besides the passages that clearly (from the context) denote a temporary significance (e.g., Rom. 16:25), the lexical support (e.g., Thayer; Louw and Nida; Liddell and Scott; BDAG, et al) for aiōnios as denoting eternal, endless duration is conclusive.

 

The New Testament Usage of the Aiōnion

Note the following examples of where aiōnios is used to denote the everlasting duration of life with the Lord for the believer:

John 6:47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal [aiōnion] life”; 10:28: “and I give eternal [aiōnion] life to them, and they shall never perish. . . .” (see also Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 16:26; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 6:16; etc.). Now observe the following examples of where aiōnions is used to denote the everlasting punishment for the unregenerate:

Matthew 18:8: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal [aiōnion] fire”; 25:46: “And these will go away into eternal [aiōnion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aiōnion] life”; 2 Thessalonians 1:9: “And these will pay the penalty of eternal [aiōnion] destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (see also Matt. 25:41; Mark 3:29; Luke 18:30; Jude 7; Rev. 14:11; 20:10 [as discussed below] where aiōnios represents eternal damnation).

 

Does the phrase “forever and ever” mean endless?

The phrase “forever and ever” (aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, lit., “ages of the ages”) is used to express God’s eternal significance and the everlasting “torment” for the unregenerate.

1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal [aiōnōn], immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn]. Amen.”

Revelation 5:13: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn].”

Revelation 14:11: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, lit., “ages of the ages”]; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” The double usage of the pluralized aiōnios (“ages”) is used by the author to accentuate the never-ending torment.

Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever [eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn].” The Greek phrase eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn (lit., “unto the ages of the ages”) is the strongest way to express unending duration. The fact that the words are plural in number (as with 14:11) and the double use of the article (“the”) further emphasizes the concept of never-ending duration. “The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural, even using articles [“the”] which make these eons the definite ones.”  Also, as with 14:11, the phrase “day and night” is juxtaposed with “forever and ever” stressing the fact that the “torment” is perpetual, never-ending for the objects of God wrath.

 

“Unquenchable Fire”

To distinctly express the everlasting suffering for the unregenerate, the biblical authors used the phrase “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17; and Mark 9:43). The word translated “unquenchable” is from the Greek word asbestos. According to recognized lexicons, the term carries the meaning of “unquenchable, the eternal hell fire to punish the damned” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon); “inextinguishable” (BDAG); “pertaining to a fire that cannot be put out” (Louw and Nida); “unquenchable, inextinguishable” (Liddell and Scott).

The evidence for the never-ending nature of hell is undeniable. Admittedly, this doctrine is difficult to discuss. However, the totality (all parts) of biblical truth must be preached. The Gospel  is the proclamation of the Son’s cross-work—the very basis of our justification. The Gospel is, indeed, good news, but only because of the bad news: God’s wrath continues to remain  on him who denies the Son. Hence, the Son was sent was to save His people from God’s wrath: “having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:9; cf. 1 John 2:2). God being perfect and holy does not merely wink at open defiance against His infinite majesty and holiness. It was the cross-work of the Son that provided sinners a way of escape from the divine wrath due for sin. As Berkhof rightly notes: “When we look at the death of Christ it was not first for our salvation, but first for our damnation being born and taking away by Him.”

 

The first century church was built on two things: love and doctrine. Without love, we actively disobey the Lord (cf. Mark 12:29-30; 1 John 3:15ff.). By loving others “the whole law is fulfilled” (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:8-10) and our “actual” justification before God (through faith alone) is demonstrated before man—, which was James’ entire argument in chapter 2.

But if a church or the spiritual life of Christian is all love, then theological confusion arises and thus, the significance and definition of the gospel becomes mottled and impractical.

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Sociologically, Samaritans were lowly and unpopular people, which intensifies the point of Jesus’ parallel. Starting in Luke 10:25-27, we read:

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Note the lawyer’s question regarding eternal life and Jesus’ response: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-30 for the full commandment).

Verses 28-29: “And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live’ 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” In response, Jesus presents the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Verse 30a: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Although this journey from “Jerusalem to Jericho” was about 17 miles, it was recognized as a very dangerous road that ran through areas of lone desert; where many robbers could hide. Jerome later termed this road as “the bloody way.” Lightfoot says that this was the “most public road in all Judea.”

Verse 30: “…and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.” The term striped (lit., “having stripped”) is from ekduō (ek, “out” + duō, “garment”). —thus, “to strip out/off ones clothes/garments.” The same term is applied to Christ in Matthew 27:28: “They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.”

Verse 31: “And by chance, a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The most frequent travelers on this road were priests and Levites. There is no reason stated as to why the priest refused to help him, but it is not significant to the point of the parable.

The phrase, “he passed by on the other side” is from antiparēlthen (lit. “he passed by on the opposite side”). The text implies that the priest actually went “on the other side,”—out of his way, totally avoiding the scene altogether.

Verse 32: “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Here the Levite “saw him,” then passed by.” The two aorist participles, “having come” and “having seen” imply that the Levite took a “fast peek” then left in a hurry— note again as with the priest, the same term antiparēlthen is used: “he passed by the opposite side.” A. T. Robertson observes that this indicates “a vivid and powerful picture of the vice of Jewish ceremonial cleanliness at the cost of moral principle and duty. The Levite in Luke 10:32 behaved precisely as the priest had done and for the same reason.”

Verse 33: “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion. . . .” The least likely person (in contrast to the grander priest and Levite), the Samaritan felt compassion. When the Samaritan “saw him, he felt, that is, he was “moved to compassion.” The two verbs (both in the aorist) “having seen” and“moved to compassion” denote a simultaneous action. In contrast to the two actions of the priest and Levite: “having seen,” “he passed by the opposite side.”

The action of the Samaritan (“felt, moved to compassion”) appears in the aorist indicative—from splagchnizomai. This verb literally denotes the inward parts of a body. Thayer defines the verb here as: “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence, to be moved with compassion.” In fact, this term is frequently used of Christ in response to individual(s) suffering (see Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22). As also in Luke 7:13: “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion [lit., “was moved to deep compassion”] for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

The Samaritan Difference

The Samaritan felt compassion for this man—expressed love for him (again keeping with the context of the text—love for God and neighbors).

“Showing” loving-compassionate actions towards others demonstrates one’s actual justification (salvation) greater than that of praising God, singing hymns on Sunday morning, endless praying, etc. Loving others (by actions, overtly) proves one’s faith as true (as the Apostle James argues). Calvin says, “Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness.”

Note the next verse (34): where we find that Samaritan shows six acts of love/compassion:

  1. Bandaged up his wounds. 
  2. Pouring oil and wine on them.
  3. Put him on his own beast (animal).
  4. Brought him to an Inn.
  5. Took care of him.
  6. He made sure the innkeepers took care of him.

Jesus then asked in verse 36: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Keep in mind as to the question to Jesus from the lawyer, that is, the religious expert, in verse 29: “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Here, Jesus turns the question around to the religious expert to a question of what it means to become a neighbor and truly (and openly) loving. Jesus is showing the religious expert of the law that it is irrelevant as to who the neighbor is, but rather, who he is (the religious expert) and his actions are what matters. 

Verse 37: “And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, Go and do the same.’”

In a broad context, the priest and Levite representing the OT law would not or could not deliver a man from his pain and suffering. In a wider sense, the OT law could never redeem man or provide to God a ransom for him—that was never the intention of the law; it was powerless to do so—it only condemned (cf. Heb. 7-10).

In John 8:48, the Jews called Jesus a “Samaritan.” However, unrecognizable to the Jews, the similarities of Christ and the parable are remarkable:

  • As the traveler went “down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” Christ made a journey coming down from heaven to earth, became flesh “being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
  • He came as powerful Savior to do what the priests and the Levites (OT law) would not nor could not do.
  • Through His vicarious life and death Christ (unlike the priest and the Levite) provided redemption, rest, healing, and everlasting “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).Christ, out of compassion for His people, came to save perfectly all that the Father gave to Him and loses no one, but raises “it up at the last day” (John 6:39).
  • As the Samaritan “brought the wounded man to an Inn and took care of him,” Christ brings His sheep, yet wounded from the effects of sin, to an eternal dwelling place that He prepared for them.

In this sense, Jesus Christ was the ultimate “Samaritan.” His motivation for His atonement (vicarious redemptive work) was His love and compassion for lost dying (dead) sinners—He lived and died on their behalf. Christ is our only means of peace. In whom “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Eph. 1:7).

Christ, the ultimate Samaritan who saved us!

 

A Biblical Perspective of Justification

Key issue: as noted below, the Greek verb dikaioō (“to justify”) does not have the lexical meaning of, “to make righteous,” as if the sinner is subjectively made righteousness (as in Catholicism). On the contrary, it denotes a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent (cf. note 4 below).

The Apostle Paul’s epistle to the church at Galatia was specifically an anti-Judaizer polemic. Paul was very concerned as to the pervading heresy of the Judaizers. The Judaizers taught that “faith in Christ” was not enough. Hence, one had to add the Old Testament ordinances, especially circumcision, and the keeping of the ethical and ceremonial laws, to the finished work of Christ:

Some men came from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom [Law] of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1; cf. Gal. 2:1ff.).

This kind of teaching, in the apostles’ mind, was not a doctrinal on the rim issue. By teaching that man must co-operate with God’s grace by adding works (any works) to his faith, the Judaizers stripped Jesus’ atonement of its efficacy. So toxic was the works/salvation doctrine of the Judaizers that the apostle wasted no time (from his opening statement) in sharply anathematizing (i.e., pronouncing a divine curse) men and even angels from heaven who might promulgate it:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed [anathema]! As we have said, before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:6-9; emphasis added).

Paul never gets tired impressing to the Galatians: justification is through faith alone; i.e., faith apart from, without, modifications or additions of works:

knowing the a man is not justified by the works [ex ergōn, lit. “from works”] of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Gal. 2:16; emphasis added).

You foolish Galatians, who as bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? . . . Even Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Gal. 3:1-3, 6; emphasis added).Paul further declares that it is dia tēs pisteōs (lit. “through the faith”) alone that enables one to be adopted as a son of God.

For you are all sons of God through faith [dia tēs pisteōs] in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized [i.e., unified, see above] into Christ have clothed yourself with [eis] Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; emphasis added).

Romans 4:4-8

It becomes increasingly clear as one works through the Pauline corpus that salvation by grace alone through faith alone is clearly the theological starting point for the apostle. Scripture is clear: the righteousness of Christ is the sole ground of justification (man excluded), and the sole means is faith alone apart from works. There is no shortage of passages that that clearly define this divine truth. Since a detailed analysis of each passage is beyond the scope of this work, it is enough to highlight a few where this grand them of justification by faith is presented. For example, in Romans 4:4-8, we read

Now to the one who works, his wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessings on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT” (NASB).

Consider the following:

1. In verse 4, Paul explains that wages from works are not credited as a gift or a favor; but “what is due.” The literal rendering is even clearer: “Now the working one, the reward is not reckoned [or “imputed,” logizetai] according to grace [charin, Paul’s normal word for “grace”], but according to debt [misthos].” In other words, if an employer, after giving a paycheck to the employee, says, “Thanks a lot, here is your gift,” the employee would object stating that he or she “earned” (worked for) those wages! Exactly the argument Paul makes here: wages are the result or reward from works (viz. “what is due.”). In verse 5, he contrasts “wages” that one earns by works, with being “credited” or imputed as righteousness by faith (or “belief”) alone—apart from additions or modifications. This contrast cannot be missed: works vs. faith.

2. Paul presents a contrast between the working man as seen above and the man who does not work, but has faith: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him . . . his faith is credited as righteousness.” The same participle is used for both verses 4 and 5. But Paul inserts a negation in verse 5:

v. 4: tō de ergazomenō (lit. “but the one working”).

v. 5: tō de mē ergazomenō (lit. “but the not working one”).

It is God, Paul says, “who justifies the ungodly.” The righteousness of Christ was imputed to the sinner’s account when they were justified and the sinner’s sins were imputed to Christ in His sacrificial death upon the cross over 2,000 years ago (cf. Rom. 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21).

3. In verse 6, Paul now shows that David understood that “God credits righteousness apart from works [chōris ergōn; emphasis added].” Thus, verse 6 literally reads: “Blessed is the man to whom God imputes or credits righteousness without works [theos logizetai dikaiosunen choris ergon].” Again, Paul does not here limit works only to “works of the Law” (a Catholic assertion). Please note once again, Paul does not even here the phrase ho nomos (“the law”), but ergōn (“works”)—any works (cf. Rom. 5:1; Eph.2:8; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-7).

To avoid the plain and straightforwardness of Romans 4:4ff., some would appeal to Ephesians 2:10 (“created . . . for good works”). However, in the Ephesians passage Paul is simply teaching that salvation is chariti, (“by grace”), and dia pisteōs (“through faith”), and ouk ex ergōn (lit. “not from works”; 2:9). Hence, works are the result (not the cause) of genuine faith (as pointed out above). The Apostle James draws the same point: genuine faith does not result in a deedless life.

4. Then Paul quotes David (Psalm 32:1-2) in verses 7 and 8: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” When the sinner is justified through faith, he or she is legally declared: not guilty![1] Justification is a one-time declarative act in which God pronounces the sinner just or righteous. God does not count their trespasses against them (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19). Note the strong and specific language that Paul uses in verse 8. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (emphasis added).

Many times the full import of particular passages is lost in translations, which is the case here. In first century Greek, there were several ways to negate (i.e., to say “no”) something. Each way had its own, to some extent, nuance. The strongest possible way, however, to deny or negate a future possibility was to use the double negative (ou mē) followed by an aorist subjunctive verb (i.e., generally, a verb of possibility). This construction was only used about eighty–five times in the New Testament. In verse 8, Paul uses this construction: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account [ou mē logisētai; emphasis added].” The NIV reads, “whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Paul is denying that there is even a possibility (due to the aorist subjunctive verb logisētai [“take into account” or “count”]) that the Lord will count sins against the one justified. This same construction (i.e., double negative + the aorist subjunctive) is used in John 10:28:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow me and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ou mē apolōntai]; and no one can snatch them out of my hand (vv. 27-28; emphasis added; cf. Deut. 32:39).[2]

There is not, Jesus says emphatically, even a possibility, of His sheep ever perishing. Jesus uses the double negative construction to emphasize that the eternal life that He gives is not dependent on man’s self-determination, for man can fail. But rather, eternal life is the promise to those who He has justified, to those whose sins will never be counted against them, to those who have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ to their account. They are declared righteous and they, by no means, will ever perish—not even a possibility!

To be sure, the Apostle Paul saw justification as an essential and fundamental to true biblical Christianity. To deny justification through faith alone (viz. without additions or modifications) was the same as denying the deity of Christ! This is clearly seen in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As we have seen above, the main purpose of Paul’s letter was to pointedly refute the heresy of the Judaizers (cf. Acts 15:1ff.; Gal. 1:6ff.). To add to God’s work—is to add to Scripture. “Who,” Paul rhetorically asks, “will bring a charge against God’s elect? . . . who is the one who condemns? . .” (Rom. 8:33-34).[3] Therefore, how can anyone undo the work of God? It is God alone, who declares the sinner eternally righteous, and hence justified.

 

Romans 5:1

Therefore having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Paul constantly taught that justification comes not by works, formulas, or laws, but rather, a man is declared rightness before God through faith alone. Paul was theologically precise as to how the sinner is justified before the presence of God. Notice first that the sinner having been justified has peace with God. The participle dikaiōthentes, translated “having been justified,” is the aorist passive of dikaioō.[4] Grammatically, the aorist here tells us that the action of the participle dikaiōthentes (“having been justified”) was a past action (as rendered in most translations). Furthermore, the participle is in the passive voice. This indicates that the action of being justified was not by the sinner in any way (otherwise the verb would be in the active voice), but rather the justification was done to the sinner, in the past, which was solely a divine act of God (cf. Rom. 8:33). Thus, the ones having been justified now “have [echomen][5] peace [eirēnēn][6] with God [pros ton theon]” (emphasis added).

It is not the action or work of the sinner, which then results in justification, rather, Paul, simply affirms it is ek pisteōs (“through faith”). This is important to realize, that if Paul thought that “water baptism” or “works” were an aspect or a requirement of justification, he could have easily modified the clause to say, “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, baptism, and works, then let us have peace with God” (as in UPCI soteriology). Hence, “faith alone” is simply faith without additions or modifications. Justification is never deemed as a reward for meritorious works or performance, rather it is said to be a gift,[7] which cannot be earned. Paul was clear and consistent in all of his letters: justification is through faith alone, “apart from” works, any works. This is wonderful news. By faith alone the one God regenerated (“made alive”) has been legally declared righteous (justified) in the sight of God, whereby has present active and continuous peace, that is, final and permanent reconciliation and fellowship with God. In his solid exegesis of Romans, Wuest can say of this beautiful passage:

The word “therefore” reaches back to the contents of chapter four—therefore being justified, not by works (1-8), not by ordinances (9-12), not by obedience (13-25), but by faith, we have peace. The first three never give peace to the soul. Faith does . . . The context is didactic. It contains definite statements of fact. It is highly doctrinal in nature. It has to do with a sinner’s standing before God in point of law, not his experience. As Denney [James Denney, D. D.] says; “The justified have peace with God, . . . His wrath (1:18) no longer threatens them; they are accepted in Christ. It is not a change in their feelings which is indicated, but a change in God’s relation to them.[8]

Paul announces to the Christians at Ephesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8; emphasis added). “If it is by grace,” Paul says, “it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). Contrary to a faith + works = salvation soteriology, which groups such as the ICC, UPCI, LDS, JWs, Catholic Church, etc. hold to, Scripture presents that justification is through faith alone without any mention of additions or modifications such as the necessity of water baptism: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” the jailer asked, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). 

How are sins forgiven? Scripture is clear:

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes on Him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; emphasis added).

Let us pause and think; why is it that over and over the New Testament teaches that eternal salvation is explicitly tied to faith or belief alone with no mention of water baptism if, in fact, water baptism was essential to one’s salvation?[9] Paul’s own statement refutes the notion that water baptism was an indispensable means of salvation: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:17).

Water Baptism: a Deed of Righteousness

In Scripture, water baptism is defined as an “act” or deed “to fulfill [not to receive] righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Yet, Paul clearly refutes this idea:

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6; emphasis added).

Again, the question to a Mormon or Roman Catholic (or any baptismal regenerationist whose church denies justification by faith alone) is this: “Can one walk in your church and be saved by faith/belief in Christ Jesus alone, without being water baptized in the name of Jesus?”[10] For these groups mention above, the answer is categorically: No. The most important issue that every man must deal with can be summed up in this question: “How is a man justified before God?” Is that not the question of the ages, from the first man to the present? How can man be reconciled to God? How can man be declared not guilty in the sight of a perfect God? I think we would do well to allow Jesus Christ, the authority on the matter, to answer:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

Before leaving this verse, it would be wise to breathe in the grammatical significance of the words of Christ. Starting with the first clause: “He who hears [akouōn] My word, and believes [pisteuōn] Him who sent Me. . . .” The participle akouōn (“who hears”) is in the present tense, and the active voice. The participle pisteuōn (“believes”) is a present active participle. Note that both participles verbs are in the present tense, literally: “the one hearing and the one believing.”

Then the phrase: “has eternal life.” The verb echei (“has”) is the singular present active indicative of echō. The indicative mood of the verb indicates a clear presentation of certainty that the event will happen (i.e., “eternal life”). And because echei is in the present tense, it indicates that the one believing (apart from any works) possesses de facto eternal life presently and continuously. For this reason, those (the believing ones) will never come into God’s wrath and judgment (see John 10:28).

We now come to the last clause of the passage: “but has passed out of death into life.” The Greek verb metabebēken (“has passed”) is a perfect tense.[11] The perfect tense indicates a completed action that normally occurred in the past, which has continuous results into the present.[12] Hence, the reason as to why the one believing “does not come into judgment” is because he “has passed out” of perfectly, completely spiritual death. Therefore, the full force of what Jesus was literally saying can be translated:

He who presently and continuously hears My word and believes Me (who I am), I promise that he will presently and continuously possess, without end, eternal life, that is, salvation. And he will never come into condemnation. He has, in times past, been called to be declared righteous (justified) and then to be glorified, whereby passing out of death into life.[13]

Christian water baptism is never even a subject of discussion in John’s gospel. The main theme of the apostle was (a) the full deity of Jesus Christ (e.g., 1:1; 18, 8:24, 58; 20:28; etc.) and (b) eternal life/salvation (e.g., 1:12; 3:16; 6:37-40, 47; 10:27-29; etc.). Never once in John’s gospel is salvation connected to Christian water baptism. Salvation is exclusively by faith/belief alone. If water baptism were in fact an indispensable means of salvation as baptismal regenerationists teaches, you would think that John or Jesus would have taught it—at least once. That water baptism, circumcision, ordinances, rituals, ceremonial or ethical old covenant laws, or any works for that matter, adds (or is a part of) to one’s justification places one firmly under the anathema of the apostle: cursed by God. In the end, looking at all the non-Christian cults and world religions we do find doctrinal harmony on at least two points. The first, of course, is that they all reject Jesus Christ as eternal God, that is, they deny the doctrine of the Trinity in some way or other. And second, they all attack and deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Hence, they add some kind of creaturely work to their system of salvation.

Yes indeed, it is difficult for mere man to comprehend that through faith alone God freely justifies the sinner. However, we cannot rely on our faulty emotions to test truth. For, in spite of, our limited, finite, conventional wisdom and understanding, the Apostle Paul, who wrote as the Holy Spirit enabled him, declares:

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. . . . (Rom. 4:4-6; emphasis added; cf. John 6:47; 10:28-29; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 2:8).

The Final Question

How is a man justified before God whereby his sins are forgiven? The baptismal regenerationists’ response is clear: repentance, water baptism (and for the UPCI: baptized in the name of Jesus” with the evidence of speaking in tongues),[14] and living by strict biblical obedience, and only to those is salvation achieved. In sharp contrast, Scripture does tell us clearly how a man is justified before God: “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes on Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43; emphasis added).

Therefore having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1; emphasis added).

NOTES

[1] In Romans 8:28ff., Paul employs legal terms to underscore the status of the justified: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33); “Who is the one who will condemn?” (v. 34); “who [Jesus] also intercedes for us” (v. 34). These terms (“charge,” “condemn,” and “intercedes”) were used in court proceedings in the first century. Hence, Paul’s Roman audience would have understood clearly, as to what he was communicating.

[2] Jesus also uses the same construction in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out [ou mē ekbalō; emphasis added].”

[3] Cf. n. 35 above.

[4] The term “righteous” and “just” are translated form the same Greek word: dikaios (adj.), dikaiosunē (noun), and the dikaioō (verb). The noun dikaiosunē simply means the “quality or state of judicial correctness with focus on redemptive action, righteousness” (Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. by Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000], 247). Commenting on forensic nature of the term in the OT, Protestant apologist James R. White notes:

In the Old Testament, the term “to justify” is often used in the judicial sense, that is, in the context of the court of law [e.g., Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23]. . . . Because the doctrine of justification by faith says justification is something God does based upon the work of Christ: it is a forensic declaration, not something that involves a subjective change of the believer (James R. White, The God who Justifies [Bethany House, 2001], 77, 79).

It should also be noted that the verb dikaioō does not mean, “to make” righteous as if the sinner is subjectively made righteousness (as in Catholicism). On the contrary, it denotes a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent. As Lutheran scholar Leon Morris rightly explains:

How can the death of Christ change the verdict on sinners from “Guilty” to Innocent”? Some have said in effect, “It is by changing the guilty, by transforming them so that they are no longer bad people, but good ones. No one will want to minimize the transformation that takes place in a true conversion or to obscure the fact that this is an important part of being a Christian. However, such a transformation does not fit the justification terminology. It is sometimes argued that the verb normally translated “to justify” (dikiaoō) means “to make righteous” rather than “to declare righteous.” But this agrees neither with the word’s formation nor with its usage. Verbs ending in–oō and referring to moral qualities have a declarative sense; they do not mean “to make—.” And the usage is never for the transformation of the accused; it always refers to a declaration of his innocence (Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 70).

[5] The verb echomen (“have”) is the present active indicative of echō. However, there is a textual variant concerning echomen (omicron [echomen] or omega [echōmen]?). Note that the majority rendering is the hortatory subjunctive echōmen (“let us have peace”). Even though the subjunctive is possible, I do not see it as contextually probable. Moreover, all the evidence considered suggests the present indicative as the greater witness (cf. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, [New York: United Bible Societies, 1994], 169-70; James R. White, The God who Justifies [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 237, n. 8). Greek exegete Kenneth Wuest explains further:

The context is didactic. It contains definite statements of facts. It is highly doctrinal in nature. It has to do with the sinners standing before God in point of law, not his experience. . . . Furthermore, there is a difference between having peace with God and having the peace of God in the heart. The first has to do with justification and the second with sanctification. The first is the result of a legal standing, the second, the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The first is static, never fluctuates, the second changes from hour to hour. The first, every Christian has, the second, every Christian may have. The first, every Christian has as a result of justification. What sense would there be in exhorting Christians to have peace when they already possess it? The entire context is one of justification. Paul does not reach the subject of sanctification until 5:12-21 where he speaks of positional sanctification and 6:1-8:27 where he deals with progressive sanctification (Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, 76-77).

[6] The peace is the present possession of all who have been justified. The peace is the blessed result of what true justification is: abiding shalom with God Himself. No more enmity, no more hostility!

[7] Eternal life is never classified in the NT as misthon (“a reward” to the elect; cf. Rom. 4:4), but always as charisma (“a gift”).

[8] Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, 75-76.

[9] E.g., John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Acts 10:43; 16:30-31; Romans 4:4-11; 5:1; 10:9-13; Galatians 3:2-3; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5-7; and 1 John 5:1, 11-13.

[10] Note, other than water baptism, “in the name of Jesus,” the UPCI teaches its followers that unless they speak in tongues they do not have the Holy Spirit and hence NO salvation. Their assertion is usually derived solely from the narrative accounts in Acts. It should be noted however that there are only three explicit references of the tongues phenomena in Acts: 2:1-4; 10:44-48; and 19:6. It is a hermeneutical error to take a narrative and force it to become a teaching. This violates the hermeneutical principle of the priority of didactic as defined in this chapter above. In point of fact, we read in the Acts account of many converts who were water baptized or said to have been “filled” with the Spirit and yet no mention of tongues (e.g., 2:37-41; 4:31; 6:3-6; 11:24). In fact, there are at least forty times that the Bible mentioned people as being “filled with,” “baptized in,” “fallen upon by,” “come upon by”, “poured upon by” the Spirit, and only three verses explicitly mention tongues (cf. Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 64).In Ephesians 5:18 the Apostle Paul commands to “be filled with the Spirit” (en pneumati). However, grammatically en (“with”) followed by the dative case pneumati (“Spirit”) does not indicate content, but rather means (cf. Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 162, 372-75).

Hence: “be filled by means of the Spirit.” Further, Paul then characterizes the results of being filled: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks . . . subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Grammatically, these characteristics above are participles of result. Hence, they indicate the results of being filled by means of the Spirit—wherein tongues are not mentioned. The point is that Scripture knows nothing of the idea that the sole evidence of being filled, baptized, indwelled, empowered, etc. with/by the Holy Spirit is the gift of speaking in tongues. If tongues were the sole evidence, then Paul would not have taught that the gift of tongues is not bestowed on all (cf. 1 Cor. 12:30; note here the negation mē: “all do not [] speak in tongues” (emphasis added). The negation expects a negative answer: “No.” Hence, this passage is of no comfort for those who insist that Paul there was speaking of a different tongue, not the “gift.” Paul nowhere in his letters makes this distinction. Further, Paul taught that “all” Christians were baptized (by Christ) by means of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; note the double usage of pantes [“all”]).

[11] Specifically, metabebēken is the perfect active indicative of metabainō.

[12] The perfect tense “indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the present. The action normally occurred in the past” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 218-19). It denotes a “present state resulting from a past action” (Harold J. Greenly, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986], 50). The import of the perfect tense can be seen in 1 John 4:2: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come [elēluthota] in the flesh is from God.” Thus, verb translated “has come” (elēluthota) is in the perfect tense; literally: “has come and remains in the flesh.” John’s letters (1 and 2), as with Paul’s letter to the Colossians, were a pointed refutation against the Docetic Gnostics (cf. chap. 2, n. 27) who denied that Jesus became flesh. Hence, John’s main refutation was made clear: Jesus has come and even remains (utilizing the perfect tense, elēluthota) in the flesh forever more (cf. 2 John 7).

[13] See also John 6:47; 1 John 5:12 where the present active indicative echei is utilized to indicate the certainty of one’s salvation.

[14] Ibid.

Daniel 7:9-14

“I kept looking, until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. . . . 13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before Him. 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.”

In this section of Daniel, we read of two distinct persons who are the object of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. In verse 14, the Son of Man was “given dominion, glory and a kingdom,” by God the Father in which “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away.”

The term translation “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach, which corresponds to the Hebrew word, palach. In a religious context, when the term appears in the Old Testament where the object of the term is God, it carries the idea of religious worship, religious services, or performing religious rituals in honor to the true or to a deity (in contexts of false gods).

Note verse 27, the same term (pelach) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh, the “Highest One”: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.” The LXX translates pelach as hupotagēsontai, which is the 3rd person future indicative of hupotassō (“serve, submission”).

In verse 14, the LXX translates pelach as latreuō,[1] which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14). Although in some editions of the LXX, the term douleuō (“to serve”) is used, in a religious context (which verses 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō denotes religious worship,[2] signifying service or worship reserved for God alone.

Furthermore, to avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true religious worship, some have argued that the title “Son of Man” refers exclusively to humanity collectively In response, however, it is true that many places in the Old Testament does convey that meaning—but only where the context warrants.

However, in Daniel 7:9-14 this designation cannot be true contextually. The Son of Man in Daniel receives “dominion, Glory and a kingdom,” and “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.” This description cannot be said of men collectively. More than that, while modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish exegetes (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.).[3] Further, as noted, the testimony of early church Fathers connected the Son of Man in Daniel 7 with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.[4]

Notes-

[1] Cf. The LXX editions of H. B. Swete and Alfred Rahlfs.

[2] For example, in Galatians 4:8, Paul says, “When you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” The phrase “were slaves” (or “you served”) is from the verb douleuō. Paul was clear: to douleuō (religious service), anyone other than God in a religious context is idolatry.

[3] Aside from the Babylonian Talmud, Christian apologist Robert Hommel observes quite a number of early Messianic interpretations of Daniel 7:9-14:

A fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q246) quotes this verse and calls the messianic figure “Son of God,” “Son of the Most High,” and “a great god of gods,” which indicates that the Qumran community looked for a divine messiah of some sort, and believed Dan 7:13ff referred to Him. The Midrash Numbers (13:14) says that Dan 7:14 refers to “King Messiah.” I’m unaware of any earlier testimonies of the rabbis” (Robert Hommel Worship and the Son of Man in Daniel 7 [http://forananswer.blogspot.com/2006/11/worship-and-son-of-man-in-daniel-7.html]; Nov. 8th 2006).

[4] Cf. For example, note in Justin Martyr’s rendering of Daniel 7:14: “And all nations of the earth by their families, and all glory, serve [latreuousa] Him” (Dialogue with Trypho, 31). See also Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.20.11; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3.7, 4.10; Hippolytus, Christ and AntiChrist, 2.26; etc.).

“It is His doing,” says Paul, that we “are in Christ Jesus, who became to us . . . righteousness. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:30). Ephesians 2:8-9 indicates we “are saved by [His] grace through [the instrument] of faith . . . not by [any] works.” Paul’s doctrine of faith alone is foundational to our understanding of what grace actually is and what being “declared righteous” (i.e., justified—through faith alone) by the Lord really means. As we know, in spite of the clarity of numerous passages in both the OT and NT, which stipulate this biblical truth, many non-Christian groups (esp. LDS and Catholics) deny this, thus denying the sufficiency and efficacy of the cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These groups routinely appeal to James 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” Then, in the same breath, verse 24: “A person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Note that James actually says a person is “justified by works” and “not by faith alone” (ouk ek pisteōs monon). Typically, most Christians will respond to the objector by insisting that the Bible teaches that man is saved by “faith alone” and not by works. Although this is true, the response is lacking—because it doesn’t specifically deal with the passages in James 2, it just denies the assertion of the objector. To make matters worse, the objector will quickly point out the fact that James 2:24 is the only place in the NT where the exact phrase “faith alone” is used, and in the negative—“not by faith alone!”

However, groups such as Roman Catholics, who claim Scripture is the inspired Word of God, inadvertently make the NT contradict itself—placing James’ theology against Paul’s. Paul clearly says, “a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28). And Paul argues elsewhere, “the one who does not work, but believes in Him . . . his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). Paul’s faith-alone theology is unequivocally seen throughout his epistles (cf. Gal. 2:16; Rom. 4:4-8; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13; etc.).

Reconciling the Apparent James vs. Paul Discrepancy

There are several issues, which clearly erase any idea of discrepancy, affirm the theological consistency of James and Paul, and the biblical revelation of justification apart from any works.

Different Meanings. As we will see, contextually both James and Paul mean something different in their usage of particular terms—especially the term “justified.”

Word Fallacy. Because both James and Paul use the same terms (dikaioō, “to justify,” pisteōs, “faith,” and ergōn, “works”), the objector typically assumes that James is using “justified,” as Paul does,—in a context of salvation (viz. God pardoning the sinner declaring him righteous). This is the main error of the objector. By doing this, he engages in an exegetical word fallacy: applying a “limited” or single definition to a term at every place it appears regardless of the context. This error is a common one. We see the same with the term “world.” For example, the “world,” which the Apostle John says not to love in 1 John 2:15 is certainly not the same “world” as mentioned in John 3:16. The fact is, terms such as “world,” “every/all,” “prosperity,” “heal,” “son,” “age,” etc. are frequently misdefined due to a missing context. Remember, words are meaningless without a context. Since most terms can have various meanings, one must pay close attention to the context in which a term appears in order to obtain an accurate definition of the term in a given passage.[1]

So, in James 2:14-26, the objector applies a limited meaning to the term “justified”—that is, the actual act of God pardoning and declaring the sinner righteous by imputing the righteousness of Christ to the sinner’s account through faith—happening at conversion (cf. Rom. 3:28; 5:1; etc.). Although, this kind of justification is the marrow of Paul’s theology, James is not speaking about this kind of justification. In James 2:14-26, James is speaking of the already justified (saved) Christian being “justified” by his actions (esp. love) before men.

James explains that a workless faith, is a faith that is fruitless, not a real faith at all; it is not a genuine faith that was the result of regeneration. Again, James is dealing with the already justified person showing the world, by his works and behavior, that he is actually saved. In the same way, Abraham, who was already justified before the Lord by his faith alone, proved to men his justified status by his actions of obedience (“works”) offering up Isaac. This is the very point James makes in 2:21ff. Therefore, James can say Abraham was justified (before men) by his works and not by faith alone. Understanding this makes it easier to see what James is saying and thus draw a distinction between how James uses “justified” (before men) and how Paul uses it (before God).

In fact, there are many places in Scripture where God subsequently declares an already justified person “righteous” (as with Abraham in Gen. 15:6). There are also places where God pronounces an “act of justification” or openly acquits an already justified person before others. For example, Jesus in Luke 7:36-50 openly declares to Simon the Pharisee and to the women who washed His feet that her sins were forgiven.

It is obvious that her sins had been previously forgiven at some prior time. Her acts of piety and devotion toward the Lord Jesus show this to be true, which prompted Jesus to declare to her openly: “Your sins have been forgiven” (cf. vv. 40-48). Her previous state as truly justified motivated her acts of devotion towards the Lord Jesus. We saw the same with Abraham in Genesis 15:6: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness,” which James even quotes in 2:23. When was Abraham “credited as righteous”—before or after this passage? Clearly before, for this could not have been the first time that Abraham believed.[2]

Faith and Works. So far, we saw how James uses the term “justified” in distinction to Paul’s usage. Now let’s look at the terms “faith” and “works” as used by James in distinction to Paul.

“Faith” (pisteuō). As with the term “justified,” the meaning of “faith” in James 2 is determined by the context. Frequently, Paul uses “faith” in the context of being the sole “instrument” (precondition) of justification (e.g., Rom. 5:1). Faith in this sense denotes the trustful response, which was the result of regeneration—faith is the instrument of justification whereas the lone merits of Christ is the cause of justification. Here, however, James is addressing those whose faith was progressing (if not already there) towards a stiff intellectualism empty of love, which James calls “faith without works”—that is, a dead faith.

“Works” (ergōn). Paul renounces the idea that any kind of works can merit in any way, shape, or form one’s justification—they cannot contribute anything to salvation. James, however, sees “works” as acts of kindness (love) to those in need. To James, this proves the evidence of one’s “actual justification” and a true and vital faith (2:14-17). So, although both James and Paul use the same terms (“justified,” “faith,” “works”) they use them in a different sense and context.

Further, Galatians 3:6 reads: “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Here and throughout Paul’s writings, he speaks of how a man may achieve justification before God (by faith alone) in which he cites Genesis 15:6. While James speaks of how a Christian should demonstrate or display (by works) his already and actual justified state in which James cites Genesis 22:9-10. Consider also, that Abraham’s “show” of faith (to offer Isaac up as proof) was at least twenty years after he was “credited as righteous.”

Similarly, in James 2:25, James asks, “Was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way?” However, before her noble “faith-act” of hiding the messengers, Rahab already had faith in YHWH (cf. Josh. 2:9). “The LORD your God,” she said to the messengers, “is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (v. 11). She was already righteous before God through her faith alone and later justified before men by what she did. Again, this is precisely the point that James is making: observable faith before men (cf. James 2:25).

In this sense, James sees “works” in a positive sense: Works that justify a Christian before men. Whereas Paul speaks of “works” in the negative sense: Works that do not justify before God. In 2:14, James asks, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” The answer, of course, is No! True faith results in works (cf. 1 John 3:16-18). James further says, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself” (v. 2:17). So Luther rightfully affirms: “We are saved by faith alone, but that faith is not alone.”

Lastly, note the “language of observation,” as I call it. We find James using terms and phrases in chapter 2 denoting a real and literal “seeing/showing” faith, which again supports the context of as one of demonstrative active faith (shown by works), which justifies a Christian before men. For example, James uses phrases such as “show me,” “I will show you” (v. 18); “you see” (vv. 22, 24); etc. This, along with Abraham and Rahab’s “show” of faith defines the context: a show-faith before men.

Only by ignoring the audience to whom James wrote, the defining context, specific terms and phrases used, and the examples of Abraham and Rahab causes groups like Catholics and the LDS to remove James 2 out of its natural context making it oppose Paul’s faith-alone theology.

Therefore, when James says that a person is “justified by works and not by faith alone,” he is speaking of a person (Christian) whose works (viz. love) serves as proof to men that he is actually justified before the Lord. Whereas when Paul says, “a man is justified by faith apart from works” (Rom. 3:28; cf. 4:6; 5:1), Paul is speaking of a person to whom God, through faith alone, pardons and imputes to him the righteousness of Christ. Again, James speaks of how Christians are “justified” before men (by faith and works); Paul speaks of being “justified” before the Lord (through faith alone by God alone; cf. Rom. 8:33; Eph. 2:8-9). To interpret James 2:14-26 in a context of a sinner being “justified before God” (salvation) by works is a blatant “misuse” of the intended meaning of the Apostle James. That a person’s works (any works) justify him or her before the Lord contradicts the entire biblical content of divine revelation.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

[1] Similar exegetical errors include known as “illegitimate totality transfer” (cf. Cf. Darrell Bock, in Introducing NT Interpretation; also cf. D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies). This fallacy “assumes that a word carries all of its senses in any one passage” (Bock, 110; the Amplified Bible tends to invoke this fallacy). Hence, to apply every definition that a term can have to a given passage with no regards for the context is an exegetical error.

[2] We see the same distinction (actual vs. open declaration) in the Sonship of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus was already and actually the “Son” when He was subsequently and openly declared to be the Son on many different occasions throughout His life (e.g., at His baptism, cf. Matt. 3:16-17; at the transfiguration, cf. Matt. 17:5; His resurrection, cf. Acts 13:33; see also Rom. 1:2-4, where the Son was declared to be the Son).