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 preexisted 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 on that fundamental premise upon 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 (“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 the 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 here 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). Cleary, 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, 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 Hebrew 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.    

[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 chapter 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”); 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 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, the 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 John 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.”

All Christians should be biblically familiar with the real meaning of what most call “Christmas”, which is the most important event in all of human history: God became flesh. It is a celebration of God the Son adding a new nature and becoming flesh, in order to live the perfect life and die on the cross fulfilling the requirements of God’s perfect and holy justice. This produced both forgiveness of our sins and the evasion of divine wrath due our account because of it (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). The fact that the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, stepped into His own creation to provide redemption for sinners is the theological trademark and faith to which true Christians are devoted.

Essential Part of the Gospel 

The perpetual incarnation of God the Son is one of the most essential and foundational doctrines of Christendom – not only does it define true Christianity, but it defines the work of the Son—the gospel itself! The Incarnation is fully revealed in the NT. Paul calls it a “mystery”[1] meaning that it was once hidden (pre-NT), but now has been revealed (NT). However, we do see allusions of it in the OT (cf. Isa. 9:6: “child[humanity] will be born to us, a son [deity] will be given to us”). The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” The term translated “descendant” is from the Greek spermatos (from sperma), which means that He was from the literal bloodline of David, nothing metaphorical or figurative about it—God actually became flesh (cf. Rom. 9:5). Only as God-man could Paul say that is was the “Lord of glory” that was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8; cf. 1 Sam. 15:29; Acts 7:1), or say in his farewell address to the elders/overseers (pastors) of the church of Ephesus: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). God’s “own blood” is the blood of the God-man, Jesus Christ(Acts 20:28).

JOHN 1:1 (trans. mine): In the beginning before time, the Word was (ēn) already existing [eternally, cf. Phil. 2:6], and the Word was with [pros], distinctly and intimately, God [the Father], and the Word as to His essential nature/essence [i.e., qualitatively] was fully God [theos—in the same sense, but not the same person as that of God the Father].” Two distinct persons sharing the same nature of God.

JOHN 1:14 (trans. mine): And the Word [who was God] became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the one and only, unique one, from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The verb eskēnōsen (“dwelt among us,” NASB) derives its meaning from the Hebrew term sākan referring to Yahweh coming down to earth to dwell (cf. Exod. 25:8; cf. 2 Sam. 7:5-6). In verse 1, the Apostle John positively affirmed that the Word was (a) eternal/preexistent (1:1a), (b) distinct from God the Father (1:1b), and (c) absolutely God (1:1c). In verse 14, John further identifies the bodily incarnation of God the eternal Word showing that Jesus Christ was not merely a temporary “theophany” (theos phainō, lit., “God appearance”; e.g., Gen. chaps. 18-19), but rather “the Word became flesh [ho logos sarx egeneto].” The Greek here clearly indicates that God the Son did not “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or costume, but He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh.

JOHN 1:18: “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The prologue of John (vv. 1-18) contains some of the highest Christology in the NT (as does the prologues of Col. and Heb.). After having established the Word’s deity (including His role as the Creator), preexistence, distinction from the Father, and His incarnation, now in verse 18, the perpetual incarnation of the eternal Word is expressed. The phrase (“who is”) present active articular participle ho ōn (“who is,” lit., “the one being”) denoting timeless ongoing existence (as with Rom. 9:5: “Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

Systematic theologian, Robert Reymond remarks on the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father’” (Reymond, Systematic Theology) In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular participle denoting Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Thus, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [“exegeted”] Him.”

PHILIPPIANS 2:7: He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Verse 6 starts with the affirmation that Christ is “always existing” in the form/nature of God (as clearly taught in John 1:1, 5:17-18; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:8, 22:13 et al). However, He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” that is, to be used for His own independent advantage. “But [He Himself][2] 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”— God the Son emptied Himself by incarnating Himself in order to provide definite redemption by His vicarious and perfect life and substitutionary death on the cross.

The Necessity of God Becoming Man

First, no “mere man” can provide redemption (cf. Ps. 49:7-8), but as perfect man and fully God, Jesus’ redemptive work has infinite value, as He declared on the cross, “It is finished”! Second, as perfect man,Christ lived the perfect life fulfilling the “covenant of works” that Adam did not keep and to which all humans are related (cf. Gen. 2:17; Hosea 6:7; Rom. 5:5-13). God required perfect obedience, which resulted in the promise of eternal life. Adam, as well as all humans, could not keep this covenant. So, God enacted a new covenant, a covenant of grace, in which salvation is granted to sinners, but not on grounds of their own merits, rather the merits of the incarnate “God Christ,” the “second Adam,” who met all the requirements of the justice of God in not only His vicarious cross work, but also His perfect and substitutionary life. That is why Paul says that we “shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

Hence, the incarnation of God the Son was the very means God provided to redeem His people—“the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” Only because the Son is both God and man is He now our Priest in which He intercedes (mediates) forever between God the Father and us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25).

The Perpetual Incarnation

The incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was not a temporary event, rather it was perpetual and is permanent—He is forever more God in the flesh.

COLOSSIANS 2:9:“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The book of Colossians sharply refutes the dualistic ideology (i.e., spirit vs. matter) of gnostic philosophy that rejected the material/physical world). Some the “Docetic” gnostics went so far as to say it really did not exist—anything physical was illusory only seeming to be real. Hence, they naturally repudiated the concept of Jesus being God in the flesh. Paul opposed this view, definitively presenting the Christ as the Creator of all things and (cf. 1:16-17), and in Him, Christ, presently, continuously, and permanently “dwells” (katoikei) all the fullness (plērōma) of Deity (theotētos) in bodily form (sōmatikōs)—namely, Jesus is God in the flesh. Therefore, against the Gnostics, in 2:9 (and many other places), Paul stresses in the strongest way that in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, continuously and permanently dwells all the fullness of God in human flesh.

1 & 2 JOHN. In these two epistles, we find the same problem that Paul addresses in Colossians. The incarnation of Jesus Christ was so essential to the Christian faith that the Apostle John sees it as the ultimate test of true orthodoxy—namely, genuine Christianity. As with Colossians, John provides a sharp refutation against the flesh-denying Gnostics. This is especially seen in 1 John 4:2-3:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist.

Note the phrase translated “has come” is from the Greek verb elēluthota, which is a perfect active participle (from erchomai, “to come”). The general import of a perfect tense is a completed action occurring in the past with continuous effects; it denotes a present condition or state resulting from a past action (the perfect is used in John 19:30: “It is [has been for all time] finished.” Thus, the literal reading of verse 2 is “Every spirit that confesses/acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh is from God.” The two-natured person, God the Son, became and remains in the flesh. John expresses the same in 2 John 1:7 where the present active participle is used to express the same thing:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming [and remaining] in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The Apostle John sees that believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh presently and forevermore is a mark of true Christianity. In fact, so important is this biblical truth to John that anyone who denies it (as with JWs) is not only characterized as “the spirit of the antichrist,” but in 2 John 1:7, this person is ho planos (‘the deceiver”) and ho antichristos (“the antichrist”)—note the definite article precedes both nouns.

Scripture explicitly stresses both the necessity and importance of the incarnation—namely, knowing and understanding that Jesus Christ became man and thus remains the God-man forever (cf. Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). Hence, we must always include the incarnation and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in our proclamation of the gospel, just as biblical authors and the early church did—not merely on December 25th.

Because He became flesh, He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Scripture presents that God the Son actually substituted Himself on behalf of His people, in their place. His cross work perfectly secured salvation for them. Because He became flesh, His substitutionary atonement did not merely make salvation a possibility for all men, but rather it actually and infallibly saved those for whom He died. Christ’s death removed the wrath from those who were effectually called – both Jews and Gentiles, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)—only because God the Son became flesh.

NOTES

[1] By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He [or “God”] who was revealed in the flesh. . . .”

[2] Here the reflexive pronoun heauton (“Himself”) precedes “emptied” (heauton ekenōsen, lit., “He Himself emptied”), which denotes a “self-emptying.” 

“Now, Father, glorify [doxason] Me together with Yourself [para seautō], with the glory which I had [eichon] withYou [para soi] before the world was” (emphasis added).

One of the most attacked doctrines launched by “unitarian” groups (i.e., seeing God as one Person) such as Muslims, JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Oneness Pentecostals, is, of course, the full deity of Jesus Christ.[1] If Jesus Christ is really God in the flesh, then, the very core theology of these groups is utterly demolished.

There is quite a lot of scriptural evidence that clearly shows Jesus Christ as being fully God. One such strong and undeniable proof, however, is His preexistence. Demonstrating that the Person of the Son preexisted firmly establishes the eternality of Jesus Christ—especially at passages that present Him as the Creator.[2] There are many passages in both the OT and NT that affirm the Son’s preexistence (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 3:13; 8:57-58; 16:28; 17:5; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; etc.).  

John 17:5 is a passage that clearly and exegetically affirms (a) the eternality, and hence, deity of the Son and (b) His personal distinction from God the Father, which affirms the Trinity and swiftly refutes the Christological assertions of these unitarian groups (esp. Oneness theology):   

Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself[para seautō] with the glory which I had [eichon] with You [para soi] before the world was.”

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father, He requests or commands (as we will see)[3] the Father to glorify Himself together with the Father, with the glory that He had (or shared [eichon]) with (para) the Father before the world was. Hence, according to the Son’s own words, He pre-existed withthe Father—“before the world was.” Again, this passage strongly refutes not only the claims of unitarian groups who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, but specifically the modalistic claims of Oneness Pentecostals who deny both the Son’s deity, preexistence, and unipersonality.[4] As we will see, the exegetical significance is undeniable.

“Glorify Me together with Yourself.” First, the glory mentioned here is a shared glory—Father and SonIt is the divine glory that Yahweh does “not share” with anyone else (cf. Isa. 48:11). Notice that the glorification applies to both the Father and the Son, the glory they shared before the creation. It is not glory apart from the Father that Jesus seeks, but rather glory alongside (para) the Father. The glory of which Jesus speaks is a “Me with You” glory. No creature can make this claim. In terms of the divine unshared glory that the Son possesses, Hebrews 1:3 corresponds in a remarkable way to John 17:5: “He [the Son] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His [the Father] nature.”

In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah saw (eidon) the glory of Yahweh (lit., “the glory of Him”; cf. also v. 2). Amazingly, this glory that Isaiah “saw” was the glory of Jesus, according to the Apostle John: “These things Isaiah said because he saw the glory of Him [referring to Jesus, cf. v. 37] and he spoke of Him”(John 12:41). The same terms found in Isaiah 6 verses 1 and 2 in the Greek translation of the OT (i.e., LXX; horaō, “I saw” and ho doxa, “the glory”) are found in John 12:41 to reveal that the glory of Yahweh that Isaiah saw was the glory of Jesus Christ. As Calvin says: “For assuredly the God who appeared to Isaiah was the one true God, and yet John declares that he was Christ (Isa. vi; John xii. 41)” (Institutes, 1.13.23).  

And second, aside from this passage, which clearly displays the distinction and intimate relationship between the Father and Jesus, there is the issue of the aorist imperative form of doxazō (i.e., doxason, “glorify [Me]”). Although the imperative mood can denote a simple request, the most common usage of the imperative is for commands. Recognized Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace comments on the imperative verb: with the aorist [as in John 17:5], the force generally is to command the action as a whole. . . .[5]

Since Jesus is presented in Scripture as ontologically (i.e., by nature) co-equal with the Father, 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.

As stated, it is possible that the imperative here can be one of request, it is in the assumption of unipersonalism (i.e., believing that God is one Person), thus denying that the Son is a divine Person co-equal with Father, that we find a natural and automatic rejection of the imperative of command.

To recall, the main reason why, for example, Muslims, JWs, and Oneness believers reject the deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, is due to their false notion that God exists as one Person (unipersonal). Hence, they would ask, “How can another person (Jesus) be God, if God is one Person—the Father?” So, due to this misunderstanding of what Trinitarianism actually teaches, they accuse Christians of believing in three separate Gods.   

 PARA (“WITH”) + DATIVE 

John 17:5 is one of the strongest passages against these unitarian groups who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, because Jesus by His own admission claims that He shares divine glory with the Father—before time. Thus, Jesus here unambiguously affirms is co-equality with the Father and His pre-existence.  It is one of the strongest passages against Oneness theology, which claims that (a) God is unipersonal and (b) Jesus (the name of the unipersonal God) is the Father (cf. note 1 above)— rejecting any distinction between Jesus and the Father. Oneness theology asserts that Jesus as the Father took flesh and Jesus’ flesh (humanity) is called “Son.”

Therefore, in Oneness thinking, the “Son” (Jesus’ non-divine human nature) began in Bethlehem. Oneness advocates argue that this glory that the Son said He had “with” the Father was a mere plan or idea (not the Son in preexistence) of the Father before time. Conversely, it is the Son praying to the Father. It is the Son saying that He had glory with the Father. It is the Son saying that the glory He had with the Father was before time, which affirms both the Son’s deity and His preexistence.          

In further refutation to Oneness theology, let us examine the passage further. Notice the emphasis on the Son’s juxtaposition with the Father: “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, [para seautō] with the glory which I had with You [para soi] before the world was.” How can the Son say that He had glory “with” the Father before time if the Son was not a distinct Person from the Father and did not pre-exist as Oneness theology claims? Again, Oneness theology maintains that Jesus is both Father and Son—with no distinction of Persons.

What erases the Oneness notion is that, grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, lit., “together with Yourself”; para soi, lit., “together with You”), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.”[6] A. T. Robertson brings to light the exegetical details of verse 5: “This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side . . . ‘before the world was.’”[7] Systematic theologian Robert Reymond remarks on the Son’s eternal pre-existence 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.

Then Reymond then provides Lucid examples of other passages in John, which clearly speak of Jesus’ preexistence: John 3:13; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38,42; 16:28.” 

So how do Oneness advocates answer this? Well, the Oneness position asserts that the preposition para (“with”) means “with the mind/thought,” etc. So they apply that meaning to John 17:5. So, the glory that the Son spoke about was a future glory of the “Son,” which was merely “in the mind” of the Father (Jesus’ divine nature). Thus, as they argue, the Son was with God in terms of being in the “mind” of the Father, or a future “plan” of the Father, but not as a distinct person as the text plainly indicates. Oneness advocates conclude, then, that Jesus was actually praying: “Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory, which I had in Your mind as a future plan, before the world was.” Or, as one Oneness says, “God loved His plan before the beginning.” However, a few things should be considered: 

1) Although, para with the dative can carry a meaning of “in the mind” (Num. 31:49 LXX), there is no standard Lexicon that applies that meaning to John 17:5. In light of that, many Oneness teachers go so far as to abuse (that is, misquote) Greek lexicons in order to make the Oneness-unitarian position work. Again, no standard provides a metaphorical meaning as “in/with the mind” for para with the dative at John 17:5. In fact, Thayer says of para at John 17:5:”dwelling with God, John 8:38; i. q. [equivalent to] in heaven, John 17:5.”

2) Aside from John 17:5, every place in John’s literature where John uses para with the dative (10 times–John 1:39; 4:40; 8:38; 14:17, 23, 25, 17:5 [twice]; 19:25; and Rev. 2:13), it carries a meaning of “with” in a most literal sense–thus, nowhere in John’s literature does para denote “in one’s mind.”

Para is used with the dative at John 1:39; 8:38; 14:23: “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him”; and 19:25: “Therefore, the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross[para tō staurō] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” 

Thus, para with the dative at John 17:5 likewise indicates clearly that the Son shared/had glory para, that is, “with” (“side by side,” “in association with,” “in relationship with”) the Father before the world was. In the context of biblical monotheism, this can be consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity: God the Son praying to God the Father asking the Father to glorify Him with the un-shared Divine glory (cf. Isa. 42:8) that He possessed with the Father, before time (cf. John 1:1). The Gospel of John presents strongly and repeatedly that Jesus, the Son of God, claimed eternal pre-existence.

In conclusion, John 17:5 presents a potent affirmation of the pre-existence of the Son (and thus His deity and distinction from the Father) as outlined in the following points:

  •  The Son, not the Father, is praying (“Now, Father”, glorify Me”) 
  •  The Son commands the Father to glorify Him, signifying His coequality with the Father
  •  This divine glory is shared between the Father and the Son
  •  The Son declares that He possesses this divine glory alongside of/with (para) the Father, before time, and
  •  Para with the dative is used ten times in John’s literature. In every case, para denotes a literal “alongside of/with,” “in the presence of.” And never once does para with the dative denote a “in the mind” kind of modalistic interpretation (unless one is going to assert John 17:5 is the exception, as Oneness advocates as well as other unitarian groups do).                

NOTES

 [1]  Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus pre-existed, but only as the Father, thus denying the Son’s pre-existence, deity, and unipersonality. In Oneness theology, “Son” represents merely the humanity of Jesus (not the deity), and “Father” (and “Holy Spirit”) represents the deity of Jesus.

 [2]  E.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12).

 [3]  Below, we will discuss the significance of the aorist imperative tense (i.e., the mood of command)—doxason (“glorify [Me]”).  

 [4]  . See note 1 above.    

 [5]  Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testamentwith Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (GGBB), 485.   

 [6]  GGBB, 378; see also Walter Bauer, Fredrick Danker, William Arndt, and F. Gingrich’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG). 

 [7]  Word Pictures, 5:275-76.

 [8]  Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 230.

See Oneness Tract

NOTE: the answers provided to the questions below are a simple and quick guide for the interested person wishing to compare Oneness theology with Trinitarian theology. The answers do not represent a *full exegetical presentation—rather it simply and basically demonstrates (a) the fundamental Oneness unitarian assumptions (viz. asserting that God is one Person) and (b) the basic theological errors of Oneness theology (e.g., denying the deity of the Son). For an expanded exegetical refutation of Oneness unitarian theology see Oneness Theology (Modalism).

Important Question: If Jesus is the Father, why is there not a single passage that states this in the NT or the OT? The fact is, Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over 200 times in the NT–never as Father or Holy Spirit. In the NT, Jesus refers to the Father over 200 times as someone else.

Further, the Father and Jesus are mentioned in the same verse over 50 times. Further, 179 times, Jesus refers to the Father as “the Father,” “my Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from himself, at no time does he refer to “my Son” or anything of the sort as distinct from himself! Forty times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “sent by the Father,” but never does he refer to himself as the Father who sent the Son

Also, in Isaiah 9:6, where the name of the coming Messiah will be “Everlasting father,” is of no help for Oneness advocates trying to prove Jesus is the Father See Isaiah 9:6: Oneness Refuted

 

1. Where in the Scripture does it say that God is unitarian? (or that God exist as one person?)

Note: Nowhere in Scripture is God defined as one person, but rather as one Being: mono (from monos, meaning, alone or only one) and theism (from theos, meaning, God). Oneness adherents (along with Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses) wrongly assume that the concept or word “one” when referring to God (e.g., Deut. 6:4) has the strict denotative meaning of absolute solitude. Arguing unipersonalism (unitarianism) assumes a conclusion that is meant to be proved.

2. If God is unitarian, how do you explain passages such as Genesis 19:24 where Yahweh (“LORD”), rained brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven?

Note: there are many places in the OT where God is presented as multi-personal (e.g., plural nouns, verbs, nouns, prepositions, and plural adjectives were used of God, i.e., “Us,” “Our,” in Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8; 54:5; Prov. 30:3; John 14:23]; Yahweh to Yahweh and Elohim (“God”) to Elohim correspondences in passages such as Gen. 19:24; Ps. 45:6-7; Hos. 1:6-7; etc.).

3. If God is unitarian, why are there so many plural descriptions in the OT (viz. plural nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions) to describe the one God? (as seen above).

Example: in Isaiah 54:5, “Maker” is plural in Hebrew, lit., “Makers”; same with Psalm 149:2 where “Maker” is in the plural in Hebrew. The same can be said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, where the Hebrew literally reads, “Remember also your Creators” (plural in Heb.). Thus, because God is tri-personal He can be described as both “Maker” and “Makers” and as “Creator” and “Creators.” He is one Being, not one Person—a point that is repeatedly brought to bear by the OT authors.

4. If God is unitarian, why is it that there are so many places in the Bible where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are clearly distinguished from each other in the same verse?

Example, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Also see passages such as Matthew 3:17-17; 28:19; Luke 10:21-22; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 1:2-3; and Jude 1:20-21 where all three persons of the Trinity are referred—in the same verse or context.

5. If Jesus is the Father, why is it that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the NT, and never once is he called “Father? Note, that over two hundred times, the Father is referred to by Jesus or someone else as being clearly distinct from Jesus. Over fifty times, the Father, and Jesus are presented as explicitly distinct in the same passages (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 6:37-39, 44; 14:23; 17:5; 2 John 1:3; 2:22; Heb. 1:1-13; Jude 1:1; Rev. 5:13 et al. (see above). Further, almost one hundred and eighty times, Jesus is presented as referring to “the Father,” “My Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from Himself, and at no time does Jesus refer to “my Son.” Forty times, in the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “Sent by the Father,” but never does Jesus refer to Himself as the Father who sent the Son (cf. John 6:38). And over two hundred times, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit and Jesus as Distinct Persons- and Never once does Scripture call Jesus the Father or the “Holy Spirit.”

 6. If the “Son” has not eternally existed with (personally distinct from) the Father why then is the Son presented as the agent of creation, that is, the Creator Himself? (for in Oneness theology *only Jesus as the “Father” mode existed prior to Bethlehem).

Note: in passages such as John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:2, 10-12, the “Son” is clearly presented as agent of creation, the Creator Himself. Specifically, in John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2 and 2:10, the Greek preposition dia (“though”) is followed by a pronoun (autou, “Him”) in the *genitive* case (or possessive case). Grammatically, when dia is followed by the genitive (as in these passages), the preposition indicates “agency” (cf. Daniel B. Wallace, GGBB, 368; J. Harold Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. 31; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:478-79; and cf. also Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [hereafter BDAG], 225).

Hence, exegetically these passages do not indicate that the Son was a mere instrument of creation (as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe), nor, as Oneness teachers argue, these passages indicate that the Son was only a “thought” or “plan” in the Father’s mind when the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) created all things. Rather the Son is biblically (exegetically) presented as the Creator of all things Himself. That the Son was the Creator clearly disproves the Oneness position. This is the greatest weakness of the Oneness position: For if the Son created, then, He eternally existed with the Father.

7. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” can say, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had [or shared, eichon] with You before the world was.”? How did the Son have (literally, actively possessed) glory with (para) the Father before time if the Son did not exist before Bethlehem?

Note: In this beautiful passage (Jesus’ high priestly prayer) the “Son” (for Jesus says, “Now, Father”) says that He possessed or shared glory with the Father, before time.

To avoid the plainness of the passage (namely, the preexistence of the Son and His personal distinction from His Father), Oneness teachers argue that the glory that Jesus (the Son) had with the Father, only signified the future glory or “plan” in the Father’s mind, thus anticipating the Son’s coming at Bethlehem. But the Son, they say, was not really there with the Father “before the world was.” However, consider the following:

First, note that the glory that the *Son* said that He possessed or shared (eichon) was when? Answer: Before time. The Son said that He *HAD* glory *before* time—with (para) the Father. Exegetically, it cannot refer to the Father thinking of the Son or having the Son in view or in His mind, for Jesus uses the imperfect tense [eichon, *had*), which shows that the Son had or possessed it, not in the Father‘s mind. The Son is speaking of something that He had, that He shared with the Father; the Son is not speaking of something that the Father had (in view).

Second, when did the Son have this glory (which only God has, Isa, 42:8)? Before time, with the Father. The term *with* is para in Greek. Grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, para soi), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.” Noted Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace provides the precise meaning of the preposition para followed by the dative: “In general, the dative uses suggest proximity or nearness. a. Spatial: near, beside, b. Sphere: in the sight of, before (someone), c. Association: with (someone/something) (BBGG). This is agreed by recognized Greek Grammars and recognized Lexicons of the NT such as BDAG, 757. Noted Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson says of the passage that “This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side (para soi, “with thee”) ‘which I had’ (hē eichon, imperfect active of echō. . . . ” (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:275-76).

In sum, John 17:5 the Son first commands/asks (doxason, aorist impart.) the Father to glorify Him together with Him (para seautō, thus, a shared glorification, a glory that only God can have, Isa. 42:8), which shows that the glory that the Son had was in together in the presence of the Father. The *Son* said that He possessed (note the imperfect of echō) the glory WITH (para, in the presence of) the Father (not in the Father’s mind, for eh Son had it). And when did the Son have this glory? Before time. Also, only that the Son was God can He God make this request/command to the Father, not mere man. For God does not share His glory with no one (cf. Isa. 42:8).

So when a Oneness advocate says that the Son did not exist before time, remember, that assertion is not based on biblical exegesis, but rather on what he or she has been taught by Oneness pastors/teachers. Also, John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:10-12 teach exegetically that the Son was God, the agent of creation, the Creator, thus preexisting with the Father.

Note, of all the times para is followed by the dative in John’s literature (10 times), not once does para indicate with/in the mind, but rather, a literal association or in the presence of someone else or others, unless one (as Oneness advocates do) makes John 17:5 the exception to John’s usage:

For example,

John 1:39: He *said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him [par’ autw] that day, for it was about the tenth hour

John 8:38: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father [para tō patri ]; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

John 14:23: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and we will make Our abode with him.'” Note the first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”).

John 17:5: “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had/possessed [eichon] with You before the world was.”

John 19:25: “Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross [para tō staurō] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Revelation 2:13: “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed AMONG YOU [par’ humin], where Satan dwells.”

8. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” is said to be “sent” from the Father “out of heaven”?

Scripture presents in plain and normal language that the preexistent person of the Son was sent from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51; 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28; Gal. 4:4). Nowhere in the New Testament, however, is it said that Jesus sent the Son. If Jesus were the Father, as Oneness believers contend, one would expect to find a clear example of this—at least one passage (cf. John 3:13; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28).

“No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from [the] heaven [ek tou ouranou]: the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

References of the Son coming down from the heaven appear nine times in John chapter 6 alone!- – In Verses 32, 33, 41, 42, 50, 51-ek tou ouranou; verse 38 – apo tou ouranou; and verse 58 – “came down ex ouranou).

27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread ek tou ouranou, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread ek tou ouranou.

33 For the bread of God is that which comes down ek tou ouranou, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36: But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” 

38: For I have come down apo tou ouranou, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me

41: Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down ek tou ouranou

42: They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down ek tou ouranou?”

50 This is the bread which comes down ek tou ouranou, so that one may eat of it and not die.

51: I am the living bread that came down ek tou ouranou

58: This is the bread which came down ex ouranou; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

Thus, the person of the Son of Man was in heaven prior to being sent. That the “Son of Man” was in heaven prior to Bethlehem creates a theological problem for Oneness doctrine. For the “Son of Man” in Oneness theology was not the Father, but the human Son who emerged not until Bethlehem, but here, the Son of Man came from heaven, that is, the Son (cf. Phil. 2:6-11).

 

 

9. If Oneness doctrine is biblically true, why then do the biblical authors use grammatical features that personally distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Example,

First and third person personal pronouns: Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon]3 Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26).

 

Granville Sharp’s grammatical rule #6: Specifically, the repetition of the article tou (“the”) before each noun and the conjunction kai (“and”) that connects the nouns clearly denote a distinction between all three persons named.4 Note Matthew 28:19: “in the name of the [tou] Father and of the [kai tou] Son and of the [kai tou] Holy Spirit.” Further, Paul clearly presents the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not as three modes of a unipersonal deity, but rather as three distinct persons. The same grammatical distinctions are observed in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ, and [kai] the love of God [tou theou (lit. “the God”)], and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit be with you all.” .

In Revelation 5:13, the Lamb and the Father are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship, as they are clearly differentiated by the repetition of the article tō:

“To Him who sits” (tō kathēmenō [lit. “to the one sitting”—the Father]) “and the Lamb” (kai tō arniō—the Son) are grammatically differentiated by the repeated article (“the”), which precedes both nouns and are connected by the one conjunction kai (“and”). Further, turning to 1 John 1:3, not only does John show that believers have fellowship with both the Father and the Son, but the Father and the Son are clearly distinguished as two Persons by the repeated article tou (“the”) and the repeated preposition meta (“with”):

“We proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with [meta] us; and indeed our fellowship is with the [meta tou] Father and with [kai meta] His Son [tou huiou], Jesus Christ.”

There are many other passages where this construction applies clearly denoting distinction between the Persons in the Trinity (e.g., 1 Thess. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 John 2:22-23).

Different prepositions: Throughout John chapter 14 (and chaps. 15-16), Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,”5 and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul, too, regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit: “For through Him [di’ autou—the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

10. If Oneness doctrine (or Modalism) is the so-called doctrine of the apostles, then, why was it universally condemned as *heretical* by the early church Fathers (some of who were disciples of the original apostles) and condemned by all the important church councils and creeds?

Example, Theodotus (the first known dynamic monarchianist) was excommunicated by Victor, the bishop of Rome, around A.D. 190; Noetus (the first known modalist) was condemned by Hippolytus and by the presbyters around the same time; Praxeas was marked as a heretic by Tertullian; Paul of Samosata was condemned at the Third Council in Antioch (A.D. 268); Dionysius of Alexandria and Dionysius bishop of Rome along with many important church Fathers condemned Sabellius and his teachings as Christological heresy. Moreover, significant Christian church councils affirmed the Trinity and explicitly rejected Oneness doctrine: e.g., Council of Nicea (325); Chalcedon Creed (A.D. 451); Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381); etc.

Consider this, Trinitarians, not Oneness believers, conducted all of the major revivals worldwide. Virtually all of the great biblical scholars, theologians, and Greek grammarians, historically have been and presently are Trinitarian, not Oneness—for obvious reasons. The church has branded Oneness theology as heretical since the days of Noetus at the end of the second century. Moreover, when it found its way in the twentieth century, departing from the Trinitarian Pentecostals, it was again rejected by the church.

Modalism rips the heart out of Christianity—it denies Christ by misrepresenting Him. To be sure, Modalism embraces another Jesus, another Gospel, and another Spirit. There is only one true God. The Apostle John was very concerned as to the false beliefs and teachings of Jesus Christ, as he gives this warning:

“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

By promoting the Son as a temporary mode or a role of the unitarian deity whose life started in Bethlehem, denies the Son, as well as the Father.

1. Oneness theology rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, for they are unitarian (i.e., believes that God exists as one Person—unipersonal).

2. Oneness theology rejects the eternality of the Person of the Son.

3. Oneness theology rejects that the Son was the actual Creator.

4. Oneness theology rejects the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

5. Oneness theology distorts and thus rejects the biblical concept of the Son being Mediator (Intercessor) between the Father and men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). For if Jesus is the Father, then, between whom would He Mediate since by definition a mediator/intercessor represents two distinct parties, other than Himself. Biblically, only Jesus, God the Son, can rightfully represent the Father (because He is God a distinct person from the the Father), and represent man because He is fully man. Again, in its proper sense, a “mediator” is one who is other than or distinct from the parties, which are being mediated. However, since in Oneness theology Jesus is both Father and Son, Jesus cannot be properly “Mediator” between two parties–God the Father and man.

6. Many Oneness churches especially the UPCI rejects justification through faith alone by teaching that one must be water baptized (“in the name of Jesus” only) to be saved—with the evidence, as the UPCI teaches, of speaking in other tongues.

7. Virtually all Oneness churches reject that water baptism should be done in the *triune* formal as instructed by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, rather, as they insist, it should be dome in the name of Jesus only.

NOTES

[1] In Phil. 2:7, the participle labōn, (“taking” as in “taking the nature of a servant”) is a participle of means (cf. Wallace, BBGG, 630). The participle describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). Note that the emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: hos en morphē theou huparchōn (“who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance God”; author’s translation).

[2] Cf. Wallace, BBGG, 350-51; Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology, 263.

[3] BDAG defines allos here as “pert[aining] to that which is other than some other entity, other . . . distinguished fr. the subject who is speaking or who is logically understood. . . .” (BDAG, 46).

[4] This grammatical rule is also know as “Granville Sharp rule #6: when multiple personal nouns in a clause are each preceded by the article ho (“the”) and linked by kai (“and”) each personal noun denotes a distinct person as in Matthew 28:19 (esp. 2 Cor. 13:14; also cf. 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13).As NT scholar Harold Greenly points out, “When the article is used before each member, each is to be considered separately” (Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 23).

[5] Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 34. Additionally, the repetition of the preposition distinguishes the Father and the Son as two distinct self-aware Subjects (e.g., 1 John 1:3).

The biblical evidence of the pre-existence of the Son irrefutably proves the Oneness position false. Just as the present active participle huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 communicates the perpetual existence of the divine Son, more than a few passages contain the present active participle ōn (from eimi), which also  denotes the Son’s eternal existence (cf. Harris, 1992: 157-58). In explicit reference to the Son’s eternality, the present active participle is used both articularly (ho ōn) and anarthrously (ōn). Two such examples of the articular form of the participle are John 1:18 and Romans 9:5.

John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added).

Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (emphasis added).

Note the defining context of both passages: the Son’s absolute deity. They even call the Son theos, which intensifies further the affirmation of the Son’s deity and His pre-existence. Referring to John 1:18, Reymond (1998: 303) remarks in the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn … indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father.’” In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular present participle to denote Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Also note the egō eimi phrase preceding the participle here (cf. John 8:24, 58; cf. Chapter 2, 2.4.5).

We also find the use of the anarthrous present active participle ōn, in contexts where the deity of the Son is clearly in view. In Hebrews 1:3, the present active participle (i.e., hos ōn) “marks the Son’s continuous action of being, which denotes total and full deity” (Robertson, 1932: 5:17-18; cf. Tenny, 1981: 34).[7] It “refers to the absolute and timeless existence” (Rodgers and Rodgers, 1998: 516). The participle ōn in Hebrews 1:3 is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 4. This is similar to the use of ēn, in John 1:1, which is set in contrast with egeneto, in 1:14, and of huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9), which is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 7. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal pre-incarnate Son and all things created. 

 

The ultimate test that unequivocally decides what is and what is not genuine or orthodox Christianity is simply the biblical doctrine of the Person, nature and finished work of Jesus Christ. He made this clear in a question to His disciple Peter: “What do you think about the Christ” (Matt. 22:42). Similar to Jesus’ statement in John 8:24 (cf. chap. 2, sec. 2.4.5) eternal life is absolutely dependent on believing in the Jesus of biblical revelation (cf. John 17:3). The fact is, virtually all major non-Christian cults assert, “Jesus Christ is Lord” (e.g., Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.). This is, to be sure, a meaningless assertion. For the Jesus of these groups oppose the biblical presentation. The Apostle John indicates in 1 John 2:22-23:

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (emphasis added).

Thus, proclaiming a belief in God the Father while denying the biblical presentation of the Son (i.e., denying His nature as God-man, His finished work, and His unipersonality [i.e., that He is a distinct Person]) denies God Himself. One cannot remove the Son from the Godhead and yet claim that he or she has salvation – for he or she, as John indicates, does not have God. “He that does not honor the Son,” says Jesus, “does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

In spite of the clear biblical (exegetical) affirmation of the full deity of the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ, non-Christian groups crassly reject this essential truth of God. The deity of the Son is especially seen in places such as: Daniel 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; 10:13; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:3-10; Revelation 5:13-14; and 22:13.

There are several places in the New Testament where the Son is actually called ho theos, “the God,” these would be, as included above, John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; and 1 John 5:20. What is theologically noteworthy is that Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (and perhaps 2 Thess. 1:12) are both Granville Sharp grammatical constructions – namely, Sharp’s rule #1. This rule is named after its founder (not inventor) Granville Sharp (A.D. 1735-1813). Sharp was passionate in his unyielding belief in the full deity of Jesus Christ. Sharp’s research of the Greek New Testament led him to discover six grammatical rules in which the Greek article ho, “the” and the conjunction kai, “and” were utilized.

Although there were six grammatical rules that Sharp discovered, rule #1 is the most recognized and cited. Generally (not verbatim), rule #1 states that when the connective kai, “and” connects two nouns of the same case (singular nouns that are not proper [e.g., personal names]), and the article ho, “the” precedes the first noun, but not the second, each descriptive noun refers to the first named person.[1] Hence, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 contain this construction emphasizing the full deity of the Son. Titus 2:13 reads: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Notice the phrase tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Iēsou Christou, literally, “the great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ.” Here, the conjunction kai, “and” connects both singular descriptive nouns, theou, “God” and sōtēros, “Savior” and the article tou, “the” proceeds the first noun, theou, “God,” but not the second noun, sōtēros, “Savior.” Therefore, according to Sharp’s grammatical rule, Jesus Christ is tou megalou theou kai sōtēros, “the great God and Savior.”

The same great truth is found in 2 Peter 1:1. Minus the extraneous words preceding the Sharp construction and the adjective megas, “great” in Titus 2:13, the reading in 2 Peter 1:1 is virtually identical: tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou, literally, “the God of us and Savior, Jesus Christ.” According to recognized Greek grammarians (e.g., Robertson, Greenly, Wallace), lexicographers, (e.g., Cremer), and commentators (e.g., Hendriksen) this rule is invariably valid markedly showing the full deity of the Son.

In contrast, Oneness teachers insist that the “Son” denotes only Jesus’ humanity and not the deity of Jesus blatantly rejecting the Son’s deity (seeing the “Father” and “Son” as modes or roles of the unipersonal deity named “Jesus.” While other non-Christian cults see Jesus as not God, but rather as a mere man. However, aside from the biblical passages where Jesus claims that He is God (e.g., John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58; 10:30; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8) and the passages where He is presented as God by His apostles (as seen below), the Son possesses the very attributes of God:

  • He has power to forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6)
  • He is greater than the temple (cf. Matt. 12:6)
  • He is Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:8)
  • He is the King of a kingdom and the angels are His gathering His elect (cf. Matt. 13:41; Mark 13:27)
  • He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (cf. Matt. 16:13-17)
  • He was to be killed and raised from the dead (cf. Matt. 17:9, 22-23; 19;26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; John 2:19ff.)
  • He is omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23)
  • He is omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17)
  • His is omnipotent (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25)
  • He gave His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark. 10:45)
  • He gives eternal life (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 10:27-28)
  • He is the monogenēs theos, “unique/one and only God” that came from heaven (cf. John 1:18; 3:13)
  • He pre-existed with and shared glory with the Father (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5; as will be shown in chap. 4)
  • He is Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8)
  • He was worshiped (cf. John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6)

Virtually every New Testament book teaches the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, explicitly or implicitly. This is exegetically seen in passages such as Matthew 1:23; Luke 10:21-22; John 1:1, 18; 5:17-23; Jesus’ seven absolute egō eimi, “I am” statements (viz. John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8); John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 16:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8-10; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Jude 4; Revelation 1:8; and 5:13-14. The biblical evidence is massive.

The Son is Creator

Further, the New Testament specifically presents the Son as the Creator of all things, thus pre-existing (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10). This is the strongest point of refutation against Oneness theology as well as all non-Christian cults who deny the deity and eternality of the Son, Jesus Christ.

The Son is Worshiped

There is another important piece of evidence affirming the deity of the Son. Scripture presents the Son as receiving the same kind of religious “worship” (proskuneō) as that of God the Father. This important reality can be especially seen, for example, in Daniel 7:9-14, where two distinct divine Persons are being presented (note, v. 9 says “thrones,” thus, not a single throne), 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 [douleuō, i.e., worship, cf. Exod. 20:5; LXX] Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away” (emphasis added).

In the New Testament, Jesus received religious proskuneō, “worship” – for example, by the men in the boat (cf. Matt. 14:33) and the blind man (cf. John 9:35-38). In Hebrews 1:6, the Father commands “all the angels of God” to proskuneō, “worship” the Son. This kind of worship was clearly religious in nature – for the setting is in the heavens before God the Father. In Revelation 5:13-14, the Father and the Lamb receive the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and the same kind of worship: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].” Note that these acts of proskuneō, “worship” to the Son were not merely in the context of honor and/or falling prostrate before another in mere “obeisance” (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses bible [NWT] says in Heb. 1:6 and other passages where Jesus received worship). Rather the Son was worshiped in a religious context – namely, worship that was reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5) – creaturely worship is highly forbidden by the Lord. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1b): “Who always being the brightness of His glory, the exact representation [image] of the nature of Him” (tēs hupostaseōs autou, i.e., nature of the Father; Heb. 1:3; translation mine).

Scripture presents a clear Christology

The Son of God, Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Son is fully God co-existing with the Father (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). He became man (cf. John 1:14). He was sent by the Father (cf. John 6:37ff.) to redeem the elect of God by His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:9-11; 8:32). The Son is the only Mediator between the Father and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, the Christ of biblical revelation is the divine Son, a personal self-aware Subject distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This is the Christ that saves. This is the Christ that Paul and the other New Testament authors preached. The very foundation of justification is through this God-man’s infallible and efficacious cross-work, the very instrument being faith alone, not the sacrament of water baptism (i.e., a work) accompanied by a five word formula (viz. “In the name of Jesus” as Oneness Pentecostals assert) of which the church has never prescribed.

Jesus affirmed that unless one has accurate knowledge, assent and trust in the Son of biblical revelation he would perish in his sins (cf. John 8:24). The rejection of the unipersonality and deity of Son and the rejection of the personal distinctions between Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit rejects the very nature of the triune God Himself (cf. John 17:3; 1 John 2:22-23).

Hebrews 1:2, 8, 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. . . . But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . . And, YOU [the Son], LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.”