“In Him”

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Conclusion

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

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

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

[2] Ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν Χριστῷ, ἐν Κυρίῳ.

Restoration & Healing: 
Jairus and the bleeding woman   

                                                                     

Deut. 32:39:

“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can save anyone from My hand.”

 1 Pet. 2:24-25:

“And He Himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

 
Mark 5:22-43 presents two examples of extraordinary faith, Jairus (a synagogue official) and the bleeding woman. Verse 22 starts the context with Jairus, but the narrative abruptly switches in verse 25ff.

25-26 “A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years [lit., ‘with a flow of blood’; most likely, vaginal bleeding, which would make her ceremonially unclean]. 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but instead had become worse.”

There were several specific Jewish cures for this problem mentioned in the Talmud. For example, carrying the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen cloth around one’s neck in the summer and in a cotton cloth in the winter and/or carrying barley corn from the excrement of a white female donkey. But for her, nothing worked!

27-28 “after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she had been saying to herself, ‘If I just touch His garments, I will get well.’ When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak.” “She had been saying” (lit. “she kept saying”) – Greek, elegen, which is an imperfect tense, indicating a past ongoing or repeated action, thus, she “kept saying, thinking.”

So, in this context the woman seems to have been trying (kept trying) to obtain the bravery to touch Jesus’ cloak: “If I just touch His garments, I will be healed.” Mark uses sōthēsomai from sōzō (“to save, heal, deliver”). The term would have had a strong Old Testament spiritual significance to his readers—Matthew uses the same term in the parallel (9:21). Some have suggested that since in other places, Mark uses other terms that merely mean “heal” (such as therapeuō[1]) the meaning here for the readers may be: “If only you would “touch” Jesus, you would be “saved!”

However, this would prompt the question: When did she have faith? In the same chapter, the faith of the demoniac is realized after he was healed, not before.

29 “And immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Here the girl was immediately healed even though she was willing to make Jesus, a Rabbi, ritually unclean by touching His garments. So, when did her motives turn to real faith in Christ? She had an enormous amount of faith in Christ healing her. Similar to the great faith of the centurion who in Luke 7:7, 9, said to Jesus:

“For I am not worthy for You to come under my roof . . . but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. . . . Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.’”

30-31 “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power from Him had gone out, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’ 31 And His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”  

Note the next verse in the ESV, “And he looked around to see who had done it.” Along with Mark 13:32, this is a classic objection to the deity of Christ made by Jehovah’s Witnesses and other unitarians: “If He is God, why did He not know who touched Him?” (and/or, “Why did He not know the day of hour of His return in Mark 13:32?”) Many Christians give the popular canned response appealing to the Son’s incarnation—He did not know as man (incarnation, emptied status – cf. Phil. 2:6-8) veiling [but not divesting] His divine prerogatives. However, the Greek provides clarity and removes any implied ignorance of Jesus here.

The verb in verse 32, translated “He kept looking around” is from the one Greek verb periblepō, which in the imperfect tense (a repeated action). This verb is used only six other times in the New Testament. Except for one place (Luke 6:10), only Mark uses this term (Mark 3:5, 34; 5:32; 9:8; 10:23; and 11:11). This verb seems to be a favorite term of Mark; it is only used of Jesus in the New Testament (except in Mark. 9:8).

Consider this: Every time the verb periblepō (“looked around”) is used (in any form), it is used to denote “a looking around in observation,” and not in ignorance or discovery (unless one asserts Mark 5:32 as the exception). Since the verb is only used of Jesus, obviously this is a very important term for Mark and has special relevance. Furthermore, every time the verb appears (including Mark 5:32) it is in the middle voice indicating the personal interest or concern for the thing of person(s) denoting Jesus “intently gazing” (which again, is the lexical semantic of the term).

Again, the verb is only used of Jesus in the New Testament (except in Mark. 9:8) and used to denote “a looking around in observation,” and not in ignorance or a mere vague or arbitrary “look to see what’s going on” kind of a thing removes any notion that the Son was ignorant of who touched Him. Some translations correspond well with the Greek rendering (e.g., NASB, Amplified). While others do not (e.g., ESV, Holman). However, note Matthew’s redaction in 9:20-22 (NASB; NET, ESV reads similarly):

And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him, and touched the border of His cloak; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus, turning and seeing her, said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” And at once the woman was made well.”

Although some translations, on the surface, present Jesus seemingly ignorant as to who touched Him in the Mark account, this notion is completely eliminated by 1) the lexical significance of the verb periblepō, 2) Matthew’s explicated version wherein Jesus immediately identifies the woman, and 3) the rendering of several clear translations: “He looked around to see the woman who had done this” (5:32, NASB).

 

33-34 “But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be cured of your disease.”

It was not the touching of Jesus’ garment that made her well; rather it was her great faith! Not faith in faith, but faith in Jesus. The phrase “has healed” (“Daughter, your faith has healed you”), is from sesōken. The verb here is in the perfect tense implying that the healing remained and continued.[2]

 

Jairus’ Daughter

 35 “While He was still speaking, people [messengers] came from the house of the synagogue official [Jairus], saying, ‘Your daughter has died; why bother the Teacher further?’” Note the tense here (aorist indicative), literally, “has died” was spoken by the messengers—implying that Jairus was very impatient.

36 “But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid, only believe.’” “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Two commandments here. The contrast can not be missed: faith is the opposite of fear. Same phrase (“Do not fear/be afraid”) is used in Mark 6:50 (the walking on the water incident):

For they all saw Him and were terrified [“great fear”!]. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid” (lit., tharseite, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe: “Take courage, I am, Do not be afraid!”).

Why be afraid? Jesus is the “I am,” that is, the eternal One, the YHWH “who stills the roaring of the seas” (Ps. 65:7; cf. 89:9).


37-39:
“And He allowed no one to accompany Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the synagogue official, and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And after entering, He said to them, ‘Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child has not died, but is asleep.’”

“Sleep” (katheudō) was an Old Testament (and NT) synonym for death as Jesus used it of Lazarus in John 11:11 and Paul in 1 Cor. 11:30: “For this reason [not recognizing the Lord’s sacrifice] many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep [dead].” Paul here speaks of partaking in the Lord’s Supper appropriately.

40-41 “And they began laughing at Him. But putting them all outside, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was in bed. 41 And taking the child by the hand, He said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ (which translated means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’).” “Talitha, kum!” is Aramaic, which seems to be the native tongue of the Jews of this time and thus of Jesus.[3] Hence, it seems to indicate that the audience to which Mark wrote was Gentile.

 

Points to remember:

  • Healings (spiritual and physical) are subject to God’s timing and sovereign will (Deut. 32:29; Acts 16:6-7; 1 John 5:14).  
  • Healings are not always physical (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24-25).  
  • Healings were with faith (as here in this narrative, cf. also Luke 7:7-8) and without faith (cf. Mark 9:24). 
  • God is sovereign over all life, death, sickness and healings (cf. Exod. 4:11; Deut. 32:39; Job. 13:14; 42:11; John 9:1ff—cf. Exod. 4:11).

 

“Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3).

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Notes

[1] Cf. Mark 1:34; 3:2, 10; 6:5, 13.

[2] Cf. Eph. 2:8, where sesōsmenoi, (“saved”) is the perfect participle from the same base verb, sōzō (“to save, deliver, heal, preserve, rescue”).

[3] There are many places in Mark (and few places in the other Gospels) where Aramaic phrases are recorded. For example, Sabbata in Mark 3:4; Boanerges in Mark 3:17; Satan in Mark 3:23, 26; 8:33; Talitha cumi (or kum) in Mark 5:41; Ephphatha in Mark 7:35; Gehanna in Mark 9:43,45,47; pasca in Mark 14:14; Abba in Mark 14:36; Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani in Mark 15:34 (contra Matt. 27:46) et al.   

 

Jesus the Son of God, claimed that He was truly God (cf. John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58; 10:30; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8) and possesses the very attributes of God:

 

  • He is the monogenēs theos, “unique/one and only God” that was sent from the Father and came down rom heaven (John 1:18; 3:16; 6:38)
  • He is truly God and truly man, God the Son (John 1:1; 5:17-18; 8:24, 58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Jude 1:4; Heb. 1:3, 8-13; 1 John 5:20)  
  • He is the Son, a distinct person from the Father and not the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; John 1:1; 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 John 1:13). 
  • He is the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10)
  • He was worshiped as God (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14)
  • He preexisted with and shared glory with the Father before time (Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 13:3; 6:38; 17:5)
  • He is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8)
  • He has the power to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6)
  • He is greater than the temple (Matt. 12:6)
  • He is Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8)
  • He is the King of a kingdom and the angels are His and they will gather His elect (Matt. 13:41; Mark 13:27)
  • He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:13-17)
  • He died and was raised from the dead (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 (Matt. 28:20; John 14:23)
  • He is omniscient (John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17)
  • His is omnipotent (Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25)
  • He gave His life as a ransom for many (Isa. 53:11; Mark. 10:45)
  • He gives eternal life (Luke 10:21-22; John 10:27-28)

 

Virtually every NT book teaches the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, explicitly or implicitly. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity. The Son is truly God and truly man coexisting with the Father; sent by the Father to redeem the elect of God by His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:9-11; 8:32), which He 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 NT authors preached—thus, this is the Christ we must proclaim! – – Blessed Trinity. 

 

 

 

NASB: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am’” (as in most trans.)  

Greek: εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί (eipen autois Iēsous: amēn amēn legō humin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi).

 

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

In John 8:24, Jesus declared, “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.)[1] Although most translations add either a predicated clause or the pronoun “he” after “I am”[2], the fact is there is no pronoun (i.e., no supplied predicate) contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscript of John 8:24 or after Jesus’ other affirmations of being the “I am” as in Mark 6:50; John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. An added predicate is a decision made by the translator.[3].           

Hence, these particular occurrences in John of Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” are not the same as statements in which contain a clear and stated predicate, such as, for example, “I am the door, the shepherd, the bread,” etc. Whereas the several “I am” statements exampled in John 8, 13:19, and 18:5, 6, 8 (and Mark 6:50) have no stated predicate in the Greek, but rather the “I am” stands alone–which would be an absolute claim to deity. Thus, the burden of proof would rest on the one attempting to  show otherwise.

As shown below, John 8:58 contextually and syntactically (esp. in light of the verb contrast) asserts an absolute unequivocal claim of deity made by Christ, which was clearly understood by the Jews in the next verse. However, whether or not the “I am” statements in the other passages are contextually unpredicated, that is, “I am the eternal God” claims, the deity of the Son is well established in the entire content of John’s literature (John 1:18; 5:17-18; 10:30; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 22:13 et al.).        

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi, the OT background must first be considered. The Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH alone (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4 et al..[4])—which the Jews clearly understood (cf. John 8:59).[4]

Again, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim.

When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6, and 8, we read that the “fearless” Romans soldiers “fell to the ground.” What would cause Roman soldiers to fall to the ground? So powerful were Jesus’ divine pronouncements that it caused His enemies to shudder to the ground. Even when Jesus was being arrested at perhaps one of the lowest points of His life on earth, He still retained total sovereignty over His enemies.

Jesus’ divine statements of being the “I am” were unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, that is the YHWH who spoke to Moses and the YHWH who rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from YHWH out of heaven.” 

Also See The NWT and John 8:58 


NOTES

[1] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn.

[2] For example, the pre-2011 NIV has a bracketed clause after “I am” that reads: “the one I claim to be.”

[3] Although the non-predicated divine declaration, “I am,” John 8:58 is accepted universally as a divine claim in biblical scholarship, not all scholars hold 8:24 in the same light as reflected in many translations. However, some translations (e.g., ISV [2008]; NAB) do see the phrase at 8:24 as unpredicted: “I am.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) reads: “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins” (caps theirs). Also see Vincent’s Word Studies, where 8:24, 28, 58 and 13:19 are seen as a “solemn expression” of Jesus’ “absolute divine being.”

[4] Some connect Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58. However, as mentioned, the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalence: Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). Though there is a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 (both provide same meaning: I am the Eternal one. Also note the articular participle, ὁ ὢν (ho ōn, “the one who is/being always”) in the LXX of Exodus 3:14. When contextually warranted, as in 3:14, the phrase indicates timeless existence – “who is always existing.” The phrase is applied to the Father in Revelation 1:4 and 4:8 and applied to the Son and John 1:18 denoting the Son’s eternal existence: “No one has seen God at any time; the only the unique God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Also applied to the incarnate Son in Romans 9:5 with the same sematic: “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.” The phrase also appears in Revelation 1:8. Although referential identity is not clear (Father or Son), verse 7 clearly refers to the Son, which seems to correlate naturally with verse 8.            

As pointed our above, the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative should be linked to the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was rendered by the LXX as egō eimi. Again, the unpredicted egō eimi was a divine title used exclusively by YHWH (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Unlike Elohim (“God”), the title egō eimi was never applied to men or angels, but to YHWH alone: “See now that I am [egō eimi], and there is no god except Me” (Deut. 32:29, LXX).

 

David says in Psalm 49:7-8 that “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.” Hence, “No man” could provide an actual redemption for man. However, Jesus is God in the flesh and as fully God, His atoning work had infinite value; and as fully man, Jesus was the perfect representation of man; thus, He was the perfect sacrifice. Paul states that Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse huper hēmōn [‘for, on our behalf of’]” (Gal. 3:13; cf. also Rom. 8:32).

 

Essential Gospel Element

So important was the incarnation of God the Son that the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant [spermatos] of David, according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). The Christ that Paul taught was the incarnate God, the two natured person, “the Lord of glory” (2 Cor. 2:8). Thus, a gospel presentation that omits the deity and perpetual incarnation of Christ would be an incomplete presentation.

The covenant of redemption among the persons of the triune God established that the Son would step into His own creation through His self-emptying—namely, His “being made in the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:7-8). The incarnation of our Lord was perpetual—namely, He is forever God in the flesh (Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). So essential was the perpetual incarnation that the Apostle John sees it as a defining mark of true Christianity and a denial of it as a distinguishing characteristic of ho planos kai ho antichristos (“the deceiver and the antichrist,” 2 John 1:7; see also 1 John 4:2-3).

 

Accomplishments of God Incarnate:

1. As God-Man, Christ provided a real propitiation.[1] The atoning work of the divine Son accomplished all that was necessity to secure our justification (Rom. 5:6-10; Gal. 2:16, 20; Heb. 10:11-14). His work was definite, eternal, and infallible, “Not dependent on the one willing, or the man running but on the eleōntos theou (‘the mercying God,’” Rom. 9:16). His reconciliatory work was accomplished vicariously on behalf of God’s predestined elect. God the Son satisfied both the penalty required for sin and the requirements of the law perfectly:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved [‘from the wrath of God,’ v. 9] by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

The Son was God incarnate, the perfect sacrificial offering, who performed a definite atonement in His physical body:

having made peace through the blood of His cross. . . . 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:21, 22).

The Gospel of John unequivocally highlights the Son’s deity and personal distinction from the Father and Holy Spirit. However, it also features in the same robust way, the Son’s definite atonement (esp. John 1:29; 3:14-18; 6:37-39, 44; 8:43, 48; 10:15). John also enunciates the same in his Epistles. For example, 1 John 2:2: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” John begins in verse 1, with the affirmation that Jesus Christ “the Righteous” is our Advocate when we sin. It is in light of this affirmation that John then assures his readers that the Righteous Christ “is the propitiation for our sins.”

The term “propitiation” (“atoning sacrifice,” NET, NIV) is from the Greek noun, hilasmos, from the verb hilaskomai, which has the linguistic idea “an appeasing, propitiating” (Thayer); “appeasement necessitated by sin, expiation” (BDAG); “a means by which sins are forgiven, sin-offering” (Newman); “atoning sacrifice, sin offering” (Mounce). The noun is only used here and 1 John 4:10 (verb used only at Luke 18:13 and Heb. 2:17).[2]

The real death of Christ appeased God. The first clause reads, Kai autos hilasmos estin (lit., “And He Himself propitiation is”). Note that the verb “IS” (estin) is in the present tense (“He is”), not a future tense (denoting possibility—as “He will be.” The present action of the verb along with its indicative mood (i.e., a mood of certainty) specifies the definiteness of the propitiatory (atoning) action. This is in contrast to the Arminian notion of a universal, hypothetical atonement, which did not redeem anyone specific.

The Son’s cross work was accomplished in His incarnate state. The NT affirms very plainly that the atoning sacrificial work was accomplished in His physical body (Rom. 7:4-6; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 10:10; 1 Pet. 2:24), in His life (Rom. 5:10), through His blood (Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2, 18-19; 1 John 1:7), on the cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20; 2:14-15), and in His death (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 2:9-10, 14; 9:15).

 

2. As God-Man, Christ is both a priest and a sacrificial lamb simultaneously (esp. Heb. chaps. 8-10). There are only two recognized priesthoods in the Bible, the Aaronic (Levitical) and Melchizedek. Regarding the Aaronic priesthood, in Leviticus we find specific requirements and functions of this exclusive priesthood, which include: 1) Being a literal descendent of Aaron and from the tribe of Levi, 2) Providing sacrifices to God for all the people (Heb. 5:1) and for themselves (Heb. 9:7), 3) Cleansed by way of a special ritual (5:3); 4) Chosen by God for their office (Heb. 5:4).

According to Hebrews, Jesus was considered an eternal priest, in the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:13-17).

Contrasting human priests with the Son, who is the eternal Priest, the author of Hebrews explains that since the human Aaronic priests died, it was a temporary priesthood (Heb. 7:23). Further, the Aaronic priesthood did not nor could it bring perfection (Heb. 7:11). Like Melchizedek, Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi nor was He a physical descendent of Aaron. According to Jewish Law then, Christ (and Melchizedek) would not be qualified for the priesthood (Heb. 7:14).

However, Jesus was distinct and superior from that of Aaron and his successors: “So much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22). As God-Man, Jesus’ priesthood, unlike the Aaronic priests and Melchizedek, is eternal:

but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:24-25; cf. Ps. 110:4).

Note, Jesus’ unique priesthood, which only Jesus and Melchizedek possessed, was nontransferable: “He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.” The term translated “permanently” (“not transient,” Young’s; “unchangeable,” KJV) is from aparabatos, which carries the lexical semantic of “without a successor, unchangeable, nontransferable,” etc.

Only as incarnate God is Jesus able to abide forever as an intercessory Priest in the order of Melchizedek. As fully God, His priesthood is permanent, eternal, and “without successors”—through which He can save us completely and eternally—“to the utmost.” As fully man, He is the High Priest who offers Himself as the atoning sacrifice and the only intermediary between the Father and man: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). And as man, Jesus identified with man in His weakness and sufferings:

He [Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18).

Only as the incarnate God is Christ priesthood eternal, “a mediator of a new covenant” providing the elect with His “promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). God the Father “offering the body of Jesus Christ once for all”— who is both High Priest and the propitiation.

 

3. Christ is our intermediary between God and man. In 1 Tim. 2:5, Jesus is said to be the mesitēs (“mediator, intermediary”), between God and man: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” An intermediary represents two parties. Jesus is the two natured person, fully God and fully man functioning as both eternal Priest and Mediator (and propitiation). Christ the Son is not merely a representation of God and man, rather His state as eternal Priest and Mediator (or Intermediary) between God and man consists of the Son as God-Man ontologically.

Chalcedonian Creed: “That is, that “the eternal Son of God took into union with himself in the one divine Person that which he had not possessed before–even a full complex of human attributes–and became fully and truly man for us men and for our salvation.”

 The Apostle Paul informs us in his glorious Carmen Christi (Phil. 2:6-11) that God the Son emptied Himself by taking the nature of a servant having been made in the likeness of men and having been found in the appearance as a man (Phil. 2:6-8).

The eternal Word became flesh in order to propitiate the Father, thus redeeming (through His perfect life and sacrificial death) all those that the Father gave Him (John 6:37). The incarnation of God the Son is an essential doctrine, since it is a vital part of the gospel (2 Tim. 2:8), it should be included in our evangelism. The propitiation, priesthood, and mediatorial role is accomplished by Christ, as the two natured person—the God-Man.

 

Rejoice, because of God-Incarnate you now have eternal life!

Hallelujah! Amen.


Notes

[1] Or “atoning sacrifice.”

[2] The verb is frequently used in the LXX (i.e., the Septuagint, Lev. 25:9; Ps. 65:4; 78:38 et. al.).

 

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definition: Three persons who share the nature of the one God, or, one God revealed in three coequal coeternal coexistent distinct persons (not people).

 
One God – Monotheism (monos, “one, only” + theos, “God”)

 

It is a basic straw-man to imply monotheism opposes the Trinity—the foundation of the Trinity is ontological monotheism, it seems you may not be familiar as to the basics of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Unitarian or unipersonal groups (such as Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses et al.) assume that every place “one,” “alone” etc. (in word or concept) are applied to God (e.g., Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:24; Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5), the unitarians read into these passages a meaning of “one person” reinterpreting monotheism to mean unipersonalism, although, there is no passage in the OT or NT, which clearly identifies God as “one person.”

Unitarians are deeply confused between “being” and “person.” Simply, “being” (an ontological reference) is What something is, while “person” is Who something is. Scripture presents one eternal God (one Being) revealed in three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, naturally and historically, the Christian church has steadfastly held to and affirmed the glorious Trinity and preexistence of the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ. 

 

 The Trinity is Essential Doctrinal

Essential doctrine is any doctrine that involves the person, nature, and finished work of Christ (gospel). Hence, since Jesus is God in the flesh, second person of the Trinity, the nature of God is the utmost highest essential doctrine (Hosea 6:6; John 4:24; 17:3; 1 John 2:22-23).    

The Trinity is The Foundation of The Gospel, it is the Mutual Operation of the three Persons that infallibly accomplishes the work of salvation—it is therefore the Triune God that Saves   

 

Biblical Data

 

  1. The OT presents a multi-personal God, not a unitarian one.

 

For example:

  1. The angel of the Lord (who was identified as YHWH (or YHWH- e.g., Gen. 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.).
  2.  YHWH and interacted with YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24).

  3. The places where YHWH/God speaks in first person of YHWH/God in the third person (such as in Gen. 22:11-12; Isaiah 13:17-19; Jer. 50:40; Hosea 1:7; Amos 4:10-11).
  4. The numerous places where Plural terms are used of the one true God. Plural nouns, verbs, adjectives, and plural prepositions are used of God (cf. plural nouns – Gen. 1:26 [“Our image, likeness”]; plural verbs – Gen. 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”]; Daniel 7:18, 22, 25, 27 [Heb., “Most Highs” or “Highest Ones”]; and many more could be mentioned. These examples can only be consistent with OT monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism—namely, three persons who share the nature of the One God.             

 

  1. The NT presents a triune God.

 

 Biblical Data Three Biblical Truths

  

I. There is only one God.  

II. There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as and called God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  

III. The three divine persons are distinct from each other.

 

CONCLUSION: The three distinct persons share the nature or Being of the one true God – only Regenerate will accept (John 8:43, 47; 1 Cor. 1:18).

Scriptural References

I. There is one eternal God (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; Jer. 10:10-11)—Not unitarianism, unipersonalism (monotheism means one God, not one person).

II. The three persons (or self-aware subjects) are presented as fully God—namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Father – – (God and unipersonal; cf. Rom. 5:10; Gal. 1:3).

The Son, Jesus Christ, is called and presented as theos, Kurios, and YHWH in a religious context in both the OT and NT (unipersonal).

The biblical evidence of the deity of the Son:  

 

 Old Testament—Jesus as God

 Angel of the Lord.

 Daniel 7:9-14—Son of Man.

 Isaiah 9:6: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [lit., ‘father eternal’], Prince of Peace.”

 

New Testament—Jesus as God-man

  

  • Jesus was referred to as God/Lord, or being equal with God: John 1:1, 18; 20:28 (Ps 35:23, LXX); Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 2;8; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 10-12 (Ps 102:25-27); Jude 1;4, 5

 

  • The Son is presented as Creator: John 1:3 (panta di’ autou egeneto, “all things through Him”); Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:10-12 (Kurie, “Lord”—Ps. 102:25-27 LXX; see also 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2; 2:10).

 

  • Jesus claimed to be God: Matthew 12:6; John 5:17-18 (eluen, “breaking, loosing,” elegen, “kept calling”); John 10:30; Egw Eimi—John 8:24, 28, 58, 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8 (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12); First and the Last—Revelation 1:17, 2:8; 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12).      

 

  • Jesus was worshiped in a religious context: Matthew 14:33: “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son.’”; John 9:35-39. Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:13-14: “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

 

The Holy Spirit is God (unipersonal):

The Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of God:

  • Eternal, having neither beginning nor end (cf. Heb. 9:14),
  • Omnipresent, being everywhere at the same time (cf. Ps. 139:7).
  • Omniscient, understanding all things (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).
  • Omnipotent (cf. Luke 1:35).

 

The Holy Spirit is a Person: – The Holy Spirit communicates and personal pronouns (“I,” “He”) are applied to Him. Acts 10:19-20: “While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit eipen autō, [“said to him”] – “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for egō (“I”) have sent them Myself” (cf. Acts 13:2; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17).

Personal Pronouns (e.g. John 16:13-14); – Possesses “personal” attributes (e.g., He has a will (cf. 1 Cor. 12:9-11); Emotions (cf. Eph. 4:30); Intelligence in that He Investigates (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Rom. 8:27); He intercedes/prays (cf. Rom. 8:26); He can be lied to (cf. Acts 5:3); He can be blasphemed (cf. Mark 3:29-30); Again as seen above- He issues commands (cf. Acts 10:19-20; 13:4; Acts 16:6]; He gives love (cf. Rom. 15:30: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me”; He is also our paraklētos (“Advocate; cf. John chaps 14-16). 

 
 III. The Three Persons are Distinct from each other

 To recall: The Three Biblical Truths:  1) There is only one God 2) There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as and called God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and 3) The three divine persons are distinct from each other.

  The three Persons are Distinct from each other: Angel of the Lord; John 1:1b. 17:5; Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Revelation 5:13.

Passages such as Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 1:3; and Revelation 5:13 (and are many others) all distinguish the persons in the Trinity from each other. This is due to their grammatical construction—namely, the repetition of both the article (ho, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”).

 

Matthew 28:19: “Baptizing them in the name of the [tou] Father, and [kai] the [tou] Son, and [kai] the [tou] Holy Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ and [kai] the love of the [tou] God and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit with all of you.”

1 John 1:3: “Indeed our fellowship is with the [tou] Father and [kai] with the [tou] Son of Him Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 5:13:The [] One sitting upon the throne and [kai] to the [] Lamb, the blessing and the honor and the glory and the dominion into the ages of the ages.”

Lastly, note, we find at several places, NT authors citing Old Testament passages referring to YHWH and yet applies them to the Son (e.g., compare Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Pet. 3:14-15; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13). 

 

                                                                               In conclusion 

Scripture presents a tri-personal God. There is one God, and there are three distinct, coequal, coeternal, and coexistent, self-cognizant divine persons or Egos that share the nature of the one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is God’s highest revelation to mankind.

                                                                                                       

“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). 

Let’s first note verses 1 through 9 and all the verbs expressing God’s blessing, electing/choosing, predestining, freely giving, lavishing the “riches of His grace,” “making know the mystery of His will,” obtaining an inheritance, etc. have God as the subject of the verbs (doing the actions) and man as the direct object (e.g., hēmas, “us”- receiving the actions).

 

Second, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God has chosen you [humas] from the beginning for salvation….”). We have been claimed as God’s own possession within the context of our being chosen “in Him,” as seen in Ephesians 1:4-5. The phrase, “obtained an inheritance” is from the Greek term, klēroō. Used here, the term literally denotes receiving or giving a heritage or inheritance, or “the idea to allot, to assign in the sense of a privilege.” The TDNT[1] defines the term as, “an ‘appointment’ or ‘determination,’ which affects men in their being. It is also the goal, which is assigned to them in their calling. The term is exemplified in the OT signifying Israel as God’s klēros—namely, His heritage.

 

“Having been predestined according to His purpose.” The verb “predestined” also appears in verse 5. The term “purpose” is from the noun, prothesis—from pro (“before”) and tithēmi (“to place or set”). Thus, lexically, “to set or place before, for a particular purpose, predestined purpose” (see also in Rom. 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). Additionally, the term is used to denote the setting forth of the consecrated bread in the temple before the Lord (Mark 2:26; Heb. 9:2).

“Who works all things after the counsel of His will.” The verb translated, “accomplishes” is energountosfrom the verb energeō, which is a compound word from ergon (“work”) and the preposition en (“in, by”), which intensifies the verb. The literal translation of the participle would be, “working, energizing, operating” (see the usage of the same verb at 1 Cor. 12:6; Eph. 2:2; and Phil. 2:13 [twice]). Hence, God is energizing all things after the council of His own will.

“All things.” The Greek reads, ta panta, “the all things.” Note that the article (ta, “the”) and adjective (panta, “all”) are in the neuter gender, thus denoting “the all things” inclusively. The same neuter phrase is used in Colossians 1:16-17: 16 “For by Him all things [ta panta] were created – all things [ta panta] have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things [ta panta] hold together.” Along with these passages, John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:10-12; and 2:10, robustly present, as Paul did, the Son as the agent of creation—namely, the Creator of all things. God is the ultimate cause of all things. There is nothing that exists outside of the category of ta panta, “the all things,” which God causes, ordains, decrees, and energizes after the council of His own will.

 

“After the counsel of His will.” The term “counsel” is translated from boulē. Here the term expresses the divine plan, purpose, and intention of God—namely, “according” to His sovereign counsel and predetermined purpose. Note Acts 2:23, which contains the same term (boulē), “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined PLAN [boulē] and foreknowledge of God.”

The one article (“the”) before the first noun (“plan”) and not the second (“foreknowledge”) grammatically shows that God’s “foreknowledge” is established in His hōrismenē boulē (“predetermined plan/decree”). In other words, “God’s decrees are not based on Him simply foreknowing what human beings will do; rather, humanity’s actions are based on God’s foreknowledge and predetermined plan” [2] (esp. Rom. 8:29-30). In fact, the same noun (boulē), with the same force, is used in Acts 4:27-28:

 

27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your PURPOSE [boulē] predestined to occur.

 

 Totally Sovereign Over All Things

What does sovereignty mean? Sovereignty simply means absolute control. Scripture presents that everything that happens, or that has happened, or that is going to happen is independently ordained and determined by God in that He has absolute control of all things. He doesn’t need to consult or ask permission from anyone, nor is He limited to anything outside of Himself. He acts to bring about His plan and nothing will, nor is able to, thwart it (Isa. 46:10-11).

 

So, because God “works [energizes] all things after the counsel of His will,” both good and evil then is likewise controlled by God, since evil is under the category of “all things” (Gen. 50:20; Isa. 53:4; Lam. 3:38; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28). As we saw with the crucifixion, many things God ordains does involve sin, but always for a higher good (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom. 8:28).

 

For example, God is Sovereign over,

 

  • All creation (Isa. 54:5; Dan. 4:17, 25; John 1:13, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12; 2:10).

 

  • All calamities (Isa. 45:5-7; Amos 3:6).

 

  • All earthly authorities (Deut. 4:35, 39; Isa. 37:16; Dan. 5:18, 21; Hag. 2:22).

 

  • Man’s life, death, sickness, and disease (Deut. 32:39; Exod. 4:11 [cf. also John 9:1, 12:39-41]; 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Job 13:15; 14:5; 42:11; Ps. 139:16).

 

  • Evil (Prov. 16:4; Lam. 3:38-39).

 

  • The slavery of Joseph (Gen. 45:7; 50:20).

 

  • Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman from Timnah (Judges 14:1-4).

 

  • Eli’s wicked sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25).

 

  • Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Matt. 26:23–25; 27:9-10; Luke 22:21–22; Acts 1:16, 20).

 

  • Our eternal destiny (John 6:37-39; 10:15; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:6-23; 2 Thess. 2:13).

 

It is God who puts men to death, gives them life—on His own prerogative (Deut. 32:39; Luke 10:20-22; John 5:21—[note in this passage that raising the dead and giving life to them are accomplished by both the Father and the Son]; 12:39-41; Rom. 9:16-24; etc.).

 

Arthur Pink rightly observes:

“It is strange, yet it is true, that many who acknowledge the sovereign rule of God over material things will cavil and quibble when we insist that God is also sovereign in the spiritual realm. But their quarrel is with God and not with us. We have given Scripture in support of everything advanced in these pages, and if that will not satisfy our readers, it is idle for us to seek to convince them.”[3]

 

How do Christians who do not embrace the full sovereignty of God pray for their lost loved ones? A prayer for the lost that is not based on God’s immutable, irresistible grace and power in salvation would be an impotent and ineffectual prayer, which would set man as the ultimate cause of one’s eternal destiny and not God.

 

The notion that God leaves the final decision of salvation in the hands of sinners is solidly against the biblical teachings both on the nature of man and on the doctrines of grace (Jonah 2:9; Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 6:37-40; 10:15, 25-28; Acts 13:48; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:7-8, 29-30; 9:16-23; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al).

 

God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” YHWH speaks of His absolute sovereignty in Isaiah 46:8-11:

 

“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

 

Again, Godworks all things after the counsel of His will.” What an assuring passage! “All things”- means just that. All things are in the control and hand of God, the unchangeable Creator, and not in the hand of His creatures. Therefore, we are comforted in knowing that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Only because God is undeniably sovereign can the commands in Philippians 4:6-7 be so encouraging:

 

6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

  • Psalm 34:8-10: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

 

  • Romans 8:37, 39: “But in all these things [viz. referring back to vv. 29-30] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!

 

  • Hebrews 13:5-6: 5 “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’”

 

Whether pandemics, personal calamity, victories, losses, or any other thing, – let us never lose sight of the sovereignty of God over “all things”— so Paul glorifies God in saying, nothing in all creation “will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord!” (Rom. 8:39).

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Notes

[1] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel et al.).

[2] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.

[3] Arthur Pink, Sovereignty of God, “Difficulties and Objections.”

Complete in Christ

 

Key Text: Col. 2:3: “In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

 

2:1 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea.”

Laodicea was a great center of banking and finance (cf. Rev. 3:14-21). It was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world! When Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, they refused aid from the Roman empire and rebuilt the city from their own resources (cf. Tacitus, Annals, 14:27).

 

2:2 “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”

 Here Paul points to the unification in love that believers should have (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). “Attaining to all the wealth” is having a “true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”

 

2:3 “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

 Without Christ – we have neither godly (true) wisdom nor godly knowledge,—which are the treasures. Only through Christ Himself do we have true understanding.

 

2:4 “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.”

“Delude.” From the compound Greek word, paralogizomai, meaning, deceive, beguile, reason falsely, mislead. The prefix is from para (alongside or contrary) and the second term is logizomai (logic, logical, take into account, come to a bottom-line, i.e. reason to a logical conclusion (decision) (cf. Thayer). Thus, paralogizomai—to reason contrary to truth, in a misleading (erroneous) way, to miscalculate, to reason falsely. The same word is used in James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Paul’s point; even though the arguments seem to make sense or are reasonable, they are in the end, false. We should not be frustrated or surprised that our proclamation of a carpenter is God in the flesh, the Creator of all things, resurrected Savior, and that only in Him are hidden the all treasures of wisdom and knowledge; will be rejected by the unregenerate. They “love darkness” (John 3:19). “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co. 1:18; cf. John 8:43, 47).

 

2:5-6 “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

Paul is affirming that the fixed tradition that was delivered to the Colossians by Epaphras was indeed Christ-centered, which was focused on Jesus Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9-13).

2:7 “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

The three participles, “having being rooted,” “being built up,” and “established” belong together and reflect three different symbols:

  • Having being rooted: The first participle “rooted” (perfect tense) indicates a solid condition on the part of the Colossian believers and refers “metaphorically” to horticulture.
  • Being built up: The second participle “built up” (present passive) comes from the world of Architecture.
  • Established: The third participle “established” (present passive) comes from the law courts.

 

With these three metaphors (as well as the following comment on “thankfulness”), Paul seems to be expressing his command to them: continue to live their lives in Christ. The passive tenses seems to indicate God’s active role in His working in them—“having been firmly rooted” them, having built them up, and having established their faith in Him.”

 Similar to Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 theos gar estin ho energōn en humin [lit., ‘for God is the one energizing you’], both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

 

2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Here Paul is not arguing against the study of philosophy or critical thinking, but rather, the acceptance (or tolerance) of a philosophy that is in opposition of a proper view of Christ Jesus and the ethics of the Christian life.

“Through philosophy” – dia tēs philosophias (lit., “through the philosophy”). Note the article “the” (tēs) precedes “philosophy.” Paul speaks of a particular philosophy, the philosophy of the Gnostics—which rejects the idea of God becoming flesh. Additionally, this false philosophy is connected with “empty deceit.”

“Captive”- sulagōgōn, a compound word from sulōn, “a prey, victim” and agō, “carry off” – lexically, “to carry off like a predator with its prey,” “to make a victim by fraud.” Paul is warning the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive [or, carry off like a predator with its prey] through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

 “According to the traditions of men.” Paul defines the kind of philosophy to which he is condemning.

 

2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” – hoti en autō katoikei pan to plērōma tēs theotētos sōmatikōs.

The Greek verb katoikei (“dwells”) is a present active indicative form of katoikeō.” The present tense indicates that the fullness of absolute Deity (theotētos) permanently and continuously dwells in “bodily form” (sōmatikōs)—thus contradicting further any idea of a cessation of the Son. Jesus created all things, in fact, all the fullness of the supreme Deity presently, continuously, and permanently dwells in bodily form.

Due to a prior theological comment, the lexical semantic (viz. the meaning in its original significance) of the Greek term theotētos (“Deity”) is denied by unitarians (esp. Muslims and JWs). However, note some academic sources defining the meaning of the term in this passage:

Joseph B. Lightfoot: “The totality of the divine powers and attributes.”

Richard C. Trench: “All the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God.”

John A. Bengal: “Not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself.”

 C. G. Moule: “As strong as possible; Deity, not only Divinity”;

Robert Reymond: “The being of the very essence of deity”

Benjamin B. Warfield: “The very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.”

The syntactical meaning cannot be denied. The deity of Christ was a constant theme in the Pauline corpus. The Christ that Paul preached was fully and absolutely God and fully and absolutely man—the two natured person.

He was so fixed on the deity of Christ that he implicitly and explicitly asserted it in virtually every one of his epistles (cf. Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8 [see 1 Sam. 15:29; and Acts 7:1-2]; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13.

Paul also applies OT passages referring to YHWH yet applies them to Christ. For example, Paul cites Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13 seeing Christ as the Lord (viz., the YHWH of Joel 2:32) whose “name” (i.e., power/authority) one must call upon to be saved. Same with his reference of Isaiah 45:23 in Philippians 2:10-11 where Paul sees Christ as the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23, before whose name (authority/power) every knee will bow and every tongue confess.

2:10 “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority…”

Only in Christ, our peace, our God, our Savior, and our Lord are we complete. All that is necessary for our salvation is found in Him. The grace of Christ, sustains us and strengthens us through the trials of life (cf. Rom. 8:18, 39). 

Paul’s purpose in his letter to the Colossians was to present a sharp refutation to the very heart of the Gnostic idea by clearly presenting that: (a) Jesus Christ provided redemption, (the forgiveness of sins), by His substitutionary infallible cross work—“having made peace through the blood of His cross” (cf. 1:14–22), (b) He was the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17), (c) He was God in the flesh (cf. 2:9), and (d) only in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). He is the “Lord of Glory” through whom we have spiritual completion and life everlasting (cf. Rom 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 3: 20-21).