“Tons of sons!”- the angry Muslim shouts out in his flimsy attempt to “refute” Christians who proclaim the deity of Christ. In other words, unitarians groups (such as Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.) deny that Jesus’ unique claim to be the “Son of God” was in fact a claim of deity. Muslims, for example, are taught that Jesus was only speaking metaphorically when He referred to Himself as the Son of God (cf. Mark 14:62; John 10:36). They argue that Jesus was the Son of God by doing good works, glorifying God, being humble, etc., thus, He was not the “one and only” (monogenēs) Son in a unique sense. Unitarians further point out that both in the OT and NT there were many who were referred to as a “son of God” or God’s son—such as Adam (Luke 3:38); Israel (Exod. 4:22); judges (Ps. 82:6); David (Ps. 89:27); Ephraim (Jer. 31:9); Christians (Gal. 3:26); and even angels (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 38:7). So, as it is argued, if the title “Son of God” indicates deity, then Adam, David, angels, etc. are also God. 

First, in response the meaning of biblical words and phrases are determined by the context (as with the term Elohim). Second, in a Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the “son of” something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something. Ephesians 2:2-3, for example, the unsaved are said to be the “sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath,” in that they possess the nature of disobedience and wrath. Unbelievers are said to be “sons of the Devil” (cf. John 8:44), whereas believers are “sons of God” by adoption (cf. Eph. 1:5), through faith (cf. Gal. 3:26).

Son of God” in Nature

Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when it was applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was clearly a claim of deity. Consider these examples below:   

John 5:17-18: Son of God = God the Son. One of the best examples of where Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” denoted ontological (viz. in very nature) equality with God is found in the Gospel of John chapter 5. In verse 17, Jesus said: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This was Jesus’ response to the charges brought against Him: The Father’s creative activity stopped after six days, but not His governing and upholding the universe. However, the Son’s activity of mediating, rewarding, punishing, etc. is ongoing. Then we read in verse 18: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but He was also calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.”

The Jews (and the Apostle John) clearly understood that by Jesus claiming God was His Father (i.e., the Son of God), Jesus was claiming to be “equal with God.” This is confirmed by the specific response of the Jews: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was . . . calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.” Note the response of the Jews in John 19:7: “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”

Again, this sharply opposes the position of those who assert that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was not a claim to be equal with God. There is one more notable feature in this text. The verbs translated, “breaking” (eluen, lit., “relaxing”) and “calling” (elegen) as in “calling God His Father” are both in the imperfect tense. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous or repeated action normally occurring in the past. Thus, apparently, this was not the first time He made this claim—He had been repeating this claim. In addition, the reflexive pronoun (heauton, “Himself”) shows that Jesus was making this claim of Himself.[1]        

John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be equal with God (cf. Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (emphasis added). This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view, which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (i.e., the same person).

Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use it as a so-called proof text. However, there are two main points in the passage that eliminates the Oneness notion: 

1) The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—indicating a unity of essence, not absolute identity. If Jesus wanted to communicate that He was Himself the Father (same person), He certainly would have used the masculine heis (as in Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5). Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature.”[2] In John 17:21, for example, Jesus prays that His disciples may “be one [hen] even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.” The same neuter adjective is used.

2) The plural verb esmen (“are”). In contrast to the Oneness interpretation (Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), not a singular verb such as estin (“is”) or eimi (“am”) in which case the passage would read: “I and the Father is/am one.”

Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. Rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd and that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His or His Father’s hand. Now, the Jews were well acquainted with Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Thus, the Jews knew that only Yahweh could make this claim of having sheep in His hand as well as giving them eternal life (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 43:11). So when Jesus made these exclusively divine claims and then added, “I and the Father are one,” it’s easy to understand the response of the Jews: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (v. 33).

If Jesus was only claiming to be “one” with the Father in the sense of mere representation as with judges or Moses, Jesus’ claim would not have warranted blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:16). In point of fact, Jesus claimed the exclusive attributes of Yahweh in verses 27-29, when He claimed He was one in essence with the Father, which naturally prompted the Jews to stone Him for blasphemy— for making Himself out to be God. The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the Gospels was tantamount to His claiming to be God the Son—clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-62; John 5:17-18; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:3-4; the prologue of Hebrews; 1 John 5:12; etc.); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3); and God the Father (Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12).  

Divine Sonship

The context of the prologue (viz. chap. 1) of Hebrews is a sharp contrast between all things created (heavens, earth, and angels) and the eternal Son. In verse 2, the Son is presented as the agent of creation, the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). In verse 3, the Son “is [ōn—“always being”][3] the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation [charaktēr] of His nature [hupostaseōs].” No mere creature can make this claim. In verse 6, we read that “all [pantes] the angels of God” worship the Son. In verse 8, the Father addresses the Son as ho theos (“the God”) whose throne “is forever and ever.”

Verses 10-12 are from the Septuagint (LXX) of Psalm 102:25-27. Here God the Father attributes the creation of the heavens and the earth to the Son (as the author does in v. 2). On the face, these passages are devastating to groups that deny the deity and creative role of the Son (such as Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals, JWs, etc.). In these passages, God the Father directly applies Psalm 102:25-27, which speaks of Yahweh as the Creator, to the Son! As with Hebrews 1:8 and starting in verse 5, the author presents God the Father as the speaker and the Son as the recipient. Clearly, verse 10 does not warrant any such break in context or switch in speakers—it is God the Father speaking to God the Son: “And, You, Lord, in the beginning.” The conjunction “And” naturally looks back to the addressee in verse 8: “But of the Son He says.” Hence, it is the Son to whom the Father addresses as the “Lord” who, from the beginning, “laid the foundation of the earth.” Note below two exceptional points of consideration:

“Lord” appears in the actual vocative case (i.e., case of direct address)—kurie. In verse 8, theos (“God”), although technically in the nominative (subject) case, clearly carries the vocative force of direct address. In fact, in every occurrence in the NT where God is being directly addressed, theos appears in the nominative case, except in one passage, Matthew 27:46, where theos actually appears in the vocative case: “My God [thee], My God [thee], why have You forsaken Me?” However, in Hebrews 1:10, “Lord” (kurios) actually appears in the vocative form (kurie) in the Greek: “You, Lord [kurie], in the beginning.” Thus, here God is not merely speaking about the Son; rather, He is directly addressing the Son—“You, Lord.” That God the Father is directly speaking to the Son also supports the vocative force rendering of verse 8: “But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .’”                   

So of course, Hebrews 1:10 is utterly shattering to the arguments of those who deny the Trinity and deity of the Son. Thus, God the Father is addressing the Son as “the God” whose throne is forever and the Yahweh (“Lord”) of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator of all things.[4]

Conclusion

In all these cases, we find Jesus’ affirmation of being the “Son of God” was in a unique way—“the one and only [monogenēs] Son.” His claims of deity were ascribed to neither men nor angels. Jesus’ affirmation of being the Son of God was in turn a declaration that denoted ontological equality with Godthe monogenēs theos (“unique God,” John 1:18). And the Jews clearly understood the implications of His claim:

“For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him. . . but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18).

“For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).

“We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God” (John 19:7). 


Notes


[1] The reflexive pronoun in Greek denotes the subject doing the action to/for himself. 

[2] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:186.

[3] As in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the Son’s eternal, timeless existence is signified by the present participle ōn (“always being”). 

[4] Along with passages such as Daniel 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; Rom. 9:5; and Heb. 1:3 and the passages that present the Son as the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12), the preexistence and thus eternality of the Son is also found in passages such as John 3:13; 6:38-62; 8:58; 16:28; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Rev. 1:8; 22:13; etc. 

Throughout the OT, we frequently encounter the “angel of the Lord” (or, “angel of God”—as used interchangeably[1]). The term translated “angel” in both Hebrew (malak) and Greek (aggelos) simply means “messenger.” Although, we find many occurrences and classes/ranks of “angels” in both the OT and NT (some by name/description such as Michael, Gabriel, Satan, sons of God, cherubim, seraphim, etc.), the angel of the Lord in the OT was not a mere “created” angel (as asserted by the JWs). Rather, He was identified as, and claimed to be, YHWH, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” “God.” While all unitarian groups (esp. Muslims, JWs, and Oneness Pentecostals) oppose any implication of the deity and thus preexistence of the Son, Jesus Christ, the biblical evidence points to the preincarnate Christ as the identity of the angel of the Lord. Note below some of the more significant examples:

HAGER: In Genesis 16, Hager encountered the angel of the Lord in the desert. In verse 10, the angel of the Lord said to her: “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” In verse 11, the angel of the Lord refers to YHWH in third person: “Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.” However, note Hager’s words to the angel of the Lord in verse 13: “‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” First, she addresses the angel as “a God who sees.” And second, she acknowledges that she “remained alive here after seeing Him,” thus echoing Exodus 33:20, where YHWH says, “no man can see Me and live!”

ABRAHAM: In Genesis 18:1-2, we read that “the LORD [YHWH] appeared” to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him.” Chapters 18 and 19 provide some interesting things pertaining to the preincarnate appearance of Christ as the angel of the Lord—YHWH Himself. First, Genesis 18:1-2 indicates that YHWH had appeared to Abraham. Second, one of the visitors had told Abraham: “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son,” which Sarah laughed since she “was old advanced in age” (v. 11). Lastly, verses 13-14 identify one of the visitors as YHWH: “And the LORD [YHWH] said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ ‘Is anything too difficult for the LORD [YHWH]?’” Also note verses 16-17, where the men spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah: Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The LORD [YHWH] said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do.”

After Abraham’s interesting dialogue with YHWH (cf. vv. 22-33), we read in chapter 19:1: “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” Here, only two of the visitors are mentioned. After the two men repeatedly warned of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, verses 23-24 indicate that

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD [YHWH] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [YHWH] out of heaven (emphasis added).

Literal Hebrew: “Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire FROM the YHWH FROM [min- preposition] Heaven.”

This point cannot be missed. YHWH did something (rained brimstone and fire) from another YHWH in heaven! This can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism.[2] The angel of the Lord (preincarnate Christ) was one of the visitors; He is called YHWH, and He did something on behalf of another YHWH (the Father) “out of heaven.” Even more, the Targum[3] rendering of Genesis 19:24 reveals the identification of the angel of the Lord as the “Word of the Lord”:

And the Word [Memra] of the Lord had caused showers of favour to descend upon Sedom and Amorah, to the intent that they might work repentance . . . . Behold, then, there are now sent down upon them sulphur and fire from before the Word of the Lord from Heaven. . . . (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan; emphasis added).

MOSES: We all are familiar with Moses’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in Exodus 3:1-6: “Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him” (v. 2). Yet verse 4 indicates that it was “God” who “called to him from the midst of the bush.” Throughout the account, the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with “God.” Further, in verse 14 (in the LXX), the angel of the Lord claimed that He was the Eternal One—egō eimi ho ōn (lit., “I Am the One/Being”); and in verse 6, He affirmed to Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Notice Moses’ response to Him: “Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

GIDEON: In Judges 6:11-24, Gideon also encountered the angel of the Lord[4]: “The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior’” (v. 12). However, because “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1), the “LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (v. 1), which prompted Gideon to ask the angel of the LORD: “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (v. 13). However, the response of the angel of the Lord in verse 14 clearly identifies Him as YHWH: “The LORD looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’” As in other places, the angel of the Lord is referred to as YHWH (“LORD”). After “the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight” (v. 21), Gideon reveals his understanding that the “angel” to whom he was speaking was not a mere angel, rather, as he stated: “Alas, O Lord God! [Adonay YHWH]. For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face” (v. 22). And the Lord Himself said: “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (v . 23; see Exod. 33:20).

MANOAH: In Judges 13, we find the angel of the Lord announcing to Manoah and his wife of their coming son, Samson, a “Nazirite to God.” Verse 16 (and v. 21) indicates that Manoah knew that this angel was not an ordinary angel, but the angel of the Lord, YHWH Himself. Manoah had wanted to prepare some food for Him, but the angel of the Lord said to Manoah: “‘Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD’ For Manoah did not know that He was the angel of the LORD.”

Attesting even more as to the identity of the angel of the Lord, not only as YHWH, but as the preincarnate Christ, is the response the angel of the Lord gave after Manoah had asked of His name in verse 17: “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful [Heb. piliy/paliy]” (v. 18). In Isaiah 9:6, the name of the coming Messiah will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [or father/possessor of eternity], Prince of Peace.” The Hebrew term translated “Wonderful” (pele) is from the same root word (both from pala) as in Judges 13:18: “seeing it is wonderful.” No created angel can claim this name of Himself. This claim is certainly consistent to the many claims Jesus made and titles ascribed to Him in the NT, which were claims that only YHWH made and titles ascribe to YHWH alone in the OT (e.g., “First and Last”[5]; egō eimi [“I am”][6]; “Lord of glory”[7]; “only Lord”[8]; etc.). When Manoah discovered that it was the “angel of the Lord,” he declared to his wife, “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (v. 22)—seeing that the angel of Lord was God.

There are many other angel of the Lord references in the OT (cf. Josh. 5:13-15;[9] Num. 22:22-35; 2 Kings 19:35; etc.). However, the examples mentioned above are more than sufficient in showing that the angel of the Lord was identified as YHWH Himself and as the preincarnate Christ. This view has been concurred by early church Fathers and most biblical commentators throughout church history. In sum,

1. As countlessly revealed in the NT regarding the personal distinctions between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit) there is a marked distinction between the angel of the Lord and God/YHWH—i.e., two divine speakers/persons both identified with divine titles (i.e., YHWH, God, “the God of the fathers,” etc.).

2. In Colossians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul explains that God the Father (as with the Holy Spirit) is an invisible spirit, which “no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16, as confirmed in John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12). Hence, it is quite implausible that the angel of the Lord is the Father or the Holy Spirit.

3. In Zechariah 1:12, the angel of the Lord (who had been claiming to be YHWH since Genesis) is now praying to the “LORD [YHWH] of hosts.” As stated, YHWH praying to “another” YHWH can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism (cf. Gen. 19:24). We find the same in the NT, where God the Son prays to another divine person, God the Father (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 17:1ff.).

4. Unitarian groups (esp. Muslims) frequently assert that the angel of the Lord was merely a “divine agent” as with Moses, judges, prophets, created angels, etc., but not God Himself. This assertion, however, is clearly refuted by the fact that no agent of God ever identified himself as “YHWH,” “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “Wonderful,” etc.

5. Lastly, many who encountered the angel of the Lord identified Him as God in which they feared for their life: “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (Judg. 13:22; cf. Gen. 16:13; Judg. 6:23).

The angel of the Lord was not an indefinite created angel. Rather, as He claimed, He was the “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—YHWH, yet a distinct person from another YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24; Zech. 1:12). In the highest probability, the identity of the angel of the Lord was the pre-incarnate Christ, God the Son. As revealed in the NT, He mediates and intercedes for the people of God, on their behalf— not as a mere created agent, but as YHWH Himself, second person of the Holy Trinity.

NOTES

[1] Cf. Judges 6:20.

[2] The Trinitarian force of this passage sharply disproves any unitarian view of God.

[3] The Targum was an ancient Aramaic translation providing explanations and paraphrases of the Hebrew OT. In the post-exilic period, Aramaic began to be broadly spoken in the Jewish community in conjunction with Hebrew. Further, throughout the OT, the Targums identifies “the angel of the Lord” with the Memra (“Word”) of the Lord—pointing to the background of John’s Logos doctrine.

[4] Again, as with other places, here the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with the “angel of God” (cf. vv. 20-21).

[5] Cf. Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; and 48:12. In the NT, only Christ claims to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

[6] In such places as in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12, YHWH alone claims to be the “I am” (egō eimi). As with the divine title, “the first and the last,” only Christ Himself claims to be the absolute “I am” (egō eimi, John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 et al.) To recall, at Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12, both divine titles, “I am” and “the first and the last” are contained in the same verse!

[7] In Acts 7:2, Steven declared, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham.” Whereas in 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul calls Jesus, “the Lord of glory,” which is a title of full deity (see 1 Sam. 15:29 where YHWH is called “the Glory of Israel”).

[8] Biblically, there is only one true Lord and God—YHWH. In Jude 1:4, Jesus is called ton monon despotēn kai kurion, “the only Master and Lord.”

[9] Especially note verses 14-15: “[Joshua] said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’ 15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” This is exactly what the angel of the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 3:5: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Nowhere in Scripture is it even implied that being in the presence of mere angels is “holy ground” in which one must remove his sandals. John the Baptist speaks of the coming Christ before whom he is “not fit to remove His sandals” (Matt 3:11). Thus, John saw the presence of the Christ, as God incarnate, sacred.

The Apostle Paul was passionate about the Christ that he preached. He understood that he was a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Paul had a distinct and interesting style of writing. He wrote in conversational Koinē Greek, unlike the highly polished literary style[1] of James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews, but yet not in “vulgar” (or simple) Greek as with apostle’s John and Mark. Unquestionably, Paul was utterly fearless in his proclamation of the gospel and his pointed refutations against the growing false doctrines of the day (e.g., Acts 17:2-3, 16-17; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:9, 13; etc.). However, Paul’s chief focus and passion was the Person and nature of God the Son, Jesus Christ and His cross-work—justification through faith alone. Virtually every one of his Epistles was written primarily to affirm and defend the nature of God (esp. the deity of Christ and His infallible cross-work) and refute a particular false teaching.[2]

Before exploring the Christ that Paul preached, consider some distinct characteristics within Paul’s writings. First, all of his Epistles were marked with his Salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (e.g., Gal. 1:3). Note that Paul does not say that the grace and peace flow from God the Father “through” Jesus Christ, but rather the grace and the peace flow equally from (Gk. apo) both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, when Paul calls Jesus “Lord,” he is calling Him LORD (kurios) in the most complete sense that the term can be ascribed. The terms “Lord” (kurios) and “God” (theos) were equal descriptions of deity in the mind of Paul.

For the Septuagint (LXX; i.e., the Gk. trans. of the OT) translates the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) as kurios (“Lord”). Hence, the Christ that Paul preached was fully God, that is, the Yahweh of the Old Testament.[3]

I. The Christ that Paul preached was God in the same sense as God the Father:

In Philippians 2:6, Jesus is said to be “existing/subsisting in the nature of God.”[4] In Titus 2:13, Paul calls Jesus “the great God and Savior” (cf. 2 Pet. 1:1). Writing against the flesh-denying Gnostics, in Colossians 2:9, Paul categorically affirms the full deity of Jesus Christ: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity [theotētos] dwells in bodily form” (NASB). The lexical[5] meaning of the term theotētos (“Deity”) is well attested by recognized Greek lexicographers and scholars, e.g., Thayer: “the state of being God”; Trench: “all the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God”; Bengal: “not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself”; Reformed Theologian Robert Reymond: “the being of the very essence of deity”; B. B. Warfield: “the very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.” So strong is the meaning of theotētos (“Godhead”; KJV, NKJV) that the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation, translated it as, “divine quality,” rather than its lexical meaning to avoid, to be sure, Paul’s intended meaning: Jesus was fully God in human flesh.

In the entire Pauline corpus, the apostle taught implicitly and explicitly the full deity of Jesus Christ. This was his “teaching priority” (e.g., Rom. 9:5; 10:13; 1 Cor. 2 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6-11; 2 Col. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13). Perhaps Paul’s high Christology was due to the definitive words of Christ Jesus, which may have rung continuously in his mind: “For if you should not believe that I Am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; trans. mine).[6]

II. The Christ that Paul preached was fully God distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit:

In Paul’s mind, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three co-equal, distinct Persons or Selves. This is seen in his Salutations[7] also in passages such as Ephesians 2:18 and especially 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ, and [kai] the love of God [tou theou, “the God”], and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit be with you all.” Grammatically, the three Persons are distinguished from each other by the repetition of the article (tou, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”).[8]

III. The Christ that Paul preached was the two-natured-Person—God-man:

The Incarnation (i.e., God becoming flesh; cf. John 1:14) was a part of Paul’s gospel (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:8[9]; Rom. 1:1-4; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11; esp. 2 Tim. 2:8). Further, as with the Apostle John in 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7, Paul teaches that presently Jesus is God-man (e.g., Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5).

IV. The Christ that Paul preached was the Creator of all things:

As in John 1:3, Paul presents Christ as the Agent of creation. This is especially brought out in Colossians 1:16-17: “For by Him all things were created . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6).

V. The Christ that Paul preached redeemed us through His physical death:

“Having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him. . . . 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. 1:20, 22; cf. also Rom. 5:7-10; Eph. 1:7).

VI. The Christ that Paul preached was the substitutionary atonement for believers:

Substitutionary Atonement simply means that Christ died on behalf of the ones that are justified (cf. Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:7-10; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18). Because man is dead (cf. John 8:34, 36; Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:5) man has no ability to hear, come to, submit, or please God (cf. John 6:44; 8:47; Rom. 8:7-8). Thus, only God alone can regenerate, “make alive” the dead sinner, which then causes him to walk in the ways of the Lord. He becomes a new species in Christ, born again, with a new heart (cf. Ezek. 36-36-37; John 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:2-4). By His death, we are declared righteousness: The Christ that Paul preached was delivered up for us (huper)—in our place (cf. Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Faith, repentance, and the ability to believe are granted by God: e.g., John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 5:31; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Pet. 1:1.

The Christ that Paul preached saves infallibly,—for salvation is through Him alone (cf. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:18).

VII. The Christ that Paul preached was physically resurrected:

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul defines his gospel, which he includes the physical resurrection: “For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”—it was a *physical* resurrection (cf. John 2:19-21).

For this is the Christ that Paul preached, who was the Yahweh of the Old Testament, Creator of all things. For the Christ that Paul preached became flesh, thus, the two-natured Person—perfect God and perfect man. The Christ that Paul preached IS the actual substitutionary atonement for us, His elect; He died the death that we deserved—on our behalf. And this Christ was resurrected to life. This is the Christ of biblical revelation, the Christ that Paul preached, the Christ who is coming back again!

NOTES

[1] The Pastoral Epistles, however, were written in literary Greek, which has caused some to question its authorship.

[2] For example, in both Romans and Galatians, Paul provides a refutation to the false faith + works theology of the Judaizers. In Colossians, he provides a sharp refutation to the flesh-denying Gnostics (as with John in 1 & 2 John). And he provides a positive affirmation that (a) Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17), (b) He is fully God (cf. 2:9), and (c) that through His death and bodily sacrifice “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14, cf. vv. 20, 22).

[3] There are many places where a NT author quotes an OT passage referring to Yahweh, yet applies it to the Son, which clearly shows that the Son is Yahweh; e.g., compare Heb. 1:10 with Ps. 105:25; Rom. 10:13 with Joel 2:32; John 12:41 with Isa. 6:8; Phil. 2:10-11 with Isa. 45:23; etc.

[4] The Greek reads: en morphē theou huparchōn, lit., “in nature of God existing.” First, the term morphē (“form”/“nature”) denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. The term huparchōn (“existing”) is a present active participle, which indicates a continuous existence or continually subsisting. Thus, Jesus Christ is continuously existing in the nature of God. That one denies that the Son was truly the morphē of God would be to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man as verse 7 indicates: “He emptied Himself, taking the form [morphē] of a bond servant” (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9).

[5] The lexical definition of a term is simply the dictionary definition, thus, the meaning in its original significance.

[6] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (cf. also John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8).

[7] In the Greek, Paul’s Salutations contain no articles (ho, “the”) before “God” and “Lord.” Hence according to the rules of Greek grammar (viz. Sharp #5; see n. 8 below), “God” and “Lord” are presented as two distinct Persons.

[8] This grammatical rule is known as Granville Sharp’s Greek rule #6, which generally states: 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 (cf. Matt. 28:19; 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13).

[9] Here Paul calls Christ “the Lord of Glory” a phrase that signifies both His deity (Ps. 24:7-10 calls Yahweh, “the King of glory”) and His humanity (only man can be crucified: “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”).