THE PREEXISTENCE OF THE SON


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

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

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

 

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

 

 Unitarian Assumption: Being vs. Person

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

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

 

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

 

JOHN 1:1

 

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

 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

  

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

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

 

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

 

JOHN 1:18

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

 

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

 

ὁ ὢν

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

   

The Divine Son “Sent From Heaven”

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

 

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

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

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

 

The Son’s claim to be the Eternal ἐγώ εἰμι

 

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

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

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

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

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

              

 JOHN 17:5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11—Carmen Christi 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

  

Jesus Christ the Son, the Unchangeable Creator of all Things

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

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


 
JOHN 1:3

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

 

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

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

 

COLOSSIANS 1:16-17

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

HEBREWS 1:2, 10

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] From γίνομαι (“to become”).

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

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

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

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

[13] Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 39.

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

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

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

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

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

[19] Ibid., 196: 269).

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

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

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

[23] Wallace, GGBB, 327.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newman:  “Unique, only.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[44] Cf. Wallace, GGBB.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[52] Cf. Wallace, BBGG.

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

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

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

[56] Reymond, Systematic Theology, 230.

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

[58] BDAG, 659.

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

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

[61] Warfield, Biblical Doctrine, 177.

[62] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 630.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential Part of the Gospel 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Necessity of God Becoming Man

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

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

The Perpetual Incarnation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

One of the most common objections to the deity of Jesus Christ made by unitarians (esp. Muslims & JWs[1])– aside from their false claim that Jesus never claimed to be God/Yahweh- is their claim that Jesus was never worshiped nor did He ever demand to be.

Both the OT and NT teach clearly that worship is to God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5)—with which most unitarians agree. Thus, if it were found in Scripture that the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, was actually worshiped in a religious context and He accepted it, it would be devastating for those who deny that Jesus as the Son is God, such as also Oneness Pentecostals who deny the eternality and deity of the person of the Son.[2] This would demonstrate beyond that the person of the Son; Christ Jesus was indeed God incarnate.

Aside from the fact that Scripture (esp. in John’s literature) presents clearly that Christ is fully God (viz. God-man) and the Creator of all things, we find that Christ was worshiped as God in several passages. Scripture presents the Son as receiving the same kind of religious “worship” as that of God the Father. This is particularly clear in the following examples in John’s literature and other portions of Scripture (both in OT and NT):

Daniel 7:9-14— The “Son of Man” was worshiped by “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”

  • Matthew 14:33—Jesus was worshiped by the men in the boat.
  • John 9:35-38—Jesus was worshiped by the blind man.
  • Hebrews 1:6—“All the angels” worshiped the Son.
  • Revelation 5:13-14—The Lamb was worshiped in the same sense as that of God the Father.

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[3] on several occasions. Although the above examples do not include every place where Jesus was worshiped, they give us clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels.

DANIEL 7:14

And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [Aram., pelach, LXX., latreuō/douleuō] Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.

1. In Daniel 7:9-14, we read of two distinct persons who are the object of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. In verse 14, the Son of Man was “given dominion, glory and a kingdom,” by God the Father in which “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him. . . .”

2. The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God. Note, the term pelach, which is applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27 as well: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.”

3. The LXX[4] translates pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; cf. also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14 et al). Although in some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), in a religious context (which verses 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).

4. To avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true divine worship, some have argued that the title “Son of Man” refers exclusively to humanity collectively (e.g., referring to Israel). However, contextually this cannot be true. As indicated previously, the Son of Man here receives “dominion, glory and a kingdom,” and “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him.”

This description cannot be said of men collectively. Moreover, while modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Further, as noted, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7 with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

MATTHEW 14:33

And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][5] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is notable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His “I am” claim and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000.

Immediately, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, Matthew records that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away” (v. 22). Jesus went to pray on the mountain. By evening, the boat was a long way off (about 3 or 4 miles, cf. John 6:19).

Then we read in verse 26 that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition,” cf. Mark 6:49). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egw eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.) “Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (Matt. 14:26). As with the several “I am” claims of Christ in the Gospel of John, Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid?

In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. We read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.” As observed, the unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming to be God the Son—, which was 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 author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al).

JOHN 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they [the Jews] had put him [blind man that Jesus healed] out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.

In John 9:1, we read of a man blind from birth. However, Jesus healing of the blind man caused much controversy among the Jews (cf. vv. 13-34). The act of worship was first in response to Jesus’ revealing that He was the Son of Man. As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus, the Son of Man, was Lord—thus, a religious context.

HEBREWS 1:6

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,

“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

The prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between all things created (viz., angels, the heavens, and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) who is presented as the unchangeable Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10-13). Since the setting is in the heavens, the context is clearly religious in nature. In verses 1-3 the Son has already been exegetically presented as God, “through whom also He made the world” (v. 2). In verses 8-13, the Father addresses the eternal Son as both ho theos (“the God”) whose throne is forever (v. 8) and the Lord (Yahweh) of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator (vv. 10-12). That “all the angels” (v. 6) worship the person of the Son is perfectly consistent with the entire prologue of Hebrews as well as rest of Scripture.

In verse 6, God the Father commands pantes aggeloi theou (“all the angels of God”) to worship [proskuneō] the Son. Note, the commandment is given to “all the angels”—thus, the Son is excluded from being an angel (as seen below in Rev. 5:13). The theological implications of the Son receiving religious worship would absolutely mean that the Son is truly God. Also in Hebrews 1:10-12, God directly addresses the Son as the “Lord” (Yahweh) of Psalm 10:25-27, which refers to Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator of all things: “You, Lord [kurie[6]], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .”

Interestingly, the JWs’ NWT[7], contained “worship” at Hebrews 1:6 in the 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions; however, “worship” to the Son was quite problematic and confusing to many JWs (esp. in light of Exod. 20:5), so in the 1971 edition, the NWT changed the term “worship” to “obeisance” (meaning respect or honor).[8]

REVELATION 5:13-14

“And every created thing . . . I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].”

Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:16 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1b; Heb. 1:3).

CONCLUSION

In the OT (cf. Dan. 7:14) and throughout the NT, Jesus was rightfully worshiped as God—the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12). Our faith as Christians demand we embrace the Triune God and Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification. Let us join all the angels and worship the Son.

[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[2] Oneness advocates see Jesus as a unipersonal (i.e., as one person) deity assuming three modes (not persons). Hence, only in the “Father” mode is Jesus God, not in the “Son” mode, which they argue was created in Bethlehem.

[3] A religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists.

[4] The LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (Latin, “seventy”). The LXX was the Greek translation of the OT, which was the primary source of OT quotations by the NT authors (esp. Hebrews).

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

[6] Kurie is the “vocative” (direct address) case of kurios (“Lord”).

[7] New World Translation (NWT) is the Bible translation of the JWs.

[8] The NWT only removes “worship” at the places where worship was in reference to Jesus (e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6 etc.).

The Bible presents overwhelming evidence for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; etc.). Further, the NT presents the Person of the Son as the very object of divine worship (e.g., Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 20:28; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 5:13-14). In addition to these verifiable proofs of the Son’s deity, the NT shows that the Son was the very Agent[1] of creation.

For if the Son were the actual Creator of all things, that would mean that He 1) existed before time, thus, He was not a “part” of creation, 2) co-existed with the Father, and hence, 3) is a distinct Person alongside of the Father, as co-Creator. Passages such as John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2 and 10 exegetically affirm this important truth.

John 1:3: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” In the prologue of John (vv. 1-14), note the verbal contrast between all things created or that had origin (signified by the verb egeneto, “came to be”; cf. vv. 3, 6, 10, 14) and the eternal divine Word (signified by the verb ēn, “was”; vv. 1, 2, 4, 9).[2]

In verse 3, we see the creative activity viewed as one event in contrast to the continuous existence in verses 1 and 2 (cf. Robertson, Grammar, 5:5). The phrase panta di’ autou (“all things through Him”) denotes the role of the Logos in relation to God the Father and the world. What intensifies the argument even more is John’s usage of the Greek preposition dia (“through”) followed by the genitive autou (“Him”). This is a very significant aspect as to the exegesis of the passage. In Greek, dia followed by the genitive clearly indicates “agency” or “means.”[3] The Apostle John communicates in a comprehensible way that the Son, the eternal Word, who was “with” the Father (1:1), is the Creator of all things.

Colossians 1:16-17: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Despite the biblical simplicity, Oneness teachers, such as David Bernard, attempt to circumvent the biblical truth that the Son is indeed the Creator of all things:

Perhaps these scriptural passages have a deeper meaning that can be expressed as follows: Although the Son did not exist at the time of creation except as the word in the mind of God, God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world. . . . The plan of the Son was in God’s mind at creation and was necessary for the creation to be successful. Therefore, He created the world by the Son (emphasis added).[4]

This is blatant eisegesis. Bernard’s assertion is clear: passages that speak of the Son as the Creator mean that when the Father created all things, He merely had the “plan of the Son” in mind or in view, that is, “God used His foreknowledge of the coming Son when He created the world.” Bernard’s conclusion assumes unitarianism and disallows normal exegesis.

First, Colossians 1:13-15 clearly differentiates Jesus from the Father. These verses contextually prohibit the Oneness notion that Jesus is both the Father and the Son: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God [the Father].” Second, consider also that Paul’s main purpose for writing the book of Colossians was to provide a meaningful refutation of the Gnostic “spirit” vs. “matter” (which they saw as inherently evil) philosophy. The Gnostic system did not allow for Jesus to be the Creator of something as evil as “matter.” Hence, Paul provides a clear anti-Gnostic polemic by firmly demonstrating that Jesus the Son of God did in fact create all things.

Note the clear and forceful way Paul presents his argument: “By Him [en autō] all things [panta] were created . . . all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. He is before all things [pantōn], and in Him all things [panta] hold together” (emphasis added). The following grammatical aspects pointedly codify Paul’s argument:

1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter plural panta (“all things”), which indicates that the Son was the actual Creator of all things. Paul’s use of the articular panta (i.e., with the article, lit., “the all things”), rather than the more popular terms such as pas or pan, shows the unlimited sense of “the all things.” Paul also uses the neuter panta in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things [not a part of all things] to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Hence, Jesus created all things, not merely a part of all things as the Jehovah’s Witnesses will assert, but rather all things unlimited.

2. Paul utilizes three different Greek prepositions to amplify his affirmation that the Son was the Creator: All things were created “by/in Him” (en + dative in vv. 16 and 17); “through Him” (dia + genitive in v. 16); and “for Him” (eis + accusative in v. 16).

3. Finally, as with John 1:3, what immediately demolishes the “Son in view” theory asserted by Oneness advocates is the fact that Paul specifically states that “all things” were created “through [dia] Him [autou]” (viz., the Son). As observed, when the preposition dia is followed by the genitive autou, it grammatically reveals that the Son was the Creator Himself. There is no stronger way in which Paul could have articulated that the Son was the actual Agent of creation.[5]

If Paul wanted to convey the idea that the Son was merely “in view” of the Father or an absent instrument of creation, as Oneness teachers assert, he would not have used dia followed by the genitive. Rather, he would have exclusively used dia followed by the accusative, but he does not.[6] The Oneness theological assumption that the Son was not the Agent of creation, but merely in view of creation, cannot stand grammatically or contextually—it changes the intended meaning of the text and ignores the chief theme of Paul’s letter.

Hebrews 1:2, 10: “In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. . . . And, ‘YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.’” The prologue of Hebrews annihilates the unitarian position regarding its rejection of the pre-existence (and deity) of the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ. In this prologue the full deity and unipersonality of the Son is clearly expressed (esp. vv. 3, 8). Relative to the pre-existence and creatorship of the Son, verses 2 and 10 adequately communicate both truths. As with John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17 (and 1 Cor. 8:6), verse 2 affirms that the Son was the Creator. In this passage we find again the preposition dia followed by the genitive: “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom [di’ hou] also He made the world” (emphasis added).

Contextually, the main line of evidence that the author presents, which promptly affirms the Son’s creatorship, is the well defined contrast between created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 2-3, 8-10). In verse 10, the author (quoting the Father) applies Psalms 102:25-27 (LXX) to the Son. This is very significant because (a) the Psalms are a reference to Yahweh and (b) the Father is speaking to the Son, differentiating Himself from the Son (esp. in light of vv. 8-9). The referent to the pronoun su, (“You”) at the beginning of verse 10 (kai su, “and You”) is back in verse 8: “But of the Son He [the Father] says.” Irrefutably, it is the Son whom the Father directly addresses.

Conclusively, the prologue of Hebrews is one of the most theologically devastating prologues in the entire NT for unitarian groups. Not only does the prologue affirm the deity and eternality of Jesus Christ, the Son, as well as the distinction between the Father and Jesus, but also it clearly presents the Son as the actual Agent of creation, the Creator Himself.

John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2, 10 demonstrate exegetically that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Creator of all things.

Note: Oneness teachers along with other unitarian groups (esp. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims) argue that the Son could not have been the Creator because passages such as Isaiah 44:24 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 teach that God the Father alone created all things. However, as consistently pointed out, these groups assume a prior theological commitment: unitarianism or unipersonalism—namely, seeing God as one Person. The doctrine of the Trinity, in contrast to a unitarian assumption, teaches that God is one undivided and unquantifiable Being who has revealed Himself as three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Persons. The three Persons share the nature of the one Being. Thus, as fully God, it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24); the Son is the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10); and the Holy Spirit is the Creator (cf. Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4). The one God is indivisible and inseparable (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5).

Therefore, passages like Isaiah 44:24, which speak of God creating by Himself and alone are perfectly consistent with Trinitarian theology. Again, the three Persons are not three separate Beings; they are distinct self-conscious Persons or Selves sharing the nature of the one Being. Unless one clearly realizes what the biblical doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches, the doctrine will be confounded and misrepresented as Tritheism.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich [as to His glory in His pre-existence], yet for your sake He became poor [as to His incarnation], so that you through His poverty [humbling Himself, becoming man for the purpose of His atoning sacrifice] might become rich [to “become the righteousness of God”; 2 Cor. 5:21] (2 Cor. 8:9; emphasis added).

NOTES

[1] In the NT, agency is commonly expressed in three ways: ultimate agency (apo, hupo, para, + the genitive), intermediate agency (dia + the genitive), and impersonal agency (i.e., that which the agent uses to perform the act (en, ek + the dative; cf. Wallace, GGBB, 431-32).

[2] The term translated “was” is the imperfect ēn (from eimi, “[I] am”). The imperfect denotes an ongoing past action. Thus, John 1:1a indicates that in the beginning, the Word was already existing—He had no beginning. Note here the contrast between ēn (denoting the Son’s eternality, vv. 1, 2, 4, 9) and egeneto (from ginomai, denoting all things created, vv. 3, 6, 10, 14). Not until verse 14 is egeneto used of Jesus: “The Word became [egeneto] flesh.” The same verbal contrast is found in John 8:58: “Before Abraham came to be” (ginomai) vs. “I Am” (eimi).

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

[4] Bernard, The Oneness of God, 116-17.

[5] In 1 Corinthians 8:6 and, as discussed below, in Hebrews 1:2, dia is followed by the genitive signifying the Son as the Agent of creation.

[6] Although Paul does use the accusative case in verse 16 (auton), he uses it after the preposition eis meaning “for” or “because of” and not after dia.

“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. 

Oneness apologists are constantly developing new arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity, to which Christians should know how to respond (see “Footloose Theology of Roger Perkins” pertaining to the adjective heis and John 10:30.   

One such argument states that in the NT, the Greek masculine adjective heis (“one”) always means “one person.” Thus, passages such as Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5; etc. teach that God is “one person.” However, the Oneness-unitarian so-called semantic rule is clearly refuted by the fact that heis appears in Galatians 3:28 referring to many:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you [humeis, 2nd per. plural] are [este, plural verb] all one [heis] in Christ Jesus.”

Further, this Oneness notion completely backfires at 1 Corinthians 8:6, which contains a double usage of heis. If heis always means “one person,” as Oneness advocates argue, then, the “one [heis] God, the Father” is one person and the “one [heis] Lord, Jesus Christ” is another (distinct) divine person, which is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness:

“yet for us there is but one [heis] God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one [heis] Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (cf. Deut. 6:4)

Daniel 7:9-14

“I kept looking, until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. . . . 13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes-

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture presents powerful claims of Jesus Christ attesting to His deity, that is, His coequality with God the Father. The natural response of the unbelieving Jews only adds to the confirmation of what Jesus affirmed: “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33; see also John 5:17-18; 8:58-59). In addition to this is the clear testimonies of the apostles presenting Christ the Son as fully God and fully man, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 12:6; 28:19; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1:4). Their Christology is expressed coherently and exegetically.

Along with the testimonies of Jesus and the apostles, (and the OT affirmations[1]), we find clear affirmations of the Son’s deity made by God the Father especially in the prologue of Hebrews. In fact, it was the Father’s testimony that Jesus used to authenticate His own testimony (see John 5:31-32; 8:16-17).

In the NT, God the Father clearly substantiated the deity and unipersonality of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the following:         

1) The Father openly declared Jesus to be the “Son of God” (cf.  Matt. 3:16-17; 17:5)

2) The Father commanded all of His angels to worship the Son (cf. Heb. 1:6)

3) The Father directly addressed the Son as “the God” whose throne is eternal (cf. Heb. 1:8-9) 

4) The Father directly addressed the Son as the “Lord,” that is, the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator (cf. Heb. 1:10-12)

“SON OF GOD”

The theological significance of the title “Son of God cannot be ignored or denied. The biblical evidence is clear: The unique way that Jesus applied this title to Himself and the unique way that the apostles applied it to Him show that it was a title of full deity—tantamount to “God the Son” (cf. John 1:18; 5:17-18; 10:30-33; 19:7; Rom. 1:1-4; Heb. 1).

The Fathers attestation of the full deity of Christ and His coequality with Him, in very nature, starts with His open declaration of Jesus’ Sonship. The Father claimed Jesus was His Son and Jesus claimed the reverse—namely, that He was the Fathers Son. So when the Father openly announced that the person of Christ is His Son, He affirmed in the strongest way the Son’s essential and ontological deity. Jesus’ Sonship was openly declared at several different times throughout His life: At His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17); at His Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5); and in reference to His resurrection (cf. Acts 13:33; cf. also Heb. 1:5). We also read of Jesus’ declaration of Sonship in Romans 1:1-4, where the Son was “declared [‘marked out’] the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” The Father’s open declaration of Jesus’ Sonship demonstrates to the world that Jesus Christ is the “one and only/unique Son” (monogenēs huios), God in the flesh. Again, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He . . . was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18; cf. 10:30ff).         

ALL THE ANGELS COMMANDED TO WORSHIP THE SON (cf. Heb. 1:6) 

Contextually (similar to the prologue of John), the prologue of Hebrews is a well-defined contrast between all created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8), who was worshiped as God (v. 6), and presented as Yahweh, the unchangeable Creator (cf. vv. 2, 10-12). After the author provides some of the most potent passages proving the Son’s deity (esp. vv. 2-3), from verses 5-13, to intensify his antithesis (i.e., the eternal Son vs. creation), the author moves from his own inspired words to the words of God the Father.

In Hebrews 1:6, an undeniable verification of the Son’s deity is evidenced by the fact that God the Father commands[2] all of His angels to “worship” (proskuneō) the Son: “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” The Father’s command to His angels to give religious worship to His Son clearly proves the Son’s essential deity—for creature worship was strictly forbidden by God (cf. Exod. 20:5). There are many places in both the OT and NT where the Son was worshiped in a religious context, by all the angels (cf. Heb. 1:6); by men (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:38); and by every creature (cf. Rev. 5:13-14).[3]

DIRECT ADDRESS AS “THE GOD” WHOSE THRONE IS ETERNAL (cf. Heb. 1:8) 

Thus far, the author of Hebrews has exhibited so precisely the very object of Christian evangelism and historic faith: The two natures of the person of the Son, as fully God (esp. vv. 2-3, 6) and as fully man who made “purification of sins” (v. 3). In verses 8-9, the Father demonstrates further the exalted divine status of His beloved Son:

“But of the Son He says” Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.’”

Here the Father addresses the Son (pros de ton huion, “but regarding the Son”) as ho theos (“the God”) affirming that the Son’s throne is “forever and ever.” This is a citation from the LXX of Psalm 45:6-7. Although some have attributed the Psalm to David, Solomon, or a Persian king, the original sense of the Psalm is purely Messianic. The writer here seems to envisage the ideal king, a “magnificent and beautiful prince—a prince riding prosperously in his conquest” (Barns). In the same way, Isaiah speaks of the Messiah as “Mighty God” and “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Note the rendering of the ancient Targum[4] of Psalm 45:7, which is a direct address to Yahweh Himself: “Thy throne of glory, O Lord endures for ever and ever.” Further, the targumist applies verse 3 to the Messiah: “Your beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than the sons of men; the spirit of prophecy has been placed on your lips; because of this the Lord has blessed you forever.” None of Israel’s kings were ascribed as “God” whose throne is forever. The full deity of the Christ is a constant theme in the OT (esp. Dan. 7:9-14; Isa. 9:6-7).

In Hebrews 1:8, the Father positively affirms that His Son, Jesus the Christ, is “the God” whose throne is forever and ever. That the Father addresses the Son as “God” (a distinct person) is precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. In the Gospels, the Son addresses the Father as “God,” while here, the Father addresses the Son as “God.” Just as the Son addresses the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” (Luke 10:21), in Hebrews 1:10, the Father addresses the Son as the “Lord” (i.e., as the Yahweh of Ps. 102:25-27) who made the heavens and the earth (cf. also John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2).  

Unitarian groups (esp. JWs) consistently deny the direct address rendering and syntax of the passage by translating theos (“God”) either as a nominative, “God is your throne” (as in the NWT) or as a predicate, “Your throne is God.” However, the vocative of direct address[5] rendering of theos (i.e., the Father addressing the Son as “God”) is confirmed by 1) the LXX of Psalm 45:6-7 where Elohim (“God”) is in direct address, 2) the Targum of Psalm 45:6 where “Lord” is in direct address, 3) all ancient versions of Psalm 45, 4) most English translations, 5) biblical commentators, historically and presently, 6) the context of the prologue, which presents a defined contrast between all created things and the eternality of the Son, and 7) in verse 10, the Greek term for “Lord” is in the actual vocative case of address (kurie), which unmistakably shows that the Father addressed the Son as “God” and as the “Yahweh” (“Lord”) of Psalm 102:25-27, as we will discuss below.      

DIRECT ADDRESS AS “LORD”—NAMELY, THE YAHWEH OF PSALM 102:25-27 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12)

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your Hands. . . .” (v. 10).  God the Father attributes the creation of the heavens and earth to the Son (as did the author in v. 2). This passage (and the entire chapter) is devastating to Oneness advocates who see the “Son” as representing merely the humanity (non-divinity) of Jesus and, of course, most challenging for Muslims and JWs who likewise deny the deity of the person of the Son.

In verses 10-12, the Father applies Psalm 102:25-27, which speaks of Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator, to the Son! As we saw, starting in verse 5, the author moves from his own words, to the Father’s words regarding the Son. Hence, verse 10 does not warrant any break in context or switch of speaker to recipient—it is the Father speaking tothe Son: You, Lord, in the beginning.” The connective conjunction and naturally looks back to the addressee in verse 8: But of the Son He says.” As pointed out, kurios (“Lord”) actually appears in the vocative form, kurie: “You, Lord [kurie], in the beginning.” This irrefutably shows that the Father is speaking to the Son. It also supports the vocative force of theos in verse 8: “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” Hebrews 1:10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (from the LXX),[6] which describes Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator. Hence, the Father identifies His Son with the Yahweh of this Psalm, the unchangeable Creator.  

The Christian religion is established by its Founder, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, Creator of all things. This is confirmed by the OT prophets, NT apostles, Christ Himself, and God the Father. The Father affirmed His Son’s ontological status as God by 1) making open declarations as to Jesus’ Sonship, 2) commanding all of the angels in heaven to worship the Son, and 3) directly addressing the Son as “the God” whose throne is eternal and as the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator.


[1] Cf. Genesis 19:24; Daniel 7:9-14 (cf. Mark 14:62); Isaiah 9:6; “angel of the Lord” references; etc.

[2] The term translated “worship” is an aorist active imperative verb. A verb in the imperative mood indicates a commandment/request. But when the imperative is in the aorist tense, the commandment stressing urgency, a “do it now” kind of verb—namely, worship the Son now!

[3] The word “worship” appeared in the JWs’ New World Translation at Hebrews 1:6 from 1961 (the first complete ed.) to 1970. However, due to the damaging implications of the Son being worshiped, the Watchtower replaced “worship” with “obeisance,” meaning, honor, respect, etc. in all subsequent editions.   

[4] The Targum was an ancient Aramaic translation (in 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. The earliest known portions of the Targum were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., Job, Cave 11).

[5] In verse 8, we noted that although theos technically is in the nominative case, it clearly carries the vocative force of direct address. In fact, in every occurrence in the NT, where God is being addressed, theos appears in the nominative case except in Matthew 27:46, where both occurrences of theos are actually in the vocative case—Thee mou, thee mou (“My God My God”).

[6] The LXX reads: kat’ archas su kurie (lit., “In [the] beginning, You, Lord”). Hebrews 1:10-12 is utterly shattering to all who deny the Trinity and the deity and unipersonality of the Son since God the Father identifies His Son with the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator whose “years will not come to an end.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Son is Creator

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

The Son is Worshiped

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

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

Scripture presents a clear Christology

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

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

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

Hebrews 1:2, 8, 10: In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. . . . But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . . And, YOU [the Son], LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.”

6 Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 Philippians 2:6-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”)[1] was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the pre-existence, incarnation, and the full deity of Jesus Christ. The context of Philippians 2 is clear: Paul stresses to the Philippians that they ought to act in a harmonious and humble way. In which Paul instructs them to have an attitude in themselves “which was also in Christ Jesus,”—namely, humility (v. 5).

 Paul then exemplifies the ultimate act of humility: Jesus Christ, God the Son, voluntarily emptied Himself by becoming flesh.In six short passages, Paul provides a beautiful and well defined summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ expressing His essential nature as God (including His pre-existence; v. 6); His Incarnation and cross-work (i.e., His humiliation; vv. 7-8); and His exaltation to the glory of God the Father (vv. 10-11). His role as Mediator involves two states: 1) the state of humiliationand 2) the state of exaltation.

Note the following exegetical points that underline the theological significance and force of Paul’s high Christological Hymn:

  1. Jesus is presented as God—distinct from God the Father.

In the first part of verse 6, Paul utilizes very specific terms to express clearly that Jesus Christ was always subsisting as God: “Who although He existed [huparchōn] in the form [morphē; or “nature” NIV] of God [theou]. . . .” (emphasis added). So, when Paul says that Christ “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” and “He emptied Himself” (vv. 6-7, which we will deal with shortly), these two statements must be interpreted in light of his first statement: Jesus was always “being in very nature God” (NIV).

 The word translated “existed” (“being” KJV, NIV) is huparchōn, which is a present active participle.[2] The participle here indicates a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting.[3] Hence, Jesus did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time, rather He was always existing as God, just as Paul expressed (cf. John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). The same truth is found in John 1:1a: “In the beginning was [ēn] the Word—i.e., the Word was “always existing”[4] (also cf. John 1:18; 16:28; 17:5; Heb. 1:3; 10-12).       

 Next, the word translated “form” (NASB) or “nature” (NIV) is morphē. This word denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the pre-existent Christ.”[5] It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, in His pre-existent state, Jesus possessed (always subsisting in) essential deity. Warfield clearly expresses its semantic force:  

Paul does not simply say, “He was God.” He says, “He was in the form of God,” employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon Our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. “Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is … And “the form of God” is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call “God,” specifically God, rather than some other being—an angel, say, or a man. When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most expressed manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God. [6]

 To deny that the Son was truly the morphē of God is to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man, “taking the form[morphē] of a bond-servant” (v. 7). The last part of the verse (“[He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped”) has been a topic of much discussion among scholars as to the precise meaning of the term harpagmos (“a thing to be grasped” or “robbery”). But as we have stated, the meaning must be in light of the first part of the verse: “always subsisting in the nature of God.” But as we have stated, the meaning must be in light of the first part of the verse: “always subsisting in the nature of God.” In other words, the meaning of harpagmos cannot be separated from the meaning of the participle huparchōn.

Because of the articular infinitive, to einai (“to be” equal to God), some would argue that the phrase “equal to God” refers back to the phrase morphē theou (“nature of God”). However, there are exegetical problems with that view.[7] A more plausible view would be to consider morphē theou (“nature/form of God”) as referring to essential nature and “equality with God” as referring to function within the Godhead. In this way, the two phrases (“nature of God” and “equality with God” [v. 6]) are not synonymous. Rather, if this is the meaning, Paul would be stating in essence that although the Son was fully deity, always existing as God, He did not usurp (seize) the role of God the Father.[8]

  1. The Self-Emptying of God the Son. It was theSon who voluntarily “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a servant” (v. 7). The reflexive pronoun heauton (“Himself”) indicates that the subject (Jesus) is also the object (i.e., the one receiving the action of the verb—the verb being ekenōsen, “emptied”). Therefore, Jesus Christ, in His pre-existent state, emptied Himself; it was a “self-emptying” (lit., “He Himself emptied”).  

 The term “taking” is from the Greek aorist active participle, labōn. Semantically, this is a participle of means.[9]The participle of means describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). The emptying did not involve in any way, shape, or form, His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: “Who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance of God” (lit., trans.). Further, the Hymn indicates plainly that it was not God the Father, as Oneness Pentecostals suppose, but the Son, who voluntarily emptied Himself and thus became obedient to death—“even death on a cross” (v. 8).

  1. God the Father exalted God the Son.Verse 9 reads: “For this reason also, God [the Father] highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” TheFather exalted God the Son, who emptied Himselfby taking the nature of a servant. Scripture teaches that the Son is “functionally” subordinate to the Father (cf. John 14:28); He perfectly obeys Him and always does His will (cf. John 6:38). However, this does not mean that the Son is not ontologically (by nature) subordinate to the Father.[10] Paul says, “the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3). But this does not mean that the woman (wife) is less human than the man (husband), nor, in the same way, does it mean that Christ is less God than God the Father. Rather, the passage is speaking about function and purpose, not nature. Since Jesus is not only God, but God-man, the Father exalting the “emptied” Son and glorifying Him with the divine glory they shared “before the world was” (John 17:5) is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity.  
  2. “At the name of Jesus”: Jesus is the YHWH and thus the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23.In verses 9-11,[11] Paul then concludes his glorious Christological Hymn with a “purpose of exaltation” (hina) clause:[12] The purpose of the Son’s exaltation was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus is Lord.” In verse 9, we read that the Father exalted Christ and bestowed on Him the “name” which is above every name. “Name” (onoma) is highly significant in a Semitic (“Jewish”) context. Generally, it carries the meaning of authority, power,or on behalf of (see 1 Sam. 17:45).

 In verses 10-11, without question, Paul is loosely drawing from Isaiah 45:23: “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” This passage is an undeniable reference to YHWH (cf. vv. 22-25). Paul, however, applies it here to Jesus Christ the Lord who glorifies the Father—namely, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23.[13]

 There are further exegetical details that enhance the force of Paul’s Jesus-Isaiah connection. First, both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 (also from Isa. 45:23) contain future tenses (“every knee will bow,” every tongue will confess” [or “will swear allegiance”]) and indicative moods, indicating the future certainty of the event. However, in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul changes the original tenses and moods of the verbs from that of Isaiah 45:23 (and Rom. 14:11) to make, as indicated, Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause.[14] The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son, then, was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” thus, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23—hence Jesus will be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s (future) prophecy.

Lastly, although most translations contain the phrase, “Jesus Christ is Lord” at the end of verse 11, the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos (lit., “Lord Jesus Christ”). Here Paul places kurios (“Lord”) first in the phrase (viz. the emphatic position) to emphasize even more the Son’s exaltation as YHWH, the name that belonged to Him. The LXX translates the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH, as kurios. Thus, when a New Testament author would cite an Old Testament passage where YHWH appears, the author would use kurios (e.g., Mark 12:29-30; Rom. 10:13).[15]

Since the backdrop of Paul’s assertion of Christ centers on the prophetic word of YHWH in Isaiah 45:23, it is only natural then that he would place kurios first in the clause,[16] thus making his point: kurios [YHWH] Iēsous Christos (“LORD Jesus Christ”).  

From start to finish, this Christological Hymn exegetically affirms the gospel of Jesus Christ; it affirms the two states of Christ, His humiliation (incarnation and death) and exaltation (every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord—the YHWH and thus the fulfillment of Isa. 45:23). The Hymn affirms two very fundamental aspects of Jesus Christ: 1) He always subsisting in the nature of God and 2) God the Son became man in order to die on the cross. The entire gospel of the Son is summarized in six short, but very powerful passages—the humiliation and exaltation of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ..

NOTES

[1] Also known as the Kenosis Hymn (from kenoō, “to make empty”).

[2] Huparchōn is from the verb huparchō (“to be in existence”).

[3] Cf. Thayer, 1996: 638; Bauer, 2000: 1029).

[4] The term “was” is from the Greek verb ēn, which is the imperfect tense of eimi (“to be”). An imperfect tense indicates continuous action normally occurring in the past, or an on-going past action (Wallace, GGBB, 541). Thus in the beginning the Word was already existing—no beginning. Jesus’ eternal existence is also seen in passages such as John 8:58 where the presence tense verb eimi (“am”) is in contrast with the Abraham’s created state denoted by the aorist form of ginomai (“came to be”): “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born [genesthai], I am [egō eimi].”

[5] Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. Frederick W. Danker (BDAG; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 659.

[6] Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 177.

[7] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 220. 

[8] Ibid.

[9] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 630.

[10] The mutual operation or functionality of the three Persons of the Trinity in that they have different roles/functions, yet they are working together, is defined theologically as the economic Trinity. The soteriological Trinity speaks of the specific roles/functions each of the Persons have in the work of salvation. And the ontological Trinity speaks of the very nature of the three distinct Persons being co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Persons sharing the nature of the one God.       

[11] “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

[12] The Greek conjunction hina (“so that” v. 10) frequently denotes purpose and result (i.e., the purpose of X was for the result of Y; e.g., “He gave His only begotten Son in order that everyone believing in Him shall not perish, but have life eternal (John 3:16; lit. trans.). Thus, the purpose of God giving the Son was for the result of eternal life for everyone believing in Him.

[13] This is one of many places where a NT author applies an OT passage referring to YHWH, to Jesus Christ. For example, compare Psalms 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13.

[14] Specifically, the tenses and moods in Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11 are future indicatives (“will bow,” “will confess/swear”). But in Philippians 2:10-11 Paul modified them to aorist subjunctives following the conjunction hina (“so that”) respectively (“shall bow,” “shall confess”).    

[15] A point to which JWs agree. Except, of course, when the OT passages is referring to Jesus Christ, they do not follow their own rule. For example, the phrase “Jesus as Lord” in Romans 10:9 is clearly the antecedent to the occurrences of the pronoun “Him” and “Lord” following up to verse 13:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of  all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 For “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD [YHWH] WILL BE SAVED” (emphasis added).

“Jesus as Lord” is the object of salvation from verse 9-13. Throughout these passages, it is the same “Him” and same “Lord” beginning in verse 9. To say that the “Lord” in verse 9 is a different “Lord” than in verse 13 completely breaks the flow of the passages. The Lord that one confesses (v. 9) is the same Lord that one calls upon for salvation (v. 13). In verse 13, Paul cites Joel 2:32: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [Heb. YHWH] will be delivered.” Just as he does in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul cites a passage referring to YHWH and applies it to Jesus. Thus, whoever confessing and calls upon Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as YHWH will be saved.  

[16] In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not always dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. Specifically, in verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the “emphatic position” (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ.” As we have shown, the same is true in John 1:1c where the anarthrous predicate nominative theos, is also in the emphatic position: theos ēn ho logos (“lit., “God was the Word”)drawing attention to the Word’s nature as God.