Hebrews 1:6 (last clause):

 

  • NASB: “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

 

  • New World Translation[1] (NWT): “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

 

  • Greek NT (all eds.): Kai proskunēsatwsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (lit., “And worship Him all [the] angels of God”).

 

  • LXX[2] (Deut. 32:43, the author’s OT source [also cf. Ps. 96:7]): Kai proskunēsatōsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (Brenton’s ed., same rendering as Greek NT).

 

Last week, in our weekly First Love Radio Show, Pastor James Tippins (Grace Truth Church, Claxton, GA) and I had a fantastic discussion regarding some of the specific places in which “worship” (proskuneō and latreuō)[3] was applied to the person of the Son in a “religious” context[4] (esp. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 3:38; Heb. 1:6 and Rev. 5:13-14).

 

Hebrews 1:6 – a few noteworthy points:

 

  1. The Father’s command to all the angels to worship the Son was in the aorist imperative (proskunēsatōsan). Linguistically, this was the strongest and most “urgent” way to issue a command in biblical Greek—appearing in both the Greek NT (all eds.) and in the LXX (see above).

 

  1. The NWT. As most of us know, that the JWs’ unique and distorted translation, the NWT, replaced the word “worship” (as in virtually all recognized Bible translations) with “obeisance” (honor, respect, etc.).

 

  1. Lexically. The verb proskuneō is from pros (“toward”) and kuneō (lit., “to kiss”). Thus, “prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet. . . . to express … submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance … do reverence to, welcome respectfully” (BDAG).

 

  1. Context. The verb could mean either religious “worship” (reserved for God alone, cf. John 4:24) or “obeisance” with no connotation of religious worship at all. But as we know: Context always governs!—thus it determines the verb’s meaning.

    The defining and surrounding context of Hebrews 1:6 is clearly in the heavenlies (it does not get more “religious” and holier than that!) and the affirmation of the eternal Son. Moreover, in the prologue of Hebrews (viz. chap. 1), the author presents a vivid contrast between all things created (angels, heavens, and the earth) and the eternal Son, Creator of all things (vv. 2, 3, 10-12[5]). It is this defining context, therefore, that indicates the meaning of proskuneō in verse 6—namely, divine religious “worship.”        

 

The JWs argue in a theological circle, which starts with unitarianism and ends with a denial of the deity of Christ. Hence, the NWT arbitrarily removes “worship” at the places applied to Christ (e.g., Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:8-9; John 9:38; and of course, Heb. 1:6). Interestingly, from 1950 to 1970, in Hebrews 1:6, the NWT read, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” Consequently, for over twenty years, the JWs actually taught that “all the angels” worshiped Jesus (who they identify as Michael, the “created” archangel)—a frustrating fact they cannot deny. It was not until the 1971 ed. that “worship” was finally removed being replaced with “obeisance” in Hebrews 1:6.

 

Furthermore, from 1898 to 1964, the Watchtower (the JWs leadership), has taught that “worship” is properly given to Jesus—it’s a matter of (accessible) record. Note these examples: 

 

 “Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father and his agent in the creation of all things, including man” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898, July 15, p. 216).

 

“Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father, Jehovah….”  (Watchtower, 1939, Nov 15, p. 339).

“[W]hosoever should worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus….” (Watchtower, 1945, p. 313).

 

In the 1945 Yearbook, it clearly defines the purpose of the Watchtower Society (in part):

“The purposes of this Society are…. to go forth to all the world publicly and from house to house to preach and teach Bible truths. … and send out to various parts of the world Christian missionaries, teachers and instructors in the Bible and Bible literature and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus.”

 

In 1964, they finally changed their view and taught that worshiping Christ was idolatrous: “It is unscriptural … to render worship to the Son of God” (Watchtower, 1964 Nov 1, p. 671). The inconsistencies of the Watchtower are and have been astounding! 

 

Jesus Worshiped as God

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[6] on several occasions. These are some of the 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 Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.” 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.

The same term (pelach) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.” Further, the LXX translate pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; see also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14). Even though some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), but in a religious context (which vv. 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).[7]

 

MATTHEW 14:33: “And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][8] 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 remarkable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His repeated “I am” claims and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000. In verse 26, we read 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”). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (v. 27).

 

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. However, 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.”

The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming He was God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-63; John 5:17-18; 10:30-36; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:1, 3); 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 the OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al). 

 

JOHN 9:35-38: “[Jesus] said [to the blind man that He healed], “’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.” As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and “Lord”—thus, a religious context (cf. Dan. 7:9-14).

 

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 1:6 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 1:1, 18; Heb. 1:3).

 

In spite of the NWT’s devaluation of the Son, the denial of His cross work and a denial of the triune nature of the only true God, both the OT and NT affirm that Jesus Christ was properly worshiped as God. The Son is “the great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); “the only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4); the Theos-Christos (“God-Christ”) who saved a people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 1:5) whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification.

 

Let us, along with all the angels, worship Jesus Christ, “the Lord of glory,” unceasingly.


NOTES

[1] The NWT is the Bible translation of the JWs—published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (i.e., the corporate name for the JWs).

[2] LXX is the abbreviation of the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek OT).

[3] These terms are the primary terms denoting worship or reverence, honor depending on the context (e.g., John 4:24; Rom. 12:1). 

 [4] A religious context is any such context where spirituality, holiness, and/or divinity exists.  

[5] Verses 10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX). Thus, the Father directly addresses the Son (cf. v. 8) as the Yahweh (LORD) of that Psalm—the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

[6]  See note 4 above. 

[7] Many modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage. However, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Furthermore, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7:9ff. with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

[8] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as with 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 heavenlies—hence, the Father commands “all the angels” to give religious worship to the divine Son.

 

When we speak of the Holy Spirit – we are speaking of the Third Person of the Trinity – God the Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit in the NT is the same person as the Spirit in the Old Testamentdifferent only in scope, not person or nature. Let’s review some of the important activities of the Spirit in the life of the believer:

 

The Spirit Indwells all Believers

JOHN 14:17: “That is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be “in you”(cf. Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:16), In John 14:23. As the Spirit dwells with/in us, the Father and the Son dwells with/in us (cf. John 14:23; 1 John 1:3).

 

The Necessity and Benefits of the Holy Spirit


Dwelling Within Us

  1. That the Spirit indwells us shows that we are children of God, heirs of Him, and “fellow-heirs with Christ”—Romans 8:16–17: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

 

  1. The indwelling Spirit gives us the wisdom and knowledge of the testimony of God and the crucifixion of the Son—1 Corinthians 2:12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.”

 

  1. The indwelling Spirit leads and guides us—Romans 8:14: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”; 1 John 4:4: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

 

The Holy Spirit accomplishes regeneration in the hearts of sinners—John 6:63: It is the “Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace – we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Observe the emphasis of all three persons of the Trinity here. The same combination of words are found in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Isaiah 44:3.

 

The Holy Spirit Sanctifies us at Conversion

1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 6:11).

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13: “But we should [imperative mood] always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1-2).

 

1 Peter 1:1-2: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those . . . who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

 

He is our Paraklētos (“Advocate”)

 John 14:16: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [paraklētos, lit., “advocate”], that He may be with you forever.”[1]

 

The Holy Spirit Intercedes on Our Behalf

 Romans 8:26-27: “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

 

The Holy Spirit installs Pastors

Acts 20:28: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

 

The Holy Spirit Provides the Opportunities and the Results

Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (cf. Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit also hinders evangelism (cf. Acts 16:6).

 

We Fellowship with the Holy Spirit in the context of the Triune God 

  2 Corinthians 13:14: “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

 

The Holy Spirit Gives Love to the Elect

 Romans 15:30: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

 

The Spirit enables us to carry out the Fruit of the Spirit in our Christian life
(cf. Gal. 5:22-23)

 First note the starting context in the verse 16 (syntactical literal reading): “walk [‘behave, live’] by means of the Spirit [pneumati] and the lust of the flesh, never never, not even a possibility shall you gratify [‘fulfill, complete’].” The Spirit here in verse 16 is the Holy Spirit—the same Spirit that is spoken of in verses 18 and 22, thus, not the “spiritual” part of our nature, nor our spirit in union with the Spirit.

 

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Interestingly, the term “fruit” (karpos) is singular, although there are nine characteristics. Grammatically, the term “love” (agapē) could have the semantic idea of the affixed English colon (“love:”). If this is the intended meaning, Paul would be indicating that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and the eight following characteristics is how Paul defines love. Thus, the fruit of love consists of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 

The Filling and Baptism of the Spirit

As seen, the indwelling of the Spirit refers to the eternal relationship (“in you”) we have with the Triune God at conversion—permanent and perpetual. Whereas “being filled,” as in Acts and Paul’s literature, was not permanent (and spontaneous in Acts). This particular phenomenon only occurred in special circumstances, usually producing boldness in the proclamation of the gospel—namely, as in Acts, the resurrection of Christ: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31) and rarely did it result in tongues.

 

Further, being filled with/by the Spirit in Acts is not the same as the command to be filled with the Spirit in, for example, Ephesians 5:18. Notice that the verbal actions are present tense, in contrast to the single isolated accounts in Acts (which Paul could have achieved by using past tenses): “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [present imperative] en pneumati [lit., “by means of the Spirit”]. Syntactically, the preposition en (in, by, with) followed by the dative pneumati (“Spirit”) indicates instrument (means), not “content.”[2] The two imperatives (commands), which are in the middle/passive voice, are, do not “get drunk” and “be filled” by means of the Spirit.

 

Thus, believers are to be filled (perhaps a reference to God’s moral attributes, or joy) by Christ (who is the agent) by means of the Spirit.[3] Moreover, note the five participles in verses 19-21, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing,” “making melody,” “always giving thanks,” and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” These are semantically participles of result—indicating the result of being filled by the Spirit. This filling is not connected with speaking in tongues. Further, Spirit filling in Acts was never commanded as in here in verse 18. In Acts, it was special inoculation or saturation of the Spirit for a particular work of service (similar to the Spirit’s activity of filling in the OT). Thus, Paul says that we must be continually filled with the Spirit, not just once or twice.

 

Spirit Baptism

It was John the Baptist who first prophesied Spirit baptism: “I baptized you with water; but He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). This prophecy was reiterated in Acts 1:4-5. Notice also that Mark 1:8 and Acts 1:5 contain the same syntactical construction– “baptized, en pneumati hagiō (lit., “with [the] Spirit Holy”). As seen in Ephesians 5:18, en (in, by, with) followed by a noun in the dative case (here, pneumati) can denote “means”—thus, “by means of the Spirit.” So according to this prophecy, Christ is the agent of the baptism (i.e., the one doing the action) and the Spirit is the instrument (i.e., the means, which Christ uses to perform the action)

 

When was this prophecy fulfilled? First, no exact time stamp is provided, but the first occurrences are in Acts. However, 1 Corinthians 12:13, does express a fulfilled action among all Christians: “For en heni pneumati [“by means of one Spirit”] we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” As in Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; and Ephesians 5:18, we find en + dative indicating that the baptism was “by means of” the one Spirit (Christ being the agent). And note the double usage of pan (“all”) indicting that ALL Christians were baptized by the Spirit (at conversion), not merely a special class of so-called “anointed” or mature believers.

Spirit baptism is a gift promised by the Father – given first in Acts, which happens at conversion to ALL believers.

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The Holy Spirit is active in our lives – He is our paraklētos, that is, He is called to be alongside of us. He regenerated us and caused us to be born again having sealed us for the day of redemption (cf. Eph. 1:13). And the same Spirit that hovered over the face of the waters (cf. Gen. 1:2), dwelled with David, came upon Samson and other judges and prophets, led Jesus into the wilderness, poured out upon all of His people at Pentecost, and filled Peter – lives with us and fills us—and helps us in our weaknesses. He provides us “fruit” to edify and move us to a life of love, relationship, and works of service – ultimately to glorify the Triune God.

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

Notes 

[1] Paraklētos appears five times in the NT – John 14:16, 26, 15:26; 16:7 and once in 1 John 2:1 with in reference to the Son.

[2] See exegetical discussion of this passages in Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 93,374-75,375 

[3] Ibid.

Complete in Christ

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Anti-Trinitarian groups such as Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently launch the assertion that doctrine of the Trinity was conceived in the 4th century (viz. at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325). Utterly, controlled by their unitarian assumption that God is one person, not revealed in three persons, they reject the notion that God is triune, however there are two major flaws to their uniformed assertions:

 

  1. In that era, historically, there was no “supreme” popish Roman Catholic Church as it appears from the 13th century onwards. Thus, back in the 4th century, there was only a church in Rome as there was a church in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Smyrna, Philippi, etc. In fact, all the early churches were “catholic” in the sense of belonging to the “universal church”.

 

  1. The Trinity was not the issue at Nicaea. Rather, due to the assertions of the heretic Arius (around A.D. 318) that the Son was not God by nature, the council addressed the issue of the Son’s ontological (nature) relationship to the Father. Basically was the Son homoousios (of the “same substance” as God) or heteroousios (of a “different substance,” created). Years before, the church had already proclaimed and established the concept of the Trinity. Again, that was not the issue at Nicaea. In point of fact, none of the written documents that came out of Nicaea by men that were there, contained either the word “Trinity” or even a direct reference to it.

 

The Concept of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity did not originate from the early church, rather it was established in the content of divine revelation of both the OT and NT.

For example, in the OT, we find plural words being applied to the one God (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Eccl. 12:1; Isa. 6:3, 8; 54:5 et al.). In Isa. 9:6, the Messiah is identified as El gibbor (“mighty God”).[1] In Dan. 7:9-14, we find two objects of divine worship is presented—the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Further, there are many Angel of the Lord appearances (preincarnate Christ), such as to Hager (cf. Gen. 16:11-13); Abraham (cf. Gen. chaps. 18-19); Moses (cf. Exod. 3:1ff.); Gideon (cf. Judg. 6:11-24); Manoah (cf. Judg. 13:16, 21) et al. The angel of the Lord was not a created, indefinite angel. He was identified as God/YHWH and claimed He was the “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6)—YHWH, yet a distinct person from another YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24). For more information on the angel of the Lord see The Preincarnate Christ as the Angel of the Lord

 

The NT contains many passages that clearly present the concept of the Trinity—cf. Matt. 28:19; John 1:1, 3, 18; 5:17-18; 14:23; 17:5; 20:28; Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:14; 4:4-6; Eph. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 1:2-3; 1 John 1:1-3; Rev. 5:13-14 and many more could be cited.

 

Debunking the Unitarian Belief

 

The concept of the Trinity has been well established by the early church immediately following the apostolic age and certainly not an invention of the non-existent Roman Catholic Church. The concept starts in Genesis and is fully revealed in the NT. Patristic and early church authority J. D. Kelly observes:

The reader should notice how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted in the apostolic tradition and the popular faith. Though as yet uncanonized, the New Testament was already exerting a powerful influence; it is a commonplace that the outlines of a dyadic and a triadic pattern are clearly visible in its pages.[2]

Below is a very partial list of early pre-fourth century examples of a variety of early church Fathers expressing the concept of the Trinity. Also see The Trinity and the Early Church: Debunking the Oneness Unitarian Mythfor a fuller list of citations.  

 

Didachē (viz. “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”; c. A.D. 70): “After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (7.1).

 

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107): “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos, “unoriginate, eternal”]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord (Letter to the Ephesians, 7).

“Jesus Christ, who was with the Father [para patri] before the beginning of time [pro aiōnōn], and in the end was revealed…. He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever….” (Letter to the Magnesians, 6). Note the linguistic parallel with John 17:5—where the same preposition denoting the Son’s eternality is used (here- pro aiōnōn, “before time,” John 17:5- pro tou ton kosmon einai, “before the world was”) and the same preposition followed by dative case expressing a distinction between persons (here- para patri, “with the Father,” John 17:5- para seautō, “together with Yourself,” para soi, “with You.”

“For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness (Letter to the Romans, 3).

 

Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna (c. A.D. 130-150): [in his last prayer before his martyrdom] “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ…. I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen” (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14).

 

Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160): “’Let Us make,’ –I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being….” (Dialogue with Trypho, 62).

 

Athenagoras of Athens (c. A.D. 175): “Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?…. For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence, – the Father, the Son, the Spirit….” (A Plea for Christians, 10, 24).

 

Theophilus Bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 180): “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity of God, and His Word, and His wisdom” (To Autolycus, 2.15).

 

Irenaeus Bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; c. A.D. 180): “For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, even the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness…. that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation….” (Against Heresies, 4.20.1, 3).

“[the church believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth … and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit….” (ibid., 1.10.1).

 

Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 190): “I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father” (Stromata, Book V, Ch. 14)

 

Hippolytus (c. A.D. 205): “Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality (Against Noetus, 10; Gk. monos ōn polus ēn, lit., “alone existing [yet] plurality/many was.”

 

Tertullian (c. A.D. 213): “He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names” (Against Praxeas, 26).

 

Novatian the Roman Presbyter (c. A.D. 256): “it is declared [Gen. 19:24]: ‘Then the Lord [YHWH] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord [YHWH] out of heaven.’ But although the Father, being invisible.… But this the Son of God, “The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son…. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God (“De Trinitate,” in Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, 18).

 

Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (c. A.D. 262): “The Son alone, always co-existing with the Father…. For on this account after the Unity there is also the most divine Trinity….” (Works of Dionysius, Extant Fragments).

 

Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonder-worker (c. A.D. 260): “There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity….  And thus, neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever (A Declaration of Faith).

 

Methodius of Olympus (c. A.D. 305): “For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one…. we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor…. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty (Oration on the Psalms, 5).

“but also the glory to be adored by all of that one of the sacred Trinity…. They say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For we believe that, together with the Son, who was made man for our sakes, according to the good pleasure of His will, was also present the Father, who is inseparable from Him as to His divine nature, and also the Spirit, who is of one and the same essence with Him (Oration concerning Simon and Anna on the Day that they met in the Temple, 2).

 

Many more citations can be presented that undeniably show within the proper context of the writers aforementioned, that the early church prior to Nicaea (325) unitedly embraced the concept of the Trinity and rejected Oneness-unitarianism in all forms. They saw and taught that the one true God was triune—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three distinct coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons, which was the Faith of the OT believers and the NT church.

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[1] In Isaiah 10:21, the same description (El gibbor) is applied to YHWH (cf. also Deut. 10:17).

[2] J. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1978, 88.

 

The Church at Philippi: During Paul’s second missionary journey (c. A.D. 49-52), Paul and his traveling companions (Timothy and Silas) were making their way across Asia Minor when Paul received a vision at Troas. Acts 16:6-12: “In the vision, a man of Macedonia pleaded, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Perceiving that the Lord was calling them to go to Macedonia, they sailed from Troas (Luke having joined them) and eventually arrived at Philippi.”

An interesting note about the church of Philippi was a lack of a “synagogue” indicating that this church was primarily Gentile. It seems that they were the only church that supported Paul (cf. 4:15); and we find no heresy that Paul addresses (although, humility was an issue (esp. 2:1-13). It is important to note from the outset, Paul’s imprisonment was due to his persistent apologetics, that is, defending and affirming the gospel (cf. 1:7, 16).

An appropriate key text is Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.” For in this letter, Paul uses the term “joy” fourteen times (NA28), five times as a noun (chara) and nine times as a verb (chairw), while the cognate term charis (“grace”) is used three times. For this reason, the epistle to the Philippians has often been called Paul’s “Hymn of Joy.”

 

Philippians 3:1-14

 

Verses 1-2 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.”  

“Dogs” is a figurative reference to false teachers whom Paul regards just as filthy as dogs.

 

Verses 3-5 “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. 4 Although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee.”

 

Here Paul parades his illustrious accreditations. As a Pharisee, he was a member of one of the most significant religious as well as political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. According to Josephus (cf. Ant. 17. 2.4; 17.42) there were more Pharisees than Sadducees (it is estimated that there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at this time).  Some doctrines and behavior patterns differed between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were stringent and zealous devotees to the OT laws and to the vast amount of extra traditions (e.g., Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, denied the existence of angels/spirits and the notion of a bodily resurrection).

 

Verse 6 “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Pre-conversion, Paul was a popular persecutor of the church (cf. Acts 7:58-8:3). However, note the next passage.  

Verse 7 “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

 

  • When Paul became a Christian, he gave up his brilliant prospects in regards to this life, and everything he planned for in his early life.  

 

  • He was no doubt excommunicated by the Jews at his conversion and gave up his dearest friends and those whom he loved.

 

  • He might have risen to the highest point of life and honor in his native land, which any ambitious young man desires.

 

Such a great loss by the world’s standards, but Paul sacrificed all things in order that he might gain Christ Jesus, his Lord and Savior.

 

Verse 8 “more than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish [dung] so that I may gain Christ,”

 

“Surpassing value.” From huperechw (from huper, “above” and echw, have, possess), thus literally, “to above possess, hold above, have beyond.” Paul’s loss of all things did not compare to the “surpassing value” of knowing Christ (cf. Mark 8:36; Col. 3:2-3).

“Dung” (skubala) was often used in Greek as an uncouth term for fecal matter; thus, it would most likely present a certain jolt to Paul’s readers. This may be the intended meaning here since contextually Paul is speaking of what the flesh produces.

 

Verse 9 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [ek] the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness, which comes from [ek] God on the basis [epi] of faith,

First, Paul speaks here (and v. 6) of His pre-conversion self-righteous haughtiness, that is, his own “so-called” righteousness ek nomou (“from [the] Law”) contrary to the righteousness now as a Christian epi tē pistei (“upon the basis of faith”).

Note the Greek particle of negation, (“not”): “Not having righteousness of my own derived from [lit., “out of”] the Law.” Consider also, how the same preposition (ek, “out from”) expresses the two radically contrasting ideas regarding righteousness ek nomou, “from Law” vs. ek theou, “from God.”

Further, it is best (semantically) to see both genitives in the prepositional phrases (ek nomou, “from Law”], ek theou [“from God”]) as genitives of sourcehence, the very source of Paul’s own righteousness was from the Law in contradistinction to the true righteousness, which is imputed from God alone. In Paul’s mind, his former self-righteousness is generated and is derived from (as the source) one’s self,—which is false. This idea is perpetuated by Roman Catholics and other non-Christian religions. However, as a Christian, Paul understands that “the righteousness, which is from God, is on the basis (instrumentally) of faith”—Sola Fide!     

 

Verse 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“To Know” is from the verb, ginōskw meaning, “to experientially know.” It can carry the idea of intimacy in distinction to mere cognition (cf. Matt. 7:22-23; John 17:3; Rom. 8:29; 2 Tim. 2:19). The term is related to the Hebrew verb yada (“to know, perceive”) and often translated as ginwskw by the LXX[1] (e.g., Gen. 4:1, 17, 25; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2).

 

Verses 11-13 “in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect [teleiow, or “complete”], but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”

 

The apostle understood the call in his life as an apostle, evangelist, and apologist living and soon dying for sake of Christ— “forgetting . . .  and reaching forward.” As he wrote a few years before:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

  

Verse 14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Even from house arrest, Paul writes in 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s Christian life is well defined by his affirmation of hope in the first chapter: “For me, to live is Christ to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

The Apostle Paul lived out the rest of his life as a slave of Christ. He counted everything he had previously, his goals, high Jewish status, reputation, friends, family, and his so-called righteousness from his bondage to the Law as dung, worthless compared to his now relationship with Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, we read of his last words on earth, you might say, his last will and testimony:    

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

In verse 7, we have three perfect indicatives: ēgwnismai, “I have fought,” teteleka, “I have finished,” and tetērēka, “I have kept.” Linguistically, the perfect tense denotes a past completed action with continuous results. So, the literal rendering would be: “The good fight, I have fought, the course, I have finished, and the faith, I have kept”summarizing Paul’s life from his conversion to his martyrdom in a Roman prison (c. A.D. 66).   

As Christians, we are “slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18), “enslaved to God” (Rom. 6:22). Therefore, as Paul instructs us in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”          

 

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[1] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (“seventy,” i.e., the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Hebrew into Greek around 300-200 B.C.). Most citations of the OT contained in the NT were from the LXX.   

 

 

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.”

 

JUAN 17:3: “Esta es la vida eterna, para que te conozcan a ti, el único Dios verdadero, y a Jesucristo a quien has enviado” (vea Juan 4:24). El único Dios verdadero se ha revelado a sí mismo como tres personas distintas, el Padre y el Hijo, el Hijo y el Espíritu Santo.

Las enseñanzas anti-bíblicas de la Teología “Unicidad-Unitaria”

La Cristología Unitaria es una desviación clara y mayor de la ortodoxia bíblica. Similar al Islam, enseña un concepto unitario / unipersonal (es decir, una persona) concepto de Dios. Por lo tanto, las principales divergencias Cristológicas de las enseñanzas bíblicas son las siguientes:

  1. La Unicidad Cristológica niega la unipersonalidad y la deidad del Hijo. Enseña que “Jesús” es el nombre de la deidad unipersonal. En consecuencia, el “Hijo” simplemente representa la naturaleza humana de Jesús, mientras que “Padre / Espíritu Santo” representa la naturaleza divina de Jesús, por lo tanto, el Hijo no es Dios, solo el Padre es (ver Bernard, Unicidad de Dios, 1983: 99, 103, 252). 
  2.  Junto con la deidad, la Unicidad Cristológica niega la preexistencia y la encarnación del Hijo, y por lo tanto, Su papel como el Creador (véase ibid., 103-4; Magee, ¿Está Jesús en la Deidad o es la Deidad en Jesús?, 1988: 25). Al negar la preexistencia de la persona del Hijo, la Doctrina Unitaria rechaza la encarnación del Hijo divino que sostiene la noción errónea de que fue Jesús como el Padre, no el Hijo, quien descendió y se envolvió en carne, y esa “carne” “Fue llamada” Hijo “(véase Bernard, 106, 122).

En agudo contraste con la Cristología Unitaria, Las Escrituras presentan clara y definitivamente que la persona distinta del Hijo 1) es completamente Dios (véase Daniel 7:9-14, Juan 1:18, 5:17-18, Filipenses 2:6-11; Hebreos 1:3,8,10; 1 Juan 5:20; Apocalipsis 1:8,22:13), 2) fue el Creador de todas las cosas (ver Juan 1:3; Colosenses 1:16-17; Hebreos 1:2,10-12-13) coexistió eternamente con el Padre y el Espíritu Santo, y es distinto del mismo (véase Génesis 19:24; Dan 7:9-14; Mateo 28:19, Juan 17:5, 2 Corintios 13:14, 2 Juan 1:3, Apocalipsis 5: 13-14), y 4) se hizo completamente hombre “para dar su vida en rescate por muchos” (cf. Juan 1:1,14, Marcos 10:45, Filipenses 2:6-11).

Este es el Jesús de la revelación Bíblica. Jesucristo es el único mediador e intercesor entre Dios el Padre y los seres humanos. Jesús es el divino Hijo, el monogenés teo-El Unigenito(“Dios único”) que siempre está en el seno del Padre (Juan 1:18), un sujeto personal consciente de sí mismo, distinto del Padre y del Espíritu Santo. En contraste con la Cristología Unitaria, Jesús no es el Padre, sino “el Hijo del Padre” (2 Juan 1:3, ver Juan 17:5ff, 1 Juan 1:3).

Adorar la unipersonalidad de Dios en Teologia Unitaria no es adorar al verdadero Dios en espíritu ni en verdad. El concepto Unitario de Dios es fundamentalmente el mismo que el Islam y la Atalaya (Jehová)

Spanish edition Here- 

 

John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (cf. John 4:24). The one true God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Unbiblical Teachings of Oneness-Unitarian Theology

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. Similar to Islam, it teaches a unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., one person) concept of God. Hence, the chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

1. Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality and deity of the Son. It teaches that “Jesus” is the name of the unipersonal deity. Accordingly, the “Son” merely represents the human nature of Jesus, while “Father/Holy Spirit” represents the divine nature of Jesus—thus, the Son is not God, only the Father is (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252).

2. Along with the deity, Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son, and thus, His role as the Creator (cf. ibid., 103-4; Magee, Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is The Godhead in Jesus?, 1988: 25). By denying the preexistence of the person of the Son, Oneness doctrine rejects the incarnation of the divine Son holding to the erroneous notion that it was Jesus as the Father, not the Son, who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh, and that “flesh” was called “Son” (cf. Bernard, 106, 122).

In sharp contrast to Oneness Christology, Scripture presents clearly and definitely that the distinct person of the Son 1) is fully God (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:18; 5:17-18; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3, 8, 10; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 22:13), 2) was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1: 2, 10-12), 3) eternally coexisted with and is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Gen. 19:24; Dan 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; John 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13-14), and 4) became fully man in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (cf. John 1:1, 14; Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:6-11).

This is the Jesus of biblical revelation. Jesus Christ is the only mediator and intercessor between God the Father and human beings. Jesus is the divine Son, the monogenēs theos (“unique God”) who is always in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. In contrast to Oneness Christology, Jesus is not the Father, but “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3; cf. John 17:5ff.; 1 John 1:3).

Worshiping the unipersonal God of Oneness theology is not worshiping the true God in spirit nor truth. The Oneness concept of God is fundamentally the same as Islam and the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses): a unipersonal deity with no distinction of persons. The true God of biblical revelation is triune—the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 


 

Although, as clearly observed, Mr. Ritchie could not, nor did not stay on topic–a common tactic to avoid the particular subject matter and that which is presented. Throughout the debate Mr. Ritchie he wondered everywhere except on the topic of the debate. He presented no meaningful responses to John 1:1, 18; 6:38; 17:5; Philippians 2:6-7; Hebrew 1:6, 10 and passages, which specifically present the person of the Son as the agent of creation–the Creator Himself (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 2:10 et al), which I presented–Mr. Ritchie only offered only denials.

Observably, I went step by step from evidence to conclusion clearly establishing my position by the exegesis of important biblical texts. Obviously unprepared, Mr. Ritchie merely went into default mode: presenting nothing more than Oneness-unitarian presups—and unrelated OT passages without actually responding to the exegesis that I had presented. .

Mr. Ritchie lost this debate, not because he was deficient in his speaking ability, but rather, he lost this debate, because he did not provide any meaningful response in either affirmation or refutation to the exegesis of significant texts that I provided.

To my Christian brothers and sisters, please pray for Steven Ritchie, that God would delver him from the darkness of Oneness theology and open his eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

More confusing heresy from Oneness apologist Steven Ritchie who advocates a form of Nestorianism– WATCH HERE

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 that was due to us because of sin (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.”