|<< Back to the top of the first part of
this article >>
Now we will consider Jesus' own words, his own claims as to who he is, in John chapter 5. Verses one through fifteen describe how Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. After this . . .
In the Old Testament God was not normally called "Father." He was most often addressed as "Yahweh" or "God." To address the Creator as "Father" implied a close relationship that Jews found presumptuous. Calling God "My Father" really made the relationship intimate and implied to the Jews that Jesus was claiming EQUALITY with God, and in their minds this was blasphemy. He also said that he kept working, even on the Sabbath. That was a claim to breaking God's Law. Did Jesus deny either of these two accusations?
In verse 20 Jesus said the Father shows him everything that he does and in verse nineteen he said that he does everything the Father shows him, exactly as the Father does it. So Jesus does EVERYTHING the Father does. This is really not too surprising as this echoes Hebrews 1:2,3. What is interesting is that the Jews had just accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law and of making himself equal to God. And how does Jesus respond? Does he deny it? No, instead he next claims to do everything the Father does, just exactly as the Father does them. However, these Jews know that NO ONE can do the works that God can (Psalm 86:8)! So do you think the Jews interpreted Jesus' words to mean he was denying or confirming their accusations?
The first part of verse nineteen says that Jesus does NOTHING of himself. This sounds like Jesus is saying he is not equal to his Father who can do things on His own. But the point here is that Jesus cannot act from Himself, he can only act from his Father. To act from himself would mean that he was independent of his Father and therefore could not be truly "one" with his Father. Jesus is answering the accusations by claiming perfect harmony with his Father.
The Father is the source of all decisions. Yes, this is different from the Son who cannot act "of himself" by making the final decisions. The Father has the role of being the source of all decisions and the Son is the perfect agent of those decisions. This necessarily implies that Jesus must be ONE with the Father (John 10:30) because Jesus can do NOTHING "of himself." He can only carry out the Father's will and he does it perfectly. This proves that Jesus and the Father act as a SINGLE entity, a single BEING, the One true God.
Continuing, let us see what else Jesus said in response to the accusation that he claimed equality with his Father.
Verse twenty-one shows that although the Father's work is carried out through the Son, Jesus is not a mindless puppet. No, the Son has initiative for he can make alive whomever he wants to, but as we saw above, he cannot do it independently of the Father's will. Together they have only ONE will, and the Son's will is always in harmony with the Father's will. When Jesus wishes to do something, he knows FIRST what the Father's will is so Jesus' wishes will also be the Father's wishes.
How would a Jew react to this claim of Jesus that he could make people alive just as God does?
God said . . . Deuteronomy 32 " 39 See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. "
But Jesus said . . . John 10 " 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. . . . 30 'I and the Father are one.' 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. . . . 33 The Jews answered Him, 'For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.' "
These Jews were very familiar with the Old Testament. Jesus' claims were shocking. These Jews concluded that he must be speaking falsehoods, lies, blasphemies. We will see later that other Jews concluded that Jesus was out of his mind, a lunatic. However, a few Jews, like John and Thomas, concluded that Jesus was God.
Would a Jew that was familiar with Deuteronomy 32:39 conclude that Jesus was claiming to be a second God or an angelic god that was with the Father? Impossible! Then who is this Jesus that claims to give life just as his Father does and to claim that no one can snatch anyone out of his hand? This claim is more than just a claim to being "one with God in purpose."
Does this mean Jesus is not equal to the Father because Jesus does something that the Father does not do? No, for verse thirty shows that although Jesus is the one who is judge of all, he is carrying out the Father's will exactly.
But what would Jesus' listeners think when he insists that he is the Judge? What did their Scriptures teach?
Psalm 9: " 7 But the LORD (Yahweh) abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, 8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity."
Isaiah 33 " 22 For the LORD (Yahweh) is our judge, The LORD (Yahweh) is our lawgiver, The LORD (Yahweh) is our king; He will save us."
So how could Jesus claim that the Father judges no one at all? And why would the Father hand his position as Judge over to someone else?
The Greek word in verse twenty-three meaning "even as" is also present in verse thirty where Jesus is described as judging EXACTLY as the Father would. Therefore, the appearance of this word in verse twenty-three proves that Jesus is to be honored EXACTLY as the Father is honored.
Does this mean that because the Father grants authority to Jesus to judge and give life that therefore he cannot be equal? No, it only proves that the Father is the source of all decisions and authority and the Son receives that authority.
Is this authority to judge and give life all that the Father gives to the Son?
John 16 " 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. . . ."
Matthew 28 " 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.' "
The fact that the Father is the Source of all but Jesus receives all proves that they operate as a composite Being, one entity, one will, one God.
Jesus shows that there is another that bears witness, someone that they have never seen (compare John 14:9). Yet they have seen Jesus. Since this is clear proof that there is a distinction between Jesus and his Father and they cannot be the same person, does that not mean that there are TWO Gods here, not one? No, this shows that there are two PERSONS (compare John 8:17,18), not two Gods. Because Jesus is in perfect subjection to the Father for all eternity, they are one entity, one God.
Verse 37 says that no one has seen or heard the Father, but Scripture also says that no one has seen God (John 1:18). Then how could Jesus be God since some of mankind have obviously seen Jesus?
Does this mean that God has never been seen in even a limited way? Then in the Old Testament when it says that "God Almighty" or "Yahweh" appeared to men, who was it (Exodus 6:3; 24:9-11; 33:11,18,23; Numbers 12:6-8)? If it was not God then it must have been the Word who was in the bosom of the Father that explains the Father. Thus we would have to conclude that in the many Old Testament accounts where someone was called "God Almighty" or "Yahweh God" it was really The Word, Jesus. Then it must not be wrong to call Jesus "God Almighty" or "Yahweh".
There are Old Testament references where the Father and Son are seen together (Daniel 7:13 - note that in verse 14 it says that all mankind will serve Jesus forever) and there is even a reference where all three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were present (Isaiah 6:1-10; John 12:37-42; Acts 28:25-27). But in all these accounts the appearance was limited since man cannot see God in all His glory and live (Exodus 33:20). In the Old Testament accounts where God was seen, it was always in a vision or in some other way that limited how much of God was shown to man. This was true for the Father as well as the Son. No one has seen either the Father or the Son in their full glory. But God could be seen if He shielded Himself and Jesus could be seen if He emptied himself of that which is too much for man to see. In fact, that is what He did.
Philippians 2 " 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, . . . 7 emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant"
So just as no one has seen God in his fullness at any time, no one has seen Jesus in his fullness. But it does not logically follow that when Scripture says someone was seen, it could not have been either God or Jesus. Rather it only means man was allowed to see a temporary view of God or Jesus in limited glory.
Still, some feel very confident that Jesus can only be an angel, or another god that was with God and yet a very inferior god. They do not honor Jesus just as they honor the Father. They do not want to come to Jesus to worship him but prefer to accept human teachers as their guides. To them Jesus says . . .
Jesus cannot be a second God, there is only one, there is no other.
After considering all this evidence, what would a first-century Jew conclude about Jesus? He would have to affirm the Jewish Scriptures that say there is only ONE God and there is no other (Deuteronomy 32:39). So there are only three possibilities:
It is commonly held that God knows everything and this is a fundamental
attribute of being God. Then what is the meaning of
Here is something the Father knows but the Son does not. Some have tried to explain this by saying that this deficiency is a direct result of Jesus becoming human. But that does not answer the question for if you read this verse carefully and make a list of all those who know the timing of the "last day" there is only one person on the list, namely the Father. Then that means the Holy Spirit is not on the list and does not know the timing of the "last day". So the Holy Spirit also appears to be lacking this fundamental attribute of God.
The answer is in the meaning of the word "know". It does not mean to
simply possess knowledge of something. The Bible says Jesus did not know
When Jesus said that he did not know the day and the hour that the Father would choose for bringing the Great Tribulation this was not a statement about knowledge that one could possess, rather it was a statement about how only the Father would make such a decision and no one would know about it until the Father revealed it (likewise see Acts 1:7).
The Son is completely one with his Father because he is completely submissive
to his Father at all times (John
and even the knowledge that he shares is from his Father (John
This means key decisions are made by the Final Authority, the Father, because
that is His role. While the Son knows all there is to know regarding the
created universe (Psalm 102:25-27 and Hebrews 1:10-12) the Father has reserved
the right to make all decisions about Divine activities. The Father's choice
in a matter is not something that can be "known" by anyone else. He will
make a decision and then He may reveal that decision to others. At that
time the Son will know OF the decision but he will not MAKE that decision.
Thus the Father's decisions are the things the Son does not "know" (Matthew
20:21-23; Acts 1:7).
Why did Jesus have to learn obedience? If he were God would he not already
know? No he would not. All creatures, including the angels, know and experience
1:7,14). There is only one that has not experienced obedience and true
servant-hood, God. He can only observe it in others. If Jesus had been
an angel in heaven before coming to earth, he would have already known
and experienced obedience. To say that Jesus did not know obedience means
he had not experienced it yet and therefore could not have been an angel.
Likewise, Jesus never knew sin because he could not experience it, he could
only observe it (
Angels can sin and can then experience the consequences of sin (Jude
6) but God cannot sin and He would normally never experience the consequences
of sin. So for Jesus to come to earth and take on the consequences of the
sin of others (Philippians
2:8) he did something that was outside his nature, he did something
beyond what was natural for him, and thus he "learned obedience".
Does this not teach that the Father is the ONLY one that can be called the "true God"? If that were so then what does that make Jesus? Is he another God? Since he has all the essential attributes of God (Hebrews 1; John 5), and no one has those attributes except God, and there is only one God, who is Jesus?
Actually, if this verse intended to say that only the Father was the
true God, Jesus would have said 'you alone are the true God' (compare 2
1 John 1 " 1 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
eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us
According to this, the "Word of Life," "the eternal life," is Jesus and this "eternal life" is also the "true God." So what is the meaning of John 17:3 that harmonizes with everything we have seen so far? As Jesus said, the Father is the only true God, but, as 1 John 5:20 shows, the Son too is the only true God. How can this be?
Consider again the illustration of Adam and Eve. They were to be viewed as ONE flesh, indeed, at the beginning they were the ONLY true human flesh in the garden of Eden and they were together named "Adam." So it could be said of the male that he was the only true 'Man' in Eden and the same could be said of the female. However, it could not be said that Adam alone was the only true 'Man', for another person was ONE with him and was also 'Man.' Likewise, the Father and Son are ONE (John 10:30) and this composite unity (and with the Holy Spirit, as we shall see) is the ONLY true God in the universe. The Father is the only true God and the Son is the only true God. There is only ONE God, there is no other (Mark 12:32; Deuteronomy 32:39).
John 17:3 . . . When Jesus essentially says 'You, the Father are the
only true God and I am the one sent forth', does this not imply that
Although this parallel is not an exact match, it is close. All I need
to do first is to get the JW to agree that there is only ONE bride of Christ.
From this I ask, if Paul wanted to give "you" (plural) as the (one and
only) bride, does that imply
Paul could have also said: 'I want to give you, the one chaste bride
to Christ along with myself, the one giver.'
Paul begins a discussion of eating things sacrificed to idols. He begins with "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols" which continues to be the issue as he states in verse 7: "eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol" He then says "there is no such thing as an idol . . . there is no God but one." Paul is well aware that the physical idols do exist (Acts 17:16,23) so apparewntly he means these idols are not really living animate deities. Then who is meant when he says "even if there are so-called gods" and "indeed there are many gods and many lords". Has he switched from referencing non-existent idols to discussing real deities that do exist? Not likely.
So how many Gods do Christians have, one or two? Paul answers - "one," not two. There is no way to conclude that the Father and Son are two Gods. But is Jesus included or distinguished from this one God?
If someone comes to this passage already believing that "God" and "Lord" have significantly different meanings and that God is only one person, then this verse could be viewed as supporting the belief that The One God cannot be The One Lord. One would see this text as really saying: "there is actually to us one God [who is only] the Father . . . and one Lord [who is only] Jesus." The reference to Jesus as "Lord" would be viewed as a contrast rather than a parallel. Likewise, with this frame of mind, the supporting phrases saying that all things are from the Father and "for Him" would be perceived as making a definite contrast with the statement about all things being "through" Jesus. However, is that Paul's intent here, does he believe that "God" and "Lord" are contrasting titles or does he use them interchangeably? Likewise, does Paul intend to make a distinction between the phrases "for Him" and "through Him" or does he use these interchangeably?
In the previous chapter, in verse seventeen, Paul uses the title "Lord" and "God" in the same sentence.
1 Corinthians 7 " 17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches."
1 Cor 10:9; 14:21
It does not appear clear here that Paul is making a distinction between the two titles. Most of the occurrences where Paul uses "God" and "Lord" close together he uses "God" in reference to the Father and "Lord" in reference to Jesus. Yet in those uses there is nothing to indicate there is a significant distinction between the two titles. Consider how Paul uses these titles in other letters:
Paul is using both titles to refer to the same God.
Romans 10 " 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.' 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for 'Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.' "
In verse nine the "Lord" that a believer calls upon in order to be saved is said to be "Jesus." In verse twelve Paul refers to the "Lord of all" that believers are to call on. Who is this "Lord?" In verse thirteen Paul quotes Joel 2:32 which is the basis for his teaching that if one calls on the Lord one will be saved. Is this the same "Lord" as in verses nine and twelve?
Joel 2 " 32 And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) will be delivered . . ."
But this "Lord" is Yahweh himself! Would you say that in all these passages Paul consistently applies the title "Lord" to Jesus to distinguish him from "God" and "Father" as supposed in 1 Corinthians 8:6?
So what did Paul mean when he said that "yet for us there is but . . . one Lord, Jesus Christ?" Did he mean to distinguish this one Lord from the one God? Can you say that in the passages we examined, Paul consistently distinguished between the one Lord and the one God?
10:17 ("For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of
lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show
partiality nor take a bribe.)
What about the statement in 1 Corinthians 8:6 concerning things being "for" one God, the Father but "through" one Lord, Jesus? Do these two prepositions imply that there is a definite and intentional distinction being made between the "one God" and the "one Lord"?
In 1 Corinthians Paul said things were "for" the Father but "through" Jesus. But in Colossians 1:16 Paul said this about Jesus: " 16 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."
At Romans 11:36 Paul said of the Father: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things."
Finally Hebrews 2:10 said this: "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings."
Read this carefully. Who is it that 'perfected the author of salvation'? Since Jesus is the one who was 'perfected' (meaning 'made complete'), the one who did this must be the Father. Therefore the Father is the one that 'brings many sons to glory.' Then we must conclude that the Father is the one "for whom are all things, and through whom are all things."
Summarizing these verses we have that "all things" are "through" the Father (Hebrews 2:10; Romans 11:36) and "all things" are "through" the Son (Colossians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 8:6); "all things" are "for" the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 2:10) and "all things" are "for" the Son (Colossians 1:16).
So if the intent of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is to show a clear distinction between the Father and Son in that creation is "for" one but "through" another, as though these distinctions were truly significant, then Paul is inconsistent between what he said in Colossians and 1 Corinthians (or Romans). However, there is no inconsistency between Paul's statements if we take the view that Paul was not trying to make distinctions between differences but instead, parallels between similarities.
The result would be that while there are many "gods" and many "lords"
in name only, for Christians there is only one God, only one Lord. All
things are from this one God, through him and for him. All things are from
this one Lord, through him and for him. This one God is the Father; this
one God is Jesus. This one Lord is also the Father; this one Lord is also
Jesus. There are some distinctions in roles between these two persons,
one is the Decision-Maker, the other is the Mediator, but they are one
nature, one 'spiritual flesh'. They are both truly God, not just God in
If Jesus were not in existence for all past eternity, how could Jude say that God's glory and authority flowed "through Jesus . . . before all time"? If there was a time when Jesus did not exist then there was a time when God's glory and authority did not flow through Jesus. The statement about "through Jesus . . . be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time . . ." would be false.
Jesus has always been and always will be. (For further evidence that
Jesus has always been here review the discussion of John
1:3 at the beginning of this booklet.)
Depending on the translation, some take this passage from verse 22 to 30 to suggest that there was an angel, created before the earth was made, who became known as a "master workman."
If we assume this passage literally refers to a person, then what is the significance of the statement about when God "marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him, as a master workman"? One might conclude this "master workman" was a creature, distinct from the Creator, who assisted in making the earth. But this would contradict Isaiah 44:24, which says God made the earth by Himself, alone. Anyone that was involved in the creation of the earth would also have to be the One True God (see Malachi 2:10; Psalm 102:1,24-27 and Hebrews 1:10-12).
If we ignore both Isaiah 44:24 and Malachi 2:10 and then imagine Proverbs 8 refers to the first created angel, this still does not conflict with a belief in the Trinity. One could simply believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (three Divine persons all sharing the nature of the One True God) plus one (or more) angels participated in making the universe. Proverbs 8 does not limit the participants to just the Father plus one angel. It also does not identify that angel as being the Son (or the Holy Spirit or Michael or Gabriel). The idea that Proverbs 8 informs us of an angelic assistant does not conflict with the Trinity, it conflicts with Isaiah 44:24 and Malachi 2:10.
Also, note the context. Beginning in verse 1 it says "wisdom" (female in Hebrew) is calling out in the city streets and gates. Then in verse 4 her testimony begins and goes through verse 36. Verses 22 through 30 cannot be taken as a separate, unconnected passage. (Compare Proverbs 1:20-33 for a similar testimony of "Wisdom" calling out in the streets.)
If verse 30 is evidence that "wisdom" is a real person that dwelled with God, then what is meant in verse 1 and verse 12? In verse 1 it says "wisdom" calls and "understanding" lifts her voice. Does this person then have two names, "wisdom" and "understanding" or is this a reference to two different persons here? Verse 14 could be viewed as supplying the answer since "wisdom" says "I am understanding." But is that the real meaning of verse 14, to say that this one person has two names, "Wisdom" and "Understanding"?
What about verse 12 where it says that "wisdom" dwells with "prudence"? If verse 30 proves that "wisdom" dwells with God and is therefore a distinct person from God, then we should consistently conclude that there was another person called "prudence" in verse 12.
Notice some of the things "wisdom" says. In verse 11 she says that "wisdom" is better than jewels. Is the main point here that she is a valuable person, worth more than jewels? Or is it not more likely the point being made is that it is more valuable for a man to have the quality of wisdom than to have riches? (Compare Proverbs 2:2-4 where the reader is told to search for wisdom as one would for treasure.)
What about verse 14 where "wisdom" says she has "sound wisdom?" Is she claiming to have herself? Isn't it more reasonable to see this as just a pictorial of having the abstract quality of "wisdom?"
Likewise, verse 15 and 16 says kings and princes rule by "wisdom." If "wisdom" is an actual person, then this is saying the earthly kings in the days of Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, were ruling by this creature named "Wisdom." Verse 17 adds that those who were seeking this creature were actually finding her. But there is no Old Testament reference that even suggests that such was the case!
Compare these two passages from Proverbs:
The parallels between these two is unmistakable. In chapter 3 wisdom
is said to be better than silver and gold, more precious than jewels. Nothing
can be compared to her. She has riches and honor. Chapter 8 says the same.
Chapter 3 says that God used wisdom to establish the heavens, in founding
the earth and the watery deep. Proverbs 8 reads similarly. But as you read
chapter 3, did you get the clear message this was really talking about
some angelic being who assisted God in creating the universe? Is this passage
really talking about a person called "wisdom", "understanding" or "knowledge?"
What about God's "knowledge" in verse 20, is this a person or an abstract
quality? And what is verse 21 telling the son to keep, a person? The message
here is that God made the universe (by himself - Isaiah 44:24; Malachi
2:10) but he used His qualities of wisdom and understanding.
Here is a echo of both Proverbs 3:19,20 and Proverbs 8:12, 14, 22-30. God used his power (Proverbs 8:14), wisdom (Proverbs 3:19; 8:12) and understanding (Proverbs 3:19; 8:14) to make the world and heavens (Proverbs 3:19; 8:28,29). Yet there is no hint of any angelic assistants.
The context of the eighth chapter and the whole book of Proverbs makes it plain that this is figurative speech referring to the importance of having the quality of 'wisdom', understanding and prudence. God used all these in making the universe and humans should seek to have those qualities (see Psalm 104:24).
If chapter 8 were actually referring to a heavenly person that was created as a helper, where is the proof that this is referring to the Word, Jesus? There is no contextual evidence pointing to Jesus nor is there any New Testament verse that says this is Jesus. If this were actually referring to a creature instead of God's quality of wisdom, this would be an angel, most likely the first one from "the beginning of His way." But the identity of this angels (or angels) is not revealed. There is no unambiguous evidence linking this angel to Jesus.
Also of great importance in deciding this are the Bible references that make it clear that no other god (or angel) shared in making the universe (Job 31:15; Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:24,26; Isaiah 44:6-8,24).
Proverbs chapter 8 is figurative speech. This passage is not teaching
that wisdom literally calls out in the streets or that it physically dwells
with "prudence" or that it was created at some point in time. The purpose
of this passage (as clarified in Proverbs 3:19-21 and Jeremiah 10:12) is
to say to the reader: 'Wisdom is important. You should seek it. It will
make you wealthy. It is what great people seek. Wisdom is what kings use
to rule. Wisdom is older than the earth because God has it. God greatly
manifested his wisdom (and understanding) when He made the earth.' This
passage is not talking about a literal person but is just personifying
wisdom as if it had personal attributes. This is similar to Luke
7:35 where wisdom is said to have children.
What follows here are challenges to the Trinity doctrine as explained here that result from an alternative translation that supports a differing viewpoint.
It is easy to become attached to a doctrine so strongly that one will choose an unlikely meaning in a text in order to avoid having to drop one doctrine in favor of another. Of course each person must decide for themselves what they believe but self-deception is a silly game. The self-deceived person gains nothing. It preserves one's comfort-zone but sacrifices truth and prevents objective research and growth.
I do not claim to have absolute truth on all theological issues nor do I believe I am always perfectly logical in my conclusions. But I have learned that it is important to constantly re-examine proposed lines of reasoning to see if there are other possible interpretations that may have been missed and to evaluate which viewpoint is the most likely. Many surprising truths are overlooked because of false assumptions and preconceptions.
In this section we consider verses that have alternate possible translations.
I have found that more than any other type of debatable issue, this one
is plagued with self-deception.
Those that believe that Jesus was created think this verse means 'the
first of the creation by God.' But other translations render this differently.
The New International Version reads "the ruler of God's creation"
(see Luke 20:20 where
the same Greek word refers to the rule of the Judean governor). Another
rendering is found in the New Revised Standard which reads "the
of God's creation". We should hesitate to decide an important doctrinal
issue based on a single word that can take on a variety of possible meanings
(as seen in Luke 20:20).
What does "firstborn" mean here? Does it suggest that Jesus is the first (in chronological sequence) to be born? Is Colossians 1:15 teaching that the Son is a member of 'creation?'
If the reference to "firstborn" in the Bible primarily means being the first to have been given life, then that title could never be lost because it would refer to a factual event, the first birth. Further, the title could never be applied to someone that was not truly the first in sequence.
But the Bible shows that the title of "firstborn" can be removed or gained independently of whether a person is the first one to be born.
Only if we view "firstborn" as referring to a position of leadership can we understand how the entire nation of Israel was called God's firstborn at Exodus 4:22 or how a terrible disease could be called the "firstborn of death" at Job 18:12,13.
At Romans 8:29 Jesus is said to be the firstborn among believing mankind. Is the point of this verse to teach that Jesus is the first member of the class of believing humans. No. The title of "firstborn" here would be a title exalting Jesus as being the first in prominence and in leadership rather than the first in sequence. Christ is the head of the congregation (Ephesians 5:23) and therefore has the title of "firstborn" over all Christians.
If "firstborn" primarily signified first in a sequence, and Jesus is the "firstborn" among all spirit-filled believers (Romans 8:9,29), then these believers would necessarily be sequentially after the firstborn and thus be something like 'second-born' or 'third-born' but certainly not firstborn. Yet Hebrews 12:23 says that all these spirit-filled Christians form the church of the "firstborn." In this verse the title "firstborn" is in the plural form and applied to all born-again Christians. How can all believers that have ever lived, even those alive today, be the first ones born? They cannot be 'first' if we imagine that the title refers to those "first" in a sequence. But since Christians will form a congregation of kings over the earth (Revelation 5:10) they will all be first in prominence. Thus in the title "firstborn" the emphasis is not on the sequence of birth, but on the prominence in God's kingdom.
A similar problem would exist in Revelation 1:5 where Jesus is said to be the "first-born of the dead." Jesus was not the first to be resurrected from the dead, others were. While Jesus was the first to be resurrected and then go to heaven, this verse does not make any direct reference to his glorification to heaven (while 1 Corinthians 15:23 does). In this verse it instead specifically assigns the title "first-born" in connection with his being from the dead. It also declares him to be the "ruler of the kings of the earth," also a position of prominence. So any thought of 'firstness' with respect to sequence is not in focus here, the necessary meaning is 'firstness' in position of authority or priority.
From the context of Colossians 1:15-18 it is evident that the passage is not making a statement about Jesus being the first thing created but rather that he is over all things, first in priority and authority because he created all things for Himself and he is to have the "first place in everything" (see verse 18). The emphasis is on being first in prominence.
What about the reasoning that since Jesus is the firstborn "of"
creation that therefore he must be a member of that group? This would be
like referring to Acts
17:24 and claiming that God must be "of" the earth because He
is Lord of the earth. Saying that Jesus is the firstborn of
creation is only saying that he has a position of rulership over all of
Note that this word does not necessarily mean "only-child" as one might assume. In Hebrews 11:17 the word refers to Isaac as the "only-begotten" but he was neither the first one born nor the only son of Abraham for Ishmael was the oldest of eight sons (Genesis 25:1-6). For this and other reasons, Bible scholars believe that the word is best translated "only-kind" or "unique" rather than "only-begotten". (The word "only-begotten" is built from two Greek words monos and genos. While genos can mean offspring it also means "kind" as in Matthew 13:47 referring to kinds of fish.)
The key to understanidng Note that Galatians 4:1-7 shows that while a son is not officially the son until
In the NT there are several references where Jesus ios called the begotten and they are quotations from Psalm 2:7 ... for example Heb 1:5 ... has two refs to Jesus being called son ... in the context of being exalted to the right hadn of God .. the first ref is to Psalm 2:7 ... a ref to Jesus being sinstalled as king ... and the second ref is to 2S 7:14 which is also a ref to being installed as knig.
The Greek noun genos (as in "only-begotten") is related to the
verb gennao ("to beget" - as a father begets a son; Philemon
10; Acts 13:33;
Hebrews 1:5). In
So instead of Psalm 2:7 applying to the day of Jesus' beginning of life,
it refers to the day of His beginning a new role, that of His being
the exalted Son (as in Romans 1:4) at the right hand of Majesty (Hebrews
1:3-5), the Firstborn (Revelation 1:5), the Unique One ("only-begotten"
- John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9), the High Priest (
So while it is true that the Word has the title of "begotten," this
title is in reference to his becoming heir of all his Father's house and
was bestowed upon him soon after his resurrection. This is also true of
the title "first-born of the dead" (Revelation 1:5), also bestowed after
his resurrection. Like "first-born" this title refers to a position of
prominence and authority in God's household. This explains why Isaac was
the "only-begotten" (Hebrews 11:17) even though he was not the only-son.
Isaac was the only one that was promised to inherit his father's household.
This prophecy of the coming Christ says that He will go forth from Bethlehem. But for the rest of the verse there appears to be a dispute as to what is meant. One thought is that although he will go forth from Bethlehem, in reality his "goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." Another thought is that although his humanity will originate in Bethlehem, in reality his "origins are from of old, from ancient times." What is the difference? Those that believe the Son was created would say that He had an origin, a day of beginning, that was long ago. Is it possible that this meaning is present here?
This can be answered simply by considering this: if the Son were actually created, how many times was he created? The answer would necessarily be 'one.' How could the Son have more than one beginning, one origin? Yet the Hebrew word in this verse translated either "origins" or "goings forth" is plural. This cannot be speaking about the Son's origin in the sense of beginning of existence.
Another point that often escapes the reader is that this Hebrew word refers to a place (or in this case, places). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Vol. 1 word # 893d) defines it as a "place from which one comes or to which one goes." This word also appears in 2 Kings 10:27 referring to the place where one goes, that is, an 'outhouse.' So this verse is not speaking about a single origin in time but rather multiple points from which the Ruler has come from or through. The Wordbook suggests that this refers to the ancestry of the Ruler which can be traced back through many generations to long ago. The Contemporary English Version reads "someone whose family goes back to ancient times."
Others have suggested that this refers to other earthly appearances of Jesus prior to his birth (Exodus 14:19 & 1 Corinthians 10:4; Genesis 18 and John 8:39,40,56-58; and possibly Hebrews 4:8 — translating the name as 'Jesus' instead of 'Joshua'). With this view, Micah was foretelling that although it would appear that Bethlehem was the Messiah's home, it was not really the first earthly place from which he came.
Another possible meaning, but less likely, is found in the Syriac version of Micah 5:2: ". . . yet out of you shall come forth a ruler to govern Israel; whose goings forth have been predicted from of old, from eternity."
This rendering would suggest that it is not the Ruler's "origin" that is from long ago but rather it was the prediction of a coming Ruler that was from long ago (Genesis 3:15; 49:10).
What about the word rendered either "ancient times" or "days of eternity?" If the rendering of "ancient times" is preferred, would this prove that the Ruler started his existence at some point in the ancient times? As we saw above, this would only be significant if the verse were actually speaking about the Ruler's origin of life, His creation. If it were only speaking about His ancestry or the places he has come from, then there is no implication to his beginning of life.
But even if this verse were referring to the time of the Ruler's origin
(singular) the word does not necessarily mean "ancient times." This Hebrew
word can also mean "from eternity." In Psalm
90:2 and 93:2
this word is translated as saying that God is from eternity. So just as
God is from eternity, this verse would be saying the same thing for the
Ruler that was to appear in Bethlehem.
There is another person that we have not discussed that is included
in the composite unity of the one true God. . . .
Before Jesus' death he said to his disciples that he was going away and . . .
John 14 " 16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, . . . 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
When Jesus refers to "another" Helper in this verse, that suggests that there was already one Helper there. Who was it? The answer, apparently confirmed in 1 John 2:1, is that Jesus was that Helper. Then who or what is this other Helper (or Advocate) mentioned in John 14:16 that the Father would give to the disciples? Jesus was leaving and he did not want his followers to think they would be without the kind of Helper they had in Jesus. But what kind of Helper was returning? If someone were helping you but said he had to leave and promised to send another helper, would you be surprised if no one returned? Would you be surprised if the same person returned? Or what if the person that returned did not have the capabilities to help in the same way the first person did? When Jesus left and promised that the Father would send "another" Helper (John 14:26), does this not suggest that the one taking His place would be able to act just as Jesus would? Then who or what is this Helper?
If this Helper was just an impersonal force that could only act when controlled by a person, like a supernatural puppet, then this Helper would not have a separate identity but could only reflect the personality of the One controlling 'it'. So when Jesus said that another Helper would come, who did Jesus believe would be reflected through that Helper? Did Jesus believe that He himself would be the Person acting through the Helper, the Sprit of truth? That would be no different then what Jesus was already doing since He performed all his acts with God's Spirit (Matthew 12:28). Then it would make no sense for Jesus to say he was going to ask for "another" helper to come back in his name when in reality he only meant that he would come right back and act through God's Spirit as before.
If the Person acting through the Spirit was not Jesus, then was it the Father? Then what Jesus was really saying was that he was going to ask the Father to send the Father in Jesus' name. When you read these verses, is that what you think Jesus was communicating to his followers? Or does it sound to you like there was a third identity that the Father was sending in the Son's name that was subordinate to the Father and yet capable of taking Jesus' place?
Consider what Jesus said about himself . . .
John 12 " 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak."
When Jesus said that he did not speak of his "own initiative," did you conclude that Jesus was therefore not a person and incapable of speaking on his own, as if he were some kind of mindless puppet? Or when Jesus said that the Father had told him what to say, did you immediately think that Jesus was some kind of supernatural parrot, only able to repeat what he heard? But notice that Jesus said the very same thing soon after this . . .
John 16 " 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you."
Do you see that what Jesus said about himself is the same as what he said about the "Spirit of truth"? Does this not imply that the Spirit has the capacity to speak on "His own," but Jesus wanted his disciples to know that the Spirit would not be acting on his own just as Jesus was not? When Jesus said that he could not do anything on his own (John 5:19) that did not imply that he was a non-person. Likewise when Jesus said the same thing for the Spirit, this does not imply that the Spirit was an impersonal force.
When Jesus said that the Spirit speaks what he hears, does that not imply that the Spirit is capable of hearing something that comes from another person? If the Spirit were only a force that transmits information from God, why did Jesus not simply say this? Why did he say that the Spirit hears and speaks as if it were a person? Why, at such an important time as this, does Jesus suddenly speak in metaphors?
If the Spirit is part of the Father, would 'it' not always have everything the Father has? Then why, according to John 16:14 and 15, does the Spirit need to take things from Jesus? Why would Jesus bother to explain that once he receives everything from the Father then the Spirit can take from what Jesus has? Does this not imply that the Spirit, like Jesus, is a submissive person that receives everything from the Father (or the Son once he has everything from the Father)?
While we are here looking at John 16:14, did you notice that when the Spirit comes, the focus of glory is no longer the Father but is now the Son? This does NOT mean the Father would not be glorified at all, because to honor the Son is to honor the Father (1 John 2:23; Philippians 2:11), but the focus will now turn to Jesus.
But does not the Bible imply that the Holy Spirit is God's power? True, but 1 Corinthians 1:24 says Jesus is also the Power of God. Does this phraseology imply that Jesus is not a person but only an impersonal power that proceeds from God? No, this verses emphasizes an attribute of the person Jesus.
Romans 8 " 22 For we know that the whole creation groans
and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And
not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit,
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our
adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. . . . 26 In
the same way 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;
Who is it that is groaning here? In verse twenty-two it is "the whole creation." In verse twenty-three it is "we" Christians. In verse twenty-six the Spirit groans "in the same way." How could this be if the Spirit were not a person?
In verse thirty-four Jesus is said to intercede for us. Evidently he is interceding before the Father. For Jesus to do this he would of necessity be a person distinct from the Father. But verses 26 and 27 say that the Spirit also intercedes. If the Spirit is really a part of the Father, why is the Spirit pleading before the Father? Does this not show that the Spirit is somehow distinguished from the Father?
Acts 5 "32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
The apostles were eye-witnesses of Jesus' resurrection and exaltation. Can an active force be a witness to the same events? Was Peter saying that God was a witness to His own miraculous acts and, by the way, this same testifier has been given to all who obey? Is Peter speaking about a Person or a force?
1 Corinthians 12 " 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills."
For the Spirit to "will" how the gifts are to be distributed to individuals, that means the Spirit has an attribute that only a person has. An impersonal force cannot "will" to do something.
Acts 13:2 "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' "
Who is the "I" who called Barnabas and Saul? Who is meant by "Me" the one for whom Barnabas and Saul were set apart? When Paul (Saul) spoke of being set apart in Galatians 1:15,16 who was meant there? An impersonal force could not make such a demand. At the very least there must have been a person behind this statement. If this speech was associated with the impersonal Holy Spirit only in a representational way and there really was a person behind the statement, then we should view such personal actions as being attributable to a person. Then what person is meant here? What person was meant when Romans 8:26 said the Spirit "intercedes for us", between us and the Father?
Revelation 22 " 17 The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost."
In John's vision he sees a bride. In reality this bride represents something other than a single person but in this vision it is a person. In Revelation 16:7 the altar in heaven speaks. So although an altar is not a person, it is a thing that can be seen in a vision and it is given some personal attributes. But what about the Spirit that speaks just like the bride? What did John see in the vision? If it is not a person then what did he see? Does this not imply that he saw something, some object, that could be portrayed as speaking? If John was actually seeing the Father, why did he not say so? If he did not see the Father, then could it not be said that, in the Revelation vision, John saw the Father, the Son and the Spirit as three distinct objects?
In summary, the Spirit is a person with personal attributes that is distinct from the Father, who can groan and intercede, just like Jesus can, before the Father. He can "will" that certain gifts be distributed. He calls humans to serve him and speaks exactly as a person would speak. He receives everything from the Son and then speaks what he hears. Like Jesus, he is eternally submissive to the Father and is therefore ONE with the Father and NOT a separate God. Thus, while there are three persons, only one of them is the Decision-maker. So together, in unity, they are one God with one will, one glory. This is the Tri-unity.