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On 26 April 2017

If God is One, is Jesus God?

The Son of God: The Bible maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus, but also says that all the fullness of Deity dwells in Jesus. How do we reconcile these facts?

Summary

God is OneThe Bible teaches that God is one (Deut. 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19) and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus (e.g. John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5).  On the other hand the Bible refers to Jesus as “God” (e.g. John 1:18; Titus 2:13-14).  How do we reconcile these facts?  The Bible does sometimes refer to created beings as gods.  Could it be that Jesus is “a” god, and not “the” God?  This article analyzes the Bible text to learn what the Bible says about Jesus; where he came from and what his relationship with God is.

The first thing we have to say is that humans are unable to understand God.  He exists outside time, space and matter.  He is simultaneously in all places and in all times; past, present and future.  He exists without cause.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Things exist because God exists.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.  It is our privilege to study about Him, but we must do it with humility, for “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29).

Jesus is God’s “beloved Son” (Col. 1:13; Mat. 3:17).  The name “Son of God”, by itself, does not mean that Jesus is God, because human believers are also called “sons of God”.  However, Jesus is the “one and only Son” of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9; John 1:14 – NIV).  The NASB translates the phrase “one and only” in these verses as “only-begotten”.  This means that He is God’s Son on a different basis.

His Son descended from heaven.  He existed before he became a human being.  He is “from … the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2); “before the world was” (John 17:5).

God created everything through the Son; both in the heavens and on earth (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2).  The Father is the Source of all creative power and wisdom, but His Son created everything.  Not only did the Son create everything, He also “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebr. 1:3; Col. 1:17).  The Son is therefore very different from the created sons of God.

Since His Son created all things, he is before all things (Col. 1:17).  The Bible writers refer to the mysterious “beginning”, saying that His Son was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2).  More emphatically, it is said that he isthe Beginning“ (Col. 1:18).

It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19).  This means, in the first place, that the Son is completely dependent on the Father.  The Father has sent Him (John 5:36; 7:16), the Son can do nothing of Himself (John 5:19, 30) and also does nothing on His own initiative.  He only says and does what the Father tells Him to do (John 7:16; 8:28, 30; 14:31).  But secondly it means that “all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  This means, amongst other things, that the Son is the Judge, with “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2), and that He has “life in Himself” (John 5:26) to give “life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21).

All things have been created … for him” (Col. 1:16).  All must honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:23).  God commanded all the angels to worship His Son (Hebrews 1:6-8).  While we are instructed to worship only God (Rev. 19:10), the Son is worshiped on earth and by heavenly beings (Rev. 5:8-9).

No one has ever seen God at any time, but His Son, who is the visible image of the invisible God—the exact representation of God’s nature, has explained Him (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; Hebr. 1:3):  In His Son, appearing in a form that we can comprehend, God becomes known, visible and audible to the creatures of this universe.

YHVHAdam and Eve heard the sound of the “LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8).  The name LORD is YHVH, pronounced as Jehovah or Yahweh.  Yahweh also appeared to Abraham in the form of a man (Genesis 18:1).  It is proposed here that YHVH, who walked in the garden, and who appeared to Abraham, is the Son of God, that later became the human named Jesus.  This proposal is based on the following:

God is the Creator, but His Son created everything.

Since the Son created the world, He would logically remain intimately involved in events on earth.

No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  It therefore was not God who appeared in the form of a man; it must have been His Son.

God gave His name to Moses as “I AM” (Exodus 3:1-16).  This name implies He exists without cause.  By claiming, “before Abraham was born, I am”, Jesus identified Himself as the great “I Am” (John 8:58).

The voice calling, “Clear the way for the LORD (YHVH)” (Isaiah 40:3) is applied to John the Baptist (Mat. 3:1-3; John 1:23), who cleared the way for the Son.

Psalm 102:25-28, which says that the creation will wear out like a garment, but God—the Creator—will endure, is applied by Hebrews 1:8-12 to “the Son”.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 indicates that Christ followed the Israelites through the wilderness and provided for their spiritual sustenance.  He is the One with which Moses spoke on Mount Sinai.

Jesus said that “the Scriptures … testify about Me” (John 5:39).  The Scripture refer to the books of the Old Testament only.

Names used for YHVH in the Old Testament are also used for His Son.  These include Bridegroom, Shepherd, Savior, Rock, True and Faithful Witness, Light, Alpha and the Omega, and the First and the Last.

It is therefore proposed that it was His Son that created the world in six days, that rested on the seventh day and whom Adam and Eve “heard … walking in the garden”.  It was also the Son that gave the Law to Moses, and who led the Chosen Nation to the Promised Land.

In conclusion, the apparent contradiction that we has to explain is that the Bible maintains a clear distinction between God and His Son, but also says that “all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  There are things that we humans do not know because it has not been explained to us.  There are also things that we humans simply are unable to understand, even if it is explained to us.  With the knowledge that we do not understand God, the following is proposed:

This universe consists of time, space and matter, but God the Father exists outside time, space and matter.  It is impossible for us to imagine what exists outside time, space and matter, but that is where the wisdom and power, that created our universe, came from.

Scriptures identify the Son as “the Beginning”.  This is understood to say that He is the Beginning of time, space and matter.  Consequently, one cannot separate the universe from the Son; God brought the universe into being by bringing His Son into being.  His Son is that immense explosion of Energy that brought this universe into being.  He is the “big bang”; not an uncontrolled explosion, but an incomprehensible planned and guided explosion.  But He is also a Person, by which I mean that He is aware of Himself and aware of other living beings.  He is not only a Person; He is an intensely loving Person.  He was willing to become a human being and even to die at the hands of evil men, because He loves His sinful creatures.

It is hoped that this explanation maintains the distinction between God and His Son, but also explains the Son’s divine attributes: “By him all things were created” (Col. 1:15, 16).  “He is before all things” (1:17).  He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).

God Is One

Our God is One LordThe Bible confirms that God is One:

There is no other God besides Me … For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. (Deut. 6:4-5)

When the scribes asked Jesus what the most important commandment is, He quoted Deuteronomy:

The foremost is, ‘hear, o Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”  (Mark 12:28-30).

And James wrote:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19)

Jesus Is Not God

There are statements that contrast Jesus with God, implying that Jesus is not God:

Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

The book of Revelation several times contrasts Christ with God, for instance “the throne of God and of the Lamb (Christ)” (Rev. 22:3; see also 14:4; 11:15; 21:23; 21:22; 22:1).

Paul also distinguished between “God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 6:13).

There is therefore a definite distinction between Jesus and God.

Jesus Is God

On the other hand there are also many statements referring to Jesus as God:

  • The prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6, given hundreds of years before He became a human being, calls HimMighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”.
  • Jesus would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
  • The Word was God” (John 1:1). A little later John refers to the “Word” as “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18)
  • When Jesus showed his wounds to Thomas, Thomas responded: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
  • Titus 2:13-14 refers to Him as “our great God and Savior”.

So, on the one hand the Bible indicates that God is one and clearly distinguishes between God and His Son.  But on the other hand Jesus is called “God”.  How do we reconcile these facts?  The Bible does sometimes refer to created beings as gods (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34).  Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Could it be that Jesus is “a” god, and not “the God?  What is the relationship between God and Jesus?  Is Jesus another God, subordinate to the Father, but of the same nature?  Or is Jesus a created being?

We will now analyze the Bible text to learn what the Bible says about Jesus; where he came from, what his role is, to determine what his relationship with God is.

Impossible To Understand God

The first thing we have to say is that microscopic human beings are unable to understand God.  This universe is defined by time, space and matter.  God exists outside time, space and matter because He created time, space and matter.  He does not exist in some specific place, but is everywhere.  He does not exist somewhere in this universe; the universe exists somewhere within Him.  He is not subject to time; He is simultaneously in all times; past, present and future.

Everything around us are caused by something.  Lightning is caused by static electricity in the clouds. Clouds are formed through evaporation caused by the sun’s heat.  In this way we can trace a cause for everything that exists, but finally we come to the question, where do the basic building blocks of the universe came from?  Why do things exist; why is there not nothing?  If we answer that God created everything, then we ask where God comes from.  Then we must answer: He only exists, without cause; without beginning or end.  In fact, He is that which exists.  Things exist because God exists.  If He did not exist, nothing would have existed.  He did not take some pre-existing matter to create this universe; He converted energy that exists within Himself into the matter of the universe.  “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom 11:36).

Light travels 8 times around the earth in a second, but takes 4 years and 3 months to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. Our sun and Alpha Centauri are just two of the 100,000 million stars in our galaxy; the Milky Way. Outside our galaxy there are billions and billions of other galaxies.  These dimensions help us to understand something of the incredible greatness of God. We may have a vague idea of the dimensions of our solar system, but we have no idea of ​​the size of our galaxy, and our galaxy is but a drop of water in the ocean of ​​the universe.  David knew nothing of these things, but He still wrote:

Psalm 19:1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands
”.

The Lord warned us:

Isaiah 55:9 as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts
”.

Even after living hundreds of thousands of millions of years in His kingdom, there will always be an infinite difference between God and man.

Humans should therefore not think that they are able to understand God.  His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are unfathomable (Romans 11:33).  When this document talks about God, it is with this knowledge. It is our privilege to study about Him, but we must do it with humility, for “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons” (Deut. 29:29).

Our understanding should not be our norm; we should accept what the Bible teaches, even if it is beyond our understanding.

Colossians 1:15-19

Colossians 1:15-19 is Paul’s most comprehensive explanation of the Person of Christ.  This article often refers to this passage:

Col. 1:13 … His beloved Son … 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

John 5

John 5 is another important chapter when discussing the Person of the Son.  In that chapter Jesus heals a man who had been ill for 38 years (vv1-9).  He told the man “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (v8).  But it was the Sabbath (v9), and the Jews stopped the man, saying “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet” (v10).  The man told the Jews that Jesus healed him (v15).  When the Jews confronted Jesus, He responded, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (v17)  “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He … was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (v18).  Jesus then responded to the claim that He made Himself equal to God. This article also frequently draws from this explanation.

One and Only Son of God

Paul referred to Jesus as “His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).  Similarly, during His baptism, God called Him “My beloved Son” (Mat. 3:17).  Jesus also called Himself the “Son of God” (Mat. 16:16, 17; 27:43; John 9:35-37; 10:36).  By itself the name “Son of God” does not mean that Jesus is God, because human believers are also called “sons of God” (for instance Luke 20:35-36; 1 John 3:1; Phil. 2:15; John 1:12; Mat 5:9; Romans 8:14; Romans 8:19; Galatians 3:26).  The man Adam and certain heavenly beings are also called sons of God (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Luke 3:38).  However, Jesus is the one and only Son of God:

John 3:16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 – NIV).

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9 – NIV).

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father” (John 1:14 – NIV)

The NASB translates the phrase “one and only” in these verses as “only-begotten

Descended from Heaven

John 3:16 reads:

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Before Abraham was, I amThis means that His Son existed before he became a human being.  He is “from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2), “before the world was” (John 17:5).  He “descended from heaven” (John 3:13; 6:38, 62).  Jesus also said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) and “I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (John 8:23).

Creator And Upholder

God created everything through Him and that God sustains everything through Him.

John refers to Jesus as “the Word” (see John 1:14), and wrote that “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3).

Colossians refers to “His beloved Son” (1:13) and reads, “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 (1:16-17).”

Hebrews 1:2 refers to “His Son … through whom also He made the world” and in Hebrews 1:10 God said of His Son: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands”.  “He (His Son) … upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebr. 1:3).

The presentation of the Creator as consisting of more than one Person is not unique to the New Testament.  On the first page of the Jewish Scriptures, describing the creation of this world (Gen. 1:1), God refers to Himself as “Us”, saying “Let Us make man in Our image”, which therefore included His Son.

The Father created “all thingsthrough His Son.  The word “through” indicates that the Father is the Source of all creative power and wisdom, but His Son created everything.  His Son created this universe, including this world.

Since the Son created all things (not all “other” things, as some suppose), He is very different from the created sons of God.  For this reason, and because He is God’s one and only Son, we may refer to Him as “the Son of God”, with a capital “S”, to differentiate Him from the sons of God.

The Beginning

Since His Son created all things, He “is before all things” (Col. 1:17).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).  Colossians 1:18 is more specific, saying that He isthe Beginning“.  This implies a high level of unity between the Son and this universe.

Fullness Of Deity

r all the fullness to dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19).  This may be analyzed into two points.  The first is that the Son is fully dependent on the FatherEverything that His Son has, He received from His Father:

The names Father and Son implies that His one and only Son is not equal to God.  Just like a human son is brought forth by his human father, the heavenly Father—the Source of everything—brought forth His Son.  The Son received His power from the Father.

The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19).

I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28).

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30).

The works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36).

My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and “I do exactly as the Father commanded Me” (John 14:31).

Paul concluded, “the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3).

The second point is that “all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  The Son has “life in Himself” (John 5:26) and “gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21).  “The Father … has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35).  He has “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2).  The Father has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).  The Son has “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27).  As stated in Matthew 25:31-33, “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”.

Worship

In the book of Revelation John twice tried to worship an angel, and every time the angel’s response the same:

Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (Revelation 19:10; compare 22:9).

Notice this is an instruction to worship God alone.  Also in Revelation 14:7 we are told to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters”.  But then we find that the Son is worshiped:

Jesus said, “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

God commanded all the angels to worship His Son (Hebrews 1:6-8).

The “four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a … golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8-9).

Jesus was worshiped by His disciples after He walked on water (Mat. 14:28-33), after He was resurrected (Mat. 28:8-9; 16-17), and He did not stop them.

God highly exalted Him … so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:5-11).

This is related to the concept that “all things have been created … for him” (Colossians 1:16).  He will always be King of this universe.  The Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (1:13).  His “kingdom … will never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44).

Christ Reveals God. 

God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).  “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).  The Son “is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  His Son in all respects looks exactly like His Father.  But since the Father is invisible, the Son does not physical look like the Father, but “He (His Son) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His (God’s) nature” (Hebr. 1:3):

The Son is the Father’s visible image.  He is God’s visible face and the God’s audible voice; the Word of God (John 1:1, 14).  God is unknowable, invisible and incomprehensible.  Human beings cannot comprehend a Being that is everywhere, that exists without cause, and that is not limited by time and space.  In His Son, appearing in a form that we can comprehend, God becomes known, visible and audible to the creatures of this universe.

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father“, Jesus said to him:

Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9)

YHVH

Adam and Eve heard the sound of the “LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8).  The name LORD is translated from YHVH (Strong 3068)—the proper name of the God of Israel—pronounced as Jehovah or Yahweh.

Yahweh also appeared to Abraham in the form of a man (Genesis 18:1). Abraham was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day (v1).  When he looked up, he saw three men (v2).  One was the LORD and the other two were angels (19:1).  He invited them in (18:2-5).  Sarah made bread cakes (18:6) and Abraham slaughtered a choice calf (18:7).  After they ate, the Lord promised that Sarah would have a son within one year (18:9-15).  The LORD also promised Abraham that he will become a great and mighty nation (18:16-19).  The LORD further said that Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin is exceedingly grave (18:20-21).  The two angels (see 19:1) went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD (18:22), negotiating with the LORD about Sodom and Gomorrah (18:23-33).  The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate (19:1).

It is proposed here that YHVH, who appeared to Abraham, was the one and only Son of God, that later became the human named Jesus.  This proposal is based on the following:

When God said, Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26), He included His Son.

Our Lord and our God … created all things” (Rev. 4:11; Eph. 3:9).  “Fear God, and give Him glory … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev. 14:7).  But, as we have seen, God created everything through Jesus.

Since the Son created the world, He logically remained intimately involved in events on earth.

No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).  He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).  It therefore was not God who appeared to Adam or Abraham in the form of a man; it must have been the Son.

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” and gave His name to Moses as “I AM” (Exodus 3:1-16).  This name implies that He exists without cause.  By claiming, “before Abraham was born, I am”, Jesus identified Himself as the great “I Am” (John 8:58; also 8:24, 28).

The voice calling, “Clear the way for the LORD (YHVH) in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3) is applied in the New Testament to John the Baptist (Mat. 3:1-3; John 1:23), who cleared the way for the Son, which implies that the Son of God is YHVH.

Psalm 102:25-28 says that the creation will wear out like a garment, but the God, the Creator will endure.  This is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-12, but the God, the Creator, is replaced with “the Son”:

Psalm 102:24 O my God … Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son He says …
25 Of old You founded the earth 10 You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth
And the heavens are the work of Your hands. and the heavens are the works of Your hands
26 Even they will perish 11 they will perish
but You endure but You remain
And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing and they all will become old like a garment, 12 and like a mantle You will roll them up
You will change them and they will be changed. like a garment they will also be changed.
27 But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. but You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.”

1 Corinthians 10:1 reads “our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea … 4 and … were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ”.  This refers to the exodus from Egypt, where they passed through the red sea (Exodus 14:29) and the LORD went before them in cloud by day to show them the way (Exodus 13:21).  Once, when the Israelites became very thirsty, the LORD told Moses to “strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink” (Exodus 17:6).  In 1 Corinthians 10 that rock is used as a symbol of Christ, saying that it was Christ that guided and taught them through Moses in the wilderness.

Jesus said to the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39).  The Scripture refer to the books of the Old Testament, and Jesus therefore said that the Old Testament testifies about Him.

Names used for YHVH in the Old Testament are also used for His Son:

  • In Hosea 2:19 the LORD (YHVH – v16) said “I will betroth you to Me forever”. In Mark 2:19 Jesus described Himself as the bridegroom.
  • In Psalm 23:1 YHVH “is my shepherd”. In John 10:14 Jesus calls Himself “the good shepherd“.
  • In Isaiah 43:11 YHVH says “there is no savior besides Me”. In John 4:42 the Samaritans declare that Christ is “the Savior of the world”,
  • Psalm 18:31 describes YHVH as a rock. In 1 Corinthians 10:4 the spiritual rock from which Israel has been drinking in the wilderness, was Christ.
  • In Jeremiah 42:5 YHVH is the “true and faithful witness”. Revelation 3:14 describes Christ as such.
  • In Psalm 27:1 “the LORD (YHVH) is my light and my salvation”, but in John 8:12 Jesus said “I am the Light of the world”.
  • The Lord God said “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8), but the one who is coming quickly (Rev. 22:12), namely Jesus (Rev. 3:11), said “I am the Alpha and the Omega ” (Rev.22:13).
  • The LORD, the King of Israel, said, “I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me” (Is. 44:6; see also 48:12, Rev. 1:8). But in Revelation Jesus said “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:17-18; 2:8; 22:13, 16).

It therefore was His Son that created the world in six days, that rested on the seventh day and whom Adam and Eve “heard … walking in the garden” (Gen. 1:8).  It was also the Son that gave the Law to Moses, and who led the Chosen Nation to the Promised Land.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the apparent contradiction that we has to explain is that the Bible maintains a clear distinction between God and His Son, but also says that “all the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  There are things that we humans do not know because it has not been explained to us.  There are also things that we humans simply are unable to understand, even if it is explained to us.  With the knowledge that we cannot understand God, the following is proposed:

This universe consists of time, space and matter, but God the Father exists outside time, space and matter.  It is impossible for us to imagine what exists outside time, space and matter, but that is where the wisdom and power, that created our universe, came from.

Since God created everything through Him, the Son of God came into being before the universe.  Scriptures identify the Son as “the Beginning”.  This is understood to say that He is the Beginning of time, space and matter.  Consequently, one cannot separate the universe from the Son; God brought the universe into being by bringing His Son into being.  His Son is that immense explosion of Energy that brought this universe into being.  He is the “big bang”; not an uncontrolled explosion, but an incomprehensible planned and guided explosion.

Since the Son created everything, He also created time.  Scientists estimate the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years.  Time started at the moment the universe came into existence.  There was therefore NO time that the Son did not exist, because there is no such thing as time before He created time.

But He is also a Person, by which I mean that He is aware of Himself and aware of other living beings.  He is not only a Person; He is an intensely loving Person.  He was willing to become a human being and even to die at the hands of evil men, because He loves His sinful creatures.

The Son is the Word of God (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13).  The Son is how God appears in this universe defined by time, space and matter.  He is the revelation of God with whom His creatures may communicate as with a fellow creature; to be “God with us” (Mat. 1:26).

God brought the universe into being by bringing His Son into being, but the invisible God remained intimately involved in the universe.  God was intimately involved in the creation of life on this planet, billions of years after the universe came to be (Gen 1:26).  It is God that sent His only-begotten Son to become a human being, so that everybody that believes in Him would not die, but inherit eternal life (John 3:16).  God is the Savior; the Son is the means by which He saves.

It is hoped that this explanation maintains the distinction between God and His Son, but also explains the Son’s divine attributes: “By him all things were created” (Col. 1:15, 16).  “He is before all things” (1:17).  He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).

TO: General Table of Contents

 

Metaphors of salvation

Paul used a very rich variety of metaphors and symbols, including many metaphors of salvation. We must be very careful not to literalize his metaphors.

How a person is saved, is explained differently by different people:

In Christian circles we often hear that a price had to be legally paid, and Christ paid that price by His blood.  But words such as “redemption” and “justifications” are only metaphors.  We should not literalize them.  Paul uses many other metaphors for how God saves sinners.  For instance, in the letter to the Colossians, he also says that the believers have been:

  • Qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints (1:12)
  • Rescued from the domain of darkness (1:13)
  • Transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13)
  • Redeemed (1:14 – paid the required price. )
  • Reconciled – as to an old friend (1:22)
  • Received Christ Jesus the Lord (2:6);
  • Made complete (2:10)
  • Circumcised with a circumcision made without hands (2:11)
  • Buried with Him in baptism … raised up with Him (2:12)
  • Made alive together with Him (were dead in your transgressions 2:13)
  • Raised up with Christ (3:1 – died with Christ 2:20; 3:3) -)
  • Canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us (2:14)
  • Chosen of God (3:12)
  • Forgiven (their sins – 1:14; 2:13)

Some of these expressions are very symbolic.  Others, like the forgiveness of sins, are more literal.  Paul used a very rich variety of metaphors and symbols.  He sometimes even changes his metaphors in mid-sentence (e.g. 2:7).

Another famous metaphor of Paul is Justification.  Reformed theology, clinging to the word Justification, hold to the Forensic View of Atonement.  The Justification metaphor appears often in Romans and Galatians, but is not used even once in Colossians, probably because the Colossians Christians were Gentiles, and Justification was the way in which the Jews thought of how people are saved.  They recognized their sins and saw God as their judge, before which they stand guilty.  But they also thought that they were justified (put in a right legal standing with God) by the works of the Law (by the rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies prescribed by the law).  This included circumcision and ceremonial washings.  They thought that these things will compensate for their sins and legally justify them before God.  Therefore Paul used forensic metaphors when speaking to Jews, arguing that one is not justified by the works of the Law, but simply by grace through faith.

But the Forensic View of Atonement under-emphasizes God’s love and mercy for mankind.  It is often explained from pulpits that Christ stands between God and man, continually pleading His blood for the sins of His people.  This is a horrible distortion of the good news.  To mention a few:

It is the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light, rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:12-13).

God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).

Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

Jesus said, “I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:26-27)

Therefore, by over-emphasizing and literalizing one metaphor of salvation, the Forensic View of Atonement paints a very unbiblical view of God.

Reconciliation is another one of Paul’s powerful metaphors (Col. 1:20-21, Eph. 2:16; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18, 20).  He presents God as our friend from whom we have been alienated (Col. 1:21), and to Whom we must be reconciled.  This God has done through the cross.  The difference between a believer and a non-believer isn’t merely forgiveness; it is reconciliation.

The point is that we must be very careful not to literalize Paul’s metaphors.  These are all descriptions in human language of what happens when we put our faith (trust) in God.  We learn something of reality from each of these metaphors, but we should not promote one at the expense of the others, or interpret any of them unduly literal.  As discussed in the article titled “Disarmed the rulers and authorities”, the problem that was solved by the Cross is much more complex.  See also the discussion of the word “Atonement”, where it is explained that the Greek word translated Atonement in the KJV of the New Testament is simply reconciliations.

TO: General Table of Contents

Colossians 1:1-13

The Colossian deception told believers that they are incomplete. Paul responds that Christians are already in the kingdom of His beloved Son.

SUMMARY

Paul in chainsPaul wrote the letter to the faithful believers Colossians, with Timothy’s assistance, from prison in Rome around AD 60-63.  This was about 30 years after Christ’s death.  Paul was sent by Christ by the will of God our Father.  He therefore had the authority to write this letter.

Paul himself had not worked in Colossae.  Even while Paul was in a Roman prison, the gospel, travelling through the earth, has reached Colossae via Epaphras; one of Paul’s faithful co-workers and a native of the city.

The gospel is the message of God’s merciful kindness; His free gift, particularly through the Person and teachings of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels.  The gospel includes the promise of the eternal inheritance which believers will receive from God when Christ is revealed.  Paul added clarity with respect to the relevance of the Jews and their Law, but Christ and His message is the core of the Christian message; not Paul.

Epaphras, when he visited Paul in prison in Rome, informed Paul of the Colossians’ faith, but also of the false teaching that was threatening his church.  Paul did not give us a neat description of that false teaching, but only his rebuttal of the deceptions.  From this we have to infer what the deception was.

Paul in prayerPaul was a man of prayer.  Through prayer he was in constant contact with God.  He assures the Colossians that he is continually praying for them, asking that they may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Knowledge, wisdom and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians, from which we understand that the Colossian false teaching claimed to have special knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  This commentary assumes that the points that Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, indicate the nature of the deception in Colossae.

Verses 1 to 3 and verses 12 and 13 focus on God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Father who qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints, through Jesus Christ. It is the Father who rescued us from the domain of darkness (the supernatural beings that are hostile to God) and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  Christ is the Means, but it is the Father that accomplishes all of this.

The deceivers in Colossae judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (2:16) and told them that they are incomplete, and will only become spiritually complete if they submit to “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:20-21).  Paul therefore respond with a three-fold message:

  1. In Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (2:9).
  2. Therefore Christians, since they are “in Christ” are already complete (2:10-15).
  3. Therefore they do not have to submit to the demands of the false teaching (2:16-23).

These three points are particularly clear from chapter two, but chapter one also contains traces there-of.  In 1:12-13 we see that the believers are already qualified, already rescued and already transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  This is the second of the three points above, namely that Christians, since they are “in Christ” are already complete.

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother

Paul: According to the custom in that day of writing letters, the author’s name is given first. Paul wrote the letter probably from Rome at around AD 63, which was about 30 years after Christ’s death.

An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God: Paul was qualified to write this letter of instruction to the Colossians because he was an apostle.  Literally apostolos means ‘one sent’, but at its deepest level it denotes an authorized spokesman for God; one commissioned and empowered to act as His representative.  Paul is an “apostle of Jesus Christ”, which means he is sent by Christ, but it is “by the will of God”.

And Timothy our brother: Timothy was an honored companion of Paul, but he was not an apostle because he did not receive a direct instruction from Christ.

1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father.

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ:Saints and faithful brethren” are the same people; not two different classes of Christians.  Every true Christian is a saint. It is possible that Paul adds “and faithful brethren” to contrast the saints with those who embraced the false teaching that concerned Paul so much in this letter.

Who are at Colossae: The city of Colossae is not mentioned in the Book of Acts. All our Biblical information about the church there comes from this letter and a few allusions in the letter to Philemon.  Historically, Colossae was a prosperous city, yet by Paul’s time the glory it had as a city was on the decline.  The city of Colossae was probably the smallest and least important city that Paul ever wrote to.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father: Grace is God’s unconditioned goodwill and mercy.

1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

We give thanks to God: We receive grace and peace from “God our Father” (1:2), and in return we thank “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).  That is the true circle of life: He gives us everything we need and we love and praise Him for that.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: The focus in verses 1 to 3 is on the Father, not on Christ.  For instance, Paul was an apostle “by the will of God” (1:1) who is identified as the “Father” in verses 2 and 3.  As in the prayer which we received from our Lord, God is “our Father” (1:2), which means that He deeply cares for us and continually protects us.  The Father is the active Force behind Paul’s work (1:1) and behind Christ’s sacrifice (1:12; 2:13, 15).  God is also “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  As Jesus said, “‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17)

Praying always for you: Although he probably had never met them, the Christians of Colossae were on Paul’s prayer list. He prayed for them not only often, but always.

1:4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints:

Genuine faith in Jesus will always have a true love for God’s people as a companion.

1:5 Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel

The hope laid up for you in heaven:Christ in you” is “the hope of glory” (1:27), namely the hope for “the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:3-4).  These were not merely theological ideas to Paul; but dominated his thinking as a Christian.  It is also our privilege to have this hope.

In verses 4 and 5 we notice the familiar triad of faith, hope, and love:  “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel: The four gospels were written decades after the Cross as tools to teach the believers what Christ taught.  The gospel of John was one of the last books of the Bible to be written; about 50 years after the Cross.  To teach Jesus means to teach what He taught, as recorded in the gospels.  Some people today hold the letters of the New Testament up high, but the basic teaching in the first century was what Jesus preached.  Paul added clarity with respect to the relevance of the Law of Moses and the relationship between Jew and Gentile, but his teachings are not core; what Christ taught is the core of the Christian message.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians to oppose a specific distortion of the truth (2:4, 8, 16, 18).  Perhaps for that reason we find early on in this letter an emphasis on “truth” (1:5, 6).  Because we do not live in that time and place, we do not know what the specific issues were.  Paul, in his letter, only gives us one side of the story; we only have his rebuttal of the deceptions.  From this we have to infer what the deception was.

1:6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it: and understood the grace of God in truth:

The Gospel is represented as a traveler, whose object it is to visit the whole earth.  So rapid is this traveler in his course, that he had already gone nearly through the whole of the countries under the Roman dominion, and will travel on until he has proclaimed his message to every people, and kindred, and nation, and tongue (Rev. 14:6).  The phrase “in all the world” was a legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire.

Grace is God’s merciful kindness; His free gift.  Everything we receive from Him is His free gift.  The kindness of God leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).  We are saved by His merciful kindness; we can never earn it as a wage.

1:7 Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf:

Learned it from Epaphras: Paul himself had not worked in the area of Colossae (1:4, 7-9; 2:1).  Apparently, Epaphras, one of his helpers, established a group of believers there (1:7; 4:12, 13).  He was a native of the city (4:12).

Who is a faithful servant (KJV – minister): The word “minister doesn’t mean that Epaphras was superior to the other Christians in Colossae. The word minister means servant.  Paul probably wrote the letter because of a visit of Epaphras from Colossae.

1:8 and he also informed us of your love in the spirit:

It seems as if, while Paul was in prison in Rome, Epaphras visited him, informing him of the spiritual growth of the Colossian church (see also 2:5), but also of the “deception” (2:8) troubling his church.

1:9 for this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you:  and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding:

Paul in prayerNot ceased to pray for you: Paul was a man of prayer (1:3, 9).  Through prayer he was in constant contact with God (1:9).  “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding: Knowledge, wisdom and understanding is a key theme in the letter to the Colossians.  According to 2:3 all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.  It is particularly important to note that Paul wrote this “so that no one will delude you” (2:4).  This is understood to mean that some people in Colossae were trying to delude the believers, claiming that they have special knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  The interpretation in this commentary is based on the assumption that the points that Paul emphasizes, compared to his other letters, indicate the nature of the “deception” (2:8) in Colossae.

1:10 So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord: to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Paul also prayed that they would walk (live) according to the same knowledge they received.  Our life is based on our knowledge of God and our understanding of His will.

1:11 Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously:

His strength is there to help us meet all of life’s challenges, and to endure and overcome problems with patience and joy.  God is the source of all power.  Whatever power we have, or hope to have, we only have because He gave it to us.

1:12 Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light:

The Father is mentioned as the active Force of redemption. He initiated the plan of the ages.  It is the Father who qualifies us, through Jesus Christ.

The ESV and other translations render 2:18 as “Let no one disqualify you”.  It is there quite possible that Paul, in 1:12, is contradicting the Colossian deception.

1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

He rescued us from the domain of darkness: The domain of darkness is Satan’s domain.  Jesus referred to “the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53) that led to His arrest, suffering and death.  The power of darkness are the supernatural beings marshaled against God and His followers for combat in the spiritual realm.  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).  These “rulers and authorities are a particular emphasis in the letter to the Colossians (1:15; 2:15, 18), implying that the deception involved such supernatural beings.

Note the contrast between the light in verse 12 and the darkness in verse 13.  Light allows us to see; to receive “knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9).

And transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son: According to Barclay, the word translated “transferred” had a special significance in the ancient world. When one empire conquered another, the custom was to transfer the entire population of the defeated empire to the conqueror’s land. It is in this sense that Paul says we have been transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

His” in these verses (1:9, 11, 13) consistently refers to “the Father” (1:3):

Verse 9, for instance, refers to “knowledge of His will”, which is explained by verse 1 as “the will of God”, who is “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).

His glorious might” (1:11) refers back to “God” in 1:10, who is identified in verse 3 as “the Father”.

Verses 12 and 13 therefore continue the focus of verses 2 and 3 on the Father. Some Christians think of Christ as their Savior, but these verses inform us, as already indicated by 1:2-3, that the Father is the Active Force that “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).  The kingdom belongs to “His beloved Son” (1:13), but it is the Father that “rescued us from the domain of darkness”.  In Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14), but it is the Father that “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (1:12).

Note Christians are already rescued and already transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  This is another emphasis in the letter to the Colossians.  It is related to 2:10, where Paul states that Christians are complete in Christ.  The deceivers in Colossae judged the Christians “in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (2:16) and told them that they are incomplete, and will only become spiritually complete if they submit to “decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (2:20-21).  In response Paul wrote that they are already qualified (1:12), rescued and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13).

TO: General Table of Contents