Theos (God) is a Count Noun. Does that mean that John 1:1c must be translated “the Word was a god?”

Overview

Jesus is God

In most Bibles, John 1:1c reads, “the Word was God.”  But the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JWs) New World Translation (NWT) reads, “the Word was a god.”  JWs understand Jesus to be one of many powerful created beings.

JWs have developed a sophisticated defense of their translation of this phrase, which argues that the word God is a count noun and count nouns must always be either definite or indefinite, even when used with a qualitative sense. And since the Word is distinct from God in 1:1b, He cannot be “the god,” and must be “a god.”

This article agrees that the word God is a count noun, that God is used in a qualitative sense in 1:1c and that the New Testament presents Jesus as distinct from God, but it does not agree that count nouns, when used with a qualitative sense, must necessarily be translated by inserting the indefinite article. For this purpose, this article mentions and discusses a number of example:

Jehovah is God.
Jesus is Lord.
He is God.
God is God and man is man.”
The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.

This argument is analyzed and discussed below.  First, some background information:

The word “god”

The Greek word translated “god” is THEOS.  THEOS is equivalent to our word “god,” with a small g, for it is used for all gods.  Since the Bible is a book about the true God, THEOS in the Bible is mostly used for the true God, but additional information is provided to indicate that the true God is referred to, for instance:

● Many times the New Testament adds the Greek definite article HO (the) to indicate that the god referred to is known to the reader.  
● The context could make it clear that the true God is intended.
● Descriptive phrases such as “the living God” identify the true God.

The Hebrew Scriptures similarly did not use the Hebrew word for “god” (ELOHIM) as the semantic equivalent to God’s personal name, Jehovah.  To identify Jehovah, without using His name, “god” was qualified, for instance, “I am the God of Bethel,” “God of Abraham,” “your God,” “the most high God” or “the God of gods.

The word “God”

We have something which the ancient Greeks did not have, namely the distinction between small and capital letters.  THEOS is therefore not equivalent to “God.”  THEOS is a common noun, but our word “God” is actually a proper noun: a name for the true God; perhaps equivalent to Jehovah in the Old Testament.  The word “God,” in a sense, therefore does not appear in the Bible.  The New Testament many times refers to the one true God as HO THEOS (THE GOD).  We translate this phrase by dropping the definite article HO and by capitalizing the G.

YHWH is a name, but ELOHIM is used in the OT is not as a name (a proper noun), as shown by the phrases “the most high God” and “the God of gods.

The Word is distinct from “God.”

The Word

John 1:1b, in most Bibles, read, “the Word was with God.”  Since Jesus was “with God,” “God” refers to the Father and Jesus cannot be “God.”

This conclusion is supported by the articles.  The Koine Greek of the New Testament has a definite article (“the”) but no indefinite articles (“a” or “an” in English).  Thus, a Greek writer could make a noun definite by use of the article, but would omit the article before non-definite nouns.  In 1:1b the article HO precedes THEOS, and is rendered in all translations as “God.”  But THEOS in 1:1c, referring to Jesus, is without the article, which supports a distinction between HO THEOS (God) and Jesus.

This distinction between “God” and Jesus is found all over the New testament.  Perhaps the best known is Paul’s definition in 1 Corinthians 8, where He makes a distinction between God (identified here as “the Father”), Jesus and false gods:

1 Cor. 8:4 … We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

For a further discussion, see Jesus is not God and God is the Head of Christ.

God is a count noun.

A count noun is anything that can be counted, such as cats.  The opposite is called mass nouns, namely things that cannot be counted, such as courage.  Since gods can be counted, “god” (and THEOS) are count nouns.

The JW “position is that THEOS must always be a count noun.”  Hartley agrees: THEOS is a count noun because it can be both indefinite and plural, regardless of its context or understood “meaning.” 

The important point, for the discussion of the translation of 1:1c, is that “a countable noun always takes either the indefinite (a, an) or definite (the) article when it is singular,” for example “a cat” or “a category.”  Mass nouns, on the other hand, cannot be used with the articles.  One would not say ‘the courage’ or ‘a water’.  (Count and Noncount Nouns 1988, Purdue Online Writing Lab).

The reader will realize where the JW argument is heading, namely:

(1) If THEOS is a count noun, and if count nouns always always takes either the indefinite or definite article, then 1:1c cannot be translated “the Word was God.” 
(2) Since the LOGOS is “with” THE THEOS (1:1b), He cannot himself also be THE THEOS.  John 1:1c, therefore, cannot be translated “the god.”
(3) We need to distinguish between the HO THEOS of 1:1b and the anarthrous (without the article) THEOS of 1:1c.  John 1:1c must therefore read “the Word was a god.”  

There is, however, a complication:

Count nouns may be used with a qualitative sense.

This statement refers to when we use a noun to describe the subject of a sentence, for example, “that animal is a lion.”

Hartley concluded that all mass terms exude a purely qualitative force.  For example, the predicate “flesh” in the phrase “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) is a mass term, for one does not say “the flesh” or “a flesh.”  In this verse “flesh” exudes a purely qualitative force onto “the Word;” the Word (LOGOS) came to possess the qualities or attributes of “flesh.”

Count nouns as predicates generally do not have a qualitative sense, but are usually used to identify the subject, for example, “that animal is a lion” or “Jim is my son.”  But count nouns can also be used in a qualitative sense, for instance, “that rugby player is a tiger,” meaning that he is tough.   Here we use a noun (tiger) with a qualitative sense to describe the qualities of a tiger to the rugby player.

THEOS is used in a qualitative sense in 1:1c.

The JW argument does not state this directly, but implies this.  The background to this is that 1:1c has a special grammatical structure (noun without the article precedes the verb “to be”).  Phillip Harner and several other grammarians have studied phrases with this special grammatical construct.  They concluded that the predicates in such a construct function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. 

This does not mean that THEOS in 1:1c definitely is used qualitatively, but the probability is high.  If it is a qualitative use, then 1:1c does not identify Jesus as THEOS, but attributes the qualities and characteristics of THEOS to Him. 

Count nouns must always be definite or indefinite, even when used with a qualitative sense.

JWs admit that count nouns, such as THEOS, are sometimes used with a qualitative sense, but respond to this challenge that count nouns cannot be purely qualitative .  They argue that count nouns retain their “countability” when they emphasize qualities and must therefore still be either definite (e.g. the god) or indefinite (e.g. a god):

“Count nouns denoting persons such as theos and logos, must be either definite or indefinite, and a stress of qualitativeness is an additional characteristic, not an alternative one (Furuli, p. 217; emphasis in original).

“I view [the category Qualitative-Indefinite] as a noun with an indefinite semantic, having a primarily qualitative emphasis (Stafford, p. 344). [Note his distinction between semantic (definite or indefinite) and emphasis (qualitative).  Witness apologists Kidd, Stafford, and Furuli all make this distinction.]

Phillip Harner said something similar.  He said that qualitativeness may coexist with either a definite or indefinite semantic force, but this qualitative significance may be more important that the question whether the predicate noun itself should be regarded as definite or indefinite (p. 75). 

We see an example of how this works in the phrase “that rugby player is a tiger.”  Even though this a qualitative use of the noun “tiger,” an “a” precedes the predicate noun.  Simon and Gurfunkel similarly sang, “I am a rock, I am an island.”

However, it is proposed here that the definite and indefinite article cannot always be inserted when count nouns are used with a qualitative sense, for example:

Jehovah is God.

YHVH, pronounced Jehovah or Yahweh

Jehovah [the LORD] is God” (Joshua 22:34; 1 Kings 8:60, 18:21; Psalm 118:27) is comparable to 1:1c (“the Word was THEOS”).  Both Jehovah and “the Word” identify one specific being, and in both cases the predicate is “God,” which is a count noun. 

Jehovah is God” is a statement which only a worshiper of Jehovah would make.  “God” is here used with a qualitative sense to stress qualities, nature, or character.  It describes Jehovah as the only true God; the Supreme One who has all authority in heaven and on earth. 

To say “Jehovah is a god” would also be a true statement, but has a very different meaning; identifying Jehovah merely as another god; one of many.  Even a Muslim would be willing to say “Jehovah is a god.” 

Jehovah is God.” does have a definite semantic force, but to translate it as “Jehovah is the god” would also corrupt the meaning.  This phrase identifies Jehovah as the god we are currently speaking about, but this statement does not say anything about Him.  A Muslim may also make this statement. 

Other Examples

The following statements are similar to “Jehovah is God,” and also illustrate that, to insert an “a” or a “the” before the count term, would distort the meaning.

Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3).  [“Lord” is a count noun, for lords can be counted.  “Lord” is used in a qualitative sense, attributing the nature or character of true Lordship to Jesus.  To translate this as “Jesus is a lord” or even as “Jesus is the lord” significantly changes the meaning.

He is God” (Deut. 4:35, 39, 7:9; Joshua 2:11; 1 Kings 18:24, 39). 

God is God and man is man.”  Slaten offered a helpful example.  The first “God” is our name for the one true God.  The second “God” is a count noun used as a qualitative predicate; indicating God’s nature.  To say “God is a god” would distort the meaning.  The meaning seems best brought out by adding “by nature:” ” God is (by nature) God and man is (by nature) man.” 

Conclusion

JWs argue that count nouns, such as THEOS, in certain contexts emphasize qualities, but that count nouns cannot be purely qualitative, but retain their countability.  They argue that count nouns therefore always must be definite or indefinite, even when used with a qualitative sense.  According to this logic, THEOS in 1:1c “is a count noun and therefore must be either definite (the god) or indefinite” (a god).

But we have seen that, to insert an article in the translation of a count noun that is used with a qualitative sense, would in some instances distort the meaning of the phrase.  In other words, when count nouns are used in a qualitative sense, it does not necessarily follow that the English indefinite or definite articles must be inserted in the translation from Greek.  Consequently, even though “god” is a count noun, it is perfectly possible to translate 1:1c as “the Word is God.” 

When is “a” added?

We have seen that sometimes the indefinite article “a” must be added and sometimes not.  Linguists are fond of classifying words and phrases, and they need to tell us when “a” is added and when not.

One option is that the indefinite article is not used in phrases such “Jehovah is God” and “the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” because these phrases stress uniqueness. 

Another option is to distinguish between literal and figurative uses of the predicate:

● When we say ‘Jim is a god’, meaning that he is a human being with near superhuman abilities as a basketball player, then the count noun “god” is used with a qualitative sense.  It also is a figurative statement, for we know that Jim is not a god.  We then add the indefinite article.

● Similarly, if we know that Jim is not a murderer, but say ‘Jim is a murderer’ to predicate the qualities of “murderer” to him, in other words, to say that he destroys people’s lives, then this is a figurative statement, and we insert “a”.  But if Jim actually murdered somebody, then ‘Jim is a murderer’ is an indefinite use of the predicate.

● In contrast, the statement “Jehovah is god” is a literal use of the predicate, for we know that Jehovah is God Almighty.

● Similarly, when we say ‘Jim is man’, the count noun ‘man’ is used with a qualitative sense; John is fully human.  But it is not a figurative statement, but a literal one, and we omit the “a”.

These examples seem to imply that, when a predicate with qualitative force applies literally to the subject, “a” must be omitted, for if we insert “a,” the statement becomes indefinite.  This point is, however, not important for the purpose of this article.  The mere fact that sometimes the articles are omitted when a count noun is used with a qualitative sense, is sufficient to counter the JW argument.

How should 1:1c be translated?

Consider 1:1c literally translated from Greek, using the English word order: THE WORD WAS GOD.

From the majority perspective, where Jesus is viewed as God, THE WORD WAS GOD seems like a literal use of the noun, which means that “a” may not be inserted in the translation.

In the Jehovah Witness tradition, where Jesus is not viewed as God, THE WORD WAS GOD seems like a figurative use of the noun, implying that an “a” should be inserted.

The question is therefore what the Bible’s perspective of Jesus is.  We have to translate the phrase from that perspective.  If the Bible declares Jesus to be God, then it is a literal phrase, and an “a” may not be inserted, and vice versa.  In other words, the classification of predicate nouns as count nouns or mass nouns does not help us at all with the translation of 1:1c.

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

   1.    The three views of the Son 
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God. 
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God? 
  5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  6.    Jesus is not God.  
  7.    God is the Head of Christ
  8.    Jesus is called God. 
  9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God. 
 10.  God created all things through His Son. 
 11.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?  
       Worship verses in the New Testament   
 12.  Jesus has equality with God. 
 13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles 

 14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

For a discussion of the major role which Caesar Constantine played in the formulation of the Nicene Creed of 325, listen to Kegan Chandler on the term “homoousios”  The famous church historian Eusebius tells us that it was the emperor Constantine who suggested using the word homoousios.  Chandler ventures an educated guess as to what Constantine was thinking… and it has something to do with Egypt!

For a discussion of the church fathers, showing that they all believed that Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and that the idea of Christ being equal to the Father only developed during the Middle Ages, see the discussion by Dr. Beau Branson on the Monarchy of the Father (Trinities 240).

The roles of God and Christ in the letter to the Colossians

This is an article in the series on the question: Is Jesus the Most High God? What view does the letter to the Colossians present of Christ Jesus? 

    • Is He God?
    • Are we saved by Christ Jesus, or by God?
    • Who created all things?
    • Who reconciled all things to God; God or Christ Jesus?

PURPOSE

This article is a study of the letter to the Colossians. The purpose is to understand who Christ Jesus is. The next article addresses that question more specifically. The current article lays the foundation.

The letter to the Colossians is important for this study because, of all the New Testament letters, Colossians has perhaps the highest view of Christ Jesus, apparently because Christ’s supremacy was challenged (Col 2:4) by the “deception” (Col 2:8) in ancient Colossae.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).


SUMMARY

This article comes to the following eight conclusions:

Jews questioning Jesus1) Colossians never refers to Jesus Christ as God. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly DISTINCT from God. For example, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), “is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), and was raised from the dead by “God” (Col 2:12; cf. 1:1).

2) In this consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus, Colossians uses “Father” as another title for God (e.g. Col 1:1-3, 17).

3) The letter uses the title “the Lord” ONLY for Jesus (e.g. Col 1:6, 17; 4:24); never for God. Thayer’s dictionary mentions that, in the view of some, except for certain verses where it is not entirely clear to whom the title “Lord” (kurios) refers, Paul NEVER refers to the Father as “Lord.” 

4) We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior. For example, the Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13), qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12), and canceled out the certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

5) In fact, this letter does not mention ANYTHING THAT Jesus do or did. The Father did EVERYTHING (cf. John 4:34; 5:19). Apart from salvation, God is also the active Force in creation (Col 1:16). Christ has a passive role. 

Worship Jesus6) However, everything that God does, He does THROUGH His Son. God created all things “through” Jesus (Col 1:16), saved us “through” his blood (Col 1:14), and reconciled all things to Himself “through” the Cross (Col 1:20; cf. 2:15). Therefore, we also thank God “through” His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23). In all things, Christ is the Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5).

7) God not only reconciled humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled THE THINGS IN HEAVEN to Himself (Col 1:19-20). Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15; cf. Heb 2:14). These statements confirm that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16).  

8) Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as IN UNITY WITH HIM. For example, believers have died with Christ, were made alive with Him (e.g., Col 2:20, 13; 3:1), are Christ’s body (e.g. Col 1:13, 18), subjects of His Kingdom (Col 1:12-13), and are “in Him” (e.g. Col 1:13, 14; 2:11).

– END OF SUMMARY – 


GOD AND JESUS ARE DISTINCT.

The title “God” appears 21 times in the letter, but never refers to Jesus. On the contrary, the letter presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God. For instance:

image of the invisible GodHe (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) Some other translations read, “exactly like God, who cannot be seen” (Contemporary English Version), or as “the visible likeness of the invisible God” (Good News Translation).

God” raised Jesus from the dead (Col 2:12).
Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Col 1:1)

The letter, therefore, maintains a consistent and clear distinction between God and Christ Jesus.

FATHER IS ANOTHER NAME FOR GOD.

The letter refers five times to the “Father.” Two of these instances simply make a distinction between the Father and the Son:

Joyously giving thanks to the Father
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
(Col 1:11-13)

It was the Father’s good pleasure
for all the fullness to dwell in Him

Him” refers to “His beloved Son
in verse 13 (Col 1:19; cf. 1:13).

But the other instances confirm the distinction between “Jesus Christ” and “God” and show that “Father” is another name for God:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ
by the will of God …
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We give thanks to God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
” (Col 1:1-3).

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father
(Col 3:17)

Our Father who is in heavenGod is also “our Father” (Col 1:2) because we are sons of God (e.g. Rom 8:14). We pray to “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:9). He is our Father because He loves us and cares for us.

In Colossians, the word “son” is only found in Colossians 1:13, where Jesus is “His beloved Son.” This is not mentioned in Colossians, but Jesus is the Son of God in a different way: He is “the only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14).

According to Colossians 1:19, it was God’s will for “all the fullness” to dwell in Jesus. In the first place, this means that “in Him (Christ) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). In the second place, it means that the Son received “the fullness of Deity” from the Father: It is not His own. This concept is further discussed in God is the Head of Christ.

CHRIST JESUS IS CALLED LORD.

The title “Christ is found 26 times in this letter. The name Jesus is used 6 times, but never alone, always as Jesus Christ or as Christ Jesus. Jesus was a common name at the time. The addition of “Christ” was necessary to identify Him. In this letter, Paul actually mentions somebody else by the name of Jesus (Col 4:11).

The title “the Lord” appears 11 times; most often simply as “the Lord”, but also as:

      • Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 1:6),
      • The Lord Jesus” (Col 1:17), and
      • The Lord Christ” (Col 4:24).

The title “Lord,” therefore, is not used for God; only for Jesus.

THE FATHER IS THE SAVIOR.

We often hear people say that we are saved by Jesus, but Colossians presents God the Father as the Savior:

Grace is from “God (Col 1:6).

He selects His messengers. Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (Col 1:1). He was made a minister of the church according to the stewardship from God bestowed on him (Col 1:25).

God is the Savior: The Father rescued us from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13) and qualified us to share in the inheritance (Col 1:12). God canceled out the Certificate of Debtcertificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:14; cf. 2:12-13). God raised the believers from death when He raised Jesus from death (Col 2:12-13; 3:1). We must thank “God the Father” through Christ (Col 3:16-17; cf. 1:3, 12).

God gives growth to the church (Col 2:19). He chose the believers (Col 3:12) and will open up a door for the word (Col 4:2). It was God’s will to make known to His saints what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles (Col 1:27-28).

GOD BROUGHT PEACE TO THE UNIVERSE.

Not only did God reconcile humans to Himself through Christ’s death; He also reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ:

It was the Father’s good pleasure …
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
” (Col 1:19-20).

This implies that the Cross is something that the Father did (cf. John 3:16). As I understand it, the Father knew what will happen if His Son comes as a human being to this world, filled with violence. God did not determine what would happen; it is simply the natural result of a clash between the forces of good and evil.

These verses also indicate that the Cross did not reconcile God to us: It reconciled us to God. Christ died to change us: His death did not change God.

Through the cross, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities … having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15). Hebrews 2:14 similarly states: “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “The rulers and authorities,” therefore, refer to “the devil” and his angels (Rev 12:7, 9).

For a further discussion, see:

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in salvation.

GOD IS THE CREATOR.

By Him (Jesus) all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth …
all things have been created through Him and for Him

(Col 1:16).

The NASB reads, “by Him all things were created,” but later adds that “all things have been created through Him.” This means that God is the Creator, but God created through His Son. The basic meaning of the Greek word translated as “by” in this verse is “in.” This is made clear by other translations of this verse:

For in him all things were created …
all things have been created
through him and for him
” (NIV).

Through him God created everything
in heaven and on earth” (Good News Translation).

The Father, also known as God, therefore, is the active Force in creation. For a further discussion, see God created all things through His Son.

CHRIST HAS A PASSIVE ROLE.

Gethsemane

The letter refers to “Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24), which reminds me of Gethsemane, where “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), indicating His severe emotional suffering. All evil forces gathered their focus on Him to make Him use His power to act against God’s will (Luke 22:42). But apart from these “afflictions,” this letter does not mention anything which Jesus does or did. The Father did everything. This principle, namely that God is the active Force, as opposed to Jesus, is consistent with what Jesus said, as recorded in John:

My food is to do the will of him
who sent me and to accomplish his work

(John 4:34).

The Son can do nothing of Himself,
unless it is something He sees the Father doing

(John 5:19).

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

The words that I say to you
I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me does His works

(John 14:10).

Colossians presents God as the active force both in creation and in salvation, but He does everything through His Son. Therefore, we also thank God through His Son (Col 3:17; cf. Phil 2:10-11; John 5:23).

REDEEMED THROUGH UNITY WITH CHRIST JESUS

Since believers are redeemed through Christ Jesus, Colossians, in several ways, describe them as in unity with Him:

CHRIST AND THE BELIEVERS FORM A SINGLE BODY.

His beloved Son … is also head of the body,
the churc
h” (Col 1:13, 18, cf. v24).

“The head, from whom the entire body … 
grows with a growth which is from God
” (Col 2:17-19; cf. 3:15).

The believers form the body and Christ is the head.

BELIEVERS ARE THE SUBJECTS OF HIS KINGDOM.

The Father … transferred us to
the kingdom of His beloved Son
” (Col 1:12-13).

When we are “rescued” (Col 1:12), we become the subjects of a spiritual kingdom of which His Beloved Son is King.

BELIEVERS ARE “IN HIM.”

The redemption of believers through unity with Jesus is also presented with phrases such as “in Him” or “with Him”:

In Whom (In His beloved Son) …
we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins
” (Col 1:13, 14).

In Him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision made without hands
” (Col 2:11).

In Him you have been made complete
(Col 2:10; cf. 1:28, 2; 2:6-7).

BELIEVERS DIED WITH CHRIST AND WERE MADE ALIVE WITH HIM.

The letter describes believers as united with Christ in His death and resurrection:

You have died with Christ” (Col 2:20).
He made you alive together with Him” (Col 2:13).
You have been raised up with Christ” (Col 3:1).

Having been buried with Him in baptism,
in which you were also raised up with Him
through faith in the working of God,
who raised Him from the dead
” (Col 2:12).

Believers did not literally die with Christ. Nor have they been literally made alive with Christ. But they are rescued through His death and His resurrection.

THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S DEATH

It is not Christ’s death that was important; it was His life. His entire life was a test, and the last days and hours of His life were the highest possible test. He lived a sinless life, even to death, and His resurrection was confirmation there-of. His “afflictions” (Col 1:24) were physical but mostly spiritual. Jesus said:

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father,
and He will at once put at My disposal
more than twelve legions of angels
” (Matt 26:53)?

But He “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15) by never sinning by going against God’s will. Even when God withdrew His presence from Jesus, leaving the disoriented Jesus to cry, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me” (Matt 27:46), He did not sin or use His power for His own benefit. For a further discussion, see – The Seven Seals of Revelation.

CONCLUSION

God reconciled all things—things on earth and things in heaven—to Himself through the death of His Son. Therefore, Paul presents believers as united with Christ.  They are united with Him in His death, they are united with Him in His resurrection, and “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28 – from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill).  This seems to be more than a symbol: it is a mysterious reality.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The letter to the Colossians:

      • Has the highest view of Christ Jesus of all of the New Testament letters.
      • Never refers to Jesus Christ as God.
      • Presents Christ Jesus as strictly distinct from God.
      • Uses “Father” as another title for God.
      • Uses the title “the Lord” only for Jesus.
      • Presents God the Father as the Savior.

According to Colossians:

      • God reconciled the things in heaven to Himself through Christ.  
      • God is the active Force in creation. Christ has a passive role.
      • Everything that God does, He does through His Son. 
      • Describe believers as in unity with Christ.

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