More on the Trinity, Part 1
by Karl Kemp 10/22/2011 / Bible Studies
Article by Kark Kemp; Written Sept. 2011. This article is a companion article for three other articles listed here under Bible Studies: "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son: The Name Yahweh and a Listing of Some of the Large Number of Passages in the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; and "Who Do We Worship?"
"Scripture Quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
I'll always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, in this article unless otherwise noted. Sometimes I'll make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious.
Some Key Passages from the New Testament Where We See the Full Deity and Preexistence of God the Son as a Person Distinct from God the Father:
John 1:1-18 (6 pages)
John 8:58 (with 8:57, 59)
Some Key Bible Passages Used to Teach a Oneness View of God:
John 10:30; 12:44, 45; and 14:7, 9-11 (8 pages for these three passages)
Acts 2:38 (with Acts 2:36-42); 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 1 Cor. 1:13 and Matt. 28:19
1 Corinthians 8:4 (with 8:5, 6)
Some Key Passages from the New Testament Where We See the Full Deity and Preexistence of God the Son as a Person Distinct from God the Father:
John 1:1-18. (For a fuller discussion of these super-important verses, which are a prologue for the Gospel of John, see my paper that includes a verse-by-verse discussion of these verses.) "In the beginning [Compare Gen. 1:1. John means back before any creating had taken place. The time system of our world didn't exist yet, and God isn't limited to the time system of our created world.] was the Word [The Word (Greek Logos) is a title for the God the Son, who always existed as a Person with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit). Also see John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13.], and the Word was with God [God the Son was with God the Father. I'll quote John 17:5, "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." They always had a glorious Person to Person relationship.], and the Word was God. [[The Word isn't being confused with the Person of God the Father here. For one thing, the second use of the Greek word for God ("theos") in this verse does not have the definite article, whereas the first use of the word does have the definite article. The word for God with the definite article perfectly fits God the Father, the One who is typically called God throughout the New Testament. The second use of the Greek word, without the definite article, communicates the fact that the Word is fully deity, without confusing Him with the Person of God the Father. As we continue with these verses, we learn that every person, being, or thing, including matter that was ever created was created "through" the Person of God the Son (see John 1:3, 10, 11, for example). And as we continue with the Gospel of John it is confirmed again and again that the Word was a Person, a Person who was eventually sent into the world by the Father.
I'll read 1 John 1:1-3, which is an important cross-reference, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life - (2) and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us - (3) what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."]] (2) He was in the beginning with God. [As the margin of the NASB shows, "He" would more literally be translated "This One." Whether we translate "He" or "This One," this word, which is masculine in the Greek, clearly refers to a Person, not to a word, thought, idea, or plan in the mind of God the Father. The fact that the Word is a Person is confirmed in most of the verses that follow, down to, and including, John 1:18. This is important information when we consider the oneness interpretation of John 1:1, because that interpretation doesn't have any room for the Word to be Person with God the Father before Jesus (the God-man) existed. If the Word is a Person, which He clearly is in these verses, then the oneness view of God is wrong. I don't make a comment like that to show disrespect for anyone; not at all; but we desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches.] (3) All things came into being through Him [[through the Person of God the Son. I'll quote the relevant words from John 1:10, "and the world was made through Him." I'll quote 1 Cor. 8:6, "yet for us there is but one God, the Father (The preeminent role of God the Father is strongly emphasized in this verse and in quite a few other verses in the New Testament.), from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom (The Greek has the same preposition used in John 1:3, 10, and in the next two verses that I'll quote as we continue, the preposition "dia" used with the genitive case. I would translate "through whom" here in 1 Cor. 8:6) are all things (in that God the Father created all things through Him), and we exist through Him." I'll also read the words at the end of Col. 1:16, "all things have been created through Him and for Him." And Heb. 1:2 says, "in these last days (God the Father) has spoken to us in His Son, who He appointed heir of all things, through whom (God the Son) also He (God the Father) made the world." These verses all make it clear that God the Father created everything through His Son, a Person, not through a word, thought, plan, thing, etc. Also see Heb. 1:10-12.]], and apart from Him [God the Son] nothing came into being that has come into being. (4) In Him [God the Son] was life [In that God the Son was deity, He had life in Himself.], and the life was the Light of men. [[The Gospel of John frequently speaks of Jesus being the Light of men. One of the roles of God the Son was to make light, spiritual light (which includes the truth about God and righteousness) available to men. (God, the triune God is the only source for life, light, and everything else that is good.) As the next verse and verse 9 show, the Son made that light available, as He shined with the light of God, in the days before He became the God-man. And the Gospel of John shows that He made that light available (and in a more personal, more powerful way) after He became the God-man.]] (5) The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. [[The light from God the Son was shining in the darkness, but mankind, speaking of mankind in general (there were exceptions like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.), was not receptive to the light - mankind rejected the light. Mankind was in spiritual darkness and spiritual death after the rebellion and fall of Adam and Eve (see Rom. 5:12-21, for example). As we will see in John 1:9-11, even after God the Son came into the world as the God-man, mankind, speaking of mankind in general, still rejected God the Father, God the Son, and the light of God (see John 3:19-21, for example). The sin problem runs very deep in the heart of man. Verse 13 adds (thank God!) that some people did receive God the Father, the Lord Jesus and the light of God and became born-again Christians.]] (6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John [John the Baptist]. (7) He came as a witness, to testify about the Light [see John 1:29-40, for example], so that all might believe through him [through John the Baptist]. (8) He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. (9) There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. [[I can't live with the translation of the NASB here. I'll give a literal translation of the Greek that yields, I believe, the intended meaning: (My translation is very similar to the NIV, which I'll quote, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.") "The true Light [God the Son], which shines on every man, was coming into the world." I believe it is better to translate "shines on" (which is a reasonable way to translate the Greek verb used here) than "gives light to" because the translation "gives light to" tends to communicate the idea that the people receive the light (and are enlightened by the light) that is made available to them, but verse 5 has already informed us that the people in the darkness (speaking for the large majority) did not receive the light. Verses 9, 10 confirm that the people (speaking for the large majority) had not received the light, and did not even receive the light when God the Son (through whom they had been created) came into the world through the virgin birth. The words, "coming into the world" speak of God the Son's coming into the world to become the God-man. Notice that verse 10 starts with the words, "He was in the world." The words at the end of verse 9 speak of His coming into the world. Verse 14 adds, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."
I'll list some of the verses from the Gospel of John that speak of God the Son's, a Person, coming into the world from heaven, having been sent by God the Father. For one thing, these verses, by themselves, should suffice to show that God the Son is a Person distinct from God the Father, and that He existed with God the Father before He became a man. Quite a few verses in the New Testament (including John 1:1-3 and other key verses that we discuss in this paper) show that He existed with the Father before any creating took place, before the time system of our created world existed: John 3:13 ("He who descended from heaven"); John 3:17 (God the Father sent His Son into the world); John 3:31 (He comes from above and "He who comes down from heaven"); John 6:38 ("For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."); John 6:46 ("Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He [God the Son, a Person] has seen the Father."); John 6:62 ("...the Son ascending to where He was before") ; John 7:33 ("then I go to Him who sent Me"); John 8:14, 16, 18 ("I know where I came from and where I am going"; "But I and the Father who sent Me..."; "and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me"); John 13:3 ("Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God [God the Father] and was going back to God."); John 16:27, 28 ("For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.")]] (10) He was in the world [He, this Person, the Lord Jesus, the Word, God the Son, who had taken on flesh to become the God-man], and the world was made through Him [John has already informed us in verse 3 that God the Father created the world through Him, through God the Son in His preincarnate state.], and the world did not know Him. [John has already informed us in verse 5 that mankind (speaking for the great majority), which was in the darkness, did not receive the light that shined on them. They did not know Him when He came into the world, which showed how serious the spiritual death, bondage to sin and to the kingdom of darkness problem was, and as the next verse shows they "did not receive Him."] (11) He came to His own [[The Greek more literally reads, "Unto His own things (or, possessions) He came." "His own things/possessions" is a translation of the Greek "ta idia," where "ta" is a neuter plural definite article and "idia" is a neuter plural adjective. Apparently John used the neuter here (even though the masculine form of the adjective was readily available, as we will see as we continue with this verse) to make the important point that the people to whom the Word, God the Son, came were part of that which God the Father had created through Him. Having been created by God (the triune God), they owed Him their allegiance, and all the more so after the Word condescended to become a man (the God-man) and then to die for them, bearing their sins with the guilt and the penalties. The NIV translates, "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive him."]], and those who were His own did not receive Him. [["His own" here is a translation of "hoi idioi," where "hoi" is a masculine plural definite article and "idioi" is a masculine plural form of the same adjective that was used earlier in this verse. After making the point that the Word came to "His own things/possessions" with the first words of this verse (by using the neuter plural form of this adjective), he switched to a masculine plural form of this same adjective. The masculine was the typical gender used for people, unless the people happened to be female.
Many believe "His own" and "those who were His own" is limited to the people of Israel. It is true, of course, that God had a special relationship with the people of Israel and that they had a special obligation to submit to the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. I believe, however, that John was speaking of mankind worldwide here in verse 11, as he was in verses 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, and 13.]] (12) But as many as received Him [received Him by submitting to Him in faith, and to the One who sent Him, and to the gospel], to them He [God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ] gave the right [or, the authority] to become children of God [As verse 13, and many other verses show, we become born-again children of God the Father.], even to those who believe in His name [[the Word's, God the Son's, the Lord Jesus Christ's name. To believe in His name includes believing all that the Bible teaches about Him, very much including all that the Bible teaches about Him here in John 1:1-18. And we must understand that believing in His name includes a commitment from the heart to live in accordance with the terms of the new covenant, on a continuous basis, by the saving, enabling grace of God in Christ. And there is no way we can submit (in faith) to God the Son and not submit to God the Father, the One who sent Him into the world. Jesus always made it very clear that He had been sent by the Father and that He was totally committed to the Father and His will. For one super-important thing, He came to solve the sin, spiritual death problem and bring us to the Father.]], (13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [This glorious, all-important birth comes from God (see, for example, John 3:3-8; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; and 1 John 2:29; 3:9). It does not, and cannot, come from anything of the created world, including man, or the will of man.] (14) And the Word [God the Son, who had always existed with God the Father] became flesh, and dwelt among us [[See Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-38; Rom. 1:3; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7, 8; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 1:1-3; 4:2; and 2 John 1:7. God hasn't revealed all the details, but is it clear that the Word, God the Son, became a man, but not just a man - He became the God-man. From the time of His incarnation, He was one Person with two natures, He was deity (God the Son) and He was human. He temporarily set aside His glory (to a significant extent) when He became a man (see John 17:1-5, Phil. 2:7, 8, for example), but He never ceased being deity, and He will be worshipped forever with God the Father (see, for example, Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 5:11-14; 21:22, 23; 22:1-21). Jesus Christ was not spiritually dead, as all men have been since the fall, and He never sinned.]], and we saw His glory [[Throughout His life on earth, His glory was manifested to some extent, and especially after He was anointed by the Spirit to become the Anointed One/the Messiah/the Christ (see John 2:11, "This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory....") through who He was and by the things He said and did. The apostles Peter, James, and John were privileged to see His glory in a special sense at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; and 2 Pet. 1:16-18). Many disciples, especially the apostles, saw something of His glory after He was resurrected.]], glory as of the only begotten from the Father [I would translate, "the unique Son of the Father" or "the unique One of the Father"], full of grace and truth [see John 1:17]. [[In the margin, the NASB has a note, "or unique, only one of His kind," instead of "only begotten." There is widespread agreement in our day that the Greek adjective "monogenes" does not mean "only begotten"; it should be translated "unique" or the equivalent. (I had a footnote here: See my paper on John 1:1-18 for the details.) It is important to understand that when orthodox Christians have spoken of the only-begotten Son, they were not saying that there was a time when the Son did not exist. They thought in terms of His being eternally generated/begotten by the Father. (I had a footnote: See my paper on John 1:1-18 for more details.) This same adjective is also used of the Son of God in John 1:18; 3:16, 18 and 1 John 4:9. In John 3:16, 18 and 1 John 4:9 (and probably also in John 1:18), the word "Son" is included in the Greek. I would translate "the unique Son" in John 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9; we'll discuss John 1:18 as we continue. Here in John 1:14 it is necessary to supply another word with the adjective; we could translate "the unique Son" or "the unique One." The angels are sometimes called "sons of God" in the Bible, and so are born-again Christians, but the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Son of God in a unique, very special, sense. He is deity, through whom the angels and men (and everything else) were created, for one super-important difference.]] (15) John [John the Baptist] testified about Him and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me [see John 1:30]." ' [[Jesus came after John the Baptist in that He was born some six months after him (see Luke 1:36) and in that John's ministry started earlier and prepared the way for Jesus and His ministry. But John realized that he and his ministry were very much subordinate to Jesus and His ministry (compare, for example, Matt. 3:11-15; Luke 3:16, 17; John 1:27). John knew quite a bit about Jesus and His ministry (see John 1:26-43; Luke 1:5-80, for example). It is significant that John knew about Jesus' preexistence: He said, "for He existed before me," even though it was understood that John was born before Jesus was. John the Baptist was speaking of Jesus' preexistence as a Person, not of His preexisting as a word, or thought, etc. in the mind of God the Father. John the Baptist also knew, for example, that Jesus was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36) and that He would baptize in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33), in the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11, 12). He also saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Jesus and heard a voice out of heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (see Matt. 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10, 11; John 1:33).]] (16) For of His fullness we have all received [compare Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:13; Col. 1:19; and 2:9], and grace upon grace. [[Every aspect of new-covenant salvation that we receive in/through the Lord Jesus (which includes everything we could ever need now and forever, including truth, knowledge, wisdom, redemption, forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, provision for our daily needs in this world, glorification, having a place in God's eternal kingdom, and reigning with Him and the Lord Jesus Christ forever) comes to us by the all-sufficient, super-abundant grace upon grace of God in Christ Jesus. We did not, and could not, earn/merit these things.]] (17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. [[The Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant, was given through Moses. The Mosaic Law was from God, it was good, it was true, and some grace accompanied that covenant, but God didn't give the old covenant to solve the sin, spiritual death, darkness, Satan problem. God's plan, from before the creation of the world (see, for example, 1 Pet. 1:20; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8; 17:8), was to send His Son to die for our sins and to fully solve the sin, spiritual death, Satan, darkness problem. The all-sufficient grace of God in Christ - the "grace upon grace" spoken of here in verse 17 - avails to fully save us and to totally remove sin, spiritual death, darkness, Satan and all who continue to follow him in his rebellion against God from His kingdom forever. The Mosaic Law was true, but the full, complete truth was not manifested until Jesus Christ, who is the truth, was manifested. As verse 14 says, He was "full of grace and truth." Compare John 8:32; 14:6; and 18:37.]] (18) No one has seen God at any time [Compare Ex. 33:20; 1 Tim. 6:16; and 1 John 4:12. No man has seen God the Father at any time, not in any full, direct sense. After we are glorified we will see Him as He is (compare 1 John 3:2) and face to face (compare 1 Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4).]; the only begotten God (I had a footnote: See my paper on John 1:1-18 for more details on this verse.) [[or, probably better "unique Son," not "only begotten God." The Greek behind "only begotten" is "monogenes," the adjective that we discussed in some detail under verse 14. Here, as in verse 14, I believe a translation like "unique" was intended. The interpretation of this verse is complicated by the fact that many ancient Greek manuscripts have the word for "Son" ("huios") following "monogenes" instead of the word for "God" ("theos"). Quite a few translations follow the Greek text that has the word for "Son," including the KJV ("the only begotten Son"); the NKJV ("the only begotten Son"); the RSV ("the only Son"); the NEB ("God's only Son"); the New Living Translation ("his only Son"); and the Jerusalem Bible ("the only Son"). If the original reading was "monogenes" followed by "huios" (and I rather strongly favor this reading), I would translate "the unique Son," or the equivalent. Remember that John 3:16, 18, and 1 John 4:9 have the adjective "monogenes" followed by the word for Son.
It is possible that "God" (instead of "Son") was the original reading. If so I would understand this verse in the sense given by D. A. Carson and others. (I had a footnote: "Gospel According to John" (Eerdmans, 1991), page 134. See my paper on John 1:1-18 for more details on this verse.) "...the unique and beloved one (the term is "monogenes"...), [himself] God, has made him [God the Father] known. That is probably the correct text [with the reading God instead of the Son].... What it means is that the beloved Son, the incarnate Word (1:14), himself God ["God" in the sense of deity, as in verse 1] while being at the Father's side - just as in v. 1 the Word was simultaneously God [God the Son] and with God [with God the Father]...."]] who is in the bosom [" 'In the bosom of' is a Hebrew idiom expressing the intimate relationship of child and parent, and of friend and friend (cf. [John] 13:23." (I had a footnote: R. V. G. Tasker, "Gospel According to St. John" [Eerdmans, 1969], page 49.)] of the Father, He has explained Him. ["has made him known" NIV; "has revealed him" New American Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect Person to reveal/make known God the Father (and the triune God). He was/is deity with the Father; He became a man (the God-man), which permitted Him to dwell with men and communicate with us in our dimension; He was anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit; He had the same nature, character, attitudes, motives, and priorities as the Father, and He spoke the words that the Father wanted Him to speak and did the works the Father wanted Him to do (compare, for example, John 5:19; 10:37, 38; 12:49; and 14:8-10).]
John 8:58 (with 8:57, 59). "So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' (58) Jesus said to them, 'Truly [Amen], truly [Amen], I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.' (59) Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself ["was hidden" note in margin of NASB; if this is the idea God hid Him, one way, or another; it is clear that this wasn't the right time for Jesus to die, and He was not to die by stoning] and went out of the temple."
Jesus clearly spoke of His preexistence (His preexistence as a Person) in verse 58, having existed before Abraham (who lived some two thousand years before Jesus was born of the virgin), but He did more than that: There is very widespread agreement that He was declaring His deity with the words "I am." The words "I am" here (compare John 8:24, 28; 13:19) undoubtedly build on the super-important words "I AM" and "I AM WHO I AM" (or, probably better, "I AM FOR I AM") of Ex. 3:14, where God gave these words as His name. The name "I AM" is very closely related to the name "Yahweh," which was used in Ex. 3:15 and more than 6,800 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. See the discussion on the super-important meaning of these names at the beginning of my paper titled, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son."
Those Jews would have undoubtedly stoned Jesus for just saying that He existed before Abraham, but they would have been even more angered by His claim to be deity with the words "I AM." It was totally legitimate for Jesus to take that name for Himself because that name, which referred first and foremost to God the Father in the Old Testament, was applicable for Him too in that He was deity, and it was used for Him several times in the Old Testament. In fact, there is widespread agreement that it was God the Son who appeared to Moses in Exodus chapter 3, as the Angel of Yahweh. (See Ex. 3:2 and the paper I mentioned in the preceding paragraph.)
We will continue this study in article 2 of this 5 part article.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.