More on the Trinity, Part 2
by Karl Kemp 10/22/2011 / Bible Studies
Here in Part 2 we will continue with the discussion of 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 17:1-5. (Jesus' words here, especially verses 3-5, clearly show that He, in His preincarnate state, the Word, God the Son, had been existing in glory with God the Father before the world was created, as in John 1:1-3. And they show that the Father sent Him, this Person through whom all creating took place, into the world to become the God-man. As this paper shows, many verses in the Gospel of John confirm that the preexistent Son was sent into the world to become the God-man. John 17:24 mentions that God the Father loved the Son before the creation of the world.) "Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, (2) even as You gave Him authority over all flesh [compare, for example, Matt. 28:18; John 3:35], that to all whom You have given Him [compare, for example, John 17:6, 9, 20-24], He may give eternal life. [[On Jesus' being glorified see John 17:5. The Father glorifies the Son by raising Him from the dead (He was the first man, though He was much more than just a man, to be raised with a glorified body), by exalting Him to His right hand, by "giving Him authority over all flesh" (over all mankind), etc. Christ's authority over all flesh includes His "[giving] eternal life" to those chosen by God (the elect) and His judging and removing all who persist in rebellion, without repentance (compare John 5:21-29). (I had a footnote on the elect: Taken in the fullest sense, God's elect includes all the people who will have a place in the new heaven and new earth with its new Jerusalem, very much including all the believers who lived in the days before the new covenant was ratified through the atoning death of the Lamb of God. The names of the elect are written in the Lamb's book of life: see, for example, Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; and 21:27.) We enter "eternal life" through the new birth by the Spirit (see, for example John 3:3-8, 15, 16, 36; 5:24).]] (3) This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God [[The full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ (and the Holy Spirit) are clearly taught in the New Testament (including here in John 17:1-5), but there are quite a few verses like this in the New Testament that emphasize the preeminent role of God the Father (see Rom. 16:26, 27; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; 15:27, 28; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; 6:13-16; and Jude 1:24, 25). Here He is called "the only true God." I'm totally sure that the Lord Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) love the fact that God the Father has the preeminent role in the Trinity.]], and Jesus Christ whom You have sent [God the Father sent His Son, who always existed with Him, into the world to become the God-man and our salvation (compare, for example, John 3:17; 17:8, 21, 23, 25)]. [[God (the triune God) is the only source of life, very much including spiritual/eternal life, and of everything else that is good. We must be right with God the Father and know Him and Jesus Christ through new-covenant salvation (which includes being united with the Son and the Father by the indwelling Spirit) to partake of spiritual/eternal life. To know the Father (and the Son) includes knowing about Him (who He is, what He has done and what He will do, especially His plan of salvation and His judgment of all who persist in rebellion) and having an experiential knowledge of Him (person to Person) by the indwelling Spirit. Christians partake of spiritual/eternal life in a preliminary sense from the time they are born again by the Spirit of God, but most of the glory of eternal life is reserved for the end of this age, when we will be born into the fullness of eternal life (compare, for example, Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:42-57; Col. 1:27; Titus 3:7; and Rev. 12:5).]] (4) I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. [[Compare John 4:34; 6:38. The Lord Jesus always perfectly obeyed the Father and perfectly accomplished the work assigned to Him. His greatest work involved His voluntary atoning death, which hadn't been accomplished when He spoke these words, but there is widespread agreement that Jesus spoke here from the point of view that it had been accomplished in that the time had now arrived for His crucifixion and He was fully committed to carry out that one last great work on the earth (compare, for example, John 1:29, 36; 3:14-18; 10:11-18; 12:20-33; 13:21-33; 18:11; and 19:28-30) - it was accomplished!]] (5) Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I [God the Son, a Person] had with You before the world was [Compare John 1:1-3, 14; 17:24; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-17; and Heb. 1:1-3]." It is very important to see that a whole lot more is taking place here than God the Son's being restored to the glory that He had with the Father before He condescended to become a man, the God-man (cf. Phil. 2:7, 8; John 1:14). Now the Lord Jesus Christ (the God-man), having overcome sin and God's enemies through His sinless life and atoning death, was to be glorified by the Father. Now He (the God-man) would have the authority to save (with a very full salvation) all believers and to judge and remove all unrepentant rebels. Genesis 3:15 had prophesied that Satan and his followers would be defeated by man. The God-man makes this work, but we [His people] have the privilege to participate in that warfare and judgment (see, for example, Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Rev. 2:26, 27; 5:10; 12:5; 17:14; and 19:19). All the verses I just listed refer to the time after we are glorified. Pretty soon comes eternal glory!
Those who are united with the Lord Jesus Christ by faith will ultimately be glorified with Him and reign with Him (see, for example Rom. 8:17, 18, 29; Rev. 3:21; 20:6; 22:5 [Rev. 22:5 shows that this will be a never-ending reign]). If He had not become a man (the God-man), we could not have been saved through His atoning death, and have become united with Him, and be glorified in union with Him. Christ Jesus exalts His people far above what Adam had before the fall (compare 1 Cor. 15:45-52). We will be glorified with Him and reign with Him forever - what a salvation plan! We will not, of course, become deity/God with Christ. We will be worshipping God (the triune God), serving Him, and enjoying Him and everything else in His kingdom forever.
Philippians 2:5-11. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus [[The apostle Paul was speaking of the attitude of humility as the preceding and following verses show. If God the Son could humble Himself to become a man (the God-man) certainly we Christians can, and we must, humble ourselves before God and before one another. Humility is the opposite of pride, which is at the root of sin. In these first few verses, we are seeing God the Son, a Person who existed with God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit) before He humbled Himself to become the God-man.]], (6) who although He existed in the form of God [[The Greek noun translated "form" could also be translated "nature." The NIV, for example, translates, "Who being in very nature God." He was deity, God the Son. He existed in the form of God, being God the Son, who was there with God the Father before anything was ever created, and through whom all things were created (see John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16, 17; and Heb. 1:1-3, 8-13), for example.]], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [[Even though God the Son always was fully deity with God the Father, He always recognized (and loved) the fact that He had a subordinate role to God the Father in the Trinity. God the Father created through Him; God the Father sent Him into the world, He was the Son of the Father; and many verses throughout the Bible show that God the Father has the preeminent role. (I had a footnote: See my papers titled, "Who Do We Pray To?" and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son" for many examples, and quite a few examples are included in this paper. Rather than grasp for more, He (as the next verses show) humbled Himself to leave the glory behind and become a man (the God-man), which was a gigantic condescension, and then to die a shameful death on the cross, all in submission to the Father's will.]], (7) but emptied Himself [I'll quote part of what the BAGD Greek Lexicon gives for the meaning here: "he emptied himself, divested himself of his prestige or privileges."], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. [He didn't cease being deity, God the Son, but He temporarily exchanged an infinitely high place for a place of little reputation that involved great suffering.] (8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [[Having become the God-man, He humbled Himself much further by voluntarily submitting to the crucifixion and all that it involved. The physical suffering was a small part of what He submitted to. The Scriptures make it quite clear that it was a very difficult assignment: "And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44), "Then He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.' And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not My will, but as You will' " (Matt. 26:38, 39). He was totally committed to always do the Father's will, and He knew that He was earning the right to save us and to judge and remove the devil and all those who follow him.]] (9) For this purpose also, [or, "Therefore" with the NIV.] God [God the Father] highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name [[Before God the Son humbled Himself (as pictured in verses 7, 8), He had a name above every name, excluding the name of God the Father, but now it was very different. Now He had earned the right to save us with a very full salvation; we are even united with Him (with God the Son, and through Him with God the Father) through His incarnation, atoning death and resurrection, and we are destined to be glorified with Him and to reign with Him forever. And now He has totally defeated the devil (see, for example, John 12:31; 16:11; and Heb. 2:14 [see Heb. 2:15-18 on His saving us]). This defeat will be fully manifested at the end of this age (see Rev. 12:7-9; 20:1-3, 10).]], (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." God's people bow willingly; His enemies (including Satan and his followers) will be subdued and forced to bow and acknowledge that God has defeated them through His beloved Son and that Jesus Christ is Lord, all to the glory of God the Father, who always had, and always will have, the preeminent role in the Trinity. God the Father did not give His Son a name above His name, nor could He have.
Colossians 1:15-17. "He is the image of the invisible God [[Compare John 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6; Heb. 1:3. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (God the Father) in the sense that He came, for one super-important reason, to reveal the Father to us (see John 1:18). Since He became a man (the God-man) He could effectively communicate with us in our dimension; the apostles (and many others) were able to see Him, to hear Him, to see the things that He did in the physical, human dimension. And as we have discussed in this paper, when we see His character, we are seeing the character of God the Father, and when we hear Him and see the things that He does, we are hearing and seeing things the Father gave Him to say and to do.
It must be understood, of course, that He is the image of God in a far higher sense than man, who was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). However, through the glory of new-covenant salvation, in union with God the Son, "we will be conformed to the image of [God's] Son" (Rom. 8:29; compare 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10) when we are glorified at the end of this age. But even then, there will be a very substantial difference between the Lord Jesus Christ and us. He will be deity with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit); we won't be, and we will worship Him with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit). We won't become deity, but a glorious destiny awaits us, even reigning with the Lord Jesus forever.]], the firstborn of all creation. [[I would translate "the firstborn over all creation," with the NIV, and it is to be understood that He is the firstborn Son of God the Father over all creation. Sometimes in the Bible, including here, the word "firstborn" has nothing to do with the idea of someone literally being born first. (I had a footnote: Some have wrongly understood these words to teach that there was a time when the Son did not exist and that He was the first person/being ever created.) God the Son always existed with the Father. Psalm 89:27, which is all the more important as a cross-reference because it prophesies of David's greater son, the Messiah, helps show what the word "firstborn" means here: God the Father says, "I also shall make him My firstborn, The Highest of the Kings of the earth." As Psalm 89:27 shows, for God to make the Messiah His firstborn Son means that He gives Him authority over all authority everywhere. Paul's point here in Col. 1:15 is that God the Father has given the Lord Jesus authority over all creation, which includes His having authority over every being or thing ever created. Or, we could say that He has given Him a name above every name (Phil. 2:9-11).
This is important, so I'll give three other cross-references that will help us understand what the apostle Paul meant by the word "firstborn" here. In Ex. 4:22 God said to Moses, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD [Yahweh], "Israel is My son, My firstborn." ' " It is clear that Israel wasn't God's firstborn son in any literal sense. And I'll read what God said in the last part of Jer. 31:9, "For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim in My firstborn." I'll quote one last example, an example that is quite relevant to the glorious status that we have as born-again children of God. I'll quote the relevant words from Heb. 12:23, "church of the firstborn who are enrolled I heaven...." The word "firstborn" is plural in the Greek. It refers to all true Christians "who are enrolled in heaven." We aren't dwelling in heaven yet (but we have access there through the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit), and we have a place reserved for us to dwell there forever. The word "firstborn" here in Heb. 12:23 has nothing to do with our being born first in any literal sense, but it refers to our privileged status as born-again children of God.]] (16) For by Him all things were created [These words give one reason (we'll speak of the other reason as we continue) why Jesus is "the firstborn over all creation": "For by Him all things were created." That fact certainly qualifies Him to have authority over everything that was created by Him. Typically the New Testament speaks of God the Father creating all things through Him, which it also does at the end of this verse.], both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities [[This includes the thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities both in the heavenly dimension and on the earth that are loyal to God and those who are in rebellion against Him. It is important to know that God did not create any of them evil; they followed the devil in his rebellion against God. If the Lord Jesus did not have authority over these evil beings, starting with the devil, they could thwart God's salvation plans and wreck havoc in the lives of Christians. For one thing, God limits what the evil one and his hosts are able to do against us, and at the right time they will be judged and totally removed from God's world.
It is also necessary for Christians to know that everything they could ever need is available in Christ. (I had a footnote: See the discussion of Col. 2:8-10 later in this paper.) We never have to go looking for help anywhere else, and we are certain to get into trouble if we start looking for help from angels or any other spiritual beings rather than to God and His beloved Son. Of course God can use His angels to bless us in various ways, but we must look to Him through Christ. Note that there was a problem at Colossae with an improper "worship of the angels" (Col. 2:18)]] - all things have been created through Him [all things have been created by God the Father through Him (see John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; and Heb. 1:2).] and for Him. [[For one thing, the fact that all things have been created for Him shows that all beings owe their allegiance to God the Father and Him. God the Father's plan to bring salvation and peace to His fallen world centered in His Son, who was to become the God-man, and who (after His all-important atoning death, resurrection, glorification, and ascension) would save all of the elect and remove by judgment all who continue to follow the devil through His authority as Lord over all.
This authority came not just because He was God the Son and all things had been created through Him. This authority came in part because He became the God-man, lived a sinless life, and died His all-important atoning death, through which He earned to right to save us and to overthrow Satan and all who follow him in his rebellion (see, for example, John 12:31; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:13; 2:8-15; and Heb. 2:14-16). The "peace" that Paul mentioned in Col. 1:20, for example, includes the peace that results when all persons have submitted to Jesus as Lord or have been removed by judgment.]] (17) He is before all things [He existed before they were created, and He has authority over them.], and in Him all things hold together [Compare Heb. 1:3. After all things were created through Him, God the Son has a role in holding all things together. The more we learn about the physics of our universe, the more we can appreciate the fact that He holds all things together, but not independently of God the Father or the Holy Spirit.]."
Hebrews 1:1-3. "God [God the Father], after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son [In the sense these words are used here, God the Father began to speak to us through His Son after He became the God-man and began His ministry on the earth.], whom He appointed heir of all things [[The Lord Jesus has authority now over all beings and things everywhere (see, for example Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9; Col. 2:10, 15), but He is waiting for the Father's time for Him to return to fully save His people and to subdue all who continue in rebellion (see, for example, Heb. 10:12, 13; 1 Cor. 15:23-28; Rev. 12:7-9; 19:19-21; 20:1-3, 7-10, 11-15; and there are a very large number of verses throughout the Bible that speak of the things the Lord Jesus will do at His second coming). When He returns He will establish His kingdom on the earth (the millennial kingdom) but that temporary kingdom will be replaced by the full glory of God's kingdom in His new heaven and new earth, as pictured in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation. Romans 8:17 is exciting for Christians, "and if children [born-again children of God], heirs also, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." Being faithful to God involves some suffering for this age.]], through whom also He made the world. [These words (along with John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16, 17) show that God the Son was with God the Father before any creating took place and that all things were created through the Son.] (3) And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature [Compare 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15], and upholds all things by the word of His power [Compare Col. 1:17.]. When He had made purification of sins [He purified us from sin through His all-important atoning death. Compare Heb. 10:10, "...we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."], He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high [referring to God the Father. See Psalm 110:1; Heb. 1:13; 8:1; 10:12, 13; 12:2. We see the two Persons of God the Father and God the Son in these verses, as we do so often throughout the Bible.]."
Some Key Bible Passages Used to Teach
a Oneness View of God:
Deuteronomy 6:4. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD [Yahweh] is our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one." I'll quote a sentence from what J. A. Thompson says here. (I had a footnote: "Deuteronomy" (Inter-Varsity Press, 1974, page 121.) "This small section (Deut. 6:4-9) has been known to the Jews for many centuries as the "Shema" (Hebrew, "Hear" ["Shema" is the Hebrew word translated "Hear" at the beginning of Deut. 6:4.]) and has been recited along with 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41 as a daily prayer."
Based on what I have heard and read, Deut. 6:4 is the number one verse used (sincerely used) by Christians who deny the Trinity to argue for a oneness view of God. I am quite sure, however, that this verse was written for the sole purpose of declaring that the God of Israel (the God of creation, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham) is the only true God. Some of the gods of the nations existed all right, but they were evil beings under Satan, and they were far from being in the class of the only true God, the One who had created every being and every thing that exists. (God didn't create Satan or any of the angels evil, but Satan rebelled against God through pride, and a third of the angels followed him in his rebellion.)
For one thing, it was totally necessary for the people of Israel to understand what a serious sin it was for them to worship the gods which all of the peoples apart from Israel were worshipping in the ancient world, and had been worshipping for a long time. All too often many of the people of Israel succumbed to the temptation to worship the gods of the nations. That sin went directly against the first commandment of the Ten Commandments. See Ex. 20:1-5; Deut. 5:6-10; and 6:5.
Deuteronomy 6:4 was not written to deny the Trinity that God progressively revealed, starting in the Old Testament, including in the five books of Moses. As my paper titled, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son: The Name Yahweh and a Listing of the Large Number of Passages in the Hebrew Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father" demonstrates, there are a large number of passages in the Old Testament where we can see the Person of God the Son. It is true, however, that we needed the light of the New Testament to adequately understand that glorious Person and the Trinity.
Verses like Deut. 4:35, 39 communicate the same message as Deut. 6:4 with the words, "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD [Yahweh], He is God; there is no other besides Him" and "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD [Yahweh], He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." There is only one God!
I'll quote a few sentences from what Earl S. Calland says here (I had a footnote: "Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 3 (Zondervan, 1992), page 65.) to show that the Hebrew word ("echad") that is translated "one" in Deut. 6:4 was sometimes used of a oneness that consisted of more than one part, "To the Jews verse 4 is not only an assertion of monotheism, it is also an assertion of the numerical oneness of God contradictory to the Christian view of the Trinity of the Godhead. This kind of oneness, however, runs contrary to the use of echad in the sense of a unity made up of several parts. In Exod. 25:6, 11, the fifty gold clasps are used to hold the curtains together so that the tent would be a unit (echad). ...."
This discussion on the meaning of Deut. 6:4 continues in Part
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.