Category: Trinity

Jesus as the firstborn

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

As we have seen in previous columns, the Bible declares Jesus the eternal Son of God. Even so, why does the apostle Paul depict Jesus as “the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)?

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a disturbing take on this. Consider how the Watch Tower renders Colossians 1:15-17 in its New World Translation:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things, and by means of him all other things were made to exist …” (emphasis added).

Note the unjustified insertion of the word “other” before “things” four times in the NWT.

The Watch Tower’s official website explains: “Jesus is very precious to Jehovah. Why? Because God created him before everything and everyone else. So Jesus is called ‘the firstborn of all creation.’ Jesus is also precious to Jehovah because he is the only one Jehovah created directly. That is why he is called the ‘only-begotten Son.’ Jesus is also the only one Jehovah used to create all other things.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is the first created being, whom they identify as Michael the archangel. Michael is sent to earth temporarily as a man, then recreated as an exalted archangel after his death on a torture stake and subsequent annihilation as a human being. But is this the proper way to understand Paul’s meaning of firstborn?

In a word, no.
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Other witnesses to Christ’s deity

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

In previous columns, we saw how John and Paul affirm the deity of Jesus. Here, we briefly survey the witness of the author of Hebrews, as well as Peter.

Hebrews 1:2-3 – Note several truths about Christ’s deity in these verses. First, God made the universe through Jesus. That is, Jesus is the Creator. When the writer of Hebrews says “through him,” he does not mean that Jesus is a secondary cause of creation; rather, Jesus is the agent through whom the triune God made everything. This verse corresponds with the testimony of John, who writes, “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3).

Next, the writer tells us the universe (aionas) was made through Jesus. This word means more than kosmos, or the material world. It may be rendered “ages,” and it means that Jesus is responsible for the existence of time, space, energy, matter – and even the unseen spiritual realm.

Next, we are told that Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.” That is, Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The author uses the Greek word apaugasma, a sending forth of the light. Jesus is divine radiance clothed in human skin. He is “the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The author of Hebrews goes on to describe Jesus as “the exact expression” of God’s nature. The Greek word rendered “expression” is charakter, used to describe the impression made by a stamp or a die on steel. Put another way, Jesus is the precise imprint of deity in human form, the perfect, personal emblem of divinity. This reminds us of Paul’s words in Colossians 1:15: “He is the image (eikon) of the invisible God.”

Finally, the writer assures us that Jesus is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” This is in the present tense. The same Creator who called everything into existence now holds everything together in divine sovereignty.
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The witness of Paul to Christ’s deity

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

In the previous column, we explored the eyewitness testimony of John with respect to Jesus’ deity. Here, we briefly survey what Paul has to say about the matter.

Although Paul likely had no personal encounters with Jesus prior to the crucifixion, he meets Jesus in dramatic fashion on the road to Damascus after Christ’s resurrection (Acts 9:1-9). Paul’s conversion, testimony, and epistles bear evidence of his conviction that Jesus was, and is, divine. Here are just three examples:

Romans 9:5 – “The ancestors are theirs [the Israelites], and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.”

This text is significant for at least two reasons. First, it is the earliest New Testament writing that calls Jesus “God” (dating to about AD 57), less than thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Second, the word “praised” (eulogetos) follows the word for God (theos) in the Greek text. This is unusual, for without exception in Scripture, a doxology places the word “praised” (or “blessed”) before the name of God. Here, Paul uses the reverse form, indicating that he intentionally equates Christ with God.
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The witness of John to Christ’s deity

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Previously, we saw that Jesus claims to be God. Further, He proves His deity through divine acts that only Yahweh can perform. But is there corroborating testimony? What do those who know Jesus best – the disciples who walk with Him – have to say about the issue?

The pages of the New Testament ooze with the deity of Christ – and most of the writers are strict monotheistic Jews! So, let’s consider a sampling of testimony from the apostles and other first-century eyewitnesses, beginning with John.

No other eyewitness goes to the lengths of the apostle John to bear testimony to the deity of Jesus.
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The deity of Christ in the New Testament

This is the 20th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

While the Old Testament offers glimpses of a second Yahweh figure – a visible manifestation of the one true God – the New Testament presents a more complete picture of the second person of the Godhead. Let’s begin with Jesus Himself.

Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists often argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” They assert that Christians have corrupted or misinterpreted the New Testament, or they reject the Bible outright.

But for those willing to consider the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament writers, and the convincing evidence that their words are accurately preserved, we may point our unbelieving friends to seven ways that Jesus does, in fact, claim deity. 

1. Jesus uses the divine expression “I AM.” In John 8:58, Jesus tells the religious leaders, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” These words echo Exodus 3, where God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush as “I AM WHO I AM,” or “YHWH” (Yahweh or Jehovah). The Jewish leaders clearly understand Jesus’ declaration of deity, for they pick up stones to throw at Him. Jesus uses the phrase “I am” (Greek: ego eimi) in several other places, either explicitly or metaphorically (John 6:20, 35, 48, 51; 8:12, 24, 28; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1; 18:5). 

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