Tagged: Trinity

Ten truths about the Incarnation

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 sought to establish that the Incarnation means the eternal Son of God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As such, Jesus is one person in two distinct but undivided natures: human and divine. In addition, we explored how these two natures work together as the eternal Son of God adds sinless humanity to His deity via the miracle of the virgin birth.

Now, it may prove helpful to summarize essential truths about the Incarnation. These truths help us form a framework for better understanding the person and work of Christ. They also help establish a foundation for exploring the thornier issues related to the Incarnation.

The following 10 truths are drawn from a number of sources, including the systematic theologies of Wayne Grudem, Charles Hodge, and Lewis Berkhof, and are summarized in God Among Sages by Kenneth Samples.

1. Jesus Christ is one person possessing two distinct natures: a completely divine nature and a completely human nature. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth may rightly be called the God-Man.

Continue reading

The doctrine of the Incarnation

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

Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once claimed the Spirit of God fell upon him and revealed a principle that has become an apt summary of Mormonism: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.”

In other words, the LDS god of this world once was a mere human who attained deity, showing us the path to our own godhood. This principle of “eternal progression” is a stunningly unbiblical doctrine that sets Mormonism outside the boundaries of historic Christianity. At the same time, it raises questions, not only about God, but about the Son of God: Who is Jesus? Where did He come from? Why and how did He become human?

The doctrine of the Incarnation – God becoming a human being in Jesus of Nazareth – is central to Christianity. Get it wrong and many other non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith quickly veer into counterfeit territory.
Continue reading

Jesus as the only begotten

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 showed how Jehovah’s Witnesses twist the use of “firstborn” in Scripture to deny the deity of Christ. They also misuse the term “only begotten,” which appears several times in the Gospel of John, most notably in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).

Many modern translations render the term “one and only Son,” emphasizing Christ’s uniqueness.

Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that “only begotten” means Jesus is the only direct creation of Jehovah, who then created all other things through His Son. The key is the Greek word monogenes. James White explains how linguistic studies and the discovery of ancient papyri in the Egyptian deserts within the last century have clarified a proper understanding of this term:

“It was assumed that the term was made up of two parts: monos, which means ‘only,’ and gennao, which is a verb meaning ‘to beget, give birth to.’ The assumption was half correct. Monogenes does come from monos but not from gennao; rather, the second part of the word comes from a noun, genos, that means ‘kind’ or ‘type.’

“Therefore, monogenes means ‘one of a kind, unique’ rather than ‘only begotten,’ and, accordingly, the term was used of an only son, a unique son. The importance for Christology is clear: No one can base a denial of the Son’s eternal nature upon this term, for it does not refer to a ‘beginning’ at all but instead describes the uniqueness of the object.”

The apostle John, who takes great care to establish the deity of Jesus, wants us to know that while Jesus is the Son of God, His Sonship is an eternal, one-of-a-kind relationship with God the Father. Believing sinners are “begotten” in the sense that we are born again, or made spiritually alive through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Our sonship is through adoption; Christ’s Sonship is by the very nature of His eternal relationship with the Father.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading