What does the Bible say about the deity of Christ? For centuries, as affirmed at the Council of Nicea, Christians have used a wonderful list of verses to demonstrate from God's Word the deity of Jesus Christ. Here is another very different approach to show the same truth. (This is similar to the "Big Picture" approach used in the overview of the Bible called The Plot.)
Thus Saith the Lord: If we count how many times the Old Testament prophets said, "Thus says the Lord" we find them using that phrase, in the New King James Version of the Bible, about 420 times. The New Testament on the other hand, never once records that phrase. Jesus Christ, with all the red ink devoted to recording His words, never once used that ubiquitous phrase, "Thus saith the Lord." Rather, Jesus proclaims, "I say to you," in the Gospels! Not a single "Thus says the Lord," but rather, "I say to you," 135 times. The following chart demonstrates biblically that these two phrases, Thus saith the Lord, and I say unto you, indicate the same thing, that God is speaking. For Jesus Christ made it clear that He Himself was at the heart of His message. Unlike the righteous priests and kings, prophets and the apostles, the Lord came to teach us about Himself:
- "Follow Me" 19x Mt. 4:19; 8:22; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; Mk. 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Lk. 5:27; 9:59; 18:22; Jn. 1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; 21:19, 22
- Pray and act "in My name" 18x Mt. 7:22; 18:5; 18:20; [24:5]; Mk. 9:37, 39, 41; [13:6]; Lk. 9:48; [21:8]; 24:47; Jn. 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26; Acts 9:15
- "the Holy Spirit" comes "in My name" Jn. 14:26
- "for My name's sake" leave family and property Mt. 19:29; or even be killed 5x Mt. 24:9; [Lk. 21:12, 17;] Jn. 15:21; Acts 9:16
- Believe in the "name of the… Son" and "in the Son" 3x Jn. 3:18, 36; 9:35 and "in Him [Jesus]" 4x Jn. 3:18; 6:29, 40; 8:31
- "believe in Me" 14x Mt. 18:6; Mk. 9:42; Jn. 3:15-16, 18; 6:35, 47; 7:38; 11:25, 26; 12:44, 46; 14:1, 12; 16:8; 17:20
- You "are sanctified by faith in Me" Acts 26:18
- Live "in Me" Jn. 11:26
- "come after Me" Mk. 8:34; Lk. 14:27
- Abide "in Me" Jn. 15:2, 4:5, 7 "abide in Me" or else Jn. 15:6 "abide in My love" Jn. 15:9-10
- "where two or three are gathered" Jesus is "there in the midst of them" Mt. 18:20
- So too: "I [Jesus, will abide] in you" Jn. 15:4-5
- "know that I am He" Jn. 8:28 or "if you do not believe that I am He you will die in your sins" Jn. 8:24
- Do things "for My sake" Mt. 10:22, 39; even lose your life "for My sake" 4x Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; 10:29; Lk. 6:22
- "I never knew you, depart from Me" Mt. 7:23
- "I am willing; be cleansed" Mt. 8:3; Mk.. 1:41
- "confess Me" Mt. 10:32; Lk. 12:8
- Do not deny "Me" 7x Mt. 10:33; 26:34; Mk. 14:30, 72; Lk. 12:9; 22:34; Jn. 13:38
- Do not be "ashamed of Me" Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26 nor "My words"
- "love Me" 5x Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24, 28
- Do not reject "Me" Lk. 10:16; Jn. 12:48
- "He who is not with Me is against Me" Lk. 11:23
- Love Me "more than" your family members Mt. 10:37; [Lk. 14:26]
- "I… have loved you" Jn. 15:9, 12
- Be "worthy of Me" Mt. 10:37-38
- "Come to Me" 5x Mt. 11:28; Lk. 6:47; Jn. 5:40; 6:35; 7:37
- "I will give you rest" Mt. 11:28
- "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" Mt. 11:30
- I am "greater than the temple" "than Jonah" "than Solomon" Mt. 12:6, 41-42
- I am "Lord even of the Sabbath" Mt. 12:8; Mk. 2:28; Lk. 6:5 [Lord of God's Ten Commandments]
- Thus He says keep "My commandments" 4x Jn. 14:15, 21; 15:10, 12
- "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" Jn. 15:14
- "keep My word" Jn. 14:23-24
- "He who is not with Me is against Me" Mt. 12:30
- The angels are "His angels" Mt. 13:41; 16:27 and He commands "His angels" Mt. 24:31; Mk. 13:27
- The kingdom is "His kingdom" Mt. 13:41 and He calls it "My kingdom" Lk. 22:30
- Jesus called it "My church" Mt. 16:18 and believers are "My sheep" Jn. 10:14, 27 and they are "His elect" Mt. 24:31; Mk. 13:27
- Paul is a "vessel of Mine to bear My name" Acts 9:15
- "all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine" Jn. 17:10
- "My peace I give" Jn. 14:27 "in Me you may have peace" Jn. 16:33
- "My joy" should fill you Jn. 15:11
- "Who do men say that I am?" Mt. 16:13; Mk. 8:27 "who do you say that I am?" Mt. 16:15
- Receive "Me" Mt. 18:5; Mk. 9:37; Lk. 9:48
- Heaven and earth will pass away but "My words" will never Mt. [5:18] 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33
- Tell others about Jesus Mk. 5:19
- "you belong to Christ" Mk. 9:41
- Hear "My sayings" and do them Lk. 6:47
- Jesus has "His own glory" Lk. 9:26; [Jn. 2:11; 16:14] The Son is "glorified" 8x Jn. 11:4; 12:23; 13:31-32; [17:1, 5, 10 24]
- "He who hears you hears Me" Lk. 10:16
- Jesus expects praise, from stones if necessary Lk. 19:37-40
- Return "to Me" Lk. 22:32
- Be "My disciple" Lk. 14:27; Jn. 8:31; 15:8 Forsake all to "be My disciple" Lk. 14:33 "you are My disciples" Jn. 13:35
- "I shall send… the [Holy] Spirit" Jn. 15:26; 16:7
- The Holy Spirit "will testify of Me" Jn. 15:26
- We read in John 5 and Luke 24 that "the Scriptures… testify of Me" Jn. 5:39; [Lk. 24:44]
- "You [Apostles] also will bear witness [of Me] because you have been with Me" Jn. 15:27
- Paul gives "testimony concerning Me" Acts 22:18; 23:11
- "the Son gives life to whom He will" Jn. 5:21
- "seek Me" Jn. 6:26
- Serve "Me" Jn. 12:26
- "all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father" Jn. 5:23
- "I am the bread of life," "of heaven," "of God" Jn. 6: 32-33, 35, 41, [48,] 51
- Just seeing Christ is reason enough to believe in Him Jn. 6:36 
- Drink "My blood" and eat "My flesh" Jn. 6:53-54, 56
- "I will raise him up at the last day" Jn. 6:40 for He is the resurrection
- "The world… hates Me" Jn. 7:7
- "I am the light of the world" Jn. 8:12; 9:5; 12:46
- "I bear witness of Myself" Jn. 8:13-14, 18
- "know… Jesus Christ" for "eternal life" Jn. 17:3; [8:19; 10:10, 14]
- "the Son makes you free" Jn. 8:36
- "Abraham rejoiced to see My day" Jn. 8:56; "Before Abraham was, I AM" Jn. 8:58
- Of believers, Christ said, "I know them" Jn. 10:27
- "I give them eternal life" Jn. 10:28
- "I am the resurrection and the life" Jn. 11:25
- I "will draw all peoples to Myself" Jn. 12:32
- "I will… receive you to Myself" Jn. 14:3
- Be "Mine" Jn. 14:24
- "I am the vine" Jn. 15:5
- "without Me you can do nothing" Jn. 15:5
- "Because I live, you will live also." Jn. 14:19
- "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you" Jn. 15:16
- Those who oppress Christians are "persecuting Me" Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8; 26:14-15
"because they have not known… Me" Jn. 16:3
- The Spirit "will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it" Jn. 16:14
- "All things that the Father has are Mine" Jn. 16:15
- "Whatever He [the Father] does, the Son does" Jn. 5:19
- "the Father… loves you, because you have loved Me" Jn. 16:27
- "If I will that he remain" Jn. 21:22
- "I have overcome the world" Jn. 16:33
- "I am the way" Jn. 14:6
- "I am… the truth" Jn. 14:6
- "I am… the life" Jn. 14:6
- "I will… manifest Myself" Jn. 14:21
Scores of times Jesus uses the personal pronoun My with words like commandments, sake, words, lambs, sheep, peace, love, joy, voice, name, sayings, kingdom, angels, and church. Three examples powerfully illustrate the point. First, "Abraham rejoiced to see My day..." Secondly, "I know My sheep, and am known by My own." And thirdly, "Assuredly, I say to you... Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." The prophets and John were the messengers; Jesus is the Message, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and put Himself at the center of His message, because He is God.
The Forest for the Trees: A simple overview of Christ's message shows overwhelmingly that He is the Message. To paraphrase Greg Koukl from The John 10:10 Project, "You can take Buddha out and still have Buddhism, or take the prophet out and still have Allah, but if you take Jesus out you don't have Christianity any more." Jesus is either a blasphemer or God Himself. The above list comes from His words. We could make a similar list of Christ as the message using the remainder of the New Testament. And additionally, strong individual verses also show the Deity of Christ. The powerful and traditional proof texts show His deity even more effectively when presented alongside the big picture above of the ministry and message of Jesus Christ.
The Traditional Passages Showing Christ's Deity: Most of the primary verses with a sampling of the many others showing that, like the Father, Jesus is...
- Called God: John 1:1 with v. 14; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; Luke 1:16-17
- From Everlasting: Ps. 90:2 with Micah 5:2
- Receiving worship: Mat. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6 (etc., 10x) with Ex. 34:14; Acts 10:25-26 & Rev. 19:10
- Forgiving/Delegating Power to Forgive: Mat. 6:9, 12 with Jn. 20:23; Luke 5:20; Mark 2:5-11 & 1 Jn. 1:7-9
- Omniscient: John 10:15; 2:24-25 21:17
- Omnipresent: Ps. 139:7-10 with Mat. 18:20 & 28:20
- Omnipotent: Rev. 1:8 with 11-13, 17; 2:8; 5:11-6:1, 21:22-23; & 22:13
- Immutable: Mal. 3:6 with Hebrews 13:8
- The exact equivalent
in nature: Heb. 1:3; Phil 2:6 doesn't rob the Father to see Christ as His equal
in fullness: Col. 2:9 (in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead")
in glory: Isa. 45:25 with Gal. 6:14 and John 1:14; etc.
to whom every knee shalll bow: Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10
to whom every tongue shall confess: Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:11 and Rom. 14:10-11
as the Almighty: Rev. 1:8 with 11-13, 17; 2:8; 5:11-6:1, 21:22-23; & 22:13
as Creator: Isa. 45:5-7, 18 with John 1:3 and Col. 1:16-17
as Savior: Isa. 45:21 and Luke 1:47 with Titus 3:6; 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:11; 1 John 4:14
as searcher of hearts: Ps. 139:23-24 with John 2:24-25 & Rev. 2:18-19, 23
as possessor of the everlasting kingdom: Dan. 7:13-14
as King of Kings: Rev. 19:16 with Dan. 2:47 and Isa. 33:22
as Lawgiver: James 4:12
as Judge: Ps. 9:7-8; 50:6 & 75:7; Isa. 33:22; 66:16; Heb. 12:23 with John 5:22; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8
as Jehovah: Isa. 40:3 with Mat. 3:3; and Isa. 8:13-14 with 1 Pet. 2:7-8; Mat. 21:42; Mk. 12:10.
The Deity of Christ and Eternal Separation: Two doctrines, the afterlife of eternal separation from God in hell, and that of the deity of Christ, are inextricably linked. Therefore many of those who deny the deity of Christ, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Ronald Hubbard's Scientology, and Christian Science, also deny an afterlife of eternal separation from God. Why? God put eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11; Ps. 148:5-6) and so only a payment of infinite worth, something greater than the eternal futures of billions of human beings, could suffice to pay the price for our combined sin. When false teachers dismiss eternal punishment in Hades, they then fail to see the necessity of a Sacrifice of infinite worth.
Jesus Is God: The dramatic contrast in the above chart shows Christ's self-presentation compared to the angels and prophets who present God to the world. These other messengers elevated not themselves, but God. They focused attention not on themselves but on Him. Godly priests, kings, and apostles presented God as their motivating message, of course, and not themselves. Jesus, on the other hand, came speaking about Himself. His most oft used, favorite title for Himself, undoubtedly selected also to communicate His mission, is not the "Son of God", but the "Son of Man". For, eternally He was the Son of God, but being the Son of Man was new to Him and uniquely cherished. God the Son submits Himself to the Father, willingly, not as a sign of a lesser God, but of His greatness. For as He lowers Himself, He is exalted to the central truth of Creation! (See the above chart.) Thus His "I say unto you" is the Scripture's "Thus Saith the Lord"!
Three in the Bible: God exists as three persons in one Godhead, whom we refer to as the Trinity. Thus human beings made in His image also have a triune nature, and the cosmos itself is understood in threes, in the most fantastic ways. Before considering this, first see the Bible's extraordinary use of this number. Christ was three days in the tomb, which Jonah's three days foreshadowed, as did Abraham's three days of thinking that he would sacrifice his son Isaac on that same hill called Golgotha and Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22:14; 2 Chron. 3:1). Israel's three patriarchs are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The priestly tribe of Levi is from Jacob's third child (Gen. 29:34), as Leviticus is the third book of the Bible. And the day the law was given, the sons of Levi killed "about three thousand men" (Ex. 32:28), whereas the day the Spirit was given, "that day about three thousand souls were [saved]" (Acts 2:41; and see 2 Cor. 3:6). The Hebrew Scriptures comprise three sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Luke 24:44), and God created three archangels. The most noteworthy women are Eve, Sarah, and Mary. The magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. Three persons (one being the Son) started their public service at thirty years of age: Joseph (Gen. 41:46), a deliverer of his people; David (2 Sam. 5:4) seated on the messianic throne (2 Sam. 7:12-13); and "Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23). God could have led Esther to fast for two days, or four; and He could have kept Jonah in the whale for one day, or a week, but three days and three nights prefigures God’s plan of salvation for Christ's time in the grave. For Jesus "rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:4). And thus, the triune Christian God, the mystery of the Trinity, Three Persons in One God, is the one God whose testimony we can trust (answering both the philosophical problem of the origin of the one and the many, and Euthyphro's Dilemma by Socrates), having imprinted our world and even ourselves with His triune nature.
Threes Everywhere: The number three manifested in Scripture turns the Christian's attention outward to see space existing in three dimensions, height, width, and length, as does time in past, present and future. The electromagnetic force operates in positive, negative, and neutral, and in pigment the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue whereas in light they are red, green, and blue which three blend into the hues of the rainbow. We human beings on this third planet from the Sun experience matter primarily in three states, solid, liquid, and gas. The strongest shape for building is the triangle. Writers often give three examples and artists group in threes as in interior design, sculpting, and even movie directors, as they have the word trilogy (1, 2, 3) but no word for any other number of films. Photographers use the rule of thirds and the language of DNA uses only three-letter words. Everything reinforces the triune aspect of all of existence, a reflection of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. See more at kgov.com/3.
Tripartite Man: And so we humans are body, soul, and spirit (1 Thes. 5:23). For God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…" (Gen. 1:26). So mankind is made in God's image and likeness, image referring to our form, and likeness to our essence as sentient, morally-responsible persons. And unlike animals which look to the ground, men and women stand upright with a heavenly gaze.
God's Image: God created a form, that is, an image, for the eternal Son to indwell. The verses Jehovah's Witnesses assume undermine Christ's deity are actually verses describing this aspect of Him at the creation. For the very first thing that God created was this form for His Son to indwell! (See Gen. 1:26 along with Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14: Heb. 1:3; 5:5; 10:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; John 1:14; Phil. 2:5-6; 1 Tim. 2:5; and Rev. 1:13-18. When a son is "born" isn't the beginning of his existence anymore than when by taking up an image the Son became the "firstborn" of creation, was the beginning of His existence.) And in that image, "He made man" (Gen. 9:6), and not in the image of apes. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:27).
The Plurality in God: The very first verse of Genesis presents the plurality of God, with Genesis 1:1 using a plural subject and a singular verb, that is, In the beginning gods He created the heavens and the earth. Elohim is the plural of the typical Hebrew word for God, which is El (cherub and seraph for example become plural as cherubim and seraphim, with Elah likely being the dual form, and Elohim being a plurality, in this case, three for the triune God). So, did Moses make a grammatical error in the first sentence of the first book of Scripture, in what has become not only the world's best-selling book, but in the most well-known sentence in the history of the world by using a singular verb with a plural subject? Of course not. For this was intentional. The Hebrew Scriptures in the most solemn texts presents God as a unified plurality. What grammarians refer to as the "royal we" comes from God's references to Himself using the plural: "Let Us make man in Our image," (Gen. 1:26). The solemn Hebrew prayer, called the Shema Yisroel, to the "one God" uses another plurality. For "The Lord our God, the Lord is One (of plurality)" at Deuteronomy 6:4 uses neither of the expected terms, yachad or even bad, words meaning a singularity, but God's Word uses the word echad, which is one in plurality as used by God at the Tower of Babel, "the people are one," and by Joseph "the dreams of Pharaoh are one," and by Moses, "the people answered with one voice," and back again to the beginning of Genesis at the institution of marriage when God says, "and they shall become one flesh." So this foundation prayer to God does not the use the Hebrew words for one, which mean a singularity (which words are never used in the Bible referring to God), but God describes Himself in the Bible using the One of plurality. So the Shema says: the Jehovah (who is the one God) our Elohim (plural) Jehovah is a Plural Unity! And Deuteronomy 6:4 is the central passage to all theology of God. Then the Scriptures go on to teach that the three Persons of the Trinity are God the Father (Isa. 63:16; Mal. 2:10), God the Son (Ps. 2:12; Zech. 12:10 and as in the chart above), and God the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Isa. 48:16; Isa. 6:3; Rom. 5:5). See also Mat. 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 9; 2 Cor. 13:14, and Psalm 110:1 with Matthew 22:41-46, and verses that show the personhood of the Spirit including Heb. 10:15-17.
The Mystery in the Godhead: How can one God exist in three persons? Christian theologians have long described this as a mystery, but it is an expected mystery. Virtually everything, deep down, is a mystery. What is light (with its wave-particle duality)? What is life (with modern biology unable to agree on a definition)? What is matter (that it leaves modern physics bewildered)? What is space? What is energy? What is time? What is movement? (Is it a series of discrete stationary states?) How can the Creator bring the universe into existence from nothing? How can your non-physical spirit be attached to your physical body? How can God exist from the beginningless past? How can creatures procreate and bring everlasting beings into existence? In humility we acknowledge that virtually everything in the creation is a deep, almost unfathomable mystery. How much more mysterious would be the God who made us? If Christianity taught that there are three Gods in One God, that would be a contradiction, and by the laws of logic, therefore false. For 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 and each 1 would be 1/3rd of the whole, which is anathema to trinitarian theology. But by analogizing God with math we see that the number line lacks sufficient multidimensionality and points us to the 3-dimensionality of space and an appropriate anaology wherein 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. And likewise, if Christianity taught that there are three Persons in One Person, that also would be false. But Christianity teaches that there are three Persons in One God, and while being a deep mystery (what isn't?), that is no contradiction.
And finally, denial of Christ's deity is a central teaching of many of today's cults, including for example the Jehovah's Witnesses. This denial goes hand-in-glove with the rejection of eternality of hell. Also, not understanding the plurality of the Godhead creates philosophical dilemmas such as the problem of the one and the many. And Socrates' pre-Christian argument against God called Euthyphro's Dilemma is resolved by none of the world's religions except for the Christian Answer to Euthyphro in the eternal corroborating testimony of the three Witnesses of the Trinity.
Bible Resources: If you enjoyed the above study and you would like to learn more from the wealth of biblical resources available from Bob Enyart Live, then please consider getting our series on the Gospel of John, or at least starting with Volume I, titled, Is this Man God? And for more fun and to enrich yourself spiritually, consider reading The Plot, an overview of the Bible which is Pastor Bob's life's work. Also, we invite you to browse the Bible Study Department at our KGOV store. And you can call us at 1-800-8Enyart (836-9278) to tell Bob or a BEL staffer which topics of study you are most interested in, and we'll figure out which of our resources, if any, address your area of concern.
Postscript -- Is the Father-Son Relationship Eternal? The Scriptures help us see the errors in two claims about the Son that are held by a minority of believers, many of whom, thankfully, do assent to the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. One false teaching is against the eternality of the Trinity (immediately below, The Claim: No Past Trinity) and the other acknowledges the eternal Trinity but denies that ithe Second Person was always the "Son" (below, The Claim: No Past Son).
The Claim: No Past Trinity: The first claim, that no triunity existed in God until He decided to express Himself in that way, is offered to defend monotheism, that there is only one God. Christianity teaches that there is one God in three persons. can be falsified in three ways.
1) Because the "Father" is eternal His "Son" must also have been eternal. For by positing "no Trinity" through an eternity prior to the manifestation of such, a Christian is claiming the existence of a non-relational "Being". Theoretically, if such a Being could exist, it could not be a "Father" and may be non-binary. We estimate however that more than a thousand Bible verses present God as relational. Thus we teach that the five primary biblical attributes of our eternal God are that, "He is living, personal, relational, good, and loving." Not being "relational" has serious consequences including Euthyphro's, as linked to just below. And for those who may claim that "Father" could have been merely an eternal figure of speech, please see below on metaphor.
2) The Scripture asserts the existence of "the eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14). The Holy Spirit did not come to exist. If a defense of monotheism requires that mankind needs to know that God in the past was a unitarian Being who only later manifest Himself into three persons, it is surprising that the Bible would not teach this. Further, if there were a logical contradiction in three persons being One God, positing that One God manifest Himself into three persons does not make that apparent contradiction go away. That is not the answer to such a challenge. Rather, as shown above in The Mystery in the Godhead section, one God existing in three persons is not and never has been a contradiction. But like mostly everything else, it is a deep mystery.
(Some claim that John 15:26 teaches an origin for the Holy Spirit, who "proceeds from the Father". However, context is king. If that was the Lord's teaching, it would have been quite a jump out of His context. You can wreak havoc anywhere and especially in John 15 by ignoring the contextual. Jesus there assures His disciples that "the world hates you... because you are not of the world." The disciples were not extraterrestrials and were not eternal aliens at that, even though Jesus said, "you have been with Me from the beginning." And about unbelievers, the Lord said, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin". By taking that out of context one would assume unbelievers were sinless until just three years earlier. And "when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me." Context is king. Jesus did not bounce out of His context to drop a theological bomb. Rather, He was assuring them that although in "a little while" He will be with them no longer, He is sending the Holy Spirit who comes not from this world, but from the Father in heaven.)
3) Above, this article mentions our Christian Answer to Euthyphro's Dilemma. That writing makes a defense of the eternal corroborating testimony of the Trinity's three Witnesses. This also rebuts the first claim here that no Trinity existed in eternity past.
The Claim: No Past Son: The second related erroneous claim, as written about by Zeller and Showers, admits that the Persons of the Trinity have existed eternally, but that the Second Person did not become the "Son" until the Incarnation. This teaching at least has a proof text, which however appears to have been misapplied. One form of this second error is that through eternity past the second Person of the Trinity was the "Word" but not the "Son". This position claims that it was not until the Incarnation, or thereabouts, when the Father's prophecy was fulfilled, "This day have I begotten Thee", that the Word became the Son. The claim here is that the First Person of the Trinity sent the Second Person, the Word, to the world, who thereby became the Son. Let's look at four rebuttals to this claim.
First, the Bible never says that God sent the Word to the Earth who then became the Son. Among His many titles (the Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb of God, the Prince of Peace, the Son of Man, the Bridegroom, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, etc.), the Second Person of the Trinity is also referred to as the Word (John 1:1, 14) and He was of course sent to the Earth. However, when the Bible addresses the topic of WHO was sent to Earth, WHO came, WHO was given to the world, we don't read that the Word was sent and He became the Son, but rather, each time we read that:
- "He loved us and sent His Son" (1 John 4:10)
- "the Son of God has come" (1 John 5:20)
- "God gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16; and 3:17)
- "Unto us a Son is given" (Isaiah 9:6)
- "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Gal. 4:4)
- "the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14)
- "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world" (1 John 4:9).
Again, God did not send the Word into the world who became the Son through the Incarnation when He got here. Rather, God sent His "Son into the world". Even in the parable, "Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son'" (Mat. 21:37), "having one son, his beloved, he also sent him" (Mark 12:6).
A second way of recognizing from Scripture that the Son is eternal is that the "Father" is eternal. Without a Son, the First Person of the Trinity would not have been the Father. Further, with all the Old Testament passages referring to God as Father notwithstanding, He would not have become the Father until about 2,000 years ago with the Incarnation. However, while the famous messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9 raises the deep mystery of the separateness within, yet also the oneness of, God, its description of Him as "Everlasting Father" has long been held by Christians to teach that throughout eternity past, the Father has been the Father. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things" (1 Cor. 8:6), such that everything that has flowed from Him has flowed from Him as "the Father". Likewise, to the Ephesians, the Hebrew poetry places in proximity the "one Spirit" with the "Father of all", reinforcing that as the Holy Spirit has been eternally the Spirit, so too with the Father, as likewise when Luke recorded, "Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father'" (Luke 10:21) and Matthew, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mat. 28:19). Of course also, in the Hebrew Scriptures, prior to the Incarnation, God was referred to as Father. "Have we not all one Father? Has not God created us?" (Mal. 2:10; see also Deut. 32:6; Ps. 68:5; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; [43:10]; John 8:41; 5:21 [evidently referring to the three Old Testament resurrections]). Yes, of course, "Father" could be used as a metaphor, like the Father of our Country or the Father of Creation. However, that metaphor does not hang on nothing. It is "Our Father who art in heaven" that gives rise to the use of the Father metaphor. Also, the parallel passages to those above, regarding that the "Son" was sent, are those that teach us that the "Father" is the one who sent Him, such as Jesus' own frequently repeated statements about "the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30, 36-37; 6:39, 44, 57; 8:16, 18, 29, 42; 12:49; 14:24) and "I have come in My Father's name" (John 5:43). That is, the First Person who sent the Second Person to Earth, at the time of the sending, was already the Father. So to be the everlasting Father, of necessity, eternally, He has had a Son.
Thirdly, the burden of proof for such a new doctrine is on the person claiming that the Godhead's relationships were different prior to the creation, or prior to the Incarnation, than they are today. However, with its one proof text, the scriptural evidence will fail to make the case if that passage is not making a claim about the past relationship of the First and Second persons, but rather, is referencing the future Incarnation when God the Son will be begotten to become the Son of Man. For Psalm 2:7 is a messianic Incarnation prophecy. "You are My Son, today I have begotten You." The immediate context, and the three times that this passage is quoted, shows that this relates to the messianic plan for the Second Person rather than to the First Person's past relationship with the Second Person. In context, this is about Jesus as God's "King on My holy hill of Zion" [i.e., Jerusalem] (Ps. 2:6). That description applies because of and sometime after the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, for "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mat. 1:20). So too, each of the three quotes of Psalm 2:7 refer explicitly to its fulfillment in the First Advent of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). "And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm..." (Acts 13:32-33). Thus while some see Psalm 2 as claiming no past Father-Son relationship, the alternative traditional understanding is that it is referring to when God the Son becomes the Son of Man taking upon Himself the messianic role, with the Godhead as the Progenitor, so to speak, begetting Jesus' earthly existence. The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 2 and then explicitly connects it to a prophecy of the Incarnation, for Mary, Jesus' true earthly mother, descended from the line of David. "I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom... I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son" (1 Sam. 7:12-14). This messianic Incarnation prophecy is then quoted in Hebrews 1:5, again reinforcing that Psalm 2:7 refers to the Incarnation. Likewise, when quoted in Hebrews 5, the passage is associated with the prophecy that Christ would "become High Priest", another reference to His role through the Incarnation. Thus, the New Testament interprets Psalm 2:7 not as referring to some past spiritual begetting of the Son by the Father, but to God's begetting of His eternal Son through the virgin Mary whereby He became "the Son of Man", His favorite title for Himself.
Finally, Scripture teaches about the Second Person of the Trinity that, "All things were created through Him" (Col. 1:16) and "without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3). If these are literal and comprehensive, that means that the Second Person of the Trinity is the one who actually created everything. The things created explicitly include all the created positions of authority, "whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers" (Col. 1:16). That leaves this false teaching in the awkward position of claiming that while the Second Person was eternally existing, the "Sonship" was a created position. Yet, if it were, one would expect that the Son Himself would have created that position, which seems untenable. The Son wouldn't create His own "Sonship". Yet He indeed created every position of authority. That again suggests, as with the above three extensive observations and natural readings from Scripture, that the Father-Son relationship was not brought into existence but that it eternally emanated from the Godhead and that therefore God the Son is eternally the only begotten Son of the Father.