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WHO IS "the Only True God"?
A fourth reason for this interpretation is seen in Paul's purpose in this context. His purpose has been to persuade the Philippians that they should 'do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves' (Philippians 2:3), and he continues by telling them, 'Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others' (Philippians 2:4). To persuade them to be humble and to put the interests of others first, he then holds up the example of Christ: 'Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant ...' (Philippians 2:5-7).
Now in holding up Christ as an example, he wants the Philippians to imitate Christ. But certainly he is not asking the Philippian Christians to 'give up' or 'lay aside' any of their essential attributes or abilities! He is not asking them to 'give up' their intelligence or strength or skill and become a diminished version of what they were. Rather, he is asking them to put the interests of others first: 'Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others' (Philippians 2:4). And because that is his goal, it fits the context to understand that he is using Christ as the supreme example of one who did just that: he put the interests of others first and was willing to give up some of the privilege and status that was his as God. This is a very important point to make to all who are inclined to accept the teachings of the WBTS who have gone beyond other cults in blasphemously mis-translating this passage (and many others) in their efforts to try and deny the deity of Christ Jesus.
The best understanding of this passage is that it talks about Jesus giving up the status and privilege that was his in heaven: he 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped' (or 'clung to for his own advantage'), but 'emptied himself ' or 'humbled himself ' for our sake, and came to live as a man. Jesus speaks elsewhere of the 'glory' he had with the Father 'before the world was made' (John 17:5), a glory that he had given up and was going to receive again when he returned to heaven. And Paul could speak of Christ who, 'though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor' (2 Corinthians 8:9), once again speaking of the privilege and honour that he deserved but temporarily gave up for us.
The fifth and final reason why the 'kenosis' view of Philippians 2:7 must be rejected is the larger context of the teaching of the New Testament and the doctrinal teaching of the entire Bible. If it were true that such a momentous event as this happened, that the eternal Son of God ceased for a time to have all the attributes of God - ceased, for a time, to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, for example - then we would expect that such an incredible event would be taught clearly and repeatedly in the New Testament, not found in the very doubtful interpretation of one word in one epistle. But we find the opposite of that: we do not find it stated anywhere else that the Son of God ceased to have some of the attributes of God that he had possessed from eternity. In fact, if the kenosis theory were true (and this is a foundational objection against it), then we could no longer affirm Jesus was fully God while he was here on earth. The kenosis theory ultimately denies the full deity of Jesus Christ and makes him something less than fully God, and thus is rejected by orthodox Christians.
It is important to realize that the major force persuading people to accept kenotic theory was not that they had discovered a better understanding of Philippians 2:7 or any other passage of the New Testament, but rather the increasing discomfort people were feeling with the formulations of the doctrine of Christ in historic, classical orthodoxy. It just seemed too incredible for modern rational and 'scientific' people to believe that Jesus Christ could be truly human and fully, absolutely, God at the same time. The kenosis theory began to sound more and more like an acceptable way to say that (in some sense) Jesus was God, but a kind of God who had for a time given up some of his Godlike qualities, those that were most difficult for people to accept in the modern world. It is also notable that this occurred in the era of the foundation of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians - clearly the spirit of anti-Christ was having a 'field day' in the late 19th century!
Conclusion: Christ Is Fully Divine The New Testament, in hundreds of explicit verses that call Jesus 'God' and 'Lord' and use a number of other titles of deity to refer to him, and in many passages that attribute actions or words to him that could only be true of God himself, affirms again and again the full, absolute deity of Jesus Christ. 'In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell' (Col. 1:19), and 'in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily' (Col. 2:9). Having seen that Jesus is truly and fully man we logically conclude that He is truly and fully God as well. His name is rightly called 'Emmanuel,' that is, 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23).
Why Was Jesus' Deity Necessary? The previous section listed several reasons why it was necessary for Jesus to be fully man in order to earn our redemption. Here it is appropriate to recognize that it is crucially important to insist on the full deity of Christ as well, not only because it is clearly taught in Scripture, but also because (1) only someone who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him - any finite creature would have been incapable of bearing that penalty; (2) salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9 NASB), and the whole message of Scripture is designed to show that no human being, no creature, could ever save man - only God himself could; and (3) only someone who was truly and fully God could be the one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), both to bring us back to God and also to reveal God most fully to us (John 14:9).
Note this fact which cultists and other religions have no answer to - Christians have a Saviour who, being fully God, is utterly infallible and thus can never fail. He will not lie, or die, or sin, or fail in any way whatsoever! By contrast, the cults 'Jesus' is either a 'small god' inferior to Almighty God (Jehovah's Witnesses), a 'god' who was once a man as we are (Mormons), a man who is only a 'manifestation' of God (Christadelphians), or some other specious view. Each false 'Christ' is fallible and, somewhere in eternity might fail, or decide he wanted to be the top 'god' - e.g. the Mormons 'Jesus' who they claim is the 'half-brother' of Satan; since Satan rebelled and fell and is supposedly of the same nature as their 'Jesus', what confidence could anyone have that their 'Saviour' will not also rebel sometime in eternity! This possibility bodes badly for the Mormons' future - even if their 'Jesus' were not already an anti-Christ! Equally sadly, for the Jehovah's Witnesses, is that their 'Jesus' is also a created being, like the Mormons' 'Jesus', and therefore they also seek salvation through a potentially fallible creature who may rebel or fail in the future. No orthodox Christian, knowing these facts, would ever swap their Perfect Saviour God for the false 'Christ' of the cults!
If Jesus is not fully God, we have no salvation and ultimately no Christianity. It is no accident that throughout history those groups that have given up belief in the full deity of Christ have not remained long within the Christian faith but have soon drifted toward the cults beliefs or the kind of religion represented by Unitarianism in the United States and elsewhere. 'No one who denies the Son has the Father' (1 John 2:23). 'Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son' (2 John 9).
The Incarnation: Deity and Humanity in the One Person of Christ
The biblical teaching about the full deity and full humanity of Christ is so extensive that both have been believed from the earliest times in the history of the church. But a precise understanding of how full deity and full humanity could be combined together in one person was formulated only gradually in the church and did not reach the final form until the Chalcedonian Definition in A.D. 451. Before that point, several inadequate views of the person of Christ were proposed and then rejected. Other views that were also examined in the light of the Scriptures at Chalcedon and other Councils were also rejected as heretical. One view, Arianism, which held that Jesus was not fully divine, has resurfaced in the teachings of the WBTS which are discussed in the sections dealing more fully with the doctrine of the Trinity.]
Page 4 continued - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: Yet, some argue that Jesus is not simply the Son of God but that he is actually God himself. They say that he and his Father are both Almighty God. Are they correct? Is Jesus somehow part of God? Is that what Jesus, or any of the Bible writers, said? Really, who is the only true God? Who did Jesus say He is? Let us see.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: Scripture clearly shows that Jesus claimed titles that had only been applied to God in the Old Testament. Even when He could have clarified the situation to prevent the Scribes and Pharisees from attempting to kill Him, He remained steadfast in His claims to equality with God, as we will prove in more detail later.]
Page 5 - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: JESUS often prayed to God, whom he called Father, and he also taught others to do so. (Matthew 6:9-11; Luke 11:1,2) In prayer with his apostles - only hours before his death - Jesus petitioned: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ." - John 17:1, 3.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: This section highlighted in red is a deliberate mistranslation; fortunately we can check the WBTS KIT (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the GREEK SCRIPTURES, 1985 Edition). The front page of the KIT informs us that we will enjoy:
THREE BIBLE TEXTS - the Original GREEK TEXT by B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort (1881) Greek Text and the ENGLISH TEXT UNDERNEATH - 'An interlinear word-for-word translation into English - 1969'
Turning to John 17:1-3 we find the Greek:
3 auth de estin h aiwnioj zwh ina ginwskwsin se ton monon alhqinon qeon kai on apesteilaj ihsoun criston
We can read the word-for-word English underneath the Greek:
This but is the everlasting life in order that they may be knowing you the only true God and whom you sent forth Jesus Christ
and then, in the margin, we can read the WBTS translation into English:
3 This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.
So how come we find the WBTS mis-translated the literal rendering of 'in order that they may be knowing you' in their 'New World Translation' into English Text as 'This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you'? The WBTS have deliberately changed the translation to try and make their followers believe that by constantly studying the false teachings of the WBTS (so called 'accurate knowledge') they will come into 'the truth' and the organization can help them attain eternal life on 'Paradise Earth.' John 17:3 makes it clear that everlasting life comes through 'knowing' God through the Lord Jesus Christ! Why are the WBTS trying to hide this fact? Because they are deceivers inspired by Satan!]
Page 5 continued - Awake! April 22, 2005
WBTS statement: Notice that Jesus prays to One whom he calls "the only true God." He points to God's superior position when he continues: ''So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was." (John 17:5) Since Jesus prayed to God requesting to be alongside God, how could Jesus at the same time be "the only true God"? Let us examine this matter.
[Orthodox Christian Reply: First, the WBTS have quoted a Scripture that shows how Jesus was glorified alongside the Father 'before the world was'. They won't admit it, but this proves that Jesus is God and equal to the Father. Was Jesus, while on earth as a Man, in a lower position than the Father? We will examine this later. Let us look at how Jesus could be alongside the Father and, at the same time, be "the only true God"! What does John 17v3-5 shows us about this relationship:
'And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. I glorified Thee on the earth, finishing the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.'
The context of the passage explains exactly what Jesus meant. But we also have to be aware of many other Scriptures in which the nature of the One True God is explained and the way Jesus spoke about the special relationship between the Father and the Son. Here Jesus claims that He was glorified with the Father 'before the world was' and we can readily prove that the God of the Bible will not share His glory with another, so Jesus must be equal to the Father! Since, in other Scriptures, Jesus clearly claimed equality with 'the only true God', it is clearly foolish to try and suggest that only God the Father is the 'true God' and that Jesus is either not God at all, or is an inferior god.
When we read on in the passage (through verses 10,21) we find Jesus telling us again that He has everything the Father has: 'all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine...that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they may also be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.'
How is this possible if He is not equal to the Father as He clearly claimed?
A part of the answer - as well another example of the plain teaching of the 'Trinity' - is found in Isaiah's vision, Isaiah 6:1-3:
'1 In the year that King Uz·zi´ah died I, however, got to see 'Jehovah', sitting on a throne lofty and lifted up, and his skirts were filling the temple. 2 Seraphs were standing above him. Each one had six wings. With two he kept his face covered, and with two he kept his feet covered, and with two he would fly about. 3 And this one called to that one and said: "Holy, holy, holy is 'Jehovah' of armies. The fullness of all the earth is his glory."
The inner part of the Jewish sanctuary was called the holy of holies, that is, the holy place of the Holy Ones. The number of these is here given as three. Isaiah heard the voice (v8): 'And I began to hear the voice of 'Jehovah' saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Whose voice did he hear? The voice of 'Jehovah'! Yet 'Jehovah' calls Himself US! This is the language of plurality representing the 'Trinity' of the Godhead.
The WBTS attempts to nullify this evidence by claiming that 'Jehovah' is using language like Queen Victoria's Royal 'We' - as in 'We are not amused' - simply does not wash!
We should take particular notice of the term in verse 3: ''Jehovah' of hosts.' This will certainly include God the Father but, in John 12:41, we are clearly told it included Christ:
'These things said Isaiah, when he saw his (Christ's) glory and spake of him.'
Notice also that, in John 16 (v7 & 13-15), Jesus said the Holy Spirit would glorify Him!:
'But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.'
These verses make it very clear that:
the Holy Spirit is 'the Spirit of truth' - remember Jesus said He was 'the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6) - they share attributes;
He shall glorify Me (Jesus!);
He shall take of Mine (Jesus'!);
All things that the Father has are mine (Jesus'!) ...He takes of Mine;
so we can logically conclude that:
1. All that the Father has belongs to Jesus;
2. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus;
But Isaiah 42v8 declares:
'I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images';
The God of the Old Testament declares that He will not share His glory or praise with another - yet, in the New Testament, He clearly shares both with Jesus! So Jesus must be equally and fully God who was always with 'Jehovah' God of the Old Testament ! Logically, He cannot be of a different nature from the Father to share the glory of the Father.
Since the presence of the Son is certainly included here in the Old Testament and in the New Testament we see that the Bible includes the Son along with the Father in Isaiah 6:1-3.
And in Acts 28:25 we have evidence that there was also the presence of the Holy Spirit:
'Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand ...'
These words found in Isaiah are declared by the Apostle Paul to have been spoken by the Holy Spirit so, when Isaiah spoke of ''Jehovah' of armies' (' The Lord of Hosts' in other translations), he referred to the 'Trinity' - which is why the seraphs sang: 'Holy, holy, holy' to the Father, Son , and Holy Spirit!
So the Bible puts the Lord Jesus Christ 'alongside' the Father in heaven, yet teaches that He is equally God (see later).]
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