Written By Thomas Perez. August 14, 2010 at 11:47pm. Copyright 2011.
It is difficult to discuss the theology of those who deny Jesus’ deity without also asking whether their beliefs, organizations, or the Watchtower for that matter, entail a religious cult as most Christians maintain. Many evangelical Protestants, like the late Walter Martin, define a “cult” as any group that holds to a different non-orthodoxical theology. Frequently, a version of the Trinity and even the Oneness of God are at stake.
I propose a much healthier approach. Rather than focus on creeds and labels, we would do far better to consider more practical spiritual matters, as in the Word of God. My problem is not only with their theology but it is also with their authoritarianism. Any member who begins to develop an opinion contrary to the organization is excluded and ignored. Jehovah’s Witnesses are denied their relationships with family and friends. If a Jehovah’s Witness’ life is invested in the organization – if everything and everyone he/she knows and holds dear is bound up with the group – then exclusion can be a very terrible experience indeed. This bondage is a far cry from the liberating truth represented by Jesus, who loves us unconditionally whether we get our theology right or not.
As I have said, let us ask the questions. But as we ask, let us always keep in mind (as I have mentioned before) that questions are powerful truth finders. In Part 1, I asked the question, “One may also ask how Christians with different theologies can claim equal trust in the same Scriptures.” For example, in the case pertaining to the group known as the Jehovah Witnesses the scriptures used by those of the ‘Watchtower Tract and Bible Society’ (aka – Jehovah Witnesses) are distorted to such an extent that it becomes blasphemous. This is done in order to justify their belief. Their version of the Bible is called ‘The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures,’ a version that I happen to own a copy of.
In giving an account for its existence, Jehovah witnesses will often claim that it is an interpretation of the Bible and therefore not considered the actual inspired Word of God. Moreover, they will often claim that it is a handbook, a companion of the true Bible. But when I often ask if they have a copy of the true Scriptures on them, the is answer “No.” This is bondage to say the least. This is why I do what I do.
In my early years as a Christian, I often debated them at my front door, in the subway trains of New York and on the streets. Often I had fake look alike ‘Awake’ tracts, identical to their own. I wouldn’t approach them, as much as they would approach me. When such an approach took place I would take my make believe Watchtower tract and present it to them by telling them words to the effect…“Hey did you read the latest edition from Jehovah?” Its hot off the presses!” As they would read it, they soon caught on. This approach often started discussions of dialogue. These discussions were really mostly questions on their behalf, in an attempt to make me stumble in my defense concerning the divinity and deity of Jesus Christ. However, after answering their questions; I would ask them questions of my own. They could not answer my questions. And when they couldn’t answer any of my questions they often began to refer me to what they call an ‘Elder.’ The meeting with the elders often took place in my apartment. When I met with their elders, the simplicity of the Greek originals often left them speechless. Needless to say, they stood away from my building. Many of their questions and how to answer them are listed below:
Note: I feel it is important to let the reader know that when answering such questions, I will be using the mind set pertaining to that of a Oneness Believer, a belief that I favor, and not necessarily that of a trinitarian. The Oneness belief makes for a better rebuttal. We now begin with our questions and doubts posed by those who deny Jesus is God Almighty. Questions and doubts will be followed by their answers.
New Testament Explanations: The Gospels
1. Question and Doubt # 1
The Baptism of Christ
To understand this scene correctly, we must remember that God is omnipresent. Jesus is God and was God manifested in the flesh while on earth. He could not and did not sacrifice His omnipresence while on earth because that is one of God’s basic attributes, and God does not change. Of course, the physical body of Jesus was not omnipresent, but His Spirit was. Furthermore, although the fullness of God’s character was resident in the body of Jesus, the omnipresent Spirit of Jesus could not be confined. Thus, Jesus could be on earth and in Heaven at the same time (John 3:13) and with two or three of His disciples at any time (Matt 18:20). Here are some verses on Jesus’ omnipresence (Matt 18:20, 28:20, John 3:13, Eph 1:23).
The baptism of Jesus does not teach us a separation of persons but only reveals the omnipresence of God and the humanity of the Son of God. When God speaks to four different continents at the same time, we do not think of four persons of God, But of God’s omnipresence. God did not intend for the baptism to reveal to the monotheistic onlookers a radically new revelation of a plurality in the Godhead, and there is no indication that the Jews interpreted it as such. Even many modern scholars do not see the baptism of Christ as an indication of separate persons but as reference to the authoritative anointing of Jesus as the Messiah. Thus the baptism was not for the benefit of Jesus but for the benefit of others.
2. Question and Doubt # 2
The Voice From Heaven
Three times in the life of Jesus a voice came from Heaven: at His baptism, at His transfiguration (Matt 17:1-9), and after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:20-33). We have just we explained that a voice does not necessarily indicate a separate person in the Godhead but only another manifestation of the omnipresent Spirit of God.
Again, in each of the three cases, the voice was not for the benefit of Jesus, but for the benefit of others, and it came for a specific purpose. As we have discovered, the voice at Christ baptism was part of the inauguration of His earthy ministry. It was for the people’s sake, just as the dove was for John’s sake. The voice also introduced Jesus as the Son of God (Matt 3:17). The voice at the transfiguration unquestionably was for the benefit of the on looking disciples (Matt 17:5). The third manifestation of the voice occurred when a group of Greeks (apparently Gentile proselytes) came to see Jesus. Jesus explained that the voice was not for Him but for the people (John 12:30).
3. Question and Doubt # 3
The Prayers of Christ
What is the explanation of the prayers of Christ? It can only be that the human nature of Jesus prayed to the eternal Spirit of God (in this case calling Him Father). The divine nature did not need help; only the human nature did, even to the point that angels had to come and comfort Him. As Jesus said at the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). Hebrews 5:7 makes it clear that Jesus needed to pray only during “the days of His flesh.” During the prayer at Gethsemane, the human will submitted itself to the divine will. Through prayer His human nature learned to submit and be obedient to the Spirit of God (Phil 2:8, Heb 5:7-8). This was not a struggle between two divine wills, but a struggle between the human and divine wills in Jesus. As a man Jesus submitted Himself to and received strength from the Spirit of God, who as the Son of Man He called Father.
Some may object to this explanation, contending that it means Jesus prayed to Himself. However, we must realize that, unlike any other human being, Jesus had two perfect and complete natures – humanity and divinity. What would be absurd or impossible for an ordinary man is not so strange with Jesus. We do not say Jesus prayed to Himself, for that incorrectly implies Jesus had only one nature like ordinary men. Rather, we say the human nature of Jesus prayed to the Spirit of Jesus as incarnated by the Holy Spirit and thus existing fully within Him as the very Father who became and begat Son of Man.
The choice is simple. Either Jesus as God prayed to the Father or Jesus as man prayed to the Father. If the first were true, then we have a form of subordination or Arianism in which one person in the Godhead is inferior to, not co-equal with, another person in the Godhead. This contradicts the Biblical concept of one God, the full deity of Jesus, and the omnipotence of God. If the second alternative is correct, and we believe that it is, then no distinction of persons in the Godhead exists. The only distinction is between humanity and divinity, not between God and God.
4. Question and Doubt # 4
“My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?”
(Matt 27:46) This verse does not describe an actual separation between Father and Son because Jesus is the Father. Jesus said “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). The Bible states that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world onto Himself’ (II Cor 5:19). Jesus was God the Father made flesh to reconcile the world to Himself. The cry of Jesus on the cross does not mean that the Spirit of God had departed from the body, but that there was no help from the Almighty Spirit during His sacrificial death of substitution for sinful mankind. It was not one person of the Godhead being deserted by another, but the human nature feeling the wrath and judgment of God upon the sins of mankind. Instead of the divine nature helping Jesus, He was fulfilling His task of shedding innocent divine blood during Jesus’ ordeal. The divine had to finish His task in the person of Jesus by shedding divine blood, thus the cup did not pass until all was finished. As it is written “Life is in the blood” and it was the blood of the divine as well as its human components that was shed for the remission of sins (Acts 20:28). As Jesus said, “It is finished!”
Moreover, Jesus told His disciples with respect to His death “Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that he shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Thus the eternal Spirit of God, the Father, did not leave the human body of Christ until His death. That is why shortly after Jesus uttered the words…‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ Spirit in this case is referring to Jesus’ human spirit.
5. Question and Doubt # 5
A Jehovah’s Witness will ask, “If Jesus is the Father revealed, then how come the Bible speaks of different separate names? This question can also be asked by Trinitarians who deny the oneness belief. This verse describes titles rather than persons. It describes one God with multiple offices but only one name. Also the verse indicates “In the name of” not “In the names of.” The focus is not on plurality but upon oneness.
To answer any doubt that the singular-plural distinction is significant or was planned deliberately by God, we need only read Galatians 3:16, where Paul emphasized the significance of the singular “thy seed” in Genesis 22:18. Even many Trinitarian scholars have recognized at least partially the significance of the singular in Matthew 28:19. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all describes the one God, so the phrase in Matt 28:19 simply describes the one name of the one God.
The Old Testament promised that there would come a time when Jehovah would have one name and that this one name would be made known (Zech 14:9, Isa 52:6). We know that that the one name of Matthew 28:19 is Jesus, for Jesus is the name of the Father (John 5:43, Heb 1:4), the Son (Matt 1:21), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The New Testament Church understood this to be so, for they baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, I Cor 1:13). Matthew himself endorsed this interpretation by standing with Peter and the other apostles during the sermon in which Peter commanded the people to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-38).
Acts 22:16 says, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The Amplified Bible says, “Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name wash away your sins.” The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament says, “Invoking the name.” Therefore this verse of Scripture indicates the name Jesus was orally invoked at baptism. Furthermore, the name of Jesus was also invoked during many of the healings that took place in the book of Acts.
This interpretation of the one name in Matthew 28:19 is further confirmed in the citation that Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of he Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” In other words, Jesus said, I have all power, so baptize in my name.” It would twist the logic of the passage to read it to mean, “I have all the power, so baptize in the names of three different persons.” In the other accounts of the Great Commission, the name of Jesus figures prominently (Mark 16:17, Luke 24:47). Matthew’s “The name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” Mark’s “In my name,” and Luke’s “In His name,” all refer to the name of Jesus.
Further light on this interpretation that the name of God is Jesus comes from a comparison of Revelation 14:1 with 22:3-4. There is one name for the Father, God, and the Lamb. The Lamb is Jesus, so Jesus is the name of God and the Father.
6. Question and Doubt # 6
Communication of Knowledge Between the Father and Son?
Some believe that the Bible describes transfers of knowledge between Father and Son. This is a dangerous argument because it implies there could be one person that knows something that the other person does not know. This implies a doctrine of separate powers of personalities and minds in God, which in turn can leads to tritheism or polytheism. This school of thought comes form a verse of Scripture found in Matt 11:27. When you read it, you will find that the verse is simply stating that no man can understand who the Son (the manifestation of God in the flesh) is, except by divine revelation (from the Father). Jesus undoubtedly had this in mind when He told Peter, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). Yet, we are also told that no man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12:3). Also, the Father revealed His nature and character to man through the incarnation – through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Scriptures reveal that God does not counsel with any one instead it reveals that all is known in one God – as in Jesus Rev 2:18, 23, 5:5, 12, Col 2:3. Furthermore Jesus manifested His knowledge of the Father (Matt 11:27 John 7:29). Here are some verses on Jesus’ omniscience: He knew men’s hearts (Matt 9:4, 12:25, 17:27, 22:18, Mk 2:8, Lk 5:22, 6:8, 9:46-48, 11:17, 22:10-12, Mk 14:13-15, John 1:48, 2:24, 25, 4:16-19, 28, 29, 5:42, 6:64, 13:11, 21:17). He knew future events (Matt 24:25, John 13:1, 3, 10, 16:30, 32, 18:4, 21:6). The coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt 17:27), and the presence of a school of fishes (Lk 5:4-7, John 21:6).
7. Question and Doubt # 7
Didn’t the Father send the Son?
John 3:17 and 5:30, along with other verses of scripture, state that the Father sent the Son. Does this mean that Jesus, the Son of God, is a lesser person as opposed to the Father? From our previous study or outline if you will, entitled “How to Prove that Jesus Christ is God Almighty” we know that this isn’t so because of the many verses of scripture that teach that God manifested himself in the flesh (II Cor 5:19, I Tim 3:16). He gave of Himself; He became someone else. As it says in scripture “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Gal 4:4), made subject to the Spirit of God (In that instance God is called the Father) During this time this one eternal God, who is our Father became flesh and robed Himself as the Son of Man in time. Revealing His own Word – Logos – which when translated in Greek means the mind of God became actual flesh in Jesus through the miracle of the incarnation thus becoming a Son – An extension of Himself who is the eternal Father, the Mighty God, whose goings have been from old to everlasting (Isa 9:6, Mic 5:2).
So in regards to a rendering of words, if one were to apply a oneness belief in this view he or she are justified in doing so. Also, if one were to apply a Trinitarian concept pertaining to the Son of God being God…then that approach can also be justified based on the scriptural text of (John 5:18). Therefore Jesus as a man Himself is truly justified by using the terminology of renderings of words when He said the Father sent the Son.
8. Question and Doubts # 8
Conversations Between Father and Son?
If we are to say that Jesus is God the Father manifested in the Son. How do we account for the apparent conversations between the two? The answer to that question lies not in a plurality of God but rather in the two natures of Christ. As mentioned before the prayers and voice from Heaven did not constitute a conversation between two persons (one inferior to the other), but more likely it may be said that it was communication between Jesus’ humanity and His Deity. The voice was a witness to the people from the Spirit of God, revealing God’s approval of the Son-ship of Jesus the Man, fully God, and thus omnipresent, yet fully Man, limited in His omnipresence in reference to His physical body.
Hebrews 10:5-9 quotes a prophetic passage from Psalms 40:6-8. In this prophetic depiction of the coming Messiah, Christ as a man speaks to the eternal God, expressing His obedience and submission to the will of God. Essentially this scene is similar to that of Christ prayer in Gethsemane. It is obvious that Christ is speaking as a man because He says, “A body hast thou prepared for me” and ‘I come to do thy will, O God”
9. Question and Doubt # 9
Love Between Persons in the Godhead?
To answer this question we must remember that God cannot be limited to time. He could and did love man from eternity past. Even though we were not in the existence yet, He foresaw our existence, similar to our salvation. To His mind we existed and He loved us.
John 3:35, 5:20, and 15:9 state that the Father loves the Son, and John 17:24 says the Father loved Jesus before the foundation of the world. In John 14:31 Jesus expressed love for the Father. These statements do not express one person over the other but rather a relationship thus predetermined. (Is it not strange that these passages omit the Holy Spirit from the love relationship?). What these verses express is the relationship between the two natures of Christ.
10. Question and Doubt # 10
Other Difficult Passages Between Father and Son?
Difficulty 1. John 5:19, 30, 8:28 – ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He see’s the Father do”
Difficulty 2. Matt 28:18 – “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth,” implying that the Father gave Him this power.
Difficulty 3. John 14:28 – “My Father is greater than I”
Difficulty 4. I Cor 11:3 – states that the head of Christ is God.
Difficulty 5. Mark 13:32 – “But that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which art in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father”
In reference to Difficulty 1, 2, and 3 One can deduct that the passages of scriptures cited are in reference to the Omnipotence of a Being. Therefore is the Father truly the Almighty and Jesus a mere god? This question can be answered just by comparing the two manifestations of God. When this is done, you will see the exact same attributes and power as revealed in One God (Gen 17:1 Jehovah is the Almighty. Rev 1:8 Jesus is the Almighty).
Moreover, one can also look into a statement Jesus said about Himself concerning His resurrection. In John 2:18-22 Jesus states that He will raise Himself from the dead. Moreover, concerning the sacrificial offering of Himself, Jesus stated in (John 10:15-18) that He freely lays down His life and He has the power to pick it up again, indicating that He can do things for Himself by His own will. Some may argue that power or will came only because it was a commandment given to Jesus by Jehovah to fulfill. If that was the only case, why would Jesus call Himself the resurrection in (John 11:25)? Implying that if one believes on Jesus he or she will never die, thus indicating salvation, when Jehovah just got through saying that there is no other Saviour, or Redeemer, (Isa 43:11, 45:21-22, Isa 45:5, 60 :16) and neither shall there ever be after me – meaning after God Himself, the prophets and Old Testament writings.
But yet we are all in full agreement that Jesus is the Saviour and Redeemer of men. So why would Jehovah go against His own word? Unless Jesus is God Almighty. Moreover, why would Jehovah share His glory with another, when it is written that He is a jealous God and will not share His glory? (Isa 42:8, Ex 20:5, 34:4). These and a ton of other verses indicate such. You can find such verses at my study called “How to Prove that Jesus Christ is God Almighty” Yes, Jesus is the Great EL…you read that right!
With this in mind, we must have a proper hermeneutical interpretation to back up the two seemingly contradictions in the verses quoted above. All the verses of difficulty indicate that the human nature of Christ could do nothing of itself but His human nature received power from the Spirit. The flesh was subject to the Spirit.
Difficulty 4 is in reference to a state of position rather that omnipotence. We must remember that the same verses and attributes that back up the claim that Jesus is God Almighty must be upheld here as well. We are not to lay them aside just because of a verse of two, but to properly expound on the topic.
The phrase is the obvious intention of God to show His approval concerning the Son of Man. It shows that Christ is the firstborn of all creation and that the term ‘firstborn’ means position as rendered in the Greek word (prototokos). The root meaning of ‘prototokos’ means one who is in position, not one conceived in creation as the Jehovah witnesses might allude too. As the scriptures teach, Christ Jesus is the firstborn and the first fruit of the resurrection. The term ‘prototokos can also be found in reference to Hebrews 1:6 rendering of the word ‘Firstbegotten.’ Again it is not a reference to omnipotence but of position. Here are some verses on Jesus’ omnipotence: (Psa 45:3-5, 110:3, Isa 9:6, 40:10, 50:2-3, 63:1, Matt 6:7, 28:18, 12:13, 28-29, Mk 3:27, Lk 5:17, 9:1, 11:20-22, John 2:10, 5:21, 28-29, 10:17-18, 28, Phil 3:20-21, Col 1:17, II Thess 1:9, I Tim 6:16, Heb 1:3, 7:25, II Pet 1:16, Rev 1:8, 3:7, 5;12).
Difficulty 5 deals with the omniscience of God. Was Jesus limited in knowledge? This question is similar to the one asked above (# 6) in reference to a transference of knowledge. The Bible teaches a contrary school of thought as recorded in (Matt 9:4, 12:25, Luke 5:22, 6:8, 11:17, 24:38). Moreover, to declare that one has more omniscience than the other is to cancel out the Deity of Christ (Col 2:9) and this cannot be, especially when we consider that Jesus Christ is the very Mind – aka – Word – aka – Logos and revelation of God in Jesus’ self person. Therefore, one must conclude and consider this passage of scripture as pertaining to His humanity and not His divinity.
11. Question and Doubt # 11
The ‘With’ Passages
King James Version: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
Jehovah Witness bible – The New World Translation of the Holy Scripture:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god”
At this injunction, it is useless to ask why do they render John 1:1 as such. But rather, It is more profitable to have them concentrate on the word…‘with.’
How do we explain the use of the word ‘with’ in John 1:1-2 and I John 1:2? John 1:1 says the Word was ‘with’ God, but then goes on to say that the Word ‘was’ God. The Word is the thought, plan, or expression in the mind of God. That is how the Word could be with God and at the same time be God Himself. We should also note that the Greek word ‘pros,’ translated here as ‘with,’ is translated as ‘pertaining to’ in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. So the Word was with God in the sense of belonging to God and not in the sense of a separate little god.
But normally in this instance they would still claim that Jehovah appointed Jesus as a god. If that was the case, then why is it written in their very own bible that Jesus is called The Mighty God (‘The’ as opposed to ‘a’) in Isa 9:6? In this instance they will opt to rebuttal and claim that is just a title given to Jesus, He is a Mighty God or god, but not the Almighty. In this instance we must emphasize that Jehovah said that there is no God before Him and no God shall be formed after Him, neither is there another Saviour to be formed (Isa 43:10-11). Moreover, it is written in their very own bible that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, the beginning and the end, the Almighty (Rev 1:8, 11, 17-18, 22:12-13). These, verses and many others like them have been erroneously left in by Hort and Wescott. I guess they were too concerned and busy with distorting John 1:1 to even notice the others.
12 Question and Doubt # 12
Is Jesus and the Father One in Union and Purpose Only?
According to John 17:21-22 Christians should be one with each other just as Jesus was one with the Father. Does this destroy our belief that Jesus is God? No. In this passage Jesus spoke as a man – as the Son. This is evident because He was praying to the Father, and God does not need to pray. In His humanity, Jesus was one with the Father in the sense of unity of purpose, mind, and will. In this sense, Christians can also be one with God and one with each other (Acts 4:32, I Cor 3:8, Eph 2:14).
Other passages of scripture describe the oneness of Jesus with the Father in a way that transcends mere unity of purpose, and in a way that indicates Jesus is the Father. This is an additional level of oneness that is beyond our attainment because it speaks of His absolute Deity. When Jesus said “I and my Father are one.” the Jews correctly understood Him to mean He was God, and they sought to kill Him (John 10:30-33). On that occasion, He did not merely claim unity with God but identified Himself as being one and the same. Jesus also said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
No matter how united a Christian is with God, he could not make that statement. No matter how united two Christians are, one could not say, “If you have seen me, you have seen my friend.” The same is true for husband and wife, even though they are one flesh (Gen 2:24).
So the oneness of Jesus and the Father means more than the oneness that human relationships can attain. As a man Jesus was one with the Father in the sense of unity of purpose, mind, and will (John 17:22). As God, Jesus is revealing the oneness of the Father that is within Himself (as in Deity and Fullness) to a lost world that did not know Him (the Father or recognized The Father in the Son). As Jesus said “If you had known Me, you would have known the Father”
Questions to be continued in Part 3: From Acts to Revelation.