“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)
God with a capital “G,” the “I AM THAT I AM,” is that one and only (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6) state of being God, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — a state that is like no other: self-existent, eternal, infinite, and immutable. A proper understanding of this God is absolutely necessary. In fact, salvation and true worship are not possible without the proper knowledge of who and what God is. I know this is true because when Jesus prayed for His disciples, He said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). In other words, one’s eternal destiny depends upon knowing God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. This means that the study of God and Christ cannot be ignored by those who want to spend an eternity in the new heavens and new earth. In addition, other passages inform us that the Holy Spirit is to be included in this intimate, knowledgeable relationship (Acts 5:32, for example). Consequently, it should not seem strange that upon a confession of one’s faith in Christ Jesus, a penitent believer is baptized into a relationship with the entire Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit (See Matthew 28:19). All who enter into this relationship are said to “Know the Lord,…from the least to the greatest” (Hebrews 6:11). And finally, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire,” He will be “taking vengeance on those who do not know God” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
True worship, which is the only kind that is pleasing to God, must be in both spirit and in truth (See John 4:24). This means that true worship must not just be with the right attitude or spirit, but it must be intelligent and knowledgeable as well. For example, although there were many reasons why the Samaritan woman’s worship was not acceptable to God, the primary reason was stated by Jesus when He said, “You worship that which you do not know” (John 4:22). In the same manner, the Athenians vainly worshiped at the altar “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” The Bible makes it clear that this kind of worship is unacceptable because it is “worship without knowing” (Acts 17:23b).
It is sad that modern society knows very little about the one true God. According to Langdon Gilkey, in his book, Maker of Heaven and Earth, the prevailing picture of God, among those in our culture who still believe in Him, is that of “a large, powerful, kindly elder statesman who treats us much as a doting grandfather might do, with occasional moods of needed judgment but with a balance of indulgence” (p. 81). Add to this the fact that many Christians, reflecting the ignorance of God so prevalent in our day, are, like the ancient Athenians, attempting to worship an “UNKNOWN GOD,” and you have, God forbid, the potential for a major apostasy brewing in our midst.
If what I am have read in the religious papers, blogs, and Facebook can be trusted, and if preachers and elders I have spoken with have a sense of what is happening in their midst, then too few Christians today study their Bibles on a daily basis. It would be my guess that fewer still have ever engaged in a private study of the nature and person of God. If this is true, then many Christians know very little about God’s attributes and characteristics. Such ignorance is, according to an inspired apostle, a “shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34), and dare I say, “disgrace.” Just as a lack of knowledge about God made the Corinthians susceptible to false teaching about the resurrection, many Christians today, knowing little about the nature of God, are vulnerable to vain philosophies and empty deceit (cf. Colossians 2:8).
Having, therefore, placed this study in its proper perspective, it’s time to turn our attention to a study of God the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the world.
The Psalmist, in Psalm 19:1, said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork,” and the apostle Paul, in Romans 1:20, said it this way, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
With these scriptures in mind, it is interesting to note that, down through the ages, men who were not even associated with the Bible have looked at God’s magnificent creation and have understood there must be a Creator. This realization is called “the teleological argument for God,” and is the argument from design, inferring an intelligent designer of the universe, just like one infers that a product (viz., a watch) has a producer (viz., a watchmaker). For example, if someone were to show us a watch, telling us that no one made it, but that it was the result of an explosion that had taken place accidentally in a scrap metal factory, we would think that person was either “pulling our leg” or mighty foolish. Why, then, should it be any different when we think about the greatest product ever created — the creation itself? In fact, the Bible says, in Psalm 14:1, that “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
According to Plato, one of the things that makes one believe in the Creator is the argument “from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind that ordered the universe” (Plato, Laws). According to him, there had to be a “maker and father of all.” In addition, Aristotle, based upon his observation of the creation, concluded there had to be a First Unmoved Mover who is God, a living, intelligent, incorporeal, eternal, and most good being who is the source of the order in the universe (Aristotle, Metaphysica and On Philosophy).
In making note of the observations of these two men, I wish to make it clear that I am not advocating their philosophies. Instead, I am simply pointing out that the greatest minds of antiquity understood the force of the teleological argument. As the Bible so plainly says, in Romans 1:20, man is “without excuse” for not knowing that God is.
The God who has revealed Himself in nature and gradually, verse by verse, step by step, makes Himself known in His special revelation, the Bible, is a necessary being who depends on nothing else or anyone else for His existence. In fact, everything else depends on Him. This means that God, ontologically speaking (i.e., having to do with the being of God), is self-existent. This is the meaning of the name “I AM THAT I AM” recorded in Exodus 3:14. It derives from the Hebrew verb “to be” and means “He who is.” It is this self-existence that is the primary point of difference between God and His creation. Therefore, in calling Himself “I AM,” God is arguing, ontologically, that His being is uncaused. He is saying that He is; always has been; and always will be. In other words, God’s being is not derived from anything, and is not dependent upon anything; He just is.
There are three New Testament passages that convey this same idea. In Romans 1:23, God is identified as being “incorruptible.” In 1 Timothy 6:16, it is said that God “alone possesses immortality.” And in John 5:26, it is taught that only God “has life in Himself.” When God’s self-existent nature begins to be comprehended by finite creatures, they feel the need to humble themselves before the totally independent and incorruptible I AM.
If God is self-existent, and this is clearly what the Bible says, then He must also be eternal. In fact, belief in the Eternal is an essential part of the Christian’s faith (See Hebrews 11:6). And although it is true that the creature will one day put on immortality and live forever, according to 1 Corinthians 15:53,54, this is not the immortality that God possesses. God, contrary to His creation, is immortal by the very nature of His being. In other words, only God has always existed and will always exist. How can this be? How can a being have no beginning and no end? How can it be that a being always was and always will be? Because, as we have already pointed out, God alone is self-existent, and a logical consequence of this self-existence is eternalness.
For the creature, immortality is a gift. But for God, immortality is the very essence of His nature. As finite creatures, our minds are controlled and limited by time and space. Consequently, it is impossible for us to fully understand the eternalness of God’s nature. So, as we stand before Him in awe, we reverently say, along with the apostle Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). And surely we join with Moses in saying that the “eternal God” is our refuge, “and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
God, then, has a unique existence. In addition to being self-existent and eternal, He is not limited by anything outside of Himself.
This kind of existence is referred to as being infinite, which means subject to no limitation or external determination (i.e., unbounded). But one needs to be careful with this word. As Jack Cottrell points out in his book God The Creator, when referring to God as infinite, this term is not to be understood in its physical or mathematical sense, as if God were infinitely large, or as if He extended infinitely into space (p. 241). To say that God is infinite, is to say that He is not subject to the built-in limitations of a created being.
God’s infinitude is to be defined by His self-existence, eternalness and omni-characteristics, which are omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. The God who is eternal, and therefore not limited by time, is omnipresent, and not limited by space (cf. Psalm 139:7-10; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 23:23-24). He is universally present to all of space at all times. Even so, this does not mean that He is dispersed throughout the infinite reaches of space, so that every part of space has at least a little part of God. God is not present in all space; He is, instead, present to all of space. This means that the unlimited God in His whole being is present at every point of our space. But perhaps a better way to express this is to say that all space is immediately present before God.
With this in mind, it must be understood that God’s omnipresence does not prevent Him from manifesting Himself in a localized place. In fact, although His ontological being is present to all of space equally, He has, at various times, entered space at specific points and become present in it for a specific purpose. These “theophanies,” as they are called, most often involved redemption. For example, the pillar of cloud bearing the glory of God that appeared before the Israelites is but one example of such a case (cf. Exodus 33:9; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10ff). Of course, the most dramatic incident of God entering time and space was the incarnation itself (See John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16). Consequently, Jesus was called Immanuel, or “God with us” in Matthew 1:23. But in entering time and space, God, in His self-existent, eternal and infinite Being, did not cease to be omnipresent. He was, in fact, still present to every point of space, holding everything together by the “word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3; cf. Colossians 1:17). In fact, it is evident that the omnipresence of “God with us” is the subject of John 3:13, which says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of God who is in heaven.” If omnipresence is not under discussion in this passage, then pray tell me what is? Remember, these words were being spoken by God Himself while enfleshed here on this earth. Another example of God interjecting Himself into time and space would be the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-4), as well as His indwelling of the body of every Christian (See 1 Corinthians 6:19). “Mind-boggling,” you say. Yes, but such is the magnificent nature of The Great I AM.
When one considers passages like Isaiah 46:9-10, Psalm 147:5, Romans 11:33, and 1 John 3:20, one comes to appreciate the fact that there never was a time when the self-existent, eternal and infinite God of all creation knew less or more than He does right now. God, because of who He is, never learns and never forgets. This characteristic is called omniscience. Omniscience is not anything like the knowledge man possesses. Man, by his very nature, cannot know some things. God, on the other hand, knows all things (consider 1 John 3:20), and does so because He is “He who is” (Exodus 3:14).
Nevertheless, some are willing to argue that there are things that even an all-knowing God cannot know. These argue that the future free will acts of men and women cannot be known by God because they have not yet happened. God, according to this position, cannot know what cannot be known, and the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women cannot be known, they think. But can this be true? What is it that the self-existent, eternal, and infinite God cannot know? There is, of course, absolutely nothing that such a Being could not know, for He transcends the flow of the space-time continuum and sees the past, present and future in a kind of eternal now. Only a being with the infinite characteristics and attributes of God could be all-knowing. Consequently, it is omniscience that God uses to challenge those who claim to be gods, but who are, in fact, no gods (cf. Isaiah 42:8,9; 43:3-7; 44:7,8; 45:20,21; 48:3-7). Surely, praise, honor and eternal glory belong to the one and only true God, who said, in Isaiah 46:9 and 10, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.”
Since God is self-existent, eternal, omnipresent and omniscient, it comes as no surprise to us that He is also omnipotent or all-powerful. In fact, if God is infinite in His relationship to time, space and knowledge, it only follows that He is omnipotent as well. In the New Testament, this truth is taught in Matthew 19:26 and Revelation 19:6. In Genesis 17:1, when God appeared to Abraham, He said, “I am God Almighty.” In Jeremiah 32:27, He says: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” For God, of course, “nothing [consistent with his nature] is impossible” (Luke 1:37). Finally, God’s omnipotence, according to Jeremiah 32:17, is grounded in the fact of creation: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.”
Given the nature of God, there is no chance He can ever be anything other than what He is. This can be inferred from His self-existent, eternal, and infinite nature. His nature, or essence, cannot change, but is eternally the same, totally incorruptible (cf. Romans 1:23) and immortal (cf. I Timothy 6:16). In other words, He is unchangeable or immutable (cf. Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). What does this mean? It means that the Self-Existent One cannot be not self-existent; it means that the Eternal One cannot be not eternal; it means that the Infinite One cannot be not infinite; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. God, ontologically speaking (again, by the nature of His being), cannot be anything else; if He were, He would not be God.
Included in God’s unchangeable or immutable nature are His moral attributes, for His moral character is no less a part of His essence than are His power and wisdom. What this means is that God has always been, and always will be, the holy, righteous and gracious God that He is right this moment. His goodness has not been developed and will never be altered. From everlasting to everlasting, He is the same in character, infallible and immutable (cf. Numbers 23:19).
Of course, and this is very important, it must be kept in mind that the immutability of God’s nature does not mean that He cannot interact with His creation. In fact, the Bible teaches that the Almighty has agreed to, and does, interact with His creation within the bounds of time. Such interaction is genuine and not pretended. God has agreed to be influenced by His creation. Whether or not I can explain this in view of God’s immutable nature is not the point. I cannot even understand it; how, then, can I explain it? In truth, it is not my responsibility to explain it. Instead, it is my responsibility to believe, teach, and defend it. If I had to be able to understand and explain everything about God, especially those things He has not chosen to reveal to me, before I could believe in Him, I and every other finite finite creature could have no choice but to remain in unbelief. The Aristotelian, or classical, view of God as “the Unmoved Mover,” who is, in turn, unrelated to the world, impassive and unconcerned is, in my opinion, as ridiculous as it is non-biblical. As such, it reflects idolatry, pure and simple.
As I’ve said, it is not possible that the essence of God could be anything other than what it has been, is and always will be. If this essence were to change, then God would no longer be God. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to make distinctions between God, His essence, and His attributes. “I AM THAT I AM” or “He who is” (Exodus 3:14), exists as a self-existent (cf. Romans 1:23; 1 Timothy 6:16; John 5:26), eternal (See Deuteronomy 33:27), infinite (See Psalm 139:7-10; Isaiah 46:9,10; Jeremiah 32:27), immutable (cf. Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6) Spirit (cf. John 4:24). If God ceased to be any of these, He could not be God. In other words, God’s essence (i.e., that which makes Him what He is) could not be anything other than what it is; and that which makes God what He is, of course, is His attributes. Therefore, it is never correct to think of God apart from His essence or attributes. Namely, God does not have an essence; He is His essence, and He does not have attributes; He is His attributes. For example, the Bible tells us, in 1 John 4: 8 and 16, that God is love. It informs us that God’s love is great (cf. Ephesians 2:4), eternal (cf. Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:4-5), infinite (See Ephesians 3:18,19), and dependable (ibid.).
If the theme of the Bible is man’s redemption, then the central word of the Bible is love. In fact, the Bible tells us that the motivation for the scheme of redemption is God’s love for His creation. How much did God love His creation? He loved it so much that He was willing to give His only begotten Son so that it could be redeemed (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). But, what kind of love would do such a thing? Simply this: God’s love for His creatures, which, in turn, is the same kind of love we should have for Him and those He created in His image.
Therefore, when the Bible says, “God loves us,” it means He really cares about us and always does what is best for us. God’s love is different from other kinds of love in that it seeks to give and not to get; it seeks to satisfy not some need of the lover, but rather the need of the one who is loved. This is what God is, i.e., this is His nature. Strip from Him His love and we no longer have the God who has revealed Himself to His creatures. Strip from Him His love and what remains is something similar to the gods of the pagans, which are nothing but “idols for their own destruction” (Hosea 8:4).
However, what the Bible does not say about the essence or nature of God is just as important as what it does say. For instance, although the Bible teaches that God is His attributes and characteristics, it does not teach that any particular attribute of God is God; i.e., the Bible is not saying, and has never said, that “Love is God.” On the contrary, what the Bible teaches is that “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). Clearly, then, the Bible instructs us that God is His attributes and characteristics, and anyone who believes the Bible believes this. Consequently, God is, has been, and always will be who and what He is at this exact moment.
In the one state of being God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4), there are three distinctly different personalities: the Father, the Son (or Logos/Word) and the Holy Spirit. Each one of these personalities shares fully the one essence, nature, or state of being God. Everything involved in being Deity is possessed by each of these personalities. In other words, the Bible teaches there is one, and only one, God; but it just as plainly teaches that the Father is God (cf. John 6:27; Galatians 1:1; Philippians 2:11), the Son is God (cf. John 10:30; 20:28), and the Holy Spirit is God (cf. Acts 5:3-4). Even so, it must be understood that although the Bible says that God is three persons in one essence (cf. Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14), it does not teach “Tritheism” (i.e., three Gods). As Roy Lanier, Sr. wrote on page 46 of his book, The Timeless Trinity:
We do not affirm that one God is three Gods; we affirm that there is but one infinite Spirit Being, but within that one Spirit essence there are three personal distinctions, each of which may be, and is, called God; each capable of loving and being loved by the others; each having a distinct, but not separate, part to play in the creation and salvation of man.
I think it wise to caution that, when thinking of God, it is possible to use “person” or “personality” in a wrong sense. If we are not precise in our thinking, we might conclude that the three persons or personalities that are God are just like human persons or personalities, except more complex. This would be a common, but serious, mistake. Human personalities are totally different from each other, and their relationships are often inharmonious and completely external (i.e., they do not partake of the same essence). On the other hand, the three personalities that are God partake of one essence and are always harmonious. Therefore, we must not try to think of divine personality within the limits of human personality, as if God were but a more complex image of the human person. To do so would be idolatry, pure and simple (cf. Romans 1:23). Consequently, one must not press too far the concept of personhood when applied to God. What, then, are we saying when we speak of God in three persons?
As has already been pointed out, divine personality is the archetype of human personality; it is not the other way around. If this is true, then there must be some similarities between divine personality and human personality, and, in fact, there are. As Paul taught the Athenians, “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). In other words, we are not lifeless, impersonal matter, and neither is God. The Bible teaches that God is Spirit, and therefore we who are His offspring have a spiritual nature. The Bible teaches that God is personal, and we who are His offspring partake of personhood. In his excellent book, What The Bible Says About God The Creator, Jack Cottrell, on page 237, points out four elements that are characteristic of personhood:
- rational consciousness,
- self-determination, and
- the capacity to have relationships with other persons.
These characteristics are, in fact, a very intricate part of the portrait God paints of Himself in the Bible, from beginning to end. Based on Scripture alone, no one would ever doubt God’s personhood.
If, then, the self-existent, eternal, infinite, and immutable Spirit who is God has three personalities, and this is what the Bible says, then the Father, Son and Holy Spirit partake of personhood. As such, each enjoys rational consciousness, self-consciousness, self-determination, and relationships with other persons. This means that the Father is conscious of Himself as an individual person apart from the Son and the Holy Spirit and vice versa. It means that the Father, of His own free will, decided to send His Son into this world for the redemption of mankind. It means that the Son, of His own free will, responded positively to His Father’s decision when He came to this earth and experienced death for fallen humanity. Finally, it means that the Holy Spirit, of His own volition, came to this earth to do the bidding of both the Father and the Son. And although it must be understood that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were, and are, all involved in man’s redemption, nevertheless, each person in the Godhead had work to do that was unique only to Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-2). When one reads the Bible, these truths are clear. By clear, I do not mean that I think it is easy for finite creatures to understand how this threeness is rooted in the divine essence. On the contrary, by clear, I simply mean that the doctrine of the triune nature of God is explicitly taught in the Bible.
The Economic And Ontological Trinities
Theologians speak of the “economic Trinity” and the “ontological Trinity.” These are constructs that attempt to define God. The so-called economic Trinity refers to the “division of labor” that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and concerns itself principally with the different works done by the three persons of the Godhead in relation to the scheme of redemption. For example, the Bible depicts God the Father as foreknowing and choosing the plan whereby man could be redeemed (cf. Romans 8:29). In His role (or work), the Father is never portrayed as being the One sent. On the contrary, the Father sends the Son and the Spirit (cf. John 5:37; 14:26; 20:21). In turn, the Holy Spirit is involved in the work of sanctification (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-2), and He is also the agent of inspiration (cf. John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:21). In this connection, it is interesting to note that it is only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and not against the Father or Son, that is unforgivable (cf. Matthew 12:31-32). From this, one can clearly see that the three persons of the Godhead are truly distinct. It is, of course, the works of Jesus, the Son of God, which receive most of the attention in the New Testament. This is because it is He who “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). It was only the Son who experienced death for us. It was only the Son who was resurrected from the dead, taken bodily into heaven, and seated at the Father’s right hand. It is only the Son who is the High Priest and Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14).
Therefore, the Bible teaches that, when it comes to the scheme of redemption, there are
- works done by the Father that are not done by the Son or the Spirit;
- there are works done by the Son that are not done by the Father or the Spirit;
- and there are works done by the Spirit that are not done by the Father or the Son.
It is this Bible-based division of labor or economic Trinity that sheds some light on the so-called ontological Trinity (viz., how the three persons of the Godhead are related within their own being, totally apart from any manifestations or works directed outside themselves.). Discerning a threeness in the external manifestations and works of God is not too taxing, but when one turns his attention to the ontological Trinity, things begin to get a lot harder. For instance, are the appellations of Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternal distinctions within the Trinity, or are they derived from the various works of God in the scheme of redemption? Particularly, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, is the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ authentic? For example, Alexander Campbell taught that Jesus Christ, according to John 1:1, pre-existed as the Divine Logos or Word of God, but that His Sonship began with the incarnation. According to Campbell, the entire “relation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit began to be” during the days of Augustus Caesar (The Christian System, pp. 9-10). Personally, I am not certain that the eternal Sonship of Christ is biblical, and, furthermore, I do not really see what difference it makes. There are several explicit references to the Deity of Christ in the Bible; consequently, His Deity (or equality with God) does not, as I see it, depend on an eternal Sonship relation.
But how, then, do we explain the ontological Trinity? Personally, I do not think we can with any large degree of specificity. When we do try, we seem to fail, and fail miserably. Furthermore, many attempts to explain or depict the ontological Trinity (i.e., three in One) actually incline toward idolatry (cf. Romans 1:22-23), which is something we should be seeking to avoid with a passion. We must always remember that God is not a man; therefore, He cannot ultimately be explained or understood by trying to compare Him with finite creatures. And although it is absolutely impossible for three finite creatures to consist of the same essence, nevertheless, God, who is three Divine persons, and Who is identified in the economy of redemption as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is also, and at the same time, one self-existent, eternal, infinite, immutable Spirit Being.
There can be no doubt that the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity transcends the limits of our finite knowledge. By reason alone, and by this I mean reason unaided by divine revelation, we cannot figure out the ontological Trinity. But by concentrating on the economic Trinity revealed to us in the Bible, we can know what the Triune God wants us to know about Himself. Consequently, I agree with professor B. B. Warfield, who concluded, “When we have said these three things, then—that there is but one God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person—we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness” (“The Biblical Doctrine Of The Trinity,” in B. B. Warfield, ed., Biblical And Theological Studies, pp. 22-59).
Mythology is filled with numerous triads, but there is only one Triune God. And if it had not been for the scheme of redemption, we would know very little of His threeness. In fact, although there are allusions in the Old Testament that the Godhead consists of more than one person, if Scripture had not depicted Jesus of Nazareth as God incarnate, and the Holy Spirit as Deity, the question of the Trinity would have never arisen. This means that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the fundamental proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. This means that if the pre-existent Jesus (i.e., the Word or Divine Logos of John 1:1) actually divested Himself of His Godhood and Divinity, so that the “fullness of the Godhead” did not dwell in His earthly body (cf. Colossians 2:9), as some are currently teaching, then the Triune God, who has identified Himself as a self-existent, eternal, infinite, immutable Spirit, ceased to exist as He had existed, at least for a period of time. Therefore, one can readily see that the controversy over the Deity of Christ that has been manifested in some churches of Christ is not a “tempest in a teapot” issue; but is, instead, an issue that strikes at the very core of the gospel. With this in mind, it is now time to turn our attention to the Biblical truth that there never was a time when the Divine Logos was not God with a capital “G.”
Jesus is God. This is the basic meaning of the incarnation. In John 1:1, the Holy Spirit teaches that not only was the Word (i.e., the Logos) in the beginning with God, but the Word was God. In verses 14-34 of the same book, we learn that the Logos became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And in this book that was written so that men would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing might have life in His name, Thomas, speaking of Jesus, exclaims, after seeing Him in His resurrected body, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). There are, of course, other passages that directly speak of Jesus as God, but since they are all disputed by some, I have chosen not to mention them here. Nevertheless, the passages cited serve to demonstrate, to those who are willing to believe the Bible, that Jesus is, in fact, God.
Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews, telling us what God had prophesied about Jesus, writes, “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8). Also, he clearly identifies Jesus as the Jehovah and Elohim of Psalm 102:25-27, who eternally existed before He created the heavens and earth (cf. Hebrews 1:10), and who remains eternally the same (cf. Hebrews 1:11,12), and who is, in the person of Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). To see in Hebrews 13:8, as some do, only a reference to the faithfulness of Jesus, and not a reference to His immutability, is a serious mistake. In fact, Jesus Christ’s faithfulness is grounded in His changelessness. Because He does not change ontologically (i.e., because He has always been the fullness of God that He is at this very moment), He has been, is, and always will be, completely and totally reliable. It is only in this sense that Jesus could identify Himself as the “I AM THAT I AM” or “He who is” of Exodus 3:14 (see also John 8:58). When Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM,” He used the aorist tense to describe Abraham’s existence, but the timeless present tense to describe His own existence, and thereby identified Himself as the self-existent, eternal, infinite, immutable God with a capital “G.” Well has it been said:
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:1-2).
As difficult as it may be for finite creatures to even begin to comprehend, when the Divine Logos, or Son of God, became flesh (cf. John 1:14), or, as the Bible says elsewhere, came in the likeness of man (cf. Philippians 2:8), or was manifested in the flesh (cf. 1 Timothy 3:16), He did not divest, give up, or have stripped from Him, His Deity. Within the man Jesus of Nazareth dwelt, and continues to dwell (for such is the meaning of the present tense), all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, as Colossians 2:9 so clearly points out. In fact, from a Biblical standpoint, the historical Jesus is never understood apart from His embodiment as the self-existent, eternal, infinite, immutable God in time and space. And although it is true that a God divested of His Deity would still continue to exist, in truth, He would no longer be what He had been and, therefore, could not call Himself “I AM THAT I AM.”
Now, with a concept of the true God firmly imprinted in our minds, it is time to turn our attention to the various substitutes for God (i.e., idols) that men invent, even Christians, and we’ll do this, Lord permitting, in the next post in this series