What makes the denial of the Trinity so much more difficult to understand is that those who oppose the doctrine are usually from within Christianity! This should, however, not be surprising since the Scriptures warn of false Christs, false teachers, and deceiving doctrines of Satan (Matt 24:24; Mk. 13:22; 2 Pet. 2:1).
One of the greatest cult researchers of the twentieth century, Dr. Walter Martin writes, "Since the central doctrine of almost all cults is the denial of both the Deity and Saviorhood of the Lord Jesus, we must exert renewed effort in preaching and teaching these major doctrines of our Christian heritage."1
Dr. Martin has categorized the beliefs of the major cults active in his day as follows: "The Jesus of the Christian Scientist, the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and of all the cult systems, is but a subtle caricature of the Christ of divine revelation, In cult theology, He becomes an abstraction (Christian Science, Unity, Metaphysics, New Thought), a second god (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Theosophy, Rosacrucianism, Baha'ism), or a pantheistic manifestation of deity (Spiritism, the Great I Am); but He is still incontrovertibly "another Jesus," who represents another gospel and imparts another spirit, which by no conceivable stretch of the imagination could be called holy."2
The Deity of ChristThe deity of Christ is one of the most important doctrines of the Bible. If Christ is not God then as Jesus tells the Pharisees, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He (God), you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). There are several points of proof concerning the deity of Christ. (1) Christ is preexistent; (2) Christ is called "God-with-Us" - God in the flesh; (3) Christ is called God; and (4) The Works of Christ.
The Preexistence of ChristThat Christ is said to have preexisted is an easily established fact. The late theologian Dr. Walvoord states, "The eternality of Christ is not only essential to the deity of the second Person, but also intrinsic in any proper doctrine of the Trinity .The Christ of the Scriptures is God, and a God who is not eternal is not God."3
1. Christ had a heavenly origin.
Christ Himself said before He came in the flesh He had a heavenly origin; "For I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38; cf. John 1:15, 30; 3:13; 6:33, 42, 50-51, 58, 62; 7:29; 8:42; 9:39; Eph. 1:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:20).
2. Christ existed before His Incarnation.
That Christ existed before His incarnation is revealed in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. The most famous proof text which speaks of both His deity and eternality is John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In this text the verb "was" is in the Greek an imperfect, "[t]he imperfect is the tense which indicates durative action in the past time."4 In other words, the imperfect tense stresses continual existence in past time! Dr. Enns translates, "In the beginning the Word was continually existing." John indicates that however far back one goes, the Word was continuously existing!5 And the Word is Christ.
In John 8:58, the Lord says to the Jews, "Truly I say to you before Abraham was, I AM." Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He claimed to exist before Abraham. In fact He is the continuously existing one as the Greek present tense suggests. Notice that the Lord calls Himself "I AM" which is the translation of His Hebrew name YHWH which means "the existing One," from the verb hayah meaning "to be," or "exist." The Lord has no beginning or end, He is the ever-existing one! The I AM!
Dr. Enns writes, "Thus in Exodus 3:14-15 the Lord declares, "I AM WHO I AM The Lord has sent me to you. This is my name forever." This has particular significance to the "I AM" claims of Christ (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 11:25; 14:6; 15:1), who in His statements claimed equality with Yahweh."6
Evidence from the Old Testament abounds in Scripture like Micah 5:2:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
This verse speaks of His birth in Bethlehem, but stresses He "comes out from eternity past." In Isaiah 9:6 Christ is called the "Eternal Father." This does not mean the Christ is the Father, because they are two distinct Persons. It does mean that Christ also possess the title Father7 (see also Col. 1:16-17; Rev. 1:8).
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6).
As already pointed out, the Angel of the Lord of the Old Testament is called God. In fact, we know for certain that the Angel of the Lord is called Christ! Notice that the Angel of God accompanied Israel when they left Egypt (Ex. 14:19), and Paul affirms that was Christ when he said " for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them
[Israel in the wilderness]: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Christ was with them in the wilderness!
3. Christ's Activities in the Creation of the World.
Christ is revealed to have played a part in the creation of all things. For example, in Colossians 1:15-17 He is described as playing a part in creation:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Jehovah's Witnesses and others, in following Arius, say Jesus was the "first-created" using the word "firstborn" to mean "first-created." The Greek word prototokos is a compound of protos meaning "first" (in time, place, or rank), and tikto meaning "to bring forth, bear, produce (fruit from seed)," and as Dr. Barnes well observes,
The first-born of every creature - Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in oriental countries, a common thing for the oldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father.8
How can Jesus Christ participate in the creation and be created at the same time? That He participated in the creation is declared here and elsewhere (cf. John 1:3; Heb. 1:2). The importance of Paul's writing to the Colossians concerning Christ's involvement in creation is because of the Colossians worship of angels, so Paul tells them Christ created the angels (Col. 1:16)!
The point of Colossians 1:15-18 is "the preeminence" of Christ as is clearly explained in verse eighteen as Christ is said to be "the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence."
The Incarnation of Christ
Critical to the doctrine of the Trinity is the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. And the most critical to the doctrine of the deity of Christ is His incarnation. That Jesus is "God in the flesh" is the main point of our Lord's birth which was foretold in Isaiah 7:6b, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Immanuel means "with us [is] God" or as most translate "God with us," which Matthew provides the Old Testament prophetic fulfillment in chapter one,
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. (Matt. 1:18-25)
In verse twenty-three there is no mistaking the Old Testament quote. Here, Joseph is told to call the baby known as "Immanuel," Jesus which is of Hebrew origin from Yehoshua' or Joshua meaning "Jehovah is salvation." This child is called God in Isaiah 9:6:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
So important is the incarnation that Dr. Walvoord writes, "Upon it [the incarnation] the whole superstructure of Christian theology depends."9 The word incarnation does not appear in Scripture but its components do as John 1:14 declares the Word became flesh. The word incarnation means "in flesh." The word denotes the act of the eternal Son of God took to Himself an additional nature, namely, humanity through the virgin birth. By doing so, Christ did not cease to be God but remains forever fully God and fully man. Two natures in one Person!
Jesus Christ is called God in John 1:1,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jesus is referred to as the Logos the Word. That is, God speaks and it becomes so. God spoke and there was created the heaven and earth and all things in them. God speaks and it is written down in a book so that we are without excuse because we have a record of what He says to mankind. He spoke the prophecy of the incarnation of the God-man, and Isaiah recorded it. When God came in the flesh, was offered as the Lamb of God and was resurrected, fulfilling His word, mankind was given a gift.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9).
The Meaning of the Son of GodWhen Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, He was claiming equality with God, "For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." (Jn. 5:18)
The title "Son of God" does not mean that God fathered a son, but rather is a Jewish idiom that describes a major characteristic of someone. For example, the term is used in 2 Sam 13:28 as "Sons of valor" meaning courage, and Job 41:34, "Sons of pride" meaning proud people (cf. Deut. 25:2; Jer. 48:45; Mark 3:17; Acts 4:36).
To say Jesus is the Son of God is to say that He is the proper representative of God on earth and to say Jesus is the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt 24:30; 25:31; 26:64; John 1:51) is to say He is the proper representative of mankind on earth. Very God and very man! To say Jesus is the Son of David means He is the promised Messiah who is to rule with a rod of iron (Matt. 22:42).
The terms begotten, only-begotten and first-born are not used to indicate Christ was created but instead relates specific information concerning Him.
- Begotten. Matthew 1:20 says, "But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived [gennao] in her is of the Holy Spirit." The Greek gennao means beget and is translated "conceived" in Matthew 1:20. The word is a neuter participle which associates it with the Holy Spirit not the woman. Christ is begotten in Him humanity not His deity. "Christ was God from all eternity (Mic. 5:2), but at Bethlehem He took to Himself an additional nature, namely, a human nature. The Holy Spirit superintended Mary's conception to assure the sinlessness of the humanity of Christ. It is with reference to the humanity of Christ that the term begotten is used; it could never be used with reference to His deity. Begotten does not relate to Jesus' being the Son of God... Thus Psalm 2:7 and Acts 13:33 emphasizes that begotten refers to the public declaration of the Sonship of Christ (but not the origination of the Sonship.)"10
- Only-begotten. The term only-begotten (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9) does not mean the Son had a beginning point in time but rather that the Son is "unique," the "only one of its kind," "the only example of its category." It was the unique Son that God sent into the world by the Father. By this term is meant that the Son of God was the "sole representative of the Being and character of the One who sent Him."11
- First-begotten, Firstborn. The term firstborn does not mean Jesus was born first in time as the Mormons hold. To understand the term, one needs to go to the culture where it is used. In its Old Testament culture the predominant emphasis was on the status of the oldest son. "He enjoyed the double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21:17), privileges over other family members (Gen. 27:1-4, 35-37), preferential treatment (Gen. 43:33), and the respect of others (Gen. 37:22). Figuratively, the word denotes priority or supremacy (Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9). and is so used of Christ. In Colossians 1:18 where Christ is referred to as first-born the meaning is clear: as first-born, Christ is Head of the church and preeminent in everything. In Hebrews 1:6 the supremacy of Christ as the first-born is seen in that angels worship Him. Only God is worshiped. Psalm 89:27 is perhaps one of the clearest explanations of the term first-born. This is an example of synthetic poetry in Hebrew in which the second line explains the first. In this Messianic Psalm God affirms that Messiah will be the first-born, that is, the highest of the kings of the earth. First-born is explained as ruling over the kings of the entire earth. From both a linguistic and exegetical study it is clear that first-born draws attention to the preeminent status of Jesus as Messiah."12
Jesus is Explicitly Called God
Jesus is referred to as Deity in John 1:1 which has already been talked about, but notice also Thomas' declaration in John 20:28, "And Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my God!" Likewise, the apostle Paul declares the same in Romans 9:5, "of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen" (cf. Phil. 2:6; Tit. 2:13; 1 John 5:20).
Jesus equates himself with God the Father in claiming to be the light. Just as the Father is the light (Ps. 27:1; 1 Jn 1:5), so the Son is the light of the world (John 8:12).
Jesus is equated with deity in that just as the Father is the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9; Jer. 2:13; Jn 5:26), so the Son has life in Himself (Jn. 1:4). "It is again a strong affirmation of the deity of Christ. Apart from God, everything else has derived life, but Jesus has life in Himself. Everything and everyone else is dependent on Jesus for life and existence .As the life, Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him (Jn 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 20:31), He gives abundant life (Jn 10:10), and resurrection life (11:25); moreover, it is a present possession (1 Jn 5:11-13)."13
The Old Testament God Equated with the New Testament ChristJesus is equated with Old Testament Scriptures that speak of God.14
- Isaiah 40:3/Luke 1:76 One who prepares the way of the Lord
- Psalm 102:24-28/Hebrews 1:8, 10-12 The Messiah
- Zechariah 12:10/Revelation 1:7 The pierced One
- Psalm 68:17-18/Ephesians 4:7-8 The One who was with Israel on Sinai
- Isaiah 8:13-14/1 Peter 2:7-8 The Lord of Hosts is the stumbling stone
- Isaiah 6:1-10/John 12:40-42 The Lord who hardens hearts
- Joel 3:1-2/Matthew 25:31-32 The Judge of the nations
- Isaiah 44:6/Revelation 22:13 - God
Christ Performs the Works of God
- In the Creation, preservation and giving of Life.
Jesus is said to be the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:8, 10). He is also said to be the Author of life (John 11:25; 14:6; 1 Cor. 15:22). These are acts that only God can perform. And Scripture declares that Christ has life in Himself (John 5:26), meaning that He was not created. That He is independent of His creation.
Christ is also the one who holds all things up. The preserver of all things by His word, "And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col. 1:17) "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of Hs power." (Heb. 1:3)
- In the forgiveness of sins and the judgment of all the earth.
God is the only one who can forgive sins and as such, Christ forgives sins, "And seeing their faith, He [Christ] said, 'Friend, yur sins are forgiven you.' And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, 'Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?'" (Luke 5:20-21; cf, 7:44-49; Matt. 9:1-6; Mark 2:5)
The works of salvation are ascribed to Christ as in (a) redemption (Acts 20:28); (b) election (John 13:18); (c) effectual calling (John 10:16; Matt. 9:13); (d) sanctification (Eph. 5:26); (e) mission of the Spirit (John 16:7, 14; 15:26); (f) defense against enemies (John 10:10); (g) gift of eternal life (John 10:28); (h) resurrection of the body (John 5:21); (I) final judgment (John 5:22; Acts 17:31).
God is the ultimate judge of all the nations, "But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness." (Ps. 9:7-8) So Christ is equated with God, "But the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him " (Mat. 25:31-32; cf. John 5:22; Acts 17:31; 2 Thes. 1:7-8).
Miracles performed by Christ in person or through His apostles is proof of His deity. "As the Father raises up the dead, so the Son quickens whom he will (John 5:21). Christ claims these miracles are proof of His divinity "The works that I do bear witness of me." (John 5:36)
The apostles performed miracles in the name of Christ "Jesus Christ made you whole" (Acts 9:34).
Divine Attributes of Christ
Christ has divine attributes associated with Him. These attributes demonstrate His deity.
- Omnipresence (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13
- Omniscience (John 2:24, 25; 21:17; Rev. 2:23
- Omnipotence (Isa. 9:6; Phil 3:21; Rev. 1:8)
- Immutability (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8)
- Forgiveness of sins (Matt. 9:2-7; Mark 2:7-10; Col. 3:13)
- Resurrection and judgment (Matt. 25:31, 32; John 5:19-29; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 4:1)
- The final dissolution and renewal of all things (Heb. 1:10-12; Phil. 3:21; Rev. 21:5)
- Divine honor (John 5:22, 23; 14:1; 1 Cor. 15:19; 2 Cor. 13:13; Heb. 1:6; Matt. 28:19)
The deity of Christ, the Son of God, is undeniable. One cannot come to the Scriptures and not understand the trinity and the fact that God came in the flesh, in the form of man in order to perform that which only God could satisfy, namely, to become the perfect Lamb of God. Sinful man could not possibly have acted in this capacity, so God sent His Son into the world. The second aspect of the deity of Christ is the equality of Christ with the God of the Old Testament. One cannot escape the equality and not accept that there is no other God except the One God! God's attributes are His alone and He will not share that with anyone.
2 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1992), p. 380
4 Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek (Nashville:B&D Publishers, 1995), p. 57
6 Enns, p. 198
8 Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Bible (www.e-Sword.org, version 7.0.5, 2003)
10 Enns, p. 202
12 Enns, p. 203
14 Steven Waterhouse, Not by Bread Alone An outlined Guide to Bible Doctrine
(Amarillo:Westcliff Press, 2000), pp. 86-88