A Grand Spokesman—Who Is He?
A GRAND spokesman exists in the universe. He has tremendous power and authority. Your recognizing his position can lead to your enjoying an eternal future. Who is this spokesman?
The apostle John introduced him in the opening words of his Gospel. John called this one, who had become the man Jesus Christ, “the Word” (Greek, lógos). The apostle wrote: “In the beginning was the Word [ho lógos], and the Word was with God [tòn theón, accusative case of ho theòs], and the Word was God [theòs].”—John 1:1, Revised Standard Version.
Does this mean that the “Word” is the Almighty God, that he is the “second person” of Christendom’s Trinity? That is what millions of people believe. Is this what you have been taught? Do you know on what this belief is based?
Consider a comment made in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1974 edition, Micropædia, Vol. VI, p. 302): “The identification of Jesus with the logos, which is implicitly stated in various places in the New Testament but very specifically in the Fourth Gospel, was further developed in the early church but more on the basis of Greek philosophical ideas than on Old Testament motifs. [Italics ours]”
Notice that Greek philosophy provided a basis for ideas about the logos or “Word.” Might this not raise questions as to the correctness of common beliefs about Jesus Christ?—Col. 2:8.
Our getting to know the truth about the “Word” is not a matter of mere academic interest. It is something that has a bearing on our everlasting future. This is clear from Jesus’ words: “Eternal life means knowing you as the only true God, and knowing Jesus your messenger as Christ.” (John 17:3, An American Translation) Such knowing of God and Christ means knowing them as persons and enjoying a good relationship with them. Clearly, one who has a distorted view of Jesus’ identity and position in relation to his Father would know neither the Father nor the Son. With interest, then, we consider just what the Bible, not Greek philosophy, reveals about the identity of “the Word.”
IN WHAT SENSE GOD?
John 1:1 says that the “Word was with God.” That statement indicates that two persons are involved—the Word and God. In what sense, then, is the Word “God”? The answer to this question becomes clear when we consider the way the term “God” is used in the Bible.
Psalm 8:5 says: “You [Jehovah] also proceeded to make him [man] a little less than godlike ones.” In this case the expression “godlike ones” translates the Hebrew word ’elo·himʹ, which, depending upon the context, signifies “gods” or “God.” The ones here called “gods” are angels, because, when quoted at Hebrews 2:7, Psalm 8:5 reads: “You made him a little lower than angels.” The term “god” is even applied to men, as, for example, at Psalm 82:1-6, which refers to human judges who failed to execute justice as “gods.” Such references to angels and humans as “gods” pointed to their being (or their considering themselves to be) “mighty ones.” Also, angels were God’s representatives, and therefore humans spoke to them and of them as “God.”—Judg. 13:21, 22.
In view of such use of the word “God,” is the term not rightly applied to God’s firstborn Son? Surely, for this Son is indeed a “mighty one” as well as being God’s representative. (John 17:8) So when John 1:1 refers to Jesus as “God,” there really is no basis for concluding that he is the “second person” of a triune God. The text itself does not say anything like that. The word “God” in this application to the “Word” simply calls attention to that one’s divine nature, his being Godlike, a mighty one, during his prehuman existence. This is evident from the omission in the original Greek text of the definite article before “God” in the phrase “the Word was God.” As Greek scholar Westcott states: “It is necessarily without the article [the·ós not ho the·ós] inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person.”—Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, by Professor C. F. D. Moule, 1963 reprint.
THE FATHER IS CHRIST’S GOD
If the “Word” were indeed the “second person” of a triune God, should we not expect the Bible to say this in clear terms? If Jesus of the “New Testament” is Jehovah of the “Old Testament,” as many claim, should there not at least be one Biblical reference definitely saying that Jesus is Jehovah? Yet there is not one. In fact, Jesus himself recognized his Father as his God, saying to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.”—John 20:17.
Thus the Father alone is THE God, the Supreme One, to whom all owe worship and to whom all, including the Son, are rightly subject. Our God is therefore the same One who is the God of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul pointed out to fellow believers: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.” (1 Cor. 8:6) Does this not reveal a clear distinction between the Father and the Son as to their position, power and authority?
The Father and the Son are not equal, as Trinitarians claim. “The head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) As Christians are the property of Christ, so Christ is God’s property. Wrote the inspired apostle Paul: “You belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.” (1 Cor. 3:23) Does this not perhaps refer to Christ only while a human on earth? Though himself a Trinitarian, theologian C. F. Kling makes this comment about the apostle’s words: “By belonging to Christ we indirectly belong to God . . . And so, on the one hand, we see our union to God to be mediated by Christ, and, on the other, that Christ is subordinated to the Father, as shown in 1 Co xi. 3. To consider this subordination however as belonging solely to His human nature, would not accord with a correct view of the whole subject. It is the whole Christ that is here spoken of, and that too not simply as in His state of humiliation, but also in His state of glory.”—A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, by J. P. Lange and translated by P. Schaff.
Actually, everything that the Son has he has received from the Father. Note Jesus’ own statements: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. . . . For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son . . . And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is.” (John 5:19-27) “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) That includes kingly authority, as is evident from Daniel 7:13, 14, which reads: “With the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.”
After accomplishing his millennial work as king toward humankind, Jesus Christ will ‘hand over the kingdom to his God and Father.’ As the Bible clearly states, he “will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28) Obviously, then, the Son owes everything to his Father and rightly acknowledges that fact. He is not his Father’s equal.
“IN THE BEGINNING”
Viewed from a language standpoint, the very fact that the “Word” is the “Son of God” indicates a beginning, as a son is always younger than his father. As for the Father, he has always existed. Of Him the inspired psalmist declared: “Before the mountains themselves were born, or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” (Ps. 90:2) Can this be said of the Son when that very designation indicates otherwise? If so, there should be some indication that “son” when used with reference to the “firstborn Son” does not really mean “son.” Is there proof for this? Or, to the contrary, are there Biblical statements that clearly point to a time when the Son did not exist?
At Revelation 3:14 the Son is called “the beginning of God’s creation” (Revised Standard Version), “the origin of God’s creation” (An American Translation) or “the beginning of the creation of God.” (Authorized Version) Many argue that this means that the Son was the Originator or Author of the creation. But that is not what the text says. Even some Trinitarians admit that such an explanation is wrong.
Says theologian Albert Barnes regarding the Greek word translated “beginning” or “origin”: “The word properly refers to the commencement of a thing, not its authorship, and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist. . . . The word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence.”—Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, p. 1569.
Thereafter this theologian acknowledges that Revelation 3:14 could properly mean that Christ was created, saying: “If it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact.”
Being a Trinitarian, he does not accept that fact, insisting that other scriptures prove that Jesus is himself the Creator, uncreated, eternal. This theologian therefore interprets Revelation 3:14 to mean that Christ is ‘the beginning of God’s creation’ because of being the Prince or Head of creation. Let us, then, examine this view in the light of the texts on which he claims to rely. Is Jesus really the Creator?
According to the rendering of the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, John 1:1-3 says: “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.” Does this prove that “the Word” was the Creator? No. Why not? Because the creation was accomplished through him. The Word was therefore God’s instrument for accomplishing the creative works. The same thought is expressed at Colossians 1:15, 16: “He is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers—all things were created through him and for him.”—Jerusalem Bible.
What is written at Hebrews 1:2 does not alter the picture. The Son is again presented as the instrument or agency used in creating. The Jerusalem Bible reads: “In our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is.”
Thus these passages in John, Colossians and Hebrews in reality show that the Son is not the Creator and not equal to his Father. Of course, as the context reveals, these passages were not recorded to establish that the Son had or did not have a beginning but to point to his important position in God’s purpose. Yet might they not provide indirect proof that the Son had a beginning? Since the Son received his position from his God and Father, there was obviously a time when he did not possess what he received. So, just as there was a time when the Son did not have what his Father gave him, could there not also have been a time when he did not exist and the Father was alone?
This is implied by the words of John 1:1, “in the beginning was the Word.” That is quite different from saying ‘the Word always existed.’ In itself the word “beginning” conveys the idea of a start somewhere in the past. Biblical examples illustrate this. Unlike the Word, whose existence is linked with the beginning, God is referred to as creating in the beginning. Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet another beginning is mentioned at 1 John 3:8: “The Devil has been sinning from the beginning [that is, from the start of his rebellion against God].”
In view of such use of the word “beginning,” what can we rightly conclude about the expression “in the beginning was the Word”? This: It means that the Word was with his Father for a time before being used in accomplishing the creative works. After creation began, he served as his Father’s Spokesman or “Word” toward all intelligent creatures.
As Son and subordinate of his Father, the “Word” received life from the Father. Yet he occupies the unique position of being the only son produced directly by God. In all creation, the “Word” is indeed a grand Spokesman, having served as God’s instrument in producing those to whom he thus ministers.
Your acceptance of Jesus Christ, not as the “second person” of a triune God, but as God’s Son and Spokesman, involves your life. As the apostle John noted regarding what he recorded about Jesus’ signs: “These have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life.”—John 20:31.