In brief, this study is to understand more fully what John meant when he wrote
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3
Reasoning intelligently, an individual cannot be the same individual (personality) as the one they are with so here the Scriptures reveal two separate individuals (two separate personages or personalities), both of which are said to be God.
Note in these verses that John does not mention the Holy Spirit. Interesting also is that the Greek actually reads “the Word was “with the God” (Gr. ton qeon). If translated this way, the verse would say “In [the] beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and the Word was God”. Note also the bracketed ‘the’ denoting that there is no article. This article [the] in many translations is supplied.
From the beginning of his gospel, John needed to carefully differentiate between God and the Word (God and His Son). He could not afford to cause confusion. I say this because at that time, some were trying to inculcate into the Christian faith heresies concerning Christ. John therefore would have chosen his words very carefully.
The author of these notes regards the gospel of John as a divinely inspired theology (see John 20:31). He believes it was written by him to specifically combat the heresies to which reference has been made above. This I believe was John’s entire purpose in writing it. It was not just another gospel concerning the life and teachings of Jesus like the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These are called ‘the synoptic gospels’. John’s gospel is so much different. It is a divine theology.
Take note that John did not say it was ‘the God’ (the Father) who became flesh but “the Word” (see John 1:14). As has been said previously, this is a different personality to the Father.
As the scriptures say
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” Hebrew 1:1-3
Here the Son is said to be the “express image” of God’s person (Gr. hupostasis). This means that as an individual personality He cannot be the same personality (personage) as the one of whom He is an image. This is only a reasonable conclusion to draw. Again we are talking in terms of two separate personalities, both of whom are God. This is a major part of the mystery of God.
As the writer of Hebrews went on to say
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” Hebrews 1:8
The author of these notes reasons that it is only if He is begotten of God (of the Father) meaning God from God that it is possible for the Son to be truly God.
In Hebrews 1:3, the Son is said to be the “express image” of the ‘hupostasis’ of God, meaning the exact likeness of who and everything that God is.
This is in keeping with the NEB translation of John 1:1 which says
“When all things began, the word already was. The word dwelt with God and what God was, the word was.” John 1:1 New English Bible
The word ‘hupostasis’ means substance or under-girding etc. In other words, it is the ‘hupostasis’ that makes something what it is. This can be seen above where the NEB says “what God was, the Word was”.
Christ fully God
In agreement with early Christianity and later orthodoxy, the predominant belief of early Seventh-day Adventism was that in every sense of meaning, Christ is fully God. They did not regard Him as a lesser personality than the Father but equal to Him. According to this reasoning, the difference between the Father and the Son was that the pre-existent Christ is sourced (begotten) of the Father therefore He is a true Son. This means that He has no existence separate from the Father. This was the testimony of Jesus Himself.
When Philip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Jesus said
“ … Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” John 14:9-11
Here is the mystery of the oneness between God and Christ. If we have seen Christ we have seen the Father.
So how are we to reason this mystery?
To do so we shall continue to search through the Scriptures to see what evidence we can find to determine what God has revealed concerning the relationship between Himself and Christ.
In this article we shall begin with the profession of faith upon which Jesus Himself said that His Church would be built. As we shall see, this profession is that He is the Son of the living God. This is the subject matter of this article.
Jesus the Son of God – The Christian profession of faith
It was the outspoken Peter who gave the greatest example of the profession of the Christian faith.
The Scriptures tell us that
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Matthew 16:13
The disciples answered Jesus by telling Him that some were saying that He was John the Baptist or Elijah, whilst others were saying that He was Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.
It was following this that Jesus asked the most important question of all. It was not “whom do others say that I am” but “whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
Jesus had now made this a personal question. Just like it does to us today, this demanded a personal confession of faith.
It was Peter in his own distinctive style who was the first to answer.
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
This was the second time Peter made such a confession. The first time was after the feeding of the 5000 and the rejection of Jesus in Galilee (see John 6:69).
Peter did not say that Jesus was going to become the Son of God at the resurrection (this is when some say Christ became a son) or as some say He was a son because He was born of the flesh of His mother Mary (meaning at the incarnation), but that He was the “Son of the living God”. We need to remember here that Peter had not yet grasped the idea that Jesus was going to die let alone be resurrected.
The words “Son of God” were not used by Peter in any metaphorical (figurative) way but in a sense that was literal. Peter and the others, solely because of the impress of the Holy Spirit, had discerned the divinity of Christ. This is why they termed Him the Son of the living God. For obvious reasons they could not say that He was God.
Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to make his profession of faith (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”). This profession had nothing to do with the incarnation. It was with reference to Christ’s divinity and His pre-existent relationship to His Father. The disciples had seen the glory of the Son of God.
In His beautiful prayer prior to His experience in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5
Peter and the other disciples had discerned this “glory”. It was Christ’s pre-existent glory. Now we can see why Jesus responded to Peter’s confession by saying
“Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17
It was the Holy Spirit directly that had urged this confession from the lips of Peter. This was prior to any New Testament Scripture being written. The only Scriptures that the disciples had available to them were what we term today the ‘Old Testament’.
Peter’s profession was direct revelation from God. He did not acquire his understanding by human means. He had been shown the divinity of Christ (His glory) and had therefore proclaimed Him to be the Son of God.
As to identity of personality, Jesus was not the infinite God (see John 17:3). He was the Son of the infinite God. It was on this profession that Jesus said that the Christian Church would be built.
As Jesus said to Peter
“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Jesus is the divine Son of God. This is His glory. It is also the Rock upon which the Christian church is built. It is the profession of the Christian faith. All else is secondary.
The Jews understood the claims of Jesus
When Jesus was brought before Caiaphas at the night trial, the high priest asked Him
“I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Matthew 26:63
Caiaphas was not asking Jesus if He was the Son of God in any metaphorical (figurative) sense. He was speaking literally. This is why Jesus had been brought before him. He had been accused of blasphemy. He had claimed to be the Son of God. The Jews said that it was because of this He deserved to die.
At the day trial the next morning, the Scriptures reveal that the high priests, elders and scribes came together to question Jesus.
They asked Him
“Art thou the Christ? tell us.” Luke 22:67
The Scriptures record that Jesus answered
“If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.” Luke 22:67-68
Jesus then told them that hereafter the Son of man would sit on the right hand of the power of God.
The Scripture then say that after He had said this they together asked Him
“Art thou then the Son of God?” to which Jesus replied, “Ye say that I am”. Luke 22:70
Luke ends the record of this encounter by saying
“And they said, what need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.” Luke 22:71
The questions that Jesus was asked at His trial were obviously with respect to the encounters that He previously had with the Jews. These are such that are recorded in John chapters 5, 8 and 10 etc.
We can see therefore that the Jews knew exactly who Jesus was claiming to be. They all knew that in the literal sense of it’s meaning, he was claiming to be the Son of God, hence the question of Caiaphas – “tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God”. If Christ was not being asked this in a literal sense, then the entirety of the accusations do not make any sense.
The Jews knew exactly who Jesus was claiming to be. Let us not make any mistake about it.
As the Scriptures say
“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:18
Jesus continually spoke of God as His Father and of Himself as God’s Son. This was no metaphorical (figurative) claim or understanding of this term. Obviously the Jews saw nothing figurative in it. This is why, by His profession to be the Son of God, they regarded Jesus as claiming to be “equal with God”. If they had believed His words to be metaphorical (figurative) they would not have spoken as they did here, neither would they have had any just cause to bring Him before Caiaphas on the claim of blasphemy etc. This is only reasonable exegesis.
That the Jews took the claims of Jesus literally is not in question. As they said to Him on one occasion
“ … For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” John 10:33
It can only be said again that the Jews obviously saw nothing metaphorical (figurative) in the claims of Jesus. They said that by them He was making Himself to be God.
Jesus also said to the Jews
“Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? John 10:36
As can be seen here, Jesus clearly said that His claim was that He was the Son of God but the Jews said this was blasphemy. This is why they were going to stone Him. His were literal claims and the Jews realised it.
The Jews knew that this claim of Jesus was not in the sense that all who are God’s people are sons (and daughters) of God. Jesus was the Son of God, the only begotten of God. The Jews knew full well that Christ was making this claim in a special sense and not one that was common.
The Jews had no misunderstanding as regards the claims of Jesus. This is why they said to Pilate
“We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7)
If the Jews had regarded this claim to be the Son of God in a common sense, they would not have condemned Jesus to death. It is only reasonable to believe that neither would they have done so if they had thought that He had meant it in some figurative way. They knew that His was a literal claim. This is why they said He ought to die.
A question of Fathers
In personality, Jesus was not claiming to be the infinite God but the Son of the infinite God. This we can also see in His wonderful prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John.
This is when He said
“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:1-5
Needless to say, Jesus did not regard Himself as “the only true God”. This latter personage was His Father in Heaven (the infinite God).
In a previous encounter with the Jews, Jesus had said to them
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” John 5:19-23
There was no doubting whom Jesus was claiming to be. He was claiming to be the Son of God in the highest sense of its meaning. Obviously He was not using this title in any metaphoric (figurative) sense.
Christ was indeed the pre-existent Son of God. This is His identity. It is who he is. There is nothing metaphorical (figurative) about it. He really is the Son of God.
Interesting to note is that there are numerous translations of the Scriptures (far too many to quote here) that have “own Father”, particularly the ‘more modern’ versions.
It is also interesting to note a few others that say differently. This is such as the Weymouth translation that says
“On this account then the Jews were all the more eager to put Him to death — because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also spoke of God as being in a special sense His Father, thus putting Himself on a level with God.” John 5:18 Weymouth
Interesting also is the Daniel Mace translation. This one says
“Therefore the Jews were the more eager to kill him, because he had not only violated the sabbath, but likewise, because he had said that God was his proper father, making himself equal with God.” Mace translation (1729)
Can this be put more plainly? Christ was the Son of God in the very highest sense of its meaning. God was “his proper father”. There is nothing metaphorical (figurative) about it. How much more evidence do we need to believe that Christ really is the Son of God?
Christ claimed Sonship with God. This was when in what is probably the most well known encounter that Jesus had with the Jews He said to them
“… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
It’s important to note that this encounter was all about ‘fathers’. The Jews claimed that God was their Father but Jesus disagreed. He had said that they were of their father the devil (see John 8:44).
By the way that Jesus used the term “I am”, the Jews obviously knew what Jesus was claiming. We know this because the Scriptures tell us (this was in response to the above words of Jesus)
“Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” John 8:59
In comparison to the world’s total population, there are so very few who actually believe that Jesus really is the divine Son of God. Will we not believe His personal testimony?
Written By: Terry Hill