Is it enough to believe that Jesus was a good man, a prophet of the true and living God, an excellent teacher of truth, and even a perfectly righteous man who had never sinned? Though all of this is certainly true about the Lord, does accepting just these characteristics meet the need of John 8:24, in which Jesus warns, "...unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins"?
In the same chapter, Jesus speaks of having "come from God...that He sent Me" (v. 42), that God is His Father (v. 54); and indicates having an eternal nature, when saying, "before Abraham was born, I am" (v. 58).
How many today accept the fact that Jesus has always existed? According to the Jehovah Witnesses, Jesus has not always been -- because He was created by the Father before the world began. Though they claim that "Jehovah and his firstborn Son enjoyed close association for billions of years -- long before the starry heavens and the earth were created(1)," yet that is far short from an eternity.
Among the various things that Jesus would be called, according to Isaiah 9:6, a couple of those are "Mighty God" and "Eternal Father." Jesus, of course, is not the Father or first person of the Godhead; He is the Son. But this phrase has been said to express the idea that Jesus is the "Father of eternity," that even eternity owes its existence to Him.
But going back to the Jehovah Witnesses' perspective, "Jesus is Jehovah's most precious Son -- and for good reason. He is called 'the firstborn of all creation,' for he was God's first creation (Colossians 1:15)" (ibid.).
Though firstborn often indicates "first in order," is expressing a time-element the only way "firstborn" is used? From the Scriptures, it is easy to see how it also evolved into a figurative usage expressing a supreme rank. For during the Mosaical Period, for example, the firstborn received a double portion of his father's inheritance, thus putting him above his brothers in being entitled to that (Deut. 21:17). And sometimes "firstborn" is used without relation to time, but only to indicate rank, as seen in Isaiah 14:30, where the phrase "the firstborn of the poor" (KJV) is rendered as the "most helpless" (NASB) and the "poorest of the poor" (NIV). So, again, "firstborn" is metaphorically used to express that which ranks above others; and, in this case, those who would be the most poor. But notice, too, how it is seen in Psalm 89:27, in which God says of David, "I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." In this, we can clearly see the idea of superiority. So in going back to Colossians 1:15, Jesus being "the firstborn of all creation" expresses His preeminence over everyone and all that exists. Yes, He truly does "have first place in everything" (v. 18). He is the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16). He has "All authority...in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18); and, therefore, "...is the head over all rule and authority" (Col. 2:10). God the Father "...HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS [Jesus'] FEET...." And the Father Himself is the only exception to that (1 Cor. 15:27,28).
In referring to God as His own Father, Jesus was viewed by others as "making Himself equal with God" (Jn. 5:18), which is one of the reasons for why some sought to stone Him (cf. Jn. 10:31-36).
The apostle John begins His account of the life of Christ by speaking of His preexistence, His divinity, and His role in the creation itself: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (Jn. 1:1-3). As Paul also declares, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible...all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16). The Hebrew writer expresses it this way: "And, 'You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle you will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end'" (Heb. 1:10-12).
It is also in this same chapter in which God the Father addresses Jesus by calling Him "God": "But of the Son He says, 'Your Throne, O God, is forever and ever...'" (v. 8).
Interestingly, even the Tetragrammaton, which is the four consonants that make up the personal name of God, that some translate as "Jehovah" and tell us that it pertains to only the Father, is also used with reference to the Son: "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me'" (Zech 2:8,9). So in this passage, the LORD of hosts is seen having been sent by the LORD of hosts; and "LORD" is from the Tetragrammaton in both places.
Though there are the three distinct persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who make up the one Godhead, yet they are each as much Deity as the other. As we have considered, the first place where "God" is mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 1:1, in which Moses writes, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It has been noted that "God" is from the Hebrew word "Elohim," which is the plural form of God; and that also corresponds with Genesis 1:26 that shows there was more than One involved in the great work of creation: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Nowhere do we read of angels being involved in that work, but we do see of Jesus and the Holy Spirit who were. As we saw earlier, the focus was on Jesus in His role as the Creator (Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10-12), though all three Persons of the Godhead worked together in that. For concerning also the Holy Spirit, while the earth was still formless and void, He was "moving over the surface of the waters" (Gen. 1:2).
Paul, too, speaks of the preexistence of Jesus, but also shows His willingness to leave His glorious state in heaven to humbly take on a human body, which was quite a sacrifice in itself: "...who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:5-8). So Christ had to take on a human body in order that He could make the atoning sacrifice by His death -- and He did that for every sinner (Heb. 2:9).
Concerning Jesus being "the Word," this has been explained in the Jehovah Witnesses' book to mean that "he spoke for God, no doubt delivering messages and instructions to the Father's other sons, both spirit and human" (ibid., p. 41). But Jesus did more than speak God's message, for He also embodied Deity (Col. 2:9), being the "exact representation" of His Father's nature (Heb 1:3) and, thus, manifesting to the world what God is like (cf. Jn. 14:7-9). For while on earth, Jesus was human and Deity simultaneously and demonstrated the characteristics of both.
So truly believing in Jesus goes way beyond merely accepting the fact that He was a good man, an excellent teacher, a prophet of God, and One who lived a perfect and righteous life. For He was and is the eternal, second person of the Godhead, the Creator, the Savior, and the only way to everlasting life (cf. Jn. 14:6).
In many different translations of the New Testament, the word "Christ" is in more than 500 verses. It is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "Messiah." Only Jesus fulfilled that role. He made the atonement by His own death that truly can blot out sin, and which no other means could ever do -- not even all the countless animal sacrifices that were offered from the days of Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 4:4) throughout all the entire Old Testament Period (cf. Heb. 10:1-14). As the apostle Peter declares about Jesus in Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." In writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul points out, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time" (1 Tim. 2:5,6).
So may we each truly see Jesus, who is one with the Father (Jn. 10:30), for the perfect, eternal Deity that He is; and who is to be honored as much as we honor the Father Himself. For to fail to do so, results in not honoring God at all (cf. Jn. 5:22,23).
(1) "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, page 41
by Tom Edwards
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