God and Christ
WE BELIEVE that, ultimately speaking, “there is no other God except One” (1 Cor.8:4b). That One, is “the Father, out of Whom all is” (1 Cor.8:6). He alone is the Supreme (Lam.3:38; Dan.4:17); He alone is the Almighty (2 Cor.6:18; Rev.16:14).
In Hebrew, “Yahweh” is God’s name; “Elohim” is (the most common form of) God’s title. The divine name speaks of the One Who is, was, and is coming (Rev.1:8); the divine title speaks of the One Who places or subjects, “according as He is intending” (1 Cor.12:11b; cf “Yet now God [lit., “the Placer”] placed the members, each one of them, in the body according as He wills,” 1 Cor.12:18; cp 1 Cor.12:27b). Therefore, when we say “Yahweh,” we should think: “the One Who is, was, and is coming”; and, when we say “Elohim” or “God,” we should think: “the Placer” or “the Subjector.”
It is important to recognize that “GOD” is not a personal name, an expression by which one is known, but is a title, added to a personal name, indicative of one’s office. A name speaks of that which one is called; a title speaks of that which one does, the capacity in which one serves.
While the title “GOD,” when used relatively, can be used in reference to many beings, when it is used absolutely, it is only used in reference to one Being, God Himself. When this title, “GOD” (or “ELOHIM”) is used of the One Whose name is Yahweh, the One Who is All-Sufficient, Who is the Supreme, the Almighty, of the One Who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only true God, or otherwise of the One, so termed, Who is spoken of in contrast to or as distinct from Christ, it is evident that it is used in its absolute sense.
The title “GOD” (or “ELOHIM”), then, neither signifies nor entails either supremacy or unoriginatedness of being. Nor is it a term indicative of the essential nature of the being so designated. It is certainly true when this title is used in reference to the only true God, that it refers to One Who is supreme and unoriginated, and Whose essential nature is distinct from other beings. But the fact that these things are true of the One Who is the only true God, is no indication that any of these things are true of the word “GOD,” itself, or of any other beings to whom this same word (“GOD”) refers when used in a relative sense.
It is deeply mistaken, then, to reason that since the word “GOD” is sometimes used in reference to Christ, men, or messengers, that therefore either Christ, men, or messengers, are unoriginated, supreme, or of the same essential nature as the Almighty.
The word “God” (or “god”), like all titles, concerns itself with office or service. In Greek, its stem, the- signifies PLACE; hence, the complete form, theos (GOD), means PLACer. This idea fits all the contexts in which theos is used. Theos is not only the original Greek word for the English “GOD,” but is also the inspired translation of the Hebrew “ELOHIM,” in all corresponding New Testament citations of Old Testament texts which refer to God Himself.
Any references to those lesser beings to whom the title GOD (“placer” or “subjector”) also applies notwithstanding, then, we say, Nevertheless, there is only one God. He alone is the Supreme, the Almighty One. He is the God, and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is “the only true God” (John 17:3).
It is Christ Himself Who insists that this is so. The adjective alêthês (TRUE) speaks of “[that which is] in accord with the facts.”
1 In accord with the actual, literal facts, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ alone is God. He is the only Placer Who is not Himself placed by another. He alone is self-existent and self-sufficient. All others to whom this title is ascribed, including Christ, possess it in a derived sense, not in accord with the facts absolute, but relatively speaking, or, in some figurative way.
Supremely speaking, there is only one true God, even though, speaking relatively, and even in a righteous sense, “there are many gods” (1 Cor.8:5). For, indeed, “there are those being termed gods, whether in heaven or on earth” (1 Cor.8:5; cp Ex.22:8,9; Psa.82:6). Consequently, we should hardly be surprised that, in certain passages, Christ also is so termed (cf Titus 2:13; Heb.1:8; 1 John 5:20b). Except for God Himself, Christ certainly has a right to this title in a way unspeakably above that of all others, to whom it is also properly applied. Yet conversely, we must also realize that the ascription of the title “God” to Christ–in certain senses and in various connections–is no more indication that He is the Deity than that any others to whom this title is also ascribed are the Deity.
SEEING THE INVISIBLE
The word “Godhead,” as in the Authorized Version and others, is a mistranslation of the nouns theiotês and theotês. Theiotês should be “divinity,” for it speaks of the attributes or qualities which pertain to God (Rom.1:20). The adjectival form, theion, should be rendered “divine” (e.g., 2 Pet.1:3,4). The idea which is conveyed in English under the figure “head,” forms no part of these Greek expressions. Yet it is this very term, “Godhead,” taken either in a pluralistic sense or in a corporate sense, which is a pillar of “the sacred mystery of the Trinity.”
We believe that “there is no other God except One . . . .” and that this One is “God, the Father, out of Whom all is” (1 Cor.8:4-6). Yet we realize that the Father, the “Most High” (Luke 1:32) or “Supreme” God (Psa.87:5), speaking relatively, rightly says to the Son, “Thy throne, O God [O Placer], is for the eon of the eon” (Heb.1:8). Thus, Christ Himself is “the great God [Placer] and . . . Saviour” Whose advent we await (Titus 2:13).
However, we also believe, and insist, that Christ’s Head is God (1 Cor.11:3), “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph.1:17). The Father, ultimately speaking, is “the only God” (Jude 24,25; cp Rom.16:27; 1 Tim.1:17).
We believe that Christ is the “Effulgence” (the Radiant Splendor) of God’s glory (Heb.1:3). Likewise, we believe that Christ is the Emblem of God’s assumption (Heb.1:3), of the role God assumes whenever, in the Person of His Son, He manifests Himself before His creatures. It is the ministry of Christ, Who is a tangible, visible Being, to represent His God and Father, Who is an intangible, invisible Being, whenever, and in whatever way, the Deity wishes to manifest Himself. Therefore, where we read that the One Who is spirit, Who is therefore essentially invisible, Whom, accordingly, no one has ever (literally) seen (John 1:18), is nevertheless “perceived” by certain of His creatures, we are to understand that such perception is either by the agency of Christ, Who is God’s Image, is visionary (Rev.5:1), or is through the eyes of faith (Matt.5:8).
It is only through the figure of anthropomorphism (human form) that the Supreme Himself is spoken of as having bodily members. Literally speaking, God is spirit (John 4:24), invisible (Col.1:15) and intangible, and so, in Himself, has no form or shape. How, then, does the Scripture speak of His arms and hands, His mouth, eyes, and face, as if He were a member of the human race? In all such cases, God condescends to our low estate and speaks to us in human language. Otherwise, we could never understand Him or enter into His thoughts and feelings.
When God impresses us through His Word, it is as if a man speaks to us with his mouth, so this feature is ascribed to Him. Since God sees us as a fellow man does with his eyes, organs of sight are ascribed to the Deity. The human body is the basis of many figures which contradict flatly the great facts concerning the Deity if they are taken literally.
Spirit is intangible, imperceptible, and so is not an object of literal, or sentient, perception. Therefore God is not a Being of form or shape, these terms only being applicable to beings of corporeal, tangible existence.
GOD'S CREATIVE ORIGINAL
It is Christ alone, the Word or Expression of God (John 1:14), Who unfolds the Deity (John 1:18), for He is “the Image of the invisible God” (2 Cor.4:4). Christ enjoys the highest delegated authority in the entire universe. Even as Christ, “the Firstborn from among the dead” (Col.1:18), was once actually among the dead, thus also, Christ, the “Firstborn of every creature” (Col.1:15), was once actually created. These passages are parallel, the proper understanding of verse 15 (Christ’s being the Firstborn of every creature), not depending upon verse 18 (Christ’s being the Firstborn from among the dead) for its own interpretation. But actually, the former verse sets the precedent for the latter passage’s proper sense, a sense which, ostensibly at least, no one doubts (the sense which reveals that Christ was once actually dead, that is, numbered among the dead).
Therefore the Son of God must have had a beginning. Consequently, our Lord must be One Who is among God’s creatures, though One Who is unspeakably higher than any other. His beginning, however, must have been before that of all others, since all
2 was created in and through Him (Col.1:16,17).
Truly, all is out of God (Rom.11:36), and all glory, even that which is Christ’s, is to be ascribed to God: “to [God] be the glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen” (Eph.3:21). Christ is “God’s creative Original” (Rev.3:14); literally, He is “THE ORIGINal OF-THE CREATION OF-THE God” (CONCORDANT GREEK TEXT sublinear), Who, as Christ Himself declared concerning His Father, is “the only true God” (John 17:3).
“Christ is God’s creative Original. According to the Greek, He is the Original, the Beginning, or the Chief, of every creation of God (Rev.3:14). The basic meaning of archê is ORIGIN, and all its forms are to be found under this word in the Concordance of the Concordant Version. In the earliest times, all government was in the family, and the father, who originated it, was chief. So the stem came to be applied to the highest of a class, as the archangel, as well as the archetype, the pattern, or the original. But the pattern comes before the product, the original before the copies. This accords perfectly with the fact that all creation was in Him. Adam was the original of all mankind; his descendants and all originated in him. So Christ is the Original of creation.”
Metaphorically (in the sense that “this One is [i.e., represents] that One”), Christ Himself, as God’s Image, “is” the true God, even as He “is” life eonian (1 John 5:20b). And, even literally, in Himself, Christ is the great God (i.e., Placer) and Saviour of Whom Paul speaks in Titus 2:13. Nevertheless, it is Christ’s own God, His God, and Father, Who is the Supreme and only true God.
THE FORM OF GOD
The entire complement of the “Deity” [or, “deity,” theotês, PLACERship, the “GODness” or PLACERship of God] is dwelling bodily in Christ (Col.2:9). In a bodily way, the entire array of that which pertains to God is dwelling in Christ. Since the entirety of that which pertains to God yet cannot be communicated by God in Himself, Who is spirit, is dwelling bodily in Christ, it follows that Christ Himself is not the Deity.
Similarly, since Christ alone was “inherently [lit., “inhering,” i.e., existing by right] in the form of God,” He, accordingly, “deem[ed] it not pillaging to be equal with God” (Phil.2:6,7).
Since Christ is the Son of God, He is a Being distinct from God. Christ, therefore, was not equal to God in an identification-of-person sense; instead, the appearance of Christ was in a form which is to be identified as that which is proper to Deity. To all appearances, Christ was the same as, or “equal to,” God.
We are not told that Christ is a Form of God (and, therefore, that Christ is a mere Form, instead of a tangible, actual Being). Instead, we are told that God’s Anointed, Christ, before He emptied Himself, was “inherently in the form of God” (Phil.2:6). Form refers not to inward essence but merely to external appearance (e.g., 2 Tim.3:5). The form of God was not a manifestation of what Christ was in Himself, but a representation of His God. His glory consisted not in actually being the Deity, but in possessing the visible appearance through which God had chosen to manifest Himself.
“The form of God,” does not refer us to that of which God Himself is composed, nor is it an expression corollarial to the notion that God Himself is a corporeal being. Instead, it refers to the personal appearance of Christ, in which He inhered and thus deemed it not pillaging to be equal with God (lit., “ANOINTED JESUS WHO IN FORM OF-GOD belongING . . .”). Christ was inherently in the “of-God” form; thus He appeared to be the Deity. He Who is the Image of the invisible God, existed in the form which is proper to Deity, the form in which God would have Himself made manifest.
THE CHRIST OF GOD
The English “anoint” is derived from the Latin inungere (to smear or rub on). The Greek verb criõ (“anoint”), is the basis of the noun christos, which in English is “christ.” It is to be regretted that we use “christ” for the noun of the verb anoint, thus obscuring its meaning from the ordinary reader. It corresponds to the Hebrew “messiah,” a title applied to priests, kings, and prophets after their consecration by means of anointing with oil. Our Lord Jesus Christ, is the Christ of christs, even as He is King of kings, for He is “anointed” by the spirit of God with the oil of exultation beyond His partners (Heb.1:9), beyond that of all others who also enjoy an anointing of God.
Christ Jesus is not the only one Who is anointed. We ourselves are “christs,” for all who have God’s spirit are christs (anointed ones). Paul told the Corinthians, “He Who . . . anoints [“christs”] us is God” (2 Cor.1:21). Similarly, those to whom John wrote were anointed as well, for he said, “You have an anointing [Greek: chrisma]” (1 John 2:20).
Anointing is always connected with service. It is the vital badge of office under God. Christ’s anointing, preeminently, equipped Him to be the Saviour, the Saviour of the world. As well as King and Prophet, His anointing made Him a Priest, a Mediator, “the one Mediator of God and mankind” (1 Tim.2:5). Thus He is “giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all” (1 Tim.2:6). He offered Himself to God. God did not offer Himself to Himself. The Offering was for us, to bring us to God. He did not offer Himself to bring us to Himself. We cannot approach God apart from Christ and His sacrifice. Yet this does not make Him God, but God’s Anointed, His Mediator.
The Lord Jesus did not assume the office of Messiah until he was about thirty years of age. But at His first public utterance, in the synagogue at Nazareth, He declared that, “The spirit of the Lord is on Me, on account of which He anoints Me to bring the evangel . . .” (Luke 4:18). Similarly, Peter said to Cornelius that, “after the baptism which John heralds, [came] Jesus from Nazareth, as God anoints Him with holy spirit and power” (Acts 10:37,38). No ceremonial oil was even used when God anointed His Anointed One.
God is not the Anointed, but the Anointer. He never needs to be anointed, nor can He be, for He is already the Almighty, the All-Sufficient One. In Him, the spirit is immanent, not imparted.
Anyone who is perfect and all-powerful in himself hardly needs to be anointed. The mere fact of our Lord’s being anointed shows that He was intrinsically lacking in the ability to fulfill His office. Christ’s ability is not His own. It is derived from God, through His spirit. Of Himself, Christ could do nothing (John 5:30; cp John 8:28). “Now the Father, remaining in Me, He is doing His works” (John 14:10b).
The expression “the deity of Christ,” is simply preposterous, for it is a contradiction of terms. God cannot be anointed by another. God needs no preparation, no impartation or empowering, for He is the singular Source of all. Who is able to anoint Him? If Christ were the Supreme God, He would need no anointing. The possession of anointing by no means signifies Deity, but rather the opposite. No one who had any accurate idea of the scriptural function of anointing would ever accept the absurd thought that it was the equivalent of Deity. A christ, or anointed one, cannot literally be God, although, as God’s Image, the term may be figuratively applied to His Son.
ONE IS GOD HIMSELF
“God” is not a term in reference to the Almighty’s essential nature, but is an expression which speaks of His universal governance. It has special reference to the eonian times, and to the purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph.3:11). That purpose, when all has finally been subjected (1 Cor.15:27), is for Him to become All in all (1 Cor.15:28).
It is indeed so that we are “sons” of God (Gal.3:26) and are members of His “family” (Eph.2:19). Nevertheless, and no matter how fully it may be that believers will “partake of”
5 the divine nature (2 Pet.1:4), this will not make them a part of God. There is only One Who is God; for any other, then, there is neither part nor lot therein.
Some who wish to point out that believers have a certain equality with Christ (e.g., Rom.8:29b) and are partakers of the divine nature, however, suppose that such considerations prove that we will someday “be God.” Some even claim that “Christians” are “little gods” even today. Those who argue thus, however, take the title “ GOD” as a term of essential nature or constitution. This is a fundamental error.
It is claimed that those who are saved will, one day, as a term of genus, belong to “the God family.” Such claims are made as if the Scriptures plainly declared them to be so. It is simply incorrect, however, to affirm that “god,” when used in the plural, signifies a family of beings in which each member is of the same constitution or essence as God, the Father.
Historically, the teaching of “becoming God” is termed Apotheosis. Some who have affirmed a teaching of “Christian deification,” whether among the church fathers or in certain of the writings of the Eastern Orthodox Church, by this have only intended “that men are ‘deified’ in the sense that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christian believers and transforms them into the image of God in Christ, eventually endowing them in the resurrection with immortality and God’s perfect moral character.”
If by the doctrine of Apotheosis (or “becoming God”), however, one intends to affirm that men are, or one day will become, constitutionally, of the same genus or speciation as God, the Father, this is unscriptural and is a form of polytheism. This is because such teaching affirms a plurality of beings of which each is of the same constitution or essential nature as the supreme God. Thus, according to such a teaching, there is no supreme Being Who alone is God Himself. Such a proposition is contrary not only to Scripture but to monotheism.
Actual Trinitarianism, together with Modalism and Arianism (the latter is the historic name closest to the Concordant teaching), are all monotheistic. This is because each of these teachings affirms that there is one Being Who alone is God Himself. This most fundamental proposition is denied, however, by Apotheosis, such as is taught by Mormonism and others. Since monotheism is the teaching of Scripture, polytheism, in whatever form, is contrary to Scripture and is therefore false.
Since the issues are tightly drawn, either Trinitarianism, Modalism, or Arianism must be correct, insofar as the dispute between them is concerned. Is Christ an aspect of the Deity yet not Himself the Deity (Trinitarianism)? Is Jesus Himself the Deity (Modalism)? Or is it that the Father is the Deity (Arianism)? We must go on to decide which of these claims is correct. But before we do so, we can be certain that we are correct in rejecting Apotheosis.
In the ordinary sense of the word “God,” the Scripture no more teaches that men one day will “become God” than that I will be you or you will be me, or that either one of us will become either a tree or a fish. This is so, whether by “God” we have in mind God Himself, or, by association, ones who are of His constitutional essence.
It follows, then, that the sense in which it is true that God’s creatures will become His “children” and “sons,” is confined to the place (cf Eph.1:5) and privileges which they will enjoy; it does not extend to their essential nature. Therefore, the reasoning that says that since humans beget little humans, God begets little gods, is simply undiscerning and fallacious.
The fact that this title, “GOD,” applies to many others besides God, the Father, in various connections and senses, is beside the point. It is not that there is no sense at all in which the title “GOD” will ever be applied to us; therefore it is not incorrect to say that there is a sense in which it may be said that this or that person will one day be termed “a god” (i.e., a subjector). These things, however, are not disputed by ourselves, for the word “god” says nothing about one’s constitution, but only concerns one’s having some role in the subjection of all unto God Himself, that is, unto the supreme Subjector Himself, the only true God.
2. It is illogical to reason from the mere presence of the words “all is created through Him” (Col.1:16), that since “all” is created through Him, that Christ Himself, therefore, is not a created being. In the “all” that was created in and through Christ, as with the “all” which, in the beginning, came into being through the “word” (or “Word”; John 1:3), in both cases, the One through Whom all these creative works were achieved, obviously, already existed Himself. The scope of the “all” of the context, then, in both of these passages, is all that came into being from the time when, through Christ, all these creative works began. From that point onward, all, without exception, was created in and through Him. Whether Christ, at some antecedent point in time, was Himself created, is a question which neither Colossians 1:16 nor John 1:3 can answer. Since neither of these verses are concerned with that issue, it is wrong to offer them as proof in denial of His creaturehood.
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