by Martin Schlomer
Last Sunday, I spoke on the Deity of Jesus as a part of the doctrine series, “Foundations.” While it is essential for believers at Elim to understand and be able to support from Scripture the Deity of Jesus, it is also important that we understand how to address some objections that are raised regarding His Deity. When you talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses they will quickly point out two objections which I will deal with in this Last Word.
Speaking of Jesus in Colossians 1.15, Paul writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” At first glance, calling Jesus “the firstborn” appears to teach that He is God’s offspring, born into existence at some point in time and that He is not the eternal pre-existent God. Therefore, JW’s will use this verse to support their belief that Jesus is a created being.
Is this what this verse teaches? The Greek term for “firstborn” can refer to a child who is the firstborn in a family. However, it is also used to describe a person who is preeminent in rank. This second usage is a very common and represents Paul’s usage in Colossians 1.15. His emphasis is on the priority of Jesus’ rank as over and above ALL creation as indicated in the very next verse. This is why Paul goes on to write in Colossians 2.9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….” Christ is the head over everyone and everything!
The second verse that can be confusing when discussing the Deity of Jesus is the King James translation of John 3.16 which reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Once again, it appears that the word “begotten” teaches that Jesus is God’s offspring, born into existence at some point in time. However, this translation is very misleading. While the Greek term can be used to indicate an only child (Luke 7.12; 9.38) it is also used to describe a person who was unique, set apart, one of a kind. This is how the term is intended here and should therefore be translated “his one and only son” or “his only son” to communicate this one of a kind identity that belongs only to Jesus Christ.
Why is this important? As our culture moves further and further away from its Christian roots and understanding of the Bible, cults will become more and more influential in society. As followers of Christ, we must have clarity in our understanding of the core historic beliefs of Christianity and Scripture.