The One Who Died for Our Sins, Was He Truly God? Reg Wright
Pre-Passover 2013, Brisbane
Various beliefs abound about the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. Did He come into existence at His human birth? Has He always existed? In this pre-Passover sermon, Reg Wright examines the Scriptures on this subject to establish a clear biblical reference for our understanding of who Jesus was, and is.
The following transcript is edited for grammar and readability
In just over three weeks time we will be observing the Passover in remembrance of Christ's suffering and death. This afternoon, I want to focus on a subject that is not directly about the suffering and death of our Saviour, but it is an allied subject and very relevant to the coming Passover season.
One of the teachings that has surfaced in recent years is the belief that Jesus Christ is a created being. There is the belief that Jesus has not eternally existed, but has a definite beginning in time. If Jesus is a created being, then He is not entitled to be called God.
When we consider the word God in the English language it means: The Supreme Being, the Creator and Ruler of all that exists. If Jesus is a created being then He cannot claim the title of God.
The one who created Him would have that title.
In this sermon today, I want to draw your attention to five differing points of view regarding whether or not Jesus is a created Being. There may be other points of view on this subject but I will confine my discussion with you to five main differing points of view:
- One particular denomination claims that Jesus Christ was God's first creation. Before his human birth, they believe Jesus was Michael the archangel who was directly created by Jehovah – Jehovah is the name they insist we must use when referring to God. If Jesus is God's first creation, then of course He has not eternally existed. He had a beginning somewhere in time past.
- There are those who believe He is not Michael the archangel but that He was created in time past and was called the Word.
- Then there are those who believe that Jesus came into existence at the time of His human conception and birth as a human being.
- There are those who believe that Jesus is a Theophany.
- The fifth belief is that of the United Church of God – that is, Jesus is not a created Being. He has existed eternally. He has eternally existed with the One revealed in the Bible as God the Father. We also believe that Jesus is entitled to be called God.
We need to be conversant with these differing beliefs as some devote considerable energy and time in an attempt to prove to us that Jesus is not God, that He has not eternally existed with the Father, and that He has a beginning in time. They believe He is a created being.
May I also point out that while we may not believe that Jesus is a created being and perhaps could turn to various scriptures to prove our belief, we should not be complacent thinking that the theology produced in support of Christ being a created being can be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
There are some very clever arguments which support the belief that Christ is a created being. Satan, our adversary is very clever. HE is a created being and, if he can convince us that Jesus is also a created being, then he has effectively brought Jesus down to his level.
My purpose this afternoon is to provide you with a range of easy-to- understand scriptures that clearly show Jesus Christ is NOT a created being, that He is entitled to be called God, and that He has existed eternally with the Father.
I have organized my sermon essentially into two parts but in those two parts I will touch on each of the five differing beliefs regarding who Jesus was, and is.
- The first part deals with whether or not Jesus pre-existed – that is, whether or not He existed before becoming a human being, or did He come into existence at the time of His conception and birth
- And the second part deals with whether or not Jesus has eternally existed.
I should explain that pre-existence means that Jesus existed as a separate living entity, as a heavenly Being, before becoming a human being. But pre-existence does not prove He has lived eternally. He could have a pre-existence but as a created heavenly being.
Did Jesus come into existence at his human conception and birth, or did He exist before He became a human being.
Let's look first of all at some of the words spoken by Jesus Himself, words which clearly establish His pre-existence.
John 3:12-13 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (emphasis added)
Jesus said He came down from heaven – that is, the heaven of God's throne. This is one clear indication that Jesus existed before His human birth.
But it does not prove that He did not have a beginning at some time in the distant past. Neither does it prove that He is not Michael the archangel. It simply adds to our understanding that Jesus Himself stated that He existed before His human birth. Jesus is saying He pre-existed. He existed as a separate living entity, as a heavenly Being, prior to becoming a human being.
John 8:20-23 These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." 22 So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?" 23 And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world". (emphasis added)
Again we see Jesus saying that He was from above – and again providing us with evidence of His pre-existence.
Right now I am asking you to consider the words of Jesus Himself which are evidences of His pre-existence. We will look at other scriptures later to determine if He has eternally existed or not.
John 6:35-38 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (emphasis added)
Notice that Jesus said He came down from heaven, not to do His own will, but to do the will of the Father in heaven (the One who sent Him).
I would like you to take particular notice of this verse – John 6:38 – as it directly addresses the belief by some that Jesus is a Theophany.
"Theophany" is not a word that is used in our every day conversations but you should be aware of this teaching.
A simple meaning for the word "Theophany" is: a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses -- a materialisation of God that can be seen, felt and heard.
This is basically saying that Jesus is an extension of God in human form. In simplistic terms Jesus existed as a human robot. God was in heaven and through His great powers He was able to extend Himself in human form, and this human form lived a sinless life, died and was resurrected, as described in the Scriptures.
The belief that Jesus is a Theophany is based on the belief that there is only ONE DIVINE OMNIPOTENT SUPREME BEING.
When Christ came into the world as a human being, and made certain claims about Himself, those who believe in only one divine omnipotent supreme being had to come up with an explanation that fitted in with their belief that there is only one divine supreme being.
So they chose to believe that Christ is a Theophany:
- a manifestation
- an appearance
- an extension of this one supreme being -- in human form.
The One whom we have come to know as Jesus Christ is not a Theophany. He is not just a manifestation of a single divine Being.
He was much much more than that.
Let's read John 6:35-38 again:
35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (emphasis added)
This verse tells us that Jesus is an individual with a will of his own – a will that is separate to the Father's will. Jesus -- having His own will -- came down from heaven.
If Jesus was a Theophany – just an extension or manifestation of a one divine being – then He would not have had His own will.
But Jesus clearly said: I came not to do my own will. Having his own will shows He is a separate entity to the Father.
Jesus is not a Theophany. As I said, He is much, much more than that.
Let's now go back to read more words directly from Jesus giving us evidence of His pre-existence but which do not prove He was not created.
John 6:47-51 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 "I am the bread of life. 49 "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 "This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world". (emphasis added)
Again we see a clear evidence in scripture to Christ's pre-existence – that is, He existed prior to His human birth. He said He is the living bread which came from heaven.
John 17:4-5 "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (emphasis added)
The Greek word translated "world" is kosmos, meaning the arrangement of the universe. The Greek word for "was" is einai, which means "to be" or to "exist".
Jesus is saying that "before the kosmos existed or was created" He shared this glory with the Father.
How could Jesus ask the Father to glorify Him with a former glory if He did not have it in the first place? Clearly Jesus remembered the glory, power and position He had with the Father before the world was. Again we have evidence of Christ's pre-existence but it does not prove He was not created.
Notice more words from Jesus proving His pre-existence;
John 17:24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
And notice also what the apostle Paul wrote in:
1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.
All these words of Jesus are evidence of His pre-existence – that is, He existed with the Father in heaven prior to becoming a human being. But what we have read so far does not prove that He was not a created being at some point in the distant past, or that He is not Michael the archangel.
We have to go to other scriptures for that proof.
So let's now look at the second part -- whether or not Jesus has eternally existed.
John 8:56-59 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." 57 Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" 58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Jesus said He was before Abraham and then He claimed a title that infuriated the Jews – He said, "Before Abraham was -- I AM."
If you will recall Moses was minding the flock at Mt Horeb and God appeared to him in the burning bush. This incident is found in Exodus 3. We won't turn there but I will summarise what happened.
God introduces Himself to Moses at Mt Horeb as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He informs Moses that He has heard the affliction of the people of Israel and He instructs Moses to go to Pharoah so that he might lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.
But Moses protests and asks, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11).
God promises Moses that He will be with him and that Israel would some day worship on that mountain.
Moses is still not convinced, and he inquires further:
"Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and shall say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" Exodus 3:13.
God then replies to Moses: "I AM THAT I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you'" (emphasis added).
That is in Exodus 3:14.
The name I AM THAT I AM has a significant meaning. The Word Biblical Commentary states, "I AM that I AM, literally means 'the One Who Always Is.'"
The Soncino Commentary has this to say regarding the title: I AM that I AM. Hebrew: Ehyey asher ehyey – the self existent and eternal God.
There is no question that the Jews were very familiar with the meaning and significance of the name "I AM THAT I AM." In the conversation Jesus had with the Jews, as recorded here in John 8, He refers to Himself as preexisting Abraham.
Jesus also stated that the Jews had never really known the Father and that He had come to reveal Him.
The Jews ask, "'Where is Your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also'" (John 8:19).
As the discussion continues, it gets more intense, Jesus tells them that they are of their father, Satan the devil. But they insist that Abraham is their Father.
The Jews are very disturbed by Jesus' assertion. They note that Abraham and the prophets are dead and they ask, "Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. "Who do You make Yourself out to be?" (John 8:53) (emphasis added).
The stage is now set for the great bombshell. Jesus then asserts that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.
The Jews are infuriated by this assertion and ask Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" (John 8:57). Then Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58) (emphasis added).
The Jews knew exactly what He was saying. They knew that Jesus was boldly proclaiming that He is eternal and the One who dealt with ancient Israel.
- Jesus claimed to be God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- Jesus was claiming to be the God of Israel.
This is why they took up stones to kill Him. In their minds He was guilty of blasphemy.
So we see here in Jesus' own words evidence of not only His pre-existence but also His eternal existence.
I AM THAT I AM, literally means 'the One Who Always Is'. This means that the One who claims the title "I AM THAT I AM" has always existed.
There was never a time when He did not exist. He always is. No matter how far we go back in time, way, way, way, way, way back in time, Jesus existed – always. To have always existed means to have eternal existence.
Let's now look at another evidence that Jesus has eternally existed and that He is entitled to be called God.
JESUS ALLOWED PEOPLE TO WORSHIP HIM
When Jesus was on earth, people worshipped Him – yet worship is reserved only for the Creator God as instructed by the First commandment.
Jesus received worship on numerous occasions without rebuking His worshippers.
Matthew 8:2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."
Matthew 9:18-19 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." 19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
Matthew 14:32-33 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
We have the account in Mark 5:1-7 of the demon-possessed man who recognised who Jesus was and worshipped Him. Yes, the demons knew who Jesus was and recognised His power and authority.
Matthew 2:2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
Matthew 2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And Jesus was worshipped after His resurrection (Matthew 28:17).
In John 20:28 we read where Thomas – once he was convinced that it really was Jesus, makes the declaration "My Lord and my God!"
So there is no question that Jesus was worshipped from His birth to the time He ascended back to heaven.
And there are other accounts in the Gospels where people came and worshipped Jesus.
Let's now look at another evidence that Jesus has eternally existed and also that He is entitled to be called God
JESUS FORGAVE PEOPLE THEIR SINS
Luke 5:17-24 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. 19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. 20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'? 24 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" ––He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house". (emphasis added)
Sin is the transgression of God's law. So only the author of the law has the authority, has the right, to forgive any transgression of his law.
Jesus made it clear that He had the authority to forgive sins.
ANOTHER SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE THAT JESUS HAS ETERNALLY EXISTED
Note what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:4:
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Deuteronomy 31:30-32:4 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended: 1 "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. 3 For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
Here in these verses is a reference to the Lord God – the eternally living self existent God – the One who dealt with ancient Israel, the I AM who delivered ancient Israel from slavery in Egypt, and one of His names is the "Rock."
In 1 Corinthians 10:4 the apostle Paul makes the clear statement that the Rock that was directly involved with ancient Israel was Christ.
Again, we have another evidence that Jesus is entitled to be called God and therefore He has eternally existed.
Now I need to address two particular scriptures which speak of Christ's eternal existence.
John 1:1-3, 14 and Colossians 1:16
John 1:1-3 & 14 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. ... 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
In these two passages we see that CHRIST IS THE CREATOR OF ALL THINGS.
He is not the creator of some things, or most things, but ALL things.
Since Jesus created all things, He could not have been one of the "created things."
Let's analyse John 1:1-3, 14 for a few minutes:
In verse 14 we see that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In other words, the Word is the One who became Jesus Christ.
Now notice what the apostle John, under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, wrote about Jesus Christ:
- Jesus – the Word -- was in the beginning
- He was with God
- He was God
- He was in the beginning with God
- All things were made through Him.
- Without Him nothing was made that was made
The statement that Jesus was with God shows He is a separate Being. And John makes the statement twice – for emphasis perhaps:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- He was in the beginning with God.
I came to church today with my wife. I am a separate person, and my wife is a separate person.
If I had walked into church by myself, I could not say that I came with myself. That is not logical. Jesus was with the One He came to reveal – our Heavenly Father. And He was with God in the beginning.
In addition, the apostle John wrote that Jesus was God.
One Bible translation by a particular denomination says that the Word was "a god." This is to support their belief that Jesus is a created being. But this translation does not stand up in light of the next statement that the apostle John makes.
John writes that:
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Notice that John is not content to say only that all things were made through Him, but John adds the fact that "without Him nothing was made that was made."
Whatever God created first the One who became Jesus was there and involved in the creation.
When the angelic host, the physical universe, the earth, and all forms of life, were created, Jesus was there and involved in the creation.
Nothing was made without Him.
The WILLIAMS TRANSLATION says:
...and apart from Him not a single thing came into existence.
THE LIVING BIBLE makes it plain:
He created everything there is – nothing exists that He did not make.
If Jesus was a created being, then there was something that He did not make – Himself. The Bible is clear: In order for Jesus to have created everything there is, He has to be God and He has to have eternally existed.
Now with regard to Colossians 1:16-17 in order to satisfy their belief that Christ is a created being, one Bible translation by a particular denomination has added the word "other" into these verses.
I will read these verses in the Bible called the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION:
"... because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exists."
The word "other" is in brackets. This is an admission by the translators of this particular Bible that this word is not in the original text. They have altered the text to support their belief that Jesus Christ is a created being. This is manipulation of the text and totally unacceptable.
Some also believe that the One who became Jesus was Michael the archangel. But is that true?
Michael is most definitely not Christ. He is an angelic being of great power and authority and part of his responsibility is to serve Israel.
Daniel 12:1 At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.
In the Book of Jude we find that Michael the archangel though a being of great power, he has a limit to his authority.
Jude 6-9 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against his a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!". (emphasis added)
We see here that Michael the archangel gave respect to the authority of Satan and called upon a greater authority than himself – He said to Satan: "The Lord rebuke you."
In Matthew 4 we have the record of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. When the temptation was at its end we have this record.
Matthew 4:10-11 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Christ gave Satan a sharp command and Satan obeyed – he left.
Jesus has authority over Satan because He created him as one of the covering cherub -- Lucifer – and Lucifer rebelled and became Satan. And Michael, the archangel, called on the authority of Jesus when contending for the body of Moses. He said: The Lord rebuke you. And Satan again obeyed.
It is obvious that Michael could not have been Jesus.
Rather, he is an angelic being who is in authority over other lesser angelic beings in God's government. He is one of the leaders among God's faithful angels.
The evidence in Scripture is that Jesus Christ is indeed God. He is one of two eternally living divine Beings -- One is called God the Father, and the other is the One who became Jesus Christ.
When Jesus -- the Word -- became flesh and dwelt among us He divested Himself of the glory He had with the Father and came down from heaven.
When on earth, He forgave sins and was worshipped. He is entitled to be called God,
I gave this message so that we can resist any attempt to diminish in any way the enormity of the sacrifice of our Saviour, Christ. Any teaching that detracts from the enormity of Jesus' sacrifice is simply not acceptable.
Don't allow anyone, or any church, diminish the power, magnitude, authority, of the One who is our Saviour. He is no angel. He is One of two eternally living creator Beings who are currently working on a plan to increase their family. And what the Father and Jesus were willing to do in order for us to become ever living members of the God family is beyond human comprehension.
God did not create an angel, pass the buck to him to live a sinless life for thirty three and half years, suffer the most horrendous of all deaths, and then be resurrected.
- And He is not a Theophany – just an extension of God in human form.
- Jesus who died for the sins of the entire human race -- the One who died for you and for me -- is not a created being.
- Jesus is God – one of two eternally living divine majestic Beings
- Jesus has eternally existed
- He is called the Word
- He created everything there is – nothing exists that He did not make
- As the Word – Jesus -- became flesh and dwelt among us
- He is Immanuel -- God with us.
Like Thomas of old time, of this One who died for our sins, with a whole heart we too can acclaim: My Lord and My God.