Saturday, April 3, 2010

Christ Was Begotten - Not Created!

by Babu G. Ranganathan

The Christian faith teaches that just as Adam and Eve were two persons but one flesh so, too, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God. The Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. When Jehovah says in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." The word for "one" comes from a Hebrew word meaning composite oneness (not singular oneness), like when the Bible describes Adam and Eve were one. There is a Hebrew word for singular oneness, but that word is not used for Jehovah in Deuteronomy 6:4.

The Trinity is three divine Persons united with one nature and purpose.  When the Bible talks about one God, the "one" does not mean one person. It's not a singular oneness. It is a composite oneness. The Bible says that God is love. Love cannot be alone. Love must have an object to love. That is why God (Who is love) cannot be just one Person. The three Persons of the Trinity are united in Their divine essence and purpose (not divided and competing against one another) like the gods of polytheism.

But was not Christ begotten of the Father? Yes, but this does not mean He was created or made from nothing. You and I were begotten of our parents, but our parents in no way created us just because we were begotten of them. Our life, and our very souls, had already existed in our parents before they had begotten us. In fact, we really existed from the time of Adam and Eve even though we were begotten many centuries later. How is that so? Well, did not God finish His work of creation on the seventh day according to Genesis? If that is so then we had to have existed in some form from the time of Adam and Eve since God was no longer in the routine business of creating anything after the seventh day of creation week. In the case of Christ it is completely logical to say that He existed from all eternity in some form in the Father before He was begotten as God. In fact, in John 1:18 Scripture teaches that Christ is the "only begotten God" (this is the literal translation from the Greek New Testament). The word "begotten" in the passage comes from a Greek word from which we get our English word "generate". To "generate", in the context of how the word is used here, means to "bring forth" out of pre-existing substance, whereas "to create", properly, means to "bring forth" out of nothing. Just as sunlight is generated (begotten) from the Sun but is not created by the Sun, so, too, Christ was generated (begotten) from the Father but was not created by the Father. Amen!! and Amen!! 

After Christ was begotten of the Father the Father then through Christ (His only begotten Son) made all the universe (John 1:3, Colossians 1:15-16). And, of course, much later in time Christ was also begotten as man. In John 8:58 we read the words of Christ "Before Abraham was born I AM". It is clear from the use of the words "I AM" in this context that our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was claiming eternality which only the true God can claim. It is important to understand that, although Christ existed from all eternity within the Father, He was generated (or begotten) as God only once. In other words, God the Father was not eternally generating His Son. The traditional concept or doctrine of the eternal generation of Christ does not make any sense anymore than it would make sense to say that a human father is continually generating (or begetting) the same son over and over again. Christ is eternal, but His generation from the Father is not eternal. 

But if Christ was God how, then, could He die? The Scriptures teach that God can and did die. We read in Revelation 1:17-18 "... Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen ..." The title "First and the Last" is from the Old Testament and it is a title that belongs only to Jehovah (or God). Thus it is none other than Jehovah (or God) Who is saying that He died. We know from the context of the first chapter in Revelation that it is none other than Christ who is speaking here. No one has the power to kill God, but God can, if He so chooses, give up His life so long as it is for a morally right cause and purpose. Just as it is not morally wrong for one human being to sacrifice his life for another so it is not wrong for God to sacrifice His life for those whom He created. This is exactly what God (the Son) did on the Cross. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that Christ gave up equality (positionally) with God (the Father) when He became a man and dwelt on the earth. Although He was still God even after He became man, He gave up the rights that He possessed as God when He lived on earth. That is why when He was on earth He was fully dependent upon His Father to perform miracles. 

But, if Christ was equally God along with the Father and the Holy Spirit then why did Christ say to His Father in John 17:3 that the Father was the only true God. The word "only" in the passage must be understood in its proper context. Christ was not comparing the Father to Himself when He said the Father was the only true God. Rather, Christ was comparing the Father to the pagan deities that the gentiles of His time worshipped when He was on earth. In comparison to these pagan deities Christ was saying that the Father was the only true God. This has to be the meaning or otherwise we will have a contradiction in the Scriptures. For Scripture also teaches in 1 John 5:20 that Christ is "the true God and eternal life." It is important to understand the words of Scripture in the context of what all of Scripture teaches on any given issue or subject of doctrine. 

Doesn't Hebrews 1:4, at least in the King James Version, say that Christ was made better than the angels? The word "made" in the passage is better translated as "became". Christ became better than the angels. Again, at His first coming as Man the Scripture teaches that Christ humbled Himself. He was made (or became) lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9). Hebrews 1:3 teaches that after Christ made purification for sins He sat down at the right hand of God (the Father). That is when He became better than the angels because God the Father had restored to His Son His original position. It was after Christ died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God (the Father) that God the Father restored to His Son His preeminent position again (Philippians 2:6-9). This is what Jesus meant when shortly before He went to the Cross He prayed to His Father "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). Christ is still both God and Man, but as Man He became exalted above the angels after He finished His work on earth. Of course, in His essential divine being and nature, however, Christ was always superior to the angels. 

The Scriptures clearly teach that Christ is God (e.g. John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13). In Titus 2:13 Christ is referred to as "our great God and Savior." In Revelation 1:8 the Lord Jesus Christ Himself makes the claim that He is "the Almighty." It is clear from the context of the chapter that it is Christ Who is speaking. Certainly, the Scriptures do not teach Christ to be a false God as is the case with the Devil who is called "the god (or ruler) of this world." Ephesians 2:2 says that the worldly make the Devil their god and so did believers before they were saved: "in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." The Devil is a false god and a creature. Christ, on the other hand, is true God and Creator. We read in John 1:3 that without Christ (Who is also called the Word) "not anything was made that was made." Obviously, then, Christ was not made or otherwise He would have had to have made Himself which makes no sense. Colossians 1:17 teaches that Christ "is before all things and by Him all things consist (are sustained)." And Colossians 1:18 says about Christ that "He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." No creature must have the preeminence in all things. That position belongs only to Jehovah (God) alone, and, thus, Christ must be Jehovah (God) in order for the Scriptures to declare that He must have the preeminence in all things. Glory to God! Only God is capable of fitting such a description! 

In certain references of Scripture the Father as God may have preeminence because the Father is the Head of Christ just as Adam was the head of Eve and had a certain preeminence and priority in relationship to her. But, this does not mean that Eve was inferior to Adam. So, similarly Christ is not inferior to the Father even though the Father is the Head of Christ. Of course, while on earth Christ could say that the Father was greater because positionally speaking Christ had humbled Himself in the incarnation by becoming a man and subjecting Himself to the law. 

Why does Jesus say in Mark 10:18 "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." Is Jesus not clearly stating that He is not God? No. Jesus was telling them to make up their minds about Him. Why call Him good and not believe that He is God as He claimed to be? After all, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God which means He was God. As Son of Man He was man (a human being) and as Son of God He was God, two natures in one Person. As it was pointed out earlier, in John 8:58 Jesus says "Before Abraham was born I AM". He claimed eternality which only God possess. Only God existed from all eternity. In the Old Testament Jehovah referred to Himself as I AM. Jesus didn't say that "Before Abraham was born I was". Jesus said, "Before Abraham was born I AM". 

A question often raised is how could God Who is infinite become incarnated as finite man. The answer is that in the miracle of the Incarnation the infinite God grafted onto Himself finite human nature. The finite didn't contain the infinite, but rather the Infinite contained the finite. Just as a one gallon tank can't hold ten gallons but, yet, a ten gallon tank can hold one gallon so, too, the infinite God (Christ) circumscribed and united to Himself finite human nature when He condescended to become Man. Colossians 2:9 tells us concerning Christ that "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." The full essence and nature of deity dwelt within His human frame so that He was both fully God as well as fully man. Because of the unique union of His humanity to His deity Christ had full access to all the attributes of His deity - omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence to use under the Father's direction and will. 

It is precisely because Christ was God in human flesh that His sacrifice on the cross for our sins had infinite value in the sight of God the Father. It is because Christ was not created or made but, rather, was the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father that it was truly a painful and enormous sacrifice for God the Father to give up His Son over to cruel suffering and death on the Cross for our sins. That is why it is written, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him (His Son Jesus Christ) should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). As Son of God, Christ was fully God and as Son of Man Christ was fully man. The Scriptures use both titles "Son of God" and "Son of Man" in referring to Christ because He was both. 

What about Hebrews 1:9 where the Father says to the Son "...therefore God, even Thy God..." Why does the Father say "Thy God" to the Son if the Son is equally God with the Father. How can the Father be God to His own Son and the Son also be God? The great Reformed theologian and Christian writer Arthur W. Pink gives us an understanding to this paradox. In the context of the passage in Hebrews 1:9 the Father's statement to the Son is made after the Son's incarnation and when the Son assumes the throne to His eternal kingdom when it is established. The Son's human nature (in the incarnation) was created by the Father so the Father in that respect was God even to His Son. But in His divinity Christ was equally God with the Father. 

Another passage that is often misused by those who deny Christ's deity is 1 Thessalonians 4:16 which reads: "For the Lord Himself (referring to Christ) shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God ..." Because the passage says that Christ will descend with the voice of the archangel some teach that Christ, therefore, is an archangel. But the passage also says that Christ will descend with the trump of God. Does that then make Christ a trumpet? I hope not! The passage is simply saying that the archangel will be involved in introducing the second coming of Christ. It is not saying that Christ is the archangel! The word "angel" itself means "messenger" or "one who is sent" in Greek, the language of the New Testament. The Hebrew Old Testament also has this meaning. The context determines the nature of the messenger. In the Old Testament, for example, the "Angel of the Lord" is understood as being none other than Jehovah. This is seen from the context. Even though the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible the meaning is there in Scripture. Just because a word is not found in Scripture doesn't mean the meaning of that word is not there. For example, the word "theocracy" is not found in Scripture but its meaning exists in Scripture since Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy which means a nation ruled by God. Even though the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible the meaning is there in Scripture. Just because a word is not found in Scripture doesn't mean the meaning of that word is not there. For example, the word "theocracy" is not found in Scripture but its meaning exists in Scripture since Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy which means a nation ruled by God. 

But isn't the concept of God being a Trinity found in pagan religions? Well, even pagan religions have some elements of original truth even though that original truth may have been perverted by Satan (the Devil). Satan is a copy cat. The Devil takes what he knows is true, perverts and twists it and plants the perverted and twisted forms of the truth in human societies and cultures. Satan didn't invent the concept of the Trinity. Satan already knew that God was a Trinity from the beginning of creation, but Satan planted a perverted and twisted concept of the Trinity into the pagan religions that existed before Christianity so that future generations can be deceived into believing that the Trinity is of pagan origin when it really is not. The Bible teaches that the Devil is a master at such tactics. The pure, unperverted, and uncorrupted truth of the Trinity, however, is found only in the Christian Scriptures. 

What about Colossians 1:15 where Christ is referred to as the "Firstborn of all creation"? Doesn't this mean Christ was created? No! The very next verse (verse 16) tells us why Christ is called the Firstborn of all creation. It's not because He was created but precisely the opposite: because He is the Creator of all things. The preposition "of" in the original language of the Greek New Testament can also be translated as "over." In other words, Christ Who is God the Father's Firstborn is over all creation because it was through Christ that the Father created all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). The term "firstborn" in Scripture is the title given to the one in the family who inherits everything. It is a positional title more than anything else. In the Old Testament God had referred to David as being His "firstborn" even though David was the youngest of the children in his family. This was because David would eventually rule over all Israel. Thus, God used the term "firstborn" as a title of position. In reference to Christ, it is important to understand that the title "firstborn" does not imply that Christ was simply the first among other divinely begotten sons of God. John 1:18 makes it clear that Christ is God's only begotten. So God had no other divinely begotten sons. In the case of Christ the title "firstborn" is used simply to describe His position in relation to creation - that He is Supreme over all creation. 

What about Revelation 3:14 where Christ calls Himself "the beginning of the creation of God." Doesn't that teach Christ was created? No! The word for "beginning" in the passage comes from the Greek root "arche" which means "origin" or "source." In other words, Christ is the beginning (the origin or source) of God's creation. It doesn't mean that Christ Himself was created! 

How can Jesus be God while he Himself prayed to God? How can Jesus be God when Jesus is called the Son of God? The word "God" is a name. That name belongs equally to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is why Christ said to His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). 

My last name is "Ranganathan". My father's last name was "Ranganathan" (he passed away). When I talked to my father, while he was alive, it was "Ranganathan" talking to "Ranganathan". How could "Ranganathan" talk to "Ranganathan"? Because both, my father and I, were "Ranganathan". 

But, doesn't the Bible say there is only one God? The Bible also says Adam and Even were one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Does that mean that Adam and Eve were one person? Of course, not! They were one because they shared the same nature. So, too, Jesus and the Father are two Persons but one God because they share the one Divine nature. They are also one in fellowship and purpose. In both these ways Jesus and His Father are one God. There is one God but that one God exists in Three distinct Persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is more than Person in the one God. That is why God says in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (notice the plural language, "us" and "our" used in the passage). The plural language here cannot refer to God speaking on behalf of Himself and of the angels because the angels did not create man and, furthermore, the angels do not share the image of God. 

The word "God" is a name. That name belongs to the Father, Son, and Spirit. When the name "God" is mentioned in Scripture without specifying the Son or the Spirit it is usually understood as referring to the Father.

In John 1:1 shouldn't Christ be referred to as "a" God because there is no Greek article? No. The absence of the Greek article does not necessarily mean that the letter "a" is to be substituted. The context must demand it. There are various places in Scripture where the Father is referred to as God without the Greek article (i.e. John 1:6) but no one would refer the Father as a God because there is no Greek article. In any case, there are definite passages in Scripture where Christ is referred to as "the God", that is with the Greek article (i.e. Hebrews 1:8).

I've actually had someone tell me that it doesn't matter if Christ is referred to as "the God" in the Greek New Testament Scriptures because even the Apostle Paul and Silas (who were mere men) were referred to as "the Gods" by pagans in the Greek New Testament Scriptures. But it's one thing for pagans to assert something since pagans can be wrong about what they believe, and the pagans were wrong when they believed Paul and Silas to be "the Gods", but it's quite another thing when the Apostles themselves who wrote the Holy Scriptures assert that Jesus Christ is "the God." Just because what pagans believe and say is recorded in Scripture doesn't mean that's what Scripture is teaching! After all, the lies of the Devil are accurately recorded in Scripture but that doesn't mean Scripture supports or teaches those lies. On the other hand, when the very Apostles who wrote the Greek New Testament Scriptures, by the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, assert and teach that Christ is "the God" we are not then talking about what pagans believe or say but rather what the Spirit of God Himself is saying through the Apostles. And what the Apostles say and teach we must not reject! The fact is Christ, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is equally the God. There are no two Gods (a little God and a big God as the cults teach). Neither are there three Gods. Rather, there is one God in three distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly teaches in various passages that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and, yet, the Bible also teaches there is only one God. Thus, what we are to understand is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three divine Persons Who share one divine nature and Who are also one in purpose and fellowship. As Christians we may be one with God in fellowship and purpose but we are not one with God in sharing His eternal and divine nature. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in both their divine nature and in their fellowship, communion, and purpose. 

It is very unfortunate that so many in the cults have distorted and twisted what the Scriptures teach regarding the Person and work of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. True Christians throughout history, regardless of denomination, have always agreed on the primary and foundational truths regarding the nature of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Where Christians have differed throughout history is in matters of secondary doctrine. The reader can find helpful materials at his or her local Christian bookstore to become better equipped to argue against the cults.