Jehovah's Witnesses & The Deity Of Christ
In the previous article (see The Prophecies Of The Watchtower) we concluded that if a prophet makes a prediction and that prediction does not come to pass, it is because that prophet was not speaking the Word of God, but only of their own imagination and is to be considered a "false prophet". Deuteronomy 13 adds some additional information about false prophets. According to the first few verses, it is possible that a false prophet can make an accurate prediction of the future. However, should that prophet lead people into a worship of a false concept of God, or another false God, then that prophet was also not of God, even though their prophecy came to pass. Generally speaking, false prophets lead people into false worship of false gods.
We have seen that the various prophecies of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Rutherford, and Fredrick Franz, leaders of the Witnesses, did not come to pass as they predicted. Therefore, we can rightly conclude that they are false prophets. If my declaration above is correct, it is probable that they would lead people into a false worship of a false god or false conception of the true God. This they do. One of the greatest perversions of Biblical truth of the Witnesses is the denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. According to the Witnesses, Jesus is not the Eternal God, but the first created being of God, who was used of God to create everything else. He is given "god" status, but is not Almighty God, Jehovah.
Jehovah's Witness offer a number of arguments against the deity of Jesus Christ. In this article, we will examine 8 of these arguments and give Biblical refutation of them. In so doing, we will find that some of the Witnesses' arguments against the deity of Christ actually turn out to be a great witness for the deity of Christ.
The first argument is that God is not a Trinity. There is but one God, in one person, according to the Witnesses. They write,
"Thousands of times throughout the Bible, God is spoken of as one person. When he speaks, it is as one undivided individual. The Bible could not be any clearer on this. As God states: "I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory." (Isaiah 42:8) "I am Yahweh your God . . . You shall have no gods except me." -Exodus 20:2, 3, JB. Why would all the God-inspired Bible writers speak of God as one person if he were actually three persons? What purpose would that serve, except to mislead people? Surely, if God were composed of three persons, he would have had his Bible writers make it abundantly clear so that there could be no doubt about it. At least the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures who had personal contact with God's own Son would have done so. But they did not. Instead, what the Bible writers did make abundantly clear is that God is one Person-a unique, unpartitioned Being who has no equal: "I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. With the exception of me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5) "You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth."-Psalm 83:18."
I would contend that the Bible does make it very clear that God exists as a Trinity. While the concept of the Trinity is inscrutable, it nonetheless is taught in Scripture. There is no reason to deny it simply because man can not fully comprehend it. There are a number of references to the Trinity without using the word "Trinity" in Scripture. All we need to do to prove here is that Jesus is addressed as Jehovah, God to counter this claim of the Witnesses.
Consistently in Hebrews 1: 1-12, the subject of the text is Jehovah. This is important for in verse 5, the writer states that the Father (Jehovah) addresses the Son (Jesus) in Old Testament literature. He cites that literature as proof of the greatness of Jesus over the rest of the angelic creation. In verse 5, the writer cites Psalm 2:7 and then Psalm 89:26 as spoken by Jehovah to the Son. In verse 6 he cites Psalm 97:7 as spoken by the Father to the Son. These three citations are connected by the term, "and again", indicating that they were all spoken by the same person (the Father) about the same person (the Son). In verse 7, the writer quotes Psalm 104:4 concerning the angels and then contrast that with Psalm 45:6-7 concerning the Son. Once again the Father is speaking. In verses 10-12 we see another quotation of the Old Testament concerning the Son, linked with the previous quotation by the term "and". This quote is from Psalm 102:25-27. It is important to see who is being addressed in the Psalm. Verse 1 of Psalm 102 is addressed to Jehovah. Again in verse 12, Jehovah is addressed by the psalmist and is continually through the rest of the psalm. Jehovah is being addressed in verses 25-27, which Hebrews 1:10-12 says is what the Father says of the Son. In other words, in Psalm 102:25-27 Jesus is addressed by the Father as Jehovah.
A second argument of the Witnesses against the deity of Christ is that they claim Jesus was created by God, therefore, He is not eternal, and not God. They write,
"Jesus had an existence in heaven before coming to the earth. But was it as one of the persons in an almighty, eternal triune Godhead? No, for the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before their creation. Jesus, in his prehuman existence, was "the first-born of all creation." (Colossians 1:15, NJB) He was "the beginning of God's creation." (Revelation 3:14, RS, Catholic edition). "Beginning" [Greek, ar搔he'] cannot rightly be interpreted to mean that Jesus was the 'beginner' of God's creation. In his Bible writings, John uses various forms of the Greek word ar搔he' more than 20 times, and these always have the common meaning of "beginning." Yes, Jesus was created by God as the beginning of God's invisible creations."
The problem of the Witnesses here is that they do not understand the meaning of the terms "First-born" and the "beginning of God's creation". While "first-born" can be used to indicate a person who was born first in the order of sons and daughters born to a husband and wife, it does not necessarily need to mean such. The word is also used as a title. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called the firstborn of every creature. Obviously, every creature did not give birth to Jesus. Likewise, in Colossians 1:18, He is called the firstborn of the dead. Surely dead people did not give birth to Him. The term firstborn means the one who will receive the double portion of the inheritance of the Father. A good example is that of Reuben, the one born first to Jacob and Leah. Because he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, particularly Ephraim, who is called the firstborn in Jeremiah 31:9 (see 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
When Jesus is called the beginning of God's creation, it does not mean that He was the first created being of God, rather it means that all of God's creation has its beginning in Jesus Christ. For example, if I would say that the power station is the beginning of electricity, I mean that electricity has its source, or beginning, at the power station. Likewise, Jesus is the source, or the beginning of all of God's creation. If this was not so, then there is a serious grammatical problem with John 1:1. There we read that, "In the beginning was the Word..." If Jesus was the first created being of Jehovah, then of necessity this verse would read, "In the beginning became the Word..." The verb that is used is an imperfect tense verb, meaning a continuous activity in time prior to the beginning. How could Jesus exist prior to the beginning if He was the beginning or first created? The fact is that there simply is no statement in Scripture that says that Jesus was created.
A third argument of the Witnesses is that it is impossible for God to be tempted. In that Jesus was tempted, He can not be God. They write,
"At Matthew 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being "tempted by the Devil." After showing Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory," Satan said: "All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me." (Matthew 4:8, 9) Satan was trying to cause Jesus to be disloyal to God. But what test of loyalty would that be if Jesus were God? Could God rebel against himself? No, but angels and humans could rebel against God and did. The temptation of Jesus would make sense only if he was, not God, but a separate individual who had his own free will, one who could have been disloyal had he chosen to be, such as an angel or a human. On the other hand, it is unimaginable that God could sin and be disloyal to Himself. "Perfect is his activity . . . A God of faithfulness, . . . righteous and upright is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4) So if Jesus had been God, he could not have been tempted.-James 1:13."
This argument is not too hard to refute. First, it should be noted that when James says that God can not be tempted, he is speaking of being tempted with success. Certainly anyone can tempt God, but no one can do it with success. God can not sin. A good analogy is that of a giant air craft carrier being attacked by two men in a row boat with sling shots. The air craft carrier can not be attacked (with success) by the men in the row boat, but that does not mean they can not try.
But secondly, we must ask, how was it that Jesus did not succumb to the temptations of the devil. Perfect man was capable of being tempted, and was in the Garden of Eden, and with success. Perfect angels were capable of being tempted, and were with success when Lucifer led 1/3 of them away. How is it that Jesus did not give in to temptation? The only answer is that as His divine nature was indissolubly united with His human nature, He was incapable of sinning. That He was tempted means nothing. That He did not fall to temptation means everything.
The fourth argument of the Witnesses is that if Jesus was God, His death on Calvary would violate the justice of God. Therefore, He could not be God. Again they write,
"One of the main reasons why Jesus came to earth also has a direct bearing on the Trinity. The Bible states: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all."-1 Timothy 2:5, 6. Jesus, no more and no less than a perfect human, became a ransom that compensated exactly for what Adam lost-the right to perfect human life on earth. So Jesus could rightly be called "the last Adam" by the apostle Paul, who said in the same context: "Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) The perfect human life of Jesus was the "corresponding ransom" required by divine justice-no more, no less. A basic principle even of human justice is that the price paid should fit the wrong committed. If Jesus, however, were part of a Godhead, the ransom price would have been infinitely higher than what God's own Law required. (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21) It was only a perfect human, Adam, who sinned in Eden, not God. So the ransom, to be truly in line with God's justice, had to be strictly an equivalent-a perfect human, "the last Adam." Thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but a perfect man, "lower than angels." (Hebrews 2:9; compare Psalm 8:5, 6.) How could any part of an almighty Godhead-Father, Son, or holy spirit-ever be lower than angels?"
This argument is one of those arguments that is, in reality, a greater proof of the deity of Jesus than a detractor of it. Witnesses err in their statement that the justice of God requires no more than an exact, "no more, no less" compensation. Certainly the law of Moses required a no less compensation, but the law did not prohibit a no more compensation. For example, in Leviticus 6:2, instruction is given about compensation to a man that has deceived. The deceiver must restore what was taken fraudulently and add 20% to the compensation. If the Witnesses are correct in their statement, if a deceiver would add 30% to the compensation, that one would violate the justice of God by giving back more that what was required. In Luke 19:1-8, we see an example of this occurring. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, notorious for deception and thievery, had come to Christ. The genuineness of his repentance and faith is marked by this statement, "If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." (Luke 19:8) He does not add the required 20%, but adds 300%. Certainly, Jesus, the perfect man would have prohibited him from doing so if that was prohibited by the law, but instead he declares the genuineness of Zachaeus' faith.
Another problem of the Witnesses argument is the salvation that the sacrifice of Jesus affords the believer. A no more, no less compensation could only restore man to the condition that he had before his fall in Eden. However, the salvation we enjoy affords us a greater standing than that which man had in Eden. Man's righteousness in Eden was untried and capable of being lost. Redeemed man's righteousness is the very tried righteousness of Christ, and incapable of being lost. In that the salvation we possess is infinitely greater than our state before the fall, the One Who provided it must also be infinitely greater than the one who lost our state in the fall (Adam, perfect man).
The fifth argument is that a son is inferior to his father. Since Jesus is called the Son, therefore, He must be inferior to the Father and not God. They explain,
"The Bible calls Jesus the "only-begotten Son" of God. (John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) Trinitarians say that since God is eternal, so the Son of God is eternal. But how can a person be a son and at the same time be as old as his father? Trinitarians claim that in the case of Jesus, "only-begotten" is not the same as the dictionary definition of "begetting," which is "to procreate as the father." (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) They say that in Jesus' case it means "the sense of unoriginated relationship," a sort of only son relationship without the begetting. (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) Does that sound logical to you? Can a man father a son without begetting him? Furthermore, why does the Bible use the very same Greek word for "only-begotten" (as Vine admits without any explanation) to describe the relationship of Isaac to Abraham? Hebrews 11:17 speaks of Isaac as Abraham's "only-begotten son." There can be no question that in Isaac's case, he was only-begotten in the normal sense, not equal in time or position to his father. So Jesus, the only-begotten Son, had a beginning to his life. And Almighty God can rightly be called his Begetter, or Father, in the same sense that an earthly father, like Abraham, begets a son. (Hebrews 11:17) Hence, when the Bible speaks of God as the "Father" of Jesus, it means what it says-that they are two separate individuals. God is the senior. Jesus is the junior-in time, position, power, and knowledge."
A number of difficulties are found in this "reasoning". First, Witnesses ask if it is logical that a man can have a son without begetting him. Let me ask another "logical" question to answer theirs. Is it logical that a father could have a son without a mother? Of course not! Yet Jesus was the Son of God prior to the incarnation, so who was His mother. Unless we accept the concept of the Mormons that there is an Eternal Mother, (which there is not) then we must conclude that a Father can have a Son without naturally begetting him.
But look also at the rest of the Witnesses' argument. They cite that Isaac was the only-begotten son of Abraham. But wait a minute. Isaac was not the only son born to Abraham. Preceding Isaac was Ishmael and following Isaac was Zimram, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. If Isaac was the only-begotten son of Abraham, and only-begotten means to come into the world by creation or pro-creation, then how did Abraham have these other sons? There must be some other meaning to the term only-begotten. And there is. It simply is a term of relationship, that Jesus, as a Son, exists in a unique relationship to the Father, which no other has.
But is a Son necessarily inferior to a Father? No. I recently started running to regain some stamina that I had lost, and to lose some weight I had gained. Although I will not be running in any marathons, I certainly can outrace my father, who, a year ago, had hip replacement surgery. But before I become proud, I need only look at my 16 year old son who can run circles around me. Likewise, my father just hooked up to the internet a few weeks ago. He is not too competent on it yet and calls me frequently with questions. Most of them I can answer, but when I am stumped, I simply ask my son, whose knowledge of the subject is greater than mine. A son is not necessarily inferior to a father.
Argument number six is that Jesus was submissive to the Father, which indicates an inferior position. They reason,
"Time and again, Jesus made statements such as: "The Son cannot do anything at his own pleasure, he can only do what he sees his Father doing." (John 5:19, The Holy Bible, by Monsignor R. A. Knox)...Thus Jesus illustrated his own position as one being sent by God to do God's will, just as a father sends a submissive son. The followers of Jesus always viewed him as a submissive servant of God, not as God's equal. At the very outset of Jesus' ministry, when he came up out of the baptismal water, God's voice from heaven said: "This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved." (Matthew 3:16, 17) Was God saying that he was his own son, that he approved himself, that he sent himself? No, God the Creator was saying that he, as the superior, was approving a lesser one, his Son Jesus, for the work ahead."
But why is it that Jesus could only do the things that He saw His Father do? Man can do whatever he chooses to do, that is to obey or disobey God. Angels could do likewise, some chose to obey, some chose to rebel against God's authority. Why is it that Jesus could only do what He saw His Father do. The only possible answer is that He is of the same nature as His Father. That is, He is God. Anybody or anything of a different nature could choose to do differently.
His submission to the Father was of a voluntary nature and did not render Him inferior to His Father. For example, as Pastor of the Salina Bible Church, I possess the highest appointed or elected position of authority within the church. However, as a Sunday School teacher, I voluntarily put myself under the authority of the Sunday School Superintendent in matters pertaining to the Sunday School program. That does not render me inferior to him in any way, only submissive to him in Sunday School matters. In the plan of salvation, Jesus submitted Himself to the authority of God the Father without becoming inferior to Him.
Argument number seven is that Jesus has a limited knowledge. Since God is omniscient, Jesus can not be God. Jehovah's Witnesses cite the following as proof,
"When Jesus gave his prophecy about the end of this system of things, he stated: "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32, RS, Catholic edition) Had Jesus been the equal Son part of a Godhead, he would have known what the Father knows. But Jesus did not know, for he was not equal to God. Similarly, we read at Hebrews 5:8 that Jesus "learned obedience from the things he suffered." Can we imagine that God had to learn anything? No, but Jesus did, for he did not know everything that God knew. And he had to learn something that God never needs to learn-obedience. God never has to obey anyone."
Admittedly, this is one of the most difficult arguments to answer. That the Son does not know the time of His return, as does the Father, is difficult to understand. But when interpreting difficult passages of Scripture, we must abide by a simple interpretational principle of interpreting the difficult in the light of the obvious. In John 21:17, omniscience is ascribed by Peter to the Lord when he says, "...thou knowest all things..." Likewise, Jesus had knowledge of Nathaniel before ever coming in physical contact with him (John 1:48). In that these passages clearly affirm Jesus' omniscience, whatever Mark 13:32 means can not be that He was limited in knowledge.
A possible explanation of Mark 13:32 is that the time of Jesus' return was not given to Him to communicate to any. Isaiah 50:4 seems to indicate that the Father would communicate to the Son on a daily basis what it is that He would speak to the masses. That is born out by John 3:32, 8:26, and 12:49. Especially in these last two passages is the idea that what Jesus would communicate with the world is less than the sum of His knowledge. It could be then that the time of Jesus' return was not revealed by the Father as something that Jesus could speak to any and therefore He could say that it was not part of His knowledge.
That fact that Jesus learned anything is not detrimental to His omniscience. There is a difference between theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge. I could read a book on "How To Fly An Airplane" and gain all the theoretical knowledge there is about flying a plane, but you would not want me as your pilot unto I gained some experiential knowledge of flying. When we speak of the omniscience of God, by definition we mean that God knows everything, both actual and potential, in one act of knowing. But there are certain things that God will never know experientially. God will never experientially know the embarrassment of being caught in a lie, for it is impossible for God to lie. The very reason that Jesus learned obedience is that God could not experientially know obedience for there was no one for Him to be obedient to. In His voluntary submission, it was necessary for Jesus to learn obedience, because as God, He couldn't know it without learning it experientially.
The final argument that the Witnesses put forth that Jesus is and was not God is that He simply never claimed to be God. Since Jehovah repeated declared Himself to be God, if Jesus was God, He would have done so also. They write,
"The Bible's position is clear. Not only is Almighty God, Jehovah, a personality separate from Jesus but He is at all times his superior. Jesus is always presented as separate and lesser, a humble servant of God. That is why the Bible plainly says that "the head of the Christ is God" in the same way that "the head of every man is the Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:3) And this is why Jesus himself said: "The Father is greater than I."-John 14:28, RS, Catholic edition. The fact is that Jesus is not God and never claimed to be."
But I submit to you that Jesus did claim to be God. In Mark 2:1-13, we read of the man who was sick of the palsy. When he had been brought to Jesus, Jesus said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." The scribes who were present began to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, for they rightly understood that only Jehovah God can forgive sins. In that Jesus forgave the sins of the man. he openly claimed to be Jehovah God. Likewise in Luke 18:19, when a certain ruler came to Jesus and called Him "good Master", Jesus asked why the man called Him good, seeing that there is only one Who is good and that is Jehovah God. Jesus was not denying His goodness, but wanting the man to realize that in calling Him good, that he was addressing Jehovah, Himself.
Jesus also demonstrated that He is Jehovah in that He always received the worship of people. In that no one was to be worshipped but Jehovah, had Jesus received the worship of people, He would have sinned. If he had sinned, then He wasn't the perfect man that the Witnesses say He is. But there is even a greater problem. In Psalm 97:7, which is cited in Hebrews 1:6, Jehovah commands the angels to worship Him. If Jesus is not Jehovah, then the Father has also committed sin in commanding that the Son be worshipped. That can not be!
In all these arguments about the deity of Christ, the Witnesses have their "stock" answers which can be refuted as we have done above. But there is a serious question that must be asked of the Witnesses concerning the salvation that is provided in the death of Jesus, if Jesus is not God. What makes Jesus' death beneficial to you and I is that, as God, He was able to give infinite and eternal quality to His death. In that the wages of sin is death (both physical and eternal) the One who dies for sin must be able to pay an eternal penalty. Man who dies without Christ will suffer for eternity because man is temporal and can not give eternal value to his death. Now the Witnesses do not believe that unsaved man will suffer for eternity, but become annihilated after judgment. Therefore, for them, this argument is invalid. While this is a valid argument, it is not necessary to press the issue, there is another argument which they can not deny.
In order to die for the sins of the world, the One who would die must have the ability to give infinite value to his death. A "good" man can die for a "bad" man, but there can only be a one to one ratio. In order for one to bear the sins of many, better of all, He must be infinite in His nature. Without question, Jesus died for the sins of the world (John 1:29). To do so, He had to be of infinite nature. The only One who is so is Jehovah, God. If Jesus was not Jehovah, but a finite creation of God, then Jesus could not have died for the sins of the world, He could not have even died for the sins of 144,000, but He died for the sins of one person at best. The only possible conclusion that allows for any member of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be forgiven of their sins, as well as any member of the human race, is that Jesus is Jehovah, God. If He is not, we are all lost!