Continued from Part 4

Paul states “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).  Some Trinitarian Christians allege this shows that Paul taught that Jesus and God are equal.  However, their claim is not correct.  The complete passage shows Jesus’ in a subservient position to that of God:  

The attitude you should have is the one Christ had:  Although he existed in the form of God he did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God.  Instead, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave and came to be in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient until death, even on a cross.  For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.  And so, in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and of those underground.  And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11)

According to this passage, Jesus “did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God,” but instead “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, and came to be in the likeness of men.”  Having thereby humbled himself he went still further and in obedience to God underwent death on a cross.  As a reward for lowering his (supernatural) status rather than trying to elevate himself to the status of God, Jesus was “highly exalted” by God because he did not seek equality with God (verses 6-9).  The author of Acts shows that claiming Jesus was exalted does not mean he was God.  He declares that “God . . . raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death . . . to His right hand as a prince and a savior . . . [and] exalted [him] to His right hand a  prince and a savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31).  The recipient of God’s exaltation is not one who was or becomes equal with God, but is given certain powers as a reward for faithful service to God’s will.  These statements make no sense if Jesus were God, because then Jesus would have been praised for not seeking equality with himself!  And, then, God is said to reward and exalt Himself!

Paul’s Jesus is not equal to God but is a supernatural being that is considered to have been raised to an exalted position by God.  He who is not equal to God cannot be God.  Furthermore, Jesus is proclaimed Lord, but, in verse 11, Paul does not use “Lord” and “God” as synonymous terms.  The simple fact is that Paul considers Jesus to be a highly honored supernatural agent, but does not make him equal with God.  He is said to be in the” form of God” but not that he was God or even one-third of God.

Paul says that in Jesus the “fullness [pleroma] of Deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  He alleges that God (the Deity) placed a full measure of divine qualities in Jesus.  This is not the same as saying that Jesus is deity or that in him dwells the full essence—powers and attributes—of God.  Earlier in Colossians, Paul states that God was pleased “for all the fullness to dwell in him [Jesus]” (Colossians 1:19).  But, Paul is not claiming that all the divine attributes and nature dwell in Jesus.  Paul is speaking about Jesus being filled with spiritual attributes that will enable him to carry out all that God desires.  Having “all the fullness” of God would not make one God.  Paul also says that Christians should be filled with “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), but this does not make Christians God.  Furthermore, if Jesus were God, there would be no point in saying that the fullness of God dwelt in him, because, being God, he would already have the fullness of God within him.

© Gerald Sigal