II. Non-Trinitarian: Jesus as Son of God, not God the Son, Connects With Us

This blog is unapologetically non-Trinitarian forum. I suspect there are members of the group who do believe in some version or another of the Trinity doctrine. I’d dare say that many of the views one holds on the subject might have had his or her head cut off if any number of convictions were espoused publicly. This past Wednesday night I attended a church service in which the pastor said that God manifested himself in three different and distinct ways: First the Father laid out a basic course for people in the Old Testament. Jesus picked it up in the New Testament then returned to heaven. Upon arriving there he took a seat next to his Father. And finally he sent the Holy Spirit to work with us now. The perspective expressed essentially looked at there being three distinct entities who might rightly be called the God-Family, and each has a task to do in an overall plan. But because they are unified in purpose, these three beings, having different roles, are all “one” as God. That perspective is true or false.

The perspective presented here is true or false. Jesus says in John 17:3 that eternal life meant knowing that his Father was the true God and that people might know Jesus Christ (his separate self) as the Son that the Father had sent. “Eternal life” is either a designation about end-of-it-all significance, means either that one has to know this to receive ultimate salvation (which would make it a very important thing to know), or else it is a statement about quality, i.e. that there is something about knowing who God is and who God’s Son is that makes one have “eternal life” in the here and now— something akin to the “abundant life” that Jesus wants believers to have now.

Even so, one thing seems to be certain from looking at John 17:3, Jesus is not the Father, and the Father is not Jesus. And the Father is someone whom Jesus is speaking to–he is certainly not speaking to himself. Other passages lead to the same conclusion. Take 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 for example, where Paul says some things about the way authority is set up in comparison with pagan ideas about many gods:

“.. .For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we live.”

His point is that, once again, so-called deities do not really have any place in the presence of two distinct entities, namely “one God, the Father,” and “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” In this passage God, who is many times called “Lord” in the Scriptures, is not the only one Lord “for us.” No more so is Jesus Christ the “one God” for us. Whatever authority that Jesus has is authority that he himself admits has been given to him. Note his very clear words in Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them [the 11 disciples] and said, `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them [i.e. the nations] into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

On a previous occasion, men had criticized Jesus for declaring that a man’s sins had been forgiven. Their reasoning was that only God could forgive sins, as Luke records the occasion: “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21). A nice rhetorical question possibly based upon a passage in the Old Testament, Isaiah 43:25, where God says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Maybe they had another reason for believing this. At any rate, note Matthews account of the situation:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this some of the teachers of the law [of Moses] said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, `Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man [a reference to himself] has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:2-7, ).

Matthew observes the obvious perspective that the authority to forgive sins was given to men. Jesus spoke to his disciples in Matthew 28:18 to let them know that there was quite a bit of authority that he had been given to him in heaven and on the earth. And because of that authority, he could commission them to go and do what was needed to begin a community of followers, disciples, who would be submitted to his will as were they. Paul goes so far as to distinguish the one God from the one Lord in Ephesians 4:4-6:

There is one body [i.e. the church or assembly of believers, cf. Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 1:24], and one Spirit—Just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Note carefully how the one Lord is distinct and separate from the one God. Essentially, God the Father has made his Son Jesus to be Lord over the church, which is his kingdom on earth. Presently, Jesus is at God’s right hand where he has been reigning as Lord at least as long as the day of Pentecost, which is revealed in Acts 2:36 when Peter says in the first gospel sermon after Jesus ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit to the 12 disciples, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). And this is preceded by the very revealing citation from the Old Testament where David is said to have predicted this very reality: “The Lord said to my Lord: `Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Acts 2:34-35. This and the previous passage quoted from Today’s New International Version.)

Jesus, the seated King (Mark 16:19) is scheduled to reign over his kingdom until Death is destroyed, at which time he will deliver up his kingdom to God. Note the distinction yet once again in 1 Corinthians 15:22-24:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

And pay careful attention to the latter portion of the paragraph:

“When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). So, Jesus final destiny is to give up the authority that God gave him to rule over the kingdom-church and hand over the kingdom to God, who will once again have all authority that had been delegated to him.

III. Jesus Has Work to Do