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Jesus Christ – He who is over all, God blessed forever! [Part 2]

Revisiting Paul’s Christology

Sam Shamoun

It is asserted that it is rather unlikely that Paul would make such a high Christological confession since nowhere does he ever address Jesus in such an exalted manner in his genuine epistles. The critics contend that it is highly improbable, if not impossible, that Paul would have spoken of Christ as being God blessed for ever since his habitual practice is to apply God or theos to the Father, not to the Son. We will now be addressing these specific objections.


Jesus is the preexistent Divine Son of God

There are several passages where Paul refers to Christ’s prehuman existence, such as the following example from Philippians:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God (hos en morphe theou hyperchon), did not consider the being equal with God (to einai isa theo) something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (morphen doulou), being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (kai echarisato auto to onoma to hyper pan onoma), that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

In this particular text Paul not only believed that Christ has been exalted to the highest position of authority imaginable he further applies the following OT passage to the Lord Jesus:

“For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, “Seek me in vain.” I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”’” Isaiah 45:18-23

Paul envisions a time when every single creature will worship Jesus in the same way that Yahweh says they will worship him! Thus, Paul believed that to worship Jesus is to worship Yahweh since Jesus is Yahweh (but not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!

If the blessed and holy Apostle Paul could refer to Christ as existing in the very nature of God (en morphe theou hyperchon) and teach that because of this he was God’s equal (isa theo), and further believed that Christ is exalted over all creation and even receives the very universal worship which the OT says shall be shown to Yahweh God, why should it then be thought inconceivable that this same inspired author would on another occasion teach that Christ is God blessed forever?

Paul further speaks of God sending forth his Son to become flesh for our salvation:

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh… You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness… He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:3, 9-10, 32-34


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Galatians 4:4-6

There are several important facts to glean from all of this. First, Paul speaks of the sending of the Son in the same way he describes the Spirit being sent, which demonstrates that the blessed Apostle believed in the Son’s actual personal prehuman existence. After all, just as the Spirit personally existed with God before he was sent, the Son must have also existed in heaven with the Father. 

Second, Paul refers to Christ living in or spiritually indwelling all believers, a point he often made:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

The only way that Christ could dwell with his followers so as to have fellowship with all of them is if he is omnipresent, which is an exclusively Divine attribute.

Third, Paul believed that God’s Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Yahweh, is also the Son’s Spirit! In another inspired writing he even speaks of the Spirit of Jesus delivering him from his trials:

“for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,” Philippians 1:19

To say that such assertions made by a monotheistic Jew in reference to a fellow Jew would be seen as truly astonishing and shocking by other monotheistic Jews would be a wild understatement!


Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all

As if Paul couldn’t be anymore shocking in the way he speaks of Christ … the Apostle writes in his epistle to Romans – in fact in the very chapter following Romans 9:5 – that Jesus is the Lord of all and that salvation comes from believing and calling on Christ as Lord: 

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all (autos kyrios panton), bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13

Paul has taken another OT text, specifically Joel 2:32, which speaks of individuals calling on the name of Yahweh in order to receive deliverance and applied that to Christ!

“And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the LORD shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.”

Hence, for Paul Jesus is the Yahweh whom everyone must call upon in prayer so as to be saved! More on this shortly.

Christ is also the Lord of glory who was crucified, a rather exalted title to give to a mere creature:

“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8

The reason why this blessed Apostle could speak of Jesus in this manner is because, just as we had noted, Christ is no created being but the sovereign Lord of the entire cosmos who saves all who call on his name.


Jesus is praised and worshiped as the exalted and risen Lord

Nor is this the only place where the Apostle mentions calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. He does so in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

Here we see that one of the chief aspects that characterized the gatherings of Christians was their practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus in prayer and worship, which is how the OT saints worshiped Yahweh:  

“Thence he removed to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.” Genesis 12:8

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.” Genesis 21:33

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them.” Psalm 99:6

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” Psalm 105:1; cf. 116:13, 17

Paul also provides an example of his prayer life:

“And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for MY power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The Lord to whom Paul prayed, the Lord who responded to his servant’s repeated requests and who empowered him to endure his trials, is none other than the exalted Christ!


Jesus Christ is the joint Source of grace, peace and blessings

Paul not only worshiped the Lord Jesus by calling on his blessed and glorious name, he would also beseech the risen Lord in his prayers on behalf of the Churches he was writing to. Throughout his inspired epistles the blessed Apostle would invoke both the Father and the Son to bless, give grace or peace to the Christian congregations:

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father AND FROM the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:3

There are even a few occasions where the inspired Apostle beseeches Christ alone:

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” Romans 16:20

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” 1 Corinthians 16:23

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.” Galatians 6:18; cf. Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28

Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris brings out the significance of Paul’s constant habit of invoking God and Christ throughout his writings:

“At the beginning of each of Paul's letters is a salutation that ends with a standardized formula: ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 1:3 and elsewhere). The apostle is not saying that there are two distinct sources of grace and peace, one divine and one human; significantly the preposition from (in Greek) is not repeated before ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Rather, Father and Son jointly form a single source of divine grace and peace. Of no mere human being could it be said that, together with God, he was a font of spiritual blessing. Only if Paul had regarded Jesus as fully divine could he have spoken this way.” (Harris, Three Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], 3. Is Jesus God?, I. Divine Status Claimed by or Accorded to Jesus, B. In Relation to Humans, 4. Jesus Is The Joint Source Of Blessing, p. 77; bold emphasis ours)


Jesus is Yahweh God Incarnate

As we stated above, it is abundantly clear that Paul believed and taught that Jesus is the human appearance, the physical manifestation, of Yahweh even though he is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit. This explains why Paul could take the Shema of the Hebrew Bible:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” Deuteronomy 6:4

And Christianize it by including Jesus within the Divine identity of the one Lord God of Israel:

“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

Christ is not only the One Lord of the Shema he is also the Agent through whom the Father created and sustains both his faithful and creation, even though the Hebrew Scriptures emphatically testify that Yahweh alone created and sustains all things!

“Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kad'mi-el, Bani, Hashabnei'ah, Sherebi'ah, Hodi'ah, Shebani'ah, and Pethahi'ah, said, ‘Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name which is exalted above all blessing and praise.’ And Ezra said: ‘You are the LORD, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” Nehemiah 9:5-6

“Then Job answered:  ‘Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be just before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength -- who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded? -- he who removes mountains, and they know it not, when he overturns them in his anger; who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who ALONE stretched out the heavens, and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Plei'ades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number.’” Job 9:1-10

“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens ALONE, who spread out the earth BY MYSELF.’” Isaiah 44:24

It also helps us understand why Paul would write that Jesus was the Spiritual Rock who led Israel out of Egypt and cared for them, being the very Lord who also destroyed some of them by serpents for testing him:

“For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-10

When the OT writings say that Yahweh is the Rock who guided and provided for Israel:

“I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he… The LORD ALONE led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape. Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior… You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth… If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede.” Deuteronomy 32:3-4, 12-15, 18, 29-31

And that he is the Lord whom the people tested:

“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Numbers 21:4-9

Even the OT Day of Yahweh where Yahweh comes to judge the nations,

“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of Yahweh is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations... Yahweh utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the Day of Yahweh is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” Joel 2:1, 11

“Woe to you who desire the Day of Yahweh! Why would you have the Day of Yahweh? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the Day of the Yahweh darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” Amos 5:18-20

“Be silent before the Lord Yahweh! For the Day of Yahweh is near; Yahweh has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the Day of Yahweh’s sacrifice – ‘I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.’” Zephaniah 1:7-9

The great Day of Yahweh is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the Day of Yahweh is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.” Zephaniah 1:14-16

Becomes the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ for Paul!

“so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:7-9

“I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:4-5

“When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

“just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the Day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.” 2 Corinthians 1:14

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection (love) of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the Day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:6-11

“holding fast to the word of life, so that in the Day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:16

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape… For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-3, 9-10 – cf. 1:10

We now turn to some allegedly disputed Pauline texts. 


“Disputed” Pauline Passages

By disputed we are referring to the translation of specific Pauline texts or to writings that critical liberal scholars do not believe Paul actually wrote or had written down. The letters which are considered by them to be spurious or pseudonymous, i.e. written by someone using Paul’s name which are normally referred to as the Deutero-Pauline epistles, are the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus), Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians. 

It is beyond the scope of this article to provide the historical and linguistic data which establishes Pauline authorship of these so-called disputed epistles, nor is this the place to present the massive amount of replies to the critical arguments raised against Pauline authorship. Conservative Christian scholars have done that a countless number of times and their evidence and refutations can be found in the Biblical commentaries that they have produced. We advise the readers to consult these sources if they are interested in reading the overwhelming evidence which establishes that the blessed Apostle Paul did in fact author the so-called Deutero-Pauline epistles. 

Nevertheless, even if one holds the position that these are not the writings of Paul one can still argue that the theology of the Deutero-Pauline letters are an accurate development and reflection of Pauline thought, so that the usage of specific passages from this corpus may be seen as a continuation of Paul’s own way of speaking.

With that in mind we can now proceed to the specific references themselves, beginning with Ephesians:

“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all (hyperano pases) rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things (kai auton edoken kephalen hyper panta) to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“{There is} one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all (ho epi panton) and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the One who also ascended far above all the heavens (kai ho anabas hyperano panton ton ouranon), that he might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:4-10

These citations emphatically proclaim Christ as the exalted Lord who holds supreme authority over the entire creation of God, both now and forever (i.e., “not only in this age but also in the one to come”). In fact, Christ’s kingdom is the same as God’s kingdom:

“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and God (en te basileia tou christou kai theou).” Ephesians 5:5

What we possibly have in the last passage is something known as a Granville Sharp construction where Jesus is being called both Christ and God. Granville Sharp's first rule concerning the use of the Greek article (“the”) states that when you have two singular personal nouns, or nouns describing a person, which are not proper names (i.e. Peter, John, Paul etc.), and the two nouns are connected by the word kai (“and”), with the first noun having the Greek article while the second one lacks it, then both nouns are describing or referring to the same person.

In this verse from Ephesians we have two nouns connected by kai with the article appearing only before the first noun, thereby identifying Christ as God.

Yet there is one major problem with interpreting this to be a reference to Christ’s Deity. In the NT the word Christ functions as a title or proper name for Jesus and therefore disqualifies it from being a Sharp construction, which rules out proper names. This citation does teach, however, that God’s kingdom belongs equally to Christ, i.e. both Father and Son are joint possessors of one and the same eternal kingdom. 

Moreover, this next citation is clearly a Granville Sharp construction that points to the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus:

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon 'Iesou Christou), who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed (hina lytrosetai hemas apo pases anomias), and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession (laon periousion), zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14

We again have language which the OT applies to Yahweh being used in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ! According to the prophetic writings it is Yahweh who is the great God and Savior that redeems a people from their lawless deeds to be his own possession: 

“And now if ye will indeed hear my voice, and keep my covenant, ye shall be to me a peculiar people (laos periousios) above all nations; for the whole earth is mine.” Exodus 19:5 LXX

“For you are great (hoti megas ei su), and do wonders: you are the only [and] the great God (su ei ho theos monos ho megas).” Psalm 85[86]:10 LXX

“Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities/lawlessness (kai autos lytrosetai ton Israel ek pason ton anomion autou).” Psalm 129 [130]:7-8 LXX

“For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure (periousiasmon autou).” Psalm 134[135]:4 LXX – cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2 

In his comments on both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, another text that is a Granville Sharp construction which describes Christ as both God and Savior,

“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou theou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou) have received a faith as precious as ours.”

Murray J. Harris explains that,

“Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 may be considered together, since both use a stereotyped formula, ‘God and Savior,’ in reference to Jesus. This was a common formula in first-century religious terminology, used by both Palestinian and Diaspora Jews in reference to Yahweh, the one true God, and by Gentiles when they spoke of an individual god or a deified ruler. In all of these uses the expression God and Savior invariably denotes one deity, not two, so that when Paul and Peter employ this formula and follow it with the name Jesus Christ, their readers would always understand it as referring to a single person, Jesus Christ. It would simply not occur to them that ‘God’ might mean the Father, with Jesus Christ as the ‘Savior.’”  (Harris, 3 Crucial Questions, 3. Is Jesus God?, III. The Divine Title “God” Used of Jesus, pp. 96-97)

Finally, in Colossians Jesus is depicted as the Creator and Sustainer of the entire created realm, He who is before all creation both in terms of status and time:

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created (ektisthe), in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created (ektistai) through him and for him. And he IS before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:13-20

Harris clarifies the implications of the two tenses that are used for Jesus creating all things:

“In the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, however, John states that ‘through him [the eternal Word] all things were made; without him nothing has been made that has been made’ (John 1:3). Here the Greek word for ‘all things’ (panta) draws attention to the multiplicity and diversity of creation. In Colossians 1:16, on the other hand, the Greek for ‘all things’ (ta panta) means ‘all things collectively,’ with the emphasis being on the sum total of reality: ‘For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers–all things have been created through him and for him’ (my translation). Two other points in this remarkable verse are worthy of note. The prepositional phrase in him indicates that in the very person of Christ resides the creative energy that produced the universe. John simply says that ‘in him was life’ (John 1:4), while Peter refers to him as ‘the author of life’ (Acts 3:15). The other notable feature is the subtle distinction, lost in many English translations, that Paul makes between the two tenses of creation (ektistheektistai). A paraphrase of the verse will highlight the distinction:

It was in his person that all things in heaven and on earth were once created, things that can be seen by the human eye, and those things that cannot be seen, whether they be angelic occupants of heavenly thrones or supernatural beings who exercise dominion or rule or authority–all these things were created, and now exist, through him and for him

“The universe has an ongoing relationship to Christ…” (Ibid., II. Divine Functions Exercised by Jesus, A. In relation to the Universe, 1. Jesus Is The Creator, pp. 80-81)

Christ is further said to embody the entire Divine essence, having the whole fulness of Deity residing in him bodily:

“For in him the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily,” Colossians 2:9

Harris explains,

“One verse beyond all others in the New Testament affirms that every divine attribute is found in Christ: ‘In Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form’ (Col. 2:9). Paul does not say simply, ‘the plenitude of Deity,’ but ‘the entire fullness of Deity.’ He emphasizes that no element of that fullness is excepted. Whatever is characteristic of God as God, resides in Christ. This includes both God’s nature and his attributes. In the Greek text the verb lives (present tense) and the adverb translated ‘in bodily form’ are not found side by side, but separated, which suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made: that the entire fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ eternally and that this fullness now permanently resides in Christ in bodily form. Thus, Paul implies both the eternal deity of Christ and the permanent humanity of Christ.” (Ibid., I. Divine Status Claimed by or Accorded to Jesus , A. In Relation to God the Father, 1. Jesus Is The Possessor Of Divine Attributes, pp. 66-67)

The language used for Christ in all of the above NT references could never be applied to a mere creature, no matter how exalted or glorious.

For more on Sharp’s rule we highly recommend the following articles and rebuttals:


Summation of Paul’s Christology

To briefly summarize what Paul preached and wrote concerning the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we learned that:

  • Jesus exists in the form of God, having the very nature of God and being equal with his Father in essence.
  • Jesus is omnipresent, being spiritually present with all true believers in order to have fellowship with them.
  • Jesus is the Agent and Sustainer of creation to whom all things belong.
  • Jesus is Lord in the sense of being Yahweh God, the one Lord spoken of in Deuteronomy 6:4.
  • Jesus sits enthroned in heaven as the sovereign Lord of the entire creation.
  • Jesus will be worshiped by this same creation in the way that the inspired prophet Isaiah says Yahweh will be worshiped.
  • Christians are those who call on the Lord Jesus’ name in prayer and worship in the same manner that the OT saints would call on the name of Yahweh.
  • Jesus and his Father form a single source of grace, peace and blessing.
  • Jesus is the preexistent Rock who provided for Israel during their desert wandering, being the Lord whom they tested.
  • Yahweh’s Holy Spirit is also Jesus’ Holy Spirit.
  • The OT Day of Yahweh is the Day of the Lord Jesus, the Day in which Christ returns to usher in the universal resurrection and judgement.

With the foregoing in perspective can there be any doubt left that Paul was convinced that the risen Lord Jesus is Yahweh God (but not the Father or the Holy Spirit), being the human manifestation of the God of the OT?


Concluding Remarks

The arguments that we have presented here, the points that we raised throughout this article, are some of the many reasons which have led even liberal critical NT scholars such as the late Raymond E. Brown to embrace the view that Paul was calling Christ God in Romans 9:5. His words are worth quoting:

#12. Rom 9:5 joins three clauses: "Of their race [i.e., the Israelites] is the Christ according to the flesh the one who is over all God blessed forever. Amen.” To whom do the italicized words refer? It has been claimed that this verse has been subjected to more discussion than any other verse in the NT. The problem may be phrased in terms of various punctuations of which two are dominant:

(a) A full stop (period) may be put after “flesh” as in Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, so that the following words become a separate sentence blessing the God who is over all forever–a reference to God the Father. Why Paul should stop at this point in his chain of thought and introduce a doxology to the Father is not clear; for 9:1-5 concerns Christ; and one would expect praise of Christ, not of the Father. Yet if one takes the whole context of Rom 9:1-5, Paul might be praising God for the privileges of Israel that have been listed, especially the gift of the Messiah (Christ). The word order in the Greek offers considerable difficulty for this interpretation. In independent doxologies “blessed” normally comes first in the Greek sentence (II Cor 1:3; Eph 1:3); here it is the sixth word in the sentence. The presence of the participle translated “who is” is also awkward for this interpretation, for it is superfluous. Such a construction is normal only if there is an antecedent in the previous clause (II Cor 11:31; Rom 1:25).

(b) A full stop may be put at the end, after “forever,” and a comma after “flesh.” All the words after “flesh,” then, are a relative clause modifying “Christ,” thus: “… the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all God blessed forever.” This interpretation would mean that Paul calls Jesus God. From a grammatical viewpoint this is the better reading. Also, the contextual sequence is excellent; for, having spoken of Jesus’ descent according to the flesh, Paul now emphasizes his position as God. The major objection to this interpretation is that nowhere else does Paul speak of Jesus.

Distinguished scholars aligned on both sides of the issue. Personally, I am swayed by the grammatical evidence in favor of (b) whereby the title “God” is given to Jesus. But one may claim no more than plausibility.

263. Already in this APPENDIX under B, in treating passages from the Pauline corpus, I have rejected such texts as Gal 2:20; I Tim 3:16 (footnote 248); Col 2:2-3; II Thess 1:12; and under A above I pointed out a number of Pauline texts that would seem to indicate that Paul did not refer to Jesus as God. Besides Rom 9:5, the only text in the corpus that has serious plausibility as an instance of Jesus’ being called God is Titus 2:13; but this is in the Pastoral Epistles, which most scholars regard as not written by Paul himself. Nevertheless, it might be argued that the Pastorals are in some areas a homogeneous development of Pauline thought, so that the usage in Titus 2:13 may be a continuation of Paul’s own way of speaking already instanced in Rom 9:5. In any case, we should note that an argument based on Paul’s usage or nonusage of the title ‘God’ for Jesus is different from the claim that Paul was so imbued with Jewish monotheism that he could not have thought of Jesus as God. Such a claim assumes that Paul could find no way of reconciling two truths. Even though he may have used other terminology, there is no doubt that Paul believed in the divinity of Jesus (in preexistent categories): Philip 2:5-6; II Cor 8:9. (Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology [Paulist Press, Mahwah NJ, 1994], Appendix III. Did New Testament Christians Call Jesus God?, (B) passages Where the Use of the Title “God” for Jesus are Dubious, pp. 182-183; bold and underline emphasis ours)

What our examination has shown is that no matter how early the letter or writing, no matter how far back one goes, the evidence overwhelmingly proves that the first Christians believed and taught that Jesus Christ was more than a mere human prophet, more than an apostle of God. All of our earliest historical data demonstrates that the first communities of Jesus’ followers were convinced and proclaimed that Christ is the preexistent Divine Son of God and the risen Lord of glory who reigns over all creation forever who must and shall eventually receive worship from all his created subjects.

In other words, the earliest recoverable Christology doesn’t point to the Muslim Jesus, but to the risen and exalted Christ of NT Christianity. We, therefore, invite all Muslims to abandon the false Muslim Isa for the true Jesus of history, the One who is the eternally praised God and Lord of glory!        

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus come! We worship you as the God who is eternally praised, the Son of the Most High, the resurrected and immortal Lord of all creation! We love you, O Glorious Son of God and eternal Savior! Amen.


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