Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 4g

Sam Shamoun

In this part of our response we are going to address Ally’s assertion that even the Deutero-Pauline Epistles (thus called because liberal scholars deny that Paul wrote them) distinguish Jesus from God. We begin by taking a look at Paul’s letter to the Colossians.


The so-called Deutero-Pauline Epistles

In his correspondence to the believers at Colossae Paul includes what many scholars believe to be another hymn of Christ, one which focuses on Jesus’ mediatorial role in creation and redemption:  

“He has delivered us from the dominion 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 first-born of all creation; for IN HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. He IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, and IN HIM all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in EVERYTHING he might be PRE-EMINENT.” Colossians 1:13-18

Paul virtually exhausts the Greek language to drive home the point that the Lord Jesus is the divine Agent whom the Father used to create and sustain every created thing, a creation which the blessed Apostle states exists for the Son. Paul also refers to Christ as the One who reconciles the creation to God by his vicarious death on the cross.

To say that this is absolutely astonishing is to put it rather mildly since Christ must be eternal, all-knowing, present everywhere, and all-powerful to be able to create and sustain the entire creation. And yet for Jesus to possesses these traits he has to be Yahweh God!

After all, the inspired Scriptures are emphatic that Yahweh alone created all things for his own glory,

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 9:8-10

“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created FOR MY GLORY, whom I formed and made… The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed FOR MYSELF that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:6-7, 20-21– cf. 44:24

And that he is the One who sustains and gives life to everything:

“And Ezra said: ‘Thou art the Lord, thou alone; thou hast 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 thou preservest all of them; and the host of heaven worships thee.’” Nehemiah 9:6

“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:” Isaiah 42:5

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Acts 17:24-28

It is little wonder that the following liberal commentary could make the following statements in regards to this hymn:

“… A stronger statement of Christ’s cosmic sovereignty is hardly possible, esp. when it is specified–perhaps an editorial expansion of the original hymn–that the existence of every other worldly power is dependent on him… The affirmation that Christ is before all things and that all things hold together in him further supports the point that his authority is primordial, his reign universal, AND HIS POWER ABSOLUTE…” (Victor Paul Furnish, “The Letter of Paul to the Colossians,” Interpreter’s One-volume Commentary, p. 859; capital and underline emphasis ours)

As if it couldn’t possibly get any more astonishing, Paul goes on to make the following statement concerning Christ:

“For in him the whole fulness of deity (theotetos) dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

The blessed Apostle makes the astounding assertion that the entire fullness of that which makes God what he is by nature resides wholly and completely in Christ physically!

As such, this happens to be one of the clearest testimonies to the hypostatic union, e.g., that Christ is the God-Man since he unites both absolute Deity and perfect humanity together within himself.

The following commentaries help sum up the Christology of Colossians:

(1) It was clearly a heresy which attacked the total adequacy and the unique supremacy of Christ. No Pauline letter has such a view of Jesus Christ or such insistence on his completeness and finality. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God; in him all the fullness dwells (1:15, 1:19). In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:2). In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form (2:9).

(2) Paul goes out of his way to stress the part that Christ played in creation. By him, al things were created (1:16); in him, all things hold together (1:17). The Son was the Father's instrument in the creation of the universe.

(3) At the same time, he goes out of his way to stress the real humanity of Christ. It was in the body of his flesh that he did his redeeming work (1:22). The fullness of the Godhead dwells in him somatikos, in bodily form (2:9). For all his deity, Jesus Christ was truly human flesh and blood. (William Barclay, The New Daily Bible Study: The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians [Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY: Third edition, 2003], p. 110; bold emphasis ours)


“…Again Paul asserted Christ's divine nature (see 1:19). In Christ designates a local or spatial relationship rather than a mystical relationship. God's saving action happens in the person of Jesus Christ. In 2:9-13, every verse contains the phrase 'in Christ' (or 'in him') or 'with Christ' (or 'with him') to show that Christ is the center of God's saving activity. All the fullness of the Deity refers to the whole total of deity (pleroma theotaitos) or all the divine attributes. God's nature and person are centered in Christ. Lives in bodily form means 'dwells permanently' or 'continues to live' in a human body.

“The false teaching said that Christ could not have been both man and God. But Paul clearly stated that this was indeed the case. Paul made two significant points in this sentence: (1) Christ was not another deity along with God; instead, God's fullness was dwelling uniquely and supremely in Christ. (2) Christ was not less than God. He was not merely one in a hierarchy of angels who would act as intermediaries between people and God. Instead, Paul emphasized to these Colossians believers, and to us today, that when we have Christ, we have everything we need for salvation and right living. He is our leader. No man-made religion or philosophy can give what Christ gives-salvation and right relationship with God.” (The Life Application Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, & Philemon, edited by Grant Osborne, Philip W. Comfort, & Livingstone [Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1995], p. 189; bold emphasis ours)

1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.NIV The little word for explains why Christ will have first place in everything. God wanted his fullness (meaning "completeness" or "totality") to dwell (meaning "live permanently") in Christ. This verse has been translated various ways: (1) that Christ was pleased to have God's fullness dwell in him; (2) that the fullness was pleased to dwell in Christ; and (3) as here, that God was pleased to have the whole Godhead dwell in the Son. The Greek supports all three possibilities, but the main point is not lost. Paul wanted to explain to the Colossians that Christ is God's dwelling place; therefore, Christ is divine, sovereign, preeminent. Christ perfectly displays all the attributes and activities of God: Spirit, Word, wisdom, glory.

By this statement, Paul was refuting the Greek idea that Jesus could not be human and divine at the same time. Nor is there more than one God; one God, in all his fullness, resides in Christ. Paul was also refuting the false teaching that God's "fullness" meant all the angelic powers that emanate from God, fill the space between God and humans. Instead, Paul affirmed that God's "fullness" dwells in Christ alone. Christ has always been and always will be God. ALL OF GOD (including his attributes, characteristics, nature, and being) indwells the Son. When we have Christ we have ALL OF GOD IN HUMAN FORM. Any teaching that diminishes any aspect of Christ–either his humanity or his divinity–is false teaching. In him we have everything we need. (Ibid., p. 166; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Christ's Divinity (1:15-20; 2:2, 9-12). Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, Lord of all creation, and Lord of the new creation. He is the expressed reflection of the invisible God. He is eternal, preexistent, omnipotent, and equal with the Father. He is supreme and complete. In fact, “He is the image of the invisible God” (1:15 NIV), and “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (2:9 NIV). Jesus is God! (Ibid., p. 138; underline emphasis ours)

Time now for us to look at another passage from the supposed Deutero-Pauline writings.