God and Christ: Examining the Evidence for a Biblical Doctrine

 

Our Lord and His God and Father, Jehovah

By David Barron

 

With the New Testament focus on Jesus Christ it is of little wonder that Old Testament passages are applied to him.  Though a number of Old Testament references have been quoted out of context and newly applied to Jesus, many originally referred prophetically to him.  One particular psalm of David Jesus identified as Messianic, a claim that even his opposition refused to dispute.  The citation was of Psalm 110:1: “Jehovah said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies as your footstool.'”  When Jesus cited this text he asked how David could call the Messiah his Lord when the Messiah was his son.  To this they had no response (Mat. 22:43-45). 


According to the Apostle Peter the psalm had reference to Jesus' exalted state, a position given him upon his resurrection: “God swore with an oath... to raise the Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30).  Peter's words are further recorded:

 

Acts 2:32 This Jesus, God raised up, of which we all are witnesses.  33 Then being exalted to the right of God, and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  34 For David did not ascend into Heaven, but he says, "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand 35 until I place those hostile to You as a footstool for Your feet."

 

Jesus' resurrection was connected to his exaltation and his exaltation to his enthronement at God's right hand.  This served as proof that God had “made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), though not to say that Jesus was not these before his death and resurrection. Upon his exaltation he was made these in ways above and beyond anything he had been prior.

 

Before Jesus' death his disciples already recognized his position as their Lord (John 13:13).  They further recognized his position as the Christ (Mat. 16:16).  Yet at that time he was not given the complete Lordship that accompanied his exaltation.  Though already Lord to a lesser extent, once resurrected he was 'made Lord,' having been placed in a new, more exalted position.  Similarly, though anointed, he was only so into his enthronement on God's throne to his right hand upon his exaltation and ascension.  With his anointing for this enthronement he was 'made Christ.'   


The expansion of Jesus' Lordship is highlighted on more than one occasion by the Apostle Paul.  In his letter to the Romans reference to Jesus' death and resurrection accompanied a purpose clause, meaning that 'Christ died and lived again for the purpose of becoming Lord of both the dead and the living' (Rom. 14:9).  Charles Hodge thus explains:


“By his death he purchased them for his own, and by his resurrection he attained to that exalted station which he now occupies as Lord over all, and received those gifts which enable him to exercise as Mediator this universal dominion.”1


Paul similarly explained in Philippians that upon Jesus’ resurrection “God highly exalted him and gave him the name above every name” (Phi. 2:8-9).  Many have believed this name to be Jesus because it follows immediately in verse 10, but this was not to him a new name.  Philippians refers not to the exalting of his existing name to make it “above every name” but to the giving of a name previously not held.  This refers not to a proper name but an office, a meaning well within the semantic range of the Greek word.  From the context the “name” would be Lord, for it is that which all will confess Christ to be (Phi. 2:11).  So R.P. Martin:


“Hence, for the hymn writer to emphasize that God conferred on Christ 'the name that is above every name' is to declare that God not only graciously bestowed (cari,sato) on him a designation that distinguished him from all other beings, a title that outranked all other titles, but also that he bestowed on him a nature or an 'office' with authority that coincided with that title, giving substance and meaning to it. Or, rather, it may be said that God bestowed on him the right to rule, which is implicit in the title of Lord.”2


Recognizing that Christ was 'made Lord' in as much as he received “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Mat. 28:18), holding a position given him by the Father, the nature of that position comes into question.  While Christ's Lordship is typically viewed with reference to the position and status given to him by God, a common Trinitarian interpretation holds to a significantly different view:


“Jesus has just been given the name that is above every name, the name κύριος, “Lord,” the OT name for God (YHWH).3


The use of Lord in place of the divine name Jehovah comes from an early Jewish opinion wherein it was necessary for readers to say something as “Lord” when the divine name would appear in the text.  This tradition resulted in Lord becoming equivalent for the name in the written text as well.  So Dunn explains:


“Within Jewish and Jewish-influenced circles the significance would correspondingly be greater. κύριος was recognized as at least an acceptable translation of yhwh in diaspora circles (see Fitzmyer, particularly 119–23), as Paul’s own quotations of the scriptures (OT) also make clear; and even if the custom of transcribing yhwh in the Greek text of the OT was more common (Conzelmann, Outline, 83–84; Howard, 'Tetragram'), κύριος would almost certainly have been used when the text was read.4   


It would be hasty to conclude that the use of Lord for Jesus even in reference to his exaltation was equivalent to the divine name.  “The Lord” was a known expression outside of a substitute for and equivalent to the divine name.  For example, the emperor Nero held the title for himself as one work explains:


“For instance, from an ostracon dated August 4, A.D. 63, we read, 'In the year nine of Nero the Lord … (tou kyriou).' Even before this time, however, in the eastern part of the empire and in Egypt in particular the emperor was being called kyrios in a more-than-merely-human sense. Thus, for in stance, Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1143, which dates to A.D. 1, speaks of sacrifices and libations 'for the God and Lord Emperor' [Augustus]. Even in 12 B.C. we have an inscription to Augustus as theos kai kyrios, 'God and Lord' (BGU. 1197, I, 15).”5


Though Nero was identified as “the Lord,” the appellation was not appropriate as when applied to Jesus.  In neither case would “the Lord” have served as an equivalent to the divine name.  As David confessed Jesus as his Lord at Psalm 110:1 while distinguishing him from Jehovah, so too did Peter in noting that he was 'made Lord.'  The reference was to his position, authority and exalted status.


Some may suggest that while this use of Lord generally holds true, there are specific texts applied to Jesus from the Old Testament where ku,rioj (kurios) is used in place of the divine name.  When these texts in the Septuagint use ku,rioj as an equivalent to God's name and they are applied to Christ an argument such as the following is made:


“With astonishing frequency—far more often than even many scholar have noticed—Jesus is identified as the Lord (that is, YHWH) of the Old Testament (Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Peter 3:13-15).”6


The above example of Romans 10:8-13 quotes from Joel 2:32 with reference to Jehovah in the Old Testament.  With the divine name Jehovah in Joel, Paul instead made use of ku,rioj.  This text was similarly quoted in Acts 2:21 with ku,rioj as an equivalent to the divine name in reference to the Father.  This is not evidence to be simply brushed aside.


In Acts it was Peter who spoke of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:16), citing 2:28-32 in reference to the events that had there begun to transpire.  Jehovah was pouring out his spirit and in doing so he imparted gifts of “visions,” “prophecy” and “dreams” (Acts 2:17).  Peter alluded to this prophecy, citing the beginning of its fulfillment at that time.  Here the Father was “the Lord” whose name would be called upon.  Because of making specific reference to the full prophecy as then having fulfillment and based upon the fact that the context provides no overriding understanding of “the Lord,” it is clear that this was used in place of Jehovah. 


Romans allows for finding Jesus as the subject of the quote from Joel 2:32 by identifying him as the Lord.  Though some have argued that this is a reference to the Father,7 it seems best to identify “the Lord” as Jesus.  In his letter Paul instructs the Romans to “confess the Lord Jesus” (Rom. 10:9).  By doing this and believing in his resurrection they would be saved.  To God and Christ there was “no difference of Jew and of Greek” because “the same one is Lord of all” (Rom. 10:12).  So “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). 


Verses 9 and 12 tell of “the Lord Jesus” and his position as “Lord of all.”  Here “Lord” is used of Jesus as previously discussed, referencing his office, divine status and authority over all others, not as an equivalent to the divine name.  A consistent use within this context would find the same sense in verse 13.  Were Lord used differently in 13 than in the preceding verses a substantial basis for assigning this reference to Jesus would be removed for the meaning would change. 


Paul took the Old Testament text and changed the reference from God the Father to Christ based upon a different use of Lord.8 As Paul and the other New Testament authors were elsewhere able to do this there is no reason to suggest he could not here do the same.9  As it is impossible to find salvation without recognizing both “the Father and the Son” (1Jo. 2:22) it was necessary for all to “call upon the name” of the Son along with the Father. 


Another quotation in 1 Peter 2:3 is used differently than the original reference at Psalm 34:8.  The psalm's author, David, invited his readers to 'taste Jehovah' while Peter assumes that his readers have already “tasted” Jesus.  Peter imported these words into his own context outside of the original, allowing for a change in reference and sense for “the Lord”: 


“Although the psalm allusion is direct, Peter has given it his own metaphorical context, with a new application of o` ku,rioj to Jesus Christ (cf. v 4), and of χρηστός to Jesus’ kindness in welcoming those who 'come to him' (cf. v 4). The allusion to the psalm allows Peter to take full advantage of the pun on χρηστός and the name or title Χριστός: God in his mercy or kindness is revealed specifically in Jesus Christ (cf. Titus 3:4–6).”10


In his commentary Hort acknowledged these points as well:


In the Psalm o` ku,rioj stands for Jehovah, as it often does, the LXX. inserting and omitting the article with ku,rioj on no apparent principle.  On the other hand the next verse shews St Peter to have used o` ku,rioj in its commonest though not universal N.T. sense, of Christ.  It would be rash however to conclude that he meant to identify Jehovah with Christ.  No such identification can be clearly made out of the N.T.  St Peter is not here making a formal quotation, but merely borrowing O.T. language, and applying it in his own manner.11


The reapplication of Old Testament texts is further seen almost immediately after in verse 9.  Here a reference to the nation of Israel from Exodus 19:5-6 is reapplied to the church. In 3:15 an Old Testament reference to “sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself” (Isa. 8:13) is brought into the New Testament with ku,rioj in place of the divine name, instructing us to 'sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts.'  The Trinitarian argument is that we are to 'sanctify Christ as Jehovah,' but this is simply unnecessary as Peter was more than able to borrow the Old Testament language and apply it to Jesus with a different use of Lord.   


Even as Lord Jesus is not the ultimate authority in the universe.  This is not suggested to reduce his glorious position and exalted nature, but only to state the reality.  While he holds “all authority” (Mat. 28:18) and “all things have been subject” to him (1Cor. 15:27), he is not the Almighty.  The Father is 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Rom. 1:7; 15:6; 2Co. 1:3; 11:31; Eph. 1:3, 17; Col. 1:3; 1Pe. 1:3) so that even in his position of Lord, Jesus is not without his God whom he is under (1Co. 11:3).


That Jehovah is the God of Jesus Christ serves as one of the most telling arguments against Trinitarianism and similar teachings, for if it is Jehovah who is his God can Jesus himself be Jehovah?  Trinitarians would have us believe that he can be for they claim that any one person of the Triune God or all three collectively can be identified as Jehovah.  For them to say that Jehovah is his God is to say that one person of Jehovah is his God.  However convenient it might be to arbitrarily pick and choose when Jehovah is a reference to one person and which one it is, or to identify him as all three, this is not unwarranted and extra-biblical.


Prophesying the Messiah's coming, Micah spoke of his birth in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).  According to Micah he would come to “stand and feed in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God” (Mic. 5:4).  From this text we have every reason to believe that Jehovah has been his God “from of old, from ancient times” (Mic. 5:2), not simply in his humanity.  As the text does not otherwise limit the time when Jehovah has been his God, neither should we.


Much as the apostles identified the Father as Jesus' God, Jesus too spoke of God as his Father (John 20:17).  In doing this Jesus identified him as the God and Father of his immediate disciples, who were Jews.  The Old Testament proclaims the Jews identified Jehovah as their Father (1Ch. 29:10; Isa. 63:16; 64:8), meaning, to them, Jesus speaking of his Father as their own would be to say that this one who was the God of them both was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.  Even in his post-resurrection exaltation Jesus and his disciples continued to recognize that the Father was his God (Heb. 1:9; Rev. 3:12).  


Amazingly Trinitarians set these points aside and dismiss them because of a doctrine known as the Hypostatic Union.  This teaching, based upon a loose reading of Philippians 2:6-7 and a few other related texts, teaches that Jesus Christ exists fully as God and fully as man simultaneously.  While existing as God, “the Son of God, a divine person, assumeda perfect human nature, and, nevertheless, remains one person.”12  According to them it is only as a man that Jesus has a God.


The difficulty Trinitarians face is that the one person of Christ in the hypostatic union cannot be divided by natures.  It is he who has a God, not his human nature.  This being the case, his God is also the God of his divine nature, meaning that in whatever sense he is “God,” one remains his God, qualifying and thus limiting his deity relative to the Almighty.  

 

One God and One Lord

 

The overwhelming testimony of Scripture leads one to conclude that none other than the Father is the one true God.  The Bible continually demonstrates the Father to be the God who was present in the Old Testament while showing our Lord Jesus Christ to be his son.  More than anyone the Apostle Paul highlighted this point by repeatedly identifying the Father as the one God.


In 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul identified the “one God” and “the mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”  As Jesus is the mediator for the “one God,” this can only be the Father.  Elsewhere Paul spoke of the “one God and Father of all, the one above all, through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6) and “one God who will justify circumcision by faith” (Rom. 3:30).  It is this one who “sent forth Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:23-24; cf. John 3:16). 


With the Father as “one God” it is Jesus Christ who is our “one Lord” (1Co. 8:6).  Writing “concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols,” to Paul 'an idol was nothing' because “there is no God but one” (1Cor. 8:4), this one being the Father, not the Son, Holy Spirit or Trinity.  Paul did not neglect to identify the Son's role, but it was not as “one God.”


In a manner unprecedented within Judaism Paul placed Christ along side of God as our “one Lord.”  To say Christ's exaltation is unprecedented should come as little surprise, for though Jewish tradition held numerous individuals to be highly exalted along side of God, none had accomplished anything close to him and none were God's preexistent son (cf. Phi. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:2).13  Some have understood this exalted position to reference his participation in the divine being of God, so providing an early “binitarian” formula.14  Rather than binitarian as two persons of the Trinity, the formula espoused by Paul expresses Christ's exalted position along side of God without identifying them as ontologically one. 


With the Father as God and the Son as Lord, contrasted were the “so-called gods” and “many gods and many lords” that Paul previously spoke concerning (1Co. 8:5).  The “so-called gods” were idols, commonly mistaken to be the “many gods and many lords” in his parenthetical remark.  “Just as” there were those “so-called gods” Paul expressed that there “are many gods and many lords.”  So one commentary explains:


“'For even supposing there are (exist) gods so called (2 Thessalonians 2. 4), whether in heaven (as the sun, moon, and stars) or in earth (as deified kings, beasts, etc.), as there be (a recognized fact, Deuteronomy 10.17; Psalm 135.5; 136.2) gods many and lords many.' Angels and men in authority are termed gods in Scripture, as exercising a divinely delegated power under God (compare Exodus 22.9, with v.28; Psalm 82.1, 6; John 10.34,35).”15


Contrasting those falsely called gods with those rightfully called gods and lords, there is to a Christian only one who is truly our God, the Father, and one who is truly our Lord, Jesus Christ.16  Taking either God or Lord as an equivalent to the divine name removes the sharp contrast between the “many” and the “one.”  God is the Almighty, the divine being who is the source of all things, while Jesus Christ is Lord, the one exalted and placed in authority over all creation, through whom it originally came.  While a much older work, with these words Barnes correctly explains what Paul meant by calling Christ our one Lord:


“The word 'Lord' here is used in the sense of proprietor, ruler, governor, or king; and the idea is, that Christians acknowledge subjection to Him alone, and not to many sovereigns, as the pagans did. Jesus Christ is the Ruler and Lord of his people...  The idea in the passage is, that from God, the Father of all, we derive our existence, and all that we have; and that we acknowledge 'immediate and direct' subjection to the Lord Jesus as our Lawgiver and Sovereign.”17


With God the Father identified as the “one God” on a number of occasions, it cannot be overlooked that Jesus is not even once so identified.  Indeed, Christ is our “one Lord,” holding the highest position available other than God himself.  Deserving “the blessing, the honor and the glory” (Rev. 5:13), it is the duty of Christians everywhere to provide this.  Not only does our hope of salvation come through Jesus (John 3:16-17), our very existence came to be through him, as the following chapter will demonstrate. 

 


1           Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans: New Edition, Revised and in Great Measure Rewritten (Edinburgh, 1864), 421.

2           R.P. Martin, “Philippians,” WBC, 43:126.

3           Ibid., 127.  If one accepts that Jehovah (YHWH) is the name given to Christ there would be no aid to the Trinitarian position as this would not express his personal identity as the Almighty God Jehovah.  The name would be one given, as the context indicates, post-resurrection.  If one accepts the Trinitarian incarnation it could not be said that Jesus was not Jehovah while on earth, for a name in this sense refers not to position but identity, thus defeating the point they intend to prove.  If the name were the divine name Jehovah it would have been given to Jesus as Jehovah’s agent.     

4           J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans 9-16,” WBC, 38B:608.

5           J. B. Green, S. McKnight and I. H. Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 484. 

6           Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 272.

7           See Edwin Cyril Blackman, “The Letter of Paul to the Romans,” The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible: Including the Apocrypha, with General Articles, Edited by Charles M. Laymon (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971), 787.

8           That Lord is here used differently is also evident from 1 Corinthians 1:2 where Paul similarly borrows from Joel 2:32 but here with the compound “Lord Jesus Christ.”  This use of kurios is titular and not in place of the divine name, indicating how Paul elsewhere used Lord with reference to Christ when borrowing from Joel 2:32.  This point holds true with reference to “the day of the Lord” when applied to Jesus from the Old Testament “day of Jehovah.” Paul identifies this as “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co. 1:8).

9           Interestingly Romans 8:16 uses Lord with apparent reference to the Father.  Quoting from Isaiah 53:1 Jehovah is not used in the Hebrew but the Lord spoke to in Isaiah 53:1 could only be the Father for his “arm” is spoken of, which is seen in the Messiah.  Here Paul did not merely integrate the words in his own text as he did in verse 13 with Joel 2:32, but he formally referenced the Old Testament account as what “Isaiah says.” 

10          J. R. Michaels, “1 Peter,” WBC, 49:90.

11          F.J.A. Hort, The First Epistle of St Peter I.1-II.17: The Greek Text with Introductory Lecture, Commentary, and Additional Notes (London: Macmillan and Co., 1898), 104. Emphasis added.

12          Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, originally published 1872), 2:390.

13          For more on exalted individuals in early Jewish tradition see Larry W. Hurtado, One Lord, One God: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, Second Edition (London • New York: T & T Clark, 1998).

14          Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005), 111.  Others have noted 1 Corinthians 8:6's basis in Jewish Wisdom literature, to be discussed further in chapter 4.  For example, Pheme Perkins:  “We also find Paul himself quoting formulae which indicate that Christ is the mediator of God's creative power (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6).” (Pheme Perkins, “Jesus: God's Wisdom,” Word & World, Volume vii, Number 3 [Summer, 1987], 274.)

15          Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), 277.

16          How Christ is identified as our “one Lord” apart from God was discussed in chapter one.

17          BN, 11:1:142.

 

Previous: Identifying the True God

 

Abbreviations