Revisiting Jesus’ Subordination to the Father Pt. 3

I continue from where I left off (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/revisiting-jesus-subordination-to-the-father-pt-2/).

Christ – The God-man who reigns supreme over all creation

In case the readers are still uncertain whether the inspired Apostle believed and taught that Christ is the eternal God (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit) the following passages should erase such doubts:

“Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concernedAnd he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.” Romans 9:5

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 NIV

These verses testify that Paul proclaimed that Christ is the God-man and therefore has two distinct natures, i.e. Jesus possesses the whole fullness of Deity and continues to have a physical body by virtue of the human nature which he still possesses.

The Apostle even calls Jesus the Lord of glory, another Divine title!

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

Worshiping the risen and exalted Christ

Since Paul taught that Christ is God it is not surprising to find him referring to the early Christians worshiping Jesus. For example, Paul depicts Christians as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. Acts 9:14, 21; Romans 10:9-13

What makes this practice rather amazing is that the saints in the OT were known for calling on the name of Yahweh (cf. Genesis 21:33; Psalm 99:6; Joel 2:32), and therefore shows that the first Christians were worshiping Jesus as Yahweh!

Noted NT scholar Richard Bauckham writes that,

“In both Acts and Paul (whose usage here certainly reflects pre-Pauline Christian usage), Christians are those who ‘call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 1:2; cf. Rom. 10:12-14; Acts 9:14, 21; 22:16; 2 Tim. 2:22; Hermas, Sim. 9:14:3). The phrase, no doubt drawn into Christian usage especially from Joel 2:32 (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13), regularly in the Old Testament refers to the worship of God (e.g. Gen. 4:26; 12:18; 13:4; Ps. 105:1). Its early Christian usage indicates a cultic practice of confessing Jesus as Lord that was regarded as the defining characteristic of Christians (cf. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). As Hurtado points out, this ‘ritual use of Jesus’ name reflects an explicit identification of Jesus as an appropriate recipient of such cultic devotion … It represents the inclusion of Jesus with God as the recipient of public, cultic public reverence.’ Hurtado also connect it with the wider use of the name of Jesus in early Christian religious practice: baptism, healings, exorcisms. In all these cases, there seems to be an association of the Lord (kurios) Jesus with the divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures, often represented in the Greek by kurios (while Maranatha may well attest an equivalent association already in Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christianity). As Philippians 2:11 attests, where the divine name appears, worship cannot be far behind. We must reckon with a very clear inclusion of Jesus in the identity of the Lord YHWH that integrated Jesus also into the worship of YHWH. This integration was so central as to make ‘those who call upon the name of the Lord’ a defining characteristic of Christians from a very early date.” (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel – God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity[William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI/ Cambridge, U.K. 2008], 4. The Worship of Jesus in Early Christianity, 2. Origins, 129-130; underline emphasis ours)

Paul himself would often pray to Christ asking him to pour out his favor upon all the Christians he was writing to:

“If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed. Our Lord, come (Marana tha)! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” 1 Corinthians 16:22-23

On one occasion Paul mentions how he begged the Lord Jesus to deliver him from the torment inflicted upon him by an angel of Satan:

“even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Another indication of early Christian worship is the observance of the Lord’s Supper, which commemorated the death of the Lord Jesus. According to Paul this was a means of communion or fellowship with the risen Christ:

“When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don’t you have your own homes for eating and drinking? Or do you really want to disgrace God’s church and shame the poor? What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to praise you? Well, I certainly will not praise you for this! For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’ In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:29-32

The blessed Apostle also contrasts the observance of the Lord’s Supper with the pagan practice of offering sacrifices to idols, which is highly significant:

“When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Tablearen’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar? What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?” 1 Corinthians 10:16-22

The pagans erroneously thought that they were sacrificing to gods that were real when in reality they were sacrificing to demons.

With that said, the fact that Paul contrasts the Lord’s Table with the sacrifices of pagans to idols indicates that the Apostle believed that Jesus is the presiding Deity who is being worshiped through this religious rite. Notice the series of contrasts:

Sharing in the Lord’s blood and body (10:16; 11:27) Sharing in demons (10:20)
The cup of the Lord (10:21a; 11:27) The cup of demons (10:21a)
The table of the Lord (10:21b) The table of demons (10:21b)
Likened to eating sacrifices to God (10:18) Eating sacrifices to demons (10:20)

It is apparent that Paul is contrasting the gods worshiped in the pagan rites with the God worshiped by Christians in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, with that God being the risen Lord Jesus! As the following Evangelical scholars explain,

“The Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20) is also a religious rite focused on Jesus Christ. Jesus himself instituted the Lord’s Supper on the Passover (Matt. 26:2, 18, 26-29; Mark 14:12-16, 22-25; Luke 22:8-20), the Jewish rite memorializing the Lord God’s deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt (Exod. 12:21-27, 42-49; Deut. 16:1-8). The apostle Paul spoke of Jesus as ‘the Lord’ honored in the rite that the Lord himself instituted…

“While the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus and has its own religious background in the traditions of Judaism concerning the Passover, the Corinthians were for the most part converts from paganism who had yet to break free entirely from the temptations of idolatry in their polytheistic culture. Paul therefore sharply contrasts the rite of the Lord’s Supper with pagan rites that were superficially similar enough that immature believers apparently were participating in both. In drawing these contrasts… Paul contrasts the Lord Jesus with the deities worshiped in the pagan rites (which Paul calls ‘demons’). Paul thus makes it clear that the Lord’s Supper is a religious rite in which the Lord Jesus is the presiding deity, the object of religious devotion or ‘service’ for Christians.” (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 1: The Devotion Revolution – Jesus Shares the Honors Due to God, Chapter 5. The Ultimate Reverence Package, pp. 66-67)

Moreover, the fellowship that believers have with the risen Lord is something that Paul refers to on more than one occasion:

“God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

And:

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among (or in [en]) you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5

For Paul to write these verses he must have believed that the risen Lord Jesus is both omniscient and omnipresent. Christ not only has to know who is truly faithful to him he must also have the ability to be present with all of his followers when and wherever they gather!

Summation of Paul’s Christology

  • Christ is the spiritual Rock who saved Israel out of Egypt and provided for them in the desert.
  • Christ is the Agent of creation who gives life and sustains all things. This assumes that Paul truly believed that Christ is Almighty or omnipotent since only an all-powerful Being is capable of keeping the entire creation in place.
  • Christ is the eternally blessed God that rules over all.
  • Christ possesses all the fullness of the Deity and continues to exist as a glorified man with a glorified, immortal physical body as a result of his resurrection from the dead.
  • Christ is even called the Lord of glory whom the rulers of this age crucified.
  • Christ is the Lord who comes to judge the motives of every individual in order to repay everyone for all their deeds. For Paul to say this he must have assumed that Christ is omniscient since only one who knows everything can know the secret intentions of a person.
  • Christ has intimate communion with all the members of his spiritual Body, the Church, which again affirms that the blessed Apostle believed that Christ has all of God’s Omni-attributes, in this case, omniscience and omnipresence.
  • The Church worships and prays to Christ as their risen Lord.

In light of the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that Paul did not believe that Jesus is a creature. The evidence from his writings proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the blessed Apostle truly believed that Jesus is fully God in essence and that Christ is the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the entire creation.

Therefore, Paul was not claiming that God is the head of Christ in the sense that he is superior to the latter in nature and essence. Rather, Paul’s point is that God is the head of the Son in terms of authority since he is his Father.

I now turn to the final section (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/revisiting-jesus-subordination-to-the-father-pt-4/).

2 thoughts on “Revisiting Jesus’ Subordination to the Father Pt. 3

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