4.3.2 “Say not “trinity” : The Nature Of Jesus
“Say not “trinity”: desist…for God is one God” (4.171). With this we would totally agree.
There is a fine balance to be drawn between those passages which emphasize the degree to which " God was in Christ" , and those which highlight his humanity. The latter group of passages make it impossible to Biblically justify the idea that Jesus is God Himself, " very God of very God" , as the doctrine of the Trinity wrongly states. (This phrase " very God of very God" was used at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., where the idea of God being a 'trinity' was first promulgated; it was unknown to the early Christians.) The word 'trinity' never occurs in the Bible.
One of the clearest summaries of the relationship between God and Jesus is found in 1 Timothy 2:5: " There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" . Reflection upon the highlighted words leads to the following conclusions:-
- There being only one God, it is impossible
that Jesus could be God; if the Father is God and Jesus is also
God, then there are two Gods. " But to us there is but one
God, the Father" (1 Cor. 8:6). 'God the Father' is therefore
the only God. It is therefore impossible that there can be a separate
being called 'God the Son', as the false doctrine of the trinity
states. The Old Testament likewise portrays Yahweh, the one God,
as the Father (e.g. Is. 63:16; 64:8).
- In addition to this one God, there is the mediator,
the man Christ Jesus - " ...and one mediator..."
. That word " and" indicates a difference between Christ
- Christ being the " mediator" means that he
is a go-between. A mediator between sinful man and sinless God cannot
be sinless God Himself; it had to be a sinless man, of sinful human
nature. " The man Christ Jesus" leaves us in
no doubt as to the correctness of this explanation. Even though
he was writing after the ascension of Jesus, Paul does not speak
of " the God Christ Jesus" .
Several times we are reminded that " God is not a man"
(Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9); yet Christ was clearly " the son of
man" , as he is often called in the New Testament, " the
man Christ Jesus" . He was " the Son of the Highest"
(Lk. 1:32). God being " The Highest" indicates
that only He has ultimate highness; Jesus being " the Son
of the Highest" shows that he cannot have been God Himself
in person. The very language of Father and Son which is used about
God and Jesus, makes it obvious that they are not the same. Whilst
a son may have certain similarities to his father, he cannot be
one and the same person, nor be as old as his father.
In line with this, there are a number of obvious differences between
God and Jesus, which clearly show that Jesus was not God himself:-
" God cannot be tempted"
Christ " was in all points
tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15).
God cannot die - He is immortal
by nature (Ps. 90:2; 1 Tim. 6:16).
Christ died for three days (Mt.12:
God cannot be seen by men (1
Tim. 6:16; Ex. 33:20).
Men saw Jesus and handled him
(1 Jn. 1:1; Lk. 24:39 stress this).
When we are tempted, we are forced with a choice between sin and
obedience to God. Often we choose to disobey God; Christ had the
same choices, but always chose to be obedient. He therefore had
the possibility of sinning, although he never actually did. It is
unthinkable that God has any possibility of sinning. We have shown
that the seed of David promised in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 was definitely
Christ. Verse 14 speaks of Christ's possibility of sinning: "
If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him.
The Nature Of Jesus
The word 'nature' refers to what we naturally, fundamentally are.
The Bible speaks of only two natures - that of God, and that of
man. By nature God cannot die, be tempted etc. It is evident that
Christ was not of God's nature during his life. He was therefore
totally of human nature. From our definition of the word 'nature'
it should be evident that Christ could not have had two natures
simultaneously. It was vital that Christ was tempted like us (Heb.
4:15), so that through his perfect overcoming of temptation he could
gain forgiveness for us. The wrong desires which are the basis of
our temptations come from within us (Mk. 7:15-23), from within our
human nature (James 1:13-15). It was necessary, therefore, that
Christ should be of human nature so that he could experience and
overcome these temptations.
Hebrews 2:14-18 puts all this in so many words:-
" As the children (us) are partakers of flesh and blood (human
nature), he (Christ) also himself likewise took part (i.e. "
partook" , R.S.V.) of the same (nature); that through death
he might destroy...the devil...For verily he took not on him the
nature of angels; but he took on him the (nature of the) seed of
Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like
unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high
priest... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For
in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour
them that are tempted" .
This passage places extraordinary emphasis upon the fact that Jesus
had human nature: " He also himself likewise"
partook of it (Heb. 2:14). This phrase uses three words all with
the same meaning, just to drive the point home. He partook "
of the same" nature; the record could have said 'he
partook of IT too', but it stresses, " he partook of the same"
. Hebrews 2:16 similarly labours the point that Christ did not have
angels' nature, seeing that he was the seed of Abraham, who had
come to bring salvation for the multitude of believers who would
become Abraham's seed. Because of this, it was necessary for Christ
to have human nature. In every way he had " to be
made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2:17) so that God could
grant us forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice. To say that Jesus
was not totally of human nature is therefore to be ignorant of the
very basics of the good news of Christ.
Whenever baptized believers sin, they can come to God, confessing
their sin in prayer through Christ (1 Jn. 1:9); God is aware that
Christ was tempted to sin exactly as they are, but that he was perfect,
overcoming that very temptation which they fail. Because of this,
" God for Christ's sake" can forgive us (Eph. 4:32). It
is therefore vital to appreciate how Christ was tempted just like
us, and needed to have our nature for this to be possible. Hebrews
2:14 clearly states that Christ had " flesh and blood"
nature to make this possible. " God is Spirit" (Jn. 4:24)
by nature and although He has a material body, as " Spirit"
He does not have flesh and blood. Christ having " flesh"
nature means that in no way did he have God's nature during his
Previous attempts by men to keep God's word, i.e. to totally overcome
temptation, had all failed. Therefore " God sending his own
Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin,
condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3 A.V. mg.).
" Sin" refers to the natural proneness to sin which we
have by nature. We have given way to this already, and continue
to do so, and " the wages of sin is death" . To get out
of this predicament, man needed outside help. He himself seemed
incapable of perfection; it was and is not within flesh to redeem
the flesh. God therefore intervened and gave us His own Son, who
had our nature, with all the promptings to sin which we have. Unlike
every other man, Christ overcame every temptation, although he had
the possibility of failure and sinning just as much as we do. Romans
8:3 describes Christ's human nature as " sinful flesh"
. A few verses earlier, Paul spoke of how in the flesh " dwelleth
no good thing" , and how the flesh naturally militates against
obedience to God (Rom. 7:18-23). In this context it is all the more
marvellous to read that Christ had " sinful flesh" in
Romans 8:3. It was because of this, and his overcoming of that flesh,
that we have a way of escape from our flesh; Jesus was intensely
aware of the sinfulness of his own nature. He was once addressed
as " Good master" , with the implication that he was "
good" and perfect by nature. He responded: " Why callest
thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God" (Mk.
10:17,18). On another occasion, men started to testify of Christ's
greatness due to a series of outstanding miracles which he had performed.
Jesus did not capitalize on this " because he knew all, and
needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was
in man" (Jn. 2:23-25, Greek text). Because of his great knowledge
of human nature (" he knew all" about this),
Christ did not want men to praise him personally in his own right,
seeing that he knew how evil his own human nature was.
The Humanity Of Jesus
The Gospel records provide many examples of how completely Jesus
had human nature. It is recorded that he was weary, and had to sit
down to drink from a well (Jn. 4:6). " Jesus wept" at
the death of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). Most supremely, the record of
his final sufferings should be proof enough of his humanity: "
Now is my soul troubled" , he admitted as he prayed for God
to save him from having to go through with his death on the cross
(Jn. 12:27). He " prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible,
let this cup (of suffering and death) pass from me; nevertheless
not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Mt. 26:39). This indicates
that in some ways Christ's 'will', or desires, was different from
that of God.
During his whole life Christ had submitted his will to that of
God in preparation for this final trial of the cross: " I can
of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment
is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father
which hath sent me" (Jn. 5:30). This difference between Christ's
will and that of God is proof enough that Jesus was not God.
Throughout our lives we are expected to grow in our knowledge of
God, learning from the trials which we experience in life. In this,
Jesus was our great example. He did not have complete knowledge
of God beamed into him any more than we have. From childhood "
Jesus increased in wisdom and stature (i.e. spiritual maturity,
cp. Eph. 4:13), and in favour with God and man" (Lk. 2:52).
" The child grew, and waxed (became) strong in spirit"
(Lk. 2:40). These two verses portray Christ's physical growth as
being parallel to his spiritual development; the growth process
occurred in him both naturally and spiritually. If " The Son
is God" , as the Athanasian Creed states concerning the 'Trinity',
this would not have been possible. Even at the end of his life,
Christ admitted that he did not know the exact time of his second
coming, although the Father did (Mk. 13:32).
Obedience to God's will is something which we all have to learn
over a period of time. Christ also had to go through this process
of learning obedience to his Father, as any son has to. " Though
he were a Son, yet learned he obedience (i.e. obedience to God)
by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect
(i.e. spiritually mature), he became the author of eternal salvation"
as a result of his completed and total spiritual growth (Heb. 5:8,9).
Philippians 2:7,8 (further commented on in Digression 27) records
this same process of spiritual growth in Jesus, culminating in his
death on the cross. He " made himself of no reputation,
and took upon him the form (demeanour) of a servant...he
humbled himself and became obedient unto...the
death of the cross." The language used here illustrates how
Jesus consciously forged ahead in his spiritual development, making
himself more and more humble, so that finally he " became
obedient" to God's desire that he should die on the cross.
Thus he was " made perfect" by correctly responding
to his sufferings.
It is evident from this that Jesus had to make a conscious, personal
effort to be righteous; in no way was he forced to be so by God,
which would have resulted in him being a mere puppet. Jesus truly
loved us, and gave his life on the cross from this motive. The constant
emphasis upon the love of Christ for us would be hollow if God forced
him to die on the cross (Eph. 5:2,25; Rev. 1:5; Gal. 2:20). If Jesus
was God, then he would have had no option but to be perfect and
then die on the cross. That Jesus did have these options,
makes us able to appreciate his love, and to form a personal relationship
It was because of Christ's willingness to voluntarily give his
life, that God was so delighted with him: " Therefore doth
my Father love me, because I lay down my life...No man taketh it
from me, but I lay it down of myself" (Jn. 10:17,18). God being
so pleased with Christ's willing obedience ishard to understand
if Jesus was God, living out a life in human form as some kind of
tokenistic association with sinful man (Mt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5).
These records of the Father's delight in the Son's obedience, is
proof enough that Christ had the possibility of disobedience, but
consciously chose to be obedient.
That God resurrected Jesus and glorified him with immortality
is a major New Testament theme:-
- " God...raised up Jesus...Him hath God
exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts
- " God...hath glorified his Son Jesus...whom God
hath raised from the dead" (Acts 3:13,15).
- " This Jesus hath God raised up"
- Jesus himself recognized all this when he asked God
to glorify him (Jn. 17:5 cp. 13:32; 8:54).
If Jesus was God Himself, then all this emphasis would be out of
place, seeing that God cannot die. Jesus would not have needed saving
if he were God. That it was God who exalted Jesus demonstrates God's
superiority over him, and the separateness of God and Jesus. In
no way could Christ have been " very and eternal God (with)
two...natures...Godhead and manhood" , as the first of the
39 Articles of the [apostate] Church of England states. By the very
meaning of the word, a being can only have one nature. We submit
that the evidence is overwhelming that Christ was of our human nature.
And so you can see that there are certain similarities between
what Muslims believe and the true message of real Christianity.
There is one God; and Jesus was not God. Nor was
his mother Mary the mother of God. Whilst true Christianity and
Islam are fundamentally different, there is here some common
ground. I feel rather like Paul, who also sought common ground with
his audiences: “What you worship as unknown, this I declare to you”
(Acts 17:23). It isn’t another God I put to you: but rather the
same God which you have been worshipping in ignorance. The Qur’an
acknowledges the virgin birth, sinless-ness, ascension and second
coming of Jesus; these are actually the springboard for appreciating
the real answer which God has given in Jesus to man’s need.