The Messiah on Yahweh’s Throne –
In this section of our series we are going to be responding to some of the common objections which anti-Trinitarians raise against the Trinitarian exegesis of the passages that we cited in respect to the Lord Jesus’ exaltation into heaven to share in his Father’s sovereign rule over all creation.
An objection that those who deny the essential Deity of Christ often bring up is the fact that the texts which we examined (cf. Matthew 11:27; 28:18; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:9-11), all spoke of the Father granting the Son all things, including the very status and name that places him far above all creation. If Jesus is God then he wouldn’t need to be exalted or given the name above all names, since he would have already possessed all of these things from eternity past.
There are several problems with this claim, not the least of which is that Jesus could not be given the name and position which places him above every name and rank in existence if he wasn’t God in essence. After all, the texts we quoted emphatically make it clear that Yahweh alone dwells as the Most High above the earth,
“Let them know that thou ALONE, whose name is the Lord, art the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
“The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who dwells on high,” Psalm 113:4-5
And that his name alone is exalted above everything else:
“I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted ABOVE EVERYTHING THY NAME and thy word.” Psalm 138:2 RSV
“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name ALONE is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13 RSV
Hence, in order for Jesus to bear the rank and possess the name, which position him far above every created thing,
“See, My servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; so he shall SPRINKLE many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall consider.” Isaiah 52:13-15 – cf. 2:11-17; 5:16; 6:1; 33:5, 10; 57:15
“Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven; to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant; and to THE SPRINKLED BLOOD that speaks better than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:2, 22-24
“elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit, for obedience and SPRINKLING with the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” 1 Peter 1:2
“Figuratively this is like baptism, which also saves us now. It is not washing off the dirt from the body, but a response to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22
“and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He performed in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and EVERY NAME that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in all ways.” Ephesians 1:19-23
Christ must be Yahweh God in the flesh, which is precisely the message of the NT:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to the entire flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church OF GOD which He purchased WITH HIS OWN BLOOD.” Acts 20:28
“as we await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a special people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:13-14
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:1
Therefore, this is not a problem for the Trinitarian, but rather it is a huge dilemma for the Unitarian who denies that Jesus is God. The anti-Trinitarian is left with an irreconcilable contradiction since the exaltation of Jesus, if indeed he were nothing more than a creature, directly conflicts with the plain teaching of the OT witness that Yahweh has/does/will not allow a creature to share in Yahweh’s exalted name and rank that places him far above all things.
This brings me to the next point. The Scriptures teach that Jesus became a servant or slave of God when he became a flesh and blood human being in order to fulfill God’s will for him to die as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. Moreover, in coming to the earth to die Christ became lower in position than even the very angels whom he had created:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels to suffer death, crowned with glory and honor, so that He, by the grace of God, should experience death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of One. For this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers… So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage. For surely He does not help the angels, but He helps the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things it was necessary for Him to be made like His brothers, so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in the things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since He Himself suffered while being tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:9-11, 14-18
This fact of Christ becoming a servant when he became a man is something taught all throughout the inspired NT writings:
“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them that they should not make Him known to fulfill what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘Here is My Servant, whom I have chosen, My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will render judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not struggle nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He renders judgment unto victory; and in His name will the Gentiles trust.’” Matthew 12:15-17
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 – cf. Matthew 20:28
“For who is greater: he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? But I am among you as He who serves.” Luke 22:27
“Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs,” Romans 15:8
Hence, the reason why God exalted Jesus and gave him the position and authority that places him far above all creation is because Christ had voluntarily set aside his divine status while he was on earth. Therefore, this shows that the Father was doing nothing more than granting Jesus what already belonged to him by divine right since the NT describes him as eternally existing as God, being the One who created and sustains all things.
Note, for instance, what the blessed Apostle Paul himself wrote in the very passage where he refers to God exalting and giving Christ the name above all names:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 NIV
Paul wasn’t the only one to describe Christ as the eternally existing God:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it… The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”’… No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14-15, 18
Here the Evangelist highlights John the Baptist’s role as Christ’s forerunner, using the very language of Isaiah 40:3 to do so, a text that the Baptist himself applied to describe his mission:
“John said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as the prophet Isaiah said.’ Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why do you baptize then, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water, but One stands among you, whom you do not know. This is He who comes after me, who is preferred before me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’ These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.” I did not know Him, but for this reason I came baptizing with water: so that He might be revealed to Israel.’ Then John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.’ Again, the next day John was standing with two of his disciples. Looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” John 1:23-36
This isn’t simply the view of the fourth Evangelist, since the Synoptic Gospels and the book of Acts all concur that the Baptist is the herald spoken of by the prophet Isaiah whom God sends beforehand to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord Jesus:
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Caesar Tiberius, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Traconitis, and Lysanias was the tetrarch of Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He came into the region surrounding the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”’… As the people were in expectation, and everyone reflected in their hearts upon John, whether he might be the Christ or not, John answered them all, ‘I indeed baptize you with water. But One mightier than I is coming, the strings of whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor, and will gather the wheat into His granary. But He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.’… ” Luke 3:1-6, 15-17, 21-22 – cf. Matthew 3:1-3, 13-17; Mark 1:1-11
“From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise. Before His coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. As John was fulfilling his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But look! He is coming after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’” Acts 13:23-25
“Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One coming after him, that is, in Christ Jesus.’” Acts 19:4
What makes this a rather astonishing claim is that the prophecy in Isaiah speaks of the forerunner heralding the coming of Yahweh God Almighty himself, not some creature!
“The voice of him who cries out, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rough places a plain; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.’… O Zion, bearer of good news, get yourself up onto a high mountain; O Jerusalem, bearer of good news, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; see, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11
What this means is that Jesus is none other than Yahweh God Almighty, the One for whom the Baptist came to prepare the way. Note how this logically works out:
A. Isaiah announces the coming of a herald in the wilderness to prepare the people for the appearance of Yahweh God Almighty.
B. According to the NT witness John the Baptist is that herald.
C. The NT further teaches that the Baptist came to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus.
D. Jesus is therefore the Lord God Almighty whom the prophet Isaiah said would come to his people someday.
No wonder the Baptist could say that he wasn’t worthy to stoop down and loosen Jesus’ sandals, or that Christ exists before him even though he came after him, and that Christ shall baptize people with/in the Holy Spirit, a function which the OT ascribes to Yahweh alone:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. From all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will cleanse you. Also, I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:25-27
“Then you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other. And My people will never again be shamed. And it will be that, afterwards, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. Even on the menservants and maidservants in those days I will pour out My Spirit. Then I will work wonders in the heavens and the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awe-inspiring day of the Lord comes. And it will be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” Joel 2:27-29
The foregoing makes it abundantly clear that the Father was giving to Jesus a status and authority which already belonged to him, but which he voluntarily set aside for a season. This simply confirms what we stated at the start of our response, namely, the only way that Christ could be given the very name and position which the Hebrew Bible says belong to Yahweh alone is if he is Yahweh God in the flesh. There is simply no way around this fact.
So much for the anti-Trinitarian objections.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural citations taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.