Context or Pretext: The Limits of the Deity

The deity of Christ lays the foundation for the gospel. Without understanding Christ as a necessary part of the Trinity, one cannot fully understand the gospel itself and thus, cannot experience salvation. Attempting to disprove Christ’s deity is a strategy often used by religious cults.

For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses will commonly take a verse like Colossians 1:15, when Paul writes that Christ is “the firstborn of all creation,” and use it to prove that God created Christ, implying that Christ’s deity lies invalid. Another route of argumentation would stem from places like Matthew 24:36 or Mark 13:32.

Before I dig into these two passages, you can easily defend Christ’s deity when someone argues that Colossians 1:15 disproves Christ’s deity. The word “firstborn” is not a reference to order of birth — or birth at all. Paul wrote with the intention of meeting the church in Colossae where they were in their own understanding. With the culture of the time, firstborn implied inheritance. 

The firstborn of the family would be the one who inherits everything from his father just as God the Father will give all his creation to his son, Jesus Christ. Along with this, Colossians 2:9 puts the debate to rest — “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”

However, passages like Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 add more questions to Christ’s deity. Both these texts quote Jesus referring to his second coming. Jesus says, “ …  concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

If Jesus possesses the authority of a deity, then how could he not know the timing of his own second coming? 

We know that Jesus Christ remains a part of the Trinity because of passages like John 1:1, John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Colossians 2:9, etc. People throughout Scripture indicate and describe Christ as God such as Paul in Romans 9:5 or Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:16. Christ is affiliated with many characteristics of God in John 7:18 or Hebrews 7:26. Scripture also characterizes Christ as “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Scripture also states that God knows all, given passages like Psalm 147:5. Thinking of the connectivity between God the Father and Christ the Son, the same characteristic should continue, right?

I’ve read a few views in my attempt to understand this concept, specifically in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. A view that seems to leave me unsatisfied explains that Jesus only referred to his earthly, human form, meaning he lowered himself to a limited human body and then regained his unlimited self after his resurrection. 

So, Jesus decided to submit to God the Father by giving up certain power and knowledge. Philippians 2:7-8 paints a picture of Jesus refusing to seize his equality with God the Father, submissively emptying himself so that he would be found “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 

Logically, Christ would forfeit things like the knowledge of the timing of his own second coming, or he limited himself to the point of becoming a man, which would then consequently forfeit his own ability to know such things. Either way, Christ gave up certain knowledge. Then, he regained his knowledge through his death and resurrection into his original state of glory.

Everything about this line of reasoning has my attention. The only aspect of this argument that I’m still left questioning relates to the certainty of Christ when he says, “no one knows.” Are his words concrete here, or does he know the timing now that he sits at God’s right hand?

Another view that caught my eye focused on Jesus’ intentions in what he spoke. With the mindset of Christ’s submission to God the Father, it could be that Jesus meant he had no right to tell the disciples around him because God didn’t want that. Of course, God has a plan, and this plan includes Jesus’ submission of his knowledge. So, whether or not Jesus knew the timing of his second coming, he chose not to reveal this. However, this view stretches the context of both Matthew and Mark.

The interesting aspect of these passages is that Christ doesn’t stop with “no one,” but he voices the need to clarify further that he, as the Son of God, doesn’t even know. The phrasing of this passage will always raise questions in my mind that I don’t believe I’ll get the answer to until I’m in heaven. 

Perhaps under much more contemplation, I will reach an answer through the Spirit. However, the believer should remain certain that salvation revolves around the belief in the deity of Christ. Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and without his deity, he can’t be those things. 

Duvall is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter

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