The Only Begotten

When pondering the mystery of the Trinity, one might ask: Is Christ eternally pre-existent, one with God the Father from eternity past, or was He created at a moment in time?

Since we have no concept of time or sequence apart from Creation, there’s no way to describe “before” Creation, or to fathom what “eternity past” actually means, though Christ Himself declares He was there, having glory with the Father before Creation. (Jn 17:5)

So, unless we ignore the Word and propose Christ was created at or after the beginning of time and space, the question requires speculation where words are inadequate, so we might dismiss this as a foolish or unlearned question (2Ti 2:23), one which cannot be rightly articulated if Christ actually had a beginning.

Yet Christ was already God at the instant of the beginning. (Jn 1:1-2) Since all was made by Christ (Col 1:16), and  nothing was created apart from Him, (Jn 1:3), Christ Himself cannot be created.

God is perfect, complete, and therefore immutable (Ja 1:17): God’s essential nature cannot change or improve. (Mal 3:6) Christ being divine yet not pre-existing along with the Father outside time and space implies a fundamental change in God’s nature when Christ arrives, proving (by contradiction) Christ has no beginning.

Christ is begotten, brought forth from the Father, revealing Him. (Mt 11:27) This does not imply Christ had a beginning any more than God the Father had a beginning. The Father has always been one with the Son, part of the same nature and being (De 6:4), having neither beginning nor end. (He 7:3)

The eternal Father ever emanates Christ; they cannot be distinguished or separated from one another (Jn 14:9), and we’re to honor them both together in the same way, as One. (Jn 5:23)

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7 thoughts on “The Only Begotten”

  1. Tim,
    Heady material! I like it. One question, how do you weave I Corinthians 15:26-28 into your study? Or would that be a separate study as you see it.

    KJV
    26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,

    27 for “He hath put all things under His feet.” But when He saith “all things” are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, who did put all things under Him.

    28 And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son Himself also be subject unto Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

    2nd question: Is the word Trinity found in Scripture? If not, is there scripture for defining scripture Outside of scripture. Same with the word Rapture. I ask the question though I am guilty of what I am asking 🙂 — just looking for your viewpoint.

    Appreciate it,

    Stephen

    1. Interesting challenges brother Stephen!!

      I think the submission of the Son unto the Father does not violate their oneness, their single essence. Messiah the Son has always willingly taken a subordinate position to the Father, even though it is not a violation of the divine nature to position Him equally with the Father. (“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” Php 2:6)

      And, to your 2nd question, yes, we do use theological terms not found in scripture to represent truths found in scripture. This is common with language, that we invent new words when those we have are inadequate. While I don’t entirely agree with many theological definitions of the word Trinity, I do think the general concept is found in scripture (say, in Lk 7), and that this is the best word we have to describe what I see God revealing about His nature in scripture.

  2. Tim,

    Is there a scripture that tells you to “go outside” of scripture to explain scripture? What if it is OK to have [mystery]? 1 Timothy 3:16 1 Cor 2:7 etc. By sharpening a two edged sword which would only dull it, is that perhaps partly why the church in the USA does not walk in more power? 1 Cor 1:24 And of course John 14:12. Just not sure brother if we in the USA are walking in greater works. I remain reticent about going “outside” of scripture for “theological terms” to define scripture. That may be my own weakness, my own lack of trust in myself — I still have a memory in my younger days when my mind was leaving my body bordering on empty insanity — and I picked up a bible, and simply read from the gospel of John, and my mind came back into my mind [whatever that means :] — it was not a theological term such as Trinity that kept Satan back — the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the gospel of John – my Saviour who does not need outside terms. In fairness to the discussion – I note that [Jews for Jesus] has a fairly reasoned approach to the term Trinity. Of note, it has been removed from their main website, but is found here: https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v10-n08/a-look-at-the-trinity-from-a-messianic-jewish-perspective/

    stephen

  3. Tim,

    Further follow up:

    Torah:

    Ye shall [not add] unto the word which I command you, [neither shall ye diminish] ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

    Also book of Revelation:
    Revelation 22:18-19
    For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    Admittedly – my context may be questionable. Personally, I judge it is better to simply agree with scripture. At least for myself. Which I have no illusions as to how well I walk in that; but it is a sign post for me.

    Question, are YOU comfortable going outside of scripture to define scripture? And do YOU have a scripture which gives you guidance to do so?

    🙂
    stephen

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful challenges!

    I don’t think I am going outside of scripture to define scripture. I am not, that I can see, deciding what should or should not be considered scripture. The words of the scripture are clearly defined by their appearance in my Bible, and I am not altering that.

    What I am doing is using a term (“trinity”) which is not in scripture to describe what I see contained in scripture. This is not defining what is or isn’t scripture; it is simply a convention to communicate an idea about what I understand scripture to say. This is what we have language for.

    The definitions of words are not themselves found in scripture; this is the function of the dictionary, and it is necessary to have this definition function be independent of Scripture. We depend on a common understanding of words outside of scripture to understand what is in scripture and what scripture means. In only very few strategic instances would we use context in scripture to correct a commonly understood definition of a word (when the common definition is inconsistent with its use in scripture)

    If we are not allowed to use words which do not appear in scripture to help others comprehend what we see in scripture, then how do you propose that we evangelize and disciple others? Should all evangelism and exposition be limited to only quoting scripture? Never using any other words to help others understand what scripture is saying?

    For example, when Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost, did he utter any words in his preaching other than quoting scripture? He said many words which were not direct quotes of scripture. Does this serve as a reasonable example for you?

    All of the epistles of Paul, though they are scripture now, demonstrate (to me) that Paul did not just quote scripture when he was teaching and discipling others. He did quote scripture, yet then he added his own (albeit inspired) ideas and understanding into the text to help us understand scripture, and at the time he did so it is evident (to me) that he did not know he was writing more scripture.

    Thoughts?

  5. Tim,

    This is a good point you make:

    If we are not allowed to use words which do not appear in scripture to help others comprehend what we see in scripture, then how do you propose that we evangelize and disciple others? Should all evangelism and exposition be limited to only quoting scripture? Never using any other words to help others understand what scripture is saying?

    I will “redefine” the possible problem with outside of scripture. Simply put — if you go outside of scripture to take a dictionary term such as [Trinity], then what is to keep a same-sex attracted person from going outside of scripture to define “Love”. I.e… I have heard one person in my lifetime, preach on Love, from Genesis 6:5-8, and the emphasis was on 5-7. A same sex attracted person could look outside of scripture to define love. If I look at Trinity, why can’t that person look at [Love] and define it? There is a possibility that going outside of scripture leads to a weak watered-down Ecclesia. Just a possibility.

    Historically many institutions of higher learning started out as Christian institutions — think Harvard, Yale, etc. But they went outside of scripture to redefine scripture — and now these institutions are purveyors of paganism at times.

    At least recognize that some brothers such as myself are weaker, and we need scripture, not outside of scripture. When you speak with those more mature, then expand your territory.

    All [scripture] is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… [scripture] given by Inspiration OF God IS profitable for Doctrine.

    And of course:

    Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

    My guess is that Messiah Never went outside Scripture for Doctrine — for HE IS THE WORD made flesh… what I hear, I speak…

    Perhaps it is like be vaccinated or don’t be vaccinated discussions in the USA at the moment [covid]. I’m the brother who does not want to be vaccinated with outside of scripture. I respect, honestly respect your choice to be vaccinated with outside of scripture. Whether one eats meat or vegetables — it is the Almighty who upholds both one who eats meat and one who eats vegetables.

    This has been edifying to me, the discussion, this may be my last point, as I do not want to digress into wrangling :). The Last Word therefore I leave to you. Forgive my subtle humor, IF it is humor, as I seek your Good, as a writer who will be here after I leave this earth. Iron sharpens Iron when His Love is the purpose.

    stephen

    1. Hi Stephen,

      I understand your concern now, and I agree with it. There certainly is a danger in making up definitions to suit our interests and then imposing those definitions on scripture. I think this is wrong, that it is handling the Word of God deceitfully. I don’t intend to do this. If you think you see me doing this, please feel free to point it out and challenge me (by showing me scripture which is inconsistent with my definition). We should accept the common definitions of words so long as they do not create inconsistencies in the way we interpret and apply scripture. When they do, we should modify our definitions to remove such conflicts and inconsistencies.

      On the word “trinity”, I define it based on what I see scripture revealing about the nature of the Godhead; I do not assume a definition of the word “trinity” and then impose that definition on scripture in spite of all the scripture says.

      The general idea behind the term that I intend to communicate is that of a plurality that is contained within a single unity; a Being that is at the same time one single Being, essentially one, a Being who is one in essence, a singularity, and yet also three separately identifiable Beings or Persons or Personalities, Who all share exactly the same fundamental nature and Way and standard. They are / He is entirely unified and yet He reveals Himself as a plurality. This is, I believe, the generally accepted definition of the term, what people understand when we use it. A quick google search verifies this.

      So, rather than saying all of these words, reciting an entire paragraph when I want to convey this concept about God, I choose to use the word “trinity” to convey it. This is a word which, I think, was actually “invented” to convey this complex information because we didn’t have a simple, succinct way to convey it in the English language. No other word works as well here, all other words fail to sufficiently emphasize either the uniqueness or the differentness and distinctness. I think, when people hear the term and learn what it means, the word fulfills this important purpose.

      This is how language evolves over time (and it does evolve), and I don’t see a problem with inventing such terms to serve this purpose of communicating complex ideas, so long as people generally understand what we mean by the terms we use so that our communication is effective and useful.

      However, to your point, people (theologians) have developed creeds (such as the Nicene Creed) which state a concept of the Trinity which I don’t think properly captures what the Scriptures reveal about God, either over or under-emphasizing the separateness of the persons of the Trinity. I agree that we must be very careful about substituting such creeds for scripture, or of imposing their definitions and explanations on scripture.

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