John 1:1

stormsDr. Sam Storms:

The ESV translation of John 1:1 is as follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Perhaps a few comments will prove helpful.

The Greek preposition translated “with” (pros) often means “towards” or “to”, thereby pointing to the Word and God in face to face intimacy. The term “with” implies a strong sense of relationship. In some sense the Word is distinct and distinguishable from God and yet in another sense is God. In the Godhead in eternity past there was no solitude or isolation. There was complete togetherness. God is his own family.

John clearly declares that the Word is God. The Word who always was, the Word who always was with God, this Word was and is himself God. Although the Word is in some sense distinct from God, so too the Word and God are in some sense the same. John doesn’t say the Word was “like” or “similar to” or that he “bears a striking resemblance to” God. The Word was God. He doesn’t say the Word was a copy or facsimile of God or a reflection of God or merely analogous to God. The Word was God.

Therefore, whatever you can say about God the Father that pertains to his being God, you can say about the Word (God the Son; and God the Spirit as well). John isn’t saying there is something “divine” about the Word, as if he has some exalted, mystical, godlike qualities. He is God. The Word wasn’t an angel. The Word was God. The Word is in no sense, way, shape, or form inferior to God the Father.

So what are we to make of the insistence by Jehovah’s Witnesses that the absence of the definite article “the” requires that we translate the verse as: “and the Word was a god”? What follows may only make sense to those who know Greek, but I urge everyone to read it closely.

The absence of the Greek definite article (“the”) does not mean the Word is only one of perhaps many gods. In this kind of Greek construction where an anarthrous predicate nominative (one lacking the definite article), in this case theos or God, precedes the verb, the noun retains the emphasis of specificity or definiteness (i.e., “the” vs. “a”).
The apparent equation of subject and predicate nominative does not imply complete correspondence. The predicate nominative describes a larger category to which the subject belongs. Thus the verb “is” does not always mean “equals”.

I should also point out that when the article occurs with both the subject and predicate (which is not the case in John 1:1), both nouns are definite and interchangeable. When the nouns are not interchangeable, as here, the article is absent from the predicate (i.e., absent from the noun theos, God).

In other words, if John had included the article (“the” God) he would have contradicted himself. If he had said “the Word was the God” one would be led to conclude that the Word is all there is to God, that no being could be God except the Word. But John has already said the Word was with God. In other words, the Word isn’t all there is to God. There is also God the Father and God the Spirit.

So we see from this that there is both an excellent grammatical and theological reason why the definite article (“the”) does not appear with the noun “God”. And thus we are on solid ground when we affirm that John is declaring the Word, Jesus Christ, to be God.

Combating an Ancient Heresy

Texts lifted out of their setting can be made to support many erroneous views and heresies. Surely, a text out of context is a pretext for all false doctrine. However, error is exposed when individual texts are subjected to analysis such as identifying the background, use of words, context, syntax, etc.

Some people are very quick to say that “the Lord” showed them the meaning of a verse. Yet it is often the case that the context of the verse totally repudiates the interpretation given. To fail to study the text’s context is not a mark of spirituality, but the exact opposite – a failure to honor the Holy Spirit who inspired the original words. We would never wish for our own words to be treated this way. How much more should this be the case when it is God the Holy Spirit who has inspired Scripture?

An old heresy, based upon a misinterpretation of John 10:34, suggests that men can become gods. This is the doctrine espoused by the LDS (Mormons) and other cult groups (many Word of Faith preachers teach this also). I will let an excerpt from my friend Dr. James White’s book “Is the Mormon my Brother?” show the context and true meaning of John 10:34. – John

Dr. White writes:

John chapter ten is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus’ relationship to His people in the terms of the Shepherd and His sheep. In the midst of talking about the glorious salvation that belongs to those who know and trust Christ, Jesus asserts that He and the Father are one in their bringing about the final and full salvation of all those who are given by the Father to the Son (vv. 28-30). When the Lord says, “I and the Father are one,”[1] He offends the Jews, who realize that such a claim implies deity. No mere creature can be fully one with the Father in bringing about redemption itself! This prompts the dialogue that concerns us here:
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A Cult or a False Church?

Is the Coptic Orthodox Church a cult?

This is a Reformed Blog and so obviously, you will find a Reformed position outlined here. In Evangelical and Reformed circles historically, the word “cult” has denoted groups, organizations and churches that deny the catholic (or universal) creeds of the church concerning the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity – there is one God, eternally existent in three Divine Persons who are co-equal and co-eternal; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Protestant Reformers would not use the word “cult” to refer to the Roman Catholic Church because unlike the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and groups like them, the RCC does indeed affirm orthodox doctrine on the essentials mentioned above.

However, it must be said that no true Christianity can exist without the Gospel. The entire New Testament book of Galatians affirms this. Therefore, despite their orthodoxy on the doctrine of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Reformers would declare Rome to be a “false church” because of its strong denial and pronouncement of an anathema (eternal curse) on anyone who believes sola fide (justification by faith alone), which is of course, the very heart of the gospel of grace – justification being “the article upon which the church stands or falls” (Luther).

Let me therefore answer your question with a question – what is the official position of the Coptic Orthodox Church concerning the doctrines of the full humanity and full deity of Christ, the Trinity and justification by faith alone? Answer this clearly from their official documents, affirmations and declarations and you will have your answer. More than that, what is true concerning the Coptic Orthodox Church is true for any group or Church?