of the Spirit
Pre-existence and Deity of Christ
- The passages which are used to support the pre-existence1 of Christ can be grouped into the following two classes:
- Those which refer to Christ as the Creator
- Those which refer to Christ as existing before his birth.
Group a) passages are easily explained once it is shown that the creative work of Christ refers to the making of new men and women, and not to the creation of animals, trees etc. of Genesis 1. Christ is the firstborn of the new creation.
Group b) passages require an understanding of the divine point-of-view that God "calleth those things which be not as though they were." (Rom. 4:17; cf. Isa. 46:9, 10). Through His foreknowledge, God speaks in the present and past tenses of events yet future. This emphasizes the certainty of the outcome.2 As the Great Architect, God can envisage the glory of the saints, the kingdom, and Christ before their actual existence. (See Acts 15:18; Matt. 25:34; John 17:5, 24; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3).
- Belief in the pre-existence of Christ has inevitable effects on one's understanding and appreciation of the Saviour's redemptive work. Consider the following:
- If Jesus was conscious of having existed in heaven as the glorious Creator, how could he in any sense be tempted the same way as are his brethren? (Heb. 4:15).
- If Christ pre-existed the force of the argument in 1 Cor. 15:46 is lost. Paul says, "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." But if Christ pre-existed, then for him, this divinely appointed order is reversed - first spiritual, then natural. How then is he the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29), if indeed his experience is the very reverse of theirs?
- It requires stressing that the description of the birth of Christ precludes the possibility of his having a prior existence. Note the following:
- The words used to describe his birth indicate the beginning of existence, (e.g. "birth", "conceive", Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:31, 35; 2:21). If a change from one form of existence to another were intended, such words as "transform" or "incarnate" would have been used.
- The divine action involved in the coming of God's Son into the world is not kept secret or made mysterious. Instead, it is plainly explained in Luke 1:34, 35; Matt. 1:18, 20. The description of these passages indicate the creation of a new person by means of God's power acting on Mary, and thereby rules out any possibility that Christ personally existed in some manner prior to his birth.
- The passages used to support the Trinity (i.e., that "God the Son" is the second person in the Godhead, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father)3 can also be grouped into two classes:
In general, both a) and b) passages require an understanding of God-manifestation - the principle outlined in Old and New Testaments in which God carries out his divine activity through accredited representatives who bear His name. For example, an angel went before Israel. The Israelites were instructed: "Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him." (Exod. 23:20-21). Although Jesus is worthy of divine honour as the manifestation of God in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), it must be shown that he is not a person within the Godhead, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.
- Those which confer divine titles on Christ, e.g., "His name shall be called . . . the mighty God, The everlasting Father." (Isa. 9:6).
- Those which record Christ exercising divine prerogatives such as accepting worship and forgiving sins.
- The term "pre-existence" is contradictory since one cannot exist before he exists. It is retained here because of its current usage. "Pre-human" existence would ordinarily be a more accurate term. Return
- Although God has divine foreknowledge of the way humans will exercise their free wills, it should not be inferred that He makes them act the way they do. Return
- The Holy Spirit is also said to be co-equal and co-eternal with the other persons in the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is considered later in this section. Return