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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Excellent Than Equal

Paul, a Jehova's Witness, quotes scripture and points out the irrelevant: Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," and none of those words mean equal to anything.

He argues that since this verse fails to assert that Jesus is equal to God then it also fails to prove that Jesus is God. But his argument is as fallacious as it is unbiblical because he does not fully comprehend the meaning of the word "equal" and therefore misses the polytheistic implications latent in that word.

The problem with "equal" is that things can be equal and not be the same. For instance, I can have one nickel and five pennies in my hand to equal a dime in your hand. We both have ten cents. Our handfuls can rightfully be described as equal and yet they are clearly not the same. Or, a young lady can work at the watch counter in Wal Mart for ten dollars an hour and an old man can work the same exact position for the same wage. The young lady is equal to the old man in responsibility, wage, position and title but she is clearly quite different than her counterpart in every other way.

So, you see, there are many different ways a person or thing can be as great as or the same as, in other words equal, to someone or something else. However, merely asserting their equality does not explain how or in what way. And it's easy to see how confusion would ensue if a person were limited to being defined merely as equal to someone else. For instance, would a potential suitor to the young lady working at Wal Mart object if, when arriving to pick her up to go out on a date, he found the old man waiting for him instead? It would be impossible for the potential suitor to accept the old man as a substitution for the young lady. All appeals to him about their equality would be meaningless because equal does not begin to define who they are in essence. The lover is rightly concerned with who his beloved is and not what her value is compared to another.

The theological implications of this are obvious and grave. If Jesus were to be described as equal to God then, hypothetically, it would be possible for Him to be something other than God. He could then be, as the J. W's heretically conclude, a spirit being that is equal to God in authority, power, position and preeminence but not God. And if one spirit being can be equal to God than all can, fallen or otherwise. Under this scenario, God would cease to be all powerful because He could only be as powerful as His equal counterparts. This scenario destroys God as He is revealed in scripture and so can not be true.

Yet another errant possibility with a Jesus who is equal to God is that it would be possible for Jesus to be a God without being The God. As a matter of fact, being equal to God requires being separate from Him because equality exists by comparison but not by itself. In other words, if there were only one apple pie submitted in an apple pie competition, equal is one description that would never apply when grading the quality of the pie. Equal is a value in the same way more or less is. If there is only one God, as the bible clearly and repeatedly teaches, then He can not be equal to anyone as there would be no one to compare Him to. He is the only apple pie in the contest, so to speak.

But if Jesus were equal to Him, then Jesus would have to be other than Him, separate, his own God in order to be compared to Him. Instantly, we have a bitheist universe which would immediately give way to polytheism because if it is possible for one god to be equal with Him, the same would be possible for all gods. The writers of the New Testament, surrounded on every side by cultures steeped in polytheistic paganism, would have been fully aware of the trappings of equality and so wisely avoided that term.

But what we have in Hebrews 1:3 is far more excellent than equal. What we have in, "exact representation of His substance..." is a concrete definition of who Jesus is apart from any comparisons not to mention a brilliant glimpse into the Triune nature of God.

Exact means: strictly accurate or correct; precise; admitting of no deviation. Substance means: that of which a thing consists; the actual matter of a thing.

So what this verse states is that Jesus is the strictly accurate, precise, and without any deviation representation of that of which God consists or God's actual matter. It would be impossible for Him to be thus and not be God. Because God, duplicated perfectly would be God again. So what we have here is God of God, not a god compared to God. We have in this divine illumination, God and God in the second person of the trinity. We have, as Jonathan Edward's opined, God and God's thought of Himself.

And so in a few words, the writer of Hebrews by the power of the Spirit, makes an irrefutable reference to the deity of Jesus as He exists in the Trinity keeping in perfect harmony with the totality of scripture.

Truly, this goad is hard to kick against.

by C. C. Kurzeja
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