A Series of Answers to Common Questions
It is reported in Matthew's Gospel that Jesus said that all authority was given to him in heaven and earth (cf. Mat. 28:18), which means that someone else gave it to him. That someone else must be greater than Jesus, which means that Jesus cannot be God. After all, how can God be given all authority when he already has it to begin with?
Much like in one of the previous questions, the problem here is that the person is already assuming that God is a uni-personal deity, that there is only one Person (or center of consciousness) within God's eternal Being. Now, it is possible, of course, that the questioner is correct, that God does exist as one Person, or that there is only center of consciousness within God's Being. But one must first prove this assertion before assuming it. The questioner must show that the Holy Bible teaches that the God revealed within its inspired pages is uni-personal, and then deal with all those passages which teach that the Father, the Son (the Lord Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are all God, even though they are personally distinct from one another.
It is true that no one outside of God can give God anything, since God is the One who owns everything and gives his creatures all that they have:
"Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I shall take no young bull out of your house Nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats?" Psalm 50:7-13
"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man." Acts 17:24-29
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?' 'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:33-36
But this says absolutely nothing about God's own inner life and internal communion. For instance, let us assume for the moment that God is a Triune Being, that there are three distinct Persons who exist as one Being. Then passages where Jesus is said to have received something from someone really pose no problem for Trinitarianism since you can have one of the divine Persons granting authority to another, or for one member of the Godhead to be in subjection to another (or to the others). After all, Christ is called God's Son for a reason, since this relationship implies a subjection of some kind on the part of the Son to the Father. Yet, much like earthly fathers can be greater in authority than their sons without this implying that the sons are inferior beings, the divine Father giving authority to his divine Son in no way implies that the latter is not God or is an inferior Being.
Having greater authority doesn't necessarily mean that the person is greater in essence, or that the one who is in subjection to another is inferior in nature to the other. To assume otherwise is to make a categorical mistake, a category fallacy, treating two distinct categories (nature and authority) as if they were one and same.
The following citation helps to put this in perspective:
"Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after DESTROYING every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all." 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
Here is a classic example of how one member of the Godhead can give to another member something without this implying that one of them isn't God. Note that the Father subjected all things to the Son, and that the Son gives to the Father the kingdom. Christ's sovereignty and supremacy is clearly seen in this passage since he has the ability to destroy all other powers and authorities, bringing them into complete subjection to the Father. Thus, the Son receiving authority to rule no more disproves that he is God then the Father receiving the kingdom from his Son disproves that he is God also.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, according to the Scriptures, Christ voluntarily came down from heaven in order to assume the role of a slave, a servant. While on earth, the Lord Jesus subjected himself to the authority of the Father, doing nothing of his own initiative, but only doing the very thing that the Father commanded and desired:
"And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" Matthew 20:24-28
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me." John 6:38
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8
In response to Christ voluntarily humbling himself and becoming a slave, the Father exalted him:
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11
One must therefore understand the Lord Jesus' words in Mat. 28:18 in light of this backdrop, that Christ humbled himself for a season with the Father then exalting him as a result. In other words, Christ didn't seek to exalt himself after perfectly completing the mission he was sent to do, but humbly waited to be exalted by his Father. After all, the Lord was perfectly doing what he told his disciples to do:
"The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12
With all this behind us, we now turn to Mat. 28:18, taking a look at its immediate and surrounding context, to see if whether the passage supports the Orthodox Christian view of Christ or not:
"And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, to the end of the age.'" Matthew 28:17-20
In the biblical worldview, name signifies a person's nature, essence and/or characteristics:
"The LORD said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.’" Exodus 33:17-23
"The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.'" Exodus 34:5-7
Moses asks to see God's glory, with God stating that he would proclaim his name to his servant. God proceeds to proclaim his name by enumerating some of his attributes and characteristics. God also says that he knows Moses by name, which basically means that God knew Moses personally. In other words, knowing a person's name is to know the person himself, name being synonymous with person/personality or characteristics:
"You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you." Exodus 20:24
Remembering God's name means to remember God.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you." Psalm 5:11
"I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High." Psalm 7:17
Loving and praising God's name is another way of saying that one loves and praises God. And:
"Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth." Psalm 124:8
"My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2
Note how these two passages speak of help coming from God and his name, since name is being used as a synonym for God's presence, power, being etc.
Name can also refer to a person's inherent or delegated authority:
"Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.'" 1 Samuel 17:45
"I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him." John 5:43
Just as the late, renowned NT Greek grammarian and scholar, A.T. Robertson noted in his comments on Matt. 28:19:
... The use of name (onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority... (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament; online source; underline emphasis ours)
In light of this background, when Jesus refers to the one name (not names) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, this basically implies that the three Persons share the same nature, essence, characteristics, and/or authority. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have one name because they have the same nature and share the same eternal Being, being equal in dignity and majesty. At the same time, they are personally distinct. This understanding of Jesus' use of name is consistent with the immediate context where Christ is worshiped and promises to be with all of his followers to the end of the age, a claim of omnipresence which is a divine attribute. Jesus affirms his omnipresence elsewhere in Matthew:
"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Matthew 18:20
To summarize the data from the closing comments of Matthew's Gospel, we learned that:
These points make it clear that Jesus' words cannot be misconstrued so as to imply that he was denying his Deity. His comments simply mean that, after humbling himself and setting aside his divine privileges for a season in order to fulfill God's will, Christ receives from the very One to whom he subjected himself the authority that is his by divine right.
Furthermore, because he perfectly accomplished his Father's will while a man, Christ earned the right to share in God's sovereign rule as a true human being, not just because he happens to be the divine Son. And in so doing, the Lord Jesus gives believers the right to also share in this rule. What this essentially means is that Christ restored the dignity that humanity had before Adam's fall, giving them the right to once again rule over the physical creation (as well as angels) which was lost in the Garden:
"A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Luke 22:24-30
"Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." John 17:24
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:14-17
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Romans 8:31-34
"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!" 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
"Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" Hebrews 1:14
"Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, 'What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.' Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." Hebrews 2:5-9
"The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star." Revelation 2:26-28
"The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." Revelation 3:21
"And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'" Revelation 5:9-10
"Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years." Revelation 20:4-6
Thus, Christ as the glorified Son of man, the head of the new creation, the originator of a glorified human race, earned the right for all believers to rule along with him over the entire creation of God!
Praise you Lord Jesus! You are eternally worthy to be loved, praised, and to rule forever and ever! Amen.
A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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