JWs and 1 Tim. 2:5
Or, Mediate Madness
Quite recently in my biblical studies I have been reading 1 Timothy 2. There are many questions that can be raised about this passage? What does it mean to be saved through childbirth? Is a woman allowed to teach in anyway in a church? These are good questions but I don't intend to answer them. Instead I'll go with the objection that groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses have raised.
The JWs have raised the objection on this passage that it clearly shows that Jesus cannot be deity. Their contention is that the one who mediates must be seperate and distinct from the one or ones who need mediation. Is this really an acceptable exegesis of this passage though?
Being always one for clarification, I would like to explain some terminology though in what I mean. By the term, deity of Christ, I mean that Christ in his divine nature possesses all the attributes of deity. In his human nature, he possesses all the attributes of humanity. It is worth noting that this does not include sinfulness as while humans do have a tendency to sin, it does not mean that sinning is an essential trait to being a human. Surely Adam was a human before the fall but had no sin in him either.
I must bring this up because there are many who will come with a false view of the deity of Christ and the Trinity. Too often we think of God as if there was this one person divided up into three persons. I prefer to remember that God is spirit (John 4:24) which means that he is omnipresent.
God actually has a divine essence and there are three persons that fully partake of this divine essence. Of course, I don't mean persons in the way we think of humanity but as identities possessing will, intellect, and emotion. Trinitarians say Jesus partakes fully in this divine essence as well. We do not mean when we say Jesus is God that Jesus is the Trinity. Henceforth, in reference to the deity of Christ I will be meaning the person of Christ who possesses all the attributes of deity in his divine nature.
Also, let us be clear that generally in the NT, the term God in its full sense refers to the Father. Granted, at times Satan is described as theos and false gods are described that way but these are not in the same sense as the full usage of the term. I would say Satan is considered theos because in a sense he has a supreme hold on the world as the world is filled with evil. False deities are called theos because they are viewed as theos by their worshippers so the writers of Scripture use that terminology but insist that they are not Theos by nature. (Galatians 4:8) Monotheism is also strictly adhered to as in 1 Cor. 8:5-6 Paul does say there are many so-called theos (gods) but to US (Christians), there is but one Theos. All Christians are to believe there is only one God.
However, for our purposes, God will be the term used for the Father. The NT writers used this term to avoid the charge of Deuterotheism by their opponents (belief in two gods) and chances are, Christology was still being worked out. We must remember that Jesus did not come down to teach us about the Trinity, as important as it is, but to save us from our sins. However, he made his identity as deity a big part of our salvation which this article will be looking at.
Granted, there are exceptions where theos fully applies to Jesus. (John 1:1, John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, and 2 Peter 1:1) However, usually the term Kurios is what refers to Christ. This should still be used as a term of deity also. In the Septuagint in the Shema, the terms kurios and theos are both applied to Jehovah. Also, when the early Christians were told to say Caesar is Kurios or die, they knew exactly what they were being told to say. They were being told to say that Caesar is deity. Thankfully, many chose not to.
Now that the groundwork has been laid though, we are ready to go into the verse under discussion.
The first major problem is that by the witnesses logic, Jesus would also not have to be man to be a fair mediator. That is one point that can be raised against their interpretation but in all honesty, I find it to be the weakest approach. The main question to ask in our case is "Why is Jesus the only mediator?"
The reason is that we are seperated from God by sin. He is absolutely holy. When I was in Bible College I remember one professor of mine always saying that we cannot begin to comprehend God and the main passage he'd use is "God is holy." We would then be asked if we knew what holy meant.
Now one could just as well answer that holy refers to that which is pure, seperate, and complete, and while that is fully true, it is not the full truth. There is no doubt a lot more to God's holiness than three words can sum up. I am certain that no apologist or theologian with any sense would dare to say they fully understand the holiness of God.
We desire to be with this holy God though and he desires to be with us as 1 Tim. 2:1-4 has the encouragement to offer up prayers because God desires all to be saved. Of course, the people knew that they couldn't just enter Heaven freely. All beliefs of that time had methods of purification from sin. In fact, even in agnostic religions today like Buddhism, there is still an element of eliminating sin. (Though not all beliefs will call it such.)
Now this is a problem indeed. How can holiness allow sin into his presence? God can't just sweep it under the rug and forget about it (A problem with religions like Islam), because that would make him as one not treating sin seriously and if he is not treating sin seriously, he is not treating his holiness seriously. If he is not treating his holiness seriously, he is compromising his nature and would not truly be God as God cannot go against his own nature.
We also know from many of us being in churches and hearing the Romans Road for so long that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) We also know that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. (Romans 3:23) Thus, God is holy and must deal with sin in some way and the wages of it is death. Someone has to die.
Could it be an animal? No. Hebrews 10:4 makes it clear that bulls and goats cannot remove sins. Were this the case, the sacrifice of Christ would not be necessary. All we'd need is for God to send down a bull and we'd all slaughter it for our sins and we could go on to Heaven.
Well what about what the JWs will often say about the perfect man? They will acknowledge that Jesus is a perfect man (As Trinitarians would as well), but is it really enough to stop there? (As Trinitarians don't.) While any lady would probably say that just a good man is hard to find, it would be no problem for God. God can raise up from stones chidren of Abraham. Surely creating a perfect man like Adam again would be no problem.
But how could one man pay for all sin for all people? The perfect man would taste death indeed but then what also? Such a perfect man would be sentenced to be apart from God through no part of his own. This would not fit with God who desires all to be saved.
But what if God himself took a part of this? What if God said that the only way to deal with sin is to deal with it personally? What if Christ came down (Possessing all the attributes of death) and took upon himself our own nature and lived the way we couldn't. He went through 33 years of life to be one under the law who could live as such and then took our place after those years.
Then when we get to the cross, we see a battle taking place unawares to many of those watching from the foot of the cross. We see sin and holiness meeting together for one battle. Consider it almost like matter and anti-matter coming together in some ways. These two totally contradict and they meet.
The wages of sin is death as has been said. Now what does this mean? It does not mean non-existence. There are two aspects. First off, we should not say that God in his divine essence died. God in his divine essence is immortal intrinsically and cannot cease to exist. In fact, Colossians 1 makes it clear that by Christ, all things exist, so that if he did not exist at one time, nothing else would.
We can safely say that the body that God took on died. However, after some thought and criticism from non-Trinitarian friends, I have thought that even such an explanation as that is not fully sufficient though it does answer the question of "God can't die!"
Death is seen as passing into non-existence in our world today often but not so in biblical times, especially in a Greek society. Death was seen as the seperation of the soul from the body. That would explain Jesus saying to the thief that, today he would be with him in Paradise. (Interestingly, over 70 times in the gospels in the NWT, the comma comes after the word "today", except in this one spot. Interesting isn't it?)
Thus, when Jesus died, his soul left his body. The body was then put in the tomb as the people of Israel that loved Jesus mourned. One looking at the battle at this point might think that sin might have won. Had God's plan failed? Had sin overcome God himself?
The resurrection is the answer to that. By resurrecting, Jesus showed that his life had conquered sin. If the wages of sin is death, and Jesus took that all on and came back to life, then truly life had conquered death. As Lazarus says in the play "Lazarus laughs", "Death is dead."
This presents a problem with the JWs as they will say that the man Jesus ceased to exist at this point. (Interesting though that after the resurrection this verse still says that Jesus is a man.) If that is the case, then that would mean that sin and death are still the victors as the only way to conquer them would be to overcome their effects. Hence, by denying the resurrection of this Jesus and saying he isn't the one who came to life again (Acts 2 presents a continuity), then we can only say with Paul in 1 Cor. 15 that if the resurrection is denied that we are without hope and still in our sins.
Another point I'd raise is also one that came from Anselm. I must say that in my own thinking before I had thought of this argument. However, while reading an Anselm book a professor gave me later, I came across this argument. I had two thoughts then. The first was that unfortunately, this argument was not original with me and someone had thought it up first. The second was that, "Hey. I'm thinking like Anselm anyway. Cool."
We must remember that God is infinitely holy. Sin against God carries an infinite price as we cannot work off an infinite payment. Man is finite and thus, man alone cannot pay the price. If that were possible, there would be no need for Christ as man could just work his way to Heaven.
So what do we need? We need an infinite being that can pay an infinite price? But who can do this but God? Thus, God pays the infinite payment on our behalf that we couldn't pay. As Max Lucado puts it, God assumes our position and takes on our condemnation himself.
Should this surprise us? God is the epitome of virtue. Humility would be a virtue so God would do the must humble thing he could do. God would take on the price himself. God was not above such an action. God pays our payment then and he being life himself shows he is the only one we can conquer death.
In the 4th century, Athanasius countered the Arians by constantly affirming that God is our only savior. When we look at the reasons why Jesus must be our mediator, we can see why this is so. Who could justify us to God but God? Who could defeat sin head-on but God? Who could overcome death but one who is life himself?
Indeed, we have much to be thankful for. We serve a God who was willing to come and save us though he was under no obligation to do so. He could have let each of us go our own way and who could have blamed him? However, out of his great love, he chose to pay the price for us. When we get to Heaven, and we will see Jesus, we will realize when he shows us the nailprints, how much he paid for us.
But at the same time, how much he loves us as well.
Contact the author: Apologianick@wmconnect.com