This week, we are examining key Christian doctrines with the New Living Translation. The most important doctrine of all is the doctrine of the deity of Christ. This doctrine separates and divides, and most be guarded as the paramount doctrine of the Church. Before we talk about the various understandings of the Godhead, we must first agree that Christ is God, not merely a high angel, or a god among gods, but God.
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is the Christ hymn found in Philippians 2.5-8, in which Paul is writing about humility, compassion and love, but in doing so, he speaks volumes of theology as well.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 KJV)
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NLT1)
Once the NLT was published, it created a firestorm – as all versions are apt to do – among the KJVO’ers with the NLT charged with denying the deity of Christ because they removed the word ‘equal’ in the above passage. They would change this in the 2nd Edition, but I find the 1st here much more palatable than any other translation. It clearly affirms that Christ is not some mere ‘form’ of God, but is God, and thinking not that His divinity was something to be held so tightly to that humanity was not worth saving, He made himself nothing.
When I have to explain this passage of Scripture, I first turn to the NLT, because in the end, it the wooden literalism of the KJV which forces the full Godhood away from Christ while making Him subordinate to another.
Another verse that KJVO’ers use to deny the use of the NLT is Colossians 2.9, which reads
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9 KJV)
For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body, (Colossians 2:9 NLT)
While many complain that ‘Godhead’ is removed, the Greek θεότης signifies ‘everything that is God.’ As one commentator put it ‘ it is the divine nature.’ While the KJV is literal, the NLT points to the very real fact of the Incarnation, and speaks of it more clearly. In the flesh of a certain Jesus, everything that is God lived.
Turning to Romans 9.5, we see that the KJV actually obliterates the deity of Christ, while the NLT rescues it:
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:5 KJV)
of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:5 NKJV)
Their ancestors were great people of God, and Christ himself was a Jew as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. (Romans 9:5 NLT)
Is Christ God-blessed for ever? Or is Christ God to be blessed for ever?
Turning to 2nd Thessalonians 1.12, the KJV separates God and Lord, God and Jesus Christ into two. The KJV reads:
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12 KJV)
Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12 NLT1)
Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ*. (NLTse, but the * is a note, which reads, Or, of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.)
It is clear that the NLT1 and the note of the NLTse understands Paul to refer to Christ fully concerning the Grace, following certain rules present in the Greek. (For those that use Young’s Literal, the last clause reads, grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ).
In the KJV Titus 2.13, we find another obliteration of the deity of Christ, demoting Him to Saviour alone while separating Him from God,
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13 KJV)
while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. (Titus 2:13 NLT)
While the NLT is not perfect – I have yet to find a translation that truly is – it provides a sure foundation, and in some cases, a more sure foundation for the deity of Christ.