Jesus Christ: The God Who is All in All

Sam Shamoun

The apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that at the end of the age Christ would subject himself to the Father in order "that God may be all in all":

"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 (ho Theos [ta] panta en pasin)." 1 Corinthians 15:28

We have already discussed, by God’s grace, the Lord Jesus’ subjection to the Father (*) so we will not be addressing that issue at this point. We want to focus our attention here on the very last clause where the inspired Apostle says that Christ subjecting both himself and the entire created order to God results in God being "all in all."

It is our conviction that Paul’s statement also involves the Lord Jesus within the Divine Identity, that the God who will be all in all includes the Divine Son and not just the Father alone. It is true, of course, that in the immediate context (in fact all throughout this chapter) the word "God" is used in reference to the Father in distinction to the Son:

"Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father (to Theo kai Patri) 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. 1 Corinthians 15:24-27

Yet this doesn’t mean that since the term God refers to the Father that this therefore somehow excludes the Son from also being the God who is all in all. We submit that it is both the Father and the Son collectively who are the God that is all in all, and here we provide the Biblical basis why we believe this to be the case.

First, the inspired Apostle Paul affirms elsewhere that Christ has the complete fulness of Deity residing in him bodily and that he is indeed all in all:

"For in him the whole fullness of deity (theotetes) dwells bodily," Colossians 2:9

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says that the Greek word for Deity means:

Deity, i.e., the state of being God, Godhead: Col 2:9...Syn. qeothV, qeiothV: qeot. deity differs from qeiot. divinity as essence differs from quality or attribute.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume (TDNT), defines it as:

Divinity ... The one God, to whom all deity belongs, has given this fullness of deity to the incarnate Christ.

Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A Nida (Louw & Nida), in their 1989 Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains (New York, NW: United Bible Societies, 2 Volumes), state:

Deity, divine nature, divine being...'all the fullness of divine nature' Col 2:9...The expression 'divine nature' may be rendered in a number of languages as 'just what God is like' or 'how God is' or 'what God is'.

The renowned Greek NT grammarian and exegete A. T. Robertson wrote:

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (oti en autwi katoikei pan to plhrwma th▀ qeothto▀ swmatikw▀). In this sentence, given as the reason (oti, because) for the preceding claim for Christ as the measure of human knowledge Paul states the heart of his message about the Person of Christ. There dwells (at home) in Christ not one or more aspects of the Godhead (the very essence of God, from qeo▀, deita▀) and not to be confused with qeiote▀ in Romans 1:20 (from qeio▀, the quality of God, divinitas), here only in N.T. as qeioth▀ only in Romans 1:20. The distinction is observed in Lucian and Plutarch. Teioth▀ occurs in the papyri and inscriptions. Paul here asserts that "all the plhrwma of the Godhead," not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form (swmatikw▀, late and rare adverb, in Plutarch, inscription, here only in N.T.), dwells now in Christ in his glorified humanity (Philippians 2:9-11), "the body of his glory" (twi swmati th▀ doxh▀). The fulness of the God-head was in Christ before the Incarnation (John 1:1,18; Philippians 2:6), during the Incarnation (John 1:14,18; 1 John 1:1-3). It was the Son of God who came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ. He asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form. (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament; online source)

Christ having the complete fullness of that which makes God what he is, having all the essential characteristics which belong to absolute Deity, is just Paul’s way of saying that Jesus is fully God in essence, and permanently so. As the translators of the NET Bible say in a footnote:

20sn In him all the fullness of deity lives. The present tense in this verse ("lives") is significant. Again, as was stated in the note on 1:19, this is not a temporary dwelling, but a permanent one. Paul’s point is polemical against the idea that the fullness of God dwells anywhere else, as the Gnostics believed, except in Christ alone. At the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity assumed humanity, and is forever the God-man. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Regarding this text NT Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris writes:

"One verse beyond all others in the New Testament affirms that every divine attribute is found in Jesus. Paul does not say simply ‘the plenitude of Deity,’ but ‘the entire fulness of Deity.’ He emphasizes that no element of that fullness is excepted. Whatever is characteristic of God as God resides in Jesus. This includes both God’s nature and his attributes. In the Greek text the verb lives (present tense) and the adverb ‘in bodily form’ are not found side by side but are separated, which suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made: that the entire fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ ETERNALLY and that this fullness now PERMANENTLY resides in Christ IN BODILY FORM. Thus, Paul implies both the eternal deity and the permanent humanity of Christ." (Harris, Three Crucial Questions about Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1994], p. 66; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Another renowned Greek NT scholar translated the text this way:

"because in Him there is continuously and permanently at home all the fullness of absolute deity in bodily fashion." (Kenneth Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Version)

For more on the exegesis and implication of this specific text we recommend this article.

Paul went on to say:

"Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all ([ta] panta kai en pasin Christos)." Colossians 3:11

When we piece these passages together it becomes hard to escape the conclusion that Paul is identifying the Lord Jesus as the God who is all in all.

The second reason why we are convinced that Christ is included with the Father as the God who reigns supreme over all is due to the fact that the Holy Scriptures plainly teach that Jesus’ rule never ceases, that even after his subjection Christ will continue to reign forever. For instance, the prophet Daniel was granted a vision where he saw a human figure receiving an eternal kingdom with all creation worshiping him:

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

Jesus, according to the NT, is that Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14:

"But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’" Mark 14:61-62

"But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’" Acts 7:55-56

Thus, Jesus as the Son of Man is an eternal King who rules over the entire creation for all eternity! There are other passages which reiterate this point:

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." Isaiah 9:6-7

"And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’" Luke 1:30-33

"But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’" Hebrews 1:8-9

"For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:11

These texts explicitly say that Christ rules over an eternal kingdom, not a temporary one. Moreover, Paul wrote that Christ is completely sovereign even in the age to come:

"and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:19-23

As if this wasn’t enough to establish our point, the Apostle John saw a vision of both the Father and the Son reigning together in the eternal age, even after the period in which Christ destroys death and hands all things to his Father:

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:11-15

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son." Revelation 21:1-7

"And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty AND THE LAMB. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp IS THE LAMB. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 21:22-27

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the THRONE of God and OF THE LAMB through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the THRONE of God and OF THE LAMB will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." Revelation 22:1-5

Note carefully that John says that the throne, not thrones, belong to both God and the Lamb, which demonstrates that even in eternity Christ will still be actively ruling with his Father.

We therefore feel that the foregoing provides us with a sound exegetical basis to assume that Paul’s declaration that God will be all in all also includes the Lord Jesus since Christ will continue to reign supreme over all creation even after the end of this present age.

That we are not proposing an altogether novel view or a radical explanation of the passage can be readily seen from the comments made by the late Albert Barnes:

That God may be all in all. That God may be SUPREME; that the Divinity, the Godhead, may rule; and that it may be seen that he is the Sovereign over all the universe. By the word "God" (ho theos) Whitby and Hammond, I think correctly, understand the Godhead, the Divine Nature, the Divinity, consisting of the Three Persons, without respect to any peculiar office or kingdom. (Barnes Notes on the New Testament; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Another noted commentator wrote:

then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him;
which must be interpreted and understood with great care and caution; not in the Sabellian sense, of refunding of the characters of the Son, and so of the Father unto God; when they suppose these characters, which they imagine to be merely nominal, bare names, will be no more, and God shall be all; but as the Father will always remain a father, so the Son will remain a son; for, as the Son of the Highest, he will reign over his people for ever, and he the Son, as a priest, is consecrated for ever, more: nor in the Eutychian sense, of the change of the human mature into the divine, in which they fancy it will be swallowed up, and God will be all; but Christ will always continue as a man; he went up to heaven as such, and he will return as a man, and be visible to all in the human nature, and in that be the object of the wonderful vision of the saints to all eternity: nor in the Arian sense, according to the divine nature, as if he was in that inferior to the Father, when he is equal with him, has all the perfections he has, and the whole fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him; it is much better and safer to understand it as it commonly is of him, as man; though in this sense, he was always subject to his Father, ever since he was incarnate, whereas this seems to respect something peculiar at this time. Others therefore think, that the church, the mystical body of Christ, is here meant, which in all its members, and these both in soul and body, will be presented and delivered up to God; but the words are spoken of him under whom all things are put, which is not true of the church; and though that is sometimes called Christ, yet never the Son; and besides, the church has been always subject to God, though indeed, it will not be in all its members, and in every respect subject until this time: it is best, therefore to understand it of the Son's giving up the account of his mediatorial kingdom and concerns to his Father; when it will appear that he has in the whole of his conduct and administration been subject to him; that he has in all things acted in his name, done all by his power, and to his honour and glory; and now having accomplished all he undertook and was intrusted with, gives in his account, delivers up his charge, and resigns his office; all which will be plain proofs of his subjection: when I say he will resign or lay aside his office as Mediator, my meaning is not that he will cease to be God-man and Mediator; but that he will cease to administer that office as under God, in the manner he now does: he will be the prophet of the church, but he will not teach by his Spirit, and word, and ordinances as now, but will himself be the immediate light of the saints, he will be a priest for ever, the virtue of his sacrifice and intercession will always remain, but he will not plead and intercede as he now does; he will also reign for ever over and among his saints, but his kingdom will not be a vicarious one, or administered as it now is; nor be only in his hands as Mediator, but with God, Father, Son, and Spirit:

that God may be all in all;
for by God is not meant the Father personally, but God essentially considered, Father, Son, and Spirit, who are the one true and living God; to whom all the saints will have immediate access, in whose presence they will be, and with whom they shall have uninterrupted fellowship, without the use of such mediums as they now enjoy; all the three divine Persons will have equal power and government in and over all the saints; they will sit upon one and the same throne; there will be no more acting by a delegated power, or a derived authority: God will be all things to all his saints, immediately without the use of means; he will be that to their bodies as meat and clothes are, without the use of them; and all light, glory, and happiness to their souls, without the use of ordinances, or any means; he will then be all perfection and bliss, to all the elect, and in them all, which he now is not; some are dead in trespasses and sins, and under the power of Satan; the number of them in conversion is not yet completed; and, of those that are called many are in a state of imperfection, and have flesh as well as spirit in them; and of those who are fallen asleep in Christ, though their separate spirits are happy with him, yet their bodies lie in the grave, and under the power of corruption and death; but then all being called by grace, and all being raised, and glorified in soul and body, God will be all in all: this phrase expresses both the perfect government of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, over the saints to all eternity, and their perfect happiness in soul and body, the glory of all which will be ascribed to God; and it will be then seen that all that the Father has done in election, in the council and covenant of peace, were all to the glory of his grace; and that all that the Son has done in the salvation of his people, is all to the glory of the divine perfections: and that all that the Spirit of God has wrought in the saints, and all that they have done under his grace and influence, are all to the praise and glory of God, which will in the most perfect manner be given to the eternal Three in One. The Jews have some expressions somewhat like this, as when they say of God,

``things future, and things that are past, are together with thee; what is from everlasting and to everlasting, or from the beginning of the world to the end of it, these are "all" of them in thee, and thou art "in" them "all".''

So (lk), "all", is with the Cabalistic doctors, the name of the Lord. And he is so called because all things are in him; "Jovis omnia plena". (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible; online source; underline emphasis ours)

A person may interject at this point and argue that neither the Hebrew nor Greek words for God are ever used in the Holy Bible to denote more than one Divine Person, whether the Trinity or the Father and the Son collectively. Although this is not entirely correct this still does nothing to undermine the points we raised showing that, a) Christ is said to be all in all and to have the fullness of Deity dwelling in him bodily, and that b) he actively rules for all eternity. These points are sufficient to stand on their own to show that, at the very least, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:28 doesn’t exclude Christ from being identified with the God who is supreme over all.

With that said, there is a specific passage where God is used in reference to the individual members of the Godhead when they came together to create mankind:

"Then God (ho Theos)[1] said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God (ho Theos)[1] created man in HIS OWN image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:26-27

Notice that the one God in whose image man was formed addresses himself in the plural, a clear indication that more than one Person was involved in man’s creation. The text rules out the possibility of God addressing the angels since the passages imply that God alone created man, a point reiterated elsewhere:

"This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God (ho Theos)[1] created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female HE created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created." Genesis 5:1-2

God didn’t simply create man all by himself, he also brought into existence the entire universe without anyone assisting him:

"who ALONE stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;" Job 9:8-9

"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth BY MYSELF,’" Isaiah 44:24

Furthermore, there isn’t a single passage of Scripture where angels are said to be created in God’s image, that they too are image bearers of God.

More importantly, the immediate context of Genesis provides a clue as to who God was speaking with when he decided to create man:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:1-2

The Spirit of God is portrayed as being present there with God and active in the creation of the universe. This perhaps accounts for why the book of Job could say that God’s Spirit made man:

"The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4

Moreover, the NT says that the Lord Jesus is the active Agent of creation, the One whom the Father used to bring all created things into existence:

"In the beginning (en arche) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made… He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him… " John 1:1-3, 10, 14

John begins his prologue with the opening words of the Greek version (Septuagint [LXX]) of Genesis 1:1 (i.e., en arche) and introduces his readers to the Person of the Logos/Word whom God used to create all created things. This is the same Word who later became flesh as Jesus Christ. What John is basically saying is that Jesus Christ was there with God at the very beginning and who not only created mankind but also the entire cosmos! John wasn’t the only writer who taught these revealed truths:

"yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." 1 Corinthians 8:6

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. And he is BEFORE ALL THINGS, and IN HIM all things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, … And, ‘You, Lord [The Son], laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’" Hebrews 1:1-3, 10-12

The Lord Jesus himself said that he was there with the Father even before the creation of the world:

"And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed." John 17:5

Hence, the explicit testimony of the New Testament regarding the Son’s involvement in creating the universe serves to strengthen the case of Genesis 1:26-27 referring to the Trinity in action. As the late Bible expositor John Gill stated:

Ver. 26. And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness,.... These words are directed not to the earth, out of which man was made, as consulting with it, and to be assisting in the formation of man, as Moses Gerundensis, and other Jewish writers {f}, which is wretchedly stupid; nor to the angels, as the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, and others, who are not of God's privy council, nor were concerned in any part of the creation, and much less in the more noble part of it: nor are the words spoken after the manner of kings, as Saadiah, using the plural number as expressive of honour and majesty; since such a way of speaking did not obtain very early, not even till the close of the Old Testament: but they are spoken by God the Father to the Son and Holy Ghost, who were each of them concerned in the creation of all things, and particularly of man: hence we read of divine Creators and Makers in the plural number, Job 35:10 and Philo the Jew acknowledges that these words declare a plurality, and are expressive of others, being co-workers with God in creation {g}: and man being the principal part of the creation, and for the sake of whom the world, and all things in it were made, and which being finished, he is introduced into it as into an house ready prepared and furnished for him; a consultation is held among the divine Persons about the formation of him; not because of any difficulty attending it, but as expressive of his honour and dignity; it being proposed he should be made not in the likeness of any of the creatures already made, but as near as could be in the likeness and image of God. The Jews sometimes say, that Adam and Eve were created in the likeness of the holy blessed God, and his Shechinah {h}; and they also speak {i} of Adam Kadmon the ancient Adam, as the cause of causes, of whom it is said, "I was as one brought up with him (or an artificer with him)", Pr 8:30 and to this ancient Adam he said, "let us make man in our image, after our likeness": and again, "let us make man"; to whom did he say this? the cause of causes said to "`jod', he, `vau', he"; that is, to Jehovah, which is in the midst of the ten numerations. What are the ten numerations? "`aleph’, he, `jod’, he", that is, hyha, "I am that I am," Ex 3:14 and he that says let us make, is Jehovah; I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God: and three jods yyy testify concerning him, that there is none above him, nor any below him, but he is in the middle: (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The late Matthew Henry said:

II. That man's creation was a more signal and immediate act of divine wisdom and power than that of the other creatures. The narrative of it is introduced with something of solemnity, and a manifest distinction from the rest. Hitherto, it had been said, "Let there be light," and "Let there be a firmament," and "Let the earth, or waters, bring forth" such a thing; but now the word of command is turned into a word of consultation, "Let us make man, for whose sake the rest of the creatures were made: this is a work we must take into our own hands." In the former he speaks as one having authority, in this as one having affection; for his delights were with the sons of men, Proverbs 8:31. It should seem as if this were the work which he longed to be at; as if he had said, "Having at last settled the preliminaries, let us now apply ourselves to the business, Let us make man." Man was to be a creature different from all that had been hitherto made. Flesh and spirit, heaven and earth, must be put together in him, and he must be allied to both worlds. And therefore God himself not only undertakes to make him, but is pleased so to express himself as if he called a council to consider of the making of him: Let us make man. The three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, consult about it and concur in it, because man, when he was made, was to be dedicated and devoted to Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Into that great name we are, with good reason, baptized, for to that great name we owe our being. Let him rule man who said, Let us make man. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible; online source)

Another commentator writes:

And God said, Let us?
The plural word [~'Elohiym] is used here; and the most logical understanding of it is that of seeing in it a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity revealed ages afterward in the N.T. Such views as making it like an editorial we, or the majesterial plural, or as an inclusion of angelic hosts or other heavenly beings are totally inadequate. It cannot be believed that God discussed the creation with the angels and included them as participants in His decision to create man. John 1:1, which affirms that the Word was God, and in the beginning with God, and that without Him there was nothing made that hath been made, supports the thought that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (revealed in Gen. 1:2 as active in the creation) should be understood as included in us and our here. Thus, it appears from the very beginning that God is represented as a compound unity. (James Burton Coffman's Commentaries on the Old and New Testament; online source)

Noted Christian scholar and writer Wayne Grudem provides some additional hints that Genesis 1:26-27 establishes a plurality of Divine Persons within God:

"The fact that God created two distinct persons as male and female, rather than just one man, is part of our being in the image of God because it can be seen to reflect to some degree the plurality of persons within the Trinity. In the verse prior to the one that tells of our creation as male and female, we see the first explicit indication of a plurality of persons within God: ‘Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion"’ (Gen. 1:26)." (Grudem, Systematic Theology [Zondervan, January 16, 1995], p. 455)

In fact, many early Christians were of the opinion that God in Genesis 1:26 was a reference to more than one Divine Person of the Godhead [2]. Here are a few examples:

The Epistle of Barnabas

Chapter V.-The New Covenant, Founded on the Sufferings of Christ, Tends to Our Salvation, But to the Jews' Destruction.

For to this end the Lord endured to deliver up His flesh to corruption, that we might be sanctified through the remission of sins, which is effected by His blood of sprinkling. For it is written concerning Him, partly with reference to Israel, and partly to us; and [the Scripture] saith thus: "He was wounded for our transgressions, and braised for our iniquities: with His stripes we are healed. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb which is dumb before its shearer." Therefore we ought to be deeply grateful to the Lord, because He has both made known to us things that are past, and hath given us wisdom concerning things present, and hath not left us without understanding in regard to things which are to come. Now, the Scripture saith, "Not unjustly are nets spread out for birds." This means that the man perishes justly, who, having a knowledge of the way of righteousness, rushes off into the way of darkness. And further, my brethren: if the Lord endured to suffer for our soul, He being Lord of all the world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, "Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness," understand how it was that He endured to suffer at the hand of men. The prophets, having obtained grace from Him, prophesied concerning Him. And He (since it behoved Him to appear in flesh), that He might abolish death, and reveal the resurrection from the dead, endured [what and as He did], in order that He might fulfill the promise made unto the fathers, and by preparing a new people for Himself, might show, while He dwelt on earth, that He, when He has raised mankind, will also judge them. Moreover, teaching Israel, and doing so great miracles and signs, He preached [the truth] to him, and greatly loved him. But when He chose His own apostles who where to preach His Gospel, [He did so from among those] who were sinners above all sin, that He might show He came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God. For if He had not come in the flesh, how could men have been saved by beholding Him? Since looking upon the sun which is to cease to exist, and is the work of His hands, their eyes are not able to bear his rays. The Son of God therefore came in the flesh with this view, that He might bring to a head the sum of their sins who had persecuted His prophets to the death. For this purpose, then, He endured. For God saith, "The stroke of his flesh is from them;" and "when I shall smite the Shepherd, then the sheep of the flock shall be scattered." He himself willed thus to suffer, for it was necessary that He should suffer on the tree. For says he who prophesies regarding Him, "Spare my soul from the sword, fasten my flesh with nails; for the assemblies of the wicked have risen up against me." And again he says, "Behold, I have given my back to scourges, and my cheeks to strokes, and I have set my countenance as a firm rock." (Source)

Chapter VI.-The Sufferings of Christ, and the New Covenant, Were Announced by the Prophets.

… Since, therefore, having renewed us by the remission of our sins, He hath made us after another pattern, [it is His purpose] that we should possess the soul of children, inasmuch as He has created us anew by His Spirit. For the Scripture says concerning us, while He speaks to the Son, "Let Us make man after Our image, and after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea." And the Lord said, on beholding the fair creature man, "Increase, and multiply, and replenish the earth." These things [were spoken] to the Son… (Source)

Justin Martyr

Chapter LXII.-The Words "Let Us Make Man" Agree with the Testimony of Proverbs.

"And the same sentiment was expressed, my friends, by the word of God [written] by Moses, when it indicated to us, with regard to Him whom it has pointed out, that God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following words: ‘Let Us make man after our image and likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creeping things that creep on the earth. And God created man: after the image of God did He create him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have power over it.’ And that you may not change the [force of the] words just quoted, and repeat what your teachers assert,-either that God said to Himself, ‘Let Us make,’ just as we, when about to do something, oftentimes say to ourselves, ‘Let us make;’ or that God spoke to the elements, to wit, the earth and other similar substances of which we believe man was formed, ‘Let Us make,’ -I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with some one who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being. These are the words: ‘And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.’ In saying, therefore, ‘as one of us,’ [Moses] has declared that [there is a certain] number of persons associated with one another, and that they are at least two. For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels. But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God, who has also declared this same thing in the revelation made by Joshua the son of Nave (Nun). Listen, therefore, to the following from the book of Joshua, that what I say may become manifest to you; it is this: ‘And it came to pass, when Joshua was near Jericho, he lifted up his eyes, and sees a man standing over against him. And Joshua approached to Him, and said, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And He said to him, I am Captain of the Lord's host: now have I come. And Joshua fell on his face on the ground, and said to Him, Lord, what commandest Thou Thy servant? And the Lord’s Captain says to Joshua, Loose the shoes off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. And Jericho was shut up and fortified, and no one went out of it. And the Lord said to Joshua, Behold, I give into thine hand Jericho, and its king, [and] its mighty men.’" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew; source)


4. For as the serpent beguiled Eve, by promising her what he had not himself, so also do these men, by pretending [to possess] superior knowledge, and [to be acquainted with] ineffable mysteries; and, by promising that admittance which they speak of as taking place within the Pleroma, plunge those that believe them into death, rendering them apostates from Him who made them. And at that time, indeed, the apostate angel, having effected the disobedience of mankind by means of the serpent, imagined that he escaped the notice of the Lord; wherefore God assigned him the form and name [of a serpent]. But now, since the last times are [come upon us], evil is spread abroad among men, which not only renders them apostates, but by many machinations does [the devil] raise up blasphemers against the Creator, namely, by means of all the heretics already mentioned. For all these, although they issue forth from diverse regions, and promulgate different [opinions], do nevertheless concur in the same blasphemous design, wounding [men] unto death, by teaching blasphemy against God our Maker and Supporter, and derogating from the salvation of man. Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, "Let Us make man." This, then, is the aim of him who envies our life, to render men disbelievers in their own salvation, and blasphemous against God the Creator. For whatsoever all the heretics may have advanced with the utmost solemnity, they come to this at last, that they blaspheme the Creator, and disallow the salvation of God's workmanship, which the flesh truly is; on behalf of which I have proved, in a variety of ways, that the Son of God accomplished the whole dispensation [of mercy], and have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption. (Against Heresies, Book IV, Preface; source)

Chapter XX.-That One God Formed All Things in the World, by Means of the Word and the Holy Spirit: and that Although He is to Us in This Life Invisible and Incomprehensible, Nevertheless He is Not Unknown; Inasmuch as His Works Do Declare Him, and His Word Has Shown that in Many Modes He May Be Seen and Known.

1. As regards His greatness, therefore, it is not possible to know God, for it is impossible that the Father can be measured; but as regards His love (for this it is which leads us to God by His Word), when we obey Him, we do always learn that there is so great a God, and that it is He who by Himself has established, and selected, and adorned, and contains all things; and among the all things, both ourselves and this our world. We also then were made, along with those things which are contained by Him. And this is He of whom the Scripture says, "And God formed man, taking clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life." It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, "Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;" He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world. (Source)


Chapter VIII.-Man the Image of the Creator, and Christ the Head of the Man. Spiritual Gifts. The Sevenfold Spirit Described by Isaiah. The Apostle and the Prophet Compared. Marcion Challenged to Produce Anything Like These Gifts of the Spirit Foretold in Prophecy in His God.

"The head of every man is Christ." What Christ, if He is not the author of man? The head he has here put for authority; now "authority" will accrue to none else than the "author." Of what man indeed is He the head? Surely of him concerning whom he adds soon afterwards: "The man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image of God." Since then he is the image of the Creator (for He, when looking on Christ His Word, who was to become man, said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness"), how can I possibly have another head but Him whose image I am? For if I am the image of the Creator there is no room in me for another head… (Against Marcion, Book V; source)

There are even anti-Trinitarian groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses which readily admit that God was speaking to his Son in Genesis 1:26:

"Doubtless on many occasions during his prehuman existence as the Word, Jesus acted as Jehovah’s Spokesman to persons on earth. While certain texts refer to Jehovah as though directly speaking to humans, other texts make clear that he did so through an angelic representative. (Compare Ex 3:2-4 with Acts 7:30, 35; also Ge 16:7-11, 13, 22:1, 11, 12, 15-18.) Reasonably, in the majority of such cases God spoke through the Word. He likely did so in Eden, for on two of the three occasions where mention is made of God’s speaking there, the record specifically shows someone with Him, undoubtedly his Son. (Ge 1:26-30; 2:16, 17; 3:8-19, 22) The angel who guided Israel through the wilderness and whose voice the Israelites were strictly to obey because ‘Jehovah’s name was within him,’ may therefore have been God’s Son, the Word.- Ex 23:20-23; compare Jos 5:13-15.’" (Insight on the Scriptures, volume 2, p. 53; bold emphasis ours)

One Jehovah's Witnesses' apologist writes:

"God was addressing the Word when He said: ‘Let Us make in Our image.’ (Genesis 1:1, 26)" (Greg Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics [Huntington Beach, CA; Elihu Books 1998, first edition], p. 165)

Hence, we feel that the preceding data provides a very a strong case that the word Elohim ("God") in Genesis 1:26 refers to the work of the Triune God in creating humankind thereby providing a solid basis for our position that Paul’s use of ho Theos can refer to both the Father and the Son together.

For more on Genesis 1:26-27 we recommend this rebuttal


[1] Interestingly, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint [LXX]) translated Elohim in these references as ho Theos ("the God"). We inserted these Greek words in the verses above in order to help the readers see where in the Septuagint did the translators render the Hebrew Elohim as ho Theos. This demonstrates the plausibility of ho Theos being used in relation to more than one Divine member of the Godhead, and provides support for taking Paul’s use of ho Theos in 1 Corinthians 15:28 in this same sense.

[2] One note of caution here. Just because a certain Church father didn’t mention the Spirit in his exegesis of Genesis 1:26 doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe that God the Father was addressing him as well. It simply means that this particular father didn’t deem it necessary to mention the Spirit at this juncture since his purpose may have been to single out Christ in order to highlight some specific point concerning him, i.e. his perfect Deity, his prehuman existence, his personal distinction from the Father etc.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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