Biblical Agency
Biblical Agency

Biblical Agency

Law of agency explained

In Hebrew thought, the first cause or ultimate cause is not always distinguished from secondary or proximate causes. That is to say, the principal is not always clearly distinguished form the agent (the one commissioned to carry out an act on behalf of another). Sometimes the agent standing for the principal, is treated as if he were the principal himself, though this is not literally so. Principal and agent remain two distinct persons. The agent acting and speaking for the principal is the principal by proxy (a person authorized to act for another). 

The Hebrew term for agent or legal emissary is Shaliach which is comparable of the Greek world Apostolos and the English word Apostle. An apostle is an agent commissioned by a principal. We read in Hebrews 3:1-2, Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession and was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses was also faithful in all God’s house.

Agent, Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, R.J.Z Werblowski, G Wigoder, 1986, p. 15.

Agent (Hebrew. Shaliach); The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum,  “a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself” (Ned. 72B; Kidd, 41b) Therefore, any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principal, who therefore bears full responsibility for it. 

R.A. Johnson, The One and the Many in the Israelite Conception of God

In a specialized sense when the patriarch as lord of his household deputized his trusted servant as his malak (his messenger or angel) the man was endowed with the authority and resources of his lord to represent him fully and transact business in his name. In Semitic thought this messenger-representative was conceived of as being personally — and in his very words — the presence of the sender.”

“Origin & Early History of the Apostolic Office,” T. Korteweg, in The Apostolic Age in Patristic Thought, ed. Hilhorst, p 6f.

The origin of the apostolic office lies… for example in Mishnah Berakhot 5.5: ‘a man’s agent is like to himself.’ the nucleus not only of the Jewish designation of shaliach, but also of the Christian apostolate as we find it in the NT…the specific Semitic and Jewish concept of representative authority which is implied in the designation of shaliach.

Hebrews 3:1-2 (ESV), Jesus the apostle (shaliach) and high priest of our confession

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

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Proximate and ultimate causation

proximate cause is an event which is closest to, or immediately responsible for causing, some observed result. This exists in contrast to a higher-level ultimate cause which is usually thought of as the “real” reason something occurred. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proximate_and_ultimate_causation)

Lets take the example of 2 Samuel 3:18 below. The LORD (the principal) is the first/ultimate cause of salvation while David is the secondary/proximate cause as it says, “By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel.” Both God and David are saviors with respect to Israel. Now God has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus as he promised (Acts 13:23).

2 Samuel 3:18 (ESV), “By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel”

18 Now then bring it about, for the LORD has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’”

Acts 13:22-23 (ESV), God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus as he promised

22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ​‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.

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God works through agents

Below are examples of how God works through agents. Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. Aaron lifted up the staff and struck the water. In  him doing this act the  LORD strikes the water of the Nile and turned it into blood. Aaron is the proximate cause (agent) and the LORD is the ultimate cause (principle) of the act. In Exodus 23, the LORD sends an angle before Israel and instructs them to be attentive and obey his voice – “for my name is in him.” Here God is using an agent to serve his purposes and has  given this agent the authority to operate in his name. Obeying the voice of the angel = doing all that God says. And when it  says that “Jacob wrestled with God” he was actually striving with an angel of the LORD. Again 2 Samuel 3:18, indicates that both the LORD God and David are saviors with respect to Israel. Jesus is also a servant of God that he raised up (Acts 3:26) and God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior. The works and actions of the agents of God are the works and actions of God. 

Exodus 7:17-20 (ESV), Aaron striking the water = the LORD striking the water

17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.

Exodus 23:20-25 (ESV), Obeying the voice of my messenger = obeying all that I (the LORD) says

20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.

  • “My name is in him” = he is my agent and he operates with my authority. 

Hosea 12:2-4 (ESV) Jacob strove with the angel = Jacob strove with God

2 The LORD has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds. 3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. 4 He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor.

2 Samuel 3:18 (ESV), “By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel”

18 Now then bring it about, for the LORD has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’”

Acts 3:26 (ESV), “God raised up his servant”

26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Acts 5:30-31 (ESV), The God of our fathers raised Jesus – God exalted him as leader and Savior

30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins

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Agents of God were called “God”

Jesus made direct reference to Psalms 82:6 when clarifying that those to whom the word of  God come are called God and that he was only claiming to be the Son of God in doing the works of his Father. In Psalms 45:2-7 the Son of Man is called “God” on account of the blessing and majesty that God will give him. In other cases Moses was made like God to Pharaoh and the Judges within Exodus were referred to as God (Elohim). Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise indicated. 

John 10:34-37, Jesus makes direct reference to those to whom the word  of God came were called gods

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ​‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;

Psalms 82:6-7, men were called gods

6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

Psalms 45:2-7, The Messiah is referred to as God for being anointed by God

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. 3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

Exodus 4:14-16, Moses was as God to Aaron

14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.

Exodus 7:1, Moses was God to  Pharaoh

1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

Exodus 21:6, Judges of Israel were called God

6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

Exodus 22:8-9, Judges of Israel were called God

8 If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

Exodus 22:28, Judges of Israel were called God

28You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

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Messengers of God speak and are spoken to as if they themselves are God

What  angels of God say are regarded as if it came form God himself. This is the Jewish law of agency. This doctrine is demonstrated throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament). Many agents of God appear to be God but are not literally so. In the case where there are two beings and one speaks for another yet they are distinct, it is universally assumed in the Talmud, the Targums and the volume of Jewish interpretation, that it is the case of an agent. 

Genesis 31:11-13 (ESV), The angel of God speaks in the first person as God

11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’”

Exodus 3:2-6 (ESV), The angel of the LORD speaks and is spoken to as God

2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

  • When Moses is said to have hid his face because he was afraid to look at God, we know this is the angel of the LORD in the bush
    • Exodus 3:2 says it is the angel of the LORD
    • Heaven cannot contain God (1 Kings 8:27)
    • No one has actually seen God at any time (1 John 4:12)
    • God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16)
    • The Most high does not dwell in houses made by hands (Acts 7:48-50)
    • God reveals himself through his messengers (Heb 1:1-2)

Deuteronomy 5:22 (ESV), God spoke to Moses but is said to have spoken to all the assembly

22 “These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15 (LSV), Moses Speaks in the first person as God

13 “And it has been, if you listen diligently to My commands which I am commanding you today, to love your God YHWH, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 then I have given the rain of your land in its season—autumn rain and spring rain—and you have gathered your grain, and your new wine, and your oil, 15 and I have given herbs in your field for your livestock, and you have eaten and been satisfied.

Judges 6:11-14 (ESV), the angel of the LORD is referred to as the LORD and speaks for the LORD

11 Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my Lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”

Zechariah 3:6-7 (ESV), The angle of the LORD delivers the LORD’s message

And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, 7Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.

Zechariah 4:6 (ESV), “But by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts”

6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

Haggai 1:13 (ESV), Haggai, the prophet is an  angel of the Lord, who speaks in the first person as God

13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’S message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.”

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Concept of the angel of the LORD (Malach of YHWH)

The Angel of the LORD is a necessary consequence of God not being able to be contained by time or space. Not a city, or a body or a temple. For this reason God sends messengers to communicate with humans. God cannot literally come down himself since that would be imposing a restriction on himself. What an angel does is relay God’s will. The Hebrew word malach literally means messenger. Again God uses messengers to speak on his behalf. Messengers often speak in the first person as if they are God from whom the message comes. 

1 Kings 8:27 (ESV), Heaven cannot contain God

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

Haggai 1:13 (ESV), Haggai, the prophet is an angel of the Lord, who speaks in the first person as God

13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’S message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.”

Haggai 1:13 (LSV), Haggai the prophet is malach of YHWH (angel of the LORD)

And Haggai, messenger of YHWH, in messages of YHWH, speaks to the people, saying, “I [am] with you, a declaration of YHWH.”

Malachi 2:7 (ESV), Priests are also called malach (messengers) of the  LORD

7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

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Agents of God, including the angel of the LORD, are not literally God

References above illustrate how agents of God are not literally God. There is no place in the Bible where people are commanded to worship the Angel of the Lord. The fact that the Angel of the LORD is not literally the LORD (YHWH) is further demonstrated by the fact that the Angel of the LORD (YHWH) is given instructions from the LORD (YHWH) and is comforted by the LORD (YHWH). 

2 Samuel 24:16-17 (ESV), God instructed the angel of the LORD to relent

16 And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”

Zechariah 1:12-13 (ESV), God spoke words to comfort the angel of the LORD

12 Then the angel of the LORD said, ​‘O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ 13 And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

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The Messiah of prophecy is an agent of God

The Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament (Tanakh) describe the coming son of man as an agent of God through whom God will establish a everlasting priesthood and kingdom. Quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise indicated. 

Deuteronomy 18:15-19, “God will raise up for you a prophet – I will put my words in his mouth”

15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ​‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ​‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 

Psalms 110:1-6, “The LORD says to my Lord”

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

Psalms 8:4-6, “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands”

4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Psalms 110:1 (LSV), YHWH to my Lord

A PSALM OF DAVID. A declaration of YHWH to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand, || Until I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

Isaiah 9:6-7, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given”

6 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. 7 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 52:13, “My servant shall act wisely”

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.

Isaiah 53:10-12, “By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous”

10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

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Jesus is an agent of God

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus identifies himself as and is identified by others as an agent of God. Bible quotations are from the ESV.

Matthew 12:18, Behold my servant whom I have chosen

 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

Luke 4:16-21, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me”

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me”

34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

John 5:30, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me”

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 7:16-18, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me”

16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

John 8:26-29, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me”

6 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

John 8:40,  “Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God”

40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

John 12:49-50, “The Father who sent me has himself given me a  commandment – what to say and what to speak”

49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 14:24, “The word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s”

24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

John 15:10, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Acts 2:22-24, A man delivered up according to the plan and foreknowledge of God

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 3:19-26, God raised up his servant

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ​‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Acts 4:24-30, Believers prayer in reference to “your holy servant Jesus”

24 … they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Acts 5:30-32, God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior

30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 10:37-43, He is the one appointed by God to Judge

37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Galatians 1:3-5, Jesus gave himself according to the will of God the Father

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 2:8-11, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1 Timothy 2:5-6, There is one God and one mediator

5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Peter 2:23, He entrusted himself to him who judges justly

23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Hebrews 4:15-5:6, Every high priest  appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 5:8-10, Jesus has been designated by God a high priest

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 9:24, Christ entered heaven to appear in the presence of God

24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

BiblicalAgency.com

Jesus is associated with God and is called God based on the concept of agency

There are few places in the New Testament where Jesus, the agent of God, is conflated with the God he serves by being called God. These occurrences can be explained by the law of agency. 

John 1:17-18 (ESV) , The only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

* This text has a variant readings with respect to “the only God”

  • “the only begotten Son” (ASV, DRA, HCS, JNT, KJV, NAB, NJB, NKJ, NRS, REV, RSV, TEV, TLB)
  • “the only begotten”  – minor variant

John 10:29-37 (ESV), “I and the Father are one”

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ​‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;

John 14:8-11, 15-20 (ESV) “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves…

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

John 20:26-31 (ESV), “My Lord and my God!

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

1 John 5:18-20 (ESV), He is the true God and eternal life

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Different translations render this differently:

  • “This is the true God and eternal life.” (ASV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NASB1995, 1977, WEB)
  • “And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life. (CEV)
  • The question that has been hotly debated about this sentence is who is “This one” who is the true God? Is it the Father or Jesus Christ? The grammar can go either way, and each side of the argument has had its noteworthy proponents, so gathering scholars to support one’s position can be done for both positions. The argument is not settled by the nearest antecedent noun because reference to the nearest noun is not a hard-and-fast rule of Greek grammar and there are times that John, like other writers of the New Testament, does not follow it (cp. 1 John 2:22).

Acts 20:28 (ESV), Church of God, which he obtained with the blood of his own

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of Godwhich he obtained with his own blood (* the blood of his own).

* Most translations, including ESV, mistranslate Acts 20:28.

  • The earliest Alexandrian manuscripts and the Critical Greek Text (NA-28) read, “Church of God, which he purchased by the blood of his own.”
  • Later Byzantine manuscripts read, “Church of the Lord and God, which he purchased by his own blood.” 
  • Most English translations  erroneously read “Church of God, which he purchased by his own Blood”

Romans 9:4-5 (ESV), “Is the Christ who is God over all (multiple variants)”

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

* This text has numerous alternate readings (variants) with respect to “Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.”

  • “Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever ” (NAB, REB, RSV, TEV)
  • “Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever” (ASV, DRA, KJV, NAS, NAU, NRS)
  • “Christ, who is over all. God be blessed forever” (JNT, TLB)

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV), Our great God and savior Jesus Christ

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

2 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV), Our God and Savior Jesus Christ ​

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 1:8-9 (ESV), Your throne, O God, is forever and ever

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

These verses, to the extent that they are accurate to the original New Testament text, demonstrate that Jesus can be called “God” based on the concept of agency.
BiblicalAgency.com

Jesus is not God in a literal ontological sense

Although Jesus is a servant of God that can be regarded as God based on the concept of Agency, it is clear by the following witness that he is not God in a literal ontological sense. Bible references are in the ESV.

John 8:54, “it is my Father who glorifies me”

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

John 10:17, “For this reason the Father loves me”

17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

John 10:29, “My Father is greater than all”

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

John 14:28, “the Father is greater than I

28 You heard me say to you, ​‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 17:1-3, you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 20:17, “I ascend to my God and your God”

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ​‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

1 Corinthians 8:4-6, There is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ

“… there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 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.

Acts 2:36, God has made him both Lord and Christ

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Acts 3:13, God glorified his servant Jesus

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

Acts 3:18, God foretold that his Christ would suffer

18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.

Acts 4:26, against the Lord and against his Anointed

26 The kings of the earth set themselves,  and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

Acts 5:30-31, God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior

30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Philippians 2:8-11, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Galatians 1:3-5, Jesus gave himself according to the will of God the Father

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 2:5-6, There is one God and one mediator

5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Corinthians 11:3, the head of Christ is God

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

2 Corinthians 1:2-3,  the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort

Colossians 1:3, God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you

Hebrews 4:15-5:1, Every high priest  appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Hebrews 5:5-10, Christ was appointed by God – being designated by God a high priest

5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 9:24, Christ entered heaven to appear in the presence of God

24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

Revelation 11:15, kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 12:10, kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ

10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

Revelation 20:6, Priests of God and of Christ

6 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.

BiblicalAgency.com

The LORD (YHWH), who alone is God, is the one who raised up his servant

The Jewish concept of agency is that the person’s agent is regarded as the person himself. God uses agents who are representatives and messengers who communicate the word and intentions of God. God’s anointed one Jesus, clearly fits within the model of an agent. Him being the Messiah that all the prophets  bear witness of is the principal servant of God through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. In Hebrews Jesus is referred to as both our apostle and high priest of our confession. These terms are synonymous with that of an messenger (Malach) and agent (Shaliach). References are in the ESV unless stated otherwise. 

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, The lord our God the Lord is One.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 4:35, Besides YHWH, there is no other God

35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Moses declares that YHWH your God will raise up a prophet like me from among you

15The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ​‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ​‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Acts 3:19-26, As Moses and the prophets proclaimed, God raised up his servant

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ​‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Hebrews 3:1-2, Jesus the apostle (shaliach) and high priest of our confession

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

Malachi 2:7, Priests are called malach (messengers) of the  LORD

7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

BiblicalAgency.com

Conclusion, Jesus is the apostle and high priest of our confession

Jesus is the human Messiah. Yet as an agent of God he is referred to as God in some places. However this is consistent with the law of agency, that this is not to indicate that Jesus is God in a literal ontological sense. Although he spoke the words of the Father and did as the Father commanded him, he and the Father are distinct persons, and he rather the servant of God that God raised up to be his Messiah. Jesus, the apostle (Shaliach) and high priest of our confession, was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses was also faithful in all God’s house. The references provided below further attest to this. 

Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV), God has spoken to us by his  Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 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. 3 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, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 3:1-2 (ESV), Jesus the apostle and high priest of our confession

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Craig S. Keener on John 5:30.

“Jesus is thus a faithful shaliach, or agent; Jewish law taught that the man’s agent was as a man himself (backed by his full authority), to the extent that the agent faithfully represented him. Moses and the Old Testament prophets were sometimes viewed as God’s agents.”

Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments, eds. Martin, Davids, “Christianity and Judaism: Partings of The Ways”, 3.2. Johannine Christology.

“Johannine christology appears to have been fashioned from Jewish wisdom ideas and the related concept of the shaliach (lit. “one who is sent” from heaven; shaliach in Hebrew, apostolos in Greek). Shaliach and wisdom ideas were easily exploited by first-century Christians who were trying to explain to themselves and to others who Jesus was and what was the nature of his relationship to God. In the Fourth Gospel Jesus is presented as the Word that became flesh (Jn 1:1, 14). The function of the Johannine “Word” (logos) approximates that of Wisdom, which in biblical and postbiblical traditions is sometimes personified (Prov 8:1–9:6; Sir 24:1–34; one should note that in Sir 24:3, Wisdom is identified as the word that proceeds from God’s mouth). 

In three passages Jesus is accused of blaspheming for claiming divine privilege and prerogatives. In the first passage Jesus supposedly breaks the sabbath by healing a man and then intensifies the ensuing controversy by referring to God as his Father (Jn 5:16–18). Jesus’ critics infer from this claim that Jesus has made himself “equal with God.” The second passage is similar. In it Jesus affirms, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). His critics take up stones to stone him, because, athough only a human, Jesus has made himself God. But the meaning here is probably not that Jesus has literally claimed to be God. The claim to be one with God probably relates to the shaliach concept. As God’s representative, sent to do God’s work, Jesus can claim that he is “one” with the Father.”

BiblicalAgency.com

Additional Resources

Divine Agents: Speaking and Acting in God’s Stead

BiblicalUnitarian.com

www.biblicalunitarian.com/articles/jesus-christ/divine-agents-speaking-and-acting-in-gods-stead

Jesus – God’s Greatest Agent

J. Dan Gill, 21st Century Reformation

www.21stcr.org/jesus-the-messiah-article/jesus-gods-greatest-agent/

Jesus, God’s Agent

Restitudio Podcast 163

Are there two Gods or is something else going on?  The answer is the principle of agency.  Jesus can be called God because he represents God.

restitutio.org/2019/02/10/163-jesus-gods-agent/

BiblicalAgency.com
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