This is quite lengthy so please bear with the article.
DOES JOHN 1:1 TEACH THAT JESUS CHRIST IS A TRUE GOD?
Although the Iglesia Ni Cristo does not recognize Jesus Christ as God, we highly recognize him based on what the Bible teaches about him. The Bible teaches that God made Him as our Lord and appointed him to be our Savior (Acts 2:36; 5:31). He is our Mediator (1st Timothy 2:5) and the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). We serve and worship him since it is God who commanded him to be worshipped (Philippians 2:9-11). However, even though he possesses special attributes which were given to him by God, these special qualities do not qualify or make him as God.
WHO IS THE TRUE GOD THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES?
When we speak about the true God, we are not referring to Jesus Christ but to the Father who is in heaven whom Jesus Christ introduced during his mediatory prayer as “the only true God” (John 17:1, 3 NLT), a Supreme Being who is Eternal and Immortal (1st Timothy 1:17), All-knowing (1st John 3:20) and All-powerful (Genesis 17:1). The Father is also the Father of Jesus’ disciples and the God of Jesus is also the God of his disciples (John 20:17). Jesus is not a Trinitarian nor the early disciples because the same teaching was echoed by Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (8:6) wherein he says, “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him” (NLT).
Since the Father is the only true God, and Jesus Christ is not the Father, therefore, Jesus Christ is not the true God.
Whenever our Trinitarian friends would be pressed hard to explain how do they understand the phrase “the only true God” in John 17:3, what they normally do is to dodge the issue by saying that the verse does not say that Jesus Christ is not God. Although it is true that John 17:3 does not say that Jesus Christ is not God, however, it rules out the possibility that he is God because of his qualifying statement that the Father is the “only” true God. If the Father is the “only” true God, how could Christ be in the picture? Jesus Christ is not the “true” God because he was pointing to somebody else as the “only” true God.
To avoid the issue, our Trinitarian friends would cite John 1:1 as their proof text in justifying their belief in the so-called divinity of Christ. Therefore, it behooves us to examine John 1:1 since this is the biblical text which they usually use to prove their point. In our discussion, I will try my best to simplify the Greek terms so the readers who have not studied biblical Greek or who are not familiar with the language shall be able to understand my presentation.
In most English versions, John 1:1 was translated this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
How was John 1:1 rendered in the Greek New Testament? Let us take a look at how this was written in most Greek manuscripts:
Transliteration (in Erasmian pronunciation):
En archeé eén ho Lógos kaí ho Lógos eén prós tón Theón kaí theós eén ho Lógos
The argument of our Trinitarian friends would run like this: The Logos or Word mentioned in this verse is Jesus Christ. Since the third clause says “the Word was God” then substituting the term Word with Jesus Christ, they would read the verse to mean that Jesus Christ was God in the beginning.
It should be noted that there is mention of the term Jesus Christ in this verse. It is simply an assumption of our Trinitarian friends that the Word is Jesus Christ. Granting but not conceding that the Word is Jesus, the second clause mentions that the Logos was with God. If the Word is Jesus and was with God, it appears that Jesus is different from God because the verse says that the Logos was “with” God. How could Christ be that same God when it says that the Logos is “with” God? Who is this God who was “with” the Logos in the second clause? Obviously it is not Jesus Christ since they believe he is the Word. They could not be the same person because a person could not be “with” another person if he is the same person!
THE IDENTITY OF THE GOD IN THE SECOND CLAUSE OF JOHN 1:1
Let’s continue to find out the identity of the God mentioned in the second clause by going to the Greek text for clarification.
What is the Greek word for the term God in the nominative case – the subject of the sentence? It is O THEOS which is pronounced as HO THEOS in the Erasmian pronunciation. The Greek letter OMICRON (o) before the term THEOS is an article in Greek which corresponds to the article “THE” in English. Therefore, the Greek phrase HO THEOS is translated as THE GOD in English.
However, during the process of translation into English, the article THE is no longer included in the translation but is left out. A Greek grammarian will explain to us why:
Many times, Theos occurs with the def. art. ho, but it is not so rendered in translation because, in Eng., we never refer to God as the God, except if He is designated as belonging to someone specifically, such as the God of Abraham (Matt. 22:32). (Zodhiates, Spiros, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN (1992), p. 730)
Going back to the second clause, is there an article before the term God in the Greek text? Yes. The word for God is TON THEON. Why is it now TON THEON instead of HO THEOS? Because when the word God is in the accusative case – the direct object in the sentence, the HO THEOS becomes TON THEON. That’s the way the Greek language was structured. You could see this arrangement in the Greek text of the second clause of John 1:1 but you could not notice it in the English translation since the article “the” was not translated in John 1:1b but was left out during the process of translation.