For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called … Mighty God.—Isaiah 9:6, ASV
These words in Isaiah have always been a comfort and an inspiration to followers of Christ. They point to a day when the kingdom shall be established in the earth, when Christ will be in charge of the affairs of earth to correct the problems introduced by sin. It brings peace to our hearts to believe that the one who was faithful in his Father’s business, who laid down his life as the ransom, will be in charge of every affair upon the earth. Everyone will benefit from this “Mighty God.” No one, except evil-doers, need fear him, and even evil-doers will be blessed by having every opportunity to change their hearts.
However, this text has sometimes been used to support the doctrine of the Trinity. Some have ascribed more to Jesus than is warranted by Scripture. Such is the case with this text. Partly due to ignorance on the part of some or willfulness on the part of others, the phrase Mighty God has been used to assert the Trinitarian claim that Jesus is Yahweh himself. Nothing in the context or in the actual words used by Isaiah demands that Mighty God be understood in this way. Since men and angels are sometimes called gods, it’s not surprising that Jesus would be called a mighty god. As Pastor Russell wrote, “If angels were called Elohim, gods, … If elohim signifies a mighty one, surely he [Jesus] is above the other mighty ones, … and may therefore most properly be termed the mighty Elohim … the one mighty amongst the mighty” (Reprints, p. 3912).
There are other examples in the Old Testament where men are called gods. For instance, the name Elihu means, “My God is He,” and refers to an ordinary human being (Job 32:2; 1 Samuel 1:1; 1 Chronicles 12:20; 26:7; 27:18). It is common in the Bible for humans to be given names that declare or reflect a particular attribute of God (e.g., Eliab, Eliada, Elzaphan, Eliakim, Elisha, Eleazar, Tavel, Gedaliah). Jesus never claimed equality with God. He said, “My father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
The word “mighty” is a translation of the Hebrew gibbowr (Strong’s #1368): Strong’s defines it as “intensive from the same as 1397; powerful; by implication, warrior, tyrant:— champion, chief, excel, giant, man, mighty (man, one), strong (man), valiant man.” The word translated God is Strong’s #410, el, shortened from #352, and is defined as “strength; as adjective, mighty; especially the Almighty (but used also of any deity):—God (god), goodly, great, idol, might(-y one), power, strong.”
Isaiah 9:6 lists several titles applied to Christ that detail various features of his greatness. The attribute of power will be exercised to save unto the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25) all who come to God the Father through this “Mighty God.” His power enables him to fulfill the other titles ascribed to him in Isaiah 9:6.
Surely Jesus is mighty, even more since his resurrection. Pastor Russell wrote: “Although our Redeemer had always occupied the place of honor in the heavenly courts, it was not until his faithful obedience to the Father had been tested to the extent of his changing nature to that of man, and then giving himself as fallen man’s ransom, that he received his present unexcellable glory and honor. It is since his resurrection that the message has gone forth—‘All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me.’ (Matt. 28:18.) Consequently it is only since then that he could be called the Almighty. … The heavenly Father has always been almighty, and this all-power or all-might was never given to him, but was his eternal possession.” (Reprints, pp. 1514,1515).
Power, in the wrong hands, is a terrible and dreadful thing. Satan has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). He has power to destroy, but not to make alive. His is a negative power, the ability to adulterate the truth, to mix error with it. He desired ultimate power: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). By contrast, Jesus (in his pre-human, human, and post-human forms) never meditated a usurpation to be like (or equal in position and authority with) God (Philippians 2:6,7, Emphatic Diaglott) but was always obedient to his Father’s will. Why? There are many reasons, but certainly as a son loves and copies a father, Jesus as the Logos saw the most wonderful example of a father there could be and desired to emulate his wisdom, justice, love, and power.
How tragic it must have been for him to have seen the beginnings of defection on the part of Lucifer. The hymn Earnest Watchfulness correctly shows what our heart condition should be:
Some seek power over others. Some want to be powerful politically, some physically. A military force wants total power to destroy and control others. The increase of child abuse demonstrates that the race is more and more losing the image of God, and, as a consequence, losing the understanding to be providers and protectors, losing the ability to use power correctly. Evil thoughts of domination are directed toward the most vulnerable segment of society, namely children who are unable to defend themselves.
The feeling of powerlessness among the masses drives them into political parties, which serves as an outlet for their aggression and for their anger at the injustices coming upon mankind as the world moves forward toward the time of the kingdom of Christ. Politics is a battle for power, masquerading as a struggle over principles. The breaking down of society causes stress, anxiety, and desperation. Only God’s kingdom offers a way of hope for sin-sick humanity.
Power in the hands of the “Mighty God” is a comforting and faith-strengthening prospect. Jesus will use his unlimited power to raise the billions of dead and set them upon the highway of holiness which leads to human perfection on earth. The blessed promise is that the Church will share in his glory and in his power.
Jesus, at his return, began exercising his power in several ways. He began the process of binding the “strong man” (Matthew 12:29), restraining Satan’s influence which was exerted via superstition and priest-craft. He raised the sleeping saints, no doubt requiring a tremendous amount of power. He then and there took his great power and began to reign (see Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, p. 306).
Isaiah goes on to tell us, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth” (Isaiah 52:7). The Church on this side of the veil has the joy of “publishing salvation” and proclaiming his kingdom. The Church is sustained and strengthened by the power of the holy spirit, enlightening our minds and working in our hearts and minds to do his good pleasure.
At his first advent, Jesus had a fleshly body. He had a measure of power then, the measure of a perfect man. Beyond that, he was endued with supernatural power from God. Indeed, “All the multitude were trying to touch him, for power was coming from him and healing them all” (Luke 6:19, NAS). Because he was a perfect man and did not share in Adam’s penalty for sin, Jesus was “holy, harmless, … separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Such perfection will be enjoyed by the world of mankind eventually when the grand restitution work is complete.
How Jesus used his power while on earth provides an example for his footstep followers. Even when tempted by Satan, he would not use his power for his own comfort; instead he was more desirous of doing his Father’s will. Similarly, we are not to seek to use the holy spirit for our fleshly comfort. We are to trust God to provide the things that are needful. So “seek ye first the kingdom of God” and all other things that we need will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).
Even now, after his exaltation to the right hand of power, our returned Lord uses and will forever use his power in conjunction with his Father’s divine plan, which stretches out to the far ages of eternity. This is what Jesus’ obedience has accomplished: complete and total power to work his good will. Nothing can stand in the way of the eventual triumph of his reign of righteousness.