“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” John 1:1
During the early church, there was a dispute about the ontology of Jesus Christ. Is Jesus the same essence as God or is he of a similar essence? These two schools of thought divided those who wished to be faithful to what was revealed in scripture about the Redeemer. They used the Greek words ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) and ὁμοιοούσιος (homoiusios) to describe thier respective views.
Homo-ousios – that the Father and the Son are of the same essence. “Homo” meaning same. “Usia” meaning essence, or being.
Homoi-usious – that the Father and the Son are of similar essense. “Homoi” meaning similar.
Now at first glance it may seem that the difference in the two is nonessential banter. Why would there be division about such a seemingly trivial concept? Well, those that accepted the homoousian christology believed that the other camp was downplaying or outright denying the divinity of Christ. That the Theos and Logos described in John 1 are of the same essence and to describe them as anything else would be to describe someone else other than the Christ of Scripture.
Arius, a third century Lybian theologian believed in similar-substance-christology. Arius did not believe, however, that his view went against the teachings of scripture. Nor did his christology start with him. He learned from Lucian of Antioch. In a letter to another theologian known as Alexander, he called Jesus “a creature of God.” Making God the Father the creator of everything else including the Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore, according to those of the homoousion christology, God does not save but one of His creations does. Making Arianism seem to be too close to donetism, that Jesus is only a man.
Now this seems to coinside with John 3:16 that says Jesus is the “only begotten son.” The Greek here is μονογενής (monogenēs) meaning basically the single of its kind. This is important because if Jesus was of similar essence then He would not be of the same kind as His Father.
Arius, in his letter to Eusibius of Nicomedia, says of Jesus, “…the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect as God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that God is without beginning.”
The Nicene Creed describes the Son as “God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten but not made…” Now I am not placing any creed above Scripture. However, those in the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) thought it vital to settle this debate. That Scripture made it plain that Jesus and God are one (John 10:30).
Tradition has it that one member that attended the council was even so impassioned that he slaps an Arian, perhpas even Arius himself. This attendee was none other than Saint Nicholas of Myra, the same St. Nicholas we see around Christmas time.
Now, I’ve heard the argument, “what about Colossians 1:15 that states that Jesus is the first born of all creation? How can He be of the same essence as the Father?” I believe that instead of using the word “of” here, “over” would have been better as used in the New King James Version, NIV, and the CSB.
Colossians 1:15-18 states, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
” (NASB). We see here that He has made EVERYTHING. All that was created has been created by Jesus Christ. As John 1:3 says, “…apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Making Jesus outside of creation and not a thing created.
While I can’t say that the New Living Translation is the best or even my favorite translation, I think it excellently words Colossians 1:5 this way, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” In other words it’s Christ’s preeminence over creation that this verse is talking about.
In conclusion, I believe homoousia better describes our Lord as revealed in the Bible. Not homoi-.
Further reading: John 5:18, John 8:24, John 8:58, John 10:30-33, John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8
Often times in our day to day interactions we hear someone say something that sounds like it’s from the Bible or even hear something we’ve read or heard in church knowing it’s from the Bible. Therefore, we don’t put much thought into the validity of the quote and we’ll affirm it with a hearty “Amen.”
And, too often, I’ll hear something and I think to myself “that’s not what that means.” Usually, the person speaking isn’t trying to be careless or malicious with their use of scripture. It’s usually just being spoken from ignorance. So, I’ve decided to write about one of the often quoted yet misused scripture quotes that we hear thrown about. One that I’ve even misused in the past:
Philippians 4:13 ” I can do all things through Christ “
We see this verse used on athletic clothing and sports banners. We say it before big tests. We say it when beginning our work week at a place we’d rather not work. We use it as a self affirmation when going to job interviews. It has become a Christian mantra for completing any daunting task.
At first the verse seems pretty upfront and plain. However, there’s a simple principle one can remember when using Bible verses, “Never read a Bible verse.” This means that all verses are surrounded by other verses and chapters and all verses should be read and used in context with the complete message in which it was stated.
So what does this verse really mean? Let’s look at the immediate context.
Philippians 4:10-14“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.“
Paul, the writer of Philippians had been through great distress during his travels proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles. But these times were full of beatings, stonings, prison, and shipwrecks (2 Corinthians 11:25). It is likely that Paul during his earlier days came from a place of affluence. Paul knew what it was like to have and to have not.
What Paul wants the reader to know here is that because of the power of Christ he can be content in all situations. No matter what he is facing he knows Who is ultimately in control.
As he said earlier in the chapter, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
As I was perusing through my suggested videos on YouTube I came across a once popular pastor who claims he doesn’t believe in hell anymore. He also stated that he believed scripture wasn’t inspired by God but that man was inspired to write about God. “What’s the difference?” You may ask. The purpose of this blog is to answer that question.
In Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, he states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,”(CSB). The word “inspired” is also used in the NASB and the NLT, among others. The NKJV and KJV use the phrase “given by inspiration of God”. The Darby translation says “divinely inspired.”
The ESV and NIV say “God-breathed” or “breathed out by God.” These two English versions come the closest to conveying the original meaning in this verse, as I understand it.
The Greek word used here is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) which is the combination of theos, meaning God, and pneustos, meaning to blow or breathe. So in the original Greek the term literally means “God-breathed.”
When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin in the late 4th – early 5th century, he used the term “divinitus inspirata.” Inspirata is where we get the English word inspiration. Nowadays, when we say inspired or inspiration, we usually mean that something or someone was our muse for a musical piece, a book, movie, or any other work of art.
However, that is not what Paul is conveying here in 2 Timothy 3:16. He is not saying that as man thought about God, that God acted as some artistic influence in the way that an artist paints a mountain he sees or in the way love inspires a song. He is saying that scripture is actually breathed out of the mouth of God Himself. As John Macarther says, “The Old Testament is the revelation of God to show men what God is like, who God is, what God tolerates and does not tolerate, how God desires holiness and punishes sin. The New Testament is God revealed by His Son in the life of His Son, in the message of His Son, in the understanding of the work of His Son, and in the culmination and the coming of His Son to establish His eternal kingdom. But in either case, Old Testament, New Testament, God spoke. What we have is, indeed, the Word of God. This is not the word of man. The New Testament writers wrote down the Word of God.”
Scripture is God’s words to us. It is the very Word of the living God. He shows us Himself and how we relate to Him. He shows us how we can get to know Him. He shows us the great lengths He goes so that we may know the love He has for us. Through Scripture God shows us how to love Him and our fellow man. And through Scripture we see how we can live eternally with Him.
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21, ESV)
If a group of believers pray’s for someone to be healed of an illness, and that person dies of that illness, then how are we to take Matthew 18:19?
This question was posed to me a couple years ago. My first thought was that person, if a believer, would be immediately healed upon their death when they leave their body. Also in their glorified bodies after their resurrection they will experience no more pain and sickness. This was my first thought. And while true, I didn’t take the context of the verse into consideration. Rather, I didn’t take the time to study the context.
Matthew 18:19 says, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
At first glance this passage seems pretty up front. That whatever two or more believers ask of God, He will do. So if several Christians gather to pray for someone’s physical healing, we can be confident that God will heal them. Some would even say that God is “obligated” to do what’s being prayed for. That’s what many of us hear all the time anyway, especially in America.
This belief seems to be validated when we look at the verse immediately before and the verse immediately after. Verse 18 reads, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
So now we seem to have a good formula for healing in Jesus’ own words. 1) Two or three gather making Christ present, 2) touch and agree, 3) bind and loose [binding sickness or demons and releasing blessing and healing, etc] 4) God will do it.
Sounds pretty cut and dry. But, what about the last part of the question posed at the beginning. “…the person dies…” One could take this sad result several ways:
Someone praying or the one being prayed for didn’t have enough faith (Jesus did just say in chapter 17 that the disciples couldn’t cast out a demon because of their lack of faith).
Or, there was unrepentant sin in someone’s life. John 9:31 says that God does not listen to sinners but those that do His will.
Or, it just wasn’t God’s will at that moment to heal that person (2 Corinthians 12:8). But God is true to His word, so why would there be a promise if God would only keep it sometimes?
So what are we to make of this passage?
In one of my earlier blogs on how to understand the Bible, I mention that we must read scripture in its correct context. Picking a verse out of context can, and often does, lead someone to believe something that was not intended. So let’s apply Matthew 18:18-20 to its proper context.
The words of Jesus beginning with verse 12: What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Here we have Jesus speaking of what we call “church discipline”. He begins first by speaking about a lost sheep which is, in this case, a brother in sin. Another brother should try to correct the wayward believer in private. If he doesn’t listen then one or two more should try. The reference Jesus gives comes from Deuteronomy 19:15, One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” To call a brother out on his sinning there needed to be at least 2 witnesses. And these witnesses would work to restore their brother. If that doesn’t work, then the brother is to be brought before the assembly for the sole purpose of restoration from his sin. If after all that, he refuses to give up his sin then he is to be treated as though he is no brother at all. This is also referenced in 1 Timothy 5:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:4-5.
So what does the “binding and loosing” mean and what does Jesus mean when He says He is “there in the midst of them”?
A couple chapters before, Jesus tells Peter, ” ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.‘ Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Here we see Jesus establishing His church. His corporate body of believers which at that time consisted of Jews.
Another step of interpreting a text is understanding how the original hearers or readers would have understood the words. For example, in John 3 when Jesus told Nicodemus that he should have understood what being born again meant because he was a teacher of the law, we should ask ourselves where in the Old Testament would he have understood being “born again” to be referenced. The answer is Ezekiel 36:25-27.
So how would the Jews have understood “binding and loosing”? Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 18 states, “…these, in the common speech of the Jews, at that time, signified to prohibit and permit; to teach or declare a thing to be unlawful was to bind; to be lawful, was to loose.” So once again we see a certain judicial understanding to what this passage in Matthew means.
Henry continues, “When ministers preach pardon and peace to the penitent, wrath and the curse to the impenitent, in Christ’s name, they act then pursuant to this authority of binding and loosing. The key of discipline,which is but the application of the former to particular persons, upon a right estimate of their characters and actions. It is not legislative power that is hereby conferred, but judicial; the judge doth not make the law, but only declares what is law, and upon an impartial enquiry into the merits of the cause, gives sentence accordingly.”
One reference for binding and loosing is found in the Gospel of John. After Jesus resurrection, He reminds His apostles of their authority. In chapter 20, verse 23, we read, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Sound doctrine and strict disciple are the two ways church leaders remit and retain sin:
“By sound doctrine. They are commissioned to tell the world that salvation is to be had upon gospel terms, and no other, and they shall find God will sayAmento it; so shall their doom be.
By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons. “Whom you admit into communion with you, according to the rules of the gospel, God will admit into communion with himself; and whom you cast out of communion as impenitent, and obstinate in scandalous and infectious sins, shall be bound over to the righteous judgment of God.’ ” (Henry)
So we see from reading in context what Matthew 18:19 is really about.
So am I saying that we shouldn’t pray for healing or anything else? Not at all. I’m also not saying that gathering together to pray for someone is unbiblical. What I am saying is that whether one lonely believer is praying or 100 are praying together, God hears. James 5:14-15 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Jesus even mentions how someone was healed through faith of just one person (Mark 5:34, Luke 17:19).
On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes God chooses not to heal. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul writes, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The context here is Paul telling the Corinthians how he could boast because of his visions of heaven but he chooses not to be a “fool.” Rather, He thanks God for his infirmaries because they keep him humble. Therefore, his boasting will only ever be in Christ. Even though he prayed three times for God resolve this issue, God chose not to. In choosing to say no to Paul’s prayer, God granted Paul the greater benefit of understanding the greater depth of the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Then why should we pray? First, because we are commanded to do so. Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and 1 Timothy 2:1 are among the many commands that we have from God to pray.
We should also pray because it works. When we pray according to God’s will He hears us. The Bible is full of examples when God’s people prayed and God answered. In 1 Samuel 1, a woman named Hannah was in deep, emotional prayer by herself. She was praying for a child. God listened and blessed her with the son that would become the great prophet Samuel. In Acts 12, Peter is in prison and the church is praying for him. An angel appeared and freed Peter from his chains. Afterwards, Peter went to the house where the saints had gathered and were praying. There they were still praying when he shows up. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much. (James 5:16)
For more information on prayer, check out Focus on the Family‘s articles on the subject here.
We must also remember that sometimes we don’t see the results of our praying. As stated in Hebrews 11, some people pass on to glory before they see the results of the fruit of their faith.
Lastly, as I stated at the beginning of this blog that healing actually will come to those who place their faith in Christ. That is a promise. By His stripes we are healed. Whether in this life or in the next.
P.S.: All that being said, there is a power in Christian unity. We are the body and when the body joins together, we become a more complete picture of Jesus. All of us as different parts working and praying together, and building each other up.
Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, . ..
In the Bible we learn that God came down and dwelt in the body of man. He was born of a woman, lived, ate, slept, cried, and died. In theology, this is known as the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The word “incarnation” means to be made into flesh. The Incarnation is one of the vital doctrines of the Christian faith although it has had its critics over the centuries. Here I seek to explore and defend the concept of God in the flesh.
In the Book of Genesis, God tells Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent but the serpent will bruise the Seed’s heel (3:15). This was a promise from God that a man born of a woman would be the one to defeat the serpent, Satan. This gospel is the first revelation of who the Messiah would be. As time goes on in human history we are provided more info on this Man (progressive revelation).
In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that there will be a virgin who will give birth to a Child and His name will be Immanuel. Often in the Old Testament times, a name given to a person was actually a description of that person. Such is the case with Immanuel which means “God with us.” So this will be literally God dwelling among us as a man. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” So more is now revealed. God will dwell among man as a man. He will be of the lineage of David and will establish His kingdom. And from Genesis, Satan will bruise His heel but He will defeat Satan.
Now we come to the fruition of the promise made to Eve and to the people of God. The birth of Jesus. The only man born of a virgin, Jesus came to earth as the Immanuel that Isaiah foretold of 700 years before.
Like I’ve stated previously, in Matthew we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And in the Gospel of John, He is described as the Word that was with God and the Word that was God (John 1:1). In Colossians 1:15, He is the “image of the invisible God.” In Philippians 2:6, He is the very nature, or form, of God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Jesus is the “uncreated incarnate Creator of creation”. All things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). Yet, the Creator came to earth and dwelt in His creation. This is referred to as the Hypostatic Union; Jesus being truly God and truly man. Jesus is the two natures of God and man in a single hypostasis(essence, substance, nature). He is the theanthropos, or God-man.
The dual nature of Jesus may sound confusing, but God is not the author of confusion. John 1 calls Jesus the light. Scientists have discovered that light also has a dual nature. The scientific community was once divided on whether light was wave or whether it was particle. However they’ve discovered that it is both wave and particle, something scientists used to consider an impossibility.
Some have argued that Jesus is not God because the Scriptures says He slept and that an all-powerful God does not need to sleep. This argument basically comes from a person who doesn’t take their own premise to its logical conclusion. That is, that God being all powerful can choose to place himself in a human body and limit that human body to the natural laws that govern all other humans; like the need for rest and food and water. He also came as a Jew meaning that He had to obey the spiritual laws He had given Moses about 1,200 years before. And He did so, perfectly.
Some people would say “is this like Hercules who was the progeny of a god and human mother?” NO. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The fictional Hercules was half-god and half-man. Some would say that Hercules only became a god after his death. Unlike Hercules, Jesus the Son was ALWAYS God. He says in the Gospel of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane that He shared the glory with God before the world began (John 17:5). Therefore, there was no progression, or apotheosis, of Jesus to divinity. He was always God.
Jesus came to earth to be the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, of our sins. He could only be this as a perfect man, but since there is no perfect man, God came to earth to be just that.
As John Piper states, “In order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan way ahead of time, because … he couldn’t die. Immortal. He didn’t have any body, yet he wanted to die … for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet. The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails – the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed fleshy cheeks so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt. I just plead with you – when you’re reading the bible and you read water toy texts like “he loved you” and “gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with him that your eyes would be opened.“
Further reading: John 1:1-14, Romans 1:2-5, 8:3, 9:5, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-3, 4:2
In my last blog I stated that in the realm of spiritual truths, having the right answer matters, especially in regard to an eternity with or apart from God. Jesus made claims that must be examined. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. If what He said is true then all other beliefs are false.
When anyone makes a claim of who they are then they must be able to back up those claims in order to persuade others. A person who claims to be a doctor will have proof of receiving his doctorate. A company asking for proof of who you are may ask for identification or proofs of residence. A man claiming to be the one way to God must prove to be from God and of God. Here I offer such proofs of Jesus being who He claimed to be.
1. Jesus healed and raised the dead on His own authority. We are shown often in the Scriptures that God’s prophets and apostles have healed people. The difference between them and Christ is that they did not do so of their own power or authority. They had to pray before doing so (ex. 2 Kings 4:33, 1 Kings 17:20). Or they did so “in Jesus name” (Acts 3:6). Jesus never had to appeal to a secondary means of authority.
2. The Seven Witnesses: In the Gospel of John there are seven witnesses listed that validate Jesus’ claims. Deuteronomy 19:15 states that a single witness does not suffice. Knowing this, the Pharisees told Jesus in John 8:13, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” However, John the Apostle shows us there are more than enough witnesses to corroborate that Jesus is who He says He is.
John the Baptist: John 1:34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
Jesus Himself: John 8:14 Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
God the Father: John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35)
The Holy Spirit: John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
The prophets of the Old Testament: John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
Jesus’s miracles (works): John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me (Matthew 14:20, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39-41, John 2:7-9)
The witness of believers: John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
3. The Resurrection. This is perhaps the most important of all that substantiate Jesus’ claims. While the Bible states that others have been raised from the dead, only Christ was raised of His own power. He said, ” Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19). He also said, regarding His life, that He has the “authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18).
4. Doubting Thomas, Jesus-hating-Saul, and Unbelieving James end up worshiping Jesus as God.
After word was getting around that Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciple, Thomas, refused to believe it until he saw with his own eyes and felt the nail scars with his own hands (John 20:25). After Jesus appeared to Thomas, He told him that he could touch His wounds. We aren’t told whether Thomas did actually touch, but we do know that just the sight of Jesus made him believe. And in believing he called Jesus “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Paul, who was not only skeptical of Jesus but persecuted His followers, was also visited by the risen Savior. This event was so miraculous that it changed Saul from a hater of Christians to Paul, one of Christianity’s most prominent missionaries. Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books. In these books he calls Jesus God and describes divine attributes of Jesus: Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians. 8:6; 10:4; 15:47; 2 Cor. 8:9; Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:5-6, Colossians 1:16-19.
James, the Brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (John 7:5). 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James and the other apostles after His resurrection. Afterwards, James became a follower (and worshipper) of his brother and went on to write the New Testament epistle that bears his name. Historian, Flavius Josephus even records that James was martyred because of the truth of his brother that he spread to others, ” the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…was delivered to be stoned” (Antiquities, 20.9.1)
So, as we see Jesus didn’t just make outrageous claims; He backed them up. We see that He had witnesses and His own works to validate what He said about Himself. As C.S. Lewis famously states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:
It was six men of Indostan, To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: “God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, -“Ho! what have we here So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear, This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”
The Third approach’d the animal, And happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake: “I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee: “What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- “‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said- “E’en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Then, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, “I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant Is very like a rope!” And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!
MORAL, So, oft in theologic wars The disputants, I ween, Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean; And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?
This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”
Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.
In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9
It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5
So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.
More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.
One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.
Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.
To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.
Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.
This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.
Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.
Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them. Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).
This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.
“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen
The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.
Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.
From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.
These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.
By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).
We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).
The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).
None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7
The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)
During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.
Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.
Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).
So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.
Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)
It is incredible to think, that the God who created the entire universe by speaking it into being, would love us and want to know each one of us on a personal level. And that this same God inspired various imperfect people from all walks of life to write about his love for us in a collection of ancient manuscripts we call the Bible. But it’s not only that his love was written about and revealed to us but when you dig into the original languages the Bible was written in, you can see the story of Jesus thousands of years before he was even born hidden in unique ways.
It is more apparent to me today than it has ever been that God is incredibly multi-faceted, so much more than 3-dimensionally and I feel like the more I learn about the Bible the more this can be clearly seen. One example of this is a previous blog we wrote that talks about the hidden “verse” about Jesus in Genesis 5 which outlines the various definitions of the names of the line of Adam to Noah which reads much like a Messianic prophecy. This blog is similar in that it outlines various definitions of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob which has another amazing resemblance to the story of Jesus. I was first made aware of this from something someone else posted on social media.
Genesis 29:31-35, 30:1-24, and 35:16-18 describes the 12 sons of Jacob who would become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. The following are a list of the 12 sons in order of birth with meanings of each name listed next to it;
1 Reuben – Behold A Son, Son Of Vision, Son Who’s Seen
2 Simeon – Hearing, He Who Hears, Man Of Hearing, Hearing With Acceptance
3 Levi – Joined, Adhesion
4 Judah – Let Him (God) Be Praised, Praised
5 Dan – Judge, Judging
6 Naphtali – My Wrestling
7 Gad – Good Fortune, Harrowing Fortune
8 Asher – Happy, (happiness, to be right in the eyes of someone, to obtain this person’s approval)
9 Issachar – Man Of Hire, He Is Wages, There Is Recompense
10 Zebulun – Glorious Dwelling Place, a rather reserved Dwelling, Wished-For Habitation
11 Joseph – Increaser, Repeater or Doubler, May He (Yahweh) Add, He Shall Add, He Adds, Increases, May God Add
12 Benjamin – Son (building block) Of The Right Hand (of God)
Each name has multiple meanings and even different roots. Taking into consideration that some of the names clearly describe God and others describe man, one translation of each of the twelve names, one name after the other, reads in this way:
“Behold a son who hears with acceptance, joined to (us), let Him be praised. A judge of my wrestling bringing good fortune to obtain His approval. He is wages (for) a glorious and reserved dwelling place. He shall add (us) son(s) of his right hand.”
Now, Hebrew to English is a little rough to begin with but the main idea is pretty clearly seen even without the added pronouns and conjunctions to aid in connecting the words. This isn’t to say these are the only meanings of the names, some may not even be the primary meanings but it’s amazing that God had Jacob give his children names that could be translated in a way that shows the story of Jesus coming to offer salvation to the world!
“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL
“This true law diffused among all men, is immutable and eternal.” -Cicero, DE LEGIBUS
In a previous blog defending the unborn, I mentioned that saving a life isn’t just an argument from the religious among us. That there are non-religious people who also affirm that abortion is immoral. But what makes something immoral?
The concept of moral subjectivity says that morality is subject, or relative, depending on the person, culture, or time frame. What may be considered morally right for you may not be for me. Or what was considered morally right in the past is not so now.
Absolute morality states morality is the same for all people of all time. It’s not what is considered moral or immoral; it’s that morality is an actual thing that transcends human perceptions.
In this video (at 6 minutes and 30 seconds in) a moral relativist gives this syllogism: a) If morality is objective, then we would all have the same view of morality. b) If we all had the same view of morality, then we would never disagree about what is moral. c) We do disagree about what is moral. Conclusion) Therefore morality is not objective.
Premise “a” is false. A person can believe 2+2=5 and another believe that it equals 4. One person can believe the earth is flat and another believe it is round. So just because someone has different views doesn’t mean the truth isn’t objective. The same logic can be applied to morality.
The fallacy in premise “a” makes the logic in the rest of the argument fall part. People can and do disagree about what has already proven to be true. Disagreeing about facts doesn’t make the facts any less factual. It doesn’t make truth relative.
You may argue that we cannot compare objective truths like laws of mathematics to something as abstract as morality. But the truth is: morality is just as objective.
Some skeptics argue that God cannot be the standard for morality because of some of His actions in the Bible. What must be noted however is that the skeptic, often a moral relativist, is making a morally objective claim. They claim that the actions of Yahweh are not moral.
But where do they get their standard of morality from? Is it just a matter of individual taste? Is it a matter of societal conditioning? Is it something deeper?
If morality is truly subjective then a person cannot claim that God or anyone else is wrong for what they view as moral or immoral. If I stole your wallet, then you could only say that stealing wallets is wrong for you and that my views are just as valid as yours. But, reality tells a different story. If I stole your wallet, then you would not believe I am wrong, you would know that I am wrong and you would reasonably expect that I should know it is wrong as well. Every fiber of your being would expect that I should know that it is wrong. Therefore, you wouldn’t be indifferent to the theft, you would be angry at the thief. And rightfully so.
In Mere Christianity, chapter 3, C.S. Lewis states there is a difference in the Law of Nature and his Law of Human Nature. The law of nature describes what things do, like a rock falling because of gravity. The Law of Human Nature (or the Moral Law) describes what a person ought to do, regarding ethics and morality. “I am not angry – except perhaps for a moment before I come to my senses – with a man who trips me up by accident; I am angry with a man who tries to trip me up even if he does not succeed. Yet the first has hurt me and the second has not. Sometimes the behavior which I call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite.”
He further states, “If we ask: ‘Why ought I to be unselfish?’ and you reply ‘Because it is good for society’ we may then ask, ‘Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?’ and then you will have to say, ‘Because you ought to be unselfish’ – which simply brings us back to where we started. You are saying what is true but you are not getting any further… If a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no good replying, ‘in order to benefit society,’ for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish (for ‘society’ after all only means ‘other people’), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour. You would have said just as much if you had stopped at the statement, ‘Men ought to be unselfish.’ And that is where I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish; ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish, not that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be.”
Are your feelings the standard? No. There is a standard that you know exists outside of yourself. A standard of how we know we “ought” to act. And others are expected to know this standard also.
“Well, of course. The law of the land and accepted human behavior is the standard. And the law says stealing is wrong,” you may argue. Then, by that same logic, you cannot argue against the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, or any other historical events once deemed lawful.
“Well, I can argue against those because they were crimes being committed against humanity.” So what you’re now saying is that they were violating a moral standard that transcends cultures, nations, and centuries.
We see that we know morality is a real thing that exists outside of ourselves. It is observed by us and known by us but it is a thing outside of us. It is set by a standard that we know we should behave by.
So what is the standard? Does it change?
18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, believed that morality was not subjective but rather objective. That it was an axiom of the metaphysical world. He stated “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” He called this the Categorical Imperative. In other words “Act in a way that all of mankind would benefit if we were to treat each other the same way.” It wouldn’t be ok for everyone to start stealing from each other, so its not ok for one person. Or as Jesus said 1700 years before, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Atheist, Sam Harris said here, “It [the world] needs people like ourselves to admit that there are rightand wrong answers to questions of human flourishing, and morality relates to that domain of facts…” He believes that there is an objective morality. What sets him apart from the Christian worldview is what he believes to be the source of this morality.
According to the atheist, humanity is just a higher evolved species in the animal kingdom. But logic tell us that animals do not act in moral or immoral ways. Each animal just does what is best for his own survival. According to naturalistic atheism, morality is just a construct of evolution; making humans the final authority on what constitutes as morals. So, who then decides? The most powerful? The most logical? The richest? History tells us that these qualifications are still flawed standards for morality.
Our position is that objective morality points to the existence of God.
Because there is a moral law, there must be a Moral Law Giver. God is that moral law Giver. He is the standard and has given us the law. And this law is written on our hearts.
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that the whole law is summed up as “You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” The first four of “the law” (the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20) are of the love of God and the last six are of the love for our fellow man.
What’s important to note is that cultures during different periods of time and in other societies have had similar commands or standards for ethical living. Here are some illustrations:
“I have not slain men” Confession of the Righteous Soul. Ancient Egypt (against murder)
“I saw in Nastrond (Hell) beguilers of others’ wives.” Volospa. Old Norse (against adultery)
“I sought no trickery nor swore false oaths.” Beowulf. Anglo Saxon (against lying)
“Choose loss rather than shameful gains.” Ancient Greece (against stealing)
“Utter not a word by which anyone could be wounded” Law of Manu. Ancient India (against insults)
“You will see them take care of…widows, orphans, and old men, never reproaching them.” Native American (showing charity [love])
This is proof of what Paul tells us in the second chapter of Romans; that even people who do not have the Law written, have the law instinctively. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” (verse 14)
Moral laws are instilled in us because we are created in the image of God. Like God, we love what is good and hate was is evil. God loves what is good because He is good. Goodness is one of His attributes. There is no goodness aside from God. However because of our sinful, fallen nature we often disagree on what is good and what is evil. But the truth remains, we know there is a standard of goodness that transcends time and culture. This Standard is God.