Thursday, March 22, 2018

Who Is Jesus?

Answers to the question "Who is Jesus?"
fall into four main categories
among those who profess to be believers:

1. Eternal God the Son - the traditional Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant view.
2. A created being, an angel, possibly Michael the Archangel - Jehovah's Witnesses view.
3. Son of God, Begotten before time - "Preexistent Begotteness" view.
4. Christ/Messiah, Begotten in time - "Conception Christology" view.

Arguments for "Conception Christology"

1. The Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) give no clue that the Messiah pre-existed with God in eternity past.
2. Think Jewish! As a corollary of the above, the Jews did not believe that their Messiah dwelt in eternity past with God. They expected one like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18), a prophet, to rise up from the line of David. It is from history that they accepted other human beings as potential Messiahs. If, therefore, the Messiah was a pre-existent spiritual being, the Gospel writers and apostles should clearly have corrected Jewish thinking on this. They did not.
3. The synoptic Gospels and Acts give not the faintest hint that anyone thought Jesus to have preexisted his birth. There is no hint of incarnation. Conception, for Matthew and Luke, is the begetting or beginning of Jesus.
4. Luke 1:35 - "The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.'"

There is a causal clause here; Jesus is "Son of God" because, or the reason that, he was uniquely conceived in history by the Holy Spirit, not because he had pre-existed as somehow begotten in the heavenlies in eternity past.

5. The point of John's prologue (John 1:1-18) and "the Word became flesh" is that the impersonal became personal n the birth of God’s anointed one [Messiah] Jesus; that is, "an impersonal personification became embodied as a human being." Logos was not understood by the Jews as a person but as a plan, as the wisdom of God (cf. Proverbs 8:1-36), His counsel, His self-expressive activity. The meaning of John 1:1-3 is thus as follows:

"In the beginning was the creative purpose of God. It was with God and was fully expressive of God. All things came into being through it ..."

Like a building constructed from an architect's idea, Jesus is the plan of God "fleshed out."

6. The pre-existence of God’s anointed one [Messiah] Jesus is only in the foreknowledge of God. I Peter 1:20 - "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who, through him are believers in God who raised him from the dead ..." The few references in scripture that indicate previous existence or glory of God’s anointed one [Messiah] Jesus (e.g. John 17:5, 24) are "prophetic pasts" (i.e. future at the time spoken, but past in the sense that they are determined in the counsels of God) much like God's words to Abraham "To your descendants I have given this land," (Genesis 15:18) when Abraham at that time had neither descendants nor a square inch of soil).
7. John's statements about Jesus having "descended from heaven" (3:13) or "coming down from heaven" (6:38) are no more literal, than the idea that the manna from heaven which the Israelites ate, fell down through the skies.

Cf. James 1:17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of ... lights" (NIV).

8. The "sending" or commissioning of Jesus to do what was required of the Messiah does not require pre-existence. The prophets and John the Baptist were also "sent from God" (cp. John 1:6).
9. Jesus being "before" John the Baptist (John 1:15) or Abraham (8:58) reflects his superiority in the plan of God, not his chronological place in human history.
10. Allusions to the role of God’s anointed one [Messiah] Jesus in creation means that Jesus was the central purpose for all creation, even though he did not yet exist. In some passages, the spiritual creation (God's people) rather than physical creation is in view. The Old Testament teaches that the Father alone created the world (Isaiah 44:24).

by Wanda Shirk edited by Bruce Lyon

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Salvation in No Other Name

Salvation in No Other Name
In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet the question is asked, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” I whole-heartedly agree with Shakespeare’s sentiment here. It really matters little what we call a rose. Call it whatever you will and it will still look beautiful and smell beautiful. But when it comes to spiritual matters the question “What is in a name?” begs a totally different answer. The name means everything especially when it comes to the name by which we are saved! Concerning the name of our lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter proclaims that,

“... there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, all verses are from the NKJV).
The name and titles of our lord Jesus Christ are all God given, and they reveal to us much about who Jesus is and what he has accomplished. In fact God declares what His Son’s name is to be even before he is born. An angel is sent to Joseph and says to him,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for He will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).

Jesus, the name of our Lord, is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yehoshua, meaning “Yehovah is salvation” or “Yehovah saves.” The very name “Jesus” stamps our lord as our savior. Jesus is God’s divinely sent and appointed Rescuer, whose job it was to deliver us from the power and penalty of our sins. He came to die on a cross as the payment for our sins, sins that alienated us from God. Now, through him we have peace with God and victory over the power of sin. It was no accident that our lord was called “Jesus.”

Nor was it an accident that he was called “Christ.” At one point in his ministry Jesus asks his disciples,

“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16: 13, 16).

“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, it is a title. It is from the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “Messiah” which means “the anointed one.” In the Old Testament the practice of anointing someone set him apart for a special job or office. The anointing was connected with the role of the prophet, priest and king.

Elijah was instructed to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place (1 Kings 19:16). The prophet was anointed with oil symbolizing that God’s Spirit was upon him and that he spoke for God. Jesus the anointed one [Messiah] is God’s ultimate prophet. A prophecy in Isaiah concerning God’s anointed one says:

“The Spirit of Yehovah GOD is upon me, Because Yehovah has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of Yehovah…” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).

This is exactly what Jesus God’s anointed [Messiah] one did (Luke 4:16-21). The writer to the Hebrews said:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His son … (Hebrews 1: 1, 2).

Jesus is God’s ultimate prophet who brings to us the good news of salvation.

The anointing was also connected to the office of the priest. God commanded that the priests should be anointed and consecrated, and sanctified so that they should minister to him (Exodus 28:41). Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is God’s final High Priest. Hebrews 9:11 says:
“.. God’s anointed one came as High Priest of the good things to come…”
As our High Priest Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] brought us eternal redemption. As High Priest he not only offered up a sacrifice to God for sins, he was the sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12-14)! And even now he constantly intercedes for you and me.

Note: “because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24, 25).

Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is always interceding for you! What a comforting and encouraging truth.

Above all else, the anointing was connected with the office of the king. When the prophet Samuel saw young David, God told him, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!" (1 Samuel 16:12). Our Lord Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is “King of Kings and lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16). When the angel went to Mary he said of Jesus:

“He will be great, and will be called the son of the Highest; and Yehovah God will give him the throne of his father David … and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32, 33)

Our lord Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is God’s ultimate prophet, priest and king. He makes known the way of salvation. He opens it up to all by his sacrifice on the cross. And he will return again in glory to set up the kingdom of God forever!

All of the names and titles of Jesus of Nazareth reveal to us his person and work and accomplishments. Jesus is “the lamb of God.” He is “the bread of life.” He is “the light of the world,” and the “resurrection and the life.” Jesus is the “Prince of life,” the “Judge of the living and the dead.” Our lord is the “Apostle” and “forerunner” of our faith. God’s anointed one [Messiah] is the “beloved” and the “head.” Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is the “mediator” between God and men. He is the “bright and morning star,” and so much more!”  But most of all Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] is “lord.”

Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9- 11).

What is in a name? The answer is that in the name and titles of our lord Jesus God’s anointed one [Messiah] there is the knowledge of forgiveness of sins, true love, joy and the hope of eternal life for all who put their trust in him for salvation. As the song says:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, Fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.

John 1:29; 6:35; 8:25; 11:25; Acts 3:15; 10:42; Hebrews 3:1; 6:20; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:19; I Timothy 2:5; Revelation 22:16.

Written by Chuck LaMattina, edited by Bruce Lyon

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Sovereignty of God

The Sovereignty of God
by Richie Temple Cary

There are few Biblical subjects more fundamental to a proper understanding of the Bible than the recognition of Yehovah’s sovereign rule over all. This idea is stated repeatedly in the Bible and underlies almost all of its records, principles and promises for Yehovah’s people. The Bible is the story or record of what Yehovah, the creator of the heavens and earth, has done, is doing and will do in history. This principally involves the bringing to pass of his plan of salvation for mankind - all to his own glory. This plan of salvation is an all-encompassing concept and includes: Yehovah’s reasons for creation, His dealings with the OT patriarchs, the OT nation of Israel, the life and accomplishments of Jesus the Messiah, the NT called-out assembly of the body of the Messiah and the final outworking of Yehovah’s purposes brought to pass by the second coming of His anointed one and the ultimate establishment of His sovereign reign in "a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

In all of this it is Yehovah Himself who is at work to bring to pass His own plan "in conformity with the purpose of His will" (Ephessians 1:11).

Perhaps, the central idea that must be grasped in all of this is the understanding of the concept of God's "kingdom" as it is presented in the Bible. The NT scholar G.E. Ladd explains in his book The Gospel of the Kingdom (Eerdmans) what is meant by this Biblical word "kingdom:"
We must set aside our modern idiom if we are to understand Biblical terminology. The primary meaning of both the Hebrew word malkuth [kingdom] in the Old Testament and of the Greek word basileia [kingdom] in the New Testament is the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. A basileia may indeed be a realm over which a sovereign exercises his authority; and it may be the people who belong to that realm and over whom authority is exercised; but these are secondary and derived meanings. First of all, a kingdom is the authority to rule, the sovereignty of the king...

When the word refers to Yehovah’s kingdom, it always refers to His reign, His rule, His sovereignty ... Psalm 103:19, "Yehovah has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all." Yehovah’s kingdom, His malkuth, is His universal rule, His sovereignty over all the earth. Psalm 145:13, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations" ... It is Yehovah’s rule which is everlasting.

When we pray, "Your kingdom come," are we praying for heaven to come to earth? In a sense we are praying for this; but heaven is an object of desire only because the reign of Yehovah is to be more perfectly realized then than it is now. Therefore, what we pray for is, "Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This prayer is a petition for Yehovah to reign, to manifest His kingly sovereignty and power, to put to flight every enemy of righteousness and of His divine rule, that Yehovah alone may be King over all the world.

However, a reign without a realm in which it is exercised is meaningless. Thus we find that the Kingdom of Yehovah is also the realm in which Yehovah's reign may be experienced. But again the facts are not so simple. Sometimes the Bible speaks of the Kingdom as the realm into which we enter as present, sometimes as though it were future ...
Fundamentally, as we have seen, the Kingdom of Yehovah is Yehovah's sovereign reign; but Yehovah’s reign expresses itself in different stages through redemptive history. Therefore, men may enter into the realm of Yehovah's reign in its several stages of manifestation and experience the blessings of His reign in differing degrees. Yehovah's Kingdom is the realm of the Age to Come...; then we shall realize the blessings of His Kingdom (reign) in the perfection of their fullness. But the Kingdom is here now. There is a realm of spiritual blessing into which we may enter today and enjoy in part but in reality the blessings of Yehovah's Kingdom (reign).

We pray, "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The confidence that this prayer is to be answered when Yehovah brings human history to the divinely ordained consummation enables the Christian to retain his balance and sanity of mind in this mad world in which we live. Our hearts go out to those who have no such hope. Thank Yehovah, His Kingdom is coming, and it will fill all the earth [pp. 19-23].

The sovereignty of Yehovah is shown throughout the Bible to include Yehovah's rule over both His creation and over time itself. The NIV does a particularly good job of emphasizing Yehovah's sovereignty over His creation in the translation of various titles for Yehovah. I will let the translators themselves explain in their book The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation (Zondervan):

Because for most readers today the phrases "Yehovah of hosts" and "God of hosts" have little meaning, this version renders them "Yehovah Almighty" and "Yehovah Almighty." These renderings convey the sense of the Hebrew, namely, "He who is sovereign over all the 'hosts' (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the 'hosts' (armies) of Israel." For readers unaquainted with Hebrew this does not make clear the distinction between Sabaoth ("hosts" or "Almighty") and Shaddai (which can also be translated "Almighty"), but the latter occurs infrequently and is always footnoted ...

... The Hebrew for "hosts" can refer to (1) human armies (Exodus 7:4; Psalm 44:9); (2) the celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Isaiah 40:26); or (3) the heavenly creatures such as angels (Joshua 5:14; I Kings 22:19; Psalm 148:2). The title,"Yehovah of hosts," is perhaps best understood as a general reference to the sovereignty of Yehovah over all powers in the universe (hence the NIV rendering, "the LORD Almighty") ...

[OT scholar] Kiss ... maintains...The primary idea of Yehovah in Israel is that Yehovah is Lord and King of the whole universe ... according to the Old Testament view, there are different powers in the world - angels, hosts of stars, cosmic and natural powers - which are organized like an army. Above them all reigns Yehovah. He is the God of gods.... the "almighty Lord"... is a 'royal' concept stressing the kingship of Yahweh.
[OT scholar] Hartley concurs with this analysis of the epithet:

... [Yahweh Sabaoth] affirms His universal rulership that encompasses every force or army, heavenly, cosmic and earthly ... Psalm 24:10 clearly shows that 'Yehovah of hosts' conveys the concept of glorious king. Yehovah is King of the world (cf. Zechariah 14:16) and over all the kingdoms of the earth (Isaiah 37:16) ... Although the title has military overtones, it points directly to Yehovah’s rulership over the entire universe ... [pp. 109-110].

This same understanding of Yehovah's absolute sovereignty is carried over into the NT by the use of such titles as "Yehovah, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of Lords" (I Timothy 6:15) and in the use of OT titles such as "Lord Almighty" and "God Almighty" in various places. In the NT, however, a great deal of emphasis is also placed on God's sovereignty over time. Much of this takes place in the light of the background of the OT Book of Daniel where Yehovah is shown to be sovereign over all earthly kingdoms and will bring about the glorious victory of His own kingdom according to His own timetable. In his book Christ and Time (Westminster, pp. 49-50), NT scholar Oscar Cullman pointed out the significance of Yehovah's sovereignty over time:

The terminology of the New Testament teaches us that ... time in its unending extension as well as its individual periods and moments is given by God and ruled by him. Therefore all his acting is so inevitably bound up with time that time is not felt to be a problem. It is rather the natural presupposition of all that Yehovah causes to occur. This explains the fact that in a great majority of cases the terminology of the Primitive Christian writings has a time reference. Each individual item of the redemptive history has its fixed place in time [e.g. Galatians 4:4; Mark 1:15; Romans 5:6; 8:18; Acts1:7; 2:23; 3:21; 17:26; Ephesians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:6; I Timothy 6:15; etc.]

I will let the Scriptures have the last word:

... It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority .....

... which Yehovah will bring about in His own time - Yehvoah, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone is immortal and Who lives in unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen