Posts Tagged ‘God in the flesh’

Christ the Creator

Christ the Creator: the Deity of Christ Displayed


© C. O. Bishop 2011

Introduction:

One of the themes of the Bible that is universally rejected by the cults, and perhaps not even well understood by believers, is the question of the Deity of Christ. Some cults have gone so far as to wrongly “re-translate” the whole Bible, trying to eliminate that doctrine from the scriptures. But, even in that deliberate mistranslation, we can demonstrate the deity of Christ. The fact is that the scriptures are so permeated with the Deity of the Messiah that it is impossible to eradicate the doctrine without simply destroying the Bible.

The Word

The Word was and is Godand He is the SonJesus Christ

John 1:1 says the Word was God. That is a key verse, but by no means the only one. Notice that it does not say the Word was a god. There is at least one cult who teaches that that is what is said here. But the deity of Christ is on display throughout the Gospel of John in particular, and is demonstrated throughout the Bible. John goes on to state that the Word is specifically the creator: John 1:3 says he made all things, without exception—all created things are his handiwork. In case we forget who “The Word” really is, John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father. (This means the only begotten Son of God, in case anyone missed it.) John 1:17 names him…it is Jesus Christ.

We have trouble with this concept because it involves the doctrine of the Trinity. I have become convinced over the years that, though we do have all the facts concerning the Trinity, we fall short of understanding the concept. How can three be one…or one be three? There is no question that this is the correct teaching—it is repeated throughout the scriptures. Ironically, even when the scripture is proclaiming the unity of God (Deuteronomy 6:4), the word used for God is “Elohim”—a plural noun, indicating three (Hebrew has singular, dual and plural nouns). When we get as far as Isaiah 9:6, 7 where the promise of the Messiah is repeated, it specifically states that the promised SON shall be called “the everlasting Father”. At that point, remembering that Jesus repeatedly stated that the Father was greater than He, one has two choices: either accept the doctrine as a Divine paradox, to be accepted, but not necessarily understood, or, barring that, to reject it as a contradiction, since we can’t see a way to reconcile the two statements. Unbelievers choke on the mystery and abandon faith. Believers savor the mystery, recognize joyfully that the God of the Universe is certainly going to exceed the understanding of man, and their faith is deepened.

The Word—the Son— is the Creator

Some try to take the doctrine piecemeal, saying that, yes, the Word was God, but that the Father did all the creating through the Son, and that the Son is NOT the Creator. At some point one has to admit that they are splitting hairs, but this one is pretty clear– Hebrews 1:10 states that the heaven and earth are the handiwork of the Son—and it is God the Father speaking to God the Son, confirming that the creative work was his.

Hebrews 11:3 states that the Word of God created the worlds. (I don’t know the significance of the plural, there, unless it is simply recognizing all the heavenly bodies as worlds. Possibly it is a veiled reference to the fact that he also will create the new world that is coming. Remember that the Creator lives outside of Time and Space, so He establishes the eternal “Now.” He could refer to the New Heaven and New Earth in past tense, though, for us, it has not yet happened.)

Colossians 1:16, 17 states that all things were made by him and for him, and that they are, in fact, held together by him. It seems to me that we must guard against limiting any member of the Godhead. In Acts 20:28, the Ephesians elders are given a final commission, and in the midst of it, the statement is made that they are to “…shepherd the Flock of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” There is no mention of the Son in that passage. You can either violate the scripture by adding the Son into it, or accept that it is clear teaching of the trinity—that the Godhead is not divided—that God truly died on the Cross. (Let that one sink in!)

The Word of God is the King of Kings

Jesus stated that ALL authority had been given to him in heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:19) I think we tend to not always believe it when God says “all”— we modify it in our own minds, and make it “most”. Jesus possesses all authority.

Revelation 19:11-16 shows us the returning King, whose name is “The Word of God”…and who holds the title, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”  We are given a panoramic view of the whole spectrum of time, in the Bible. Not only do we see the workings of God from the creation, we see his continuance after the end of time, and we are given hints as to his work before time began. Revelation 13:8 says he is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth. Jesus referred to the “glory he had with the father before the World began.”

Aswe already observed, Isaiah 9:6, 7 states that the Son shall be called The Mighty God, and The Everlasting Father. This is a hard idea to grasp, and I suspect that the Israelites simply brushed over it as un-knowable. I can understand that reaction, as, essentially, that is what I am also forced to do. But they rejected the Deity of the Messiah, when He came. They denied his authority to forgive sin.  In a way, they were logically required to do so, as only the offended party can extend forgiveness. If he is not God, he cannot forgive sins.

Jesus Forgave Sins…which only God can do!

Remember that our sins are an offense to God. (Psalm 51:4) Whenever we sin, we point our fingers in the face of the Eternal God of all time and space, and declare ourselves to be master, thus denying his sovereignty. This is what happens every time we sin, whether we recognize it or not. Whether it is a “big sin”, or a “little sin”, we declare ourselves to be God. We determine that WE are the managers of our lives and that we will do as we please. There is only room for one sovereign, and we declare ourselves to be that sovereign ruler in our little sphere. Thus, God is the offended party—we have usurped his authority, and rebelled against the throne of God.

Please turn to Mark 2:1-12 (read it). When Jesus looked at the paralytic man who had been lowered through the roof, and said “thy sins are forgiven”, the Pharisees were offended, saying, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” And they were right! So Jesus posed the question, “Which is easier to say—‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Rise up and walk’?” Obviously the first statement could be cheap talk…just empty words. When a mere man makes that statement (and the priests of many religions do so), it is just empty words. Men have no such authority, but there is no outward result to determine whether the forgiveness actually took place. The second phrase, however, demands an immediate, visible, physical result. Jesus asked which statement was more demanding of the speaker. The Pharisees wouldn’t answer, so he said to the paralytic man, “Take up your bed and go home.” And the man obeyed. The point was to prove that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. He did not deny that only God can forgive them. He simply proved that he was God.

The Visible, Speaking God in the Old Testament

Throughout the Old Testament, an individual called “the angel of the LORD” frequently appeared. We are not going to read them all right now, but in every case he was subsequently revealed to be the LORD, himself…Jehovah, Yahweh…in visible, physical form. You probably remember some of these accounts:

  • He wrestled with one guy (Jacob), and ended up having to dislocate his hip in order to finally subdue the man. Jacob limped, throughout the rest of his life, as a result of that encounter.
  • Abraham met with three men on the road, at Mamre…and all it says is that The LORD appeared to Abraham… physically. He ate the bread, and beef and milk that Abraham served him…he and the two angels he brought along. He appeared as a physical human being: a man.
  •  (Jeremiah 1:4, 5) (turn there) Jeremiah was spoken to by the LORD, who claimed to have created him…forming him in his mother’s womb, and knowing him before the fact…and choosing him for the task at hand.

So what is unusual about all these appearances? Perhaps just the fact that when Moses asked to see the LORD face to face (Exodus 33:20), he was told “…no man shall see my face and live….” Evidently Moses was talking to God the Father…why? Because John 1:18 agrees, saying, “No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.”

Now; either God’s Word is really inspired or it isn’t. Either John 1:18 is true, and “No man has seen God [the Father] at any time,” or it isn’t true. Since it is true, we can deduce that the person talking to Jeremiah (who is the same one, by the way, as the person who showed up and wrestled with Jacob, talked with Abraham, etc.) must be the Lord Jesus in his pre-incarnate ministry. The Son, the living Word, has been the “spokesman” of the Godhead from the beginning…and the Creator. So the one talking to Jeremiah is the Son, and he says “I made you!” (…and then proceeds to give Jeremiah his marching orders.) The Creator has the authority to order his creation!

Does it really matter?

How should we respond to this information? Does it matter that Jesus was really the creator in the flesh? How would it change things if we saw that Jesus, that man walking the dusty roads of Palestine, 2000 years past, was actually the creator of every molecule of the dust he walked on, as well as the creator of the men who eventually crucified him?

In Romans 12:1-3, Paul has some things to say about that question (read it): he begs us to choose wisely and to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God.  If we are created by Christ, and have become a part of the Body of Christ, does it not follow that we should behave appropriately? That we should willingly present ourselves as the tools for his hands, the vessels for his Grace and Love?

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (read it) states that we have been made ministers (servants) of Christ, and ambassadors for God, with the assigned task of reconciling to Him a lost World. How can that happen if we don’t treat him as the Savior, the Master, and the Blessed Creator?

In John 5:23 Jesus states that we are to honor the Son in the same manner as the Father—and that, if we do not, we are not honoring the Father. What would that look like, “honoring Jesus in the same way as the Father?” How do we tend to think of God the Father? Ultimate authority? Judge of all the earth? Omnipresent, omnipotent master of all the universe? Well, Jesus said (John 5:22) that the Father was NOT judging anyone, but that He had committed all judgment to the Son, so that all men would honor the Son even as they honor the Father—and that if they do not honor the Son, they do not honor the Father who sent him. Beyond that, yes, all of the above is true of the Father—and the Son. But Jesus is the “Judge of all the earth.” (Genesis 18:25)

I would suggest that most humans, even believers, have had a difficult time seeing Jesus as the Creator. Some flatly deny it; some hesitantly agree, but are unsure how it can be so. Some agree whole-heartedly, but still are unrealistic as to what it means. The fact is that we have known Jesus through the eyes of the flesh—we have seen him as a man, and we can’t shake that image. In a way, that is good: Jesus is eternally the God-man—fully God, fully Man. But we have a problem with the “God” part of the picture. I think the Lord understands that. He chided Philip (John 14:8, ff) over that very issue when Philip asked that the disciples might see the Father. He said “Philip, have you been with me so long and yet you do not know me? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!” Somehow, I suspect even that profound statement failed to fully explain to Philip (or most anyone else) how the Son can be the Father. As I mentioned earlier, the Trinity seems to be beyond our grasp…which is as it should be. He is God…we are humans. And yet, something needs to change. Jesus calls on us to see him through the eyes of faith.

2nd Corinthians 5:16 says, “Wherefore, henceforth, know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, henceforth know we Him no more.”

So: what must we change?  

  1. We must confess that, in the past, at least, we have primarily seen Jesus through the eyes of the world, as a mere man, possibly even mythological; or through the eyes of religion, as a demigod, a lesser deity, or a “great Spiritual being”, or a prophet, or perhaps just a great teacher, and an example to live by, but not as The Creator. We have essentially “known Christ after the flesh”. Even when we confess that he is “God in the flesh,” we have not really seen him that way. We still tend to think of him in his humanity.
  • We must consider how one should behave toward the real, eternal God of the real, visible (and invisible) Universe. Consider the difference, if you will, between how the disciples saw Jesus when he was in the bottom of the boat, asleep, and how they saw Him, minutes later, when he had arisen to calm the storm. (Turn to Mark 4:35-41…read it.) Before they awakened Him, they were terribly afraid of the storm: they thought they were going to be drowned. Afterward, they were even more afraid of Him, when they recognized His Deity. Perhaps we could use a good dose of that Godly fear, today. Perhaps that is why Psalm 111:10 states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.” And Psalm 19:9 says that “The Fear of the LORD is clean, enduring Forever.” No one who has truly seen the Lord in His glory has ever treated Him as a mere human afterward.
  • We must confirm His deity by our attitudes and behavior, stepping beyond the casual, familiar, back-slapping, “hail-fellow-well-met” attitude we too frequently seem to apply to Jesus Christ, and start seeing Him as God in the Flesh. Immanuel. God with us. We need to recognize His true authority, and seek to obey Him in all things. He’s not our “buddy”…He is our master.

These are the things that have to change. And, may God help us to do so quickly, as the time is growing short.

Lord Jesus, awaken in us a spirit of worship, and obedience, so that we continually treat you as the Holy God of the universe, not just a distant, powerful ally, and a friend in time of need. Allow us to redeem the time we have left, and apply it to eternity.


Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson Nine

Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson Nine

© C. O. Bishop 2012; Revised 2018

Genesis 18

Introduction:

We have been working our way through Genesis: In this chapter, there are several amazing points for us to consider:

  • One is that God and his angels can show up in human form, indistinguishable from normal humans: they can walk, talk, eat, etc., and pass for humans without question.
  • Another is that Jesus, God the Son, is the only member of the Godhead to show up in visible, human form, and He usually is soon revealed for who he is. He has not come to deceive us, in any way, but rather to communicate on the level of a human.
  • Jesus is the Communication of God…the Word, incarnate: He “declares God.”
  • Jesus is also the Judge of all the Earth, not just the Savior of the World.

Genesis 18

“The LORD appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre.” This clearly says Abraham was talking to God. We may feel a slight problem with that, because when Moses asked to see God’s face, God said, “No man can see my face and live…” and the Gospel of John (John 1:18) confirms that, but explains briefly, by saying “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared him.” So we conclude that this was God the Son, declaring and revealing the Father, as he has done throughout all the ages.

This concept is called a “Christophany”—a pre-incarnate appearance of the Christ: God the Son. There are others…the one who most frequently appears, though, is the individual called “the Angel of the LORD.” In every case, when the “angel of the LORD” (not “an” angel of the Lord) appears, it turns out to be the LORD himself…when he speaks, it simply says, “The LORD said…” That is what happened in this particular case, too:

Abraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent, in the shade, as it was hot out. Three men appeared on the road. Abraham saw them and ran to meet them. He was courteous and hospitable toward these three strangers, and he begged them to accept his hospitality: he offered to feed them, and they accepted his offer. Then, as they ate, he stood by them and served them. He offered them freshly cooked beef with freshly baked flat-bread, cooked beside the fire, and butter, and milk…possibly other things, but we are only told those four items. And they ate…which is interesting to me, considering who they turned out to be: Then they spoke up and he began to find that he had literally been entertaining God, and, evidently, two angelic beings as well. Let’s see how Abraham responded to them (watch the changing pronouns, here, too):

God Incarnate; the Living Word

(v.9, 10) They said “Where is Sarah, thy wife?”  He (Abraham) said, “…in the tent.” Then, HE (God) said, “I will certainly return next year and your wife, Sarah shall have a son.”

From that point on, it is this spokesman, alone, who speaks with Abraham. Bear in mind that, in John 1:1, Jesus is referred to as the “Word.” It says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A few verses later, in John 1:14, it says “and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.” Finally, in John 1:18, he says, “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the father, he hath declared him.” What a powerful revelation concerning all the appearances of God in the Old Testament!

Jesus is, and always has been, the communicator of the God-head: the one who “declared” God. So, this is Jesus, speaking as God, and declaring His Divine intent for Abraham’s life. He is the incarnate God, God-in-the-flesh, and he has appeared periodically throughout human history. It was He who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, and met with Adam and Eve. It was He who wrestled with Jacob, and met with the parents of Samson. He is the One who fully communicates God to man, and, according to the book of Colossians, in Him the entire Godhead dwells in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9)

The Omnipotence and Omniscience of Christ

Notice, too, that Sarah also heard the voice of God, promising that she would soon be pregnant with her only son, and, (just as Abraham had earlier done, openly) she laughed inwardly at the thought, thinking “After I am this old, and my lord (husband) is even older, I’m going to have a son?”  Notice that she evidently made no sound! But God heard it anyway: He spoke and challenged her, saying “Why did Sarah laugh?” She was afraid, and tried to deny it, saying “I didn’t laugh!”, but God (in the Person of Christ) said, “No, you did laugh!” Knowing her thoughts shows that Christ is all-knowing: Omniscient. The fulfillment of the Promise (later) demonstrates that he is all-powerful: Omnipotent, as well as Trustworthy: He keeps His Word.

It might seem a small thing, but this is actually why Isaac was named Isaac! Isaac means “He Laughs!” It was God’s little “the joke’s on you!” response to their temporary unbelief. I like this because it shows that God has a sense of humor. Every time they called Isaac’s name, for the rest of their lives, they would remember why he held that name. I also like the fact that they were not rebuked for their initial response. God knows our limitations.

This is a good reminder for us, that The Lord has no trouble reading our thoughts exactly. Every thought is open to His observation, examination, and appraisal. What kind of thought-life are we practicing? This is the reason why, over in 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5, he says that we have been equipped (as believers) to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” It is something to think about, isn’t it? Maybe we ought to take that more seriously.

Judgment is Coming

(v.16-33) The three “men” got up from the meal, and headed toward Sodom. Abraham, gracious host to the end, walked with them to see them on their way. The LORD (remember, this is Jesus) volunteered to share His plan with Abraham, saying “I know that Abraham will keep my word, and will teach his children to keep my word.” Jesus wants us to know His will and His plan, but it may depend upon our being willing to obey Him, and follow His will for us.

God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, for their extreme sin. To me, this is a very sobering passage, as I see our nation (and indeed, our current world) sliding deeper and deeper into the very kinds of sin that Sodom and Gomorrah were famous for, as well as the violence that covered the earth before the flood. How long can we expect the judgment of God to tarry? It may be instructive to compare the old judgment (the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.) with judgments yet to come (The Great Tribulation, Armageddon, etc), and see whether there are other parallels. (Both texts are in the Bible: I am not suggesting that we have “figured out” the future of our country or any such thing.)

To begin with, it is good to notice that Abraham did not say, “Well, good! It’s about time you burned those nasty sinners out!”, but rather, he was immediately concerned for any righteous who might still be living there. We may assume he was primarily concerned for his kinsman, Lot, but he started with the premise that there might be fifty righteous there. Apparently he had a pretty good idea what the city was like, if he thought fifty might be the maximum. He also recognized that God has the right to judge sin, and did not complain that God was “being too harsh” on sin, but was simply fearful that those who were believers might be destroyed with those who had fully rejected the authority of God. Meanwhile, the two other characters (angelic beings, who simply looked like humans, at this time) took off toward Sodom, and the LORD was left alone with Abraham.

It is interesting to note, in verse 25, that Abraham addressed the LORD as “the Judge of all the Earth,” and protested that destroying the righteous with the unrighteous was not something he would expect from the righteous Judge. Let’s stop a moment and be reminded of just who the Righteous Judge, the “Judge of all the Earth” had to be: Turn to John 5:22, and see that Jesus said “…The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son….” Jesus is the Eternal Judge, as well as the only Savior! He truly is “God in the flesh!”

God said “If there are fifty righteous, I will spare the whole place!” Abraham kept “whittling” the number down, and even at ten, God said he would spare the whole place for the sake of ten righteous. But at that point God broke off the conversation, and left. The fact is: God already knew how many were there who would respond to Him at all. That is why he sent two angels, rather than only one: one alone could easily have destroyed the cities, but they had to drag out four people, to salvage them from the destruction: so, one hand for each human: two angels!

Bear in mind, through this entire exchange, that it was the Lord Jesus who was speaking with Abraham. Abraham was correctly addressing Him as the Judge, and begging him to save the righteous. Think back to Genesis 15:6, and remember that God declares a person righteous, only on the basis of faith! Abraham was praying for the believers!

We believers pray for our nation, our leaders, the various peoples of the World, and for Israel, knowing that judgment is coming. The fact that we know judgment is coming does not render our prayers ineffectual or hopeless. 2nd Peter 3:9 says that the reason God is taking his time about judging this world is that He is being very patient, and giving people the opportunity to repent. Sodom apparently had simply run out of time, and God’s judgment finally fell.

Judgment is coming in our world as well, and we are acting as God’s ambassadors, attempting to offer reconciliation and salvation to any who will accept God’s terms. How do we do it?

Bad News and Good News

The word “Gospel” means “good news,” but we need to remember that part of the Gospel is the Bad News: the bad news of sin and the coming Judgment. Virtually all “good news” is predicated upon at least the previous possibility of something “bad” that either did not happen (hence the good news) or which did happen, requiring that we hope for Good News of a remedy of some sort.

I frequently cite the example of the “Good News” from a number of years ago, when Australian medical researchers had developed a “catch-all” antivenin, which would serve as the antidote for 85 different varieties of venomous snakes on that continent. So what was the bad news, obviously? They have at least 85 different kinds of venomous snakes in Australia! (Yow! Yes, that’s bad news!) Actually, I looked it up more recently, and, it turns out, that if we count sea-snakes, they actually have 140 varieties of venomous snakes there, but that “only” about a dozen of ‘em are regularly a hazard to humans. (Oh! Well, then, that’s not so bad, right?)

If we hear that the “…huge fires over in the wheat fields have been brought under control,” that is good news, but only because it is predicated upon the bad news that there were “huge fires in the wheat fields!” Do you see what a completely foolish thing it is, to attempt to preach the “good news” of the Gospel without also explaining the “bad news” of our sin, and the coming judgment of God upon sin? Why would someone who believes themselves to be righteous see any need for a savior?

The entire message of the Bible is this one central theme of God’s redemptive plan for fallen mankind: The Person and Work of Christ. If it were not for the fact that we are a fallen race, there would be no need for a Savior; no need for a Redeemer!

The story began back in Genesis 3, and continues through the entire Bible, culminating in Christ, both in the Gospels and in the Revelation. The last plea for the lost is made in the last few verses of the Revelation, inviting “whosoever will” to freely come. But all the way along, God makes it clear that we are a lost race, because of sin, and that no one is excluded from that condemnation. Our only hope, to be freed from our lost position in Adam is to be transferred into a safe position in Christ. Just as we saw Noah, safe, only because of his position inside the Ark, we are invited to receive God’s redemptive plan, and take up a new, safe position: in Christ.

I don’t usually feel the need to tell someone that they are a sinner: very likely they already know that. But I do tell them that I am a sinner, so they know I am not looking down on them in any way; that I am just a beggar, telling another beggar where to find free food. I am just one sinner, saved, and telling another sinner where to find the Savior.

If they fail to see themselves as a sinner, and they actually verbalize that idea, I can outline the sort of thing that God calls sin; every little selfish motive or angry thought is a symptom of the fatal disease called Sin. I can show them, from God’s Word, that every single human is a sinner, and needs a Savior. He says, “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” I can tell them the rest of the bad news, that Judgment is coming: God says, “The wages of sin is Death.” But I can finish with the Good News that Jesus Saves! “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” I can explain that we are “saved by Grace, through Faith”: specifically, “faith in His shed blood at the Cross.” We trust in His finished work, for our salvation.

If they are at all interested, then, I can share with them Jesus’s promise that “he that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him who sent me, hath everlasting life (now) and shall not come into condemnation (ever), but has crossed over from death into life.” (It’s a done deal!)

Conclusion

That is really all I have to offer. Paul said, when he arrived in Corinth, that he was determined to “know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He had seen how all the philosophical preaching he had done in Athens had really accomplished very little. So: in the next town, which was Corinth, he simplified his message, and went “back to the basics.”

I think that we need to take a similar approach, and not muddy the waters with our clever ideas, but just try to share the simple message of salvation from Sin, and the promise of eternal life, directly from God’s Word.

Lord Jesus, open our hearts to the lost around us, and give us the compassion and courage to share with them the Bad News and the Good News of your salvation. Make us a light to those around us, and let us serve you faithfully.