Christianity 201

April 11, 2018

When Did Time Begin?

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NIV John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

NIV Col 1:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

This topic came into greater focus for me back in 2012, when Wheaton College professor John Walton, author of The Lost World of Genesis One (and now a number of other “Lost World” books in a series) was a guest on the Phil Vischer Podcast. I wrote about that here at this article.

Another topic, which is of course quite related is studies into what theologians refer to as “the pre-incarnate Christ.” A book I always wanted to read on this topic is Ron Rhodes’ Christ Before the Manger: The Life and Times of the Preincarnate Christ (Baker, 1992). I recently got my hands on a copy and this short introduction turns up in chapter two.

When Did Time Begin?

Related to the issue of the preexistence and eternality of Christ is this question: When did time begin? Scripture is not clear about the relationship between time and eternity. Some prefer to think of eternity as time – a succession of moments – without beginning or ending. However, there are indications in Scripture that time itself may be a created reality, a reality that began when God created the universe.

The book of Hebrews contains some hints regarding the relationship between time and eternity. Hebrews 1:2 tells us that the Father “has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe(italics added). The last part of this verse is rendered more literally from the Greek, “through whom he made the ages.Likewise, Hebrews 11:3 tells us that “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command” (italics added). This is more literally from the Greek, “By faith we understand that the ages were formed at God’s command.”

Scholars have grappled with what may be meant here by the term “ages.” Lutheran scholar R. C. H. Lenski says the term means “not merely vast periods of time as mere time, but ‘eons’ with all that exists as well as all that transpires in them.” New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce says that “the whole created universe of space and time is meant.” From this verse, theologian John MacArthur concludes that “Jesus Christ is responsible for creating not only the physical earth but also time, space, force, action and matter. The writer of Hebrews does not restrict Christ’s creation to this earth; he shows us that Christ is the Creator of the entire universe and of existence itself. And Christ made it all without effort.”

Church father and philosopher Augustine (A.D. 354-430) held that the universe was not created in time, but that time itself was created along with the universe. Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof agrees, and concludes: “It would not be correct to assume that time was already in existence when God created the world, and that He at some point in that existing time, called ‘the beginning,’ brought forth the universe. The world was created with time rather than in time. Back of the beginning mentioned in Genesis 1:1 lied a beginningless eternity.”

In view of the above, we may conclude that when the apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1), the phrase in the beginning has specific reference to the beginning of time when the universe was created. When the time-space universe came into being, Christ the divine Word was already existing in a loving, intimate relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

(pp 36-37)

February 8, 2017

Christ as Seen in Ephesians

Today we’re again paying a return visit to Robert Lloyd Russell’s blog. He is one of the most faithful and disciplined online Bible study writers I’m aware of. My hope is that when you’re finished today’s short reading, you’ll click through and look at both the content he offers and the way the studies are organized.

This is reprinted from “Abundant Life Now,” a free blog which offers inspiring moments, thought-provoking comments, and solid Biblical insight at http://RobertLloydRussell.blogspot.com/ .

Christ in Ephesians

~ Jesus Christ Is Cornerstone of The New Temple and the Head of His Church ~

The Bible is about Jesus Christ ~ “Jesus said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

Jesus Christ in the Book of Ephesians ~ As the Head of the Church Jesus Christ is the Giver of ministry gifts, the Christ of unsearchable riches, and our glorious treasure. He is also our Reconciler, and Heavenly King.

The Old Testament anticipated that the Messiah would be a Temple builder. Jesus Christ has come and is building a temple—but not a physical bricks-and-mortar temple. He is the chief corner stone and the foundation has been built with the apostles, prophets. His saints (both Jewish believers and Gentile believers) are completing this most important of all temples.

Now, therefore, you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Comment ~ We have only touched the surface of Christ in the book of Ephesians. The Apostle Paul told us the Scriptures present many shadows of things to come but the reality is found in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:17).

Compare the Following Passages:

Ephesians 5:31 with Genesis 2:24

Ephesians 6:2-3 with Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16

You’re invited to read one of the O.T. articles in this series: Christ in the Book of Joshua. (The entire series is linked in the page’s left sidebar.)

October 16, 2016

The God-Man, Jesus Christ

by Russell Young

The mutuality of Christ, being very God and very man, with the implications attached can be very confusing.  The Word reveals that he is God. (Jn 1:1─5, 14, 3:13, 31; Col 1:15─20; Hebrews 1) He was also man.  He was born of Mary and the witness of his living presence among humankind reveals his humanity.

Jesus was made in the flesh just like everyone who walks this earth. The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17 NIV) Jesus cannot be seen as having any characteristics or abilities beyond those of created humankind.  He did not have the power to escape his enemies, or to create objects that would better his life.  He could not heal or avoid injury or sickness.  He could not supernaturally avoid sinning.  He was made like humans in every way.  This is the Jesus who was raised by Mary and Joseph.

The thought should not be entertained that the Lord possessed any special power that would grant him victory over sin.  The Word tells us that he suffered with temptations.  “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) The Lord understands the trials we face and the issues of the flesh.  He knows! To be knowledgeable of the issues of humanity is part of the reason that he was incarnated in the flesh.  Because he understands, the excuses that will be offered at his judgment seat will be dealt with according to his understanding and all that has been provided.

How is it that he was without sin while the rest of humankind submit to its call?  First, he is the Son of his heavenly Father. The soul of Christ was of his Father, as were his interests and his disposition. Unlike those who have been born of their father, Adam, his interests and heart were in tune with those of his Father. The descendants of Adam have the heart of Adam.  The heart of humans has become afflicted with self-interest and all that such interest entails. It was the heart and soul of Jesus as his Father’s Son that made him unique and encouraged his fight for victory.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) He was not sinless because he possessed a supernatural ability to defeat sin; he was sinless because he sought to honor his Father and because he earnestly and reverently prayed for victory. Had his heart not been fully committed to loving his Father, he might also have sinned and his death would have resulted. The Lord’s commitment for victory over sin needs to be acknowledged. It was the application of his will toward obedience to the Father he loved, rather than to self, that provided victory. His heart and soul gained him victory over the flesh that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary.

Although Jesus was God, his godly power was not made available until his baptism.  “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:11 NIV) His Father had been “well pleased” because his obedience was complete and his heart fully set on his Father and upon loving and honouring him.  According to Luke, following his baptism he was filled with the Spirit and went into the wilderness for testing.  When he returned to Galilee it was by the power of the Spirit. (Lk 4:14)

Prior to the gifting of the Holy Spirit Jesus was godlike in soul only; following that gifting, he became godlike in Spirit as well.  He had all of the power of God available to him, in addition to the soul and heart of the Father.  At his resurrection the flesh that made him the Son of Man was left behind.

The redeemed should never excuse themselves for sinning.  They have all of the power for victory that Jesus had as he walked this earth and more than he had in the years before his baptism.  It is the darkness of a person’s soul and lack of love for the Father and for his Son, their lord and savior, that prevents a righteous walk. Peter said that “His divine power [his Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) The same Spirit that Christ had is the Spirit that indwells all who would call Christ lord and who desire to be transformed into his likeness.

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. (Jn 4:34, 8:28─29) He loved his Father and it was for this reason that he was fully obedient, even unto death on the cross.  As he entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion, he knew what lay before him, but he also knew what lay on the other side.  He would be gloriously united with his Father.  It was because of his great love that he would say while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46 NIV) He was anguished in soul because of the pain, the load of sin that he bore, and the horrible separation from his Father that it had caused.

Adoration and wonder should overwhelm humankind knowing that the Lord has walked the walk that the rest of humankind has been unable to achieve.  As man his accomplishments in the flesh should cause all people to look to him in awe and with gratitude. Our sin that he bore and which separated him from the Father whom he loved so dearly should cause us grief.  His resurrected life which bears the power of God for victory over sin for those who obey him should cause rejoicing.

He is the God-Man Jesus Christ!

August 4, 2012

Does the New Testament Refer to Jesus as God?

Wow! I feel like I walked in on some larger discussion, and yet I felt compelled to share this here with C201 readers.  The blogger is Bobby Valentine and the blog is called Stoned-Campbell Disciple. (I searched the phrase and I have no idea; but the blog post is viable so we’re including it today.) I’ll run an update when I’ve got that part figured out.  Here’s the link if you want to go direct; I’m also planning to include this writer’s work at Thinking Out Loud in the future. Some of this may be over your head, but I hope you feel drawn into the subject as I was.

This post has a very limited goal.  I do not intend to settle all questions that have been discussed by the Church down through the years.  I do not intend to discuss the great Creeds of the Church that confess that Jesus is “true God of true God.”  I intend to examine only texts that call or seem to call (directly) Jesus “God.”  This, however, is not the total picture of the NT when it comes to the “deity” of Jesus — that would demand a much more comprehensive article.  But I thought it worth the effort to put this post together.

A COUPLE TEXTS THAT IMPLY JESUS WAS GOD

1) Acts 20.28: “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers to feed the church of God which He obtained with his own blood.”

The crucial words are ten ekklesian tou theou hen periepoiesato dia tou haimatos tou idiou.  There are two problems with this text being “conclusive” in calling Jesus “God.”  One concerns a textual varient and the other concerns a grammatical matter.  1) “Church of God” is the best attested reading — and is likely the original reading.  However, the variant reads “the church of the Lord” which is attested to by A, D, and late/minor versions.  According to the rules of textual criticism we go with the more difficult reading.  “Church of God” is not only more difficult, it also better attested and is regarded as original by most scholars.  2) It is possible that theos refers to the Father and idios refers to the Son.  This is not likely — but it must be acknowledged as a “possibility.”  Alexander Campbell in his Living Oracles opted for “church of the Lord” on the basis of the textual evidence in his day – he was driven by textual evidence and not dogmatic concerns.

But in my opinion Acts 20.28 likely refers to Jesus as “God” but it is not beyond challenge.  Not a good challenge — but a possible one.

2) John 1.18: “No one has ever seen God; it is God the only Son, ever at the Father’s side, who has revealed Him.” (NIV)

That John 1.18 truly calls Jesus “God” has gained in scholarly support by the discovery of Bodmer papyri which dates to around 200 A.D.  There are two major possibilities because of the textual witness.  1) [ho] monogenes theos, “God the Only Son” or as some mistranslate it as “only-begotten” God” (as in the KJV).  This is the strongest reading.  It is supported by the best Greek manuscripts (including Bodmer), it is attested in the Syriac, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.  Because of the dates of ! most
of these witnesses it cannot be claimed the text was altered in the face of the Arian heresy.  2) mongenes huios, “the Son, the only one.”  This reading is supported by the Old Latin and Curetonian Syriac and later Greek mss.  A poorly attested to reading and not likely original.

In my opinion it is difficult to deny that John 1.18 calls Jesus “God.”

3) Titus 2.13 “awaiting our blessed hope and the appearance of the glory of (the) great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”  The crucial phrase is “epiphaneian tes doxes megalou theou kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou.”   The “problem” with this text is not textual, rather there is a question of syntax.  The most obvious meaning of the Greek is offered in my rendering above. It implies that the passage is speaking of only one epiphany, that is of Jesus Christ.  This agrees with other references to the epiphany of Jesus Christ in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 6.14-15; 2 Tim. 4.1).  That “Savior” is applied to Christ rather than the Father is suggested by the next verse of Titus (2.14) which speaks of the redemption brought forth by Jesus.  The other interpretation of this text, one that seems forced (but it is a possibility) is that Paul refers to God (the Father) and then the Savior (Jesus Christ).

Scholars like Raymond Brown and Oscar Cullman take the interpretation I have offered.  I am convinced that this text calls Jesus “God.”

There are other texts that imply Jesus is God (i.e. 2 Pet. 1.1) but I want to move on to those . . .

TEXTS THAT CLEARLY CALL JESUS “GOD”

There are many texts that imply Jesus is divine but I have limited myself to the usage of the word “theos“.

1) Hebrews 1.8-9: The author says that God has spoken of Jesus his Son in the words of Ps. 45.6-7 “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever  . . .”  The psalm is cited according to the LXX and not the Hebrew text (an important point in this text, btw).  The question to determine is whether “ho theos” is a nominative or a vocative.  A few scholars have suggested that this is a nominative (like Westcott) and suggest this interpretation of the text, “God is your throne forevever and ever.”  This, in the words of Raymond Brown, is “most unlikely.”  In fact that interpretation makes no sense.  The vast majority of scholars see this as a vocative, “O God.”  Cullmann says, “Hebrews unequivocally applies the title ‘God’ to Jesus” (Christology of the NT, p. 310).  There can be little doubt that Cullmann is correct.

2) John 1.1: “In the beginning was the Word;
and the Word was in God’s presence,
and the Word was God.”

The crucial words of the second and third lines are kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos.  The only debate regarding this text is that “theos” is used without the article. However, the lack of the article is fairly simple in light of grammar rules for predicate nouns.  There can be little — indeed no doubt — that John 1.1 calls Jesus “God.”

3) John 20.28: “My Lord and my God.” This text is clear and unambiguous.  This is the clearest example of the use of “theos” for Jesus.  Here Jesus is addressed as “God” (ho theos mou), with the articular nominative serving as a vocative.  Some have suggested, perhaps correctly, this confession arose in response to Domitian’s claim to the title dominus et deus noster.

In the final analysis it is clear that the NT does in fact call Jesus “God.”  As I stated at the beginning this is only the tip of the iceberg of how the NT presents the divinity of Jesus.  But we must also embrace the other side of the NT teaching — Jesus was also human. He was God and Man together.  I happen to think Nicea comes pretty close to capturing the complete vision of the NT teaching.

What is most amazing is that all of these texts were written by Jewish monotheists. Further these texts do not all stem from Pauline texts (the assumption that Paul somehow perverted the belief of early disciples but that only begs the question of how Paul came to believe that Jesus was somehow included in the definition of “God” too!!). Some how we modern disciples need to embrace the total message of the New Testament regarding this one we call the Christ.  He was, and IS, both mysteriously and completely (no fudging) Human and Divine.