"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 8 - Christology

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am moving toward completing this series. In doing so, today I'm going to respond to a set of questions from the United Pentecostal Church International's (UPCI) 60 Questions on the Godhead relating to Jesus and His divinity. Again, the UPCI is one of the leading "Oneness" groups, that believe that God is one in nature and in person. They differ from groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses in that they do ascribe deity to Jesus, saying that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are merely different manifestations of the One God. Because of this they baptize in the name of Jesus only, and, therefore, are sometimes referred to as "Jesus only" Pentecostals.

They differ from the historic Christian faith because the confession of the church from its beginnings has been that God is One in nature/essence existing eternally as Three Persons. The key question between the UPCI/Oneness theology and Trinitarian theology is whether the Scripture presents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as manifestions, or as Persons who relate to one another. This will be a large focus of the last post responding to the 60 Questions. Much of what we will look at today the UPCI will say proves that Jesus is the One God incarnate (in human form). Trinitarians will say a hearty, "Amen!" to that assertion. But these verses say nothing about whether the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely manifestations, or truly different persons.

Question 45. Is Jesus the true God? Yes. I John 5:20.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20 ESV)

Question 47. When Paul asked the Lord who He was, what was the answer? "I am Jesus." Acts 9:5.

And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:5 ESV)

Question 48. When Stephen was dying, did he call God Jesus? Yes. Acts 7:59.

And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59 ESV) OR And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 7:59 KJV)

Question 49. Did Thomas ever call Jesus God? Yes. John 20:28.

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 ESV)

Question 51. Does the Bible say that Jesus was God with us? Yes. Matthew 1:23.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23 ESV)

Each of this questions relate to Jesus being identified directly by one of the divine attributions, either Lord or God. They serve to show us the authors of the Scriptures viewed Jesus as being "very God of very God." As such, they stand against views of Jesus that would make Him less than the Father, but do not address the central issue between a Oneness view of God and a Trinitarian view of God.

A note on Acts 7:59: The KJV rendering of this verse has an unnecessary addition of the word "God" that is not in the original Greek manuscripts. It is clear from the context that Stephen prays to Jesus just as one would pray to God, thereby ascribing deity to Jesus. The ESV rendering above is closer to the original Greek text.

The next group, either within a single question or as a pair, link texts that identify God as doing or being something, then link this same thing with Jesus. We'll look at each pair individually, with a focus on the last pair which will allow me to discuss what is, perhaps, the best teaching in the Old Testament displaying that God exists as different persons.

Question 33. How could the church belong to Jesus (Matthew 16:18) and yet be the church of God (I Corinthians 10:32)? Because Jesus is God in the flesh.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV) AND Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, (1 Corinthians 10:32 ESV)

Again, there is a clear equality established in the New Testament between Jesus and God. This is similar to the Kingdom of Heaven being the same as the Kingdom of God. The church consists of the elect of God whom Jesus has purchased with His blood. Jesus tells us that the Father has given to Him a people (John 6:37, 10:29, 17:6-9). This is the church, those that the Father chose, the Son saved, and the Spirit seals.

Question 41. Does the Bible say that God alone treads upon the waves of the sea? Yes. Job 9:8
Question 42. Why, then, was Jesus able to walk upon the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25)? Because He is God the Creator. Colossians 1:16.

who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8 ESV) AND And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (Matthew 14:25 ESV) AND For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

The argument here is a little strained. The Job passage is a figurative passage about creation. To link this to Matthew 14:25 and Jesus literally walking on the water is problematic. After all, Peter walked on the water, if only momentarily (He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. - Matthew 14:29 ESV), but we do not ascribe any deity to Peter. The better argument is to link Job 9:8 directly to Colossians 1:16, since the former describes God as the Creator, and the latter describes Jesus as the Creator. Again, a clear statement of the deity of Christ.

Question 50. How could Jesus be the Savior, when God the Father said in Isaiah 43:11, "Beside me there is no Savior?" Because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." II Corinthians 5:19.
Question 59. Does the Bible say that God shed His blood and that God laid down His life for us? Yes. Acts 20:28; I John 3:16. God was able to do this because He had taken upon Himself a human body.

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11 ESV) AND that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
(Acts 20:28 ESV) AND By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16 ESV)

These are just a couple of other examples where the Scriptures identify Jesus and God as doing the same thing, in this case saving a people for to glorify God. Question 50 is generic in terms of salvation, while Question 59 specifically discusses the sacrifice of life through the shedding of blood. Nothing to which a Trinitarian would object.

Question 60. The Bible says that God is coming back with all his saints (Zechariah 14:5) and also that Jesus is coming back with all his saints (I Thessalonians 3:13). Are two coming back? No. Only one is coming back--our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13.

And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:5 ESV) AND so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV) AND waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13 ESV)

But one other passage should be included in this mix: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

As I mentioned earlier, this passage shows us the clearest glimpse I can find in the Old Testament showing that God exists as multiple persons, and also foretells the incarnation. Notice that the Father (the Ancient of Days) gives dominion and glory to "one like a son of man." The Son of Man is Jesus' favorite title for Himself, pointing those who heard Him back to this passage. He is the fulfillment of this passage. Also remember that Jesus has been promised that the Father will make His (Jesus') enemies a footstool for His feet (Psalm 110:1). Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant with David, and He will rule forever from David's throne. So the One True God is coming back, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. "What a day of rejoicing that will be!"

PS: I want to commend to you a series of posts by Jonathan Moorhead. On the right hand side are a series of articles entitled "Moor Modalism" that are excellent studies of the impact and infiltration of Oneness theology (modalism) into modern Christianity. Highly recommended as a deeper study of the issues I've been discussing here.


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