“Fine Woven Linen, and Blue, Purple, and Scarlet Thread”

“…ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread,” Exodus 26:1.

“blue, purple, scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 36:37 NKJV.

Though we’ve mentioned these items in other posts, we want to look at just them in this post.  The linen was the main item out of which the tabernacle was constructed, but it was embroidered with thread of these three colors.

Now, what do, or could, these four items suggest when it comes to the study of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the tabernacle speaks in type and shadow?

Linen, blue, purple, scarlet?

With just a couple of exceptions in Paul’s writings, where do we find information about the Lord and His life in Scripture?

Is it not in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Why four?  Why not five, or ten or fifteen?

Because that’s what God wanted.

What is especially interesting about these four men is that each and every one of them was absolutely unqualified to write about the life of Christ.

God used them anyway….

Matthew, though Jewish himself, was a tax-collector for the hated Romans.  Jews would have considered him a traitor.  Yet God used him to write of their Messiah-King, who would deliver them from a far worse bondage than Rome.

Mark, that one who left Paul and Barnabas and their endeavors to go back home, was used by God to write of the Servant-Son, who finished what He started.

Luke, educated, polished, likely the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, but, still, a Gentile:  with no part in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.  Nevertheless, God used him to know and to write about the Ideal, the Perfect Man, sent not only to Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.

John, a rough-and-tumble fisherman, using simple grammar to tell his story.  Beginning students in Greek use his Gospel in their first attempts at translation.  Simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing truths which 2000 years of study have not yet begun to fathom.

If we adapt Pilate’s exclamation about the Lord Jesus to that hostile crowd prior to our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:5), we might come up with the following:

Matthew:  “Behold the Sovereign!”  He wrote to the Jews of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:   “Behold the Servant!”  To the Roman mind, which looked down on servants and serving, he wrote of Jesus, “the Servant of Jehovah.”

Luke:  “Behold the Sympathetic!”  He addressed the Greek viewpoint, present Jesus as Ideal Man.  As such, his is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  “Behold the Son!”  John wrote to Christians, to declare and defend “God manifest in the flesh.”  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and, [literally] God was the Word, emphasizing the deity of our Lord.

Boiling the distinctives of each Gospel down to one word:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s Authority.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18.

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s Activity.  He records only one instance of teaching and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s Availability.  Though there were times when Jesus withdrew from the crowds, yet, through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s Antiquity.  The prologue, 1:1-18, isn’t the only place where John states the eternal dignity and existence of the Word.  He quotes Jesus Himself as doing so.  In 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Unbelievers today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but those Jews who heard Him make that statement knew exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot – and that fact that He was telling the truth was why they couldn’t.
Ultimately, that’s why Jesus was crucified.  In the so-called “trials” of Him, all four of the Gospels record that the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, recognized what Jesus claimed:  Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:7.   And, apparently, one of the few at that gruesome and bloody scene who recognized the truth about Jesus was the Roman centurion, a pagan, who exclaimed, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.  The other notable witness was the thief who was converted at pretty much the last minute, Luke 23:42.

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Four men.

Unlikely men.

God used them.

God can use us.

Linen.  Blue.  Purple.  Scarlet.

Four colors.

Four Gospels.

One message.

One Savior.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

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Revelation 3:14-21, The Church of the Laodiceans: The Church of the Good Self-Image, part 1.

“And to the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.   (NKJV)

1. The City of the Epistle, v. 14.

Laodicea was founded about 250 BC at a critical point in the road system of the country.  It was very strongly fortified, but had one serious weakness:  it was dependent on water from a system of aqueducts from the north and south.  Ruins of these aqueducts exist today.  We’ll have more to say about these aqueducts later on.

The city became famous for three things, all alluded to in the letter.  It was a great commercial and financial center.  It was the manufacturing center for several kinds of widely esteemed garments.  It was the location of a famous medical school, which was noted, among other things, for its medicine for the eyes.

In the 4th century, a council was held in the city which, humanly speaking, established the New Testament canon.

“Laodicea” comes from two words meaning, “the voice, or rule, of the people” – democracy, as opposed to the voice or rule of God, or theocracy.  The church there was a rich church materially, but in a condition of absolute poverty, spiritually speaking.  Surely it speaks of the church in our time, with all the fancy buildings and hierarchy and organization, but little if any real effect on our culture.  Indeed, much of the professing church seems to be adding to the debasement of that culture.  Truly, Lamentations 4:1 may be applied to this church and to the church of our time:  How the gold has become dim!  How changed the fine gold!

2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 14.

Our Lord uses three titles to establish His connection with this church and to remind them of their own responsibility and failings.

The Amen.  This is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning something is established, certain and positive.  In the case of God’s dealing with Israel – and with mankind in general, it means that what He has said, He will do.  He is dependable and trustworthy.  We may trust our eternal souls and being into His care.  Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20.  He will not fail.  He cannot fail.

The Faithful and True Witness.  See Hebrews 1:1, 2.  No matter how faithless or false the church may be, its Head remains Faithful and True (Genuine).  Our Lord has never once denied or deserted the purpose of God.  Never has He left perfection or righteousness.  He is faithful.  But He is also True.  Many founders or followers of cults and false religions are faithful to what they believe, but those things are not true.  They are not of God.  But Jesus is.  Because He is, He gives a complete and correct description of Laodicea.  They could deceive themselves and others, but not Him.

The Beginning of the Creation of God.  There are those who knock at your door who will say that this simply means that the Word was the first act of creation, “the firstborn over all creation,” Colossians 1:15.  After that, He, the Word, created everything else.  However, Colossians 1:16 goes on to say, For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible….  The JW bible, The New World Translation, (which I DO NOT recommend!) translates this verse as “because by means of him all [other] things were created….”  They add the word, “other,” to the verse, though they do mark it as added.  They also add the word 4 other places in vs. 16-20.  “All [other] things,” v. 16, “He is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things,” v. 17, “reconcile again to himself all [other] things.”

An interesting fact is that in their interlinear Greek NT, which is the standard 1881 Westcott and Hort text, Colossians 1:16 reads, “because in him was created all the things in heavens and upon the earth.”  Surely one can see the difference!  The Greek text says Christ created everything; the JW version says He created everything else!  There is a difference.  There is no word for “other” in the Greek text!  In any of the four verses the NWT had it.  The NWT is a false translation.

JWs also make a big deal out of the word “firstborn” in Col. 15, He is the firstborn over all creation, though they translate it “the firstborn of all creation,” as do the KJV and some newer translations.  According to them, this means that He was the first-created of creation.  However, in Scripture, the word “firstborn” has two different meanings.  It does often mean the first child born in a family, whether human or animal, as, for example, in Genesis 48.  The chapter recounts Isaac’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  When it became apparent that Isaac meant to bless Ephraim more than Manasseh, Joseph stopped him, saying that Manasseh was “the firstborn,” v. 18, also Genesis 41:51.  Manasseh was the older, and by right and custom, should have had that blessing, cf. 43:33; Deuteronomy 21:17, but Isaac said that Ephraim was to receive it.  By the way, those brothers in Genesis 43?  They were terrified because they thought the man who was their host had some magical or demonic power because he knew their birth order.  They had no idea he was actually the brother they had sold into slavery.

In addition to the meaning of being the first one actually born, it also means “preeminent” or “given priority.”  We see an example of this in 1 Chronicles 5:1, Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel – he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed [Genesis 35:22], his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph….

It is this second meaning of “priority,” “preeminence” that Colossians 1:15 uses.  Paul concludes the thought of these verses, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that might mean “may or may not.”  The word denotes certainty, not mere possibility.

Make no mistake about it.  The day is coming, and we hope, soon, when our Lord will return to this earth, and there will no doubt that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

(Lord willing, we’ll finish this in our next post.)

Hebrews 1:1, 2: Who Spoke?

1] In many portions and in many ways, of old God was speaking to the fathers in the prophets; 2] in the last of these days, He spoke to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all, through whom also He made the ages, 3] Who being [the] radiant splendor of [His] glory and [the] exact imprint of His essence, and maintaining everything through the word of His power, and having accomplished cleansing of sins, was made to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high.  [Author’s translation].

The writer begins Hebrews with the assertion that God spoke!  As he develops this thought, he sets up a three-fold contrast between the revelation of the Old Testament, i.e., the First Covenant, (in particular the Mosaic Covenant, but here including more than that), and the New Covenant, that is, the New Testament.

1.  Method.

The First Covenant was given in many portions over a long period of time – about 4000 years, and was not God’s final or complete revelation to Man.  The New Covenant was given complete in the relatively short span of about 60 years and is God’s final and complete revelation to man until the Second Coming.

2.  Recipients.

The First Covenant was given to “the fathers,” the New Covenant “to us.”  The First Covenant, while certainly inspired by God and intended for our “instruction” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14, especially vs. 6, 12) is nevertheless not the basis for either our faith or our conduct.  Those who attempt to mold the NT church or believers on OT patterns do so mistakenly.  From such a view, we have such doctrines as the Romish priesthood, the Reformed idea of a church-state, and infant baptism.

The idea of a church-state, or an “established church,” such as England and other nations have, and which the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution was designed to prevent, gives to the church magisterial, that is, civil, authority.  Historically, this has resulted in the suppression and persecution of dissent.  History records that both the Roman Catholic and Reformed churches vigorously wielded the civil sword against those who differed from them.  Millions have died at the hands of church authorities for the heinous crime of desiring to worship and serve God only as the Bible teaches and not as some church dictates.

Though many will disagree with us on this, and many who practice it are indeed known by the Lord, yet infant baptism has done for the Reformed churches what the invitation system has done for fundamentalist-type churches:  filled them with lost people.

The Romish priesthood denies the Mediatorial office of Christ, substituting the Virgin in His place (“Hail, Mary, full of grace.  Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”.)  There is no Biblical authority for this.  In fact, the last thing Mary said in the sacred record is found in John 2:5, “Whatever He says to you, do it,”  This is still wise advice.  These practices also deny the liberty and right of the individual believer to come personally and directly to God in prayer and for forgiveness.  Cf. Hebrews 4:16.

All these errors, and others, have come upon Christians simply because they have failed to distinguish between the First and New Covenants.

3.  Messengers.

The spokesmen of the First, or Old, Covenant, though they were truly prophets, were just men, like those to whom they spoke.  They were not “God.”  In the New Covenant, God spoke “in son,” emphasizing the nature and character of the Spokesman.  Though Man, Jesus was also God.

Having stated the equal inspiration of the Old and New Covenants, yet also maintaining the position of the New over the Old, the writer at once answers the question, “Who is this ‘son’?”  He demonstrates that the Son, the spokesman of the NC, is far superior to “the prophets,” the spokesmen of the OC, whom the Jews held in high regard.  Including the noun “son,” the writer makes eight statements about Him:

1.  “son”, His essential nature.
2.  “heir,” His exalted position.
3.  “made the ages,” His eternal power.
4.  “radiant splendor,” His evident deity.  In the words of an ancient confession, He was very God of very God.
5.  “exact imprint,” His earthly being.  That same confession:  He was very man of very man.
6.  “maintaining,” His effectual providence.
7.  “cleansing,” His efficacious sacrifice.
8.  “made to sit,” His earned preeminence.

Numbers 1 – 4 deal mainly, but not exclusively, with His deity; numbers 5 – 8 mainly, but not exclusively, with His humanity.  Corresponding numbers go together.

For example, numbers 4 and 5.  These refer to His essential being, deity (4) and humanity (5).  He was God; He became Man, John 1:1, 14.  In His incarnation, He didn’t cease to be God.  In His resurrection and ascension, He didn’t cease to be Man.

Numbers 3 and 6 speak of His power, referring to the creation of all things (3), and to their preservation and continuation according to God’s eternal purpose (6).

Numbers 2 and 7 refer to His position.  He is “heir” (2) because (7) He laid aside His eternal glory and prerogative in order to assume human existence so that He could be the substitute for and Savior of His people, Philippians 2:5-11.

Numbers 1 and 8 refer to His unique nature and character. (1) eternally God the Son, one with the Father in essence and nature, yet (8) still truly human.

Number 8 poses a difficulty for some.  Believing that Jesus merely returned to some former angelic state, they ask, “If he were God, how could he be exalted higher than He was before?”

Those verses which tell of His exaltation give a two-fold answer.

1.  He is exalted in His deity, because of the Incarnation.  As an example, suppose an earthly king stepped down from his throne in order to rescue some of his subjects at the price of great personal suffering and indignity.  On returning to his throne, the honor and praise he would receive because of the successful completion of his task would in no way detract from nor deny his kingship before the mission.  So with Jesus Christ.  Eternally God, yet He receives more glory because of His stepping down from His throne to rescue His people.

2.  He is exalted in His humanity, because of the Resurrection.  His humanity has been elevated to the dignity and glory of His deity, so that fully God, fully Man, he sits at the right hand of the Father.  1 Timothy 2:5 clearly establishes His present humanity:  For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (emphasis added).  Hebrews 8:6; 9:15 and 12:24 all confirm His present role as Mediator, so that it can’t be argued that 1 Timothy just refers to His earthly ministry.

It’s interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same thing with 1 Timothy 2:5 that they do with John 1:1.  Since there is no article (“the”) before “man Christ Jesus” in the original text, they translate it, “a man Christ Jesus,” just as they translate John 1:1, “the word was a god,” citing the absence of the article before “god.”  They assert that John was not claiming deity for Jesus, but merely that He was “godlike.”

Did Paul write to Timothy that Jesus was merely “manlike”?  Or was he asserting His real and true humanity, just as John asserted His real and true deity?

March Memories: “If Jesus Is God,….”

[In a couple of our last “March Memory” reviews, we looked at what the Bible says about the deity of the Lord Jesus, that He was truly God manifest in the flesh.

“Yes, but…”]

“If Jesus is God, how can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?” “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father”  “”How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

And on and on go the questions.

All such questions were answered by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11:

Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  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 those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts.

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” as God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was, or, existed as, God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek mind, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars about the meaning of the words translated, “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly held on to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father, Who gave them to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep.”  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, something had to be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Redeemer and Representative of His people, “His sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd.”  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in Heaven with the Father, and which He could rightfully have claimed.  He didn’t “hold on to” the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into an ordinary family in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down on.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

He didn’t just “think about” doing something.  He went ahead and did it.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that He emptied Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just “looked” like a man.  He was emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly human.  As human as you or me, without the sin which plagues us.  Though we speak of “the virgin birth,” it was His conception which was miraculous.  Once conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, though, He developed like any other baby.  Like any other baby, He was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a recent concept), and then as an adult.  Indeed, in His culture, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered an adult.

It’s difficult to visualize the Creator of the Universe as having to learn how to walk,

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He didn’t have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are still glimpses of them.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He did not cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM, clearly understood that’s what He was saying, that He was Jehovah.  That’s why they tried to kill Him – and why they couldn’t.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God, He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  This is why, though as God He is omniscient, there were things He didn’t “know.”  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was also Man.  As God, He is omnipotent.  As a Man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He is omnipresent, being here and there.  As a man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4.  As such, He was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other Jewish person.  This is why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,”  John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say, “our God.”  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It was because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He.  It has nothing to do with some “inferiority” on His part, but has everything to do with the relationship He had with the Father at that time.  It had nothing to do with His not being God, but everything to do with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 and many other verses.  He had come as the Servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was  obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, He died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take on Himself true humanity, so that, as “Jesus,” He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in glory and honor, with a morphine drip, as terminal patients do today.  He even refused what relief was available back then, Matthew 27:34.  He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, though they weren’t slow to use it.

In the words of Paul, He died even the death of the cross….

But, His story doesn’t end there.

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance or significance.  He might as well still be dead.  Many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him or tries to live by His word.  Even “Christendom” has relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  In fact, many churches still have Him on the Cross.  Others have taken His place as Head of the Church or as who guides how it functions.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him only as a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is a lot of discussion about what this means, and the place of the Lord Jesus in the current scheme of things.  Arguments abound over the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which tell of a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to get into all that.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus and confess that He is who He said He is. Every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that everyone will eventually be saved.  Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This bothers some people who are concerned about “free will,” but there is no “free will” in this, any more than in a criminal forced to acknowledge his sentence and enter prison.  And there will be no appeals from this court.

God WILL be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day, even the lost will have to admit that He is Lord, He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.

Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider….

What do you think about Christ?  Matthew 22:42.
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(originally published, May 8, 2013.)  edited and additional material.

March Memories: The Third Genealogy.

[As we continue in our March Memories post reprints, I’ve become impressed with the necessity of emphasizing the unique person of the Lord Jesus.  Islam is resurging, and it views Jesus as just another prophet, important though He may be in their view of things, but nevertheless much inferior to their own prophet.  Certainly not God, nor did He die on the Cross.  And much of professing Christendom denies His deity and His redemption.]

Most people know of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  the Abrahamic and the Davidic.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty, though both genealogies trace Jesus back to King David.  Luke’s genealogy is longer, some 75 generations, and goes through a different son of David all the way back to Adam.  This is Mary’s genealogy.

That’s two.  Where’s the third one?  I really hadn’t thought about it quite like this until recently, like this morning.  Perhaps in the strictest sense, it isn’t a genealogy, and yet it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, words so simple that beginning Greek students translate them in their first attempts at translation, – in a few words, John expresses truths that 2000 years of Church history haven’t begun to understand.

“Now, wait a minute!”  Someone who might knock at your door will say, “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no “the” in front of God in the Greek, so John was saying that Jesus was ‘a’ God.”  They also teach that the “beginning” John wrote about was when God created the Word, or Jesus.  He was the beginning, and then He created all the rest.  They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they will say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was the first thing created by God, and He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god”?

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”   There’s no article – no “the” – in front of God.  In the Greek language, there is no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – either.  As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, John couldn’t have written, “The Word was the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father were the same, and the Oneness folks, who deny the Trinity, would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Word and the Father are distinct from each other.  They aren’t just different “manifestations” of the One God.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a” god.  What kind of “god” is He?  How many “gods” are there, or is He the only one?

They answer that by saying that Jesus was an angel, and in the OT, angels are called sons of God, Job 1:6.  He is, therefore, rightly called son of God.  It’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this, then, put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he wrote, …to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’  The expected answer is, “There are no angels to whom that was said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness once told me, “Jesus is that angel,” and then quoted this verse to me.  He completely missed the point of the verse.  That is not what the writer was saying.  The Father was not speaking to ANY angel in that verse!

In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say, But to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  The New World Translation (NWT), the JW Bible, has it, “God is your throne forever and ever.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t even make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but do they believe that Jesus is sitting on God’s lap?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of You, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Note the presence of the article with God in this verse:  “the God”.  The contrast between Jesus and angels couldn’t be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, Hebrews says, Let all the angels of God worship Him.  Even older versions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, in newer editions, it’s changed to “Let all the angels of God do obeisance to Him,” but even then, it translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only “one God”?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about.  A cube is the best one I know.

A cube has length, width and height, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes.  It’s just one cube.  The length isn’t the width or the height, the width isn’t the length or the height, and the height isn’t the length or the width.  And the cube doesn’t “manifest” itself as height one day, width another day, and length yet another day, as some try to teach that the One God manifests Himself differently at different times.

The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist in the one cube at the same time.  Like His creation, God is, if you will, three-dimensional:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit.  The Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  The Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting together as the One God.

The Word was God.

One final thought on this.  Some folks say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, but the people who heard Him say in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” understood that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.

This is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time….”  It’s rooted in and grounded firmly on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that He ever existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him, and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison.  The Word was God – the Word became flesh.  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can refer to eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it was not God. There was a time, however, when the Word became flesh.  Matthew and Luke gives us a glimpse of that time.

The Word became flesh.

Four words.

The Word became flesh.  Four words.  Describing an event which has no parallel in human history.  Psalm 113:5, 6, says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?

The Lord God “humbles” Himself even to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our books, our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or books or church], but I don’t think we understand even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation,” to use the theological term, as a newborn understands about its mother’s agony in bringing it to birth.  How can we?

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor….  The Lord didn’t come to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace, although those places would be mere shacks compared to what He was used to.  He came to live a relatively minor, troublesome, province of Rome.  Except for one incident, He was unknown for nearly thirty years, and in the last three, “fame” was fleeing, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He might as well still be dead.  Indeed, much of the world thinks that He still is.  Even if people class Him with the religious leaders of this world, they are more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was.

And is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….
_______________

(Originally published March 12, 2013.)  edited.

If Jesus is God,….

The phrase, “If Jesus is God,” is always followed by questions like, “How can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?”  “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father?”  “How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

All of these questions, and all similar questions, are answered by Paul in a few verses of Scripture in Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV):

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  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 those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts:

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, being in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars as the meaning of the words translated “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly clung to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, but made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father and given to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep”.  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, it was necessary that something be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Representative and Redeemer of His people, His “sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd”.  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in heaven with the Father, and which He rightfully could have claimed.  He didn’t “cling” to the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into a family of ordinary people who lived in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down upon.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to crowds of ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that it means that He divested Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on Himself the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just looked like a man.  Paul is asserting that Jesus was fully and really human.  His birth was like any other.  His conception is actually what was miraculous, though we speak of “the virgin birth.”  Once conceived, though, He developed like any other baby and was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a fairly recent concept) and then as an adult.  Indeed, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered “adult.”

It’s difficult to think of the Creator and Upholder of the universe as having to learn how to walk.

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He did not have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are glimpses of it.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He didn’t cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” clearly and certainly understood that that was exactly what He was claimed, to be Jehovah.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God,  He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  It is because of this that there were things He didn’t “know,” even though, as God, He is omniscient.  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was truly human, as well.  As God, He was omnipotent.  As a man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He was omnipresent, being here and there.  As man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and as such was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other human being, but especially the Jews.  This was why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,” John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say that He was going to “our” God.  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It is because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He was.  It wasn’t because of some “inferiority” on His part, but simply the relationship He bore to the Father at that time.  It has nothing to do with His not being “God,” but with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 with many others.  He had come to save His people from their sins, an activity begun by the Father in election and brought to pass by the Spirit in regeneration.  He had come as “the Servant of Jehovah,” Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, Jesus died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take to Himself humanity, so that, as Jesus, He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in honor and glory, with a morphine drip to ease His agony, like terminal patients have today.  He even refused what relief there was available at the time, Matthew 27:34. He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, in the words of Paul, even the death of the cross.

But His story doesn’t end there…

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance and significance.  He may as well still be dead.  Indeed, many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him and seeks to live by His words.  Even “Christendom” has largely relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  Many churches still have Him on the Cross.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many even doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him as little more than a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is considerable discussion about what this means, and about the current place of the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things.  Arguments abound about the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which foretell a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to enter into all this.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He is Who He said He is.  Every knee will bow, before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that every single person will be saved. The Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This idea bothers a lot of people who are concerned about “free will,” but in this there will be no freedom, any more than a criminal has “freedom” to disregard sentencing for his crimes.  God will be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day all, even the lost, will have to confess Him to be Lord, right now He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.  Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider…

What do you think about Christ? (Matthew 22:42,)