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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to present the biblical case for the deity of Jesus Christ. How do you want to begin today Dr. Spencer?

Dr. Spencer: Let’s take a look at another part of the gospel of John. In Chapter 14 Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he says, in Verse 7, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [1]

Marc Roby: That’s a serious claim; if we know Christ, we know the Father, and having seen Christ, we have seen the Father.

Dr. Spencer: It is an amazing claim. And James Boice mentions this, along with a number of other claims, in his Foundations of the Christian Faith.[2] This passage goes on to say more too. The apostle Philip obviously did not fully grasp what Jesus said, because we read in Verse 8 that he said to Christ, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Then, in Verses 9 and 10, Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

Marc Roby: I’m confident that was not the answer that Philip was expecting. Don’t you wish that we were told how he responded to that?

Dr. Spencer: That would be very interesting to know, but we aren’t told. And it may well be that he had no response. How could you respond to statements like those? Christ equates seeing him with seeing the Father. And he says that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. It is an amazing claim. Then he goes on and says that he is speaking the Father’s words. But unlike the Old Testament prophets he doesn’t say that God gave him the words to say, he says that the Father is living in him.

Marc Roby: Which is something we will never completely understand.

Dr. Spencer: No, we won’t.  And in John 12:44 Jesus said that “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.” And we know who sent Jesus, we are told in John 17:25 and a number of other places that the Father sent him, so this statement equates faith in Jesus Christ with faith in God the Father. Then, in Mark 9:37, we read that “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Which equates welcoming Jesus with welcoming the Father. Also, in John 15:23 we read that Jesus said, “He who hates me hates my Father as well.” And in John 5:23 Jesus says that “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”

Marc Roby: Jesus very clearly claimed a relationship with God the Father that is much closer than would be possible for any created being.

Dr. Spencer: He most certainly did. The 20th-century theologian Louis Berkhof gives a great summary of the scriptural evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ. He states that the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ is so great that it is only “those who disregard the teachings of Scripture”[3] who can deny the doctrine. He summarizes the biblical evidence under 5 headings.[4] The first of these is Scriptures that explicitly assert the deity of Christ. In that category he lists, along with others, three verses that we have already looked at, John 1:1, John 20:28 and Titus 2:13. The second category he lists is Scriptures that apply divine names to Jesus.

Marc Roby: What verses does he list in that category?

Dr. Spencer: He lists Isaiah 40:3, which is the famous prophecy about John the Baptist. It says, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” The word Lord in that verse is the tetragrammaton, Jehovah. This verse is quoted in Matthew 3:3 and we are told there that it was speaking about John the Baptist. So, let’s put those two statements together. Isaiah tells us that the voice that is calling is preparing the way for Jehovah, and then we are told that the voice is John the Baptist, who we know prepared the way for Jesus Christ. The conclusion is inescapable, Jesus Christ is Jehovah, he is God.

Marc Roby: That is the only possible conclusion. What other verses does Berkhof cite?

Dr. Spencer: I’ll just mention one more. He cites Jeremiah 23:5-6 where we read, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’” This tells us about a King who will come, who is a descendant of David and who will save Israel, which is clearly Jesus Christ, and it then tells us that the name by which he will be called is the Lord, where that is again Jehovah.

Marc Roby: That definitely is a clear reference to Jesus Christ. What else does Berkhof have to say?

Dr. Spencer: His third category is Scriptures that ascribe divine attributes to Christ. For instance, we’ve already looked at John 1:1 and Colossians 1:16-17, both of which speak about his existing before the creation, in other words eternally, which is an incommunicable attribute of God. Also, in Matthew 18:20 we read that Jesus said, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” This requires that Jesus be able to be in multiple places at once, in other words that he be omnipresent, which is another incommunicable attribute of God.

Marc Roby: Of course, that is not speaking about Jesus Christ in his human body being present in multiple places at the same time.

Dr. Spencer: No, it isn’t. In his humanity Jesus was, and is, limited to being in one place at a time, just as we are. But, in his divinity, he is omnipresent, meaning that he is everywhere all at the same time. Also, in Hebrews 13:8 we are told that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Which is the same unchangeable nature as Jehovah, which is called his immutability. We read in Malachi 3:6, “I the LORD do not change.” And Lord in that verse is Jehovah. I think this is sufficient evidence to make the point that divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ.

Marc Roby: What is Berkhof’s fourth category of evidence?

Dr. Spencer: He mentions Scriptures that speak of Christ doing works that only God can do. For example, we’ve already discussed verses, like John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16, that speak of Jesus Christ as the Creator. In addition, in Hebrews 1:3 we are told that Jesus sustains all things by his powerful word, but sustaining the creation is also a work that only God can do.

Then, in Mark Chapter 2 a paralytic is brought to Jesus and instead of healing him as people expected, we read in Verse 5 that Jesus said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now this upset some teachers who were present and we are told that they were thinking to themselves that Jesus was blaspheming, because only God has the authority to forgive sins. Then, in Verses 8-11, Jesus says to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins… He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’”

Marc Roby: I’m sure it got their attention very quickly when Jesus told them what they were thinking!

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure it did. Only God can know our thoughts. In addition, these teachers were correct in thinking that only God has authority to forgive sins, which was precisely Jesus’ point in this situation. Notice that he used the miracle of physical healing to validate his authority to forgive the man’s sins. In other words, he was acting as only the sovereign Lord of all creation can act.

Marc Roby: Very well. I believe that you said Berkhof had five categories of evidence, and we’ve covered four of them. So what is the fifth?

Dr. Spencer: The fifth category is Scriptures that accord divine honor to Christ. But before we give examples of this, I should point out that in Isaiah 42:8 Jehovah declares, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” So, when the Bible ascribes the honor, glory or praise due to God to Jesus Christ, it is affirming his deity.

We’ve already seen one example of this, although it isn’t in Berkhof’s list. Remember that in Philippians 2:9-11 it says that “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And while this says it is to the glory of God the Father, we noted before that saying “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” is an allusion to Isaiah 45:23 and gives God’s honor to Christ as well.

And now, let me also give one example off of Berkhof’s list, he cites John 5, Verses 22-23, which say that “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”

Marc Roby: That completes Berkhof’s list of five areas of scriptural evidence. What else do you want to look at?

Dr. Spencer: There is another very compelling type of evidence in the New Testament that we have not yet discussed, and that is that Jesus Christ spoke with the very authority of God. In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke the words of God, but they always prefaced them with a statement something like “This is what the Lord says”. In fact, if you look up that exact phrase in the 1984 NIV that we are using, you will see that it occurs 167 times in the Old Testament.

Marc Roby: And there are also a number of other ways of saying the same thing.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, there are. But when we look at Jesus we find that he said something altogether different. In the Sermon on the Mount, five times Jesus says “You have heard” and then quotes an Old Testament passage, or in one place the Jews’ misunderstanding of an Old Testament passage, and then he follows that by saying “But I tell you” and goes on to expand on what is said in the Old Testament. In other words, he adds to God’s words as recorded in Scripture, which is something that only God can do.

Marc Roby: In other words, Jesus asserted his divine prerogative in those instances.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And he did it in other similar ways too. Jonathan Edwards pointed out that when Jesus predicted future events, he also did that in a way that is qualitatively different from the Old Testament prophets.[5] For example, after speaking to the crowds about the signs of the end of the ages and his own second coming, we read in Matthew 24:34-35 that Jesus told the crowd, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Notice that he didn’t say, as an Old Testament prophet would, that the Lord says this, he said “I tell you the truth”, and he didn’t say that God’s words will never pass away, he said “my words will never pass away.”

Marc Roby: And in saying this, he again assumed to himself a power and privilege that belongs to God alone.

Dr. Spencer: He does. And Jesus uses this phrase “I tell you the truth”, 78 times in the gospels. And in 72 of those verses it is how our Bible translates the Greek word ἀμὴν (amān), which is where we get our word amen, and it means truly, or so let it be.

Marc Roby: Jesus used that as a way to sort of wake his listeners up and let them know he was getting ready to say something very important.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And in 24 of those verses we read that Jesus repeated the word for emphasis; he said ἀμὴν ἀμὴν, which the English Standard Version translates as truly, truly. I like that more than the NIV because it retains the emphasis that Christ was putting on the following statements. By repeating the word, he was saying to them essentially, “What I am about to say is incredibly important, so be quiet, listen carefully and pay attention!”

Marc Roby: One of those statements is in John 5:24, where Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Dr. Spencer: You’re right. In the Greek, that verse begins ἀμὴν ἀμὴν. And that verse is a great example of the point we have been making because Jesus says “whoever hears my word … has eternal life” (emphasis added). And he says that such a person “has crossed over from death to life.” What a great statement to show that Jesus absolutely assumed to himself the privileges that are God’s alone. No Old Testament prophet ever said anything like this unless he prefaced it by saying it was the word of the Lord.

Marc Roby: That is very clear evidence for the deity of Christ. Is there anything else you want to mention from Jonathan Edwards’ treatment?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, another verse that he mentions is very important. In John 10:17-18 Jesus declared, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” In the King James Version it says he has the power to lay down his life and take it up again. The Greek word can mean authority or power, so both translations are fine. The main point is that Jesus not only predicted the future here, he also claimed to have the power, or authority, to raise himself from the dead!

Marc Roby: OK, I’m quite confident that no mere man can do that. Do you have anything more to say about the Scriptural evidence for the deity of Christ?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to finish this topic by mentioning the systematic theology text of Charles Hodge and giving one short quote from the book. He has an absolutely wonderful summary of the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ.[6] His book is even available for free online as a pdf, the link is in the transcript of this podcast.[7] We have covered many of the points he makes, but he ties it all together very well. The only problem with his presentation is that he often cites words, or even phrases, in the Greek without providing the translation or telling you where they are in the New Testament, so his work is harder for a layperson to follow. Nevertheless, even if you skip over the Greek, and one short passage in Latin, his presentation is excellent.

Marc Roby: What is the quote you would like to read?

Dr. Spencer: He makes an overall comment about the Book of Revelation that I think is worth taking note of. He writes that “The Book of Revelation is one continued hymn of praise to Christ, setting forth the glory of his person and the triumph of his kingdom; representing Him as the ground of confidence to his people, and the object of worship to all the inhabitants of heaven.”[8] He then goes on to point out that in Revelation Jesus Christ is declared to be the ruler of the kings of the earth, he is presented to us as the first and the last, he assumes the titles and prerogatives of God, he is the Holy and the True, he has the keys of David, all the inhabitants of heaven lie prostrate at his feet in worship and so on. We have covered some of these points in other passages, but if you read the Book of Revelation with all of this in mind, it bears powerful testimony to the deity of Christ.

Marc Roby: I agree. And it also presents you with the true Christ, not the effeminate and weak Christ of many modern churches. He is presented as one whose eyes are like blazing fire and who judges the living and the dead and defeats all of his enemies.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. In fact, in Revelation 6:16 the wrath of God is called the “wrath of the Lamb”. It is Jesus Christ himself who has prepared hell for the devil, his demons, and all who follow him. This is the Christ who is the judge before whom we must appear. We dare not treat him as a buddy. And with that, I think we are finished with our examination of the scriptural evidence for the deity of Christ, although I must say that we have not in any sense given an exhaustive presentation of that evidence.

Marc Roby: And I would like to once again encourage our listeners to email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org, and to go to our website to order their free copy of Good News for All People.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pg. 274

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1938, pg. 94

[4] Ibid, pp 94-95

[5] Edwards, Jonathan, “Jesus’s prophecies a proof that he was the Christ, and a divine person”, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Hendrickson Publishers, 2005, pp 468-470

[6]Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. 1, pp 504-521

[7] See  https://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge

[8] Hode, op. cit., pg. 510

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the biblical case for the deity of Jesus Christ and we ended last time by starting to look at the passage in Philippians 2:5-11, which says this, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [1]

We pointed out last session that the first part of the passage tells us plainly that Jesus Christ is God. Dr. Spencer, the next line has caused trouble for some; it begins by saying that Jesus “made himself nothing”. What does that mean?

Dr. Spencer: The question of what it means for Jesus to have “made himself nothing”, or as the ESV and some other translations put it, to have “emptied himself”, has caused trouble for some since the mid 1800’s. But it should not be a problem since the sentence itself goes on to tell us what is meant by the phrase; it tells us that Jesus took “the very nature of a servant” and was “made in human likeness.” In other words, it means that he humbled himself and took on human nature. He did not somehow stop being God, nor did he give up any of the attributes that are essential to God’s being.

Marc Roby: I like what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says on this point. Question 27 asks, “Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?” And the answer is this; “Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very succinct and yet complete description of what is meant by Christ’s humiliation. But getting back specifically to what it meant for Christ to have “made himself nothing”, the right meaning is stated by Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology book. He says that “The emptying includes change of role and status, not essential attributes or nature.”[2] But let’s not lose sight of the main point we were making; the verse states in unequivocal language that Jesus Christ already existed prior to his incarnation and that he is fully God. But, it also says more. Before we go on though, I want to point out again that James Boice uses this passage from Philippians 2 in his book Foundations of the Christian Faith to argue for the divinity of Christ and I am summarizing his arguments here.[3]

Marc Roby: What else does Boice say about that passage?

Dr. Spencer: He wrote that “having described how Jesus laid aside his former glory in order to become a man and die for us, Paul goes on to show how he received that glory back, noting that he is now to be confessed as Lord”.

Marc Roby: Before you go on I want to discuss that statement. You said a moment ago that God did not give up any of the attributes that are essential to God’s being when he became incarnate, but Boice says here that he laid aside his former glory. Now, isn’t God’s glory one of his attributes? Can you explain why it is not one that is essential to God’s being?

Dr. Spencer: Whether glory is or is not an attribute depends on how you define it.[4] The word glory has a wide range of meanings. Grudem points out that it often means simply honor or excellent reputation and that “In this sense, the glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather describes the superlative honor that should be given to God by everything in the universe”.[5]

And what Boice said is perfectly biblical. In John 17:5 Jesus is praying and requests of the Father, “glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” When Jesus said that he “had” this glory, which is past tense, it is clear that he didn’t possess it at the time he made this statement. So, this verse makes it clear that Jesus laid aside his glory, meaning the honor due to him as God, when he became incarnate. That honor is something that is due to him as God, but is not an essential attribute of his being. So, what I said is accurate, Jesus Christ did not cease to be God when he became incarnate, nor did he surrender any of the attributes that are essential to God’s being.

Marc Roby: Alright, I think that explains it well enough, so let’s get back to Boice’s argument. He says that Jesus received his glory back, meaning when he ascended into heaven after his resurrection, and that he is to be confessed as Lord.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And here is the really important point. When Paul wrote that God “gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” he is obviously alluding to Isaiah 45:23 where we read that Jehovah God declared, “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.”

Marc Roby: Paul’s allusion to that verse is indeed obvious.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly is. And Boice points out what is perhaps the most amazing fact about this passage.

Marc Roby: What’s that?

Dr. Spencer: It is that Paul was not to making an argument for the deity of Christ! Paul’s major point in the passage is that we should be humble and he uses Jesus Christ as the supreme example of that humility. In the course of making that argument, he simply assumes, as it were, the deity of Christ. Now you have to think about that fact for a moment for it to have its full impact.

If I want to make an argument to prove some point, I am not going to introduce something else that needs to be proven first if I can possibly avoid doing so. I’m going to make my argument using information that is already known and agreed to by my listeners.

Marc Roby: Therefore the implication is that Paul assumed the recipients of his letter already believed that Jesus Christ is fully God.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly the point. Paul himself had founded the church in Philippi. In fact, one of its early members was the famous Philippian jailer who had cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” In any event, Paul had stayed in contact with this church and undoubtedly had made sure that they had good teaching. Therefore, he knew that they were fully aware of this fundamental Christian doctrine; that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity.

Marc Roby: You’re right; once you think that through it is a very impressive bit of evidence.

Dr. Spencer: Boice quotes an English commentator, Bishop Handley Moule on this point, and I think he does an excellent job of driving home the implication of the argument. He wrote, “We have here a chain of assertions about our Lord Jesus Christ, made within some thirty years of his death at Jerusalem; made in the open day of public Christian intercourse, and made (every reader must feel this) not in the least manner of controversy, of assertion against difficulties and denials, but in the tone of a settled, common, and most living certainty. These assertions give us on the one hand the fullest possible assurance that he is man, man in nature, in circumstances and experience, and particularly in the sphere of relation to God the Father. But they also assure us, in precisely the same tone, and in a way which is equally vital to the arguments in hand, that he is as genuinely divine as he is genuinely human.”[6]

Marc Roby: What a great summary of the importance of this passage. And this passage also reminds me of another one that speaks about the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. The writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8 and then applies it to Christ and says, in Verse 9 of Chapter 2, “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Dr. Spencer: That does make the same point clearly. Theologians talk about the humiliation of Christ. And by that they are referring not just to his being tried, mocked, spit upon, flogged and crucified, but they are referring to the fact that he became man.

Marc Roby: That doesn’t exactly flatter us human beings.

Dr. Spencer: It isn’t meant to flatter us. But it is accurate. It would be infinitely less of a humiliation for me to become an ant than it was for the Creator and Lord of the universe to become man.

Marc Roby: We again see the need for us to properly grasp the Creator/creature distinction.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we do. But let’s get back to the point of proving that Jesus Christ is God.

Marc Roby: Very well, what do you want to look at next?

Dr. Spencer: Let’s look at Chapter 12 of John’s gospel. We read there about the unbelief of the Jewish people with regard to Christ. John tells us that in spite of all the miracles he performed among them, they would not believe and he says, in Verses 39 and 40, “they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’” Now, this is a quote from Chapter 6 of Isaiah, which is where we read of Isaiah’s amazing vision of God on his throne in heaven.

Marc Roby: Which I might add is, perhaps, the greatest vision of God given to anyone in all of history.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right, it is. And let me quote a lengthy passage from Boice because he summarizes what this means very well. He wrote, “To people living today, particularly Christians, the reference may seem natural, for we are used to theological statements giving full deity to Christ. But that was hardly natural for John, a monotheistic Jew, or for his contemporaries. For a Jew of John’s time God was almost inaccessible in his transcendence. He was the holy One of Israel. He dwelt in glory unapproachable. None actually saw him. And when on some unusual occasion some remarkably privileged person, such as Moses or Isaiah, had received a vision of God in his glory, it was not believed even then to be an actual vision of God as he is in himself but rather only an image or reflection of him. Yet such a vision filled one with awe and wonder.

“What Isaiah saw was the closest thing in all Jewish writings or tradition to an actual ‘portrait’ of the living and holy God. Yet that vision with all its breathtaking splendor John applies to Jesus. Without questioning, it would seem, John takes the most exalted vision of God in the Old Testament and says that it was a portrait of a carpenter from Nazareth who was about to be crucified – so great is John’s opinion of him.”[7]

Marc Roby: It is hard for us to grasp just how radical that view was at that time.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly is, but Boice does a good job of explaining the importance. John was clearly convinced by all that he had seen, heard and experienced that Jesus Christ was God. So, anyone who believes the Bible to be true must join with John in recognizing this fact. To do otherwise is to deny the veracity of the New Testament and the apostle whom Jesus loved.

Marc Roby: I agree. What other evidence do you want to adduce in support of this view?

Dr. Spencer: Another important point that often goes unnoticed by modern readers is the way Jesus referred to God the Father. As we have noted, the Jews considered God’s name to be so holy that it should not even be spoken. And they considered, as Boice pointed out in the passage I just read, God to be so transcendent that he was inaccessible to human beings. No first century Jew would ever have thought of referring to God as his personal father, and yet, that is the way Jesus most commonly referred to him.

Marc Roby: That is a fascinating observation, and I agree that most modern readers gloss right over that point because we are used to people referring to God as their Father.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and Jesus even went further. In John 10 we read about a very interesting exchange between Jesus and some Jews in an area near the temple in Jerusalem. They asked him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ, the promised Savior of the Jews. Jesus responded by saying that he had already told them because his miracles spoke for him. And he then said to them, in John 10:26, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Marc Roby: That was not a very politically correct response.

Dr. Spencer: Thankfully, they didn’t have our modern idea of political correctness. And it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because Jesus simply spoke the truth. We need to remember that the Jews at this time were expecting a political Messiah who would deliver the Jewish people from Roman rule and establish a new Jewish state. They were not thinking about eternal salvation. For Jesus to say that he is the promised Messiah, but they, as Jews, were not his sheep, was a shocking a statement. They thought that all Jews were God’s chosen people and would be saved – again in the political sense – by the Messiah.

Marc Roby: Jesus often had to contend with this false understanding of what the Messiah would do.

Dr. Spencer: Yes he did, that wrong understanding frequently caused problems. And Jesus went on in what he said to them. We read in John 10:27-30 that he said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Marc Roby: And we read in Verses 31-33 that the people picked up stones to try and stone Jesus for blasphemy, so they certainly understood that he was claiming to be God.

Dr. Spencer: They certainly did understand. How can you not understand what he meant? He calls God his Father, not in some abstract sense, but in a very personal sense, implying the closest of all relationships. And then he makes a completely explicit claim; “I and the Father are one.” The only way someone can fail to understand what he is saying is if they refuse to accept that the one true and living God might exist in more than one person.

Marc Roby: We discussed way back in Session 2 that this word “person” can be a problem for people in this regard.

Dr. Spencer: It certainly can be, but we shouldn’t get hung up on that. We are made in God’s image, but he is the original, the archetype, we are made in his image and therefore share some of his qualities, but we are not exactly like him. He is tri-personal, we are not.

Marc Roby: And it shouldn’t be at all surprising, as we have pointed out before, that God is greater and more complex in a sense than we are.

Dr. Spencer: Not only should that not be surprising, it is what we should expect. No matter how great and beautiful a human creation is, say a statue, or a painting, or a piece of music, or whatever, it is certainly not as complex, deep and beautiful as the person who created it. In the same way, we as creatures are not as complex and deep as our Creator.

Marc Roby: We are out of time today and this looks like a good place to stop. I would like to once again remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 550

[3] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pp 268-270

[4] E.g., see John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, P&R Publishing Company, 2002, pg. 593 and Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 220

[5] Grudem, op. cit., pg. 220

[6] Boice, op. cit., pp 269-270

[7] Ibid, pp 272-273

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