Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus is God

Mere Christianity?

Dr. James White often refers to what he calls the “mere Christianity” movement where people try to make Christianity as small as you can make it.  In the 2000 years of the Church, orthodoxy has been the standard for what is deemed as Christian.  I grant you that at times this has not always been clear and sometimes people made non-essentials as essentials of the gospel.  In our day, mere Christianity has come to simply believe that if you affirm Jesus, you are a Christian.

I have been following a blogger for some time who I have seen him drifting this way.  His view is that Jesus is what matters yet it seems to me that he does not care what people believe about Jesus so long as they say they love Jesus and desire to follow Him.  While this blogger seems to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God (though I’m not sure if he holds to inerrancy or infallibility), he often muddles the water by using the liberal “red letter Christian” mantras.  It is as if this blogger makes Jesus someone that we should merely copy (and by that I mean be a hippie and be focused on “peace and love man”).  This blogger even has been writing about how he has seen Jesus in a Muslim friend of his and how this Muslim has taught him more about Jesus than many Christians.

This is the mere Christianity movement.  There is no focus on the doctrine of Christ nor about His atonement.  There is little emphasis placed on His perfection for our salvation.  There is nothing said about His death, His resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He lives to make intercession for the saints.  There is nothing said about His coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  In fact, mere Christianity makes Jesus just someone that we should copy and imitate to have a better life.  Jesus becomes nothing more than a “great teacher” along with other “great teachers.”  Jesus’ own declarations are ignored.

I don’t assume that someone is a Christian simply because they name the name of Jesus.  Jesus Himself said that many would come in His name (Matthew 24:4-5).  John the Beloved wrote that many antichrists had come (1 John 2:18).  Antichrists are false christs.  Paul the Apostle issued curses on those who preach a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).  Thus we can see that there are false christs and false gospels.

Not everyone who says Jesus is truly His (Matthew 7:21-23).  Jesus said that those who are His are those who hear His words and put them into practice, who build their lives on His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27).  A disciple of Jesus is one who abides in His teachings (John 8:31-32).  This means that the disciple not only reads the Word of God (and not merely the “red letters”) but they study it as well.  I study God’s Word to know God, to love Him more and to obey Him better all by His Spirit and His grace.

So many claim Christ but they don’t even know the first thing about Him.  They don’t know His Word.  They don’t read His Word.  They don’t study His Word.  They don’t care to study His Word nor do they truly care to know Him because Jesus doesn’t fit our views when we read and study Him.  The perfect Son of God is not like us in that He is absolutely perfect, holy, blameless, and His ways are beyond our ways.  We seek to imitate Him (1 Peter 2:21-24; 1 John 2:6) but we recognize that He alone is perfect.  He is perfect for our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Because He remains forever perfect, He now stands before the Father in our defense (Hebrews 7:22-25).  As we abide in Jesus through faith (Romans 5:1; 1 John 2:24-25), we find that He is faithful to wash our sins away (1 John 1:7, 9).

The mere Christianity movement wants to place Jesus among others.  Jesus is far above all others (Colossians 1:15-20).  Every knee will bow to His glory alone (Philippians 2:5-11).  This includes all false teachers, all false prophets, all false religions.  Jesus is not equal among others.  Jesus is God (John 1:1, 18; Romans 9:5) and He is to be worshiped as God.

The mere Christianity movement has to dethrone Jesus to make Him equal among others.  For example, the Muslim view of Jesus is not at all equal with the biblical view.  The Quran teaches that Jesus is not God, that He is not even the Son of God.  Yes Islam says that Jesus is the Messiah but they deny His divinity and the Quran condemns to hell those who would say that God is a man or has a son.  The Quran falsely believes that the doctrine of the Trinity includes Mary.  The Quran denies that Jesus died for our sins.  Most Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross but rather Allah made someone else to appear as Jesus on the cross such as Judas.  While Islam teaches that Jesus will return, they believe that He will return and set up an Islamic kingdom on the earth.  The Islamic confession of faith is focused on Mohammad and not on Jesus.

And yet mere Christianity says that since a Muslim claims to love Jesus (the Jesus of the Quran and not the Jesus of the Bible), then they are “saved.”  If a Muslim denies the Quran’s teaching on Jesus and embraces the biblical view of Jesus then I would submit that they are not a Muslim but a Christian.  Of course, true salvation requires faith and repentance in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).

One final point.  The mere Christianity movement especially detests evangelism.  After all, the evangelist is preaching that Jesus alone saves (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  The evangelist preaches that faith and repentance are necessary for eternal life (Luke 13:5; John 5:24-25; 6:29; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 5:13).  This goes against the mere Christian view that all religions are essentially good so long as they love Jesus.  It also goes against the postmodern mindset that there is no absolute truth since Jesus Himself claims to be the truth of God (John 14:6).  When religious people are confronted with their sins and with the truth of Jesus, they always strike back with a vengeance.  I have witnessed this myself. People don’t mind if you preach a peace and love Jesus but the moment you preach that a person must repent, they quickly turn on you.  People love Jesus but the Jesus they create in their own images but not the biblical Jesus.

I am often confronted by the biblical Jesus as I read.  I am confronted with my sins.  I am confronted with my lack of being like Jesus in all I do.  I am confronted with how wonderful Jesus truly is and the more that I study Him and the more that I seek Him, the more I find that I am not like Him, that He is God and worthy to be praised, and I will never truly grasp Him in this life.  Jesus is simply too wonderful, too mighty, too holy for me to perfectly understand but what I do know is this: He died for my sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18) and He is coming again in glory (2 Timothy 4:1).  I long to see Him and worship Him forever.  I will continue to preach the biblical Jesus and preach against the false christs of this world.

Is Jesus Just an Anointed Man?

There are those who want to deny that Jesus is God.  They teach that only the Father is God and that He alone is one true and living God but Jesus is just a man, albeit an anointed man used by God and even the Messiah but certainly not divine.  These groups will often claim that they hold that Jesus is the true Messiah and that He was born of the virgin Mary by the power of God but they deny that He was God or even claimed to be God.  Some of them believe Jesus was the Son of God but not eternally existent with the Father and distinct from the Father in any way.  The Oneness Pentecostals, for example, deny that the Son of God is eternal but rather that He came to exist in Bethlehem (Luke 1:35; Galatians 4:4).

You’ll find many of the Hebrews Roots Movement teachers denying that Jesus is God.  They hold to modalism but only that Yahweh is God but not Yeshua.  They teach that Jesus is the Messiah but He was not God nor did He claim to be God.  They view Jesus as anointed by Yahweh and the servant of Yahweh but He is not Yahweh and He is not divine.  Jesus is our example, a mighty prophet of God, the Messiah sent by Yahweh, but Jesus is not divine in their teachings.  They believe this protects the monotheism of Judaism and does not elevate a man above Yahweh.

Others teach, like the Oneness Pentecostals but in different terms, that the Father alone is God.  They point out the word of Jesus in such passages as Mark 12:29-30 or John 20:17.  It seems that Jesus is giving honor to the Father and alone to the Father thus He is not claiming equality with God nor is claiming to receive worship but He is pointing others to the Father who alone is God.

Let us briefly examine these claims.

Jesus Is Assigned Old Testament Designations of Yahweh.

When we compare the Old Testament texts with their New Testament fulfillment in Christ, we see that Jesus is indeed Yahweh.  Consider Matthew 1:23 from Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 3:3 with Isaiah 40:3; John 3:31 with Psalm 97:9; John 12:38-41 with Isaiah 6:10 and 53:1; Acts 3:14 with 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Corinthians 1:30 with Isaiah 43:24 and Jeremiah 23:5-6; 1 Corinthians 2:8 with Psalm 24:7-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10 with Ecclesiastes 12:14; Ephesians 4:7-8 with Psalm 68:18; Philippians 2:9-11 with Isaiah 45:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 with Isaiah 2:10-19; Titus 2:13 with Hosea 1:7; Hebrews 1:8-9 with Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 13:20 with Isaiah 40:10-11; 1 Peter 3:15 with Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 1:17 with Isaiah 44:6.

Jesus Is Superior to Men and Angels.

Jesus is above men and angels.  He is not part of them.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael from the Old Testament.  The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus the Son is but a man and not the eternal God.  The Hebrews Roots Movement teaches that Jesus is a great prophet and even the Messiah of God but He is not God but is part of God’s creation.  Consider these texts: John 1:17; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:17-18; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 1:4-6, 13; Hebrews 2:5-8; Hebrews 3:3; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Revelation 1:5.

Jesus Receives Prayer, Praise, and Worship.  

How can Jesus receive prayer, praise, and worship if He is not God?  This would violate the clear teachings of the Old Testament that forbids the people of God from praying to anyone but Yahweh (see Deuteronomy 4:39; 5:7-9; 13:1-5; Isaiah 43:11; 44:6-8; 45:22; etc.).  The Bible is clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and there are no other gods.  So if Jesus received prayer, praise, and worship and He is not God, then men are praying, praising, and worshiping a man (even an exalted man by Yahweh but Yahweh alone is to receive worship).  This would be utter blasphemy (as Muslims point out) if Jesus is just a prophet, just a created being, even just the Messiah.  If Jesus is not God, why pray to Him or praise Him or worship Him?  This would be sinful.  Yet Scripture is clear that people did pray, praise, and worshipped Him:

Acts 3:16; 7:59-60; 22:16; Romans 1:7; 10:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Galatians 1:3-5; 6:18; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 12; 2 Timothy 4:18, 23; Hebrews 1:6; 13:20-21; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:14; 7:9-10; 15:3-4.

Consider the strong words of Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.”  The Apostles worshiped Jesus?  These faithful Jewish men worshiped the Jewish Jesus.

The Draw of the Oneness Pentecostal Movement

I have been studying the doctrine of the holy Trinity now for some time.  I love the doctrine!  It is amazing how Scripture opens up when you begin to study the nature of God.  Fred Sanders is correct, “The trinity changes everything.”  The holy Trinity changes our understanding of love, creation, humanity, order, prayer, worship, and salvation.  Without the Trinity, these doctrines become confusing and twisted.

In my studies, I have been reading books from the Oneness camps to see where they are coming from.  I have listened to many hours of lectures and sermons from Oneness Pentecostals.  Some of the sermons were just normal sermons while most of them I tried to pick that focused on my studies.  I will not, for the sake of time, try to dive into the Oneness views regarding their view of God.  It is suffice to say that Oneness Pentecostals are “Jesus only” meaning that, in the words of one of their preachers, “Jesus is everything.”  In Oneness Pentecostalism, Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, Jesus is the Holy Spirit.  There is more to it than just that but they hold that Jesus is God and that there is only one God and thus Jesus is the only person of the Godhead and He alone is all three modes or manifestations of God that we read in the Bible.

What is the draw then to Oneness Pentecostalism?  I think the appeal is the same as the draw to Trinitarian Pentecostalism in many ways.  First, there is the focus on experience.  Oneness Pentecostalism is very emotional.  The worship is dramatic.  People often shake, dance, run, lift their hands, speak in tongues, etc. in their worship services.  The God of Oneness churches is a very personal God who wants to interact with his people.

Secondly, the preaching is more dramatic than the average evangelical sermon.  While I enjoy a good expository sermon, I detest a lifeless one.  I want a preacher who preaches with passion the truth of God with sound exegesis.  However, the average evangelical pulpit is often shallow and lifeless.  Not so with many Oneness Pentecostal churches.  They preach with power (anointing they would say).  While their message is often shallow and not based on exegesis, they preach with conviction and shouting and fire that is often missing in evangelical churches.

Third, they present themselves as the keepers of the truth.  Oneness Pentecostals (most of them I have listened to) believe that all are lost but Oneness Pentecostals.  If you have not been saved according to their view of Acts 2:38, you are lost.  This would be all Trinitarians including Trinitarian Pentecostals.  You must be baptized in the name of Jesus to have your sins forgiven.  To be baptized in any other way is damnation.  This twisting of Acts 2:38 leads Oneness Pentecostals to feel that they alone are the keepers of the truth of God.  Their duty is to evangelize all who are not Oneness.  This “cause” helps people find purpose in their existence.

Lastly, simple answers.  People want to know who is God.  Oneness Pentecostals are ready with an answer: Jesus is God.  Of course, Trinitarians believe the same but Oneness groups don’t teach that the one God is three persons but rather they teach that Jesus is God and He alone is God and He alone has always been God and He alone will forever be God.  There are no persons in the Godhead but only Jesus (Colossians 2:9).  If you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:8-9).  Oneness groups provide answers for who is God and what is He like.  Like cults, they have answers for God where confusing may exist.  They have their God figured out.

Sadly, many Trinitarian Pentecostals often fall into prey with Oneness Pentecostals.  The reason is that pragmatism abounds among the Trinitarian Pentecostals.  One could easily attend a Trinitarian Pentecostal church and never know that it was Pentecostal.  This is not so with Oneness Pentecostals.  They have the feel of the old Pentecostal services where the music is jumping, the people are jumping, and the sermons are “anointed.”  The average Trinitarian Pentecostal looking for an “experience” with Jesus will find one in Oneness churches and will remind them of “the good old days.”  Due to pragmatism, doctrine among many Trinitarian Pentecostals is weak and thus a Trinitarian Pentecostal is easily drawn into the Oneness groups and led astray.

For more information on Oneness Pentecostals, I recommend this book.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/18/2015 at 5:17 PM

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas for the simple reason that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14).  I love the incarnation of God!  I love that Christmas represents the time when the Church celebrates the fact that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  I love that He who created all things became part of His creation (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3).  I do not care about the debates over whether Jesus was actually born on December 25.  The point is that He was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-23), lived a sinless life (1 Peter 2:22), performed might miracles for God was with Him (Acts 10:38) , He died (John 19:30), rose again on the third day(1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and ascended to the right hand of God on high (Acts 1:11).  Jesus will come again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 22:20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/24/2013 at 10:24 AM

Arminius on the Divinity of the Son of God

X. The divinity of the person of the Son is evident, from the names which are attributed to him in the scriptures.

(1.) Because he is called God, and this not only attributively, as “the Word was God,” (John i, 1.) “Who is over all, God blessed forever;” (Rom. ix, 5;) but likewise subjectively: “God manifested in the flesh.” (1 Tim. iii, 16.) “O God, thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness.” (Heb. i, 9.) Nay, he is likewise called “the great God.” (Tit. ii, 13.)

(2.) The word “Son” stands in proof of the same truth, especially so far as this name belongs to him properly and solely, according to which he is called “God’s own Son,” (Rom. viii, 32,) and “his only begotten Son,” (John i, 18,) which expressions, we affirm, are tantamount to his being called by nature, the Son of God.

(3.) Because he is called “King of kings and Lord of lords;” (Rev. xvii, 14; xix, 16;) and “the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. ii, 8.) These appellations prove much more strongly what we wish to establish, if they be compared with the scriptures of the Old Testament, in which the same names are ascribed to him who is called Jehovah. (Psalm xcv, 3; xxiv, 8-10.)

(4.) Pious antiquitity established the same truth from the name, of Logos, “the Word;” which cannot signify the outward word that is devoid of a proper subsistence, on account of those things which are attributed to it in the Scriptures. For it is said to have been “in the beginning, to have been with God, and to be God,” and to have “created all things,” &c.

XI. The essential attributes of the Deity which are in the Scriptures ascribed to the Son of God, likewise declare this in the plainest manner.

(1.) Immensity: “My Father and I will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John xiv, 23.) “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” (Ephes. iii, 17.) “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii, 20.)

(2.) Eternity: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John i, 1.) “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” (Rev. i, 11; ii, 8.)

(3.) Immutability: “But thou, O Lord, remainest; thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” (Heb. i, 11, 12.)

(4.) Omniscience is also attributed to him: For he searches the reins and hearts;” (Rev. ii, 93.) He “knows all things.” (John xxi, 17.) And he perceived the thoughts of the Pharisees. (Matt. xii, 25.)

(5.) Omnipotence: “According to the efficacy whereby the Lord Jesus Christ is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. iii, 21.) But the Divine nature cannot, without a contradiction, be taken away from him to whom the proper essentials of God are ascribed.

(6.) Lastly. Majesty and glory belong to Him equally with the Father: “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John v, 23.) “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.” (Rev. v, 13.)

XII. The divine works which are attributed to Him, establish the same truth.

(1.) The creation of all things: “All things were made by Him.” (John i, 3.) “By whom also, he made the worlds,” or the ages. (Heb. i, 2.) “One Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things.” (1 Cor. viii, 6.) But what are these “all things?” Exactly the same as those which are said, in the same verse, to be “of the Father.”

(2.) The preservation of all things: all things by the word of his power.” (Heb. i, 3.) “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John v, 17.)

(3.) The performing of miracles: “Which He works by the Holy Spirit, who is said to “have received of the things of Christ, by which he will glorify Christ.” (John xvi, 14.) “By which, also, he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” (1 Pet. iii, 19.) This Spirit is so peculiar to Christ, that the Apostles are said to perform miracles in the name and power of Christ.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/20/2013 at 10:58 AM

The Importance of the Virgin Birth (Part One)

Why was Jesus born of a virgin?  Why is it important that the Church continue to preach that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary?  And what role does the virgin birth play in regard to our redemption?

Some propose that the virgin birth is necessary because of the doctrine of original sin.  For instance, Dr. Wayne Grudem proposes that the virgin birth of Christ was necessary because all humans have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam.  But since Jesus did not have a human father then He partially interrupted the line from Adam.  Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being had descended from Adam.  Dr. Grudem sees Luke 1:35 as a proof text for this.  Luke 1:35 reads,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Notice that Luke records that Jesus would be called “holy.”  He could be called holy because He was born without the corrupt nature inherited by all humans from Adam.  The virgin birth thus ensured that Jesus was born fully human but without inherited sin of any kind.  Jesus could be both fully human and fully God through the virgin birth and He could be called holy unlike us.

In contrast to this, others propose that the virgin birth has nothing to do with original sin.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, for example, rejects the teaching from above.  While Cottrell affirms the virgin birth as necessary and part of God’s plan, he rejects the idea that the virgin birth helps Jesus not inherit a sinful nature.  Instead, Cottrell states that there is simply no biblical basis for such a view either of original sin inherited by humans or about Jesus needing the virgin birth to avoid original sin.

Another theologian who rejects the virgin birth as necessary to avoid original sin states it this way,

Some have supposed that the virgin birth was necessary in order for Jesus to avoid the inheritance of a sinful nature.  However, the Scriptures nowhere state that Jesus was born of a virgin to avoid the inheritance of some type of sinful substance.  Rather, the Bible says that He was born of a virgin because His Father was God.  Though Jesus was born of a virgin and His Father was God, Jesus did not have a different type of flesh from the rest of us.  He had the same type of flesh that we have.  Jesus was not made physically perfect until the third day when He was raised with a glorified body (Luke 13:32; Hebrews 5:9).  If Jesus was born with a glorified flesh, or if He did not take upon Himself a physically depraved flesh like we have, which was subjected to death, He could not have tasted death for every man; and therefore, could not have made atonement for all.  It was necessary for Christ to be made with the same type of physically depraved body that we have, so that He could be capable of physical death (Hebrews 2:9, 14, 16-17).

Another theologian who rejects the virgin birth as necessary to escape from the pollution of Adam’s seed states it thus:

The Bible is clear that the virgin birth is to be a sign (Isaiah 7:14).  That is the point of the virgin birth, a sign.  It points to the fact that the Baby born to the virgin would be God (Immanuel).  We find nothing in the Bible that teaches that the virgin birth is necessary to avoid original sin.  Instead, the virgin birth points to the absolute deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible and Supernatural Births

The Bible lists other supernatural births but none compare to the supernatural birth of Jesus.  For example, the birth of Isaac (Genesis 18:9-14), Samson (Judges 13) Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).  Yet all of these births occurred naturally with a human father and mother.  In the case of Jesus, He was born of a virgin without a human father.  He was 100% human through Mary but was 100% God through the Holy Spirit.  Paul the Apostle never mentions the virgin birth, but when he writes of the Lord Jesus coming into the world (Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7), he uses the Greek word ginomai (“become, come into being”) and avoids the word gennao or the common term for “be born” which would focus on two human parents.

The birth of Jesus was a supernatural event unlike any other.  This birth was a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (see Matthew 1:18-25).  The birth of Jesus pointed to His deity, that He was God and always had been God (John 1:1, 14).  Jesus did not come into being in Bethlehem but He had always been and always will be.  The Word became flesh in Bethlehem but He was always God from everlasting (Micah 5:2 NKJV).  Hebrews 1:10-12 is clear that Jesus has always been and He always will be (Hebrews 13:8).

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