Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Words of Jesus Against the Error of Modalism

In the New Testament, Jesus often addresses or refers to the other Persons of the Godhead. We see this especially in the Gospel of John, the very book which most-clearly teaches His deity. We see it in John 12:49, 14:16-26, 15:26, and 16:5-15. I bring this topic up because of the claims of the Modalists, or Sabellians (seen primarily in the United Pentecostal Church), that there is no distinction of Persons within the Godhead, but merely the one Person working in different modes (thus the name "modalism").

Consider, first, John 12:49: "I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak." If the Persons of the Trinity are actually one Person acting under two modes, how can the Father speak to the Son? For the Trinitarian, this isn't a problem; it is an aspect of the intra-Trinitarian covenant. For the Modalist, there is no explanation except irrationalisty.

In the second passage, John 14:16-26, Jesus refers to Himself, the Father, and the Spirit. Look at, for example, verses 16-17: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth." Thus, we have the Son speaking in the first Person, referring to both of the other Persons, speaking of what He would do, "ask the Father," then what the Father would do, "give the Spirit," then what the Spirit would do, "be with you forever." The Modalists claim that this sentence is an anthropomorphism, i. e., Jesus's describing Himself, acting in all three modes. Yet, how can this be? When Jesus says that He will ask the Father, are we truly to understand that He is speaking to Himself? And when the Father sends the Spirit, are we to understand that Jesus is sending Himself? So, to paraphrase the sentence the way the Modalists understand it: "I will ask Myself to send Myself, and then I will be with you forever." That isn't an anthropomorphism; that's insanity!

In the third passage, John 15:26, we see a nearly-identical remarks: "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me." Again, we see, not each Person acting in turn, as the Modalists maintain, but all three acting in concert.

In the last passage, John 16:5-15, we see something similar. Verses 13-15 read, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you." Again, the Apostle records Jesus's own words describing the Persons of the Trinity acting in concert, not in succession, as the Modalists claim.

Consider the alternative: if the Modalists were right, and there is one divine Person who changes roles, would Jesus not have said something like, "I will return to heaven, and then come back to you as the Spirit"? That is shorter, not at all equivocal or difficult to understand, yet not what Jesus says. In fact it isn't even comparable to what Jesus said. Therefore, is it not simple logic to understand that it isn't what Jesus meant?

My point is this: the Bible does, indeed, use anthropomorphisms. However, they are used for clarification, not obfuscation. The Modalist expects us to believe that Jesus is using figures of speech, not to reveal the truth, but to obscure it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Was Jesus Born Again? The Heresy of the Word of Faith Movement

Jesus taught us that it is necessary for a man to be born again to enter eternal life (John 3:3). That's because we are all fallen in Adam (Romans 5:12), dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). To be born again is to have God change our hearts, to become able to believe and obey Him (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Jesus, however, didn't include Himself, because He had no sin (II Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15). If He was never a sinner, then He had no need for a new heart.

In contrast, the ministers associated with the prosperity gospel, or Word of Faith, movement, teach that Jesus went to Hell after His crucifixion, and was born again there, so that He could then be resurrected. Can there be any better indication that this movement is actually an anti-Christian, even anti-Christ, cult?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Pre-Incarnate Mediatorship of Christ in Amos 7

The seventh chapter of Amos opens with three warning visions.

The first is Amos 7:1-3: "This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings. When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, 'O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!' The Lord relented concerning this: 'It shall not be,' said the Lord."

The second is Amos 7:4-6: "This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said, 'O Lord God, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!' The Lord relented concerning this: 'This also shall not be,' said the Lord God." 

And the third in Amos 7:7-9: "This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, 'Amos, what do you see?' And I said, 'A plumb line.' Then the Lord said, 'Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."

In all three visions, God warns of an impending judgment on the northern kingdom, a judgment which was eventually fulfilled in the conquest and deportation by Assyria in 722BC. The difference is that the first two judgments are turned away through the intercession of Amos himself. 

However, the third vision is very different. First, notice the varying use of "lord." In the first and third occurrences we see "Lord." That is, the Hebrew word adon. In contrast, the middle usage is "LORD," for the Tetragrammaton, Jehovah. This contrast indicates a conversation between the First and Second Persons
of the Trinity. Compare Psalm 110:1 and its use in Luke 20:42 and Acts 2:34. 

We see Amos's twice taking a mediatorial role, and turning aside God's judgment on the northern portion of Israel. However, in the third judgment, Christ, the ultimate Mediator, refuses to intervene on behalf of Israel and this third, most-devastating, judgment was poured out in the destruction of these ten tribes. We see it again in Amos 9:7, where God tells the northern kingdom that she has no more privileges in His eyes than do the most-obscure (in their knowledge of the world) foreigners. How horrible must God's wrath be, if His own appointed Mediator refuses to plead for a sinner!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Missionary Heart of Jesus

"Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a
shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'"
- Matthew 9:35-38 

These verses show us something about Jesus that I find amazing. While He came to save the church (Eph. 5:25, confer John 10:29 and 17:6), He is not blind to the rest of fallen humanity. Rather, He sees their sin, spiritual blindness, disease, futility, and even their stubbornness (see, for example, Matthew 23:37), and is moved with compassion. He sorrows over the irremediable fallenness of the reprobate, though He acts in justice in judging them for their sin (Matthew 25:31-33, 46, and Revelation 20:11-15). 

How can these things be compatible?

It is certainly true that God takes no pleasure in destroying the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). If He did, would He not be too sadistic for us to contemplate? But the Bible also says (Psalm 5:4), "You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with You."

The problem continues to be that God is more complex than we want Him to be. Too many people talk about the love of God for men, and then stop. What does God value above men? Himself. To love sinners without acting in justice, He would be forced to excise that side of His nature, His holiness (Heb. 12:29). He would thus cease to be God. The God of that kind of belief system is not the God of the Bible, but is rather an idol, a god made, not even in man's image, but rather according to man's desires.