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Is it wrong to struggle with faith?

Many times in people’s lives they struggle with faith. Sometimes something happens to them that shakes their faith to the core. Is it wrong to sometimes have doubts? Does God love you less if you sometimes question your belief in Him? The answer is no. Sometimes I think we are told that we are not allowed to struggle with our faith, but I have found that even those who are truly committed followers of Christ sometimes struggle with doubts just like you and I.

In Hebrews 11:1 we see a great definition of faith. In fact the majority of us have memorized this verse. It says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is an active trust and belief displayed through obedience. This verse speaks of a faith that is in the unseen. This is something that we as people struggle with. We tend to try and place our faith in tangible things, things we can see and touch but that is easy, what isn’t easy is having spiritual faith. This is something that is outside of our senses and this is also why we all have moments of doubt and why sometimes we struggle with our faith.

When we read further in Hebrews 11 in verse 6 we read, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” This is the biblical purpose of faith, to bring us into the presence of God. Faith entails believing that God exists. In Hebrews 1:2 it says that God has revealed Himself to us through His Son, Jesus. We see in this verse that faith also entails believing that God will reward those who seek Him. We see this expression of seeking the Lord throughout the Psalms, it is speaking of those who seek God and those who trust in His promises. The one thing I love about Hebrews 11 is that it is so encouraging when I have struggles with my faith. I sit and I read about so many of Old Testament “heroes” of the faith and try and see how it draws me to my present day and this generation we live in. I think about Noah and Abraham and how they may have had doubts and they may have not understood exactly what it what that God wanted from them but they had faith, they trusted in God and they knew that because they did have that faith and trust that God would see them through.

God does understand that sometimes we would struggle with faith, that sometimes we would have doubts. I was reading the gospel of Mark the other day and one chapter that stuck out to me that made me think about the struggle of faith was in Mark chapter 9. Starting at verse 14 we read about a boy who has an unclean spirit. There was some ruckus going on when Jesus came and He found the ruckus was because the disciples were unable to cast the demon out of the boy. The father brought his son there expecting to find Jesus bit instead found His disciples. Jesus speaks and says, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” I can’t help but imagine that Jesus was not only talking to the crowd that gathered but also to His disciples… Let;s look at what the father said in verse 24. He said, “I believe, Help my unbelief.” Have you ever felt that way? I believe Lord, but please help my unbelief. This father admitted to Jesus that he wanted help in his unbelief. He believed that Jesus could heal his son, but he still had that little doubt and wanted help in that unbelief that he had. This is how we should approach those times that we struggle with our faith. Look at what happened after this. Jesus did not rebuke the father, He did not lecture the father on how he should have stronger faith, not He healed his son, He honored this father and knew that his faith would increase because the father asked Him to help his unbelief. So even when we have those moments of unbelief or when we sometimes struggle with our faith, we need to keep Jesus and the object of our faith and we need to continue to read His Word and continue to fight for that faith in Him that we have. Keeping our eyes focused on Christ will help us through our struggles and relying on the Holy Spirit is our greatest power that we have that will help us overcome any doubt or struggle we may have. We can cry out just as this father did, Lord I believe but help my unbelief….and He will.

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Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus’ Birth

It has been a little while since I have sat down to write and since it is Christmas week I thought I would write a little about some prophecies that have been fulfilled by Jesus’ Birth.

One of the verses we hear a lot around Christmas time is Isaiah 9:6. Isaiah writes, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This is a promise of hope through a future Davidic king, and we see a list of titles or attributes to be given to this future king. Some of these are divine titles that would not be given or refer to a human king. This was fulfilled by Jesus in Luke 2:11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The title Savior refers to Yahweh, we see Mary say this in Luke 1:47 when she says, ” And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The title of Christ emphasizes Jesus’ anointing as God’s promised Servant. Lord emphasizes His sovereign authority. It is also interesting to add that in Luke’s gospel he uses the title Lord, Greek kyrios, to refer to both Yahweh and Jesus. Look at Luke 2:9 when he writes, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” When Luke uses this Greek word it shows that he intended to refer to Jesus as Yahweh.

 

It was also prophesied that Jesus would be born of a virgin. In Isaiah 7:14 it says, ” Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel means, God with us. This is fulfilled in Matthew 1:18, “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew is a little different in his writing and gives a different perspective than Luke did. Matthew cites several Old Testament passages that show that Jesus is Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.

In Luke 1:26-35, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke calls Mary a virgin twice here to emphasize that  Jesus’ conception was an act of God. In Luke 1:34 Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin.” The angel then tells Mary, “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.” The title Son of God reflects Jesus’ miraculous conception and His divinity.

If Jesus was not born this way, of a virgin, He would not be fully God. If Joseph and Mary had relations and Jesus was conceived that way He would only be fully human. Since Jesus’ conception was an act of God, He is fully human and fully God. He is Immanuel, God with us. He is Jesus, the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32), He will “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

 

These are just two of the prophecies found that are fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. I will continue this Christmas week to write about more of the prophecies that were fulfilled by the birth of Jesus.

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Theological Position Paper Rough Draft

For my final class for my degree we have to write a theological position paper stating in 100-200 words our position on metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, ministry praxis in both education and leadership. We have to have some scholarly resources as well as use Scripture to support our position. This is the rough draft assignment I sent in, it only had to be 50-100 words with support.

Metaphysics
Metaphysics is “the branch of philosophy that inquires into the ultimate nature of reality.” In a Christian worldview the ultimate nature of reality is that God is the ultimate source of all the reality and He alone is responsible for our being. We see this in John 1:1-4 when it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (ESV)
Epistemology
Epistemology is “a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of our knowledge.” This is a very common question to be asked, how do we know what we know? In a Christian worldview Epistemology is knowing about God. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours our speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (ESV) It is through His creation that God reveals truth and knowledge.
Axiology
Axiology is also called the “theory of value, the philosophical study of goodness, or value.” This has to do with what shapes our values and more specifically why we tell our children to be good and what it means for them and us to do good. It is all a part of ethics. In this day and age, we have many people asking “why should we be good or do good to others?” a biblical answer would be because we are all created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).
Ministry Praxis -Education
One definition of praxis is “practical application of a theory.” Ministry Praxis would be the practical application of ministry work, and more specifically here in education. This would be in the form of educating believers how to apply what they believe in their daily life. This can be done through schools, churches, and other means. We see this in Matthew 28:19-20 when Jesus gave the Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (ESV) We are commanded not only to make disciples and baptize them, but to teach what Jesus taught.
Ministry Praxis – Leadership
Just as above Ministry Praxis for leadership is equipping leaders for ministry. This is very important for a Christian worldview so that leaders are equipped with biblical knowledge and helping with practical skills to teach others. In Ephesians 4:12 Paul writes about the importance of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (ESV) Equipping of the saints refers to “the purpose of spiritual office and gifts. Christ gave Himself for the benefit of others; now, those in Christ imitate His generosity by using His gifts for the benefit of others.”

Bibliography
Barry, John D., Douglas Mangum, Derek Brown, and Michael Heiser. Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA., nd
Dew, James K. and Mark W Foreman. How Do We Know? An Introduction to Epistemology. United States: Inter-Varsity Press, US, 2014.
Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p.: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. United States: Baker Publishing Group (MI), 2001.
Merriam-Webster. “Definition of PRAXIS.”. 2015. Accessed July 18, 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/praxis.

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John 12:1-8 – Mary annoints Jesus at Bethany

 

In John 12:1 we read that Jesus arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover.” This would have been on the Sabbath before His death. There are some that do not believe that Jesus would have made a long trip from Jericho to Bethany, but as we have seen elsewhere, Jesus was not concerned about with keeping the laws such as the Sabbath so it is not an issue that he had done this on the Sabbath. Also is He had left for Bethany early on Friday and arrived early on the Sabbath, He would have not violated the Sabbath law. Either of these answers I have no issue with.

 

A bigger issue many have with this is that of a chronological nature. It deals with the time of this supper and the anointing. Many argue that this banquet is the same that we read about in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 in the home of Simon the leper. Close reading of these Scriptures will show that although there are similarities in the passages John’s account as we see in 12:1 is on the Sabbath six days before prior to Passover. In both Matthew and Mark, the anointing occurred on the following Tuesday. Another area that shows these are two separate events is in John 12:3 it is the feet of Jesus that are anointed, where in Matthew and Mark His head is stressed.  (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3) This would not be an issue to have two separate events because it was common to have a number of banquets surrounded around the Passover because it was a festival that was important and friends were present form all over. (Deuteronomy 16:16)

 

When burying the dead, the Jews would typically anoint the body, wrap it in the grave clothes, and then anoint the body in the grave clothes a second time. The first anointing that is recorded by John was done by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in John 19:38-40, but it was recorded in the synoptic Gospels the women who witnessed the burial went home and prepared spices and returned to the tomb Sunday to finish the anointing that the men began. (Matthew 27:61; 28:1; Mark 15:47-16:3; Luke 23:55-24:1) So in both type and fulfillment John records only the first anointing and the synoptic Gospels only record the second. Jesus was the fulfillment of the type of Passover Lamb. What is interesting is that the four days according to Jewish reckoning between the first and second anointing coincide with the four days between the initial selection and the final approval of the lamb for slaughter. (Exodus 12:3-6) Judas Iscariot contacted the Sanhedrin following the second anointment and made the arrangements to betray Jesus. (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11)

 

It was common to give a banquet for a means of honoring a guest in the Near East. Both of the anointing’s may have occurred at the same place since it is believed that Simon the leper was the father of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In John’s gospel we find Martha portrayed as serving, Mary is found at Jesus’ feet where she is usually portrayed and Lazarus probably hosting the meal sat at the table with Jesus.

 

At some point during the dinner Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with “a pound of expensive ointment (perfume) made from pure nard.” (John 12:3) Looking at the description in John we see the word murou (ointment) is a generic term that would be a liquid perfume and nardou (nard) which would have derived from the Sanskirt term nalada which refers to a particular very fragrant plant grown in India. This plant may have been grown in or around Syria but the word pistikes which means faithful, reliable or genuine would suggest that this as the real thing most likely imported from India. This was an ointment that was used for both bodies and wine.  The pound of ointment would have cost about 300 denarii, which is the equivalent of six months’ pay. This may have meant that this ointment would have been in Mary’s family for some time and used only sparingly for special occasions.  John uses the adjective polutimou which means very costly.

 

If you can imagine growing up and smelling your favorite food your grandma made or the way her house smelled or a particular perfume a loved one wore, you can imagine when John wrote about this sixty years later he probably still had that smell of the fragrance of that very expensive perfume. He remembers the scent that filled the room and he wrote in John 12:3, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  In the second anointing of Jesus it was the disciples who questioned why so much money was spent when the money could have been given to the poor, but here it is only Judas Iscariot who voiced his concern with this. John also points out that Judas was not concerned for the poor because he was a thief (kleptes) and was only concerned for himself. The second part of verse 6 gives a hint of Judas’ activities, the verb used is ebastazen which means to carry, beat or lift in the sense of taking away from. This is kind of in our context of embezzlement because Judas was not only in charge of the finances but he was stealing from the disciples as well.

 

Jesus defends Mary’s actions when He said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.” It seems that Mary may have taken Jesus’ talk about His death serious in which she may have first learned of at His feet in Luke 10:39-42. Jesus emphasized to His disciples to care for and help the poor. Here He is explaining to them that He alone is the center of their faith and their focus should be on Him. This would be especially the case when they are spending the last moments with Jesus as a man prior to His exalted form after His resurrection.

 

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Christians and Government:Applying Biblical Principles to the Current Situation

Here are my notes for my Romans class on how we as Christians should view government based on our beliefs.

 

Christians and Government

Applying Biblical Principles to the Current Situation

 

Paul’s description of the Christian’s relationship to Government

  1. Romans 13 and the surrounding context.
    1. A definite shift from chapter 11 and 12
    2. Theological foundation of the Christian life, the apostle Paul now builds upon that foundation providing principles for daily living.
    3. He now applies the theological truths to practical applications.
      1. 12:1-15:13 – Paul emphasizes the necessity of submitting to governing authorities.
      2. Romans 13:1-7
    4. A brief overview of Romans 12:1-15:13: The Christian life is a life of…..
      1. Sacrifice (12:1-2)
      2. Humility (12:3)
      3. Service (12:4-8)
      4. Love (12:9-21; 13:8-14)
      5. Submission (13:1-7)
      6. Acceptance and Encouragement (14:1-15:13)
    5. The imperative to submit to governing authorities (13:1-7)
      1. Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities, Why?
        1. God has established every governing authority (13:1b) God is sovereign over all.
        2. Paul even states that anyone who rebels against the governing authority, rebels against what God has instituted and the result is judgement (13:2)
  • Governments have been established to maintain law and order in societies. This e who do right have no need to fear ((13:3-4a)
  1. On the other hand, it is the government’s God’s given responsibility to punish wrongdoing (13:4b)
  2. The apostle envelopes his initial imperative (13:1) with a double incentive, concluding that “It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (13:5)

 

 

Jesus’ statements regarding one’s responsibility to government:

  1. During Jesus; public ministry, some disciples of the Pharisees along with some of the Herodian’s approached Jesus with the intent of trapping Him. They asked “is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or God?” Jesus replied to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (21b) Jesus seems to be alluding to a certain responsibility that people had to Rome.
  2. Jesus along with His 11 disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus had been agonizing in prayer. Judas arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders to arrest Jesus. As they were seizing Jesus, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the High Priest cutting off his ear. Jesus rebuked him commanding, “Put your sword back in its place.” He then asked those who had come for Him, “Am I leading a rebellion? That you have come to me with swords and clubs to capture me?” The implication of this instance is maintaining an attitude of non-retaliation. (Matthew 26:52-56)
  3. The Gospel depicts Jesus as having lived His life in submission to authority

 

 

The Early Church and Governing Authorities:

  1. When Peter and the other apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin after their miraculous escape from jail because of their preaching and teaching of Jesus the Messiah. The High Priest reminded them that he had given them strict orders not to teach in His name. Peter responded, “we must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29) The Sanhedrin among other things was the civil authority in Jerusalem.
  2. This incident provides an example of how the first generation Christians related to local governing authorities. Peter’s statement in Acts 5:29 infers that when there is a question between obeying God and obeying man, obedience to God must take precedence. These Christians were model citizens as the Christian life is one of honesty, purity, integrity and holiness.
  3. When faced with a decision of obeying civil authorities or God, they chose to obey God.

 

 

Applying these Biblical Principles Today

  1. Jesus acknowledged and exemplified subservience to governing authority (Rome) during His earthly life.
  2. The first generation Christians exemplified the principle of obedience to God when a conflict arises between a human command and God’s commands.
  3. Paul teaches in no uncertain terms that God has established governing authorities for the overall good of society.

 

These Principles lead to several applications:

  1. Recognize that God has established governing authorities in order to maintain law and order in society.
  2. We are obligated to obey the laws of the land, example taxes, traffic regulations, civil laws, etc.
  3. We must take our responsibilities as citizens seriously by being involved to whatever extent we deem feasible in the governing process, example voting, community action, peacefully and respectfully voicing our biblically based opinion, etc.
  4. When human laws/demands contradict God’s law/command/words, we must recognize that our higher obligation is to God’s commands.
  5. When the need for civil disobedience arises, we must keep in mind that the Scriptures do not legitimize violent reactions. Example, Peter and the apostles in Acts 5. They acted on the principle of obedience to God that the higher obligation and simply continued proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, they did not violently protest but were willing to suffer the consequences.

 

Additional Scripture:

  1. Paul implores Titus, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1)
  2. The apostle Peter writes, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)
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The Christians Relationship to the Old Testament…

This is a little long but very easy to read. These are some notes from my Romans class that I think will be very helpful to some. Many Christians today do not know what our relationship to the Old Testament, specifically to the Old Testament laws should be.

 

The Christians Relationship to the Old Testament

Are Christians obligated to keep the Old Testament laws?

 

The existence of an Old and New Testament raises the question: What is the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament?

We must begin this discussion by considering what Jesus Himself said about the Old Testament. How did Jesus view His own relationship to the Old Testament? Did Jesus teach that the Old Testament law was binding for His followers?

What Jesus said about the Old Testament:

  1. Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stoke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount)
  2. Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Here Jesus is summing up the entire Old Testament in this one principle.
  3. Matthew 22:34-40, “In response to the question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” All the Law and the Prophets depend upon these two specific commandments. Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.
  4. Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” They neglected the important things such as justice, mercy and faithfulness, but did not neglect the tithe.
  5. Luke 16:16-17, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” Jesus makes a distinction between the Law, which was proclaimed until John and the Gospel, which was being proclaimed since John. This shows a decisive break between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant had taken place.
  6. Luke:24-47, “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (programmatic passage) The totality of the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to and has been fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah. Luke recognized Jesus own perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures that ultimately points to and finds fulfillment in Himself as the Jewish Messiah, Lord and Savior.

Important definitions and distinctions:

  1. What is a testament or a covenant?
    1. The term “testament” in the descriptions of the Old and New Testaments is another name for covenant.
    2. A covenant is an agreement between two parties. God’s covenant with His people Israel required them to obey certain stipulations to worship Him in a very specific manner.
    3. An example of a covenant is the ANE (Ancient Near East) suzerain covenant with a vassal. A suzerain or powerful warlord would covenant with a ruler who had lesser power, the one with lesser power was called a vassal. A suzerain would offer a covenant with or make an agreement with or contract with the vassal. The vassal would then agree to the stipulations of the covenant. One example would be the vassal would agree to remain loyal to the suzerain and receive protection.
    4. A binding agreement between a greater power to the subservient.
  2. What is the Old Testament?
    1. The term Old Testament refers to the Hebrew Scriptures.
    2. The Hebrew Scriptures usually consisted of three divisions. (1) Torah, (2) the Prophets, and (3) the Writings.
    3. In the New Testament the Hebrew Scriptures are referred to as: The Law, the Law and the Prophets, the Prophets, and the Psalms.
    4. In essence, the Old Testament is the ancient covenant God established with Israel in order to institute them as His special people and through whom the Messiah would ultimately come.
  3. What is the Old Testament Law?
    1. The Old Testament Law can refer either to the Law of Moses as a whole, or to the specific laws (approx. 600 of them) that are laid out in God’s covenant with Israel. The Mosaic Law was intended for Israel. They were intended as the conditions the ancient Israelites must meet as God’s people.
    2. The commandment’s flowed from God’s own nature and character and contained God’s basic design for living.
    3. Stuart and Fee wrote: “and this is the role of the law in Israel’s history, it was God’s gift to His people to establish the ways they were to live in community with one another. And to provide for their relationship with and worship of Yahweh, their God.
  4. What is the New Testament?
    1. Centuries before Jesus Christ would come on the scene, The Lord promised through Jeremiah, one of Israel’s prophets, that the day was coming when He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
    2. Jesus fulfilled this promise when He established the new covenant with His own poured-out blood (Matthew 26:26-29).
    3. The author of Hebrews makes it explicitly clear after quoting the Jeremiah 31 passage that the new covenant has superseded the old covenant (Hebrews 8:8-13). He states that, “by calling this covenant ‘new,’ He has made the first one obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13).
  5. What the apostle Paul said about the Old Testament Law in Romans: (all verses are from Romans)
    1. 2:20 – the law is the embodiment of knowledge and truth
    2. 3:20 – the law accentuates sin
    3. 3:31 – faith does not nullify the law
    4. 5:13 – sin is not taken into account where there is no law
    5. 5:20 – the law was added so that the trespass might increase
    6. 7:1 – the law only has authority over a man as long as he is alive
    7. 7:5 – the law arouses sinful passions
    8. 7:7 – the law illuminates sin
    9. 7:12 – the law is holy; the commandment is holy, righteous, and good
    10. 7:13 – sin works through the law to bring death
    11. 7:14 – the law is spiritual
    12. 7:16 – the law is good
    13. 8:1-4 – the law was powerless to deliver from the bondage of sin and death
    14. 10:4 – Christ is the end (telos), or goal of the law
    15. 13:8-10 – Love is the fulfillment of the law
  6. Romans 7 is really the crux of the matter as it relates to the Christians relationship and obligation to the Old Testament Law;
    1. Believers have been released from the law through the death of Christ (Romans 7:1-6)
    2. The law draws attention to and illuminates the sin in our lives (Romans 7:7-13)
    3. The law does not have the power to deliver us from the bondage to sin
    4. The only hope for deliverance from the bondage of sin is through Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:14-25)
  7. The Christians relationship to the Old Testament; Some guiding principles, taken from the book “How to Read the Bible for all its Worth” by Fee and Stuart –
    1. The Old Testament Law is a covenant. God implemented this familiar covenant form when He established the covenant with Israel on Mount Sinai (just like the suzerain (Yahweh) made with the vassels (Israel). The nature of God’s covenant is with Israel, the law is essentially the stipulation of this covenant between Yahweh and Israel, this is a vital aspect of the story of Israel, the story of redemption. God’s story.
    2. The Old Testament is not our testament. The Christians are not obligated to the old covenant. Old Covenant laws that are renewed in the New Testament, become part of the law of Christ and Christians are obligated to those in particular. (Romans 6:14-15) God still expects loyalty, obedience and faithfulness. The issue is how Christians express these under the new covenant.
    3. Two kinds of Old Covenant stipulations have clearly not been renewed in the New Covenant:
      1. The civil laws – meant specifically for ancient Israel. They were intended to maintain order in their society.
      2. The ritual laws – How the ancient Israelites were to worship Yahweh (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Sacrificing animals was a central element of the ancient Israelite worship. Hebrews 9:22 points out for us that without the shedding of blood forgiveness of sins is not possible. The animal sacrifices of that era all pointed to the ultimate and once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ as He died for the sins of the world (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 10:1-18; 1 John 2:2).
    4. Part of the Old Covenant is renewed in the New Covenant. Some aspects of Israel’s ethical laws are restated in the New Testament. These laws derive their continued applicability from the fact that they serve to support the two basic laws of the New Covenant on which depend all the law and the Prophets. Jesus restates and applies two Old Testament ethical laws in Matthew 22:37-40, Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus is alluding to two Old Testament ethical laws: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, emphasizing that the entire Old Testament depends on them.

 

  1. All of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us. A crucial distinction: while the entire Old Testament is God’s Word for us, it is not still God’s command to us. The Bible includes many different commands that are not directed to us specifically and personally, but they are in the Bible for a reason. God wants us to know about them, yet they are not meant for us to specifically or personally obey. An example is, Deuteronomy 22:8 commands, “when you build a new house make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” The Old Testament in general, and the law in particular are a vital part of Israel’s story and redemption.
  2. Only that which is specifically renewed from the Old Testament law can be considered part of the New Testament law of Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the old covenant (Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 24:44). Paul establishes that Christ is the telos, the end of the goal of the law so there may be righteousness for anyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) Paul also refers to the law of Christ in Galatians 6:2.
  3. Aspects of the Old Covenant that are explicitly renewed in the New Covenant include the following:
    1. Love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:37; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5)
    2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39; cf. Leviticus 19:18)
  • Various aspects of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 5:21-37)
  1. After citing several Old Testament commandments (Romans 13:8-9), Paul concludes that “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
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Apologetics, Bible, Bible accuracy, Bible study, Bible Translation, Christian, Christianity, Faith, God, Grace, Heaven, Hypostatic Union, Image of God, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Mind of Christ, New Testament, Philippians, Theology, Trinity, Uncategorized

Christology: Philippians 2:7, “Christ emptied Himself”

In Philippians 2:7 the Apostle Paul writes about Christ, “but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (ESV) This verse has been interpreted many different ways by many different theologians as well as many different denominations and religions. This essay will explore the question did Jesus lay aside some of His Deity when He became human or did He keep all His Deity when He became flesh?  I will also discuss what Christology and the Hypostatic Union is and how it relates to the views of Christ’s Deity and humanity. It is very important as Christians to grasp this concept and not limit Christ in His Deity as He took on the form of human.

One of the most important doctrines to the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is God. In John 1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-4. ESV) Here John is writing that Jesus is fully God and has been God from the beginning. In Psalm 33:6 we read, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.” (NIV) We also read in the Gospel of John that “the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.” (John 1:14, NLT) John is telling us that not only was Jesus fully God, but that He is fully human as well.

The question that has been debated over the centuries is when Jesus took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of man as Philippians 2:7 says, did He give up all some or none of His Deity? The two main views is the classical view and the kenotic view. The classical view is that God is both fully God and fully human at the same time. In Scripture we read that Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but also that His humanity is revealed throughout the Gospels.[1]  This view also asserts that Scripture shows that Jesus was both human and God at the same time, and did not give up any of His divine attributes. The kenotic view is a view that states that believing that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human does not require the belief that Jesus Christ was both omniscient and non-omniscient or omnipresent and non-omnipresent at the same time.[2]  This means that Jesus would have had to lay down or empty some of His Deity when he became man. Part of the kenotic view is that the Second Person of the Trinity laid aside His omniscience in order to become fully man, for a person cannot be fully human and omniscient at the same time.[3] This view clearly takes away from Jesus being fully God, which if we take Scripture at its word Jesus was and is God.   From these two different views we see that the main issues scholars address is what exactly Christ emptied Himself of as part of the movement from being in the form of God to taking on the form of a slave.[4]

Jesus came in the form of a man (incarnation) and still remained God. According to Towns, the incarnation of Jesus Christ is central to all Christian doctrine.[5] Since the incarnation is so important in the Christian doctrine it only makes sense that theologians would debate this issue. Did Jesus lose some of His Deity when He came to earth as a man? If you believe in the kenotic view then this is what you believe. The problem with this view is that in the verse it says nothing about Christ stripping Himself of His divine attributes as has sometimes been suggested.[6] The use of the Greek word ekenosis, translated as emptied, might indicate that at His incarnation, Jesus gave up certain prerogatives associated with His divinity.[7] One of the prerogatives that Jesus gave up willingly to come to earth as a human was the glory that He had as God. In one of my favorite prayers in Scripture, Jesus prays before His death and says, “Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 17:5, NLT) Jesus here is asking the Father to restore His glory He once had with Him “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1), and we know from Stephan’s vision in Acts 7:56 as he was dying that He was restored to that glory. In Philippians 2:6 Paul writes, “Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. (NLT)  He willingly gave that up to take the form of a servant as He was born into the likeness of man. A servant or a slave would be the exact opposite of the highest place Jesus would have in being in the glory of God. A slave has the lowest position; he is powerless; he has no rights, he has no glory, no honor only shame.[8] For Jesus to come in the form of a slave means that he had human emotions. He laughed, He cried, He felt anger and temptation, all while continuing to be sinless as well as fully God. In Colossians 2:9. Paul writes, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (NASB)  This means that Jesus was and is fully and completely God and He also dwelt in the form of full man.

When also examining this passage we must also look at what Christology is. Christology is studying of the nature of Jesus, and according to The Lexham Bible Dictionary, “Christology is the theological investigation of the Christ. The study of Jesus in the New Testament, namely His persona, activity and especially His role in salvation.”[9] The classical view and the kenotic view that is continually being debated is all a part of Christology. For many young, as well as older Christians in their faith this could seem very hard to understand. Proper interpretation while reading Scripture will allow us to understand which view is the correct view and which one aligns with Scripture.

The kenotic view seems to look at passages such as Mark 13:32 to show that Jesus admitted that he did not know “the day or hour” of His return.[10] Because of this they believe that Jesus lost part of His Deity when He came to earth, because surely if He was completely God He should still be completely omniscient. I believe what they are not seeing in this passage is that Jesus was only affirming his being fully human. What they also seem to be missing when reading this verse is that no one knows the day or the hour, and Jesus is teaching that we all should be ready for His return and not try and predict when it will occur. I do reject the kenotic view because it is not biblical and it diminishes the Deity of Christ.

Paul does not say that Christ emptied Himself of the “form of God,” either as to His divine nature or as to His human nature which at the time of His incarnation was made partaker of this form.[11]  It is my belief that Christ only set aside His glory in order to come in human form to show us how to love and how to be a servant. When we say we are followers of Christ, we must show that we have the mind of Christ and serve each other and live the way Jesus taught us to live being obedient to God.  When Christ emptied Himself and took the form of a servant it means He added humanity to Deity rather than subtracting Deity from His person. [12]In Philippians 2:8 we read why Jesus humbled Himself and emptied Himself of the glory that He had with God the Father. He did it so that He could die on the cross for our sins. Romans 8:3 tells us, “The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent His own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful.” (NLT) The law was powerless to conquer sin, but what the law could not do, God did by sending His very own Son with a nature that resembled our sinful nature. He came in the likeness of sinful man.[13] There would have been no other way for God to dwell among us besides being in the form of man.

While I do take the position of the classical view, I do realize that there are some feelings of opposition to this. As Boyd wrote, “How can we conceive of a single person with two minds?”[14] This seems to be a common issue in regards to Christ’s Deity as the God-man, as well as when speaking of the Trinity. When we think with our finite mind we miss that there are some mysteries of God that we may never know in this life. If we read the rest of Scripture we can clearly see that Christ remained God, He remained co-existent with God the Father and God The Holy Spirit.

Many theologians attempt to answer the question of what exactly Christ emptied Himself of, but as Witherington wrote, “the text does not tell us directly what Christ emptied Himself of, but clearly some kind of self-imposed limitations are implied.[15] I do believe that too many are not seeing the real reason Christ came as a humble servant, it was so He could show us the true character of God and that His coming was to offer salvation to everyone who accepts Him so that we would not have to face eternal death and separation from Him.

There are many verses in Scripture that show us that Christ remained fully God when He was fully man. We read in John 2:25 that Jesus “Himself knew what was in man,” (ESV) in John 1:45-49 Jesus saw Nathaniel under a tree when Philip went to call for him as Jesus was looking for His disciples, Jesus also makes His eight I AM statements in John showing that He knew He was God. If we are to look into what it means that Jesus is fully God and fully human we can look at what is called the hypostatic union. A great definition for the hypostatic union is in the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.[16] In other words Jesus is a single person with two natures, human and divine. Neither His divine nature nor his human nature ever compromised each other, and since neither of these natures compromised each other He did not lose any of His Deity when He became human, He willingly gave up some of His attributes to be fully man. While in His human form He was subject to the law (Gal. 4:4), He was subject to the Father who sent Him (John 5:30), He was circumcised (Luke 2:21), He would grow in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52), and He would not know all things (Mark 13:32).[17] This does not take anything away from His Deity as God, because He also accepted worship (Matthew 14:33), He performed Miracles (John 11:43), He healed the sick (Matthew 8:3), and the greatest miracle of all was when He rose from the dead and conquered death and the grave.

In conclusion you can see that the kenotic view of Philippians 2:7 is unbiblical and is only trying to explain away a great mystery of God. If we thoroughly dig deep in God’s Word we can see that the New Testament shows times when Jesus is showing Himself as fully human, and there are times when He is showing Himself as being fully God. Our primary focus should not be on what Jesus may or may not have given up when He came to earth in human form, our focus should be on what He what He taught and what He did for us on the cross when He came down as the suffering servant to be the sacrifice and the atonement for our sins.  We also can see that Jesus Christ was the Word and created all things as He has always existed with God, He is equal to God, in complete cooperation with the Father He became man, humbled Himself as a servant becoming flesh and blood to offer salvation to all who accept Him, Christ also in the form of a man was tempted, felt pain, cried, became angry as well as continuing to be fully God by performing miracles, knowing the hearts of man, and rising from the dead

[1] Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group, 2009. 113.

[2] Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group, 2009. 118

[3] Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group, 2009. 112

[4] Brown, Derek R. Lexham Bible Guide: Philippians. Edited by Douglas Mangum. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013.

[5] Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. 3rd ed. United States: Wadsworth Group/Thomson Learning, 2002.

[6] Loh, I-Jin, and Eugene Albert Nida. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1995.

[7] Barry, John D., Michael S. Heiser, Miles Custis, Douglas Mangum, and Matthew M. Whitehead. Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012.

[8] Hansen, G. Walter. The Letter to the Philippians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

[9] Barry, John D., David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder, eds. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

[10] Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group, 2009. 119

[11] Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937.

[12] Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Vol. 32. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991.

[13] Mounce, Robert H. Romans. Vol. 27. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

[14] Boyd, Gregory A, and Paul R Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group, 2009. 116

[15] Witherington, Ben, III. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Company, 2011.

[16] Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2001. 583

[17] ‘Jesus’ Humbled State and What It Means’, CARM – The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM – The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d.), accessed August 2, 2015, https://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/jesus-humbled-state-and-what-it-means.

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