Questions & Answers – Part 6

Q: Why say that God is a Father? Isn’t it true that God is the Divine principle of life and love, a world-soul, or perhaps just a synonym for “Supreme Power” or “Intelligence”?

A: God is both love and life, supreme power, and intelligence; but the Bible clearly reveals Him to be a loving and life-giving person, a Father (Mat.5: 48) who is wise and strong enough to take care of any of His children’s needs

Q: Isn’t God the Father just another name for Jesus?

A: “Jesus” is not the collective name for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it is the name of the Son (Matt. 1:21); Luke1: 31). Jesus clearly distinguished himself from the Father (Luke 2:49).

Q: I believe in the fatherhood of God, that he is the father of all Why do some Christians call people modernist, liberals, or universalists because they believe this? Isn’t God everyone’s Father?

A: God does sustain a fatherly relationship to all men because of His creatorship: “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust” (Matt: 5:45). But to sin is to abandon our true Fathers house and to loose ourselves in a foreign land. What we loose in our relationship with our Creator can only be restored in redemption by the Savior. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44) and that no man could come to the Father but by Him (John: 14:6).

Q: I believe that the Father loves so much that no one will be lost. Won’t the final restitution of all things (Acts 3:21) prophesied in Scripture demonstrate God’s ultimate victory in reconciliation of all people to Himself?

A: The duration of punishment is as lasting as that of eternal life- unending (Matt 25:46 uses the same word for “eternal” and everlasting”). The phrase “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) does not refer to Satan, demons, or the wicked men who willfully rebelled against God, but to the creation “made subject to vanity, not willingly” (Rom. 8:20). Jesus said “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt.12: 32). If even one person remains unforgiven, all men are not reconciled to God.

Q: Isn’t belief in the fatherhood of God a projection of our own need for a father image-like Freud thought, a “father complex” of sorts?

A: Many deities in world religions are in part, a projection of human fears, lust, or needs; many people form their idea of God in the image of their own aspirations and longings. True, the idea of God being a heavenly father satisfies a basic and deep human need, but is the hunger of an orphan for a dad’s affection and security a demonstration of mere fantasy, evidence of a wish-projection with absolutely no basis in reality? An orphaned boy may make up his own ideas of a father, wish these ideas on men who are not his father. And probably have a completely false picture of his real father. But such sad and misdirected dreams and fancies show only this: he has a legitimate need based on the loss of a real person.

Q: But on what basis can you say that there really is a father to lose? Why can’t belief in a Father-God be simply explained as the projection of a human need for a sense of comfort and goodness?

A: God’s goodness and reality are demonstrated in the objective evidence of the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is verifiable historically quite apart from and unconnected with human psychology. We believe Jesus on objective grounds and he called God “Father.” We accept belief in God’s father-heart not because it is a totally adequate description of God’s goodness, but because it is the least inadequate available.

Q: What do you mean when you call God “Father”?

A: When we use the word “Father,” we don’t mean God is exactly like a human father, not even the best father who ever lived. We mean that God has the original qualities, which we admire when reflected by the best and wisest of all human fathers. One scholar writes, “God bears the loving relationship of such a father to his children to an infinite degree, through His fatherhood included qualities which no consideration, or extension or multiplication of attributes of a human father could ever lead us to imagine.”

Q: Why do you call God a father? Isn’t it equally true that you could call Deity a mother?

A: God’s creation of men and women “in His image” means all essential elements of both maleness and femaleness come from and are originally inherent in God. God is shown with motherly characteristics in the Bible; however, Scripture uses more images of God as a father than as a mother. There are two main reasons for this.

First, Israel, just as the church today, must never confuse worship of the only true God with the occultic Mother Goddess (under the names of Astarte, Ashera, Diana, Isis, and Ishtar) worshiped around them. In these pagan religions, the Mother Goddess was Nature, characterized by magic, cycles of life, as well as fertility ritual and the identification of sexual immorality with spirituality. Falling prey to this type of worship, which included witchcraft, meant spiritual death.

In another sense, all creation (male, female, and neuter) is treated as female, being sustained, protected and cherished by the Creator, as the Church herself is the “Bride of Christ.” These images are not some engineered result of male domination of God-imagery, but God-given metaphors reinforced in the sacrament of marriage as analogies of God’s care. As Christ is the Husband, so the Church is the Bride; this marriage brings new (spiritual) children into the world.

Q: But isn’t the idea of “Father” the consequence of the male-dominated Jewish society and Scripture selection committees?

A: No. We must not loose the power and beauty of the metaphor because of its misuse. Harm has been done by stressing the maleness in God to the exclusion of corresponding female imagery, such as that where God is shown as the mother who birthed Israel (Deut. 32:18) carried the nation in her womb (Is.46:3), comforted her continually (Isa. 66:13) and nursed her on her breast (Ps. 131:2). In Gal.3:28 we are told that in Christ ” there is neither male nor female.” When Jesus talked to women, He did not emphasize their femaleness, as many in His society did; He spoke to them as people. Some women were His valued, trusted friends and followers. But the abundance of imagery in Scripture (some male, some female, some nature-based, and some neuter) should protect us from becoming too focused on one aspect of God’s nature or personality to the harmful exclusion of others. Don’t blame Scripture; blame our biased selection of images from it for the loss of important elements identified with femaleness in our world.

Q: Exactly who was Jesus, a man or a god? If he was a man, why call him God? If he was a god, how could he have become a man?

A: Christ is called “the brightness of his glory and the express image of his [God the Father] person” (Heb.1: 3). The Greek here is karakteertes hupostasis, “the representation of his reality.” Paul wrote to the Colossians, “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col.2: 9). We call Him God simply because Scripture overwhelmingly declares He is. We likewise call Him a true man because Scripture tells us that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and that He “was made a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9, 14, 16-18). How deity became man, “infinity compressed to a span” is beyond our human comprehension; that “God was manifest in the flesh” is called indeed “the mystery of godliness” (1Tim. 3:16). But the Lord Jesus was not God disguised as a man or merely a man aspiring to be God; He was God who became man, “very God and very man.”

Q: If ” no man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:8) and no man can see God and live (Ex. 32:20), how could Jesus be God if people saw Him (1Cor. 15:6; Acts 9:1-9) and yet lived?

A: The same Scripture that tells us “no man has ever seen God” goes on to tell us ” the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared (exeegeomai) him [put Him on display]” (John1: 18) Christ reveals the Father (John 14:7-11) as the express “image of the invisible God” (Col.1:15). He is the tangible, localized manifestation of the invisible, universal uncreated one. No one can see the Father and live except through the revelation of God in the Son.

Q: In the New Testament Jesus speaks about His Father God being greater than He (John 5:19; 14:28) Doesn’t this imply that He is inferior to the Father?

A: As wives, children, and employees may know, biblical submission does not imply inferiority. Christ submitted himself to the Father, but Scripture clearly states that He did not count equality with God something to pursue, as He already was God. The chain of authority in the Godhead is not inferiority. Also, when Christ completed His ministry He was “highly exalted” and given a name “which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2: 9-11).

Q: Paul said that God was the “head of Christ” (1Cor. 11:13) and that Christ will be subject to God that God may be “all in all” (1Cor. 15:28).

Doesn’t this mean that Christ is inferior to God?

A: As mentioned, Paul speaks both times about legitimate chains of authority: those found in the human family and in the spiritual family.

Christ came to put down all rule, authority, and power not authorized but His Father (1Cor. 15:23-26), and to demonstrate to the universe His absolute lordship (Phil. 2:8-11). But this lordship in a kingdom of service was not to be gained by the raw expression of divine power any more than a rightful human leadership is to be established by violence; it was granted by His moral and spiritual worthiness (Heb2:9-18; 3:1-6; Rev. 5). This Christ, as a lawful and true representative of the Father, triumphed in the power of the Father, opening the way not only to salvation from sin and death, but to the rights and privileges of the kingdom of heaven for all who follow Him.

Q: God “knows all things” (Isa. 46:9-11; 1John 3:20), yet Jesus grew in wisdom and stature ( Luke 2:52), said He did not know the hour or day of the world’s destruction (Mark13:32), and had to pray each day (Matt. 26:39) to find out what He was to do. How does the Bible explain this?

A: When Christ walked the earth, He had all the limitations of a real human being: He ate, got tired, wept, suffered and was tempted. He was to live daily in dependence and obedience to the Father, just as we are to live (Heb.2:9-10). Although He was always God and remained truly God (by virtue of His uncreatedness), it appears that as a real man He used nine of His Godhead powers directly; for the duration of His earthly ministry He did all that a true and trusting son of the Father would do.

Q: If God cannot be tempted, was Jesus really tempted by the Devil in the wilderness? (Matt.4: 1)

A: Life without temptation is only possible to a being who is in a position to see and understand all alternatives. The Scriptures show that Jesus on earth was tempted. This implies that He did not use His omniscience, but chose to face wrong suggestions as ordinary believers must- in faith (Heb.2: 18; 4: 14-16).

Q: “God is not a man” (Num. 23:19), yet Jesus became a man (1Cor. 15:45, 47) How is that possible?

A: An omnipotent God, who was not created, yet upholds the life of His creation, surely has both the ability and power to join himself to it!

The creation cannot ascend to the uncreated, the finite to the infinite; but as a line transcends yet includes a point, why would it be a problem for God to condescend, to incarnate himself among His finite and beloved creation, and by so doing glorify it? (See Matt. 19:26)

Q: Revelation calls Jesus the “beginning of the creation of God” (Rev.3: 14) and Colossians the “firstborn of all creation” (Col.1: 15). Isn’t the Son a created being?

A: No. The Greek word for “beginning” in Rev. 3:14 is arche, or “origin,” perhaps better translated “source” or “first cause.” Jesus is simply the one who began or originated the whole creation (see also John1: 1).

The word “firstborn” in Col. 1;15 is of Eastern origin, meaning “lordship, dignity, excellence,” and may well be translated “chief of all creation.” Nevertheless, even apart from this, the verse does not say “first created” but continues on to clearly attribute the entire work of creation to Christ as God. If Christ is part of creation, then He made himself, which is absurd! Walter Martin says, ” Christ is not only the ‘First Born’ of the New Creation, the second Adam (1Cor. 15:45, 47), but the ‘First Born of the dead’ (Rev. 1:5) or the first one to rise in a glorified body…. which type Christians will someday possess as the words of the Apostle John (1John 3:2).

Q: But if Jesus was “firstborn” wasn’t there a time when He did not exist? Proverbs 8:22 reads, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old” (NIV)

A: Again, born is not made, Even with an ordinary baby, the birth is not the origin of life; a person is alive before he is born. Jesus likewise was alive before He was called “firstborn” How long was He alive? Always.

If the Father has always existed, He has always had a Son.

Q: If Jesus is really God, why could he be tempted (Matt. 4:1)? Doesn’t the Bible say God cannot be tempted with evil (james1: 13)?

A: It is clear that Jesus did not use all His powers as God during His time of greatest weakness- from the incarnation to the resurrection. As a true man, fully representing our race, and as a wholly obedient Son of the Father, Jesus never acted independently during His earthly ministry. Everything He did He drew from His Father’s power (John 5:19-20; 14:10-12), wisdom (John 7:16; 8:26-28, 40), and in perfect accord with His Father’s will (Mark 14:35-39; John 6:38; 8:29; Heb.10:5-9. In His voluntary limitation of dependence, He lived (as His followers must live) by faith (Matt. 3:14-15; Heb.2: 9-18; 3:1-2), died in faith (Heb.5: 7-9; Col. 1:18-23; Phil.2: 8-11), and rose again by faith (Matt. 16:21; Eph. 1:17-23). He thus could face real temptation and suffering as well as learn obedience.

Q: Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14: 28). Doesn’t that mean that Jesus is not God in the same sense that the Father is God? Or maybe not even God at all?

A: All of Jesus authority while on earth was delegated by the Father (John 6:38; cf. Isa. 42:1-4; Luke 22:29; Matt. 8:9-10). He came down from heaven to do the will of the Father (John 5:30) and always “did those things that please him” (John 8:29) He was given authority as a man, as each believer in turn must be given authority from heaven. But unlike us, He had life in himself (John 5:26) the authority to lay it down or take it up of himself (John 10:17-18), and the Father has committed all judgement to Him (John 5:22-23, 27).

Q: What does it mean that Christ was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil.2: 7)?

A: “Likeness” is translated from the verb homoiomamati, which is used in 5 other places in Scripture (Rom. 1:23;5:14; 6:5; 8:3; Rev. 9:7). The adjective homios, derived from the root homos, refers to (1) the same kind or condition of persons or things; (2) of the same value, character or rights; (3) what is equally divided to all, or in common; or (4) equality in a geometric sense. The verb form thus means “like-shaped” or “image,” with stress on correspondence and similarity to concrete individual form. Christ, therefore, became the same kind of person as I am, under the same conditions, with the same character potential, sharing what the Father has made available to all of us, and in the same kind of body. It signifies that the Lord Jesus was “bound to us in history and humanity, in temptation, suffering and dying.”

Q: How much did Jesus empty himself (Phil. 2:7 RSV)? Did He give up almost everything as God to become fully human?

A: Christ never ceased to be God, but for the duration of His earthly ministry. He gave up His rights, privileges, and intrinsic authority as God (cf. the words “likeness” and “servant”). This kenosis or “emptying ” speaks not of attributes but rights; it is a question not of nature, essence, or substance, but of claim to power. The passage deals with like-mindedness, accord, and humility; it stresses freedom from self-assertion or grasping after privilege. If the essence of divinity is uncreatedness, Christ could never cease to be God because, although He has been born on earth. He had no beginning. He was and is the universe’s only uncreated man.

Q: A Greek definite article (ton, “the”) is used in speaking of the Father as God in John 1:1, but there is no article before “God” in the phrase “the Word was God.” And “the Word was a god” If Jesus is really God, why is there no article?

A: The rules of Greek grammar demand the reading. “Was” is an intransitive verb. Intransitive “take no objects but instead predicate nominatives which refer back to the subject” (in this case logos or “Word”). The Greek order of the second part of this verse is “kai theos en o logos”: “and God” – a definite predicate nominative “was”- an intransitive verb “the Word”- Colwell’s rule “clearly states that a definite predicate nominative like theos, ‘God,” never takes an article when it precedes the verb [was] as in John 1:1.”

Q: But couldn’t this verse be translated ” the Word was a God”?

A: If you did you would also have to translate John 1:6: “and there was a man sent from a God whose name was John. (see also Matt.5:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35, 78; John 1:6,12-13, 18: 3:2, 21; 9:33; Rom 1:7, 17-18; 1Cor. 15:10; Phil. 2:11; Tit.1:1; and many more.)

Theos, “God,” is used 1,343 times in the New Testament. It can indeed mean “mighty one.) It is used twice for men made in Gods image (John 10:34-35) twice for false gods (Acts 7:40, 43), three times to describe the imaginative idolatrous worship (Cor.8:5; Gal.4:8), and once for Satan (2Cor.4:4). It is used three times to describe true repentance (2Cor. 7:9-11). The other 1,333 times it refers to true deity- either the Father or the Son. Certainly it could mean a mighty one, but the normal use of the word speaks otherwise and the context screams for a pronouncement of true deity.

John was surly not speaking of a relative deity. Jesus was obviously not a false idolĀ or the devil. He has no need of repentance because He had not sinned. This leaves us with only one possible alternative to Jesus being absolutely “God,” that He is “a god” in the sense that He was made in God’s image. But He was never made.

He is certainly unique as a “mighty one”; no other “mighty one” in Scripture is commanded worship by the Father (Heb. 1:6-7); no other “mighty one” is called “Lord” (1Thess.1:1); at the name of no other “mighty one” will every knee one day bow (Phil. 2:10-11). The record is plain; if Scripture means anything, its testimony is that Christ is truly and fully God with all the right to absolute reverence, respect, and adoration due Him.

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