Wednesday, 24 November 2021

If Jesus is God, to whom did he pray?

This question was asked of an incarcerated brother in Christ by a fellow inmate attempting to challenge his faith. The brother requested help with a simple response to what appears to be a perplexing issue. The question itself, when asked in a disparaging and condescending manner, demonstrates a misconception of the God of the Bible. The idea of “God” as a solitary entity or single mathematical unit is overly simplistic, as if he were a cartoonish white bearded old man in the clouds. It would be comparable to asking, if Kevin is man (human) and his father is man (human), how can man speak to man?

In Acts 17:29 “God” is described as to theion, an expression referring to everything that belongs to the nature of God and is variously rendered “the Divine Nature,” “the Godhead,” “the Deity,” “the Divine,” “the Divinity” (cf. Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:2-4). The human equivalent would be “man” in the sense of “human nature,” “human race,” “humanity,” or “mankind.” Just like the word “man” can be used to describe either an individual (Rom. 5:12) or all persons who comprise the human race (Psa. 8:4), the word “God” is used similarly. The Bible clearly affirms there is only one true God (1 Cor. 8:4; Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; etc.), and since God is the Divine Nature, there is only one Divine Nature. 


Seeing that the word “man” doesn’t imply that humanity is comprised of a single person, the fundamental question is whether or not the Bible indicates a plurality within the one God. The Unitarian concept of God is a single divine personage, while the Trinitarian concept is one God (the Divine Nature) consisting of three distinct personages (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) in perfect unity. In Gen. 1:26 God speaks of himself using plural pronouns: “us,” “our” (cf. 3:22; 11:7). What does this indicate about God? The Hebrew word translated “God” in Gen. 1:1-31; 2:2-22; 3:1-23, etc. is elohim (the plural form of el), found 2,570 times in the Hebrew scriptures. This plural form, in reference to Almighty God, is used with singular verbs and adjectives throughout the OT, more clearly revealed in the NT. 


In Matt. 28:19 the plurality within the one God (Divine Nature) is identified as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since “name” in this verse is singular, a unity among these three is presumed (see also Mark 1:9-11; Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6). Though mentioned here collectively, elsewhere the Father is acknowledged as “God” (Phil. 2:11), Jesus is acknowledged as “God” (John 1:1; 20:28), the Holy Spirit is implicitly acknowledged as “God” (Acts 5:3-4). Nevertheless, the biblical doctrine of monotheism forbids the conclusion that there are three separate gods and therefore requires a unity of these three divine Persons as one God or a single Divine Nature. In John 17:20-23 a plurality of human persons is depicted as “one,” providing a parallel to the similar concept of a plurality of divine Persons depicted as “one” (see also Gen. 2:24; 11:6; Judg. 6:16; John 10:16, 30; 11:52; 17:11; Acts 17:26; 1 Cor. 12:12). 


Jesus, as God (equal member of the Godhead, possessing the divine nature), willingly took on human nature and flesh—the incarnation (John 1:1-14), thereby placing himself in subordination to God [the Father] (Phil. 2:5-9) to whom he prayed while on earth (John 17:1ff.; etc.). All passages dealing with Christ’s subordination (1 Cor. 11:3; etc.) refer to his role in the flesh but do not detract from his divine essence. The descriptive expression, “the Son of God,” signifies both subordination (of position) and equality (of nature); cf. John 5:17-18; 10:17-33.


Attempting to simplify something as complex as God is quite a challenge. We could begin with a biblical definition of God as “the Divine Nature” (Acts 17:29), comprised of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Jesus became human (John 1:14), and as such he prayed to the heavenly Father (Matt. 26:39). 


--Kevin L. Moore


Related PostsThe Triune Godhead


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Monday, 15 November 2021

If God hates divorce, what about Ezra 9–10?

During the eight decades between the first return from Babylonian exile (538 BC) and the second return (458 BC), Israelite men (including priests) had married local pagan women and were then compelled to put them away with what appears to have been divine approval (Ezra 9–10; cf. Neh. 13:23-30). If God hates divorce, why would this have been sanctioned?

Qualifying Information

Malachi, a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah,1 prophesied to the post-exilic Jews (ca. 450-430 BC), and the biblical record of his message provides enlightening background information. According to Malachi 2:10-17, Jewish men had apparently divorced their lawful spouses to marry these pagan women. In vv. 15-16 Malachi reaffirms that the dissolution of a legitimate marriage is contrary to God’s original plan (cf. Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6), and whether the text says God hates divorce (ISV, N/ASV, N/KJV, N/RSV) or a man hates and sends her away (ESV, HCSB, NIV),2 the Lord clearly considers this unconscionable behavior. 

The second chapter of Malachi reveals that these unscriptural divorces and subsequent remarriages weakened the nation and resulted from profane desires (v. 11), involved betraying innocent spouses (v. 14a), broke covenant vows (v. 14b), caused separation from God (vv. 12, 13), and accompanied spiritual self-deception (v. 17). The Lord expects faithfulness and permanence in marriage. “‘For I am Yahweh, I do not change … Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says Yahweh of hosts ” (Mal. 3:6-7).

Harmonizing Ezra and Malachi

In addition to breaking God’s marriage law by divorcing lawful spouses, a number of these post-exilic Jewish men had also disregarded the divine injunction to not intermingle with the pagan inhabitants of the land (Ezra 9:10-14; 10:2, 10, 17, 44). Genuine repentance, therefore, despite some opposition (Ezra 10:15), involved severing these unauthorized relationships (Ezra 10:3-5, 11, 19). 


God hates divorce because he hates sin (Psa. 5:4-5; Prov. 6:16-19; Isa. 6:3; 59:1-2). In the dissolution of a divinely sanctioned marriage, sin is always involved on the part of one party or the other or both. Entering into another sexual relationship with someone else then results in the sin of adultery (Mal. 3:5; Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9), which, like any other sinful conduct, must be discontinued to constitute repentance and to receive God’s gracious forgiveness (Luke 13:3-8; Acts 26:20; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).3

--Kevin L. Moore


     1 Ezra returned to Jerusalem ca. 458 BC to reform the Jewish state, and Nehemiah ca. 453 BC to oversee the rebuilding of the city's walls.

     2 This textual variation is between the Masoretic Hebrew Text, on one hand, and the LXX, Targum, Arabic versions, and Latin Vulgate on the other. 

     3 See Biblical Doctrine of Divorce (Part 1) and accompanying Links.


Related PostsMinor Prophets (Part 3) 


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Tuesday, 9 November 2021

The “New Name” of Revelation 3:12

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12 ESV).

The book of Revelation is filled with terminology and images borrowed from the OT. Isaiah had prophesied that the people of God would be called by “a new name” (Isa. 62:2; 65:15). In the NT the name exalted above all others is that of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:9-11), through whom salvation is granted (Acts 4:12) and the identifying moniker of the new-covenant people of God (Acts 11:26; Jas. 2:7). 

In Revelation 3:12, a message to the first-century church in the Asian city of Philadelphia, Christians are being encouraged to persevere and to overcome the challenges they are facing in order to be established in God’s “temple” (= the church, 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15), wearing God’s name (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 14:1) and the name of God’s city (= the church, Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:2-3; 22:14) and “my new name” (Jesus Christ) – a threefold emphasis identifying and confirming to whom the Lord’s faithful ones belong.

--Kevin L. Moore

Related PostsThe New Jerusalem: Heaven or the Church? (Rev. 21:1-5)What's in a Name?


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Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Confused by the Book of Revelation?

The Bible makes a distinction between the “milk” and the “solid food” of God’s word (Heb. 5:12-14). The book of Revelation would be in the “meat” category that cannot be understood without a foundational knowledge of the rest of scripture. Before any biblical text says anything to you or me, it has already spoken to those who first received it. 

The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of the first-century Roman province of Asia (1:4, 11; 2:1–3:22), which may also be representative of the problems and needs of all the churches at the time. These Christians were suffering severe and widespread persecution that would eventually worsen (1:9; 2:10, 13; 3:10; 6:9; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; 20:4) and were being pressured to worship the secular ruling power (13:4, 15-16; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). The most likely historical context of this manuscript is toward the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian in the years 95-96.1

The final NT document represents a type of literature known as “apocalyptic,” characterized by highly symbolic language, common during times of great danger or oppression (like Daniel and Ezekiel).2 It was intended to disclose a message of hope, comfort, and reassurance to those being oppressed, while the symbolism hid the actual message from the oppressors. Most of the imagery in Revelation is borrowed from the OT, foreign to those unacquainted with scripture but familiar to these early Christians. 

Any interpretation of the fantastic symbolism that has little or no relevance, meaning, or application to the first-century Asian churches must be mistaken, and the repeated warnings of “what must happen quickly …. for the time is near” (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10)3 would otherwise be misleading. If would-be interpreters have little regard for the immediate audience of any writing, chances are the original sense will be misconstrued and the message misapplied. When the overall context of the Bible is ignored and the book of Revelation is interpreted through human imagination and conjecture, there is no end to the diverse and even absurd explanations of the text.

The theme of Revelation is VICTORY in Jesus (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7), so the essential message continues to encourage all Christians who face similar circumstances.

--Kevin L. Moore


     1 See Introducing the Book of Revelation (Part 2) <Link>.

     2 See Introducing the Book of Revelation (Part 3) <Link>.

     3 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.

Related PostsIntroducing the Book of Revelation (Part 1) <Link>; The New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-5) <Link>; Measuring the Heavenly City (Rev. 21:16) <Link>; The Number 666 (Rev. 13:18) <Link>


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