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FALSE TEACHINGS & TEACHERS
Many Christians and non-Christians alike downplay the biblical presentation of God’s wrath for the unregenerate and their final abode in hell—namely, “everlasting punishment.” The Universalists, Inclusivists, and groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses boldly reject the “biblical doctrine” of hell. While this doctrine can be quite difficult to comprehend and thus, accept, biblical doctrine is not determined by emotion or philosophy, but rather by the exegesis of the text. God’s Word is true regardless if one accepts or rejects it (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).
The Nature of Hell
1. The biblical authors used many terms to describe the final abode of unregenerate, e.g., “hell,” “Hades,” “the lake of fire,” “black darkness,” “eternal punishment,” “eternal flame/fire,” “eternal destruction” (cf. Matt. 18:8; 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 7, 13; etc.).
2. Matthew 25:46 reads: “And these will go away into eternal [aiōnion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aiōnion] life.” The term “punishment” is from the Greek word, kolasin, which *recognized* lexicographers define (in first cent. Koinē Greek) as “punishment”/”chastisement” (e.g., Thayer, BDAG, et al).
3. Revelation 20:10 reads: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The word “tormented” is from the Greek word basanizō, which is defined by Thayer as “being vexed with grievous pains.” Basanizō is also used in Luke 16:23 and, as discussed below, Revelation 14:11 and 20:10. In contrast to the doctrine of Annihilationism, logically one must be awake or conscious to actually experience or (as these texts above plainly indicate) receive “punishment” and “torment” (i.e., being “vexed with grievous pains”). Annihilationism teaches that when the wicked die they are totally destroyed ceasing to exist—however, a person that does not exist cannot be punished or feel anything such as torment.
The Duration of Hell: Aiōn, Aiōnios
Eternal fire for the unregenerate is a biblical reality. Jesus said it was. It was for this reason that Jesus died (cf. Rom. 5:8-10). Those who are not imputed with the righteousness of Christ through faith in Him, will be cast out into hell where they will endure eternal punishment: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Here the word “eternal” (aiōnion) is used BOTH to describe the DURATION of life that believers will have and the “punishment” (kolasin) that the unregenerate will undergo—thus, the punishment is endless just as the “eternal life” is endless for believers. Commenting on this passage (viz. on the phrase, kolasin aiōnion, “eternal punishment”), renowned Greek scholar A. T. Robertson states: “[aionios] comes as near to the idea of eternal as the Greek can put it in one word.” Those that deny the never-ending duration of God’s wrath (hell) do so primarily on emotional grounds (e.g., distorting the love of God) and a faulty understanding of the Greek terms aiōn (“age”) and aiōnios (“eternal”/“everlasting”). The Greek word aiōnios is from the root word aiōn meaning “age.” The Universalists and others who deny the never-ending duration of hell point out that the term aiōnios does not always mean “eternal,” but can refer to a temporary or finite period of time. However, note the following details:
1. CONTEXT determines meaning. Words are defined by their context. It is a great error in hermeneutics to limit words to one meaning when they may have multiple meanings as with the majority of Greeks words—it always depends on the context. It is true that the term aiōnios can be used to indicate a temporary non-eternal state (as in Rom. 16:25). However, just because the root (aiōn) of the term aiōnios means “age” it does not mean that every time the term is used it indicates temporality. For example, Paul uses aiōnios to describe God’s eternal nature: “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal [aiōnion] dominion! Amen” (1 Tim. 6:16). It would be heresy to translate aiōnion here in a temporal sense making God’s dominion temporary—for His sovereignty is everlasting.
2. Lexical Support. The lexical support for aiōnios as denoting the concept of eternal/everlasting life for the believer in passages such as John 3:16; 6:47; 10:28; etc. is unquestionable. Equally, the lexical support for aiōnios as denoting the concept of eternal/everlasting damnation in passages such as Matthew 25:41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:11; 21:10; etc. is indisputable. Aside from passages where aiōnios means “eternal” life (as seen above) and denoting God’s eternal nature (e.g., Rom. 16:26), Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (1985) states: “Aiōnios is also used . . . of the judgment of God, from which there is no appeal, Heb. 6:2, and of the fire, which is one of its instruments, Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7, and which is elsewhere said to be ‘unquenchable,’ Mark 9:43. The use of aiōnios here shows that the punishment referred to in 2 Thes. 1:9, is not is not temporary, but final. . . .”
Below are brief excerpts taken from one of the most utilized and scholarly lexicons, Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG), which provides a most comprehensive analysis of aiōnios regarding the “everlasting” duration of both life and damnation (hell): “aiōn formulaically=eternal [Rev.] 14:11; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5. . . . aiōnios “without beginning or end; of God (Gen 21:33; Is 26:4). . . . Very often of God’s judgment [Jer 23:40; Da 12:2; Ps 76:6; Mt 18:8; 25:46; Mk 3:29; 2 Co 6:7; 2 Th 1:9; Jd 7]. . . . pert. to a period of unending duration, without end. . . .” (32-33). Therefore, besides the passages that clearly (from the context) denote a temporary significance (e.g., Rom. 16:25), the lexical support (e.g., Thayer; Louw and Nida; Liddell and Scott; BDAG, et al) for aiōnios as denoting eternal, endless duration is conclusive.
The New Testament Usage of the Aiōnion
Note the following examples of where aiōnios is used to denote the everlasting duration of life with the Lord for the believer:
John 6:47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal [aiōnion] life”; 10:28: “and I give eternal [aiōnion] life to them, and they shall never perish. . . .” (see also Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 16:26; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 6:16; etc.). Now observe the following examples of where aiōnions is used to denote the everlasting punishment for the unregenerate:
Matthew 18:8: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal [aiōnion] fire”; 25:46: “And these will go away into eternal [aiōnion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aiōnion] life”; 2 Thessalonians 1:9: “And these will pay the penalty of eternal [aiōnion] destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (see also Matt. 25:41; Mark 3:29; Luke 18:30; Jude 7; Rev. 14:11; 20:10 [as discussed below] where aiōnios represents eternal damnation).
Does the phrase “forever and ever” mean endless?
The phrase “forever and ever” (aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, lit., “ages of the ages”) is used to express God’s eternal significance and the everlasting “torment” for the unregenerate.
1 Timothy 1:17: “Now to the King eternal [aiōnōn], immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn]. Amen.”
Revelation 5:13: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn].”
Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever [aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, lit., “ages of the ages”]; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” The double usage of the pluralized aiōnios (“ages”) is used by the author to accentuate the never-ending torment.
Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever [eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn].” The Greek phrase eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn (lit., “unto the ages of the ages”) is the strongest way to express unending duration. The fact that the words are plural in number (as with 14:11) and the double use of the article (“the”) further emphasizes the concept of never-ending duration: “The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural, even using articles [“the”] which make these eons the definite ones.” Also, as with 14:11, the phrase “day and night” is juxtaposed with “forever and ever” stressing the fact that the “torment” is perpetual, never-ending for the objects of God wrath.
To distinctly express the everlasting suffering for the unregenerate, the biblical authors used the phrase “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17; and Mark 9:43). The word translated “unquenchable” is from the Greek word asbestos. According to recognized lexicons, the term carries the meaning of “unquenchable, the eternal hell fire to punish the damned” (Enhanced Strong's Lexicon); “inextinguishable” (BDAG); “pertaining to a fire that cannot be put out” (Louw and Nida); “unquenchable, inextinguishable” (Liddell and Scott).
The evidence for the never-ending nature of hell is undeniable. Admittedly, this doctrine is difficult to discuss. However, the totality (all parts) of biblical truth must be preached. The Gospel is the proclamation of the Son’s cross-work—the very basis of our justification. The Gospel is, indeed, good news, but only because of the bad news: God’s wrath continues to remain on him who denies the Son. Hence, the Son was sent was to save His people from God’s wrath: “having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath of God through Him” (Rom. 5:9; cf. 1 John 2:2). God being perfect and holy does not merely wink at open defiance against His infinite majesty and holiness. It was the cross-work of the Son that provided sinners a way of escape from the divine wrath due for sin. As Berkhof rightly notes: “When we look at the death of Christ it was not first for our salvation, but first for our damnation being born and taking away by Him.”
 Robertson, Word Pictures, vol. 1.
 Aiōnion is the direct object (accusative case) of the adjective aiōnios (although, there is no difference in meaning).
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Revelation, 438. Also note, the same “emphatic construction” is found in Revelation 1:6; 4:9; and 5:3, where it refers to the everlasting worship of God.
 The “Gospel” is from the Greek term euaggelion (eu = “good” and angelion = “announcement”) from which we get our word evangelist/evangelism. Thus, an “evangelist” is one who proclaims the good news.
Scripture teaches that because of the Fall of Adam (original sin), man has lost his ability to make spiritually good choices. He cannot to come to Christ unless the Father draws him (cf. John 6:44, 65)—for the unregenerate man wills to do the desires of the devil (cf. John 8:44). Thus, his will is “held captive by him [the devil] to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26). He cannot submit to or please God unless God gives him a new heart and puts a new spirit within him. It is God, not man’s self-determination, who performs spiritual circumcision on the heart. For a spiritually dead man does not have the ability to make himself alive. Unregenerate man has no righteousness in him to make a spiritually good choice—he never seeks for God (cf. Rom. 3:11).
Thus, only God can make a dead sinner alive. He does not have to show mercy to anyone, He has that freedom: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and hardens whom He desires” (Rom. 9:18). That God is not obligated to provide salvation to anyone sets forth the biblical doctrine of unconditional election. That God grants mercy and thus salvation to some and not to others is not unfair unless, of course, it was shown that God was indeed under obligation to grant salvation for every single person. This, the Bible flatly rejects (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; esp. Rom. 9:11-23)
The doctrine of unconditional election should be viewed in light of the total depravity and inability of man. For if unregenerate man is not totally depraved and hence “able” to choose Christ, then, he would be able, while in the flesh, to make a righteous decision to believe in Christ. In that sense, man is elected conditionally; since he first loved God (i.e., the faith-act is the condition) and subsequently, God loved him back giving him the “reward” of salvation. For the Arminian view of election is that before time God simply peered into the future to see who would make a “righteous choice” to choose Him. Hence, in this view, God’s election was squarely based on the “self-determination” of man—synergistic. Arminians are convinced, therefore, that “the only reasonable answer is that those God knew from eternity past would believe the gospel were predestined to blessings.”
Scripture, however, rejects the Arminian notion of synergism. Because He is sovereign over all things (not all other things; cf. Eph. 1:11), salvation is completely monergistic—God’s work alone, not synergistic—the self-determination or cooperation of man and God. Most arguments put forward by contemporary leading Arminian writers are philosophical and/or lacking in exegetical interaction. The biblical evidence for the biblical teaching of unconditional election is as follows:
1. Jesus rejoices that the Father has hidden things from the wise and intelligent and has revealed them to infants (cf. Luke 10:21; John 12:39-41; 2 Cor. 4:4). For it was pleasing to the Father that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22). The Father gives life, “the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21).
2. God has elected a people that He has chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world (cf. Deut. 10:14-15; Ps. 33:12; Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:1ff.; 1 Thess. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 1:1; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 2:8-9; Rev. 13:8).
3. The elect were born of God (regenerated) prior to believing (esp. John 1:13; 1 John 5:1;cf.
also Eph. 1:5, 11). “Election itself saved no one; it only marked out particular sinners for salvation.” Speaking of God’s unconditional election and sovereign purpose, the apostle points to Jacob and Esau: “even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election [lit., “God’s purpose according to election”] would stand, not by works but by his calling” (Rom. 9:11 NET; emphasis added).
God’s elect are chosen, not based on any foreseen goods works (such as a faith-act), but chosen by God in His sovereignty. That God’s choice was a response to a foreseen act of righteousness on the part of man is biblically vacuous. Nowhere in Scripture is man’s faith-act the basis or ground of God’s election. To assert that God merely presented a plan or possibility of salvation in which He really tries hard to save all men, but cannot because many men reject His plan utterly turns salvation into a great theory: in theory, men can be saved only if they accept the plan or offer, but if no one accepts, then, no one will be saved. Conversely, Scripture presents Jesus as infallibly saving those whom the Father gives Him.
1. Jesus infallibly, not theoretically, saves His people. Those that “had been appointed [tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48; cf. Eph. 1:12).
2. The elect, the believing ones, “were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13; cf. 15:16). God’s choosing did not “depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16; cf. Exod. 33:19; Deut. 7:6-7; Rom. 11:4-6; 33-36; 2 Tim. 1:9).
Simply stated, unconditional election is God marking out particular individuals for salvation, those whom He fore-loved according to His sovereign purpose, not according to the faith-act of the individual. He predestined them to an effectual call. All of these whom He called will be declared righteous and these whom He justified will be glorified (note: it would be extraordinarily beneficial to examine a scholarly and exegetical presentation of Rom. 8:28-30; and chap. 9; e.g., John Piper, The Justification of God; John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans; etc.).
But we ought to give thanks for you always, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13).
He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began [pro chronōn aiōniōn, lit. “before eternal times”] (2 Tim. 1:9).
 Paul says that the unregenerate man is nekros (“dead”), which carries the lexical meaning of “corpse” (e.g., Acts 13:34; Rom. 10:9) that is, really dead, not really sick or terminally ill, but dead in the truest sense (e.g., Eph. 2:1-5; Col. 2:13).
 By definition, a “gift” is undeserved whereas a faith-act (i.e., belief) is a meritorious action deserving a reward. In Romans 4:4, Paul clearly differentiates these two aspects (an undeserving gift vs. wages resulting from works): “Now to the one who works, his wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
 Dave Hunt and James White, Debating Calvinism, 156. Once Hunt viewed the straightforward exegesis of Romans 8:29-30 (viz. the golden chain of redemption) provided by White, all Hunt could say in response was, “such attempts are completely without foundation” (ibid., 157). Hunts provided absolutely no exegetical interaction—only denials and philosophical assertions. These kinds of non-exegetical responses are very typical among Arminians. Further, After painfully examining Norman Geisler’s book, Chosen but Free, I objectively concluded that “Geisler leaps out of his area and swims in unfamiliar waters in his treatment of Reformed Theology” (cited from my theological endorsement in White, Potter’s Freedom, 348).
 E.g., Norman Geisler, Clark Pinnock, Dave Hunt.
 Esp. in Geisler, Chosen but Free and Hunt, What Love is This?).
 In Ephesians 1, all verbs that express the choosing of God’s elect (vv. 4-5, 9, 11, 13, 17, 18) have God as the subject of the choosing (and/or calling and predestining) and man as the object.
 See n. 13 below.
 1 John 5:1 says that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. . . .” The Greek reads, Pas ho pisteuōn hoti Iēsous estin ho Christos, ek tou theou gegennētai (lit., “Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ, from the God has been born”). Note the following details: The word translated “believes” is from the present active participle pisteuōn, which indicates that the “believing” is active and ongoing. And the verb, gegennētai (lit., “has been born”) is a perfect passive indicative.
The perfect tense indicates a completed past action with continuous effects (cf. William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 218). Grammatically, the action the perfect tense (being “born of God”) was prior to the action of the present participle (“believing”). 1 John 2:29 uses the same verb (in the same form): “everyone also who practices righteousness is born [gegennētai, lit., “has been born”] of Him” (emphasis added). The continuous practice (due to the present participle, poiōn, lit., “practicing”) of righteousness was the result of the sinner being born of God. Just as no one can practice righteousness before being “born of God,” one cannot believe before being “born of God.” The next point to consider is that verb gegennētai is in the passive voice, not active (this is a key component regarding the meaning of the verse). Therefore, John is saying that the being born of God was not of the one believing, for the action of the verb (i.e., the being born) was done to the subject (before believing)—any acts of man are totally excluded (cf. Rom. 5:1). If John had wanted to teach that regeneration (i.e., being born of God) was the result and not the cause of faith (the Arminian assertion) he would not have used passive voice, but rather the active.
 David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented, 38.
 Hina hē kat’ eklogēn prothesis tou theou menē.
 New English Translation Bible, ed. [NT] Daniel B. Wallace.
 The verb here, tetagmenoi is the pluperfect passive participle of tassō. Hence, the appointing was a past action, prior to belief (due to the pluperfect tense). Hence, the reason why they believed was that they were first “appointed” (as rendered in most translations) by God to eternal life. Thus, they “belonged to” (BDAG, 991) Him prior to their belief—regeneration precedes faith.
 Note first that John 1:12 does not indicate as to why they receive Him and believe in His name. It is in verse 13, where the answer is found: the ones who believe in His name were born of God. Notice first that the phrase “were born” is from one Greek verb egennēthēsan, which is the aorist passive indicative of gennaō. The aorist indicates that the being born was a past event, which preceded the act of “believing in His name” (v. 12). Second, the verb is passive, which indicates that the being born of God was an act of God done to the subject—the unregenerate man. Hence, as with 1 John 5:1, the being born of God was an action in which man’s participation was completely excluded: “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (emphasis added). Thus, in verse 12, the believing ones are those who first “were born,” not of blood, nor their own will or flesh, but of God alone. Nothing is said that would indicate that the being born of God was an act of man’s self-determination or independent free will. In fact, the opposite is clearly stated: not of the will of man, but of God.
The Effectual Calling of God
Scripture clearly presents that unregenerate man is totally depraved due to his enslavement to sin, thus, the spiritually dead man is totally unable to make a spiritually good decision to choose Christ (esp. Rom. 8:7-8). He does not seek for God nor does he do any good in God’s sight (cf. Rom. 3:10-19). Further, Paul uses the term nekros (literately, “a corpse”) to describe the condition of the unsaved/unregenerate man (cf. Eph. 2:1, 5, Col. 2:13). For if the unregenerate man is not actually spiritually dead, and only sick or very ill, then, he is certainly capable, based on his self-determination, to make a righteous decision to do a *spiritually good* deed (viz. to believe in Christ). However, Scripture does not teach that a “faith-act” is the *cause* of one’s salvation (which would make “faith” a meritorious work), rather the cause of salvation is the sole work of the Lord, “it is by His doing,” says Paul, “that you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30). The elect, then, “were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13; cf. 15:16).
Hence, God’s choosing does not “depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16; cf. Exod. 33:19; Deut. 7:6-7; Rom. 11:4-6; 33-36; Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9). Therefore, the calling of God is, by necessity, effectual and irresistible. Namely, the inward call—that which guarantees the coming to Christ (cf. John 6:37-39), which is theologically distinguished from the outward call (e.g., though preaching), which can be rejected (cf. Acts 17:51; also see Matt. 22:14; and esp. 1 Cor. 1:18, 22-31).
The doctrine of irresistible grace explores the sovereign work of the triune God to prevail over the rebellion in man’s heart and bring him to Christ. It is when the Spirit gives life (regenerates) to the dead, rebellious sinner (cf. Eph. 2:2-5); hence opening his spiritually blind eyes (cf. John 12:29-41; 2 Cor. 4:4) enabling him to come to life in Christ.
The biblical data for irresistible grace is overwhelming
1. God the Holy Spirit regenerates the dead sinner, which causes him to walk in the ways of the Lord. He becomes a new species in Christ Jesus (cf. Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36-36-37; Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17-18).
2. The God the Holy Spirit makes the dead sinner alive (cf. John 5:21; 2 Cor. 3:6; Eph. 2:2-5; Col. 2:13).
3. Through the Spirit, the hidden things of God are revealed (cf. Matt. 13:10-11, 16; 16:15-17; John 10:3-6, 16, 26-29; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 16:14; 18:27; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:17-18; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25-26): In Luke 10:21-22, Jesus rejoiced and praised the Father saying,
“You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. . . . no one knows the Son except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
4. God irresistibly calls, which always and effectually results in salvation (cf. Rom. 1:6-7; 8:29-30; 9:23; 1 Cor. 1:1-2, 9, 23-31; Eph. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:15; 2:9; 5:10; Rev. 17:14).
“For God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works [i.e., faith-acts, obedience, etc.], but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9; emphasis added).
5. God grants faith, repentance, the ability to believe, and regeneration to only the elect (cf. Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 12:8-9; Phil. 1:29; Acts 5:31; 16:14; 2 Pet. 1:1). Note that these *gifts* are granted to the elect—they are not mere possibilities or opportunities that can be rejected: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me. . . . For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:37, 65).
The doctrine of irresistible grace is taught explicitly in Scripture. In the gospels, Jesus clearly and unambiguously taught irresistible grace especially in John 6 (cf. vv. 37-40, 44, and 65). Note the words of Christ in John 6:37-40:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (emphasis added).
Passages such as John 6:37-40 and verse 44 indicates that the Father personally gives the elect to Christ—in which they all effectually come to Him. This beautiful act of the sovereign grace of God is not resisted—they all come. For Jesus says, “all that He has given [dedōken—perfect tense] Me I lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day.” No one is lost, no one resists; they all are raised up at the last day, Jesus’ work does not fail. “God’s saving grace and effectual calling are irresistible, not in the sense that they are never resisted, but in the sense that they are never successfully resisted.”
For God has the right to effectually call and give life “to whom He wishes” (John 5:21). As John Piper biblically observes, “Those who are called have their eyes opened by the sovereign, creative power of God so that they no longer see the cross as foolishness, but as the power and wisdom of God. The effectual call is the miracle of having our blindness removed.” God does what He pleases and His purpose will be established according to His sovereign will—He has that freedom:
 The term nekros has the limited lexical meaning of a “corpse” or a dead person and thus does not mean not “sick” or “ill.”
 Note that John 1:12 does not indicate as to why they receive Him and believe in His name. It is in verse 13, where the answer is found: the ones who believe in His name were born of God. Notice first that the phrase “were born” is from one Greek verb egennēthēsan, which is the aorist passive indicative of gennaō. The aorist indicates that the being born was a past event, which preceded the act of “believing in His name” (v. 12). Second, the verb is passive, which indicates that the being born of God was an act of God done to the subject—the unregenerate man. Hence, as with 1 John 5:1, the being born of God was an action in which man’s participation was completely excluded: “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (emphasis added). Thus, in verse 12, the believing ones are those who first “were born,” not of blood, nor their own will or flesh, but of God alone. Nothing is said that would indicate that the being born of God was an act of man’s self-determination or independent free will. In fact, the opposite is clearly stated: not of the will of man, but of God.
 Man’s heart is by nature resistant to God; he does not seek nor desire God. His “free will” always rejects Christ. It cannot do otherwise. It is in bondage to sin—he is totally depraved, unable to come to Jesus Christ.
 Irresistible grace does not mean that God forces someone to come to Christ against his or her will. Rather, God, in regeneration, changes the sinner’s enslaved will (cf. 2 Tim. 2:26). Thus, the sinner, with a new heart of flesh, uses his free liberated (from sin) will to come to Christ. Everyone who receives a new heart (regeneration), that is, “drawn by the Father,” will come to Jesus Christ; Jesus loses none of them and raises them up at the last day (cf. John 6:37ff.; as discussed below). The regenerated sinner with a new heart does freely what is right, for he is made alive by the grace of God.
 Rather than using the masculine pronoun auton, “him,” Jesus here uses the neuter pronoun auto, “it” to describe the elect as a whole or, as F. F. Bruce says, “the sum-total.”
 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Note that Jesus sets the condition of coming to Him: “unless the Father . . . draws him.” The verb translated “draws” is from helkō. The drawing is more than a wooing or mere encouragement, as Arminians would like to believe. Lexicographically, this word means, “to compel by an inward power, irresistible superiority” (G. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election, 47; cf. BDAG, 318). Note how the verb is used in Acts 21:30: “taking hold of Paul they dragged [eilkon] him out of the temple. . . .” (emphasis added). In James 2:6, the verb is also used in the same fashion: “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag [elkousin] you into court?” The verb is used eight times in the New Testament: John 6:44; 12:32; 18:10; 21:6, 11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; and James 2:6. The force of helkō cannot be denied.
 The verb dedōken (“has given”) is a perfect tense, hence, a completed action in the past with continuous effects. Hence, the ones the Father gives (didōsin) to Christ are those whom He foreknew (dedōken, “has given”) before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph. 1:4).
 Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, 793.
Sociological Cults: Morning Star International
At face, the term “cult” can be viewed by some as quite pejorative, to be sure. In any normal English dictionary, several different meanings to the term are provided. However, from an evangelical/theological point of view, the term “cult,” that is, “non-Christian cult” is used to signify groups that consider and call themselves “Christian,” but denies or rejects an aspect of essential biblical theology. For instance, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals all reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity; Catholics reject justification through faith alone; etc. Hence, these groups would be classified as theological non-Christian cults due to their denial of these essential doctrines (cf. John 8:24; Gal. 1:6-9). However, there is another category of “cult” that, unfortunately, some Christian churches are regarded as. By way of doctrinal definition, this category is known as a “sociological cult.” A “sociological cult” is a group(s) that holds to essential biblical theology, but in terms of leadership and organizational construct they are sociologically abusive, promoting “elitism,” and teach a very unbiblical concept of church authority. For example, to support the false notion that water baptism is a necessity for justification, Kip McKean, founder of the sociological cult, International Church of Christ (ICC), teaches his biblically unstudied followers:
I do not know of any church, group or movement that teaches and practices what we teach as Jesus taught in Matthew 28:18-19: one must make the decision to be a disciple, then be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. When one is born again at baptism (First Principles, 34). Hence, the ICC teaches that in order for one to have salvation, it is not faith alone, but rather: first, the candidate must become a disciple, which is a process, then assuming the candidate is worthy (i.e., a “true disciple”), then he or she must be water baptized (only in the ICC), and only then are they accepted as true Christians. Further in the ICC publication, The Disciple’s Handbook, they explain that salvation is a developmental:
we believe and expect every member of the church to be fully committed to living according to that truth. . . . To our knowledge, we are the only group that teaches the biblical principle of discipleship as a necessary part of the salvation process (120; emphasis added).
This is only one of countless false teachings that the ICC forcefully teach. Note the utter elitism that is slipped in the above statements that produce an atmosphere of fear, which then causes members to “submit” unconditionally. Thus, the ICC is both a theological cult (for denying justification through faith alone) and a sociological cult (for holding to an unbiblical view of authority and church discipleship). For more information on the ICC see: www.christiandefense.org/ICC_.htm#n1
Morning Star International (now called Every Nation)
Virtually identical to that of the ICC’s teaching on discipleship and authority is Morning Star International (MSI; now called “Every Nation”). Even though MSI is not theologically branded as “non-Christian cult,” MSI does, in fact, fall unequivocally in the category of “sociological cult.” This should not be at all surprising since they stemmed out of Maranatha Ministries. The leadership of MSI consists of Rice Broocks, Phil Bonasso, and Steve Murrell, all whom are self-appointed Apostles, thus referring to themselves as the “Apostolic Board.” Of course, the only church that I can think of that has a governing Board of so-called “Apostles” is The LDS (i.e., the Mormons), which they call the “Quorum of the Apostles.”
Note that when leaders of groups insist that they are “Apostles” or as with MSI, an “Apostolic Board,” it creates an illusion in which they are seen by members as God’s infallible mouthpiece determining what is “best” for their devotees. Hence, the result is that members of these kinds of organizations fearfully submit unconditionally. In fact, there are literally hundreds of Christian counter-cult ministries that speak out against the cultic practices, theological falsities and abusive teachings of MSI. Further, there are hundreds of internet posts from ex-MSI members who have written much of the spiritual abuse and crass authoritarianism that they have experienced. This perpetual teaching of “unconditional authority” keeps MSI leadership in full control of their non-questioning members. In the end, many ex-MSI members come out spiritually, and at times, mentally damaged. Physiologically, spiritual abuse is one of the most damaging abuses. A simple Google search on MSI will produce scores of websites exposing MSI. I have personally interfaced with the so-called Apostles (viz. Broocks and Bonasso) and many members of MSI. In evaluating official MSI literature, shown to me by former MSI leaders and carefully listening to MSI sermons throughout the years, I see a virtual exactness with the ICC (see: www.christiandefense.org/ICC_.htm#n1
Not surprising, both ICC and MSI utilize the same passages (e.g., Heb. 13:17) to teach that members should submit to “God’s delegated leaders” without question! Although, they both, with no regard for the exegesis of the text, read their own a priori assumptions into these passages. Further, both hold to an unbiblical concept of discipleship. Hence, both churches are filled with sheepish terrified members who would never dream of questioning their “covering” that, according to MSI leadership, are God’s delegate authority. To maintain a rigid control, leaders of these Discipleship or “Authoritarian” movements, claim that the authority of the leaders is “God-given” or “God-delegated.” Thus, any disobedience to the leaders is direct disobedience to God. They emphasize heavy authority and relentless submission in the relationships between the leaders and ones under them.
Space precludes me to go into every aspect of teaching
on key issues of Authoritarianism such as MSI’s biblically-unbalanced doctrine
on discipleship, submission, etc. that they reign over unassuming members.
However, if you are a current member of MSI consider the following:
1. The New Testament does teach that church leaders are authoritative on issues of (i) directing church affairs (cf. 1 Tim. 3:5); (ii) teaching sound doctrine (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-4); and (iii) correcting those who sin and disciplinary action if they refuse to repent (cf. Titus 3:10-11). In these cases, church authority exits. This kind of biblical authority will help, rather than obstruct, the Christian to submit to Christ.
2. Scripture indicates that the pastoral ministry is noticeably, “marked by a servants attitude,” not a weighty emphasis on authority and submission (see Matt. 20:25-28; 2 Cor. 1:24; and esp. 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
3. Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, not church leadership, for they can err (cf. 1 Tim 2:5).
4. God, not man or a church leader determines
one’s destiny, (cf. Ps. 139:16; Eph. 1:11; 2:10).
5. Scripture indicates that Christians should
“obey God and not man” (cf. Acts 5:29).
6. Studying God’s Word will help the Christian
develop a maturity to discern what God’s will is or is not for his or her life
(cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:8-10).
7. The first and final authority—above all—is Scripture (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:21).
Writing against Authoritarian groups, apologist, E. Miller, pointed out that “Leaders who put heavy emphasis on authority and submission typically seek to make themselves indispensable to others’ spiritual growth and well-being” (CRI Journal, Spring, 1985, 15). Because of MSI’s over emphasis on submission and unconditional authority, which naturally flows from their roots, Maranatha, MSI is not a biblically based or exegetically sound organization. There are far too many churches that do not view members as “rebellious” merely for asking questions or pointing out theological error. Among the many, MSI is a typical Discipleship/Authoritarian movement that seeks to control and ultimately intimidate its trusting members.
The Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses) proclaimed: “If we have love for Jehovah and for the organization of his people we shall not be suspicious, but shall, as the Bible says, ‘believe all things,’ all the things that The Watchtower brings out. . . . ” (Qualified to be Ministers [WT pub.], 156).
Scripture alone is the only sole infallible authority and rule of faith for the church—our ultimate freedom is in Christ Jesus, our great God and Savior.
For documented official MSI teachings, which demonstrate beyond doubt the false and sociologically cultic teachings of MSI, Read Here
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The Preexistence of Jesus Christ
in the Face of Unitarianism
Unitarianism asserts that God is unipersonal; i.e., one Person, hence rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity (i.e., three distinct Persons). However, there are many, who although are not part of the official Unitarian religion, hold to the Unitarian belief—namely that God is one Person. Thus, “unitarian” (in lower case) is used to characterize any belief or group that holds to the basic premise of unitarianism (i.e., a unipersonal God) such as Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of course, Oneness believers. All unitarian arguments against the deity of Christ and/or the Trinity starts with a prior theological commitment: monotheism means God is one Person. However, monotheism simply means, “one” (fr. mono) “God” (fr. theos), thus “only one true God or Being.” In fact, there is no place in Scripture that says God is one Person, but rather He is one Being (Isa. 44:6-8).
So, how does a Christian accurately communicate the Person of Christ to a JW or a Oneness believer, who, because of their unitarian starting point, denies that Jesus Christ is God the Son distinct from the Father? For Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I AM (egō eimi) you will die in your sins.” Thus, only by embracing the Jesus of biblical revelation is salvation a reality. Either God is unitarian (one Person) or trinitarian (three distinct Persons)—they both cannot be right. Scripture however, clearly presents the Tri-Unity of God (e.g., Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 1 Thess. 1:3-5; 1).
The Christian must be equipped to establish from Scripture that Jesus Christ eternally existed with the Father. When that is accomplished, the unitarian concept of God is proven false. In both the OT and NT, there are numerous passages that clearly demonstrate the preexistence of the Son. Aside from that of Colossians 1:16-17, Philippians 2:6ff., and Hebrews 1:1ff., John 1:1 and 17:5 clearly and exegetically demonstrate the preexistence of Jesus Christ, God the Son.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [pros] God, and the Word was God.
From a theological and grammatical standpoint, John 1:1 sharply refutes the theology of every non-Christian group that denies the full deity of the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ. But what is especially relevant to the preexistence of the Son is John 1:1a and b: En archē ēn ho logos . . . kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, lit. “In [the] beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was with the God.” First in John 1:1a, the Greek verb ēn, “was” is the imperfect tense of eimi. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word did not originate at a point in time, but rather in the beginning of time the Word ēn already existing. Note in verse 3 the contrast between ēn and egeneto, “became” (or “created,” “emerged,” “born,” etc.). The aorist indicative egeneto indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past. Thus, in the prologue of John, ēn is exclusively applied to the eternal Word (vv. 1, 2, 4, 9, 10) and egeneto is applied to everything created (cf. vv. 3, 6, 10). It is not until verse 14 that egeneto is applied to the Word denoting His new nature—“the Word became [egeneto] flesh [sarx].” This clearly shows the preexistence of the Word—God the Son.
To highlight the intimate loving fellowship that the Word shared with the Father, the Apostle John specifically used the preposition pros in John 1:1b: “and the Word was with [pros] God.” The preposition pros, “with” has various meanings depending on the context. When applied to persons, however, pros regularly denoted their intimate fellowship and always their distinction. Pros expresses the intimate and special relationship that Christians will experience “at home with [pros] the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). A. T. Robertson rightly notes, “It is the face-to-face converse with the Lord that Paul has in mind. So, John thus conceives the fellowship between the Logos and God” (Grammar, 625).
Notwithstanding the mass of biblical scholarship, unitarians postulate a unitarian assumption denying the appropriate and natural meaning of ēn in John 1:1a—denoting the Word’s eternality (as God, John 1:1c: “the Word was God”) and pros in John 1:1b—denoting the Word’s ontological distinction from His Father. Thus, the eternal Word, God the Son, ēn pros (lit. eternally in intimate fellowship with) the Father. Moreover, in verse 3, John identifies the Word as the Agent of creation, not merely an instrument. This is indicated by John’s use of dia (“through”) followed by the genitive autou (“Him”; as in Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6; and Heb. 1:2). In point of fact, there is no stronger way in which Scripture could have communicated that the Son was the real and actual Agent of creation—clearly denoting the Son’s preexistence.
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What People are
saying about Jesus Christ
Orthodox vs. Heterodox
Orthodox Christian Views
The Apostle Paul:
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…(Titus 2:13).
Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 107):
Our God Jesus Christ indeed, has revealed himself more clearly by returning to the Father (from his letter to the Romans 3:3). ,LDS
Irenaeus bishop of Lyons (c. A.D. 180):
Christ Jesus our Lord and God and Saviour and King, according to the pleasure of the invisible Father, and every tongue may confess him (Against Heresies, Book I, 10:1).
Chalcedonian Creed (A.D. 451)
…perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; very God and very man.
F. F. Bruce, former Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester; affirms in his commentary on the book of Hebrews (ch. 1):
Messiah can be addressed not merely as God's Son (verse 5) but actually as God.
One of the foremost Greek grammarians, and biblical scholars, Daniel B. Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary) comments on John 1:1:
The idea of a qualitative theos here is that the Word had all the attributes and qualities that "the God" (of 1:1b) had. In other words, he shared the essence of the Farther, though they differed in person. The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most concise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 269; italics Wallace's).
The above were samples of Orthodox views of Jesus Christ. Now we will observe the converse.
Heretical & Un-orthodox Views
Arius of Alexandria (A.D. 318):
There was a time when the Son was not (cf. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).
Joseph Smith Jr. (Founder of Mormonism):
I will preach on the plurality of Gods…Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father… the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 370).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism (on the sexual union between God the Father and Mary):
For the Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (Jesus Christ).
Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God (Watchtower booklet).
Jesus is not God.., but the Son of God (Science and Health, p. 361).
His disciples believed that Jesus was dead while he was hidden in the sepulchre (ibid., p. 44).
Neither Lord Buddha nor Christ were OT [i.e., Operating Thetans]… They were just a shade above clear (Ability mag. no. 81).
Theosophy (H. P. Blavatsky):
Nowhere throughout the New Testament is Jesus found calling himself God or anything higher than 'a son of God,' the son of a 'Father,' common to all (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 5, 369).
Rajneesh Foundation International (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh):
To tell you the truth, Jesus is a mental case… He is a fanatic. He carries the same kind of mind as Adolf Hitler. He is fascist. He thinks that only those who follow him will be saved (The Rajneesh Bible, vol. 1, 9-10).
[Jesus] "was a great teacher"-but no more (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 525).
Jesus was no more than a mortal whom [Allah] favored and made an example to the Israelites (Koran: Sura 43:59).
The Baha'i Faith:
Jesus was not the only-begotten Son of God come down from Heaven, crucified and resurrected, nor the unique Saviour (World Order, summer, 1978).
The Way International:
The Deity of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ's existence began when God created the sperm with soul-life in Mary (Victor Paul Wierwille (founder), Jesus Is Not God,117).
Unification Church (Sun Myung Moon):
It is a great error to think Jesus was God Himself. Jesus is no different from other men (Divine Principle and Its Application, 75).
Modalism (i.e., Oneness theology). Sabellius, the third century heretic who was one of the most prominent leaders of Modalism, explains:
God revealed Himself as Father in creation, Son in incarnation, and Holy Ghost in regeneration ('Sabellius,' Encyclopedia Britannica, XIX, 791).
Prolific author and representative of the UPCI, David Bernard:
…there is only one God who has revealed Himself as Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Ghost in regeneration (The Oneness of God, 142).
T. D. Jakes (Potters House Church, Dallas, TX).
we have one God, but He is Father in creation Son in redemption and Holy Spirit in regeneration (taped excerpt from an interview with Jakes, available- Living By the Word Ministries, dated 8-23-98; Ph. 323-292-4415).
T. D. Jakes, deliberately misquoting Jesus in John 14:9, saying:
"I am the Father . . ." (video excerpt from teaching series on Eph. 3, part 3, at the Potters House, 6-30-99, 7:00 PM).
A Redefinition of the Person of Jesus Christ
As seen above, non-Christian cults and world religions grossly redefine the term "Jesus." Conversely though, I would point out: it is Jesus Christ Himself that defines Christianity:
Unless you do not believe that I AM [egw eimi, egō eimi] you will die in your sins (John 8:24; cf. Gk.).
The fact is, virtually everyone asserts "a Jesus." Hence, the question must always be asked: "Which Jesus?" As the Apostle John said: "No one who denies the Son has the Father" (1 John 2:23).
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Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . . . (KJV).
The United Pentecostals Church International (UPCI) uses this passage (among others) to support its view that water baptism MUST be done “in the name of Jesus” only to be valid. Since the UPCI theology holds to the idea that Jesus IS the “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” The UPCI’s position is clear: Peter commands new converts to (a) repent be water baptized and (b) be baptized only by way of the exact formula: “in the name of Jesus.” Therefore, as the UPCI asserts, the remission or forgiveness of sins is accomplished only by water baptism “in the name of Jesus,” and repentance. However, only by disregarding the historical context and ignoring the grammar can the UPCI hold to such a heterodox view. Furthermore, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration controverts the theology of Luke (e.g., Acts 10:43). Even so, UPCI leader David Bernard remarks on the NECESSITY of water baptism, as he understands Acts 2:38:
We should remember that water baptism is administered because of our past life of sin; it is for the ‘remission of sins’ (Acts 2:38). Since the name of Jesus is the only saving name (Acts 4:12), it is logical that the name be used in baptism (The Oneness of God, 139).
In proper biblical interpretation: grammar dictates theology, theology DOES NOT dictate grammar. This is a vital point in exegesis. There are at least four acceptable interpretations of the passage. However, of the interpretations offered by competent Christian theologians none provide for baptismal regeneration. Noted Greek grammarian J. R. Mantey offers one such acceptable interpretation. He argued that the preposition eis (“for”) could be causal, hence the passage could read: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized—each one of you—at the name of Jesus Christ because of/for/unto the forgiveness of your sins.’”
In other words, the preposition eis should be translated “because of,” or “in view of” not “in order to” or “for the purpose of” forgiveness of sins. Mantey believed that a salvation by grace would be violated if a causal eis were not evident in such passages as Acts 2:38. This way of handling the text is also concurred by one of the world’s premium and most quoted New Testament Greek grammarians A. T. Robertson:
My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received (Word Pictures, 3:35-36).
There is also another grammatical aspect to be considered. There is a shift from second person plural to third person singular and back to second person plural. Notice below:
1. The verb “repent” (metanoēsate) is second person plural and is in the active voice.
2. And “be baptized” (baptisthētō) is third person singular and is in the passive voice.
3. The Greek pronoun translated “your” (humōn) is in a second person plural.
Therefore, the grammatical connection is: “repent” (active plural) with “your” (active plural) as in “for the remission of your [humōn] sins” and not “be baptized” (passive singular) with “for the remission of your sins.” Moreover, the same wording “for the remission of your sins” is used in reference to John’s baptism (cf. Luke 3:3; Mark 1:4) and that baptism did not save, it was a preparatory baptism and of the coming Messiah and a call to repentance, as we will deal with below. An additional view, however, is that baptism represents both the spiritual reality and the ritual which is an acceptable view that works well in the scope of the context.
Notwithstanding the different shades of interpretation, which in fact do not contradict, but only enhance—they are all in accord with good exegesis. Contrary to the UPCI position, which violates not only the theology in Acts (e.g., 10:43) but also the entire theology of the NT (e.g., John 6:47; Rom. 4:4ff.; Gal. 2:16).
Fundamentally, the UPCI believers confuse narrative with didactic or teaching portions of Scripture, which inevitably lead to a distorted exegesis. When we come to the book of Acts it must be remembered that Luke was providing a narrative of the events of the first thirty years or so of the church to a man named Theophilus. Luke tells of what happened (narration) not how it should happen (didactic) in the early church. Therefore, because of this hermeneutical blunder, UPCI churches take and dissect the book of Acts, thoroughly disregarding the context and grammar, and thus deduce that baptism should only be done using the verbal formula, “in the name of Jesus” only.
Oneness folks will often assert: “we are following the apostolic doctrine.” However, there are two major flaws in this line of thinking: (a) it neglects the Semitic concept and significance of what the expression, “in the name of” meant to a first century audience (see below) and (b) it confuses narrative with didactic portions of Scripture. Even more problematic is the fact there are many verses in Scripture where “baptism” is mentioned without the “Jesus’ name” formula (e.g., Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:10-12).
Which Formula: “In,” “On,” or “Into the Name of Jesus”?
That a precise formula must be verbally administered, when one is baptized does prompt the question: which precise formula is correct? There are three in Acts: “on [epi] the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38); “into [eis] the name of the Lord Jesus” (8:16; 19:5); and “in [en] the name of the Jesus Christ” (10:48). If the UPCI insists that the “Jesus’ name” formula found in Acts is the standard, then, why is it that the apostles doctrines, which the UPCI claim to strictly follow, did not use the same exact formula? Even more confusing, was it in the name of “Jesus Christ” (2:38; 10:48) or “the Lord Jesus” (8:16; 19:5)?
Certainly, you would think, that if God required an exact verbal formula for baptism to be valid, the apostles would have not erred on such a critical issue. Because of the three different formulas with different prepositions (“on,” “in,” “into”) and different titles for Jesus (“Jesus Christ,” “Lord Jesus”), many Oneness churches are in disagreement as to the “correct” formula. The expression, “in the name of Jesus” defined the kind of baptism.
Thus, when the early church would baptize, it was in the “name,” that is, by the authority of Jesus Christ. To be baptized into something was to be unified or identified with that something—hence, we read in 1 Corinthians 10:2 that the Israelites, “were all baptized into Moses.”
Baptizing in the Trinitarian Formula? or “In Jesus’ name” Only?
“But why” some will ask, “is the verbal formula in Acts different from that of the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19?” First off all, it is questionable and thus assumed that the phrase “in/on/into the name of Jesus” was an actual verbal pronouncement. To pray, ask, or be baptized “in the name of Jesus” was an equivalent way of saying: in or by the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He came in His Father’s name (John 5:43), that is, Jesus came in the “authority” or “on behalf” of the Father. Hence, it was not the verbal formula itself that had efficacy (see Acts 19:13).
Consider also that when Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission, He instructed them to go out into “ALL the nations.” Most nations were pagan, worshipping creatures or things that were created, clueless of the true God. The fact is, they needed full revelation of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Whereas in Acts, the new converts that were baptized, were Jews (2:5), God-fearing Gentiles (10:1-2) and disciples of John the Baptist (19:1-5). All of those new converts had prior knowledge of “God” per-se, but the emphasis, for true salvation, was on Jesus (Acts 4:12). Therefore, it was Jesus that the new converts were baptized, that is, united, and identified with—on behalf of Him.
But even if one insists that the verbal formula was, “in the name of Jesus” which is not itself erroneous, it does not follow that the name formula must be instituted in order for baptism to be valid and salvation a reality. That idea sharply contradicts the clear teaching in the NT (e.g., John 5:24; Acts 10:43). Even if granted that the early Christians used the verbal “name formula” (which was never done the exact same way), there is clearly no justification to assert that the name formula is now didactic (i.e., a prescriptive doctrine). “In the name of Jesus” then, was probably not the verbal formula; the actual verbal formula would have been, out of obedience, the Trinitarian formula inaugurated by Jesus Himself (cf. Matt. 28:19.).
Traveling over the past few months has been an immense honor and privilege to be used by God in delivering and defending His gospel. It is especially encouraging to know that the Department of Christian Defense has managed with many speaking engagements to enlighten those that are young and old on the most efficacious ways to communicate the essentials of the Christian faith. Your prayers for us have not gone unanswered. We diligently encourage you to remain steadfast in your prayers and continued support. I will be traveling overseas in Dec./Jan. to teach specifically on Oneness and Watchtower theology.
In Oneness theology, they confess “the name of Jesus” but REMOVE Him from the Trinity, REMOVE Him from His relationship with His Father, REMOVE Him as Mediator, and REMOVE Him from truly being God-man.
There are many missionaries overseas, however, because of the vagueness and lack of clarity concerning definitive Christian theology, multitudes from Africa to Russia do not understand the differences between the Jesus of the LDS, JWs and Oneness theology and the Jesus of biblical revelation, for only He can save; any other Jesus is a decidedly “different” Jesus.
For more information on Oneness theology see: www.christiandefense.org/oneness.htm
Scriptura (tota Scriptura)
We are familiar with the concept of the
Reformers: sola Scriptura, that is, Scripture ONLY. But there was also a
principle that came out of the Reformation, known as toto Scriptura. Tota
Scriptura, from the Latin: All (tota) Scripture (Scriptura) The Reformers, like
the church Fathers before them, followed the apostolic teaching that clearly
emphasized: Scripture ALONE, but also ALL of Scripture should be taught and
valued as the Word of God. Many pastors today claim "Scripture alone" yet disregard the
principle of "ALL of Scripture." Important doctrines are more than often
marginalized or flatly avoided because leaders are afraid they might offend
someone, or lose sponsorship and endorsements. What happened to Jude 3: Contend
for the Faith?
"I am innocent of the blood of men. . . "
When the Apostle Paul gave his farewell address to the elders of the church of Ephesus, (Acts 20:17) he was very concerned as to what was going to take place. In verse 25 Paul says: "And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face." This was the last time that they saw Paul. He was martyred roughly 4 to 6 years later (under Nero, c. A.D. 64-66). Paul goes on:
Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of men. For I did not
shrink from declaring to you the WHOLE PURPOSE of God.
Here, Paul draws from Ezekiel 33:6:
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from your hand (cf. 3:18ff).
Paul understood the severity of preaching only "parts" of God's Word or "toning down" what God has said, as many do today. God takes a dim view at pastors and teachers who preach an edited version of the Gospel; dodging judgment and apologetic passages in the Bible. Why is this? After all, don't they have to please their hearers? In verse 28 of the text, Paul instructs the leaders of the church to carefully watch and protect the church:
Be on guard for yourself and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Finally, in verse 29-30 the Apostle points out the grave consequences of not proclaiming all of Scripture (toto Scriptura), and what will happen thereafter:
I know after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. Therefore be on alert, remembering that for night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
Biblically there are two categories of "wolves," those outside the church: e.g., non-Christian cults, world religions, etc., and those Paul speaks of that are from within the church. In fact, Paul was so concerned about the wolves from within the church, that he warned them for three years in tears! So destructive were the false teachers from within, that the Holy Spirit prophesizes of their coming, in virtually every New Testament book. Hence, since it was so important to God to spend so much ink dealing with and warning the church regarding their coming, it should be paramount that Christians be alert and sound the trumpet to warn others. Jesus says to "watch out for false prophets. . . " They always come as "Christians," and they do everything in the "name of Jesus," as Jesus said they would; even "miracles and signs and wonders" (cf. Matt. 7:15-23; see also 2 Thess. 2:9ff.).
It is not of great wonder then, why Paul was so troubled. These particular inside-job wolves came as the genuine article deceiving many in their path. Paul warns:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrine taught by demons. . . . (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1).
Also dealing with false teachers within the church, the Apostle Peter, towards the end of his life, was directed by the Holy Spirit to state:
But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who brought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves… and in their greed they will exploit you with false words. . . . (2 Pet. 2:1ff).
Again, these false teachers are within the church. The Mormons, JWs, Oneness, Christian Science, etc., are wolves outside the church being deceptive enough. But the deception that most Christians are duped by is the wolves from within their own numbers.
Signs to Look For
"How do you know? I know about the Mormons and JWs but what is the mark of a false teacher/prophet in the church?"
These are the questions I receive frequently and they should be addressed. Most false teachers or prophets, have striking similarities, which we should all be privy to:
1. Unsound Theology- For instance, TV evangelist Jesse Duplantis, in his popular book: Heaven, claims that God has "feet" and "big hands," which is the god of Mormonism. He goes on to say that babies fly out of God's mouth wearing only nightgowns! (113-115, 119). Frequently, false teachers confuse or deny the very nature of God (i.e., the Holy Trinity) as with Oneness preacher T. D. Jakes. Even more, many deny the Atonement by asserting that Jesus' work went beyond His physical sacrifice on the cross. They teach that Jesus had to go to Hell and get "beat up" and suffer in order finish His work. Example, popular speaker Joyce Myers makes these statements on her tape, From the Cross to the Throne:
Jesus said, 'It is finished.' And He meant the Old Covenant. The job He had to do was just getting started. He really did the job the three days and nights that He was in Hell. That's where the job was done.
He was pronounced guilty on the cross but He paid the price in Hell.
All the hosts of Hell was [sic] upon Him… They got on Him. They got Him down on the floor and got on Him. And they were laughing and mocking.
Typically, most false teachers make man out to be a god and God out to be like man, which is, as seen, consistent with Mormon theology and not Christian theology.
2. Special Revelation- Many claim that they've had a personal visitation from God or an angel, in some esoteric way, whereby speaking audibly (sometimes in KJV language!). The problem with this is, it can neither be verified nor falsified; unless, of course, what God or the messenger allegedly says contradicts Scripture, which I find is usually the case. Keep in mind; the leaders of non-Christian cults make this same claim.
3. False Prophecies- 'Thus saith the Lord,' they fearlessly proclaim, and proceed to give a typical, and usually, unspecified, prophecy. And if it does not come to pass, oh well, they just blame it on the person prophesied about, in spite of passages like: Deut. 18:20 & Jer. 23:16ff. Did the biblical test for a "prophet" change somewhere in the NT? The fact is, if all Christians knew the biblical procedure for testing those who claim they're prophets, the number of false prophets would diminish significantly!
4. Faulty View of Prosperity- Guaranteed riches are promised for the "faithful." Scandalously, many teach a manipulative doctrine called: "increase by association," whereby financial increase is guaranteed for those who give to these profiteers at their meetings.
5. Faulty View of Health- Only one who is not familiar with the basic rules of interpretation would 'buy' into this one. This teaching postulates that God desires all Christians to be in perfect health. The Apostle Paul sure missed this one: "…it was because of a bodily illness that I preach to you…." (Gal. 4:13; NASB; see also 1 Tim. 5:23: Timothy had a stomach problem and a frequent illness).
6. Flawed Hermeneutics- The false teacher will read into the text things that are not there. They do not follow any objective rules of biblical interpretation. Most do not know the original language and ignore context and grammar.
These are some primary guidelines for discernment. Christians are to test, analyze (1 Thes. 5:21 Jude 3) and "refute those who oppose sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9, 13), for the purpose of warning others of the coming sword. Paul warned the church for three years in tears. Did the church of Ephesus listen to Paul? Yes, and years later Jesus commended them for it (see Rev. 2:2-3).
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Sola Fide: The Foundation of Protestantism and An Exegetical Look at Romans 4:4-8
Of the many letters that we receive here at DCD, the most recurring ones are those that, in some way, oppose sola fide, that is, FAITH ALONE. Out of these letters, primarily which are from Roman Catholics (hereafter RC). Although they appreciate the information on LDS, JWs and Oneness groups, they repudiate the statements that speak of “justification by faith alone.” Keep in mind, the RC Church denies that a man is justified before God solely by faith alone. Conversely, the official RC position is: fides caritate formata (“faith formed by love”); which is far removed from faith alone. Justifying faith, then, was formed by love. This teaching was clearly confirmed at the Council of Trent (1546). Rome’s vociferous anti-faith alone position is clearly proclaimed in the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification:
In one paragraph, the RC Church pronounces a divine condemnation (anathema) on the entire Protestant body of Christians. This, due to the Protestant view that a man is fully justified by faith alone or as the Reformers termed: sola fide. Hence, the issue of justification is and has been the fundamental difference between RCs and Protestants.
Recently we received an email from a RC, who argued, “Where, does the Bible use the phrase “faith alone?” RCs, in their quest to show that the Protestant position is false and that the exact phrase “faith alone” does not appear in Scripture, frequently ask this question. However, the RC argument does not follow; the words “Trinity” and “Incarnation” are not in contained Scripture either.
What RCs do not understand is that the church has frequently used non-biblical words, such as “Trinity,” to define the revelation or data that is clearly contained in Scripture. For example, Scripture presents God the Son as actually becoming flesh; hence, “Incarnation” is the doctrinal word that the church uses to define the biblical data. The Jehovah’s Witnesses use the same argument for the Trinity naively stating: “Trinity is not in the Bible.”
So the point is, justification by “faith alone” simply means justification is by faith apart from additions or modifications. The very reason for the term “Protestant” was for the “protest” or objection against the dogmas of the RC Church, particularly on justification.
Justification by Faith Alone
In fact, in the entire Pauline corpus, salvation by grace alone through faith alone is clearly the theological starting point for the apostle. There are scores of verses that teach clearly: the righteousness of Christ is the sole grounds of justification (man excluded) and the sole means is faith alone apart from works. However, space precludes us from citing all. In Romans though (and esp. Gal.) Paul presents solid grammatical arguments for justification by faith alone. Let us examine 4:4-8:
 Now to the one who works, his wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
 just as David also speaks of the blessings on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,
AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT” (NASB).
1. In verse 4, Paul explains that the wages resulting from “works” are not credited as a gift or a favor, but “what is due.” The literal rendering is even clearer: “Now to the working one, the reward is not reckoned [or “imputed,” logizetai] according to grace [charin; Paul’s normal word for “grace”], but according to debt [misthos].” In other words, if an employer, after giving a paycheck to the employee, says, “Thanks a lot, here is your gift,” the employee would object stating that he or she earned that or worked for it!
Hence, it was not a gift. Exactly the argument Paul makes here: wages are the result or reward from works (viz. “what is due”). In verse 5, he then contrasts “wages” (that one earns by works) with being “credited” as righteousness by faith ALONE—apart from additions or modifications. This contrast cannot be missed: works vs. faith.
2. Paul presents two kinds of people here: the one working and the one not working: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him . . . his faith is credited as righteousness.” Note that the same participle (ergazomenō, “working”) is used for both verses 4 and 5. However, Paul inserts a negation in verse 5:
V. 4: tō de ergazomenō, lit. “but the one working.”
V. 5: tō de mē ergazomenō, lit. “but the not working one.”
It is God, Paul declares, “who justifies the ungodly.” We find here a double imputation: The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner’s account when they are justified and the sinner’s sins are imputed to Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).
3. In verse 6, Paul now shows that David understood that “God credits righteousness apart from works [chōris ergōn; emphasis added].” The verse literally reads: “Blessed is the man to whom God imputes or credits righteousness WITHOUT works [theos logizetai dikaiosunen choris ergōn].” Again, Paul does not here limit works only to “works of the Law” (a Catholic assertion). Please note once again, Paul does not (in this context) use the phrase ho nomos, “the Law,” but ergōn, “works”—any works. To avoid the plain and straightforwardness of Romans 4:4-8, some would appeal to Ephesians 2:10 (“created . . . for good works”). However, in this passage, Paul is simply teaching that salvation is chariti, “by grace,” and dia pisteōs, “through faith,” and ouk ex ergōn, lit. “not of works” (2:9). Hence, works are the result, not the cause, of genuine faith (as pointed out above). The Apostle James draws the same point: genuine faith does not result in a deedless life.
4. Then, in verses 7 and 8, Paul quotes David (Psalm 32:1-2): “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (emphasis added). When the sinner is justified (through faith), he is legally declared: NOT GUILTY! Justification is a one-time declarative act in which God pronounces the sinner just or righteous. Hence, God does not count their trespasses against them (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19). Note the strong and specific language that Paul uses in verse 8: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (emphasis added). Many times the full import of particular passages is lost in translations, which is the case here. As in John 6:37 (and 10:28 as noted above), Paul employs a double negative (ou mē) followed by the aorist subjective (logisētai): “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account [ou mē logisētai]” (emphasis added). The NIV reads, “whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Paul used this specific grammatical construction to deny that there is even a possibility that the Lord will count any sin against the justified. I would challenge you to examine this text on its own exegetical merit and allow the text to read for itself.
 Throughout Romans, Paul underscores God’s legal declaration of righteousness, which a Christian presently possesses, by his continuous use of dikaiosunē, “just/righteous.” In Romans 8:33-34, Paul specifically employs legal terms to lay emphasis on the status of the justified: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33); “Who is the one who will condemn?” (v. 34); “who [Jesus] also intercedes for us?” (v. 34). These terms (“charge,” “condemn,” and “intercedes”) were used in court proceedings in the first century [cf. BDAG, 273, 519, 341). Hence, Paul’s Roman audience would have clearly understood as to what he was communicating.
 This construction (viz. double neg. + the aorist subj.) is the the most emphatic way to negate a future condition (also in John 10:28). It was used only about eighty-five times in the NT.
Responding to the Mormon Assertion
of God the Father
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man…. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) denies the most fundamental teaching in Scripture: “God [the Father] is Spirit” (John 4:24; see note below). Jesus was clear: only by possessing correct knowledge [ginōskōsin] of God is eternal life a reality.
Let us now examine the most used passages that Mormons assert in trying to prove that God is an exalted man. Remember, this is not a peripheral or minor doctrine; it attacks the very nature and Being of God. Remember: when speaking with the Mormons it is key to stick with Scripture alone. Mormons typically will refer to their own LDS standard works for doctrinal solace. However, do not allow the Mormon to use this tactic, it only evades the obvious: Scripture condemns the teachings of the Mormon Church.
The most frequent passages used to support LDS theology (God as a man), are listed below each with a biblical response:
LDS: Genesis 1:26: “Let Us make man in our image, after our likeness….” From this passage, Mormons conclude that since man has a physical image God must have a physical image as well.
RESPONSE: First the term translated “image” (Heb. selem) carries the meaning of an object similar to something else, and does not necessitate an exact replication or a physical image (e.g., pagan idols representing deities, Num. 33:52; paintings of soldiers, Ezek. 23:14). Notice in Romans 8:29:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image [eikonos] of His Son.… (NASB).
To argue that being in the “image” of something means exact replication would mean that Romans 8:29 is teaching that the predestined of God will conform to look more and more like a Jewish male (Jesus). Moreover Paul says in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the “image [eikōn] of the invisible God.” How is it that Jesus, who had a physical body, is the “image” of the INVISIBLE God, if “image” strictly means identicalness? Scripture teaches that God is invisible (cf. John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). Moreover, Eve was also in the “image” of God, does this mean that God has female parts? What is interesting is that Smith’s own translation (Inspired Version, footnote #9) reads:
And, I, God, said to my Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so (also found in Pearl of Great Price, Moses 2:26).
Notice that God said to His “Only Begotten,” who was Jesus, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” But in LDS theology, Jesus did not have a physical body before coming earth, so how is it that God can say to Jesus, “Let us make man in our image” when at that time Jesus was without a body?
The reason for this apparent contradiction is that Joseph Smith changed his doctrine later in life. We are told that Smith’s so-called Genesis account, as rendered in his Inspired Version, was given to Smith by revelation in 1830, and later it was included in the LDS standard work: Pearl of Great Price (cf. Moses 2:26). Even more, the Book of Mormon (written in 1830) does not teach that the Father has a physical body and is an exalted man. It was not until sometime after 1832 that Smith started teaching that, “the Father has a body of flesh and bone” (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22, 1843).
LDS: Exodus 33:11: “The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as man speaketh unto his friend.”
RESPONSE: “Face to face” was a Jewish expression, which denoted an intimate personal relationship. Also, the “LORD” (or Jehovah) in LDS theology was Jesus, not God the Father (who was called Elohim, “God”). So we would ask the Mormon: “Why do you use a verse specifically referring to Jesus (LORD/Jehovah) to prove that the Father had a body?”
NOTE: Mormons use Old Testament passages that speak of God as having human body parts: E.g., “face to face,” “back” (Exod. 33:11, 23);“hand,” “ear” (Isa. 23:11; 59:1; etc.).
RESPONSE: Firstly, as with Exodus 33:11 (“face to face”), and the references above, they speak of the “LORD” not Elohim, “God,” who, in LDS thinking, was referring to the Father not Jesus. Secondly, very often the Old Testament ascribes human parts to God only to describe His activity in terms that humans can understand, which are called anthropomorphisms. Mormons ignore the basics of biblical hermeneutics (i.e., critical interpretation). If we take metaphorical language that was most common in the Old Testament, in an unintended, impassive, verbatim sense we will inevitably fall to a faulty interpretation. An example would be Psalm 91:4 which reads:
He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge. . . .
Is God now a huge bird? This type of language here is referred to as: zoomorphisms. Scripture also states that God is a “consuming fire,” is He now a big oven? Jesus says He is the “door,” the “bread,” the “gate,” etc., surely no one would ever dream of pouring a literal wooden meaning into these verses.
LDS: John 14:9: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
RESPONSE: Only by disregarding the context can Mormons say that Jesus was teaching that the Father has a body and by seeing His body, they were actually seeing the Father’s body. First, in verse 6, Jesus says that He is the only way to the Father. And in verse 7, Jesus says by knowing Him they can know the Father. Then, in keeping with the context, (Jesus as the sole means to the Father), Jesus says that by seeing Him they can see the Father, that is, Jesus being the “perfect representation” (cf. Heb. 1:3) of the Father has perfectly revealed Him (cf. John 1:18) where they can come to “know,” and “see” Him.
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation [charaktēr] of His nature [hupostaseōs]…. (Heb. 1:3).
LDS: Acts 7:55: (an LDS favorite) Stephen saw, “Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” See also Isaiah 6:1ff.
* God the Father is not a man: “for I am God, and not man.…” (Hosea 11:9; lit.: “God I am and not man.”; cf. *John 4:24; see note below).
* He is an invisible spirit: “He is the image of the INVISIBLE God” (Col. 1:15; cf. 1 Tim. 1:17).
* “For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I do” (Luke 24:39; cf. 2 Chron. 6:18).
* “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time. . . . ” (John 1:18).
* God: “Dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can [dunatai] see” (1 Tim. 6:16).
#For more information on the LDS Church, Go Here
Jesse Duplantis and Mormonism
Frequently seen on the Trinity Broadcasting Network is animated evangelist Jesse Duplantis—known by his devotees as the “Raging Cajun.” Infrequently practiced, the Bible admonishes Christians, to “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21; cf. Acts. 17:11). Christians therefore, should not abdicate their responsibility to put Duplantis, in spite of his widespread popularity, to the test and see if what he says is in accord with Holy Scripture.
Visitation to Heaven
In August of 1988, Duplantis alleges that he went to heaven and postulates this claim behind the pulpits of some of the largest churches in America. Recently, Duplantis wrote a book entitled Heaven, Close Encounters of the God Kind wherein he describes his alleged visitation to heaven. He also has a video and audiocassettes that provide all the details of his extraordinary claim. What is most alarming though, is that notwithstanding his “Christian” vocabulary and by his own admission, his claim to be a “Christian” teacher; the fact is, Duplantis is preaching in some of the largest Christian churches Mormon theology!
Mormon Doctrine of God (an Exalted Man)
Founder, first President, and prophet of the Mormon Church tells us: “God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man. . . . ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345).
Also in the Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 declares: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s: the Son also. . . . ” The foundation of Mormon theology is that God is an exalted man.
In Duplantis’ book, page 111, Duplantis tells us that he saw God’s throne. Then, on page 113, he goes on to describe how he saw God the Father: “I saw Elohim, Jehovah God, Yahweh sitting on the throne! But I saw his feet - only his feet.”
What is more, on page 114, Duplantis explains: “But I looked, again and I saw the lower part of his hand resting on the arm of the throne. He is so big - you can’t describe him in a dimension. His hand is huge!” Moreover, Duplantis tells readers on page 115 that God’s finger threw an angel to the wall:
Then I saw God’s finger barely move and when it moved, an angel that was flying near Him was thrown up against a wall. Bam! It didn’t hurt the angel. . . .
Incredibly, Duplantis agrees with Joseph Smith in teaching that God is a big man. Keep in mind, Duplantis is speaking of God the Father not Jesus, he tells about Jesus on pages 88 and 89. What is most distressing is that Duplantis is teaching this utterly blasphemous view of God to millions of people in Christians churches over airwaves and through his book, video, and audiocassettes. The truth of God is exchanged for a lie (Rom. 1:25).
The Mormon god is a big man with hands and feet just as Duplantis teaches. However, this view is in stark contrast to the truth of God’s word. The God of biblical revelation is spirit. In John 4:24 Jesus absolutely confirms: “God is spirit (pneuma ho theos), and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.”
Furthermore, in Luke 24:36-40 Jesus tells us what a spirit is not: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Further, Jesus Himself clearly states: “No man has ever seen God [the Father] at any time. . . .” (John 1:18).
The LORD Himself declares: “Do not I fill the heaven and earth?” (Jer. 23:24; cf. v. 23; see also 2 Chron. 6:18). Discordant to Duplantis’ false teaching, God tells us in Hosea 11:9: “for I am God and not a man. . .”
Clearly then, Duplantis teaching of God, is a decidedly different God than that of Holy Scripture. Duplantis, as does the Mormons Church, have completely disregarded the perspicuous teaching of Scripture—mainly that God the Father is an invisible spirit, which no man has seen; and as the Apostle Paul points out, “whom no man has seen or CAN see. . . .” (1 Tim. 6:16).
Hence, Scripture is clear: No man has or can see God the Farther, including Jesse Duplantis.
Duplantis is in full concert with the Mormon doctrine of preexistence. According to Mormon theology, prior to their life on earth, all people existed in heaven as “spirit children”, then at appointed times, these spirit children are sent to earth to receive their physical bodies, thus becoming human (cf. LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 589).
In harmony with Mormon theology, Duplantis explains on page 119, that he “saw babies flying around God’s throne . . . wearing nightgowns.” Duplantis then tells us that the babies were saying to God: “Can I be a spirit? Would you send me to the earth so I can be a spirit? I want to be a redeemed person. Can I be a spirit?”
In point of fact, this teaching clearly contradicts biblical theology, Genesis 2:7 tells us plainly: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The passage is so clear that no one could miss it, Duplantis however, holds to the Mormon doctrine of pre-existence rather than the biblical doctrine of man (see also Zec. 12:1).
The foundation of Mormonism rests squarely on the teaching that; God is an exalted man, the doctrine of pre-existence and exaltation (i.e., man progressing to become a God). Clearly, Mormon theology is not Christian theology. Mormonism is a polytheistic non-Christian cult that has been rejected by every Christian denomination since the cult’s genesis in 1830.
Consequently, people that embrace Duplantis’ teaching are embracing the bedrock of Mormon theology.
Enlarging on Duplantis’ corrupt teaching of God, Duplantis tells us on page 118 and 119, that the Holy Spirit resides only on earth and not in heaven. If Duplantis would only rely on the Bible rather than on his experience he would understand that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and therefore can not be confined to locality—this is a basic teaching that most children learn in Sunday school.
Speaking on the omnipresence of the Spirit, David clearly declares: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? if I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there” (Ps. 139:7, 8; see also 1 Cor. 2:11).
Without question, Jesse Duplantis is teaching contrary to Holy Scripture. If in fact, Duplantis really did have a bonafide vision, he should have consulted the Bible and put it to the test. But unfortunately, he did not and hence, he was duped by another spirit (cf. 1 John 4:1). Duplantis re-defines the God of the Bible and reduces him to merely a big man. He pointedly denies the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit and concedes to the erroneous Mormon view of preexistence. Jesus tells us to “watch out for false prophets” (Matt. 7:15-23). Christians are told to “refute those that oppose sound doctrine” and “rebuke them sharply” (Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1).
The tragedy of Jesse Duplantis’ teaching then, is that nice sincere people are being deceived. Regrettably, churches that have Duplantis behind their pulpits are allowing false teachings to creep in and devour the flock. Thus, the pastors who bring him in are accountable to God.
If the Churches do not speak out against false teachings, then false teachings will be construed as truth. In the first century, the Christian motto was ‘contend for the faith’... but in present-day Christianity this motto has been traded for ‘don’t contend for the faith - someone might get offended.’
Let us not forget the words of the Apostle Paul, who did not care what people thought but only what God thought, as he warns the Church:
“For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the Church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples after them. So be on guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:26-31).
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Questions and Answer From Readers
When lecturing on the subject of non-Christian cults and related subjects of apologetics; the end devoted to 15-30 minutes of questions and answers. This is very important and vastly beneficial to a wide audience. I cannot touch on every issue of a particular subject in one lecture, however, many have specific questions that need to be answered.
When teaching on Mormonism, occasionally Mormons show up and they are invited to ask questions; and they do, this proves to be very enlightening for all present. Of course, anytime the microphones are open you never know what kind of questions you will receive. The following are some various questions I have received while lecturing, via mail (elec. and conventional) and my comments following.
"Could you please tell me the difference between Christian Science and Scientology?" (Huntsville, AL).
A: There are many fundamental differences between the two. First, Christian Science claims to be "Christian." Whereas Scientology asserts:
What is the Scientology of God? We have no dogma in Scientology and each person's concept is different.… Each person attained his own certainty as to who God is and exactly what God means to him. . . . (Scientology Catechism, 200).
Christian Science holds to a belief similar to the ancient heresy Gnosticism. That is, all matter is evil and hence illusory and only spirit is real. Scientology does not believe this at all. And in Christian Science, "man originated not from dust, materially, but from spirit, spiritually" (Miscellaneous, 57). Scientology teaches that man is a pre-clear "Thetan" (i.e., spirit beings from other planets that L. Ron Hubbard (founder of the cult) says are more than eighty trillion years old and dwells somewhere within the skull of an individual. There are many more differences that could be stated, however, both claim to be the "ultimate truth." Bottom line: BOTH REJECT JESUS CHRIST AS CREATOR AND ETERNAL GOD.
"My hairdresser is a Jehovah's Witness and she told me that Jesus cannot be God because He did not know the time of His return, and the Bible says that Jesus was "subject" to the Father. How do I respond to this?" (Tarzana, CA)
A: God said in Genesis 18:20-21, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know" (NIV). Is not Jehovah omnipotent? Did Jehovah not know how bad they were? Sometimes we find God concealing certain details of information for the benefit of His people. But even if Jesus chose not to know we must not forget that He emptied Himself by taking the nature of man. The eternal Word voluntarily veiled His divine Glory choosing to become a servant (see Phil. 2:6ff).
JWs will typically point to all the verses that are in reference to His humanity and ignore the verses that speak of His Deity (John 1:1; 20:28; Titus 2:13; etc.). In terms of Jesus being, "subject" to the Father (1 Cor. 15:28) they confuse position with nature. It does not follow that being subject to something implies inferiority of nature. It does not conflict with the doctrine of the Trinity that Jesus by position was subject to the Father. However, as to His NATURE or SUBSTANCE HE WAS EQUAL with the Father (Heb. 1:3). One more point, Luke 2:51 says that Jesus was "obedient" to His parents. The word "obedient" is the same word as "subject" in Greek, hupotassō. Ask the JWs, "The Bible also says that Jesus was subject to His parents, so is Jesus, as to His nature, inferior to His parents?"
"Whenever I talk about T. D. Jakes to anyone, and say that he is teaching falsely about God [his rejection of the Trinity] people get upset at me and usually say: 'The Bible says, don't touch God's anointed.' It's very frustrating. It seems like they just don't care. How do I respond to that?" (Chatsworth, CA)
A: First, I applaud you for speaking out against T. D. Jakes. His clear rejection of the Trinity has catalogued him as a "false teacher." If you err on the Trinity, you do not have the true God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. If Christians stay silent on false teachings, the false teachings grow and even worse, they are construed as truth. Secondly, concerning Psalm 105:15, a verse that that is so widely abused ("Do not touch God's anointed; do my prophets no harm"). To correctly interpret this passage, two questions must be asked. 1. Who are the "anointed"? and 2. What is the context of the passage?
What is completely missed by those who insist that there is a special "anointed class" of individuals (particularly popular TV evangelist) is that in the Old Testament it was only to consecrate priests and appoint kings that men were "anointed" (e.g., Exod. 30:30; Judg. 8, 15). In the New Testament, the only time that anyone was "anointed" (besides Christ and the sick) is in 2 John 2:20, 27, where all Christians have an anointing from the Holy Spirit. That is not to say that the Holy Spirit does not empower men for works of service but the idea of some kind of elite anointing is unexampled in Scripture. Even if this idea were true, we must not presuppose that animated speaking ability equals soundness in doctrine. The man of God would not teach bad theology. This, in itself, is open rebellion against God and His Word. God would never confirm him.
CONTEXT: Hence, the above context of the passage is clear: Do not do physical harm to the kings (or the prophets). That's it! To import Psalm 105:15, and apply it to refuting modern evangelists who teach false doctrine, (a command from God; Titus 2:13) goes beyond eisegesis (i.e., reading into the text). The context speaks for itself.
Do Mormons believe in Hell? (Spokane, WA).
A: In LDS theology, hell is the temporary holding place where, for a time, the wicked will be tormented. Then after their resurrection, the majority will go on to the telestial heaven (the lowest of the three levels of heaven). Hell will have an end. Mormons refer to hell as "eternal" only in the sense that the temporary punishment is from an eternal God. But the Devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition will be tormented in "outer darkness" forever.
Who wrote the book of Hebrews? I heard it was the apostle Paul, is that true? (Phoenix, AZ).
A: Authorship of the book of Hebrews has never been established or universally agreed upon, among church Fathers. As early as A.D. 185 there was a tradition in the Eastern Church that Paul had penned it. However, the Western Church did not believe this way. In fact, they did not recognize Hebrews as canonical until late in the fourth century. Unlike Paul, the author of the letter does not identify himself. The letter lacks the Pauline style that marks all of his letters (e.g., rarely does the author speak of, "righteousness" and never does the author mentions, "gospel."). In church history though: Clement of Alexandria asserts Pauline authorship. Tertullian says that it was Barnabas. Luther argued convincingly that it was Apollos. But, I like what Origen said, "Who wrote the epistle, in truth, God alone knows."
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Who Can you Trust:
Is the New World
In 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) published their own translation of the Bible entitled: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (hereafter NWT). It was revised in 1961, 1970, 1971 and a fourth revision in 1984. The Watchtower’s prior theological commitments are quite obvious when the NWT is examined and compared to the Hebrew and Greek biblical manuscripts. To buttress their preconceived theology they made major changes in their translation from the original text—to make the NWT say what they want it to say. In point of fact, biblical scholars universally reject the NWT as a bonafide translation. Below is a comparison of the NWT, the literal syntactical rendering (in English), of the New Testament Greek Text and the King James Version of the Bible. Before they printed their NWT the Watchtower’s “official” Bible was the KJV. This chart will demonstrate how the Watchtower purposefully deviated from the Greek text, particularly in verses that have a Christological significance.
Be sure to observe all endnotes below:
New World Translation
King James Version
And these will depart into everlasting cutting off. . . . (2)
and will go away these in to punishment eternal. . . . (kolasin aionion).
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment. . .
In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was a god. (3)
In [the] beginning was the Word and the Word was with the God and God was the Word (En arche ēn ho logos kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos).
In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God.
Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.(4)
…before Abraham became I Am (egō eimi).(5)
...Before Abraham was, I Am.
those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation.
Then [there is] now no condemnation on to the ones in Christ Jesus.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus.
For everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.(6)
for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
2 Corinthians 5:8
to become absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord.
to go away from home out of the body and to come home to the Lord.
to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
but what I do desire is the releasing and being with Christ.
desire having for the to depart and with Christ to be. . . . (7)
having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ. . . .
by means of all [other] things. . . All [other] things have been created. . . . he is before all [other] things . . . all [other] things were made to exist.(8)
by him were created all things [ta panta]. . . . all things. . . through him and for him. . . . he is before all things . . . all things in him consisted.
by him all things were created . . . all things were created by him. . . . he is before all things . . . by him all things exist.
in him that all the fullness of divine quality dwells bodily.
in him dwells all the fullness of the Deity [theotētos] in human flesh.(9)
in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
he says, “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”(10)
he [the Father] says, “and let worship him [the Son] all angels of God.”
he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
But with reference to the son: “God is your throne forever and ever....”
but with regard to the son...The throne of thee the God [is] unto the age of the age. . . . (11)
but to the son he says
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. . . . ”
1. The Greek text used is the 21st edition of Eberhard Nestles, Novum Testamentum Graece. However, the Watchtower’s own Greek *interlinear*: Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) is an accurate Greek text, it is the English NWT that is “fixed.” Hence, it is effective to use the KIT to demonstrate how the NWT deviates from the Greek text.
2. There is no phrase such as: “everlasting cutting-off” in the Greek. Moreover, notice the parallel: “eternal life,” “eternal punishment,” just as the life in Christ is eternal; the “punishment” of the wicked is eternal, as to its duration.
The original Greek New Testament had only capital
letters, hence there was no “a god.” There are also many places
in Scripture where theos ("God") is used with and without
the definite article “the.” In the Greek language, there is no quality
difference between “God” with the article (e.g., ton theon, ho theos) and
“God” without the article (theos, theon or any of its forms) as with John
1:1 (e.g., see John 3:2; Rom. 1:21; 1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 9:14; cf. Gk.). See
also Luke 20:38 NWT where Jehovah is called “a God ”. If theos did have the article in John 1:1c (ho theos) John would have
been teaching Modalism, (i.e., theon and theos being the same
Person). Thus, the anarthrous (i.e. lacking the article) theos is
qualitative as “spirit” is in John 4:24: God is spirit not “a
spirit” (indefinite) or “the Spirit” (definite) but as to God nature or essence
He is spirit (qualitative).
If the Watchtower is consistent with their rule: “God” without the article = indefinite ("a god"), then, why didn’t they translate John 1:6, 12, 13 18, and others the same way: a god? In those verses, “God” (theos) is without the article (i.e., anarthrous) in Greek. In fact, 282 times is theos anarthrous and only at sixteen places does the NWT translate these anarthrous occurrences of theos as indefinite. Hence, they were faithful to their translation principle only six- percent of the time!
For more details on John 1:1 particularly the NWT's rendering of John 1:1c as "a god" as well as an expanded and exegetical treatment on the NWT see: New World Translation.
4. To force the Watchtower’s doctrine into the text, the NWT changed a present tense (egō eimi) to a past tense!
5. Jesus took the divine title “I AM” (e.g., Exod. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; cf. Septuagint [LXX]) and applied it to Himself. Jesus claimed to be the egō eimi ("I AM") also at Mark 6:50; John 8:24, 28; 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8 see Greek text.
6. The word “Jehovah” does not appear in any of the 5000 + Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The burden of proof is on Jehovah’s Witnesses to produce the evidence. Don’t let them side-step this issue.
7. The grammar in the Greek tells us plainly, that at death Christians are immediately with Christ. According to the aorist infinitive “to depart” (analusai) and the present infinitive “to be” (einai) connected by the single article “and.” Scripture does not teach the idea of soul-sleep.
8. In Colossians 1:16-17 the word “other” does not appear in any Greek manuscripts. The term Paul used, (all things) was the neuter panta, which was the strongest word for ALL THINGS. The word “other” is as well, inserted in Phil. 2:9.
9. The Greek is clear: plērōma tes theotētos sōmatikōs ("fullness of the Deity in human flesh"). The Watchtower changed the lexical meaning of the Greek word theotētos, which is derived from theos (God) to mean the weaker term theiotēs, which means mere "divinity" or "godlike" (adj. only found in Rom. 1:20). The full force of the term is removed due to the pre-decided theology of the Watchtower!
10. Only when “worship” (proskuneō) is applied to Jesus does the NWT replace it with the word “obeisance” (e.g., Matt. 2:8, 11; 28:9; John 9:38). Interestingly, the NWT uses the same word (worship) when it is applied to the Father (e.g., Luke 4:8; John 4:23-24; Rev. 19:4 etc.). The 1961 edition of the NWT however, retains the word “worship” when it’s applied to Jesus. See Revelation 5:13-14 where the Father and the Lamb are the objects of divine worship. That Christ was worshipped as God is truly hidden from the JWs, by the NWT.
The Biblical Illiteracy in the
Just a few months ago, I remember watching the TV show: Politically Incorrect. One of the guests was the metal rock star Marilyn Manson. I recall how Manson confidently and boldly attacked Christianity professing his anti-Christian dogmas. This type of anti-Christian pontification is a commonplace in the media, as well as in college and university campuses.
Thus, the question arises: “Why is it that unbelievers along with non-Christian cults that are so antagonistic toward Christianity are so incredibly heroic when it comes to asserting their views?”
Answer: Today’s Christians are biblically ill-equipped to communicate the reliability of Scripture and foundational Christian doctrines: the deity of Jesus Christ, the Tri-Unity of God, justification by faith alone, etc. Hence, Salvation is predicated on the finished work and the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus stated in His high Priestly prayer to His Father:
This is eternal life, that they may know (ginōskōsin) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3 NASB).
The word translated “they may know” is ginōskōsin, which “denotes to come to know, to know [i.e., intellectually] His Messianic dignity . . . his divinity”1 When Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; lit. Gk), in essence He said: “Unless you know, intellectually, assent, and trust Me that I AM the Savior, Eternal God distinct from My Father and that because of My sacrifice on the cross, I justify the sinner through faith alone; unless you believe this, you will die in your sins.”
Observably, the proclamation of these essential teachings is virtually nonexistent within the walls of most major Christian conferences and revivals. Let me ask you: “In the last ten years have you ever heard in a church, or a Christian conference a specific teaching on the nature of God (Trinity) or the deity of Christ or justification through faith alone?” I ask this question at churches around the world. Rarely do I see a single hand on this. When one becomes a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness within the first 30 days or so, they know and are able to communicate the nature of their God. And, what is more, they commit to memory many verses in order to support their theology, and hence they chew up most Christians at the doorstep. The reason being: THEY STUDY!
The first century church was concerned about what God thought and not man. Subsequently, the early church Fathers valued Scripture; for them it was the sole infallible regula fidei, that is, the “rule of faith” for the church. Christians must be fearless God lovers and not afraid to speak out for what is right. God requires this of us all. We must study God’s Word so we can be effective witnesses for Christ. The Bible has a lot to say in terms of Christians building themselves up intellectually. Paul says not to be “conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2 NASB).
God told us to love Him with our minds. Studying Scripture these days to further one’s biblical acumen is not exactly the hobby of choice. Hence, the by-product: churches are filled with members who are perfect candidates for non-Christians cults and toys for clever skeptics.
Speaking on Paul’s letters, the Apostle Peter says: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures. . . .” (2 Pet. 3:16 NIV). The Greek word translated “ignorant” is amatheis, which literally means unstudied or untrained. Hence, it is the unstudied that distort Scripture. Being biblically educated is not a suggestion, Scripture commands:
always being ready to make a defense [apologian] to everyone who asks you to give an account [logon] for the hope that is in you. . . . (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).
It is paramount that Christians learn to communicate accurately the Person of Christ. It is not the mere name “Jesus” that is salvific, for in the first century “Jesus” was a common name. It is the Person of Christ who was sent by His Father and became (egeneto; cf. John 1:14) flesh to die in our place. The only way we can know, understand, and present accurately the Jesus of Scripture is to devote time to study and biblical research. The Apostle Paul instructed us to watch our doctrine closely and persevere in them, for we do this, Paul says, we will ensure salvation both for ourselves and our hearers (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).
What is true is that most (over 80%) current members of the Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness groups, and virtually all non-Christian cults came out of Christian churches! The fact is they were not rooted in basic distinctive Christian theology. Hence, when Mormon missionaries or JWs approached them at their doorstep, they saw the fruits of love and good works but were biblically inadequate to discern the fruits of doctrine—particularly on the doctrine of God.
Because of the laxity of biblical study, too many Christians severely lack doctrinal discernment. It is bad enough when a Christian cannot demonstrate biblically the nature of God or that Jesus is the eternal God distinct from His Father; but far too often Christians are tolerant when it comes to biblical truth.
Example: When a popular evangelist errs in essential doctrine, does anyone speak out as Scripture teaches (cf. Titus 1:9, 13)? Why is it that a Christian leader who falls into immorality can immediately the next week, step behind the pulpit, neatly brush his coat and claim that the devil made him do it and preach on; while the congregation remains silent in support? Do they not read Scripture?: “he must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. . . . ” (1 Tim. 3:2ff.). Unfortunately many Christian men and women stay silent in the face of evil; they would rather not say anything than have someone get upset at them.
Many times, I hear sincere Christians say: “We are not suppose to judge.” However, in sharp contrast to that assertion, judging actions and doctrine is the biblical responsibility of all Christians. Paul sums it up this way: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside… Refute those who oppose sound doctrine. . . . ” (1 Cor. 5:12; Titus 1:9; NIV).
In the end, we as Christians have an obligation: Since we follow a God that calls Himself “Truth,” we should therefore give a reasonable and substantive presentation of the Gospel that centers on the Person of Jesus Christ. We should have a high standard for truth and become biblically literate. Christian leaders would do well to increase their doctrinal education so they can equip and train others. The motto for the early church was: “Contend (epagōnizesthai; lit. “argue,” “contest”) for the faith” (Jude 3). But sadly, in the modern church, the motto has been altered: “Do not contend for the faith, someone may get upset.” Is there anyone left that will stand?
Quick Answers for the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
The Deity of Christ
When I speak on the subject cult-evangelism, I normally have a period of Q&A following my lecture. Many folks have questions. Having a Q&A time is informative for all listeners. Frequently, I am asked as to the best or most effective way to witness to Jehovah Witnesses (JWs). However, as I have pointed out, there are several ways and methods of witnessing to those in the cults. When I know that I am going to engage in dialogue with Mormon missionaries, JWs, Oneness folks (there are many), or garden-variety skeptics the first thing I do is pray for wisdom. Wisdom is not knowledge, but rather the application of knowledge.
Knowledge, that is, providing biblical answers comes by studying. Knowledge of Scripture does not float down from the sky. God said to love Him with our mind (cf. Mark 12:30). And, to always be ready to have a “defense” (apologia), but also, a “reason” (logos) for that “defense” (1 Peter 3:15). Hence, the Apostle Peter was clear: when Christians give a defense for their faith, they must also provide the biblical “reason” (logos) for that defense.
If you have ever dealt with JWs you know that of the many points you bring up, it seems that they always have an answer (of course, it was provided for them in Watchtower (WT) publications, e.g., Reasoning for the Scriptures, Should You Believe in the Trinity, etc.). However, there are some points that can be presented to a JW in which they will not have a canned answer for, which can be very frustrating for them. To be sure, anything that causes a JW to become frustrated is an effective witnessing tool. I have talked to many ex-JWs and they will tell me that prior to coming out, something someone said bugged them so much that they sought to find the answer and could not. Hence, they started to question the WT.
Even though, Scripture presents God as the sole Agent of regeneration, He ordains preaching/witnessing as a means of saving His people. One effective way that I found in reaching out to JWs, is to present the failed prophecy tact-
record of the WT. Hence, this undermines their authoritative religious organization (i.e., the WT). However there is another effective method that I found and used. It has to do with the phrase “The God” (ho theos):
FIRST ASK: Is Jehovah “The God” in Scripture, that is, “God” with the definite article “THE”? (signifying identity)
Christian: You mean, only Jehovah can BE “The God”?
JW: Yes, only Jehovah.
Christian: Can anyone else BE called “The God,” that is, God with a definite article? (i.e., the definite God).
JW: Oh no, only Jehovah IS the definite God.
Christian: Is Jesus ever called “The God”?
JW: Not at all! Jesus was “a god,” [John 1:1, NWT] mighty [Isa. 9:6], but not “The God” Almighty.
Christian: What if Scripture called Him “The God”?
JW: No, no, [looking at you as though your totally ignorant] the Bible never called Him “The God.”
Christian: I agree with you, Only Jehovah is called “The God.” I liked to show you something if that’s OK.
As seen below Jesus is called ho theos ("the God") at John 20:28 (lit., Greek: "the Lord of me and the God [ho theos] of me"); Titus 2:13 "the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ"; Heb. 1:8: lit., Greek: "the throne of You the God [ho theos]. . . "; 1 John 5:20: "the True God and eternal life."
Did Jesus Claim to be God?
John 5:18; 8:58 (and egō eimi at 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8); 10:30-33; Rev. 1:8; 22:13
Frequently, those who reject the deity of Jesus Christ will ask: “If Jesus is God, where did He ever say He was God? In response, however, we must understand that in the New Testament, Jesus never literally said, “I am God.” As we will show, the term “God” is subject to different meanings according to the context. In other words, the term “God” (Heb. Elohim; Gk. theos) has a wide range of meanings according to the context in which it appears. In the New Testament, the term theos can represent the true God (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1 John 5:20). Whereas the plural form of theos (theoi) represents false gods (cf. John 10:34-35; 1 Cor. 8:5) and at least in one place, the single form of theos denotes a false god (cf. Phil. 3:19). In the Old Testament, Elohim refers to judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9); angels (cf. Ps. 8:5 LXX); false gods (cf. Ps. 96:5), and the true God (cf. Jer. 10:10). In Exodus 7:1, the Lord said to Moses: “See, I make you as God [Elohim] to Pharaoh.” Of course, Moses was not actually made deity, but only as God’s direct representative, he was made “as God” to Pharaoh.
The point is, Moses, judges, angels, etc. were called Elohim even though they were not by nature, God. So, if Jesus would have stated literally, “I am God,” those that deny the deity of Christ could construe the phrase to mean that Jesus was merely claiming that He was a mere “representative” of God, or a perfect judge, or some kind of mighty angel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses assert. However, Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” In other words, Jesus made specific claims to express His deity that were used only of YHWH in the Old Testament, which were clearly understood by both friends and enemies as claims to be equal with God. Note: these specific claims were not used by nor were they applied in Scripture to humans or angels, as with the term “God.”
The following claims of Jesus Christ explicitly demonstrate that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, in the same sense as God the Father:
The seven Absolute Egō Eimi (“I Am”) Declarations.
The “Son of God”—in essence (i.e., God the Son).
John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”
Jesus as the “Alpha and Omega,” “The First and the Last, and “The Beginning and the End.”
17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Christian: Did Jesus ever claim to Be equal to God (God Himself)?
JW: No, only the "Son of God."
Christian: When Jesus said in John 5:17: "“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” According the the Apostle John, in verse 18, why did the Jews "seek all the more to kill Him"? Please reads verse 18.
JW: Ok, "On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God" (NWT).
Christian: In this verse, was Jesus "making himself equal to God"?
JW: Well, that was the opinion of the Jews and not Jesus' intention.
Christian: If this was not Jesus' intention, why did neither John nor Jesus clear up this misunderstanding? The fact is, in John 19:7, the Jews said to the Pilate regarding Jesus' claims to be the "Son of God" in the sense of equality with God: "We have a law, and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself God’s son" (John 19:7 NWT; cf. Lev. 24:16).
Christian: In John 8:58 Jesus said: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (KJV). In verse 59, how did the Jews understand Jesus' claim to be the egō eimi ("I am")? (v. 59: "they picked up stones to hurl [them] at him" (NWT).
JW: They were upset with Him because Jesus called them the sons of the Devil and saying He was older than Abraham.
Christian: Incorrect, the Jews could not kill someone illegally (such as the reasons you are providing); but as in John 5:17-18, they waned to kill Him for blasphemy ("I am") claiming to be equal to God--God Himself. [See Jesus Christ: The Eternal egō eimi, "I am] Adn thsi is not the only time Jesus cliamed to be the "I am" (8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8)
Christian: The context starts in John 10:27. In light of passages such as Psalm 95:7 where Jehovah is said to have a pasture of people who are the sheep of His hand, When Jesus makes the same claim of having sheep in His hand and giving them eternal life, and then saying "I and the Father are one," How did he Jews understand these claims? Please read in verse 33
JWs: “We are stoning you, not for a fine work, but for blasphemy, even because you, although being a man, make yourself a god.” (NWT)
Christian: Here we have the same reason as in John 5:18--Jesus claiming to be equal with God. So, in 5:18; 8:59; and 10:33 the Jews wanted to kill him not illegally, but legally, because they clearly understood Jesus' claim to deity:
Jesus: "My Father is working until now and I Myself am working" (John 5:17).
was . . . making himself equal to God"
Jesus: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
being a man, make yourself a god” (John 10:33).
the Jesus-sheep context leading up to v. 30 in vv.26-29 in light of the
Yahweh-sheep context in Ps. 95:7.
Both speak of the sheep being secure--in Jesus' Hand in John 10, and in Yahweh's
Hand in Psalm 95. And in Deut. 32:39, Jesus' claim (that no one can snatch His
sheep from His hand) even more striking.
And in response to John 8:58 ("before Abraham was born, I am”), the Jews wanted to kill Him--according to the OT Law.
Jesus claims to be equal with God were clear and unambiguous in which both His enemies and friends understood (see The Muslim Challenge: “Where did Jesus say, “I am God worship Me?”).
*Note: Have them reference the Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT). The KIT is the WT’s own Greek interlinear. It is a Greek text with the English equivalent under the Greek words, and the English NWT on the columns. However, the point is, the Greek text is correct! Thus, the WT has altered the English NWT, but not the Greek. For example the latter part of John 8:58 reads in Greek portion of the KIT: prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi— “before Abraham was born I am” (as with KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, NET, etc.). But the English translation (i.e., NWT) in the column reads: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.’” So, have them reference the use the KIT in this discussion, as you will see the reason below.
JESUS AS THE “ALPHA AND OMEGA,” “THE FIRST AND THE LAST,”
AND “THE BEGINNING AND THE END”
In Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8 and 22:13, Jesus Christ claims to be either "Alpha and the Omega," "the first and the last," and/or the beginning and eh end. In Rev. 22:13 He expresses the completeness of divine essence by combining all of three distinguished titles and ascribes them to Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). The previous passage verifies without a shred of doubt that it is Christ Jesus as the speaker in the verse 13: “Behold, I am coming quickly.” This can only be a reference to Christ and His second coming.
No prophet, priest, judge, nor any of Israel’s kings, mighty men, or angels could or would ever dare clam to be the “Alpha and the Omega,” or “the first and the last,” or even “the beginning and the end.” What is more, there are no biblical examples of any of these divine phrases being applied anyone, but the true God alone. In the Old Testament, the phrase “the first and the last” was exclusively applied to YHWH in Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 44:6 and only used of Jesus, the Son of God, in the New Testament. This claim was indeed was a claim of absolute deity—true God and true man: “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (1:17-18).In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John, in his customary way, exalts Jesus as God, the almighty, the “one who is to come.” In Revelation 1:8, Jesus addresses Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” and in 22:13, He claims He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And in both 1:17 and 2:8, He claims Himself to be the “first and the last.”
The Rabbinical writers utilized the Hebrew phrase, Aleph (א) and Tau (תּ), the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to indicate entirely the beginning to the end. Thus, as it said: “Adam transgressed the whole law from aleph even to tau”; “Abraham kept the whole law, from aleph to tau”. It means the beginning and end of all things. The phrase properly denotes “eternity,” to whom it is referred. Hence, it could only be applied to the true God—the eternal One. It is equivalent in denotation, as seen, to John and Paul’s use of the present tense participle ho ōn expressing the eternality of Christ— “the One who is/being always.”
The Apostle John, writing in Greek, corresponds to the Hebrew import by providing the first letter, alpha (Α) and last letter, omega (Ω) of the entire Greek alphabet. To argue that the phrase, “first and the last” was not a title full deity expressing eternality is refuted by the Old Testament usage where the phrase is applied to YHWH:
Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD -with the first of them and with the last—I am He” (Isa. 41:4)
This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6)
Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am He; I am the first and I am the last.” Isaiah 48:12
What is interesting is that the LXX of Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12 does not contain the pronoun “He” after “I am.”
NOW SHOW THEM WHERE JESUS IS CALLED “THE GOD”
Jesus is called ho theos (“The God”--as seen above):
John 20:28 Thomas said to Jesus (direct address): ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, lit. “the Lord of me and the GOD of me.”
Titus 2:13: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou, lit. “The great God and Savior of us Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 1:8: “But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD IS FOREVER AND
EVER. . . .” (ho thronos sou ho theos, lit. “the throne of You the God. . . .”).
These would be: (Mark 6:50); John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19 (cf. Isa. 43:10; LXX); 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8.
*Why is it important to know and teach that Jesus IS God?: Besides that of John 4:24; 17:3 and 1 John 2:23, Jesus declares in John 8:24:
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am He [egō eimi], you will die in your sins” (note: “He” is not in the Gk.).
*Note on John 8:24: The full force of Jesus’ assertion is striking: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en hamartiais humōn, “For if you should believe not that I am [egō eimi] you will die in the sins of you.” He did not say, “If you do not believe that “I am He” or “I am the one I claimed to be” as most translations read (i.e., there is no supplied predicate). Jesus clearly asserts here that salvation rests on believing that He (as the Person of the Son; cf. vv. 16-18, 27) is the eternal God. Jesus applied the divine title “I am” (egō eimi) in the absolute (i.e., with no supplied predicate) to Himself on seven (or possibility eight) different occasions (see above vv). Further, egō eimi was a frequent title used of Yahweh alone (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; cf. LXX).
also: John 1:18; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9 (theotētos); Heb. 1:3;
1 John 5:20; and Rev. 5:13-14. [The Trinity: One God revealed in
three distinct coequal and coeternal Persons].
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The Soteriological Trinity
Observably, the Trinity is probably the most forgotten, neglected, and misrepresented doctrine among all the doctrines of Christendom today. The Trinity is God’s highest revelation to mankind. It is God revealing Himself through the pages of Scripture, not as a unipersonal deity, or three separate Gods, but as three distinct, coequal, coeternal, coexistent Persons. Far too many Christians do not see the importance of who God is, in terms of His Being or nature. Jesus said, “And this is the eternal life, that they may know You the only true God. . . . (John 17:3; lit. Gk.; emphasis added). Hence, only by knowing the true God is eternal life a reality. Scripture presents that the true God is Triune: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not teaching the doctrine of the Trinity is about as bad as rejecting it!
Theologically, the biblical data for the doctrine of the Trinity is represented by three categories: the ontological Trinity, the economical Trinity, and the soteriological Trinity. First, there is the ontological Trinity, which speaks of the essence or essential nature of the three Persons existing coequally as God. The term ontological is derived from two Greek terms: on, which means “Being” or “nature” and logos, which means “the study of.” Hence, all cults deny the ontological Trinity.
Second, there is the economical Trinity, which speaks of the mutual operation or functionality of the three Persons. That is, each of the three Persons has different roles or functions, but yet are working together—in harmonious operation. Hence, Jesus was functionally subordinate to the Father, but not ontologically subordinate. To illustrate further, the Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that because Jesus said that “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) Jesus could not have been be equal with the Father. This is a categorical fallacy.
It confuses Jesus’ function or position as man with His essential essence or nature as God (cf. John 1:1; Phil. 2:6). Jesus, as man, prayed to the Father and said that the Father was “greater [meizōn] than I.” The term meizōn is relative to position. He did not say that the Father was “better [kreittōn] than I.” The term kreittōn is relative to essence or nature.
Likewise, Oneness folks will assert an economical Trinity (i.e., three functional modes, but not three Persons), while denying the ontological Trinity. For example in an article in Christianity Today Magazine popular Oneness preacher T. D. Jakes says, “I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions—so separate that each has individual attributes, yet are one. I do not believe in three Gods” (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/108/13.0.html).
Note that Jakes speaks of the distinct functions, but nowhere does he speak of distinct Persons.
Consequently, Jakes carefully avoids the term “Person” throughout both the article and his church’s doctrinal statement (www.thepottershouse.org/PH_doctrine.html).
The Soteriological Trinity Defined
But now let us move on to the soteriological Trinity. The soteriological (fr. sōtēria, “salvation”) Trinity is, in basic terms, the way God accomplishes His task of saving His people.
The work of salvation is accomplished by the mutual operation of the three Persons: God the Father justifies (cf. Rom. 8:33) the spiritually dead guilty sinner by the instrument (not the cause) of faith (cf. Rom. 4:4-8). The sole ground of justification, however, is the righteousness of the Son, which is imputed (not infused) to the sinner (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21). Further, God the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (cf. John 15:26). The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner (cf. Titus 3:5-7). The Son, who came from heaven from the Father, laid down His life for His sheep that was given to Him by the Father (cf. John 10:15, 29). The Son completes the work that His Father had given Him. Far from a mode or an office, the Son speaks of His real preexistence with the Father (cf. John 1:1; 17:5) and His comprehensible distinction from His Father in His promise of redemption for the believing ones he states:
“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. . . . No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39-40, 44; emphasis added).
Only because God is a Triune Being is salvation an assured reality. Scripture knows of no other God. Hence, the soteriological Trinity is God the Father justifying the sinner,
“not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6; emphasis added).
“For through [dia] Him [the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to [pros] the Father” (Eph. 2:18; emphasis added).
and the Jehovah Witnesses’ NWT
In 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (hereafter WT) produced a revised translation of the Bible called the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (hereafter NWT). The entire work was originally released in six volumes from 1950 [NT] to 1960 with a series of revisions in 1961, 1970, 1971, and 1984. The WT asserts that the NWT has been translated “as accurately as possible.” However, that is a false and misleading statement. At many passages in which a high Christology exists, there are numerous translational and textual deviations from the original Greek text (NT). One such text is Colossians 1:15-17:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (NASB; emphasis added).
Dealing first with the term prōtotokos (“firstborn”) in which Paul applies to Jesus. JWs erroneously think “firstborn” means “first created.” The assertion, however, would be totally foreign in a first century Jewish context. The word denotes “supremacy” or “first in rank” (see Exod. 4:22; Ps. 89:27) as the context of Colossians indicates. The term translated “firstborn” denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, 894). Biblical scholar Robert Reymond extracts the true significance of the term:
Paul’s intention behind his description of Jesus as “the Firstborn of all creation” is a universe away from the Arian interpretation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would insist that the word shows that the Son was the “first” of all other created things; the entire context demands the term is to be understood in the Hebraic sense as an ascription of priority of rank to the firstborn son who enjoys a special place in the father’s love. (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 251).
If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was
first created, he certainly could have used the word
prōtoktistos (“first-created”) to do so
(cf. 2 Cor. 5:18:
kainē ktisis, “new creation”).
Clearly, the NWT forbids the biblical text to speak for itself. Thus, the first
allegiance and starting point of the NWT is the WT’s prior
theological commitment: unitarianism, that is, that God is one Person—Jehovah, and hence, Jesus is not
God, but rather “a god,” the first of Jehovah’s works (viz. Michael the
All “other” Things
Pledged to annihilate the deity of Jesus Christ, the NWT inserted “other” before “things” four times in Colossians 1:16-17, making Jesus the Creator of all “other” things (other than Himself):
“by means of all [other] things . . . All [other] things have been created . . . he is before all [other] things . . . all [other] things were made. . . (NWT; brackets theirs).
The reasons that underlie the textual and translational perversion here are two-fold: 1) The JWs fixed denial of the deity of Christ, 2) An unfamiliarity with the grammatical and historical particulars of Colossians. Here in Colossians (1:15-17), Paul is refuting the Gnostic (fr. gnwsij, gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) idea of Jesus not being the Creator of “all things.”
Gnostics generally held to a spirit vs. matter dualistic system. So accordingly, they did not believe that Jesus (a good god [or “aeon,” cf. Cerinthus]) would ever become something as evil as material flesh. The mere thought of Jesus becoming and remaining in human flesh was utterly repugnant to them. The Apostle John also refutes this Gnostic idea (cf. 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 7). Hence, to say that Jesus merely created all “other” things would have made Paul’s argument completely vacuous.
But what makes the NWT’s “other” insertion (also at Phil. 2:10) even more unwarranted is the exact language that Paul used. First, Paul says that Jesus is the very image (eikōn) of the invisible God (v. 15). Only as true God (ontologically) can Jesus BE the very “image” of the invisible God. No creature can make this claim. A. T. Robertson explains, “The image. (eikōn). In predicate and no article. . . Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father as he was before the Incarnation” (Word Pictures, 4:477). As perfect God, Jesus is the “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the Father’s “nature” (hupostaseōs; cf. Heb. 1:3).
Next, Paul salutes Jesus as “firstborn” of all creation. Then in verses 16 and 17, Paul teaches, in the strongest way possible, that Jesus is the actual Agent of creation. Note the clear and potent way he presents this:
“By Him [en autō] all things [panta, panta] were created . . . all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn], and all things [panta] in Him [en autō] hold together” (lit. rendering).
Note the following grammatical aspects:
1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter plural panta (“all things”), which indicates that the Son was the actual Creator of all things. Paul’s use of the articular panta (i.e., with the article, lit., “the all things”), rather than the more popular terms such as pas or pan, shows the unlimited sense of “the all things.” Paul also uses the neuter panta in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things [not a part of all things] to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Hence, Jesus created all things, not merely a part of all things as the Jehovah’s Witnesses will assert, but rather all things unlimited.
2. Paul utilizes three different Greek prepositions to amplify his affirmation that the Son was the Creator: All things were created “by/in Him” (en + dative in vv. 16 and 17); “through Him” (dia + genitive in v. 16); and “for Him” (eis + accusative in v. 16).
3. Finally, as with John 1:3, what immediately demolishes the “Son in view” theory asserted by Oneness advocates is the fact that Paul specifically states that “all things” were created “through [dia] Him [autou]” (viz., the Son). As observed, when the preposition dia is followed by the genitive autou, it grammatically reveals that the Son was the Creator Himself. There is no stronger way in which Paul could have articulated that the Son was the actual Agent of creation.
Even more, Watchtower apologist Greg Stafford attempts to circumvent the obvious when he states:
The fact that he [Jesus] is excluded from ‘all things’ (ta panta) does not mean he is excluded from ‘all creation’ (pases ktiseos). . . . Thus the genitive pases ktiseos [“of all creation”] is properly seen as partitive, including Christ in the collective group of created things, but dignified above it as ‘first born.’ (Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, 100).
That Jesus was excluded “from all things,” but in “the collective group of created things” is double-talk. There is no distinction made between “all things” and “all creation.” “All things” is precisely what Paul meant; Stafford here postulates a “partitive genitive.” Stafford uses technical terms that can be seemly convincing to untrained JWs. However, Stafford errs in his analysis. In verses 15-17 the Son is in comparison to “all things” (including “all creation”), hence, pasēs ktiseōs (“of all creation; 1:15) is a genitive of comparison.
For more information on the NWT see our article: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s NWT.
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God the Holy Spirit: The Third Person of the Trinity
Too often, Christians dishonorably relegate the Holy Spirit to merely a force that provides power (i.e., “anointing”) and financial breakthroughs. In fact, in some charismatic circles, God the Holy Spirit is likened to a beach ball that is tossed from one person to another. Yet, no one would ever dream of playing catch with God the Son. Non-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses vociferously reject the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit. Misappropriating the Holy Spirit, to be sure, is the result of a theological misunderstanding of the Person and nature of the Holy Spirit: Scripture clearly presents the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person in the Trinity.
The biblical authors, who were strict monotheists, present the Holy Spirit as fully God: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. . . ?” You [Ananias] have not lied to men but to God [theos]” (Acts 5:3-4). He was called kurios (“Lord”; 2 Thess. 3:5). In Scripture, the Person of the Holy Spirit is called both kurios ("Lord") and theos ("God") in a religious context affirming that the Holy Spirit is not some kind of cosmic emanation or impersonal force, but rather He is theos in the truest sense.
In passages such as Acts 28:25-27, Hebrews 3:7, and 10:15, the NT authors have no problem applying direct references of YHWH (or Yahweh) to the Holy Spirit (also cf. Acts 5:9 with Deut. 6:16). The Holy Spirit possesses the same attributes as God: He is eternal (cf. Heb. 9:14); He is said to be the Creator (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30). Further, the Holy Spirit accomplishes works that are exclusively divine: e.g., the agency of Mary’s pregnancy (cf. Matt. 1:18); the regeneration of a spiritually dead man (cf. John 3:5; Titus 3:5); dwelling in the believer (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16); distributing spiritual gifts according to His own will (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11); the sealing of redemption (cf. Eph. 1:13); the sanctifying work in the believers life (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13); etc. Only because He is God, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, is He able to complete these acts.
He was worshiped as God. For example, in Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands all new converts to be baptized into the Name (i.e., “authority) of the triune God. Water baptism is an act of spiritual worship to God—i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, thus being unified or identified with the one being baptized. He is truly God—coequal, coeternal, and coexistent with (distinct) the Father and the Son (cf. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; Titus 3:5-7). As God, He was worshipped and honored in the same sense as that of the Father and the Son. For only in the context of Trinitarianism is the teaching that the Holy Spirit is fully God and a distinct Person from God the Father and the Son be consistent with biblical monotheism (i.e., the teaching of One true God).
The Personhood of God the Holy Spirit
Before presenting the deity of the Holy Spirit, His personhood must be established. Unitarians and unitarian groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses reduce the personage of the Holy Spirit to an impersonal force. In Oneness theology (Modalism), the Holy Spirit is reduced to a mere role or mode of the unipersonal deity named “Jesus.” The personhood of the Holy Spirit is biblically demonstrated and defined by (a) the personal pronouns that are repetitively applied to Him by Jesus and the biblical authors and (b) personal attributes that the Holy Spirit enjoys. In fact, the same biblical data that supports the personhood of God the Holy Spirit supports the personhood of God the Father.
In the NT, especially the Gospel of John, personal pronouns are applied to the Holy Spirit (e.g., John 14:16, 26; 15:26). Jesus, in John 16:13-14, emphasizes the personality of the Holy Spirit by applying masculine pronouns (ekeinos, “He,” lit. “that one”) to the neuter pneuma (“Spirit”):
“But when He [ekeinos—masculine], the Spirit [pneuma—neuter] of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
In addition, the Holy Spirit identifies Himself, not merely as “God’s activity,” but rather as egō (“I”), that is, a self-aware Person:
While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, the three men are looking for you. But get up, go down stars and accompany them without misgivings, for I [egō] have sent them Myself” [autous] (Acts 10:19-20; see also Acts 13:2).
Those who equate “person” with “people” grossly limit and misunderstand the term’s meaning. Certainly, angels fall under the category of “person,” but they are not people. Likewise, the Holy Spirit can be termed and thus ontologically categorized as “person,” though not being in the ontological class of “people” (same as God the Father). Therefore, all people are persons, but not all persons are people. Hence, God the Father, Satan, demons, angels, and the Holy Spirit are persons, but they are not people.
The Holy Spirit possesses many of the same personal attributes as that of the Father and the Son. That the Holy Spirit is a self-aware Subject or Ego, cognizant of His own existence, is clearly demonstrated by the specific personal attributes that He possesses:
1) He can be blasphemed (cf. Mark 3:29, 30).
2) He can be lied to (cf. Acts 5:3).
3) He intercedes or prays on the behalf of the believer (cf. Rom. 8:26).
4) He issues commands (cf. Acts 13:2, 4; 16:6).
5) He is intelligent, for He investigates and
searches (cf. 1 Cor.
2:10-11; Rom. 8:27).
6) He has a will (cf. 1 Cor. 12:9-11).
7) He can be grieved (cf. Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30).
8) He testifies (Neh. 9:30; John 15:26; Heb. 10:15) and teaches (John 14:26). Furthermore, only cognizant persons can exercise and engage in intelligent communication (e.g., Acts 13:2).
Scripture presents many clear examples of the Holy Spirit intelligently communicating to others (e.g., 1 Kings 22:24; John 16:13; Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2; 28:25, 26; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17). Even the anti-Trinitarian Jehovah’s Witnesses distinguish a personification from a person as they rightfully define a person as being able to “carry on a conversation” with others: “Is the Devil a personification or a person? . . . Can an unintelligent person carry on a conversation with a person? . . . only an intelligent person can . . .”
The Apostle Paul, in his grand Trinitarian
benediction, comforts the saints in
Only self-aware persons can experience true koinōnia (“fellowship”). This same koinōnia believers have with God the Father and God the Son (cf. 1 John 1:3). Moreover, as a distinct emotional Person, the Holy Spirit gives love: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Rom. 15:30; emphasis added). Note that the love is something that the Holy Spirit possesses and it comes by/though [dia] Him. As with koinōnia only self-aware persons can possess, give, and experience love. Hence, abstract things such as natures, modes, manifestations, electricity, etc. have not the ontological capability to fellowship and/or possess and give love—only persons do. Thus, He is a person, not a mere influence.
The Holy Spirit is God in the fullest and truest sense—He is the Third Person in the Godhead.
 In a Oneness doctrinal tract titled, “60 Questions on the Godhead with Bible answers,” question 55 asks, “Does the Bible call the Holy Ghost a second or third person in the Godhead? No. The Holy Ghost is the one Spirit of God, the one God Himself at work in our lives.
 In Acts 13:2, we read of the Holy Spirit Himself issuing a command to Barnabas and Saul: “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Note the term proskeklēmai (“I have called”). This verb is a perfect indicative middle first person singular verb of the proskaleō. This shows the personal aspect of the subject (the Holy Spirit) "calling to/for Himself" (note the middle voice) Barnabas and Saul.
 Awake!, 8 December 1973, 27.
The Sovereignty of God
in All Things
The sovereignty of God is appropriately summed up by the Westminster Confession of Faith: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (WCF, 3.1; emphasis added).
Sovereignty simply means absolute control. Thus, Scripture presents that everything that happens, or that has happened, or that is going to happen is independently ordained (or determined) by God in that He has absolute control of all things. Ephesians 1:11 states that God works out (energeō, lit. “operates”) “all things” (panta) after the council of His own will. The term translated “all things” is the neuter articular (i.e., with the article) panta (lit. “the all things”), which is the strongest way in Greek to indicate absolute “all things.” The same word is used to denote the “all things” (ta panta) that Christ created (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17).
WHAT IS MEANT BY “ORDAIN”
The WCF declares, “God from all eternity did . . . ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” The term “ordain” (as with sovereignty) means that God decides what will and what will not happen in His creation. He does not need to consult or ask permission to anyone nor is He limited to anything outside of Himself. He acts to bring about His plan and nothing will or can thwart it. Isaiah 46:10-11 makes this clear.
So, because God ordains and controls all things (cf. Eph. 1:11), evil then is likewise controlled by God, since evil is under the category of “all things.” For instance, the men who crucified Christ committed an utterly evil sinful deed. Yet, in Acts 2:23, we read that Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God . . .” In Acts 4:27-28, they prayed to God and said, “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass” (see also Isa. 53:4). Hence, some things God ordains does involve sin, but always for a higher good.
GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF SIN
Question: How can God ordain evil (i.e. sin) and not be the author or be morally charged with sin? Consider the following:
1. GOD NEVER SINS
God cannot sin or do wrong: “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright” (Deut. 32:3-4). Ordaining sin is not the same as committing sin. God hates sin and punishes those who do so (e.g., Hab. 1:13).
2. GOD IS NOT THE POSITIVE CAUSE OF SIN
As seen, Scripture indicates that God ordains and is the ultimate cause of all things, but not all things are ordained in the same way. Firstly, that God is the ultimate cause of all things (including sin) does not follow that He is morally charged with or blamed for sin. Only secondary agents or causes (i.e. the ones who do it) are charged with sin. Again, evil does not happen outside His sovereignty. Good, however, is always morally charged to God and only the outcome is charged to these secondary agents. Secondly, there are three causes: ultimate cause, positive cause, and negative cause, which show us that God is never culpable for sin and only charged with good. The ultimate cause is the cause that generates the event; hence, that event will absolutely happen.
The ultimate cause determines the end-result. The ultimate cause, though, brings about things in different ways. That is where we see positive and negative causes. A positive cause is God acting in that He directly influences an object to cause it to act. In this, God takes credit (e.g., creation, regeneration, etc.). God is not, however, the positive cause of sin. He does not make people sin by injecting fresh evil into their heart (cf. James 1:13). That God is the ultimate cause of sin does not mean that He is the positive cause of sin. Therefore, He cannot be charged with or be morally guilty of sin.
Next, we observe negative causes. By withholding mercy (cf. Rom. 9:15) and goodness God can be the ultimate cause of sin without being the positively cause. In other words, for example, God could have given Pharaoh mercy, goodness, and grace, which would have changed his heart and hence, he would have let the Israelites go. However, this withholding caused Pharaoh to actively keep the Israelites in Egypt. God did not inject Pharaoh with fresh evil (which would have been a positive cause of Pharaoh’s sin); rather He withheld mercy and grace (the negative cause of Pharaoh’s sin). In this way, God (actively) “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Exod. 4:21; note the strong contrast between the two participles, “mercy” and “hardens” in Rom. 9:18; see also Deut. 2:30).
To illustrate further (i.e., negative causes), Jonathon Edwards gives the example of the sun directly producing light for the earth (thus, the positive cause of light). But what if the sun suddenly left the earth? Darkness would then be the result. Since the sun, however, did not create the darkness, the sun was not the positive cause, but rather the negative cause of the darkness. Therefore, even though the sun was the ultimate cause of the darkness, it cannot be blamed or charged for the darkness. So, similarly, God is the ultimate cause of all things, including sin, but not the positive cause of sin—hence, He cannot be morally guilty of or blamed for sin.
In other words, God can direct, shape, and mold the sin that already and inherently exists in man to bring about His desired decree or plan. Such as, referring to the Egyptians at the time of Exodus we read in Psalm 105:25 that God “turned their heart to hate His people” (cf. Isa. 63:17). In Isaiah 10:5-15, God caused the wicked Assyrians to carry out His judgment against Israel. Yet, it was not their intention to do so (v. 7). Other examples of where God ultimately caused events to happen in which sin was involved whereby directing the sin in men for His purpose would be: Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery (Gen. 45:5, 7; 50:20); Samson’s marriage to a Philistine women (Judges 14:2-4); and of course, the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). In all these cases, the source of sin was man, not God. Hence, clearly God is the ultimate cause of all things—good or bad: “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that the evil things and the good things go forth?” (Lam. 3:38; cf. Prov. 16:4; Amos 3:6).
3. EVERYTHING GOD DOES IS GOOD
Since everything God ordains is good, then, everything that has happened and everything that will happen is good. As others (e.g., Don Hartley) have pointed out, there is only ‘good good’ and ‘good evil.’ Evil just does not happen for any or no reason. Either God absolutely determines what and what does not happen in His universe, or, someone or something outside of Himself does. Men sin because they delight in it, for their heart is naturally evil, but God ordains sin always for a higher good. In other words, someone once gave me this example: a murderer can put a knife through someone’s stomach in order kill him. However, a surgeon can do the same thing, but for a higher good (perhaps to remove a deadly cancer).
The action was the same, but the agent of the action did it for different reasons. Hence, God ordains sin and uses evil always for good intentions, i.e., a higher good (see examples above). Again, it was an evil thing to crucify Christ, but it was a good thing that He was. As Edwards points out, Christ suffering “could not come to pass but by sin.”
The understanding that God ordains all things, even evil things is vital in the Christian life. It should relieve us of our daily stress and anxiety and give us peace when we are in the haze of tribulation and painful trials. Thus, whatever happens in this life, good or (as we see it) bad, God is operating it for a higher good (cf. Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:28; Rev. 17:16-17). To know that nothing that happens (even evil things) outside His sovereign control should be a comfort to the Christian. Scripture indicates that God is sovereign over all things. All things mean just that. If He is not either (a) something (or someone) else has control or dominion over God in which He cannot overcome, or (b) things just happen for no reason—Scripture denies both propositions: God “operates all things [ta panta] after the counsel of His own will (Isa. 46:9-11; Eph. 1:11; cf. Rom. 8:28).
Back to the Top
The Birth of Christ
Taking the Nature of a Servant
Next month most Christians will celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the theological significance can be lost in the pandemonium of shopping malls, tickets for Christmas plays, and thought consuming holiday planning. Whether or not Christmas is celebrated, all Christians should be biblically familiar with the real meaning of what most call “Christmas.” It is the most important event in all of human history: God became flesh. Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would be called “Immanuel” (lit., “God with us”; 7:14). The term “incarnation” has been used by the church to accurately define the biblical data of the eternal Word, God the Son, becoming flesh – taking on the nature of a servant. Note the literal translation of John 1:1 and verse 14:
1:1 In the beginning before time, the Word was (ēn) already existing (eternally), and the Word was with (pros), distinctly and intimately, God (the Father), and the Word as to His essential nature or essence (i.e., qualitatively) was fully God – in the same sense as that of God the Father.
1:14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the one and only, unique one, from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In John 1:1, the Apostle John positively affirmed that the Word was 1) eternal/pre-existent (1:1a), 2) distinct from God the Father (1:1b), and 3) absolutely God (1:1c). In verse 14, John positively affirmed the bodily incarnation of God the eternal Word showing that Jesus Christ was not merely a temporary “theophany” (theos + phainō, lit., “God appearance”; e.g., Gen. 18:1-33), but rather “the Word became flesh [ho logos sarx egeneto].” The Greek here clearly indicates that God the Son did not “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or costume, but He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh (sarx; see Col. 2:9).
Next, the passage says that eternal Word who became flesh “dwelt [or lit., “tabernacled”] among us.” The verb eskēnōsen (“dwelt among us” NASB) derives its meaning from the Hebrew term sākan. It referred to Yahweh coming down to earth to dwell: “And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8; cf. 2 Sam. 7:5-6). Hence, as mentioned, Jesus’ tabernacle (i.e., His physical body) was not a temporary appearance, but the Word actually became flesh and will forever be God-man.
The incarnation of the Son is an “essential” doctrine – a chief element of the gospel itself. The Apostle Paul affirmed that Jesus was a “descendant of David, according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). The term translated “descendent” is from the Greek word sperma. This means that Jesus was “literally” (not figuratively or spiritually) from the blood line or offspring (sperma) of David.
So essential was the incarnation of God the Son that the Apostle John, in his pointed refutation against Gnostic ideology (spirit vs. flesh), presents it as the ultimate test of true Christian faith:
“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come [elēluthota] in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus [as coming in the flesh] is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist. . . .” (1 John 4:2-3).
Unfortunately, most of our English translations do not present the full import of the passage, thus rendering the verb elēluthota as “has come” or “is come” (KJV). However, the verb translated “has come” (elēluthota) is a perfect active participle (from erchomai, “to become”). The perfect tense indicates a completed action in the past whose effects are felt in the present. Correspondingly, when Jesus was on the cross, He affirmed the completion of His work by declaring, tetelestai (“It is finished”; John 19:30 NASB). Tetelestai is the perfect tense of teleō (“to finish/complete”) – grammatically indicating a past action (His completed work) with continuous results. This means that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice has infinite value! – His perfect past action continues to save sinners today.
In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah prophesied that “a child will be born” (as to His humanity) and “a Son will be given” (as to His deity). Isaiah looked forward to the Prince of Peace, the “Mighty God” (El gibbor) -
Being supernaturally born (7:14)
On the throne of David having “no end to the increase of His government or of peace,” eternally establishing and upholding it “with justice and righteousness” (9:7)
Being “pierced through for our transgressions” (53:5)
To whom the Father caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (53:6)
Being crushed and put to grief to render Himself as a guilt offering, thus pleasing the Father (53:10)
Justifying “the many” and bearing “their iniquities” (53:11; cf. Mark 10:45)
Pouring Himself out to death “bearing the faults of many and praying all times for sinners” (53:12; JB)
God the Son becoming flesh provided definite and infallible salvation. As perfect man, He was the perfect sacrifice – i.e., the substitutionary atonement. As perfect God, His work had infinite consequence. For only God Himself can provide liberation from the bondage of sin. For no mere “man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of his soul is costly. . . .” (Ps. 49:7-8). Hence, God became flesh to die in our place.
Philippians 2:6-11 is known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”). It was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the pre-existence, incarnation, and the full deity of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
In verse 6, Paul strongly asserts the full deity of the Son: “Who, although He existed in the form of God [morphē theou huparchōn]. . . .” The word translated “existed” is huparchōn is a present active participle (from huparchō) indicating a continuous existence or continually subsisting. Hence, Jesus did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time; rather, He always existed as God. The word translated “form” (“nature” NIV) is from the Greek word, morphē. The term denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something – thus the Son possesses the very essence/nature of God. This is similar to John 1:1c: “The Word was God” (as to His essence).
In verse 7, we read that Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” He did not see His “position” of equality with the Father as something to be held on to at all cost (i.e., seized). Or, as Wallace suggests, He did not wish to usurp the Father’s position of authority (cf. BBGG). Instead, He “emptied Himself taking the form [morphē, “nature”] of a bond-servant” – hence, God became man: morphē theou (“nature of God” v. 6), morphē doulou (“nature of a servant” v. 7).
Here Paul points back to the ultimate act of humility: Christ, who was always subsisting as God, “emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant . . . becoming obedient to the point of death.” The participle labōn (“taking”) is a participle of means. This participle describes the means or manner of the emptying: the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation. Note, the emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: “Who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance of God” (trans. mine).
Further, the reflexive pronoun heauton translated, “Himself” (as in “emptied Himself”) indicates a “self-emptying” (cf. John 10:17-18). Thus, God the Son voluntarily “made Himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant” (NIV). On our behalf, He became (and remains) in the flesh – “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He is “perfect man and perfect God.” The incarnation of the “Lord of glory” shows how much He loved us. He “lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The celebration of His birth, then, is the celebration of God taking on the nature of servant.
The necessity of the two natures of Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ is not presented as only man or only God, or God and man (which implies two persons in one body), but rather “God-man” – the two natured Person.
If He were just God or just man, He could not be our mediator (or intercessor) representing two parties.
He had to be perfect man to appropriately and perfectly represent sinners in redemption.
And, He had to be perfect and fully God in order for His atonement (cross-work) to have infinite value.
Because He became flesh, He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Scripture presents that God the Son actually substituted Himself on behalf of His people, in their place. His cross-work perfectly secured salvation for them. His substitutionary atonement did not merely make salvation a possibility for all men, but rather it actually and infallibly saved those for whom He died. His atonement was not limited, but definite. Christ’s death really did remove wrath from those who were effectually called – both Jews and Gentiles, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
Let us conclude with this verse from Charles Wesley’s great hymn expressing the regenerating work of God alone:
“And can it be that I should gain”: Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago (NWT)
Thank you very much for your very helpful advice on how to witness to unbelievers, those who do not accept the Holy Bible as God’s Word. I can tell you really are experienced at defending our faith, have the expertise, and experience that I really don’t have. During the past few weeks, I have had an opportunity to try to deal with responses from JWs who have acquired a high degree of sophistication in how they respond to questions from believing Christians. So far, I have managed with all of their responses, except those dealing with Proverbs 8:22-30. How would you suggest I deal with the use of this scripture to refute the JW proposition that Jesus Christ is [created and] not God?”
Donald Clark, Finland.
Response>> Prov. 8:22ff. is used not only by the JWs, but by many unitarian groups to show that Jesus (assuming He is the “wisdom” here) was created. Thus, I would suggest the following:
1) One important rule in biblical interpretation: The clear should interpret the unclear. In other words, nowhere does Proverbs 8:22ff. state explicitly that “wisdom” is the Messiah. And nowhere is the Messiah called “wisdom” in the OT. They might try to take you to the NT where Christ is called “wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:30), however, this passage is contextually unrelated.
2) The wisdom that is spoken by Solomon is personified as a female! (see 8:2, 3, and 9:1, 2, 3). In light of this fact, the New World Translation (the JW’s Bible) changed the Hebrew feminine gender pronouns (“she” and “her” in the above verses) to the neuter “it.” For Scripture knows of no female Messiahs. Moreover, no Jew has ever interpreted Prov. 8 as speaking of the Messiah.
3) If wisdom was created, was God without wisdom before it was created? The phrase “From everlasting I was established” (8:23; NASB) is a phrase that denoted eternality (see the same phrase in Ps. 90:2). So, even if it is a description of Christ (which I do not believe) it actually proves that He is eternal.
4) The word translated “produced” (“Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning”; NWT) is from the Hebrew term: quanah. The meaning of the term in the OT NEVER means “to create” as the JW’s assert. Instead, the word quanah carries the meaning, of “get” or “buy” as seen throughout Proverbs, e.g., 1:5; 4:5; 15:32; 16:16; 17:16; 19:8; 20:14; etc.
5) CONTEXT: From chapters 1-9 the clear context is: WISDOM. So why change the context of chapter 8, when chapters 1-7 and 9 is wisdom?
6) NOTE: Even is these passages are referring to Christ (as some church Father have taught), it still does not support the WT view that Christ was created.
I would further demonstrate that Christ was not created, but rather the Creator (NOTE: be prepared to refute the JW's assertion of John 1:1 [“a god”]; Col. 1:15 [“firstborn”]; and Rev. 3:14 [“beginning of the creation”]). Also, you should present:
Jesus was WITH God before time (John 1:1, 3; 17:5; Col. 1:16-17); Jesus IS GOD (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:3, 8-10); Jesus IS called “The God” (ho theos: Titus 2:13, ; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1); Jesus is the absolute “I AM” (egō eimi: John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19, 18:5, 6, 8).
Let me know how your dialogue goes.
The Security of the Believer:
Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints
Scripture teaches that the elect are those whom God set apart, effectually called, sanctified by the Spirit, and justified. These will be glorified—nothing in all of creation can separate them from the love of God (cf. Rom. 8:28ff.).
The assertion that one can forfeit or lose his righteousness/justification after being imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, God the Son (cf. Rom. 4:4-8), theologically misapprehends both the sufficiency of the perfect work of Christ and the biblical doctrine of justification. The notion that justification is temporary implies that creaturely performance (good behavior, obedience, love, etc.) is required to maintain a righteous status before God, which is consistent with Roman Catholicism, not biblical theology.
Before examining the biblical evidence for perseverance of the saints, an important fact must be stated: perseverance of the saints does not mean that anyone who merely professes “Jesus Christ” is sealed and saved for eternity. Only true believers have eternal life. For those whom God regarded (elected) as His own, He called to Himself, declared them righteous by imputing them with the perfect righteousness of His Son. These, Jesus says, will be resurrected to life (cf. John 6:39). God infallibly saves and brings all of His beloved to glorification: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (Isa. 43:1; cf. 54:10; Jer. 32:40).
Jesus gives one kind of life, eternal life. Jesus said in John 6:47 that “he who believes has eternal life.” By way of definition, “eternal life” is life that is eternal. Logically, if eternal life can be severed at any point in time, it is a life that cannot be called “eternal.”
JOHN 5:24: Jesus here promised that the “one believing” has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” This passage strongly and exegetically affirms the perseverance of the genuine Christian. Consider the following details:
1. Note the two active present tense participles, pisteuōn (“believing”) and akouōn (“hearing”), which grammatically signify the ongoing actions of the “hearing” Jesus’ word, and “believing” Him who sent Him. In the NT, especially in John’s literature, we frequently find these kinds of participles in contexts of sanctification. A true Christian’s life will be characterized by ongoing actions such as “believing” in Christ (3:16; 6:47); “honoring” Him (5:23); “hearing” His words (5:24); “eating” His flesh and “drinking” His blood (6:54); “coming” to Him (6:35, 37); “living” in Him (11:26); etc. (cf. also Matt. 7:7-8).
2. Grammatically, the two participles (“hearing,” “believing”) denote an action that is simultaneous to the time of the leading present active indicative verb, echei (“has”). Thus, eternal life for the believer is not a future prospect or possibility; rather, it is an absolute certainty. The same grammatical relationship (pisteuōn with echei) is found in John 6:47.
3. Because the one believing “has” (possesses) eternal life, he will never come into God’s wrath and judgment (cf. John 3:36; Rom. 5:8-10; 1 John 5:12).
4. After affirming the permanency of eternal life, Jesus then affirms His redemptive guarantee for the believer: he “has passed out of death into life.” The verb metabebēken (“has passed”) is a perfect tense denoting a completed past action with continuous results into the present (as with the verb tetelestai in John 19:30: “It is finished”—for all time!). Hence, the reason as to why the one hearing and believing “does not come into judgment” is because he “has passed out of” perfectly and completely, spiritual death (cf. John 6:37-40; 10:28; 11:25-26; Rom. 4:8).
In John 6:35, Jesus says, “he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” As in the following verses (37-40), Jesus cogently states His covenant of redemption, that is, His promise of salvation for those whom the Father gave Him: “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. . . . all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day.” Jesus’ promise of salvation is specifically addressed to His sheep (elect). They follow Him and hear Him; others are unable to do so (cf. John 8:43; 10:26). Jesus says of His beloved sheep: “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ou mē apolōntai]; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). As in 6:37, Jesus uses here a double negative [ou mē] followed by the aorist subjunctive [apolōntai] (i.e., the mood of possibility) to negate a future possibility of any of His sheep perishing—literally, “they shall never never, not even a possibility, perish.”
In Romans 4:4-8, Paul teaches that the one believing, apart from works, has been declared righteous before God. However, what is significant in terms of biblically affirming the security of the believer is verses 7-8: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account [ou mē logisētai].”
Specifically note that in verse 8, Paul (quoting Ps. 32:2) uses the double negative followed by the aorist subjunctive: Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never never, not even a possibility, take into account. Hence, there is no sin that the Lord will count against the justified blessed man. He has been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. No one can bring a charge against him (cf. Rom. 8:33), for Christ always intercedes for him (cf. Rom. 8:34). Nothing can separate him from the eternal love of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:35ff.).
Those who deny perseverance of the saints cannot agree with the Lord’s direct promise of never imputing sin to the believer. Their theological assumption will not allow for it. They cannot agree with the promises clearly laid out in passages such as John 5:24, 10:28, and Romans 4:8. Nor do they consider the fact that believing is simultaneous with actively possessing eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 6:47).
They are many other passages that unambiguously demonstrate that God secures salvation for His elect—from start to finish. The Apostle Paul encourages the Christians in Philippi with these words: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Paul knew that because Christians have been justified by means of faith, they have peace (shalom) with God. This peace of which Paul speaks is not a temporary cease-fire, but a permanent reconciliation with God (cf. Rom. 5:1, 8-10): “There is now,” says Paul, “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
For those in Christ, Paul points out, have been fore-loved, predestined, effectually called, declared righteous before God, and glorified (cf. Rom. 8:29-30). Further, Paul tells Christians: “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14; cf. 4:30). Paul says elsewhere: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:25).
In sum, the biblical teaching of the security of the believer or perseverance or preservation of the saints is a beautiful and wonderful example of God Father through the work of His divine Son and power of the Spirit perfecting the saints “for all time” (Heb. 10:14). Perseverance of the saints is simply the teaching that “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Christ Jesus” (Jude 1:1) will never, never never, not even a possibility, perish (cf. John 10:28).
 In opposition to the heretical teachings of Rome (viz. Transubstantiation), in John 6:35 Jesus defines clearly what He means by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. “I am the bread of life; he who comes [lit., “the one coming”] to Me will not hunger, and he who believes [lit., “the one believing”] in Me will never thirst.” So, as the “bread of life,” coming to Him is symbolic of eating His flesh (for he “will not hunger”), and believing in Him is symbolic of drinking His blood (for he will “never thirst).
 This construction is only used around 85 times in the NT.
 The context here in Romans 4 is, of course, justification before God, not sanctification. In other words, in relationship to justification: there is no sin that will change or alter one’s eternal status before God; they have the righteousness of Christ. That will never change. Justification is a one time sovereign act of God declaring a sinner righteous in His sight. However, in relationship to sanctification: the Lord will count sins against His chosen according to His fatherly and loving discipline (cf. Heb. 12:5-11). This ongoing loving discipline results in the growth and edification of His children. That is what sanctification is—an ongoing process to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. It does not affect a Christian righteous status before God.
 As strongly pointed out above, nowhere in the NT is faith said to be the cause of one’s justification, but rather it is the very means or instrument.
In Him we have the redemption through His
blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. . . .
Christians can rest assured that the penalty due (God’s wrath) for their sins was *literally* taken away through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, justification for the believer means, biblically speaking, that they were legally *declared* (not made) righteous/just before God. For the Greek verb dikaioō simply means to be declared righteous or just—before God.
Simply stated: the doctrine of justification is God pronouncing (declaring) a sinner righteous in His sight. For at the moment, when a sinner is *declared* by God righteous by the instrument, not cause, of faith, he or she stands totally innocent (justified) before Him; their sins have been literally taken away, forgiven. They are adopted as children of God, redeemed through the death of Christ (not through one’s faith-act or any other work):
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us [huper, lit., “on our behalf”]. . . . having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom. 5:8-10).
Hence, the very *ground* of justification is not the act of faith (or believing), but rather the work of Christ over two thousand years ago—faith is the instrument that God uses.
We are not, then, saved by (i.e., being the cause of) faith per se, rather we are saved by Christ through faith. For saving faith is granted by God alone (a gift), which God uses to justify His elect—but “that” faith is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Christ did not merely make salvation a possibility, but rather He infallibly and definitely saves all whom He intends to save (cf. John 5:21; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; 9:6-24; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9).
This means that when God “regenerates” an unsaved, spiritually dead, sinner, calling him or her to Himself (which infallibly results in his or her coming to Christ), He then declares him or her righteous (i.e., justifies) where at that moment, all of his or her sins are completely forgiven—past, present, and future (including the sins transferred from Adam). In God’s work of justification, the Christian is *imputed* with the righteousness of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Rom. 4:4-8).
The above is a concise look at the justifying work accomplished by God alone. What does this mean for you as a Christian? It means that you are declared innocent (righteous) before God, though the death of the Son. Your sins are forgiven, you have presently “no condemnation [judgment] in Christ” (Rom. 8:1). Christ said that you would never perish. Paul also affirms: “having been justified by faith [ek pisteōs, lit., “from faith”] we have peace [Heb. shalom] with God (Rom. 5:1).
Forgiveness to Others
In spite of the forgiveness of Christ applied to us, one of the most difficult commandments for Christians to follow is forgiveness towards their neighbors (Christians or not!). Thus, I have briefly outlined some key exegetical points regarding the biblical teaching of forgiveness:
The primary term used in the Gospels to denote “forgiveness” (i.e., by Jesus) is aphiēmi, which is not, interestingly, the primary term used in the Epistles (which is charizomai). Though, the two terms are not entirely dissimilar; both carry a semantic force of canceling/dismissing. That is not to say, however, that the terms are completely interchangeable either—only that, from a broad range, they have similar shades of meaning.
The term aphiēmi (as used in the Gospels), has the *primary* lexical meaning of dismissing or releasing someone or something from a place or one’s presence, i.e., to let go, or to send away (Matt. 13:36; Mark 4:36). In 1 Corinthians 7:11, the term is used to indicate that “the husband should not divorce [aphienai] his wife.” Jesus frequently used it to denote a “release from legal or moral obligation, cancel, remit, pardon” (e.g., Matt. 6:14; Mark 11:25; Luke 5:20; etc.). Especially in Matthew 18, where Jesus teaches, in full, as to what true aphiēmi is. We also find the term used in Romans 4:7; 5:15; and 1 John 2:12.
However, in the Epistles (esp. in Paul’s), as mentioned, the primary term used to denote forgiveness is charizomai (lit., “I give freely”). What distinguishes charizomai from aphiēmi is the *root* of the term, meaning, “granting” or “giving graciously” (note the lexical root: char [“rejoice”], from which the term charis, “grace/favor” comes), which still carries the thought of “releasing” as with aphiēmi.
Again, the primary meaning of charizomai denotes the idea of granting or giving freely (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:12; Rom. 8:32; Phil. 1:29). Thus, when the idea of forgiving is in view (e.g., 2 Cor. 2:7-10; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13), Paul teaches that the victim of wrongdoing by another should show/demonstrate oneself gracious by forgiving the wrongdoer. Hence, this action of forgiveness involves an observable pardon or release from a wrongdoing, just as *genuine* faith, says James, involves observable, demonstrative actions or it is dead—i.e., not genuine.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful (Col. 3:12-15).
In Proverbs 10:12, Solomon says that “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” Solomon provides a similar adage in 17:9: “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates the best of friends.” Thus, Solomon knows that love is the means of true forgiveness and he who holds an offense, i.e., “repeats a matter” (by any action) “separates the best of friends.”
Therefore, by the victim punishing the wrongdoer by doing such things as avoiding dialogue, excluding events, holding feelings of resentment, etc., the victim is still *collecting on the dept* and has NOT biblically forgiven the wrongdoer, and hence sins by not really forgiving—as the Bible clearly instructs.
Jesus loved us to this extant: He voluntarily died in our place (His sheep) forgiving us all of our sins. That is the nature of justification—God “releasing” us from our bondage to sin imputing the righteousness of His Son to our account. God, through the death of His Son, forgave us—justified us. Hence, since the foremost commandment in Scripture (aside from hearing that God is one) is to love we must, then, biblically forgive those who sin against us.
 Cf. John 3:36; Rom. 5:8-10.
 As I have pointed out in other works on justification, when the text speaks of Jesus removing, dying for, blotting out, taking away, etc., sins, it denotes a real and actual removal. Many passages that speak of Christ literally dying for us use the Greek preposition huper to communicate an actual *substitutionary atonement* (e.g., Deut. 24:16; Isa. 43:3-4 [cf. LXX]; Rom. 5:7-10; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 3:13). Thus, when the text says that Christ died for us (huper, lit., “on our behalf” or “in our stead”), it indicates that Christ literally, in our place, absorb the wrath of God for sin, paid the penalty due whereby reconciling us to God. Hence, God did not make salvation a mere possibility, but rather He infallibly saves all whom He intends to save (cf. John 5:21; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:6-24; 2 Thess. 2:13).
 Note that the verb dikaioō does not mean “to make” righteous as if the sinner is subjectively made righteousness (as taught in Catholicism). On the contrary, it denotes a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent.
 Saving faith is a gift granted by God alone (cf. Acts 5:31; 13:48; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25). In point of fact, nowhere in the NT is justification earned or achieved by creaturely works, as with a belief/faith-act. If so, it would make the belief/faith-act a work, that is, a meritorious work. Thus, Paul’s repeated statement of being saved/justified by/through faith “apart [chōris] from works”—any works (Rom. 3:28) would be untrue. Further, nowhere in the NT is faith said to be the cause or ground of justification, but rather it is the instrument that God uses—the sole ground being the work of Christ.
 There were various terms used by biblical authors to describe God’s work in regeneration. For example, Ezekiel describes regeneration as God replacing a “heart of stone” with a “heart of flesh” (36:26). In 1 John 5:1, John uses the phrase term ek tou theou gegennētai, lit., “from the God has been generated”. In passages such as Eph. 2:5 and Col. 2:13, Paul uses “made alive.” In 1 Pet. 1:3, 23, Peter uses the term “born again.” Further, Jesus, in John 3:3, uses the phrase, gennēthē avōthen; lit., “regenerated [or “born”] from above.”
 Cf. John 6:37-40, 44.
 There are three distinct acts of imputation: 1) Adam’s sin is imputed to all men (i.e., the doctrine of original sin), 2) at justification, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, and 3) in the same manner, at justification, our sins are imputed back to Christ of which He suffered the consequences at the cross (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Rom. 4:4-8; 5:10ff.). Thus, at justification, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us in the same way that the sin of Adam was imputed to us.
 Jesus says of His beloved sheep: “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ou mē apolōntai]; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). Jesus here uses a double negative [ou mē] followed by the aorist subjunctive [apolōntai] (i.e., the mood of *possibility*). This construction (used about 85 times in the NT) is the strongest way to negate a future possibility—literally, “they shall never never, not even a possibility, perish” (cf. also 6:37-40; 5:24; 6:47; see also Rom. 4:8, where the same construction is used: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (ou mē logisētai, lit., “never never not even a possibility take into account”).
 Cf. Mark 12:28-30. Note, in this passage, Jesus says that the foremost commandment is to “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” (i.e., one Being, not one Person as unitarian groups such as Oneness, JWs, Muslims, Jews, etc. falsely assume). However, Jesus was not only quoting the Shema (Deut. 6:4), but rather He was actually commanding the action of hearing that God is one. The verb akoue (“Hear”) is the present active imperative verb of akouō (“I hear”). The imperative mood of a verb indicates a commandment.