One Who Is Son

Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Church, Philadelphia, PA.

From the Church website:
In the 1970s and 1980, a major battle was underway, often referred to as the Inerrancy of Scripture. Dr. Boice was on the front lines of that battle. Before that, Dr. Barnhouse chose to stay within the Northern Presbyterian Church, as it was called informally. He battled valiantly for the Virgin Birth of Christ, the possibility of miracles, including the resurrection of Christ, and many other core Christian beliefs under attack by the Modernists or Liberals of his day.

Tenth has a long tradition of engaging in such battles and being at the forefront of many of them. It has been a clarion voice in defense of orthodox Christian beliefs as they emerged from the Reformation 500 years ago next year. Documents were drawn up, still cherished today, which define the great truths of the Bible in the terminology of the era in which they were written. So we have the Westminster Confession of Faith and our great catechisms. People died for the truths recorded in them.

Few of us today could explain how Dr. Boice and others drew the battle lines against ‘neo-orthodoxy’ and its watered down view of Scripture in the 1970s. We acknowledge that it was important, but if called upon today to refight that battle, we would have much brushing up to do. That was less than 50 years ago. The battle with the liberals was less than 100 years ago. Few indeed, outside the seminary, would remember the shape of that debate. However, the faith of millions rode on those two battles. And Tenth’s congregation supported their ministers through those fights.

Today, Tenth has again been called to take on a serious challenge to the faith we hold dear. It is our privilege to take up ‘arms’ for our King in a battle far more foundational than those two huge debates of the 20th Century – the Doctrine of God and the full deity of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, false teaching has already crept, almost silently, deep inside the very walls of evangelicalism. It was Dr. Goligher who, last June, flipped the switch of the floodlights, revealing these teachings for what they are. Today we would say it went viral.

Also unfortunately, we are being called to pick up a debate that has lain dormant, not for a mere 100 years, but for 1600 years. Obviously, no one at Tenth remembers those battles and the great issues involved. Even the names of those who fought, and sometimes died, for the truth have an unfamiliar ring. That debate seems shrouded in the mists of history. It seems couched in Trinitarian language too abstract for us to comprehend. It seems as if we could never get our heads around such complexity.

We should thank God from our deepest heart that the men who fought the battle in AD 200-400 were men schooled in a world where philosophy – which at that time still included theology – was deemed the supreme field of knowledge. They were up to the task. Today, theology takes a back seat to medicine, all the sciences, history, languages, the arts and even philosophy. But those men defined the debate. We only need to relearn its terms.

Beginning October 9, when starting a series on Hebrews, Dr. Goligher began training us for the battle, which is already raging nationwide. Those have been tough sermons to follow. On the subject of the Trinity, it might be difficult to see the relevance to our daily lives.

Few people would grasp half of what they need to know on the first pass. Listening to them several times, one still finds new angles, new insights into the shape of this debate, new implications for every aspect of our faith.

The trumpet call has sounded. In accordance with Ephesians 6:13-18, let’s polish our spiritual armor. In particular, we need the sword of the Holy Spirit, the word of God as ‘unpacked’ in these sermons. There will be tough times ahead for Bible-proclaiming churches across our country. As so often in the past, many will look to Tenth to lead the charge.

Those who care deeply for the gospel faith, for our Father God, and for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will spend time mulling over those sermons on the Trinity. As Dr. Goligher says in one of them:

“Everything is at stake! Everything is at stake!”

11/06/16 11AM Sermon “One Who Is Son” Tenth Presbyterian Church from Tenth Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

EXTRACT: This word [Son] denotes having the very nature of God and the people of his own day, the Jews of his own day, understood this very clearly. In John 5:18, they complained, you see, “He was calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.” They understood what was going on. And listen to Jesus’ reply. He doesn’t dissuade them. He doesn’t deny it; he doesn’t avoid the subject. In fact, he pursues the subject. He essentially says to them, “That is exactly… You are exactly right. ‘Son of God’ means God.”

VERSES: John 5:26, Psalm 2:7, Colossians 1:15-20, John 1:3, Mark 2:5-10, Luke 7:47-49, John 10:28, John 17:2, Philippians 3:3, Revelation 5:12-13, Matthew 2:2, John 20:28, John 9:38, Matthew 28:8, Hebrews 7:26, Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 6:1, Philippians 2:9-10, Genesis 1, 1 Timothy 6:16, John 1:9, John 1:18, John 3:31-34, Isaiah 11:2, Colossians 2:2-3, Colossians 1:19, Luke 2:40, Luke 2:42-52, John 16:12-15, John 8:35-36, Hebrews 3:6, Proverbs 3:19, Proverbs 8:22-31, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 1:17, John 5:18-26, John 6:46, John 8:38, John 14:7-11, John 4:24, Matthew 28:18, John 17:2, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:19, John 17:3,

Series: http://www.tenth.org/resource-library/series-index/hebrews

On the Deity of Christ

only to get bogged down arguing over John 1:1, John 10:30, and other passages in which Jesus is called “God”? “Oh,” the Witness responds, “we do believe Jesus is a god. Isaiah 9:6 calls him a mighty god. But he is not the Almighty God.” Then you hear that men are sometimes called “gods” (John 10:34) and God made Moses to be a “god” to Pharaoh (Exod. 7:1). When the encounter is over, you feel about as frustrated as the Buffalo Bills after the Super Bowl.

To avoid this problem we must learn to compellingly communicate the biblical truth of the deity of Christ and the Trinity to the mind trained in Watchtower theology. There is a way around the natural “walls” that Watchtower indoctrination places in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is one way we can be instruments in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jehovah Is God
Many Witnesses feel that no one outside of their own circles thinks anything about Jehovah1 God. They are surprised to encounter Christians who know the name Jehovah and use the name in hymns and songs. You can agree with the Witnesses that Jehovah is God. This statement opens the door to the Witness concerning the wonderful truth about Jesus Christ.

Witnesses argue that the term “god” can be used of men and angels, and so, when used of Jesus, it does not prove His deity. They cannot consistently use that tactic against the overwhelming evidence that in the New Testament Jesus Christ is identified as Jehovah God! The Witnesses must logically recognize that if Jesus is Jehovah, all their arguments about “lesser gods” are irrelevant. Jehovah is the only true God, and if the Bible says Jesus is Jehovah, the case is closed. We can engage the thinking process of the Witnesses to bring them to the realization of this truth. Once the identity of Jesus as Jehovah is established, then the passages that call Him “God” become meaningful and understandable to Witnesses.

Proving Your Case
I have often moved into this topic through a brief explanation of the Trinity. Most Witnesses do not have an accurate knowledge of the Trinity. (Sadly, neither do many Christians.) If I am asked why I believe in the Trinity, I normally respond,

I believe in the Trinity because the Bible teaches the doctrine. It does so not by using the specific word “Trinity,” but by teaching the three pillars that make up the doctrine. First, that there is only one true God, Jehovah, Creator of all things. Surely you agree with me there. Next, that there are three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I realize you do not believe the Holy Spirit is a person, but you do agree that the Father and the Son are not the same person, correct? Finally, the third pillar, the point on which we are in direct disagreement, is the Bible’s teaching of the full equality of these divine persons. This would include the deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit.

It is important to short-circuit the natural tendency of Witnesses to misunderstand you. We are not asserting that there are three persons that are one person, nor that there are three beings that are one being. We are differentiating between the terms being and person.

The Bible teaches that all things have being, but only God, humans, and angels are personal. I as a human being am one person, James White. My being makes me human, my personality differentiates me from all other human beings. Since my being is finite and limited, only one person can properly subsist in it, namely, me. But since God’s being is infinite and unlimited, it can be, and is, shared by three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Once I have differentiated between being and person, I then ask if I can illustrate this from Scripture. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Trinity is a false doctrine derived from Greek philosophy, they often are willing to open the Bible, confident that you won’t be able to support your position. I say, “You and I both agree that the only true God is Jehovah. I believe the term ‘Jehovah’ refers to the very divine being, the eternal God, who created all things. You would agree with me that the Father is Jehovah, would you not? Where we disagree is this: I believe the Bible says that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, and the Spirit is also Jehovah. Each of the three persons shares the one divine name, Jehovah. May I show you one of the places where the Bible teaches us that Jesus is Jehovah?”

Most Witnesses have never encountered this kind of approach. Make sure your friend has understood your meaning — you may need to clarify your position a few times before proceeding.

There is no one verse with which you should always begin. I personally favor using Hebrews 1. In any case, make sure you are thoroughly familiar not just with the verses themselves, but with the surrounding contexts. You don’t want your demonstration short-circuited by your own lack of knowledge of the text.

Using the Witnesses’ own translation, the New World Translation (NWT), I note some of the important verses in passing, such as Hebrews 1:3, which speaks of Christ as the “exact representation of his nature.”2 I follow the context down through verse 8, which begins, “But with reference to the Son….” I ask, “Now, who is being discussed all through this passage?” The answer is plainly the Son. The citation that begins in verse 8 finishes in verse 9, following which the NWT says, “And: ‘You at [the] beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are [the] works of your hands.’”

By its use of quotation marks in the text, the NWT clearly indicates that we are dealing here with a citation of the Old Testament. I finish reading through verse 12, and immediately ask, “Now, who is being described here?” The only possible answer is “the Son.” The Witness may say something about how Jesus, as the first creation of Jehovah, was the one through whom all the rest of creation was made. I allow the Witness to say whatever he or she wishes, as long as we agree on the fact that Hebrews 1:10-12 is still making reference to the Son.3 Then I ask if my friend knows what passage the writer to the Hebrews is quoting. The passage being cited, according to the cross references found in NWT reference editions, is Psalm 102:25-27. It is very important that you get to Psalm 102 quickly to provide the proper context.

Invite the Witness to begin at verse 1 of Psalm 102 and to identify the individual being addressed in the passage. The NWT begins, “O Jehovah, do hear my prayer.” Skip down to verse 12 and show that Jehovah remains the subject of the psalm. Point out that Jehovah continues to appear in verses 19 and 20 . This is important because once you get to verse 25 the significance of the words will be manifest. Jehovah is addressed in the very same words that the writer to the Hebrews uses of the Son, Jesus Christ!

It is vital that you make it clear that there is no reason to think that anyone other than Jehovah is being addressed by the psalmist in Psalm 102:25-27.4 You have shown the first of many passages in which the New Testament writers take an Old Testament passage originally about Jehovah Himself and apply it to the Lord Jesus Christ. This passage is exceptionally strong, for the psalmist is speaking of the immutability, eternal nature, and creative power of Jehovah God, yet the writer to the Hebrews is willing to predicate all these things of Jesus Christ.

The Advantage of This Method
Don’t expect Witnesses to give in the first time you show this passage. Most will beat a hasty retreat for the door and try to find someone who can answer all these questions. When you show a Witness a divine truth from the pages of his own NWT, that truth follows him wherever he goes. He’s not going to throw his Bible out, so whenever he opens it up and encounters these passages, the Spirit of God will remind him of what he cannot answer. Witnesses won’t take literature from you, so turn their Bibles into tracts that will go with them when they walk out your door.

NOTES
1. The pronunciation “Jehovah,” while important to the Witnesses, is not the proper pronunciation. The Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH) was probably pronounced “Yahweh.” A good Bible dictionary will furnish the meaning and background of the term, information that is both enriching and useful in witnessing.
2. Don’t get bogged down. Press toward demonstrating that Jesus is Jehovah. If you get into a discussion of NWT passages specifically designed to hide the deity of Christ (Hebrews 1:6 and 1:8), you will never get around to what you are trying to accomplish.
3. Should the Witness attempt to say otherwise, note that the NWT begins verse 8 in the same way it begins verse 10, with a colon followed by a quotation. Verse 8 is about the Son. Verse 10 continues the citation of passages about the Son from the Old Testament. Even the NWT gives no indication of any kind of break between verses 9 and 10.
4. The close reader will recognize an inconsistency in the NWT at this point. It inserts the name “Jehovah” in the New Testament 237 times, even though the term appears in no Greek New Testament manuscripts at all. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint or LXX, used the Greek term “Lord” (Kurios) for the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. The New Testament writers, when citing the Old Testament passages in which the name Jehovah appeared, likewise used the Greek term Kurios or “Lord.” The Watchtower reasons that when citing the Old Testament (and in many other instances) the name Jehovah should be retained. Hence, when they translate Hebrews 2:13, which contains a citation of Isaiah 8:18, they insert the name “Jehovah” in the translation. But they also often insert the name when there is no direct Old Testament reference at all, such as in Revelation 1:8. And most importantly for our use of Hebrews 1:10-12, in other passages they change the Greek Kurios to “Jehovah” in citations of the Old Testament that are about Jehovah, even if the name does not appear in the specifically cited text. Why didn’t the NWT translators remain consistent and render the Greek term Kurios as “Jehovah” in Hebrews 1:10? There is only one reason: it would make the passage teach a doctrine that is contrary to Watchtower theology. Hence their Bible translation is determined by their beliefs, not by the text.

What Child Is This? (Part 1)

Text: Isaiah 9:1-7

The uniqueness of this Child, born into our world marks the major division of all human history, at least according to the western calendar: B.C. to A.D. Why would this be? Who exactly is this One and what exactly would He do? The answers to these questions reveal so much because what He would do tells us a great deal about what we most need!

Sub-Ordinate Role But No Less Divine

and/or misunderstanding, that unbelievers frequently expresss about the Trinity. As a believer you should be aware of this. James White on occasion says:

Difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.

For many who deny the Trinity or the deity of Jesus, it is thought that since Jesus fulfilled a lesser (subordinate) role in his incarnation compared to that of the Father, Jesus must therefore possess a lesser nature.

Those who oppose the deity of Christ often point to Jesus’ submissive remarks about doing the will of his Father. For example, Jesus says, “the Father is greater than I am.” They infer from this that Jesus does not share the same nature with the Father. But this is confusing categories. It ignores the broader context that is talking about their relational roles, not their nature.

Jesus also calls the Father, “My God.” Yet those who oppose the deity of Christ ignore that this is a humble acknowledgment of the incarnate Jesus modeling for us humility and submissiveness (John 20:17). This exalting-affirmation is what we would expect from the Son of God.

Similarly, it is argued, since Jesus is the agent of the Father in many respects such as creation, Jesus cannot be fully God. Regarding the Spirit, they will make the similar false assumption. Since the Spirit is sent by the Father, the Spirit cannot have the same divine nature as the Father. They will look at these statements and make the fallacious leap that difference in function indicates inferiority of nature.

They also deny the freedom of the Divine persons to choose their roles. Or to put it another way: they assume that to be truly God, the Son and the Spirit must have the exact same roles as the Father in order to share in the same nature.

A simple, but effective, illustration will show that difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature: A husband and wife—as well as children!—will possess different roles in a marriage. Wives are to take on the submissive role, yet this does not indicate that difference in function requires inferiority of nature. Does the wife have a lesser nature than that of the husband? Not according to Christian anthropology. They are both fully human.

Let’s praise God for the incarnation, which itself presupposes a submissive role that brought about our salvation. We do not worship a unipersonal-unitarian God, but worship instead a complementary-trinitarian God.

Jesus’ Threefold Office

Priest, and King

Joel Beeke (original source here)

Reformed theology affirms that Scripture and its teaching on grace and faith emphasize that salvation is solus Christus, “by Christ alone”—that is, Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12). B.B. Warfield wrote, “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.”

The centrality of Christ is the foundation of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther said that Jesus Christ is the “center and circumference of the Bible”—meaning that who He is and what He did in His death and resurrection is the fundamental content of Scripture. Ulrich Zwingli said, “Christ is the Head of all believers who are His body and without Him the body is dead.”

Without Christ, we can do nothing; in Him, we can do all things (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). Christ alone can bring salvation. Paul makes plain in Romans 1–2 that though there is a self-manifestation of God outside of His saving work in Christ, no amount of natural theology can unite God and man. Union with Christ is the only way of salvation.

We urgently need to hear solus Christus in our day of pluralistic theology. Many people today question the belief that salvation is only by faith in Christ. As Carl Braaten says, they “are returning to a form of the old bankrupt nineteenth-century Christological approach of Protestant liberalism and calling it ‘new,’ when it is actually scarcely more than a shallow Jesusology.” The end result is that today, many people—as H. R. Niebuhr famously said of liberalism—proclaim and worship “a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Our Reformed forebears, drawing on a perspective traceable all the way back to the fourth-century writer Eusebius of Caesarea, found it helpful to think about Christ as a Prophet, Priest, and King. The 1689 London Baptist Confession, for instance, puts it this way: “Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). Let us look more closely at these three offices.

Christ the Prophet

Christ is the Prophet whom we need to instruct us in the things of God so as to heal our blindness and ignorance. The Heidelberg Catechism calls Him “our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption” (A. 31). “The Lord thy God,” Moses declared in Deuteronomy 18:15, “will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (KJV). He is God’s Son, and God demands that we listen to Him (Matt. 17:5). Continue reading

The Excellency of Christ

A rich and sumptuous feast of delight in the gloriously diverse person of Jesus our Savior — Every Christian should read this sermon – perhaps one of the single most impacting sermon that you may ever read.

Dear Beloved in Christ, I am oftentimes reminded of what C. S. Lewis said one time concerning the reading of old books. In essence, Lewis wrote that for every new book we read, we ought to read at least three old ones. What he wanted to communicated wisely to the Church was that the reading of old books takes us out of our culture and religious “present-tense” context and allows us to see a clearer and bigger picture of the teaching of Scripture without being hindered by the biases and narrowness of our present cultural milieu or context.

Recently, as I was studying and praying generally for the future of Christ’s Church, and considering more specifically gaining wisdom with regard to how to pastor Christ’s people, I came across a discourse, or study written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century. Jonathan Edwards was a great and godly preacher of God’s Word, and was perhaps the finest and most able theologian America has ever produced!

The discourse or study is entitled ‘The Excellency of Christ’. The study struck me deeply in my heart and mind because it helped me to reflect on the glory of God in the incarnation, but perhaps even more practically, it helped me to think of how Christ builds and matures His Church in a way consistent with the incarnation, yet paradoxical with regards to the ways and methods of the world. Continue reading

Lamb of God

“Lamb of God” Music and Words by Jason Hansen, Bob Kauflin, and David LaChance, Jr. © 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lead Vocal: Rebecca Elliott
Piano: Bob Kauflin
Cello: Bethany Payne

Lyrics:

VERSE 1
O Lamb of God, all worlds obeyed Your will
From dark and void their being came
O Lamb of God, Your glories echo still
Creation sings its Maker’s praise
Eternal God, One with the Father
Before all time You dwelt in love
Eternal God, unlike all others
Yet You descended unto us

VERSE 2
O Lamb of God, in filthy manger lay
In humble dress You entered earth
O Lamb of God, Creator bows to save
The needy ones, helpless from birth
Incarnate Word, gift of the Father
To take our place and bear our sin
Incarnate Word led to the slaughter
You conquered death and rose again

VERSE 3
O Lamb of God now reigning on the throne
The Judge of all, faithful and true
O Lamb of God, You’ll make Your power known
When all Your foes receive their due
Victorious King, when history’s fading
You’ll call Your Bride to take her place
Victorious King, Creation’s waiting
For Your redeemed to see Your face

© 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

From the album, Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God

The Ligonier Statement on Christology

In all good conscience I am happy to affirm along with its affirmations and denials.

Firstly, some introductory words from Dr. R. C. Sproul:

Who is Jesus? Nearly every adult person has formed some opinion of Jesus. These opinions may be superficial, uninformed, or downright heretical. The truth about Jesus, not mere opinion, matters . . . and it matters eternally.

Those who bear the name Christian profess to follow Christ as His disciples. They hold a Christology—a doctrine of Christ—that reflects their view of Christ. This Christology may be articulated implicitly or explicitly. It may represent the depth of biblical revelation and historic Christian reflection on Scripture, or it may be novel and disconnected from God’s Word. But no professing Christian lacks a Christology.

Since following Christ is central to Christianity, the church has labored for centuries to proclaim the Christ of history and Scripture, not the Christ of our imaginations. In such historic statements of faith such as the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Westminster Confession, Christians have articulated the biblical teaching on Christ.

Today these statements are often neglected and misunderstood, resulting in widespread confusion regarding the person and work of Christ. For the glory of Christ and the edification of His people, the Ligonier Statement on Christology seeks to encapsulate the historic, orthodox, biblical Christology of the Christian church in a form that is simple to confess, useful to help teach the church’s enduring faith, and able to serve as a common confession around which believers from different churches can rally for mission together. This statement is not a replacement for the church’s historic creeds and confessions but a supplement that articulates their collective teaching on who Christ is and what He has done. May Christ use it for His kingdom.

In the name of God’s Son incarnate, our Prophet, Priest, and King,

R.C. Sproul
Spring 2016

THE LIGONIER STATEMENT ON CHRISTOLOGY

We confess the mystery and wonder
of God made flesh
and rejoice in our great salvation
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With the Father and the Holy Spirit,
the Son created all things,
sustains all things,
and makes all things new.
Truly God,
He became truly man,
two natures in one person.

He was born of the Virgin Mary
and lived among us.
Crucified, dead, and buried,
He rose on the third day,
ascended to heaven,
and will come again
in glory and judgement.

For us,
He kept the Law,
atoned for sin,
and satisfied God’s wrath.
He took our filthy rags
and gave us
His righteous robe.

He is our Prophet, Priest, and King,
building His church,
interceding for us,
and reigning over all things.

Jesus Christ is Lord;
we praise His holy Name forever.

Amen.

Affirmations and Denials

Explanatory Essay

Christ’s Deity, Voluntary Subordination & Perfect Humanity

sproul-77The Deity of Christ – R.C. Sproul

The confession of the deity of Christ is drawn from the manifold witness of the New Testament. As the Logos Incarnate, Christ is revealed as being not only preexistent to creation, but eternal. He is said to be in the beginning with God and also that He is God (John 1:1-3). That He is with God demands a personal distinction within the Godhead. That He is God demands inclusion in the Godhead.

Elsewhere, the New Testament ascribes terms and titles to Jesus that are clearly titles of deity. God bestows the preeminent divine title of Lord upon Him (Philippians 2:9-11). As the Son of Man, Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and to have authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12). He is called the “Lord of glory” (James 2:1) and willingly receives worship, as when Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Paul declares that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily (Colossians 1:19) and that Jesus is higher than angels, a theme reiterated in the book of Hebrews. To worship an angel or any other creature, no matter how exalted, is to violate the biblical prohibition against idolatry. The I ams of John’s Gospel also bear witness to the identification of Christ with Deity. Continue reading