Posts Tagged ‘Apostles’ Creed’

The Apostles’ Creed: At The Right Hand of God The Father

July 4, 2014

What does it mean that the Son is at the right hand of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For the first time in our study, we’re getting into some repetition, I have already written blog posts on the usages of God and the Father. I plan on looking at Almighty next, but for now, we’re going to look at the phrase “The Right Hand.”

Too often in our day and age, one of the worst mistakes we make with the Bible is this idea that the Bible must always be interpreted literally. Now properly understood, it should be, for literal really means according to the intent of the author. Today, we take it to mean that the text must always be read in a straight-forward sense. I have lost track of the number of times someone says “Why isn’t the Bible clear?” It’s as if ancient authors should have written a text with only 21st century people in mind and using their idioms and expressions.

Yet when this happens, too many people apostasize from the faith, especially when this is connected with a stringent form of Inerrancy. A passage like the one we’re using is an example of this. Granted, that the Apostles’ Creed is not Scripture, but the terminology that we are using in this part does indeed come out of Scripture. So what does it mean to say that Jesus is seated at the right hand.

Let’s clear with the nonsense interpretation first. It does not mean that God has a literal physical body. As we know from Scripture, God is Spirit. Of course, He could appear in a physical form if He wanted to, but He is not dependent on it. Even God the Son is still fully deity before the incarnation. The physical body was not a change to His nature but was rather an addition to the person of the Son that played no role in changing Him.

By the way, this also explains a favorite argument of Jehovah’s Witnesses and others that Jesus could not be fully God because Jesus died on the cross and God doesn’t die. The problem is these people do not know what die means. They assume it means to cease to exist, but it rather means that an immaterial aspect of man, be it soul or spirit, leaves the body. Jesus never ceased to exist, but He did experience being separated from his body. That was death.

So what does it mean? The right hand is a position of favor. To say that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God means that He’s at the favored place and in fact, it’s from that place that He will rule. The most quoted verse of the OT in the NT is Psalm 110:1. This one has Jesus seated at the right hand while His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Right now, Jesus is seated there and is ruling by His Father.

The main idea to get from this is that the text does not refer to a location, as if God is literally seated on a throne and Jesus is seated at His right. What it is saying is that Jesus is in a position of favor in relation to the Father as we can see from a text like Philippians 2:5-11.

This is good news for us today. Jesus is Lord and is seated at the throne. When we say that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, that means Jesus who walked on this Earth so long ago is today the ruling authority in this world, and as we will see later on, will return some day.

Apostles Creed: And is Seated

June 23, 2014

Does it really make a big deal that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we go through the Apostles’ Creed, the next statement we find is that Jesus is seated. Now where He is seated we will get into more the next time we write on the creed, but what difference does it make that he is seated? After all, if any of us come home from working all day, we will often just sit down and relax and turn on the TV. After all, our work is done and we want to have a rest from our labors.

Precisely.

In fact, this is the reason that Jesus is seated at the right hand. Jesus has sat down because His work is done. We dare not lose sight of that truth. Jesus came and did the work of teaching about the Kingdom of God. His death and resurrection have paid the price for sin and His kingdom has been established. Because of that, His main work is done. He has now given us the Great Commission in the work that it is that we are to do.

Hebrews makes an important mention of this in the first chapter. Later in the book, it points out that all other high priests were continually working. They would not have a chance to sit down while they were doing their priestly duties. They had to be on the move constantly. Jesus is the only one who could sit down and the reason that he sat down is that in fact his work was done. He was the one who finished making atonement for sin. The price is paid in full in Jesus.

Another important aspect of this is that we look at the world and we know that there is still work to be done. Jesus got it established, but right now He is seated. So if it is not Him who is to do the work, then whose responsibility is it to spread the message of the Kingdom of God?

If you want to know, go look in in a mirror.

Yep. It’s your job.

That does not mean Jesus is irrelevant to it. We will do everything by the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, but neither will do the work for us. We sadly have this idea in Christianity that is exceptionally lazy. Who will tell us what the text of Scripture means? The Holy Spirit. I have often had people tell me that I don’t need to defend the faith. Just let God do that. I always ask the same question. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Christ is seated and has passed along the responsibility of the Great Commmission to us. While we can discuss the question of those who have never heard, it’s important to point out that this is never explicitly answered by the Bible. Why? Because Jesus has given us our marching orders. The Great Commission is Plan A? What’s Plan B? There isn’t one. There will be no excuse for failing at the mission that we have been given.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Ascended Into Heaven

June 11, 2014

What difference does it make that Jesus ascended? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We can often read about the ascension in the Bible and wonder what difference it makes. I mean, yeah, Jesus is no longer with us, but does it mean anything else for us? Why would Jesus ascend and leave us to do the work?

For one thing, it is important that we do the work and we would not be as able to do it with Jesus always there with us. Discipling is for a reason but there comes a time when the student is to work apart from the disciple. Note even Jesus said it was because He was going away that the Holy Spirit would come, which would be empowering His message and His disciples everywhere. Jesus being physical could only be in one place at one time.

It’s also important to ask why he ascended. Does this point to an ancient view of the universe? While the ancients certainly might have thought that way, Jesus is not making a statement about cosmology or the location of Heaven really.

Instead, let us consider that the sky is the greatest expanse that we know of when we grow up on this Earth. It’s limitless. No matter where you look, you see it. In comparison, when you go to a beach, as I have done many times, including on my honeymoon, you can look on the shore and see the ocean going far out into the distance. Now we all know eventually past that ocean somewhere is land. If you could travel in a straight line from where you are, eventually, you would hit another mass of land, but you cannot see that mass. Your vision goes so far. All you see is ocean.

When we look into the sky, all we see is sky. Now we all know that eventually if we could keep going straight up into the sky, we’d hit something. It could take awhile, but we’d reach another planet or a star or something of that sort, but our vision can only go so far.

That limitlessness is a good idea of how to view God. God is infinite and to see Jesus go up is a way of saying He’s going to something far greater than we are. Had Jesus instead burrowed underground and disappeared that way, we would have a quite different view of God. (Picture the stories going around years ago about claiming to find Hell under Siberia when people were digging.)

Had Jesus also simply vanished, it would mean that we would be wondering where He went to. Could it be that He is still somewhere around here? Having Jesus ascend is a way of saying that Jesus is going to God, who is far greater than we are, and that He is also no longer going to be with us.

Since He is no longer with us, what are we to do then? That’s right. We are to do the work that he meant for us to do. Of course, I do recommend that we disciple people sufficiently before they do the work, but that discipling is also to be done by other people who have already been discipled.

Jesus is now ascended. So what’s He doing? We’ll save that for the next installment in this series.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Rose Again From The Dead

June 4, 2014

Did Jesus stay in that tomb? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The center of the Christian faith lies right here. If this did not happen, then let’s all just pack up and go home. We might become deists or some other kind of theism, but we certainly cannot be Christians any more because Jesus would not be who He said He was.

Now many of us know about the minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Many of you also know that I use that approach, but I also use another approach and since the minimal facts is already well known (And if it isn’t, get the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona)I will be here using another approach. This is one used by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, and one I plan to do even further research on later on to improve it more.

When a minimal facts approach is started, it’s usually started with Jesus’s death by crucifixion. Yes. This is a fact. It is one of the most certain facts in history. The most that many apologists get from that is that Jesus died.

Let’s not stop at that point.

What kind of death did Jesus die?

Jesus died a death that would be seen as a shameful death. It was designed to lower his status in the eyes of the people as far as possible. To non-Jews, Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. He was a would-be king who got what He deserved and once again, Rome put down those who were opposed to her rule. To a Jew, Jesus died under the curse of YHWH. He claimed to be the Son of God and Messiah and because of that, He was put to death. (Mainly for the first one. Claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemous. It just might be seen as egocentric, crazy, etc.)

Note in Jesus’s society also, your identity came from someone else. There was no self-made man. Connection to the group was important and if you were a follower of Christ, that would be who your identity was in. It would be in a man seen as a traitor to Rome and under the curse of YHWH.

How many of you want to be a part of that group?

In fact, if you were telling the story about Jesus to someone as a Christian, as soon as you got to crucifixion, the person you were talking to would likely shut their ears at that point. There would be no need to listen any further.

Want to know what it would be like to say a crucified man was your Messiah, savior, and God?

Imagine what it would be like to have someone say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention was an open homosexual and pedophile.

Imagine what it would be like to hear the person running for the office of president used to be president of the KKK.

Imagine what it would be like to be a part of Ken Ham’s organization and hearing that Francis Collins or Hugh Ross will be the guest speaker at a convention this year.

Imagine what it would be like to hear that a terrorist arrested in Afghanistan was going to be put in charge of our military.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. Pretty much, this kind of event would fly in the face of everything that you knew. If you knew anything about crucified people, you knew that they were no good and certainly no one worth putting an investment in.

And what are you being told to invest in them?

EVERYTHING!

Your whole life and identity is being put on the line with this one. If you are wrong, there’s no turning back. Now this isn’t because of threat of Hell. For many in the ancient world, you die and that is it. You might go to some shadowy existence. Jews could hold to some variation of Hell at times. Either way, the turn and burn approach would not be what was most likely used.

What temporary gains would you get in this life if you became a follower of Christ? Well let’s name a few.

You would be mocked. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but in an honor-shame society like the ancient Mediterranean was, it was. Think back for instance to when you were in high school. You would have cliques being formed and you needed to identify with the cool kids. If you were a guy and got identified as a homosexual for instance, that could end your social status. If you were a girl and got identified as loose, that could also end your social status. Everyone else determined where you were on the social ladder.

Now multiply that a few times and you have a better idea of what the ancient world was like.

A major difference is this world has far more power. You go home from school and school is done. There is no place in the ancient world where you can escape life itself.

You want to go to the marketplace? You’re known there. Want to go worship at a pagan temple or Jewish synagogue? You’re known there. Want to go to a club or meeting place? You’re known there. Not only are you known, your ancestors will be known as well. What you do will forever stay with your children.

Not only will that happen, but with this shaming you will be seen as deviant. Why? You’re going against the gods! You’re going against the emperor! If we suffer, it is because we have not been giving the honor to the gods that is their due. Any major calamity shows up? You’re the problem! You will then be dealt with by Rome because you’re being a traitor to the social order.

And yes, that finally gets us to persecution. A pagan would persecute you because you were a traitor to Rome and denying the gods. If you had wanted to include Jesus among other gods to worship, well worshiping a crucified man would be odd, but okay. No. You’re saying that not only do you worship YHWH through Christ, you say that is the only way to worship. You deny that the other gods even exist. How can the people earn their favor if they tolerate you in their midst?

Yeah. Tolerance. That’s a big one. The Jews could be tolerated because they were an old religion. They were just told that they had to sacrifice on behalf of the emperor. They did not have to pray to him. You want to come with a different belief? Well that’s fine if you can fit it into the Roman pantheon.

A new idea however is viewed with suspicion. That’s going against the social order. That’s claiming that our ancestors have been wrong for centuries. That’s saying that these beliefs that have guided and shaped us our whole lives have been wrong. Come with something new and you are a threat.

“Well geez. Mormonism was something new also and look how well it survived!”

While Mormonism did get some persecution, Americans had far more of a live and let live attitude. Mormons also had several wide open places that they could go to to escape any persecution. Christians only had the catacombs. If Mormonism had survived in an honor-shame culture, there might be something to the argument, but there isn’t.

“Well Islam was also a new belief.”

Yes. It was. And early on it spread by the sword and it offered its followers in this life power, wealth, and women. Those were some nice perks. The perks that came from Christianity could come elsewhere. You want to live a good and virtuous life? Greek philosophy can give you that. You want good fellowship? The pagan festivities can get you that. You want to get in touch with the divine? Mystery religions can give you that.

For Christianity, it’s biggest rewards would not even be seen in this life. They were waited on for the life to come. As you can hopefully see, becoming a Christian was not a simple task of walking down the aisle and saying a prayer and expecting your family and friends to celebrate your new belief. No. It was putting everything on the line.

Which makes it interesting since according to a scholar like Meeks, the middle and upper class were people who were often converting to Christianity. Why does this matter? These people had the most to lose on the social strata. Another aspect is these people often had the means to check out the stories. “You claim you have eyewitnesses? Well let me send my slave to Jerusalem to talk to these ‘eyewitnesses.’ ” These were the people who could most do a fact-finding mission and come to a conclusion.

Well Christianity did offer forgiveness of sins! As if the average Gentile or Jew was worried! Jews already had a system to deal with their sins. The sacrificial system and following the Law worked just fine. Why would they want to risk all of that for a system that abandoned both of those and even abandoned other aspects of Jewish life like the Sabbath and Torah observance? That would help ensure that they got cut off from YHWH!

The Gentiles? They too could offer sacrifices and frankly, they were more interested in living the good life. Of course, this was a life of virtue, but they had the philosophers to help with that. An approach that focused on the sinfulness of the people just would not work as well. (And in fact it assumes right off that Jesus is the solution to that, something that it would be very hard to persuade an ancient person of.)

Note also that Christianity had high high standards of living. Now the Jews would be familiar with them as would a number of God-fearers, but they were still high. Most especially would be in the area of sexual ethics. Chastity was the rule until you were married. Adultery was absolutely forbidden.

Christians also gave to the poor. “Well that’s nice.” Not so fast. The ancients did not really trust the poor. The poor were the ones who were likely to steal from you. After all, they didn’t have anything. The rich were the ones who were your benefactors and you wanted to be in their good favor.

Well surely Christians had something going for them! They taught the resurrection of the body!

Of course they did.

Another strike against them.

What?

Yeah. In the ancient world, the world of matter was a lower world. Go look at your Plato. The material world was lesser and the higher world was the spiritual world. In fact, even having a God not taking on the appearance of a human but of becoming human would be seen as totally bizarre.

To escape the body was seen as a relief. Apotheosis would have been the main goal. This would be being exalted to the realm of deity, and no body was required. This would often happen to the Caesars supposedly.

In the Phaedo of Plato, at the end Socrates asks for a cock to be sent to the god of healing as a gift. Why? Socrates is being released from his body. That is the ultimate healing. He is being free from the prison that he has lived in.

Is it any wonder that some of the earliest Christian heresies had a problem with Jesus being material? Think of Gnosticism or Docetism. Each of these would have made a whole lot more sense than the message the Christians were giving. In fact, if the Christians were supposedly changing the story to make it more acceptable for Gentiles, they would be seeking to remove the resurrection. That was just something seen as bizarre and unwanted to the Gentiles.

Now Jews could be more open, but a resurrection happening in the middle of space and time? That made no sense! The disciples in fact took the hardest route they could with their belief. They did not claim divine vindication. That would be easy! They claimed resurrection. They claimed it in the very city that Jesus was crucified in and in the very faces of those who did it.

So why is it that the resurrection would matter so much? It was more than the forgiveness of sins. It was more than dealing with the problem of evil. It was vindication. If God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God is essentially saying “Jesus was right.” Right about what? He was right about being the Son of God. He was right about being the Messiah. He was right about having your whole life depend on Him.

And if Jesus is raised, well that’s a good reason to believe He’s who He said He was.

In fact, that’s the only reason to do so.

If Jesus was not raised, Christianity should have died out early on like any other cult group would have. Christianity instead overcame the most impossible odds ever and not only did it dominate the Roman Empire without using the sword, today Jesus holds the allegiance of billions all over the world.

Not bad for a guy who was crucified.

Notice also how well this works if you add to it a minimal facts approach as well. We did not have to go into that too much, but even the social data alone makes a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus and one that is too often overlooked. Why not add it to your apologetic arsenal?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Third Day

May 21, 2014

Why does the text talk about the third day? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Christians have long held that Jesus died and rose again and when He rose again, He rose on the third day. What exactly does this mean? Why does the text phrase it this way? Note how 1 Cor. 15:4 phrases it.

“that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”

According to the Scriptures.

Now this has often been followed by our modern prooftexting idea where we will go and find the one text that Paul has in mind and see what we can get. Many people think they’ve found it in Hosea 6:1-2.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.”

Except that this refers to Israel in a different context. Now of course, this could apply in a dual-fulfillment later on to Jesus as the true Israel, but I am doubtful that Hosea had Jesus in mind when he wrote this passage. So what is it that is really being referred to by Paul?

The best explanation I know of is to go and do a search like I did through a tool like Bible Gateway. My results can be found here. I looked for the exact phrase, third day. Now some times it could mean purely chronology, like the third day of the creation week, but it’s interesting how often the third day is referred to in the Bible.

Now another objection can be raised that Jesus said He would be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights. Evan Fales, an atheist, in fact in “Debating Christian Theism” writes an essay on the passage and goes into a long long piece explaining his opinion on the matter missing one simple piece that never occurs to him throughout his whole work.

This is a common idiom in the Middle East.

It does not require that Jesus be buried on Wednesday night. All it requires is one understand the social context. In fact, look at the references to the third day in the Scripture and see how many of them have three days and three nights and then talk about what happened on the third day. The Pharisees say the same thing about guarding the tomb of Jesus in the end of the Gospel of Matthew itself.

So what do we conclude? This is not classical prooftexting going on that we do today such as finding a chapter and verse. This is looking at a general theme that takes place in the Scriptures and saying that Jesus fits into the paradigm. What the ancients saw was an entire tapestry of Scripture of themes that could be readily reproduced and reenacted as it were. Perhaps we should learn something about much of our modern hermeneutics today because of this?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And Was Buried

May 13, 2014

Was Jesus buried? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we look at the Apostles’ Creed, the next claim to look at is that Jesus was buried. This is highly important since Bart Ehrman has come out lately saying he does not think that Jesus was buried, a position that has been held by John Dominic Crossan as well. An excellent rebuttal to Ehrman can be found by Greg Monette here.

So is there any evidence that Jesus was buried?

Well all of our texts that speak about this do indicate a burial. The 1 Cor. 15 creed says that Jesus was buried. This would not mean being thrown into a common grave to be eaten by dogs. That would not be a burial but would rather be a lack of a burial.

It is true that this was the common treatment of people who were crucified in the Roman Empire, but in Israel, things were done a little bit differently. They had scrupulous views on how the dead were to be treated and this included even the criminals. To do otherwise would be to desecrate the persons involved. With Passover coming, the people of Israel would want to remove any uncleanliness from the people and the land.

Now some might say that this did not take place in the war on Jerusalem around 70 A.D., but this was hardly a normal time. Most of these people would not be buried because the Israelites were too busy trying not to be killed and the Romans weren’t really caring about Jewish sensitivities at that time.

It’s also important to note that the burial would not be talked about as much because the burial of Jesus was not an honorable burial. When we look at the account we find that it is not Jesus’s family that buries Him, as would be the case in an honorable burial. It was instead Joseph of Arimathea, a practical stranger to Him.

Also, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of His family. Many times in the book of Kings, we will read about a king and how he was not buried with the kings. How the king was buried spoke volumes about how his life was to be viewed. A good burial would mean a good life. A bad burial would mean a bad life.

In fact, this is even one of the judgments pronounced on a prophet who disobeyed God in the book. He is told that as punishment for his disobedience, he would not be buried in the tomb of his ancestors. For us today, we would say he got off easy. The ancient world would have been aghast and thinking that this is someone they don’t want to model themselves after!

Also, Jesus’s family was not allowed to mourn for Him. This would be another aspect of the shame. We don’t read accounts of His mother Mary going to the tomb or of His own brothers going to the tomb. Jesus’s burial was meant to be a mark of shame to Him.

So what about Joseph and Nicodemus wrapping him up and giving him a burial and covering his body with spices? They couldn’t make the burial honorable, but they wanted to make it a little bit less dishonorable as difficult as that was.

This fits us in then with the criterion of embarrassment. The burial of Jesus is not something that people would want to talk about as much because of the high nature of it being dishonorable. If Jesus was raised from the dead, the burial could easily be skipped over provided one mention that He had died and the nature of His death would indicate the divine vindication that took place with His resurrection.

For these reasons, I conclude that the burial is indeed a historical reality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

April 29, 2014

Did Jesus suffer under Pontius Pilate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

First off in starting this, I can’t help but think of the words of N.T. Wright on the Nicene Creed where we will read about Jesus being born of the virgin Mary and then crucified under Pontius Pilate. Wright says that he can see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting in the background saying “You know, we spent a lot of time writing that stuff in the middle and think it’s pretty important.” The creed doesn’t cover the deeds of Jesus in his life there, so I won’t be talking about them here, but I definitely urge you to study the life of Jesus as well.

Bruno Bauer was one of the first people to suggest that Jesus never even existed. Now that led to some problems. If Jesus never existed, what about all these other people that are talked about in the Gospels? Bauer said most of them never existed either. He included Pontius Pilate. Josephus talks about him some as does Philo, but he’s not talked about much elsewhere. In fact, Tacitus only mentions him one time and here’s the interesting thing about it. The only place Tacitus talks about him is also the only place Tacitus talks about Jesus.

Unfortunately for Bauer, we now have archaeological evidence for Pilate. There has been an inscription found that dates to the time of Tiberius and describes Pilate as the prefect of Judea. It would be amusing to see what someone like Bauer would do with this today. Fortunately, the idea of Christ never existing didn’t really have any severe consequences. It’s not like Karl Marx saw it and took hold of it and it became part of the ideology to some extent of the Soviet Union. Oh wait….

Now some wonder about the idea of suffering. Why would Pilate even care? Pilate was not a great lover of the Jews. Why would he even capitulate to the chief priests who were insisting that he be the one to crucify Jesus Christ?

Well back then, it wasn’t like Pilate had poll numbers. He wasn’t going around Judea saying “Vote for me as Prefect!” He had also already had trouble with the Jews, involving an attack on them when they complained about him using temple funds to build an aqueduct as well as his sneaking in insignias of the emperor one night that the Jews saw as a violation of the second commandment against idolatry.

Add in this other thing as well. Pilate had a close relationship with Sejanus and it could be that the crucifixion took place after Sejanus had got in trouble with the emperor for charges of planning a revolt. Pilate could have seen his career in Jeopardy. A line like “You are no friend of Caesar” would have hit home.

With this in mind, it is entirely plausible to think that Jesus did indeed suffer under Pontius Pilate. How exactly was it that He did suffer? That will be the subject of our next blog post on the Apostles’ Creed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

April 16, 2014

What does it mean to say Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Was Jesus the natural son of Joseph? This would change a lot if he was. The Christian claim has been that Jesus is the unique Son of God and even His incarnation is unique. His birth was brought about not by sexual action on the part of a man, but a divine action on the part of the Holy Spirit.

Now there are many today who will claim that virgin births were common in the ancient world. Unfortunately, many of these times, the birth really isn’t a virgin birth. Sometimes, unique births happen to women who have already had children, such as the mother of Krishna.

Many times, it is actually some kind of sexual intercourse on the part of the gods, such as in the case of Zeus and his many lovers. Other claims to having a virgin birth are stretching it. Mithras, for instance, was born out of a rock in a cave carrying a knife and wearing a cap. I suppose we could say technically that the rock was a virgin.

Christ is a unique case in that Jesus would have been seen as illegitimate in his birth somehow, a shameful occurrence. Now how would be the best way to explain your Messiah was illegitimate? In a Jewish culture, it would hardly be best to do something that would implicate YHWH in the process! “Why yes. Our Messiah is illegitimate. It’s YHWH’s fault too!”

I wager in fact that this is why only two Gospels mention the circumstances of Jesus’s birth. It really would not have been something they’d want to draw attention to. First, people would be skeptical of it. Second, it would lead to the charges of illegitimacy. David Instone-Brewer takes the same stance in his work “The Jesus Scandals“. That this was explained somehow would show that there was something that needed to be explained.

Someone could also ask how it is that if Jesus is the Son of God that the Holy Spirit is the one who did this. Does this mean the Holy Spirit is the Father? Not at all. What it means is that the Holy Spirit is often the manifest way God acts in the world. It is the same as God acting by His Wisdom. (I take His Wisdom to be Jesus by the way.) There is still one God who is the source of all and yes, this one God still exists in three persons.

Of course, there is more that can be said about the virgin birth. Those who are wondering why I have not said anything about a passage such as Isaiah 7:14 need only wait until next time when we discuss the status of the Virgin Mary.

Until then, there are sufficient reasons for realizing that the birth of Jesus was different from births that he was supposedly copied from and also that there are reasons why it would be the case that the other Gospel writers would not want to mention the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: Our Lord

April 15, 2014

What does it mean to say Jesus is Lord? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we read Romans 10, we read about how we are to say “Jesus is Lord.” This is often thought to be a baptismal statement in that the person would say it as they were being baptized. The reality is that no Jew or Greek would say this unless they were ready to accept the consequences.

If you were a Jew, to say Jesus is Lord was a way of putting Jesus in the divine identity and saying that He is in some sense, YHWH. A Jew would know that if this was not true, it would certainly constitute blasphemy and God was not too pleased with blasphemers.

A Greek on the other hand would know that this was about Caesar. To say Jesus is Lord was to say that Caesar was not. That would put you on the outs with the Roman Empire and in the league of who, another one who was a threat? No. In this case, it would have you be siding with a crucified criminal and saying “That’s who I choose to follow instead of you Caesar!”

Caesar would not be pleased.

Today, we have really lost sight of the Lordship of Christ. We have often reduced Jesus to a buddy or good friend and someone we might go and have a drink with or something, but too often when we do that, we fail to treat Him as the sovereign Lord of the universe.

I was discussing this last night in a Facebook group with the concept of people saying “Jesus is my boyfriend.” As I pointed out, the reason you have a boyfriend should be (And this implies you’re a girl of course) is because you want to see if he’s marriage material. If you plan to marry him, then that means that eventually one day you’ll be sleeping with him.

Sorry, but you are not going to be sleeping with Jesus.

Now I was told many girls who say this are just saying “I’m not interested in dating. I just want to focus on Christ for now.”

That’s fine.

But why not say just that?

The first Christians did say Jesus is Lord after all. Why can’t we? (By the way, for those concerned, I have no interest in a debate on Lordship salvation, though I do think all Christians should say Jesus is Lord.)

The Lordship of Christ means that Jesus is our king and it doesn’t just mean He will be king in the future, although His rule will be much more manifest. It means that He is king right now and He is king because God vindicated His claims by raising Him from the dead.

What would it mean for you if you started living knowing you are living in a world where Christ is King right now?

“What?! Are you serious?! Have you seen what is going on in our world right now?! How can you possibly say Christ is king?!”

Because Scripture says it. In Psalm 110 we read

“The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

The right hand is the place of rule and Christ will rule regardless of having enemies right now. As He walked this Earth, He proclaimed the Kingdom of God was present and this was while demonic activity was around, His enemies were plotting against Him, and He got Himself crucified. In all of that, He was still saying the Kingdom of God was there.

As we go out in the world today, we are ambassadors of the King and we are to live that way. We are to treat Jesus even more seriously than we would treat any earthly ruler today. (Considering some of our earthly rulers, for many of us that’s not saying much sadly.) Jesus is the divine sovereign of the universe and when we treat Him like that instead of like a buddy buddy type, then we’ll start seeing more of His reality in our lives.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: His Only Son

April 8, 2014

What does it mean when we say Jesus is the only Son of God? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we say Jesus is the only Son of God, there can be some pushback immediately. Many people and even angels are called sons of God in the Bible aren’t they? Why on Earth would we expect that the case would be different for Jesus?

Meanwhile, those who are Muslims will look at this in a different way. They will tell us that we are guilty of the sin of shirk for assigning partners to God. How dare we say that God has a Son? It would be seen as a sort of illicit sexual union between God and Mary to produce Jesus.

Let’s start with the first. The term son of God is indeed used of many people. Kings are said to be the sons of God. We Christians are said to be sons of God. Paul says about mankind in Acts 17 that we are all his offspring. Angels are called sons of God. Jesus is called the Son of God.

Yet Jesus is said to be the monogenes in John 1:18. He is the only begotten. This is also repeated in John 3:16 and Hebrews 11 has Jesus compared to Isaac. How can this be with Isaac? After all, Abraham had Ishmael and after Sarah died, he had other sons through a second wife. What made Isaac unique?

Isaac was a miracle baby in that Sarah’s womb was essentially dead and yet she was able to give birth. There was nothing miraculous about the other children that Abraham had, but Isaac was the exception. Also, Isaac was the one who was promised. Ishmael and the others were not promised.

Jesus likewise is the child of the promise and He is unique because of how He came into the world. Note I am not saying how He came into existence as He eternally existed. I am talking about how the incarnation took place, and that was through the virgin birth.

So let’s talk about that some for our Muslim friends.

To begin with, in the case of the virgin birth, we’ll often be told that there were virgin births in other cultures and places and surely this is just a copycat of them.

Not so fast.

Most of these are not virgin births. It is the god somehow taking a form where he has actual sex with the person involved. Sometimes. the woman involved is most certainly not a virgin. I recommend listening to Ben Witherington on this episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast starting at around the second hour.

Note also the virgin birth would also be likely pointing to an embarrassing detail. This is that Jesus’s conception was not natural, which would lead to a charge of illegitimacy. Someone like Bart Ehrman might say “Well surely this would be worth mentioning in Mark and John!” Well no. That would lead to the charges being there and frankly, why would the writers do anything that would not only be an unusual conception that could lead to charges of illegitimacy, but then have a birth that would indict God in the process?!

Does that mean the account is definitely historical? No. It does mean that this is not really an event that would be made up. At the same time, it explains why Mark would not want to mention it and if John is a supplement to Mark, it explains why John would not mention it.

So what about the charge of shirk? Well to begin with, there is no mother Mary in the Trinity as some Muslims think, but also we are not saying Jesus is conceived of a sexual union but rather, in saying that He is the Son, we are saying He is the unique embodiment of the nature of God.

And that gets us to what makes Jesus unique. Jesus alone shows us who God is, unlike anyone else. For some parents, it could be you might think “Well I have a child, and God’s relationship is kind of like that.” That’s backwards. God is not like anything else. Anything else is like God, the original. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood comes, and parents having children is kind of like that.

Jesus is unique unlike anyone else. He is the only one who is truly the Son of God. No one else can claim the title like Jesus.

In Christ,
Nick Peters