Sunday, December 16, 2007

Immanuel

One of best known Titles for Jesus is that He is the "Son of God". It is used in reference to Jesus over 45 times in the New Testament. Jesus being described as the Son of God is used in all four Gospels, it is how the Gospel of Mark starts out (Mark 1:1 – "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God"), and it is sometimes mentioned along with Jesus being the Messiah (see as an example, Luke 4:41 – "And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God.") But my question for this positing is that when the Bible says that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God does this somehow make Jesus less important than God the Father? Is the Messiah on equal footing with God the Father, or is God the Father more important than the Son? And I will tip my hand right from the start – Jesus the Son of God is to receive the same glory and recognition as God the Father. Let me explain how I come to this conclusion as follows.


 

As the title of this Blog entry suggests, I tie in Jesus being the Son of God with His also having the Title Emmanuel, which means "God with us". So in the Old Testament we have the prophecy of the coming baby who will be called "Immanuel", which means God with us" (Isa. 7:14). And in the Nativity story contained in the Gospel of Matthew, we see in Matt. 1:23, that an Angel appeared to Joseph saying that the birth of Jesus means that He is the Immanuel, by quoting Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, repeating this important Title of the baby - that this child born of the virgin is Immanuel, God with us.


 

And so we see that Jesus' name being the Son of God is further clarified by His Title of "Immanuel". Although Jesus is fully human, He had flesh and blood, and also the nature of humans. But He was also fully God. This makes Jesus in His first Advent being God in the flesh: Jesus is both fully human and also fully God. This is what is meant by Jesus as Immanuel, God with us. A human in our midst Who is Divine. And so, we see that God Himself came to earth in the body of a newborn. And His reason for coming to earth is given away by His name - Jesus. His name means "He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Therefore, Jesus Immanuel is God coming as a human being to save us from our sins. It is all spelled out in His names and titles: Son of God, Immanuel (God with us), Messiah (foretold by Old Testament prophecy), and Jesus (Savior of those who believe He is the Son of God and Savior, who saves believers from God's punishment for our disobedience, rebellion, and all of our sins.) So you see, His Names say it all.


 

The Westminster Confession has a beautiful summary of the Triune God – as best I recall, it says: There is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God in Three persons. They are the same in substance, and equal in power and equal in glory.


 

Why I like the Westminster's description is that it matches up with what is contained in the Bible, and recognizes the Three Persons of God are of the same nature/substance, and it also gives all Three equal glory and recognition to the persons of the Godhead. All three are needed for our salvation, and all three are active today. And so, I answer my opening question of whether God the Father is more important than Jesus the Son by saying that both are equally important, and both are entitled to our full worship, praise and the glory that we give out.


 

So my Application for those who find this a challenging subject, is to consider why did God have to come to earth? What did He have to accomplish while He was here? If you have a good understanding of the answers to these questions, you may have the assurance of salvation described in 1 John 5:13. If you would like to talk to me more about this, please let me know.

3 comments:

Edward Oleander said...

The true test of understanding a concept is to be able to explain it to the clueless... Which I apparently am...

How can Jesus and God be one? The scriptures are full of examples to Jesus' miracles, so he did seem to have some powers of his own (notice I'm letting a lot of assumptions slide through here), but there are so many examples of God and Jesus talking to or about each other that have would suggest a clear separation.

Jesus does not always know the mind of God. Jesus argues with, and nearly rebels against, God. They both refer to each other as individuals, with God clearly in the superior role. Jesus prays to God and gives him credit for many of his own miracles.

From my standpoint, the Trinity is no more believable than the multiple aspects (avatars) of some of the Hindu gods...

~E~

tom wolff said...

Ed,

Your first misunderstanding is that in the Trinity there are three separate persons: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are separate, and each has different aspects from the other members of the Trinity. So this means that Jesus is separate from God the Father. This also means that Jesus can pray to the Father. He wasn't talking to Himself - He was actually communing with the Father.

And I don't see how it is so difficult to understand. If you know that God the Father is in heaven, and you have sensed His Holy Spirit here on earth, you have just experienced a vital part of the Trinity. You did not experience God the Father when you sensed His Holy Spirit. Yet, you still experienced God - because although they are separate, they still have the same nature. And so, even though God the Father and the Holy Spirit are separate, they are still of the same substance.

I have always thought of the Trinity as something along the same lines as me being a Father, a husband, and a lawyer. Three different roles for me, yet there is only one Tom. In each role I am doing something different, yet it is still Tom's character in each role. But where my analogy falls apart is that there are not three separate "Tom's", which makes it different from the actual Divine Trinity. Yet, for me I still think of this as being helpful.

edward oleander said...

I'm sorry, Tom, but I'm still clueless... But don't feel bad, because I've never met a Hindu who could explain the full nature of their Deity's Avatars either.

Perhaps Jesus was a little like Richard Nixon, who used to refer to himself in the third person, even to his wife?

It seems to me that the whole Trinity thing is really just an attempt at separating Christianity from other religions. If you look at the pantheistic religions that dominated the ancient world, they all descended from one (usually self-creating) god. This Uber-God then had children, and a pantheon was born. Christianity needed something unique to make it stand out from the crowd of the day, and thus the Trinity was born.

If you take a step back, and view Christianity as on a level with any other religion, it bears remarkable resemblance to any other pantheon. You have the self-creating God, the child of God, and the Avatar of God (Holy Spirit). The Archangels fill the roles of lesser deities. Satan (as powerful as any second-string god) supplies the pantheon with a source of Evil, and his Archdemons round out the pantheon.

The Christian pantheon is a little light on gods, but even three majors is enough to qualify. By creating the Trinity, the pantheon is imbued with a sense of mystery and uniqueness. The Trinity also provides a (somewhat shaky) basis for the claim of there only being one true God.

Christianity was not the first religion to try the multiple-as-one gambit, or even the god's-son-as-sacrifice-who-gets-resurrected motif. They refined the concept quite a bit from the Mesopotamian original, and obviously got it right, but to me it still doesn't lift the whole religion any higher towards believability...
~Ed~