Romans 9 Notes
:6 at issue is the promise of God to Abraham “the word of God” See Rom 3:1-3
Not all the seed of Jacob are truly Israel (Mt 3:9-11;Rom 2:27-29;Jn 8:41-44)
:7 not all physical descendants of Abraham are counted as his children…..Ishmael wasn’t (Gal 4) Isaac, the son of promise, was counted as the son. Why? He was the son according to the promise: Ishmael the son according to the flesh.
:8 Children of promise counted for seed (Rom 4:16;Gal 3:13,14,26-29)
:9-12 The promise not according to works, but of God. Note that faith is not a work (Rom 4:4,5)
What is God’s purpose in election? (Isa 42:8;Rev 4:10,11;Eph 1:3-7,13,14)
:13 Esau hated???????? Comparative statement, not absolute hatred from eternity past. (Mal 1:1-5;See also Gen 29:30.31;Deut 21:15,16;Prov 13:24;Lk 14:26;Jn 12:25)
:14 Does this mean that God is unrighteous? After all, He made promises to Israel. Now He is denying the blessing to some of Israel while accepting some who are not of Israel. Is this unrighteous? By no means! (Gen 18:25;2Tim 4:8;1Pet 2:23) There is no doubt that God is righteous in all His ways. (Ps 145:17)
:15 The quote concerning sovereign mercy and grace. Is it truly given indiscriminately? No. When we view the context of Ex 33:19 we find that God is having mercy because of His covenant of promisethat He made with Abraham (Ex 32:11-14). God is merciful and gracious to whom He will because He is keeping His promise to bring the seed of Abraham, the children of Israel into the land of promise!
:16 Salvation is not self-caused or self-determined. It comes because of God’s work in man. Man does not bring it to pass through his law-deeds. (Rom 3:1-4:25) God determined to send a Savior. He then determined that all who believe would be saved. This is justification by faith alone that Paul is teaching. (See also Jn 1:10-13;Jas 1:18)
The issue of mercy is simple: No man deserves mercy: it comes to those who ill-deserve it, just as Israel did when the original statement was made. Thus, salvation is freely given to sinners; not inherited, or earned by works of the law. (Eph 2:1-10;Tit 3:1-7)
:17 Pharaoh’s placement and destruction. He was placed where he was that God would be glorified in him. (Ex 9:16;Ps 106:8)
If one truly believes in unconditional election, it would seem that they would need to believe in the supralapsarian view point of election, too. Here we see Pharaoh raised up to be destroyed. Nothing is mentioned of the fact that God hates to see the wicked die (Ezek 18:31,32;33:11). Yet we know that God does hate to see the wicked perish. Why is it not mentioned that God hates to see the wicked die? Pharaoh had passed the point of no return with God. He had hardened his heart (Ex 1:7-14). This is also fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that God would judge those who oppressed Israel (Gen 12:3;15:13-16) The true meaning of this is found in the fact that Pharaoh was hard-hearted, and would have been just as wicked if he had lived in China as a pauper. Pharaoh was being judged for his sin, not created for the express purpose of destruction with it being absolutely necessary that he sin and be destroyed, because that’s how God made him. This passage is but another fulfillment of promise. It also illustrates that God has mercy on the children of promise!!!! (We have already seen these children to be those who are justified by faith in Christ Rom 4:16;Gal 3:13,14)
Whom does God harden? (Prov 29:1)Those who harden themselves against Him. (Gen 15:13-16 cp Deut 2:30 Sihon hardened himself because the his iniquity, and the iniquity of his people had gone as far as God would allow it to go.) (Job 9:4)Man is given the choice of hardening his heart, or not hardening it. In fact, man is commanded to not harden his heart (Ps 95:8;Heb 4:7,8)
:18 On whom does God have mercy? On the ones He chooses to show mercy to……….those who are children of the promise, not children of the flesh, or hardened ones. (I think one could make a case here that the children of the flesh and the hardened ones are one and the same. They are those who are not children of promise, because they will not accept the gospel by faith.)
“… the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” (1 Timothy 1:9–11)
When we look at the content of the message which we preach, we must realize that God is the gospel. Paul states that the gospel is of His glory and blessedness. Apart from God there is no gospel. Apart from the eternal Son incarnate we would have no good news to believe. God is the gospel.
If God is not glorious there is no gospel. The gospel testifies of the beauty, honor, and majesty of God. It declares that sin is horrible and ugly because it takes our eyes and hearts away from Him who is truly beautiful, desirable, and all together lovely. It declares that sin is idolatry because it puts the lesser ahead of Him who is forever worthy of our love, adoration, and obedience. The gospel of the glory of God then declares that God’s beauty, majesty, and honor are such that He intends to display it in such a way as to bring us to the point to give glory to Him forever. Thus He makes a way through the sacrifice of His Son that we might be forgiven according to His abounding grace, which abounds to His glory. God’s glory makes the gospel attractive: it would not be good news otherwise.
The gospel is also about the joy of God. It is the good news of the glory of the happy God. If God were grouchy, irritable, and only a judge, there would be no attractiveness to the gospel, because there would be no good news to make it truly gospel. God, however, is eternally happy. His joy never ceases. In His presence is full joy and eternal pleasures. God enjoys Himself so much that His joy overflows in goodness and grace that we might find joy in Him through the forgiveness of our sins, which reconciles us to Him. God calls us to proclaim this joy in the gospel.
The implications of this for our ministry are great. We should be a joyful people. Preaching should be a joyous task. Our proclamation should be centered upon the joy of the Lord and His pursuit of His glory through our rejoicing in Him. Should we ever begin to grasp this but a little, it would begin to eliminate legalism, judgmental attitudes, hatefulness, worldliness and most other ills that plague professing Christians today. If this truth captivates the souls of the preachers, perhaps it will capture the hearts of the hearers, and then perhaps we will grow to be more successful in our labors.
Brothers, let us proclaim the joyous beauty of the Savior!
Scripture: God’s Inerrant Word Given Through Men
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:16–21, AV 1873)
In this final article on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture I wish to address the role of man in the making of Scripture. There is much misunderstanding regarding this. It seems that some hold to a theory that has God dictating Scripture and the biblical writers taking it down word for word. Others hold to an idea that presents man as being of such a nature that he will always err, so that even Scripture has errors. In addressing this issue, I shall embrace neither position. The biblical presentation of how Scripture was given is a very different picture. Scripture presents God as using men, their personalities, their knowledge and backgrounds, and the result being His perfect Word.
God The Source of Scripture
First of all, we must affirm along with the Scriptures that God is the source of the Scriptures. As we have seen in previous articles, when Paul speaks of Scripture as being “given by inspiration of God,” (2Timothy 3:16) it means that God is the source of Scripture because He breathed it out. In our text above we see that Scripture did not originate with man, but with God.
Note that Peter stated that Scripture did not come because men simply willed to give it to us. Scripture came to us because men were carried along by the Holy Spirit. One commentator had this to say about the phrase “moved by the Holy Ghost:” “being borne along. It seems to be a favorite word with Peter, occurring six times in the two epistles.” In other words, the Spirit of God moved upon the men who were used to give us the Scriptures. They did not act of their own impulses, but the impulse came from God, and He carried them along as they spoke and wrote.
As we have seen in our other studies, Scripture has God for its source.
The Role Of Men In The Making Of Scripture
What role did men play in the making of Scripture? Is Scripture a Divine production, or a human production? The answer is that Scripture is both a Divine production and a human production.
It seems to be the idea of some that the Divine inspiration of Scriptures means that God somehow overrode the personalities and wills of the men He used when He gave Scripture to us. Is this so? I think not, and it seems to me that the Scriptures disagree with that assessment as well.
Notice that our text presents to us the understanding that men were intimately involved in the writing of Scriptures. In fact, we are told that Scripture came to us because men spoke and wrote. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21, AV 1873) Not only did God move men to speak and write, and then carry them along as they did so; men spoke and wrote. Peter does not speak of men overcome by God, but men moved by God and carried by God. My son is my son with all of his personality traits, whether he walks on his own or I carry him where he and I both choose to go. And so it is with the men who were used of God to give us the Scriptures: they were not suddenly rendered null and void of personality and will, but were just as human as they always were.
Though Scripture quotations could be multiplied regarding this issue, I shall give just a few passages the show us that men were still normal men when God used them to write His words.
- “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lordsaid unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:41–45, AV 1873) Though Jesus presents to us the Psalms as being the Word of God, He also plainly states that it was David who spoke and called Christ his Lord. It is David who bows to the Lordship of Christ and spoke of Him as Lord.
- “Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers; and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.” (John 7:22, AV 1873) The first place that we read about circumcision is in Genesis, and Jesus attributes the composition/authorship of Genesis to Moses. Note that Jesus stated that Moses gave circumcision. While, as we have seen in other articles, Jesus understood the Old Testament Scriptures to be the Word of God, Jesus spoke of Moses as the one who was used of God when the Pentateuch was given.
- “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” (Galatians 6:11, AV 1873) Whatever the reason Paul wrote with large letters, it is plain that it was Paul who wrote them.
- “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:” (2 Peter 3:1–2, AV 1873) “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15–16, AV 1873) Peter here writes of the words spoken by the prophets, the commandments of the apostles, his own writings, and the writings of Paul. He does not use a generic term to refer to these as the Word of God, but explicitly mentions the men or groups of men who wrote the words.
As one reads the Scriptures and becomes familiar with them, it is relatively certain that he will eventually become familiar enough to recognize the differences that exist between the various books. Not that the books themselves differ in the sense of contradicting one another, but there is a difference in style. Anyone who is familiar with the New Testament will not mistake the writings of John for the writings of Paul. There is a distinct difference of style as well as thought. Though they agree in their theology, the personalities and styles of John and Paul are obviously very different.
Why is this so? Because God, when He moved men to write and used them to give us His inspired Word, did not overrule the personalities of the men who wrote. God used their unique gifts and personalities to His glory as He used men to write the Scriptures.
This is certainly in harmony with the teaching of the Scriptures regarding the gifts of the Spirit and the unity of the body of Christ. God uses us with our personalities and our gifts to His glory, but it is still His Spirit at work within us. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, AV 1873) And again, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, AV 1873) “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, AV 1873) These verses give us the understanding that God uses people with different personalities, gives them gifts, and uses them to His glory, but does not overrule their personalities while using them. So it was with the men God used in the making of the Scriptures.
God-Breathed + Man Written = God’s Inerrant Word
That’s a bit of a surprise, isn’t it? After all, we are often presented with something similar to the following:
Men make mistakes.
Men wrote the Bible.
Therefore the Bible has mistakes in it.
I’ll grant that will work as a syllogism. It is not correct, however, because its first premise does not lead to the conclusion. Sure, men make mistakes. The problem with that view is not that those who hold it think that men make mistakes. The problem is that they are asserting that men always make mistakes. That is a self-refuting statement, though, because if it were true it would at the same time be mistaken.
Men do not always make mistakes. The human element in Scripture does not mean that Scripture contains error. The fact that it is God-Breathed means that it is God’s Word and thus without mistakes.
Let us remember that the Scriptures are not only God-Breathed, but that those who were used in the making of the Scriptures were holy men and who had no intent to deceive. They were also carried along by the Holy Spirit so that the product was the very Word of God. There was a power guiding them and strengthening them for the task they performed and He enabled them to produce the Word of God free from error. This does not mean that the writers of Scripture were without error in everything that they said and did. It does mean that God enabled them to write His Word without erring.
Finally, let us consider two statements that were recorded by John:
- “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24, AV 1873) John’s testimony of Christ was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (See John 20:30-31). If we admit error into the Scriptures, where does it end? Ultimately we are left doubting the very truthfulness of the accounts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. After all, they were written by men. Many will speak disparagingly of this statement and call it a slippery slope argument. The reality is that some slopes are slippery and we should warn people so that they will not get on those slopes.
- “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5, AV 1873) John declared that he wrote because He was commanded of God to do so. He was commanded to write words that were true and worthy of our believing them. Would those words be true and worthy of our confidence if they were in error?
We can safely conclude that God’s Word, though given to us through men, is without error.
Why Call Jesus God?
John 1:1-4,14;Colossians 1:15-19;Hebrews 1:1-4 He is Creator
Psalm 90:1-2 Being Creator, He is before time and thus eternal Micah 5:2 cf Matthew 2:1-6 see also Hebrews 7:1-3;13:8;1 John 1:1-3;5:20-22 (Isaiah 57:15)
Cf Revelation 1:8,11;21:6
This also shows us that the Son of God has no beginning. He is the beginning. He is timeless and eternal.
John 1:1-4;1 John 1:1-3;5:20-22 cf Genesis 2:7 He is life Deuteronomy 32:39-41
He is the JEHOVAH, the I AM Isaiah 40:3 (Here He is explicitly called God.) Matthew 3:1-3;John 1:19-34 cf John 8:58
He is Savior Matthew 1:21;Luke 1:47;2:11;John 4:42;Acts 5:31;13:23;Ephesians 5:23;Philippians 3:20;1 Timothy 1:1;4:10;2 Timothy 1:10;Titus 1:1-4;2:10-15;3:4-6;2 Peter 1:1,11;2:20;3:2,18;1 John 4:14;Jude 1:25
2 Samuel 22:3;Psalm 106:21;Isaiah 43:3,11;45:21-22;49:25-26;60:15-16;Hosea 13:4
These texts show us the following: there is only one Savior, God is that Savior, Jesus is that Savior. Seeing there is only one Savior, who is God, and that Jesus is our Savior, it follows that Jesus is God.
God knows all things. This is an attribute that belongs to God alone. Isaiah 46:8-11 cf John 21:17;Hebrews 4:12-13;
Scripture calls Him the unchanging, eternal God. Hebrews 1:8-12 cf Psalm 102:24-27 and Malachi 3:6;Hebrews 13:8
He is the Lord from Heaven 1 Corinthians 15:44-49
He is omnipresent John 1:18;3:13
He is almighty Genesis 17:1;18:14 cf Revelation 1:8,11;(19:6-16)Here we see that the Lamb is the almighty God, who is King of kings.
He is the Son of God and one with the Father. John 1:1-3,14;10:27-30;14:9;Philippians 2:5-8
Why Is This Doctrine Important?
Mediator- 1 Timothy 2:5-6 cf Galatians 3: The only way that our mediator could truly understand the way of God, represent God (John 1:18), accurately convey the heart and will of God (John 1:1-3,14;),and reconcile man to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), He must be God.
Savior-If Jesus is not God, He cannot save us. Only God is Savior Isaiah 45:21-22 cf Titus 2:11-14If Jesus is not God, we have no hope of future salvation at His return.
Worship- If Jesus is not God, He cannot rightfully be worshiped. No mere man is worthy of worship.
Service- The exalted Christ is the One Who is to be served and obeyed, not some mere human who deserves no honor and obedience as God deserves. Philippians 2:5-16
In short, this truth affects the whole of the Christian experience.
(John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The subject which is at hand is the subject of the spiritual essence of God. God is a spirit. When we speak of essence we speak of the basic, unchanging nature of something or someone. Thus, God’s basic, unchanging nature is spirit. It would be in order at this time to attempt to define, or describe, what is meant by spirit. In the New Testament, the word spirit comes from the Greek word pneuma,which simply means wind. It is from this word that we get our English word pneumatic, which means wind powered. Spirit is non-material like the wind. That is, spirit is not a shape or form that can be perceived by the senses of man. Spirit cannot be seen, smelled, touched, heard, or tasted. Spirit may be manifest to the senses by that which is material, but pure spirit is not material. Thus, when we state that the essence of God is spiritual, we are saying that the very basic nature of God is not a bodily nature that can be seen, felt, touched, heard, or tasted.
Another thing we need to notice is that, while God may make Himself manifest to us in a variety of ways (the ultimate revelation being Jesus Christ Heb.1:1-3), God, in His essence cannot be perceived by our senses. He cannot be confined or limited to a body. God transcends (or, rises above, and goes beyond the limits of) that which is material. God is greater than flesh, or material things. Thus, what we are saying is that, while God may manifest Himself to our senses, He is far greater than the things in which He manifests Himself to us. God is above a book, a man, a voice, a sight. God is spirit and is not limited by the constraints of material boundaries.
Lessons From John Chapter One
One of the greatest passages in the Bible that deals with the nature of God is found in John chapter one. Here much is said concerning who Jesus is, and His existence before the creation. The passage also tells us that God was manifest in Christ Jesus when He became flesh and lived among us. From this passage we shall learn several lessons.
The first thing we must notice is the fact that God transcends material existence. While this has already been mentioned, let us notice the passage which deals with this great truth. (John 1:1-3 KJV) “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The first thing we must notice is, that before everything else, God is. While this may seem to be grammatically incorrect, God is eternal. There is no past or future with God: He is eternal and lives in the “everlasting now.” Before there were any angels, before there was an earth, there was God. We also find (Heb 11:3 KJV) “ Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” In other words, everything that we see about us is a product of the creative power of God. There’s not one thing that was not made by God. This means that God was before matter. God is not material: He is pre-material, so to speak. God created material things. This being so, God must be something other than matter. God is spirit.
In John chapter one we also find that God is spoken of as the Word. A word is “An articulate or vocal sound, or a combination of articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by the human voice, and by custom expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of human speech or language.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) When a word is reduced to its basic components, there are two things remaining; the vocal sound , and the thought behind the articulation. This means that a word is essentially something that is not physical or material. A word, in its most basic of states is a thought in a mind. A word, or thought, presupposes intelligence. Now, before there was anything else, there was the Word. This Word is God. In the beginning, then, there was simple, pure, eternal intelligence – the Word/God. This means that, before there was any creation of material things, God is; and this signifies to us that God is spiritual in nature.
John also states, (John 1:4 KJV) “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” We also read of Christ , (1 John 1:1,2 KJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;). Here we find that God is life. As we consider what life is, we see that life is not necessarily material in nature. In fact, life is spiritual in nature. As we read the account of the creation, we find God breathing life into the nostrils of man. Man had been created from the dust of the ground, but did not live. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Life came from the spirit of God in man. James tells us that “the body without the spirit is dead.” (Jas.2:26) Solomon stated that both man and beast had the spirit of God in them to give them life (Eccles.3:19-21). Today we see the manifestation of life in men and in beasts. We don’t see the life itself, but we do see the manifestation of it. We can also tell when the life is gone from the bodies of men and beasts. Job understood that the life which was his own self actually existed independently of his body by the power of God. He stated, (Job 10:11,12 KJV) “ Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” Job knew that his body was but a dwelling place for the spiritual life which was the true Job. It is the same with all of us. This is why our body is referred to as being a tabernacle, or tent. (See 2Cor.5:1) Our body is simply the temporary place in which the spiritual man lives. Thus we see that life is spiritual, and God being the source of all life, and life Himself, is in essence spiritual.
In the passage before us, Jesus is also spoken of as having an existence before He took unto Himself a body. (John 1:1-4,14 KJV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” God took upon Himself the earthly tent of human flesh. Before this, however, He existed. Jesus Christ had an eternal existence independent of anything and anyone, and that before He became flesh. We read in Hebrews 10:8 that a body was prepared for Jesus. In other words, Jesus existed in His spiritual state before the incarnation (His becoming flesh). Paul told the Philippian church, (Phil 2:5-8 KJV) “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Again we see that Jesus existed with the very same nature as God before He was made flesh. In fact, He was still God after He took upon Himself the human body in which He dwelt for above thirty years. (Col 2:9 KJV) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” He was also still spirit. Just as heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain God (1Kings 8:27), so also an earthly body could not confine Jesus. This is why Jesus spoke of Himself as being in Heaven. (John 1:18 KJV) “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 3:13 KJV) “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Jesus, being God, transcends fleshly existence so that, though He dwelt in a body of flesh, He was/is not confined to that body. While this may be hard to comprehend, let us remember that God does not change (Mal. 3:6;Jas. 1:17), and Jesus was God. Though Christ can be seen as willingly limiting Himself in some areas (knowledge, for example Mt. 24:36) He was still fully God in human flesh. This means that it was necessary for Christ to have surpassed the mortal, human, physical limitations that you and I have.
God Is Invisible
Another thing that points to the spiritual essence of God is the fact that He is invisible. Paul speaks of Jesus as(Col 1:15 KJV) “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” God is invisible. Just as we cannot see the wind, we cannot see God who is spirit. (John 1:18 KJV) “ No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” He is spoken of as being the one whom no man hath seen, nor can see. (See 1 Tim.6:16) When you consider that even miniscule particles of matter can be seen when aided by a microscope, we understand that God is not made of matter. He is spirit, which is invisible as the wind is invisible.
What About The Appearances of God?
One thing that may be raised as an objection to the spiritual, or non-corporeal (immaterial, or without a body) nature of God is the fact that there have been times in which God appeared in the form of a man or an angel. This is a very valid point that must be addressed. In addressing this issue, two points must be made: one, God cannot be seen of man; two, the manifestation of God to man.
The first point is a reiteration of a point that has already been made: God, as spirit, is invisible and cannot be seen. Added to this is the fact that man cannot see the fulness of God’s glory and live (Ex.33:19-23) When Isaiah saw the Lord, he fell upon his face confessing that he was a sinful man. (Isa.6:1-8) (John 12:41 KJV) “ These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” Isaiah did not see God as a bodily essence. Isaiah saw the magnificence of God shining forth in all of His splendor. John also stated that“no man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) God cannot be seen (1Tim. 6:15,16), for God is spirit.
The second point is of great significance. The invisible God has been seen of men. This is not a contradiction that is found in the Bible. This is a paradox, or a situation that seems to be a contradiction, but isn’t a genuine contradiction. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Bible teaches us that God is invisible and cannot be seen. We also know it to be true that God has manifest Himself to men in visible ways. Let us now dig a little deeper into this matter.
That God cannot be seen is evident. What, or who, was it that Moses, Isaiah, and others saw, then? One point that needs to be made is that God, while in essence spirit and not confined to a body, can at times take unto Himself a body. We know this is so from manifold instances in the Scriptures, and from the fact that Jesus was God in human form. The basic nature of God is still spiritual when He does appear in a material way. When Moses saw God, he saw God’s glory. (Exo 24:11,17 KJV) “ And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” In fact, that was what Moses requested to see in Exodus chapter thirty-three. (Exo 33:18 KJV) “And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” While space would not permit an in depth study of the glory of God, we can find from reading Exodus chapters thirty-three and thirty-four that the glory of God is the beauty of His nature, character, and attributes. Moses saw the beauty of God in His person more than His physical appearance. You see, when God appeared to men, it was not for the purpose of demonstrating to them His looks. God has never appeared to man in such a fashion as for man to get a good picture of a physical appearance. There is a reason for this: God knew man would make an image of what he saw if God appeared to Him in such a way. (Deu 4:15-19 KJV) “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.”
God appeared for the purpose of communicating with man. From the time God met with Adam in the garden till the time Jesus came, God’s appearances were for the purpose of revealing His will, way and purpose to man. (See Hebrews 1:1-3;2:1-4;12:25-27 for examples and teaching concerning this truth) Jesus Himself is the Word of God. He is the eternal Word, yet He is the revealed Word, too. (John 1:18 KJV) “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God to sinful man. Jesus manifest God to us.
All the while that God has manifest Himself to us, however, He has manifest His word, will, way, character, and glory. While God by nature is invisible, to communicate with man, He must appeal to the senses which He has given man. Man’s main avenues of perceiving facts are seeing and hearing. The manifestation of God to man has been through these avenues. Man cannot perceive that which is not presented to his senses. Thus God has revealed Himself to us. While God has thus manifested Himself to us, believe it or not, in so doing He has hidden Himself from us. God is so great that He fills Heaven and earth. (Jer 23:24 KJV) “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” Again, this shows us why God must be spirit, and not confined to a body. He fills Heaven and earth. God transcends material existence. God also, by manifesting Himself to us through that which is material, has not shown us many things about Himself. Just as the natural creation cannot show all the glory of God, even more so is a human body unable to show the fulness of God. As Habakkuk saw the glory of God, he realized that, while God revealed much about His greatness, much was hidden from man. Man does not have the capacity to receive unlimited knowledge. If God were to fully reveal Himself to us, He would be giving unlimited knowledge to finite man. God is so great that, when He reveals Himself to us, there is so much more that is not revealed that it is, as it were, hidden. (Hab 3:3,4 KJV) “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.” What a revelation of how great God is! He cannot be fully manifest by anything material, nor comprehended fully by the human mind! (Job 26:14 KJV) “Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Another objection that is raised is the fact that God is spoken of as having bodily parts. (See Isa.51:9;53:1 the arm of the Lord; Deut.8:3;Isa.1:20 the mouth of the Lord; 2Chron.16:9; Ps.33:18 the eye of the Lord; Ex.7:5; Ps. 75:8;Isa.62:8 the hand of the Lord) Again, this is a good point that must be addressed. One cannot assert one truth to the exclusion of another. What is meant by these statements if God is spirit and not material? This writer is convinced that these are anthropomorphisms, or an interpretation of what is not human in terms of human characteristics. In other words, these references are God’s means of taking the truths of His greatness and communicating them to us in words and terms to which we can relate. In other words, while God does not have hands, eyes, ears, or any other bodily parts, He speaks of Himself as having these terms so we can grasp the truth He is presenting about Himself. This may be compared to adults talking “baby talk” to children so that the child can understand what is being said. This is an accommodation to the infirmity of humans. These statements that portray God as having bodily features are God “lisping” as He speaks to us, that we might know Him better. Remember, God is first, foremost, and eternally spirit. We must allow every other representation of God to fit within this framework, or else we misrepresent God.
Making God in Our Own Image?
There is a clear danger to be seen in believing that God has always inhabited a material body such as we have. That danger is the possibility of idolatry. Man has an incredible tendency to create an idol, even if that idol is in his own mind and not a physical reality. (Let us not forget that covetousness is idolatry Col. 3:5) This is the reason God did not appear to Israel in any bodily manner at Mt. Sinai. The Lord knew that, if Israel saw a bodily representation of God, they would make an image of that appearance of God, and worship the image instead of God. It is probably for this same reason that the manifestation of God at other times was so awe-inspiring, fear inducing, and the message and character of God overshadowed the physical appearance which was before men.
Paul told the Roman church that the condemnation of the human race came because men did not give God the glory due Him. In fact, they lowered God by trading His magnificence for an image that was like men (See Rom.1:18-23). They actually decided to make God in their own image! In doing so they tried to elevate man, and obscured the glory of God. God simply cannot be fully represented by or in anything material. God is spirit and transcends material existence. The Lord complained of the Israelites, “thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” (Ps. 50:21) God is not like we are. We made in the image of God, but God is so much greater than we that we will never measure up to what God is. If we could, then we would be God, and that is an impossibility.
Finally, we must see that this truth carries great implications for our worship. (John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Many times we think of worship as something we do in the flesh. Worship is spiritual because God is spirit. God does not need anything from us (See Ps.50:9-15,22,23; Acts 17:22-31). He does not hunger, thirst, or suffer need of any kind. He is self-sufficient and all sufficient. God has no bodily passions or desires to be fulfilled either. Worship is spiritual in our giving Him the honor that is His due. He is worthy of our praise. Remember that God rebuked the Pharisees for their fleshly worship saying, (Mat 15:7-9KJV) “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” True worship is the acknowledging the worth of God. While it may manifest itself by deeds done in the flesh, worship is spiritual because God is spirit. If we consider God to be flesh, we will worship Him in a way that corresponds to our belief. We will seek to present fleshly worship, because we feel that is how God is to be approached. Knowing that God is spirit, we can come to Him at all times, at any place and worship Him from the depths of our hearts. Worship is not about Mt. Gerizim or Jerusalem, Samaritan or Jew, black or white. Worship is to be in spirit and in truth. Worship must conform to the truth of who God is. When we recognize the infinite glory of God in His spiritual essence and praise Him for that greatness, we have worshipped in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Of The Divine Essence
What do we mean when we say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the same in essence? What is this essence? This terminology began to be used in the early centuries of the church when a man named Arius declared that the Son of God had a beginning, and that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. A man named Athanasius stood up to combat this heresy. Athanasius said, “The Word who admittedly gives life and order to, and is in, the whole, must also be in the part; and in a part He manifested Himself—namely, in a human body. He gives life and being to everything, yet is essentially distinct from creation, being one in essence with the Father only.The Son, Athanasius declared, is one in essence with the Father. The essence speaks of being. It speaks to us of nature and character. When we say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the same in essence, we are saying along with Christians of many centuries that they are the same being and of the same nature and character.
While it is indeed obvious that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons, it is often difficult to see that they are one essence, being, or character. Let us consider the following:
- The Father is God: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11)
- The Son is God: “Inthe beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1–3)
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)
- The Holy Spirit is God: “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” (Acts 5:3–4)
What we mean when we say this is that each of the Divine persons is of the same being, nature and character. Thus, if we say that God is eternal, we must say that the Father is eternal (Deuteronomy 32:39-41;Matthew 6:13). We must also say that the Son is eternal (John 1:1-3;Colossians 1:15-17;1 John 1:1-4). Then we must also say that the Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). Thus, the essence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one.
It is necessary that we maintain this, because the Scriptures present us only one God. From the very beginning we are taught that the one true God created all things. It is He who said to Israel, “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lordthy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1–3) Again, “Hear, O Israel: The Lordour God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lordthy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) There is only one God, and must worship only one God. God’s holy and righteous jealousy demands that (Exodus 20:1-7; 34:14). We do not worship three different Gods; but we do worship one God who subsistsin three distinct persons. Thus, to worship the Son as God is not to be a polytheist who is provoking God to jealousy. Neither is it sinful to say that Christ is in us (Colossians 1:27), when we are speaking of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Ephesians 1:12-14). Nor is it wickedness to call the Holy Spirit God, as though we were claiming that the Holy Spirit is a separate God from the Father; because we know that the Spirit is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of Him who raised up Christ from the dead (Romans 8:9-11). To worship God is to worship the three persons of God. We believe in the Trinity, the three-in-one God, the God who is three persons in one essence. To do otherwise would be to worship a god who is a figment of our sinful imaginations, as Scripture presents us three persons who are all God, and are the same in essence.
Finally, if the three persons are not of the same essence, then which is the God of our salvation? God is the only Savior, we find. “Tell ye, and bring them near; Yea, let them take counsel together: Who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; A just God and a saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: For I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear.” (Isaiah 45:21–23) Yet we also read that Jesus is our Savior: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) (See also 1 Timothy 1:15;Titus 2:13.) Then we read of the Holy Spirit in relationship to our salvation. “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) Either the Bible is inconsistent and contradictory in claiming that all three persons are our Savior, or the Bible is teaching us that all three of the persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are equally God, being the same in essence. It is imperative for us and for our salvation that we believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one in essence, equal in power and glory.
To Him alone be the glory.
Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius: On the Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. T. Herbert Bindley, Second Edition Revised (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1903), 15–16.
The Doctrine of Divine Election
The first thing we must do as we study the doctrine of Divine election is to define the terms which we are using. To do so we must consult both a dictionary of the English language and the Word of God. The first to give us the meaning of the word so that we are not in the dark concerning the meaning and usage of the word. The second to determine the particular manner(s) in which the Scriptures use the word. Only by so doing can we begin to understand the Biblical truth concerning this much disputed topic.
Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of The English Language defines election as follows:
“The act of choosing; choice; the act of selecting one or more from others. Hence appropriately,
- The act of choosing a person to fill an office or employment, by any manifestation of preference, as by ballot, uplifted hands or viva voce; as the election of a king, of a president, or a mayor.
Corruption in elections is the great enemy of freedom.
- Choice; voluntary preference; free will; liberty to act or not. It is at his election to accept or refuse.
- Power of choosing or selecting.
- Discernment; discrimination; distinction.
To use men with much difference and election is good.
- In theology, divine choice; predetermination of God, by which persons are distinguished as objects of mercy, become subjects of grace, are sanctified and prepared for heaven.
There is a remnant according to the election of grace.
- The public choice of officers.
- The day of a public choice of officers.
- Those who are elected.
The election hath obtained it. Rom.11.”
We can quickly tell that the basic meaning of election is the act of choosing, or a choice, of one or more from among others. The rest of the article from Webster’s 1828gives us specific examples of the usage of the word.
We must also define the word “choice” if we are to accurately understand this issue. “CHOICE, n.
- The act of choosing; the voluntary act of selecting or separating from two or more things that which is preferred; or the determination of the mind in preferring one thing to another; election.
Ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my moth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. Acts 15.
- The power of choosing; option.
Where there is force, there can be no choice.
Of these alternatives we have our own choice.
- Care in selecting; judgment or skill in distinguishing what is to be preferred, and in giving a preference.
I imagine Caesars apothegms were collected with judgment and choice.
- The thing chosen; that which is approved and selected in preference to others; selection.
Nor let thy conquests only be her choice.
- The best part of any thing; that which is preferable, and properly the object of choice.
In the choice of our sepulchers bury thy dead. Gen. 23.
- The act of electing to office by vote; election.
To make choice of, to choose; to select; to separate and take in preference.
- Worthy of being preferred; select; precious; very valuable.
My choicest hours of life are lost.
My revenue is better than choice silver. Prov. 8.
- Holding dear; preserving or using with care, as valuable; frugal; as, to be choice of time or of advantages.
- Selecting with care, and due attention to preference; as, to be choice of ones company.”
Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of The English Language
We can quickly tell, now, that choice is the act of electing something/someone based upon a preference. For something/someone to be choice they much be considered to be of value. While there are those who declare that no contingencies enter into Divine election, we must differ with them on this issue. The very meaning of the word “choice” speaks of preference as being the basis of choice. We know of no choice that is made without that which is chosen being chosen because of something about it that was preferred by the one doing the choosing.
The Biblical Usage of The Words Chose, Chosen, Choose, Choice, Elect, Election
The Scriptures use the above words in a consistent manner. The manner in which they are used demonstrate to us that the choice (or chosen, elect) ones in the Scriptures were the ones who were preferred by God.
“There came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them.” (Judg 20:34) KJV
“When Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians.” (1 Chron 19:10) KJV
“The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.” (Ps 78:31)KJV
“Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.” (Jer 48:15) KJV“The last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.’ (Matt 20:16) KJV
All of the above references speak of those chosen/choice ones as being ones who are preferred above others. They are valuable.
The Chosen Ones of God
Who are the chosen ones of God? First and foremost is Christ. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” ( Isa 42:1) KJV Matt 12:14-21 tells us that this verse speaks of Jesus. Peter also refers to Isaiah, referencing Isa 28:16 and speaks of Jesus saying, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1 Peter 2:4-6) KJV
The next group of chosen ones is Israel. “Because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt.” (Deut 4:37) KJV “Thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut 7:60 KJV “The LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” (Deut 10:15) KJV In one particular place, though he did not use any word such as “choice”, “chose”, etc., Moses spoke to Israel to remind them of the status as God’s chosen people. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Ex 19:5,6) KJV The reason that we know this verse speaks of Israel being God’s chosen is because Peter later used the verse to remind the church of the fact that they were blessed with grace and were part of the plan and work of God.
The next group of chosen ones we find is the church. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) KJV Peter uses this verse to compare the church (the Israel of God, see Gal 6;16) and Israel, thus reminding the church of their blessed state. We also read, “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.” (1 Peter 5:13) KJV Then, when Jesus returns in power and glory with the armies of heaven, the bride of Christ (Rev 19:1-14) which is the church (Eph 5:25-33), we learn that “they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Rev 17:14) KJV
Finally, we read of the elect angels (See 1Tim 5:21).
In all of this we can see that election is primarily a corporate thing. That is, the elect are elect due to being part of a body of chosen ones.
The Basis of Election
What is the basis of election? If the elect are elect because they are numbered with a certain group, how do people come to be numbered among the elect? That is the question that plagues so many today. Does God arbitrarily choose those who are his elect/choice? We have already seen that to be elect, or choice, speaks of preference above others. We know that there is normally a reason for one’s preferring one above another. What reason does God have for preferring some above others? These are the questions to which we must find the answers.
First of all, it would be well that we consider what does not cause someone to be a part of the elect. While being a descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob caused one to be a part of the chosen nation of Israel, one’s genealogy will not make him part of those who are the chosen of God. God’s Word says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13) KJV No, man is not chosen because of his pedigree, his willing himself to be born again, nor human effort. Election and the results thereof are the work of God. Neither does ones character and station in life bring about election. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:26-31) KJV God’s way of working is to accomplish His will and purpose in a manner that will demonstrate that He is the one who is great and not man. Man will never have reason to boast before God. Thus, God chooses those who are often considered the least likely to be called, saved, and used of God. Neither has God chosen men based upon their good works. “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” (Rom 9:11) KJV We see that election is not due to one’s character, bloodline, or works. It is all of God.
Election is of the grace of God. “At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom 11:5,6) KJV God chooses men apart from any merit on their part. God works in the hearts and lives of men gratuitously and not because man does something to earn God’s kindness. Election is the free gift of the God of all grace. There is only one reason for this, and that is the reason that God intends to get all the glory for what He does. God, by His grace, elects, calls, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies unworthy sinners that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
Having understood that election is of God and His grace, we must ask another question: “Where does faith fit into this picture?” Some consider faith to be a work of man (though not a work of exactly the same sort as keeping the law) and not considered by God when He chooses men. Is this so? The answer is, “No, it is not so.” In fact, faith goes hand-in-hand with grace. The Word of God tells us that salvation is of faith so that it might be freely given to us by God. “It is of faith, that it might be by grace.” (Rom 4:16) KJV Faith, like grace, is antithetical to works. “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom 4:4,5) KJV The only way we can consider faith a work is when we read a conversation that Jesus had when he was asked, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28,29) KJV Even in this passage He is not speaking of faith as meritorious, but as the way by which men must seek to get the true bread from Heaven (See John 6:27). We can safely conclude that we do not have to rule faith out of the picture when it comes to the basis of Divine election.
Finally, people are chosen on the basis of their association with the chosen group. In particular, the children of Israel were God’s chosen because they were in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s family. “The LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” (Deut 10:15) KJV In like manner “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph 1:4-6) KJV God chose us before the world began due to our association with Christ, His chosen One. How do we get “in Christ?” If we are chosen in Christ, that is the important question. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:26,27) KJV It is by faith that we are in Christ. So, faith is very closely connected with the basis of our election. In fact, James said, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5) KJV God did indeed choose men due to the fact that they would in the future believe in Him. In fact, God foreknew those who would be believers and chose them because of that. “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29) KJV “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:1,2) KJV
Why does God choose those who believe? The answer is very simple; it is to bring praise, glory, and honor to the name of the LORD. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph 1:3-6) KJV “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10) KJV What a glorious truth that God sent His Son who gave His life, rose from the dead, and considers those who believe in Him to be His special, precious, purchased possession; His chosen ones!
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
(Gen 1:1-2) KJV
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:26-27) KJV
The Genre of The Genesis Account of Creation
At the outset, let it be known that the writer understands that there are those who will refuse to accept the fact that the Trinity is seen in the above verses. They may contend that the account of creation as seen in Genesis chapters one and two is not a literal, historical narrative, but rather a poetic narrative that does not yield itself to a literal reading and interpretation. Is this truly so?
The form of the creation account is historic. It gives a chronological procession of events. We are told of how the creation took place from day to day. The days are literal twenty-four hour days, as we can see from Moses: “In six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Ex 20:11) KJV This again points us to the Genesis account being a literal, historical record of the creation. Furthermore, Jesus taught the Genesis account of creation to be a literal, historical record (See Matt 12:8;19:3-6), the writer of Hebrews understood it to be the same (See Heb 4:4;11:3), the Psalmist understood the same (Ps 33:6-11;136:1-9), as did Solomon (Prov 3:19,20), and the list could surely be continued. Of those who choose to call the Genesis creation account a sort of poem a question must be asked: would not some of the prophets or apostles, or even (I might say especially) Jesus have learned that this was not literal history, but only a poetic statement of God’s creating the world and informed us of this fact? A view that considers the Genesis account of creation to be anything other than literal history calls into question the knowledge, character, and integrity of Jesus, who taught it to be literally true. This writer is content to believe that this account was given to us that we might know the literal, historical truth about the creation of the world and the God who created it.
(Note: Though this writer affords no more authority to the Early Church Fathers than he does to elders whom he is to respect today, it is interesting to note that Augustine believed the Genesis account of creation to be historical, though he seemed at times confused in his interpretation of it. “What then is this introduction? ‘In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth, and the earth was invisible, and unformed? and darkness was upon the face of the abyss.’ Do these words seem to some of you incapable of affording consolation under distress? Is it not an historical narrative, and an instruction about the creation?”
The Name of God in The Creation Account
Biblical languages are rich. We can learn much from them. With the resources available today one can learn much without having learned the original languages (Though the writer recommends one attempting to gain at least a rudimentary understanding of the original languages of Scripture.). The Hebrew name for God in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim. Let us learn to what Elohim points us.
“That there is such a plurality of persons, will appear more clearly,
From the plural names and epithets of God. His great and incommunicable name Jehovah, is always in the singular number, and is never used plurally; the reason of which is, because it is expressive of his essence, which is but one; it is the same with “ I AM that I AM ”; but the first name of God we meet with in scripture, and that in the first verse of it, is plural; “In the beginning God ( Elohim ) created the heaven and the earth”, ( Gen. 1:1 ) and therefore must design more than one, at least two, and yet not precisely two, or two only; then it would have been dual; but it is plural; and, as the Jews themselves say, cannot design fewer than three 150. Now Moses might have made use of other names of God, in his account of the creation; as his name Jehovah, by which he made himself known to him, and to the people of Israel; or Eloah, the singular of Elohim, which is used by him, ( Deut. 32:15, 16 ) and in the book of Job frequently; so that it was not want of singular names of God, nor the barrenness of the Hebrew language, which obliged him to use a plural word; it was no doubt of choice, and with design; and which will be more evident when it is observed, that one end of the writings of Moses is to extirpate the polytheism of the heathens, and to prevent the people of Israel from going into it; and therefore it may seem strange, that he should begin his history with a plural name of God; he must have some design in it, which could not be to inculcate a plurality of gods, for that would be directly contrary to what he had in view in writing, and to what he asserts, ( Deut. 6:4 ). “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”: nor a plurality of mere names and characters, to which creative powers cannot be ascribed; but a plurality of persons, for so the words may be rendered, distributively, according to the idiom of the Hebrew language; “In the beginning everyone, or each of the divine persons, created the heaven and the earth”. And then the historian goes on to make mention of them; who, besides the Father, included in this name, are the Spirit of God, that moved upon the face of the waters, and the word of God, ( Gen. 1:2 ) which said, “Let there be light, and there was light”; and which spoke that, and all things, out of nothing; see ( John 1:1-3 ).”
In Genesis 1:1, the original word Elohim,“God,” is certainly the plural form of El, or Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of persons in the divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbin, Simeon ben Joachi, has these remarkable words: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet, notwithstanding, they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.” In the ever blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.
Jesus Our Divine Creator
As we consider the Trinity as implied and seen in the Creation we must recognize that the leading person in the Creation was God the Father. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Heb 1:1-4) KJV God the Father took the lead in the Creation, but when He created, He did so by the Son. Notice how the Psalmist alludes to this: “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Ps 33:6) KJV Today we understand that the Psalmist was not only saying that creation was by Divine fiat, but that he was alluding to the Father creating the worlds by Christ. “We may truly and certainly infer from this passage, that the world was framed by God’s Eternal Word, his only begotten Son.” Calvin, J. (2000). Calvin’s Commentaries(electronic ed.). electronic ed. (Ps 33:6). Garland, TX: Galaxie Software.
The New Testament gives us ample testimony to the fact of the deity of Christ, using the creative work of God to do so. John opens his account of Christ by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Jn 1:1-4) KJV Even if we were to grant the contention of the Russellites (which we do not) that the translation should be “the Word was agod,” we must still come to the conclusion that the Word in this passage is more than one god among many. Why? We must come to this conclusion because the Word is the very self-expression of God; the very mind, heart, and character of God; the eternal and perfect understanding that the Father has of Himself. When God is considered as contemplating His eternal greatness and having a perfect thought of Himself, that thought is spoken of as the Word (logos), because it would be both a perfect representation of His thought and (words being expressions of thoughts) would be an eternal person equal to the Father and of the same essence. We know that Jesus is the Word of God who is the expression of the nature, heart, character and will of God in eternity and in this world. Thus it is that the Son is spoken of as being eternally begotten of the Father. Never has there been a time that the Father has not had this perfect awareness of His eternal self, and so there has never been a time that the Son/Word was not.
The Word is spoken of as being with God in the beginning. That is, the Word was before the creation. This means that the Word is eternal in nature. Immortality is the unique attribute of God (1Tim 6:16). He alone has immortality. If the Word was with God before the creation of the worlds, then He is necessarily immortal, and thus necessarily God. Not only so, but referring back to the great I AM of Exodus (See Ex 3:13-15), John tells us that not only is the Word the immortal God and Creator, but that He is this I AM; the one who has an underived existence. In Him- the Word- was life. The Word, God, the Creator is the source of all life. In other words, the Word is YWH. Then we read, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) KJV This confirms to us that the writer is indeed telling us of Jesus, and that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
The deity of Christ in relation to the creation is confirmed to us as we read the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Colossians and told them of Jesus: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
(Col 1:15-17) KJV We again read, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb 1:1-3) KJV These two passages present to us the Son as being the Creator and the image of God. What is meant by the image of God? In the Colossian passage image speaks of the resemblance between God the Father and the Son. “In Col. 1:15 Christ is described as the εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου. To modern logic this seems to be a contradiction, for how can there be an image of something which is invisible and without form? The peculiarity of the expression is related to that of the ancient concept, which does not limit image to a functional representation present to human sense but also thinks of it in terms of an emanation, of a revelation of the being with a substantial participation (μετοχή) in the object. Image is not to be understood as a magnitude which is alien to the reality and present only in the consciousness. It has a share in the reality. Indeed, it is the reality. Thus εἰκώνdoes not imply a weakening or a feeble copy of something. It implies the illumination of its inner core and essence.” Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (2:389). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. We see, then, that the Son’s being the image of God means that He is the perfect representation of the person and attributes of God, and thus God. The Hebrews passage is a little different, but speaks of the same reality that is presented by the Son being the image of God. The writer of Hebrews stated that the Son is the express image of the person of God. The image in this sense gives us a picture of a stamp that leaves its exact impression upon the document that is stamped. Jesus is said to bear the exact imprint of the character of God. If He does so, then He is God, because one cannot be exactly like God without being God.
We then find that the Son is the radiance of the splendor and glory of the Father. He simply shines forth the glorious character of the Father in every way possible. That is why John stated that the glory that was seen in Christ was the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. The glory that radiated from Jesus was manifestedly (See 1Tim 3:16) the Divine glory of the Father; yet it was the glory of the Son as well.
In both the Colossian and the Hebrew passage Jesus is spoken of as the Creator and sustainer of the worlds. Everything was created by Him [Nothing was created without Him (See Jn 1:3).], all things are sustained by Him, and all things were created for Him. For the average Bible reader it is not difficult to understand that there is no Creator beside God, and thus Jesus is God.
(Note: The Colossian and Johannine use of the word “begotten” in reference to the Son is used by some to insist that Jesus was the Son only by incarnation. This is impossible due to the fact that the Son was the Son of God before He was incarnate (See Isa 9:6;Jn 3:16,17 where the Son is said to have been given and sent as opposed to being created or made.). The Scriptures obviously describe the Son of God as having existed before the Creation.)
Having considered the fact that the worlds were made by the Son, we find new meaning when we read, “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Ps 33:8-9) KJV God the Father spoke, and God the Son acted. God the Father and God the Son both created by means of Divine fiat.
The Spirit of God As Seen in The Creation
When we read the Genesis account of the creation of the heavens and the earth we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
(Gen 1:1-2) KJV It is readily seen that the Spirit of God was active in the creation of the worlds. Now we must determine who this Spirit of God is. Considering the fact that God is the only Creator we are convinced that the Spirit is a divine person. Seeing that there are those who do not readily take this for granted, let us search the Scriptures to see if this is so.
One thing that leads us to understand that the Holy Spirit is divine is the fact that He is spoken of as having the divine incommunicable attributes. That is, the Holy Spirit has attributes that belong only to God.
He is eternal as God is eternal. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Ps 90:1,2) KJV “If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:13,14) KJV
The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as being omniscient. All knowledge belongs to God and no one else. “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:12,13) KJV This attribute also belongs to the Spirit of God. “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Cor 2:10) KJV
The Spirit of God is also spoken of as being omnipresent, which is also a divine attribute. “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” (Jer 23:23,24) KJV “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. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Ps 139:7-12) KJV
Finally, the Holy Spirit is spoken of as being omnipotent just as God is omnipotent. “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Rev 19:6) KJV “The angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:35-37) KJV
The New Testament also speaks of the Holy Spirit as being equal to Christ. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (Jn 14:16-18) KJV Jesus promised that the Spirit was going to come to His people. At the same time, He equated the presence of the Spirit with the Father by saying that He would not leave them fatherless. Jesus also equated the Spirit with Himself by saying that He (Jesus) would come to them. That is why the indwelling of the Spirit (See Rom 8:9;Eph 1:13,14) is spoken of as Christ being in us (Col 1:27). The Spirit is equal in essence and glory to the Father and the Son. In fact, the Spirit is spoken of as being the Spirit of Christ,the Spirit of God, and Christ in us. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:9-10) KJV
These things being so, we can be assured that the Spirit of God that was hovering over the face of the waters which were upon the earth was indeed the Divine Spirit who now indwells the people of God and empowers His church. This Divine Spirit is the giver of life, just as the Son of God gives life (See Jn 1:1-4;5:21-29). “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” (Job 33:4) KJV (See also Job 26:13;Isa 40:12-14) It is this same Spirit of whom the Psalmist spoke when he said, “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” (Ps 104:30) KJV The Spirit proceeds from the Father eternally (See Jn 15:26), was sent forth and was active in the creation of the worlds, and is sent forth performing creative work even today (See Jn3:1-8;1Cor +6:9-11;Tit 3:4-8).
One may wonder why a person would take the time to write over four thousand words to establish the truth of the Trinity from the Genesis account of the creation. The answer can be summed up in one word: worship. To worship we must know the truth about God, because worship must be in truth (See Jn 4:24). The creation account bids us to worship one God in three persons, the God who created all things. None other is worthy of our worship. “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Ps 33:8-9) KJV