Subordination and Scripture

This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Six key passages on the Incarnation

In the previous column, we examined six key passages of Scripture that help us understand the Incarnation – the eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Bible is clear that Jesus is one person with two distinct, but undivided, natures: human and divine. This means, at least in part, that by adding sinless humanity to His deity, Jesus did not become less than co-equal with the other members of the Trinity.

At the same time, we must address several verses of Scripture that seem to say Jesus is a lesser being than God. Those who promote this false view of Jesus, and who use these Scriptures to support their position, are known as “ontological subordinationists.”

These are people who believe that Jesus is less than God by nature of who He is. Rather than the eternal Son of God, Jesus either is a created being, a lesser god, or both.

This should not be confused with “relational subordination,” a biblically faithful position also known as “economic subordination.” According to this view, the three persons of the Godhead are equal in nature, but they voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they play in creation and salvation.

We should embrace relational subordination and reject ontological subordination.

Counterfeit Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) reject Christ’s deity, along with the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe Jesus is subordinate in nature or essence to the Father. JWs insist that Jesus is the first of Jehovah’s creations, Michael the archangel.
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But You, Dear Friends

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the first half of Chapter 15: But You, Dear Friends: Hating the Garment Defiled by the Flesh.

Previously: The Divisions False Teachers Create

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But you, dear friends, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (Jude 20-23 HCSB)

Fans of the phenomenally popular sit-com Seinfeld may recall the episode that first aired April 15, 1993. “The Smelly Car” revolves around a parking valet’s excessive body odor, which attaches itself to the interior of Jerry’s BMW. The malignant scent clings to Jerry’s clothing, and it lingers in Elaine’s hair, ruining her romantic life.

Exasperated, Jerry tells his friend Kramer, “Don’t you see what’s happening here? It’s attached itself to me! It’s alive! … This is not just an odor – you need a priest to get rid of this thing!”

Determined to get satisfaction, Jerry drives back to the restaurant where the valet soiled his car and demands that the maître d’ pay for detailing. When the maître d’ refuses, Jerry locks him in the car until, overcome by the stench, he relents. Jerry has the car thoroughly cleaned, but to no avail; the B.O. remains. So, he tries returning the car, but the dealership won’t take it back due to the invasive stench.

At last, Jerry drives into a rough neighborhood, leaves the car unlocked, and sets the keys in plain sight. At this point, he just wants to be rid of the vehicle at any cost. A young thief waits for Jerry to walk away, then seizes the opportunity to take the BMW for a joyride. Once inside the befouled car, he changes his mind.

Co-writer Peter Melhman reportedly got the idea for the episode from the real-life experience of a friend.

It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where flop sweat, the smoke of burning trash, or a run-in with a skunk produces a malodorous companion to our hair and clothing, attracting unwanted attention and requiring a thorough remedy. The polluting effects of soiled garments are in Jude’s mind when he writes the final verses of his epistle, for he warns his readers to beware of the collateral damage done by those engaged in ungodly behavior. He instructs followers of Jesus to “have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (v. 23).

Fortunately, the One who is able to make us “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy” (v. 24), is the same One who walks through a Babylonian furnace with three Hebrew men and delivers them safely without so much as a hint of smoke on their clothing.
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Shame, honor, and the gospel

Missionaries to Muslims often report resistance to the gospel message – not because Muslims reject Jesus as a great prophet, but because the Qur’an denies the doctrines of original sin and the atonement.

The idea of natural-born sinners runs counter to the Islamic belief that man is basically good but ignorant of Allah’s will. This may be overcome by repeating the shahada – “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” – and by embracing the five pillars of Islam.

In addition, Muslims deny Jesus’ substitutionary death because they cannot believe Allah would allow his second greatest prophet to suffer shame on a Roman cross.

In other words, many Muslims reject the gospel because it does not align with their cultural perspective that stresses shame and honor rather than guilt and innocence.

So, how can Christians, who embrace the doctrines of original sin and the substitutionary death of Jesus, present the gospel cross-culturally? Is it even possible?
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The Divisions False Teachers Create

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the second half of Chapter 14.

Previously: Merely Natural: Scoffers Without the Spirit

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But you, dear friends, remember the words foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” These people create divisions and are merely natural, not having the Spirit. (Jude 17-19 HCSB)

Jude writes that false teachers “create divisions” (v. 19). The Greek word apodiorizo refers not only to divisions, but to the motives behind them and the results they produce. The term means “to make a distinction.” It describes these interlopers as ones who present themselves as superior to other leaders in the church. Marvin Vincent, the Presbyterian minister best known for his Word Studies in the New Testament, writes that these false teachers “draw a line through the Church and set off one part from another.”

In this regard, they are like the Pharisees, lovers of money who, while listening to Jesus, are “scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14). Jesus tells them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight” (v. 15).

The religious leaders demonstrate hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing another. Jesus tells the crowds not to do what the scribes and Pharisees do because “they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people” (Matt. 23:3b-7).

Finally, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day concoct their own twisted view of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus warns His disciples to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” meaning their false teaching (Matt. 16:6, 11-12).
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Six key passages on the Incarnation

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Ten truths about the Incarnation

By the term “Incarnation,” we mean the eternal Son of God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As such, Jesus is one person in two distinct but undivided natures: human and divine.

In previous articles, we explored how these two natures work together as the eternal Son of God adds sinless humanity to His deity via the miracle of the virgin birth. And we summarized 10 essential truths about the Incarnation.

Now, let’s look at six key passages of Scripture that help us understand what it means when the apostle John writes, “the Word became flesh.”

John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The eternal Son of God always had a divine nature. He was with God in the beginning, and John makes it clear He was God (John 1:1).  In the Incarnation, He added a real human nature and thus became both God and man.

The word “dwelt” may be translated “tabernacled.” Just as the divine presence was with ancient Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire, the tabernacle, and the temple, Yahweh now manifested Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
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