The doctrine of the Incarnation

This is the first in a series of articles on the Incarnation.

Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once claimed the Spirit of God fell upon him and revealed a principle that has become an apt summary of Mormonism: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.”

In other words, the God of this world once was a mere human who attained deity, showing us the path to our own godhood. This principle of “eternal progression” is a stunningly unbiblical doctrine that sets Mormonism outside the boundaries of historic Christianity.

At the same time, it raises questions – not only about God, but about the Son of God: Who is Jesus? Where did He come from? And why and how did He become human?

The doctrine of the Incarnation – God becoming a human in Jesus of Nazareth – is central to Christianity. Get it wrong and many other non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith quickly veer into counterfeit territory.

As we explore the Incarnation from a biblical perspective, it may help to compare Snow’s “revelation” with the following orthodox statement from Christian author C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
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Is The Rebel Spirit Alive Today?

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 last portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

Previously: The Rebellion of Korah

Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)

Is the rebel spirit alive today?

False teachers in the 21stcentury have much in common with Cain, Balaam, and Korah. They redefine God’s work of salvation, peddle prophecy for profits, and exalt themselves above the authorities Christ has ordained for His church. While many examples could be cited, let’s consider proponents of today’s Word of Faith movement – a vast and varied brand of apostate Christianity that shamelessly follows in the footsteps of ancient Israel’s unholy triumvirate.

The central teaching of the Word of Faith movement – also known as the prosperity gospel and the health and wealth gospel – is that God wills our prosperity and health; therefore, to be a Christian in poverty or sickness is to be outside the will of God.

Take note of the following Word of Faith teachings and see if you can trace them to the way of Cain (self-centered religion), the error of Balaam (a gospel of greed), or the rebellion of Korah (mutiny against divinely appointed authorities):

Human beings are little gods. Human nature consists of body, soul, and spirit, but the spirit is the real person made in God’s image; therefore, human beings are exact duplicates of God, or little gods. Our problem is that we allow our bodies and souls to control our lives rather than our own divine spirits.

God is like us. He is a God that possesses faith. He created the world by faith and accomplishes His will by believing things in His heart and speaking words of faith, thereby bringing things into existence. We may do the same.

Jesus came to restore our godhood. When Adam fell, he forfeited his status as the god of this world by obeying Satan, who in turn gained legal dominion over this world and passed Satan’s nature of death, along with sickness and poverty, down to the rest of humanity. Jesus came to create a new race of humans who, like Jesus, would be God incarnate.
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How false religions undermine the Scriptures

Evangelicals may disagree about many things, but we stand together on the non-negotiables that define the Christian faith: The Trinity, justification by faith, and the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, to name a few.

Many false belief systems, from Mormonism to Islam, profess a high regard for the Word of God. But, in fact, they deny its inspiration, inerrancy, or preservation and thus reject the Bible as supremely authoritative.

Specifically, false religions employ four tactics to undermine the Scriptures:

(1) They change it. The most notorious offender is the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, whose members are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the late 1800s, Charles Taze Russell launched a Bible study to spread his denials of the Trinity, Jesus’ physical resurrection, and eternal punishment of the wicked in hell, cleverly twisting the Scriptures to buttress his false teachings. Not to be outdone, his successors produced their own version of the New Testament in 1950, and the completed New World Translation (NWT) in 1961.

Revised in 1984, and again in 2013, the NWT is a sanitized version of the Bible. Six translators — only one of whom had any training in biblical languages — essentially scrubbed the deity of Christ out of passages like John 1:1, John 8:58, and Col. 1:15-17, and blurred other essential doctrines.
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The Rebellion of Korah

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 a portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

Previously: The Error of Balaam

 

Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)

What is Korah’s rebellion?

Korah is a Levite from the Kohathite clan, which enjoys a favored position among the three clans of Levi in the assignment of priestly responsibilities (Num. 3:27-32; 4:1-20). But Korah wants more. So, he incites 250 prominent Israelites to rebel against Moses and Aaron. Together, they challenge God’s appointed leaders, accusing Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the Lord’s assembly.

Moses tells Korah and his followers to appear before the Lord the next morning, along with Aaron. Each is to take his firepan, place incense in it, and present his firepan before the Lord, who will choose the true leaders of Israel. When the sun rises, Korah assembles the whole community at the entrance of the tabernacle. The Lord instructs Moses and Aaron to tell the people to get away from the dwellings of Korah, along with the tents of two other rebels, Dathan and Abiram.

Immediately after Moses’ warning, the Lord intervenes in dramatic fashion: “Just as he finished speaking all these words, the ground beneath them split open. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, all Korah’s people, and all their possessions. They went down alive into Sheol with all that belonged to them. The earth closed over them, and they vanished from the assembly…. Fire also came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were presenting the incense” (Num. 16:31-33, 35).

If that isn’t enough, the next day the entire Israelite community complains that Moses has killed the Lord’s people. Immediately, the Shekinah glory appears, covering the tabernacle. God sends a plague that takes the lives of 14,700 – a number that would have been greater had Moses and Aaron not intervened on the people’s behalf.

Korah’s rebellion is not so much against God’s anointed leaders as it is against God Himself. By rejecting Moses and Aaron, and by embracing arrogant substitutes who foolishly portray themselves as eminently qualified, the people become eyewitnesses of God’s judgment and then suffer the consequences of their hard-hearted rebellion.
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Three personal questions about God

This is the last in a series of articles contrasting Allah and Yahweh.

Previously: The Islamic Inquisition

Muslims and Christians agree that there is one God but understand Him differently. While it is politically correct to say Christians and Muslims worship the same God, no Muslim or Christian who truly understands his faith would agree with that statement.

In fact, we can see that Christians and Muslims worship distinctly different Gods by asking three personal questions: (1) Does God know me? (2) Does God love me? (3) Did God die for me?
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