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Mormonism and Eternal Truth

Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
(Henri-Frederic Amiel)

THE JESUS OF THE BIBLE

Jesus Christ had a profound effect on the world; more so than any other man who has ever lived. However, so many varying beliefs about him have arisen that it is hard to credit that they could all be talking about the same person. For instance the Mohammedan and Islamic religions insist that he was merely a prophet. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that he was Michael the archangel. And the Mormons claim that he was our biological brother in a prior existence. Although there are yet more differing claims about who he was, these examples are sufficient to illustrate that the name of Jesus means different things to different people.

In our search to find out who he really was, we have discovered that the Bible provides more information about him than all other credible sources combined. Moreover, it authenticates its record with verifiable names of rulers, officials, towns and places, the type of currency in use (both Jewish and Roman), the customs of those times and so on. And archeological, historical and secular evidence backs up the biblical record — not just in Jesus’ days, but going quite far back into the days of the Old Testament. So we feel safe in using the Bible as our reference source.

We want to know the truth. For that reason we will examine the scriptures carefully and with open minds, to ensure that we arrive at a well balanced and unbiased conclusion about what the Bible actually teaches concerning Jesus Christ.

THE “BIG PICTURE”

Complex teachings, such as those on deity, are progressively revealed throughout the Bible. But they combine together as one in the big picture of the whole of the Bible. And this gives us a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of God. The same goes for the different aspects of teachings on other subjects. Spiritual matters that are at first hard for us to understand, become progressively clearer to us as we become more familiar with the whole of the Bible.

The secret of understanding the Bible correctly so that we can see this big picture, is to put aside our prejudices and preconceived ideas, and read each section in the light of its context, with humble, teachable and prayerful hearts. Then a new and exciting world will open up to us.

CHRIST’S ORIGIN

Mankind came into existence in Genesis 1:26-28, when the first couple, Adam and Eve were created. This indicates that the human race originated right here on earth. On the other hand, Jesus said that he did not have the same origin as we did, but had come “from above.”

“And he said unto them: Ye are from beneath; I am from above: Ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, KJV)

JESUS IS GOD

The book of Philippians goes one step further, by declaring that Jesus was in the form of God and was equal to God, prior to taking on the form of a man:

“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.” (Philippians 2:5-7, KJV)

John 1 quoted below adds to the mystery, by stating that in the beginning (i.e. before everything else) Jesus was God … and also that he was with God. Then he was made flesh and lived amongst us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, KJV)
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us … ” (John 1:14, KJV).

But how could Jesus be God and be in the form of God, yet at the same time be with God and also equal with God? And our confusion doesn’t end there. In various other places in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is also referred to as being God, for example in Acts 5:3-4. So on the one hand the Bible teaches that there are three beings who are called God, i.e. the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet the on the other hand, it insists that there is only one God (c/f Isaiah 44:6, etc.)

This puzzles us… until we reflect on the obvious: God must, of necessity, be overwhelmingly more complex than we are, or he wouldn’t have been capable of creating us. As Psalm 139:14 puts it, “ I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works.” Besides that, mankind and God exist on different levels; God on the supernatural and man on the natural. We are earthly creatures of flesh and blood, limited by the dimensions of time and space; whereas God is a finite, eternal spirit and has no boundaries or limitations. The Bible describes him as filling both the heavens and the earth (Jeremiah 23:24).

“Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9, KJV)

Considering all these points, it would be beyond our capacity to understand God exactly as he is. The only way we could even begin to have any sort of idea of what he is like, would be if he revealed to us as much about himself as are are able to understand, in terms that are familiar to us. And this is precisely what he has done through the writings of his prophets in the Old Testament, and by his Son in the New.

“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.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, 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 1:18, KJV)

Jesus claimed to be God:

“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?.” (John 14:7-9, KJV)

“I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:30-33, KJV)

The Bible backs up his claims to be God, by explaining that Jesus revealed the invisible God to us in the flesh:

“[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.”(Colossians 1:15-17, KJV)

Note on Colossians 1:15-17 above:
In order to properly understand the meaning the writer intended to convey, we need to take into account the customs, languages and terms of the time in which this section was written. For instance, the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers mentioned above, were Hebrew terms used to describe specific categories of created spirit beings (sometimes called angels). And Colossians says they were all created by the Lord Jesus.

The term firstborn originated from the ancient Hebrew practice of giving greater honour to the firstborn in a family, than to his siblings. Consequently it became customary to use the term firstborn to describe a person who was honoured above others. For instance, in Psalm 89:27 God says of David, “I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” And in Colossians 1:15 quoted directly above, the Bible uses the term firstborn to indicate that Christ was honoured above every creature. You can read more about this subject here: Understanding Hebrew Terms of Speech.

As Colossians indicates, Jesus wasn’t a creature, he was the Creator. And not only did he create all things, but by him all things consist. In other words, by his infinite power he upholds everything that has been created.

Jesus accepted worship:

When Cornelius worshipped the apostle Peter, he refused his worship and rebuked him:

“And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” (Acts 10:25-26, KJV)

But when his disciples (and others) worshipped Jesus, he accepted their worship fully, without rebuking them:

“And Thomas answered and said unto him [Jesus], My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28, KJV)
“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” (Matthew 28:9, KJV)
“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:51-52, KJV)

A comprehensive study of the Bible reveals that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were each individually, and at the same time collectively responsible for the creation of everything that exists, as well as for the incarnation of Christ, his resurrection, the salvation of man, the giving of eternal life and so on. As already mentioned, each of these beings is in turn called God. And they always work together as one. This subject (with references) is discussed here: Understanding the Trinity.

Although the Bible never mentions the term trinity, Christians use it as a handle for the many scriptures that consistently reveal that the one and only eternal God exists as three distinct and divine persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

JESUS IS THE MEDIATOR

The purpose of a mediator is to equally represent both sides. And Christ, the God-man, qualifies as the perfect mediator between God and man.

“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant …” (Hebrews 12:24, KJV
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, KJV)

Christ’s shed blood on the cross at Calvary ratified the New Covenant for salvation by grace. By his atoning, sacrificial and substitutionary death, he paid the penalty for sin on behalf of all who put their faith in him for redemption.

HIS NATURE

Because God is Spirit (John 4:24), he is invisible. Consequently it wasn’t God’s form that Jesus revealed to us, but his nature, his personality, his traits, i.e. who he is. And it astounds us that in his revelation of what God is like, Jesus consistently displayed utter selflessness and humility. His miracles proved that he had power over life, death, sickness, demons, the forces of nature and the whole of creation; in fact over everything. Yet in spite of his boundless power, when he was unjustly abused and insulted he reviled not. Not once did he retaliate or hold a grudge. (He didn’t have any hang-ups as he knew who he was and what was in man c/f John 2:23-25.)

Jesus stressed that he had come to serve (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:42-45). He taught that humility was a sign of greatness and stressed that he who wants to be great must serve others. And he never expected anyone to do what he himself did not do (John 13:15). He was a perfect example to us, showing us in word and in deed that the values of fallen man are upside down. In his sermon on the mount he revealed that it is not power, worldly success, popularity, wealth, self-confidence, or might that make us great or blessed, but meekness, gentleness, purity of heart and the like (c/f Matthew 5).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV)

Christ taught that the two greatest commandments (that embodied all the other commandments) were:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, KJV)

But we aren’t capable of living up to either of these commandments. No matter how hard we try, we keep on falling short. And because of our fallenness we do not have the ability, of ourselves, to reverse the status quo. But God knows that. Consequently he made a way to reveal both his justice in judging sin and his mercy towards the guilty sinner, in one great and almighty act.

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself … ” (2 Corinthians 5:19, KJV)

JESUS, THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD

“The next day John (the Baptist) seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, KJV)

Christ didn’t only come to earth to reveal what God is like. He also came to be our sacrificial lamb, to redeem us from sin. So he had to live a sinless life. If he had committed any sin, he himself would have had to come under judgment for it. And a person can only pay the ultimate penalty once. If he was to redeem us, he would have to be free of sin.

The whole of mankind has come through the line of fallen Adam. So we have all inherited fallen natures. (See this article: The Problem of Sin.) But Christ’s birth was not the result of procreation. He was born of a virgin. His foetus was supernaturally created in the womb of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, not though the act of a fallen man. So he never carried the taint of sin that has been passed down to the rest of us, through Adam

“…Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (translated from exactly the same Greek term as Holy Spirit). And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, KJV)

Under the Old Covenant, the sacrificial offering of an unblemished animal merely covered their past sin. So it had to be repeated over and over again. But it foretold the greater sacrifice of the Lamb of God, that would not merely cover their sins, but would take away the penalty of sin forever:

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man [i.e. Jesus], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God … For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:11-12, 14 KJV)
“… having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14, KJV)

An animal is of far less worth than a man. So a sacrificial animal, even if it is flawless, could never be the perfect substitute for a man. And if we could find a flawless man, he would only qualify to be the substitute for another man, not for all men. However, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that if we had to compare the combined worth of all the nations of mankind with that of our Creator God, our worth would be like a drop from a bucket or a speck of dust on the scales (Isaiah 40:15). God alone is worthy to pay the penalty for the sin of all. So out of unfathomable love and boundless mercy God put on flesh and came to earth in the form of the man, to set us free from the consequences of our sin.

Our aim is to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others; to be respected, even honoured. But God in Christ humbled himself. Although he was the epitome of purity, he willingly died a criminal’s humiliating and agonizing death for the sake of you and me, the guilty ones. He hung naked for all to see, nailed to a cross in indescribable pain and suffering, whilst onlookers cursed and jeered at him, insulted him and spat on him. He, the worthy, holy one, bore our sin, our guilt and our shame so that we who are unworthy, could be set freed from the penalty that we so justly deserved. What can we do but kneel down, and worship him?

All that is required of us to qualify for this costly forgiveness, is to believe that Jesus Christ is whom he said he was, that his teachings are true and to follow him; and that as promised, he will give us the grace to do so.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29, KJV)

JESUS, THE ONLY WAY TO GOD

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6,KJV)
“All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27, KJV)

CONCLUSION

We need to ask ourselves why there are so many versions of Jesus Christ doing the rounds. Why should there be such a sustained effort to confuse us? The answer is in Ephesians 6, which warns us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of wickedness in high places. The Bible has been given to us by God himself, for our spiritual protection. And in Ephesians 6:17b, Paul the apostle refers to the Bible as our Sword of the Spirit. If we familiarize ourselves with the it and use it correctly, we will be able to decimate all spiritual error and deception.

You may find this article of interest: Spiritual Warfare

 

Copyright © 2017 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.

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