Friday, 27 June 2014

False dichotomy

I was listening to a recording of a Muslim doing some on-street interviews with Christians and he was asking them a question he thought put the Christian in an impossible bind and in an embarrassing dilemma.

The question was this: Was Jesus God or was He sent by God? See the problem? Every Christian believes Jesus is God, and yet the Bible says so clearly and often that He was sent by God. What is the answer?

I want to point out a couple of things before answering the question, and the first one is this, does the Muslim questioner really think that this is a question the New Testament doesn't anticipate or address? After all, what book of the New Testament would we go to first to show that Jesus is God? I imagine that most people would say John's Gospel, and I would agree - it is full of explicit and implicit references to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. But here's the thing, that is also the Gospel that speaks most about Him being sent, so, unless we are really thinking that John was a complete dolt who would have stood with his finger in his mouth with nothing to say if such a question were asked of him, we have to concede that in the mind of John there was no contradiction between Jesus being God and being sent by God.

The second thing is to see what is assumed and presupposed in the question - the questioner is assuming unitarianism, that is, he is assuming that there is only one Person who is God. If that is the case then of course it is nonsensical to say that Jesus is God and was sent by God, but that's the point - it is an assumption brought to the Bible, not a conclusion drawn from the Bible.

So, is Jesus God or was He sent by God? The answer is not either / or, it is both / and. There are three Persons who share the Being of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Father sent the Son. Later the Father and Son would send the Spirit.

This is not only something clearly taught in the New Testament, but it is something taught in the Old Testament too. Look for instance at the following scriptures:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.  
"For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed."
Do you see who is speaking in this passage? It is One who has been sent by Yahweh, but what does this sent One say? "For I, the Lord [Yahweh], love justice..." So is He Yahweh or sent by Yahweh? The answer is both.

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me.

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.
 Again, what does Yahweh of hosts say? He says He has been sent, and the people will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Him. He say He will dwell in the midst of Zion, they will become His people and they will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Him.

So the Bible is clear, there is no need to pick one, the Bible affirms both. This is the glorious majesty of the Triune God. One who is God was sent by One who is God, but the question is, why? The Bible gives us the answer:
The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
Only One who is God could be the Saviour we required and offer the sacrifice God required, and that is why the person who denies the deity of Christ will die in his sins, only a divine Person could pay for sin and pardon sinners.