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Bible Basics (5th. ed.)


Study 1: God || Study 2: The Spirit Of God || Study 3: The Promises Of God || Study 4: God And Death || Study 5: The Kingdom Of God || Study 6: God And Evil || Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus || Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus || Study 9: The Work Of Jesus || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus || Study 11: Life In Christ   1.1 The Existence Of God || 1.2 The Personality Of God || Doctrine In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3 God's Name And Character || Doctrine In Practice 2: Grace || Doctrine In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Doctrine In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Doctrine In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4 The Angels || Doctrine In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2: Why The Trinity Was Accepted


Digression 1: God Manifestation

What follows will not be easy to grasp fully at first reading, but the importance of the subject will become more evident as your studies proceed. We include it at this point so that you will leave this study having fully considered the Bible’s basic revelation about God Himself.

The name of God can be carried by anyone through whom He chooses to ‘manifest’ or reveal Himself. So men and angels as well as Jesus can carry God’s name. This is a vital principle which opens up so much of the Bible to us. A son especially may carry the name of his father; he has certain similarities with his father, he may have the same first name - but he is not one and the same person as the father. In the same way a representative of a company may speak on behalf of the company; he may telephone someone on business and say, ‘Hello, this is Unilever here’; he is not Mr. Unilever, but he carries their name because he is working on their behalf. And so it was with Jesus.

Angels Carrying God’s Name

We are told in Ex. 23:20,21 that God told the people of Israel that an angel would go ahead of them; “My name is in Him”, they were told. The personal name of God is ‘Yahweh’. So the angel carried the name of Yahweh, and could thus be called ‘Yahweh’, or ‘The LORD’, in small capitals, as the word ‘Yahweh’ is translated in the N.I.V. and A.V. We are told in Ex. 33:20 that no man can see the face of God and live; but in Ex. 33:11 we read that “The LORD (Yahweh) spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend” - i.e. directly. It could not have been the LORD, Yahweh, Himself in person, who spoke to Moses face to face, because no man can see God Himself. It was the angel who carried God’s name who did so; and so we read of the LORD speaking face to face with Moses when it was actually an angel who did so (Acts 7:30‑33).

There are many other examples of the words ‘God’ and ‘LORD’ referring to the angels as opposed to God Himself. One clear example is Gen. 1:26: “And God (the angels) said, Let us make man in our image”.

Men With God’s Name

One of the passages which is most helpful in demonstrating all this is John 10:34-36. Here the Jews made the mistake which many do today. They thought that Jesus was saying he was God Himself. Jesus corrected them by saying, “Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods? If He called them ‘gods’...why do you say of (me)...’You blaspheme!’ because I said, I am the Son of God?’. Jesus is really saying ‘In the Old Testament men are called ‘gods’; I am saying I am the Son of God; so why are you getting so upset?’ Jesus is actually quoting from Ps. 82, where the judges of Israel were called ‘gods’.

As has been shown, the full name of God in Hebrew is ‘Yahweh Elohim’ - implying ‘He who will be revealed in a group of mighty ones’. The true believers are those in whom God is revelealed in a limited sense in this life. However, in the Kingdom, they will be ‘mighty ones’ in whom the LORD will be fully manifested. This is all beautifully shown by a comparison of Is. 64:4 and 1 Cor. 2:9. “Men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, besides you, what He hasprepared for him that waits for him”. Paul quotes this in 1 Cor. 2:9,10: “It is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit”. The passage in Is. 64 says that no one except God can understand the things He has prepared for the believers. However 1 Cor. 2:10 says that those things have been revealed to us.

The priests were God’s representatives, and for a man to ‘appear before the Lord’ effectively referred to his appearance before the priest. When we read of “men going up to God at Bethel”, the ‘house of God’ (1 Sam. 10:3), we aren’t to think that God Himself lived in a house in Bethel. The reference is to the priests, his representative, being there.

When Moses asked for God to reveal Himself, God declared His Name. And He didn't merely repeat the word "Yahweh" at loud volume. Instead He declared His characteristics- grace, love, forgiveness, justice, judgment etc. (Ex. 34:4-6). The Name of God is therefore an epitome of His personality. Insofar as men and women manifest the Divine characteristics, they are manifesting His Name. Paul was especially chosen to bear the Name (Acts 9:15); and he seems to perceive this when he writes of how "by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10), with evident allusion to the Name of Yahweh / I am that I am (Ex. 3:14). If mere men can be associated in this way with the Name of God- and many Old Testament characters had God's Name in their own personal names- it should be no surprise to us that the Son of God is likewise closely associated with His Father's Name. But this fact should likewise not be understood as teaching that He is "God Himself"- for men like Paul were men and not God.

Jesus And The Name Of God

It is not surprising that Jesus, as the Son of God and His supreme manifestation to men, should also carry God’s name. He could say “I am come in my Father’s name” (Jn. 5:43). Because of his obedience, Jesus ascended to heaven and God “gave him a name which is above every name” - the name of Yahweh, of God Himself (Phil. 2:9). So this is why we read Jesus saying in Rev. 3:12: “I will write upon him (the believer) the name of my God...and I will write upon him my new name”. At the judgment Jesus will give us God’s name; we then will fully carry the name of God. He calls this name, “My new name”. Remember, Jesus gave the book of Revelation some years after his ascension into heaven and after he had been given God’s name, as explained in Phil. 2:9. So he can call God’s name “My new name”; the name he had recently been given. We can now properly understand Is. 9:6, where concerning Jesus we are told, “His name (note that) shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father...”. This is a prophecy that Jesus would carry all the name of God - that he would be the total manifestation or revelation of God to us. It was in this sense that he was called ‘Emmanuel’, meaning, ‘God is with us’, although He personally was not God. Thus the prophecy of Joel 2 that men would call on the name of Yahweh was fulfilled by people being baptised into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21 cf. 38). This also explains why the command to baptize into the name of the Father was fulfilled, as detailed in the Acts record, by baptism into the name of Jesus.

Again and again we have to emphasize that we read the Biblical documents at a great distance from the culture in which they were first written. It was quite understandable for a person to carry the name of their superior, without being that superior in person. And so it was and is with the Lord Jesus. To give just one of many possible confirmations of this: "[In 2 Esdras 5:43-46]... God's spokesman, the angel Uriel, is questioned by Ezra as though he were both Creator and Judge [which God alone is]. Ezra uses the same style of address to Uriel ("My lord, my master") as he uses in direct petition to God. This practice of treating the agent as though he were the principal is of the greatest importance for New Testament Christology [i.e. the study of who Christ is]" (1). The acclamation of Thomas "My Lord and my God!" must be understood within the context of first century usage, where as Paul says, many people were called Lord and "god" (1 Cor. 8:4-6). If we're invited by our manager "Come and meet the president", we don't expect to meet the President of the USA. We expect to meet the president of the company. The word "president" can have more than one application, and it would be foolish to assume that in every case it referred to the President of the USA. And it's the same with the words "Lord" and "God" in their first century usage. Hence a Jewish non-trinitarian like Philo could call Moses "God and king of the whole nation" (Life Of Moses 1.158)- and nobody accused him of not being monotheistic! Significantly, there is in the New Testament the Greek word latreuo which specifically refers to the worship of God- and this is always [21 times] applied to God and not Jesus. The worship of Jesus that is recorded is always to God's glory, and is recorded with the same words [especially proskuneo] used about the worship of believers (Rev. 3:9, Daniel (Dan. 2:46 LX), kings of Israel etc. (1 Chron. 29:20 LXX).


(1) G.B. Caird, The Language And Imagery Of The Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) p. 181.

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