1-6 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
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 revealed 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 has prepared 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,
Not only is the Name of God carried by people,
but language and actions which are specific to God are sometimes
applied to humans who manifest Him. The daughter of Pharaoh who
saved baby Moses is described in the very terms with which God is
described as saving His people Israel 'out of the water' just as
Moses was saved. She came 'came down', 'sees' the suffering child,
hears its cry, takes pity, draws him out of the water, provides
for him (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7,8). The parallels are surely to indicate
that God was willing to show Himself manifest in that Gentile woman
in the salvation of His people. And of course the whole practical
idea of 'God manifestation' is that we consciously try to reflect
the characteristics of God- for His Name is in fact a summary of
His characteristics and personality (Ex. 34:4-6).
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 (1). 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.
The Jews were fierce monotheists, any idea that
there was any God apart from God the Father was to them blasphemous.
And yet their own writings have no problem in using the language
of 'God' in relation to men and Angels- e.g. Ezra addresses the
Angel Uriel as God Himself (2 Esdr. 5:43). It is this idea of 'God
manifestation' in a person or Angel which is so common in the Bible,
and which inevitably at times is used about God's own Son, Jesus.
But the use of such language doesn't mean that Jesus is God Himself
Language Of God Used About Jesus: Some
We need to appreciate the extent to which the first
century Middle East understood a messenger as being the very person
of the one who sent him. R.J.Z. Werblowski and Geoffrey Wigoder
in The Encyclopedia Of The Jewish Religion speak of "the
Jewish Law of Agencies" or 'Schaliach', as: "The main
point of the Jewish law of agency expressed in the dictum, "A
person's agent is regarded as the person himself". Therefore
any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having
been committed by the principle." G.R.B. Murray comments that:
"One sent is as he who sent him... The messenger [the Shaliach]
is thereby granted authority and dignity by virtue of his bearing
the status of the one who sent him. This is the more remarkable
when it is borne in mind that in earlier times the messenger was
commonly a slave" (2). Bearing this background in mind, it
isn't surprising that language specific to God is used about His
Son and messenger.
The idea is sometimes expressed that calling Jesus
"Son of God" somehow makes Him God. Apart from the illogicality
of this [a son isn't the same being as his father], the language
of "Son of God" is used in the Old Testament of men. Even
the term "God" is used of men (Ps. 45:6; 82:6;
Ex. 21:6; 22:8). The first century mind was quite used to men being
called 'god' or Divine. The Jews were strongly monotheistic, paranoid
of any implication that Yahweh was not the only God; and yet they
were happy to use the word "god" about men. Philo [a Jewish
writer] spoke of Moses as "appointed by God as god" and
"no longer man but God" (3). And of course the Greek and
Roman rulers, both local and otherwise, were described with 'Divine'
language- e.g. Antiochus Epiphanes means 'God made manifest'. There
was no understanding that these 'divine' titles therefore made these
men to be God Himself in person. Apollonius explains that "every
man who is considered good is honoured with the title of "god""
(Apollonius Of Tyana 8.4). Indeed any hero, leader of King
was addressed as 'God' (4). We can see from Acts 14:11-13 and Acts
28:6 how easily first century folk were inclined to call a man "God"
if he did miracles. I remember clearly in my early days of missionary
work in Africa being called "Wazungu" or "Mazungu"
by fascinated children who'd scarcely seen a white man before. And
I recall my shock on discovering that this term means both "white
man" and "God" (and is frequently used as such in
translations of the Bible into Central and East African languages).
But this is actually what was going on in the Hellenistic and Roman
worlds. And so when Divine language was applied to Jesus, there
is no reason to think that the first century mind would've concluded
that therefore Jesus was God Himself in person, just as those fascinated
kids calling out "Wazungu! Wazungu!" as I walked by were
hardly understanding me as God Himself in person. Here we have one
of the most glaring examples of problems arising from not reading
God's word with an appreciation of the context in which it was spoken
and written. In European culture, it would be unheard of, or blasphemous
and at best inappropriate, to call any man "God" or "Son
of God". But this wasn't the case in the first century world.
In that world- and it was against the background of that world that
the New Testament was written- the use of Divine language about
a person, or about Jesus the Son of God, didn't make them God Himself
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]"
(5). 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.
(1) It should be noted that "Many think that the list of titles
in Is. 9:5 was borrowed from the traditional titles of the monarchs
of other countries, especially of the Egyptian pharaoh... the title
applied to the king of Judah portrays him as one specially favoured
by God, e.g. "the divine mighty one" or "divine warrior"-
Raymond Brown, An Introduction To New Testament Christology
(London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1994) p. 187.
(2) George R. Beasley Murray, Gospel of Life:
Theology In The Fourth Gospel (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson,
(3) Citations in James Dunn, Christology In
The Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) p. 17.
(4) For documentation, see D. Cuss, Imperial
Cult And Honorary Terms In The New Testament (Fribourg: Fribourg
University Press, 1974) pp. 134-140.
(5) G.B. Caird, The Language And Imagery Of The
Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) p. 181.