by Mike Ratliff
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)
After posting Stephen Furtick’s video in yesterday’s post Fool Part 2, I was struck by one part of his complaint against those he calls “haters.” I’ will not quote directly because I am very tired of listening to him. There is part of it in which he mocks those of us who say we are drawing a line and standing firm, but then he leers into the camera and says, “But nothing really changes!” There was an echo of a passage from Peters 2nd Epistle so I looked it up.
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4 ESV)
Isn’t what we witnessed in that video the same scoffing Peter is talking about here? Isn’t this from a person who has rejected all authority except his own?
The issue is that these people and their followers think they have rejected a yoke of perceived religious harshness or bigotry or doctrinal narrowness or perhaps any other excuse they can come up with to extricate themselves from this “God” of Orthodoxy they do not believe in so they create one of their own. This god they create in their own image is limited by their imaginations. They place barriers all around him. He cannot do this or that. He must do this or that. He must love everyone. He cannot hate anyone. He is obligated to save all of creation. His Love overrides all of His other attributes. You get the idea.
The passage I placed at the top of this post contains this phrase, “which means, God with us.” The word “God” translates the Greek word θεός or theos, In the New Testament, when referring to Lord God, It refers to “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers (Acts 3:13). This ownership extends into the New Testament as God sent Jesus into this world to save it from spiritual bondage and to establish the church, the new “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). God is God of the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. Unfortunately, some see the God of the Old Testament as a harsh, judgmental judge, while the God of the New Testament is a tender, loving, compassionate grandfatherly figure into whose lap you can crawl. The truth is—God is both in both. For example, the theme of Deuteronomy is love while in Acts 5:1-11, God hurls a couple of judgmental thunderbolts at Ananias and Saphhira. Lydia, Barnabas, and Luke worship the same God as Miriam, Deborah, and Jeremiah.
θεός is one, he is only, and he unique (Matthew 23:9; Romans 3:20; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6; Galatians 3:20). Jesus said, quoting the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God (θεός) is one Lord” (Mark 12:29-30; cf. Deuteronomy 6:4). God is “holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2; 1 Peter 1:16; Revelation 4:8), “perfect” (Matthew 5:48), “faithful” (Romans 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9), the ultimate “promise keeper” (Romans 9:6-8), a constant “teller of the truth” (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), “wise” (Romans 16:27), “invisible” (Colossians 1:15-16), “immortal” (1 Timothy 1:17), “blessed” (1 Timothy 6:15-16), “totally righteous” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and “love” (1 John 4:8).
While God maintains His transcendence (sovereign sway and ultimate control) over all the creation, he is also immanent (in our midst), intimately involved with His creation. Jesus describes θεός as personal, compassionate, and tender, with a love that extends far beyond the abilities of the most loving human father (Matthew 7:7-12).
Jesus claimed a “oneness” with θεός not only as His unique, sinless Son, but also as θεός Himself: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In fact, Peter calls Jesus Christ “our God (θεός) and Saviour” (2 Peter 1:1). Jesus saw Himself in a special Father-Son relationship, as did other New Testament writers revealed in the oft-repeated phrase, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). The unique relationship Jesus shared with θεός is best seen in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha. θεός did not intervene when Jesus was tormented with the reality of sacrificial crucifixion (Mark 14:32-42). While Jesus prayed for an alternative, he was totally committed to his Father’s will (vv. 35-36).
θεός is also seen as the one who will bring history to a close. One of the most important themes in Revelation is “worship.” John envisions many scenes with God majestically enthroned, receiving the praise of all the inhabitants of heaven (4:8). θεός will vindicate the Lamb and His Church (Revelation 5; 14) and preside at the judgment and final consignment to hell of Satan and all his disciples (20:7-15)
Now compare θεός with the “god” that Rob Bell, Stephen Furtick and the like peddle. I can promise you this, when any of these people insist that Orthodoxy must necessarily be wide enough to include those who insist on their own private view of their own “god” and they also want to include beliefs that θεός absolutely excludes from our faith as defined clearly in His Word, well then we must decline. These fellows may go ahead and practice their religion with their heads in the sand saying things like, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation,” but regardless of how much they protest and make insulting videos like one I linked to yesterday, we must continue to practice the wisdom and discernment that θεός has given us to use for both His glory and for the edification and protection of His Church.
Even so, come soon Lord Jesus!
Soli Deo Gloria!
PS – Many thanks to Bill Mounce and his Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words in putting this post together.