Sunday, January 13, 2019

Brown's opening statement

With permission, I'm posting Dr. Michael Brown's opening statement in his recent debate with Dale Tuggy:

Debate with Dale Tuggy About the One True God

Thanks so much for coming out tonight and for tuning in to our livestream, and thanks, Dr. Tuggy, for your comments, which I’m quite eager to rebut. The fact is, you claim that Jesus is simply a glorified man, and I want to declare in the clearest possible terms that the Son of God of the Bible – the one we rightly worship as God – is infinitely more than a glorified man. To make Him into a glorified man is to deny the clear and consistent witness of Scripture. To make Him into a glorified man is to neuter the gospel, since the idea that a glorified man died for our sins is hardly a demonstration of the immeasurable love of God. To the contrary, when God sent His Son to pay for our crimes, He was giving of His very self.

So, again, I’m eager to rebut Dr. Tuggy’s opening comments, and it’s clear that a lot of his difficulties come from the fact that Son took on human form, hence praying to the Father and having the Father as His God. But for now, in my opening statement, I will lay out the clear scriptural case that the Son is fully divine, and since there is only one God, then God must be complex in His unity. Simply stated, this one God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Spirit, and if we are to accept the testimony of the Scripture, this is the only fair conclusion.

For Dr. Tuggy and others, this is a logical contradiction, but the day we can fully wrap our minds around the nature of God is the day we’ve reduced Him to our level, thereby making a god in our image. The God of the Bible is marvelous and transcendent, without beginning and without end, rightly called in Judaism the eyn sof – the infinite One – and, according to the Scriptures, clearly complex in His unity. Will we accept the biblical witness, or will we try to create a god based on our own limitations and perceptions? 

In the Old Testament, the Lord stated categorically that He would share His glory with no one. As written in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (See also 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”)

Yet we see in the New Testament that massive glory and honor are given to the Son. As Revelation records, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Rev. 5:11-14).

Either God has gone back on His Word, and another, created being is sharing in His unique honor and glory, or the Son is one with the Father, equally God. And note here that all creation worships the Lamb, meaning that He Himself is not created.

Having interacted with religious Jews for the last 47 years, I can assure you that if the Son did not share in the divine nature, to worship Him like this would be blasphemous. That, indeed, would be detracting from the worship of the only God and engaging in some form of idolatry. This is not like one candle lighting another candle without the first candle losing its light. This is like the second candle becoming predominant – in this case, having millions of people praising and glorifying Jesus, often without mentioning the Father. If the Son is not God, then He has taken glory from the Father.

What makes this all the more interesting is that throughout Isaiah 40-48, God repeatedly says of Himself, “I am” or “I am He” (translated into Greek as ego eimi), yet that is the very language Jesus uses of Himself in John, most decisively in John 8:58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (again, ego eimi) – not, “I was,” but “I am.”

So, not only does Jesus share in the Father’s glory, but He identifies Himself with the eternal God, saying, “I am” (or, “I am He”), also declaring His external preexistence. And just as the Lord says in Isaiah 48:12, “I am he; I am the first, and I am the last,” so also, in the book of Revelation, both the Father and Son are called the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. See Rev 21:6, speaking of the Father, who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” then Rev 22:13, where Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  (See also Rev 1:8, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” And note Rev 1:17.)

He is clearly and unequivocally identifying Himself with Yahweh. No created being could utter such words. Only the eternal God could say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” The Son is the eternal God!

That’s why in the Old Testament, Yahweh’s words remain forever (Isa 40:7-8) but in the New Testament it is Jesus’ words that will remain forever (Matt 24:35).

The Lord declared in Isaiah 43:11, “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior,” yet throughout the New Testament, Jesus is hailed as our Savior. Either He is one with God, or there is more than one true savior. Paul leaves us no doubt, referring to “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” in Titus 2:13. That’s the most obvious and clear sense of the Greek. Jesus is our great God and Savior.

We also learn from this same section in Isaiah that when Yahweh created the universe, He did it alone. As written in Isaiah 44:24, “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” Yet the New Testament tells us explicitly that the Son was involved in creation.

In John 1:1, John uses the language of Genesis 1:1 in the Septuagint, saying that the Word was in the beginning (en arche), and explaining that what God was, the Word was. And, he continues, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). And, John tells us, it is this preexistent Word, this Word through which all things were created, which became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
And that’s why John the Immerser explained that Jesus “ranks before me, because he was before me” (John 1:30). That’s why Jesus said that He was from above, that He came down from heaven, that He came from God and was returning to God (John 3:13; 6:38, 41; 8:23; 13:3).

That’s why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Even more emphatically, he wrote, “For by him [meaning the Son!] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).

The text is clear. The Son is eternal. The Son is uncreated. All things were created through Him and for Him. 

You really have to engage in a hopeless series of exegetical gymnastics to deny the plain sense of these words. And remember: In Isaiah, Yahweh said no one was with Him when He created the universe, yet these texts say He created all things through His Son. That can only mean one thing: The Father and Son are one God! And that’s why Jesus explained that it was His Father’s will “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

There are other texts which explicitly point to the Son’s eternal preexistence. In John 17:5, Jesus prays to the Father, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Once again, the text is clear.

John also tells us in chapter 12 that when Isaiah saw the Lord’s glory (meaning, Yahweh in His glory in Isaiah 6), it was the Son of God he saw, the one who suffers and dies in Isaiah 53. Isaiah saw the Son of God, and the Son was called Yahweh.

That’s why Paul tells us explicitly in Philippians 2 that Jesus existed in the form of God yet emptied Himself and became a servant, dying for us. And that’s why Paul uses a text speaking of Yahweh in Isaiah 45:23, where God swears that every knee will bow to Him and every tongue swear to Him and applies the verse to Jesus, saying that every knee will bow to Him and every tongue confess that He is Lord. If the Son is not deity, that’s blasphemous, and it cannot possibly be to the glory of the Father. Just think if the verse were referred to an angel, rather than Yahweh. It’s unimaginable.

Note also that Paul in this passage uses the example of Jesus in Philippians as an example of humility. He didn’t take what rightly belonged to Him – namely, the privileges of deity – but rather emptied Himself on our behalf. He who was eternally God came to earth as a servant to die for us!
That’s why Jesus says that He had often longed to have mercy on Jerusalem, but it was not willing (Matthew 23:37). He was the one wooing His people throughout Old Testament times.

That’s why Hebrews 1:8, quoting from Psalm 45:7, says to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Yes, the Son is God and has an eternal throne! (The plain sense of the Hebrew and Greek texts is quite clear and the major reason there is any debate in how to translate the words is because of theological objections to the Messiah being God.)

Not only so, but Hebrews continues, quoting from Psalm 102 and applying these words to the Son, “And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’” (Heb 1:10-12) The Son is the eternal creator, the one who always was and always will be. That’s what Scripture states!

We don’t need to play games with this text and try to make it say something it is not saying. The text clearly and indisputably speaks of the Lord creating the heavens and the earth, which will ultimately wear out, but He – the eternal Lord – will remain the same. Yet Hebrews applies this to the Son! And Psalm 102 makes frequent reference to Yahweh, yet the psalm is referred to the Son in Hebrews 1. Not only so, but the Greek text speaks of the Lord creating the universe in the beginning (archas). There is no denying the plain truth of these words!

And Hebrews makes the consistent argument that the Son is greater than the angels, yet in first-century Judaism, the very context of these words, there was no one higher than the angels other than God Himself. 

That’s why Isaiah said in 9:6 that one of the Messiah’s titles would be, “Mighty God,” yet in Isaiah 10:21, it is Yahweh who is called “Mighty God.” That’s why Thomas said to the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” in John 20:28. The text is totally clear! Thomas called Jesus his Lord and his God. And that’s why Paul wrote in Colossians 2:9 that “the whole fullness of deity” dwelt in bodily form in Jesus.

Peter is clear as well, writing in 2 Peter 1:1 about “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” And it is very likely that Paul speaks of Jesus as God in Romans 9:5, while it is most likely that in 1 John 5:20, John states that Jesus Christ is “the true God.”

That’s why Jesus could say that the Father was in Him and He in the Father (John 14:9-11). That’s why Paul identifies the Spirit of God with the Spirit of Christ in Romans 8:9-11. That’s why Paul could pray to the Father and Son together in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, saying, “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,” using a singular verb for the Father and Jesus. And why else would Paul include Jesus in a prayer to the Father, let alone pray to the Father and Son using a singular verb in the Greek – unless they are one? (See also 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, where Paul puts Jesus first in the prayer, using a singular verb again: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”)

And that’s why prayer is offered directly to the Son in the New Testament. Stephen prays to Him in Acts 7:59 (“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”); we are taught to pray, “Maranatha,” which in Aramaic means, “Our Lord, come!” And John calls out to Him in prayer in Revelation, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). Jesus even told us to ask Him for anything and He would do it (see John 14:14).
And that’s why, in Revelation 22, we read that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be” in the New Jerusalem, “and his servants will worship him” – not them, but Him, God and the Lamb, one divine Being and one throne. And that’s why, in Revelation 22, we read that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be” in the New Jerusalem, “and his servants will worship him” – not them, but Him, God and the Lamb, one divine Being, and in the end, one throne, not two. “They will see his face” – not their faces – “and his name” – not their names – “will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-4).

The very thing that Dr. Tuggy tries so hard to resist is the very thing that Scripture teaches.
To review: There is no question whatsoever that the Son is eternal, preexistent, and fully divine, the one through whom all things were created, and the one who is worthy to receive praise, honor, and glory and to whom prayer can be directed. That’s why He is called God in a number of texts, and that’s why we worship Him as God – one with His Father. And that’s why, when Jesus returns to the earth and His feet touch the Mount of Olives, as promised in Acts 1:11, Zechariah tells us that it will be Yahweh’s feet that touch down (see Zech 14:3-4). And that’s why we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). A glorified man has no place between the Father and the Spirit. 

In fact, as we look at the scriptural evidence, we see that lying to the Spirit is lying to God (Acts 5:3-4), that the Spirit can be grieved (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30), that the Spirit teaches, guides, speaks, intercedes, appoints leaders, and bears witness (e.g., 2 Sam 23:3; Neh 9:19-20; Rom 8:14; John 14:26; Acts 13:2; 1 Tim 4:1; Rom 8:26; Acts 20:28; 5:32), that the Spirit is manifest through wisdom and knowledge (1 Chr 28:11-12; 1 Cor 12:7-8), and that the Spirit is eternal (Heb 9:14). The Spirit also is God!

That’s why Paul could speak of “the love of the Spirit” (Rom 15:30). And that’s why Paul could invoke this benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14; and note carefully, you do not have “fellowship” with a thing; you have fellowship with a person).

That’s why Christians concluded that God was triune, one God, made known to us as Father, Son, and Spirit. In the New Testament, the Father is primarily known as “God,” the Son is primarily known as “Lord,” and the Spirit is given various titles to explain His work and mission (although He is sometimes called “Lord” too, as in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; and, of course, the Son is sometimes called God and the Father is sometimes called Lord).

That’s why Jesus could say things like this, in John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me.”

And that’s why blasphemy against the Spirit – not against an impersonal force but against God Himself – was a damnable sin. You are damned for sinning against a divine someone, not just a powerful something.

And it is only when we understand God’s tri-unity that we can understand how people saw God in the Old Testament, yet the Bible says no one has ever seen God. The Father remains hidden, and it is the Son who makes Him known. That’s why Jesus could say, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). And that’s why He could say, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22). You can’t say those words about a glorified man.

Nor can you say that God created the world through a glorified man (Heb 1:2) or that a glorified man “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature” (Heb 1:3, NET).

That’s why Jacob in Genesis 48 described God as, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm” (Genesis 48:15-16). Yes, Jacob equated the one true God with the angel who redeemed him. This was his way of describing the preexistent Son, who appeared sometimes in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. Jacob encountered Him too! And just as Paul prayed to Jesus and the Father as one, using a singular verb, so also here Jacob appeals to God and His redeeming Angel – one being! – in the singular as well.

As a Jewish follower of Jesus, there has always been pressure on me to deny what Scripture plainly teaches, namely, that Jesus the Son is eternal deity and that God’s unity is complex. But because the Word is so clear on this, I could not and would not yield to this pressure. (For the record, I could have brought much, much more support from the Old Testament, but there is simply not enough time to review the massive amount of scriptural truth affirming the deity of the Son.)

I urge each of you to fall down at the feet of the glorious Son and worship Him as God. This will please the Father, who sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, and who continues to work among us by His Spirit.

After Paul laid out God’s extraordinary plan to save both Jews and Gentiles in Romans 9-11, he wrote these incredible words, quoting from the Old Testament as well: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:33-36).

Let’s stop trying to put the infinite and eternal God into the tiny box of our limited minds, as if we in ourselves could figure out or define him or reduce him to a mathematical formula, and let’s instead worship our triune God with reverence and awe. That is humility and that is wisdom.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting discourse. The point regarding the Words of the Lord enduring forever stuck out to me for some reason.

    The biblical evidence for the Trinity is overwhelming. Those who beg to differ are simply in denial of the facts. Here's a short piece I wrote recently on a proof-text for the deity of Christ:

    It is nothing too significant, as it is only a minuscule support for the Trinity (in comparison to the many other biblical arguments provided). If God is not triune, then how could He even be self-sufficient?