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Mastering the MYSTERY of a Triune God.

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The Christian religion is the worship and service of Jesus Christ. It’s not Mary we worship, but her Son. We worship neither saints, angels, a law code, nor even God’s Spirit. It’s JESUS who is to be honored. The Bible is our guide.

Mastering the Mystery Of a Triune God

Some, noting that God is ONE, choose to believe that the Bible is wrong in also saying that Jesus is God — the Word who was both WITH God and who IS God from creation through eternity.

Reviewing the book by LaGard Smith (titled, “Who Is My Brother? Facing a Crisis of Identity and Fellowship”), Leonard E. Allen speaks of this mystery. Is God only one? Is God three? WHO is my brother? Is JESUS the Father God? Is God’s Spirit a separate personality or only the presence of God within us?

In his WINESKINS (Volume 4, Number 2) review, Allen writes —

Most students of restoration history (that is, the early dreams and doings of the Stone-Campbell Reformation in particular) have heard of the question put to Alexander Campbell in 1837 by a follower from Lunenburg County, Virginia.

The woman who wrote to Campbell was deeply disturbed by Campbell’s statement that he found Christians in all Protestant groups. She wanted to know how Mr. Campbell could consider anyone a Christian who had not been baptized by immersion for remission of sins.

“But who is a Christian?” Campbell replied. “Everyone who believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will.”

He added, “I cannot make any ONE duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion.”

This reply troubled and shocked many of Campbell’s friends and associates. A whirlwind of controversy ensued for many months, and Campbell felt compelled to write more on the subject. In those further explanations and in years to come, he never rejected or repudiated the position quoted above, though he did nuance and finesse it.

This book by LaGard Smith in a way reopens this old controversy.

The author is troubled that a growing number of people in churches with ties to the Stone-Campbell reformation today are coming to acknowledge as fellow Christians, regardless of how they understand and practice baptism, all those who have faith in Jesus, and, according to their best understanding of His teachings, are obedient to Him as Lord. He calls it a “quiet revolution.”

Caught up in a “frenzy of ecumenical fervor,” some of our churches are experiencing a “radical abandonment of settled doctrine” regarding baptism and fellowship. For some, the “faith-only” doctrine is replacing the historic insistence on the essentiality of baptism, with the result that our “exclusive circle of fellowship” is breaking down.

Part 1 of Smith’s book responds to this quietly dangerous revolution.

With urgency and deep concern, the author exposes what he sees as the underlying causes of this sea-change: biblical illiteracy, the frenzy for church growth, the recent impact of the Promise Keepers movement, and the retooling of our traditional theology to justify what people have already decided to do.

Part 2, which is the heart of the book, lays out and develops a five-fold model of fellowship —

1) UNIVERSAL fellowship is what we share with all people simply because we together are humans,

2) FAITH fellowship is what we share with all who love God and believe in Jesus as the eternal Word of God whether or not they have yet experienced the new birth as it is laid out in Acts 2,

3) CHRISTIAN fellowship is what we share with Christ and with all who are in fact born again of water and spirit. This sharing is not dependent upon complete doctrinal agreement but rather upon being united by Christ (all who have been by Him added to His body comprise ONE body if we hold to the ONE faith revealed in the Bible),

4) CONSCIENCE fellowship is a subset of Christian fellowship. It recognizes that matters of conscience can and often do create enclaves within the larger body of Christ. Though often formed for legitimate reasons (including racial and cultural differences) they usually in fact create unhealthy and undesirable tensions, and

5) CONGREGATIONAL (local) fellowship is the realm in which koinonia (brotherly love) is most fully lived out. Table fellowship stands at the center, creating an environment where nurture, ministry, and discipline can and do thrive and flourish.

Smith’s final section, “Rethinking Sacred Cows,” answers three questions:

  1. When and how is a member to be disfellowshipped?

  2. Who is a false teacher? and,

  3. Do believers who are not “in Christ” (see Galatians 3:26,27) have any justification for hope of eternal salvation?

In general, this book is a restating of the exclusive view of fellowship traditionally held by “Churches of Christ” (Note that both Allen and Smith use this name to refer to those churches of Christ which are opposed to religious use of musical instruments) in this century.

It’s done with a style, a grace, and an unpredictability that is pleasantly surprising. On one hand, the author says that “not even Campbell could escape the fellowship enigma” regarding baptism and fellowship, and admits that he — and all of us — are caught in such an enigma.

“Even where there are bright lines,” he allows, “the enigma of fellowship remains an enigma.”

Yet on the other hand, an either/or polemic runs throughout the book that makes one wonder where the enigma went. I should quickly add there also runs through the book a spirit of charity, dialogue, and respect that is often absent in works of this genre. In a final chapter, the author allows that God in the end will exercise divine mercy and clemency in ways that will most likely surprise us all.

My problem with this author’s restating of the traditional narrow view of fellowship is not its robust polemics or its sharp criticism of the spirit of the times. The basic problem is doctrinal.

The author deplores “doctrinal dithering” and calls loudly for doctrinal purity. I agree. And that, ironically, is the deepest problem with this book — doctrinal softness or deficiency — a deficiency the author has received from his doctrinal tradition and here perpetuates.

To put it differently, though this book claims that doctrinal slippage is sending us down the “slippery slope,” it itself is not doctrinal enough. Like many writings in this genre, it has slipped away from the central, anchoring, orienting doctrine of the faith: the Trinity.

At first this may sound like an odd, even outlandish claim. “Of course we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — three in one, one in three. What’s the problem?”

The problem is not just believing in the Father, Son, and Spirit, of course; any biblicist does that. The problem is a Trinitarian theology, a functional doctrine of the trinity that centers and deeply shapes all of one’s theology.

In this sense, the doctrine of the Trinity has been in steady recession since the seventeenth century, and that eclipse stands behind the rise of modern Unitarian, rationalistic, Christological, and other heresies. In more subtle forms it lies behind the line of “supernatural rationalism” that runs from the Christian philosopher John Locke down through Campbell and other progressive thinkers of his time.

To put the problem oversimply, God’s relationality was overshadowed by mechanism. Mystery was eclipsed by method. [Ray remarks — We can only hope this statement will be clarified in what follows. He here seems to imply that it’s possible to honor Christ more than is proper, which I find difficult to think worthy of serious consideration.]

As a result, the doctrinal tradition the author so aggressively defends has been badly off-center. Although most have affirmed the Father, Son, and Spirit, we have had a very weak doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, the doctrine of the Trinity has been in retreat in the modern West until the last couple of decades.

As I have stressed over and over to my theology students over the last decade, the Trinity is not about some strange heavenly arithmetic that theologians like to play with.

Rather, it is a kind of shorthand for referring to what we know of God now that Jesus has come and the Spirit has been poured out.

Though a deep mystery, the Trinity is a crucially practical doctrine. For the way we understand God’s way of loving and relating to people sets the pattern for how His followers relate to one another and how we treat one another.

The Trinity provides our pattern or exemplar for unity and fellowship. As Father, Son, and Spirit, God leads a relational life. That life is characterized by submissive love as each member of the Trinity pours His life into the Other.

In God Himself there is an abundant outpouring of life, so abundant that it overflows and creates community with God’s creatures — those outside the relationship with God. Through the sending of His Son and the outpouring of His Spirit, God pours this rich life into us who are His creatures and His children.

As Diogenes Allen puts it: “The life of the Trinity is a perfect community — the kind of community for which we long. It satisfies our craving to be perfectly loved and to properly be attached to others.”

In several ways we partake of the Trinitarian life:

The Trinity is the doctrinal center and fulcrum of the Christian faith. To change the metaphor, it is the prism through which all other doctrinal features of the faith are lighted and put in perspective. Indeed, the Trinitarian doctrine encapsulates and preserves the uniquely Christian view of God’s relational nature.

When this doctrine functionally recedes, as it has done in the modern period (and specifically in the doctrinal tradition of Churches of Christ — many of our teachers affirming that the ONLY work of the Spirit was to produce the written Word), there are many, often subtle, consequences.

One easily falls prey to sectarianism or overly-narrow views of God’s Kingdom, to various forms of legalism, all of which misconstrue the nature of God’s relationality; to spiritual triumphalism (which downplays the cruciform nature of discipleship), to constricted or mechanical understandings of the role of the ordinances or “sacraments” in Christian life, and to other assorted ills and heresies.

Ray remarks Who can doubt Allen’s conviction that the crux of the gospel is the triune nature of God? But many of us may be doubting that he is right!

For example, the rancor and division that has so marked this tradition (he means the Churches of Christ sect which is best known for its opposition to use of musical instruments in church assemblies) is not simply an unfortunate consequence of garrulous or prideful personalities (one will always have those in good supply), but a theological problem.

The author decries all this rancor. He earnestly wants to put it all behind us. “Having decimated our own brothers through years of infighting,” he laments, “we have rendered ourselves unable to fight the real enemy’ (154). True.

But sadly the theological agenda he promotes may well continue it. That’s why I say that the main problem with this book by Smith is a fundamental doctrinal weakness which has the effect of skewing in profound but often subtle ways the basic issues surrounding baptism and fellowship.

Let me focus now on the issue of baptism, which usually has been the pivotal issue in the exclusive view of fellowship.

First, a historical issue. Though the author attempts to marshal Campbell and even Stone in support of his position, he either misses or chooses to not mention a key point in Campbell’s view of baptism and fellowship.

Early in his career, then again in 1837 and after, Campbell made a subtle but crucial distinction: though Christ’s blood “really washes away” sin, the ordinance of baptism “formally washes” it away. Thus, baptism serves as a formal, outward sign and seal of forgiveness, bringing to each who submits to it an assurance and joy of salvation that the unimmersed simply cannot experience.

“The present salvation,” Campbell concluded, “never can be so fully enjoyed (all things else being equal) by the unimmersed as by the immersed.”

Similarly, he also distinguished between “inward and outward Christians,” asserting that it was possible for one who sincerely mistook the outward baptism to yet possess the inward faith which is essential for salvation.

Yes, Campbell emphasized different things at different times (as each of us who teach surely do), and yes, this distinction often was lost by zealous disciples, but for Campbell, both early and late in his career, this distinction deeply shaped his view of who is a Christian.

Among the branch of his heirs that became Churches of Christ this point was entirely lost.

Barton Stone held a more open view than Campbell regarding baptism and fellowship. Campbell excluded the unimmersed from “constitutional membership” in the church but not necessarily from eternal salvation. After 1826 Stone taught and practiced baptism for remission, but never made it a condition of Christian fellowship (on this point the author is mistaken, page 47). And Stone thought it inconsistent of Campbell to exclude from church fellowship any of those whom God had saved.

Second, a point about the meaning and practice of baptism today. The author is certainly correct that baptism is not a mere symbol. As Smith put it, “Baptism doesn’t just stand for something; it DOES something” (page 238). Yes, baptism and other Christian ordinances are channels of divine life and grace. They are empowering. They are life-giving. They are dynamic. When one neglects them, one is deprived of measures of divine LIFE.

As James McClendon puts it, they are performative signs that bring us more and more into the divine life, and that draw us more and more INTO the Way of Jesus.Such a high view of the ordinances (or sacraments), however, requires a firm rootage in a proper Trinitarian theology (that is, in a proper understanding of God’s relational nature). Otherwise, one too easily makes them magical or mechanical.

Or one pronounces that the divine life can flow only in this way and in no other way. Yes, baptism is the normal sign of conversion. But as Campbell put it, he that “infers that none are Christians but the immersed, as greatly errs as he that affirms that none are alive but those of clear and full vision.”

Ray remarks Who would dare to dispute with Alexander Campbell? Perhaps only those who have read and believed fully in what Paul says in Galatians 3:26,27. Only those who are IN Christ, those who have “put on” Christ, are saved. There is salvation in none other. It’s AT baptism that we put on Christ and come INTO Him and His body. AFTER being buried to sin and raised up, we walk IN new life, which until then is only ours in promise.

The revivalistic milieu of early America (U.S.A.), which focused so heavily on the private conversion experience, decimated the role of the ordinances in many Christian traditions.

But today some of those traditions are beginning to rediscover believer’s baptism, and some are calling for weekly communion (sharing of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper). Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas says (with tongue only partially in cheek) that one of his goals in his ethics class at Duke is to make Methodist ministers feel guilty for not celebrating the Eucharist every week in their churches.

Today is not a time for preachers and teachers in Churches of Christ (or in any church of God) to be surrendering or downplaying a high view of baptism and weekly communion. Indeed, our challenge is to deepen and enrich the meaning of these practices by centering them more deeply in the Trinitarian life of God.

Now a few closing reflections. The author contrasts Churches of Christ to the “doctrinally rebellious denominations” (page 225). But it seems to me that when we examine our own doctrinal history we fit too easily into the same category.

Examine our track record on doctrines like the Trinity, the Spirit of God, grace, and atonement, the unity of the church, et al. No doctrine is more foundational than the Trinity; no doctrine nearer the heart of the gospel than grace; and no doctrine more important to an empowered life with God than the Holy Spirit. We also have GOOD reason to continue doctrinal renewal.

As for the “quiet revolution” that so troubles the author, not all the change stirring and troubling Churches of Christ today is due to secularism, biblical illiteracy, or cultural sellout as the author seems to think. Of course some of it is. But some of it is a fitful critique of, and move away from, earlier (19th century) cultural accommodation.

Campbell’s theological “system” was a brilliant response to early 19th-century revivalism, and to the new spirit of individualism and liberty set loose in the U.S.A.

But his theology was deeply shaped by the culture of that time, including the bold conviction that one could stand free of culture and “just read the Bible.” The church has always been a cultural church, so some of the present upheaval has come as people have realized that 19th-century enculturation is not eternal, and perhaps in some respects is no longer even healthy.

In our time (call it post-modern, if you like), we are learning that our convictions about “the facts” are always, often unconsciously, schooled by our traditions. We cannot stand entirely free of those traditions. Any attempt to do so is bound to fail.

Smith’s theology is deeply formed by the traditions of the Stone-Campbell Movement (that branch in particular to which he belongs). This book continues an intramural argument in a small rivulet of the great stream of God’s Kingdom on earth. Some of the language and terms of this internecine discussion would sound quite odd to the ears of many of God’s people alive today.

Every tradition (each sect) has its in-house discussions, its distinctive emphases, and (to the eyes of impartial observers) its “odd” practices. That’s O.K. Up to a point, such issues are worth arguing about.

But it’s long past time for us to acknowledge the great stream of historic, Trinitarian Christian faith — a stream often muddy and polluted, to be sure, but a stream that nonetheless has proclaimed the love of the Father, known the grace of the Lord Jesus, and experienced the fellowship of the Spirit.

Is it clear why we refer to the trinitarian
nature of our ONE God as a mystery?

Some deny that Jesus is God, in a good-faith effort to hold to the doctrine of ONE God. But the Scripture is clear in defining Jesus as eternal Word of God who was both WITH God (the Father) at creation, and who WAS God even then.

I wrote on 11/11/98 to an e-mail list group where some on the list are convinced that Jesus was born as just a man.

Paul wrote, (Colossians 1:13ff) For he (the Father) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He (the Son and eternal Word of God) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the preeminence ...

By HIM all things were created. He is described simply in John 1:1,2,14 as the Word of God. In HIM all things hold together, just as they have since He created them. His name is Jesus.

Colossians 2:9,10 — For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. … What a wonderful book about Jesus is Paul's epistle to the Colossians!

On the same date I received
from Walter L. Spratt the following —

From: ((Walter L. "Jack" Spratt))

Subject: Supremacy of Christ.

May I share with you some thoughts about the supremacy of Christ? If you can get access to William Barclay's commentary on "The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians" and can read pages 135-139, do so. He has what I consider an excellent discussion of Gnosticism and we do have that doctrine in our world today, only it’s being called by different names!

Col. 1:15,16 "...the first born over all creation" (prototokos pashs ktiseus) The word "prototokos" here is best translated as "the preeminent one." It is not used to refer to Him as the first of God's creation. The context is the very opposite. He is over all creation. He is the Creator of the creation. Lightfoot translates the word and the phrase: "Priority to all creation. In other words, it declares the absolute pre-existence of the Son." “Sovereignty over all creation. God's ‘first-born’ is the natural ruler, the acknowledged head of God's household." Pg. 146,147

"For by Him all things were created...." This phrase negates the idea that Christ was a created being. Again, Mr. Lightfoot says, "All the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government of the universe reside in Him, the Eternal Word, as their holding the same relation to the universe which the Incarnate Christ holds to the church. He is the source of its life, the center of all its developments, the mainspring of all its motions." Page 150

In these verses (15-22), the Apostle Paul sets forth the supremacy of Christ. In his presentation Paul makes some statements that are difficult for me to understand. A consideration of that which prompted the writing to the Colossians can aid us. See Barclay, page 135ff — for what I believe is a clear and rather extended explanation of Gnosticism.

Paul warns of that process of thinking that later became known as Gnosticism. This basic philosophy was that all matter was evil, that spirit was good, and that matter is eternal. They also believed that the world, created out of matter that was evil was created, not by God, but by an emanation from God so far removed that it could touch matter that is evil.

Thus, Paul's simple argument that Christ, the Son of God — who is God in human flesh — from non-existent matter had created the world of matter!

On another occasion I wrote to
this “generic Christian” list —

I know English pretty well, at least as well as most other folks who like to read and write it. When I see an attack on the deity of Jesus, I'm not just imagining an attack. And when I repeatedly read in the Scriptures about His deity, I'm not just imagining that the inspired writers said what they are reported to have said. Jesus is God. He always was and always will be, long after His critics have passed from the scene. The Bible very clearly says so, especially in chapter 1 of the gospel according to John, which some so cleverly attempt to explain away.

A parallel thought is expressed by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 in a passage the NIV translators apparently thought should be printed as if it were poetry. As poetry or prose, it points out that Jesus did not cling to (hold on to) His status with the Father in Heaven, but emptied Himself of that glorious status in order to come to earth to be merely a human for the time in order that He might die AS a human for the sins of mankind.

After dying and being raised from the dead, He was restored to full glory with the Father in Heaven. Jesus clearly claims that He was and is the beginning and the end, the a to z of everything (one who has always existed and always will exist).

Disbelief begins with misunderstanding of John chapter 1, where it's made clear that the Son of God is also the Word of God who was not only WITH God at creation but also Himself fully WAS God. Men cannot become God. No man ever could do so or did do so. In Philippians 2, Paul says Jesus was RESTORED to the stature which He had enjoyed before He emptied Himself to come to earth as fully a human for a time. And now He is once again exalted to "the highest place" and His name is above every name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We properly worship the Father and the Son, who together are God. At no time did Jesus dilute or dispute with the Father's will, but fully fulfilled what the Father had sent Him to earth to do. The statement, "Jesus rejected the kind of authority possessed and wielded by God," is not in agreement with truth.

The Bible's statement is that Jesus MADE HIMSELF nothing, TAKING the very nature of a servant by being MADE in human likeness. Paul clearly says that Jesus existed (as Jesus more than once claims was the case) prior to His existence as a human being.

To reword Paul's clear claim in order to imply instead that AS A MAN Jesus "rejected (that is, didn't choose falsely to claim) the kind of authority possessed and wielded by God" is to deny what the Word clearly affirms to be true — in the same way that asking an accused wife-beater if he had QUIT beating his wife attempts to make any answer the man gives into an admission of guilt.

What the English text tells us is that Jesus, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (onto, rather than surrendered in order to accomplish an earthly mission), but made himself nothing, being made in human likeness," etc.

It's true as this passage very clearly affirms, and no amount of explaining and redefining can alter its truth. Those who dispute it are attacking Jesus. If He is NOT God, at best He's a liar and up to no good. His enemies certainly recognized that He was claiming to be God.

And so did His friends. And they said so without apology, pointing out that His resurrection from the dead PROVED it. No amount of redefinitions and explanations can alter the fact. Why would anyone attempt to alter the facts in the name of witnessing FOR Christ?

Why imply that just because men through the centuries have recognized that Jesus is the unique Son of God who is also the eternal Word of God, it must be just tradition that causes US today to also think so? If I understand the English language, that IS what our brother so smoothly is saying!

Who will go to Heaven because they
perfectly understand the nature of God?

Hi, A brother asks if there’ll be room in Heaven for both those of us who believe that Jesus is the eternal Word of God, and those who think not.

Heaven, created by the God of the universe, surely WILL be large enough for all who are born again. There's no way anyone will get there except through JESUS. All who accept Jesus as Lord and obey Him WILL be saved. God's grace is unlimited.

Gary is right that our exactly correct understanding of everything about Christian doctrine will not determine our destiny, therefore some who have peculiar and indefensible ideas about the nature of God may nonetheless believe that Jesus is the Christ. No man will be the judge when all stand before God's judgment seat, and God makes NO mistakes.

But SOME who have thought they were ever-so-right (will it be you or I?) will learn they were not right. And SOME will protest that they did many things in the name of Jesus, yet WILL be told they are unknown to the Savior.

These unfortunate ones will find no room in heaven, for their destiny is a black hole from which there is no exit (Revelation's term is a "lake" of fire and brimstone). The "black hole" concept will be understood by imaginative students of our current universe who long for space travel, but it's not worded that way (of course it's not) in God's Word. But those who do not on earth confess Jesus as Lord will go to hell however we describe it.

The gospel which was presented by Christ's apostles was not terribly complex or difficult to understand. Paul simply describes it as facts which add up to the good news that anyone who turns to Jesus will be accepted and saved. The gospel message included and includes ONE God, ONE Lord, ONE Spirit, ONE hope, ONE body.

When Jesus encouraged His disciples to take the message of hope into the world, He simply told them to tell others about the risen Lord, then perform on each the ONE baptism which would induct them into a new kingdom which was ruled by God and in which they could joyfully serve God until they were called to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

It is not true that everyone will be saved. Everyone CAN be saved. Jesus warns that the way which leads to death is broad and so deceivingly easy that MANY choose to go that way. He was not telling us that everyone would be saved, but that many would NOT be saved. But there'll be room for all in hell who have preferred the Devil's lies over God's simple truths.

Yes, there'll be plenty of room in heaven for all who sincerely love and obey Jesus as Lord. But will there be room there for ones who deny that He is God? It's JESUS who will adjudicate, who will cause the "sheep" to find their home and the "goats" to be led away to THEIR eternal home.

It's JESUS who in that great judgment day will be honored by all, respected by all, and rightly feared by all. Not all who have paid lip service to Him will face Him without fear on that day. He who made all things will also dispose of ALL things. We who love Him as Lord and Savior will in the day of judgment rejoice.

And on another occasion --

In the written Word of God, normal translations, we read that there will be a great judgment day when, as one poet suggests, "the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left." In that day, EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord — to the glory of God the Father.

It appears that those being so kindly questioned by Greg have in their writings presented the view that at some point in time Jesus BECAME God although they believe that He did not exist as God when John says He did, so as to be creator of all things that have been made. So they are representing that they do accept the deity of Jesus.

I hear someone saying that God was talking to Himself prior to creation, and that what He was later going to reveal as a code of law talked back to Him and then that future code of law became the active agent through which the solar system was created. An amazing theory, it seems to me.

If this is not accurate reporting, please correct me!

Of course the view may be overlooking the fact that God is eternal, without beginning or end. If a person BECOMES God, then God is NOT eternal, but does have a beginning. And an end?

Shall we believe that God is NOT eternal? It has been suggested, and some on the generic "Christian" list have thought it well to agree, that God needed to learn and adapt to what we changeable humans do and think.

If this is not heresy (heresy simply means promoting doctrine which must result in dividing between those who agree and those who disagree), what keeps it from being so? If Jesus BECAME God, then before that He was NOT God, and at some future time perhaps will again NOT be God. It sounds like heresy to me.

And what about us ALL being equal with Jesus, each a "son of God" like He was? If Jesus was not the UNIQUE Son of God, then the Bible indeed IS foolishness and every bit might as well have been written by a fanciful poet whose mind was racing far ahead of his/her pen (that IS what is suggested as explanation for what John wrote in his gospel, chapter 1, isn't it?).

God is not man. Men do not become god or gods. As lovers of God, our goal is to become LIKE God. But that doesn't mean we hope to become God Himself. Those who read the Bible searching for the truth there revealed are sure to see Jesus AS God, not as a wonderful, wise, and powerful man who had delusions of glory and convinced others that he had BECOME God. God is ETERNAL.

Given O. Blakely writes —

The current reign of Jesus should not be questioned by anyone, but it is. The body of Christ is regularly subjected to a variety of dogmas on this subject, some of which are damaging to the heart. The highest expression of God's love is found in the salvation of mankind.

Equally true, the highest expression of divine power and authority is found in finishing the work of salvation begun by Jesus Christ. He started the work by laying down His life. He is finishing the work by executing a righteous reign at the right hand of God. That reign is immediately related to the salvation He was sent into the world to accomplish. Any view of Christ's rule that supposes other priorities is seriously deficient.

CHRIST IS KING ~ The Word of God is clear on this matter. The Lord Jesus Christ is an exalted and all-powerful King NOW. We will find there to be no deficiency in His present reign. It is neither inferior nor ineffectual. We must be alert for any dogma that presents the Lord Jesus Christ as occupying a secondary role at this time. The Word of God is clear on this point, and we must be forward to accept: Jesus is exalted above all things at this present time.

"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32,33).

Note the Spirit relates His reign upon "the throne of His Father David" to His birth into the world. This was the appropriate time to announce His dominion! That reign is directly related to the great salvation He came to effect.

EVERYTHING TO JESUS ~ One of the highest expressions of God's love is found in the salvation of mankind. Equally true, the highest expression of divine power and authority is found in finishing the work of salvation that has been begun by Jesus Christ. "All things are delivered unto Me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27).

Scripture here relates Christ's possession of "all things" to men coming to know the true God. The primary work of God is not the subduing of inimical powers, but the revelation of Himself to men through His unique and creative Son.

INTO HIS KINGDOM ~ Christ's death and resurrection were the prelude to His reign. He presides over the seen and unseen worlds, exercising authority over every personality. There is no realm where His reign does not extend, and no personality over which He does not presently dominate.

"And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42).

The penitent thief was convinced Jesus really was a King. With remarkable faith, he asked to be remembered favorably when Jesus took the reins of His kingdom. Christ's answer dispels much of the confusion on this subject. "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (v 43). Words have little meaning if that answer is not directly related to the thief's question! Jesus took the reins of the kingdom that very day!

JESUS IS LORD OF ALL ~ "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all)" (Acts 10:36).

The clear implication of this text is this: if Jesus is not Lord of all, peace cannot be preached. There can be no peace unless One is exalted above all opposing forces. Peter does not say Jesus will be Lord of all, but that He is Lord of all. It is not on the part of wisdom to affirm anything else.

He is "over all," and there are no exceptions, except the Father Himself (1 Corinthians 15:27). "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, Who IS over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Romans 9:5). It is not possible to be "over all" and not reign. Being "over all" is what constitutes the reign.

AND THE LIVING ~ "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Romans 14:9). Christ's death and resurrection were the prelude to His reign. He presides over the seen and unseen worlds, exercising authority over every personality. There is no realm where His reign does not extend, and no personality over which He does not presently dominate. Notice, He died and arose to enter into that reign.

EVERY NAME ~ "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).

Jesus is not anticipating receiving a name above all other names, He has already received it! It only remains for His exaltation to become apparent to us upon the earth — everyone else knows! Possessing a name above all names equates to reigning. Jesus is not simply a figurehead.

KING OF KINGS ~ "Which in His times He shall show, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen" (1 Timothy 6:15,16).

Jesus is presently the "only Potentate" or Sovereign. He has no competitors! He does not appear to many to presently occupy this position, but that is only because some of us are blind. God will soon "show" Him in this capacity to an assembled universe. Jesus will not then begin to be Sovereign, as some suppose. Today, there is no king or lord, despite their apparent authority, who is not under Christ. He is their King, whether they know it or not. At will, He can put them down or raise them up.

THE KINGS OF THE EARTH ~ "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5,6).

The arresting thing about this affirmation is its relation to our salvation. His sovereignty followed His resurrection, and is immediately associated with us being washed from our sins and constituted kings and priests unto God. Let no soul be reluctant to embrace these affirmations!

BORN TO BE A KING ~ "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice" (John 18:37).

Here Jesus speaks of His kingship in a remarkable way. Pilate is unable to relate to sovereignty that does not depend upon military power or political superiority. Earlier in this confrontation, Pilate asked Jesus if He were the "King of the Jews" (v 33). After asking Pilate if this were his "own idea" (v 35, NIV), Jesus revealed that His kingdom was "not of this world" (v 36). If it were, He declared, His servants would "fight." In such a case, the "fight" would not have lasted long, and Rome would not have won. — Given O. Blakely