“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t believe a word of it; I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” -Billy Graham.
Billy Graham, without a doubt, preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in the modern world: to over 80 million people in person, to countless millions more over the airwaves and through films, and spiritually counseled 12 United States Presidents since Harry Truman. Virtually every year since the 1950s, he was a fixture on lists of the ten most admired people in America or the world.
Graham was born near Charlotte, North Carolina in 1918 and dreamed of playing baseball. Yet, in 1932 at the age of 16, he found himself at a series of evangelistic meetings spellbound by the white-haired preacher Mordecai Ham who seemed to be shouting and waving his long finger directly at him. Night after night, Graham went to the meeting and finally yielded his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He moved to Florida Bible Institute when he began preaching the gospel and it was then that he changed his affiliation from Associate Reformed Presbyterian to Southern Baptist, being subsequently baptized. Eventually, he would move north to Wheaton College to round out his intensive but academically narrow education, and it was there that he met his wife Ruth Bell, the daughter of a medical missionary, and undertook his first and only stint as a local pastor.
As Graham’s ministry and prestige grew, particularly among mainline, non-evangelical Christians, he began to draw criticisms for cooperating with the National and World Council of Churches. In 1957, the controversy came to a head when Graham accepted an invitation from the Protestant Council of New York to hold a crusade in Madison Square Garden. However, Graham responded succinctly:
I intend to go anywhere, sponsored by anybody, to preach the gospel of Christ, if there are no strings attached to my message…. Christians are not limited to any church. The only question is: are you committed to Christ?
While the gathering together of believers is important, Graham’s ministry was akin to that of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, who said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17). That crusade in New York also marked another significant development in Graham’s ministry, inviting the fellow Baptist preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to discuss and pray over the racial tensions in the nation. While Graham never felt comfortable with some of King’s confrontational tactics, he was willing to let both whites and blacks know that he was willing to be identified with the civil rights movement because of his conviction that God created all people equal regardless of race, desiring they all turn from their sins and to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. His voice was important in declaring that a Christian racist was an oxymoron.
Billy Graham became so beloved across the nation primarily because of his determination just as the apostle Paul “to know nothing” in his preaching “except the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ,” doing better than any other preacher on either the right or the left to remain bipartisan. He also took his call to preach seriously, doing all he could to remain “blameless” as the apostle Paul urged of preachers, refusing to even be in an elevator alone with a woman and having the television removed from any hotel room in which he stayed.
Consequently, he was asked many times if he would consider running for the presidency, but each time Graham denied, only wanting to preach the gospel of salvation. Thus, the Lord was able to open doors for him to preach that were not possible for many of his contemporaries. Today, Billy Graham was called home by his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ early this morning.
Kaylee Muthart terrified churchgoers earlier this month when she was discovered across the street from a church in Anderson County, South Carolina gouging out her own eyes. According to doctors, the 20-year-old had used methamphetamine laced with an unknown hallucinogenic. The Sheriff’s office also reported that “It took two or three of our guys and two EMTs” to subdue her enough so she could receive medical assistance. Kaylee later recounted to her mother that she had believed “the world was upside down” and she had “heard voices that told her to sacrifice her eyes in order to make it to heaven.”
Kaylee’s mother said her daughter had started using meth about six months prior to the gruesome incident, and she had been making plans the day before to have Kaylee committed so she could get help. For those unfamiliar with methamphetamine, the drug increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, a natural chemical that causes feelings of euphoria. However, each time requires a little more than the last time to get the same high. Her mother said that this addiction first started when Kaylee unknowingly used meth-laced marijuana.
We live in a hurting world that sees the effects of Adam’s first sin every day. Yet, there are also other forces at work, Satan and his fallen hosts prowling about like roaring lions seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and to steal, kill, and destroy peoples lives and ambitions (John 10:10).
In the Bible, the Greek word used for “sorcery” is pharmakon, referring to “drug use,” “poison,” or that which inhibits one’s senses (Revelation 9:21). Drugs have the potential of opening a person up to suggestion, oppression, or even possession by demonic entities. This is why the apostle Peter admonishes Christians in the same verses that he speaks of Satan seeking someone to devour to be “sober-minded” (1 Peter 5:8-9), not giving Satan or his hosts a foothold that they can use to destroy you. I’m not saying that the voices that Kaylee heard were demons, but I am saying that demons are very active in the world and it could have been. The war on drugs is a spiritual war that will only be won by Christians and churches changing peoples hearts by the Spirit of God, not by courts who can only deal with the matter after the fact.
This sad case is another reason why Christians must never fall for the lies that drugs like marijuana don’t hurt people. The fact is, marijuana is a gateway drug no matter what proponents of it may say, and anything that dulls a person’s senses is putting them in a very dangerous position spiritually. Demons seek to destroy the life of anyone they can get their hands on. As Christians let us all say a prayer for Kaylee that if she is not saved, that she will find salvation in Jesus Christ. If she is saved, let us pray that the Lord will give her back these 6 months that the locusts have eaten and use her mightily for His glory.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
The most insidious of attacks by Satan in most churches today is the supplanting of theology with philosophy, and yet, this is not a new fight. The early churches had to fight against Greek philosophy, and specifically Gnosticism, for the first four centuries after Christ ascended to heaven. Theology comes from the words theos (“God”) and logos (“Word”), referring to exclusively to what God has said in the Bible. Philosophy on the other hand is speculation and human thought imposing itself on the Gospel, often leading to questions that should never be asked and drying up a Christian’s spiritual life and robbing them of their joy.
Generally, people who start taking up philosophy in the place of theology have the tendency to consider themselves superior, Paul stating in Colossians 2:18:
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
The apostle also said to the Corinthian Assembly, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Cor. 8:1), the word “edifieth” literally meaning “builds up.” This is the difference between a balloon and a building. The kind of knowledge of philosophy only puffs a man up, making him think of himself as superior than those on the outside of his small group or cult, having attained a knowledge that the vast majority of people lack, full of self-confidence and self-satisfaction. Consequently, these people typically have a carnal and excitable zeal that can easily draw unwary Christians to them. Yet, the apostle calls this a delusion, saying at the beginning of this chapter, “lest any man beguile you with enticing words” (2:4); it is a beguiling, a delusion. The true faith as found in the Bible, however, builds a man up solidly and establishes him securely.
What can we do, however, to safeguard ourselves from the subtle, attractive teachings of philosophy? Paul’s answer is the necessity of more knowledge, praying in Colossians 2:2-3:
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
If you are a person interested in mystical ideas, you need not go anywhere else, for in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Are you attracted to philosophies about the origin of evil, or the origin of the world? You need not go anywhere else but the Bible in which God has revealed everything we need to know about such topics. Although, you may be saying, “But I just can’t believe that a God of love would create Satan knowing he would fall and cause man to fall.” Or perhaps, “I just can’t believe a God of love would send anyone to hell.” Be careful, dear one, for the moment you ask such questions, you are speculating, ignoring what God has revealed in Scripture, and if you are a Christian, this can dry you of your joy in the Lord. There are certain things that we are not meant to understand, yet as a result of the fall, we all have “lusts of the mind” wanting to know everything. At some point, though, we have to give up on such a futile desire, resting in faith and being content with what God has revealed in the Bible, standing on what we do know.
The primary questions to ask about any teaching that presents itself to us, is what is the teaching based upon, and does it glorify Christ? This can be applied to every cult, every philosophy, and every worldview. Are your beliefs based directly on the New Testament teaching, derived at every point from Scripture, or is it the working out of your own ideas and understandings? Each of us must be very careful as this is a danger for all of us. If one’s philosophy about life works perfectly fine without Christ, it is a denial of Christ, as Christianity starts and ends with Christ. Christianity does not merely “lead to” Christ. The apostle continues in the chapter describing these people as, “Not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (2:19). The Lord Jesus is the Head and without Him is nothing. If there is any belief in you that creates a tendency to being puffed up, then crucify that belief at once.
We have now come to the end of our series on the Divine Names and Titles for our Lord in the New Testament. Today, we will be examining the Lord’s two titles “Son of God” and “Son of Man.” These two terms are probably the most famous titles used of the Lord and yet, are probably the most misunderstood.
In order to understand the usage of these two titles, however, one must have a basic understanding of how the ancient Jews spoke. For example, although the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the language of the modern world at the time, the text was written by Jews. Thus, the text includes many Hebraisms, or idiomatic terms based in the Hebrew faith and culture. The use of the word “Son of” is such an Hebraism.
The terms “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are typically abused by cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons in order to claim that the Lord Jesus is not actually God, but God’s Son and His first creation. After all, they claim, how can Jesus be God if He called Himself the Son of Man so often? This false understanding of the terms, however, is entirely based on human anatomy rather than the actual Hebraic idiom.
The title “Son of God” expresses the Son’s relation to the Father (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:31, 35), but also of all those who are begotten of God. 1 John 3:1 states, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” (emphasis added). As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have not merely been “adopted” into God’s Family, but have been spiritually begotten as actual sons and daughters of God, “born again” into His Family as Christ’s brothers and sisters.
However, that does not make us equal with Christ by any means. As the “Son of God,” He is “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), having the power to raise the dead (John 5:25) and make those who believe in Him “Sons of God” with Him. Yet, He is also the “Son of Man” which relates to His Dominion in the earth, all judgment being committed to Him by the Father (John 5:27).
When used of Christ, the term “Son of Man” always employs the definite article; when used of a human like the prophet Ezekiel, it never employs the article. Through the “first man, Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 45), dominion was given over the works of the Creator (Genesis 1:26). However, due to the Fall (Gen. 3), this dominion was forfeited, no particular son of Adam having universal right to rule the earth. Thus, chaos, unrest, and conflicts ensue between men and nations, and will continue until the coming again of the Man Christ Jesus Who now has the sole authority to rule the whole earth (Ezekiel 21:27).
His title “Son of Man” pertains to His dominion upon the earth, which will not fully be realized until He returns to sit on the Throne of David for 1,000 years. Satan, throughout history, has tried to usurp this authority by installing a human head to rule the world – Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, etc. – and he will briefly succeed in the coming Antichrist, but the coming again of Jesus Christ with his saints after the Great Tribulation will put an end to that quickly.
Abraham Lincoln said in 1865 during his Second Inaugural address as he looked toward the end of the war between the states:
To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.
This statement would become one of the most morally significant declarations given in the history of America, and after the war, also included veterans of the Confederacy along with their widows and orphans. Lincoln may have been at war with the South, but he still respected their cause – lost as it may have been (it wasn’t slavery). This statement also eventually lead to the formation of the Veteran’s Administration (VA), and would become its’ motto.
This pithy statement by President Lincoln, however, has now come under attack by the head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). This is the largest organization serving post-9/11 veterans. According to the IAVA, such a motto is “outdated” and “sexist,” being too gender specific. Therefore, it must accordingly be revised to include women.
Now, for many years there have been women who have bravely worn the uniform and borne the battle. No one is questioning that, and that’s not the issue. The issue is, must we go back and revise history so that President Lincoln in 1865 – who gave the impetus leading to the modern VA – never made such “masculine statements”? Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, explains this well, saying:
Making a moral acknowledgment of the present does not mean – it can’t mean – denying the past, but what we see here is an agenda that has no respect for the past whatsoever, even the past that produced the present.
Lincoln’s declaration in 1865 set the moral tone of the nation as it came out of its’ bloodiest war, brother fighting brother. As such, the quote is incredibly important, and we must not revise the 1800s to fit the worldview of the 2000s, especially the parts that formed the basis for the world in which we now live. So, no, despite modern women now bravely serving, the VA motto is neither outdated nor sexist. It is simply a part of our nation’s history, displaying our high moral standard to anyone we call upon to fight for us. To revise such a history is to ultimately forget that history is made every day, remembering both the past’s glories and pitfalls while looking forward to make an even better future.
Today in this series examining the Divine Names and Titles of our Lord in the New Testament, we will be examining the title “Master.” This word is the translation of eight distinct Greek words, two of which we examined a few weeks ago – kurios and despotes – meaning “Lord,” or more descriptively, an “owner,” or one having “absolute, unlimited, and despotic authority and power in heaven and earth.”
As we observed a few weeks ago, professing that Jesus is kurios (“Lord,” “owner”) is to profess that He is no mere carpenter but is the One Who controls us and Whom we are bound to obey at the consequence of grievous discipline by Him. The word despotes, on the other hand, is used in reference to His swift judgment on false teachers, Him exercising His authority and power (2 Peter 2:1).
This week, however, in examining the title Master for Jesus, the primary word used is didaskalos. This word is often rendered as a “teacher,” but is a much more scholarly word than “teacher” implies. The word could be better rendered as “Doctor,” or “Professor.” He is addressed as didaskalos 31 times and rendered as “Master.” Often this is used by the scribes and Pharisees. This tells us that even they recognized Him as an incredibly wise teacher learned in the Word of God.
However, in many of the cases, such as Matthew 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; and 22:16, instead of talking with them as a scholar like they were, He made plain that He was no mere academic who was simply giving them educated reasonings on the scriptures. Rather, He is the only way of salvation who all people – academic or layman – must follow.
Yet, the Lord does use this word of Himself eight times. In Matthew 10:24, Matt. 26:18, and Luke 6:40 He uses this word to describe Himself in relation to His disciples as students. Although, the most important usage of how the Lord uses this word is in John 13:14 in which He says:
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
In this verse, He uses both the words kurios and didaskalos. The owner and controller of the cosmos, and the most learned man to ever walk the earth, humbled himself to do the work of a lowly house-servant. He further states that as His disciples we ought to use the spiritual gifts that He has given us to serve one another, not to elevate ourselves.
A final word which is translated as “Master” which we must address is the word kathegetes. This word is used by the Lord of Himself three times in a single passage. In Matthew 23:8, 10, the Lord says:
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren… Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ,”
This word refers to a “Guide.” He is the only guide to Whom saints and churches should look and prayerfully ask, not each other or a particular person. This is the key the church government; churches should be autonomous with only the Lord Jesus as their Guide and “Master.” The church, under the direction the Holy Spirit, chooses who will pastor their congregation, not some form of “synod,” “counsel of elders,” or elitists separate from the congregation.
This same principle applies to the selection as deacons, as we read in the book of the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples told the Jerusalem congregation, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom…” (Acts 6:3). The duties of the deacons not being to rule the church, but rather to primarily take care of the church’s daily benevolence ministry and finances (6:1), but also teaching when called upon (Acts 6:8-15), helping to relieve the pastors of the burden they carry.
I began exploring the divine names and titles in the New Testament a few weeks ago, examining up to this point the titles “Father” and “Lord.” This week, let’s take a look at the name we know Him by “Jesus,” and the title that some mistake for a last name – “Christ.”
The title “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew mashiach for “Messiah.” Both christos and mashiach have the same meaning, the former from the word chrio, “to anoint” (John 1:41; 4:25). The noun, therefore, for this word “Christ” is used of and for the Lord Jesus, and means, “the Anointed (One).” The name “Jesus,” transliterated from the Greek Iesous is the translation of the Hebrew Yehoshua, or the abbreviated form Yeshua, transliterated as “Joshua.” This name is also used of Joshua in Hebrews 4:8, transliterated as “Jesus” in the King James Version. The name means “the salvation of YHVH,” or “YHVH the Saviour.”
The name “Jesus” expresses the relation of YHVH to Him in Incarnation, by which “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8), and even though He was God, did not deem His glory a thing not to be relinquished (Phil. 2:6). This name is the name associated with the shame which the Lord endured in order to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The title “Christ,” on the other hand, speaks of His anointing to rule as the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords.
It is interesting to note that in the New Testament, the Lord’s followers never addressed Him simply as “Jesus.” Rather, His followers addressed Him as “Master” or “Lord,” and when speaking of Him paired the name with either “Lord” or “Christ,” sometimes both. The only ones who irreverently spoke of Him as “Jesus” were demons (Matt. 8:29), or His enemies while scoffing at Him (John 6:42). Of course, this is not to say that calling Him simply “Jesus” is wrong, but the believer should speak His name in an attitude of reverence.
The Jews, from ancient times to the modern have always substituted the Father’s Name YHVH with Adonai or Kurios, for “Lord,” or occasionally HaShem (“The Name”). Even Moses substituted Adonai for the Lord’s Name in Exodus 36 when speaking to the One Who had just said His Name a few verses prior.
The Lord’s apostles and followers in the New Testament seem to have given the same reverence and respect for the Name of His Incarnation and Shame as the name YHVH.
Today, His is no longer simply “Jesus,” but has been given “a name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9b), and one day all boastful scoffers will bow at the Name of the Humbled One – Jesus (Phil. 2:10). How often do we hear people today use the name “Jesus” as a curse word? He should be given the respect of “Lord” and “Master.”
Further, in your personal reading of God’s Word, you may have noticed that sometimes the Lord is spoken of as “Jesus Christ,” and sometimes as “Christ Jesus.” This is a very important contextual distinction, the former emphatic by its position and the second being explanatory. “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus Who humbled Himself but is now exalted and glorified as Christ.” The reverse means “the exalted ruler Who once humbled Himself.”
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”
-1 Corinthians 2:7-8-
The New Testament uses several names and titles for God, each giving us a little more information into His awesome Personhood. Last week, I endeavored to explain His title “Father,” and that He is not merely “like” a Father, but that He is a Father, and why it is important to call Him such.
This week, we will be examining His title “Lord.” We call Him Lord everyday in our prayers, most likely, but what are we really saying when we say that He is our Lord?
Now, in the Old Testament when we see this word rendered in all capital letters – LORD – it is a translation of the Divine Name – YHVH. However, in the New Testament, this word is a rendering of two distinct Greek words – Kurios and Despotes – and one Aramaic word – Rabboni.
The word Kurios is the primary word used in the New Testament and means “owner,” translated as such in Luke 19:33 referring to the “owners” of the colt that Christ was to ride into Jerusalem upon. Thus, the word expresses authority and lordship arising from and pertaining to ownership. Thus, while this title is used for Christ, the title is also used for masters by their servants. This title is the title that the early Christians were willingly martyred for professing of Jesus – that He is no mere carpenter from Nazareth but their only Lord. This title was also the title that the 3rd century BC Jewish translators of the Septuagint (LXX) chose for the Divine Name.
Further, the apostle Paul makes a stunning declaration about what declaring Jesus as Kurios, Lord, means. In Romans 10:9, 13 the apostle states:
“That if you will confess in your mouth Jesus is Lord [Kurios], and believe that The God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved… For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Kurios, YHVH] will be saved.”
This is an incredibly important passage, the command being to confess that Jesus is Lord followed by the promise that everyone who does so will be saved. However, the promise of Romans 10:13 is a quotation from the Old Testament book of Joel, chapter 2, verse 32, the word “Lord” being the Divine Name – YHVH. Therefore, when the early Christians proclaimed that Jesus is Lord, the proclamation was that He is the God of Creation.
The second word used of Christ which is translated as “Lord,” though, is Despotes, from which we get the word despot. Similarly to Kurios, this word also denotes ownership, but when used of God, it includes the exercise of more absolute, unlimited, and despotic authority and power in heaven and on earth. This word is used of Christ by the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2:1 in reference to the swift destruction that He will bring upon false teachers.
The third word translated as “Lord” in the New Testament is the Aramaic word Rabboni, from the Hebrew word Rabbi. This denotes Christ as the Master Teacher whose Word is final, having authority, teaching not as others (Matthew 7:29). This word occurs twice, translated “Lord” in Mark 10:51 and transliterated “Rabboni” in John 20:16.
The word “Lord” is a declaration of reverence, that He is not a “buddy,” but is the One Who fashioned this whole universe, Who chained the angels that sinned in Tartarus, and Who uphold the entire world by the word of His power. So, if we confess that Jesus is Lord, our lives should be testaments of that confession; otherwise, we may be guilty of lying under oath in the courtroom of the universe.
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).
The New Testament uses several titles and names for God, and in the next few weeks I will be writing on a different title and what it tells us about God. Today, the first title I want to endeavor to explain is “Father.”
This title comes from the Greek Pater which expresses relationship, the correlative being “son.” When this word is used of humans it typically refers to parentage, but in Scripture, is sometimes used in the broader sense to mean “ancestor,” “founder,” or a “senior” such as in 1 John 2:13-14. It is further used to refer to an author or a source of something such as in John 8:44 and Hebrews 12:9, or further to express a spiritual relationship as in 1 Corinthians 4:15 in which Paul describes himself as a father to the believers at Corinth.
Yet, what does it mean when the Bible says that God is a Father? Why did the Lord Jesus while instructing the disciples on prayer, teach them to call God “Father”? (Matthew 6:9).
First, to call God “Father” expresses His nature – He is a Father. This is not a metaphor. Yet this nature of His as a Father is not a result of human fatherhood. Rather, the concept of human fatherhood is a reflection of God’s Fatherhood. We must be careful not to allegorize or spiritualize away this description – He is not merely like a father, but He is a Father.
There is a movement in many theological circles, Bible translations, and churches to remove the idea of God as a Father. Numerous college professors of religion across the United States now alternate the pronouns “he” and “she” when referring to God, and pray instead “Our Parent who art in heaven.” In the New York Times bestselling book “The Shack,” God is described as a woman as is the Holy Spirit also.
Of course, those who use such terminology to define God claim that according to “traditional language,” God is made to value males more than females. According to Mary Daly, “A number of theologians warn that language shapes reality and unless the church changes its imagery, it will effectively endorse gender and race bias.”
Consequently, those who subscribe to this line of thinking further claim that “The way to respect the original words is to retranslate them, as our understanding of their meaning changes.” Yet, the problem with this perspective to the scriptures is that it no longer matters what God actually has said about anything. If something is found to be offensive to anyone, they can simply change it to reflect what they understand it to mean. God’s Word becomes a subjective mass of obscure sayings rather than the objective plan of God for each person’s life.
It was the Lord Jesus Himself Who commanded us to pray “our Father.” Yet, what is inherently wrong with calling God “Mother” or “Parent”? Or what is inherently wrong with referring to God as “she”? The simple fact that He is not a mother, and not merely a parent; He is a Father. So, how is a father different from a mother?
It may be beneficial to consider the relationship between the Lord Jesus and His church. In Ephesians 5, Paul describes the relationship between a man and his wife as a portrait of Christ and the church. The entire context is one of equality, the two becoming “one flesh” (Eph. 5:31), but the man is described as the Head and the woman as the body just as Christ is the Head of His body the church (Vv. 23-24). It is important that God is viewed as “our Father” because such reflects our relationship to Him. He is characteristically a Father “Who loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).
Paul then states in Romans 8:14-15, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Sonship, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” The word “sonship” in this passage is often translated “adoption,” yet the word is better translated “sonship,” coming from huios which means “son.”
Some have likened this verse to refer to the adoption of slaves by their masters, yet such persons were never allowed to use the word “Abba,” which is used exclusively by those begotten from the loins of the father himself. An adopted child may receive all the privileges of the family, but he or she is still not born into the family. We see this even in our own society in which adopted children often call their adoptive fathers by their first names rather than the more affectionate “Dad.” The subjects of this passage are actually begotten of the Spirit (John 3:6) and have become full sons of God by spiritual generation, enabling them to cry Abba, Father. This is a miracle that only God can do, to not only adopt us, but transform us into His actual children by His Spirit.
While many mothers today share the responsibility with their husbands of providing for their children, the father is the one whom God holds accountable for the provision and care of the family. In fact, the blessed Apostle told his young pastor-in-training, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). When a person is born again into God’s family upon belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, God takes up the sole responsibility as “our Father” to both provide for and nurture His new child. There is nothing the believer can do to earn the Lord’s provision and care. Just as God lays the responsibility for a family on the father, so He too takes the full responsibility for His Family.
Very few people, even in churches, take the words of the Bible seriously today. This is particularly true when it comes to the study of prophecy yet to be fulfilled, many claiming that the book of Revelation is “full of figures of speech.” Such a claim, however, is a cover for unbelief. Yes, it is true that the Bible and the book of Revelation in particular use figures of speech, but the problem is that even if something is a figure, the questions still must be asked as to what kind of figure is being used and what is the literal meaning of the text. We use figures of speech everyday, but only when it comes to the Bible do people think that figurative language is mysterious and unknowable.
For example, the Lord quoted from Deuteronomy (8:3) when He said to the Adversary, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). His use of “bread” is an example of a synecdoche, a figure in which a part is put for a whole or a whole for a part. In this case, “bread” is used for “food,” but more specifically, it is used for the most basic sustenance the body needs to survive. The literal meaning still has to do with nourishment, that no matter how basic and healthy one’s diet is, unless time is spent in the Word of God, a person is dead inside.
Secondly, Revelation 4:6 says that “before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.” In a case such as this, when the words “like” or “as” are used, we know immediately that we are dealing with a simile. The “sea of glass” is not really “crystal,” but it’s like crystal. So, what does this tell us? Well, when we consider the context, this scene is in heaven before the throne of God, and in the Old Testament, the tabernacle and temple were patterned after God’s dwelling place in heaven. Taking this into account, after the brazen altar in the tabernacle, one arrived at the laver of water to wash oneself before entering into the Holy Place. In Ephesians 5:26 Paul tells us about this that we are made clean by “the washing of water by the word.” Thus, this “sea of glass like unto crystal” is a simile for the Word of God. Now, we must daily wash ourselves in the Word of God, but then, we will be standing on the Word, secure and justified forever in God’s sight.
Third, Hebrews 12:29 says “For our God is a consuming fire.” Now, in such a case as this, the text uses a simple statement without either “like” or “as.” In situations like this, the reader must first ask, does the text make sense as it is? If it does, then take it literally, but if it doesn’t, then ask if it could be a metaphor. If it is a metaphor, then simply ask, what then is this metaphor literally saying about God? Then, look at the context, and we see that it describes God as the sovereign King of heaven and earth Whom we must approach very carefully in reverence and godly fear.
Yes, the Bible uses figures of speech, but we must never use the phrase “figures of speech” as a cover for unbelief. The Bible is clear, Jesus Christ will literally return to this earth to rule for 1000 years with His saints. This is put in several figurative ways, but it always comes back to that literal, physical truth when the type of figure is established.