Christians are generally familiar with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We seldom give thought to the terms used here. For instance, "His only begotten Son" is likely to cause people to ask its meaning. The Bible tells the story of the virgin Mary having a child by the Holy Spirit, which also arouses questions that are answered in the Bible. But due to our limited mental powers, our knowledge of God is hazy. We fail to grasp many mysteries. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory." (1 Tim. 3:16)
Since these are deep mysteries, we should be very careful when studying the Bible, to avoid wrong notions and extreme views. We must not force our personal ideas on the teachings of Scripture.
1) Though we cannot explain our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, yet in order to be faithful Christians, we believe it anyway. Some call it blind faith, but is that right?
Answer: No. We need not have blind faith. We might first begin with the existence of God. Some say that to believe in God is superstitious. What you can't see or feel, you believe it just because people say so---that's superstition, blind faith.
Rom. 1:20 says of God, "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." We are taught to believe in the existence of God by rational perception, not by sensual perception. We believe in the Creator's existence because of the things He has made.
This is the first step. The next step is to seek the truth God has revealed in His inspired writings. The Bible contains internal evidence to prove that it is not a product of human wisdom, so it must be God's revelation to man. This internal evidence comes in the form of prophecy, which comprises two main lines; one is prophecy regarding Christ; another is prophecy of world history..
These two lines of prophecy begin with creation and close with the end of the world. We saw earlier that the prophecies of the birth, sacrifice and second coming of Jesus, and the 6000 years of world history have largely been fulfilled. So the remaining portion is bound to take place.according to the words of prophecy. This conclusion confirms the authoritative value of the Bible, which we may confidently accept as the basis of our faith. As long as what we believe is in harmony with the revelation of Scripture, we are not guilty of blind faith or superstition. This procedure is sound and scientific.
2) Yes, all thinking people should accept that, I believe. Since the words of Scripture can be proved to be a revelation from God, we may confidently accept its teachings as authoritative. We may bring all our questions to the Bible for an answer.
Answer: That's right. 2 Pet. 1:21 says, "Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." So the Bible is not just another book. It is the word of God. Gen. 1:28 says that after God made man, He spoke to him in language he could understand. Then God inspired men to write a book in language people can read. The question of Jesus being the Son of God can be brought to the Bible for an answer. We should trust less in human learning, and more in God's word. Today we will study Bible texts regarding Jesus' divine nature; next time we will see what the Bible says about His human nature, thus getting an all-round concept of our Lord.
3) In studying the matter of God's existence, we saw that the name of God in Genesis is a plural noun, is that right?
Answer: Yes. Not only in one place, but in practically all books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew term Elohoim, (God) is a plural word. In a few cases the singular form El also appears. In the New Testament Jesus spoke a line which placed "the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" together. It is in Matt. 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This is not used in the Old Testament, but in addition to the Elohim, there is Isa. 9:6, which says, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." This is a prophetic text in the Old Testament that affirms the divine nature of Jesus most clearly. Another text is Isa. 7:14, which says, "Therefore God Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (literally, 'God with us')."
4) Some use Deut. 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" to deny the doctrine of the Trinity. How do you understand this text?
Answer: The term "Trinity" is not in the Bible. We need not use it. In speaking of His return, Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." The Union Version Chinese Bible follows some old manuscripts in adding, "nor the Son" before "but My Father only," In John 10:30 Christ says, "I and My Father are one." Yet in John 14:28 Christ says, "My Father is greater than I." The Chinese term for "Trinity" is "three persons in one body" which is not taught in the Bible.
The words, "Our LORD is one" means unity not of body but of aim and purpose of Father and Son, which is taught in (a) John 1:1, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." "Word" connotes speech between at least two parties, hence "Word" implies the presence of at least two persons, and (b) 1 John 4:8, "God is love." Love, like "word" likewise connotes the existence of at least two parties loving each other. Men and angels are creatures of time, while God's existence is eternal. The full expression of His mind and affections is not dependent on created beings. So God must be plural, not a monad living in solitude since the beginning. He must be a fully self-sufficient God. From eternity past to eternity to come, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always had fullest articulation of their thoughts and affections far beyond the capacity of men and angels to comprehend.
5) Aside from the texts quoted above, did Jesus ever openly state that He was the Son of God?
Answer: John 9:35-38 tells of how after Jesus healed a man who was born blind, said to him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you. Then he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him.
Before Jesus' crucifixion He prayed, "Father, the hour is come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You.. . . And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Regarding the disciples Jesus said, "They . . . have known surely that I came forth from You, and they have believed that You sent Me. . . .Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You gave Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." John 17:1,5,8,24. John also wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, . . all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-14.
6) Why did Jesus tell His identity to the blind man that He healed, but would not directly tell it to His disciples and the public?
Answer: Jesus did not openly declare Himself Son of God for definite reasons. Before He came to earth, because the prophecy in Isa. 9:6 was known to foretell the Messiah, a number of ambitious upstarts aspired to be the promised Messiah, and made abortive attempts to subvert Roman rule, resulting in many casualties. Hence the Romans were ready to kill any person claiming to be the Son of God or king of the Jews. So when the Jewish court first judged Jesus, the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus had kept silent up to this point, but now that the high priest had adjured Him by the living God to declare a vital truth, He boldly affirmed, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
The high priest tore his robe, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death."
At the time the Jews had no power to execute the death sentence, so they must turn Jesus over to the Roman court. There they accused Him of claiming to be king of the Jews.
Jesus had long been aware of the prevailing situation. At one time, after He had fed a multitude, when "Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone." John 6:15.
This was to avoid precipitating the crisis prematurely. On another occasion Jesus questioned the disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" After they replied, He asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus
affirmed this statement, but "commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ." Matt. 16:13-20. That was again for the same reason. He wanted to confirm the faith of the disciples, yet must not bring on the crisis before its time.
7) The Bible tells the story of Jesus being transfigured on a mountain top. Was that also to confirm the faith of the disciples?
Answer: Yes. Matt. 17:1-8 says, "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; If you wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!' And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, 'Arise, and do not be afraid.' And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, 'Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.'"The purpose of this precaution was the same as stated above.
Many years later, Peter wrote to the church of this incident, saying, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain." 2 Pet. 1:16-18
8) Please show from the Bible why only the Son of God could give His life for us in order for us to be saved.
Answer: If Jesus were a common mortal, even if He lived a sinless life, He could die for but one sinner. Because He is the Son of God, He is an inexhaustible source of life like His Father, and could give His life for billions of souls to pay off their debt of sin. It is a mathematical truth that a finite sum compared with infinity is equal to zero. Since Jesus divinity has an infinite capaciity for suffering, and the heart-breaking agony He suffered on the cross was infinite, it exceeded the sum total of all human suffering since time began. Heb. 2:9 says that He tasted death for everyone. It was the second death of eternal perdition. It is a pity that for all who reject Christ's proffered salvation, His blood was shed in vain.
9) . Please explain the next verse, "It is fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.?" Heb. 2:10 How can a perfect Christ be made perfect?
Answer: Christ's character has ever been perfect. The perfection here must refer to the knowledge of the inhabitants of the universe.regarding God's attributes. They had known His power, holiness, wisdom, righteousness and love, but now on the cross for the first time they saw that God is most capable of suffering. Not only is it true that "in all their affliction He was afflicted," but also that "the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Isa. 53:5. The universe saw the truth that in this ruthless warfare with Satan, God is the greatest victim and makes the greatest sacrifice. His image is rounded out in its perfection and glory.on the cross of Christ.
10) Some say that since Jesus has suffered the agony of eternal perdition for us, He should not have risen. Since He did rise again, then is it not the same as His having never died? It concerns the legality of His resurrection as well as His substitutional death.
Answer: Jesus said, "My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
John 10:17,18. "I have power to take it again" affirms the legality of His resurrection, even as His substitutional death was legal. Because His life is an infinite quantity, while sinners, be they ever so many, amount to a finite number. Deduct a finite number from an infinite quantity, and the remainder is still an infinite quantity. So Christ could legitimately take back His life.
In terms of the intensity of suffering, the legality of Christ's resurrection is also vindicated. Rom. 6:23 says, "the wages of sin is death." In context with "taste death for everyone" are the words, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." In receiving the wages of sin, He endured the suffering of death for everyone due to His infinite capacity for suffering. The separation of Father and Son caused both an infinite intensity of suffering..
2 Cor. 5:21 says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
The accumulated wages of sin of all the sinners in the world were poured into Christ's cup. The agony of billions of sinners perishing forever, bore down on Him alone, causing Him to cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Christ had always been "the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father," John 1:18, now for the first time since eternity, because He has been made to be sin, He was separated from the Father! "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh. .."
"Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony, but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God." Ellen White, Education, p. 273.
11) Jesus said of His life, "No man takes it from Me." This means that He was fully able to avoid being murdered. For at His arrest He said, "Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" What difference is this from committing suicide?
Answer: Jesus was not committing suicide when He gave His life for us. He used His body as a shield to protect us from Satan's deadly darts, and died in the act. Thus He enacted a divine tragedy---Jesus the Lamb of God, determined ever to play the part of the Lamb in the death struggle with Satan, displayed a shining image of the weak overcoming the strong. As a result, He destroyed Satan the adversary, and "the Lamb that was slain" now comes forth victorious as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah." Rev. 5:5.