It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”

by Charles Clough
Review of the evidences for Christ’s deity. Implications of the hypostatic union. Jesus Christ is the final and most complete revelation of God. Our personal history has eternal consequences. Questions and answers.
Series:Chapter 2 – The Birth of the King
Duration:1 hr 19 mins 30 secs

© Charles A. Clough 1999

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 2: The Birth of the King

Lesson 114 –Hypostatic Union, Bema Seat of Christ

25 Feb 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

A good example of God’s design is the snowflakes. As we were walking in we were talking about the snow and it made me think of when I was in college studying meteorology, one of the world’s pioneers in the application of radar to weather was Dr. Pauline Austin from MIT and it was kind of neat because one of the benefits you get when you can take a class from a world renowned person is that you get to know them as a person, in a small class, and you read about these people but it’s kind of neat to know one, just that they’re normal people, sometimes you read about them so much you don’t think they’re normal people. One of her things was, she’d stop class if it was snowing and she’d make all the guys, including the grad students, get out on the roof of this building, about a ten or twelve story tall building, and she always had her fur coat and she said this is the best vehicle for studying snow crystals, and she’d get these snow crystals on her arm, she’d hold her arm out and the fur coat and catch the snow crystals and then proceed in this tremendous way she had of going on and on about the structure of these crystals. 

It turns out that if you look at snow crystals underneath the microscope and it’s very hard to do that, because obviously they melt, so there’s all kinds of techniques that men have devised to get these things so you can look at them, and if you look at the snow crystals, it turns out there are three or four different kinds of crystals, different families of crystals. Of course, each flake has its own uniqueness, but like tonight out here it’s very wet so what you see as a snowflake is probably actually ten or fifteen all lumped together. There’s about four or five different families of crystals and each one of those crystals has a shape that’s dictated by the temperature and the humidity of the air in which it was formed. So if you take all the crystals, each one has a written biography of its generation inside that crystal. If you’re really astute you can get these crystals and decide what’s going on up there, what kind of humidity, how high the crystals were when they formed, whether they came close …, like tonight a lot of them are very wet because the air is so warm down near the earth’s surface.

It’s a neat illustration because you get into these things and you realize the more you get into them that there’s this wonderful, tremendous design and everywhere you go God’s handiwork is there. It’s so sad that in the average science course in school where probably more than any other place on the campus you’re encountering design, design, design, design, but you don’t have people pointing this out, instead of masking it over. It’s really kind of demeaning; I wonder how God feels about that.

I want to review because this is the last time we’re going to be on the birth of Jesus Christ and the doctrine associated with that birth, the hypostatic union. Next week we’ll be on an even more difficult subject, the Trinity, but there’s a connection. You’ll see the notes that we handed out are an appendix. They don’t belong in a sequence of chapters because we go through the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and this is an appendix, but logically speaking, I don’t want to leave the God-ness and the human-ness of Christ without going to the Trinity because historically this is where the Trinity debate arose in connection with the person of Christ. 

On the chart on page 37 are all the heresies. If there’s one lesson in this, please learn something about history; that in the flow of time there are very, very few basic ideas. There’s only a very, very few basic ideas, and the tragedy in a lot of our education is we get everybody focused on details, details, details, and nobody backs off and says now wait a minute, whoa, hold it, let’s look at the big picture of what’s going on. In this case we have six different heresies that have recycled again and again in church history. They don’t just come and go; they keep coming back again, primarily because people forget that they were refuted. They come back and the church has to go through the whole thing all over again. Usually when you run into a problem with Scripture or some doctrinal problem, if you go back 2,000 years, somewhere over that 2,000-year church history you will see that this came up before. This was discussed, it was prayed about, people studied the Scripture about this; it went through the whole nine yards. So when we come to these things we want to have a little humility that the Holy Spirit might have possibly taught someone before we came along. If He did, we might possibly learn from those people. That’s the great thing about learning from church history. Church history can be very beneficial that way.

The chart reminds us that in all that we’ve studied about the person of Jesus Christ, the problem inevitably came up that their basic God concept was not biblical, that they thought it was biblical, they hastily thought about God and then started tacking on the data that we have in the New Testament about Jesus. They wound up messed up and it didn’t work. It didn’t work because the basic idea was wrong. It was like they were pinning all these things onto the structure and when they got through pinning it on it looked like a mess. That’s what happened, for four centuries the doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ was a mess. We said at times the heretics controlled the church. The true doctrine of Jesus Christ was for many centuries held as a minority position. We can thank the Holy Spirit for finally bringing it to the majority position. That’s the first thing we want to remember.

There’s something else. Go back to page 34 because we’re going to get into this again with the Trinity so I want to be sure we remember this. On page 30 we said that there were certain evidences of the deity of Christ, and in all the 400 years of debate these evidences came up again and again. Notice one category of evidences is that there are two Old Testament streams of revelation. In the Old Testament preparatory to the revelation of Jesus Christ there were two themes. One was that God’s home is with us, with man. That’s the Immanuel theme. We gave an example of that, Genesis 3:8 but one of the verses we mentioned in the notes that I want you to see is Exodus 3:13-14 because this passage is the place, the classic location in the Old Testament, for the name of God. When this strange name, Jehovah we call it in the English Bible, but His name was not Jehovah, it’s something like Yahweh, though that’s not even sure, the Hebrew just has YHWH and they left it that way, refused to pronounce the word, lost the vowels, didn’t remember the vowels, so now nobody knows what the vowels were. What’s happened is that Jehovah, actually they took e-o-a out of another word and stuck in there and that’s how they got Jehovah. So Jehovah is kind of an artificial thing. I’m always amused to remember that when the Jehovah Witnesses come to the door.

Exodus 3:13-14, here’s where Moses meets God and here’s where God defines His own name. This isn’t Moses defining the name, it’s God defining His name. Notice what it says, [14] “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM;’ and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” He’s using the verb “to be.” What apparently is going on here is that this word is meant to convey that “I AM (understood) with you.” So it’s not just I AM, but I AM WITH YOU. Remember what’s going on here, the burning bush, and the burning bush is a picture of Israel in Egypt, under pressure, temptation to fiery trials, and God speaks from within the fire. It’s a picture that “I AM with you in your troubles.” 

What’s significant is that this is the Immanuel theme, God is with us. That’s what His name is, the central name of the Old Testament means I am with you. Incidentally, just a footnote, does anybody remember a passage in the New Testament where it is said, “Behold, I am with you always.” Matthew 28. Now do you see how rich that expression is if you know Exodus 3. You can read Matthew 28 and if you’re not familiar with the Old Testament, you don’t get it, it sounds like just a closing thing, well I’m with you, kind of like Aunt So-and-So’s gone down south some place, you’re not going to see her for six years and I’m with you kind of thing. No-no, it’s more than that. When the Lord Jesus Christ said “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” He was deliberately using imagery from the divine name. 

We have the two streams, one God with us, and the other one is the world longs for an ideal ruler, a human being, a king. As an example of that theme turn to Isaiah 11:1; here’s one among the many passages cited in the notes, but just to get a little referencing from the text. Isaiah the prophet is looking forward to the culmination of history, to the righting of all wrongs, and it’s a typical blending of this ideal king and the resolution of good and evil, the end of history and the beginning of peace. “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. [2] And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and under­standing, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. [3] And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and he will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His hears hear. [4] But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness the afflicted of the earth; and he will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. [5] Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. [6] The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little boy will lead them,” etc. That’s the Millennial Kingdom. 

That’s the image out of the Old Testament of the second theme of Revelation. There’ll be an ideal ruler; he’s a full human being, the seed of Jesse. So stream number one and stream number two. We said that in Psalm 110 and other places these two streams seem to approach each other. They don’t exactly touch, but they approach each other. The basic structure of the Old Testament revelation is a setup for the person of Christ. 

Then we said going further in the notes, there was a second category of evidences. That was on page 33. This is undeniable and powerful. I don’t know how anybody who denies the deity of Christ can get around these things. You can’t do it that way. If you want to deny the deity of Christ the only logical thing you can do is say that the New Testament was idolatrous, and an arrogant pseudo religion that denied the heart of Judaism, because in this section, remember the table on page 34, we have Old Testament citations quoted in the New Testament that in the Old Testament refer to Jehovah, but when they’re cited in the New Testament are applied to the person of Jesus Christ, clearly identifying the person of Jesus Christ with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. If that isn’t a claim to deity, tell me what is. You can’t have it any stronger than that. These are Jews quoting Jewish Scripture in a monotheistic environment, daring to identify their human leader with the God of the Old Testament. Excuse me! How else do we define this?

This is a powerful category of evidences, and it doesn’t hit you until you go through the table and read that Old Testament text and then you read the New Testament text and you read the and you read the context of the Old Testament text, and you read the context of the New Testament text, and you say WOW! Look at this.  

Then you had the third category of evidences on page 34, not only were Old Testament citations applied to Jesus, but now works that God alone did are said to be done by Jesus. So we have a Christ for God substitution in historic roles. One of the primary evidences on page 34 is that Christ is said to forgive sins, not pronounce forgiveness of sin. A priest would pronounce forgiveness of sin, but a priest couldn’t say I forgive you for sinning against me. If you go punch somebody else out and I say I forgive you, that’s stupid, that doesn’t connect at all. Only the person you’ve wronged can forgive you. Then how come Jesus is forgiving people transgressions of the Torah? Doesn’t that imply that He must be the One that they sinned against? 

Those three powerful evidences, the two streams of evidence, the New Testament substitutions in Old Testament citations, and the role switch between Christ and Jehovah are powerful, powerful evidences of the deity of Christ. 

Then we studied how the arguments went for 400 years, and we said that if you summarize all those arguments …. Here’s one set of arguments. Jesus Christ has got to be full God or if He isn’t fully deity, then we’re worshiping in an idolatrous fashion, because we’re worshiping Jesus. If Jesus isn’t God, then we’re violating the first commandment. You can’t have any worship of Jesus. The point is that whenever angels are accidentally worshiped in the New Testament, John the apostle falls down and Peter and some of the guys, and the correction is always whoa, hey, we’re the same stuff as you guys, don’t worship us. So every time there’s an accidental worship of an angel it’s cut off immediately by the angel. The question is, why didn’t Jesus cut if off. Why, when people worshiped Him, didn’t He cut it off like the angels cut it off? Why did He let this happen? That was one of the arguments that won the day in the church. If Jesus Christ is not fully God, and yet we worship Jesus Christ, then we’re worshiping that which is less than God and we’re in violation of the first commandment.

Another argument that went on during that time was that if Jesus Christ isn’t fully God, and I claim to have eternal life by knowing Christ, then I don’t know God. If Christ isn’t God, then knowing Christ doesn’t give me knowledge of God. If I have a personal relationship with Christ and Christ is not God, then I don’t have a personal relationship with God, so I’m not saved. That’s why Athenasius got up in his day and he said to the church, look, if Jesus Christ is not God, then we are not saved, period. That was the point that won the day.  

The second category of these arguments was that if Jesus Christ wasn’t fully man, if He wasn’t complete and genuine humanity, then there’s no substitutionary death. Angels don’t die and the whole crucifixion becomes an allusion, unless it’s a crucifixion of a full human being. So if you deny the deity of Christ you lose the knowledge of God and you wind up in idolatry. If you compromise the humanity of Christ you wind up blowing away the cross. And you blow away something else in the process. You destroy the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, because in the New Testament it says we have an high priest that can be affected with our infirmities, in other words, when we go, take a petition before the throne of God, we don’t have a deaf ear up there. We’ve got a guy who’s been there and knows it. If you deny the humanity of Christ you wipe out the crucifixion and you wipe out His priesthood. So there are some very, very serious consequences if you go in any one of those directions.  

Finally we came last time, page 43, to the Council of Chalcedon, AD 451, actually four centuries to deal with this doctrine, but it shows you how long it took the church to settle this issue, 400 years. Why? Because it’s such a foundational issue, it is hard. The Council of Chalcedon is footnote 31, and you want to remember when you read in our hymn book, because our hymn book doesn’t have the Council of Chalcedon in it, our hymn book only has the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, and we’ve gone through that enough times so you know the Apostle’s Creed it simply says “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried,” and it goes on. But then it goes on in the Nicene Creed to say after I believe in Jesus Christ, “… the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father, before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made.” Remember all the extra words in there; that was to fortify the full deity of Christ over against Arianism in AD 325.  

In AD 451 the church said this: “Following the holy fathers we unanimously teach one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without conversion, without severance, without division.” See all those withouts? That was the deal with Monophysitism and Nestorianism and all those “isms” that were trying to mix what? After the church got beat around on the deity and humanity, they said all right, whoa, we’ve got two natures; what did the church start to do with the two natures. Mix them, remember the vinegar and water illustration. They mixed them together and that would have violated the Creator/ creature distinction. They couldn’t do that either, so there was a big argument about that. That’s what these words are protecting against. All those withouts are in that creed to separate the Creator from the creature nature of Christ. They kept those two natures separate. Don’t mix them. 

“… the distinction of natures,” plural, “being in no wise abolished by their union, but the peculiarity of each nature being maintained,” that is the Creator remains the Creator and the creature remained the creature, “and both concurring in one person in hypostasis.” The hypostasis is substance. That’s the word where we get the hypostatic union from, the union of the Creator and the creature in one person. We summarize it in that bold print, “undiminished deity united with true humanity without confusion in one person forever.” that is a summary of the Chalcedon Creed, and each of those phrases is important, lots and lots of thought went into them. You have to have all parts of that sentence. Let’s count them: undiminished deity, #1; united in one person, #2; true humanity, #3; without confusion, #4; forever, #5. There are five elements of the doctrine in that one sentence and you’ve got to have all five or something breaks down, the cross goes away, the priesthood goes away, salvation goes away, something else goes away. But to be fully nourished we have to confess all five of those things together.

That’s where we’ve come with the doctrine hypostatic union. Tonight we want to deal with the four implications of this doctrine. We want to draw out “so what?” Now, what have we got if we state the Scripture truth this way? There are four, there may be a lot more implications, I’m just taking four. The first one is that the Creator/creature distinction is eternally fundamental. This distinction of the Creator/creature that we’ve made such a point over, year after year, month after month, going over it and over it, the Creator/creature distinction. What separates the Bible from every other system of thought? What is the one thing that separates it? The Creator/creature distinction. All pagan thought smears that difference and makes God, angels, men, supermen, rocks, molecules, dogs, cats, the cows, all part of one great Continuity of Being, we’re all part of this universe thing, God’s inside the universe, part of it. It’s either one system of thought or it’s the other system of thought and nobody has ever come up with a third position. There’s no third, middle ground here. It’s either this or that! You can separate every thought system, every philosopher, everything, you can’t sit on that fence, you’ve got to go this way or that way. 

Notice in the Creator/creature distinction we say everlasting distinctions, they don’t go away. Remember, what does the Chalcedon Creed say, when these two natures came together as they had never come together before in the history of the universe, they came together at the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and when they came together in one person they never mixed, they remained separate. And if there was a time for them to mix, it would have been then. But Christ is one person and mysteriously He is God and He is also man, He’s God-man, but He’s not a humanized God and He’s not a deified man. His natures remain distinct. So we have that truth affirmed. You say well, gee, that sounds nice and theoretical but what practical benefit does that have? 

Let me take you to a verse that a lot of Christians misinterpret in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 13:12 and it’s because they don’t think about what it is they’re saying when they say these things. It’s a verse many of us are familiar with it, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. [13] But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” People have often inferred in verse 12 that somehow when we go to heaven we become omniscient. Not so! “…now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” there’s something different there, if that’s not the Second Advent then that interpretation is wrong anyway. If, for example, what Paul has in mind here is something other than the Second Advent, and he may have the Second Advent in mind, I’m just saying there are many godly men who hold that this is not talking about the Second Advent. But verse 12, whatever it means, cannot mean that we become omniscient. Why? That would mean we become God. So we can knock off that interpretation, whatever it means it can’t mean we inherit omniscience.

Let’s see if we can think about the Creator/creature distinction in terms of our Christian life and make some practical applications. God has His attributes, He is sovereign, He is righteous, He is loving, He is eternal, He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, He is immutable. He is all these things. As human beings we have corresponding attributes. Why is that? Because we’re made in God’s image. Dogs and cats don’t have this, human beings do. We have volition, our chooser, corresponds to God’s chooser; God’s chooser is called sovereignty, our chooser is called responsi­bility or volition. God is righteous and holy. What corresponds to that? A sense that He has put inside us called conscience. We destroy it, short-circuit it, callous it over, but we’re born with conscience. Then we have love, and we have something that corresponds to His omniscience which is knowledge. 

Let’s keep this diagram in mind and let’s go to some verses, some Scripture that deals with practical, every day problems and see if we don’t get some insight this way. Turn to Isaiah 40, the prophet Isaiah wrote this in a time of crisis. The nation was falling apart, people were wandering around trying to get a foundation for something in their lives, they were in danger of being sucked up into a pagan culture, their land was about to be defeated. It’s a sad day when a nation disinte­grates, and the generation to whom Isaiah wrote saw their homeland disintegrate. It disintegrated not because of external military power, though God sent those, it really disintegrated because spiritually they rebelled against the King of the nation. The King of the nation said you don’t want to be in My kingdom, don’t be in My kingdom, go ahead, you like paganism go take a vacation, 70 years, see how you like it. That was the generation that was told these words. You can see the Holy Spirit working through the prophet Isaiah trying to get these people, who are going to shortly face a catastrophe in their personal life, many of them are not going to survive that catastrophe, they’re going to be killed, they’re going to be raped, they’re going to be beaten, they’re going to see their children killed before their eyes, and this is the generation that he’s talking to. So he’s saying guys, before the crisis comes get something straight, put your trust where it belongs. 

God is speaking here and He says in Isaiah 40:21, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” He goes on and on and on, talking about Himself, who is God and what is He like. Then we come to verse 25 and here’s the challenge. Remember they lived in an idolatrous generation. God asks the question, a challenge in verse 25, “ ‘To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy One.”  

What did we say that’s always true of pagan thought? We said that in pagan thought you have a smearing of the nature of God and man, so people begin to develop analogies between God and man. We’ve all read mythologies, Achilles Heel, which, by the way, does that recall something from Scripture? Doesn’t that remind you of Genesis 3? A lot of these myths are nothing more than depravity operating on truth. Myths can become very exciting studies, if you think of Pandora’s Box. Here’s this female and she opens the box and everything goes to pot. What’s that a picture of? If that isn’t a picture of Eve I don’t know what is. You can go to all these myths and you can say, wow, that myth has a kernel of truth under it. It’s under a lot of garbage, but where did the garbage come from? The fallen flesh of us, that’s what we do to truth. Every time you look at a myth, think of it, it’s what we have done with truth. You go to the Bible and you get the true story, then you read a myth and you see the difference between the Bible and the myth, and that tells you what sin does intellectually. How screwed up our thoughts are because of sin.

The Creator/creature always wanted to make God equal to something, so God cuts it off right here, and He says, “‘To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy one.” I’m not equal to anything, I’m over everything, I am the Creator and there are only two levels of being, the Creator and the creature. I’m not on the same level as Baal, and your little priests. Then He says, and this is a challenge to look at God’s attributes, so watch it as we read verses 26, 27, 28, 30 and 30, count how many attributes you personally observe in the text. Verse 26, “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars,” go ahead, go out at night and look up, “The One who leads forth their host by number He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing.” Two attributes at least there, what are they? Omniscience because He knows everything, He calls them all by name, and what holds them there? His power, so you’ve got omniscience and omnipotence in verse 26. See what God is doing, He’s saying just take a look at Me folks, look at ME He says.

Verse 27, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God? [28] Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God” the attribute? Eternality. “The everlasting God, the LORD, the creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.” Attribute: Omnipotence, He’s never tired. “His understanding is inscrutable” and this is where we want to look critically tonight. His understanding is what? It’s inscrutable, it’s incomprehensible.” Attribute? Omniscience. God is omniscient, so His understanding is inscrutable. He can tell us a lot of things that are on His mind, but this attribute of omniscience is never to be confused with our attribute of knowledge. Our attribute of knowledge is a finite version of that, but we can never grasp God’s viewpoint. We can have pieces of it, a piece here, a piece there, a piece somewhere else. That’s true in eternity; we’re not going to become omniscient in eternity. Don’t worry, it won’t be boring, because we’ll have all eternity to learn. Every day something to learn, something to learn, something to learn, something to learn about, it’ll go on forever and ever and ever because it’s an infinite pool of knowledge.

 [29] He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” There is what He’s saying, He’s saying I give strength to you, your human strength is weak but My power, I’m never tired, I have all power and I give might to them… it’s a great promise, personal promise here. [30] Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly. [31] Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength,” there’s the element of trust. “Those who wait for the Lord will gain strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become faint.” Not because they become God. Verse 31 is not teaching that those who trust the Lord become omnipotent. It says they can run this way though because they feed off of omnipotence, they’re motivated, God energizes. God helps; He reaches down and helps us. 

That’s the Christian understanding of this interplay between God’s nature and human nature. In His humanity what did the Lord Jesus do here? Think. Did He perfectly trust the Father? Yes He did. Let’s apply this to Christ, verse 29, “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.” Remember the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4. See how Christ utilized this Old Testament principle. He has a faith resting in the God who was His Creator. [29] “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble. [30] Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles,” a wonderful, wonderful promise here. It’s a great one to memorize, an excellent, excellent promise.  

Let’s go to the New Testament and watch the New Testament after the incarnation say exactly the same thing as Isaiah 40. Turn to Philippians 4:6-7, let’s look at the attributes; train and discipline your self to observe the text. In Philippians 4:6 a great promise, “Be anxious for nothing,” how many times have I had to have that knocked through my head, “Be anxious for nothing,” at least two or three times a day I need that. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” As far as you’ve read so far, verse 6 is an admonition, it’s an imperative, don’t do this, do this instead. By the way, when you read imperatives in the New Testament, that’s another thing to observe that’s helped me a lot over the years, is the Bible, when it hits you with a negative it doesn’t leave you there, there’s always a positive. He never says, “Don’t do that!” without saying, “Do this.” And you’ll find if you “do this” you get the power to “not do that.” But if you sit and get a fixation on what the Bible says you can’t do, you can’t do this and you can’t do that, and you can’t do something else, you get resentful, Christianity doesn’t work for me and all the rest of the argument comes up. That totally misunderstands. The Bible, when it tells us don’t do this, always tells us, but do this instead. It’s a substitution, it’s not an elimination of something, it’s a substitution of something.  

And here’s an example, instead of being anxious, we’re supposed to be praying. We’re not supposed to just lie down and do nothing. If we’re going to be anxious you can’t stop being anxious by trying to stop being anxious, it doesn’t work, we all know that. If you worry about something, something’s on your mind, you don’t sleep, it keeps going around in your mind, you can be doing nothing and it comes to your mind, you can be gardening and it comes to mind, you can’t keep it out of your mind. God knows that, so that’s why He says “Be anxious for nothing, but” replace that when that happens with prayer. It tells you exactly how to cope with it. It’s all free; it doesn’t have $75.00 an hour counseling fee. 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,” with thanksgiving, which means you can’t really get there if you’re not right with the Lord, “let your requests be made known to God.” Now watch verse 7, here come the attributes. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The result of the praying is that the peace of God comes, but the peace that comes is omniscience. Let’s take that apart, let’s unravel this a little bit. Why do you suppose Paul says the peace of God is incomprehensible? 

How does an incomprehensible “peace of God” help me when I’m worrying about something? Here’s how it works. When I’m worrying about something, I’ve got this situation, and I’m trying to hit it from all sides with my solutions. The problem we all wind up with is that our solutions don’t work. So then we try to plug in another solution, doesn’t work, and another solution, doesn’t work, doesn’t work, doesn’t work, so we try another solution, we just beat ourselves to death trying to do this thing. But then when we pray to the Lord the right way, in verse 6, He gives us this inner assurance that I’m in charge, just relax, I am in charge, everything’s going to turn out okay, just hold it. Has He changed any information? Does our computer, let’s say this is 10:01 and the peace of God comes at 10:02. At 10:02 does your brain have any more information about the circumstance than it had at 10:01? All it does have is that God is in control of the circumstances and you basically, we don’t have any more data that has come into our computers, other than we have this, we have omnipotence, we know that God is sovereign, we know that God is omnipotent, we know He loves us, and we know He never gets tired and He’s loyal to His promises because He never changes, so it’s like we remember things, this is not new information, we already knew it, we just had to be reminded of that for the 18,000th time. 

Once all that knowledge, all that memory comes charging in, there’s a transfer, if you think about it, there’s a transfer that goes from an autonomous mind that tries to center itself and will not accept anything that you can’t see a solution, I’ve got to see the solution… well as long as I’ve got to see the solution I’m not going to get it. So I have to come over here and trust the Lord and at this point I have to retreat off of that position. I have to say I can’t see the solution. I have to confess, I don’t have any more information now than I had a minute ago, except I now remember that He’s sovereign, and He’s in charge and He’s in control. Do I know what He’s going to do in this situation? Probably not. At 10:02, at 10:03, at 10:04, at 10:05 do I still have any more knowledge of what God’s going to do in the situation? Probably not. Well then what’s the difference? The peace of God that exceeds my capacity to think it through, His peace is out beyond my computer program, and I just sit there, I run the computer, I don’t turn my head off, but yet I know while I’m working in the middle of this mess that it’s not a hopeless wreck, and the outcome of it doesn’t depend on Charlie Clough figuring it all out, because He’s already figured it out, and it’s already working together for good.  

So there’s an example of the eternal distinction between the Creator and the creature, and it doesn’t change in the person of Christ. In His humanity the Lord Jesus Christ operated this way. That’s what we’re going to see in the next chapter, that Jesus Christ was the test pilot. [blank spot]

… puts a round in there, and shoves it in and detonates the trigger, he doesn’t want the gun to blow up and blow his head away, which is 18” away from the 120-mm round when it goes off. So that’s you torture things, you test them. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, throughout His humanity and during His life He operated just like this. It was the first time in history that Satan ever saw a human being walk in the middle of his domain and pull it off perfectly, first time in history. Here was a perfect man who operated by faith. Satan said nobody can do that. Well, somebody did do that and nobody from that point on, after Christ finished His life, not one of us can argue it can’t be done, because He did it. It’s an irrefutable fact of history. He trusted the Lord, His Father, at every point in time. He gave a living test demonstration of what a human being can do when filled with the Holy Spirit. So the eternal distinction is important, otherwise you erase the whole issue of the life of Christ. The life of Christ can’t be applied to us if we don’t maintain the fact that during His humanity He had all the same constraints, humanly speaking, that you and I have and He operated by faith trusting the Father and His attributes.

Now we come to the second implication, on page 44: the Creator, God, can never meet us more fully than He has in the person of Jesus Christ. That means Joseph Smith, it means Mohammed, it means Confucius, it means all the teachers in the religions of the world, there’s not one of them that we can look into their face and see more of God than we can look into the face of Jesus Christ and see God. Jesus Christ IS the final and most complete revelation, period. No need for any more prophets. No need for any more new religion. People that get an itch for a new religion have basically turned their back on the person of Jesus Christ, because if they accepted Christ and realized who Jesus Christ was and is, they wouldn’t need a new religion. 

So the second implication is that God doesn’t show up later on as a Martian, He doesn’t have to show up as some intergalactic visitor, because whatever it is, who is made in God’s image? Somebody out in Galaxy 52, or Adam and Eve that were made in the Garden of Eden on planet earth? Adam and Eve, the human race is made in God’s image. So Jesus Christ, who is not a Martian or from Galaxy 52, He is a human being from planet earth and He represents the most complete picture of God that is possible in the entire universe. This carries implications for the centrality of planet earth and the history of planet earth. Why, when we talk about we want to find extraterrestrial life and go through the whole nine yards, it’s actually turning back on the most phenomenal planet… I mean, if there were creatures out there, do you know what they’d be doing if they knew God? We want to find out about planet earth, He visited there, He never visited out here, what’s the matter with those idiots on planet earth, they think we’ve got the news; they’ve got the news, what the heck did they do with it? Buried it? Yes, we did, did a good job. 

So the second implication of the hypostatic union is because when God chose to incarnate Himself He didn’t incarnate Himself as a falcon like the Egyptian gods, He didn’t incarnation himself as a lion like the sphinx, He incarnated Himself not zoologically, He incarnated Himself humanly. 

The third implication is that history, historical experience has eternal ramifications, history, and we can put in parenthesis (my personal life) goes on record forever. That’s a scary thought. Every one of us is writing a record that we can’t ever change, every thought, every word, every deed is being recorded. We have created our own histories, nobody twisted our arms - we’ve done it. In the Bible let’s look at Christ’s personal history. Jesus Christ in His personal life created righteousness. He generated perfect righteousness. And part of His personal righteousness, His absolute righteousness, includes the work that He did on the cross and the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross earned Him scars on His body.

Turn to John 20:27, this is His resurrection body that He will live in forever and ever. The Lord Jesus Christ has the body in John 20 that He has when you and I will meet Him. Notice that that body has marks. “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here you hand, and put it into My side; and stop unbelieving, but start believing.” You notice that this is not His natural body, not His mortal body, but this is His resurrection body; the resurrection body carries the marks of the cross. While Jesus Christ produced in His personal history absolute righteousness He carries the scars of becoming sin for you and me. And He carries those scars forever and ever and ever. That’s why in Revelation it says and we looked at the throne and what did we see on the throne? A Lamb like it had been slain. The marks still are there. 

So what does that mean? Here’s what it means about history. It means that history is very real, it’s not a dream. Eastern religions think of history as a dream; in our bad moments we wish it were a dream. Sometimes Christians get so depressed they want to kill themselves and end it because we want to do away with this painful history. But the history has already been written; we can go ahead and kill ourselves, that’s part of our history then. This is why Paul says something in 2 Corinthians 5 and he builds on this idea that history is so very, very important. We do things with our lives, some of it we wish we didn’t, but we’ve done it, and it’s all there. 

Now we have to go back and think through something. Remember we talked about good and evil. Our history is full of good and evil. The pagan idea, their problem is they’ve got good and evil forever and ever; they can never get rid of it. They can reincarnate and reincarnate and reincarnate and reincarnate and come back as a bug, a cow, a human being or whatever, and they’re still living in a good and evil world. But the Christian says that we go through history, good and evil, our lives are good and evil, but the problem is that this good and evil is not sufficient to dwell forever with the good God; God is God, He is righteous, He is holy, He cannot tolerate that and will not tolerate that, therefore eternal history cannot have evil in it. Well then how, if we have personal history, is our personal history corrected, the evil separated away from it so that we can enjoy fellowship with God forever and ever? It doesn’t happen automatically. There’s something yet to come in our lives, and that thing is called judgment. And it’s that judgment we all have to face.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, this is Christians, we’re not talking about a judgment for salvation but a judgment to separate the good and evil. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” please notice, not the judgment seat of the Father, it doesn’t say the judgment seat of the Holy Spirit, it says the “judgment seat of Christ.” Now let’s think about it, hypostatic union, why is the word “Christ” used there. God and man, why is the judgment committed to the Second Person of the Trinity not the third or the first? What is true of the Second Person of the Trinity that we just learned? He became man, and in becoming man He lived a personal history. He has become in judicial terms what? A trial by our peers. So it’s the Lord Jesus Christ who is the judge, not the Father, because it is a judgment as a fellow human being.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [11] Therefore,” Paul says, he’s talking to Christians here, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” So it’s a warning to Christian. We find it in 1 Corinthians 3 and other passages. This is a judgment of believers before the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it necessary? So that the evil parts of our human history will be acknowledged as evil, we don’t know the half of it, we get so prideful, I’m a good believer, but the depths of our own sin we know not. This is what Paul says, he didn’t even know all the things that are evil in his life. He knew some of them and the things which God and the Holy Spirit bring to our mind we confess those and we move on. But somewhere in eternity we want a true perspective on who we were, what we all about in our historical moment? And we don’t want to smell garbage all the time. So the judgment takes care of this and somehow the Lord deals with that evil, purges it aside so that which is good, done faithfully as unto the Lord, not unto men but unto the Lord, that remains, and that’s what doesn’t get burned up, 1 Corinthians 3.

So the third implication is that history has eternal consequences, it’s not a dream. 

Finally, let’s conclude by turning to Colossians 2:8, it’s basically an introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity which we’ll start next week. Paul says, he warns believers, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” What he’s saying here, and now we can appreciate verse 8 better, how many years did it take to get the Council of Chalcedon? What was the date of the Council of Chalcedon? 451 AD. Four hundred years. What was the church doing in 400 years? What were they reexamining? The basic categories of thought itself… basic categories, and what Paul says here, do not be philosophically deceived, do not construct your basic categories and then try to fit the Bible on top of them. Do away with the basic categories, accept the Scripture, and derive your basic categories from the Scripture. Completely reverse it. It took 400 years for the church to reverse it. Part of the reversal was the realization that God is three and God is one. If you look in the handout, this is a difficult, difficult handout. Next week the handout will be more into the Bible passages in the Trinity. This is going to be real strange to some of you but to others of you who have struggled with some of these questions I think a light will turn on. 

If you’ll notice on page 2 and 3 I deal with the two primary tools of man, language and logic. What, if you’ll read there, I’m going to touch on and believe me I’m only touching on it, is that logic and language, which people say oh, the Trinity is a contradiction, what we’re going to show is exactly the opposite. If you don’t have the Triune God you can’t have any logic whatsoever. And you can’t even speak. Actually every time we say a sentence we are affirming that we have a structure that can only be derived from the Trinity. So language and logic are built on top of the authority of Scripture, first the Scripture, then language and logic. We get it backwards, we think in terms of language and logic and then we’ll see if the Scripture meets our little test. We’ll reverse that; we’ll show that the test can’t be set up until first you start with Scripture. So it’s a powerful soul shaking effort to see this through, but it’s all derived from when the church did its work on the Trinity. 

Question asked: Clough replies: The question is about works, the miraculous works done in the New Testament era by disciples, that approximated the magnitude, some of the miracles, of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself did, and whether that in fact is normative for the Church Age. The weight of the New Testament, if you sit down with a piece of paper and look at the admonitions in the epistles, just listing … I once knew a lady that did that, had the patience of Job, went through every single imperative verb in the New Testament epistles, from Pentecost on, what is God telling us, what is He commanding. Find any set of verses in there that tell us to do miracles, it’s amazingly absent. This does not mean that those miracles can’t happen or aren’t happening in missionary situations, often times. It’s rather that the weight and direction and momentum of those New Testament imperatives are for our personal trust and obedience because that’s harder for us to do than pull of the miracles. It really is, and we all kind of know that. That’s the center of gravity of the New Testament thrust. The miracles happen when they happen, and we leave those to the Lord. 

Many of the miracles in the New Testament were what we call sign miracles in the Apostolic age and there area clear texts in the epistles, view that era as kind of a sign era that is coming to an end at the time that many of the New Testament epistles are being written. For example, in Hebrews 2, if you look at the verb tenses, the author of Hebrews, whoever he was, apparently he was a second generation believer because he said we became the faith through others who bore witness with signs and miracles and it’s past tense. So he looks back on that era as a time of signs and miracles. 

Again, we’re not circumscribing, saying God can’t do it, God won’t do it, and it’s rather, what is the normative pattern that we see? Remember that Greeks seek wisdom and Jews seek a sign. A lot of the sign miracles that you see in the New Testament are in what culture? In the Jewish culture, because of the profile the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. He was fulfilling these signs. By tapping into God’s attributes and verses like Isaiah 40, that has more to do with everyday Christian living than it does with the firecracker miracles. It has to do with the fact that day after day we get tired, and day after day we forget, and day after day we need a kick in the pants to remember who our God is, and what the basics are. Over the years, you know sometimes you get involved in all these little details of this and details of that.  

It’s always helped my sanity to back off every once in a while, strip everything down to utter simplicity and just sit and review the attributes of God. Try it sometime. Think, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, if you can’t find a quiet place in your house go in the bathroom or something, but go some place where at least for five minutes you can think through, God is sovereign, pause, what does that mean? It means He works all things after the counsel of His will, then talk to yourself, does God sovereignty mean … what does it mean in this situation, does it mean that He’s in total control of this thing, even when the stuff blows up in my face? Yes, because even the pieces that are blowing up in your face are under His control. Then you say to yourself, and God is holy and righteousness. I just got faked our royally, I got deceived, I got into a business contract and it’s all evil, and I really got the short end of the stick here. And God is righteous and God is holy. Is this evil that’s crushing in on me right now so powerful it’s going to win ultimately? No, because a God is righteous. 

God is love, God loves me, human love comes and goes, we’re weak, we’re fragile; the opposite of love in Scripture is not hatred, the opposite of love is actually kind of a fear. You can see that because you can’t ever release yourself to give to people if you’re afraid of your own personal security and safety. As long as you’re afraid of your security and safety you’re not going to be relaxed enough to love anybody. Is God afraid of His personal safety and security? Absolutely not! That means He’s free to love, on a scale and a quality that we can’t have. So our human love is a frail, finite version of His and it just helps us once in a while to put everything aside and think about how God loves us. Can you cite things that show that God loves you? Can you cite things from the Scripture that says yes, God loves me, this I know because the Bible tells me so? What does the Bible say? Say some things about the events that we’ve studied, for example. 

God is incomprehensibly knowledgeable. He says in Isaiah 40 My counsel is beyond you. He says to Job …, remember He comes to Job and He asks him the 68 questions or whatever it is, someone counted them up, and He gives him a big quiz. What’s the object of the quiz? Job, you don’t know what you’re talking about, so just kiss it off, forget it, shut up and sit down, take a break, and listen to Me. I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve done this, hey Job, have you tried any of those things buddy? No. Well then who knows what’s going on around here? It just is a relief, and you find your blood pressure starts lowering and you start getting a little more stable, and all it is is a simple basic exercise of taking six or seven of God’s attributes and thinking about them for five or ten minutes. It’s just a neat time to break, a very good exercise to do because it focuses us, it keeps us focused. That’s what this is.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the example of that. That’s why in the life of Christ you read about what He would do in the morning so often. He’d go out and pray. He had a busy life, some people have said that if you take the days, I think there are only seventeen days in the life of Christ in the New Testament that we know about. And you count up the number of things, arguments, discussions, preaching, healing sessions that He pulled off in whatever days, I’m not sure it’s seventeen but it some very small number of days that we have, and you log the number of things that the Lord Jesus Christ did in, I’ll say twenty or thirty days that the New Testament gives us insight into, it’s absolutely amazing. What? Did this guy have a diary, a scheduler? He did it all without a palm pilot. How did He do this stuff? He did it because He had everything fit in its place, He just must have been a very organized person, but He did so perfectly knowledgeable and He handled interruptions in His life, which I never handle very well, He handled interruptions in His life like oh yeah, I know that. Nathaniel comes to Him, He says yeah Nathaniel, I saw you under the tree a while back, I’ll tell you all about you, I know what your name means. He was able to do this.

So that’s the challenge and that’s why I’ve spent so many weeks on this hypostatic union, it’s not just theology for the sake of theology. This sets us up to understand what goes on in the life of Christ and the death of Christ, so that we realize that because the four Gospels are in the New Testament to give us a picture, and if you don’t think about this you get it wrong. The four Gospels aren’t there to show us things about Jesus that can’t be true now, in our life. Obviously some things can’t be, we’re not going to die for the sins of the world, but how He handled Himself, how He did these things, obviously impacted the apostles who wrote the New Testament. So he was model, He was the test pilot; He was the guy who showed how the indwelling Holy Spirit operates in true humanity. 

If we’re faked out and we really don’t know, and aren’t clear that He is undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person forever without confusion we’re going to misinterpret it, because here’s how a lot of Christians read the New Testament—well, Jesus was God, after all, I’m not God, I can’t live that life, only God can live that life. Jesus was also true humanity. So we can’t argue that way, and it kind of jerks you around a little bit, and you saw whoa, I’ve got to read the life of Jesus through a different light here, He was true humanity and He was tired, He had to eat, He felt hunger, He felt pain, all the things that we feel. This is God walking on earth. What’s so magnificent about this is there’s not another religion that comes close. As we’ve said so many times, Allah never gets his fingernails dirty. Allah never got hungry. Allah never walked around tired. But our God did. So who would you rather talk to? Who would you rather have judge you? See, it’s a much more comfortable situation, if you get the prime truths straight.

Question asked: Clough replies: The question is whether our sins are removed from us at the point of salvation or the point of judgment, bema seat kind of thing. It gets back to the fact that salvation, the salvation package and program of God has phases to it. When we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ we are totally justified. The absolute righteousness of Christ is credited to our account. That’s the Protestant Reformation. We wouldn’t even have the audacity to trust God for one promise, were it not for the fact that we rest in the fact that we’re perfectly acceptable to Him, legally and in a relationship. However, we authentically know that we sin, we know we’re forgiven, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just…” we’re not talking at the Bema Seat about legal status before God. That’s why the bema seat has nothing to do with unbelievers. 

There are many judgments in the Bible. When you think of God shall judge the quick and dead, in the Apostle’s Creed, keep in mind that’s a summary of many different judgments. There’s the judgment of nations in Matthew 24, there’s the bema seat in 1 Corinthians 3, there’s the Great White Throne in Revelation 20, there’s the church’s temporal judgment on churches in Revelation 2-3, there’s all kinds of judgments in the Scripture. But talking about what I was talking about, the point there is that we have a finite understanding of ourselves, we have a sinfully suppressed misunderstanding of ourselves. And we go into death carrying that with us. It’s not that God doesn’t honor His salvation with us, for we wouldn’t be doing any acceptable works were we not empowered by the Holy Spirit. So we have a relationship from the point of salvation.

What happens at the bema seat, according to 1 Corinthians 3, 1 Corinthians 5, is that He some way brings to our consciousness our whole life’s biography, and we realize what we have produced and what we haven’t produced. And that’s what’s scary about it, because probably we’re going to realize the thousands and thousands of opportunities we had and we blew it. How you reconcile that and how He deals with that so we won’t be depressed for eternity, I don’t know, but it just says He deals with it, it’s over with. 1 Corinthians 3 warns us that if we build human good, good of the flesh, I’m laboring in the energy of the flesh, and I’m not trusting the Lord, I’m just doing it because I want to do it and look good, all that stuff is burned up. All that human good debris is out. Why is that? I think it’s because when we dwell forever and ever it’s precisely because He wants an intimate relationship with us and He wants us to have an intimate relationship, He’s got to purge the garbage out, so that when we have an eternal relationship there are no hidden skeletons in our closet, as it were. All the skeletons are out and burned, and we realize who we are, what we are, we give thanks for His work in our lives, our cup is full, it’s just that some people’s cup is bigger than other people’s cup. 

The Bible does not project a socialist picture of the Kingdom of God. It’s not a communist state where everybody is equal. That’s where we’ve allowed communism and socialism to infiltrate the church into thinking somehow equality is mandatory. That’s not true. Jesus says there are degrees of rewards, degrees of quantity of eternal life, and that results from our own choices that we’ve made in our lives. That’s what’s so sobering about it. So it is not due to the eternal consequences of sin. What these are, are healing the memories, letting us view ourselves fully for who we are, because we really don’t know who we are. Jeremiah says “the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful.” You can go to psychoanalysts for fifty years and pay $80 an hour; you can go bankrupt and still not know who you are. Paul said he didn’t know who he was, Paul said there are things I don’t know about my life and I put it in the Lord’s hands. I don’t know, I’ll find out some day. 

So it’s finding out what our lives are all about so we can get on and enjoy Him for eternity. It’s got to happen because there’s got to be resolution, both in the legal area of coming into a relationship with God, and then in the production area of what have we produced. It might be like this: imagine owning land like a farm. You have title to the farm; it’s all yours, so are you a farmer? Yes, you’re a farmer. Since when? Since you got title to the land. What’s that? When I got saved. But then, because the farm ultimately is owned by God, He wants to know what have you produced by way of crops. Now we might produce a good crop, a large crop or a small crop, and different farmers are going to produce different crops off the ground, and there has to be a recognition of that somewhere. So it gets back to what’s real, what’s authentic, what’s the real thing, and that’s what comes up for adjustment at the bema seat.

Question asked: Clough replies: Again I think the manner is to read through the New Testament and see where the center of God is. Paul mentions the bema seat in three or four places. What does that say? It seems to tell me that it was on his mind from time to time, but you don’t see it as some overarching thing. I think the reason you can’t is because what are you going to do about it? How do you produce anything that’s worthwhile in life but by looking at the Lord? So you look at the Lord and trust Him for the results. You don’t know the results of your own good works. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol with Scrooge, etc. that’s a good illustration, it comes out of a Christian world view, remember going through the “what ifs” in the Christmas carol, saying that he had this dream and all these things happened and then he realized that your life is a ripple and it ripples out and you don’t even realize it. And were it not for the dream Scrooge would never have realized what his life was doing to other people. I think that’s part of the bema seat. We’ll realize what our life did to other people, and where it impacted them, etc. We can’t know that now. So you live your life as unto the Lord and move on.