Deuteronomy 6:4 says that “The Lord our God is one Lord.” This is a favorite passage of Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals as well as some other religious groups. Their view is that this passage teaches that God is a single, solitary being. However, this passage teaches just the opposite. Let’s examine it.
First, the word “Lord” on either end of the sentence is a translation of the Hebrew word for Jehovah. So, it is literally, “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” As we will see in the next section, there are passages where the word “Jehovah” applies to more than one individual being. That fact must be considered in an understanding of Deuteronomy 6:4.
Second, the word “God” is the Hebrew word elohim, the plural of the word for God, which is el. The very first sentence of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, says that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The word “God” here is elohim. In verse 26, God says, “let us make man in our own image after our likeness.” With elohim as the word for “God,” the plural pronouns are also used. Elohim is found in many places in the Old Testament and with plural pronouns in those passages where pronouns are used.
Third, the word “one” is a particular term that does not mean an absolute singular but rather a united singular. It is found in Genesis 1:5, that says, “the evening and the morning were the first day.” The word “first” here is the same word for “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4. We find the same word again in Genesis 2:24 that says a man is to cleave to his wife and “the two shall become one flesh.” It took the evening and morning to make “one” day and the man and woman joined together to become “one” flesh.
Therefore, what we find in Deuteronomy 6:4 is the statement that “Jehovah our God (plural) is one (a united) Jehovah.” This identifies what we later find in the New Testament as the Godhead. It is composed of three distinct beings who are eternal, of the same substance, form, powers and abilities.
There are numerous names applied to the three beings of the Godhead collectively. There are also names that apply to these three individually. In the New Testament, they are referred to as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though the word “God” is used, in places, individually of all three. The Son is called the Word in John 1:1. Jesus is not only referred to as God in such places as John 1:1-3, 10:33, Hebrews 1:8, He is also referred to as “equal” with God, John 5:18, Philippians 2:5-6. He is said to be the “fulness of the godhead, bodily,” Colossians 2:9 and “the image of the invisible God,” in Colossians 1:15, and “the very image of his substance,” with “his” referring to the Father in Hebrews 1:3. The three individual beings are placed together in several places in the Bible, as follows.
(1) The Word, Jesus, was the agent for the Godhead in creation, as so stated in Colossians 1:13-17 and other passages. Genesis 1:1-2 says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; it also specifies that the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters. All three had a role in creation.
2) The three are spoken of in several other places in the Old Testament. An instance of this is in Isaiah 48:16-
“Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.”
Jehovah is doing the speaking, but declaring that Jehovah and His Spirit had sent Him.
All three are together in the effort. There are other places where only two of them are mentioned.
(3)The conception of Mary that produced Jesus involved all three persons directly. Jesus was God come in the flesh, John 1:14. In announcing to Mary the conception and birth of Jesus, the angel, Gabriel, said in Luke 1:35 -
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.”
(4) At the baptism of Jesus by John, all three took part. Matthew 3:16-17 -
“And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
(5) The promise of Jesus to His disciples concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit involves all three in the work the Holy Spirit was to do, John 14:26 -
“But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.”
(6) When Jesus commissioned the apostles to go teach all nations, He also said that baptism was in the name of all three persons. Matthew 28:19 -
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
(7) Paul mentions all three in his request in Romans 15:30 -
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”
(8) In I Corinthians 12, Paul discusses the reality and use of spiritual gifts, given by the Holy Spirit. The three are mentioned together in I Corinthians 12:4-6 -
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.”
(9) The benediction of Paul in II Corinthians 13:14 included all three -
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
(10) In the well known section of Scripture that speaks of keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:4-6 says -
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.”
In addition to these passages that speak of all three together in specific passages, numerous others show two of the three with equal status. Some show God and the Holy Spirit while others show Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These scriptures identify the three as distinct individual beings of equal status.
The person we know as Jesus of Nazareth was in fact as much God as the Father or Holy Spirit. That has always been the case. In Malachi 3:6, Jehovah declares “I change not.” This is echoed in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, yea and forever.” Certainly there was some change in that God the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, John 1:14. But, it was only a change in form and function. He remained what He had always been - Jehovah, God, Lord.
We can read in the Bible the many places where Jesus speaks of coming to do the will of the Father who sent Him. Others point out the subjection of the Son to the Father. Some have then leaped to the conclusion that this made Jesus a reduced God, less than being God, or as some have expressed it, made Him a man, just a man and only a man. Nothing could be further from the truth. We will explore this in the material to come.
FUNCTION OF THE GODHEAD
We have not been told what God did before the creation of the universe, except for a few items we will notice. God is eternal, which means there has been a timeless period before this universe that we can’t even imagine. What did God do? We don’t know; He hasn’t told us. From the active being that we see in the Bible, we must conclude that He has not been idle. How did He function? We don’t know, but we do know something about how He has functioned in regard to this universe.
Though the Godhead is composed of three distinct beings united as one, this does not mean that they function in unison like robots following the same taped program. Nor is the Godhead composed of three bodies sharing one brain, like Siamese triplets. They are distinct individuals, each having a mind and a will. God’s work from before creation to the end of this universe clearly shows the diversity of function by the individuals in the Godhead, even though they are working in unison toward common goals. We must understand their diversity of function as much as we must understand their unity or we will be led astray from the truth.
The Bible does inform us of some things as they were before the universe came into existence. Notice -
“And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5.
“... for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24.
The phrases, “before the world was” and “before the foundation of the world” both mean the same thing. God did not create on a spur of the moment whim, nor as an experiment to see just what He could put together, nor as simple amusement, as though building a playground. Everything was according to a decided plan, intelligently conceived and then performed. The purpose of the universe, this earth and all associated with it, even with a contingency plan for the redemption of fallen man and eternal life for the righteous, was all planned before any action was taken toward creation. Look at the evidence.
“... but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory.” I Corinthians 2:7 (The NIV translates the phrase as “before time began”).
“...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage,
having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will...” Ephesians 1:4-11
“... who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake ...” I Peter 1:20
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world ... “ Matthew 25:34
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” II Thessalonians 2:13.
“Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith.” Romans 16:25-26.
“Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God; who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...” II Timothy 1:8-10.
“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal; but in his own seasons manifested his word in the message, wherewith I was intrusted according to the commandment of God our Saviour. Titus 1:1-3.
“...and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord...” Ephesians 3:9-11
Please take notice of all the specific items included in the plans made before creation. However, though the plans were made before creation, none of these passages teach Calvinist predestination. Man is a free moral agent and can make decisions about serving God or not. What God decided He would do, He did. Some things, as we will see, depended on the free will decisions of men and circumstances. Such an eventuality as fallen man and what to do about it was built into God’s plans. Man sinned and the scheme of redemption was then set in order. The same is true about our being foreknown. That is not foreknowledge of specific individuals but of the righteous as a class of people. The gospel, the church, kingdom and many other things were all decided upon before the very first move was made to create anything!
Included in this plan was a diversity of function of the three persons of the Godhead. It would be an arrangement of function for the Godhead that would span the universe from its creation to its destruction. One would be the director and the other two would be the most active in carrying out the plan that had been formed. These were roles taken though each person of the Godhead was fully equal with the others as deity. Let’s examine the evidence.
CREATION: Genesis 1:1 says, as we have already seen, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It was the individual of the Godhead known as The Word who was the prime agent for the Godhead in doing this.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.” John 1:1-3.
“... who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.” Colossians 1:15-17
“...but of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands: They shall perish; but thou continuest: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall not fail.” Hebrews 1:8-12.
Though the Word was the primary operator, the Holy Spirit also assisted, Genesis 1:2. The Word is identified as God but is also a distinct being who is God the creator. The following passages from Isaiah demonstrate this:
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.” Isaiah 44:6-7.
“Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.” Isaiah 44:24.
“Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.” Isaiah 48:12-13.
This identifies the I Am, the first and the last, the beginning and end, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah, The Word, who created all things. This connects us directly with Exodus 3:14, John 8:24, 58, Revelation 1:17-18, 21:6, 22:13.
Further, the Word was the creator of angels and all heavenly host. Paul says of Jesus -
“...who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.” Colossians 1:15-17.
“Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.” Psalm 148:2-5.
We have no idea just when these spiritual beings, angels, were created but we know that they, like man, were created in the image of God. They are intelligent, self-aware beings with all of the characteristics that man has. They have free will and can choose to disobey God, II Peter 2:4, Jude 6. Jude says that they did not keep their own principality and left their proper habitation and so were cast into bonds of darkness until Judgment. They even have personal names.
Humans were made a little lower than angels, Psalm 8, but this is because our spirits are confined to flesh and blood and God has given us a different mission to perform. In the resurrection, Jesus says we will be as the angels in heaven, Matthew 22:30.
But, the most important point in keeping with our present subject is to understand that God the Word, just as in the creation of the universe, was the being of the Godhead who created the angels and all heavenly host.
WORKING WITH ISRAEL: I Corinthians 10:4 says that the spiritual rock that accompanied the Israelites was Christ.
REVELATION: In both the Old and New Testament, the Holy Spirit had a special task in revealing God’s will to man, II Peter 1:20-21, I Peter 1:10-12.
ONE JEHOVAH SENDING ANOTHER JEHOVAH: The Old Testament portrays one Jehovah sending another Jehovah to do something. In light of the statements listed above in Isaiah 48:12-13 about the I AM who created all things, note -
“Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.” Isaiah 48:16.
This identifies one Jehovah and His Spirit sending another Jehovah. The one being sent was no less Jehovah than the one doing the sending. It reflects a difference in function. But, there are other passages.
“The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Genesis 19:24.
“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” Zechariah 2:8-11.
“Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.” Zechariah 4:8-9.
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, ... And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:9—15.
“And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the LORD.” Zechariah 10:12.
It should be evident that there has been a particular order and division of function of the
Godhead from the beginning of the universe project. This order of function began before anything was created. We are familiar with the fact of Jesus’ coming to do the will of the Father. Jesus specifically says so.
“I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” John 5:30.
“For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” John 6:38.
“And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him.” John 8:29.
We could also look at the various passages that speak of the Holy Spirit’s being sent by the Father to do certain things. Does that make the Holy Spirit somehow less than God because the Father sent Him to do something? The fact is, the “Father” was the DIRECTOR of the universe project from the very beginning and the other two willingly carried out the directions given, as their functional roles in the plan required. When Jesus said that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, just when was that “will” decided upon? We’ve already seen the answer to that. In the same way, when Jesus said that the word He spake was not His but the Father’s who sent Him, when was that “word” decided upon and by whom? This was the mystery hid from times eternal and before the world began. Look at the preceding scriptures and you can easily see the answer to these questions. Each person of the Godhead had a part to play in the period between creation and Christ just as it was within the Gospel age. Now notice:
“They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority.” Acts 1:6-7.
When did the Father make that decision? We have only to look at various Old Testament passages that prophesy the time of the kingdom’s establishment to understand the decision was, at least, made long before the first century. Note -
“For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.” Colossians 1:19-20.
When was this decision made, and by whom? The “Father” made the decision, as it says “it was the good pleasure of the Father,” that these things would happen. But, such a decision was made before creation began. Remember -
“... but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory.” I Corinthians 2:7
“... even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will ...” Ephesians 1:4-5
“... who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake ...” I Peter 1:20
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world ... “ Matthew 25:34
Look carefully at the context of I Peter 1:20, beginning with verse 18 through verse 23. It speaks of redemption through the precious blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ, by whom we are believers in God and by whom salvation comes. That was all decided on before the foundation of the world. In order to accomplish this, the Godhead decided on just who would be the Director and who would fulfill which function.
Thus, when Jesus says in Matthew 24:36, concerning the time of the end and His second coming -
“But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.”
If this statement proves that somehow Jesus, the Word, became less than Deity then it proves the same for the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit didn’t know either. The understanding is found in the division of function, the roles that were played. Apparently, the decision concerning the second coming had not been made at that point, and may not be made as yet. That decision may be made contingent on developing circumstances, man’s free will actions. Now, consider the following:
“But now hath God set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased him ... whereas our comely parts have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked.” I Corinthians 12:18—24.
“God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.” Hebrews 2:4.
The word “God” here refers to the Father. He tempered the body together as it “pleased” Him. He also sent the Holy Spirit to perform His role in redemption “according to his own will.” The question is - when were these decisions made? Not after the first century began. Note again Ephesians 1:4-5 -
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
The Father chose us to be holy and without blemish and foreordained us to adoption as sons. All of this was determined by the will of the Father before the foundation of the world.
Revelation 4-5 picture a scene in heaven around the throne. The one who sat upon that throne is “the Lord our God.” The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, the lamb slain, is then mentioned. He took the book from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 4:11 says -
“Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.”
Though the Lamb, the Word, was the agent in creation, it was by the will of the Lord God, the Father, that it took place.
What all of these facts tell us is that what we see in the New Testament as an order of “subjection” did not begin with the birth of Jesus but rather spans the entire period from creation to the end of time. The coming of Jesus only brought a change of function. How the Godhead did things, what conditions were like in heaven before the plan of Creation was formulated, we do not know. We know that what existed before creation will be reclaimed; the Godhead will revert to conditions before creation. I Corinthians 15:28 tells us that the last act of subjection of Christ will be, at the end, to deliver the kingdom to the Father and then “God may be all in all.”
“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11.
God in heaven has a spirit form that is referred to as the “form of God.” The word “form” means “that which strikes the vision.” Jesus said in John 5:37, “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.” God has a distinctive form as much so as He has a voice.
God the Word existed in that form of God before coming to earth as Jesus of Nazareth. This is what is referred to in Philippians 2 as being on an equality with God; His form was equal to the form of the Father.
The only change that took place in His being when He came to earth was in His form. Of course, He had to leave heaven and be confined to a physical body. The glory of His form had to be left behind. But, that had to do with His location and appearance. The subject of these passages has to do with His existing in the form of God and then appearing in a human physical form when He came in the flesh. Just as we are, in our spirits, in the image of God, the spirit that resided in the body of Jesus was the “image of the invisible God,” Colossians 1:15, and “the very image of His substance,” Hebrews 1:3. “Substance” here means “actual being,” “nature.”
While God the Word was in the flesh, the “Father” remained the director as He had been since creation and the Word continued to carry out the directions in the work to be done. The nature of the work changed but not the nature of the Word nor the order of subjection!
God the Word came in the “form of a servant.” He was found in “fashion as a man.” This explains the difference between His existing in the form of God and what He came to be in the flesh. These expressions indicate how He appeared to others as a physical human. (Note John 10:30-33 - “thou being a man makest thyself God” - that was all that the Jews could see, the outer form).
The word “man” is used in the Bible of both the spirit and the fleshly body distinctly from one another or both together. In fact, the word “man” is applied even to angels. Daniel 9:21 says -
“Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”
Genesis 1:26 says that God created “man” in his own image. But, that was the spirit, not the flesh. The flesh was not involved in that statement. It should be clear to any Bible student that the body is only a house for the spirit, a place for the spirit to reside and function through the body. It is the spirit that is the real person, a self-aware, intelligent being that can exist separately from a physical body. Paul speaks of the inner man and the outer man in II Corinthians 4:16, Ephesians 3:16, Romans 7:22. While the outer man decays, the inner man is renewed.
To understand this, seeing we are made in the image and likeness of our creator, we must begin by understanding what that image means.
It first means that the spirit is the real person. Our spirits are like God. That means more than just form, and all spirits do have a distinctive form. Following are just some of the characteristics of God that we find in men and angels.
God is Self-Aware - Declares Himself to be the I Am in Exodus 3:14-15.
God has a memory - “...he remembered the days of Old,” Isaiah 63:11.
God has a mind - “For who hath known the mind of the Lord?” Romans 11:34.
God has a will - This is seen in several passages in this booklet.
God determines action - “...being delivered up by the determinate counsel and
foreknowledge of God.” Acts 2:23.
God discerns - “...and the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us...” Genesis 3:22.
God reasons - “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18.
God has a sense of order and beauty - He pronounced on His creation, “it is good.” Genesis 1:31.
God plans and purposes - “...having been ordained according to the purpose of his will...” Ephesians 1:11.
God has a heart - The sins of man “grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 6:6.
God desires - “...this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in...” Psalm 69:16.
God communicates - Shown throughout the Bible. The Godhead communicates within itself as well as with man.
God has a soul - The seat of emotions. “..his soul was grieved...” Judges 10:16. “...my soul loathed them...” Zechariah 11:8.
God can be angered - He reacts to provocation. See Psalm 95:10, Numbers 11:1, 25:3.
God is gentle, loving, kind, shows pity. Isaiah 63:7-9.
Now, what did God the Word lack, in order to become a human “man,” other than a human body? We have already noticed Psalm 8:3-9. In Hebrews 2:5-9, Psalm 8 is applied to Jesus -
“For not unto angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, And didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man.”
Psalm 8 is applied to Jesus being made a little lower than angels in that He became flesh and dwelt among us, John 1:14. To further emphasize what this means we will note Hebrews 2:14-17 -
“Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it behooved him
in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Jesus was made like unto the Jews in that He became a sharer in flesh and blood, a phrase that was a reference to the physical body. In order for Him to die on the cross, shed His blood, His divine spirit had to fuse with human flesh. In this way, he was made a little lower than the angels, but He did not give up any of His Godhood in doing so. Thus Hebrews 1:6 says, “let all the angels of God worship him.” He may have been made a little lower than the angels in coming in the flesh, but He is still, in fact, higher than they. Hebrews 13:8 can say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and for ever.”
Seeing that our spirits, not our bodies, are made in the image of the Word to begin with, the Word possessed everything needed to become a “human” except for a physical body just like ours. In that sense, He was man.
Jesus was subject to the directorship of the Father, just as He had been from Creation, just as the Holy Spirit had been. This is why Jesus said that He came to do the will of Him who sent Him. It is why Jesus said in the garden, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
We must also understand that there were some decisions, some details, that were not made at the beginning. We saw that in Matthew 24:36. The language implies that the time of the Second Coming had not been set when Jesus made that statement; it may not be decided upon even now. By prophecies, we can identify the time of the coming of Jesus and the events of the first century but not His second coming. Premillennialists are wrong in their expectations. It was prophesied that Jesus would die with all of the details we read about in Scripture. But, some details had not been decided on and could be changed
Nature of Man and the Temptation of Jesus
Let’s not confuse what seems to be common to all men with man’s nature. The way all humans may act isn’t necessarily their nature. Of course, the word, nature, refers to custom in some passages but means inherent characteristics in others.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.” Romans 1:26-27.
Homosexuality is a perversion of man’s nature. Sexual impulse is a part of the physical human being, but can be perverted, as can all natural human appetites. Man is not born a sinner, totally depraved, unable to do a good thing or think a good thought, as Calvinists insist. All men sin but that isn’t the way God made man and isn’t the way any man comes into the world even today. Man was created from the beginning in the image of God. He was sinless and had to decide on his own to sin. Even with the knowledge of good and evil after eating of the tree, man didn’t have to continue in sin and rebellion. Since that time, every spirit created by God and placed in the womb has been sinless, which characterizes children until an age when they can decide to do wrong.
“Behold, this only have I found: that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” I John 2:16-17.
“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings: these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man.” Matthew 15:18-20.
It is each individual who decides to sin. It comes from his own heart which he, himself, corrupts. This brings us to the subject of “temptation.”
The words, tempt or temptation, only speak of some testing or trial, an attempt is made to induce a person to react in some way. Though the general opinion is that there is no temptation without one’s desire to do whatever the temptation involves, that opinion is totally false. Seeing that the Bible says Jesus was tempted, some have said that He really desired to do evil but refrained; after all, Jesus came as a man and that’s the way men are. That is, Jesus didn’t have to sin, but because He came in the flesh, He had to lust! That assertion is the centuries old Gnostic position that there is something inherently evil about the flesh. Note:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.” James 1:13-15.
The temptation that James refers to requires lust to do evil already in a person’s heart. Each man is tempted “when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.” See Matthew 15:18-20 above. Can anyone actually say that Jesus had to have adultery, fornication, stealing, murder, etc., in his heart in coming in the flesh? That’s what it would require if Jesus desired to do evil but refrained. That is what would be required if He was tempted in the sense of James 1:13-15. Further, if God cannot be tempted with evil, but Jesus could be tempted with evil, the conclusion is that Jesus was not God. Therefore, he was just and only a human being. Nonsense.
But, it is countered, Jesus was tempted, Hebrews 2:18, 4:15. True, but in what sense? Though James says that God is not tempted, the Bible tells us elsewhere that God is tempted, Deuteronomy 6:16, Malachai 3:15! But, in what sense? The difference lies in the meaning of the term. James says God is not tempted “with evil.” He defines that with “being drawn away by his own lust and enticed.” God is tempted in that He is tested or tried, an attempt is made to get God to react. The same is true in regard to Jesus. Let’s look at the passages:
“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18.
“For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.
It’s obvious that Hebrews 2:18 speaks of temptations wherein Jesus suffered. These were trials and afflictions He endured, not enticements to do evil. See the same meaning in James 1:12. Based on James 1:12, since we are to rejoice when we are tempted, can we say that we should rejoice when we really desire to do evil? Desiring to do evil is sin, Matthew 5:27-28, and is evidence of an evil heart. James 1:12 is speaking of trials and afflictions because of our faith; yet, it is temptation.
When Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, just what does that mean? What is generally thought is that “all points” means all sins, and that temptation involves a desire to do what the temptation entices, as per James 1. Well, did Jesus really desire to have sex with animals like some humans do? Did He really want to be a child molester or homosexual? These are all enticements to many people. Understand that no one human commits, nor desires to commit, all possible sinful acts. If “all points” means that Jesus was tempted, enticed and wanting to perform, all human sins, then He would be the most wicked person who ever lived, with a heart full of every lust that has ever appeared among mankind!
Two facts must be understood. First, “All points” refers to categories that are common to all men, not specific things. Second, “temptation” only means that an attempt has been made without saying anything about its effect on the person being tempted. Jesus said in John 14:30 - “the prince of this world cometh and he has nothing in me.” There was nothing in Jesus that would respond to whatever Satan threw at Him.
We have seen the statement in I John 2 about the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life which did not come from God. Satan has used that approach from the beginning. He used it on Eve in the garden. The fruit was good to look at, lust of the eyes, delicious to eat, lust of the flesh, made one wise like God, pride of life. What Satan appealed to was a perversion, repeat, perversion, of seeing, satisfying hunger and a drive to better one’s self. There was already within Eve and then Adam what was needed to respond to Satan.
This is the same basic approach Satan tried on Jesus in Matthew 4. Jesus was tempted by Satan. In tempting Jesus, Satan first tried an appeal to his physical hunger, lust of the flesh. Satan then tried to get Him to prove He was the Son of God by throwing Himself off the temple (God would save Him!), pride of life. Satan’s last attempt was to show Him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory (just bow down and worship Satan and it all would be given to Him!), lust of the eyes. But there was nothing in Jesus that would respond to this. Jesus had no lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes nor worldly pride of life. The attempt was made, and was thus temptation, but one can easily see the response of Jesus to the “attempts” of Satan. As noted above, Jesus was also tested with trials and afflictions, like we are. So, it could be said that He was tempted in all points like we are, but without sin.
If Jesus had a heart of lust and self-service that could respond to enticements, He would have sinned from that alone. The Bible tells us that we are to become like He was - be holy as He is holy. We are expected to purify our hearts. Note -
“...but now do ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth: lie not one to another; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him:” Colossians 3:8-10.
We were made in the image of our creator, Jesus, and we are to reflect that image as Christians. We must put off all of the above sinful things both from within our hearts and in our actions. Jesus was the perfect example of inner and outer righteousness. Whatever we are to be, He already was, perfectly! The prophecies say that the Christ would be pure and sinless so that He would be the perfect lamb slain in sacrifice. There is no way He could have failed in that because God had already prophesied that it would be so. Recall that God said that whatever He purposed would be fulfilled!
Because Jesus was “tempted” did not mean He lost any of His Godhood.
Why Did He Pray If He Was God?
Many people are confused at the image of Jesus praying to the Father. Either verbalized or not, the question is in their minds, “Why does Jesus pray to the Father and say some of the things in prayer that He does if He is also God, equal with the Father?” Of course, there are some unknowns in this area. That is, how have the members of the Godhead communicated with one another at any time; how did they communicate before creation? Did they just practice “mind-reading?” How do the beings in heaven communicate now? We don’t know. Paul mentions speaking with the tongues of angels in I Corinthians 13:1. We don’t know what that is. It certainly isn’t the gibberish of “tongue-speaking” Pentecostals as they claim it to be. We do know from numerous scriptures that spirits can communicate verbally.
There are several reasons why we find Jesus praying, as in John 17 and in the garden.
(1) Seeing that He was in the role of an obedient servant, it would be quite strange if He had not prayed to the Father. He did what He taught His disciples to do. He even insisted on being baptized by John, in order to fulfill all righteousness. Why did He need to be baptized? He did it for the reason stated.
(2) In John 11:41-42, Jesus says that His prayer on that occasion was verbalized for the benefit of those around Him who heard.
(3) In the garden, Jesus had a special request, which He verbalized in a supplication to the Director of the Scheme of Redemption. We are not in a position to pass judgment on exactly how God decides to do what He does. It is like the reply of Jesus to His critics when He had healed a man, Mark 2:5-10. Jesus replied, “which is easier to say, thy sins be forgiven thee or take up thy bed and walk?” Jesus could have done it either way, or not said anything at all, as He did on other occasions of healing.
The manner of expressing Himself is in perfect keeping with the role Jesus took. His subjection to the Father was planned and purposed. His prayers were no different. Now, let’s look at the subject of what “hearing” means in regard to prayer.
God knows everything that happens in His universe; even a bird that’s sold is known to Him, Luke 12:6-9. We don’t know how He does this. We just know He does. God is not some fog that permeates the universe, filling all space between all material things. He has location, heaven. He has the power to know the thoughts and deeds of all humans and on this basis, we will all give account of ourselves at judgment, II Corinthians 5:10. Jesus knew the thoughts of those around Him, as would be expected, but He didn’t have to leave the physical body of Jesus and enter into the body of others in order to do that.
God is aware of all prayers that are offered to Him. Sinners of all kinds may pray to Him and He is aware of what they are saying and sees what they are doing. Note -
“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Isaiah 1:15.
The fact is that God knew that they prayed but He would not “hear” with favor and thus grant any supplication they might make. I could liken this to one of my children asking if he could do something I did not want him to do. I might reply, “I don’t hear you!” Oh, I knew that he said it but I was not going to allow his request. There are several definitions of the word “hear” as any good Dictionary will reveal. A comparison of two passages in Acts will illustrate this, both passages using the same Greek word for “hear” -
“And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man.” Acts 9:7.
“And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” Acts 22:9
Critics of the Bible have used these two passages to insist the Bible contradicts itself. That isn’t so. The understanding of these two instances hinges on the meaning of “hear.” The men heard a voice speaking but they did not understand what was being said.
For the purposes of our study, we must make the distinction between auditory perception and listening with favor and compliance. God perceives what every human thinks, says and does. He only listens with favor and compliance if His conditions are met.
The Greek term, eisakouo, means to hear favorably, to grant, especially in the passive. Let’s look at some passages.
“And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
God was certainly aware that the Gentiles were praying and using vain repetitions in doing so. But, God would not “hear” in that he would not grant their requests.
“... they that devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation.” Mark 12:40.
God knew that they offered the prayers just as He knew all the hypocritical and ungodly acts the Jews committed. But again, He did not “hear” their prayers. James speaks of people who pray, and God knows that they do, but He does not give them what they ask. This is because their lives, and the intended use of a favorable reply from God, assured they would not be heard.
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures.” James 4:3.
The healed man in John 9:31 stated a fact known to all those who are familiar with the Old Testament. God does not “hear” a sinner’s prayer. This refers to one who practices sin.
“We know that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God, and do his will, him he heareth.”
The word, “heareth,” in this passage means to hear with approval and thus grant what is requested. God does know that the sinner prays but He does not “hear” in that he does not respond with favor and compliance. The one who continues as a sinner does not get what he asks for and never will. On the other hand, the one who worships God and does His will is going to be heard. See also I Peter 3:12. Now, notice –
“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” Luke 1:13.
The verb here is Aorist, Passive, placing emphasis on a particular request, not praying in general. Zacharias got exactly what he had prayed for. Acts 10:31 and Hebrews 5:7 also have the Aorist, Passive form of this verb, exactly the same as in regard to Zacharias. We will look at those passages shortly. Now to I John 5:14-15, and then I John 3:22 –
“And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.”
“... and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.”
The verb in I John 5, as in John 9:31, is Present, Active, Indicative, a continual hearing. It means that we receive what we ask. The above facts define what “hearing” means. If God hears our prayers, He gives us what we ask.
We have already seen that Jesus came to do the will of the Father who sent Him. He was to carry out that will. But, this is what all of us are to do. Everything we do must be with the conscious understanding that it is in keeping with the will of the Father. James says -
“Come now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that.” James 4:13-15.
This is a condition of every prayer and every act. We may not specifically express it, but it is there; it is a condition of the heart, an attitude behind all that we do. This was the attitude of Paul, which he expressed -
Acts 18:21 - “I will return again unto you if God wills ...”
Acts 21:13 - “the will of the Lord be done.”
I Corinthians 4:19 - “I will come unto you shortly, if the Lord will.”
I Corinthians 16:7 - “I hope to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.”
Hebrews 6:3 - “And this will we do, if God permits.”
Numerous other statements of Paul, and also of other individuals, all carry the unsaid attitude that “I will do this if the Lord wills.” Keep in mind: This was a condition of every prayer, not the REQUEST made in any prayer. In just the same way, it was a condition of every act performed, but not the ACT itself! It is also as much a condition of acceptable prayer as it is to be a worshipper of God. The attitude and use of such a phrase was not new with James. Jesus used it in the garden. He taught His disciples, in Matthew 6:10, to include in their prayer, “thy will be done.” Of course, the Father will do His will regardless of what man does or does not do. This fact is evident throughout scripture. Note -
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” Isaiah 46:9-11.
God will do all that is His pleasure to do, what he has spoken will be fulfilled, He has purposed and thus will do it! In these areas, there can be no change in what God has planned. However, as noted before, not every detail of what has happened, or will happen, was predetermined by God. This is why Jesus’ request in the garden that the cup should pass was something that could be changed or remain the same. Otherwise, it would have been ridiculous and a waste of breath for Jesus to ask for it to pass.
We can see this principle in other prayers of the Bible. People prayed and changed God’s mind, such as Moses and Josiah, etc. The supplication of a righteous man avails much in its working, James 5:16. God made plans for the human race that He would not change, but there was no particular predestination involved. Free will decisions and circumstances can change what will happen now and in the future.
Acts 10 records the story of the first Gentile convert, a Roman Centurion, and his household. Acts 10:2 says that Cornelius was
“a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.”
Verse 4 records the angel’s words to him, saying, “Thy prayers and thine alms are gone up for a memorial before God.” It is stated another way in verse 31 -
“Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.”
Cornelius was not a Christian as yet, but his prayer was heard; notice that “prayer” is singular; it was a particular prayer being considered. Just like Luke 1:13 and Zacharias and Jesus in Hebrews 5:7, the verb “heard” is an Aorist, Passive. Notice the phrases are the same, with but a slight variation. The angel said to Zacharias, “thy supplication is heard.” To Cornelius, the angel said, “thy prayer is heard.” A supplication is a prayer made with a sense of urgency. If the angel’s statement to Zacharias meant that God gave him what he asked, it must mean the same in regard to Cornelius.
We have no word about the exact content of this prayer of Cornelius. However, we may logically conclude that since Cornelius was such a dedicated believer in God, a devout and prayerful man, one who feared God, that his prayer would contain his determination to do what was pleasing to God, if not asking for guidance in pleasing God. Every devout and prayerful individual does this. The appearance of the angel and the reason he was there indicates this is so. The purpose of the message the angel brought was to get Cornelius together with the preacher who could tell him what to do to be saved. Since the angel’s appearance and message was in response to the prayer, then God gave Cornelius what he asked for - guidance in how to please Him.
Though Cornelius had the Old Testament, which prophesied of Christ, there was no written New Testament for him to refer to in order to understand the fulfillment of prophecy and what he had to do to be saved, Ephesians 3:2-12, I Peter 1:10-12. The only avenue for him at the time was for a preacher to tell him, personally, Romans 10:12-15. So, God put him together with the preacher. In our present day, we have the New Testament, a revelation of the mind of God, an explanation of the fulfillment of prophecy along with the proofs that Jesus is the Christ. It is a sufficient guide for anyone who wills to do the will of the Father.
Of course, neither Cornelius’ prayers nor the spiritual gift of tongues that came on him before he was baptized would save him from sin; he had to hear (receive with favor and compliance) the gospel and obey it like everyone else, which he did. Cornelius was the initial case of Gentile conversion. Peter responded to what the Angel and Cornelius said by admitting–
”Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35.
This event was used to prove to Peter, and then the Jews, that the Gentiles were acceptable to God, Acts 11:1-18. God had a distinct purpose for this event to happen. Further, Jesus said -
“If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself. He that speaketh from himself seeketh his
own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” John 7:17-18.
Thus, any one who wills to do the will of God will find it - “seek and ye shall find.” Certainly, Cornelius willed to do the will of God. He just didn’t know at that time what the will of the Lord was and had to be guided to the one who would tell him.
Saul of Tarsus was a great persecutor of Christians, causing much mischief. As Paul the Apostle, he later said-
“I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.” Acts 26:9-11.
Yet, he also said in Acts 23:1, “I have lived before God in all good conscience unto this day.” Even while persecuting the work of God, he did it with what he considered to be true service to God. He wanted to do the will of God and God knew this. He was still wrong, though he was completely honest and sincere. While in this condition and before he became a Christian, the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Here was direct, miraculous intervention to a non-Christian to get him together with the preacher, Ananias, so that he could be saved. Paul’s belief in God wasn’t enough, nor was his praying and fasting for three days and nights while in Damascus enough. He had to do what everyone else does, and what Cornelius did, in order to be saved from sin and become a Christian.
These cases were exceptions! What they do show is that God knows what people other than Christians may say or do.
Time and again Jesus speaks of how close He and the Father were in everything. The Father was always with Him because He did what was pleasing to the Father, John 8:29. Even those around Him knew that the Father granted His requests. Martha said at Bethany -
“And even now I know that, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee.” John 11:22.
Jesus, Himself, said it -
“And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the multitude that standeth around I said it, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” John 11:41-42.
In this latter passage, the word “heardest” is an Aorist, Active verb. Jesus is referring to a particular prayer. The word “hearest,” however is Present, Active (as in John 9:31, I John 5:14-15) and is why the translation says “thou hearest me ALWAYS.” This could only mean that whatever Jesus asked for, at whatever time, He received it. Jesus said, while the mob was approaching Him –
“Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
The word, “beseech,” means simply to ask or appeal to. Twelve legions of angels could certainly protect Him from the mob. Jesus was certain that He would receive what He asked for, but that would mean the plan prophesied in Scripture would be scrapped. He knew He could not ask for twelve legions of angels without violating scripture, but He could ask for the cup to pass. Therefore, He was asking for something not set within the plan of redemption! In fact, Old Testament prophecies said that He would be heard –
“I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:21-24.
“Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages..” Isaiah 49:8
These are prophecies of the Messiah; notice the context of each. They say that He would be heard. To be heard meant that he would receive what He asked. Paul said -
“Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear,” Hebrews 5:7.
This is a direct reference to the scene in the garden just before He was taken and crucified. We will not expound on the details of the passage here. The only thing of interest at the moment is that He offered prayers and supplications to the Father and was HEARD. Noting the past material on the subject, we can only conclude that this meant He received what he asked the Father to do. This is like the statement of the angel of Zacharias in Luke 1:13, “Thy supplication is heard,” or the angel’s declaration to Cornelius, “thy prayer is heard.” Jesus offered up prayers and supplications and were heard. All three phrases are the same. As we noted above, all supplications are prayers; a supplication has a greater sense of urgency. Jesus asked, “let this cup pass,” or “let this hour pass.”
An angel came to Zacharias in response to his prayer, telling him that his prayer was heard. An angel came to Cornelius in response to his prayer and told Him his prayer was heard. An angel came to Jesus in the garden in response to His prayer and strengthened Him. The above passages say that the supplication of Jesus was heard. Couple this with the statement of Martha that “I know that whotsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee,” John 11:22, and Jesus’ saying “And I know that thou hearest me always,” John 11:42. We can only conclude that what Jesus asked for was given to Him.
It has been said that the cup did not pass because it was modified by the phrases “if it is possible” and “not my will but thine be done.” Thus, it was not the Father’s will that the cup should pass and He said “no,” which is still some kind of “answer” to the prayer. “No” is just as much an “answer” to a request as “yes.” So, He gave Jesus what He asked, seeing that the request of Jesus was modified by “thy will be done.” But, there are several things wrong with that.
(1) This would establish that God hears EVERYONE’S prayers and grants ALL requests, even those of the most vile sinner. According to the above argument, a “no” on the part of God is as much “hearing” a sinners prayer as a “yes” would be. That makes a mockery of passages we have already seen.
Another argument is attached to that above. Paul asked the Father three times for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed and the Father said “no,” II Corinthians 12:7-10. So, supposedly, God “heard” Paul’s prayer, seeing He replied to Paul, but said “no.” So, it is said, it is true that the Father heard the request of Jesus even though He said “no.” That’s playing loose with the meaning of the word “hear.” Where in II Corinthians 12 does it say
that God “heard” Paul’s request? Remember I John 5:14-15 . “If we ask according to His will, He hears us.” That necessarily implies that if it is not according to the will of God, He does NOT hear us. Paul did not receive what he requested so, therefore, God did not “hear” him. The instances of Jesus and Paul are not the same.
(2) “Thy will be done” is a condition of everything we do. There are several conditions of acceptable prayer, but the conditions that are attached to every prayer are not the same as the particular supplication/request of the moment. The supplication of Jesus was “let this cup pass.” That is what He asked for. And, that is what He got!
Following is a quotation that expresses the most popular view in denominationalism concerning “the cup” in the prayer of Jesus. It is held, in part or in whole, even by some brethren.
“The “cup” is not just the coming physical Passion and Crucifixion, but to be the Lamb of God: Jesus loaded himself with all the sins past, present, and future to expiate them: Now, Jesus, feels filthy, like that murderer… and not only like that one, but bearing all the murderers of mankind, and all the abortions ever made, and he is filled with all the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, he carries them right now!… and he bears your sins and mine, and all the impurities and hypocrisies and lies ever made, and he is now the author of all the blasphemies and injustices and wars and heresies and sacrileges ever made… and this is his “cup” that overflows, he sees himself dirty, even his Father sees him filled with the bloody horrors of all mankind, and the Father himself has to forsake him.” Meditations of Luisa Piccareta
There is no truth in any of that quote. It is straight out of the Calvinist substitution theory. The “cup” had to be something that was possible to change or Jesus would not have asked concerning it. Let’s look at what the cup was not.
(1) Jesus was not asking to call everything off. The crucifixion was the focus of a plan formulated by God before creation and nurtured through thousands of years of people and events. God came in the flesh, living to 33 years of age and then right at the climax of His time on earth wanted to call it all off? After He had expounded on where He came from, what he knew of the after life, His promises of the nature of the after life, His promise to go and prepare a place for His followers, after He had made the statement, “I am the resurrection and the life,” how, in the name of anything sensible, can anyone conclude that he was so frightened unto death over what He was about to face that he wanted to scrap the whole plan of redemption?!! Who can believe such a thing? Jesus said -
“The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The multitude therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it had thundered: others said, An angel hath spoken to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice hath not come for my sake, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be
lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die.” John 12:23-33.
Jesus was well aware of His role. He not only was willing to do it, He wanted to do it. It’s ridiculous to think that right at the last minute He got “cold feet” and wanted to call it off. See also, Matthew 16:21-23. Here are just some other passages –
“And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 24:44.
“From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples, that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.” Matthew 16:21
“And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples apart, and on the way he said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify: and the third day he shall be raised up.” Matthew 20:17-19.
We saw in John 12:27 that Jesus said “what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour.” Jesus could not and would not ask for the plan to be changed. Now, after all of the Bible predictions, His own declarations that He could not ask the Father to save Him from what was to happen, His insistence that what was prophesied must be fulfilled, are we to believe that He melted into a pool of quivering doubt and fear, doing the very thing He said He could not and would not do?!! Nonsense!
(2) He wasn’t asking to escape the suffering of torture. The Old Testament prophesied that He would suffer and it could not be changed. Jesus knew all this beforehand. Further -
“And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day.” Luke 24:44-46.
(3) He wasn’t asking that His disciples not desert Him. Even Jesus foretold that they would. After predicting their desertion, it would have been ridiculous for Him to now plead with the Father that they not desert Him. It also was something that could not be changed. Note -
“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32.
(4) He was not asking that all of the sins, guilt and punishment of the world not be placed upon Him on the cross. The World’s sins, guilt and punishment for sin were never transferred to Jesus to begin with and so could not have been in His request. As a young man, I heard a Baptist preacher say that it was when Jesus was distressed in the garden that all of the sins and guilt of the world were placed upon Him and it was so heavy a load that He was asking to have it all removed. Nonsense. There could be no redemption from sin without His death, resurrection, ascension and High Priesthood. In the first place, neither the garden events nor just His death on the cross accomplished redemption, I Corinthians 15:17-18.
(5) He wasn’t asking that God not desert Him while on the cross. Even some brethren affirm that Jesus “died in the spirit.” One reason they say that is that they think God deserted Jesus on the cross so that He could experience spiritual death. He had to do that in order to be the perfect savior. In order to save mankind, He had to experience all that mankind experiences. No. That’s Calvinism. See my book on “Reconciliation.”
The phrase, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me,” is the opening line of Psalm 22. Jesus was attempting to call the attention of the people to that psalm. If they would just look at it, they would see prophesy unfolding around them which was showing that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Psalm 22 is also talking about what others would THINK was happening. The Jews thought God had deserted Him, but they were wrong. Note -
“Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him.” John 8:28-29.
Certainly, God the Word came in the flesh because that was the only way He could die; it was a separation of the spirit from the body. A death had to take place as a sacrifice just as it was prophesied. Everyone there that day knew that He died. But, this was not just a human death like that of all humans. As Peter said, Acts 2:23, that it was done by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. It was done to prove what? To prove that Jesus was human? No. Look at what Peter makes of the crucifixion in the verses following Acts 2:23. Jesus said that it was to prove that He was God.
The statement of John 8:28, above, was not said to His disciples but to His Jewish enemies that surrounded Him at that moment. This was not to declare that He was a man because they already believed that. What was there about the scene of the cross that could convince them of His being God? He told them that when He was lifted up, crucified, then they would know He was God, I Am. John 8:28 was fulfilled or Jesus lied about it. What was the evidence? It wasn’t that of just the death of “another” human. The Jews already thought that. The evidence was in the fulfillment of prophesy, which included Psalm 22.
Jesus quoted the opening line of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.” Why would He say something that only proved to the unbelieving Jews what they already thought of Him, that God had forsaken Him? There had to be another reason, one that would prove He was the I Am. First, compare Psalm 22:1 with verses 23-24 –
“Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.”
Verse 24 says that God does not hide His face from the afflicted. Now notice –
“All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:7-8.
“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him. He trusteth on God; let him deliver him now, if he desireth him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:39-43.
Jesus drew attention to Psalm 22 by quoting the opening line. Did He do that in order to confirm the erroneous opinion of the Jews that He was not God? If God had deserted Him, then the Jews were correct. To the contrary, Jesus quoted that line to show His fulfillment of the prophecies in Psalm 22 that proved He was God, the I Am. Notice how the crucifixion scene is further detailed in Psalm 22:12-17 –
“Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.”
Psalm 22 mixes what actually was happening at the crufixion with what others only thought was happening. Was Jesus actually a “worm” or “a no man,” vs 6? No, but that’s what His enemies thought of Him. If we can see that in verse six, we can see it in verse one; his enemies thought that God had deserted Him but it was not true. Remember verse 24.
The disciples especially could see specific prophesy unfolding before their eyes by comparing the scene with Psalm 22. Notice that Jesus said the Father is with me, he has not left me alone. Also, look at John 16:32. At the very time the disciples would be scattered from Him, the Father would still be with Him. The Father was never going to desert Him on the cross to begin with so Jesus couldn’t have been making an appeal in the garden about that.
(6) Jesus was neither ignorant nor afraid of what was on the other side of death. It is claimed that Jesus was ignorant of who He was, why He was here and what was going to happen to Him and was frightened to death, not knowing what was on the other side of death. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone would take such a position. One has but to read Matthew through John to know such it’s ridiculous.
John the Baptist, John 3:31-32, said that the one from heaven, Jesus, spoke of that which He had seen and heard there. Jesus foretold the manner of His death, His resurrection, ascension and second coming. He knew where He came from, where He was going and what He would accomplish, promising His disciples that He would return and take them where He would be. There is a mass of scripture information that tells us Jesus knew exactly what was after death and what was going to happen to Him. He couldn’t have been distressed because He was “scared.” Notice the following –
Jesus knew where He came from: John 6:38, 8:42, 13:3 – What was in heaven: John 14:2, 3:31-32 – Why He came: John 6:38, 1249-50, 18:4, Lk. 19:10 – How He would die: John 3:14, 12:32-33, 18:4 – When He would die: John 12:23, 13:1, 17:1 – Who would betray Him: John 6:64 – When all would be finished: John 19:28, Luke 24:44 – Where He was going: John 6:62, 7:33, 20:17. Let’s notice a couple of the passages –
“ He said therefore again unto them, I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: whither I go, ye cannot come. The Jews therefore said, Will he kill himself, that he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come? And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8:21-23.
“And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples apart,
and on the way he said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, 19 and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify: and the third day he shall be raised up.” Matthew 20:17-19.
We have just seen what the cup could not be. We do not have a specific statement in the accounts of the scene that tells us what was distressing Him. We do have some indication, however.
“Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” Psalm 69:19-22.
“...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls.” Hebrews 12:1-3.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3.
John 19:28-30 records the vinegar laden sponge offered to Jesus on the cross. That is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 69. According to the above passages the severe distress Jesus experienced was not due to ignorance nor fear of what was to happen to Him. It was from the deep sorrow he felt because of the attitude and treatment by those who persecuted Him, the ones He came to save. Look at the passages, especially Psalm 69.
Our God has always been an emotional being. He has grieved over the sinfulness of His creatures before, Genesis 6:6, Judges 10:16, Isaiah 63:9. Place the deep emotions of God into a physical body and there is bound to be an effect on that body. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, John 11, and grieved over rejection by Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37.
Jesus felt more keenly than mere men the awfulness of sin and the treachery of His trial and crucifixion. Why is it assumed that His distress in the garden was due to fear over what He was to face? After He had expounded on where He came from, what He knew of the after-life, His promises of what would be life after death, His promise to prepare a place for His disciples and after He made the statement, “I am the resurrection and the life...,” how, in the name of anything sensible, can one conclude that He was so frightened in the garden over what he was about to face that He wanted to call it all off?!!
The cup He wanted removed was the effect the distress was having on His body. It was something that could be decided by the Director, the Father, one way or another. His supplication was heard and He left the garden with calm fortitude. The cause of distress was still there, that was prophesied, but the effect on His body was gone.