Bible Passages and Truth
Katharina von Bora Luther
20 December 2016
Quoting the Bible does not, in and of itself, assure of truth. For example, Scriptures says, "[Judas] went and hanged himself" (Mt 27:5). "You go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37). Both statements are direct quotes from the Bible, but taken together they counsel suicide as a divine command. This obviously silly example does illustrate the fact that Bible passages can be strung together to prove the most egregious heresies. Such lists of passages are simply a matter of taking the texts out of their original context and meaning or putting together passages that don't actually talk about the same thing.
 
Signs can be misunderstood. There is a diner and gas station in rural Indiana whose roadside sign says, "Eat here. Get Gas." I can't imagine the chef appreciated the misunderstanding that this sign uproariously generates. When I was a child, the traffic caution sign that warned of a school zone or a public park baffled me: "Slow Children Playing." I misread the sign, which was devoid of punctuation, to mean that the children in that area were "slow." The word slow did not modify children, but was a command directed to the motorist. Knowing what a sign is about helps us to understand what it means (and vice versa). This is also true of the sign of the Bible.
 
Ancient heretics, such as the Arians, took Bible passages emphasizing the unity of the Godhead and the divinity of the Father to exclude Christ, the Son, from full divinity. For example, in Mark 12:29 Jesus Himself quotes the Shema, the basic confession of God from the Old Testament: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." This the heretics took to exclude the Son of God from full and complete divinity. In opposition to this and many other misunderstandings of the divine revelation the church confessed that the Son of God was "of one substance with the Father" (Nicene Creed). Although this precise term was not found in Scripture, it still correctly and neatly summarized the substantial unity of the Son with the Father who begot Him. So a list of Bible passages doesn't always win the day, but the truth does.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"My purpose has been to counteract the impression that this ousia (substance), this assertion that the Son is homoousios (one substance) with the Father, is a negation of the nativity of the Only-begotten Son. To assure ourselves of the needfulness of these two phrases, adopted and employed as the best of safeguards against the heretical rabble of that day (c. AD 325), I think it best to reply to the obstinate misbelief of our present heretics (c. AD 359), and refute their vain and pestilent teaching by the witness of the evangelists and apostles. They flatter themselves that they can furnish a proof for each of their propositions; they have, in fact, appended to each some passages or other from holy Scripture; passages so grossly misinterpreted as to ensnare none but the illiterate by the semblance of truth with which perverted ingenuity has masked their explanation....
 
"Cleverly as issues have been confused and texts combined, malice and folly is the character indelibly imprinted upon this laborious effort of cunning and clumsiness. For instance, among their points of faith they have included this, that they confess the Father only to be unborn; as though any one on our side could suppose that He, who begot Him through whom are all things, derived His being from any external source. The very fact that He bears the name of Father reveals Him as the cause of His Son's existence. That name of Father gives no hint that He who bears it is Himself descended from another, while it tells us plainly from whom it is that the Son is begotten. Let us therefore leave to the Father His own special and incommunicable property, confessing that in Him reside the eternal powers of an omnipotence without beginning. None, I am sure, can doubt that the reason why, in their confession of God the Father, certain attributes are dwelt upon as peculiarly and inalienably His own, is that He may be left in isolated possession of them. For when they say that He alone is true, alone is righteous, alone is wise, alone is invisible, alone is good, alone is mighty, alone is immortal, they are raising up this word alone as a barrier to cut off the Son from His share in these attributes. He who is alone, they say, has no partner in His properties. But if we suppose that these attributes reside in the Father only, and not in the Son also, then we must believe that God the Son has neither truth nor wisdom; that He is a bodily being compact of visible and material elements, ill-disposed and feeble and void of immortality; for we exclude Him from all these attributes of which we make the Father the solitary possessor.
 
"We, however, who propose to discourse of that most perfect majesty and fullest divinity that pertains to the Only-begotten Son of God, have no fear lest our readers should imagine that luxury of phrase in speaking of the Son is a detraction from the glory of God the Father, as though every praise assigned to the Son had first been withdrawn from Him. For, on the contrary, the majesty of the Son is glory to the Father; the source must be glorious from which He who is worthy of such glory comes. The Son has nothing but by virtue of His birth; the Father shares all veneration received by that birthright. Thus the suggestion that we diminish the Father's honor is put to silence, for all the glory which, as we shall teach, is inherent in the Son will be reflected back, to the increased glory of Him who has begotten a Son so great."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 4.6, 7, 9, 10
Psalm 45

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; the peoples fall under you. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people. All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You are full divinity of the Godhead, incarnate of Mary for us sinners. Grant us to hear Your Word in its fullness that the truth might be Your constant gift to us. Amen.
 
For the family and friends of Pastor William Heine, whom our Lord Jesus Christ called home to heaven, that they would grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
 
For kings and rulers everywhere, that we might live peaceable and quiet lives in all fear and godliness
 
For Jill Stoneburner, as she undergoes therapy for cancer, that she would be strengthened in body and soul
Art: VASARI, Giorgio Annunciation (1564-67)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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