God is God (And You Aren't!)
Friday of Pentecost 15
7 September 2018
The more things change the more they stay the same. What we take to be new or novel reinterpretations of Christian theology turn out not to be new or novel in any way. In our day, the Jehovah's Witnesses, in attempting to sustain the teaching that Jesus is not true God of true God, have trotted out the point that the Bible occasionally applies the word "God" to beings who are not divine. This manner of speaking is called a Hebraism, in other words, it was a figure of speech used in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Hebrews would denominate their leaders and powerful warriors "gods" (Ps 82:6). We too use this figure of speech when we talk about a heavy hitting first baseman as a "baseball god," without any intent of blasphemy. This exceptional use of the word god is intended to refer to the brilliant characteristics and authority of those so named. The comparison is from the greater to the lesser; from God to the leaders. They are like God in some narrowly circumscribed ways.
The comparison will not work in reverse, however. What I mean is that men are not like god because God is like man, but men are like gods because of the unique power and authority of God. Thus in the vast majority of the uses of the word "God" the referent is the One who is not merely named God, but who is God by His own eternal right and essence. Only then does the figurative exception make any sense. But if any and all uses of the word God might be figures of speech, then "God" will mean nothing more than "man." And so it is for Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Islam when they speak of Christ. Any being less than God is not God at all, but only receives the name as a figurative condescension at best. If everybody is God, then nobody is God. We are signs of God writ small. God is not man writ large.
These arguments using the Bible's figures of speech backward, to apply to Christ as the pre-eminent among humans intend to refer to Christ as "God" only by condescension, not by right. These arguments are not new. Arians and Nestorians used them more than a millennium and a half ago. They are new only to the ignorant. God's condescension to us in Christ is not merely verbal, it is not the mere calling, but it is saying what is. It is not a making but a being. Christ both is and is called God. Others are merely called God, because God is God and they aren't.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Cassian
"For the faithful the name of God would be completely sufficient to denote the glory of His divinity. But by adding "God over all, blessed forever" (Rm 9:5), Paul excludes a blasphemous and perverse interpretation of it, for fear that some evil-disposed person to depreciate His absolute divinity might quote the fact that the word "God" is sometimes temporarily applied by grace to men in the divine usage, and thus apply it to God by unworthy comparisons, such as where God says to Moses: "I have made you like God to Pharaoh" (Ex 7:1), or in this passage: "I said, 'You are gods'" (Ps 82:6), where it clearly has the force of a title given by condescension. Because it says "I said," it is not a name showing power, so much as a title given by the speaker. The passage where it says: "I have made you like God to Pharaoh," shows the power of the giver rather than the divinity of him who receives the title. For when it says: "I have made," it thereby certainly indicates the power of God, who gave, and not the divine nature, in the person of the recipient. However, when it is said of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, "is God over all, blessed forever" (Rm 9:5), the fact is at once proved by the words, and the meaning of the words shown by the name given. In the case of the Son of God the name of God does not denote an adoption by favor, but what is truly and really His nature."

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 3.1
Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses- as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You are God blessed forever. Your condescension is that You became a man, not that You were less than God. Help us to confess both Your full divinity and complete humanity to a world in need of Your service. Amen.
For Charlie Hinrichsen as he prepares to travel, that the Lord Jesus would send the holy angels to watch over him in all his ways
For Cheryl Lueck, that the Lord Jesus would grant her strength and healing
For Pastor Ian Pacey, as he continues his work at Memorial Lutheran Church and School, that the Lord Jesus would send him His Holy Spirit
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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