The Son of God

1 John 5

1 John 5 5

This chapter was especially significant for our family about a year and a half ago when I (Bill) was coming to understand that God is One and that Jesus is His human Messiah. My wife points out the irony in the fact that while Trinitarians often go to the Gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John for presumed evidences of the deity of Jesus, it was these two books that showed us that God is One person, and Jesus is God’s designated human Messiah.

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.”

How tragic that people who believe that Jesus is God condemn those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They say that unless you believe that Jesus is God, you are “denying Christ”. What a strange twist of Scripture. The Scripture says that “anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God…”

This Scripture does NOT say you are born of God if you believe that Jesus is:

  • A God-Man
  • co-eternal (“pre-existing”) and co-equal to the God the Father
  • of the same substance as the Father.
  • One person of a trinity in a godhead

These are all human inventions.  We should not turn to human inventions (5:21) while abandoning God our Father’s revelation of Himself and His testimony that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). We don’t want to call God a liar (5:10) by twisting or distorting what God said, or by claiming God said something He didn’t.

“Jesus” is the name of the human person, born in Bethlehem. It is not the name of a pre-existent person of an eternal godhead. This human Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). This same human Jesus is the “Son of God” (5:2) a title which is parallel to and in many ways synonymous with “Messiah/Christ” (2 Sam. 7:14, Psa. 2:1-7). “Son of God” does not mean “God the Son”. There is no “God the Son” in the Bible.

The person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God. If you love God, you will love that person, God’s child. If do not love that person, or reject that person, or call that person a heretic, the implication is that you do not love God the Father. Because whoever loves God the Father loves God’s child (5:1).

To love God’s child (the person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah) is a commandment from God (5:2-3; 3:23).

1 John 5:20 is a verse that Trinitarians claim shows “the deity of Christ”. Such a claim shows the weakness of evidence for the “deity of Christ” in the Scriptures. Their claims depend on dubious interpretations of a handful of Scriptures. For instance, from the whole Book of Romans, Paul’s treatise on matters of great theological importance, Paul supposedly told us that Jesus is God in one verse (Romans 9:5)!

I don’t think so.

There is a better way to understand Romans 9:5, just like there is a better way to understand 1 John 5:20. Below is a translation (RSV) that gets it right. I have capitalized “Him” for clarity whenever the pronoun refers to Almighty God:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

In short, “This is the true God” does not refer to Jesus Christ, but to the One who is called two times “Him who is true” (cf. John 17:3), who is the Father of Jesus. Jesus the Messiah is His son.

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

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The Love Chapter

1 John 4

i John 4 11

This chapter starts out with an admonition to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” Not every teaching or spirit is true. There is a very important test which can be used to know if a spirit is from God, or not. “By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (4:2).  The test does NOT say:

  • that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and yet is fully God
  • that God has come in the flesh as Jesus Christ, taking on a human nature
  • that Jesus Christ came from some pre-existent state into the flesh.

We must be very careful to read the text for what it says and not read into it what it doesn’t say! The phrase “come in the flesh” means that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is a real human being, not just dressed up like one.

1 John 4 is actually the “love chapter” in the Bible as love is mentioned 26 times, almost three times as many times as in 1 Corinthians 13 (9 times). A friend once read this chapter as a devotional thought on Valentine’s Day, and it stuck with me as the “love chapter.” So much so that when I read it last February 14th, I thought that maybe the children’s song could also go “Yes, God loves me, yes, God loves me… the Bible tells me so.”  Ultimately, it’s God’s love that ignites our love for others through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. A key verse that summarizes this chapter of love showing how love is of God is verse 9.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God took the initiative, motivated by love, to remedy our sin problem.

Knowing that “God is love” (4:8,16) should motivate us to love others. But the author is not calling for a hippie kind of “All you need is love, love”. He is admonishing us to a love of other “brothers” who believe that Jesus, the human Jesus, is the Messiah/Christ (5:1). This admonition to love is a call for unity among like-minded believers, because they are family as the children of God. The way we love other like-minded believers whom we can see demonstrates how much we love God, whom we can’t see. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (4:21).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (4:7)

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

His Commandment

1 John 3

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The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel

He Will Never Leave You nor Forsake You

Hebrews 13

 

Hebrews 13 16

Boy, it is hard to think about our life after reminiscing about the lives of those faithful giants listed in Hebrews 11.  We tend to compare ourselves with them, both in the good and the bad.  We’d love to do something great, something extraordinary for God just like them.  When we think of Enoch we can only image what it would be like to be translated.  Translated?? Somebody needs to translate that word for me, so Paul did.  He says that Enoch was translated “so that he should not see death” (Heb. 11: 5).  Wow! His faith was so great and powerful that God allowed him to cheat death.  I want that!  Or Abraham.  God called him to leave his home, his life, and go to a new home even though Abraham did not know where in the world God was sending him.  Nothing like a little adventure with God in control.  Sarah, the wife of Abraham, had a baby in old age because God promised her a son.  When she had Isaac, she had lived longer than most of us will live, yet she was having her first baby. Remember that Abraham was Sarah’s husband and he was ever older than she was.  Through this old man and old lady they had descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the beach.  Each time you run your toes through a sandy beach think about that a little.

Of course God was not through with Abraham yet, so He led him up to a mountain and told Abraham to use his only son as a sacrifice in his worship to Him.  That was tough, but it certainly made life exciting for Abraham!  Even though this looked like a bad thing for Abraham, it certainly appears as though God had some special plans for Abraham.  God just needed to make sure that Abraham was on His side.

It is tough being a parent, I am sure.  But being asked to offer up your son to God might be going a bit too far, but not for Abraham.  Or in the case of Moses’ parents, they chose to refuse Pharaoh’s orders and hid their son for three months.   They were not afraid of Pharaoh and his commandments!  And that courage paid off big time.  For after Moses was grown up he lead the children of Israel safely through the Red Sea—something that Pharaoh and all of his horses and mighty men could not do!

The story of Rahab is a hard one to swallow.  We all know about Rahab.  After all, she was a harlot, not exactly a pillar of the community.  She had a reputation.  Everyone knew who she was.  Surely God knew.  The word was out on the street, after all.  But Rahab, of all people, was chosen for a special part in God’s work.  She hid two spies (and lied about it) sent out by Joshua to check out the land including Jericho.  What she did took great daring on her part.  And what did she get out of all of this?  She got great faith, God spared her, she got a mention in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11), and she became an ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus (Matt. 1:5).  Sometimes it just doesn’t seem right, that someone like Rahab who lived such a bad life, could then be used in such an extraordinary way by God.  In comparison, our lives, which we try very hard to live in a worthy manner for Him, are pretty boring.  I wonder, are we, am I, doing something wrong?  Why don’t we have stories to tell like Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and even Rahab, about how God is using us?  What is wrong with us?

At times we feel as though we are not accomplishing anything for God.  Are we still on the same team with God? Everything is going smoothly, but we are not doing anything really big for God.  I’d love to hide a few spies!  What is wrong with us?  Have we lost our way?  Or, is it God who has quietly slipped out the back door of our lives?

Maybe Paul has read our minds.  Because he seems to speak about these same things, if we look closely and maybe read between the lines a bit.  Hebrews 13 begins with the simple things, the simple acts that we are to accomplish.  Not a lot of fanfare.  Not a lot of glory or bells and whistles.  Certainly no sea parting and walking on dry ground stuff.  Just the basics.

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.  Let marriage be held in honor among all…Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,      ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”( Hebrews 13: 15-16 and 1-5)

 No, He has not quietly slipped out the back door of our lives.

It’s just that God does not demand extraordinary things from us.  He simply wants the simple things.

-Luke Elwell

Weight and Clingy Sin

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1 b NRSV

Pretend with me for a few minutes.  You are a well- conditioned athlete.  You have exercised hard, gone to every team practice, listened to your coach, and now you are about to get into the blocks awaiting the sound of the starting gun.  You are scared, shaky, and sweaty.  This has been your goal since you were 10 years old—to run this race and maybe even win!  You wonder, do I have everything that I need?  Shoes—check.  Proper clothes—check.  Cell phone—check.  Umbrella (in case of rain) —check.  Change of clothes (in case of rain) —check.  Sunglasses—check.  A pocket of change—check.  Bottle of sun screen—check.  First aid kit (heaven forbid if I fall, but just in case) —check.  House keys, car keys, church key, and safety deposit box key—check.  Clean underwear (just in case) —check.  Last Will and Testimony—check. Tomorrow’s homework assignment (unlikely, but) —check. Girlfriend’s picture —check.  Ear buds —check.  Full water bottle —check.  Protein snack—check.    When the call comes to get into the blocks, you try but all the stuff you are carrying begins to fall out of your pockets, off your head, out of your briefcase, and the suitcase breaks open unleashing tons of video games and decks.  You try in vain to get all of this essential stuff back into its containers so that you can run the race.  You could leave it all sitting on the track at the starting block, or you could just pack it all back up and slowly drag it off the course, and maybe try another day.  Maybe you could get better organized the next time.  Don’t say that bad word, downsize, because all of this stuff is absolutely necessary to run the race properly and without worry.  Regardless, this does not look like a good day to run a race.

You drag your stuff slowly off of the track.  Got to have that stuff, right?  Stuff is more important than the race.  What is life worth without our stuff?  Some of the stuff, I guess, you might be able to part with, such as the homework assignment, and the girlfriend’s picture (there are always more girls), but most of this stuff is essential.

That is the mistake a lot of people make.  We get so caught up in stuff that it hinders us from running our race and we end up staggering down the track and never finishing because our back is broken from carrying all of our stuff. We stumble, we fall, we slowly pick ourselves back up, we lick our wounds, and then head for the locker room. Paul talked about this, but instead of calling it our stuff, he called it a weight and our sin. Truly, sin is heavy and is a weight.   Not only that, but Paul tells us that sin is clingy.

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Maybe some of you have actually washed and then dried clothes in a clothes dryer before.  I have a few times.  Well, one thing that is essential to use when you dry clothes is fabric softener sheets which control static cling.  If you forget to throw one into the dryer, when the clothes are dry they are really, really clingy.  The clothes are fastened to one another with a death hold.  You have to peel them off of one another, and then make sure that the individual pieces of clothing don’t start clinging with themselves, like an arm to an arm, or the leg to the waistband.  You can get into a real take down trying to un-cling laundry.  That is the way it is with sin, according to Paul.  Sins are very clingy.  Once you start accumulating sin in your life, the sins cling to one another and to you.  Apparently, they like company.  If you don’t keep ahead of the sin in your life, you are going to have a clothes dryer type of disaster on your hands.  Imagine what having a lot of clingy sin in your life will do to you as you try to run the race set before you.  Your mind will be on the sin and not on Jesus.  Lay aside the sin and look to Jesus!

Besides all of the clingy sin in your life, Paul talks about the weights that you attempt to carry while running.  When you are overcome with a lot of weight, be it worry, cares, anxiety, unneeded possessions, or unhealthy relationships— you name it, you are slowed down to a snail’s pace.  If you run at all, you lack energy and enthusiasm for the race.  Paul says to get rid of the weight!  Just like the runner in the example, weight can sabotage your efforts and actually cause you to withdraw from the race.  Keep things simple:  Get rid of the weight of worry and all of his buddies, and get rid of the clingy sin.

What kind of weights and clingy sin do you need to drop at the starting line so that you can make it to the finish line?

-Luke Elwell

 

Not Worthy of Them

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 1

There is that word again.  I liked it before but not so much now.  The word is “confidence”.  We read it before in Hebrews 10:22 where we discovered that we could confidently enter into the very presence of God because of Jesus, where we could get close to God and be His child.  I like the idea of being a child, having child-like faith.  That sounds safe and secure.  That feels comfortable and peaceful.  But now Paul is using that word “confidence” again, but this time it does not sound at all safe or smart.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11: 1

Faith is confidence in what we hope will happen, and assurance about what we can’t even see?  Hoping something will happen and believing it will happen even if we can’t see anything? Really??  Quite frankly, this sounds a little crazy and unnerving.  It sounds a lot like stumbling around in the dark, not seeing where we are going, not knowing where the light switch is, not knowing when the big, bad boogie man is going to jump out at us.

  “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” Hebrews 11:3

As I keep reading this chapter, things seem to get worse. We are told that the whole universe which we can see with our eyes, was not made out of stuff that we can see.  Quite frankly, that does not make any sense.  How can you make something out of nothing? Who would believe such a thing?

The answer to my question is that Abel did.  Enoch did.  Noah did.  Abraham and Sara did.  Isaac did.  Jacob did.  Joseph did.  Moses did.  The walls of Jericho did.  Rahab did.  Women did, and a whole lot of other people did.

None of these people saw the end result of their faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…” Hebrews 11:13. They simply lived their faith.  They were confident that if they lived their faith, that God would be faithful. “and were persuaded of them (the promises) and embraced them” Hebrews. 11:13. They believed that they were making something out of something even though they could not see it.

This chapter of Hebrews is full of action words.  Abel offered, Enoch pleased, Noah moved, Abraham obeyed, Sara received strength, Jacob worshipped, Joseph gave instructions about his bones, Moses endured, the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab perished not, women received their dead back to life, and others were tortured. They were all confident that they were making something out of something that the world thought was nothing.  That something that the world thought was nothing was God’s promises.

All these people mentioned were giants in the faith.  They all judged God faithful simply because He promised. They endured hardships, were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, tormented, afflicted, and wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  The world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:37-38).

Now that I have read to the end of this chapter, all of this still does not make any sense to me, but for a different reason.  Even though you and I will probably not experience the hardships that these giants endured, yet we will be right there with them when God fulfills His promise of the Kingdom. That does not make sense.   We are so not worthy of them.

“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Hebrews 11:40

 

-Luke Elwell

No Longer a Slave to Fear

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 22a NIV

How often have you wanted to run away or turn away from God?  Perhaps it was shame, guilt, or maybe despair that was making you unable to even look at your own self in the mirror, let alone approach God.  Those feelings of regret, shame, fear, and a guilty conscience often make us want to crawl in a hole and hide. Fear is a powerful emotion and pushes us away from God.  But the words of Paul tell us that we no longer have to feel that way.  We no longer have any reason to run away or turn away from God.  We no longer have to hide in shame and disgust.  We no longer have to be fearful of who we are, or what we think we are.  Instead of running away from God, we can run to Him, and fall into His loving arms.  When we run to God into His loving arms we are entering the most holy place.  Paul calls it such in Hebrews 10:19.  That should take your breath away.  Just think about it.  No matter who you think you are, or what you are, you can enter the holy place, into the very presence of God Himself.  But Paul says one more thing that is almost too good to be true.  He does not say that we have to crawl into that holy place, hide behind someone else, or that we have to enter wearing sack cloth and ashes.  We don’t even have to sneak in the back door so no one sees us.  No, he says we can come into that holy place in God’s presence with CONFIDENCE.  Wow!  How often do we enter a classroom about to take a test, and go in feeling confident? But Paul says we can enter the presence of God feeling confident!

How is that possible?  Is this all just a dream or make believe?

No, it is real.  Very real.

Let Paul explain.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

We no longer have any excuse for running away from God, turning away from God, or hiding in shame or despair.  Instead we can approach God and enter His presence without fear but rather with confidence.   Paul even tells us to come up close, draw near, maybe so close that we feel as if we are sitting in His lap just as we would sit comfortably in our dad’s lap as a child. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”   We are no longer a slave to fear.  Instead, we have been adopted by God, and we are His children.  We call Him Father! We are surrounded by the arms of God our Father.    And all of this is possible because of the blood of Jesus.

Paul calls this a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). Instead of fear and guilt we’ve been liberated from our bondage and shown a new way of living.  Our sin is washed away with pure water, and our guilty conscience is wiped clean (Hebrews 10:22).  That guilty conscience, which we often lug around in our heart, has been wiped clean.    The chains are broken, we’ve been redeemed.  I know, it is almost too hard to imagine or fathom.  We can hardly understand something so great and wonderful.  But it is real.   Now, without fear or guilt, we can fall into His loving arms because Jesus has opened the door for us.  His blood became the pathway into God’s presence!  No more sin and guilt!  We have been set free!

Luke Elwell