Weekly Devotional 6-8-20 Modern Gnosticism
A few weeks ago (5-4-20) we posted an article by Oscar Leske, a Christian brother, titled; “Is Jesus Really God in the Flesh’ as our weekly devotional and a reader responded by pointing to three scriptures that have been used over the centuries by Gnostics to deny the deity of Jesus. The three Scriptures are: Revelation 3:14; Mark 13:32; and John 14:28. Now, because the reader posted these passages as an attempt to deny the deity of Jesus, we thought it well to consider those passages in this work. Because of the importance of a proper understanding of these verses I defer to more learned persons than myself, John MacArthur Pastor of Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, Ca.; and Bible teachers at gotquestions.org
Revelation 3:14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
MacArthur writes: False teachers seeking to deny Christ’s deity have attempted to use this verse to prove He is a created being. There is no ambiguity in the Greek text, however. Archē (Beginning) does not mean that Christ was the first person God created, but rather that Christ Himself is the source or origin of creation (cf. Rev. 22:13). Through His power everything was created (John 1:3; Heb. 1:2).
This letter to the Laodiceans has much in common with Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Colossae was not far from Laodicea, so it is likely that the same heresy plaguing the Colossians had made its way to Laodicea (cf. Col. 4:16). That heresy, a form of incipient gnosticism (from the Greek word gnōsis, “knowledge”), taught that Christ was a created being, one of a series of emanations from God. Its proponents also claimed that they possessed a secret, higher spiritual knowledge above and beyond the simple words of Scripture. Combating that heresy Paul wrote of Christ, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:15-17)
“Firstborn” (prōtotokos) is not limited to the first one born chronologically, but refers to the supreme or preeminent one, the one receiving the highest honor (cf. Ps. 89:27). Christ is thus the source (archē) of the creation, and the supreme person (prōtotokos) in it.
This damning heresy about the person of Christ was the reason the Laodicean church was spiritually dead. Their heretical Christology had produced an unregenerate church. False teaching about Christ, specifically the denial of His deity, is a hallmark of modern cults as well.
Mark 13:32: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
From our friends at gotquestions.org we read: Speaking of His second coming, Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14), and we know that God is omniscient. So it seems strange that Jesus would say that He did not know when He would return.
The key to understanding Jesus’ seeming lack of knowledge in this matter lies in the nature of the Incarnation. When the Son of God became a man, He remained fully God, but He also took on a true human nature. Jesus retained all the attributes of divinity, yet, as a man, He voluntarily restricted their use. This was part of the “self-emptying” or self-renunciation spoken of in Philippians 2:6–8. When Christ entered our world, He laid aside the privileges that had been His in heaven. He veiled His glory and choosing to occupy the position of a servant.
There were times when Jesus publicly manifested His divine knowledge and power on earth (John 2:25; 11:43 –44). On those occasions, Jesus’ demonstrations of His divinity were directed by the Father. On other occasions, He had no such directive from the Father, and He kept His glory veiled. On all occasions, Jesus obeyed the Father’s will: “I always do what pleases him,” He said (John 8:29).
So, when Jesus said He did not know when He would return, He was actively humbling Himself and taking the form of a servant (see Philippians 2:7–8). Since no other mortal knows the time of Jesus’ return—that information is the Father’s alone (Matthew 24:36)—Jesus voluntarily restricted His knowledge on that point. It was part of Jesus’ submission to the Father (see John 5:30; 6:38; 8:28–29) and His mission to live a human life.
John 14:28 “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.”
Again deferring to our friends at gotquestions.org we read: The phrase “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) was spoken by Jesus during the upper room discourse, and the greater context is the promising of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says repeatedly that He is doing the Father’s will, thereby implying that He is somehow subservient to the Father. The question then becomes how can Jesus be equal to God when by His own admission He is subservient to the will of God? The answer to this question lies within the nature of the incarnation.
During the incarnation, Jesus was temporarily “made lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9), which refers to Jesus’ status. The doctrine of the incarnation says that the second Person of the Trinity took on human flesh. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Jesus was fully human and “made lower than the angels.” However, Jesus is fully divine, too. By taking on human nature, Jesus did not relinquish His divine nature—God cannot stop being God. How do we reconcile the fact that the second Person of the Trinity is fully divine yet fully human and by definition “lower than the angels”? The answer to that question can be found in Philippians 2:5-11. When the second Person of the Trinity took on human form, something amazing occurred. Christ “made himself nothing.” This phrase has generated more ink than almost any other phrase in the Bible. In essence, what it means is that Jesus voluntarily relinquished the prerogative of freely exercising His divine attributes and subjected Himself to the will of the Father while on earth.
Another thing to consider is the fact that subservience in role does not equate to subservience in essence. For example, consider an employer/employee relationship. The employer has the right to make demands of the employee, and the employee has the obligation to serve the employer. The roles clearly define a subservient relationship. However, both people are still human beings and share in the same human nature. There is no difference between the two as to their essence; they stand as equals. The fact that one is an employer and the other is an employee does nothing to alter the essential equality of these two individuals as human beings. The same can be said of the members of the Trinity. All three members (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are essentially equal, i.e., they are all divine in nature. However, in the grand plan of redemption, they play certain roles, and these roles define authority and subservience. The Father commands the Son, and the Father and the Son command the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the fact that the Son took on a human nature and made Himself subservient to the Father in no way denies the deity of the Son, nor does it diminish His essential equality with the Father. The “greatness” spoken of in this verse, then, relates to role, not to essence.
F/B – Signs of Our Times