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"I know it's true. I saw some Bible programs on the Discovery and History channels. After all, they have all the experts on them, don't they?" Listen to this lesson to learn that the only expert on the Bible is the Bible itself. See that Christ existed before creation and that He is the Creator of all things. Learn that He is the very image of God and find out about the glory of Christ and the Shekinah glory. Hear how Christian martyrs were willing to die for their belief in the deity of Christ.
Also includes Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; Micah 52; John 1:1-15; and Hebrews 1:3
Jesus is Fully God
Hebrews 1:3; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15-17
We are in Romans, chapter 9 and in the last three or four lessons the focus has been on understanding what the Scripture says about the deity of Jesus. Those who are disbelievers of Christianity in the Bible focus on attacking the authority of Scripture and the deity of Christ. We live in a world today where you get these attacks more and more frequently and you hear them in a lot of different places. I was talking not long ago with some friends of mine who both love history and they pointed out that they watch almost everything that's on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, all of these different things. That's not unusual. A lot of people are that way and it would not surprise us how many people get their understanding of Christianity from these kinds of sources. But PBS, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel are not good sources because they interview popular theologians. Popular theologians are popular because they reject the absolutes of Scripture. You can't count on them for truth.
My point is that these ideas have filtered down to everyday people and whether they know who teaches them or who they come from or not is not important. That's what they believe. They say, "Well, the Bible doesn't really make that claim. Someone else made that claim about Jesus some hundred or two hundred years later so how can you really believe Jesus is God? So how do you answer that question? People will ask that, not necessarily to just be attacking you when you're witnessing to them but they've heard this and they want to know an answer. We don't want to intellectually insult them by saying they just have to believe it because we said so. We have to be able to articulate our faith. Paul did it. Peter did it. Peter said we all have to do it in 1 Peter 3:15 when he said to be "ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you." We have to be able to explain why we believe these particular things.
Sometimes when we're witnessing to people, such as a friend I've had a number of conversations with over many years, and he has a set of 10 or 12 reasons why you can't believe the New Testament. He can machine-gun those things out of his mouth. About three years ago I just stopped him after the first one. I said, "STOP! I know you have a bunch of other reasons but let's just talk about that one." People put these objections out of there as part of their suppression of truth mechanism to prevent from really having a conversation because they don't want to hear the truth and be challenged. My strategy has been that each time we have one of these conversations, I'm just going to stop him on one of these objections and say, "Let me show you why that's not a valid objection." As time goes by, I'm kind of picking apart this defensive mechanism that he has. That's not just something I should do as a pastor. That's something we're all supposed to do. My responsibility as a pastor is to equip you to do the work of the ministry. That means it's not really my job to do most of the evangelism around here. It's your job. So we need to be prepared to do that.
Now Romans 9:5 is just a great verse and is one of the most significant verses for stating the deity of Christ in the New Testament. In modern theology, they have this interesting little mechanism they use by saying, "Well, Paul doesn't really make a really clear, obvious or overt statement that Christ is God anywhere else in his writings." That's not exactly true but that's what they say. "So this can't really be Paul's style." That's a common thing that is said today. But it's really clear from the Scripture that he says Christ is God. In verse 5 he says, "Of whom are the Fathers, and from whom, according to the flesh Christ came." In other words Christ came from the patriarchal father, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers. Christ came and then I shifted the appositional phrase around and makes it even clearer, "Christ came, the Eternally Blessed God." This is a really strong statement on the deity of Christ. And that He is "over all."
Last time we looked at this in terms of three Old Testament promises you can put in the little arsenal of your Christian witnessing "magazine" so you can fire at least three bullets at them from the Old Testament and three from the New Testament. The three Old Testament promises are: Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2. All of these chapters are odd numbers to help you remember. Three New Testament verses that clearly talk about the deity of Christ are John 1:1-5 and 14, Colossians 1:15, and Hebrews 1:3.
Last time we looked at John 1:1 and saw that Christ was the Word, the logos, indicating a separate distinct personality and the Word was God. The important thing here is the verb "was" because it's in the imperfect tense which indicates continual past tense existence. It's very different from what we find in John 1:6 when it says, "There came a man, John…" It uses the verb ginomai meaning "coming into existence", whereas the word ane in verse 1 indicates a continual existence. It goes on to say that "the logos was in the beginning with God and all things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made." So once again, right up front Christ is said to be the creator. Creation is attributed to Him which is an act of deity and we're going to see the same thing in Colossians, chapter 1.
There's no apology on the part of the writers of Scripture for believing in the "ex nihilo" creation which is what we've been studying in our Acts passage on Tuesday nights. It's interesting that in both the John 1 and the Colossians 1 passages one of the first things the writers emphasize is on Jesus as Creator. Colossians 1:15 says that He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Then we have an explanation, "For by Him…" This explains why Paul can say He has the very essence of God. That's the significance of that first sentence. It's says He has all the essence of God and the first line of evidence for Him being fully God is that He created all things,
"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." Rulers or authorities usually refer to different ranks among the angels, whether they are fallen angels or whether they are elect angels. Somebody recently asked me if this ranking was affected in any way by the angelic rebellion. I think there probably was a reorganization of the fallen ranks under Satan but that's as far as we can go. God created each individual angel as its own entity. They don't have marriage among the angels. They don't make baby angels so there's no procreation that takes place. God created each angel in and of itself so they're not related to one another.
We're all related to one another. We may go back two hundred years, five hundred years and we may go back all the way to Noah in order to have a connection to Shem, Ham, and Japheth but we're all basically cousins. There's a pretty good chance that there's at least one member or extended member of this congregation who has a common ancestor with me. I don't know what that's called but it's a long way back and we're all related. That's why Christ could die for the entire human race because He became a human being, via the virgin conception and birth, so he's genetically related to every one of us. But He couldn't die for the angels because He wasn't an angel.
Every now and then someone comes along and thinks that Jesus' death has something to do with some sort of redemption solution for Satan or for the angels. But Jesus dies for human beings because He is a human. That's what allows for the substitutionary death of Christ. He can't die for the angels. He couldn't come as an angel and die for all the other angels because the angels aren't related to one another. There's not an integrated unity there but there is with the human race. So He is also the image of the invisible God. He is God Himself and so He is the firstborn over all creation.
Now we look at this terminology which describes who He is in verse 15 and describes actions that demonstrate His essence in verse 16, and in verse 17 states His eternality and also His sustaining work of the creation. Then verse 18 ties Him to His role in relationship to the Church. In verse 15 we read three key terms here: He's the image of the invisible God; then the second term He's the invisible God and we ask what does that mean and how is that significant and then the third term is the term firstborn.
As we look at this first word, image or eikon, a representation of God. It indicates the essence of the thing that the image reflects and shares in the essence of this thing. That's why in Greek Orthodox culture they get into trouble with their so-called idolatry. It was called the iconoclastic controversy in the early church. They have these icons which they put up in Greek Orthodox churches. They'll have an array of candles, flowers, and they pray to those icons. Some of them say that those are just sort of like training aids.
The problem is that in Greek thought there is this integral relationship between the essence of the thing and its image. They're united. This goes all the way back to some of the thought of Plato and Aristotle. So two ideas are present with this word. One is that Jesus as the image possesses full deity. He has all of the attributes of God. To say Jesus is the image of God is not just saying Jesus is just a picture of God. It's saying that Jesus shares in all of the essence and all of the attributes of God. The concept of image also indicates a representation. Just as you might have a picture or an icon on your screen on your computer, it represents something.
Both ideas are present here. Jesus is the very essence of God and He is the representative of God. This fits with what we saw last time in John 1:14 and 18 that no one has seen God at any time but the only begotten has explained Him. So He is the eternal Logos who became flesh and dwelt among us. He added humanity to His deity and He dwelt among us so He could be the one who reveals the Father to us. So how do we know what the Father looks like? Jesus said if you had seen Him you've seen the Father. The reverse would be true as well. If we had seen the Father, we would have seen Jesus, There is such a close unity in the Trinity. If you've seen one, you've seen all three of them.
The theological term for this is called perichoreisis which is the Greek term for a Latin word that was circumincision. They both describe the same thing which is that the Father is in the Son; the Son is in the Father and so on for the Spirit. So if you've seen one member of the Trinity, you've seen all three because there is an integral unity within the Trinity. So this is very important to understand because we're finite and we have trouble understanding the concept of the Trinity, we go to the point of separating them so much that when we see something in Scripture, like in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah goes before the Throne of God we tend to think that was God the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit. But no, it's the triune God that He sees. It's the Godhead that he sees sitting on the Throne.
That's why in John 12 Jesus said that "Isaiah beheld His glory." That because if you've seen the glory of the Father, you've seen the glory of the Son because there's a unity in the Godhead. This is the doctrine of perichoreisis. So Jesus can be said to be the image or the representative of God. The image shares in the reality and the essence of what it represents. So the essence of the thing is portrayed and presented in the image.
This is a loaded term. You can't use an English definition of image to catch all of the nuances and all of the significance of the Greek word that underlies that. This is stated again and again in the New Testament. You have passages like 2 Corinthians 4:4, "In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers." We're going to get into some things related to Calvinism in the coming weeks as we get more into Romans 9. I just want to frontload you with this thing a little bit because in Calvinism there's this idea of total depravity which they usually refer to as total inability. They believe it is absolutely impossible for fallen man who is completely incapable of understanding the gospel or even expressing positive volition toward God. They believe it is impossible for the unsaved person to do this. Let me suggest that if it's so impossible for the unsaved man to even express positive volition, then why does Satan need to blind their minds? Hadn't thought of that? Why does Satan need to blind the mind of an unbeliever if he's locked into negative volition and He can't understand anything? So part of the role of Satan is that he blinds the minds of unbelievers as this verse says. This verse goes on to say why he blinds them, "So that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
We're going to look at the term "the glory of Christ" a little more in-depth in this lesson. The use of glory is often a circumlocution. That's a fancy way of saying you're talking about something else. It's another word for something. If we're talking about the essence of something then essence can be a circumlocution for glory. So the gospel is related to Christ's glory. Christ's glory is related to His work on the Cross. Then we're told that Christ is the image of God. So again in 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul make this same statement. This is a profound statement that Christ shares in all of the attributes of God.
In John 17:5 Jesus is praying to the Father and He says, "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."Here it's not talking about essence because Jesus didn't give up His essence. This is talking about the manifestation of his divine nature. Jesus limited the manifestation of His divine nature when He was on the earth. The only time that Jesus revealed his divine nature was at the Mount of Transfiguration when His glory shone forth and James and John and Peter saw that glory. That was the radiance of His glory. That's the effect of His essence. That effect was veiled during the incarnation. It was not taken away. He was still full deity but it was just veiled and that gets into the kenosis passage in Philippians 2.
So He's the image of the invisible God. We don't see God. No one has ever seen God the Father. Jesus represents it here. John 1:18 tells us that no one has seen God at any time. Isaiah saw His glory but He didn't see beyond the glory as we'll see in Hebrews 1 in talking about the effulgence of His radiance. He doesn't see behind the light that emanates from God the Father. John 1:18 says He is the only begotten Son, that is the unique Son of God, the One of a kind Son of God from monogenes meaning only or one of a kind, who is in the bosom of the Father ,He has declared Him. The word for declare is the word exegeomai which is where we get our word exegesis. It means to explain or to expound upon something.
So Colossians 1:15 tells us Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Now in our culture we think of first born in terms of chronological order. The Greeks sometimes used the term as first in a sequence but it also can be first in terms of significance or preeminence or priority, the one who is first is the one who is elevated in authority over everything else. So that's the idea here. It's from the Greek word prototkos. Here we have the idea of first in rank. We see this in a number of different passages. The Old Testament uses it in reference to the Messiah in Psalm 89:26. This is a meditation on the Davidic covenant, a Psalm written by David. He's reflecting upon the blessing of God in promising that through David and through his descendants there would be this eternal king who would rule on the throne in Jerusalem. "He will cry to Me [God], You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. I will also make Him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." So this term firstborn is also a term that has Messianic implications from the Old Testament.
Now this word is used in several other passages in the New Testament. For example in Romans 8:29 it states, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers." We went through this not long ago in Romans, that predestined has to do with determining a destiny, an end game ahead of time. It doesn't mean choosing who will be saved or who won't. He is saying that those who are saved will have a destiny and that is to "be conformed to the image of His Son." So we are to take on the character qualities and essence of God. That's what's being produced in us, character wide, as the fruit of the Spirit. We're predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He [Christ] might be the firstborn, first in rank, among many brothers.
Also our current passage has this emphasis that Christ is the firstborn over all creation. Now there are several reasons why this can't mean first in time. First, that would be inconsistent with the context because the context states that He [Jesus] created all things. Now He can't be a creature if He's created all things because He would not have created Himself. So all things is a universal term indicating that Christ created all things. It doesn't say that Christ created everything except Himself. That's the wrong idea that comes from Arianism which was a heresy developed in the late 3rd century and early 4th century in the early church. It says that somewhere in eternity past Christ was generated. There was a time when Christ was not. That was the little contemporary Christian chorus that Arias sang all around the Roman Empire. You know there are a lot of heresies communicated through a lot of different hymns. A lot of people get more of their theology from hymns they sang from the sermons they hear. That was a little ditty that Arias popularized, "There was a time when God was not." In other words God the Father is the Eternal Father and Arias said that at some point in eternity past He generates the Son. So that would make the Son a creature so He couldn't create all things if He himself is a creature. He could only create everything but Himself.
The statement that "He created all things" indicates that He is fully God. Second, it would contradict the rest of the New Testament which clearly states and emphasizes that Jesus Christ is eternal (John 1:3], He's the unique One, and He also created all things. We could say God the Father is the architect; God the Son is the project manager, and God the Holy Spirit was the one who was onsite overseeing everything. It works something like that. Each had a distinct role but they're all can be said to be the Creator of all things. So it has this idea of being first in priority. He created all things.
In fact, in the New World translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses they insert a word like 'other" in different places here in order to keep Jesus from being a unique firstborn creator of all things. We also know that in Hebrews 1:6 Jesus receives the worship of the angels. Only God can be worshipped. That indicates again that He has full deity. So this idea of firstborn indicates He is the preeminent one and rules over creation. Colossians 1:16 goes on to say that it is by Him that all things were created that are in heaven." It also says "all things were created through [dia] Him which indicates secondary agency and the last one says all things were created for Him.
The first phrase that all things were created by Him probably has the idea that was eternally in His thinking that it was in His mind as a complete total package, a pattern that He knew forever and then it was through His agency that it was created. En plus the dative can indicate agency as well. The problem is that this would be a redundancy in the passage as well. You've already said it in the second phrase dia auto. That's already states an agency so you wouldn't say "by Him" and "by Him" again. So that first dia auto probably has the idea of "in His mind" and in His thinking, all things were created. It concludes by saying that all things were created through Him as the agency of creation and for Him. So He's the architect, the builder and He becomes the goal of the universe itself. The goal of the universe is towards Him.
Then Colossians1:17 emphasizes that He is the sustainer of the universe. Only God could do that in His omnipotence. Only God could sustain all of the creation. Now this doesn't give us a right to be irresponsible in our stewardship or oversight of creation. We don't want to foolishly abuse creation. But that's not the prominent view of environmentalism. That may be true in some areas but that's not what is happening politically or culturally in terms of the environmentalist movement. The movement we have today is built off of a pantheistic view of the universe and they believe that the worst virus on the planet are we humans. The environmentalist ideology is that we should all go back to as close a view to nature as we can and that's just a distortion of things.
God put man on the planet to oversee and utilize the natural resources and to develop them for the glory of God and for the benefit of mankind. There's nothing wrong with that. Now we can do that in a rapacious manner and certainly human beings have done that from everyone from primitive tribes all the way up to modern corporations and industries. But really if people are wise, people know better than to foul their own nests. Usually what you find with environmentalists is some sort of ideal of the primitive native that they are somehow purer and they haven't been sullied by civilization so you get this totally false view.
What you had in our own history like the Comanche Indians. I've been reading a great book called The Empire of the Summer Moon which is an extremely well written history of the rise of Quannah Parker and the fall of the Commanche nation. If you want to learn some really interesting things about Texas history, that's a great book to read. I highly recommend it. The Commanches really overpopulated Commancheria in the period that they dominated from the 1700's to the late 1800's. They would go into an area with no understanding of principles of modern sanitation. They didn't have garbage pickup. They didn't have an understanding of separation of all the different things they were putting out. They would just go live in an area for a while until they trashed it and then they would go live in another area. They would continue to do that.
They were extremely violent. They pushed the Apaches and several other tribes out of the High Plains once they got horses. It just shows once again that one tribe pushed another tribe out. Then the Americans came in, the Anglos came in and we just did what the previous tribes had done; we just pushed that tribe out. Somebody will come along eventually and push us out. That's how history has run its course so there's no such thing as this innocent, pure native that was living in some sort of pristine paradise and then the evil Anglo westerner came in and drove everybody out. This is just used to beat up on any kind of modern technology, modern industry that makes life better for all of us.
Thank God we have discovered so many different things that make life so much easier for us and so much more comfortable. After a day like today when I think it hit 102 degrees here in Houston, we can thank God we have air conditioning. Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn't have air conditioning? Some of you remember Houston before it got air conditioning. Houston was just a city that air conditioning made. It was just a bump on the Bayou before we got air conditioning and now look what's happened. Of course the other side of is that once we got air conditioning Congress can meet most of the year and so if we didn't have air conditioning, we'd probably have a lot more freedoms that we've lost due to technology but that's a different issue.
Christ sustains everything. He has built into creation the mechanisms to cleanse out all the impurities that develop within all the ecological systems. For example, take volcanoes. Pick your favorite volcano whether its Pinatubo or Mt. St. Helens or Krakatoa or any one and you measure the pollution that's thrown into the air by these volcanoes over a period of just a few days and it would take decades and decades of industrial pollution to do as much damage to the environment as one volcano does in a couple of days.
That's not to justify irresponsible industrial waste but it is pointing out that we just get so over bloated in our importance that we can somehow destroy the planet. We can't destroy the planet. We may trash our neighborhood but we're not going to destroy the planet because Jesus Christ has built systems into every system of the planet to cleanse the air, to cleanse the water, to cleanse different things and it all runs along according to his plan and purpose. But see, if you remove God you're left to the only real causative agent in the universe. Man is left as the bad one. All of these things fit together so Christ is the one who is the sustainer of everything. Colossians 1:17 says, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." So He is the one who sustains everything in the universe.
The next major passage we are going to look at for understanding the deity of Christ is Hebrews 1:3. Hebrews chapter 1 is another tremendous passage on the Son as being divine. Verse 3 says, "And He [Jesus Christ] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." This takes us back to the statement made at the beginning of the chapter. We read in verse 1, "God [referring to God the Father] after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us by His Son whom He appointed heir of all things." He's talking about God's revelation to us by His Son who He's appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the world.
Right there in the second verse the writer of Hebrews does the same thing that Paul does in Colossians and that John did in 1:1. He takes us right to the doctrine of creation. I've heard so many Christians say they didn't even want to talk about creation because it might be a distraction to the gospel. Well, none of the writers of Scripture knew that. They understood that the doctrine of creation is crucial to understanding who this God is who sent Jesus and who Jesus is. Through Jesus God the Father made the world.
Then we come to verse 3 still talking about His Son, "And He is the radiance [brightness] of His glory and the exact representation [express image] of His nature [person] and upholding all things by the word of His power when He had made purification [by Himself purged} our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." That is a well-packed verse. We're just focusing on the deity of Christ here, that He is the brightness of His glory. There's several different ways to express this but the idea we have here in the Greek is that He is the express image of God the Father.
This is the same idea we have in Colossians 1:15. It starts off with that relative pronoun, who, referring to Jesus Christ, "Who being [ane which is ongoing existence, not ginomai which would be to become] the radiance [brightness] of His glory." Glory is the Greek word apaugisma which means radiance, effulgence. In the passive voice it can mean reflection. This is the result of His eternal light. This is what's expressed. It's the out working of His glory. The expression of His glory. We see various other passages that talk about this. The core idea is that this relates to a brightness, a brilliance of light that emanates from the core of the glory of God.
When we talk about that we have to bring in a discussion of the Shekinah glory of God and this brightness is the visible radiation of His glory, of His invisible essence. We have passages that talk about this. For example, John 1:14, we read, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory." Now this is an interesting passage because you'll have some people who'll go to this verse and say, "Well, John was one of the three guys who saw Jesus revealing His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration." The trouble is when we get into John 2 where Jesus changes the water into wine, John says that this is the first manifestation of His glory, so He's not talking about his visible expression of light indicating His essence but His character, what He does.
That's one of the evidences of how glory is used in the Scripture to refer to the essence or character of Christ. So, "We beheld His glory…" That really means that what John is saying here is not that we saw the brightness of His glory at the Mount of Transfiguration but every day in every way the essence of God was manifested to us. We learned who God was because we hung out with Jesus every day. That's how we saw the glory of God. We saw His essence in Jesus so that's the thrust of the verse.
In John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father; He has revealed Him." Now 2 Corinthians 4:6 also states this, "For God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, is the one who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." This is talking about something God does internally in our soul. Heart here is used as a synonym for the soul, referring to our immaterial makeup. Here light is used to refer to revelation, the unveiling of truth. So God is the one who reveals to us Jesus and that revelation of Jesus gives us the knowledge of the glory or essence of God and it's seen in the face of Jesus in His humanity, in his incarnation.
Now this is what is seen in the early creeds of the church. One of the foundational creeds is the Nicene Creed which was written in a church council called by the first Christian emperor, Constantine, in 325 A.D. They met in a suburb of Constantinople or Byzantium, now called Istanbul in Nice and they had representatives from all over the Roman Empire. These bishops came together and the real issue was that they were to hammer out was what's the relationship of Jesus as the Son of God to the Father. This had become a major divisive element within the early church. Arias, I mentioned him earlier, was a presbyter down in Alexandria, Egypt and he was teaching that there was a time when Christ was not. In other words, he was saying Christ isn't eternal.
Athanasius comes along and he's a theologian and leader of the church also in Alexandria and he is taking a stand saying you can't have Jesus as a creature. If Jesus is a creature in any form, even if He's given derivative deity, He can't do what Jesus needed to do on the Cross. Only God could die on the cross for our sins as a man, so Athanasius is the great defender of what we now refer to as the hypostatic union and the eternal deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like most church arguments and most theological controversies, most people don't know diddly about what's really going on. So you have about 90% of the people who go to a conference don't know anything. 3% are deceived on the wrong side and maybe 3% know what's going on and they are on the right side. Everybody else is clueless. They just want to go for all the fellowship. It's still that way today. It doesn't change.
Most people don't understand the intricacies of theological issues. Out of that it finally became clear that Athanasius was right and there was no foundation for saying Jesus was created and generated by God but that Jesus had to be eternal.
And so we have the opening two paragraphs here of the Nicene Creed. The first paragraph relates to the person of God the Father, "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…" Now that's just a reiteration of what Scripture says but what does it mean? Just because someone comes along and says something, does it mean anything? We have politicians who says all kinds of good things all the time but it's just words, words, words. It's meaningless. What do they mean by these things?
So the Creed defines what begotten mean. "And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten /Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds." Begotten doesn't mean made. That's the key idea. Begotten has to do with the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. It goes on to say referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance the Father, by whom all things were made." You can't say He's fully God more clearly than that but in case you don't get it it's reiterates that He's light of light, which is what we were talking about as the glory of God, the effulgence, the flashing forth of the character of God here in verse 3. This is light from light. This is one of the basis for saying that.
Today we would say, "True God of true God." What's here doesn't communicate as well today. In other words He's full undiminished deity. He's begotten but not made. That's the definition of made. Begotten describes an eternal relationship. It doesn't mean that he's made. It doesn't mean he's given birth to. It doesn't mean to be born. "Being of one substance with the Father." This refers to the one essence that both the Father and Son have. "By whom all things were made." In the first paragraph it called the Father "maker of heaven and earth". Now Jesus is the one by whom all things were made.
Now later on Athanasius in one of his encyclical letters to the bishops of Egypt and Libya says some other things are significant. He says, "Who does not see that the brightness cannot be separated from the light?" He's talking about this effulgence or brightness of His glory. He's saying you can't separate the brightness from the light source itself. These are inter-connected. One demands the other. The brightness cannot be separated from the light. It is by nature proper to it and co-existent with it." So Jesus is the revelation of the Father. He is proper to the Father, connected to the Father, and co-existent with the Father. You can't separate the expression from the original. That's his argument there.
He goes on to say, "For where there is light, there is radiance and where there is radiance there is also light. Thus we cannot have a light without radiance nor radiance without light because both the light is in the radiance and the radiance is in the light." Now I want you to memorize that before you go home and I want you to think about that because that is some really heavy stuff right there. That is profound material to reflect upon that inner relationship between the light and the radiance and the Father and the Son. That is extremely well said.
You just don't find anyone today thinking or writing as profoundly as those early church fathers were. This is in A.D. 325. It was in A. D. 317 that Constantine set forth the edict of tolerance which meant that Christianity was now legal. So most of the bishops that were there had suffered and had known other bishops who had suffered martyrdom for their faith in their lifetime. They're only ten years away from Christianity being illegal. Listen to how profound and complex their thoughts are on theology. They are thinking deeply because if they were going to give their lives for this they wanted to make sure it was true and make sure they really understood it. As one person once said, "On a good day, I'm going to die for the book of Romans but I want to make sure that I'm not dying for something that's not really the Word of God." So they really thought these issues through at a profound level because they were in the furnace of persecution for years over what they really believed.
Now what we're talking about here in terms of glory is what is usually referred to in modern English as the Shekinah glory. Let's just have a couple of points on understanding this term, Shekinah Glory. The Shekinah Glory usually refers to the luminescent aspect of the glory of God in the tabernacle or temple in the Old Testament. So, first of all, the commonly used term is Shekinah glory which we must break down into the two terms. Shekinah and Glory. Shekinah comes from the Hebrew word shekan which means to dwell, the verb. Shekinah is really a rabbinic term that's developed after the Old Testament was written. You don't find Shekinah in the Hebrew Old Testament. But you do find its root verb, shekan, meaning to dwell. Glory is from the Hebrew word kavod which means something that is heavy, weighty, something that has seriousness to it, something that is sobering.
So Shekinah has to do with the dwelling presence of God and the glory is something in addition to that, indicating something that is serious and weight that is present there. The priests in the Old Testament designated the tent of the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum, as the tent of meeting, the mchikan. Hebrew doesn't have vowels in writing so you can hear the "ch" as one letter in Hebrew. The 'k" is the second letter, the n is the third letter. Those are the three consonants. That's your root word. They stick an "m" in front of the word making it a noun so that's the same root. It's the tent of dwelling so that's the idea there. The term shekan came to be used for Yahweh's presence or dwelling upon the earth. [Exodus 25:21-22, Leviticus 26:11-12]. So the shekan, the dwelling presence is in the mchikan is in the tabernacle. It's also related to the house of God which is a second term that's used for the tabernacle.
Second point, glory was a common Biblical word used to describe the theophany, that is the manifestation of God's presence upon the earth in the Old Testament [Exodus 16:10, Leviticus 9:23, Numbers 14:10, which are just a few references]. Passages such as Exodus 16:10, "It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel that they looked toward the wilderness and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." So they're seeing this physical manifestation of His presence on the earth. In Numbers 14:10 we read, "But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel." The glory of the Lord is His visible presence in the tabernacle. Again we have it in Leviticus 9:23, "Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people." So it's this brilliant light that is the manifestation of an internal reality within the mchikan itself.
The third point is that we see that God's glory was associated with a pillar of cloud in the day time and the fire at night. This pillar is manifested on Mount Sinai where they see that as God giving them the law or going to give them the law. It's manifested at the dedication of the tabernacle where it rested between the cherubim on the cover of the Ark and you also see the Shekinah glory present when entering Solomon's temple. It also left later on in Ezekiel's vision. It goes out the gate, goes out the front of the temple, goes across the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olive and ascends to heaven before the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. and then when Jesus leaves, he takes the same route and then ascends to heaven from the Mount of Olives. So there's something significant about that.
The fourth point is that the Shekinah glory emphasizes the unique presence of God among His covenant people, Israel. It's His visible presence to confirm His blessing and to provide guidance. So the omnipresent God is limiting Himself spatially and temporal but He's still eternal and infinite. I don't know how that works. Neither do you and you won't! Don't try.
The fifth point is that the Shekinah was not the shining or the glory in the crowd but it's the cause of it. It's not that brilliant light; it's the cause of the brilliant light. That's the dwelling place of God. The sixth point is that the Shekinah represented the positional place of blessing the Jews had under the Abrahamic Covenant, that God blessed them unconditionally because of that covenant and it wasn't due to their obedience or disobedience. The same glory is manifested by Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration in Mark 9:3, "And His garments became radiant and exceedingly white as no launderer on earth can whiten them." I don't care if you use White Bright or Clorox. You can't get them that white. That's the only time that brilliance is seen during the Incarnation.
Then in Revelation 21:23 we read that in the future this is what will illuminate the earth. "The city [the New Jerusalem] had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it and its lamp is the Lamb." There will not be a sun or moon created or present in the new heavens and new earth. So when Jesus says things like, "I am the light of the world" this ties in to this whole doctrine of the brilliance of His essence. He is the brightness or the effulgence of the expression of His glory, of the essence of God. Then we read that "He is the express image…" This is the word "character" which is where we get our word. It is an exact representation or identical essence of His person. It doesn't get any clearer than that in terms of making a statement on the deity of Christ. So this is the expression of Christ.
How do we know Jesus is God? John 1:1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1 in the New Testament passages. Old Testament passages are Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:5, Micah 5:2. Six passages you should have handy and be able to explain. Memorize those six verses. These verses are going to come up when we have Christmas. You can memorize those verses now and recite them when you're talking to your friends and family around the Christmas table. You'll be all prepared to share the gospel.