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CHAPTER 1. GOD AS SPIRIT.
As the aim of this book is to ascertain and state in systematic form what the Bible teaches, the method pursued will be to first give the Scripture statements, and then sum up their contents in a proposition, following the proposition by such comments as may appear necessary.
1. The fact that God is Spirit. John 4:24: "God is (a) Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
FIRST PROPOSITION: God is Spirit. QUESTION: What is spirit?
ANSWER: Luke 24:39-11: Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." A spirit is incorporeal, invisible reality. To say God is spirit is to say God is incorporeal and invisible. (Compare Deut. 4:15-18.)
QUESTION: What does it mean, then, when it says in Gen. 1:27: "God created man in his own image?"
The answer to this question is plainly given in the following passages: Col. 3:10: And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." Eph. 4:23-24: "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." Col. 1: 15: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature." (Compare I Tim. 1:17.) The words "image" and "likeness" evidently do not refer to visible or bodily likeness, but to intellectual and moral likeness -- likeness "in knowledge," "righteousness" and "holiness of truth, "
II. The manifestation of Spirit in visible form. John. 1:32: "And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him." Heb. 1:7: "And of the angels he saith, who maketh his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire."
SECOND PROPOSITION: That which is spirit may manifest itself in visible form. III. God manifested In visible form. Ex. 24:9-10: "Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu: and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness."
THIRD PROPOSITION: God has in times past manifested Himself in visible form. IV. What was seen in these manifestations of God. John. 1:18: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him." Ex. 33:18-23: "And lie said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away my hand, and thou shall see my back parts, but my face shall not be seen."
FOURTH PROPOSITION: That which was seen in these manifestations of God was not God Himself -- God in His invisible essence -- but a manifestation of God.
QUESTION: Is there any contradiction between Ex. 24: 9-10 ("Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel "), Is. 6: 1 ("In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple"), and John 1:18 ("No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is In the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him")?
ANSWER: None whatever. To illustrate: A man may see the reflection of his face in a glass. It would be true for the man to say, "I saw my face," and also true to say "I never saw my face." So men have seen a manifestation of God, and it is perfectly true to say those men saw God. No man ever saw God as He is in His invisible essence, and so it is perfectly true to say: "No man hath seen God at any time." Under this head of manifestations of God belongs "The angel of the LORD" in O.T. Clear distinction is drawn in the Bible in the original languages between "an angel of the Lord " and "the angel of the Lord." The R.V. always preserves this distinction; the A.V. does not. Gen. 16:7-10, 13: "And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence comest thou and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, return to thy mistress, and submit thyself unto her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not ben numbered for multitude. And she called the name of the Lord that stake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?" Here, "the angel of the LORD" in verse 10 is clearly identified with the Lord (Jehovah) in verse 13. Gen. 21:17-18: "And God heard the voice of the lad: and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thy hand; for I will make him a great nation. " Gen. 22: 11, 12: "And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not with. held thy son, thine only son, from me." Here "the angel of the LORD " in verse 11 is identified with God in verse 12. Judges 2:1-2, R.V.: "And the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and he said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers: and I said, I will never break my covenant with you: And ye shall make no covenant with the Inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars; but ye have not hearkened to my voice; why have ye done this?"
Here, "the angel of the LORD" distinctly says "I did what Jehovah did. (See also Judges 6:11-14, 19-24, R.V., especially verse 14.) A very noteworthy passage is Gen. 18:1, 2, 9-10, 13-14, 16: "And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre, and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah, thy wife ? And he said, Behold in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life, and, lo, Sarah, thy wife, shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. And the LORD said unto Abraham, wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old ? Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way." In these verses one of the three clearly identifies himself with the LORD or Jehovah. In the nineteenth chapter (v. 1) only two come to Sodom. One has remained behind, two have gone on. Who the one was, appears as we read on. Gen. 18:17, 20: "And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do. Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. And the LORD said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous." Then in verse 22 we read: "Abraham stood yet before the LORD (Jehovah)." Clearly the one of the three who remained behind was Jehovah manifested in the form of a man. In verse 33 the story continues: "The LORD (Jehovah) went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham." (See also chapter 19: 27.)
FIFTH PROPOSITION: The angel of the Lord is clearly identified with Jehovah -- a visible manifestation of Jehovah.
QUESTION: Just who was this "The angel of the LORD"? Judges 13:18, R.V.: "And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore asketh thou after my name, seeing it is wonderful? " Compare Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (In the Hebrew, the word for "wonderful" in the passage in which "the angel of the LORD" gives it as his name, is practically the same as the word in Isaiah, where it is given as the name of the coming Christ.) Mal. 3:1: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts."
ANSWER: The angel of the Lord was the Son of God before His permanent incarnation. (See also John 8:56: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.") "The angel of the Lord" does not appear after birth of Christ. The expression occurs in A.V., but is always a mistranslation, as the R.V. shows. (See Matt. 1:20, 28:2; Luke 8:9: Acts 8:26; 12:7, 23.)