I Have Told You Plainly

by Tim Haile

April 14, 2000

      In the February 2000 issue of The Seeker, Ronny Milliner resumes his favorite pastime of constructing a heretic. His purpose is to defeat his spiritual foes by constructing a straw heretic, then associating his enemies with that heretic. Milliner must resort to this tactic since he has no scripture to support his view of a crippled Christ, and is obviously incapable of making his own arguments in defense of his position.

     A teacher of the past, named Apollinarius, serves Milliner's purpose well for a couple of reasons. Apollinarius was so hated and opposed by his apostate enemies that those enemies burned his writings. All we know about Apollinarius is what his Catholic enemies wanted us to know about him. Since Milliner's position on the nature and person of Christ is basically, the same position that was held by Apollinarius' fourth century apostate enemies, then he gladly accepts their depiction of Apollinarius' views.

     Furthermore, this gives Milliner a sort of fill-in-the-blank, construct-your-own-heretic, design mold, for him to use to malign his enemies. Rather than having to study the scriptures and accept what they say regarding the incarnation of Jesus, Milliner just decides what views he wishes to ascribe to his custom made "heretic," then he makes his opponents guilty by associating them with that "heretic." This is the most dishonorable tactic I have ever witnessed a "brother" use. It is a deliberate and crafty misrepresentation. Ron, I am certain that your method makes the devil very proud.

     In his recent article called "Tell Us Plainly," Ronny Milliner wrote the following:

     "It is time that brethren like Gene Frost, Tim Haile, Dudley Ross Spears, Ken Thomas, etc. to "tell us plainly" whether they believe the same basic tenets which Apollinarius believed and taught."

I Have "Plainly" Told Ronny My Position on Apollinarius

     What an odd demand! As I have repeatedly pointed out and plainly told Ronny in my last article on Apollinarianism, no one knows for sure what Apollinarius really believed. This includes Ronny Milliner. Nevertheless he insists that I tell people whether or not I agree with Apollinarius! Dear reader, do you understand Milliner's logic? This is the craziest demand any gospel preacher has ever made of me. Not only do we not know exactly what Apollinarius really believed and taught; what difference does it make anyway! I thought the Christian's duty was to "speak as the oracles of God" and "abide in the doctrine of Christ" (1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Jn. 9). What difference does it make what some fourth century theologian believed? All that matters is what the Bible teaches and whether or not we accept that teaching.

I Have "Plainly" Told Ronny What The Bible Teaches About the Person of Christ

     You should notice that Milliner didn't ask me to "plainly tell" my understanding of the scriptures relating to the nature and person of Christ. An honest Bible student might inquire as to a person's reasons for taking a particular doctrinal stance, and I always strive to accommodate such requests (1 Pet. 3:15). Milliner did not ask this, however. He wants me to announce whether or not I agree with Apollinarius! This is a foolish request. As I said before, since no one truly knows what Apollinarius really believed, there is no way of knowing whether we agree with him. Again, what matters is not whether or not we agree with what we think Apollinarius believed, but whether or not we agree with what the Bible teaches on this subject.

     Milliner knows my position on the incarnation. I have not been shy in my writings. In many different forums, in many different places, and in many different ways, I have publicly and plainly stated my reasons for believing that Jesus was fully and functionally God in a fully human flesh and blood body. I have publicly proclaimed my convictions on this subject, in every gospel meeting that I have conducted in the past several years. But, since Ronny feels that I have not been plain enough, I will reiterate my convictions for the readers' careful consideration.

Regarding Jesus' Spiritual Composition:

     Whatever attributes, properties, qualities, and characteristics Jesus' spirit possessed in Heaven before the incarnation, it possessed on the earth, during the incarnation. This fact is plainly set forth in scripture.

In his gospel, John wrote:

     "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

Elsewhere, this same writer used the same terms to describe the same person of "God" with only a slight difference in circumstance. Whereas John 1:1 spoke of God "the Word" in His pre-incarnate state, 1 John 1:1 speaks of Jesus in His incarnate state. John wrote:

     "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life."

     Before He came in the flesh Jesus was identified as God "the Word." While in he flesh He was also known as God "the Word." He was exactly the same person of "the Logos" during the flesh that He was before the flesh. Other "plain" passages agree with this comparison. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Him (the person of "Christ" th) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." 1 Timothy 3:16 tells us that it was the person of "God" who was "manifest in the flesh." During His days in the flesh, Jesus was given the additional name "Immanuel, which being translated is God with us" (Matt. 1:23). He is "God our Savior," and "God blessed forever" (Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5). He so perfectly and completely shared the attributes of the Father that He is identified as the "exact representation" of the Father's "image" (Heb. 1:3). While in the flesh, Jesus possessed every divine attribute. We know this because He was called "God." God cannot exist apart from His attributes. To see Jesus was to see the Father (Jn. 14:9; 12:45). While in the flesh Jesus was so completely God that His actions were a constant "declaration" and exegesis of the Father (John 1:18).

     Ronny, I hope that I have stated my convictions clearly enough. I believe every one of the above passages when they say Jesus continued to be just as divine in the flesh as He was prior to the flesh. Ronny wrote:

"Brother Haile, tell us plainly. Do you believe that Jesus did not have a human spirit? Don't you believe that all that was involved in the incarnation was that the Word, who was with God in the beginning, entered a body of flesh? Don't you believe that was no change in the spirit of Jesus when He entered that body of flesh? Tell us plainly, brother Haile."

     With the exception of asking one bad question, Ronny has fairly represented my understanding of Bible teaching regarding the Lord's holy incarnation.

     But just to make certain that you do understand, I will tell you again, as plainly as I possibly can - the Bible tells us that Christ's intrinsic being did not change as a result of His coming in the flesh. Ronny Milliner believes that it did.

     God said through Malachi, "I, the Lord, do not change..." (Mal. 3:6). The intransitive verb makes "the Lord" the object being considered. The object is not the Lord's will or His works, but the Lord HIMSELF. In Hebrews 1:10-12 the writer quotes Psalm 102:25-27, saying:

"10: And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
11: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
12: And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."

This same truth is later affirmed in Hebrews 13:8:

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

     Though the "works" of God's (Christ's) hands may "be changed," yet His spirit remains "the same." This passage makes a clear distinction between Christ's works and His person.

     Some have ignorantly described this as a Pentecostal argument. I say ignorantly because the Pentecostals cite Hebrews 13:8 in an effort to prove that if God performed miracles in the past, then He must continue to perform them today. This is not what the passage says neither does my use of it demand such a conclusion. In fact, I have plainly expressed a position that is opposite that of the Pentecostals. I have argued that God's works and methods do sometimes change (Heb. 1:10-12). God may change His will and the manner in which He exercises that will while His spirit remains unchanged. I like the illustration that some have used regarding God's use of His creative powers. God possesses all the power necessary to create other worlds, but the fact that He is not still doing so, does not mean His spirit has changed. Hebrews 13:8 has nothing to do with Jesus' works, it has to do with His nature and person. It means what it says and what it says is that JESUS never changes. This verse says the same thing about "Jesus" that Malachi 3:6 says about "the Lord" and Hebrews 1:8-12 says about "God, the Son."

     Ronny, is this PLAIN enough for you? Can you understand what I am telling you about Christ's spiritual being? I am confident that others do understand. Jesus' spirit never changed! In the words of the Hebrew writer, even while upon this earth, Christ "remained the same." This is what I believe about the spirit of Jesus. I believe what the Bible says. I have told you plainly.

Did Jesus Have a "Human Spirit?"

     As I stated above, this is a poorly worded question. I grant that discussions sometimes force us to use accommodative language. And I am not one to insist that others say things exactly the way I say them. However, past discussions regarding the question of the incarnation of Christ demonstrate the importance of us defining our terms and expressions so that others know what we mean by what we say.

     For example, among those who claim to believe Jesus was "God" while in the flesh, three different positions are held regarding the meaning of the word "God." Some among us say He was fully and functionally "God." By this we affirm that Jesus both possessed and used His intrinsic attributes of deity. By His own divine power, He cured the sick and diseased, healed the crippled and handicapped, cleansed the demon-possessed, and calmed the seas (Matt. 8). Another position states that Jesus was "God," yet He did not possess the attributes of God. They say He emptied Himself of every peculiarly divine attribute that would distinguish Him from ordinary men and "became in full point of fact, a man." They say Jesus was the "essence" of God, but without the attributes of God. Then a third group, that now includes Ronny Milliner, says Jesus possessed but could not use the attributes of deity. Thus Ronny believes Jesus was "God," but without the ability to function or operate as God. So we see that even the word "God" means very different things to different people. This proves that we must define our terms properly.

     Ronny asked me, "Do you believe that Jesus did not have a human spirit?" As I have explained before in other writings, Jesus already possessed every spiritual attribute of humanity before He came in the flesh. If not, then His spirit had to be made in man's image, rather than, as the Bible teaches, man's spirit being made in His (Gen. 1:26-27). Being a person of God, Jesus already was a spirit (Jn. 4:24). So to answer your question, No, Ronny, Jesus didn't need any more spirits in order to become human. He already had one. The Bible says He only required a flesh, blood and bone body in order for Him to "share in our humanity" and to be "like His brethren" in His spiritual and biological make-up (Heb. 2:14,17; Lk. 24:39 NIV).

     Ronny, put up your Catholic Theology books, knock the dust off your Bible, open it up and study it. The answers to your questions are there.

Tim Haile
7693 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green, KY 42101
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