Response to Elmer Moore's
by Tim Haile
In the above article, brother Moore made some good points, however it is my understanding that he also contradicted scripture in other areas. Before I address the points of disagreement that I have with brother Moore's article, I want to first thank brother Moore for the good points that he did make, and for his willingness to pen his thoughts on this important subject.
"Likeness" and "Sameness"
In the first paragraph brother Moore wrote:
"When men argue that Jesus being in the likeness of men does not mean anything more than similarity; that likeness does not mean sameness, we need to take a look at what the New Testament actually states about Jesus. He was not playing the part of a hypocrite, pretending to be something he was not (see Matt. 23)."
By criticizing men who argue that likeness is not sameness, brother Moore suggests that the Bible uses the word "likeness" to mean "sameness." Have I missed it brother Moore? I grant that we sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but I emphatically deny that the Bible does when it compares Jesus to mere men. The word "same" means "identical; not different; exactly." Is this really what the Bible means in passages where it speaks of Jesus being "like" us? Was Jesus "identical" to us? Was He "no different" from us? Was He "exactly" like us? To affirm that Jesus was exactly "the same" as us, is to deny His divinity, for no one of us is God.
Brother Moore, I am in total agreement with you when you say that we need to take a look at what the Bible "actually states." By doing so we will find that Jesus was "like" men, but not exactly like men. Jesusí statement in John 8:23 is an affirmation of this fact. He said to the disciples, "You are from beneath; I am from above; you are of this world; I am not of this world." This statement describes the very nature of Christ. To see Him was to see the Father (Jn. 14:9; 12:45). His nature was not exactly like that of men, rather it was exactly like that of the Father (Heb. 1:3).
According to Romans 8:3, Jesus came to earth "in the likeness of sinful flesh." Had Jesus come in the sameness of sinful flesh, He would have been a sinner like all of the others that Paul spoke of in the Roman letter (Rom. 1; 2; 3:9-23; 5:12; 7:5-25). Since Jesus never sinned (Jn. 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 9:28), He does not fit into the same classification as all other men. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). If Jesus were the same as "all" other humans, then He would be classified with them. However, Jesus never sinned. Because of this He was in the "likeness of sinful flesh," not the sameness of it.
Brother Moore wrote:
"The Hebrew writer further writes, 'Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. . .' May I suggest that the language declares that he was made like us in all things, not just a few (2:17; Heb. 5:1-5)."
Hebrews 2:17 teaches that Jesus was "made in all things like unto his brethren." Is this expression completely unqualified? Does "like His brethren," mean exactly like them? If so, Jesus was an entirely created being in body soul and spirit just like we are! Have the Jehovah's Witnesses right about John 1:14 after all? For years I have been telling them that the word "made" in this verse emphasizes our Lord's physical adaptation. Have I been wrong? Does John 1:14 really teach the incarnation of God, the Word, or does it teach, as some have suggested, a transmutation of Jesus' spirit? John Welch argued in debate for four nights that Jesus, in becoming a man, underwent a change in His very spirit. Is this what you mean by your use of Hebrews 2:17? I certainly hope not, for to argue that the incarnate Christ possessed a created spirit is argue against plain passages which state that God's nature never changes (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).
By the way, Zechariah used the same word "forms" in chapter 12:1 with reference to human spirits that is elsewhere used to describe God's "formation" of the universe. If Hebrews 2:17 is intended to be taken without any contextual qualifiers, then Jesus was a wholly created being. Are you prepared to accept the consequences of your doctrine? I cannot.
Hebrews 2:17 is preceded by verse 14, and God obviously intended for us to interpret verse 17 in the light of verse 14. This last verse describes the manner and area in which Jesus was made "like us." This is the one time where the Bible "actually states" that Jesus had something that was the same as ours. Jesus partook of flesh and blood. This is how He shared in our humanity. Nowhere does the Bible teach, or insist that we believe that Jesus had a created spirit just like all other humans. The theory that Jesus had two distinct spirits in His body is just as wrong as the view that says the properties of the Lord's spirit changed in coming in the flesh.
Hebrews 4:15 teaches that Jesus was "tempted in all points like as we are." This verse teaches that the devil approached Jesus using the same avenues that he uses to approach us. Though the verse mentions this similarity, it actually emphasizes the difference between Jesus and all other men. His temptations never resulted in sin. Every other human does sin (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22; Eccl. 7:20; 2 Chron. 6:36). Given Jamesí discussion of the nature of temptation (Jas. 1:13-15), we must conclude from Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus never desired to do the things that the devil tempted Him to do. Using the word "tempt" in the way that brother Moore used it in his article, I wonder if brother Moore thinks he could be tempted to turn a stone into bread? I wonder if brother Moore can be tempted to jump off of a bluff, then save himself from death by defying the laws of gravity? Or maybe he could be tempted to own all of the kingdoms of the earth by falling down and worshipping the devil? I think not. Jesus was tempted "like" us, but not exactly like us.
Jesus "was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7), but He always existed in the sameness of God. The Bible actually states that Jesusí nature was identical to that of the Father. He is the exact representation of the Fatherís nature (Hebrews 1:3; Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4). The incarnation merely combined the intrinsic form of God with the outward form of man. The result was "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:23).
Concerning John 1:14 and "Synecdoche"
Brother Moore tells us that the word "flesh" in John 1:14 and Hebrews 2:14 "is used as a synecdoche (a figure of speech that presents a part for a whole) to indicate his (Christís, t.h.) humanity (cf. Heb. 5:7)." He added, "The language of John 1:14 does not state the [sic] he was clothed with flesh; it declares that he was made flesh (KJV), or became flesh (ASV)." Brother Moore cites Matthew 16:17 ("flesh and blood hath not revealed it") in an effort to prove his point that "íflesh and bloodí is used, in the New Testament, to represent the entire man." In his attempt to prove that Jesus was made like us in body, soul and spirit, brother Moore makes a terrible oversight. If he is right about the New Testamentís usage of the expression "flesh and blood," then NO HUMAN CAN ENTER HEAVEN, for Paul said, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). Brother Moore has taken an untenable position. In his zeal to prove that Jesus became just like us in coming to earth, he has taught that the entire scheme of redemption is a sham. When one denigrates one member of the Godhood, he denigrates them all.
Jesus was "made flesh," He was not made "spirit." In His very nature, He was already a spirit (Jn. 4:24). He already possessed every spiritual and emotional feature and quality that man possesses. Man received his attributes from Jesus; He did not receive them from us (Gen. 1:27; Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16).
Brother Moore needs to be more careful in his application of figures of speech. John 1:14 does not contradict every other passage addressing the incarnation. Jesus was the same spiritual person of God, the Word after His incarnation that He was before His incarnation (compare John 1:1 with 1 John 1:1). His spirit did not change (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). He was the same "holy one" in His motherís womb that He had been from eternity (Luke 1:35). No change occurred in His spirit as a result of His incarnation. Had there been a change, He would have ceased to be what He was before and prophecies would have failed that spoke of "mighty God" being born of a woman (Isa. 9:6; 7:14). Synecdoche is used in the Bible, but not in John 1:14 or Hebrews 2:14. If it is used in Hebrews 2:14, then we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:50, 19).
The "Mystery" of the Incarnation - 1 Timothy 3:16
Wouldn't it be somewhat futile and contradictory for one to write an article in an effort to explain that he admits cannot be understood? I find this strange. Brother Moore wrote:
"There are some things that God has not seen fit to reveal to man and I am convinced that God being manifest in the flesh is one of those things (1 Tim. 3:16; Deut. 29:29)."
Brother Moore freely discussed his views on synecdoche and John 1:14, denying that Jesus' divine spirit was merely "clothed with flesh," yet he had earlier stated the above. I don't understand why brother Moore would write about a religious and theological question that he says, "God did not reveal to man." What would be the point? Brother Moore, if God has not seen fit to reveal it, why have you attempted to explain it?
Paul wrote to Timothy, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16). Since the beginning of the controversy concerning the nature and person of Christ, this passage has been misused in an effort to prove that we have no business talking about this subject. Brother Moore, along with several others, combine this verse with Deuteronomy 29:29 to make their point. This passage is the one that speaks of the secret things, which belong to the Lord. When the subject of the nature of God arises, these brethren quickly point to the words of these passages. Some say, "But, it is a mystery, we shouldnít be discussing this." They think the word mystery means that the subject can neither be explained nor understood. Brother Moore has taken a slightly different approach. He has combined 1 Timothy 3:16 and Deuteronomy 29:29 as others have done, yet rather than refusing to discuss that which he says God did not reveal, He attempts to explain it anyway! If the word mystery means we are not to discuss the subject, why did Paul immediately discuss it? If it cannot be explained, why did Paul proceed to explain it? If the subject of Godís nature is so secret, why did Paul tell us about it? Brother Moore, Paul did not use the word mystery in the denominational sense. He used it in the biblical sense of "that which is outside the range of unassisted natural comprehension, which can be made known only by Divine revelationÖ" God did reveal things about the incarnation (1 Tim. 3:16), and these truths about our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ should be affirmed with all authority (Tit. 2:13, 15).
Jesus and James 1:14
Brother Moore wrote:
"Was Jesus tempted like James 1:13-15? I believe that he was. If he was not then he was not man because this passage states every man. Jesus was tempted as we are and we are tempted per James 1:13-15. Thus Jesus was tempted like James 1:13-15."
Brother Moore makes the same mistake that several other brethren make regarding the nature of the temptations dealt with in James 1:14. This verse cannot possibly apply to Jesus, for James tells us that the tempted ones of this passage are "drawn away" by their lust. By saying that "Jesus was tempted like James 1:13-15," brother Moore teaches that Jesus was "drawn away" by His lust. Such teaching attacks the very nature of God. It attributes sinful desires to Jesus. Elmer Moore needs to find at least one verse of scripture that teaches that Jesus was "drawn away" by his own lust and enticed. Such a passage does not exist. In the absence of such a verse, there is no logical or conceivable way that one can argue that Jesus was tempted in the manner of James 1:14.
Brother Moore and others argue that the "lusts" of James 1:14 are "normal and neutral lusts." Obviously, James disagrees with them. The temptations James referred to in James 1:14 were not "neutral," for James tells us that these tempted people were "drawn away" by their lusts. Only inordinate lusts lead to sin. These were sinful desires, for temptation is never said to "draw" people "away" from doing evil into doing good. People are drawn away from what is right. Wholesome, natural desires must be converted into evil desires in order for sin to be produced. A gap must be bridged between lawful desires and unlawful desires, between enticement and desire. The casting of a bait or lure is not all that is necessary to catch a fish. There must be active desire on the part of the fish to take the bait, and become ensnared. James 1:14-15 deals with the bridging of that gap. It addresses the progression of sin from enticement to spiritual death. Jesus does not fit into such a category of temptation. Elmer Moore is wrong when he places Jesus in James 1:14. By doing so, he attributes to Jesus the kind of lusts that draw one away from fellowship with God. The Bible says that the devil "had nothing in Jesus" (Jn. 14:30). It teaches that He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26).
Neo-Gnosticism / Calvinism
The incarnation allowed a divine spirit to dwell or tabernacle in a fleshly body (Jn. 1:14). To deny such is to deny the humanity of Jesus, for both Paul and Peter described their dual nature in this way (2 Cor. 5:4; 2 Pet. 1:13). Jesusí spirit occupied His physical human body in the same way that Paulís and Peterís spirits occupied their bodies. However, there is a difference between Jesusí spirit and human spirits. Zechariah 12:1 tells us that God forms a humanís spirit within him, whereas Jesusí spirit preexisted His physical body (Jn. 8:58; 1:30). Hebrews 10:5 discusses the fulfillment of the Psalm 40 prophecy, telling us that a person of God would enter our sphere of existence by entering a prepared human body. This happened in the great miracle of the incarnation (Matt. 1:18-23).
When men teach that the incarnation changed Godís spirit, making it fallible and susceptible to sin and error, they are guilty of teaching a hybrid form of Gnostic and Calvinistic doctrines. Human flesh is not inherently evil. It is not predisposed to sin and error. It does not overpower oneís spirit or spiritual composition, making the spirit susceptible to sin and error. Those arguing that the fleshly body changed infallible God into a potentially ignorant, vile and fallible man are teaching Calvinistic heresy.
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