The Gospels Are About Christ not Jesus

In my previous post, Is There a Distinction between Jesus and the Christ?, I showed how “Jesus” is found far more often in the gospels than “Christ.” Further, when “Jesus” is used alone without “Christ” in the New Testament, the vast majority of the time this occurs in the gospels.

Yet, the gospels are about Christ, not Jesus.

Wait a minute. The gospels are not about Jesus?

Admittedly, perhaps I am overstating the case, but, yes, the gospels are not about Jesus. They are about Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ, or Jesus who became Christ.

How so?

Well, let’s look at the introduction to each of the gospels.

Matthew 1.1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Oops…that’s not right.

It really says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

As Matthew works through the genealogy of Jesus Christ, he concludes it in Matthew 1.16 by saying, “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”

Then in verse 17, Matthew summarizes the genealogy, saying, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Not the deportation to Babylon to Jesus, but the deportation to Babylon to the Christ.

Finally, in verse 18, Matthew writes, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.”

Throughout the introduction to the gospel of Matthew the emphasis is on the Christ, or Jesus Christ, not Jesus. Although Herod inquires where the Christ was to be born in Matthew 2.4, the early emphasis on Christ in Matthew is all the more striking when we recognize that the word “Christ” does not appear again in Matthew’s gospel until 11.2. There are two more uses of Christ in chapter 16. Then, the gospel closes with a flurry of uses of Christ in chapters 22 through 26.

By emphasizing Christ at the beginning and end of his gospel, Matthew is signaling that he is not writing about Jesus, the son of Mary, or Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus, a carpenter’s son, or Jesus, a great teacher, or Jesus, a prophet, or Jesus, a king, or Jesus, a healer, or any other way we want to describe Jesus. Yes, Jesus was all of those things, and Matthew wrote about many of them. However, Matthew’s gospel is about Jesus the Christ.

The gospel of Mark primarily presents Jesus as a servant. Yet, the very first words of the gospel in Mark 1.1 state, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Like Matthew, Mark’s gospel uses “Christ” in its introduction but doesn’t use the term again until two isolated uses in chapters eight and nine. However, like Matthew, the gospel of Mark closes with a flurry of uses of Christ in chapters 12 through 15. Again, in ancient writings, this sort of bracketing in a story provides important insight into the true subject matter of what is written. This bracketing reveals what is really important, what is being stressed In the case of Mark, the true subject matter of the entire gospel is Christ.

Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke does not use the term “Christ” in the opening sentence of his gospel. Instead, Luke gives a lengthy sort of preamble to the birth of Christ. So, in Luke 2.10-11, when the angel of the Lord announces the Christ’s birth to the shepherds, he says, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Who did Luke say was born?

Not Jesus.

But, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Just before the child Jesus was brought into the temple for purification, “it had been revealed to [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had the Lord’s Christ.” Luke emphasizes that Simeon was not going to see Jesus, a mere child like any other, but the Christ.

Just like Matthew and Mark, after the introduction and birth of Jesus Christ, Luke uses the term “Christ” quite sparingly with just three mentions in chapters three, four, and nine. However, Luke closes his gospel with seven uses  of “Christ” in chapters 20 through 24. Once again we see the bracketing of the entire story of Jesus with the term “Christ” to emphasize exactly who Luke is writing about – the Christ, or Jesus Christ, and not Jesus.

The beginning of John’s gospel, the famous prologue, is one of my favorite portions of the Bible. John begins by telling us about the Word. Everything was made by the Word. In the Word was life. The Word was the true light of all men. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word was the son of God, full of grace and truth.

Who was this Word?

Not Jesus.

Rather, the Word is Jesus Christ.

The conclusion of the prologue, John 1.17, says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received grace and truth through Jesus Christ, and it was the Word that became flesh that was full of grace and truth. Therefore, Jesus Christ and the Word are one and the same.

Unlike the first three gospels, the gospel of John uses the term “Christ” throughout. Instead of introducing the gospel of the Christ, telling the story of Jesus, and closing with the recognition of the Christ, John’s gospel is about the Christ all the way through. I plan to cover why John’s gospel is unlike the others in this respect in a future post.

So, even though “Jesus” is far more prevalent in the gospels than “Christ,” even “Jesus” takes up the bulk of the story of the gospels, the construction of the gospels tells us they are not simply about Jesus. Instead, God’s good news, God’s gospel, is the Christ.

The gospels are about the Christ not Jesus.

Is There a Distinction between Jesus and the Christ?

Jesus Christ has been on my heart and in my mind a lot lately.

You might be saying to yourself, “Of course he is. You are a Christian. And, you write a blog about seeing Jesus Christ in the Bible.”

But, that is not what I mean.

Christians are very accustomed to saying “Jesus Christ” without truly thinking about what they are saying. As the cliche goes, Christ is not the last name of Jesus. At the very least, Christ is the title, the office, of Jesus. In reality, Christ is something much more than that.

Therefore, when I say that Jesus Christ, or, more clearly, Jesus the Christ, has been on my heart and mind a lot lately, I mean to say I have been meditating quite a bit on the difference Jesus and the Christ. In meditating on the distinction between Jesus and the Christ, I have come to understand that this distinction is important and significantly affects how we worship and trust God in our daily lives.

So, in this post and the ones following (I don’t know how many), I’m going to write about my meditations on the distinction between Jesus and the Christ.

I take lots of long walks, and these meditations started on those long walks with the simple question “Do the New Testament writers use the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ with different frequencies?” Based on the many times I have read through the Bible the last 10 years, I suspected the answer was yes, but I did not know for sure. And, if the answer was yes, then what does the different usage of “Jesus” and “Christ” by the New Testament writers mean for me and you?

Not only was my suspicion correct that the New Testament writers use “Jesus” and “Christ” in different frequencies, there is a staggering difference in the usage of the two words between the four gospels and Acts (hereafter “gospels”) and the rest of the New Testament (hereafter “the letters”).

Based on my best effort to count the uses in Greek, the word “Jesus” appears 909 times in the New Testament. Of these, “Jesus” is used 632 times in the gospels and 277 times in the letters. Therefore, 70% of the uses of “Jesus” are in the gospels while just 30% of the uses of “Jesus” are in the letters.

The word “Christ” appears 529 times in the New Testament. Of these, “Christ” is used just 79 times in the gospels. But, in the letters, “Christ” is used a whopping 450 times. Therefore, only 15% of the uses of “Christ” are in the gospels while an overwhelming 85% of the uses of “Christ” are in the letters.

Notice how the gospels and the letters make use of “Jesus” and “Christ” in almost exactly the opposite proportions. The gospels are very much focused on Jesus while the letters are very much focused on Christ.

Of course, the words “Jesus” and “Christ” often appear together in the New Testament as either Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. So, the above analysis becomes more interesting when we consider how often “Jesus” appears on its own in the gospels and the letters.

OF the 909 times, “Jesus” is used in the New Testament it is used alone, that is, without Christ, 693 times. “Jesus” alone is primarily found in the gospels. In fact, 88% of the uses of “Jesus” without Christ occur in the gospels. So, in the letters we find “Jesus” alone just 12% of the time.

These numbers are virtually flipped if we consider the use of “Christ” alone. Of the 529 times “Christ” is used, it is used on its own 313 times. Just 19% of the uses of “Christ” without “Jesus” are found in the gospels while the other 81% are found in the letters.

Instead of looking at the use of “Jesus” and “Christ” across the New Testament, we could look at the use of the two words within the gospels and within the letters.

In the gospels, “Jesus” is used 632 times. Of these 632 uses, “Jesus” is used without “Christ” 612 times, which means that 97% of the time in the gospels the “Jesus” is used without the “Christ.” That means the phrase “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus” makes up just 3% of the uses of the word “Jesus” in the gospels. However, in the letters, “Jesus” is used 277 times. But, “Jesus” is found alone just 81 times, or a mere 29%. In the letters, if we find “Jesus” we are far more likely to find “Christ” attached.

While the gospels are dominated by “Jesus,” eight out of the 22 books of the letters never use the word “Jesus.” A number of those do mention “Christ” either, but it is noticeable that “Jesus” disappears from many writings outside the gospels.

It’s not the case that the gospels were written first therefore they focus more on Jesus while the understanding of Christ developed later and therefore the letters contain more of Christ and less of Jesus. In fact, most of the letters were written before the gospels.

So, the gospels are about a particular man, Jesus, that the disciples lived three years with. But, the gospels rarely mention Christ even though by the time they were written the gospel writers would have had plenty of time to reflect on “Christ.” It would have been possible for them to mention Jesus as the Christ, or Jesus Christ, for more frequently like the letters.

The letters, even though they were written before the gospels, make far more mention of Christ of Jesus Christ than the gospels. Seemingly, the gospels are no longer about this particular man, Jesus, that the disciples lived with for three years. Rather, the letters are about someone the same as Jesus but distinct from Jesus.

What happened to cause such distinction in the use of “Jesus” and “Christ” within the books of the New Testament?

The simple answer is the eventual identification of Jesus as the Christ, which Peter makes before the crucifixion. In Luke 24, Jesus specifically says that it was necessary for the Christ, not Jesus, to suffer and rise from the dead to enter his glory.

And, the distinction in use between “Jesus” and “Christ” begs the question “Why?”

What happened to Jesus for him to be known as the Christ and why it matters to us will be the subjects of future posts.

Can White Christians Count All that America Was and Is as Loss?

It is the fourth of July.

For many Americans, it is a day to worship the greatness of America.

Somewhat surprisingly, for many Christians it is also a day to worship the greatness of America. Although, most will deny that what they do this day and what the feel about America every day is an act of worship.

On this day (as well as the Sunday before or the Sunday after in their church services), many Christians will worship America’s independence, freedom, democracy, capitalism, wealth, rule of law, flag, and, maybe most of all, the military.

Therefore, there is probably no better day to meditate on the words of Paul in Philippians 3.3-9.

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

To worship America and all that it was and is is to put confidence in the flesh. All the things I listed above are things deemed to be advantages of being American. They are things that Americans glory in. But, Paul says we are to glory in Christ.

Paul counted every advantage and privilege he had as loss. The Greek word has the idea that these things should now be counted as a disadvantage, something to be penalized or punished for.

Further, Paul goes on to say he counts all these things as rubbish. The Greek word also means dung or excrement. We could take Paul as saying he counted every privilege he had as s***.

Therefore, can you, like Paul, count everything that is worshiped about America on the fourth of July as loss, rubbish, dung, excrement, s***?

Can you spend the day typically wrapped in extreme pride, patriotism, and nationalism reflecting on your privileges and advantages while reckoning them as things that are worthless and a pile of dung?

To imitate Paul in counting our privileges as loss and dung is really to imitate Jesus. Paul’s list of advantages or privileges that he counts as loss mirrors what Paul wrote about Jesus earlier in the letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2.5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. In other words, he counted every privilege and advantage of being God as loss and rubbish so that he could become a man. But, not just any man. A servant.

But, why do I specifically call out white Christians in the title of this post to count all that America was and is as loss?

Because more than anything else, whiteness is what has been worshiped in America.

Because the foundation of America was white. And, although not as obvious, the foundation of America is still white.

Blacks, native Americans, and other people of color did not, and do not, have the same benefits and privileges as whites in America.

So, many of the things Paul lists about himself can be equated to being white in America. Whites were the special people. The group, or tribe, of people set apart in America. Whites have certainly had the zeal to persecute blacks and native Americans throughout America’s history in addition to communists, Muslims, and Arabs more recently. And all the while whites have deemed themselves blameless.

To be white is the greatest privilege there is in America. Therefore, more than anything else, whites should count their whiteness and all the advantages and privileges that come with it as loss, rubbish, dung, excrement, s***.

According to Paul, it is necessary to count our supreme advantage as loss and rubbish so that we may gain Christ and be found in him. This is how Paul was able to be all things to all people that he might save some. This is how Paul, in imitation of Jesus, was able to identify with the other, the stranger, and the foreigner. This is how Paul was able to love all people.

For whites, counting whiteness as loss and rubbish is the way to be ministers of reconciliation in this land. It is the way to understanding the thoughts and feelings of many blacks and Native Americans regarding the 4th of July. Because their thoughts and feelings are often quite different about the fourth of July than the thoughts and feelings of whites.

Frederick Douglas said, “What, to the American slave, is your fourth of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” Yes, that quote is from a long time ago, but many blacks still feel the same way today.

The Declaration of Independence, shortly after it declared all men were created equal, stated, “He [the king of England] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Yep, the Declaration of Independence, the document of July 4, 1776, called native Americans savages.

Mark Charles, a native American, wrote about this in “The Dilemma of the Fourth of July” on www.nativenewsonline.net. He wrote:

“If the poster [of the Declaration in a restaurant he and his wife were eating in] had labeled any other group of people as “savage”, or if the source of the words was anything else besides one of our country’s founding documents, the restaurant in question would have long ago been sued and the parties responsible for hanging the poster most likely disciplined. But because the targeted group was Natives, the source was the Declaration of Independence and the responsibility for hanging the poster belonged to the restaurant’s national corporate offices; not only is the poster still hanging today, but on July 4th the entire nation will celebrate the message of this poster and the signing of this Declaration. For we have declared it a national holiday complete with fireworks, parades and speeches.

This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings.”

And there are many other native American voices just like this one.

To truly hear these voices and to bring healing to our land, what better day for Christians than the fourth of July to count all our advantages and privileges, particularly our whiteness, as loss and rubbish.

What Is the Meaning of Psalm 119?

What is the meaning of Psalm 119?

If you peruse the first page of Google results, then you will come to the common understanding that Psalm 119 is about God’s word. For most modern day Christians, if the psalm is about God’s word, then that means Psalm 119 is ultimately about the Bible. Therefore, you often find statements like the following to explain the meaning of Psalm 119.

  1. The Bible, the word of God, is all sufficient.
  2. The truth of the Bible, God’s word, is reliable.
  3. God’s character is reflected through the Bible, his word.
  4. The Bible, God’s word, is authoritative.

Matthew Henry, who’s Bible commentary is exhaustive and found everywhere, said, “The general scope and design of this psalm is to magnify the Divine law and make it honourable.” For most modern day Christians, Divine law comes from the Old Testament, specifically the ten commandments. The law is often equated with Torah. We commonly think of Torah as law, but it is better thought of as the teaching of parents to their children.

In almost every verse of Psalm 119, there is a synonym for Torah. Roughly, there are ten different terms referring to Torah or the word of God throughout the psalm – law, way, testimonies, commandments, precepts, word, judgments, righteousness, statutes, and truth/faithfulness. Depending on your translation, you will also see the word ordinances.

According to Matthew Henry, Psalm 119 is an extended prayer or meditation that declares 1) Torah is to be held up as a source of blessing and right conduct and 2) the writer is dedicating himself to Torah. Today, this gets translated to the idea that the Old Testament, God’s law, more specifically the ten commandments, is a source of blessing and right conduct and we should dedicate ourselves to keeping the law, the ten commandments, and everything God said in the Old Testament.

But, as I read through Psalm 119 the other day, the Spirit showed me another way to read and understand the psalm. To read the psalm as the Spirit revealed to me requires two key points of understanding.

First, the Bible is not God’s word. Rather, Jesus is God’s word. My previous post, Do You Believe the Bible is God’s Word?, details my thinking on this. So, I will not rehash it here. Therefore, whenever we read “word” in Psalm 119 we should not think about the Old Testament or the Bible. Instead, we should think Jesus.

Second, 1 John 4.8 and both say, “God is love.” Note that nowhere in scripture does it say “God is law.”

Further, Matthew 22.35-40 says, “And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” Luke 10.25-28 records virtually the same exact exchange.

What is Jesus saying?

All of the law, the ten commandments, the Old Testament, and the Torah can be summed up in just one word – love! Love for God and love for neighbor are the only two commandments that Jesus ever gave. Amazingly, Jesus gave us two commandments and neither of them are from the ten commandments that Moses gave. (So instead of Christians posting the ten commandments in courthouses, schoolrooms and elsewhere, shouldn’t Christians simply post Jesus’ two commandments to love God and love neighbor as yourself?) Therefore, whenever we read one of those ten synonyms mentioned above in Psalm 119 for God’s word, law, or Torah, our minds should immediately turn to love.

Further, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way of Jesus, the way of God, is love. You can see how I understand the way is love in my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus. So, whenever see the word way in Psalm 119, our minds should turn to love.

The idea that love is the way tells us something about the false way and mentioned several times in Psalm 119 and the wicked and insolent who take it. 1 John 4.18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Love casts out fear. When our way is motivated by love, fear cannot be a possible motivation for us. But, when we are not perfected by love, we are moving in the false way. Then, our actions are motivated by the false way of fear. Ultimately, it is fear that prevents us from loving God, ourselves, and our neighbor. Therefore, when we read “the false way” in Psalm 119 we can substitute fear.

As the Spirit showed me where to substitute Jesus, love, and fear into Psalm 119, I was overwhelmed with the length, height, breadth, and depth of God’s love. Below is the entirety of Psalm 119 as the Spirit revealed it to me. Read it and see how overwhelming and all-encompassing God’s love is.

Psalm 119

Blessed are those who love is blameless, who walk in the love of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his love, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do not fear, but walk in his love! You have commanded your love to be kept diligently. Oh that my love may be steadfast in your keeping your love! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all of your love. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous love. I will keep your love; do not utterly forsake me!

How can a young man keep his love pure? By guarding it according to your love. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your love! I have stored Jesus Christ in my heart, that I might not fear you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your love! With my lips I declare all the love of your mouth. In the love of your love I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your love and fix my eyes on your love. I will delight in your love; I will not forget Jesus Christ.

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your love. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your love. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your love from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your love at all times. You rebuke the fearful ones, who wander from your love. Take away from me fear, for I have kept your love. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your love. Your love is my delight; love is my counselor.

My soul clings to fear; give me life according to Jesus Christ! When I told of my fear, you answered me; teach me your love! Make me understand the love of your love, and I will meditate on your wondrous love. My soul melts away for fear; strengthen me according to Jesus Christ! Put fear far from me and graciously teach me your love! I have chosen the way of love; I set your love before me. I cling to your love, O Lord; let me not be put to fear! I will run in the love of your love when you enlarge my heart!

Teach me, O Lord, the love of your love; and I will keep love to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your love and observe love with my whole heart. Lead me in the love of your love, for I delight in love. Incline my heart to your love, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your love. Confirm to your servant life, that you may be held in awe. Turn away the fear that I dread, for your love is good. Behold, I long for your love; in your love give me life!

Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your life; then I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in Jesus Christ. And take not Jesus Christ utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your love. I will keep your love continually, forever and ever, and I shall love in a wide place, for I have sought your love. I will also speak of your love before kings and shall not be put to fear, for I find my delight in your love, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your love, which I love, and I will meditate on your love.

Remember Jesus Christ to your servant, in whom you have made me hope. He is my comfort in my fear, that your life gives me life. The fearful utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your love. When I think of your love from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. How fear seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your love. Your love has been my song in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your love. This blessing has fallen to me, that I kept your love.

The Lord is my portion, I promise to keep your love. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your life. When I think on my fears, I turn my feet to your love; I hasten and do not delay to keep your love. Though the cords of the fearful ensnare me, I do not forget your love. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous love. I am a companion of all who are in awe of you, of those who keep your love. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your love.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ. Teach me love and knowledge, for I believe in your love. Before I was afflicted I feared, but now I keep your love. You are good and do good; teach me your love. The fearful smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your love; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your love. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your love. The love of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your love. Those who are in awe of you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in Jesus Christ. I know, O Lord, that your love is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your life to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your love is my delight. Let the fearful be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your love. Let those who are in awe of you turn to me, that they may know your love. May my heart be blameless in your love, that I may not be put to fear!

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes long for your life; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your love. How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me? The fearful have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your love. All your love is sure; the fearful persecute me with falsehood; help me! The fearful have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your love. In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the love of your mouth.

Forever, O Lord, Jesus Christ is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your love endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your love had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your love, for by your love you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your love. The fearful lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your love. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your love is exceedingly broad.

Oh how I love your love! It is my meditation all the day. Your love makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your love is my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your love. I hold back my feet from every fearful way, in order to keep Jesus Christ. I do not turn aside from your love, for you have taught me. How sweet is Jesus Christ to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your love I get understanding; therefore I hate every fearful way.

Jesus Christ is a lamp to my feet and a light to my love. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous love. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your love. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your love. The fearful have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your love. Your love is my heritage forever, for your love is the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your love forever, to the end.

I hate fearfulness, but I love your love. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Jesus Christ. Depart from me, you fearful, that I may keep the love of my God. Uphold me according to your life, that I may live, and let me not be put to fear in Jesus Christ! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your love continually! You spurn all who are fearful from your love, for their cunning is in vain. All the fearful of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your love. My flesh trembles for awe of you, and I am in awe of your love.

I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the fearful oppress me. My eyes long for salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous life. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your love. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your love! It is time for the Lord to act, for your love has been broken. Therefore I love your love above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I consider all your love to be right; I hate every fearful way.

Your love is wonderful; therefore my soul keeps your love. The unfolding of Jesus Christ gives light; he imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your love. Turn to me and be gracious me, as is your love with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your life, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your love. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your love. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your love.

Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your love. You have appointed your love in righteousness and in faithfulness. My zeal consumers me, because my foes forget Jesus Christ. Your life is well tried, and your servant loves it. I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your love. Your love is righteous forever, and your love is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your love is my delight. Your love is righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your love. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your love. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your life. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your love give me life. The fearful draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; the fearful are far from your love. But you are near, O Lord, and all your love is true. Long have I known from your love that you have founded love forever.

Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your love. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your life! Salvation is far from the fearful, for the fearful do not seek your love. Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your love. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your love. I look at the fearful with disgust, because they do not keep your love. The sum of Jesus Christ is truth, and every bit of your love ensures forever.

Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Jesus Christ. I rejoice at Jesus Christ like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor fear, but I love your love. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous love. Great peace have those who love your love; nothing can make them fear. I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your love. My soul keeps your love; I love it exceedingly. I keep your love, for all my fears are before you.

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to Jesus Christ! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to Jesus Christ. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your love. My tongue will sing of Jesus Christ, for all your love is right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your love. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your love is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your love help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your love.

Do You Believe the Bible Is the Word of God?

Do you the believe the Bible is “the word of God?”

I don’t.

I believe holding the Bible as “the word of God” is a very subtle form of idolatry. because we are putting a book before the actual Word of God, Jesus Christ. Anything we put before God, before Jesus, becomes an idol. And, idolatry is not worship in spirit and in truth.

Let me show you what I mean.

“In the beginning was THE BIBLE, and the THE BIBLE was with God, and THE BIBLE was God.” – John 1:1

Is that what it is says?

No.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. HE (a person) was in the beginning with God.”

So, the Word of God is a he, a person.

“And THE BIBLE continued to increase.” – Acts 6:7

“But THE BIBLE increased and multiplied.” – Acts 12:24

“And THE BIBLE was spreading throughout the whole region.” – Acts 13:49

“So THE BIBLE continued to increase and prevail mightily.” – Acts 18:20

Is that what any of these scriptures say?

No.

They all the say the “word of God” or the “word of the Lord.” Clearly, the Bible is not what Luke has in mind. Jesus Christ, the word of God, continued to increase, multiply, spread and prevail. I only picked the most obvious scriptures in Acts to show you this. Once you have seen the most obvious ones, it’s easier to see all the others refer to Jesus too.

“But it is not as though THE BIBLE has failed.” – Romans 9:6

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through THE BIBLE.” Romans 10:17

Is that what Paul means in these verses?

No.

It’s the word of God, the word of Christ, Jesus Christ, that has not failed and through whom faith comes by hearing.

“Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make THE BIBLE fully known.” – Colossians 1:25

Is the Bible what Paul came to make known?

No.

Paul came to preach Jesus Christ, the word of God, and him crucified. He said that was all he wanted to know among us.

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received THE BIBLE, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what is really is, THE BIBLE, which is at work in you believers.” – 1 Thessalonions 1:13

Is Paul saying these people received the Bible and the Bible is at work in them?

No.

Ironically, the Bible is the word of men, although inspired by God. So, of course Paul wasn’t constantly in thanks that people had received the Bible. The Bible didn’t even exist at that time, nor could many even afford a copy of the scriptures or read them. They received the word of God, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is at work in them.

“But the THE BIBLE is not bound.” – 2 Timothy 2:9

Is the Bible bound?

Why, yes it is.

The end of Revelation says that we should add nothing to or take anything away from the book. No one is adding to the Bible anymore. It is bound. But, the word of God, Jesus Christ, is not bound. We saw in Acts that he is increasing, spreading, multiplying, prevailing. And the gospel of John says that if every act of Jesus were to be recorded all the books in the world could not contain them.

“For THE BIBLE is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from HIS (a person) sight.” – Hebrews 4:12-13

Is the Bible living and active?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, is living and active. He divides soul from spirit within us. No creature is hidden from HIS sight. The Bible is not looking into the heart of every creature.

“By faith we understand that the universe was made by THE BIBLE, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” – Hebrew 11:3

Did the Bible make the universe?

No.

Is the Bible invisible?

No.

The Bible did not make the universe. Yes, the Bible is visible. Therefore, it could not have been the invisible thing that made the things that are seen.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, made the universe. Read John 1 and Colossians 1.

“Since you have been born again, not of persihable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding BIBLE.” – 1 Peter 1:23

Are you born again by the Bible?

No.

Is the Bible the imperishable seed that was planted in the ground to bring new life?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, is the grain of wheat, the imperishable seed, planted in the ground that sprang up to new life. (John 12:24) Jesus Christ is the living and abiding word of God.

“And the earth was formed out of water and through the water by THE BIBLE.” – 2 Peter 3:5

Did the Bible form the earth?

No.

The word of God, Jesus Christ, formed the earth. He made everything.

These are just the most obvious places where the word of God is clearly not the Bible. The word of God is Jesus Christ, a person. But, once you have seen the obvious places, you will be able to see Jesus as “the word” in all the other places too.

When you see that in the New Testament, then you should do a study in the Old Testament on “the word of the Lord.” You will notice that many of the uses of that phrase refer to a person.

The Bible calls itself not the word of God but the scriptures. And, so does Jesus.

Jesus said in John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Like the Jews Jesus was speaking to, you can search the scriptures all you want to find life. But, you won’t find life in the scriptures. The scriptures, the Bible, is simply a witness to Jesus, the true word of God, true life. We have to go to him for life. In fact, we can’t even understand the scriptures without his life, the Holy Spirit, in us and teaching us. The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance everything that Jesus said. The Holy Spirit takes the dead letters and brings them to life (2 Corinthians 3).

Throughout scripture, God states that he wants people to listen to his voice, his word, Jesus Christ. He never stated that he wanted people to listen to a written book.

I posted the above on Facebook more than one year ago. The following is my reply to a comment on my Facebook post. The comment stated that there was a difference between “the word of God incarnate” and “the word of God written.”

Let’s assume that trusted theologians for centuries have made the distinction between “the word of God incarnate” and “the word of God written.” Assuming that, I would respectfully disagree with them.

For the obvious reason that no one knew the word of God was Jesus until he came, I can only compare what the New Testament says about, as you say, “the word of God incarnate” and the “word of God written.”

I already showed in my post that the New Testament says the “word of God” is a person, Jesus Christ. Also, I said in my post that God has always desired a people that would listen to his voice. It is a voice that speaks or proclaims a word. Voices are listened to and heard, hence Jesus’ statement that those who knew him would know his voice.

The exact phrase “word of God” appears 44 times in the Bible.

Of those, 9 times the “word of God” was heard (Luke 5:1, 5:21, 11:28, John 8:47, Acts 13:5), received (Acts 8:14, 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:13), or accepted (1 Thessalonians 2:13). I included received and accepted because the vast majority of anyone at that time would have received or accepted whatever the word of God is by hearing as they could not read.

Of those, 8 times the “word of God” was taught (Acts 18:11), proclaimed (Acts 13:5, Acts 17:13), preached (Acts 6:2), spoken (Acts 4:31, Acts 13:46, Hebrews 13:7) or uttered (John 3:34).

Therefore, if just over one-third of the uses of the exact phrase “word of God” are used in the context of hearing or speaking. then God wants us to hear his voice.

So, what about the “word of God written?”

Is that even a thing?

Well, what does the Bible say about itself?

Over and over, the Bible refers to what is written as the scriptures. The word scripture(s) is used 51 times.

Of those, 3 times the scripture is specifically referred to as being read. Not one time is the “word of God” referred to as being read.

Of those, 27 times the scripture is mentioned in the context of being fulfilled or believed. Therefore, more than half the uses of “scripture,” what is written, are to show that the true “word of God,” Jesus, fulfilled what had been written. In this way, what was written, the scripture, is a shadow of the reality, the true word of God, Jesus Christ. The scriptures are no more the word of God than any of the other Old Testament types and shadows – Joseph, Joshua, the offerings, the tabernacle, etc. – are the word of God in some other form. Just like all the types and shadows in the Old Testament, the scriptures are a witness to Jesus Christ, the word of God.

Of those, 8 times the scriptures are mentioned in the context of searching/examining or reasoning/showing/encouraging. The scriptures were used, not to prove that they were the word of God, but to prove that Jesus Christ indeed is the word of God.

Of those, 3 times Jesus is said to interpret or open the scriptures. Jesus took what was written and translated it into the actual word of God for the disciples. He showed them where he, the word of God, was (and wasn’t) in the scriptures.

The scriptures, the Bible, never call themselves the word of God

Muddling the word of God, Jesus Christ, with the scriptures, the Bible, the written word, is actually what calls the whole thing into question and has people confused.

In some manner, Jesus Christ did pit himself against the scriptures, what was written. In the sermon on mount, he repeatedly said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” Also, look through the gospels and you will see that Jesus never called the Law “his law” or “his Father’s law.” He almost always said “your law” or “their law.”

You mention Moses and the prophets speaking the “word of God.” Yes, they did. But, they had a veiled view of God. They did not see him clearly. Therefore, they could not write about him clearly. This is why Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 about God raising up another prophet, Jesus Christ, that Israel would listen to (not read, and isn’t interesting that we don’t have a single thing written from the most important person in the world).

But, Jesus himself said that John the Baptist was the greatest man of the old covenant, but even he was the least in the kingdom of God.

Why?

Because he was not born again, filled, by the Holy Spirit the way we are. This is important because 2 Timothy 3:16 says that scripture is God-breathed. But, do you know what else is God-breathed? Every person is filled with the Holy Spirit, God-breathed as it were. Each human being is as inspired as the scriptures. Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 that we are living letters as opposed to the dead letters of the old covenant scriptures that can only point to life when read by the Spirit within us.

Something that is God-breathed contains the Spirit, but it is clearly not the Spirit. Just as the Bible witnesses to, or contains, Jesus, but it is not the Word of God. Without this understanding we get a lot of twisted ideas about God and Jesus.

As for making the book less “sacred,” or less important, you know me better than that. Writing about the Bible every day for an entire year, as I have on this blog, cannot be considered making the book less sacred or less important.

But, we need a right understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. We need to put the Bible and Jesus Christ in their rightful places.

What Are the Two Trees in the Garden of Eden Really About?

A tree of life. And, a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man could eat from the first but not the second. And, if man ate from the second tree, then he would die.

The names of these two trees have caused a lot of confusion.

The tree of life does not symbolize living forever. In other words, if you eat the fruit of the tree of life that you doesn’t mean you will achieve some sort of immortality and live forever.

As for the other tree, what’s the problem with having a knowledge of whether or not a thing is good or evil? Why would knowing if something is good or evil lead to my dying? Isn’t a knowledge a good thing? But, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil isn’t about actual knowledge.

So, if what seems to be the common understanding of the symbolism of these two trees is not really what these two trees represent, then just exactly what are the two trees in the middle of the garden of Eden all about?

We could say that the middle of the garden was the heart of the garden. Therefore, these trees represent two ways of living from the heart.

What are the two ways of living from the heart that the trees represent?

Study the Bible long enough and you will find that it equates life with wisdom. Life, eternal life, does not mean living forever and ever and ever. Rather, it means living with true wisdom. The tree of life is the tree of wisdom.

At its root, wisdom is knowledge applied to a specific situation that brings about the best possible outcome for all. This requires discernment. Therefore, we could think of the tree of life as the tree of discernment.

Wisdom and discernment imply that there are gray areas to life. Gray areas require contemplative thought to discern the best solution to the situation or problem at hand.

Also, if you study the Bible long enough you will find that the simple adherence to rules and laws lead to death. Merely following rules and laws requires no thought and no wisdom. This leads to death, not in the sense that you are eternally dead forever and ever, but in the sense that you have arrived at the worst possible outcome for all involved.

Therefore, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents the opposite of wisdom and discernment, which is judgement. In the Bible, judgment means to decide something ahead of time as always good or always bad.

While the tree of life symbolizes living in the gray areas of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents living as if everything is black and white. This tree symbolizes a dualistic way of thinking in which everything resides in either the good or the bad all the time without ever thinking about particular situations.

For example, heterosexuality is good and homosexuality is evil. Always.

This is how most Christians think. But, this is to live by judgment and discernment. This is to live by black and white rules instead of the gray of wisdom.

How so?

Is homosexuality always evil? If it is a practice used to worship a god or gods falsely, then yes it is evil. If it is a practice of sexual debauchery, which the mainstream seems to equate it with, then yes it is evil. But, what if it is two people committed to a loving relationship where the highest good is truly sought for both people through self-sacrificial love? Then homosexuality would be good.

Now consider heterosexuality. Is it always good? Well, if it is two people committed to a loving relationship where the highest good is truly sought for both people through self-sacrificial love, then it is good. But, what if the heterosexuality is a man raping a woman? That’s clearly evil.

The same kind of argument could be used for white and black people. Throughout history white people have been judged good and black people have been judged evil. Clearly, this is not true though. Sometimes white people are good and sometimes white people are evil. The same is true of black people.

Or, what about communism and democracy? One system is not always good and the other always evil. It depends.

Or, what about individual people? An individual is not always good or always evil. Each individual does some good things and some evil things.

What is good and evil cannot be determined by an a priori judgment. It requires discernment.

The life of Jesus in the gospels shows us just this distinction. Jesus lived by wisdom or discernment. Jesus lived in the gray areas. Jesus did not live by judgment. He did not live by the knowledge of good and evil. He did not live by the letter of the law as if something was always good or always evil.

Consider Jesus’ handling of the situation of the woman caught in the act of adultery. According to the law, the woman should have been stoned to death. It’s obvious adultery is evil, right? But, not in this particular case for Jesus. In this case, Jesus discerned that this woman was suffering under a patriarchal culture that made the woman the scapegoat. For, why wasn’t the man she was caught in the adulterous act also brought to Jesus?

Consider the time Jesus and the disciples ate the grain from the field on the Sabbath. That was clearly against the law and therefore evil. But, Jesus used discernment and pointed out that they were hungry. It would be better to feed a hungry person than let them starve because of a rule.

Or, how about when Jesus asked those in the synagogue if a man’s withered hand should be healed on the Sabbath? Working on the Sabbath was deemed to be always evil. But, Jesus showed that if you were actually doing something good, like healing someone, then it was okay to work on the Sabbath.

The nature of the questions Jesus was asked in the gospels often set up the distinction between wisdom or discernment and judgment. They often contrast gray versus black-and-white thinking.

Which is the greatest commandment?

One rule has to be better and more important than other. Surely, the questioner expected Jesus to pick on of the ten commandments. But, Jesus quoted two “commandments” that weren’t even part of the ten commandments. And, both of Jesus’ commandments were about love. Love requires wisdom and discernment not judgment. Is it loving to give someone $100? It depends, doesn’t it? Is it better to give someone a hug or a stern word? They both can be love in the right situation. It depends.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?

The expected answer was yes or no. Paying taxes to Caesar is either good or evil. Tell us which one Jesus. Jesus answers without answering. He doesn’t give a black and white answer. Instead render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. If think that is clear, black and white, easy to apply, then please tell me in exactly every situation if I should pay taxes or not.

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?

The very nature of the question is begging for a black and white answer. But, Jesus does not give one. Read Jesus’ answer and you will quickly see that it creates quite a bit of confusion among the disciples and still does today.

I think the following quote from The Wisdom of the Enneagram really sums up the difference between the two trees, between discernment and judgment.

What we “are actually seeking is not judgment but the quality of discernment. Discernment is noticing that things have different qualities. Judgment, however, includes an emotional reaction that actually interferes with discernment. It is one thing to say that a carpet is a different color from the wall. It is another thing to say that one is better, more important, or more righteous than the other. In other words, a witness and judge are not the same thing. Discernment requires us to be a witness.

“Note that we are not talking about situation ethics or ethical relativism but about the ability to see that as situations and facts change, so does what can be expected as a best outcome for them. Wisdom allows us to see reality exactly as it is, not as we wish it to be. Wisdom does not ignore right and wrong or deny that there are better or worse choices a person might have made. Rather, wisdom looks at the choices that have been made, at the situation in which we find ourselves now, and considers the best possible thing to do. Wisdom always sees what is truly necessary and for the best – although it can only arise in the present moment and spring forth from an absence of preconceived values, opinions, and judgments. Even if we have created some kind of hell for ourselves, wisdom can show us a way out – if we are willing to suspend judgment about what we “should” do, or how we “must” respond.”

I find this to be a succinct and beautiful summary of what Jesus lived and taught. It captures the essence of living by the tree of life and not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Empire Takes Your Breath Away

In my previous post, What Is God’s Breath?, I wrote of the three times God clearly breathes into something in scripture. When God breathes into something he breathes in light, love, and life.

While we read of God breathing into things, we read something very interesting about the queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10. “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.” (1 Kings 10,4-5)

“There was no more breath in her.” The queen of Sheba lost her breath.

What does it mean that the queen of Sheba lost her breath?

Previously, I simply thought it meant that she was really, really impressed with Solomon. But, this time as I read the passage with the understanding that God breathes in light, love, and life, I thought that perhaps the opposite happened to the queen of Sheba in this passage. Perhaps when she had no more breath in her she lost the light, love, and life that she had. Perhaps the queen of Sheba died. Not physically, but spiritually.

What took the queen of Sheba’s breath away?

Solomon’s kingdom.

Or, we could more generally say empire.

Empire took away the queen of Sheba’s breath. Empire stole the light, love, and life that the queen of Sheba had.

We typically think of how great and awesome Solomon’s kingdom was. Gold was so prevalent that everything Solomon drank from was made of it. Silver, arguably the second most precious metal to man, was counted as nothing. We think of Solomon’s kingdom as the height of Israel.

But, scripture tells us that Solomon enslaved thousands of people to build his empire. Scripture also tells us that Solomon traded in Egyptian horses and chariots despite Moses’ laws that the kings of Israel should not do that. In other words, Solomon traded in, and got rich from, the trading of the instruments of war, even though Solomon had a kingdom that was at peace. There was no need for Solomon to get rich from being an arms dealer. This is beginning to sound like any other empire we would know.

There is also something else very interesting about Solomon’s kingdom. “Now the weight of gold that came so Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold.” (1 Kings 10.14)

In my 20 plus years of being a Christian, I have never heard anyone mention the fact that Solomon received 666 talents of gold in one year. I find this very odd given the fixation on the number 666 in Revelation. Especially since most everyone knows that the book of Revelation draws on imagery from  and connections to the Old Testament repeatedly.

Revelation 13.18 says, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of man, and his number is 666.”

Shouldn’t we at least pause to think how this might connect with Solomon and his empire?

We know that in Revelation John is contrasting the kingdom of God to the Roman empire, the greatest empire of man that the world has ever known. To live in that empire was to live outside the gates of God’s kingdom where there was only light. There was no night, no darkness. Therefore, to live in empire was to live in darkness. As you read through Revelation, you also get the feeling that to live in the Roman empire, or an empire of man, is to also live in fear and death, which are of course are the opposites of love and life.

So, when we really think about, Solomon’s kingdom while grand and impressive, was really just another empire like any of man’s empires. And, while the queen of Sheba may have been impressed by it, perhaps because she wished she had an empire just like it, ultimately the desire for that empire took her breath away. Solomon’s empire took away her light, love, and life. It spiritually killed her.

Empire does the same to us. It does not matter if it is the Spanish, the Dutch, the English, or the American empire. Beholding any empire of man will take your breath away. It will spiritually kill you. To worship empire will cause you to lose your light, love, and life. God is trying to breathe light, love, and life into you, but empire will take it away. This is a tale told all the way through scripture.

Sadly, American Christians have succumbed to the worship of the American empire to a significant degree. They have lost their breath.

What Is God’s Breath?

There are three times in scripture when we are told that God breathed.

  1. “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” – Genesis 2.7
  2. And when he [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” – John 20.22
  3. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3.16

The Bible declares that God breathes. But, we know that God doesn’t literally breathe like we do just like God doesn’t literally have hands or a back as scripture says.

If God doesn’t literally breathe, then what is God’s breath?

In Genesis 2.7, the Hebrew word for breath is neshamah. Strong’s defines this word as a puff, i.e. wind, vital breath, divine inspiration. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew defines neshamah as breath, essential to life and a causative agent for an activity of God.

“A causative agent for an activity of God” is a interesting part of the definition of neshamah as this is exactly the role the Spirit plays in God’s creation of the universe in Genesis 1. “In the beginning, God created…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” In a sense, the Spirit was ready to give birth to the universe. The word for Spirit in Genesis 1.2 is ruah, which has a range of meanings including spirit, breath, or wind.

So, metaphorically we can understand God’s breath as his Spirit. This is why when Jesus breathed on his disciples he told them to receive the Holy Spirit.

God’s Spirit is his essence, his divine nature. So, God’s Spirit is made up of God’s attributes, which Paul says are invisible and known since the foundation of the world in Romans 1.

What are the invisible attributes of God, his Spirit, and therefore his breath?

  1. Life – “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.” – 1 John 5.11-12
  2. Love – “God is love.” – 1 John 4.8 and 16.
  3. Light – “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1.5

Go back to the scriptures that started this post. Three times we are told that God breathed in scripture. And, each one reveals a different invisible attribute of God. Each one reveals a particular aspect of God’s breath, his Spirit, his essence.

Genesis 2.7 says that God breathed his breath into the man’s nostrils and the man became a living being.

God’s breath is life.

In John 20.19-23, Jesus breathed on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. But, notice what Jesus says immediately before he breathed on them. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20.21)

How did the Father send Jesus?

John 3.17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God sent Jesus to save the world, the whole world, the entire universe and everything in it.

How would Jesus save the world?

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4.9-10

Love was made manifest among us when God sent Jesus into the world. And, God sent Jesus into the world that we live through him. And, the love of God was most fully displayed by Jesus on the cross when he died for us.

So, when Jesus told the disciples that he is sending them as the Father sent him, he told them that he was sending in love. Further, he was sending them in love so that they would forgive. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” (John 20.22-23) To forgive the sins of another is to give life to them.

God’s breath is love.

There is much debate about just how to translate 2 Timothy 3.16 and what Paul meant by the word theopneustos, or God-breathed. Whether all scripture is God-breathed or when scripture is God-breathed, the key point at the moment is the result of the breath of God on scripture. If scripture is God-breathed, then it is useful or profitable for certain things – teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Note that teaching, reproof, correction, and training are not life itself. Nor are they love. However, each of them, in their own way, are methods to bring someone who is off course, someone who has erred, back onto the correct path. The correct path, or way, that we are to be on is love. When we deviate from that path, God-breathed scripture is there to put us back on the way of love.

God-breathed scripture illuminates the path or way for us. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Isaiah 51.4 says, “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.”

Jesus said the entire law could be summed up in two commandments – love God and love your neighbor. Love is the law went out from God, or was sent into the world as John says. And, this law, this love, Jesus, was “the light of men” and “the true light, which gives light to everyone.”

Taking all of this together, we could say that God-breathed scripture is light.

God’s breath is light.

God’s breath is his Spirit, his essence, his nature. God’s essence or nature is revealed by his invisible attributes – life, love, light. An inspired reading of scripture reveals exactly this to us in the three passages that God breathes.

God’s breath if life. – Genesis 2.7

God’s breath is love. – John 20.22

God’s breath is light. – 2 Timothy 3.16

Did God Really Say…?

Many Christians read the Bible literally. Therefore, whenever it says “God said…”, these Christians take what follows as the literal words out of God’s mouth. As I blogged through the Bible looking for Jesus last year, I found that even Christians who are moving away from reading the Bible literally still have a hard time understanding passages that say “God said…”

Most Christians struggle with questioning what God supposedly said in the Bible. However, we should ask the question “Did God really say…?” when we realize that men (and perhaps women), just like you and me, wrote the Bible. I think all of us today could find many instances in our lives when we thought we heard God but in retrospect it was our own self that we heard. Therefore, the men (and perhaps women) that wrote the Bible often heard there own their own voices when they thought they heard God.

Asking the question “Did God really say?” is hard for so many people because of their conception of God. He’s all powerful and all knowing. Therefore, if this perfect book says this is what the all powerful and all knowing God said, then that is what he said. The problem is the term God is too nebulous. It is not concrete enough for us.

So, what is a possible solution to make God more concrete so that we can better discern if what God supposedly said in the Bible is something that he would really say?

Simply substitute the word “love” for “God.” We can do this because love is not simply an action that God takes or an emotion that God feels. God is love. Love is God’s very essence, his very being.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, and that God sent his only Son into the world, so that he might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abide in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4.7-16

God is love. This was revealed to us in Jesus Christ when he died for our sins on the cross. This supreme example of God as love is much easier to get one’s mind around than the amorphous, nebulous term God.

So, let’s look at a few examples from the Bible where we replace “God” with “love” and see if we think it is still something that God really said.

“And Love said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” – Genesis 6.13

Does destroying all flesh on the earth sound like the love that Christ displayed on the cross?

“So Moses said, ‘Thus says Love: “About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.”‘” – Exodus 11.4-5

Does killing all the firstborn in a land sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“But Love said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book?'” – Exodus 32.33

Does blotting out sinners, in effect annihilating them from existence, sound like the love that Christ displayed on the cross and in his life?

“And Love said to Moses, ‘The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.'” – Numbers 15.35

Does stoning someone to death sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“And Love said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” – Joshua 11.6

Does killing all the people in a city or land, which is an act of genocide, sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“Moreover, is it without Love that I have come up against this land to destroy it? Love said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.” – Isaiah 36.10

Does destroying an entire land really sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

In addition to what God supposedly said, we replace “love” for “God” in passages that claim God did or will do certain acts to see if those reported acts are really something God would do.

“Love will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. Love will make the pestilence stick t you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Love will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish. And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. Love will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” – Deuteronomy 28.20-24

Keep reading all of the curses God will supposedly bring on you for disobeying you and ask if yourself if that sounds like the love Christ displayed on the cross.

We could go on and on with verse after verse of things that are attributed to God that make no sense when we think of them coming from love. If you still think love could do these things, then I have to question your understanding of love and your understanding of God, perhaps even your sanity. Frankly, if you love does these things, then it is quite likely you have been brainwashed, which simply means to make someone adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure or a bring controlled by a method of systematic indoctrination. By the way, when being brainwashed, the one thing that system of indoctrination strictly forbids is asking questions such as “Did God really say…?”

To be clear…

God is love.

Love does not kill anyone.

Love does not stone someone to death.

Love does not commit genocide.

Love does not heap curse upon curse upon curse on someone.

God, or Love, does not do many of things mankind claims he does.

What Is God’s Job Function?

Genesis 2.2 says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

But, Jesus told us that the Father never stopped working. In John 5.17, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

So, God works. Therefore, God has a job.

What is God’s job function?

Why is God working?

What is God trying to accomplish with his work.

To put it simply, God’s job function is to bring life out of death.

Everything that God does is focused on this one thing – bringing life out of death. God never brings death to anyone. Only life.

Just look at what Jesus said in John 5.19-29 immediately after he said that Father is working and so is he.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father  loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” – John 5.19-21

The Father gives life to the dead. And so does Jesus. Therefore, Acts 10.38 says, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Matthew 4.23 says, “And he went through all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Mark 1.34 says, “And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” Luke 4.40 says, “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.” Everywhere Jesus went in the gospels he brought life to those that were sick because that is what he saw the Father doing.

Back to John 5.

“For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does honor the Son does honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5.22-24

Here again Jesus stresses that God causes things to move from death to life. This is how God works. Bringing life from death is God’s job function. Jesus says this is the word he is speaking and everyone who hears it will have eternal life. In other words, they will know that God and that his job function is bring life from death.  Later in John 12.49-50, Jesus explicitly stated this when he said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father told me.” Jesus only spoke life because life is the only thing God speaks. God is always calling life out of death.

Back to John 5.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” – John 5.25-29

The hour that was coming that Jesus referred to was his crucifixion. At the crucifixion of Jesus, the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and come to life. All those in the tombs would hear the voice of the Son of God, come out of the tombs and receive the resurrection of life. The Bible, Christian faith, and Christian tradition make clear that if there is anything that reveals God it is the cross, where God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, which is to say bringing life out of death. So, here again we see God’s job function – bringing life out of death.

What else did Jesus say about the hour of his crucifixion?

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12.23-24

So, a seed dies and bears fruit. Life comes out of death. When Jesus died he was like a seed planted in the ground that God brought life out of.

But, what do we know about seeds?

Let’s go all the way back to creation, back to Genesis 1.11-12, which says, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.”

Seeds can only bear according to their kind. That is, seeds can only produce what is inside of them. Nothing else. An apple seed cannot produce an orange tree.

What was in Jesus?

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” – John 5.26

The Father and the Son both have life in them. Life is in their seed. Therefore, they can only produce life. They cannot produce death because then their seed would be producing not according to their own kind but some other kind. The seed must die before it can bear what it is carrying inside of it. So, Jesus, the Son of God, had to die to bring forth life. Again, we are confronted with God’s work and his job function.

In fact, this is the theme of the creation story in Genesis 1. Remember, God was at work when he created.

What did God do?

Genesis 1.2 says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”

What does that mean?

The earth was dead.

But, then God called forth light, water, and land on days one, two, and three. Then, God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation.”

Life.

Then God made the waters to swarm with living creatures and the heavens with birds.

More life.

Then God caused the earth to bring forth living creatures.

More life.

Then God created mankind in his own image.

More life.

Life, more life, more life, and more life. All from a dead earth.

Bring life out of death was what God did in the beginning, what God in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, what God is still doing today, and what God will always be doing.

God brings life and never death.

This what a crucified God reveals to us. Jurgen Moltmann said it this way in The Crucified God:

“The death of Christ cannot only come to fruition in an existentialist interpretation, in the ability of the believer to die in peace, important though that may be. The crucified Christ must be thought of as the origin of creation and the embodiment of the eschatology of being. In the cross of his Son, God took upon himself not only death, so that man might be able to die comforted with the certainty that even death could not separate him from God, but still more, in order to make the crucified Christ the ground of his new creation, in which death itself is swallowed up in the victory of life and there will be ‘no sorrow, no crying, and no more tears.'”

“Like the metaphysics of finite being, the theology of the cross sees all creatures subject to transitoriness and nothingness. But because it does not arise in this context, but sees nothingness itself done away with in the being of God, who in the death of Jesus has revealed himself and constituted himself in nothingness, it changes the general impression of the transitoriness of all things into the prospect of the hope and liberation of all things. ‘For the creation was subjected to nothingness, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope’ (Rom. 8.20). Thus the metaphysical longing of all that is transitory for intransitoriness and of all that is finite for infinity undergoes an eschatological transformation and is taken up into the hope of freedom and the sons of God and the freedom of the new creation that does not pass away. Anyone who says ‘resurrection of the dead’ says ‘God’ (Barth). On the other hand, anyone who says ‘God’ and does not hope for the resurrection of the dead and a new creation from the righteousness of God, has not said ‘God’. What other belief in God can be held by those who are ‘dead’ unless it is ‘resurrection faith’?”

Indeed.

To say that life from death is to say God. That is God’s work and job function.

But, if you say God and cling to hell, eternal conscious torment, eternal burning and suffering, then you are not actual saying God. You are saying death. And, Satan is the one with that power (Hebrews 2.14-15).

We must remember that we all were once dead. Some may even still be dead. But, to proclaim God, to proclaim Christian faith, to proclaim resurrection faith is to say that I once was dead but now I am alive.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2.10

Once again, God brings life to dead. This is his work. It is God’s job function. We, all humankind, are his workmanship, his masterpiece.