No Man Can Serve Two Masters; Ergo, Jesus is God

dope sonThis Sunday, I preached on Mark 1:16-20, detailing just how intricately the doctrine of Jesus’ deity is woven into the text of Scripture. In this post, I want to articulate a very simple, but powerful, proof of the deity of Christ. I’ve found it helpful. I hope you do, too.

1. Absolute Disjunction

In Matthew 6:24, Christ argues the following:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The disjunction here leaves no middle ground: If someone claims to have two masters (in this case, God and Mammon/Money), then he is lying or deceived. This means that it is impossible for a person to have two masters.

But what does it mean to have two masters? In the context of Christ’s argument, the master is the one who exercises control over the thoughts and concerns of the one considered to be a servant. More specifically, Jesus is identifying those who worry about financial concerns as possibly loving and being devoted to money, treating financial concerns as a master. This is what is known as covetousness. And covetousness, Paul tells us, is idolatry (see Gal 3:5b).

So what is really being expressed by Jesus is a universal principle, namely the first commandment. Christ is telling the people that they can either worship the one true God who is aware of their needs and desires for food and clothing, etc, or they can worship money – but they cannot do both. This can be restated as follows:

“You shall have no other gods before [Yahweh].” (Ex 20:3)

So the argument that one cannot serve two masters does not mean that a person cannot have God as their Master, in the ultimate sense, and have a master, in the sense of an owner or boss or earthly authority higher than themselves. Rather, the argument is telling us that one can only be fully devoted in love and service to one God.

2. Jesus is our Ultimate Master

Considering the above exposition of the argument presented by Jesus in Matt 6:24, therefore, the unitarian (e.g. Jehovah’s Witness, Christadelphian, Arian, and so on) faces a problem. For the Scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ is “our only Master and Lord.” (Jude 1:4c) We are also told that Jesus Christ is the Master of earthly slaves/servants and their earthly masters (Eph 6:5-9). And in the parallel passage to Eph 6:5-9, Paul says that we have a Master in heaven (Col 4:1), reminding us that Christ is our one Master. Likewise, Jesus himself says that it is right to call him Master and Lord (in Gr. the text reads διδάσκαλος καί κύριος, or “Teacher/Rabbi and Master”).

If Jesus is not God in the flesh, then his own disjunction in Matt 6:24 renders the Scriptures internally contradictory, for the Scriptures teach that God alone is our Master and that Christ is our only Master. Therefore, if the unitarians are correct in asserting that Jesus Christ is merely a man, then they are implying that the Scriptures are inherently self-contradictory. And this further implies that the Scriptures are false. And this further implies that the Scriptures are not the Word of God, for all that God speaks is true.

Thus, in denying that Christ is God, the unitarian position renders Christ fallible, the Scriptures self-contradictory and false, and thereby calls the entirety of the revelation of God to man in the Bible into question. If Jesus is not God, as the unitarians foolishly assert, then the Bible is not even a reliable source for knowing who God is and what responsibilities man has toward God.

3. Answering an Objection

The unitarian impervious to logic may still hold his ground and confidently shout: “But Jesus is a different kind of Master!” Now, given the fact that Jude calls him our only Master, the unitarian’s outcry is without any merit. But to put the issue to rest, let us consider the following declaration of Jesus to the crowds who claimed to be his servants. He states:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

The words spoken by the Son of God are logically equivalent to a command: “You shall love me with a love that is greater than the love you have for your very parents, spouses, siblings, and children.” If Christ is not God, then he is commanding these followers to sin against God by breaking the fifth commandment (“Honor your father and mother…”). For the Scriptures not only say that man is to honor his father and mother, but that the one who reviles (hates) his father or mother shall be put to death! (Matt 15:4b) Not only this, but if Christ is commanding his followers to love him with a greater love than they have for their very own parents, would he not be a hypocrite for condemning the Pharisees for doing the same thing? (Matt 15:1-9)

Yet the Word of God declares very clearly that Christ “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21) and that he was “without sin” (Heb 4:15b). The unitarians cannot have a sinless savior if they reject the idea that Jesus Christ is God Almighty in the flesh, for they would not only not have an infallible revelation from God (see points 1-2, in conjunction with this point!), they also would have a savior who commands them to sin and so renders himself unfit for the role of being a sinless and perfect sacrifice for the sins of the people of God.

Thus, if the unitarian declares that Scripture is the infallible Word of God, then he must also identify Jesus as God Almighty in the flesh.

Likewise, if the unitarian declares that Jesus Christ is the perfectly sinless substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of God’s people, then he must also declare that Jesus Christ is Almighty God in the flesh.

If he rejects the truth that Jesus Christ is no mere creature but the very incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, then he cannot have any part of the Christian faith whatsoever.

Soli. Deo. Gloria!

-h.

Why Mark Has No Genealogy: Christ as Melchizedek in Mark’s Gospel

Genealogy of JesusIn, and Before, the Beginning…

Mark’s Gospel, along with John’s, does not begin with Jesus Christ’s genealogy, and so stands out from among the Synoptic Gospels. Yet whereas the absence of a genealogy in John’s Gospel contributes to John’s depiction of Christ as the pre-existent Word who became flesh, Mark’s purpose is not as immediately clear to the reader. Some may wish to contest the idea that Mark’s omission of Christ’s genealogy is significant, yet Scriptural testimony disagrees. Mark’s target audience was very likely not Jewish; however, Mark himself was a Jew. Therefore, the reader must ask himself: If Matthew, Luke, and John (three Jewish followers of Christ) all have theological reasons for including or excluding the genealogy of Christ, is it really likely that Mark (also a Jewish follower of Christ) would be the one writer who has no theological reason for omitting Christ’s genealogy? The reader will see that the answer is a resounding “No.”

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In these opening words, Jesus is identified as the Messiah and Son of God, two titles which are further fleshed out at his baptism. The ministry of Jesus begins at the time of his baptism, when he enters into his role as high priest and king. Behind the Father’s words “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” as James R. Edwards notes, “lies a wealth of OT imagery.” Imagery which falls under two main heads, viz. Christ as the Suffering Servant of the Lord and Christ as King. After establishing the thematic similarities between Mark 1:10-11 and Isa 49:3, Edwards notes that Jesus’ baptism also echoes Ps 2:7 (i.e. the enthronement of the Messiah-King of Israel) and Gen 22 (i.e. the sacrifice of the beloved son/seed of Abraham).

If Christ is the King of Israel and the Suffering Servant/Sacrifice for the sins of God’s people, however, why is there no mention made of his genetic affiliation with God’s people? Jesus simply shows up, is baptized, and begins his ministry. Why is there no genealogy? Is his genealogical pedigree unimportant? Far from it. Rather, in addition to signifying Jesus’ ministry as Messiah-King and Suffering Servant of the Lord, the words at Jesus’ baptism also signify his ministry as high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews directly correlates the words of Christ’s inauguration as King (i.e. Ps 2:7) and the declaration of the Father to the Son in Ps 110:4b: “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The author writes:

 …Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

as he says also in another place,

You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

Christ’s baptism, then, also signified his entrance into his role as the high priest after the order of Melchizedek. And this brings us back to the question of Mark’s omission of Jesus’ genealogy.

By not listing Christ’s genealogy, Mark is able to portray Jesus as being “without father or mother or genealogy” (Heb 7:3, emphasis added). Furthermore, the absence of a genealogy allows him to portray Christ as “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb 7:3), the same qualities which render Melchizedek like “the Son of God” (Heb 7:3). It is not by accident, therefore, that Mark 1 does not contain a genealogy. Jesus is not a mere creature; Jesus is the Son of God who was, prior to his incarnation, without father or mother or genealogy. He is king and priest on the basis of his indestructible life (i.e. eternality). He is, in other words, the Eternal Son of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.

Christianity Makes Men; Atheism Makes Infants

Some atheists have claimed that religion infantilizes man by rendering him dependent upon some other for purpose, meaning, direction in life, etc. Apparently these atheists have never observed the stages of human development. I have children, and while they do depend on me for all that they have (e.g. food, safety, clothing, knowledge, correction, discipline, etc), they do not depend on me by choice. My sons, instead, want me to provide them with things, but they want absolute independence. Sure, they’re cuddly and sweet; however, that all comes to an end when they are reminded that they are not in control.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov 22:15a, KJV). It is the adult, and not the child, who has learned that he is not in control of all things, and it is the adult who has learned to submit himself to others in order to receive knowledge, wisdom, and assistance in general from others who have what they themselves lack. The child, by contrast, acts on his every impulse, considers only himself, kicks against all authority, harms himself and others in the process, and eventually comes back to his parents to apologize once he’s seen how foolish he has been and how right his parents have been all along.

Ironically, the atheist believes that religion infantilizes individuals because it makes them functionally identical to wise adults. There is a reason why impulsive men are said to be acting like children when they rebel against authority, refuse help, and live from impulse to impulse without ever considering the ramifications of their behavior with respect to their own lives, the lives of others, and society in general.

I have yet to meet an infant who wants to be subject to the authority of his parents, even if his parents’ laws can literally save his life. There is a reason why child-safety locks exist. Children, because they are impulsive and utterly opposed to authority, cannot always be trusted to do what they are told – even when what they are told to do is meant solely for their individual benefit.

How, then, does religion infantilize men? How, moreover, does atheism mature individuals? Religion (i.e. Christianity) teaches individuals to act responsibly, with regard for others, with regard for their own well-being, with regard for society at large. Atheism teaches individuals to ignore the needs of others, to seek only one’s own well-being, to refuse correction from others, and to rebel against all authority, even those authorities whose intention is solely the well-being of the atheist. Christianity makes men. Atheism infantilizes men.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.

Implications for the Personal Nature of God

Angry-Kid1. God is not a Person; God is Personal.
God,   according   to   the   Bible   is   a   tri­personal   Being.   What   sets   the   Christian   doctrine apart   from  unitarian   theologies   is   that   God’s   personhood   exists   independently   of   creation,   within   himself.   Jesus  explains   the   dynamics   of   the   Trinitarian   relationships   when   he   states:

“No   one   knows   the   Son   except   the  Father,   and   no   one   knows   the   Father   except   the   Son,   and   anyone   to   whom   the   Son   chooses   to   reveal  him.”

Implicit   to   the   statement   that   Christ   reveals   the   Father   to   whomever   he   wills   is   the   omniscience   of  the Holy Spirit who, according to Paul, “comprehends the thoughts of God” and reveals them to the elect. (cf. 1 Cor 2:10-11)

The   Father,   the   Son,   and   the   Holy   Spirit   know   one   another   perfectly,   act   in   unison   with   one  another,   and   created   and   now   sustain   all   creation   in   complete   harmony   with   one   another.   To   put   the   matter  briefly:   God’s   personal   nature   antecedes   creation.   God   does   need   to   be   personally   engaged   with   men   in  order   for   him   to   be   personal.   For   the   atheist   to   assume   that   God   must   personally   engage   men   in   order   for  him   to   be   shown   to   be   an   existent   personal   being   is   for   the   atheist   to   assume   that   God   is   a   person. Christianity does not teach unitarianism, however, but Trinitarianism.

2. God is Sovereign.
There   is,   therefore,   not   only   no   ontological   obligation   God   must   meet   in   order   for   him   to   be   shown  to   be   an   existent   personal   Being,   there   is   also   no   creaturely   established   moral   obligation   to   personally  engage   men   that   God   must   meet   in   order   for   him   to   be   shown   to   be   an   existent   personal   Being.   God   does  not   act   in   submission   to   a   law   given   to   him   from   without;   God   is   the   Law,   the   Definition   of   good,   the   One  who   holds   creatures   accountable   to   himself.   When   the   atheist   demands   God’s   personal   engagement   with  him,   therefore,   the   atheist   is   acting   as   if   God   is   obligated   to   personally   engage   men   on   their   own   terms!

God   is   Sovereign;   ipso   facto,   God   is   under   no   obligation   to   personally   engage   any   man,   let   alone   men   who  shake their fists at him in sinful defiance.

3. Self­-disclosure, and the refusal to disclose oneself, are personal actions.
Therefore,   the   atheist   objection   that   if   God   existed   he   would   disclose   himself   to   the   challenging  atheist   is   patently   irrational.   I   have   not   personally   engaged   many   friends   of   my   close   friends,   but   that   has  no   bearing   on   whether   or   not   those   persons   exist.   In   fact,   given   that   refusal   to   disclose   oneself   is   also   a  free   personal   being’s   choice,   it   follows   that   such   a   refusal   actually   would   constitute   evidence   of   his  existence   if   there   were   others   claiming   to   have   had   the   privilege   of   knowing   such   a   being.

The   atheist  retort,   it   seems,   would   state   that   they   do   not   believe   that   God   is   refusing   to   disclose   himself   but   cannot  because   he   does   not   exist,   but   see   point   2.   If   God   is   independently   personal   and   Sovereign,   then   he   is   free  to   disclose   himself   or   not.   Consequently,   reports   of   God’s   self­disclosure   to   a   limited   group   of   persons  would   constitute   evidence   of   not   only   his   existence   but   his   attributes   of   Personality,   Sovereignty,   and  Absolute freedom of will as well ­­ as would reports of God not disclosing himself.

4. No Argument.
The   atheist   belief   that   God   would   reveal   himself   if   he   existed   presupposes   that   God   is   under   a  moral   obligation   to   reveal   himself.   He   is   not.   It   also   presupposes   that   God   cannot   be   intra­personal,   but  must   reveal   himself   to   his   creatures   in   order   for   him   to   be   personal.   This   is   also   false.   God   is   not   a   person;  God   is   (Tri)Personal.

The   atheist   belief   also   presupposes   that   God’s   non-­self­-disclosure   would   constitute  evidence   of   his   non-­existence,   but   this   too   is   false,   for   non­-self­-disclosure   is   the   action   of   a   free   personal  being.   Thus,   the   atheist   has   no   argument.   If   the   atheist   has   not   experienced   an   interaction   with   God   this  does not prove that God does not exist. It, ironically, provides evidence to the contrary.

5. The Problem
The   problem   is   that   the   refusal   to   reveal   oneself   as   x,   y,   or   z   typically   suggests   that   between   the  the   refuser   and   the   refused   there   exists   a   fractured   relationship.   Either   the   refused   party   does   not   meet   the  refuser’s   standard   for   personal   engagement,   or   the   refused   party   has   failed   to   approach   the   refuser   in   an  appropriate   manner,   or   the   refused   party   failed   to   meet   his   obligations   requisite   to   further   relational  engagement with the refuser. Scripturally, the situation is stated very simply:

1Behold, the L ORD ‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2 but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

5 They hatch adders’ eggs;
they weave the spider’s web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.

7 Their feet run to evil,
and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
desolation and destruction are in their highways

8 The way of peace they do not know,
and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
no one who treads on them knows peace.

9 Therefore justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind;
we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

11 We all growl like bears;
we moan and moan like doves;
we hope for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.

12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the LORD ,
and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

­–Isaiah 59:1­13

The   atheist’s   problem   with   God   is   that   God   will   not   overlook   sin.   God   is   a   relentless   judge,   in   other  words,   who   will   not   wink   at   sin.   Consequently,   man   is   severed   from   God’s   fatherly   kindness.   The  unrepentant   man   is   also   severed   from   husband-ly care and protection   of   God   the   Son.   And   the   sinner   who   refuses   to  acknowledge   his   guilt   before   God   is   severed   from   God   the   Holy   Spirit’s   loving   counsel.

The   atheist   belief  that   God   does   not   exist   because   he   does   not   personally   engage   the   atheist   is   analogous   to   the   child’s   claim  that his parent’s don’t exist because they will not let him have his own way.

The   relationship   between   God   and   man   has   been   fractured   by   man’s   sin.   The   atheist   does   not   like  this,   but   he   is   not   ignorant   of   it.   Man   is   proud   and   self­righteous,   refusing   to   acknowledge   his   own   sin;  therefore,   he   sees   God’s   silence   as   unnecessary,   unnatural,   unjustifiable,   and   hurtful.   He   would   rather  redefine   God’s   judgment   (i.e.   God’s   distance   and   refusal   to   engage   personally   as   father   and   husband   and  counsellor)   as   evidence   that   God   does   not   exist,   rather   than   repent   of   his   sin   and   trust   Jesus   Christ   as   his  Savior.

This why Scripture declares:
The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God!’

Repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria.

There is salvation and reconciliation to God found in no other name.

-h.