Posted by: mystic444 | February 27, 2011

Is There a Difference Between God and the One God Sent?

The answer to the question posed in the title of this article should be obvious. We should immediately acknowledge that the messenger is obviously not the same as the one who sends the messenger. However, indoctrination can put blinders over our “eyes” so that we become unable to see what would otherwise be very clear.

Such is the case with the orthodox Christian view of Jesus, God’s anointed. As I have pointed out in several previous articles, Jesus and his ‘apostles’ clearly distinguished between God and Jesus. For instance, Paul referred to God as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – plainly making a distinction between God and Jesus. John, in the book of Revelation (1:1) said that God gave the revelation to Jesus – again clearly distinguishing between God and Jesus. They’re not the same.

Nevertheless, over the first few centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus, a strange doctrine developed that maintained that Jesus was/is in fact the One True God. Despite the fact that God is the one who sent him into the world as His messenger, we are supposed to believe that the sender and the sent are one and the same. We are told that this is a great “mystery” which we are bound to believe despite how nonsensical it may sound to our “carnal” ears.

This ‘orthodox’ teaching has become so ingrained that Christians now simply don’t see the clear distinctions the Bible makes between God and Jesus. The doctrine of the “Trinity” and the Deity of Jesus are read back into the Bible. Some passages are made mysterious which would not be otherwise.

As an example, consider these 2 “Old Testament” prophecies:

(16) “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” (17) Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go” (from Isaiah 48, New King James Version).

(10) “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the LORD. (11) “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. (12) And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (from Zechariah 2, New King James Version).

With regard to the first quote, it is obvious that the LORD God was the speaker in this chapter, uninterrupted right up to verse 16. But it is also clear that at the beginning of verse 17 the speaker has changed to the prophet Isaiah: Thus says the LORD… But what about the sentence immediately preceding that: And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent me? Can it be that it is God saying that the Lord God has sent Himself? That’s the way the translators render the text, and the “evangelical Christian” commentators assume that the speaker throughout is the Christ, proclaiming the “mystery” whereby he is both the LORD, and the one whom the LORD sent.

Yet this “mystery” would be cleared up with just a little bit of clear headed reasonable thinking. The whole matter hangs on where the quotation marks are placed in the text. It is obvious that there are 2 distinct speakers in the prophecy: Isaiah, and the LORD as quoted by Isaiah. It is plainly Isaiah who makes the comment, at the beginning of verse 17, that the next statement is something the LORD is saying. Surely it should be plain that it was also Isaiah speaking in the last part of verse 16. So verse 16 begins with a continuation of the statement of the LORD, and ends with Isaiah commenting that now the Lord God has sent him. Thus the quotation marks should be as follows: “Come near to me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there” [says the LORD]. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent me [Isaiah]. Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God…” Hey, why do I have to be such a ‘spoil sport’, and take away all of the ‘mystery’?! 😀

Having said that, I guess you can figure out what I’m about to say about the passage from Zechariah 2. In this chapter, there are actually 4 different speakers. Verse 1 begins with Zechariah speaking: Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?” Then this man/angel spoke to Zechariah: And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem…” The third speaker is a second angel who appears on the scene, and addresses the first angel/man with the measuring line (verse 4): “Run, speak to this young man [Zechariah], saying: ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited…” Next, this second angel starts quoting the LORD (the 4th speaker) in verse 5: “ ‘For I’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her… (6)Up, up! Flee from the land of the north’ says the LORD; ‘For I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,’ says the LORD.” The next several verses, down to verse 11, are mostly the words of the LORD, with a couple of breaks for the angel to remind Zechariah (and the readers) that what he is saying is actually what the LORD is speaking.

What could be more natural, then, than to recognize that in verse 11, the angel ends his quotation of the LORD,  and addresses Zechariah himself – referring to the LORD God  in the 3rd person (rather than saying that he himself is the LORD who sent himself to Zechariah)? The quotation of the LORD would end with this phrase in verse 11: ‘And I will dwell in your midst’. So we should read verses 11 and following this way: “ ‘Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in you midst’ [says the LORD]. “Then” [the angel said] “you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance…” Alternatively, this could be read as the angel himself ceasing to speak and quote the LORD, and Zechariah (the first speaker in the passage) resumes talking to his readers. Then it would read: Then [said Zechariah] you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent me to you… Either way of reading this verse makes good sense, and avoids the ‘mysterious paradox’ (which would actually be ‘blasphemy’) of God’s messenger, and the God who sent him, being one and the same. It’s simply a matter of using our reason to determine where the quotation ends.

This use of reason to discern who is speaking can be illustrated from the Qur’an. I just noticed this in my reading a few nights ago, though I’m sure there are other places in the Qur’an where the same thing occurs. Sura 7, in recording the story of Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, says this (Muhammad Asad’s rendering): (109) The great ones among Pharaoh’s people said, “Verily, this [Moses] is indeed a sorcerer of great knowledge, (110) who wants to drive you out of your land!” [Said Pharaoh:] “What, then, do you advise?” (111) They answered: “Let him and his brother wait awhile…” You will notice that the words Said Pharaoh are in brackets, indicating that they are an interpretive interpolation by Muhammad Asad (just as I interpolated ‘Moses’ in brackets). Since there are no quotation marks in the Arabic (to the best of my knowledge), the question What then do you advise? might at first reading appear to be a continuation of the “great ones’ ” words. But just a little bit of thinking would make one realize that the question must have been Pharaoh’s. Surely the “great ones” did not ask themselves that question, and then answer themselves. 🙂 So Mr. Asad added the bracketed words, and appropriately placed the quotation marks, in order to differentiate the various speakers.

Let’s use our common sense when reading and interpreting Scriptures, and not create unnecessary ‘mysteries’ and ‘paradoxes’. 😀

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Responses

  1. The things of God if i may say, are things a man can’t speculate upon by mere reasoning, without light and revelations coming from God himself. The reality of the divinity of Christ is apparent i believe only to “seeing eyes”, not reasoning. And this in scripture abound even unto his resurrection, ascension and enthronement. Let me not go into much talk about this because at best, it will further generate arguments of unnecessary nature, because the human mind no matter how enlightened, can’t perceive of divine truth.

    Let me just bring a little thing here for thought without going into much quoting of bible verses. Jesus christ all know and believe is the Son of God. Let me ask a simple question. What is the Son of a man called? Nothing but man. The Son of a man, is also called a man. Isn’t it? You are called a man because your father who gave you birth, is a man. In other words, the son of a man, is the man brought forth again, hence he is called man. Do we understand that?

    Hence i say to you that Jesus Christ the Son of God, is God himself brought forth again on earth. It is in this dimension of God being brought forth on earth, and in the form of a man, that it is said that He is sent of God.

    Again, we all believe that a man and his word are one and same. Yet a man can send his word. Is the word sent different from the man? No, they are one. God sent his word and it became man. And that man was Christ the Lord. How then say we,that the man Christ,who is the Word God sent, is another separate from Him. God and his words can never be understood from a logical perspective but from revelations. God manifest in the flesh is Himself brought forth on earth not another and that was Jesus. Have you not read that Jesus is both the root and offspring of David? “Root” and “offspring”, how do you explain that?

    • @ “eternal word ministries” – Thank you for your kind and polite response. I am grateful that most (though not necessarily all) of the commenters on my articles are polite even when they disagree with me.

      It is interesting to me that after saying that subjects like the Deity of Jesus can’t be understood by reason, you immediately try to explain it using reason! 🙂 But that is understandable since God has made us reasonable beings – at least a part of what it means to bear His “image” – and He expects us to use this wonderful gift to understand His revelation (whether it be “natural” revelation, or “supernatural” revelation).

      So I also will attempt to answer you using reason. Since, however, I have written a number of articles on the (supposed) Deity of Jesus and the (supposed)Trinity – which can be found by clicking on “Unitarianism” under the heading “Categories” on the right side of the blog page – I’ll only attempt to give a brief summary of my beliefs here.

      Do you not consider yourself a “son of God” through faith in Jesus Christ? Do you not believe that this “sonship” to God is due to having been “born again” (or “born from above”) by God’s Spirit, and having been “begotten” by the “living Word of God”? (So that you are not merely a child of God by creation, but are a “begotten son of God”). Yet I feel quite sure that you do not consider yourself to be a “Divine Person” in the “Godhead”; you do not consider yourself to be “God” or a “God-man”!

      So why do you imagine that Jesus is “God”, the “Second Person of the Trinity”, because he is “God’s son”? Note that this is precisely the response that Jesus himself is reported to have given to “the Jews” when they accused him of teaching that which you approvingly believe he taught (John 10, beginning with verse 31). “The Jews” were going to stone him for blasphemy because they imagined that he made himself equal with God – because he called God his Father and said his works were done by the Father’s authority (“the works that I do in my Father’s name…”).

      Jesus’ response was to remind them that in the law which they themselves believed to originate with God, it was written (Psalm 82:6): “I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you“. Since the Psalmist, speaking by God’s inspiration, called human beings to whom God’s word came “gods” and “sons of the Most High”, how could they accuse Jesus of blasphemy for saying he was also a son of the Most High? That is, Jesus said that he did not claim for himself anything more than what was true of other human beings.

      Jesus sometimes “bent over backwards” to insist that he was not “God” or God’s equal. Remember when someone approached him and called him “good master”? Jesus’ response was “Why do you call me good? There is only One who is good: God”. This was plainly a rebuke from Jesus, insisting that he must not be, even by possible implication, equated with God. It most certainly was not an approving statement, as if he had said: “Congratulations! You’ve managed to recognize that I am God since you called me good – an attribute belonging only to God!”

      Now I most certainly have never said that I “sent myself” somewhere; and I can’t recall having ever heard anyone else make such an absurd statement. I may send someone else to do something for me; but if I go somewhere myself and perform some action, it would be ridiculous to say that I sent myself. When it is said that God sent Jesus, it is just one of many clear indications that Jesus is not God – any more than John the Baptist (“a man sent from God”) was God sending Himself.

      Again, I certainly do not believe that “my word” is “me”. My thoughts and my words have changed a good bit during the course of this lifetime; but I don’t imagine that I must be a different person now because my thoughts and words are different. No, my words are not the same as “me” 😀

      God “spoke” and the worlds came into existence; but that does not mean that the worlds are God. God spoke and Jesus came into existence – but that does not make Jesus God. Jesus was also the word/promise/prophecy of God “made flesh” (that is, the fulfillment of of God’s prophetic word of promise); but that does not mean he is God – any more than the destruction of Jerusalem as the fulfillment of God’s prophetic word made that destruction “God”.

      With regard to this article, it is certainly a much simpler and more believable ‘interpretation’ to say that the ‘person’ who said “it is God who has sent me” was either the prophet (Isaiah or Zechariah) or the angel speaking to the prophet. There is just no reason to invent a “mystery” by making it God saying He had sent Himself.

  2. I’m with you on not creating unnecessary mysteries. Evangelicals feel obliged to affirm all the Bible says with modern precision without realising that the ancients did not have this precision. To say “you are light” did not mean you are “identical with” or “of the same nature as” light. Likewise to say “Jesus is God” should not properly mean these things but something like “Jesus embodies God” or as NT Wright put it: Jesus was and did what only YHWH could be and do for Israel. Jesus represented God, he revealed God, he was not YHWH.

    • Peace to you, Marc. Thanks for your comment. I think you and NT Wright are quite correct. My contention is that this is precisely what 1 Timothy 3:16 means when it says “God was manifest in the flesh” (yes I believe that is the correct ‘reading’ of the verse). Jesus made God manifest to humanity – and we ought to be striving to do the same by God’s grace. Jesus has perhaps been the most successful human being in making God manifest by his life and speech; but as we are ordained to be “conformed to his image”, we ultimately will do the same; and it is our aim and goal. May God be exalted in us, as He was (and is) in Jesus Christ.


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