The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

How the NT Epistles Define Christ: Not God, Just Another Flawed Human

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Our Gods are obsessed with variation, and because of this, we find Them relating to us in different ways.  Today the Holy Spirit relates to you in a different way than He does with your neighbors, friends, and family members. But why?  Why does God talk to some people in dreams but not others?  Why do some people see God while others never see Him?  And of all the people who have seen God at one time or another, why aren’t they all seeing the same image?  To some, Jesus shows up wearing a tunic and sandals, but to others He looks very different.  To some, Jesus never shows up in any visual form, but instead He communicates to them in non-visual ways.  Some people say they talk to God all the time, while others feel God never speaks to them.  Everywhere we look, we see endless variation in the way that our Creators interact with us, and this has been true from the very beginning.

In Genesis, we read about Yahweh walking with Adam and Eve in Eden.  That was certainly different.  Most Christians today don’t feel like God is ever physically walking beside them.  With Adam and Eve, He did—at least until He exiled them from the Garden.

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel had vivid images of Yahweh in which they could see and hear Him.  The boy Samuel heard Yahweh calling his name in an audible Voice.  Others received personal messages from God that were brought to them by third parties.  David received many messages from the prophet Nathan.  Joshua, Daniel, and Mary were visited by angels.  Still others had God speak to them through metaphorical dreams. Peter, Nebuchadnezzar, Jacob, and the Old Testament Joseph were all recipients of these kinds of messages.  Then there were guys like Moses and Elijah, who were invited to climb up sacred mountains and have private discussions with Yahweh.  And just when we think that God physically walking among us was only something He did at the start of the human race, along comes Jesus, and once again we find one of our Creators dwelling among us in a physical form.

So what are we to make of all this variation?  Should we start trying to rank the ways that God speaks to us and declare some methods to be better than others?  No, we shouldn’t.  Having God speak to you in a dream isn’t better than having Him speak to you some other way.  Rather than go about envying those who are having a different experience of God than you are, you need to stay focused on your own life and realize that God has plenty of grand surprises in store for you.  Our Gods love variation, and They keep changing things up because it pleases Them to do so.  Adam, Noah, and Abraham had never heard of a God named Yahweh.  The God they were talking to was the same Being who would later introduce Himself as Yahweh to Moses, but before Moses’ time, the folks we read about in Genesis didn’t have a personal Name for God, so they just called Him God.

Moses was the first Jew to be introduced to the Name of Yahweh and to that famous title of I AM.  But Moses and the millions of folks who we read about in the Old Testament never knew about Jesus or the magnificent Holy Spirit.  Those who devoted themselves to Yahweh believed that He was the only true God in existence, because that’s what He said.  It wasn’t until New Testament times that suddenly a bunch of Yahweh followers were presented with the shocking idea that there could actually be more than one true God.

The revelation of Christ radically changed the way that we perceive reality.  Today we know that there are actually three real Gods: Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  These three Beings are equal in every way, and They function like a trio of Best Friends—communing Together, creating Together, and cherishing Each Other infinitely more than all else.  Every time our Gods change our understanding of who They are, we have to adjust to those changes.  Back in David’s day, salvation had nothing to do with submitting to Christ.  It was only Yahweh who David had to reverentially submit to in order to be eternally accepted.  But today if we try to just submit to Yahweh while ignoring Christ and the Holy Spirit, we’ll end up rejected by all three of our Gods.  As our understanding changes, our response must change as well.  But the essential principles of salvation have always been the same: we must reverentially submit to the Beings who created us.  We can only submit to the Gods we know about, and it’s up to our Gods to decide when and how They want to introduce Themselves to us.  Until They inform us of Their existence and demands, we are going to remain oblivious to who They are.

Now when you are alive on the planet during a time when your Creators decide to reveal some new insight about who They are, it impacts you.  Guys like Peter, Paul, and John began their lives thinking that Yahweh was the only real God.  Then Christ came along, and suddenly things became very confusing.  Christ claimed to be a second God who was equal to Yahweh in every way. Then Christ introduced the Holy Spirit as a third God.  Well, all of that is just mind-blowing to an Old Covenant Jew.  And since the trouble started with Christ, Christ is the One everyone fixated on, and this is why you find Christ being such a major focus of the New Testament epistles.  The Holy Spirit is just as exciting as Christ is, but He’s barely mentioned, because the Jews were so caught up in trying to get their minds around Christ.

So what does an Old Covenant Jew do with Christ?  Well, you can’t possibly accept that Christ is God without calling Yahweh a Liar, because for centuries Yahweh claimed to be the only God in existence.  Human pride has always chafed at the idea of our Creators withholding information from us, plus it freaks us out to think that our Gods could effectively deceive us.  None of the New Testament Jews want to admit that Yahweh had lied to them about the number of Gods in existence—that’s just too upsetting.  But if they don’t admit that Yahweh lied, then what do they do with Christ?  Obviously Christ can’t be Yahweh’s equal, because that would make Him a God.  To an Old Covenant Jew, calling someone Yahweh’s equal was as bad as saying Yahweh lies.  And yet if Christ isn’t a God, and He isn’t Yahweh’s equal, then what is He?  Well, the best He can be is a non-God who Yahweh really, really likes.  Christ could even be Someone who Yahweh has given a lot of special privileges and power to—as long as everyone understands that those privileges and power don’t make Christ equal to Yahweh.  Christ can be Yahweh’s right hand Man, His super Servant, His favorite Son, and His trusted Assistant.  But He’s not God.

The next time you’re in the New Testament epistles, start looking for language that distinguishes Christ from Yahweh and emphasizes that Christ is subordinate to Yahweh.  You’ll find that the New Testament epistles are peppered with such reminders, for the Jews who wrote those documents didn’t want anyone to get too carried away with their exaltation of Jesus.  Praising Jesus is all fine and well, as long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that Yahweh outranks Him.  Let’s now look at some specific examples of ways that the New Testament writers try to set limits on our exaltation of Christ.

THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, AND HE ISN’T CHRIST.

To understand the epistles correctly, you have to get out of your Trinitarian mindset and stop hearing God as a generic title that includes all three of your Creators.  No one in the New Testament promoted the ludicrous idea that Christ was just an alternate personality of Yahweh, for that would be the same as putting Christ on Yahweh’s level.  No, Christ is just a human, and His humanity is something Paul frequently reminds us of by referring to Christ as a man, emphasizing that there is only one God, and distinguishing between the one true God and Christ.  When Paul is addressing concerns about engaging in behavior that could be considered idolatrous, he reminds people that there is only one true God.

About eating food offered to idols: we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” (1 Cor. 8:4)

And just to make things ultra-clear, he repeats this point and specifically identifies who that God is: it’s Yahweh who the Jews also referred to as God the Father.  Since Christ is not God, He should not be referred to by that lofty title.  Instead, Christ is only worthy of the title Lord, which for ancient Jews was merely saying Master or Sir.  Sarah called Abraham Lord.  Jews called their rulers Lord.  Lord does not mean God in this cultural context.

…yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from Him, and we exist for Him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through Him, and we exist through Him. (1 Cor. 8:6)

Notice how Paul says all things come from Yahweh.  As the only real God, Yahweh is obviously the Creator of all things, therefore He is the Origin of all things.  This is why Paul says that everything comes from Yahweh.  He then says that we humans exist for Yahweh, not for Christ.  Again, this is Paul emphasizing that Yahweh is higher than Christ.  As the only Creator, clearly Yahweh made us for His own pleasure and benefit.  So we come from Yahweh, and we exist for Yahweh.  But what about Christ?  Well, Paul has no problems granting Christ some special rank, and in his letters you’ll find him shifting around in how much exaltation he ascribes to Christ.  Here he makes Christ out to be a sort of Assistant to Yahweh by saying that Yahweh created things through Christ.  But Christ didn’t do the creating—He was just a conduit that Yahweh used, and this is a very important distinction which Paul is intentionally emphasizing.

Here’s a pattern you’ll find with Paul: he exalts Christ as being super special, then he suddenly hammers the point that Christ isn’t that special, so don’t get carried away in your adoration of Him.  Sure, Yahweh has elevated Christ to some special position as His right hand Man—but this won’t last.  Paul says Christ’s great status is only temporary, and that when He’s done with the current assignment that Yahweh has given Him, Yahweh will make Christ bow down to Him again.

And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Yahweh who subjected everything to Him, so that Yahweh may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)

Don’t confuse Christ with Yahweh by suggesting that Christ is equal to the one true God—this is a major theme throughout the New Testament epistles.

CHRIST SITS NEXT TO THE THRONE, NOT ON THE THRONE.

In Bible times, human rulers sat on thrones.  The supreme ruler of a country—such as the king—would sit on the one and only royal throne.  Then there would be seats next to the throne—on the right and on the left—and to be invited by the king to sit in one of those seats was considered the greatest honor you could hope to have as a subordinate to the king.  But here’s a critical point to bear in mind: sitting next to the throne, never made you equal to the guy who was sitting on the throne.  It’s very important for you to understand the immense difference in power that was communicated by a fellow’s proximity to the actual throne, because in the New Testament epistles, you’ll never find Christ being described as sitting on the actual throne of God.  Instead, Yahweh is the only One on the throne, while Christ is always described as sitting next to God’s throne. As soon as you park Christ next to the Divine throne, you’re saying two things: Christ is not God, and Christ is not equal to God.

Now in the history of Israel, co-regents were a common occurrence.  Often during a father’s reign, he would start having his son reign with him once the boy was old enough, thus the country would have two kings for a while until the father died.  The point is that it wasn’t like these people couldn’t conceive of two kings ruling simultaneously and sharing the same empire.  So if we are going to use correct throne imagery with Christ, then we should say that Christ and Yahweh are both sitting on Divine thrones.  There should be two thrones, not one, for two thrones would symbolize rulers of equal power.  But because the New Testament writers refuse to acknowledge the Divinity of Christ, they only ever talk about one Divine throne, upon which the only God—Yahweh—sits.  And while Yahweh is depicted as having an eternal throne—which means He has always ruled—Christ is always described as only recently sitting down at Yahweh’s right side.  Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all talk as if it was only after Christ’s post-resurrection ascension that He was invited to sit beside Yahweh.  The obvious implication is that before Christ’s ascension, He did not qualify to sit in that special chair.

The author of Hebrews says:

…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Heb. 12:2)

Now the main point of what is being said is this: We have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens… (Heb. 8:1)

If Christ is God, then He wouldn’t sit next to God.  If Christ is “the Majesty” then He wouldn’t sit down at the right hand of “the Majesty.”  So you see, every time Christ is described as interacting with God, the New Testament authors are reminding you that Christ is not God—He is separate from and subordinate to the real God, which is Yahweh.

You don’t “sit down” on a throne unless you were away from it.  You won’t find Yahweh ever sitting down on a throne in the New Testament epistles.  Yahweh is always described as already seated on His throne, which is the same as saying He is already actively ruling.  But Christ?  Well, no, Christ was off somewhere else trying to earn the privilege of being invited to sit down next to Yahweh.  Hear the difference?  While you are taught to hear this “Christ at the right hand of Yahweh” business as a compliment, it’s really an offensive demeaning of Christ.  Sure, the New Testament apostles thought they were being complimentary to use this language with Christ—but that’s only because they were viewing Christ as a mere human.  It’s a big compliment to say a human has been invited to sit down beside God.  But it’s a gross insult to speak of a God this way.

CHRIST HAD TO EARN THE RANK THAT HE NOW HAS.

Since Christ is a mere created being, He had to earn the favor of the one true God by working hard and enduring suffering—this is what the New Testament writers teach.  The author of Hebrews says that Christ was a flawed being who Yahweh had to perfect through suffering.  And notice how the author of Hebrews emphasizes that it was only Yahweh who created everything.

Yahweh, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that Yahweh should make Jesus, through Jesus’ suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. (Heb. 2:10)

Paul also portrays Christ as being “humbled” by obeying Yahweh.  And it was only through His service to Yahweh on earth that He earned the privilege of getting to sit in “the place of highest honor”, which means getting to sit next to Yahweh’s throne.  And though Paul says that everyone’s going to bow to Christ and honor Christ, notice how he then reminds us that all of this hoopla about Christ is really for Yahweh’s benefit.  It’s not good enough for Christ to be exalted just because He’s Christ.  No, everything Christ does has to somehow benefit Yahweh, because as the only God, Yahweh is the One we’re all supposed to be revolving around.

When He appeared in human form, Christ humbled Himself in obedience to Yahweh and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, Yahweh elevated Christ to the place of highest honor and gave Christ the Name above all other names, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of Yahweh the Father. (Philip. 2:7-11)

What is “every tongue” declaring Christ to be?  Lord, not God.  If you use these terms interchangeably today, you blow right past this. And yet it is very significant that Paul is only using the title of Lord with Christ. We’re not exalting Him as a God—just as “Sir.”  Well, no, this isn’t good enough.

Realize that in ancient times, physically bowing was extremely common.  In social relationships, it could function like a polite handshake.  In status relationships, it was like a military salute.  Well, the fact that you’re saluting someone doesn’t mean you’re really respecting that person, so this business of every knee bowing to Jesus just doesn’t mean much coming from a New Testament Jew.  In modern America, we never use bowing in our daily communications.  The only time bowing comes up for us is in cases of extreme duress, so when an American thinks of bowing to Jesus, he naturally pictures a situation in which he would be feeling some very intense emotions.  To us, kneeling before God sounds a whole lot more sincere and purposeful than it would be to a Jew who is used to bowing down to other humans as a regular part of life. But once you’re bowing to a bunch of humans on earth, how is it special that you’re bowing to Jesus?  There’s nothing special about it unless your soul is expressing sincere submission to Jesus as God Almighty, and that’s not at all what Paul tells you to do.

JESUS IS LIMITED IN POWER, & CONTROLLED BY YAHWEH.

Once you understand how biblical Jews view the term Lord, and you start paying attention to how often the New Testament writers so pointedly avoid assigning Christ the title of God, you can start to appreciate how far Paul is from correctly preaching what our Gods require for salvation.  In real life, we are required to reverentially submit to all three of our Creators as the Supreme Authorities that They are.  Simply respecting Jesus as Sir doesn’t cut it—you have to submit to Him as God Almighty.  But this isn’t what Paul tells you to do.  Paul preaches that there is only one Being who you must submit to as God: the magnificent Yahweh.  And of course it is only a true God that has power over life and death, which is why Paul is not about to suggest that Jesus had the chops to raise Himself back to life.  This is what Jesus claimed to do, but to accept this would be ascribing Jesus too much power, so the New Testament writers say that it was really Yahweh who raised an incapable Jesus back from the grave.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

Here’s Paul’s extremely flawed salvation formula: you just have to believe that Yahweh is God Almighty—a fact which He proves by raising Jesus back from the dead.  As for Jesus, just respect Him as a Sir, and that’s good enough.

Peter is equally annoying in his constant demotion of Christ.  Instead of acknowledging that Christ’s reign is as eternal as Yahweh’s and that Christ has always been a Supreme Authority over all that exists, Peter talks like Christ was nothing until Yahweh “made Him” into something special.

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that Yahweh has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” (Acts 2:36)

Lord and Messiah?  Whoopee.  What happened to Almighty God?  Not only does Peter make Jesus out to be some nobody who had to have a promotion given to Him by Yahweh, but he also portrays Jesus as being some puppet that Yahweh moves about at will.  Notice how Peter’s language makes it sound like Yahweh forced Jesus to endure trials on earth in order to fulfill Yahweh’s prophecies.

“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But Yahweh was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that He must suffer these things.” (Acts 3:17-18)

Did Jesus have any say in what would be prophesied about Him?  How could He when He’s not God?  It’s only Yahweh who has the power to prophesy about the future and then make those prophecies come true.  To hear Peter tell it, Jesus was just a pawn that Yahweh forced to cooperate with Yahweh’s plan.  First Peter says that Yahweh made Jesus go through a bunch of trials on earth.  Then he says Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead and brought Him to Heaven.  And then he says that Yahweh will soon be sending Jesus back to earth.

“Then times of refreshment will come from the Presence of the Lord, and Yahweh will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.” (Acts 3:20)

Doesn’t Jesus have a vote?  What if He wants to come back sooner than Yahweh wants Him to?  According to Peter, He can’t.  According to Peter, Jesus is trapped in Heaven until Yahweh gives Him permission to leave and Yahweh will make Jesus stay there until Yahweh finishes doing some stuff that He prophesied long ago.

“For Jesus must remain in Heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as Yahweh promised long ago through His holy prophets.” (Acts 3:21)

Peter isn’t describing a God here—he’s describing some created being whose movements are being controlled by Yahweh.  This isn’t who the real Jesus is.

YAHWEH, NOT CHRIST, IS OUR END GOAL.

Since Yahweh is the only God that Paul recognizes, Yahweh is the One he constantly points us to.  We’re to praise, glorify, and pray to Yahweh, and it is Yahweh’s love, not Jesus’, which we are never separated from.

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of Yahweh that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to Yahweh, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 15:6)

Who is the true Source of our salvation?  Yahweh, not Christ.  Sure, Christ played a big role in dying for our sins.  But eternal life can only be granted by the Controller of life and death, and in Paul’s mind, that is only Yahweh.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of Yahweh is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

Why is it a great thing to gain eternal life?  Because we want to get back into a good place with Yahweh.  Whatever with Christ—He’s just a human.  Sure, we’ll bow to Him and respect Him as Sir if that’s what Yahweh wants, but it’s really Yahweh who we’re trying to please, because He’s the One with the power.

Therefore, since we have been made right in Yahweh’s sight by faith, we have peace with Yahweh because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Rom. 5:1)

In the Gospels, Jesus taught us to fear His judgment as well as Yahweh’s, but this isn’t what Paul teaches.  Paul doesn’t teach us to worry about Jesus saying, “Away from Me I never knew you.”  Christ is just a means to an end: He’s the Guy we go through to get to Yahweh, but Yahweh is who it’s really about because Yahweh outranks Christ.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with Yahweh because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of Yahweh. (Rom. 5:11)

Why aren’t we also rejoicing in our wonderful relationships with Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  Because to Paul, the Holy Spirit was just another title for Yahweh, and Jesus is just the middleman.  Paul doesn’t teach us to revere and cherish three Gods.  He teaches us to give Jesus the same level of respect that we’d give a very impressive human authority while we save our real soul submission for Yahweh.  He totally discounts the idea that the Holy Spirit is a separate Being from Yahweh.

AS A HUMAN, CHRIST IS OUR EQUAL.

If Christ is just a human and not God, then why can’t we hope to experience the same glory, power, and exaltation that He has?  Paul says that we can.

Yahweh will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. Yahweh will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:8-9)

Notice how Yahweh invites us to be partners with human Jesus, not with Himself.  Paul knows better than to say we humans could be on the same level as God Almighty.  But we can certainly climb up to Jesus’ rank, because hey, He’s just a man.

…and if we are Yahweh’s children, then we are also heirs—heirs of Yahweh and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Rom. 8:17)

According to Paul, Yahweh is more than willing to treat you just like He does Christ, provided you pay your dues through hardships on earth.  But if you suffer well, then you’ll end up getting to share Christ’s glory with Him.  You’ll be on Christ’s same level—a joint heir with Him.  And this is all because Christ isn’t God—that’s why Paul is saying you can be a joint heir with Christ, but not with Yahweh.  Yahweh outranks both Christ and you, but Christ is someone who you can be equal to.  Given his great lack of respect for Christ, no wonder Paul just refers to Him as a Sir and not a God.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love Yahweh: those who are called according to His purpose. For those Yahweh foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that Christ would be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom. 8:28-29)

See how non-special Christ is?  He’s just the first of a whole brood of kids that Yahweh has decided to have.  You see, when Paul talks about being “conformed to the image of Christ,” he just means God shaping you up to serve Him as well as human Christ did.  This has nothing to do with becoming like the real Christ.  It’s more like having your boss say, “I’m going to teach you how to be as good of a worker as Betty here.”  The only reason you have any hope of being like Betty is that Betty and you are both humans.  It’s the same when Paul talks about us being conformed to the image of Christ.  Paul doesn’t say Yahweh is conforming us to be like Yahweh, because that’s ridiculous—humans can’t be like Gods.  But humans can certainly imitate other humans, so of course we can all be like Christ.

What then are we to say about these things? If Yahweh is for us, who can be against us? Since Yahweh did not even spare His own Son but offered Christ up for us all; how will Yahweh not also with Christ grant us everything? (Rom. 8:31-32)

It’s simple to Paul: Yahweh wouldn’t even consider holding back any of the goodies that He’s showered onto Christ.  We humans can rest assured that our insatiable lust for power will be satisfied in eternity, for there Yahweh will give us everything.  Paul says Yahweh will treat us just like He treats Christ, making no distinction between us and Him.  And why not?  We’re just as special as Christ is.  Does this sound right to you?

All praise to Yahweh, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Eph. 1:3)

Here in Ephesians, Paul once again emphasizes that we have access to every spiritual blessing because by being united with human Christ, we’re getting a share of everything Christ has.

It is only Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who have the power to illuminate souls with truth.  Humans can preach truth all day, but their words will mean nothing unless their Creators are giving souls the ability to understand what is being said and the empowerment to act on it.  What this means is that we humans never deserve any glory for saving people.  But of course this isn’t what Paul teaches.  Paul says we deserve anything Christ has because Christ is just like us.  So Paul says that he and his fellow apostles are looking forward to raking in the glory for all of the souls that they led to salvation during their time on earth.

After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when He returns? It is you! (1 Thess. 2:19)

Wow, talk about pompous, but this is how delusional we become when we stop listening to our Gods.

Then the Name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with Him. (2 Thess. 1:12)

Heaven forbid Jesus that should be honored without us also getting to bask along with Him.  Paul is willing to acknowledge that Jesus is superior to us right now, but soon we’ll be able to close the gap.

Yahweh called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 2:14)

Why did Yahweh save us?  So we could enjoy a power trip?  So we could be exalted as Christ’s equals?  Not hardly.

DEMEANING METAPHORS: THE BODY OF CHRIST

Once you understand how Paul views Christ, it changes the way you view many of the famous New Testament metaphors for the Church.  For example, Paul says we’re all the body of Christ.  Today Christians spin this language to mean that we’re God’s body.  But no, this is not at all what Paul meant.  Paul doesn’t say that we’re Yahweh’s body, because he is not about to lump God and humans into the same category. But once you view Christ as just another human, then suddenly it makes a lot of sense to refer to Him as having a body, and then it makes sense to talk as if we’re all extensions of Him.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom. 12:4-5)

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor. 12:12)

You are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)

The problem with this kind of corporate language is that it’s putting Christ on our level.  He’s just one more member of our team—He’s not our perfect, all-powerful Creator.  He’s not the all-wise God who is commanding us, and He’s certainly not capable of doing things without our help, therefore we need to:

Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:12)

See?  Christ’s body is underdeveloped, so we have to “build it up.”  Surprised?  Well, Christ is just a human—you can’t expect Him to be perfect.  You have to expect Him to miss the mark now and then—to leave things unfinished.  But don’t worry—Christ might have botched things, but the apostle Paul is going to come along and fill in what was lacking in Christ’s not-so-finished work.

In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church. (Col. 1:24)

It seems Christ’s body is not only underdeveloped, it’s also missing stuff. And now that we’ve got human Christ limping along in some half-baked body, it stops sounding like a compliment to say that Christ is the Savior and Head of this lame situation.

Christ is the Head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Eph. 5:23)

If Christ saved us through suffering, then why does Paul still have to make up for what is “lacking in Christ’s afflictions”?  If Christ’s afflictions are lacking, does that mean that we’re not all the way saved?  And what kind of incompetent “Head” must Christ be if we humans have to build up His body for Him?  Are you seeing the problem with this body language?

While Christians today love to talk about what corporate imagery this is, in real life it’s too corporate because it’s totally blurring the line between God and humans.  Paul tosses Christ into the Church as just one more of her many members.  Sure, He’s the head Honcho, but He still depends on our help to keep the thing functioning because He just doesn’t have the chops to make the body work on His own.  But then again, since Christ wasn’t even powerful enough to raise Himself back to life, what can we expect?

DEMEANING METAPHORS: THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

Today we love to wax on about the Church being the Bride of Christ, and yet this is more problematic imagery, especially when it’s being used by Paul.

‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Paul just keeps erasing all boundaries between us and God.  He says that we believers have become “one flesh” with Christ.  Yikes, no, stop.  We most certainly do not have the same nature as Christ.  Christ is Divine, we are human.  There is no merging between Divine and human.  They can coexist like oil and water that is poured into the same glass, but they will always remain separate from each other.

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:12)

Notice how Paul so pompously elevates himself into the position of being able to choose Christ’s spouse for Him. Paul tells the believers in Corinth that he is the one who betrothed them to Christ.  Wow.  So first Peter says that Christ is getting dragged back and forth between Heaven and earth by Yahweh.  Now Paul says that a mere human is telling Christ who He’ll marry.  These men make Christ out to have no say over His own existence.

DEMEANING METAPHORS: THE CHURCH IS THE HOUSE OF GOD

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Eph. 2:19)

Referring to the Church as the house of God—what can go wrong here?  Well, for starters, by God, the New Testament writers mean Yahweh, so right away they are insulting Christ by refusing to acknowledge that Christ also owns this metaphorical house.  Instead, Christ gets assigned roles that are totally demeaning for a God.  Paul says that Christ is merely one stone in the house.  Sure, Christ gets to be an important stone—the cornerstone—but so what?  He’s still being reduced to construction material.  And of course Paul rushes to elevate humans like himself as being the critical foundation upon which the whole building stands.  So Christ is neither the owner of the house, nor its foundation—He’s just one brick in the wall.

The household of Yahweh is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy Temple in the Lord. In Christ you also are being built together into a dwelling place for Yahweh by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)

According to Paul, we’re corporately evolving into a Temple for Yahweh—not Christ—to dwell in.  The purpose of temples in Paul’s day was to publicly honor the gods who they were built for in hopes that those deities would come and dwell in those physical places.  So we’re only a Temple for Yahweh?  Yes, because He’s the One we’re really going for. Christ is just a stone we’re stepping on to help us get there.  Nice.

Pop over to Hebrews and the insults continue as once again it’s made clear that Yahweh is the Owner of the house, while Christ is being referred to as our mere apostle and high priest—both titles that are only applicable to humans.

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Jesus was faithful to Yahweh who appointed Him, just as Moses was faithful in all of Yahweh’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but Yahweh is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all of Yahweh’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by Yahweh in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over Yahweh’s house. And we are Yahweh’s house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. (Heb. 3:1-6)

Wasn’t Moses the guy who so dishonored Yahweh that Yahweh banned him from entering the Promised Land?  Wasn’t Moses the guy who sided with snarky Israelites against Yahweh when Yahweh threatened to wipe out the entire griping mob in the wilderness?  Yep, that was Moses.  What a non-compliment it is to say that Christ deserves more honor than Moses.  Gee, ya think?  He’s God.  But to the author of Hebrews, Christ is just an apostle and high priest—He’s just some halfwit who had to learn what obedience to Yahweh meant by going through hardships on earth.  So being the idolatrous Jew that he is, the author of Hebrews thinks he’s doing Christ a big favor to say that Christ is more impressive than one of Israel’s most exalted heroes.  But before we get carried away, this author reminds us that it is Yahweh, not Christ, who builds everything, so there’s a limit to how much glory we should ever give Christ.  Meanwhile, Christ is being a good little boy by managing Yahweh’s house well, so we ought to give Him kudos for that.  How derogatory.

…I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of Yahweh. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)

Are humans being exalted to ridiculous degrees?  It must be arrogant Paul talking.  And yes, it is.  Notice how Paul refers to a single “living God”—which of course is Yahweh, not Christ.  And notice how it is a collection of humans, not God Himself, which Paul describes as the pillar and foundation of truth.  You know, because we humans never get anything wrong.  Our wisdom is flawless.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)

This is Paul talking, and yet the irony is that he says that apostles and prophets are the foundation in Ephesians 2, and that all believers are the foundation in 1 Timothy 3.  Paul just can’t stand letting Christ have all of the glory.

You yourselves are like living stones which are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Yahweh through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5)

Christ died to put an end to both priests and sacrifices, yet here Peter says we Christians are like a holy priesthood.  Nice.  And who is that we’re trying to be acceptable to?  Yahweh, not Christ.  We just go through Christ to get to Yahweh, but it’s really Yahweh whose approval we’re after.

CONCLUSION

So what has been the point of this exercise?  We want you to take the blinders off and realize how often Christ is being insulted, demeaned, reduced, and slandered throughout the New Testament epistles.  You need to stop looking up to these dingdongs as if they are good spiritual role models, because they are not anything close to that.  The apostle John won’t even grant that Yahweh reigns over this world.  Instead, he says the whole planet is under the control of a single demon.

We know that we are children of Yahweh, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

How can a guy who walked with Jesus for three years make such an idolatrous remark?  It turns out that Jesus’ twelve disciples weren’t being very good listeners, which is why Jesus reamed them out for not even having one mustard seed’s worth of faith.  These spiritual dolts are not who you want to be looking to for wisdom in life, because they are going to lead you into a tangle of lies and encourage you to view Christ as some incompetent human who is chained to a chair in Heaven waiting for us humans to finish evangelizing the globe so that He can finally return.

If you take the New Testament boys seriously, you’ll never come close to giving Christ the degree of soul submission that He demands of you.  Plus, you’ll end up totally ignoring the Holy Spirit because He barely gets the time of day from the New Testament writers.  This is terrible theology, and the only way you can try to make it work is to totally ignore the authors’ original intentions and pretend that they were all referring to some Triune Blob.  And by the way, the Trinity theory was invented by Catholic bishops centuries after the New Testament was written in a desperate scramble to try and get people to stop over-humanizing Christ.  But how can you not humanize Christ if you’re going to say that the New Testament is infallible, inerrant and Divinely inspired?  Because the Church refuses to own what irreverent garbage this humanizing of Christ is, she tries to compensate for the insanity by inventing more doctrines which further insult Christ.  It’s the Church, not the New Testament authors, who teaches you to view Christ as some mysterious God-human hybrid.  Well, no, He’s not.

Today the Church tells you that Christ is fully God and fully man, which is the same as saying He’s a created being.  In the New Testament, you’re told that Christ is just a human–and not a very capable one at that. And yet regardless of how many humans stand up and declare Christ to be less than fully Divine, the fact remains that Christ is 100% God.  He has always been God, He is God right now, and He will always be God.  He doesn’t just sit next to Yahweh’s throne.  If He actually had a body and needed to sit somewhere, He’d have His own throne and it would be just as glorious as the thrones of Yahweh and the Holy Spirit.  If you minimize who Christ is, and you’re going to end up on the wrong side of His wrath in eternity.  The day comes when you have to man up and decide who you’re going to worship in life: the real Gods or the fools who so fearlessly slander those Gods in the Bible.  You can’t side with both.

FURTHER READING:
The Trinity Doctrine: Its Origin & Absurdity
Who raised Jesus from the dead?
The Bible Isn’t Perfect: Now what?
It’s Biblical: God Talks to People Without Using the Bible
Christianity: Monotheism or Polytheism?
Four Ways to Identify False Teaching in the Church
Salvation: How do you know when you’ve met God’s requirements?
Understanding Salvation: How We Find the Real Gods & The Irrelevance of Titles

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