Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Requirement to Love Jesus Is Evidence of Jesus' Divinity

Alluding to Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, Jesus stated in Matt. 22:37-40 that the "first and great commandment" was to "love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" [Mark 12:30 includes and "with all your strength"]. Then in verses 39-40 Jesus goes on to say, "39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." In a similar passage Jesus even connects these two commandments with the Shema (Mark 12:29-31).

The New Testament also teaches that the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied about the Messiah's coming (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27; 44-47; Rom. 3:21; 9: 10:4-13), the nature of His ministry/work and the dignity of His person.

Now if the heart of true and faithful religion hang on the two commandments of loving God the most and one's fellow man as oneself, where does Jesus fit? How are we to relate to Jesus? Admittedly, there are passages in the OT that teach prophets were to be honored. The coming Messiah, being the greatest prophet of all, would require the greatest honor due to any prophet or human being (Deut. 18:15). Nowhere in the entire Old Testament or New Testament are humans required to love any other type of persons beside God and humans. For example, we are never commanded to love angels. Even if in the afterlife God may permit us to love angels similar to how we are to love other human beings, it is not specifically required in this life.

However, in contrast to that silence about angels, the New Testament positively requires a love, devotion, and allegiance to Jesus that no human prophet or angel deserves or can legitimately demand from their fellow creatures. This requirement is so great, essential and vital to the heart of true New Testament religion that Paul pronounces a curse on those who refuse to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote:

22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.- 1 Cor. 16:22-23
An eternal curse of damnation is pronounced on those who refuse to love the Lord Jesus Christ. How could Paul do that if Jesus were anything less than Almighty God? How can one's eternal salvation hinge or depend on loving supremely anyone in addition to Almighty God? No creature, no matter how exalted, can hold such importance and centrality with respect to salvation on pain of contradicting the Old Testament's drumbeat insistence that salvation and redemption hinges on single-hearted love and devotion to Almighty God alone.

Paul also wrote the following:

23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.- Eph. 6:23-24
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.- 2 Tim. 4:8

Jesus Himself requires us to love Him.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."16 He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.- John 21:15-17

If the New Testament requires us to love Jesus in a way that the Old Testament reserves only for God, and if the New Testament is the consistent fulfillment of the Old Testament Jewish religion, promises and prophecies, then the natural and necessary inference would be that Jesus is God Himself.

If Jesus were only a human being, then humans shouldn't place their ultimate trust and love in him.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.- Ps. 146:3

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. 9  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.- Ps. 118:8-9

Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.- Jer 17:5

[There are many other similar OT passages]

Here are more passages that teach we are to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.- John 8:42

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- John 14:15

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.- John 14:21-24

If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.- John 15:24

7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,-1 Pet. 1:7-8

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
- Matt. 10:37

 "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

Compare these two passages about loving one's parents less than Jesus to how God requires a similar love in the Old Testament.

6 "If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which neither you nor your fathers have known,7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other,8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him.- Deut. 13:6-8 [cf. Deut. 33:8-9]

Luke 7:36-50 is the passage of the sinful woman whom Jesus forgives and says she rightfully loved Him much. Jesus goes on to forgive her sins in such a way that many of those who saw it wondered and asked in a grumbling manner who Jesus was, or claimed to be, that he could claim to forgive sins. This is reminiscent of Mark 2:1-12 which also has Jesus taking on that peculiar prerogative of God, viz. pardoning sins. In the Markan passage the scribes even say in verse 7, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" The implication seems to be that Jesus, by His actions was claiming to be God and that Jesus ought and may not do that (in the opinion of the scribes). The scribes would be right of Jesus really wasn't God. But if Jesus is God, then it's perfectly appropriate for Jesus to forgive sins. It's true that Jesus later delegated the authority to forgive sin to the apostles (John 20:23). However, that's clearly a delegated authority. Whereas Jesus' forgiveness of sins appears to be inherent authority. At least that how the scribes interpreted Jesus actions. Yet, Jesus doesn't correct their premise that only God can forgive sin. Rather He claimed to be the son of Man who can do so. Which itself can be interpreted to imply a claim to deity (see THIS BLOGPOST where a quote from Michael Heiser demonstrates this).

In light of the points I've made above, it isn't surprising therefore that many Christians have interpreted the Song of Songs (i.e. Song of Solomon, or Canticles) as an allegory not only of the mutual love between Jehovah/Yahweh and Israel, but also of the mutual love between Christ and His Bride the Church. Even non-Messianic Jews have interpreted the Canticles as an allegory of God's love for Israel. For those who believe in the New Testament, this buttresses the identification of Jesus with Almighty God. Because just as the Church is the eschatological embodiment and fulfillment of Remnant (i.e. faithful and true) Israel (Rom. 9:6, 27; 2:28-29; 11:5), so Christ is the eschatological Lord who parallels Old Testament Jehovah who was married to Israel. Christ and the Church are the "End Times" New Covenant fulfillment of Yahweh and (spiritual) Israel.

For as a young man marries a young woman,
        so shall your sons marry you,
    and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
        so shall your God rejoice over you.- Isa. 62:5

19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.- Hos. 2:19-20
 For thy Maker is thy husband; JEHOVAH of hosts is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is thy Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.- Isa. 54:5 ASV

The book of Revelation seems to pick up on that theme.
 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb."- Rev. 21:9
 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.- Rev. 22:17

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."- Rev. 21:2-4

This is reminiscent of John 1:14 where the word "dwelt" literally means to "tabernacle."

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.- John 1:14

The Jamieson Fawcett & Brown Commentary says regarding the word "dwelt" in John 1:14,
tabernacled or pitched his tent; a word peculiar to John, who uses it four times, all in the sense of a permanent stay (Rev_7:15; Rev_12:12; Rev_13:6; Rev_21:3). For ever wedded to our “flesh,” He has entered this tabernacle to “go no more out.” The allusion is to that tabernacle where dwelt the Shekinah (see on Mat_23:38, Mat_23:39), or manifested “GLORY OF THE LORD,” and with reference to God’s permanent dwelling among His people (Lev_26:11; Psa_68:18; Psa_132:13, Psa_132:14; Eze_37:27). This is put almost beyond doubt by what immediately follows, “And we beheld his glory” [Lucke, Meyer, De Wette which last critic, rising higher than usual, says that thus were perfected all former partial manifestations of God in an essentially Personal and historically Human manifestation].
This makes sense of Jesus' statement in Matt. 12:6 where He says, "I tell you, something greater than the temple is here." Jesus' presence was greater than the temple because in Jesus God Himself dwelt in a way even greater than God's presence in the temple.

For in him [i.e. Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,- Col. 1:19

For in him [i.e. Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,- Col. 2:9

Jesus Himself identifies Himself as the Bridegroom of the Bride in all four Gospels. It's not a later development after the Gospel of Mark.

19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.- Mark 2:19-20 [cf. Matt. 9:15; Luke 5:34-35]
29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.30 He must increase, but I must decrease."- John 3:29-30

See also the parable that mentions the Bridegroom in Matthew 25:1-10

The following are just two of the many Christian works that have interpreted the Song of Songs as an allegory of Christ and the Church.

Exposition of the Book of Solomon's Song, Commonly Called Canticles by John Gill (also found here, or here )

Discovering Christ in the Song of  Solomon by Don Fortner

At the beginning of this blogpost I cited Jesus' combination of Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 as embodying the two greatest commandments on which all of God's other laws for man hang. This was Jesus' summation or distillation of true religion. An Old Testament example of that kind of distillation can be found in Deut. 10:12-13.

12 "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?

All aspects of this summation have New Testament counterparts with respect to Jesus.

- We are to fear/reference Jesus similar to the LORD (1 Pet. 3:14-15 alludes to Isa. 8:12-13 and applies a passage about the LORD/Jehovah/YHWH to Jesus ).

- We are to walk in Jesus' ways similar to the LORD's because Jesus commanded us to "follow" Him (John 8:12; Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; John 10:27; 12:26).

- We are to love Jesus Christ similar to the LORD (as shown above). Loving Jesus with an incorruptible/sincere love (Eph. 6:24) seems to correspond to loving the LORD with all one's heart and soul. Loving God and honoring Him go together. Yet, Jesus states we are to honor Him as we do the Father (John 5:23).

- We are to serve Jesus similar to the LORD (John 12:26; Rom. 14:18; 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:22; Col. 3:24; Eph. 6:6; Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1:1).

- We are to keep Jesus' commandments and statutes similar to the LORD's (John 14:15, 21; 15:10; John 8:51-52; Matt. 28:19-20)

How can Unitarians blame Trinitarians for believing in the fully deity of Jesus when the worship, honor, service, allegiance, yes even LOVE required to be directed toward Almighty God seems to also be required to be directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ?

In another blogpost I wrote regarding Mark 8:34, 38:

Jesus requires allegiance and commitment to Himself which only God has the right to require or claim. Thus indirectly implying Jesus is Himself God. Like many of the other Markan passages I cite in this blog, this one has parallels in Matthew and Luke which are stated in a stronger sense and therefore teach an even higher Christology. But I'm focusing on passages in Mark in this blog.

Similarly, the same thing could be said about Jesus' repeated use of phrases like "My name", "My sake", "My name's sake" (or word's to that effect). Either Jesus was an egotistical and narcissistic megalomaniac or Jesus rightfully required such loyalty, devotion and centrality. Here are the some passages where Jesus uses those phrases Mark 8:35; 9:37; 9:39; 9:41; 10:29; 13:6; 13:9; 13:13. [Note: I only limited myself to Markan passages. I purposely excluded citing similar passages in Matthew, Luke and John in the original blogpost because it focused on Markan Christology] Each one should be read individually. But to save space, I've only given their citations. This line of reasoning is what I called above the Christocentric argument for Jesus' deity. As I said above, to get the full effect of the argument one should read chapter 2 of John Stott's classic book Basic Christianity.

An additional argument that can go along similar lines is the many passages that teach we're to desire, hope for and seek the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If I were a Unitarian that denied the full deity of Jesus, then I would expect the New Testament to restrict the dispensation of grace to Almighty God alone. Yet, in many places in the New Testament Jesus is taught to dispense grace and mercy. Grace, mercy and compassion in the New Testament of course has some connection to the various Hebrew words connected with the mercy, loving-kindness, steadfast love of Jehovah/YHWH (Hebrew words like hesed).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.- 2 Cor. 13:14

See also John 1:16-17; Rom. 1:7; 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; Rev. 1:5

Even the Holy Spirit is said to dispense grace. See Zech. 12:10; Heb. 10:29; Rev. 1:4 [the "seven spirits" of Rev. 1:4 probably refers to the Holy Spirit here because the "seven spirits" dispense grace in this passage along with the Father and the Son. Hence, this is another passage where all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned.]

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