Priorities

Daily Encounter from Actsweb

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21

According to Sir Winston Churchill, “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” In other words, we all see pretty much what we want to see—often times what is based on our priorities.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.”

A Chinese proverb states, “Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.” Whether we have wills or wishes is also based much on our priorities or lack thereof. And Toby Montgomery reminds us that “what we give our time, energy and resources to are what we value most. They are our priorities.”

Or as Jesus put it, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

At the close of yet another year may we each examine our priorities and make sure they are in harmony with God’s will for the coming New Year—all year long!

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, please help me to know what my God-given life purpose is and make that my priority for the New Year. And, with your help, fulfill this purpose for the glory of your name and for the extension of your Kingdom. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Bill O’Reilly and Piers Morgan Seek to Reinvent Christian Morality

from Charisma blog by Michael Brown

What do Bill O’Reilly and Piers Morgan have in common? They have their own shows on cable TV, they are professing Catholics, and they recently made statements that, in effect, seek to redefine Christian moral standards (this was in response to the comments of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson).

On his December 20th broadcast, Morgan opined that certain parts of the Bible are “utterly ridiculous” and “offensive.” He added: “I can still understand people say, well, you know, it’s my religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. I think it’s a load of absolute fooey in the modern age, to be so bigoted, but if that’s what people want to do, that’s fine.”

He then said to me (as a member of the discussion panel):

I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic. And I can look at the Bible and say parts of it are obviously utterly ridiculous. There is a part of the Bible that says, if you as a woman are not a virgin on your wedding night, you should be stoned to death. Clearly, that is not what Mr. Robertson is espousing today because he would know that is ridiculous. There are lots of offensive things in the Bible. But let me ask you this sir, as a Christian man, can you point to a single public utterance by Jesus Christ—the Christ in Christianity—about gay people or about a gay lifestyle? Can you name one single thing, derogatory or otherwise?

This, of course, was easy to respond to, and I actually gave him three relevant passages where Jesus made clear that: 1) He didn’t come to abolish God’s Law but rather to fulfill it, which included taking the moral and sexual standards to a higher level (see Matthew 5:17-48); 2) all sexual acts outside of marriage (which, quite obviously, meant male-female unions only) defiled people and made them unclean from the inside out (Matthew 15:15-20); and 3) marriage as God intended it from the beginning was the union of one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:1-16). There’s not much wiggle room there!

I also pointed out that a first century Jewish teacher wouldn’t need to speak against homosexual practice, since it was universally rejected at that time among religious Jews.

The obvious questions for Piers Morgan are: Since you reject the authority of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you mean when you say that you’re a Catholic Christian? And how do you determine what parts of the Bible are relevant for us today? By what standard or method of interpretation do you come to those conclusions?

Interestingly, Bill O’Reilly, a far more conservative Catholic than Morgan, had this to say about Robertson’s remarks on his December 20th show:

“Talking Points” believes Mr. Robertson has a constitutional right to define his religious beliefs but is misguided by targeting specific groups of people for damnation. If you adhere to the Christian philosophy you know that Jesus was quite clear, all judgments about the consequences of sin are to be made by God and God alone. We’re all sinners, and because of that the Gospel of Luke 6:37, mandates — mandates that Christian human beings refrain from judging others. Again, that is God’s prerogative.

. . . HAVING WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT JESUS, I KNOW THIS MUCH: he was adamantly against bad behavior that injures other people but he would not condemn a woman in his presence who was an adulteress.

And time and time the Nazarene persuaded folks that his way of living was worthy because it was so compassionate. Homosexual Americans should not be demonized just like devout Christians should not be demonized and people who have strong beliefs should understand the big picture. Portraying gay Americans as sinners gives license to harm them. It’s insulting and demeaning.

To be sure, O’Reilly did a far better job of honoring the Scriptures and pointing to wonderful truths about the teaching and example of Jesus. And without a doubt, he rightly emphasized that Jesus is an equal opportunity Savior – we are all sinners in need of his mercy and he offers forgiveness equally to all. Kudos to Bill for pointing to Christ’s compassion.

But Jesus did not only leave final judgment to God. He also made very clear the kinds of things that God would judge.

And so, rather than “targeting specific groups of people for damnation” he grouped all of us together in the condemned column because of the universality of our sin, coming into the world to offer us salvation. (See John 3:16-21; for the record, Jesus also called us to make judgments, as long as they were not hypocritical or superficial: see Matthew 7:1-5; John 7:24. Paul also called us to judge the behavior of others who claimed to be followers of Jesus; see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

And while Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman to be stoned to death, he also ordered her not to repeat her actions (John 8:11: “Go and sin no more”). And, in his most famous sermon, he stated that a man who looked at another woman lustfully had committed adultery in his heart and was worthy of the judgment of hell (Matthew 5:27-30).

That’s why Jesus died on the cross: to give all of us a way of salvation.

O’Reilly also overstates his case when he says that, “Portraying gay Americans as sinners gives license to harm them.”

Not so. The New Testament categorically and consistently speaks against homosexual practice, along with many other sins, but that doesn’t give anyone a license to harm the sinner. In fact, the New Testament constantly calls for compassionate love to be expressed to all.

So, the same Scriptures that speak against homosexual practice (and other sins) speak even more emphatically against doing harm to others. Why not preach both parts of the message: the sinfulness of homosexual practice (and other forbidden practices) and our calling to do no harm to our neighbor?

As many have noted, one of the most offensive things that Phil Robertson said – putting aside the coarseness of some of his language – was his statement that “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God,” but in saying this, he was simply quoting the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Does O’Reilly then reject the moral standards put forth by Paul as well as use the teachings of Jesus selectively?

It’s one thing to question whether Phil Robertson should be the new face of evangelical Christianity in America (in my book he should not, with all respect to him for holding his ground on these sexual-moral issues).

It’s another thing to rewrite the Bible and reinvent Christian morality in an attempt to make it more palatable to the world. That’s exactly what Piers Morgan and (to a lesser extent) Bill O’Reilly have done.

Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Stop Sharing Jesus!

 

from Faith ActuallyYes! You heard me right. I think we should stop sharing Jesus. Let me explain…

Christians are commissioned to share the good news about Jesus with those who do not know Him (Matt 28:19; Act 1:8). But with the rising tide of pluralism and political correctness in our society, the concept of “sharing” Jesus is taking on new meaning. A growing number of Christians are starting to feel guilty about claiming Jesus as theirs and theirs alone, when lots of people from other religious and cultural backgrounds lay claim to Him also. In this context, “sharing Jesus” means showing tolerance towards other viewpoints on who He is. Rather than hogging Him for our Christian selves, shouldn’t we share Jesus with people from other faiths and cultures, and free Him from a Westernized strait-jacket? Why should He be confined to our Christian churches with stained-glass and rows of pews, anyway? Isn’t it unreasonable and, quite frankly, arrogant to think that we have all the answers about who He is? I hear this type of sentiment expressed more frequently now that cultural sensitivity is beginning to trump Scriptural accuracy more often in our churches.

There are indeed many different perspectives on who Jesus is that exist throughout the world—we may even encounter differing ideas among our friends or in our own neighborhoods. Our Muslim neighbors may revere Him as a great prophet. Our Mormon friends may proclaim Him to be their Savior. Agnostics may admire His moral teachings, but deny any certainty of His divinity. Spiritualists and New Agers may believe Him to be divine, but reject His uniqueness. And Jehovah’s Witnesses may tell you He is an archangel. We may even find varying opinions about Jesus within the Christian community. Living in the DC-metro area, and having worked in international development and missions, I have been exposed to a diversity of opinion on who Jesus is.

The fact is, however, these conflicting views on who He is cannot all be right. While it might make us feel more comfortable to adopt a politically-correct attitude towards Jesus’ identity, it makes no logical sense. He’s either the Son of God or He isn’t. The lunatic, liar or Lord trilemma[1] comes to mind! But in an era of cultural relativism, the idea that there is absolute truth about who Jesus is, is widely deemed intolerant, narrow-minded, offensive, even bigoted. Many Christians, therefore, shrink away from making absolute statements about Jesus these days.

Rooted in the rise of relativism and pluralism in our culture is the interfaith movement, which attempts to bring about unity between otherwise opposing believe systems through an exploration of the mystical elements in all religions and identifying the common ground between them. In this context, the bible cannot be treated as the supreme authority on matters of faith. Today, various—seemingly benign—aspects of the interfaith movement have permeated the church. One of these is the practice of interfaith dialogue. Many churches engage in interfaith dialogue as a means to achieving deeper understanding, and seeking common ground, between religions. Within evangelicalism, the practice of interfaith dialogue for the purpose of “building bridges” between those of different faith-backgrounds has become increasingly popular. The ultimate motive for evangelical churches in reaching out this way, often begins as a starting point to sharing the gospel. Usually, however, the rules of engagement involve a prior agreement to refrain from attempting to convert one another, as with the Christian-Muslim dialogue sessions practiced at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, for example. This can result in the gospel message being obscured, and relativistic compromises being made, in an effort to maintain the amicable relations that have been forged through such sessions. Moreover, the biblical Jesus is often watered down, even misrepresented, so as to be compatible with differing religious beliefs. In these dialogues, deal-breakers like the Trinity, for example, are almost always conveniently ignored or down-played.

A good example of this was when a slew of evangelical leaders (Wheaton College President Duane Litfin[2], National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren[3], and former Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw, to name a few) signed what was to become a controversial document produced by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture titled, “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between Us and You.” The document was in response to an open letter in which 138 Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals came together to declare that there is common ground between Christianity and Islam. The “Christian Response,” in agreement with the Muslim open letter states, “What is common between us lies not in something marginal nor in something merely important to each. It lies, rather, in something absolutely central to both: love of God and love of neighbor.”  Essentially, then, the “Christian Response” refers to the love of one shared God. It treats the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible as the same and makes no mention of the fact that the love of God, as represented in the bible, is expressed most significantly through Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ Himself is the central component of Christianity, but is completely omitted in the Common Word documents, while “common ground” is declared “absolutely central” in His place. Patrick De Leon illustrates well the difficulties with the Common Word movement: “If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, must we not be true to ourselves? Must we reject our own faith and deny the very persons we are in order to live in harmony? Such a peace is false from the beginning, and we would question if it is even possible to last. Can a peace founded upon falsehood be lasting?”[4]

Jesus Himself, however, demonstrated that understanding who He is, is of utmost importance. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:13-15). Our answer to this question will be the most important one we will ever give. The bible tells us that knowing the true Christ is a matter of critical, life-and-death importance. In this vein, Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” (John 16:6-7, emphasis added). A relationship with the authentic Son of God alone is upon which our salvation depends. The bible is clear that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But the fact is, many who use His name do not actually know the true Christ. Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt 7:21-23) Jesus makes it clear, then, we must understand the truth about who He really is, and what He actually taught.

Jesus also taught us that being truthful with others about who He is, is paramount. He said,  “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 10:33). The fact is, Jesus is polarizing and His work on the cross is pivotal. Because of this, the very nature of who Jesus is, is a “stumbling block” and a “rock of offense” to many (1 Tim 1:16). Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” (Matt 10:34). Tragically, many will reject Jesus because of who the bible says He is.

But thankfully for those who’s hearts truly seek Him, Jesus is not an elusive figure. We are told that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart and with all our soul (Deut 4:29). And we must seek to know Him better through studying the Word; Jesus said: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, emphasis added). The Word of God is the only dependable source of information about Jesus; the doctrines and beliefs of other faiths or philosophies that might use His name, should not be trusted or promoted in any way as a means to learning about Jesus. He Himself warned us to beware of false teaching (Matt 7:15; Matt 24:24).

Despite this, there are missionaries today who use certain verses from the Qu’ran that shed Jesus in a positive light to teach Muslims about Him. The controversial Camel Method, for example, an evangelistic strategy that was promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010, does just that. The figure of Jesus also features prominently in New Age spiritualism. New agers often use Christian-sounding language, which can be confusing to new believers who might be more susceptible to being led astray by false teaching. For this, reason, we should be on guard against the insidious strains of New Age teaching that are seeping into our churches.[5]

The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19-20) was the last and, perhaps, the most important commandment given by Jesus right before His ascension. We can conclude from this that our mission as Christians is first and foremost to make disciples, which involves conversion and baptism, as well as the on-going teaching of Jesus’ commands. Jesus said, “whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27). Jesus made it clear that knowing the truth about who He is and responding in obedient submission to Him are what makes a disciple. We must encourage others, then, to study what the bible teaches about Jesus, not confuse them with some type of kum-bah-yah notion that all religions can share Jesus and coexist happily.

So then, let’s stop sharing Jesus with other religions, and stick to sharing the good news about Jesus as revealed in His word. ————————–

[1] Famous CS Lewis argument, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952, p54-56

[2] Due to the unbiblical nature of the Common Word document, the evangelicals who signed it have come under criticism, after which Dr. Litfin, for one, felt the need to explain his decision:

“I signed the statement because I am committed to the business of peace-making and neighbor-love,” Litfin wrote in The Record. ”I did not savor the document’s unnuanced apology section, but swallowed that in order to be a part of reaching out a hand to these Muslim leaders who had courageously taken the initiative. Though the statement was not written in the way I would have written it, it seemed to me that I could sign it without compromising any of my Christian convictions.” Eventually, Litfin chose to have his signature removed from the document, however.

[3] Despite signing the document, Rick Warren, has since stated very clearly that he does not believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

[4] Patrcik De Leon, “Who You Gonna Serve? Theological Difficulties in A Common Word Between Us and You.”

[5] Please refer to future blog posts on the New Age Jesus and Jesus in Islam.

Spiritual Warfare

I have had some experience with those who believe there is a devil under every bush – and likely in most believers. I have also been among those who are seemingly totally oblivious to the reality of spiritual warfare. I go along with the position that we in America tend to be “dumb and numb” to the spiritual warfare that we are in, whether we know it or not – and we are behind enemy lines. This article is interesting and informative as it gives the perspective of African believers. It is by by Claude Mariottini in his blog.

 

Evangelical Christians in the United States are divided over the issue of spiritual warfare. Although the New Testament exhorts believers not to fall into the “snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7) and to resist the devil, who like “a roaring lion,” is seeking to devour them (1 Peter 5:8), most evangelicals do not take these warnings seriously.

Not so in Africa, where the church is growing and it is actively fighting the demonic. This is the emphasis of an article written by Tanya M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University. In an article titled “When Demons Are Real,” Luhrmann describes her experience in attending an all-night prayer session with a charismatic evangelical church in Ghana where the worshipers were reliving Paul’s experience with a snake.

In her article, Luhrmann compares the evangelical churches in Africa with the evangelical churches in America. While evangelical churches in America emphasize the love and mercy of God, evangelical churches in Africa emphasize God’s victory over the powers of evil because they have discovered that supernatural evil is a daily reality in the world.

The following is an excerpt from Luhrmann’s article:

To be in Africa is to encounter a God different from that of a charismatic church in the United States. People say that the boundary between the supernatural and the natural is thinner there. Certainly religion is everywhere — churches and church billboards seem to be on every street — and atheists are few. American evangelicals often say that faith is more intense in Africa. There is something to this. Compared with Ghanaian charismatic Christianity, American Christianity can seem like soggy toast.

It is not just the intensity that seems different. In these churches, prayer is warfare. The new charismatic Christian churches in Accra imagine a world swarming with evil forces that attack your body, your family and your means of earning a living.

J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, a professor at Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Ghana, argues that these churches have spread so rapidly because African traditional religion envisions a world dense with dark spirits from which people must protect themselves, and these new churches take this evil seriously in a way that many earlier missionizing Christianities did not. Indeed, I have been at a Christian service in Accra with thousands of people shouting: “The witches will die! They will die! Die! Die!” With the pastor roaring, “This is a war zone!”

The struggle against the forces of evil is real. But, there is a danger in over-promoting spiritual warfare as the primary ministry of the church. Many Christians can go overboard when dealing with spiritual warfare, just like some Christians did with the witch trials in Salem where innocent people were falsely accused of being witches and possessed by the devil.

This is what Luhrmann tries to present in her article. When people go overboard, terrifying things may happen: “In West Africa, witches are people, and sometimes, other people kill them or drive them from their homes.”

You may read the article here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

The Greatest Among Us

Posted by Don Merritt on Life Reference blog comments

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

We usually don’t think of the greatest in our midst as being our servants, but this is what Jesus taught:

Culture teaches otherwise…

In this passage, Jesus was teaching the crowd that they should follow the lead of their religious leaders and to do whatever the leaders said, but to never do as their leaders did.  This was because their leaders taught all of the right things, but lived entirely differently.  They loved their lofty positions and all of the perks that came along with them.

Following Jesus is not about perks.

Following Jesus means that we are the humble servants of others to promote God’s purpose.  Following Jesus means that we are willing to sacrifice for His cause; to give our all and even to suffer for His name’s sake.  If we are into self-satisfaction and self-actualization, we are not following Jesus.

Following Jesus means that we get over ourselves.

Following Jesus means that it is all about Him. We like to say that Christmas should be all about Him.  Let’s try celebrating Christmas by behaving like Him, and putting others first!

Where did the verse go? (Rom 8:2)

by Bill Mounce 

In class the other day a student commented that the NIV had dropped out half a verse. My immediate reaction was to assume the student was correct, and I checked the textual notes to see the variants in the manuscripts. No, the Greek text was fine.

He was reading the NASB. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Pretty much word for word. ὁ γὰρ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠλευθέρωσέν σε ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου.

When I first glanced at the NIV, it did look like something was missing. They write, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

The first obvious difference is that the NIV treats v 2 as part of v 1, properly strengthening the role of γάρ. But apparently, the NIV thought that the meaning of a string of genitive phrases and a prepositional phrase was insufficiently clear. In their attempt to clarify meaning, phrases get moved around, which gives the initial impression of omitting something.

GNT NASB NIV
ὁ γὰρ νόμος For the law because … the law
τοῦ πνεύματος of the Spirit of the Spirit
τῆς ζωῆς of life who gives life
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ in Christ Jesus through Christ Jesus

What has the NIV done?

  1. They interpreted the genitive phrase τῆς ζωῆς to mean, “who gives life.” I am not sure if “the Spirit of life” means anything, so the NIV is helpful.
  2. English grammar requires the subject to be somewhere in the vicinity of its verb, and so by placing “through Christ Jesus” earlier, they bring “law … has set you free” a little closer. Again, a helpful translation.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, and I would assume the primary motivation of the NIV, is that the Greek word order suggests to English ears that Paul is claiming that “life [is] in Christ Jesus.” But the Greek is saying that we have been set free in Christ Jesus, that Christ Jesus is the agency (if that is the right word) through which the Spirit effects his work.

 

Moo, the chair of the CBT, writes, “This suggests an intentional play on the word, as Paul implicitly contrasts the law of Moses with a different ‘law,’ in this case the ‘“law” of the Spirit who confers life.’ The actor in the situation is, then, the Spirit himself. It is God’s Spirit, coming to the believer with power and authority, who brings liberation from the powers of the old age and from the condemnation that is the lot of all who are imprisoned by those powers.”

His footnote on “life” says, “We are taking τοῦ πνεύματος as an epexegetic genitive and τῆς ζωῆς as an objective genitive (cf. Cranfield).” In other words, the “law” is the “Spirit.”

So much for the details of the passage. But what I wanted to stress today is that Bible translations don’t simply “drop out” half a verse. They just don’t. Unless there are textual issues (like John 5:4), no Bible I have ever read simply drops out that much of the text. So if you are tempted to think that, think again. Something else is going on.

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek

Who can reveal God?

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus

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All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. —Mt 11:27

Jesus claims that his Father (i.e., God, cf., vv. 25-26) and the Son (himself) share a reciprocal and unique knowledge of each other (see also Lk. 10:22). The passage is not found in Mark and, therefore, is likely in the “Q” sayings which are said to predate all four Gospel accounts [Note: “Q” is understood to be a hypothetical written source of Jesus’ teachings (approx. 235 verses) common to both Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark (see here for details). Verbal parallelisms between these non-Markan sayings of Jesus strongly suggests the existence of a common written source dated circa 40s-50s CE and available to both Matthew and Luke as one of two sources for their Gospel account (the other source being Mark’s Gospel). On the pros and cons of positing the existence of Q, as well as relevant bibliographic information, cf., D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, 34-36. See also Eta Linnemann’s analysis and counterpoints on the existence of Q]. Quite possibly this would put it very close, chronologically, to Jesus’ utterance. Moreover, since Jesus frequently referred to God as Father, and if he was in the habit of speaking of himself in the third person, then there is no good reason to doubt that he referred to himself as “the Son” (cf., Matt. 8:20; 12:8; Mk. 8:38; 9:31; Lk. 9:22; 18:8; Jn. 3:13-14; 13:31-32). Put differently, “if Jesus’ use of Abba is authentic, then his language about sonship in Matthew 11:27 par. should also be accepted.” [Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, p. 251.] And if his language about sonship is accepted, it is a short distance to accept what he says about his unique relationship with God the Father. Indeed, there is no reason not to.

Earlier in the same passage, Jesus addressed God as “Father” (vv. 25, 26). In Matt. 11:27 he declares himself to be a Son in the exclusive sense of mediating knowledge of the Father to whomever he chooses. This presupposes a unique relationship of the Son to the Father. Especially interesting is the claim that “no one knows the Son except the Father.” This is a claim no mere mortal could make, since what is known of the Son is available only to the Father and no other. Craig states that since the “verse says the Son is unknowable [as to his essential identity as God], which is not true for the post-Easter Church . . . This strongly implies a pre-Easter origin of the saying” [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 246]. More astounding, however, is the claim that “no one knows the Father except the Son.” In effect, Jesus is saying that persons must acquire their knowledge of God from him.

“No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” is Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son in an absolute and sovereign sense. He is the only one who can reveal the Father. This exclusive claim in revealing the Father is because of Jesus’ unequaled relationship to God the Father; a relationship that no other could possess. Though a filial consciousness is involved between Jesus and God the Father, it is like no other.

The uniqueness of the relationship is seen in Jesus’ claim to know and reveal the Father to whomever he pleases. This is not just another expression of a father and son relationship. The relationship Jesus has with God the Father is a peculiar one. To have mutual knowledge of God the Father is to have the mind of God. To have the exclusive right to reveal God the Father is to possess the sovereignty of God. As Reymond states, “a higher expression of parity between the Father and the Son in possessing divine knowledge and sovereignty and dispensing saving knowledge is inconceivable” [Robert L. Reymond, Jesus: Divine Messiah, 73.].

More importantly, if Matt. 11:27 is a “Q” saying, then it seriously upsets the notion of an evolving Christology. This pre-Johannine statement by Jesus dissolves the idea of a steady development toward a Johannine Christology. Hence, Matthew and Luke (cf., Lk. 10:22) must have already had in place the possibility of a deity Christology. Simply because some of the Gospel writers do not explicitly make all, or even some Christological claims in the way that, say, John did (e.g., pre-existence of the Word, cf., Jn. 1:1), does not mean they did not believe them. Silence concerning an idea is not the same as ignorance of that idea.

The primary focus of Jesus’ prayer is on the flow of revelation. Revelation passes from the Father to the Son, who in turn passes that revelation on to those whom the Son chooses. The process is that the Father, whom Jesus has already identified as “the Lord of heaven and earth,” commits both knowledge and authority to the Son, whom Jesus has identified as himself. This unique mutual knowledge of God the Father guarantees that the revelation the Son gives is true. There is tremendous emphasis put upon Jesus’ person and authority by Matthew.

Moreover, if this passage is read in light of earlier Christological beliefs that had already come to be accepted, it is hardly difficult to dismiss it for what it actually says and means. For example, no less than eleven times is Jesus referred to as the “Lord Jesus” in 1 Thessalonians (1:1, 3; 2:15, 19; 3:11, 13; 4:1, 2; 5:9, 23, 28). Including Galatians we have an additional three times where Jesus is explicitly referred to as Lord in early New Testament writing (1:3; 6:14, 18). It is important to see that the Father and the Son are named together as the origin of salvation and the attributes of the one are the attributes of the other (Gal. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:1).

Furthermore the pre-existence of the Son of God, who’s identified as Jesus of Nazareth, is clearly not a late development (cf., Gal. 4:4f). Paul is able to say that he did not receive his apostleship from a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal. 1:1). The close proximity of Jesus to God in Gal. 1:1, and the contrasting of Jesus and God to “men,” demonstrates that Paul puts Jesus on the divine side of reality [I. H. Marshall, Jesus the Savior: Studies in New Testament Theology , 209.].

Therefore, this early attestation of a ‘God the Son Christology’ puts Matthew 11:27 in a far more defensible light, historically speaking.