Name Above All Names – Reprise


christmas-star-1430243-mIt’s Christmas season, and I want to take some time to think about the person at the center of it all. Of course I can hardly think of Christmas without thinking of Christmas music. One song, not particularly known as a Christmas carol, came to mind immediately:

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

But then the question: Why is Jesus’s name above all names?

The quick and easy answer is that Jesus is above all others—both in the heavens and on earth. This, of course, is true. But what precisely does “above all others” mean?

Clearly Jesus is not “#1” the way sports teams are or hit songs or bestselling books or box office hits. MVPs or highest grossing movies are at the top only until another MVP is chosen or another movie earns more money. Their rating is tenuous at best.

There’s nothing tenuous about Jesus being the name above all names. His position at the top is for all time. He will not be supplanted by another, by someone greater who will take away His title. His greatness is permanent.

Another thing that puts Jesus’s name above all other names is that at the name of our soon and coming King, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10). Those in the heavens and on earth and under the earth will recognize His authority, even those who have denied Him, hated Him, or rebelled against Him in the past. That’s not to say they will change their tune and embrace Him with love and acceptance, but they will not be able to ignore His place as ruler of all. So He holds a role that sets Him above all others.

Thirdly, He cares like no other. Some might die to save a friend or risk their life to save a stranger, but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, while we were walking away from Him, even while we were spitting in His face. He, the just, died so that He might bring the unjust to God (1 Peter 3:18).

This relationship Jesus makes possible brings up another way in which He is above all others: Jesus forgives. All other gods or world systems are built upon Humankind’s striving to do good, to be better. Only Jesus takes us as we are. We don’t need to clean up for Him. He’ll take care of the clean-up in time, just as He takes care of the welcome as we run into His open arms (Col. 2:6). It is by Jesus’s grace, not my efforts, that I am His child (Eph. 2:8-9).

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:4-5a).

Jesus is also like no other because He is God, come down, and He is Man, resurrected and ascended. He is not a hybrid but is a miraculous one-of-a-kind.

Which reminds me. Some claim Jesus is the first of His “spirit brothers,” as if He is just like us, only better. There’s some truth to this idea, but a lot of untruth. Jesus is eternal. He didn’t have a beginning. He’s not created. He is the Creator because uniquely He and His Father and the Holy Spirit are One. Not simply one in purpose or some spiritualized meaning. God is One, not three. He is a Tri-unity. Jesus is a Person of this Triune God. Not “part” of God. There is no “part.” Jesus is God. The exact representation, Deity in bodily form.

Some also use Jesus’s name as if it were magic. They want to speak His name and get whatever they want just as surely as if they’d waved a magic wand or made the thing appear with some incantation. It’s a travesty at best. The idea of reducing Jesus to wait staff is despicable as well as misguided.

Jesus loves to give good gifts to His children. James tells us that all good gifts are from above (1:17). And Jesus has told us to ask whatever we will, in His name. But that doesn’t mean He is therefore forced to give us whatever we decide we want.

Like any good father would, He will not hand us something dangerous—spiritually dangerous—just because we ask. He disciplines us and sometimes ignores our requests because, as James explains, we ask with wrong motives (4:3).

One last point. Jesus is above all others because He has triumphed over the grave, and over sin which brought death into being. No other person or god or world system can offer us newness of life. Newness. Not the reincarnationist’s belief in a recycling of life here on this dying planet. Not some spirit existence in the great Other in which we lose our personhood.

Jesus has conquered and will conquer, and in doing so, He has made us new creatures. He sees us as righteous and will clothe us with His righteousness. He is preparing a place for us and will raise us up in newness of life to live with Him there. Not to live and die once again. To live.

His promises are unique and sure—because He’s gone before to show us how it’s done.

Jesus, name above all names, because the baby who bore that name is in fact the Person who is above all others.

Apart from some revision, this article first appeared here in December 2013.

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Published in: on December 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments Off on Name Above All Names – Reprise  
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Three In One


His_Baptism017More often than not, I think of God as One. I mean, He is. But in some mysterious way, He is also three, without subdividing. He exists as Father, Son, and Spirit and yet the three are one. The theological term for God’s triune being is Trinity, and it may be the hardest concept for someone not schooled in Christianity to grasp.

The Jews of Jesus’s day seemed to have some knowledge of the oneness of God because they understood Jesus’s claims to be God’s Son as declarations of equality with God:

the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18)

Recently I heard a sermon about Jesus, co-equal with the Father, submitting to His will.

I also read the Scripture passage not too long ago about Jesus answering the question concerning when the end of all things will take place and He will set up His kingdom, by saying that no one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son—only the Father:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matt. 24:36)

These kinds of clear differences between Jesus and the Father indicate that they each have a role to play, in the same way that Jesus died on the cross, not the Father.

In fact, at Jesus’s baptism, all three Persons manifest their presence: Jesus as the One undergoing baptism, the Father proclaiming Jesus to be His Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove alighting on Jesus.

The thing I find so interesting is that within their unity they exhibit submission. Jesus clearly submits His will to the Father when He prays in the Garden before His crucifixion. In a perhaps more understated way, the Spirit also submits because He waited until Jesus ascended to heaven before taking His place in the life of the believers.

Jesus told His followers about the Holy Spirit, explaining that when He left, the Spirit would come, and that it was actually better that way. You could say, Jesus was telling them that the Spirit was “better” than He was.

But regardless how we look at this remarkable prophecy, it’s clear there was unity within their difference. Jesus came to show people the Father and the Spirit came to guide them into all truth.

So the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are One, though they manifest as three. They are actually He, since God introduced Himself to Moses by saying, I AM THAT I AM. Tell the people I AM sent you.

And yet in Genesis, God begins creation by saying, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. This use of the plural pronouns shouldn’t be misunderstood as a suggestion that God is plural, however. Scripture is peppered with statements about God’s uniqueness as the only God. The pivotal passage for religious Jews is the statement in the Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4). But there are other sections of Scripture that declare God to be One, often by emphasizing His uniqueness:

Take Isaiah 44:6 for instance.

“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.’

It appears that this passage declares the King and the Redeemer to be the same person, the God besides whom is no one else.

Jeremiah echoes this same idea:

But the LORD is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King. (10:10a)

Certainly Scripture recognizes the claims of other gods, but reiterates that God is over them as the only true God:

* “I am the LORD, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God. (Isaiah 45:5a)

* “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)

* “Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
And that I am the LORD your God,
And there is no other;
And My people will never be put to shame.” (Joel 2:27)

So God is One.

John makes a clear statement of Jesus’s place in the Godhead:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (1:1)

And in case anyone is in doubt that “the Word” refers to Jesus, John clarifies that as well:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (1:14-18)

The uniqueness of God as a Trinity is amazing in itself, but the fact that we can learn so much by looking at His example is also important. I could wax eloquent about the unity of the Godhead, the agreed purpose of each Person with the other two Persons, or I could expound on the role each fills and the overlap that reiterates the nature of God’s oneness.

But I want to come back to the fact of Christ’s submission to the Father. Without breaking the unity of the triune God, without becoming less than God or lower in importance, Christ accepted His place as the One who would ask the Father for permission while accepting the Father’s authority to deny His request.

Clearly there is no shame in accepting the role God intended, even for Himself. He is King, Lord over principalities and powers, over those in the heavens and on earth, and yet He took on flesh, came to earth as a baby, and submitted to His human parents as He grew to manhood. This is the humility Paul says we are to emulate: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant” (Phil. 2:5-6).

Name Above All Names


christmas-star-1430243-mIt’s Christmas season, and I want to take some time to think about the person at the center of it all. Of course I can hardly think of Christmas without thinking of Christmas music. One song, not particularly known as a Christmas carol, came to mind immediately:

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

But then the question: Why is Jesus’s name above all names?

The quick and easy answer is that Jesus is above all others–both in the heavens and on earth. This, of course, is true. But what precisely does “above all others” mean?

Clearly Jesus is not “#1” the way sports teams are or hit songs or bestselling books. Any MVP or highest grossing movie is at the top only until another MVP is chosen or another movie earns more money. Their rating is tenuous at best.

There’s nothing tenuous about Jesus being the name above all names. His position at the top is for all time. He will not be supplanted by another, by someone greater who will take away His title. His greatness is permanent.

Another thing that puts Jesus’s name above all other names is that at the name of our soon and coming King, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10). Those in the heavens and on earth and under the earth will recognize His authority, even those who have denied Him, hated Him, or rebelled against Him. That’s not to say they will change their tune and embrace Him with love and acceptance, but they will not be able to ignore His place as ruler of all. So He holds a role that sets Him above all others.

Thirdly, He cares like no other. Some might die to save a friend or risk their life to save a stranger, but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, while we were walking away from Him, even while we were spitting in His face. He, the just, died so that He might bring the unjust to God (1 Peter 3:18).

This relationship Jesus makes possible brings up another way in which He is above all others: Jesus forgives. All other gods or world systems are built upon Humankind’s striving to do good, to be better. Only Jesus takes us as we are. We don’t need to clean up for Him. He’ll take care of the clean-up in time, just as He takes care of the welcome as we run into His open arms (Col. 2:6). It is by Jesus’s grace, not my efforts, that I am His child (Eph. 2:8-9).

Jesus is also like no other because He is God, come down, and He is Man, resurrected and ascended. He is not a hybrid but is a miraculous one-of-a-kind.

Which reminds me. Some claim Jesus is the first of His “spirit brothers,” as if He is just like us, only better. There’s some truth to this idea, but a lot of untruth. Jesus is eternal. He didn’t have a beginning. He’s not created. He is the Creator because uniquely He and His Father and the Holy Spirit are One. Not simply one in purpose or some spiritualized meaning. God is One, not three. He is a Tri-unity. Jesus is a Person of this Triune God. Not “part” of God. There is no “part.” Jesus is God. The exact representation, Deity in bodily form.

Some also use Jesus’s name as if it were magic. They want to speak His name and get whatever they want just as surely as if they’d waved a wand and made the thing appear with some incantation. It’s a travesty at best. The idea of reducing Jesus down to wait staff is despicable as well as misguided.

Jesus loves to give good gifts to His children. James tells us that all good gifts are from above (1:17). And Jesus has told us to ask whatever we will, in His name. But that doesn’t mean He is therefore forced to give us whatever we decide we want.

Like any good father would, He will not hand us something dangerous—spiritually dangerous—just because we ask. He disciplines us and sometimes ignores our requests because, as James explains, we ask with wrong motives (4:3).

One last point. Jesus is above all others because He has triumphed over the grave and sin which brought it into being. No other person or god and world system can offer us newness of life. Newness. Not the reincarnationist’s belief in a recycling of life here on this dying planet. Not some spirit existence in the great Other in which we lose our personhood.

Jesus has conquered and will conquer, and in doing so, He has made us new creatures and will clothe us with His righteousness. He is preparing a place for us and will raise us up in newness of life to live with Him there. Not to live and die once again. To live.

His promises are unique and sure–because He’s gone before to show us how it’s done.

Jesus, name above all names, because the baby who bore that name is in fact the Person who is above all others.

Published in: on December 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm  Comments (3)  
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Who Would Imagine a Triune God?


One lie that atheists buy into is that Man conjured up God from our imagination in order to explain the things that Science had not yet explained—but now that All-knowing Science has come into its own, Man no longer needs this figment of our imagination to prop us up.

The silly part of this lie is the idea that anyone would imagine God to be as the Bible explains Him. Take the trinity, for example. Note that atheists are quick to point out that the Bible never says God is a trinity, as if this fact refutes the claim. It does not. As early as Genesis 1, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

And who was this “Us”? John spells that out in the first chapter of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in verse 14, he clarifies the issue: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”

Jesus Himself stated clearly, “I and the Father are one,” which is why the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him. His claim, as they clearly understood, was that He was God. In their view this was blasphemy.

To an atheist, it looks like nonsense. So I ask the question, if someone was going to imagine a god to explain the unknown, who would come up with a triune God who fosters more questions than answers?

Why not have a neat, simple all-powerful god, with maybe a couple lesser gods beneath him, if you had to have an “Us” at all? Keep it believable, in other words, or people will reject god because he is too far-fetched.

But no. Christianity has affirmed belief in a triune God—a personal God, at that—indivisible, yet individual. The Father is not God made flesh, but He and the Son are one. That’s only one of the many conundrums the concept of a triune God causes.

Who would conceive of the inconceivable? Who could conceive of the inconceivable? Only those to whom the inconceivable has been revealed. Good Jews like Paul would never have come up with such heretical ideas on their own.

And why aren’t Christians today quick to let the doctrine go as a cultural phenomenon, much like the laws of Moses, other than the fact that we are convinced Jesus taught this truth. This difficult, problem-causing truth. A stumbling block to those who don’t believe.

If I were going to imagine a god, I’d certainly conjure up one that didn’t come with confusing claims like three-in-oneness.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm  Comments (7)  
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