GOD MANIFEST IN THE FLESH (1)
The set of Bible principles that we call “God Manifestation” together form what is probably the main teaching that separates us from Apostate Christendom. Yet paradoxically, it is also often portrayed as being very “deep”, having little practical value, and something better left to the more academic amongst us. However, this article seeks to show that “God Manifestation” in it’s essence is something that should be readily understood by students of the Word, and that it’s practical outworking in the lives of believers is something essential to prepare us for the coming Kingdom.
The quotation which forms the title of our article comes from the 1st letter of the inspired Apostle to Timothy:
“ … without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16),
In order to understand this verse then, the two key things we need to know are what does “manifest” mean, and how can it be “in the flesh”.
The Greek word translated “manifest” is phaneroo, which incidentally forms the title of Bro John Thomas’ work on this subject: “Phanerosis”. It literally means “to render apparent,” or to “make known”. This is the sense in which it is used in Scripture. Take the following two testimonies:
“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat” (Mark 16:14).
“After these things Jesus shewed himself again (Jno. 21:1).
For God to be made “manifest” therefore, is for Him to be Revealed in particular ways. This is a major theme of Scripture: how that it is part of our Father’s Purpose to reveal himself, and the principles of His Righteousness. Consider the following testimonies:
“There is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should be kept abroad” (Mark 4:22)
“Yahweh hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen” (Psa. 98:2).
This last citation is of particular importance, for it defines for us those things which the Father is revealing: His Salvation, and His Righteousness. As we shall go on to see, these two aspects are the two fundamental points manifested, or made known in Messiah.
GOD MANIFESTED TO MOSES
The Old testament record reveals the means by which Yahweh made Himself known to his Servents, particularly Moses. Exodus chapter 3 speaks of how:
“the angel of Yahweh appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2).
But verse 16 speaks of the same event in different terms:
“Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them: Yahweh Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob appeared unto me …” (Ex. 3:16).
Notice the difference here: in one place we are told that the Angel “appeared”, but the other, we are told that Yahweh Himself “appeared”. This demonstrates that the Angel was therefore, Yahweh’s representative before Man: Yahweh revealed himself through the Angel.
This aspect is brought out again in Exodus chapter 23:
“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him” (Ex. 23:21).
Here, the same point is made, that the Angel represented Yahweh—but here, the situation is spoken of in terms of a Name: “my Name is in him”. The passage continues:
“But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies …” (Ex. 23:22).
Yet again, we find that the Angel spoke on Yahweh’s behalf: his voice, but what Yahweh spoke.
This role of the Angel is alluded to by Christ, and is appropriated to himself:
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself: that where I am there may ye be also … he that hath seen me hath seen the Father … I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (Jno. 14:2-11).
Notice the parallel points between the two passages: the Angel was to lead the people into “the place” prepared of the Father—as does Messiah. Of the Angel it is said that “my name is in him” – and of Messiah it is written that “I am in the Father and the Father in me”. But also, most significantly, the citation of John 14 is to do with the Father being made known in His Son: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”. We see therefore, how the role of the Angel before Moses and the people foreshadowed Messiah, and the way in which Yahweh would be seen in him.
It is an important fact of Scripture that Messiah came “in the express image” of His Father (Heb. 1:3), so that the Father would be revealed in him:
“No man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the son will reveal him” (Mat. 11:27).
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father: he hath declared him” (Jno. 1:18).
Again, we also see the association of the Name with the Manifestation, or Revealing in Christ:
“His name shall be as a son to continue his Father’s Name for ever …” (Psa. 72:17 marg.)
“being so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4).
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (Jno. 17:6).
This is what we would expect even in the natural state of affairs. It is common in our own experience for sons and daughters to inherit the name of their parents. It is also common in our experience to see traces of the Mother or Father in their offspring. So much so, that often folk look at babies, and exclaim: “Hasn’t he got his Father’s eyes”, or “hasn’t he got his Father’s nose”! Of course, we all know what is meant: the child is reflecting, or showing forth the likeness of his Father. No-one supposes that the child quite literally has his father’s nose grafted onto its face – it is a likeness of character, not of substance.
Even so it is with Messiah and His Father—only much more so. As a Son, his role is to “continue his Father’s Name,” and in him the attributes of the Father can be seen. Here then, we see the basis of “God Manifestation”: it is to do with the Son revealing the Name and Character of His Father.
Our title citation is that “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Another passage teaching the same Truth states that Christ was “the word made flesh” (Jno. 1:14). John tells us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God:” The Word is the means where by the Mind of Yahweh is made know to mortal man. Being therefore “the Word made flesh,” Christ embodies all of the principles and aspects of the Father, as contained in The Word. The Word is divine: the Flesh is after the natural man. In Christ we have both coming together: Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3) and he was “God Manifest in the flesh”. In him therefore, we see all the fullness of the Godhead.
Our Master has inherited a more excellent Name than the Angels (Heb. 1:4). That Name is the Father’s Name, as we shall consider more fully in part 2. Suffice it to say, that being possessed by the Father and the Son, it has become what we might call, a “family Name”. Believers enter into the Name through baptism: as Messiah instructed his disciples:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them into the Name (Greek) of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19).
Again, we read of this Name in Proverbs:
“the Name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
By being baptised into the Name of the Father, which is also the Name of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we enter a family of brethren and sisters which collectively form the united body of Christ. And therefore we, as Christ, share the responsibility of declaring the Name amongst men, and living by the principles that it includes.
Just as Christ shows forth the image of Yahweh, even so we must manifest, or declare (in our behaviour and conduct) Christ in all our ways. So it is written:
“put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10).
We find, then, that the subject of “God Manifestation” is not a dry one, better left to the academics: rather it contains a set of principles to do with the way in which Yahweh has chosen to reveal Himself before men – and also the way in which we, as sons and daughters, must also seek to show forth the image of our Creator.
We noted earlier that fundamentally, the two principles of “salvation” and “righteousness” (Psa. 98:2) being revealed, form the main aspects of what Yahweh has declared, and revealed. In part 2 of this article, we shall proceed to examine their role in greater detail, especially in connection with the meaning of Yahweh’s Name.
(To Be Continued)