the person of yahweh
In his prayer recorded in John chapter 17, our Master stated that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jno. 17:3). To know the true Bible teaching concerning “the only true God” therefore, is a prerequisite to “life eternal”. As we read elsewhere, “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Belief in the existence of God therefore, is essential for those who desire to come to him. That is, not a belief in a deity of the heathen, but in the only true God, as revealed in the pages of Scripture.
In this regard, the churches around us reveal themselves to be in the deepest of apostasy. Rejecting the Bible doctrine that Yahweh is a person with a specific dwelling place, they teach rather that God is some intangible essence which they call “spirit”. They hold to the belief that God is everywhere, yet nowhere in particular, that He has no bodily existence or identity. To give one example, the following is from the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church:
Article I — Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church)
Notice the expression they use, aside from the Trinitarian aspect, they describe what they call the “one living and true God” as being: “without body or parts”. There are also individuals in the congregation of those who ought to know better, who also embrace such an errant idea. As one writer has it, speaking of Paul’s address in Athens recorded in Acts chapter 17, this “seems to contradict the view of God as in bodily form in a specific location.” The idea that God has no “bodily form in a specific location” smacks of Pantheism, the belief that God has no actual person or location, but is instead everywhere in all things as some kind of diffused power. This is an idea that Christadelphians have long resisted. As with many wrong doctrines, this idea contains an element of truth, but has more than a smattering of falsehood. The Christadelphian Statement of Faith (the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith, or BASF), states plainly that:
“the only true God is He who was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by angelic visitation and vision, and to Moses at the flaming bush (unconsumed) and at Sinai, and who manifested Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the supreme self-existent Deity, the ONE FATHER, dwelling in unapproachable light, yet everywhere present by His Spirit, which is a unity with His person in heaven. He hath, out of His own underived energy, created heaven and earth, and all that in them is.- Is 40:13-25; 43:10-12; 44:6-8; 46:9,10; Job 38,39 and 40; Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29-32; 1Cor 8:4-6; Eph 4:6; 1Tim 2:5; Neh 9:6; Job 26:13; Ps 124:8; 146:6; 148:5; Is 40:26,27; Jer 10:12,13; 27:5; 32:17-19; 51:15; Acts 14:15; 17:24; 1Chron 29:11-14; Ps 62:11; 145:3; Is 26:4; 40:26; Job 9:4; 36:5; Ps 92:5; 104:24; 147:4-5; Is 28:29; Rom 16:27; 1Tim 1:17; 2Chron 16:9; Job 28:24; 34:21; Ps 33:13,14; 44:21; 94:9; 139:7-12; Prov 15:3; Jer 23:24; 32:19; Amos 9:2,3; Acts 17:27,28; Ps 123:1; 1Kings 8:30,39,43,49; Mat 6:9; 1Tim 6:15-16; 1:17” (BASF Clause 1).
Notice the wording used here in the phrases we have highlighted: God is a specific “person in heaven”, dwelling in a particular place – i.e. “in unapproachable light”. It is true that he is “everywhere present by His Spirit,” but it is nevertheless also true that he is a distinct “person” who has a fixed dwelling place.
Brother Robert Roberts describes how this position is actually a first principle doctrine:
“It is a first principle of the subject that God is a glorious person, dwelling in heaven, yet filling the immeasurable universe by His Spirit, which is the effluent energy of His person, constituting the basis, or force, or first cause of all things in heaven and earth, in this Spirit all things exist” (Ways of Providence, P. 233).
Again, he writes in his book Christendom Astray:
“Some shrink from the suggestion that Deity has a located existence. Why should they? The Scriptures expressly teach the located existence of Deity. We submit the evidence: Paul says in I Tim. 6:16. God dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto.” Here is a localisation of the person of the Creator. If God were on earth in the same sense in which He dwells in light unapproachable, what could Paul mean by saying that man cannot approach? If God dwells in unapproachable light, He must have an existence there, which is not manifested in this mundane sphere. This is borne out by Solomon’s words: “God is in heaven, thou upon earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2); “therefore let thy words be few.” Jesus inculcates the same view in the prayer which he taught his disciples: “Our Father which art in heaven.” So does David, in Psalm 102:19, 20: “He (the Lord) hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner.” And again, in Psa. 115:16: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth hath He given to the children of men.” Solomon in the prayer by which he dedicated the temple to God (recorded in the 8th chapter of I Kings), made frequent use of this expression: “Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place.” It is impossible to mistake the tenor of these testimonies: they plainly mean that the Father of all is a person who exists in the central “heaven of heavens” as He exists nowhere else. By His Spirit in immensely-filling diffusion, He is everywhere present in the sense of holding and knowing, and being conscious of creation to its utmost bounds; but in His proper person, all-glorious, beyond human power to conceive, He dwells in heaven. …. There is great and invincible repugnance to this evidently Scriptural and reasonable, and beautiful view of the matter. It is the popular habit, where serious views of God are entertained at all, to conceive of Him as a principle or energy in universal diffusion—without corporeal nucleus, without local habitation, “without body or parts.” There is no ground for this popular predilection, except such as philosophy may be supposed to furnish. Philosophy is a poor guide in the matter. Philosophy, after all, is only human thought. It can have little weight in a matter confessedly beyond human ken. The question is, What is revealed? We need not be concerned if what is revealed is contrary to philosophical conceptions of the matter. Philosophical conceptions are just as likely to be wrong as right. Paul warns believers against the danger of being spoiled through philosophy (Col. 2:8). Philosophy or no philosophy, the Scriptures quoted plainly teach that the Father is a tangible person, in whom all the powers of the Universe converge.
(Christendom Astray Pg 138-139)
What saith the Scriptures?
THE LIKENESS OF GOD
The book of beginnings, otherwise known as Genesis, describes to us how that man was made after the Divine Image. So we read of the words of Yahweh to the Elohim:
“and God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:26, 27).
According to the Holy Writ then, man was made in the “image” and “likeness” of God. But notice the use of the singular term: “his own image” – that is the image of Yahweh Himself. The use of this, and in the Hebrew, the singular form of the verb “created” destroys the argument held by some that we are made in the image of the Angels, and not of the Great Creator himself. Another passage describes how the way in which Yahweh revealed himself to Moses:
“With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Yahweh shall he behold …” (Num. 12:8)
Yahweh then, has a “similitude” which Moses beheld. The Word “similitude” indicates a physical appearance, or form. It is used in this way in a number of passages, but just to quote a few:
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exo. 20:4).
“Yahweh spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice” (Deut. 4:12).
“it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes” (Job. 4:16).
Moses then, beheld the likeness of Yahweh – and even though it seems that he actually saw a particular Angel (since “no man has seen God at any time”– Jno. 1:18), that proves that the angels bear “the similitude of Yahweh” themselves.
It is sometimes thought that the “image and likeness” of Genesis chapter 1, cited above, is only a moral likeness. But again, the Hebrew word for “likeness” in Genesis 1 is used many times of a physical appearance in Scripture. To cite but 3 examples:
“And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof” (2 Kings 16:10).
“… under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about” (2 Chron. 4:3)
“Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man” (Eze. 1:5)
This latter passage is of particular interest, since defines the “likeness” that Ezekiel saw, as being “their appearance” – which is clearly a bodily form.
“GOD IS A SPIRIT”
Sometimes it is argued that according to Messiah, in his discourse with the woman of Samaria, God does not have a bodily form, but is “a spirit”. So he states:
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jno. 4:24).
But what is meant by the word “Spirit”? Brother John Thomas addresses this point in his book Phanerosis:
“other children of the Old Man affirm that “God is immaterial;” by which they mean that He is not matter, or substance, or body; but an inconceivable something they call “spirit”, an incorporeal, unsubstantial, immaterial spirit, which is as near to nothing as words can express. Nothing making all things out of nothing is the Old Man’s theology concerning God and the fountain of all things, reduced to its simplest terms.”
The notion of an abstract unsubstantial essence which is what the churches believe is “spirit” is not a Bible definition. Brother CC Walker demonstrates that:
“… The Bible does indeed speak about “spirits”, but these all have bodies. The angels as said to be God’s “ministering spirits”, but they are all bodily beings. Jacob wrestled with one, Abraham entertained three unawares, and very many other illustrations of their bodily reality could be given. Christ has now an immortal body, being equal to the angels in nature, and superior to them in rank. And the Bible conception of the Eternal Father himself is certainly that of a bodily Being. We know the prayer book says that God is “without body, parts, or passions,” but we cannot reconcile that with the apostolic word, as, for instance, James 3:9, “God, even the Father … and men which are made after the similitude of God.” If God the Father be “without body, parts or passions,” there can be no similitude as is here said to exist.“ (CC Walker, The Christadelphian page 348, 1907)
And to this, we might add that Messiah is a “quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45), but has a substantial and tangible body – as he demonstrated to Thomas who he invited to touch him.
THE PERSON OF YAHWEH
Brother John Thomas raises an interesting point, cited in The Christadelphian magazine for October 1869:
“Paul says that God is substance; and I presume that even the hirelings of the apostacy will admit that substance is “material.” The Son, says the apostle, is the exact representation, or “express image of his hypostasis,” which word in Heb. 11:1, is rendered substance.
The god of the Mother of Harlots, and of all the branches of her intoxicated family, is an immaterial fiction of their vain and fleshly imaginations—a fiction which they describe as “without body and without parts.” That which is immaterial is nothing. Hence the god of European and American adoration is a nonentity; and his worshippers consequently Atheists.
… I teach that Jesus Christ, when upon earth, was Deity manifested in sinful flesh for the condemnation of sin, in the nature that sinned in Eden (Rom. 8:3); but that after he was “perfected, ” (Luke 13:32, ) or “justified in spirit” (1 Tim. 3:16), he became Deity manifested in glorified humanity, “who is over all God blessed for the aions.”—(Rom. 9:5.)
According to the writer of the book of Hebrews, then, God has Substance, and his Son was the exact image of that Substance. Again, Brother Robert Roberts cites Brother Thomas in his book “Christendom Astray”:
“Dr Thomas, in a scrap written just before his death, and found among his papers afterwards, thus defines the foregoing scripturally-revealed conception of the Father, of whom are all things:
“Absolute power, from whose incorruptible substance, or hypostasis free spirit radiated, is before all existing things. This self-existing incorruptible substance is essentially spirit – spirit substance – a concentration and condensation into one body of all the attributes, intellectual, moral and physical of Omnipotence – all things are out of Deity (1 Cor. 8:6). All things being out of Deity, they were not made out of nothing. The sun, moon, and stars, together with all things pertaining to each, were made out of something, and that something was the radiant effluence of His substance, or free spirit, which pervades unbounded space. By free spirit, all created things are connected with the centre of the universe, which is light that no man can approach unto, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father, who is not far from every one of us …”
So then, we find that by contrast to the churches whose deity is an abstract nonentity, the God of the Bible is a Person, dwelling in a particular place, in light which is unapproachable to mortal man. The Lord Jesus Christ is currently “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2) – which also implies a particular location and position.
We already saw that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who thou hast sent” (Jno. 17:3). Again, Jeremiah wrote: “… let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me …” (Jer. 9:24). Do we know the only True God? Do we Understand and Know him? Can we say, with the Master: “we know what we worship …” (Jno. 4:22)? Let us forsake the imaginations of the flesh, and have faith in the revealed Person of Yahweh.