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Sunday, January 17, 2010

(31) Names of God

How many names of God can you think of? Why all of these names? The non-believer, especially the anti-theist, would say it's because Christianity/Judaism is like any other polytheistic religion who worship many gods. And instead of actually learning about why there these names, they will go on ridiculing the believer for this. But the real answer is not because there are many gods, but because the One True God is multi-faceted. His power is so immense that He needs names to describe Him. And this is proven by the very first sentence of His word; In the beginning, God created.

Bereshit bara Elohim ha shamayim ha erets. The first name in the Bible is God's. Elohim. The first thing this shows is ownership. It's His book talking about His creation. But Elohim is even deeper than that. Every time you see the term "el" it is dealing with the power of God. The term "im" in Hebrew stands for plurality as the "s" does in English. But that does not mean He is many. It means He is complete. It also is a foreshadow that Christ and the Holy Spirit are part of who He is. What about the "h" sound? It may be perhaps because that sounds represents life. When Abram had his name changed to Abraham, it was because he was going to be the father of many. Eve's Hebrew name is Havah, mother of all. Other names of God that include "el" (but not exhaustive):
  • El Shaddai- God Almighty, used when we need to understand He is all powerful
  • El Elyon- God Most High, used when we need to understand He stands above all
  • El Roi- God that sees, used when we need to understand He sees all and knows all
  • El Olam- The Eternal God, used when we need to understand He is the Alpha and Omega
Technically, we are only given though one personal name of God we have written to us in the Bible. It is Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh. It has been translated into the Hebraic Tetragrammaton, Y-H-W-H or Yahweh. Since Latin became the universal language due to the Roman Empire Yahweh has been changed to Jehovah and now is more commonly used by the world. This also corresponds with "I AM" or "I WILL BE". It is written in Exodus 3:14
  • God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'
The first "I AM" in this verse is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh which means 'I will be who I am', in other words God never changes and will always be. The second "I AM" is Y-H-W-H. This time if you take the H-W-H, you would get "at hand" and the Y would be God. So the translation would be "God who is always at hand". Every time you see the term Yahweh (Jehovah) it is dealing with the omni-presence of God. Check out Psalms 23. Each time you see a new verse you see a new name of God. Some other terms (but not exhaustive) that include Jehovah, or God's personal name:
  • Jehovah Jireh- God provides, used when we need to understand that no matter situation, God is there and will take care of us
  • Jehovah Rophi- God that heals, used when we need to understand that God is the maker of us and He knows our bodies, He can heal us
  • Jehovah Nissi- God is our banner, used when we need to understand that we belong to God
  • Jehovah Shalom- God of peace, used when we need to understand that He can give us peace of mind and heart in times of trouble
The scriptures are filled with other names of God, such as Adonai, Ancient of Days and tens of others that are more symbolic than names or titles. And just as the ones mentioned above have a purpose so do each and every one them. Even Jesus has some names that served His purpose. His earth given name was Y'shua. But His personal name is still Y-H-W-H since He is still God, part of Elohim.
  • Lamb of God
  • Emmanuel
  • Prince of Peace
  • Alpha and Omega
  • Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David
  • Christ, Ha Mashiach, the Messiah
  • Bread of Life, The Way, The Truth, The Life
  • Rock of My Salvation, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, etc.
And of course we can not forget the Holy Spirit. As part of the trinity of God, His personal name is also Y-H-W-H. But the Holy Spirit's names are less prevalent than God the Father or God the Son. For example, Counselor is probably the only one many would know. Spirit of the Living God, the Voice in the Wind may also be considered names of the Spirit.

Here is the main point of this whole lesson: no matter what you call Him, even if you call Him "unreal", His name is so powerful that one day all will have to bow before Him just at the sound of it. Mountains will bow down, the seas will roar, the earth shall tremble just due to the sound of it. His name puts fear into Satan and his demons have to flee and sicknesses have to cease. When you pray "in the name of Jesus" you are saying something so powerful that the world does not know what to do with it. If only we believed more in it.

Philippians 2:9-11 says it all.
  • Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Wouldn't it be better to bow on our own will and not be forced to do so? For more on the names of God here is suggested reading: All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible, Herbert Lockyer.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

(30) Acts 2:38

Water. The purest element in the universe. The substance that all life as we know needs to survive. It can give you nourishment by helping your body replace needed hydration to allow cells to reproduce. It can give you healing measures by detoxing your organs. It is used to quench thirst so you will not feel needy of anything else. It can cleanse you by wiping away dirt. All of these are components of saving your life. Can water baptism also be considered a "saving" element? Here are the results of last month's poll: Is Water Baptism necessary for salvation?
  • 34% said, I am leaning yes, but not 100% sure.
  • 24% said, No. It is just a symbol of starting over.
  • 19% said, Yes. Without it there is no chance of salvation.
  • 14% said, I am leaning no because I feel we don't know the whole picture.
  • 7% said, Other.
As you can see the lines on this subject are very closely drawn. 53% say that water baptism is needed somehow or maybe part of God's plan to save them. 48% say that it is not needed or at least not as important as other sacraments of Christianity. And oddly enough 48% are leaning and not really sure of the answer. Why is it such a controversy?
The scripture that will be used by those who say it is needed is Acts 2:38.
  • Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And the scripture that will be used by those who say it is not needed is Romans 10:9-10
  • That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
The problem with again just using one piece of scripture is that you can not get the whole picture of what is being said. Look at Acts 2:38 again. Peter did give the command (as an Apostle of Christ had the authority to do so) to be baptized. But there is more here than just someone being dunked into water. The first thing that happens here is what something not mentioned. In verse 37 it says that after Peter spoke the people were cut to the heart. Their minds were brainwashed or questioned. Their bodies weren't touched. But their hearts had to be open and feel something. There was a change already taking place within them. Then Peter told them the next step. Repent. What a horrible word. The Greek word used here is "metanoêsate" which means- turn from sin and return to God. One has to acknowledge first that they sin. We all sin. We all need to turn from sin. Even Christians who have been believing for 50 years sin and need to keep turning from it. For some reason that concept is lost on the world and even some Christians. We all sin. We all are human first unfortunately and act like everyone else, even though we shouldn't. We have to turn from sin. Then we have to acknowledge we are from God. We need to return to Him. Many claim He is no longer around or say He isn't here anyway. But people are the ones who aren't there anymore. They turned their back in Him and then wonder why He isn't there to get them out of every predicament. After these acknowledgements then we are meant to be baptized. If we do not make these acknowledgments then the action being performed is just someone getting wet.

More importantly you have to know what baptism is all about even before the action becomes relevant. The word in Greek is baptizo. On the surface it means to be immersed. Most people would hear that and say one needs to be completely under the water during the sacrament. But look deeper. To be immersed means you are not only completely covered by what you are dunked into but you actually start to take on the characteristics of what you are being dunked into. It's like sugar and tea. When one puts sugar into water the sugar gets wet and the water starts to take on a different flavor but the sugar does not become part of the water. When one adds tea into the water, the water begins to become a whole new substance.

The substance that Christians are being immersed into is the essence of Christ. When one decides to get baptised they are publicly stating that they are from here on out promising to take on the attributes of Christ. If they do not change who they are then all they did was go swimming. This can go back to the story of Noah. When the flood washed the whole earth. The earth was completely immersed. It was covered with water. But what happened to the earth while it was under? It changed. It took on new meaning. Once the waters receded there was a new life, a new beginning. The old has passed away and a new creature had emerged. When one gets baptised they are saying that they are now accepting for themselves that they are a new creature. The old creature has passed and a new one has begun. They have died, been buried, and have been resurrected. But can water do that by itself? No.

But what about the Romans passage? Again it can not stand alone. It again starts with acknowledgements. We have to confess publicly that Jesus is the Lord (kurios), the Ruler of all. We have to have faith in it as well. Just saying it is empty words.

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