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.
“God Manifest in the Flesh” (2)
In our last study of this title, we saw how the idea of God being “Manifest” was to do with making known His Character and Purpose. We saw from Psalm 98 and verse 2, that the key elements being revealed are the “Salvation” appointed by the Father, and also “His Righteousness”. Indeed these two aspects are picked up and brought together by Messiah, who exhorted: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God [i.e. salvation], and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33).
It is an important point to note therefore, that Salvation as appointed by Yahweh is not an end in itself. As we see above, seeking the promised Kingdom is linked with seeking Yahweh’s Righteousness. But by contrast, it is common for religious groups and churches to elevate man, to emphasise the Self, and what benefits there may be for man. Thus God is deposed from his High Position in the Heavens, as Ruler over all, to be a benevolent servant to man, doing man’s bidding and bestowing blessings upon anyone who asks.
The Way of salvation revealed in The Word however, is very different. It is true that salvation and all that it involves does include a benefit to man, but that is not an end in itself; it is appointed for a far higher purpose—to show forth Yahweh’s Glory and Righteousness.
Consider the following testimonies:
“Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that Glory may dwell in our land” (Psa. 85:9)
“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake” (Psa. 79:9).
A fundamental point is taught in these passages: As we have said, Salvation is for a far higher purpose than to save sinners from death. Rather, it is the means whereby Glory shall “dwell in the land”, and it is for the “Glory” of the Deity’s “Name”. Bro Thomas wrote of this, in his oft quoted, and equally oft misunderstood words (emphasis ours):
“Men were not ushered into being for the purpose of being saved or lost. God-manifestation, not human salvation, was the grand purpose of the Eternal Spirit. The salvation of a multitude is incidental to the manifestation, but it was not the end proposed. The Eternal Spirit intended to enthrone himself on the earth, and, in so doing, to develop a Divine Family from among men, every one of whom shall be spirit because born of the Spirit, and that this family shall be large enough to fill the earth, when perfected, to the entire exclusion of flesh and blood.”
John Thomas, 1858
We see then, that an inextricable aspect of “God Manifestation”, is the Father’s Holy Name, with our very salvation being accomplished for His “Name’s Sake”. We need therefore to appreciate the significance of that Name, what is means and how it reflects the Father’s Revealed purpose.
THE FATHER’S NAME
Exodus chapter 3 records Moses’ words to Yahweh, in response to his being instructed to be a captain over Israel’s salvation from the Egyptians:
“Moses said unto God, Behold, When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your Father’s hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?” (Exo. 3:13).
Here then, is a very direct question: “What is his Name”? What is the appellation by which the Deity wishes to be known?
“and God said to Moses: ehyeh asher ehyeh, and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Ehyeh hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh, God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you: this is my Name Forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Exo. 3:14-15)
The English (AV) version has it thus:
“God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM … say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you”.
This rendering is most objectionable for reasons which we shall now go on to consider.
THE MEANING OF THE NAME
The Hebrew rendered “I AM” translates the Hebrew (as above) “Ehyeh”. This same word is used in a number of places in Scripture, where present tense is not feasible:
“… and he said, Certainly I will be with thee” (Exo. 3:12)
“… I will be his Father, and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:14).
In the first citation, the promise is that Yahweh will be with Moses in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
This last citation is of particular importance, as the Spirit translates it into the Greek:
“I will be to him a Father, and he shall be my son” (Heb. 1:5)
The Spirit thus sanctions the rendering “I will be”, as distinct from “I am”.
There is another way in which the meaning of the Deity’s name can be shown. Messiah, as a Son bore his Father’s name as part of his own: Yah-shua. Yah=Yahweh, and shua=salvation. So, the Spirit translates Messiah’s name as “he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat. 1:21). “He shall save” is the Spirit’s rendering of Messiah’s composite name, which by definition therefore translates the Father’s Name as referential of the future: “I will be”.
But the word used in Exodus 3:14: “ehyeh” is different to the name later used in verse 15: “Yahweh” The reason for that is this: “Ehyeh” means “I will be” and is therefore used by the Deity with reference to Himself. Yahweh however, means “he will be”, and is used of his Servants with reference to their Master. When we therefore address the Almighty by his proper name, we do so by using “Yahweh,” and thus give respect to the purpose that Yahweh has Revealed.
THE NAME AND THE PURPOSE
Why does it matter whether or not the Name means “I AM”, or “I Will be”? It is not merely an academic difference, for encapsulated within the Name is the Father’s Purpose. We have already seen that “God Manifestation” is to do with the Revealing of His Salvation, the glory of His Name, and the showing forth of His Righteousness—and these are all things to come. Our Father’s Name is future tense, for it describes His Purpose, which is future. We can understand why the translators had difficulty with the rendering, for to them—and most religious groups—the thing emphasised is the present. Present benefits and rewards; the here and now; salvation also being now (allegedly in heaven). But the glorious Name of Yahweh being expressive of the future just does not accommodate the present desires of men for instant blessing and salvation.
The purpose of the Deity is frequently expressed in various places in Scripture: we shall consider some of them:
“Thus saith Yahweh that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it: he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am Yahweh; and there is none else” (Isa. 45:18).
“For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were Created” (Rev. 4:11).
“as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh (Num. 14:21)
“… I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am Yahweh” (Eze. 38:23).
Putting these things together, we find the following points emerge:
• “he formed it to be inhabited” for his pleasure
• The earth, thus inhabited shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh
• This manifestation (making known) shall be before many nations.
It is clear therefore, by drawing a parallel between the earth being filled, or inhabited with an immortal race, and the earth being filled with divine Glory, that it is through many immortal sons that the glorious array of Divine Attributes will be seen throughout the whole earth. Our Father’s very name itself speaks of those future days—infact, those who make up the great company of the Redeemed are said to have “his Father’s Name written in their foreheads” (Rev. 14:1).
THE PRACTICAL OUTWORKING
As we implied above, the doctrine of God Manifestation is not simply to provide an intellectual exercise (although studying the Scriptures does have the effect of exercising our minds unto godliness – 1 Tim. 4:7). Rather, it motivates us to make our ways Yahweh’s ways. Seeking those things which are above (Col. 3:1), rather than earthly things, we seek to emulate the attributes of Yahweh, that when His Son comes, there might be found in us something worthy of perpetuation into immortality. The subject is not dry and arid, as some seek to present it as being: rather it powers us to develop a likeness of He Who Will be, living for the kingdom to come, rather than the day at hand. So the Scriptures exhort:
“… Be ye therefore perfect [Gr. Complete] even as your father in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48).
“… But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Pet. 1:15)
“… ye should shew forth the virtues [Marg.] of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Here is the true Spirit of God-Manifestation. It is to reveal Divine things to those around us, even the qualities and attributes of our Father. As loving children, we ought to seek a paternal likeness in ourselves and each other. What a glorious blessing is to come upon the Redeemed!
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God … Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 Jno. 3:1-3).art
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