24. The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Posted Jul 21, 2007 by Adrian Ebens in Return of Elijah

A. Relational Frame of Reference Crucial for Relationships

Reading through the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke we find a very significant method of identification for Christ. The use of a genealogy to identify someone is clearly a relational frame of reference.

The use of genealogy was critical in Israel to prove rights to inheritance and land ownership.[1]  Genealogy was the key reference point for any person living in Israel. In most cases when a new person is introduced in scripture, they are introduced by a relational reference. Notice:

Isa 1:1  The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz

Jer 1:1  The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah

Eze 1:3  The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi,

It is interesting to note that the in the earliest genealogies listed in Genesis, the first person that makes a transition in their point of reference is Nimrod.

Gen 10:8-10  And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.  (9)  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.  (10)  And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

It is significant that Gen 10:9 says “wherefore it is said, Even Nimrod the mighty hunter” It does not say “Even Nimrod, the Son of Cush.” Even though he was formerly known this way.

The frame of reference for Nimrod was the deeds that he performed, not the dependent relationship that he originated from. Here is the heart and confusion of Babylon.

Nimrod determined to be known by what he did rather than who he belonged to. In light of what we have observed in the first 7 chapters on this book, this is entirely consistent with a relational versus performance based kingdom. In a relational kingdom, you are identified by who you belong to. In a performance based kingdom you are identified by what you do. I find it significant that it has become the practice of Christians (those who represent a relational kingdom) to usually introduce themselves by what they have done and achieved rather than simply who they belong to. “And now I would like to introduce to you Dr Christian. Dr Christian has a PHD in New Testament Languages, he has served as pastor for 25 years in 15 countries and authored 35 books on many critical Christian topics.” How many times have we heard this kind of introduction as a reason why we should listen to a speaker? What drives this kind of an introduction? Is this a small hint of the wine of Babylon influencing Christian minds? Why can’t a person be introduced as simply “This is Pr Christian, a son of God that has been captured by the love of Christ.” Is this not sufficient identification for why we should listen to a speaker?

It is important to point out that people in the Bible have certainly been remembered for their deeds. But this remembrance is secondary to their relational identification.

 2Sa 23:1  Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel…

The great King David is noted in the final chapters of 2nd Samuel firstly as the Son of Jesse, then by some of his achievements, such as being a psalmist.

As we noted in chapter 3, effective communication between two or more persons requires a clear identification of who that person is. If there is no system for a consistent point of reference to a person, then ultimately that person is unknowable, because the points of reference keep changing. The Jewish system of genealogies provided a consistent reference point for individuals and guaranteed the identity of each individual.

If a person is known primarily by their roles or deeds, the point of reference will become confused, for a person is always involved in multiple roles and deeds at different times and in different places. For instance, during my career I have served as an office clerk, a farm hand, a storeman, a management accountant and a minister, not to mention a number of other jobs. I have also worked as a computer programmer, a graphic artist and web designer, a composer and song writer, a choir leader and a book author. I can elect to present myself through any one of these roles at any given time, but without a consistent point of reference my desire to be known primarily through these roles will ultimately destroy the core of my identity, because the consistent point of reference is lost. My consistent point of reference is that I am the Son of Abel Ebens, the Son of Hank Ebens, all the way back to the Son of Adam who was the Son of God. This is the only thing about me that does not change. Family relationships do not change, but roles and career positions are constantly changing.

When Nimrod elected to be known by his deeds as his primary frame of reference, he lost the one thing that would safeguard his identity.

The second reason why a relational frame of reference is so critical is that it not only provides identity, it also provides a channel through which blessing can be received. The deeds we perform mean nothing without the blessing and approval of those that we look towards. Here is the heart of the Words of the Father to Jesus, This my Son – Identity, in whom I love – Blessing. These are the two ingredients required for consistent identity with a sense of purpose and meaning. There is nothing else that can provide this.

B. Trinity Confuses/Destroys Relational Frame of Reference

Turning to the subject of the Godhead, these issues become critical. Vance Ferrell in his book defending the Godhead makes a very significant point about the members of the Godhead.

Here is the primary cause of this seeming confusion in human minds: People confuse the nature of the Godhead with Their work. Learning  about the individual mission of each member to save mankind, we are tempted to imagine that Their individual activities and work for mankind explain the nature and inner attributes of each of them.[2]

Here is one of the most critical points of the whole debate concerning the Godhead. From a Trinitarian point of view, the terms Father, Son and Holy Spirit denote the WORK of the members of the Godhead, this is not their TRUE IDENTITY. These are roles assumed by Father, Son and Spirit for the WORK of Salvation. In making these claims, the Trinitarian position destroys the consistent point of reference for knowing the Father and the Son. By turning these relational terms into job descriptions we are placed in the same position as the Greeks at Mars Hill, the God we claim to worship becomes the unknown God, He is truly unknowable because there is no consistent frame of reference. This why Ellen White is emphatic when she says:

“God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son.”  8T 268 (1909)

The relational referencing in this quote is vital to us being able to respond to John 17:3.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

To know God, we must have a consistent frame of reference. The doctrine of the Trinity removes this frame of reference and makes God truly unknowable. Ellen White appeals for the consistent frame of reference when she says

“He who denies the personality of God and of his Son Jesus Christ, is denying God and Christ. "If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." If you continue to believe and obey the truths you first embraced regarding the personality of the Father and the Son, you will be joined together with him in love.” Review and Herald 8th March 1906

Note carefully that Ellen White appeals to Adventists in 1906 to cling to a view of the Personality of the Father and Son which they first embraced. This statement cuts clear across the conjecture that Ellen helped shift the denominational position. She appeals for a consistent position that they had held from the beginning. If there had been a shift that she was pushing for, she would have said after her release of Desire of Ages – “let us hold fast the increased light we have received in recent years regarding the Father and the Son.” But she says to hold fast that which they had believed in the beginning.

C. Everlasting Gospel requires Unchangeable Frame of Reference for God, Law and Gospel

The issue of consistent reference points running through Scripture is essential to our understanding of the gospel. This is why Paul says there is one Lord, One Faith and One Baptism. Eph 4:5. This is why Paul says that there is no other gospel than the one he has preached. Gal 1:8,9. This is why Paul said the same gospel that was preached to Israel was preached to the Christians of his day, Heb 4:2. Consistent points of reference in relationship to:

  1. The Person of God
  2. The Law of God
  3. The Gospel 

are vital for us to be subject to the Bible and its revealed plan of salvation rather than the Bible and the plan of salvation be subject to us. A Seventh-day Adventist defense of the Sabbath depends entirely upon a consistent point of reference with respect to the Law. If the law is changeable then so is the Sabbath. A Seventh-day Adventist defense of the sanctuary and the investigative judgement defends on a consistency with respect to the gospel. This is why we call it the everlasting gospel. The gospel has not changed. Its expression has changed from type to anti-type but the plan itself has never changed.

The consistency of the Law and the consistency of the Gospel depend on a consistency of the person of God. If our reference points for God are changeable, then so is the law, the Sabbath and the Sanctuary. The Trinity doctrine makes the reference points for God changeable, especially the reference points for Christ. The second person of the Godhead becomes the Son of God, which means His relational reference point changes. In his incarnation, many claim that Christ changed his relationship again and when He went back to heaven, it changed again.

By changing the reference points of Christ’s relationship to the Father, we lose a consistent point of reference. This changeability makes the definition of Christ subject to us rather than us being subject to Him. Let me explain.  Take the example of the law of God. The Protestant churches divide the law into three segments: The law before Moses, the law from Moses to the Cross and the New Testament law of love. By segmenting the law, the consistent point of reference is lost and the law becomes subject to human interpretation as to which verses apply to which segments. Is it the Papacy alone that changes times and laws?

knowing that the Law of God is a transcript of God’s character, then the same process by which the law is segmented will also allow the segmentation of the person of God Himself. As I have stated earlier this segmentation flows directly from a determination from man to be known by his deeds and roles rather than by His relational frame of reference.

By referring to the terms Father and Son as roles and the work of God rather than these titles actually being God himself, God in fact becomes subject to man. Any references concerning Himself are boxed into various segments and can be used to deny the statements made are actually about the person rather than simply His work.

The classic case for this is the segmentation of the incarnation. Look at the following verse.

Joh 5:26  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

This verse uses the reference points of Father and Son. If these reference points are not consistent as displayed in a Trinitarian framework, then it becomes easy to deny that this statement is a universal reference. The reference above becomes known as “an incarnational reference” This means it is no longer a statement concerning the PERSON of Christ, it is only a statement concerning the WORK of Christ. Through this method of segmentation we can in fact unwittingly take control of the person of Christ and make Him to be what we want him to be. As we have created a segmented framework, we decide which Bible texts fit into which segment. The segmented view of Trinitarianism does not align itself with the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever.

D. No Relational Changes in the Incarnation

The book of John presents several references to the person of Christ that from a consistent reference point tell us exactly who Jesus is. Notice the following example.

Joh 5:18  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

This verse is used consistently in Trinitarian contexts to refer to the pre-existent divinity of Christ and a reference proving that He is the second person of the Godhead.[3]

But what about the next verse?

Joh 5:19  Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

This verse is consistently referred to as an incarnational reference. But what makes John 5:18 a reference to Christ’s true existence and the next verse a reference to his incarnational work? Who decides? Without a consistent point of reference, everyone decides for themselves what verse refers to what segment.

Lets look at another example in John 5.

Joh 5:28,29  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his [Christ’s] voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Christ is telling us that He possesses power to raise people from the dead, and that He will do it at the end of human history. Clearly, this is a reference to the power that Christ possesses, the power to give life. But the immediate verse following says this:

Joh 5:30  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Is John 5:30 simply an incarnational reference? If we would allow the terms Father and Son to be our consistent point of reference, we would not even have to ask this question, because no segmentation is required, because any references to Father and Son, reveal exactly who they are, not just what they do.

It is true that when Jesus came to this earth, he clothed his divinity with humanity, but if we assume that Christ changed his actual relation to the Father in the incarnation, then our consistent point of reference is lost. If we say that Christ demonstrated dependence on God only in the incarnation, then the nature of the relationship has changed.[4] This is a vital point. Throughout the New Testament we are asked as to whether we believe that Jesus IS the Son of God. But if we accept a Trinitarian model, we can only say that we accept that Jesus is the Son of God for the purpose of the plan of salvation or for the purpose of representation of the Godhead. In effect, this is a denial that Jesus truly IS the Son of God. This is the very heart of the controversy. Do we accept the words of the Father, that Jesus is His Son or do we not?

If you study the references in John 5 in the Spirit of Prophecy, you will see there is no segmentation that takes place. The person of Christ is consistent all the way through. Notice the following passage.

The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. 

     "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?" Hebrews 1:1-5.       God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son. 

     Jesus said to the Jews: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. . . . The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth." John 5:17-20.   

     Here again is brought to view the personality of the Father and the Son, showing the unity that exists between them.  This unity is expressed also in the seventeenth chapter of John, in the prayer of Christ for His disciples:   

     "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." John 17:20-23.

     Wonderful statement! The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one.  {8T 269.4} 

Notice carefully that Ellen White opens this passage with a clear statement that the relation of Father and Son is clearly revealed in their relation to each other and their personality. She then refers to Heb 1:1-4 and then moves directly to John 5:17-20 where Christ says he can do nothing of himself and again restates that this is the relation of the Father and the Son. There is no segmenting of the verses, it is consistent all the way through. Study for yourself and you will see that all references to Christ used by Ellen White are consistent, there are no exceptions or segmenting that takes place.

All references to Christ in the Bible when speaking in Father and Son relationship reveal that this is exactly who Christ the Son of God is. The notion of incarnational referencing as opposed to pre-existent referencing segments the person of Christ and makes Him subject to our will and discretion as to which verses reveal the second person and which verses are simply part of His work.

Notice what Ellen White says of the entire discourse of John chapter 5, not just parts of it.

Jesus knew that the Jews were determined to take his life, yet in this discourse [John 5] he fully explained to them his Sonship, the relation he bore to the Father and his equality with him. 2SP 172

Jesus Christ is certainly the same yesterday, today and forever, but only through the relational reference to His Father. If Jesus is not indeed the Son of the Father then there is not a clearly identifiable consistent point of reference for us to know Christ. Christ simply becomes a chameleon that evolves and changes into different forms and roles for whatever purpose just like the actors in Hollywood. If ever you wanted a definition of confused identity, simply look to the lives of those who live on the silver screen.

The only way we can know Christ and consequently His Father is by believing that Jesus is indeed the only begotten Son. It is the only consistent frame of reference we have to know Him and identify Him. Once we can be assured of the consistent point of reference for God and His Son, then we can be assured of a consistent frame of reference for His Law and His Gospel. They all stand and fall together. Let us not change times and laws or persons, but let us submit to the One Lord, the One Law and One Gospel and be saved.

[1] See Numbers 36

[2] Vance Ferrell, (Defending the Godhead, Harvest time books, 2005) page 7

[3] Whidden, Moon and Reeve., The Trinity, Review and Herald, 2002) Page 55

[4] “The work of redemption is called a mystery, and it is indeed the mystery by which everlasting righteousness is brought to all who believe. The race in consequence of sin was at enmity with God. Christ, at an infinite cost, by a painful process, mysterious to angels as well as to men, assumed humanity. Hiding His divinity, laying aside His glory, He was born a babe in Bethlehem. (Ellen G. White, MS 29, 1899.) There is no indication in this passage of a change in identity or a change in relationship to the Father