Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Third Commandment Theology

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the third commandment and how the ANE concept of a name included one’s character and reputation. This means that invoking Jesus’ name on things not according to his will is sinful. This third commandment also has application to other areas of theology as well. Consider, first, the Trinity. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ Amen.” (emphasis and singular quotation marks added)

The word translated “power” is the Greek transliterated word “exousia.” It has been translated “power,” “authority,” “right,” etc. I’m not saying all of those apply (that would be fallacious without some kind of argument). I’m saying that the general ideas surround power and authority, which is precisely what it meant to have a name. But what would Jesus’ name invoke, according to this? The power—all of the power—in heaven and in earth. Who else has the name that has all of the power of heaven and earth? God alone. So, were Jesus to be a sub-god, or someone who merely has delegated authority (as some people may claim from this clause alone), we would expect to see the baptismal formula in the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Or at least, we would expect it to be in the name of the Father alone, with the authority of the Son, or something. We would not expect to see the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together as one. This means that the power, authority, and character of the three are one! That power in heaven and earth, which belongs to God alone by essence, is also inherent in the person of Jesus Christ (by virtue of sharing the name). In that case, Jesus is also God by essence, and not a sub-god. Of course, the same follows for the Holy Spirit, and then Trinitarianism follows by default.

A proper evidential understanding of the theology and culture of names in ANE (and first-century) times reveals that Jesus and his Father are one, just as he claimed (cf. John 10:30). A proper understanding and application of the third commandment, therefore, will lead us to a proper theology of God—namely, that he is a Trinity.

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