Tag Archives: elohim

Romans 8:38-39 – Unseen Realm – Part 2

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Last week we did some foundation work.

  • We introduced the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

 

This was necessary to give us the background behind Paul’s list in verses 38 and 39.

  • Specifically the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love in Christ.
  • nor angels nor rulers…nor powers”.

 

Today we continue our exploration of these personal forces.

  • Romans 8:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Cosmic Geography and Angels, Rulers and Powers :

How do Paul’s angels, rulers and powers…

  • Connect to last week’s exploration of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview?

 

So the Deuteronomy 32 worldview…

  • Is a worldview pertaining to something called Cosmic Geography.

 

As we saw last week…

  • This is the idea that some members of God’s divine council…
  • Which the OT refers to interchangeably as elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars
  • Were made ruler over certain parts of the known world.

 

But God kept for Himself, as “his own inheritance”, the descendants of Abraham.

  • Thus, the reason why He marked out the Promised Land from the other nations.
  • It was to be the geography of his inheritance.

 

The Bible captures these events in 3 texts:

  • Genesis 11:7–9 (ESV) — 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind [dispersed them], he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
  • Deuteronomy 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

 

And then at some point in history there was an elohim rebellion:

  • Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

As a result of this rebellion…

  • God prophesied through the Psalmist that he would bring judgment upon them.
  • And, importantly, that He would take for Himself as an inheritance “all the nations!

 

Importantly, this meant that until such judgment comes…

  • There exist a number of elohim battling against God…
  • There is a coming judgment…
  • And there is a plan for God to inherit all the nations.

 

Michael Heiser puts it this way:

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations” – Michael Heiser.

 

The point:

  • This is the worldview that Paul inhabited.

 

So the connection between Paul and the Cosmic Geography of a Deut. 32 worldview…

  • Is quite simple.

 

When he spoke of angel, rulers, and powers (obviously not in all contexts)…

  • Paul was using NT language for the elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars.

 

In other words, Paul was talking about the rebel elohim under judgment.

  • And he was doing so in the context of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview and its Cosmic Geography.

 

A quick look at a variety of scholars will make this point about our text:

  • Paul often, “uses [this language] to denote powers or authorities of the spirit world…those of an evil nature” – Moo.
  • “The pairing of ἀρχαί [rulers] with ἄγγελοι [angels] seals the issue since Paul never uses the latter term of governmental authorities but always of spiritual beings” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul is teaching that, “not even the most malevolent of metaphysical powers, can unfasten them from the divine love that is known and experienced in the Lord Jesus Christ” – Michael Bird.
  • Paul is “referring to the spiritual forces ruling the nations and bringing opposition against God’s people” – Craig Keener
  • “That preternatural [beyond what is normal] beings are in view need not be questioned” – John Murray.
  • We are dealing with “…powers which exercise their influence throughout the entire cosmos” – EDNT.
  • “These terms have something in common— they were used in both the New Testament and other Greek literature for geographical domain rulership [Cosmic Geography]. This is the divine dominion concept of Deuteronomy 32: 8-9 [Deuteronomy 32 worldview]” – Michael Heiser.

 

So I think we now see the connection.

  • But we need to tease out the implications of Paul’s teaching for us.
  • They are especially important to our understanding the Gospel itself!

 

To help us with this…

  • We need to fill out Paul’s thinking on these personal forces.

 

All of these compliment today’s text.

  • They all deal with the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love.
  • And the Cosmic Geography/Deuteronomy 32 worldview stuff helps us make sense of all of them.

 

 

Personal Forces Survey:

(1) Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) — 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

This is a well known text – at least semantically.

  • By now, however, I hope we can appreciate this text for the depth of its content.

 

Paul says that we – saints/those in Christ – wrestle against:

  • rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

 

This idea of “wrestle against” is that we are involved in a struggle likened to…

  • Hand-to-hand combat.
  • This is WW1 trench warfare.

 

The context of this warfare is “this present darkness”.

  • What is this?

 

This includes the Cosmic Geography and the Deuteronomy 32 worldview ideas.

  • This is the rebel elohim.
  • And a nod to the fact that God has not yet fully inherited their nations and judged them.

 

And this warfare is clearly what Paul is referring to in our text today.

  • The rebel elohim are trying to sever us from the love of God in Christ.

 

This is why it is so important for us to realize that God’s love for us…

  • The accomplishing power we spoke of last week…
  • Is an all-powerful and unrelenting power that accomplishes God’s decrees without fail.

 

 

(2) 1 Corinthians 2:6–8 (ESV) — 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

Paul reveals a tantalizing truth about the rebel elohim.

  • He talks of their pending judgment – something he knows about from the OT.
  • He says the “rulers of this age” are doomed to pass away.

 

And then he gives us insight into the Gospel itself.

 

So we know that God would judge the rebel elohim…

  • And make all the nations His inheritance.

 

But, what Paul tells us here gives us a clue about how that these things would begin.

  • He says that “rulers of this age” had no foreknowledge of the work of Christ on the cross.
  • A work “decreed” by God “before the ages”.

 

He says if the did…

  • they would not have crucified the Lord”

 

Why not?

  • Apparently, Christ’s work on the cross…
  • Was directly related to judgment and inheritance.
  • The cross was a mechanism for securing this outcome.

 

 

(3) 1 Corinthians 15:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

 

This passage picks up on our “why not?” from above.

  • Paul confirms again that the “rule and every authority and power” will be destroyed at “the end”.

 

He also tells us some intriguing things.

  • He describes the rebel elohim as Christ’s “enemies”.

 

So Paul pits Christ against the rebel elohim.

  • We are not alone in our hand-to-hand combat.

 

Paul then tells us that between the now and not yet…

  • Christ is “destroying every rule and every authority and power”.
  • He is at war with the rebel elohim.
  • He is putting them “under his feet”.

 

Finally, Paul gives us this tidbit:

  • the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father”.

 

So apparently another mechanism by which God secures the nations for Himself…

  • Is what Paul calls “the end”.

 

When this “the end” comes…

  • God the Father will have his full inheritance – “the kingdom” (all the nations).

 

Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “The coming of the incarnate Yahweh was the beginning of reclaiming those nations as well” – Michael Heiser.
  • Although Heiser adds, they “were not going to surrender their domains without a fight”.

 

BTW – Is it any wonder why the following scene played out in the Unseen Realm.

  • Satan and the other rebel elohim may not have known about the Gospel.
  • But they knew something was up with Jesus and tried to take Him out early.
  • Revelation 12:4 (ESV) — 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

 

 

(4) 1 Corinthians 6:3 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

First let me add to this text some related texts from Paul and Jesus.

  • 2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) — 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
  • Luke 19:17 (ESV) — 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

 

So here we get an answer to a tantalizing question.

  • Why are the rebel elohim after us?

 

The first answer is obvious.

  • They are at war with Christ and we are in Christ.

 

A second answer is more intriguing.

  • Paul says, “we are to judge angels”.
  • Paul says, “we will also reign with” Christ.

 

And Jesus, in speaking of the “economics” of the Kingdom of God says:

  • The faithful, in various proportions, “shall have authority over…cities”.

 

So apparently, the rebel elohim now know that it is the image bearer in Christ…

  • That will participate with Christ in divine rule.
  • In a sense, we replace the rebel elohim and they don’t like it!

 

 

Huge Gospel Implications:

All this from Paul should reshape how we think of the Gospel.

  • It should reshape how we think about the significance of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and intercession.

 

The Gospel is not only about us.

  • We certainly are its beneficiaries.
  • We certainly partake in its blessings.

 

But we are, in some ways, just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The Gospel is how God initiates his assault on the rebel elohim.
  • The Gospel is how God initiates His reclamation of the nations for Himself.

 

And he uses Christ and his work on the cross to do this.

 

To appreciate this, we need only look at a few more texts.

  • Colossians 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
  • Ephesians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
  • Ephesians 3:9–11 (ESV) — 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Hebrews 2:14 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
  • Hebrews 2:8 (ESV) — 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

 

Having been buried, resurrected and exalted…

  • Jesus is now set up “over the hostile powers” – Craig Keener.

 

Now everything is subjected to Christ.

  • And through Christ everything is being and will be put right – including Cosmic Geography.

 

The cosmic rulers are “disarmed and put to shame by the cross” – Heiser.

  • This is the Gospel!

 

Isaiah sums up the final defeat of the rebel elohim well:

  • Isaiah 24:21–23 (ESV) — 21 On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. 22 They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. 23 Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.

 

And concerning God’s inheritance of the nations:

  • Isaiah 66:20–22 (ESV) — 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.

 

 

Romans 8:38-39 – Unseen Realm – Part 1

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Last week we opened up with Paul’s question:

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vs. 35).

 

We noted that with this question Paul was reframing his Romans 8 discussion around God’s love.

  • Our security in the Gospel, our future assurance of glorification, etc.
  • All of these are seen as an unassailable expression of God’s love through Christ to us.
  • He is their source.

 

We then saw how throughout his letters Paul associated God’s love with…

  • Action towards us.
  • As such, we characterized God’s love for us as His accomplishing power.

 

This love – this accomplishing power – was impervious to defeat by all comers…whether they be:

  • Impersonal Forces
  • Personal Forces

 

Neither one can sever our connection to God’s love – His accomplishing power.

  • Last week we dealt specifically with the impersonal forces or circumstances that seek to do so.

 

And if Paul’s listed ended with these, Paul’s audience would be troubled.

  • They might say that’s all well and good Paul.
  • But these forces aren’t personal.
  • What about the personal forces?

 

Only the personal forces possess a will that is actively seeking to destroy Christ’s:

  • Kingdom
  • Church
  • Saints

 

What about those forces?

 

This leads us into the stranger dimension of Paul’s list.

  • A dimension that first-world moderns usually gloss right over.
  • The personal forces of the unseen realm.

 

 

Personal Forces of The Unseen Realm:

Romans 8:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Paul includes in his list the following personal forces.

  • nor angels nor rulers” – “nor powers

 

These, too, are unable to sever us from “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

  • They too are casualties of God’s accomplishing power!

 

But who are they?

 

To get at the significance of who they are…

  • We need to unpack them a bit.

 

Question.

  • If you asked anyone in church today…
  • Why the world is all jacked up…
  • What would they say?

 

Likely, the answer would contain things like:

  • The Fall
  • Adam
  • Sin/Rebellion
  • Satan

 

If you asked an ancient Jew, why the world is all jacked up…

  • What would they say?

 

They would certainly acknowledge the role of Genesis 3.

  • But they would go well beyond it.

 

Michael Heiser sets up the “well beyond”.

“After Eden, God still intended to dwell with humanity. But there would be opposition. Divine beings in service to Yahweh could defect. Enemies of Yahweh and his rule, from the human to the divine to something in between, lurked over the horizon. Heaven and earth were destined to be reunited, but it would be a titanic struggle” – Michael Heiser.

 

There are two specific events in Genesis that demonstrate Heiser’s observation.

  • (1) The “sons of god” and Nephilim of Genesis 6.
    • About which Peter and Jude talk.
  • (2) The Tower of Babel incident found in Genesis 11 and Deuteronomy 32.
    • About which Paul talks.

 

In an effort to understand Paul’s personal force list…

  • We are going to deal with the second.
  • This represents what Michael Heiser calls the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.
  • We can unpack this worldview by looking at a few OT texts.

 

 

Deuteronomy 32 Worldview (Michael Heiser):

Genesis 11:5–9 (ESV) — 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

 

Here we see God’s response to the peoples’ effort to build the Tower and make a name for themselves.

  • The tower was their attempt to reestablish what was lost at Eden.
  • Access to the divine.
  • We all know the story.

 

It is interesting that God’s response in Genesis 11 parallels that of Genesis 1’s creation.

  • let us make man in our imageANDlet us go down and there confuse their language
  • So God created man in his own imageANDSo the LORD dispersed them

 

This is interesting because of the identity of the “us”.

  • The “us” is God’s divine council.
  • So, in both instances, God lays out a plan to His divine council.
  • And then God alone provides the action for the plan.

 

To flesh this out more, there is one more Babel text – often overlooked.

  • Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

 

Here we get more details.

  • The scattering of the people was “according to the number of the sons of God”.

 

The scattering played out like this – according to the text.

  • YHWH would soon set apart a portion of the people for himself – “his allotted heritage”.
  • His people, Jacob” = Israel.

 

And, as for the rest of the folks:

  • They were divvied up “according to the number of the sons of God”.
  • In other words, each of the “sons of God” had his allotment – his inheritance – of the remaining folks.

 

So this text shows us how:

“Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people” – Michael Heiser.

 

So what does all this mean?

  • Two things.

 

(1) God’s later call to Abraham in Gen. 12 was how he established His allotment – His inheritance.

  • This was done at the exclusion of the other nations.
  • This exclusion is part of Paul’s “God gave them up” language of Rom. 1:18-26.

 

But this was also an act of grace.

  • God called Abraham out of the East – the place of exile.
  • He called him out of the disinherited and excluded.
  • Importantly, God didn’t make a new Adam.

 

(2) “The rest of the nations were placed under the authority of Yahweh’s divine council” – Michael Heiser.

  • These are the plural “us” of the “let us go down”.
  • The “sons of God”.

 

Moses speaks of this event here:

  • Deuteronomy 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

 

Here Moses gives a warning that operates on top of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

  • God’s inheritance (Israel) is tempted to follow after the “host of heaven”…
  • The “sons of God” of the other nations.

 

In effect, they want to reject their inheritance with Yahweh and choose to be heirs of the “host of heaven”.

  • AKA –“the sun and the moon and the stars”.
  • Insane!

 

Moses reminds them:

  • God delivered you from this very thing – Egypt and her gods.
  • He did so that you might be His “own inheritance”.
  • So get a grip!

 

 

Rabbit Trail – Naaman and Dirt

  • 2 Kings 5:17 (ESV) — 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.

 

Naaman had finally submitted to the cure Elisha offered him in the sorry waters of the Jordan.

  • The result was his healing and a change in his believing loyalty – he switched it to YHWH.

 

So why would Naaman request “two mule loads of earth” from Israel to take back Damascus?

  • You guessed it!
  • Has to do with Deut. 32 worldview and Moses’ warning in Deut. 4.
  • Syrian dirt is (currently) under the inheritance of Rimmon.

 

 

All of this sets up the next scene in our Unseen Realm drama.

  • We know that the disinherited nations become the enemy and foil of Israel.
  • The modern reader easily notices this fact.

 

But what about the “sons of god” of those rebellious nations – what becomes of them?

 

The Psalmist gives us a glimpse:

  • Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

Here the Psalmist gives us a shocking glimpse into the unseen realm.

  • Some of the “gods” (“sons of Most High”) – the elohim over the other nations – have rebelled.
  • They, like Satan (himself an elohim), have aligned themselves against God and His purposes.
  • Their end is to die like men and lose their inheritance – “O God…you shall inherit the nations!” (vs. 8).

 

Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “Yahweh [is] judging other elohim, sons of the Most High, for their corruption in administering the nations” – Michael Heiser.

 

Next week we will flesh out exactly how this informs Paul’s:

  • nor angels nor rulers” – “nor powers

 

Heiser gives us a glimpse:

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations. The division of the nations and their allotment under other elohim is behind the scenes in all sorts of places in biblical history” – Michael Heiser.

 

Romans 8:18-23 – New Nature and New Status – The “Not Yet” Stuff

There are four main “not yet” events described in our passage.

  • (1) “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (vs. 18)
    • Schreiner translates verse 18 as “the glory that shall be ours”.
    • The NIV translates verse 18 as “glory that is to be revealed in us”.
  • (2) “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)
  • (3) “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21)
  • (4) “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

 

Obviously, we need to unpack these to plumb the depths of Paul’s words concerning our future.

  • In determining where to start, there is something we need to notice.

 

These four “not yets” are part of the same event…

  • What Doug Moo calls the yearned for “culminating transformation” of believers.

 

What Tom Schreiner calls:

  • “…the eschatological inheritance of believers” – Schreiner.

 

What us common folk call:

  • Our Glorification.

 

So the “glory that shall be ours” – the “glory that is to revealed in us” (vs. 18)…

  • Is the same event as “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)…
  • And “the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21).
  • And the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23).

 

All of them are part of our:

  • Groaned for “culminating transformation”…
  • Our “eschatological inheritance”.
  • Our glorification.

 

But, to be fair, each of these four touch on many different aspects of our…

  • Transformation/Inheritance/Glorification.
  • So there are a lot of directions we could go.

 

I want to get at the significance of our transformation/inheritance/glorification…

  • By answering two questions.
  • (1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?
  • (2) What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

 

We are going to answer the second question first.

 

 

Glorification as New Nature of Existence:

What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

  • The answer to this question has profound implications for the very nature of our existence.

 

When Paul talks about having the “firstfruits” that lead to the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

  • He is speaking of a change to our nature – of what we actually are.
  • This is awesome stuff!
  • So lets dive into this a little bit.

 

To begin with, what is “the firstfruits of the Spirit”?

  • It refers to a deposit, guarantee or pledge (MCEDONTW).
  • So it is something we have now, but that will cash out later.

 

Moo clarifies this idea:

“The Spirit, in this sense, is both the ‘first installment’ of salvation and the ‘down payment’ or ‘pledge’ that guarantees the remaining stages of that salvation” – Doug Moo.

 

Paul can help us too.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:22 (ESV) — 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

So Paul wants us to have assurance that this future change in us is secure.

  • The Holy Spirit has sealed it, guaranteed it and it is a done deal.

 

This alone should be a huge comfort to the believer

  • For we know, and Paul has made clear, that we live in a body of death.

 

But what is assured, sealed and guaranteed?

  • What is the change to our nature that is coming?
  • What is the change in nature that should give us hope and assurance?

 

Again, Paul can help us here:

  • Colossians 3:4 (ESV) — 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

 

The answer to our question – RESURRECTION!

  • And Resurrection means we are literally changed in our nature.

 

To be physically resurrected is to be…

  • Glorified like Jesus.
  • Raised in Power.
  • Raised in a spiritual body.
  • (To name a few)

 

Michael Bird puts it this way:

These changes are “what we might call Christification or even Christosis. The meaning is that humanity will recover the glory lost in Adam by sharing in the glory arrayed in Christ” – Michael Bird.

 

The EDNT calls this:

  • Our “participation in God’s glorious nature”.

 

The apostle John puts it like this:

  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

 

All these things are part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Now, let’s deal with our first question.

 

 

Glorification as New Status:

(1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?

  • There are a variety of ways to answer this question.
  • I’m going explore the one that involves our receiving a new cosmic status.
  • Hang on because this is a trip!

 

N.T. Wright can get us started:

“The point of ‘glory’ is that it means glorious, sovereign rule, sharing the Messiah’s saving rule over the whole world. And that is what the whole creation is waiting for. It is waiting for us, for you and me, for all God’s children, to be revealed. Then, at last, creation will see its true rulers…” – N.T. Wright.

 

We are the rulers!

  • This position as rulers of creation is the new status that awaits us.
  • And it is the one of the things that creation yearns for.

 

And our participation in this rule with Christ…

  • Will demonstrate that we are the “sons/children of God”.

 

I can’t leave it at this surface level, however.

  • This change of status is spoken of in some profound ways in the Bible.
  • And this is worth exploring.

 

New Status – Revealing of the Sons of God and Called to Be Saints:

Let’s take a look at a few verses.

  • Romans 8:19 (ESV) — 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God [“huios theos”].
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [“hagios”] together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

 

These two phrases are used by Paul to describe a “not yet” feature of our glorification (Romans 8 stuff).

  • And both relate to our coming status as rulers of creation.

 

The problem is that what Paul means with these phrases…

  • Is a far cry from what we think of when we see them.

 

We see “saints” and “sons of God”…

  • And we think dedicated old folks in our church and adoption into God’s family.
  • Both true, of course.

 

Paul sees “hagios” and “huios theos”…

  • And he thinks “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.

 

Wha’ choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?

 

As we know, Paul’s (and Jesus’) favorite Bible was apparently the LXX – the Greek OT.

  • So when Paul uses peculiar Greek phrases in his letters, we need to understand that he often draws from his Bible.
  • His Bible is what provides the background to their meaning.
  • “Hagios” and “huios theos” are two such phrases.

 

Mike Heiser puts it like this:

These connections between he OT and NT, “create the context from which New Testament writers will talk about the kingdom and the glorification of believers” – Mike Heiser.

 

The same principal is in operation today.

  • If I say something like, “now we are engaged in a great civil war”.
  • This certainly has meaning given current events.
  • But it is actually freighted with even more meaning.
  • The reason is simply because these words are from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

 

Understanding this, let’s look at Paul’s connections to the Old Testament.

 

We have seen that Paul uses two phrases to describe our future status:

  • hagios
  • huios theos

 

These two phrases have a very specific meaning in the LXX.

  • Psalm 89 gives us a great example.
  • Psalm 89:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

 

This verse is describing a scene in the Divine Council.

  • YHWH is unique and incomparable.
  • No one can compare – not the “heavenly beings” of the council (vs. 6).
  • And not the “council of the holy ones” (vs. 7).
  • YHWH is “awesome above all” (vs. 7).

 

When we look at the LXX it gets pretty cool.

  • “holy ones” is “hagios”.
  • “heavenly beings” is “huios theos”.

 

The implication, of course, is that (as we said earlier)…

  • Paul sees our future status as that of the “hagios” and “huios theos” – the “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.
  • In other words, rulers with YHWH.
  • But these phrases set this rule in context of the Divine Council!

 

Knowing this brings clarity to a verse like this:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:2–3 (ESV) — 2 Or do you not know that the saints [hagios] will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you [Christians at Corinth], are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we [hagios] are to judge angels [according to Heiser – “angels” came to be the NT stand in for “elohim”]? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

 

This is casting the saints as future rulers on the God’s Divine Council.

  • We, the saints (hagios), will be the “holy ones”.

 

Mike Heiser puts it this way:

  • “Believers are God’s once and future family, once and future council, once and future rulers with Jesus over all the nations” – Mike Heiser.

 

The apostle John puts it this way:

  • Revelation 3:21 (ESV) — 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

And the implications of our glorification upon our status as rulers also help us with this weird text.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (ESV) — 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
  • Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

 

Given what we have just learned about our how our glorification impacts our status:

  • Why does Paul say the “rulers of this age” would not have crucified Jesus had they known what was in store for us (the “hagios” and “huios theos”) as a result of Jesus’ being glorified on the cross?

 

The answer is found in Psalm 82:

  • Psalm 82:1–7 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

 

Paul’s words reveal that our new status is at the expense of the status of the unjust members of the Divine Council.

  • They will be judged (apparently we will participate in this judgment – 1 Cor. 6:2-3).
  • And they shall die like men.
  • This truth fuels much of the fire raging in spiritual warfare.

 

So just like the change to our nature, all this status business is part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Isaiah wasn’t playing around when he said:

  • Isaiah 65:17 (ESV) — 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

 

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 2 – “God Is One” Biblical Landscape

Our aim over the next few weeks is to:

  • Dive deep into the Biblical Landscape that informs our discussion of the Trinity.
  • Everything we uncover will be the backdrop for later discussions.
  • It will be our claim that the Biblical landscape is best explained by the Trinity.
  • Enjoy the ride!

 

 

God is One:

The first line of our septad from last week is:

  • (P1) God is one.

 

This seems like a good place to start Part 2 of our exploration of the Trinity.

  • Does the Bible affirm that God is one?
  • What exactly is meant by the proposition, “God is one”?

 

Let’s start with most obvious relevant verse – the Shema.

  • The Shema affirms for us that God is “one”.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

 

But what does the Shema mean with its affirmation that God is one?

 

To get at the answer, we need to see that the verse uses two significant words to refer to God.

  • It uses “Lord” which is English for the Hebrew YHWH.
  • It uses “God” which is English for the Hebrew “elohim”, the plural of “el”.

 

Insert these back into the verse and we get:

  • “Hear, O Israel: YHWH our elohim, YHWH is one (elohim)”

 

And, even more helpful, there is wide agreement that the verse should be translated:

  • “Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our elohim, YHWH alone (is our elohim)”
  • (See any descent study Bible).

 

So let’s ask some basic questions about this verse.

  • By doing so we will flesh out the meaning of “one”.

 

Is YHWH an elohim?

  • Yes.

 

Whose elohim is YWHW?

  • Israel’s.

 

How many YHWH “elohim” are there?

  • Context makes clear that there is one.

 

How many “elohim” are there?

  • The Shema makes no sense if YHWH is the only “elohim”.
  • In fact, “The Shema doesn’t deny existence of other gods, it presupposes them and treats them as ‘real competitors for Israel’s devotion’” – Nathan MacDonald.

 

Look at Deuteronomy 6:14 (just a few verses later).

  • Deuteronomy 6:14 (ESV) — 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you—
  • “gods” here is Hebrew for “elohim”.
  • (More on “elohim” in a moment).

 

So now we have enough info to understand what is meant by “one” in context of the Shema.

  • 1) There are many “elohim” (such as Egypt’s “elohim” from Deut 6:14).
  • 2) There is only one YHWH “elohim” (Israel’s “elohim”).
  • 3) So to be the only YWHW “elohim” among all “elohim” is to be what?

 

Answer:

  • Unique!
  • What we have here is talk of “the uniqueness of the one God” (Larry Hurtado).

 

Scholar, Mike Heiser puts it this way:

  • The Shema teaches the “belief in [YHWH’s] uniqueness and incomparability: There is only one YHWH and He is unique.”
  • “Yhwh is elohim but no other elohim is yhwh.” – Mike Heiser.

 

So, when the Shema speaks of “one God” it is telling us:

  • YHWH is unique.
  • YHWH is incomparable.
  • No other “elohim” compare to YHWH.

 

 

Biblical Landscape Alert:

(1) Some argue that the Shema itself points to the Trinity.

  • The TWOT, for example, says that the Hebrew word for “one”, “ehad”, can mean:
  • “Unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness”.

 

Yet, it concedes that context is what makes this determination.

  • The Shema doesn’t contain the right context.
  • The context here is not YHWH’s ontology (his inner nature as a being).
  • It is YHWH’s outward relationship to Israel and other elohim.

 

So, the Shema is neither a:

  • Trinitarian proclamation.
  • Binitarian proclamation, or a
  • Unitarian proclamation.

 

(2) We need to take the proclamation of the Shema at face value.

  • This will be very important in a couple of weeks.

 

The Shema makes a very simple and straightforward claim.

  • If an “elohim” is unique among the “elohim” then that “elohim” is…YHWH.
  • To be Israel’s YHWH is to be or possess (?) this uniqueness.
  • (We will see what this uniqueness consists of shortly).

 

Importantly, this means there is no talk of “substance” or “essence” in the Shema.

  • These are, after all, Greek ideas that came much, much later.
  • The language to identify and set apart YHWH here is “oneness” as “uniqueness”.

 

This is a very important feature of the Biblical Landscape we are surveying.

  • File this away for later.

 

Remember, we are seeking to gain an appreciation for the Biblical Landscape.

  • A landscape that suggests the Trinity as its best explanation (our contention).

 

For now, we need to flesh out all this “elohim” and YHWH stuff.

  • We need to understand what makes YHWH unique among the “elohim”.
  • This is going to be fun!

 

 

YHWH’s Uniqueness and the Elohim Intro:

For this to make any sense, you have to rework your modern concept of monotheism.

  • A word that, is itself, only a few hundred years old.
  • The modern dictionary idea of monotheism is not ancient Jewish monotheism.

 

If you look up the word “monotheism” you will find something like:

  • The belief that there is only one god or deity.

 

Here is the problem:

  • The idea that there is only one god or deity is foreign to the Bible.

 

Scholar, Michael Heiser (Understanding Israelite Monotheism):

The Shema has often wrongly, “lead to the assumption that the OT Israelites did not believe in the existence of other gods. According to this assumption, the definition of monotheism rules out the existence of other gods. In light of many OT passages, these assumptions cannot be sustained.”

 

Scholar, Larry Hurtado (One Lord, One God):

“It is a fair point that the dictionary meaning of ‘monotheism’ (the term a relatively modern coinage) scarcely fits the ancient world-views in question…The key distinguishing factor, and the most blatant expression of ‘ancient Jewish monotheism’ was not in denial of the existence of other divine beings but in an exclusivity of cultic practice [worship].”

 

Scholar, Richard Bauckham (Jesus and the God of Israel):

The element that makes ancient Judaism monotheistic, “is not the denial of the existence of other ‘gods’, but an understanding of the uniqueness of YHWH that puts him in a class of his own, a wholly different class from any other heavenly or supernatural beings, even if these are called ‘gods’.”

 

Is this for real?

  • Does the OT affirm the existence of other gods – “elohim”?
  • Does the Bible locate YHWH’s uniqueness with comparisons to other “elohim”?

 

The answer to both questions is…yes!

 

 

The Elohim:

The obvious thing to do now is figure out the identity of the “elohim”

  • In the OT, there are at least six “different entities” designated as “elohim” – Michael Heiser.
  • (The source for this info is Michael Heiser’s Unseen Realm.)

 

(1) Yahweh

The OT uses the word “elohim” for YHWH literally thousands of times.

  • Deuteronomy 4:35 (ESV) — 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God [elohim]; there is no other besides him.
  • Jeremiah 26:13 (ESV) — 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God [elohim], and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.
  • Micah 4:5 (ESV) — 5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god [elohim], but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God [elohim] forever and ever.

 

(2) Members of Yahweh’s Divine Council

God’s Divine Council, or heavenly host, appears throughout the OT

  • Psalm 82:1 (ESV) — 1 God [elohim] has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment:
  • 1 Kings 22:19–21 (ESV) — 19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven [these are elohim] standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit [“ruah”, an elohim] came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

 

(3) Foreign Gods

Called a Deuteronomy 32 worldview, the OT understands there to be gods over other nations.

  • Deuteronomy 4:7 (ESV) — 7 For what great nation is there that has a god [elohim] so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
  • Judges 11:24 (ESV) — 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god [elohim] gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God [elohim] has dispossessed before us, we will possess.
  • 1 Kings 11:33 (ESV) — 33 because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess [elohim] of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god [elohim] of Moab, and Milcom the god [elohim] of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did.

 

(4) “The deceased Samuel”

  • 1 Samuel 28:13–14 (ESV) — 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god [elohim] coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.

 

(4) Demons (“shedim”)

  • Deuteronomy 32:17 (NRSV) — 17 They sacrificed to demons, not God, to deities [elohim] they had never known, to new ones recently arrived, whom your ancestors had not feared.
  • Paul references this in 1 Corinthians 10:20 – “they sacrifice to demons and not to God”.

 

(5) “Angels or the Angel of Yahweh”

  • Judges 6:20 (ESV) — 20 And the angel of God [malak elohim] said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so.
  • 2 Samuel 14:17 (ESV) — 17 And your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,’ for my lord the king is like the angel of God [malak elohim] to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!”

 

BTW – “elohim” has many other uses, such as idols, but they are obviously not living “entities”.

 

So what do all the referents of the word “elohim” have in common?

  • Maybe a leading question will help.
  • In what realm do all “elohim” live?

 

Mike Heiser helps us out here:

  • “What all the figures on the list have in common is that they are inhabitants of the spiritual world.”
  • “The word elohim is a ‘place of residence’ term. Our home is the world of embodiment; elohim by nature inhabit the spiritual world.”

 

This leads us to some very important questions.

  • What is the difference(s) between YHWH and all other “elohim”?
  • Why is YHWH unique and incomparable?
  • Why is it true that, “Yhwh is elohim but no other elohim is yhwh”?

 

 

YHWH’s Uniqueness and Incomparability:

The Bible will help us out quite a bit here.

  • Nehemiah 9:6 (ESV) — 6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven [elohim of Divine Council] worships you.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 (ESV) — 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods [elohim] and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
  • Psalm 148:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.

 

YHWH is the uncreated, eternal creator of all things – including the other “elohim”.

  • And all other “elohim” are to worship him.
  • You can’t get any more unique and incomparable than that.

 

Let’s look at some more Scriptural examples of YHWH’s uniqueness.

  • Deuteronomy 3:24 (ESV) — 24 ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god [el] is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?
  • Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV) — 39 “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god [elohim] beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
  • Exodus 15:11 (ESV) — 11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods [el]? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
  • 1 Kings 8:23 (ESV) — 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God [elohim] like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart;
  • Psalm 89:6–7 (ESV) — 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones [refers to elohim], and awesome above all who are around him?
  • Psalm 97:9 (ESV) — 9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods [elohim].

 

The above texts are “statements of incomparability” – Michael Heiser.

  • No “elohim” compare to YHWH!
  • Again, “YHWH is elohim, but no other elohim is YHWH!” – Heiser.

 

But wait, there is more!

  • Scripture is chocked full of “unique qualities” that pertain only to YHWH – Heiser.
  • Examples are too numerous to list.

 

And of the many examples, Job 9 has a curious one.

  • Job 9:8 (ESV) — 8 who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea;
  • YHWH’s uniqueness includes the ability to subdue and walk upon the sea.
  • His control over creation is one reason why He is the one unique God of Israel.
  • He controls it and subdues it because He made it.

 

Such examples are important parts of the Biblical Landscape relevant to our exploration of the Trinity.

  • As is our final topic under YHWH’s uniqueness – worship.

 

 

Worship and Ancient Jewish Monotheism:

Ancient Jewish monotheism cannot be fully understood outside of the worship of YHWH.

  • YHWH is unique
  • YHWH is incomparable.
  • YHWH alone is to be worshipped.

 

Scholar, Thomas McCall:

  • “Because YHWH is utterly unique as Creator and Lord, worship is to be devoted exclusively to him.”
  • “Worship is central to early Jewish monotheism” – Thomas McCall.

 

Again, the Bible makes this clear!

  • Exodus 34:14 (ESV) — 14 for you shall worship no other god [el], for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God [el],
  • Deuteronomy 8:19 (ESV) — 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods [elohim] and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
  • Deuteronomy 11:16 (ESV) — 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods [elohim] and worship them;

 

Biblical Landscape Alert:

We need to note something very important about the Jewish idea of worship of YHWH.

“For Jewish monotheism, this insistence on the one God’s exclusive right to religious worship was far more important than metaphysical notions of the unity of the divine nature” – Richard Bauckham.

 

In other words, YHWH was worthy of worship because He was the Israel’s elohim.

  • The unique and incomparable elohim.
  • YHWH was not worshipped because he was, in His inner nature, numerically one.

 

Scholar, Thomas McCall puts it this way:

“It is important to see that this account of monotheism is not centered on numerical oneness, nor does it obviously dictate that there is at most one divine person” – Thomas McCall.

 

As with the other features of the Biblical Landscape we have mentioned in this section…

  • We will revisit this in a few weeks.

 

As well as one other thing that needs fleshing out:

  • What did it mean, exactly, for an ancient Jew to worship?
  • And was it ever kosher to worship any being other than YHWH?

 

For now, let’s end with the words of Jesus:

  • Mark 12:28–29 (ESV) — 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.