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The Bible as "divine", roof prayer, and tattoos

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Question #1: 

Some acquaintances of mine are insisting that John 1:1 indicates that the Bible *is* God. I've explained it six ways to Sunday, but they insist that the use of Logos there indicates Scripture being divine and alive. Can you shed some light on this subject?

Response #1: 

I must admit, this is a new one on me.  Most of the e-mails on John 1:1 which I receive relate to defending or attacking the divinity of Christ, and most of those I get re: the Bible deal with attacks upon the inerrant truth of scripture.  This, as I say, is something new. 

Jesus Christ is the Logos, as is obvious from even a superficial reading of John chapter one in translation.  As such, He is the "Word", He is the "truth" (Jn.14:6), but He is also clearly distinct from the Bible and from the scriptures "which testify about Me" as He said (Jn.5:39).  The word "logos" means more in Greek than what we think of when we say the word "word" in English - it means the essence, the totality of the wisdom and the thinking and the planning behind the expression of all these things verbally; it means the very principle of truth in its biblical use in John 1:1 and more, for in John 1:1 it stands for Jesus as the embodiment and reflection of all of God's truth: 

God, who from antiquity has spoken to us at many points and in many ways through the fathers and the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us through a Son:  He has appointed Him heir of all things; through Him He created the universe; He (Jesus) is the shining forth of [the Father's] glory, the precise image of His essence, the One who sustains the universe by His mighty word.             Hebrews 1:1-3a 

When God speaks, it expresses His will, the will of the One who created and who sustains the entire universe.  And in the scriptures we have His words, His "Word" of power for us all, the guidance we need to live our lives for Him.  Indeed, the Bible is so important, so powerful, so essential to our entrance into eternal life and to our pursuit of it in this life that the Bible is sometimes described as "living" (1Pet.1:23; Heb.4:12; cf. Acts 7:38), for without it, how we would ever hope to know the truth about Him through whom alone we have eternal life?  And so it is in this sense of being the undying truth concerning the living God coming directly from Him, and of being the means by which we know the wonderful truths about Him, that scripture is “alive”, for it is the “water of life” (Jn.3:5; Rev.22:17; cf. Is.55:1; Jer.17:13; Jn.4:14; 7:37-38; 1Cor.10:4; Eph.5:26; Tit.3:5). 

We may say that scripture is of God, from God, by God, and through God, perfectly reflecting the will, the goodness, and essence of God, teaching His truth, for it is His perfect truth, the very thinking of Him who is the Savior of the world (1Cor.2:16)  - but for all that the scriptures are still distinct from God.   This is not to diminish the Bible in any way, for the scriptures are the only true way to Him, and have been divinely ordained, inspired, produced, protected, and provided so that we might know Jesus Christ, be saved and grow in Him (and help others do likewise).   

Perhaps if I use an analogy here it will help to explain.  When God speaks, He originates a "Word", part of His will for the world.  And when God creates, He originates something out of nothing that is also part of His will for the world.   Like the Bible, we believers have been created by God for His purposes, we have eternal life in us through faith in Jesus Christ, we have the Spirit in us (Jn.14:17), and, in our proper growth and response, we have the Father and the Son in us as well (Jn.14:23), and so are the very "temple of God" (1Cor.3:16-17; 6:19; 2Cor.6:16).  We possess the righteousness of God (Rom.3:22), and are partakers of the divine nature (2Pet.1:4).  We are the Bride of Christ, part of the very body of our Lord Jesus who bought us (Eph.1:23; 5:25-33; Rev.19:7).  And we will be with Him forever (Rev.7:15-17).  Yet for all the intimate association we have with our Father, and the Lord who bought us, and His Spirit, we are nonetheless distinct from them.  At the end of history, God will be "all in all" (1Cor.15:28), yet we certainly are not and never will be God.   

Wisdom is said to be the first of the works of God (Prov.8:22), and what is wisdom and where is wisdom contained if not in the Bible?  Therefore scripture is a reflection of God, a live-giving, powerful one, but yet separate from Him.   It is hard, indeed impossible, to imagine a more perfect device for sharing the knowledge and truth of God to His children than the scriptures we possess.  They are absolutely essential to everything we know about Him and everything we do in response to Him and we are oh so grateful for them - but they are not Him.  God has personality, three Persons to be precise, and while the scriptures reflect his personality perfectly, just as He designed them to do, they do not have a personality independent of Him (as should be fundamentally obvious to any impartial observer).   

In the history of the Church, there have been many times and many instances where well-meaning individuals have gone "beyond what is written" (1Cor.4:6) in order to buttress some principle of truth or other.  But the truth stands well enough on its own, and the problem is that when one introduces that which is not true in the service of truth it is ultimately the truth which suffers. 

I hope this if helpful to you in your defense of the truth.  Here are some other links you may find helpful as well:

Read your Bible.

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is true I?

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is true II?

In Him who is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

In Acts chapter ten when Peter went up to the roof to pray, was going to the roof a usual and customary thing to do in order to pray in that day and age?  I know it's a good thing to have a  private and quiet place to converse with our Lord, but a roof ?  It was significant enough to mention in the word of God, so it must be important.

Response #2:  

I think you are exactly right - this is all about having a quiet place of privacy to reflect and concentrate on prayer while at the same time "not showing off" that one is praying.  Jesus very often went "out" to pray (mountain tops [Mk.6:46], the desert [Mk.1:35], a remote part of the garden in Gethsemane [Mk.14:32]), Paul and co. went out to the out-lying area of Philippi to look for an outdoor "prayer place" (Acts 16:13), and Jesus tells us to go into our "closet" to pray to avoid being seen as showing off (Matt.6:6).  

The common idea here is privacy.  In Acts 10, Peter was staying at someone else's house, and there were a number of his associates there as well (translate:  the house was probably pretty crowded).  Not having his own space to pray, and not wanting to wander too far from his associates, the roof made a nice compromise.  In that part of world, since there is no snow to speak of (especially on the coast), the roofs are flat and often more like a patio than a roof (which is why the Law says to build a "parapet" so that no one will accidentally fall off: Deut.22:8).  I should also note that in the Mediterranean world even today, but especially in ancient times, it was very much of an outdoor culture.  Unlike the US where various insects and burdensome humidity would make stationary outdoor prayer more of challenge in the summer and where the cold is too intense for calm outdoor prayer in the winter, being outside was the natural order of things in Palestine, especially since the insides of ancient Mediterranean buildings were usually small, cramped, poorly lighted and generally not very pleasing.  People generally slept inside but spent most of the day outside.   So it is probable that the roof was one of the nicer places for Peter to choose from, and a place very conducive to thoughtful, concentrated prayer.  

Hope this helps.  

In our Lord Jesus Christ,  

Bob L.

Question #3: 

I have a question about getting a tattoo. I have read what Leviticus 19:28 says regarding it but am confused with the meaning. I am wanting a Christian symbol on my body to help me with my own spirituality. When so many others seem to have demonic tattoos I thought it would be nice to see a Christian symbol on one's body. Would it really be any different than say an ear piercing?

Response #3:  

Leviticus 19:28 in the NIV reads "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves.  I am the Lord."   One can argue about the particulars of this translation, but that is essentially what the Hebrew reads.  The phrase "tattoo marks" renders the Hebrew cethobhet qe'aqa'.  The root of the first word has to do with writing, while the root of the second word is more obscure, but Gesenius (the famous Hebrew lexicographer and grammarian) felt it was related to a similar root for branding.  It seems clear from the combination of words in this phrase that something very like our modern tattoos is meant (even if they were put in place more through heat than through ink and etc.).  Both of the practices mentioned here, cutting oneself and branding/tattooing are outlawed in the Mosaic Law for the same reason that many other practices were prohibited for the Israelites, namely, to set them apart from the pagan nations who were heavily involved in idolatrous practices.  They, after all, were a people uniquely separated to God and His holiness (cf. the phrase that ends the verse, "I am the Lord"). 

It is in regard to idolatry that cutting oneself as an act of mourning and branding/tattooing oneself had its major significance in terms of the Law's prohibition.  But I would suggest that the practices themselves are contrary to nature as ordained by God (cf. 1Cor.11:14).  That fact, coupled with their association with godless heathen practices would have made them things a follower of the Lord would naturally want to stay away from.  The specific prohibition of the Law put the matter beyond all doubt for those living under the Law. 

It can be argued that under the New Covenant of grace we are no longer under the Law of Moses, and that is certainly true.  But that does not mean, of course, that we are therefore free to do whatever we wish.  If we accept that God has made us a certain way, then should we not at the very least exercise extreme caution and circumspection in arbitrarily undertaking to change the way He made us (as "nature itself" should tell us: 1Cor.11:14)?   This is a principle that has application beyond the question of tattoos. 

I understand what you are saying about wanting to "answer" the negatives you see, but there is a right time and place for such responses, and a right way too (and that right way is not always to answer in kind).  Ultimately, all of us who win the victory of faith in this life will have the mark of God (Rev.3:12), but that mark will be given by God and will be on our eternal bodies.  Believers are never told or encouraged by the Bible to mark themselves here in this world.  On the contrary, the most famous mark that the inhabitants of the world will take upon themselves is the "mark of the beast", and that particular tattoo will be an indication of their total and irrevocable rejection of God (Rev.13:11-18).  Since antichrist will be a pseudo-Messiah, superficially imitating Christ and proclaiming himself to be Christ, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that this mark will entail seemingly Christian or pseudo-Christian or quasi-Christian symbolism.  It will not for that reason, however, be truly Christian - exactly the opposite in fact. 

Jesus told us to "let our light shine" before our fellow men, so that by our deeds they would recognize the power of His love and of His truth (Matt.5:14-16).  That seems to me to be the best policy for anyone wanting to counter the influence of evil and advance the cause of Jesus Christ.  Rather than taking a symbol onto your body or wearing a crucifix around your neck or putting a bumper sticker on your car - all of which things can mean different things to different people - I would encourage you pick up your cross every day and walk in a manner pleasing to Jesus Christ.  That will be something which no one can misinterpret.  By so doing, there will be no question but that you have the Word of God within you, no matter what your outward appearance may be. 

Here are some other e-mail responses that deal with this question and which may be of some help: 

    Three questions about tattoos and salvation 

    Are tattoos biblical? 

Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Bob Luginbill

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