11 November 2010

What did Jesus (not) say about... God?

by Dan Phillips

"All that really matters is that you believe in God, however you conceive of Him/Her/It/Them."

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

With this, I start a new series of posts that will be even briefer than the Next! posts. Here's the design: I single out something Jesus most certainly did not say. That's the whole post. The next is you, hitting your Bible, and developing it.

So as I say, here's what you do with each of these: hit your Bibles, and develop the post's central idea. Jesus really didn't say that, did He? But many do. In fact, even professed Christians do. So what did Jesus say, instead? And what's the significance of the gap between what He didn't say, and what He did say?

Could be fun, edifying, thought-provoking.

At least, that's my hope!

Merlin said...

Lucifer absolutely believes in God.

Mr. Fosi said...

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." John 14:1 (ESV)

James Scott Bell said...

Don't we need colored beads to vote on what Jesus really said? We could call this The DJP Seminar.

olan strickland said...

WJDS - This.

Wow, Dan. That error is refuted from Genesis through Revelation. Are we limited to 50 words or less also?

DJP said...

Not at all, Olan. Go as long as you like.

semijohn said...

Dan, you forgot "them".

DJP said...

Fair enough. Added.

Robert said...

OK...I'll try to limit myself to only a few (four, exactly) thoughts...

First, in the Beatitudes, Jesus said that only those who realize they are spiritually destitute will get into heaven...He said that we should mourn over our sinfulness...that we need to be meek/humble...we need to hunger and thirst for God's righteousness...we need to be merciful...we need to be pure in heart...we need to be peacemakers (God's peace, not man's imaginary peace)...and we should expect to be persecuted for believing in Him. So that is the first point from the Beatitudes.

Secondly, I would point to Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, where He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) He goes on to exlpain that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6) So it is important that we be born again by the power of the Spirit, Who goes where He pleases (just as the wind).

Back to the Sermon on the Mount for another Jesus said is important. In Matthew 5:21-32, Jesus teaches that it is what is in our hearts that is important, not just our outward actions. He addresses lust and anger, although this could surely be extended to any and all sin issues.

And finally, again in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that we need to build our lives upon His foundation. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us that if we hear His words and do what He tells us, than we are like a wise man who builds on the foundation of the rock. The rain falls, floods come, and winds blow, but the house does not fall. The man who hears His words and doesn't follow them is like one who builds upon sand. The storm comes and the fall of that house is great. Basically, trials will come, but if we build our lives upon His Word and follow Him, we have security in Him and are safe. If our assurance is built on anything else, or if we are not truly following Him, then the trials will break us.

There is plenty more...and I look forward to seeing what everybody puts here so that I can take it all in and focus on it.

olan strickland said...

I'll still attempt to stay brief and offer a selective rather than exhaustive development of the subject at hand.

First there was Cain who "believed" in God but was rejected because he didn't really believe God.

Then there's the prohibition against idolatry - you know, like believing in God however you conceive Him/Her/It.

What will we say of the multitude of Israelites that "believed in God" and yet didn't believe God or His prophets or His Son or His apostles? Time would fail us on such an endeavor.

Should we mention having a zeal for God without knowledge and prove it to be a fatal, soul-destroying error, you would think it would suffice to prove that just "believing in God isn't enough.

Then there was what Jesus did say. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He also told the religious leaders who believed in God but didn't believe God that they were of their father the devil and that the reason they couldn't believe what He was saying was because they were not from God (John 8:42-47).

Gov98 said...


If you love me, you don't need to worry about my commandments.

Gov98 said...


I am a way, a truth, and just some guy, figure it out on your own.

WV:Ungess Don't need to guess at God's truth.

DJP said...

One at a time, please.

Robert said...

OK...sorry for the earlier post. Between reading too fast and dealing with a sinus infection, I totally got lost.

So, Jesus did not say that we need to believe in a god that we conceive. In John 3:16-19, Jesus says that God sent Him (Jesus) to save the world and that if we believe in Him (Jesus), we are not condemned. He goes on to state that whoever does not believe in Him is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The difference is such that it can not be reconciled. Jesus defined Whom we need to believe in and it is not up to us to define Him in our minds. That is why we need to read Scripture...we need to know Him and we only know Him through Scripture. And we should read with that goal in mind...getting to know Jesus better. Not trying to find parts of some god we put together in our own imagination.

Hope that's better...I am surprised my first post wasn't deleted. lol

semijohn said...

Thanks, Dan. Was racking my brain trying to think of a 5th category, but I think its pretty much airtight.

A lot of it personally is about feelings. If I went with my feelings, I would have long ago gone about it that non-exclusivistic way. Not that everyone of my feelings is bad, but often very nearly so. Of course maybe that's just me (or not) Sometimes being a Christian is like the Seinfeld where George does the exact opposite of his inclinations. Too bad Schleirmacher never saw that episode!

VcdeChagn said...

Then there was what Jesus did say. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He also told the religious leaders who believed in God but didn't believe God that they were of their father the devil and that the reason they couldn't believe what He was saying was because they were not from God (John 8:42-47).

Excellent point.

A good application of this is that it matters far less what we think of God than what God thinks of us. The Pharisees thought about God in a certain way, and God thought about them in a different way (as evidenced by Jesus's words).

How do we find out what God thinks of us? 2 Tim 3:16 tells us how. You could start in Romans 3 for a good idea of how God thinks of us as well.

lee n. field said...

"All that really matters is that you believe in God, however you conceive of Him/Her/It/Them"

Basically, a flat out appeal to violate the first and second commandments.

FX Turk said...


I'm going to save everyone anyway, so it doesn't matter what the Law and the Prophets say about me.

joel said...

Answer - You are absolutely right!

As long as Him/Her/It/Them has provided an infinite propitiation to personally expiate your sins.

Mr. Fosi said...

WDJNS: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you a bunch more great moral teachings."

DJP said...

OK, guys, sisters:

There are going to be a bunch more of these, probably.

Can we talk about them one at a time? Starting with this one?

Mark Patton said...

Luke 4:23-26 (NAS)"But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman *said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.' Jesus *said to her, 'I who speak to you am [He.']"
The gap is that true worshippers know that it is based on certain truth not fellings. That truth is basically this: I don't care what you think is the path to God, what is the truth (what God thinks).

Robert said...

C'mon, Phil. You got us all excited with a new toy and it takes us a while to slow down. Or maybe that was just me and how I feel.


Mr. Fosi said...

I think Robert meant to say "Dan", but I agree with him. :D

Rachael Starke said...

What Jesus did say:

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6-7

"I and the Father are one" John 11:30

This was unambiguous enough to the Jews that they responded by trying to stone him for blasphemy.

What about Jesus' words don't you understand? (oh supposedly confused unbeliever, not decidedly unconfused Dan.

Rachael Starke said...

What a great idea for a series.

Or a book. ;)

Gov98 said...


Give in to the dark side, you know you want to have a totally rocking hilarious meta, Give in to your humor!

DJP said...

I could change the title to "Everything Jesus didn't say about everything," and delete the contents of the post?

CGrim said...

Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And cast out demons in your name? And Lord, remember all those mighty works? We did them in your name! Sure, we got some things wrong, but we're only human, after all. We were so passionate for you! Surely that counts for something!

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...

What Jesus did not say:

"All that really matters is that you believe in God, however you conceive of Him/Her/It/Them."

What Jesus did say:

"O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me." (John 17:25)

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11:27)

And if we go to God the Father's words:

"For thus says Yahweh, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): 'I am Yahweh, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, "Seek me in vain." I, Yahweh, speak the truth; I declare what is right....Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, Yahweh? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: "To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance."'" (Isaiah 45:18-19, 21b-23)

DJP said...

Everything that everyone has written on the post is really good, good stuff.

I think maybe the most pinpoint blow to the thought I had was just scored by Stefan:

"O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me." (John 17:25)

The main point I'd like this post to impress on everyone's mind is that this sentiment would have been unimaginable to Jesus. He could not have conceived of saying any such thing. To Him, there wasn't any real doubt about who God was, or whether He was knowable — the only question is whether we do in fact know Him on His terms.

He was here (among other things) to declare those terms.

Not start an open-ended discussion.

Stefan Ewing said...

To be totally honest, that verse was a complete afterthought. It didn't even cross my mind, but looking up the other verses in John and Matthew led me to it.

I still like Isaiah 45 the best, though. It's like a Declaration of Sovereignty!

Robert said...

Mr. Fosi,

I did say Phil on purpose, but I hope that Dan saw through my sarcasm in that comment. I don't want to encourage others to go hog wild just because I mistakenly did.

Anonymous said...

Apart from all the Biblical evidence already supplied refuting this sentimental smarmy non-saying of Jesus, here was my first thought:

Sincerity of belief does not create or alter reality. We either deal with God and the Christ as He's revealed Himself clearly, or we substitute a non-deity of our own imagining.

FX Turk said...

To try to contribute constructively this time, I had a dinner discussion with some work colleagues about this exact statement. It stunned me that someone actually would say this and mean it.

Here are the questions I asked after I took my jaw off the table:

-- Is God real at all -- or is He just something we think about? That is: is there a God, or do we use the word "God" just to sort of spackle-up our random thoguths about the way the world works?

-- OK: so God is real. If God is real, how do we tell God apart from a salt shaker or a stick of butter?

-- We can't tell? Well, that's interesting -- I wonder if that works for people. For example, if I treat my wife like my friend "A" over there, or my friend "A" like my wife, will either of them have a basis for being offended? And also: have I done anything unjust by treating "A" like my wife or vice versa?

-- So if God is real, and it can be said that God is also not rightly accounted in created things, do we have an obligation to treat God with at least as much justice as we do the regular people we run into every day? That is, should God be treated as God, or rather just as any thing which is not-God?

The answer to that question was, "well, religion is just used to control people." This is an interesting diversion from my question, but it's not hardly an answer. SO I leave that question to the rest of you here to ponder for the rest of the day.

Rob said...

Jesus definitely did not use Courier font.

DJP said...

After all these years, now we know: Rob has the autographs!

Rob said...

Come on, the originals were in Shakespearean English typed in in Times New Roman font. Ask any KJVO'er...

Sonja said...

Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Guess that implies some sort of judging might happen. But I'm such a good person especially compared to that person over there. :(

Anonymous said...

A thought came to me immediately when reading the comment you posted, and it took me to times when I had an older Jehovahs' Witness meet with me for about a year.

Jesus proclaimed Himself the Son of God, and therefore to also be God in this exchange with the Pharisees. (this is a verse to point out to Jehovah's Witnesses that Jesus is not merely an angel, He was the Lord of David and not a physical descendant only).

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
"'The Lord said to my Lord,Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'?

Help me out here guys...I'm not as deeply studied as many of you....

Anonymous said...


Jesus DIDN'T say that?

But I was watching MSNBC, CNN and Steven Colbert and that's what THEY say he said.


Now I'm caught.

DJP says that MSNBC, CNN and Colbert are wrong. DJP only has a blog and they're all on TV...and I know that TV is always a better source of information than some random lowly blogger. Bloggers are like the cockroaches of media, right?

Okay. It's settled then.

I'll have to disagree with you on this one DJP, unless you can somehow prove that you know more about Jesus or God than MSNBC, CNN and Colbert...COMBINED!

It would sure help your case if we had some sort of written record of Jesus' words and/or teachings that I could reference in order to know what he DID say.

It would be most helpful if it those sayings would be preserved by multiple authors from a variety of backgrounds, and compiled into a sort of "codex" format for facilitating easy transport of those records.

It would also probably be helpful if those records were laid out and systematized with some sort of decimal system to help reference specific areas of the work. Maybe some sort of chapter breakdown with sub-chapters or numbered paragraphs or something?

Do we have something like THAT?

trogdor said...

"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

Jesus doesn't appear to have much sympathy for the have-it-your-way approach to God. Note the terms he uses to describe God. The "only" God - He's it, folks, you don't get to look at a bunch of options and choose your favorite. There's one, and only one. You either get with His program, or deal with the consequences.

And God is the "true" God. There is a God who is true - the God who is. Anything else is a worthless pretender. There is God, and there is not-God. To know God is a blessing so great it's inseparably linked with eternal life. To 'know' not-God gets you eternal not-life.

Knowing God is not simply the means to a better quality of life; it is the difference between eternal blessing and eternal wrath. And as usual, the demarcation point is the person of Jesus. As he had previously stated: "Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." (John 5:23-24) And, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:18)

But my favorite response to this nonsense comes from Paul. Describing his extremely zealous, extremely wrong Jewish opponents, he says: "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." (Rom 10:2-3)

And what is Paul's response to their zealous ignorance? He desires and prays for them to be saved! (Now that's an exceedingly odd request, if 'righteousness' means nothing more than being aware that you're part of a covenant community, or that God is faithful to his covenant, or whatever it's supposed to mean now. All I know is NT Wright is really, really smart, or something. Whatever.) The point is, even though they had a zeal for God - much more than virtually anyone who's ever made the claim of this post, for sure - their ignorance leaves them condemned and in desperate need of being saved.

In conclusion, God is. That's pretty much His name, after all. We can know and love and worship God as He is and be blessed, or we can make our own 'god' from the theological taco bar and suffer the consequences for insolent rebellion against the sovereign, almighty creator of everything but himself.

Aaron said...

What Jesus did say: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus also explained the gap between what he didn't say and what he did say.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

JackW said...

Wow, Frank goes to Disneyland and it’s like he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express or something.

Chris said...

I might just steal the concept for a sermon series entitled "What Jesus Did Not Say."

DJP said...

Do it!

philness said...

Jesus didn't say, "All that really matters is that you believe in God, however you conceive of Him/Her/It/Them."
But this is exactly what the Mason's say and require before becoming a member. But what's interesting is that a person seeking membership as a Mason becomes automaticly ineligible/disqualified if he believes Jesus Christ is exclusively God.

philness said...

Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." John 8:58

Jesus said, "I am the Alpha & Omega..." Rev.21:6

Significance: God is not a liar.

Strong Tower said...

"All that really matters is that you believe in God, however you conceive of Him/Her/It/Them."

You will know wut evuh and wut evuh will make you wut evuhngelical.

thomas4881 said...

You mean idol worship is still the norm for Americans? Maybe they'er not bowing down to a graven immage, but many have created a God to suit themself.

bbqjason said...

John 6:66 "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."

Jesus: "Hold on, hold on, hold on. We can work this out. Just come back and I'll tone it down a bit. I don't want to get rid of you, just hang around and maybe we can reach some sort of compromise. Just do whatever you feel is your best, invite your friends, and we'll get this baby growing. I mean, what could I possibly do with just these twelve guys over here?"

Steve Berven said...

I'll need to check my gender-neutral bible. I know it's around here somewhere....

Anonymous said...

This seems to work--sometimes--for staying sober in 12-step programs, but I'm not sure how, especially long-term. (Self-hypnosis? A placebo effect?) Also this belief in a generic Higher Power will never keep anyone out of Hell.
Having said all that, though, I must admit that it was from AA that I got my first notion of surrendering my will to God's. And, thank the Lord, my sponsor, a Christian, urged me to read the Bible, by which I found the true God. (Or rather, of, course, He drew me to a saving faith.)
I stayed sober on the "all religions are the same" notion for my first year (going on 28 now) but now I THINK I understand many people's struggles.

DJP said...

You aren't the only one, mittelstadt, in whose case God used AA's requirement of a merciless self-inventory and the idea of surrender to "God's" will to bring folks to Himself. It isn't a Christian organization, but God has used it as a stepping-stone apart from AA's own intent.

God graciously used me to point a fellow heavily involved in AA's related organizations to Christ. What was hard for him afterwards was going to church rather than relying on AA's "spiritual" meetings, since the latter exhibited so much more open candor than the former.

Strong Tower said...

"Early in their report, Dennett and LaScola point to a problem of definition. Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult. Their statement deserves a close reading:

'The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can’t know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don’t know what they are being asked.'"

from Al Mohler's recent post.

Strong Tower said...

Correction, that piece was from March of this year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dan, for the reply to my comment regarding 12-Step programs. You're right about all of that; I confess that I still occasionally attend AA meetings due in large part to the open candor you mention and to my "felt need" to unwind from whatever I've been going through--by sharing a few general spiritual principles.
True, AA is not Christian, but its principles do come from the Bible --surrender, confession, repentance, restitution, prayer --and I think that's why they work to effect the limited goal of freedom from alcohol. (Many historians say that AA's parent organization, Frank Buchman's Oxford Group, was a cult rather than truly Christian, and that may well have been the case. But it, and early AA, did draw heavily from Jesus's teachings and the epistle of James.) In this, of course, I realize such programs have common ground with false religions, which also convey surface benefits such as more peaceful interpersonal relations, freedom from various "addictions," etc.
From childhood (I was raised Roman Catholic) I always believed in the existence of God--which may be why I had no qualms about joining AA. But as I said, I had never before heard such principles (at least, not put that way) explained in church. When I did start reading the Bible, I began to attend a Baptist church (at the urging of some work colleagues) and was pleasantly surprised to find, in Bible studies and Sunday school, the same sort of "principle sharing"(minus the cuss words, of course) that I found in AA. It was a welcome change from the rote prayers and rituals of the Roman system which represented "church" to me before.
It was a while, though, before I learned more about doctrine. All of these "tools for living" are nice--helping people navigate and cope with tough personal circumstances--but they are a dim second to the core fact of salvation. I had no problem with the idea that getting to heaven (like sobriety) is solely by God's action and volition (sovereign grace), not mine, but at first, I think, looking back, I didn't comprehend its significance well enough.
When I moved to my present city and job in 1990, a work colleague told me about Reformed teachings and the five points of Calvinism and I started attending a Bible study with other Reformed believers. The idea of predestination didn't bother me because it made sense that God, being beyond humans' linear concept of time, would know we would choose Him--and--if He were fully sovereign (as He must be, to be all-powerful and deserving of worship) must therefore have orchestrated this.
I still attend a Bible-believing (independent Baptist) church but my work schedule (evenings) prevents me from attending most of its prayer meetings.
AA's talk of oddball higher powers irritates me sometimes and I don't attend meetings as often as I once did. (Actually I went 10 years--1993 to 2003--without attending any.)God got me sober, and better yet, Christ grants me salvation. Christianity offers that AND all those "life coping" tools (which these days are overemphasized in popular Christian teaching.) So I don't "need" AA or meetings. I know of others who found Christ as I did and have abandoned "the program" completely.
I am by no means a "model Christian." I react badly to many frustrations; I am still too selfish. (In recent weeks I've been listening to a lot of sermons by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Don Green and such topics and on the "main point," salvation. I should be a better witness.
But there it is. And thanks, as they say at meetings, for letting me share.
I find all the Team Pyro blogs inspiring, enjoyable and well written. Thank you and keep up the good work.

--Mike Mittelstadt

Milind said...

I dont think that because he is god and our work is to do praise & worship

Anonymous said...

BTW (one last ramble from me; I've already higged too much space), The "He/She/It/Them" expression is one often used by my aikido sensei (an American) in private chats I've had with him about spiritual matters. He's not hostile to Christianity, but like most people he doesn't embrace the Bible as the only true Word. I've told him the facts (to the best of my meager ability)but--and I've told him this-- it's God who causes people to see the truth.

Anonymous said...

Jesus said, "I have not come to destroy the Torah, but to fulfull/uphold it."

In so saying, he affirmed that everything that the Torah says about God should be a part of our database of God knowledge.