I used to read the Bible casually like many people. From this, I learned great maxims and their moral lessons -- knowledge that helped shape my values in life, and my interaction with other people. That is how the Bible found its place in my little library.
Occasionally, I also use some verses to defend my religious beliefs. A sample of this is the summary of all the commandments and words of God into a simple: "Love God and love my fellowmen."
The Bible as a casual reading material, however, provoked doubts in my mind. This is when I read what Christ told a Scribe (in Mark 12:28) who asked Him, "Which is the first (greatest) commandment of all?" Jesus answered: "The first (greatest) commandment is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Mark 12:29). Then Jesus began enumerating "Love God and Love your neighbor..." (Mark 12:30-31).
I have not heard that first (greatest) commandment from my religious leaders before. Questions began bothering my mind about the "ONE LORD AND ONE GOD," whose recognition I now realized is a PREREQUISITE to loving Him. While people profess to believe in one God, religious sects teach different perceptions of Him. I was thinking, people unwittingly actually love a God with different identities - a strange God!
Then I read James 2:19 where believing in one God is not enough. Does that satisfy the prerequisite of loving Him? I was asking myself. Even the NAME of God varies among different people. In my case, I was taught that God has three divine persons, each person is God, but one person is not the other two persons. I was contented with this identification of God. More so, I had the comfort of being in the majority in this belief.
What more, I am familiar with the anecdote about St. Augustine who tried to figure out that "ONE LORD AND ONE GOD" as he walked by the seashore. He was rebuked by a child by showing the impossibility of transferring the waters of the sea to a small hole he was digging… I was fully convinced then with what I believed about God: that He is, indeed, composed of three divine persons. At the baptism of Jesus, the three persons cannot be disregarded. Upon creation God used the pronoun "us" and "our."
Later, however, I felt an obsession of pinpointing the identity of the "ONE LORD AND ONE GOD." The prerequisite to loving God cannot be kept out of my mind. Even humanly speaking, how can a person love somebody whom he does not know? I know for a fact that KNOWING comes first before LOVING.
Questions began to crop up in my mind: WHO IS THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND THE CHOSEN PEOPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT? WHAT IS HIS NAME? WHO IS THE GOD OF THE APOSTLES? WHAT IS HIS NAME? WHO IS OUR GOD TODAY AND WHAT IS HIS NAME? HOW MANY PERSON/S OF GOD SHALL WE SEE IN HEAVEN? WHAT IS THE NAME OF GOD?
I read there is only ONE name of God (Zecharia 14:9). I tried asking these questions to my religious leaders. What I got was a cold response. I heard leaders of denominations expound on the subject -- the more questions were added to my mind. I was pushed against the wall, so to speak. There was no way out but to focus my eyes above. The "mysterious God" must have read my mind without telling Him. That was the turning point of my casual reading of the Bible.
To my surprise, my questions seemed to be answered wherever I open my Bible. True, as the anecdote goes, the clear and full recognition of God cannot be comprehended by the inadequate human understanding of "spiritual things" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christ said this of Peter when he recognized Him as the "Christ and the Son of the living God:" "Flesh and blood hath not revealed that unto you, our Lord told him." (Matthew 16:16-17)! The Father revealed his recognition of JESUS. Here now is the sixty-four dollar question: people reading the Bible all profess "Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God." Yet, they arrive at different perceptions of Him and the Father, making God a great mystery. Only "a revelation from above" can solve the "mystery," as Peter learned 2,000 years ago. That is what I read in the Holy Bible.
My casual reading turned into a rigid and serious one. God must have discerned that I went to Him "with a whole heart that now He seems to have given me a heart to know Him"(Jeremiah 24:7). Through the verses, God was introducing Himself! As I opened the Bible, I read that the Father, the God of Noah, made a COVENANT with Abraham (Genesis 17:7). I also read that the One making the covenant or "the TESTATOR had to die to fulfill His TESTAMENT" (Hebrew 9:16). I did not ask my religious leaders anymore how the God of the Old Testament, Who is a Spirit, could possibly fulfill His Testament.
God seemed to have known my question without expressing it. I just opened my Bible and there before me is a startling revelation: “And without controversy, great is the mystery...GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH" (1 Timothy 3:16, KJV only)! My finite mind questions, "Who is this GOD Who manifested Himself in the flesh?" As I opened the Epistle of Paul to the Christians of Corinth, he wrote, "But to us, THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, THE FATHER...and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6). It was the FATHER, the one and only God, Who manifested Himself in the flesh! God fulfilling His Testament by death was getting clearer. That is that simple by divine revelation!!
I knew this before that JESUS, the son of Mary Who grew in Nazareth, performed many miracles, crucified on the cross, is the ONE alluded to as the "GOD IN THE FLESH." Emmanuel “God with us” is fulfilled. Jesus' statement, "I and My Father are one" now presents different dimension from my religious leaders' explanation. The claim of the FATHER in Isaiah 43:11 "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior" jibes perfectly with the revelation about Jesus and the Father. My finite mind, however, keeps on telling me that they are two different persons. There was a battle within me between the dictate of my intellect and what "is written." This is what is written: "The one and only God, the FATHER (1 Corinthians 8:6a) manifested Himself in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV), now known as the one and only Lord, JESUS CHRIST (1 Corinthians 8:6b)!
I kept on thinking of the PREREQUISITE to loving God: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." Israel must be referring to God’s chosen. Therefore, this is a call! Jesus, the man, accepted worship since childhood from the Wise Men from the East. He accepted worship from His Disciples and other people, before and after His resurrection, for He must, indeed, be the FATHER IN THE FLESH! Emmanuel “God with us!” There is only one God, the Father (1 Cor. 8:6a). Jesus Himself said that "only God should be worshipped and served (Matt. 4:10, Rev. 22:9)."
I never thought of that before and I could not accept it because it is against the dictate of my "flesh and blood." However, verses keep on confirming this unbelievable but spectacular truth: Jesus declared as He lay on the cross, "It is finished!" He must have referred to the fulfillment of the TESTAMENT of the Father! Jesus said, "Ye shall die in your sins, for if ye believe not that I AM HE, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Father said in the Old Testament, "Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I." -- Isaiah 52:6 I could see that all arrows now are pointing to JESUS, the man, is actually the FATHER in the Old Testament.
However, my "flesh and blood" could not accept "hard facts" because the Father was relating to the Son: "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased," said the Father. On the other hand, the Son told the Father, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Jesus even told Martha, "My God and your God."-- John 20:17. How could they be one and the same? My finite mind kept on reminding me.
Comes now a choice between the dictate of my intellect and what "is written" in the Bible. I realized that this is the test for faith in the word (Hebrew 11:1). I was ready to accept what "is written" blindly. However, is it divine revelation? As I opened my Bible, there I “saw” JESUS, the Father in the flesh, Emmanuel “God with us” had to show the WAY (John 14:6), by example (1 Peter 2:21), that His brethren be fashioned after Him. Thus, He is called the eldest Son of God (Romans 8:29).
No person on earth can truly be an ideal model "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). My belief that Jesus is, indeed, the Father in the flesh is now standing on the "Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)." Yes, Jesus had to pray to the Father, ask for wisdom and strength from the Father, fully depend on the Father, even calling the Father "His God (John 20:17)." This is Jesus, the man, the perfect model seen by the Disciples! By this time, I learned to accept what "is written" although, once in a while, my finite mind keeps standing on the way.
One more question that needs an answer: WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT? I scanned the Old Testament books and there I read in Ezekiel 44:28/Psalms 16:5 the "Father promising Himself as the INHERITANCE in His testament." I never read in the New Testament where God's chosen people ever received the Father as their inheritance. The Holy Spirit had to "be sent" (John 14:26) like the Son (John 5:30) that the FATHER could complete His plan for salvation -- in different manifestations.
It was the HOLY SPIRIT that the Disciples received at Pentecost! Now I realized what Jesus told His Disciples that "they would receive the Holy Ghost after He was glorified (John 7:39)." No wonder, the Holy Spirit is pictured as a DOVE because the FATHER had to take the characteristics of meekness, not frightening, sensitive, that His chosen would not fear receiving Him.
This also fulfilled the promise of JESUS in Matthew 28:20 "Behold, I will always be with you till the end of the world." It has become clearer that, indeed, "The Lord (Jesus) is the Spirit (Holy)” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Are they really three persons as "flesh and blood" dictate? Or, are they one and the same in different manifestations? 1 Corinthians 8:6 "But to us there is but one God, the Father...and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things…” What is written? "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord!"
One more riddle in the Godhead that remains unresolved is the NAME of God. Before, when I was still casually reading the Bible, I read many names of the Father in the Old Testament: Jehovah, Yahweh, Lord Almighty, Lord of Hosts, I am that I am, El Shaddai, etc. I found now that those are only titles, for God had not yet revealed His name in the Old Testament. He said in Isaiah 52:6 "Therefore my people SHALL KNOW MY NAME; therefore they SHALL KNOW IN THAT DAY that I AM HE that doth speak, behold, it is I."
God revealed His name when Jesus commanded His Disciples to "baptize in the NAME of the Father, in the NAME of the Son, and in the NAME of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)." The Apostles executed this command when Peter "baptized in the NAME of JESUS CHRIST (Acts 2:38)." Philip "baptized in the NAME of JESUS CHRIST (Acts 8:12)," and Paul "baptized in the NAME of JESUS CHRIST (Acts 19:5)." Nowhere in the Bible can I find the Apostles baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
No wonder, "Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess the powerful name of JESUS CHRIST" for that is the name of GOD in the Old Testament (Isaiah 45:23), and also the name of God in the New Testament (Philippians 2:10-11) and the name of God forever (Zecharia 14:9)!
The last riddle in the "mystery" of God is, "How could the Son be sitting at the right hand of the Father" when they are one and the same as it "is written"? I never asked my religious leaders anymore. I just trusted what "is written" more than the opinion of the men I was made to believe before are authority of the Bible.
Without asking God, He knew what was bothering me. I simply opened my Bible and, there, God explains "right hand of the Father" to mean POWER OF GOD (Exodus 15:6). Jesus told His Disciples as confirmation, "HEREAFTER, shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the RIGHT HAND OF POWER (Matthew 26:64)." Indeed, the Everlasting Father in His physical form (Isaiah 9:6) is the "right hand of God" for in JESUS, the person of God, dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
Now I realized that "my neighbor need not tell me, 'Know the Lord,' for I am the least of God's people who fully and clearly recognize my God (Hebrew 8:11)." He is no longer a mystery to me as I was made to believe before. The "plurality" of God at the baptism of Jesus and in the phrase "Let us make man in our image," is but the dictate of my "flesh and blood."
My clear recognition of God surprisingly brought with it my clear understanding of His words. I am convinced that, indeed, "God is the Word (John 1:1)," and "Jesus Christ is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13)." Before, I tried to understand the word of God in the Bible LITERALLY using my intellectual capability. Now I simply rely on God's explanation as it "is written."
Perhaps, one could hardly comprehend what I mean by this. But this revelation of God confirms that His LANGUAGE IS SPIRITUAL (John 6:63), and the laws in the Old Testament have great SPIRITUAL MESSAGE (Romans 7:14). A demonstration of this kind of language is the "power to move a mountain to the sea by a simple faith as big as a mustard seed (Matthew 21:21)."
Using my own understanding of the word before, Jesus could be telling a lie for no one yet has succeeded in fulfilling His promise. Likewise, Jesus must be telling a lie when He said, "I did not come to destroy the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17)," when, to my understanding, He nullified the law on "tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye (Matthew 5:38-39), etc." Jesus preached love not revenge. All these have been cleared to my mind now with God's SPIRITUAL LANGUAGE, which He gave me as a bonus in fully recognizing Him!
Is this not the fulfillment of the Father's "I have not spoken in secret from the beginning (Isaiah 48:16)," and Jesus' "explanation of His words to His disciples (Mark 4:34)," and the "Spirit of Truth's guidance into all truth (John 16:13)?" One example of how God explains His words to me is about what John wrote in the following:
1 JOHN 4:7-8 "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
To follow my own understanding of the verses, it appears that "loving my fellowmen is already the true recognition of God." However, deep in my heart, God still is a great mystery. Reading the Bible, it is clearly stated that the Father is God, the Son Jesus is also God, so is the Holy Spirit. The interaction of the three cannot be comprehended how they are one; neither do I know the one name of God.
With God's revelation through His words, I realized that what John wrote is already the end of the sequence stated by our Lord. The first is TO KNOW GOD. After recognizing the "one Lord and one God" comes the second in the sequence which our Lord called the 1st commandment. This is TO LOVE GOD. Only after having loved God can His chosen truly LOVE HIS NEIGHBOR. This is the last in the sequence, which our Lord called the 2nd commandment in Mark 12:29-31.
Expressing the great revelation in man's language, I compare the sequences to the evolution of a tree. A tree starts from its roots. Then the trunk is developed from where the fruits sprout. Its fruits measure the value of the tree. No real fruits ever come out without the trunk and the roots. If ever, the fruits are not real. They are fake, counterfeit, "plastic." The counterfeit looks like the real in every way.
To know God, the first in the sequence, corresponds to the roots. Without knowing God, there can never be real love for Him, just as the trunk can never be developed without the roots. Love of fellowmen corresponds to the fruits, from which the value of the tree is measured. So does God say, "The greatest of them all is love."
Jesus Christ, as model, demonstrated love of fellowmen. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and released the prisoners. Human understanding takes this literally-physically. But the word of God is "spirit." -- John 6:63 Did we find Jesus set free a physical prisoner? He said, "know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." He must have clothed the naked with the garment of salvation (Isaiah 61:10). And He fed the hungry with the word of God, the real food (Jeremiah 15:16). This is Christ's version of "love for fellowmen" which His chosen do not even realize:
Matthew 25:35-36 "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat...Naked, and ye clothed me...I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
Matthew 25:37-39 "Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? ...When saw we thee...naked, and clothed thee?...in prison, and came unto thee?"
Matthew 25:40 "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
How many people "see" God very clearly? How many people "hear" the great spiritual message of "love?" "God is love." I feel I am a babe to whom these great spiritual things are revealed (Matt. 11:25).