Difficult Questions — ‘The Nature of God’: spirit essence or physical body
1/ Question: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22). However, John 4:24 tells us that “God is a Spirit” and nothing more. In Colossians 2:9, speaking of Christ, it states, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily”. Genesis 1:26-27, where it states that God would create man in His own image, refers to a spiritual creation, not a literal one. Romans 1:22-23 tells us of unrighteous men who “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man… who changed the truth of God into a lie..” Nowhere in the Bible does it state that God has a physical body.
2/ Response: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does indeed believe that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s body, as does His Son, Jesus Christ. John 4:24 does state that God is a Spirit, but reading on, the scripture says “…and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth”. We don’t set aside our physical body in order to worship God ‘in spirit’. The context of the scripture informs us that the Samaritans were not worshiping the Father in truth. In John 4:22, Christ told the Samaritan woman that “…ye worship ye know not what.” 2 Kings 17:28-34 points out that these people were pagan worshipers, and Jesus was pointing out that God also had a spirit, and was not a pagan God. Other scriptures teach that God is Love (1 John 4:8), God is Light (1 John 1:5), and God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). These appear to be statements about God’s influence and capabilities, not His physical characteristics. A close reading of Romans 1:22-23 reveals that the people were also worshiping birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, in addition to a statue of a corruptible man. Yes, a ‘natural’ or corrupted man is estranged from and at odds with God, but the scripture recount the stories of many righteous, obedient, devoted men and women who overcome these tendencies and achieve a state of holiness and purity. Acts 8:13-20 tells us that these Samaritans didn’t receive the “Word of God” until Philip preached to them. Thus, they were obviously living by or under a different word, a ‘corrupted’ word. Colossians 1:18-19 informs us that Christ was the head of the church, the firstborn of every creature, and it so pleased the Father that in “Christ” was all fullness of the Godhead to dwell – in His mortal tabernacle of flesh. John 15:15 tells us that He gave of his fullness to His followers. This fullness was ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ To interpret the use of the word ‘bodily’ (Colossians 2:9) as meaning Christ’s physical body is erroneous, for if you accept that literally, then you must accept the next verse literally, which reads, “…and you are complete in Him…”. He was speaking of the Church. It is true that the Bible does not categorically state that God had a body of flesh and bones, but references to this truth are found in several passages. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ was in the “express image” of the Father, and as Stephen was being stoned, he looked up into heaven and saw God and also Christ standing at his right Hand (Acts 7:55-56). Also, Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us that Christ was made perfect after he suffered. He thus was perfect after His crucifixion and resurrection, and He had a body of flesh and bones at that time. He must still be perfect and embodied at this time. If Christ was ascending to be with the Father, who is also perfect (Matthew 5:48), what kind of being would the Father be? Also a glorified, perfected man with a body of flesh and bones. Steven mentioned no differences between the Father and the Son when he saw them both in a vision. They are the express image of each other.
3/ Question: 1 Peter 4:6 tells us that the Gospel was preached also to them that are dead, that ”…they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” Therefore, God and Christ live ‘in the spirit’, not in the flesh.
4/ Response: In order to believe that Christ is now living in or as a spirit now, you must believe that Christ has laid down his physical body at some point following His resurrection. Luke 24:36-39 tells us that Christ, after His resurrection, said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” Acts 1:9-11 tells us that as Christ bid farewell to His apostles and was received up into heaven, two angels stated, “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” James 2:26 informs us that “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” In order for Christ to be only a spirit essence now, He would have died twice, and this is not scriptural. Luke 23:46 tells us that Christ “…gave up the ghost.” upon His death, and His spirit entered back into His body three days later, bringing about the first resurrection.
A second death would have been necessary for His spirit to leave his body again, and Paul wrote that this was an impossibility. He stated in Romans 6:9-10, “Knowing that Christ being reaised from the dead DIETH NO MORE, DEATH HATH NO MORE DOMINION OVER HIM.” These scriptures show definitively that Christ has a body now, and has had this body since His first resurrection.
5/ Question: You are overlooking the fact that the words ‘spirit’ and ‘breath’ are used interchangeably in the scriptures. For instance, during the Creation God breathed the breath of life into Adam, and shortly thereafter the word spirit, or soul, is used for breath (Genesis 2:7).
6/ Response: In some instances in the scripture the words spirit and breath are used interchangably, and because of this some believe and preach that man has no spirit. Isaiah clearly distinguishes between ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ in Isaiah 42:5 which reads: “Thus saith God the Lord, hea that created the heavens and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth BREATH unto the people upon it, and SPIRIT to them that walk therein.” Zechariah 12:1 tells us that the spirit of man “has form”. If you interpret breath to mean spirit, some scriptures become nonsensical. The Sermon on the Mount would contain the phrase, “…blessed are the poor in breath, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” John 4:24 would read, “God is a breath, and they that worship him must worship him in breath and truth.” There is a distinct difference between ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ in the scriptures. Further clarification on this point is provided by 1 Corinthians 2:9-15 and John 3:7-8.
7/ Question: In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Christ’s Father was greater than him in all ways, including perfection. Hebrews 5:8-9 informs us that perfection did not come until Christ had suffered on the cross.
7/ Response: If Christ was perfect after His resurrection, and he had a body of flesh and bones, then he would still have that body of flesh and bones today. Since Christ went to His Father after the resurrection, and His Father was also perfect, what kind of body would you expect the Father to have? [See Matthew 5:48 regarding the Father’s perfection, and Hebrews 5:9 regarding the Son’s perfection]. Which being would be ‘more’ perfect, the Son with a body of flesh and bones or the Father, with only a spirit? Scripture states that they are in the express image of each other (Hebrews 1:3).
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