Isaiah 40:18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
God is unequalled. This is the twelfth attribute of God on my list of the attributes of God, a list that so far extends to over 40 characteristics God possesses as they are given to us in the Bible.
In the immediate context of Isaiah 40:18, the Bible tells us that since God is unequalled, there are no lesser gods, and idolatry is mistaken.
The specific term “equal” is applied in direct reference to God by His own statement, when He said “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One” (Isaiah 40:25).
In terms of Biblical theology, this concept raises the hackles of non-Trinitarians, because Jesus Christ is repeatedly called God in the New Testament. See John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses and their teaching authority, the Watchtower, get around this verse by claiming the King James Version is mistaken here. The Jehovah Witness Bible translation, The New World Translation, “corrects” the King James alleged mistranslation by rendering “and the word was a god.”
By comparing Scripture with Scripture–perhaps the best method of Bible study easily available to every Bible reader, the fact that God is unequalled (Isaiah 40:18) lets us know right off that there can be no “lesser gods,” which Jesus Christ must be, if Jesus is merely “a god,” and not God Almighty. This is reinforced by the statement in Deuteronomy 32:39, where God declares “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me…”
Every passage I might produce to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is full Deity, that Jesus Christ is called God (such as John 20:28; Acts 7:59; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20), has been contradicted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses repeatedly in their literature and Bible translation. Yet each of their efforts to contradict what the Bible properly translated most definitely says has been carefully answered by recognized Bible scholars who have no denominational axe to grind. I have answered many of the mistaken positions of the Watchtower on this and other matters in depth and in detail both here on this website and in my book, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (see its Subject Index entry, “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Answers to Doctrinal Errors,” on page 1562).
How can you or I be sure that the Bible doctrine we believe is the correct Bible doctrine? The answer is that correct doctrine matches what the Bible teaches. This means we must study the Bible carefully for ourselves. We must be “Berean Christians” (Acts 17:11), which is the direct opposite of being denominational Christians. I have driven by a relatively new local church congregation that has the name “Berean Baptist Church.” Now that is (unwittingly, I’m sure) a contradiction in terms!
I mean no offense to anyone who may be Baptist by denomination. The point is, anyone who continues to do what I call Real Bible Study will study himself or herself right out of any denomination he or she may now adhere to. That doesn’t always require that we separate ourselves from a sound Bible-believing church. But we eventually learn that no denomination fully adheres to the teaching of Scripture.
We don’t need to stir up trouble in our own church when we learn from careful study that our church is wrong on doctrinal issues about which good Christians differ. It does mean that when we know what the Bible teaches, we do not emphasize those doctrinal and denominational distinctives which turn out to be unsupported by the Bible.
Take the issue of the mode of Christian water baptism. Some churches sprinkle, some pour, and some immerse. Which way is correct according to the Bible?
This matter creates serious conflict when one must move to a new location, a new neighborhood, due to job change, or other reason. It may not be possible to find a church that matches what you are used to in your home church.
If you were brought up Methodist, Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, you may discover that in your new location the only Bible teaching church you can find is Baptist. But if you wish to join the Baptist church, you must be or have been immersed.
I have for many years been associated with Baptist churches. I taught the college and career age Sunday school class at the Covenant Baptist Church in Detroit for several years. I taught the college and career age class at the Heritage Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida. I was brought up at Highland Park Baptist Church, in Detroit, Michigan. That is where I was first given the opportunity to teach Sunday school. Then someone checked and found I was not officially a member of the church. To continue to teach in the Sunday school, I must join the church (never mind that I had attended Highland Park Baptist Church from the time that my parents carried me there as an infant!). When I asked what I must do to become a member, I was told I must be baptized. I told them that I had just been baptized at the Methodist church two blocks away from my parents’ home. When they learned I was baptized by sprinkling, not immersion, I was told that does not count. So I agreed to be immersed at Highland Park Baptist.
My Methodist pastor, Pastor Laphew, of Thoburn Methodist Church, had given me the option to be baptized by any mode I wished. I chose sprinkling, and was baptized there before I was baptized by immersion very soon after at Highland Park Baptist Church.
Many years later, I met an elderly friend who everyone called “Uncle Frank.” Turns out he lived in the hotel next door to the apartment building where I lived at the corner of Fort Street and Hubbard in Detroit. Frank raised the mode of baptism issue as we talked one day out in the apartment building parking lot. He offered to share with me a book by Reverend G. E. Hughey, The Scriptural Mode of Christian Baptism, published in 1907.
I read that book carefully. Hughey was an expert debater in his day. I had myself extensive debate experience in high school and college. I could see Hughey demolished the position of the Baptists on the subject of the Scriptural mode of Christian baptism. In essence, he took all the water out of my tub, or baptistery!
Some have repeatedly objected to my change of position on this subject. They object that I did not go by the Bible alone and in its entirety, studying from a plain text Bible on Robinson Crusoe’s Desert Island, has I frequently urge others to do. After all, I admitted I learned this new doctrine from another man and his book, not from my own direct and independent study of the Bible.
The trouble with that objection is (1) Hughey writes about the Scriptural Mode of Christian baptism, so he appeals to the Bible and to the lexical and grammatical evidence on this subject; (2) I have no objection to learning something new from the Bible when the details of the subject are carefully derived from Scripture, even though I learn those new things from someone who has written a book on the subject.
As for baptism, I have learned (1) all modes are possible in terms of the original language terms employed in the Bible, but not all modes are supported in terms of examples of the practice in the Bible narrative; (2) the original Greek and Hebrew words that pertain to the act of baptism in some sense actually in themselves are non-modal: that means the words tell what was done, but not how it was done. (3) There are no provable examples of the immersion of persons in water for any religious purpose whatsoever anywhere in the Bible, Old or New Testament.
This last fact eliminates from any possible consideration the mode of immersion for Christian baptism; it is utterly unsupported by any example or command found in the Bible.
If you think you can find either a verse or example that proves immersion, please share it in a comment below!
So yes, you can choose to “follow the Lord” in immersion if you wish, but there is no warrant in the Bible for doing so.
Therefore, it is morally and ethically wrong to teach one must be baptized by the mode of immersion in order to have a valid Christian baptism. All Baptists must be warned and cautioned about this matter.
It is most wrong, therefore, for a Baptist church to reject the membership of genuine Christian believers who happen to have been baptized by a mode other than immersion. It is a direct violation of the command of Christ regarding baptism itself, for He did NOT command the use of immersion, neither did He or the New Testament apostles ever make use of the mode of immersion anywhere in the New Testament. It is a serious violation of the command in Romans 15:7, “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” I have shared in full the cross references for Romans 15:7 in a series of posts under the category to the right, “Verse by Verse Studies.” I believe the evidence from Scripture itself is that anyone who fails to obey Romans 15:7 is very likely not to be genuinely saved. Read the cross references I have posted in full and judge for yourself. This is a very, very serious matter–reflecting what may be the chief failing of the contemporary Church.
What should a newcomer to a church decide to do if they have already been baptized by sprinkling or pouring, if they wish to join a Baptist church? If there are no other Bible believing, Bible teaching, Bible preaching churches that are non-Baptistic available, it should be no problem to go ahead and be immersed to satisfy the requirement at the Baptist church. I did that as a teenager newly saved. My parents were most upset at my decision, for they (unknown to me at the time) did not believe in immersion. Now, many years later, I have learned that my parents were right, though they were either unable or unwilling to explain to me the basis of their own conviction at the time.
My wife disagrees with me. She has never been immersed and does not ever intend to be immersed. Her argument is, “Why should I agree to be baptized in a manner that is absolutely wrong in terms of what the Bible actually teaches? Immersion is clearly wrong, and I won’t submit to being immersed because it is contrary to what the Bible teaches.” So for her, the option is not to attend any church that insists on immersion.
Disagree with me about these matters? Have further questions? I invite you to post a comment giving in your own words any contrary evidence or argument you may have. I always welcome discussion and disagreement here. If your evidence is good enough, you may cause me to change my mind. That is one thing I openly declare: I believe the Bible. If you can prove that I am mistaken by sharing proper evidence and interpretation of the Bible that follows the now 24 Rules of Interpretation given in the October, 2010 archives here, I will most certainly change my position. I am always open to correction. So, post a comment, whether in agreement or disagreement. Or, post a question you may have.
This post has grown long. I went in a different direction than I thought I would when I started writing. So I’ll continue the discussion on another point I originally intended to raise at the beginning of this post next time, the Lord willing and enabling.
For those who desire to DIG DEEPER into this subject:
(1) Consult the cross references given in Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible on page 758 for Isaiah 40:18.
(2) Consult the cross references given in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on page 788 or in Logos 5 or 6 Bible software for Isaiah 40:18.
(3) Consult the cross references given in the original Treasury of Scripture Knowledge on page 451 of the OT or on line at www.blueletterbible.org for Isaiah 40:18.
(3) Most people today do not have access to those three print resources, so I have posted cross references for this passage as I have developed them even more completely for your study as given below:
Isaiah 40:18. To whom. ver. +*Is 40:25. *Is 46:5, 9. +Ex 8:10. 9:14. *Ex 15:11. +Ex 20:4. Dt 4:15, 16. 33:26. 1 S 2:2. Jb 40:9. Ps 8:5n. 86:8-10. 89:6, 8. 113:4, 5. +*Je 10:6, 16. Mic 7:18. *Ac 17:29. +**Col 1:15. +*He 1:3. what likeness. Ex 32:4. Nu 12:8. Dt 3:24. 4:12, 15. Jg 17:3. +*2 S 7:22. 1 K 8:23. 1 Ch 17:20. Ps 35:10. 71:19. 77:13. 106:20. Je 50:44. Ro 1:23. compare. Ps 88:6.