Question for Dr. Saleska:
In one of our Bible classes at church someone said that in the Old Testament God sometimes appeared in a physical body. We also talked about the angel of the Lord who came to Abraham as being Christ. Could you explain this? Also, in Acts 23:11 it says that the Lord stood by Paul. It seems as if Paul could see him. Do you think he could?
Dr. Saleska’s Response:
First of all Acts 23:11 “…the Lord stood by him.” Luther says: “Whenever Scripture says something about God doing things associated with bodily or physical functions, (God walking in the garden, standing, talking, etc.) this must always be understood as referring literally to Christ in his blessed humanity.” So when Adam and Eve heard the “voice of the Lord God walking in the Garden” I do not believe that it was a disembodied voice, but rather that God took on human form, and this could also be understood as a foreshadowing of the incarnation.
Our Lutheran theologians have always said this about the “Angel of the Lord” (Heb. Malak Jahweh) in the Old Testament: “Whenever divine characteristics are ascribed to the Angel of the Lord, this should always be understood as referring to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Malak” (angel) means “messenger” or “worker.” Christ is God’s “messenger” or God’s “worker”: “My father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17)
So, when the Lord “stood by Paul” I believe he stood there bodily since after his resurrection and even until now Christ has a body. These passages might help: “Behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself, handle me and see, a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39), “Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing” (John 20:27), and “For in him dwelleth (present tense) all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9) Obviously he can show himself in visible form whenever he chooses to do so.