Good afternoon Dr.,
During church service, my pastor quoted a verse from Hebrews 5:7 in reference to the garden of Gethsemane. Can you expound on this verse? How was Christ heard even though he did taste "death" on our behalf? I couldn't understand his explanation very well.
God bless you for Peter series #29. It was timely and much needed. In reading this series, a thought came in my mind which I do not have an answer for. Was Christ's faith ever tested during His earthly ministry? I know He was tested in the wilderness but is that not a test of obedience rather than faith? Meaning a test of faith, from what I am starting to understand of the subject, is partially trusting and believing in God's Word. Christ is the Word of God. How can He be tested for faith, when He is literally "faith". I know that our Lord understands our sufferings and knows us intimately because He became like us to save us but did the Father ever test His Faith like us.
Another question. I have read your Study the Bible series awhile back but there was not a section on doing effective topical bible studies. Do you have a resource or do you have suggestion on how to do topical bible studies? Do you think that should be done after doing book studies? I am about finish with all of your materials on Ichthys. I have maybe about 4 more basic series to go through and now want to delve into other aspects of learning his Word rather than just listening or reading commentaries. Have you ever thought about doing a series on prayer? Not just answers to questions but a full blown series. It would be invaluable.
Thank you much Dr and will read tonight
You're most welcome. As to your questions:
1) On Hebrews 5:7, our Lord was most certainly heard – He still had to go to the cross for us, but He was absolutely successful in His mission so that He did cleanse us (and in fact the whole world) from sin as a result. This is no small thing. In fact, the smallest part of what He did is bigger than all suffering, all aspiration, all experience of all human beings and angels now and until the end of time – bigger than we have any idea at present. Suffice it say that the cross is not only the most important thing – rightly understood it is the only thing. Every prayer Christ uttered was heard and effective, and the will of the Father being done in this regard, with our dear Lord Jesus bearing up under the immeasurable strain of rising in the flames in darkness, is the answer of which we all partake unto life eternal.
2) As to our Lord, I can say with assurance that He never doubted even for a moment even to the smallest degree. In this as in all things He is our perfect, sinless model. When we merely human beings talk about being "tested in faith" we usually imagine situations where we were/are/will not be as strong in faith as we ought to be and will experience doubt . . . but will hopefully rally and win the fight even so. So while our Lord was tested and pressured in this regard, He never buckled in the slightest from the first to the last. He knows what we are up against, because He was "up against it" to a degree we cannot really imagine – but He never ever gave in on any point at any time.
3) As to prayer and topical Bible study, the Basics series, the Satanic Rebellion and the Coming Tribulation series are all topical. Prayer is scheduled to be covered in Basics in "Part 6A: Peripateology: The Study of the Christian Walk", but that is a long time out at present. I also try to group the weekly postings around a topic or theme, and there will be one coming out on prayer probably sometime in the next few months (posted now at the link: Prayer Questions). The Peter series is actually the only "verse by verse" through a particular book type of study I have at present.
Keep your chin up, my friend. I know that God is working things out together for your good, even though there is pressure at present.
We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Psalm 20:5 NASB
Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,
Since scripture says that He has placed the notion eternity on man's heart, did He do that before or after the Cross? It sounds like the work of the Holy Spirit, but I don't know the role it had in the past. Christ said that He had to return to The Father to send the Holy Spirit since He had to go back to The Father to become out High Priest I know that much; Also what does "without Man being able to discover the work which God has done from the beginning unto the end." mean?
"Eternity in the heart" is a reference to natural revelation, the fact that because of how God made everyone of us (until some later in life deny it) grows up realizing that there is a God (from what we He made), and that we are mortal, sinful, and in danger of judgment. In other words, the path to eternity, the drive to find the Way, is present in all human hearts from birth. But unfortunately most people "go in search of many schemes" instead (Eccl.7:29). As to "without man being able to discover" what God has done, is doing, this refers to the wisdom of the plan of God which has perfectly incorporated every single thing that has or will happen in the universe (particularly human and angelic choices) into a perfect decree which saves all who would be saved and condemns all who refuse to submit; people have only a vague appreciation of His consummate and complete control (if they have any at all).
Speaking of which, Christ gave up his spirit, the Holy Spirit right? When He was baptized, the Holy Spirit was empowering him to overcome the temptations He had against the devil in the wilderness?
"He gave up His spirit" is a reference to His human spirit. When Christ exhaled on the cross He "put down His life" so that He could be resurrected the following Sunday morning, having accomplished salvation through His spiritual death on the cross in the three hours of darkness just before. We are body and spirit; when the spirit is created within us at birth, we become "us"; when it leaves, we die physically, but (in the case of believers) the spirit goes into the presence of the Lord to abide there in an interim body until the resurrection.
In Exodus 14:19-20 was that The Father appearing in the form of a cloud or did The Father just place his glory on it? Because The Father doesn't step on earth. He has always resided in heaven. The Son steps on earth. And what about Matthew 17:5 when The Father appears as a cloud?
Clouds are often in scripture a sign of the presence of deity, but I wouldn't say the Father appeared (or ever has appeared) on earth during all of human history. Jesus if the revealed Person of the Trinity. The Father only even speaks directly on monumentally important occasions (as in this case on the mount of Transfiguration), and even some instances where we might have thought the Father was in view it turns out to be Christ (compare Isaiah 6:1-5 with John 12:39-41).
Moses was a type of Christ since when they crossed the Red Sea they were "baptized into Moses" so why does it say in Exodus 14:29-31 that Israel put their trust "in Him" before they did Moses? If prophets are the temporary mediators, why must they put their trust in The Father? No one can get to the father except through the son. Is "in Him" referring to Christ incarnate, because that sounds repetitive given Moses is a type of Christ.
In the Old Testament, the precise relationship between the members of the Trinity was veiled. If we have seen the Son, Jesus tells us, we have seen the Father (Jn.14:9). So if anyone is truly trusting in God in the OT, they are saved, whereas now that the Son has been revealed, rejecting the Son means rejecting the Father (Jn.5:22-23).
"The word of the Lord endures forever"? of 1 Peter 1:22-25. Genesis 15:1-6 doesn't help, not because I don't get that it's Christ pre-incarnate but because of the phrasing. Sometimes I can't Christ from just another angel The Lord sent.
I'm not sure about the opening of this question. The issue of Christophany is not an easy one, but generally there will be something in the text that tells us one way or another, so that I'm not aware of any OT passage where we have been left entirely in the dark. Here is a link which lists the major occurrences: "Christophany in the Old Testament".
I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you.
Ezekiel 20:35 NIV
Since this Person is "the Lord" in the OT and when this happens it will be Jesus Christ who does the judging, clearly it's He who is the revealed One in the OT, standing for / representing the Father and speaking with His authority (cf. Jn.5:22-27).
Was Christ always the Son? Or did he become one when he came in the flesh? It's stated in Hebrews 7 that Christ couldn't be a High Priest unless he died and rose since all other human Priests had given offerings and gifts upon the Lord. He had to give something greater. That's why through Him we become His adopted sons and daughters. But The Father declared Christ His Son when He was baptized...why is that? Was it because he received the Holy Spirit which seals people from escaping God's wrath?
The Trinity have always existed as who they are from before the creation of the world. The Priesthood is something Christ did take on . . . because a priest represents man to God and God to man. Christ became man as well as God to be our intermediary. This is a way of explaining to us that Jesus had to die for all of our sins in Calvary's darkness for any of us to be saved. The cross is the foundation of all creation. Creation and the plan of God would be impossible without the cross – the cross is the plan of God.
Thank you, Bob. Last question for the day - Does God have a 'soul'? And if so, where in His Word, is it said?
God does not have "a spirit"; God is "spirit" (Jn.4:24), but in a way that transcends anything we can presently understand (i.e., we "have spirits" that exist only in time and space). That is because He exists outside of time and space, but we, being creatures of time and space, cannot conceptualize what His infinite being is (beyond what scripture tells us; see the link in BB 1: "The Essence of God").
As to the word "soul", biblically speaking it is not a "tertium quid", that is, something having an independent existence as a discrete entity; the human "soul" in the Bible is the "life" or "heart" or "person" or "inner person" which is the combination of the material body and the immaterial human spirit, the inner place where we are conscious of being "us", where we think, decide, emote; see the link: Soul versus Spirit.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Bob ,
My friend wants to know from your response about this concern he has. The concern is about the other religions like Muslim who worship God but do not recognize Jesus as the way for salvation, will they be saved?
And what about the so-called Jehovah's witnesses, do they even believe in Jesus ?
Yours in our Lord Jesus
Good to hear from you my friend. I am keeping you in my prayers.
As to your friend's question, here is what I read in scripture:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 NIV
Jesus is " ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
Acts 4:11-12 NIV
One could go on. Failure to accept the Son is a rejection of the Father. That is because the Son is the One who paid for our sins according to the Father's plan, and He is also the only One who can reveal the Father. Therefore whatever "god" anyone says they are worshiping, the one and only true God our Father will not respond unless the Son is accepted.
Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1st John 2:22-23 NIV
This is not a question of "information". This is a question of free will and the decisions of the heart. Anyone who has ever wanted to know the truth has been provided the truth. And the Spirit makes the issues clear to the conscience and heart of the person in question. People involved in any false religion have made their own choices. What we see with our eyes is not the whole story. But God knows the heart.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."
There is much more about all this in the following major study: Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology (the Doctrine of Salvation).
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Proverbs 21:1 KJV
I was wondering if you could help me. I remember studying and seeing several times where certain kings attacking Israel and Judah thinking it was their idea. But God was saying it would be Him that put those thoughts in them. Could you help and give an account of all that where thinking it was their will but in truth it was God that caused them to attack and destroy. Thank you.
What you say is true. The Pharaoh of the Exodus and Cyrus the Great are the most prominent biblically described examples of this:
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Exodus 9:16 NIV
For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you (i.e., Cyrus) by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me.
Isaiah 45:4 NASB
God is in control of absolutely everything that happens in the world. In fact, the plan of God, the divine decree, stipulates every single thing that will happen, including every decision every moral agent, human or angel, has or will ever make. And it is all woven into a perfect tapestry, the one and only perfect plan – all founded on the cross of Jesus Christ. So whenever anyone makes any decision (kings or paupers), God was aware of that decision and melded it perfectly into His plan. A better (and better documented) area of this phenomenon is in His use of the devil and his demons to further that plan; please see the link: "God's employment of evil spirits".
For a detailed discussion of this and other aspects of the Plan, please see the link in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You".
Did Jesus Christ have a human nature before the incarnation? I ask this because of the content of Hebrews 13:8
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
If what it means to be Jesus Christ has never changed and never will change, then can we conclude that Jesus Christ was, from eternity, united as both God and man, but only revealed this aspect of His nature during the incarnation?
I take "yesterday" here as meaning "all eternity" in respect to His deity; and "from the point of incarnation" in respect to His humanity.
There is no human life / human nature before birth when the Father creates the spirit within the newborn.
In Jesus our Lord,
p.s., good job on rallying your faith and confidence in the face of that reported attack!
Can you please explain what Jesus meant in Matthew when it says "he knew their thoughts".
On Matthew 12:25 (also Luke 6:8), in His humanity, our Lord functioned under the principle of "kenosis" or self-limitation during His earthly life (see the link). So we can be sure that this doesn't mean that our Lord during the first advent was reading people's minds (although as God He of course knew everyone's thoughts before He made the world). This may be a case of the Spirit informing Him (as in Amos 3:7; cf. 2Ki.4:27), but more likely what we have is our very intelligent Lord, who had also trained Himself in the truth like no other person before or since, drawing obvious conclusions from the emotional reactions of those in the audience (cf. Jn.2:25).
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
What does this actually mean:
Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
The part I would like to know is when He says "I kill" a lot of people don't seem to believe God kills. Could you help to explain this more? thank you
God is love; He wants all to be saved (1Tim.2:4; 2Pet.3:9). He does not, however, extend His mercy forever to those who reject Him – that is the lesson of all secular history and, more importantly, of all biblical history.
As to anyone who has read the Bible having trouble with this point, however, I find this a little bit amazing. Consider how many must have perished in the great flood. And, e.g.:
Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
Genesis 19:24-25 NIV
The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
Exodus 14:28 NIV
Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!
Isaiah 37:36 NIV
The rest (i.e., of antichrist's massive army at Armageddon) were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Revelation 19:21 NIV
[Satan] will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Revelation 20:8-9 NASB
One could go on at great length. It is of course also true that the Lord will consign all unbelievers and fallen angels in the lake of fire for all eternity. And this is the "second death".
It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:31 NASB
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus in whom we have been delivered from this horrible fate through the eternal life we have in Him,
Beware of those who compare the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit to the three phases of water; this analogy is the Modalist Heresy, and it would imply, among other things, that the Father suffered on the cross (!!!)
As you probably know, I don't teach that 1st John 5:6ff. is any sort of reference to the Trinity (even though the text of verse six in the Greek actually has water, blood and Spirit, pace most English versions; see the link). I'm a little slow on the point about taking this the wrong way resulting in the conclusion you mention here though.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
Until I knew 'my' Father, I never understood the Importance of saying 'our' Father.
Merry Christmas to you too, my friend!
Five of my most favorite words in scripture: "For thou art with me" (Ps.23:4).
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Would the need of God would be purposeless without freewill & sin? Was sin on God’s plan? If the man was not created with freewill, would man be in a 'no choice' situation? Also. If sin did not enter world would we require God?
I hope you could understand
Hello my friend,
Good to hear from you. I hope you are doing well.
As to your questions, the first thing to note is that there are no hypotheticals in this world. There is only one creation, only one mankind, only one angelic kind, only one life to each, only one perfect and all-comprehensive plan of God, and so only one history – what we witness. To understand these matters one has to have a concept of just how "big" God is . . . and just how "perfect". We have a tendency to underestimate creation – as if there could many such creations or that somehow it is not all that important to God, or perhaps this or that might have been done differently or turned out in another way. But "this" is the way it was always meant to be.
We have to start with the cross. The magnitude of Christ's sacrifice in suffering for every single human sin is beyond comprehension. Indeed, it is not too much to say as I often say that what He did in dying for the least sin of the least of us is "higher and wider and deeper" than all human and angelic history past, present and future, and than the entire material creation – or all that might ever be. God has one Son. And He did send Jesus for us and to us. And Christ did become a human being – an irreversible wedding of deity to mankind that ought to boggle the minds of all who contemplate that great Gift. And He did die for us all, paying the entire price of everything we have done, each and every one. So we are not a mistake. Nor are we an evolution. Nor are we only mildly important. Nor is this life in any way accidental. History, including every single thing any human being decides and does, is monumentally important. For there is only one (very brief) "history", and the decisions we all make within it determine our individual eternal destinies and, collectively, the destiny of the whole.
God has left none of this to chance. Every single thing that happens – or has or will – was foreknown by Him and decreed. Nothing can happen without His decree, and His decree is unalterable. Some things have not happened yet, but they will, all in accordance with what He foreordained before He created the world in the first place through Jesus Christ. And yet, in the unapproachable wisdom of God, free will is allowed. More than that, free will is necessary – otherwise there is no point to the plan. And the decree is necessary – otherwise there could be no opportunity, no "world", wherein free will could decide the course of history (within the precise parameters God has laid down).
History, the plan of God, is designed to express the love of God, to allow Him to share Himself with us – not with robots or animals who would have no choice but to do His bidding, but with those made "in the image of God" who would decide of their own, genuine free will to love Him back and so choose to spend eternity with Him. For all this to happen, God had to create the perfect world, the perfect "angelic kind" and the perfect, complete "human kind". And so He did. But "perfection" in a plan designed to cull out the unwilling and save the willing meant that those endowed with the ability to choose would often choose against God. The brilliance of the plan of God is that it creates the perfect "spectrum" of men and angels both, and mixes them in the perfect history which allows them all to make their own uncoerced decisions, whereby, in the course of this perfect plan, each decides not only his/her eternal future but also his/her degree of responsiveness to the Lord (in the case of believers) so as to determine rank, status and reward in eternity. The end result of the plan is an eternal state wherein there is not only the blessing and perfection we (from our limited perspective) might have expected from a perfect God in the first place, but one where those who populate it 1) do have the image of God (i.e., we are "us", real "deciders"), and 2) are present there worshiping Him of our own free will. For the "birth" of the wonderful eternity we wait for, the "birth pangs" of the history now unfolding have first to be endured.
But it is the cost of this wonderful plan and its success is what needs to be appreciated the most, namely, the blood of Christ. The more we appreciate who God is, the more we appreciate what the sacrifice of Christ entailed, the more we realize how important we are to Him – and how important this whole exercise called history really is. The secular world sees everything as an accidental mess. In fact, free will is responsible for all that is messy, but God is turning the entire thing out into the perfect, mess-free future – and everything that precedes is absolutely necessary.
So, yes, giving creatures who are not God the power of God (that is, the power to decide like God) was bound to produce rebellion and sin – but it was also the only way to separate the wheat from the chaff through a "self-selecting" process whereby we are all made "who we want to be" and we all "end up where we want to end up" – perfect. The only real "problem" is that someone had to pay for it all, and that someone is Jesus Christ. The fact that God initiated creation even though it obligated Christ to die speaks volumes about the depth of His love for us His creatures – who have been given His God-like power to decide whether or not to love Him back.
Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology has much to say about this issue as well (see the link).
Yours in the One who loved us to the point of death, our dear Savior Jesus Christ,
In heaven, will we see Jesus and the Father on two different thrones of on the same throne?
Expecting response soon
Good to make your acquaintance. To answer your question, I suppose it depends what you mean by "in heaven". At present, our Lord is sharing the Father's throne, as it says:
"Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
Psalm 110:1 NASB
While this could envision a second throne placed at the right hand of the Father's throne, that is not evident in Revelation chapters four and five, and we also have this:
"The one who wins the victory, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne just as I also have won the victory and have taken My seat with My Father on His throne."
The throne of God has the form of a "battle chariot", and these where typically occupied by two combatants, so there is nothing at all unusual in the description of Father and Son sharing the throne. For more on the present situation, see the link: The Throne of God (in CT 2B)
The Lord is soon returning, and after our resurrection – which some of us may experience before physical death so as not to see the present situation in the third heaven today – will reign from Jerusalem where He will be enthroned in the temple. That is when we shall "share His throne", but in a symbolic rather than in the physical way described above; see the link: in CT 6: "The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ"
Finally, in the New Jerusalem, Revelation 22:1-3 tells us that there will be no temple, either in heaven or on the new earth, but that there will be in the center of the city "the throne of God [the Father] and of the Lamb", meaning the same sort of joint occupation we find at present, only not in heaven per se but on earth in the eternal state to come. Please see the link: in CT 6 "The Interior of the City"
In anticipation of all those wonderful future blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Could Acts 20:28 be used to support the divinity of Christ - "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood"?
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (NASB)
Yes. It is an "in effect" Trinitarian statement which only works as meaningful if all three parties here are seen as being on an equal basis in terms of their divinity (the Church belonging to Christ and bought with His death for us).
You wrote (in http://ichthys.com/mail-Holy-Spirit.htm): Paul uses the verb gignomai in verse seven with the prepositional phrase ek mesou. This is a fairly idiomatic phrase, it is true, but no doubt for good reason. I would have been easier to say something like "until The Restrainer moves out of the way", instead of "becomes / happens to be out of the way". Paul's careful language no doubt reflects the fact that, as he knew full well, the Holy Spirit is God and is therefore omnipresent. Incorrectly describing Him as "moving away" from the earth during the Tribulation would tend to diminish our appreciation of His true deity. The language as it stands only indicates the cessation of a particular ministry, that of restraint.
Could you explain why to say that "the Restrainer moves away" would diminish His deity?
It wouldn't, but it might be taken to. The Jewish understanding of the Spirit from the Old Testament is as a spatially limited manifestation of God. Any description of action which would appear to diminish His omnipresence in fact ought rightly to be treated with careful language.
I'm still unclear about the difference between "the Restrainer moves our of the way" and "becomes/happens to be out of the way" - could you explain and clarify the implications of both?
It's a subjective point on my part. To some, there may not seem to be any difference at all. However, Paul says it the way he says it, and my insight into this particular phraseology is that Paul is being careful not to represent the Spirit as some local force, like the angels who control the winds in Revelation and which may move from one place to another. The Spirit is omnipresent, and in my opinion the language used in this passage better reflects that fact than what we might otherwise expect to find here.
Although I can understand that Paul wants to represent the Holy Spirit as omnipresent rather than a local force, I'm still not sure how he achieves this objective with the language he uses. Both "moves out of the way" and "becomes/happens out of the way" mean that Holy Spirit is no longer there, so I'm not clear how the latter is better than the former in presenting the Spirit as omnipresent. In fact, to say "moves out of the way" seems to put the Spirit Himself as the subject, which could also be taken as showing His sovereignty.
On 2nd Thessalonians 2:7, I suppose this all boils down ultimately to how a person would prefer to translate the Greek here and how that translation would be received. To make clear what is happening, I might phrase this, in English, something like "until He relaxes His restraining influence so as to allow it (i.e., the revelation of antichrist) to happen". This is my impression of what the verse means. The Holy Spirit will no longer be en mesoi – in-between antichrist and his desire to take over the world – but ek mesou, meaning He will no longer be blocking this development. There are other ways this could have been said, no doubt, but this is the way the Spirit in His inspiration of Paul determined it should be said. We can speculate as to why, but the important thing is what it actually says and means. I hope that is helpful in some way. Apologies for not being able to get to the nub here in a more satisfactory way.
Your reply on Exodus 33:20 and John 1:14 helped me improve my understanding of my question, but I am still not quite sure how to reconcile the two passages. Our Lord represents the Father, but although the glory our Lord manifested is not what He now possesses and has possessed in His divinity, He still says that He is one with the Father (John 10:30) and that whoever has seen Him, has seen the Father (John 14:8-9).
Yes, that is all true. The "glory" referred to in Exodus and elsewhere in respect of being unendurable to view by human beings in mortal bodies is the resplendence of divinity such as is related in Revelation 4:3. This unveiled manifestation of deity has only been occasionally "seen" by prophets in a state of prophetic ecstasy (i.e., not with physical eyes). If we were to see it without diminution in a waking state it would apparently destroy us. However, there are degrees of glory – which after all is a manifestation of the underlying perfect essence of God – and we certainly do see that "glory" in the truth of the words our dear Savior shared with the world and with us in particular. I think the problem here is with seeing "glory" as some absolute "thing" whereas it means something like "the manifest physical proof of the truth". Were God to reveal that "proof" in full to the world, it would be impossible even for those who despise Him not to acknowledge Him. The "glory" we have in the witness of our Savior's earthly life is profound – but deniable at present by those who wish to deny it (but not in the end: Is.45:23; Rom.14:11; Phil.2:10).
...having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Acts 24:15 (NASB)
Why does Paul say "a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves" if clearly they neither understand this hope nor live according to it?
These unbelieving Jewish opponents of Paul referred to here were wrong in their expectations, but they still had the expectation. The expectation of resurrection is noble and good, and was even legitimate no doubt for some of them . . . before the coming of the Messiah. After Christ came, only by accepting Him can anyone attain "unto the resurrection of the righteous". One can cherish a hope without realizing that it can't come true (for whatever reason).
What do you mean by saying that the hope was "legitimate" but "before the coming of the Messiah"?
I am trying to make a distinction here between the way it was legitimate to think about the resurrection before the cross – i.e., as based on the one hand upon a general confidence in God's deliverance for those who respond to Him, with the forgiveness of sins still future and testified to only by the shadows of the Law – and on the other hand after the cross: the resurrection is only for those who accept the Person and the work of the One who was resurrected first, our Savior Jesus Christ. So those Jews to whom Paul refers who might have been saved (hard to tell) if the Messiah had yet to come, were now in fact not putting their hope in the right place since they did not accept Jesus as their Savior.
I have read all your answers to questions I asked about Romans chapter 9, I have read the chapter again and browsed through the commentaries, trying particularly to gain a better understanding of Romans 9:18-21. I have initially not found Paul's explanation of God's sovereign choice to fully address the important issue at hand and you also wrote that Paul's purpose there is to "squelch discussion on this issue rather than to explain", but now it seems that there is an element of clarification in these verses also, even if it isn't emphasized and presented in a direct manner. Please let me know what you think of the following.
1) In verse 20 Paul says:
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
He does so to start with the most important point in any such considerations - we are mere creatures and shouldn't expect to fully understand God's purpose. Our wisdom is about fearing God (Proverbs 9:10) rather than comprehending His ways.
2) On a closer inspection, it does however seem that there is an element of explanation also. Paul seems to make reference to the story of the Potter and the clay in Jeremiah 18:1-10, but verse 11 says:
So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, 'Thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds."'
Jeremiah 18:11 (NASB)
So even though the ten verses seem to refer solely to predestination, in verse 11 we have God's call for the men of Judah to repent, which is only possible if the consider the element of free will present in the story of the Potter.
3) The discussion about "vessels for honorable use" and "vessels for common use" ends in verses 30-33:
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."
Romans 9:30-33 (NASB)
And here also we are offered explanation why the Jews referred to by Paul, with the exception of a small remnant, were the "vessels for common use" - because they didn't believe. And belief is a free will choice they exercised. So by making this particular choice they have confirmed the status assigned to them by God from eternity past.
Let me know what you think.
Yes, I absolutely do agree that free will is built into everything Paul has to say in this part of Romans, and that, far from inducing fatalism, the effect of everything he says is to encourage repentance and the acceptance of Christ by his countrymen who were being stiff-necked about it:
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NIV
Regarding Romans 2:14-16 you wrote: Here is the way I translate these verses:
(14) For whenever the gentiles who do not have the Law do by nature the things [written in] the Law, these who have no Law are a Law for themselves. (15) For they demonstrate that the essence of the Law has been written in their hearts when their conscience testifies against them, and their [mental] deliberations [based on conscience] alternatively either condemn them or acquit them. (16) This [examination will take place] on the day when God will judge the secret things of men through Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
This "examination" will take place at the last judgment (for unbelievers; see the link: in CT 6 "The Last Judgment"). Paul's point here is that attaining to a point of obedience to the Law on certain particular is of absolutely no value in terms of gaining eternal life; for even gentiles without the Law have often managed the same thing – neither group is saved, even if their conduct is exemplary. All this will be revealed when God holds everyone who has not accepted Christ to account.
What is your take on the following interpretation - Paul here makes the point of universal sinfulness which a Jew should understand by the inability to fulfill the Law, and a Gentile through his conscience bearing witness against him?
I think this is a perfect application of the scripture; in my view the interpretation is that Paul is demonstrating to his Jewish readers that conscience and moral behavior exist even where there is no knowledge of the Law, so that it would be incorrect and dangerous in the extreme to assume superiority merely by having and knowing the divine standard.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
Romans 7:4 (NASB)
You clarified that the comparison that Paul draws here isn't exact - first he refers to husband dying, but then applies this parallel to us dying to law, even though we are the wife rather than the husband. This is still puzzles me, however. Why make this point in such a way? The central point of this comparison is death and this is exactly the point which cannot be applied, so I cannot understand the whole purpose here. It would be clear if Paul here said that the law is now dead, but instead, he says that we are dead to the law, so I'm still unsure about this verse.
Peter writing in the Spirit said, "his letters contain some things that are hard to understand" but also "Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him" (2Pet.3:15-16). So we can be forgiven for not "getting" everything Paul writes, but we do have to understand that in the Spirit it is God's perfect message, even if some things are "hard to understand". The main point here is that we are no longer under the authority of the Law – since we are in Christ and Christ's death to sin has redeemed us from the curse on all sin explained in the Law – and that we now have a new life in Christ instead as a result with the purpose of producing genuine fruit for the Lord (as opposed to the dead works of the Law). Paul is always reluctant to condemn the Law – and rightly so. The Law is perfect, but it is the shadow-filled complement of the mystery-revealing New Testament. No one should dismiss the Law and no one should try to keep the Law. The Law has to be handled correctly to be appreciated: the Old Covenant looked forward to the cross and so it was concerned primarily with the condemnation that had to be removed by the cross, whereas the New Covenant looks back to the reality of the Law fulfilled by the blood of Christ, and explains all the shadows in the revelation of the mysteries of Christ. It is the bondage of the shadows which has been put to death by the cross and the unveiling of the truth. Paul puts all this in legal terms, but it is certainly clear from this passage that the authority of the old has been supplanted by that of the new in a very decisive way: our submission to the authority of Christ supplants any authority of the Law.
Regarding the resurrection phases you wrote: The words "then the end" refer to this last phase of the resurrection which would be well-known to readers of the gospels as referring to the likes of the sheep and goats judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, or even to readers of the Old Testament:
"As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."
Daniel 12:13 NIV
This issue is now clear to me, but I'm not sure how to make Daniel 12:13 fit into what we discussed (i.e., Christ resurrected first, then, at His Second Coming, dead believers, then believers alive at His coming, then "the end" - resurrection of millennial believers). Since Daniel died, it seems that he would be resurrected at our Lord's Second Coming, but this verse says "and then at the end of the days you will rise", so it doesn't seem to fit what we discussed.
The answer to this and many such putative "problems" of interpretation is "prophetic foreshortening"; that is, the common telescoping of prophetic events by Old Testament prophets so as to present a unified picture of the future. This has the virtue of providing a simplified picture in the context (rather than having to provide what amounts to footnotes to explain things which contemporary audiences would not be able to understand yet in any case because the details are only revealed later through "progressive revelation"). So for example it is not uncommon in Isaiah to see the Millennium and the Eternal state presented in blended pictures, and of course the two advents are also presented in this way throughout the Old Testament. Thus it is not surprising if the echelons of the resurrection are likewise telescoped in this passage. Important to note is that the description is technically correct (since "the end" begins with the Tribulation – the "Day of the Lord" is the Millennium plus all the eschatological events preceding and following; see the link: "The Day of the Lord Paradigm"), and also that there is nothing in Daniel 12:13 that actually contradicts what the New Testament teaches about the echelons of resurrection (inasmuch as "the end of days" includes the second advent when Daniel will rise with the rest of us and be rewarded so as to receive his inheritance as will we all).
You wrote (http://ichthys.com/mail-Last Judgment Great White Throne.html): With one exception, no one will be judged for personal sins at the Last Judgment, not even unbelievers (Matt.25:31ff.; Rev.20:11-15).
I thought that unbelievers will be judged for their sins (Revelation 20:13: "each person was judged according to what they had done"). Could you clarify this point?
Christ has died for all sin. Revelation actually says that unbelievers will be judged "according to their works". The distinction is important because the passage in question scrupulously and carefully avoids saying what many people assume will happen – that is because on the one hand being judged for a single sin would incinerate the guilty party (only Christ being God as well as man could endure it), and also because on the other hand Christ has already been judged for all the sins of all mankind, and so there is no basis for further judgment for sins already paid for – the only exception being the rejecting of that work. At the last judgment, the lives of unbelievers will be examined and it will be shown thereby that 1) they were culpable (knew about God, knew about death, knew right from wrong), 2) rejected their opportunities to be saved; and 3) everything they did only proved the firmness of their decision to live an eternity without God and also their unworthiness to be with Him. The last judgment is not one of punishment but one of vindicating God's Name and character and demonstrating His justice in condemning unbelievers to the lake of fire and His willingness to have pardoned them if they had only been willing to acknowledge His Lordship through accepting the sacrifice of Christ in their place. The last judgment will answer all the "why?, God" questions.
You wrote (http://ichthys.com/mail-changing the name of God.html): Our God certainly takes such things into account (just as in the case of the message to Mary's husband Joseph He gave our Savior's Name 'Jesus' in the Greek version since that was the lingua franca of the time and region).
That's an interesting point - I thought that our Lord's name was given in Hebrew and it was the gospel writer who transliterated it into Greek, but here you write that the name was actually given in Greek.
It's possible; scripture does not say – as it sometimes does – that Hebrew was used when Gabriel spoke with Joseph about Christ's coming birth. However, my point was that the Name as written in the NT is in Greek, not in Hebrew or Hebrew transliteration. After all, the Name "Jesus" is always given in the Greek version, both at this critical first mention and also throughout the NT thereafter. See the links: "What Language did Jesus Speak?" and "Why was the New Testament written in Greek?"
Regarding Paul you wrote: He realized that he did have lustful and covetous thoughts, and that there was no way for him to stop them permanently. I believe he had that experience before the road to Damascus when the Lord appeared to him, that his zeal in persecuting the Church was in large part a result of trying to compensate and atone for his failure to be perfect (perfect, that is, in his own honest standard and not the "righteousness in the Law" as others taught it), and that he was thus primed and ready for our Lord's appearance to Him.
What do you mean by Paul's "own honest standard" and how was it different from the law as defined by Rabbis of his day?
Paul was actually trying to "keep the Law" in letter and in spirit, rather than merely appearing to be righteous by outward appearance (as those "whitewashed tombstones" AKA the Pharisees were notorious for doing). But even a man of Paul's determination, intellect, and incredible self-discipline was not, of course, able to do so (he had a sin nature as do we all), and this led him into the next and worse phase of "salvation by works", namely "works of supererogation" before our Lord intervened on the road to Damascus.