The Inspiration of the Bible: Part III – Practically What It All Means

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When I speak of the author of the Bible, I mean God. And when I mention the writers of the Bible, I intend the men who were Inspired. The Bible writers were aware of Inspiration, both within themselves and in others. There are a few times when those with Inspiration argued for a certain point and based their argument on the grammar of other passages from the Bible.

Grammar and Inspiration

Jesus argues in favor of the resurrection before the Sadducees by quoting God to Moses at the burning bush, “I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Matthew 22:32, Exodus 3:14). His conclusion is that the three Patriarches still live, though physically dead when God addressed Moses. The entire argument is based upon the tense of the verb. Jesus uses the same argument before the Pharisees when He says, “Before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58).

To the Jews of the first century, Paul clears up their misunderstanding. God says the world will be blessed by the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3, 22:18), and since they were the seed of Abraham, they thought the world would be blessed through them. Paul points out the promise is through the seed, not seeds (Galatians 3:16). Paul contention hangs on the number of a noun, showing it is singular and not plural. These men would not make these arguments by Inspiration if word-for-word Inspiration does not also include the grammar of every word.

Inspiration and Authorship

The writers of Scripture were aware that they were Inspired in what thy wrote. To the Corinthians, Paul writes, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you” (First Corinthians 11:23). And to the Thessalonians, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (First Thessalonians 2:13). These passages not only show how men knew they were Inspired, but they demonstrate that speaking by Inspiration is the same in content as writing by Inspiration. Luke does the same when he records, “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them” (Acts 8:14).

Some have criticized plenary Inspiration like it’s a dictation machine, but that ignores the use of the human mind in the men Inspired. Paul writes, “The Spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet” (First Corinthians 14:32). These men with the gift of prophecy did not control the content, but they had control over where and when it would be used. The words did not bubble out from them as they are some unconscious vessel like the Delphian oracle. Peter writes, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven, things which angels desire to look into” (First Peter 1:10-12). Several facts stand out from this text. But for our consideration, the greatest is that men spoke and wrote by Inspiration, and all the while they were conscious and aware. Their minds were engaged.

Writers even composed Scripture and considered what others wrote as Scripture. This is more than New Testament writers quoting Old Testament prophecy. For example, Paul writes, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’.” (First Timothy 5:18). Here Paul contends for paying elders who work full time in that capacity. He gives two passages to support his point. One is from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4), but the second is a quotation of Jesus (Luke 10:7). Both of these quotes are called Scripture. This means the gospel account of Luke was already written by this time, and that it was considered Biblical canon, not just by Paul and Timothy, but by the God Who Inspired Paul to so argue. Later Peter says, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (Second Peter 3:15-16). Peter also considers the epistles of Paul authentic Scripture.

New Testament Use Of The Old Testament

The New Testament treats Old Testament characters as people who really lived in history and their lives are accurately recorded in the Old Testament narratives. The New Testament agreed with the Old that Adam was the first man and Eve was the first woman, and the serpent beguiled Eve in the Garden of Eden (Matthew 19:4, First Corinthians 15:45, Second Corinthians 11:3, First Timothy 2:13, Genesis 2:24, 3:1-4). Noah and the flood was a real event (Matthew 24:37-39, First Peter 3:20, Second Peter 2:5, 3:6, Genesis 6-8). Lot and his family escaped God’s destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-32, Second Peter 2:6-7, Genesis 18-19).

Moses lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea of the great Exodus (First Corinthians 10:1-4, Exodus 14). In the desert, God punished the wandering Jews with poisonous serpents, but sent the remedy with instructions regarding the preparation of a Brass Serpent (John 3:14, Numbers 21:4-9). Jonah, whose historicity is scoffed the most by liberals, really was swallowed by a great fish (Matthew 12:39-40, Jonah 1:17). Add to that faith’s hall of fame, the catalog of heroes from the Old Testament listed in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. It covers everything from creation to restoration, or in other words, all of the Old Testament history, and treats it as legitimate and historically accurate.

The Old Testament As Law

Before He ascends, Jesus says all written in the Law, the Psalms, and the prophets concerning Him has been fulfilled (Luke 24:44). That’s an accurate breakdown of the Old Testament, but in another sense, it is all considered law and not just the Pentateuch. John records Jesus saying, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:34-35, Psalm 82:6). Jesus quotes a Psalm, yet calls it both Law and Scripture. A similar occurrence is in John 15:25, where He quotes Psalm 69:4 and calls it Law. Three times Paul quotes material not in the Pentateuch, yet refers to it as Law.

  • In the law it is written: ‘Withmen of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people, and yet, for all that, they will not hear Me’” (First Corinthians 14:21, Isaiah 28:11-12).
  • Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19, having just quoted in the prior seven verses Psalms 14:1–3, 53:1–3, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 5:9, 140:3, 10:7, Isaiah 59:7, 8, Psalm 36:1).
  • Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman” (Galatians 4:21-22, Genesis 16:15, 21:1-3).

After the resurrection of Jesus, He encounters a pair of men traveling the road to the town of Emmaus. They are still sad over the crucifixion and are aware of the glorious events of that morning, but partially so. They know the women found the tomb opened and empty and that they spoke to angels, but as yet had not seen Jesus. They knew Jesus would redeem Israel, but their idea was probably nationalistic, so the cross frustrated them and the resurrection confused them.

Jesus replies to them, “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Their ignorance is of all that the prophets have spoken, so He corrects them beginning with Moses and continuing through all of the prophets. While the literature of the Old Testament can be compartmentalized into the Law, Psalms, and Prophets, it is all one spiritual covenant, all Scripture and all law, and as a single voice of God was given to bring us to Jesus

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The Inspiration of the Bible: Part II – All or Nothing

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It is a very popular notion in liberal theology that Inspiration is only partial. That is in contrast with plenary, which means full or complete. I contend that the Bible teaches it is the product of plenary Inspiration, and that in truth it is such. The argument for partial Inspiration is that God lead men to write, but only on the indispensably spiritual material. Things such as history and science in the narratives of Scripture are not necessary for salvation, so God did not lead anyone in writing these things. They are purely the product of human composition, which is subject to error and may therefore be incorrect.

Plenary Inspiration

When pressed, liberals do not even believe in any sort of Inspiration. That is because they do not hold the Bible to be all-authoritative. All they spout is love, but then they do not even follow what the Bible has to say about love. There is a cruelty in liberalism that screams hypocrisy. Don’t get me wrong, conservatives often have a mean streak in them as well. There are many modern-day Pharisees amongst us who are just as sociopathological as any TV or movie crime dramas. Hannibal Lecter has nothing on many of the pseudo-sound preachers today.

If partial Inspiration is true, then discerning what is Inspired and what is not becomes a subjective experience. In the end, we are left following our heart, the zenith of madness. Also, it wonders why if God could get the small stuff right, then why didn’t He? It seems partial Inspiration is a poor excuse to dismiss all of the Bible, the big stuff and the small stuff. And finally, if God couldn’t get the small stuff right, such as history and science, then why should He be trusted with the big stuff? Finding errors of any kind lowers the credibility of the whole thing, especially the spiritual matters.

The Word Of Truth

God does not lie (Titus 1:2). In fact, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Jesus is the one and only source of truth (John 14:6), which could not be if He came to do the will of a God subject to falsities. It is the same with the Bible, it cannot contain lies if it is the word from a God who cannot lie.

  • In Him you also trusted,after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13).
  • because of the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5).
  • But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (First Thessalonians 2:13-14).
  • This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ. Not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth” (First John 5:6).
  • And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant” (Second Samuel 7:28).
  • The judgments of the Lord aretrue and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).
  • I have chosen the way of truth. Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psalm 119:30).
  • And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I have hoped in Your ordinances” (Psalm 119:43).
  • Your righteousness isan everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth” (Psalm 119:142).
  • You arenear, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth” (Psalm 119:151).
  • The entirety of Your word istruth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). The jot refers to the Hebrew letter yod, which is the smallest Hebrew letter. It looks like our English apostrophe. The tittle is a bit more interesting. There are two Hebrew letters that look almost identical, resh and daleth. A single penstroke makes the resh, whereas the daleth is made from two. Think of the Greek Gamma (G), but the mirror image of it. The pen starts in the top left, moves straight right and down in one stroke to form resh. With daleth, you start upper left and move right, but pick up the pen and make a single stroke down. The tiny bulb that inevitably sticks out of the top righthand of the daleth is the tittle.

The jot and tittle could not be removed unless they were added, or put another way, a part of the Inspiration itself. Jesus is saying that the smallest parts of the Hebrew alphabet in which the Law of Moses was written will not be removed until it is completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ, His cross and resurrection. If the jot and the tittle were a part of the Inspiration, then it is the highest of absurdities to claim that Inspiration was partial.

Weight Of Inspiration

Since the Bible is fully Inspired, it deserves to be treated with gravitas. Because of the Bible, everything we do as part of divine service is serious. When Peter tells the hundred and twenty that Judas should be replaced as apostle, he bases that on it being the fulfillment of prophecy. He adds, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled” (Acts 1:16). A brief time before this, Jesus also quotes prophecy and says, “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

If God, Who cannot lie, predicts it in prophecy then it must come true. The exact day of Jesus Christ’s Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem is predicted to the very day in Daniel’s vision of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:25). On the day predicted, Jesus enters Jerusalem and is announced to be King. The Pharisees scolded Jesus and told Him that He should have commanded the people to be quiet. Jesus replies, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). Somehow, it was inevitable that Jesus would be declared King on that day because God by Inspiration had said it would happen on that day a bit more than 500 years prior.

That is why ignorance and misunderstanding of Scripture has always been the most hazardous place to be in. Jesus made it a point to fix the problem of misunderstanding the Bible.

  • But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7).
  • You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
  • But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him” (Mark 9:13).
  • Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Mark 12:10).

It is vital to learn once and for all that only the complete and total word of God should be considered the truth (Psalm 119:160). That is because every word of it is Inspired by God.

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The Inspiration of the Bible: Part I – The Nature Of Inspiration

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The character and quality of the New Testament and how we received it is based upon Who authored it. The New Testament was not written by the finger of God on some mountain top or mediated by angels. Apostles and prophets, all followers of Jesus Christ, were given the words directly by the Holy Spirit. The word for this process is Inspiration.

The gospel was preached before it was ever written down. The oral preaching and the written Scriptures are in all ways equal in content and value as the word of God (Second Thessalonians 2:15). Since the New Testament originally comes from God, then it is perfect and flawless and in all ways reflect the one who gave it.

New Testament Inspiration

The gift of prophecy is another phrase used in the New Testament to describe Inspiration. It was a supernatural act, or to put it another way, it was a miracle. The apostles had every supernatural gift and could pass any one of them on by the laying on of their hands upon the recipient (Acts 8:18, Second Timothy 1:6). This may include the gift of prophecy, or it may be another miraculous enablement, such as healing or speaking in tongues. The purpose of the miracles was to confirm the Scriptures while they were being written in the first century (Mark 16:20).

The gospel was Foreordained by God (Romans 16:25). Paul calls it the “mystery” (musterion), which means something hidden now revealed (Ephesians 3:8). What was reveal and written was intended to make God’s wisdom known to mankind by reading the New Testament (Ephesians 3:10). The gospel was a message first preached by Jesus in accordance to what God the Father wanted preached (Hebrews 2:1-4, John 14:10). It was then conveyed to the Apostles (John 16:12-13).

To young Timothy, Paul writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (Second Timothy 3:16-17). The phrase “all Scripture” refers to the complete Bible, Old and New Testaments. We don’t follow the Old Testament today like we do the New. But we learn eternal principles about the nature of God and the name of man, the nature of sin and the nature of atonement. Plus, we see in the Old Testament all of God’s Promises to the Patriarches and Prophecies through later men. Over 3,800 times in the Old Testament Scripture does it claim that it is the word/words of God.

God Breathed

The word for “Inspired” is qeopneustoV and it literally means “God breathed.” It is as if God is actually speaking the words with His own breath that appear on the pages of the Bible. That demonstrates the degree to which Scripture is Inspired, that it is word for word perfect.

Because every word of Scripture is breathed out by God, it is the most practical reading ever given to mankind. The is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness and only because it is Inspired. And because the Bible has this four-fold practicality, the end result for the believer is that he is made complete and full, not lacking anything for spiritual maturity. This fullness means the believer is equipped to every good work. Not only does the Bible tell us all we need to do to be considered faithful, but it supplies us with every motivation so that we want to obey God.

When we speak of the Bible as Inspired by God, we mean word-for-word Inspiration. It must be that specific because of the nature of God. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He knows what we need to be saved and knows how to transmit what we need. God in all things is perfect, and we can only expect perfection in any communicative effort He would proffer towards mankind. The only way to insure perfection in His Bible, His Inspiration must be word-for-word exactly what God wishes to say.

One of the over 3,800 Old Testament references to it as the word/words of God just mentioned is Second Samuel 23:2, which says, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
” Remember that the Holy Spirit is the means by which God the Father conduits Inspiration to certain men, and in this case, David. By divine Inspiration, he composed the Psalms. When David communicated by the Spirit of God, it was not the thoughts of God on his tongue, but His words.

This is a matter that the New Testament confirms. Paul tells the Corinthian saints, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (First Corinthians 2:12-13). The Holy Spirit does not speak with words of the world, but the words of God. In this, the things that belong to God are conveyed by spiritually Inspired words.

Inspiration Assures Certainty

Likewise, the apostle Peter writes, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from Heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (Second Peter 1:16-21). Peter is referring to the Mount of Transfiguration where the glory of the Lord was revealed to Peter, James, and John. Along with this visible display, God spoke directly from Heaven, and said “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 17:5).

Peter argues that we have a word of prophecy that is more sure than that. The Bible can confirm itself, and the certainty of it as the word of God is easier to prove than if anyone were to claim that God spoke to them directly. Because the Bible is this more sure word of prophecy, no passage of Scripture is subject to personal interpretation in that no one can say one interpretation is as good as another. We need to think for ourselves and study for ourselves, but we have the obligation and responsibility to come to the proper interpretation that God intends for us to reach. Otherwise, the Bible is pointless. If one take on any given passage is as good as another, then God is advocating the folly of following the human heart.

God gave us the Bible and expects us to correctly understand it. Saving faith cannot come by any other process. The reason one interpretation is not as good as another is because of Inspiration. Men did not decide on what to write. Instead, holy men were moved, literally picked up and carried along, by the Holy Spirit. We need to take our Bibles seriously since we know it is the perfect and flawless word for word Holy Scriptures.

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The Problem of Evil: Part III – Pleasure & Pain

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The Selfish Turn in the Problem of Pain

I have noticed that people are arguing the problem of pain differently these days. Most folk today ignore the disease, war, famine, and general third world suffering that happens across the globe. Their thumbs and their eyes are fixated on a smart phone or a tablet. Their getting their pleasure centers in their brains overstimulated like lab rats who push the blue button and buzz their brains and ignore the red button that feeds them so they starve to death.

That much input in the pleasure parts of the brain means it in time loses its pleasure, but people continue merely from rote habit and mental addiction. And when their device can’t get enough bars or they can’t find the Wi-Fi hotspot, they cry and pretend they are suffering. And then they run into a real problem and run overboard into an excess of ever more selfishness of emotions.

Something truly tragic happens, and they cry Why did God let my granny die? it seems the problem of pain has taken a selfish turn from “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” to “Why does God allow bad things to happen to me?” No one worries about the suffering of those in impoverished countries except for the occasion humanitarian worker or the narely read philosopher, and I hope I can add to the list, God’s people.

The Problem of Pleasure

Biological evolution says all upgrades are due to cell mutations and natural selection, but in particular, adaptation that enhances survival. And yet there are things in life that are part of the human experience that have nothing to do with survival. What I have in mind is pleasure. Evolution cannot explain why we as humans enjoy anything, why we find pleasure in experiencing beauty. So for my tastes, let the atheists whine all day about the problem of pain. They can’t explain what for them is the problem of pleasure.

Why do we taste food and enjoy it? The skeptic says taste buds evolved as a survival technique so we’ll know what berries are poison or when meat is rancid. But usually once you’ve tasted these things it’s too late. Also, other senses are better for determining these things. We see and recognize berries that look as such are to be avoided. Meat that smells spoiled is spoiled.

But pleasant flavors cannot be accounted for as a means of survival. Atheists cannot explain why a Crème Brule tastes so good and why we gain so much pleasure from eating it. Skeptics can’t tell us why everyone thinks a sunset is beautiful, and why we enjoy watching them. And consider the fine arts. Evolution cannot explain why we get such exhilaration from hearing Beethoven, Chopin, or Rachmaninoff played on a piano. Shear materialism cannot answer for why we are so stirred by the poetry of Browning, Byron, or Whitman. Atheism cannot reason a response as to why the novels of Tolstoy and Hugo rouse us with stunning displays of what it’s like to live as a human in this world. Skeptics have nothing to say about why the paintings of Van Gogh or Rembrandt allow us to see our world within ourselves brushed on canvas.

Atheists are a miserable lot in the first place. The Bible says they cannot find peace (Isaiah 48:22, 57:20, 59:8). No wonder they can’t answer the problem of pleasure because they are often oblivious to it. The Christian acknowledges that there is suffering in the world, but we thank God for all of the blessings He gives us, for the wonderful things that come from living this life, and for the exalted gift of gaining pleasure from experiencing beauty.

Man Cannot Blame God

The thing about the whole argument of the problem of pain that galls me the most is the presumption people have in sassing back at God. They sound like petulant children. You know they got it coming and you don’t mind at all when they get it. Man is not in the position to dare talk back to God. Job learned this lesson the hard way, but he learned it. God spoke from the whirlwind and said to him, Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer that.” … “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:2,8).

God does not answer to us. We are not in the place to know all things as God. We simply do not know enough to blame God of anything wrong. Any such accusations come from human wisdom, which is in truth, foolishness.

  • The heartis deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
  • ‘For My thoughtsare not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
  • O Lord, I know the way of manis not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
  • There is a waythat seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12).

The worldly man will engage the faithful on matters where he does not know as much as he thinks he does. He will blame God for human suffering, not knowing that the Bible has the answers, and yet he will refuse to hear a Biblical answer. And the things we tell him are Scriptural and reasonable, yet he shrugs and says I don’t get it. Their response is like the parable of the sower. Some seed lands on the rock-hard road and the seed cannot penetrate at all. This describes the worldly person so far removed from any spiritually and love for the truth that anything they hear is like a foreign language (Luke 8:12).

The failure is not ours, but completely on their part. And even if God did step down and stop all human suffering, that would not make anyone believe who doesn’t already. They are like the kinsmen of the rich man in torment, who have the Scriptures, and if they don’t believe them, they still wouldn’t believe even if God left His throne and came down here just to ease all suffering (Luke 16:31).

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The Problem of Evil: Part II – The Purpose of Life

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While suffering may not be evil, that does mean it is not serious. Christians should not vindicate God in such a way that we dismiss the true and genuine anguish that people feel when they are going through terrible times. A children’s hospital is filled with suffering and it is truly heart-breaking, but it does not render God blameworthy for any wrong doing.

I do want to establish here that God indeed had a purpose in mind for fashioning man and life on earth as He did. God made this world, with all of its good and bad, to be the best of all possible worlds where man as the highest order of His Creation can be enabled to decide things regarding our spiritual destiny (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Humans have been placed within the ideal environment where we may choose God or self. All suffering, from tornadoes to tuberculosis, are viewed by God as necessary for this ideal environment. The fact that God made a world that includes suffering does not make God guilty of any evil since He had eternal and spiritual reasons for including this suffering. Our life here is not permeant, but prepatory. The sole purpose of this life is to prepare ourselves for the next.

The Role of Suffering

So any suffering we encounter in this life is done on the short and temporary side of our existence. Everything in this life is intended by God to bring us to Him, both the ups and the downs. We need to keep in mind that God is more interested with our righteousness than our suffering. To be clear, I did not say that God is uninterested in our suffering. His heart goes out to us when we suffer. But if any suffering has a possible role in bringing people to righteousness, He is willing for it be. Consider Paul who was left to deal with his own infirmity of the flesh to be reminded that God’s grace is still sufficient for him (Second Corinthians 12:9). God already showed His goodness to Paul by saving Him, so letting an ailment remain does not make God to be the bad guy.

A lot of preachers have said that God will not allow us to suffer beyond what we can bear. We need to stop saying that because it’s not true. Suffering, even excessive suffering, can lead a person to realize that they cannot make it through this life on their own and that they need help and turn to God. My grandfather was a preacher for over fifty years. He said that the church was its most faithful during the Great Depression. People weren’t living for things of the world so much simply because they were not available. In fact, the worst thing to ever happen to the church was when we crossed the tracks into the good side of town. Every congregation had to compete with each other as well as against the denominations for the grandest church building in town, aspiring to rival Solomon and Herod. The church turned inward, stopped looking outward, and remained as a selfish congregation who never evangelizes. This leads to God’s suffering, not ours.

There are definite times in Scripture where suffering either created or enhanced faith in God. The Egyptian Army drowned in the Red Sea, which caused the Jews to bless God for His goodness (Exodus 15:1). Job suffered as no man ever, yet came out of the other side of it all as the most faithful man alive (Job 42:1-6). Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Lord and were struck dead. But afterward great fear fell on the church and all who heard about this and the church multiplied (Acts 5:11-14).

Joseph suffered terribly at the hands of his own brothers who sold him into slavery, then his Egyptian master by being cast in prison, and by the cup bearer who forgot to help him. But everything that was done to him with an evil motive was that which God was also doing for greater good. That good was allowing the bloodline of Abraham to survive world-wide famine in Egypt, but more than that. it allowed this bloodline to grow from a tribe to a nation. The descendants of Abraham could not inhabit the land promised to him. More to the point, these Jews, as God’s chosen people, can continue and move forward the bloodline of Abraham until Jesus Christ came into the world from his lineage. All of this disappears if Joseph was kept by God from suffering.

The suffering of Christ lead to the greatest potential for righteousness in mankind. God sorrow for the suffering of His only begotten Son was outweighed by His love for His Creation. If God needs to stop all suffering, then He would have let the cup pass away from Jesus, but we would all be hopelessly lost. God was willing to forsake His Son on the cross so that He would never have to forsake any one of us.

After Suffering

The loss of life can quite often be suffering for the one who passes on, but it is also suffering for the loved one surviving the departed. But remember we are all born to die, and mortality is a necessary element of the human condition. This is true considering the transitional element of death from this world to the next. God’s want everyone to keep in mind the two rules of mortality, that it is sure we will all die but unsure as to when (Ecclesiastes 8:8). If we keep in mind these two things, we will also keep in mind our purpose for living, which is to submit to God in view of eternity.

Considering what lies in store for us, our suffering seems to be a petty thing to obsess about. The matter of why we suffer is really a pagan question. The fertility cults prayed to Baal and offered their children as sacrifices to Dagon to ensure that they would get a bumper crop that year. There is not a lick of difference between the pagans who were involved in the ancient fertility cults and our present day “prosperity gospel” heretics. These charlatans preach we should follow God in order to become healthy and wealthy. It sounds good, but there is one big problem with it: there’s not a word of truth to it.

The central issue in Buddhism is knowing that suffering comes from desire so we need to learn how not to desire so that we won’t suffer. So in actuality, I need to desire not to desire. Still, Buddhism is a religion all about reducing suffering in this life and Christianity is about reducing suffering in the next life. The Greek Stoics and Epicureans had the same goal, even though they went about it differently. They both wised to achieve a state of atoraxia, which literally means “troubledlessness.” In other words, they strive to have a mind free from trouble. The first century Roman Stoic Seneca was friends with the apostle Paul and admired him because he approached atoraxia closer than anyone else he ever knew, which says a lot about the peace of the gospel (Romans 8:6; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15). And isn’t that the sucker’s end of all irony? The world seeks mental peace through worldly solutions, but only from God is there any real peace.

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The Problem of Evil: Part I – The Question of Evil

evil1

The skeptic’s response to the reality of deity is to invalidate the concept of God. Their most popular argument is known as The Problem of Evil. It basically makes three statements: God is all-powerful, God is all-loving, and evil exists. They then insist that all three of these cannot be true. If evil exists and God does nothing to stop it, then either Her is not all-powerful or not all-loving or both.

In truth, God is both all-loving and all-powerful (First John 4:8; Genesis 17:1; Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26). The atheist assumes their third point is true, but never try to prove it, which is a real conundrum for them. When Christians defend God to the skeptic by giving Biblical answers, they will respond that all we have said is dependent upon God in truth existing, and that all of these difficulties would vanish if there were no God. But this challenge is not about the reality of God, but harmonizing the attributes of God with what occurs in the world. The very problem they give us assumes there is a God.

The Real Problem of Evil

We know the first two premises about God are true because of what the Bible says. The Christian will be moved to give an answer from Scripture, which the skeptic will not ever consider because it comes from the Bible. This is hypocritical and unfair. The skeptic poses a challenge to us who are faithful based upon what the Bible claims from God, but dismiss the answer just because it’s Biblical. It’s a common tactic and is as set as a marked deck that is all worked out where we cannot win. We are asked to defend our faith, but are not allowed to give an answer from the source of our faith. This shows that they are not at all interested in exploring the truth, but playing a game of Gotcha! with God’s people.

Their argument makes three assumptions that they are unable to prove. They assume that the theist’s perfectly good God always would eliminate evil insofar as He could, that there are no limits to what this Being could do, and that it is evil that evil exists. Before anything bad happens to anyone, a good and powerful God will always stop it beforehand, but why? God can, and does, possesses both of these attributes, full  in love and power, but allows things to happen in His world for His reasons, such as the purpose of suffering, the role of mortality, and exercise of free will. Also, God being all-powerful does not mean He is limitless. Amongst other things, God cannot act in a way that is contradictory with His own will. If it is the will of God that suffering exists in His world for the reasons He has determined, then He will not reach down and stop all bad things from happening. Further, the atheist cannot prove that it is evil for evil to exist. In fact, the notion of evil is more of a difficulty for the atheist then it will ever be for the theist.

Atheists Cannot Define Evil

When the atheist denies God, they deny any absolute and universal code of morality. Most atheists are honest enough to admit this. So they cannot come up with a definition of “evil” that fits all situations and circumstances. Denying absolute morality means evil is nothing more than why I prefer to call evil, but nothing more.

C.S. Lewis reasoned himself out of atheism because he got hung up on the problem of evil. He wanted to accuse God of injustice, but he realized that he couldn’t even come up with a real definition of justice. So to shift the discussion, atheists will substitute “suffering” for “evil,” but that doesn’t help them at all. The fact that suffering exists cannot be evil if there is no real definition for evil.

Another means of obfuscation occurs when the atheist declares that it is obvious that suffering is evil. Quite often they will say if you walk the halls of a children’s hospital, then you will see how obvious it is that suffering is evil. But skeptics cannot leave the definition of evil undone as if it were some tautology. If one went to such a facility they will see suffering, but they will also see great deeds of compassion, children in good spirits despite their condition, and even some kids being discharged because they have recovered. The evil nature of suffering can never be assumed.

The atheist has no vantage point to call suffering “evil” because of their view of human life. According to the skeptic, we are not Created in the image of God but are the result of random accidents of chemistry and biology. There is nothing special about human life, but that means there is nothing calamitous about suffering and death. There is an absolute definition of evil, and it’s not what the atheist wants to hear. The only intrinsic evil is the violation of the will of God.

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He Shall be Called a Nazarene

branch

After Jesus’s birth, Joseph took his wife and newborn son and fled to Egypt because of the threat by Herod. When he died, Joseph and the family returned, but because the new Herod was cruel as well, they settled in Galilee in the town of Nazareth. After Matthew records this, he says by Inspiration, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

One might search the Old Testament and talk to everyone they know who have claimed to do the same, and they will never find the phrase, “He shall be called a Nazarene” penned by any Old Testament prophet. A clue to the puzzle is that Matthew says this is said by a plurality of prophets, not a single prophet. Matthew is not quoting any passage, but summarizing several. Now the hunt for those few texts begins. Our next clue is the Hebrew word for “branch” is netzer. There are a small group of Old Testament verses known as the Branch prophecies, two from Isaiah, two from Jeremiah, and two from Zachariah. These not only speak of Jesus, but particularly as King and as Priest.

Isaiah

Most of the 2nd chapter and all of the 3rd chapter of Isaiah address God’s coming judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. The sins of idolatry and living rich are specifically mentioned as causes. When chapter 4 beings “in that day,” it continues the context. But the fuller context includes the beginning of chapter 2, which is a prophecy of the coming church, described as the spiritual mountain of Zion. This imagery is picked up here in chapter 4.

The shift may seem abrupt, but it is common in Isaiah for prophecy to have dual interpretations, one applicable to the ancient Jews and another for the gospel age. Captivity is a type of being lost in sin, the destruction of Jerusalem of hell, and the restoration of the Jews is the spiritual remnant of the worlds’ population who are saved by a faith that works through love in service the Jesus Christ.

The second “that that day” begins a purely spiritual outlay. Verse 2 reads, “In that day the BRANCH of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing, for those of Israel who have escaped.” For those of the true Israel of God, which is the church (Galatians 6:15), who have escaped the Babylon of judgment, they will enjoy the beauty and the fruitfulness of the earth in the restoration of the soul by means of the New Testament gospel. All of this will be accomplished by the Branch of the Lord.

Chapter 10 returns to the symbolism of judgement against God’s people. God’s people are compared to the Cedars of Lebanon, an impressive forest of the day. God is a mighty woodsman and the Gentiles are the axe in His hands. God will use the axe to chop down the forest, and if the axe thinks it did this on its own, it will also be dealt with by the woodsmen. Imagine a great forest, the sign of growth and prosperity, and in an instant, they become a sight of dead stumps, a once woods made into headstones.

Out from one of these stumps, the family of Jesse, will spring God’s Branch (Isaiah 11:1). Jesse is the father of King David, so this prophecy likes has to do with the promise made to him in Second Samuel 7 regarding how God will make a house for David, and this house would make a house for God. Simply stated, the lineage of David would build the true Temple of God, which is Jesus Christ building His church.

The ministry of the Branch is described with some interesting details that we will not look at here, but it is the end of the prophecy I’d like to focus on. It speaks of predatorial beasts coexisting with innocents and their usual prey (Isaiah 11:6-8). This plainly is not literal despite the claim by Premillennialists that all prophecy is to be taken literally. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Highway of Holiness says, “no lion shall be there” (35:9). Both cannot be literal, so figurative language is being used by God.

The point is the Branch will bring in a kingdom of peace, which is pictured by the vicious and the victim living together. The key is “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9). The mountain of the Lord, the true spiritual Zion, is the New Testament church. The peace spoken of here is not the absence of trouble, but the ability to bear through the troubles of life. This peace is the peace of the gospel, which is a synonym for forgiveness, or elsewise a consequence of being forgiven. When one is forgiven by God, they can properly hope for and anticipate Heaven. This places worldly suffering in a perspective that makes it more manageable, but the wicked have no forgiveness so they have no peace of mind (Isaiah 48:22, 57:21, 59:8). The New Testament church is a kingdom of peace.

Jeremiah  

The two Branch prophecies from Jeremiah are similar enough that they can be mentioned and discussed together. They build upon what God said first through Isaiah. From the same root of Jesse priorly mentioned, God will raise for David a royal Branch of righteousness. Like the Branch of Isaiah 11, this one will also rule by the Divine guidance of God. The Lord of righteousness will bring about salvation and safety, a Hebraic parallelism that again associates spiritual peace with forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15-16).

Zechariah

The Branch prophecy of Zechariah 3:8 addresses Joshua. This is not the Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho, but the High Priest in the days of the restoration of the Jews from captivity. In fact, Zechariah wrote in the time of the restoration and addressed those people recently relocated to Jerusalem from Babylon. This prophecy addresses the High Priest and his companion priests.

The Branch will remove sin from Judah in a single day (Zechariah 3:9), and this was the time of His crucifixion. Because of the removal of iniquity, those saved will spread the gospel and invite others to share in this forgiveness. This is described as a feast under the nice and the fig tree (Zechariah 3:10). This image is used elsewhere in the Old Testament. At the zenith of Solomon’s reign, the Bible says everyone will dwell safely under his own vine and fig tree. This associates peace with prosperity. Those at peace with God have all true Heavenly riches and spiritual treasures guarded in all spiritual blessings, which are found only in Christ (Revelation 3:18; Matthew 6:19-21; Ephesians 1:3). The greatest spiritual blessing is the forgiveness of sins (Second Timothy 2:10).

The second reference to vines and figs tress is in Micah 4, which is a text that reads much like Isaiah 2. Both of these are prophecies of the coming church, and both refer to the same spiritual peace we’ve been discussing. It does this through the image of smithing weapons into tools. Following this image in Micah, he adds that everyone who is a part of the mountain of the Lord, the church of Christ, will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and nothing shall make them afraid (4:4). The peace of the gospel means that true saints do not need to fear hell because of their hope in Heaven.

As the Branch, Jesus will bring about salvation, which is associated with safety and peace, the rule of righteousness, along with spiritual prosperity and comfort from fear. The Branch will do this as King, but also as High Priest. The Branch will also build His Temple (Zechariah 6:12-13). This may seem like a new element, but it really isn’t. If you keep in mind the previous references to Zion and the mountain of the Lord, these can be recalled and associated with the Temple of the because they are of the same reference. The Mountain of the Lord and the Temple are both references to the New Testament church.

The Temple is figurative for the dwelling place of God. The Temple in New Testament times is the church (Ephesians 2:18-22). By building His Temple, He can then sit on His throne, and He will also serve as a priest at the same time. Jesus is enthroned now and serves as High Priest for His people now. If there was any doubt about that at all, then the fact that the church exists now, the Temple built by Jesus Christ Himself, is proof that He is both king and priest.

The counsel of peace will exist in between these dual roles. This is the very peace we have been studying all along within the context of Jesus Christ as the Branch. This peace, which begins with being at peace with God by being forgiven and extends to peace within our hearts, is the single qualifying element of Redemption that touches on all of the roles of Jesus Christ and aspects of God. For these two, Christ offers His own sacrificed blood for the washing away of our sins as High Priest in Heaven. Having a forgiven people who are all His own, He can rule over them as subjects of the spiritual kingdom that one day will be taken to Heaven after time and the earth have served God’s purposes.

 

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