Good God, Bad World: The Theodicy

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Matthew 5:45

the·od·i·cy (thē-ˈä-də-sē ) noun – An explanation of why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil

Habakkuk 1:2-3(ESV)
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.

In a world full of such beauty and love and happiness, we also find sadness, pain, and disaster. There are tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes, school shootings, holocausts, wars, rapes, all manner of diseases, death… The Christian view of God is that He is good. That God is in control. That God cares and loves His creation. If this is true, then why is there so much suffering? This is perhaps one of the biggest if not the biggest stumbling block to many people when it comes to understanding God. And not just understanding God, but a lot of people just reject the notion of an omnipotent and omniscient God because of what’s known as the “problem of evil.”

Why does a good God allow evil?

Ancient skeptic and philosopher, Epicurus, said of God, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Are God and evil mutually exclusive? Does the existence of evil negate the existence of God? Some would say that to have both in the same universe would be a contradiction.

First let’s start with definitions. Let’s define “God” and “evil.” Merriam-Webster online defines God as “the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshiped as creator and ruler of the universe.” They define evil as, “arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct. The “archaic” form is “causing discomfort or repulsion.” So, for its use in this blog “evil” consists of both natural and man-made trouble.

So God is defined as “perfect in power.” This means He can do absolutely whatever He chooses to do. As the Psalmist said, “He does whatever He pleases.” Being perfect in power He can stop all evil.

“Perfect in wisdom” means that He will never make a mistake and everything He does is absolutely wise. And being perfect in goodness means that all goodness dwells in Him and in Him there is no evil.

So if this all powerful, all wise, all good God exists and sees the evil in the world, why doesn’t He stop it?

Well we must ask ourselves what exactly is it we want stopped. Do we want God to stop all evil? If so and you’ve ever had an evil thought then you would want God to control your thoughts. If you’ve ever uttered an evil word, you would want God to control your speech. If you’ve ever done an evil deed or even made a mistake that caused harm, you would want God to control your actions. Therefore, we are asking for one of two things if we want God to stop all evil: 1. That God take all free will from mankind, or 2. God kill us upon our first evil thought, word, or deed.¹ And we can’t ask that justice be done to others and not to ourselves.

Now let’s break down Epicurus’ argument:

  • Is God willing to prevent evil? Well if He is good we would have to say yes. We also know from the Bible that He is willing to prevent evil. He Himself heals. And He sends people out to heal the sick, warn people of judgement, and free slaves.
  • Is God able? A perfectly powerful God is definitely able to prevent evil. But ability doesn’t mean necessity. A good God may allow things that we deem bad for other purposes. He doesn’t have to stop evil.
  • Whence then is evil? Or from where does evil come? This is an important question to consider when pondering the existence of a good God when evil is so prevalent in the world.

Is evil “bad” just because it causes discomfort and repulsion? If so, the act of a parent correcting a child is “evil.” But of course a parent correcting a child is doing a good thing. But it feels bad. It causes discomfort and no child- nor any adult for that matter – likes correction. And, of course we can say that a parent, or teacher, or friend that corrects is doing it for the other person’s good. Therefore, we would rarely call it evil because we know there is love behind it. So we can logically say there are some things which feel bad that actually aren’t. We can also look at childbirth, growing pangs, the pain we get in our muscles from exercise that facilitates gaining strength: not all pain and discomfort are bad.

But of course there are those things caused by wrongdoing. People with malicious intent doing bad things for a bad purpose. What are we to make of that? And if God can stop them and if it’s in God’s good will to end evil then why doesn’t He stop them? Well as I mentioned earlier, where then would free will be? God can do whatever He pleases, but to stop all evil men from doing evil deeds He would have to stop all evil hearts. As Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” This would mean at best we would all be “robots” with no will of our own, or at worst destroyed at the first bad thought.

What about “natural evil?” Stopping that wouldn’t inhibit human free will, right? Why doesn’t God stop natural disasters? Well, it would seem that most people “accept” natural evil as “nature being nature.” Not that they like all that happens in nature, per se, but that those things that happen naturally are more acceptable than “moral evil” caused by man. But for the atheist, the discomfort “natural evil” may cause has no good or bad to it. Actually, it should be seen more so as a good thing if it is just nature doing what nature does. It would be just the earth or universe replenishing itself or going through its phases. If plagues happen, it’s just nature. So why seek to cure disease? Also, what about nature would the inquirer want God to stop? Many aspects of nature that can harm us are also things that we need to survive on this planet. Would God need to make water less dangerous to prevent drownings? He would need to make the composition different, but then it would cease to be water. Lightning is another example. Lightning strikes kill many people every year. But, we need lightning. All life requires nitrogen-compounds and “the enormous energy of lightning breaks nitrogen molecules and enables their atoms to combine with oxygen in the air forming nitrogen oxides. These dissolve in rain, forming nitrates, that are carried to the earth.” (http://www.biology-pages.info/N/NitrogenCycle.html) Basically, we need lightning for healthy air and fertile soil.

Well, you might say “that’s all well and good but an all-powerful God could prevent lightning from striking people.” And you would be right. But, once again, that would involve preventing me from being in a certain place at a certain time so that I am not struck by lightning. “Well doesn’t Christianity claim that God does, in fact, intervene sometimes to prevent such occasions?” Yes, whenever God intervenes to prevent what would otherwise have happened, that is called a miracle. As Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis writes, “That God can and does, on occasion, modify the behaviour of matter and produce what we call miracles, is a part of Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare.” Have you or someone close to you said after some natural or otherwise unfortunate event, “I was supposed to be there at that moment but ________ happened and I’m alive because of it.”?

Now back to God’s wisdom. When we are children, our parents often tell us that we can’t do something we want to do. We think we are smart enough and mature enough to do whatever it is, but our parents spoil the fun with a “No!” or “Stop!” and sometimes, if we’re lucky enough, we get an explanation of why. Sometimes. Those other times we don’t get the reason because we wouldn’t understand it even if they told us. And we definitely wouldn’t agree with the explanation because we don’t understand it. Our parent’s life experiences and wisdom gained from those experiences have given them a better understanding of the world around us than we have as children. So, their no’s to us may seem cruel at times but it is often for our benefit.

God created the world around us and the universe beyond us. God sees the past, present, and future all at once. God, therefore, is more knowledgeable than our parents (and, of course, us) could ever have dreamed of being. Our knowledge is finite and therefore our wisdom and perception are finite. God is infinite and therefore His wisdom is infinite. So while we can’t always know the reasons of the pain and suffering we experience here on earth, we can know that God does. So, because of our ignorance the words of Job ring true, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:3


Evil proves God exists. Why do we hate “evil”? Why would someone question why bad things happen? It is because we know that there is a standard of good and of rightness and therefore whatever is “evil” doesn’t seem to meet the standard. We know a line is crooked because we know of straightness. Anything that goes against the “transcendentals” (truth, beauty, and goodness) is evil, bad, or wrong. Since God is defined as perfect in goodness, He is the standard against which one judges evil. If God does not exist, whence then is evil? What standard does anyone have to judge evil? Evil and goodness would only exist as opinions.


If naturalism is true, the best hope we have is that we will return to the nothing from which naturalists say we came. That not only does pain end when we die but so does any amount of pleasure and joy. Nothing created us for no purpose and back to the void of nothingness we will return. All of our pleasures and pain on earth were for naught. No truth, beauty, or goodness awaits in exchange for all the suffering in the world.

However, the Bible tells us there is a reason that pain and suffering are in the world. Man’s sin is so potent that it affects the world. Adam and Eve’s disobedience caused death to come into the world. Before sin, there was no hard work, pain in child labor, shame, disaster, or death. The Bible also promises us that all will be made right again. That God is a God of justice. That one day man will be free from pain and suffering. That one day even nature will experience this freedom. This freedom is not just an absence of pain. Ceasing to exist could do that. No, this freedom from pain will be because of unconquerable and unending joy. This freedom comes to those who place their faith in God. This promise is for those of us that believe He has this gift awaiting us and that it is only available through His only begotten Son, Jesus. God has promised us that the pain on earth has been used to make a way possible to live eternally. The death that Jesus died on the cross was the death that brings us life. What was meant for evil, God is using for good.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:4-5(ESV)

Footnotes:
¹I present to you that this might be a false dichotomy. And it actually answers the question of “How can evil exist if a good God exists.” The third option is that God uses people to change things. He sometimes uses people to show the world His love and goodness. He uses people to spread His good news, administer justice and benevolence. Anytime God’s people do God’s will, we see God in action.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What Does “Inspired” Mean? (2 Timothy 3:16)

As I was perusing through my suggested videos on YouTube I came across a once popular pastor who claims he doesn’t believe in hell anymore. He also stated that he believed scripture wasn’t inspired by God but that man was inspired to write about God. “What’s the difference?” You may ask. The purpose of this blog is to answer that question.

In Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, he states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness,”(CSB). The word “inspired” is also used in the NASB and the NLT, among others. The NKJV and KJV use the phrase “given by inspiration of God”. The Darby translation says “divinely inspired.”

The ESV and NIV say “God-breathed” or “breathed out by God.” These two English versions come the closest to conveying the original meaning in this verse, as I understand it.

The Greek word used here is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos) which is the combination of theos, meaning God, and pneustos, meaning to blow or breathe. So in the original Greek the term literally means “God-breathed.”

When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin in the late 4th – early 5th century, he used the term “divinitus inspirata.” Inspirata is where we get the English word inspiration. Nowadays, when we say inspired or inspiration, we usually mean that something or someone was our muse for a musical piece, a book, movie, or any other work of art.

However, that is not what Paul is conveying here in 2 Timothy 3:16. He is not saying that as man thought about God, that God acted as some artistic influence in the way that an artist paints a mountain he sees or in the way love inspires a song. He is saying that scripture is actually breathed out of the mouth of God Himself. As John Macarther says, “The Old Testament is the revelation of God to show men what God is like, who God is, what God tolerates and does not tolerate, how God desires holiness and punishes sin. The New Testament is God revealed by His Son in the life of His Son, in the message of His Son, in the understanding of the work of His Son, and in the culmination and the coming of His Son to establish His eternal kingdom. But in either case, Old Testament, New Testament, God spoke. What we have is, indeed, the Word of God. This is not the word of man. The New Testament writers wrote down the Word of God.”

Scripture is God’s words to us. It is the very Word of the living God. He shows us Himself and how we relate to Him. He shows us how we can get to know Him. He shows us the great lengths He goes so that we may know the love He has for us. Through Scripture God shows us how to love Him and our fellow man. And through Scripture we see how we can live eternally with Him.

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21, ESV)

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

When God Takes Too Long

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Often in our lives we come upon difficult situations. We pray that God will handle these issues. We have faith that He will. We hope that He will. We wait on Him. But He seems to take His time. In the meantime we’re left waiting on progress or healing. We’re left waiting on a word from God or a display of His power and love. Often that is the plight of the believer. To wait on God.

It can get frustrating. We pray and pray and wait and wait. Sometimes it seems as though He is not there. Yet, we know in our minds and hearts that He is. We have seen Him work in our lives before. We have seen Him deliver us. We have seen Him heal us. We have seen His wonder working power in our lives and in the lives of others around us. But, when God seems silent we get impatient and faith can seem to dwindle. However, every new obstacle comes with a new lesson to learn.

Such was the case with the Israelites after they were freed from Egypt. Their leader Moses went before the LORD on Mount Sinai to receive instruction for the newly liberated Hebrews. They had just seen God’s power through 10 different plagues against the Egyptians. They had just seen God’s power as He parted the waters and they walked through the Red Sea. Afterwards they were waiting on Moses to come back with a word from God so they could make their way to the land promised them by God. They waited. And they continued to wait. I believe knowing that the promised land lay before them made them anxious and impatient. Their impatience with God caused them to commit a heinous sin, idolatry. They created a golden calf and began to revel and party. Why would they do this? Didn’t they know that a golden calf had no power? I think they knew this but since they didn’t hear from God when they wanted to they chose to make a god that they could see. They couldn’t see what they wanted to see when they wanted to see it so they created something they could see. So when they felt abandoned by God they turned to the ways of the land they had just come from. The Israelites were in Egypt for 400 years. They saw the idols of the Egyptians, some may have even dabbled in the Egyptian idolatry. But when they were freed from Egypt they still had some of Egypt left in them.

We can be guilty of the same thing. In God’s “silence” we turn to those things that we remember satisfied our flesh before we were delivered. But the Bible says it’s like a dog returning to its vomit. God delivers us from sins because only He can truly and wholly satisfy us. His provisions are more than anything we can ever imagine.

The same was true for Abraham and Sarah. God had promised that they would have a child. But the years went by and God had not moved yet. So they created their own answer by committing another heinous sin, adultery. They couldn’t see the child promised to them by God so they took the wrong path to make one they could see. 25 years went by between the time of the promise to the fulfullment of the promise.

Before the Israelites went into Egypt, Joseph was a picture of what to do when God seems distant. His brothers sold him into slavery when he was 17. As he worked as a slave he was falsely accused by his master’s wife and thrown into prison. But the Bible tells us four times (Genesis 39:2,3,21,23) that all this time “the LORD was with Joseph”. Knowing that, Joseph remained faithful in whatever he did. He was ultimately taken from prison and made an official to the Pharaoh…13 years after being sold by his brothers. Joseph endured a lot but he continued to patiently wait on God. How many of us would have given up way before then?

In our human experience, we have only a limited finite grasp of eternity. We can’t see what God sees. God sees the beginning and the end of all situations. Someone has said they were are like characters in a very extravagant painting. We can only see the spot that we are in but God sees the entire painting all at once. As scripture says “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

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God is always working while we are waiting. The Hebrews were waiting on Moses because he was talking to God. Neither he nor God had abandoned his people. God was doing a work and His people should have been patiently waiting on what He was doing. It’s the same with us. While it may seem God has not moved in whatever situation we are in, we can be confident that He is working all things together for our good. The worst thing we can do is try to get ahead of God and make things happen that He hasn’t condoned or that He just plain hates. We then take our faith away from God and put it on ourselves. And anyone who has ever made one mistake (that’s all of us) knows that we cannot compare anywhere close to a perfect God.

Further reading: Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 27:14, 37:4, 46:10, 90:4, Proverbs 3:5-6, Ecclesiastes 3:1,11, Lamentations 3:25-26, Isaiah 40:31, 55:8-9, Habakkuk 2:3, Micah 7:7, Romans 8:28, Galatians 6:9

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

God in the Flesh

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The Nativity by Gustav Dore, late 19th century

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, . ..

In the Bible we learn that God came down and dwelt in the body of man. He was born of a woman, lived, ate, slept, cried, and died. In theology, this is known as the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The word “incarnation” means to be made into flesh. The Incarnation is one of the vital doctrines of the Christian faith although it has had its critics over the centuries. Here I seek to explore and defend the concept of God in the flesh.

In the Book of Genesis, God tells Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent but the serpent will bruise the Seed’s heel (3:15). This was a promise from God that a man born of a woman would be the one to defeat the serpent, Satan. This gospel is the first revelation of who the Messiah would be. As time goes on in human history we are provided more info on this Man (progressive revelation).

In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that there will be a virgin who will give birth to a Child and His name will be Immanuel. Often in the Old Testament times, a name given to a person was actually a description of that person. Such is the case with Immanuel which means “God with us.” So this will be literally God dwelling among us as a man. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” So more is now revealed. God will dwell among man as a man. He will be of the lineage of David and will establish His kingdom. And from Genesis, Satan will bruise His heel but He will defeat Satan.

Now we come to the fruition of the promise made to Eve and to the people of God. The birth of Jesus. The only man born of a virgin, Jesus came to earth as the Immanuel that Isaiah foretold of 700 years before.

Like I’ve stated previously, in Matthew we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And in the Gospel of John, He is described as the Word that was with God and the Word that was God (John 1:1). In Colossians 1:15, He is the “image of the invisible God.” In Philippians 2:6, He is the very nature, or form, of God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Jesus is the “uncreated incarnate Creator of creation”. All things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). Yet, the Creator came to earth and dwelt in His creation. This is referred to as the Hypostatic Union; Jesus being truly God and truly man. Jesus is the two natures of God and man in a single hypostasis (essence, substance, nature). He is the theanthropos, or God-man.

The dual nature of Jesus may sound confusing, but God is not the author of confusion. John 1 calls Jesus the light. Scientists have discovered that light also has a dual nature. The scientific community was once divided on whether light was wave or whether it was particle. However they’ve discovered that it is both wave and particle, something scientists used to consider an impossibility.

Some have argued that Jesus is not God because the Scriptures says He slept and that an all-powerful God does not need to sleep. This argument basically comes from a person who doesn’t take their own premise to its logical conclusion. That is, that God being all powerful can choose to place himself in a human body and limit that human body to the natural laws that govern all other humans; like the need for rest and food and water. He also came as a Jew meaning that He had to obey the spiritual laws He had given Moses about 1,200 years before. And He did so, perfectly.

Some people would say “is this like Hercules who was the progeny of a god and human mother?” NO. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The fictional Hercules was half-god and half-man. Some would say that Hercules only became a god after his death. Unlike Hercules, Jesus the Son was ALWAYS God. He says in the Gospel of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane that He shared the glory with God before the world began (John 17:5). Therefore, there was no progression, or apotheosis, of Jesus to divinity. He was always God.

Jesus came to earth to be the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, of our sins. He could only be this as a perfect man, but since there is no perfect man, God came to earth to be just that.

As John Piper states, “In order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan way ahead of time, because … he couldn’t die. Immortal. He didn’t have any body, yet he wanted to die … for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet. The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails – the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed fleshy cheeks so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt. I just plead with you – when you’re reading the bible and you read water toy texts like “he loved you” and “gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with him that your eyes would be opened.

Further reading: John 1:1-14, Romans 1:2-5, 8:3, 9:5, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-3, 4:2

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Self-Sufficiency of God

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Moses Sees A Fire Burning In A Bush, 1897

Exodus 3:2 …So he looked and behold the bush was burning with fire but the bush was not consumed.

In the book of Exodus, as Moses had been living as a shepherd for 40 years and as a fugitive from Egypt, his attention was captured by a bush that was on fire. This probably wouldn’t have been a big deal but what he saw made him investigate even further. “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” The flame spoke to Moses and identified Himself, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God told Moses He will send him to Pharaoh to deliver His people. Moses then asked, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

The name God gave Moses encompasses His attribute of self-sufficiency. “I Am Who I Am.” As Matthew Henry puts it, the representation of I Am Who I Am states “that he is self-existent; he has his being of himself, and has no dependence upon any other…Being self-existent, he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and bliss.”

When a bush is on fire, the fire must consume the bush as fuel to exist. However, God was showing Moses several things in this display. He was showing Moses that He didn’t need the bush to exist as a flame. God doesn’t need fuel. God is the self-existent and self-sufficient I Am. He was also displaying that God didn’t need the bush or Moses to display His power. But by His providence and sovereign will, God chooses the lowly things to be His vessels of special purpose. God knew Moses was an 80-year-old fugitive who was “slow of speech and of tongue”, that in spite of his failings and shortcomings, would still be the man to approach the most powerful man in the land and lead His people to freedom. Moses knew that it would not and that it could not be of his own power and influence that he do what God desired of him. He had to rely on the One who needs no outside source.

The self-sufficiency, or aseity, of God should give us comfort. When God has called us to do something we can rest in the fact that He has all power and knowledge and the God that created the universe will equip us to do the task at hand. Our human bodies require rest and sustenance. According to the laws of nature, set into place by God, we must rely on something outside of ourselves to even exist. God, however, requires nothing. As John Piper states, “God exists ‘from Himself’. God owes His existence and completeness as God to nothing outside Himself.”

“nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” Acts 17:25

For more of God’s Attributes download this PDF

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Validity of Christ’s Claims

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Jesus Healing The Sick by Gustav Dore

In my last blog I stated that in the realm of spiritual truths, having the right answer matters, especially in regard to an eternity with or apart from God. Jesus made claims that must be examined. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. If what He said is true then all other beliefs are false.

When anyone makes a claim of who they are then they must be able to back up those claims in order to persuade others. A person who claims to be a doctor will have proof of receiving his doctorate. A company asking for proof of who you are may ask for identification or proofs of residence. A man claiming to be the one way to God must prove to be from God and of God. Here I offer such proofs of Jesus being who He claimed to be.

1. Jesus healed and raised the dead on His own authority. We are shown often in the Scriptures that God’s prophets and apostles have healed people. The difference between them and Christ is that they did not do so of their own power or authority. They had to pray before doing so (ex. 2 Kings 4:33, 1 Kings 17:20). Or they did so “in Jesus name” (Acts 3:6). Jesus never had to appeal to a secondary means of authority.

2. The Seven Witnesses: In the Gospel of John there are seven witnesses listed that validate Jesus’ claims. Deuteronomy 19:15 states that a single witness does not suffice. Knowing this, the Pharisees told Jesus in John 8:13, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”  However, John the Apostle shows us there are more than enough witnesses to corroborate that Jesus is who He says He is.

  • John the Baptist: John 1:34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
  • Jesus Himself: John 8:14 Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
  • God the Father: John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35)
  • The Holy Spirit: John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
  • The prophets of the Old Testament: John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
  • Jesus’s miracles (works): John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me  (Matthew 14:20, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39-41, John 2:7-9)
  • The witness of believers: John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

3. The Resurrection. This is perhaps the most important of all that substantiate Jesus’ claims. While the Bible states that others have been raised from the dead, only Christ was raised of His own power. He said, ” Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19). He also said, regarding His life, that He has the “authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18).

4. Doubting Thomas, Jesus-hating-Saul, and Unbelieving James end up worshiping Jesus as God.

  • After word was getting around that Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciple, Thomas, refused to believe it until he saw with his own eyes and felt the nail scars with his own hands (John 20:25). After Jesus appeared to Thomas, He told him that he could touch His wounds. We aren’t told whether Thomas did actually touch, but we do know that just the sight of Jesus made him believe. And in believing he called Jesus “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
  • Paul, who was not only skeptical of Jesus but persecuted His followers, was also visited by the risen Savior. This event was so miraculous that it changed Saul from a hater of Christians to Paul, one of Christianity’s most prominent missionaries. Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books. In these books he calls Jesus God and describes divine attributes of Jesus: Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians. 8:6; 10:4; 15:47; 2 Cor. 8:9; Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:5-6, Colossians 1:16-19.
  • James, the Brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (John 7:5). 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James and the other apostles after His resurrection. Afterwards, James became a follower (and worshipper) of his brother and went on to write the New Testament epistle that bears his name. Historian, Flavius Josephus even records that James was martyred because of the truth of his brother that he spread to others, ” the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…was delivered to be stoned” (Antiquities, 20.9.1)

So, as we see Jesus didn’t just make outrageous claims; He backed them up. We see that He had witnesses and His own works to validate what He said about Himself. As C.S. Lewis famously states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

On Judging

“Judge not.”

“Only God can judge me.”

“Who am I to judge?”

These sayings are often thrown around in our culture. They seem to be used more often than not to say that no one has the right to say that anyone else is wrong for what they do or believe. What’s ironic is that the person saying that you’re wrong for judging is at the same time judging you.

“Judge not” comes from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” But, people usually leave off or have never read the next few verses. Verses 1 through 5 specifically speaks of not judging hypocritically. It speaks of having a beam in your own eye while trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. Jesus tells us in this chapter to FIRST take the beam out of your own eye then you can help take the speck out of someone else’s eye. To do so, requires an amount of judging. First to judge yourself so you can receive correction, then your judgement will be clear enough to help others.

Now judging is often translated or contextualized as the word “condemn”. In the sense of salvation, we are right to “judge not”. Since only God knows the intentions, thoughts, and heart of a man. (1 Kings 8:39)

However we are told both directly and by example to judge the actions and teachings of others. By judging I mean saying what someone said or did is wrong.

Another definition of judging is to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. One popular example in scripture is when Paul opposed how Peter was acting towards Jewish verses Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Also the Bereans in Acts 17 verse 11 judged Paul’s teachings according to the rest of scripture.

Scripture also gives us criteria on how to judge whether a prophet is of God. Jesus said you will know a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 17:15). Deuteronomy 13 says we will know a false prophet of he comes with signs and wonders but tells you to follow other gods. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells is judging people who are teaching a contrary gospel.

So it is clear that in some instances we are right to judge. There is a such a thing as right and wrong, falsehood and truth. But, people shouldn’t throw stones when living in a glass house. In other words, don’t criticize others when you have a similar weakness. Remember we ALL deserve or have deserved condemnation from God. If He has saved you from a life of sin, then don’t look down on others who haven’t received God’s gift of salvation.  You were once in their shoes (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Some other scripture concerning judging:

Matthew 18:15-20 (on church discipline) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

John 7:24 Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.

Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

1 Corinthians 5:3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What is the Gospel?

CHRISTIAN LOSES HIS BURDEN by Wm. Strang, from the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, 1894

One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.

Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.

To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.

Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.

This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.

Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.

Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them.  Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).

This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.

“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen


The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.

Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.

From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.

These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.

By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).

We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).

The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).

None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.


How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7

The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)

During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.

Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.


Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).

So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.

Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17

FOOTNOTES:
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The 2nd Hidden “Verse” about Jesus in Genesis

Descent-from-the-Cross
Rembrandt, The Descent from the Cross: the Second Plate, Date
1633

 

It is incredible to think, that the God who created the entire universe by speaking it into being, would love us and want to know each one of us on a personal level. And that this same God inspired various imperfect people from all walks of life to write about his love for us in a collection of ancient manuscripts we call the Bible. But it’s not only that his love was written about and revealed to us but when you dig into the original languages the Bible was written in, you can see the story of Jesus thousands of years before he was even born hidden in unique ways.

It is more apparent to me today than it has ever been that God is incredibly multi-faceted, so much more than 3-dimensionally and I feel like the more I learn about the Bible the more this can be clearly seen. One example of this is a previous blog we wrote that talks about the hidden “verse” about Jesus in Genesis 5 which outlines the various definitions of the names of the line of Adam to Noah which reads much like a Messianic prophecy. This blog is similar in that it outlines various definitions of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob which has another amazing resemblance to the story of Jesus. I was first made aware of this from something someone else posted on social media.

Lets begin…

Genesis 29:31-35, 30:1-24, and 35:16-18 describes the 12 sons of Jacob who would become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. The following are a list of the 12 sons in order of birth with meanings of each name listed next to it;

1 Reuben – Behold A Son, Son Of Vision, Son Who’s Seen
2 Simeon – Hearing, He Who Hears, Man Of Hearing, Hearing With Acceptance
3 Levi – Joined, Adhesion
4 Judah – Let Him (God) Be Praised, Praised
5 Dan – Judge, Judging
6 Naphtali – My Wrestling
7 Gad – Good Fortune, Harrowing Fortune
8 Asher – Happy, (happiness, to be right in the eyes of someone, to obtain this person’s approval)
9 Issachar – Man Of Hire, He Is Wages, There Is Recompense
10 Zebulun – Glorious Dwelling Place, a rather reserved Dwelling, Wished-For Habitation
11 Joseph – Increaser, Repeater or Doubler, May He (Yahweh) Add, He Shall Add, He Adds, Increases, May God Add
12 Benjamin – Son (building block) Of The Right Hand (of God)

Each name has multiple meanings and even different roots. Taking into consideration that some of the names clearly describe God and others describe man, one translation of each of the twelve names, one name after the other, reads in this way:

“Behold a son who hears with acceptance, joined to (us), let Him be praised. A judge of my wrestling bringing good fortune to obtain His approval. He is wages (for) a glorious and reserved dwelling place. He shall add (us) son(s) of his right hand.”

Now, Hebrew to English is a little rough to begin with but the main idea is pretty clearly seen even without the added pronouns and conjunctions to aid in connecting the words. This isn’t to say these are the only meanings of the names, some may not even be the primary meanings but it’s amazing that God had Jacob give his children names that could be translated in a way that shows the story of Jesus coming to offer salvation to the world!

http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Reuben.html#.WYqGk4okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Simeon.html#.WYqGuookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Levi.html#.WYqG14okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Judah.html#.WYqG9IokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Dan.html#.WYqHDookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Naphtali.html#.WYqHKYokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Gad.html#.WYqHSookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Asher.html#.WYqHYIokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Issachar.html#.WYqHf4okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Zebulun.html#.WYqHnookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Joseph.html#.WYqH3ookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Benjamin.html#.WYqH9ookqRs

Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

Universalism: All will be made alive?

Teachings_of_Jesus_38_of_40._the_rapture._one_in_the_field._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_Bible
The Rapture: One in the Field by Philip Medhurst, The Bowyer Bible, 1795

Universalism is the belief that all people will eventually get to heaven. It has gained some popularity lately in some Christian circles. But is this view biblical?

1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”(ESV)

The historical Christian view on the state of mankind is that because of the sin of Adam, ALL people stand condemned and are in need of the gift of salvation that only comes through the obedience of Jesus Christ. That this gift is effective to ONLY those to accept the free give of salvation, and those who reject the gift will not enter into heaven. This is the opposite of universalism.

Does this verse in 1 Corinthians state otherwise? Does this verse support universalism?

The verse in Greek is “ωϲπερ γαρ εν τω αδαμ παντεϲ απο θνηϲκουϲιν  ‾‾ ουτωϲ και εν τω  χω παντεϲ ζωο ποιηθηϲονται” . The word “παντεϲ“, transliterated pantes, means all.  So what are we to take from this verse? Will all of mankind receive salvation no matter what we do or what we believe?

Does all mean all all of the time?

In a sense, yes. All shall be made alive. But the word all always has a qualification (or quantification). We have the macro (total) “all” verses the micro (some of the total) “all”. If I were to say, “I ate all the grapes”, no one would think that I ate all the grapes that exist in the world (macro). I would have to mean all the grapes that were in the refrigerator or all the grapes I had in the bowl (micro). That not one grape that was in my possession, or domain, was left uneaten. So how does this apply to 1 Corinthians 15:22?

Adam and Eve were the first humans created. All of mankind born after them came from them. Because of their sin, all of mankind has come into the world sinful. We are sinful because of Adam’s sin. This is known in theology as imputation. As BibleStudyTools.com defines imputation “the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty.”¹ This applies to all of us. The totality of humankind. In Adam all die…

However, in Christ all shall be made alive.

Notice the words “in Christ”. The Greek word “εν” literally means in. In the Nativity it is used to describe how Mary was with child; literally “in womb was child.” Reality tells that not everyone is “in Christ.” Most people reject Him as their Savior. So the all in the second part of verse 22 is not referring to all people but all who are “in Christ”. As in Adam all (macro) die, so in Christ all (micro) shall be made alive. All who are in Christ are imputed with His righteousness.

For further understanding let’s let scripture interpret scripture by looking at the surrounding context.

1 Corinthians 15:17-23
17. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

19. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

21. For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Jesus] has come also the resurrection of the dead.

22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

23. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

24. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

25. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

“Those who belong to Christ”. That’s who all means in the second part of verse 22. Unless we are in Christ then we are still in sin and we remain His enemies. Therefore, this verse can not be applied to support universalism.

So lastly and of most importance, are you in Christ? Are you still dead in your sins and an enemy of Christ? Or have you placed your trust in Him? Have you received His free gift of salvation?

Further reading: John 5:24-26, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49

¹A broader definition would be “to charge to one’s account” as in Philemon 18 where Paul asks that Onesimus’ debts be charged to Paul

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org