Category Archives: God

Does Satan Have a Special Hatred for Israel and the Jewish People?

There is a sense in which Satan has a special hatred for Israel and the Jewish people, just as he has a special hatred for the church and the Christian people. From the beginning, Satan has hated God, God’s authority, and God’s plans for the human race (Genesis 3:1-15; John 8:44) He has always had a special hatred for God’s faithful servants (Job 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 12:7), including the faithful of Israel and the church, which is made up of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Above all, Satan hates Jesus Christ (Luke 22:3-4; Revelation 12:3-4), as Christ embodies God’s plan for all the ages.

The reality of satanic hatred for Jews and Israel inclines some people to believe that any criticism of Israel places one on the side of Satan. People with this perspective naturally tend to side with Israel in its conflicts. This perspective, however, fails to recognize that not all criticism is motivated by an evil hatred. There is a kind of criticism that is motivated by truth, love, and a longing for justice and mercy. If we don’t recognize the difference motive makes, we might conclude that something as important as the Protestant Reformation should have never taken place.

Scripture shows Satan’s hatred is motivated by his desire to disrupt God’s redemptive plan, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, through the events leading to the flood, the trials of the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself.

In 1 John 3, the children of the devil are contrasted with the children of God. The children of the devil are described as being in the spiritual line of Cain. This is consistent with the two “seeds” of Genesis 3—the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (v.15 nkjv).

This division between the children of God and the children of the devil includes both Jews and Gentiles. John 1:12 declares that those who received Jesus Christ and believed in His name are the children of God. The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9 niv). He went on to link the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) with the children of God: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (8:14). Speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus himself referred to the division between the children of the kingdom and the children of the devil. He said the “father” of His Jewish enemies was not Abraham but Satan (John 8:42-44).

Here we find ourselves faced with an important distinction we can’t afford to miss. Jesus himself took issue with His own Jewish countrymen, and even with His own disciples when their hearts were aligned with the purposes of Satan rather than the redemptive plan of God (Matthew 16:23).

This Christ-based readiness to take issue with anything that is not according to the justice and mercy of God helps us understand why the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles describe in great detail the intense and unrelenting hostility of a segment of Jews to Jesus Christ and His followers (John 8:39-47; Acts 7:54–8:3; 12:1-3; 21:27-31; 25:2-3). The book of Revelation even refers to these as the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9; 3:9).1

This hostility towards the Christian gospel didn’t end with the apostolic era. Before the end of the first century, Christian Jews were excluded from synagogue worship.

About ad 90, a member of the Sanhedrin named Samuel the Less reworded one of the blessings recited daily in the synagogue so as to make it include a curse (against Christians) . . .

For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom of arrogance do Thou speedily uproot in our days; and let Nazarenes and heretics (minim) perish as in a moment; let them be blotted out of the book of life and not be enrolled with the righteous. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

This revised edition of the prayer was authorized by the Sanhedrin and adopted in synagogues, so that Jewish Christians, by keeping silence at this point might give themselves away and be excommunicated(F. F. Bruce, New Testament History, pp. 385-86).2

From such biblical and historical examples, we see that like any other group or institution, the people of Israel may need loving, patient confrontation rather than support and affirmation. As the apostle Paul knew from personal experience, many of his Jewish countrymen had hearts open to God and the truth, but were blinded to the identity of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:5-6).

Scripture makes it clear that the eschatological punishment of both Israel and the Gentile nations is based in God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred (Isaiah 3:1–4:1; 13:9-10; Jeremiah 30:1-7; Ezekiel 13:1-7; Joel 2:1-11; 3:14-17; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:7-13). Perhaps the most striking Old Testament prophecy is Zechariah 14, where God brings the nations of the earth against Jerusalem and unbelieving Israel before turning in judgment against those same unbelieving nations (vv.2-3).

Just as Christians do the church no favors when they ignore its abuses and corruption, they do no favors for Israel when they ignore or fail to lovingly call attention to the injustices and unbelief of the one nation on earth that, more than any other, bears the name and redemptive history of God.

  1. This hostility of a segment of Israel to the gospel conforms with the prophetic portrayal of Israel’s endtime suffering as the result of God’s judgment, not Satan’s hatred. In Matthew 24, Jesus declares:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (24:14-22 nkjv).

    This judgment is based on the corruption and hypocrisy Jesus described in the previous chapter:

    Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. . . . O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (23:33-39 nkjv). Back To Article

  2. Soon the Talmud (a compilation and expansion of the man-made legal rules that Jesus called the “tradition of men” [Mark 7:5-8] that became the supreme document of the Judaism that survived the wars with Rome) officially declared Jesus a blasphemer, sorcerer, and bastard son of a prostitute. (See Peter Schaefer, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press.)Hostility towards Jesus Christ still exists among a large segment of Jews today. In fact, the modern state of Israel officially suppresses propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Back To Article
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Is Deep Sorrow Necessary to be Saved?

The term repentance in Hebrew means “to turn or return and is applied to turning from sin to God” (The New Bible Dictionary). In the New Testament, the term repent has the meaning of “a change of mind.” Repentance involves grief for sin and a willingness to set one’s priorities aright in faithfulness to the gospel message.

Jesus Himself linked repentance with conversion (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3; 17:3). A person can’t willfully continue in conscious sin and assume that God will automatically forgive him should he die before he can change his ways.

Genuine repentance always involves genuine fear (See the ATQ article, Is Fear Ever an Appropriate Motivation for Conversion?) and genuine sorrow. However, salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. It isn’t our sorrow or the extent of our sorrow that saves us. We can’t earn salvation by means of our sorrow or anything else we do.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16 ).

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Repentance is necessary for conversion. But if we think our sorrow over sin must reach a certain “depth” before we can be saved, we are making our salvation dependent on something we do.

Genuine sorrow is always present with sincere repentance. However, just as repentance and godly sorrow for past sins don’t “earn” God’s forgiveness and grace, repentance and sorrow don’t end after we become Christians. They will continue throughout the rest of our life as the supernatural process of sanctification makes us increasingly aware of our personal corruption and sin (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 13:20-21). With spiritual growth comes sensitivity to the sins we committed in the past. Our sorrow for those mistakes—and our desire to avoid repeating them—is an essential part of our becoming new creatures in Christ. We will experience deep sorrow as part of the process, although deepest sorrow never occurs at the beginning. In fact, it is impossible for us to sorrow as deeply for our sins when we begin our relationship with Jesus Christ as we will when He enters deeply into our lives and consciousness.

The sweet comfort that God provides to us in times of godly sorrow is also deeply affirming to our faith in Him.

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If Jesus was God Incarnate, Did God Die on the Cross?

A basic doctrinal truth held by all orthodox Christians—including Catholics and evangelicals—is that in Jesus Christ God became incarnate in human flesh (Matthew 1:16-25; John 1:14; John 20:26-29; Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:4-8; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 10:5).

Even though Scripture clearly describes the passion of Jesus Christ, many Christians are unwilling to acknowledge that the divine Son of God suffered and died for our sins. While they affirm that Jesus Christ was truly one human/divine person, they say it was only Christ’s human nature—not His divine nature—that suffered and died.

But if God was truly incarnate in Jesus Christ, how could only Jesus’ human nature suffer the agony, separation, and death described in the Gospels? If only Christ’s human nature experienced suffering, agony, spiritual and physical death, how can we speak of a true incarnation; and how can we be assured of the infinite value of His suffering and death on our behalf?

The Bible makes it clear that we could not be saved if Christ Himself hadn’t borne our sins on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:28). In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea strongly affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ, realizing that our salvation depends upon the incarnation. If Jesus Christ were not both truly God and truly man, His death couldn’t atone for our sin. Only God would be capable of the infinite sacrifice necessary to the sins of the world. (See the ATQ articles, Is it necessary to have a clear understanding of Jesus Christ’s deity in order to be saved? and How can it be morally right for Jesus Christ to die for our sins?)

One of the most fearful truths taught in Scripture is that physical death is not the greatest evil. The greatest evil is “the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Spiritual death is the second death. It is separation from God.

What Jesus dreaded when He said “Let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39) could not have been merely death by crucifixion. Other martyrs have faced equally horrible deaths with composure. Nor could it be a premature death in Gethsemane at the hands of the devil. Our Lord said that this cup came from God—“Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11). Moreover, Jesus expressly declared that He wouldn’t die until He voluntarily laid down His life. He said, “I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

Scripture makes it clear that the Son of God suffered most when He was experiencing separation from the Father. This “cup” is the agony of hell Jesus had to endure on the cross. It was the experience of God’s wrath, as in Psalm 75:8, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.” On the cross, God made His Son “who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). He poured upon Jesus Christ His wrath against all sin, causing Him to endure the desolation of hell. This sense of abandonment began to sweep over Jesus in Gethsemane. On the cross, it finally caused Him to cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). The cup that Jesus dreaded, therefore, was the abandonment by God, which makes hell, hell.

Although most classical theologians taught that Jesus Christ suffered only in His human nature, a distinguished minority, including Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Martin Luther, A. H. Strong, Jurgen Moltmann, and D. A. Carson, disagree. Charles Wesley wrote:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’ Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Scripture itself speaks of God’s capacity to suffer (e.g., Judg. 10:16; Jer. 31:20; Hos. 11:8). Isn’t it presumptuous to assume that the Creator knows less of suffering and emotion than His creatures.

Perhaps the assumption that Jesus Christ’s divine nature couldn’t experience suffering and death is based on faulty reasoning rather than Scripture and reality. Any argument used against Jesus Christ’s divine nature experiencing death can be applied against the incarnation itself. How could the eternal God be incarnate in a time-bound, finite man? How could the eternal God set aside His omnipotence and omniscience? We don’t doubt these things, so why should we doubt that in some sense the second person of the Trinity suffered and died on the cross of Calvary?

While we raise these questions, we acknowledge the need for humility No one should assume they have an absolute answer to this question any more than they can pretend to understand the Trinity or the incarnation.

 

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Where Was Jesus Before His Resurrection?

Jesus’ clear statement to the believing thief on the cross implies that He was in heaven between the time of His death and His bodily resurrection:

And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:38-43).

Nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian pastor David Brown paraphrased our Lord’s reply this way:

Thou art prepared for a long delay before I come into My kingdom, but not a day’s delay shall there be for thee, thou shalt not be parted from Me even for a moment, but together we shall go, and with Me, ere this day expire, should thou be in paradise.

The term paradise as used in Luke 23:43 can designate a garden (Genesis 2:8-10), a forest (Ezekiel 31:7-9), or (as in 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7) the place of peace and blissful consciousness that exists for the redeemed in the presence of God.

Just before dying, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). This implies that when He died He went immediately into the presence of the Father. Both He and the repentant thief were in heaven that day.

On the third day, Jesus was resurrected with a glorified body. But He had not yet ascended to the Father in His glorified body when He encountered Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). Jesus appeared and disappeared during the next 40 days, leaving heaven and appearing on earth in His glorified body, so His ascension wasn’t the first time He had been in heaven since His death. It was merely a deed done publicly to strengthen the faith of His disciples and to clearly demonstrate that His ministry on earth would now be replaced by that of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).

When Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him because He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father, He wasn’t implying that He hadn’t yet seen heaven. He was saying that there would be a time in heaven when Mary would once again be able to embrace Him. Now, however, she must not cling to Him, for His earthly work was done.

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Does James 2:10 imply that God doesn’t consider some sins more serious than others?

James 2:10 states: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all” (nkjv).

Some people have mistakenly thought that this verse means that all sins are equal in God’s view, that no sins are worse than others.

In the Old Testament, there were sacrifices to atone for sins done in ignorance or through weakness. But deliberate, premeditated transgressions were a more serious category of sin for which the law couldn’t atone (Hebrews 10). People who committed such sins (Leviticus 6:1-2; 10:1-2; 20:1-27; Numbers 15:32-35; 16:26-32) either had to make restitution (as in the cases of theft or lying) or be put to death (as in the cases of adultery, violating the Sabbath, cursing one’s parents). When David premeditatedly committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he wrote, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:16-17 nkjv). David knew that no sacrifice could atone for what he did, and that he could only, like other Old Testament believers who committed such sins, cast himself on God’s mercy. The law provided no forgiveness. He needed grace.

Paul’s declaration in Romans 2 that God will judge “according to works,” “light,” and “opportunity” implies that there are degrees of guilt, as did Jesus’ declaration that rejecting Him and His gospel was a more serious sin than the sin of Sodom (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24). If there are no degrees of sin, then it would be pointless to struggle to seek the lesser of two evils in the kinds of situations we all sometimes face.

What James is confronting in this verse is the self-righteous attitude that we don’t depend as much on God’s grace as someone who has committed more obvious and heinous kinds of sin. This kind of thinking is self-deceiving and encourages complacency. Any violation of the law is enough to keep us from being justified by the law’s standards. A person who doesn’t murder or commit adultery but shows partiality to the rich should not feel self-righteous. He is a lawbreaker too. The function of the law is not to justify but to bring awareness of sin (Romans 4:14-16; 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56). We should be humbled and conscience-stricken by the many sins we do commit, and not feel superior to those who sin in ways we don’t.

 

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What did Paul Mean When He Wrote that God Loved Jacob and Hated Esau?

In Romans 9:13, we read that God loved Jacob but hated Esau. Some people think this means that God actively chose Jacob to go to heaven and Esau to go to hell.

The word hated didn’t have the same meaning to the biblical writer as it does to us. To the biblical writer, you “hated” someone when you chose another person for a position of more favor or honor. For example, in Genesis 29:31, we are told that God saw that Leah was hated by Jacob, so He opened her womb. Yet we have every indication that Jacob was fond of Leah. He loved Rachel more, but he treated Leah with kindness. (Before Jacob died he asked to be buried with Leah.) Luke 14:26 gives another example of the biblical use of the term hated. Jesus said that we should “hate” our parents for His sake. He certainly wasn’t telling us to dislike them or to wish them evil. He only asked that we regard them as less important than Him, which is completely reasonable given who He is.

When the apostle Paul declared that God “loved” Jacob but hated Esau, he was affirming that the Lord had chosen Jacob, not Esau, to be the channel through whom He would carry out His covenant promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3). God’s choosing had nothing to do with election to heaven or hell.

The election of Esau and Jacob as described in Romans 9:13 had to do with privilege and covenant blessing, not with individual salvation. The door of salvation was open for both of these men and to all of their descendants. God offers salvation to all.

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Did Satan Actually Set Jesus Bodily on the Pinnacle of Herod’s Temple?

This issue has been hotly debated by believers throughout history. Many, like the Lutheran commentator R. C. H. Lenski, see no difficulty with Satan’s miraculously transporting Jesus to the heights of the temple:

Like Job, Jesus was placed into Satan’s power so that the latter might tempt him to the uttermost. The transfer of Jesus to the Temple was a physical transfer. There is no difficulty as to willingness on Jesus’ part; he consented to the Father’s will to be tempted as the devil might will to tempt him. We need not say that Jesus transferred himself to the Temple; paralambanei and esteise indicate that the devil provided the motive power. Throughout, Jesus only submits to the tempter’s operations. The devil was permitted to take Jesus where he desired for the purpose of temptation.

On the other hand, one aspect of this account implies that Satan may have appeared to Christ in a vision. In verses 8 and 9, we read that from a high mountain he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor. William Hendriksen points out that even if we grant that Satan was granted the power by God to physically transfer Jesus to these dangerous and inaccessible locations, “some kind of miracle (would) have been required . . . to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and this not just in dim outline, but very distinctly, so that ‘all their splendor (or glory)’ would be plainly visible; and again, not little by little during a lengthy period of time, but, as Luke adds, ‘in a moment’ ” (The Gospel of Matthew, p. 231).

Because of the clearly visionary nature of verses 8 and 9, it is likely that Satan was permitted by God to supernaturally tempt Christ in a vision. However, because some good arguments can be marshaled in favor of Christ having been physically transferred by Satan, it probably wouldn’t be wise to be dogmatically committed to either interpretation.

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Can Someone Be Forgiven if They Commit the Same Sin Again After Confessing and Repenting it?

No one who asks God for forgiveness can be confident that they won’t commit the same sin again. In fact, our natures are so contaminated by sin that we often do. When Peter asked Jesus whether we are obligated to forgive a person who sins against us seven times (Peter’s “seven times” more than doubled the rabbinic prescription), Jesus said: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 NKJV).

Jesus made it clear that God’s primary concern is not mere outward behavior, but the condition of the heart Matthew 23:25-26; Mark 7:5-9; Luke 11:42-44; Luke 11:42-44. Therefore the sincerity of the confession is what counts.

Unfortunately, we can be sincere in our repentance and confession and still fall into sin again. Because believers continue to be influenced by the “flesh”—the fallen aspect of their personalities—in this world they are incapable of perfect sincerity. At times they are more vulnerable to temptation than at other times. With the passage of time, the strong awareness of evil and the ugliness of sin that brought us to repentence often fades.

Sincere confession of sin is a heartfelt acknowledgment that our sin is wrong, that we don’t want to continue in it, and that we are ready to exert ourselves—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—to resist it. God doesn’t expect perfection, because none of us are capable of achieving it, but He does expect sincerity.

Sin is highly addictive, and when we’re not on our guard we can easily succumb to the false sense of relief we experience when we surrender to our compulsions. We need to be aware of sin’s addictive nature. Like someone who is attempting to quit smoking or drinking, the worst thing we can do is to give up on our desire to change or believe we can never change, even though we relapse in moments of weakness.

As we experience increasing freedom from sin, we will experience an increasing awareness of evil and understand more deeply how sin carries its own penalty. Each time genuine believers relapse into sin, they will experience more conviction and a more painful awareness of sin’s destructiveness. Each time they repent and confess their sins, they will be purer, stronger, and less likely to relapse.

Of course, some sins are so serious that even sincere repentance can’t erase their earthly consequences. Sins like murder and adultery can be forgiven by God in the ultimate sense and by fellow Christians in the sense of hoping for a sinner’s restoration, but the damage such sins inflict usually cannot be undone in this life, and consequences such as imprisonment or divorce may be unavoidable.

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Does the Bible Show Contempt for Women When it Refers to God as Father?

The Bible presents God as Father and uses masculine pronouns to refer to Him. But God isn’t limited by the sexual distinctions of His creatures. God is eternal Spirit, and should not be perceived in an anthropomorphic way. He may be conscious, personal, and masculine in some significant way, but His consciousness, personality, and masculinity so far transcend our experience of these things that we should always be on guard against thinking of Him in merely human terms.

Many people believe that since the Bible was written in an age when women were often perceived as being of less worth than men, they automatically portray God in a way demeaning to women. However, since the New Testament teaches clearly that women and men are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28), this premise is questionable.

Scriptures written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit cannot be assumed to express a bias against women. It is unlikely that when the Lord Jesus instructed us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), He was expressing contempt or disrespect for mothers and women in general. Jesus demonstrated high regard for women (Matthew 9:22; 28:1-10; Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; John 4:7-29).

Is it safe to assume that inspired Scripture has no reasons for referring to God in masculine terms? And if so, why then is the church described in feminine terms in relation to God (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 21:2; 22:17). Does this metaphor of the church (obviously including both sexes) as “wife” and “bride” also bear unnecessary “cultural baggage”?

C.S. Lewis outlined the dangers of such a perspective in his brief article “Priestesses in the Church”:

Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. . . .  Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

We should not think lightly of altering the figures of speech used by the prophets, apostles, and our Lord. Judging from the metaphors of Scripture, God clearly relates to us in a masculine way (a masculinity uncontaminated with human flaws), but this doesn’t mean that femininity (including the feminine role of the church) isn’t based in and created by Him as well!

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Why Should I Pray When it Doesn’t Seem that God Hears My Prayers?

It is part of the human condition to struggle with a sense of God’s silence—or absence. The disciples and the prophets had moments of weakness and distrust that are recorded in Scripture for all of us to read.

The silence that causes us such anxiety is not only essential to growth in faith, but needed for our expression of genuine trust in prayer. Prayer and faith are the result of a process of trusting. This process involves wonder, doubt, and worry. It enables us to grow in our ability to trust God in small ways that in time make it possible for us to trust Him through the great crises of life.

Genuine prayer isn’t mere ritual, nor is it just a productive mental habit. Prayer in the midst of doubt and feelings of abandonment is essential to realizing our need for God’s help. It isn’t that faith and hope can’t grow without prayer. They can, but without it they grow only slowly and haphazardly. This is because without prayer, faith and hope grow without our conscious support and participation.

In Luke 11:9, Jesus says: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (NKJV).

The order Jesus describes here is simple. We first must ask, and then it is given. We first must knock, and then the door is opened to us. If we don’t pray, we’re like people who expect to receive without asking or to have doors opened without knocking. Prayer is important because it acknowledges both our need for God’s help and our willingness to look to Him for direction. When we don’t pray, it is apparent that we consider God irrelevant and we take life, with all of its opportunities and blessings, for granted.

If we don’t consciously ask God for direction, we’ll usually lack the vision to see opportunities when they appear. Prayer nurtures vision, and vision sustains patient endurance. No wonder that Isaiah spoke of the importance of “hoping in the Lord.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (40:28-31 NIV).

Ask the Lord to show you what and how to pray and what to expect when you do. He will respond.

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