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From the Pulpit...

Bible Question & Answer - Matt Postiff

Posted July 14, 2020 | Length: 00:58:46 | File size in bytes: 10579248

1. What exactly was the temptation Christ faced in the first temptation with turning stones to bread. He did make bread in another miracle (feeding of the 5000), so what would have been wrong about making bread this time?

The answer hinges on the notion that the context of making bread was wrong--not that making bread itself is wrong. If Jesus made the bread to satisfy his own hunger, that would be in response to a challenge from the devil to provide his own sustenance instead of relying upon sustenance from the Lord. It would be a violation of trust in the Lord when there was a higher need, that of sustenance, that is, Gods' word. We examined John 4:31-34 and saw a similar point that the Lord found his greatest sustenance in doing the will of the Father. He did not fall into the temptation of Eve in the garden--that of the lust of the flesh (to satisfy hunger in this spectacular way), the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes.

Since the Lord's answer was that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, we know, if for no other reason than by "reverse engineering," that the temptation had to do with trusting in self rather than in God; that the true need of the human person is not physical food but spiritual. The devil was trying to get Jesus to fall by focusing on and solving a very dire physical need without trusting fully in God.

We looked at the other two temptations and saw how they were clearly sins as well.

2. How do Christians handle current political events and the like? How are we to be involved in social change (voting rights for women, for example). The questioner avoided reference to the specifics of the current events surrounding protests, riots, race issues, and the like. The question was designed to be general in nature.

This is a very abbreviated form of the question, but the answer I gave has to do with the two realms of authority in which we find ourselves--church and state. The church has its realm, and the state has its own realm. These two do touch and overlap to some extent, but our responsibilities to them are distinguishable. In the church we are to participate in the Great Commission assignment that God has given the church. In our role as individual citizens in the state, we are to be good citizens, and do what we can to promote the well-being of the civil society. Each of us can decide with our own talents and resources what part(s) we might play in that.

3. A question on Matthew 19 regarding why divorce was allowed. Was it allowed for weakness in the people? Are there similar issues where Christians can support the legalization of things like gay marriage?

Divorce was "legalized" to manage the sinfulness of society. Since God knew it would occur because of the hardness of heart of the people, He saw it wise to regulate its practice so that there would not be total anarchy in the area of marriage. Similar areas today might include the legalization of some drugs, and a fairly lengthy explanation ensued on that topic. The issue of gay marriage and how it was handled in law was a non-issue for centuries in our own country, and that was very workable since such a small portion of the population was ever interested in such a thing. There is no such thing as "gay" marriage anyway, because it is not a "thing" that can produce children. From a Christian perspective it is unnecessary that it had to change in recent years. Abortion is another example, where I cannot see any case for legalizing it--it is murder. We did not discuss the area of so-called victimless crimes, if it can be truly said there are such things.

Along the same line of thought, another questioner asked, "Does government have a significant interest in marriage that it can legislate it?"

My reply was that yes, the government does have a significant interest in the propagation of the race and continuance of the society. I would add that it has a welfare interest in that it should want children to have stable homes and not require government assistance. As to how much involvement it has, if it subsidizes marriage, and the like, these are questions that require much wisdom to answer and many facets will cause disunity on the exact right approach.

4. A question was raised about the impeccability of Christ. This doctrine is that Christ not only DID NOT sin, but he COULD NOT sin. The passage at issue is Matthew 26:53. The text says, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?"

Could Christ have done this? Apparently so, in some kind of hypothetical way. Therefore (backing me into a corner) doesn't Matthew 26:53 teach that Christ COULD have sinned?

This can be put in a simplified counterfactual way: "If Christ asked, God would send angels." The entire counterfactual is true, according to what Christ said. However, the "if" could never be true. It is a "possibility" that is actually a non-possibility because Christ never would have done it; never would have desired it; and knew it was not right in this context.

Would calling the angels and halting the arrest have been a sin? I answered yes, as it would have short-circuited the plan of God for the suffering of Christ and the salvation of the world. He was of no desire to do that because He had set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem and to suffer for sinners to fill the plan of God.

Did he do it? No, so therefore He did not sin.

But could he have sinned? No. The text says that Christ as the divine Logos had the power to do something that in this particular context would not have been according to the will of God. But we cannot legitimately claim that just because Christ has the power to do an act that He therefore He could be somehow hypothetically convinced to actually do that act in a context in which it was sinful.

Consider this further explanation. Christ could make bread out of stones (Matthew 4). That act itself is not a sin. The fact that Jesus COULD make the bread does not open him to the charge of peccability. This is because He not only DID NOT make the bread, but His nature would not allow Him to make the choice to make it in this context even though he could legitimately do so in another context. Stating the point again, the fact that Jesus possessed the power to do an act that is not sinful in itself does not mean that Christ was peccable. Not only would Christ have to be able to do the act, he would have to be able to CHOOSE to do that act. In this setting, He simply was not of a mind to halt the unfolding plan of salvation and could not be convinced otherwise. He was completely convinced of the need to do the will of the Father.

Stated again, to break the doctrine of impeccability, you would have to prove NOT that Christ could in His divine office call angels to aid Him to avoid His appointed suffering, but that He could have a DESIRE to do that. Stating He has the power to do something does not undercut impeccability. Proving that He could have the DESIRE to do that thing is the decisive issue. In fact, Christ did make bread on other occasions, He could have made stones into sons of Abraham, and He will direct legions of angels to do His bidding in the eschaton--all without sin. Those would be legitimate exercises of His divine power in the right contexts.

All the above considers actions that were not in and of themselves sinful, but could be turned into sin depending on the context in which they were done. Acts that are inherently sinful all the time (lying to an authority figure, committing idolatry, etc.) are things that Christ could not do because of His nature in any context. But they are similar to the above, because Jesus's physical body had the ability to do those things (bow down to Satan, for example, or speak words that would form a lie), but He had no desire to do so and could not have had such a desire.

In the reverse, we sinful humans may or even may NOT have the power to do an act, but we can still sin by desiring to do the act whether we do it or not or have the power to do it or not. Christ had the power to do this particular act, but had no sin--even hypothetically--because He had no desire to do the thing and in fact could not have that desire.

The doctrine of impeccability therefore stands.

Our Scripture reading was found in 2 Kings 9:1-37.

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