Does Jesus have His own Independent Will?

Q. Does Jesus have His own will independent of the Father before the incarnation? Isn’t “Three in One” always be of the same will and mind? Can Jesus choose to disobey the will of the Father if He chooses to? Or is it incarnation as a human brought the choice of free will to disobey God?

A. This is an interesting question debated by theologians. Let me answer it by going back to the meaning of words. We say that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity. What is a person? According to “The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms”, a person is an individual being with attributes, capacities, and activities constituting personhood. Philosophers differ in their views about what these attributes & capacities consist of, but the common denominator is that “personality” or personhood is marked by two characteristics: (a) self-consciousness; (b) self-determination. According to Dictionary of Theological Terms, self-determination is freedom to act according to the inclination, bias, or disposition of the will. Since Jesus is a person, by definition He has free will & can act independently.

Having said that, “independently” does not necessarily mean they will disagree. Can Jesus choose to disobey the Father? Some say yes because otherwise how can His will be independent? Others say no because Scripture teaches that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are always in agreement, because they cannot deny themselves (2 Tim 2:13) i.e. act contrary to their nature. Since their nature or essence is God, and God never changes, they always agree. I side with the latter.

This is similar to asking “Can Jesus sin?” Some believe yes because Jesus is also human, & humans can sin. These acknowledge that Jesus did not sin because He is “able not to sin“, as He is also God. In theology we call this peccability. Others believe no, Jesus is “not able to sin” because His sinless human nature always submits to His divine nature, and God cannot be tempted by evil (Jas 1:13). This is the impeccability view, which I hold. If He could sin while He was on earth, He could sin now because He retained His human nature after His death & resurrection, & that is an impossibility because by His nature God cannot sin.

Is Jesus Omnipresent?

Q. Was Jesus omnipresent when He was a human being? Before His crucifixion, He said Luke 22:69 “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Was He also in heaven at the right hand side of the Father during the whole time when He was on earth ?

A. This is an interesting question. Jesus has two natures, a divine nature as God, & a human nature as man. These two natures are united in the one person Jesus, called hypostatic union in theology.

As a man, Jesus can only be at one place at a time i.e. his human nature is not omnipresent. However, as God, & the Son never ceased to be God when He became man, Christ is omnipresent i.e. his divine nature is omnipresent. The one person Jesus Christ shares both natures, so we can say Jesus Christ is omnipresent, though His human body was not.

Was Christ in heaven while Jesus was on earth? My opinion is yes, though His physical body was not.

Is Jesus Omniscient? (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

But what about the 6 incidents raised in the question? Let’s look at them one by one:
Lk 2:46-47 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
Jesus was not asking the teachers questions because He did not know the Scriptures. He was using the rabbinic method of debating by asking questions, or answering questions with questions. They were amazed at His answers, not the other way around.

Mt 26:37-39 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus was deeply grieved & distressed not because He did not know what to expect, but precisely because He knew how much He had to suffer when the sins of the whole world are placed on Him:
Mt 20:18-19, 22 Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up. … But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

Mt 4:3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Satan was not doubting Jesus’ identity. He knew that the Son was God and therefore omniscient. But Jesus emptied Himself of the independent use of His omnipotence. Therefore Satan tempted Him precisely with respect to whether this emptying is real, whether He would use His own power to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, and in doing so not fulfill the will of the Father. Of course the tempter failed.

Lk 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
• Lk 2:52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

This is nothing but the humanity of Jesus. As man Jesus has a human body which grew and increased in wisdom. As God He is omniscient, but He voluntarily suspended the independent use of His divine knowledge & power in dependence on the Father.

Mt 24:36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Another example of Jesus not using His omniscience independent of the Father. He submitted to the Father in all things.

Jn 2:3-4 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus waited because His hour or time had not yet come:
Jn 7:6, 8, 30 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. … Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” … So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
• Jn 8:20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
• Jn 12:23, 27 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. … Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
• Jn 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, …
• Jn 16:32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
• Jn 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,

Jesus is always in communion with the Father, & knew when His time of crucifixion & resurrection was not yet or has come. There is no need to assume that He was ignorant of what’s going on.

Is Jesus Omniscient? (1 of 2)

Q. Did Jesus empty Himself of omniscience when he became a man? If He did, it would explain the following:
1. A 12-year old Jesus stayed in the temple with the teachers to ask questions (or to teach the Pharisees?).
2. Jesus was really worried the night before the cross for He did not know what was to happen during His death or because He knew the sufferings He was to go through.
3. Satan knew that Jesus was not omniscient and tried to tempt Him in the desert.
4. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52
5. Matt 24:36 Only the Father knows. That would mean that Jesus may know now after His resurrection.
6. Mother Mary had to prompt Jesus to perform His first miracle. (or she was just used to asking Jesus to solve any problem she came across as Jesus was the eldest male of her family).

A. No, Jesus did not empty Himself of omniscience in the incarnation. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence are divine attributes, characteristics of the essence of God. Jesus is God and God is eternal. He does not change in His essence.
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
If Jesus ceases to possess these attributes, He would not be God. Then in what sense did Jesus emptied Himself? In at least 3 ways:

1. He took on the limitations of being a man:
Php 2:6-8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For example, as human, He:
• Got hungry Mt 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
• Grew weary Jn 4:6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.
• Became thirsty Jn 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.”
He willingly accepted the limitations of being human.

2. He emptied Himself of the glory He had with the Father:
Jn 17:5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
His glory was veiled during His life on earth until His resurrection, except for a moment during the transfiguration:
Lk 9:32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

3. He gave up the independent use of certain divine attributes, doing always only the will of the Father:
Jn 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
• Jn 5:30 I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
• Jn 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

But what about the 6 incidents raised in the question? Let’s look at them one by one.

(To be continued)

Concealed versus Revealed

Q. How do you reconcile Deut 29:29 with Prov 25:2?

A. First, let’s examine what each verse says.
Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

The “secret things” are contrasted with “the things revealed”. They are the things God chose to keep to Himself.
Acts 1:7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;

The context of Deut 29 is the renewal of the covenant, about the blessings when Israel obeys and curses when Israel disobeys. So more specifically the “secret things” concern Israel’s future which is contingent upon her obedience.

The “things revealed” parallel “the words of this law” in the last part of v29. They belong to us & to our descendents forever, as God’s laws are abiding, so that we may observe them.

Prov 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

God gets glory when men realize their limitations in failing to understand His universe or the way He rules it:
Rom 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Kings get glory when they discern the truth & administer justice:
1 Kgs 3:9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?
Properly understood, I don’t see any contradiction between these verses. As God, He has a right to disclose some things to us and conceal others from us. Generally speaking, the concealed things He reserved for Himself concern the future, except in the case of prophecies He chose to reveal, as proof of His sovereignty:
Isa 21:43 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods;

Within the subset of what He reveals, including His laws which reflect His nature, it is up to kings or rulers to understand His will, so that they can carry out His will & govern in accordance to His character. There is no conflict & perfect harmony between the 2 verses.

Chinese Schindler – Ho Feng Shan

Plaque at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in (from R to L) Hebrew, Simplified Chinese, and English

E’s sister introduced us to a TV drama series called “The Last Visa“, a Chinese-Czech production based on the true story of Chinese Consul General Ho Feng-Shan in Vienna during WWII.

Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and the Nazis began persecuting the Jews there. Many tried to escape, but cannot exit the country unless they have a visa issued by a foreign country. 32 countries including Canada met at the Evian Conference in France to discuss the plight of the Jews, but only the Dominican Republic offered to accept refugees.

Ho saw that this was not right and, acting against the orders of his superior (the Chinese ambassador to Berlin), started to issue visas to the Jews to go to Shanghai. At that time China itself was under attack and Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese, with a French Concession and International Settlement.

Visas were not needed to enter Shanghai then, but without a visa Jews cannot leave Austria. China’s Foreign Affairs Dept. wanted to maintain diplomatic relations with Germany, and along with the Nazis exerted tremendous pressure on Ho to cease and desist issuing visas. Ho refused on humanitarian grounds, and risking his life and career continued to issue several thousand visas to the Jews until he was ordered to return to China in 1940.

Each visa meant one life. Although some were killed before they could reach safety, nowadays many believe Ho saved about 5,000 Jews at the time. His heroics were not recognized during his lifetime, as he died in 1997. It wasn’t until 2000 that Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, awarded him the title “Righteous Among the Nations” and placed a plaque at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Another plaque is located at the former Chinese visa office in Vienna, now turned into a hotel.

Some compared Ho to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factory. I don’t know about Ho’s beliefs, but he reminded me of Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who saved the Jewish baby boys from Pharaoh:
Ex 1:15-17 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birth stool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

The apostles did not obey evil orders either:
Acts 5:27-29 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

What’s in it for Ho? Nothing! In fact to do what’s right might cost him his life and everything he has. The same is true of the midwives and the apostles. I pray that all of us would have the courage to do the right thing when the time comes.

Plaque at former Chinese Visa Office in Vienna in German, Traditional Chinese, and English.

Responding to Persecutions (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

How will they make the charges stick? With lies (Ps 119:86)! Sometimes it is even without cause (Ps 119:161), as society has descended to lawlessness:
Ps 119:86 All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!
• Ps 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

What should the Christians’ attitude be?
First, remember ultimately God will deliver us and punish those who persecute us:
Deut 30:7 The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.
• Ps 31:15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
• Rom 12:9 “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY”, says the Lord. (Also Heb 10:30)

Secondly, our response to the oppressors should be to bless:
Mt 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
• Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What should Christians do? That depends on how far the persecution has gone. If it is possible, flee (Mt 10:23). It is no heroism to wait around and be caught. If we can’t escape, endure and persevere (1 Co 4:12; 2 Thes 1:4; 2 Tim 3:11):
Mt 10:23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
• Mt 24:15-16 Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
• 1 Co 4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
• 2 Thes 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
• 2 Tim 3:11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!

If we have the opportunity, witness for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:
Mk 13:9-11 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Also Mt 10:18-20; Lk 12:11-12)

One final warning. If you are a shallow Christian, like the seed sown on rocky places, you will fall away when persecution arises:
Mt 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Also Mk 4:17)
So develop firm roots before it’s too late. Otherwise the consequences are fatal.