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)

Least in the Kingdom of Heaven?

matthew-5-19-b

Q. Are Mt 5:19 & 11:11 talking about different kinds of people? Who is the least in the Kingdom? What are these least commandments?

A. The kingdom of God or heaven is not a physical kingdom, but the rule of God on earth:
Lk 17:21 the kingdom of God is in your midst.
Those in the kingdom are the kingdom’s subjects.

Both Mt 5:19 & 11:11 refer to the least in the kingdom i.e. the lowest rank within the kingdom, and are talking about the same kind of people:
Mt 5:19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
• Mt 11:11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Also Lk 7:28)

The least in the kingdom of heaven are those who:
• annuls one of the least of the commandments, &
• teaches others to do the same.
“Annuls” translates the Greek verb “lyo” and literally means “loosens” or “relaxes”. It does not mean “breaks”, in which case the perpetrator would be transgressing the law and become a “sinner”, which would disqualify him from the kingdom. It means he complies with the commandment, but not fully, barely meeting the minimum requirements.

Which are the least commandments? The Bible did not say, but note:
Mt 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
The weightier provisions of the law, or the more important commandments, are justice, mercy, and faithfulness. In comparison, tithing, ceremonial cleansing (Mt 23:25-26), outward appearance (Mt 23:27-28) are lesser matters of the law. Whether they are the least, the Bible did not specify.

Lastly, we can also get some clues from the converse:
Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
• Mt 18:4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The opposite of “the least” is “the greatest” in the kingdom. Who are the greatest? They are the ones who humble themselves like a child:
Mt 23:12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
• Lk 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Also Lk 18:14)
• Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

They are greatest because God exalts them. The value system in God’s kingdom is upside-down from the world’s!

Hacksaw Ridge and Thou Shall Not Kill

thou-shall-not-kill-3

This post is prompted by “Hacksaw Ridge“, but it’s not a review of the film, which is a fine movie. Although I differ from the main character Desmond Doss’ understanding of the sixth commandment “You shall not kill”, I admire his courage in singlehandedly saving the lives of 75 soldiers during WWII’s bloodiest Battle of Okinawa, for which he received the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty.

Doss was a conscientious objector (“CO”), a person who refuses to bear arms in a military conflict on religious or moral grounds. However, he wanted to serve his country in the armed forces, and joined as a medic to save lives, not to kill. He was also a Seventh Day Adventist, and refused to work on the Sabbath. Both convictions were misunderstood by fellow soldiers in his battalion, who viewed him as a coward and can’t be counted on to help when they needed him. So they persecuted him, both physically and verbally to try to get him to quit the army. But he stood firm, which nowadays many are not prepared to do, and for that he earned my respect.

My disagreement with COs and pacifists is with their interpretation of the 6th commandment, which appears 5 times in the Bible:
Ex 20:13 You shall not murder.
• Deut 5:17 You shall not murder.
• Mt 5:21 … ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
• Mt 19:18 … “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; …
• Rom 13:9 … YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, …

“Murder” translates the Hebrew word ratsach and Greek phoneuo.
Ratsach means to murder, slay, kill:
• premeditated,
• accidental,
• as avenger,
• slayer (intentional),
• assassinate.
Phoneuo also means to kill, slay, murder.

Although the older KJV and ASV chose “kill”, nearly all newer versions (e.g. ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV etc.) chose “murder” as the more accurate rendering. This is because while God gave this commandment, He also ordered capital punishment and allowed going to a “just war” to defend one’s own country:
Ex 21:12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
• Num 35:16, 17, 18, 31 the murderer shall surely be put to death
• Num 35:19, 21 The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.
• Num 35:30 ‘If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses,
• Lev 24:17 If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.
• Deut 19:21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
• Num 10:9 When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you,
• Prov 20:18 Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance.

If the 6th commandment prohibits killing, then God would be contradicting Himself, which He would never do. So by “you shall not kill” He must have meant the premeditated and intentional taking of a human life i.e. murder. That being the case, the CO’s refusal to bear arms to defend his country is not God’s requirement but his own preference. It’s his choice, and using the 6th commandment as justification is not warranted. Still, we commend Doss’ courage. We need more people with conviction like him.

“Silence” Reflections (2 of 2)

Or was it the voice of Satan?

Or was it the voice of Satan?

(Continued from yesterday)

More importantly, what does the Bible say? A few verses come to mind:

Mt 10:32-33 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
• Mt 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (See also Mt 26:75; Mk 14:30, 72; Lk 22:61; Jn 13:38)
• Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The Lord Himself said He will deny whoever denies Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not forgiven; Peter denied Christ three times and yet was restored. For both to be true, there must be a point when a person denies Christ under duress, but not premeditatedly and maliciously, and had not gone to the stage where he tramples under foot the Son of God, beyond which it is impossible to renew him again to repentance. So can someone who had renounced Christ be forgiven and saved? Apparently yes, provided they are truly repentant and have not crossed the line of no return. Only God knows the condition of the heart, and whether that person had crossed that line by pushing away the out-stretched arms of Christ to pull him back.

With respect to the second question, we need to look beyond the immediate suffering to the broader consequences. Why did the inquisitor want the priest to apostate so much? For at least 2 reasons:
• Effect on the congregation – Mt 26:31 I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED. (Also Mk 14:27)
• Effect on the apostate – Mt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Also Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2)

The objective of the inquisitor, and Satan behind him, is to destroy the infant church by cutting its roots. If the priest apostatized, he will bring down not only himself, but many Christians with him. The devil would have killed two birds with one stone. At the very least, they would lose their crown of life:
Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To be tortured for one’s faith is a terrible thing, but throughout church history countless have experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about being destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated, but gained approval from God through their faith (Heb 11:36-37). Satan can kill the body but is unable to kill the soul, unless they apostatized and God destroys both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). So if I were the priest I would choose for their and my sake to persevere. I just pray that God will strengthen us to endure to the end.