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.

Does God Deceive the Unrighteous? (1 of 2)

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Q. 2 Thes 2:11-12 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.
Does God merely give them up or help Satan in deceiving the unrighteous?

A. On the surface it seems that God is actively causing the damnation of the unrighteousness by sending them strong delusion, but He does not help Satan in deceiving them, for the following reasons:

1. It’s not His nature:
Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
• Titus 1:2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
• Heb 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.

2. It’s not His desire or wish:
Ezk 18:23 Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
• Ezk 33:11 Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
• 1 Tim 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

So what does 2 Thes 2:11 mean? Let’s examine the text carefully:
2 Thes 2:9-12 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Note the following:
• The one coming, the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition (v 3), the lawless one (v 8), will come with deception of wickedness for those who perish (v 10).
• God will send those perishing a deluding influence, in order that they may be judged.
The Antichrist comes with deception, while God sends a deluding influence. What’s the difference?

Deception translates the Greek word apate, which means “to cheat, beguile”), that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence. The emphasis is on the one actively deceiving, whose aim is to destroy.

Deluding, on the other hand, translates the Greek words plane, which means:
1. a wandering, a straying about
a. one led astray from the right way, roams here & there
2. metaphorically
a. mental straying – error, wrong opinion relative to morals or religion
b. error which shows itself in action, a wrong mode of acting
c. error, that which leads into error, deceit or fraud.

The emphasis is on the one wandering astray, who erred morally resulting in wrong action.

Why would God send them strong delusion?

(To be continued)

Knowledge of Good and Evil (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

I think the figurative meaning fits the serpent’s temptation better, because if the literal meaning was meant, why should Adam and Eve’s desire to know good from evil be a sin? Isn’t moral knowledge good? When Solomon asked God for wisdom to discern between good and evil, wasn’t God pleased? Isn’t the ability to discern good and evil for the mature? So why would God punish Adam and Eve for desiring a good thing? The problem is not with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. There is nothing inherently bad about the tree. God could have used any tree to test Adam – whether he will trust and obey God.

However, if the figurative meaning was intended, then the serpent’s suggestion makes sense:
Gen 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
• Gen 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
• Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; …

The serpent insinuated that God had an ulterior motive in forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – to prevent them from knowing all things and become omniscient like God. The sin is in disobeying God and believing in Satan, the very sin of pride Satan himself committed:
Isa 14:14 I will make myself like the Most High;
• Ezk 28:2 Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, … although you make your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:6 Because you have made your heart like the heart of God;
• Ezk 28:9 Will you still say, “I am a god”;

Prior to Gen 3:6 Adam and Eve knew good and evil only cognitively. They knew to obey God is good and to disobey is evil, and the consequence is death or alienation from God. After they ate they knew it experientially. They became aware that they were naked. Previously the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen 2:25); now they are ashamed and covered themselves up.

Lastly, what does Gen 3:22 mean – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil”? God could not have meant Adam and Eve had become omniscient like Him and knew everything. They are creatures and will forever be finite, and could not possibly have infinite knowledge, i.e. become omniscient. Never! The serpent was dead wrong. I believe the literal meaning was intended and God simply meant Adam became like Him in the sense of being able to discern good from evil. Unfortunately of his own free-will he refused good and chose evil. Some commentators added that God might be stating this in a mocking tone i.e. the man has become like one of Us – NOT! but we have no way of ascertaining whether this is the case as the text did not say.

Is God Barbaric?

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Q. Why did God command Joshua to exterminate the Canaanite children? I understand the adults were depraved idolaters, but infants? What have they done? Isn’t that cruel? Even barbaric?

A. This is difficult to understand as some felt God was a moral monster who ordered the genocide. He commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy the Canaanites and Amalekites, including infants:

Deut 2:34 So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor.
• Deut 3:6 We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city.
• Josh 6:21 They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.
• 1 Sam 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

I believe God gave this command to spare the children from something worse – being raised to become adults just as evil as their parents and deserving hell. Although babies are born sinners, God in His mercy gives grace to those who die in infancy, when they are too young to know right from wrong and exercise free will to trust God. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to those who do not have the capacity to repent and believe the gospel, and they are accepted into heaven.

When God punished David for his adultery with Bathsheba by taking away their son, David said,
2 Sam 12:22-23 “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
God was not punishing the baby as he was innocent of David’s sin. He had already taken away David’s sin (v 13), so David was not going to hell. The child will not return to David i.e. be raised to life again. But David will go to him i.e. to heaven. The last step is implied based on NT revelation.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven belongs to children and people like them. It would not make sense if those who become like children can enter, while children themselves cannot enter the kingdom of God:
Mt 18:2-4 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
• Mk 10:14-15 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

So despite the apparent cruelty, God was in fact compassionate towards the Canaanite children by preventing them from a worse fate in hell.