Jesus’ Baptism

Q. What is the meaning of Mt 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. If one of the reasons is for God the Father to properly identify Jesus’ righteous godhood, then why “us”, meaning John the Baptist and Jesus Himself?

A. The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was not to identify Jesus as God – the post-baptism appearance of the Spirit (v 16) and the voice of the Father (v 17) did that – but for Jesus to completely identify Himself with sinful man. Jesus had no sin to repent of. John needed Jesus’ Spirit-and-fire baptism, not Jesus his water-baptism of repentance, so he hesitated.

Jesus understood John’s hesitation, and corrected him by pointing out the appropriateness of this action. The AMP and the EXB bring out the meaning more fully:
AMP Amplified Bible but Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him.
• EXB Expanded Bible Jesus answered, “Let it be this way for [happen] now. We should do all things that are God’s will [or in this way we will do what God requires;  For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness].” So John agreed to baptize Jesus [gave in; consented; allowed it].

The “us” does not refer to both Jesus and John being of the same nature, but to each of them to do what is right, what God requires – for Jesus to identify with man, and for John to be Jesus’ forerunner to prepare His ways:
Lk 1:17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
• Lk 1:76-77 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation]By the forgiveness of their sins,

The “us” is not about being, but doing. Each has a purpose to fulfill according to God’s will.

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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)

Knowing God’s Will?

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Q. I am facing a major decision and want to know God’s will on the issue. Friends told me to pray for God opening doors by removing all obstacles, and to see whether I have peace regarding my decision. What’s your opinion?

A. Those two are very common indicators Christians look for to assure themselves that they are in God’s will, but I’m afraid they are not fool-proof.

First, many Christians assume that “no obstacles” = “open door”, and “many obstacles” = “closed-door”, but that is not the biblical precedent:

Acts 14:27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
• 1 Co 16:9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

In Acts 14 God opened a door of faith to the Gentiles, but look at what happened to Paul and Barnabas:
Acts 14:2 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.
• Acts 14:5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them,
• Acts 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
• Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

They encountered strong opposition in Iconium and Lystra, where Paul was even stoned and left for dead. Yet Paul encouraged the disciples by saying that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.

Again, 1 Co 16:9 states that a wide door for effective service had been opened, but there were many adversaries. So I’m afraid “no obstacles” = “open door” simply isn’t true. In fact, often it is the opposite. What we need to be sure of is whether we are called by God to the mission, not the absence of obstacles. If we are serving God, we can count on Satan causing all kinds of trouble to thwart us.

Secondly, many Christians look for peace in their heart to assure them that they are aligned with God’s will:

Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

While this is one response when we let our requests be made known to God by prayer and supplication, this is not the only response:

Lk 22:44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
• 2 Co 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

Our Lord was most certainly in God’s will when He prayed in Gethsemane, but He was in agony of spirit. Paul was definitely in God’s will as he carried out his mission, but he was burdened excessively and despaired even of life. He did not have the peace of God in his heart, because God wanted him not to trust in himself, but in God.

So beware of looking for “smooth sailing” and “peace of mind” as the assurance that you are in God’s will. It could be, but then again it might not. The only sure way is to know that it was God who called you to the assignment. You are not doing it for your own glory, and will stick to it despite obstacles and discouragement. Hope this helps.

Obsolescence

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cassettes 2

Last year we renovated our home, which necessitated moving everything out of its place. Since we have to downsize eventually, instead of moving my library of books around I decided to give them away, except for a few hundred bibles and reference works, to benefit bible school students. I thought my holdings could be put to better use by future preachers and Christian workers than one retired pastor, so about 7,000 volumes were packed into 270 cartons and donated to a local Christian college.

That still leaves thousands of VHS and cassette tapes, consisting of sermons, lectures in theology and apologetics, and all kinds of conferences and workshops on my favorite subjects, taught by the best Christian speakers in my era. I thought while my eyes can’t read small print anymore, I could still watch videos and listen to recordings to learn for a few more years. However, after procrastinating a year, I finally donated the bulk of my audio and video library as well, filling 80 cartons, to the same college.

I still have the equipment to play those tapes, but technological advances, like time and tide, wait for no man. Heb 8:13 … He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. So before the VHS recorders and tape machines disappear from the college library altogether, I gave the tapes away while others can still use them.

I suppose the obsolescence factor is part of the life story for all of us. I remember when we first learned to use personal computers over 30 years ago, the IBM XT with 128-640 KB RAM was the mainstay in the business world. Then came the AT with 256 KB-16 MB RAM and a 20 MB hard drive, which was considered too advanced for home use. Today I have several thousand times more computing power and storage in my cell phone than that big, heavy, clunker.

So as one generation supersedes the previous, I think the best we can do is summed up in Eph 5:15-17 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Many of us act like fools bumbling in life not knowing what the will of the Lord is. I pray that we can wise up, walk carefully, and make the most of our time. Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last (CT Studd).

Does Prayer Change Things? (1 of 3)

Hezekiah healing 1

Q. Hezekiah became ill and God told him that he will die. He prayed and wept and God healed him, adding 15 years to his life (2 Kings 20:6). Manasseh, one of Judah’s most wicked kings, succeeded Hezekiah when he was 12 years old (2 Kings 21:1), which means he would not have been born had God not healed Hezekiah. Did Hezekiah change God’s will and the course of history by his prayer?

A. The account of Hezekiah’s healing is in 2 Kings 20:1-7, and Isaiah 38:1-6. The subject is on the immutability of God, and there are opposing views. Some believe “God does not change His mind” because He knows everything and makes the best decisions, and there is no need to change His mind. Furthermore, if God changes His will in response to prayer, His action is contingent upon man’s petition, then how can God be sovereign? Supporting verses include:

1 Sam 15:29 Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
• Ps 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
• Jer 4:28 “For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.”
• Heb 7:21 … but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’”);

Others, however, believe “God changes His mind” because that’s what this passage plainly implies. If God does not answer prayer requests, why did Jesus ask us to pray? He said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:14) If He didn’t mean it, why say it? Other supporting verses include:

Ex 32:12, 14 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. … So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
• Jer 26:13, 19 Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you. … Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and the LORD changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them?
• Amos 7:3,6 The LORD changed His mind about this. “It shall not be,” said the LORD. … The LORD changed His mind about this. “This too shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

So which is it? Does God change His mind in answer to prayer or not? Does prayer change anything?

(To be continued)

God’s Will (2 of 3)

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(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we’ve explored the revealed will of God pertaining to His preceptive will and will of disposition, in particular concerning salvation. He does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. What else does the Bible tell us about His will?

* 1 Thes 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;

God wants us not only to be saved, but to be holy. He wants us to be pure. The basic meaning of holy is to be separated. Often we tend to follow the crowd, what the majority do. But God wants us not to walk as the Gentiles walk. Do not be like them. Do you follow the world, or do you separate yourself from their ways?

But what if we fail? Well, God provided for that too:

* 2 Co 7:9-10 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point ofrepentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

He made us sorrowful according to His will, so that we would repent and not suffer loss. Do not view only blessings as from God, for there is a purpose for sorrow as well.

And not only sorrow, but even suffering:

* 1 Pet 4:19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)”. Peter added, when “you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed … but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name (1 Pet 1:14, 16)”. So, even suffering can be according to God’s will when we suffer for Christ’s sake to glorify His name.

One more God’s will for you. What should our attitude be in the midst of difficulties?

* 1 Thes 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When we are saved, sanctified, sorrowful, suffering, we ought to be thankful. Not complaining “why me”, but grateful that God chose us as His worthy vessel to glorify Him. It’s the character of a Spirit-filled Christian. Now, are you thankful, or ungrateful?

(To be continued)