Jesus Never Change?

Heb 13 8 d

Q. You said God never change. Then how can Jesus become a man forever after the incarnation? Isn’t that change?

A. The immutability of God is an attribute where “God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises.” This is based on a number of Scriptures:

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?
•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 102:26 Even they will perish, but You endure; …
• Mal 3:6 For I, the LORD, do not change; …
• Heb 6:17-18 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 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.
• Jas 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Notice that all the passages refer to God’s character, will, and promise. Immutability does not mean that God is static and therefore never changes. God is dynamic, but always acts according to His nature. He won’t act contrary to His character.

What about Jesus? In the incarnation, God the Son took on human nature and became man. The Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) declared that in Christ there are two natures, deity and humanity, each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence and in one single person (hypostatic union). The Word was unchanged as He entered a union with sinless human nature in a physical body:
Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
God the Son did not change His divine nature at the incarnation. His deity did not mix or blend with His humanity, which would necessitate change. Instead, His deity resides in His humanity in the Person of Christ.

With respect to His divine nature, Jesus as God is immutable or unchanging:
2 Tim 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
• Heb 1:12 … But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
• Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Nothing of His character, will and promise changed as a result of the incarnation.

With respect to His human nature, Jesus as man is mutable or subject to change:
Lk 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; …
• Jn 4:6 … So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. …
• 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.

He could grow, get tired, suffer, and die.

One question remains. How did this union happen? I don’t know, because the Bible didn’t explain. All I can say is that God chose not to reveal to us, perhaps because we do not have the capacity to understand it. It is a mystery, but not a contradiction. It is easier to understand if the two natures blend together to form a hybrid, but that’s not what the Bible taught. Just as the Trinity is a mystery, so is the incarnation. I can go only as far as the Bible reveals it, the rest is hidden from us, which I accept by faith.

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Can Jesus Sin? (2 of 2)

impeccability 1

(Continued from yesterday)

There is another argument from His attributes – His immutability i.e. He never changes:
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Now if Jesus could sin while He was on earth two thousand years ago, that means He could sin now even though He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father. For that matter, He could sin even in the future, after the consummation of all things, since He is the same forever. That is a totally preposterous proposition! So reductio as absurdum argues that Jesus could not sin. It is impossible for Him to do so.

Answering Objections
What about the peccable side’s argument? I think they can be easily answered. His temptations were real, even though He was not capable of succumbing to them. Again let me use an illustration. Roll back the calendar half a century. Let’s assume I challenged Bruce Lee the kung fu master in his prime to a duel. Although he will beat the daylight out of me and there is no chance at all for me to win, it does not mean that my duel was not real. It’s real alright, just that my opponent will not lose for sure.

The same is true for Satan tempting God the Son. He can tempt all he want, but there is absolutely no chance of a finite creature, no matter how powerful he may be in human terms, tempting his infinite Creator to sin and win. Jesus’ humanity always submitting to His deity guarantees that He cannot sin, period.

What about Jesus’ death proving that His humanity could be divorced from His deity, because God can’t die? And if His humanity is not inseparable from His deity, then isn’t He susceptible to be tempted to sin? I think this is a flawed argument.

Death is not inherent in human nature as God designed it. Death entered the world because of sin:
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
All men die because all sinned. But Jesus the Perfect Man did not have a sin nature and never sinned, so it is not inevitable that He must die.

His death is not out of necessity, but voluntary – He chose to die for the sheep:
John 10:15, 17-18 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. … For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.
• Php 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Rather than prove that He is vulnerable in His human frailty, it proved the exact opposite, that as Perfect Man He is obedient to the Father and in full control every step of the way. Jesus had absolute resolve to love the Father and save the world; He could not have sinned because He never had any desire to.

Do not try to reason from the human to the divine. Think from the divine, the biblical revelation, to the human and you won’t go wrong.

Can Jesus Sin? (1 of 2)

impeccability 2

Q. I know Jesus did not sin, but can He? If not, how is His temptation real? If you say He couldn’t sin because He is also God, wouldn’t that be the same logic as saying He couldn’t die because God can’t die? But Jesus did die.

A. In theology the question you posed is called the “peccability” (can sin) or “impeccability” (cannot sin) of Jesus. Both sides agree that Jesus did not sin:
2 Co 5:41 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
• Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
• 1 Pet 2:22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;
• 1 Jn 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

But could He? Those who think He can sin feel that for His temptation to be real, He must be capable of falling under the temptation; otherwise why bother? It’s just for show! They emphasized the true humanity of Jesus, and humans can fall.

Those who feel He is incapable of sinning emphasized His deity within His dual nature. God cannot sin, so Jesus can’t sin. I believe this side is correct, for the following reasons:

1. Logic
Jesus has two natures – He is fully divine (100% God) and fully human (100% man):
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
• John 1:14 And the Word (Jesus) became flesh (man), and dwelt among us,
• Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

Now which of these two natures submit to the other? Obviously the human nature submits to the divine nature, otherwise what kind of deity would it be? Can it even be deity if it submits to humanity? So if His deity always dominates and His humanity submits, He cannot sin.

2. Attributes
People sin usually for two reasons:
a. they do not have the power to resist the temptation,
b. they were deceived – they do not have the knowledge.
But Jesus as God is omnipotent and has infinite power to overcome any temptation. He is also omniscient and has infinite knowledge so He can’t be deceived. So He cannot sin.

An objection could be raised that Jesus as man was not omnipotent and omniscient, so He could have failed. But the counter-argument is that even though He emptied Himself (Php 2:7) i.e. He laid down the independent use of His power and knowledge, His attributes are part and parcel of His nature and cannot be eradicated.
Php 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

To give a trivial example, my car can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 sec. Just because I pick up speed gradually and do not use all that power, it does not mean that the power is not there. Besides, as man Jesus always do the Father’s will and kept His commandments:
John 14:31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.
• John 15:10 just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
• Heb 10:7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’” (also v 9)

Therefore He cannot sin.

(To be continued)

God Regretted?

Gen 6 6-7 a

Q. In Gen 6:6-7 God deeply regretted creating humans on earth. If He is all-knowing, wouldn’t He have known what humans would become? Or is it that He knew, but He still gave them choice, and just felt regret that they chose to live in sin?

A. Yes God is omniscient, and knew what man would do e.g.
Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, ….
• 1 Jn 3:20 …. for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Then why did God regret? First, let’s examine the text:

Gen 6:5-7 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (NASB)

Gen 6:5-6 is the first mention of heart in the bible. Notice two things:

1. Man’s heart was evil continually, and God was grieved in His heart. God is not unfeeling. He saw the wickedness of man and it affected Him. He is not like Allah, who has no compassion. God’s heart grieved in response to man’s heart.

2. The LORD was sorry. The Bible clearly states that God does not repent (feel sorry, change mind), or change:
Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; ….
• Mal 3:6 For I, the LORD, do not change; ….

Then in what sense is the LORD sorry? I believe this is a problem caused by using our limited language to describe God in human terms. God’s purpose for man never changed. He always intended for man’s good, to have fellowship with Him. However, His plans provided for different outcomes depending on man’s response to His love and provision. Man’s intent was evil continually, therefore God sent calamity so that they will learn to repent. If they don’t, He will execute His judgment to discipline them. But if they do, He will relent and not destroy them. God’s action and attitude, but not His purpose, therefore changes in response to man’s reaction. This change we describe as God regretted, for lack of a better term.

This language was used to describe God’s choice of Saul. God’s intention was to establish Saul’s kingdom forever, but Saul did not keep God’s commandment. So God’s action changed and He chose David to replace Saul. He “regretted” He made Saul king:

1 Sam 13:13 Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
• 1 Sam 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” ….
• 1 Sam 15:35 …. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

In short, your second observation is correct. Man has no one to blame but himself.

Does Prayer Change Things? (3 of 3)

prayer changes things 7

(Continued from yesterday)

2. There are good alternative explanations to the verses that speak of “not change His mind” other than taking them nominally without considering the context:

• 1 Sam 15:29 – this pertains to the nature of God who will not lie. In His essence God never changes (Heb 13:8), but in His actions He provides room for people to respond without compromising His ultimate will.
• Ps 110:4; Heb 7:21 – the latter quotes the former with respect to the election of Christ as priest forever. This is God’s eternal decree for the salvation of mankind and of course will never change.
• Jer 4:28 – this must be interpreted in the light of what God said later in Jer 18:7-10 At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of (reconsider) the good with which I had promised to bless it.

Clearly God responds to whether people repent or disobey. What about passages in which God said, “I will not relent”:

Ezk 24:14 I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you,” declares the Lord GOD.’”
• Zech 8:14 “For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I have not relented,

Ezk 24:14 must be interpreted in conjunction with Ezk 24:13, “Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.” Taken together, the LORD will not relent because He wanted to cleanse Jerusalem, which won’t repent until it is judged.

Similarly, one must continue reading Zech 8:14 to v 15, “so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!” As in Ezk 24:14, “not relenting” was meant for Jerusalem’s good. The end, or the intention, was always for her benefit, not harm. In this sense God did not change His mind, though in the means, His action, God changed from forbearance to judgment specifically to accomplish His purpose.

One last point, what about God’s sovereignty? Wouldn’t His responding to prayer make God subject to man’s action, and therefore not sovereign? No, not at all! God is always sovereign and in control, but His method is not to dictate everything. In His dealings with man, I believe God’s way is the way of wisdom. Instead of programming each incident to one static outcome, He gave people not only rules and principles to obey, but also freedom to choose for which they are accountable. His way is dynamic, interacting with people in a way that keeps their freewill intact, yet maintaining His sovereignty all the time simply because He is infinitely above His creatures. I have not touched on Jn 14:14, but we will leave that for some other time.

Does Prayer Change Things? (2 of 3)

prayer changes things 4

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the healing of Hezekiah which prompted opposing views as to the efficacy of prayer. Today we examine the evidence supporting each side.

Those who believe “God does not change His mind” feel that since God is omniscient, He already knows Hezekiah will pray and He will heal him. He just did not tell him in advance so that he will turn to God for everything, big (e.g. Sennacherib 2 Kings 19:14-19) and small (personal illness). They explained the verses indicating “the Lord changed His mind” as only apparent from man’s perspective, as “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Those who believe “God changes His mind” feel that with respect to major decrees – what God has sworn and purposed – indeed the LORD does NOT change His mind. These decrees are of eternal significance and can never be changed. However, with respect to lesser issues, e.g. pronouncing misfortune on His people in order to make them repent, God’s plan provides for alternative outcomes based on how they respond to His warnings. If they repent, God will relent on the punishment. If they persist in their evil, then God will send the harm He threatened them with.

To use a journey as an illustration, the “No Change” school is like God planning the complete itinerary, including destination (ends) and side tours (means). Everything is predestined, unchangeable. The “Change” school is like God fixing only the final destination, but allowing “options” giving people choice for side tours. You always end up where God wants you, because God is sovereign, but there is flexibility in the means.

Which school is correct? I believe the weight of the evidence is on the latter, as follows:

1. Besides Ex 32:12,14; Jer 26:13, 19; and Amos 7:3,6, there is a preponderance of passages speaking of the LORD relenting from calamity when His people turns from evil:

2 Sam 24:16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!
• Ps 106:45 And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His loving-kindness.
• Jer 15:6 “You who have forsaken Me,” declares the LORD, “You keep going backward. So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am tired of relenting!
• Jer 18:8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
• Jer 42:10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.
• Joel 2:13-14 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, …
• Jonah 3:9-10 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
• Jonah 4: … for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

All the passages speak of God relenting (changing His mind) when His people turn from their wicked ways, because of His great loving-kindness.

(To be continued)

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)