Hardness of Heart

They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Matthew 19

Because of the hardness of your hearts? Jesus says it is adultery to divorce one woman for the sake of another and it is adultery to marry the divorced woman. It is adultery! Is he then saying that even though it is adultery, God recognized that this reality was just too much for Israel and so he permitted it? He decided to wink at adultery? The Holy God who cannot stand to look upon sin? If it wasn’t that big a deal, why not wink at other things like theft? Does this mean that adultery is actually one of the smallest sins on the scale of things?

I suggest another way to understand this.

What happens when divorce is absolutely prohibited to men of hard hearts who have tired of their wives? If they can’t divorce their wives, they will have them killed. If the one woman can’t get him a son, then he will concoct some pretext for beheading her so he can try another. Hard-hearted men who are refused the possibility of divorce resort to murder. And so I suggest that God, in his mercy towards the women, permitted a legal avenue for divorce so that hard-hearted men would not kill their wives.

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The Woman was Deceived

I think we commonly get a couple things wrong about the temptation and fall of man in the garden of Eden. Namely the nature of Eve’s temptation and the validity of Adam & Eve’s confessions.

First, the temptation.

Note how Satan opens the conversation: “Yeah, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did God really say that? It is an attempt to call into question the veracity of what she has been told. Now, if he wants the woman to doubt that God actually forbade them that fruit, then he is trying to convince the woman that eating the fruit is not forbidden.

She replies that they may eat of all the other trees, but the fruit of this tree is forbidden, lest they die. “No,” says Satan, “you shall not surely die.” Why not? Because God knows that eating this fruit will make you wise like gods. Now, if the allure of eating the fruit is that it may exalt her to be a rival to God, does that make him more or less likely to kill her for disobedience? More, right? But if Satan is trying to convince her that God never said not to eat of that tree, the idea is that eating the fruit will make her more into God’s image, more into what God wants her to be. God would never kill her for that. “You won’t die,” he says, “This fruit will open your eyes so that you can grow in wisdom and godliness. God knows that.”

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise….” What does “good for food” mean? The word for something that is good for food is ‘edible.’ Edible objects are non-toxic and nourishing. Fruit that kills you is not good for food. She sees that the fruit is edible, that it looks pretty and not dangerous, and that it imparts wisdom. She sees that it is safe and useful. She buys Satan’s lie, and she eats.

Now, when God confronts Adam in the garden, he asks him, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” The accusation is that he ate the thing that he was told not to eat. If I am right, Eve just ate of this fruit because Satan convinced her that God had never said that. But here is God, saying that he told Adam not to do that. She now knows she was wrong. Adam says that Eve gave him the fruit and he did, indeed, eat of it. God turns to Eve. “What is this thou hast done?” She replies, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

This brings us to blame-shifting. Was first Adam, and then Eve, blame-shifting when God confronted them with their sin? I don’t think so. When one is trying to shift blame, one either makes a small admission of partial guilt at the beginning and then emphasizes the culpability of others, or else starts by talking about what others did, makes a mention of one’s own actions in a way that minimizes them, and then continues on to magnify the liability of others. Ending one’s statement with ownership of one’s own culpability is not a good strategy for shifting blame. So if Adam were trying to shift blame, I would think his statement would read more like one of the following:

“I took one bite of the fruit, but that was because of that woman. She ate it first and she gave some to me.” Or, “I did eat some fruit. The woman gave it to me. I was not going to eat any fruit but she thought it was a good idea and she took some first and ate it. It was all her idea, really.” Or even just, “I did eat. The woman you gave to be with me, she gave it to me,” would sound more like blame-shifting. To my ear, by ending their confession with their own culpability stated plainly, they sound like they are taking ownership of their sin.

But there is another reason I think they are not trying to shift blame. Eve says the serpent deceived her. Did he? In 1 Timothy 2, Paul takes that confession at face value: he states that the woman was deceived. And God accepts Eve’s testimony, turning to the serpent and cursing it without even asking the serpent for an explanation. And Adam says that the woman gave him the fruit. God takes that confession at face value, too, saying, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife….” When one is blame-shifting, one’s statements are inaccurate and are not to be trusted, but theirs are treated as factual.

If C.S. Lewis had written Genesis 3, God would say to Adam, “Did you really eat the fruit just because your wife gave it to you?” And Adam would hang his head and say, “No, actually I just wanted to eat the fruit and so I did. I could have said ‘no’ and knew I should but did not want to.” And then to Eve, God would have said: “Did Satan actually fool you?” And she would look down at the ground and shift her feet uncomfortably and at last confess, “No, not really. I just wanted to be god-like and show the world what a powerful, wise person I am and I just told myself that I believed what he said, but actually I knew better.” But this isn’t Narnia and God does not say that. He accepts Adam’s story and he believes Eve.

And if Eve is not lying or blame-shifting when she claims the serpent deceived her, then that deception is relevant to the question asked. The original question to Adam was, “Have you eaten of the fruit of the tree I commanded you not to eat from?” When the woman is asked what she did, she answers, “I was deceived and ate from it.” The question God is asking is if they have disobeyed him. If I ask my son if he did not clean up his room like I told him to, and he answers, “I forgot,” he is not saying that he forgot what the punishment for disobedience is or that obeying his father is important, he is saying that he forgot that I had given him that order. Here, having been asked if they have broken his command, to answer, “I was deceived,” is to claim that the disobedience was unintentional. She is claiming to have been tricked into breaking God’s command.

But 1 Timothy 2 is not the only place where Paul cites the deception of Eve. There is also 2 Corinthians 11. There, Paul is arguing his bona fides, making the case that whatever other so-called apostles are trying to bring the Corinthians under their sway, Paul is the real deal. He says, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” So Paul is afraid that the same kind of thing that happened to Eve might happen to the Corinthians. What is that thing? “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

Paul thinks that Eve was correctly told what the command of God was: don’t eat the fruit. Satan came along preaching another commandment, instead of the one she received. She believed him and ate the fruit. Paul has preached the true Jesus and the true gospel to the Corinthians and they received it. He is worried that another “apostle” will come along and preach a different, contradictory gospel to the one he preached, and the Corinthians will believe it instead.

I put “apostle” above in scare quotes for good reason. Paul is explicit about what kind of men he is warning of. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness: whose end shall be according to their works” (11:13-15) Paul is not worried about men coming along who provoke the Corinthians to intentional rebellion. He is worried about them being being tricked into departing from the true faith, the way Eve was.

Hat tip to Bnonn Tennant for suggesting the notion that Eve was tempted by Satan to disbelieve that the fruit was actually forbidden.

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He Cannot Deny Himself

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful —
for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV

The fourth line in this saying has long mystified me. If we are faithless, what is he remaining faithful to do? To save? To condemn? To exist?

It can’t be to save, because the previous line flatly contradicts that idea. If we deny him, he will deny us. Faithful to condemn the faithless is theoretically a possibility, but it would be such an odd word to use for that. The construct doesn’t seem to fit. Faithful to exist hardly makes sense. But how then is faithfulness the response to faithlessness? The answer, I think, is that it isn’t.

In the first line, the ‘if’ part of the clause is perfect tense (aorist, actually): “if we have died”. The ‘then’ part is future: “we will also live”. In the second line, the first clause is present tense, the second is future. The third line starts with a present tense, ends with a future. They all follow this pattern: if this thing is, then this other thing will be. But the fourth line breaks the pattern. The ‘if’ clause is present, as in the preceding lines, but the second part is also present, not future.

Now, I chose ESV for this instead of KJV because it was by referencing other translations that I caught onto something that I think clears this up. The KJV is fine here, but its rendering of another passage, Romans 3, makes it harder to pick up on the similarities that has with this.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”

Romans 3:1–4, ESV

“Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Can God remain faithful when they are faithless? We have here the same two ideas — faithlessness of God’s people and faithfulness of God — combined in a contingent way. It is reminiscent of our passage in 2 Tim 2. But the question in Romans is not if God will respond to their faithlessness with faithfulness, but rather if the Jews’ faithlessness proves that God was unfaithful. Is it his fault that they fell short? And the answer to the posed question is, of course not! Their faithlessness does not prove God unfaithful. God was, and is, faithful and they were not.

I think the same thing is going on in 2 Tim 2. If we deny him, he will deny us. And if we do that, then the same question arises that Paul was dealing with in Romans 3. When some of God’s people apostatize, is it because he failed to keep his covenant? No, he remains faithful. He cannot break his promises. He cannot abrogate his covenant. He cannot deny himself.

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His Anger was Kindled

And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.

1 Samuel 11:6

Under the right circumstances, it seems that anger can be a fruit of the Spirit.

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If He were a Prophet

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Luke 7:36-50

The Pharisee here, Simon, doubts Jesus. He sees the disreputable woman washing his feet with her hair and thinks to himself, “Clearly this guy is not a prophet. If he were, he would know what kind of woman this is and would not be letting her do this to him.” So what does Jesus do? He asks Simon a question, and then proceeds to demonstrate to Simon that he, not Jesus, is the one that does not understand the situation. Simon just sees a sinful woman touching a putatively righteous man, making him look compromised (or something). Jesus shows him what is actually going on: the behavior of the persons present can be sorted by how much they have been forgiven, as manifested in how grateful they act.

Simon thought that Jesus must not be a prophet because he did not know the woman was a sinner. But it turns out that Jesus knew exactly what kind of woman it was, that he understood what was happening much better than Simon did, and that he even knew the thoughts of Simon’s heart. What kind of man reveals the secrets of men’s hearts? That’s the mark of a prophet.

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Men are Liars

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
– Jeremiah 17:5-11

The point about deceitfulness of hearts is not that every individual human heart is deceitful and incurable. There are hearts that trust in the Lord; they are blessed and flourish. But there are also hearts that trust in men and depart from the Lord. Saying “the heart is deceitful” is like saying “men are liars.” Both are generally true. Neither is true of every individual. And because men are liars, sorting out the honest from the dishonest is tricky work. Who can do it? But there is a judge in heaven who searches the hearts and will render to every man according to his works; to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor from God, immortal life; to those who disobey the truth and trust in men, wrath.

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Savior of All Men

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
– 1 Timothy 4:9-10

If salvation is synonymous with forgiveness, then this saying is difficult. It would endorse universalism and there isn’t any good way out. But salvation is a bigger concept than forgiveness. If you have sinned, you need to be saved from the wrath of God. But if you have not sinned but are oppressed by an enemy unjustly, then you need God to save you from your enemies.

…Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
– Hebrews 9:28

When Jesus comes again, it isn’t to save men from their sins. That has already been done. But they do need to be saved from those who persecute them without cause. And because God is a just judge, he will do that.

O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
O LORD my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
– Psalm 7:1-8

In many psalms, David cried out to God for salvation; not because he had done wrong, but because he had not and wrong was being done to him. His enemies were stronger than him. He was an outcast in Israel and suffered reproach. But he trusted in the living God who saves men, and he was vindicated, as we also shall be.

Because God is a righteous judge, he gives to every man according to his deeds. All men get justice. And so he is the savior of all men, especially of those who believe. And so it is worth it to wear oneself out for the Gospel, and it is worth it to suffer the reproach of those who do not believe, for in the end we will be vindicated. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 1)

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
– Luke 18:7-8

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Baptized for the Dead

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

…Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?

– 1 Corinthians 15

It strikes me that there is a very simple interpretation of “baptized for the dead” that fits very well with the logic of the passage: Christ is the dead man. If the dead rise not at all, every Christian baptized into Christ has been baptized into a dead man. And what’s the point of being baptized in the name of a dead man, if the dead are just dead forever?

But why does he say “they” here, instead of “we” like he does in the verses before and after? I think the “they” here refers to those who are denying the resurrection. He is using their logic against them. If they really believe the dead are all just dead, then Christ is just dead — and what are they doing getting baptized for a dead Jesus?

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

In contrast to them, Paul risks death daily because he believes. They have no reason to even get baptized for a dead man; he puts his life at risk constantly because his hope is in the resurrection of the dead.

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If I am a Father

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you?” says the LORD of hosts.
– Malachi 1

We typically say that because God is our father he is happy to receive anything we bring to him. But God’s argument here is the opposite of that. Because he is our father, he deserves to receive the objectively best things. Because he is our father, he is insulted by anything less.

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Judging the Law

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
– James 4:11-12

If one speaks evil of his brother and judges him, he is judging the law. That is, he has weighed the law and found it wanting, thus arrogating to himself the authority to contravene God’s law.

Now, if your brother is an adulterer, and you declare him to be an adulterer because that is what the law teaches, then you are not contravening the law; you are upholding it. You are, in that case, a doer of the law. So James isn’t talking about that, when he speaks of judging one’s brother.

(If he were, he would be guilty of the very thing he is condemning. “Who art thou that judgest another?,” could in that scenario be reasonably be answered with, “Wait, are you judging me for judging another?”)

Thankfully, the letter itself supplies context that illuminates what he means by judging a brother.

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
– James 2:1-4

To seat the rich in the nice seats while relegating the poor to the cheap seats is to judge your brother.

Indeed, just a few sentences on we find that James argues against such treatment of the poor on the basis that to do so is to break the law and incur judgment on one’s self.

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

James is not against calling out the sins of one’s brothers. That is precisely what he is doing in his epistle. He is not even against calling a disobedient brother names: he does that. What he is against is judging your brother by some standard other than the law of God. To do that is to judge the law itself, and hence the Lawgiver Himself, which is an extremely foolish thing to do.

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