The following was an inbox dialogue I recently had with a friend named Uche on Facebook. We frequently chat on various issues and this is one discussion that I feel needs to be read by other Christians. I have his express permission to publish our exchange.
One of the purposes of Christian apologetics is to help Believers deal with their doubts and others issues they are struggling with in their journey of faith.
This is a conversation that brings out the reason why Christian leaders should ensure that they are feeding their congregation with the solid meat of God’s Word. They should also watch out for wolves in sheep clothing who shipwreck the faith of young Believers with false teachings and reasonings that pit them against God’s Word.
Uche: I’ve got just one question for now.
Victor: Yes go ahead.
Uche: The Old Testament writers never had a true understanding of our Father in Christ and sometimes mistook his personality with that of an angel. Yes/No.
Victor: No, I won’t call that a lack of “true understanding.” The Hebrew word translated as “Angel” in the OT is malak. When the Lord Jesus manifested to them, it’s rendered as “THE Angel of the LORD” meaning “the Messenger of God,” and He received worship.
This manifestation of Christ is called “Theophany” – before He came in the flesh. But when it was otherwise, it’s rendered “AN Angel of the LORD.” This distinction was preserved in the Revised Standard Version, but not in the King James Version, so it can be a bit confusing. But again, an angel never receives worship
Uche: So you mean God tempts humans. Genesis 22:1 [And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am]?
Victor: God tested Abraham’s obedience. [“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.” NIV]. He didn’t tempt him.
God tested him to know where his loyalty lies, whether he loved Isaac more than Him. And Abraham passed the test. He obeyed God perfectly. Temptation however is different. It’s aimed at leading a person into sin.
But because God is holy – that’s one of His attributes – He doesn’t tempt. Also, the obedience of Abraham modelled and foreshadowed the relationship of Jesus to the Father and the substitute sacrifice He made for us at the cross.
Uche: My version reads “tempt.” Why would a God who has a foreknowledge of everything, knows the beginning and end of the specimen he created still tempt/test them if he knows their end product?
Victor: Sorry what Bible version do you use?
Victor: KJV is not a very accurate translation. I’ve documented that in at least 2 articles (one/two). In fact, if you are going to have a clear understanding of the Bible, you will need to read a modern English Bible. The 17th century [Elizabethan] English of the KJV has a way of confusing a modern reader.
Now, God has foreknowledge of the future (Acts 15:18) but He is not the cause of what He foreknows. That God foreknows a thing doesn’t mean He made it happen.
Foreknowledge is not the same as predestination. There is one ability of choice God has given man and it’s called free will. Man must choose to obey God. God cannot compel man to love Him or obey Him.
As a teacher, I know which of my students are smart and when I pose a certain question to them, I know they will give a correct answer. But the onus still lies on them.
If they know it and pretend not to, or refuse to study in order to give the right answer, I cannot be blamed for that. Even though God knows the future, He still tests (not tempt!) our hearts.
Uche: You said temptation leads into sin. Test leads to what? Because I know it has two sides. Temptation also worketh patience if rightly approached [paraphrasing James 1:3].
Victor: Tests can either come out positive or negative. Abraham passed the test and He was blessed by God as a result. There’s no promotion without examination.
There’s no servant of God in Scripture that God didn’t test in one way or the other. Even temptation is a reality. When we succumb to it, we sin, but when we stand, we gain more strength. The Bible says God will not allow us to be “tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Again, that James 1:3 you quoted is from the KJV and that’s why you are still being confused. It reads:
“Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (to verse 4, NIV).
Uche: Why will you perform an experiment you already have inference to?
Victor: That’s why it’s called a test. If I wanted to test for the presence of Carbon (IV) oxide in a solution, I know the experiment to conduct and my inference, whether it’s positive or negative. What I get tells me the final answer I need to know.
God uses life’s situations, experiences, challenges and oppositions to test us and try our hearts. He says this to the children of Israel:
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3-4).
Uche: So you mean Jesus tested Abraham … Vs. 11 and 12 “thine only son from me?”
Victor: Exactly. Read those two verses again
Uche: Hmm. In Job 1:6, what was Satan doing in the presence of God?
Victor: Now, the events of the time of Job is the earliest in history and this was the first mention of Satan. He had access to heaven and could accuse the people of God (see Rev. 12: 9-12). So when the angels were before God, he too was there.
From the use of the term “present themselves before the LORD” in Job 1, it indicates that the angels were in worship (1 Kgs. 22:19-22; Isa. 6; Dan. 4:25-26)
Uche: I thought the name Satan was given to him as a Rebel. Originally = Lucifer? I think I get your point. Are you saying he was a rebel who was still an angel of God. Accusing brethren till God finally cast him down?
Victor: Yes. The name Satan means adversary. Lucifer means “light bearer.” He was an anointed cherub (a higher order of angel) who rebelled and made many other angels to rebel and side with him. He still has access to the heavens until his final casting down to earth.
Uche: Okay. What do you say about the bad/evil attributes about our God in the old testament.
For example when Elijah sent down fire from heaven to destroy those soldiers. Does it mean God is not interested in the salvation of their souls rather than wasting their lives. Is our God capable of doing everything thing including bad things?
Victor: I have a problem with your usage of the term “bad/evil” for God. Sounds like you are sitting as a judge over God (something many atheists do).
Before I answer your question, I must ask you, what have you been reading/soaking in of late?
Uche: Actually nothing, but just the Bible. I’m just confused, it’s looking like the Jesus came in flesh to introduce the real attributes of his father and that the old testament guys were a little bit biased because as I understood the scriptures were initiated to them by the Holy spirit through revelations and visions which they interpreted with their mortal brains.
In summary their definitions of God was a holy, untouchable, fearful and a being that can do virtually everything, but Jesus introduced a Father who is loving and caring and can do only righteous things.
Victor: Your allegation of bias against the writers of the OT and interpreting events with their mortal brains indicate that you have rejected (or rejecting) the inspiration of the Old Testament.
I am certain you didn’t get those conclusions from the Holy Spirit. From the questions you’ve raised so far, the alarm bells keep ringing in my spirit that you have changed – and I mean on the inside – your thoughts are being negatively influenced by something and you need to get rid of it. For your own good; and seek to be reconnected to the Lord.
Now, with that being said. Let me state that there are attributes of God laid out in Scripture: love, mercy, justice, holiness, faithfulness etc. These attributes work together and there’s no justification for isolating one out of the rest.
All through the Bible, we see that God is holy just as He is loving. He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden but when they sinned, He sent them out.
God in His holiness hates sin and cannot look upon sin no matter how little it is (Habakkuk 1:13). His justice demands that He judges sin wherever it is found.
When the people of Sodom and Gomorrah became exceedingly wicked, He judged them, but spared the righteous Lot and his family. There, we see God’s justice + mercy.
When the world in the time of Noah veered into wickedness, He judged them but spared Noah and his family. That’s His justice + mercy/love.
He judged the wicked nations inhabiting the land of Israel and gave it to His people. But when the nation of Israel committed the same sins, He judged them as well and sent them into captivity.
Yet in all His dealings, we see His justice and mercy side by side. That’s why Genesis 18:25 says God doesn’t destroy the righteous with the wicked. Unto the righteous He shows His mercy and onto the wicked, His judgement.
Uche: I’m forever on the Lord’s side, #Never_Turning_Back. I’ve been changed by Jesus and the change is from the inside, so you need not to be worried about any negative change. Thank you for your answers, you’ve cleared my confusion.
Actually the problem is the new president of my fellowship. This guy blows my head everyday with all these questions, teaching that those are the tenets of the Gospel, and I’m scared because most of the fellowship members have been infected with his doctrines. I now have some truths to see if I can be of help.
Victor: I knew it. I sensed you were receiving some inputs from somewhere. Anyway, I feel sorry for the people in your fellowship and the state of your president.
This is why there needs to be proper accountability and oversight in Christian fellowships.
There needs to be a spiritual cover from mature Christian leaders assessing what is being taught to the members. We live in an age of dangerous doctrines and we all need to be sharpened and grounded in the Word.
Uche: We also have a pastor who is more matured but I guess they are all [nonchalant] …. God help us.
Victor: Even when Jesus came, He had to take our penalty justice demanded for our sins so that we could have fellowship with God. At the cross we see the revelation of the justice and mercy of God.
And Jesus – as compassionate as He is – also whipped the people out of the temple, warned against Hell and spoke of His second coming during which judgement would be executed on the unrighteous (see Luke 19:1-23). God never tolerates sin and He will always reward righteousness. There’s no neutrality in the attributes of God.
The major difference between the servants of God in the OT and the NT was that in the former, God used them more as instrument of judgement, but in the latter as instrument of mercy.
In Luke 9:51-56, when the Samaritans refused to accept Jesus, His disciples (James and John) asked if they should command fire to come from heaven and destroy them like Elijah did, but Jesus rebuked them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”
He didn’t deny that Elijah called down fire on his enemies. Nor did He question that the disciples might have been able to do the same. Instead, He reminded them that they were in a period when God was using His servants in a different way.
They were called to be instruments of God’s mercy, rather than His judgement. Just as the Bible presents God to us as our loving Father, it also presents Him as a consuming fire (see 2 Cor. 1:3-5 and Heb. 12:29).
In addition, Romans 11:22 says:
“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”
Again, we see the two sides of God: His sternness and kindness. We must have both in mind in our relationship with God. Both are equally real.
There’s a delusion nowadays that the God of the OT is violent, fierce and harsh but the God of the NT is tender, merciful and loving. This is a form of modern Gnosticism (championed by Marcion in the early church), it’s a deadly heresy that ignores God’s dealings of judgement in the NT e.g on Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas the sorcerer and the execution of God’s wrath on the wicked at Christ’s second advent.