Bible Verses: Questions and Challenges

Today’s blog post is a little different from usual. Rather than taking a topic and doing my best to think around it, like I normally do, I’m going to give you a selection of Bible verses that I personally find difficult or challenging and ask questions. They are questions that I ask myself, questions that, to varying degrees, I am looking for the answers to. Maybe you know some of the answers, or maybe they’ll prompt you to do some digging yourself, but I hope this is helpful. I just feel that everyone now and then, it’s good to take a step back and just ask questions, rather than trying to come up with the answers all the time.

1) John 13:3-4 – Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning too God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.
• The word ‘so’ in this passage indicates that Jesus was in a position to be humble because he was powerful.
• Is humility born out of power? Is it possible to be humble without previously having power? Do you need to be coming from a position of power to make humility meaningful?
2) Hebrews 2:10 – In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.
• Why did Jesus have to be made perfect if he was already fully God (and therefore perfect).
• This passage almost makes it seem as if God made Jesus perfect as a reward for the sacrifice that Jesus made. This seems inconsistent with what is said elsewhere of Jesus being ‘fully God’.
• Does this affect the traditional view of the Trinity?
3) John 14:21 – Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
• I have a lot of questions regarding the idea that God’s love is completely unconditional and equal for every person ever, and this verse is one that has encouraged me to raise some of those questions, particularly that of the ‘unconditional’ nature of God’s love.
• Is having Jesus’ commands and keeping them a condition for God’s love? The most straightforward way of reading this verse suggests that it is.
• As a more general question, what form does the popular idea of ‘unconditional love’ take? What does that love look like for someone who doesn’t care about God?
4) Romans 9:15-16 – He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
• I do not consider myself a Calvinist, or even a believer in predestination, but verses like this force me to ask questions.
• A lot of Christians accept that it does not take a great deal of effort to be saved, but many would assume that it at least takes desire. This verse says otherwise.
• What of verses that say we need belief/faith to be saved?
• Is faith in God different to a desire to be saved?
I hope those 4 verses and their questions have given you something to think about. I know that some of the questions concern established beliefs, but remember that I am asking them only because of what is in the text. There are issues to be resolved here, and I don’t think that anyone will have all the answers this side of the second coming.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. joerahi says:

    1) With problems like this, focusing on a single word, I recommend you check different translations. A word like “so” can seriously affect the meaning like here, but at the same time, while translating, it may seem like an inconsequential way of phrasing it. I particularly recommend Young’s Literal Translation (for questions like this, where wording is so critical), which renders this passage as
    ‘Jesus knowing that all things the Father hath given to him — into [his] hands, and that from God he came forth, and unto God he goeth, doth rise from the supper, and doth lay down his garments, and having taken a towel, he girded himself;’
    Which seems to me to be setting the scene for Jesus to wash their feet, so that Jesus is washing their feet despite his power.
    I don’t believe humility is born out of power. Humility comes from knowing His greatness, and our weakness & greatness in the context of his greatness. We don’t need to have ever had any power to be humble. Humility doesn’t need a position of power to be meaningful, but I would say it is expressed in disregarding something people usually value, such as power.

    2) Here’s YLT again, with verse nine included.
    ‘and him who was made some little less than messengers we see — Jesus — because of the suffering of the death, with glory and honour having been crowned, that by the grace of God for every one he might taste of death. For it was becoming to Him, because of whom [are] the all things, and through whom [are] the all things, many sons to glory bringing, the author of their salvation through sufferings to make perfect,’
    Jesus was already God, and therefore already perfect, and already King of kings and Lord of lords, in a sense. But, in another sense, he had not yet been crowned, and accepted his Kingdom. It was upon the cross that Jesus, through his suffering, dealt the decisive blow against evil, and took back control over the world.
    In this sense, Jesus took up sovereignty over all, and was “made perfect”. It is certainly not referring to a moral perfection. Jesus was already God, and therefore already sovereign, and already perfect, but, God did not desire to simply command the world to be His again, He desired to win it back, and so defeat evil by the might of His love and nothing else.
    I also hear that the term used for “make perfect” was used in the Septuagint for the consecrating of High Priests (from http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=85).
    This already has affected the traditional view of the Trinity, back when it was being formed with these verses and many more in mind.

    3) ‘God is love.’ God is definitively love, and as loving as could possibly be. If there are some who God does not love absolutely, then He could possibly love them more. If He could love them more, then He would be more loving. But God is already as loving as could possibly be, therefore God loves all absolutely.
    God loves all of His lost sheep and prodigal sons, including the ones who don’t get found or return. Jesus died for all, and desires all to be saved, and offers salvation to all.
    Yet, while Jesus offers his love and his self to all, many reject him, and these don’t see his fulness, or his complete love for them (look to John 3:19-21 for a clear view of this).

    Question 4) is a tough one. On this verse and Calvinism/predestination, I think St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on it is helpful (here’s the whole commentary-http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/210216.htm and here’s a section on verses 20 and 21).
    I don’t think it really says otherwise. God’s mercy is the first and crucial factor, which causes our desire for salvation. This verse isn’t disagreeing with our need for faith to be saved, it’s reaffirming that faith is not of ourselves, but a gift.
    I’ve never thought of faith as the desire to be saved before, but that does seem to be at least a crucial part of faith.

    Thank you for the thought provoking questions.

    1. joerahi says:

      Sorry, I forgot the section on verses 20 and 21, here it is: http://glory2godforallthings.com/2008/08/18/john-chrysostom-on-romans-9/

    2. bengarry says:

      And thank you for your answers! With regards to 1 and 2 especially, I’m familiar with the YLT, and I would personally find it unlikely that humility requires power, those questions, as you can see, were simply raised out of that particular verse.

      With regard to 3, this is something that I want to pray over and think about more. The questions concern what does God’s love look like? Is it just some nebulous feeling that doesn’t necessarily impact people that don’t respond to it? If it’s more practical, then does a single act of universal love mean that God love’s everyone all the time? Further, what are we to make of ‘conditions’ like those in the verse here? What does God being love look like? Does it mean he has to love everyone the same, or does it mean that his existence as a Trinity is based on love? This is what I’m wrestling with at the moment, and the answers aren’t easy!

      And finally, I couldn’t resist asking the equations that 4 provoked, even though I know that the predestination debate has raged for centuries and doesn’t look to be coming to an end any time soon!

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  2. Adam Hellyer says:

    Always love a theological question. Don’t know I. I have all the answers, but here’s my two pennies worth.

    Q1: When being humble isn’t by choice, are you being ‘humble’ or ‘humbled’? I think true humility is knowing what you are, who you are, and then not acting ‘above’ yourself, and willingly acting ‘beneath’ yourself (Phil 2:6). Power and position are always relative. But I think true humility will always be voluntary.

    Q2: If we understand sin to consist of Not just what we do (that we shouldn’t) and also what we don’t do (that we should), then it makes sense that Jesus, once given a task by God, would only be perfect if He completed it. He was already perfect, but that is not the same as living a perfect life. It doesn’t mean He was at any point imperfect. But had he not endured, He would have been imperfect. (I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but that how I get my head round it).

    Q3: The ‘unconditional love’ of God is indeed a myth. He loves all, but not without expectation of obedience. Otherwise, all would be saved regardless. The fact that receiving Jesus is a condition of sonship (John 1) proves this. This does not mean He does not earnestly desire everyone to be saved; He does. But not at the expense of compromissing on His justice and holiness. The Bible never says His love is unconditional.

    (Incidentally, the most straightforward reading is usually the correct one!)

    Q4: Eph 1:4 He chose us; Eph 1:5 He predestined us; Eph 1:7 He purchased us; Eph 1:8 He lavished us. Eph 1:13 we were included when we heard and believed. Seems like God did it all, but our inclusion depended on us (at least a little). If we hold this in tension with Jesus preaching we must ‘abide’. We get a picture of a God who has done it all, and now requires us to give it all. Salvation is always a free gift. But we are asked to ‘work out’ our salvation. It’s both and, not either or. This guy explained it well: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-must-we-work-out-our-salvation

    Trust some of that is useful, or at least get’s your mind active! Go well.

    1. Adam Hellyer says:

      Regarding the questions concern what does “God is Love” look like: I like to consider 1 Corinthians 13: [God] is patient, [God] is kind. He does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. [God] does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. [God] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [God] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [God] never fails.

      ‘God is love’ speaks of awesome character. It doesn’t mean He’s a walk over.

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