John T. Willis

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Impassibility of God

The word "impassibility" means "incapable of suffering, inaccessible to harm," "not to be emotionally moved or touched, unfeeling." This is very similar to the concept of Stoicism. Originally a Stoic was a member of the school of philosophy founded by Zeno in 308 BCE. The Stoics taught that the wise man should be free from passion, unsubdued by joy or grief, willingly submissive to natural law. A Stoic is someone who apparently or professionally is indifferent to pleasure or pain. In the history of the Christian church, groups of people have adopted the beliefs of Stoic philosophy and the belief that our God is impassible. The idea is that human beings clearly have emotions of all kinds, but God is "transcendent" and therefore "above and beyond" all human feelings and emotions. Throughout my life, I have interacted with people who assume that if I cry or demonstrate emotions of different kinds, automatically I am a "weak," "ungodly" individual. As a background, many people in the British Isles adopted this fa├žade, and their descendants often continue this mode or front.

The Bible very clearly blatantly opposes this concept. God is VERY EMOTIONAL in every way. In subsequent blogs, we will go into more depth into various feelings or emotions of God. Just to begin, I invite YOU to study carefully Jeremiah 4:19-22. At first, one might assume the speaker is Jeremiah, BUT verse 22 makes it VERY CLEAR that the speaker is Yahweh--our Heavenly Father. Here is the text:

    "My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
          Oh, the walls of my heart!
      My heart is beating wildly.
          I cannot keep silent,
      for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
          the alarm of war.
      Disaster overtakes disaster,
          the whole land is laid waste.
      Suddenly MY TENTS are destroyed,
          MY CURTAINS in a moment.
      How long must I see the standard,
          to hear the sound of the trumpet?
      For MY PEOPLE are foolish,
          they do not KNOW ME;
      they are stupid children,
          they have no understanding.
      They are skilled in doing evil,
          but do not know how to do good."

Of course, some scholars will cut up this text and try to remove God from his feelings. But the text stands solid. God is in anguish and in pain. He is emotionally upset because of the sins of his stupid people and because of the consequences that they inevitably must suffer.

When God the Father sent Jesus on earth to live among human beings, God demonstrated the Father's true nature through his Son Jesus Christ. If anyone studies the accounts of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it is crystal clear that Jesus is very emotional, and his heavenly Father is very emotional. These emotions tumble out and are very evident, emotions like disappointment, love, hatred, anger, wrath, longing, joy, pleasure, pain, sympathy, tenderheartedness, vehemence, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, etc.

God unabashedly enters into all of our needs and problems. He knows who we are and he shares in our feelings and emotions. The author of Hebrews addresses this truth in Hebrews 4:15-16:

     "For we do not have a high priest who is UNABLE TO SYMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESSES, but we have one who IN EVERY RESPECT HAS BEEN TESTED AS WE ARE, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED."

Share YOUR thoughts and failures and problems and fears and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jesus Appears to the Eleven, then Ascends into Heaven--Luke 24:36-53

The Gospel of Luke concludes with a paragraph recording the event in which Jesus appears to the Eleven, gives his commission to the Eleven, and finally ascends into heaven. This account is related in Luke 24:36-53, and naturally falls into three parts.

I. Jesus proves he is the Risen to the Eleven. Luke 24:36-43.
   a. After Cleopas and his friend bring Jesus to the Eleven and their companions in Luke 24:33-35, while they were talking, Jesus stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." "While they were talking" shows this was still on the first day of the week after Jesus arose from the tomb. Luke 24:1, 13, 33. When Jesus said this, the Eleven were started and terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. 24:36-37.
   b. Jesus rebuked the eleven, saying, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts rise in your hearts?" Not accepting the obvious truth that Jesus is right before his own Eleven disciples is a deep heart issue. 24:38.
   c. Jesus then PROVED beyond a doubt that he was indeed the risen Jesus Christ. They challenge them to LOOK at his pierced hands and feet. They told him to TOUCH him and SEE, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as they see that Jesus has. Later, John, who was himself there as one of the Eleven emphasizes this truth to one community of faith in 1 John 1:1-3. Jesus clearly showed his disciples his hands and his feed. 24:39-40.
   d. Although the Eleven were in JOY, they still disbelieved and still wondered about whether this is actually true. Jesus then said to them, "Do you have anything to eat?" They gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish. Jesus took this fish and ate it in their presence. Here Jesus used every means imaginable to prove God the Father had raised Jesus Christ from the dead: they SAW him, they TOUHCED him, they SAW him eat the fish. What more could he do to prove them that God the Father had raised him from the dead. 24:41-43.

II. Jesus Commands the Eleven to Proclaim His Message to All Nations. Luke 24:44-49.
     a. Then Jesus told his disciples that they must remember all of his teachings during his earthly ministry, declaring that everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Similar ideas appear in Luke 24:25; Acts 13:29; John 5:39; 12:16; 20:9. Luke does not specify which texts of the Hebrew Bible are in mind, or HOW he is using the Hebrew Bible. Like all New Testament speakers and writers, he begins with the events, parables, miracles, and teachings of Jesus, then applies Old Testament texts allegorically or typologically following the ways in which Rabbis and members of the Qumran Community used the Hebrew Bible using the principles of Midrash and Pesher. 24:44.
     b. Then Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures, saying, "THUS IT IS WRITTEN," and specifically names: (1) the Messiah must die and be raised from the dead on the third day; (2) Jesus' disciples must proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to all nations beginning from Jerusalem; (3) Jesus' disciples are witnesses of these things; (4) Jesus' disciples must remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon them in power. Texts of the Hebrew Bible call to mind Isaiah 2 Samuel 7:1-17; 52:13-53:12; Psalms 2; 89; 132; etc., but Luke does not enumerate any specific text. This announcement of Jesus points to the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus in Acts 2. 24:45-49.

III. Jesus is Carried Up into Heaven. Luke 24:50-53.
      a. After giving his final commission, Jesus led his disciples out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany, a small Jewish village located approximately 2.7 kilometers east of Jerusalem (see Luke 19:29). There Jesus "lifted up his hands," which is the normal way God's people approach God in prayer (as 1 Timothy 2:8 and many texts in the Hebrew Bible show--for example Psalms 28:2; 143:6; Lamentations 3:41; and very often). Then Jesus blessed his disciples, then withdrew from them "and was carried up into heaven" by his Heavenly Father. Acts 1:9-11 reiterates this very important event. It is very interesting that groups of people now claim that Jesus will return to earth, renovate or restore earth, and this is where all God's people will live. This is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of texts like Revelation 21:1-4; etc. Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; and many other New Testament texts clearly teach that, like our Lord Jesus Christ,  God's people will be caught up into heaven and live with him eternally. People should not spend time pondering over such issues. There are too many important matters to address so we can become closer to God through Jesus Christ. 24:50-51.
     b. After Jesus was carried up into heaven, his disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Jerusalem temple praising God. The appropriate response to God is to worship God the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord. This small gathering in the Jerusalem temple is the nucleus of the church which is to spread throughout the world. 25:52-53.

Share YOUR comments and thoughts and reservations and doubts and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis