Friday, February 8, 2013
Here are some answers to a few questions one of City Life's CNU students posed recently. I thought I'd share them on the blog. The first was regarding time and how time affects God, the second was about the nature of the Trinity, third was why God demanded animal sacrifices in ancient times, and finally about a friend who believes in God but has not made a vow of devotion to Jesus...
For time, I agree that God is outside of time but still, He is very conscious of time. Mainly, because He created time. Time as we know it in the temporal realm did not exist before creation. My textual support for this is the pattern you read in Genesis 1. You find this phrase in Genesis 1:5 , "And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day." Notice how it repeats on each day of creation. Now there is much debate as to whether or not this was an exact 24 hour cycle but regardless of what one may conclude about the duration of the creation days, they are at their very essence, time. God created time, I believe, because He loves order and time helps to order our existence. He though is not subject to time. Time is subject to Him. In Isaiah 38:8 and referenced again in 2 Kings 20:11, we read how God caused a shadow to move backwards. In Joshua 10:13 we read where God held time still for a day...everything is subject to God. All of creation is subject to His sovereignty.
The doctrine of The Trinity, while is foundational to Christianity, is one of Christianity's deepest mysteries. In fact, the word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible, anywhere. It is a word mankind has created to express one of our core beliefs, that The Father, The Son, and The Spirit are all divine and while individual, they are indivisible...3 in 1. Part of being a follower of Christ is embracing truth without being able to enjoy total understanding. I don't know if I fully grasp your statement that Jesus is a representation of His Word. He is, but He is more than that. He is. Something that sets Christianity apart from most other world religions is the pre-existence of Jesus. For example, in His prayer in John 17, Jesus speaks of His existence with God in Heaven before coming to earth (verse 5). Mohammed got his start just like you and me...he didn't exist and then conception...existence. Jesus existed before conception, in Heaven, with God. The first three chapters of Colossians would be a great read for you! So, for Jesus, He came in what is commonly referred to as "the fullness of time." Many believe the timing was perfect because for the first time the civilized world had a common language, expansive road system, and also Jewish people were living all throughout the Roman empire (critical because they held the key to understanding the purposefulness of Jesus' atoning death which is why The Apostle Paul always taught in Jewish synagogues first in every city he visited). This enabled the spreading of good news of Jesus, The Gospel. Of course, ultimately, the timing was perfect because it was the time God chose!
Regarding sacrifices, I believe these are critical because God was establishing the need for an atoning sacrifice to be made for sin. In fact, the very first one isn't found in Leviticus but rather Genesis. God kills animals to clothe the nakedness of Adam and Eve. This wasn't just to meet a practical need but to also establish a prophetic picture of the death that Jesus would one day offer to cover the sins of the world. Israel was chosen by God to reveal Himself to the world. All their laws were divided into three distinct categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. The moral aspects are timeless, like the 10 Commandments. The civil aspects will change based on history and culture...however basic instructive concepts like jurisprudence remain. Ceremonial law, like animal sacrifices, priest's clothing, etc ...are prophetic in nature, pointing to and preparing the world to understand the nature of God, our relationship with Him, the church as a community, and many other things...and most certainly the purpose of Jesus' atoning death. If you read Hebrews chapters 8 - 10, you will find a great explanation of the prophetic purpose of animal sacrifice and Jesus as our great high priest.
About your friend, only God knows who is a true follower of Jesus. I believe the Bible is very clear that God will judge us in the end. All people will be divided into two groups, those who accepted Christ's forgiveness and those who rejected Him. Those who rejected Him are doomed to an eternity of perdition while those who accepted Him, eternal paradise. What about those who never heard, what about those who were born before Jesus...and many countless other questions...in the end, I know that God is just and that I will ultimately be judged for what I did with Jesus and not what others may or may not have done. You should continue praying for your friend, don't give up! I know people prayed tirelessly for me during my rebellious years and that I am the benefactor of those prayers!