Various Questions from The Bible
- Esau selling his birthright as the firstborn son – what’s the big fuss?
(Note: Click or hover on any of the references in blue to see the verses)
Gen. 25:27-34, Heb. 12:15-17
- Birthright = the special rights of the firstborn son. In the Old Testament, after the father died the older son received the father’s power and right to make decisions for the entire family. He also got twice as much money and property as each of his brothers. [NIV dictionary]
- Having preferences among people is not necessarily a bad thing, because a person’s nature can be naturally appealing to another. It is possible to have preferences/favourites and not show favouritism!
- Esau’s ungodliness was a bitter root that grew from the onset (from birth) hence him not thinking much of his birthright when older (did not value its spiritual significance). An understanding and appreciation of prophecy (e.g. Isaac saying to him, “This is what God told me…”), and of the spiritual blessing that came with this birthright would have been more likely if he cherished the things of God.
- “Esau I hated, Jacob I loved” (see Rom. 9:13) – the root grew and Esau’s actions (e.g. marrying Hittite women) showed that he did not value God; He did not associate himself with God’s promise to Abraham.
- Even if there is a certain God-ordained way that things are supposed to go, God never imposes His will on us, and His gifts are without repentance [Rom. 11:29]. Though the birthright was supposed to be Esau’s by God’s design, Esau had the option (clearly) of rejecting it, and God did not impose it on him. This is the same way God is towards us today.
- In Heb. 12:16, Esau’s godlessness is likened to sexual immorality, to demonstrate that his sin played out in a similar way – giving in to a single momentary desire at an enormous spiritual cost.
- The spiritual birthright had a larger significance; it was more than obtaining land and property – there was an entire generation coming up. No wonder Esau downplayed this, as his understanding of birthright was based more on the natural side of things (inheriting a larger portion of his father’s property), and he was already a man of the ‘open country ‘ with substantial wealth. Jacob, on the other hand, understood the spiritual implication of the birthright.
- Heb. 12:17 – Some choices we make could result in grave consequences. Thank God we are living in the new covenant, and God’s grace is sufficient! Yet it still remains that sin has consequences, even after redemption.
- Present-day birthright = eternal life through Christ! Far be it from us that we should sell off/throw this away for a few worldly pleasures, and may it be our goal and desire to inform loved ones of this birthright that is theirs in Christ.
- Eph.1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.
- Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- Mark 3:28-29 … “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
- If we reject the Holy Spirit – He who guarantees our godly inheritance, and assures us that we are God’s children [Rom. 8:16] – it is like rejecting our birthright as God’s very own, and it is unforgivable.
- Rejecting the Holy Spirit = wanting nothing to do with Him even after He has ministered to you, revealing who He is and showing you what is right and wrong; it is Him handing you life, but you responding: “I don’t want that life”. All other sin is forgivable, even grieving the Holy Spirit; but not so rejecting Him altogether, and with complete knowledge of who He is and what He is offering us. This is equivalent to refusing God room in our lives with absolute resolve. Though God woos us unto Himself, He can never force His way into our lives.
- God created a yearning for Him in all of us: the Afghani, the Icelander, the Japanese, the Indian, etc. and everyone in the world will have a chance to choose to accept or reject Him – God is just.
- Matt. 20:1-16
- When Isaac blessed Jacob instead of Esau, why couldn’t he thereafter bless Esau too?
- The blessing Isaac had given Jacob, including “… Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you…” (v. 29) was irrevocable (v. 33b “… indeed he will be blessed!”. The Living Bible Paraphrased: “… I have already eaten it and blessed him with irrevocable blessing”!)
- The people of God in the Old Testament (OT) had to step into prophecy/the prophetic to deliver God’s word to others/each other, e.g. Balaam when he was trying to curse Israel on Balak’s behalf [Num. 23-24] using his God-given gift of prophecy, but blessed Israel instead. The voice of a prophet becomes like the voice of God – it is final; the template cannot undergo editing/twisting, so to speak. This kind of blessing/prophecy spoken by Isaac was there from Adam’s time, and he was extending the same to his children.
- In OT times, a father’s blessing was both a will and a prophecy. It guaranteed the success of the son who received it. And Jacob got that blessing, by cheating!
- Prophecy only holds when it is spoken by God’s chosen (those walking with Him), and under His guidance/instruction.
- As a child of God, if for example someone like your father curses you, and whatever he is speaking over you is clearly not of God, it will come to nothing. You need not do anything, for God Himself will cancel it out because in Him you are blessed; there would be no real need to for instance verbally cancel or renounce the curse, for the work of the cross was finished – what Jesus did was enough! His work, not ours. His yoke is easy and His burden light [Matt. 11:30]. This is what we need to always believe. Only this. Do not fret and fall into the temptation of agreeing with/believing in curses/words not spoken by God Himself – they are all lies! Our earthly fathers (or whoever else really) can speak to us as our earthly fathers, but God speaks over us and what Hesays is final.
- The enemy takes advantage of situations like the one above and would remind you of what your Dad said, with the aim of having you believe a lie. But as a believer in Christ, none of what anyone says outside of God’s will holds any water! For the unbeliever though, the enemy can take those words and ride on them! We, however, have a different birthright!
- Prov. 26:2
- Does God forget?
Ex. 2:23-25, Gen. 30:22-23, 1 Sam. 1:19-20
- God does not forget. He is faithful, trustworthy, loyal.
- Remembering can be seen in these contexts of Scripture as God deciding that ‘now is the time for My glory to be seen’, ‘the time has come for Me to act on behalf of my people’.
- When God forgets/remembers no more, as in Heb.8:12 and Is. 43:25 (referring to forgetting our sins), it means He will never hold them against us – He has given us a clean slate, will not treat us as our sins deserve, He keeps no record of wrongs, He has the capacity to take our sins out of His mind.
- Remembering = bringing something to the forefront of your mind for action. Forget = letting it slip to the background – it does not linger, and so no action will be taken with regard to it.
- Also, God telling us that He remembers our sins no more ought to serve as an encouragement to us that we need not keep flashing back at the wrongs we have done and condemning ourselves, for God has already pardoned us. Rom. 8:1
- It is important to note that the Bible, while inspired by the Holy Spirit, was penned down by human writers with human minds. Moses for instance when writing the Pentateuch observed the things God did and did not do; when God acted for His people Moses describes it as “He remembered” and when He did not act Moses says “He forgot”. And it is okay. God may not have told him directly to write “I remembered” or “I forgot”, but Moses uses a language that would be well understood by the people he is writing for. In the real sense, God does not forget therefore requiring Him to remember something at some point. Rather, He has a pattern of doing things, a plan well laid out in heaven. He knows everything and sets a sequence of events to be effected on earth.
- Isaiah 49:14-16, 44:21; Heb. 6:10, Ps. 115:12
- Deut. 7:9, 1 Cor. 1:9, 2 Thess. 3:3, 2 Tim. 2:13, Heb. 10:23
- “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:48 We can be perfect? How did Jesus mean?
- Perfect = complete; perfect obedience to God = complete obedience to God, doing all that the Father asks. 1 John 5:3-5
Matt. 5:48 MSG: perfect = living generously and graciously towards others, the way God lives towards us!
- Noah in Gen. 6:9 KJV was referred to as perfect because of his obedience to God.
- No one can enter heaven if they’re not perfect, and if we think there are certain things we must do or certain ways we must act within our own strength to become perfect, then our ‘good deeds’ will be as filthy rags in the eyes of the Father [Is. 64:6]. The only way to be perfect is to put on Jesus as our righteousness, for then will the Father look at us and see Christ, who alone is perfect!
- Perfection is a journey/process, a goal we aim towards. 2 Cor. 3:16-18, Phil. 3:9-14, Eph. 4:12-13, 1 Pet. 5:9-11 NASB, 1 Cor. 2:4-7 KJV.
According to the Amplified Bible (classic edition), being perfect = growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity.
- 1 John 4:10-12
- More important than water baptism is baptism of the Holy Spirit, which happens when we receive/accept Christ’s salvation. In Acts, Philip preaches to a large crowd but waits on the other apostles to come lay hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:4-17]. In this instance, he had prepared them for it, planted the seed so to speak, and Peter and John were coming to ‘water the garden’. In another instance, Philip preaches to an Ethiopian man [Acts 8:26-40] and right there lays hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit. The point here is to always be directed by the Holy Spirit when ministering to others – He gives us the what’s, when’s and how’s.
- The processes can be different, but it is beginning the journey of faith in Christ that matters. E.g. not undergoing water baptism or not having someone lay hands on you to receive the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean you have not been baptised in the Holy Spirit.
- Speaking in tongues is a sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit, but not necessarily the evidence of it. Speaking in tongues is a wonderful gift (all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are), but Scripture does not state that every believer must speak in tongues. In Acts, when the apostles first preached after receiving the Holy Spirit, there is no evidence that those who received the Holy Spirit started speaking in tongues too [Acts 2]. Speaking in tongues happened first with the apostles, and since they had this ability, some were abusing it and making fellowship meetings disorderly, hence Paul’s rebuke. [1 Cor. 14:26-40]
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit should never be used to show off one’s “spiritual prowess” or for any selfish gain but only to edify the church. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets 1 Cor. 14:32, meaning you can contain yourself, e.g. you don’t have to burst out in tongues!
- When the disciples were waiting to receive the Holy Spirit, they did not know what to expect, and when the Spirit did come, He caused them to speak fluently in different languages that they did not know before – foreigners could hear the mysteries of God being spoken in their own languages! That is amazing. Those kinds of tongues are different from what we often hear today.
- Speaking in tongues cannot be forced! We do not need to copy what we hear being said on the pulpit in the name of tongues. God gives these gifts freely! It is a heavenly language that He gives. There is no sense in forcing tongues and making others think that you can speak in tongues when in the real sense you do not; and God Himself knows you are not truly speaking in tongues, and He cannot be mocked! Christ desires a personal relationship with us, and there is no way we can fake tongues and relate with Him intimately – it is plainly ridiculous. Let the gift come from Him, not you! We ought to desire it though [1 Cor. 14:1].
- The language of God is the language of the Father; He knows how each one of His children relates with Him (e.g. talking quickly, talking slowly, praying in tongues, lying prostrate, crying, singing, etc.) and that is how He wants us to come to Him – genuinely. There is no need to pick how other people pray from the pulpit for example, and force that into your own prayer time, when the LORD knows how He created you to best relate with Him, and this is potentially different from how He designed another one of His children to relate with Him.
- In our personal prayer time, words can fail sometimes, and tongues can take over; the Holy Spirit speaks in groans that we cannot understand [Rom. 8:26-27], and it is okay for Him to pray through us in that way.
- 1 Cor. 13. Don’t place the gift before love. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
2. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” 1 Cor. 2:9, Is. 64:4 Is it correct to pick out this Scripture as is and stand on it?
- One needs to know first what it means to them at face value at least, to then know if applying it as understood is Scripturally correct or not…
- Contextually, 1 Cor. 2:9 is not addressing a person who is in a fix, encouraging them that God will come through for them in ways they can never imagine. While the encouragement is good, this is not the Scripture reference for it, rather there are other verses in the Bible that can offer such encouragement.
- At face value (before studying it in context), this Scripture could to the reader look like a picture of heaven – how unimaginably great it will be! And quite truly, the mysteries of God go beyond our earthly dwelling.
- Some mysteries are scary, e.g. what the Israelites saw at Mount Sinai. In the early Church, when Paul was converted and started working not against Christ, the receiving of the Holy Spirit by Gentiles was a mystery to the Jews. [Acts 11:18]
- There are many things that are mysteries; to the human eye (mind), it can look positive or negative, scary or heavenly.
- Is. 64 talks about the Mt. Sinai experience – the majestic signs and wonders that happened there, that the neighbouring communities saw it too and marvelled at the God of the Israelites. That is why it says, “since ancient times” … but all that did not transform (renew), stayed steeped in sin [vs. 4-5].
- On the other hand, in 1 Cor. 2, the words “before time began” appear in vs. 7, just before vs. 9 where we see the Scripture in question.
- Scripture interprets Scripture. So the consistency in these two verses on the words ‘ancient’ and ‘before time began’ would help us understand the theme of what follows.
- The end of 1 Cor. 2 is a great conclusion. It says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” Then it says in closing, But we have the mind of Christ.
- We cannot ordinarily comprehend what God is doing. 1 Cor. 2:6-7 As an example most Israelites could not as it was hidden from them. So, unless we have the mind of Christ [vs. 16], we cannot know what God is planning for us. But those who are in Christ Jesus can [vs 14-15] through the Spirit [vs. 10], and we (you and me) have the mind of Christ.
- And so to answer the question… No, 1 Cor. 2:9 cannot be isolated from the chapter and used as an assertion on its own just as is. Vs. 10-13,16 must also be taken into account.
3. In Luke 5:24, Acts 7:55-56, etc., why is Jesus referred to as the ‘Son of Man’ and not ‘Son of God’?
- Son of Man = Messiah (The Living Bible Paraphrased); a title Jesus used for Himself to show His humanity as distinct from His divinity (NIV dictionary).
- ‘Son of man’ is also used in the OT, most prominently in Ezekiel and Daniel. The latter gives a prophecy about the ’son of man’ coming with the clouds of heaven – a prophecy/reference to the Messiah [Dan. 7:13]. Then, depending on the Bible version, the same phrase is scattered across all the Gospels (as well as Acts, Hebrews and Revelation), but Luke seems to stress it more.
- Why?… Each Gospel writer was writing with a different audience and a different purpose, but they all tell the same story (see table below).
- Luke may have wanted the Greeks to understand that Jesus was human, unlike their Greek gods who were made by human hands – that He is fully man and fully God, that He is relatable. Luke focuses a lot on the humanity of Christ, notably pre-birth [Luke 2:5,12], birth, growth and development [Luke 2:40,52], just to prove that He is/was a man like us.
- The table below shows the Gospels’ authorship and focus:
Here is a comparison of the four Gospels:
|Author||Tax Collector & Apostle||John Mark (informed by Apostle Peter).||Doctor. Friend of Paul||Fisherman. Apostle. Brother of James (early church leader)|
|Date written (??)||Late 50s-70AD||Late 50s-late 60s||Around 59-63AD||Around 85-90AD|
|Audience||Jews||Gentiles / Romans||Greeks (Theophilus)||All people|
|Purposes||Explaining the Kingdom; Jesus is the fulfillment of OT Prophecy||Showing Jesus’ Power||Giving the History (1:1-4)||Showing Salvation|
|Jesus is…||King||Servant||Perfect Man/ Savior of the World||Son of God|
|Key Verses||22:2 Jesus is the King of the Jews. 28:19-20 The Great Commission||10:45 Jesus came to serve.||19:10. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.||20:30-31. Written so you may believe.3:16 God loves the world|
|Key Word||Fulfilled||Immediately||Son of Man||Believe|
|Key Chapters/Content||Genealogy (ch 1). Sermon on the Mount (chs 5-7).||8:34-38 Take up your cross.||High view of women. Jesus’ prayer life. The “Lost” parables (ch 15). Work of Holy Spirit||Deity of Christ shown through 7 “I AM” statements. Also, 7 miraculous signs.|
|Key Features||Sermons/Teaching||Action and Miracles||Parables.||Teachings / Allegories|
|Percent spoken by Jesus||60%||42%||50%||50%|
|Old Testament Quotes||53||36||25||20|
|Jesus’ Beginning||David/Abraham||(none)||Adam||Eternity (He is God)|
|Ending||Great Commission||Resurrection||Ascension||Peter’s restoration|
- If “Son of God” was consistently used in place of “Son of Man” in Scripture, this would likely result in lesser impact on emphasising that Christ was both God and man. There are (major) religions even today that do not believe that Jesus was born of Mary. This is a stumbling block to both religious people (Jews) and those who worship other gods like most Gentiles did and still do. 1 Cor. 1:20-25 It is a question of authenticity, and consequently, the main issue here is worship.
- “Son of God”: Mark 5:6-8, Rom. 1:1-4, 1 John 5:9-12.
- References where “son of man” is used to refer to human beings: Ez. 1:28-3:10 (God called Ezekiel ‘son of man’), Job 25, Dan. 8:15-18.
- Further study:
Discussion: Was Jesus God or man?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. What do we learn about Jesus?
Jesus did not give up any of the attributes of deity (being God). The Bible teaches that Jesus chose to only use his divine power at the leading of the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:28; Lk 4:14-18). This does not mean that Jesus was no longer God or that he was unable to act as God (Isa 11:2; 61:1).
Question: What does it mean that Jesus “made himself nothing” or “emptied himself?” (Phil 2:7)
- False Idea: Jesus gave up his divinity when He became a man. In other words, he ceased to be God but was just a man.
- Truth: Jesus always knew He was God (Jn 8:58). He was the same “yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8).”
- False Idea: Jesus set aside some of his divine attributes, like being all-knowing and being all-present.
- Truth: Jesus didn’t give up any part of being God. If He was unable to function as God, would He continue to be God?
Jesus was fully human and had to learn everything a normal person would need to learn, like walking, speaking, studying, and learning a trade. At the same time, he also used some of his divine powers, at the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- Power over nature (Mt 8:26-27; 14:25-32).
- Forgiveness of sins, and knowing what others were thinking (Mk 2:8; Jn 4:18).
- The power to raise himself from the dead (Jn 10:17-18).