Legislating God!

21 Jul
from Google Images

from Google Images

Perhaps is it just me, but I think that there is something really wrong in our approach to the world, when we are known more for the political party we embrace than for our relationship with Jesus.[1] Many people in the world see Christians as a political threat, rather than a religious choice. How would one explain the fact that, when Jesus was accused of making himself King (Luke 23:2), Pilate didn’t view him as a political threat to Caesar (John 18:33-38). My daughter was once told in her Sunday school class that it was difficult to see her as Christian, if she didn’t support a certain political party! Is God political? If Jesus came today instead of two millennia ago, would he be known for his political outlook? Would he belong to a political party?

Paul tells us that our minds need to think like Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). What Paul says next is not only controversial, but very interesting, and it reflects back to Jesus temptation in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Most translations conclude rightly that, before he became man, Jesus was equal with God, existing in God’s form. The phrase in verse-6 that I wish to consider is: “he thought it not robbery” or as some translations have it: “did not consider it (i.e. equality with God) a thing to be grasped (or retained, clutched etc.). While I have nothing against Paul’s letter being rendered this way, I think I agree with those who point out that it refers to Jesus not using his equality with God—i.e. didn’t use his Almighty power—as a tool to attain the Kingdom. In other words, Jesus didn’t take God’s Kingdom (what belongs to God) by force. Rather, he submitted to authority (Philippians 2:7-8), whether to God or man.

In both Matthew 4 and Luke 4 Jesus was tempted to use his almighty power (God’s nature) to accomplish human goals, specifically in Matthew 4:9 to take the kingdoms of the world by force. In other words, Jesus was tempted to use God power (nature) and achieve God’s will to turn mankind toward him in the same manner in which man uses his human power to serve his goals. Jesus, of course, would have none of this. Rather, he is so gentle that even the bruised among us wouldn’t be hurt by Jesus, nor would he destroy the hope of those among us who are almost ready to give up (cp. Matthew 12:18-21).

When thinking about getting folks to embrace God, I often recall the words of someone I deeply respected in the Lord years ago (and still do, but more for his life than for his teaching). When asked if one could legislate morality, he said: “Why not?” Then he pointed to Luke 14:23 as evidence that some folks need to be compelled to see God’s way. Yet, when I scrutinized this verse from a close perspective, I was able to see he had no argument. The English word, compel, is used only three times in the New Testament (KJV). It is used in Matthew 5:41 for a Roman worker to compel (G29) a Jew to carry his load for one mile. It is used again in Mark 15:21 for the Roman soldiers who compelled (G29) Simon to carry Jesus’ cross. In both instances the person who was compelled had no choice. It was against the law for him to refuse. In Luke 14:23, however, a different Greek word (G315) is used. It has more to do with circumstance or a logical argument used to compel a person to act a certain way. Paul tried to convince believers to blaspheme (Acts 26:11); he was forced by circumstance to boast in 2Corinthians 12:11. When folks tried to force Jesus to be their King, he convinced his disciples to leave by boat while he dismissed the crowds (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45). Paul claimed the governor in Caesarea would have set him free, but because the Jewish authorities were against the idea, Paul was forced to appeal to Caesar (Acts 28:19). So, strangers on the highways were compelled (G315) to come to the marriage feast, because those who were invited refused the Kings invitation.

Although Jesus could have used force to cause people to submit to God. He didn’t, because God simply isn’t that way. God will not use his almighty power to force (G29) us into his Kingdom. Rather he compels (G315) us by way of argument. Adam’s race is dying, but there is life in the new creation in Jesus (our second Adam) according to 1Corinthians 15:42-50. God has revealed his love for us in the death of Jesus, showing that, although he could have raised up a different race through his Son marrying and raising a family (cp. Numbers 14:12), he didn’t. Rather, he shows us in the death of Christ that he has committed himself to Adam’s race. Our rebellion is not the end, for God has created a way back to himself in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are compelled by the love of God to choose Jesus.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.

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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Jesus


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