[Okay, I welcome all debates and opinions on this site, but be warned; the Sunday School Notes section starts with the premise that God exists and concerns himself with the affairs of men. My personal beliefs are explicitly laid out here.
If you aren't a believer and you want to argue, just skip the post. Contact me by email if you want to question our premise, but I'm not posting this to start a theological debate.
If you are a believer and want to question my statements within the "God exists" paradigm, by all means, please do! I want to get this right and you may have thoughts I hadn't considered.]
We are beginning our series of question, “Things In The Bible I Have A Problem With”. These are questions submitted by the members of the Young Married Couples class that I teach.
The first question we will address is this: How does the crucifixion fit in the timeline of history? Did Jesus come at that specific time because the time was right? Or did God cause all these events to happen so that Jesus could come when he did?
1. Galations 4:4 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son.”
In approximately 330 b.c., Alexander the Great conquers the known world, spreading the Greek Koine as an almost universal language.
Rome takes over when Greek rule ends, keeping the Kione language and bringing improved infrastructure and roads throughout every region.
These two events allow the message of the gospel to be quickly and efficiently spread throughout most of the known world.
2. The fulfillment of messianic prophecies
There are approximately 400 Old Testament messianic prophecies that pointed to the coming Christ. Many of them relevant to his birthplace and time. The current events of that time were significant to the fulfillment of the Old testament prophecies.
As Christians, we aren’t surprised that Jesus came at a time when events in history were lining up to provide the perfect setting for the spread of the gospel. We look at that as one of the indicators of God’s ultimate sovereignty.
What is more interesting is that these events were taking place outside of the Jewish world in unrelated ways. Meaning, it wasn’t Alexander the Great’s intention to conquer the world in order to more easily spread the gospel. Rome didn’t build the infrastructure for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the apostles.
Which brings us to the question we struggle with;
Did God cause Alexander’s success to ensure the spread of the gospel, or did he simply take advantage of it?
Romans 13:1 makes a pretty definitive statement about God’s position with authorities on earth.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Keep in mind, Paul was writing this to Roman citizens referring to the Roman government, not the religious authorities. He was describing secular men in secular roles.
If this is a true statement, then it is true for all authority in all places, in all times. That means Ronald Reagan was established by God. So was Barak Obama. And Stalin, and Moa, and Castro and every third world dictator you’ve never heard of.
So, if God is in control, why did he allow (you could even argue; choose) the bad ones?
1. All men, even the authorities, have free will.
Keep in mind, all men are created with free will to choose good or evil. As the Old Testament outlines the lives of the kings of Israel, you see over and over the phrase, “And Jehoshaphat walked in the ways of his father, Asa” “Amon walked in all the ways that his father walked.”
Some were good, some were bad, but all chose their path. God may have placed them, but all were free to choose to walk in the way of the Lord, or not.
2. God’s will is going to be accomplished. If not by this authority, then by the next.
Esther 4:12 “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place and you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows, but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”
The logical argument is that God established Alexander the Great, but had he not been successful, God would have established another until His will was accomplished..
Now let’s take a left turn into a whole different angle.
3. God does not see time as we see time.
2nd Peter 3:8 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”
The immediate interpretation we have for this is that watching a thousand years of history unfold is no different to God than us watching an all day marathon of Game of Thrones.
The tiny speck that is my 75 year existence is just a blip on the cosmic radar. What seems so momentous to me, barely exists in the history of time.
But it’s more than that. Logically speaking, a God that IS, exists in all places at all times, for all time. God is not limited to a place or time. If he only exists here, now, then he does not currently exist in the future or past. That is a limitation that is placed on us mortal, physical beings. By definition, God must exist without limit. God is now, while simultaneously being in the complete past and complete future.
God doesn’t just know what I’m going to do tomorrow, he’s already experiencing it. The concept of “a thousand years as a day” doesn’t just mean God is old, it means that he experiences no passage of time.
In John 8:58, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I am!” The Pharisees were outraged because he was taking the name that God gave Moses when he asked “who shall I tell them has sent me?” But the root word Jesus used was “eimi” which means to be present. God’s name, I AM, is the word “hayah“.
Jesus was telling them, “before Abraham was, I EXIST”.
He is active in every second of a millennium simultaneously. So, while we see this fascinating, complex series of events which play out over the course of human history, God experiences them all in one singular event. From “in the beginning” to the final days of human existence. It’s all already happened.
I can’t conceive of that from my earthly perspective. I have to frame it as esp, or fortune telling, or some paranormal ability that gives God special insight into things yet to come. But logically I know, that if God exists, he must exist this way. There is no other way he could be and still meet the qualifications of God.
So, if God already knows the results and he has put everything in place as he chooses, do we actually have any freedom of choice? Or are we all just mindless robots following God’s orders and we don’t even know it? That is next weeks topic.