What follows are the main ideas from my most recent sermon.
This past week I was working on my 10th issue of the magazine and I was dealing with the issue of contradictions in the Bible. Many unbelievers claim that God cannot write, that he cannot make up his mind and that he confuses his people because these supposed contradictions exist in scriptures.
The big problem in this issue is that the unbeliever does not accept two facts. First, they do not accept the fact that they are deceived and blind. This attitude comes from their rejection that evil (satan) exists. Since they refuse to acknowledge the source of their deception, they also do not accept the reality that they are the ones who are deceived.
They like to say that it is those who bring the light to this world who are in error and deceived.
Second, they refuse to accept the correct, rational, logical, and realistic explanations for these supposed discrepancies. These explanations do exist and they do clear up the matter of contradictions in the Bible. The explanations are not made up, they are not excuses, they are not in error but the unbeliever will say anything to avoid hearing and listening to the truth and the reason for this comes from point 1. They are deceived by evil.
We can use these explanations to protect our faith and keep us from stumbling. So today we will address 3 of these supposed contradictions about God.
I. God be seen?
Can God be seen? Well it all depends upon which definition of the word seen you use. If you use the one that supports a physical sighting of someone or something then you would be using the wrong definition for this issue.
“And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts.” (EXO 33:23)
“And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.” (EXO 33:11)
“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (GEN 32:30)
No man hath seen God at any time.” (JOH 1:18)
“And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live.” (EXO 33:20)
“Whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (1TIM 6:16)
These 6 verses are used by unbelievers to claim a contradiction exists in scripture but as we shall see if you look at the whole picture you will get a different story.
When people get too literal they make all sorts of claims. In the first 3 verses we see the words ‘see my backparts’, face to face’ for I have seen’ and when people get too literal they think that these statements refer to what is happening today—you see me standing in front of you, we are face to face, and since I am behind a pulpit, you only see a part of me.
But those words are not describing a very literal encounter. You can have a face to face talk with someone without seeing them. Back when Richard Nixon was president there were two investigative reporters who had several face to face meetings with a man who called himself deep throat. But in those encounters, they never saw his face and did not know what he looked like.
You can have a face to face encounter with someone and not see them. Moses had a face to face encounter with God but God appeared to Moses in a cloud, a burning bush and other disguises. Being disguised does not mean a face to face encounter did not take place.
When someone says ‘for I have seen God’ they are not talking about seeing him but seeing the results of his actions. When a miracle occurs we have seen God but we have not seen him physically, we see him at work. Thus we see the reality when we look for the true explanation and accept it.
II. CRUEL, UNMERCIFUL, DESTRUCTIVE, and FEROCIOUS or KIND, MERCIFUL, and GOOD:
“I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy.” (JER 13:14) “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.”
“The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” (JAS 5:11)
“For his mercy endureth forever.” (1CH 16:34)
“The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (PSA 145:9)
“God is love.” (1JO 4:16)
Now you may say along with the unbeliever that those verses are in contradiction with each other. But when you examine the Jeremiah verse again, you will find that the unbeliever leaves a word out in order to make their claim that God contradicts himself in the bible.
The missing word is ‘allow’. By leaving that word out, the unbeliever presents to the believer an erroneous picture of what God actually said. When you put the missing word back into the verse you find that God is not contradicting himself about his character and nature but that he is stating that those parts of his character and nature will not interfere with his upcoming actions.
There is a big difference between not being merciful and not allowing one’s mercy to interfere with the punishment coming. The other verses mentioned here do not record lying about himself but describes accurately who he is. An unbeliever will take them out of context and distort their meaning in order for them to make their false claims about God and the Bible.
To receive God’s mercy, to experience his grace there are actions we must do but the unbeliever does not want to acknowledge those actions because their intent is to discredit God not verify who he is. Too often people think grace is permission but that is not what grace is. Grace comes when we are pardoned from our sins and does not exist to allow us to practice sin.
Yes God’s mercy endures forever but one must give up their sin and ask for mercy in order to receive it. Mercy does not exist to condone sinful actions and call those sinners good. It also is granted when one repents of their sins and is not permission to do as one pleases.
One should not count on grace and mercy to be automatically given when one chooses to disobey as you see in the verse in Jeremiah that God will get angry and withhold it if he sees fit.
The word ‘allowing’ tells us that granting of grace and mercy are voluntary not mandatory and that God can choose to use it or not. it is up to his desires not ours if we receive those acts of mercy or not. How we live determines a lot about this issue.
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.” (GEN 22:1)
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (JAS 1:13)
The key to this problem is in which translation you use and how lazy or thorough you are in your study of God’s word. Again unbelievers will stop at the face value of the word ‘tempt’ and distort what is being said because they are lazy in their study and use of God’s word.
They will take the meaning of the word that they want, one that supports their ideas even if that definition does not apply to the word or this context. When one does a thorough study they will find that the word ‘tempt’ really is not the correct word to use h=in the passage of scripture and most good English translations do not use that word, nor do they infer that definition of the word. God does not tempt but he does ‘test’ and the word test is the word found in most good English translations in that passage of scripture.
BUT the word ‘test’ or its definitions do not fit the passage we read in James. There the word tempt is correct as is its most obvious definition. We do not read ‘god does not test people’ but ‘God does not tempt’ people and if you want an example of what the word tempt means in James we only have to go back to when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Then we get the correct definition and use of the word tempt in the book of James.
The Bible tells us to study to show ourselves approved unto God and this is the reason for that verse. We study and follow the Holy Spirit to the truth in order to not have our faith ruined by the work of the unbeliever who serves evil not God.
We study to know the real explanations and then we accept those reasons so that our faith is built upon the rock as Jesus said it should be constructed. We study thoroughly, not lazily so that we can learn the truth and be able to rebut the arguments of those who do not believe maintaining our faith and not letting doubt undermine it.
We cannot rely upon others to tell us the truth all the time. Sometimes we need to double-check what they have said so again we another valid reason why we study the word of God. There are many Christians who are lazy or do not follow the Holy Spirit to the truth thus they get the meaning of the biblical passages wrong or they are influenced by outside mitigating factors or influences which lead them away from the truth.
So we do not leave our study up to other people. Sometimes we have to correct those who error, and those that error may have done so innocently and not purposefully and that is another reason why we study. We need to develop discernment so we know who needs correction and who does not.
Aquila and Priscilla in the book of Acts are prime examples of this need as they took Apollos aside and gave him correct instruction so that he could tell the truth to others and make a great impact for God.
We cannot be lazy in our Christian lives because so much depends upon us learning and knowing the truth. Not only will our study keep us from mistake-filled ideas like contradictions, it will help us to teach our friends, relatives and our children the correct way to go and keep them on the straight and narrow path to salvation.
Shall we pray…