Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bible difficulties Answered (Part 18)

By: Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, James Schaeffer

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." (Proverbs 18:17)

63. How can the ransom which Christ gives for all, which is good (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:5-6), be the same as the ransom of the wicked (Proverbs 21:18)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

This contradiction asks, 'Who is a ransom for whom?' Shabbir uses passages from Mark 10:45 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6 to show that it is Jesus that is a ransom for all. This is compared to Proverbs 21:18 which speaks of "The wicked become a ransom for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright."

There is no contradiction here as they are talking about two different types of ransom. A ransom is a payment by one party to another. It can be made by a good person for others, as we see Christ does for the world, or it can be made by evil people as payment for the evil they have done, as we see in the Proverbs passage.

The assumption being made by Shabbir in the Mark and 1 Timothy passages is that Jesus was good and could therefore not be a ransom for the unrighteous. In this premise he reflects the Islamic denial that someone can pay for the sins of another, or can be a ransom for another. He must not, however impose this interpretation on the Bible. Christ as a ransom for the many is clearly taught in the Bible. Galatians 3:13-14 and 1 Peter 2:23-25 speak of Jesus becoming a curse for us. Therefore Jesus has fulfilled even this proverb.

Again Shabbir's supposition relies upon quotations being taken out of their context. The Mark 10:45 passage starts off by quoting Jesus as saying, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." This was spoken by Jesus because the disciples had been arguing over the fact that James and John had approached Jesus about sitting at his right and left side when Christ came into his glory. Here Jesus is again prophesying his death which is to come and the reason for that death, that he would be the ransom payment that would atone for all people's sin.

In 1 Timothy 2:5-6 Paul is here speaking, saying,

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time."

This comes in the middle of a passage instructing the Early Church on worshiping God. These two verses give the reason and the meaning of worshiping God. The redemptive ransom given by God, that through this mediator Jesus Christ's atoning work on the Cross, God may once again have that saving relationship with man.

The Proverbs 21:18 passage speaks however of the ransom that God paid through Egypt in the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, as is highlighted in the book of Isaiah, but particularly in Chapter 43:3;

"For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead."

This picture is further heightened in verses 16 and 17 of the same Chapter. This also has some foundation from the book of Exodus 7:5; 8:19; 10:7; 12:33. Chapters 13 and 14 particularly point to this. As history records for us in the Bible it was through this action that the Old Covenant was established between God and the Kingdom of Israel.

64. Is all scripture profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) or not profitable (Hebrews 7:18)?

(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)

The accusation is that the Bible says all scripture is profitable as well as stating that a former commandment is weak and useless, and therein lies the contradiction. This is a contextual problem and arises through ignorance of what God promised to do speaking through the Prophets, concerning the two covenants which He instituted.

Due to space this wonderful issue cannot be looked at in depth here. However, some background information will have to be given in order for a reader, unfamiliar with the Bible, to understand what we are saying here. In order to illustrate I will draw a parallel from question #92 which speaks of the wealth behind many of the Hebrew words used in the Bible; in that particular case the ability we have to interpret the word 'niham' as either changing one's mind, repenting, or to be aggrieved (refer to the question for a further understanding of the context).

God's word obviously originates from Him alone, and is indeed useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training as 2 Timothy states. That is a general statement which refers to all that which comes from God.

Hebrews chapter 7 speaks of a particular commandment given to a particular people at a specific time; the sacrificial system in the Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem. God established in His covenant with His people Israel a system where they would offer sacrifices, animals to be killed, in order for God to forgive them of their sins; particularly what God calls in Leviticus chapters 4 to 6, the "sin offering" and the "guilt offering".

This concept of substitutional death is foreign to Islam, but is fundamental to Biblical Judaism and Christianity. Atonement must take place for sin. The penalty of sin is death, and someone has to pay that price. There is no forgiveness for sin without the shedding of blood, for God demands justice. He cannot just ignore it for that would not be just.

God indeed established this system of atonement as the Old Testament shows by referring to the need for atonement 79 times! However, it also records God saying "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt" [i.e. at Mount Sinai where He gave the first covenant to the people of Israel just after God saved them from Egypt] (Jeremiah 31:31-33). The reason God gives is that the people did not remain faithful to it. Thus the new covenant will be different as God says, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts" (vs. 33). He says also that this new covenant will necessitate a once-for-all payment for their sins, unlike the previous covenant (Jeremiah 31:34, Daniel 9:24-25).

God also speaks in the Old Testament of the Messiah who would bring this about. A Messiah not from the Levitical priesthood, but a perfect man from the tribe of Judah who would be a priest unto God. He, the Messiah would be the sacrifice that would pay for all sin in one go, and approach God not on the merit of his ancestry (as with the Levitical priests), but on his own merit, being like God, perfect. If people follow this Messiah and accept his payment of the penalty for sin for them, then God will write the law on their minds and hearts, and God can be merciful to them as His justice has been satisfied. Then they too can draw near to God, for God wants to be in relationship with His creation (Genesis 3:8-11) and it is only sin which stops that.

Obviously this is quite involved and only a comprehensive reading of the Old Testament will explain it adequately. All scripture is profitable, including that concerning the sacrificial system. However, God also promised in the Bible to make a renewed covenant with His people. In this the original system was replaced with the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus.

Many scriptures describe this Messiah who would bring about this new covenant. In this God "makes his life a guilt offering" and we are told "Surely he took up our infirmities [sins] and carried our sorrows, he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace [with God] was upon him." See Isaiah chapter 53.

You can pay the price for your sin if you wish - it will cost you your life eternally. You will die for your own sin and go to hell. Or, because of the love of God, the Messiah can pay that price for you, and be "pierced" in substitution for you, which will bring you peace with God. Then God will permit you to enter heaven for eternity as His justice is satisfied. For as John the Baptist when seeing Jesus mentioned, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the word!" He also said, "Whoever believes in the Son [Jesus] has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 1:29, 3:36.

God teaches that He will do this. It was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus, EXACTLY as the Old Testament said it would happen, and the new covenant was established. Sin was paid for once for all by the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" as John the Baptist announced upon seeing Jesus (see #34 and #44). He is the one God promised. So through his death the old system of sacrifices, offering animals over and over again, became unnecessary. God's alternative, which is vastly superior and comprehensive, rendered by God himself the previous system useless (Hebrews 8:7-13).

So, like clarification #92, God did not change His mind on His plan for enabling people to be right with Him. God is not a man that He should change His mind. It was His intention and plan all along to bring in this new covenant as a fulfilment of the old, as the Old Testament shows. A further point needs to be addressed a here. These ceremonial laws were required of the Israelites alone, as they were the ones who operating within the stipulations, ordinances and decrees of the Mosaic covenant. Any Gentile, or non-Israelite, who wished to convert to Judaism, was obligated to observe these covenantal ordinances as well. But Christians are not converts to Judaism. They are believers in Jesus, God's Messiah, the Savior. They operate within the context of a "new covenant," the one established in Jesus' blood by his atoning sacrifice, not the old covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai. Within this new covenant, Christians too have commandments, and in one manner or another they all relate to what was written in the Old Testament, but now in an entirely new context, that of fulfilment. So there is a clear line of continuity, revelation and renewal between the covenants, new and old - because both Israel and Christianity have the Messiah in common, and it was the Hebrew Scriptures that he fulfilled. Therefore all those Scriptures are profitable for studying, to know where we have come from, and where we are going. But not every commandment, ordinance or decree in the Old Testament is applicable to Christians in the same way it was (or is) to Israel. Though we have much in common, we have distinct covenants, a new covenant, which present Jews need to read about and acquiesce to, as it fulfills all that they look for and continue to hope for.

Note: a parallel to this, although an imperfect one, can be draw for the Muslim from the Qur'an. Sura 3:49-50. Jesus comes and says to the people of Israel "I have come to you to affirm the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you what was before forbidden to you", or "to make halal what was haram". According to this he came and confirmed the law which God had given to them, but he made some things permissible for them which God had previously prohibited. This is not true according to the Bible in the context of this "contradiction" and cannot be said for Judaism and Christianity. It is just a parallel to show that the Qur'an testifies of such things too.


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