The Bible says that Jesus is God’s one and only son.
However, God also calls the church his children. How can we be God’s children if he has only one son?
Although the Bible is full of paradoxes – which are hard for modern people to accept but not so difficult for post-modern people and certainly not an issue for ancient people – I don’t think this is one of them.
Another truth may explain this seeming contradiction. One metaphor in understanding our relationship with God is that of a bride and groom, with Jesus being the groom and the church being the bride. Therefore, by virtue of this union, Jesus, the only son of God, brings the church into his family through marriage, thereby making us, the church, become children of God.
This is just a thought, but it’s an interesting one.
[John 3:16, 1 John 3:1, 2 Corinthians 11:2]
Another curious thing with Daniel’s prayer is that he may not have even needed to make it!
After all, God, through Jeremiah, foretold that the nation would be in captivity for 70 years and then return. The seventy years are about up; it is time to go home.
God decreed it, so there’s no need to pray. Yet Daniel prays anyway, asking God to do what he already said he would do.
Could there be causality?
Is Daniel’s prayer needed for God’s intention to come to fruition?
Or perhaps God’s decree is given with the foreknowledge that in 70 years Daniel will pray for deliverance.
Was it predestined that the people would be repatriated after 70 years or was it predestined that Daniel would pray, resulting in their return?
In another wonderful God paradox, the answer is yes!
A theological conundrum is the concept of free will versus predestination. While the Bible teaches that we have the ability to make our own choices (we have free will), it also says that things are predetermined (predestined). Which is it?
It is both, presenting us with a delightful paradox. Though my mind somewhat grasps this as a holistic, unified truth, I am woefully unable to articulate it.
It helps a little to consider that one understanding of “predestined” is to “foreknow.” Another helpful consideration is to realize that God — who created time-space, exists outside of time — likely seeing the past, present, and future as a singular reality.
However, it is the book of Daniel that gives me the most help.
A prophecy is given about evil king Nebuchadnezzar. Because of his prideful arrogance, he will be struck with insanity until he acknowledges God (free will) and for seven years (predestination).
Free will and predestination are not mutually exclusive concepts, but opposite sides of the same coin.
Doctor Luke records a parable of Jesus. It is about a noble man who, before going on a journey, entrusts three servants with varying amounts of money to invest for him. The first two invest their amounts and earn a good return, apparently doubling their stakes. The third however, to whom little is entrusted, makes no effort to invest it. He lazily does nothing and merely returns the original amount to his master. This is done under the guise of keeping it safe, calling his master a “hard man.” The master judges him accordingly, taking the money away from him and giving it to the first servant.
Although we must guard against reading too much into a parable, the noble man in this one parallels God. When the servant declares that the noble is a “hard man,” is this a characteristic that we can apply to God? At first glance it is difficult, perhaps even seeming sacrilegious, to call God “hard,” but is there truth that can be gleaned form this? In balancing the paradox of a God of love with a God whom we fear, does a “hard” God fit somewhere into the picture of who he is?
For those who think God will give them a free pass regardless of how they act or what they do, the image of God as hard, that is a strict God, might be a good characteristic for them to ponder.
However, there are also those who view God as mean and vindictive, just waiting for them to mess up so that he can inflict ill-will upon them. Their view of God is already way too “hard”; they will do well to focus on his loving nature instead.
Yes, God does have a hard side to him, but that’s not all there is to him; he is also loving and gentle.
I have a friend who pursues justice; she wants everything to be fair. The bad thing about absolute justice is that it leaves no room for mercy. In many ways, justice and mercy are opposites:
- Mercy is getting off with a warning, while justice says you deserve a ticket.
- Mercy is having a test question thrown out, while justice says you got it wrong.
- Mercy is receiving probation, while justice says you deserve jail.
- Mercy is getting a second chance, while justice says there are no “do-overs.”
- Mercy is being permitted to retract your chess move, while justice says “sorry, you took your hands off it.”
In a paradox of Godly proportions, God is both fully just yet full of mercy.
Justice says that an imperfect person cannot be in the presence of a perfect God, while mercy through Jesus allows us to do so anyway.
Thank God for his justice and his mercy — and for paradoxes!
In one Paul’s letters, he says something that is quite curious and strange. He tells readers to “work out your salvation.” [Philippians 2:12]
Ugh? Didn’t Paul also write that we are saved through faith and not by our “works” (that is, not of our own doing or striving)? [Ephesians 2:8-9]
So, if we can’t earn our salvation, why do we need to work it out? Is Paul confused? Is he schizophrenic? Is this a paradox?
Actually, I think it’s a matter of timing.
First, we need to follow Jesus — by faith. We don’t need to do anything else to get God’s attention or earn his affection. There is no working involved in being made right with God. That means it’s a gift — we didn’t buy it and can’t earn it; it was given.
The second part is our response. Out of sheer gratitude for the gift, we can opt to respond by behaving differently. I think this is what it means to “work out our salvation,” that is, to cultivate it or complete it.
Consider what if I gave you a million dollars. Would your attitude towards me change? I think so. You might want to find out more about me, learn why I did it, and maybe help me in my future philanthropic efforts.
In essence you might be working out my gift to you. It’s still a gift, but one that evokes a grand response.
After Jesus performs a miracle — healing a paralytic man (see Matthew 9:2-8) — the people were fearful of God, yet full of praise at the same time (this precise wording is not apparent in all translations — see the New Living Translation or the Amplified Bible).
Although it seems like a paradox to simultaneously fear God and praise him, perhaps this is a view we should adopt.
Yes, there are reasons to fear him, but they must be carefully balanced with praising him. It may be in the midst of that balance that we are able to best connect with him.