Travis: Last week we reviewed the doctrine of divine simplicity and that wrapped up the section on God is life giving spirit. And then we got into the doctrine of immutability, that God is an unchanging God. God is, you can look at your outline here and follow this; God is life-giving spirit. God is one.
You can see that Roman numeral one, letter A, number one and two, God is life giving Spirit. God is one. And then God is unchanging. And all those are under the heading of the attributes of God, as Immortal spirit.
So today we’re going to finish what we started last week talking about God’s unchangeableness, and his unchangeableness is manifest in the fact of his immutability. And then a subset of that, which is the doctrine of impassibility. And, basically, we say God is unchanging and God is unaffected: Unchanging and unaffected. Okay?
So look at your, look at your outline. This is where we are the attributes of God’s greatness, Roman numeral, number one. We have basically two headings here. God, the greatness of God, the Immortal spirit and the greatness of God, the creator. Okay. And then we’ve, you can see where we are in that outline. We’re on that point number three, under letter A, and then we’re going to be getting into the greatness of God, the Creator. Lot, a lot there; God is light, perfect, limitless. He’s wise.
So we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk about all of this. And like I said this outline is subject to, to, change, because I am trying to craft this in a way that I think makes sense to me and hopefully is making sense to you. So just stand by. We’ll probably fill it in a little bit. Maybe scramble some things up a bit, and then we’ll get into the attributes of God’s goodness, which is manifest in the fact of us living in his created world.
We see his goodness all around us. So, there’s, you can see two points there, the inherent goodness of God, which is talking about his holiness, truth, goodness, wisdom, love, those kind of things, and then we see the transitive goodness of God, which means things that are conveyed to us; God is righteous, he’s faithful, merciful and gracious.
There’s something on here that didn’t show up. No. You have it there, right? God is righteous. Transitive holiness. Do you have it there? Okay. It just didn’t show up on my copy here.
So transitive, transitive holiness, transitive truth; it, it’s how his truth is conveyed to us. It comes across to us, is his, he’s faithful. When he says something, he will do it. He follows through. He’s absolutely faithful, reliable, merciful and gracious. That’s manifestation of his goodness and his love. Okay? So, you can tuck that away and let that, let that even guide the way you teach others. Whether you teach your family or, or, friends or whatever. That’ll help you.
Okay, so let’s jump right into this. God is unchanging, and that has to do with immutability and impassibility. Okay? Anybody want to? Well. Yeah. Let me just, let me just do this before I ask a question. So the, the, summary of this is, that God is not changeable. That’s what immutable means. Okay? It’s not changing, not mutable. And that, that affirmation about God, it begins with Exodus 3:14 in the fact that he attests to himself by giving his name as Yahweh. It’s, it’s, I AM. Haya aser haya. I am, who I am or I am what I am. I am that I am. But the, it’s not, I was, I will be, I am. It’s a, it’s a, state of being, verb and it’s a, present tense. That is to say, you know when, when, Jesus rebuked the Sadducees, not I was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but “I am the God of”, like currently, right now, “the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.”
Then that’s a, affirmation of the, the, fact that those are, those men are resurrected and he’s currently their God, as well. So, he is, that, the fact that God ‘is’, is what strongly affirms the fact that he is unchanging. And other passages of scripture that we read last time bear witness to that.
But the doctrine is succinctly stated in, ma, Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change” and immediately following that affirmation, “I the Lord do not change;” there is, we, we see the immediate benefit of that. “Therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed.” That is, the fact that I don’t change, is, means that I am faithful and I keep my promises. And the promises I made to your father Abraham means you’re not dead right now.
Okay, so that’s a, that’s a good thing, that God is an unchanging God. We, we saw the biblical evidence and we went through this last time. We talked about God’s unchanging essence and his unchanging will. His unchanging essence; God is the same. He is the first and the last. He is immortal, which means he’s incapable of dying. That is incorruptible. That is no change by means of decay. So there’s no change in God. There’s no law of entropy working on God’s nature or essence.
Unchanging will. We talked about his character, his choices, his plans, his promises, his gifts, his threats; all of those things are unchanging. I stopped short last time and this is where we’ll start today.
I stopped short of, of, reading some theological summaries of this in some of the systematic theologies, and that’s why I had to carry this armful of books today. I didn’t have any strong guys to help me. So, the Lord, this is how, this is how the Lord builds pastoral muscle right here. What’s that?
Audience: You have not because you ask not.
Travis: That’s true. That’s true. I asked not, because no. I, no. It’s really, it’s good for me to carry the books, otherwise, I’d just sit and get fat and my muscles and, you know, law of entropy, you know, working in my body.
So, so this is Berkhof, page 58 here. Here’s a quick summary of immutability, the immutability of God. Here’s the quote from Louis Berkhof here, “The Immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in his Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises.
“In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming, and is free from all accession or diminution and from all growth or decay in His Being or perfections. His knowledge and plans, His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. Even reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, since a change is either for the better or for worse.”
That makes sense, right? “But in God, as the absolute Perfection, improvement and deterioration are both equally impossible.” That’s well stated, well stated.
Charles Hodge, also, when we get this one and, Oh, where’s my bookmark? There it is. Charles Hodge also, “God is absolutely immutable in his essence and attributes. He can neither increase nor decrease. He is subject to no process of development, or of self-evolution. His knowledge and power can never be greater or less. He can never be wiser or holier, or more righteous or more merciful than He ever has been and ever must be.
“He is no less immutable in his plans and purposes. Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in their conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment.” And then he goes on to elaborate. One more.
In Charnock, which we’ve, this is a very good book, if you want to study theology proper. And so, I just don’t have time to go through all that I want to here. But it’s, he’s really, he really states things beautifully. Here’s the doctrine, the immutability of God. Quote, “God is unchangeable in his essence, nature, and perfections. Immutability and eternity are linked together; and, indeed, true eternity is true immutability; whence eternity is defined the possession” is. Okay.
So let me say that again. “Whence eternity is defined the possession of” in “an immutable life. Yet immutability differs from eternity in our conception; immutability respects the essence or existence of a thing; eternity respects the duration of a being in that state, or rather, immutability is the state itself; eternity is the measure of that state. A thing is said to be changed, when it is otherwise now in regard of nature, state, will, or any quality than it was before; when either something is added to it, or taken away from it; when it either loses or acquires.
“But now it is the essential property of God not to have any accession to, or diminution of, his essence or attributes, but to remain entirely the same. He wants nothing;” That is to say, he’s in lack of nothing. “He wants nothing; he loses nothing; but doth uniformly exist by himself.” That’s the doctrine of aseity, “without any new nature, new thoughts, new will, new purpose, or new place.”
Okay. That’s the doctrine stated and summarized by the different systematic theologians. Let me ask a thought-provoking question here. Says in Luke’s Gospel, which we have read and studied in big church, that “Jesus increased,” increased, “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” So, what are we saying, when we say that about Jesus? How can he increase if God does not increase? Wayne.
Audience: Completely going down the same road. Jesus, Jesus didn’t change. Just men finally realized, hey, that, that ‘take’s a little different’, you know, and the, the, natural extension of that, was a bunch of people then started realizing, hey, wait a minute here, You know it, it, was man, that changed, not Jesus.
Travis: Okay. It says, “he increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” So how can he increase if “Jesus Christ”, Hebrews 13:8, I believe, “is the same yesterday, today forever.”
Audience: So you’re going to maintain that he did change.
Travis: I’m just, I’m just quoting Bible verses, man.
Audience: When he grew up and changed physically.
Travis: He grew up and changed? I thought he was the same yesterday and today and forever. How do you reconcile that, Bret Hastings, who’s going to seminary next week?
Audience: Next week. His divine nature does not change. His human nature is subject to everything that we are subject to.
Travis: Hey, how about that? He didn’t even need seminary today. Good. That’s, that’s, that’s very good, Brett.
Audience: Monday night, yeah. So he, when he took on the form of servant, he emptied themselves. You know, “He didn’t consider his equality with God something to be held on to,” and so, so, so, he didn’t know the future unless the Lord revealed it to him. He, his theology was shaped by his learning, he.
Travis: In his human nature.
Audience: When he was on earth.
Travis: Yeah, guys, when you come to that doctrine, it’s called the doctrine of kenosis in Philippians chapter 2. Be careful that you don’t use language of self-emptying. Okay? That’s, it is confusing. It’s, I’ve heard that, a lot of times, and you know, I’ve heard, even people that I respect and highly regard, say he divested himself of all his attributes and I’m like, whoa. That you can’t. No, he didn’t. No, in his divine nature, no change whatsoever. His human nature, it had change.
So what you described there about his human nature and his divine nature working together by the Holy Spirit at the direction of God the father with the involvement of God the Son, there’s some; that’s the mystery we call the hypostatic union, the union of two natures in one person.
Audience: So, to get some clarity. So, I’ve never did. That’s good. Did he suppress his?
Travis: No suppression, just submission to the father’s will. So as the father, as the father directed, as the spirit revealed, he then, you know, made use of attributes of power, and to heal, and prophetic insight to know men, and to know the, you know, to speak the future that he is, he and his human nature was allowed to know. Yeah, Lee.
Audience: I was just gonna say, doesn’t that work out with your breakdown of greatness and goodness, in that, we are able to become holier; we’re able to be true; we’re able to be these other things. He grew in those areas as a, a, man in perfection, but he didn’t grow in areas of his infinity, his eternality, and things like that. His human nature had to be growing in those, because he learned obedience to the things he suffered. And, and, so his human nature had to be growing, as in those areas of attributes.
Travis: Exactly, yes. And in his human nature. That’s so when, when, it describes him as growing in wisdom and stature in favor with God and men; he, it’s describing his human nature, the fact that, just as Bret said, he endured and experienced all the things that we endure and experience, as hu, he lived a normal human life. Well, not normal, but in a sense a normal human life. And in his divine nature, no change whatsoever.
And when you think about that, as he was dying on the cross; his is, he’s, he’s, up there, elevated, nailed to a cross, dying for our sins; in his divine nature, omnipresent, everywhere. So, it, it, really does scramble the brain to think about him being there, located in one location, but then everywhere, ubiquitous, in all places, at all times, knowing all things.
So, for the Father, and I’ve heard this before too, that the, that the Father, there was a, there was a break in the Trinity. No there was not. Don’t ever say that! You know that that’s, that’s, the that’s, that’s, the rejection aspect; when the Father turned his back on the son, so to speak. It was on ‘the human nature of Christ’ on the cross. And, and, that was devastating for Christ on the cross.
Salvation for us, because Christ merited God’s favor. His, his, life demanded the faithfulness of God to him and the faithfulness of God, then was proven when he resurrected him three days later. Yes?
Audience: Ah, now, I’ve lost my thought. What you were saying? Go ahead.
Travis: Gary. You were gonna say something?
Audience: Well, way back, it was more appropriate with an earlier discussion, but all teachers will tell you that the second grader does not behave like a fourth grader and fifth grader, not like a fourth grader. Human beings develop. It is more than just interesting to me, that Jesus came to Earth as a, as a, mere baby, as a mere child.
He didn’t just appear on the scene as an adult, but experienced every single, but if you’re going to experience every single part of the human life, of an ordinary life, if you want to call it that word; then there goes to say that you have to develop. You have first learned to speak and then learn to walk, and crawl, or whatever, and you’ve got to go through all of those things. By the time he was 12 years old, he was ready to take on more, take on more than just child’s play, if you will.
Travis: Oh, yeah.
Audience: Why we have that that statement, I think. Increased in wisdom and, and
Travis: “In stature and favor with God and men.” Yeah.
Audience: That, that whole statement indicates, okay, as a man he grows up now, and as a man he starts to understand what’s going on.
Travis: And that’s.
Audience: He understood earlier, didn’t he though?
Travis: What’s that?
Audience: This is when Jesus first began to understand.
Travis: But, just, I think a, a, growing awareness of, of, who, finding himself in Scripture, you know, his human nature. I have no idea what that was like psychologically for him to, you know, mentally and thinking that through emotionally. I have no idea. No idea. But you know, because it’s, it’s, an experience unique to one. There’s only one on this earth who’s gone through that.
But, but, you know, it’s interesting that, you know, we, we talked about this as elders, how Jesus found himself in Scripture. You know, we as elders, we find ourselves in Scripture, too. There are passages that are directed to us, about us, telling us what to do, how to act, how to be. Yeah, Lee?
Audience: I was just going to say, in John chapter 5, he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son does also in like manner.” Then, he says, “I can do nothing on my own initiative.” Is it fair to say that he laid aside the voluntary use of his attributes, and in other words, he was dependent upon the Father. He didn’t just heal this guy because he thought it was a good idea. Somehow there’s a cooperation between he and the Father.
Travis: Well, um, it, that’s.
Audience: Is that statement, though, really of his oneness with the father?
Travis: What’s that?
Audience: The comment that, that Lee made is that more grave…
Audience: This is what coming after me. If I’m going, ‘Okay, wait a minute.’ This is the one that’s between the Father and the son.
Travis: Right. Yes. And, and that’s, and that’s where I, I, see that as, an unpacking of the oneness between father and son; of a, of a, singular, in the essence of God, a singular will. Three persons; same will. “I and the father are one.” And so, I think that that’s an expression of that oneness, that is then transferred down into the, m, Messiah as a human nature; d, down, transferred to, you know, in his, in his human nature, where there’s a complete submissiveness and, abil, submissiveness to the will of the father. Obedience to the will of the father.
So, I don’t, I don’t see in the, in the Trinity, two wills of the son, you know, submitting his will to the father, in the, in the, the, second person of the Trinity submitting to the first person of the Trinity, that makes two wills. So, I want to, I want to make sure and protect that.
And that’s where that’s where Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware have deviated pretty significantly from the Nicene Creed. By, by, saying there are two wills. There are three wills in the Trinity. You’re now, you’re messing around with ontology, with the essence of God.
And, and, when they project what they see in this submission thing, I think they’re confusing the, the, human submission of Christ, to the father, in his, in that human will. Human nature; Human will. They’re, they’re, conflating that with the divine nature, divine will, and then they’re taking that, two wills, in the father and son, saying there are three wills now, the Holy Spirit. And they projecting them back into eternity past. That’s an, that’s a serious Nicene error. Huh?
Audience: That’s saying there’s three gods.
Travis: Basically, yeah, you’re starting to now divide up the perfections of God.
Audience: It goes against his simplicity.
Travis: It’s totally violates his simplicity and that’s why we spent time on doctrine of divine simplicity, because it protects us from some of these errors.
Audience: Yeah, I wasn’t going there. I was just wondering if his human will, as he was, you know, he was obedient to the father in his humanity, as a kind of an example to us, that we also can be obedient to the father in our, our, wills.
Travis: Absolutely. That’s absolutely correct. So that’s why I even want to be careful in talking about the independent exercise of his attributes, because there never was an independent, separate from the father, father’s you know. Th, th, that’s to, that’s to, to, basically speak in terms of two wills and I don’t, I don’t, want to speak that way.
So I just want to speak in terms of, let’s, let’s, keep the, the, two natures of, of, Christ protected. And that’s why when we, when we, do membership applications some of you, who have been around a long time, haven’t seen maybe our new membership applications, but some of you who are newer have gone through that.
And we have a question, who is Jesus Christ? Very simple question. We just want a number of questions, testimony, but who is Jesus Christ? And we want to see what people say, you know. We want to see, do they overemphasize one to the exclusion of the other, or do they, do they even not understand the humanity of Christ? And sometimes, you’ll find sometimes, that people overemphasize, not overemphasize, they only emphasize the deity of Christ, completely leave off any mention of his humanity.
And so, then we follow up with people and you say, we say, hey, you understand he was fully human too. Yes? Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. So yeah, we, we, we, make sure and kind of challenge that because it is sometimes an error of, of, how do I put it? I can’t think of the word right now.
Travis: Omission. Yes, but I’m trying to think of the, emphasis. That’s the word I was thinking of. Simple word. Sorry.
Audience: So, I was talking to my kids and I was saying to them that Jesus took on human nature when he came to Earth and that he never lost his human nature. Like, now he has a human nature. Is that; that’s wrong? That’s not true?
Travis: Say that again, he’s, he took on human nature.
Audience: He took on a human nature when he came to earth and now he has a human nature in heaven, that he never had before, but now he has an eternal one from here on out.
Audience: Well, then it’s true. Oh.
Travis: That’s true. No, that’s exactly, that’s exactly right. And, and yes, there and, and, some people will say, ‘Well, see, there’s a change in the Trinity, he took on a body.’ No, that’s not a change in the essence of God. And that, that is.
Audience: This is a different, like kind of, like a different clothing that he wears? Is it? Is it?
Travis: Instead of wearing, you know, a white robe, now he’s wearing a human body. Ah, no. So, I, it is true that right now, currently.
Audience: He is eternally at the right hand of God.
Travis: Currently he is bodily at the right hand of the father.
Audience: Body different than God has, no body. He’s spirit.
Travis: God has no body. He in his divine nature has no body. Essentially, he is immortal spirit by essence. That’s, that’s, what he is. All those perfections of God, all the simplicity of God.
Audience: So, what Glory brought up is; so when they say that, that was God talking to Abraham in Theophany, is that the same human nature that Jesus Christ had as an adult? That’s what she said. Is that Jesus Christ grown up?
Travis: No. An, and, that’s, that, that is a quite a good question. When, when, God walked with Adam and Eve, when those, so you see those Theophanies in the Old Testament, are they Christophanies? Angel of the LORD, capital A, Angel of the L,O,R,D; capital L, capital O, capital R, capitol D. Yahweh. Is that Christ? And I think it is a pre–incarnate Christ, whose manifest in a human body.
Audience: Sort of like the same body that was glorified that
Travis: I, I, don’t wanna, I don’t wanna make a, I, I, can’t. I don’t have enough information to know.
Audience: We don’t know. We don’t know.
Travis: Yeah. I just know that, that, people interacted with flesh and blood. He ate, you know, with Abraham and, and, all that. So, I just, I don’t know.
Audience: Cause it’s, it really makes the immutability thing is really like easy at first. You’re like, you’re like, well.
Travis: That’s why I wanted to throw a little wrench into your mind this morning at 7:30. So Wayne, you were going to say something?
Audience: I was just going to point out, in Bancroft’s transition from the doctrine of simplicity to introducing the Trinity, he actually goes over, for like a paragraph and a half, this, let’s call it, fallacy or tendency of the human brain to associate personhood with the individuality and the counting, that we have as humans and how it doesn’t quite fit, you know, applying the concept of person to Trinity, because of simplicity.
Travis: Great. Yeah, that’s good. I, I, don’t have that in my head right now, about what he said, but sounds like it’s a good section to read. Are you reading your books? I, I, just haven’t, I just haven’t looked at Bancroft for a bit, but I’ve had my head in other stuff. But yeah, that’s that sounds really good. So take a look at that. Yeah, Bret.
Audience: I was just going to mention Mike Riccardi, at the Shepherds, Shepherd’s Conference, at a breakout session on the hypostatic union; be good to give a listen to. It’s called, He Emptied Himself.
Travis: He Emptied Himself. Okay.
Audience: He doesn’t. He explains that,
Audience: He doesn’t like the title.
Travis: Well, he, yeah, he’s, he’s trying to mislead you a little bit by the title, He Emptied Himself. And then he goes into that, and says, I, I, believe he says, because I’ve seen some of the things, he’s written on that. He Emptied Himself, oh, gotcha! He didn’t.
Audience: It’s ninety minutes long and apparently, they turn the lights off on him, because he’s going to long.
Audience: Yes, he makes a reference to that at the end.
Travis: Oh, that’s funny.
Audience: When they turn the lights on.
Travis: So, so, you guys. We’ve already, we’ve already dealt, delved into some of the, the, challenges in, in doctrine of imidibl, immutability trying to get our minds around it. And we’re going to get into some practical questions in a moment. I have some scriptures to further scramble our brains.
But we’re, let’s, let’s, first, I want to, first state the doctrine of divine impassability, just so we can, thoroughly, muddle our heads, and, and then we’ll come back to the objection. Objections that are raised against these doctrines. The, the doctrine of impassibility, this is what really pulls at the heartstrings of a lot of people who want to, they, they, want to deny this, they don’t, they, this is, this is a, an attacked doctrine, currently today.
There was a, you know, even a friend of mine who was a former professor at the Masters Seminary who wrote a doctoral dissertation on, you know, basically denying or chipping away, skirting at the edges of chipping away at divine impassibility. And he’s no longer there, which is a good thing. But, you know, this is, this is, something that is, it, it is hard because if you state it incorrectly, it seems like God has turned into a cold monster. You know.
So, we wanna be careful that we don’t do that here, because it’s not true. Impassability is a subset of immutability, and that’s why we’re treating them together under the heading of God is unchanging. That’s what we’re affirming. Okay?
So the word ‘impassable’ comes from the Latin, in, that is, ‘not’, and then, passibilis, that is, ‘capable of passions; feeling emotions’. So impassable, incapable of suffering; incapable of feeling pain. So, we need, you know, we affirm, that he is incapable of suffering; that is, you know, that’s basically summarized in the, the, affirmation that he is unaffected. Okay? That, because if he’s affected, that’s a change. We want to protect that.
Feeling pain, though. We need to be careful that we, don, don’t go too far in, when we’re talking about God and feelings. Okay? So, let me ask this question again. Le, let me state this, and then I’ll ask a question. The meaning of impassability is to say that God is not affected. He is unaffected, and that refers to the affectability or the affectation of God. That is to say, God is not subject to change in his emotions or his feelings.
Now you notice that I have talked about emotions and feelings and affirmed that of God, but I say that he’s not subject to change in his emotions or feelings. Okay. So, the, the question here I want to raise with you: does God feel?
Audience: Unquestionably. I’m a jealous God. Yeah.
Travis: I’m a jealous God. Okay. Anybody want to say, no, God does not feel.
Audience: Well, it’s kind of, it’s, it’s, not, you can’t think of it as a like, it uses those terms, but they’re part of his unchangingness. He doesn’t feel in reaction like, like we do like, he’s eternally angry, eternally joyful, and he’s eternally. And they’re all one, they’re all the same deal.
Travis: There’s a simplicity. So, this is, this is, really, really, tough for us to answer that question. There are times when God’s, you know, God reveals himself through anthropomorphisms, you know. You take shelter underneath my wing, you know, or whatever. My arm is strong to save. He doesn’t have an arm, and he doesn’t have a body, he doesn’t have a wing.
He also speaks in terms of anthropopathism’s, which is to say, he speaks in terms of emotions we can understand, uses terms like that. But we need to be careful there and say, not everything that he says is an anthropopathism, sometimes it really is an expression of his unchanging orientation toward something. Okay?
So, a, a, again, it’s hard to, you got to be careful about how you answer that question, does God feel, does God have emotions, because we tend to project upon God our own experience of emotion and feeling. Okay? God is not like us. We are not like God in some of these ways. The, the, attributes of God’s greatness, his immutability, his impassability. We’re not like that. We are changing. We’re changeable.
As Wayne raised the issue of, from his reading in Bancroft; the issue of number. We can’t help but count, in things in terms of, think in terms of complexity and number and, and, things, you know, coming together and, and, compositeness. And we can’t help but think, in terms of time, and space, and location. God, for God, that, none of that is the essence of his reality, or the reality of his essence.
So just, just, be careful and know that there is some mystery here that we’re not going to fully be able to, this is part of the, back in incomprehensibility. We can know a lot about God, but there are some things that we just are not going to get our minds around. Why? Because we’re finite, mutable creatures. Okay. So, this is one of those things. But we’re gonna take a stab at trying to get some more clarity about it. Okay?
Some people take this doctrine of impassibility that God is unaffected. They take this as cold indifference. They, they, see this as God has turned into a bit of a monster. And this is, they, they’ve decided to abandon the concept, but I think for not a good; for not good reason, I think there’s some confusion about, in their own clarity and understanding, about their understanding of, doctrine of divine impassibility.
This is what, this is what Grudem says. And I’m just going to read you, it’s a short section, just a couple paragraphs. He says, So the question of God’s impassability of page 165, “Sometimes in discussion of God’s attributes theologians have spoken of another attribute, namely, the impassability of God. This attribute, if true, would mean that God does not have passions or emotions, but is ‘impassable,’ not subject to passions.”
We’ll come back to the way that stated in a second. “In fact, chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith says that God is,” quote, ‘without…passions.’” end quote. “This statement goes beyond what we have affirmed in our definition above about,” God’s being, “God’s unchangeableness, and affirms more than that God does not change in his being, perfections, purposes, or promises- it also affirms that God does not even feel emotions or ‘passions’.
“The Scripture proof given by the Westminster Confession of Faith is Acts 14:15, which in the King James Version reports Barnabas and Paul as rejecting worship from the people at Lystra, protesting that they are not gods but
‘men of like passions with you.’ The implication,” and that’s actually a very profound, by the way, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, it very, very profound Scripture reference.
We don’t have time to get into it, but I just want to tell you that, they don’t do that for no good reason. They’re not off their rocker when they quote that verse. “The implication of the KJV translation might be that someone, who is truly God would not have ‘like passions’ as men do, or it might simply show that the apostles were responding to the false view of the passionless gods assumed by the men of Lystra (see vv.10-11).
“But if the verse is rightly translated, it certainly does not prove that God has no passions or emotions at all, for the Greek term here,” home, homoiopathes, “(ὁμοιοπαθής, G3926) can simply mean having similar circumstances or experiences, or being of a similar nature to someone else. Of course, God does not have sinful passions or emotions. But the idea that God has no passions or emotions at all clearly conflicts with much of the rest of Scripture, and for that reason I have not affirmed God’s impassibility in this book. Instead, quite the opposite is true, for God, who is the origin of our emotions and who created our emotions, certainly does feel emotions.” Amen, Wayne. Wayne Grudem.
So, so God, “God rejoices.” He gives Scripture references, and I’m not going to give you all of them. “God rejoices. He is grieved. His wrath burns hot against his enemies. He pities his children. He loves with everlasting love. He is a God whose passions we are to imitate for all eternity as we, like our Creator, hate sin and delight in righteousness.” Okay. So, keep that in mind. We’ll come back to it in a second.
But I want you to get your Bibles, and I’m gonna give you some scripture passages to read and this is, the, where I want to raise, you know, what Grudem’s raising here, is some objections to immutability or impassability. What about those passages that tell us that God does repent? That he was sorry. That he was grieved. That he did change his mind. Let me assign some passages, Moses, and I’ll get your question. Just a second.
Genesis, let’s, let’s, start on this side of the room. Daniel, Genesis 6, 5 to 7. Jesse, Jesse got a Bible. Exodus 32, 9 to 10. Nick, first Samuel, 15, 10 to 11. Wayne, Amos. Well, let’s take the Amos one off the table. Let’s just do Jonah. No, no do Ephesians 4. Okay, Ephesians 4:30, Wayne and then I’ll do the Jonah one. Okay. Moses, you were going to ask a question.
Audience: I was gonna ask, so if God didn’t have passions, I was thinking, did he feel anything on the cross?
Travis: Did he what?
Audience: Did he necessarily feel or have pain on the cross, if he didn’t have passions?
Travis: Absolutely. Yes, he did. You know, in fact the term, passe, means, it refers to suffering, you know, for to the feeling of suffering. And he did go through, that’s what’s called like active obedience and his passive obedience. His passive obedience doesn’t mean he just sat passively and, and, you know, was passive in obeying; it means he suffered; passe, referring to the suffering obedience; the obedience of suffering.
So, Jesus, in his human nature did suffer. He did feel pain. He felt, every nerve was raw and exposed, and he felt everything. Absolutely. Yep. Good question. Good question. That, that’s in his human nature. In his divine nature, he doesn’t have any nerve endings, cause he’s pure spirit. Right. Okay.
So Genesis, where we at Genesis 6, 5 to 7? Here’s some, passage, passages that says, that seem to say, he did change. Okay, go ahead.
Audience: The law, or excuse me, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thought of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD regretted that he had made a man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Travis: Hmm. How do we interpret that? Jesse, Exodus 32, 9 to 10. So yeah, just going back to Daniel, real quick; God not only knew mankind would become corrupt, because he’s omniscient, but he decreed the fall as a part of the plan of redemption. The lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. So, he knew all this. This isn’t taking him by surprise, so how can he be sorry and grieved? Hmm. Exodus 32.
Audience: “And the LORD said to Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may,” make my, make a great nation of you.”
Travis: So not only does God seem to be here in jeopardy of changing his mind about the Messianic progeny of Judah, which if he wipes out all these people, Judah is gone, right? And in Genesis 49:10, Judah is going to have the scepter. So, he’s in jeopardy of changing his mind about Messianic progeny, but he also seems to be doing this in a fit of anger.
He’s having a tantrum here. For good reason, I mean, they’re out there partying around a golden calf, when he has just rescued them from Egypt. But.
Audience: Verse 14, also says, “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” So that’s kind of the same thing.
Travis: Yeah, it is. Nicholas 1 Samuel, 15.
Audience: “And the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I regret that I have made Saul King, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.’”
Travis: Also look at verse 35 and read that.
Audience: Okay. “And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.”
Travis: So God not only knew what Saul would do, but in fact, he planned to elevate David as king according to his sovereign purposes. Yeah.
Audience: What passage was that?
Travis: First Samuel 15, 10 to 11 and also verse 35. So if he planned to elevate David as king all along in keeping with, you know, Genesis 49 and other, other, passages; why is he grieving?
Here’s Jonah 3, “The word the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, call.’” Let’s see, where am I reading too. Okay, there we go. Call. “‘Call out against it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah rose went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Nineveh was exceedingly great city, three days’ journey and breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’
“People of Nineveh believed God.” and “They called for a fast put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the”, leatest, “least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor Beast, heard nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water.’”
I think he’s got a category of confusion there between man and beast, but nonetheless he’s a pagan. What do you expect? So, let the, “Let all men and beasts be covered with sackcloth and let them call out mightily to God.” Let the animals call out mightily to God. “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that’s in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent from and turn’”, his, “‘from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’”
Interesting. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” That’s really, really neat, isn’t it? “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,” I love this. This guy is so, it’s such a comfort to me. And whenever I, whenever I blow it, whenever I blow it as a pastor and just screw up, I just got out the book of Jonah.
“O LORD, is this not what I said when I was yet in my country? This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you’re a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relending from disaster.” I knew you weren’t going to destroy them. It’s so funny. Then even sets up a little booth so you can watch and so wait. And I think they’re going to screw up and he’ll, he’ll, kill them still. Anyway, Ephesians 4:30. One more.
Audience: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of”, redumption, “Redemption.”
Travis: Okay, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” This seems to mean, quite apparently, that our, efec, actions can affect God and in, in, a negative way, grieving him. So, here’s, here’s, what I want to say. Let’s, let’s, do this by way of denial and affirmation.
First of all, denial. Here’s what the doctrine of God’s unchangeableness his being immutable, impassable. Here’s what the doctrine of God’s immutability and impassibility does not mean. Immutability does not mean immobility. Immobility. Okay.
Let me read a couple of theologians on this. First of all, Berkhof. Berkhof says, “There are many passages,” in, “of Scripture which seem to ascribe change to God. Did”, he, “not He who dwelleth in eternity pass on to the creation of the world, become incarnate in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit take up His abode in the church? Is he not represented as revealing and hiding Himself, as coming and going, as repenting and changing His” and changing his “intention, and is dealing differently with man before and after conversion?”
And then he cites some of these passages we’ve just gone over, and others too. “The objection here implied is based to a certain extent on misunderstanding.” I think that’s really the heart of it. It’s just a misunderstanding. That’s why we need to be clear. “The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there were no movement in God. It is even customary in theology to speak of God as actus Purus,” which is, pure act. We’ve actually used that before in talking about the simplicity of God; a God who is always in action.
“The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their life with them. There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His Being, His attributes, His purpose, His motives of action, or His promises. The purpose to create was eternal with Him, and there was no change in Him when this purpose was realized by a single eternal act of his will.”
So you say, wow, what was going on before all of this? Is God just hovering around in, not space, cause he didn’t create space. What’s, what’s, before this? Just God, and at some point, but we can’t say point in time because there was no time, because God created it. So again, where you know, when, when, the purpose to create was eternal with him and there was no change in him when this purpose was realized by a single eternal act of his will.
“The incarnation brought no change in the Being or perfections of God, nor in his purpose, for it was His eternal good pleasure to send the Son of His love into the world. And if Scripture speaks of His repenting, changing His intention, or altering His relation to sinners when they repent, we should remember that this is only an anthropopathic way of speaking. In reality, the change is not in God, but in man and in man’s relations to God.
“It is important to maintain the immutability of God over against the Pelagian and Armenian doctrine that God is subject to change, not indeed in His Being, but in His knowledge and will, so that His decisions are to a great extent dependent on the actions of man: over against the pantheistic notion that God is an eternal becoming rather than an absolute Being, and that the unconscious Absolute is gradually developing into conscious personality and man; and over against the present tendency of some to speak of a finite, struggling, and gradually growing God.”
He wrote that before Open Theism was a thing. And, and that’s exactly what he’s talking about, is that, that, that sense of God is, he’s always becoming, he’s infinitely becoming, he’s, he’s, adapting, and growing, and assimilating, in that’s status. That is a frightening view of God. If, if that’s God, all hope is lost. That’s, that’s Berkhof.
Let me read out of this book. Robert Reymond. This is Robert Reymond, it’s, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. He’s a covenant theologian, so there’s a lot that I don’t line up with on him. But I haven’t heard anybody treat the doctrine of divine impassability better, and so I do commend it for that, definitely.
Here’s what Robert Reymond says, page 178. “Classical theists have sometimes portrayed God as One virtually frozen in timeless immobility or inactivity (this is one example of the theological mischief which accrues to the ascription of timelessness to God).
“These theists correctly argue that since God is a perfect being, he is incapable of any ontological change, since any change must be either for the better or for the worse. He cannot change for the better since he’s already perfect, and he cannot change for the worse since that would result in his becoming imperfect.
“The same holds true, it is incorrectly argued, with regard to any motion or activity on his part. Any movement must either improve his condition or detract from it. But neither is,” it possible, for neither is possible, “for a perfect Deity.” Okay, you follow that? “Therefore, he remains in an ‘eternally frozen pose’” That’s Packer, J.I., “(Packer’s characterization) as the impassable God.”
But this cannot be. “This is not the biblical description of God. The God of Scripture is constantly acting into and reacting to the human condition. In no sense is he metaphysically insulated or detached from, unconcerned with, or insensitive or indifferent to the condition of fallen men. Everywhere he is depicted both as One who registers grief and sorrow over”, over, over, “and displeasure and wrath against sin and its ruinous effects and as One who in compassion and love has taken effective steps in Jesus Christ to reverse the misery of men.
“Everywhere he is portrayed as One who can and does enter into deep, authentic interpersonal relations of love with his creatures, and is a God who truly cares for his creatures and their happiness. In sum, as W. Norris Clark declares, “God is a,” quote, “‘Religiously available’ God on the personal level. To say then,” end quote. “To say then that God is unchangeable, that is, ‘immutable,’ must not be construed to mean that he cannot and does not act. The God of the Bible is portrayed as acting on every page of the Bible!
“He is not static in his immutability; he is dynamic in his immutability. But his dynamic immutability in no way affects his essential nature as God (that is, his “Godness”); to the contrary, he would cease to be the God of Scripture if he did not will and act in the ways the Bible ascribes to him. But he always wills and acts, as Isaiah declared, in faithfulness to his decrees: (Isa 25:1) ‘In perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things,’ things planned long ago.
“Berkhoff” and “correctly concludes: ‘The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there is no movement in God. . . . The Bible teaches us that God enters into manifold relations with man and, as it were, lives their lives with them.’”
I love that. “Lives their lives with them.” [There is no about change round Him change in the relations of men to] OR “There is change round about Him, change in the relations of men to Him, but there is no change in His Being, His attributes, His purposes, His motives of actions, or His promises,” End quote.
Is that, does that make sense in, in, what we’re saying about God; that there is action and activity of God from cover to cover in the Bible. So, we’re not saying he’s immobile. They’re not, we’re not even saying, we’re not denying emotion, feeling, all that. Okay? That’s, that’s, there was a question.
Audience: So one, one way I was thinking this could be said, is that he like, as you read those passages earlier, he’s, that’s not a reflection of him, like reacting so much, as it is a reflection of what’s already in him, as a, like you said before a predisposition towards certain actions of men.
Travis: Right, I, I, put in in my notes like a predetermined orientation, and it’s, it’s, determined by his essence.
Audience: So, so I guess my first question is, is, is that right? And my second one is, if so, how, how different; how, what’s the difference between that and how we, our emotion manifest itself? Because it is all our emotion, is also a reflection of what is already in us, I think. It’s, it’s, a reflection of the character, the preorientation we have to things. So based on that, we react to things and, and, that, that, orientation can change. But the reaction itself is not a change. It doesn’t seem like.
Travis: I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking, and it sounds like a very big question, but, what I, what I want to see, which would eat up, you know, a couple hours. But what I want to say, just to affirm is, that we do change and, and our, our orientation or our, our, expression of emotion is based on our orientation internally.
Yes, that’s true and that is why it is so important to think God’s thoughts after him. To, to, that in your light we see light, as we, as our mind’s renewed through the study of Scripture. Our hearts, our emotions, our affections are aligned more with his and when our affections are aligned with Gods, then we react to things the way God does. Sin causes us righteous indignation, first and foremost when we see it in ourselves.
Righteousness causes us joy. It, it, brings joy, and pleasure, and satisfaction. So yes, I do believe that it is an expression of our orientation. And our orientation does change as we are exposed to the, the, knowledge of God; truth, of God. As we align ourselves more obediently to him, and his will, and his purposes, and all the rest. I’m not sure if that’s scratching where you’re itching, but.
Audience: Yeah. So I guess more simply, is, is, an emotion in itself really a change? Like, is it because, it seems more like just an expression of what’s there. Like it is for God.
Travis: Well, that is a deeper question that I can’t answer right now. I have to think about that.
Travis: So. Going back to what I just read in, in, Berkhof and Reymond, impassability does not mean indifferent, emotionless, immobility, passionless. Ephesians 4:30, that’s why I thought it was important to read that, that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit. And I’ll, though if we have time, I’ll, I’ll, cover that in more detail.
Wayne Grudem misstated. I, and I hope you heard that he misstated the doctrine of impassibility in the quote I read earlier. This attribute, quote Wayne Grudem. “This attribute, if true, would mean that God does not have passions or emotions, but is impassable, not subject to passions.” The first part of the statement that is that “God does not have” is incorrect and the second “not subject to” is correct. And that’s why I say he seems confused.
And I think that, I think it was Reymond; was it Reymond? I think he said, that it’s, it’s the source of this rejection of this doctrine is, is, misunderstanding. Learning it wrongly and then stating it wrongly and then reacting to that. So, it’s kind of like the straw man argument. You set up the straw man, you attack that thing, but it’s really not your, your, opponents’ argument.
Ne, next quote he says, quote. “The idea that God has no passions or emotions at all clearly conflicts with much of the rest of scripture, and for this reason I have not affirmed God’s impassibility in this book.” End quote. That’s powerful statement, “in this book,” and that’s why you have to be careful in the reading. If someone has affirmed or, or, taken a position about theology proper, it’s going to affect the way they think about other doctrines as well, because God is in and through all other doctrines.
He has rejected a misstatement of the doctrine of impassibility in the way he’s represented impassability. God has no passions or emotions at all. I also reject that; it’s not true. But that’s not what the doctrine of divine impassibility teaches. As Robert Reymond puts it, “whether whenever divine impassibility is interpreted to mean that God is impervious to human,” and I love this, “to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief it must be roundly denounced and rejected.”
And I think that’s what we’re getting to when God he, I love the way Berkhoff put that, “Lives life with us,” which is what grieves the Holy Spirit, is he knows when we sin, it grieves us. And God in love enters into and identifies with what is grievous to us. And that’s what you see in Jesus too, as he grieves with people and he’s entering into, I mean, in his own person he’s not, he’s not currently experiencing the defilement of conscience or anything else, but he lives life with us so. I think that’s the best way to put it. Here’s the affirmation. That’s the denial of the doctrine of impassibility.
Let’s talk about the affirmation. Here’s what the doctrine of God’s unchangeable, unchangeableness, immutable, impassable does mean. It’s not that he’s, God is without a motion or unfeeling, but rather these unaffected, not subject to change in his emotions. That is to say, God’s will and his emotions are not, they’re, they’re part of, you might say this part of his predetermined orientation to sin and righteousness. So God is so oriented in his holiness that he will always have a negative will, action, and emotion toward sin, and always have a positive will, action, and emotion toward righteousness. Does that make sense?
Okay, let me. Let me see. Let me say, let, let, me go to Robert Reymond again. He says this, “We do, however, affirm that the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon him against his will.” You got that?
In this sense, God is impassable, and “J.I.Packer says this well:” insofar he’s quoting Packer here. “‘Insofar as God enters into experience of that kind, is by empathy for his creatures and according to his own deliberate decision, not as his creatures’ victim….The thought of God as apathetos,” that is, “free from all pathos, characterized always by apatheia,” this apathy, “represents no single biblical term, but was introduced into Christian theology in the second century: what was it supposed to mean?
“The historical answer is: not,” impassive, “impassivity, unconcern, or” impersabl, “impersonal detachment in the face of creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of,” of,” a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not voluntarily surprises forced on him from outside,” aport,“apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are.
“In other words, he is never in reality the victim whom man makes to suffer; even the Son on the cross. . . was suffering by his and the Father’s conscious foreknowledge and choice, and those who made him suffer, however free and guilty their action, were real if unwitting tools of divine wisdom and agents of the divine plan. (See Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:20).” End quote.
That’s a good paragraph. It’s worth purchasing this single volume of Robert Reymond’s theology, just to get that paragraph in your library. But it’s, but it’s really, really helpful and I hope it makes sense.
Okay, so we have just a few minutes left here and I want to try to cover and, and, try to satisfy any tension we feel about these different passages. But I see a hand there, Bruce.
Audience: That’s basically saying does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog?
Travis: Yes, yes. Boiling it down to, to, that, in it’s, in it’s essence, that cliche works. Yeah, we do not. We’re not inflicting suffering on God. That’s true. Okay. Any anybody have any burning questions? Burning question, John.
Audience: It’s not a burning question.
Travis: Well, if it routine then you can’t ask.
Audience: You know, because in Deuteronomy the, the, statement, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one” God. And the very next statement is, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all their heart and soul and mind.” To me I see the two of them right there. You know we have this God and yet you have this God who wants this relationship. And so they’re.
Travis: Well here, I don’t, I don’t want to state that in the sense of God havin these, like, unmet desires. Because that’s not, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s not saying, I just so want to be loved.
Audience: No, no. I mean he’s talking about, ‘we’. How, what we are to do. What our response is. How we are to interact with this God.
Travis: Yes, that’s right. That next verse is describing then us, and he, it’s prescribing us based on who he is. He wants him to be at the center of our lives. Okay. So we must thank God centeredly. Why? Because there is no greater reality than God. And so, yes, love, our affections, our, our, whole passion, everything has to have God at the center. That’s what he’s saying to Israel. And frankly, because of the doctrine of immutability, he hasn’t changed that message.
Okay, so that’s, that’s, good to raise. Let’s, let’s, just say, ‘so God doesn’t react per se’, he just is. And he acts consistently and always a perfect accord with his nature. Robert Reymond provides a very, very helpful explanation of this doctrine, which is really been, like I said, under attack in modern evangelicalism and it really needs to be reaffirmed. And Reymond does that. He does it capably, sufficiently, providing four reasons to the objections against divine impassability.
Ah, you know what, you guys? I’m, I’m going to stop here, because I can see that if I try to get into this, it’s going to take, it’s just going to take longer than we have and I don’t want to start something that I can’t finish here, on this point. Okay? So we got a few minutes. Do you want to talk about anything that’s on your mind?
Audience: Giving more passages of Scripture that kind of support that.
Travis: Can support what?
Audience: Acts 2:23. Yeah, 1 Peter 1:21, 1 Peter 1:20.
Travis: First Peter 1:20. If you want to read those. Acts 2:23, that’s not the right passage. Let me see. Okay, so Acts 2:23, men of is, well, verse 22, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
And then it goes on to the prophecy and David. Let me see the other passage that was cited here. So, 1 Peter 1:20. I turned to the wrong one. Okay, so I’ll go back up to verse 17, in 1 Peter 1, verse 16. “‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” verse 17, “If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear,” through the, “throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He”, that is Christ, “was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Okay, so, “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” It indicates that God did not look down the corridors of time, as some people say, about foreknowledge and see Jesus. That’s not what he’s saying here. Foreknown from before the foundation of the world means there was no world. There was no material, space-time, nothing, nothing, no matter in motion. But there was this eternal relationship; Father, Son, Spirit in the divine essence. And the lamb was known before the foundation of the world and then made manifest in these last times. So that’s what we’re saying here. Okay, those verses. So, I saw just real quick, I saw David. Did you have something you want to?
Audience: So I’ve been trying to think about this throughout this, this, section on theology proper and I think the, the, light spectrum analogy has been helpful, to think like, God is one essence, unchanging. But within the, the, time and space of creation and all of the varied individuals and actions that people can do that one essence in response or in action to all those varied acts and thoughts and individuals.
That there’s, there’s, a corresponding action from the, the, one essence to all of those and so to me it’s, it’s, kind of like picturing the, the, light beam and then the spectrum would like for the, for us as individual as we, we, can transition between the different lights, if you will and that evokes a different response from the Lord and, and, in, in the broadest categories, there’s the righteous and the wicked distinction, as we when we transition from wicked to righteous. That elicits a response from the Lord that’s categorically different.
Travis: Yeah, a categorical difference. That’s true. There is a division of humanity into two camps, righteous and wicked. And for the righteous there is the hovering wrath of God. Ahh. For the unrighteous there’s the hovering wrath of God over them. For the righteous, whom he has declared righteous and is making righteous and will one day perfect in righteousness, there’s an orientation of, of, fatherhood. He’s known as Father. He’s creator Father. He’s loving.
Now, an, but we can’t ever make the mistake of thinking like, you know, your son commits some sin or something against somebody and we tend to have a, we tend to overlook more with our own kids, right? But when somebody else’s kid does it to our son, hey, you know, and, and, we should never project upon God that his fatherly affection of us means he overlooks, or has just this indifferent kind of grandfatherly approach to sin.
He always has that orientation toward our sin, even though we are the righteous and that sin’s been dealt with. But he is not going to, and that’s the thing with us, as the righteous. He is now growing us away from that condition of sinfulness, and unrighteousness, and transforming us to be conformed to the likeness of his son. Because the likeness of Christ himself is pure joy, perfection, righteousness, it’s happiness, it’s, contented, contentment, it’s satisfaction. So he, out of love, he wants us to be conformed to the image of his Son. He’s not doing that with the unrighteous, though. For them there’s another side of his attributes that are going to be unleashed on them if they don’t repent. Okay, so you were gonna say?
Audience: I was. I’m even picturing, even kind of below the, the, the, two binary categories of humanity. There’s, like, I’m kind of picturing more colors of the spectrum, you know, not just like two colors. But to this, of how God responds to all of our, our, very our own thoughts, and passions, and actions, both as believers and as unbelievers. And, you know, on that level is exactly what you’re describing, that God responds to, to, my sin as a believer. It seemed like the Lord is, actually, the sins of believers are greater. I mean, like more. Let’s say that.
Travis: We’re sinning against the light that we understand, against the relationship that we have to our Father. Yeah.
Audience: Sins of the believers are more grievous than the sins of unbelievers.
Travis: That’s true. That’s why I say when people become Christians, the kinds of sins that they commit post salvation are deeper than the ones they committed, in a sense, before they, they, were Christians. And that’s why God’s grace is so magnanimous, because he takes all that sin, past, present, future and he placed them on Christ and punished him instead of us. Yeah, I know. I mean just it’s. And it grieves us a lot more to, to, think about our sin. I mean, before we were Christians, we sinned. We just, we were like, we were like animals. No. no. Unfeeling, just rooting around for the next thing.
Audience: Because we’re time oriented, we see God responding to our sin as reactionary, but it is not. It is an action. Because he not only predetermined our salvation, but he, also really, also knows exactly all of our responses, all of our actions. He’s already worked that all in, and it’s, it’s, an action. Not a reaction.
Travis: Yeah, that, and that so scrambles the brain. Ephesians 2:10 says that, that he has prepared works for us from before the foundation of the world, that we should walk in them. Wow. Wait, I’m making decisions. Yes, you are. But God decided first. Yes, he did. Yeah.
Audience: It’s like Hezekiah, er, in Isaiah 37, where he prays the prayer and God says, because you prayed, but I did this from the beginning.
Travis: Yeah, but just keep in mind, it’s not the tail wagging the dog. You didn’t make me do this. You didn’t make me. Brad.
Audience: Yeah, that you just read. Oh, Hezekiah ah, Isaiah 37.
Travis: You keep wanting to quote Hezekiah, don’t you. Quote. First Hezekiah.
Audience: Hezekiah speaks first in 14. In that chapter has Hezekiah received the letter from the thing and he says, oh Lord, you hear, open your eyes, Lord see and hear what the what Sennacherib has done. And then down in 21 Isaiah answers and says, this is what God says. “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib, King of Assyria, this is the word that the Lord has spoken,” and then goes on to say. You know, he says he’s, he’s gonna take him out, basically. But then in, in, 26, he says, “have you not heard that I determined it long ago. I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass.” That’s Isaiah 31, That’s all Isaiah 37, 37. Yeah.
Travis: It’s, it’s a similar, it’s a similar thing in Romans 9 with Pharaoh. Yeah. You know, and, and.
Audience: Pharaoh is another example of that.
Travis: And if you go back, if you go back to Exodus and see who hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Did Pharaoh or did God?
Audience: And “he raised him up in order to” in order to.
Travis: “In order to.” And really you do find that God has declared that to Moses before Pharaoh ever, before, before, Moses was ever in front of Pharaoh. And we just have to step back and say, whoa, thank you for not making me a vessel of destruction and wrath and, and, making me a vessel of your grace. I mean that’s, that’s, what this, that’s what all of this theology is meant to produce in us, is humility, appreciation, gratitude, joy.
I just to worship our God like that, you know, to step back and say, ‘You are, mag, magnificent and wonderful and far beyond my comprehension. I’m so grateful. And I’m not destroyed, but I’m saved.’ Brad, you’re going to say something?
Audience: Alright, so, so, so, God’s immutable, unchanging. He, he, knows everything before it happens. But yet in, in, Jonah, just this, the Scripture we were reading this morning and there’s others. But when God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster. So, he knew he was going to relent of this beforehand. But he, and trying to wrap your head around some of this, as well as, that’s something that Jonah didn’t know that.
Yeah, he did. That’s the reason he went the other way. I knew you wouldn’t do it. He didn’t want one person. He did not.
Travis: The whole book of Jonah has very little to do with Ninevah, has everything to do with Jonah. And, and, that is fascinating, isn’t it? Because, those, they repented in sackcloth and ashes. It’s the response of humility and, and, even in their pagan ignorance, causing the beasts to dress in sackcloth and ashes and, and, not eat and drink, but to call out to God,
Audience: They would have mooed and called out.
Travis: And they probably would have. That would have been a little calling out, you know, which but, but, they’re imperfect in their, in their, their act of contrition and yet there’s a, there’s one movement of contrition, and he’s portraying for Jonah; Look how, look at my character; that I’m gracious even to these ignorant pagans and all their beasts as well.
What you find though, is in the book of Nahum, that they go right back to their ways, and God follows through with exactly what he proclaimed. So, you do see. Yeah, it’s, it’s, interesting, the Book of Jonah is really all about Jonah. It’s all about us, too, to make us not Pharisees. That’s what it’s about. Wait. I need to preach that book someday. And I, I, will. That is a really, really good. I love Jonah, you know, he’s just, he’s us, man. He’s us, Brett.
Audience: So in the regretting passages like Noah and Saul that’s pure anthropopathism. Cause it really seems to, kind of, so categorically, set things out for your fifth grader. So like a fifth grade might believe it.
Travis: Yeah, yeah. I just want to be careful and not make, not use the word pure. But just to speak of, go back to my term of a predetermined orientation toward Saul and his behavior. Yeah, I mean, he’s speaking in terms of.
Audience: What does it mean he regretted that he made him king. I’m not. I’m not.
Travis: Yeah. No. I, this is, no. And this is exactly what I want to read through in Reymond that I don’t have time for, to answer those, those, different passages.
Audience: Well I was pretty sure I have the answer, but I.
Travis: No, it does. It does. I just don’t want to. I don’t want to get into it right now, but it’s a very valid and important question to answer.
Audience: I think, doesn’t it? Try to remember, I think. When, when, Samuel rebukes Saul for offering the sacrifice, I think Samuel says to Saul, “if you had not done this Lord would have established your Kingdom forever.” Something like that, I think. Right? So, I mean it’s like. And that to me is understandable because that’s like, that’s like, to us it looks like an if than statement.
Because to us it’s like, if he was to route out the enemy, but Saul was never gonna to do that. Saul was gonna to offer that stupid sacrifice and he was gonna be rejected as King of Israel. I don’t have no problem with that, but I, it’s just a language that we corrected and then in Noah he regretted. You know I don’t have any problem with the idea that to us it looks like, if you repent you will not perish and, and, we expect that.
Travis: I just here’s how you have to. Okay, hold on. So here’s, here’s how you have to read those passages that are that cause us like, well, what does that mean? We have to read them in light of the stronger affirmations of God’s unchangeableness. We can’t read God’s unchangeableness in light of God feeling a sorrow or, or, regret and say, well then that, then that just completely, that completely unravels.
Audience: It’s God will for the deal.
Travis: That completely unravels divine simplicity, immutability, everything else about God that we’re affirming.
Audience: so, I think there is an explanation for it.
Travis: There is, there is. We’ll, we’ll try to get that next time. Was there another? I saw another. Oh, there it is.
Audience: Yeah. I was just thinking, you know, the Life and Times of Israel. How many times did they have a good king and bad king and then God says, I’m going to bring destruction on you and exile. And then the good king comes and God says, well, because of you I will wait, or I will hold off or; is God changing his mind then, over and over again, or something else.
Travis: N, he’s not changing his mind, you know, he’s, he’s, there is a, let’s just leave it.
Audience: He sovereignly determined that that king would stay his king, till.
Travis: We were going really well until you guys started talking about all the problems.
Audience: You asked for questions.
Travis: We’re past time, you guys. Now, so do you guys wanna stay? If you guys want to stay, I’ll go through all this material.
Audience: Did you see how many books he had?
Travis: No, no, no, I’m not. I’m not threatening. I’m just.
Audience: His suit is on so he can just go straight from there to the pulpit.
Travis: I’ll preach in flannel, man.
Audience: You, you, were pointing out just the outline you provided under B under the second Roman numeral. You said God is righteous, and then you said transitive holiness and you said it wasn’t on some of them. Mine does not have it. Could you just go? I think you mentioned transitive holiness after God is righteous.
Travis: Take, take a look at it right there.
Audience: Hey, you just have it Bryce’s. His doesn’t have it either. I think it’s, it’s down at the bottom. Tell me who else got this special Roman numeral three.
Travis: Ohh, I only put it on the on the thr.
Audience: On the threes. Yeah, yeah. If you got up to three, you got the. So both copies are messed up so you feel special.
Travis: So, you got a wrong Roman numeral, but you got extra material. So let that comfort you.
Audience: And I can deal with the three. Now it all makes sense actually. Go back to the beginning. So you missed.
Travis: Guys, let’s, let’s pray. Father, thank you so much for once again our, our, opportunity to delve into some of these mysteries. We, we, do, we are humbled and we do step back and say that you’re the knowledge of you is too great for us and you were too wonderful to fully comprehend. But thank you for the understanding we do have that causes us to reflect on your greatness, your glory, your goodness toward us, and we pray that, that, that, that joy and appreciation would animate us in our worship of you; in our teaching of other people. Just in how we speak of you.
I pray that you would be our singular joy in life. And that we would not try to find pleasure in any other thing, but only in you. And, and, through you then to interact with the rest of our world, in holiness, and righteousness, and purity, the way, the way that pleases you. We are grateful again to be men saved by your grace and we, we, just ask for your strength to help us to live a holy life, to conform to the image of Christ, and to teach others to do so as well. And we just ask that you’d help us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.