Monday, September 19, 2011

The Reprobation of Pharaoh and the Comfort of Election

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.'"

We all know the story: Israel had taken refuge in Egypt during a time of famine in Palestine. God prospered them there, in spite of their oppression by the Egyptians. At this point in Exodus, it has come time for Moses to lead them to liberation in the promised land, but the Egyptians feared the loss of their labor force.

As we see in the verse above, God gave comfort to His people with a promise that He would overrule the opposition of Pharaoh, such that Pharaoh would actually be glad to set them free. However, He also has an eye to His own glory, and He chooses to harden Pharaoh, so that His hand will be made visible in the liberation.

Notice Exodus 7:3-5, "But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply My miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay My hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out My divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it." We see here the biblical Calvinist doctrine of reprobation, God's choice to reject, in advance, an unbeliever for the purposes of His own justice and glory. The reprobation of Pharaoh is seen again in Exodus 9:12.

Why has God done this to Pharaoh? We do not need to guess, for He gives the explanation Himself. Exodus 9:16 tells us, "for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth." God's first inspiration in all things is to promote His own glory. That is why Arminians hate the doctrine of reprobation. They want God's purpose to be to serve us. They hate it that He refuses to adopt their agenda! But His response is seen in Isaiah 42:8, "I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other..."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Matthew 26:39, The True Humanity of Christ

"And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'"

Early in the Second Century, immediately following the time of the Apostles, a heresy arose called Docetism. The Docetists held that the human body of Christ was an illusion, since (they claimed) the divine cannot possibly be united with flesh. This was a precursor of Gnosticism. We really don't see this heresy around much, though aspects of it pop up here and there. For example, Sabellians (represented mainly by the United Pentecostal Church) deny the Trinity, claiming that the three persons are actually merely modes of the one God. Since they hold that there is no Second Person of the Trinity, then obviously He could not have been united with a human nature. And Jehovah's Witnesses claim that the resurrection was only spiritual, not a literal resurrection of the flesh of Jesus. While neither of these is strictly Docetism, there are obvious parallels.

However, consider the Scripture above. We see Jesus showing true fear, real human emotion, in the face of His impending suffering and death. Trepidation cannot be a quality of His divine nature. Therefore, we see experiential evidence of His true humanity. He was a man, regardless of what Sabellians or Docetists can protest. And as a true man, in addition to His true divinity, Jesus can therefore sympathize with our own fears and sufferings (Hebrews 4:15). That is great personal comfort that we can take from the high theology of the dual nature of Christ!