Bible readers often meet with texts that seem to contradict the general teaching of the Bible, and get the impression that the Bible contradicts itself. We shall here study some such texts
1) It is said that the God of the Old Testament is strict, and Jesus of the New Testament is merciful. So some people think that they are two deities opposite in character..
Answer: That is a wrong impression; it does not agree with the general teaching of the Bible. Both the Old and New Testament books reveal a strict God as well as a loving One. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, 34:6,7, God declares His name, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation.”
Here God is declaring His own character, and His words are significant. It says that God forgives sin, and yet will not clear the guilty. This seems to be self-contradictory, but actually reveals the plan of redemption. God forgives sin, yet will not clear the guilty, because Christ has taken our sins and become the guilty One. God the Father visits our iniquity on Christ. 2 Cor 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So the message of the entire Bible revolves around the truth of Jesus Christ crucified for all mankind. Because of His death, God can legitimately pardon our sins, and still uphold the dignity of His law. If He should forgive our sins unconditionally, that would be equal to abolishing law.
2) I understand. God’s justice and His love are complementary, not contradictory. Can we say that the Old Testament stresses God’s justice, and the New Testament His love?
Answer: That is the opinion of some people; not the teaching of the Bible. One who reads the whole Bible can see that most of the teachings of the New Testament comes from the Old. For instance, many suppose that the teaching of loving our enemies comes from the New Testament. But the words of Rom 12:20, “Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him, if he thirsts, give him to drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head,” are quoted from Prov 25:21. And the severest warning against all who disobey God is found in the New Testament. Rev 14:9-11 says, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever.” The laws of nature and the moral law were all made by God. The laws of nature are inexorable. And the moral law is uncompromising. Yet God’s love and justice meet on the cross of Jesus Christ..
3) As to loving your enemies, Rom 12:14 says, “Bless and do not curse.” Why is it that some Psalms, such as Ps 109, use words of cursing?
Answer: Ps 109:9 says,:”Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” These words of cursing do not agree with Jesus’ teaching of loving your enemies. He also prayed for his enemies, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34. Yet in one parable He uses words of vengeance. In Luke 19:12-27 Jesus tells of a nobleman who “went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. . . . But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’” Later He said of them, “Bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”
Jesus is the Savior of sinners, and is also Judge. See John 5:27. As Savior, He acts by love; as Judge He deals in justice. He is the “Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world,” but all who reject His love and resist Him to the end, must finally receive due sentence. Just as Acts 1:20 quotes Ps 109:8 and applies it to Judas: “Let another take his office.” The Savior is indeed slow to anger, but that does not mean that He will never be angry. The Bible says that Jesus the Lamb of God has a time for wrath. And then “who is able to stand?” Rev 6:16,17.
4) Why Judas betrayed his Lord, is a problem. Since the disciples were all chosen by Christ, and He knew that Judas would betray Him, why did He chose him in the first place?
Answer: Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70. “’The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’ Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, ‘Rabbi, is it I?’ He said to him, ‘You have said it.’” These words reveal Jesus’ foresight, and that all that is written in the Scriptures “must happen thus.” Matt 26:54.
The disciples chosen by Christ represent the many types of people in our church today. There are outspoken people like Peter, hot-tempered people like the “sons of thunder” Mark 3:17 and doubting Thomases. Judas was a type of the proud, self-reliant and capable ones. They all need to follow Christ’s example, correct their faults and buttress their strong points, willingly giving all for God’s kingdom. John and Peter overcame their weak points and were filled by the Holy Spirit, becoming pillars in God’s church. Their deeds were in proportion to their cooperation with Christ. Judas was an example of failure: he had followed Jesus for three years, and was under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but didn’t practice the teachings of Christ. In fact, Judas even thought to manage affairs to make Jesus do things diffferently. For the disciples shared the Jewish hope that Messiah would restore world hegemony to Israel, and they felt Jesus was such a hero. It was based on the prophecy of Isa 9:7. But they failed to see how the prophecy of Isa 53 foretold that Christ must first suffer, and then enter His glory. Luke 24:26. Judas’ sin could not be excused because it was foretold in the Bible. For he was a free moral agent, and must be responsible for his actions.
5) You said that Judas wanted to manage affairs for Jesus. Is there Bible support for that idea? What did that have to do with his betrayal?
Answer: When the costly perfume was lavished on Jesus, Judas objected to it, saying, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” John 12:6. John commented, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” John 12:7. We note that (a) Judas was treasurer, Matt 26:8,9 says the disciples agreed with him. (b) Judas was a thief, and (c) Judas had a low estimate of Jesus, feeling that He did not deserve to receive Mary’s costly gift.
“But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matt 26:10-13. Judas chafed under these words, “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.” Matt 26:14-16. Judas wanted to teach Jesus to respect him, and also make Him perform a miracle. For he could not see why a man with such power as like Jesus , would not start an uprising to throw off the Roman yoke.
When Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes, the disciples tried to strike while the iron was hot, and force Jesus to be king. But he ordered them to sail across the lake as He dismissed the crowd and “departed again to a mountain by himself alone.” John 6:15. Judas was a good political activist. He felt that though Jesus had spiritual power, He lacked political acumen. He did not take advantage of such a fine manager, so Judas would arrange circumstances to force Jesus to show off His might.
6) O, Judas betrayed Jesus to force Him to work a miracle to escape the mob, frighten them into submission, recognize His majesty and worship Him.
Answer: But actually, fear would not solve the problem. In fact, when Jesus was arrested, He did momentarily reveal His majesty, causing them to fall to the ground, but as things quickly came back to normal, the mob scrambled up and continued to arrest Jesus. For their sinful hearts were not changed. By this Jesus wanted to teach a truth: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus would not use force to conquer the world, but would use the power of unselfish love to win men’s hearts. Only this can convert a sinner into a saint.
This incident is recorded in John 18:4-12. Jesus “went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, “I am He.’ . . . When He said to them, ‘I am He,’ -they drew back and fell to the ground.” Judas thought that Jesus would not allow Himself to be arrested, but the Lord permitted Himself to be bound, and offered no resistance, underwent all the ordeal of mockery, and was proclaimed worthy of death by the Sanhedrin. Only then did Judas become alarmed, threw the thirty pieces of silver before the priests and cried, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!“
Judas acted from mixed motives. He resented Christ’s rebuke when he objected to Mary’s gift of perfume. He wanted revenge, at the same time he would force Jesus to work a miracle to save Himself. Judas thought that by betraying Jesus, his act could instead turn out to be a merit---he made Jesus ascend the throne of Israel! But he was sadly mistaken. Luke 22:3 said, “Satan entered Judas,” making him a self-centered man. In John 6, when Jesus taught people to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and they were perplexed, He explained, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing, The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. This meant that Jesus offered no material, but spiritual benefits. To worldly men, that held no attraction. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” Jesus said to the disciples, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
7) What lesson does the life of Judas have for us? Does God want us to examine ourselves to see if we too are in danger of betraying our Lord?
Answer: Yes. Judas is a typical personality. Any church may have similar characters. On p. 719 of Desire of Ages, we read, “Christ’s discourse . . .concerning the bread of life was the turning point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted, and though he could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. He determined not to unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would watch, and he did watch.
“From that time he expressed doubts that confused the disciples. . . Yet all this was done by Judas in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious. . . His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment. . . The dissension as to which of them should be greatest was generally excited by Judas.”
Jesus was very patient with Judas. He knew he was a thief, but did not expose him. Only when Mary offered her ointment did He say a few well placed words to silence the greedy Judas. At the last supper Jesus said one of them would betray Him. He mercifully included Judas when He washed the disciples’ feet. But Judas rejected Christ’s last overture of love and decided his own fate. The feet that Jesus had washed went forth to finish the work of betrayal.
The priests had decided not to arrest Jesus before the feast, “lest there be an uproar among the people.” Matt 26:5. But Christ is the Passover lamb, (1 Cor 5:7) and He must be slain on the Passover. (Matt 26:2) And sure enough, it all worked out according to the word of the Lord. For He always held the initiative. At supper time His mention of the betrayal caused Judas to be flustered, Since Jesus knew of the plot, He would surely escape after the feast. So Judas must tell the high priest to take immediate action. Then he heard Jesus say, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27. Christ opened the way for him to act on prophetic time. So he went directly to see the high priest. Wicked men acted according to the Lord’s design. Christ said, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” John 10:17,18.
8) I don’t understand the matter of polygamy. David and Solomon had many wives and concubines. Why didn’t God stop it?
Answer: We might start with the matter of divorce. Jesus said, “He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female.’ And said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So then they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” The Pharisees asked, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Jesus said, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Matt 19:4-9.
1 Cor 7:4 maintains this high standard of “in the beginning:” It reads, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” For all who depart from this standard, God makes allowances for the hardness of their hearts
When Israel asked prophet Samuel for a king, God again acceded to their request., saying to Samuel, “eedHeed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Sam 8:7. This again shows that in Old Testament times God patiently waited for His people to rise from a low standard to a higher one. And that is, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet 1:16. Deut 17:17-20 says of the king, “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left.”
Mal 2:14-16 says, “The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence.” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Thus the book of Malachi tells us that God hates divorce and polygamy and concubinage. But because of the hardness of human hearts, He waits for men to strive for the highest standard.