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Tough Questions

Question: "Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden?"

Answer:
God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve a choice to obey Him or disobey Him. Adam and Eve were free to do anything they wanted, except eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” If God had not given Adam and Eve the choice, they would have essentially been robots, simply doing what they were programmed to do. God created Adam and Eve to be “free” beings, able to make decisions, able to choose between good and evil. In order for Adam and Eve to truly be free, they had to have a choice.

There was nothing essentially evil about the tree or the fruit of the tree. It is unlikely that eating the fruit truly gave Adam and Eve any further knowledge. It was the act of disobedience that opened Adam and Eve’s eyes to evil. Their sin of disobeying God brought sin and evil into the world and into their lives. Eating the fruit, as an act of disobedience against God, was what gave Adam and Eve knowledge of evil (Genesis 3:6-7).

God did not want Adam and Eve to sin. God knew ahead of time what the results of sin would be. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin and would thereby bring evil, suffering, and death into the world. Why, then, did God allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve? God allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to force them to make the choice. Adam and Eve chose, of their own free will, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The results—evil, sin, suffering, sickness, and death—have plagued the world ever since. Adam and Eve's decision results in every person being born with a sin nature, a tendency to sin. Adam and Eve's decision is what ultimately required Jesus Christ to die on the cross and shed His blood on our behalf. Through faith in Christ, we can be free from sin's consequences, and ultimately free from sin itself. May we echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24-25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 Recommended Resource: gotquestions.org


Question: "What does the Bible say about suffering?"

Answer:
Of all the challenges thrown at Christianity in modern times, perhaps the most sinister is explaining the problem of suffering. How can a loving God allow suffering to continue to occur in the world which He created? For those who have endured massive suffering themselves, this is much more than a philosophical issue, but often becomes a very deep-seated personal and emotional issue. How does the Bible attempt to address this issue? Does the Bible give us any examples of suffering and some indicators on how to deal with it?

The Bible is startlingly realistic when it comes to the problem of endured suffering. For one thing, the Bible devotes an entire book to dealing with the problem. This book concerns a man named Job. It begins with a scene in heaven which provides the reader with the background to Job’s suffering. Job suffers because God contested with Satan. As far as we know, this was never known by Job, nor by any of his friends. It is therefore not surprising that they all struggle to explain Job’s suffering from the perspective of their ignorance, until Job finally rests in nothing but the faithfulness of God and the hope of His redemption. Neither Job nor his friends understood at the time the reasons for his suffering. In fact, when Job is finally confronted by the Lord, Job is silent. Job’s silent response does not in any way trivialise the intense pain and loss he had so patiently endured. Rather, it underscores the importance of trusting God’s purposes in the midst of suffering, even when we don’t know that those purposes are. Suffering, like all other human experiences, is directed by the sovereign wisdom of God. In the end, we learn the lesson that we may never know the specific reason for our suffering, but we must trust in our sovereign God. That is the real answer to suffering.

Another example of suffering in the Bible is Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, where he was ultimately indicted on false charges and thereby thrown into prison. As a result of Joseph’s suffering and endurance, by God’s grace and power, he is later promoted to governor of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself, where he finds himself in a position to make provision to the nations of the world during a time of famine, including his own family and the brothers who sold him into slavery! The message of this story is summarized in Joseph’s address to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-21: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Romans 8:28 contains some comforting words for those enduring hardship and suffering: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In His providence, God orchestrates every event in our lives—even suffering, temptation and sin—to accomplish both our temporal and eternal benefit.

The psalmist David endured much suffering in his time, and this is reflected in many of his poems collected in the book of Psalms. In Psalm 22, we hear the sound of David’s anguish: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry out by day but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'”

It remains an unfathomable mystery to David why God does not intervene in the midst of his suffering and pain. He sees God as the one who is enthroned as the Holy One, the praise of Israel. After all, doesn’t God lead a pretty sheltered life? Isn’t God lucky to live in heaven where all is sweetness and light, where there is no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred? What does God know of all that humans go through? David goes on to complain that “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

Did God ever answer David? Sure enough, many centuries later, David received his answer. Roughly one millennium later, a descendent of David named Christ Jesus was killed on a hill called Calvary. On the cross, God endured the suffering and shame of his forefather. Christ’s hands and feet were pierced. Christ’s garments were divided among his enemies. Christ was stared at and gloated over and derided. In fact, Christ uttered the words with which David opens this Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” thus identifying himself with the suffering of his forefather.

Because Christ, the eternal Son of God in whom the fullness of God dwells, has lived on earth as a human being and has endured hunger, thirst, temptation, shame, persecution, nakedness, bereavement, betrayal, mockery, injustice and death, He is in a position to fulfil the longing of Job, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot” (Job 9:33).

Christian theism is, in fact, the only worldview which can consistently make sense of the problem of evil and suffering. Apart from the fact that Christians serve a God who has lived on this earth and been through trauma, temptation, bereavement, torture, hunger, thirst, persecution and even execution, the cross of Christ can be regarded as the ultimate manifestation of God’s justice. When asked how much God cares about the problem of evil and suffering, the Christian God is the only God who can point to the cross, and say “that much.” Christ experienced rejection from God, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He experienced just the same suffering as many people do in many parts of the world today who are feeling isolated from God’s favor and love.

The Christian worldview is thus the only worldview which even makes an attempt at addressing this paradox. How can God be just and still forgive wicked men such as ourselves? The answer lies in the cross of Christ and that alone.

 Recommended Resource: gotquestions.org



Question: "Is there any sin that God will not forgive?"

Answer:
For the born-again child of God, there is no unforgivable sin. All sin was forgiven at the cross. When Christ Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), that statement meant that the penalty for all sin was paid in full. The word translated "it is finished" is the Greek word “tetelestai.” That word was used in several ways. It was used to stamp "paid" upon a receipt, and it was also the stamp put on a criminal's charges once he had completed his sentence. A "tetelestai" was nailed to the door of his house proving that he had indeed paid in full for his crimes.

You can see the application to the Cross transaction between the Lord Jesus and God the Father. Jesus Christ completed the legal transaction and satisfied God's holy and righteous demand as the payment for the sin of "whosoever will." The Lord Jesus Christ became our sin sacrifice and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When Christ was separated from God the Father for those three hours of supernatural darkness (Matthew 27:45), the deal was sealed. As we read in Luke, Jesus was reunited with the Father. "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:46). Therefore, all sin was paid for once for all.

However, there is a condition upon God's forgiveness of sin. Man must come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. "Jesus said to him, ’I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’" (John 14:6). God's forgiveness is available to all who will come (John 3:16), but for those who will not believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness or remission of sin (Acts 10:43). Therefore, the only sins God will not forgive in this age of grace are the sins of those who die without first placing their faith in Jesus Christ. By that I mean that a person goes through his life here on this earth and fails to avail himself of the provision that God has provided through the Lord Jesus Christ and goes out into eternity separated from God, and therefore unforgiven.

Born-again believers also sin, and when we do, we put ourselves outside of fellowship with the Lord. However, God has made a provision for that. The Holy Spirit that indwells every born-again believer convicts us and convinces us that we have sinned, and when that happens we have a choice to respond in the right way and renew our fellowship. Once a person is born again and has accepted Christ as his Savior and received remission of sin, there is no way he can lose his eternal life based upon his actions. We can lose our fellowship with God and the joy of our salvation, but that is something we can remedy through confession.

The first epistle of John is a letter written to born-again believers, and it has very practical information on how to walk in fellowship. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This verse, when used correctly, becomes the way to restore our fellowship when we sin, and we will. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). Now, remember, this is a letter to born-again believers. God has no illusions about us and our capacity to sin, and we should not either.

The "if" at the beginning of both 1 John 1:8 and 9 is a third-class "if" in the Greek, and it means "maybe yes, maybe no." There is a condition here; if we "confess." This word in the Greek is "homologia," and it means to say the same thing or cite the case. "Homo" is "same," and "logia" is "word." It means we agree with God that we have sinned. But all sin was forgiven at the Cross and, as born-again believers, all of our sin has been forgiven. And because that is a judicial fact, we need to walk in light and in fellowship because that is our position in Christ Jesus. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7). That does not give us carte blanche to continue sinning; rather, a born-again believer who is walking in the light and fellowship of God will be quick to use confession so that there remains a continual and clear fellowship with the Lord on a daily basis.

 

Recommended Resource: gotquestions.org