#STRask: April 27, 2017

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Published on 04/27/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about the power of words, Jesus’ metaphor in John 11, and how Jesus is David’s descendant?


  • Is God literally speaking in Genesis 1:3-1:29? My pastor preachers on the power of God’s Word but isn’t He a mind?
  • What is meaning of the metaphor Jesus uses in John 11:9-10?
  • How is Jesus a descendant of David if we accept Immaculate Conception, and therefore Joseph did not father Him?


Melinda: This is the #STRask podcast...what’re you doing? You’re taking a picture, you’re shedding light?

Greg: I’m shedding light on the situation.

Melinda: He’s got his phone and he’s got the flashlight on it, pointing it at me.

Greg: The light of the world.

Melinda: Put it down. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and this is the adolescent Greg Koukl sitting next to me. Seriously, very often he is an adolescent. In fact sometimes he can be more of a third grader. So he’s playing with his phone for some reason, turning the flashlight on. Oh just stop it. It’s a good thing we don’t have a video in here. Although if we had a video, you might behave better.

Greg: I am really enjoying myself.

Melinda: I know you are! Just put your phone down, why are you...

Greg: ’Cause I’m trying to get the timer so I can stay in my marks here. There we go.

Melinda: Okay there we go. So, STRask podcast...

Greg: Four minutes, right?

Melinda: STRak podcast, you send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask and Greg has four minutes or less to answer them. And then he gets dinged. Okay so let’s just get going, let’s get down to business. This is ridiculous.

Greg: I’m ready!

Melinda: No you’re not. But let’s just go. Okay this comes from Riley JMU. Is God literally speaking in Genesis 1? My pastor preaches on the power of God’s word, but isn’t he non-physical? How could he be speaking?

Greg: Well yeah, this suspect and this is where people are gonna go a little bit goofy on me maybe.

Melinda: Why what’re you gonna say?

Greg: I think that this is an anthropomorphism, okay? Literal speaking entails using a mouth and maybe not using a mouth, but God could make noise, God could make sounds probably without a mouth. And so I guess you could call that speaking after a fashion, but he’s making sounds without a mouth. Let’s see, Samuel was conjured up there by Saul in the end of first Samuel, and Samuel spoke but he had no physical body, no vocal chords, whatever. But he did use a language that was meant to communicate. I think that when it says that God spoke here, I personally do not imagine that if I were there, I would hear words coming out of His mouth.

Melinda: I agree.

Greg: I think it’s words, not coming out of his mouth.

Melinda: You wouldn’t have heard anything audible.

Greg: Yeah. I think what God does is he’s using this anthropomorphism to express an exercise of his will to create. That would be my take on it. And you see what happens here. Okay I don’t know what evolved or devolved from this sermon about God’s words, but what often happens and I’ve heard this in the word faith movement, is that even God had to use words to create. So this is about the power of words, the power of language, and power invested in the words themselves. This is an occultic view of language. This is what abra cadabra is all about. You say “abra cadabra” or “open sesame,” these are magic words that have power to do something. Power’s in the words. Well that’s not our view. That’s occultic.

Our view is that the power’s in God, and God exercises His will. Now if he wanted to say something to exercise His will, he could’ve done that if he so chose. I just don’t take this to necessarily mean that. And what I certainly don’t believe is that he depended on words to get work done, which is what the word faith groups does. And so now it’s the way we use words like God used words to get things accomplished. Again I don’t know what the pastor in question here was intending with his sermon or where he took that. But I am really suspicious of any sermons that go in that direction or start from that place. You know, there is no power in words.

Now I know that Proverbs makes a statement to that effect, but that’s not what it means. Yes there’s power in the name of Jesus. Well then why doesn’t something happen every time somebody gets angry and says Jesus Christ? Nothing happens. If there’s power in the word, then the word would do something but it doesn’t. There isn’t power in the word, there’s power in Him. And when we say in the name, we don’t mean the word of his name, we mean the person who bears the name. That’s what that means. Okay. So I don’t think there’s any power in the words. Are you looking something up there?

Melinda: I was just looking...yeah if you go to our website and just type in power of words, there’s a video talking about that a couple times, and then this is what I was actually looking for. There’s an article from many years ago called winking, wiggling, and the power of words. Were you talking about that?

Greg: No that was one that was coming to mind, I didn’t remember the exact title.

Melinda: I didn’t remember the wiggling part. But you refer to Wish and I Dream of Genie, like the magic you were referring to.

Greg: Yeah twitching the nose, winking the eyes and blinking, and these are little gestures that caused things to happen. There’s no magic in that, there’s no magic in words, there’s no magic like that. There is power in God. And there’s power in the devil. But these things are not harnessed in any sense by words.

Melinda: So we say into prayer in Jesus’ name, there’s nothing inherent in Jesus’ particular name, it’s in his authority. And so the same way in Genesis, God in his authority and his power is exercising his will to bring the universe...

Greg: Exactly. And then the name of the lord is the high tower, all of these things, it is not the name of God, it is God who goes by this name. That’s the point. It’s God is the high tower, not the words are the high tower. And there are - think of the Book of Acts where Jesus’ name was invoked to cast out demons, and it did not work because they were not believers that were using it. And the demon said, I guess the Jewish exorcist said, I adjure you by Jesus who Paul preaches. And they said that to the demon. And the demon says “I recognize Jesus and I know about Paul, but who are you?”

Melinda: That’s pretty funny.

Greg: That’s in there. And then he beats him up and they all run away naked and bleeding. You know, this one man does them in, the demon possessed person. So there’s no magic in words. When it says that the life and death are in the power of the tongue, they don’t mean that the tongue is...well even there, the tongue isn’t killing anybody. The tongue isn’t going out and strangling someone or piercing them with the tongue, it’s a figure of speech. And it’s a figure for words, but even in those cases it’s the task that words properly used might accomplish. It isn’t the power in the words, it’s the ideas that are conveyed by the words. And that’s why we have to be careful with what we way.

Because we might say abra cadabra and open sesame by accident, and the door won’t fly open. But because there is an impact based on the idea that we communicate using language.

Melinda: When I was in high school - I went to a Christian high school - I remember one chapel, I can still remember, this shows the power of using an illustration like this. One of the teachers did a chapel on James and the power of our tongue, and actually had a big beef tongue up there. And was just sort of flopping it around. And I can still picture her up there doing this. But it made the impression, it was a good reminder.

Okay next question. Well actually we had another question from Lukemi that also had to do with the power of the name of Jesus, I think we just answered that too. Next question comes from MyPlumberTim. Regarding John 11, this is where John 11 comes in.

Greg: Oh that’s my cue, huh.

Melinda: See I just told him to bookmark John 11, I didn’t give him the verses or tell him the question ahead of time. So regarding John 11:9-10, what is Jesus saying here? The metaphor escapes me in this context.

Greg: Okay here’s the verses, I’m just taking this as they sit here. Jesus answered...I might have to back up here. So when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he then stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this, he said to the disciples let us go to Judea again. The disciples said to him “Rabbi the Jews are just now seeking to stone you and you are going there again?” Jesus answered “are there not 12 hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night he stumbles because the light is not in him.” So is that the verse in question?

Melinda: 9 and 10.

Greg: Yeah. Well all I can give you is the most general response, I’m not sure I understand the metaphor with any precision. But I think Jesus is saying that he has to go ahead according to his divine plan. That is, he’s not walking in the night, therefore he’s not stumbling. He has the light in him, okay. He is walking in the day in the plan of God, and this may lead him to crucifixion, indeed he’s already predicted it. But he’s going in with eyes wide open, maybe that’s a way of looking at it. And he understands what he’s up against, but it’s okay. He’s not gonna be caught by surprise, he has everything under control.

That’s my take of the point that he’s making, and you can see that, or one can see that point even in the words, but there might be some language that’s being used there that was more familiar to first century Jews that living in that area that made it less ambiguous. That’s a possibility.

Melinda: Okay next question comes from Oriaco on Twitter. How is Jesus a descendant of David if we accept Immaculate Conception, and therefore Joseph did not father him?

Greg: What about his mother?

Melinda: By the way, Immaculate Conception doesn’t refer to Jesus?

Greg: That’s correct.

Melinda: I thought that’s the first thing you were gonna say.

Greg: No I was just thinking past that. Strictly speaking, Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception without sin. And this is a Roman Catholic teaching that the rationale is the son of God could not be born in a sinful body, Mary’s, so Mary was conceived without sin. And...

Melinda: Jesus, or we call the Virgin birth.

Greg: Yes that’s correct, I’m just pausing to see if I want to say more about that. This is not a true doctrine, it exalts Mary way beyond where she belongs, and makes her sinless along with Jesus. The Bible teaches otherwise. She says in the Magnifica, she refers to God my savior. You only get saved from something that is a threat to you at that moment. She is not saved by never having been a sinner. And that’s the way they want to see it. Well God saved her from sin by creating her without sin. Well then there was no sin to be saved from. It’s double talk to put Mary in the wrong position, I’m sorry. It’s just a bad doctrine. And it’s bad...

In any event, the real question was the birth. Jesus was a descendant of some human being, and he was literally or physically the descendant of Mary ’cause he was born from her womb and even though Joseph was her step-father, he was still in...

Melinda: His...

Greg: His step-father, right. He was still in the legal line of David. And so by legal adoption, he would be in the line of David through Solomon, but if you look in the gospel of Luke in the second or third chapter there, we have a genealogy that does not match the genealogy of Matthew because it’s not the same genealogy. It’s charting the genealogy of Jesus through his mother, not through his father. And his mother is a descendant of David through Nathan, not through Solomon, a different son. And so in both cases, what’s curious about this or interesting is he is both a blood descendant of David, and he is the heir to the royal throne, being in a certain sense the stepson of Joseph. Yeah so there’s no problem there it seems.

Melinda: I just had a thought I’ve never had before, so the reason Mary and Joseph went down to Bethlehem is because everybody had to go to their ancestral home to be registered. Mary’s family, her father, was in the line of David, so his ancestral home was Bethlehem. So I wonder if Mary’s parents also took this trip. The bible doesn’t say it, but I would impinge they had to go down there too.

Greg: Oh that’s really interesting, I never thought about...

Melinda: I never thought about it before either.

Greg: No she wouldn’t have to go, she would follow her husband. But her dad, Matthew, Mark, Luke...let me just, that is a very interesting...

Melinda: Aha.

Greg: Of course you never see that...

Melinda: Well they’re not in the Nativity scene. But they could’ve been, you know.

Greg: By the way, you know Mary made that trip twice in one year...

Melinda: Oh that’s right, yeah.

Greg: When she first was pregnant, she goes to Judea...

Melinda: Right right.

Greg: To meet Elizabeth, then she comes back, and then she goes to...

Melinda: She did a lot of traveling.

Greg: She did.

Melinda: That was tough terrain too...

Greg: I’m looking for, okay this is very...

Melinda: What are you gonna look up?

Greg: Here it is, in Luke chapter 3, verses 23 and following. When he, Jesus, began his ministry, he himself was about 30 years of age being as was supposed the son of Joseph, the son of Eli. Now Eli in this case would be the son-in-law, and Eli would be the father-in-law. So you could say he’s the son, and Eli’s the father, but it isn’t the one who gave birth to him, it’s the one who gave birth, was the father of his wife. And so that would make Eli a son of David...

Melinda: Who’s Eli?

Greg: Eli is Mary’s father.

Melinda: Okay. Joseph’s father-in-law.

Greg: That’s right. And so that would be, you’re right. I never...Alert the press. Melinda just came up with something clever. Good insight.

Melinda: I wonder, well let’s google the question, see if somebody else has the answer.

Greg: Google it, yeah. Well it’s unmistakable though, if that’s what this genealogy is meant to characterize, then you’re right. Well that’s gonna make a mess out of a lot of Christmas pageants.

Melinda: Right. But it kind of makes me feel better that Mary just didn’t have Joseph, who didn’t know anything about helping her give birth. Her mom might’ve been there.

Greg: Yeah that’s true. There is nothing in the text that suggests otherwise. And this whole thing about “there’s no room for them in the inn,” this is not an inn.

Melinda: We talked about this before.

Greg: Well a lot of us may not. There were no inns in Bethlehem, it wasn’t an inn, it was the upper room. And...

Melinda: Yeah but they were still downstairs with the animals...

Greg: Right, with the animals...

Melinda: So whether it’s the downstairs of a home or the stable of an inn, they’re with the animals. It’s not nice.

Greg: No. There were probably more than just those two that were down there. Probably her mother, like you said.

Melinda: Well I would hope so. I’ve always kind of wondered, if it was so crowded, there were other people down there also, and poor Mary’s giving birth in public with people around her? That’d be horrible.

Greg: Well they’d probably turn their heads or something.

Melinda: Still, I don’t think any woman wants to give birth with strangers even nearby...

Greg: I guess the cigar would come afterwards, wouldn’t it? Hey it’s a boy! I always make this joke, you know we watch the nativity, and they had Jesus is born, and it’s really dramatic scene. Wonderful movie, you know we talked about it.

Melinda: It is, I liked it.

Greg: Then you hear the crying and there’s Joseph holds the baby up and then I yell “it’s a girl!” What?

Melinda: You still laugh and they just roll their eyes, yeah.

Greg: Yeah, bad humor. But actually, it wasn’t that bad ’cause everybody in this room was laughing so...

Melinda: ’Cause it’s the first time I heard it. The next 200 times you tell us, we won’t laugh. So...

Greg: I told it a bunch of times, I laughed again. It’s always funny in the telling again, you always laugh. But it’s not always funny in the hearing again.

Melinda: Well and there’s certain things, like you telling people at Christmas time to shop on Amazon Prime like that’s news to them. Things just become a tradition.

Greg: Well why would you tell everybody...

Melinda: Things just become a tradition. And even if they’re kind of lame, we look forward to those things.

Greg: Right, so...

Melinda: It’s part of my Christmas now...

Greg: Are you calling people lame that don’t know about Amazon Prime?

Melinda: It’s part of my Christmas tradition now for you to tell people about Amazon Prime.

Greg: Well I found out about it at some time after its inception. So there was a period where I didn’t know, and now I do.

Melinda: By the way, Amazon Prime, yes but also Amazon Smile, you can actually pick a charity, a nonprofit on amazon to make your nonprofit and everything you order gives a percentage goes to that nonprofit.

Greg: We get a check.

Melinda: And you can pick Stand to Reason. There’s a little loophole though, it’s only the orders placed online in a web browser, not in their app.

Greg: Oh I didn’t know about that.

Melinda: So what you can do for convenience is shop in the app and put things in your cart, and then go to the browser and just check out.

Greg: Oh well that’s good.

Melinda: But make sure you pick STR as your...and every quarter, so far it’s like $400 some dollars, but every quarter it gets to be more.

Greg: Yes.

Melinda: And it all helps.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: We appreciate every bit of it.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: So that’s what you can talk about next Christmas instead of Amazon Prime.

Greg: Pays Melinda’s monthly check.

Melinda: So, that’s the end of this podcast, as crazy as it is. STRask, send your questions on Twitter using your #STRask, new episodes every Monday and Thursday. Yes that is. And if you’re in the East Coast April 20 and 29, Greg is gonna be speaking in Smithtown, New York, that’s out on Long Island, and you go to New York, they’re hosting that conference to find out more information. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.