#STRask: August 31, 2017

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Published on 08/31/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about the Sabbath, Jesus’ two natures, God changing, and a possible Bible contradiction.


  • As New Testament Christians, is it accurate to say that if you set aside work and take time to rest or be with God, that this is “taking Sabbath”?
  • Would Jesus have been considered “fully human and fully God” prior to the Incarnation?
  • How can God be considered eternal and unchanging if the second Person of the Trinity became incarnate?
  • God stated in Ex. 20:13 “you shall not murder,” yet in Joshua and Judges, God allows and commands what many would consider murder.


Melinda: Hello, I’m Melinda the Enforcer, Greg Koukl is sitting next to me, and this is #STRask.

Greg Koukl: You are so cheerful-sounding.

Melinda: Yeah. This is a STR short podcast. We put Greg on a timer, four minutes or less.

Greg Koukl: Yeah.

Melinda: I’m not an unhappy person, but I’m not a normally chirpy, cheerful person either.

Greg Koukl: That’s true.

Melinda: Mostly I’ve got too much stuff to do.

Greg Koukl: I can attest to that.

Melinda: I’m just like a focused person.

Greg Koukl: I can attest to that.

Melinda: Well, most of the time I’m trying to get you to do things, so that’s yeah. I’m just like a sheep dog on your heels most of the time.

Greg Koukl: Melinda the Enforcer. Woof-woof.

Melinda: That’s exactly it. Yeah, Enforcers are not cheerful, chirpy people.

Greg Koukl: So what are we doing?

Melinda: You’re going to answer questions in four minutes or less.

Greg Koukl: Okay, let’s go.

Melinda: And I got them all from Twitter because people used #STRask.

Greg Koukl: Okay.

Melinda: Alrighty? Here we go. This first one comes from iseedeup, something like that. His name’s Anthony. “As New Testament Christians, is it accurate to say that if you set aside work and take time to rest or be with God any day of the week, that that is taking a Sabbath?”

Greg Koukl: Yeah, I think so. Paul says in Colossians Chapter 2, “Let no man be your judge,” with regards to, among other things, Sabbath days. Because the Sabbath, look there’s a principle of rest, but the Sabbath observant from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is a feature of the Mosaic Law to which Jews are beholden under the theocracy. They are not under the theocracy anymore; therefore, Jews are not beholden to that law, and Gentiles were never beholden to that law.

Now there’s a rationale for that law that supersedes the law per se or the law itself, and that is the concept of rest. So that’s a good thing for anybody to do to have a “Sabbath rest.” If you’re a pastor, and you’re working on Sunday, so you take a Sabbath on Monday. That’s fine. It doesn’t have to be according to the calendar, and I think this is part of Paul’s point in Colossians Chapter 2.

So resting is good. God wants us to rest. Having the legal constraints of resting on the Sabbath of the Mosaic Law, this doesn’t apply to us. Never applied to Gentiles first, and doesn’t apply to Jews anymore anyway because that old covenant, according to Jeremiah 31, has been set aside for a new covenant, which Jesus initiated at The Last Supper and was inaugurated on Pentecost.

Melinda: You’ve mentioned before that Jesus repeats, or most of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament except for the Sabbath one.

Greg Koukl: Yes, that’s right. The reason the Ten Commandments are commandments in most cases is because they reflect universals that ought to be part of any law of a people, especially a moral people under God. So obeying parents and not stealing and not coveting and all the other things that are in the Commandments, these are universals that show up in the Ten Commandments but are not simply restricted to the Ten Commandments.

It’s kind of like, you know, I just came back from New York yesterday. Well in New York, I wasn’t under the laws of California. I was under the laws of New York-

Melinda: And New Jersey.

Greg Koukl: ... But because there is prohibitions against murder in California, doesn’t mean now I’m outside of California, I can murder because the same-

Melinda: There’s a federal law too.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, okay. But the point is it’s just-

Melinda: Yeah, right. New York has the same law.

Greg Koukl: The same law because there’s a universal that’s reflected, and all states are gonna have that kind of thing. So this is what we find in the Old Testament. We find things embodied in the law there because they have a universal quality, and part of the way we know they have that quality is because we see the expression of that universal, moral obligation in New Testament texts that are not referring to the Old Testament law per se.

Interestingly and importantly, homosexuality’s one of those things. It is prohibited in Leviticus, but it’s also prohibited in the New Testament. It’s not because it’s in Leviticus that makes it wrong, but it’s in Leviticus because it’s wrong.

Melinda: The Christians obey it. Right.

Greg Koukl: Over and above the Levitical law, and that’s why it has application in the New Testament era as well.

Melinda: That’s also why some of the punishments mentioned in the Levitical law don’t apply outside of that nation because they were part of that national law, just the same way as when California ceases to exist, you know? Capital punishment under the California law won’t apply anymore.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, right. So you can still have things that are immoral, but have different punishments for those law because we’re under a different system of a legal obligation. We’re not under the Mosaic Covenant in that sense, so the punishments may be different under different law.

Melinda: Or there may be no punishments prescribed per se. So just because some of those things are still immoral today, the punishments don’t automatically come along with them.

Greg Koukl: Right.

Melinda: You made a comment. I just want to tease it out here a little bit. That the kinds of things expressed in the Ten Commandments should be part of the law of any moral people. Are you suggesting that the Ten Commandments should become law?

Greg Koukl: No, and I was thinking about this when I said it, so I kinda equivocated just a little bit.

Melinda: I figured somebody’s gonna ... Well yeah, I just thought I’d bring it out a little bit.

Greg Koukl: No, but the things that I mentioned ... Well I talked about coveting, which is a mental thing. Laws of a country should not obey against thoughts. Okay, that’s why I think hate crime legislation is wrong. It’s not the action itself. It’s the thought that motivated the action that is being punished, that is actionable under the law. That’s a mistake. Punish the behavior, not the thoughts that motivated the behavior. Okay? But we have in the Ten Commandments-

Melinda: Because no good thoughts ever motivated murder.

Greg Koukl: Then Ten Commandments though, there are commandments that are very specific behaviors that ought to be restricted in any culture, like theft of a variety of kinds. Also, adultery, I mean there was a time when that was illegal in this country, but murder, etc. The point I’m making, the real point is not how do we apply the commands of the Ten Commandments into our social structure today. That’s a more complex thing.

The point I’m making is that the reason that the laws are there, most of them, is because they reflect universal moral goods and therefore are morally obligatory in any culture. Okay? It is still right to put God first. It is still wrong to covet other people’s goods and other person’s wife, even if the law of your country isn’t against it, it’s still wrong to do before God.

There seems to be one exception of those 10, and that is the Sabbath, which is explicitly exempted, it seems to me, in the New Testament. There’s a rationale for that because of the New Covenant, so that’s actually spelled out. The Sabbath turns out to be not a universal moral obligation, at least in my view, but some appropriate thing that God demanded of His children for a period of time. Therefore, since God demanded it, it was morally obligatory in virtue of the command of God.

Melinda: Of that nation.

Greg Koukl: For that time.

Melinda: Right. Next question comes from friargalen. “Would Jesus have been considered fully human and fully God prior to the incarnation?”

Greg Koukl: No. Because the incarnation is when He became human, so it’s kind of like a contradiction to say that He was fully human before the incarnation. Think of incarnation, incarnate, in-flesh is what it means. So the flesh in that sense of the word, and it’s used this way in the New Testament, is referring to the human nature itself of Jesus. “Flesh and blood has not revealed these things to you Peter, but my Father in Heaven.” Jesus, when He’s saying that, He’s referring to human beings, bodies, that kind of stuff. So if Jesus is not incarnated, He is not in-fleshed, therefore, He would not be fully human. He wouldn’t be human at all.

Melinda: Let me ask you a follow-up question by actually asking another submitted question that kind of works with this one. I don’t have it right in front of me because it was on my third page, which I didn’t think I was going to get to. I don’t know who asked it, but the question was, “How can we say that God is unchangeable, when Jesus changed?” The second person of the Trinity became incarnate.

Greg Koukl: Okay, yeah, this is a fair question. So what it requires-

Melinda: The rest are unfair?

Greg Koukl: ... is that we dial down on what exactly we mean. To say that God became man, strictly speaking, is an inaccurate way of putting it. We can speak of it very loosely, if we understand the precise meaning. But if we’re gonna be more careful, we would say that God added to Himself an additional nature.

Melinda: The second person of the Trinity did.

Greg Koukl: The second person of the Trinity, yes, added to Himself-

Melinda: But His divine nature did not change at all.

Greg Koukl: His divine nature did not change because the divine nature’s immutable. So you have the Word becoming flesh in the sense that, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” in the sense that a human nature was added to Him. This brings us to the Chalcedonian Formula of fully God and fully man, one person, two natures.

Prior to the incarnation, you had one person, which would be the person of the Word, and one nature, that is the nature of God. It is that second person of the Trinity, who was fully God, who then added to Himself a human nature, and therefore we have in Jesus, one person still, and two distinct natures, a human nature and the divine nature that He always had.

What changes is not the divine nature. What changes over time is the human nature because to be human means to grow and to change. That’s part of what’s entailed in the nature of being human.

Melinda: And even though the incarnation was an event for the second person of the Trinity, when we talk about God not changing, we’re not talking about events not occurring to Him, but in adding the human nature, the divine substance/nature did not change.

Greg Koukl: Yes.

Melinda: We’re not talking about-

Greg Koukl: There could be changes external.

Melinda: ... events don’t happen. Right.

Greg Koukl: There is in some circles, there’s some debate about this, but this does not mean that there aren’t things going on outside of God that God is aware of. But even His mental content isn’t changing as the world around Him is changing.

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: Even the language we’re using requires that God be temporal, which is my view. I think yours as well.

Melinda: Yeah.

Greg Koukl: That God participates in temporal becoming of the world around Him.

Melinda: But He’s not becoming.

Greg Koukl: No, He’s not becoming, and because He is aware of things changing, He’s not adding new information to His knowledge base. Even in His knowledge, nothing’s changing because God always knew what would take place in virtue of His omniscience. This is why people say, “How can God listen to so many prayers at one time?” Because He doesn’t learn anything when we pray. There never was when He didn’t know what we were going to pray.

Now that doesn’t mean our prayers are ineffectual for that reason, it just means that God always knew we were going to pray. There’s a logical priority to our prayers. It’s in virtue of our prayers that we freely pray, that God will have known beforehand that we were gonna pray them. And when we pray them, then God decides what He’s going to do. Or I’m speaking again-

Melinda: Well, I was gonna say, He doesn’t decide.

Greg Koukl: I know. I know. I’m speaking anthropomorphically here now.

Melinda: He provides His answer then.

Greg Koukl: He provides His answer then, which He always knew He was going to give.

Melinda: Which is previously determined, yeah.

Greg Koukl: Yeah. But see the reason I’m trying to make these qualifications, even though I’m kind of stumbling about, trying to be as precise as possible is because I don’t want people to think that their prayers don’t matter, and I don’t want them to think that there’s some kind of determinism here.

Melinda: Right.

Greg Koukl: It’s rather that the fact of their prayers makes a difference to God, even though He knew in advance what was going to be prayed. He answers in virtue of the prayer He knows is going to be prayed, and if we don’t pray the prayer, then there’s no prayer for Him to know in advance to respond to.

Melinda: Mm-hmm.

Greg Koukl: I know that’s given some people a headache, but that’s okay.

Melinda: Perfect sense. Okay, last question, two minutes. Well this is hard. I don’t think it’s hard to answer. I just think this is something that stumps people.

Greg Koukl: Okay.

Melinda: But you can answer it in two minutes because you’re not most people. This again came from a comment left in our Facebook Live Event last Tuesday, you and Tim did on Bible contradictions. “God states in Exodus 20:13, ’You shall not murder,’ yet in Joshua and Judges, God allows and commands what many would consider to be murder.”

Greg Koukl: Well the question here is not what many would consider to be murder. The question is what God considers to be murder. Murder is killing that is not morally justified. Okay? If God commands it, one might argue by the very nature of God making the command, it is morally justified because God can do whatever He wants with that which is His. If you make it, you own it.

Notice how some people will argue against capital punishment. I don’t agree with this line of argument, but notice the intuition that it betrays. That “we should not be using capital punishment because man should not play God,” as they put it. Only God can play God. Well if that’s the case, then I agree, God can play God, which is God is free to take the life that He wants.

Now if He decided He wants to take a life, the means that He chooses to do that, to me, is inconsequential morally. He could take the life through disease. He could take it through a natural disaster that He brings on as a matter of judgment, like a flood for example. Or He could take it by pouring out fire and brimstone like on Sodom and Gomorrah, or He could take it by using another human agent to accomplish it, just like He did with the Jews when He chose to judge the Canaanites for the grotesque immoralities that they had been doing for almost half a millennium. We know that because of the things we read in the book of Genesis Chapter 18.

So God had a morally sufficient reason for taking these lives through the means of a human army, and so therefore, it’s not murder.

Melinda: Murder can be defined as an unjust taking of a life.

Greg Koukl: Right.

Melinda: God was actually carrying out justice.

Greg Koukl: That’s right.

Melinda: Just as when we carry out capital punishment, the warden and the guards and the doctor at the prison are the means of carrying that out. In this case, the nation of Israel was the means of carrying out His justice.

Greg Koukl: That’s correct, and just for clarity’s sake, these people were really nasty, and when Israel did the nasties that the Canaanites did, God brought judgment right on them.

Melinda: They got it too.

Greg Koukl: This is why it is not ethnic cleansing because the ethnicity had nothing to do with it. Rahab was rescued, and she shared that ethnicity. But she had turned to God, and God gave her mercy. He would do the same thing to any-

Melinda: And she became an ancestor of Jesus.

Greg Koukl: That’s right. They did that with the Assyrians, with Jonah. He gave them mercy. He gives mercy when people seek mercy, and that’s you know, it has nothing to do with ethnicity. It has everything to do with conduct.

Melinda: What’s the name of the Solid Ground you wrote on the details of what the Canaanites-

Greg Koukl: Yeah, it’s called The Canaanites ... The word Canaanites is in it-

Melinda: Well it’s in there.

Greg Koukl: It’s called, Genocide or Judgment.

Melinda: Okay.

Greg Koukl: Yeah, and this by the way, was very widely read, and I think for good reason. I think there’s a very good case that’s made there for the propriety of God’s actions.

Melinda: Do you now? Since you wrote it.

Greg Koukl: Well it’s not because I wrote it. I don’t feel that way about everything I wrote, but I think this particular one was especially apropos, and a lot of people have reflected that.

Melinda: Right, so if you want to see the details of what the Canaanites were being judged for, that’s The Solid Ground on our website to go look up.

Greg Koukl: That’s right.

Melinda: That’s it for this episode. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. We’ll get to almost all of them eventually. We post two new episodes a week. We post one on Monday, and one on Thursday. Greg Koukl is with me, and I’m Melinda the Enforcer for Stand to Reason.