In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about prayer, sexual ethics, and Jesus’ power.
- Does God answer or hear the prayers of non-believers?
- If someone claims to be a Christian but rejects sexual ethics, are they truly a Christian?
- Is the “power” that went out from Jesus recorded in Luke 8:46 actually the Holy Spirit since Jesus was fully human and cloaked His own power?
Melinda: Hello there. This is Melinda, the Enforcer. I’m here with Greg Koukl. This is the STR Ask Podcast.
Greg: Hello there.
Melinda: Hello there. It’s #STRask, because that’s how you send us your questions on Twitter. Ask it in less than 140 characters and add #STRask, which has to be part of the 140 characters, so you’re looking at more like 133. Greg only has four minutes to answer, so it’s appropriate that the question is short. If you have a longer question you can still call and talk to him on Tuesday afternoons on the regular podcast between 4:00 and 6:00 PM Pacific Time. He’s sitting here every week, hoping for you to call and have somebody to talk to.
Greg: Pining away.
Greg: Waiting for ET to call.
Melinda: Thanks to you people are now calling me Auntie Mindy, I mean other than your children and Meg’s children. I don’t know if it’s kind of like...
Greg: That’s really great.
Melinda: Well I don’t know, I’m not their aunt. I sort of feel like I’m Aunt B on...
Greg: Aunt Jemima.
Melinda:...It’s like you reach a woman of a certain age and everybody just begins calling aunt, just Aunt B of Mayberry. I’m Auntie Mindy of STR.
Greg: Yeah, that’s perfect. I just think that’s great. I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me that, thanks for sharing that.
Melinda: I prefer Enforcer as my professional name.
Greg: I kind of like Auntie Mindy.
Melinda: That’s what you can call me too.
Greg: All right, Enforcer. Go ahead and enforce. Let’s rock and roll here.
Melinda: Yes, let’s get going here. First question: Does God answer or hear the prayers of non-believers?
Greg: Well, if he didn’t then it would be hard for us to pray to him to ask him to forgive our sins kind of at the onset.
Melinda: Ah, but you’re a commonist, or reformed as am I, and once we pray it’s an evidence of already being regenerated, so that doesn’t count.
Greg: Well, I’m not sure if I actually cash those details out there like that.
Melinda: My court would be so disappointed.
Greg: Well I’m not weighing in on one side or another, but as you know what I try to do is I try to answer questions that appeal to the broadest audience.
Melinda: The broadest audience are Armenians?
Greg: No. What I am saying regardless of where your theology happens to sit is that if I am praying to God as a fallen sinner, then God has to hear my prayer in order to do what he does in response to my appeal to him for salvation. In that regard...
Melinda: My point still stands, but I’m not going to keep interrupting you. Go.
Greg:...What was that you just said?
Melinda: They heard, you can just keep going.
Greg: No. I think you said I’m not going to keep interrupting you.
Melinda: At length.
Greg: Did you catch that Derrick? I did. Okay, just so noted.
Melinda: On this point in my role as Enforcer I will continue to. Go ahead. You’re just eating up your time at this point.
Greg: All right, well I get this time back because you’re the one that’s talking.
Melinda: No, you don’t.
Greg: Yeah, I do. I actually have thought about this even beyond this contested point. There are, and I can’t recall these to mind right now, but I have noted a number of places in scripture where God does respond to people who are clearly not believers, whether regenerate in a New Testament sense of believers, in the Old Testament sense, regardless God does respond to them. I’m not able to give you...I was just thinking of Balaam right now in Numbers. He was kind of a bad prophet who was forced to prophesy accurately with regards to Israel. I’m trying to remember. Did he talk to God, or how would that work out? Let’s just say for the record I do recall a number of circumstances in the Old Testament or the New where you have somebody that’s clearly a non-believer and they call out to God and God responds to their prayer.
Now, generally though, I don’t think that this is standard fare. That is, I don’t think that the non-believer has the same kind of access to the Father in prayer that the believer does. I think believers have a unique relationship with the Father...
Melinda: Because he’s the Father.
Greg:...In virtue of the fact that they are regenerate, that they have an access to the Father, that they’re members of his family. God is not the Father in the intimate sense that the New Testament speaks of it to every created human being. As many has received Jesus, to them he gave the right to be called the children of God, even to those who believed in his name. This is in John, chapter one.
Melinda: He’s their creator, not their father.
Greg: That’s correct. Nevertheless, God does respond to the prayers...Again, I’m trying to think of examples. Maybe Nineveh is an example of people repenting and turning to God at that point and God relenting. Maybe that’s not the best example, but like I said, I’m straining my memory for those times when I can recall.
Generally speaking though, human beings don’t have that intimacy with God. We are under God’s judgment apart from the mercy that he offers in Christ. We go to him in prayer in those circumstances as rebels asking a Sovereign who they’re in rebellion to to help them. This, I think, is not the kind of relationship that God is responsive to.
Melinda: In a couple days you’re going down to Vista to record a program with the White Horse Inn guys. You just run that little particular point by them and see what they say. Okay?
Greg: Well they probably won’t strain gnats with me on this particular point.
Melinda: Yeah, if they’re being polite to you. If they treat you normally they’ll tell you. They’ll strain every gnat. That’s what theologians do. Next question. If someone claims to be a Christian but rejects sexual ethics that the Bible teaches, are they truly a Christian?
Greg: This I think is a problem. Certainly nobody has everything right. No regenerate person, God’s child, no Christian has everything right. If a person consistently rejects the moral directives of God, especially in grave circumstances, sin that has a lot of gravity to it, then I think it’s fair to begin asking, “Maybe you don’t understand what it means to be, let me put it this way, a follower of Christ.” “Why do you call me ’Lord, Lord’, but you don’t do the things that I say?” That’s what Jesus said. It says in 1 Corinthians, I believe, maybe chapter 9, verse 6, somewhere like that, that there’s a list of people characterized by certain behaviors like fornicators and adulterers and homosexuals among others that Paul says will not inherit the kingdom of God. He adds, and by the way do not be deceived.
I think certainly you can be either mistaken about certain moral things or maybe be kind of getting into play as a young Christian with these things and still be a Christian. When there is a pattern of outright rejection of what God says is right and an embracing, even a celebration of what God says is wrong, and I say this with regards to homosexuality in particular but sometimes other forms of premarital sex or non-marital sex I should say, then boy, that to me is a pretty good indication that these folks do not know what being a Christian involves.
I think we have every right, in a certain sense, rational right, reasonable right, to question the legitimacy of their claims to being real Christians. Now, of course only God knows, and that caveat is one I always am aware of and offer to people. Still, on our side, James said, show me your “faith”, and I think this is what he had in mind. Show me your so-called faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.
I think that’s a verse that is properly applied here. Sometimes I think it’s misused. He is talking about those people who say they have faith but there is no holy living that goes along with it. He said what good is that? Just like the body without breath is dead, so is any claim to faith being a Christian without the breath of life evidenced to others that manifests itself in holy living. Especially when it comes to sexual sin, I think this is an area where there’s a lot of people. I gave a talk in my own church a couple years ago about the wheat and the tares. I talked about there’s a lot of people sitting in churches all over the country that turn out to be tares. They’re not Christians at all, but they think they are. I suggested one of the big indicators when that’s the case is our sexual behavior.
Melinda: That’s really where our current culture presses us.
Greg: That’s right.
Melinda: That’s a big area.
Greg: It’s not a temptation to idolatry like it might’ve been for example for some in the First Century. It’s a different kind of temptation from the world.
Melinda: Right. Like you said, it’s not just sexual ethics. It could be how we treat other people consistently or other things. Think for instance that list that you mentioned includes gossiping, gossipers. There’s a lot of things. If somebody is just not living in a consistent way ethically we have reason to wonder.
Okay, good timing.
Greg: You got dung that time, or dinged. What is the past tense of ding?
Melinda: Ding, dang, dong.
Greg: I think dung is something else, actually.
Melinda: Right. Well, yeah. Next question.
Greg: Hold on, I just want to...
Melinda: Well, you got your Bible open. Go to...
Melinda:...If it’s not that list it’s another list that mentions gossiping along with homosexuality. Open up to Luke 8:46.
Greg: That would be New Testament.
Melinda: Matthew, Mark, Luke. Yes, New Testament.
Greg: Mark, Luke, okay. I was just looking at 1 Corinthians 9 and I couldn’t find that verse, so it’s somewhere there in Corinthians. Maybe it’s 2 Corinthians, I don’t know.
Melinda: Well and Corinthians is a book where Paul is addressing them significantly about their sexual ethics, because they lived in a culture much like ours now where it was just very loose sexually.
Greg: Mm-hmm. Okay, chapter nine of Luke.
Melinda: Luke 8:46. Is the power that went out from Jesus actually the Holy Spirit since Jesus was fully human and cloaked his own power?
Greg: It says here that the woman who...Verse 46 did you say?
Melinda: Yes. It’s when the woman touches his robe.
Greg: Luke 9? Luke 9:46?
Melinda: Luke 8:46.
Greg: Oh, okay. Sorry, let me just get to it then. No, I know the passage and this is the...Yeah, someone did touch me. I was aware that power had gone out of me.
Melinda: If anybody every wonders, “Does Greg get to look things up before the show?”, obviously no because he can’t even find it in all this time.
Greg: Well, I know the passage. This is the woman that had a hemorrhage for 12 years and she could not be healed by anyone. Luke, in this particular case, leaves out the line that she had suffered at the hands of many physicians. Him being a physician himself maybe is covering his profession, but the other parallel passages include that. In any event, so Jesus is aware that power has gone out from him. Now, I don’t know how to characterize that. This is phenomenology. He’s aware of something happening inside of him, that there is a power that is manifest. I don’t have a sense that the Spirit, like the Holy Spirit is going kind of in and out. What I’m feeling at different times is the Holy Spirit’s activity. I’m not feeling, so that there’s a flow of the Holy Spirit out of me into an audience or something like that.
Melinda: Well he’s wondering whose power it was because he was not operating in his own power.
Greg: Right, I’m getting to that point. I was just making clear. I think it is simply making the point that there is a power capability that Jesus is aware that has been drawn on. Now, as to the Holy Spirit part in his humanity, I think that there’s a fair debate about whether Jesus acted simply as a human being, empowered by the Holy Spirit, which actually used to be the way I characterized it, as opposed to being God in the flesh. The reason that I state this is because it does appear that Jesus acts in such a way that people understand to be consistent with his divine nature. When he calms the storm the disciples say, “Who is this man who even commands the winds and the waves and the forces of nature?”
I mean, that makes me think that Jesus is manifesting his unique divine power to accomplish these tasks. He’s not just simply a guy filled with the Spirit, because the response to the disciples would be, “Well, you could do this too if you had the same spirit working in you the way it was.” I think the Spirit can do that through anyone, but that isn’t the way they assess the circumstance. Even though we know that Jesus humbled himself and set aside the prerogatives of deity, and we read about that in Philippians 2, it’s called the kenosis, not surrendering his divine attributes, but surrendering prerogatives of that. At the same time, there do seem to be times that he’s acting in the office of his divine nature, so he speaks with authority. He forgives sins in himself.
Melinda: In his own authority.
Greg: In his own authority. You have this kind of mixture there. I think what we’re up against is this odd amalgam of divine and human that we find in no one else, amalgamation that we find in no one else but Jesus of Nazareth who is fully God and fully man, not...How does the creed say? Not confounding the natures nor dividing the substance.
Melinda: Athanasian Creed.
Greg: Yeah, so we’re not cutting the substance in two, but at the same time we’re keeping things distinct, but we’re not keeping them so distinct that they’re not one nature.
Greg: Integrated. It’s a mysterious kind of thing.
Melinda: It only happened once in history.
Greg: Yeah. The answer to the question is I don’t know that there’s a clear answer to the question precisely the way it was asked. It’s hard to know actually what’s going on there.
Melinda: Okay. Before we wrap up I just wanted to mention at the end of April, I think it’s April 21st, 22nd, 23rd. We’ve got our...
Greg: 21st and 22nd.
Melinda: Take it over here.
Greg: Okay. ReThink Alabama.
Melinda: You’ve got the notes in front of you.
Greg: Yeah. We’re opening up Alabama, the south now, with our ReThink strategy. We’ve partnered with Brierwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham for April 21st and 22nd. We are very excited about this. The Brierwood folk are really excited. You can go to rethinkapologetics.com and sign up. There’s still an early bird...
Melinda: No. I don’t know when the early bird deadline is. This podcast is going to be aired, posted in March so early bird will be over. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and it’s worth every penny of the full price.
Greg: Exactly right.
Melinda: We guarantee it.
Greg: Yeah. We’ve had tremendous response with ReThinks in the past. In southern California and in Dallas, Texas we will continue in those locations. We are opening up Alabama at Birmingham. April 21st and 22nd.
Melinda: Great. That’s it for this episode, folks. We post two episodes of this podcast STRask every week, Mondays and Thursdays. We’ve got one more episode to go this week. I’m Melinda the Enforcer for Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason.