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Can God Dwell Among Sin? (and other questions)

More Q&A from readers!

I have now done this several times. One of you will email me some really great questions, and as I’m hammering out a response, I think to myself, Hey, this would make a good blog post! So here it is! Thanks, Mallory, for the great questions!

Mallory: Are we missing out on the fullness of the Gospel? If the irreducible minimum of the gospel is Christ’s crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension, what also is the Gospel that Jesus was preaching when He’s speaking in Mark 1:14-15 since none of those things have happened yet? How does the Kingdom of God and the personhood of Jesus factor into a potentially more robust view of the Good News?

Me: I have had this exact question for a while, especially connected to the story a few chapters later, when Jesus tells the demon possessed man to go tell about Him in the Decapolis. Like, what is he supposed to tell? That he was demon possessed and now he’s not? That’s it? If nothing else, it’s a good imperative to share your own testimony, since that’s about all that dude had to share! He didn’t know about the crucifixion or resurrection yet. Maybe he would later? Or maybe the gospel can be just as simple as it needs to be, and God will use it. After all, Jesus tells a lot of ‘seed’ parables, does He not? Maybe during this period we could also say that it was a unique moment where the presence of Jesus WAS the kingdom of God as well, so where He went, the kingdom went too. Part of His mission was also to tell people, in the words of N.T Wright, How God Became King. And the King is here.

If God had to deal with sin on the cross through Jesus because He can’t be in the presence of it, how does that account for Jesus’ ability to exist among the presence of sin while being in humanity?

I know a lot of theologians would argue with the language here: It’s a misnomer that ‘God can’t be in the presence of sin.’ I think it’s more like, ‘sin can’t be in the presence of God.’ Think about God like a light and sin like a shadow. What is the shadow going to do? Fight back against the light? No, a shadow is instantly obliterated in the presence of light. It’s made up of non-substance. But Jesus’ incarnation (the kenosis) is the self-emptying of His God-ness, probably so that He WOULDN’T obliterate sinful humans when He lived among them. Remember, He was fully human as well as fully God.

Jesus as the New Moses – what are the parallels? How does the life of Moses prophetically point to the coming of Christ? How is Christ that fulfillment? 

This is primarily focused on in Matthew, which is by a Jew, to Jews (Now why would that be…..?). Matthew highlights so many cool typological things in Jesus’ life that we see in Moses: Both were in Egypt as babies, both were born during an infanticide, Jesus was placed in a trough, Moses in a basket, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, Moses spent 40 years, Moses led 12 tribes, Jesus led 12 disciples, both were princes who left positions of power (political/divine). I’m sure there are a lot more if we looked into it, those are just all the ones I remember on the top of my head haha! Among other things, it points to Jesus as the next prophet who ‘could speak to God face-to-face, as one speaks to a friend,’ and liberate people: Moses liberated the Israelites and Jesus liberates all humans.

How and where do we see the Holy Spirit at work in the OT? What’s its presence as a thread from the beginning to the end of all scripture?

Well that’s another interesting one. We have to remember to refer to the Spirit in personal terms, not impersonal though. But of course, this is hard because Father and Son are more masculine pronouns, while the Spirit is compared to both genders (though maybe more feminine). The problem is, we don’t have a unisex singular pronoun haha. Anyway, we see the Spirit in the second verse of the Bible (or the first, if you consider Genesis 1:1 just a title or introduction, which some scholars do.) The Spirit is there, hovering over the waters, calling the unformed chaos to life. I did a whole sermon just on this verse because it’s so fascinating, which you can watch here. The first person in the Bible filled with the Spirit is the crafter of the Tabernacle (Bezalel, I think? Going from memory here haha). This shows that the Spirit loves and encourages creativity, and friends of YHWH should be creative. Several others are filled with the Spirit all throughout the Old Testament, but this filling is always temporary–a big change that comes in the New Testament. The NT also describes Scripture as being written as men were carried along by the Spirit. Of course, the ‘scripture’ referred to at that time was just the OT, since that’s all the scripture they had until the NT was ratified a few centuries later. The NT describes many ways the Spirit moves, or functions He serves: Connecting us to Christ and the Father, acting as a deposit until the resurrection, speaking through us, leading us, guiding us, etc. And in the future, there is this cool image we see in Revelation 21, of the Spirit proceeding as a river from the throne of God. This is the word most often used to positionally describe the Spirit in the Trinity. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son, in this image of water. What does water do? It sustains and nurtures and cleans and is our source of life. The first image of the Spirit involves water, and so does the last one. 

Thanks for the great Q’s!


1 comment on “Can God Dwell Among Sin? (and other questions)

  1. Pingback: The Gospel of Jesus Before the Resurrection | Christianity 201

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