Wednesday, October 18, 2023

They sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch (Acts 13)

Acts chapter 13 opens with a bunch of believers fasting, looking for direction from God. The Holy Ghost says Barnabas and Saul are chosen to go do missionary work, so they pray for them and send them off. So when they get where they are going, there's a government official who wants to hear their message, but a false prophet and sorcerer named Elymas tries to keep them away. Paul apparently pronounces a curse on this man, temporarily blinding him. I answered whether we are all God's children in John chapter one. I answered whether magic was okay in Acts chapter eight.

Barnabas and Paul continue on their journey, John Mark leaving them to return to Jerusalem. (This is notable because Paul later expresses the feeling that John Mark had abandoned them.) They eventually come to Antioch (a different one, there were several in Asia Minor) and visit a synagogue. When the teacher finishes his message, he asks if anyone has anything to add, and Paul jumps in. He tells the history of the Jews up until David, and segues from David to Jesus. When did Solomon's reign begin? The SAB is clever to note the math here, and while I usually side with the earlier source, Paul's numbers sound right, so I don't know why 1Kings gets it so wrong. The SAB notes that what Paul says in verse 22 is not found in the Old Testament, but perhaps Paul doesn't mean to be quoting any specific scripture? I'm sure I've answered whether Joseph was Jesus's father somewhere (it's in Matthew chapter one), but it's worth pointing out particularly that while Joseph was not Jesus's biological father, Mary was also descended from David, so Jesus is indeed the descendant of David. I answered who buried Jesus in Matthew chapter 27. I answered who raised Jesus from the dead in John chapter two. I answered when Jesus ascended into heaven in John chapter 20. I answered whether there was an unforgivable sin in Matthew chapter twelve.

Paul's message over, most of the people go home, but a few, apparently mostly Gentiles, are excited to hear the message, and ask Paul to preach again next Saturday. The next Saturday, there's a huge crowd, and some of the Jews are unhappy to see people turning out for Paul. Paul says if the Jews won't receive the gospel, they will happily preach to the Gentiles, and a lot of people come to faith.

Do humans have free will? This is a big philosophical question that goes even beyond theology. At the time I'm writing this, the contradiction page has some technical issues, so I don't know what verses in the Bible are referenced over this, but I have some general thoughts about free will and predestination. I don't believe they are mutually exclusive, which of course I will have to explain. The thing that is important to understand is that God is omniscient, and exists outside of our spacetime continuum. Allow me to illustrate with an example I use commonly. I write these posts linearly, so there is a sense in which I am constrained by time; however, you the reader are not constrained, as you see the whole of the post at one time, outside, if you will, of my time constraints. So you can play the part of God, and this six-sided die I have in my hand can play the part of free will. Look to the last sentence of this post and read it. If you did that, you now have knowledge that I did not have at the time of me writing this. The die is still free to land on any number, and at the same time, from your "omniscient" perspective, the number is already predetermined. I'm actually going to wait an hour to finish this post to leave myself in suspense, but you've already been there. Okay, I'm back! Sorry, I'm writing this at work, so I have to wait for my breaks. So, time to end the suspense for me and roll the die. The die came up a five.

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