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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Last Word, and the First

From, through, and unto Jesus.

Who Says? (6)

“Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” Luke 20.44

You can’t trust human reason
In Luke 20 we have seen how the religious leaders sought to undermine Jesus by challenging His authority in a variety of ways. They considered themselves the rightful authorities on all things religious. But every effort they made to silence Jesus left them with tied tongues and nothing to say.

In Luke 20.44, Jesus said to the Sadducees, in so many words, “You can’t trust human reason where matters of eternal truth are concerned.” Jesus’ interlocutors all believed that the Messiah would be David’s offspring, David’s Son, so to speak. They believed in the coming of the Son of David Who would take the throne of Israel and restore the people of God to their greatness.

But wait a second, Jesus says: Let’s have a look at that. Is it reasonable to believe that the Messiah should be David’s Son? After all, Jesus continued, didn’t David himself call the Messiah His Lord (here He references Psalm 110.1)? How could the Messiah be the Son of David and yet be David’s Lord? That doesn’t make sense, does it?

Mere reason would say that the Christ can’t be both David’s Son and his Lord. Doesn’t work that way.

But the apparently unreasonable conclusion suggested by Jesus’ question only served to highlight again the limits of reason as theauthority for truth. Reason can understand the claims of truth, but it can’t always make those claims make sense to finite human minds. God is just too big for that.

Can you see the people scratching their heads and looking at one another? “Well, I never thought of it that way.” I mean, they had believed this all their lives. They confessed it in worship. They encouraged one another with the promise of the Messiah, the Son of David. And here Jesus challenged the very idea of this being in line with the tenets of human reason.

And, of course, it isn’t.

Scripture, first and last
But Jesus is not trying to bury reason as an authority here. Reason has a role in our lives; things ought to make sense and be explainable. But that always happens within a particular framework. Where the right operation of reason is concerned, the framework is what matters most. Jesus’ point here is that for reason to help us understand about the Messiah and the promises associated with His coming, we must bring our reason into the framework of Scripture, into submission to Scripture. We must look first to see what Scripture teaches on any matter, then let Scripture guide our reasoning so that we bring our minds around to Scripture’s understanding of truth.

In fact, something like this is what anyone does who uses reason in any way. They start with a framework, a frame of reference or a starting point for reasoning about things. Let’s say their framework is something like this: What matters most is what’s good for me, as I understand the terms of good. Start here and you’re going to reason your way through everything in life to return to that starting point, justified and reinforced. Within such a framework, nothing is ever my fault, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to, and people should defer to me a lot more than they do. If that framework, that starting point is true, then these are perfectly reasonable assumptions.

Another framework for reason might be something like this: Only what science says can be true is actually true; everything else is simply conjecture, opinion, or false. So along we come proclaiming a Gospel that centers on a Man rising from the dead. Sorry, our “reasonable” friend insists: science says people don’t rise from the dead.

I once had dinner with a prominent scientist who had written a book explaining how God used evolution to create people out of a long line of animal ancestors. I asked if he agreed this was not what the Bible teaches, and he did. Then I asked him – he claimed to be a Christian – why he could not let the Bible speak for itself. “I’m a scientist,” he replied, “and I have to follow the science.” Whereupon I asked him, “What does science say about people rising from the dead?” He had no answer.

If we start our use of reason anywhere other than the revelation of God in Scripture, we’re never going to reach the place where we embrace the teaching of Scripture and then begin to bring our reason into line with what it says.

Unless, of course, the grace of God intervenes to operate on our minds.

The power of the Gospel
And this is precisely the power of the Gospel, the power of God for salvation, as Paul insisted. The Gospel is not the “most reasonable” explanation for life. It doesn’t “make more sense” than other frameworks or worldviews – at least, not for those who hold those other worldviews.

But the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, and as such it can do several things when used as the beginning and end of our worldview. First, as we have seen in the case of Jesus and His opponents, the Gospel exposes the false assumptions and settled convictions of those who are trapped in the lies of wrong belief. The Gospel upsets the apple carts of people’s worldviews and leads them to look beyond their false frameworks and stupid starting-points to find something “higher” to grasp in order to “make sense” out of their lives. The Gospel opens reason to new horizons of thought and operations of the mind.

The Gospel is power because at the heart of the Gospel is the Reason – the Logos – of God. Jesus is God’s first Word and last Word on all matters of faith and life. As we use our various “Who says”? questions to challenge the false frameworks and stupid starting-points of our cock-sure friends and colleagues, we’ll want to make sure that we bring them around to Jesus before the conversation is over.

He and His Gospel may not make sense to them. But, if He is willing, His Gospel can overcome their puny reasoning and flood their lives with grace.

For reflection
1. Why do we say that reason functions rightly when it functions within the framework of revelation?

2. Why does so much of God’s revelation not “make sense” to people for whom reason is their authority?

3. How do grace and the Gospel help us in getting reason into a proper framework?

Next steps: Recall when you first began to believe in Jesus and the Gospel. What obstacles of “reason” had to be overcome in you? This is the grace of God that demonstrates His power and authority to overwhelm our “reasons” and make us His children!

T. M. Moore

You can download this and all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.

A companion book to this study, Understanding the Times, is available at our bookstore. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here. Our booklet, The Gospel of the Kingdom, can help ready you to proclaim the Good News. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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