When we read a scripture passage where the verbs are in the passive voice – we should never just automatically assume that the agent behind the action is God, unless the text clearly indicates that. In some passages like James 1:12-14, vv. 13-14 clarified that God wasn’t behind “man being tempted”, but you won’t get that helpful hint every time:
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
Here are some other examples:
- 2 Cor 12:7 – “there was given me a thorn in the flesh” – it never says “God gave me” (actually, the very next phrase in that passage identifies the agent as the messenger of satan)
- Rev 13:7 – “it was given power to wage war against God’s saints and overcome them” – it never says “God gave the power”. Why would God do that, after all that Jesus has accomplished?!
- Rom 14:23 – “But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith” – it never says “God condemns that person”. In fact, the previous verse says “Blessed is the one ho does not condemn himself by what he approves”. So it’s not God-condemnation, it’s self-condemnation due to weak conscience.
- 1 Cor 11:32 – “But when we are judged, we are chastened (child-trained, instructed) by the Lord” – read this one carefully, it doesn’t say the Lord judges us. It does say, however, that he child-trains us. Big difference! v. 29, in fact, specifies that “he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” – i.e., the person takes the bad judgment / decision upon himself.
Note how you have to resort to the immediate context of the verse, or to a larger context of the passage, to identify the actor (i.e., the one actively performing the action denoted by a verb). The lesson here is this: don’t just automatically pin it on God without reading the full context!
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