JESUS VS PAUL #16: Impossible for God or not?

The following apparent discrepancy comes from JESUS VS PAUL #16: Impossible for God or not?

(16) Jesus–“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) versus Paul–“it was impossible for God to lie….” (Heb. 6:18).

To be clear, the apparent discrepancy is whether “with God all things are possible” is contradicting “it is impossible for God to lie”. 

Let us examine what Jesus said in Matthew 19:16-26.

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

 17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

 18“Which ones?” the man inquired.

   Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

 20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

 21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

 26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

This story is repeated in Mark 10:17-27

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[d]

 20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

 21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

 24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

 26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

What is interesting in the above passages is that the topic of conversation is what is necessary to be saved and who can be saved.  When asked who can be saved (because it appeared impossible, given what Christ had said), Christ responded that man can not do it, but with GOD all things are possible. This is not necessarily refering to everything, but everything in context. The word translated ‘all things’ is Pas. Look at what the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, says about it.

Strong’s Number:   3956  Browse Lexicon 
Original Word Word Origin
pa? including all the forms of declension
Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
Pas 5:886,795
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
pas   Adjective
 Definition

  1. individually
    1. each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
  2. collectively
    1. some of all types

… “the whole world has gone after him” Did all the world go afterChrist? “then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan.”Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? “Ye are of God, little children”, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one”. Doesthe whole world there mean everybody? The words “world” and “all” are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is veryr arely the “all” means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts— some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile …

 

This word refers to all of a kind, a collection. It is not refering to everything, in fact. Strictly speaking, it is refering to everything associated with salvation. Taken in context, salvation by the efforts of men is impossible, but salvation by the efforts of GOD is possible with God.

Having said that, the phrase could reasonably be taken to mean everything not in conflict with the character of God. I say character of God because it would be impossible for God to not exist and exist at the same time. But this does not invalidate what Jesus said – it simply has to be understood in context. The same idea can be seen in Mark 14:36.

Mark 14:36

36“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

One has to interpret the Bible in a historical, grammatical, contextual manner. One has to allow for normal usuage of language. When one says, “the sun is setting,” this does not mean the sun has legs and a torso and is in the process of sitting down in a chair. No, that phrase has a specific meaning, “the light provided by the sun is dimminishing because the earth has rotated sufficiently to obscure the light provided by the sun.” Thus, when Jesus is saying that all things are possible, this phrase implicitly states “all things in keeping with the character of God and His plan are possible.” And even if something IS possible, in terms of it being in the nature of GOd does not mean it will occur, because it may not be in the plan or purpose of God.

This idea leads us to the other part of the apparent discrepancy, Hebrews 6:18. Let us look at this verse in context as well.

Hebrews 6:10-20

10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

 13When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 5And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

 16Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Notice the context. God wants people to be encouraged that they will inherit what was promised, just as Abraham did. God’s purpose is unchanging and God’s promise can not be broken. Because of these two things, people who persevere to the end will inherit what was promised.

So, is this in conflict with the earlier passage? Not at all. everything that is not in conflict with God’s character, purpose, and plan, is possible with God. It is out of the character of God to lie. The question is, can God be trusted? According to scripture, He can be. We already saw in Hebrews 6:18 that is is impossible for God to lie. This is consistent with what we see in Numbers 23:19:

19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

The idea that God can not lie is also seen in 1 Samuel 15:29:

29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”

Paul said the same thing in Titus 1:2:

2a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time

God does not change. God does not lie. God’s purpose has not changed. But something else is important to realize, God can not act against His own character, as we see in 2 Timothy 2:13

13if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself

God is faithful even when we are not. God acts in accordance with who He is, even if we fail. So yes, God is trustworthy. God does not lie. And this does not contrradict the statement that with God all things are possible. I say this because that statement is not talking about God trying to do what is against His character or nature or purpose, but doing what is needed so you and I can be with Him eternally.

Thus, God can be trusted to act in keeping with His character and plan and purpose. This does not contradict what Paul or Jesus said, and neither do they contradict each other. The conversations must be taken in context. To remove the context is to remove all hope of understanding what was said and what was meant.

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