Answer to a Question
There was a certain day, recorded in the Scriptures, when, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes, backed by the elders of Israel, confronted Jesus with the question: “By what authority are you doing these things? Who is he who has given you this authority?” (Luke 20:1-2)
People should not ask questions that they don’t actually want the answer to.
When these men questioned Jesus, they were really just looking to score points, perhaps embarrass Jesus, or find a reason to find fault with Him. They did not actually care about whether Jesus had the authority to do what He was doing, or where He got that authority from. They assumed they were the authority in charge, and they knew they had not given Him permission.
Understanding that these men did not really care about the answer, helps us to understand why Jesus responded to them the way He did. Rather than answering their question directly, He supplied a question of His own: “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men?” (Luke 20:4)
That seems like a simple enough question; and an honest soul would reply with either one or the other of the supplied choices based on what they believed about John. If one believed John was a prophet, then one could safely say, heaven. If one was not a believer, or at least not a believer in John, then it was reasonable to assume John had no authority greater than himselffor what He taught.
But these Jewish leaders were not honest souls. They were politicians, mindful of their social standing. They were more worried about matters of the world than matters of the soul. They reasoned that if they denied John, it would upset the people. If they praised John as a prophet, they would reveal themselves to be hypocrites. So, they took the easy way out and claimed not to know(Luke 20:5-7).
And so Jesus likewise refused to answer their question.
Why should this matter to us?
For one thing, it is a reminder to each of us concerning how we approach God and Christwith questions.
There is nothing wrong with asking sincere questions of the Lord. The Bible is filled with examples of individuals who asked questions and received forthright replies. When a man approaches God with a sincere heart, and wants a question of life answered, God is willing to supply an answer and, very likely, has already done so in the Bible. There are many answers supplied by God concerning how to be saved, how to live a good life, the causes of suffering, the propriety of this choice or that choice. As it is written, the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
But when we ask a question of God, and we find He has supplied us with an answer, there is a responsibility to accept that answer and act upon it.
If Jesus had told the Jewish leaders that God had sent Him, they would have ignored the answer and done what they were planning on doing anyway. They had no real interest in the truth; they wanted to do what they wanted to do, and they were going to do it regardless of the answer Jesus provided. Their attitude toward the preaching of John showed this. John taught that God wanted the Jews to be baptized. They refused to listen to John and refused to accept the baptism of John. So, as their question was asked in bad faith, Jesus refused to deal with it. One suspects that if they had been willing to act upon what Jesus told them, He would have given a more forthright answer.
Men (and women) are still doing this today.
They want women to be preachers, so they search the scriptures, claiming to want to know God’s will, but really just trying to find any and every excuse to do what they want to do, heedless of what God actually thinks on the issue. They want to drink and be drunk, so they claim they are going to really dig into the word to find out whether God allows it. They want to worship the way they want to worship and so again they make great claims about going to God for answers about worship when really they just want to find a reason to do what they were already going to do.
In almost every case, God supplies clear answers to the questions, but men are not satisfied with those and so insists they are going to “dig deeper.” Normally, in practice, they dig right through the word and out the other side before finding that, lo and behold, they are going to do what they always wanted to do.
If we aren’t going to act upon what God has told us, then why bother asking God at all? It is a waste of our time and a waste of God’s time (so to speak). If you are going to simply do what you were going to do in the first place, then don’t try to use the Bible to validate your prior choices. You aren’t living the way you are because it is pleasing to God; you are living the way you want because it is what you want to do. You are honoring God with your lips but your heart is far from Him.
Only if you are actually willing to submit yourself to the answers God provides does it make sense to go to God with questions: seeking guidance.
If we do have such a humble heart, willing to follow where God leads, learn what God wants to teach, allowing God to act through us according to His will instead of ours – then know that the Bible is a book God wrote just for you and your questions. God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud(cf. James 4:6-10). As a loving father, God wants to answer the questions of those who come to Him as penitent children.
But before you ask a question of God, make sure you really want to know the answer. You aren’t going to fool God.