Ask Father Paul
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people in their congregations and people they meet. Here are a few questions that I have gotten over the years and via email for this column.
Dear Father Paul: Exodus 20:2 says that God is “ ... a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of their fathers to the third generation ... ” But Deuteronomy 24:16 says: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.” Ezekiel 18:18 and 2 Kings 14:5 both make essentially the same point. So which is right? Do children bear the sins of their fathers or not? — Jessica.
Dear Jessica: Both are right, and are not in conflict. Please understand that the first verse, from Exodus 20, is part of God’s highest spiritual law having to do with God’s covenant with his people, the Israelites, and now to all of us. They are “God’s laws.” We call these laws The Ten Commandments. But the verses from Deuteronomy, Ezekiel and 2 Kings are about the civil, secular laws that God had Moses establish for the nation Israel. They are “man’s laws.” In short, Exodus 20 points out that there will be bad consequences from God for future generations when a father leads his family out of covenant with God, while the other passages have to do with bad consequences from man (the society) for the violation of laws of the civil justice system and the civil courts that Moses set up under God’s direction. Look at the rest of Deuteronomy for a detailed list of hundreds of these civil laws.
Know this Jessica ... children do not go to Hell for the sins of their parents. However, there are indeed very often bad consequences of a parent’s violation of God’s laws which can be passed down almost like a curse to future generations. This is one reason why we know that men who abuse their families often produce children who are themselves abusers ... why moms who abuse alcohol or drugs many times produce children who themselves have the same problems. We sometimes use the term “it runs in his family,” to explain what can be, in part at least, simply the bad consequences to future generations for the breaking of God’s laws.
Dear Father Paul: Did God create Satan? Why? And, does Satan know what I am thinking? — S. L.
Dear S.L.: The Bible teaches that God did indeed create Satan for good purposes as the highest of his angels and that at that time all of the angels had free wills. Satan’s angelic name was “Lucifer,” which in Hebrew translates into “Brightness,” or “Angel of Light.” But Satan chose to rebel against God and led one-third of the angels in his rebellion. Sin and evil were born. Satan and his followers were defeated by God and cast out of heaven to earth where he has spent eons hating God and trying to destroy all of God’s creation, especially mankind. You can read about this in Isaiah 14:12-15.
No, Satan does not know what you are thinking. Revelation 2:23 teaches us that only God searches the hearts and minds of men and women. Other passages teach that only God is omnipotent ... all powerful. Only God is omniscient ... all knowing. Only God is omnipresent ... in all places, at all times.
Satan ... Lucifer ... the Devil, does not have nearly as much power as many of us think.
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Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Church of the Holy Cross is a Spirit-filled, Sacramental Congregation. You are cordially invited to worship with us this coming Sunday. Pod-casts of Fr. Paul’s Sunday Sermons, worship times, directions and more information are at www.