Priesthood of All Believers

Priesthood of All Believers

“The Priesthood of All BelieversThe Priesthood of All BelieversThe doctrine of the priesthood of all believers emerged in reaction to the sacramentalism that dominated church life and work. Sacramentalism is the belief that in the observance of the sacraments of the church special grace is conveyed to the participants—even saving grace. The priest, according to sacramentalism, has precedence over the laity in exercising the office of the church and particularly in consecrating and distributing the elements in the Lord’s Supper (called the Eucharist in some churches).Luther advocated the priesthood of all believers, which forms a central doctrine of all Protestantism. Priesthood, to him, meant that we stand before God, pray for others, intercede with God, sacrifice ourselves to Him, and proclaim the Word to one another. Universal priesthood never meant “privatism” or religious individualism. Luther believed this right was given to the community of the saints, who are a priestly generation, a royal priesthood. The priesthood of all believers means that believers have the right and duty to share the gospel and teach God’s Word. He recognized no community that did not preach the Word and no community that did not witness the gospel.In his book Concerning Ministry Luther spelled out seven rights of this universal priesthood:• to preach the Word of God• to baptize• to celebrate the sacrament (the Lord’s Supper)• to minister the office of the keys (announce divine forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name)• to pray for others• to judge doctrine• to discern spirits.8Luther even went beyond these functions to urge Christians to engage in the mutual encouragement of the Word to each other in the church.In Luther’s day Thomas Münzer of Zwickau, Germany, denounced the immorality and abuse of priests. To Münzer, restoration would come from common people, whom he called “custodians of truth they cannot theologically articulate.” These people of God, he felt, should be able to elect their pastors. He also believed that the words that consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper should be said by the whole congregation as a royal, priestly people.The Reformation principle of sola fide (“faith alone”) also led to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Rank-and-file believers throughout Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries found in this doctrine new freedoms to express their faith. The Anabaptists, Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, and many others began to address ministerial (magisterial) reform. Some felt that Martin Luther had not gone far enough in his reforms.Among Radical Reformers the question arose over the legitimacy of any ordination. The nature of the apostolate—apostolic succession—was crumbling. In their yearning to avoid cheap grace and an unholy ministry, the Anabaptists sought to transform the church. They were the true evangelicals calling on a shared ministry in the Spirit of all the people of God.Their views also extended to interpreting and handling the Word of God. They appealed to the right of the whole congregation, the laity along with the divines (clergy), to judge difficult passages of the Bible together. Baptists later developed this insight into what is known as “soul liberty,” the right of individual believers to interpret the truth of the Scriptures under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. These Radical Reformers pushed the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in the direction of a lay apostolate.9The floodgates of the Reformation were thus opened, allowing the common people to engage in full exercise of their spiritual gifts in the church.Before we leave this doctrine, it may help to look at the importance of the biblical truth on the subject. After all, a central tenet of the Reformation was the centrality of biblical authority.As stated earlier, the New Testament does not make a distinction between clergy and laity. Both refer to the same people. The word clergy comes from the Greek word klētos, meaning “the called,” and we get our word for laity from the word laos, meaning “people.” Both words occur in some form in 1 Peter 2:9–10. Believers in general are the called of God (Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Cor. 1:2; 24; 1 Pet. 3:9; 5:10). The terms elect, saints, disciples, and brothers all refer to the people of God who have been called by Him.The church exists in the world as a group of people who have received God’s mercy by divine grace. Believers are ordained to carry out good works, both in a personal way and in a collective way. John Wesley understood this to mean there is no such thing as private Christianity. Believers belong to a fellowship of the called.”

8 Luther’s seven rights of the universal priesthood of all believers are summarized in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), 313–18.9 For a fuller investigation of the views of the Anabaptists, see George Huntston Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962); William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, 3d ed. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1996); and C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchen, Ont.: Pandora, 1995) Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Understanding Christian theology (pp. 1119–1121). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“The Priesthood of Believers. This (royal) high priesthood of Jesus Christ connects to the “royal priesthood” of believers: “you are … a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9a). The obvious reference to Exodus 19:6 suggests that the church functions in this present age as God’s New Testament kingdom of priests much like the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament. As such we are responsible to carry out the ministry of proclaiming to the world “the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9b).

A closely related idea (but without the “royal” connections) is Peter’s earlier description of the church as a group of believers who are being (niv), or should allow themselves to be (nrsv), “built into a spiritual house [Jesus himself being the living and choice cornerstone, 1 Peter 2:4, 6–8] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Thus, as fellow priests with Jesus we offer up to God our sacrifices of praise (Heb. 13:15), our doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), and ultimately our present physical bodies in the interest of conforming to his standards (Rom. 12:1–2). It is important to observe that here the corporate priesthood of the church shades into the priesthood of the individual believer. Moreover, our ministry in the gospel can be described as an offering of our very life in priestly service to the church (Phil. 2:17), by which we can produce a harvest of sanctified people whom we present to God as an acceptable offering.

Finally, corporate Israel in the Old Testament functioned as a kingdom of priests in both its mediation between God and the other nations and in its service of worship to the Lord in the sanctuary (Exod. 19:5–6). Similarly, the priesthood of the church has mediatorial features as well as aspects that correspond to the sanctuary worship of the Old Testament, sometimes expressed separately and sometimes jointly in the various New Testament passages related to the priesthood of believers.”

niv New International Version
nrsv New Revised Standard Version
Averbeck, R. E. (1996). Priest, Priesthood. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 637). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


“Priesthood of Believers. A Protestant principle whereby each believer has immediate access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ. One of the great principles of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, as expounded by Martin Luther, was the priesthood of all believers. Joined with justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture alone, it cut through the tangles of medieval Catholicism that tended to place barriers between the individual Christian and God. The implications of the principle were that no priest was necessary, no saints, no Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for the ordinary believer. The whole medieval system of salvation, so dependent on a strong distinction between laity and clergy and the power of the latter to administer or withhold the sacraments, was thus for Protestants abolished.

The general effects of this Protestant principle were at least threefold. First, it meant that lay-people prayed directly to God through Jesus Christ, thus increasing lay involvement in private and public worship. Second, it meant that God communicated directly to the individual Christian through his Word, the Bible, thus encouraging the production of vernacular versions of Scripture and the pursuit of lay Bible study. Third, it meant anew sense of Christian liberty for the ordinary Christian, who felt no longer bound by the authority of extrabiblical traditions or by ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Transported to the American environment, without bishoprics and generally established churches, the priesthood of all believers provided a basis for greater lay influence than had characterized European Christianity. In many instances churches could form only where ministers had sufficient powers of persuasion to gather a lay following. In Puritan settings it was not uncommon for regular “private meetings” of laypeople to have as much influence as the church services and to comprise a church within the church. In some groups, such as the Quakers and later the Plymouth Brethren, the priesthood of believers came to mean that there was no recognized clergy at all.

On the negative side, the American expression of the priesthood of believers could manifest itself in a lack of reverence and in a lack of respect for the institutional church. It has contributed also to the spawning of numerous parachurch organizations, many of which have special effectiveness but frequently lack accountability.”

Bibliography. W. S. Hudson, Religion in America (1965); L. Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (1906); C. E. Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century New England (1982).

Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Holy War

Holy War

Holy War


The topic of Holy War is not discussed much in our churches today. Pulled up a few articles to shine some light on the subject for you bible students.

“War, Holy. Warfare as described in the Book of Deuteronomy, especially in chapter 20. Not merely a human enterprise fought by kings with trained soldiers and military equipment, it is God’s war in which he himself is involved together with his covenant people who are selected to fight in his name. The size of the army is not important; indeed, often the numbers were pared down to dramatize the fact that the victory was gained, not by military superiority, but by the action of God against his enemies. When Israel lived in obedience to God as his covenant people and went into battle under his direction, war was within the will of God, commanded by him, and accomplished through trust in him. As already observed, God was known as “a man of war,” and it is declared that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sm 17:47; cf. 18:17; 25:28). With this faith on the part of the Jews, it is easy to see how a concept of holy war developed, especially when they had the conviction that their enemies were God’s enemies and that they were the people through whom God would effect his saving purposes for the world.

Moses believed that God declares war and sends his people into battle (Ex 17:16; Nm 31:3). On several occasions, at crucial points in warfare, the “terror of the Lord” fell upon the enemy, enabling the numerically inferior army of Israel to gain an easy victory over vastly superior forces (Jos 10:10–14; Jgs 4:12–16; 2 Sm 5:24, 25). In a time of acute military crisis Elisha is enabled to see the heavenly army of Jehovah drawn up on the hills around Samaria ready to defeat the fierce invading armies of Syria. In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Syrian soldiers are struck with blindness and rendered helpless against the Israelites (2 Kgs 6:15–23). Various means were used to determine the will of God and to assure his active participation in war. In addition to the word of the prophet (1 Kgs 22:5–23), dreams, (Jgs 7:9–14), Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30; Lv 8:8), the ephod (1 Sm 30:7), and the ark of the covenant were employed for this purpose. The leaders of God’s troops were constantly to seek his direction for military strategy during the progress of battle, for no step was to be taken without divine approval and guidance (2 Sm 5:19–23).

Since God gave Palestine to the Jews as his own people, the land was indeed the Promised Land; it belonged by divine covenant to Israel and was in that sense “the Holy Land.” Any defense of that land against foreign invasion was a holy war. The invading enemy was trespassing upon sacred territory that belonged to God’s people by immutable decree and thus incurred the divine wrath. From this perspective the complete destruction of Israel’s enemies is necessary, particularly when the enemy was pagan and morally corrupt. A characteristic Hebrew word used for this concept, ḥērem, originally meant “devoted” and came to mean “devoted to destruction” as something hostile to the rule of God (Jos 6:17, 18). Means which may seem drastic and extreme were demanded in order to assure the success of God’s holy, saving purposes for his chosen people and ultimately for the whole world. The divine plan must not be thwarted, obstructed, or aborted by any debasing idolatry or corrupting immorality (Dt 7:1–26). Enemy cities within the boundaries of the land promised to the Jews were to be utterly destroyed, a practice known as “the ban.” Only silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron were to be spared. They were to be placed in the treasury of the Lord as sacred to him (Jos 6:17–21; 1 Sm 15:3). The whole city, including all life, was regarded as a sacrifice to Jehovah, emphasizing the sacrificial character of holy war. Fruitbearing trees, however, were to be spared (Dt 20:19, 20) as an example of the limitations placed upon wanton destruction of natural resources, which are God’s gifts.

When Israel departed from God and forsook his holy ways, the Lord used its enemies to chastise and discipline, to bring it back to himself, and to bring to pass his sovereign purposes. Thus God used war as a punishment against his sinning people (Is 10; Jer 25; Ez 21; Hb 1). At such a time the false prophet prophesies peace and security (Jer 28).

The fact that holy war was never engaged by means of military power and genius alone is characteristic of God’s ways with his people. The commander and often his subordinates were viewed as elected by God and endowed by the Spirit of God with a special gift for their military roles (Jgs 6:34, 35; 11:29–33). If this divine gift were lost or forfeited for any reason, the authority to lead or to command was also lost (Jgs 16:20, 21; 1 Sm 16:14). Participation in holy war required complete surrender and dedication to the service of Jehovah. There was no place for the half-hearted, the fearful, or those distracted by other involvements or obligations (Dt 20:5–9). The presence of such persons in the army would affect the unity and singlemindedness of those who were wholly committed to the cause of the Lord.

The faithful soldier who offered himself willingly in response to the divine call was considered consecrated to God’s service and was in a sense a holy servant of the Lord (Is 13:3). God is said to “walk in the midst of the camp,” and therefore the camp should be holy “that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you” (Dt 23:14). Careful regulations were observed to guarantee the ritual cleanliness of the camp: any bodily contamination required a rite of purification and excrement was buried outside the camp (vv 9–13).

Victory in holy war was completely unrelated to military superiority, either with respect to armaments or numbers of soldiers (Jgs 7; 1 Sm 14:6–23), because “he who goes over before you as a devouring fire is the Lord your God; he will destroy them and subdue them before you; so you shall drive them out, and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you” (Dt 9:3; cf. 20:4). God delivers the enemy into Israel’s hand (Jgs 3:28; 7:15). He also cautions the Israelites not to think that their righteousness brought down their enemies in defeat and won the land, but that by God’s own righteousness and judgment against the wickedness of the idolatrous nations he drove them out before the army of Israel. It was because of his faithfulness to the covenant which he swore to their fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Dt 9:4, 5). God reminds Israel of their unfaithfulness, stubbornness, and unrighteousness (vv 6–29), and exhorts them to fear the Lord their God and to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve him with all their heart, and to keep all his commandments in order that he may bless them and give them peace in the land which he promised to their fathers (10:1–22). The Jews had to be reminded that it was for their disobedience and lack of faith in not going directly into the Promised Land at Kadesh-barnea that they were punished with 40 years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness (Nm 14:1–12).

In sharp contrast to such unbelief and failure to obey the will of God is the heroic example of Jonathan in his singlehanded attack against the Philistine garrison in the pass between Michmash and Geba (1 Sm 14). Convinced that the Lord would give the Philistines into his hand, Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” (v 6). Similarly, David’s willingness to fight unassisted against the giant Goliath shows his firm trust in God—“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26).

The idea of holy war was not exclusive to Israel. Other nations also believed that their gods fought for them in military conflicts, and usually the nation with the most powerful god won the battle. When the Philistines defeated the Israelites and captured the ark, they believed that they had won the conflict because their god Dagon was stronger than Israel’s Jehovah. The biblical writer carefully makes clear that this is not the case. He explicitly points out the dramatic incident of Dagon falling on his face and being broken into pieces before the captured ark of God. In addition to this, the people of Ashdod were so terrified and afflicted with tumors that they cried, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us; for his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god.” Their panic and affliction continued until arrangements were made to return the ark with a guilt offering to the Israelites at Beth-shemesh (1 Sm 4–6). In the days of Mesha, king of Moab, the defeat of his army at one time was attributed to the weakness of his god Chemosh (2 Kgs 3:21–26), but his victory over the Israelites at a later time was attributed by him to the power of Chemosh. Sometimes the victory was determined by the particular place of battle, because the god of that locality was a god either of the hills, the valleys, or the plain (1 Kgs 20:28; 2 Kgs 18:33–35).

The idea of holy war was probably most intense during the time of the judges. Its centrality in the thinking of the nation of Israel diminished during the time of the monarchy. The progression of spiritual decline and apostasy brought a corresponding loss of trust in and expectancy of divine initiative and involvement in warfare. Considerations of political expediency overshadowed the holy war ideology. In protesting this apostasy, the prophets viewed war as a divine judgment against the rebellious nation and also against the proud, defiant gentile powers. The tradition of holy war was preserved mostly among the ordinary, devout people rather than among the political and military leaders, and thus it survived throughout the time of the monarchy. For example, Uriah the Hittite seemed to be more faithful to the principles of holy war than King David, whose evil desires toward Bathsheba blinded him to divine regulations governing the affairs of war and even to the basic morality of the Decalogue (2 Sm 11).

There was a distinctly teleological aspect to the concept of holy war. It looked beyond the triumphs of God in specific battles to the conclusion of all hostilities and to a final time of peace which will vindicate the righteousness and sovereignty of God’s saving purposes and display his concern and goal for his own people. Holy war is the instrument of the God of the covenant who has promised deliverance and eschatological victory. The final consummation will be preceded by a massive holy war, after which the weapons of warfare will be transformed into implements of peace (Is 2:4; Mi 4:3) under the reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), who will subdue all the enemies of Jehovah in a triumphant Day of the Lord (Ps 110; Dn 7; Zec 14).”

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). War, Holy. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 2130–2132). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

“WAR*, HOLY Warfare as described in the book of Deuteronomy, especially in chapter 20. Not merely a human enterprise fought by kings with trained soldiers and military equipment, it is God’s war in which he himself is involved together with his covenant people who are selected to fight in his name. The size of the army is not important; indeed, sometimes the numbers were pared down to dramatize the fact that the victory was gained, not by military superiority, but by the action of God against his enemies. When Israel lived in obedience to God as his covenant people and went into battle under his direction, war was within the will of God, commanded by him, and accomplished through trust in him. God was known as “a man of war,” and it is declared that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sm 17:47; cf. 18:17; 25:28). With this faith on the part of the Jews, it is easy to see how a concept of holy war developed, especially when they had the conviction that their enemies were God’s enemies and that they were the people through whom God would carry out his saving purposes for the world.

Moses believed that God declared war and sent his people into battle (Ex 17:16; Nm 31:3). On several occasions, at crucial points in warfare, the “terror of the Lord” fell upon the enemy, enabling the numerically inferior army of Israel to gain an easy victory over vastly superior forces (Jos 10:10–14; Jgs 4:12–16; 2 Sm 5:24–25). In a time of acute military crisis, Elisha was enabled to see the heavenly army of Yahweh drawn up on the hills around Samaria, ready to defeat the fierce, invading armies of Syria. In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Syrian soldiers were struck with blindness and rendered helpless against the Israelites (2 Kgs 6:15–23). Various means were used to determine the will of God and to assure his active participation in war. In addition to the word of the prophet (1 Kgs 22:5–23), Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30; Lv 8:8), the ephod (1 Sm 30:7), and the ark of the covenant were employed for this purpose. The leaders of God’s troops constantly sought his direction for military strategy during the progress of battle, for no step was to be taken without divine approval and guidance (2 Sm 5:19–23).

Since God gave Palestine to his own people, the Jews, the land was indeed the Promised Land; it belonged by divine covenant to Israel and was in that sense “the Holy Land.” Any defense of that land against foreign invasion was a holy war. The invading enemy was trespassing upon sacred territory that belonged to God’s people by immutable decree and thus incurred the divine wrath. From this perspective the complete destruction of Israel’s enemies was necessary, particularly when the enemy was pagan and morally corrupt. A characteristic Hebrew word used for this concept, herem, originally meant “devoted” and came to mean “devoted to destruction” as something hostile to the rule of God (Jos 6:17–18). The divine plan must not be thwarted, obstructed, or aborted by any debasing idolatry or corrupting immorality (Dt 7). Enemy cities within the boundaries of the land promised to the Jews were to be utterly destroyed—a practice known as “the ban.” Only silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron were to be spared. They were to be placed in the treasury of the Lord as sacred to him (Jos 6:17–21; 1 Sm 15:3).

There was a distinctly teleological aspect to the concept of holy war. It looked beyond the triumphs of God in specific battles to the conclusion of all hostilities and to a final time of peace that will vindicate the righteousness and sovereignty of God’s saving purposes and display his concern and goal for his own people. The final consummation will be preceded by a massive holy war, after which the weapons of warfare will be transformed into implements of peace (Is 2:4; Mi 4:3) under the reign of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), who will subdue all God’s enemies in a triumphant Day of the Lord (Ps 110; Dn 7; Zec 14).”

Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (pp. 1289–1290). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

“Despite the fact that many nations have used Scripture passages out of context to promote martial ventures, the Old Testament does not glorify or even recommend warfare as a solution to problems. Quite the opposite: Violence is thoroughly condemned.

Lamech and his song of vengeance is an aberration in the history of man (Gen. 4:23–24). The famous heroes of old, men of renown, are not presented in a context of approbation (Gen. 6:4). Violence that filled the earth with pain was one of the major causes of the flood (Gen. 6:11). Nimrod, the mighty warrior and the first military aggressor (10:8–11), is not part of the redemptive line. The land of Nimrod is destined to be ruled by the sword (Mic. 5:6).
Simon and Levi lose their rights among the firstborn because their swords are weapons of violence. Although their massacre (Gen. 34) was for an allegedly moral purpose, it caused them to be scattered in Israel (49:5–7). When Moses killed an Egyptian to help an Israelite, he found that this method only delayed God’s deliverance (Exod. 2:12).

David is associated with the successful expansion of his realm by warfare. He cannot, however, build God’s temple because he has fought many wars and shed much blood in God’s sight (1 Chron. 22:8). When David sought to carry out a census with a military purpose it very nearly cost him his kingdom (2 Sam. 24).

Wars in the Bible have been discouraged or even stopped by prophets. The prophet Shemaiah would not allow Rehoboam to put down the rebellion of the northern tribes by force of arms (1 Kings 12:22–23). Micaiah refused to be swayed by the unanimous clamor of the war prophets (1 Kings 22).
Israel’s leaders are rebuked by the prophet Oded for bringing Judean prisoners of war into the country (2 Chron. 28:11). Judah’s leaders are destined for wrath because they sought to expand their borders when Israel was weakened by Assyrian aggression in the north (Hos. 5:10). Their aggression is compared to unscrupulous landowners who move the boundary stones to increase the size of the property.

When war is inevitable, it must be carried out humanely. Nations are not allowed to go beyond the use of reasonable force necessary to achieve their objectives. In the first two chapters of Amos foreign nations are designed for judgment because of their war crimes both against Israelites and against each other. Jehu was authorized by Yahweh to end Ahab’s dynasty, but his violence went far beyond his objectives. Thus the house of Jehu is to be punished for the massacre at Jezreel (Hos. 1:4).

The Torah contained rules to ensure wars would be conducted as humanely as possible. Female captives could not be violated. If a man saw a prisoner he wished to marry, her rights and feelings must be respected. She must be given time to mourn her family. If he later grew tired of her, he could not abuse her or sell her for money (Deut. 21:10–14). Before a city was attacked the law required that terms of peace be offered. If peace was accepted the city was not to be destroyed (Deut. 20:11). There were even conservation laws governing destruction of trees in a siege (Deut. 20:19–20).

In the Old Testament era wars were often made unnecessary by miraculous or unusual circumstances. Exodus 14 presents a standard paradigm of biblical deliverance. Moses proclaims to the people, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.” The Pharaoh’s elite chariot corps is destroyed by the waters of the sea without the use of a single human weapon.

Troops besieging Elisha’s house are smitten with blindness. The prophet leads them straight into Samaria. When their eyes are opened, the prophet will not allow the king to kill them. After they are fed, they are returned to their master (2 Kings 6:18–22). Later in 2 Kings 7:6 the Aramean armies retreat because Yahweh makes a loud noise. In Hezekiah’s time, the Assyrian siege is ended by the angel of death (2 Kings 19:35).

In Jonah 3:8 the Ninevites are not faulted for their idolatry but because of their violence. God makes it clear in Jonah 4 that it is his interest to save lives, not to take them. While it is true that Yahweh will one day punish the godless nations with a sword, it will be in his own good time. It will not be because he is overwhelmed by the anger of the moment. God is not slack concerning his promises but is willing for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). In Zechariah 1:12–13 even the angel of the Lord loses patience at this slowness and must be comforted.

The hope of the future for the people of God is not in war and conquest. It is when nations stream to the holy mountain to learn about God. It will be a time when weapons are turned into farm implements and war shall be no more (Isa. 2:1–4).”

Ferguson, P. (1996). War, Holy War. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 807–808). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

“HOLY WAR The Hebrew word for “war” occurs more than 300 times in the OT. The strategic position of Palestine between Mesopotamia and Egypt made war a harsh reality for most of its inhabitants during biblical times. Israel gained a foothold in this land by means of a war of conquest, and thereafter, by frequently defensive actions against intruders and invaders. Unfortunately, the history of war in Israel also included several civil conflicts.For most of the ancient Near East, war was considered a sacred undertaking in which the honor and power of the national God was at stake. For Israel, however, war intimately involved the transcendent power of the God who created the heavens and the earth. The biblical writers refer to the conflicts Israel faced as the “Wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14; 1 Sam. 18:17; 25:28). God is described as a “man of war” (Exod. 15:3; Isa. 42:13) and “mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). He is “the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam. 17:45 NASB). It is God who leads them out and fights for them (Deut. 20:4; Josh. 10:14, 42; Judg. 4:14). God set the code of conduct in war (Deut. 20:10–18), and the spoils belong to Him (Josh. 6:19).

Before the armies of Israel went out to war, they offered a sacrifice to God (1 Sam. 7:9) and sought His guidance (2 Sam. 5:23–24). The warriors who marched into battle had to be pure and consecrated to God (Josh. 3:5). The presence of God in the arena of battle was symbolized by the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4:5–7). After the victory, praises were offered to God in a victory celebration (Exod. 15:1–3).

As the final act of battle, Israel was sometimes required to dedicate everything in a “ban” (herem), which meant that the people and possessions of an entire city would be set apart for God and destroyed (Deut. 7:2; 20:17; Josh. 8:2; 1 Sam. 15:3). Only the metal objects were saved (Josh. 6:18–24). Those who transgressed the ban faced dire consequences (Josh. 7).

Why would a loving God order the wholesale extermination of the nations living in the promised land? There is no simple answer to this difficult question. Three points, however, need to be remembered. First, the concept of the ban is also found among the nations surrounding Israel. In war, every living being and every piece of property was to be dedicated to the deity. Second, the rules for placing the spoils of war under the ban appear to apply only to the cities of the nations within the promised land that God had designated as inheritance for Israel (Deut. 20:16–18). In this context, it should be noted that the OT reports the use of the ban primarily at Arad (Num. 21:2–3), the cities of Sihon and Og (Deut. 2:24; 3:6), Jericho (Josh. 6:21), Ai (Josh. 8:26), the cities of southern Canaan (Josh. 10:28–43) and Hazor (Josh. 11:11). Finally, it must be remembered that Israel was only allowed to drive out the nations living in the promised land because of their sinful abominations (Deut. 9:4–5; 18:9–14; 20:16–18). In this sense, Israel served as the instrument of God’s judgment against these sinful nations. In like manner, God would later allow another nation to march against Judah in judgment (Hab. 1:6–11).
Stephen J. Andrews”

Andrews, S. J. (2003). Holy War. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 774–775). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“holy war. The Bible does not present Israel as fighting to spread or defend its religious beliefs; “holy war” in that sense of the term is absent from biblical teaching or narrative. In another sense, however, the Bible often presents war as a means through which God acts as deliverer, protector, and judge of Israel, often fighting and slaying enemies on Israel’s behalf. Up to the time of the monarchy (tenth century BCE) all wars involving the Israelites could be called “wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14). Throughout this period, the Bible consistently presents God as fighting for Israel. For example, in the biblical narrative of the exodus, the Egyptian army pursues Israel and is destroyed by God’s action (Exod. 14). Deut. 20 deals specifically with rules for conducting holy war (see also 21:10–14, which gives the protocol for taking a female captive from among the conquered population). This concept of holy war flourished during the settlement of the land when Israel encountered repeated foreign invasions of its territory, but the concept changed considerably under the monarchy, when it was the king who instigated wars to serve national policy. The prophets often criticized such wars, because they were not in keeping with the divine will, and Israel’s losses or suffering as a result of war were frequently attributed to Israel’s failure to obey God and keep the covenant. The notion of holy war became an increasingly eschatological concept, associated with a decisive struggle between good and evil that would take place at the end of time. This concept continues to inform apocalyptic sections of the NT (e.g., Rev. 19:11–15).”

Schaub, M. M. (2011). holy war. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 387). New York: HarperCollins.

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Does being forgiven mean that we do not suffer the consequences?

“This means, fourth, that the real sinner is anyone who insists that sin is serious before God and must require atonement and restitution. The “spiritual” man is then the one who treats all sin as an opportunity to assure the sinner, “I forgive you,” without any of the requirements of God’s law being met.
As I write this, I am thinking of two long distance telephone calls today about an adulterous man. A young woman, a new Christian, has a husband who has been for years flagrantly adulterous. The “spiritual” counsel she has received has presupposed only one binding sentence in Scripture to govern all her problems: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). But no commandment of obedience to man is unconditional. The counsel given to this young woman consistently assumed that forgiveness of unrepented and continuing sin is required by God, which is radically false. Our forgiveness is to be like God’s (Matt. 6:12), and His is always in harmony with His law. Repentance, which involves a change of direction and action, is required (Matt. 18:15–17). No one requirement of Scripture can nullify another (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22); the penalty for adultery cannot be eliminated by our insistence on love and forgiveness. A repentant murderer can know the forgiveness of God and man, but he cannot escape God’s required penalty for murder. His forgiveness of sins alters his theological status; his civil status calls for the death penalty according to God’s word.
Forgiveness thus has two aspects, theological and social or civil. Christ’s atonement effects theological forgiveness for the redeemed; it does not alter the civil consequences of sin as required by God.
When Paul faced the problem of incest in the Corinthian Church, he knew that no death penalty existed for the act he cited (1 Cor. 5:1). Hence his counsel is to consign the guilty over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, hoping that they could be saved by God’s grace for heaven (1 Cor. 5:5). In brief, he invoked the necessary death penalty supernaturally, while hoping for the redemption of the sinner thereby. We find that the early church used this precedent to hold those guilty of capital offenses to be legally dead and hence outside of the communion table while having fellowship after repentance.
The humanistic view of forgiveness as a human, emotional act goes hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law

hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law being a human product can be set aside by man. Where the law is from God, there forgiveness is only on God’s terms, and in harmony with His law.”
Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vol. 1, pp. 602–603). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.

“The work of Christ, regarded as an objective satisfaction to God, secures for man the forgiveness of sins. By this we mean that the consequences of sin as an offence against the law of God are remitted. The consequences of sin as transgression are guilt and punishment, and the forgiveness of sins implies remission of both. The consciousness of guilt is the feeling that offence against the moral law as the expression of the will of God has placed us in a position of hostility to God, so that our fellowship with God is broken. Wherever the distinction between God and the world is maintained, the forsaking of God for the world, on the part of man, is seen to involve guilt, which, again, is the basis for the infliction of punishment. Forgiveness of sins is not the remission of the penal consequences of sin only, but also and primarily the remission of that guilt which makes us liable to punishment. Where sin is regarded as having a physical basis, and is referred to material or sensual nature as its source, sin is conceived of not so much as guilt but rather as suffering, and consequently emphasis is laid upon the need of redemption rather than upon the need of forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament doctrine, which gives prominence to the idea of the guilt of the sinner and the need of awakening the consciousness of that guilt, similar prominence is given to the forgiveness of sins as the presupposition of all other blessings of redemption. It was in order to acquire power to forgive sins that the Son of God became the Son of Man, and during His earthly life He exercised this power, and declared that this forgiveness was a necessary condition of peace of soul and far beyond any bodily healing in difficulty and in blessedness. It was to secure the power of dispensing this blessing that the Son of Man died and rose again, and in the institution of the Supper He declares that the purpose for which He shed His blood was the remission of sins.1 Everywhere throughout the New Testament the preaching of the forgiveness of sins is the way in which the preaching of the gospel is usually described, and the obtaining of forgiveness for sinners is regarded as the immediate result and the most precious benefit of Christ’s death. In the New Testament the forgiveness of sins is not the abolition of suffering, the removal of the penal consequences of sin, but essentially the removal of sin itself. Hence it is of the very essence of the gospel of redemption. Christ promises forgiveness of sins to all who believe on Him. Faith is the only condition for the forgiveness of those who have offended against us demanded in the Lord’s Prayer, and the much love of her to whom much had been forgiven is evidently the proof of the reality, not the condition of the obtaining, of the divine forgiveness. But, as Kaftan says, even faith in the strictest sense is not a condition, though without faith forgiveness cannot be enjoyed. What is needed is acceptance of the call to enter the kingdom, which acceptance can be given only in repentance and faith, but being given, then to all entering the kingdom there is forgiveness unconditionally. Paul makes the forgiveness of sins the basis for that new relationship which we have to God in Christ, in which, when thus possessed of the righteousness of God, we have peace with God.”

1 Matt. 9:6, 9:2; Luke 7:48, 24:45; Matt. 26:28.
Macpherson, J. (1898). Christian Dogmatics (pp. 350–351). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

“With these observations and qualifications we may assent to much that is said by Whiton, Divine Satisfaction, 64, who distinguishes between forgiveness and remission: “Forgiveness is the righting of disturbed personal relations. Remission is removal of the consequences which in the natural order of things have resulted from our fault. God forgives all that is strictly personal, but remits nothing that is strictly natural in sin. He imparts to the sinner the power to bear his burden and work off his debt of consequences. Forgiveness is not remission. It is introductory to remission, just as conversion is not salvation, but introductory to salvation. The prodigal was received by his father, but he could not recover his lost patrimony. He could, however, have been led by penitence to work so hard that he earned more than he had lost.”

Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 850). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

“Divine forgiveness does not momentarily and immediately remove all the consequences of sin in this present life. Forgiveness does remove sin as the major barrier between sinful humans and the holy God and offer deliverance from eternal punishment for sins. But wasted strength, maimed or abused bodies, lost time, and other results of sin may not be overcome even when forgiveness has been granted.40”
40 Conner, The Gospel of Redemption, p. 161.
Garrett, J. L., Jr. (2014). Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical (Second Edition, Vol. 2, p. 326). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

Structure Outline 1 John

Structure Outline 1 John

A part of the process of exegesis and hermeneutics is outlining what you are reading for clarity of understanding. Concerning the 1 John there are many opinions. Here are a few noted by New American Commentary

“7. Structure and Form of 1 John52
Few issues are more difficult in Johannine studies than the structure of 1 John. There are almost as many opinions as there are commentaries on the book. The problem lies, in part, in the fact that the genre of 1 John is something of an enigma.53 Sloyan points out that “1 John seems the least letter-like in its lack of the identification of a sender or an address to any recipients except the nonspecific ‘little children.’ It appears to be more a treatise sent broadcast to some in the John tradition.”54 Approaches to determining a structure or outline to the book can be divided into three groups: (1) traditional scholars who seek to discern basic topic or subject divisions (even sources) and an overarching outline through inductive analysis; (2) discourse analysis—linguist scholars who apply principles of semantic structural studies or “discourse linguistics” to discover the semantic relations that weave the epistle together as a unified whole; (3) rhetorical criticism—students of ancient rhetoric who seek to discover what, if any, rhetorical strategies common to the author’s world were used to set forth and further his argument.55
(1) Traditional Approaches
R. Brown provides an extensive survey of other scholars who have divided 1 John into two, three, and seven parts. His own approach will be explained later.
Sample Proposed Divisions of 1 John

Division into Two Parts


Chaine, Verde, Tomoi


Feuillet, Francis

Division into Three Parts



Smit Sibinga


Hort, Hauck, Nestle,
Schneider, THLJ,
Vogel, NEB





Häring, Brooke, Jones

de Ambroggi


F.-M. Braun, de la
Potterie, Sk̭rinjar, SBJ








Division into Seven Parts


1:1–4; 1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–3:24; 4:1–21; 5:1–12; 5:13–21


1:1–4; 1:5–2:17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–5:12; 5:13–21


1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–28; 2:29–3:10; 3:11–22; 3:23–5:4; 5:5–17


1:5–2:11; 2:12–17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–21; 5:1–1256

Each of these proposals has some measure of merit, and each has gained at least a small following. Each has also been subject to criticism, usually because they, at some point, fail to account for the “flow of argument” in the epistle.
(2) Discourse Analysis
This approach is usually applied by linguists and Bible translators. Rooted in the structuralist theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, this method looks at how grammar works on both the paragraph and discourse level. Surface structure and deep structure issues are examined. Speech-act theory and rhetorical strategies are also studied, and the text, as it is, is carefully examined. K. Pike and R. Longacre are well-known representatives of this approach to the study of texts. The following are several proposals set forth by this school.
1 John (R. Longacre)
INTRODUCTION—1:1–2:29—Embedded discourse of seven paragraphs
1:5–10—Covert exhortation not to profess to be sinless but to “walk in the light,” confess our sins, and enjoy forgiveness.
2:1–6—Covert exhortation not to sin.
2:7–11—A new/old command is announced and inferentially connected with a covert command to love.
2:12–17—Ethical peak of this embedded discourse. Here the writer develops his reasons for writing the epistle and warns against loving the world.
2:18–27—Doctrinal peak. Remain in Christ and in his teaching in spite of adverse teaching and practice.
2:28–29—Closure. Echoes previous paragraph: “Hold steady; don’t get sidetracked.”
BODY—3:1–5:12—Embedded discourse containing seven paragraphs
3:1–6—Mitigated covert command to purify ourselves in v. 3.
3:7–12—Mitigated covert command not to practice sin (v. 9).
3:13–18—Mitigated command (not covert) to love by laying down our lives for the brethren (v. 16b; note use of “ought”).
3:19–24—“Hortatory essence” of book given in v. 23: “We should believe on Jesus and love one another.”
4:1–6—“Doctrinal peak” of the book; believe correctly regarding Jesus Christ.
4:7–21—“Ethical peak” of the book; composed of two paragraphs (7–10 and 11–21). No mitigation now but covert exhortation: “Let us love one another.”
5:1–12—Conclusion of this embedded discourse (body) in that v. 1 refers to those who believe and love, harking back to the two previous paragraphs.
CONCLUSION—5:13–21. Theme of book clearly stated in v. 13, “that you may know.” Purpose in writing is Assurance.57
A second discourse approach comes from a student of Longacre, Helen Miehle. She builds on his treatment but reaches different conclusions at certain points.
1 John (H. Miehle)
A. 1:1–4
B. 1:5–10
BODY 2:1–5:12
I. 2:1–3:6
II. 3:7–5:5
CLOSURE 5:13–2158
D. T.-C. Wu attempts something of an intersection between rhetorical and linguistic (discourse) approaches. Drawing upon the work of G. Guthrie and his work on Hebrews (Guthrie speaks of “rhetorico-discourse analysis”), he offers a more eclectic study.59 One will observe that his analysis is quite similar to more traditional approaches, but his method for arriving at his conclusions is not.
1 John (D. T.-C. Wu)
A. Walking in the Light (1:5–2:2)
(a) God is Light (1:5–1:7)
(b) Renouncing Sin (1:8–2:2)
B. The Command to Love (2:3–2:11)
(a) Knowledge of God and Keeping His Commandments (2:3–2:6)
(b) New Commandment (2:7–2:11)
C. A Digression about the Church (2:12–14)
D. Three Warnings (2:15–2:27)
(a) Warning against the World (2:15–2:17)
(b) Warning against the Antichrist (2:18–2:23)
(c) Warning against the Lie (2:24–2:27)
III. The Privileges and Responsibilities of God’s Children (2:28–4:6)
A. The Revelation of God’s Children (2:28–3:10)
(a) The Confidence of God’s Children (2:28–2:29)
(b) The Identity of God’s Children (3:1–2)
(c) God’s Children and the Children of the Devil (3:3–3:10)
B. The Community’s Message (3:11–3:12)
C. The Marks of God’s Children (3:13–3:24)
(a) Love in Community Life (3:13–3:18)
(b) Shoring up Christian Confidence (3:19–3:24)
D. Test the Spirits (4:1–6)
A. God’s Love Evokes Human Love (4:7–4:11)
B. Confidence in God’s Love (4:12–4:18)
C. Appealing to Love Each Other (4:19–4:21)
D. The Victory of Faith (5:1–5:5)
E. Testimony to the Son (5:6–5:12)
A. The Confidence and Certainties of Believers (5:13–5:20)
B. The Final Exhortation (5:21)
In a work prepared, in part, to assist missionaries in Bible translation, G. Sherman and J. Tuggy argue persuasively, in concert with Longacre, that 1 John “is a hortatory discourse, based on the occurrence of imperative verbs and other command forms.”60 They also point out that the surface form of 1 John is somewhat similar to modern English free poetry, making it difficult to always discern the relationship between various parts of the discourse.61 Concerning this latter observation, we would imagine all students of 1 John would heartily agree. Building on the insights of several discourse approaches to 1 John, they structure and organize the epistle as shown in the chart on p. 48.
(3) Rhetorical Criticism
The application of rhetorical criticism and strategies to the biblical material became quite popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the results have been somewhat uneven, a better understanding of how biblical authors sought to persuade their audiences to see their perspective and hear their argument has certainly been enhanced.
First John has received significant attention because of both its brevity and the difficulty in deciphering its structure. As we have seen, previous approaches have failed to produce a consensus, and it is the case that this approach also fails to bring a definitive solution. A number of scholars have argued for a chiastic structure for 1 John. Note the following examples:
1 John (P. Berge)
A. The word of life 1:1–4
B. God is light 1:5–4:6
B′. God is love 4:7–5:5
A′. The witness of faith 5:6–2162
J. C. Thomas63 acknowledges the insights of Brown64 and wisely builds his proposal around “the use of similar catch words/phrases and sections which parallel one another in terms of content.” He goes on to argue that the structure of 1 John was intended to aid in its memorization.
1 John (J. C. Thomas)
A. 1:1–4—Prologue—Eternal Life
B. 1:5–2:2—Making Him a Liar (Walking)
C. 2:3–17—New Commandment
D. 2:18–27—Antichrists
E. 2:18–3:10—Confidence—Do Not Sin
F. 3:11–18—Love One Another
E′. 3:19–24—Confidence—Keep the Commands
D′. 4:1–6—Antichrists
C′. 4:7–5:5—God’s Love and Ours
B′. 5:6–12—Making Him a Liar (Testimony)
A′. 5:13–21—Conclusion—Eternal Life
In an excellent article that surveys various approaches to 1 John, P. J. Van Staden also argues “that the observance of the so-called chiastic styles presents an important key to a better understanding of the structure of 1 John.” He does not argue for an overall chiasm but believes the letter can be divided into three main sections (1:5–2:17; 2:18–3:17; 4:1–5:12), which themselves contain numerous chiastic or parallel units.65 K. Hansford argues in somewhat the same vein, stating that “the form of 1 John is a highly structural text, probably a homily or sermon, with poetic parallelisms and chiastic structures that the writer deliberately created to make his message more pleasurable and memorable for all time.”66 E. Wendland and K. Tollefson have recognized the contrastive or antithetical or dialectical strategies John employs in making his argument.67
D. Watson has attempted consistently to apply classic Greco-Roman rhetorical style and invention to 1 John. He argues:
Repetition and emphasis, so common in 1 John, is integral to the rhetor’s use of amplification techniques of Greceo-Roman rhetoric. These techniques include strong words, argumentation, comparison, accumulation, expolitio, reflexio, regressio, conduplicatio, distributio, synonymy … antithesis, personification, hyperbole, emphasis and development of commonplaces. Amplification is correctly found throughout the epistle. It must be pointed out that virtually every known rhetorical technique for amplification is utilized in the epistle.68
He identifies 1 John as primarily epideictic rhetoric (as opposed to judicial or deliberative) because its goal is to increase the readers’ commitment to values they already hold. First John was written to the faithful community as an appeal to strengthen their devotion to stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a value held by both the speaker and his audience.69
Talbert believes 1 John (like 1 Peter) alternates between the twin concerns of ethics and Christology.70 Strecker focuses on the polemical nature of 1 John and outlines the book alternating Parenesis and Dogmatic Exposition.71
H. York argues that when a comparison is made between discourse analysis and rhetorical criticism, significant similarities exist and common results are gleaned. The methods can be complementary. He provides as an example a side-by-side comparison of the discourse model of Longacre and the rhetorical analysis of Klauck.
Comparative Structural Analysis of 1 John

Longacre (Mitigated Hortatory)
Klauck (Deliberativum)

I. Introduction (1:1–2:29)
Capitatio Benvolentiae






2:12–17 (ethical peak)

2:18–27 (doctrinal peak)

2:28–29 Closure

II. Body of the Book (3:1–5:12)





4:1–6 (doctrinal peak)

4:7–21 (ethical peak)


III. Closure of Epistle (5:13–21)72

York’s conclusion is basically correct. There are genuine areas of compatibility, synthesis of methodology, and agreement between the two approaches. Neither method alone or together, however, has decisively settled the issue of the structure of 1 John. Significant disagreement still exists within both disciplines, though it is clear major strides have been made in better understanding the structure, strategies, and argument of 1 John.
A Proposal: The outline we propose attempts to utilize the best insights from traditional studies, discourse analysis, and rhetorical criticism. First John does exhibit a hortatory and epideictic rhetorical strategy. We also find Brown’s proposal persuasive, which states that 1 John is modeled on the same general structure as the Fourth Gospel. Both have a fourfold division overall, with the themes of light and love developed variously in sections II and III. Note his comparison:
The Gospel of John
I. The Prologue (1:1–18)
II. The Book of Signs (1:19–12:50): “To his own he came; yet his own people did not accept him.” The public revelation of the light brought a judgment, which separated believers who came to the light from the world and “the Jews” who preferred darkness to light.
III. The Book of Glory (13:1–20:29): “But all those who did accept him he empowered to become God’s children.” The “hour” of Jesus’ glorification where he speaks and acts on behalf of a new “his own”—the believers.
CONCLUSION (20:30–31): A statement of the author’s purpose.
IV. The Epilogue (chap. 21)
I John
I. The Prologue (1:1–4)
II. Part One (1:5–3:10): The Gospel that God is light, and we must walk in the light as Jesus walked.
III. Part Two (3:11–5:12): The Gospel that we must love one another as God has loved us in Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION (5:13–21): A statement of the author’s purpose.73
This commentary’s outline does the following:
1. It recognizes the two dominant themes of the epistle as being Light (1:5–3:10) and Love (3:11–5:12)
2. It seeks to utilize rhetorical devices such as “hinge verses” (e.g., 2:28; 5:20) and other structural markers that most scholars use to separate one subject from another.
3. The outline is itself hortatory, admonishing the reader to heed John’s expected response to his word of instruction. R. R. Reno summarizes the situation well when he writes:
The text of 1 John shimmers with what has been seen, heard and touched. The text speaks plainly, directly and clearly, and what is said is a proclamation that has the power of fellowship: our fellowship with each other, our fellowship with God and the fellowship of the Father with his Son. Like the name of God which the Psalmist invokes as the very power of salvation, a power of invocation which the author of 1 John echoes when he explains, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13), so does the particular linguistic structure of 1 John contain the power to draw us into the fullest possible destiny in God’s love.74

52 The form and structure of 2 and 3 John are examined as part of the commentary on those letters.
53 Talbert, Reading John, 6.
54 G. S. Sloyan, Walking in the Truth (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1995), 1.
55 Grayston notes: “Despite the common agreement that the Epistle lacks a discernible structure or logical progression of thought, even the most pessimistic critics attempt an analysis” (The Johannine Epistles, 4). He proposes a sixfold division dependent on emphasis rather than subject matter. J. Hill argues that 1 John is an example of the “community rule” or “church order” (“A Genre for 1 John,” in The Future of Early Christianity, ed. B. A. Pearson [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 367–77). His argument, though interesting, is not adequate.
New English Bible
Brown, Epistles of John, 764. Law, Tests of Life, 1–24; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), 366–67; and D. Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 18, are representative of those who see the letter structured in the form of a spiral, inverted pyramid or cone whereby John again and again returns to address certain themes. There is certainly some truth to this perspective. Marshall (The Epistles of John, 22–30) gives a more detailed analysis of the outlines of Law, Brooke, Dodd, Malatesta, P. R. Jones, Schnackenburg, and Feuillet. He does not find any of these approaches adequate overall. He goes on to examine the redactional theories of K. Tomoi, E. von Dobschütz, Bultmann, Windisch, Preisker, Braun, Nauck, and O’Neill. He concludes that these theories also fail to account for the structure of the letter.
57 R. E. Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44.
58 H. Miehle, “Theme in Greek Hortatory Discourse: Van Dijk and Beekman—Callow Approaches Applied to 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Arlington, 1988. Miehle obviously sees chiastic patterns in various sections. For our purposes we are more interested in simply showing her paragraph/section divisions. See G. H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis (Leiden: Brill, 1994). Guthrie’s work is warmly commended by W. L. Lane in his commentary on Hebrews in WBC (xc).
59 D. T.-C. Wu, “An Analysis of the Structure of 1 John Using Discourse Analysis,” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997.
60 G. Sherman and J. C. Tuggy, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994), 6.
61 Ibid., 7.
62 P. S. Berge, “The Word and Its Witness in John and 1 John: A Literary and Rhetorical Study,” in Word and World, Supplement Series 3 (1997): 143–62. As the title suggests, Berge sees a parallel literary relationship between the Gospel of John and 1 John. He also presents internal chiasms within his four major divisions (p. 151). The argument at this latter point is not very compelling.
63 J. C. Thomas, “The Literary Structure of 1 John,” NovT XL 4 (1998): 369–81.
64 Brown, Epistles of John, 371–72.
65 P. J. Van Staden, “The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 47/ 2 (1991): 494. M. Sweazey makes a similar argument, though she divides the epistle at 1:5–2:28; 2:29–4:6; 4:7–5:13. See her “Chiastic Study of the First Epistle of John,” Master’s Thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1986.
66 K. L. Hansford, “The Underlying Poetic Structure of 1 John,” JTT 5 (1992): 125–74.
67 E. R. Wendland, “ ‘Dear Children’ Versus the ‘Antichrists’: The Rhetoric of Reassurance in First John,” JTT 11 (1998): 40–84; K. D. Tollefson, “Certainty within the Fellowship: Dialectical Discourse in 1 John,” BTB 29, no. 2 (1999): 79–89. His outline of 1 John (p. 84) is helpful and interesting. D. Neufeld draws somewhat similar conclusions through the use of speech act theory (Reconceiving Texts as Speech Acts: An Analysis of 1 John (Leiden: Brill, 1994). His analysis is helpful at points, but many of the positions he takes on historical issues are unnecessarily skeptical and unduly suspicious.
68 D. F. Watson, “Amplification Techniques in 1 John: The Interaction of Rhetorical Style and Invention,” JSNT 51 (1993): 117–18.
69 Ibid., 119. See also Watson, “An Epideictic Strategy for Increasing Adherence to Community Values: 1 John 1:1–2:29,” in Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 11 (1991), 144–52.
70 Talbert, Reading John, 7.
71 Strecker, The Johannine Letters, xliv.
H. W. York, “An Analysis and Synthesis of the Exegetical Methods of Rhetorical Criticism and Discourse Analysis as Applied to the Structure of 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993. The two outlines come from Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44 (previously noted); and H.-J. Klauck, “Zur rhetorischen Analyse der Johannesbriefe,” ZNW 81 (1990): 204–24.
73 Brown, Epistles of John, 124. A. Feuillet concurs with Brown’s assessment that 1 John is patterned after the Gospel of John, though he outlines the letter differently. See his “Structure of 1 John,” BTB, vol. III, No. 2 (1973): 194–216. Van Staden’s criticism of Brown’s proposal, in our judgment, is unconvincing (“The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” 489–90).
74 R. R. Reno, “The Marks of the Nails: Theological Exegesis of the First Letter of John for Easter,” Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VI, No. 1 (1997): 53.

Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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Baptism Didache

Baptism Didache

“1 And concerning baptism,15 thus baptize ye:16 Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,17 in living water.18 2 But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm. 3. But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice19 upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 4. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but thou shalt order the baptized to fast one or two days before.20”

15 Verse vii. 1 is found, well-nigh entire, in Apostolic Constitutions, 22, but besides this only a few words of verses 2 and 4. The chapter has naturally called out much discussion as to the mode of baptism.
16 [Elucidation I.] 17 Matt. 28:19.
18 Probably running water.
19 The previous verses point to immersion; this permits pouring in certain cases, which indicates that this mode was not unknown. The trine application of the water, and its being poured on the head, are both significant.
20 The fasting of the baptized is enjoined in Apostolic Constitutions, but that of the baptizer (and others) is peculiar to this document.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. In Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 379). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“x. Neither do we permit the laity to perform any of the offices belonging to the priesthood; as, for instance, neither the sacrifice, nor baptism, nor the laying on of hands, nor the blessing, whether the smaller or the greater: for “no one taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God.”7 For such sacred offices are conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop. But a person to whom such an office is not committed, but he seizes upon it for himself, he shall undergo the punishment of Uzziah.8”

7 Heb. 5:4.
8 2 Chron. 26.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 429). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“sec. ii.—on deacons and deaconesses, the rest of the clergy, and on baptism.
Let not therefore either a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, or any one else of the sacerdotal catalogue, defile his tongue with calumny, lest he inherit a curse instead of a blessing; and let it also be the bishop’s business and care that no lay person utter any curse: for he ought to take care of all,—of the clergy, of the virgins, of the widows, of the laity. For which reason, O bishop, do thou ordain thy fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom thou provest to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them:5 for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, “a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber,”6 who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name7 as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: “And they shall Call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them.”8

concerning the sacred initiation of holy baptism.
xvi. Thou therefore, O bishop, according to that type, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency. And after that, let the bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment.
what is the meaning of baptism into christ, and on what account everything is there said or done.

xvii. This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus:9 the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Ghost; the seal instead of the cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the confession; the mention of the Father as of the Author and Sender; the joint mention of the Holy Ghost as of the witness; the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. The Father is the God over all; Christ is the only-begotten God, the beloved Son, the Lord of glory; the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, who is sent by Christ, land taught by Him, and proclaims Him.”

5 [Compare Jas. 5:14.] 6 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15.
7 The words from “upon whom” to the end of the chapter are omitted in one V. ms.
8 Isa. 62:2.
9 Vid. Rom. 6:3.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 431). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

“xxxix. For I Matthew, one of those twelve which speak to you in this doctrine, am an apostle, having myself been formerly a publican, but now have obtained mercy through believing, and have repented of my former practices, and have been vouchsafed the honour to be an apostle and preacher of the word. And Zacchæus, whom the Lord received upon his repentance and prayers to Him, was also himself in the same manner a publican at first. And, besides, even the soldiers and multitude of publicans, who came to hear the word of the Lord about repentance, heard this from the prophet John, after he had baptized them: “Do nothing more than that which is appointed you.”7 In like manner, life is not refused to the heathen, if they repent and cast away their unbelief. Esteem, therefore, every one that is convicted of any wicked action, and has not repented, as a publican or an heathen. But if he afterward repents, and turns from his error, then, as we receive the heathen, when they wish to repent, into the Church indeed to hear the word, but do not receive them to communion until they have received the seal of baptism, and are made complete Christians; so do we also permit such as these to enter only to hear, until they show the fruit of repentance, that by hearing the word they may not utterly and irrecoverably perish. But let them not be admitted to communion in prayer; and let them depart after the reading of the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, that by such departure they may be made better in their course of life, by endeavouring to meet every day about the public assemblies, and to be frequent in prayer, that they also may be at length admitted, and that those who behold them may be affected, and be more secured by fearing to fall into the same condition.”

7 Luke 3:13.

Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1886). Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. In J. Donaldson (Trans.), Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies (Vol. 7, p. 414). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.


“The idea of baptism

This might seem a silly question: was not Jesus baptized by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9, followed by Matt. 3:13 and Luke 3:21), did he not engage with his disciples in baptizing (John 4:1–2), and did he not command his followers to make disciples from all the nations and baptize them using the very words we have in the Didache (> Matt. 28:19)? However, these Gospel passages, with the possible exception of Mark whose Gospel was being preached before AD 70, are later than the instruction in the Didache. Therefore, we have to explain both the choice of the action of baptizing and how that action was linked with the memory of Jesus in the first churches.

For Jews, the ritual that marked their boundary as a community, and as the assembly who had accepted the covenant, was circumcision. Circumcision, along with the sabbath and the regulations regarding food, was the mark of accepting God’s promises (Gen. 17:9–14). By the time of Jesus, indeed for more than a century before his time, circumcision was closely linked to Israel’s self-perception as the covenant people of God (1 Macc. 1:14–15, 60–61; 2 Macc. 6:10). It was the most important boundary marker separating Jew from gentile, those within the covenant from those outside it. So there was no need for any other fundamental boundary ritual—a boundary ritual is an action that distinguishes a group from those who are not-belonging-to-the-group, ‘the people’ as distinct from everyone else.
But there were many other traditions that marked transitions from one state of relationship with God to another for those who were within the covenant community. One such important ritual was that of a bath to cleanse away certain impurities before acts of worship. A leper, for instance, once clear of disease—after seeing a priest—could only be readmitted to the community after washing his clothes, shaving his hair and having had a bath (Lev. 14:2–8). And contacts with ‘impure’ bodily discharges which could make one unfit to perform the service of God were to be washed away by washing clothes and having a bath (e.g. Lev. 15:2–5). We know from archaeological discoveries that in Jewish towns there were pools for taking these special religious baths, while in Qumran there were numerous pools so that this community could see itself as always pure, and so always ready to offer praise to God. It was this ritual practice that was adopted by John the Baptist to mark out those who had accepted his preaching that the judgement of God was imminent. These were the people who had fled sin and repented, were washed by John in the living, that is, flowing, water of the Jordan, and now purified of sin could withstand coming judgement. John’s message was that the crunch was about to come upon a wicked generation: those who listened to him saw the need to separate themselves and be purified of their sins by a bathing. This washing which made his followers into the purified people may have been taken over from existing rites of purification, but it had the effect of making them a group within a group, a people within a people—and, as such, the purification bath became a boundary ritual. The followers of John were a distinct community because each of them had been baptized by him.
In the Gospels, the relationship between John and Jesus is presented, especially in Luke, as one of intimacy, harmony and seamless continuity: they were cousins, John announces Jesus, baptizes him, and then Jesus brings to perfection that which was inaugurated by John the Baptist:

‘ “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
(John 1:30–34 [NRSV])

However, this is the picture looking backwards from several generations later, and, more importantly, with hindsight the evangelists saw all that happened as part of God’s providential plan. But the relationship was far more fraught. John preached that the judgement of God was coming on a sinful generation—the crunch was coming and only those who set themselves apart would be saved. Jesus seems to have had links with this movement, but broke away from it. His message about the imminent coming of the kingdom was radically different: the Day of the Lord was not a grim day of judgement, but rather the day of the Lord’s forgiveness.

In some places in our Gospels (e.g. the image of the sheep and the goats in Matt. 25) there is a sense of dread future judgement, but these instances—which exhibit the more widespread views of the early communities—have to be seen against the broad sweep of Jesus’ statements about the coming kingdom where he addresses God as ‘Father’ and such stories as that about the welcoming father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), or his own practice in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:2–11)—a story about Jesus whose ‘laxity’ with regard to judgement shocked many early communities.

His new community was to rejoice that God had shown mercy and that that mercy would extend to all (> Meier, 1994, pp. 116–30). Whether Jesus would have seen any need for a washing to remove the ‘impurities’ of people before they could see themselves as part of the kingdom is very doubtful. There are so many stories of Jesus and the disciples eating without observing the purity laws (e.g. Mark 7:3), having contact with that which would make them impure, and not worrying about it (Matt. 8:3 and 9:20), and eating with sinners (e.g. Luke 7:34) that it appears that he considered the whole notion of impurity as having been swept away by God’s forgiving love. Purity was not a matter of cups and plates, but rather rooting out greed and self-indulgence (> Matt. 23:25). So, even though Jesus had at one stage in his life been baptized, why was there any later use for a notion of the need for a bath for impurity, and why was Jesus remembered as intimately linked with John’s bath?

The answer lies in the movement of many of John’s followers to become followers of Jesus—and it would seem that with John’s death many more of his disciples became followers of Jesus. One might imagine that if someone has left John and followed Jesus, then he or she would simply have jettisoned what was linked with John and adopt what belonged to Jesus! But this is not how human beings act, especially in religious matters: people carry their histories and their precious customs with them into the new situation. Some who changed over to Jesus may have only seen what John and Jesus had in common such as that the Lord was coming among his people or that there was another special route distinct from ‘ordinary Judaism’; others may have grafted Jesus’ teaching into what they had already heard from John; many others would not have realized the extent to which John’s teaching was still influencing them even when they thought they had moved from one prophet to another. The result was that the early communities that looked to Jesus as the Anointed One actually combined many elements from John’s teaching with elements from that of Jesus. We see this legacy in Christianity to this day: there are some people who look to the Gospels and come away with a message of God’s impending judgement, and their outlook is apocalyptic; others look at the same Gospels and think that this approach is wrong-headed. The legacy of John’s notion of the Day of the Lord as crunch, while it may not sit well with that of Jesus’ kingdom of welcome, is still with us, and is a theme that Christians return to from time to time.

One of those elements of John’s teaching that was carried over was the belief that accepting that the kingdom was at hand formed them into a distinct people apart; they were in a special relationship to the covenant; and while every Jewish boy was circumcised, this group was ritually distinct in that everyone in it, man and woman, had been baptized. For John’s followers this ritual bath was an item of major importance; it was how they thought of themselves as a group and how others thought of them—hence the sobriquet given to their prophet: ‘the baptizer’—and as such it was a custom they would have held as precious. There is a funny phenomenon we see happening time and again in religion: group practices (the ritual) remain stubbornly the same, yet how they are explained (the theology) changes with circumstances. This is counter-intuitive: we might expect that people would hold onto their theories, and that practices would vary; but it is almost never like that. A group that has made the action of ‘plunging’ a key group moment is going to keep that custom when they see one leader replaced by another, and despite the fact that the way they explain the action has changed many times. No doubt when John opted for a bathing he was thinking in terms of the law in Leviticus and of purifying the people before the terrible day of judgement—we see this in references to his preaching ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3)—but the practice soon took on the significance of being, for those not in the group, the brand of his followers, while for those in the group it became their badge of identity: we are the community within the larger Israel that is ready for what is coming. Later, when that group came under the influence of Jesus—and now saw themselves as his followers—they continued with this badge of identity. You knew that you were part of this new People of Israel—amidst all the other Jews who were children of the covenant—because you had been through the plunging in the living water (i.e. flowing water). Baptism formed the boundary for John’s community, and it migrated to become the boundary for Jesus’ community.

However, while the action of baptism seems to have been accepted by all the followers without much difficulty—all groups seem to generate boundary rituals in one way or another—the assimilation of John’s teaching with that of Jesus would be no easy matter. In the Gospels we see stories which present the two strands living harmoniously, but the fissures that open up again and again in Christianity—as we shall see later with the practice of fasting—can often be traced to the fact of two very different visions of how God relates to us: one can be traced to John and the other to Jesus. These views were never integrated—that would have been impossible—but were shoved together as if the differences could be passed over. Every so often the glue fails and groups reject either the Jesus or the John vision of God’s love. Meanwhile most Christians, for the most part, shuffle on with the ‘lumpy mixture’ of both that we find in the early churches and their great evangelists. Baptism is a case in point: by the time of John’s death it had ceased being simply a requirement of the covenant’s law so that people could offer pure service to God and had become a mark of belonging to John’s people, then the practice continued and it came to be the mark of belonging to Jesus’ people. And as such, it became the key moment of initiation into the Way of Jesus in the Didache and has remained a key feature in Christian practice ever since—but even then, the legacy of the ‘lumpy mixture’ continued in the many divisions that have occurred in the Church over baptism. Some would argue that it was about removing sin that could lead to death (a very John-like view) and so it was very important to baptize infants—and they saw initiation as something happening afterwards; others would see baptism as fundamentally the moment of commitment to Jesus and so would argue that only adults could be baptized. Significantly, in the Didache we have the emphasis on the practice, without any attempt at ‘explaining’ its significance.”

O’Loughlin, T. (2010). The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians (pp. 47–53). London; Grand Rapids, MI: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Baker Academic.

Rapture Book of Revelation

Rapture Book of Revelation

Rapture Book of Revelation

One argument that I hear from those who hold to a pretribulation rapture is that the church is not mentioned after chapter 4 of the book of Revelation.Thus the church is not here during the tribulation. According to this logic we should not call members of the church saints

Re 5:8 X And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Re 8:3 X And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
Re 8:4 X and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Re 11:18 X The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
Re 13:7 X Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,
Re 13:10 X If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Re 14:12 X Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Re 16:6 X For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
Re 17:6 X And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
Re 18:20 X Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
Re 18:24 X And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Re 19:8 X it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Re 20:9 X And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them

Noah Son of Lamech

Bible Topic Noah 

NOAH nōʹə.
1. [Heb nō (a)ḥ; Gk Noē]; AV also NOE. The last of the antediluvian patriarchs and survivor of the Genesis Flood (Gen. 5:28–9:28).
I. Name

The etymology of nō (a)ḥ is uncertain. Many commentators relate it to Heb nwḥ, “to rest.” In Gen. 5:29 the name is mentioned in assonance with the verb nḥm (piel), “comfort” (AV and RV) or “bring relief” (RSV), but nwḥ is closer to the name Noah.
II. Genealogy and Longevity

Noah was the son of Lamech (Gen. 5:28f.; Lk. 3:36) and father of three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 5:32; 6:9; 9:18f.; 10:1), who were born before the Flood. The order preserved in these verses is not chronological. Ham was the youngest (9:24) and Japheth the second of Noah’s sons.
Noah lived 950 years. Reinterpretations of the longevity of the ANTEDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS, such as appealing to the concept of family or dynasty identification rather than individual, are fraught with unresolved difficulties.
III. Noah in a World Under Judgment

As a prelude to the story of the Flood, Gen. 6:1–7, 11f paints a portrait of the wickedness of mankind (on the difficulty of identifying the “sons of God” see SONS OF GOD [OT]). The importance of this passage is its statement of the progression of evil. The Creator’s response to a “corrupt” and “violent” civilization was one of grief and anger (6:5–7, 11–13). Judgment was imminent.
In the context of an already ruined civilization, Noah emerges as a man in step with God (6:9). He was righteous (ṣaddîq; cf. AV “just”); responding to events as yet unseen, he “became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith” (He. 11:7). Noah was also blameless (tāmîm, cf. AV “perfect”) “among the people of his time” (NIV, preferable to AV “in his generations”). Tāmîm signifies perfection in the sense of completeness or wholeheartedness (see BDB, p. 1071). Later writers would recall the days of Noah (Isa. 54:9; Mt. 24:37f.; Lk. 17:26f) and would remember him as an exemplarily righteous man (Ezk. 14:14, 20; 2 Pet. 2:5).
IV. The Flood

Noah was informed of the impending destruction 120 years beforehand (Gen. 6:3, 13; cf. 1 Pet. 3:20). The agency of judgment would be a flood (Heb mabbûl, 6:17; 7:6, 7, 10, 17; see also Ps. 29:10). The LXX translates Heb mabbûl by kataklysmós, which the NT also uses to refer to the Flood (Mt. 24:38f.; Lk. 17:27; 2 Pet. 2:5). Noah, the one who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8), this “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), and his family would be spared. The agency of their salvation would be an ark (tēḇâ, Gen. 6:14).
Every facet of the Flood narrative has been scrutinized with a view to logical explanation, including questions for which the text speaks not a word. The Genesis Flood is but one of many biblical events whose import has been diminished, if not lost, in the need for thorough explanation and empirical verification. These lines of inquiry may be legitimate, though extravagances abound, but it is more important to seek the intended emphasis and allow the text to speak in its own terms. See also FLOOD (GENESIS); ARK OF NOAH.

A. Judgment The Flood bespeaks the certain judgment of a sovereign and righteous God on an ungodly world (see Kline, p. 89). This ordeal by water (2 Pet. 3:5f) was a mere token of judgment when compared with the greater judgment that awaits not only the earth but all creation (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7, 10). The emphasis of Jesus’ words in Mt. 24:36–41; Lk. 17:26–37, as He compared the days of Noah with those of the Son of man, was not on the sinfulness of Noah’s contemporaries, but rather on the unexpectedness of impending doom (cf. Mt. 24:44).

B. Salvation The Flood also bespeaks salvation to those who put their faith in God (He. 11:7). Although the parallel between the deliverance of Noah and his family and salvation through Christ is not precise at every point. Peter compares the waters of the Flood with those of baptism in which the water symbolizes God’s judgment on sin and deliverance into a new life (1 Pet. 3:20f.; see also BAPTISM VII.A). Peter emphasizes that the efficacy of baptism lies not in the outward symbolism of the “removal of dirt from the body” but in the inner response of faith to God.

The ark, at rest on Mt. Ararat, and the genealogical tree of Noah (see Gen. 10). From the AV (London, 1611) (Rare Books and Manuscripts Division; New York Public Library; Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations)
V. Noah’s Counterparts in Cuneiform Sources

Although archeology has not provided empirical data for the Genesis Flood, excavations have unearthed many texts and fragments which preserve the story of a great flood, widely known among the civilizations of the ancient Near East. It is mentioned in the Sumerian King List (ca 2000 B.C.;ANET, pp. 265f.; Kramer, pp. 328–331). A fragmentary Sumerian tablet from Nippur preserves the story of King Ziusudra, Noah’s counterpart, who was warned that the gods had decided to destroy mankind with a flood. A great boat would provide Ziusudra’s escape. The last extant lines of the text describe his deification (ANET, pp. 42–44).
The Epic of Atra-ḫasis (ca 17th cent. B.C. in the earliest surviving copies) describes a deluge sent by the gods to destroy mankind after earlier attempts through drought had failed to control the increasing number of people and their noise (W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-Ḫasīs: The Babylonian Story of the Flood [1969]). A small fragment of the Babylonian flood story referring to Atra-ḫasis was found at Râs Shamrah and dated to the 14th cent. B.C. (ibid., pp. 131–33).
Similar to the story of Atra-ḫasis is that preserved in the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic (the best English translation with discussion of the biblical parallels is that of Heidel; see also ANET, pp. 72–99; S. N. Kramer, JAOS, 64 [1944], 7ff). The story is, in part, that of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality which leads him to the island of Utnapishtim. This “Babylonian Noah” tells Gilgamesh the story of the flood which was prompted by Enlil’s insomnia, as in the Atra-ḫasis Epic. Utnapishtim narrates how he alone was warned of the impending destruction and instructed to build a boat by which he and his family would be spared. The story leads to the granting of immortality to Utnapishtim, an event which will never recur.
The similarities between the biblical and Mesopotamian flood stories are striking, as are the differences (see FLOOD [GENESIS] VI; Heidel, pp. 224–269, esp p. 269; T. Jacobsen, pp. 215–19). Opinions differ concerning the literary relationship between the biblical and Babylonian narratives. Many scholars consider the latter to comprise the raw materials from which the former was produced. Others contend that the two revert to an unknown common source. The similarities suggest a common recollection of an actual historical event. The differences bespeak the focus of divine inspiration. Genesis records the story of Noah in historical truth and imparts the theological significance of the Flood.
VI. Noahic Covenant

Noah emerges from the ark and builds an altar of sacrifice. He offers burnt offerings, tokens of dedication and atonement, which produce a “sweet savour” to the Lord (Gen. 8:21, AV). Contrast the imagery of the Babylonian version at this point:
The gods smelled the savor
The gods smelled the sweet savor
The gods gathered like flies over the sacrifice.

What God had once commanded Adam (Gen. 1:28), He now reiterates to Noah and his sons (9:1; see Kline, p. 90). This COVENANT (Gen. 6:18; 9:8–17) is remarkable for its breadth (9:10; 12–13; 15; 17) and permanence. It is an everlasting covenant (Heb berîṯ ʿôlām, 9:16), initiated by the beneficent Creator. He promised that never again would the world be destroyed by a flood (9:15). The rainbow (Heb qešeṯ, usually denoting the weapon) was the covenant sign, a seal of the promise to mankind and a reminder to God of His commitments.

Bibliography.—A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and OT Parallels (2nd ed. 1949); T. Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness (1976), pp. 195–219; M. G. Kline, “Genesis,” NBC (3rd ed. 1970); S. N. Kramer, Sumerians (1963); M. E. L. Mallowan, Iraq, 26 (1964), 62–82; A. R. Millard, Tyndale Bulletin, 18 (1967), 3–18; A. Parrot, The Flood and Noah’s Ark (Eng. tr. 1955); G. J. Wenham, VT, 28 (1978), 336–348.

Pratico, G. (1979–1988). Noah. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 3, pp. 543–545). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

NOAH, SON OF LAMECH (נֹחַ, noach). Obeyed God’s command to build an ark to escape the great flood. A son of Lamech and father of Shem, Japheth, and Ham.

Noah, the son of Lamech, was the last of the ten antediluvian patriarchs listed in Gen 5:1–32. When God decided to destroy all people because of their corrupt nature (Gen 6:11–12), He recognized Noah’s righteousness and spared him. Under God’s supervision, Noah built an ark that allowed him and his family (including his wife and three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham), along with the animals, to escape the flood that possibly encompassed the entire planet and destroyed all human and animal life (Gen 6:17). Like Adam, Noah became the father of the human race. Noah lived 350 years after the flood, dying at the age of 950.

Preparation for the Flood
Noah was spared from the flood because, unlike the other wicked inhabitants of earth, he found “favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8 NIV) and was “found righteous” by God (Gen 7:1 NIV). He is also described as being “righteous” (צַדִּיק, tsaddiq), “blameless” (תָּמִים, tamim), and one who “walked with God” (Gen 6:9 NIV) like his ancestor Enoch (Gen 5:24). Based on Genesis 6:3, Noah may have been aware of the coming flood 120 years before it occurred. In obedience to the Lord, Noah built the ark and gathered the animals and food, doing “everything just as God commanded him” (Gen 6:22).

The Flood
The flood began on the 17th day of the second month of Noah’s 600th year (Gen 7:6). After Noah and his family had been in the ark for seven days, the rains began; springs also broke open, adding to the flooding. During the 40 days and 40 nights of rain (Gen 7:12), all the people, animals, and birds on earth were destroyed. Noah and his family remained in the ark for a total of 371 days. When the land dried, the Lord commanded Noah to bring his family and all the animals out of the ark.

Events After the Flood
Upon exiting the ark, Noah built an altar and offered “burnt offerings” (עֹלָה, olah) to the Lord (Gen 8:20). The Lord then commanded Noah to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1 NIV), just as He had commanded Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28). The Lord also echoed the words He had spoken to Adam and Eve in Gen 1:29–30 by telling Noah that the plants and animals were subject to him and were provided for food (Gen 9:2–3). In Genesis 9:9–17, the Lord made a covenant (בְּרִית, berith) with Noah, promising never again to destroy the earth and its inhabitants through a flood and establishing the rainbow as a sign of this covenant.
The last event recorded in the account of Noah (Gen 9:19–27) resulted in the blessing and cursing of his sons. After Noah became drunk on wine made from grapes he had planted—an action that the biblical account neither condemns nor condones—he lay naked in his tent. His son, Ham, observed Noah and then told his brothers, Shem and Japheth, of their father’s condition. Shem and Japheth entered the tent and covered their father, taking care to avoid looking at his nakedness. When Noah discovered what Ham had done, he was outraged and pronounced a curse on Ham’s descendants through Ham’s son, Canaan.
Although numerous theories exist as to the nature of Ham’s crime, it seems most likely that it was a combination of Ham’s making light of his father’s nakedness and failing to honor his father, thus breaking the fifth commandment (Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, 419–20). Noah blessed Shem and Japheth, who treated his condition respectfully.

Biblical References to Noah
Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the time of Noah, the “days of Noah,” and the person Noah. Old Testament references to Noah include the following:

• (Isa 54:9)—The Lord refers to the “days of Noah” to illustrate the certainty that He will keep His promises to the Jewish nation, just as He kept His promise never to destroy the earth by flood through His covenant with Noah.
• (Ezek 14:14, 20)—Noah is mentioned twice in Ezekiel to emphasize the gravity of God’s judgment of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians. Even a man as righteous as Noah could save only himself. He would not have been able to save even his family as he did in the ark.

There are more references to Noah in the New Testament than in the Old Testament, including these passages:

• (Matt 24:37–38; Luke 17:26–27)—Jesus compares the “days of Noah” to the coming of the Son of Man to illustrate that at the coming of the Son of Man, people will be unconcerned about spiritual matters and will be caught off guard by judgment.
• (Heb 11:7)—The writer of Hebrews identifies Noah as a man of faith, arguing that through his faith the world was condemned.
• (1 Pet 3:20)—Peter refers to the “days of Noah,” comparing the salvation that Noah and his family received from the flood to the waters of baptism that are a symbol of salvation.
• (2 Pet 2:5)—Peter mentions how God protected Noah from the flood to illustrate that God knows how to “rescue the godly and punish the righteous.”

Extrabiblical Characterizations of Noah
Flood accounts and Noah-type heroes are found in many cultures throughout the world, including those located in very remote places. Three Mesopotamian myths are particularly significant due to their geographic proximity to the land of the Bible and similarities to biblical events. In addition to containing many parallels to the biblical account, the three Mesopotamian myths are very similar to each other.

Eridu Genesis
The oldest Mesopotamian flood story is a Sumerian flood myth recorded on a tablet found in Nippur and known as the Eridu Genesis(Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic, 102). Much of the tablet is missing, and the myth was previously known only through the writing of Berossus, a Babylonian priest who lived in the third century BC and wrote a history of Babylonia. In the Eridu Genesis, the god Enki revealed to Ziusudra, a king and priest, that the gods wanted to destroy the human race through a flood. Enki instructed Ziusudra to build a boat and fill it with animals. A storm flooded the earth for seven days and nights. It appears the first thing Ziusudra did upon exiting the boat was to offer sacrifices of animals and grain products, such as barley cakes. As a reward for his behavior, Ziusudra was awarded immortality.

Epic of Atrahasis
The Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis is the most complete flood story from Mesopotamia, although portions of the text are missing from the broken tablets on which it is written. In this epic, the god Enlil decided to destroy the human race through a flood because they were making so much noise that he couldn’t sleep. Atrahasis had a dream in which Enlil told him to destroy his house and use the material to build a boat to withstand an upcoming seven-day flood. Unlike Noah in the Genesis account, Atrahasis employed a variety of workers to build the boat, including carpenters, reed-workers, and the rich (or perhaps children) and poor, although it does not appear that they joined Atrahasis on the boat during the flood. As in the Genesis account, Atrahasis offered sacrifices upon leaving the boat after the flood.

Epic of Gilgamesh
The most well-known Mesopotamian flood narrative is the Gilgamesh Epic. The flood portion of the Gilgamesh Epic, written in Akkadian cuneiform, is located on Tablet XI and is dated to the seventh century BC (although the Gilgamesh Epic dates much earlier than this). In this account, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh (who is searching for immortality) how he was saved from a flood sent by gods. When the gods living in Shurappak decided to cause a flood, one of the gods, Ea, secretly warned Utnapishtim of the plan and advised him to tear down his house and use the material to build a boat. The epic continues by describing how Utnapishtim built the boat and survived the subsequent flood.
This flood epic holds many parallels to the Genesis account, including:

1. The boat rested on a mountain (Mount Nimush) as the flood subsided.
2. Utnapishtim released birds to determine whether the flood had subsided.
3. Utnapishtim offered a sacrifice after disembarking from the boat.

Despite the similarities, the accounts also differ. For example, the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh lasted only six days and seven nights. Perhaps the greatest difference is that Utnapishtim and his wife were granted eternal life at the end of the story.

The name Noah may be related to the Hebrew word “to rest” (נוּחַ, nuach) or “comfort” (נָחַם, nacham). The pronunciation of “to rest” (נוּחַ, nuach) sounds more like Noah, but Noah’s father, Lamech, stated that his son would be one who “will comfort” (Gen 5:29 NIV).

Beale, G.K., and D.A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.
Lambert, W.G., and A.R. Millard. Atra-ḫasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999.
Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1–11. New American Commentary 1A. Nashville: Broadman, 1996.
VanGemeren, Willem A, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1–15. Word Biblical Commentary 1. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1987.


NO-AMON (נֹּא אָמוֹן, no’ amon). Also known as No (נֹא, no’). This Egyptian city is called Thebes in Greek; as such, the word נֹא (no’) is often translated as “Thebes” in English (Nah 3:8). No’s patron deity was the Egyptian god Amon. It was a city of chief importance on the Nile River and the capital of Upper Egypt in certain periods (Jer 46:25; Ezek 30:14–16). For more information, see this article: Thebes.

NOB (נֹב, nov; Νόμβα, Nomba). Levitical city in the tribal territory of Benjamin near Anathoth.

Biblical Relevance
Nob is the setting of an important story in the rise of David. After fleeing from Saul, David visits the village of Nob to gather supplies. Ahimelech the priest helps David, unaware that the king has threatened him. David takes five loaves of consecrated bread as well as Goliath’s sword (1 Sam 21:1–9). When Saul learns that Ahimelech unknowingly helped David escape, he orders his servants to kill the priests, but they refuse (1 Sam 22:9–17). However, Doeg the Edomite obeys Saul’s command, killing 85 priests and all of the inhabitants of Nob (1 Sam 22:18–19). The only survivor is Ahimelech’s son Abiathar, who reports the massacre to David (1 Sam 22:20–23). Based on this episode, it appears that the tabernacle was moved from Shiloh to Nob after Shiloh was destroyed (1 Sam 4:4–11; Jer 7:14).
The story of David taking the consecrated bread is mentioned in the New Testament, though Nob is not named (Matt 12:1–4; Mark 2:23–28; Luke 6:1–5).
Ishbibenob, the name of a giant in 2 Sam 21:16, might refer to the town of Nob.

The location of Nob remains uncertain. Because Isaiah 10:32 refers to the Assyrian king “halting at Nob and shaking his fist,” Nob is sometimes thought to be an somewhere on Mount Scopus, the first hill from which Jerusalem is visible from the north (Oswalt, Isaiah, 275). Nehemiah 11:32 lists Nob along with Anathoth as one of the towns repopulated by the tribe of Benjamin. Anathoth is usually associated with two sites about 2.8 miles northeast of Jerusalem, Anata and Ras el-Kharrubeh. Aharoni states that either location would support the village of ʿIsawiyeh on Mount Scopus as the location of Nob (Aharoni, Land, 393).
Some scholars identify a slope on Mount Scopus, Râs el-Mešârif, as Nob (Albright, “Recent,” 413; Rainey and Notley, Sacred Bridge, 235), although Quʿmeh is also a possibility (Blenkinsopp, Gibeon and Israel, 127 c. 59). Zissou recently suggested the area of the American Colony and the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah as possible locations for Nob, based on excavations at the Cave of Nahmanides (Zissou, “Excavations,” 67). None of these locations can be confirmed.

Aharoni, Y. The Land of the Bible. A Historical Geography. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1962.
Albright, W. F. “Recent Works on the Topography and Archaeology of Jerusalem.” Jewish Quarterly Review 22 (1932): 409–16.
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Gibeon and Israel. Society for Old Testament Studies Monograph 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Rainey, Anson F. and R. Steven Notley. The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World. Jerusalem: Carta, 2006.
Tsumura, David Toshio. The First Book of Samuel. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
Zissu, Boaz. “Excavations near Nahmanides Cave in Jerusalem and the Question of the Identification of Biblical Nob”. Israel Exploration Journal 62 (2012): 54–71.

Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). No-Amon. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

NOAH. The last of the ten antediluvian Patriarchs and hero of the *FLOOD. He was the son of Lamech, who was 182 (Samaritan Pentateuch, 53; LXX, 188) years old when Noah was born (Gn. 5:28–29; Lk. 3:36).
a. Name

The etymology of the name, nōaḥ, is uncertain, though many commentators connect it with the root nwḥ, ‘to rest’. In Genesis (5:29) it is associated with the verb nḥm (translated ‘comfort’ in AV and RV; ‘bring relief’ in RSV), with which it is perhaps etymologically connected; though this is not necessarily required by the text. The element nḥm occurs in Amorite personal names and in the name Nah̬mizuli which figures in a Hurrian fragment of the Gilgamesh epic found at Boǧazköy, the Hittite capital in Asia Minor. The LXX gives the name as Nōe, in which form it appears in the NT (AV).
b. Life and character

Noah was a righteous man (Gn. 6:9, ṣaddîq), having the righteousness that comes of faith (Heb. 11:7, hē kata pistin dikaiosynē, lit. ‘the according to faith righteousness’), and had close communion with God, as is indicated by the expression he ‘walked with God’ (Gn. 6:9). He is also described as without fault among his contemporaries (Gn. 6:9; AV ‘perfect in his generations’) who had all sunk to a very low moral level (Gn. 6:1–5, 11–13; Mt. 24:37–38; Lk. 17:26–27), and to them he preached righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), though without success, as subsequent events showed. Like the other early Patriarchs, Noah was blessed with great length of years. He was 500 years old when his first son was born (Gn. 5:32), 600 when the *FLOOD came (Gn. 7:11) and died at the age of 950 (Gn. 9:28–29). According to the most likely interpretation of Gn. 6:3, together with 1 Pet. 3:20, when Noah was 480 years old God informed him that he was going to destroy man from the earth but would allow a period of grace for 120 years, during which time Noah was to build an *ARK, in which he would save his immediate family and a representative selection of animals (Gn. 6:13–22). It was probably during this period that Noah preached, but there was no repentance, and the *FLOOD came and destroyed all but Noah, his three sons and their four wives (Gn. 7:7; 1 Pet. 3:20).
After the Flood Noah, who had probably been a farmer before it, planted a vineyard (Gn. 9:20; ‘And Noah, the husbandman, began and planted a vineyard … ‘, which is to be preferred to the EVV) and, becoming drunk, behaved in an unseemly way in his tent. *HAM, seeing his father naked, informed his two brothers, who covered him, but it is probable that Canaan, Ham’s son, did something disrespectful to his grandfather, for Noah placed a curse on him when he awoke (Gn. 9:20–27).
c. God’s covenant with Noah

The covenant implied in Gn. 6:18 might be interpreted as salvation for Noah conditional upon his building and entering the ark, which obligations he fulfilled (v. 22). On the other hand, it may be that this passage simply makes reference to the covenant which God made with Noah after the Flood, and which he sealed by conferring a new significance on the rainbow (Gn. 9:9–17; cf. Is. 54:9). The main features of this covenant were that it was entirely instituted by God, that it was universal in scope, applying not only to Noah and his seed after him but to every living creature, that it was unconditional, and that it was everlasting. In it God undertook from his own free lovingkindness never again to destroy all flesh with a flood.
d. Descendants

Noah had three sons, *SHEM, *HAM and *JAPHETH (Gn. 5:32; 9:18–19; 10:1), who were born before the Flood, and accompanied him in the ark. We are told that after the Flood, from them ‘was the whole earth (’ereṣ) overspread’, or ‘the whole (population of) the earth dispersed’ (Gn. 9:19). Their descendants later spread out over a wide area, and an account is given of some of them in the Table of the *NATIONS in Gn. 10.
e. Cuneiform parallels

In the *FLOOD accounts which have been preserved in Akkadian the name of the hero is Utanapishtim, which corresponds to the name Ziusuddu in a Sumerian account of the early 2nd millennium BC, which probably lies behind the Akkadian versions. Though in the principal version of the Sumerian king list only eight rulers are named before the Flood, of whom Ziusuddu is not one, other texts list ten rulers, the tenth being Ziusuddu, who is credited with a reign of 36,000 years. The same is found in a late account in Gk. by the Babylonian priest Berossos, whose flood hero Xisouthros is the tenth of his pre-flood rulers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. J. Murray, The Covenant of Grace, 1954, pp. 12–16; E. A. Speiser, Mesopotamian Origins, 1930, pp. 160–161; H. B. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts, 1965, pp. 237–239; E. Laroche, Les noms des Hittites, 1966, p. 125; T. Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List, 1939, pp. 76–77 and n. 34; F. F. Bruce, NIDNTT 2, pp. 681–683.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Noah. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 826–827). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Noah (or Noe). A son of Lamech, and tenth in descent from *Adam. Acc. to the story in *Genesis (6–9), Noah and his family alone were saved in an ark of gopher-wood, when the rest of mankind were destroyed in the *Flood. He took with him into the ark specimens of all kinds of living creatures whereby the species were providentially preserved. From Noah, therefore, the entire surviving human race descended, through his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. To Noah is also attributed the discovery of viticulture (Gen. 9:20).
Other races have traditions of a great flood in very early times. In Babylonian mythology the figure of Utnapishtim corresponds to Noah in the biblical account, while in classical literature the story of Noah is closely paralleled by the legend of Deucalion. See also GILGAMESH, EPICS OF.

J. Fink, Noe der Gerechte in der frühchristlichen Kunst (Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, 4; 1955). J. P. Lewis, A Study of the Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature (Leiden, 1968), esp. pp. 3–41, 121–55. L. R. Bailey, Noah: The Person and the Story in History and Tradition (Columbia, SC [1989]). P. Lundberg, La Typologie baptismale dans l’ancienne Église (Acta Seminarii Neotestamenticii Upsaliensis, 10; Leipzig and Uppsala, 1942), pp. 73–116; J. *Daniélou, SJ, Sacramentum Futuri: Études sur les origines de la typologie biblique (Études de Théologie Historique, 1950), pp. 55–94; Eng. tr. (1960), pp. 69–112. See also comm. to GENESIS cited s.v., and bibl. to ARK and FLOOD.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 1165). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.



Bible Topic Japheth 


“Japheth. One of Noah’s three sons (Gn 5:32; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 10:1–5; 1 Chr 1:4–6) who, along with his wife, was among the eight human survivors of the great flood. Because Japheth and his brother Shem acted with respect and modesty in covering their father’s nakedness while he was in a drunken condition (Gn 9:20–23), they were both blessed in Noah’s prophetic pronouncement of Genesis 9:26, 27. Of Japheth, Noah said, “God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.” There are two common interpretations of the meaning of this prophecy. Some understand the “enlargement of Japheth” to be a reference to a great increase in numbers of descendants. “To dwell in the tents of Shem” is understood as Japheth’s sharing in the blessing of Shem. According to this view there is to be a time when God will work primarily with Shem (the people of Israel); but then at a later time Japheth will be brought into connection with the faith of Israel and share in its promises. In this view fulfillment is found in the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles at the inception of the NT church. Others understand the “enlargement of Japheth” to refer to territorial enlargement and the “dwelling in the tents of Shem” as the conquest of Shemite territory by Japhethites. In this view fulfillment is found in the Greek and Roman conquests of Palestine.
In the table of nations in Genesis 10, Japheth is listed as the father of Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras (vv 1–5). These are the ancestors of peoples who lived to the north and west of Israel, and who spoke what today are classified as Indo-European languages.”
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Japheth. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1095–1096). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

“JAPHETH (Heb. yep̱eṯ). One of the sons of Noah, usually mentioned last of the three (Gn. 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 1 Ch. 1:4), but his descendants are recorded first in Gn. 10 (and 1 Ch. 1:5–7). He was the ancestor of a number of tribes and peoples, most of whom had names which in historical times are associated with the regions to the N and W of the Middle East, especially Anatolia, and the Aegean (*NATIONS, TABLE OF). Japheth and his wife were among the eight people who escaped the Flood, and in a later incident he and Shem covered the nakedness of their father, Noah. In Noah’s prophetic declaration after this episode he prayed that God might enlarge Japheth, and that he might dwell in the tents of Shem, and have Canaan as a servant (Gn. 9:27). Many commentators take he to refer to God rather than Japheth, though either interpretation is possible.

If the latter alternative is followed the reference may be to the benefits of the gospel which, coming first to the descendants of Shem, were later extended to the N peoples. In the above verse the word used for ‘may he enlarge’ is yap̱t, but this is probably only a play on words and does not have anything else to do with the name Japheth (yep̱eṯ), which does not occur elsewhere in the Bible or in the ancient inscriptions. Some have connected Japheth, however, with the Gk. mythological figure Iapetos, a son of earth and heaven, who had many descendants. The name is not Gk., so may be a form of the biblical name.


BIBLIOGRAPHY. P. Dhorme, ‘Les Peuples issus de Japhet, d’aprés le Chapître X de la Genése’, Syria 13, 1932, pp. 28–49; D. J. Wiseman, ‘Genesis 10: Some Archaeological Considerations’, JTVI 87, 1955, pp. 14ff.; D. Neisman, ‘The Two Genealogies of Japheth’, in H. A. Hoffner (ed.), Orient & Occident, 1973, pp. 119ff.

Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Japheth. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 543). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“JAPHETH, SON OF NOAH (יֶפֶת, yepheth). One of Noah’s three sons who survived the flood of Gen 7 and helped repopulate the Earth; attributed as the ancestor of the Greeks and Persians in extrabiblical sources.


Japheth in the Old Testament
Japheth primarily appears in the flood account and subsequent events in Gen 6–10. He is listed as Noah’s third son (Gen 5:32; 1 Chr 1:4), but the exact birth order is unknown; Gen 10 lists Japheth’s genealogy first among Noah’s sons. After the flood, Japheth’s family helped populate the Earth along with Noah’s other sons, Shem and Ham. He receives God’s blessing in Gen 9:1 and Noah’s blessing in Gen 9:27, after he and Shem cover Noah’s nakedness.
Genesis 10:2–5 lists Japheth’s seven children and seven grandchildren. These descendants are seldom mentioned in the Old Testament outside of this genealogy, though there may be references to them in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa 66:19; Ezek 27:13; 32:26; 38:2–3, 6; 39:1, 6). In contrast, Shem and Ham’s sons are mentioned numerous places in the Old Testament.


Japheth in Jewish Writings
Several works outside of the Old Testament briefly mention Japheth. While deuterocanonical literature makes genealogical references to him, the book of Jubilees gives him a more extensive treatment (particularly his land portion in Jubilees 8:25–30). Jubilees 7:15 may attribute the founding of Athens to Japheth. Additionally, Jewish tradition designates Japheth as the ancestor of the Greeks and therefore of Abraham’s wife Keturah, whose children were considered the “uncles” of Israel (Ginzburg, Legends, 154, 244n314).

Jewish legends hold that Japheth was responsible for caring for the reptiles in the ark, while Noah cared for the wild beasts, Ham the birds, and Shem the domestic animals (Ginzberg, Legends, 148n37). Jewish writings suggest that Japheth had a smaller role in covering Noah’s nakedness after the flood than Shem, assisting only after Shem had already begun covering their father. Because of this, Shem’s blessing was greater than Japheth’s, and Noah pronounced a blessing in which Japheth’s descendants would receive beautiful land but would be subjected to Shem’s descendants (Ginzberg, Legends, 154).
Jewish legend also identifies Japheth as the ancestor of the Persians. Thus Japheth’s Persian descendant Ahasuerus was worthy to marry Esther because Japheth had acted righteously toward Noah (Ginzberg, Legends, 1144n68). Furthermore, Tannaitic and Amoraitic teachers saw the rebuilding of the temple under Cyrus of Persia as the fulfillment of Noah’s pronouncement over Japheth in Gen 9:27. Other rabbinical sources, however, argue that Gen 9:27 actually refers to the law being taught in the Greek language.


Ginzberg, Louis. Legends of the Jews. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
Josephus. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999.


Franklin, J. C. (2016). Japheth, Son of Noah. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


“JAPHETH (PERSON) [Heb yepet (יֶפֶת)]. The name of the third son of Noah. Japheth appears in the Hebrew Bible 11 times, in the primeval history and the Chronicler’s history (Gen 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18, 23, 27; 10:1, 2, 21; 1 Chr 1:4, 5).


A. The Name
The etymological origin and meaning of the name Japheth is uncertain. Some modern interpreters, following Saadia Gaon (9th century C.E.), take it to mean “fair, beautiful,” from yph “to be fair, beautiful.” According to some earlier Talmudic sages the beauty refers to the Greek language. However, this etymology was already correctly rejected by Abraham Ibn Ezra (12th century). Others suggest that the name is related to the Egyptian Keftiu (Crete) or to the name of the Greek mythological Titan Iapetos, father of Atlas, Prometheus, and Epimetheus. A possible meaning of Japheth is hinted at in the Hebrew pun yapt ʾĕlōhı̂m lĕyepet, “May God make wide for Japheth” (Gen 9:27). Thus the name may mean “spacious,” an allusion, at least in Genesis, to an expanded inheritance of land by Japheth. This possible interpretation is based in the name’s derivation from the root pty, “to be wide, spacious.”


B. Biblical Data
Japheth is the youngest of Noah’s 3 sons, the brother of Shem and Ham (Gen 5:32; 6:10). According to the genealogical table, Japheth comes first (10:1–5). Therefore, some modern scholars (as some Talmudic sages) consider him the eldest; but this is merely conjectural. Japheth, together with his brothers Shem and Ham and their wives, joined Noah in the Ark and escaped the Flood (6:9; 7:13–15; 9:1–18). He also shares together with his brothers the divine blessing and covenant (9:1, 17). Children were born to him, as to his other brothers, after the flood (10:1). In the story of Noah’s drunkenness (Gen 9:20–27), Japheth, after receiving the report of his father’s nakedness from his brother Ham, discreetly walked backward, together with his other brother Shem, and covered his father. As a result, he became the beneficiary of his father’s blessing. See also HAM.
Japheth had 7 sons (Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras) and 7 descendants (Gen 10:2–5; 1 Chr 1:5–7). Unlike the sons and descendants of Shem and Ham, who are mentioned in numerous places throughout the Hebrew Bible, the sons and descendants of Japheth are conspicuous by their absence from most of the biblical books. Outside the genealogical tables in Genesis and Chronicles, four of Japheth’s sons—Gomer, Javan, Tubal, and Meshech—are mentioned chiefly in two books: Isa 66:19 (Javan, Tubal, and Meshech) and Ezek 27:13; 32:26; 38:2, 3, 6; 39:1, 6 (Gomer and Tubal). Of Japheth’s descendants, the best known are two of Javan’s sons: Tarshish (mentioned about 29 times in the Hebrew Bible) and Kittim (mentioned 5 times). According to ethnographic conceptions informing the primeval history, Japheth is the ancestor of the peoples who inhabit the lands N of Canaan. According to later Jewish tradition he also occupies the far east (cf. Jdt 2:25, “east of Gog”; Jub. 8:29, “east … as far as the region of the waters”; cf. 9:7–13).


C. Jewish Tradition
Hardly any references are made to Japheth in the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha outside of the genealogical references to Noah’s family (2 En. 73:5; Apoc. Adam 4:1; T. Sim. 6:5; T. Isaac 3:15; L.A.B. 1:22; 4:1ff.). The most-extensive such reference to Japheth is in Jubilees: his birth (4:33), his role in the Noah story (7:9, 12), and his inheritance in the divine land distribution (8:10, 12, 25, 29; 9:7–13; 10:35, 36). Jubilees also gives the most detailed information about Japheth’s land portion, “The third part [of the earth] was assigned to Japheth, the land beyond the Tina river to the north of its mouth … the direction of the northeast, all the area of Gog and all the land east of it, all the way to the farthest north … towards the mountains of Qelt … towards the Ma’uk Sea … east of Gadir … west of Fereg … towards the Me’at Sea … toward Mount Rafa … five big islands and a huge land in the north …” (8:25–30). “The land given to Ham is hot, to Japheth cold, to Shem neither cold or hot” (ibid.). Josephus says that Phrygia belongs to Japheth. See Fig. GEO.05.
An interesting detail given in Jubilees about Japheth is that he became jealous of Ham and built a city named Adataneses (Athens?) after his wife (7:15). His granddaughter Melka, daughter of Madai (8:5), married Arphaxad, Shem’s son. In the quasi-Jewish Sibylline Oracles—in which the sons of Noah are given the names of Greek gods—Shem is identified with Cronos, Ham with Titan, and Japheth as Iapetus (3:110–15). Sethian Gnostic tractate Apocalypse of Adam (V,5 72:17; 73:14, 25; 74:11; 76:13–14) deals with the division of the world and empires among the sons of Noah.

Tannaitic and Amoraitic teachers considered Japheth the eldest of Noah’s sons. They held Shem to be Noah’s youngest son, and said that in the Bible he is mentioned first among the members of his family because he was the most righteous, wisest, and most-important son, not because he was the oldest (Sanh. 69b; Gen. Rab. 26:3; 37:7). Japheth assisted Shem in covering Noah’s nakedness and was blessed with a burial place for his sons Gog [Gomer?] (cf. Ezek 39:1) and Magog (Gen. Rab. 36; cf. Ezek 39:11). The sages propounded Gen 9:27 (see above) as referring to the rebuilding of the Temple by Cyrus, King of Persia, a descendant of Japheth (Yoma 10a). Another rabbi argued that Gen 9:27 refers to the teaching of the Law in the Greek language (Gen. Rab. 36: Deut. Rab. 1).


D. Christian and Islamic Literature
In the NT Japheth is mentioned, but his descendants Gog (see above) and Magog figure in the major international war of Revelation (20:8). In the early Christian literature, particularly in Irenaeus of Lyon, Lactantius, Hyppolytus of Rome, Clement, Origen, Epiphanius, and Eusebius, the sons of Noah and their generations are often alluded to but without much elaboration.
Isaac, E. (1992). Japheth (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, pp. 641–642). New York: Doubleday.



“JAVAN (PERSON) [Heb yāwān (יָוָן)]. One of 7 sons of Japheth and a grandson of Noah according to the Table of Nations (Gen 10:2) and the parallel genealogy in 1 Chr 1:5. The former text presents him as the ancestor of maritime peoples (“islands of the nations,” Gen 10:5). This refers to the area of the Aegean and E Mediterranean seas, as is shown by the inclusion of Elishah (Alashiya, Crete) and Kittim (Cyprus; Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7) in the list. Maritime trade of Javan is highlighted in Ezek 27:13, 19, while their distance from Palestine is the point of Isa 66:19. This distance explains the severity of the wrong inflicted on the Judeans by the Tyrians and Sidonians, who sold them into captivity even as far away as Javan (Joel 4:6).
Javan is to be identified with Ionia, an area of Greek settlement in SW Asia Minor from at least the 1st millennium B.C., and possibly several centuries earlier. Cities in the area included Smyrna and Ephesus (cf. Rev 2:1–11). Contact between the Greeks and the Assyrians as early as the reign of Sargon II (8th century B.C.) is shown from Akkadian records, which call the area Jawan or Jaman (Parpola 1970: 186–87). Under Cyrus (late 6th century B.C.), this coastal area of Asia Minor became the satrapy of Ionia. Later the name was expanded to describe the entire Greek population on both sides of the Aegean—an example of the whole being identified by one of its parts, as in our use of the name Russia. Because of the territorial expansion of the Greeks under Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.), the related term Javana is known even in the Sanskrit of India.
The extended usage of the name is evident in the book of Daniel. Here the empire of the Persians will be replaced by that of Javan and its king, referring to Alexander (Dan 8:21; 10:20; 11:2). This, yet another foreign domination, will not satisfy Israel. Rather they will rise against their Greek overlords (Zech 9:13), possibly a prophetic allusion to the period of the Maccabees (mid-2d century B.C.).
A second identification of a more limited use of the name Javan associates it with Gaza (Berger). Some have proposed this based on the collocation of Javan with the Danites (Ezek 27:19), a tribe which has early S ties. The LXX and several other Greek and Persian texts also support this identification. This interpretation cannot be valid for most of the uses of Javan, however, because of its much more northerly association in most texts.

Berger, P.-R. 1982. Ellasar, Tarschisch und Jawan, Gn 14 und 10. WO 13: 68–73.
Parpola, S. 1970. Neo-Assyrian Toponyms. AOAT 6. Neukirchen-Vluyn.
Baker, D. W. (1992). Javan (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 650). New York: Doubleday.

“JAVAN (Heb. yāwān; Gk. Iōván)
The fourth son of Noah’s son Japheth and the father of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim according to the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:2–4) and its parallel genealogy (1 Chr. 1:5–7). The land of Javan is to be identified originally with Ionia, an area of Greek settlement in southwest Asia Minor. Later the name was expanded to describe the entire Greek population on both sides of the Aegean Sea.
Isa. 66:19 highlights Javan as one of the distant nations that would witness a future manifestation of Yahweh’s glory. In an oracle against Tyre (Ezek. 27:13) Javan is mentioned with reference to its involvement in slave traffic and other commercial activities. The Javanites are referred to in Joel 3:6 [MT 4:6) as slave traders who purchased Jewish captives from the Philistines and Phoenicians. Finally, the empire of Javan was forecast to replace that of Persia (Dan. 8:21; 10:20; 11:2).
Hostetter, E. C. (2000). Javan. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 675). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
“JAVAN. One of the sons of Japheth (Gn. 10:2; 1 Ch. 1:5) and father of a group of peoples, *ELISHAH, *TARSHISH, *KITTIM and *DODANIM (Gn. 10:4; 1 Ch. 1:7), whose associations are with the regions to the N and W of the Middle East. It is generally accepted that this name (Heb. yāwān) is to be identified with Gk. Iōnes, which occurs as Iaones, probably for Iawones, in Homer (Iliad 13. 685), and refers to the people who later gave their name to Ionia. The name also occurs in Assyr. and Achaemenian inscriptions (Iâmanu and Yauna respectively). Isaiah mentions the descendants of Javan (LXX Hellas) beside Tubal as one of the nations (gôyîm) inhabiting distant islands and coastlands (’iyyîm, Is. 66:19). In the time of Ezekiel the descendants of Javan (LXX Hellas) were known as traders in men, bronze vessels and yarn, with Tyre (Ezk. 27:13, 19; in v. 19 RSV prefers to read mēûzā, ‘from Uzal’, for meûzzāl, ‘that which is spun, yarn’). The name Javan (EVV Greece) is used in the prophecies of Daniel to refer to the kingdom of Alexander of Macedon, and in Zc. 9:13 the term (EVV Greece, LXX Hellēnes) is probably used of the Seleucid Greeks.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. P. Dhorme, Syria 13, 1932, pp. 35–36; W. Brandenstein and M. Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen, 1964, p. 156.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Javan. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 544). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Javan.—Fourth son of Japhet and father of the Ionians or Greeks. He had four sons: Elisa, Tharsis, Cethim, and Dodanim or Rhodanim, who peopled Elida, Cilicia, Macedonia, and the countries of Rhodes”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 375). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.

“Javan—Greece (Ionia)

Son of Japheth
Gen. 10:2, 4
Descendants of, to receive good news
Is. 66:19, 20
Trade with Tyre
Ezek. 27:13, 19
King of, in Daniel’s visions
Dan. 8:21
Conflict with
Zech. 9:13″
Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1996). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index (p. 333). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.



“KITTIM [Heb kittı̂m (כִּתִּים)]. In the Table of Nations, the word refers to the descendants of Javan (Gen 10:4; cf. 1 Chr 1:7), but in other passages, the word refers to a place (cf. Num 24:24; Dan 11:30; 1 Macc 1:1).
The Kittim are descendants of Javan, grandson of Noah through Japheth, according to the Table of Nations (Gen 10:4; and the parallel genealogy in 1 Chr 1:7). They are associated with peoples from the region of the Aegean and the E Mediterranean. Balaam notes this maritime link in his fourth oracle (Num 24:24), where he predicts that ships from Kittim will cause difficulties for Assur, apparently the Assyrians, and Eber, possibly ancestors of the Hebrews (see Gen 10:21–25). This likely refers to the incursion of the Sea Peoples into the Levant during the 13th century B.C. Daniel 11:30 also mentions ships of the Kittim, and Jer 2:10 and Ezek 27:6 refer to its maritime setting. In the last text, their area is a source of wood used in the construction of Phoenician ships. It is also to be the source of the news of the destruction of the main Phoenician city, Tyre, according to Isa 23:1. Its distance from Phoenicia is stressed in Isa 23:12, since even flight to that far place will not provide refuge. Distance is also stressed in Jer 2:10.
The Heb term is apparently derived from the name of the town of Kition (Phoen kt or kty; Eg ktn; cf. Josephus Ant 1.28), which is near modern Larnaca on the south-central coast of Cyprus. It was a site of major importance from at least the Bronze Age (Barnett 1975: 370, 376). Some of the OT references could refer to the city itself, but the term seems to have expanded its scope to cover the entire area (Num 24:24; Isa 23:1; Ezek 27:6).
Even further expansion of the term is evident in some of the early versions of the OT and in the Apocrypha. 1 Macc 1:1 refers to Kittim as the birthplace of Alexander the Great, who is identified in that verse as “Alexander of Macedonia.” The term has thus expanded its usage westward to signify the Greek peninsula. It is even further extended by the Targum Onkelos in its reading of Kittim in Num 24:24 as Rome. The Vulgate reads this verse as Italy, as it also does Ezek 27:6 and Dan 11:30. It seems that the term might have become proverbial, referring to a location or people far distant from Israel’s customary purview, much as Timbuktu is used in American English. This would well fit the context of Num 24:24, Isa 23:12, Jer 2:10, and Dan 11:30. The Syriac Peshitta also stressed the geographical distance of Kittim by reading it as China (Cathay).
In the ostraca from the late 7th century B.C. found at Arad in the Judean desert, mention is made of Kittim with Greek names (Aharoni 1968: 11). This could point to the existence of Greek, if not Cypriot, soldiers in the service of the Israelite king, Josiah.
The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk reflects the historical and socioreligious context of its Essene authors during the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Pesher interprets the Chaldeans who will oppress Israel according to the canonical Habakkuk text (1:6) as the Kittim (2.12). In the Pesher, these Kittim have dominion over an Israel which is apostate in the eyes of the separatist Qumran community. These Kittim will come from far coastlands to inflict atrocities on all peoples (3.9–11), and their power will cause universal fear (3.4). Their distant maritime homeland and their apparent domination of Israel at the time of the Pesher itself support the interpretation of the Kittim as the Romans. Some propose a Syrian identification, but this locale does not appear to be sufficiently distant to fit the context (Brownlee 1979: 70).
Kittim are also mentioned in Jub 24:28–29, where they seem to be an archetypical, ultimate enemy who will confront the Philistines as the result of a curse upon them. No clear understanding of their identity, however, is possible from the context.

Aharoni, Y. 1968. Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple. BA 31: 2–32.
Barnett, R. D. 1975. Sea Peoples. CAH2 3:359–78.
Brownlee, W. H. 1979. The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk. Chico, CA.
Baker, D. W. (1992). Kittim. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 4, p. 93). New York: Doubleday.

“Kittim. Ancient Hebrew name for the island of Cyprus (Gn 10:4; Dn 11:30)”

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Kittim. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1291). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

KITTIM (Heb. kittɩ̂m, kittɩ̂yɩ̂m)
According to the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:1–32), a people descended from Japheth through Javan, thus the Ionians or Greeks (v. 4; cf. 1 Chr. 1:7). The name probably derived from the city the Phoenicians called Kitti (kty) and the Greeks Kition, located near modern Larnaka on the south-central coast of Cyprus. Elsewhere in the OT Kittim designated an ever-widening geographic area.
In Num. 24:24 the oracles of Balaam conclude with a reference to ships from Kittim (presumably Cyprus), which will afflict both Asshur (Assyria) and Eber (Hebrews), before coming to an end themselves. In Isa. 23:1, 12 the term refers to Cyprus as a trading partner of Tyre (cf. Ezek. 27:6), and in Jer. 2:10 its inhabitants are said to have been more faithful to their false gods than Israel has been to Yahweh. 1 Macc. 1:1; 8:5 report that Alexander the Great came from Kittim, thus identifying Greece—or at least Macedonia—with the place name Kittim. Dan. 11:30 alludes to the ships from Kittim in Num. 24:24, but applies the phrase to Roman intervention against Antiochus Epiphanes during his invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C.E. Thus Kittim came to refer to Rome too. The verse implies the further identification of the Seleucids with Asshur and Eber with the Hebrews.
In the Dead Sea Scrolls the Kittim are the eschatological foe (cf. 1QpHab). Descriptions of them often apply to either Syria or to Rome, but the commentary on Nahum (4QpNah) and the War Scroll (1QM) refer unmistakably to Rome.
Redditt, P. L. (2000). Kittim. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (pp. 776–777). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
“Kittim (kit´im).
1 The descendant of Javan, the fourth son of Japheth who was a son of Noah, and Elishah’s brother (Gen. 10:4; 1 Chron. 1:7).
2 An island in the Mediterranean Sea, possibly Cyprus. Both Num. 24:24 and Dan. 11:30 refer to “ships from Kittim.” The first-century CE historian Josephus (Antiquities 1.28) identifies Kittim with Kition, or Kitti, a Phoenician city on the island of Cyprus, later known as Larnaka. It is possible that the biblical texts use the word for this city or for the entire island of Cyprus, or even as a generic reference to all islands of the Aegean Sea. In Jer. 2:10 and Ezek. 27:6, the NRSV simply translates Kittim as Cyprus. First Maccabees, however, says that Philip of Macedon was from Kittim (1:1), indicating the name might refer to Greece (or at least to Macedonia).
3 A people mentioned briefly in the pseudepigraphical books Testament of Simeon (6:3) and Jubilees (24:28).
4 A people who are described in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the last Gentile world power to oppress the people of God. In the Habakkuk commentary (1QpHab) the “Chaldeans,” sent by God to execute divine judgment, were understood to be the Kittim. In a fragmentary commentary on Isaiah (4Q161–165) the downfall of the Assyrians was interpreted as the war of the Kittim. The war of the Kittim is described in the War Scroll; the children of light take the field against the enemy of Israel, the Kittim, “those who deal wickedly against the covenant” (1QM 1:2; 15:2). The author of the scroll believed that Isaiah’s prophecy against Assyria (31:8) would be fulfilled after the victory over the Kittim. Many scholars identify the Kittim in these passages with the Syrians, but others associate them with the Romans.
Gitay, Y. (2011). Kittim. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 521). New York: HarperCollins.
KITTIM (Kītʹ tĭm) Tribal name for the island of Cyprus, sometimes spelled Chittim. This name was derived from Kition, a city-state on the southeastern side of the island. Long associated with maritime lore, the island was ruled first by Greece, then the Assyrians, and finally Rome. Genesis 10:4 traces the people’s roots to Noah’s son Japheth. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both mention it in their prophecies (Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6; cp. Isa. 23:1, 12).
Kittim is used in intertestamental writings as denoting all of the land west of Cyprus. First Maccabees credits it as being the land of Alexander the Great (1:1; 8:5). The writer of Daniel understood it to be a part of the Roman Empire (11:30) used to threaten Antiochus Epiphanes. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain several references to Kittim, the most notable being the defeat of her people (Romans) at the hands of God’s people. See Cyprus.”
Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Kittim. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 998). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
KITTIM (כִּתִּים, kittim; כִּתִּיִּים, kittiyyim). The descendants of Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7) or the land belonging to them.

The Table of Nations in Gen 10 identifies the Kittim as the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth through his son, Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7). The term can also refer to the land belonging to the Kittim, which is often equated with Cyprus (Num 24:24; Isa 23:1, 12; Jer 2:10; Ezek 27:6; Dan 11:30). The name Kittim is derived from the name of a Bronze Age Phoenician town named “Kition” (kt or kty) that was located in southern Cyprus (Barnett, “Sea Peoples,” 370, 376). Second Temple Jewish texts use the term Kittim to refer to the islands and lands around the northern rim of the Mediterranean and into the Aegean.
The meaning of the term Kittim evolved over time. In early biblical texts it refers to the people who descended from Javan and settled in Kition. Later biblical texts refer to people from Cyprus, Greeks in general, and sea peoples from the Mediterranean and Aegean as the Kittim. Eventually, the term Kittim became a general title for distant enemies or eschatological enemies, including the Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, and the satanic forces of Belial.

Kittim in the Bible
In the Table of Nations in Gen 10, the Kittim are the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth through his son, Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chr 1:7). Most of the other references to Kittim or Cyprus are geographical references related to the region’s coasts (Jer 2:10), ships (Num 24:24; Dan 11:30), or timber (Ezek 27:6). Isaiah and Jeremiah refer to Cyprus as a land located far out at sea (Isa 23:1, 12; Jer 2:20). The Syriac Peshitta identifies it as Cathay (i.e., China). The term may have become an idiom for distant lands.
Several biblical prophecies contain references to Kittim:

• Balaam prophesied that “Ships shall come from Kittim” (Num 24:24). This likely envisions the Sea Peoples’ incursion into Canaan in the 13th century BC, which Jews of later periods linked with their own contemporary enemies (compare Num 24:24; the Vulgate uses the term Italia, and Targum Onkelos uses the term רומָאֵי, rwma’ey).
• In an oracle regarding Tyre, Isa 23 mentions Cyprus as a far-off place (Isa 23:1) and warns that people will not be able to escape judgment even if they flee there (Isa 23:12).
• Ezekiel mentions Cyprus in a lament over Tyre, listing lumber from Cyprus as an element of Tyre’s wide-ranging maritime trade (compare Vulgate, Italiae).
• Jeremiah refers to Cyprus in a criticism of Jerusalem’s apostasy: “Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see … if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit” (Jer 2:10–11 ESV).
• In a description of war between two future kings (likely the Ptolemies and Seleucids), Daniel predicts, “Ships of Kittim shall come against [the northern king], and he shall be afraid and withdraw” (Dan 11:30). This description aligns with Antiochus Epiphanes second failed attempt to campaign in Egypt (168 BC). The LXX renders “Kittim” (כִּתִּים, kittim) with the Greek term for “Romans” (Ῥομαῖοι, Rhomaioi; compare Theodotion’s version of Daniel, which reads Κίτιοι, Kitioi).

Extrabiblical Texts
In the Second Temple period, Kittim seems to have become a “general epithet for western nations” or for any people who “came to Israel by boat” (Eshel, “The Kittim,” 33). For example, 1 Maccabees associates the Kittim with the Macedonians (1 Maccabees 1:1; 8:5). Jubilees refers to inhabitants of various Greek islands as Kittim (Jubilees 24:28–29; 37:10). Wise, Abegg, and Cook note that in these texts, the referent had expanded beyond mere geography to take on the sense of “archetypical bad guys” (Wise, Abegg, and Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 614).

The Arad Letters
The seventh-century BC Arad Letters speak of food supplies for “the Kittim,” who in this case seem to be mercenaries from the Aegean (Letter 1, lines 1–10; cited in Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 12–14). The text does not specify whether the local king of Judah (Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 11) or the Babylonian emperor (Aharoni et al., The Carta Bible Atlas, 265) had hired these mercenaries. It appears that the Kittim were responsible for patrolling the Babylonian Empire’s southern flank against Egyptians.

Deuterocanonical Literature
In two instances, 1 Maccabees connects the Kittim with the Macedonians:

1. First Maccabees 1:1 records that Alexander the Great defeated the Persian King Darius after he had come “from the land of Kittim (Χεττιμ, Chettim).”
2. First Maccabees 8:5 speaks of the Roman defeat of “Philip” and his son “Perseus king of the Kittim (Κιτεών, Kiteōn).”

The Qumran community identified the various Old Testament references to the Kittim with their own enemies, the forces of Belial or the Sons of Darkness, whom they expected to defeat in a final eschatological battle. Their enemies were likely either the Hellenistic kingdom of the Seleucids (and Ptolemies) or the Roman Empire (Pesher Nahum [4QpNah] 3–4.1.2–3; Pesher Habakkuk [1QpHab] 2.12, 14; 3.4, 9; 4.5, 10; 6.1, 10; 9.7; Pesher Psalms [1QpPs] 9–10.2, 3; Pesher Isaiah [4QpIsaa] 7–10.3, 7, 9, 11, 12; War Scroll [1QM] 1.2, 4, 6, 9, 12; 11.11; 15.2; 16.3, 6, 8, 9; 17.12, 14; 18.2, 4; 19.10, 13; 4QMa 10.2.2, 8, 9, 10, 12; 11.2.1, 5, 7, 8, 19, 20; 13.3, 5; 4QMb 1.9, 12; Sefer ha Milḥamah [4Q285] 5.6; [11Q14] 1.1.4, 6). For example:

• The New Jerusalem Text lists the eschatological Kittim along with Israel’s ancient foes, “Edom and Moab and the Ammonites” (4QNJa = 4Q554 3.3.14–21).
• Sefer ha-Milḣamah (4Q285) developed the idea that the Branch of David would defeat and judge the Kittim (lines 1–6).
• The War Scroll (1QM) describes a six-year war with the “Kittim of Asshur” (1QM 1.2) and the “Kittim in Egypt” (1.4). The identity of these forces is debated. Sukenik interpreted them as the two Hellenistic kingdoms of the second century BC, the Seleucids in Syria and the Ptolemies in Egypt (Sukenik, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 36n14; Rowley, “The Kittim”). Yigael Yadin interpreted these passages as referring to the Roman forces operating out of Syria and Egypt around the time that Pompey intervened to end the Jewish civil war (63 BC; Yadin, The Scroll of the War, 258).

Key Old Testament texts that contributed to this eschatological view of the Kittim are Num 24:24, Dan 11–12, and the books of Nahum and Habakkuk. Although neither Nahum nor Habakkuk uses the term Kittim, the Qumran community adapted their references to Israel’s enemies (Babylon in Habakkuk and Assyria in Nahum) for their own context. For example, the Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab) interprets Habakkuk’s “Chaldeans” (כַּשְׂדִּים, kasdim) as the Kittim and identifies Roman imperial practices in individual texts from Habakkuk. Just as the Babylonians had been God’s agents for punishing Judah’s sins in Habakkuk’s time, the Qumran community saw the Roman invasion as punishment for the sins of the Jerusalem elite, like the “Wicked Priest” (i.e., Hyrcanus). The Pesher Nahum (4QpNah = 4Q169) also viewed the Kittim as the Romans but saw them as outright satanic agents to be defeated in final battle. Echoing this same theme, the Pesher Isaiah (4QpIsaa = 4Q161) spoke of a final battle where in the “Branch of David” would defeat “all the forces of Belial” and put to death the “king of the Kittim.”

Aharoni, Yohanan. Arad Inscriptions. Translated by Joseph Naveh Ben-Or. Revised by A. F. Rainey. Judean Desert Studies. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981.
———. “Arad: Its Inscriptions and Its Temple.” Biblical Archaeologist 31 (1968): 2–32.
Aharoni, Yohanan, Michael Avi-Yonah, Anson F. Rainey, and Ze’ev Safrai, eds. The Carta Bible Atlas. 4th ed. Jerusalem: Carta, 2002.
Barnett, R. D. “Sea Peoples.” Pages 359–78 in vol. 3 of Cambridge Ancient History. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Brooke, George J. “The Kittim in the Qumran Pesharim.” Pages 135–59 in Images of Empire. Edited by Alexander Loveday. JSOT Supplement 122. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
Brownlee, William H. “Kittim.” Pages 45–46 in vol. 3 of International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
———. The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk. Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1979.
Eshel, Hanan. “The Kittim in the War Scroll and in the Pesharim.” Pages 29–34 in Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature 37. Edited by David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick, and Daniel R. Schwartz. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Horgan, Maurya P. Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books. Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1979.
Lim, Timothy H. Pesharim. Companion to the Qumran Scrolls. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.
Rowley, Harold Henry. “The Kittim and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 88, no. 2 (1956): 92–109.
Sukenik, E. L. The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1955.
VanderKam, James, and Peter Flint. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. 4th ed. London: Penguin, 1998.
Wise, Michael O., Martin G. Abegg, Jr., and Edward M. Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.
Yadin, Yigael. The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness. Translated by B. Rabin and C. Rabin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Brueggemann, D. A. (2016). Kittim. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“CHITTIM—or Kittim, a plural form (Gen. 10:4), the name of a branch of the descendants of Javan, the “son” of Japheth. Balaam foretold (Num. 24:24) “that ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and afflict Eber.” Daniel prophesied (11:30) that the ships of Chittim would come against the king of the north. It probably denotes Cyprus, whose ancient capital was called Kition by the Greeks.
The references elsewhere made to Chittim (Isa. 23:1, 12; Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6) are to be explained on the ground that while the name originally designated the Phoenicians only, it came latterly to be used of all the islands and various settlements on the sea-coasts which they had occupied, and then of the people who succeeded them when the Phoenician power decayed. Hence it designates generally the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean and the races that inhabit them.”
Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Javan (Gn. 10:4 = 1 Ch. 1:7; Heb. kittîm) whose descendants settled on the island of Cyprus where their name was given to the town of Kition, modern Larnaka, which is referred to in the Phoenician inscriptions as kt or kty. They engaged in sea trade (Nu. 24:24) and the name seems to have come to apply to the whole island of Cyprus (Is. 23:1, 12), and then in a more general way to the coastlands and islands of the E Mediterranean (’iyyê kittiyyîm: Je. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6). The ostraca of c. 600 BC from Arad refer to ktym, probably mercenaries, principally perhaps Greeks, from the islands and coastlands. In Daniel’s fourth vision, which probably deals with the period from Cyrus to Antiochus Epiphanes, the latter’s failure to conquer Egypt, due to the intervention of Rome, is probably referred to in 11:30, where ‘the ships of Kittim’ must be Rome. The author probably saw in Rome’s intervention the fulfilment of Nu. 24:24, where Vulg. translates Kittim by ‘Italy’ (so also in Dn. 11:30) and the Targum of Onkelos by ‘Romans’. The name occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls, also probably with reference to Rome, being used, for instance, in the commentary on Habakkuk as an interpretation of the ‘Chaldeans’ of that prophet (Hab. 1:6).

BIBLIOGRAPHY. A. Lemaire, Inscriptions hibraïques, 1, 1977, p. 156; Y. Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, 1962, pp. 22–26.
Mitchell, T. C. (1996). Kittim. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 657). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“KITTIM kitʹəm, ki-tēmʹ [Heb. kittîm, kittîyîm (Gen. 10:4; Nu. 24:24; 1 Ch. 1:7; Isa. 23:12; Jer. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6; Dnl. 11:30), DSS kittîʾîm—probably refers to nationals (Kittites or Kittians) of a place Kit or Kitti]; RSV also CYPRUS (Isa. 23:1, 12; Jer. 2:10; Ezk. 27:6); AV also CHITTIM; NEB also “the west” (Dnl. 11:30). A city on Cyprus, called by the Phoenicians KTY (= Kitti). Its Greek name was Kition, the name by which the Hebrews designated the island as a whole and then the Mediterranean peoples generally or even certain nations specifically, such as Macedonia and Rome. According to Josephus (Ant. i.6.1 [128]), “the name Chethim [was] given by the Hebrews to all islands and to most maritime countries” (cf. “the isles of Kittim” [Jer. 2:10]).

In Gen. 10:4 Kittim is one of the four sons of Javan (= Ionia, or Greece), the others being Elishah, Tarshish, and Rodanim (cf. 1 Ch. 1:7); Elishah may be another city-state of Cyprus. Ezk. 27:6f also differentiates Kittim from Elishah. Josephus seems to be wrong in identifying Elishah with the Aeolians and Kittim with the whole of Cyprus. The biblical derivation of these islands from Javan is historically correct, as shown by the vast migrations from the north in the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. In these the aborigines of Greece and Ionia were displaced southward into the islands of the Mediterranean, where they in turn both displaced and mingled with the natives. See ANET, pp. 262f
The oracles of Balaam conclude with the prophecy (Nu. 24:23f):
“Sea-peoples shall gather from the north; and ships, from the district of Kittim.
I look, and they afflict Eber; but they too shall perish forever!”
(This reading follows [in part] W. F. Albright, who has shown that a more exact form of the original text can be obtained through a knowledge of ancient orthography; cf. JB). The final phase of the migrations of sea-peoples mentioned in v 23 was the coming of the Philistines to Palestine in the 12th cent. B.C. The eponym Eber is here employed as a poetic term for the Hebrews (so the versions) in their homeland. Dramatically, Balaam did at last please Balak by predicting Philistine oppression of the Hebrews, but his last statement gives them their freedom again through the destruction of the Philistines.
Later misreading of v 24b produced the traditional text:
And they shall afflict Asshur
and they shall afflict Eber;
but they too shall come to destruction.

Cyprus never did subdue Asshur (= Assyria); instead, the Assyrian king Sargon II placed his stele at Kition in 712 B.C. His successors Sennacherib and Esarhaddon strengthened Assyrian rule there, the latter claiming tribute from all the isles from Cyprus to Tarshish (ANET, p. 290). References to Kittim in Isa. 23:1, 12 (RSV Cyprus) probably relate to the Assyrian period (despite v 13). Verse 12 refers to Luli king of Sidon, who sought refuge in Cyprus from Sennacherib but there met his doom (ANET, p. 288). Kittim as mercenary soldiers of Judah appear on the ostraca of Arad (see ARAD III).

Hebrew ostracon from Arad (ca 600 B.C.) in which Eliashib is ordered to give wine and flour to the Kittim, who were apparently mercenaries in the Judean army (Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Lacking any literal fulfillment, the Kittian oppression of Assyria and Eber became a mysterious prophecy of the future. Some Jews may have seen in the conquest by Alexander the Great a fulfillment of this prophecy, with Kittim denoting Macedonia (as in 1 Macc. 1:8; 8:5) and Asshur denoting the Persian empire. An even more intricate interpretation is implied by Dnl. 11:30: “For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant.” The setting of this verse is Antiochus Epiphanes’ invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C. Rome intervened by sending its commissioner Gaius Popilius Laenas, who (backed by the Roman navy) successfully demanded the withdrawal of the Syrians.
Cowed but resentful, Antiochus vented his rage on the Jews in a fearsome persecution. According to H. L. Ginsberg (Studies in Daniel [1948], p. 72), Daniel interpreted Nu. 24:24b to mean: “The Kittim (= Romans) shall afflict Asshur (= Syria); and they (the Syrians) shall afflict Eber (= Hebrews).”
In the Qumrân Scrolls, the Kittim are the great eschatological foe, the last great earthly empire to precede the messianic kingdom. Since these people have already arrived on the scene of history, the messianic age is not far off. Some scholars have identified these Kittim with Seleucid Syria. This identification fits well the book of Jubilees, a work found among the Qumrân fragments but probably of pre-Qumrânian composition. Jub 24:28f predicts punishment of the Philistines by both Kittim and Jews, with probable allusion to ravages of the Palestinian coastal towns by both Seleucids and Maccabees. The mention of Kittim in 37:10 may allude to Seleucid oppression of the Jews. Though some students of the DSS have seen allusions to the Seleucids and Ptolemies in the phrases “Kittim of Assyria” and “Kittim in Egypt” in the War Scroll (1 QM 1:2, 4), these are probably only geographic, not national, distinctions.
The Kittim are generally portrayed as world conquerors and oppressors but not specifically as persecutors of the sect of the Scrolls. According to 1QpHab 9:5ff the wealth of the “last priests of Jerusalem” (the persecutors of the sect) will in the last days be given up to the army of the Kittim. QpIsaa4 3:7f, however, explains Isa. 10:34 to mean: “They are the Kittim wh[o] will f[all] by the hand of Israel, when the oppressed of [Judah subdue] all the nations.” Probably this refers to the expected eschatological war, in which the Sons of Light will defeat the Kittim and all other nations. This “war of the Kittim” (3:11) is elaborately described in 1QM (the War Scroll).
Most descriptions of the Kittim in 1QpHab are general, applying equally well to the Seleucids and the Romans, although giving the impression of a world empire like Rome. Other depictions are clearly more apt for the Romans. “From afar they will fly as an eagle” (Hab. 1:8) is amplified: “From afar they will come, from remote shores of the sea, to devour all the peoples as an eagle” (1QpHab 13:10f.). The Hebrew lacks a word for “remote,” but the idea is implicit in the appositional relationship. The reference to the eagle may allude to the worship of military standards and insignia (including the eagle emblem) mentioned in 6:4f and well attested for the Roman legions but not for the Seleucids. Paleographic study places this MS more than a century earlier than the incident mentioned by Josephus (BJ vi.6.1 [316]). The Kittim have mōšelîm (rulers, governors, and commanders), but not melāḵîm (kings); but see below. The annual succession of provincial governors, appointed by the Roman senate (“their house of guilt”), is probably referred to in 4:10–13.
The most conclusive proof for the Roman identification is 4QpNah, which after noting the failure of “[Deme]trius, king of Greece … to enter Jerusalem” states that God had never given the city “into the power of the kings of Greece from the time of Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose.” The clear chronological distinction placing the rise of the “rulers of the Kittim” after the time of the “kings of Greece” (Syria) points conclusively to the Romans as the Kittim. Yet after 44 B.C., when Caesar became a virtual king, one could speak of “the king of the Kittim” (1QM 15:2).
The identification of the Kittim with the Romans in late Jewish thought is well supported by the versions: Nu. 24:24 (Onk, Vulg); Ezk. 27:6 (Tg Jonathan, Vulg); Dnl. 11:30 (LXX, Tg Jonathan, Vulg).

Bibliography.—Y. Aharoni, IEJ, 16 (1966), 1–7; W. F. Albright, JBL, 63 (1944), 207–233; G. R. Driver, The Judaean Scrolls (1965) (Zealot hypothesis, Kittim = Romans); A. Dupont-Sommer, The Jewish Sect of Qumran and the Essenes (1954), pp. 14–37 (Kittim = Romans); R. Goossens, Nouvelle Clio, 4 (1952), 137–170 (Kittim = Romans); M. P. Horgan, Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books (1979); H. H. Rowley, PEQ, 88 (1956). 92–109 (Kittim = Seleucids); E. Stauffer, TLZ, 76 (1951), 667–674 (Kittim = Seleucids); G. Vermes, Discovery in the Judean Desert (1956), pp. 81–85 (Kittim = Romans); Y. Yadin, Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (1962) (Kittim = Romans).

Brownlee, W. H. (1979–1988). Kittim. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 3, pp. 45–46). Wm. B. Eerdmans.



Bible Character Noah Quran Reflections

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“It is interesting to note the details where these two versions of the Noah story converge: there is the mention of waters gushing forth from the earth, and not simply rainfall; there is also the mention of two animals of every kind. Even in these details, however, the differences are noteworthy. Genesis actually does not say that the waters gushed up out of the earth per se as the Qur’an does but that “the fountains of the great deep burst forth.” These “fountains of the deep” bear an obvious relation to Genesis 1, which speaks of God’s breath-wind (Heb. ruach) blowing across “the face of the deep.” It is clear—as clear as chaos can be!—that “the deep” represents the dark, mysterious, and massive waters of the sea (the Mediterranean, to be precise). In Genesis 1, it is these waters of “the deep” that God divides into waters “above” (whence falls the rain) and waters “below” (whence flow the springs). These waters, situated above and below the dry land called earth, are representative in biblical cosmology of the powers of swirling chaos, tohu bohu, that continually threaten the order of creation at its edges. In the flood narrative of Genesis 7, God is portrayed as unleashing these chaotic powers of destruction upon the earth, thereby reversing the act of creation as it is described in Genesis 1: the waters above and the waters below converge upon the land. Thus in the Genesis account, we encounter an act of divine decreation, God’s undoing what was done in creation. Chaos is let loose from its boundaries above and below and gushes back in upon the dry land. The point is not that the Qur’an denies this portrayal of Noah’s flood but that it mutes, if not altogether silences, the cosmic, even universal elements of the Genesis story.

Another difference between Genesis and the Qur’an regarding the story of Noah concerns the number of animals who made it on board. In this case, the difference very likely begins with varying traditions within the Bible itself. The Qur’an’s mention of “two of every kind” echoes God’s instructions to Noah in Genesis to bring “two of every kind,” “of every living thing, of all flesh” (6:19). But Genesis includes another narrative tradition in which God commands that “seven pairs of all clean animals … and seven pairs of the birds of the air also” (7:2–3) embark on the ark. It becomes clear later that the greater number of kosher animals is necessary for the sacrifices that Noah would offer after the ark hit dry ground: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20). In other words, more than just a pair become necessary when Noah’s story is told in a culture in which sacrificial animals are important; in such a setting one would be likely to ask how Noah would be able to offer sacrifices without a surplus of kosher creatures. The Qur’an, meanwhile, would have no need to bother with this issue, given the fact that sacrificial practices and concerns are virtually absent from its pages.
But of course it is not only animals that board the ark. A remnant of the human community is also delivered. At this juncture, though, the Qur’an includes a subplot that is absent from the Bible:

Surah 11:42–43
And as it sailed along with them amid waves like mountains, Noah called out to his son, who stood apart: “My son, embark with us, and do not remain with the unbelievers.”
He said: “I will seek refuge in a mountain that will protect me from water.”
He said: “Today, there is no protector from Allah’s Decree, except for him on whom He has mercy.”
Then the waves came between them and so he was one of those who were drowned.

There is no story like this one in Genesis, nor is it easy to locate anything comparable in the history of Jewish interpretation of this passage.6 This may be entirely unique to the qur’anic revelation. In any case, it is a highly significant story line: whereas in Genesis Noah took his entire household—“you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (6:18)—in the Qur’an the humans who are saved are not necessarily all bound by family ties. Noah boards with family members who are believers and with others who have also believed in his proclamation. Further, one of his own sons, refusing to embark on the ark and seeking his refuge elsewhere, is drowned in the floodwaters. Robinson suggests that this fascinating detail may provide another point of identification between Noah’s story and Muhammad’s own prophetic experience, for it “probably mirrors the anguish of the Muslims who left relatives behind when they migrated [from Mecca to Medina].”7 With this new twist in Noah’s story, the Qur’an underscores the idea that Islam creates a new kind of social arrangement, a polis or social identity that is not dependent upon blood kinship but rather upon submission to Allah’s will.”

Lodahl, M. (2010). Claiming Abraham: Reading the Bible and the Qur’an Side by Side (pp. 119–121). Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.

Decree vs Knowledge

Decree vs Knowledge


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Most Calvinists place God’s decree above his foreknowledge. What that boils down to in essence is that they believe God must decree something for him to know it. Many Arminians make the same mistake but the other way around. They believe God’s decree is based on God’s knowledge. Moderate Calvinism teaches that God’s decree is in accordance with his foreknowledge. One is not based on the other. They are in accord with each other.


The Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis

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“The Ordo Salutis
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of salvation”?

The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively appropriated by the elect. In Scripture σωτηρία, salus, has a double meaning, one more subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective appropriation of salvation. Christ is called σωτηρία not merely because He applies His merits but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation. In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the designation “soteriology.”

2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of salvation”?

That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and appreciated.

The opposite of all this is true. There is order and regularity in the application of salvation as well as in every other area of creation. The acts and operations each have their own fixed place, from which they cannot be uprooted. They are connected to each other from what follows and from what precedes; they have their basis and their result. Consequently, the Scripture gives us an ordered sequence (e.g., Rom 8:28–30). At the same time, this order shows us that even in what is most subjective the purpose of God may not be limited to the satisfaction of the creature’s longing for blessedness. If this were so, then the order that is slow and in many respects tests the patience of the children of God would be lost. But here, too, God works first of all to glorify Himself according to the principles of an eternal order and an immanent propriety.

3. Does unanimity rule among the theologians in the identification of the different steps that belong to the order of salvation?

No, a great variety rules in sequence as well as in completeness. All do not enumerate the same steps. When they all have the same things, they are given in a different sequence. Different terms are used for one and the same thing.

4. Enumerate some points of difference that are important for proper differentiation.

a) An important point is the varying and unclear definition of the concept of regeneration. For many theologians the locus on regeneration is completely lacking, although many federalists are an exception here. At the same time these theologians do of course know of regeneration, and its specific character has not escaped them entirely.

1. Some identify “regeneration” (regeneratio) with “conversion” (conversio). This is quite customary with the dogmaticians of the 17th century. The Canons of Dort teach in chapters 3 and 4, article 11: “Furthermore, when God accomplishes His good pleasure in the elect or works true conversion in them … He not only powerfully illumines their mind by the Holy Spirit … but by the effective power of the same regenerating Spirit, He penetrates to the inmost parts of the man, opens the closed heart … infuses new qualities into the will, and makes the dead living … (article 12) and this is that—so often proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures—regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead and making alive, which God, without us, works in us.”1 Owen also expresses himself in a similar way.
Some, however, sought to avoid the lack of clarity that may originate from this usage by a more precise distinction between two kinds of conversion. So Turretin makes mention of a double conversio. The first is habitual and passive. It consists in producing a habit or disposition of the soul: “Habitual or passive conversion occurs through the infusion of supernatural habits by the Holy Spirit.” The second conversion is called active and effective conversion. It is the exercising in faith and repentance of the already implanted habitus: “Active or effective conversion occurs through the exercise of those good habits by which the acts of faith and of repentance are both given by God and elicited in man.” He then adds, however, that it is better to call the first kind of conversion “regeneration,” because it refers to the new birth by which man is renewed according to the image of his Maker, and to limit the term “conversion” to the second kind, since in it the activity of man is not excluded.

2. The majority by far summarize regeneration and conversion under the concept of internal calling. Wollebius says, “Particular calling is termed: (a) new creation, (b) regeneration, etc.” In the schools it is called (a) effectual election, (b) effectual calling, (c) internal calling. Accordingly, some speak first about calling, then about faith, then about conversion, so that calling apparently takes the place of regeneration (e.g., the Leiden Synopsis). Calling is often enough described as an implanting into Christ, a union with Christ, an indissoluble joining of the person of the elect with the person of the Mediator, all of them concepts that bring regeneration to mind clearly enough.

3. Others take the concept of regeneration in a very wide sense, as almost completely synonymous with sanctificatio, “sanctification,” and under that notion understand the entire process by which the old nature of man is transformed into a new nature resembling the image of God. Calvin says (Institutes, 3.3.9), “Therefore, in a word, I describe poenitentia [repentance] as regeneration, of which the goal is none other than that the image of God, defiled and nearly wiped out in us by the transgression of Adam, is restored in us.… And this restoration is not completed in one moment or in one day or one year; but with continual, yes, even slow steps God removes corruption from his elect.” Later we will see why this wider use of the term has a certain right.

b) Another important point that lacks clarity lies in the concept of calling. While for this concept some still have all the emphasis fall on the immediacy of the action and thus identify internal calling with regeneration, others hold to the obvious thought that calling already presupposes a life and the capacity to hear, and so must be distinguished from the initial begetting of life.

c) Also, the concept of poenitentia, “repentance,” is not always clearly distinguished. Sometimes this word is taken to mean long processes that accompany the whole of life here on earth, sometimes for instantaneous actions at a critical moment.”

As seen above, Calvin identifies poenitentia, regeneratio, sanctificatio.”
Vos, G. (2012–2016). Reformed Dogmatics. (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, A. Janssen, … K. Batteau, Trans.) (Vol. 4, pp. 1–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Practically all critical scholars agree Jesus died and rose again

Practically all critical scholars agree Jesus died and rose again

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“There are a minimum number of facts agreed upon by practically all critical scholars, whatever their school of thought. At least twelve separate facts are considered to be knowable history.

(1) Jesus died by crucifixion and (2) was buried. (3) Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended. (4) Although not as widely accepted, many scholars hold that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
Critical scholars further agree that (5) the disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus. Because of these experiences, (6) the disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection. (7) This message was the center of preaching in the early church and (8) was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
As a result of this preaching, (9) the church was born and grew, (10) with Sunday as the primary day of worship. (11) James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus. (12) A few years later, Paul was converted by an experience which he, likewise, believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.”

Habermas, G. R. (1996). The historical Jesus: ancient evidence for the life of Christ (p. 158). Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company.

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Dispensations and Prophecy Damascus Document Dead Sea Scrolls

Excerpt from Exhortation. In this portion we see many topics. Dispensationalism, Watchers, Prophecy
“Hear now, my sons, and I will uncover your eyes that you may see and understand the works of God, that you choose that which pleases Him and reject that which He hates, that you may walk perfectly in all His ways and not follow after thoughts of the guilty inclination and after eyes of lust. For through them, great men have gone astray and mighty heroes have stumbled from former times till now. Because they walked in the stubbornness of their heart the Heavenly Watchers fell; they were caught because they did not keep the commandments of God. And their sons also fell who were tall as cedar trees and whose bodies were like mountains. All flesh on dry land perished; they were as though they had never been because they did their own will and did not keep the commandment of their Maker so that His wrath was kindled against them. III Through it, the children of Noah went astray, together with their kin, and were cut off. Abraham did not walk in it, and he was accounted a friend of God because he kept the commandments of God and did not choose his own will. And he handed them down to Isaac and Jacob, who kept them, and were recorded as friends of God and party to the Covenant for ever.

The children of Jacob strayed through them and were punished in accordance with their error. And their sons in Egypt walked in the stubbornness of their hearts, conspiring against the commandments of God and each of them doing that which seemed right in his own eyes. They ate blood, and He cut off their males in the wilderness.

And at Kadesh He said to them, Go up and possess the land (Deut. 9:23). But they chose their own will and did not heed the voice of their Maker, the commands of their Teacher, but murmured in their tents; and the anger of God was kindled against their congregation. Through it their sons perished, and through it their kings were cut off; through it their mighty heroes perished and through it their land was ravaged. Through it the first members of the Covenant sinned and were delivered up to the sword, because they forsook the Covenant of God and chose their own will and walked in the stubbornness of their hearts each of them doing his own will.

But with the remnant which held fast to the commandments of God He made His Covenant with Israel for ever, revealing to them the hidden things in which all Israel had gone astray. He unfolded before them His holy Sabbaths and his glorious feasts, the testimonies of His righteousness and the ways of His truth, and the desires of His will which a man must do in order to live. And they dug a well rich in water; and he who despises it shall not live. Yet they wallowed in the sin of man and in ways of uncleanness, and they said, ‘This is our (way).’ But God, in His wonderful mysteries, forgave them their sin and pardoned their wickedness; and He built them a sure house in Israel whose like has never existed from former times till now. Those who hold fast to it are destined to live for ever and all the glory of Adam shall be theirs. As God ordained for them by the hand of the Prophet Ezekiel, saying, The Priests, the Levites, and the sons IV of Zadok who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel strayed from me, they shall offer me fat and blood (Ezek. 44:15).

The Priests are the converts of Israel who departed from the land of Judah, and (the Levites are) those who joined them. The sons of Zadok are the elect of Israel, the men called by name who shall stand at the end of days. Behold the exact list of their names according to their generations, and the time when they lived, and the number of their trials, and the years of their sojourn, and the exact list of their deeds …
(They were the first men) of holiness whom God forgave, and who justified the righteous and condemned the wicked. And until the age is completed, according to the number of those years, all who enter after them shall do according to that interpretation of the Law in which the first were instructed. According to the Covenant which God made with the forefathers, forgiving their sins, so shall He forgive their sins also. But when the age is completed, according to the number of those years, there shall be no more joining the house of Judah, but each man shall stand on his watch-tower: The wall is built, the boundary far removed (Mic. 7:11).

During all those years Satan shall be unleashed against Israel, as He spoke by the hand of Isaiah, son of Amoz, saying, Terror and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the land (Isa. 24:17). Interpreted, these are the three nets of Satan with which Levi son of Jacob said that he catches Israel by setting them up as three kinds of righteousness. The first is fornication, the second is riches, and the third is profanation of the Temple. Whoever escapes the first is caught in the second, and whoever saves himself from the second is caught in the third (Isa. 24:18).”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 98–100). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Quran and Inspiration

Quran and Inspiration

Qur’an and Inspiration

“In Muslim thinking it is not Muhammad who was inspired, but the message he transmitted. Its origin is not in Muhammad, but in the Preserved Tablet kept in heaven and referred to in Sura 85:22. From this record there have been other revelations given: the Torah, the Old Testament Law, given to Moses; the Psalms, given to David; the Gospel, given to Jesus; and the Qur’an, given to Muhammad. The Torah is in Hebrew for Jews, the Gospel in Greek for Gentiles, the Qur’an in Arabic for Arabs and ultimately for all people.

The Gospel in Greek for Gentiles, the Qur’an in Arabic for Arabs and ultimately for all people.
The book itself is not seen as the product of Muhammad. It is inspired. The word used is wahy from the verb awha, used in the Qur’an more than seventy times. In Sura 16:68 the word is used of the bee. How does it know how to construct its hive and where to build it? The answer is wahy. The bee doesn’t work it out logically: it is guided by God.

According to the Islamic scriptures, Muhammad’s times of inspiration were accompanied by physical manifestations: perspiration, shaking, and even trance. An example is given by Bukhari:

The Prophet waited for a while and then the Divine Inspiration descended upon him. Umar pointed out to Ya’la, telling him to come. Ya’la came and pushed his head (underneath the screen which was covering the Prophet) and behold! The Prophet’s face was red and he kept on breathing heavily for a while, and then he was relieved.15

Muhammad’s own explanation was that the inspiration sometimes came

“… like the ringing of a bell, this form of inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me.” Aisha added: “Verily I saw the prophet on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the inspiration was over).”16

It was this claim to inspiration that gave authority to Muhammad’s teaching, although those who opposed him said that he was merely repeating what someone was telling him. Yet there is no denying that at least the earlier suras of the Qur’an are lively, highly imaginative, poetic, and in that sense inspired. The claim that the entire Qur’an is written in this same “inspired” form is debatable; the later suras can often seem labored (to non-Muslims, at least), giving the impression of being constructed to meet an immediate social or political need.”

Riddell, P. G., & Cotterell, P. (2003). Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future (pp. 62–63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.


“THE QURÁN.—The question of the inspiration will be fully discussed, and an account of the laws of the exegesis of the Qurán will be given in the next chapter. It is sufficient now to state that this book is held in the highest veneration by Muslims of every sect. When being read it is kept on a stand elevated above the floor, and no one must read or touch it without first making a legal ablution.1 It is not translated unless there is the most urgent necessity, and even then the Arabic text is printed with the translation. It is said that God chose the sacred month of Ramazán in which to give all the revelations which in the form of books have been vouchsafed to mankind. Thus on the first night of that month the books of Abraham came down from heaven; on the sixth the books of Moses; on the thirteenth the Injíl, or Gospel, and on the twenty-seventh the Qurán. On that night, the Laylut-ul-Qadr, or “night of power,” the whole Qurán is said to have descended to the lowest of the seven heavens, from whence it was brought piecemeal to Muhammad as occasion required.2 “Verily we have caused it (the Qurán) to descend on the night of power.” (Súra xcvii. 1.) That night is called the blessed night, the night better than a thousand months, the night when angels came down by the permission of their Lord, the night which bringeth peace and blessings till the rosy dawn. Twice on that night in the solitude of the cave of Hira the voice called, twice though pressed sore “as if a fearful weight had been laid upon him,” the prophet struggled against its influence. The third time he heard the words:—

“Recite thou, in the name of thy Lord who created—
Created man from clots of blood.” (Súra xcvi. 5.)

“When the voice had ceased to speak, telling how from minutest beginnings man had been called into existence, and lifted up by understanding and knowledge of the Lord, who is most beneficent, and who by the pen had revealed that which man did not know, Muhammad woke up from his trance and felt as if “a book had been written in his heart.” He was much alarmed. Tradition records that he went hastily to his wife and said—“O Khadíja! what has happened to me!” He lay down and she watched by him. When he recovered from his paroxysm, he said “O Khadíja! he of whom one would not have believed (i.e., himself) has become either a soothsayer (káhin) or mad.” She replied, “God is my protection, O Ab-ul-kásim. He will surely not let such a thing happen unto thee, for thou speakest the truth, dost not return evil for evil, keepest faith, art of a good life and art kind to thy relatives and friends, and neither art thou a talker abroad in the bazaars. What has befallen thee? Hast thou seen aught terrible?” Muhammad replied “Yes.” And he told her what he had seen. Whereupon she answered and said:—“Rejoice, O dear husband and be of good cheer. He in whose hands stands Khadíja’s life, is my witness that thou wilt be the Prophet of this people.”1 The next Súra, the 74th, was revealed at Mecca, after which there seems to have been an intermission, called the Fatrah. It was during this time that the Prophet gained some knowledge of the contents of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.
Gabriel is believed to have been the medium of communication. This fact, however, is only once stated in the Qurán:—“Say, whoso is the enemy of Gabriel—For he it is who by God’s leave hath caused the Qurán to descend on thy heart” (Súra ii. 91.) This Súra was revealed some years after the Prophet’s flight to Madína. The other references to the revelation of the Qurán are:—“Verily from the Lord of the worlds hath this book come down; the Faithful Spirit (Rúh-ul-Ámín) hath come down with it” (Súra xxvi. 192.) “The Qurán is no other than a revelation revealed to him, one terrible in power (Shadíd-ul-Quá) taught it him.” (Súra liii. 5.) These latter passages do not state clearly that Gabriel was the medium of communication, but the belief that he was is almost, if not entirely, universal, and the Commentators say that the terms “Rúh-ul-Ámín” and “Shadíd-ul-Quá” refer to no other angel or spirit. The use of the word “taught” in the last Súra quoted, and the following expression in Súra lxxv. 18. “When we have recited it, then follow thou the recital,” show that the Qurán is entirely an objective revelation and that Muhammad was only a passive medium of communication. The Muhammadan historian, Ibn Khaldoun, says on this point:—“Of all the divine books the Qurán is the only one of which the text, words and phrases have been communicated to a prophet by an audible voice, It is otherwise with the Pentateuch, the Gospel and the other divine books: the prophets received them under the form of ideas.”1 This expresses the universal belief on this point—a belief which reveals the essentially mechanical nature of Islám.

The Qurán thus revealed is now looked upon as the standing miracle of Islám. Other divine books, it is admitted, were revelations received under the form of ideas, but the Qurán is far superior to them all for the actual text was revealed to the ear of the prophet. Thus we read in Súra lxxv. 16–19:—

“Move not thy tongue in haste to follow and master this revelation;
For we will see to the collecting and recital of it;
But when we have recited it, then follow thou the recital;
And verily it shall be ours to make it clear to thee.””

Sell, E. (1880). The Faith of Islám (pp. 2–5). London; Madras: Trübner & Co.; Addison & Co.

“Another feature of the revelation of this the middle Meccan, period is the constant assertion of the inspiration of the Qurán. It is called the blessed Book, the luminous Book, the honourable Qurán. It is the Book from God, the best of all recitals He hath sent—a missive from on high:

A blessed Book have we sent down to thee, that men may meditate its verses, and that those endued with understanding may bear it in mind.—Súratu Sád (38) v. 28.

Muhammad is bidden not to grieve at the hardness of heart of his hearers and is assured that his message is divine. These are the signs of the lucid Book:

Haply thou wearest thyself away with grief because they will not believe.
Were it our will we could send down to them a sign from Heaven, before which they would humbly bow.
But from each fresh warning that cometh to them from the God of mercy they have only turned aside,
And treated it as a lie.—Súratu’sh Shu‘ará (26) vv. 2–5.

In the one hundred and ninety-second and following verses of this Súra there is a very strong assertion of the fact that Gabriel brought the Book down from heaven: but, as there is a reference to the Jews, this passage is considered by Jalálu’d-dín as Syúti to belong to the Madína period and so I do not quote it here. In other parts of this Súra, five of the older prophets are represented as saying “Fear God and obey me;” and the conclusion drawn is that in like manner the Quraish should obey Muhammad, or suffer for their disobedience; and if they disobeyed him then he could, in the name of God, say,

I will not be answerable for your doings. v. 216.

In Súratu’t Túr (52) the charge of forgery is met and the supernatural nature of the Qurán is asserted:

Will they say, ‘He hath forged it himself?’ Nay, rather is it they that believe not.
Let them produce a discourse like it, if they speak the truth. vv. 33–4.
Have they such a knowledge of the secret things that they can write them down? v. 41.
Verily, there is a punishment for the evil-doers. v. 47.

Súratu’l Háqqah (69) which belongs to the first Meccan period, contains one of the strongest denials of forgery to be found in the Qurán:

It needs not that I swear by what ye see, and by what ye see not,
This verily is the word of an Apostle worthy of all honour,
And that it is not the word of a poet—1
How little do ye believe!
Neither is it the word of a soothsayer—
How little do ye receive warning!
It is a missive from the Lord of the worlds.
But if Muhammad had fabricated concerning us any sayings,
We had surely seized him by the right hand and had cut through the vein of his neck;
Nor would we have withheld any of you from him. vv. 38–47.”
Sell, E. (1905). The Historical Development of the Quran (pp. 48–51). London; New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Edwin S. Gorham.

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

John Calvin

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

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I found this interesting when reading through my Dead Sea Scrolls documents. This is a section from the Damascus document. Specifically, it is the exhortation portion. The image at the bottom of the post is the highlight of my quote. The doctrine of election was clearly held by those in the Essene Community.


“God loves knowledge. Wisdom and understanding He has set before Him, and prudence and knowledge serve Him. Patience and much forgiveness are with Him towards those who turn from transgression; but power, might, and great flaming wrath by the hand of all the Angels of Destruction towards those who depart from the way and abhor the Precept. They shall have no remnant or survivor. For from the beginning God chose them not; He knew their deeds before ever they were created and He hated their generations, and He hid His face from the Land until they were consumed. For He knew the years of their coming and the length and exact duration of their times for all ages to come and throughout eternity. He knew the happenings of their times throughout all the everlasting years. And in all of them He raised for Himself men called by name, that a remnant might be left to the Land, and that the face of the earth might be filled with their seed. And He made known His Holy Spirit to them by the hand of His anointed ones, and He proclaimed the truth (to them). But those whom He hated He led astray.”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., p. 98). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


“The title ‘Damascus Document’ derives from the references in the Exhortation to the ‘New Covenant’ made ‘in the land of Damascus’. The significance of this phrase is discussed in Chapter II together with the chronological data included in the manuscript. They suggest that the document was written in about 100 BCE and this hypothesis is indirectly supported by the absence of any mention in the historical passages of the Kittim (Romans) whose invasion of the Orient did not take place until after 70 BCE.
The work is divided into an Exhortation and a list of Statutes. In the Exhortation, the preacher—probably a Guardian of the Community—addresses his ‘sons’ on the themes of the sect’s teaching, many of which appear also in the Community Rule. His aim is to encourage the sectaries to remain faithful, and with this end in view he sets out to demonstrate from the history of Israel and the Community that fidelity is always rewarded and apostasy chastised.

During the course of his argument, the author of the Damascus Document frequently interprets biblical passages in a most unexpected way. I have mentioned one of these commentaries on the marriage laws in Chapter III (p. 44), but there is another involved exposition of Amos 5:26–7 on p. 103 which may not be easy to understand.

In the Bible these verses convey a divine threat: the Israelites were to take themselves and their idols into exile. ‘You shall take up Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star-god, your images which you made for yourselves, for I will take you into exile beyond Damascus.’ But the Damascus Document transforms this threat into a promise of salvation; by changing certain words in the biblical text and omitting others its version read: ‘I will exile the tabernacle of your king and the bases of your statues from my tent to Damascus.’

In this new text, the three key phrases are interpreted symbolically as follows: ‘tabernacle’ = ‘Books of the Law’; ‘king’ = ‘congregation’; ‘bases of statues’ = ‘Books of the Prophets’. Thus: ‘The Books of the Law are the tabernacle of the king; as God said, I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen (Amos 9:11). The king is the congregation; and the bases of the statues are the Books of the Prophets whose sayings Israel despised.’

The omission of any reference to the ‘star-god’ is made good by introducing a very different ‘Star’, the messianic ‘Interpreter of the Law’ with his companion the ‘Prince of the congregation’. ‘The star is the Interpreter of the Law who shall come to Damascus; as it is written, A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17). The sceptre is the Prince of the whole congregation …’”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 95–96). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

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“Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

(1) This confuses the beginning of the revelation about the church with the beginning of the church itself.
(2) It makes distinctions without real differences (e.g., gospels of circumcision [Peter] and uncircumcision [Paul]). While these are different audiences, they are not different gospels.
(3) It creates distinctions where there are none (e.g., no signs with gospel of grace).
(4) It confuses Old Testament prophecies that Gentiles would be blessed with there being no predictions as to how they would be on the same level with Jews.
(5) It manifests gnosticlike tendencies, such as (A) avoiding “earthly” elements (e.g., water baptism) and (B) special, exclusive, in-group knowledge of the mystery of Christ’s body.
(6) It unjustifiably assumes that there are two kinds of Spirit baptism.
(7) It fails to note that Gentiles were baptized into Christ in Acts 2 and 8, which defeats the argument that there was no joint-body before Paul’s ministry.
(8) It claims “that there just was no joint-body until some Gentiles as such were saved, and we know that could not have been until the salvation of Cornelius at least” (BT, 32); there were Gentiles in Acts 2 and in Acts 6, well before Paul was saved (Acts 9).
(9) Its assertion that “we must not confuse the Persons of the Trinity, and yet that is exactly what they do who make these two Spirit baptisms one and the same; for they have Christ baptizing into Christ” (BT, 32) confuses the procession in the Trinity—Christ sent the Spirit to do His work for Him (John 15:26).
(10) It claims that “if anything is evident from the pages of the epistles it is that the ritual has given place to the spiritual” (BT, 32–33), but the Lord’s Supper involves a ritual using physical elements.
(11) It leads to unorthodox (works-based) soteriological views of the Old Testament and early New Testament, claiming that Peter’s plan of salvation for Jews (Acts 2:38) is different from Paul’s message of grace (ibid., 19–20).
(12) It claims there are “different Gospels” (URC, 97), which opposes scriptural teaching (Gal. 1:8; cf. 3:8).”
Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (pp. 687–689). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Quran and Crucifixion

Quran and Crucifixion

Quran and the Crucifixion

“Qur’an and Crucifixion

Most intriguing is the one verse in the Qur’an which deals with the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews are being condemned in Sura 4:157 because

they uttered against Mary a grave false charge (and) that they said “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”—But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (Sura 4:157)

The “grave charge” directed against Mary is obviously the accusation that she had been unchaste and that her pregnancy was the result. The remainder of the verse is both intriguing and perplexing: intriguing because the actual meaning of the passage is not clear; and perplexing because there appears to be one certainty at least about Jesus, that he was “crucified under Pontius Pilate.”45

The most obvious meaning is that given by the majority of Muslim scholars: Jesus was not crucified. This then gives rise to a further problem: then who was crucified? The Qur’an offers no answer to the question, simply asserting that it seemed to those responsible for the crucifixion that they had crucified Jesus. The sixteenth-century Gospel of Barnabas, written in Italian by Father Moreno, a Christian turned Muslim,46 provides a detailed explanation: it was Judas who was crucified, because God snatched Jesus away to the third heaven and made Judas resemble Jesus in appearance:

When the soldiers with Judas drew near to the place where Jesus was, Jesus heard the approach of many people, wherefore in fear he withdrew into the house. And the eleven were sleeping. Then God, seeing the danger of his servant commanded Gabriel, Michael, Rafael and Uriel, his ministers, to take Jesus out of the world.

The holy angels came and took Jesus out by the window that looketh toward the south. They bare him and placed him in the third heaven in the company of angels, blessing God for evermore.

Judas entered impetuously before all into the chamber whence Jesus had been taken up. And the disciples were sleeping. Whereupon the wonderful God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus that we believed him to be Jesus. And he, having awakened us, was seeking where the master was. Whereupon we marvelled, and answered: “Thou, Lord, art our master; hast thou now forgotten us?”

And he, smiling, said: “Now are ye foolish, that know not me to be Judas Iscariot!”

And as he was saying this the soldiery entered, and laid their hands upon Judas, because he was in every way like to Jesus.…

The soldiers took Judas and bound him, not without derision. For he truthfully denied that he was Jesus.47

Certainly many Muslims find it hard to believe that a prophet like Jesus could be crucified. Muhammad himself was well aware of the fact that prophets could be rejected and even killed, but crucifixion was a death cursed in the Old Testament.48 How could a prophet die an accursed death?

Muhammad’s rejection of the crucifixion of Jesus may possibly be traced back to the Christian philosopher Basilides,49 who seems to have taught that Jesus was not crucified but someone else took his place. Perhaps this happened in the scuffle and confusion of the arrest, or perhaps at the cross things became confused and Simon of Cyrene was crucified instead of Jesus.

Since it is widely accepted on the basis of the historical record that Jesus was in fact crucified, it has been suggested that the text could be understood as meaning “they,” the Jews, did not crucify him. E. E. Elder made this suggestion, and this certainly has the advantage of leaving the question of just who crucified Jesus open. However, the Arabic text does not emphasize the pronoun “they” as might have been expected if that was the intended meaning; this interpretation is just, but only just, barely possible.50

A third option is that taught by the Ahmadis. They came into existence around the beginning of the twentieth century, led by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839–1908), who was born in the Punjab. He claimed to have received revelations from Allah when he was forty years old. He asserted that Jesus was crucified but did not die on the cross. According to the Ahmadis, Jesus was taken down from the cross alive and was resuscitated in the tomb through the efforts of Nicodemus, who in this account becomes a skilled doctor:

Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, an expert physician, now came and took charge of the body of Jesus, brought it down from the cross, wrapped him in a linen cloth, which was impregnated with spices, and laid him in a sepulchre.… There can be no doubt that Joseph and Nicodemus must have continued to minister unto Jesus in the strong hope of reviving him.51

Jesus is said to have completely recovered and subsequently to have gone eastward in search of the lost ten tribes, eventually dying and being buried in Kashmir.52

Seyyed Hossein Nasr recognizes the importance of the Qur’an’s denial of the crucifixion: “The Qur’an does not accept that Jesus was crucified, but states that he was taken directly to heaven. This is the one irreducible ‘fact’ separating Christianity from Islam, a fact which is in reality placed there providentially to prevent a mingling of the two religions.”53 Similarly, but polemically, the Ahmadi writer Muhammad Zafrullah Khan claims: “Once it is established that Jesus did not die on the cross, there was no accursed death, no bearing of the sins of mankind, no resurrection, no ascension and no atonement. The entire structure of church theology is thereby demolished.”54

In the twenty-first century the debates between Muslims and non-Muslims focus on the Jewish people and the State of Israel, on worldwide Christianity in its various manifestations, and on the economic and political system generally designated capitalism. In the thinking of many Muslims the latter two are in good measure conflated.

Nasr (rightly) sees the inescapable logic of the incompatibility of the two religions, Islam and Christianity. Meanwhile, Zafrullah Khan sees beyond that to the “demolishing” of the religious element of the principal alternative to Islam.”

45 As Geoffrey Parrinder comments, “No serious historian doubts that Jesus was a historical figure and that he was crucified, whatever he may think of the faith in the resurrection” (Jesus in the Qur’an [London: Sheldon, 1965], 116).

46 See David Sox, The Gospel of Barnabas (London: Allen and Unwin, 1984). This is a thorough examination of the many questions raised by the so-called Gospel of Barnabas and ought to have ended the claims by Muslims, and even by Muslim scholars, that this Gospel is the one and only first-century Gospel written by a disciple of Jesus; see Muhammad ur-Rahim, Jesus: A Prophet of Islam, 2d ed. (London: MWH Publishers, 1979), 39. See also the discussion of the Gospel of Barnabas in Moucarry, Faith to Faith, 247–51. For a spirited, if forlorn, defense of the authenticity of the Gospel of Barnabas, see Yusseff, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Barnabas, and the New Testament.

47 Aisha Bawany Wakf, ed., The Gospel of Barnabas (Karachi: Ashram Publications, 1976). This is a new edition of the translation by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg (London: Oxford University Press, 1907); see also F. P. Cotterell, “The Gospel of Barnabas,” Vox Evangelica 10 (1977): 43–17.
48 Deut. 21:23.
49 Gnosticism certainly flourished in neighboring Egypt: Hans Lietzmann, “Egypt,” chap. 13 in The Founding of the Church Universal, 3d ed. (London: Lutterworth, 1953). Basilides claimed the authority of the apostle Peter for his system.
50 See Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, 120.
51 Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Deliverance from the Cross (Southfields: London Mosque, 1978),33.
52 See Khan, Deliverance from the Cross; and Kenneth Cragg, Islamic Surveys 3: Counsels in Contemporary Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965), chap. 10.
53 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Life and Thought (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), 209.
54 Khan, Deliverance from the Cross, 89.
Riddell, P. G., & Cotterell, P. (2003). Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future (pp. 77–80). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Evangelizing Muslims

Evangelizing Muslims

Topic: Evangelizing Muslims 

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“The most important thing we can do as followers of Jesus is to do just that. Follow him. Jesus himself is the Good News. The message that we carry is Jesus. Not church, not capitalism, not democracy, not doctrine, not the religion of Christianity, not Calvin, not Luther, not Democrat, not Republican.
If we truly wish to be able to build a relationship with a Muslim friend, the most important thing we can do is to follow Jesus’ lead. Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice.

If we begin with the attitude that we are going to debunk “all of that Islamic stuff,” we’ll be done before we get a chance to introduce Jesus, because we will have turned away somebody in the process.
Some suggestions when beginning a conversation:

Don’t insult Muhammad, and don’t be flippant with religious phrases or with God or your Bible. Show respect, and you may well be respected for it.

Do everything you can to keep it from becoming a me-versus-you debate. Or a my-religion-can-beat-up-your-religion diatribe. That’s not how Jesus spoke to others, and we would do well to follow his example.

Show interest in your Muslim friend’s faith not as a means of deception, but because you are interested in them and what they think about God. In fact, keeping the conversation on common ground and about everyday spirituality will prove to be far more effective than confrontation. Many Muslims are uneducated regarding their religion, and any attempt to force a theological point will end in shared frustration.

One thing you will notice about Muslims in the Middle East, in particular, is that the Eastern perspective on logic is totally different from ours in the West. For example, when I first arrived in Beirut, I attempted to use C. S. Lewis’s tried-and-true “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” approach with my new friends. I said that because Jesus himself claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, he was either who he said he was, or he was lying about it, or even worse, he was delusional. Those were the only options. It was either true or not.

“No,” my friends said, shaking their heads. “He was a prophet of God, and he never told lies and he certainly wasn’t crazy.”

“Don’t you see,” I would plead, “the only option left is that he is Lord.”
“No. He was something else. You need more options in your argument.”
“There aren’t any,” I said, palms sweaty. “I’m being logical, and Jesus was logical.”
That raised some eyebrows.

Only later did I realize that they had raised an interesting point: Jesus had lived in their region, spoke a similar language, and had similar ethnic qualities. And then Carl the Great White Missionary flew across the world to tell them that Jesus was logical.… That’s just like an American.

Be genuine and patient. Whatever denomination or church we come from, it is not our job to “secure converts.” In bolder terms, we are not even here to “build the kingdom” but rather to obey the king. Kings build their own kingdoms, and Jesus surely can build his. We are involved in the process because we follow him.

When speaking with a Muslim about Jesus: Use his title as a term of respect, i.e., “Jesus the Christ” (or Messiah). This is actually a term that Muslims accept, and it shows a sense of reverence.

Many Muslims are pleasantly surprised when they see someone praying, reading a Bible, or treating religious things with a sense of devotion. In the West, we are so used to the separation of church and state that in public we acclimate to the nonreligious norms within our culture. Muslims see this as a blatant disregard of devotion to God. Many of my Muslim friends are surprised when I tell them that the president or some public figure believes in God. They don’t see it in the media, where talk of God is rare, and devotion toward him seems nonexistent. Within Islamic nation-states, the opposite is true. Every Islamic state (even the secular ones) is permeated with religious devotion and/or tradition. Every public figure is a Muslim. Except for those in Lebanon, every political office carries with it some influence of Islamic law, to one degree or another.

We don’t want to wear our devotion on our sleeve, but we are free to be people who are obviously seeking to follow the ways of God and be more like Jesus. This is how we desire to live and what will pave the way for many genuine friendships.”

Medearis, C. (2008). Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships (pp. 33–36). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House.

Defining Kabbalah

Defining Kabbalah

For more discussion on the Kabbalah visit our forum

“KABBALAH [kə bälˊə] (Heb. qabbalâ “tradition”). † According to the Midrash, those books of the Hebrew scriptures contained in the Prophets and the Writings, as well as the corpus of oral law.
More commonly the term designates the system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism which developed after A.D. 1200, according to which God manifests himself through ten mysterious emanations. Of particular interest are aspects of creation and the visionary portions of Scripture. Abbreviations of words and the transposition of letters, with emphasis on their numerical values and symbolism, are the concern of gematria, a method of interpretation which seeks hidden meanings. In a less technical sense the Kabbalah comprises all esoteric Jewish doctrine from the beginning of the Christian era on.”
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 616–617). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

“Kabbala (Rabbinic Heb. קַבָּלָה, qabbālāh, ‘tradition’). A system of Jewish *theosophy which, by the use of an esoteric method of interpretation of the OT, including cyphers, was believed to reveal to its initiates hidden doctrines, e.g. the creation of the world by means of emanations from the Divine Being. It was a development of tendencies akin to *Gnosticism, and reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and at the Renaissance. A Christian form of it also had considerable vogue in the 15th-16th cents., its Christian exponents such as J. *Reuchlin and *Paracelsus professing to deduce by its means such doctrines as the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Divinity of Christ.

The Zohar tr. into Eng. by H. Sperling, M. Simon, and P. P. Levertoff (5 vols., 1931–4). Extensive extracts ed. F. Lachower and I. Tishby, tr. D. Goldstein, The Wisdom of the Zohar (3 vols., Oxford, 1989), with introd. by I. Tishby, 1, pp. 1–126. Shorter selection tr. by D. C. Matt (Classics of Western Spirituality, 1983). Other material tr. by R. C. Keiner, The Early Kabbalah, ed. with introd., by J. Dan (ibid. [1986]). G. G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Jerusalem, 1941; 2nd edn., New York, 1946; 3rd edn., London, 1955); id., Zur Kabbala und ihre Symbolik (Zurich, 1960; Eng. tr., 1965); id., Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala (Studia Judaica, 3; 1962; Eng. tr., Princeton, NJ [1987]); id., Kabbalah (Jerusalem [1974]); M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, Conn., and London [1988]); S. Shokek, Kabbala and the Art of Being, ed. M. Leavitt (2001). J. L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (New York, 1944); F. Secret, Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964). G. G. Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (Berlin, 1933; additions in Kirjath Sepher, Jerusalem, 1933 ff.). Id. in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 10 (Jerusalem, 1971), cols. 489–653, s.v. ‘Kabbalah’; R. Goetschel and O. Betz in TRE 17 (1988), cols. 487–509, s.v., both with bibl.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 923). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

“Cabala (reception).—The secret tradition of the Jews, the origin of which may be traced to pre-Christian times, but which grew up mainly after the beginning of the tenth century, and flourished for many generations. The Cabala was employed first in a mystic explanation of the Deity and cosmogony, and in the creation of hidden meanings for the sacred Hebrew writings, thus drawing into its province all the Hebrew law and theology. Later, Cabalists pretended to find wonderful meanings even in the letters and forms of the sacred texts, and made for themselves elaborate rules of interpretation.”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 127). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.
“Kabbalah n. Hebrew (kah-bah-LAH) Literally, “to receive.” The Jewish mystical tradition. Through the ages, Kabbalah has been primarily transmitted orally from a teacher to a disciple who was over 40 and well versed in the teachings of the Torah and Talmud. Rabbis worried that the Kabbalah would be misinterpreted or used for superstitious practices if it were studied by someone unfamiliar with Jewish texts; in its early years, it was practiced in secret. Kabbalists have developed meditative practices and distinctive theories on heaven, reincarnation, the coming of the Messiah, and creation. They use a system called gematria, in which each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value, to uncover the secrets that they believe are hidden in the Torah.
Kabbalists believe that these teachings were revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai as a secret part of the Oral Law. In the 2nd century C.E., Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph was a leading figure in Jewish mysticism; his search for paradise is mentioned in the Talmud. The earliest known Kabbalistic text is Sefer ha-Bahir, edited in Provence in the mid-12th century. It describes the 10 sefirot, through which the hidden God is revealed. Around 1290, the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon compiled the teachings of Kabbalah in the Zohar, which remains the classic text of this tradition. He credited the Kabbalah teachings to the 2nd-century writings of the talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Kabbalah was practiced by large numbers of Jews following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s. In Safed, in the mid-16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria furthered Kabbalistic thought with theories about the Ein Sof, the creation of the universe, the origins of evil, and how to repair the world (tikun olam). Lurianic Kabbalah played a major role in the development of Hasidism. Today, there is revived interest in Jewish mysticism among Orthodox Jews and those in the Jewish Renewal movement; synagogues and schools offer courses on Kabbalah and other topics of Jewish mysticism”
Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 76). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“A form of Jewish mysticism known as the kabbalah arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among those who contributed to the religious and intellectual style of kabbalah was Moses de Leon (1240–1305). De Leon composed the majority of the Zohar, a multivolume work that includes a commentary on the Torah. His writings develop the idea that the stories and laws found in Scripture create a map or pattern for God. De Leon believed that a holy life, marked by an accurate execution of rituals, allowed humanity to reinstate God’s perfect order. By the sixteenth century, the Zohar was read far and wide and remains at the core of kabbalah practice.”

Rusten, S. with E. Michael. (2005). The complete book of when & where in the Bible and throughout history (p. 187). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Reuchlin, De Verbo Mirifico. Basle. 1494.
——De Arte Cabbalistica. Hagenau. 1517.
Raymond Lully, De Auditu Cabbalistico. Strasb. 1651.
Kircher, Œdipus Ægyptiacus. Rome. 1635.
Jellinek, Beiträge zur Gesch. d. Kabbalah. Leipzig. 1852.
Franck, La Kabbale. Paris. 1843. Uebersetzt vom A. Jellinek. Leipzig. 1844.
Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, its Doctrines, Development, and Literature. London. 1865.
——Coheleth, London. 1861.
Munk, Mélanges de Philos. Juive et Arabe. Paris. 1859.”
Farrar, F. W. (1886). History of interpretation (p. 482). London: Macmillan and Co.

“Moses Cordovero (1522–1570)

Focusing upon Talmudic and legal commentators, we have not discussed important figures such as Moses de Leon, whose role in the production of the Zohar cannot be minimized, or Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic Movement. Still, we cannot ignore the special contributions of Moses Cordovero, known as Ramac, whose role is pivotal in the history of Jewish understanding of sacred texts. Ramac was the student of Joseph Caro, the composer of the Shulhan Arukh, and of the great Kabbalist Solomon Alkabez. His students were the powers behind the school of Lurianic Kabbalah in Sefad, which wholly integrated Kabbalah into a halakhic framework. What is generally viewed as the great, new impulse of Isaac Luria—the Ari—was already expounded, without detail, by Ramac: the mystical doctrines of tzimtzum, the four levels or worlds of emanation, and the configurations of the sefirot. The Ari developed and refined these ideas and became the master teacher of the new movement in Kabbalah. Ramac’s Or Yakar is a complete commentary to the Zohar, and he wrote many other books as well, such as Or Ha-Shamayim, Sefer Shiur Ha-Koma, Tfilah le-Moshe, Or Neerav, and Tamar Devora. Sermons of his and a commentary to the Pentateuch remain in manuscript, as yet unpublished.”
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

J. H. Laenen
Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 292 pp.\

In the preface to his book Laenen declares that he seeks to bridge the gap between scholarly studies and popular works on Jewish mysticism. His aim is to provide a book which, while based on scholarly research, will be of use to the interested non-specialist who does not have a broad knowledge of Judaism. In the introduction he answers the question, ‘What is Jewish mysticism?’. He then proceeds to describe the emergence and history of Jewish mysticism from biblical times to the present day. He works his way from ancient Jewish mysticism, through classical, Lurianic, and Hasidic Kabbalah. An extensive chapter is devoted to the seventeenth century mystic, Sabbatai Zvi and further sections discuss language mysticism and popular literature on Kabbalism.
Laenen is at his best when he is describing and explaining the complex systems of Kabbalah, such as the ten Sefiroth which are characteristic of Lurianic thinking, and describing the importance of major writings such as the Zohar. He is also very good at biographical descriptions of the main individuals and provides interesting and clear accounts of figures such as Joseph Caro and Sabbatai Zvi (although the reader may wonder why so much space has been devoted to this ‘heretical’ character).
The most satisfying parts of the book are those which deal with specific themes, for example the chapter on language mysticism. The main problem with the book lies in its attempt to provide an introduction to Kabbalism while assuming that the reader has little knowledge of Jewish thought and history as a whole. Repeatedly we find that the basic ideas of Judaism itself have to be introduced. Kabbalah is such a complex subject in its own right, that unless the book is going to be very ‘popular’ in its target group, there needs to be some understanding of the ‘first principles’ of the Jewish religion. Thus, Laenen finds that it is necessary, in his chapter on Lurianic Kabbalah, for example, to give a short history of Messianism within Judaism. This rather confounds the chronological pattern which he has set himself to follow. Moreover, although one could see why he has opted for the chronological schema, this writer found herself wishing that he had taken more account of his own observation that the mystical tradition in Judaism did not develop in a straight line (105). The desire to avoid ‘lumping all Jewish mysticism together’ without recognising differences between movements and times is laudable, but unfortunately has sometimes resulted in a rather confusing picture. It would have been very interesting to learn more of the place of Kabbalah in present day Judaism.
Undergraduates and graduate students wishing to have a basic knowledge of the subject will find this book most useful if ‘dipped into’ rather than read through from beginning to end. In other words, the readers should use the index to guide them to themes and characters rather than pursuing the chronological method of the book. There is a good bibliography to aid further study.”
Carson, M. (2003). Review of Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction by J. H. Laenen. Themelios, 28(2), 118–119.

“Sefer Yetzirah n. Hebrew Literally, “Book of Creation.” The first classic text of Kabbalah. It is considered to be an early Babylonian or Palestinian work dating from the 2nd century C.E. The Sefer Yetzirah theorizes that the 10 sefirot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the building blocks of creation and the channels through which Divine consciousness flows into creation.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Tree of Life n. English 1. One of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. Fruit from the Tree of Life gave immortality to those who tasted it. 2. An image, used in Kabbalah, to depict the sefirot. In this tree of life, the roots are in heaven and the branches extend toward earth. 3. The wooden poles to which a Torah scroll is attached. This is a metaphor, in that the teachings and laws of the Torah are a “tree of life” to those who believe and follow them. In Hebrew they are called atzei chayim. 4. A common artistic representation of a tree, used in synagogue art and Judaica. Because halakhah does not allow the use of human figures as ornamentation, trees of life, along with animals and fruit, are popular themes.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 174). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“sefirah n. Hebrew (seh-fee-RAH); pl. sefirot (seh-fee-ROTE) One of the 10 emanations, or varying aspects, of the Divine presence. This is one of the theories central to the Jewish mystical tradition, or Kabbalah. According to Kabbalistic teaching, sefirot are the 10 attributes that Ein Sof, the infinite unknowable God, created and through which He can be known to man and the universe. sefirot, sometimes called the building blocks of creation, are often depicted as spheres, pillars, or a tree of life, in which the roots are in heaven and the branches extend down toward earth. The sefirot are said to correspond with parts of the body. The 10 sefirot are keter, hokhmah, binah, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. Da’at, literally “knowledge,” is sometimes used in place of keter.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Radbaz was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt. He introduced the practice of counting years on documents from the Anno Mundi as was the custom in the West, and he reintroduced the silent recitation of prayer that Maimonides had abolished in Egypt. He left there and resettled in the Holy Land, where he had first gone after he was expelled from Spain in the great expulsion of 1492. His printed responsa number close to 2500, but there are more in manuscript. He deals with questions of every type, and his personal authority is stamped in every answer. He defended the study of philosophy and science and was an avid student of Kabbalah himself, so that his commentaries are in a Kabbalistic manner. His comments on issues in Talmudic study are cited in Shita Mekubetzet by Bezalel Ashkenazi, his student. Keter Malkhut, his work on the liturgy for Yom Kippur, remains very popular.”

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1216–1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“Zohar n. Hebrew (ZOE-har) Literally, “radiance.” A mystical book that is the core text of Kabbalah—one of only three canonized Jewish sacred texts (the other two are the Torah and the Talmud). The Zohar, written in Aramaic, includes interpretations and commentaries that explore the secrets and symbols in the Torah. The Zohar proposes a distinct theory of Creation in which emanations from Ein Sof created a secret spark of awareness, from which emerged and radiated all light. Levels of creation, sefirot, and the worlds above and below are discussed throughout the Zohar. The Zohar holds that The Song of Songs, with its allusions of love and eroticism, contains more secrets of the universe than any other Jewish text. The Zohar was introduced into Spain around 1290 by the mystic Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the mystical 2nd-century writings of talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Most scholars believe that de Leon authored the text himself.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 195). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.



Defining Citizenship

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“Citizenship. The concept of spiritual citizenship is most clearly expressed in Philippians 3:20, where Paul writes, “Our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven.” This is the only place in Scripture where the word is used, but the idea is found in both Jewish and Christian literature. In fact, the development of the idea may be traced from the record of Abraham’s experience to the writings of the apostolic fathers.
Abraham viewed himself as a stranger (gēr) and a sojourner (māgûr) in the land of promise (Gen. 23:4). The same words are used consistently to describe the experience of the patriarchs (Gen. 17:8; 28:4; 47:9; Exod. 6:4). Even when Israel resided in Canaan, the people were to recognize that the land was God’s and that they were merely aliens (tôšābɩ̂m) in it (Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15; Pss. 39:12; 119:19). The Rechabites chose not to build houses, sow seed, or plant vineyards; they lived in tents as a reminder of their status as sojourners (Jer. 35:6–10).
Christ’s teaching on the kingdom has a strong heavenly orientation. His followers are to seek the kingdom that the Father has chosen to give them (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:32). The kingdom, however, is not of this world (John 18:36). Believers are to lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21). While Christ is absent, Christians are to take comfort in his promise that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:1–4). Ultimately, they will inherit the kingdom he has prepared for them (Matt. 25:34).
Paul reminds Christians that it is “the Jerusalem above” to which they are related (Gal. 4:21–31) and that they are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4). Peter describes Christians in the same language used to describe Abraham in the Septuagint. They are elect “refugees” (parepidēmoi) whose time on earth is a “temporary stay” (paroikia) in a foreign country (1 Peter 1:1, 17). Their status as “strangers” (paroikoi) and temporary residents provides an incentive for holy living (1 Peter 2:11).
The author of Hebrews brings these various themes together in the most comprehensive way. Abraham and the other patriarchs lived as strangers and exiles on earth, seeking the city designed, built, and prepared for them by God (11:8–16). Similarly, Christians do not have a lasting city; they seek the city that is to come (13:14). That city is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God and the capital of an unshakable kingdom (12:22–23, 28).
Harvey, J. D. (1996). Citizenship. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


The privilege of belonging to a city or country. Scripture portrays believers as living in two realms, being members of both human society and of the heavenly city. In both realms there are duties as well as privileges.

Dual citizenship
Mt 22:21 pp Mk 12:17 pp Lk 20:25 See also Ezr 7:26

Earthly citizenship
Privileges and duties of citizens Ro 13:1-7 See also Ecc 8:2; Mt 17:27; Tit 3:1; 1Pe 2:13-17

Privileges and duties of Roman citizenship Ac 16:37; 22:25-29; 23:27; 25:10

Heavenly citizenship and the Christian hope
Php 3:20; Heb 13:14 See also Lk 22:29-30; Jn 14:2; 1Pe 1:4; Rev 21:2,27; 22:3-5

Gentiles are included in the citizenship of heaven Eph 2:19 See also Eph 2:12-13″
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

“The citizenship of Abraham in the NT

Echoes of Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan may be heard in Paul’s statement that Christians are citizens of ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Gal. 4:21–31). Peter’s description of believers is reminiscent of the terms used for Abraham in Genesis. They are ‘temporary residents’ (‘refugees’, parepidēmois) whose time on earth is a brief stay among strangers (‘time of temporary residence’, paroikia, 1 Pet. 1:1, 17).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes more explicit references to Abraham’s experiences. In Hebrews 11:8–16, the lesson drawn from Abraham’s faith is that while he, Isaac and Jacob were living in tents in Canaan, they were actually seeking the ‘city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (11:10). This reference to the semi-nomadism of the ancestral sojourn states clearly that Abraham’s faith was rewarded beyond his comprehension. The city he inherited was the ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’, the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22–23), which is the capital of an unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). He expected to inherit the cities of Canaan, which were difficult to defend and vulnerable to many aggressors, but was rewarded with a far greater city. Likewise, Christians ‘have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come’ (Heb. 13:14).
The two cities in the NT

The eschatological picture of the two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon, had significant implications in the NT and subsequent Christian theology. The clash between the city of God and the city of Satan will come to a head in the eschaton.The clearest expression of this eschatological conflict is found in the book of Revelation, where both the fall of the new Babylon and the arrival of the new Jerusalem are described. The horrors of the new Babylon are detailed in Revelation 17–18 (specifically 16:17–18:24). First-century readers would have undoubtedly understood ‘Babylon’ as a code name for Rome. As ancient Babylon had been the wicked and ruthless enemy of God’s people in OT times, so here she symbolizes the evil and violent thirst for power so typical of earthly kingdoms. But Babylon’s downfall will be swift and total (18:10, and see vv. 17 and 19).

Most of the book of Revelation is an account of persecution and death (chs. 6–20). But in chapters 21–22, the book moves from time into eternity as it foretells the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan. The first paragraph (21:1–8) describes the new heaven and new earth in general terms, relying largely on images from the prophecy of Isaiah (65:17; 66:22). The old creation has passed away, making room for this new creation, ‘the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2). The second literary unit describes the new Jerusalem in more detail (21:9–21). The holy city of Jerusalem will be the new home for God’s people. It is described as perfectly symmetrical, and radiant like pure jewels. Finally, the book gives a glimpse of life in the eternal city (21:22–22:5). Some things necessary and taken for granted in the former city will be absent from the new Jerusalem. It has no temple, for the temple represented the presence of God in the midst of Jerusalem. Instead, God himself will be the temple in the new city (21:22). It has no sun or moon, for it will have the glory of God (21:23); no night, because the Lord God will be light for its inhabitants (21:25; 22:5). Life in the new city will surpass the experiences of the first couple in the Garden of Eden, for this city has ‘the river of the water of life’, and ‘the tree of life’ (22:1–2).

The contrast between the two cities encourages believers of every generation to have the faith of Abraham, who was a resident alien in Canaan, but whose citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:20). While living in tents here below, we must live a life worthy of our calling, aware that our time here is brief and that we are on a journey to that eternal city.”

Arnold, B. T. (2000). City, Citizenship. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 415–416). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Heavenly Citizenship.While explicit language related to heavenly citizenship is rare in Paul, the metaphor of heavenly citizenship is clearly an influential force in his theology. In both ethical injunctions and eschatological descriptions, it is clear that Paul uses this citizenship to describe the believer’s participation in the kingdom of God.

2.1. Ethical Injunctions. Paul’s idea of heavenly citizenship is communicated with full cognizance of his church members’ participation in their local societies as citizens (1 Cor 5:9–10; Rom 13:1–7). In this sense it is possible that Paul has in mind the legal status of dual citizenship (see Phil 1:27). The fact that Christians are citizens of both earth and heaven leads to Paul’s ambassadorial language in 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 and Ephesians 6:19–20. As citizens of heaven, Christians have the responsibility to think consistently with their citizenship (Col 3:1–4) and live holy lives (Rom 13:12–14). Paul’s own idea of his heavenly citizenship allowed him to live in a way that freed him to be all things to all people (1 Cor 9:19–23). Paul’s doctrine of heavenly citizenship and its implications for living are close to 1 Peter 2:11, although Paul does not use the metaphor of sojourning as strongly as Peter. Philippians 3:20 (in the light of Phil 1:27) provides the best example of heavenly citizenship terminology in Paul. This citizenship here provides the ground for Paul’s commands to avoid thinking in an earthly way (Phil 2:3–4; 3:19), and instead to follow his example (Phil 3:17) as befits one who rejoices in God’s goodness, praying and thinking in a God-centered way (Phil 4:1–9). The description of Christians’ heavenly citizenship in Philippians 3:20 also is linked to the expectation of the parousia and the physical transformation to occur at that time (Phil 3:20–21).

2.2. Eschatological Descriptions. The sense that Christians are headed for a citizenship in the next life is a powerful force in Paul’s theology. Thus we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:24 how an understanding of the rights and destiny of the heavenly citizen leads to a certain pattern of behavior. In Romans 8:12–30, the prospect of participation as a citizen in the new creation is inextricably linked both to one’s status as a child of God and the concomitant behavior that such future citizenship and adoption necessarily implies for the present. Paul’s eschatological understanding of heavenly citizenship includes the conviction that the Christian is not ultimately subject to death, and ought therefore to live for values that will outlast life on earth (1 Cor 15:53–58).”

Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (Eds.). (1993). In Dictionary of Paul and his letters (pp. 140–141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

Universalism and Particularism in the New Dispensation

“The ethnic particularism of the OT—that is, of the time between Abraham and Malachi—comes to an end as Jesus’ appearance and ministry break down the middle wall of partition (Eph 2:14). By abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and regulations Jesus destroys the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles. I believe it can be truly said that “this is an undeniable reference to Christ’s abrogation of the Mosaic law” and that therefore “the formation of a messianic Israel, made up from all believers in Christ, was Christ’s mission.”17 Paul says in Rom 10:12 that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (cf. Col 3:11 and Gal 3:28).

Jesus himself takes the lead in affirming that the faith of the Roman centurion is greater than any he has found thus far, even in “Israel.” Jesus continues to speak of the many who will come to the great messianic banquet “from the east and west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 8:11–12). Jesus also says his brother, sister and mother are those who do the will of his Father who is in heaven (or who will hear the word of God and do it [Matt 12:49; cf. Luke 8:21]). In other words, Jesus prefers spiritual relations over any bond of blood or of family relationship. His very mother and brothers were to have no precedence over others, nor any distinctive position in his kingdom solely on the basis of their blood relationship to the Lord.18
It is true that upon certain occasions the NT uses language that might suggest the continuation in some form or other of the ethnic particularism of the OT. In Matt 19:28 Jesus assures his disciples that they will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 21:24 states that Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled. Still another passage often quoted in this connection is Acts 1:6, when Jesus’ disciples ask their Lord whether he at this time is going to restore the kingdom to Israel.

Two things should be kept in mind, however. The first is that already in the OT Scriptures one may find occasional beginnings of a less than literal understanding of terms such as “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” etc.19 We believe that this valuable insight may be broadened to include the total thrust of the OT dispensation. In spite of the relatively greater emphasis within the OT and the Mosaic economy upon the physical benefits of the covenant—such as land possession, abundance of crops, outward peace, and safety enjoyed under the vine and the fig tree—these outward benefits do not form the true heart and core of Israel’s relationship with its covenant God. Not only are there several passages in the OT that show us the incongruity of wickedness combined with prosperity (Psalm 73; Jer 12:1–2; Habakkuk 1) and of godliness combined with severe testing of faith (the book of Job; many of the Psalms), but the entire OT breathes a spirit that is essentially a religious and spiritual one. This is the spirit of father Jacob whose name was changed to Israel because he had clung to the God of the promise and had relinquished all earthly means of ever obtaining it.

The undeniable center of OT religion lies in the believer’s response to the words of the covenant God that he would be Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants (Gen 17:7; Exod 15:2; Ps 63:1; 89:26; Josh 24:18). It was this pervasive God-centeredness of the religious outlook of the Israelite believer that caused him to erupt in the words of fervent trust and pulsating joy as found in Ps 16:5—“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” The spirit of this Psalm is such that one would fail to understand the foregoing words completely if he saw in them no more than a reference to a bit of real estate in the land of Canaan. Even in contexts where a rather close connection is made between disobedience and material want (such as in Haggai 1), the heart and core of God’s promise is this: “I am with you” (Hag 1:13).

At the beginning of this study the observation was made that the lines which we must draw should run from the OT to the NT. We believe that when this is done properly our concern with an earthly restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers will diminish to the vanishing point. The true Jewish believers of Jesus’ own days, such as Simeon and Anna the prophetess, belonged to circles who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” and “were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38). One can be sure that they were aware that the king who was to come to Jerusalem and to Zion was to be “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey”—an animal associated with the theocratic kingdom in its early stages (cf. Zech 9:9 with 1 Kgs 1:33). Yes, they knew of the kingdom’s glorious past and of the promises of future victory, but were they not also aware of the note which Hannah, the mother of Samuel, had struck when she sang: “it is not by strength that one prevails”? (1 Sam 2:9). Did not mother Mary use the theme of Hannah’s song and lift it to still higher levels of spiritual insight than her OT predecessor had attained to?

In light of the foregoing, is it not evident that any NT reference to the twelve apostles sitting on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel must be viewed in terms of all that the OT contains in spiritual insight? Granted, there were the Zealots of Jesus’ days. There were also Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. Each of them had their own unique way of looking at the nation’s past and hoping for its future. One need not preclude the possibility that some of the true disciples of our Lord were influenced in one way or other by the contemporary trends of thought among which they had lived all their lives.20 But is it not clear for all to see that Jesus’ ministry and teaching did not lend themselves readily to a purely earthly restoration of a Jewish kingdom? Jesus’ refusal to be made king, his failure to lead his followers into conflict with the Roman occupation forces, and his teaching that the kingdom was already present in the world—all of these and still more are indications of the new ways in which Jesus applied the ancient eschatology of the OT Scriptures. At the same time, as Paul D. Hanson rightly observes, “the nature of Jesus and the significance of his message and life were worked out by constant reference to the ancient Scriptures.” Although viewed as a fresh chapter in God’s saving approach to humans, it was one “growing organically out of the long antecedent history recorded in the Torah and the Prophets.”21

In other words, the second thing that should be said about the so-called ‘Israel passages” cited above is that Jesus’ followers, in light both of the OT itself and of their Master’s message and ministry, did not need to be disabused of possible misunderstandings which his words could have caused.22 Though the full implications of his words may well have dawned slowly in their minds, there already was sufficient warrant to hear them in a less than literalistic fashion.

Patrick Fairbairn also points out that the references of Jesus to some sort of messianic kingdom (Matt 19:28; Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6) are lacking in this respect—that they do not give “any formal or explicit announcement of either the national restoration of Israel to Palestine, or the reestablishment there, as in a religious centre, of a Jewish polity and worship.”23 And he adds that this lack is all the more noteworthy since one might expect such an announcement to be made exactly at the point where Jesus presumably is speaking about Messiah’s kingdom.

We believe, therefore, that the emphasis upon both universalism and particularism which runs through the OT also runs through the NT. By universalism we mean that all nations regardless of ethnic background are going to be part of the Messiah’s kingdom. By particularism we mean that not all people will be saved indiscriminately. Some, in the final assize, will hear the words “Depart from me, you who are cursed” (Matt 25:41) spoken to them. The messianic community Jesus gathers around himself is called upon to eliminate stubborn sinners from its midst and to bind and loose on earth (Matt 18:15–18). The new Jerusalem will be a city into which certain people will not come (Rev 21:8; 22:15). Thus, while the ethnic particularism has had its time, that which is of permanent value in God’s dealings with Israel under the old dispensation will remain. Jesus “knows” his sheep and his sheep know him (John 10:14). This is the NT’s exclusiveness.24″

17 Cf. LaRondelle, p. 112.
18 Cf. Patrick Fairbairn, The Interpretation of Scripture (London: Banner of Truth Trust, repr. 1964, 2nd ed. 1865), p. 261.
19 This is more fully developed in Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1955), passim. J. Walvoord (“Review of The Time is at Hand by Jay Adams”) lists Wyngaarden’s book among the ‘solid amillennial works” he is acquainted with (BSac 128 [1971]: 75).
20 For a recent overview of the outlook of the various Jewish sects during Jesus’ lifetime cf. Paul D. Hanson, The People Called (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), pp. 347–381.
21 Ibid., p. 385.
22 Those who hold to a future restoration of a literal Jewish state in fulfillment of prophecy frequently use this type of argument to defend their position. We believe the argument is not sufficiently supported by the facts.
23 Fairbairn, p. 248.
24 For a discussion of the difference between particularism and universalism as concerns Judaism and Christianity see Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and You Christians (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967), p. 116–118. Sandmel uses the terms to designate which of the two religions is making universal claims to being a comprehensive religion for all and which one is the more parochial one. This is not how the two terms are used in the present discussion. Our terms are determined by the redemptive historical progress of biblical revelation.
Woudstra, M. H. (1988). Israel and the Church: A Case for Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 226–229). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

Wall Of Hostility

Wall Of Hostility

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The Greek expression tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú joins two words for wall. Gk. mesótoichon, which occurs only here in the NT, refers to a partition within a house. The other word for wall, Gk. phragmós, refers to a fence for protection and is so used in Mk. 12:1; Lk. 14:23. If the phrase is not merely a pleonasm, the joining of these words achieves the sense of a wall erected for both separation and protection.

Many have identified this wall with the stone wall of the Jerusalem temple, 1.5 m (5 ft) high, beyond which no Gentile was permitted to go. Inscribed on the pillars of the wall were warnings to Gentiles that trespassing was a capital offense. The destruction of this wall would be a particularly vivid metaphor for the new unity and equality between Jew and Gentile in the Christian Church.
Others have suggested that Gk. tó mesótoichon toú phragmoú be identified as the thick curtains that separated the holiest section of the temple from the rest. Only the high priest entered this holiest section and only on the Day of Atonement, when he performed the expiation for Israel’s sins (cf. Mk. 15:38 par; He. 10:19f.).

H. Schlier (pp. 125–133) suggested that the wall is a cosmic boundary that is broken through. He presupposed a mythological background for the passage, specifically Jewish Gnosticism, which gave to the principalities and powers a mediating position between God and mankind and made the law their instrument.

M. Barth took the wall to refer to “the fence around the law” created by the rabbis. This “fence,” with its scribal interpretation, applications, and additions, protected God’s law from being broken and effectively separated Jew from Gentile. Barth’s interpretation takes “has broken down the dividing wall” as a synonymous parallel with “abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances.” Barth also appealed to Gal. 2:18f, where Paul spoke of just such laws and statutes as having been torn down.
Each of these suggestions is plausible, but the “holy temple” image, which culminates the theological argument of Eph. 2:11–21, seems to favor the first suggestion. There is sustained contrast between the temple of Jerusalem and the new “holy temple” as well as between the restrictions on “access” (v 18, Gk. prosagōgḗ; the verb proságō has cultic associations) in the old temple and the unrestricted “access in one Spirit” in the new temple. Just as the temple and cultic access are “spiritualized” (see Wenschkewitz), so are the holiness of the temple, the distinction between clean and unclean, and “the law of commandments and ordinances.” Jesus Christ has created a “holiness” unrelated to race or nation. Thus Gentiles are no longer just “strangers and sojourners” vis-à-vis the temple but “built into it [the “holy temple in the Lord”] for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v 22). In view of this sustained contrast, the “dividing wall of hostility” seems to refer to the wall of the old temple separating Jews and Gentiles and restricting gentile access.

Bibliography.—M. Barth, Ephesians 1–3 (AB, 1974), pp. 283–87; H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser (KEK, 1958), pp. 125–133; H. Wenschkewitz, Die Spiritualisierung der Kultusbegriffe, Temple, Priester und Opfer im NT (1932).”
Verhey, A. D. (1979–1988). Hostility, Dividing Wall of. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 2, p. 768). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

“MIDDLE WALL Term is found in Eph. 2:14 and variously translated: “middle wall of partition” (KJV); “dividing wall of hostility” (HCSB, NRSV, NIV); “barrier of the dividing wall” (NASB); “barrier of enmity which separated them” (REB). Investigation of the term has yielded several possible interpretations. 1. The wall that separated the inner and outer courts of the temple and prevented Jews and Gentiles from worshiping together. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin warned that Gentiles who disregarded the barrier would suffer the pain of death. 2. The curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. This curtain was rent at the death of Jesus (Mark 15:38) and is representative of the separation of all humanity from God. 3. The “fence” consisting of detailed commandments and oral interpretations erected around the law by its interpreters to ensure its faithful observation. In reality, the fenced-in law generated hostility between Jews and Gentiles and further divided them, as well as furthering the enmity between God and humanity. Destruction of the Law’s mediators opens a new and living way to God through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 10:20). 4. The cosmic barrier that separates God and persons, persons themselves, and other powers in the universe (Eph. 1:20–21)—angels, dominions, principalities. 5. Echoing Isa. 59:2, the term refers to the separation of humanity from God as a result of sin.

No one interpretation is sufficient by itself. The writer of Ephesians stressed that every conceivable barrier that exists between persons and between God and humanity has been destroyed by God’s definitive work in Jesus Christ. See Ephesians; Gentiles; Law; Salvation; Sin; Temple.
William J. Ireland, Jr”

Ireland, W. J., Jr. (2003). Middle Wall. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1121). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

“MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION. Acts 21:28; Eph. 2:14”

Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

“Hath broken down (λύσας). Lit., loosened or dissolved. Rev., giving the force of the aorist tense, brake down. The participle has an explanatory force, in that He brake down.

The middle-wall of partition (τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ). Lit., the middle wall of the fence or hedge. The wall which pertained to the fence; the fact of separation being emphasized in wall, and the instrument of separation in fence. The hedge was the whole Mosaic economy which separated Jew from Gentile. Some suppose a reference to the stone screen which bounded the court of the Gentiles in the temple.

15. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity (τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ καταργήσας). The enmity immediately follows the middle wall of partition, and should be rendered in apposition with and as defining it, and as dependent on brake down, not on abolished: the middle wall which was the enmity. Iris used abstractly, as peace in ver. 14. The enmity was the result and working of the law regarded as a separative system; as it separated Jew from Gentile, and both from God. See Rom. 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 7:7–11. For abolished, see on cumbereth, Luke 13:7, and make without effect, Rom. 3:3.

The law of commandments contained in ordinances (τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν). The law, etc., depends in construction on having abolished, and is not in apposition with the enmity, as A. V. The middle wall of partition, the enmity, was dissolved by the abolition of the law of commandments. Construe in His flesh with having abolished. Law is general, and its contents are defined by commandments, special injunctions, which injunctions in turn were formulated in definite decrees. Render the entire passage: brake down the middle-wall of partition, even the enmity, by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”

Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, pp. 378–379). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“The apostle describes the position of the Gentiles as partakers in relationship to the middle wall of partition in Ephesians 2:11–16: Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

Paul points out that God made certain covenantal promises to the Jewish people. In verse 12, the word covenants is plural because he is dealing with the four unconditional, eternal covenants God has made with the Jewish people: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. God’s blessings are mediated by these four covenants. He also points out that God made a fifth covenant with the Jewish people, but unlike the other four, the Mosaic Covenant, which contains the Mosaic Law, was conditional and temporary. Among the purposes of the Mosaic Law, the purpose he deals with here was to serve as the middle wall of partition to keep Gentiles as Gentiles away from enjoying the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. As long as the Mosaic Law was in force, if a Gentile wished to partake of the covenantal promises and blessings, he would have to undergo conversion to Mosaic Judaism, be circumcised, take upon himself the obligations of the Law, and live like a Jew had to live under the Law. So Gentiles as proselytes to Mosaic Judaism could benefit, but not Gentiles as Gentiles. Among the accomplishments of the death of the Messiah is that this middle wall of partition … the law of commandments was broken down. As Paul states it elsewhere, “the Law was rendered inoperative.”

The result of this is spelled out in Ephesians 3:5–6: which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The key word for the position of the Gentiles is the word partaker. What Paul does not say is that Gentiles have become “takers over” of the promise, as replacement theology teaches, but he does say is that they have become partakers of the promise. The word promise is singular since he is emphasizing the key spiritual promise of salvation by grace through faith in the person of the Messiah. The position of the Gentiles, then, is that of partaking of the spiritual blessings of the Jewish covenants. They do not partake of the physical blessings, but they do partake of the spiritual blessings.”

Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 27, pp. 8–9). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.


Peace is the opposite of anxiety in the heart and of either discord or enmity between individuals and nations. Four aspects of peace should be considered:

1.      WITH GOD  (ROM. 5:1). That means the believer is now and forever on a peace footing in his relation to God, because he was justified. This aspect of peace is never an experience. It is wholly positional.

2.      OF GOD  (PHIL. 4:7; COL. 3:15; CF. HEB. 13:20). Referring not to position but to an experience, Christ said: “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). Here is inwrought peace, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

3.      IN THE COMING KINGDOM  (ISA. 9:6–7). The two great kingdom words for Israel are righteousness and peace. Note in proof of this statement the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:27).

4.      IN ONE BODY.  The agelong enmity between Jew and Gentile likened to a middle wall of partition is broken down when Jews and Gentiles are joined now to each other in one Body, the Church (Eph. 2:14–18; Col. 1:20).

5.      IN GENERAL.  Observe the following points: (a) There can be no peace in this Christ-rejecting world (Isa. 57:20–21). (b) 1 Thessalonians 5:3 indicates that the nations will have reached a time of temporary truce or peace before Christ comes. (c) No strife is to characterize the coming kingdom reign of the Prince of Peace, for peacefulness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). At that time a blessing is to be pronounced upon all who are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9).”

Chafer, L. S. (1993). In Systematic theology (Vol. 7, p. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

“In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says that Christ broke down the “dividing wall of hostility” (ESV). Paul may be drawing on imagery from the Jerusalem temple to show that Gentiles now enjoy the same access to God as Jews (see Key Word Study: Mesotoichon, “Dividing Wall”). In the first century, Gentiles were only allowed to enter the outer parts of the Jerusalem temple. A five-foot-high wall separated the outer court known as the court of the Gentiles from the inner sanctuary. Tablets hanging on pillars warned in both Greek and Latin that no Gentile could enter in the inner courts (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 6.2.4). One such inscription declares, “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death” (see Arnold 2002, 317).

These laws directly influenced Paul. The Jews who arrested Paul in Jerusalem falsely accused him of defiling the temple by bringing Gentiles into it (Acts 21:27–29). While the physical wall remained in place in the temple until it was destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s sacrifice removed all barriers between Gentiles and God (see Eph 2:11–13).”

Brown, D. R., Custis, M., & Whitehead, M. M. (2013). Lexham Bible Guide: Ephesians. (D. Mangum, Ed.) (Eph 2:20). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“2:14 The middle wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles was vividly portrayed by an actual partition in the temple area, with a sign warning that any Gentile going beyond the Court of the Gentiles would receive swift and sudden death.

2:15 having abolished . . . the law: Paul was not saying that God had rejected the righteous standards of the law. Rather, in Christ the righteous standards that people could never reach have been accomplished. He is our righteousness; in Him, believers fulfill the law (see Matt. 5:17, 20; Rom. 3:21, 22, 31). The Christian church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is described as one new man. In the earliest days of Christianity, the church was largely made up of Jews. But under the direction of God’s Spirit, the believers witnessed to Gentiles (Acts 10), who then outnumbered the Jewish members.”

Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1997). The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Eph 2:14–15). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

“Believers are spiritually equal in Christ, and again, the real mystery, given God’s unconditional election of Israel as His chosen nation (Gen. 12:1–3; cf. Rom. 11:29), is how Gentiles could be brought into the redemptive community on the same ground (Col. 1:27). According to Judaism, Gentiles could convert as proselytes, but they were still second-class citizens in the kingdom; for instance, the temple had a “court of the Gentiles” and a middle wall of partition they couldn’t pass. Now, “this mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6; cf. 2:12–16).”

Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (p. 55). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

“Building arts.—The first part of the Apostolic Age witnessed great activity in building within Palestine, notably the completion of Herod’s ambitious projects. The Temple was finished, only to be demolished again by the Romans. The conquerors took up the like work for themselves, but along lines of there own. References to building in the Apostolic writings are, however, few. The work of the mason underlies such passages as Ro 15:20, 1 Co 3:9ff., 2 Co 5:1ff., 1 P 2:5ff., He 3:3f. Specific parts of buildings are named in the ‘middle wall of partition’ (Eph 2:14, perhaps reminiscent of the Temple), the ‘foundation’ and ‘chief corner-stone’ (Eph 2:20). The builder’s measuring-rod (reed) is mentioned in Rev 11:1. Carpentry appears only metaphorically in 1 Co 3:12, and in the figure of speech employed in Col 2:14.”

Cruickshank, W. (1916–1918). Arts. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (2 Vols.) (Vol. 1, p. 94). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“Jews have God’s promise and if we Christians have it, too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted onto their tree.

Karl Barth

I think myself that the shocking reply to the Syrophonician woman (it came alright in the end) is to remind all us Gentile Christians—who forget it easily enough and even flirt with anti-Semitism—that the Hebrews are spiritually senior to us, that God did entrust the descendants of Abraham with the first revelation of Himself.

C.S. Lewis

By the death of Christ, “the middle wall of partition … the law of the commandments contained in the ordinances”—which was at the same time a token of the enmity between God and sinners, and an occasion of distance and alienation between Jews and Gentiles—was abolished; and believing Jews and Gentiles were reconciled to God and united into one body.

Thomas M’Crie”

Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (p. 535). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

“Emphasizing the equal incorporation within the Christian community of Jews and Gentiles—two groups which had previously been estranged from each other—Ephesians says that Christ “has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition”—the breaking down of this wall being otherwise described as his removal of the hostility between the two groups, his annulling of “the law consisting of commandments, ordinances and all” (Ephesians 2:14 f.).36

It is a commonplace with British commentators on Ephesians to suppose that this “middle wall of partition” may have been suggested by the barrier which separated the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple from the court of the Gentiles, a barrier which Gentiles were forbidden to penetrate on pain of death.37 German commentators, on the other hand, are more inclined to think of the barrier which, in some gnostic texts, separates the world beneath from the upper world of light.38

Without examining the question whether this concept in its gnostic form was current as early as the first century A.D.,39 we may ask which of the two barriers provides the more apt analogy to the thought of Ephesians 2:14. The barrier in the temple was a vertical one; the “iron curtain” of the gnostic texts was horizontal. The division in view in Ephesians 2:14 is not a division between the upper and lower world; it is a division between two groups of people resident in this world, and is therefore more aptly represented by a vertical barrier than by a horizontal one—the more so as the two groups which were kept apart by this “middle wall of partition” are exactly the same two groups as were kept apart by the barrier in the Jerusalem temple.

It may indeed be asked, as it is by Martin Dibelius,40 if the readers of Ephesians 2:14 would have understood such an allusion. Perhaps not; but would they have understood a gnostic allusion any better? There is in any case no emphasis on a material barrier. But whatever the readers may or may not have understood, the writer may well have had at the back of his mind that temple barrier which played an important part in the chain of events through which Paul became (to quote Ephesians 3:1) “the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles”. For, according to Acts 21:27 ff., Paul’s arrest came about because he was charged with aiding and abetting illegal entry by a Gentile through the temple barrier. The charge could not be sustained when it came to court, as no witnesses were forthcoming, but Paul was not released; he remained in custody, first in Caesarea and then in Rome. That literal “middle wall of partition”, the outward and visible sign of the ancient cleavage between Jew and Gentile, could have come very readily to mind in this situation.

This is further suggested by the emphasis laid a few lines later on the common access to the Father which Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ now enjoy “in one Spirit”.41 The barrier which formerly kept Gentiles at a distance from the God of Israel has been abrogated, and even Jewish believers have now more unimpeded access to God in this “holy sanctuary” of living men and woman than was available to them in the earthly temple where, in accordance with their status, they had to maintain a respectful distance. For the barrier which excluded Gentiles from the inner courts was not the only barrier there. There was a further succession of barriers in the inner precincts, barring various groups of Israelites from nearer access. Beyond the court of the women Jewish women might not proceed; beyond the court of Israel Jewish laymen might not proceed. Into the court of the priests and the outer compartment of the holy house itself priests and Levites might enter in the performance of their prescribed duties, but the heavy veil which curtained off the inner compartment barred all access to the throne-room of God’s invisible presence except to the high priest when he entered it annually on the Day of Atonement with sacrificial blood. His direct access then was an occasion for soul-affliction; in the spiritual sanctuary of Ephesians 2:21 the direct access to God which all believers enjoy is an occasion for gladness and praise. This direct access is a major theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Hebrews alike; but whereas the barrier which Hebrews uses as an illustration is the veil which hung before the holy of holies, that which is more probably envisaged in Ephesians is the one which forced Gentiles to keep their distance.

36 With this annulment of the law cf. the statement in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law” (see pp. 190 ff.).

37 E.g. J. A. Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London, 1904), pp. 59 f. (On the barrier see Josephus, BJ v. 194.)

38 E.g. H. Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser, pp. 126 ff., following his treatment of “die himmlische Mauer” in Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, pp. 18 ff.

39 This question is especially provoked when attempts are made to reconstruct the concept of the heavenly wall (or other gnostic concepts) on the basis of Mandaean texts which are several centuries later than the New Testament age.

40 M. Dibelius, An die Kolosser, An die Epheser, An Philemon (Tübingen, 3 1953), p. 69; cf. H. Schlier, Christus und die Kirche im Epheserbrief, p. 18. E. J. Goodspeed sees the temple barrier here, but considers that its figurative use in this context was suggested by its actual destruction in A.D. 70 (The Meaning of Ephesians, p. 37).

41 Ephesians 2:18, 21.”

 Bruce, F. F. (1977). Paul: apostle of the free spirit (pp. 434–436). Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster


Baptism New Testament

Baptism New Testament


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“The New Testament Development.

The Baptism of John. John preached a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). The origins of his rite are difficult to trace, for there are both parallels and differences with all three Jewish forms above. The genesis of his baptism may be found in the prophetic acted parable, which not only symbolized God’s message but also intended to bring it about. John’s practice had several theological ramifications: (1) It was intimately connected with radical repentance, not only of the Gentile but astoundingly (to his contemporaries) also of the Jew. (2) It was eschatological at the core, preparing for the Messiah, who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11), and therefore looked to the final separation between God’s people and the wicked at the Eschaton (i.e., “the End,” cf. Mt 3:12). (3) It symbolized moral purification and so prepared the people for the coming kingdom (Mt 3:2; Lk 3:7–14). In spite of the obvious connection between John’s ceremony and the early church, we cannot posit absolute dependence. In fact, it disappeared from Jesus ministry. At first, Jesus allowed his disciples to continue the rite (Jn 3:22), but later he seemingly discontinued the practice (Jn 4:1–3), probably for the following reasons: (1) John’s message was functional, while Jesus’ was personal/ontological. (2) John’s was forward-looking, expecting the coming kingdom, while Jesus’ was backward-looking, celebrating that event. (3) John’s was an interim practice, while Jesus’ was sacramental. Jesus’ ministry fulfilled John’s, so he severed himself from the latter’s modus operandi.
The Baptism of Jesus. This event has its genesis in a complex interplay of motives, divine and human, within the messianic consciousness of Jesus (see Mk 1:9–11 and parallels). For John it was Jesus’ stamp of approval upon his message and ministry. Jesus was in continuity with John’s kingdom proclamation. For Jesus, it was also an anointing which signified the inauguration of his messianic ministry. As seen in God’s “heavenly voice” of Mark 1:11 and parallels, this has two aspects: (1) The voice alludes to Psalm 2:7, establishing Jesus’ unique filial sonship. (2) It alludes to Isaiah 42:1, establishing him as the messianic “servant of Yahweh.” From the standpoint of man, the event signifies Jesus’ identification with his sin and suffering. It showed his solidarity with man as sinner and thereby inaugurated the time of fulfillment, wherein God’s salvation would be accomplished by the Messiah.
Jesus’ Resurrection Command. Here we find the true basis of the church’s practice (Mt 28:19). As already stated, the disciples stopped employing it, so it is here that we see the institution reconstituted as an ordinance based on the death and resurrection of Christ. It was no longer a forward-looking phenomenon but had now become a realized activity centering on the gospel message, certified by the risen Christ who is exalted to universal lordship. It also is an essential aspect of the discipling activity, as seen in the use of the participle “baptizing” after the main verb “make disciples.” Finally we might note that the act signifies the entrance of the believer “into” union with (literally “into the name of”) the triune Godhead.

Baptism in the Early Church. Acts 2:38 shows that baptism was a sacral institution from the very beginning. This takes it back to the earliest days of the church. In the primitive church it was an important part of the salvation process (Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized”) and was accomplished via confession and prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). Probably there was a question-and-answer period in which the believer confessed his faith and dedicated himself to Christ. The result was reception into and identification with the messianic community of the new covenant, signifying both forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18) and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:16; Acts 2:38, 41; 9:17; 10:47, 48; 11:16, 17; 19:5–7″

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (pp. 258–259). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.


“Baptism New Testament Lexical”

“βαπτίζω (baptizō). vb. to immerse. Expresses the action of immersing something or someone into liquid (usually water).

This verb is explicitly used in reference to Jewish ritual washing (Mark 7:3–4; Luke 11:38; John 3:25–26) and the activity of John the Baptist (Matt 11:10; 3:1–10; 4:17; Mark 1:2–6, 14–15; Luke 3:1–9; 7:27; John 1:19–23). In the Gospels and Acts, the term is used primarily in reference to immersion as administered by John, the disciples (John 3:22; 4:2), and then later, believers (e.g., Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:17–18; 10:48; 18:8; compare 1 Cor 1:14). In the Great Commission (Matt 28:16–20), being baptized appears as one of the means by which a disciple of Jesus is made. The term, when used of either John’s immersion or immersion in Jesus’ name, primarily indicates moral cleansing, something ritual washing was not able to do nor intended to do.

βάπτισμα (baptisma). n. neut. immersion. Refers to the act of being immersed in liquid, usually water.
This term is only found in Christian literature. In the NT, it is often found in the fixed expressions βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου (baptisma Iōannou, “immersion of John”; e.g., Luke 7:29; 20:4; Acts 18:25) or βάπτισμα μετανοίας (baptisma metanoias, “immersion of repentance”; e.g., Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). In Romans 6:4 baptisma is mentioned as the event at which incorporation into Christ (“in Christ”) occurs (compare Col 2:12).

βαπτισμός (baptismos). n. masc. purification, immersion. Refers to the act of ritual purification or immersion.

In Mark 7:3–4 baptismos refers to Jewish ritual washing of utensils, dishes, and more in connection with eating. In Colossians 2:12 it refers to the event at which incorporation into Christ (“in Christ”) occurred (compare Rom 6:4). In Hebrews 6:2, the reference is with regard to “teachings about purifications.” The plural use could infer that this was teaching related to the difference between immersion in Jesus name and Jewish ritual washing in general. However, in light of Heb 9:10, where the reference is clearly in relation to Jewish ritual washing, it may simply refer only to ritual washing in Heb 6:2 as well.

βαπτιστής (baptistēs). n. masc. immerser, one who immerses. Always used as a title for John, the forerunner of Jesus.

The term occurs 12 times and always in the fixed phrase Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς (Iōannēs ho baptistēs; Matt 3:1; 11:11–12; 14:2, 8; 16:14; 17:13; Mark 6:25; 8:28; Luke 7:20, 33; 9:19). Jewish ritual washing was self-administered, and this title was applied by others to John because he played an intermediary role in the act. Despite the fact that the disciples and other believers immersed new believers, only John is called “the immerser.”

λούω (louō). vb. to wash, cleanse, purify. Refers generally to the act of washing but may be used for washing the body for purification, whether moral or ritual.

This general word for washing only relates to the concept of baptism in Heb 10:22. The text in Heb 10:22, where the OT sacrificial system is interpreted in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, has in view the purification of the body through immersion in Jesus’ name.

λουτρόν (loutron). n. neut. bath, washing. Refers to the act of washing to metaphorically describe moral cleansing.

In nonbiblical literature this term refers to the place where one bathes. This word occurs twice in the NT and seems to use the imagery of baptism to describe moral cleansing (Eph 5:26; Titus 3:5).

ἀπολούω (apolouō). vb. to cleanse from sin at immersion. The verb is used in reference to the cleansing of sin at Christian immersion.

The verb is a compound of λούω (louō) with the preposition ἀπό (apo) and only appears twice in the NT. In Acts 22:16, Paul is commanded by Ananias to “be baptized (baptizō), wash away (apolouō) your sins.” In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul also uses the term to refer to Christian immersion.

καθαρισμός (katharismos). n. masc. cleansing. Describes the concept of ritual or moral cleansing.
The term appears seven times in the NT. In the Gospels it refers exclusively to ritual purity, including general washing (John 2:6), immersion (John 3:25), cleansing from leprosy (Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14), and cleansing following childbirth (Luke 2:22). In the General Letters it refers to Jesus’ blood as purifying from sin (Heb 1:3; 2 Pet 1:9).”


Snyder, B. J. (2014). Baptism. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


“The apostle Paul could presuppose that the addressees of his letters had received baptism: in Romans 6 he showed the absurdity of their continuing in sin since it contradicted their having died to sin when they had been baptized into Christ’s death; in 1 Corinthians 12:12–13 it was their baptism by the one Spirit into the one body of Christ which meant that the various gifts of the Corinthians were to serve the common good; in Galatians 3:27–28 baptism into Christ is seen as effecting a unity that overrides differences between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (see DPL, Baptism). Matthew records the command of the risen Lord to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19; see DJG, Baptism). Here, then, are indications from the Epistles and the Gospels that baptism was from a very early date the universal rite of admission to the church.

The Acts of the Apostles relate that practice episodically in narrative form. Elsewhere in the later writings of the NT there are a few clear references to baptism and several more possible allusions to it. The detection of the latter can be controversial among scholars, since it involves hints toward rites surrounding the water bath that find their first direct attestation only in the second or third centuries.
The early postscriptural writings add some details to our knowledge about baptismal understanding and practice in their day, but it is not until Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, that we find a relatively full ritual description of baptismal practice, and not until the late second century that we find sustained theological reflection in Tertullian’s treatise De Baptismo. The early patristic evidence concerning Christian initiation is completed by the ancient church order which most twentieth-century scholarship has identified with The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Tertullian and Hippolytus also provide the first uncontested evidence of the baptism of young children.

Confronted with the fragmentary and allusive material in the NT concerning baptism (in the Gospels and in the Pauline letters as well as in other writings), the historian and exegete has to make decisions concerning its relation to understandings and practices attested only in (say) Justin, Tertullian and Hippolytus. Do these latter illuminate directly what was believed, said and done concerning baptism in NT times? Or do the patristic texts rather represent additions or alterations to the apostolic rites and doctrines? Or is it possible (in something like a middle way) that the second century witnessed liturgical developments that elaborated what was embryonically present in the first century, or brought to concrete expression what existed at the level of theological statement in the apostolic writings? Any serious treatment of baptism according to the NT has to remain aware of such issues.

1. Water and the Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles
2. The Non-Pauline Epistles and Revelation
3. The Early Postapostolic Period
4. The Later Second Century
5. The Baptism of Young Children”

Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (Eds.). (1997). In Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed., pp. 112–113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran

The Nativity Scene Comparing Bible and Quran. For discussion visit the forum

“There are some hints of similarity between the Qur’an and the Bible and significant differences concerning the annunciation, conception, birth, and infancy of Jesus.

In the Qur’anic version of the annunciation, Jesus is called the “son of Mary.” In the Bible, Jesus is miraculously born of Mary but called “the Son of the Most High.” The Qur’an designates Jesus as the “Messiah” but does not say that he will be given the “throne of his father David” and will “reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

In the Qur’an, the conception is by Allah’s decree. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and “overshadows” her, even as “the cloud” of the glory of the presence of the Lord God “covered” the tabernacle. The biblical account of the conception conveys an immanence that the Islamic faith would find inconsistent with Allah’s transcendence.

While the Qur’an designates Jesus as “of the righteous,” in the Bible, in the words of the angel Gabriel, Jesus is the “Son of the Most High,” the “holy one,” and “the Son of God.”

In the Qur’an, the birth of Jesus takes place under a palm tree that provides sustenance for Mary. In the Bible, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. To bring this about, the Lord God moves the Roman emperor to decree a census requiring Joseph and his betrothed to go to Bethlehem. The birth of the Messiah must take place in “the town of David,” as the prophet foretold. The Bible provides both a historical and a universal dimension in the account of the birth of Jesus.

In the Bible, the Messiah humbles himself and is born in a stable and laid in a manger. The angel announces to lowly shepherds the good news of a Savior for all people. Jesus is not just another prophet, as in the Qur’an. He is the Son of God coming as Savior to the whole world. This is “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Jesus is the gracious gift of the Lord God to Jews, Arabs, and all people. It is a message to be “spread” immediately. It is a life-changing message that moves the heart to praise and glorify the Lord God with the shepherds in one’s everyday life.”

Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Person of Jesus

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Person of Jesus

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“While the Qur’an states that Jesus is the Messiah, it repeatedly denies that Jesus is the son of Allah. Jesus cannot be Allah’s son, since Allah has no wife. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus is as sinless as Adam in his creation, however, and a great messenger, word, slave, mercy, and prophet of Allah.
The Bible states emphatically many times that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. All things were made through him. Through him God reconciled all things unto himself (Col. 1:20). Jesus is the incarnate Word. He is God’s very life and light and love come into this world, become flesh. He is the embodiment of God’s grace and truth for the salvation of humankind. He is the Son of God, our Savior and the Savior of the world.
The Qur’an’s strong rejection of Jesus as the Son of God is a great chasm between Islam and Christianity. Islam answers the basic question “What do you think of Christ—whose son is he?” with a distressing denial of Jesus as the Son of God.”
Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections

Reformed Theology Dispensational Reflections


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“The vitality of Reformed Theology lies in its Reformation roots. Reformed Theology is an expression of a continuity system. The diversity of Scripture has its internal unity in the Triune God: the Father’s plan of redemption, the obedience of the Son and his present rule, and the continuous work of the Spirit of restoration. All three persons of the Trinity work together in bringing about the fullness of redemption. This position places together the united witness of Scripture (OT and NT) to the acts of God in time and to the final acts of God in Christ. Old and new stand together and not over against each other (tota Scriptura).

Moreover, the old is not to be relegated to being secondary, material, and inferior. It is the word of God in which God still speaks through his servants, the prophets. Moreover, redemption is always to be correlated with creation. The Scriptures reveal the fidelity of God, who promises and keeps covenant. Though God’s covenants with creation, Abraham, Moses, Phinehas (priesthood), and David are temporal expressions, and though they be renewed from time to time, their focus lies in Jesus Christ. He is the covenant mediator, in whom all the promises of God and the fulfillment of all the covenants are true (2 Cor 1:20).

The corollaries for Reformed Theology as a continuity system are: Trinity and eschatology, creation and redemption, and old and new. This means that the genius of Reformed Theology lies in the willingness to live with tensions inherent in the system and that the distinctiveness of any one Reformed theologian lies in how he tries to resolve these tensions. The focus of Reformed Theology is trinitarian and eschatological. Reformed Theology further affirms that this world of creation is also the world of redemption. Before the consummation, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eschatological (eternal), law and gospel, token and reality, promise and fulfillment, OT and NT, Israel and the church, this world and the world to come exist side by side.

The Christian lives between the two horizons of creation and the new creation. Hence, any eschatological discussion presupposes the Creator-creature distinction, as God is God and his revelation to man of himself and of the eschaton is in the form of accommodation, permitting us to see through a glass darkly. We stand in the presence of God with awe, as he is sovereign and free. In his sovereignty and freedom he has revealed aspects of his eternal plan in time, in the language of man, and in metaphors. Therefore, it is impossible to bind God to any eschatological (millennial) system. This issue was pointedly raised in a recent report of Christianity Today Institute as reported in an article in Christianity Today entitled “Our Future Hope: Eschatology and Its Role in the Church.”162 The moderator, Kenneth Kantzer, concludes that we must recognize “legitimate differences,” continue our work as students of the word, and remain in dialogue together.”

162 February 6, 1987.
VanGemeren, W. (1988). Systems of Continuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 61–62). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.


Hebrew Idioms

Hebrew Idioms


Antiphrasis is a forme of speech which by a word exprest doth signifie the contrary: as when the speaker sayth, wisely, or wittily, understanding the contrary. Also to say You are alwayes my friend, meaning, mine enemie. You are a man of great judgement, signfying unapt and unable to judge.
Peachum, H. (1977). The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Tropes. Medford, MA: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, Inc.

“antiphrasis. n. The use of a word in a sense opposite to its normal meaning (ἀντιφράζειν, “to express by the opposite”). E.g., 1 Corinthians 4:8, 10. See also irony”.

DeMoss, M. S. (2001). In Pocket dictionary for the study of New Testament Greek (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“To nullify threats, oaths or self-imprecations, and blasphemy various alterations and substitutions were made in wording. For example, in Num 16:14 Dathan and Abiram defy Moses’ order, “Should you gouge out the eyes of these men (to avoid saying “our eyes”), we will not go up.” David’s self-curses in 1 Sam 20:15f. and 25:22 are redirected to David’s enemies. Similarly, in Nathan’s rebuke of David for scorning the Lord (2 Sam 12:14) the text was altered to read “enemies of the Lord” to avoid directly accusing David of blasphemy. Naboth was charged with “blessing” (i.e., cursing) God and king (1 Kgs 21:10, 13), and the antiphrasis “bless” for “curse” is similarly used in Job 1:5, 11 and 2:5, 9. This usage survives in contemporary speech:in “Bible Belt” parlance, “he blessed me out” means “he cursed me,” while “bad” means “good” in colloquial Afro-American English. A common device to eliminate blasphemy was to turn the derogation back on the speaker. Eli’s sons’ vilification of God (1 Sam 3:13) was turned back on them by omitting the first letter of the word for God, ʾlhm, to make it mean “to them””

Pope, M. H. (1992). Bible, Euphemism and Dysphemism in the. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 724). New York: Doubleday.


“1. As elsewhere in antiquity, so too in Israel the curse and its opposite (→ Blessing) were understood primarily as words of power that were thought to take effect magically. The curse was a materialized, harmful force that flew across the earth, overtook the one against whom it was uttered, and brought about his or her destruction (Zech. 5:1–4). To avert it, there was need of a countercurse (Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:9; Ps. 140:9–11) or of an opposing blessing (Judg. 17:2; 1 Kgs. 2:44–45). Fear of the automatic operation of a curse led to the use of “bless” as a euphemism for “curse” (Job 1:5; 2:9) or to the omission of selfcursing in an oath.”
Schottroff, W. (1999–2003). Curse. In The encyclopedia of Christianity (Vol. 1, p. 758). Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill.

“Other expressions also seem to be fixed idioms, although they are not limited to formation with ʾelōhîm: “fearful of God” (Gen 22:12; Exod 18:21; Job 1:1; Eccl 7:18; etc.), “to fear God” (Exod 1:17, 21; Job 1:9; etc.), “to curse God” (or, euphemistically, “to bless God”) (1 Sam 3:13 txt em; Job 1:5; 2:9; cf. Deut 21:23 “curse of God”), “to ask God” (Judg 18:5; 20:18; 1 Sam 14:36f.), “word of God” (Judg 3:20; 1 Sam 9:27; 2 Sam 16:23; cf. 1 Kgs 12:22; Mic 3:7), or “

“In the chapter on the scope and limitations of textual criticism the author lists virtually all of the elements necessary to a proper critical study of the OT text. These include Mas-soretic notations, discrepant readings in duplicate passages, the versions, variant Hebrew manuscripts such as those of Qumran, etc. His suggestion that an example of Massoretic tiqqûnê sôpᵉrîm (“scribal emendations”) that went unnoticed or unlisted by the rabbis is that of bārēk (“bless”) for qallēl (“curse”) in Job 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 may be questionable, how-
JETS 25:3 (September 1982) p. 366
ever. “Bless” for “curse” is clearly a euphemism, especially when God is the object, but it is gratuitous to assume that a pious scribe altered the text to make it less offensive when such euphemisms could well be expected on the lips of the original speakers (writers).”
(1982). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25(3), 365–366.

of God” (Hos 4:1; 6:6; Prov 2:5). Such phrases sometimes refer intentionally to the “deity” (cf. also the denial of God, IV/5).”

Jenni, E., & Westermann, C. (1997). Theological lexicon of the Old Testament (p. 121). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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Comparing the Bible and the Quran Rebirth

Comparing the Bible and the Quran Rebirth

“In the Qur’an, Allah remains transcendent. He cares for his people, but he does not give “rebirth.” Rebirth is not necessary, in fact, since human beings are not basically sinful. Allah’s followers are not referred to as his “children,” nor does he dwell in their hearts by faith. It is by submission to Allah, beginning with the Shahada and the keeping of the Five Pillars, thus tipping the scales of judgment in one’s favor, that one enters Paradise.

In the Christian faith, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The heart of God yearns for us to come to him and for us to have an intimate friendship and fellowship with him (Luke 15). This love of God reaches out to us in the person of his Son. The sacrificial love of Jesus as the Lamb of God acts as a magnet, drawing us to himself as our personal Savior (John 12:32), saving us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). Thus, by God’s grace, as we hear the good news of God’s grace in Jesus, we are “called” to a personal faith in him as our Savior (Gal. 1:1, 15).

It is by the “rebirth of the Spirit” that the Father’s love reaches its destination in our hearts, moving us to repentance, cleansing us from sin, bringing us into a faith fellowship with him through Jesus, and making us his children and heirs of eternal life. This new faith relationship with Christ becomes visible in a new life. The love of God in Christ becomes “complete” when through us it touches the lives of others (1 John 4:12). The Lord God is a very personal and intimate God, pursuing that kind of close friendship with each of us.”1

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1Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (p. 81). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Dispensation and dispensationalism

Dispensation and dispensationalism

This is a proper definition of dispensation and dispensationalism. However, we must also think how the ultra-dispensationalists understand the similarities. Many hyper-dispensationalists accept all scripture was given by God but only accept Paul for themselves. If ultra-dispensationalists reject the rest of scripture for as something applicable for themselves (Baptism-Lords Supper). What about the similarities how can they not also be for us? If it was always by faith then all the scriptures apply to us. We must accept all dispensations as one the bible as one. We must not only take the bible literally. We must also see the bible spiritually and accept the spiritual non-literal interpretations.

The Necessity of Proper Definition

“The usually quoted definition of a dispensation is the one that appears in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible: “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (p. 5). The usual criticism leveled against this definition is that it is not true to the meaning of oikonomia since it says nothing about a stewardship and emphasizes the period of time aspect. The criticism may be somewhat valid, for a dispensation is primarily a stewardship, administration, or arrangement and not a period of time. Age and dispensation are not synonymous in meaning even though they may exactly coincide in history. A dispensation is basically the arrangement involved, not the time involved; therefore, a proper definition must emphasize this.

In addition, it is obvious that dispensationalists teach that at least certain features of certain dispensations overlap. Perhaps that idea would more accurately be expressed by saying that each dispensation builds on the preceding ones. Obviously, that means that similar or even the same principles which obtained during former ones are sometimes included in the succeeding one. If a dispensation is an arrangement or economy, then some details of the various arrangements will be the same. Thus, dispensations supersede each other in the sense of building on each other in line with the idea of progress of revelation and the philosophy of history which climaxes in an ultimate goal in time. Therefore, the ideas of dispensations ending, superseding, building, progressing, and having similar and different features must also be included in the definition.“”1

Here is a “proper definition” laid out by true dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalists reject this because. If they do not then they would partake in the Lords Supper and be Baptized.

“In the light of the foregoing discussion, is it possible to formulate a proper definition of a dispensation? We suggest this one. A dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose. If one were describing a dispensation, he would include other things such as the ideas of testing, failure, and judgment, but we are seeking a definition, not a description. The definition proposed, though brief and perhaps open to the criticism of oversimplification, seems sufficiently inclusive. In this theological use of the word economy the emphasis is put on the Biblical meaning of the word. Economy also suggests the fact that certain features of some dispensations may be similar. Although socialistic and capitalistic economies are quite different in their basic concepts, nevertheless similar functions of the economy are performed in both systems. Likewise, in the different economies of God’s running of the affairs of this world certain features will be similar. However, the word distinguishable in the definition points out the fact that there are some features which pertain particularly to each dispensation and which mark it off as a different economy. The particular features will distinguish, though the distinguishable dispensation will not be dissimilar in all its particulars. Finally, the phrase the outworking of God’s purpose in the definition reminds us that the viewpoint in dispensationalism is God’s. These are economies instituted and brought to their purposeful conclusion by God. The distinguishable feature is put there by God, and the purpose is God’s.”2

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1Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

2Ryrie, C. C. (2010). Dr. Ryrie’s Articles (pp. 34–35). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Burden of proof

Burden of proof

“burden of proof. Legal term that indicates which party in a controversy has the responsibility of offering support for its position. Thus, in a U.S. criminal trial, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution; the defendant is presumed innocent unless the prosecution can establish guilt. In philosophy, the question of which party has the burden of proof is often disputed. Thus some nonbelievers assert “the presumption of atheism,” claiming that if we do not have a proof of God’s existence, then atheism is the rational position. Philosophers in the Reformed Epistemology camp, on the other hand, argue that belief in God can be perfectly rational even without proof or any arguments at all, so long as there are no sound arguments against God’s existence. A middle position holds that neither side has any special burden of proof; the most reasonable view is simply the one that makes the most sense in light of all that is known.”

Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“BURDEN OF PROOF: In law, the obligation resting upon one or other of the parties to a suit to bring proof of a fact when the opposite party alleges the contrary. The Talmudic phrase is “‘alaw ha-rayah” (on him is the proof). Of course, the plaintiff who seeks to make out a case for relief states his side first; and whatever the defendant admits need not be proved. But in the jurisprudence of the Talmud there is a broad exception; for everything in the nature of a penalty (“ḳenas”)—e.g., the twofold, fourfold, and fivefold compensation in case of theft—can only be adjudged upon the testimony of witnesses. An acknowledgment by the defendant may be of no use, or may even result in averting the penalty. In an ordinary suit for debt, the plaintiff would first prove by witnesses, or by the production of a bond, that the defendant owes him a given sum for a loan or on a credit-sale; and the defendant would then have to produce his acquittance in writing (“shober”), or the witnesses in whose presence either the debt was repaid or the creditor acknowledged its discharge.

So far there is no difliculty. But some cases are more complex; and to these two maxims are applied: (1) “hammoẓi me-ḥabero ‘alaw ha-rayah” (he who takes away from his neighbor [that is, who asks a judgment for money or property], on him is the proof), and (2) “nekasim be-ḥezḳatan” (property [abides] in its status); that is, no change in rights is presumed unless proved.
The first maxim is illustrated in a case where two of the defendant’s oxen, one “forewarned” and the other “innocent,” have pursued the plaintiff’s ox, and one of them has killed the latter, but the witnesses can not say which of the two caused the death. It will be presumed that the “innocent” ox did it; and the plaintiff will recover only half-damages. As half-damages are paid only out of the price of the injuring animal, if both the defendant’s oxen were “innocent,” it will be presumed that the injury was committed by the less valuable of the two (B. Ḳ. iii. 11, where other instances of the same rule are also found).

The other maxim is illustrated where a man and his father are killed by one and the same accident, and it can not be shown who died first. The father’s heirs say the son died first; the son’s creditors say the father died first. According to the opinion of the school of Hillel, which prevails, the property goes to the heirs upon the ground that “property abides in its status”; though here the other maxim would lead to the like result. If a man and his wife die together, the maxim of the abiding status gives the property brought into the marriage by the wife, not assumed by the husband at a fixed value and which is still on hand, to the wife’s heirs, but frees the husband’s heirs from paying her jointure (B. B. ix. 8, 9).

In cases of doubt which can not be solved by these rules—for instance, where husband and wife die together, as to the disposal of the “iron flock property” (that is, such part of the dowry as the husband has converted to his own use and is personally bound for)—the only rule is, divide into halves. In such a case the husband’s heirs would take one-half, and the wife’s heirs one-half (see Gemara on last-cited section, 158b et seq.).
It will be seen that no allowance is made for circumstances that would raise a greater likelihood on behalf of one of the alternatives—e.g., that the “forewarned” ox rather than the “innocent” one had done the mischief, the larger ox rather than the smaller one. And where two persons die through one and the same accident, no presumption is indulged, as in the Roman law, that the one who by age or sex had the greater power of resistance lived the longer.

Another maxim may be mentioned here. When A has no proof but B’s admission for one fact, he must give B credit for such other fact as the latter chooses to couple with it. For instance (Ket. ii. 2), B says to A, “This field in my possession belonged to your father, but I bought it from him.” If A has no other proof of his father’s title, he must admit the purchase; for “the mouth which bound is the mouth that loosed.” But if A has witnesses of his father’s title, then B must bring proof of his purchase.”

Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 3, pp. 428–429). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

““The Burden of Proof is on the Claimant”

The Talmud states:19

R. Samuel b. Naḥmani said: “How do we know that the burden of proof is on the claimant? Scripture states: ‘Let anyone who has a legal matter approach (yiggash) them’—i.e., let him bring (yaggish) proof to them.”20
R. Ashi objected: “Why do we need Scripture [to tell us this]? It is common sense that if a man has a pain, he goes to a physician.”

Why, R. Ashi asked, is there need to search for Biblical support for the principle that the burden of proof is on the claimant, when this principle can be deduced through logical reasoning? A person in pain goes to a doctor and tells the doctor his symptoms; the doctor does not run about looking for sick people. So, too, a person who has a claim against another must prove his claim, and the defendant need not prove nonliability.

R. Ashi thus based the principle that the burden of proof is on the claimant solely on logic and reasoning, and he saw no need to support this principle with a Biblical verse. Apparently, R. Samuel b. Naḥmani also believed that the source of the principle was logic, and his purpose in seeking to connect it with a Biblical verse was merely to give it additional support, by way of integrative, as distinguished from creative, interpretation.21”

19 TB Bava Kamma 46b.
R. Rabbi, Rav, or Rabban, used in the present work for the Talmudic Sages
b. ben, bar, “son of”—as in Simeon b. Gamaliel
20 Exodus 24:12–13 relates how Moses ascended the Mountain of the Lord in order to receive the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the commandments from God. Verse 14 states that before ascending the mountain Moses said to the elders: “Wait here for us until we return to you. You have Aaron and Hur with you; let anyone who has a legal matter approach them.” Moses thus established that any legal matters that might arise while he was away should be brought before Aaron and Hur. R. Samuel b. Naḥmani interpreted this verse to support the principle that the claimant, who must “approach” the judges, Aaron and Hur, with his claim, must present proof of his claim to them.
R. Rabbi, Rav, or Rabban, used in the present work for the Talmudic Sages
b. ben, bar, “son of”—as in Simeon b. Gamaliel
21 As to creative and integrative interpretation, see supra pp. 283–286. See also supra pp. 384–387, noting the decline in the use of midrash—even of the integrative kind—in the amoraic period.

Elon, M. (1994). Jewish law: history, sources, principles = Ha-mishpat ha-Ivri (A Philip and Muriel Berman ed., pp. 992–993). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.


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Is there found in the Qur’an, as in the Bible, a ransom and sacrifice for sin?

Is there found in the Qur’an, as in the Bible, a ransom and sacrifice for sin?

“The Qur’an holds that it is impossible for one person to ransom another. While this is true for two sinful human beings, the Bible declares that the sinless Christ offered his life as a ransom “to free” human beings from the guilt and power of sin.

It is significant that the Qur’an makes no mention of sacrifice for sin from the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets. While Islam accepts these Jewish scriptures as being revelation from God (with inaccuracies), it passes over the large portions that speak of the need for sacrifice and provision for sacrifices. The Qur’an holds that the revelation given to Muhammad reaches back to the faith of Abraham, who was willing to “offer his son” as a sacrifice—but it does not address the necessity of atonement in satisfying the justice of God.

Rather, it states that no person can ransom another. As to the question of divine justice, Allah qualifies his demands by saying, “We tax not any soul beyond its scope” (Surah 7:42). Thus the strict demands of divine justice are accommodated to human ability. For whatever shortcoming, Allah is ever forgiving and merciful (Surah 4:110). The denial of ransom and sacrifice is so complete that in the Qur’an there are only nine plagues by which Allah shows his power to free the Hebrew people. The Bible lists ten plagues; deliverance from the tenth plague came through the blood of a Passover lamb.
The Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament clearly set forth the necessity of sacrifice and point toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. The justice of the Lord God cannot be pushed aside or diminished. It must be taken seriously. Sin must be atoned for. To say that it can simply be forgiven does not reckon with the seriousness of sin or the holiness and justice of the Lord God. The demands of the Lord God’s holy law are not adjusted down to human limitations. Jesus did not say, “Try your best to love your enemies.” As the Son of God he presented God’s immutable law in all of its righteousness and holiness in perfect love toward the Lord God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37, 39). Sinful human beings cannot meet such demands for perfection. Humankind is helpless to fulfill the standard of perfect love toward God and fellow human beings.

The Lord God, with a love that cannot bear to see the sinner condemned, finds a way to deal seriously with sin and meet his own just demands. He does it by sending his Son to be an “atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Thus sin is not just overlooked; it is dealt with. Sin is not softened. The Lord God’s condemnation of sin is not dampened. Sin is paid for. The sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient “once for all” when he willingly offered up himself as the Lamb of God for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 7:27). This is the Lord God’s great act of grace. By the atoning sacrifice of his Son, the Lord God restores friendship and fellowship with human beings whom he loves.”

For further discussion on this topic visit our forum

Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (pp. 73–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


Quran and Bible was Jesus crucified?

Quran and Bible was Jesus crucified?

“Jesus was undeniably crucified. On the third day afterward, the risen Lord “showed them his hands and feet,” which still bore nail marks (Luke 24:40). This demonstrates irrefutably that the One crucified for our sins had triumphed over death. His atoning sacrifice is acceptable and sufficient for all humankind.
Where Islamic scholars believe it would have been a travesty for the Messiah to be crucified and also proof of weakness, we can see that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and his son’s willingness to be sacrificed, was no evidence of weakness but of obedience, strength, and love. The resurrection likewise certifies that Jesus’s crucifixion was a demonstration not of weakness but of great strength, obedience, and love.
The crucifixion of Jesus is central and crucial. If there is no crucifixion, then there is no atonement for sin, and if there is no atonement for sin, either humankind is condemned or human beings are not by nature sinful and need no atonement.` However, the Bible teaches that salvation is not by works but a gift by grace through faith to sinful human beings “through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
Secular Corroborating Testimony to the Crucifixion
Along with the eyewitness accounts in the Bible, the record of history confirms the literal crucifixion of Jesus, as a number of modern apologists point out.
Lee Strobel cites Josephus, the Jewish historian, in the Testimonium Flavianum, in words he considers to be genuine: “About this time there lived Jesus.… When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him [Jesus] to be crucified …” a Paul L. Maier affirms that the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus is substantiated by the recent discovery of an Arabic manuscript of Josephus’s Antiquities: “Pilate condemned him to be crucified.… His disciples … reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion.”b
Strobel appeals to Tacitus, the Roman historian of the first century, who writes: “Christus, from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hand of one of our Procurators, Pontius Pilate.…”c
Crucifixion was “the extreme penalty” of the time. Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb give evidence: “According to Julius Africanus (c. A.D. 221), the first-century historian, Thallus (c. A.D. 52),’ when discussing the darkness which fell upon the land during the crucifixion of Christ,’ spoke of it as an eclipse.d The second-century Greek writer, Lucian, speaks of Christ as ‘the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced a new cult into the world.’ ”e


3. Summary

The difference between the Qur’an and the Bible is most stark when the Qur’an denies the actual crucifixion of Jesus and his death. Islam rejects the crucifixion of Jesus so completely that its tradition states that when Jesus returns he will destroy all crosses. The Bible unequivocally states that Jesus was crucified, that he died, and that he was buried. His willingness to die as an atoning sacrifice on the despised cross shows the depth of his love. His resolve to endure this most humiliating of all deaths demonstrates his yearning for all human beings to be saved. Jesus predicted his crucifixion again and again. He was resolute and unwavering in his mission to go to the cross. The clear witness of the Bible to the crucifixion of Jesus is attested to by the testimony of secular historians.
The crucifixion of Jesus is central to the Christian belief in his atoning sacrifice as the Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world, as we shall see. The Qur’an holds, however, that human beings are born without sin and that one is able to pass the test of life and the final judgment on the basis of one’s belief in Allah and one’s good works, “As for those who believe and do good works, We shall make them enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow to dwell therein for ever” (Surah 4:57). Hence in Islam there is no need for sacrifice. However, according to the Qur’an, Allah saw the need to ransom Ishmael: “Then We [Allah] ransomed him [Ishmael] with a tremendous victim [Dawood: a noble sacrifice]” (Surah 37:107; see “E. Ransom and Sacrifice for Sin,” below).
If there is no crucifixion, there is no atoning sacrifice. If Jesus was crucified, an atoning sacrifice has been made. The fact of Jesus’s crucifixion is irrefutable, given the eyewitness accounts in the Bible and the testimony of secular history.”1

For further discussion on this topic visit our forum 
1Richter, R. (2011). Comparing the Qur’an and the Bible: What They Really Say about Jesus, Jihad, and More (pp. 68–70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Do you believe in this Jesus or another?

Do you believe in this Jesus or another? The scriptures say eternal life is knowing God and the only begotten, Jesus.
“A. The promises by God made in the Old Testament have now been fulfilled with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:30; 3:19, 24; 10:43; 26:6–7, 22; Rom. 1:2–4; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Peter 1:10–12; 2 Peter 1:18–19).
B. Jesus was anointed as Messiah by God at His baptism (Acts 10:38).
C. Jesus began His ministry in Galilee after His baptism (Acts 10:37).
D. His ministry was characterized by doing good and performing mighty works by means of the power of God (Mark 10:45; Acts 2:22; 10:38).
E. The Messiah was crucified according to the purpose of God (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Acts 2:23; 3:13–15, 18; 4:11; 10:39; 26:23; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 1:17–18; 15:3; Gal. 1:4; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2, 19; 3:18; 1 John 4:10).
F. He was raised from the dead and appeared to His disciples (Acts 2:24, 31–32; 3:15, 26; 10:40–41; 17:31; 26:23; Rom. 8:34; 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:4–7, 12ff; 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Peter 1:2; 3:18, 21).
G. Jesus was exalted by God and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25–29, 33–36; 3:13; 10:36; Rom. 8:34; 10:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22).
H. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8; 2:14–18, 38–39; 10:44–47; 1 Peter 1:12).
I. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20–21; 10:42; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:20–28; 1 Thess. 1:10).
J. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:19; 10:43, 47–48; 17:30; 26:20; Rom. 1:17; 10:9; 1 Peter 3:21).”

For more discussion on this topic visit our forum 

Utley, R. J. (2004). The Gospel according to Luke (Vol. Volume 3A, Lk 24:27). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

Plural Elohim

The name of God Elohim is plural
“The word for “God” most commonly used in Hebrew Scripture is Elohim. It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending “im.” The very word Elohim, used of the one true God in Genesis 1:1, is also used of false gods in Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 13:2.

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NASB)

Exo 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. (NASB)

Deu 13:2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ (NASB)

While the use of the plural Elohim does not prove a triunity, it certainly opens the door to a doctrine of plurality in the Godhead since it is the same word that is used for the one true God as for the many false gods. This causes something of a problem for rabbis. In the siddur, the Sabbath prayer book compiled by Rabbi Hertz, it says concerning Genesis 1:1, “The plural is to denote the plentitude of might; God comprehends and unifies all the ends of eternity and infinity.” The fact remains, however, that although the word does not of itself prove a plurality within the Godhead, it certainly does open the door to it.
It is sometimes said that this one word had to be used in both contexts since there is no alternative in Hebrew. This is not true however; the singular form of Elohim is Eloah and is used in passages such as Deuteronomy 32:15–17 and Habbakuk 3:3.

Deu 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation. 16 “They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. (NASB)

Hab 3:3 God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise. (NASB)

This singular form could have been used consistently, but it is found in only 250 places, as compared to the 2,500 instances of the plural form. The far greater use of the plural form tends to turn the argument in favor of plurality in the Godhead rather than against it.”
Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (p. 103). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

The Messiah will be a prophet

Deut 18:15-19 The messiah will be a prophet

“DEUTERONOMY 18:18 contains a promise given by God to Moses. God promises Moses that He will raise up a prophet “like you.” Why does God specify a prophet like Moses? What was different about Moses compared with other men called by God to be prophets? The unique status of Moses among the other prophets is explained in Numbers 12:5–8:

12:5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, 6 He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?”


In this passage, Aaron and Miriam are railing against their brother Moses because they do not approve of the woman he has married. God himself intervenes on Moses’ behalf, declaring Moses’ unique standing before him.
Even with great men like Elijah and Isaiah, God did not reveal Himself directly but used dreams, visions, and other methods. Moses is the only man who received direct revelation from God. It is on this basis that Judaism developed its three-tier view of Scriptural inspiration (see Introduction).
Previously we were told that Messiah would be a king. Now we are told that He will be a prophet too, and not an ordinary prophet, but One who will speak “mouth to mouth” with God and Who will see the very form of Jehovah.
Many writers have sought to draw up lists of similarities between Moses and Jesus, the “prophet like unto Moses.” Many of these parallels are rather contrived and somewhat fanciful. We can, however, point out four clear similarities between the ministries of Moses and Messiah:

1. A Prophet (Numbers 12:6–8)
As explained above.

2. A Redeemer (Exodus 3:10)
In Exodus 3:1–10, God sees the suffering of the people of Israel and declares His intention to redeem them out of the land of Egypt. Moses is the man chosen by God to lead the people out of their captivity. (Note that the Angel of Jehovah mentioned in verse 2 is further discussed in the fourth part of this study, “Other Lines of Evidence.”) As has already been seen, Messiah too will be a redeemer.

3. A Mediator (Exodus 20:18–21)
To begin with God spoke directly to the people of Israel (Exodus 19:16–25). The sound of God’s voice was so overwhelming that the people asked Moses to mediate for them so that they would not hear God’s voice, but only God’s words repeated to them by Moses.

4. An Intercessor (Exodus 32:7–35)
Often, during their long exodus from Egypt, it was only because of Moses’ intercession on their behalf that Israel escaped the judgment of God and survived. This is particularly clear in Exodus 32:30–32.

Messiah will fit the Mosaic mold in each of these four areas: He will be a prophet, a redeemer, a mediator and an intercessor.”1

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1Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (pp. 28–29). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

Psalms 16:1-11 the Messiah

Psalms 16:1-11

“The emphasis of Psalm 16:1–2 is that Messiah’s refuge is in God, and in verse 3 that His delight is with the saints, the believing Remnant, echoing the sentiments of Zechariah 11. In verses 4–9, the psalmist says that God the Father will be the Messiah’s total trust in life, even to the point of death (verses 10–11). Even in death Messiah still trusts in God. The point of the song is that even though God allows Messiah to die, yet “Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to undergo decay.” Messiah will be resurrected back to life.”1

For more discussion on this topic visit our forum 

1Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (p. 82). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

Muslim misunderstanding of the crucifixion

Muslim misunderstanding of the crucifixion is represented in the statement of Ibn Taymiyya, that “not a single one of the Christians was a witness with them [the Jews]. Rather the apostles kept a distance through fear, and not one of them witnessed the crucifixion.”7 This, of course, is both false and misleading. It is false because the Gospel record states that the apostle John was standing right there by the cross during the crucifixion (John 19:26; cf. 20:20–25). And Peter may have been there at a distance (see Mark 14:54). Furthermore, in addition there were other followers of Christ at the cross, including Mary the mother of Jesus (John 20:25–26) and other women (Luke 23:27; John 19:25). It is misleading because it implies that one cannot be sure that Jesus died on the cross unless his apostles were there. The Roman soldiers charged under the penalty of death to faithfully execute their duty were sufficient witnesses to the death of Christ. They were professional executioners and were accustomed to putting people to death. Furthermore, there were other people present, including the two thieves on adjacent crosses (Matt. 27:38), the crowd (Matt. 27:39) called “a great multitude” (Luke 23:27), and the Jewish leaders (Matt. 27:41), who because of their hatred of him had every motivation to assure that Jesus was put to death there. Even if none of Jesus’ followers were there—and several were—the many other witnesses of the crucifixion would have been more than enough to establish the fact of his death.
The evidence that Jesus actually died physically on the cross is overwhelming. For one, the Old Testament predicted it (Isa. 53:5–10; Ps. 22:16; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10), and Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah (Matt. 4:14; 5:17–18; 8:17; John 4:25–26; 5:39). Furthermore, Jesus announced it in advance over and over again (Matt. 12:40; 17:22–23; 20:18; Mark 10:45; John 2:19–20; John 10:10–11). Also, all the predictions of his resurrection (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; John 2:19–21; Matt. 12:40; 17:22–23) are based on the fact that he would die. Only a dead body can be resurrected. What is more, the nature and extent of Jesus’ injuries indicate that he must have died, the very process of crucifixion assuring his death. Likewise, the piercing of Jesus’ side with the spear, from which came “blood and water” (John 19:34), is medical proof that he had physically died. Also, Jesus declared his own death at its very moment, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46; cf. John 19:30). And Jesus’ death cry was heard by those who stood by (John 19:47–49). Furthermore, the Roman soldiers, accustomed to crucifixion and death, pronounced Jesus dead (John 19:33). On top of all this, Pilate double-checked to make sure Jesus was dead before he gave the corpse to Joseph to be buried (Mark 15:44–45). In addition, Jesus was wrapped in about seventy-five pounds of cloth and spices and placed in a sealed tomb for three days (John 19:39–40; Matt. 27:60). If he was not dead by then, which he clearly was, he would have died from lack of food, water, and medical treatment. Finally, medical authorities who have carefully examined the evidence have concluded that he actually died on the cross, insisting that “the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.… Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”8
Muslim ambiguity about the death of Christ has led to a rather confusing state of affairs that can be clarified as follows:

1. All Muslims agree that Jesus did not die on the cross for our sins.
2. Almost all Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross at all but that someone else was crucified in his place, such as Judas (see Appenix 2) or Simon who carried Jesus’ cross.
3. Almost all Muslims hold that Jesus did not die at all before he ascended into heaven but that he will die after his second coming and will be raised later with others in the general resurrection of the last days.

Mufassir summarized the heart of the Islamic view well when he said, “Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. It was the intention of his enemies to put him to death on the cross, but God saved him from their plot.”9 Several passages in the Qur’an are the basis for Muslim agreement that Jesus was not crucified on the cross for our sins; 4:157–58 is a key text. At face value it seems to say that Jesus did not die at all. It certainly denies that he died by crucifixion. It reads:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God”;—But they killed him not, Nor crucified him, But so it was made to appear to them, And those who differ therein are full of doubts, With no (certain) knowledge, But only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:—Nay, God raised him up Unto Himself; and God Is exalted in power, wise.

The reason for Islamic disbelief in the crucifixion of Jesus centers on two theological concepts: sovereignty and depravity. More precisely, it is based on the unique Islamic concept of sovereignty of God and their rejection of the Christian belief in the depravity of man.
Geisler, N. L., & Saleeb, A. (2002). Answering Islam: the crescent in light of the cross (2nd ed., pp. 280–282). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Trinity for Muslims

“It Is Possible to Have More Than One Person in One Essence
In order to complete what is understood by the Trinity, it remains only to show that there is no contradiction in having three persons in one essence. This is demonstrated by pointing out that the law of noncontradiction mandates that for two propositions to be contradictory, they must both affirm and deny something of

(1) the same thing;
(2) at the same time; and
(3) in the same sense (in the same relationship).

Clearly this is not the case in affirming,

(1) God is one and only one in relation to His essence;
(2) God is more than one (viz., three) in relation to His persons. These are two different senses or relations. Therefore, the Trinity is not contradictory.

Of course, this response depends on the words person and essence being defined in different ways. By person is meant who it is, and by nature is meant what it is. A person is a subject, while a nature is an object. Person is an I, and an essence is an it. So a person is a subjective center of intentionality and volitionality, and a nature is an objective center of essential properties.”

Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (pp. 292–293). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

The Bible is not corrupt

The Bible is not corrupt

Muslim try to say the Bible is corrupted. Well, the Quran confirms the Bible. So if the Bible is corrupted so is the Quran.

Quran 5:48 tells us to judge between the two. Judging between to two is suppose to prove that the Quran confirms the previous book.

Many Muslims respond:

The Quran confirms the original scriptures.
Response: that is not what the passage says. Literally, in the Arabic, it says previous book.

What was the previous book that was with the people of the book? The Bible of course.

They respond no the Quran confirms the Torah, psalms, and gospel, not the Bible

Again that is not what the passage says. Literally, in the Arabic, we read previous book, not books. Our one book contains all the books of the prophets.

Therefore if the Bible is corrupted so is the Quran. No Muslim can refute their own Quran. Hence the Bible is not corrupted. Therefore, Jesus did die as Jesus prophesied he would in mark 9:30-32

God speak directly to His prophets

The Quran is in error concerning Muhammad. If Muhammad was like all prophets before than God would have spoken directly to him as he did the other prophets. The message Muhammad received was not directly from God but directly through an angel. This should throw up a red flag for anyone

Galatians 1:18
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

Why have you forsaken me?

““On the cross, Jesus cried, ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ This proves He was a fake. God forsook Him.”

Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 were the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 22:1. Verse 3 of this psalm then gives us insight into why God forsook Jesus on the cross: “But You are holy …” A holy Creator cannot have fellowship with sin. When Jesus was on the cross, the sin of the entire world was laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21), but Scripture says God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).”

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (p. 378). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

Messiah’s Birth

“Messiah’s Birth

Isaiah predicted that one called Immanuel (“God with us”) would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14). This prediction was made over 700 years in advance.
The New Testament affirms that Jesus fulfilled this prediction, saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:22, 23).
Micah made the unambiguous prophecy, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Even the unbelieving Jewish scribes identified this as a prediction of the Messiah and directed the inquiring magi to Bethlehem:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’ ” (Matthew 2:1–6).”

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (pp. 379–380). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

Messiah’s Ancestry

“Messiah’s Ancestry

God declared in Genesis that the messianic blessing for all the world would come from the offspring of Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2, 3; cf. 22:18).
Jesus Christ was indeed the seed of Abraham. Matthew’s Gospel begins, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). Paul adds, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
The Redeemer would come through the tribe of Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).
According to the New Testament genealogies, this was Jesus’ ancestry:

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli … the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham (Luke 3:23, 33, 34; cf. Matthew 1:1–3).

For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
The books of Samuel record the prediction that the Messiah would be of the house of David. God said to David: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Samuel 7:13, 14).
The New Testament repeatedly affirms that Jesus Christ was “the son of David” (Matthew 1:1). Jesus Himself claimed to be “the son of David” (Matthew 22:42–45). The Palm Sunday crowd also hailed Jesus as “the son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Luke 1:32, 33 says of Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.””

Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically—the way Jesus did (pp. 380–381). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

The Father vindicated Jesus

For more discussion concerning this topic visit our forum

The Father vindicated Jesus

“God did vindicate Jesus—but not in the way that men would have wanted or expected. If Jesus had been miraculously delivered from death on the cross, the spectacle would no doubt have made many believe in him. But God’s way of thinking demanded that before being vindicated, Jesus must be identified with men right up to the very end—even in death: ‘It was only right that God should make Jesus perfect through suffering, in order to bring many sons to share his glory.… Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood, Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, and in this way set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death’ (Heb. 2:10–14, 15).

The Muslim cannot deny that many of the Jews wanted and intended to have Jesus crucified, or that Jesus himself was willing to be crucified. The difference lies in our thinking about the way in which God would be expected to act on behalf of his servant and prophet. The Muslim says that God must vindicate Jesus by saving him from this ultimate humiliation; the Christian says that God must allow Jesus to suffer the worst that men can do to him, and vindicate him only on the other side of death.”

Chapman, C. J. (1978). Thinking biblically about Islam. Themelios, 3(3), 74

Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth

Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth

“Three points of even a more fundamental theological nature might be noted in conclusion. First, the interrelationship of the Testaments points to progress in revelation. Jesus Christ represents the culmination of religious truth (Heb 1:1–3). He is the means to oneness with God. As God, he is also our end. However, whether previous revelation is best understood as a line of development or a collection of anticipatory moments prior to the finality of revelation in Jesus Christ is a matter of continuing debate. Secondly, current eschatological perspectives are derivative of how this question is approached. In the history of the church one might say that there have been two ways to God. One accents horizontal movement through time. The further along we are in history, the nearer we are in some sense to God. The other accents vertical movement. Anybody at any point in history is equally close to God through mystical or spiritual vision. These two movements do not need to be mutually exclusive.”1

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:1–14)

1Petersen, R. (1988). Continuity and Discontinuity: The Debate Throughout Church History. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (p. 34). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

The Logic of Regeneration and Faith

The Logic of Regeneration and Faith

When discussing the logical priority of regeneration and faith it is very helpful to keep in mind why we need to be regenerated in the first place. It is because of sin that we are fallen, creatures. It is because of sin that we are dead. The scriptures say that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. In justification, we are forgiven of our sin. Because sin was the cause of our spiritual death that must first be removed before we gain spiritual life. The logical of this argument is that regeneration cannot precede faith because justification must precede regeneration. We must first be forgiven before we gain the life we lost. Since most Calvinists agree that faith precedes justification. They must also agree that faith precedes regeneration since justification logically comes before regeneration.

Regeneration and Salvation

Regeneration and Salvation

One thing that seems abundantly clear is salvation comes through regeneration. To say it another way those who have been regenerated are saved (Titus 3:5). This is important when discussing Calvinism and the ordo salutis. Calvinists argue that regeneration precedes faith. If that is true then why believe because we are already saved? They put the cart before the horse. This is an attempt to prove their version of total depravity. However, it is illogical based on this passage from Titus. Larson Knute writes

“Jesus, in these actual events, gained salvation for all people who believe. Rescuing us from the grip of corruption, he saved us.
The work of salvation comes solely from God’s mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. As Isaiah 64:6 states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We can contrive no goodness by which to attain the favor or forgiveness of God. Salvation comes independent of human effort or desire. God initiates, acts, and pursues because of his mercy.
Salvation comes through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. These terms explain, in part, the complex activities which faith in Christ generates. The washing of rebirth refers to the cleansing from sin which results from trust in Jesus Christ. This purification of the sound spirit brings life. No longer living on a purely natural or physical level, believers are transformed from spirit-death to spirit-life. They count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Renewal carries the same idea, that a person has come into a new existence, both in this life and for eternity. The Holy Spirit participates in Salvador, establishing his presence in the soul and enabling each person to act in true righteousness”l.

Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney write

“Paul reminded the believers on Crete of their sinful past (3:3) to inspire them to show kindness and consideration toward others. Paul cautioned them not to become spiritual snobs who were insensitive to their continuing need for God’s grace. This was foundational for Paul’s discussion of God’s act of kindness toward the world (3:5–7). Paul set forth a capsule summary of the doctrine of salvation and expounded on several of the provisions of the new covenant (Ezek. 36:25–28). Salvation is not merited by any righteous works, but wholly determined by God’s mercy. “Washed” (3:5) speaks of the spiritual cleansing experienced in the new birth (cf. Ezek. 36:25; Acts 22:16). “New life” (3:5; “regeneration,” NASB and KJV) is the supernatural imparting of spiritual life to believers in Christ (John 3:7). The “new life through the Holy Spirit” (3:5) refers to the Spirit’s regenerating and indwelling ministry (cf. Ezek. 36:27). God’s rich outpouring is to be mirrored in the believers’ rich outpouring of kindness to others. To be “not guilty” (3:7) means to be declared righteous (Rom. 5:1).”m.

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible notes

“The basis for the Christian’s attitude (3:3–8). The usual objection to such courtesy to non-Christians and such subjection to civil authorities is the terrible sinfulness of such people. It is then argued that a Christian cannot act that way to such repulsive and malicious people. Paul’s rejoinder is to remind Christians of their own pre-Christian condition (v. 3, which was of the same character), and of God’s attitude (v. 4, “kindness,” “love”; v. 5, “mercy”) to them at that time and the result (v. 5, “he saved us”). God’s attitude to us prior to conversion must now be our attitude toward non-Christians who are now like we were. We are not saved because of anything we have or are now doing (“not because of righteous things we had done,” v. 5). God effected our salvation by changing our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit (v. 5), whom Jesus Christ “poured out on us” (v. 6). Our lives were changed when we were turned into new creatures both by the new birth (“washing of rebirth”) and also by the new life (“renewal”) that the Holy Spirit brought and continues to bring. So by the gracious accounting of Christ’s righteousness to us (“by his grace”) God declares us here and now righteous (“justified”) in his sight and declares us “heirs” who look forward to “eternal life” (v. 7). “This is a trustworthy saying” (v. 8; see 1 Tim. 1:15). Since we “have trusted in God” his attitude and action toward us should be the basis for our “doing what is good” (v. 8). Good works are never the basis for our salvation (v. 5) but they must always be done by those who are saved (v. 8; see Eph. 2:8–10)”n.

l.Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 382–383). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

m.Hughes, R. B., & Laney, J. C. (2001). Tyndale concise Bible commentary (pp. 653–654). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

n.Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, Tt 3:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.



Regeneration through the word

Regeneration through the word

(1 Peter 1:23) Peter tells us that we are born again through the word of God. Karen H. Jobes notes

“The command to love earnestly is further qualified by a second causal participle, ἀναγεγεννημένοι (anagegennēmenoi, having been reborn, 1:23), which unites the thought of this verse with 1:3, where the verb first occurred. A crucial question arises: How does having been reborn from imperishable seed imply the command to love one another? What is the logic of this claim? The new birth generates spiritual life from imperishable seed (1:23), the word of God.1 This is contrasted with the quality of life that comes from perishable seed (human procreation), whose glory at its best is like the fragile and temporary flowers of the field. The life of the believer has been generated by the imperishable (ἀφθάρτου, aphthartou) divine seed of God’s living and enduring word (the inheritance is similarly incorruptible, ἄφθαρτον, aphtharton, 1:4) in contrast to the perishable seed of all flesh. The love commanded in 1:22 is the result of obeying the truth—responding positively to the gospel—and is made possible by the spiritual energy of the new life God has generated by his eternal word. The Christian’s decision to obey the truth by coming to faith in Christ is the manifestation of one’s rebirth as a child of God (1:3). Peter instructs that love between Christians involves a moral transformation following from the spiritual reality that those reborn from God’s seed will have God’s character. The exhortations that follow throughout 1 Peter flesh out what Christian love looks like as a defining quality of one’s new, eternal life.”h.

Simon J. Kistemaker also notes

“Why should we love one another? Says Peter, “Because you have been born again.” Note that in the process of rebirth, the believers are passive. That is, God brings them through spiritual birth into this world. Once they are born again, the believers are active in the process of purifying themselves (v. 22).
When Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:4), Jesus teaches him about spiritual birth. In the first chapter of his epistle, Peter mentions spiritual birth twice (vv. 3, 23). The verb born again means that God has given us spiritual life that is new. Without this new life, we are unable to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). We demonstrate that we possess this new life through faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 5:11). Moreover, the Greek text indicates that our spiritual rebirth occurred in the past and has lasting significance for the present and the future.”i.

Thomas R. Schreiner also notes

“The means by which God begets his people is the seed of God’s word, the preaching of the gospel. Peter’s theology matches Paul’s here, for the latter teaches that “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom 10:17). Similarly, in Galatians 3 the reception of the Spirit is mediated through believing the preached message (Gal 3:2, 5). Perhaps Peter used the word “living” because the word produces life, and he used the word “enduring” because the life once activated will never cease.”j.

We are surely born again through the word through the gospel. Calvinism teaches we must be born again to even understand the gospel. The most quoted passage is (1 Corinthians 2:14). They claim that man cannot understand the word, therefore he must be born again first. 

“It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable a person truly to understand and to know the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we should never be surprised that very able, intelligent people do not believe the gospel. They cannot. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God … neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). We need the ‘mind of Christ’, and in the regeneration, we have the mind of Christ.”k.

This, of course, contradicts what we reading here in Peter. We are born again through the word of God. We are not born again before we are given the word of God. The word of God is the means in which we are born again.


h.Jobes, K. H. (2005). 1 Peter (pp. 124–125). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

i.Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 72). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

j.Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 95). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

k.Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). The assurance of our salvation: exploring the depth of Jesus’ prayer for His own: studies in John 17 (p. 477). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Regeneration and Union with Christ

Regeneration and Union with Christ

3. Regeneration does not happen apart from our actual union with Christ in time. Regeneration is a result of union with Him. Therefore regeneration cannot precede faith. We are united to Christ by grace through faith.

Augustus Hopkins Strong said

“Under this head, we treat of Union with Christ, Regeneration, Conversion (embracing Repentance and Faith), and Justification. Much confusion and error have arisen from conceiving these as occurring in chronological order. The order is logical, not chronological As it is only “in Christ” that man is “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) or is “justified” (Acts 13:39), union with Christ logically precedes both regeneration and justification; and yet, chronologically, the moment of our union with Christ is also the moment when we are regenerated and justified. So, too, regeneration and conversion are but the divine and human sides or aspects of the same fact, although regeneration has logical precedence, and man turns only as God turns him.”g.

Modern reformed theology rarely teaches the doctrine of union with Christ. I have seen it first hand when discussing these issues with modern Calvinists. I bring up the doctrine of union with Christ to show how regeneration does not take place apart from our actual union with them, and more times than not they say I have to look into the doctrine. When studying soteriology union with Christ should be at the forefront of discussion. The scriptures say every spiritual blessing is found in Him Ephesians 1:3. Regeneration is a spiritual blessing, therefore regeneration is found in Him not apart from our actual union with Him. To say that regeneration precedes faith is to say that it happens apart from our actual union in time. Hence, we receive the spiritual blessing of regeneration apart from him. Grace through faith is the entrance in which we receive Jesus and are therefore united to Him Eph. 3:16-17. Hence if regeneration is a spiritual blessing and it happens in Christ then faith logically precedes regeneration because it precedes union.

g.Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 793). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

Drawing or Regeneration?

Drawing or Regeneration?

It is not regeneration that prevents us coming from God it is the drawing of God.

Dr. Wayne Grudem said “Scripture indicates that regeneration must come before we can respond to effective calling with saving faith.”e.

The logic of this is astounding when we look at the scriptures. What he means the drawing is not effective though he does not say it. It is not regeneration that is preventing us from coming to God it is God granting and drawing us that is preventing us from coming to God.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

“And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”” (John 6:65)

The logic here is that if we are granted and drawn we can come to God. Therefore Regeneration is not what is needed but the drawing and granting.

Many reformed people subscribe to the Westminster Confession which states

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 11:7, Eph. 1:10–11) by His word and Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13–14, 2 Cor. 3:3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; (Rom. 8:2, Eph. 2:1–5, 2 Tim. 1:9–10) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor. 2:10,12, Eph. 1:17–18) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; (Ezek. 36:26) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, (Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13, Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:27) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: (Eph. 1:19, John 6:44–45) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Cant. 1:4, Ps. 110:3, John 6:37, Rom. 6:16–18)”f.

Here we see how one easily confuses the two being the same. Namely that regeneration is drawing. Not all Calvinists make this mistake but many do. The word drawing is not the same word as regeneration nor is it a synonym of the word.

So the question arises can man come to God if it has been granted and he has been drawn? According to the scriptures, yes, but that means that regeneration is not necessary before faith. Therefore Calvinism is refuted on that point.

e.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 700). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

f.The Westminster confession of faith. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Regeneration cannot precede faith based on old testament prophecy

Regeneration cannot precede faith based on old testament prophecy

Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. Starting in Deut 30:6 we see the prophecy of reconciliation through christ in the new covenant. John Calvin himself in his commentary on (Deut 30:6) said

“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart. This promise far surpasses all the others, and properly refers to the new Covenant, for thus it is interpreted by Jeremiah, who introduces God thus speaking,—“Behold, the days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, … which covenant they brake, … but … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” (Jer. 31:31–33.)”a.

In the Reformation Study Bible, we read concerning (Deu 30:10)

“The blessings of the renewed covenant will be inseparable from, but not based on, the obedience of the restored remnant of the people to their Lord’s commandments (cf., e.g., Matt. 7:21). The obedience of Christ, which is the victory over sin in which the remnant by faith will share, is the only meritorious basis of such blessings.”b.

As we walk through the scriptures we see the promise again and again (Jeremiah 31:31–33) (Ezekiel 36:26) Dr. Wayne Grudem said

“This sovereign work of God in regeneration was also predicted in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Through him God promised a time in the future when he would give new spiritual life to his people”(Ezekiel 36:26-37)c.

God circumcising the heart is different than men circumcising their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). We see a similar reading in (Ezekiel 18:30–32). God calls on man to change their heart and change their spirit. Jeremiah repeats this in (Jeremiah 4:4). This all points to the work of Christ. For what man could not do on their own Christ did for us through His work on the cross (Colossians 2:11).

In short Hebrews 11 is clear old testament saints believed. But what was also clear is they had not received the new covenant and therefore were not regenerated in the same way that we are today. Regeneration is found in Christ alone. A denial of this is really a denial of Solus Christus, through Christ alone. For the scriptures say it is in Him that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus himself said the new covenant was made with his blood (Matthew 26:28) An extension of this same error comes when we read “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The logical conclusion here is that if old testament saints were born again they could see the kingdom of God and Jesus did not need to die. This is a grave error. Luke 16 speaks about Abraham’s Bosom. In regards to this discussion, it is very important to ask why they went to Abraham’s Bosom rather than heaven itself? That is because true regeneration comes through what Jesus did on the cross. No one is granted heaven apart from his actual atonement. Let the scriptures be true and every man a liar no one can see heaven unless he has been born again (John 3:3)

Regeneration receiving a new heart was prophesied and not actualized in the old testament. To deny the actual fulfillment in Christ is deny the protestant principle of Christ alone. Clearly, people believed in God without first being regenerated. So to argue that regeneration must precede faith goes against the scriptures. Much of what took place in the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come. The Spirit came upon people for various purposes and reasons. We see that the Spirit came upon people and also left (Judges 13:25; 16:20) (1 Sam. 10:10; 16:14)

The Spirit has a more fulfilling role after Jesus died and rose again. “He convicts unbelievers of sin (Gen. 6:3; John 16:8); He regenerates those dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1); He seals believers till the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); He baptizes all believers into the spiritual body of Christ at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 12:13), assuring us of salvation (Rom. 8:16); He performed miracles to confirm the truth of Christianity (Gal. 3:2–5; Heb. 2:4); He bestowed spiritual gifts on believers (Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:11). He reveals (1 Cor. 2:10) and teaches (Luke 12:12). He inspired the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), and He is also enlightening believers to God’s truth (Eph. 1:17–18) and witnessing to God’s Word (1 John 5:9–10). He anoints believers for service (1 John 2:20) and fills those who yield to Him (Eph. 5:18). Of course, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers forever (John 14:16–17).d.

There are people that have tried to assert that Old Testament saints must have been regenerated by assuming regeneration precedes faith and not actually proving it.

“If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass.” –Got Questions

Here I must again point to the fact that it was prophecy, therefore it was not actualized.Secondly, life is found in Christ, and we are in Christ by grace through faith. Jesus had to actually die on the cross. If Old Testament saints were regenerated then they could see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and Jesus did not need to die. Yet Got Questions does not say they seen heaven but went a place known as paradise “The Old Testament believers went to a place of comfort and rest called “paradise” when they died”-Got Questions . Hence there is some inconsistency there.

John Hendryx tries to respond in a similar fashion and quotes (Chronicles 30:11-12) as proof of Old Testament regeneration.Yet if you follow his conclusion it agrees with the actualization principle

“While the work of the Spirit was active in the OT what we have is founded of better promises for everything which the OT pointed to has been fulfilled”- Hendyrx

There may have been forms of the indwelling Spirit or Regeneration but the true regeneration that we are talking about was promised and only found in Christ.Hence Old Testament saints believed without having the true form of regeneration.

Hamilton at gospel coalition responds in a similar way by when he stated

“There is oblique evidence in the Old Testament for the idea that members of the faithful remnant had circumcised hearts. Consider (Jeremiah 9:24)” –gospel coalition.

The text quoted here does not say the God circumcised their hearts. It can be reasonably assumed by this and every other passage quoted that they circumcised their own hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16). Which as was stated above is different than God circumcising their hearts which is what the prophecy is about (Deut 30:6). This shows the consistency of what was prophesied as opposed to the shadow of the prophecy that was actualized in the old testament. As was stated above if they were regenerated Christ did not need to die. (John 3:3) tells that those who have been born again can see the kingdom. Hence there is nothing stopping them from entering into heaven.

For further arguments concerning faith, preceding regeneration see drawing or regeneration, regeneration, and union with Christ


a.Calvin, J., & Bingham, C. W. (2010). Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Vol. 3, p. 284). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

b.Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 286). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

c.Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 699). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

d.Geisler, N. L. (2003). Systematic theology, volume two: God, creation (p. 677). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Union with Christ John Owen

Union with Christ John Owen

“3. Union with Christ and the Ordo Salutis

Grasping Owen’s doctrine of the pactum is cardinal in understanding how he prioritizes the forensic element in redemption. But we must first understand what Owen believes about union with Christ before we can proceed. Owen, like most Reformed theologians, holds to the doctrine of union with Christ.22 Owen believes that all of the benefits of redemption flow from the believer’s union with Christ.23 Union with Christ, writes Owen, “is the cause of all other graces that we are made partakers of; they are all communicated to us by virtue of our union with Christ. Hence is our adoption, our justification, our sanctification, our fruitfulness, our perseverance, our resurrection, our glory.”24 Union with Christ, therefore, is the all-encompassing doctrinal rubric that embraces all of the elements of redemption.

But this is not to imply that for Owen union is merely an intellectual concept. Rather, union with Christ is a spiritual conjugal bond effected by the Holy Spirit, the goal of which was love: “There is love in the person of the Father peculiarly held out unto the saints, as wherein he will and does hold communion with them.”25 But Owen’s doctrine of union does not preclude him from distinguishing the different elements comprehended by union (justification, sanctification, adoption, etc.).

Owen sees no problem with affirming both union with Christ and articulating an ordo salutis. Owen explains that Paul never speaks about the necessity of sanctification, regeneration, or renovation by the work of the Spirit antecedently to the believer’s justification. Owen is careful to preclude including the believer’s good works from any role in regeneration, renovation, and justification. Owen declares that Paul does not intimate

any order of precedency or connection between the things that he mentions, but only between justification and adoption, justification having the priority in order of nature: “That, being justified by his grace, we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” All the things he mentions are inseparable. No man is regenerate or renewed by the Holy Ghost, but withal he is justified;—no man is justified, but withal he is renewed by the Holy Ghost.26

Owen carefully safeguards the doctrine of justification because Paul states that God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5), which means that the believer’s justification has to be antecedent to his sanctification. Owen explains, “It is necessary that we should be sanctified, that we may be justified before God, who justifies the ungodly, the apostle says not in this place, nor any thing to that purpose.”27 Sinclair Ferguson summarizes, “For Owen, then, such order as there is in the ordo salutis would seem to be: Effectual Calling; Regeneration, Faith; Repentance; Justification; Adoption; and Sanctification.”28 Ferguson goes on to comment that for Owen, divine election finds its outworking in the ordo salutis, which all coalesces in the believer’s union with Christ.29

4. Justification and Sanctification

As we look more intently into Owen’s doctrine of justification, other reasons surface as to why he gives priority to it. The priority of justification is especially evident when it is compared and contrasted with the doctrine of sanctification. Owen believes that the doctrine of justification is of the greatest importance, even siding with Martin Luther (1483–1546), who writes, “Amisso articulo justificationis, simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana [If the article of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost].” Owen then comments, “And I wish he had not been a true prophet, when he foretold that in the following ages the doctrine hereof would be again obscured.”30 By the time Owen wrote his treatise on justification (1677), there was a confessional corpus of definitions that had codified the doctrine, whether in the Gallican Confession (1559), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563), the Irish Articles (1615), or the Westminster Confession (1647).

One of the key elements of the Savoy Declaration that Owen saw to was explicitly referring to the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ:

Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believer, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing Christ’s active obedience to the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (emphasis).31

Owen holds that justification is by faith alone, includes the forgiveness of sins, includes the imputed active and passive obedience of Christ, and is a once-for-all definitive act.32 Beyond these basic points, how does the priority of justification emerge in comparison with sanctification in Owen’s theology?

Owen believes that nothing less than perfect righteousness can withstand the scrutiny of God’s judgment before the divine bar. Reflecting upon Ps 130:3 (“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”), Owen is convinced that the believer’s inherent righteousness (read sanctification) cannot withstand the demands of God’s justice required for justification: “If no man can stand a trial before God upon his own obedience, so as to be justified before him, because of his own personal iniquities; and if our only plea in that case be the righteousness of God, the righteousness of God only, and not our own; then is there no personal, inherent righteousness in any believers whereon they may be justified.”33

Owen gives three reasons that inherent righteousness is imperfect and therefore unsuitable for a believer’s justification. First, there is a contrary principle of habitual sin that abides within the believer so long as they dwell in this world. Owen explains, based upon Gal 5:17, that none of the faculties of the soul are perfectly renewed as long as a person lives in the world. Second, inherent righteousness is defective because sin clings to every act and duty, whether internal or external. The believer’s good works are but “filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Third, inherent righteousness is lacking because of actual sins (in contrast to original sin).34

For these three reasons, Owen gives priority to justification over sanctification. Owen establishes the bedrock of salvation, therefore, upon the imputed righteousness of Christ:
If it be a perfect righteousness that is imputed unto us, so it is esteemed and judged to be; and accordingly are we to be dealt withal, even as those who have a perfect righteousness: and if that which is imputed as righteousness unto us be imperfect, or imperfectly so, then as such must it be judged when it is imputed; and we must be dealt withal as those which have such an imperfect righteousness, and no otherwise. And therefore, whereas our inherent righteousness is imperfect (they are to be pitied or despised, not to be contended withal, that are otherwise minded), if that be imputed unto us, we cannot be accepted on the account thereof as perfectly righteous without an error in judgment.35

So for Owen, the imputed perfect righteousness of Christ is the ground of the believer’s justification and salvation because imputation, not inherent righteousness, gives right and title unto eternal life.36 Owen’s position contrasts with Baxter, who argues that the believer’s final justification at the consummation is based upon their good works.37

The priority of justification prominently emerges when Owen explains the relationship between justification and the final judgment: “Some affirm that the apostle excludes all works from our first justification, but not from the second; or, as some speak, the continuation of our justification.”38 Though Owen does not name names here, he has the views of the Roman Catholic Church, Jacob Arminius (1560–1609), and Baxter in mind. Rome, Arminius, and Baxter all hold that justification is an ongoing process where the believer’s sanctification plays a role in their final justification.39

Elsewhere, Owen acknowledges that the Roman Catholic Church holds to a double justification, a first and second. The first justification infuses a habit of grace or charity in baptism, and the second is consequent of the first and based upon the good works that proceed from this infused habitual grace. Owen mentions the Council of Trent (1546) by name.40 He objects to such a formulation because it turns sanctification into justification: “The whole nature of evangelical justification, consisting in the gratuitous pardon of sin and the imputation of righteousness, as the apostle expressly affirms, and the declaration of a believing sinner to be righteous thereon, as the word alone signifies, is utterly defeated by it.”41

If Owen rejects double justification, how does he explain the relationship of justification to the final judgment? Owen distinguishes between the nature and essence of justification and the manifestation or declaration of it. The former occurs in this life, the latter on the day of judgment. In this life when a person is justified, they know of it in their heart, but there is no formal external evidence of it before the church and the world. At the final judgment, the believer’s justification will be publicly declared and made manifest before the church and world. But Owen is careful to stipulate, “Yet is it not a second justification: for it depends wholly on the visible effects of that faith whereby we are justified, as the apostle James instructs us; yet is it only one single justification before God, evidenced and declared, unto his glory, the benefit of others, and increase of our own reward.”42 For Owen, there is only one justification grounded upon the imputed perfect righteousness of Christ. To introduce a second or final justification, in his mind, introduces the believer’s sanctification (hence confusing them); the believer’s good works are always ill suited for the scrutiny of judgment before the divine bar.43″

22 For a brief survey of Owen’s doctrine of union, see Ferguson, Christian Life, 32–36. For contemporary treatments of union with Christ from a Reformed perspective, see Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 447–53; Michael Horton, The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 587–619; John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161–74.
23 Owen, Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 2:8–9, 16.
24 Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 21:149–50.
25 Owen, Communion, 22, 54.
26 Owen, The Doctrine of Justification, 5:133.
27 Ibid.
28 Ferguson, Christian Life, 35.
29 Ibid., 36.
30 Owen, Justification, 5:67.
31 Savoy Declaration, 11:1, in Creeds, 3:115; also Trueman, John Owen, 105–6.
32 Cf. Owen, Justification, 5:87, 89, 96, 110, 217, 219.
33 Ibid., 5:225.
34 Ibid., 5:234–35.
35 Ibid., 5:172–73.
36 Ibid., 5:173, 267.
37 Baxter, Justifying Righteousness, 7; idem, Confession of Faith, 296; cf. Boersma, Hot Pepper Corn, 273–327, esp. 290–99, 315–16; J. I. Packer, The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter (Vancouver: Regent College, 2003), 241–65, esp. 252–53, 257–63.
38 Owen, Justification, 5.284–85.
39 Council of Trent, Session 3 (13 Jan 1547), in Creeds, 2.826–39; Baxter, Justifying Righteousness, 7; idem, Confession of Faith, 296; Jacob Arminius, The Works of James Arminius (ed. James Nichols and William Nichols; 3 vols.; 1825–75; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:407. One should note, however, that despite the similarities between Trent, Baxter, and Arminius, there are dissimilarities among these three, especially between Trent and the two Protestants, Baxter and Arminius. Baxter and Arminius, e.g., disagreed with the idea that baptism was the instrument of justification. Both Baxter and Arminius believed their own positions were different from the Roman Catholic doctrine (see, e.g., Arminius, Works, Disputation 19.11, 1:600–601).
40 Owen, Justification, 5:137–38.
41 Ibid., 5:138.
42 Ibid., 5:139.
43 Ibid., 5:140.
Fesko, J. V. (2012). John Owen on Union with Christ and Justification. Themelios, 37(1), 11–15.

Union with Christ Reformed Theology

Union with Christ Reformed Theology

“Reformed theologians who adhere to the system of covenant theology generally interpret union with Christ not as a discrete step in the ordo salutis but as a comprehensive concept that embraces the whole scope of salvation from eternity past to eternity future. Covenant theologians hold that all people are united with Adam in the old humanity by virtue of his federal headship under the covenant of works. Analogously, the elect are united with Christ, the second Adam, by virtue of his federal headship under the covenant of grace. This latter union of the saints with Christ comprehends every aspect of salvation from their election to their glorification. Advocates thus aver that Scripture describes the saints as predestined in Christ (Eph 1:4–5), called in Christ (2 Tim 1:9), regenerated in Christ (Eph 2:10), justified in Christ (Rom 8:1), sanctified in Christ (1 Cor 1:4–5), and glorified in Christ (Rom 8:17). Proponents designate the “in Christ” relation a “mystical” union because it transcends all earthly analogies and all human understanding. They claim that (1) formally the federal union of Christ and the elect was established in eternity past in the Covenant of Redemption (Eph 1:4). (2) Objectively it was brought about by the Incarnation and atoning work of Christ. And (3) subjectively believers experience identification with Christ personally by operation of the Holy Spirit. Kevan expressed the comprehensive scope of union with Christ thusly: “It begins in the eternal thoughts of God and comes to subjective realization in human experience by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the very beginning of salvation to a sinner, and it is the guarantee of its final consummation.”31 As to its nature, union with Christ is legal or forensic, in that it determines the believer’s standing with God, together with all the privileges associated therewith. In the words of Kuiper, union “is both the fountain and guarantee of every Christian virtue and of every Christian exercise.”32 The union is also experiential, involving Christ’s indwelling the life through his Spirit, transforming personal character and relationships. Berkhof (d. 1957) addressed this latter aspect when he wrote that union with Christ is “that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and his people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.”33
John Murray (d. 1975) viewed union with Christ as the central truth of the doctrine of salvation. It is a broad category that brings together every aspect of the plan of salvation, past, present, and future. Wrote Murray, “Union with Christ is a very inclusive subject. It embraces the wide span of salvation from the ultimate source in the eternal election of God to its final fruition in the glorification of the elect.”34 With regard to (1) the inception of salvation, union with Christ involves the election of all believers in Christ (Eph 1:3–4). “There was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ—they were chosen in Christ.”35 Concerning (2) the continuation of salvation, union involves establishment of fellowship with the risen Christ. By an actual partaking of Christ, the saving grace, life, and power of the Savior become operative in the believer (Rom 6:4, 11). This present aspect of union involves effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and perseverance. Finally, with respect to (3) the consummation of salvation, union involves the believer’s bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:22–23) and glorification (Rom 8:17b) with Christ.
Anthony A. Hoekema (d. 1988) agreed with Murray that union with Christ is not merely one phase of the temporal application of redemption; rather it is a comprehensive concept that undergirds the whole of redemption from eternity past to eternity future. Without explicitly relating the concept to the system of covenant theology, he argued that union with Christ has its roots in divine election, its basis in Christ’s redemptive work, its establishment with believers in time, and its consummation in heaven.
Expanding on this summary, Hoekema affirmed that (1) union with Christ began with God’s elective decision, made before the creation of the world, to save his people in and through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3–4). Thus, “Union with Christ is not something ‘tacked on’ to our salvation; it is there from the outset, even in the plan of God.”36 (2) Union with Christ is grounded in the Savior’s redemptive work on the cross in history. Christ performed his saving work, Hoekema insisted, not on behalf of the world as a whole but for a distinct group of people, i.e., those in union with him (Eph 5:25; Tit 2:14). (3) Union with Christ is actually established with the elect after they are born and throughout the course of their lives. Hoekema added that the elect (a) are initially united with Christ in regeneration (Eph 2:4–5, 10), (b) live out this union by faith (Gal 2:20; Eph 3:16–17), (c) attain righteousness or justification through this union (2 Cor 5:21), (d) experience sanctification of life through union with Christ (John 15:4–5; Rom 6:4, 11), and (e) persevere to the end in union with him (Rom 8:38–39). Finally, (4) union with Christ is consummated following death in the life to come. Thus at the Parousia believers (a) will be raised with Christ (1 Cor 15:22–23; 1 Thess 4:16) and (b) will be glorified with him forever (1 Thess 4:17). In sum, “Union with Christ was planned from eternity, and is destined to continue eternally.”37”

31 Ernest F. Kevan, Salvation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1963), p. 46.
32 Herman Kuiper, By Grace Alone (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 39.
33 L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 449.
34 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 165.
35 Ibid., p. 162.
36 Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989), p. 57.
37 Ibid., p. 64.
Demarest, B. A. (1997). The cross and salvation: the doctrine of salvation (pp. 319–321). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Union with Christ

Union with Christ

“According to the New Testament, the religious experience of the earliest Christians was derived from and dependent upon Christ. Christian experience is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart by the Spirit. Both Johannine and Pauline literature refer to this reality by emphasizing the inclusive and corporate personality of Christ.
Usage. Paul more often than any other New Testament author combines the preposition “in” (en) with some designation for Christ. The phrase and its cognates occur some two hundred times in Pauline literature. The apostle uses the term in more than one sense, and scholars have attempted to interpret the concept in a variety of ways (e.g., mystical, existential, sacramental, local, eschatological, and ecclesiastical). In places, the words “in Christ” can be understood as just another way of designating a Christian (Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 4:16). The idea of instrumentality or causality is an alternate usage of the phrase (Rom. 14:14; 2 Cor. 3:14; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 4:13). It is clear, however, that the words “in Christ” also have soteriological meaning for Paul (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:20). Being “in Christ” is presented as the only basis for justification and glorification (Col. 1:27). This is not a mysticism of absorption, the losing of human identity in the divine, but rather an intimate communion with God through Christ.
Paul expresses the personal appropriation of the work of Christ by the term “in Christ.” It is the apostle’s favorite term to describe the personal and dynamic relation of the believer to Christ, and appears in a variety of contexts. The phrase is found eight times in Galatians, thirty-four times in Ephesians, and eighteen times in Colossians. A number of these occurrences have nothing to do with the concept of incorporation, but rather, are instrumental. In Ephesians, for example, the phrase “in Christ” is predominantly used in the instrumental sense, signifying Christ as the channel through whom God works his will, elects, redeems, forgives, blesses, imparts new life, and builds up the church. The formula, however, is sometimes descriptive in character (Rom. 9:1; 1 Cor. 3:1). As such it has the meaning of “being a Christian” (Rom. 16:11; 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 12:2; Phil 1:1; Philem. 16), and denotes certain identifiable characteristics that define a Christian. The formula is also applied to relations of those who are in the church (Rom. 16:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 4:7; 1 Thess. 1:1). Thus, “in Christ” serves as the bond of unity within the fellowship of believers.
There are some occurrences, however, that use the formula “in Christ” in a locative sense, denoting the idea of incorporation (Rom. 8:1; 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 3:8–9). In this sense, Christ is depicted as the locus of the believer’s life. If the preposition (en) is interpreted in a local, spatial sense, and Christos is understood mystically as the Spirit of the glorified Lord, then close union of Christ and the Christian is meant (2 Cor. 5:17). “In Christ” is an expression of intimate interrelatedness, analogous to the air that is breathed: it is in the person, yet at the same time, the person is in it. Thus, Paul’s use of the phrase is similar to his concept of being baptized “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27), with connotations of intimate spiritual communion with Christ. Those who have been baptized into Christ are “in him.” There are, however, eschatological dimensions of the phrase that indicate a dynamic influence of Christ on the Christian who is incorporated into him.
Union with Christ is the result of an act of divine grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptized into Christ, the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This new position, “in Christ,” is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to his disciples: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). The phrase “in Christ,” thus, has a corporate meaning as well: “those in the community of Christ.” Communion with Christ necessarily involves a social dimension, experiencing the shared life of his body. This community is defined by its relation to its representative head. Being “in Christ” is thus new life shared in community with those who are related to Christ.
The heart of Pauline theology is union with Christ (Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:17; Gal. 2:20). Although often overlooked in favor of an emphasis on justification by faith, Paul’s treatment of the spiritual life in Christ is central to the apostle’s understanding of religious experience. Communion with Christ is presented as synonymous with salvation, achieved by faith and consummated in love. Christ “for us” must be kept together with Christ “in us.” Union with Christ is organically related to both justification and sanctification (Rom. 5:8–10), and as such, life “in Christ” is the essence of Paul’s proclamation and experience. The concept, however, is also found in the teaching of Jesus: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20); “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4). Thus, the concept is not unique to Paul, but is implicit in the Gospel sayings of Jesus that stress his solidarity with God’s people (Matt. 18:20; Mark 8:38; John 15:1–11).
Paul gives particular emphasis to the “in Christ” theme in his epistle to the Ephesians. This is especially evident in 1:3–14, where the phrase (or a variant) occurs some eleven times. The majority of references in Ephesians posit God as the one acting “in Christ.” Those “in Christ” are in the thought and eternal purpose of God (1:3, 4, 9, 11; 2:6, 10; 3:9–11). Saints are elect “in Christ” (1:3–14). Christ is not only the means of election (1:5), but is depicted as the first elect (1:9). Election is made “in Christ,” denoting the execution of God’s purposes in and through his Son. Inclusion in Christ is to be united to his body. Those “in Christ” become part of God’s family (1:5; 2:18). Given the corporate nature of Paul’s “in Christ” formula, election “in Christ” entails God’s gracious choice of a people, a corporate election relative to the election of the Son. The blessings of redemption are stored by God “in Christ” (1:3, 6, 7, 13). Ephesians also utilizes the phrase to depict the sphere of the Christian’s daily life and experience (1:1, 3), and to describe the focal point of God’s plan to unite all things (1:10, 2:21)—a unification now in progress for those who are “in Christ” (2:13, 15, 21; 3:6).
Elsewhere, Paul uses the phrase to describe a mode of existence in which the believer identifies with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:11); shares in his wisdom and holiness (1 Cor. 1:30); and receives a new life or existence (2 Cor. 5:17). This is expressed in the epistle to the Colossians by relating the theme of Christ’s “fullness” to the believer’s position “in him” (2:8–15). In Christ, who is the “fullness of the Deity” (v. 9), believers “have been given fullness” (v. 10). They have been circumcised by the “circumcision done by Christ” (v. 11), “buried with him in baptism,” and “raised with him through … faith” (v. 12). Faith-union with Christ, therefore, makes possible incorporation into a new sphere of existence marked by “fullness,” covenant relation, and resurrection life.
For the apostle, to be “in Christ” is the same as having “Christ in me” (Gal. 2:19–20). In fact, the message of “Christ in you” is the revelation of God’s “mystery” and the “hope of glory” for believers (Col. 1:27). Through faith and love the believer is united with his Lord. Present by his Spirit, Christ indwells believers and makes possible their adoption as sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:14–16; Gal. 4:6). The Spirit of Jesus is given the believer and conforms the individual to the image of Christ. Thus, the clue to understanding the concept of fellowship with Christ is found in the phrase “in the Spirit.” The New Testament teaches that the Spirit mediates Christ’s presence to the believer. Paul develops this connection and identifies being “in Christ” with being “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9). The apostle perceives the Christian as existing in the Spirit and having the Spirit within. By making Christ real to the Christian, the Spirit provides the environment within which the believer lives “in Christ.”
Union with Christ is the result of an act of divine grace, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). A variety of biblical metaphors describe this union: vine and branches (John 15:1–6); head and body (Eph. 1:22–23; 4:15–16; 5:23); marital relation of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23–32). The result of identification with Christ is organic union and spiritual life. Although Johannine literature depicts this incorporation as mutual and symmetrically reciprocal, Paul emphasizes the relationship of believers “in Christ” more than the indwelling of Christ in believers. The reverse, however, is the case with Paul’s treatment of the Spirit. There is more emphasis on the Christian being indwelt by the Spirit than on the believer in the Spirit. Thus, for Paul, the major agent of indwelling is the Spirit.
Incorporation and the Second Adam. “In Christ” denotes a profound personal identification with Christ that serves as the basis of salvation and new life. This is closely associated with the notion of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1–11; 8:17; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:12; 3:1). Underlying these meanings is the concept of corporate personality. By faith believers are incorporated into the representative head of the new humanity, the Second Adam. For Paul, union with Christ results in the personal appropriation of the effects of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and glorification. By sharing in these events, the believer experiences them as living realities. In this way, Christ comes to live in and through a person.
Rather than interpreting this phrase as an isolated mystical experience, it is more appropriate to view it as describing a spiritual reality that interpenetrates all of life and finds corporate expression in the body of Christ. Thus, “dying and rising with Christ” is to be understood objectively as a participation in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus. This reality is expressed by Paul in the parallel drawn between Adam and Christ (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). As representatives of old and new humanity, the actions and futures of these “corporate personalities” are paradigmatic for all those who belong to them.
Christ has accomplished his redemptive work “for us” through his suffering, death, and resurrection (Rom. 5:6–8; Gal. 1:4; 3:13). What took place “in Christ” makes possible the relationship of being “in him” (2 Cor. 5:17). The application of both past and future dimensions of his redemptive work to the believer is characterized by the phrase “with Christ.” Christians are identified as those who have died and been resurrected with Christ (Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:12–13, 20; 3:1, 3), who sit with him in heaven (Eph. 2:6), and who will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4). The relation of Christians to Christ is one of faith, not mystical absorption. When the apostles John and Paul speak of being “in Christ,” they are referring to solidarity with a corporate personality. Just as humankind is “in Adam,” and Israel is God’s son (or the Servant of Yahweh), so the New Israel is “in Christ.” Those who believe in Christ and are baptized into him are a part of the new humanity; they are incorporated into the corporate personality of Christ. The biblical doctrine of representative humanity is also the basis for understanding the expressions “Christ in you” (Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27), Christ dwelling in his disciples (Eph. 3:17), and being in or abiding in them (John 14:20; 15:4, 7; 17:23, 26; 1 John 3:24).
Through identification with the crucified and resurrected Savior, the believer dies to the old humanity and is incorporated into the new humanity made possible by the Second Adam. “In Christ” there is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), the believer having entered an entirely new sphere of existence. Union with Christ thus means to be enlivened by the power of his resurrection, to live in the realm of the Spirit. Christ’s presence is directly connected to the eschatological gift of the Spirit. In Christ, the Spirit is at work carrying out God’s redemptive purposes. These purposes are summed up by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14–21. God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ. Not only through him, but “in him” there is redemption and reconciliation. It is through solidarity with Christ as the Second Adam that humanity has the possibility of a new course (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21–22, 45; Col. 1:18). Paul identifies this new mode of existence with being indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus. The glorified Christ lives in his followers by his Spirit (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 4:6). In him, who is the Head of the new humanity, there is life eternal.
In close connection with the Adam-Christ parallel are Paul’s references to the “old” and “new” nature (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10). These are terms that not only represent the status of an individual before and after conversion, but also signify the change that has already taken effect in Christ’s death (Rom. 6:6—“we know that our old self was crucified with him”). On the cross, the old nature was judged, condemned, and put to death (Rom. 8:3). In identifying with this death, believers have died to the old nature (Rom. 6:2; Col. 3:3), and have been freed from the tyranny of sin. “In Christ,” they have been transferred to a new order of existence, that of the “new nature.” Thus, “old” and “new” signify more than personal and ethical change, but are also to be understood as terms referring to old and new humanity in the scope of salvation history.
Incorporated into Christ’s death, believers have “put off the old nature.” Through identification with Christ’s resurrection, they have likewise “put on the new nature.” Being in solidarity with Christ makes possible the new creation, renewal in the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10). “In Adam,” old humanity experiences solidarity with him in sin and death. “In Christ,” however, the creation of a new humanity is made possible, which experiences solidarity with him in righteousness and life (Rom. 5:18–21). Thus, just as humankind bears the image of the first Adam by virtue of corporate identification, those who have become incorporated into Christ are recreated in the image of the Second Adam (Eph. 2:10). The corporate nature of this identification is emphasized by Paul in his treatment of the new creation, referring to the whole body of Christ as “the one new man” (Eph. 2:15).
Being “in Christ” is not only the basis of Christian individual and corporate identity, but also serves as the basis of transformed relationships (Gal. 3:26–29). Those “in Christ” are not only Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (v. 29), they also are meant to manifest a oneness that knows no barriers, whether racial, social, or sexual (v. 28). The concept of being “in Christ” refers not only to the believer’s vertical relationships (“sons of God” who “put on Christ,” vv. 26–27), but also to the horizontal relationships of daily living (“neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” v. 28). “All” who respond to Christ “through faith” (v. 26) and are “baptized into Christ” (v. 27) are “one” (v. 28). Incorporation into Christ by identification with his death and resurrection means to become part of a body. To be joined to the corporate Christ is to become part of an organic whole, under his headship (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12–13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 1:22–23; 2:14–16; 3:6; 4:4, 12–16; 5:23, 30; Col. 1:18; 2:19; 3:15). The principle of incorporation is also highlighted in Paul’s use of the temple metaphor. Christ is the foundation and cornerstone of the temple, while believers are the stones built together into a corporate whole and indwelt by God (1 Cor. 3:16–17, 19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20–22).
Thus, the nature of the Christian is described by Paul with the formula “in Christ.” This meant for the apostle that those who put their faith in Christ identified with him as the head of a new humanity. The phrase is a social concept; to become incorporated into this new humanity is represented as belonging to the church as the true community of God. At the same time, however, Paul’s understanding of being “in Christ” involved a personal and intimate relationship with Christ. Although the corporate meaning of the formula is important, this does not preclude the apostle’s emphasis on personal faith-union and fellowship with Christ. The theme of incorporation is found outside the Pauline corpus, especially in the Johannine writings (John 14:10–11; 15:4–5, 7; 17:21–23; 1 John 2:5–6, 24, 27; 3:6, 24; 4:4, 12–13, 15; 5:20). These passages speak of a variety of relationships that are represented in terms of a reciprocal indwelling.
Christ-Mysticism and Union with God. Paul’s teaching on union with Christ has often been labeled as Christian “mysticism.” This is an appropriate term if understood in a qualified sense. Paul viewed communion with God as an act of divine grace, coming not by any spiritual exercises, but by God’s self-revelation (Gal. 1:16). Thus, union with Christ is something to accept by faith, not something to achieve by human effort. Neither does being “in Christ” involve the loss of individuality, nor the absorption of the individual into the divine Spirit (Rom. 8:14, 16; Gal. 2:20), but the heightening of individual qualities and characteristics. In addition, being “in Christ” is more than mystical union; it involves a moral union that provides the ethical dynamic for Christian living. This is more than a gospel of ethical example (an impossible ideal), but the indwelling of Christ who provides the motive power to live in obedience to God.
For Paul to be “in Christ” was to be “in the Spirit.” Paul distinguishes between Christ and the Spirit, but views the function of the latter as mediating the former to believers. As the operative agent of God in the Christian’s life, the Spirit never acts apart from Christ. Thus, although distinct entities, Christ and the Spirit are experienced together, and are the means by which persons come into relation with God. Pauline mysticism, however, is a communal or corporate mysticism. “In Christ” is used in a way that is similar to Paul’s understanding of Christians being fellow members of the body of Christ. Incorporation into this body is by faith in Jesus Christ. Having identified with the death and resurrection of Christ, the body is empowered by his Spirit to manifest his presence to the world. The Christian lives in vital union with Christ, expressing corporately the love of Christ personally appropriated by faith.
Union with Christ is union with God. Although Christocentric, Paul’s theology is grounded on the premise that “God was in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). Fellowship with Christ is fellowship with God (Rom. 8:11; cf. 1 John 1:3). Although union with God is dependent on God’s gracious initiative, it also requires a human response (Eph. 2:8). Central to Paul’s notion of being “in Christ” is the fact of faith. It is the indispensable condition for salvation, a placing of one’s trust in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. This faith is the basis for intimate union with Christ, since it is the self-abandonment of the redeemed to the Redeemer. Faith-union thus finds its focal point in the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, being “in Christ” also has eschatological implications. Union with him involves looking beyond the present to the future. Even though the believer experiences communion with Christ, there is a yearning for more intimate knowledge and relationship (Phil. 1:23; 3:10). Present union with Christ is still “absence from the Lord,” and hence seeks fulfillment in his future advent or “presence” (parousia).
Conclusion. The notion of union with Christ is multidimensional in theological significance. “In Christ,” believers identify with his death (Rom. 6:3, 5–11), his burial (Rom. 6:4), his resurrection (Col. 3:1), his ascension (Eph. 2:6), his lordship (2 Tim. 2:12), and his glory (Rom. 8:17). As a result, certain characteristics of Christ’s person and work are attributed to those in communion with him. The “in Christ” formula is thus a comprehensive term, tying together soteriological, pneumatological, and ecclesiological dimensions of Christian experience. At the same time, it is a mystical concept, in that union with Christ is experienced “in the Spirit.” The phrase also has an ethical dimension, as reflected in the idea of a new humanity made possible in solidarity with the Second Adam. Last but not least, “in Christ” has eschatological significance, in describing the status of the believer, whose life has been transformed by the presence of the kingdom of God experienced in Christ

Rightmire, R. D. (1996). Union with Christ. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 789–792). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

More Information  (Union with Christ Reformed Theology)

Ladd responding to dispensational pre tribulation rapture

Ladd responding to dispensational pre tribulation rapture

“This pretribulation coming of Christ to raise the dead saints and to rapture the living church has become the most characteristic doctrine of Dispensationalists. We must examine the language used in the New Testament to see if it supports this idea of a coming of Christ before the Great Tribulation.

Three words are employed in the New Testament to describe the second advent. The first is “parousia,” which means “coming,” “arrival,” or “presence.” This is the word most frequently used of our Lord’s return, and it is used in connection with the Rapture of the church.

We that are alive, that are left unto the parousia of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15–17)

It is very difficult to find a secret coming of Christ in these verses. His coming will be attended with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the heavenly trumpet. Someone has said that the shout and the trumpet sound will be loud enough to wake the dead!

Furthermore, the parousia of Christ will occur not only to rapture the church and to raise the righteous dead but also to destroy the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist. “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2:8). This is obviously no secret event, for the parousia of Christ will be an outshining, a manifestation. Furthermore, this verse locates the parousia at the end of the Tribulation. One would naturally conclude by comparing the verses just cited that the Rapture of the living saints, the resurrection of those who have died, and the judgment upon the Antichrist will all take place at the same time, namely, at the parousia of Jesus at the end of Tribulation.

Furthermore, it is at his parousia that Jesus will be accompanied by all his saints. Paul prays that God may establish the Thessalonians in holiness “at the parousia of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:13). At his parousia the Lord will come to bring his saints with him, to raise the righteous dead, to rapture the living believers, and to destroy Antichrist.
The parousia will be a glorious event. Christ will destroy the Man of Lawlessness by the breath of his mouth and “by the manifestation [literally, “epiphany” or “outshining”] of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2:8). The rendition of the King James Version is not wrong: “by the brightness of his coming.” This epiphany will be a glorious event, for Paul speaks of “the epiphany of the glory of our great God and our Saviour” (Titus 2:13).

We find the same teaching of a glorious visible parousia in Jesus’ words. “For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the parousia of the Son of man” (Matt. 24:27). It will be like a bolt of lightning, glorious, visible, evident to all.

The usual answer given to these facts by those who separate the coming of Christ into two parts is that parousia means “presence” and therefore covers the entire period of time which is introduced by the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation. Thus, we are told, parousia can refer either to the coming of Christ at the Rapture or to his Revelation at the end of the Tribulation.

It is true that sometimes parousia does mean “presence.” Paul contrasts his presence (parousia) with the Philippians with his absence (apousia) from them (Phil. 2:12). The Corinthians accused Paul of inconsistency, because “his letters … are strong, but his bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10). However, the word does not always mean “presence”; more often it means “arrival.” When Paul in Ephesus received envoys from Corinth, he rejoiced at their parousia, that is, their coming or arrival (1 Cor. 16:17). When Paul was concerned about the condition of things at Corinth, he was comforted by the arrival (parousia) of Titus (2 Cor. 7:6). It was not the presence of Titus but his arrival with good news from Corinth that provided the comfort. To translate parousia by “presence” would empty it of its particular point. This is illustrated in the following instances: “Be patient, brethren, until the parousia of the Lord.… Be ye also patient; establish your hearts; for the parousia of the Lord is at hand” (Jas. 5:7–8). “Where is the promise of his parousia?” (2 Pet. 3:4). In these verses it is the coming, the return, the advent of the Lord which is called for; “presence” does not suit the context.

It is not the presence so much as the coming of Christ which is required in the verses we have just discussed. It is at the coming, the advent of Christ, that the dead will be raised and the living caught up; “presence” does not fit. It is at his coming, his advent, not his presence, that he will be accompanied by his saints. His coming, his advent, will be like a bolt of lightning. The parousia of Christ is his second coming, and it will bring both salvation and judgment: salvation of the saints, and judgment of the world.

A second word used of our Lord’s return is apokalypsis, which means “revelation.” The apocalypse or Revelation of Christ is distinguished by pretribulationists from the Rapture of the church and is placed at the end of the Tribulation when Christ comes in glory to bring judgment upon the world. If this view is correct, then the apocalypse of Christ is not primarily the blessed hope of the Christian. When the Revelation occurs, the saints will have been raptured and will have received from the hand of Christ their rewards for the things done in the body. They will already have entered into the full enjoyment of life and fellowship with Christ. The apocalypse of Christ is for judgment of the wicked, not for the salvation of the church. According to pretribulationism, the Rapture at the secret coming of Christ is our blessed hope and the object of our fond expectation, not the Revelation.

This, however, is not what we find in the Scripture. We are “waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). According to pretribulationism we are not waiting for the Revelation but for the Rapture. The church is to suffer affliction until the time of the apocalypse of Christ. Paul says that “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted, rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, with the angels of his power in flaming fire” (2 Thess. 1:6–7). According to pretribulationism this rest from persecution has already been experienced at the Rapture; it does not await the Revelation of Jesus Christ. But the Word of God says it is received at the Revelation.”

Ladd, G. E. (1978). The last things: an eschatology for Laymen (pp. 50–53). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lord’s Supper

Lord’s Supper

“An English-born preacher8 taught this writer years ago that to be a valid ordinance of the Christian church, an observance had to be three things:

1. Instituted by Christ Himself (Three of the four Gospels record His instituting this rite.)
2. Practiced in the Acts of the Apostles. (There are several references to the Supper in Acts.)
3. Explained in the Epistles of the NT. (The fullest account is in 1 Corinthians 11, though there are other briefer references.)

Only two ordinances meet these three criteria: baptism9 and the Lord’s Supper.

Although I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the meetings of the early Christians10 and read countless tomes and articles on early Christianity, I never found anything to shake my acceptance of this three-fold test.

If one believes in the “development” theory of the Church, namely, that ecclesiastical officials can add to, delete, or change Christ’s teachings—this little test will seem naive in the extreme. But I expect most Bible Christians11 will appreciate its simple truth.

In the earliest days of the Church, when believers were all together in Jerusalem, the disciples apparently broke bread every day (although some of these events may have been ordinary meals).

By the time the Church had progressed in its spread across the Roman Empire to many Gentile areas, the frequency of celebration would seem to have become weekly: “the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:6).

Perhaps in reaction to the high-church notion that communion can help save one’s soul, Protestants have generally cut down on the weekly (or daily communion) to a monthly, or even a quarterly communion (a few just yearly). Many ultra-dispensationalists, as we have seen, totally reject the Supper for this age, along with most Quakers and the Salvation Army.
Several devout church leaders, such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Mueller, and Charles H. Spurgeon,12 have encouraged weekly communion, and several groups in Christendom who hold biblical views on the ordinance follow the practice of the early Church in this.

The practice of the NT Church shows that the Christians gathered around the table of the Lord to worship the Lord by reading the Scriptures, praying, singing hymns, sharing, preaching, and taking part in the elements of Christ’s passion. First Corinthians 16:1–2 also shows that at least on occasion a collection was taken.”

8 The preacher was Edwin Fesche, now of Baltimore, who preached the sermon that led this editor to believe the Gospel.
9 See JOTGES, Spring 1990, for a discussion of this doctrine.
10 Arthur L. Farstad, “Historical and Exegetical Consideration of New Testament Church Meetings,” unpublished doctoral dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1972. 397 pp.
11 A Roman Catholic priest on a nationwide TV program referred to our type of believers as “Bible Christians.” It is a good term for those whose whole faith and practice are built on God’s Word.
12 Müller and Spurgeon both practiced weekly communion, the former at Bethesda Chapel, Bristol (Brethren), and the latter at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London (Baptist).
Farstad, A. L. (1991). We Believe In: The Lord’s Supper. Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Volume 4, 4(1), 7–8.

That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

“That The Great Commission Of Matthew 28 Is Not For This Age Of Grace

At this point there is often an effort to identify their position with the teaching of well-known dispensationalists such as A. C. Gaebelein, J. N. Darby, and William Pettingill. These men, however, did not arrive at the same conclusions at all as do the ultradispensationalists.

Essentially the claim is made: (1) that the commission of Matthew 28 (and the other gospels) is merely an expansion of the one recorded in Matthew 10 and is therefore limited to Israel, (2) that since miraculous powers accompanied the commission it was therefore related to the Jewish church and not to the church which is His body, and (3) that since Peter offered the kingdom to Israel after Pentecost (Acts 3) he was still operating in obedience to the Great Commission of Matthew 28, confining his ministry to Israel and yet in ignorance of the higher program °f God as represented in the Body of Christ. In commenting on the Great Commission Stam writes:

To assume that our Lord now sends these apostles to proclaim ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ is wholly unwarranted. In fact, ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ is not preached nor even mentioned until Paul is railed up and sent forth to declare it. .. (Cornelius Stam, Things That Differ,, p 181).

To use their own language, the propagators of this view have assumed that the presence of accompanying miracles in the early stages of apostolic obedience to the Great Commission confines the ministry of the apostles to Israel. However, miracles were even worked by Paul, the exponent of so-called “body truth” (cf. 2 Cor. 12:12). The miracles simply validated the preaching of the apostles. Nor does the “legalism” of Matthew 28:19–20 (whatever that may mean) and the baptismal regeneration supposedly found in Mark’s account detract one iota from the force of this last command of Christ. The details of the gospel of grace are not found in the Great Commission for it was not a theological treatise but a stirring call to action. This does not mean, however, that it was a call to minister something other than the gospel of grace. The apostles understood grace more fully following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but the basic elements of the church’s task are found in Christ’s command tc evangelize (“make disciples”), and instruct (“baptizing. .. teaching”). That this commission was to be obeyed throughout the church age seems evident from the promise of the Lord that He would support them in the ministry, “even unto (he end of the age.” To suggest, furthermore, that salvation in any dispensation was ever dependent upon water baptism (as do ultradispensationalists) is to undermine the doctrine of salvation by. grace, yet Stam writes, “It cannot be denied that from John the Baptist right through Pentecost water baptism was stated to be a requirement for salvation” (C. R. Stam, “The Lord’s Supper,” p. 13). God has always saved men by grace through faith in every dispensation though their understanding of the gospel has not been the same in every dispensation.

The passage in Mark 16:16 makes the crux of salvation personal faith in the Saviour, but such saving faith is outwardly evidenced in obedience to Christ, the first step of which is immersion in water according to His command. The difficulty in the Acts 2:38 reference (declared by ultradispensationalists to teach baptismal regeneration and therefore to apply to the Jewish and not the Pauline church) can be resolved by attending carefuljy to the possibilities of translation which would make it read, “… be baptized on account of the remission of sins,….” They were to be baptized, not to take away their sins, but because their sins had been taken away.

It may be concluded, therefore, that the Great Commission cannot and should not be laid aside by the followers of Jesus Christ, but constitutes the will of God for believers today.”

(1961). Central C. B. Quarterly, 4(4), 40–41.



“Terms In the NT the concept of holiness is presented primarily by the adjective Gk. hágios, “holy”; by the three related nouns indicating holiness, hagiasmós, hagiótēs, and hagiōsýnē; and by the verb, hagiázō, “make holy or sanctify.” Of the three nouns only hagiasmós can be rendered as indicating the process of making holy, i.e., sanctification or consecration. Hagiótēs indicates personal holiness whereas hagiōsýnē is a term for holiness generally or abstractly considered. The meaning of these words for “holy” is clarified somewhat by noting the other Greek adjectives used in the NT that can have the implication of “holy”: hierós, hósios, and hagnós. Hierós indicates something sacred but usually only in the outward sense of a rite. Hósios, “reverent” or “pious,” does not connote a purity so separated from the world as to belong only to God and to those who are His—and thus is not closely associated with the divine as is hágios. Hagnós, “pure,” “chaste,” or “undefiled,” stands in close etymological relationship to hágios, and is occasionally used in the NT to indicate the moral purity that is characteristic of God (1 Jn. 3:3) and of believers (cf. Tit. 2:5). Hagnós lacks the breadth of meaning of hágios and does not have a related noun indicative of the process of sanctification, but only the rarely used noun hagnótēs, meaning “purity” or “sincerity.”

Thus hágios is the adjective applied to God, to the Spirit, and to Christ. In His intercessory prayer Jesus Christ called God “Holy Father” (Jn. 17:11), and in Rev. 4:8 is called thrice holy. Throughout the NT, hágios is the adjective in the name “Holy Spirit,” and Christ Himself is called “the Holy One of God” (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34). Persons who have been chosen by God for Himself and thereby set apart from the world are also holy. Christ is called God’s “holy servant” (Acts 4:30) and believers are elect or called “saints” (hágioi, 1 Cor. 1:2). Because of their divine origin and purpose, Christian calling (2 Tim. 1:9) and the OT Scriptures (Rom. 1:2) are called holy.

B. The Ethical Emphasis of the Gospels Although all of the above uses of hágios draw in some measure on the originally religious concept found at the root of OT usage, i.e., the concept of separation from the profane and of being set apart for the divine, the NT emphasis is clearly upon the ethical dimension of the holy. The nouns indicating holiness, particularly hagiasmós, “sanctification,” make this apparent. Sanctification is the result of God making someone holy (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2) and is viewed ethically in relation to faith and love (1 Tim. 2:15). Similarly, throughout the Pauline epistles, sanctity is contrasted not with the profane or the worldly in general but with lust and moral impurity (Rom. 6:19–22; 1 Thess. 3:13; 4:3–5, 7), and is paired with “righteousness” (Rom. 6:19; Eph. 4:24). Hagiótēs, personal holiness, likewise indicates purity or ethical uprightness and, indeed, the divine purity to which believers will ultimately be conformed (He. 12:10).

Thus Jesus’ preaching issues a clear call to a decision for God, for the kingdom and against the world, that marks the basic fact of the separation of all those who belong to God from the profane, the sinful, and the demonic. The rich young man (Mt. 19:16–22 par) is told to sell all he has and to follow Christ; the disciples are admonished that those who give up house, family, and lands for His sake will be rewarded in heaven (Mt. 19:29). To belong both to the kingdom and to the world is an impossibility, for no one can serve God and mammon (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). The character of those so separated from the world is godliness and perfection like that of the heavenly Father (Mt. 5:43–48). Thus the separation of Christians from the world is identified primarily in terms of righteousness attained through repentance and divine forgiveness, i.e., it is an ethical separation, a sanctification in the fullest sense.

Jesus’ call to repentance and to new, inward obedience in the kingdom is specifically linked by Paul to the identity of believers as “saints” or “holy ones” (hágioi) who are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).

are called to be ethically set apart to God (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul’s conception of the life of those “called to be saints” rests on his theology of grace. The saints are called in the present life to be conformed to Christ by the work of the Spirit, and are, indeed, “predestined” by God “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). On this foundation of grace and divine calling, Christians are exhorted to an active life of Christ-like conduct (cf. Gal. 5:6; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:1–4; 1 Thess. 5:10). Nonetheless, in every aspect of their ethical holiness or newfound righteousness Christians are to recognize that not they themselves, certainly not their own work or their own will, but God working in them is the source of their holiness or righteousness (Phil. 2:13).

C. The Language of Progress in Sanctity Paul also joins the NT language of sanctification to a concept of progress or perfection in holiness. The initial renewal or hallowing of the individual in Christ, by the Spirit, which takes place following forgiveness of sins and justification sets believers apart even though sin and the struggle with sin continue to be a part of their lives. Thus Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation (Phil. 2:12), and to move forward in holiness, upon the ground established for them in the grace of Christ, toward the goal of being utterly refashioned according to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). Paul seems to associate the passing away of imperfection with the final vision of God (1 Cor. 13:10–12) and to view the perfect conformity of believers to Christ as an eschatological event (15:42–50). In addition, when Paul speaks of becoming “perfect” (Gk. téleios), he most certainly does not mean an absolute perfection, like the divine perfection, but rather a maturity in faith (Phil. 3:15), which he himself has not yet attained (3:12). The word téleios itself indicates an orientation toward a goal. Christ’s own mandate to perfection, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48), echoes the future orientation of its OT analogues, Dt. 18:13 and Lev. 19:2.
Nonetheless, Paul did not intend by this language a progress of believers from unholiness to holiness. The imperfection of believers is an incompleteness of those who have already been set apart by grace through faith and who are regenerate. Their progress is, therefore, a progress in holiness: God has willed their sanctification and has “called” them “not … for uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thess. 4:3, 7). Indeed, God will sanctify them “wholly” and keep them “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23f) by increasing their love to one another and to all mankind (3:12f.). Paul also described the process of attainment of this holiness as a work both of the Spirit and of the individual believer. Sanctification occurs “in the Spirit” and as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–25), but it is also a self-cleansing and a self-consecration (cf. Rom. 12:1f.; 2 Cor. 7:1). Thus sanctification rests both upon the grace of God that begins and continues to work the good in the hearts of believers, and upon human purpose, in the Spirit, to continued exhortation to holiness. The progress of this work of the Spirit and of the human response points directly toward the consummation of God’s purpose in “the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10f.).

Whereas the Pauline language of sanctity and perfection points away from earthly expectation of perfect holiness, the Johannine language seems to insist upon it. Believers are children of God, separated from the world and its lack of knowledge of God, destined to be like God in the eschaton. This hope is intimately related to the purification of believers who progress in this life toward the purity of the God in whom they hope (1 Jn. 3:2f.). The Son of God, in whom this redemption and purification is made possible, “appeared to take away sins” and is personally sinless (3:5). “No one,” therefore, “who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him” (3:6). The basis of this sinlessness is the new birth that overcomes the world (5:4f, 18). John makes it clear that this victory is not a human work, but a divine work. Human beings are deceived if they deny their own sinfulness—but if they confess their sinfulness they will be forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ (1:7–9).

A somewhat different perspective on sanctification can be drawn from 1 Peter and Hebrews. These writings emphasized the objective establishment of believers in holiness rather than the subjective form of the sanctified life. Peter views sanctification as a primary and immediate characteristic of the life into which Christians are drawn by the Spirit. This sanctity is profoundly related to the covenant sacrifice of Christ, specifically, the sprinkling of His blood (1 Pet. 1:2, 18f.). Believers are “sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:2). Thus Peter views sanctification as the basis upon which believers move forth in obedience and receive forgiveness through Christ’s blood. Hebrews even more forcefully binds sanctification to the language of sacrifice and covenant. It presents sanctification as the objective consecration of believers effected in and through Christ’s sacrifice: “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (He. 10:10; cf. 9:13f.). Not only have believers been made holy by this sacrifice, they have also been “perfected for all time” (10:14).

The seeming tension between the ideas of progress in holiness and attainment of sinlessness found in Paul and John on the one side, and the teaching of an already accomplished sanctification found in 1 Peter and Hebrews on the other, finds theological resolution in the essentially gracious character of the work of salvation and in the eschatological character of the NT preaching. The objective fact of the separation of believers from the world on the basis of an inward, spiritual regeneration is the gracious gift of God in the work of salvation. In the “now” of the kingdom, the transformation of human nature has been accomplished from the divine side. Thus Paul can declare “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11), placing sanctification in the same context of baptismal worship as regeneration and justification by faith. Here the meaning of sanctity is surely a combination of the original, religious or pre-ethical concept and its ethical result, inasmuch as believers are both consecrated to God in the moment of regeneration and justification without being made perfectly righteous, and also inwardly transformed so that righteousness and holiness may be perfected in them (cf. Rom. 6:19). This fundamental sanctity of believers can be traced back to its foundation in the eternal plan of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).

In the eschatological “not yet” of the kingdom, however, the fact of the consecration of believers now points, through progress in holiness, toward the consummation of their transformation in Christ. The same Corinthians that Paul called “sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11) he also encouraged to cleanse themselves “from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). It is in this eschatological and teleological sense of sanctification as progress toward perfection that the ethical dimension of the concept is clearest. In one sense believers are consecrated to God and blameless before Him because of the work of Christ, but in another sense they must still be perfected in the day of Christ. Nonetheless the NT also has a strong sense of the eschatological character of the “now” of the kingdom, of the proleptic presence of the goal of history in the work of Christ on earth—with the result that the goal of our present exercise of holiness and righteousness must also somehow be fulfilled in us insofar as we are in Christ. This aspect of the “now” of the kingdom may account for John’s pointed declaration of the sinlessness of believers in Christ.”

Muller, R. A. (1979–1988). Sanctification. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, pp. 322–324). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

“ἅγιος (hagios). adj. dedicated to God, holy, pure, sacred, consecrated, reverent. Set apart for God’s purposes.

This is the basic Greek word for “holy.” The Septuagint regularly uses it to translate both קָדֹשׁ (qādōš, “holy”) and קֹדֶשׁ (qōdeš, “holiness”). It is by far the most common word in the NT to describe something as holy or set apart to God. It is used to describe objects, animals, humans, places, and the Spirit of God, i.e., the Holy (hagios) Spirit (e.g., Mark 3:29). That which is holy is reserved for God and for God’s service or purposes. Jerusalem is the “holy (hagios) city” (Matt 4:5; Rev 11:2). As the Mosaic law declares, the first-born male is holy (hagios) to the Lord (Luke 2:23). Paul metaphorically calls the Jews who believed in Christ “the dough offered as firstfruits,” which is holy (hagios) and thus sanctifies the whole lump (i.e., the whole Church, including Gentile Christians). Being holy can also have a moral connotation, as when Mark 6:20 uses “righteous (δίκαιος, dikaios)” and “holy (hagios)” in parallel. This is even clearer in Peter’s citation of Lev 19:2: “As the one who called you is holy (hagios), you yourselves also be holy (hagios) in your behavior” (1 Pet 1:15).

In the NT, the plural of hagios is often used for “holy people” or “saints.” Paul writes to “the saints (hagios) who are in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:1). Even the believers at Corinth, with all their moral problems, are referred to by Paul as “those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called [as] saints (hagios; 1 Cor 1:2).” Hence, being in Christ makes one holy and set apart for the Lord’s purposes.

ἁγιάζω (hagiazō). vb. to set apart, sanctify, consecrate, dedicate. To make something holy.

This verb is related to ἅγιος (hagios, “holy”) and refers to making something hagios; it is the usual translation in the Septuagint of קָדַשׁ (qādaš, “to sanctify”). The gold of the temple is holy, for it is sanctified (hagiazō) by being part of or used in the temple in Jerusalem (Matt 23:17). This is the same idea as in the Old Testament; by coming into contact with that which is holy, someone or something becomes holy. Either God or people may do the sanctifying, and people, objects, and places may be sanctified. In his high-priestly prayer, Jesus says, “I sanctify (hagiazō) myself, in order that [the disciples] themselves may be sanctified (hagiazō) in truth” (John 17:19). In Matt 6:9, Jesus instructs his followers to pray to the Father that he will make his name sanctified (hagiazō). The Father sanctified (hagiazō) the Son and sent him into the world (John 10:36). Paul desires that the offering of the Gentiles may be well-pleasing, being sanctified (hagiazō) in the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16).

ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos). n. masc. sanctification, consecration, holiness. The state or process of being set apart for the purposes of God.

This is an abstract noun derived from the verb ἁγιάζω (hagiazō, “to set apart, sanctify”) and refers to the process or result of being sanctified (hagiazō). Paul states that believers are saved “by the sanctification (hagiasmos) of the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). Jesus has become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification (hagiasmos), and redemption for all who are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). God has called believers to live a sanctified lifestyle, which is God’s will. Paul delineates this specifically as being a matter of sexual purity (1 Thess 4:3, 4, 7). Paul exhorts the believers in Rome to give or present their members (i.e., body parts) to God in sanctification (hagiasmos), and he states that doing so will bring fruit that leads to sanctification, which has the end result of eternal life (Rom 6:19–22).

ἁγιωσύνη (hagiōsynē). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.

In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to cleanse themselves of all defilement, thus fulfilling holiness (hagiōsynē), i.e., becoming fully holy. Paul offers a prayer or “benediction” for the Thessalonian Christians, that God will cause them to abound with love in order that their hearts may be established blameless in holiness (hagiōsynē; 1 Thess 3:13). In Rom 1:4 Paul writes that Jesus was declared the Son of God according to the Spirit of Holiness (hagiōsynē), i.e., the Holy Spirit.

ἁγιότης (hagiotēs). n. fem. holiness. The state of being holy.

In the NT, this word appears only in Heb 12:10. The author states that God disciplines believers in order that they may share in his holiness (hagiotēs). As holiness is a core aspect of who God is, when he makes people or things his own, they share in his holiness.

ἱερός (hieros). adj. holy. Pertaining to what is in the state of transcendent purity, or being part of the temple service.

The word hieros is much less frequent in the NT than ἅγιος (hagios). It is used to describe something that is holy in the sense of being fit for or dedicated to worship in the temple. In 1 Corinthians 9:13, hieros refers to the sacred duties performed by temple personnel. It also appears in the phrase “holy (hieros) Scriptures” (2 Tim 3:15). The word is used in the short ending of the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 16:8 in LEB).

ὅσιος (hosios). adj. pious, devout, holy, pleasing to God. Without fault in relation to the deity.

In Acts 2:27 Peter quotes Psa 16:10 and applies the phrase “your Holy One (hosios)” to Jesus; hosios here translates the Hebrew חָסִיד (ḥāsîd, “pious one”); it is also the usual Septuagint equivalent of ḥāsîd. Hebrews 7:26 describes Jesus as a holy (hosios) high priest. In Rev 15:4, the saints praise God, saying “you alone are holy (hosios).” Acts 13:34–35 offers a special case. Paul quotes Isa 55:3 to argue that Psa 16:10 could not apply to David. His quote from Isaiah includes the phrase, “the holy (hosios) and sure things of David,” which Paul interprets to mean “promises.” The subsequent quote says that “You will not let your Holy One (hosios) see corruption,” (ESV) and he interprets the Holy One to be Jesus. Titus 1:8 says that an overseer of the church must be holy (hosios).

The related adverb ὁσίως (hosiōs, “devoutly”), pertaining to being pleasing to God, is used in 1 Thess 2:10.”

Litwak, K. D. (2014). Sanctification. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“Fundamental to all NT theology is the shift in eschatological perspective brought about by the coming of Jesus Messiah, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. God has come amongst his people to reconcile them to himself and the future has already been set in motion, although the end has only just begun. Sanctification cannot be understood outside this framework.

The terminology of sanctification is rare in the gospels. In John, sanctification concerns relationship with the triune God on the one hand and mission on the other. Jesus is the one sanctified by the Father and sent into the world (10:36). If the disciples are to continue that mission, they too must be sanctified, i.e. brought into that intimate fellowship enjoyed by Father and Son (20:20–23). Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify the disciples in the truth (17:17). In order that they may be filled with God’s being and power, Jesus sanctifies himself (17:19) through his death, then sends the disciples into the world just as the Father had sent him (20:21–22), imparting to them the Holy Spirit.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is the key to Paul’s view of sanctification. Paul holds that sanctification is based on the historical reality of the atoning death of Christ which is brought to experiential reality by the Spirit (Gal. 3:2–5; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 1:13–14; Tit. 3:4–7). It partakes fully of the eschatological tension of salvation: ‘already’/‘not yet’.

Paul’s main emphasis is ethical rather than cultic. He echoes Jesus’ own summation of God’s ethical requirements for the new people as given in the great commandments (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8–10) and models them before his converts (1 Thes. 2:10; 3:12). He urges them to continue to work out these principles of wholehearted devotion to God and love of neighbour in the context of everyday existence (1 Thes. 4:9–10). In 1 Thes. 3:10–13 and 5:23, Paul prays that his readers will be established in holiness and that God will sanctify them wholly. They are ever to be what they are now, i.e. a people called to be holy.

But these are also wish-prayers which means that the ‘not yet’ is equally important here. Paul has the Parousia, which perhaps he expected before his death (1 Thes. 4:17; 5:6), firmly in his view. He prays that these Christians will be found blameless (note, not faultless) in holiness on that soon-to-arrive day, with lives that reflect their anticipation of it.

The ethical thrust of sanctification continues in Rom. 6, where Paul uses the term hagiasmos twice. In 6:19, he urges his readers to yield their members to righteousness for sanctification, clearly focusing on the ethical living expected of those who have been freed from the dominion of sin. Since in and with Christ they have died to the lordship of sin (6:6), they are now to live lives which reflect their new relationship to God as sharers in Christ’s risen life (6:13–14). In no sense, however, is Paul stating that holiness is achieved by personal striving (see Wynkoop, 326).

Paul uses the terms ‘righteousness’ and ‘sanctification’ here in a way which shows their inseparability. Paul could not conceive of a person brought into a right relationship with God whose life would not issue in sanctification (6:22), i.e. in a life of holiness. Debate about whether Paul has in mind a state or a process of sanctification is beside the point. Paul intends both.
That Paul can speak of both aspects of sanctification is confirmed in 2 Cor. 7:1. Here, in language reminiscent of the OT cultic context of purity and holiness, he urges his alienated readers to ‘cleanse [y]ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect.’ His Christian readers are to purge themselves in every part, inwardly and outwardly (see Ps. 24:2–3, ‘clean hands and pure heart’), and live out the implications of their grace-given relationship to the holy God.

Were it not for the indwelling presence of the Spirit, all of this might seem to be mere wishful thinking. But Paul considers the sanctified life to be possible because of the indwelling presence of God’s empowering Spirit (2 Thes. 2:13). Indeed, he says, anyone who rejects this way of living, rejects God who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thes. 4:8). It is the presence of the Spirit which enables the believer to live a life which is not according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 24; Rom. 8:5) although life is still lived in the flesh (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:11, 23). To be sure, the Spirit has not brought the fulness of the end but only its beginning, so the Spirit’s presence does not confer final perfection in the present age but rather leads to growing maturity in Christ, whereby Christians are ripened for their final transformation. ‘We are both already and not yet’ (Fee, p. 826).

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews is in conscious dialogue with Judaism. For this writer, sanctification is the work of Christ, the eternal high priest (5:8–10; 7:23–25) and the sanctifier (2:11; 13:12) who, as the enthroned Lord, now exercises all the prerogatives of God (ch. 1). The means of sanctification is through the death of Christ, who through the shedding of his blood, established the new and better covenant relationship between God and humans (10:10, 14). This new sacrifice is efficacious because, in contrast to sacrifices under the old covenant which could purify the flesh and restore a defiled Israelite to the community (Nu. 19:9), the blood of Christ is able to deal with the inner condition of sinful people (9:13f.; 10:22).

The heart of the matter in Hebrews, therefore, is the new covenant relationship promised in the OT (Je. 31:31–34; Ezk. 36:25–27). The verb hagiadzein is used ‘with reference to the establishment of New Covenant relations between God and man’ (D.F.Peterson, Hebrews and Perfection, SNTSMS 47, 1982, p. 72). The notion of the perfecting of believers (7:11, 19; 10:14), relates primarily to their covenantal acceptance by God (Peterson, p. 136).

Hebrews is the most explicit of the epistles on the present reality and enjoyment of the sanctified life. A crucial verse in this regard is Heb. 10:14 which emphasizes the single offering for sanctification made by Christ on the one hand and the experiential realization of the new relationship between God and humanity on the other. The new covenant relationship has already been established in Christ’s death and exaltation; Christians are consciously to embrace in their ongoing experience what has already been accomplished for them. ‘The terminology of perfection is used by our writer here to stress the realized aspect of Christian salvation’ (Peterson, p. 153).
But Hebrews also applies the ‘already’/‘not yet’ tension to sanctification. For while it is the present experience of believers, it is neither static nor final (12:10, 14, 22–24). This relationship is the earnest of that ultimate goal of sanctification which ‘is to share Christ’s glory (2:10), to enter God’s rest (4:11 ff.), to see the Lord (12:14), and to inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22; 13:14)’ (Peterson, p. 129).

In some ways, 1 Pet. provides a summary of the NT view of sanctification: it has to do with God’s choice (1:2; 2:9), the work of the Spirit in applying the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection (1:2–3), and lives lived in obedience to God’s call to holiness (1:14–15; 2:5) and love (1:22; 4:8). Sanctification, in sum, is essentially a relational reality, completed in Christ’s death on the cross, experienced through the indwelling Holy Spirit and brought to its final goal when we see God (Heb. 12:14; 1 Jn. 3:2–3).”

Brower, K. E. (1996). Sanctification, Sanctify. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 1058–1059). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



“Justification, the exculpation of guilt or the demonstration of the correctness of an act or statement. ‘Justification’ and its related terms ‘just,’ ‘justly,’ ‘justify’ help to render the Hebrew ṣdq and the Greek dikaioō (altogether the two words occur in the Bible about seven hundred and fifty times). These concepts are more frequently expressed in English Bibles by the term ‘righteousness’ and its related forms. Translation by means of the English word ‘justification’ comes through the Vulgate’s justitia. The Latin verb justificare added the sense of ‘make just,’ though the Hebrew regularly meant ‘declare just.’ The two concepts relate, as at Rom. 3:26 where Christ’s death demonstrates that God ‘is righteous and that he justifies’ one who believes in Jesus.

OT uses reflect the human desire to justify oneself (Job 32:2; 33:32; Isa. 43:9) or show one is ‘in the right.’ When applied to God (Job 32:2; Ps. 51:4), they raise the question of theodicy or justifying the ways of God to human beings. The OT insists God ‘is just in all his ways’ (Ps. 145:17) and asks, ‘How can a person be just before God?’ (Job 9:2). It knows the complaint that ‘the way of the Lord is not just’ (Ezek. 18:25, 29) but replies God will judge nonetheless (33:17, 20). The eventual answer is not that love or mercy triumphs over righteousness but that righteousness is seen as having a saving dimension (Isa. 51:1, 5, 6, 8, RSV: ‘deliverance’). God who saves is the one who justifies (Rom. 8:33; cf. Isa. 50:8, ‘vindicates’).

Early Jewish Christians confessed that Jesus was put to death ‘for our trespasses’ and raised ‘for our justification’ (Rom. 4:25) and that we are ‘justified…in Christ Jesus…by his blood’ (Rom. 3:24-25). They further confessed that when ‘the Son was made sin’ (perhaps a ‘sin offering,’ 2 Cor. 5:21) it demonstrated God’s righteousness while at the same time showing that sinners are justified by faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

Paul deepened this idea of justification through faith ‘apart from works of the law’ (Rom. 3:28) and applied it to non-Jews (Gal. 3:8) as well as Jews (Rom. 3:30), on the basis of Abraham’s experience (Rom. 4). The universality of justification is shown by comparing Christ with Adam: Adam’s trespass brought condemnation for all, whereas Christ’s act of ‘righteousness’ brings justification or acquittal and life to all. Thus sinners are ‘made [declared, established as] righteous’ (Rom. 5:16-21). God ‘justifies the ungodly’ who trust him (Rom. 4:5); they receive peace and life in the Spirit (Rom. 5:1; 8:4). The ethical aspects of justification emphasize ‘whatever is just’ (Phil. 4:8).
James speaks of justification (2:24-25), not in opposition to Paul but against people who fail to understand that faith includes obedience (Rom. 1:5) to God beyond creedal assent.”

Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 520). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

“English Bibles render Heb. ṣdq and Gk. dikaioún as both “just, justice, justify” and “right, righteous (ness), rightwise.” Righteousness/justification language occurs more than 800 times in the OT and NT.

Both the Hebrew and Greek can denote self-justification, seeking to put oneself “in the right.” Job “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2; cf. 33:32; 9:2). The setting of such attempts may be a lawsuit, involving God and the nations (Isa. 43:9) or Israel (43:26); then it will be shown that God is righteous (45:21, 24). The lawyer in Luke 10:29 wanted “to justify himself” by asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Money-loving Pharisees are said to try to justify themselves in the sight of other people (Luke 16:15).

A further application is the justification of God. In the Lord’s speech to Job from the whirlwind the issue is theodicy or defense of God’s ways to mortals (Job 40:8; cf. Gen. 18:25; Ps. 37:5–6, 28–34; Jer. 12:1; Ezek. 18, esp. vv. 25–29). In the NT wisdom is justified by her deeds (Matt. 11:19) or children (Luke 7:35; Rev. 15:3–4; 16:5–7; 19:2). Paul frequently defends God’s judgments (2 Thess. 1:5; cf. Rom. 2:5–11; 9:19–24) and ways of salvation (Rom. 3:4–6). Indeed, Romans contains a vindication of how, given God’s plan with Israel, salvation has come to the Gentiles (3:28–30; 9:24, 30; 15:8–12) and a rebuke against Gentile Christian presumptuousness which counts Israel out (11:11–24).

Paul’s justification of God is inseparably related to his major theme, especially in Romans, of the justification of the ungodly, to whom faith is reckoned as righteousness (Rom. 4:5).
Specific references to justification reflect pre-Pauline confessional slogans about Jesus’ death and resurrection resulting in “our justification” (Rom. 4:25), brought home to believers as sanctification-justification via baptism, into Christ, with the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). Paul’s was an apostolic “ministry of justification” (2 Cor. 3:9), for Jew and Gentile both, i.e., all the world (Rom. 1:16; 2:9–10; 9:24; 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:13). From his own experience and study of Scripture (esp. Gen. 15:6; Ps. 143:2; Hab. 2:4), the principle emerged that “no one is justified before God by the law” but rather by faith (Gal. 3:6–14; cf. Rom. 3:20, 28) and that God’s blessing, spoken to Abraham, comes to Gentiles without their being circumcised or performing other “works of the law” (Rom. 4) that were part of Israel’s identity markers for remaining in the Sinai covenant. Paul’s opposition to such “covenantal nomism” or focus on the Law brought him into conflict with Cephas and “people from James” in Antioch and then into a struggle with such views in Galatia (Gal. 2:15–21; cf. 5:4–5).

In Romans Paul unfolded the gospel for a community he had not founded, precisely in terms of this biblical master theme, the righteousness (dikaiosýnē) of God (Rom. 1:16–17). Only after presenting Gentiles and Jews alike under God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18–3:20) and a reference to “the justice of God” (3:5, God as Judge), does Paul in 3:22, 24–26 set forth our being justified by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. The sacrificial death of Christ explains how God remains just while expiating sins. Justification is not merely an initial step toward salvation, in the believer’s past, but also involves future vindication and living out the experience in the present (Rom. 5:1; cf. 2:13; 3:20, 24). Justification is the foundation for carrying out God’s will in daily life by service to others, in church and world (Rom. 12:1–2), including “whatever is just” (Phil. 4:8).

For Paul, justification is the prime effect of the Christ event, a metaphor of salvation along with “participation ‘in Christ’ ” and the gift of the Spirit. This theme must be considered along with the related word fields of “grace” and “faith” as well as, in English, “righteousness.” Jas. 2:14–26 suggests how prominent justification was in the NT period and how Paul’s view could be misunderstood, even by his followers. James follows contemporary Jewish exegesis of Gen. 15:6 by combining it with Gen. 22 (the sacrifice of Isaac), an effort by a later (Jewish) Christian to correct a view of justification that lacks the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5) expressed in help for others (as Paul insisted in Gal. 5:6; Rom. 13:8–10).

OT and NT understandings of justification stand often in close connection with “judgment.” Indeed, “righteousness” (ṣĕḏāqâ) and “justice” (mišpāṭ) can be used in synonymous parallelism (Amos 5:24; Isa. 11:4). The connection between justification and justice has been made in liberation theology.”

Reumann, J. (2000). Justification. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (pp. 757–758). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Justification Before God
1. Promised in Christ. Isa 45:25; 53:11.
2. Is the act of God. Isa 50:8; Ro 8:33.
3. Under law
a. Requires perfect obedience. Le 18:5; Ro 10:5; 2:13; Jas 2:10.
b. Man cannot attain to. Job 9:2, 3, 20; 25:4; Ps 130:3; 143:2; Ro 3:20; 9:31, 32.
4. Under the gospel
a. Is not of works. Ac 13:39; Ro 8:3; Ga 2:16; 3:11.
b. Is not of faith and works united. Ac 15:1–29; Ro 3:28; 11:6; Ga 2:14–21; 5:4.
c. Is by faith alone. Joh 5:24; Ac 13:39; Ro 3:30; 5:1; Ga 2:16.
d. Is of grace. Ro 3:24; 4:16; 5:17–21.
e. In the name of Christ. 1 Co 6:11.
f. By imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Isa 61:10; Jer 23:6; Ro 3:22; 5:18; 1 Co 1:30; 2 Co 5:21.
g. By the blood of Christ. Ro 5:9.
h. By the resurrection of Christ. Ro 4:25; 1 Co 15:17.
i. Blessedness of. Ps 32:1, 2; Ro 4:6–8.
j. Frees from condemnation. Isa 50:8, 9; 54:17; Ro 8:33, 34.
k. Entitles to an inheritance. Tit 3:7.
l. Ensures glorification. Ro 8:30.
5. The wicked shall not attain to. Ex 23:7.
6. By faith
a. Revealed under the Old Testament age. Hab 2:4; Ro 1:17.
b. Excludes boasting. Ro 3:27; 4:2; 1 Co 1:29, 31.
c. Does not make void the law. Ro 3:30, 31; 1 Co 9:21.
7. Typified. Zec 3:4, 5.
8. Illustrated. Lu 18:14.
9. Exemplified
a. Abraham. Ge 15:6.
b. Paul. Php 3:8, 9.”
Torrey, R. A. (2001). The new topical text book: A scriptural text book for the use of ministers, teachers, and all Christian workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Adoption in the New Testament

Adoption in the New Testament

Adoption in the New Testament

“A few New Testament instances allude to the Old Testament view of adoption, perhaps even indicating the legal kind (e.g., John 19:26–27; Jas 1:27, which is about caring for orphans). But adoption is most often used in a theological sense.

Paul uses adoption in Romans to describe the relationship between God and the followers of Jesus (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; compare Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). He uses one Greek term for adoption: υἱοθεσία (huiothesia). The term υἱοθεσία (huiothesia) is rarely found in literary sources, but is prevalent in inscriptions and documentary papyri. Still, Paul had other options of words meaning adoption that were more explicitly tied to religious concepts (Scott, Adoption as Sons, 27, 45, 55). So, why did Paul use υἱοθεσία (huiothesia)? It may be significant that he chose a word that contains the word (υἱὸς, huios), which means “son.” His use of a term that invokes adopted sonship may have linked the term with other masculine terms in Romans, such as “seed” and “circumcision.” He may also have been challenging the authority of the emperor over the sons of Rome.

Paul’s use of terms such as brothers and sisters, father, and adoption allows him to construct a family of people who are not biologically related—the community of believers (Rom 8:15–21; Gal 4:4–6). “Christ has enabled Jews and Gentiles to become related to each other as children of Abraham, but they do not cease to be Jews and Gentiles” (Eisenbaum, “Is Paul,” 521). In the Abrahamic line, the distinction is maintained biologically, but the family is created through adoption.

At the time Paul was writing, a series of laws referred to as the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea required Roman citizens to bear children to build up the Roman population. Paul’s use of adoption as the means to grow God’s family stands in direct opposition to these laws. Paul’s theology not only made the family of God more open than the family of the Roman state, it also created a community that valued those who could not produce biological heirs. The family of God, created through adoption, is open to anyone who wants to be a part of it.”

Morris, M. J. (2016). Adoption. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“Adoption in the NT has as its background not Roman law, in which its chief aim was to continue the adoptive parent’s line, but Jewish custom, which conferred the benefits of the family on the adoptee. It occurs only in Paul, and is a relationship conferred by God’s act of free grace which redeems those under the law (Gal. 4:5). Its intention and result is a change of status, planned from eternity and mediated by Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5), from slavery to sonship (Gal. 4:1ff.). The cry ‘Abba! Father!’ (Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6; in the context of adoption) may perhaps be the traditional cry of the adopted slave. The adopted son of God possesses all family rights, including access to the Father (Rom. 8:15) and sharing with Christ in the divine inheritance (Rom. 8:17). The presence of the Spirit of God is both the instrument (Rom. 8:14) and the consequence (Gal. 4:6) of this sonship. However complete in status this adoption may be, it has yet to be finally made real in the deliverance of the creation itself from bondage (Rom. 8:21ff.).

Adoption is implicit as a relationship of grace in John’s teaching about ‘becoming a son’ (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1–2), in the prodigal’s acceptance into full family rights (Lk. 15:19ff.) and in Jesus’ oft-repeated title of God as Father (Mt. 5:16; 6:9; Lk. 12:32).”

Palmer, F. H. (1996). In the New Testament. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“The New Testament cultural environment was much different from that of the Old since elaborate laws and ceremonies for adoption were part of both Greek and Roman society. To people with this background, the adoption metaphor in the New Testament was particularly meaningful.

The Greek word for adoption (huiothesia) means to “place as a son” and is used only by Paul in the New Testament. Each of the five occurrences in his letters is to readers of a decidedly Roman background. In one instance Paul refers to the Old Testament idea of Israel’s special position as the children of God—“Theirs is the adoption as sons” (Rom. 9:4). The remaining four references describe how New Testament believers become children of God through his gracious choice. The full scope of God’s work of salvation—past, present, and future—is seen in adoption.

The believer’s adoption as a child of God was determined by God from eternity: God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5). This adoption is not the result of any merit on the part of the believer, but solely the outworking of God’s love and grace (Eph. 1:5, 7).
The present reality of the believer’s adoption into the family of God is release from the slavery of sin and the law and a new position as a free heir of God. Entering into salvation brings the rights and privileges of free sonship: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Rom. 8:15). Paul tells the Galatians that Christians were redeemed from the law so that they might receive adoption as sons. As a result the Holy Spirit comes into the believer’s heart crying, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:5). The intimacy of a relationship with God the Father in contrast to the ownership of slavery is a remarkable feature of salvation.

Like many aspects of salvation, there is an eschatological component of adoption. Believers “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). The full revelation of the believer’s adoption is freedom from the corruption present in the world. Being a member of God’s family includes the ultimate privilege of being like him (1 John 3:2) and being conformed to the glorious body of Christ (Phil. 3:21). This is part of the promised inheritance for all God’s children (Rom. 8:16–17).”

Brown, W. E. (1996). Adoption. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 11–12). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Ordo Salutis

Ordo Salutis

The Ordo Salutis is not a chronological order in soteriology but it is a logical order. Over the ages, theologians have placed their emphasis in a variety of places. My personal belief is that salvation is focused on Christ, and so should anyone’s order of salvation. As for John Calvin and myself, I see salvation summed up in the doctrine of union with Christ. Hence my order is in clear view of our union with Him.

When speaking of salvation and the ordo salutis it is important to distinguish between the external and the internal work. In the garden death was the result of sin. For the soteriology I lay out it therefore, deals with the forgiveness of sin before it deals the consequences of sin. Justification logically must precede the inward work which is regeneration. It seems logical to place all the outward declarations before inward work. Romans 4:5 tells us that the ungodly are justified not the godly. Regeneration is the work that makes us Godly. Of course, we are not godly in our own right, but Christ himself who we are united to is Godly. All this stuff happens in an instance but it is helpful to distinguish the word of God to glorify Him in every aspect.

Another part of the legal declaration is the doctrine of adoption. This also is not an inward work but an outward declaration. We are not born children of God but we are given the right to become children of God by faith (John 1:12). We are by nature children of wrath separated from God and the promises (Ephesians 2:3). Before we become a child of God we are actually considered children of the devil (Jn 8:42, 44; 1 Jn 3:10)

From the legal aspects of our union with Christ, it is then proper to look at the inward work that is possible because the legal ramifications have been forgiven. We are made partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:3-4). We become a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are born again (John 1:13). This is the inward change that we receive by Christ being in us.

This regeneration that takes place leads to the continual work of sanctification. We are conformed into the image of Christ  (2 Cor 3:18). We are sanctified and considered holy or godly  (Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1). As noted before this process continues.

Calvinism in an attempt to prove the doctrine of total depravity place regeneration before faith. By doing this they essentially reject the scriptures that say Christ is our life and we are created new in him. Faith precedes our union with Christ, and regeneration is a benefit of those that have been united to him. Logically faith must precede regeneration because faith precedes union with Christ.



PESHAṬ: “Term denoting simple Scriptural exegesis, and derived from the verb “pashaṭ.” “Pashaṭ” in late Biblical Hebrew, as well as in the Mishnah, means “to spread,” “to stretch out,” and is figuratively used, therefore, in the sense of giving a full and detailed explanation, since through such elucidations the contents of a given Scriptural passage are extended and amplified. In the Mishnah and in the Tosefta “pashaṭ” is used but once in its figurative meaning (Mishnah Suk. iii. 11; Tosef., Pes. x. 9); and that this is the correct interpretation of “li-peshoṭ and “posheṭ” in both these passages, and not, as Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah declares, “to recite once,” is shown by the parallel passages in Pes. 119b and Suk. 39a, where the passage in the Tosefta reads: “R. Eliezer mosif bah debarim” (he added words), implying that R. Eliezer added his explanations and interpretations to the text (Abaye’s explanation of this passage can not be reconciled with the wording of the Tosefta, which has “posheṭ and not “mosif”).
“Pashaṭ” originally had, therefore, the same meaning as “darash.” A distinction between “peshaṭ” as the literal sense of Scripture and “derash” as the interpretation and derivation from Scripture could not have been made in antiquity for the simple reason that the Tannaim believed that their Midrash was the true interpretation and that their “derash” was the actual sense of Scripture, and therefore “peshaṭ” (see Midrash Halakah). Only later, in the period of the Amoraim, when on account of the development of hermeneutic principles the interpretations of the Midrash often seemed forced and artificial, did scholars come to the conclusion that the natural and simple sense of Scripture was different from that given in the Midrash; and a distinction was, accordingly, made between the simple literal sense, called “peshaṭ,” and the interpretation, called “derash.”
It is frequently the case, therefore, that, after a passage of Scripture has been interpreted, the question arises as to its literal meaning “peshaṭeh di-ḳera” (Ḥul. 6a; ‘Er. 23b). A rule, which was not, however, universally known (comp. Shab. 63a), was laid down that the literal sense must not be completely changed by the interpretation of the derash (Yeb. 24a; comp. Tos. Yom-Ṭob with Yeb. ii. 8), although it is noteworthy that this restriction of the meaning of “peshaṭ” as contrasted with “derash” is accurately observed only in the Babylonian Talmud. In the Palestinian Talmud “peshaṭ” has kept its original meaning, and is synonymous with “derash,” so that in the Palestinian Talmud (Shab. xvi. 15c and B. M. ii. 8d) the verb “pashaṭ” occurs in the same sense as “darash.” In like manner, in the midrashim (e.g., Gen. R. xvii. 3; Ex. R. 67:8), “peshaṭ” denotes the explanation of Scripture in general, and not merely its literal meaning. In cabalistic literature “peshaṭ,” as the simple literal meaning, is distinguished from “remez” (mere inference), from “derush” (interpretation), and from “sod” (the esoteric force contained in the Scriptures). All four methods of hermeneutics are comprised under the name “pardes,” formed by the initials of “peshaṭ,” “remez,” “derush,” and “sod.” In relation to the study of the Talmud, “peshaṭ” means a simple rational interpretation of that work in contrast to the subtle methods of Pilpul. The expression “pashuṭ gemara” is used also for the study of the Talmud with the commentary of Solomon Yiẓḥaḳi (Rashi) only, without the Tosafot or any later commentaries. The word “pesheṭel,” which is derived from “peshaṭ,” denotes the exact opposite of the latter, so that it is used like “ḥilluḳ,” to signify the subtle treatment of a Talmudic-rabbinic theme.”

Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Pes. Pesaḥim (Talmud)
Suk. Sukkah (Talmud)
Ḥul Ḥullin (Talmud)
. Ḥullin (Talmud)
‘Er. ‘Erubin (Talmud)
comp. compare
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
comp. compare
Tos. Tosafot
Yeb. Yebamot (Talmud)
Shab. Shabbat (Talmud)
B. M. Baba Meẓi‘a (Talmud)
Ex. R. Exodus Rabbah
Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). In The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 9, pp. 652–653). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls.

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation

Paradoxical dialogues in midrashic interpretation
“Contrary to this apologetic trend, in which Jewish psychologists bracket their Jewish commitments and attempt to prove that the Jewish heritage illustrates Freudian ideas, it is possible to trace to the Rabbinic system of midrashic exegesis the roots of the contrary, pluralistic-democratic idea of freedom to choose one’s own interpretation of life and worldly events. A definitive account of how this psycho-philosophical principle of dialogic co-existence derives from the midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism is in order.
Diverse hermeneutic systems take different stands on the ability of a single datum to support more than one meaning. Some psychological hermeneutics adhere to a dialectic either/or principle, which finds it necessary to replace a false interpretation that is eliminated with the one true explanation that has been identified. In dialogic systems, by contrast, two interpretations may co-exist. The first, Aristotelian either/or system is embedded in the idea of conflict; the hyphen in the dialogic principle of paradox, on the other hand, is rooted in the Platonic or Buberian I-thou idea, according to which truth stands between two co-existing, alternating or even opposing positions.
Interestingly, this principle of paradoxical interpretations stands at the foundation of many ideas central to Judaism. These ideas include the notions, for instance, that God’s midat hadin (quality of rigorous sternness) and midat harachamim (quality of merciful compassion) co-exist. At the very heart of Rabbinic Judaism, indeed, stands the concept of the written and oral Torahs, both revealed by God even though, prima facie, their texts seem sometimes to contradict each other. In interpreting canonical documents, the principle of paradoxical interpretations is further invoked, for instance, to explain the fact that, while the written Torah often specifies the death penalty, the oral Torah condemns as murderous any Jewish court that carries out this penalty even once in seventy years (B. Mak. 7a).
Even as it was used to comprehend contradictions between the oral and written Torahs, so the principle of paradoxical interpretations applied in the resolution of apparent contradictions within the written Torah itself. A classic example is the verse, “And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a help against him” (Gen. 2:18). Gen. Rab. 17:3 explains the two seemingly contradictory concepts, “help” and “against,” by applying a hermeneutic principle that reads them independently of each other. The woman will become man’s right-hand “help” if he deserves it; but if he does not deserve it, she will turn “against” him. A similar interpretation makes Israel’s deservingness of future redemption dependent on the freedom of choice to do good or evil. Here the two contradicting words beita achishena (Is. 60:22), which mean literally “I shall hasten it” (achishena) and “in its due time” (beita), were also read independently (Song Rab. 8:12) to mean: redemption will occur in due time if Israel does not deserve it (beita); but if they deserve salvation, I will hasten it (achishena).
This principle of paradoxical interpretations stands in opposition to “double bind” theories,4 which postulate that socialization via “double messages” may lead to psychotic breakdowns. By contrast, we refer to the Midrashic principle of “Al-tikrei,” which means literally “don’t read,” and is a catch-phrase for the full sentence, “Don’t read (the biblical text) as it is written, but, by switching or changing the letters, read it in a different way to reveal an alternate meaning.” The relevance of this paradoxical principle in the present context is that it entails the possibility of retaining two contradictory interpretations of a textual passage. This hermeneutic, which has extensive psychological implications, appears about 180 times in the Rabbinic literature,5 and some of its occurrences, in prayers and/or turned into popular slogans, remarkably affected socialization of Jews throughout the ages.
One of the most famous uses of the al-tikrei passages, recited by traditional Jews daily in the morning prayers, refers to Is. 54:13: “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your sons.” Concerning this verse, B. Ber. 64 says, “Do not read ‘your sons’ (banayich) but ‘your builders’ (bonayich).” Thus, while Isaiah states that peace shall be brought upon the Israelites’ children (“sons”) in general, the Talmud rereads his words to refer to “your builders” in particular, thus establishing a distinct ethical imperative to participate in the rebuilding of the Jewish nation.
In our current discussion, at issue is whether this mode of interpretation intends completely to replace and erase the original textual reading or only to add to it another level of meaning. Judah Eisenstein, editor of the Otzar Yisrael encyclopedia, answers this question by noting that both Maimonides and Nachmanides stressed that such formulations add an alternative interpretation to the biblical text but do not negate the original reading. Indeed, Nachmanides held that the hermeneutic idea inherent in the “al-tikrei” form allows even two contradictory interpretations both to be true. This is possible insofar as the biblical text is sufficiently powerful to endure both meanings. It is, accordingly, exactly the possibility of such an alternative that creates what I have termed a dialogic, or alternating, hermeneutic system. The reading “your builders” does not replace dialectically the original words, “your children.” The new reading, rather, facilitates the dialogic possibility of accumulative progress, according to which “your children” become “your progressing developers.”
Having posited that this ancient midrashic system of hermeneutic pluralism possibly comprised the bedrock of the democratic notion of dialogic co-existence, we may proceed now to introduce four different psychological dimensions, the first two entailing a time element and the subsequent two relating to space. The four subtitles, formulated in a comparative style, are articulated as four systems of psychological dialogues that people usually maintain on various levels with their surrounding environment:
1. The intergenerational psychology of Abraham’s binding of his son, Isaac (“Aqeda”): Here the possibility of maintaining a total personal identity by rearranging the intergenerational continuity between the “Abrahams” and “Isaacs” will be compared to the Oedipal psychology of intergenerational conflict.
2. The intrapersonal psychology of return to Judaism (“Teshuva”): In this section the possibility of recomposing one’s failing past according to the idea of repentance will be compared to the deterministic linear time conception of one’s past that follows from the concept of “original sin.”
3. The interpersonal psychology of bondsmanship (“Arevim”): In this section the communal idea of self-actualization via helping the other (alter-centrism) will be discussed by comparing it to the ego-centered actualization psychology of Darwinian Survival of the Fittest.
4. The superpersonal psychology of “PaRDeS”: This section discusses two dialogical levels: a) the hermeneutic notion of PaRDeS which provides a dialogical bridge between the rational-physical world and one’s irrational-mystical world, and b) the dialogical system of sexuality, which provides a bridge for regulating the flow of energy between the yetzer (carnal desire) and the yetzira (spiritual creativity).”

4 See G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York, 1972.
5 M. Zipor, “Al gilguleyhen shel derashat ˓Al-tikrei,” in Y. Refael, ed., Yovel Sinai (Jerusalem, 1987).
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1092–1094). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

Israel and the Church

Israel and the Church

“On the basis of the biblical description of “Israel” as “people of God” involving a national identity and the church as similarly “people of God,” but formed from all nations, we have sought to show that these entities are not totally continuous. Rather, the Scriptures indicate that both have a place in God’s program of salvation. The failure to recognize this discontinuity, especially in the assumption of Israel’s promises by the church, has had and continues to have significant implications both practically and theologically. We can only suggest some of the more important of these in conclusion.
First, any conversation by the church with present Israel is vitally affected by the attitude one takes toward the biblical statements dealing with Israel.64 The Apostle Paul understood his ministry in the church, which was primarily among the Gentiles, as in the service of God for the salvation of Israel (Rom 11:13–14). But a theology which says that “… the Church, as the new Israel, is the heir to all the promises made of old to Israel after the flesh. This is now the only true Israel, and there is none other,”65 is unlikely to be influential in this apostolic mission. Some would even suggest that this understanding has contributed to the anti-Semitism which has plagued even the nations influenced by Christianity.66 An interpretation which views the church as entering into the first stage of the promised salvation, but at the same time proclaims to Israel the validity of their promises (cf. Rom 9:3–5) would appear to be more effective in this ministry.
Second, the perplexing question of the relation of church and state—or as it is frequently stated, the church and politics—can be related to one’s understanding of the promises to Israel. A theology which sees the church fulfilling the OT kingdom promises of Israel continually raises the question of how much the church should invade the realm of Caesar’s government. According to Parkes, the church has been unable to consistently live out a theology in which it makes claim to Israel’s position. “Every time she makes the distinction between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ she repudiates the Old Testament. Every time she condemns ‘religion mixing in politics’ she emphasizes that she does not accept the values of Judaism.”67 A discontinuity which sees the fulfillment of the theocratic promises in the future provides a better perspective for the ministry of the church in distinction to that of human government in the present age before the establishment of the kingdom at the return of Christ.
Finally, it must be noted that any interpretation which suggests that the promises to the nation of Israel have been assigned to the church because of the failure of that nation raises the question of the security involved in all of God’s elective purposes. According to Munck, Paul recognizes this connection in his epistle to the Romans; and thus, after affirming the security of the elect in Christ in chapter 8, he is forced to deal in chapters 9–11 with the future of Israel in the light of their apparent fall. Munck rightly argues: “If God has not fulfilled his promises made to Israel, then what basis has the Jewish-Gentile church for believing that the promises will be fulfilled for them?”68 If God’s original election of Israel was as a “nation,” and that appears to be the teaching of the OT, then a theology affirming the fulfillment of that elective purpose in the nation of Israel seems most supportive of our own election as his people in the church.
The apostle suggests that God’s dealings with Israel and all peoples are marvelously rich (cf. Rom 11:33–36). It is no doubt impossible to detail all of his purposes and plans. But the broad outline portrayed in Scripture suggests that there is no basis for a reductionist interpretation which levels Israel and the church in a total continuity. Rather, the picture is one of the basic unity of the people of God, yet with functional distinction in the historical outworking of the salvation of God’s kingdom.”

64 Walther Zimmerli, “Promise and Fulfillment,” Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, Claus Westermann, ed. (Richmond: John Knox, 1963), pp. 121–122.
65 Although not his own position, Stephen Neill sees this as the dominant theology throughout much of church history. Christian Faith and Other Faiths (London: Oxford, 1961), p. 23.
66 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), pp. 2, 290; Martin Buber, Israel and the World, pp. 189–193; Franklin Littell, “Christendom, Holocaust and Israel: The Importance for Christians of Recent Major Events in Jewish History,” JES 10, No. 3 (Summer 1973): 490ff.
67 James W. Parkes, The Foundations of Judaism and Christianity (London: Vallentine, Mitchell & Co., 1960), pp. 325–326.
68 Munck, p. 35; see also John Piper, The Justification of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), pp. 4, 209, n. 205–6.
Saucy, R. L. (1988). Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity. In J. S. Feinberg (Ed.), Continuity and discontinuity: perspectives on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments : essays in honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (pp. 258–259). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

“We conclude this chapter by isolating ten summarizing principles for interpreting Old Testament narratives that should also help you avoid certain pitfalls as you read.

1. An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.
2. An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally elsewhere.
3. Narratives record what happened—not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral application.
4. What people do in narratives is not necessarily a good example for us. Frequently, it is just the opposite.
5. Most of the characters in Old Testament narratives are far from perfect—as are their actions as well.
6. We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We are expected to be able to judge this on the basis of what God has taught us directly and categorically elsewhere in Scripture.
7. All narratives are selective and incomplete. Not all the relevant details are always given (cf. John 21:25). What does appear in the narrative is everything that the inspired author thought important for us to know.
8. Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions. They have particular, specific, limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving others to be dealt with elsewhere in other ways.
9. Narratives may teach either explicitly (by clearly stating something) or implicitly (by clearly implying something without actually stating it).
10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., p. 106). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Old Testament Interpretation

Old Testament Interpretation

“It is our conviction that the primary reason Christians have often read the Old Testament narratives so poorly, finding things that are not really there, is the one we mentioned at the outset of this book: the tendency to “flatten” everything because they assume that everything God has said in his Word is thereby a direct word to them. Thus they wrongly expect that everything in the Bible applies directly as instruction for their own individual lives. The Bible is a great resource. It contains all that a Christian really needs in terms of guidance from God for living. And we have assumed throughout that the Old Testament narratives are indeed a rich source for our hearing from God. But this does not mean that each individual narrative is somehow to be understood as a direct word from God for each of us separately or as teaching us moral lessons by examples.
So that you might avoid this tendency, we list here several of the most common errors of interpretation that people commit when reading the biblical narratives, although many of these errors are not limited to narratives.
Allegorizing. Instead of concentrating on the clear meaning of the narrative, people relegate the text to merely reflecting another meaning beyond the text. There are allegorical portions of Scripture (e.g., Ezek 23 and parts of Revelation), but no historical narrative is at the same time an allegory.
Decontextualizing. Ignoring the full historical and literary contexts, and often the individual narrative, people concentrate on small units only and thus miss interpretational clues. If you take things out of context enough, you can make almost any part of Scripture say anything you want it to.
Selectivity. This is similar to decontextualizing. It involves picking and choosing specific words and phrases to concentrate on while ignoring the others and ignoring the overall sweep of the narrative being studied. Instead of listening to the whole to see how God was working in Israel’s history, it ignores some of the parts and the whole entirely.
Moralizing. This is the assumption that principles for living can be derived from all passages. The moralizing reader, in effect, asks the question, “What is the moral of this story?” at the end of every individual narrative. An example would be, “What can we learn about handling adversity from how the Israelites endured their years as slaves in Egypt?” The fallacy of this approach is that it ignores the fact that the narratives were written to show the progress of God’s history of redemption, not to illustrate principles. They are historical narratives, not illustrative narratives.
Personalizing. Also known as individualizing, this refers to reading Scripture in the way suggested above, supposing that any or all parts apply to you or your group in a way that they do not apply to everyone else. This is, in fact, a self-centered reading of the Bible. Examples of personalizing would be, “The story of Balaam’s talking donkey reminds me that I talk too much.” Or, “The story of the building of the temple is God’s way of telling us that we have to construct a new church building.”
Misappropriation. This is closely related to personalizing. It is to appropriate the text for purposes that are quite foreign to the biblical narrative. This is what is happening when, on the basis of Judges 6:36–40, people “fleece” God as a way of finding God’s will! This, of course, is both misappropriation and decontextualizing, since the narrator is pointing out that God saved Israel through Gideon despite his lack of trust in God’s word.
False appropriation. This is another form of decontextualizing. It is to read into a biblical narrative suggestions or ideas that come from contemporary culture that are simultaneously foreign to the narrator’s purpose and contradictory to his point of view. A prime example is to find the “hint” of a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20 because of verse 17 (“[Jonathan] loved him as he loved himself”) and verse 41 (“they kissed each other”—which of course in that culture was not on the lips!). But such a “hint” not only is not in the text, it stands completely outside the narrator’s point of view: Their “love” is covenantal and is likened to God’s love (vv. 14 and 42), he is narrating the story of Israel’s greatest king, and he presupposes Israel’s law, which forbids such behavior.
False combination. This approach combines elements from here and there in a passage and makes a point out of their combination, even though the elements themselves are not directly connected in the passage itself. An example of this all too common interpretational error is the conclusion that the account of David’s capturing Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 5:6–7 must have been a recapturing of that city, since Judges 1:8, an earlier part of the same grand narrative that runs all the way from Joshua through 2 Kings, says that the Israelites had already captured it. What you need to know (i.e., what the narrator and his original audience knew) is that there were two Jerusalems—a “greater” Jerusalem and, within it, the walled city of Jerusalem (also known as Zion). Judges 1:8 refers to the capture of the former; David captured the latter, finally completing the conquest hundreds of years after it started and then faltered, finally fulfilling promises going all the way back to Abraham (Gen 15:18–21).
Redefinition. When the plain meaning of the text leaves people cold, producing no immediate spiritual delight or saying something other than what they wish it said, they are often tempted to redefine it to mean something else. An example is the use often made of God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14–15. The context clearly relates the promise to “this place” (the temple in Jerusalem) and “their land” (Israel, the land of Solomon and the Israelites). Yet because modern Christians yearn for it to be true of their land—wherever they live in the modern world—they tend to ignore the fact that God’s promise that he “will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” was about the only earthly land God’s people could ever claim as “theirs,” the Old Testament land of Israel. In the new covenant, God’s people have no earthly country that is “their land.” The country they belong to is a heavenly one (Heb 11:16).


Perhaps the single most useful bit of caution we can give you about reading and learning from narratives is this: Do not be a monkey-see-monkey-do reader of the Bible. No Bible narrative was written specifically about you. The Joseph narrative is about Joseph, and specifically about how God did things through him—it is not a narrative directly about you. The Ruth narrative glorifies God’s protection of and benefit for Ruth and the Bethlehemites—not you. You can always learn a great deal from these narratives, and from all the Bible’s narratives, but you can never assume that God expects you to do exactly the same thing that Bible characters did or to have the same things happen to you that happened to them. For further discussion on this point, see chapter 6.
Bible characters are sometimes good and sometimes evil, sometimes wise and sometimes foolish. They are sometimes punished and sometimes shown mercy, sometimes well-off and sometimes miserable. Your task is to learn God’s word from the narratives about them, not to try to do everything that was done in the Bible. Just because someone in a Bible story did something, it does not mean you have either permission or obligation to do it, too.
What you can and should do is to obey what God in Scripture actually commands Christian believers to do. Narratives are precious to us because they so vividly demonstrate God’s involvement in the world and illustrate his principles and calling. They thus teach us a lot—but what they directly teach us does not systematically include personal ethics. For this area of life, we must turn elsewhere in the Scriptures—to the various places where personal ethics are actually taught categorically and explicitly. The richness and variety of the Scriptures must be understood as our ally—a welcome resource, and never a complicated burden.”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 102–106). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

What are the Principles for Interpreting Narratives?



Some Basic Hermeneutics Rules

Some Basic Hermeneutics Rules

The Basic Rule

“You will recall from chapter 1 that we set out as a basic rule the premise that a text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or his or her readers. This is why exegesis must always come first. It is especially important that we repeat this premise here, for this at least establishes some parameters of meaning. This rule does not always help one find out what a text means, but it does help to set limits as to what it cannot mean.

For example, the most frequent justification for disregarding the imperatives about seeking spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 14 is a particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:10, which states that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (NASU). We are told that the perfect has come, in the form of the New Testament, and therefore the imperfect (prophecy and tongues) have ceased to function in the church. But this is one thing the text cannot mean because good exegesis quite disallows it. There is no way Paul could have meant this; after all, the Corinthians did not know there was going to be a New Testament, and the Holy Spirit would not likely have inspired Paul to write something to them that would be totally incomprehensible.
The Second Rule

The second basic rule is actually a different way of expressing our common hermeneutics. It says this: Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e., similar specific life situations) with the first-century hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as his Word to them. It is this rule that causes most of the theological texts and the community-directed ethical imperatives in the Epistles to give modern-day Christians a sense of immediacy with the first century. It is still true that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23) and that “by grace [we] have been saved, through faith” (Eph 2:8). Clothing ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12) is still God’s Word to those who are believers.

The two longer texts we worked through in the preceding chapter (1 Cor 1–4; Phil 1:27–2:18) seem to be of this kind. Once we have done our exegesis and have discovered God’s Word to them, we have immediately brought ourselves under that same Word. We still have local churches, which still have leaders who need to hear the Word and take care how they build the church. It appears that the church has too often been built with wood, hay, and straw rather than with gold, silver, and costly stones, and such work when tried by fire has been found wanting. We would argue that 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 is still God’s address to us as to our responsibilities to the local church. It must be a place where God’s Spirit is known to dwell, and which therefore stands as God’s alternative to the sin and alienation of worldly society.

The great caution here is that we do our exegesis well so that we have confidence that our situations and particulars are genuinely comparable to theirs. This is why the careful reconstruction of their problem is so important. For example, it is significant for our hermeneutics to note that the lawsuit in 1 Corinthians 6:1–11 was between two Christian brothers before a pagan judge out in the open marketplace in Corinth. We would argue that the point of the text does not change if the judge happens to be a Christian or because the trial takes place in a courthouse. The wrong is for two brothers to go to law outside the church, as verses 6–11 make perfectly clear. On the other hand, one could rightly ask whether this would still apply to a Christian suing a corporation in modern-day America, for in this case not all the particulars would remain the same—although one’s decision should surely take Paul’s appeal to the nonretaliation ethic of Jesus (v. 7) into account.”

Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 74–76). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Our Common Hermeneutics

Our Common Hermeneutics

Our Common Hermeneutics, Gordon Fee

“Even if you are among those who have asked, “Herman who?” when confronted with the word “hermeneutics,” you are in fact involved in hermeneutics all the time. What is it that all of us do as we read an epistle? Very simply, we bring our enlightened common sense to the text and apply what we can to our own situation. What does not seem to apply is simply left in the first century.
None of us, for example, have ever felt called by the Holy Spirit to take a pilgrimage to Troas in order to carry Paul’s cloak from Carpus’s house to his Roman prison (2 Tim 4:13), even though the passage is clearly a command to do that. Yet from that same letter most Christians believe that God tells them in times of stress that they are to “join … in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2:3), another word to Timothy that does seem applicable to themselves. None of us would ever think to question what has been done with either of these passages—although many of us may have moments of struggle in graciously obeying the latter.
Let it be emphasized here that most of the matters in the Epistles fit very nicely into this commonsense hermeneutics. For most texts it is not a matter of whether one should or not; it is more a matter of “to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet 1:13 NASU).
Our problems—and differences—are generated by those texts that lie somewhere in between these two, where some of us think we should obey exactly what is stated and others of us are not so sure. Our hermeneutical difficulties here are several, but they are all related to one thing—our lack of consistency. This is the great flaw in our common hermeneutics. Without necessarily intending to, we bring our theological heritage, our church traditions, our cultural norms, or our existential concerns to the epistles as we read them. And this results in all kinds of selectivity or “getting around” certain texts.
It is interesting to note, for example, that almost everyone in American evangelicalism or fundamentalism would agree with our common stance on 2 Timothy 2:3 and 4:13. However, the cultural milieu of most of the same Christians causes them to argue against obedience to 1 Timothy 5:23: “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” That had only to do with Timothy, not with us, we are told, because water was unsafe to drink back then. Or else, it is even argued that “wine” really meant “grape juice”—although one wonders how that could have happened when Welch’s processing and refrigeration were not available! But why is this personal word limited to Timothy, while the exhortation to continue in the Word (2 Tim 3:14–16), which is also an imperative addressed only to Timothy, becomes an imperative for all people at all times? Mind you, one may well be right in bypassing 1 Timothy 5:23 as not having present personal application, but on what hermeneutical grounds?
Or take the problems that many traditional churchgoers had with the “Jesus people” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Long hair on boys had already become the symbol of a new era in the hippie culture of the 1960s. For Christians to wear this symbol, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 11:14, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” (RSV), seemed like an open defiance of God himself. Yet most who quoted this text against the youth culture allowed for Christian women to cut their hair short (despite v. 15), did not insist on women’s heads being covered in worship, and never considered that “nature” came about by a very unnatural means—a haircut.
These two examples simply illustrate how our own culture dictates what is common sense for each one of us. But other things also dictate common sense—ecclesiastical traditions, for example. How is it that in many evangelical churches women are forbidden to speak in church on the basis of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, yet in many of the same churches everything else in chapter 14 is argued against as not belonging to the twenty-first century? How is it that verses 34–35 belong to all times and cultures, while verses 1–5, 26–33, and 39–40, which give regulations for prophesying and speaking in tongues, belong only to the first-century church?
Notice further how easy it is for twenty-first-century Christians to read their own tradition of church order into 1 Timothy and Titus. Yet very few churches have the plural leadership that seems clearly to be in view there (1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:5 [Timothy was not the pastor; he was Paul’s temporary delegate to set things in order and to correct abuses]). And still fewer churches actually “enroll widows” under the guidelines of 1 Timothy 5:3–15.
And have you noticed how our prior theological commitments cause many of us to read such commitments into some texts while we read around others? It comes as a total surprise to some Christians when they find out that other Christians find support for infant baptism in such texts as 1 Corinthians 1:16; 7:14; or Colossians 2:11–12, or that others find evidence for a two-stage second coming in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, or that still others find evidence for sanctification as a second work of grace in Titus 3:5. For many in the Arminian tradition, who emphasize the believer’s free will and responsibility, texts like Romans 8:30; 9:18–24; Galatians 1:15; and Ephesians 1:4–5 are something of an embarrassment. Likewise many Calvinists have their own ways of getting around 1 Corinthians 10:1–13; 2 Peter 2:20–22; and Hebrews 6:4–6. Indeed our experience as teachers is that students from these traditions seldom ask what these texts mean; they want to know “how to get around” these texts!
After the last few paragraphs, we may well have lost a lot of friends, but we are trying to illustrate how thoroughgoing the problem is and how Christians need to talk to one another in this crucial area. What kinds of guidelines, then, are needed in order to establish more consistent hermeneutics for the Epistles?”
Fee, G. D., & Stuart, D. K. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth (3rd ed., pp. 72–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Looking for the answer to the question asked? 

Islam and Abrogation

Islam and Abrogation

“In Sura 2:100 and 16:103 Muhammad says this, “Whatever verses we cancel, or cause thee to forget, we bring one better or like it.” First, what’s amazing is, in an earlier verse (v. 20), he challenges people to “produce an sura like it.” And here he is canceling them. Looks like God was violating his own law. But why would God have Muhammad cancel verses and bring other ones just like it or better? Isn’t God’s revelation good enough for all races and for all times, and to give it to us just once? Can’t he produce a verse that’s perfect one time? The Bible says, “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). In the Quran, this is not the case! In the Bible there is not one case where a prophet cancelled any verses.
Secondly, notice in this verse that Muhammad “forgot” something God told him. So now we have some of God’s message lost because Muhammad had a bad memory.
Let’s go through some of the verses that Muhammad cancelled to illustrate the change in the Quranic text.
Let’s start with the Satanic verses. According to one version of these verses, Muhammad had an early revelation in Mecca, which allowed the intercession of idols:

“Do you consider Allat and Al-Uzza and Al-Manat, the third the other? Those are swans exalted; Their intercession is expected …”

Some time after, Muhammad received another revelation canceling the last three lines and substituting them with what we find now in Sura 53:21–23, which omits the part about the pagan gods interceding. According to Watt, both versions had been recited publicly. Muhammad’s explanation was that Satan had deceived him and inserted the false verses without him knowing it! (see Watt, pp. 60–61). Problem is, if Satan deceived him in this part of the Quran without him knowing it, how do we know that Satan did not deceive him in another place in the Quran without him knowing, and that verse is still in the Quran today?
The command to stone adulterers was changed to 100 stripes (Sura 24:2).
The “sword” verse (Sura 9:5) supposedly annuls the 124th verse that originally encouraged tolerance (cf. 2:256), yet in other places it urges Muslims to “fight those who believe not” (9:29) and fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them (9:5). Of course, here’s a contradiction!
A contradiction can be found in the fact that the Quran claims that there can be “no changes to the word of God” (10:65). For there is none that can alter or change the words of God (6:34). But here Muhammad is canceling verses (Sura 2:100). Geisler writes that most of the time you see the corrected verses near the ones being corrected. The reason for the abrogation of verses is quite clear. There are many contradictions in the Quran, and Muhammad said you can’t find any or else its not God’s word:

“Can they not consider the Quran? Were it from any other that God, they would surely have found in it many contradictions” (Sura 4:84).

The Quran claims that humans are responsible for their own choices (18:28), yet it also claims that God has sealed the fate of all in advance (17:14; 10:99–100).”
Salemi, P. (2001). The Origins of Islam. Journal of Biblical Apologetics, 5, 29–30.



“The movement of faithful Bible students who push the dispensational approach beyond the point where most other dispensationalists would stop is generally called ultradispensationalism.17 The distinctive feature of ultradispensationalism is its view concerning the beginning of the church. In contrast to mainstream dispensationalism, which holds that the church began at Pentecost in Acts 2, ultradispensationalism believes the church began later—the moderate group suggesting Acts 9 or 13 and the more extreme group, Acts 28.
The extreme group follows E. W. Bullinger (1837–1913), a scholar of some renown; earlier dispensationalism, in fact, was sometimes called Bullingerism. Others in this group include Charles H. Welch of London, successor to E. W. Bullinger; A. E. Knoch; Vladimir M. Gelesnoff; and Otis Q. Sellers of Grand Rapids. Bullinger taught that the gospels and Acts were under the dispensation of law, with the church actually beginning at Paul’s ministry after Acts 28:28. The New Testament books that set forth the revelation concerning this concept of the church are Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Bullinger identified three periods in the New Testament: (1) the time of the gospels when the gospel was preached to the Jews only and authenticated by water baptism; (2) the transitional period in Acts and the corresponding earlier New Testament epistles when the offer still went to the Jews, offering them participation in the “bride church” and authenticated by two baptisms, water and Spirit; (3) the period of Jew and Gentile as one body in Christ and authenticated by Spirit baptism alone. Because the Gentile church is related to Christ through the Spirit, baptism and the Lord’s Supper have no significance for the church. Those rites relate to the flesh, according to Bullinger.
The moderate group, holding that the church began in Acts 9 or Acts 13, is identified by J. C. O’Hair, Cornelius R. Stam, and Charles F. Baker, author of A Dispensational Theology. Grace Bible College of Grand Rapids is the ultradispensational school leading to ministries with Grace Gospel Fellowship and Worldwide Grace Testimony.
Stam taught that the church began in Acts 9, with the conversion of Paul. The “Body Church” could only begin with the beginning of Paul’s ministry because Paul was the minister to the Gentiles. Because after that time there was no further offer of the kingdom to Israel, J. C. O’Hair taught that the church began in Acts 13:46 with the statement: “We are turning to the Gentiles.” Because O’Hair’s followers begin the church within the time frame of Acts, they observe the Lord’s Supper but not water baptism.”

17 Ibid., pp. 192–205; and G. R. Lewis, “Ultradispensationalism,” in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 1120–21.
Enns, P. P. (1989). The Moody handbook of theology (pp. 523–524). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

The Two Mysteries

The Two Mysteries

The Two Mysteries – Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones

“‘If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be follow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.’
Ephesians 3:2–7
As we continue our study of this sentence that runs from verse 2 to verse 7 we remind ourselves that we are interested in its statements not simply because they are part of the exposition of this great Epistle, but because they have a very important practical relevance for us. We are living in a world in which many Christian people are suffering acutely because they are Christians. The faith of some of them may be shaken, and our faith may be shaken because of what they are having to endure. Indeed a day may come when we Christians may have to endure similar trials in this land. The Apostle teaches us how to be prepared for such an eventuality. But even apart from that, what can be more profitable than that we should contemplate the greatness of this plan of salvation? It is only as we grasp this that we shall praise God as we ought, and worship Him as we were meant to do.
The Apostle is reminding these Ephesian Christians of the extraodinary way in which God had contrived to bring the gospel to them. He reminds them that he, of all men, had been granted the great privilege of preaching the gospel to them in Ephesus; he, an apostle of equal rank and standing with the other apostles, though he was never with the Lord in the days of His flesh as they had been, and though he had not received his commission from the Lord while He was yet on earth as had the other apostles. But that special revelation had been made to him on the road to Damascus, and so he is an apostle of equal rank with the others, and he glories in it.
We now turn to the question as to the nature of this mystery that had been revealed to him. In this long sentence the Apostle uses the word ‘mystery’ twice, in verses 3 and 4, first, ‘how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery’—then in the Authorized Version there is a statement in brackets. Unfortunately the Revised Version and the Revised Standard Version and others do not use these brackets, and that confuses the issue. The Authorized Version very rightly starts with a parenthesis in brackets (‘as I wrote afore in few words, whereby’—that is to say, ‘when you look back at that’—‘when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ’). Then, after the closing of the brackets, it continues: ‘Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’. It is clear that the statement within the brackets is very definitely a parenthesis. The main statement is: ‘How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body’. The words in the brackets are a subsidiary statement (‘as I wrote afore in few words …’). Paul is referring there, not to some other supposed Epistle, but to what he has already said in chapters 1 and 2. Today we would express this by the words, ‘As I said above, if you will read it again’. The Apostle reminds them that he has already indicated to them something of his ‘knowledge in the mystery of Christ’.
It is quite clear that the Apostle is using the word mystery about two different things. We have already defined ‘mystery’ as meaning something that the human mind cannot attain unto by its own unaided effort, and which must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. It does not mean something which is misty or uncertain and about which you can never be clear in your minds; but something which without the enlightenment and revelation of the Holy Spirit we can never grasp. He uses this term in two senses. The mystery to which he refers in the parenthesis, in verse 4, is ‘the mystery of Christ’. We may call that the general mystery. But what he is really concerned to elaborate is another mystery, the mystery he describes in verses 5 and 6. This is a mystery which ‘in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs’. That is the particular mystery.
This clarification is essential, for if we are not aware of the distinction we shall probably be muddled and confused about the entire statement. Once more it is interesting to observe, not only the working of the mind of this great Apostle, but also his spirit. It seems as if there are certain things which the Apostle cannot refrain from doing. Though it plays havoc with his literary style (as we have seen previously), he seems to be quite incapable of controlling himself. So while he is primarily concerned to expound the particular mystery he cannot refrain from saying just a word about the general mystery.
We start therefore with the general mystery, the mystery to which he refers in verse 4 and which he describes as the ‘mystery of Christ’. Here he is referring to what he has already been expounding to these Ephesians. You need be in no uncertainty, he seems to say, as to my knowledge of this message that has been committed to me; I have said enough, I have written enough already for you to be sure of it. The ‘mystery of Christ’ is just another way of referring to the whole message of the gospel, or to the whole truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; for He in reality is the gospel. It is all ‘in Him’. In other words, the Apostle is referring to the message committed to him, the message he had already preached by word of mouth to these people. And that message is Christ, the mystery of Christ. No one can read Paul’s writings without seeing that this is always his great theme and consuming passion. Read through the epistles of Paul and note down on paper every reference he makes to Christ, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to Christ Jesus my Lord, and so on. It is quite astounding and amazing. As someone once put it, he was a ‘Christ-intoxicated’ man. It is not surprising that he says, ‘To me to live is Christ’ —Christ the beginning, end, centre, soul, everything! His central message was that everything that God has for man is in Christ, and nowhere else. So we find him writing in his Epistle to the Colossians these words: ‘In whom (Christ) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (2:3). It is all in Christ; and it is nowhere else. So Paul cannot pass on to deal with the particular mystery without saying a word about this great general mystery.
The same link is found in the Apostle’s First Epistle to Timothy, which is very particularly a practical and pastoral Epistle in which he instructs Timothy about ordaining presbyters and deacons, and similar matters. The third chapter is one of the most practical passages in all his writings; but here again he is carried away by his controlling theme. He is concerned that Timothy should know how to behave himself in ‘the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’. Then suddenly, ‘And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory’ (3:16). ‘Great is the mystery of godliness!’
Paul cannot refrain from making this statement because the coming of Christ into the world is the most thrilling, the most exciting, the greatest and most glorious thing that has ever happened in history. The mystery is the amazing way in which God has sent salvation to men; it is the way in which He has done it; it is all that has happened in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. What a mystery! Who would ever have had a glimpse of it, who would ever have known it, were it not for the illumination, the revelation that the Holy Ghost alone can give.
Let us look at it again. A Babe is born in Bethlehem and put in a manger. That must have happened frequently. A babe born! Thousands of babies are born daily. But the Babe of Bethlehem is the greatest mystery the world has ever known because that child, that babe is the eternal Son of God. The mystery is that of ‘two natures in one person!’ He is God, He is man. He is truly God, without any limitation. He is also truly man. Those two natures are in Him, and yet He is not two persons, He is one Person. ‘I do not understand that’, says someone. Of course you don’t, you are not meant to do so! If you think that your mind is big enough to grasp and to span such a concept you had better think again. This is ‘the mystery of godliness’. This man, the Apostle Paul, who probably had a deeper insight into it than anyone who has ever lived, simply stands back and says, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness’. It has been revealed to him, so he knows that there are the two natures in the one person. He knows now who that is; not by any mental process of his own, but, as he tells us, by the revelation which came through the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Son Himself had said to him, when on the road to Damascus he asked, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’. That is the mystery of Christ! This is God’s way of salvation. God is the Almighty, the eternal and everlasting God, to whom ‘the nations are but as the small dust of the balance’, vanity, less than and lighter than vanity. It is He who made everything out of nothing and said ‘Let there be light, and there was light’. So we would have thought that, when He desired to save man and to save the world, He would again have uttered some great word which would cause the whole universe to shake and quake. We would have expected some dramatic exhibition of power by which God would save men and would destroy evil. But God did not act in that manner. His way of salvation is found in this mystery of Christ, in a helpless babe. Nothing can be weaker or more helpless; nothing smaller, nothing more defenceless. That is God’s way!
Then consider everything that happened to Him and in Him. Try to contemplate the whole process of the Incarnation. Consider how He divested Himself of the insignia of His eternal glory in order to be born a babe. Then go on to think of His humiliation and of all that He endured and suffered; then the death, the burial, the resurrection and ascension. That is God’s way of salvation! That is God’s way of dealing with the human predicament, the human problem! That is God’s way of reconciling men unto Himself and of ultimately producing order and glory out of the chaos of things as they are now! That is the mystery to which Paul is referring! That is the mystery, the insight which he had been given into the mystery of Christ!
Let me now ask a question: Is the ‘mystery of Christ’ the most absorbing interest in your life? Is the ‘mystery of Christ’ to you the most thrilling thing in the world? Is this at the centre of your life, the thing that is uppermost in your heart, the core of your meditation? In the Scriptures Christ is there always in that central position. The greatest of our hymns look at Him and contemplate Him and, with Paul, express amazement at the mystery. The mystery of Christ! It meant nothing to the Jews or the Gentiles. It is the last thing that Saul of Tarsus ever thought of, or ever even imagined. But it is fact, it is gospel. It is what Christ Himself had made known to Paul on the road to Damascus and had commissioned him to preach to the Jews and the Gentiles, telling them that in Him alone is remission of sins to be obtained, and eternal life, and the hope of everlasting glory.
I trust that we are now not quite as surprised as we may have been as to why Paul introduced the brackets and threw in his parenthesis, ignoring style. I have often felt that much of the explanation of the tragic state of the modern church lies in the fact that we no longer have parentheses! We are too perfect, our literary form is much too fine; the essay may be beautiful, but they are lifeless and achieve nothing. We are too much self-controlled; and it is because we have not seen ‘the mystery of Christ’. Thank God for the brackets and the parentheses which remind us of ‘the mystery of Christ’!

*     *     *
We must now turn to the particular mystery. The particular mystery to which the Apostle began to refer in verse 3 he now takes up again in verse 5: ‘how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel’. This refers to the particular matter of the relation of the Jew and the Gentile in the Christian Church. The Apostle tells us elsewhere that he glories in the fact that he is in particular ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’, and he glories in that office. He refers to it at this point because he is writing to Ephesian Christians who had been Gentiles and pagans, and his object, as I have said, is to enable them to realize the marvel and the wonder of their salvation.
But we have our own reason for paying careful attention to this particular statement. I say quite frankly that I would prefer not to have to deal with this subject, but the business of preaching is not only to exhort and to comfort, but also to instruct; and it is only as we grasp the doctrines with our minds that we can truly live the Christian life and enjoy it as we are meant to do. I am aware that there are those who use certain ‘Bibles’ in which are contained ‘notes’ which lay much stress on this particular statement, and out of it construct a whole outlook and scheme of teaching. I am referring to the teaching which is commonly known by the name of Dispensationalism, and I know that there is always a danger, when you find notes in a Bible, of believing, unconsciously that the notes are as inspired as the text. We tend to swallow it all and to take it as authentic. We are driven therefore to glance at this statement from that particular standpoint.
The Dispensational teaching asserts that all the promises which you find in the Old Testament were made to the Jews and apply only to the Jews; that is to say, they do not apply to the Church; it is asserted that the Christian Church is something which has ‘come in’ —such is their term —as a kind of ‘parenthesis’. Dispensationalists maintain that when the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world He came to offer the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, and it was only because the Jews refused it that the idea of the Church was introduced. If the Jews had accepted the kingdom, they say, there would never have been a Christian Church at all. But, the Jews having rejected the kingdom, the Church has come in as a new dispensation, as a kind of parenthesis. The Church will come to an end, and then once more there will be a restoration of the Jews as a nation and Christ will set up His kingdom among them. They draw a sharp line of division between the Church and the kingdom. They say that the Jews are still a separate and a special people, and that the Old Testament prophecies only apply to them.
The relevance of this to our position today is that those who believe the Dispensationalists’ teaching are very busy preaching sermons and delivering addresses about Egypt and about what is happening in Palestine and in the Near East. Some even claim that they can foretell exactly what is going to happen, and when. They find it all, they say, in the Scriptures. For this reason they make great use of the particular statement we are now examining. They emphasize that the Apostle says, ‘how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’, and there they stop. Then they proceed to argue that these words make it perfectly clear that the ‘mystery’ pertaining to the Church was not known under the old dispensation; indeed, until it was revealed to the Apostle Paul. Some, indeed, even venture to say that the Old Testament nowhere teaches that Gentiles would be saved.
There is only one answer to give to such teaching. If its exponents would read the Old Testament without prejudice they would find many references to the matter in dispute between us. The promise was made to Abraham, as Paul reminds us in the third chapter of Galatians: ‘In the shall all nations be blessed’ (3:8). In Isaiah there are reference to ‘the isles’ and the ‘Gentiles’ and so on. That is the simple answer. But there are other answers and these are most important by way of reply to those who say that the Church as such was not known under the old dispensation. Here is a quotation from the Notes of a well-known ‘Bible’: ‘The Church corporately is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophets’, and then, in brackets to prove that contention, ‘(Ephesians 3:1–6)’. Ephesians 3:1–6, according to that statement, indicates that the Church corporately is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophet. That quotation is found in the introduction to the prophetic books of the Old Testament in those particular Notes. I perhaps might add, in order to make my statement complete, that there is a system of Ultra-Dispensationalism associated with the name of Dr Bullinger which goes so far as to say that it is only in the Epistles that we really have the New Testament Gospel which applies to us. Dr Bullinger taught that the gospels have nothing to do with us, that they were for the Jews only; it is here in Ephesians chapter 3 that we have the message for this age for Jews and Gentiles in the Church.
What is the answer to this teaching? Surely the doctrine concerning the Church was clearly taught by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. Consider what transpired at Caesarea Philippi when the Lord said to Peter, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’. The famous Notes have to admit that He did so speak but they say that He did not elaborate it. But the fact is that He did say it: so this truth concerning the Church is not only revealed to Paul, it had been revealed before. Our Lord Himself taught it. Furthermore Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost said, ‘Repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to as many as are afar off’. That clearly is a reference to the Gentiles. In the same way Peter and John obviously understood this principle when they recognized that the Samaritans, who were not Jews, had also received the benefits of salvation, and so laid their hands upon them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Again Peter in the dramatic event that took place before he went to the house of Cornelius was brought to see the same truth. It took a vision from heaven to make Peter see it. As a Jew he could not understand this. In spite of the fact that he was a saved man and had passed through the experience of Pentecost the idea that the Gentiles should become joint-heirs with Jews was, in his view, impossible. But having seen the vision and witnessed the falling of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household, he saw this truth once and for ever, and so admitted the Gentiles into the Church. He was attacked for doing so and defended himself as we are told in chapters 11 and 15 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. So it is clear that before Paul had become the apostle to the Gentiles this truth had already been preached.
But in fact this truth is found in the Old Testament. There are clear passages, such as Ezekiel 36 and elsewhere, which show this picture of the Church. And as Paul argues in the third chapter of Galatians, in the promise to Abraham it is clearly implicit. How important it is that we should realize the danger of starting with a theory and imposing it upon the Scriptures! What the Apostle actually says is, ‘Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men’—then comes not a full stop but a comma—‘as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit’. The Apostle is not saying that it had never been revealed before. What he is saying is that it was not revealed before ‘as’, ‘to the extent that’, it is now revealed. It was there in embryo; it is now in full bloom and development. It was there in shadow as a suggestion; it is now fully revealed. The expression is, ‘As it is now revealed …’ How extraordinary are the subtleties of the human mind, even when it is Christian, and when it has received the Holy Spirit! It is not a matter of dishonesty. I am but indicating that our human minds are fallible, and that therefore we have to be careful as we study the Scripture lest we elaborate a whole system of teaching upon one text or the misunderstanding of a text.
The mystery that has now been made plain and clear is not simply the fact that the Gentiles are to be saved, but that Gentile and Jew are to be together in the Christian Church—in close relationship one to the other. Paul is not saying that the Gentiles are now to be allowed to become Jewish proselytes. That is what the Jews already believed; indeed they had practised proselytism. Many a Gentile had come to see the truth of God in the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Jews instructed him, and circumcised him, and so he became a Jewish proselyte. The Gentile was allowed to come in, but only as a proselyte; he was still not a complete Jew. But the mystery which had been made plain to Paul and the other apostles was that the Gentile had now come in, not as an addition, not as a proselyte, but into the new thing, the Church, in exactly the same way as the Jew had come in. He is asserting that the Church is now the Kingdom, that what the Jewish nation was in the Old Testament the Church is now; and that there is no longer that old distinction. In other words he is saying that our Lord’s recorded prophecy in Matthew 21:43 has been fulfilled: ‘Therefore say I unto you (the Jews), The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof’. The Apostle Peter repeats this in his own way by applying to the Church, consisting of Jew and Gentile, the very words that God used through Moses about the nation of Israel in Exodus 19, ‘Ye are a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’. The Church is the present form of the Kingdom.
The Apostle’s point is that the old distinction between the Jew and the Gentile is abolished once and for ever. He has already shown that in the second chapter, stating that ‘the middle wall of partition’ has gone, that Christ has demolished it, and has made ‘one new man, so making peace’. The old distinction has gone. The particular manner in which the Apostle states it is most interesting. He expresses it by using the word ‘fellow’ three times (3–6). Unfortunately the Authorized version misses this and says ‘fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise’. But Paul actually said, ‘fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, fellow-partakers of the promise’.
The Gentiles, he says, are to be fellow-heirs with the Jews, which means that all the promise God had made to the Jewish people in the Old Testament are now open to the Gentiles. The Jew is an equal sharer with the Gentile, and the Gentile with the Jew. There is no difference. They are both fellow-heirs, they have the same place, as it were, in God’s will; they are to receive the same benefits. This refers to the new covenant that God had promised. He had said that He was going to make a new covenant, not like the one that He had made when He brought them out of Egypt. It is, ‘Your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more’, ‘I will be to you a God, and you shall be to me a people’. But this is no longer for the Jews only, but for Gentiles also; it is for you and for me. We are in God’s will, we are heirs together with the Jews, the old nation, the ancient people of God, in this amazing promise of the benefits of the new covenant.
The second term is ‘Fellow-members of the body’. We might have thought that ‘fellow-heirs’ tells us everything, and that nothing can go beyond it. This addition can be best explained perhaps by an illustration. Think of a man who has an only son, but also a family servant who has been with him perhaps for forty years and whom he has come to regard almost as a son. So when he makes his will he says that all his property is to be divided between his son and his faithful servant. A servant can be made a fellow-heir with a son, but he is still a servant. But it does not make him a member of the family; it does not mean he has the same blood in him; it does not mean that he has changed the essential relationship. So the Apostle adds to ‘fellow-heirs’ ‘fellow-members of the body’. This is what demolishes all attempts to perpetuate a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile. It is not, says Paul, that the Gentiles are simply added on somewhat loosely; they are compacted together as joints in the same body, and no one joint is more ‘in the body’ than any other joint. We are jointed together, impacted as joints together in this one body. There is no distinction any longer; there is no superiority and no inferiority. The system of dispensationalism maintains that there is, that there is a ‘heavenly people’ and an ‘earthly people’, and that the Jews will be brought back and be given a very special place again at some future time. Such teaching is a denial of what we are told here, that all that is finished for ever, that there is one body, and that Jew and Gentile are equally joints impacted together in the one body.
The Apostle goes even a step further, and says that we are ‘fellow-partakers together of the promise’. In the Light of other Scriptures this means two things. In Galatians 3:14 we read: ‘That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’. This is also called ‘the promise of the Father’, and that runs as a golden thread through the Old Testament. It is what happened on the Day of Pentecost which Peter explained thus: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel’. The Promise of the Father is the shedding forth of the Spirit, and all the results that flow from it. You are fellow-partakers of the promise, says Paul to the Ephesians, you have received the fulness of the Spirit exactly as the Jew has done. But I believe that the words have a further meaning. Another great promise was the promise of the resurrection and of the glorious kingdom of the Son of God. Paul states this very clearly in Acts 26, verses 6–8, while making his defence before King Agrippa and Festus. ‘And now’, he says, ‘I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing, incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’ The promise is that a Messiah would come who would even conquer death and the grave and bring life and immortality to light. It is the promise of resurrection, the final resurrection, and the coming of the glorious Kingdom, ‘the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness’. That was something which the Jew prized above everything else. He had to suffer much in his life in this world, but he looked beyond it all, as we are told in Hebrews 11—he looked for the fulfilment of that great promise, the resurrection and the life of glory. That promise was at first confined to the Jew; the Gentile was without hope, without God in the world, as Paul has already said in chapter 2, verse 12; but now he says that Gentiles are fellow-partakers of God’s promise in Christ by the gospel’.
To us it means that we can look forward to the resurrection of the body, to a glorified body. We can look forward to dwelling on a new earth under new heavens, wherein dwelleth righteousness; fellow-partakers of the promise, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’.
Those are the two mysteries which the Apostle tells us he has been given to preach; the general mystery, the mystery of Christ, and the particular mystery that God’s purpose is now manifest and in operation in the Church; and that the Church is the final form of this purpose until it is completed. Jew and Gentile are in Christ together, are sharing God’s blessings now, and shall share the benefits of the everlasting and eternal glory. They shall wonder and be amazed to all eternity at the grace of God that ever made it possible, that ever brought us in, and that made us and the Jews together fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of such a blessed hope.”
Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1972). The Unsearchable Riches of Christ: An Exposition of Ephesians 3 (pp. 39–51). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The Bible’s Purpose

The Bible’s Purpose

Outline by Dr. Bob Utely. Answering misconceptions of the bible. I would also like to note that the bible is a product of the church.The bible itself is a compilation of manuscripts that the church has collected over the years. The old and new testament both are written of Jesus. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus said “no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down willingly”. Jesus claimed he came to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus prophesied that he would die and be resurrected. This took place, Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, he was punished for our sins. This message is found in the bible, but it has also been taught by oral tradition through discipleship for thousands of years.

III. The Bible’s Purpose

A. Not a Rule Book
Much of our misunderstanding concerning Scripture begins in our mistaken notions concerning its purposes. One way to establish what a thing is is to state what it is not. The fallen human tendency toward legalism, so evident among the Pharisees, is alive and well and lives in your home church. This tendency turns the Bible into an extensive set of rules. Modern believers have almost turned the Scriptures into a legalistic rule book, a kind of “Christian Talmud.” It must be stated forcibly that the Scriptures’ primary focus is redemptive. It is meant to confront, convince, and turn wayward mankind back to God (McQuilkin 183, 49). The primary focus is salvation (II Tim. 3:15), which issues in Christlikeness (II Tim. 3:17). This Christlikeness is also a major goal (Romans 8:28-29; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; I Thess. 3:13; 4:3; I Pet. 1:15), but it is a result of the first goal. At least one possibility for the structure and nature of the Bible is its redemptive purpose and not a systematized rule book or doctrine book (i.e., not a Christian Talmud). The Bible does not address all of our intellectual questions. Many issues are addressed in ambiguous or incomplete ways. The Bible was not designed primarily as a systematic theology book, but as a selective history of God’s dealing with His rebellious creation. Its purpose is not merely rules, but relationship. It leaves areas uncovered so that we are forced to walk in love (I Corinthians 13), not rules (Col. 2:16-23). We must see the priority of people made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), not rules. It is not a set of rules, but a new character, a new focus, a new life that is presented.

This is not to imply that the Bible does not contain rules, because it does, but they do not cover every area. Often rules become barriers instead of bridges in mankind’s search for God. The Bible provides us with enough information to live a God-pleasing life; it also provides us some guidelines or boundaries. Its primary gift, however, is the “Guide,” not the guidelines. Knowing and following the Guide until you become like Him is the second goal of Scripture.

B. Not a Science Book

Another example of modern mankind’s attempt to ask questions of Scripture which it is not designed to answer is in the area of modern scientific inquiry. Many want to force the Scriptures onto the philosophical grid of natural law, particularly in relation to the “scientific method” of inductive reasoning. The Bible is not a divine textbook on natural law. It is not anti-scientific; it is pre-scientific! Its primary purpose is not in this area. Although the Bible is not speaking directly to these questions it does speak about physical reality, however, it does so in the language of description (i.e., phenomenological language), not science. It describes reality in terms of its own day. It presents a “world view” more than a “world picture.” This means that it focuses more on “the who” than on “the how.” Things are described as how they appear (i.e., the five senses) to the common person. Some examples are

1. Do the dead really live in the ground? The Hebrew culture, like our own, buries their dead. Therefore, in the language of description, they were in the earth (Sheol or Hades).
2. Does the land really float on water? This is often connected to the three-storied universe model. The ancients knew that water was present underground (i.e., oasis). Their conclusion was expressed in poetic language.
3. Even we, in our day, speak in these categories.
a. “the sun rises”
b. “dew falls”

Some books which have really helped me in this area are

1) Religion and the Rise of Modern Science by R. Hooykaas
2) The Scientific Enterprise and the Christian Faith by Malcolm A. Jeeves
3) The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm
4) Science and Hermeneutics by Vern S. Poythress
5) Darwinism on Trial by Phillip Johnson
6) Several good books by Hugh Ross, Pensacola Bible Church, Pensacola, FL
7) Science and Faith: An Evangelical Dialogue by Henry Poe and Jimmy Davis
8) The Battle of Beginnings by Del Ratzsch
9) Coming to Peace with Science by Daniel Falk
10) Mere Christianity: Science and Intelligent Design by William Demoski

C. Not a Magic Book

Not only is the Bible not a rule book or a science book, but it is not a magic book either. Our love for the Bible has caused us to handle it in some very strange ways. Have you ever sought God’s will by praying and then letting your Bible fall open to a page and then put your finger on a verse? This common practice treats the Bible as if it were a crystal ball or divine “Ouija board.” The Bible is a message, not a modern Urim and Thummim (Exod. 28:30). Its value is in its message, not in its physical presence. As Christians, we take our Bible into the hospital with us, not so we can read it, because we are too sick. We do so because it represents God’s presence to us. For many modern Christians the Bible has become a physical idol. Its physical presence is not its power, but its message about God in Christ. Placing your Bible on your surgical incision will not help it heal faster. We do not only need the Bible beside our bed; we need its message in our hearts.

I have even heard people get upset if someone drops a Bible or if someone writes in it. The Bible is nothing more than cow skin (if you have an expensive one), tree pulp, and ink. It is only holy in its connection to God. The Bible is useless unless it is read and followed. Our culture is reverent toward the Bible and rebellious toward God. Earlier in our court system one had to swear to tell the truth while holding his hand on the Bible. If one is a believer he would not lie anyway. If one is swearing on an ancient book in which he did not believe and whose content he did not know, what makes us think that he would not lie?

The Bible is not a magical charm. It is not a detailed, complete, unabridged textbook on natural phenomena and it is not “Hoyle’s” rule book on the game of life with detailed instructions in every area. It is a message from the God who acts within human history. It points toward His Son and it points its finger at our rebellion.

IV. Author’s Presuppositions About the Bible

Even though the Bible has been abused by mankind’s expectations and usages, it is still our only guide for faith and practice. I would like to state my presuppositions about the Bible.
I believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the only clear self-revelation of God. The New Testament is the perfect fulfillment and interpreter of the Old Testament (we must view the OT through the new revelations of Jesus and the NT, which radically universalize the promises to Israel). I believe the one and only Eternal, Creator, Redeemer God initiated the writing of our canonical Scriptures by inspiring certain chosen persons to record and explain His acts in the lives of individuals and nations. The Bible is our only clear source of information about God and His purposes (I know about Jesus only from the pages of the NT). Natural revelation (cf. Job 38-39; Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15) is valid, but not complete. Jesus Christ is the capstone of God’s revelation about Himself (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:14-16; Heb. 1:2-3). The Bible must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:23; 16:20-21; I Cor. 2:6-16) in order to be correctly understood (in its spiritual dimension). Its message is authoritative, adequate, eternal, infallible, and trustworthy for all believers. The exact mode of its inspiration has not been revealed to us, but it is obvious to believers that the Bible is a supernatural book, written by natural people under special leadership.

V. Evidence for a Supernaturally Inspired and Authoritative Bible

Although the above statement is presuppositional, as is all human knowledge, it does not mean that there is no credible supportive evidence. At this point let us examine some of this evidence.

A. The Bible contains very precise predictions (historical, not typological [Hosea 11:1] or apocalyptic [Zechariah 9]) about future events, not in vague formulations, but in specific and often shocking preciseness. Two good examples follow.

1. The area of Jesus’ ministry was predicted to be in Galilee, Isa. 9:1. This was very unexpected by Judean Jewry because Galilee was not considered to be quite Kosher because of its physical distance from the Temple. Yet, the majority of Jesus’ ministry was spent in this geographical area.

2. The place of Jesus’ birth is specifically recorded in Micah 5:2. Bethlehem was a very small village whose only claim to fame was that the family of Jesse lived there. Yet, 750 years before the birth of Jesus the Bible specifically pinpoints this as the birthplace of the Messiah. Even the rabbinical scholars of Herod’s court knew this (Matt. 2:4-6). Some may doubt the 8th century B.C. date for both Isaiah and Micah, however, because of the Septuagint (which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture, which was begun about 250-200 B.C.), even at the very minimum these prophecies were made over 200 years before their fulfillment.

B. Another evidence relates to the modern scientific discipline of archaeology. The last few decades have seen a tremendous amount of archaeological discovery. To my knowledge there have not been any finds that have repudiated the Bible’s historical accuracies (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31, “No archaeological discovery has ever been made that contradicts or controverts historical statements of Scripture”), quite the contrary. Archaeology has facilitated confidence in the historicity of the Bible over and over again.

1. One example is the use of Mesopotamian names in the Nuzi and Mari Tablets of the second millennium B.C., which also occur in Genesis. Now these are not the same people, but the same names. Names are characteristic of a particular time and place. The names “Terah” and “Nahor” are common to the biblical record and in these ancient tablets.

2. The existence of a Hittite civilization in Asia Minor is another example. For many years (19th century) secular history had no references to the stable, highly developed culture known by this name (Archer 1982, 96-98, 210). However, Genesis 10 and the historical books of the Bible mention them many times (II Kings 7:6,7; II Chr. 1:17). Archaeology has since confirmed, not only their existence, but their longevity and power (i.e., 1950 archeologists found royal library of 2,000 cuneiform tablets where the nation was called both Anatolia and Hittite).

3. The existence of Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king (Daniel 5), has often been denied. There are ten lists of Babylonian kings in secular history taken from Babylonian documents, but none contain Belshazzar’s name. With further archaeological finds it became obvious that Belshazzar was co-regent and the official in charge during that period of time. His father, Nabonidus, whose mother was the high priestess of the moon goddess, Zin, had become so involved in the worship of Zin (Nana) that he had moved to Tema (Arabia), her holy city, while on a ten-year military campaign against Egypt. He left his son, Belshazzar, to reign in the city of Babylon in his absence.

C. A further evidence for a supernatural Bible is the consistency of its message. This is not to say that the Bible does not contain some paradoxical material, but it also does not contradict itself. This is amazing when one considers that it was written over a 1600/1400 year period (depending on the date of the Exodus, i.e., 1495, 1290 B.C.) by authors of radically different educational and cultural backgrounds from Mesopotamia to Egypt. It is composed of various literary genres and is written in three separate languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek). Yet, even with all of this variety, a unified message (i.e., plot line) is presented.

D. Finally, one of the most marvelous evidences for the Bible’s unique inspiration is the permanently morally changed lives of men and women from different cultures, different educational levels, and different socio-economic levels through history. Wherever the Bible has simply been read, radical, permanent lifestyle changes have occurred. The Bible is its own best apologist.” Dr. Bob Utley

An Evangelical Response to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

An Evangelical Response to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

An Evangelical Response
to Catholic Arguments for Salvation by Merit

“We have already noted that the Council of Trent declared that no works prior to justification are meritorious.42 Nonetheless, several significant differences between the official Roman Catholic and orthodox Protestant views on salvation remain. Before stating the basis for the Protestant position, a response to the Catholic arguments in favor of merit is in order.

A Critique of the Roman Catholic
View of Justification

With all due recognition to the common Augustinian core of salvation by grace (see chap. 5), there are some important differences between the Roman Catholic and evangelical views of justification. Unfortunately the noble but unsuccessful recent statement by “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” lacked precision in this very area, speaking of a common belief that “we are justified by grace through faith.”43 What it failed to note, however, is what the Reformation was fought over, namely, that Scripture teaches, as Protestants affirm, that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. As we will see, there is a common belief in salvation by grace, but Roman Catholics hold that justification takes place at baptism of infants, which is long before they can believe in any conscious sense. Further, as the Catholic doctrine of merit reveals, they do not believe that salvation is by grace alone (sola gratia), since meritorious works are also necessary, at least for those that live beyond infancy. Further, for evangelicals, salvation is not simply “through faith” but “by faith alone” (sola fide). Since this was at the very heart of the Reformation, many evangelicals refuse to sign the statement since they believe it would betray the Reformation. Indeed, their protest led to a follow-up statement which strikes a more distinctively Protestant note: “We understand the statement that ‘we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ,’ in terms of the substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ, leading to full assurance of eternal salvation; we seek to testify in all circumstances and contexts to this, the historic Protestant understanding of salvation by faith alone (sola fide).”

Many criticisms of the Catholic view of justification revolve around the concept of merit that was made into infallible dogma of the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. The Catholic doctrine of meritorious works has been a target of Protestants since the Reformation. For Luther and his followers, it is “misleading to speak of any rewards as ‘merited.’ ”44 Indeed, the Reformers believed that at Trent the Roman Catholic Church apostatized and denied the true gospel. “For I thoroughly believe, more firmly than I believe in God, that they are acquainted with more human doctrine, and also with more villainy, because they are proving it before my very eyes by the things they are doing, and so they are apostles, evangelists, and prophets just as little as they are the church; that is to say, they are the devil’s apostles, evangelists, and prophets. The true apostles, evangelists, and prophets preach God’s word, not against God’s word.”45

It confuses reward and merit. While Catholics wish to remind us that the whole doctrine of merit should be viewed in the context of grace,46 they overlook the fact that Scripture teaches that grace and meritorious works are mutually exclusive. Part of the reason for the difficulty is that the Catholic use of the word “reward” has an equivocal sense that leads to a confusion between a reward based on grace and one based on merit (i.e., on works), albeit prompted by grace. Often the problem seems to stem from a fallacious inference that simply because something is prompted by grace it is not obtained by merit. Just because the previous graciousness of a friend may prompt one to do a job for him that one would not otherwise have accepted does not mean that the wages earned from it were not at least partly merited, even if they were higher wages than one deserved. Thus, neither merit in the strict sense of what is justly earned nor merit which is based in part on what is earned but goes beyond that by God’s goodness is compatible with grace.

Catholic theology rightly points out that the Bible sometimes speaks of eternal life as a reward (e.g., Gal. 6:8) that one can “inherit” (Luke 18:18).47 In this sense, however, works are not a condition of salvation;48 salvation is a gift of grace received by faith alone apart from meritorious works. None of us works for an inheritance; it is something graciously given to us by a benefactor. If, however, we are “rewarded” for our work by salvation or eternal life, then it is not truly and solely God’s grace, despite Catholic protests to the contrary. When one is rewarded for works, the reward is not a matter of grace, since the payment is owed (at least in part) for work done. As Paul said emphatically, “But if by grace, it is no longer because of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). It is in this latter sense that the New Testament clearly speaks against obtaining salvation (whether justification or sanctification) as a reward (i.e., wage)49 for work done. For the Scriptures insist that “a worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due” (Rom. 4:4). If the Catholic concept of merit (that progressive justification [= sanctification] is obtained by good works) is true, then the grace of sanctification would be bestowed, at least in part, on the basis of good works. But what is worked for is not of grace, and what is given by grace is not obtained by works (Rom. 4:4; Eph. 2:8–9). So the Catholic concept of merit as a necessary condition for obtaining eternal life or ultimate justification is contrary to this clear affirmation of Holy Writ.

It makes works a condition of eternal life. The Council of Trent declared clearly that “those who work well ‘unto the end’ [Matt. 10:22], and who trust in God, life eternal is to be faithfully given to their good works and merit.”50 Even the new Catechism of the Catholic Church which tends to state doctrine in a way less objectionable to Protestants declares that “the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful” (2008, emphasis added, p. 486). Hence, it is grace plus good works. By contrast the Bible declares clearly and emphatically that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23, emphasis added). Further, in direct opposition to the Catholic position, the Bible guarantees that eternal life is a present possession of those who believe. Jesus said: “I say to you, whoever hears my words and believes in the one who sent me has [present tense] eternal life and will not come into condemnation, but is [currently] passed from death to life” (John 5:24). But according to the Roman Catholic view, one must await a final justification at death to know whether one has eternal life and will not see God’s condemnation. This same truth that eternal life is a present possession of the believer is repeated over and over in Scripture. John records Jesus proclaiming, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36), and later adds, “I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, emphasis added). Catholic dogma excludes Catholics from claiming that they can know with assurance that, if they were to die, they would have eternal life.51
In the Gospel of John only one condition is laid down for obtaining eternal life: belief (e.g., John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 20:31). If salvation were not by faith alone then John’s whole message would be misleading, since it states that there is only one condition for salvation when actually there are two: faith plus works. Indeed, John states explicitly that the only “work” necessary for salvation is to believe. When asked, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent” (John 6:29, emphasis added). There simply is nothing else we may do in exchange for our salvation. Jesus did it all (John 19:30; Heb. 10:14).

It makes works of sanctification a condition of ultimate salvation. The Council of Trent affirmed: “When he [Paul] characterizes the eternal reward as ‘the crown of justice which the Lord, the just judge, will render’ (2 Tim. 4, 8), he thereby shows that the good works of the just establish a legal claim to reward on God.”52 Of course, this “legal” claim is not intrinsic but only because God has promised it. Nonetheless, it is a promise to give us salvation based in part on our works. “If anyone shall say that the good works of the man justified are in such a way the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified, or that the one justified by the good works, which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (whose living member he is), does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life (if he should die in grace), and also an increase of glory: let him be anathema.”53 But one cannot work for a gift (Rom. 4:4–5). We work from our salvation but never for it (Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:8–10). We are not saved by our works but in order to do good works.

Even granting that, for infants, works are not a condition for receiving initial righteousness (= justification), nonetheless, Catholic theology makes works a condition for progressive righteousness (= sanctification). In other words, one cannot receive a right standing before God by which one has the divine promise of salvation (eternal life) without engaging in works of righteousness. But this is precisely what Scripture says is not the case: It is “not because of any righteous deeds that we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us” (Titus 3:5).54 “It is not from works, so no one may boast,” wrote Paul (Eph. 2:9). To repeat the apostle, “if by grace, it is no longer because of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). A right standing before God comes by grace through faith alone! Grace means unmerited favor, and reward based on works is merited. Hence, grace and works are no more compatible than is an unmerited merit! Trent overreacted to Luther, and in so doing, obfuscated the purity and clarity of the gospel of God’s grace.

The Catholic response that not all Protestants agree that one has the promise of heaven on the basis of initial justification55 alone (Arminians believe people can lose their salvation) misses the mark. For the question is not how we keep salvation after we get it, but how we get it to begin with. It is a fact that some Protestants (evangelicals) do believe like Catholics that one can lose his or her salvation (a belief the authors do not share), but this in no way justifies the Catholic belief that eternal life cannot be obtained without meritorious works. But as we have seen, the Bible makes it clear that eternal life, not just initial (and some say forfeitable) justification, is a present gift that believers possess (Luke 23:42–43; John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 6:23). So the fact that some Protestants believe people can lose their salvation (eternal life) in no way justifies making works a condition for obtaining this salvation. The fact is that, even once the confusing terminology is cleared up and we understand that by eventual justification Catholics mean what Protestants call justification and sanctification, the official Catholic position is unbiblical. For it insists that works are necessary for salvation; that is, they are a condition for obtaining a right standing before God that entails the promise of heaven.56 This is precisely what the Reformation rejected.

It confuses working for and working from salvation. Put in traditional terms, Catholicism fails to recognize the important difference between working for salvation and working from salvation. We do not work in order to get salvation; rather, we work because we have already gotten it. God works salvation in us by justification, and by God’s grace we work it out in sanctification (Phil. 2:12–13). But neither justification nor sanctification can be merited by works; they are given by grace. Gifts cannot be worked for, only wages can. As Paul declared, “when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

In spite of the fact that the Catholic understanding of salvation does not logically eliminate forensic justification, it nevertheless obscures it. For when one fails to make a clear distinction between forensic justification and practical sanctification,57 then the good works Catholics believe are needed for sanctification tend to obscure the fact that works are not needed for justification. Perhaps this is why hundreds of thousands of Catholics are coming to know Christ personally outside of the Catholic church. Indeed, this may be why Catholicism has not produced any of the great evangelists (such as Wesley, Whitfield, Sunday, Moody, and Graham) and has no widely circulated equivalent to “The Four Spiritual Laws” or other simple plan of salvation.

It makes a false distinction between “works” and “works of the law.” The New Testament verses against salvation by works are clearly opposed to the Catholic teaching that salvation can be merited. In order to counter this, Roman Catholic scholars have made an artificial distinction between “works of the law” (which they admit are not a condition for salvation) and works (which they insist are a condition of salvation). But contrary to the Catholic claim, Paul’s statements against “works” cannot be limited to only “works of the [Mosaic] law” (such as circumcision) but extend equally to all kinds of meritorious good works, for all such works will in one way or another be works in accordance with God’s law. They would not be good works if they were not in accordance with God’s standard of goodness, namely, his law. Since God is the standard of all righteousness, it follows that all true works of righteousness will be according to his law and nature. It is only our righteousness (= self-righteousness) that is abhorrent in God’s eyes (cf. Isa. 64:6; Rom. 10:3). It makes no difference whether these works are prompted by grace; they are still meritorious works as a condition for eternal life. They are not based on grace and grace alone. That is, part of the basis for obtaining eternal life is meritorious works.

Further, when condemning works for salvation Paul does not limit himself to “works of the law” but sometimes simply refers to “works” or “works of righteousness” (cf. Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7). Contrary to the Catholic view, the Ephesians passage is clearly aimed at Gentiles with no suggestion of works of the Jewish law such as circumcision.58 Nor does the Jew-Gentile conflict diminish the fact that he is speaking to Gentiles about “works” other than those unique to the Jewish law. And the argument offered by some Catholics that the boasting mentioned in Ephesians 2:9 is an indication that it is Jewish boasting (since they boasted about works of the law) is implausible for many reasons. First, unbelieving Jews are not the only ones who boast in their good works; pride is a condition of all fallen creatures, not just Jewish ones. Furthermore, in this context Paul explicitly addresses the issue of Gentiles who were “alienated from the community of Israel” (Eph. 2:11–12), not Jews. Likewise, Titus 3:5–7 does not refer to “works of the law” but simply “works of righteousness.”59 The fact that the tense being applied to salvation refers to the past does not help the Catholic explanation that this refers only to what Protestants call justification, not to sanctification. Paul is speaking to people who have already been saved and therefore his words would naturally be in the past tense.60

Also, the Catholic claim that “works” are sometimes an abbreviation of “works of the law” (e.g., Rom. 3:27–28) fails for several reasons. Even if “works of the law” were sometimes summarized as “works,” it would not mean the reverse is necessarily true. All works of the law are works, but not all works are works of the law.

Further, when Paul is speaking to Gentiles (who, as Rom. 2:14 says, “do not have the [Mosaic] law”), he does not speak of them performing works of the Mosaic law as such but simply to “works” (e.g., Eph. 2:8–9). They too are said not to be justified by works (Rom. 3:21–24). To be sure, in the New Testament “works” often arise in the context of circumcision (cf. Rom. 4; Gal. 3). But this is only because that was the specific situation that occasioned Paul’s condemnation of any kind of works deemed necessary for salvation (cf. Acts 15). To limit all of his condemnations of “works” to only works of the Mosaic law is like limiting God’s condemnation of homosexuality in the Old Testament (cf. Lev. 18:22; 20:13)61 to Jews since these passages occur only in the Jewish law which was written to Jews! And to grant that a moral law (e.g., natural law) exists outside the law of Moses is to grant the Protestant point that “works” here are not just limited to works of the Mosaic law. The truth is that the condemnations are more broadly applicable than the immediate context in which they arose. The same is true of Paul’s condemnation of meritorious “works” as a means of salvation. To limit Paul’s condemnation to works of self-righteousness as opposed to meritorious works is reading into the text a distinction that is not there. What is more, if our works contributed anything to our obtaining salvation, then we would have grounds to boast and would still come under Paul’s condemnation.

Finally, the basic moral character of God expressed in the Ten Commandments is the same as that expressed through the natural law to all people. The fact that someone is not consciously or deliberately doing works according to the law of Moses does not mean that the basic moral standard is not the same. In one sense all moral “works” are “works of the law,” in that they are in accord with the moral principles expressed in the law. This is why the apostle Paul said that “when the Gentiles who do not have the law [of Moses], by nature observe the prescriptions of the law . . . they show that the demands of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:14–15). In the final analysis, when it comes to the moral62 demands of the law, there is no substantial difference between “works of righteousness” and the “works of the law.” Thus, the Catholic argument that Paul meant the latter but not the former is a formal distinction without a real difference. The simple truth is that no works of any kind merit salvation. Eternal life is a gift received only by faith (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; Rom. 6:23)

It is similar to the error of Galatianism. By insisting that works are not a condition for obtaining initial justification (righteousness) but only for sanctification (progressive righteousness) Catholics do not avoid the charge of soteriological error. Claiming that sanctification is by works, even if justification is not, seems akin to the error that Paul addressed in the Book of Galatians. The Galatian Christians were already justified, or declared righteous, in the forensic sense (or, to use Catholic terminology, they had already received “initial justification”). They were “brethren” (Gal. 1:11; 6:1). They were “in Christ” (Gal. 2:4). Otherwise, they would not have been in danger of “falling from grace” (Gal. 5:4) as a way of living the Christian life. They had initial (forensic) justification but were in danger of losing their sanctification (progressive justification).

Paul’s warning to them clearly related to their sanctification. His fear was not that they would lose their initial (forensic) justification but that they would fall back into bondage to the law (Gal. 2:4). Even if Paul did mean that they would lose their justification (as Arminians say) it merely intensifies the problem with the Catholic view, for then the failure to do good works results in the loss of both sanctification and justification. In this indirect sense, failure to do good works is a means of forfeiting one’s (initial) justification too! Paul was afraid they would fall from grace as a means of continuing in the Christian life, not as a means of obtaining it to begin with, since they already had it (Gal. 3:3). To state it another way, if their initial righteousness was given by grace though faith, why should they think they could progress in righteousness in any other way than by grace through faith? In short, he did not want them to replace grace with works as the means of sanctification. This is evident from his pivotal plea: “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect in the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3 nkjv, emphasis added).
Clearly, the message of Galatians is: You are not only justified by faith alone, but you are also being sanctified by faith alone. For “without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Heb. 11:6). Melanchthon articulated this Reformation principle when he argued that “the importance of faith not be restricted to the beginning of justification.”63 Neither initial righteousness (justification) nor progressive righteousness (sanctification) is conditioned on meritorious works. Rather, both are received by grace through faith apart from any works of righteousness. Failure to understand that sanctification and justification are by grace through faith alone is the error of Galatianism. It seems to be the same error made by the Council of Trent.
It should be noted that Paul’s reference to “false brothers” (pseudadelphos) is not to the believers in Galatia who had adopted their erroneous teaching about needing to keep the law of Moses as a means of sanctification. Paul was referring to false teachers (Judaizers) who were “secretly brought in” from the outside (Gal. 2:4). Since the Galatians had already been justified by faith alone, the danger of the Judaizers’ teaching was that the true believers at Galatia would adopt this view as a means of progressive sanctification. This would have been a serious error, since it would have obscured the necessity of the pure grace of God as the condition for their progressive sanctification, just as it was the condition for their initial justification.64
It confuses salvation and service. All the texts cited by Catholics about reward for works are not really speaking about rewards for salvation (whether it be justification or sanctification); they are talking about rewards for service. Justification is by faith alone and not by works (Rom. 4:5). It is true that all who are saved by God’s grace through faith will be rewarded for their works in Christ (1 Cor. 3:10–14; 2 Cor. 5:10). These works, however, have nothing to do with whether we will be in heaven, but only with what status we will have there. As Jesus said, some of the saved will reign over ten cities and others over five (Luke 19:17–19), but all believers will be in his kingdom. The reward-for-works verses all speak of rewards for those who will be in the kingdom, not whether one will be in the kingdom. By contrast, in Roman Catholic theology one’s progressive sanctification does affect whether one will make it to heaven. What a person receives at the moment of initial justification, apart from progressive sanctification, does not suffice to get one into heaven (unless, of course, the person dies immediately after regeneration). In this sense, for Catholics works are necessary for salvation, even if they are works subsequent to initial justification. Actually, works are only necessary for the degree of reward we receive in heaven; they are not a condition for getting into heaven.

Works-for-reward come under sanctification, not justification. They are what we do as a result of being saved, not what we do in order to be saved (i.e., to receive the gift of eternal life). In other words, merit makes sense if understood in the context of those who already are justified before God and simply are working out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), not working for it. Even here the works are not a condition for being sanctified but a manifestation of it. Thus Catholics are left with a de facto denial of the grace that they officially claim is necessary for both justification and sanctification.

It adds works into its concept of faith. Roman Catholic biblical scholars admit “the absence of any reference to sacraments and good works in Paul’s thesis in [Romans 1] 16f.” To this they respond by redefining faith to include works, saying, “Omission causes no difficulty if faith be understood in the sense of dogmatic faith, which accepts all the doctrines of the Gospel as true and obeys all its precepts as divine commandments. For in this faith sacraments and good works are included.”65 This is a classic example of eisegesis, that is, reading into the text what is not there, indeed, in this case, the exact opposite of what is there. For Paul goes on to say that “when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5), and “a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Yet when commenting on this verse A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture says emphatically that “Another conclusion from [Romans 1:]28 that had to be rejected by the Council of Trent is that before justification only faith is necessary as a preparation and no other good works.” Faith, the commentary insists, is only the “immediate” preparation for justification; a “remote” preparation is also necessary, including “a resolution to receive the Sacrament of baptism and to keep the commandments.”66 In other words, faith is only a necessary initial condition but not a sufficient condition for receiving the gift of salvation. However, the evident meaning of the Romans text (1–4) is that nothing in addition to faith is necessary for salvation (cf. Rom. 1:17; 4:4–5).

In spite of the commendable insistence on the necessity of grace for salvation and the need for explicit faith in adults as a precondition for justification, it is still true that Catholicism teaches that even justification (in adults) is preconditioned on faith plus the resolution to do good works. Hence, the promise to do good works is a condition of initial justification. Thereby sanctification is frontloaded into justification. That is, the promise to live a godly life is a condition for receiving the gift of eternal life. But if this is so then it is not of grace but works. And for Roman Catholics, salvation in the ultimate sense, not just initial justification, always requires faith plus works to obtain eternal life.”

42 Council of Trent, “Decree on Justification,” chap. 8.
43 “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium,” final draft (29 March 1994). This statement was signed by noted Catholics like James Hitchcock, William Bentley Ball, Peter Kreeft, Cardinal John O’Connor, and Richard Neuhaus. Evangelicals signing it included Chuck Colson, Os Guinness, J. I. Packer, Bill Bright, and Richard Land. Conspicuous by their absence were the names of top evangelical theologians who are experts on Roman Catholicism, such as Harold O. J. Brown, Carl Henry, David Wells, and R. C. Sproul. Many of these have expressed criticism of the statement (see Appendix F).
44 Anderson, Justification by Faith, p. 54 (citing the Apology for the Augsburg Confession, 4:194).
45 George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church (London: John Murray Publishing, 1914), p. 347.
46 See Avery Dulles in Anderson, Justification by Faith, p. 274.
47 The New Testament also speaks of eternal life in the sense of the kind or degree of reward one will inherit, based on the kind of faith that produces works which one performs. Gal. 6:6–10 seems to fit in this category, since it speaks of believers reaping “eternal life” by what they sow in their life.
48 While works are not a condition of faith they are a concomitant and fruit of true faith (James 2:24).
49 This is true whether the wage is an equal payment or an overpayment for work done. Salvation is a complete gift from God for which no work can be done to merit it (Rom. 4:4–5). Otherwise, Christ’s sacrifice was not the complete payment for our sin and we have some ground for boasting, both of which are rejected by Scripture (cf. John 19:30; Eph. 2:8–9; Heb. 10:11–18).
50 Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma, no. 809, p. 257.
51 But Protestantism teaches that we can know with assurance right now that we have eternal life. This is true of Calvinists (and even Armenians, who believe they could later commit a serious sin and lose the gift of eternal life). But this is not true for a Catholic that cannot know with confidence that he possesses eternal life right now.
52 Cited in Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 265.
53 Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma, no. 842, p. 809.
54 This cannot apply only to initial justification as Catholics claim, since the present tense (“renewing”) is used in this text.
55 That is, by initial (forensic) justification and its concomitant benefits, such as sonship, the forgiveness of sins, imputed (alien) righteousness, etc.
56 Catholic insistence that a right standing can be obtained without works is insufficient because, for Catholics, this standing does not entail the gift of eternal life. The Catholic argument that this gift is merited by works (though not deservedly earned) also is wanting. For even if one is given, say, a million dollars in exchange for a loaf of bread, the person obviously did not earn it but did do some work and, hence, it was not by grace alone. Likewise, if someone spends a lifetime of works (however long) as a condition for receiving eternal life, then it was clearly not by grace alone. Furthermore, the argument by some Catholic apologists that one need not work for eternal life but simply avoid mortal sin misses the mark for two important reasons. First, the question is not how one loses salvation but how he obtains it to begin with. Second, and most importantly, regardless of whether one only loses salvation by a mortal sin (and not by lack of works) or not, if he lives after initial justification he still has to work as a condition for receiving eternal life. If this is so, then salvation is not totally by grace.
57 Of course there can be forensic or positional aspects of sanctification as well (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:10). We speak here of forensic justification in the sense of the legal aspect of the initial act of salvation, namely, God’s graciously saving us from the penalty of sin. Sanctification, at least in the practical sense, is salvation from the power of sin in our lives (“glorification” is being saved from the very presence of sin when we enter heaven). There are also non-forensic (or actual) aspects of the initial state of salvation, such as our being made a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and becoming “sons of God” (John 1:12) at the initial moment of salvation.
58 This is evident from the fact that Paul’s audience is (predominantly) Gentiles (Eph. 2:11) who were “alienated from the community of Israel” (2:12).
59 Some Catholics argue that this refers to works of Jewish almsgiving, since the concepts parallel Jewish literature. This is implausible since it is contrary to the context of the Titus passage, almsgiving not being in view. Further, even if Jewish almsgiving was a work of righteousness, not all works of righteousness were acts of Jewish almsgiving.
60 Further, this stretched interpretation is contrary to the Catholic claim that the “washing of regeneration” in this passage is baptism. Since they practice infant baptism, this would have to refer to initial justification, not to progressive justification (= righteousness), which evangelicals call sanctification.
61 In fact, God said that the pagans, who do not have the Mosaic law, would be condemned for homosexual practices as well (cf. Lev. 18:24–26).
62 This, of course, is not true of what are often called ceremonial or civil aspects of the Mosaic law; they were unique to Israel. And it is only true of the duty to obey God’s moral precepts, not the punishment for not obeying them which was often more severe in the Old Testament (e.g., capital punishment for fornication, adultery, homosexuality, rape, and even an incorrigible child).
63 Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession 4.71; quoted in Anderson, p. 226.
64 We call the error of “Galatianism” (namely, works are necessary for sanctification) a “serious error.” If it is a heresy, then many Protestants are heretical at this point too, since, at least in practice if not in theory, they too teach works are a condition for progressive sanctification.
65 See “Romans,” in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. by Dom Bernard Orchard et al. (Nashville: Nelson, 1953), p. 1049.
66 Ibid., p. 1055.
Geisler, N. L., & MacKenzie, R. E. (1995). Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: agreements and differences (pp. 228–239). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.



the nature of saving faith

“Lordship and nonlordship views of salvation differ greatly on the nature of saving faith. In many ways this is the crux of the issue. As Packer has aptly stated regarding this debate, “What is in question is the nature of faith.”5
Generally speaking, lordship salvation teaches that faith is an active response on the part of a sinner, centered in the human will, and including obedience to the commands of God. For example Stott writes, “We may believe in the deity and the salvation of Christ, and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in need of his salvation; but this does not make us Christians. We have to make a personal response to Jesus Christ, committing ourselves unreservedly to him as our Savior and Lord.”6 Or as Packer has written, “Christian faith means hearing, noting, and doing what God says.”7 MacArthur writes, “True faith is never seen as passive—it is always obedient. In fact, Scripture often equates faith with obedience.”8
Obviously to the teachers of lordship salvation, saving faith is an active response in which the sinner commits himself to Christ as both Lord and Savior. The vital elements of this faith include trust, commitment, and obedience to God.
The difficulty is that the nature of saving faith has been debated at every point of church history. In fact many of the leading writers and theologians in the history of the church held a view of faith that is at complete variance with that held by teachers of lordship salvation today. For example Saint Augustine (354–430) said, “Faith is nothing else than to think with assent.”9 Many will disagree with his definition (the present writer certainly does), but that was Augustine’s view. Faith, to Augustine, was simply mental assent to understood propositions, and nothing more.
John Calvin, the Swiss Reformer (1509–1564), wrote, “For, as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours to the recovering of God’s favor but receiving from Christ what we lack.”10 Again, “We compare faith to a kind of vessel; for unless we come empty and with the mouth of our soul open to seek Christ’s grace, we are not capable of receiving Christ.”11 By “passive” Calvin apparently did not mean the one coming to Christ does absolutely nothing. Obviously the sinner must trust or rely on Christ for salvation. By “passivity” Calvin meant that the sinner receives salvation through simple trust in Christ, that he gives nothing in order to possess this salvation.
Some writers have asserted that this was not the true position of Calvin. However, recent works have conclusively demonstrated that in fact Calvin taught that faith is a passive response by which a sinner simply receives the gift of God in Christ. Kendall writes, “What stands out in Calvin’s descriptions is the given, intellectual, passive and assuring nature of faith.”12 Bell points out that to Calvin, faith was not a cold speculation about God or a mental assent that was not connected with a vital trust in His promises. Yet, he says, “Calvin taught that faith is fundamentally passive in nature, is centred in the mind or understanding, [and] is primarily to be viewed in terms of certain knowledge.”13 To Calvin, faith is not obedience or commitment. Obedience, in Calvin’s view, flows from faith and is part of the nature of the Christian life.14 Faith itself is reliance on the divine promises of salvation in Christ and nothing more.
Whatever disagreements there may have been between Calvin and the Lutheran theologians of the Reformation, those disagreements did not include the nature of saving faith. On this topic there seems to have been complete agreement. Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), the contemporary of Luther and author of The Augsburg Confession, defined faith purely as “receptivity.”15 This idea of faith as receiving is so much a part of confessional Lutheran theology today as to be beyond controversy.16 Francis Pieper, the author of the modern standard theology of confessional Lutheranism wrote, “Saving faith is essentially the reliance of the heart on the promises of God set forth in the gospel.” Again, “In the preceding characterization of faith, we have stated … that justifying faith must be viewed merely as the instrument or receptive organ for apprehending the forgiveness of sins offered in the gospel.”17
In the Puritan era, however, there was a shift in the definition of saving faith. In the generations following the Reformation, some theologians subtly changed the Reformers’ definition of faith from a passive receptivity to an active response on the part of the sinner, centered in the will and containing both commitment and obedience.18 This change is most evident in the writings of the English Calvinists and is embodied in the Westminster Standards.19 This explains in part why lordship salvation teachers rely most heavily on Westminster theology and the writings of the English Calvinists to validate their position.20
This review of history does not claim to be conclusive or exhaustive. The one deduction that can be drawn, however, is that the nature of “saving faith” has a rich and varied history in the Christian church. It is not defensible for proponents of either lordship salvation or free grace to claim that their position is the view of church history.
MacArthur’s statement, “the view of faith that Hodges decries as a modern heresy is exactly what the true church has always believed,”21 is simply untrue. What is true, however, is that MacArthur’s view is embodied in the Westminster Standards and does have a long and powerful history in the Christian church. The idea that faith is an active commitment, including obedience, is the view of one strand of church history—English Puritanism—which is of course a powerful strand. One should not confuse that strand, however, with the “true church.” Calvin disagreed with it; Lutheran theology has always opposed it; even today some Reformed theologians do not accept it.22
On the significant issue of the nature of saving faith it must be concluded that past Christian leaders do not agree on the teachings of lordship salvation. In fact many who espouse a free grace view, and who regard faith as simple trust by which the believer relies solely on the divine promises of forgiveness in Christ, find themselves comfortably aligned with both Calvin and Luther and many of their successors.”

lordship, of Jesus Christ

“Jesus Christ has authority and dominion over the church and the world on account of his divine status, which was publicly demonstrated through his resurrection from the dead and exaltation to the right hand of God.

Lord as a title for Jesus Christ
Ro 10:9 In view of the OT background to the word “LORD” it is clear that this confession was not just of Jesus Christ’s authority but also of his divinity; 2Co 4:5 See also Mk 2:28 pp Mt 12:8 pp Lk 6:5; Jn 13:13; 20:28; Ac 9:17; 1Co 8:6; 12:3; Eph 4:5

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church
Col 1:18 See also Ro 14:8; 1Co 5:4-5; 2Co 10:8; 13:10; Eph 1:22; Col 2:6

Jesus Christ is Lord over all
Mt 28:18; 1Pe 3:21-22 See also Ac 10:36; 1Co 15:24-25; Eph 1:10; Col 2:10

The lordship of Jesus Christ is grounded in his resurrection from the dead
Ac 2:36; Ro 14:9 See also Jn 13:3; Ro 1:4; Eph 1:20-22; Php 2:6-11; Heb 1:3-4

The exaltation of Jesus Christ to God’s right hand Heb 1:13 See also Ps 110:1; Mk 12:36 pp Mt 22:44 pp Lk 20:42-43; Mk 14:62 pp Mt 26:64 pp Lk 22:69; Ac 2:33-35; 1Co 15:25; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2

The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will reveal his lordship
Php 3:20; Jas 5:7-8 See also 1Co 1:7; 4:5; Php 4:5; 1Th 3:13; 4:15-17; 2Th 2:1; 1Ti 6:14

Believers look forward to the Lord’s coming 1Co 16:22 See also Rev 22:20”
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

5 J. I. Packer, foreword to MacArthur, The Gospel according to Jesus, p. ix.
6 John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 107. Also see p. 121.
7 J. I. Packer, I Want to Be a Christian (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), p. 25.
8 MacArthur, The Gospel according to Jesus, p. 32. Also see p. 75.
9 Aurelius Augustine On the Predestination of the Saints chap. 5, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Church, 28 vols., trans. and ed. Phillip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), vol. 5: St. Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings, p. 499.
10 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), III. xiii. 5 (italics added).
11 Ibid., III. xi. 7.
12 R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 19. Also see Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III. ii. 36.
13 M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1985), p. 8. Also see A. N. S. Lane, “Calvin’s Doctrine of Assurance,” Vox Evangelica 11 (1979): 32–54.
14 Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III. ii. 1–20.
15 Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV. 56, 112, 257. Also see The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, III. 8–14. All citations of the Lutheran Confessions are from The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), and follow the standard form of reference. Robert D. Preus gives an excellent summary of both Luther’s and Melanchthon’s views of faith in “Perennial Problems in the Docrine of Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 45 (1981): 163–84.
16 See, for example, Edmund Schlink, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961), pp. 95–101; and Holsten Fagerberg, A New Look at the Lutheran Confessions (1529–1537) (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972), pp. 155–61.
17 Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 2:426, 437 (italics added).
18 The works by Kendall, Bell, and Lane all deal at length with this change in the definition of the nature of faith from Calvin to the Puritans.
19 The Westminster Confession of Faith, III. viii; XIV. ii (Philadelphia: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, n.d.). The Westminster Standards are the documents produced by the Westminster Assembly convened by the English Parliament from 1643 to 1649. These documents are the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism, and the Larger Catechism. They form the doctrinal foundation of much of modern Presbyterianism. A slightly modified Confession, called the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, also forms the doctrinal basis from which many of the modern Baptist churches have grown.
20 For example in MacArthur, The Gospel according to Jesus, 10 of the 17 pages of the second appendix, entitled “The Gospel according to Historic Christianity,” are quotations from the Westminster Standards and the writings of post-Reformation English Calvinists.
21 MacArthur, The Gospel according to Jesus, p. 222.
22 Gordon H. Clark, Faith and Saving Faith (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1983), pp. 110–18; R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985); Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance.
Lewellen, T. G. (1990). Has Lordship Salvation Been Taught throughout Church History? Bibliotheca Sacra, 147, 55–59.

The Messiah came to remove the curse of Adam

The Messiah came to remove the curse of Adam

“Genesis 5:21–29
And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. And Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty—seven years, and became the father of Lamech. Then Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died. And Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah, saying, “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord cursed.”
In Genesis 5:21–24, we read of righteous Enoch who “was not, for God took him.” The New Testament, in Jude 14–15, tells us that Enoch was a preacher of righteousness and a prophet. The name which he gave to his son was indeed rich with prophetic significance. Methuselah is a Hebrew name which literally means “When he dies it will come.” Since there is no neuter in Hebrew, it actually reads “When he dies he will come.” This prophecy refers to the coming of the flood. Simple arithmetic with the years given in Genesis shows that the flood came in the year 1656 a.h.—the same year that Methuselah died.  Lamech has understood the name of his father to be prophetic but has mistakenly seen the name as referring to the birth of his son, Noah. Noah will indeed be a man of tremendous significance in human history, but not in the way that Lamech thinks.
Lamech clearly hopes that Noah, meaning “comfort,” will be the longed-for Messiah. It is clear from the ages and years given in Genesis 5 that Lamech was 56 years old when Adam died. Lamech would therefore have been given a clear firsthand account of all that happened in the Garden of Eden and all the words that God had spoken. It is very interesting, therefore, to see in verse 5:29 how Lamech expresses his own messianic hope; he sees Messiah as a redeemer who will remove the curse of Adam’s fall, and all of its results. As with Eve, his basic theology is correct but he has misapplied it. Lamech is right: such a man will one day come, in fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 3:15—but Noah was not to be that man.”



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Muslim misunderstanding of salvation

“While Muslims believe, as Christians do, in the virgin birth, as well as the death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Christ, it is easy to overstate these misleading similarities. At the very heart of Christianity (1 Cor. 15:1–6) is the belief that Jesus died on the cross for humankind’s sins and rose again three days later. But Islam categorically rejects this teaching. Most Muslims do not believe Jesus died on the cross, and none believe he paid the penalty for the sins of the world there. Further, while Islam teaches the resurrection of Christ, it is usually only viewed as part of the general resurrection on the last day. Thus while they hold that Jesus ascended into heaven after his time on earth, most do not believe that he was resurrected before his ascension. And none believe he was resurrected three days after his crucifixion. In fact, almost no Muslim scholars believe that Christ was crucified at all and those that do have been condemned as heretical.

Further, for Muslims, Christ’s second coming is not, as Christians believe, to set up a kingdom on earth but to tell Christians to follow Muhammad. According to one Muslim tradition, “Jesus, son of Mary, will descend to the earth, will marry, have children, and live 45 years, after which he will die and be buried along with me [Mohammad] in my grave. Then Jesus, son of Mary, and I shall arise from the grave between Abu Bakr and Umar.”4

Muslim Scholar Shaikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani declared that “in the great debate between Christians and Muslims … there are areas of fundamental principles where no amount of logical discourse can bring the two sides nearer to each other and where therefore the existence of an impasse must be recognized.” Thus “issues like the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ and the Crucifixion, so central to Christian beliefs, have no place in the Islamic faith, having been categorically refuted by the Quran.”5 Muslims are so vehemently opposed to belief in the crucifixion of Christ that some label it demonic. Ibn Taymiyya declared that “the first goal of the demon is to lead people astray by delivering to them false information, as did the one who informed the apostles that he was Christ who was crucified.”6″

4 A. R. I. Doi, “The Status of Prophet Jesus in Islam-II,” in Muslim World League Journal (June 1982), 23. According to the Islamic tradition (sound hadith) Muhammad said, “It is impending that the son of Mary will descend among you as a just judge, a righteous imam; he will break the cross, kill the pig, and impose the jizya [a special tax on unbelievers paid to Muslim rulers for their protection].” Ibn Taymiyya, 306.
5 Ahmed Zaki Yamani, in Watt, Islam and Christianity Today, ix–x.
6 Ibn Taymiyya, 110.
Geisler, N. L., & Saleeb, A. (2002). Answering Islam: the crescent in light of the cross (2nd ed., pp. 279–280). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Philosophical theology

Philosophical theology

“The ordered, systematic study of God and of God’s relations to his creatures. There are many different types of theology. Philosophical theology attempts to discern what can be known about God without presupposing any particular revelation or church teaching as authoritative.”

Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Philosophical theology Theology that employs the resources of philosophy. This may involve either reflecting on the philosophical issues of theology, such as the existence of God and the problem of evil, or drawing more content from philosophy than from Scripture.”

Erickson, M. J. (2001). In The concise dictionary of Christian theology (Rev. ed., 1st Crossway ed., p. 155). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

“philosophical theology: The study of theological topics that primarily employs the tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and what can be known about God from observing the universe. (1A.1)”
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 1251). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

“Systematic theology also utilizes philosophical theology.30 There are three contributions different theologians believe philosophy or philosophy of religion may make to theology: philosophy may (1) supply content for theology; (2) defend theology or establish its truth; (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments. In the twentieth century, Karl Barth reacted vigorously against the first of these three views, and to a considerable extent against the second. His reaction was aimed at a type of theology that had become virtually a philosophy of religion or natural theology. At the same time, the influential school of analytical philosophy restricted its work to the third type of activity. It is here that there lies a major value of philosophy for the theologian: the scrutiny of the meaning of terms and ideas employed in the theological task, the criticizing of its arguments, and the sharpening of the message for clarity. In the judgment of this writer, philosophy, within somewhat restricted scope, also performs the second function, weighing the truth-claims advanced by theology and giving part of the basis for accepting the message. Thus philosophy may serve to justify in part the endeavor in which theology is engaged.31 While philosophy, along with other disciplines of knowledge, may also contribute something from general revelation to the understanding of theological conceptions, this contribution is minor compared to the special revelation we have in the Bible.”
Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., p. 29). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
“The discipline of thought which attempts to demonstrate truths of God and religion by means of philosophical methodology. Philosophical theology does not seek to correlate revealed truths as do dogmatic or systematic theology. Instead, it relies on a rational exploration of the issues. Philosophical theology need not be a natural theology, which assumes a general revelation of God. Philosophical theology may operate apart from such a stipulation though it does not foreclose it.
The beginnings of philosophical theology maybe traced to the pre-Socratic philosophers, each of whose first principle also had divine qualities. For example, Thales, who believed that all was water, also endowed water with the spiritual qualities of deity. Plato’s speculative explorations, such as in the Timaeus, come under the heading of philosophical theology, as does Aristotle’s argumentation for an unmoved mover. Philosophical theology continued throughout the Middle Ages under the aegis of natural theology. As the world of thought moved into the modern period, philosophical theology remained an important enterprise, but with a significant difference. The new critical spirit also made it possible to reach more critical conclusions. David Hume in particular must be mentioned as a philosopher who came to negative assessments on virtually all areas of philosophical theology.
Some of the more significant issues frequently addressed by philosophical theology are: (1) the relationship between faith and reason; (2) the meaningfulness of religious language; (3) the validity of religious experience; (4) the existence of God; (5) the nature of God; (6) the possibility of divine revelation; (7) the rational tenability of the Incarnation; (8) the compatibility of evil with the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God; (9) the possibility of miracles; and (10) the religious basis for ethics.
In North America philosophical theology has been carried out within a number of schools of thought. Jonathan Edwards himself was not disinclined toward philosophical matters with his own synthesis of the Platonic-Augustinian tradition and the Locke-Newtonian innovations of his day. Edwards came to the startling conclusion that God is identical with space and that empirical reality is produced by the mind of God.
Analytical philosophy is dominant in American universities today. In this broad tradition, which comprises approaches varying from the logical positivism of A. J. Ayer to the ordinary language philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, questions of the meaning of religious language have dominated. Technical issues have been assessed on the basis of whether the language used is meaningful at all. Where meaningfulness has been allowed, the meaning of specific terms has been settled by observing their function within specific contexts of use, not in their reference to independent reality.
Pragmatism has been considered a uniquely American philosophy. Roughly speaking, in this tradition truth is determined by the practical consequences of a belief. Consequently, pragmatism has yielded relativism (William James) and atheism (John Dewey).
Another American contribution to philosophical theology has been the process thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. In this system God is seen as a finite, changing being who influences the world only through moral persuasion. In the 1980s process thought was becoming increasingly influential in seminaries and other theologically oriented schools. Finally, neo-Thomism and Augustinianism (in several variations) have continued to make their presence felt in the thought-world of philosophical theology. In these various schools classical and medieval categories continue to be applied to contemporary issues.
Philosophical theology holds an important place in American philosophical thought. It is unlikely that it will become less significant in the foreseeable future.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY. J. D. Collins, God in Modern Philosophy (1959); B. Kuklick, Churchmen and Philosophers (1985); A. Flew and A. MacIntyre, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology (1955); T. V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (1986).
W. Corduan
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Philosophy is the critical examination of the meaning, truth and grounds of ideas, and of the methods by which ideas are arrived at. Philosophy of religion is the critical examination of religious ideas in general. By contrast, philosophical theology pursues such an examination of the ideas of a theology associated with a particular religion.
Philosophy is not a subject which has its own autonomous subject-matter, as does astronomy, biochemistry, English literature or international law. It is an ancillary discipline which examines the ideas, truth-claims and methods practised in a discipline, and seeks to elucidate and evaluate their nature. Thus there is philosophy of science, behaviour (see Ethics), art (see Aesthetics), knowledge (see Epistemology), history, education, logic, and religion. In each case philosophy is not a short cut to achieving the results otherwise arduously obtained in the discipline concerned. It is rather an attempt to clarify and reflect critically on what is entailed in the truth-claims and methods of the discipline. Christian philosophical theology takes the Christian faith as its starting-point and examines it philosophically.
Among the questions examined by philosophical theology are the following:
Grounds for belief in the existence of God. This includes discussion of the traditional arguments for the existence of God: the ontological, the cosmological, the teleological and the moral arguments (see Natural Theology). It also examines the nature and validity of appeals to experience and revelation (cf. Religious Experience; Scripture) as well as the claim that belief in God is a necessary presupposition for making sense of the world and our experience. It takes account of arguments for agnosticism and disbelief in God (cf. Atheism).
The identity of God and God’s relation with the world. This includes evaluation of the competing claims of theism, deism, idealism, pantheism, and panentheism.
Religious language. Discussion of the structure, meaning and use of religious language has been a major preoccupation in philosophical theology since the advent of logical positivism. However, the problem of using ordinary language to describe transcendent reality was a concern of the Neoplatonists (see Platonism) and the medieval thinkers. Logical positivism claimed that religious language is meaningless, since it is not open to verification in the way that scientific claims are verifiable. This gave rise to much discussion of verification, falsification and ways of testing meaning and truth-claims. Even scientific claims are not always strictly verifiable. Words for God are not literally true, since God is not an object in time and space. Meaningful talk about God presupposes analogy rather than direct literal correspondence. Recent investigation into religious language has drawn attention to the richness of its variety and use, and to the complexity of symbolism.
History and religion. This includes the way God may be thought of as acting in history, the question of miracles, and the clarification of the distin tion between history and myth.
Revelation, faith and reason. This includes discussion of revelation as a form of knowledge, the role of faith in cognition, assent, trust and interpretation, and the role of reason in apprehending, discerning and explaining (see Epistemology).
Evil. How can the existence of physical and moral evil be reconciled with belief in an almighty, loving God (cf. Theodicy)?
Freedom. In what sense may we speak of freedom and free will, in the light of theological considerations concerning the sovereignty of God and philosophical considerations concerning human beings who are products of their physical environment and whose activities are capable of explanation in terms of physical processes?
Human identity. Are human beings more than bodies? What is meant by the mind, the self and the soul? What is the relationship between the brain and the mind and between the body and the self?
Life after death. What grounds are there for belief in life after death, and what are its possible forms?
Prayer. What sort of an activity is prayer? What are the logic and implications of intercessory and other forms of prayer?
The relation of Christianity to other faiths. This includes examination of the conflicting truth claims of different religions and ways of testing them.
C. Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith (London, 1969); M. J. Charlesworth, Philosophy of Religion (London, 1972); A. Flew and A. Maclntyre (eds.), New Essays in Philosophical Theology (London, 1955); B. Davies, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 1982); S. T. Davis, Logic and the Nature of God (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983); C. S. Evans, Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL, 1985); F. Ferré, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion (New York, 1967); N. L. Geisler, Philosophy of Religion (Grand Rapids, MI, 1974); J. Hick, Faith and Knowledge (London, 21966); idem, Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 31983); idem (ed.), Classical and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 21970); G. MacGregor, Philosophical Issues in Religious Thought (Boston, 1973); H. A. Meynell, God and the World (London, 1971); B. S. Mitchell, The Justification of Religious Belief (London, 1973); B. S. Mitchell (ed.), The Philosophy of Religion (London, 1973); N. Smart, Philosophers and Religious Truth (London, 21969); R. Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism (Oxford, 1977); idem, The Existence of God (Oxford, 1979); idem, Faith and Reason (Oxford, 1981); K. E. Yandell, Christianity and Philosophy (Leicester and Grand Rapids, MI, 1984).

cf. confer (Lat.), compare
cf. confer (Lat.), compare
cf. confer (Lat.), compare
eds. edited by, edition, editor(s)
idem idem (Lat.), the same author
idem idem (Lat.), the same author
ed. edited by, edition, editor(s)
ed. edited by, edition, editor(s)
idem idem (Lat.), the same author
idem idem (Lat.), the same author
Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. I. (2000). In New dictionary of theology (electronic ed., pp. 510–511). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Salvation is provided for all

Salvation is provided for all

“Salvation Is Provided for All
The Bible is clear and emphatic: God desires all to be saved and, thus, He provided salvation for all humankind. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16 nkjv).
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Rom. 5:18)
“Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). “[Jesus] suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
God willed from all eternity, then, to provide salvation for all humankind. Hence, Christ is “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; cf. Eph. 1:4).”

Salvation is applied to everyone that believes

Salvation is applied to everyone that believes

“Salvation Is Applied to Those Who Believe
However, while salvation was provided for all, it is applied only to those who believe. Some ask the question, “For whom was the Atonement designed?” Strong Calvinists respond by asking why, if the Atonement was intended for all, all are not saved. How can a sovereign God’s intention be thwarted? (see chapter 12).
If, as strong Calvinists argue, the Atonement was intended only for some (the elect), then limited atonement follows. This leads to the apparent dilemma that either (1) the Atonement was intended for all or (2) the Atonement was intended only for some (the elect). If it was intended for all, then all will be saved (since God’s sovereign intentions must come to pass), and if it was not intended for all, then it was intended only for some (the elect). Therefore, it would appear that either universalism is true or else limited atonement is true (see Sproul, CG, 205).
Of course, both moderate Calvinists and traditional Arminians deny universalism. Hence, in response to the supposed problem, it is only necessary to point out that the argument contains a false dilemma. There is a third alternative: The Atonement was intended to provide (offer) salvation for all as well as to procure (apply) salvation for those who believe.
In short, the problem is a false dichotomy, wrongly assuming either (1) that there was only one intention for the Atonement, or if understood in terms of a primary or single intention, (2) that the one purpose of the Atonement was to procure salvation for the elect. Actually, since God also wanted everyone to believe, He also intended that Christ would die to provide salvation for all people. The alternative—limited atonement—leads to a denial that God truly wants all persons to be saved—a belief contrary to His omnibenevolence as revealed in Scripture.
Salvation, then, was provided for all, but it is only applied to those who believe. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). Again, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:24–25).”

Moderate Calvinism Quotes

“Moderate Calvinism. Much of evangelicalism and some General Baptists affirm God’s choice in election and each person’s need for grace to choose God. However, they believe in unlimited atonement, stressing that salvation is hypothetically possible for all, but that God has elected some actually to be saved. Some form of cooperation between people’s wills and God’s grace is seen.”

Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“New Hampshire Confession of Faith. A widely influential summary statement of Baptist moderate Calvinism, originally drafted in 1833. In late eighteenth-century New Hampshire, support for the previously dominant rigid Calvinism was waning. On June 24, 1830, the state Baptist convention appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of faith and practice consistent with the more moderate views of the churches. The document, which was to have been completed by the following year, was revised by several drafting committees. It was finally approved by the convention board on January 15, 1833, and recommended to the churches for adoption.
After 1850 the Confession gained stature in the wider Baptist fellowship. It was disseminated by the publications of influential leaders, including J. Newton Brown, who had prepared the 1833 draft; the Landmark Baptist James M. Pendleton; and Edward T. Hiscox, author of a widely used Baptist manual. During the 1920s the Confession became a point of tension among the Northern Baptists. An attempt by some fundamentalists to secure its adoption by the Convention was rejected as amove toward creedalism. In 1933 a group of conservative churches withdrew from the Northern Convention to form the General Association of Regular Baptists and adopted a premillennial version of the Confession as their standard. The Southern Baptist Convention used the Confession as the basis for a document published in 1923 under the title Baptist Faith and Message. This was later revised in 1963.

The Confession is organized according to the general pattern of the Reformed creeds. The subjects discussed follow the order: Scripture, God, Fall, salvation and sanctification, church (including civil government) and last things. Readily evident is the attempt by its drafters to articulate a moderate Calvinism during an era of theological controversy. Calvinist emphases are present, but subdued, both in the order in which the articles appear and in the descriptions themselves. Election, for example, is not described until article nine, after statements on the Fall and salvation. Salvation, according to the document, is prevented only by personal voluntary refusal and the perseverance of the saints means that only those who endure to the end are real believers.

The article on consummation is short and omits any reference to rapture, tribulation or millennium. The opening article contains what is now a classic Baptist statement concerning Scripture: “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. … ”

See also Baptist Churches in Canada; Baptist Churches in U.S.A.
Bibliography. E. T. Hiscox, The Baptist Directory (1876); W. L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (1974); W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (1911).
S. J. Grenz

S. J. Grenz Grenz, Stanley J., D.Theol., University of Munich. Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Tappan, David (1752–1803). Congregationalist minister and Harvard professor. Born in Manchester, Massachusetts, the son of a traditional New England pastor, Tappan studied divinity after graduation from Harvard in 1771 and became pastor of the church in Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1774. He identified himself with those who became known as “Old Calvinists,” persons wary of the revivalism that had divided New England Congregationalists since the Great Awakening but who insisted on the centrality of an experience of regeneration. Tappan was also critical of the more liberal trends in Congregationalism that eventually gave birth to Unitarianism. He became the third Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1792, where he remained a respected proponent of moderate Calvinism until his death. Controversy erupted over designating Tappan’s successor. When the more orthodox could not agree on a candidate, the naming of liberal Henry Ware to the post in 1805 led to the Unitarian ascendancy at Harvard.”

Bibliography. AAP 2.

AAP Annals of the American Pulpit, ed. W. B. Sprague, 9 vols.

Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

In shorter publications, I have defended a moderate Calvinism incorporating compatibilistic free will.1 In those cases, I started my defense where Calvinists typically begin, divine sovereignty. On the other hand, Arminians and other free will theologians invariably begin with biblical teaching on human freedom and moral responsibility. Sometimes it is said that one’s starting point is crucial, because it shows what one deems most important, and one tends to wind up where one started. This can and does happen on both sides of this issue. However, as one committed to Scripture’s full inspiration and inerrancy, I am obliged to take seriously everything it teaches. Thus, regardless of the starting point, the outcome should be the same, since all biblical revelation must be given its due. In that spirit, I shall begin this defense with human freedom.

The Bible says much about human beings. Various passages discuss human nature, and we also see humans in various situations. Scripture also clarifies what God requires of us. Moreover, the OT and NT tell us what human beings must do to have right standing with God. The message of both Testaments is that trust, faith in God, is required both for salvation and for living our lives in proper relation to God. The NT commands us to accept Christ and to follow the precepts of God’s Word. Those who have a personal relationship with Christ through faith are also instructed to tell others the same message. As Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:20), “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!”

Commands addressed to believers and nonbelievers seem inappropriate if humans do not have freedom to respond positively or negatively to them. Considerations like these, plus the biblical passages marshaled in favor of free will when I presented the case for general sovereignty, lead me to conclude that human beings are free. In addition, I agree fully that Scripture teaches that each person individually is morally accountable before God for his or her own actions. We are neither saved nor damned because of what our friends, relatives, or acquaintances do. The evidence for this was already presented in support of general sovereignty, and I need not repeat it. I also agree with the commonly held moral principle that no one is morally accountable for their deeds unless they act freely. Being held responsible for acts that are unfree is considered unjust in both ethics and law. Scripture clearly affirms that God is just, and if such claims are to mean anything, they must invoke concepts of justice we can understand. Otherwise, we have little idea of what it means to say that God is just. But if God is just, and if it is unjust to hold someone morally accountable who does not act freely, then God could not justly hold us accountable for our actions unless we are free.
In light of these considerations, I conclude that any theology that rules out human freedom and/or moral responsibility is deficient biblically. This doesn’t mean all our acts are free, but only that humans have the capacity for free action and that they use that capacity much of the time. Adopting a theology that grants human beings free will has certain intellectual and theological implications. Most immediately, it means that any theology and model of providence that excludes human freedom completely must be rejected. Hence, several models of providence described earlier are unacceptable. All models that include fatalism are excluded; not only do they remove human freedom, but frequently they deny freedom to God. Moreover, all models incorporating hard determinism which also rule out any human freedom must be rejected, and paradox determinism cannot be adopted, for it explicitly denies that humans are free.

This affirmation of biblical teaching on human freedom and moral responsibility may seem to require general sovereignty, but that is not so. As we already saw, there is an indeterministic notion of freedom and a deterministic one; neither concept is impossible, i.e., neither is self-contradictory as is the idea of a married bachelor or a round square. Since both notions are possible, at this stage of the discussion we can say that any theology with either notion of freedom is possibly correct. Hence, all forms of general sovereignty are possibilities, and the soft deterministic form of specific sovereignty is also possibly correct.

Advocates of general sovereignty see the evidence that humans are free and morally responsible, and many contend that this proves that incompatibilism is true. They conclude this because they think this is the only kind of freedom there is or could be. One frequently sees in their writings phrases such as “genuine freedom” and “real freedom,” by which they mean libertarian free will. Any other notion is only a pretender to the “real thing.” However, since both libertarian and compatibilistic free will are possible types of freedom, it begs the question to claim that only libertarian freedom is “real,” “genuine,” or “meaningful” free will. Such question begging maneuvers are not arguments or evidence for one’s views; they merely reassert one’s definition of free will and illegitimately refuse to consider other possible alternatives. Suffice it to say that neither side can win this debate by defining its opponent out of existence as “unreal,” “not genuine,” or “not meaningful.” We need an actual argument that the sort of freedom described is correct.

What I have just said about question begging is entirely beside the point if Scripture teaches not only that humans are free but also that our freedom is incompatibilistic. The truth of the matter, however, is that Scripture does not say what sort of freedom we have; it only teaches that we are free. This should not surprise us, however, since Scripture is not a philosophy text which intends to offer a precise (metaphysically speaking) definition of human freedom.2 Moreover, this point has some significant implications. One is that we cannot prove either libertarian or compatibilistic free will just by citing passages that teach human freedom and/or moral responsibility. If we want to choose one or the other concept of freedom on biblical and theological grounds, we must support our views in a more indirect way. That is, we must argue the case for a particular kind of free will inferentially from other truths taught by Scripture which best fit our notion of freedom. Inferring our conclusions about the kind of free will we possess doesn’t mean we can’t justify those views. Rather, it reminds us of the kind of issue this is, and reminds us that no biblical passage directly and explicitly defines freedom.”

Feinberg, J. S. (2001). No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (pp. 677–679). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

“2. THE MODERATE CALVINISTS WHO ARE LIMITED REDEMPTIONISTS. The appellation Moderate Calvinist, in this instance, is based on their belief that the decree to elect is preceded by the decree to create and the decree to permit the fall. Though they contend for a limited redemption, they make a place for world-wide preaching of the gospel and grant certain concessions not possible to the extreme Calvinists.

3. THE MODERATE CALVINISTS WHO ARE UNLIMITED REDEMPTIONISTS. The men who belong to this school of interpretation defend all of the five points of Calvinism excepting one, namely, “Limited Atonement,” or what has been termed “the weakest point in the Calvinistic system of doctrine.” This form of moderate Calvinism is more the belief of Bible expositors than of the theologians, which fact is doubtless due to the truth that the Bible, taken in its natural terminology and apart from those strained interpretations which are required to defend a theory, seems to teach an unlimited redemption. Men of this group believe that Christ died actually and fully for all men of this age alike, that God has ordained that the gospel shall be preached to all for whom Christ died, and that through the proclamation of the gospel He will exercise His sovereign power in saving His elect. This group believe in the absolute depravity of man and his total inability to believe apart from the enabling power of the Spirit, and that the death of Christ, being forensic, is a sufficient ground for any and every man to be saved, should the Spirit of God choose to draw him. They contend that the death of Christ of itself saves no man, either actually or potentially, but that it does render all men savable; that salvation is wrought of God alone, and at the time the individual believes.”

Chafer, L. S. (1993). Systematic theology (Vol. 3, pp. 184–185). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
“Grindal, Edmund (?1519–83), Abp. of *Canterbury. The son of a Cumberland farmer, he was educated at Cambridge and became a fellow of Pembroke Hall in 1538, and later chaplain to *Edward VI and prebendary of *Westminster. He went into exile under *Mary to Frankfurt, where he sought to reconcile the party of J. *Knox and the defenders of the 1552 BCP. In 1559 he was made Bp. of London and one of the revisers of the BCP, in 1570 Abp. of *York, and in 1575 Abp. of Canterbury. On his refusal to suppress the Puritan ‘prophesyings’ he was suspended in 1577 from his jurisdictional, but not from his spiritual, functions; his resignation was under negotiation when he died. In theology he sympathized with moderate *Calvinism and even with some Puritan criticism of contemporary episcopacy. See also ELIZABETH I.”

J. *Strype, History of the Life and Acts of Edmund Grindal (1710; new edn., 1821). W. Nicholson (ed.), The Remains of Archbishop Grindal (*Parker Society, 1843), with preface by the editor. H. Robinson (ed.), The Zürich Letters (2 vols., Parker Society, 1842–5), passim. P. Collinson, Archbishop Grindal 1519–1583 (1979).

Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 719). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Spurgeon’s Argument
“Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) defended limited atonement by his insistence that it is the opponent who limits the Atonement: First, adherents to unlimited atonement do not believe that Christ died so as to secure the salvation of all, and second, they do not believe that Christ died to secure the salvation of any person in particular. Spurgeon then went on to boast that those who believe in limited atonement believe that Christ died for “multitudes [the elect] that no man can number” (cited by Steele and Thomas, FPC, 40).

In response, this inverted rationalization is an unfortunate illustration of Spurgeon’s eloquence gone to seed: Only an upside-down logic could force anyone to think twice about the idea that limited atonement is more unlimited than unlimited atonement! The first assertion—that unlimited atonement doesn’t teach Christ’s death as securing the salvation of all—diverts the issue. It isn’t a question of securing the salvation of all (as in universalism) but of providing salvation for all and securing it for the elect (as in moderate Calvinism and Arminianism). It is extreme Calvinism that maintains Christ died to provide and to secure the salvation only of the elect. Spurgeon, then, gave the right answer to the wrong question.

As to the second point—that unlimited atonement doesn’t teach that Christ died to secure the salvation of any specific person—Spurgeon gives the wrong answer to the right question. Both moderate Calvinist and classical Arminian opponents of limited atonement believe that Christ did die to secure the salvation of the elect and that God foreknew, from all eternity, exactly who they would be.”

Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (p. 378). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

“In 1898 Gray took the summer deanship of the Moody Bible Institute, the first step on the path to his eventual leadership of the organization. At the behest of the then-president Henry Crowell, Gray became permanently associated with the Institute in 1904. A year later he became dean of students and by 1908 was fully in charge of day-to-day operations (though the title of president was not given to him until 1925). Gray played a key role in transforming the Institute into one of the major fundamentalist institutions of the twentieth century. Along with Crowell, he sought to improve the academic standards of the institution without straying from the essentially pragmatic end of training Christian lay-workers. His dispensational-influenced synthetic method replaced the institute’s earlier, less systematic, relational interpretation of the Bible. In addition, he brought a moderate Calvinism (essentially a simplified and softened version of Princeton theology) to the institute, which weaned it from its early roots in holiness theology and directed it more towards the idea of ‘victorious living’ embodied in the Keswick movement. In short, his systemization crystallized the institution both doctrinally and administratively. His template was not only maintained at the institute until well after his death in 1935, but also imitated by countless other Bible institutes throughout the country.”

Gloege, T. (2003). Gray, James Martin. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (pp. 266–267). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Total Depravity Is Extensive, Not Intensive
“Since the whole person is made in God’s image, and since sin affects the whole person, the first thing to be said is that the effect of sin on God’s image in fallen human beings is pervasive, extending to every dimension of his being—body and soul, mind and will.54 Hence, it is in this sense that sinful humanity is appropriately described by moderate Calvinism as “totally depraved.” This does not mean that fallen humans are as sinful as they could be, but it does mean that apart from Christ we are not as good as we should be (in accordance with God’s perfect nature and the perfection with which He created us).

Sin does penetrate and permeate our whole being. Humans are born wholly, not partially, depraved; that is, every aspect of our being is affected by sin. No element of human nature is unaffected by inherited evil, even though no aspect is completely destroyed by it. While this pervasive depravity is extensive, it is not intensive. That is to say, even though fallenness extends to every dimension of human nature, it does not destroy either human nature or any of its essential powers. For example, fallen human beings can still think, feel, and choose (see below); they have not, because of sin, lost any of these abilities of personhood. If they had, they would no longer be persons. They are still human, and therefore they are still in the image of God, even though they are fallen humans, consequently incapable of either initiating or attaining their own salvation.
Ironically, if one takes total depravity too far, he destroys a person’s ability to be depraved. For if total depravity means “one’s ability to know and chose good over evil is destroyed,” then the person whose knowledge and volition have been eliminated is no longer able to sin, because then he would have had no access to the good (only evil would have been available to him). There are creatures without these abilities, but they are subhuman animals and plants that cannot sin. What has no moral capacity and ability has no moral responsibility.”

Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 146–147). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

“Systematic Theology is clearly Chafer’s magnum opus.12 The product of years of study under Scofield and as professor of systematic theology at Dallas, it represents the culmination of Chafer’s dream of bringing the teaching found in the Bible conferences into formal theological instruction. The work is basically Reformed in its theological orientation.13 There are many discussions which follow the scholastic pattern of nineteenth-century systematic theologies. Chafer’s moderate Calvinism is seen in his discussion of the decrees of God, predestination, and the atonement.14 His position on the inspiration and authority of Scripture is identical to that of the Old Princeton theology of Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield, the Bible conferences, and the fundamentalist movement in general. The uniqueness of Chafer’s Systematic Theology is found in what he called its unabridged scope, which refers to its inclusion of material popularized in the Bible conferences and the Scofield Reference Bible. It claimed to be the first premillennial systematic theology; and by virtue of its inclusion of various emphases of the Scofield Reference Bible, Chafer’s work was also seen as the first dispensational systematic theology (“dispensational” is here a reference to the views expressed in Scofield’s notes).”

Blaising, C. A. (1998). Lewis Sperry Chafer. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (electronic ed., pp. 86–87). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

“Despite his youth and theological views, after a trial period of more than a year, Rippon was called in 1773 to be pastor of the prestigious Carter Lane Baptist Church, Southwark, where his predecessor was the high Calvinist theologian John Gill. Both Gill and Rippon remained pastors until they died, so that between them they served this church for 117 years. Rippon’s enthusiastic advocacy of the moderate Calvinism that transformed the Particular Baptists during his lifetime helped him to become the leading Baptist minister in London and his church the largest and most influential of Baptist churches. Rippon was a colloquial, even eccentric, preacher in style, with ‘a manly voice’, and he made direct appeals to his hearers to receive the gospel. Over a thousand people joined his church during his pastorate.”

Manley, K. R. (2003). Rippon, John. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 552). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“BAXTER, RICHARD (1615–1691). Puritan divine, pastor at Kidderminster, author of almost 200 works on pastoral theology, ethics, liturgics and preaching. Born in Rowton, Shropshire, became well versed in the Bible in his parents’ home, was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England. He did not attend University, but excelled in private studies. In his early twenties, was influenced by Nonconformists Walter Craddock and Joseph Symonde. Despite his Latiudinarian views and moderate Calvinism, was ordained and Anglican priest in 1638. In 1641 began his career at Kidderminster as curate, teacher, pastor, catechist, and ecumenist. He served admirably the poor population of hand-loom workers, and put his protoecumenism to work by persuading the ministers of various churches to work together toward a common cause. When the Civil War broke out in 1642 Baxter, who sided with Parliament, left Kidderminster, and served for a time as an army chaplain. Attained instant recognition through his The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650). He returned to Kidderminster until 1660 when he went to London as Chaplain to Charles II, who had been moved by his preaching. He was offered the bishopric of Hereford, but his scruples against the episcopacy caused him to refuse, a refusal which debarred him from ecclesiastical office. He was one of 2000 pastors to leave the Church of England in 1662 in opposition to the Act of Uniformity. Spent the next twenty-six years without a charge, suffering persecution and imprisonment for espousing toleration of moderate dissent within the Church of England. Led Nonconformists at the Savoy Conference in considering modifications of the Book of Common Prayer. He married Margaret Charlton in September of 1662, who was so supportive that she went with him not only into exile, but into prison. Baxter was imprisoned in 1685 for preaching without permission, and again in 1686 for writing his Paraphrase of the New Testament. Was one of those directly responsible for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. After years of suffering, imprisonment, persecution and bereft of a regular charge, the Act of Toleration (1688), which allowed Non-Conformists the right to worship, enabled Baxter to enjoy three peaceful years before he died in 1691 (cf. Autobiography, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931).

Baxter, one of Protestantism’s greatest pastoral theologians, wrote prolifically, Among his most widely read works were The Reformed Pastor (1656, abbr. RP, Carlyle, Pa: Banner of Truth, 1979), Christian Directory (1673), Catholic Theology (1675), Methodus Theologiae Christianae (1681), Family Catechism (1683), and his Reliquiae Baxteriane (1696). See The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (PW), 23 vols., ed. W. Orme, London: James Duncan, 1830.”
Oden, T. C. (1986). Crisis Ministries (pp. 199–200). New York: Crossroad.

Christian statesman; England’s seventh Earl of Shaftesbury

Now known as Lord Shaftesbury instead of Lord Ashley, he attended Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained academic distinction. When his father inherited the earldom, Ashley inherited his baronetcy (the lowest British hereditary title), becoming Lord Ashley in 1811. In 1830 he married Lady Emily Cowper, daughter of the Earl and Lady Cowper. After the earl’s death, his widow married Lord Palmerston, who became prime minister of Britain in 1855. As his son-in-law, Ashley (by then Lord Shaftesbury) was able to recommend evangelical clergymen to the prime minister for senior appointments in the Church of England.

As a social reformer, Shaftesbury campaigned on such matters as the treatment of lunatics; the terms of employment of workers in factories, mills, and collieries (mines); and the use of boys as chimney sweepers. He continued to press for social action as a member of the House of Commons between 1830 and 1850. Later, as a member of the House of Lords, he especially called attention to the need to improve the dwelling houses of industrial workers. As a landowner he built a model village in Dorset. He was the best type of Victorian philanthropist who wanted to improve the conditions of the poor. To look in him for modern ideas of social reform (that is, for changing the social structures) is to look in vain. Whereas other reformers like Wilberforce, Fry, and Howard tended to concentrate on a single issue, Shaftesbury managed to focus attention on many.

As a committed member of the Church of England, he allied himself with the evangelical party within it. The list of Anglican evangelical societies of which he was president is virtually a complete list of all such societies. He was also a friend of Nonconformists and gladly cooperated with them in the British and Foreign Bible Society, the YMCA, and other ventures. Among clergymen his closest friend was Edward Bickersteth and among laity it was Alexander Haldane, editor of the Record newspaper.

Shaftesbury’s theological commitment was to moderate Calvinism and nondispensational premillennialism. He believed in the restoration of Jews to Palestine and to that end supported the establishment of the Protestant bishopric in Jerusalem in 1841 (a joint venture of Prussian Lutherans and the Church of England). As a strong Protestant he opposed both the Tractarian movement in the English church and the “papal aggression” of 1851 (the establishment of Roman Catholic dioceses in England and Wales). To the joy of historians his diaries have been preserved and are kept in the Palmerston House (Broadlands Archives) in England.TOON”

Toon, P. (1992). Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper. In J. D. Douglas & P. W. Comfort (Eds.), Who’s Who in Christian history (pp. 620–621). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

“Doddridge’s moderate Calvinism left considerable room for evangelical outreach in a variety of directions. He founded a school for impoverished students and a county infirmary, and he was an earnest advocate of foreign missions, for ‘the propagation of the gospel … among the distant nations of the heathen world’. He also wrote hymns, among the best known of which are ‘O Happy Day that Fixed my Choice’ and the communion hymn ‘My God, and is Thy Table Spread’.”

Jeffrey, D. L. (2003). Doddridge, Philip. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 188). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“This teaching is capable of perversion and unbalanced advocacy as well as of caricature. In ‘Supralapsarianism’ (before-the-fall-ism), as it arose after ad 1563 (death of Calvin), God’s way of manifesting His grace and justice was to select from hypothetically existing men (men to be created) a certain number to be vessels of mercy, and certain others to be vessels of wrath. In the order of thought of this scheme, election and reprobation precede the purpose to create and to permit the fall. Carried to a logically extreme conclusion, Christ’s death was not ‘for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). Infralapsarianism (below-the-fall-ism) as a more moderate Calvinism, holds, ‘God, with the design to reveal his own glory … determined to create the world; secondly to permit the fall of man; thirdly, to elect from the mass of fallen men a multitude … as vessels of mercy,’ etc.14 There are sentences in Calvin’s Institutes which some have interpreted as Supralapsarian. The Institutes, though revised several times by the author, remained essentially the same in doctrine as in his earliest work. His later comments on Scripture are clearly Infralapsarian and hardly favor the doctrine of limited atonement as stated by its most strident advocates. (See my comments later in Christology.) Calvin did not express himself precisely on this subject because severe controversy about the subject was not raised until he had passed off the scene. Most Protestants, including leading Calvinists, defend Infralapsarianism. (See, for example, A. H. Strong’s citation of Calvin’s comments on 1 John 2:2.)15

Soon a reaction against hyper-Calvinism set in, the chief spokesman being Jacob Arminius (or Hermansen) (ad 1560–1609), a professor at Leyden (Netherlands). He was a very learned man in a very learned age. The English edition of his collected works runs to 1771 pages. The controversy and its issue in the five ‘Arminian articles of Remonstrance’ and the contrary five points of the ‘synod of Dort’ (ad 1619) are beyond our present scope to report.16 It is the teachings and assumptions of Arminius and followers regarding original sin and imputation of guilt for Adam’s sin that interests us at this point.

Arminius did not hesitate to call Pelagianism a ‘heresy’17 and from his very learned and skillful writings enough moderate Calvinism can be extracted that Carl Bangs wrote an article entitled ‘Arminius was a Calvinist’ in Christianity Today magazine and Strong cites Moses Stuart in an article from Biblical Repostory, 1831, saying, it is ‘possible to construct an argument to prove Arminius was not an Arminian.’18”

14 C. Hodge, Systematic Theology II, p. 316.
Calvin’s John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
Institutes John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
Institutes John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
15 Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 772 and 778.
16 I devote an entire chapter to ‘the Extent of the Atonement’ in Christology.
17 James Arminius, The Works of Arminius II, trans. by James Nichols (Buffalo, NY: Derby, Miller and Orton 1853), p. 379.
18 Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 602.
Culver, R. D. (2005). Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (p. 388). Ross-shire, UK: Mentor.

“Fuller’s commitment to the Baptist Missionary Society was rooted not only in his missionary theology but also in his deep friendship with Carey. Fuller later compared the sending of Carey to India as his lowering into a deep gold-mine. Fuller and his close friends Sutcliff and Ryland had pledged themselves to ‘hold the ropes’ as long as Carey lived.

However, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation also involved Fuller in much unwanted controversy. Not long after the publication of the book, Fuller was assailed in print by two London High Calvinists, the Baptist pastors William Button and John Martin. While writing a response to Button, Fuller found himself under attack by a representative of the other end of the theological spectrum, namely the General (i.e. Arminian) Baptist Dan Taylor (1738–1816). Later, Fuller was to describe his own theological position, which some dubbed ‘Fullerism’, as ‘strict Calvinism’. He sought to differentiate it from High Calvinism, which was ‘more Calvinistic than Calvin’ and ‘bordering on Antinomianism’, and from moderate Calvinism, which was essentially the theological perspective of the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615–1691) and which Fuller considered as ‘half Arminian’. Fuller reckoned strict Calvinism to be ‘the system of Calvin’.”

Haykin, M. A. G. (2003). Fuller, Andrew. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 243). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Erickson’s development of the doctrines of salvation, the church, and eschatology is rather standard evangelical fare. However, their integral position within his theology requires at least brief comment.
Erickson’s view of the atonement as penal and substitutionary sets the stage for his understanding of individual salvation and its collective dimensions in the church. Christ’s sacrifice can legitimately be described as propitiatory, for there is no contradiction between God’s love and a wrath that must be appeased for the remission of sins. Since there is nothing that humans have done or can do to persuade God to save them, God’s grace is a necessity. Consistent with his moderate Calvinism, Erickson reiterates that God’s plan, and more specifically salvation, depends upon his prior decision.43 Those who respond are not under necessity to do so, but it is certain that they will, since God makes the offer so appealing.

Erickson’s temporal arrangement in Christian Theology of the aspects of salvation suggests a logical progression, though it may in part be pedagogic. Salvation is initiated through the subjective aspects of effectual calling, conversion, and regeneration, in that order. The objective aspects, including our union with Christ, justification, and adoption continue through sanctification, which aligns our moral condition with our legal status. Finally, since God renders things certain, there is perseverance; though believers could fall away from God, it is sure that they will not.44 Salvation culminates in both moral and physical glorification.”

43 Erickson, Christian Theology, 925. For a lay-level discussion of the doctrine of salvation, see Erickson, Salvation.
44 Erickson, Christian Theology, 992–97. According to Erickson, the warnings, as in Hebrews 6:4–6, that are addressed to genuinely saved people who could theoretically fall away, actually render it certain that they will not.

Hustad, L. A. (1998). Millard J. Erickson. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (electronic ed., p. 424). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

“Howe was graduated both at Cambridge and at Oxford. It is to be noticed that in that age men who held to Calvinistic doctrine and non-episcopal church government could have the benefit of the English Universities; and that most of the great Puritan divines were graduates, as were Henry Dunster, and others of those who established the civilization and culture of New England. This fact is suggestive, and yet we are warned not to push too far our inferences from it by the cases of Baxter and Bunyan. At Cambridge, Howe was intimate with Cudworth, More, and other famous Platonists, and became a devoted and appreciative student of Plato. He was a great philosophic theologian, and at the same time a very earnest and eloquent preacher. With extraordinary power of intellect he had also remarkable power of imagination. Robert Hall said to a friend: “I have learned far more from John Howe than from any other author I ever read.” Henry Rogers states that in conversation with him Hall once went so far as to say, “as a minister, he had derived more benefit from Howe than from all other divines put together.” This fervid admiration is in part accounted for from the fact that Howe ably wrought out and powerfully stated, as in his treatise on “The Divine Prescience,” precisely that scheme of moderate Calvinism which alone suited Mr. Hall’s mind. But notice that Hall added, to the friend first mentioned: “There is an astonishing magnificence in his conceptions.” Of this “magnificence” no one could better judge than Robert Hall. For two reasons mere cursory readers are in danger of not appreciating Howe’s eloquence. He is so addicted to metaphysical thinking that we often have difficulty in following him, and so are apt to be engrossed with his philosophical theology. The other reason is the ruggedness of his style. Mr. Hall says: “There was, I think, an innate inaptitude in Howe’s mind for discerning minute graces and proprieties, and hence his sentences are often long and cumbersome. Still he was unquestionably the greatest of the Puritan divines.” Both the obscurity and the awkwardness of style must have been partially relieved for his hearers by the delivery. But for us it is necessary in approaching the study of Howe to expect difficulty, and the consequent careful reading will bring us into acquaintance with many of the noblest thoughts the human mind can conceive.”

Broadus, J. A. (1876). Lectures on the history of preaching (pp. 209–211). New York: Sheldon & Company.

“Hammond’s work and reputation led to increased work abroad. Each year he travelled around England on deputation work for the ICM, which he also represented at Keswick. He was an early supporter of the Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society in its revolt against CMS. As a member of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churchmen, he contributed to Evangelicalism (1925), its response to liberal evangelicalism and the wider theological unsettlement of the day. In 1926 he toured Canada and Australia to speak against revision of the Prayer Book. His work among students led naturally to support for the nascent IVF, which invited him on to its theological advisory committee. From this connection came an invitation to write an introductory handbook of doctrine for students. Emphasizing the importance of the mind in the life of faith, In Understanding Be Men (1936) became an evangelical best-seller, passing through five editions over the next fifty years. It was soon followed by similar works on ethics and apologetics, Perfect Freedom (1938) and Reasoning Faith (1943). Neither was as successful as the first, but all three contributed to the post-war intellectual revival of evangelicalism.

Although almost sixty years old, Hammond embarked on a new career when he was appointed principal of Moore College in Sydney late in 1935. At a low ebb when he took over, the college was transformed under his leadership. He worked closely with Archbishop Howard Mowll to pay off a large debt, restore and augment the buildings, and raise academic standards. But his greatest contribution was as teacher and pastor to the students, whose numbers grew markedly, particularly after the Second World War. The moderate Calvinism and strongly objective theology he imparted to these men left a lasting impression on the diocese of Sydney.
In other ways too Hammond was a force in the diocese. Simultaneously with his post at Moore College he held the important city rectorship of St Philip’s, Church Hill. He was a frequent and powerful speaker in the synod, to whose standing committee he was elected. Preferment came quickly: he was made Rural Dean of Balmain (1936), Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral (1939) and archdeacon without territorial jurisdiction (1949). Notoriously unable to say ‘no’ to invitations, he spoke widely in the parishes. Behind the scenes he was theological adviser to Archbishop Mowll, most notably in dealing with ‘the Memorial’ (a protest by some fifty clergy against the trend towards a strictly conservative evangelical churchmanship in the diocese), and president of the Anglican Church League, which sought to control diocesan elections.”

Treloar, G. R. (2003). Hammond, Thomas Chatterton. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (pp. 286–287). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“It is, however, for his contributions to *Reformed theology that Ames is principally remembered. Like many of the Reformed theologians of his day, Ames’s principal theological opponents were Roman Catholics and *Arminians (or Remonstrants). Against Roman Catholicism, particularly targeted against one of its leading scholars, he wrote a treatise entitled Bellarmine Disarmed. His volume The Marrow of Theology, first published in Latin in 1623 in Amsterdam, ranks alongside the finest volumes of Reformed theology to be published in the seventeenth century and was held in very high regard by the Reformed scholars of the day. In addition, he wrote Conscience with the power and cases thereof (1630, ET 1639) and numerous shorter works.

It was not only by his publishing, however, that Ames influenced the development of covenant theology. He was also tremendously influential on the next generation of covenant theologians. For example, *Johannes Cocceius (1603–69) was one of Ames’s pupils who, in his own writings on covenant theology, carried forward the work of his master.

Ames was not only a fine theologian but also a godly man. Although a staunch opponent of the Church of England and its ‘ceremonies’, his was a moderate Calvinism which, while holding firm to the tenets of Dort, was conscious of the concerns of his theological opponents and the strengths of their arguments. For example, he regarded the Arminians not as heretics but as brothers who had fallen into serious error.
As to theological method he was, following Perkins, a Ramist (declaring deduction to be the final scientific method). The use of Ramist logic, in contrast to the prevailing *Aristotelianism, gave the Puritans a philosophical basis for their theology which, at the same time, helped to give structure and shape to the theology itself.

Like most of the Puritans, Ames had a great concern for Christian life and character. This emphasis on ‘practical divinity’ shines through all of his writings and is also evident in the ecclesiastical controversies in which he took part.”

McGowan, A. T. B. (2000). Ames, William (1576–1633). In The dictionary of historical theology (p. 12). Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster Press.

“The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism over the doctrine of God the Father centers in the areas of the Father’s sovereignty and his pretemporal election of individuals to salvation. I classify myself as a moderate Calvinist embracing only those doctrines which I believe can be clearly and emphatically defended in Scripture.

Arminianism is the term used to designate those who subscribe to the teaching of James Arminius (1560–1609), a noted professor of theology at the University of Leyden in Holland. His writings show a moderate Calvinism, and he became a central figure in the theological controversy of his day within the Dutch Reformed Church. Followers of Arminius have often misrepresented his view. A good deal of what passes today as Arminianism would hardly be compatible with Arminius’ Declaration of Sentiments delivered to the States General of Holland in 1608.21

A year after Arminius’ death some of his loyal supporters drew up five articles of faith in the form of a protest, called a “Remonstrance.” All five of its points were in opposition to statements in the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism, which stress what later came to be called the five points of Calvinism. Even though our concern here is with the first of the five Arminian points, all of them should be set forth.
I. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief. II. Christ died for all men and for every man, although only believers are saved. III. Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed. IV. This grace may be resisted. V. Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.22”

21 See The Works of James Arminius, D. D., Vol. I, trans. James Nichols (Buffalo: Derby, Miller, and Orton, 1853).
22 Roger Nicole, “Arminianism,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F. Harrison (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 64.

Lightner, R. P. (1995). Handbook of evangelical theology: a historical, Biblical, and contemporary survey and review (pp. 59–60). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

“Several features give unusual importance to The Potter’s Freedom for contemporary evangelicalism in general and Southern Baptists in particular. First, the debate involves two effective and passionate Christian apologists who affirm inerrancy without equivocation. Both also have trained themselves to detect error destructive of Christian truth and have active ministries of positive instruction in the faith and debate against error. Second, it has immediate implications for the current turmoil in evangelicalism over Open Theism. Third, these doctrines under discussion reflect the give-and-take of the Southern Baptist theological renewal. Fourth, White presents an argument that corresponds perfectly with the theological concerns of Southern Baptists in the early generations of denominational life.

Geisler’s book prompted the strong response by White in its claim to represent “moderate Calvinism” as opposed to “extreme Calvinism.” Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so is one man’s “moderate Calvinism” another man’s Arminianism. Along the way of defending his moderate version of Calvinism, Geisler seeks to repudiate every distinctive doctrine of Calvinism and replace it with his own stylized theology. James White could not let this redefinition go unchallenged. Not only, according to White, does Geisler give misleading signals with his nomenclature, he badly misrepresents Calvinistic arguments and argues his own case poorly, employing a number of exegetical and logical fallacies.

In this review, I will summarize the polemical strategy of White, evaluate his arguments and interaction with Geisler, and relate the issue to contemporary Southern Baptist life.

Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free [CBF] warned his readers against a system of thought that he considered a “hideous error, … shocking, … hav[ing] a devastating effect on one’s own salvation, … theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” It makes its adherents go through “exegetical contortions.” Geisler names the system that he describes as “extreme Calvinism.” He intends to defend a kinder gentler version of Protestant doctrine that he prefers to call “moderate Calvinism.” [White, 17–19]”

Nettles, T. J. (2001). Review of The Potter’s Freedom: A Defeanse of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free by James R. White. Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 5, 5(1), 90.

“George Bancroft, the historian of the United States, derives the free institutions of America chiefly from Calvinism through the medium of Puritanism. It is certain that, in the colonial period, Calvinism was the most powerful factor in the theology, and religious life of America; but since the close of the eighteenth century, Arminian Methodism fairly divides the field with it and is numerically the strongest denomination in the United States at the present day. The Baptists, who come next in numerical strength, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Dutch and German Reformed rank on the Calvinistic, but the Protestant Episcopalians and Lutherans, predominantly on the Arminian side. The Episcopal Church, however, leaves room for the moderate Calvinism of the Thirty-nine Articles (Art. 17), the high Calvinism of the Lambeth Articles and Irish Articles, and the semi-Catholic tendency of the Prayer-Book. The Lutheran Formula of Concord is Calvinistic in the doctrine of unconditional election of believers and the slavery of the human will, but Arminian in the doctrine of universal atonement and universal vocation, and semi-Catholic in the doctrine of the sacraments (baptismal regeneration and the eucharistic presence).”

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“Until the time of Cromwell (1648–1658) Episcopacy and Presbyterianism vied with each other for supremacy in England. Puritanism really began with the reign of James I (1603–1625) and developed into a war on prelacy. The Anglo-Catholics were ardent supporters of the crown, and besides leaned toward Arminiaism. The Long Parliament (1640–1648) finally abolished Episcopacy, only to call the Westminster Assembly in 1642 to give advice on reconstructing the Church of England. The Independents and Erastians withdrew from this assembly, leaving the Presbyterians to hold the field and draw up the well-known Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a creed embodying moderate Calvinism. There were some members of that body, however, who held that God intended to provide salvation for all and that “world” in John 3:16 means the whole human race, according to the teaching of Amyraut and contrary to strict Calvinism.260 Indeed, this Confession went much farther than the Synod of Dort and quite contrary to the teachings of Calvin, Knox and Luther in asserting that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is a positive, moral and perpetual command.261”

260 Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine, p. 360.
261 Ibid., p. 361.

Stearns, M. B. (1948). Protestant Theology since 1700. Bibliotheca Sacra, 105, 185.


“Jonathan Edwards completely misunderstood the Arminian view of the will confusing it with that of Isaac Watt’s moderate Calvinism, and failed to recognize that the Arminians agreed with his own analysis! The only difference between Edwards and Whitby is in the latter’s denial that man is biased toward evil. If the discussion of the will misses the mark hopelessly, the treatment of the justification issue (Chapter 5) does not reach or even approach the target. The Arminian advocacy of rational supernaturalism is well done without clearly distinguishing between it and the Puritan natural theology except for an imprecise reference to the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit. Wright recognizes, correctly we think, that the acceptance of the monopolistic benevolence of God is crucial to liberal Arminianism (incidentally, he nowhere takes cognizance of a continuing non-liberal orthodox Arminianism) but here, too, he does some injustice to the orthodox view by making its “glory of God” appear to stand over against divine benevolence. “The Salvation of All Men: 1763–1791” may be the most interesting chapter in showing the inevitable tendency of “Arminianism” to this conclusion (as well as the yielding of principle to prudence in the open advocacy of it by such men as Chauncy). It is also sobering to watch the author trace the steady movement of liberalism from an orthodox Christology through Arianism into plain humanism. But Arminian liberals joined forces with the orthodox against the infidelity of Paine and the French Revolution. This delayed their own schism a decade. But come it did with the election of the liberal Henry A. Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1805. When the controversy was over “Arminianism” had become Unitarianism, an implication which is not here developed.”

BETS 10:4 (Fall 1967) p. 246 (1967). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 10(4), 244–246.

“Christ, the Spirit, and salvation. His Christology reflects a thoroughgoing commitment to Chalcedon with attempts to translate the meaning of Chalcedon for contemporary hearers.51 Erickson is extremely dependent on the fourth gospel in developing his Christology while obviously aware of issues surrounding the contemporary and critical discussion.52 The Christological titles are thoughtfully treated, but their significance is not fully developed.

The work of Christ is treated around the themes of “revealer,” “reconciler” and “ruler.”53 The various models of the atonement receive comprehensive attention, but primacy is given to the penal substitution model. Following his moderate Calvinism he rejects particular redemption in favor of a universal atonement with limited efficacy. The decision accounts for a larger segment of the Biblical witness with less distortion than does the theory of particular redemption.54 Among the most impressive of the Biblical statements for Erickson in this regard is 1 Tim 4:10, which affirms that the living God “is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”55 Apparently the Savior has done something for all persons, though it is less in degree than what he has done for those who believe.56 ”

JETS 32:4 (December 1989) p. 529

51 Ibid., 2. 734–738.
52 M. J. Erickson, “Christology from Above and Christology from Below: A Study of Contrasting Methodologies,” in Perspectives on Evangelical Theology (ed. K. S. Kantzer and S. N. Gundry; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 43-55.
53 Erickson, Christian Theology, 2. 762–769.
54 Ibid., 2.811–823.
55 Ibid., 2. 834–835.
56 Ibid.

(1989). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 32(4), 528–529.

“During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Reformed clergy were orthodox in the sense of moderate Calvinism; in the eighteenth century Pietism and the Moravian community exerted a wholesome influence on the revival of spiritual life.2 In the present century about one-half of the clergy have been brought up under the influence of German Rationalism, and preach Christian morality without supernatural dogmas and miracles.

The Protestant movement in the Italian valleys of the Grisons began in the middle of the sixteenth century, but may as well be anticipated here.”

2 On this movement see Munz, Die Bruedergemeinde in Buenden, in “Der Kirclhenfreund,” Basel, Nos. 19–21, 1886. Johann Baptist von Albertini (d. 1831), one of the bishops and hymnists of the Moravians, and a friend of Schleiermacher, descended from a Buenden family.

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, p. 144). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“Bullinger faithfully maintained the doctrine and discipline of the Reformed Church against the Roman Catholics and Lutherans with moderation and dignity. He never returned the abuse of fanatics, and when, in 1548, the Interim drove the Lutheran preachers from the Swabian cities, he received them hospitably, even those who had denounced the Reformed doctrines from the pulpit. He represents the German-Swiss type of the Reformed faith in substantial agreement with a moderate Calvinism. He gave a full exposition of his theological views in the Second Helvetic Confession.”

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, p. 209). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.


Professor of theology of Geneva and representative of a moderate Calvinism. The most distinguished theologian of his name, also called Turretin the younger, to distinguish him from his father François.
“John Calvin was a man whose memory will be blessed to the latest age (vir benedictae in omne aevum memoriae).… He has by his immense labors instructed and adorned not only the Church of Geneva, but the whole Reformed world, so that not unfrequently all the Reformed Churches are in the gross called after his name.”

Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, pp. 276–277). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

“The general features of Systematic Theology by President Chafer make it clear that we have here something entirely different than any previously written theology. For the first time the whole scope of theology is considered from the standpoint of premillennial interpretation. The work is remarkably Biblical. The appeal is constantly to Biblical authority rather than to philosophy, tradition, or creed. There has been proper appreciation of the doctrinal heritage of the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers. The work is in no sense iconoclastic. In the treatment of bibliology and theology proper as well as in later discussions President Chafer quotes extensively with approbation from the best theological statements extant. In general a broad and moderate Calvinism is followed in the theology. The work as a whole definitely belongs within the limits of Reformed theology with certain important additions and qualifications. It is however quite distinct from various restatements of Reformed theology. It is a fresh and creative work, a pioneer in a new field, a gathering together in theological system of an interpretation of Biblical doctrines never before treated in this way. It is essentially an exposition and systematization of premillennial and dispensational theology rather than an apology for it. The doctrines which it contains have been preached in various forms by most of the great premillennial Bible teachers of the last fifty years. For the first time these doctrines have been reduced to a written system of theology, related to theological problems, and expanded into all the fields in which revelation has provided teaching. It provides for all who hold the premillennial interpretation of the Scriptures a systematic statement of the content, implications, and relations of their doctrines. For those who would be instructed in what are the proper inclusions of premillennialism it provides an ordered statement of the doctrine as a whole such as has never been provided in one work before. Regardless what theological position may be assumed by the reader, he will find this work definitive in its field”

Walvoord, J. F. (1948). A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Systematic Theology.” Bibliotheca Sacra, 105, 119–120.

“During the nineteenth century a practical theology that emphasized the human role in the salvation process yet retained Calvinistic nomenclature5 emerged. Retaining the priority of divine activity in the salvation process yet also wishing to accommodate the human response-centered evangelistic practices of the day, this new soteriology synthesized elements of Taylorite6 Holiness and Calvinist Keswick soteriology, thus creating a “moderate Calvinism” that would allow the two traditions to merge.7

The quest for the theological legitimacy of this new system found its most successful expression in the theology of Dallas Theological Seminary and its early leaders.8 Seizing on several key passages that seem to place faith before regeneration, this “moderate Calvinist” position proposed an antecedent work of God9 that renders unbelievers capable of exercising faith that leads to regeneration. This idea found limited acceptance in the practice of both Reformed and dispensational churches, but especially in the latter.10

Despite the considerable acceptance this soteriological ordo salutis has enjoyed within dispensationalist fundamentalism, it has not become a key area of study within the movement. The few contemporary sources that do defend the moderate Calvinist ordo have done so largely from outside this tradition,11 and the nature of these works have yielded a defense that is less than thorough and satisfying. Further, traditional Calvinists have regularly disdained the moderate Calvinist option and eschewed rebuttals of it.12 The result is that a systematic analysis of both positions remains unwritten.

5 The term Calvinist conjures up different ideas for different readers. For the purposes of this article the term Calvinist specifically refers to the acceptance of individual, unconditional election, and the term Arminian to the denial of the same.

6 By this term is meant the American branch of Arminianism aggressively propounded by Nathaniel Taylor (1786–1858) as “New School Presbyterianism,” then popularized through the teachings and evangelistic efforts of Asa Mahan and Charles Finney and perpetuated in their school, Oberlin College (see EDT s.v. “Taylor, Nathaniel William,” by W. A. Hoffecker, p. 1168).

7 In a sense “moderate Calvinism” is a poor choice of terms because it has multiple meanings. Many “three- or four-point” Calvinists adopt the term to distinguish themselves from “five-point” Calvinists. Others, like the Dallas school, use the relationship of regeneration and faith within the ordo salutis as the determining factor in defining “moderate” Calvinism (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. [Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948], 3:184–85; Robert Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1991], pp. 111–12 with p. 154). Still others use the term with extraordinary broadness, including even practical Arminians under this umbrella (Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1999], chap. 7, esp. p. 116). However, no other label has emerged for the position here described, so this article will use the label as defined in this sub-section.

Some would no doubt prefer to see the term “Amyraldian” substituted in place of “moderate Calvinism” in this context (see EDT, s.v. “Amyraldianism,” by Bruce A. Demarest, pp. 53–54, for a brief but helpful discussion of this view). But for three reasons I have declined using this term: (1) very few moderate Calvinists have adopted this label; (2) not all Amyraldians fit squarely into the description here given—Amyraldianism carries other theological “baggage”; and (3) I am not convinced that Amyraldian soteriology is sufficiently distinct from Calvinism to necessitate the forfeiture of the label “Calvinist.”

8 Principally the founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, who, before founding Dallas Seminary, attended Oberlin College and had an itinerant ministry as an evangelistic preacher and musician, most notably with D. L. Moody.

9 Views on the particularity and efficacy of this antecedent work vary among proponents, though Chafer’s position clearly considered this gracious work as individual and efficacious, in contrast to the Arminian view (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:210–17).

10 Dispensationalism is not a monolithic theological system. Dispensationalism does not claim a peculiar expression of bibliology, theology proper, Christology, anthropology, hamartiology, or, despite objections to the contrary, soteriology: it shares these doctrines in common with other theological systems. However, Dallas Theological Seminary sought a dispensational “corner” on soteriology that won the day in many dispensational and fundamentalist circles. So successful were they in this effort that many critics and proponents of dispensationalism have erroneously assumed that the soteriology espoused by the early Dallas school is essential to dispensationalism. See, for instance David R. Anderson’s explicit agreement with R. C. Sproul in his statement, “Regeneration is one of the crux interpretations which distinguishes Reformed theology from Dispensational theology” (“Regeneration: A Crux Interpretum,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 [Autumn 2000]: 46–56). With this statement this author most heartily disagrees.

11 The most articulate include Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 941–59; Gordon R. Lewis & Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987–94), 3:73–107; and Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), pp. 178–91.

12 Robert Reymond’s defense of the traditional Calvinist ordo (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Nelson, 1998], pp. 708–10) is only two pages, as is Wayne Grudem’s (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], pp. 702–4). Other defenses include C. Samuel Storms, Chosen for Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), pp. 101–20; James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom (Amittyville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000), pp. 283–325. In addition to being brief, these treatments are usually designed to combat pure Arminianism, not the moderate Calvinism espoused by Erickson, Demarest, and the Dallas School. In his Willing to Believe (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), pp. 189–204, R. C. Sproul comes close when he engages the soteriology of Chafer, but he ultimately fails to identify what distinguishes Chafer soteriologically from an Arminian.

Snoeberger, M. A. (2002). The Logical Priority of Regeneration to Saving Faith in a Theological Ordo Salutis. Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 7, 7, 50–52.

“This unsatisfactory state of affairs is made worse for those of us who stand in the Calvinistic tradition when we note Geisler’s disposition to retain the label “moderate Calvinism” for his balanced theological identity. This is completely baffling since he utterly repudiates practically everything that historically has been distinctive to classical Calvinism. He rejects four of the five points of classical Calvinism. He redefines predestination so that it ends up devoid of anything distinctively Calvinistic, and he concludes with this broadside to classical Calvinism, declaring it “biblically unfounded, theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient and morally repugnant” (p. 242). Given this rather unflattering assessment, who could possibly want to subscribe to this kind of theology? Geisler acknowledges that what he has dubbed extreme Calvinism amounts to a Who’s Who in the history of Christian theology: Augustine, the Reformers, the post-Reformation scholastics, the Synod of Dort, the vast majority of the English Puritans (William Ames, John Owen, the Westminster Divines), Jonathan Edwards, the Princetonians, Spurgeon, and contemporaries such as the late John Gerstner, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and J. I. Packer. This does not faze Geisler in the slightest. On the contrary, because Geisler declares his allegiance to what he calls eternal security, he insists that he is entitled to call himself a Calvinist. In the course of this review I hope to demonstrate otherwise. Geisler is not a Calvinist.”
RAR 8:4 (Fall 1999) p. 177 (1999). Reformation and Revival, 8(4), 176–177.

“Meanwhile, in New England after 1778, a Free Will Baptist movement challenged the dominant Calvinistic theological views of Baptists of the region. New Hampshire Calvinistic Baptists responded by modifying their views in favor of a moderate Calvinism and issued their Declaration of Faith in 1833. The Free Will Baptists replied the next year with A Treatise on the Faith of the Free Will Baptists. The authors of neither confession thought it important to offer an apology for issuing a confession, neither did they indicate fear lest the confessions take the place of the Scriptures.”

RevExp 76:1 (Winter 1979) p. 25 (1979). Review and Expositor, 76(1), 25.

“As far as the revivals went, therefore, we must conclude that they were not of long duration. What remained of Edwards was the man himself, his many hundreds of sermons in both outline and written form, his books and their defense of a strong Calvinistic theology. His sermons, when read today, are unmoving and the reader may wonder at the excitement they stirred in Northampton. This wonder grows when we realize that although Solomon Stoddard had faithfully prepared the ground for fifty years, his theology was different in application from that of Edwards. Stoddard’s theology was a moderate Calvinism which accepted faith and repentance as an adequate condition of salvation. Edwards rejected this and insisted that even when the condition of faith is met, no person can be sure of salvation unless God pleased it.21 This put God’s sovereignty even above His promises and provoked opposition both in Northampton and beyond. It is despite this, despite his harsh style, despite his solemn and rigid personalty, and despite his emphasis on God’s sovereignty and denigration of human personality that he was amazingly successful in persuading his auditors to change their ways and habits, and succeeded in bringing about such a far-reaching revival.”

21 John H. Gerstner. Steps to Salvation, p. 13.

Evans, W. G. (1967). Jonathan Edwards Puritan Paradox. Bibliotheca Sacra, 124, 56–57.

“Rollin continued by noting that Evangelical offered rigorous education. Machen graciously replied by saying that these reports caused “the deepest concern,” and he assured Rollin that no official representative of Westminster had or would make any such comments. Machen did concede that people had asked him questions concerning the difference between the two seminaries and that he would point out that Evangelical was interdenominational “whereas Westminster Theological Seminary is definitely committed to the Reformed Faith,” and Evangelical was “definitely committed to the premillennial view of the Return of our Lord,” whereas Westminster was not.6 Machen explained that when he spoke about Evangelical, “You would have had the impression that I was speaking of your institution with the utmost possible respect.”7 The exchange ended with Rollin thanking Machen for the letter and the opportunity to clear any false impressions. Rollin concluded by reaffirming his brother’s commitment to Calvinism: “I suppose no seminary in America is more rigidly Calvinistic than we are.”8 He added,

It gives me satisfaction also to note that you are in agreement in the matter of the legitimateness of pointing out the peculiar aims and ideals of our respective schools without casting reflection on the comprehensiveness of the courses and classroom standards. Perhaps the relation of the school to our denomination should be safeguarded from the thought that we are ‘interdenominational’ in the sense that we have a composite theology. We are interdenominational in service only. I suppose no seminary in America is more rigidly Calvinistic than we are. Our largest group of students has always been Presbyterian. The second largest group is Baptist in affiliation. Although we always have a small sprinkling of Methodists, Lutherans, Mennonites, and Episcopalians, they are accepted with the distinct understanding that we teach the theology held by the Premillenarians of the Reformed Faith. Hundreds of prominent Presbyterian ministers of both the U.S.A. and U.S. fellowships have endorsed our work.9

Although Rollin did not refer to Evangelical as a “distinctly a Presbyterian institution” the way his brother did, he still thought of the school as rigidly Calvinistic. Over time that perception would change even on the part of the Chafers, such as when Lewis Sperry admitted in his eight-volume Systematic Theology that his views were a form of “moderate Calvinism” since he did not hold to a limited atonement.10”

6 JGM to RTC, March 16, 1933, MA.
7 Ibid.
8 RTC to JGM, March 25, 1933, MA.
9 Ibid.
10 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1947–48) 3:180, cf. 3:179–88.

Nichols, S. J. (2000). Documentation: A Brief Exchange between Lewis Sperry Chafer and J. Gresham Machen. Westminster Theological Journal, 62(2), 282–283.







The Nature of Human Free Will

The Nature of Human Free Will

The Nature of Human Free Will
“There are three basic logical possibilities regarding the nature of human free choice: determinism, indeterminism, and self-determinism.
Determinism is the view that all human actions are caused by another, not by one’s self. Hard determinism does not allow for any free choice at all. Soft determinism posits free choice but sees it as completely controlled by God’s sovereign power.
Indeterminism is the position that human actions are not caused by anything. They are simply indeterminate.
Self-determinism is the doctrine that human free actions are self-caused, that is, caused by one’s self.12”

12 See also chapter 5.
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (p. 84). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

The Origin of Sin on Earth by Humans

The Origin of Sin on Earth by Humans

“The Origin of Sin on Earth by Humans

The story of the sin of Adam and Eve is infamous. The perfect pair brought imperfection into their perfect paradise.
The Origin of Evil: The Six Causes
In order to enhance our understanding of the nature of human sin, an examination of the six types of causes will be helpful.10 First set forth by Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) and later expanded by the scholastics,11 the six causes are defined (and illustratively applied to the process of constructing a house) as follows:

• Efficient Cause—that by which something comes to be (the carpenter)
• Final Cause—that for which something comes to be (the dwelling in which to live)
• Formal Cause—that of which something comes to be (the house’s form or structure)
• Material Cause—that out of which something comes to be (the building materials)
• Exemplar Cause—that after which something comes to be (the blueprint)
• Instrumental Cause—that through which something comes to be (the tools)

Applying these six causes to Adam and Eve’s sin yields the following results:

• Efficient Cause—person (that by which sin came to be)
• Final Cause—pride (that for which sin came to be)
• Formal Cause—disobedience (that of which sin came to be)
• Material Cause—eating forbidden fruit (that out of which sin came to be)
• Exemplar Cause—none; it was the first human sin (that after which sin came to be)
• Instrumental Cause—power of free choice (that through which sin came to be)”
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 83–84). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

John Cameron Westminster Theological Journal

John Cameron Westminster Theological Journal

1. John Cameron (1580–1625)
The Amyraldian system begins with John Cameron, the beloved and highly esteemed professor of Moyse Amyraut.3 It was his system of universal grace and unlimited atonement, having been presented to Amyraut at Saumur, that was so devoutly embraced and promulgated by the latter.
The system which Cameron instilled to his students came essentially from his schooling at Glasgow, and contains, as would be expected, a number of foreign, if not overtly dissonant, elements with respect to Continental Calvinism. For example, one of those elements teaches basically the same biblical humanism which was encountered in Arminianism, giving impetus to Scripture as the final epistemological authority, allowing for much creativity and innovation in disputed areas.4 Another is even more overtly dissonant, opposing Bze and his Aristotelian philosophy directly, preferring instead the philosophy of Peter Ramus.5
But the most significant element of his system pertaining to the present study concerns a dichotomy Cameron proposes in the divine will between God’s conditional and unconditional will.6 With respect to the former, Cameron suggests that God has universally resolved to restore the image of God in men, sending his Son to save each and every man who believes in him. With respect to the latter, God has specifically decreed to restore certain men to that faith and save only those who believe.7 From his universal love and desire to bring all men to salvation, God has univocally promised salvation to each and every man, if they would only believe, considering the death of Christ as equally applicable to the whole human race.8 Yet since God has added the law that the death of Christ is only good to those who believe,9 his Son’s death is only rendered efficacious for those who exercise that faith.10 Therefore, Cameron is suggesting that in a balanced view of the work of Christ, the cross should be considered as pertaining conditionally, that is, under the condition of faith, to all men aequo, but only in behalf of those who believe absolutely, since they alone enjoy the benefits thereof.11
Nevertheless, this system remains basically Calvinistic, for Cameron still maintains that men, apart from divine grace, are dead in trespasses and sins, and volitionally incapable of responding to God’s gracious provision and fulfilling the required condition.12 God by his absolute will must engender faith internally in certain elected individuals in order to bring any to faith.13 Yet even this orthodoxy is not untainted, due to Cameron’s rationalistic attempt to preserve human freedom in the process. Cameron suggests that the free will of man is not violated here, since the will, being subject to the intellect and following its every dictates, is not the proper locus operandi for the Holy Spirit, but rather the intellect.14 As a result, the sole concern of the Spirit in producing faith is in the intellect, seeing that the illuminatio of this faculty precipitates automatically in enlightenment of the other.15 The orthodox, of course, do not approve of this cooperation with the human will in conversion, and argue that the Holy Spirit is directly involved with all of man’s faculties.16

3 Bayle, Dictionary 1.260; 2.288–89: “He went to study at Saumur, under Cameron, who loved and esteemed him in a particular manner; and he was for a considerable time a Student in Divinity.… It was from him Mr. Amyraut had the Doctrine of Universal Grace, which made so much noise in France.… Never was a scholar filled with a greater Veneration for his Master, than Mr. Amyraut was for Cameron. It is said he imitated him even to the Tone of his Voice and a certain Motion of his Head; and that, when he harangued Lewis XIII, that Prince thought he had a foreign Pronunciation.” Walter Rex, Essays on Pierre Bayle and Religious Controversy (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1965) 99–100. François Laplanche, Orthodoxie et prédication (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965) 59.
4 Ibid. 2.288. Brian Armstrong. Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969) 9, 12, 46, 125.
5 Because he principally polemicized against Bze, du Moulin nicknames him “Bezae Mastyx” (Bayle, Dictionary 2.288). Cf. Armstrong, Calvinism and The Amyraut Heresy 42, 46, 126, 159. For Ramus on Aristotle, Bze, and Calvin, cf. Bayle, Dictionary 4.835, 840–41; Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy, 122ff.
6 John Cameron, Τὰ Σωξόμενα siue opera partim ab auctor ipso edita (Geneve, 1642) 529–31. Such a dichotomy in the divine will is to be considered as attributed to our finitude and does not impugn the true oneness of the divine will in itself. Cf. Moyse Amyraut, L’eschantillon de la doctrine Calvin sur les mesme sviet (Saumur, 1658) 202. This dichotomy between the conditional and unconditional (or antecedent and consequent) will is mentioned in the Middle Ages as early as John of Damascus and was used by some early Calvinists. See Gregorius (Ariminensis), Lectura super pnmum et secundum sententiarum (New York and Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1981–) I, d. 46 et 47, q. 1 (181A); Vermigli, Loci communes (London: Thomas Vautrollerius, 1583) 3.1.45.
7 Ibid., 529: “Primum decretum est de restauranda imagine Dei in creatura, salua tamen Dei iustitia. Secundum est de mittendo Filio, qui seruet omnes & singulos qui in eum credunt, hoc est, qui eius membra sunt. Tertium est de reddendis hominibus idoneis ad credendum. Quartum de seruandis credentibus. Priora duo Decreta generalia sunt, posteriora duo specialia.”
8 Ibid., 534.
9 “Mortales omnes natura sunt captiui, Christus λύτρον pro omnibus soluit, lex addita est, vt ea solutio iis demum prosit qui in Christum credunt” (ibid.). This law of faith is understood here much like the Nominalist’s concept of divine dealings: de potentia absoluta, God could enact any law; de potentia ordinata, he has bound himself to certain laws (Strehle, “Calvinism, Scholasticism, and Federalism” [D.Theol. dissertation, Universitët Basel, 1986]) 199–201.
10 Ibid., 534–35.
11 “Ergo Christi mors, sub fidei conditione, ex aequo ad omnes omnino homines pertinet, verumtamen cum omnes omnino homines non praestent hanc conditionem, & Christus se tantummodo det cum omnibus suis beneficiis fruendum iis qui credunt, hinc fit vt Christus pro certo quodam hominum genere, nempe pro Ecclesia, pro fidelibus, mortuus dicatur in Scriptura. Vno verbo, Christus (vt ita loquamur) pro fidelibus mortuus est absolute, pro omnibus (vt ita loquar) conditionate” (ibid., 389). Cameron states in a famous illustration that the sun shines equally upon all men, but some sleep, while others open their eyes (ibid., 532). Cf. Moyse Amyraut, Brief traité de la prédestination (Saumur, 1658) 113.
12 Cf. Laplanche, Orthodoxie et prédication, 54.
13 Cameron, Τὰ Σωζόμενα, 531: “A secundo gradu antecedentis Amoris est quod Deus fidem dat: hoc ostenditur loco non minus celebri. Nemo venit ad me nisi Pater traxerit eum. Respectu huius posterioris Christus dicitur datus pro Electis tantum, eosque tantum velle seruare.” Laplanche, Orthodoxie et prédication, 51–52.
14 Cf. Walter Rex, Essays on Pierre Bayle (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1965) 92ff. Frederick Calder, Memoirs of Simon Episcopius (New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837) 402.
15 Cameron, Τά Σωξόμενα, 612: “Fides proficiscitur ab illuminatione Spiritus S.”
16 Cf. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978) 521.
Strehle, S. (1989). Universal Grace and Amyraldianism. Westminster Theological Journal, 51(2), 345–348.

 The Amyraldian Scheme Robert Reymond

 The Amyraldian Scheme Robert Reymond

The Amyraldian Scheme
“While all Reformed Christians are committed to the particularistic principle in salvation, some Reformed theologians designated “Amyraldians” after Moise Amyraut (Amyraldus) (1596–1664) of the theological school of Saumur in France who developed the scheme (also known as “hypothetical universalists,” “post-redemptionists,” “ante-applicationists,” and “four-point Calvinists,” for reasons which will become clear later) unite with evangelical universalists in their view of Christ’s cross work and maintain that the Bible teaches that Christ died for all men without exception.29 Here, they maintain, is at least one aspect of the divine activity looking toward the salvation of men which is universal in its design. But how can this universalistic aspect of the divine activity be adjusted to the particularistic aspect of the divine activity which, after all, is the hallmark of the Reformed (or Calvinistic) soteriological vision?
Amyraldian theologians resolve for themselves the tension between soteric particularism on the one hand (which they are convinced the Bible teaches) and the universalistic design of Christ’s cross work on the other (which they are equally convinced the Bible also teaches) by analyzing God’s eternal plan of salvation and by positing a specific arrangement or order for its several parts (or decrees; see fn. 1). This order, they claim, justifies their soteric vision.
The Amyraldian arrangement of the several major elements or decrees of God’s eternal plan of salvation is as follows:
1. the decree to create the world and (all) men
2. the decree that (all) men would fall
3. the decree to redeem (all) men by the cross work of Christ
4. *the election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)
5. the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect.
Even a cursory analysis of the Amyraldian scheme will show that the first three decrees are universal with respect to their referents (thus my insertion of the word “all” in parentheses), with the last two being particular in regard to their referents, the discriminating decree to elect some men to salvation (marked by the *) having been postponed to the fourth position in the scheme, coming immediately after the decree to redeem men (hence the scheme’s name “post-redemptionism”) and immediately before the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits (hence its name “ante-applicationism”).
The decrees of God being so arranged by him, the Amyraldian postulates that in the one “eternal purpose” of God, his first decree pertains to the creation of the world and of all men who would populate it. His second decree pertains to the fall of Adam and in him of all men descending from him by ordinary generation. The third decree pertains to the cross work of Christ, and since no “distinguishing decree” yet appears in the order, the referent of its work is all men without exception or distinction. The Amyraldian contends that the biblical passages that ascribe a universal reference to Christ’s cross work (“all men”—John 12:32; Rom. 5:18; 8:32; 11:32; 2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Tim. 2:5–6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; “world”—John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:19) necessarily reflect an order of the decrees in which the decree to save men by Christ’s cross work precedes any decree to discriminate among men.
Because some biblical passages also clearly mention the fact of election, however, the Amyraldian acknowledges that the election factor must be given a place in the eternal plan of salvation. Therefore, he quite willingly includes it in his scheme, placing the electing decree which discriminates among men after the “cross work decree” (which position, he contends, preserves the cross’s “unlimited” design and justifies the presence of the biblical passages that speak of Christ’s cross work in universal terms) but before the decree concerning its application. Of course, once discrimination is introduced, it must be honored by any subsequent decree. The upshot of the Amyraldian arrangement is that the actual execution of the divine discrimination comes not at the point of Christ’s redemptive accomplishment but at the point of the Spirit’s redemptive application.
While this scheme preserves for the Amyraldian the right to regard himself as “Calvinistic” (since he allows a place for the particularistic principle which is the hallmark of Calvinism), those creedal churches within the Reformed world which have adopted the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession of Faith have uniformly rejected it, for three basic reasons:
1. Amyraldianism is a logically inconsistent form of Calvinism in that its scheme has persons of the Godhead working at cross-purposes with one another: by decree the Son died with the intention to save all men, and by decree the Spirit savingly applies Christ’s saving benefits to some men only. Each person’s labor cancels out the intention of the other’s labor.
2. Because the Son and the Spirit by their respective labors are both simply executing the Father’s “eternal purpose” for them, Amyraldianism implies that either a chronological element, which in effect cancels the eternality of the divine purpose, or an irrational element, which in effect imputes confusion to the divine purpose, resides in the decrees, either element of which assaults the nature of God. Warfield rightly asks:
How is it possible to contend that God gave his Son to die for all men, alike and equally; and at the same time to declare that when he gave his Son to die, he already fully intended that his death should not avail for all men alike and equally, but only for some which he would select (which … because he is God and there is no subsequence of time in his decrees, he had already selected) to be its beneficiaries?30
He answers his own question:
As much as God is God … it is impossible to contend that God intends the gift of his Son for all men alike and equally and at the same time intends that it shall not actually save all but only a select body which he himself provides for it. The schematization of the order of decrees presented by the Amyraldians, in a word, necessarily implies a chronological relation of precedence and subsequence among the decrees [or the other alternative which, as we suggested above, is irrationality within the divine mind—author], the assumption of [either of] which abolishes God.31
3. When it urges that the Bible teaches that both by divine decree and in history Christ’s death, represented by it as unrestricted regarding its referents, was intended to save all men without exception (the doctrine of unlimited atonement), Amyraldianism must necessarily join forces with Arminian universalism which, as we have seen, shares this aspect of its vision32 and turn away altogether from a real substitutionary atonement, “which is as precious to the Calvinist as is his particularism, and for the safeguard of which, indeed, much of his zeal for particularism is due.”33 But this is to wound Christianity as the redemptive religion of God fatally at its heart, for (unless one is prepared to affirm the final universal salvation of all men) one cannot have an atonement of infinite intrinsic saving value and at the same time an atonement of universal extension. One can have one or the other but not both.
If Christ by his death actually propitiated God’s wrath, reconciled God, and paid the penalty for sin (which is what I mean by an atonement of infinite intrinsic value), and if he sacrificially substituted himself for (περί, peri), on behalf of (ὑπέρ, hyper), for the sake of (διά, dia), and in the stead and place of (ἀντί, anti) sinners, then it follows that for all those for whom he substitutionally did his cross work he did all that was necessary to procure their salvation and thus guarantee that they will be saved. But since neither Scripture, history, nor Christian experience will tolerate the conclusion that all men have become, are becoming, or shall become Christians, we must conclude that Christ did not savingly die for all men but for some men only—even God’s elect.34
If, on the other hand, Christ did his work for all men without exception, and if he did not intend its benefits for any one man in any sense that he did not intend it for any and every other man distributively, since again neither Scripture, history, nor Christian experience will allow the conclusion that all men are saved, it necessarily follows that Christ actually died neither savingly nor substitutionally for any man since he did not do for those who are saved anything that he did not do for those who are lost, and the one thing that he did not do for the lost was save them. It also follows necessarily, since Christ by his death actually procured nothing that guarantees the salvation of any man, and yet some men are saved, that the most one can claim for his work is that he in some way made all men salvable. But the highest view of the atonement that one can reach by this path is the governmental view. This view holds that Christ by his death actually paid the penalty for no man’s sin. What his death did was to demonstrate what their sin deserves at the hand of the just Governor and Judge of the universe, and permits God justly to forgive men if on other grounds, such as their faith, their repentance, their works, and their perseverance, they meet his demands. This means, of course, that the actual salvation of those who are saved is ultimately rooted in and hangs decisively upon something other than the work of him who alone is able to save men, namely, in something that those who are saved do themselves in their own behalf. But this is just to eviscerate the Savior’s cross work of all of its intrinsic saving worth and to replace the Christosoteric vision of Scripture with the autosoteric vision of Pelagianism

29 See Roger R. Nicole, “Amyraldianism,” in The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Wilmington, Del.: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1964), 1:184–93. Amyraut’s view goes back to his tutor, John Cameron (1580–1626), minister of the Reformed church at Bordeaux, who served in a professorial capacity in the schools of Saumur and Montauban and finally in the University of Glasgow. In his Eschantillon de la doctrine de Calvin touchant la predestination (1636), Amyraut claimed that Calvin espoused universal atonement. Contemporary Amyraldians also maintain that their position is essentially that of John Calvin (but see chapter 18, fn. 3).
30 Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, 94.
31 Ibid., 94.
32 See H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1959), 2:246–47.
33 Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, 94.
34 See part three, chapter eighteen, “The Divine Design Behind the Cross Work of Christ,” for fuller argument.
Reymond, R. L. (1998). A new systematic theology of the Christian faith (pp. 475–479). Nashville: T. Nelson.



Molinism. Molinism is a view of the relation between God’s grace and human free will, emanating from the Spanish Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina (1535–1600). Molina asserted that God has a special kind of foreknowledge of human free acts, which are the basis of God’s gracious gift of salvation. Molinism was widely adopted by Jesuits and opposed by Dominicans. After examination by a special congregation in Rome (1598–1607), both views were allowed in Catholic schools.
An Exposition of Molinism. According to Molinism, God has three kinds of knowledge: natural, middle, and free (Craig, The Only Wise God, 131).
Natural knowledge is God’s knowledge of all possible worlds. This knowledge is essential to God. It is concerned with the necessary and the possible.
Free knowledge is God’s knowledge of this actual world. After a free act of his will, God knows these things absolutely, but such knowledge is not essential to God.
Middle knowledge or scientia media is the distinctive of Molinism. God cannot know future free acts in the way he knows other things. God knows some things absolutely, but future free acts are known only contingently. “God, from a most profound and inscrutable comprehension of every free will in His essence, has intuited what each, according to its innate liberty, would do if placed in this or that condition” (Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, 460; see Free Will). Unlike natural knowledge, this middle or intermediate knowledge is in some sense dependent on what free creatures choose to do. God’s omniscience “waits” to see what a free creature does “before” he selects those who will be saved. Since God is eternal, the sequence is only logical, not chronological.
Arguments for Middle Knowledge. Argument from three states of affairs. One argument for scientia media is that there are three kinds of knowledge in God because there are three possible states of affairs. Between the merely possible and the necessary there is the contingent (free). Since God knows all future states, it follows that he must know them in the way in which they are (as three). Future free acts are contingent. God must know future free acts by way of an intermediate knowledge that is neither necessary nor merely possible, but is contingent on the way free creatures will choose.
Argument from the order of knowing. Logically, an event must occur before it can be true. It must be true before God can know it is true. God cannot know as true what is not yet true. Hence, God must wait (from a logical standpoint) the occurrence of free acts before he can know they are true.
Argument from the nature of truth. Truth corresponds to reality. God cannot know anything as true unless it actually has occurred. Since future free acts have not actually occurred, God’s knowledge of them is dependent on their occurrence. Since their occurrence is contingent, God’s knowledge of them is contingent.
Avoiding fatalism. A fourth argument is that middle knowledge is the only way to avoid fatalism. Theological fatalism holds that all things are predetermined necessarily, including what we call “free acts.” But if we are truly free, then some things do not happen necessarily but contingently, upon free choices. But if some events are contingent, God’s knowledge of them cannot be necessary. God must know what will be freely chosen to occur.
In addition, Molinists see great benefits to their view in explaining predestination, God’s providence, the problems of evil (see Evil, Problem of), and even hell. “In the logical moment prior to creation, God had no idea how many would be saved and how many lost,” according to one supporter (Craig, Ibid., 145–46). With regard to predestination, “the very act of selecting a world to be created is a sort of predestination. The person in that world who God knew would respond most certainly will respond and be saved. . . . Of course, if they were to reject his grace, God’s middle knowledge would have been different. . . . As for the unsaved, the only reason they are not predestined is that they freely reject God’s grace” (ibid., 136). The cost of having a certain number of elect is to have a certain number who will be lost. God so ordered things providentially that those who are lost would not have chosen Christ in any case (ibid., 148, 150).
Biblical Arguments for Molinism. Biblical arguments for Molinism are based on passages such as 1 Samuel 23:6–13 and Matthew 11:20–24. God knew that if David were to remain in the city, Saul would come to kill him. So if God’s answers through the ephod are taken to be simple foreknowledge, his knowledge was false. What was predicted did not happen. Only if the answers are taken as what would happen under certain freely chosen circumstances were they true. This would indicate that God had contingent knowledge of them. In Matthew 11 Jesus asserts that the ancient cities he mentions would have repented if they had seen Jesus’ miracles. But this makes sense only if God’s knowledge is contingent on what they would have done.
Evaluation. Molinism assumes that God must “wait” to know things are true. But God is eternal, and an eternal perspective knows things “before” they occur in time. God knows things in eternity, not in time. All things preexist in their ultimate cause (God). So God knows things in himself from all eternity. He does not have to “wait” to know them.
Truth is correspondence to reality. But the reality to which God’s knowledge corresponds is his own nature, by which he eternally and necessarily knows all things as they preexist in him. God’s knowledge is not dependent on waiting for the effect to occur in time. The effect preexists most eminently in its Cause, so God knows all things that will happen most perfectly in himself “before” they happen in time.
God’s Knowledge Is Not Contingent. God’s knowledge is not dependent on the conditions of the object known. If what God knows is contingent, then he must know it contingently. But since God is a Necessary Being, he must know everything in accordance with his own nature, necessarily. Since God is eternal, all of his knowledge is intuitive, eternal, and necessary. Since his being is independent, and he must know in accord with his independent nature, it follows that God’s knowledge is not dependent in any way.
Fatalism Is Not Necessary. Molinism is not the only alternative to fatalism. God can have necessary knowledge of contingent acts. He can know for sure what will happen freely. Just because he has certainty about an event does not mean that it does not occur freely. The same event can be necessary from the vantage point of God’s knowledge and free from the standpoint of human choice (see Determinism, Free Will). If God is omniscient, then he knows everything, including the fact that Judas would betray the Christ. If Judas had not betrayed Christ, God would have been wrong about what he knew. But that does not mean Judas was coerced. For God knew certainly that Judas would betray Christ freely. Just as prerecorded television news segments are of events that cannot be changed but were freely chosen, so God in his omniscience sees the future with the same certainty with which he sees the past.
One can hold the same solution to theological mysteries without being a Molinist. God’s knowledge of the future can be necessary without any event being forced. The mysteries of predestination and providence are explained better by denying any contingency in God’s knowledge of them, since fatalism does not follow from denying Molinism (see Determinism; Free Will).
That God knows what people would have done under different conditions is not inconsistent with his knowledge being necessary. He simply knew with necessity what would have happened if people had chosen differently.ons is not inconsistent with his knowledge being necessary. He simply knew with necessity what would have happened if people had chosen differently.
Evaluation. Thomists and Calvinists have strongly opposed Molinism as a denial of both the independence and grace of God.
According to Thomism, God is Pure Actuality; he has no passive potency at all (see Analogy, Principle of; Aristotle; God, Nature of; Thomas Aquinas). If God had potency he would need a cause. But since he is the ultimate cause of all things, God is without potency (see God, Nature of). If Molinism is correct, then God is the passive recipient of the knowledge of free acts. God’s “middle knowledge” is dependent on the events actually occurring. The great “I Am” becomes the “I Can Be.” This implies a passivity that God as Pure Actuality cannot have. Hence, Molinism is contrary to the nature of God.
God Becomes an Effect. Another statement of the difficulty is that either God’s knowledge is completely causal, determining all events, or it is determined by these events. There is no third alternative. Molinists say that God’s knowledge is determined by future free acts. This sacrifices God as ultimate Cause. He is determined by events, not Determiner. This is contrary to the nature of God, for he becomes an epistemological spectator (ibid., 107).
Efficacious Grace Is Denied. Another objection is that Molinism denies God’s efficacious grace in salvation. All that God wills comes to pass without our freedom being infringed upon. “He wills efficaciously that we freely consent and we do freely consent” (ibid., 401). Only in this way can God’s grace be efficacious. God is the active Author of salvation (ibid., 398). As Aquinas says, “If God’s intention is that this man, whose heart he is moving, shall receive sanctifying grace, then that man receives grace infallibly.” God’s intention cannot fail, and the saved are saved infallibly (certissime, says Augustine; ibid., 111).
While agreeing on the efficacious nature of grace, Thomists part company with strong Calvinists at this point. For Thomists, free creatures retain the power to choose not to follow God when God graciously and efficaciously moves them to choose according to his predetermined will. Strong Calvinists teach that this movement by the Holy Spirit in the Heart of the person choosing is irresistible. If it is God’s will, that person will respond because the Spirit quickens the heart. Thomists insist that, “far from forcing the act, far from destroying . . . freedom, the divine motion instead actualized . . . freedom. When efficacious grace touches the free will, that touch is virginal, it does no violence, it only enriches” (ibid., 110). However, this is not essential to the anti-Molinist view. God’s knowledge could be determinative of a free act without his causing the free act himself. This view was held by the early Augustine and moderate Calvinists (see Geisler).
W. Craig, The Only Wise God
———, Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingency from Aristotle to Suarez
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, God: His Existence and His Nature
———, Predestination
———, Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought
———, The One God
N. Geisler in Basinger, Predestination and Free Will
L. De Molina, On Divine Foreknowledge
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles
———, Summa Theologica

Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (pp. 493–495). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

The Volitional Effects of Adam’s Sin

The Volitional Effects of Adam’s Sin

“The Volitional Effects of Adam’s Sin

In addition to Adam’s sin affecting his relationship with God, other human beings, and the environment, it also had an effect on his will.

Free Will Before the Fall
The power of free choice is part of humankind having been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply their kind (1:28) and to refrain from eating the forbidden fruit (2:16–17). Both of these responsibilities imply the ability to respond. As noted above, the fact that they ought to do these things implied that they could do them.
The text narrates their choice, saying, “She took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Gen. 3:6). God’s condemnation of their actions makes it evident that they were morally free to choose (Gen. 3:11, 13).
The New Testament references to Adam’s action make it plain that he made a free choice for which he was responsible. Again, Romans 5 calls it “sin” (v. 16); a “trespass” (v. 15); and “disobedience” (v. 19). First Timothy 2:14 (RSV) refers to Eve as a “transgressor,” pointedly implying culpability.

Free Will After the Fall
Even after Adam sinned and became spiritually “dead”22 (Gen. 2:17; cf. Eph. 2:1) and thus, a sinner because of “[his] sinful nature” (Eph. 2:3), he was not so completely depraved that it was impossible for him to hear the voice of God or make a free response: “The LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid’ ” (Gen. 3:9–10).23 As already noted, God’s image in Adam was effaced but not erased by the Fall; it was corrupted (damaged) but not eliminated (annihilated). Indeed, the image of God (which includes free will) is still in human beings—this is why the murder or cursing of anyone, Christian or non-Christian, is sin, “for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6).24
Fallen Descendants of Adam Have Free Will
Both Scripture and good reason inform us that depraved human beings have the power of free will. The Bible says that fallen humans are ignorant, depraved, and slaves of sin—all involving choice. Peter speaks of depraved ignorance as being “willingly” ignorant (2 Peter 3:5 KJV). Paul teaches that unsaved people perceive the truth, but they willfully “suppress” it (Rom. 1:18–19),25 so that they are, as a result, “without excuse” (v. 20). He adds, “Don’t you know that when you offer your selves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16). Even our spiritual blindness is a result of the choice not to believe.
With respect to initiating or attaining salvation, both Martin Luther and John Calvin were right—fallen humans are not free with regard to “things above.”26 Salvation is received by a free act of faith (John 1:12; Eph. 2:8–9), yet it does not find its source in our will but in God (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16). With respect to the freedom of accepting God’s gift of salvation, the Bible is clear: fallen beings have the ability to so do, since God’s Word repeatedly calls upon us to receive salvation by exercising our faith (cf. Acts 16:31; 17:30; 20:21).
Thus, the free will of fallen human beings is both “horizontal” (social) with respect to this world and “vertical” (spiritual) with respect to God. The horizontal freedom is evident, for instance, in our choice of a mate: “If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). This freedom is described as having “no constraint,” a freedom where one has “authority over his own will” and where one “has decided this in his own heart” (v. 37 NASB). This is also described in an act of giving “entirely on their own” (2 Cor. 8:3) as well as being “spontaneous and not forced” (Philem. 14).
The vertical freedom to believe is everywhere implied in the gospel call (e.g., cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31; 17:30). That is, humans are offered salvation as a gift (Rom. 6:23) and called upon to believe it and accept it (John 1:12). Never does the Bible say, “Be saved in order to believe”; instead, repeatedly, it commands, “Believe in order to be saved.”27 Peter describes what is meant by free choice in saying that it is “not under compulsion” but “voluntarily” (1 Peter 5:2 NASB). Paul depicts the nature of freedom as an act where one “purposed in his heart” and does not act “under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7 NASB). In Philemon 14 he also says that choice is an act of “consent” and should “not be … by compulsion, but of your own free will” (NASB).
Unsaved people have a free choice regarding the reception or rejection of God’s gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23). Jesus lamented the state of those who rejected Him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37). John affirmed, “All who received him [Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Indeed, as we have frequently observed, God desires that all unsaved people will change their mind (i.e., repent), for “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Like the alternatives of life and death that Moses gave to Israel, God says, “Choose life” (cf. Deut. 30:19). Joshua said to his people: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). God sets morally and spiritually responsible alternatives before human beings, leaving the choice and responsibility to them. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day: “If you do not believe that I am … you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24), which implies they could have and should have believed.
Over and over, “belief” is declared to be something we are accountable to embrace: “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69); “Who is he, sir?… Tell me so that I may believe in him” (John 9:36); “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him” (John 9:38); “Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe’ ” (John 10:25). This is why Jesus said, “Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).”
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 128–130). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Moderate Calvinism Free Will

Moderate Calvinism Free Will

Answering Extreme Calvinism on Human Free will
Can Everyone Believe?
Contrary to the extreme Calvinist view, faith is not a gift that God offers only to some (“the elect”). All are responsible to believe, and whoever decides to believe can believe:32 Jesus said, “Everyone who believes in [me] will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 nlt). He added, “Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned” (v. 18).
Some, however, have objected that if everyone (or anyone) can believe, then how can John 12:37–40 be explained?
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”33 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”34
The answer is found in the context.
First, belief was obviously their responsibility, since God held them responsible for not believing. As John himself records, “They still would not believe in him.”
Second, Jesus was speaking to hardhearted Jews, people who had seen numerous indisputable miracles35 and who had been called upon repeatedly, before this point, to believe (cf. John 8:24–26). This manifests the fact that they were able to do so.
Third, and finally, it was their own stubborn unbelief that caused their blindness. Jesus had already said to them, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (8:24). Thus, their blindness was chosen and avoidable.
Can Anyone Believe Unto Salvation Without God’s Special Grace?
Even though faith is possible for the unsaved, nonetheless, no one can believe unto salvation36 without the aid of God’s special grace. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Paul adds, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Cor. 15:10). Jesus promises, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul confessed, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). Indeed, David acknowledged to God, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chron. 29:14).
However, although no one can believe unto salvation without the aid of God’s saving grace, the gracious action by which we are saved is not monergistic (an act of God alone) but synergistic (an act of God and our free choice). Salvation comes from God, but it is received by our cooperation; as we have noted, His grace is not exercised on a passive object but on an active agent. Again, Augustine said,
God is said to be “our Helper”; but nobody can be helped who does not make some effort of his own accord. For God does not work out salvation in us as if he were working in insensate stones, or in creatures in whom nature has placed neither reason nor will. (OFSB, 2.28)
The difference between the extreme and moderate Calvinistic position on the need for God’s grace for our salvation can be summarized as follows:
Sovereignty and Free will?
God’s sovereignty and human freedom: Is it either one or the other, or is it both one and the other? The Bible says both. Earlier we saw that on the one hand God is sovereign over all things, including human events and choices.37 Nothing catches Him by surprise, and nothing is outside His control. On the other hand, in this chapter we have seen that human beings possess the God-given power of free will.38 This applies to many earthly elements here “below” as well as to some heavenly elements from “above,” specifically our reception of God’s magnificent salvation.
The mystery of the relationship between divine sovereignty and human free will has challenged the greatest Christian thinkers down through the centuries. Unfortunately, some have purged human responsibility in order to seemingly preserve divine prerogative. Likewise, others have sacrificed God’s sovereignty in order to hold on to humanity’s free choice. Each of these alternatives is wrong and leads to subsequent error.39

32 Whether or not saving faith itself is a gift from God is an intramural debate among those opposed to extreme Calvinism. Certainly the Bible is lacking in clear verses demonstrating that it is (see chapter 16). Nevertheless, even if saving faith to believe is a gift, then it is one offered to all and can be freely accepted or rejected (see chapters 7 and 10). Jacob Arminius (1560–1609) also spoke of “the gift of faith,” but he added that it must be “received” by free will (WJA, 2.52.27). When Paul refers to “the gift of faith” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:9), he is not speaking of a gift to unbelievers enabling them to be saved (by exercising salvific faith), but rather a spiritual gift to some believers that empowers them to trust God for the common good of the body (cf. vv. 7, 12). With this the vast majority of Church Fathers have agreed.”

33 From Isaiah 53:1
34 From Isaiah 6:10
35 Including the resurrection of Lazarus—see John 11
36 That is, have saving faith.
37 See Volume 2, chapter 22.
38 See also chapter 3.
39 See Volume 2, chapter 8.
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 135–137). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.




Among evangelicals, there are at least four views on the topic of eternal security. We will briefly describe each before examining the related biblical data. There are some substantial intramural discrepancies; the two basic views, of course, are Calvinist and Arminian—the former affirms eternal security and the latter denies it.

In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, perseverance means:

They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (17.1)

In other words, all who are truly regenerate will enjoy eternity with God—“once saved, always saved.”
Strong Calvinism on the Assurance of Salvation

Strong Calvinists believe in the security of the elect. Nevertheless, they cannot, at present, be absolutely sure that they are among the elect. Each person, it is argued, can only prove his or her election by persevering to the end.
Moderate Calvinism on the Assurance of Salvation

Moderate Calvinists hold that they are eternally secure and can be presently sure of it. Hence, they claim to have both eternal security and present assurance.
Classical Arminianism on the Assurance of Salvation

Those who believe salvation can be lost are called Arminians. They are divided into two basic camps: Classical Arminians, who follow Jacob Arminius (1560–1609), and Wesleyan Arminians, who follow John Wesley (1703–1791). Classical Arminians maintain that a saved person can lose salvation but only by the sin of apostasy—a complete denial of Christ. Once someone has apostasized, he can never be saved again.
Wesleyan Arminianism on the Assurance of Salvation

Wesleyan Arminians argue that salvation can be lost through any serious intentional sin. John Wesley addressed the issue in several places: “I cannot believe … that there is a state attainable in this life from which a man cannot finally fall” (J [Aug. 1743] in WJW, 1.427); “I find no general promise in holy writ ‘that none who once believes shall finally fall’ ” (“PCC” in ibid., 9.242); “On this authority [Ezek. 18:24], I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly” (“STPS” in ibid., 9.28). However, unlike classical Arminians, Wesleyans hold that one can regain salvation by repentance of that sin.
A Final Contrast

Ironically, Arminians and strong Calvinists have much in common on this issue. Both assert that professing believers living in gross, unrepentant sin are not truly saved. Both insist that a person cannot be living in serious sin at the end of his life if he is truly saved. And both maintain that no one living in grave sin can be sure of his salvation.”
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 301–302). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.



Moderate Calvinism has been held by protestants for many years. There have been different labels. None the less all pointing to a balanced theology between Calvinism and Arminianism


As observed above, humans—Adam and Eve after the Fall, as well as all of their natural descendants—are totally and wholly depraved. Just how far this depravity extends (and therefore what is meant by “total depravity”) has been a matter of theological dispute for centuries. A brief survey of the various views on total depravity will be helpful before making a determination.

The Pelagian perspective on human depravity emanates from the British monk Pelagius (c. 354–c. 420), whose alleged views (and/or those of his followers) on the matter were condemned by the Council of Carthage (416–418). He and/or his followers held that human beings are born innocent, just as Adam was created. In this state they are able to obey God, since they inherit no sin from Adam and did not sin “in Adam” (cf. Rom. 5) but instead sin like Adam. The only thing, then, that Adam bequeathed to us is a bad example.
According to Pelagianism, only our own sins are imputed to us (rather than both our sins and Adam’s). Spiritual and eternal death can only be activated by one’s personal sins. Even our physical death is not the result of Adam’s sin, as his sin was not transmitted to us. Allegedly, humans were simply created mortal; the original image of God is untarnished from the time of creation, and no grace is needed for salvation, which can be attained by our unaided free choice.

This view gets it name from Jacob (James) Arminius (1560–1609), a Reformed theologian from Holland, although “Arminianism” also bears resemblance to a view called semi-Pelagianism. However, the popular version of what we know today as “Arminianism” springs from John Wesley (1703–1791) and is more properly called “Wesleyanism.”50
Since subviews in the overall Arminian camp differ significantly, it is difficult to point to a single person who held to all the elements listed here. Even so, a general Arminian view of depravity, in contrast to Pelagianism, maintains that all people are born depraved and cannot on their own power obey God. Each human was either potentially or seminally in Adam when he chose evil, and, hence, he or she is born with a corrupt nature, under the stigma of Adam’s sin.
Arminianism (Wesleyanism) believes that all human beings are born with both the bent toward sin and the unavoidability of physical death; and should they not repent of their sins, they will die eternally. The image of God in humans is so effaced that they need His grace to overcome it and to move in His direction, as He alone can save them. In contrast to the insistence of extreme Calvinism, however, God’s grace does not work irresistibly on all (or on the elect only). Rather, God’s grace works sufficiently on all, awaiting their free cooperation before it becomes savingly (salvifically) effective. H. Orton Wiley (1877–1961) was a theologian in the Arminian (Wesleyan) tradition, as was Richard Watson (1781–1833) before him.
Moderate Calvinism

Unlike Arminianism, moderate Calvinism holds that we inherit a judicial guilt from Adam’s sin and that we are legally (and/or naturally) connected to him. As a result of Adam’s choice for evil, all human beings, apart from salvation, suffer spiritual death and will undergo both physical and eternal death. Further, God’s grace is not merely sufficient for all; it is efficient for the elect. In order for God’s grace to be effective, there must be cooperation by the recipient on whom God has moved.
In common with strong Calvinism,51 moderate Calvinism maintains that all human beings sinned in Adam, either legally or naturally, and that we all inherit a sinful nature—Adam’s guilt is imputed to all his posterity. This guilt can only be overcome by God’s saving grace, which, according to moderate Calvinism, is irresistible only on the willing.
Strong Calvini