An Internet search on this subject reveals that widespread disinformation about what the Bible actually says is being disseminated by advocates, most often non-experts, such that an unbiased exegetical review is made necessary.
God’s Intent in Creation
From the start, Scripture describes God’s intent in terms of procreation, in which not only humans but animals naturally pair up, male with female.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Natural Pairing Continued for Procreation
As Noah received commandments regarding the Ark, species or “families” (“kind”), including humans, were still perceived in terms of complementary pairs of animals, one of each gender, able to produce offspring.
Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
Christ’s Teaching on God’s Original Intent for Marriage
In speaking of marriage and divorce, Jesus framed the subject in terms of God’s original intent: one man and one woman, for life.
Matthew 19:3 (parallel Mark 10:2-9.) The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Sexual Conduct Established by Law
The Law of Moses codified acceptable behavior in order to establish God’s people as a Godly nation, his representatives among Pagans, outlining rules of conduct and punishments for transgressions. Some of the most grievous infractions included sorcery, necromancy, adultery, prostitution, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. Scholars theorize that male homosexual prostitutes were sometimes referred to as “dogs,” possibly including Revelation 22:15 and Philippians 3:2 (which obviously do not refer literally to canines).
Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. 23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spew not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spewed out the nations that were before you. 29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Deuteronomy 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.
Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Philippians 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
Sexual Conduct Laws Periodically Enforced and Idolatry Banished
Homosexuality recurred within Israel in spite of the Law, due to lax enforcement and the outside influence of Pagan peoples, sometimes prompting reforming kings of Israel to crack down on this behavior.
1 Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1 Kings 15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
2 Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove [Pagan shrine].
Two Notorious Instances of Intended Homosexual Rape and Their Outcome
Neither of these attempts were successful, as such, the first averted by divine intervention, the second unfortunately leading to a woman’s death so brutal that the offending tribe, Benjamin, was nearly annihilated by the other tribes in retribution. (It is hard today to understand how the laws of the time regarding hospitality could be so compelling that a householder would protect a guest even at the expense of his own womenfolk, but such seems to be the case.) The Hebrew term “know” (YADA) is used not only in terms of cognizance but also to describe intimate relations, e.g., “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived . . .” (Genesis 4:1).
Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.
Judges 19:22 Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered.
Sodom and Gomorrah became a Byword for Sexual Sin and Its Judgment
More than that, comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah became a metaphor for any place whose people are deserving of God’s especial wrath (the list below is not exhaustive).
Isaiah 13:19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jeremiah 23:14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;
According to Jesus, Sodom and Gomorrah Have but One Mitigating Virtue
Since those cities and certain others had not known God, heard the Gospel, or received God’s witness, their punishment would not be as great as those who hear the Gospel and still reject Jesus Christ.
Matthew 10:14 (par. Mark 6:11) And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Luke 10:12 (par. Matthew 11:23-24) But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. 13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. 16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
“They Are without Excuse,” Romans 1:26-32
Paul the Apostle was born in Tarsus of Cilicia and traveled widely in the Greco-Roman world, hence was well-versed in the activities of Pagan cultures and uniquely qualfied to evaluate them. Here Paul clearly singles out Lesbianism as well as male Homosexuality as behaviors for which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Rom 1:18), and for which, since “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made . . . they are without excuse” (1:20).
Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Persons Involved in Certain Behaviors “Shall Not Inherit the Kingdom,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
The words that are challenged by advocates are “effeminate” (fr. μαλακός, malakos) and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (fr. ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoitēs).
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The advocates are correct that malakos means “soft” and does not always refer to persons. In Matthew 11:8 (par. Luke 7:25), Jesus asks rhetorically in regard to John the Baptist, “What went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” and indeed malakos is used of things such as clothing that are delicate or “dainty.” Here Jesus expresses irony, since John was known to have worn camel’s hair and a leather belt, a marked contrast to dainty clothing.
So far, one might surmise that Paul is saying that people who wear delicate clothing are sinners. But in contemporary literature, as well as Paul’s usage, “dainty” becomes a substantive for persons who dress in a feminized manner, and in fact it is the term of choice for men who take on the feminized, passive, submissive role in a homosexual encounter or relationship (also a catamite or “beloved” in a pederastic relationship). Any doubt that such is the case is dispelled by the word that follows.
Arsenokoitēs is, according to Bauer’s Lexicon and other sources, a compound of arsēn, “male,” and koitē, “bed.” In addition to the obvious connotation of the combination of these terms, in contemporary Greek as in modern English, a reference to “bed” served as a euphemism for sexual activity. It was the arsenokoitēs who undertook the active or dominant role in the homosexual act. Polycarp (A.D. 80–167) echoed Paul’s sentiments in the same words, saying,
Polycarp 5:3 …. For it is a good thing to refrain from lusts in the world, for every lust warreth against the Spirit, and neither whoremongers nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men shall inherit the kingdom of God, neither they that do untoward things. ….
“Such Were Some of You”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11), until their repentance and conversion, having afterward laid aside participation in all such activities. While it remains that “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) and “the recompense of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), Jesus ushered in a new era of grace and deferred (rather than immediate and final) judgment for sin. In John 8:3 ff., Jesus forced those who had arrested a woman caught in the act of adultery, intent on her execution, to acknowledge that they had all sinned and needed grace themselves. In Matthew 5:27 ff. he asserted that entertaining sinful thoughts makes people as guilty as following through with sinful acts; or more specifically, a man who lusted after a woman had “already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Hence one concludes, first, that everyone is tempted, which is not in itself a sin, but one must “flee” from it (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22) rather than entertaining it; and second, that conquering temptation through faith, with a will, anyone can be saved and restored to communion with God. Jesus bestowed forgiveness upon the adulterous woman for past sins, but admonished her to “Go, and sin no more.” Likewise, Jesus told a certain man, “Sin no more, lest something worse come upon you” (John 5:14).
John 8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Law Is Necessary for the Lawless, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Arsenokoitēs appears again as “them that defile themselves with mankind,” situated just after pornē (“whoremonger,” “fornicator”).
1 Timothy 1:9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
Parallel Lists of Condemned Activities
Paul provides other parallel lists of grievous sins to be abandoned, but which do not include the specific terms for homosexual activity described above. Note that all sexual activity outside the bounds of lawful matrimony is classed as adultery, fornication, or some more specific variation.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Copyright © 2015 Paul A. Hughes
Compiled by Paul A. Hughes, M.Div
Note: This collection of scriptures was first published during the 1992 presidential election. A few additions have been made. If only these warnings from Scripture had been more heeded back then, and since, by Christians of all types who decided to vote their own preference instead of God’s! Think, in particular, what better appointments would have been made to the Supreme Court, had truly Christian presidents and other leaders been elected.
As another crucial election approaches, it is important to emphasize the need for Christians to vote according to their Christian convictions.
Some Christians think it is somehow “unspiritual” to participate in molding and influencing our nation through politics. Others have bought the secular line that Christians should keep their religion separate from their politics.
However, it is not only the right but the solemn responsibility of all Christians to exploit every means to influence the world, including electing men of truth, justice, and character to their government, calling all their leaders to accountability, and punishing those who violate the public trust.
Now I cannot tell anyone else for whom to vote [though perhaps I ought to have done so, in retrospect], but I would like to offer a selection of scriptures we should all ponder before we vote. These scriptures speak for themselves [or so I had hoped].
Seek the Nation’s Welfare
“Seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in its peace shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).
“Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23).
“I exhort, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Seek Freedom of Worship
“Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the LORD. . . but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD” (Exodus 8:29).
“For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9).
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).
The World is Ignorant of God’s Truth
“The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Choose God, Not Self-Interest
“No man can serve two masters . . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon (i.e., money)” (Matthew 6:24).
“If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served . . . or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
“See I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. . . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19).
“Seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:29-31).
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Declare a Public Testimony
“Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18).
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
“For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:28).
“For a long time, then, they abode there, speaking boldly in the Lord, who gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word . . . And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29, 31).
“And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” (Acts 13:49).
Do Not Aid Sinners in Their Cause
“Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them who hate the Lord? Therefore, there is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2).
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10-11).
“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Luke 11:23).
Stand Against Evil
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
“Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).
Beware of Deceivers
“Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6, see also 4:14).
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
“For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Distrust Human Counsel
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12).
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the lord, who take counsel, but not of me; and who cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isaiah 30:1).
“We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold, trouble!” (Jeremiah 8:15).
“They say still unto those who despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you” (Jeremiah 23:17, see also Ezekiel 13:10, 16).
Seek God for Guidance
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk in it, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).
“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
©2015 Paul A. Hughes
The following is an excerpt from the journal article, “On the Construction of Romans ix. 5,” by Ezra Abbott (Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, vol. 1 (1881):87-154), p. 114. Theologically, equating the person of Christ with the person of God the Father (= Yahweh/Jehovah), without qualification, is erroneous and wrong-headed, confusing as it does the fundamental relationships of the Trinity, within which concept is couched God’s purposes regarding law versus grace, sin versus propitiation, judgment versus Justification, and condemnation versus Redemption. God had his reasons for sending his Son, rather than himself, to declare the Father and die for forgiveness of sin.
It is important to observe, in general, that in respect to the application to Christ of the name “God,” there is a very wide difference between the usage not only of Paul, but of all the New Testament writers, and that which we find in Christian writers of the second and later centuries. There is no clear instance, in which any New Testament writer, speaking in his own person, has called Christ God. In John i. 18 the text is doubtful; and in I John v. 20 the [HOUTOS] more naturally refers to the leading subject in what precedes, namely, [TON ALETHINON], and is so understood by the best grammarians, as Winer and Buttmann, and by many eminent Trinitarian commentators (see above, p. 19). In John i. I [THEOS] is the predicate not of the historical Christ, but of the antemundane Logos. The passages which have been alleged from the writings of Paul will be noticed presently.
But it may be said that even if there is no other passage in which Paul has called Christ God, there are many in which the works and the attributes of God are ascribed to him, and in which he is recognized as the object of divine worship; so that we ought to find no difficulty in supposing that he is here declared to be “God blessed for ever.” It may be said in reply, that the passages referred to do not authorize the inference which has been drawn from them; and that if they are regarded as doing so, the unity of God would seem to be infringed. A discussion of this subject would lead us out of the field of exegesis into the tangled thicket of dogmatic theology . . . .
The following is a preview excerpted from Chapter 2, entitled, “. . . Was the Logos,” of the upcoming book, The Fullness That Fills: The Unifying Principle of Biblical Revelation by Paul A. Hughes, M.Div.
In his Gospel, John uses the common Greek concept of the Logos (λόγος), “Word,” to introduce aspects of the Messiah concept to Hellenistic readers.
It is no coincidence that John’s Gospel begins with the same words that initiate Genesis, “In the beginning.” The God who spoke forth the creative Word by which the worlds were made expresses himself not only in Creation but also in his eternal Plan. At the center of this Plan God placed a self-generating and self-determining (“free-will”) creature, i.e., Man, who represents the height of God’s Creation. Man, as the height of God’s self-expressive acts of creation flowing out of his very nature, further presupposes redemption of such a creature who seems predisposed to fall. Connecting the dots, the instrument of redemption from this fall, from the beginning, is a Savior not only commissioned for the task but possessing the divine potency and status to redeem God’s creation. Who would possess status on the level of God’s stature except a participant in, indeed an associate member of the Godhead? John is saying to the Greeks and Hellenistic Jews that this Logos for whom they have been looking, and to whom in their philosophy they have perhaps already related the Messiah, is none other than the one immediately preceded by John the Baptist, preached by him, and by whom was baptized—and who now has become Savior of the world.
Here, this preview omits the following headings:
- “The Personification of Wisdom”
- “‘Son of Man” and ‘Son of God'”
- “‘Firstborn’ and ‘Only-Begotten'”
- “Hellenistic and Rabbinic Speculations”
- “The Logos and the Prologue of John”
“And God Was the Logos“
Therefore, approaching the Prologue of John without a “doubtful mind” toward its origins, let us examine its content in regard to its overall contribution and application to the present study, meanwhile attempting to dispel any misapprehensions or myths.
The Prologue begins as a transparently intentional reflection of Genesis 1. Its first words, en archē, are identical with the Septuagint rendering, along with other verbal correspondences, including its simple modes of verbal expression. The correspondence to the Hebrew original, b’reshith, “in the beginning,” is no less striking. Robinson further notes in detail the verbal correspondences between John 1:1 and 1 John 1:1 f.1 The latter begins with ho ēn ap’ archēs, “that which was from the beginning,” referring not directly to “the Word of Life” (seemingly a personification of Eternal Life in the form of Christ, its giver), but indirectly, by way of that which had been observed of him by the Apostles during his Incarnation. That the Word was (existed) in the beginning obviously signifies preexistence, but by itself neither justifies nor denies the Arian view that Christ was created along with the rest of Creation, or was created, chronologically, first. The Imperfect Tense of the verb “was” does not simply express past action but carries about as much of a continuous sense as is typical of the Present Tense, or at least expresses duration. It is not punctiliar (the opposite of durative), as is the Aorist Tense, expressing action that occurred then ceased at a point in time; nor does it, as in the Perfect Tense, emphasize the action as completed. B. F. Westcott writes, “The ‘being’ of the Word is thus necessarily carried beyond the limits of time, though the pre-existence of the Word is not definitely stated”; hence “was” describes “a continuous state. The imperfect tense suggests in this relation, as far as human language can do so, the notion of absolute, supra-temporal, existence.”2 According to Johnston, “In the beginning the Logos already was, and then at a point of time all things came into being through Him. Thus eternal existence seems to be implied, though not directly asserted.”3 “The former is a ‘being,’ the latter a ‘becoming.'”4 Stevens agrees,
The Word was at the beginning; he existed before the world came into being. It is true that John does not employ the words eternal or eternity in the connection, but we hold that this idea is involved in the logical relation between the terms was and in the beginning. When John speaks of that which comes into existence he uses both a different word and a different tense [panta di’ auton egeneto, etc., 1:8]. All things came into being, but at the beginning of all things, he was.5
More provocative, if only by way of implication, is Christ’s statement of John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Oepke purports that in John, “ideas of pre-existence develop almost imperceptibly from the underlying general conception.”6 Let it suffice for now to presume that if Christ is, in his person, the self-expression of God, there was no conceivable time in the past, ad infinitum, that God did not in some way express himself. John Calvin objects to those who “reduce Christ to the common order of the world,” by accounting him to be a created being, giving “insult not only to the Son of God, but to his eternal Father, whom they deprive of his wisdom,” and follows Augustine of Hippo in deprecating “those who conceive of any point of time when he went before his Wisdom,” who thus “deprive him of his glory.”7
Both verses 1 and 2 state that the Logos was pros ton theon, most often translated “with God.” However, pros in this construction overwhelmingly means “toward.”8 T. K. Abbott prefers “with a view to,” perhaps “looking to,” either of which carries much the same thought as “toward.”9 Coupled with the example of pros ton patera (“toward the Father”) in 1 John 1:2, and in contrast to meta tou patros . . . (“with/after the Father,” etc.) in the following verse, Meyer is on solid ground to infer from our passage “the existence of the Logos in God in respect of intercourse.”10 A. T. Robertson states that “The idea seems to be ‘facing,'” comparing pros to German gegen, and suggesting the meaning in John 1:1, “face to face with God.”11 The fact that it is Logos who is the subject and God the object of the preposition seems significant: one conceives the Logos being disposed toward, attentive to, even beholden toward God, whereas God is the focus of that concern. Stevens explains that the choice of the preposition pros over para “emphasizes a direction or tendency of life. The moral movement of his life is centred in God, and ever goes out toward God.” John’s purpose was “to show how the Son is fitted to reveal God to mankind, and it is his essential and eternal relation to the Father which would constitute the ground of that fitness.”12
The phrase commonly translated, “the Word was God,” represents perhaps the stickiest exegetical problem of all, bearing as it does on the fundamental nature of the Godhead in regard to the Trinity. Its meaning hinges upon a deceptively simple but rigid syntactic and semantic construction, including the internal order of its words, such that the depth of its meaning lies beyond the competence of “armchair” interpreters. (Indeed, it has suffered at the hands of many purported “scholars.”) The phrase does not read, “the Word was the God” (ho logos ēn ho theos), which would seem to particularize and equate both God and the Word, but “God was the Word” (theos ēn ho logos). To equate the person of God with the person of the Logos, Meyer notes, is contradicted by pros ton theon in verses 1 and 2, which already distinguishes two persons. Theos “can only be the predicate, not the subject,” so that “The predicate is placed before the subject emphatically (comp. iv. 24 [pneuma ho theos), so that] the progress of the thought [is], ‘He was with God, and (not at all a Person of an inferior nature, but) possessed of a divine nature . . . .'” Thus “John neither desires to indicate, on the one hand, identity of Person with the Father; nor yet, on the other, any lower nature than that which God Himself possesses,” even though the subordination of the Son to the Father is maintained.13 Calvin concurs:
We have already said that the Son of God is thus placed above the world and above all the creatures, and is declared to have existed before all ages. But at the same time this mode of expression attributes to him a distinct personality from the Father; for it would have been absurd in the Evangelist to say that the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God.14
Johnston moreover notes that John uses theos and not ho theos, such that “the thought is rather of the nature of the Logos than of His personality.”15 By virtue of this very strict grammatical construction, John maintains the distinction between God and the Logos and, at the same time, “an identity of essence.”16
From his exalted position beside God, the Logos participated in the creation of all things. As the Word, by which God spoke forth, “Let there be light,” etc., the Logos was not just the personification of a divine faculty, as was Wisdom, but the instrument by which God’s purpose was accomplished. “God is the Creator in the absolute sense, but the Logos is the co-efficient agent of God in creating, sustaining, and governing the world,” wrote Stevens; “All things were created by (dia) him, and for (eis) him,” (Col. 1:16, see also Heb. 1:2).17 (Literally, John 1:3 begins, “All things through (dia) him became,” etc.) That there was nothing done without the presence or instrumentality of the Logos speaks not only of his presence throughout, but his own exclusive status as firstborn and only-begotten. It must also be suggested that this statement further supports his preexistence to Creation since, were he part of “all things,” he could hardly be said to have created himself.
Moreover, John writes panta and not ta panta, the latter suggesting “in a mass” or in “totality”; rather, “each separate thing is the handiwork of the Divine Logos.”18 As shall become clear during the course of this study, original Creation was just the precursor, foundation, or firstfruit of the fullness which is ever bestowed by God on his created beings, and ultimately through Christ on his Church. “And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).19
“In Him Life Was”
“In him life was,” en autō zōē ēn, “and the life was the light of men,” kai hē zōē ēn to phōs tōn anthropōn. John uses the same Imperfect Tense verb, “was,” used in verses 1 and 2, to express not only a durative state of being full of life, but also in terms of Christ constantly bestowing, through his life, light upon Mankind (and through his light, in turn, life upon Mankind). Robertson describes the sense of the Imperfect as “a sort of moving panorama, a ‘moving-picture show.'”20 Add to this the Present (and durative) sense of “shines” in the following verse, and one may presume that to John, the past endowment of life invested in the Logos endured and was still shining in his own time and beyond.21 Bernard exclaims, “Jn. does not say ‘the Light SHONE,’ but ‘the Light SHINES.'”22
The equation Life = the Light of Men in verse 4 may be explained in terms of John 8:12: Christ as Light of the World conveys the light of the truth of the Gospel, able to bring life to those who follow him (see also 9:5). In 3:14 ff., Christ has provided for Eternal Life, but those who choose evil hate and reject the light. Those who fail to walk in the light stumble (11:9 f.), hence should do their walking while they have the light (12:35 f.). Since Christ lights the world, Men need not walk in darkness (12:46). Eternal Life stems from knowing God and Christ (17:3, et al.). “Life was that which existed in Him, of which He was full,” writes Meyer.23
Men should walk in the light because God is light (1 Jn. 1:5 ff.). Not only does Life = the Light of Men, but John maintains a strict dichotomy (or dualism) between darkness = sin, versus light = goodness and truth. “Light and darkness in the prologue, and in the Gospel elsewhere, are not abstract metaphysical conceptions, but ethical conceptions,” concludes Stevens. “Darkness is sin, and light is goodness.”24
In verses 7 and 8, Light is personified, obviously as a metaphor for the One who gives light, in terms of spiritual, arguably even intellectual enlightenment (“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” Jn. 8:31 f.). John the Baptist had only represented God’s light in a metaphorical sense (Jn. 5:35) as one who conveyed the “light” of Gospel truth consciously and intellectually (i.e., the message); but in doing so, he refers to the One and Only who is himself the personification of that truth (Jn. 1:6 ff., see also 1:15, 26 ff.), as well as of the Eternal Life which that truth conveys. Just as “In the beginning,” echoes Genesis 1:1, references to Jesus as “that Light” in John 1:4 ff. echo the creation of light in Genesis 1:3.25
The next few verses proceed in logical, not chronological order. (Some interpreters delay consideration of the Incarnation until verse 14, whereas verses 10 and 11, “He was in the world,” etc., obviously refer to Christ’s Incarnation, as well.) John’s point is the acceptance or rejection by “his own” versus “as many as”—those believing and accepting him—being granted the gift of “power” (exousia, “authority,” “right,” “ability,” not dunamis, “power,” “might,” “ability”)26 to acquire sonship through believing.
Both the concepts light and sonship through new birth (“born of God,” Jn. 1:13) are paralleled by Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3 as he marvels that a “teacher of Israel” could remain ignorant of spiritual rebirth. Christ speaks of the things “which we know” and “which we have seen,” amounting to the light of the Gospel which has been received, and equivalent to those “heavenly things” which cannot be understood except by way of faith in the Son of Man, who “came down from heaven” (3:10, 12 f.).27 Yet the choice is Man’s, to “hate the light” and avoid it in an attempt to evade conviction, or to “do truth” and “come to the light” to display works of God wrought through faith (3:20 f.). The “light” has nevertheless been provided if Man will accept it. Johnston considers that “every man” refers to “Not all men in the mass, but every individual receives his own share of the Logos-light.”28 “But the Light, while it is the prerogative of men, is the possession of all men. If it is limited to men, it is not limited to any one section of humanity. The Light is diffused everywhere. It shineth in the darkness.”29 Johnston concludes,
The separation of the world from God is not the result of any inherent law of the universe, but the result of sin, the moral choice of human free will. The divine order of the universe is that in which the Logos-life and the Logos-light should everywhere be present and potent. But it is in the power of man’s free will, as we shall see in vv. 10, ii, to violate and oppose this divine order. The activity of the Logos is thwarted, though it is not defeated, by the sinfulness and selfishness of man. Sin is a deliberate shutting out of the Logos-light, and a remaining in the darkness and isolation of self.30
The above thoughts perhaps help interpret “the light of men” (Jn. 1:4) and “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (1:9). Everyone has been provided with a measure of light, but not all receive it, and not all light is “true light.” As Jesus said,
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light (Lk. 11:34–36).
For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth (Jn. 9:39–41).
“And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt (“tabernacled”) among us” (Jn. 1:13).
“Tabernacle” (skēnē or skēnōma) literally means “tent” or similar structure, the implication being that of a temporary, short-term, or perhaps unsubstantial dwelling. The word is used in the Septuagint to describe the original “tent of witness/testimony” (as Ex. 38:21) or “tent of the congregation” (as Ex. 39:32), but was sometimes applied later to the temples that replaced it, even a future heavenly one. Still “tabernacle” is differentiated from a temple referred to as a “house” (as 1 Chr. 6:32), and God declared his intention, up till the establishment of David’s kingdom under Solomon, to have no permanent dwelling place (1 Chr. 17:3 ff.), further implying the transitory nature of tabernacles. At the Transfiguration, Peter suggested that they erect tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, respectively (Mt. 17:4 and parallels), probably thinking more in terms of temporary resting places, by way of hospitality, than shrines (for which substantiality would seem more appropriate, but which would also be problematic in terms of Jewish religious prohibitions against idolatry and competition with the Jerusalem Temple). The idea of a tabernacle became a metaphor for the mortal body, with emphasis on the transient nature of human existence and a preference for future immortality (2 Cor. 5:1 ff., 2 Peter 1:13 f.). Meyer notes that the tabernacle was the place where God’s shekinah was revealed, which in his mind is reflected in John’s statement, “we beheld his glory” (Jn. 1:14).31
After another use of the Imperfect Tense (“He was in the world,” 1:10), the last segment of the Prologue now presents us with a spate of Aorist Tense verbs. Zerwick and Grosvenor account “tabernacled” in verse 14 to be either an inceptive (also called ingressive) use of the aorist, i.e., he “took up his abode (incarnation)”; or a constative (global) use, i.e., he “dwelt among us (earthly life).”32 Robertson classes the same verb a constative aorist, which carries the basic connotation of the Aorist Tense, that of expressing action simply taking place at a point in time (hence, “punctiliar”). “The ‘constative’ aorist,” he explains, “just treats the act as a single whole entirely irrespective of the parts or time involved.” He assigns diverse usages to the other verbs in the passage. “Know” in verse 10, “received” in verse 12, and “became” in verse 14, are ingressive aorist, emphasizing the beginning of the action. Robertson describes “beheld” in verse 14 and “received” in verse 16 as examples of the effective (or resultative) use of the Aorist, in which the conclusion of the action is emphasized.33
Regardless, John’s choice of tense in this passage makes it clear that in his mind, all the action that he describes is accomplished—”done, and done”: hence, by the Word the world became (accomplished). The world did not know him (accomplished). He came unto his own (accomplished), but his own did not receive him (accomplished). But all who received him (accomplished), he gave power (accomplished) to become sons of God (accomplished). From God, those who believe in him were born (accomplished). The Word became flesh (accomplished) and dwelt among us (accomplished). We beheld his glory (accomplished). From his fullness we have all received (accomplished). The Law, Moses gave (accomplished), but grace and truth through Jesus Christ became (accomplished). No one has seen God, but the only-begotten Son declared him (accomplished). Thus John sees Christ’s work, in terms of a new Creation through his Incarnation, to be finished. In Christ’s own words,
My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (Jn 4:34).
But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape (Jn. 5:36 f.).
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do (Jn. 17:4).
It is finished (Jn. 19:30).
With the words, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 3:2 and parallels), the Baptist had launched the New Testament Gospel; and by baptizing Jesus, inaugurated the Church Age, the Age of the Indwelling Spirit. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17, see also Mk. 1:14 f.). In Christ’s revelation of himself as the Logos, moreover, he has revealed God’s unfathomable grace toward Man. The age is to be that of “grace and truth,” drawing upon the fullness of the risen Christ, and the worship to be “in Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23 f.), according to his example and his commandments. For these purposes, God through Christ provided the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, as the resource for spiritual enablement and the continuing bestowal of grace. Hence Paul applies the term charismata (“graces,” “grace things”) to miraculous, spiritual manifestations of grace.
“We became sharers, in the plenitude of divine blessing which came to the world in Christ, and, in consequence, one gift of grace has succeeded another,” Stevens summarizes, with reference to “grace upon grace” (charis anti charitos) in Jn 1:16.34 Contrary to popular conception, the preposition anti does not usually mean “against.” Often it carries the connotation of substitution or exchange, perhaps “equivalence.”35 Compare “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” (Mt. 5:38), and “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17). According to Robertson, its “etymological picture” is “face to face,” suggesting the image of two men carrying a log while facing each other.36 In regard to its use in John 1:16, Zerwick and Grosvenor suggest the “idea of succession rather than substitution, one grace after another, grace upon grace.”37 Robertson does not disagree: “As the days come and go a new supply takes the place of the grace already bestowed as wave follows wave upon the shore. Grace answers (α̉ντὶ) to grace.”38
1 John A. T. Robinson, “The Relation of the Prologue to the Gospel of St John,” New Testament Studies 9 (January 1963):123 f.
2 Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Greek Text with Introduction and Notes, vol. I (London: John Murray, 1908), p. 5.
3 J. S. Johnston, The Philosophy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study of the Logos-Doctrine: Its Sources and Its Significance (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1909), p. 21.
4 Johnston, p. 27.
5 George B. Stevens, The Johannine Theology: A Study of the Doctrinal Contents of the Gospel and Epistles of the Apostle John (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894), p. 89.
6 Oepke, “Eis,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. II, p. 423. See further on preexistence, F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), pp. 60 ff.
7 John Calvin, Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to John, vol. I, trans. William Pringle, The Calvin New Translations, Instituted A. D. 1843 for the Publication of the Works of John Calvin in English (Edinburgh: Printed for the Calvin Translation Society, 1847), pp. 27 f.
8 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), pp. 622 ff.
9 T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1916) p. 276 f.
10 Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of John, Vol. I, 2d ed., trans. William Urwick, trans. rev. and ed. Frederick Crombie, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Part II, ed. William P. Dickson and Frederick Crombie (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1883), p. 67; see also Johnston, p. 23.
11 Robertson, p. 623. The Centenary Translation of the New Testament, trans. Helen Barrett Montgomery (The American Baptist Publication Society, 1924), concurs with “face to face with God.”
12 Stevens, p. 90.
13 Meyer, pp. 67 f.
14 Calvin, p. 28.
15 Johnston, p. 25.
16 Stevens, p. 91.
17 Stevens, p. 93. Dia, “by” or “through,” instead of the locative en, “in,” or the instrumental en, “by.” Eis, normatively translated “into” or “unto,” often conveys purpose or result, e.g., “for the purpose of.”
18 Johnston, p. 28.
19 See Stevens, p. 96.
20 Robertson, p. 883. He notes, pp. 882 f., that the aorist form for “was” (ēn) is identical, but a punctiliar sense hardly fits the passage at hand.
21 Aorist “comprehended” is, in relation to present-tense “shines,” perhaps an example of a “timeless Aorist.” This accords well with Westcott’s earlier description of a “supra-temporal” sense; nevertheless, its normative action would be punctiliar, though sometimes translatable as Present Indicative, see Robertson, pp. 842 f.
22 J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, The International Critical Commentary, ed. A. H. McNeile, vol. I (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929), p. 5.
23 Meyer, p. 71.
24 Stevens, p. 100.
25 See Peder Borgen, “Logos Was the True Light: Contributions to the Interpretation of the Prologue of John,” Novum Testamentum 14 (April 1972):124.
26 See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, rev. and aug. by F. Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1979), under exousia and dunamis, respectively.
27 Verses 11–13 probably refer to Dt. 30:11-14, in which Moses declared that the Hebrews need not wonder about God’s will, and imagine that they need to send a prophet to fetch and inquire into it, since it has already been delivered to them in the Law, if only they believe and obey. To this text Paul refers, Rom. 10:6 ff., specifically in reference to acquiring the righteousness which is by faith—which lately had been declared in the Gospel, but ought to have been understood already from the examples of Abraham and the intent of Moses’ Law. Christ, after this reference, proceeds immediately to cite the example of the brazen serpent of Numbers 21, which demonstrated salvation by faith in response to obedience to God’s command.
28 Johnston, p. 35.
29 Johnston, p. 29.
30 Johnston, p. 32.
31 Meyer, John, p. 89.
32 Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, rev. (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981), commentary to the verse cited. On ingressive aorist, see Robertson, p. 829.
33 Robertson, pp. 829, 832, 834.
34 Stevens, p. 96.
35 Robertson, pp. 573 f.
36 Robertson, p. 573.
37 Zerwick and Grosvenor, commentary to the verse cited.
38 Robertson, p. 574.
Copyright ©2015 by Paul A. Hughes
The lessons of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” are lost on many Christians. The Divine Health (as opposed to Divine Healing) crowd hates the idea that there might be a disease that God chooses NOT to heal. The Deliverance crowd hates the thought that there might be demonic oppression from which God chooses NOT to deliver. The Word-of-Faith, Hyper-Faith crowd hates the notion that there might be a prayer that God might choose NOT to answer in the affirmative, or a presumed legal claim to a promise to which God might refuse to comply.
The blanket lesson of Paul’s thorn in the flesh is that “Christ’s grace is sufficient.” Christ asserts this claim to Paul in spite of contrary outward appearances. The main contrary circumstance was continued mortality manifested by continued need, continued pain, continued oppression, as Paul experienced in his flesh. The fact that Christ’s grace remained “sufficient” in spite of mortality demonstrates many subordinate lessons. One is that Christ’s priorities are not our own. Human suffering in itself is not outside the will of the Lord. The Spirit said of Paul, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Peter described those “that suffer according to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:19). Epaphroditus was “sick nigh unto death,” but was praised by Paul for his dedicated service (Php. 2:27).
Yet another lesson is that while we have received “the earnest of the Spirit,” and in the eschatological sense Eternal Life, believers have not yet received the fullness of that “inheritance” (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:13 ff.; 1 Peter 1:3 ff.). Not until the Parousia (“appearing in person”) of Christ will we be “changed” to “see him as he is” and “be like him” (1 Cor. 13:12, 15:51 f.; Col. 3:4; Php. 3:21; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 2:13; 1 Jn. 3:2). Immortality remains a future promise and a “purchased possession” yet to be redeemed (Gal. 3:14 ff., Eph. 1:14, 1 Tim. 4:8, 2 Tim. 1:1, Heb. 10:36 f., 1 Jn. 2:25). Therefore, the Church can at times expect to experience a “foretaste” of immortality, but never its fullness, as the Spirit “divides severally as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
In particular, Paul was taught a lesson pertinent to “the abundance of the revelations” that he had received. Christ’s purpose was “lest I should be exalted above measure.” Paul needed “self” to be deflated enough to keep his feet firmly planted on solid ground — or rather, enough to realize that the power working in and through him was that of Christ and not a product of his own human strength, intelligence, holiness, or pedigree. No, the Lord declared, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Only in the failure of “self” does humanity turn to God, and only in his utter inability would Paul learn and be reminded to rely solely on the Lord.
Thus we come round to the sticking point wherein self-reliant and self-actualizing people dismiss the lessons of the thorn in the flesh. People hate not getting what they want. Even more, people hate suffering. The flesh bridles at being denied. We see everywhere people going to great lengths, trodding over laws and over other people, insensitive to principles and the rights and welfare of others, in a never-ending quest to get what they want at all costs. Christians are hardly immune to this propensity. In arguing with the lessons of the thorn, those who hate it actually demonstrate the need for it by their own carnality and lack of consecration to the Lord. They will not put up with any such burden! They sacrifice New Testament principles while stubbornly misappropriating others, in self-seeking and spiritual pride. In so doing, they risk a mighty downfall when brought to the end of their own devices by their own thorn, which is sure to come in time.
Paul came to his thorn in all earnestness. The thought of the thorns facing the carnal and rebellious is too horrible to contemplate.
© 2014 Paul A. Hughes
Watchman Nee likened God’s training in humility to being backed against a wall and having one’s foot crushed, like Balaam. A Christian leader, he said, cannot represent God until being emptied of the motivation of his own opinions and thought processes, but being in active subjection to God and his Word.
Indeed, the author of Hebrews (ch. 12) harks back to Job 5:17 and Proverbs 23:22 in describing God’s chastening. He says in 5:8 that Jesus “learned obedience by the things He suffered.”
We must not rebel against God’s correction and training in humility. The Lord tries to get through to us, but if we rebel, we “kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5, 26:14).
But as far as recounting how one was made humble, there is a risk of being like the man whose church gave him a medal for humility, but then took it away because he wore it — or the man who wrote the book, Humility, and How I Achieved It.
© 2014 Paul A. Hughes
This article is included in an appendix to God’s Laws: Sin, Law, Grace, and Obligation in Pauline Theology (2014), available in paperback from Amazon and other online retailers, and in an abbreviated eBook version at the Apple iBook Store and other eBook sources.
Paul calls all confirmed Christians “saints” (hagioi, “holy ones”) because, regardless of their individual level of spiritual maturity and yet-to-be-redeemed carnal nature, all have entered by faith into the Elect and are marked for future Redemption at Christ’s “Second Coming” (parousia, “appearing”).
Having been “marked” (“sealed”) by the indwelling Holy Spirit, Paul expects new believers to begin allowing that Spirit to motivate their actions. This requires the believer’s voluntary cooperation (1 Cor 14:32, Eph 4:30, 1 Th 5:19). Their actions and life choices should become progressively holy (hagias, “sacred,” “sanctified”), resulting in “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22 f.), increasingly reflecting the holiness of the Lord whom they serve. Christians are to progress “from faith to faith,” “from glory to glory,” and “more and more” (Rom 1:17, 2 Cor 3:18, Php 1:9, 1 Th 4:1, 10).
Overcoming the sin nature and achieving sinless perfection is obviously not accomplished in a day. The new believer’s instant, imputed holiness (by grace) points forward to its final, eschatological completion at the Parousia, when believers will all be “changed” (1 Cor 15:50 ff.; Php 3:10 ff., 20 f.; 1 Th 4:14 ff., 5:10). Eschaton refers to the End, and “Eschatology” to the final culmination of God’s Plan.
Unfortunately, not every Christian tradition understands Eschatology. Faced with the dilemma of a persistent carnal, sin nature, many Christians such as John Wesley have sought to appropriate divine power to banish the sin nature immediately, once and for all. Holy living is an admirable goal if pursued humbly (one must never be like the man who wrote a book which he entitled, Humility, and How I Achieved It); but the possibility of “Entire Sanctification” before full, Final Redemption of body as well as soul is ill-conceived upon wishful thinking and misapprehensions of Scripture. Moreover, the concept of ascending to a higher spiritual (or moral) plane through Contemplative Prayer and self-purification–thus transcending human nature–is based largely on a long-held, persistent tradition of Neoplatonic Mysticism, originating in Greek Pagan philosophy. See Neoplatonist Stew here and here, and “Pagan Origins of Sacramental Realism.”
Perfectionists rely heavily on prooftexts from Paul’s writings, especially occurrences of the English word “perfect” as well as references to holiness. Greek teleion, often translated “perfect” in the KJV, means “complete” or “mature”; and katartismon means “trained,” “disciplined,” “equipped,” or “prepared.” While holy living is upheld by Paul as the goal for every Christian, the various terminology does not inherently imply an ascent to permanent moral perfection but rather growing in wisdom, in competence to practice holy living, and in knowledge to train, nurture, and edify others.
So what did Paul actually say in regard to his own status of sanctification? Did he lay claim to sinless perfection, to entirely abolishing the sin nature?
1. As mentioned above, all confirmed believers are “holy ones,” by grace. The term “holy” does not refer only to a special elite who have achieved or ascended.
2. Also mentioned above, Christian “perfection” is to be fully realized only at the Eschaton. The following parallel passages, among the favored prooftexts of Perfectionists, actually convey no doctrine of Perfection but express Paul’s simple wish that believers continue to practice love, sound doctrine, and moral living, so that they incur no “blame” (“reproach,” “rebuke”) upon Christ’s sudden return (en te parousia). Note that he makes no direct connection to “praying through” in order to achieve perfection, as Perfectionists do, but to practicing a life of obedient faith and abstinence from sin.
- 1 Th 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you, 13 to the end that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness (hagiosune) before God, even our Father, at the coming (en te parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his holy ones. 4:1 Furthermore, brethren, we ask you and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification (hagiasmos, “holiness”), that you should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his own vessel in holiness (hagiasmo) and honor, 5 not in passionate lust, even as the Gentiles who know not God; 6 that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness (hagiosmo).
- 1 Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify (hagiasai) you wholly (holoteles, “soundly,” “through and through”); and may your spirit and soul and body be found quite (holokleron) blameless at the coming (en te parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In addition, Paul writes clearly that believers’ full deliverance as children of God awaits Final Redemption:
- Rom 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was made subject to futility, not willingly, but by the one who subjugates it in hope, 21 because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit also groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body.
3. Paul continually worked to subdue his flesh.
- 1 Cor 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; I so fight, not as one who beats the air, 27 but I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
4. Paul worried that he might still “suffer loss” or be “disqualified” due to slackness or moral failure.
- 1 Cor 3:10 … But let every man take heed how he builds upon it…. 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is…. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet such as by fire.
- 1 Cor 9:27 But I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
- See also Heb 2:1, Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip…. 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect such great salvation ….
5. Paul did not claim to have already attained the kingdom or his own righteousness.
- Php 3:8 … that I may win Christ, 9 and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, 11 if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead; 12 Not as though I had already attained, or have already achieved perfection (teteleiomai): but I follow after, if only I may grasp that for which also I am grasped by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I count not myself to have grasped, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
- 1 Cor 9:15 … it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. 16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing of which to glory: for necessity is laid upon me. Indeed, woe to me, if I preach not the gospel! 17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, stewardship has been entrusted to me.
- 1 Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, who is not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
- 2 Cor 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? …. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to consider anything as [coming] from ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
- Eph 3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effective working of his power: 8 unto me, who is less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ;
- 1 Tim 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has empowered me, because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was profoundly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all patience, for a pattern to those who believe on him to eternal life.
6. Paul emphasized the need to continually mortify or crucify one’s flesh and “reckon” oneself dead to sin, choosing to deny the flesh and live according to the principles of the Gospel.
- Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?… 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: so that like Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection, 6 knowing this: that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we are dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more. Death has no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God. 11 Likewise reckon also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its desires, 13 nor yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves to God, as those who are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.
- Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…. 13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die; but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
- Gal 2:17 But if, while we seek to be made righteous (dikaiothenai) by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore the minister of sin? By no means! 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me…. 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect (epiteleisthe, “completely finished”) by the flesh?
- Gal 5:24 And those who are of Christ crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit…. 6:14 But may I never ever boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world was crucified to me, and I to the world. (See also Gal 3:13, 1 Cor 2:8.)
- Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. 5 Therefore, mortify your parts which are upon the earth;… (See also Col 2:20 ff.)
- 2 Tim 2:11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.
7. Paul expressed his own natural inability to do God’s will or transcend his human nature or Original Sin.
- Rom 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of lust. For without the law, sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me…. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I practice I do not comprehend, for I do not do what I wish; but what I hate, that I pursue. 16 If then I do what I do not wish, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing, for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, not. 19 For the good that I wish I do not do: but the evil that I do not wish, that I pursue. 20 Now if I do what I do not wish, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that when I wish to do good, evil is at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, 23 but I see another law in my parts, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my parts. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 (I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.) So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
- 2 Cor 12:5 Of such will I glory, yet of myself I will not glory, but in my weaknesses. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth; but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or what he hears of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires in opposition to the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you wish.
8. Paul expressed the need to be actively and continually motivated by the Spirit in order not to sin. Sinlessness could never become an established state of being prior to Final Redemption, but a daily, rational choice, policy, and practice.
- Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…. 13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die; but if you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
- 2 Cor 1:17 When I therefore thus determined, did I take it lightly? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yes-yes and no-no?
- 2 Cor 10:2 But I beg you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence wherewith I think to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)
- Gal 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? By no means! 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor…. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me…. 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect (epiteleisthe) by the flesh?
- Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires in opposition to to the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you wish. 18 But if you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
- Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory. 5 Therefore mortify your parts which are on the earth;…
9. Paul was given an infirmity (astheneia, “weakness,” “illness”) to stem potential pride and vanquish self-reliance. It served as a reminder that in spite of profound revelations, he had not and could not transcend the limitations of mortality, nor ascribe to spiritual attainments apart from gifts of grace, i.e., charismata. (To Paul, his authority to preach and teach came by virtue of the revelation he had received, which he described literally as “grace” [charis] which had been “given” to him.)
- 2 Cor 12:1 Boasting is necessary, if not profitable, but I will proceed to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ over fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell, or whether out of the body, I cannot tell, God knows), such as was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knows), 4 how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard inexpressible words which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in my weaknesses. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth, but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or what he hears of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace (charis) is sufficient for you: for my strength is perfected (teleitai) in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
- Rom 12:3 For I say to all who are among you, by the grace (charitos) given (dotheises) unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, just as God has dealt to each a measure of faith….
- Rom 15:15 Yet I have written the more boldly to you on select points, as putting you in mind, because of the grace (charin) that is given (dotheisan) to me of God, 16 that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God….
- 1 Cor 3:10 According to the grace (charin) of God which is given (dotheisan) unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds upon it….
- Gal 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace (charin) that was given (dotheisan) unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship….
- Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the stewardship of the grace (charitos) of God which is given (dotheises) for you, 3 how by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…. 5 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, 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel, 7 whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift (dorean) of the grace (charitos) of God, given (dotheises) unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who is less than the least of all saints, was this grace (charis) given (edothe), that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
10. It so follows that to Paul it is through charismata, bestowed by grace through Spirit Baptism, that the power of God is manifested in the Church, and Spirit-empowered ministry takes place (not via “praying through” to achieve an elite spiritual state, e.g., apotheosis); moreover, that training in sound doctrine and faithful Christian practice are vital to Christian strength and maturity.
- Rom 12:3 For I say to all who are among you, by the grace (charitos) given (dotheises) unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, just as God has dealt to each a measure of faith…. 6 Having then gifts (charismata) differing according to the grace (charin) that is given (dotheisan) to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 or ministry, let us attend to our ministering, or he that teaches, on teaching….
- 1 Cor 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace (chariti) of God which was given (dotheise) you by Jesus Christ, 5 that in everything you were enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, 6 even as the witness of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 such that you come behind in no gift (charismati), waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you until the End (telous), that you may be beyond reproach (anegkletous) in the Day [i.e., Parousia, Eschaton] of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Cor 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given (didotai) to each to profit in common. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit…. 18 But now God has set the parts, each of them, in the body, as it has pleased him…. 27 You are the body of Christ and its select parts. 28 And God has set some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that powers, then gifts (charismata) of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues…. 31 But earnestly seek the best gifts (charismata):
- 1 Cor 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual things, but rather to prophesy. 2 For he that speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to men,… 3 but he who prophesies speaks to men for edification, exhortation, and comfort. 4 He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
- Eph 4:7 But unto every one of us is given (edothe) grace (charis) according to the measure of the gift (doreas) of Christ…. 11 And he gave (edoken) apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; 12 For the preparation (katartismon) of the saints (hagion)… 13 till we all attain … unto a mature (teleion) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children,… 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him…, 16 from whom the whole body well fitted together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the respective task of each part, causes growth of the body, resulting in the edification of itself in love. (See also Col 2:19.)
- 2 Tim 3:14 But you continue in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be perfect (artios, “fit,” “capable,” “prepared”), thoroughly furnished (exertismenos, “fitted,” “prepared,” perf. participle from the same root as artios) for all good works.
11. At times, Paul still felt the need to take a vow to sanctify himself before God. He did not count himself worthy, or special; nor did he expect to escape judgment for any willful sin, nor the demise and decomposition of the body such as is common to humanity.
- Acts 18:18 And thereafter Paul tarried there yet a good while, and taking leave of the brothers, sailed to Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila, having shorn his head in Cenchrea, for he had made a vow.
- Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until an offering was offered for every one of them.
- Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living, holy, acceptable sacrifice to God, your rational service.
- Php 2:17 Indeed, if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice together with you all.
- 2 Tim 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
12. Paul expected new converts and carnal believers to receive Spirit Baptism and live according to the nature and influence of the Spirit in order to serve the Lord and live a victorious Christian life; he did not command them to seek, or expect them to receive, Entire Sanctification as a “Second (or Third or Fourth) Work of Grace.”
- Acts 6:3 Therefore, brothers, single out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom [not “entirely sanctified”], whom we may appoint over this business. (Indeed, I am aware that Paul himself had not yet been converted at this time, but this example demonstrates continuity of principle.)
- Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, Jesus, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [not “entirely sanctified”].
- Acts 13:9 Then Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit [not “entirely sanctified”], set his eyes on him 10 and said, O one full of all subtlety and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind….
- Acts 19:2 He said unto them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit…. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied [not “were entirely sanctified”].
- Acts 11:24 For [Barnabas] was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith [not “entirely sanctified”]: and many people were added unto the Lord.
- Rom 15:15 Yet I have written the more boldly to you on select points, as putting you in mind, because of the grace (charin) that is given (dotheisan) to me of God, 16 that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, [the Gentiles, as a class] having been [imputed to be] sanctified (hegiasmene, perf. participle of hagiazo, “having been made holy”) by the Holy Spirit. (See also Acts 10:15, 11:9.)
- 2 Cor 13:3 Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who toward you is not weak, but is mighty in you, 4 for though he was crucified through weakness, yet he lives by the power of God. For we also are weak [not “entirely sanctified”] in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you…. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong; and this also we wish, even your perfection (katartisin, “completion,” “preparation,” “discipline,” “training”)…. 11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect (katartizesthe), be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
- Eph 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit [not “entirely sanctified”], 19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God….
- Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect (epiteleisthe) by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain? 5 Therefore, he that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith [by grace, not through “entire sanctification”]?
- Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith [not through “entire sanctification”].
The questions remain, if there is Entire Sanctification for this life in the New Testament, where can it be found? Moreover, what can Entire Sanctification do that the Spirit has not been promised to do through us, and for us, through faith alone? Clearly, we cannot “earn” miraculous provision through achieving our own innate “goodness,” any more than we can earn salvation; nor can we perform miracles in our own right, by our own strength.
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 and we being dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised up and seated together with Him [already, eschatologically speaking] in the heavenly realm in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the imminent ages He might show the extraordinary riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith: and that not from you, the gift of God; 9 not from works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his doing, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance, so that we might walk in them.
© 2014 Paul A. Hughes