Category Archives: Paul

Romans 2.14-16; Christian Gentiles Who Do the Law

Romans 2.14-16, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

In my previous post I looked at Tom Schreiner’s interpretation of Romans 2.13, which reflects what Paul says in 2:6 that God “will render to each one according to his works.” Schreiner, saying that verse 13 reiterates the essence of verse 6, says, “Those who do good works will receive justification” and they “who do the required works will be declared to be righteous by God, the eschatological judge, on the day of the Lord” (128).

Hypothetical

Paul could be speaking hypothetically about “doers of the law.” The Jews (though not the Jewish Christians hearing the letter being read) thought they were acceptable before God because they had his Torah. Paul could be saying, “Look, those who keep the law perfectly will be justified by God. The gentiles sure don’t keep it, but neither do you. Thankfully, there is Christ’s sacrifice.”

General Gentiles

Could verses 14-16 be speaking of general gentiles? Schreiner understood it that way in his first edition. Here, gentiles have the work of God’s law on their hearts so that they know and keep aspects his law, though they don’t realize that their morality reflects upon God’s handiwork. They will be judged based on whether they obeyed those “norms” pressed upon them by their conscience. If so, Paul would be saying that both the Jews and gentiles will be judged for not keeping the law, as all know the law (or at least aspects of it): The Jews through the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament and the gentiles though “natural law,” that is, they are born naturally knowing that certain moral actions are correct to do. 

Christian Gentiles

However, Schreiner now believes Paul to be speaking of Christian gentiles. The flow of thought could be represented like this: 

Those who only hear the law will not be righteous before God,

but those who do the law will be justified.

How do we know this?

For the Christian gentiles who do what the law requires show that the law is written on their hearts, fulfilling what Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31.31-34 about what God would do for those who are in the new covenant.

So these gentiles are in the new covenant. Jeremiah 31.31-34 says,

31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. 

33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration.
“I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 

34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.

Israel was given God’s Torah in Exodus 20-23. The gentiles were. Gentiles who converted to Judaism took on the task of following the law, but gentiles all across the world weren’t given God’s law. Israel, at Mt. Sinai, received God’s law. So how do these gentiles, who do not have the law, do what the law requires?

They do it by nature. They have a new nature. They are new creations, and they have God’s Spirit working in them. Paul brings up this same idea in Romans 8.3b-4 when he says, “[God] condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 

Finally, in my next post, I’ll look at what Paul means about Jews and true circumcision and how that relates to Christian Gentiles.


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Romans 2.13; ‘Doers of the Law will be Justified’

tom schreiner romans 2

Romans 2.13, For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

In Romans 2.1-16, Paul’s flow of thought goes something like this:

2.1-5: Unrepentant Jews criticize gentiles for their sins while committing those same sins.

2.6-11: God is not partial; he will bless those who do good and judge those who do evil. He “will repay each person according to his or her works” (Schreiner’s translation, 121).

2.12-16: Schreiner observes, “Jews can scarcely use the Torah as a talisman, for anyone (whether Jew or gentile) who observes the law will be vindicated before God on the day of Jesus Christ” (126). Jews will be judged by the law, and gentiles will be judged by a “fair standard” (126).

Is Paul really saying that people will be judged according to their works? In Romans 3 Paul argues that no one is righteous (3:10) and all have sinned (3:23). The knowledge of sin comes through the law (3:20). How could any law-doer ever hope to be justified if “no one will be justified in God’s sight by the works of the law” (3:20)?

Yet even Solomon, David, and Jeremiah all speak of God repaying one according to their works.

Proverbs 24:12: If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’
won’t he who weighs hearts consider it?
Won’t he who protects your life know?
Won’t he repay a person according to his work?

Psalm 62:12: and faithful love belongs to you, Lord.
For you repay each according to his works.

Jeremiah 32:19: the one great in counsel and powerful in action. Your eyes are on all the ways of the children of men in order to reward each person according to his ways and as the result of his actions. (see Jer 17.10; 25.14; Job 34.11; Psalm 28.4).

So, at least looking at what we have so far, if someone keeps the law, he (or she) will be declared righteous by God (Rom 2.13). Paul says in Romans 2:6 that God “will repay each person according to his or her works” (121). Schreiner says that verse 13 above reiterates the essence of verse 6: “those who do good works will receive justification” and they “who do the required works will be declared to be righteous by God, the eschatological judge, on the day of the Lord” (128).

It was not enough for the Jews to own the law and only hear it; they also had to keep it. They wouldn’t get away with condemning gentiles for their sins only to turn around and commit the same sins against God’s kindness without repentance (2.4-5). But how could Paul say that those who do the law will be justified? Schreiner says that Paul did accept the idea that “those who perform the required works will be rewarded” (128).

Tom schreiner romans second edition

So is Paul speaking hypothetically? Is he saying, “If someone could keep the law, then, yes, that one would be justified before God, (but, in reality, all sin and no one can keep the law)”? Or does he mean that “gentiles know the law in their hearts, [but] they are condemned since they don’t keep it perfectly” (129)? Or does he mean that gentile Christians show that they have God’s Spirit in them by obeying the law?

In the next post I’ll look at how Paul’s argument continues in Romans 2.14-16.

(There are more interpretations on what Romans 2.13 means. You can read more on the different interpretations on this blog). 


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Three Troubles in Romans 2

When I think of difficult passages in Romans, I think of Romans 5.12-21, 7.7-25, and all of 9-11. It wasn’t until I sat in on Lindsay Kennedy’s Romans class at CCBCY that I found out that many scholars think Romans 2 is the most difficult chapter in the letter. Why is this? There are three sections in Romans 2 that can be understood in a few different ways.

1. Romans 2.13, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

2. Romans 2.14-16, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

3. Romans 2.29, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”

In the first point, is Paul saying that those who do the law are justified? Doesn’t he say that we are released from the law (7.6) and so we can now serve in the way of the Spirit? In the second point, who are these Gentiles? They don’t have the law, but they show that the work of the law is written on their heart. Does the pagan Polynesian show that somehow he ‘knows’ God’s commands? Or are these Gentiles Christians who, fulfilling Jeremiah 31.31-34, have God’s law written on their hearts? And thirdly, in perhaps the most well-known verse on the list, does Paul mean to say that Christian Gentiles are true Jews? How would that work?

This series will continue looking at Tom Schreiner’s revised Romans (BECNT) commentary because Schreiner has changed his interpretation of 2.14-16 since writing his first edition, and his understanding of the other two sections is helpful. I may write up separate posts on each text because that will make them shorter and more ‘bite-size.’


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God’s Righteousness as Forensic

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1.16–17)

This series has given some snapshots of Tom Schreiner’s arguments over “the righteousness of God” in his revised Romans (BECNT) commentary. Again, he summarizes the theme of Romans 1.16–17 saying, “The gospel is the saving power of God in which the righteousness of God is revealed” (63). I’ve looked at the arguments that God’s righteousness is his covenant faithfulness to his covenant people, and the argument that his righteousness is transformative. In his first edition, Schreiner understood God’s righteousness as being both forensic and transformative, with one aspect being emphasized more than the other in certain verses. Now he understands it as entirely forensic. God’s righteousness is a gift given to sinners so that they would be declared righteous in God’s sight. Though they are sinners, they stand not guilty before him.

He gives nine arguments for understanding God’s righteousness as being forensic, but I put a few together here.

Forensic Righteousness

1. Righteousness, Faith, and Believing

“Righteousness” (δικαιοσύνη) is placed near to the words “faith” or “believing.”

Romans 4.11, “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,”

Romans 10.3-4, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Galatians 5.5, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”

The one who believes by faith stands not guilty in God’s presence. They are declared righteous, but that righteousness won’t be seen by all until the day of resurrection.

2. To be Counted

Those who believe by faith are not “made” righteous but are “counted” righteous.

Romans 4.3, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” (see Rom 4.5, 6, 9, 11).

3. A Gift from God

This righteousness is a gift divinely granted to people.

Romans 5.17, “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

God is the origin of righteousness, and he gives that status to the ungodly (see again Rom 4.3, 5, 6, 9, 11) .

1 Corinthians 1.30, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Here, Jesus is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God. Paul’s comment in Philippians 3.9 refers to righteousness as a gift from God. So in Romans 1.17 and 3.21-22 “God’s saving righteousness is given as a gift to those who believe” (70).

Philippians 3.9, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

So “God’s righteousness may be both an attribute of God and a gift of God, but it doesn’t follow logically that it is also transformative” (70). Philippians 3.1-9 can be paralleled with Romans 10.1-5. Just as Paul couldn’t have a righteousness of his own from the law, Israel as a whole has tried to establish their own righteousness from the law. Paul received God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Israel must do the same. It is not about keeping the law; it is about trusting in Jesus.

4. Second Corinthians 5

In 2 Corinthians 5.21, Paul writes that Jesus who had no sin became sin so that we could “became the righteousness of God.” God was not “counting their trespasses against them,” meaning he forgave those who put their faith in Christ. Christ died on the cross, and those who put their faith in him, though they are sinners, take on God’s righteousness.

5. Romans 3.21-26

If all have sinned, how can anyone be righteous? Schreiner observes, “Paul argues… that a right relation with God is not obtained by keeping the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. All people who trust in Christ are justified by God because of the redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus (3:24)” (71).

6. Lawcourts

Romans 8.33 says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”

Schreiner writes, “The lawcourt background here is unmistakable. Paul followed the usage of the LXX… and other Jewish Second Temple literature… in assigning a forensic meaning to δικαίουν [‘to justify’].”

2 Samuel 15.4, “Then Absalom would say, ‘Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.'”

1 Kings 8.32, “then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.”

Judges didn’t make anyone wicked or righteous. They made declarations about the wicked and the righteous. God declares us righteous, and he will transform us at the resurrection.

Proverbs 17.15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”

Schreiner: “Paul… does not think God violates any standards of justice, since Christ bears the curse that sinners deserve” (72).

7. Righteousness and Forgiveness

Romans 4.7-8 quotes Ps 32.1-2. David’s sins are forgiven and he stands “in the right before God” (73). David is not transformed, but forgiven.

Conclusion

Honestly, with some of these points (#3) I do wonder why God’s righteousness being a ‘gift’ ‘from God’ means his righteousness is to be understood forensically. We can’t transform ourselves to be righteous. We need another (2 Cor 5.21). So whether it is forensic or transformative (or both), it is still from God. However, do to other points (#6) and parts of Scripture, I can still see how God’s righteousness is purely forensic.

God justifies sinners when they believe the human Christ Jesus died and was resurrected. He is currently ruling over all things, and he is the King. We are justified in the eyes of God. We stand “in the right” or “not guilty” before him because we are “in Christ.” Being justified in and of itself doesn’t transform Christians, but other aspects of the order of salvation that occur immediately (e.g., the reception of the Spirit) and other parts will occur over time (e.g., sanctification) will cause us to be transformed. God conforms us to the image of his Son by working in us through his Spirit. Through that, we are transformed “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3.18), awaiting our final transformation at the day of resurrection (1 Cor 15.49, 51-53). Christians are sinners who are declared righteous now and will be made righteous in the future.


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God’s Righteousness as Transformative?

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1.16–17)

In my previous post I noted that in his revised BECNT commentary on Romans, Tom Schreiner summarizes the theme of Romans 1.16–17 saying, “The gospel is the saving power of God in which the righteousness of God is revealed” (63). Commentators have come to different interpretations as to what God’s righteousness is. Schreiner explains three of the different interpretations in his commentary.

Last time I wrote about those who think that God’s righteousness is his covenant faithfulness. This time I present Schreiner’s arguments for (and against) God’s righteousness being transformative.

Arguments For

1. Revealed

God’s righteousness being revealed refers to God’s eschatological (end-time) activity that has invaded history. It makes sense that God’s righteousness here means his saving activity if we ask the question ‘What is being revealed?’—a new status (forensic) or divine action (transformation)?

In fact, both God’s righteousness (v. 17) and his wrath (v. 18) are revealed.

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

God’s wrath is actively poured out against human sin, and so it fits the parallel that his righteousness would also refer to a divine activity. Schreiner notes, “Since verses 16–17 are connected with a γὰρ (gar, for), we can conclude that the saving power of God is intertwined with the righteousness of God” (68).

So as Paul writes, the gospel is God’s power for salvation to all who believe for in the gospel God’s righteousness is revealed. The gospel is God’s salvation-bringing power. It is a divine activity, and his righteousness is actively revealed in it.

2. Old Testament Usage

Many of the uses of righteousness in the OT refer to God’s saving action.

Psalm 98.1–3

‘Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.’

After God brought Israel through the Red Sea and destroyed the Egyptian army, Israel praised Yahweh as a ‘man of war’ (Exod 15.3) whose ‘right hand’ is ‘glorious in power’ and ‘shatters the enemy’ (v. 6). He stretched out his right hand that the earth would swallow up the army (v. 12). He led his people safely through the waters in his ‘steadfast love’ (v. 13; Ps 98.2). God’s salvation is an active salvation that rescues his people from their enemies. See also Isaiah 45.8; Micah 6.5 and 7.9.

3. Made righteous

Later in Romans 6 Paul says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died has been freed (δεδικαίωται) from sin” (6.7). Schreiner writes, “The use of the verb ‘to justify’ [translated as ‘freed’]… demonstrates that God’s declaration of righteousness really frees people from sin” (69). In Romans 5.19, many in Adam were made sinners; in Christ, they are made righteous. “God’s forensic declaration is effective because the Lord who was crucified on behalf of sinners was also raised from the dead (Rom. 4:25), and thus sinners now live in a new way (Rom. 6:4)” (69).

Pushback

As Schreiner explains in his commentary, there are a few problems here. I won’t list every rebuttal; you can find that in his commentary. But I will present a few of them. 

Problem 1: Revealed

God’s righteousness (1.17) is the grounds for God’s power (1.16). The two terms are not synonymous. Simply because God’s righteousness in Christ is apocalyptic does not mean that his righteousness is transformative. “God’s declaration about sinners is an end-time verdict that has been announced before the end has arrived” (73). Referring to Linebaugh, Schreiner says, “Justification… is the final verdict, which is pronounced now” before the end has come (73).

Believers, in union with Christ, stand in the right before God, but that does not mean they are automatically transformed because of that verdict. Rather, Christians are transformed through the reception of the Holy Spirit, becoming new creations, being sanctified—conformed to the image of Christ—and ultimately by being glorified. At the resurrection we will truly be transformed. It is then that we will be like Christ—righteous and perfect.

Problem 2: Old Testament Usage

Simply because the words righteous and salvation are in parallel (as in Psalm 98.1-3) does not mean they are equivalent. Schreiner says, “Words may overlap in meaning, but it doesn’t follow from this that they have an identical meaning. The righteousness of God, then, denotes the ‘rightness’ and justice of God’s salvation in Psalms and Isaiah” (73).

Problem 3: Made righteous

“Virtually all scholars agree that in the vast majority of cases the verb ‘to justify’ (δικαιόυν) is forensic” (74). Most English Bibles translate δεδικαίωται as “freed.” Even if δεδικαίωται here held a transformative connotation, it does not mean that every use of ‘justify’ or ‘righteousness’ holds that same connotation.

Schreiner observes, “God’s declaration that sinners are in the right before him is the foundation for a changed life” (74). Because believers are justified, are in union with Christ, and are given the Holy Spirit who works in us to image Christ. We are transformed not because of our ‘not-guilty’ verdict, but because God’s Spirit works within us.

As for Romans 5.19 and people being made sinners or made righteous, 2 Corinthians 3.9 points to a forensic use of righteousness. There, righteousness is contrasted with condemnation, “a declarative term” (74). When God condemns someone, he doesn’t make them wicked. They don’t turn into wicked people. They already are wicked. Similarly, God’s declaration that someone is righteous doesn’t mean he turns him into a righteous person. “The declaration that Jesus,” vindicated in his resurrection, “stands in the right is granted to all those who belong to him, to all those who are united to him by faith” (75).

Conclusion

One of the major differences between Schreiner’s first and second editions is his move toward God’s righteousness indicating a forensic status instead of both a forensic status and transformative state. Think about this scenario. Harry and Marv rob a bank. They have committed a crime. They are bandits. They are criminals. A judge declares Harry and Marv to be guilty of their crime. The judge’s sentence does not transform them into criminals; they became criminals when they robbed the bank.

We are sinners. Yet those who believe on Jesus Christ are declared to be “in the right” by God. I am still a sinner. I am not a ‘righteous’ person. As I said above, when Christians receive their resurrected bodies, they will be like Christ (1 John 3.2; 1 Cor 15.49, 52-53). They will be righteous, and they will be perfect. God sees what they will be in the future and he declares them to be that now. Christians have the status of righteousness even though they are still presently sinners because we are now in Christ.

In my next and final post I will look at what Schreiner has to say about God’s righteousness being forensic.


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God’s Righteousness as his Covenant Faithfulness?

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1.16–17)

In my previous post I noted that in his revised BECNT commentary on Romans, Tom Schreiner summarizes the theme of Romans 1.16–17 saying, “The gospel is the saving power of God in which the righteousness of God is revealed” (63). Commentators have come to different interpretations as to what God’s righteousness is. Schreiner explains three of the different interpretations in his commentary.

Proponents

The first here is the understanding that God’s righteousness refers to his covenantal faithfulness to his people Israel. Those who argue for this position understand God’s righteousness to be “both effective and forensic” (67). His faithfulness toward Israel is due to his covenant with them and it is seen in his saving activity—that is, it is seen when he saves them from their enemies.

In his commentary Romans 1–8, James Dunn says, “God is ‘righteous’ when he fulfills the obligations he took upon himself to be Israel’s God, that is, to rescue Israel and punish Israel’s enemies” (41). God’s righteousness is to be understood as his covenant faithfulness (Rom 3:3–5, 25; 15:8). It is “God’s act to restore his own and to sustain them within the covenant (Ps 31:1; 35:24; 51:14; 65:5; 71:2, 15; 98:2; 143:11; Isa 45:8, 21; 46:13; 51:5, 6, 8; 62:1–2; 63:1, 7)” (41). 

In his book, Pauline Perspectives, N. T. Wright says, “God must be true to his covenant” with Abraham who would be the father of a great nation and who, by following God, would be a blessing to the world. He continues, “Paul [in Romans 4] quotes extensively from Genesis 15 and 17 to prove that covenant membership always depended on grace and faith” (31). Wright notes that “as God ‘redeemed’ his people from Egypt with the covenant blood, so now the blood of Jesus Christ becomes the blood of the new covenant, shed for the worldwide forgiveness of sins, achieving the redemption (3.21) of the true family of Abraham. God has dealt with sin; he has renounced partiality; he is true to his covenant. The Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that God is in the right (Romans 1.16f.)” (31). Through the death and resurrection of the Son, God has saved Israel, Jew and Gentile—“the true family of Abraham”—from their ultimate enemies: sin and death.

Finally, Wright says, “The ‘righteousness of God’ is the divine covenant faithfulness, which is both a quality upon which God’s people may rely and something visible in action in the great covenant-fulfilling actions of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit” (74-75).

Old Testament References

Schreiner says, “God’s saving actions are rooted in his faithfulness to the covenant enacted with his people. That the righteousness of God involves his loyalty to the covenant is defended by OT and Second Temple antecedents” (75).

Psalm 36.5–6

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.”

Psalm 88.11–12

11 “Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”

God’s righteousness is compared to his faithfulness and steadfast love to his people Israel seen through his wondrous works.

Psalm 142.1 (LXX)

In the Septuagint, the psalmist draws a parallel between God’s truth and his righteousness when he says,

“O Lord, hearken to my prayer.
Give ear to my entreaty with your truthfulness.
Hear me in your righteousness.”

God is both truthful and righteous to his covenant people.

Pushback

Yet just because terms such as ‘righteousness,’ ‘truthfulness,’ ‘faithfulness,’ and ‘steadfast’ are paralleled does not mean that they all denote the same thing. Even though the idea the idea of God being faithful to his covenant is present in the broad context of the above psalms, Schreiner points out elsewhere that “God’s salvation of his people is also the right thing to do; he vindicates his people in saving them.”

Israelite judges were to “acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty” (Deut 25.1). Schreiner notes the forensic aspect of their judgments saying, “Judges do not make someone righteous or wicked. They render a forensic declaration based on the reality that is before them.”1

While in Romans 3.1–8 Paul links God’s ‘righteousness’ (3.5) with his ‘faithfulness’ (3.3), ‘reliability’ (3.4), and ‘truth’ (3.7), Schreiner points out that Romans 3.5 speaks of God’s judging righteousness. The Jewish opponents ask if God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on them. God, in his righteousness, judges guilty sinners and pours out his wrath upon them (1.18). God is right and just to judge sinners.

Because God is righteous and doesn’t “pervert the right” (Job 8.3), he faithfully and steadfastly fulfills his OT saving promises and his covenant promises. However, “it is quite another thing to say that God’s righteousness is his covenant faithfulness” (75). Schreiner writes, “The righteousness of God, then, denotes the ‘rightness’ and justice of God’s salvation in Psalms and Isaiah,” which displays itself in his faithfulness to his covenant people (73).


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1 Schreiner, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, 111.

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What is the ‘Righteousness of God’?

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1.16–17)

After explaining how eager he is to preach the gospel of the resurrected Jesus Christ in Rome, Paul tells the church in Rome that he is not ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1.16). Why? It is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe it. In the upcoming second edition of his Romans (BECNT) commentary, Tom Schreiner summarizes the theme of Romans 1.16–17 as, “The gospel is the saving power of God in which the righteousness of God is revealed” (63).

But just what is the ‘righteousness of God’? This is an important question to ask because “in the bulk of the letter, Paul fills in the content of this gospel so that the Romans will understand why he is so desirous to preach the gospel in Rome and Spain. The letter as a whole focuses on the content of the gospel because the gospel gives Paul boldness to preach in places where Christ is not named (Rom 15:20–21)” (63).

Yet many commentators understand God’s righteousness differently. In a series of posts, I will look at three different understandings of the righteousness of God from Schreiner’s new commentary. Commentators understand God’s righteousness as: 

  1.  Covenantal faithfulness
    1. God’s faithfulness toward Israel is due to his covenant with them and is seen in his saving activity—that is, it is seen when he saves Israel from their enemies.

    2. N.T. Wright says, “The ‘righteousness of God’ is the divine covenant faithfulness, which is both a quality upon which God’s people may rely and something visible in action in the great covenant-fulfilling actions of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit” (Pauline Perspectives74-75). 

    3. Proponents: James Dunn, Robert JewettN.T. Wright, etc.
      .
  2. Transformative
    1. On this view Schreiner says, “God’s forensic declaration is effective because the Lord who was crucified on behalf of sinners was also raised from the dead (Rom. 4:25), and thus sinners now live in a new way (Rom. 6:4)” (69). In his first edition he says that God’s declaration of righteousness is a gift that “is an effective declaration, so that those who are pronounced righteous are also transformed by God’s grace” (67).

    2. Romans 5.19, “For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

    3. Proponents: Ernst Käsemann, Eberhard Jüngel, Adolf Schlatter, Tom Schreiner 1.0 (he advocated for both the forensic and transformative meaning in his first volume). 
      .
  3. Forensic
    1. God’s righteousness is a gift given to sinners so that they would be declared righteous in God’s sight.

    2. Philippians 3.8b-9, “so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith.

    3. Proponents: Martin Luther, John Calvin, C.E.B. Cranfield, Doug Moo, Tom Schreiner 2.0 (he now advocates for only the forensic understanding).

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Book Review: The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant (Michael Gorman)

Discussions on the atonement are never-ending, and it’s only getting harder to keep up. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but where ought one start? Michael Gorman, author of numerous books (Reading Revelation Responsibly, Becoming the Gospel, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, Apostle of the Crucified Lord, etc), has written “a (not so) new model of the atonement.” This model argues for

a more comprehensive, integrated, participatory, communal, and missional model than any of the major models in the tradition. It overcomes the inherent rift in many interpretations of the atonement between the benefits  of Jesus’ death and the practices of participatory discipleship  that his death both enables and demands. I contend throughout the book that in the New Testament the death of Jesus is not only the source , but also the shape , of salvation. It therefore also determines the shape of the community—the community of the new covenant—that benefits from and participates in Jesus’ saving death. (4)

Throughout the book, Gorman presents connections between Christ’s atonement, the new covenant inaugurated by his blood, and the way the church community participates in his death and suffering while looking forward to the day of resurrection. One of Gorman’s focuses is how Christ’s new-creational people participate in faithfulness, love, and peace (4).

Throughout the New Testament, faith, as a practice, is about faithfulness even to the point of suffering and death; love, as a practice, has a distinctive, Christlike shape of siding with the weak and eschewing domination in favor of service; and hope, as a practice, means living peaceably (which includes nonviolently) and making peace. Thus the summary triad “faithfulness, love, and peace” is appropriate. (4-5)

Gorman isn’t concerned to interact with other interpretations of the atonement, nor with the “mechanics” of the atonement or the atonement theories. Rather than diving into how it works, Gorman wants to portray what it does in the lives of believers. Gorman claims, “The New Testament is much more concerned about what Jesus’ death does for and to humanity than how it does it.” (5).

Outline

  • Chapters one overviews the lack of the “new covenant” theme in traditional and recent discussions of the atonement. Gorman puts forth that new covenant texts and themes had a farther-reaching effect that many scholars give credit, and that the new covenant is the atonements umbrella theme.

The preceding chapters explore the ways Christ’s death both effected and affected the new covenant.

  • Chapters 2 and 3 bring together the cross and the new covenant by surveying the NT books, revealing how we participate in Christ’s death through baptism.
  • Participating in Christ’s death means a different way of living for the Christian. Chapter four examines faithfulness to God, chapter 5—loving others, and chapters 6 and 7—peacemaking—what the covenant does and how it shows up in our communities.
  • Chapter 8 is Gorman’s conclusion. “The cross shapes each of these aspects of Christian thought and life, weaving them together into a comprehensive and integrated whole” (209). The new covenant’s effects are multi-dimensional; Gorman views this new covenantal model as the umbrella model which houses the other “penultimate” models. There is no “one” view, as many of them emphasize different aspects of the atonement. Though I would think of it more as a hierarchy, with some (penal substitution) deserving greater (and not lesser) emphasis than others.

Gorman argues for a kind of theosis, saying that the Christian life/community is a “transformative, communal participation in the life of God as the new covenant people of God” (68). Belief in Jesus is not merely an intellectual assent. Instead, “his story will become [our] story” (87). We live out his story daily. In writing about Revelation 1.5-6, Gorman says, “Those liberated from sin by Jesus’ death (the cross as the source of salvation) are now shaped into faithful witnesses, even to the point of suffering and death (the cross as the shape of salvation)” (103). John reminds the churches that he is their brother and fellow participant in both the tribulation and the kingdom (Rev 1.9).

The Spoiled Milk

Gorman has helpful comments about the new covenant and a supersessionist/anti-Judaism belief. He says, “the idea of a new covenant does not make sense except, first of all, as a category of Jewish identity and theology” (23). This promise was given to the Jewish people first, and the Gentiles were allowed to be grafted in (Rom 11). Gentile Christians must not forget the Jewish origins of Christianity (i.e., Jesus was a Jew). However, in some places Gorman seems to downplay the “newness” of the new covenant (23, 214). There is no need to disparage the “old covenant,” but Paul said that the old one has been abolished and done away with (see here) because the glory of the new is so much better (2 Cor 3.7–11). Though, perhaps I have simply misunderstood Dr. Gorman’s arguments.

Recommended?

Whether or not one agrees with all Gorman has said here, this book is an excellent resource for those who are interested in the new covenant, the atonement, and the outflow of new-covenant living (peace, faithfulness, love). We were once an enemy of God, and he has now made peace with us so that we can be his eternally adopted children. Should that not play out in our own lives? This would be beneficial required reading in seminary classrooms, for students, for pastors, and for teachers. This would make a good pair with Adam Johnson’s Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, which surveys the many atonement models and looks at how they emphasize a true aspect of Christ’s work.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: James Clarke/Lutterworth (June 30, 2014)
  • Language: English

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Separation Anxiety VI (2 Cor 7.1)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. They have promises from God that he welcomes his children and will walk among them. Having all of God’s promises should compel us to complete devotion to him, for he is a Father who gives generously to his children.

Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.


B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7.1)

Because of the Old Testament promises, referenced in 6:17–18, Paul reminds his “beloved” children (6:13) that, as God’s temple, they, including Paul, are to cleanse themselves from all defilement of body and spirit and bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God” (7:1). But what promises are Paul referencing? Are the promises in 6:17–18 the only ones he is referring to? Beale points out,

The observation that 1:20 and 7:1 both refer to ‘promises’ . . . is one of the signposts that it is this section, at least, within which he expounds prophetic fulfilment. Certainly, Paul is thinking partly about the promises of a ‘new covenant’ with Israel (3:1–18), her resurrection (5:14–15), new creation (5:16–17) and restoration from captivity (5:18–6:18) . . . [and] the establishment of a new temple was to be part of Israel’s restoration (e.g., see Ezek. 37:26–28; 40–48). Accordingly, Paul lists the temple among the initial fulfilments of Old Testament prophecy.[1]

After recalling all of the promises Paul has mentioned since 1:20 which the Corinthians have in Christ, Paul displays his affections for the Corinthians by calling them “beloved.” Hafemann says, “The obedience in view is not the believer’s attempt to win God’s love, but the covenant… response that flows from already being loved by God in Christ” (1:1; 12:19).[2] 

The cleansing imagery picks up the images of priesthood from Isaiah 52:11 and the temple from Leviticus 26:11–12 in 2 Corinthians 6:16b. Inheriting God’s future promises means keeping his present commands which are brought about by the working of holiness already granted to God’s people (“saints,” 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1b). Because they are sanctified by Christ (1 Cor 6:11b) and are new creations in him (2 Cor 5:17), they can separate and cleanse themselves from all defilement (1 Cor 5:7) by the power of God (Phil 2:12; 2 Cor 6.18) Almighty. The way they are to cleanse themselves is through repentance and separation in 12:20–21.

The Corinthians are to remember that there will be a judgment at the end of history (5:10). “Knowing the fear of the Lord,” Paul and his associates persuade others to follow Christ (5:11). It is imperative that the Corinthians share this same fear of the Lord so that they will cleanse themselves from their immorality (12:20–21), including their infatuation of the false apostles. If they are God’s “saints,” then they must be “holy as he is holy” (Lev 19:1; 1 Pet 1.16).

Just as Jesus “cleansed” the temple (Mark 11:15–17), Paul exhorts the Corinthians that they would cleanse themselves of every defilement.[5] And as he does earlier in the book (2 Cor 1:11, 14b; 2:11; 3:18; 4:12), Paul includes himself here in 7:1 with the Corinthians. He does not lord his authority over their faith, but he works alongside of them for their joy (1:24; 2.3). However, if they do not rid themselves of the unclean influence now, when Paul returns for a third time he will “spare no one” (13.2) and punish all disobedience (10:6).

Those who do not separate from the unbelievers are not reconciled to God’s ambassador, Paul. They believe a different gospel and are neither reconciled to God nor to Christ. They are not new creations but are blinded not by the God who shines light, but by the god of this age who disguises himself as an angel of light. They will not be spared by Paul, and they will no longer be apart of the Corinthian family in Christ. God will not be their Father. Instead, their father will be the devil (Jn 8:44), Satan, who has outwitted them by his own designs—designs which they should not have been but were indeed ignorant to (2 Cor 2:11). They have been deceived by Satan’s cunning (11:3), for the gospel is veiled to them (3:14), and they are perishing (2:15). They will stand naked and ashamed (5:3) before the Judge on his throne (5:10). They have missed the day of salvation (6:2b) and have taken God’s grace in vain (6:1). The Holy Spirit will not have fellowship with them (13:14) for they are in darkness (6:14c; 4:4). They have no guarantee of future hopes and promises (1:22; 5:5). Their end will correspond to their deeds (11:15b). They have, indeed, failed to meet the test (13:5).

However, Paul remains hopeful. He believes they will complete their obedience (10:6; 13:5b), as he has already seen proof of this (2:6, 9; 7:7ff.; 8:7, 24). He is bold (3:12) because the Holy Spirit is at work (3:3) and Christ is in them (13:5). Opening their hearts wide to Paul means closing their hearts and separating from Paul’s opponents. Whether or not any of the Corinthians responds to Paul’s call will reveal whether or not any of them have been reconciled to God as a genuine believer.[6]

Christ initially fulfilled the temple promise (cf. 1:20), and the readers participate in that fulfilment also, as they are ones ‘having these promises’ (7:1).” Paul and the Corinthians are able to fulfill the same promise as Christ “because God ‘establishes [them] in Christ’ by ‘sealing’ believers and giving the ‘Spirit in our hearts as a down payment’ (1:21–22).”[7]


Conclusion

That was basically my paper for my Hermeneutics class (as the writing style represents). In my paper I tried to demonstrate that 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 is original to the letter by showing themes and literary connections. Paul was in his right mind when he wrote this text for the Corinthians (5:13). I hope I have built up (12:19) your confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul. As God’s temple, we need to train our minds to know the true gospel and to be leery of any and all false sources of light which seek to tear down God’s temple-bride (6:14–16; 11.2). We have fled from Babylon, and we can never return to it. We have a Father who has welcomed us into his family (6:17–18). To make sure Babylon never again becomes appealing to our once blinded minds, fear God and freely repent from all big and small sins, for the promises God has given us are many (1.20–7.1).

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Separation Anxiety V (2 Cor 6.17-18)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. Because of this, they should follow God’s commands to separate from the unclean false teachers and and their followers. By doing so they will be welcomed by their Father as they are re-reconciled to his ambassador, Paul.

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

17  Therefore go out from their midst,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch no unclean thing;

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

then I will welcome you,

18  and I will be a father to you,

and you shall be sons and daughters to me,

says the Lord Almighty.”

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)


2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

The Corinthians are God’s people (6:16). They are being transformed into his righteous image day by day (3:18; 5:21). Those who do not live for Christ “who for their sake died and was raised” (5:15) will be part of the old creation and will pass away (5:17). Because they are God’s own, they should separate from the unclean unbelievers (6:14a), “deceitful workmen” who teach a false gospel (11:13–15; cf. Gal 1:9).

In the first three lines of 2 Cor 6:17 Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:11. In Isaiah 52:7-10, God reigns as King from Zion and exhorts his people to leave Babylon and not touch any unclean thing. “Presumably, the sense is that a grand return to Zion, the city of the holy king, requires that anyone returning be pure.”[1] The “sprinkling” that occurs in v. 15 “will effect a purification that will enable not only exiled Jews but also ‘many nations’ to approach the holy king and be part of the holy community.”[2]

Because of the death of God’s Servant (53:4) which brings peace between the believer and God (53:5; cf. Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:18), the Corinthians have been sanctified (1 Cor 1:2) and are called to remain pure. In this second exodus, it is “precisely because that work has been accomplished for [the Corinthians, that] they therefore are to so act and do.”[3] Because God revealed his holy arm for all to see his salvific work (Isa 52:10), the priests are to bring the Lord’s vessels out of Babylon.

All of the Corinthians, likened to priests (cf. 1 Pet 2:5, 9 from Exod 19:5–6), are to separate from what is unclean. The unbelievers are not outside of God’s people; they are threatening the very life of his people from within. The Corinthians must not remain where they are, but they must actually do something. “In the new covenant, works are a God-elicited and necessary part of the life of the converted person, a constant theme in the New Testament.”[4]

Here the Corinthians are to “go out from their midst” (2 Cor 6:17a). “The city is naturally associated with its people” (Rev 18:4), and the people here are the false teachers (and perhaps, any who remain associated to them, [“from among them” in Exod 7:5; Ps 136:11]).[5] Yet, at one time, such were the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:11a) associated with “Babylon,” but they have been sanctified (1 Cor 6:11b). The imperative to separate is limited and defined by the larger context of God’s welcoming his people, despite their rebellions and ill-chosen actions.[6]

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

What is this larger context? If the Corinthians will obey this command, God will welcome them, be a father to them, and they will be his sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:17d–18). In Isaiah 52 God calls his people out of Babylon as a result of his “second exodus” redemptive act (Isa 43:18–19). As a result of their obedience, God promises to gather Israel back and bless them (Ezek 11:17; cf. 20:34, 41). Likewise, just as the Corinthians should separate because of their redemption out from Babylon’s sin and death, the result will be the God will welcome them as a father welcomes his children.

Besides the brief mention of Ezekiel 11:17, Paul conflates 2 Samuel 7:14 and Isaiah 43:6 here in 2 Corinthians 6:18. “During his public accession to the throne, the king underwent an enthronement ceremony in which he was designated as God’s son” (2 Sam 7:14a; Ps 2:7). In 89:27 the king cries a declaration that God is his Father, and he is promised an eternal throne (89:27, 36). Jesus, descending from King David, was declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:3-4), and those in him are “sons of God” (8:14). Believers in Christ, the Davidic king who simultaneously shared in God’s kingship and Spirit and uniquely represented God’s people,[7] can cry a declaration that God is their Father (8:15; cf. 2 Cor 1:20).

Isaiah 43.6 expresses the second exodus in terms of God bringing back his sons and daughters. This promise is seen also in 60:4, which includes “in its context the promise that Israel will again worship at a restored temple” (Isa. 60:7, 13).[8] By using “sons and daughters,” Paul shows that God’s presence is not found in a mere temple, but in a family.[9]

Why should the Corinthians not be unequally yoked and separate from the false apostles? Because God is their Father and has redeemed them and reconciled them to himself; they are new creations in Christ. Who are God’s sons and daughters? The Corinthians who separate from the false teachers. They must detach themselves from the false teachers while anticipating God’s final promises of a continued relationship and of the final redemption of this world.

The Corinthians are able to be separate only by the power of the One who announced these Old Testament commands, “the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18c). This is the only time the phrase “the Lord Almighty” is used in Paul’s writings. It comes from 2 Sam 7:8 and 27 [LXX] and “stresses the invincible power that belongs to God.”[10] The Lord, as the loving Father, is almighty enough to give His children the ability they need to separate from unclean. He keeps his promises (2 Cor 1.20), and they must walk by faith in obedience to him (5.7).

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What is God’s ‘Gift’ in Eph 2.8?

Ephesians 2.8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Another way to read 2.8b would be, “and this does not originate from you.” Baugh points out there is a temptation to read this as pointing to faith. This would read “this faith is not your own doing – it is the gift of God.” What is not our own doing? Is it God’s grace? Our salvation? Our faith? All of it? Baugh believes that the whole event (“being saved by grace through faith”) is God’s gift.

Rather than quoting about obscure Greek grammar, I want to look at some of the examples that Baugh gives.

Eph 5.5, For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

So who won’t inherit the kingdom of God? Those who are impure? Sexually immoral? Covetous? No, all who do those things have no inheritance in God’s kingdom.

Eph 6.1, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

What is right? The Lord is right? Children are right? It is right that they obey the Lord by obeying their parents.

Phil 1.27-28, Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that . . . I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

The clear sign is that they are standing firm, in one spirit, living with one mind, striving side by side, for the faith of the gospel – all together.

1 Thess 5.16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

What is God’s will for our lives? To rejoice always, to pray always, to give thanks always.

What can we glean from this? Baugh says that

All the components of the event are also referenced as originating not from human capacity or exertion but as God’s gift. This means that even the believer’s act of believing comes from God, as is said more explicitly by Paul elsewhere: ‘For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him . . . but also suffer for his sake’ (Phil 1:29) . . . Humans contribute nothing of their own to this salvation, since even believing (which the elect are indeed enabled to do) is a divine gift (cf. Rom 3:24–25). The key to this in the context of Eph 2:8 is what Paul had been driving home so forcefully up until now: Before God’s gracious intervention believers were hopelessly dead, with their wills imprisoned by nature . . . in acts that led only to transgression and sin (2:1–5a, 12). (160-161)

In his book What About Free Will?, Scott Christensen points out, “The point at which unbelievers are ‘made alive’ is when they ‘were dead,’ not when they exercised faith.”  He says “it is impossible to exercise saving faith unless God grants it as part of the gift of receiving new life (cf. Phil. 1:29)” (185).

None of these redemptive realities proceed from our own wills. It is impossible for spiritually dead people to engage in an action that is as full of spiritual life and power as exercising saving faith. God’s choosing of people to salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). This does not mean that our will is not involved later. But Paul’s point is that the exercise of faith doesn’t incite God to act with grace and save us. Rather, it is his grace that incites us to act in faith whereby we willingly receive the benefits of salvation. (185)

As Ephesians 2.10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God prepared beforehand the adoption of both Jews and Gentiles into his family. We have been prepared for good works. God chose us “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1.4).

 

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Deserving of God’s Wrath By Nature

Ephesians 2.1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

After telling the Ephesians that they were dead in their trespasses, that they deliberately walked in their sins, they followed the spirit at work in the sons of disobedience, and they lived according to the passions of their flesh, the desires of their body and mind, just like the rest of mankind they deserved God’s wrath – by nature. They were born into it. It was natural for them to live a life that deserved God’s wrath. That’s not something you’ll hear on Dr. Phil.

dr.-phil-marriage-boot-camp-pathways-seminar-317jxzptofwdv9m88uylmy

And since we wouldn’t hear this from the likes of Dr. Phil, Oprah, Dr. Oz, Rob Bell, or most of the world, Baugh rightly states, “We have lost the appreciation of just how shocking v. 3f would have been” (152). As Baugh points out, Paul was a Jew “by birth and not [a] Gentile sinner.” He was a “son of Abraham” (Lk 19.9) and a “son of the kingdom” (Matt 8.12). He would not have been a “son of destruction” (Jn 17.12) or a “child of Gehenna” (Matt 23.15). He would have considered himself a child of God, not of the devil (Jn 8.39-44). He certainly wouldn’t have been like the unclean Gentiles (Gal 2.15).

Now Paul rightly understands that . . . the whole world, both Jew and Gentile, stands condemned before God apart from Christ . . . If he had simply said that “we were children of wrath,” it might be supposed that this was a state humans happened to fall into or could climb out of themselves, but when Paul says that this state belongs to all “by nature,” he is saying that all—excepting only Christ Jesus . . . were conceived in sin” (152).

We were not “dead in our trespasses,” but we still had enough good moral capacity to choose Christ. We were dead weight, and we were sinking deeper and deeper into an ocean that doesn’t give up it’s dead.

The Good News

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Eph 1.4-5).

“The Christian is an adopted son of God [see my post here] and [a] natural . . . son of divine wrath; he or she derives ‘nobility of birth’ from only the one Father” (153).

This new life we have “is inaugurated in this life by an operation of the Holy Spirit . . . who somehow mysteriously brings the believer into fellowship with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ such that Paul can say that the believer is co-made alive,’ ‘co-raised,’ and ‘co-seated’ with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realms” (156).

This period flows out of what was said before and anticipates what will shortly be said. The church is God’s redeemed, prized possession (1:14), rescued out of thrall to the prince of the power of the air (2:2–3) and included in the host-given gifts out of the bounty of Christ’s victorious ascent to heaven (1:20–23; 3:10; 4:7–10). Hence, in v. 7 Paul says that the church will be the trophies of battle on display “in the ages to come” (157).

In Job 1.8 Yahweh, seated before his divine counsel, asks the adversary, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”” Baugh says that the church will receive a similar, but much better, recommendation. “But by being a redeemed and washed, resplendent church (5:27), Paul says more particularly that God’s heavenly sacred treasury will be filled with the ‘surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’” (157).

As Baugh remarks, and as I can attest, I usually hear (and have also taught) that God’s divine grace is defined as his “undeserved favor” toward us. Yet if we’re not careful, this can sound more like a friendly neighbor loaning sugar to the always-forgetful neighborhood.

Yet,

“As this whole passage shows, God’s grace, which is emphasized here by putting it first in the colon* (v. 8a[, read about the importance here]), is actually God’s favor granted to those who deserve his wrath (v. 3). It is not just undeserved, as if the people whom God befriends were neutral. It is [an] act of immense favor bestowed on those who lie under God’s just condemnation as transgressors and sinners. Hence, a better quick definition is: ‘God’s favor despite human demerit.’”

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Ephesian Magic

 

Abramelin-the-Mage

Welcome to a world of lucky charms, incantations, amulets, and divination. Welcome to the daily life of an Ephesian. Acts tells us that magic was prevalent throughout the Roman world.

Acts 8.9 tells us about Simon the magician, But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.

And Luke tells us Acts 13.6 about Bar-Jesus, When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.

Yet it was in Ephesus where, after turning to Christ, “a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19.19).

It’s hard for most westerners to imagine a life (even a day) where people lived in fear of the dark, unseen forces that surrounded them. In his commentary on Ephesians, S. M. Baugh gives us a few examples into the Greco-Roman and Ephesian mind.

One of Greece’s earliest poets, Hesiod, advised people to “take nothing to eat or to wash with from uncharmed pots, for in them there is mischief” (133).

But nobody cleans a pot and calls it a day. Theophrastus said that the superstitious man “is apt to purify his house frequently, claiming Hekate has bewitched it” (133).

And while many today like turtles (I grew up with plenty in and around my house) because they’re cute, in antiquity the “discovery of a tortoise is particularly lucky, for this animal was ‘a bulwark against baneful spells’” according to the Homeric Hymns (133).

Baugh says that “[f]amous witches like Circe or Medea dot Hellenistic literature with their use of ‘noxious roots of the earth,’ the evil eye, and mystic incantations and rites too fearful even to recount” (134).

These witches were devotees of the “night-stalking Hekate.” The Hymn to Hecate describes Hakate as, “Lovely Hecate … reveling in the souls of the dead … monstrous queen … of repelling countenance.” She was a “fierce mistress of the black arts who had an active cult* throughout Asia Minor, including many references in the remains from Ephesus” (134).

Simply because one became a Christian did not mean that person was no longer tempted to believe in the effects of magic. There was always a pull to conform to the rest of society, to partake in the discussions and practices of warding off the evil spirits with various spells and amulets.

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Early postbiblical writers repeatedly warn their readers to stay away from the “black arts.”

In the Epistle of Barnabas 20.1, the author says, But the way of the Black One is crooked and full of a curse. For it is a way of eternal death with punishment wherein are the things that destroy men’s souls—idolatry, boldness, exaltation of power, hypocrisy… witchcraft, magic, covetousness, absence of the fear of God.”

And Didache 3.4 says, My child, be no dealer in omens, since it leads to idolatry, nor an enchanter nor an astrologer nor a magician, neither be willing to look at them; for from all these things idolatry is engendered.

In Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, he said that Christ’s incarnation “has dissolved all magic practices… and the bondage of evil and ignorance; the old kingdom of the prince of this age has been destroyed” (134).

From that time forward every sorcery and every spell was dissolved, the ignorance of wickedness vanished away, the ancient kingdom was pulled down, when God appeared in the likeness of man unto newness of everlasting life; and that which had been perfected in the counsels of God began to take effect. Thence all things were perturbed, because the abolishing of death was taken in hand.

Christ, Who Has All Things Beneath His Feet

Baugh quotes Clinton Arnold (who wrote a commentary on Ephesians) from Arnold’s book Power and Magic on the background of the Ephesians and their culture of magic. Arnold says:

God’s superior power is available to believers and is working for their best interest—he desires to mediate it to his people for their protection and growth. Believers are depicted as having been transplanted from one sphere of power (kingdom, or dominion) and placed in another. This transfer forms the basis for their access to the power of God. There is therefore no need for believers to seek any additional protection from the “powers” by any means. This would include the devising of ways to manipulate the demons or the invoking of angelic assistance. (134-35, fn 289)

This is simply one of the gifts given by the grace of God our Father which comes through faith in Christ alone. It is Christ who sits at the right hand of God (Eph 1.20). It is Christ who sits in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (1.20-21). And it is Christ who has “all things under his feet” and who is “head over all things to the church, who is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (1.22-23).

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The Father of Christ

Ephesians 1.3 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ….

Ephesians 1.16-18 says, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ … may grant you…”

In Ephesians 1, both vv3 and 17 express the genuine humanity of Christ. Paul speaks of God the Father as Jesus’ God (as does John in 20:17, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”). Was Jesus not divine?

Yet we must hold this truth with what the Bible says elsewhere of Jesus’ own divinity.

Who, though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [or ‘exploited’] (Phil 2.6).

What gives? Is God the “God” of Jesus? We worship Jesus, and Jesus worships the Father?

Baugh explains Paul’s idea, and it just takes a bit of knowledge of the OT. Paul speaks of Jesus’ humanity here in Ephesians for two reasons.

1. Exclusive Human Mediation

Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no other way to get to the Father.

1 Tim 2.5, For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

In the OT God was known by those whom he had covenanted with.

Ps 41.13, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.”

Ezek 11.22, Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

Lk 1.68, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people

1 Kgs 18.36, And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.

Acts 3.13, The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

But God is no longer known as “the God of Israel” or “the God of Abraham.” Now his covenant name is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Cor 1.3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (cf. 11.31)

1 Pet 1.3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Mark Seifrid remarks,

In speaking of God as “the God and Father of Jesus Christ,” Paul . . . identifies Jesus Christ with God . . . in Jesus God has revealed himself as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” As Paul makes clear shortly, all the promises of God find their Yes in him (v 20). The Christ is Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God (6:2; cf. Isa 49:8). He is the one in whom the hope the patriarchs is fulfilled. His name therefore replaces theirs and that Israel in the apostolic benediction. We know God and give him thanks only as the God of Jesus Christ. (17-18)

God is no longer a single-national God, but “the God of all nations (including Israelites) who come to the Father through the incarnate Son” (Baugh, 116).

2. Pagans

Because they lived in the Hellenistic pagan culture, the NT authors stressed Jesus’ humanity.

Acts 14.11-12 lets us catch a glimpse of this. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the leading speaker.

“The ancient Greek gods were thought to appear on earth in human guise,” says Baugh (116). Edward Schnabel states, “As the citizens hail Paul and Barnabas as deities, they would have made sure that the two ‘gods in human form’ understand that they [the citizens] have recognized them [the ‘gods’].

Schnabel tells of an ancient legend with a town neighboring Lystra,

A legend connected with neighboring Phrygia relates that two local gods, perhaps Tarchunt and Runt… —in the Greek version of the legend Zeus and Hermes—wandered through the region as human beings. Nobody provided them with hospitality until Philemon and Baucis, an older couple, shared their supplies with the unrecognized gods. The gods rewarded the couple, making them priests in the temple of Zeus, eventually transforming them into sacred trees, while inflicting judgment upon the other people.

Baugh says that of the more famous of these appearances was that of “Athena as trusted old Mentor to Odysseus’s son, Telemachos, in the Odyssey.” There is also the evidence that Artemis Ephesia was “thought to manifest her appearance to her worshipers in the Ephesian Artemisium” (116).

Paul

Yet none of these appearances are true incarnations. The gods simply appear before people (albeit in a fleshly form). Jesus was not only in a fleshly form, he was human, just like you and me.

Hebrews 2:14, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For . . . he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” 

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Predestination

Foxtrot

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace(Eph 1.3-6a).

Predestination has a long history of discussion (read: arguments) behind it, and it’s certainly not something that I’m going to dive head first into in this post (there are other posts for that). Instead, if you read my post about the Pauline sentence then you would have seen my arrangement of the text of Ephesians 1.3-14 on the bottom of the post. In writing about Ephesians 1.4e-6a Baugh says, “What is most remarkable about the period… is that it consists entirely of six prepositional phrases” which qualify and show the focus of the act of predestination (84).

No Dictionary Provided

You can learn a good deal about a word from it’s definition. The verb to predestine means “to make a previous determination about something or someone” (84). But you learn even more about a word by the way it is used. This is especially true when you’re learning another language.

In English, many things can run. I can run. My nose can run. You can be “in the running” for an award. If you car is almost out of gas you are “running on fumes.“ Boys in elementary (and high school) fear being told they “run like a girl.”

Or this…

ball__you_play_it_like_a_girl_by_stebo88

Each use of run here has a different connotation from the rest, even the last one.

“Predestined”

God’s motive: in love

Goal: for adoption

Mediation: through Jesus Christ

Interrelation of adoption: to himself

Standard governing the act: according to the good pleasure of his will

Result: for the praise of the glory of his grace

Because of God’s love, he chose those who were “dead in their sins” (2.1) to become adopted sons and daughters through his perfect Son, Jesus Christ. And it was through Jesus Christ that we would be brought to the Father, and he would become our Father.

“God’s gracious bestowal of the believer’s position as son-heir is entirely due to the Father’s own will and grace, independent of any sort of qualifications or attractiveness inherent in him or her“ (88) – qualifications we did not have.

Deuteronomy 7:6–8, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

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