Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 7

In another essay I began “to consider what I called ‘Paul’s religious mind’ through the lens of Jesus’ teaching” in Matthew 18:15-17 as ballast for my own bias toward mercy.  Originally, I was concerned about Paul’s judgment from a distance of the man who had his father’s wife.  Here is the relevant text in context (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NET):

It is actually reported that sexual immorality (πορνεία) exists among you, the kind of immorality (πορνεία) that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with (ἔχειν, a form of ἔχω; literally, has) his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you?  For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit.  And I have already judged (κέκρικα, a form of κρίνω) the one who did this, just as though I were present.  When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

When I revisited this text and compared it to Jesus’ message to the angel of the church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) I was more concerned about its impact on the ἐκκλησία, those called by God:[1]

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Paul as an apostle had the authority and God-given wisdom to recognize a weed [Matthew 13:27-30] and uproot it.  Did he have the authority to turn the church of Jesus Christ in Corinth (and any who hear him today) from the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of the Holy Spirit, and transform them into a paranoid police force?  Rather than knowing no law against loving our neighbor as well as our enemies, does every infraction of any law call us to dam up the fruit of the Holy Spirit?  Must we judge one another constantly lest we be proud for loving one another excessively?

As I began to counter my own bias I assumed that members of Chloe’s household had already taken one or two others to the man who had his father’s wife so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established[2] and that he had refused to listen (παρακούσῃ, a form of παρακούω) to them.[3]  What we have in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 then is Paul telling it to the church.  I assumed this because I think Paul was writing about the same man in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 (NET):

But if anyone has caused sadness, he has not saddened me alone, but to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as well.  This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him.  This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair.  Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

In other words, the man who had his father’s wife listened to the church when he was shunned by the church.  If one doesn’t think the one who caused sadness was the same one who had his father’s wife then 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 would be an example of excommunication rather than shunning.  If he refuses to listen (παρακούσῃ, a form of παρακούω) to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector (τελώνης),[4] Jesus said.  He was quite clear how to treat Gentiles and tax collectors (Matthew 5:44-48 NET):

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Even the tax collectors (τελῶναι, a form of τελώνης) do the same, don’t they?  And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do?  Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?  So then, be perfect (τέλειοι, a form of τέλειος), as your heavenly Father is perfect (τέλειος).

From the viewpoint of the ἐκκλησία very little has changed except the credence given to what is said or done by the one no longer in good standing.  Those who are led by the Spirit of God don’t think, for instance, “my father’s wife is the girl for me” because so-and-so had his father’s wife.  But the church is comprised of people who are led by the Spirit of God and others who are not, and both real estate and tangible property are at stake.  Paul didn’t differentiate between the ἐκκλησία and the not-for-profit corporations called churches the way I attempt to do.

In his article “Why are priests celibate?” on the U.S. Catholic: Faith in Real Life website Santiago Cortes-Sjoberg wrote:

It was not until the turn of the first millennium that the church started to canonically regulate clerical marriage, mainly in response to clerical abuses and corruption. Of particular concern was the transmission at the death of a clergyman of church property to his wife and children. The Council of Pavia (1018), for example, issued regulations on how to deal with children of clergy, declaring them serfs of the church, unable to be ordained and barring them from inheriting their father’s benefices (income connected to a church office or parish).

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII issued a decree effectively barring married priests from ministry, a discipline formalized by the First Lateran Council in 1123.

I tell you the truth, Jesus continued, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.[5]  I’ve quoted from a will have been bound translation of the New Testament though will be bound is just as common.  I’m no Greek scholar but will be bound appears to be the more grammatically correct translation of ἔσται.  The relevant entry on GotQuestions.org quoted will be bound but understood it as will have already been bound: “the syntax of the Greek text makes the meaning clear.  What you bind on earth will have already been bound in heaven.”

I saw a play in Los Angeles about thirty-five years ago based on this verse.  A blind priest on a mission journey baptized a flock of penguins.  God and Satan scrambled to catch up, granting the penguins rational souls so they could be held accountable for their sins and tempting them to sin, respectively.  The penguins got very excited about the command to be fruitful and multiply.  I assume “will have already been bound in heaven” exists as a possible translation to counter extreme views like that play.

Keith Drury in his article posted on The Voice, “Who says what the Bible says? The keys to the kingdom, binding and loosing,” outlines a fairly extensive process for addressing the opposite extreme (though he quoted will be bound) of one individual or even a few gathered in Jesus’ name deciding what has already been bound in heaven.  Mr. Drury begins with a group of four men plus his wife as “spiritual director,” moves to a group of six from his Sunday School class to his Sunday School class as a whole, his pastor, his entire church of 1,500 people, his denomination and finally church tradition—“Christians through history.”  In the Catholic catechism the Pope and the College of Cardinals fill this function.

Along the way Mr. Drury wrote this about small groups in John Wesley’s churches: “They did not have a short prayer and send the member out into the woods to ‘sense from the Holy Spirit’ if they had sinned or not.  They did not even send them off to study the Bible.”  I don’t believe this was meant quite as flippantly as it sounded since he described the four men he consulted first as “experts in the Bible, theology, and philosophy.”  I think Mr. Drury understands that apart from the Holy Spirit and the Bible any triangulation by consensus could be much worse than useless.  So let’s attempt to look at the Bible, led by the Spirit of God.

Jesus Jerusalem Council

Paul

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-20 (NET)

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings!  Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person.  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well.  Farewell.

Acts 15:23b-29 (NET)

For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous.  For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves.  They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relationship to God and know his will and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, and if you are convinced that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth – therefore you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself?  You who preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law!  For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

For circumcision has its value if you practice the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  And will not the physically uncircumcised man who keeps the law judge you who, despite the written code and circumcision, transgress the law?  For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code.  This person’s praise is not from people but from God.

Romans 2:12-29 (NET)

It seems fairly clear who had more regard for Jesus’ command not to think that He had come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) the law or the prophets (not to mention more concern for the souls of Gentiles).  The unanimous decision of the church fathers to give Gentiles James’ (Acts 15:13-21) abbreviated version of the law was not presided over by a successor to Peter but by Peter himself.  Yes, Paul instigated the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-3 NET).  Yes, Paul taught the council’s decision for a time (Acts 16:3-5 NET), but ultimately studying the Scriptures (the Old Testament) in the power of the Holy Spirit Paul wrote the letter to believers in Rome.  He said many more things[6] about the law there.  I’ll highlight only two more of them here.

The most direct route to satisfying a hunger and thirst for righteousness, obeying the law in my own strength, is closed (if it was ever actually open after Adam ate the forbidden fruit).  For the lawwas weakened through the flesh…[T]he outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.[7] The indirect route (1 Peter 1:18-20; John 14:6) was ever the best (Romans 3:19-22 NET).

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.

My point here is: in the Bible for all who are led by the Spirit of God to see an individual led by the same Spirit to study the Scriptures corrected an erroneous doctrine proposed by the unanimous consensus of church authorities who claimed the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit.  Granted, none of these authorities had access to 1 Corinthians 13, Romans or Galatians.  Their decision became in effect the irritation that formed these pearls in Paul.

I am so proud of myself any time I understand something Paul wrote it’s practically sinful.  I can barely imagine taking the Old Testament, the Gospel and the mess[8] in Corinth and writing these letters by the Holy Spirit for the very first time.  I think of the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, love – a way that is beyond comparison, as an outline that was fleshed out considerably in Romans, and Galatians seems to assume Romans.  I assume then that they were written in that order though many disagree.  Of course, the Holy Spirit knew the content of all three letters and could have had Paul write them in any order He preferred.

So if Jesus communicated supernaturally through his Spirit to Paul to hand the one who had his father’s wife over to Satan, there is really nothing I can say about that.  My points are all based on the insight that 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 seems contrary to Jesus’ teaching[9] and Paul’s own writing elsewhere (Galatians 6:1-5).  I concede the need for excommunication so that church property doesn’t fall into possession of those not led by the Spirit of God.  I’m not absolutely convinced that outcome has always been the case.  In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if church property, church position and church authority are coveted more by those who live according to the flesh than by those who live according to the Spirit of God (Romans 8:5-14 NET).

There are any number of organizations in the world dedicated to instilling compliance in their members to, and even faith in, various rules and norms.  Some are arguably better at it than churches.  But none of these worldly organizations can offer believers the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, Christ in you, the hope of glory.[10]

[1] Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 1

[2] Matthew 18:16 (NET)

[3] Matthew 18:17a (NET)

[4] Matthew 18:17b (NET)

[5] Matthew 18:18 (NET)

[6] Romans 3:19-31; Romans 4:13-25; Romans 5:12-21; Romans 6:12-20; Romans 7:1-25; Romans 8:1-11; Romans 9:30-33; Romans 10:1-13; Romans 13:8-10

[7] Romans 8:3, 7, 8 (NET)

[8] It is possible that the situation in Corinth wasn’t quite the “mess” Paul thought it was.  Jesus thought He had many people in this city.  See also: Paul in Corinth

[9] Paul’s Religious Mind; Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 1

[10] Colossians 1:27b (NET)

To Make Holy, Part 1

Paul wrote the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 NET):

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work.  Be at peace among yourselves.  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.  See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.  Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks.  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

At first glance it seems that Paul has written a fairly long list of “works” for believers to do.  But I want to break it down a little bit.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge (εἰδέναι, a form of εἴδω; to see, to notice)… …those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you…because of their work.
…and to esteem (ἡγεῖσθαι, a form of ἡγέομαι) them most highly (ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ) in love (ἀγάπῃ, a form of ἀγάπη)… But the fruit of the Spirit is love (ἀγάπη).

So how hard is it really for me to notice those—who labor for my benefit, preside over me in the Lord and admonish me—because of their work?  And then, once I have noticed, to take the love that wells up in me from the Holy Spirit and to esteem (or, lead) them [who labor so diligently on my behalf] most highly in love?  I see only two things that make this difficult or even impossible: 1) I am not led by the Spirit of God and so I do not have this love for those who benefit me so greatly nor do I have eyes to see them; or, 2) they do not admonish me to live by the Spirit of God yet still expect me to love them in my own strength according to a rule Paul commanded.  You will recognize them by their fruit,[1] Jesus said.

Be at peace (εἰρηνεύετε, a form of εἰρηνεύω) among yourselves. But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace (εἰρήνη, a form of εἰρήνη).

So how hard is really to be at peace with others?  Again, I see only two things that make this difficult or even impossible: 1) I am not led by the Spirit of God and so I do not have this peace to share with others; or, 2) they do not live by the Spirit of God but try to make peace in some arbitrary way according to a rule Paul commanded.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish (νουθετεῖτε, a form of νουθετέω) the undisciplined…

Paul used another form of νουθετέω earlier, those whoadmonish (νουθετοῦντας) you.  Admittedly, I don’t see a simple one-to-one correspondence with some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit here.  But Paul believed that he did this in the power of the Holy Spirit: God wanted to make known to them, Paul wrote the Colossians, the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We proclaim him by instructing (νουθετοῦντες, another form of νουθετέω) and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ.  Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.[2]

If someone isn’t up to the task of instructing and teaching the undisciplined, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting (νουθετοῦντες, another form of νουθετέω) one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.[3]  Just be sure those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs proclaim the grace of God and the indwelling Spirit of Christ in you, the hope of glory rather than rules commanded by Paul or your church or your own imagination.

I’ll admit to being a bit gun-shy and perhaps even a little unfaithful about too many people attempting to instruct and teach as Paul did.  But he wrote Roman believers, I myself am fully convinced [in the God of hopeby the power of the Holy Spirit] about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct (νουθετεῖν, another form of νουθετέω) one another.[4]  This goodness (ἀγαθωσύνης, a form of ἀγαθωσύνη) flowed from the Hoy Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit isgoodness (ἀγαθωσύνη).

Paul wrote about how to admonish one another: if anyone does not obey (ὑπακούει, a form of ὑπακούω) our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish (νουθετεῖτε, a form of νουθετέω) him as a brother.[5]  Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning (νουθετῶν, another form of νουθετέω) each one of you with tears.  And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace.  This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (ἡγιασμένοις, another form of ἁγιάζω).[6]

…comfort (παραμυθεῖσθε, a form of παραμυθέομαι) the discouraged (ὀλιγοψύχους, a form of ὀλιγόψυχος)… But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness (χρηστότης).

This comfort was consolation in John’s Gospel narrative: many of the Jewish people of the region had come to Martha and Mary to console (παραμυθήσωνται, another form of παραμυθέομαι) them over the loss of their brother.[7]  And people who were with Mary in the house consoling (παραμυθούμενοι, another form of παραμυθέομαι) herfollowed her[8] to her brother’s tomb.  As you know, Paul wrote the Thessalonians, we treated each one of you as a father treats his own children, exhorting and encouraging (παραμυθούμενοι, another form of παραμυθέομαι) you and insisting that you live in a way worthy of God who calls you to his own kingdom and his glory.[9]  The Greek word ὀλιγοψύχους, translated discouraged was only used this once.  It is a compound of ὀλίγος (puny) and ψυχή (breath, spirit).  The kindness of the Holy Spirit flows from the wealth of his kindness (χρηστότητος, a form of χρηστότης), forbearance, and patienceGod’s kindness (χρηστὸν, a form χρηστός) leads you to repentance.[10]

…help (ἀντέχεσθε, a form of ἀντέχομαι) the weak (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής)… But the fruit of the Spirit is love (ἀγάπη).

The help (ἀντέχεσθε, a form of ἀντέχομαι) we are to be to the weak was translated he will be devoted (ἀνθέξεται, another form of ἀντέχομαι) in Matthew 6:24 (NET) and Luke 16:13 (NET).  An elder must hold firmly (ἀντεχόμενον, another form of ἀντέχομαι) to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation (παρακαλεῖν, a form of παρακαλέω) in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.[11]

Any and all of us in the flesh qualify as the weak (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής): The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (ἀσθενής).[12]  For while we were still helpless (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (ἀσεβῶν, a form of ἀσεβής).  (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.)  But God demonstrates his own love (ἀγάπην, a form of ἀγάπη) for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[13]  And apart from his love (ἀγάπη) flowing through us from his Holy Spirit we will continue to be the weak, those who live according to the flesh rather than those who live according to Spirit (Romans 8:5-14 NET).

For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.  For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.  Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.

So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.

 

…be patient (μακροθυμεῖτε, a form of μακροθυμέω) toward all. But the fruit of the Spirit is…patience (μακροθυμία, a form of μακροθυμία).
See that no one pays back (ἀποδῷ, a form of ἀποδίδωμι) evil (κακὸν, a form of κακός) for evil (κακοῦ, another form of κακός) to anyone… But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness (πίστις).

Surely, that we will be patient toward all with the patience that comes from the Holy Spirit requires no additional explanation from me.  As for faith or faithfulness restraining us from paying back evil for evil: The Greek word translated evil was κακός, intrinsically evil, not πονηρός.  I don’t mean to imply that if someone gives me a complicated list of rules to obey to make myself righteous that I am then free to do unto him as he has done unto me because Paul didn’t use πονηρός here.  I mean that when someone does κακός, real intrinsic evil, to me I am inclined even as a Christian, perhaps especially as a Christian, to think all bets are off.

But Jesus said, the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward (ἀποδώσει, another form of ἀποδίδωμι) each person according to what he has done.[14]  The Greek words ἀποδώσει, translated he will reward and ἀποδῷ, translated pays back, are both forms of ἀποδίδωμι.  Jesus’ faithfulness flowing into me through his Holy Spirit can restrain my fists and my tongue, soothe my anger, in time cause me to forgive and pray mercy for the one who wronged me.  My faith will accomplish none of this.  For through the Spirit, by faith (πίστεως, another form of πίστις), we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight – the only thing that matters is faith (πίστις) working through love (ἀγάπης, another form of ἀγάπη).[15]

This is a good place to remind myself that I’m doing something very arbitrary in this essay, dividing the fruit of the Spirit into constituent parts.  It is one, indivisible.  In crisis moments that “water cannon” eroding away my ungodliness becomes fully that fountain of water springing up to eternal life , making me buoyant, lifting me above and beyond myself, flooding me with God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[16]  Clearly, I might have written about ἐγκράτεια here.  The main reason I did not is that pesky self in the NET translation.

…but always pursue what is good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) for one another and for all. But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη).
Always rejoice (χαίρετε, a form of χαίρω)… But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy (χαρὰ).

Our pursuit of what is good is both directed and energized by God’s goodness flowing from his Holy Spirit.  I’ve written elsewhere about relying on his joy.[17]

…constantly pray (προσεύχεσθε, a form of προσεύχομαι)… In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray (προσευξώμεθα, another form of προσεύχομαι), but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.[18]

Prayer is intimately bound up with being led by the Spirit.  I would like to accentuate that we do not know how we should pray because the Spirit helps us in our weakness as opposed to our arrogance.  The Greek words translated how we should were καθὸ δεῖ, according to necessityFrom that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must (δεῖ) go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.[19]  Let me chase that immediately with a somewhat out of context but completely applicable verse: For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to (καθὸ, a form of καθό) whatever one has, not according to (καθὸ, a form of καθό) what he does not have.[20]  Don’t be scared off by insufficient knowledge.  I feel like a single guy telling married couples how they must have sex.  This must is important enough even to do badly—and often.

Something that has helped me with both prayer and Bible study is a line from James: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters!  Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.[21]  But again, that may be personal for me.  I have a sharp tongue and a quick temper.  Shutting up and listening in prayer brought me face to face so to speak with the virtually bottomless insanity of my own mind.  But I won’t get into that here.  Pray with the Holy Spirit rather than on your own.

…in everything give thanks (εὐχαριστεῖτε, a form of εὐχαριστέω). But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness (πίστις).

I returned again to faith.  It seems like a good place to end.  If I, for instance, hear everything Paul has written above as rules I must obey to prove that I am a Christian, I am weary, frightened and not very grateful.  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, Paul concluded this list.  By faith I can hear this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus as this is what his Holy Spirit is doing in and through you moment by moment.  And suddenly I’m not so weary, much less frightened and filled with gratitude.  Paul continued writing about the Spirit, if we have ears to hear it (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NET).

Do not extinguish the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt.  But examine all things; hold fast to what is good (καλὸν, a form of καλός).  Stay away from every form of evil (πονηροῦ, a form of πονηρός).

And sometime I would do well to go through these in detail.  But this essay has gone long and I need to get to the point.  Paul concluded his remarks with the assurance that all of this is God’s work and not our own (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 NET):

Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy (ἁγιάσαι, a form of ἁγιάζω; KJV, sanctify you wholly) and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.

To Make Holy, Part 2

[1] Mathew 7:16a (NET)

[2] Colossians 1:27-29 (NET)

[3] Colossians 3:16 (NET)

[4] Romans 15:14 (NET)

[5] 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15 (NET)

[6] Acts 20:30-32 (NET)

[7] John 11:19 (NET)

[8] John 11:31 (NET)

[9] 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 (NET)

[10] Romans 2:4 (NET)

[11] Titus 1:9 (NET)

[12] Matthew 26:41b, Mark 14:38b

[13] Romans 5:6-8 (NET)

[14] Matthew 16:27 (NET)

[15] Galatians 5:5, 6 (NET)

[16] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[17] Romans, Part 60; Paul in Corinth; Romans, Part 52; Romans, Part 53; My Reasons and My Reason, Part 6; Romans, Part 68; Romans, Part 70

[18] Romans 8:26, 27 (NET)

[19] Matthew 16:21 (NET)

[20] 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NET)

[21] James 1:19 (NET)

Conclusion

“Satan deceives people with the Progressive Sanctification heresy, which means that sinners gradually become holy after they believe in Jesus…

The crux of this theory is gradual sanctification. It sounds great that man can believe in Jesus and gradually become a holier Christian. This theory has deceived many Christians over the years, making them feel secure. It sounds almost like we work our way to heaven. That’s one reason why there are so many Pharisaical, holier-than-thou Christians in Christendom.”[1]

I stumbled across this quote on “Denny’s Christian Writings” blog late into writing an essay partially about being deceived by a progressive sanctification heresy.  I believed progressive sanctification was entirely up to me—with Jesus’ help, of course.  But it never made me feel secure because I sucked at it wholesale.  I was definitely Pharisaical but holier-than-no-one.  And I hungered and thirsted for righteousness.

I didn’t feel very blessed.  In fact, it reminded me of the pagan myth of the punishment of Tantalus.  I’ve spent as much time, I suppose, as anyone trying to deny or anesthetize that hunger and thirst.  I even wished it away with thoughts like “Denny’s” abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter-here attitude toward 1 Peter 1:15, 16 (KJV):

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” We are told here to be holy, to be Christ-like, but is anyone really Christ-like? Not in this life in the flesh. We should endeavor to be holy as Christ is holy, but Romans 3:12-18 is still in the Bible…

“Denny’s” premise: “Is it possible to have eternal salvation and not be sanctified? Of course not.  Eternal salvation and eternal sanctification go together, one mandates the other. If sanctification required any effort on [our] part, then salvation would not be of grace.”  But how should I “endeavor to be holy as Christ is holy” without hope of success and without doing it by my own efforts?  “We should endeavor to be Christ-like and do good works. However, we are not sanctified by our good works or clean living. Jesus sanctified us.”[2]

Frankly, this sounds like we have moved from a created cosmos where it is hardto enter the kingdom of God[3] to one where it is grammatically impossible.  It doesn’t lead me to faith in Jesus Christ or reliance on the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.  “Denny” quoted Philippians 1:6 (KJV) and Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) and commented on each:

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” This is a very good verse but it has nothing to do with Progressive Sanctification. This verse pertains to our salvation, and our glorious inheritance.

This next verse pertains to the same thing: Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” We have Holy Spirit power working in us, convicting us of sin, but Jesus has already sanctified us once for all.

But I didn’t become holy in practice “once for all” the moment I believed in Jesus.  I need something more than “convicting us of sin” because I still hunger and thirst for righteousness.

I believe wholeheartedly that the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other.[4]  I also believe that—so that you cannot do what you want[5]—cuts both ways, whether I want sin or righteousness.  But I don’t believe for a moment that a grudge-match between the Holy Spirit and my flesh is a fair fight.  My flesh is going to lose.  I can count on it.

I am much less confident, however, in a “church” surrounded by people who don’t believe that righteousness is a basic and urgent need, a hunger and thirst.  I am weak in faith.  In that environment I find it much more difficult to hear the Holy Spirit and much easier to ignore Him.  In many ways traveling for a living and working many weekends has spared me from being overcome by that kind of groupthink.  Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousnesswill be satisfied (χορτασθήσονται, a form of χορτάζω).[6]

I may never be fully satisfied until I can leave this cursed flesh behind and see Him face to face, but that doesn’t stop me from hungering and thirsting for every taste and scrap I can get here and now.  And I really don’t care whether we call that satisfaction progressive sanctification (spiritual progress in the Catholic catechism) or not.  I want that satisfaction.  And as I’ve written before,[7] I don’t believe the hunger and thirst for righteousness originates with me.  It is the perseverance of the saints.

And, yes, of course, perseverance of the saints is a terribly misleading phrase.  It’s all an illusion.  Saints don’t persevere in their own strength.  They get sidetracked, confused, give up and quit as often as anyone else, but the Holy Spirit of Almighty God picks them up fills them again with a hunger and thirst for his righteousness and leads them onward.

The word gradual has always bothered me in the context of sanctification.  My experiences of being in the Spirit or in the flesh have seemed more like instantaneous leaps back and forth with truly dizzying effect.  But my desire has been to spend more time in the Spirit than in the flesh, and any success at that over time might be considered gradual or progressive.  Here’s the issue as I see it.

The Greek words translated sanctified, sanctify, or sanctifieth nine times in the King James translation of the New Testament are forms of ἁγιάζω, to make holy.

Reference

Greek NET

KJV

Hebrews 10:10 ἡγιασμένοι made holy sanctified
Hebrews 13:12 ἁγιάσῃ sanctify sanctify
Hebrews 2:11 ἁγιάζων makes holy sanctifieth
ἁγιαζόμενοι being made holy sanctified
Hebrews 10:14 ἁγιαζομένους are made holy sanctified
Hebrews 10:29 ἡγιάσθη madeholy sanctified
Romans 15:16 ἡγιασμένη sanctified sanctified
1 Corinthians 1:2 ἡγιασμένοις sanctified sanctified
1 Corinthians 6:11 ἡγιάσθητε sanctified sanctified

If I were to graph the change over time, God’s holiness would not change.  It’s my resistance to his holiness that changes.  Here I’m picturing the Holy Spirit—that fountain of water springing up to eternal life—more like a water cannon used in surface mining operations, except that this water canon erodes away my ungodliness (ἀσέβεια) from the inside out.  But I think we might choke on calling this satisfaction progressive godliness.  Besides, the process feels more like progressive un-ungodliness to me.

My plan was to use “Denny’s” Scripture references as an outline for one brief essay and move on.  As I began to study the words translated sanctified, sanctify and sanctifieth I decided to slow down and get real pedantic again.  I’ll start with ἁγιάσαι (a form of ἁγιάζω) in another essay for no other reason than it is first in alphabetical order.

To Make Holy, Part 1

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

Back to To Make Holy, Part 2

[1] The Progressive Sanctification Heresy, Denny’s Christian Writings

[2] ibid.

[3] Mark 10:24b (NET)

[4] Galatians 5:17a (NET)

[5] Galatians 5:17 (NET)

[6] Matthew 5:6 (NET)

[7] Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 6; Saul and Barnabas, Part 3; Jedidiah, Part 5; Paul in Corinth; Son of God – 1 John, Part 3; Fear – Exodus, Part 8

Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

We religious folk of a Christian persuasion are fixated on life and death, heaven and hell.  Jesus was fixated on fulfilling the Scriptures.  How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?[1] (πληρωθῶσιν, a form of πληρόω) He asked rhetorically when Peter took up arms to defend Him.  Up to that moment Jesus’ disciples were willing to follow Him, even to death.  But upon his insistence to submit quietly to death to fulfill the Scriptures they fled.

I do not know the man![2] Peter declared.

Jesus was not the Messiah his religion taught him to expect.  Even after his resurrection Jesus’ disciples wanted Him to conform to their religious image: Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?[3] they asked.  Tracey R. Rich expressed both a modern and an ancient understanding of this in two very succinct paragraphs.[4]

Jews do not believe that Jesus was the mashiach. Assuming that he existed, and assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in describing him (both matters that are debatable), he simply did not fulfill the mission of the mashiach as it is described in the biblical passages cited above [Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:2-5, 10, 11-12; 42:1; Jeremiah 23:5, 8; 30:3; 33:15, 18; Hosea 3:4-5; Micah 4:2-3; Zephaniah 3:13; Zechariah 14:9]. Jesus did not do any of the things that the scriptures said the messiah would do.

On the contrary, another Jew born about a century later came far closer to fulfilling the messianic ideal than Jesus did. His name was Shimeon ben Kosiba, known as Bar Kokhba (son of a star), and he was a charismatic, brilliant, but brutal warlord. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, believed that Bar Kokhba was the mashiach. Bar Kokhba fought a war against the Roman Empire, catching the Tenth Legion by surprise and retaking Jerusalem. He resumed sacrifices at the site of the Temple and made plans to rebuild the Temple. He established a provisional government and began to issue coins in its name. This is what the Jewish people were looking for in a mashiach; Jesus clearly does not fit into this mold. Ultimately, however, the Roman Empire crushed his revolt and killed Bar Kokhba. After his death, all acknowledged that he was not the mashiach.

Rather than frustration with his disciples’ failure to know Him Jesus exhibited supreme confidence in his own Holy Spirit (John 16:12-14): You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority, He said.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.[5]

Enter through the narrow gate, Jesus said, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction (ἀπώλειαν, a form of ἀπώλεια), and there are many who enter through it.  But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.[6]  What happens if I approach this with Jesus’ fixation rather than my ownDo not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, He said.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι, another form of πληρόω) them.[7]  What if ἀπώλειαν meant a destruction of corruption—being completely severed from the righteousness Jesus has provided us here and now through his death and resurrection and the power of his Holy Spirit—rather than an eternal sojourn in a lake of fire?

Instead of an immutable prophecy of his relative failure to accomplish his Father’s mission—For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him[8]—we have Jesus’ warning that the church will do a less than stellar job of imparting the Gospel of his grace.  But this understanding is only evident back in context (Matthew 7:11-16a NET):

If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  [Luke was explicit that these good gifts are the Holy Spirit.]  In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills (ἐστιν, a form of ἐστί; literally, is) the law and the prophets.  Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to [corruption] (ἀπώλειαν, a form of ἀπώλεια), and there are many who enter through it.  But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.

None of this is to wag my finger at pastors, priests and Bible teachers, but to appreciate Jesus’ saying: Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God![9]  I feel terribly inept at explaining what it’s like to live by the Spirit.  I stumbled over progressive sanctification.  The knowledge enshrined in churches as doctrine, however, was not the issue.  A table of quotes from Presbyterian, Baptist and Christian & Missionary Alliance perspectives on progressive sanctification follows.

Progressive Sanctification

Presbyterian Baptist

C&MA

“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” What God has begun in regeneration He will work to continue without interruption throughout the believer’s life. All Christians understand first the first reality: that Christ’s blood has atoned for their sins and they no longer need to fear eternal separation from God. But most Christians do not understand or experience the second reality—the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but to sanctify them.” It involves our availability to the Holy Spirit, our separation from sin, and our growth in the likeness of Christ. Every Christian is a sanctified person, belonging to Christ, and therefore should keep from immorality (1 Cor. 6:13-14; 2 Cor. 7:1). We are involved in a lifetime struggle against sin and a moment-by-moment submission to the Holy Spirit for victory. The New Testament clearly teaches that there are two kinds of Christians. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul talks about Christians who are “spiritual” and contrasts them with those who are “worldly,” or “carnal.” In Romans 7 and 8, the comparison is between those believers who are self-propelled and those who are Spirit driven. In Ephesians 5:18, he implies that some are “filled” and some are “not filled.”
The Lord has given to us His Spirit, and by Him communicates His own life to the justified believer. Holiness is divinely wrought within Christians. Christ enables us to walk in holiness. It [to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”] is a choice we make as believers. No one else can make that choice for us. It is self-determined and is repeated often. The opportunity to experience the two realities of sanctification is available to every believer. The path to the Spirit-filled life requires taking faith-filled risks, which always involves change.
As we look at Christ we are changed into the image of Christ, by the work of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer for the purpose of enabling us to overcome sin and conform us to the likeness of Christ. When we “walk by the Spirit” we do not carry out the deeds of the flesh, but produce “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 22). Surrender We can’t make ourselves holy any more than we can make ourselves saved—we become holy only by realizing that we haven’t got what it takes to be holy (Romans 6:11; Romans 12:1-2).

Accept Christ is our Sanctifier in the same way that He is our Savior (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 2:20).

Abide We maintain a continuous relationship with Jesus through obedience to His Word (John 15:1-11).

Our dependence upon the Holy Spirit is not something that is attained once for all, but is the result of a daily struggle and a constantly renewed commitment.

God will not give up on His goal of making you become like Christ. He will not give up on you until the day He presents you complete, perfect, and mature to the Father in heaven.

These were my religious influences growing up.  I have nothing but minor quibbles over words (obedience, for instance) with any of these statements individually and appreciate all of them together.  I even checked the Catholic catechism.  Sanctification was a subcategory of justification there rather than a separate topic but still I have no serious objection to anything in it.  Oddly enough, I found words closer to my own misunderstanding in the Catholic catechism under the heading III. MERIT, line 2010:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

In my misunderstanding I thought positional sanctification was God’s work in Christ and progressive sanctification[10] was up to me to accomplish.  I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood but I never read the catechism.  Besides, line 2011 is fairly clear on this:

The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

The charity of Christ is ἀγάπη in the New Testament, the love that is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, the love that is the fulfillment of the law.  The relative failure of the church to impart the Gospel of grace was not a lack of knowledge.  So is it in the execution, the way that knowledge is imparted?  Here I’m reminded of an observation that made little sense to me until this very moment: Churchmen liked me better when I was striving on my own to keep rules than when I began to try to live by the Spirit.

My use of churchmen requires some explanation.  I don’t necessarily mean clergy.  And I don’t mean men exclusively.  The best explanation I can imagine is a profile.  Churchmen aren’t believers in the sense that they have any awareness of a crisis moment that marks a difference in their lives between unbelief and belief.  They are probably the children or grandchildren of believers.  Christianity seems natural to them and they have never strayed far from it.  But fitting a profile doesn’t necessarily mean that one did the “crime.”  The “crime” in this case is too facile an identification with the local church in which one takes a leading role: “My church is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through my church.”  But the real crime was that I idolized churchmen and coveted their status.

Churches as institutions have their own agendas.  I fit into those agendas better when I obey their rules.  In other words, churchmen are institutionally biased to favor compliant hypocrites, actors.  This is not to say that they are necessarily hypocrites themselves.  It is to say that they have little experience with any struggle to live by the Spirit.  Their instruction to those of us who do have trouble takes the form of platitudes—”sin is just bad habits which can be overcome by good habits”—techniques for inculcating said good habits and rules to prohibit bad ones, as opposed to faith in Jesus by his Holy Spirit.

Rules are neat and orderly.  Living by the Spirit is messy: When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.[11]  Churchmen (I will say for the sake of argument) decided long ago that we should sit silently in neat rows, stand when we were told to stand, sing what we were told to sing and listen to the lesson the church wanted us to hear.  My church allowed revelations, I suppose, during testimony time.  (I thought testimonies were about all the good things God did for people who were good and “obedient,” you know, churchmen.)  Tongues and interpretations?  Forget about it!

And, frankly, I intend all of this more as a metaphor for imparting the Gospel of grace.  I don’t really care how a church service is organized as much as I care whether someone who doesn’t know how to be led by the Spirit of God can learn that there.  And here I return to Martin Luther.

He lived in a created cosmos where it is hard to enter the kingdom of God.  He grew up in a religious system partially corrupted by false teachers and false prophets.  (The alternative—Jesus killed all the false teachers and false prophets and sent them to hell before they had any influence on anyone else—is untenable to me.)  Martin Luther, by the Holy Spirit, recognized some of the corrupting influences that plagued him and wrote to correct them.  But was Martin Luther perfect and totally free of error himself?

The Luther/Graebner commentary on the fruit of the Spirit[12] follows:

The Apostle does not speak of the works of the Spirit as he spoke of the works of the flesh, but he attaches to these Christian virtues a better name. He calls them the fruits of the Spirit.

LOVE

It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit. In I Corinthians 13, Paul attributes to love all the fruits of the Spirit: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind,” etc. Here he lets love stand by itself among other fruits of the Spirit to remind the Christians to love one another, “in honor preferring one another,” to esteem others more than themselves because they have Christ and the Holy Ghost within them.

JOY

Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh themselves. God does not like doubt and dejection. He hates dreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought. God likes cheerful hearts. He did not send His Son to fill us with sadness, but to gladden our hearts. For this reason the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself urge, yes, command us to rejoice and be glad. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” (Zech. 9:9.) In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be “joyful in the Lord.” Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Christ says: “Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven.”

PEACE

Peace towards God and men. Christians are to be peaceful and quiet. Not argumentative, not hateful, but thoughtful and patient. There can be no peace without longsuffering, and therefore Paul lists this virtue next.

LONGSUFFERING

Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long run. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore he repeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil to get tired of his game.

GENTLENESS

Gentleness in conduct and life. True followers of the Gospel must not be sharp and bitter, but gentle, mild, courteous, and soft-spoken, which should encourage others to seek their company. Gentleness can overlook other people’s faults and cover them up. Gentleness is always glad to give in to others. Gentleness can get along with forward and difficult persons, according to the old pagan saying: “You must know the manners of your friends, but you must not hate them.” Such a gentle person was our Savior Jesus Christ, as the Gospel portrays Him. Of Peter it is recorded that he wept whenever he remembered the sweet gentleness of Christ in His daily contact with people. Gentleness is an excellent virtue and very useful in every walk of life.

GOODNESS

A person is good when he is willing to help others in their need.

FAITH

In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?

MEEKNESS

A person is meek when he is not quick to get angry. Many things occur in daily life to provoke a person’s anger, but the Christian gets over his anger by meekness.

TEMPERANCE

Christians are to lead sober and chaste lives. They should not be adulterers, fornicators, or sensualists. They should not be quarrelers or drunkards. In the first and second chapters of the Epistle to Titus, the Apostle admonishes bishops, young women, and married folks to be chaste and pure.

Is there anything here that indicated that the Holy Spirit produces this fruit in us, or does it read like a list of ideals to pursue or rules to obey?  I see two things that may hint at the Holy Spirit’s involvement: 1) “There can be no peace without longsuffering” and, 2) “the Christian gets over his anger by meekness.”  While I appreciate the connection of the fruit of the Spirit and the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, nothing here would have turned me from viewing that definition as a list of rules to obey to prove I was a Christian.  In fact, the explanation given for “a walk in the Spirit”[13] seems both mystical and works oriented to me:

They crucify the flesh with its evil desires and lusts by fasting and exercise and, above all, by a walk in the Spirit. To resist the flesh in this manner is to nail it to the Cross. Although the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act upon its desires because it is bound and nailed to the Cross.

Granted, failing at the effort to love like Jesus by turning Paul’s definition of love into rules, prompted me to look for something else—something like the fruit of the Spirit.  But I wonder about Martin Luther.

If Theodore Graebner’s translation carries anything of Luther’s own thinking on the fruit of the Spirit, this alone could account for the pridefulness on which Joe Heschmeyer commented.  If Luther let go of the rule-based righteousness of the monastery yet didn’t fully embrace the righteousness of God in the fruit of the Spirit as he fought for his life to believe in justification by “faith alone” against a stronger adversary than any of us know as the Roman Catholic Church—both pridefulness and a general lack of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control make sense to me.

Every boy growing up in my church knew that “sowing to the flesh” meant viewing pornography.  While that may well be an example of “sowing to the flesh” in one area of human life, rejecting the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21, 22) that is given new every morning—the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that flows from his Holy Spirit—to do it somehow on one’s own is sowing to the flesh in every area of human life (Galatians 6:7-8 NET).

Do not be deceived.  God will not be made a fool.  For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption (φθοράν, a form of φθορά) from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Luther/Graebner commented[14] literally if superficially[15] on this:

This simile of sowing and reaping also refers to the proper support of ministers. “He that soweth to the Spirit,” i.e., he that honors the ministers of God is doing a spiritual thing and will reap everlasting life. “He that soweth to the flesh,” i.e., he that has nothing left for the ministers of God, but only thinks of himself, that person will reap of the flesh corruption, not only in this life but also in the life to come. The Apostle wants to stir up his readers to be generous to their pastors.

While sharing all good things with the one who teaches[16] the word is a good thing (Galatins 6:9, 10) that flows from the goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη) of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, bribing one’s teacher will not help anyone live righteously here and now—unless one is also led by the Spirit of God.  Here I’ll turn to Peter to explain Paul (Acts 8:17-20 NET):

Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Now Simon, when he saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, offered them money, saying, “Give me this power too, so that everyone I place my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish (ἀπώλειαν, a form of ἀπώλεια) with you, because you thought you could acquire God’s gift with money!”

If your teacher is not even trying to teach you how to be led by the Spirit of God, find another to share all good things with the one who teaches.  Better yet, cry out to Jesus and study the Scriptures with Him.  He loves the Scriptures.  He died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and will return again to make them so.

Conclusion

Back to Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 6

Back to Who Am I? Part 6

Back to Romans, Part 88

[1] Matthew 26:54 (NET)

[2] Matthew 26:72b (NET)

[3] Acts 1:6b (NET)

[4] Tracey R. Rich, Mashiach: The Messiah, Judaism 101

[5] Acts 1:7, 8 (NET)

[6] Matthew 7:13, 14 (NET)

[7] Matthew 5:17 (NET)

[8] John 3:17 (NET)

[9] Mark 10:24b (NET)

[10] Some think that progressive sanctification is so tainted with self-righteousness that it is heresy. I’m sensitive to this criticism, having lived and breathed that heresy, but will wait to consider it in another essay.

[11] 1 Corinthians 14:26b (NET)

[12] Commentary on Galatians 5:22, 23

[13] Commentary on Galatians 5:24

[14] Commentary on Galatians 6:8

[15] Therefore they will eat from the fruit of their way, and they will be stuffed full of their own counsel (Proverbs 1:31 NET).  The one who sows iniquity will reap trouble (Proverbs 22:8a NET)…  But you have plowed wickedness; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of deception.  Because you have depended on your chariots; you have relied on your many warriors (Hosea 10:13 NET).  See: https://www.gotquestions.org/you-reap-what-you-sow.html

[16] Galatians 6:6 (NET)

Sowing to the Flesh, Part 1

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials,[1] Peter wrote to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, have been granted (λαχοῦσιν, a form of λαγχάνω) a faith just as precious as ours.[2]  Another thing the Lord knows, Peter continued, is how to reserve the unrighteous for punishment at the day of judgment, especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority.  Brazen and insolent, they are not afraid to insult the glorious ones, yet even angels, who are much more powerful, do not bring a slanderous judgment against them before the Lord.[3]

I think some things in these letters are hard to understand.  Who, for instance, were the glorious ones (δόξας, a form of δόξα)?  Who did the angels (ἄγγελοι, a form of ἄγγελος) not bring a slanderous judgment against?  The glorious ones?  Or those brazen and insolent ones who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority, who are not afraid to insult the glorious ones.

The angels “are greater in power and might,” Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary[4] on 2 Peter, “and that even than those who are clothed with authority and power among the sons of men, and much more than those false teachers who are slanderous revilers of magistrates and governors.”  In Mr. Henry’s mind the glorious ones insulted by those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority were human “magistrates and governors.”  If this is what Peter meant I’ve already written about the difference between Peter’s writing on the subject and his own actions.

“These ungodly ones are proud, despising authority,” David Guzik wrote in his commentary of 2 Peter 2.  “In their presumption they will even speak ill of spiritual powers (Satan and his demons) that the angels themselves do not speak evil of, but the angels rebuke them in the name of the Lord instead.”[5]  If this was what Peter meant, then the glorious ones insulted by those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority were the gods of Rome and its environs.  Frankly, I can’t tell if Peter meant either or both or none of the above.

Peter, in my opinion, wrote just enough to demonstrate why John and Paul were called to write most of the Gospel commentary in the New Testament.  I don’t mean to criticize Peter as a man, a believer, an apostle or a leader, simply as a writer.  But I think sometimes we Protestants are too quick to exonerate him from the Catholic contention that Peter was the first Pope.

Consider what he wrote about faith (2 Peter 1:5-7 NET):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

This sounds a lot like the piling on of merits in the “form of absolution used among the monks”[6] quoted by Luther/Graebner 1,300 years later.

God forgive thee, brother. The merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the blessed Saint Mary, always a virgin, and of all the saints; the merit of thy order, the strictness of thy religion, the humility of thy profession, the contrition of thy heart, the good works thou hast done and shalt do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be available unto thee for the remission of thy sins, the increase of thy worth and grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.

Granted, Peter may have been misunderstood.  The Greek word translated add was ἐπιχορηγήσατε (a form of ἐπιχορηγέω).  Another form— ἐπιχορηγηθήσεται—of the very same word was translated will beprovided just six verses later.  Peter may have meant that we should make every effort to “be provided” with excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection and unselfish love by the fruit of the Holy Spirit; since Jesus’ divine power has bestowed (δεδωρημένης, a form of δωρέομαι) on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.[7]  But apparently Peter’s writing has made that difficult to suss out.

Now I sincerely doubt a first century Jewish apostle of Jesus Christ consciously thought of himself as Pope (Pontifex Maximus), the leader of the Roman state religion.  The title was probably assumed sometime after 381 when “Christianity [was] made [the] state religion of [the] Roman Empire.”[8]  But I have no doubt that Peter was received as leader, or bishop, if or when he arrived in Rome, if not during his lifetime, surely after his martyrdom.

I may not qualify as an historian but I have an interest in history.  That interest may compel me to hear the reasoning of the author of The Lonely Pilgrim blog: “Every historical record that speaks to Peter’s later life and death attests that he died in Rome a martyr under the emperor Nero, ca. A.D. 67.  No record places the end of his life anywhere else.”[9]  But as a believer I can’t follow his reasoning when he asserts:

The fact that so many Protestants deny [that Peter ministered in Rome] so vehemently, and refute it so absurdly, tells me that they, however basically, realize the power in our claim.  They recognize and in effect acknowledge what we have maintained for many centuries: that having the chief of Apostles as our foundation gives the Roman Catholic Church legitimacy and primacy.

“We have Peter as our founder” is the same species of error that John corrected when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism (Matthew 3:7-9 ESV) [for repentance]…

“Bear (ποιήσατε, a form of ποιέω) fruit in keeping (ἄξιον, a form of ἄξιος) with repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

Membership in a church Peter founded is not equivalent to trusting the Savior Peter trusted.  Mason Gallagher, an American pastor, wrote, “Rome sends her heralds to this land who come to me in the name of Peter and demand my adherence, and complete subjection…”[10]  The problem was made more acute because he believed “that Peter had such power, proved by Holy Writ” (Matthew 20:20-28).  He quoted a Catholic priest, Reuben Parsons, D. D.:

The simplest way of proving that the Bishop of Rome is not the successor of St. Peter, is by establishing as a stubborn fact that St. Peter himself, the presumed source of the Roman claims, never was Bishop of Rome; in fact that he never was in the Eternal City.

But isolated as this quote is, it’s impossible to determine if it was a genuine admission of potential persuasion or a false alternative thrown off like countermeasures from a warplane caught in an enemy’s missile lock.  But Mr. Gallagher cited other quotations under the heading “What Rome Teaches.”  I’ve put them in a table opposite Peter’s words.

What Rome Teaches

What Peter Taught (Acts 4:11, 12 NET)

“If anyone should deny that it is by the institution of Christ, the Lord, or by Divine Right, that blessed Peter should [have] a perpetual line of successors in the primacy over the Universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter in the Primacy, let him be anathema!”

— Decree of Vatican Council, 1870.

 

“He that acknowledgeth not himself to be under the Bishop of Rome, and that the Bishop of Rome is ordained of God to have Primacy over all the world, is a heretic and cannot be saved, nor is of the flock of Christ.”

— Canon Law Ch. of Rome.

 

Creed of Pope Pius IV., 1564: “I acknowledge the Holy ‘Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, for the mother and mistress of all Churches; and I promise true obedience to [the] Bishop of Rome — successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ. I do at this present freely profess, and sincerely hold, this true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved.”

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.

I will not argue before the judgment seat of Christ that Peter at Pentecost was ignorant of a church he would found at Rome to usurp Jesus’ salvation.  And I would not recommend that anyone else do so.

I’m not inclined to argue with anyone who believes that Babylon means Babylon in Scripture.  As A. Allison Lewis (See: “Testimony” at the bottom of the page) wrote, “In 1 Peter 5:13, it tells us very plainly that [Peter] wrote that epistle from the city of Babylon.”[11]  This kind of literalism is my customary and preferred way to read Scripture.  But in this case—as the original fundamentalists identified themselves to one another by shortening their first names to an initial and using their middle names as their “Christian” names—I think Babylon might have been code for Rome.[12]

“The Church here in Babylon, united with you by God’s election, sends you her greeting, and so does my son, Mark” (1 Pet. 5:13, Knox). Babylon is a code-word for Rome. It is used that way multiple times in works like the Sibylline Oracles (5:159f), the Apocalypse of Baruch (2:1), and 4 Esdras (3:1). Eusebius Pamphilius, in The Chronicle, composed about A.D. 303, noted that “It is said that Peter’s first epistle, in which he makes mention of Mark, was composed at Rome itself; and that he himself indicates this, referring to the city figuratively as Babylon.”

I moved across the country about the time I began to form a negative opinion of Peter’s writing.  Looking for a church online I came across a sermon series on Peter’s epistles.  The pastor praised Peter as a clear and concise author.  Since the sermons where also online and I could catch up and keep up with the series while I was traveling, I started attending that church when I was home on Sunday.  Though the pastor praised the clarity of Peter’s writing, whenever he wanted to explain what Peter meant he turned to John or Paul.

This may be more relevant than whether Peter founded the church at Rome.  Protestants more often than not turn to John and Paul to understand Peter.  If I were more inclined to favor Peter’s writings and utilized them to understand John and Paul, I might derive a Gospel understanding more like that of the Roman Catholic Church.

But these men, Peter continued—describing those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authoritylike irrational animals – creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed (φθοράν, a form of φθορά) – do not understand whom they are insulting, and consequently in their destruction (φθορᾷ, another form of φθορά) they will be destroyed (φθαρήσονται, a form of φθείρω), suffering harm as the wages for their harmful ways.[13]

The Greek word φθοράν, translated destroyed above, was translated corruption in the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption (φθοράν, a form of φθορά) from the flesh.[14]  Another form φθορᾶς was translated decay in the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay (φθορᾶς, another form of φθορά) into the glorious freedom of God’s children.[15]  Peter described false teachers who promised people freedom while they themselves are enslaved to immorality (φθορᾶς, another form of φθορά).[16]  And he wrote (2 Peter 1:3, 4 NET):

…his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.  Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption (φθορᾶς, another form of φθορά) that is produced by evil desire.

The definition of φθαρήσονται in the NET offers the following historical insight: “in the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted or ‘destroyed’ when anyone defiled or in the slightest degree damaged anything in it, or if its guardians neglected their duties.”  I want to link this to another quote and another Greek word ἀπώλεια (2 Peter 2:1b-3 NET):

These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive (ἀπωλείας, a form of ἀπώλεια) heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them.  As a result, they will bring swift destruction (ἀπώλειαν, another form of ἀπώλεια) on themselves.  And many will follow their debauched lifestyles.  Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.  And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.  Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction (ἀπώλεια) is not asleep.

If false teachers bring swift destruction on themselves, where do they find the time to lead others into their debauched lifestyles?  But I’m not convinced that this particular confusion was Peter’s fault.  The definition of ἀπώλεια online caught my attention:

apṓleia  (from 622 /apóllymi, “cut off“) – destruction, causing someone (something) to be completely severed – cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been.

If what could or should have been was that Jesus’ divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness then this swift destruction may be, not an end of human life, but being completely severed from what Jesus has bestowed on us and intended for us, a destruction of corruption (Romans 1:18, 22-32 NET).

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness…Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.  Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen.  For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another.  Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.  They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice.  They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.  Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

So we would have (2 Peter 2:12, 13):

But these men, like irrational animals – creatures of instinct, born to be caught and [corrupted] (φθοράν, a form of φθορά) – do not understand whom they are insulting, and consequently in their [corruption] (φθορᾷ, another form of φθορά) they will be [corrupted, led astray][17] (φθαρήσονται, a form of φθείρω), suffering harm as the wages for their harmful ways.  By considering it a pleasure to carouse in broad daylight, they are stains and blemishes, indulging in their deceitful pleasures when they feast together with you.  Their eyes, full of adultery, never stop sinning; they entice unstable people.  They have trained their hearts for greed, these cursed children!

And (2 Peter 2:1b-3 NET):

These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with [corrupting] (ἀπωλείας, a form of ἀπώλεια) heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them.  As a result, they will bring swift [corruption] (ἀπώλειαν, another form of ἀπώλεια) on themselves.  And many will follow their debauched lifestyles.  Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.  And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.  Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their [corruption] (ἀπώλεια) is not asleep.

Watch out for false prophets, Jesus said, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.[18]  Do the teachers proclaim and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?  Or are they sowing to their own flesh and reaping corruption from their own flesh?

Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] 2 Peter 2:9a (NET)

[2] 2 Peter 1:1b (NET)

[3] 2 Peter 2:9b-11 (NET)

[4] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/2-peter/2.html

[5] https://enduringword.com/commentary/2-peter-2/

[6] Commentary on Galatians 2:18

[7] 2 Peter 1:3 (NET)

[8]Constantine: First Christian EmperorChristianity Today

[9] Early Testimonies to St. Peter’s Ministry in Rome

[6] Rev. Mason Gallagher,D. D., “Was the Apostle Peter ever at Rome? A critical examination of the evidence and arguments presented on both sides of the question

[11] A. Allison Lewis, “Was Peter Ever in Rome?

[12]Was Peter in Rome?

[13] 2 Peter 2:12, 13a (NET)

[14] Galatians 6:8a (NET)

[15] Romans 8:21 (NET)

[16] 2 Peter 2:19a (NET)

[17] Forms of φθείρω were translated corrupts in 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NET); corrupted in 2 Corinthians 7:2 (KJV); may be led astray in 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NET); who is being corrupted in Ephesians 4:22 (NET) and corrupted in Revelation 19:2 (NET)

[18] Matthew 7:15, 16a (NET)

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 7

In this essay I’ll consider three occurrences of yârêʼ (תירא), the first two very briefly.  They simply mean fear, the fear of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do.[1]

Numbers 21:33-35 (NET)

Deuteronomy 3:1-4 (NET)

Then they turned and went up by the road to Bashan.  And King Og of Bashan and all his forces marched out against them to do battle at Edrei.  And the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear (yârêʼ, תירא) him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand.  You will do to him what you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon. Next we set out on the route to Bashan, but King Og of Bashan and his whole army came out to meet us in battle at Edrei.  The Lord, however, said to me, “Don’t be afraid (yârêʼ, תירא) of him because I have already given him, his whole army, and his land to you.  You will do to him exactly what you did to King Sihon of the Amorites who lived in Heshbon.”
So they defeated Og, his sons, and all his people, until there were no survivors, and they possessed his land. So the Lord our God did indeed give over to us King Og of Bashan and his whole army and we struck them down until not a single survivor was left.  We captured all his cities at that time – there was not a town we did not take from them – sixty cities, all the region of Argob, the dominion of Og in Bashan.


I also commanded Joshua at the same time
, Moses continued, “You have seen everything the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) your God did to these two kings; he (yehôvâh, יהוה) will do the same to all the kingdoms where you are going.  Do not be afraid (yârêʼ, תיראום) of them, for the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) your God will personally fight for you.”[2]

The third occurrence of yârêʼ requires more consideration (Deuteronomy 4:10 NET):

You stood before the Lord your God at Horeb and he said to me, “Assemble the people before me so that I can tell them my commands.  Then they will learn to revere (yârêʼ, ליראה) me all the days they live in the land, and they will instruct their children.”

The Hebrew word was yârêʼ.  The Tanakh reads: ‘Assemble Me the people, and I will make them hear My words that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.’[3]  The Septuagint reads: “Assemble the people to me, and let them hear (ἀκουσάτωσαν, a form of ἀκούω; See Luke 16:29) my words so that they may learn to fear me all the days as long as they live on the earth and may teach their sons…”[4]  Yet the NET translators chose revere and I don’t have any quarrel with it.  Doing this study has helped me realize that something is happening to the fear of yehôvâh.

I’ve already heard Moses associate this fear with faith.  Here, too, it is associated with something like faith.  Moses said (Deuteronomy 4:1-4 NET):

Now, Israel, pay attention to the statutes and ordinances I am about to teach you, so that you might live and go on to enter and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.  Do not add a thing to what I command you nor subtract from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I am delivering to you.  You have witnessed what the Lord did at Baal Peor, how he eradicated from your midst everyone who followed Baal Peor.  But you who remained faithful to the Lord your God are still alive to this very day, every one of you.

The Hebrew word translated remained faithful was dâbêq (הדבקים), clinging, adhering to in the NET dictionary.  But ye that did cleave unto HaShem your G-d are alive every one of you this day.[5]  I picture a child clinging to her parent’s leg for comfort and security.  It reminded me of President Obama’s gaffe on the campaign trail:[6]

For a second day, Mr. Obama sought to explain his remarks at a recent San Francisco fund-raiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their economic circumstances, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as a way to explain their frustrations.

A believer looking back might easily perceive the clinging of those who did not join themselves to Baal Peor as a kind of faith.  In the Septuagint it was προσκειμενοι (a form of προσκαρτέρησις; translated held fast in English): “strong perseverance which prevails by interacting with God.”

I’ve been thinking lately about the ubiquity of the hero’s journey as a function of the religious mind, the pride (ἀλαζονεία, a form of ἀλαζονεία) of life.  Looking back—after the judgment and condemnation (Numbers 25:4, 5) that distinguished those who engaged in πορνεία with the Moabite women and their gods (Numbers 25:1-3) from those who did not—the latter group may seem the more heroic whether through a “strong perseverance which prevails by interacting with God” or having remained faithful.  But Moses’ choice of dâbêq (הדבקים) may reflect the actual situation when the next step on the hero’s journey seemed to be a love and peace initiative with the descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot through his eldest daughter (Genesis 19:37), while the less heroic in Israel clung to yehôvâh’s commands regarding idolatry and adultery.

The only other occurrence of dâbêq (הדבקים) in the Old Testament was in Solomon’s proverb: there is a friend who sticks closer (dâbêq, דבק) than a brother.[7]  I have no idea what that meant to Solomon.  To someone who knows the Holy Spirit it is difficult not to think of Him as that friend.  Moses continued, a significantly different attitude toward the law than Luther/Graebner indicated  (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 NET):

Look!  I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as the Lord my God told me to do, so that you might carry them out in the land you are about to enter and possess.  So be sure to do them, because this will testify of your wise understanding to the people who will learn of all these statutes and say, “Indeed, this great nation is a very wise people.”  In fact, what other great nation has a god so near to them like the Lord our God whenever we call on him?  And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this whole law that I am about to share with you today?

Then Moses recalled the giving of the law:

Exodus 20:18-20 (NET)

Deuteronomy 4:9, 10 (NET)

All the people were seeing the thundering and the lightning, and heard the sound of the horn, and saw the mountain smoking – and when the people saw it they trembled with fear and kept their distance.  They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we will listen, but do not let God speak with us, lest we die.”  Moses said to the people, “Do not fear (yârêʼ, תיראו), for God has come to test you, that the fear (yirʼâh, יראתו) of him may be before you so that you do not sin.” Again, however, pay very careful attention, lest you forget the things you have seen and disregard them for the rest of your life; instead teach them to your children and grandchildren.  You stood before the Lord your God at Horeb and he said to me, “Assemble the people before me so that I can tell them my commands.  Then they will learn to revere (yârêʼ, ליראה) me all the days they live in the land, and they will instruct their children.”

Here Moses chose yârêʼ for the fear that was yirʼâh in Exodus.  The translation revere seems cognizant at least of a meaning other than simple fear.  “We want it understood that we do not reject the Law as our opponents claim,” Luther/Graebner asserted in their “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” under the heading The Twofold Purpose of the Law. “On the contrary, we uphold the Law.”

Their twofold purpose was “to check civil transgression, and to magnify spiritual transgressions.”  Paul added another purpose: through the law comes the knowledge of sin.[8]  Luther/Graebner allowed:

The Law is also a light like the Gospel. But instead of revealing the grace of God, righteousness, and life, the Law brings sin, death, and the wrath of God to light. This is the business of the Law, and here the business of the Law ends, and should go no further.

I would add under this rubric of light that the law like all Scripture is a way to knowthe only true God, and Jesus Christ.[9]

Luther/Graebner recognized “three ways in which the Law may be abused”[10] (actually, four ways):

First, by the self- righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the Law. Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian from the observance of the Law…Thirdly, the Law is abused by those who do not understand that the Law is meant to drive us to Christ. When the Law is properly used its value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time.

The fourth way the law may be abused is to be ignorant of it.  Luther/Graebner cited this as the introduction to the other three ways: “The doctrine of the Law must therefore be studied carefully lest we either reject the Law altogether, or are tempted to attribute to the Law a capacity to save.”  I was ignorant of Leviticus 5:4-6 (though I had certainly read it) while Numbers 30:1-2 stuck with me.

Numbers 30:1, 2 (NET)

Leviticus 5:4-6 (NET)

Moses told the leaders of the tribes concerning the Israelites, “This is what the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath of binding obligation on himself, he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.” …when a person swears an oath, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips, whether to do evil or to do good, with regard to anything which the individual might speak thoughtlessly in an oath, even if he did not realize it, but he himself has later come to know it and is guilty with regard to one of these oaths – when an individual becomes guilty with regard to one of these things he must confess how he has sinned, and he must bring his penalty for guilt to the Lord for his sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, whether a female sheep or a female goat, for a sin offering. So the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

I hope Jephthah (Judges 11:34-40) was ignorant of Leviticus 5:4-6 (though I just stumbled across an essay that claims Jephthah didn’t sacrifice his daughter but merely consigned her to a life of celibacy [according to her own will]).[11]  I had thought that Jephthah’s sacrifice was necessary and in some sense “good,” given my understanding of the law.  Now I consider Jephthah’s attempt to justify himself by law a failure, whether he sacrificed his daughter or consigned her to celibacy, for he did not confess his thoughtless oath.  As James wrote (James 2:10, 11 NET):

For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.”  Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law.

This time however I see the hero’s journey as an aspect of the religious mind as well.  It seems so much more “heroic” (in the sense that I pay the price of obedience to God’s law) to sacrifice one’s daughter, whether to death or celibacy, than to confess one’s sin.  To confess sin is a weakness and a disgrace by comparison to a hero’s journey.

In the book of Esther, Letters were sent by the runners to all the king’s provinces stating that they should destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, from youth to elderly, both women and children, on a particular day, namely the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar), and to loot and plunder their possessions.[12]  Esther interceded with the king on behalf of her people: let an edict be written rescinding those recorded intentions of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, which he wrote in order to destroy the Jews who are throughout all the king’s provinces.[13]

But the king’s decree could not be rescinded: Any decree that is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring cannot be rescinded.[14]  The only solution was to write another decree authorizing a day of civil war in the kingdom: The king thereby allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and to stand up for themselves – to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any army of whatever people or province that should become their adversaries, including their women and children, and to confiscate their property.[15]

When Moses interceded with yehôvâh, pleading for the lives of the descendants of Israel (Exodus 32:9-14), the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), unlike the king of Persia, repented (nâcham, וינחם; Septuagint: ἱλάσθη, a form of ἱλάσκομαι) of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.[16]  Follow me, Jesus said.  John wrote (1 John 1:8-2:2 NET):

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.  (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.)  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.

The fear of yehôvâh might compel one to sacrifice his daughter, whether to death or celibacy.  To confess one’s sin and bring the appropriate sacrifice, So the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his sin is something else altogether.  To revere yehôvâh is not an altogether unworthy attempt to encapsulate that difference in a word.

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 8


[1] Luke 12:4 (NET)

[2] Deuteronomy 3:21, 22 (NET)

[3] Deuteronomy 4:10b (Tanakh)

[4] Deuteronomy 4:10b (Septuagint)

[5] Deuteronomy 4:4 (Tanakh)

[6] New York Times, April 13, 2008, On the Defensive, Obama Calls His Words Ill-Chosen, by KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and JEFF ZELENY

[7] Proverbs 18:24b (NET)

[8] Romans 3:20b (NET)

[9] John 17:3b (NET)

[10] Commentary on Galatians 3:23

[11] The opposing view is defended adequately in “Jephthah’s Vow

[12] Esther 3:13 (NET)

[13] Esther 8:5b (NET)

[14] Esther 8:8b (NET)

[15] Esther 8:11 (NET)

[16] Exodus 32:14 (KJV)

Romans, Part 86

But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, Paul continued, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.[1]  Though it may sound as if Paul commended Roman believers for their peculiar goodness and knowledge, I will maintain that his confidence was in the God of hope and the power of the Holy Spirit: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.[2]

The Greek word translated am fully convinced was Πέπεισμαι (a form of πείθω).  For I am convinced (πέπεισμαι, a form of πείθω), Paul wrote, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[3]  I know the one in whom my faith is set, he wrote Timothy, and I am convinced (πέπεισμαι, a form of πείθω) that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.[4]  And he characterized himself as one who put no confidence (πεποιθότες, another form of πείθω) in the flesh, Roman or otherwise: For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (καὶ οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ πεποιθότες)…[5]

The goodness Paul was fully convinced that Roman believers were full of was ἀγαθωσύνης (a form of ἀγαθωσύνη) in Greek.  Again, it was not that Romans were peculiarly full of goodness in Paul’s estimation while citizens of Thessalonica needed to rely on God: we pray for you always, Paul wrote believers in Thessalonica, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness (ἀγαθωσύνης, a form of ἀγαθωσύνη)…[6]  Walk as children of the light, he wrote believers in Ephesus, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness (ἀγαθωσύνῃ), righteousness, and truth[7]  And, of course, goodness is delivered daily to believers as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[8]

The knowledge with which believers in Rome were filled was γνώσεως (a form of γνῶσις) in Greek.  Once again, I don’t think Paul meant that Romans were peculiarly filled with all knowledge.  He didn’t even claim knowledge for himself or the other apostles beyond what was given by God: For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” he wrote believers in Corinth, is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge (γνώσεως, a form of γνῶσις) of God in the face of Christ.[9]  My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, he wrote the Colossians, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge (ἐπίγνωσιν, a form of ἐπίγνωσις) of the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (γνώσεως, a form of γνῶσις).[10]  Christ’s love, in fact, surpasses knowledge: to know (γνῶναι, a form of γινώσκω) the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (γνώσεως, a form of γνῶσις), so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.[11]  For Paul the value of knowing (γνώσεως, a form of γνῶσις) Christ Jesus my Lord was far greater than all human honor.[12]

But I have written more boldly to you on some points so as to remind you, Paul continued his letter to believers in Rome, because of the grace given to me by God to be a minister (λειτουργὸν, a form of λειτουργός) of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.[13]  Paul had not yet been to Rome.  His self-consciousness about all that he had written to believers there intrigues me.  I can easily see this letter as the culmination of Paul’s working through his own issues, from the Jerusalem Council to Athens to Corinth and on to Ephesus.  Did he recognize the importance the Roman Church would assume once the Jerusalem Church was scattered?  Surely the Holy Spirit did.

I don’t think Paul intended to write a treatise on the Gospel but a letter to Roman believers.  Still, by the Holy Spirit a Gospel treatise is what he wrote.  Without altering a word Paul wanted to explain his boldness (τολμηρότερον; translated more boldly).  I serve the gospel of God like a priest, he continued, so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.[14]  So that the Gentiles may be sanctified by their own obedience or by adding their own works to their faith?  No, so that the Gentiles may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit (ἡγιασμένη ἐν πνεύματιἁγίῳ).

The Greek word translated sanctified was ἡγιασμένη (a form of ἁγιάζω).  Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy (ἁγιάσαι, another form of ἁγιάζω), Paul wrote believers in Thessalonica, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.[15]  Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify (ἁγιάσῃ, another form of ἁγιάζω) her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.[16]  Sanctify (ἁγίασον, another form of ἁγιάζω) them by the truth, Jesus prayed to his Father, your word is truth.[17]  For them, Jesus continued in prayer, I sanctify (ἁγιάζω) myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (ἡγιασμένοι, another form of ἁγιάζω).[18]

For indeed he who makes holy (ἁγιάζων, another form of ἁγιάζω) and those being made holy (ἁγιαζόμενοι, another form of ἁγιάζω) all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters[19]  As I’ve written before,[20] it is axiomatic to me that Jesus’ holiness was from the Holy Spirit rather than his own divine nature.  Otherwise, his command and invitation, Follow me, would be meaningless to sinful human beings.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, Jesus promised Paul, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified (ἡγιασμένοις, another form of ἁγιάζω) by faith in me.[21]

Luther/Graebner called the religious mind “that monster called self-righteousness”:[22]

This is the principal purpose of the Law and its most valuable contribution. As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he would swear that he is righteous. How is God going to humble such a person except by the Law? The Law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and the lightning of God’s wrath to bring down the proud and shameless hypocrites. When the Law was instituted on Mount Sinai it was accompanied by lightning, by storms, by the sound of trumpets, to tear to pieces that monster called self-righteousness. As long as a person thinks he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous.

This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe. And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.

The awful spectacle at Mount Sinai portrayed the proper use of the Law…

The Law is meant to produce the same effect today which it produced at Mount Sinai long ago. I want to encourage all who fear God, especially those who intend to become ministers of the Gospel, to learn from the Apostle the proper use of the Law.

This could explain Jonathan Edwards’Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  It was not based on his own experience of eternal life, knowing God, but on a preaching technique derived from a metaphorical reading of the events at Sinai.  But when I approach those events with Jesus’ key to understanding the Old Testament I can’t hear it as a metaphor, only as a literal demonstration of the absolute limits of fear-based righteousness.  With theatricality and pyrotechnics beyond any human preacher’s bellicose pulpit pounding yehôvâh got forty days of obedience to the law out of fear.

To be fair Luther/Graebner didn’t expect preaching designed “to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff” to produce righteousness (or even obedience to the law) directly, but to foster a hunger and thirst for righteousness:[23]

The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook [Fames est optimus coquus]. The Law makes afflicted consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Christ’s benefits are so precious that He will dispense them only to those who need them and really desire them.

I understand precious here as scarce and conclude that this last statement is essentially false.  Christ’s benefits are not scarce.  They are as omnipresent[24] as the Holy Spirit.  Everyone needs them: Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’[25]  And God Himself provides the desire for them as well as their accomplishment: for the one bringing forth (ἐνεργῶν, a form of ἐνεργέω) in you both the desire (θέλειν, a form of θέλω) and the effort (ἐνεργεῖν, another form of ἐνεργέω) – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.[26]  There is no cause to add conditions to sanctification beyond faith in Christ.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.[27]  But how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?[28]  Or how are we to hear if preachers preach something other than the truth that we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit?

On the one hand Luther/Graebner seemed to grasp this:[29]

…the Holy Ghost is sent forth into the hearts of the believers, as here stated, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This sending is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel through which the Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with new judgment, new desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not a derivative of reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operation of the Holy Ghost.

Though they did a yeoman’s job demonstrating that justification is by faith in Christ apart from the works of the law, any law, when it came to sanctification Luther/Graebner let the whole wretched works religion in through the back door:[30]

If we think of Christ as Paul here depicts Him, we shall never go wrong. We shall never be in danger of misconstruing the meaning of the Law. We shall understand that the Law does not justify. We shall understand why a Christian observes laws: For the peace of the world, out of gratitude to God, and for a good example that others may be attracted to the Gospel.

First, I want to be perfectly clear that a believer in Christ merely appears to observe laws.  That appearance does not result from attempting to “observe laws” but from hearing with faith and receiving the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the love that is the fulfillment the law.  The peace of the world, my gratitude to God and desire that others may be attracted to the Gospel is not up to the task of righteousness.

At times Luther/Graebner seemed to comprehend the fruit of the Spirit:[31]

The Word of God falling from the lips of the apostle or minister enters into the heart of the hearer. The Holy Ghost impregnates the Word so that it brings forth the fruit of faith.

Yet when Luther/Graebner addressed the “fruit of faith” directly it reads:[32]

FAITH

In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?

In fact every detail of every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in the Luther/Graebner commentary reads like a definition of a virtue, an ideal or a rule to be pursued by my desire for “the peace of the world, out of gratitude to God, and for a good example that others may be attracted to the Gospel.”  In contrast I will quote Paul once again (Romans 15:15, 16 NET):

But I have written more boldly to you on some points so as to remind you, because of the grace given to me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.  I serve the gospel of God like a priest, so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Anything less than being sanctified by the Holy Spirit is a human attempt to be perfected by the flesh.  Are you so foolish? Paul asked struggling believers in Galatia.  Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort (σαρκὶ, a form of σάρξ)?[33]  We of this generation risk being judged by skeptics or some future apostle of some future dispensation with the words:

For if grace had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by  grace.

Romans, Part 87

Back to Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 7

Back to Who Am I? Part 6


[1] Romans 15:14 (NET)

[2] Romans 15:13 (NET)

[3] Romans 8:38, 39 (NET)

[4] 2 Timothy 1:12b (NET)

[5] Philippians 3:3 (NIV)

[6] 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NET)

[7] Ephesians 5:8b, 9 (NET)

[8] Galatians 5:22, 23a (NET)

[9] 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NET)

[10] Colossians 2:2, 3 (NET)

[11] Ephesians 3:19 (NET); See: Ephesians 3:14-21

[12] Philippians 3:3-11, cf. verse 8

[13] Romans 15:15, 16a (NET)

[14] Romans 15:16b (NET)

[15] 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 (NET)

[16] Ephesians 5:25b-27 (NET)

[17] John 17:17 (NIV)

[18] John 17:19 (NIV)

[19] Hebrews 2:11 (NET)

[20] The Righteousness of God; Romans, Part 50

[21] Acts 26:17, 18 (NET)

[22] Commentary on Galatians 3:19, “The Twofold Purpose of the Law”

[23] Commentary on Galations 3:21

[24] Psalm 139:1-18 (NET)

[25] John 3:7 (NET)

[26] Philippians 2:13 (NET)

[27] Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

[28] Romans 10:14b (NET)

[29] Commentary on Galatians 4:6

[30] Commentary on Galatians 4:4, 5

[31] Commentary on Galatians 4:19

[32] Commentary on Galatians 5:22, 23

[33] Galatians 3:3 (NET)

Who Am I? Part 5

During my Christmas holiday Grandmother described her simple faith to me: Jesus died to save us from the god of the Old Testament.  She didn’t want me or any preacher or any church or the Bible to confuse her simple faith in her simple gospel.  It was an eerie inversion of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell (ἀνάθεμα)![1]  I reaffirmed my belief that yehôvâh/Jesus (John 8:56-59 NET) died and rose again from the dead to save us from sin (1 John 2:1, 2 NET).

Daughter asked me to pray for the fruit of the Spirit for her as she dealt with Mother.  I reaffirmed that the fruit of the Spirit was not detachable from the Holy Spirit who is given (John 7:37-39 NET) to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah] who has come in the flesh (Matthew 16:15-17 NET).  I also told her that the Old Testament never actually questioned the existence of the two goddesses and one god she had chosen to worship instead of Jesus (yehôvâh come to earth in human flesh) but referred to them as demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-18 NETyehôvâh opposed.  I assured her I would pray that she would turn to Jesus, receive his Holy Spirit and bear the fruit of his Spirit.  As I remember she had an ugly encounter with Mother.

Mother lost her job recently.  Ever the optimist she consoled herself with the idea that it would be easier to file for bankruptcy.  During my business trip as I read Luther’s “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” she texted a question: is pedophilia mentioned in the Bible?  I texted back that I was working everyday but wanted to give her question the attention it deserved: “I don’t know exactly what your question is,” I wrote, “but mine is why?  Why was an eight-year-old girl sexually assaulted by her father, not just any eight-year-old girl, but you.  If it’s okay with you I’ll share my thoughts as they come.”

She texted back: a green heart emoji.

As I studied the law I was reminded of my wife’s words when she wanted a divorce: “I don’t like your [masochistic] sexuality, and when I do I don’t like myself.”  I used it as a kind of preface to my remarks to Mother: “It wasn’t malicious, but somewhere I strayed from a desire to love her into a selfish desire to use her to satisfy my own sexual desires.  So human (male) selfishness is probably as good an answer to why as any.  It doesn’t answer the larger question of why did God allow me, or your father, to carry out those selfish desires, but it’s a start.”

Then I continued with a brief survey of the law:  The concept pedophilia doesn’t appear as a class of sins.  Skeptics take that to mean that God approves or, more likely, doesn’t exist.  I assume that laws were meant to prohibit sins practiced at the time the laws were given, though I find it somewhat difficult to believe that pedophilia never came up.  “God’s attitude revealed in the law is that…a man is married to the woman he has sex with – period.  This is even true in the case of rape (Deuteronomy 22:28, 29).”

“Women take offense at this because they see it as forcing them to marry their rapists.  (Actually a woman’s father could refuse the marriage—Exodus 22:16, 17—and I think he would make that determination according to his daughter’s heart.)  Remember the point of Scripture: For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law (Galatians 3:21b NET).  Law gives us knowledge of sin, prohibits and punishes sin and, if possible, inhibits sin.  Men rape women.  Being married to one’s victim defeats every advantage of rape and might inject a moment’s pause into all but the most heinous acts.”

I quoted Leviticus 18:22 to cover male on male pedophilia, and men are not “to approach any close relative to have sexual intercourse with her” (Leviticus 18:6 NET), especially not a woman and her daughter (Leviticus 18:17).  I found no age of consent in the law but quoted yehôvâh’s allegory from Ezekiel 16.  He raised the people of Jerusalem like an abandoned baby, first as a daughter and “later” as his bride.  “Later” was sometime after, Your breasts had formed and your [pubic?] hair had grown (Ezekiel 16:7b NIV).  “I assume,” I texted, “that this reflected the ideal of captured female children.  Sinful men probably did not live up to this ideal in all cases.  So, yes, unequivocally, your father’s actions are sin in God’s eyes.”

Then I got really personal:  “Why you?  I have some thoughts developing, none of which have anything to do with some defect in you that makes you deserving of such treatment.”  (I knew she had gotten some advice like that from a Christian psychologist.)  “Give yourself a break.  You got a skewed view of life at a very young age.”  I promised to continue studying and to share what I discovered.

She was taken aback that I had compared myself to her father.  She informed me then that she was getting involved in bringing awareness to the issue of pedophilia and simply wanted some biblical info.  She thanked me and wrote that there was no need for any further information.  Then I regretted using the word molested for the way I had treated my wife.  The only coercion my wife had felt was the compulsion of spouses not to deprive each other.  I hadn’t intended to minimize what Mother had suffered as a child, but had recalled my own understanding of masochism (fig. 3) and realized I had become a sadist by my own definition.

fig. 3

As I read her text again something else caught my ear: “I am not sure where that came from but it was not from me.”  Mother thought she had triggered some painful memory in me, or that I was accusing her of doing so.  “No, you didn’t do anything to cause me to recall these things,” I texted back.  “When I think about the law I can’t help but think about where I have fallen short as well.  Your Dad and I are different in degree perhaps but as I thought about cause, selfishness seemed readily apparent.”

By the time Mother sought retributive justice[2] against her father she was a rebellious, promiscuous teen girl; he was an adult male, retired police officer and Sunday school teacher.  He and his defenders all but convinced her she had imagined the whole thing.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network quoted a 2005 CDC study, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study: Data and Statistics:as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.”[3]  Is it any wonder Mother thinks she might fare better in this world with a more feminine deity? 

In “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” Luther/Graebner wrote: “The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair.”  I was once alive apart from the law, Paul wrote believers in Rome, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive and I died.[4]  He wrote this after affirming that the law is lord (κυριεύει, a form of κυριεύω) over a person as long as he lives.[5]  I think Paul meant that he could live and feel fairly good about himself if the law was not foremost in his consciousness but when it became foremost again sin became alive and I died.  So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death![6]

Tempting as it is to speculate how a retired-police-officer-turned-Sunday-school-teacher responded to law when his teenage daughter attempted to prosecute him, I’ll stick to something I know—my own reactions while perusing the law to the memory of abusing my wife.  I didn’t feel guilt, terror or despair.  Jesus died and rose again from the dead to save me from my sins.  I have confessed my sin, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.[7]  I’ve apologized to my ex-wife.  Now I feel nothing more or less about it than as a fact.

In the past five years I’ve blogged over a thousand pages about the religious mindLuther/Graebner dealt with it in one paragraph[8]:

Those who do not know God in Christ arrive at this erroneous conclusion: “I will serve God in such and such a way. I will join this or that order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor. God will sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For is He not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the unworthy and ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting life as a due payment in return for my many good deeds and merits.” This is the religion of reason. This is the natural religion of the world…There may be a difference of persons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far as their fundamental beliefs are concerned they are all alike.

In my own defense I’m not trying to base my insights into the religious mind on my own authority or Martin Luther’s or Theodore Graebner’s.  Mine is an “attempt to distinguish the mind of Christ from the ordinary religious mind” using “the sharpness and precision of Scripture.”

Historian Yuval Harari described how the religious mind has helped human beings find meaning in their lives[9]:

You can think about religion simply as a virtual reality game. You invent rules that don’t really exist, but you believe these rules, and for your entire life you try to follow the rules. If you’re Christian, then if you do this, you get points. If you sin, you lose points. If by the time you finish the game when you’re dead, you gained enough points, you get up to the next level. You go to heaven.

People have been playing this virtual reality game for thousands of years, and it made them relatively content and happy with their lives.

Mr. Harari went on to predict the eventual triumph of the religious mind: “In the 21st century, we’ll just have the technology to create far more persuasive virtual reality games than the ones we’ve been playing for the past thousands of years. We’ll have the technology to actually create heavens and hells, not in our minds but using bits and using direct brain-computer interfaces.”  But these computer simulations will never grant a continuous infusion of Jesus’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and control, the righteousness that fulfills the law, to any player of any virtual reality game. 

Again, I’m tempted to speculate whether a retired police officer became a Sunday school teacher to “get points,” hoping “God will sanction [his] good intentions and reward [him] with everlasting life…as a due payment in return for [his] many good deeds and merits.”  But I only know that he has never granted his daughter the dignity of acknowledging that she was sexually abused by him.  And I’m reminded of Jesus’ distinction between those who have been born from above and those who have not (John 3:19b-21 NET):

…light (e.g., Jesus Himself, God’s one and only Son, John 3:16-18 NET) has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (πονηρὰ, a form of πονηρός).  For everyone who does evil deeds (φαῦλα, a form of φαῦλος) hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.  But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.

Without a confession everything I’ve written about Mother’s father would be hearsay in a court of law and potentially libelous.  Apart from God’s direct intervention (Joshua 7:10-22) law is so weakened by the sinful flesh of human beings (Romans 8:3, 4) it can’t even provide retributive justice for the weakest among us.

Mother attended a rally in Washington, DC recently encouraging lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate what is now being called pedogate.  I heard the tale of a presidential candidate’s involvement with child sex cults last fall and dismissed it the same day as electioneering.  (In the U.S. citizens are asked to distinguish and vote for the lesser of two evils.)  Though Mother’s belief in this conspiracy theory surprised me at first, I realize she is one of the 1 in 4 women for whom the unthinkable is also the actual.  As I began to look into the tale myself I found only a story[10] so far, a potboiler of a political thriller but a story all the same.  I hope it’s not a true story.  If true it is πορνεία,[11] perpetrated against enslaved children, practiced on a scale inconceivable since Israel’s army entered Canaan.

If I begin to believe this story my persistent prayer for justice may need to change.

Who Am I? Part 6


[1] Galatians 1:9b (NET)

[2] An interesting article by Samantha Schmidt in the Washington Post online highlighted news coverage of an “accomplished, international human rights lawyer” seeking retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings.”  The lawyer happened to be female.  The news coverage focused on her yellow dress, her baby bump and her famous husband rather than her message.  Though Ms. Schmidt’s article does an admirable job of presenting the female lawyer’s accomplishments, her message—retributive justice for “victims of Islamic State rapes and kidnappings”—still gets short shrift and left me to wonder if I would ever have heard about it at all if the accomplished female attorney was anyone other than Amal Clooney, the beautiful wife of George Clooney. Nine days later under the headline “Former ISIS sex slave demands justice for Yazidis” CNN found a way to tell more of the story.

[3] Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, under the heading “Child Sexual Abuse Myths and Facts.”  A CDC site Veto Violence listed child sexual abuse (male and female) as 21% as of March 31, 2017.

[4] Romans 7:9, 10a (NET)

[5] Romans 7:1b (NET)

[6] Romans 7:9b, 10 (NET)

[7] 1 John 1:9 (NET)

[8] Commentary on Galatians 4:8, 9

[9] Yuval Harari on why humans won’t dominate Earth in 300 years

[10] Here are two other sources for the story: https://steemit.com/pizzagate/@son-of-satire/the-debunking-of-the-new-york-times-debunking-of-pizzagate; http://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=60679

[11] The development of my own understanding of the meaning of πορνεία in the New Testament can be traced in the following essays: Immorality; Adultery and X; Adultery in the Law, Part 1; Adultery in the Law, Part 2; Adultery in the Law, Part 3; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 1; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 2; Adultery in the Prophets, Part 3

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 6

My gift is showing mercy.  Also, I’m an outsider in many ways.  I was persona non grata when I returned to my childhood church, ostensibly because my wife divorced me, but the impossibility of repentance after apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-6) is an ever-present potential refutation of my existence.  Rather than feeling marginalized these days I perceive that I am right where I should be at the epidermal interface of the body of Christ and the world.  I see more people flowing out of the body than in presently.  Admittedly, that limited perspective may be a measure of my own ineffectiveness as a witness rather than a measure of problems in the churches from which people have fled.

Given my bias toward mercy I want to consider what I called “Paul’s religious mind” through the lens of Jesus’ teaching: If your brother sins, go and show him his fault (ἔλεγξον, a form of ἐλέγχω) when the two of you are alone.[1]  Paul had every right to bring Leviticus 20:11 to the attention of the man in Corinth who had his father’s wife.  (This study has given me the confidence to write that.)  The primary purpose of such confrontation was clearly stated: If he listens (ἀκούσῃ, a form of ἀκούω) to you, you have regained (ἐκέρδησας, a form of κερδαίνω) your brother.[2]

This was not a slash and burn purging of wickedness.  Paul concurred: Preach the message, he wrote Timothy, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove (ἔλεγξον, a form of ἐλέγχω), rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.[3]  This straightforward approach, however, was severely hampered since Paul, Silas and Timothy passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey.[4]  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us, the council had written, not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality (πορνείας, a form of πορνεία[5]).  If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well.[6]

I think Paul wrote about the law—through the law comes the knowledge of sin[7]—in his letter to the Romans to correct the erroneous impression fostered by the Jerusalem Council that everything is lawful.[8]  Obviously, not everyone agrees.  Justin Lee wrote in the essay titled “Justin’s View” under the heading “Not Under a New Law”: “Paul makes it perfectly clear that we as Christians are not under the law — Old Testament or New Testament.  He’s not trying to remove one law only to put us under another one; he’s trying to show us that in Christ, we are free from the law.”

I’ll assume that the man who had his father’s wife was an elder, rebellious, an idle talker, deceiver or someone with Jewish connections[9] and ignore the fact that Paul did not go and show him his fault privately.  So I’m skipping—But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established[10]—assuming that members of Chloe’s household may have done this already.  And I am going straight to, If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.[11]  Paul instructed Timothy: Those [elders] guilty of sin must be rebuked (ἔλεγχε, another form of ἐλέγχω) before all, as a warning to the rest.[12]  For there are many rebellious people, he wrote Titus, idle talkers, and deceivers, especially those with Jewish connections,[13] who must be silenced because they mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught.  A certain one of them, in fact, one of their own prophets, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  Such testimony is true.  For this reason rebuke (ἔλεγχε, another form of ἐλέγχω) them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith[14]

The Greek word translated sharply was ἀποτόμως.  It was necessary to add ἀποτόμως to ἔλεγχε to achieve this effect because ordinarily ἔλεγξον (another form of ἐλέγχω) was to be done with complete patience and instruction.  Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians while absent, so that when I arrive I may not have to deal harshly (ἀποτόμως) with you[15]  All those I love, Jesus said, I rebuke (ἐλέγχω) and discipline[16] (e.g., with complete patience and instruction).  And when he comes, Jesus promised, he [the Advocate] will prove the world wrong (ἐλέγξει, another form of ἐλέγχω) concerning sin and righteousness and judgment[17]  I would like to function in harmony with the Holy Spirit rather than at cross purposes.

I don’t know Justin Lee or any more about him than has been revealed on the Gay Christian website, but this study compels me to consider why I am patient with him.  Whether I do it myself or not, should I desire that he be rebuked before all?  He is a leader.  He has used his insights into Scripture to gather a group of followers.  I’ve already acknowledged that more people leave the body of Christ than join or re-enter in my immediate vicinity.

The only person I know who has ever taken my insights seriously died of a brain tumor when we were thirty-six-years-old.  He was my biggest fan and encouraged me to write down what he and I discussed together.  I refused at that time.  Young and still full of delusions of grandeur I said, “The last thing the world needs is another Protestant sect.”  I don’t recall if I said it or not at the time, but I feel for Martin Luther.  Can you imagine being Martin Luther, standing before Jesus?  He looks you in the face and says, “Lutherans? Really?”

After I wrote this I went to work for nine days.  I couldn’t think much more about this essay, so I read Luther’s “Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” in my down time.  Though I’ve heard and read about Martin Luther all my life I’d never actually read any of his writings.  I still haven’t.  I didn’t read his commentary in Latin but an abridged translation by Theodore Graebner who only consented to write it if he were “permitted to make Luther talk American, ‘streamline’ him, so to speak–because you will never get people, whether in or outside the Lutheran Church, actually to read Luther unless we make him talk as he would talk today to Americans.”[18]  So what I’ve read may actually be more useful to my understanding than unadulterated Luther since it was considered by it’s author (translator, abridger) and publisher to be popular marketable Luther, published four years before I was born.

Justin Lee under the heading “Prooftext #4: The Abomination (Leviticus 18-20)” wrote: “I’ve heard people quote Leviticus to forbid homosexuality and tattoos, but other than that, people generally don’t turn to Leviticus for moral guidance.”  Luther/Graebner wrote: [19]

Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by the Law. The fact is, we are justified by Christ. Hence, we are not justified by the Law. If we observe the Law in order to be justified, or after having been justified by Christ, we think we must further be justified by the Law, we convert Christ into a legislator and a minister of sin.

If we are discussing justification Mr. Lee has unflagging support from Luther/Graebner:[20]

Now the true Gospel has it that we are justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the Law. The false gospel has it that we are justified by faith, but not without the deeds of the Law. The false apostles preached a conditional gospel…The true Gospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer…

Human reason can think only in terms of the Law. It mumbles: “This I have done, this I have not done.” But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, given into death for the sins of the whole world. To turn one’s eyes away from Jesus means to turn them to the Law.

True faith lays hold of Christ and leans on Him alone.

Martin Luther’s perhaps unfortunate[21] saying—faith alone—clearly means “faith in Christ alone.”  As Edward Snowden did to the clandestine services Martin Luther blew the whistle on the inner workings of the monastery: “In their writings [the hypocrites] play up the merits of man, as can readily be seen from the following form of absolution used among the monks,” Luther/Graebner wrote:[22]

“God forgive thee, brother. The merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the blessed Saint Mary, always a virgin, and of all the saints; the merit of thy order, the strictness of thy religion, the humility of thy profession, the contrition of thy heart, the good works thou hast done and shalt do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be available unto thee for the remission of thy sins, the increase of thy worth and grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.”

Faced with this who among us wouldn’t say, “No, justification is by faith alone”?  Yet the intent of even so blatant a denial of Christ was to assuage the inner guilt of unbelieving hearts, something Luther knew intimately:

The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian. I must confess that in times of temptation I do not always know how to do it. To divide Law and Gospel means to place the Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; to call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law earthly; to put as much difference between the righteousness of the Gospel and that of the Law, as there is difference between day and night. If it is a question of faith or conscience, ignore the Law entirely. If it is a question of works, then lift high the lantern of works and the righteousness of the Law. If your conscience is oppressed with a sense of sin, talk to your conscience. Say: “You are now groveling in the dirt. You are now a laboring ass. Go ahead, and carry your burden. But why don’t you mount up to heaven? There the Law cannot follow you!” Leave the ass burdened with laws behind in the valley. But your conscience, let it ascend with Isaac into the mountain.

In civil life obedience to the law is severely required. In civil life Gospel, conscience, grace, remission of sins, Christ Himself, do not count, but only Moses with the lawbooks. If we bear in mind this distinction, neither Gospel nor Law shall trespass upon each other. The moment Law and sin cross into heaven, i.e., your conscience, kick them out. On the other hand, when grace wanders unto the earth, i.e., into the body, tell grace: “You have no business to be around the dreg and dung of this bodily life. You belong in heaven.”[23]

I’m not sure I could endorse so severe a distinction between “faith or conscience” and “civil life,” so strict a separation of church and state as this.  But I get the concept that a weak conscience is extremely offended by God’s law.  So in that sense I would say a harsh criticism of Mr. Lee is unwarranted if justification is the issue.  A homosexual is justified by faith in Christ just as a man prone to outbursts of anger is justified by faith in Christ.  I’m keying here on the phrase will not inherit the kingdom of God, θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν in Galatians 5:21 to equate μαλακοὶ (a form of μαλακός) and ἀρσενοκοῖται (a form of ἀρσενοκοίτης) with θυμοί (a form of θυμός translated outbursts of anger.

Mr. Lee argued under the heading “Prooftext #3: The Sinful ‘Arsenokoitai’ (1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10)”: “The most likely explanation is that Paul is referring to a practice that was fairly common in the Greek culture of his day — married men who had sex with male youths on the side[24]…many scholars believe that ‘malakoi’ and ‘arsenokoitai’ are meant to be taken together, so that the malakoi are the young men who service the arsenokoitai.”  In my opinion his arguments should be accepted or refuted on their own merits without questioning Mr. Lee’s justification by faith in Jesus Christ.  I don’t intend to argue any of that here.  I’ve already stated my belief that, You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman,[25] still functions as knowledge of sin.  I believe that the civility of that argument is of far more importance spiritually than its outcome.

As long as people who share my belief impugn the justification of people who believe as Mr. Lee believes, more homosexuals will be called to faith (which is not necessarily a bad thing).  Consider what Paul understood about God’s calling (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NET):

Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters.  Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position.  But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.  God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence.  He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

What concerns me here is what if we are right?  What if, by constantly harassing and forcing them to defend their justification, we do not give homosexual believers the space and liberty to hear from the Holy Spirit?  I take Martin Luther as my point of departure.  On his website Shameless Popery under the heading “2. Less Catholic, Less Christian,” Joe Heschmeyer wrote:

When Catholics point out that several of Luther’s early writings sound pretty Catholic, the standard Protestant response (and a quite reasonable one, I might add), is that Luther wasn’t completely reformed yet. Even after he went into schism, he spent another quarter-century slowly divesting himself of his Catholic beliefs. But what’s remarkable is that, as Luther became less and less Catholic, he became less and less Christian.

Mr. Heschmeyer diagnosed Luther’s problem as pride but that sounds like begging the question to me.  What was it in Martin Luther’s knowing of Jesus’ Father and Jesus Himself that encouraged or allowed him to become more prideful as he aged?  I’ll pick this up in another essay.

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 7

Back to Who Am I? Part 5

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 1

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] Matthew 18:15a (NET)

[2] Matthew 18:15b (NET)

[3] 2 Timothy 4:2 (NET)

[4] Acts 16:4 (NET)

[5] I think this is why Paul called the sin of a man who had his father’s wife πορνεία twice in in 1 Corinthians 5:1.

[6] Acts 15:28, 29 (NET)

[7] Romans 3:20b (NET)

[8] 1 Corinthians 10:23a (NET)

[9] Titus 1:10 (NET)

[10] Matthew 18:16 (NET)

[11] Matthew 18:17a (NET)

[12] 1 Timothy 5:20 (NET)

[13] NET note 14: “Grk ‘those of the circumcision.’ Some translations take this to refer to Jewish converts to Christianity (cf. NAB ‘Jewish Christians’; TEV ‘converts from Judaism’; CEV ‘Jewish followers’) while others are less clear (cf. NLT ‘those who insist on circumcision for salvation’).”

[14] Titus 1:10-13 (NET)

[15] 2 Corinthians 13:10 (NET)

[16] Revelation 3:19a (NET)

[17] John 16:8 (NET)

[18] Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Martin Luther, translated and abridged by Theodore Graebner, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949, Preface

[19] Commentary on Galatians 2:17

[20] Commentary on Galatians 2:4, 5

[21] I found this interesting article on his “epistle of straw” comment online.

[22] Commentary on Galatians 2:18

[23] Commentary on Galatians 2:14

[24] This is the meaning of “love” espoused by some in Plato’s Symposium: “For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover or to the lover than a beloved youth…And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him.”

[25] Leviticus 18:22 (NET)

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 6

Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches [of Jericho which had been devoted to yehôvâh].  The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) was furious (chârâh, ויחר; Septuagint: ἐθυμώθη, a form of θυμόω; ʼaph, אף; Septuagint: ὀργῇ, a form of ὀργή) with the Israelites.[1]  I’m still considering the third occurrence of yirʼâh (ויראתך) in the Bible, the word I’d hoped would distinguish the fear of the Lord from ordinary fear.  I’ve skipped ahead a bit to explore what life was like for Israel under law as the sharp tip of the sword of divine judgment.

I notice right away that Achan stole some of the riches (chêrem, החרם) but yehôvâh was furious with the Israelites (literally, “the sons of Israel”).  Achan’s was the “perfect” crime.  No one but yehôvâh knew what he had done.  For Joshua it was business as usual.  He sent men from Jericho to Ai[2] as spies.  They reported that Ai would be easy to take: Don’t tire out the whole army, for Ai is small, the spies said.  So about three thousand men went up, but they fled from the men of Ai.  The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them[3]  The impact was immediate and devastating (Joshua 7:5b-9 NET):

The people’s courage melted away (mâsas, וימס) like water.

Joshua tore his clothes; he and the leaders of Israel lay face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) until evening and threw dirt on their heads.  Joshua prayed, “O, Master (ʼădônây, אדני), Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה)!  Why did you bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites so they could destroy us?  If only we had been satisfied to live on the other side of the Jordan!  O Lord (ʼădônây, אדני), what can I say now that Israel has retreated before its enemies?  When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will turn against us and destroy the very memory of us from the earth.  What will you do to protect your great reputation?”

In the previous essay I wondered “if I should simply accept that yirʼâh, similar to the fruit of the Spirit, comes from God.”  At this particular moment Joshua didn’t believe—This very day I will begin to fill all the people of the earth with dread and to terrify (yirʼâh, ויראתך) them when they hear about you[4]—was a supernatural fear given by yehôvâh.  Clearly, he thought that fear originated from the uninterrupted triumph of Israel’s army: They annihilated with the sword everything that breathed…[5]  The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) responded to Joshua (Joshua 7: 10-12 NET):

Get up!  Why are you lying there face down?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment!  They have taken some of the riches (chêrem, החרם); they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions.  The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation (chêrem, לחרם).  I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated (chêrem, החרם) you.

Here it didn’t matter whether Joshua’s command to the army was yehôvâh’s command or whether Joshua had understood Moses correctly, for yehôvâh took full responsibility for Joshua’s command[6]: Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment!  The one caught with the riches (chêrem, בחרם) must be burned up along with all who belong to him, because he violated the Lord’s covenant and did such a disgraceful thing in Israel.[7]  I’ve written about what happened to Achan, his sons, daughters, ox, donkey, sheep, tent, and all that belonged to him[8] elsewhere.  Here I want to consider the alternative.

Achan’s confession reads: I saw among the goods we seized a nice robe from Babylon, two hundred silver pieces, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels.  I wanted them, so I took them.[9]  Achan was one of the soldiers who annihilated (châram, ויחרימו) with the sword everything that breathed in the city, including men and women, young and old, as well as cattle, sheep, and donkeys.[10]  He had hacked and slashed his way through every living thing in the city to purge out wickedness from the promised land, and then became that wickedness himself.  If we fault yehôvâh for dealing with Achan and all that was his in the way that he had dealt with others we would fault Him just the same for showing Achan mercy (James 2:8-13).

But that was then; this is now (Matthew 18:32-35 NET):

“Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave!  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me!  Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’  And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed.  So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.”

This is one of the places from which the fathers of the Catholic Church have derived the doctrine of purgatory.  “I have even heard elderly friends tell me how their Catholic schoolteachers would threaten unruly schoolboys with lurid descriptions of the fires of purgatory!” [11] Robert Stackpole wrote parenthetically.  I didn’t grow up Catholic so I never actually feared this particular passage.  We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin,[12] scared me as an adult returning from atheism.

It has a Logic 101 quality that spoke to me early on.[13]  So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart—seemed more like a clever turn of a phrase.  By the time it clicked with me it caused no fear, but granted me permission to forgive.  It helped me to locate and distinguish the Holy Spirit from that cacophony of voices, if you will (that variety of impulses, if you will not) inside me.  It gave me strength to stand against my religion and its many reasons for withholding forgiveness: “you will appear weak, they will gain an advantage, they will never learn, they don’t deserve forgiveness, only God can forgive sins,” etc.

If I examine my fear of the knowledge that everyone fathered by God does not sin, the first thing I notice is that it didn’t cause me to flee at that particular moment in my life.  I searched the Bible instead, “looking for loopholes” perhaps but seeking understanding.  The first understanding I received appealed to the philosophical bent of my mind and though it seems like a loophole to many, it helped me to locate and distinguish the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 7:13-20 NET):

Did that which is good, then [e.g., the law], become death to me?  Absolutely not!  But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.  For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.  For I don’t understand what I am doing.  For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.  But if I do what I don’t want, I agree (σύμφημι, a form of σύμφημι) that the law is good.  But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me.  For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

Being led by the Spirit came much more slowly for me.  Mr Stackpole highlighted the problem: “the merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross are promised to those who repent in faith.  The real question is, What about those whose repentance was weak and half-hearted…”[14]  Purgatory wasn’t the answer in my religious circle, but the quality and quantity of heavenly rewards.  The “weak and half-hearted” would be “hippies” in the social hierarchy of heaven.  Colin Smith wrote: “I trust that you will want to join me in storing up treasures in heaven, knowing that our righteousness is a gift from God in Christ Jesus, and that we serve a generous God who promises great rewards (100x!) to those who trust him and serve him faithfully.”

I didn’t know that my righteousness is a gift from God and probably thought that would be cheating.  How could my position in the social hierarchy of heaven be a gift from God?  And the common Bible verses quoted seemed at first reading to confirm my understanding of justification by faith and sanctification by my works: If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss.  He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.[15]  Jesus taught, “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”[16]  And Paul instructed Timothy, Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.  Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others.  In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.[17]

Thank God I am such an accomplished sinner.  Praise God that his Holy Spirit would not “help” me earn my social position in heaven by “my” good works as He kept me hungering and thirsting for his righteousness.  I no longer feel any obligation to referee between purgatory and heavenly rewards.  Both explanations were designed to encourage me to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness[18] here and now.  Neither was as effective on me as a hunger and thirst for righteousness,[19] which I assume has come from God.

The alternative—that a hunger and thirst for Jesus’ righteousness originates with me—doesn’t scan.  I’m not that kind of guy.  A desire to be right?  That’s me.  A desire to appear righteous to you?  Okay, that’s probably me, too.  But the hunger and thirst for righteousness which I now have did not originate with me.  So what do I know about yirʼâh?

Well, I’ll start with what I don’t know: I don’t know whether yirʼâh was a supernatural fear from God or the natural result of confronting an army that took no prisoners and captured no slaves.  I know that yirʼâh was effective to accomplish God’s purpose to eradicate the wicked people who inhabited the promised land: It mustered[20] their armies to march to their deaths.  I don’t think Israel had anything like the confidence in yehôvâh which would be required to slaughter a peaceful, welcoming people.  I’m thinking that yirʼâh may have become the one Hebrew word to describe the combination of yârêʼ and ʼâman: they feared (yârêʼ, וייראו) the Lord, and they believed (ʼâman, ויאמינו) in the Lord.[21]  And I have a compelling contrast between Rahab, an Amorite prostitute and innkeeper, who feared yehôvâh and Achan, an Israelite soldier and thief, who did not.

I don’t have the hard-edged definitive kind of knowledge I like but I have enough encouragement to continue studying.  Besides, the hard-edged definitive kind of knowledge I like is really only useful for judging you—which brings me to the most bitter irony: When I take the name of yehôvâh/Jesus in vain by judging you for sins I share I lower the bar (Ezekiel 16:52-63), so to speak, and make it easier, if not expedient, for Him to show you mercy (Romans 11:29-31).  When the Holy Spirit has his way with me and I live his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[22] I condemn you who are not led by the Spirit of God.[23]  The only way I can live with this most bitter irony, and continue to hunger and thirst for his righteousness, is to pray daily:

“My persistent prayer for justice”[24] for all who call or have called or will call on our Father in heaven[25] “is for the mercy on which everything depends,[26] for it does not depend on human desire or exertion but on You who shows mercy, for You have consigned all to disobedience (ἀπείθειαν, a form of ἀπείθεια) so that You may show mercy to all.”[27]

If He can save an accomplished sinner such as I am, I see no reason or excuse why He can’t or shouldn’t save a sinner like you.

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 7

Back to Everyone Fathered by God Does Not Sin

Back to Who Am I? Part 5

Back to Conclusion

[1] Joshua 7:1b (NET)

[2] Joshua 7:2a (NET)

[3] Joshua 7:3b-5a (NET)

[4] Deuteronomy 2:25a (NET)

[5] Joshua 6:21a (NET)

[6] Joshua 6:16-19 (NET)

[7] Joshua 7:15 (NET)

[8] Joshua 7:24 (NET)

[9] Joshua 7:21a (NET)

[10] Joshua 6:21a (NET)

[11] What’s All This Talk of ‘Purgatorial Purification’? Part 2

[12] 1 John 5:18a (NET)

[13] It’s been a long time since I took Logic 101 so I checked again online that modus tollens is valid and found a reasonable exception.

[14] What’s All This Talk of ‘Purgatorial Purification’? Part 2

[15] 1 Corinthians 3:15 (NET)

[16] Luke 12:20, 21 (NET)

[17] 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NET)

[18] Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

[19] Matthew 5:6 (NET)

[20] King Sihon was hardened for this purpose.

[21] Exodus 14:31 (NET)

[22] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[23] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[24] Luke 18:1-8 (NET)

[25] Matthew 6:9-14 (NET)

[26] Romans 9:14-16 (NET)

[27] Romans 11:28-36 (NET)