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.


[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)

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]


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)

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)

Romans, Part 85

I’ve considered, For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers.[1]  Jesus was the only living descendant of Abraham worthy of the promised land and the kingdom of God at the moment both were taken (70 A.D.) from Abraham’s other descendants through Isaac.  As I write this they have regained partial control of the land and have been wresting more bit by bit from the descendants of Abram through Ishmael.

Manfred Davidmann wrote “that the Jewish people were expelled twice from the country God promised them with their grip on the country weakening at the present time.”  His prescription was that the Israelis should fashion a welfare state more or less like the federal government of the United States of America.  I will suggest that recognizing Jesus the Messiah as yehôvâh their God will better serve both purposes, holding the promised land and regaining the kingdom of God.

Not all the children [are] Abraham’s true descendants, Paul wrote believers in Rome, rather through Isaac will your descendants be counted.”  This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendantsFor this is what the promise declared: “About a year from now I will return and Sarah will have a son.”[2]  That alone may be reason enough for present day Israelis to defeat the present day descendants of Ishmael militarily.  But a lack of military prowess was probably not the reason the descendants of Isaac lost the land, and certainly not the reason they lost the kingdom of God.  It was always their failure to placate yehôvâh with sacrifices and offerings (Isaiah 66:1-3 Tanakh):

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?  For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol.

Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

Not only that, Paul continued his letter to Roman believers, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac – even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) – it was said to her,The older will serve the younger,” just as it is written:Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[3]  God’s purpose in election is where I can see how the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy[4] is logically dependent on Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers.  Paul also wrote believers in Rome (Romans 11:5-8 NET):

So in the same way [e.g., as in the time of Elijah] at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.  What then?  Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it.  The rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.”

I take this to mean that apart from nearly eight centuries of yehôvâh’s hardening Jesus is born among a people who receive Him as Messiah and as yehôvâh their God, and that’s all she wrote: For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?[5]  We Gentiles who are alive today and believe in Jesus would never have been born of the flesh, not to mention redeemed by his grace (Romans 11:25-36 NET).

For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers.  For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever!  Amen.

And thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy.  As it is written,Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name.”[6]

Romans 15:9b (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Psalm 18:49

Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name. διὰ τοῦτο ἐξομολογήσομαι σοι ἐν ἔθνεσιν καὶ τῷ ὀνόματι σου ψαλῶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐξομολογήσομαί σοι ἐν ἔθνεσιν κύριε καὶ τῷ ὀνόματί σου ψαλῶ

I notice that as Paul put these words in the resurrected Jesus’ mouth he quoted the Septuagint verbatim except he removed the word κύριε (a form of κύριος), Lord, yehôvâh in Hebrew.  By doing likewise I can hear these words as Paul heard them spoken by Messiah to God his Father the morning of his resurrection (Psalm 18:46-50 NET):

The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) is alive!  My protector is praiseworthy!  The God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוהי) who delivers me is exalted as king!  The one true God (ʼêl, האל) completely vindicates me; he makes nations submit to me.  He delivers me from my enemies; you snatch me away from those who attack me; you rescue me from violent men.  So I will give you thanks before the nations…I will sing praises to you!  He gives his chosen king magnificent victories; he is faithful to his chosen ruler, to David[7] and his descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעו; singular) forever.

The Hebrew word translated The one true God above was translated High God in Genesis.  Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God[8] (ʼêl, לאל).  He blessed Abram, saying (Genesis 14:19, 20 NET):

“Blessed be Abram by the Most High God (ʼêl, לאל), Creator of heaven and earth.  Worthy of praise is the Most High God (ʼêl, אל), who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.

To Abram yehôvâh (יהוה) was the Most High God (ʼêl, אל), Creator of heaven and earth.[9]  The pattern is similar in Genesis 1 and 2: In the beginning God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) created the heavens and the earth.[10]  This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created – when the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) made the earth and heavens.[11]  There is no sense of contradiction or correction in either instance.  I described yehôvâh as “one of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym” because I don’t fully grasp the oneness of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym.

The Hebrew word ʼĕlôhı̂ym is “a plural form” which “refers to the one true God” with a “singular verb…as here.”[12]  Linguistically that would be a oneness of action implying a oneness of purpose, significantly different from the warring gods of the Gentiles, created by Gentiles in their own image.  I don’t have any reason to dispute that God is a oneness in essence, I just don’t know what I mean when I say it.  I know Trinitarians get really angry when I don’t say it.  Holy Father, Jesus prayed, keep [those you have given me] safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.[13]  Am I looking forward to a oneness of action and purpose or a oneness in essence?  So I wondered if ʼêl and ʼĕlôahh might be ones of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym as well as yehôvâh.  But as far as Abram was concerned yehôvâh is ʼêl.

Moses prophesied (Deuteronomy 32:15-18 NET):

But Jeshurun[14] became fat and kicked, you got fat, thick, and stuffed!  Then he deserted the God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוה) who made him, and treated the Rock who saved him with contempt.  They made him jealous with other gods (zûr, בזרים), they enraged him with abhorrent idols.  They sacrificed to demons, not God (ʼĕlôahh, אלה), to gods (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) they had not known; to new gods who had recently come along, gods your ancestors had not known about.  You have forgotten the Rock who fathered you, and put out of mind the God (ʼêl, אל) who gave you birth.

But David wrote: Indeed, who is God (ʼĕlôahh, אלוה) besides the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה)?  Who is a protector besides our God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהינו)?  The one true God (ʼêl, האל) gives me strength.[15]  Much as I would like to see ʼêl, yehôvâh, and ʼĕlôahh as the three persons of a triune ʼĕlôhı̂ym, unless David was writing some I-am-he-as-you-are-he-as-you-are-me[16] mysticism, I think I must accept ʼêl and ʼĕlôahh as generic terms for god.

And again it says, Paul continued, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”[17]

Romans 15:10b (NET) Parallel Greek

Septuagint Deuteronomy 32:43b

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people. εὐφράνθητε, ἔθνη, μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ εὐφράνθητε ἔθνη μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ

It comes at the end of Moses’ prophecy about Israel’s defection (Deuteronomy 32:36-39a Septuagint).

For the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) will judge his people and be comforted over his slaves.  For he saw them paralyzed, both failed under attack and enfeebled.  And the Lord said: Where are their gods (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהימו), they in whom they trusted, the fat of whose sacrifices you were eating and were drinking the wine of their libations?  See, see that I am, and there is no god (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהים) except me.

Each of us re-enacts this scenario to some degree, trusting in ourselves, the pagan gods or something other than yehôvâh/Jesus until our strength is gone.  I chose a translation of the Septuagint here because I learned something from the ancient rabbis I might have missed otherwise: He is comforted (Hebrew: nâcham, יתנחם; Greek: παρακληθήσεται, a form of παρακαλέω) by our helpless plight.  We do not return to an angry, vengeful God who seeks to return us evil for our evil, but One who is comforted.  And we are his slaves (Hebrew: ʽebed, עבדיו; Greek: δούλοις, a form δοῦλος) not because we have behaved obediently—we have been unbelieving and disobedient in this scenario—but because He has redeemed us with his blood (Isaiah 53:3-12 NET).

He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.  But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.  He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.

All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) caused the sin of all of us to attack him.  He (e.g., yehôvâh) was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth.  Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.  He was led away after an unjust trial – but who even cared?

Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.  They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.

Though the Lord (yehôvâh, ויהוה) desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) purpose will be accomplished through him.  Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done.  “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.  So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”

Though He is comforted over his slaves (those redeemed by his blood), yehôvâh’s enemies incur his wrath (Deuteronomy 32:41b-43 Septuagint):

I will repay my enemies with a sentence, and those who hate me I will repay.  I will make my arrows drunk with blood—and my dagger shall devour flesh—with the blood of the wounded and of captives, from the head of the commanders of the enemies.

Be glad, O skies, with him, and let all the divine sons do obeisance to him.  Be glad, O nations, with his people, and let all the angels of God prevail for him.  For he will avenge the blood of his sons and take revenge and repay the enemies with a sentence, and he will repay those who hate, and the Lord shall cleanse the land of his people [NET: make atonement for his land and people].  

And again, Paul continued, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him.”[18]

Romans 15:11 (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Psalm 117:1

Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him. αἰνεῖτε, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, τὸν κύριον καὶ ἐπαινεσάτωσαν αὐτὸν πάντες οἱ λαοί αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε τὸν κύριον πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπαινέσατε[19] αὐτόν πάντες οἱ λαοί

In context [Psalm 116(117) Septuagint]:

Hallelouia.  Praise the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), all you nations!  Commend him, all you peoples, because his mercy became strong toward us, and the truth of the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) endures forever.

And again Isaiah says, Paul continued, “The root of Jesse will come, and the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles, in him will the Gentiles hope.”[20]

Romans 15:12 (NET)

Parallel Greek

Septuagint Isaiah 11:10a

The root of Jesse will come, and the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles, in him will the Gentiles hope. ἔσται ἡ ρίζα τοῦ Ἰεσσαὶ καὶ ὁ ἀνιστάμενος ἄρχειν ἐθνῶν, ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν ἔσται ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (a form of ἐκεῖνος) ἡ ῥίζα τοῦ Ιεσσαι καὶ ὁ ἀνιστάμενος ἄρχειν ἐθνῶν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν

In context (Isaiah 11:10-13 Septuagint):

And it shall be on that day [ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ; e.g., when asps will not hurt or be able to destroy anyone on my holy mountain, vv. 8, 9] the root of Iessai [e.g., Jessie], even the one who stands up to rule nations; nations shall hope in him, and his rest shall be honor.  And it shall be on that day that the Lord (ʼădônây, אדני) will further display his hand to show zeal for the remnant that is left of the people, whatever is left from the Assyrians, and from Egypt and Babylonia and Ethiopia and from the Ailamites and from where the sun rises and out of Arabia.  And he will raise a signal for the nations and will gather the lost ones of Israel and gather the dispersed of Ioudas (e.g., Judah, the southern kingdom) from the four points of the earth.  And the jealousy of Ephraim (e.g., the northern kingdom of divided Israel) shall be taken away, and the enemies of Ioudas shall perish; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Ioudas, and Ioudas shall not afflict Ephraim.

Now may the God of hope, Paul continued, fill you with all joy (χαρᾶς, a form of χαρά) and peace (εἰρήνης, a form of εἰρήνη) as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.[21]  And, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy (χαρὰ, another form of χαρά), peace (εἰρήνη), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.[22]

Romans, Part 86

[1] Romans 15:8 (NET)

[2] Romans 9:7-9 (NET)

[3] Romans 9:10-12 (NET)

[4] Romans 15:9a (NET)

[5] Romans 11:15 (NET)

[6] Romans 15:9 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 7:12-16 (NET)

[8] Genesis 14:18 (NET)

[9] Genesis 14:22 (NET)

[10] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[11] Genesis 2:4 (NET)

[12] NET note 2

[13] John 17:11b (NET)

[14] NET note 32: “Jeshurun is a term of affection derived from the Hebrew verb יָשַׁר (yashar, ‘be upright’).  Here it speaks of Israel ‘in an ideal situation, with its “uprightness” due more to God’s help than his own efforts’ (M. Mulder, TDOT 6:475).”

[15] Psalm 18:31, 32a (NET)


[17] Romans 15:10 (NET)

[18] Romans 15:11 (NET)


[20] Romans 15:12 (NET)

[21] Romans 15:13 (NET)

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

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 15

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) fish into containers and threw the bad (σαπρὰ, a form of σαπρός) away.  It will be this way at the end of the age.  Angels will come and separate the evil (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) from the righteous (δικαίων, a form of δίκαιος) and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[1]  This parable about the kingdom of heaven focused commentators’ attentions on the church as opposed to the world at large.

“In the visible church,” Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote, “there is a deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin, as well as fish….Hypocrites and true Christians shall be parted.”[2]  John Gill (1697-1771) added, “as many as [the angels] find to have a good work of grace wrought and finished in their souls, they will gather into Christ’s barn, into the everlasting habitations, the mansions in Christ’s Father’s house, he is gone to prepare: but as for the bad, who shall appear to be destitute of the grace of God, and righteousness of Christ, notwithstanding their profession of religion, they shall be rejected, as good for nothing, and shall be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”[3]

“Our Saviour never fails to keep before our minds the great truth that there is to be a day of judgment,” wrote Albert Barnes (1798-1870), “and that there will be a separation of the good and the evil.  He came to preach salvation; and it is a remarkable fact, also, that the most fearful accounts of hell and of the sufferings of the damned, in the Scriptures, are from his lips.  How does this agree with the representations of those who say that all will be saved?”[4]

On the meaning of σαπρὰ (a form of σαπρός) the Pulpit Commentary (1884) reads: [5]

Not to be pressed to mean “corrupt, dead fish, in a state of rottenness” (Goebel), for surely fishermen seldom get many of these, but simply the worthless, the unfit for use.  This would include the legally unclean.  Tristram writes,” The greater number of the species taken on the lake are rejected by the fishermen, and I have sat with them on the gunwale while they went through their net, and threw out into the sea those that were too small for the market or were considered unclean” (‘Nat. Hist. of Bible,’ p. 291, edit. 1889)

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 (καρπῶν, a form of καρπός).[6]  I can be fairly specific here: Does the would-be prophet demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,[7] the fruit (καρπὸς) of the Spirit?  Or does the would-be prophet practice (πράσσοντες, a form of πράσσω) sexual immorality (πορνεία), impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing,[8] the works (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of the flesh?

Jesus continued, Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?  In the same way, every good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree bears good (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit, but the bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) tree bears bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit.[9]  I think it worth mentioning that the word translated bears is ποιεῖ (a form of ποιέω) in both occurrences.  A good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree is not able to bear bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit, Jesus continued, nor a bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) tree to bear good (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit.[10]

Make a tree good (καλὸν, another form of καλός) and its fruit will be good (καλὸν, another form of καλός), Jesus said to religious people, or make a tree bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) and its fruit will be bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός), for a tree is known by its fruit.[11]  I’ve written elsewhere how the religious mind reverses this teaching.  Every tree that does not bear good (καλὸν, another form of καλός) fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, Jesus continued his warning about false prophets.  So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.[12]

This leads me inevitably to the old and new human (ἄνθρωπον, a form of ἄνθρωπος in Greek; I see no reason to specify gender).  You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on (ἐνδύσασθαι, a form of ἐνδύω) the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.[13]  The word ἐνδύσασθαι means to sink into.  In movies the femme fatale slips into something more comfortable.  To put on the new human is considerably more macho.

I am working class all the way, rarely wear a suit.  If I do, it is to fit in, to impress or to intimidate.  It is a put-on in every sense of the word.  “Fake it until you make it” works in those situations when “you can fool all of the people some of the time.”  It doesn’t work with the new human because no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.[14]  To put on the new human I must believe that God has prepared it beforehand, ready and able to respond as He would have me respond.

This new human is the one who has been fathered by God: We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.[15]  Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.[16]  This new human is the one who is led by the Spirit: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[17]  The old human is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires.  It gets progressively worse, never better.

This was vividly portrayed for me—in me—the Saturday before Mother’s day.  I had a rare opportunity to be home.  My eighty-four-year-old mother asked me to finish trimming her bushes.  Now, of course, she had a particular way it needed to be done.  As I untangled the long extension cord that powered the trimmer I recalled that handling that cord caused her fall last summer.  She broke her hip and lay on the driveway for ten hours, parched and burnt in the sun and then shivering in the rain, until my sister found her.  But the whole time I trimmed those bushes the old human did nothing but bitch, moan and complain about her.

It didn’t affect my behavior.  (I trimmed her bushes to the best of my ability.  No, it wasn’t topiary by any stretch of the imagination.)  The old human didn’t affect my attitude toward her.  (I called and asked her to make sure.)  But I can hardly wait to be rid of the foul thing!  So when I hear—Angels will come and separate the evil from [ἐκ μέσου; literally “out from the midst of”] the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth—I wonder if that describes my release from this sin condemned in my flesh.  And I’m confounded that so many pastors thought instead of members of their congregations.  Why?

Do we differ in our understanding of the fruit of the Spirit?

“And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh,” Matthew Henry wrote, “because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root…”  John Gill was a bit more equivocal:  “Not of nature or man’s free will, as corrupted by sin, for no good fruit springs from thence; but either of the internal principle of grace, called the Spirit, Galatians 5:17 or rather of the Holy Spirit, as the Ethiopic version reads it; the graces of which are called ‘fruit’, and not ‘works’, as the actions of the flesh are; because they are owing to divine influence, efficacy, and bounty…”

Albert Barnes was explicit: “That which the Holy Spirit produces…Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed.  He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit‘s operations on the soul.”  In the Pulpit Commentary the fruit of the Spirit was rationalized as “dispositions and states of mind,” and demeaned somewhat as “states of mind or habits of feeling [rather] than concrete actions,” but are still acknowledged as produced by the Holy Spirit: “[Paul] reckons up the dispositions and states of mind which it was the office of the Holy Spirit to produce in them.”

Do we differ in our understanding of the necessity and efficacy of God’s mercy?

“It is not of him that willeth….Applying this general rule to the particular case that Paul has before him,” wrote Matthew Henry, “the reason why the unworthy, undeserving, ill-deserving Gentiles are called, and grafted into the church, while the greatest part of the Jews are left to perish in unbelief, is not because those Gentiles were better deserving or better disposed for such a favour, but because of God’s free grace that made that difference.  The Gentiles did neither will it, nor run for it, for they sat in darkness, Matthew 4:16.  In darkness, therefore not willing what they knew not sitting in darkness, a contented posture, therefore not running to meet it, but anticipated with these invaluable blessings of goodness.  Such is the method of God’s grace towards all that partake of it, for he is found of those that sought him not (Isaiah 65:1) in this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own.  Our eye therefore must not be evil because his is good…”

John Gill wrote: “but of God that sheweth mercy; in a free sovereign way and manner, which he is not obliged to by anything the creature wills or works; he is at full liberty, notwithstanding whatever they will or do, to give his grace and mercy, when, where, and to whom he pleases; and therefore to give it to some, and deny it to others, can never be accounted an act of injustice, since he is not bound to give it to any.”

Albert Barnes wrote: “But of God that showeth mercy – Salvation in its beginning, its progress, and its close, is of him.  He has a right, therefore, to bestow it when and where he pleases.  All our mercies flow from his mere love and compassion, and not from our deserts.  The essential idea here is, that God is the original fountain of all the blessings of salvation.”  The Pulpit Commentary doesn’t comment on Romans 9:16 directly but reads: “The argument (thus introduced by γὰρ) requires two understood premisses—that God cannot possibly be unrighteous, and that what he himself said to Moses must be true.”

Do we differ on who may be shown mercy?

Matthew Henry didn’t comment directly on Romans 11:32: “He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.  Christ’s errand into the world was to turn away ungodliness, to turn away the guilt by the purchase of pardoning mercy, and to turn away the power by the pouring out of renewing grace, to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), to separate between us and our sins, that iniquity might not be our ruin, and that it might not be our ruler.  Especially to turn it away from Jacob, which is that for the sake of which he quotes the text, as a proof of the great kindness God intended for the seed of Jacob.”

So far so good.  Mr. Henry quoted Paul quoting Isaiah:


Parallel Greek


The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.

Romans 11:26b

ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ρυόμενος,

ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβ.

Romans 11:26b

καὶ  ἥξει ἕνεκεν Σιων ὁ ῥυόμενος καὶ ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ιακωβ

Isaiah 59:20

Then Mr. Henry quoted the same verse in Isaiah from the Masoretic text: “In Isaiah it is, The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto those that turn from transgression in Jacob, which shown who in Zion were to have a share in and to reap benefit by the deliverance promised, those and those only that leave their sins and turn to God to them Christ comes as a Redeemer, but as an avenger to those that persist in impenitence.”  Then he proposed an unbelievable solution: “Putting both these readings together, we learn that none have an interest in Christ but those that turn from their sins, nor can any turn from their sins but by the strength of the grace of Christ.”

In other words, no one can be saved since God will only show mercy to those who turn from their sins and none can turn from their sins apart from God’s mercy.  With a Gospel message like that we need not wonder at the “deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin” in his church.  That’s not quite fair.  Mr. Henry didn’t specify whether the “deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin” were members of his own congregation or another.  According to an online bio “he began his regular ministry as non-conformist pastor of a Presbyterian congregation…”  Perhaps he wrote thus of Anglicans or Catholics.  But I think I understand why he had no comment to make on Paul’s declaration: For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.[18]

“Jews, though for the present unbelievers,” John Gill wrote, “yet it may be thought, that through the mercy the Gentiles had received, they would some time or other be provoked to seek for, and so obtain the same mercy, Romans 11:31, and the rather this may be given into and received, not only because they both have been in a state of unbelief, but the end and design of God in concluding them in it, were to have mercy on each of them, Romans 11:32…” I may be mistaken but I take Mr. Gill to mean that God will have mercy on some Jews and Gentiles (those who turn from their sins perhaps?).  Mr. Gill continued, “which dispensation of God both to one and to the other by turns, in different ways, was so amazing and unaccountable to the apostle, that he breaks out into admiration at the wisdom and knowledge of God…”

“Mercy is favor shown to the undeserving,” wrote Albert Barnes.  “It could not have been shown to the Jews and the Gentiles unless it was before proved that they were guilty.  For this purpose proof was furnished that they were all in unbelief….Thus, all people were on a level; and thus all might be admitted to heaven without any invidious distinctions, or any dealings that were not in accordance with mercy and love….It does not prove that all people will be saved; but that those who are saved shall be alike saved by the mercy of God; and that He intends to confer salvation on Jews and Gentiles on the same terms.”  I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassionSo then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. [19]

“Thus the latter expression [e.g., Romans 11:32] is not in itself adducible in support of the doctrine of universalism,” the Pulpit Commentary reads.  “Certainly the prospect of a universal triumph of the gospel before the end rises here before the apostle in prophetic vision; and it may be that it carries with it to his mind further glories of eternal salvation for all, casting their rays backward over all past ages, so as to inspire an unbounded hope.  Such a hope, which seems elsewhere intimated (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-29; Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-20) would justify the glowing rhapsody of admiration and thanksgiving that follows more fully than if we supposed the apostle to contemplate still the eternal perdition of the multitudes who in all the ages have not on earth found mercy.”

Here the Pulpit Commentary referred to Romans 11:32-36 (NET):

For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him?  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever!  Amen.

I’ll pick this up again later.

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 16

Back to Romans, Part 77

Back to Romans, Part 78

[1] Matthew 13:47-50 (NET)

[2] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

[3] John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

[4] Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible

[5] Pulpit Commentary

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

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

[8] Galatians 5:19-21a (NET)

[9] Matthew 7:16b, 17(NET)

[10] Matthew 7:18 (NET)

[11] Matthew 12:33 (NET)

[12] Matthew 7:19, 20 (NET)

[13] Ephesians 4:22-24 (NET)

[14] Hebrews 4:13 (NET)

[15] 1 John 5:18 (NET)

[16] 1 John 3:9 (NET)

[17] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[18] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[19] Romans 9:15b, 16 (NET)

Romans, Part 76

Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people.[1]  The words translated evil for evil are κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ in Greek.  Both κακὸν and κακοῦ are forms of κακός.  Love is οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν (literally, “not counting” or “not reckoning the evil”) Paul wrote believers in Corinth.  Love is not resentful (NET), does not take into account a wrong suffered (NASB), keeps no record of wrongs (NIV), are a few English translations.  Love does no wrong (κακὸν, a form of κακός) to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.[2]  So the love that is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (along with joy, peace, patience, etc.) fulfills μηδενὶ κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ ἀποδιδόντες (literally, “no one evil against evil deliver”), part of the definition of love in Paul’s letter to the Romans, translated Do not repay anyone evil for evil in the NET.

The next clause, consider what is good before all people, while accurate mostly seems to me to have been toned down some to become a rule I might obey in my own strength.  The word translated consider is προνοούμενοι (a form of προνοέω), “to perceive before, foresee” in the definition in the NET.  In other words, demonstrate this foresight (apart from the Holy Spirit) at the very moment I am most offended at having been wronged (or burn in hell for all eternity).  Have I belabored this point enough yet?  And as I’ve said over and over, I belabor it mostly for my own benefit since I’m the one who seems most hell-bent on perceiving the Bible as a book of rules rather than as a Gospel of salvation!

The word translated good is καλὰ (a form of καλός).  I’ve written elsewhere contrasting the beautiful good of Jesus to the pious good of religious people.  You are the light of the world, Jesus said.  A city located on a hill cannot be hidden.  People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.[3]

The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death.  Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) deeds from the Father.  For which one of them are you going to stone me?”  The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good (καλοῦ, another form of καλός) deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”[4]  It is probably worth noting that Jesus didn’t turn to Genesis 1:26 and say, “God said, ‘we will be made man.’”  So the difficult (NET notes 84 and 85) answer recorded in John 10:34-36 may serve as circumstantial evidence for an early date for vowel points.  But Jesus turned his listeners’ attention back toward his beautiful good deeds (John 10:37, 38 NET):

If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me.  But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.

Jesus’ beautiful good deeds recorded in John 1-9 are listed below:

2:1-11 Jesus turned water into wine after his host ran out of wine
2:14-22 Jesus cleansed the temple of thieves and profiteers
2:23 Other unspecified miraculous signs prompted many to believe in his Name
4:4-42 Jesus prophesied to a Samaritan woman
4:46-54 Jesus healed the son of the royal official of Capernaum
5:1-15 Jesus healed a disabled man who did not believe
6:1-15 Jesus fed more than 5,000 people, many of whom did not believe (John 6:26)
7:31 The preponderance of miraculous signs persuaded many
8:3-11 Jesus’ gracious answer to an angry mob dissuaded them from violence
9 Jesus healed a man born blind

I debated whether I considered the cleansing of the temple a beautiful or pious good, but decided that the worthiness of the goal overshadowed the violence of the act.  I included John 8:3-11 because it is still in the text, it is beautiful, I believe it is true, and otherwise don’t have a dog in this fight (John 7:53 NET note 139).  But this exercise put something into focus for me I hadn’t fully appreciated before.  The religious minds of the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus not so much for his words but for his beautiful good deeds which gave those words such weight with the people relative to their own teachings.  “No one ever spoke[5] like this man,”[6] the officers excused themselves for failing to arrest Jesus.

The Holy Spirit does no miraculous signs through me, whether it is my disobedience, disbelief or that the people who raised me are correct that miraculous signs are no longer necessary because we have the New Testament.  (I haven’t found the latter in the Bible myself.)  Paul described a non-miraculous way to consider what is good before all people as it pertained to financial matters (2 Corinthians 8:18-21 NET):

And we are sending along with [Titus the brother who is praised by all the churches for his work in spreading the gospel.  In addition, this brother has also been chosen by the churches as our traveling companion as we administer this generous gift to the glory of the Lord himself and to show our readiness to help.  We did this as a precaution so that no one should blame us in regard to this generous gift we are administering.  For we are concerned (προνοοῦμεν, another form of προνοέω) about what is right (καλὰ, a form of καλός) not only before the Lord but also before men.

The sins of some people are obvious, Paul wrote Timothy, going before them into judgment, but for others, they show up later.  Similarly good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) works are also obvious, and the ones that are not cannot remain hidden.[7]  And he contrasted beautiful good deeds with those which are not for Titus.

Beautiful Good Deeds

Those Which Are Not

This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good (καλῶν, another form of καλός) works.  These things are good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) and beneficial for all people.

Titus 3:8 (NET)

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty.

Titus 3:9 (NET)

If possible, Paul continued in Romans, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.[8]  The Greek word translated live peaceably is εἰρηνεύοντες (a form of εἰρηνεύω).  The all people part of this will be difficult for a soldier in battle.  As for the rest of us: Salt is good (καλὸν, another form of καλός), but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace (εἰρηνεύετε, another form of εἰρηνεύω) with each other.[9]  Paul added, live in peace (εἰρηνεύετε, another form of εἰρηνεύω), and the God of love and peace (εἰρήνης, a form of εἰρήνη) will be with you,[10] and, Be at peace (εἰρηνεύετε, another form of εἰρηνεύω) among yourselves.[11]

How do we fulfill these commands, admonitions, rules or laws?  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (εἰρήνη), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[12]  What I didn’t say in the previous essay because of my own phobia of turning these verses back into rules I strive to obey in my own strength, I will say now since my phobia is so out in the open:  We are given permission here to live as the Holy Spirit is prompting us to live.  We are free to believe that, Against such things [e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control] there is no law.[13]

Where the NET translators chose You must put away for ἀρθήτω ἀφ᾿ ὑμῶν, Young’s Literal Translation reads: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and become one to another kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, according as also God in Christ did forgive you.[14]  The verb ἀρθήτω (a form of αἴρω) means to lift.  Let all of this be lifted from you by the mighty carrying capacity of that river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High,[15] that fountain of water springing up to eternal life,[16] the Holy Spirit who produces his fruit within me when I get out of his way and stop making sinful, theological or ecclesiastical excuses.  John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away (αἴρων, another form of αἴρω) the sin of the world!”[17]

Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, Paul continued in his letter to the Romans, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written,Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.[18]  I want to pause here briefly to highlight how God’s sense of justice may differ from our own (Revelation 16:4-7 NET):

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and the springs of water, and they turned into blood.  Now I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are just – the one who is and who was, the Holy One – because you have passed these judgments, because they poured out the blood of your saints and prophets, so you have given them blood to drink.  They got what they deserved!”  Then I heard the altar reply, “Yes, Lord God, the All-Powerful, your judgments are true and just!”

Rather, Paul continued, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.[19]  The good with which we overcome evil is ἀγαθῷ (a form of ἀγαθός) in Greek.  According to Jesus, No one is good (ἀγαθὸς) except God alone.[20]  The good with which we overcome evil is God alone: for by grace ye are having been saved, through faith, and this not of you—of God the gift, not of works, that no one may boast; for of Him we are workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good (ἀγαθοῖς, another form of ἀγαθός) works, which God did before prepare, that in them we may walk (περιπατήσωμεν, a form of περιπατέω).[21]  In the Spirit walk (περιπατεῖτε, another form of περιπατέω) ye, and the desire of the flesh ye may not complete.[22]

Romans, Part 77

[1] Romans 12:17 (NET)

[2] Romans 13:10 (NET)

[3] Matthew 5:14-16 (NET)

[4] John 10:31-33 (NET)

[5] See: Matthew 9:1-8 (NET)

[6] John 7:46b (NET)

[7] 1 Timothy 5:24, 25 (NET)

[8] Romans 12:18 (NET)

[9] Mark 9:50 (NET)

[10] 2 Corithians 13:11b (NET)

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:13b (NET)

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

[13] Galatians 5:23b (NET)

[14] Ephesians 4:31, 32 (YLT)

[15] Psalm 46:4 (ESV)

[16] John 4:14b (NET)

[17] John 1:29 (NET)

[18] Romans 12:19 (NET)

[19] Romans 12:20, 21 (NET)

[20] Mark 10:18b (NET)

[21] Ephesians 2:8-10 (YLT)

[22] Galatians 5:16 (YLT)

Romans, Part 74

Bless (εὐλογεῖτε, a form of εὐλογέω) those who persecute you, bless (εὐλογεῖτε, a form of εὐλογέω) and do not curse.[1]  The Greek word translated persecute is διώκοντας (a form of διώκω).  Another form of the same word was translated pursue (διώκοντες, another form of διώκω) hospitality[2] in the previous verse, a pursuit I imagine with similar vigor but less hostile intent.  Paul’s word picture recalls Saul.

When they had driven [Stephen] out of the city, they began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.[3]  And Saul agreed completely with killing him.[4]  Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.[5]  Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.[6]

But this was not some special pleading on Paul’s part.  Jesus wholeheartedly agreed (Luke 6:26-31 NET):

“Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless (εὐλογεῖτε, a form of εὐλογέω) those who curse (καταρωμένους, a form of καταράομαι) you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away.  Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, Peter wrote, but instead bless (εὐλογοῦντες, another form of εὐλογέω) others because you were called to inherit a blessing (εὐλογίαν, a form of εὐλογία).[7]  To keep me from believing that—Bless those who persecute you—is a rule for me to obey in my own strength to prove my righteousness rather than a description of the righteousness that is the fruit of the Spirit, I turn to Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:5-14 NET):

Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed (ἐνευλογηθήσονται, a form of ἐνευλογέω) in you.”  So then those who believe are blessed (εὐλογοῦνται, another form of εὐλογέω) along with Abraham the believer.  For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse (κατάραν, a form of κατάρα), because it is written, “Cursed (ἐπικατάρατος, a form of ἐπικατάρατος) is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”  Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith.  But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.  Christ redeemed us from the curse (κατάρας, another form of κατάρα) of the law by becoming a curse (κατάρα) for us (because it is written, “Cursed [ἐπικατάρατος, a form of ἐπικατάρατος] is everyone who hangs on a tree”) in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing (εὐλογία) of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we [i.e., Jews and Gentiles] could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

Now I wish to demonstrate how obscene this blessing-of-the-persecutor is to the religious mind.  Jesus took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed (κατευλόγει, another form of εὐλογέω) them.[8]  Then Jesus led [his surviving apostles] out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) them.   Now during the blessing (εὐλογεῖν, another form of εὐλογέω) he departed and was taken up into heaven.  So they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple courts blessing (εὐλογοῦντες, another form of εὐλογέω) God.[9]

The people of Jerusalem took branches of palm trees and went out to meet [Jesus].  They began to shout, Hosanna!  Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!”[10]  Both those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting, Hosanna!  Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed (εὐλογημένη, another form of εὐλογέω) is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest![11]  The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting,Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”[12]  “Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”[13]

Jesus prophesied over Jerusalem: For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say,Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[14]  And, Look, your house is forsaken!   And I tell you, you will not see me until you say,Blessed (εὐλογημένος, another form of εὐλογέω) is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[15]

When [Jesus] had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) and broke it, and gave it to them.[16]  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks (εὐλογήσας, another form of εὐλογέω) he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.”[17]  While they were eating, he took bread, and after giving thanks (εὐλογήσας, another form of εὐλογέω) he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it. This is my body.”[18]

There is no reason to take this holy blessing and waste it on a persecutor—except that Jesus commanded it and his Holy Spirit provides the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[19] to makes it so.  So what is it?  What does it mean to Bless (εὐλογεῖτε, a form of εὐλογέω) those who persecute you?  The phrase bless and do not curse (καταρᾶσθε, another form of καταράομαι) seems to function as a negated opposite.  The most obvious curse is contrasted to its opposite blessing below:

Matthew 25:34 (NET)

Matthew 25:41 (NET)

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed (εὐλογημένοι, another form of εὐλογέω) by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed (κατηραμένοι, another form of καταράομαι), into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!’”

The NET translators chose gave thanks for εὐλόγησεν in:

Matthew 14:19b (NET) Mark 6:41a (NET)

Luke 9:16a (NET)

He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) and broke the loaves. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) and broke the loaves. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) and broke them.

But Paul also equated εὐλογῇς  (another form of εὐλογέω) with thanksgiving: Otherwise, if you are praising (εὐλογῇς, another form of εὐλογέω) God with your spirit, how can someone without the gift say “Amen” to your thanksgiving (εὐχαριστίᾳ), since he does not know what you are saying?[20]  As for translating εὐλογῇς praising, Simeon’s blessing of God seems to contain both praise and thanksgiving (Luke 2:28-32 NET):

Simeon took [Jesus] in his arms and blessed (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) God, saying, “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Then Simeon blessed (εὐλόγησεν, another form of εὐλογέω) them and said to his mother Mary, “Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected.  Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!”[21]  Here the translators chose the literal and said for καὶ εἶπεν rather than saying as in verse 28.  I still think Simeon’s true prophecy may be considered part of the blessing rather than something distinct from it.  In other words, I believe even painful truth can be a part of a blessing.

“If you continue on the path you’re on presently rejecting Jesus, He warns of eternal fire,” is not a curse in my opinion but a truth that may well be part of a blessing.  God raised up his servant (παῖδα, a form of παῖς), Peter said, and sent him first to you, to bless (εὐλογοῦντα, another form of εὐλογέω) you by turning each one of you from your iniquities (πονηριῶν, a form of πονηρία).[22]  Each can judge for him- or herself whether Peter’s use of the clever παῖδα for Jesus rather than the incendiary υἱὸς (Matthew 26:63-66; Mark 14:61-64; Luke 22:70, 71) was cowardice or speaking truth in the spirit of blessing those who persecuted Jesus.

I think it was the latter, much like Paul in Athens.  While Paul was waiting for [Silas and Timothy] in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset (παρωξύνετο, a form of παροξύνω) because he saw the city was full of idols.[23]  Upset as he was, he did not curse the Athenians.  Rather, he presented the Gospel to them.  So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects.  For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.”[24]

Romans, Part 75

[1] Romans 12:14 (NET)

[2] Romans 12:13b (NET)

[3] Acts 7:58 (NET)

[4] Acts 8:1a (NET)

[5] Acts 8:3 (NET)

[6] Acts 9:1, 2 (NET)

[7] 1 Peter 3:9 (NET)

[8] Mark 10:16 (NET)

[9] Luke 24:50-53 (NET)

[10] John 12:13 (NET)

[11] Mark 11:9, 10 (NET)

[12] Matthew 21:9 (NET)

[13] Luke 19:38 (NET)

[14] Matthew 23:39 (NET)

[15] Luke 13:35 (NET)

[16] Luke 24:30 (NET)

[17] Matthew 26:26 (NET)

[18] Mark 14:22 (NET)

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

[20] 1 Corinthians 14:16 (NET)

[21] Luke 2:34, 35 (NET)

[22] Acts 3:26 (NET)

[23] Acts 17:16 (NET)

[24] Acts 17:22, 23 (NET)

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 13

This is the conclusion of my consideration of a pastor’s advice.

Find a group of strong Christ-followers who you can be transparent with and who will hold you accountable. Arrogance peaks when we consider our strength to be above the accountability of others.

Walk in grace, walk in obedience.

Seek healing, seek accountability.

Apart from the ordinary peer pressure to conform to the norms of any group, accountability, as a conscious concept, was not part of my religious upbringing.  Yes, I had parents and teachers but my introduction to accountability as any kind of formal religious structure came through my association with “charismania.”  That wasn’t a common term in my church.  I heard it from a friend who married into the church.  But when her husband was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease she encouraged him to attend a charismatic healing service.  (No, he wasn’t healed.)

My primary association with charismatic believers was through a roommate.  The first time we roomed together he was a charismatic alcoholic.  The second time he was a sober charismatic computer student who became a civilian programmer for the military.  His Christian works by any objective measure were sub-par (not that mine weren’t) and I always considered mine superior to his.  Faith was another matter entirely.  His faith in Jesus’ love and personal concern for him was ludicrously insane—and he was never disappointed.  He taught me to trust Jesus by his example.  Perhaps I should say that the Holy Spirit taught me to trust Jesus through my roommate’s example, but my scale is linear and incremental while his was logarithmic.  I hate to blame that on the Holy Spirit.

If asked to characterize my religious upbringing vis-à-vis the Holy Spirit, I would say we didn’t believe in Him.  But that’s nonsense.  We sang the Gloria Patri every Sunday morning, and recited the Apostle’s Creed often enough.  (Of course, it was made very clear that catholic did not mean Catholic but universal.)  So I suppose we believed in the things the Apostle’s Creed said, and that the Holy Spirit came to believers on Pentecost, and worked miracles through the apostles, and made sure that the New Testament was accurate and authoritative, and after that—I draw a blank.

When I began to study the Bible I was surprised how often[1] the Holy Spirit was mentioned.   And that’s not quite true either.  I thought my task was to distinguish the Holy Spirit from spirit, a hyper-emotional state bordering on the delusional.  But over time that “hyper-emotional state bordering on the delusional” receded and was replaced by Holy Spirit or evil spirits as real beings.  My pastor was very big on Jesus’ work being finished at the cross—He “is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty”—and I added I suppose, that the rest was up to me.

The words of J. Hampton Keathley, III on accountability ring true to me.[2]  (And his essay is probably more helpful than my floundering.)  He recalled the “raspy voice” of his sergeant at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia:

“We are here to save your lives. We’re going to see to it that you overcome all your natural fears. We’re going to show you just how much incredible stress the human mind and body can endure. And when we’re finished with you, you will be the U.S. Army’s best!”

Then, before he dismissed the formation, he announced our first assignment. We’d steeled ourselves for something really tough—like running 10 miles in full battle gear or rappelling down a sheer cliff. Instead, he told us to—find a buddy.

“Find yourself a Ranger buddy,” he growled. “You will stick together. You will never leave each other. You will encourage each other, and, as necessary, you will carry each other.”

So accountability at one extreme means a really good friend like a brother but at the other extreme a formal inquest or inquisition.  I tend to shy away from the police functions of accountability.  But I tell you the truth, Jesus said, it is to your advantage that I am going away.  For if I do not go away, the Advocate (παράκλητος) will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment[3]

The religious mind treats the fruit of the Spirit as little more than a measure of its own achievement, and certainly does not consider the Holy Spirit competent to prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment without its aid.  Instead of offering Him a living, breathing example of the peaceable fruit of righteousness we—when we are controlled by the religious mind—become snarky busybodies or self-righteous inquisitors, not unlike Saul before Jesus saved him.

Before considering the biblical concept of accountability I want to acknowledge that I have called this teaching[4] of Mr. Reid’s pastor confusing directions.  That doesn’t mean I know some secret shortcut from unbelief to faith; well, trust Jesus, but that’s no secret.  Would I even know how to rely on the fruit of the Spirit for righteousness if I hadn’t tried and failed to do righteousness on my own?  That’s an unanswerable question because I did try on my own.   Viewed from this perspective, the pastor’s advice may have been a teaching technique.  After all, yehôvâh did not sit Cain down and explain the Gospel to him.  He allowed Cain to fail to subdue sin on his own at the cost of Abel’s life.

I tried first to keep the ten commandments, the commands of Jesus and Paul and the traditions of my church.  When I heard that love fulfills the law, I tried to keep Paul’s definition of love as my new law.  And when I began to suspect that I was going about it all wrong I diligently read the Old Testament to confirm or deny my growing understanding of the New.  Put in a different way, as I began to learn the things I’ve presented in these essays my questions took the form of, “Well, if that is true where has it been hiding for thousands of years!?”  And then I began to try to keep yehôvâh’s law in my own strength.

I call the latter an occupational hazard of reading the Old Testament with a willing heart.  When I do word studies I’m very aware of the context.  Context is all I have to understand the meaning of the words.  But simply reading the Old Testament is much more existential, in the moment.  If yehôvâh said do this or don’t do that, I said okay, and woke up somewhere in the story of David to the fact that I was striving again to keep the law in my own strength, without malice or forethought.  Still, I never tried to keep any part of yehôvâh’s law that included animal sacrifice.  I actually believed that Jesus’ crucifixion superseded all that.

I was intrigued when I stayed the night as a guest of a lovely Christian family.  The children were very excited because they had just celebrated Passover.  I quietly looked (and sniffed) around their beautiful California home.  I detected no evidence that a farm animal had dwelt there for four days.  I couldn’t find any telltale sign that it had been slaughtered and butchered there.  And certainly none of its blood had been smeared on the doorframe.  Perhaps they ate a meal dressed to travel, [their] sandals on [their] feet, and [their] staff in [their] hand.[5]  But I assumed that most of their celebration was either made up or based on the traditions of those who reject Jesus.  And it never occurred to me to “hold them accountable” to my assumption.

Therefore, each of us will give an account (λόγον, a form of λόγος) of himself to God.[6]  This is the New Testament concept of accountability.  The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote (Hebrews 4:12, 13 NET):

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

In English this sounds like that same moment each of us will give an account of himself: For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.”[7]  The Greek word translated exposed in Hebrews 4:13 is τετραχηλισμένα (a form of τραχηλίζω), to pull back the head to expose the neck to a blade.  It would be a fearful moment indeed, naked on our knees, neck exposed to the killing cut, our fate determined by our words: For by your words (λόγων, another form of λόγος) you will be justified, Jesus said, and by your words (λόγων, another form of λόγος) you will be condemned.[8]

But I can’t forget John (1 John 4:15-19 NET):

If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.  And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us.  God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.  By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.  We love because he loved us first.

That everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of God is a beautiful, graphic description of his omniscience, but it says nothing about his attitude.  We get more of that from John.  There is another image of τετραχηλισμένα in the movie Twilight.  When Bella (Kristen Stewart) realizes that her beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson) is a vampire she has a romantic fantasy of being his victim, her neck exposed to his bite.  Later in the film, dancing at her prom with him, Bella tries to make her romantic fantasy real, exposing her neck to Edward, hoping to be made like him.

In Greek Romans 14:12 is: ἄρα [οὖν] ἕκαστος ἡμῶν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λόγον δώσει.  The phrase translated give an account is λόγον δώσει.  Hebrews 4:12 and 13 in Greek is:

Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, πάντα δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος

The phrase translated to whom we must render an account is πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος.  In other words in verse 12 ὁ λόγος was translated word and in verse 13, must render an account.  In Greek it leaps off the page that the word of God (ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ) and our word (ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος) were meant to be the same.  That is lost somewhat in translation, though the passage might have been translated:

For the [account] of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we account.

I think the passage in Hebrews here refers more to our daily account, coming into the light, walking in the light, than to that final account at the judgment seat of Christ.  (The daily practice of our account to Him, however, probably has everything to do with making the anticipation of that final accounting comfortable.)  I’ll return to the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote, εἰς παιδείαν ὑπομένετε[9] (literally, “unto training endure”) to people to whom it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing.  For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need (χρείαν, a form of χρεία) someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances.  You have gone back to needing (χρείαν, a form of χρεία) milk, not solid food.  For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained (γεγυμνασμένα, a form of γυμνάζω) by practice (ἕξιν, a form of ἕξις) to discern both good and evil.[10]

For you need (χρείαν, a form of χρεία) endurance (ὑπομονῆς, a form of ὑπομονή), the writer of Hebrews had written previously, in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised.[11]  But the fruit of the Spirit, Paul wrote believers in Galatia, is love, joy, peace, patience (μακροθυμία), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[12]  Consider by way of contrast that John wrote his readers, the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need (χρείαν, a form of χρεία) for anyone to teach you.  But as his anointing teaches you about all things, it is true and is not a lie.  Just as it has taught you, you reside in him.[13]  This anointing is the baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised.  The Holy Spirit is the best Ranger buddy anyone could find.

Now all discipline (παιδεία) seems painful at the time, not joyful.  But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained (γεγυμνασμένοις, another form of γυμνάζω) by it.[14]  The Greek word γυμνάζω means “to exercise naked.”  The writer of Hebrews used it very effectively to refer back to our daily account to God from whom no creature is hiddenbut everything is naked (γυμνὰ, a form of γυμνός) and exposed to the eyes of him to whom weaccount.  Those who are led by the Spirit expose themselves daily to God that they may be made like Him.  And I predict that the more time we spend willingly, mindfully naked and exposed to the Holy Spirit the more inclined we will be to clothe the naked when we gather together again, and to love one another with the love that covers a multitude of sins.

So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court, Paul wrote believers in Corinth.  In fact, I do not even judge myself.  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this.  The one who judges me is the Lord.  So then, do not judge anything before the time.  Wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts.  Then each will receive recognition from God.[15]

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 14

Back to Romans, Part 79

[1] There are 383 occurrences of forms of πνεῦμα in the New Testament.  There are only 116 occurrences of forms of ἀγάπη and another 143 of forms of ἀγαπάω by comparison.

[2] Here are two other articles I found interesting: 1) Cover Me; 2) Authority and Accountability in the Bible

[3] John 16:7, 8 (NET)

[4] Also Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 11 and Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 12

[5] Exodus 12:11a (NET)

[6] Romans 14:12 (NET)

[7] Romans 14:11 (NET)

[8] Matthew 12:37 (NET)

[9] Hebrews 12:7a (NET)

[10] Hebrews 5:11-14 (NET)

[11] Hebrews 10:36 (NET)

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

[13] 1 John 2:27 (NET)

[14] Hebrews 12:11 (NET)

[15] 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (NET)

Romans, Part 71

This is a continuation of my consideration of Contribute (κοινωνοῦντες, a form of κοινωνέω) to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality.[1]  I’ll begin with the dark side of contributing (or, sharing in): Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, Paul warned a young preacher, and so identify (κοινώνει, another form of κοινωνέω) with the sins of others.  Keep yourself pure.[2]  John mirrored this admonition to a leader ordaining elders (1 Timothy 5:17-22 NET) with one addressed to followers receiving leaders (2 John 1:9-11 NET):

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God.  The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting, because the person who gives him a greeting shares (κοινωνεῖ, another form of κοινωνέω) in his evil deeds.

To begin to understand the teaching (διδαχῇ, a form of διδαχή) of Christ I turn to the Gospel according to Mark.  When asked by one of the experts in the law—Which commandment is the most important of all—Jesus replied with the love (ἀγάπη) [that] is the fulfillment (πλήρωμα) of the law[3] (Mark 12:29-31 NET):

“The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love (ἀγαπήσεις, a form of ἀγαπάω) the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is: ‘Love (ἀγαπήσεις, a form of ἀγαπάω) your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

That is true, Teacher, the expert in the law said, you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him.  And to love (ἀγαπᾶν, another form of ἀγαπάω) him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love (ἀγαπᾶν, another form of ἀγαπάω) your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.[4]  The concept of love as the fulfillment of the law was not foreign to him.  When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far (μακρὰν) from the kingdom of God.”[5]  And in this narrow distance I hope to find how the teaching of Christ differs from the teaching of religious people.

Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, Jesus said to religious people who accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul.  But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  Make a tree good and its fruit (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός) will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός) will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός).[6]  Though religious people may know this as it pertains to horticulture, in religious culture the religious mind hopes to make the tree good by making the fruit good.  If I do good things I will be good, rather than if I am good I do good.  Why make this reversal?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart[7] (καρδίας, a form of καρδία) is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5—Love the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) your God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהיך) with all your heart.  Here is what Jesus said about the heart with which we are to love yehôvâh.

Offspring of vipers, He said, speaking still to religious people.  How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil?  For the mouth speaks from what fills (περισσεύματος, a form of περίσσευμα) the heart (καρδίας, a form of καρδία).[8]  The word translated fills here is not πλήρωμα but carries the idea of filled to overflowing.  At the present time, Paul wrote the Corinthians, your abundance (περίσσευμα) will meet their need, so that one day their abundance (περίσσευμα) may also meet your need[9]  So I take the mouth speaks from the abundance (or, overflow) of the heart as a psychological truth from the mouth of the Creator of the human psyche.

Now if I disallow that Jesus’ intent was to be as rude and insulting as possible to some of the world’s most accomplished religious people, what can I make of his statement?  I don’t think He expressed literal ignorance of how religious people say anything good.  He knew He had given them his word.  He quoted it, too: Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.[10]  That is the key, I think, to recall what Jesus knew.

He knew what was in man.  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart (καρδίας, a form of καρδία),[11] Jesus reiterated this basic knowledge of the human psyche.  For out of the heart (καρδίας, a form of καρδία) come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.[12]  He knew he had not yet been crucified or resurrected.  He knew that the religious people before Him had not yet been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so [they] too may live a new life.[13]

He knew their old man was [not yet] crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate [them], so that [they] would no longer be enslaved to sin.[14]  He knew He had not yet sent the Holy Spirit to fill them with his love (ἀγάπη), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[15]  Do not leave Jerusalem, He told his disciples after his resurrection, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me.  For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.[16]  You will receive power, He promised them, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.[17]

Given this knowledge Jesus’ words sound more like wonder and perhaps even a grudging admiration at how near to the kingdom of God these particular religious people had come on their own.  Though I called the distance narrow and recognize that the difference between the teaching of Christ and that of religious people is subtle, the gap is unbridgeable apart from yehovah’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.  Not only is it impossible to love Him with all our evil hearts, our hard hearts love our religious rules more than our fellow human beings (Mark 3:1-6 NET):

Then Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they could accuse him.  So he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Stand up among all these people.”  Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil, to save a life or destroy it?”  But they were silent.  After looking around at them in anger, grieved by the hardness of their hearts (καρδίας, a form of καρδία), he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  So the Pharisees went out immediately and began plotting with the Herodians, as to how they could assassinate him.

We think our religious works merit special privilege or indulgence relative to those sinners who don’t even try to do good (Ezekiel 18:26-29 NET):

When a righteous person turns back from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing, he will die for it; because of the wrongdoing he has done, he will die.  When a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life.  Because he considered and turned from all the sins he had done, he will surely live; he will not die.  Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The Lord’s conduct is unjust!’  Is my conduct unjust, O house of Israel?  Is it not your conduct that is unjust?

Actually, our continued rejection of Jesus’ salvation (whether in whole or in part) opens the door of mercy to more sinners (Romans 11:11, 12, 15, 22, 23 NET)

I ask then, [Israel] did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they?  Absolutely not!  But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous.  Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring?

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God – harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  And even they – if they do not continue in their unbelief – will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

For this reason I tell you, Jesus said to religious people, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (καρποὺς, another form of καρπός).[18]  But the fruit (καρπὸς) of the Spirit, Paul wrote the Galatians, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.[19]  So religious people, actors at heart, reverse Jesus’ dictum, Make a tree good and its fruit (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός) will be good.  This, in a word, is our unbelief.

Religious people do not believe they need to be baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  We do not believe that his Father knows our needs before we ask Him—or that He is willing to supply our needs.  We don’t accept that our most pressing need is to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen and to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  True, our unbelief is a continuum from ignorance of Jesus’ salvation to the selfish preference for some other way—“My way.”  But all lead to the same outcome: the vain attempt to make ourselves good by doing good deeds.  You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes, Jesus said to religious people, but God knows your hearts (καρδίας, a form of καρδία).[20]

But I say, live by the Spirit, Paul wrote the Galatians, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.  For 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, so that you cannot do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.  I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice (πράσσοντες, a form of πράσσω) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God![21]

The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, Jesus concluded, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury.  I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak [the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart].  For by your words you will be justified (δικαιωθήσῃ, a form of δικαιόω), and by your words you will be condemned (καταδικασθήσῃ, a form of καταδικάζω).[22]

“Therefore I will judge (shâphaṭ, אשפט; Septuagint: κρινῶ, a form of κρίνω) you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord (ʼădônây, אדני) GOD (yehôvâh, יהוה).  Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.  Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord (ʼădônây, אדני) GOD (yehôvâh, יהוה); so turn, and live.”[23]

Romans, Part 72

Back to Romans, Part 73

Back to Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 15

[1] Romans 12:13 (NET)

[2] 1 Timothy 5:22 (NET)

[3] Romans 13:10b (NET)

[4] Mark 12:32, 33 (NET)

[5] Mark 12:34a (NET)

[6] Matthew 12:32, 33 (NET)

[7] Mark 12:30a (NET)

[8] Matthew 12:34 (NET)

[9] 2 Corinthians 8:14a (NET)

[10] Matthew 4:4b (NET)

[11] Matthew 15:18a (NET)

[12] Matthew 15:19 (NET)

[13] Romans 6:4b (NET)

[14] Romans 6:6b (NET)

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

[16] Acts 1:4, 5 (NET)

[17] Acts 1:8a (NET)

[18] Matthew 21:43 (NET)

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

[20] Luke 16:15a (NET)

[21] Galatians 5:16-21 (NET)

[22] Matthew 12:35-37 (NET)

[23] Ezekiel 18:30-32 (ESV)

Romans, Part 67

I’m still considering, Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer[1] as a description of love rather than as rules to obey.  This essay picks up where I left off in the previous essay considering Phinehas’ background and role in events at Gibeah.

Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) judgment,[2] Phinehas told the descendents of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh after hearing their defense.  It may not be obvious in the NET but it was a very poor choice of words: Now you have delivered (nâtsal, הצלתם) the children of Israel out of the hand (yâd, מיד) of the Lord (yehôvâh).[3]  It is not possible according to yehôvâh, Nor is there any who (ʼayin, ואין; literally, nothing) can deliver (nâtsal, מציל) from My hand (yâd).[4]  Beyond that, it was yehôvâh who delivered Israel from the hand of their enemies. 

O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord (yehôvâh),[5] Jacob prayed.  Rescue (nâtsal, הצילני) me, I pray, from the hand (yâd, מיד) of my brother Esau[6]  The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) said [to Moses], “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt.  I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  I have come down to deliver (nâtsal, להצילו) them from the hand (yâd, מיד) of the Egyptians…”[7]  Jethro rejoiced because of all the good that the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) had done for Israel, whom he had delivered (nâtsal, הצילו) from the hand (yâd, מיד) of Egypt.[8]

I’m particularly sensitive to this because I believed that Jesus delivered me from the hand of Jehovah (though I probably didn’t think about it in exactly those words).  My situation became more acute when I was too old to pray to Jesus but told to pray to “our Father in heaven” instead.  I was fairly compliant as a child with things over which I had control.  So I prayed to “our Father in heaven.”  But I couldn’t draw near to Him, not to Jehovah, the one who wanted to condemn me to hell for failing to keep his law.

Was deliverance from the hand of yehôvâh simply a slip of Phinehas’ tongue?  After all even in the New Testament the author of the letter to the Hebrews believed that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.[9]  Or did Phinehas’ word choice accurately reflect his attitude?  David’s attitude by contrast, even regarding punishment, was, Please let us fall into the hand (yâd, ביד) of the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand (yâd, וביד) of man.[10]  Had futility crept into Phinehas’ thoughts, a darkening of his senseless heart (Romans 1:21 NET)?   

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.

These words were penned by a Benjaminite[11] who was extremely zealous for the traditions of [his] ancestors[12] until Jesus showed him a fresh and living way that [Jesus] inaugurated for us,[13] not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.[14]  I don’t fully understand how the Holy Spirit empowered people in the Old Testament (which is not to say that I fully understand Him in the New).

Samson is perhaps the most confusing example: Samsongrew and the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) empowered him.  The Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) spirit began to control him in Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.  Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye.[15]  Though his parents protested his choice, the text is clear that his father and mother did not realize this was the Lord’s (yehôvâh, מיהוה) doing, because he was looking for an opportunity to stir up trouble with the Philistines.[16]  Samson’s choice and great strength are not the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[17] with which I am more familiar.

I turn to David again: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.[18]  Perhaps Phinehas’ statement—Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you have not disobeyed the Lord in this[19]—is a similar recognition that yehôvâh’s presence, his Holy Spirit, creates the clean heart and steadfast spirit that effected righteousness among the descendants of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.  Still, Moses wished for more for the descendants of Israel: I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them![20]

So I’m not sure whether Phinehas made a poor word choice or was becoming futile in his thoughts (e.g., actually intending to thank or praise the descendants of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh for delivering him from the hand of yehôvâh), whether he was fearing yehôvâh or afraid of yehôvâh, drawing near or fleeing in his heart and mind.  But I want to keep it as an open question as I move from the failure to resolve matters at Gibeah as a police function to war: The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah to make war against the Israelites.[21]  

Vengeance War in Gibeah Divided Kingdom
The Lord spoke to Moses: “Exact vengeance for the Israelites on the Midianites…

Numbers 31:1, 2a (NET)

The Israelites went up to Bethel and asked God, “Who should lead the charge against the Benjaminites?”  The Lord said, “Judah should lead.”

Judges 20:18 (NET)

God told Shemaiah the prophet, “Say this to King Rehoboam son of Solomon of Judah, and to all Judah and Benjamin, as well as the rest of the people, ‘The Lord says this: “Do not attack and make war with your brothers, the Israelites.  Each of you go home, for I have caused this [Israel’s rebellion against Judah and Benjamin] to happen.”’”

1 Kings 12:22-24a (NET)

I’ve placed the war in Gibeah between yehôvâh’s vengeance on the Midianites and his prohibition of Judah declaring war on the northern kingdom of Israel.  The Israelites assumed they were called to war against Benjamin and asked yehôvâh which tribe should lead.  The war was neither initiated nor forbidden by yehôvâh.  Judah should lead, He said.

Vengeance War in Gibeah Divided Kingdom
So Moses sent them to the war… They fought against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed every male.  They killed the kings of Midian in addition to those slain – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – five Midianite kings.  They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.

Numbers 31:6-8 (NET)

The Israelites got up the next morning and moved against Gibeah.  The men of Israel marched out to fight Benjamin; they arranged their battle lines against Gibeah.

Judges 20:19, 20 (NET)

They obeyed the Lord and went home as the Lord had ordered them to do.

1 Kings 12:24b (NET)

Assuming that Judah actually did lead Israel at Gibeah, yehôvâh was obeyed in all three examples.  Since neither Judah nor the northern kingdom of Israel suffered any casualties in a war that didn’t happen I switched to Ai for purposes of comparison below. 

Vengeance War in Gibeah Ai
Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders over thousands and the commanders over hundreds, approached Moses and said to him, “Your servants have taken a count of the men who were in the battle, who were under our authority, and not one is missing.

Numbers 31:48, 49 (NET)

The Benjaminites attacked from Gibeah and struck down twenty-two thousand Israelites that day.

Judges 20:21 (NET)

The Lord was furious with the Israelites.  Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai… 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…

Joshua 7:1b, 2a, 4, 5a (NET)

Was yehôvâh over 600 times more furious with Israel at Gibeah than at Ai?  Okay, proportionally speaking, was He four and one half times more furious?  According to the Zohar, “God was unwilling that other sinners of Israel should be the instruments for punishing them [the descendants of Benjamin], and therefore numbers of them fell time after time until all the sinners in the attacking army had perished, and there were left only those more righteous ones who could more appropriately execute the work.”[22] If I had only the story of the battle at Ai to go on, I might agree with this assessment.  But I have more Scripture that the writer(s) of the Zohar rejected (Luke 13:1-5 NET):

Now there were some present on that occasion who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them, “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered these things?  No, I tell you!  But unless you repent, you will all perish as well!  Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you!  But unless you repent you will all perish as well!” 

So apart from an explicit statement of Scripture (as in the case of Achan[23]) I assume that the opinion in the Zohar is unwarranted.  The reason given in the text has nothing to do with yehôvâh, rather there were seven hundred specially-trained left-handed soldiers among the Benjaminites.  Each one could sling a stone and hit even the smallest target.[24]

War in Gibeah Ai
The Israelite army took heart (châzaq, ויתחזק) and once more arranged their battle lines, in the same place where they had taken their positions the day before.

Judges 20:22 (NET)

… and chased them from in front of the city gate all the way to the fissures and defeated them on the steep slope.  The people’s courage melted away like water.

Joshua 7:5b (NET)

The Israelites went up and wept before the Lord until evening.

Judges 20:23a (NET)

Joshua tore his clothes; he and the leaders of Israel lay face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening and threw dirt on their heads.

Joshua 7:6 (NET)

At Gibeah the Israelites suffered 22,000 casualties, grabbed or persuaded themselves and reformed their battle lines while the Israelites at Ai suffered 36 casualties and were routed.  The reason is given in the text: The men of Israel (not counting Benjamin) had mustered four hundred thousand sword-wielding soldiers, every one an experienced warrior.[25]

At Ai 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[26]  What will you do to protect your great reputation?[27]  Israel has sinned,[28] yehôvâh responded.  The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation.[29]  The “trial” and execution of Achan[30] (along with his family) followed this.  In Gibeah (Judges 20:23b-25 NET):

They asked the Lord, “Should we again march out to fight the Benjaminites, our brothers?”  The Lord said, “Attack them!”  So the Israelites marched toward the Benjaminites the next day.  The Benjaminites again attacked them from Gibeah and struck down eighteen thousand sword-wielding Israelite soldiers.

Israel was no longer yehôvâh’s weapon of judgmentThe Lord was furious with Israel.  He said, “This nation has violated the terms of the agreement I made with their ancestors by disobeying me.  So I will no longer remove before them any of the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died.[31]  Then I consider the trajectory from weapon of judgment to objects of mercy[32] (Matthew 5:38-42 NET):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer.  But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well.  And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Jesus spoke to objects (KJV: vessels) of mercy under occupation of a very effective Roman government.  In those days Israel had no king,[33] the story of the Levite and his concubine began, addressing not merely the lack of a hereditary monarchy but the fact that Israel had rejected[34] yehôvâh as their king.  I think what is witnessed at the battle of Gibeah is two well-trained armies fighting in their own strength, without yehôvâh’s aid or interference.[35]  The outcome is a foregone conclusion as long as the larger army continues to fight.  But at first the Israelites fought for principle while the Benjaminites fought for their lives.[36]  Apart from miraculous intervention Phinehas’ role was reduced to providing encouragement and officiating at sacrifices.[37]  He is virtually nonexistent in the text.

Admittedly, I’m threading the eye of a subtle needle here.  I recognize that the Israelites intended to go to war by the throw of the dice.  But I accept yehôvâh’s acquiescence (at a minimum) because the Scripture reads: The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) said, “Judah should lead”[38] and, The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) said, “Attack them!”[39]  At the same time I’m hearing, The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand (yâd, בידך) them over to you”[40] and, The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) annihilated Benjamin before Israel,[41] as Phinehas’ manner of speaking, expressing yehôvâh’s foreknowledge and it’s fulfillment, and not necessarily yehôvâh’s direct involvement as when Israel was his weapon of judgment.

If I were able to interview all the survivors, I take it for granted that I’d hear many battlefield stories of individual and small group salvations credited to yehôvâh’s intercession.  I don’t doubt that many of those stories would be true examples of yehôvâh’s intercession.  Nor do I doubt that I would hear true salvation stories from both opposing armies.  But I doubt that Israel was yehôvâh’s weapon of judgment against Benjamin as they were against Midian.

The next day Israel followed the same tactic[42] against Benjamin that Joshua commanded at Ai.[43]  I don’t know if this came from Joshua’s writing, Phinehas’ memory or is evidence of the development of a professional military command structure with an institutional memory.  The Benjaminites apparently did not read Joshua, did not have Phinehas as an advisor or did not have a professional military command structure with an institutional memory and fell for the ruse.  The Israelites struck down that day 25,100 sword-wielding Benjaminites.[44]  Counting the 600 survivors they had only killed 1,000 in the previous two days of fighting while they suffered 40,000 casualties.

Israel apparently left the survivors alone for four monthsThe Israelites regretted what had happened to their brother Benjamin.[45]  Why, O Lord God of Israel, has this happened in Israel? they prayed.  An entire tribe has disappeared from Israel today![46]

Romans, Part 68

[1] Romans 12:12 (NET)

[2] Joshua 22:31b (NET)

[3] Joshua 22:31b (NKJV)

[4] Deuteronomy 32:39b (NKJV)

[5] Genesis 32:9a (NET)

[6] Genesis 32:11a (NET)

[7] Exodus 3:7, 8a (NET)

[8] Exodus 18:9 (NET)

[9] Hebrews 10:31 (NET)

[10] 2 Samuel 24:14 (NKJV)

[11] Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:5 (NET)

[12] Galatians 1:14b (NET)

[13] Hebrews 10:20a (NET)

[14] 2 Corinthians 3:6b (NET)

[15] Judges 13:24b-14:1 (NET)

[16] Judges 14:4a (NET)

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

[18] Psalm 51:10, 11 (NKJV)

[19] Joshua 22:31a (NET)

[20] Numbers 11:29b (NET)

[21] Judges 20:14 (NET)


[23] In fact, no one would say that the 36 who died at Ai were worse sinners than the other 2,964 soldiers because as yehôvâh’s weapon of judgment all Israel was guilty and subject to annihilation because one man sinned.

[24] Judges 20:16 (NET)

[25] Judges 20:17 (NET)

[26] Joshua 7:7 (NET)

[27] Joshua 7:9b (NET)

[28] Joshua 7:11a (NET)

[29] Joshua 7:12a (NET)

[30] Joshua 7:16-26 (NET)

[31] Judges 2:20, 21 (NET)

[32] Romans 9:21-24  Darby related this directly to Romans 11:30-32 in his translation: For as indeed *ye* [also] once have not believed in God, but now have been objects of mercy through the unbelief of *these*; so these also have now not believed in your mercy, in order that *they* also may be objects of mercy.  For God hath shut up together all in unbelief, in order that he might shew mercy to all.

[33] Judges 19:1a (NET)

[34] 1 Samuel 8:6-9 (NET)

[35] Judges 7:9-14 (NET)

[36] Deuteronomy 13:12-18 (NET)

[37] Judges 20:26-28 (NET)

[38] Judges 20:18b (NET)

[39] Judges 20:23b (NET)

[40] Judges 20:28b (NET)

[41] Judges 20:35a (NET)

[42] Judges 20:29-48 (NET)

[43] Joshua 8:3-8 (NET)

[44] Judges 20:35b (NET)

[45] Judges 21:6a (NET)

[46] Judges 21:3 (NET)