Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Jerusalem Council


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

Matthew 5:17-20 (NET)

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

Acts 15:23b-29 (NET)

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

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

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

Romans 2:12-29 (NET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Matthew 18:16 (NET)

[3] Matthew 18:17a (NET)

[4] Matthew 18:17b (NET)

[5] Matthew 18:18 (NET)

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

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

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

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

[10] Colossians 1:27b (NET)

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 7

Back to Who Am I? Part 5

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 1

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] Matthew 18:15a (NET)

[2] Matthew 18:15b (NET)

[3] 2 Timothy 4:2 (NET)

[4] Acts 16:4 (NET)

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

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

[7] Romans 3:20b (NET)

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

[9] Titus 1:10 (NET)

[10] Matthew 18:16 (NET)

[11] Matthew 18:17a (NET)

[12] 1 Timothy 5:20 (NET)

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

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

[15] 2 Corinthians 13:10 (NET)

[16] Revelation 3:19a (NET)

[17] John 16:8 (NET)

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

[19] Commentary on Galatians 2:17

[20] Commentary on Galatians 2:4, 5

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

[22] Commentary on Galatians 2:18

[23] Commentary on Galatians 2:14

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

[25] Leviticus 18:22 (NET)

Apostles and Prophets, Part 3

Lori Eldridge’s[1] argument “Why there are no Apostles today[2] continued:

The apostles claimed to be eyewitnesses:    

Acts 5:32, Peter and the other apostles stated, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Therefore, ALLLLLLL the apostles were eye witnesses to Christ and his Resurrection.

On the surface of it the structure of the sentence in Acts 5:32—we areand so is—doesn’t sound like the kind of exclusive claim Ms. Eldridge wants to make of it.  But I want to address something else first; namely, the Holy Spirit whom God has given (ἔδωκεν, a form of δίδωμι) to those who obey him.”[3]  The note in the NET reads:  “Those who obey.  The implication, of course, is that the leadership is disobeying God.”  What I object to is the implication that the Holy Spirit has been given as a result of human “obedience.”  And I don’t think Peter was at fault here.

The Greek word translated obey (πειθαρχοῦσιν, a form of πειθαρχέω) is a combination of πείθω:

A primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty)

NET: 1) persuade 1a) to persuade, i.e. to induce one by words to believe 1b) to make friends of, to win one’s favour, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one, strive to please one 1c) to tranquillise 1d) to persuade unto i.e. move or induce one to persuasion to do something 2) be persuaded 2a) to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe: to have faith: in a thing 2a1) to believe 2a2) to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person 2b) to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with 3) to trust, have confidence, be confident

and ἄρχω:

A primary verb; to be first (in political rank or power)

NET: 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule.

It is a reference back to Peter’s response to the council and the high priest[4]: We must obey (πειθαρχεῖν, another form of πειθαρχέω) God rather than people.[5]  And he said this as he refused to heed or be persuaded by the highest religious authority in Israel: We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name.[6]  Had πειθαρχεῖν δεῖ θεῷ been translated “we must trust God as leader” and πειθαρχοῦσιν αὐτῷ as “trust him as leader” we would have a better translation of Peter’s point without inducing him to propound a false concept.  And the Holy Spirit would be seen as the cause of human obedience rather than a reward for good behavior.

The structure of Ms. Eldridge’s argument is: The apostles claimed to be eyewitnesses in Acts 5:32, therefore all the apostles were eye witnesses to Christ and his Resurrection (and none other than eye witnesses can be apostles).  This argument depends on equating eyewitnesses (αὐτόπται, a form of αὐτόπτης) with witnesses (μάρτυρες, a form of μάρτυς) of these things (ρημάτων, a form of ῥῆμα; NET events).  These things (NIV) or events (NET) are specified: The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.[7]

Admittedly, translating ρημάτων as things or events makes the relationship to αὐτόπται seem strong, and makes μάρτυρες seem exclusive to that generation.  You killed the Originator (ἀρχηγὸν, a form of ἀρχηγός) of life, Peter said elsewhere, whom God raised (ἤγειρεν, a form of ἐγείρω) from the dead.  To this fact (οὗ, a form of ὅς) we are witnesses (μάρτυρες, a form of μάρτυς)![8]  The apostles saw Jesus seized and killed by hanging him on a tree.  If Peter meant raised from the dead by The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, the apostles certainly saw Jesus after his resurrection.    But if he meant God exalted him to his right hand as Leader  and Savior, was that something they saw with their eyes (Hebrews 2:6b-9 NET)?

What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him?  You made him lower than the angels for a little while.  You crowned him with glory and honor.  You put all things under his control.”  For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control.  At present we do not yet see (ὁρῶμεν, a form of ὁράω) all things under his control, but we see (βλέπομεν, a form of βλέπω) Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone.

I don’t think we are meant to take we see Jesus as proof that the letter to the Hebrews was penned before Jesus’ ascension.  The apostles did see Jesus taken up[9] (ἀνελήμφθη, a form of ἀναλαμβάνω) into the sky: while they were watching (βλεπόντων, another form of βλέπω), he was lifted up (ἐπήρθη, a form of ἐπαίρω) and a cloud hid him from their sight[10] (ὀφθαλμῶν, a form of ὀφθαλμός) But only Stephen, as he was stoned to death, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently (ἀτενίσας, a form of ἀτενίζω) toward heaven (οὐρανὸν, a form of οὐρανός) and saw (εἶδεν, a form of εἴδω) the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.[11]  The others must have “seen” this in some other way, similar perhaps to the way they “saw” Jesus give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Actually, the word (ρημάτων, a form of ῥῆμα) translated things or events in Acts 5:32 was translated words in: Then the women remembered his words[12] (ρημάτων), and If anyone hears my words (ρημάτων) and does not obey them, I do not judge him.[13]  Had Acts 5:32 been translated—And we are witnesses of these words—it would have been more obvious that the apostles became witnesses by believing what they heard rather than seeing with their eyes.  I could quote many instances of forms of ῥῆμα translated as word or words.  It will be more efficient to look into those which were translated differently.

But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter (ρῆμα, another form of ῥῆμα) may be established.[14]  (This is the third time I am coming to visit you.  By the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter (ρῆμα, another form of ῥῆμα) will be established.[15])  The differences in the various translations prompts the question: What is being established (NET, DNT, NIV, ASV, KJV, NKJV, YLT, NAB), stood upon (DNT, YLT), clarified (TMSG), confirmed (ISVNT), verified (ISVNT, GWT), attested (MSNT), sustained (MSNT), proved true (CEV), upheld (TEV)?  Is it the word (ρῆμα) of the witnesses (μαρτύρων)?  Or is it the brother’s sin?[16]  Or is it both?

A single witness (Septuagint: μάρτυς) may not testify (Septuagint: μαρτυρῆσαι[17]) against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits.  A matter (Hebrew: dâbâr; Septuagint: ῥῆμα) may be legally established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.[18]  In the context of the original verse Jesus’ quoted, it is fairly clear that the word of the witnesses was being legally established.  The words dâbâr or ῥῆμα might have been translated accusation, but I see no credible reason to translate them matter until I look at the larger context and its implications (Deuteronomy 19:16-19a NET).

If a false witness testifies against another person and accuses him of a crime, then both parties to the controversy must stand before the Lord, that is, before the priests and judges who will be in office in those days.  The judges will thoroughly investigate the matter, and if the witness should prove to be false and to have given false testimony against the accused, you must do to him what he had intended to do to the accused.

Those who malign the Lord (as I have done) for the law’s death penalty for very human offenses never mention this little gem.  The gossip who sees a man sneaking out of the widow’s house in the middle of the night must consider her own jeopardy before accusing them of a capital offense.  And as I begin to argue in my own mind that gossips would never be punished as severely as adulterers, I hear the law addressed directly to judges who would practice such injustice (Deuteronomy 19:19b-21 NET).

In this way you will purge evil from among you.  The rest of the people will hear and become afraid to keep doing such evil [i.e., gossiping, becoming a false witness] among you.  You must not show pity; the principle will be a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot.

The judges had no discretion regarding the sentencing of false witnesses.  It truly is a beautiful law.  Deuteronomy 19:15-21 all but guarantees (as much as any law weakened through the flesh[19] can “guarantee” anything pertaining to human behavior) that only the most flagrant and egregious sins would ever come up for adjudication.  But none of this justifies the translation of dâbâr/ῥῆμα as matter in my mind until I ask, what triggers the investigation of the false witness?

I assume it is the same thing that triggers the procedural acceleration in Mathew 18:16, But if he does not listen (ἀκούσῃ, a form of ἀκούω).  If the accused hears the word of the witnesses, does not accuse them of lying, the matter is legally establishedon the testimony of two or three witnesses as a matter of procedure.  The procedure is at its end.  In this sense I can barely justify translating dâbâr/ῥῆμα as matter, with the proviso that it hides the fact from the non-Hebrew-non-Greek-studying English-speaking world that the word of the witnesses was the primary focus and concern of the Word of God.

Given the time and place I came of age I can’t help but wonder if yehôvâh/Jesus, both in the law and in the Gospel of Matthew, hasn’t instituted the most virulent form of thought police ever conceived.  But let me take some of the things, events or words (ρημάτων, a form of ῥῆμα) the apostles “saw” (or heard and believed) seriously (Acts 5:31 NET):

God exalted [Jesus] to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness (ἄφεσιν, a form of ἄφεσις) of sins.

The words do not say, God exalted [Jesus] to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to institute the most virulent form of thought police ever conceived.  Through hearing with faith I can stand up to the socially constructed reality of my upbringing and accept that what I may think was instituted as thought police was actually instituted to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  It transforms my outlook.

What if an avid student of the law had heard Jephthah’s thoughtless oath?[20]  If you really do hand the Ammonites over to me, then whoever is the first to come through the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from fighting the Ammonites – he will belong to the Lord and I will offer him up as a burnt sacrifice.[21]  Maybe the avid law student didn’t recognize it as a thoughtless oath until Jephthah came home to Mizpah, there was his daughter hurrying out to meet him, dancing to the rhythm of tambourines.[22]

Or perhaps the law didn’t come to his mind until Jephthah ripped his clothes and said, “Oh no!  My daughter!  You have completely ruined me!  You have brought me disaster!  I made an oath to the Lord, and I cannot break it.”[23]  Or if that didn’t do it maybe her answer jogged his memory, My father, since you made an oath to the Lord, do to me as you promised.  After all, the Lord vindicated you before your enemies, the Ammonites.[24]  Or if that fell on deaf ears, what if the law came to him any time during the two months Jephthah’s daughter wandered the hills with her friends to mourn her virginity?[25]

What if the avid law student came to Jephthah with two comrades who heard his oath? and said, “Jephthah, you have made a thoughtless oath in our hearing.  Now hear the word of the Lord (Leviticus 5:4-6 NET):

[W]hen a person swears an oath, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips, whether to do evil or to do good, with regard to anything which the individual might speak thoughtlessly in an oath, even if he did not realize it, but he himself has later come to know it and is guilty with regard to one of these oaths…he must confess how he has sinned, and he must bring his penalty for guilt to the Lord for his sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, whether a female sheep or a female goat, for a sin offering.  So the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

The risk for the witnesses, the avid law student and his two comrades, was a female sheep or a female goat (a piece, I assume, less if they were poor[26]).  The benefit for Jephthah was his daughter’s life.  It is in keeping with the beautiful law, and the intent of God the Father and Jesus the Leader and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Jephthah may have rejected the word of the witnesses anyway.  The religious mind is capable of atrocities ordinary sinners shrink from committing.  But if he had rejected the word of the witnesses Jephthah would have been a rebellious son of Israel rather than the tragic victim of a pious good: After two months she returned to her father, and [Jephthah] did to her as he had vowed.[27]

Standing up to the religious mind, one’s own as well as those of others, is part and parcel of following Christ.  For some of us it is the cross[28] we bear.  I’ll return to Ms. Eldridge’s argument and more instances of ῥῆμα in the next essay.  A table of the translation in various Bibles of dâbâr/ῥῆμα from the three verses considered above follows.

Translation of ρῆμα[29] Matthew 18:16 2 Corinthians 13:1 Deuteronomy 19:15
charges CEV
charge MSNT NAB
complaint CEV
accusation GWT, TEV GWT, ISVNT, TEV
saying YLT
fact NAB NAB
a case TMSG

Back to Romans, Part 55



[3] Acts 5:32b (NET)

[4] Acts 5:27 (NET)

[5] Acts 5:29 (NET)

[6] Acts 5:28a (NET)

[7] Acts 5:30, 31 (NET)

[8] Acts 3:15 (NET)

[9] Acts 1:2 (NET)  The note in the NET reads: “The words ‘to heaven’ are not in the Greek text, but are supplied from v. 11.”  As they were still staring into the sky (οὐρανὸν, a form of οὐρανός) while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky (οὐρανὸν, a form of οὐρανός)?  This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven (οὐρανὸν, a form of οὐρανός) will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven (οὐρανὸν, a form of οὐρανός).” (Acts 1:10, 11 NET)

[10] Acts 1:9 (NET)

[11] Acts 7:55 (NET)

[12] Luke 24:8 (NET)

[13] John 12:47a (NET)

[14] Matthew 18:16 (NET)

[15] 2 Corinthians 13:1 (NET)

[16] Matthew 18:15 (NET)

[17] (a form of μαρτυρέω)

[18] Deuteronomy 19:15 (NET)

[19] Romans 8:3-4 (NET)

[20] Leviticus 5:4 (NET)

[21] Judges 11:30b, 31 (NET)

[22] Judges 11:34a (NET)

[23] Judges 11:35 (NET)

[24] Judges 11:36 (NET)

[25] Judges 11:37, 38 (NET)

[26] Leviticus 5:7-13 (NET)

[27] Judges 11:39a (NET)

[28] Matthew 10:38, 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 14:27

[29] In Deuteronomy the word is dâbâr though ῥῆμα was used in the Septuagint.  The ISVNT and MSNT are New Testament only.  The CEV, GWT, and TEV are too paraphrased for me to tell which word is a translation of what.

[30] If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again (Matthew 18:16 TMSG).  I have no idea how ρῆμα was translated here.