Did Paul Really Say the Church Should Deliver People to Satan?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 5-9

“When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that this spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

The more and more I attempt to study the scriptures on my own in their original language, the more I see how the translations have been biased by an assumed theology that God will judge people, actual people, unworthy. Therefore, because these people are evil, wicked sinners they will be cast aside.

But, this is misses the entire point of the scriptures, which is that the Christ, God, suffers, dies, and rises from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

The singular point of the word of God becoming flesh was to show that God suffers for us so that we can be forgiven. God was in Jesus on the cross reconciling the world to himself. God was not in Jesus forgiving us 2,000 years ago so that at some point in the future he can destroy, eternally burn, sinners.

What would have been the point of the suffering, forgiving, and reconciling of the world on the cross?

So, we come to a rather well known passage where Paul hears that someone has a father’s wife in a sexually immoral manner. It’s a sexual immorality such that is not in the nations or Gentiles.  The rest of the translation says that the man who has done this should be removed from the congregation. Further, the translation says that Paul already has judged the man who did this thing. So, when the congregation is assembled, they should deliver the man to Satan to destroy the flesh, which seemingly gets read as destroying the man, even though the purpose is that the man’s spirit may be saved in the end, the day of the Lord.

In English, the word man and his appear quite frequently. But, in the Greek these words are not there. The Greek uses words like “such” and “this.” To me, it seems less about the man being judged and delivered to Satan as it is the works and the deeds that are judged and delivered to Satan for destruction.

For example, according to the ESV, 1 Corinthians 5:2 says, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “And you are in a state of being proud, but rather not you mourned in order that the doing of this deed be removed from among you?”

It seems to me Paul is not so concerned about the man being removed. Being in a state of pride would cause you to want to remove a sexually immoral man from among you. The Pharisees were full of pride and did not want sinners in their presence. They wanted to cast sinners out.

Rather, I think Paul’s concern is that the church should have mourned so that the doing of the deed of sexual immorality would be removed from among them not the man?

Doesn’t this sound more like Jesus?

Jesus didn’t purge people from God’s presence. Because of his humility, Jesus drew sinners in so that that could be cleansed, which is to say that their sinful deeds would be purged from them.

According to the ESV, verse 3 says, “For thought absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “Because on the one hand absent in the body, but I am present in the spirit. As present, I already am in a state of judging the thing accomplished in this way.”

In this more literal sense, it is not even clear to me that Paul is judging the man or the man’s actions. Rather, it could be that Paul is already judging the thing the church accomplished by being in a state of pride instead of mourning the deed done. Paul could be judging their pride that drove the man out instead of their mourning the deed done, the sexual immorality, so that the man would be drawn in by their humility but the sexual immorality itself driven out.

Even if the thing accomplished that Paul is judging is the sexual immorality of the man, we must remember that Paul said, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he was absent in the body but present in the spirit. He was assessing the situation in the present, not regarding the man, or the Corinthian church, according to the flesh. No matter how fleshly, or carnal, the Corinthian church was Paul called them saints. He saw them in Christ as a new creation. And, if God was not counting trespasses against them, I doubt Paul was either. Therefore, i doubt Paul advocated kicking this man out of the church, driving him out of the presence of God.

Therefore, according to the ESV, verses 4-5 says , “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

However, a more literal reading would be something like, “In the name of the our Lord Jesus you are gathered together (and my spirit together with the power of our Lord Jesus) to deliver such things in Satan to destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

There is no “when” in the Greek. Rather, quite literally Paul says “In the name of our Lord Jesus you are gathered together.” It is in the name, the character, the mind, of our Lord Jesus that we, the church, have been gathered together.

Then, referring back to his previous comment that he was absent in body but present in spirit, Paul parenthetically adds that his spirit is there together with the power of our Lord Jesus.

What is the power of our Lord Jesus, the power of God?

In yesterday’s post, Paul said that the word of the cross is the power of God.

What is the power of God?

Forgiveness in the midst of the suffering.

Is it likely that the Corinthians were suffering as a result of this man’s sexual immorality?

Highly.

Then, instead of being in a state of pride, they should have mourned the deed done and forgiven the man despite the suffering they were enduring.

Therefore, you are gathered together for forgiveness to deliver such things in Satan. “In Satan” could also be translated “to Satan” or “by Satan.” I chose in Satan because we are delivering “such things.”

What are such things?

Either or both the sexual immorality of the man and/or the pride of the church. Both have their beginnings in Satan. And, it’s these things, these sins, that come from Satan that Jesus came to destroy.

First John 3:8 says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

First John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.”

The pride of the Corinthian church and the sexual immorality of the man are both sins and of the devil. They are part of the desires of the flesh and pride of life that are not of the Father but of the world. Satan is the ruler of this world; therefore, if they are of the world, they are of Satan.

But, Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus appeared to destroy the sins of pride and sexual immorality – such things in Satan.

Therefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus we are gathered together to forgive, which is the word of the cross and the power of God, to deliver such things in Satan – pride and sexual immorality – to destruction because this is why the Son of God appeared.

Why to destruction of the flesh?

Because scripture is quite clear that the flesh is where sinful desires, which are from Satan, reside.

What is the whole purpose of everything Paul has said?

“So that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

The Greek verb for “may be saved” is in the subjunctive mood.  According to www.ntgreek.org, “The subjunctive mood indicates probability or objective possibility. The action of the verb will possibly happen, depending on certain objective factors or circumstances. It is oftentimes used in conditional statements (i.e. ‘If…then…’ clauses) or in purpose clauses. However if the subjunctive mood is used in a purpose or result clause, then the action should not be thought of as a possible result, but should be viewed as a definite outcome that will happen as a result of another stated action.”

Paul’ statement is used in a result clause – “so that.” Therefore, it is a definite outcome that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord because we have delivered such things in Satan to the destruction of the flesh by the power of Jesus, the power of God, forgiveness. Let us not forget that in his first sermon in Acts 2, Peter declared that the Spirit had been poured out on all flesh. Everyone has the Spirit of God in them. It’s just buried underneath more flesh in some than others.

Given all of that, Paul says, “Your boasting is not good.”

What boasting?

The “you are in a state of being proud” that Paul started all of this with in verse 2.

Doesn’t Paul’s statement “Your boasting is not good” make more sense now?

My translation may not be exactly right. I’m sure Greek scholars would have problems with it. But, we have to start by coming to the scriptures with the single understanding that it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This one thing has to be what we are looking, the lens through which we translate and interpret the scriptures.

Then, only then, will you “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:18-21)

How Is the Word of the Cross Folly and the Power of God?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 1-4

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Paul is making a seemingly simple statement. For some people, the word of the cross is folly. For other people, the word of the cross is the power of God.

But, we also know that what Paul is saying here is not as simple as it sounds. Because, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.”

Despite Paul’s seemingly simple statement, we need to ask a question.

How is the word of the cross folly to some and the power of God to others?

To begin answering this question, we have to look at the two groups of people Paul is coming – those who are perishing and those who are being saved.

I find the word perishing a little deceiving. My first associations with the word perishing are expiring or dying. These are people that are dying. So, we are comparing those dying with those being saved. Then, it is quite easy to make the leap that the word of the cross is folly to those going to hell but the power of God to those going to heaven.

But, that is not at all what Paul is talking about.

The word perish does not simply mean dying or expiring. It literally means to become destroyed or ruined. The Greek word translated perishing is apollymi. Its literal meaning is to destroy fully.

Now, you may be thinking that Paul is comparing those who are being destroyed with those who are being saved. Therefore, this makes it even more clear that Paul is comparing those going to hell and those going to heaven.

But, not so fast.

Apollymi is participle, but it is unclear if it is in the passive or middle voice. The passive voice means the action is being done to you. But, the middle voice means you are acting in your own interest, acting on your own behalf, or participating in the results of the action.

Therefore, if apollymi is in the passive voice, then it would mean “those who are perishing” or “those who are being destroyed.” However, if apollymi is in the middle voice, then it would mean “those who are destroying” or “those who are destroying themselves.”

If the Greek scholars are unsure, then how do we decide?

We consider the context of all scripture.

There is a theme that runs throughout scripture that the evil and the wicked destroy themselves by own plans of destruction. Psalm 7:14-16 says, “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made, and on his own skull his violence descends.”

“Those who are being saved” is in the passive voice. This means that the act of saving is being done to them. Those who are being saved have no role to play in the act of salvation.

Therefore, we should understand Paul as comparing those who are destroying but really destroying themselves with those who are being saved.

What is Paul really getting at here?

Who has power?

What is true power?

What is the consequence of wielding power?

Those who are destroying are doing so to have power over others. These people believe they can bring about their desired outcome by having power over others through the destruction of others. Ultimately, these people that they will have the life they want by destroying. To the natural man, this seems like the only logical way to live.

However, to these people the word of the cross is folly.

Folly is the lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight. The Greek word folly also means absurd. Absurd means ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous, having no rational or orderly relationship to human life.

Why is the word of the cross folly, an absurdity, to those who see destroying as the only logical way to live?

What is the word of the cross?

We know that Jesus said all scripture is about the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. Jesus suffered and died for others only to be resurrected to life to becoming a life-giving spirit for all.

Jesus suffered for three-and-a-half years. The intensity of his suffering climaxed on the cross. In the midst of his most intense suffering, what did Jesus say?

What was his word from the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The word of the cross is forgiveness for the ones causing your most intense suffering, forgiveness for your enemies, forgiveness for those who are destroying you.

To those who are destroying, seeking to live by power over others, to forgive the one who is destroying you is folly. It is absurd. It is ridiculously unreasonable. It is has no rational relationship to human life.

Ah, but to those who are being saved the word of the cross, forgiving in the midst of your most intense suffering those who are destroying, is the power of God. This is true power. This is the power that allows you to live, truly live.

This is why those that are being saved who given up all violence. Violence cannot save you. Violence cannot protect you. In fact, whatever violence you do comes back on your own head and destroys you.

Those that are being saved have come to know that the only way to overcome violence down to them, the only way to victory, the only way to life, is to forgive.

Forgiveness, the word of the cross, is the absorption of violence. This is what 1 Peter 2:24 means when it says that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

So, the word of the cross is folly to those who are destroying because forgiveness is ridiculously unreasonable and has no rational relationship to them living.

But, the word of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved because forgiveness is the only way to live.

Why Was the Bible Written?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 15-16

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:4-6

Many Christians believe that Bible was written to give us the word of God. Therefore, because the Bible is the word of God, we should believe and obey it, every single jot and tittle of it, literally.

Where do Christians get this idea?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-16)

These Christians believe that the Bible should be taken literally because it was breathed out by God. Therefore, if we want righteousness, which generally means perfect moral behavior to these Christians, then we should literally believe and obey the Bible because it teaches, reproves, corrects, trains you in righteousness.

But, is that why the Bible was written?

My answer is absolutely not.

First, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is theopneustos. This is the only time that the word is used in the Bible. And, it is believed that Paul coined this term himself. Theo means God, and pneustos comes from the word pneuma, which means spirit, breath, or wind.

Therefore, Paul could be saying that “all scripture breathed out by God” or “all scripture is God breathed.” In this way, all scripture comes by God’s breath or God’s Spirit. As a student of the Old Testament, Paul would know that God’s spirit was also God’s breath. The Hebrew word ru’ah was used for both.

However, Paul could also be saying “all God-breathed scripture.” If we translated it this way, then we come away with a slightly different understanding in English. This would imply that there is scripture, but there is also God-breathed scripture. In other words, there is an understanding of scripture, but there is another understanding of scripture when God breathes his Spirit into it.

This latter idea, that there are different understandings of Scripture, fits exactly with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. There, Paul says that there is a literal understanding of scripture by the letter that leads to death and there is an understanding of scripture by the Spirit, a God-breathed understanding, that leads to life. The Spiritual understanding of scripture comes because Christ’s crucifixion, his suffering, tore the veil that blinded us to this true Spiritual meaning of scripture.

Further, Paul uses two key words – faith and righteousness – that help us understand what he means by God-breathed scripture. Over the last week, I have written about the meaning of faith and righteousness in “What Is Faith?” and “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

The key to understanding both words is to know the one thing that Jesus said all scripture spoke about. Twice in Luke 24, Jesus says that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, that is all scripture, spoke about one thing – that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead three days later so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations.

For 40 days, from his resurrection to his ascension, Jesus taught the disciples the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. He told them this was what all scripture was about. But, to do this, Jesus had to interpret and translate the scriptures for them. In other words, the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead was not the obvious literal meaning.

Further, Jesus told his disciples the night before he died that he would ask his Father to “give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

This “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

So, the Holy Spirit was given to us to be with us forever. The Holy Spirit teaches all things and brings to our remembrance what Jesus said. Jesus said it was necessary that he suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit speaks these words since the Holy Spirit only speaks what Jesus speaks.

Therefore, God-breathed scripture, Spirit-filled scripture, is all about the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Remember, this cannot be understood literally from the scriptures themselves as Jesus had to interpret, translate, and open our minds to them. The Holy Spirit, through God-breathed scripture, does exactly the same thing.

While the meaning and understanding of theopneustos is contested, Paul says something very similar in Romans 15:4-6.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just like in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that the things written were written for our instruction.

In 2 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul used the words faith and righteousness to speak of the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

In Romans 15:4-6, Paul uses the word endurance instead of faith and righteousness to imply suffering. Endurance means the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

The very meaning of the word endurance implies that suffering is involved. In fact, earlier in Romans, Paul says links suffering and endurance. Romans 5:3 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that sufferings produces endurance.”

According to Romans 15:4, one way scripture instructs us is through suffering.

Also, Paul says that another way scripture instructs us is through encouragement. The Greek word for encouragement is paraklesis. It also means comfort and exhortation.

When Jesus said the Father would send us a helper, a comforter, he said the Father would send us a parakletos. The Holy Spirit brings the encouragement of the scripture to us. He is the helper, the comforter, the exhorter of the scriptures.

But, what does the Holy Spirit say?

Exactly what Jesus said.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

And, it cannot be emphasized enough, this meaning of the scriptures had to be interpreted and translated to us. Our minds had to be opened to it. It is not the literal, obvious, plain meaning of the scriptures.

In the very next verse, verse 5, Paul calls God the God of endurance and encouragement. God is the God of suffering that produces life for repentance and forgiveness of sins. As this God, he grants, or gives, you “to live in such harmony with one another.”

The phrase “to live in such harmony” is “to auto phronein” in the Greek. The word auto means his. And, the word phronein means think, set one’s mind on, to be minded.

Paul is saying that God of endurance and encouragement, the God that suffers to give life, is giving us his mind. We are to have God’s mind toward one another. We are to think like God towards another.

How does God think towards us?

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

God suffers for us, his enemies, to bring us life.

God gives us his mind “according to Christ Jesus.”

God gives us his mind, which is the mind of Christ. And, the mind of Christ was to glorify God. In John 17:1-4, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given me authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Why did God give us his mind to suffer to bring forth life, which is the same mind that Jesus had?

“That together you may with one voice glorify God.”

The Greek word for together is homothymadon. Homo means the same. And, thymadon comes from the word thymos, which means passion (as if breathing hard).

Breathing?

Like God breathed?

God gives us the mind of suffering to bring life so that we can have the same passion as Christ to glorify God.

It was in his hour, his crucifixion, the necessity of his suffering, which led to his rising from the dead, that Jesus glorified God.

We are to have this same passion so that we can all glorify God together in one voice.

Or, present your bodies a living sacrifice as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

Look how similar this is to what Paul says in Philippians 1:29-2:8.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe [that is have faith] in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. So if there is any encouragement [paraklesis] in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy be being of the same mind [to auto hina phronete], having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Bible was written for our instruction. It was God-breathed, inspired, so that we would know what God was really saying.

God was really saying that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

But, this is not the literal meaning of scripture. The true meaning of scripture can only come to you if Jesus translates and interprets scripture for you. He has to open your mind to this meaning.

And, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit forever to teach us and tell us exactly what Jesus taught the disciples. It is the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and translation of the scriptures that makes them God-breathed.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is how the scriptures “are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning causes us to know it is suffering for our enemies that leads to life for us and our enemies.

The literal meaning of scripture just produces death.

What Is Faith?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 11-14

“The were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.” – Romans 11:20

Paul’s statement above is in the midst of his argument regarding Jews and Gentiles and who will be saved. He says the Jews were cut off because of unbelief but the Gentiles stand through faith.

The Greek word for faith is pistis. The Greek word for unbelief is apistia. The prefix a means not. More literally, Paul is saying that the Gentiles stand in faith while the Jews were cut off in not faith.

Pistis is a noun. The related verb is pisteuo. It is almost always translated believe because it wouldn’t make sense in English to say “I faith in you.”

Romans uses pistis more than any other book in the Bible.

So, what exactly is this thing we call faith?

The dictionary says that faith is an allegiance to duty or a person, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, and something that is believed especially with strong conviction.

Okay. Faith is a belief or a trust. And, we are to put our faith, belief, or trust in God.

That is still very nebulous and abstract.

Why am I to put my faith, belief, or trust in God?

If you see God as a homicidal, genocidal killer as he is depicted in the Old Testament and as many Christians proclaim him to the world, then why would someone who does not have faith suddenly put their faith, belief, or trust in God?

Perhaps the scripture that most Christians to turn to get a definition of faith is Hebrews 11:1. It says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But, that is not really any clearer that the definition from the dictionary above.

This is still far too nebulous and abstract for me.

Therefore, I believe the best definition of faith comes from what Jesus taught the disciples all scripture was witnessing to and the one thing Paul was occupied with.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26)

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47)

From the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son’s plan to save us was that the Christ would suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood. He was made flesh, fully man. (Yes, he was fully God too.)

As fully man, what would it take for Jesus to go along with the plan of him suffering, dying, and rising from the dead?

Faith.

Jesus had to have faith that even though he emptied himself to be born in the likeness of men to suffer and die on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8) for the salvation of others his Father would raise him to life.

From the one thing that is necessary – that the Christ should suffer and die but be raised on the third day – we get our definition of faith.

Faith is to trust God that even though I suffer and die for my enemies God will raise me up to life as well as raise my enemies to life with me.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I provided my own translation of Romans 3:21-26 based on Paul’s obsession with the necessity of the Christ suffering and being raised from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

The righteousness of God was manifested on the cross through the faith of Jesus that the even though he would suffer and die his Father would raise him up three days later. Therefore, God justified Jesus’ faith.

This is why Jesus can save believe in me. He can say, “Look at what God did for me. I suffered and died for you. Yet, the Father raised me from the dead. Believe in me. Therefore, pick up your cross and follow me. Suffer with me for others and the Father will raise you from the dead too.”

This is why, after an entire chapter devoted to faith, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Now, go back to what Paul said in Romans 11:20, “They were broken off because of their unbelief [not faith], but you stand fast through faith.”

Why were the Jews broken off?

They did not believe it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had no faith.

Why were the Gentiles standing, grafted into God’s family?

They believed that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had faith.

Now, every time I read the word faith I think to myself that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. Doing this brings incredible meaning to the passages that use the word faith (or believe).

As just one example, Romans 12:6-8 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Why does say that the gift of prophecy should be used in proportion to our faith?

“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

To prophesy is to witness to Jesus, which is to say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And, therefore, it is necessary for you to suffer and rise from the dead to have eternal life too.

That is a dangerous message to prophesy. No community, no culture, no country, wants to hear that message.

Jesus was a prophet. And, when he prophesied that message, it got him crucified.

Therefore, we can only prophesy, witness to, Jesus in proportion to our faith, to the extent that we trust and believe God that was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

If we have only a little faith, then we truly prophesy only a little.

But, if we have great faith, knowing without a doubt that God raises to life those that suffer for their enemies, then we can truly prophesy greatly.

So, what is faith?

Believing and trusting God that he raises to life all those that suffer for their enemies and brings their enemies to life with them.

What Makes You a Child and Heir of God?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 8-10

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17

More and more with each passing day I am convinced that there is one thing that I must truly know and apply in my life.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

Jesus’ entire life and ministry was driven toward the hour that he would suffer and rise from the dead.

The necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead is the sum total of everything Jesus taught his disciples during the time between his resurrection and ascension.

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

The necessity of the Christ suffering and rising from the dead was the word that Paul was occupied with and completely consumed by. (See “What Was Paul Occupied With?“) It is this single word that incredibly changed Paul from a persecutor of the church, and therefore Jesus, to, arguably, the greatest sufferer for the sake of the church, and therefore Jesus, in history.

The Bereans searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul preached to them – the necessity of the Christ’s rising and rising from the dead – was really true. (See “Why Were the Bereans Examining the Scriptures Daily?“)

While Romans is the first of Paul’s letters in the Bible, it was actually the last of the letters in the Bible that we wrote. Consequently, Romans contains Paul’s most complete understanding of God and Jesus. It is Paul’s magnum opus.

And, if Paul was occupied with, consumed by, the necessity of the Christ’s suffering and rising from the dead, then surely this letter to the Romans would have been inspired by this single word.

Therefore, if we want to truly understand what Paul is writing to the Roman church, then we must read every statement he makes through the fact that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

This morning I could have read Romans 8 over and over again, meditating on each word as it relates to the necessity of the Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

Paul says that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. God is our father and we are his sons and daughters.

Now, if you are a son or daughter of a man, then you are his heir. Therefore, because the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God, then indeed we are heirs of God. More than that, we are heirs together of Christ.

The Holy Spirit speaks this truth to us if one other thing is true.

“Provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

We are children of God and heirs of God “provided we suffer with him.”

We are children of God and heirs of God

  • not because we have a large and growing ministry
  • not because we are a great preacher
  • not because you are a worship leader with an awesome music minsitry
  • not because we have led many people to salvation
  • not because we have great political influence
  • not because we are rich and famous
  • not because we are healthy, wealthy, and wise
  • not because we are living our best life now
  • not because we have found our purpose and calling
  • not because we tithe
  • not because we pray the right way
  • not because we strictly maintain specific rules, laws, and moral codes

but because “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

While it’s not a major issues, I would argue that this should be translated “if we really suffer together in order that we may be glorified together.”

The Greek word translated “suffer with him” is sympascho. It is used only one other time in the Bible, and the one other use was also by Paul.

First Corinthians 12:24-26 says, “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together [sympascho]; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Our suffering together, for one another, shows that we truly know and understand who God and Jesus Christ are. For, it was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead.

Where did Paul get this idea?

In Matthew 5:9, at the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

The sons of God are peacemakers.

How do you make peace?

The world tries to make peace through war, violence, domination, and oppression. The world tries to make by inflicting suffering.

The night before he suffered, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Unlike the world, Jesus makes peace by suffering and dying. God makes peace, not by causing suffering, but by suffering himself. God makes peace not with violence but by being violated.

So, the sons of God are peacemakers in the same way that Jesus was a peacemaker.

 

For the rest of his sermon, Jesus tells us what it looks like to make peace through suffering.

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

“If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

“Give to the one who begs from you.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is heaven.”

“When you pray…pray then like this…”

“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

“You cannot serve God and money.”

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

“Judge not, that you be not judged.”

“First take the log out of your own eye.”

“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

So, Jesus says those that make peace are the sons of God. Then, he tells us the actions, the suffering, that makes peace.

In Romans 8, Paul has told what makes us a child of God. We suffer together. This is how we make peace. This is how “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

And, after Paul tells us that we are children of God by making peace, even for the whole creation, he gives us his understanding, his retelling, of the sermon on the mount.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, but fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.” (Romans 12:9-19)

This is how we suffer together.

This is how we make peace.

This is how we know that we are children and heirs of God.

Are You an Instrument of Righteousness?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 4-7

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” – Romans 6:13

What is an instrument for righteousness?

How do I know if I am an instrument for righteousness?

First, we have to know what righteousness is.

The word righteousness sounds like being right. Therefore, we tend to get it in our minds that righteousness is behaving rightly or correctly according to some set of rules, laws, or moral code. Conversely, if we break one of those rules or law, if we violate our moral code, then we are unrighteous.

But, this is not what righteousness is, at least according to God.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I showed that the righteousness of God was manifested at an appointed time. This time was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote that the scriptures – the law and the prophets – bear witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the righteousness of God.

This is the very thing that Jesus taught the disciples. Luke 24:44-46 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'”

Romans 5:18 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

The one act of righteousness is the suffering and rising from the dead of Jesus. That one act, which is the righteousness of God, justifies and gives life to all men.

Therefore, the righteousness of God is suffering and dying for others at the expense of oneself while trusting God to raise you from the dead to life. That sounds a lot like love and how we know love according to 1 John 4.

Consequently, unrighteousness is seeking my own advantage, benefit, blessing, comfort, contentment, ease, favor, and pleasure at the expense of others while becoming death. That sounds a lot like living in fear, which is the opposite of love according to 1 John 4.

On the one hand Paul says to present our members to God as instruments for righteousness. But, on the other hand, Paul says to not present our members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. It’s a direct contrast that Paul is making.

Except Paul tells us to present ourselves, not just our members, to God “as from death to life” (that’s the literal Greek).

What does Paul mean?

He means that we should present ourselves, our whole beings, to God just as Jesus did. To truly present ourselves to God we must know that it is necessary to suffer so that we can be raised to life. We cannot be raised to life without suffering.

And, if we do that, then we can present our members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Just what is an instrument for righteousness?

It means that we suffer to be raised to life for others.

But, the Greek more literally translates as weapons of righteousness.

To present our members to God as instruments for righteousness is to to present our bodies as weapons of suffering and rising to life for others.

Do you get that?

We are to be weapons of suffering.

This is how we fight in God’s war against evil.

We present our bodies as weapons of suffering.

We do not fight in God’s war against evil by trying to perfectly live up to rules, laws, or a moral code.

We fight in God’s war as weapons of suffering.

We love our enemies.

We bless those that persecute us.

We return evil with good.

As Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

In Romans 12:10-19, Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves.”

If you do those things, then you be a weapon of suffering.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

The Greek word for weapons in verse 4 is the same Greek word that Paul uses in saying we are to presents our members to God as “instruments for righteousness.”

So, what are “the weapons of our warfare?”

The righteousness of God.

Suffering, dying, being raised to life.

It is out suffering in the very face and onslaught of evil that has divine power to destroy the strongholds in the mind of the evil doer. It is our suffering in the face of persecution that destroys evil and wicked thoughts against the true knowledge of God.

Is this not what Christ demonstrated on the cross in his one act of righteousness?

Is this not what Jesus said all of the scriptures testify to?

Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2-7.

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons [same Greek word] of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.”

Afflictions.

Hardships.

Calamities.

Beatings.

Imprisonments.

Weapons of righteousness.

Weapons of suffering.

In the right hand and the left hand.

Where was Christ nailed to the cross? Where were Jesus’ weapons of suffering?

Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

The Greek word for “whole armor” has the same root as the word Paul has been using for weapons of righteousness. We can truly stand against Satan and his schemes when we present our members to God as weapons of suffering. When we do that we cannot be deceived by Satan’s schemes to act in our own self interest. This is how we war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Peter makes the direct comparison that since Christ suffered for others then we should think the same way. When Peter says to arm ourselves, the Greek word for arm has the same root as the word for weapons and instruments.

So, to be an instrument of righteousness is to be a weapon of suffering. We need to have the same mind as Jesus – the necessity of suffering to be raised to life.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 1-3

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

I have heard this passage of scripture used in a way that sends a whole lot of people to hell.

I believe Paul’s words get used this way because the translation suffers due to the theological bias of the translators and a misunderstanding of the righteousness of God. The translations are biased and the righteousness of God misunderstood because so many Christians do not see God as only good, as a giver of only life, and as being just because he punishes the wicked with the eternally tormenting fire of hell.

However, if you see God as only, as a giver of life only and never death, and as being just because by grace and mercy he forgives us all for doing what we did not know we were doing, then you will understand these words of Paul in an entirely different way. This other way is more suited to God’s character – light and not darkness, love and not fear that has to do with punishment – and, in my opinion, supported the actual Greek Paul wrote.

Therefore, I will do my best to reveal to clearly and simply reveal by the Spirit what Paul is saying.

Let’s start with the phrase “righteousness of God.” The word righteousness in the Greek is dikaiosyne. This is the word dikaios with the suffix syne.

The ultimate root of dikaios is the dike. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, “It is generally agreed the dike, the basic term in this group, is related to deiknymi, ‘show, indicate.’ Thus its root meaning would be ‘that which is indicated, is in usage, is customary,’ and it from this starting point that it ends up meaning justice. The first appearance of this meaning is as a mythical divine being: ‘There is a virgin, Dike, daughter of Zeus, honored and revered by the gods, inhabitants of Olympia,’ who denounces the unjust deeds of humans before her father and call for their punishment.”

Wait.

What?

Did you get that?

The ultimate root, dike, of the all the words meaning righteousness and justice in the Bible first appeared meaning justice in the context of the virgin of daughter of Zeus who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment.

Is this not what many Christians believe about God?

Is this not what many Christians believe Jesus is going to do at his second coming?

Many Christians believe that Jesus is going to come back and denounce all those that failed to believe in him, which is their unjust deed, and call for their punishment, sending them to fires of hell for eternal torment.

Dear Christian, are you worshiping Dike, the virgin daughter of Zeus, or Jesus, the son of God?

I’ve barely begun and should not alarm bells be going of in our heads?

Am I to believe that Jesus came to reveal that God is actually like Dike, the virgin of Zeus?

Of course not.

Dikaios is an adjective that means something is just, right, or equitable. With dikaios, we can say that something is just, right, or equitable really, actually, factually, concretely, materially, or objectively.

But, Paul is not writing about the dikaios – the actual or objective justness or rightness – of God here. No, Paul is writing about the dikaiosyne of God.

The Greek suffix syne makes the noun it is attached to abstract. Something is abstract if it is disassociated from any specific instance, difficult to understand, insufficiently factual; dealing with a subject apart from an object.

Paul is writing about the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God. This righteousess of God is not associated with any specific instance, difficult to understand, and insufficiently factual.

Until…

“It was manifested.”

The abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God was manifested. The Greek word for manifest, phaneroo, means to reveal, make clear, make manifest. Something is manifest if it is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sight or easily understood or recognized by the mind. Therefore, the righteousness of God, which was hard to understand, has been made easy to understand. The righteousness of God, which we could not see because it was hypothetical and philosophical, has been made visible. The righteousness of God is now something you can really and clearly see with your own eyes.

How was the abstract righteousness of God manifested?

“Apart from the law.”

The Greek word for “apart from” is choris. It also means without. There is no Greek word the in the original. Therefore, the abstract righteousness of God was manifested “without law.”

Do you understand what Paul is saying?

God’s abstract righteousness, which is hard to understand and perceive, was made real and visible without law. You don’t need law, any law, to understand the righteousness of God. As Western Christians, to understand what is just and right without law goes against everything we know and believe about justice and righteousness. Because in our minds, we only know, conceive, and perceive justice and righteousness if there is a law that can or cannot be broken.

If the abstract righteousness of God was manifested without law, then how did we come to see this righteousness and have it clearly revealed to us?

“Although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

Now, we start getting into some translation problems.

There is no Greek word for although in Paul’s writing. However, there is an untranslated Greek word, de. De means but or and, which is how it is translated the vast majority of the time. I believe this word that was left untranslated should be translated “but.”

Immediately after the untranslated de is a second dikaisyne theou, the righteousness of God. This will be very important as we go.

We might say, “But the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.”

However, this is still not correct.

“Bear witness to it” is the Greek word martyroumene. The way this has been translated makes it sound like “the Law and the Prophets” are actively bearing witness to the righteousness of God. But, this cannot be correct because martyrourmene is a singular, present, passive, participle.

Basically, a participle is a verb that becomes an adjective. In English, we typically add -ing to a verb to make a participle. In our case, the word would be witnessing.

The voice passive means the subject is being acted upon by the verb. Therefore, if “the Law and the Prophets” are the subject of the passive martyroumene, then it should read something like “but the Law and the Prophets being witnessed.” It would be “the Law and the Prophets” that are being witnessed. But, “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed. We know from the rest of the Bible that “the Law and the Prophets,” which are together known as the scripture, do the witnessing. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

The present tense means an action that is continuous and ongoing. The passive action of being witnessed to that is happening to the subject is continuous and ongoing. Again, this makes it clear that “the Law and the Prophets” are not being witnessed on a continual and ongoing basis.

This present, passive participle is singular. The singular thing Paul is writing about is the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is the subject that is passively being witnessed to on a continual and ongoing basis.

Also, there is another untranslated word in the Greek, hypo. The vast majority of the time this word is translated “by.”

Let’s put all of this together so far.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

To what do “the Law and the Prophets” witness?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.'” (Luke 24:45-47)

“The Law and the Prophets,” the scriptures, witness to the necessity that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead. That Jesus suffered and rose from the dead is clearly perceived, easily understood, seen by the eyes of more than 500 witnesses. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was the manifestation of God, and Jesus said the scriptures are a witness to that.

Now, it should be clear that the abstract – hypothetical, philosophical, complex, deep, real, intellectual, non-concrete, transcendental – righteousness of God is manifested, clearly perceived, easily understood, and visibly seen in the suffering, the crucifixion, of the Christ and his resurrection from the dead.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”

How did this come about?

“Through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Now we have more translation problems. I know this is a hotly debated subject.

The word “in” does not exist in the Greek.

Jesus Christ is a noun in the genitive case. Basically, this means that the noun possesses another noun. The other noun that is possessed in our case is faith. Therefore, I side with those who say Paul wrote “the faith of Jesus Christ” not “faith in Jesus Christ.”

The “faith of Jesus Christ” makes more sense when we consider that is “through,” or by means of, “the faith of Jesus Christ that the righteousness of God was manifested without law. It was not our faith in Jesus, which, if we are honest, is at best fickle and wavering, that manifested the righteousness of God but the faith of Jesus that did so.

Why is it the faith of Jesus that is necessary and not our faith in Christ?

The entirety of scripture witnesses that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Who’s faith made it possible for Jesus to be crucified and rise from the dead?

Yours or his?

Pretty obvious isn’t it.

Jesus required faith in his Father that his Father would raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us torture and crucify him.

That is a tremendous amount of faith.

Care to put your faith into action like that?

You wouldn’t stand a chance.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Why “through the faith of Jesus Christ?”

“For all who believe.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

The Greek word  for “for” is eis. It is by far most often translated to, into, or in.

“To all who believe.”

Who believes though?

“Who” is not in the Greek.

Believe is translated from pisteuontas. It is a present, active, accusative, participle. The accusative case is the case of the direct object. The direct object receives the action of the verb.

While it is tempting to think that we are the direct object of Jesus’ faith, faith is a noun. Therefore, the believing are not the direct object of Jesus faith in this case.

There really is only one verb that pisteuontas could be the direct object of. That verb is manifested. If we strip everything extraneous away, then we would have “And now the righteousness of God has been manifested to all the believing.” Although it is possible to see the the believing as the direct object of being witnessed as well.

The believing are those to whom the abstract righteousness of God has been made visible and clearly perceived without law, being witnessed by the by the law and the prophets that is was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead through the faith of Jesus Christ.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing.”

Are there any that the righteousness of God has not been manifested to?

Is it not the Holy Spirit that manifests and witnesses the righteousness of God to us?

Is this not why the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh after Jesus ascended to heaven?

Sure, the manifestation and witness is more and less from person to person, but I believe scripture clearly shows that the manifestation and witness is happening, and will happen, to all.

Therefore, Paul writes, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Where is there no distinction?

Between Jew and gentile. The Jew has the law. The gentile has no law. But, it doesn’t matter because there is no distinction between them. In fact, all Jews and all gentiles sin and fall short of the glory of God.

But, what else happens to them all?

“And are justified.”

Justified is the present, passive, plural, nominative participle of dikaioo. Dikaioo means justify, declare righteous, set right, vindicate. The nominative case means that this participle is the subject of the sentence. It is passive, meaning the subject is being acted upon. It is present, meaning the process of being justified is ongoing and continual. And, it is plural.

The only possible noun that fits all of these requirements is the all that have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

“All are being justified.”

How are all being justified?

“By his grace.”

In what manner?

“As a gift.”

This is the Greek word dorean. It is an adverb, meaning it describes a verb.

Grace is a noun and not a verb. But, the translation makes it seem like “as a gift” is describing God’s grace.

The only verb dorean could be describing is “being justified.” Dorean means freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, for no reason, for no purpose.

All are being justified freely, gratuitously, without a cause, without cost, free of charge, without payment, and for no reason.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace.”

There is nothing you ever do to warrant justification, being declared righteous. It is by grace.

Therefore, there is nothing you could ever do to not warrant justification, to prevent God from justifying you.

“Through the redemption that i in Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

You guessed it. More translation problems.

The Greek word for “as a propitiation” is hilasterion. It is the word in the Greek Old Testament that means mercy seat.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat, a place of atonement.

“By his blood.”

The Greek word for by is “en.” It is by far most often translated in.

God intended Jesus to be a mercy seat in his blood, that is covered in his blood.

“To be received by faith.”

The words “to be received” are not in the Greek. And, they should not be in the English.

Who handles the blood on the mercy seat?

The chief priest. The high priest.

Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”

Who took Jesus’ blood into the heavenly tabernacle and put it on the mercy seat?

Jesus.

Who’s faith was required to do that?

The faith of Jesus.

Not you. You don’t cover the mercy seat in the blood of Jesus

We are talking the same faith, the faith of Jesus, that we saw above.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God intended to be a mercy seat in his blood by faith.”

In the translation, the next sentence starts, “This was to show God’s righteousness.” However, I think this is the actual conclusion to the sentence we just read. “This was” is not in the Greek. Nor is the word God. It’s the word for his.

It really should just say “to show his righteousness.” That is, the abstract kind.

The Greek word for show, endeixin, is interesting. It also means to demonstrate or prove. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon says it means “a pointing out,”  and as a law term “a laying information against one who discharged public functions for which he was legally disqualified.” Jesus carrying his own blood to the mercy seat in the heavenly tabernacle was information against all of us and Satan who discharge the public function of crucifying Jesus illegally.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness.”

I think the next sentence and its repeated use of endeixin proves (pun intended) why I put the previous one at the end of the last sentence.

Now Paul writes, “Because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time.”

“It was” is not in the Greek. I think this is one thought from Paul that is the preface to his concluding statement.

Further, the words “he had passed over” are misleading. This the Greek word paresin. The root word for paresin is iemi, which is where we get the word forgive in the New Testament. The Greek prefix par means beside, alongside, related to; disordered, sideways, wrong, contrary to, different from.

To translate this as “he had passed over” seems a little misleading given the Hebrew feast of Passover, the whole context of what we have covered so far, and what we will cover below. Paresin more literally means tolerate.

The word for time is karios. It means a set or proper time, the right point of time. The word for present is nyn, which is almost always translated now. The now time is the appointed time. Of course, the appointed time was the crucifixion of Jesus, that was “the hour” his entire life and ministry was headed towards.

Therefore, the preface to Paul’s concluding statement is “Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness [the abstract kind again] in the appointed time.”

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time.”

Now, what is Paul’s concluding statement about the abstract righteousness of God that was manifested at the appointed time of the cross?

“So that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Again, we have more translation problems.

“So that” is eis, which is almost always translated to, into, or in. I think is most appropriate here.

In the translation, he is the subject of the sentence. But, in the Greek he, auton, is in the accusative case, meaning it is the object of the verb.

“Might” is not in the Greek.

“Be” is the only verb in the sentence. So, he is the subject of be or being.

“Justifier” is the present, active, accusative singular participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it should be justifying and is the object of the verb being.

“Of the one who” is the word ton. It is in the accusative and goes with the accusative participle of dikaioo. Therefore, it is ” the justifying one” not “the justifier of the one who.”

“Has” is not in the Greek. It is the word ek, which means from, of, out of.

“Faith in Jesus” is the same as we saw above. It should be the “faith of Jesus” or “Jesus’ faith.”

So, what then is Paul’s concluding statement?

“in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

How is God being the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith?

Recall from above, the mentioned Jesus needed faith to be the Christ who had suffer, be crucified, die, and rise from the dead. He had faith in his Father to raise him from the dead after he laid down his life and let us crucify him.

Why did Jesus do this?

Go back above to Luke 24:47.

Jesus suffered and rose from the dead so “that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name.”

Forgiveness of sins could only be proclaimed in his name if they were actually forgiven.

What did Jesus ask his Father for on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asked this of his Father in faith.

The Father answered his request, forgiving everyone, justifying all that have sinned for no reason, so that the Father could be the just and justifying one of Jesus’ faithful request for forgiveness for all.

So…

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

Yes, the meaning I have given Romans 3:21-26 is entirely different than what most translators and preachers have said it means. But, it is all in the original Greek if you know what the righteousness of God is that Jesus was manifesting on the cross, what the whole witness of scripture is, and what God wanted to show the world about himself.

Did God want to show the whole world that he was like Dike, the goddess of justice who denounced the unjust deeds of humans before her father and called for their punishment?

Or did God want to show he was something altogether different?

God is just.

God is merciful.

God is forgiving.

Of all, for no reason other than his Son asked him to.

Jesus, the Christ, God’s son, for whom it was necessary to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, according to all the scriptures.

 

Suffering, dying, and rising for the sole purpose that repentance, changing our minds about who God is, a forgiver not a condemner like Dike, and the forgiveness of sins.

Yes, God is justifying the faith of his son Jesus by declaring all righteous, all forgiven.

A Sign of the Two Becoming One?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 27-28

“After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead.” – Acts 28:11

Paul was on three different ships as he sailed from Caesarea to Rome. Regarding the first ship, Luke simply writes that it was of Adramyttium. Regarding the second ship, Luke simply writes that it was of Alexandria. But, regarding the third ship, the ship that Paul finally reached Rome in, Luke noted it had “the twin gods as a figurehead.”

Why would Luke record this seemingly insignificant detail?

In the Greek, “the twin gods” is Dioskouroi. The twin gods were the sons of Zeus. In Latin, the twin gods were the sons of Jupiter, Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux are the two brightest stars of the constellation Gemini, which means twins.

So, the boat that Paul reached Rome in was marked with the stars of the twins as a figurehead. The Greek word for figurehead is parasemos. Para means from beside, at, or in. Semeion means a sign, as in a miracle or wonder. Parasemos literally means side-marked, but we can think of it as a sign in the side.

Semeion is the Greek word for signs in the Septuagint in Genesis 1:14, which says, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”

God created the stars as signs to be lights to give light on the earth. Of course, light was created on day one. So, perhaps we are to understand that God created the stars as lights, signs, that give light upon the earth to be signs that give revelation.

What kind of revelation were these stars, signs, to give?

“And behold, the word of the came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.'” (Genesis 15:4-5)

Abram told God that he had not given him an heir yet despite the promise he would have one. God told Abram that indeed he would have an heir that was his very own son. To prove it, God told Abram to go outside, look up to the sky, and “number the stars” because “so shall your offspring be.”

In Galatians 3:16, Paul wrote, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Therefore, God told Abram to number the stars because his offspring, singular, Jesus Christ, would be as the stars. Now, God was not telling Abram to number, as in physically count, the stars. There was only one offspring. So, there was no need to physically count the stars.

The English word number is actually two Hebrew words (basically the same word used twice). Both of these words basically mean to count, to make a written record, to make known or announce, to report or tell. God is not telling Abram to count how many stars are in the sky. He is telling Abram to look toward heaven and make a written record of what the stars are saying, if he can indeed make a written record of it, because that is how his offspring shall be.

Am I saying the stars tell the story, the gospel, of Jesus, the offspring of Abraham?

Yes, I am.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has sent a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

David is saying that God has created the stars in the sky, the constellations, as a circuit, a path, that the sun travels. As the sun travels this path through the constellations, the constellations pour out speech and reveal knowledge. The voice of the constellations goes out to all the earth and the words, or message, of the constellations goes to the end of the world.

David is writing the mazzaroth, the Hebrew name for the zodiac, a group of constellations that have served as astronomical or astrological signs throughout man’s history in every culture.

Lest you think that Christians should not have anything to do with the mazzaroth or zodiac, when God is questioning Job regarding what he knows about the creation, God says, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (Job 38:31-33)

Paul knew all about this. In fact, he quoted David and Psalm 19.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have for ‘The voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.'” (Romans 10:14-18)

Paul says you can’t believe if you haven’t heard. And, you can’t hear if there isn’t a preacher.

So, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. But, Paul is not talking about the scriptures or the Bible here.

Paul says that the Jews can believe because they have heard because they have had a preacher.

Who is the preacher?

Paul quotes Psalm 19 to say that the stars, the constellations, the mazzaroth, the zodiac, are the preachers. Their words of the gospel, the word of Christ, has gone out to the end of the world.

Clearly, Paul was very familiar with the mazzaroth and the zodiac and the idea that sing the foundation of the world God had created the stars and constellations to tell us the story of Abraham’s offspring, Jesus Christ. Given Paul’s seemingly intimate knowledge of the message of the stars, it is not so surprising that Luke would record that the ship Paul and he were traveling to Rome in was side marked with the sign of Gemini, the twins. I suspect that this was a topic of conversation between Paul and Luke as they sailed to Rome.

There is a mythology, a story, about Gemini that I won’t go into. But, I will say that the Greek word parsemos, the figurehead, side-mark, or sign in the side of the ship, also means marked amiss; falsely, counterfeit; falsely stamped. The constellation Gemini represented a false story to the Greeks and Romans.

But, I venture to say that the true story of this constellation, its true speech, was the topic of conversation for Paul and Luke.

All the way back in Acts 23:11, Jesus said to Paul, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, God’s people. Rome was the capital of the world, the Gentiles. Paul had testified in the one, and he was going to testify in the other.

When Paul was making his defense just before he was sent to Rome, he said Jesus told him, “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I shall appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

Jesus gave Paul the task of taking him, the light, to all the nations to the end of the world so that Gentiles could have a part in God’s salvation just as the Jews did (see Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6).

We should note what Luke writes about their time in the tempest before they got on the ship marked with the sign of Gemini.

“And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” (Acts 27:19-20)

The third day, the day of resurrection, the day of salvation, has come. But, there was no sun and no stars in the sky. In other words, their voice, their message, the gospel, could no longer be heard. Their hope of being saved was lost. Paul was not going to make it to Rome to fulfill Jesus’ purpose of preaching in Jerusalem and Rome, to the Jew and the Gentile, from the center to the end of the earth.

So, when Paul got on the ship with Gemini, the twins, as the figurehead it was a sign to him that Jesus would fulfill God’s purpose and the purpose he had for Paul.

Paul would fulfill Jesus’ purpose for him of preaching to Jerusalem and Rome, the Jew and the Gentile. And, Jesus would fulfill the purpose of God by making the two – Jew and Gentile – one. They would become twins – two stars, two people, in one constellation.

Indeed, the twins, Gemini, Castor and Pollux, were quite a sign for Paul. Perhaps they influenced his writing of Ephesians 2:11-22.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

How Did Paul Worship God According to the Way?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 24-26

“But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.” – Acts 24:14

The Way was the first name given to the group of apostles and disciples who believed and followed Jesus. The name implies that believers in Jesus are on a journey, a road, from one place to another.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The apostles and disciples were on the narrow way that leads to life. They were called the Way because they were on a journey from death to life.

“In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” (Romans 6:13)

“We know that we have passed out of death into life.” (1 John 3:14)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness [death] and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son [life].” (Colossians 1:13)

Paul was once on the easy way that led to broad gate that opened to destruction, to death. “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

As Paul confessed to King Agrippa, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11)

Paul went about threatening, persecuting, approving of, voting for, and seeking the murder of those he disagreed with. He was on the broad way, entering the wide gate, going to death and destruction and destruction.

But, something happened to change that changed his way from death to life. “At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.” (Acts 26:13) Paul encountered Jesus. And, it was Jesus, the Lord, that Paul himself was persecuting, seeking to murder, and putting to death.

Why did Jesus appear to Paul?

“For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from darkness to light.

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from the power of Satan to God.

What is the power of Satan?

“The one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from death to life, the way of death to the way of life.

Paul would turn people from death to life by worshiping God according to the way.

How would Paul worship God according to the way?

“By believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.”

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, literally?

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, word for word?

Does this mean that if the scriptures said then Paul believed it, no questions asked?

The answer to each of these questions is no.

Emphatically no.

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit [life] have even more glory? For there was glory in the ministry of condemnation [death], the ministry of righteousness [life] must far exceed it in glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:3-9)

At one point in time, Paul believe the scriptures according to the literal letter, word for word. If the scriptures said it, then he believed it. But, Paul said this is a ministry of condemnation and death for the letter, the literal reading of scripture, kills. Indeed, this is exactly what testified to  in front of King Agrippa.

But, not Paul reads the scriptures by the Spirit instead of the literal letter. The Spirit has a ministry of righteousness that gives life. Paul no longer literally read the scriptures word for word. Instead, Paul read the scriptures by the Spirit.

How did this change come about in Paul?

“Since we have such hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

Paul no longer read the scriptures literally, word for word, by the letter because Christ removed the veil that was over them. Christ removed the veil over the scriptures when he was crucified. This was when the veil in the temple that prevented anyone from seeing the most holy place was torn in two.

Therefore, it was Christ’ suffering on the cross and rising from the dead that allowed Paul to read the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter.

What did reading the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter, do to Paul’s reading of the scriptures?

Regardless of what the scriptures said, Paul now read all death and destruction as coming from Satan. Paul now saw it just as Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Paul even gives us an example of how he assigns death and destruction to Satan even if the Old Testament literally says that God is responsible for it.

Numbers 21:6 says, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit people, so that many people of Israel died.”

Numbers 14:26-35 says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, “As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, i will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And you children shall be shepherds in this wilderness for forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” I, the Lord have spoken, Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.'”

Who did Moses say sent the fiery serpents that bit the people and caused them to die?

God.

Who did Moses say would kill all the people in the wilderness that grumbled against God?

God.

Paul at one time believed this. But, now he sees it differently because the Christ that suffered and rose from the dead has removed the veil.

“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:9-10)

While Moses said these deaths were caused by God, Paul says the deaths of the people in the wilderness were caused by the serpents and the Destroyer. The deaths were caused by Satan.

Remember, Jesus told Paul he was going to turn people from the power of Satan to God. Paul’s ministry is to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles to the fact that darkness and death belong to Satan but light and life belong to God.

Therefore, Paul interprets the scriptures by the Spirit, who is life and gives life, to show that the Old Testament is wrong when it literally attributes actions that brought death to God. Those actions were actually done by the power of Satan, who is the one with the power of death.

So, Paul concludes his testimony to King Agrippa, saying, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

Here we are again at the theme of the last week – the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead. This is what we are to see and know from the scriptures. This is what Christ shows the disciples in the scriptures in Luke 24.

That the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead is the meaning of the scriptures.

The Christ must suffer.

God suffers.

The Christ dies.

God dies.

The Christ does not cause suffering.

God does not cause suffering.

The Christ does not kill.

God does not kill.

It was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead must be firmly rooted in our hearts and minds. It must be written on our hearts by the Spirit. We must have no doubts about this.

If we do doubt this, then we are blinded by Satan, led down the wide way to the broad gate that leads to destruction, to death, which Satan has the power of.

By saying the Old Testament is wrong when it ascribes death to the hands of God, by saying we need to reinterpret the the Old Testament by the Spirit instead of reading it literally, word for word, by the letter,

  • I know I will be mocked
  • I know I will be told I’m wrong
  • I know my salvation will be questioned.
  • I know I will be told I’m leading people astray
  • I know I will be called a false teacher
  • I know I will be told I’m out of my mind

But, that’s exactly what happened to Paul.

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'” (Acts 26:24)

Festus told Paul that all his learning and all his study was making him say crazy things. Perhaps, Festus even meant that Paul was creating his own God.

“But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.'” (Acts 26:25)

I am not of out my mind.

I am not creating my own God.

I am speaking true and rational words.

I am speaking the only words that make sense when you know that is was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead.

I am speaking the same words as Paul.

I am speaking the same words as Jesus.

I will worship God according to the way, believing the scriptures say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

Is Your Zeal for God Saving You?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 22-23

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” – Acts 22:3

In the first words of his own defense before the Jews who wanted to do violence to him, Paul said that he zealous for God. But, Paul said that he was zealous for God just as were all the Jews were threatening him at that very moment.

To be zealous is to be filled with or characterized by zeal, which is eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something, or to be marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal.

Zeal can be a good thing.

When Jesus drove the animals out of the temple and flipped over the tables of the money changers, he said, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” And, the disciples remember that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

Jesus had an eagerness and ardent interest in his Father’s house. He was fervently partisan to his Father and his father’s cause. Jesus’ zeal certainly seems like a good thing.

In Romans 12:8, Paul said that “the one who leads [gives aid], with zeal.”

And, in Romans 12:11, Paul said, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

And, there are other places in the New Testament where we are encouraged to be zealous.

But, is being zealous always a good thing?

Just after he said that he was zealous for God just as the Jews who wanted to do him harm, Paul said, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women.” (Acts 22:4)

Paul is saying his zeal for God drove him to persecute others just as the zeal for God of the Jews confronting him was driving them to persecute him.

We know our zeal is good based on what it is driving us to do. Zeal is only good if it is driving us to submit to God’s righteousness. Submitting to God’s righteousness is a rather vague notion. What exactly does it mean?

Go back to John 2 and Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. The disciples remembered that according to the scriptures zeal for God’s house would consume Jesus.

What did Jesus’ zeal for God’s house drive Jesus to do?

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Of course, Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. Jesus was saying that he had to suffer and rise from the dead, which has been our theme for several days now.

Zeal is good when it drives us to suffer and die for others. Zeal is good when it drives us to the cross.

Paul talked about this in Romans 10:1-4.

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Zeal goes wrong when we are ignorant of the righteousness of God, seek to establish our own righteousness, and do not submit to God’s righteousness.

What is the righteousness of God?

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. The Greek word for end is telos. It basically means the goal or the fulfillment. Christ is the goal or the fulfillment of the law for righteousness.

How so?

The theme that we have been reading about for the last several days – that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Everything in the law pointed to Jesus needing to suffer and rise from the dead. That was the goal, the fulfillment, the end, of the law for righteousness. If you know that, then you are not ignorant of God’s righteousness. If you submit to God’s righteousness – the necessity of suffering, going to the cross, and rising from the dead – then your zeal will lead to good works.

But, if you do not understand that the righteousness of God leads to the necessity of suffering, then you will seek establish a righteousness of your own. You will establish your own righteousness through violence and persecution, verbally and/or physically, of others. This is just what Paul’s zeal drove him to until Jesus shined his light upon him. And, throughout the entire book of Acts, this is what the zeal of the Jews was driving them to do.

Paul says that we can have a zeal for God, but that the zeal we have is not according to knowledge. The Greek word for knowledge here is epiginosko. Ginosko means to know. Epiginosko means a full knowing. It suggests a more special or advanced knowing because of a special participating in or with the thing that is the object of knowing.

Zeal for God that is not according to knowledge leads to persecution because we have not fully known who Christ is – that it was necessary for him to suffer. This zeal is not according to full knowledge because we have not participated with Christ in his suffering.

We have a true zeal for God when that zeal leads us to suffer, to lay down our lives, to go to the cross.

If we, in any way, are persecuting others, doing violence to them, making war, etc., then our zeal is leading us away from God and down a path of destruction.

Look at how Paul addresses zeal and the righteousness of God in Philippians 3:4-11.

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law; blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

If our zeal is leading us to do any sort of violence at all, without exception, then it is not true zeal for God.

We have a true zeal for God when our zeal leads us to shun every appearance of evil, wickedness, and violence in our lives. We have a true zeal for God when that zeal is driving us to suffer for the sake of others, to lay down our lives for others, to love our enemies.

If we have this true zeal for God, then our zeal is saving us.

This is what Paul means in Titus 2:11-14.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Go back to Romans 10:1-4. Paul said that his “heart’s desire and prayer to God them [the Jews] is that that may be saved.”

How would they be saved?

Having a zeal for God that was according to knowledge. A zeal for God that drove them to suffer and lay down their lives for others just as their Messiah did.

This is what it means to be saved.

Your zeal for God is saving you when your zeal turns you from persecuting others, from violence toward others, to suffering for others, including loving your enemies.