The Doctrine of Christ

The apostle John wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2Jo 1:9). The Trinitarian view of God transgresses the doctrine of Christ—it’s not what He taught. And according to John, whoever transgresses what Jesus Christ taught doesn’t have God.

The Greek theos for “god” is simply a position of authority, not a kind or type of being. The Father is God, not because of what He is as a being but because of His status as the highest authority over all, including over His Son Jesus Christ. That theos is a position of authority is evident by the Son of God Himself using this word for both men and God within the same statement, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods [theos]? If he called them gods [theos], unto whom the word of God [theos] came” (Jhn 10:34-35). Furthermore, theos is grammatically singular or plural depending on the number of persons as Christ used it here. A plurality of persons is multiple gods—three persons can’t be one God either grammatically or logically. And Jesus affirmed what Moses said about God, “The Lord [kyrios] our God is one Lord [kyrios]” (Mar 12:29). The Greek kyrios is a “lord,” “master,” or “ruler.” Since God is one Lord or Ruler, then God is not three co-equal Rulers.

The doctrine of Christ is that He was begotten of God, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18). Since theos isn’t a kind of being but a position of authority, then the Son was begotten as the same kind of divine being but always under the authority of His Father God. In the incarnation, He came down from heaven and transitioned to a human kind of being through the virgin birth while continuing to be the Son of God.

Jesus claimed of Himself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten [monogenes] Son” (Jhn 3:16); “he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten [monogenes] Son of God” (Jhn 3:18); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” (Jhn 16:27-28). It’s His own words “begotten,” “proceeded forth,” and “came out from God” that attest to His begetting and His beginning. But since God has no beginning, Trinitarianism can’t embrace His literal begetting, therefore make the nonsensical claim that He is eternally begotten or generated. Many modern Bible versions take this a step further in obscuring the concept of begetting entirely by rendering the Greek monogenes as “only” or “one and only,” making Him say something different than what He said.

Several times Jesus Christ called Himself “the Son of God,” and twice from heaven His Father called Him “My Beloved Son.” The Son never called Himself “God” and the Father never called His Son “God.” The Son did, however, call His Father “God” and called Him the only true God, “You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jhn 17:3). And the apostle Paul affirmed the same, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1Co 8:6).

The doctrine of Christ is that His Father is His God as He called Him before He died, after He was resurrected, and after He was seated next to Him: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17); “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God” (Rev 3:12).

Many times the apostles called the Father, Jesus Christ’s God: “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6); “And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1Co 3:23); “the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3); “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 11:31); “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3); “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17); “God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 1:3); “therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Heb 1:9); “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:3). The statement “God the Father” appears several times in the Scriptures but the Trinitarian statements “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” aren’t found even once. There are over 50 verses that identify the Father as God: Jhn 1:18, 5:18, 6:27,46, 13:3, 16:27, 20:17; Act 2:33; Rom 1:7, 15:6; 1Co 1:3, 8:6, 15:24; 2Co 1:2-3, 11:31; Gal 1:1,3-4, 4:6; Eph 1:2-3,17, 4:6, 5:20, 6:23; Phl 1:2, 2:11, 4:20; Col 1:2-3, 3:17; 1Th 1:1,3, 3:11,13; 2Th 1:1-2, 2:16; 1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phm 1:3; Heb 12:7; Jas 1:27, 3:9; 1Pe 1:2-3; 2Pe 1:17; 2Jo 1:3; Jde 1:1; Rev 1:6.

The belief and confession of the apostles and early church was that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat 16:16); “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jhn 20:31); “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Act 8:37); “he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Act 9:20); “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us” (2Co 1:19); “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God” (1Jo 4:15); “he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (1Jo 5:5). The Trinitarian confession “God the Son,” however, denies that He is the Son of God because He can’t be both. If He is God’s Son, He can’t be God. But if He is God, He can’t be God’s Son. Defining Him as “God the Son” denies Him as the Son of God—the very confession of salvation.

John wrote repeatedly that eternal life is through the Son of God: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life” (Jhn 3:36); “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (Jhn 17:1-3); “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jhn 20:31); “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1Jo 5:11-12); “even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1Jo 5:20).

Jesus said that the throne on which He sits is His Father’s and that He is sitting with Him, “set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21). When speaking of Him sitting with God, He is always said to be seated at God’s right hand and never that God is seated at His left: “Sit thou at my right hand” (Psa 110:1); “the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power” (Mat 26:64); “by the right hand of God exalted” (Act 2:33); “even at the right hand of God” (Rom 8:34); “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1); “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3); “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb 8:1); “sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12); “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2); “on the right hand of God” (1Pe 3:22).

The main statement used to claim that Jesus Himself is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (Jhn 1:1-2). But twice John said He was “with God.” How can He be with Him and also be Him? Since John later wrote, “the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father” (1Jo 1:1-2), then “with God” corresponds to “with the Father.” The context of “the Word was God” includes several figures of speech or metaphors. The Son of God isn’t literally “the Word” (v. 1) or “the Light” (v. 7). These are figures of speech. And just as “the light was the life” (v. 4) is a metaphor, so is “the Word was God.” The Word Himself later stated “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (14:9), and Paul said He was “the image of God” (2Co 4:4), “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). He represented God so perfectly that John could say He “was God” in metaphorical equivalence.

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jhn 1:18); “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape” (Jhn 5:37); “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (Jhn 6:46); “whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1Ti 6:16); “No man hath seen God at any time” (1Jo 4:12). Nobody but the Son of God has seen God because He was with God. And who knows God better than His only begotten Son? Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the arbiter of the truth: “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jhn 1:17); “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jhn 8:32); “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (Jhn 8:46); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jhn 14:6); “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37); “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21). What He said about God and about Himself is the final word.

Trinitarian ministers, on the other hand, disagree with the Son of God about God! Disagreeing with Him about anything is alarming enough but our view of God is most important. If they’re wrong about what’s greatest, what about everything else? How can these highly educated ministers with Masters and even Doctorate degrees be wrong about the most crucial subject of all? Could it just be an honest mistake, or is something else going on? If they’re sincerely wrong, then all they need to do is start teaching it right. But if they’re knowingly transgressing the doctrine of Christ, then according to John they don’t have God. And if they won’t listen to Him, why listen to them?

What is the Holy Spirit?

Introduction

In his book “God the Trinity” (Malcolm B. Yarnell III, B&H Academic, 2016), Yarnell conceded on the opening page of his Prologue that according to a recent survey of evangelical Christians “more than half claimed the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.” And this has proven to be the case in my own experience when hearing people’s view of the Holy Spirit. Most don’t believe it’s a personal being. Albeit they don’t know what it really is, just that they’re sure what it really is not.

These same people, however, worship in Trinitarian churches. Likely many of them never thinking through the implications that if the Holy Spirit isn’t a person then there is no Trinity and their worship is problematic. It was the study of the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit that convinced me it’s not a person, therefore calling into question the entire doctrine of the Trinity. Learning the truth about the Holy Spirit became the springboard for me also learning the truth about the Father and the Son.

I was a Trinitarian for almost 30 years. But fearing God, I had to follow the Scriptural evidence where it leads and it led me out of Trinitarianism. I can assure you it wasn’t an easy journey and it still isn’t. I endured much resistance by my pastors and other “Christians” that I had been very close with for many years. But I had to decide who it is that I love the most. Loving God and His Son Jesus Christ the most, I had to painfully part fellowship from those that wouldn’t follow the truth.

The question “What is the Holy Spirit?” isn’t simply an academic matter just to get all of our doctrinal beliefs correct. It’s about the God we worship. Jesus Christ told the woman at the well, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jhn 4:23-24). Because the Father seeks those that will worship Him in spirit and in truth, He sent His Son to teach us the truth about Him. It’s not optional. We “must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We must get it right about the Holy Spirit because it’s a matter of worship.

Introducing God’s breath

The first mention of God’s breath in the Scriptures is within the very first words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit [rûaḥ 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:1-2). In its initial introduction by God’s revelation through Moses, the rûaḥ of God is identified as something belonging to Him as His possession. It’s “the breath of God” or His breath. In the beginning, there wasn’t a person flying over the water like superman! God was blowing from His mouth, His breath across the surface of the water.

The next occurrence of rûaḥ in Scripture, it’s the wind, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [rûaḥ 7307] of the day” (Gen 3:8). Other Bible versions render it, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing” (NLT), “at the time of the evening breeze” (CSB), “at the breezy time of the day” (NET), “at the breeze of the day” (YLT). There’s no question that rûaḥ is simply air, breath, or wind.

The third time rûaḥ appears, God Himself is speaking about His breath, “And the LORD said, My spirit [rûaḥ 7307] shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). In its introduction it was “the breath of God” and now it’s “My breath.” Therefore, rûaḥ is of Himself and from Himself as His possession.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth occurrences of rûaḥ are about the breath of life from God in the nostrils of all living beings, “wherein is the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of life” (Gen 6:17,7:15), “All in whose nostrils was the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of life” (Gen 7:22). This is referring back to the creation of man to life by God breathing into his nostrils, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). We’re even told later in Scripture that the rûaḥ into man’s nostrils was God’s breath from His mouth, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth” (Psa 33:6). It’s not a person—it’s God’s breath from His mouth.

In the Old Testament, the translators rendered rûaḥ as “breath,” “blast,” or “wind” when the immediate contexts forced it: “And with the blast [rûaḥ 7307] of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together” (Exo 15:8); “at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils” (2Sa 22:16); “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4:9); “by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth shall he go away” (Job 15:30); “all the host of them by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth” (Psa 33:6); “he causeth his wind [rûaḥ 7307] to blow” (Psa 147:18); “with the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4). However, when various contexts allowed the translators a degree of freedom to render rûaḥ as something else, they always took that liberty in translating it as “spirit” to imply a personal being. It’s simply a matter of translator bias—rendering statements to comport with their belief that rûaḥ is a person.

The pneuma of God

The New Testament equivalent of rûaḥ is the Greek pneuma. Although translated consistently as “spirit,” it’s simply the noun form of the verb pneo which means “to blow.” The contexts of all seven occurrences of pneo agree: “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew [pneō 4154] … And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew [pneō 4154]” (Mat 7:25,27); “And when ye see the south wind blow [pneō 4154]” (Luk 12:55); “The wind bloweth [pneō 4154] where it listeth” (Jhn 3:8); “And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew [pneō 4154]” (Jhn 6:18); “and hoised up the mainsail to the wind [pneō 4154]” (Act 27:40); “that the wind should not blow [pneō 4154] on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree” (Rev 7:1). There’s nothing inherent with the word pneuma that implies a conscious living personal being. It’s simply breath or wind as its verb counterpart attests. Also, pneuma is neuter in gender, not masculine or feminine which is required if referring to a person.

Furthermore, the Greek pneuma is where our English “pneumonia”—a respiratory infection in the air sacs of the lungs that causes difficulty in breathing and can be life-threatening—is derived. Also, “pneumology” which is the medical study of the lungs and respiratory organs, and “pneumatics” which is a branch of engineering using systems of compressed air.

Lastly, Jesus Christ Himself is the highest authority with the final word and He defined pneuma as breath by literally blowing from His mouth onto His disciples, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22). He also likened the new birth, “that which is born of the Spirit [pneuma 4151] is spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 3:6), to the wind blowing, “The wind [pneuma 4151] bloweth [pneō 4154] where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 3:8). Jesus Christ Himself defined pneuma as breath or wind.

Christ is the breath

God the Father, the Son of God, and the apostle Paul all affirmed that Christ is the breath. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy about the event being witnessed that day, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out [ekcheō 1632] of my Spirit [breath] upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out [ekcheō 1632] in those days of my Spirit [breath]; and they shall prophesy” (Act 2:17-18). And Peter concluded his preaching, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth [ekcheō 1632] this, which ye now see and hear” (Act 2:33). The Greek ekcheō means “to pour out” or “shed forth.” Other versions have it more correctly as “poured out” (DBY, NET, NIV, NKJV). Joel’s prophecy wasn’t that God would “pour out” His breath but “pour out of” His breath. God was calling His Son seated at His right hand, “my breath.” To “pour out of my breath” is to “pour out of” His Son. Now, of course, His Son as “my breath” is only figurative.

Referring to the Day of Pentecost, Paul also said that it was God that did the pouring out through Jesus Christ, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost [breath]; Which he shed [ekcheō 1632] on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3:4-6), “he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (NIV). That God “poured out … through Jesus Christ” indicates that Jesus Christ is the breath.

Furthermore, God said prior to the flood, “My spirit [breath] shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Gen 6:3). His breath is His only begotten Son. That His breath wouldn’t always strive with man was in His Son becoming flesh as a man.

The Son of God even called Himself “the breath” seven times in His concluding statements to each of the seven churches in Asia, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7,11,17,29, 3:6,13,22). And this was after He had been seated at His Father’s right hand in heaven.

Finally, Paul interchanged the breath with Christ, “the Spirit [breath] itself maketh intercession for usIt is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26,34). That the breath makes intercession is actually Christ at God’s right hand making intercession. And Paul also told the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is that Spirit [breath]” (2Co 3:17).

In what way is Christ the breath?

In His incarnation, the Son of God became fully human in every way just as we are. And in His bodily resurrection from the dead and ascension to be seated in heaven at God’s right hand, He remains fully human both now and forever. The term “the Son of man” which Christ used for Himself many times as recorded in the four Gospels, was also used for Him after having been seated at God’s right hand in heaven: “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Act 7:56); “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man” (Rev 1:13); “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man” (Rev 14:14). Also, Paul called Christ a man in His mediation for us before God, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti 2:5). The Son of God is fully human. But He is the breath in metaphorical equivalence.

God gave all things to His Son: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father” (Mat 11:27), “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18); “All things are delivered to me of my Father” (Luk 10:22); “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (Jhn 3:35); “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (Jhn 5:22); “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” (Jhn 13:3); “As thou hast given him power over all flesh” (Jhn 17:2); “For he hath put all things under his feet” (1Co 15:27); “And hath put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22); “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phl 2:10); “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb 2:8); “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22).

In giving His Son all things, God gave His Son full agency and proxy over His breath so that it’s His decision and prerogative for the breath to dwell in our hearts. This is why God’s breath in our hearts is equated with Christ Himself: “Now if any man have not the Spirit [breath] of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you” (Rom 8:9-10); “Now the Lord is that Spirit [breath]: and where the Spirit [breath] of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17); “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20); “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit [breath] of his Son into your hearts” (Gal 4:6); “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit [breath] in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17); “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). That Christ is God’s breath isn’t literal but simply metaphorical.

Jesus was speaking figuratively

John chapters 14-16 is the famous passage where Jesus foretold His disciples about the coming of “the Spirit [breath] of truth” (14:17,15:26,16:13), “the Holy Ghost [breath]” (14:26). And many times He used personal pronouns for the breath in this passage indicating personhood: “that he may abide with you for ever” (14:16); “it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you” (14:17); “he shall teach you all things” (14:26); “he shall testify of me” (15:26); “I will send him to you” (16:7); “And when he is come, he will reprove the world” (16:8); “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (Jhn 16:13); “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine” (Jhn 16:14); “he shall take of mine” (16:15).

There’s a stipulation, however, to what He said. At the conclusion of the passage He said He had been speaking figuratively, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father” (Jhn 16:25). Other Bible versions render it, “in allegories” (DBY), “speaking figuratively” (NIV), “in figurative language” (NKJV), “in figures of speech” (NLT), “in similitudes” (YLT). That’s what He said about His own words. But regardless, many use those personal pronouns as “proof” that the breath is an actual person. But those same people taking Him literally here certainly don’t take Him literally when He spoke earlier about the breath as “rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit [breath]” (Jhn 7:38-39). They take Him figuratively there, but literally here in spite of Him qualifying His own words as figurative.

Within the passage itself, Jesus even indicated He was speaking of Himself as the breath, “but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you” (Jhn 14:17). His disciples knew the breath because He had been living with them the past three years as they had traveled and ministered together. And that the coming breath would be Himself coming, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (14:18), “I go away, and come again unto you” (14:28).

Also, Jesus told His disciples that He still had many things to teach them, including about things to come, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit [breath] of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (Jhn 16:13). These “things to come” were the things contained in the final writing of the Scriptures, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1). True to His words, Revelation isn’t just telling but showing through visions the events that are to come. And “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” is what “God gave unto him” as He had told His disciples, “whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” Christ is the breath and what He heard from God is what He spoke.

Finally, although Christ used masculine pronouns for the breath several times in this passage, in this one statement leading into the passage, He used a neuter pronoun for the breath three times, “Even the Spirit [breath] of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him [autos 846, neuter] not, neither knoweth him [autos 846, neuter]: but ye know him [autos 846, neuter]” (Jhn 14:17). But this verse is incorrectly translated with masculine pronouns. Paul used the same neuter pronoun for the breath which was translated correctly, “The Spirit [breath] itself [autos 846, neuter] beareth witness with our spirit [breath]” (Rom 8:16), “the Spirit [breath] itself [autos 846, neuter] maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26). Christ’s use of a neuter pronoun for the breath indicates that it’s truly not a person but that He had simply been speaking figuratively as He said.

Jesus Christ is our Advocate before the Father

An advocate is one that intercedes and pleads on behalf of another. Jesus Christ is our Advocate, Interceder, or Mediator before the Father at His right hand: “Sit thou at my right hand” (Psa 110:1); “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luk 22:69); “being by the right hand of God exalted” (Act 2:33); “who is even at the right hand of God” (Rom 8:34); “set him at his own right hand” (Eph 1:20); “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1); “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3); “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb 8:1); “sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12); “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2); “is on the right hand of God” (1Pe 3:22); “am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21).

It was His advocacy at the Father’s right hand that Jesus was foretelling His disciples in John 14-16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [paraklētos 3875] to help you and be with you forever” (Jhn 14:16 NIV); “But the Advocate [paraklētos 3875], the Holy Spirit [breath], whom the Father will send in my name” (Jhn 14:26 NIV); “When the Advocate [paraklētos 3875] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit [breath] of truth who goes out from the Father” (Jhn 15:26 NIV); “Unless I go away, the Advocate [paraklētos 3875] will not come to you” (Jhn 16:7 NIV). As their Advocate, His disciples wouldn’t ask Him but ask the Father in His name, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jhn 16:23-24). Up to this point He had always gone to the Father for them, “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you” (Jhn 16:26). But after being seated at God’s right hand advocating, interceding, and mediating for them, they would go to the Father directly in prayer.

Although Christ spoke to His disciples figuratively about the Advocate, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (Jhn 16:25), John later understood plainly that He had been speaking of Himself, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate [paraklētos 3875] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jo 2:1). He is our Advocate, Interceder, or Mediator before God: “the Spirit [breath] itself maketh intercession for us … who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26,34); “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti 2:5); “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25); “he is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb 8:6); “he is the mediator of the new testament” (Heb 9:15); “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb 12:24).

The breath of God is His possession

The first two mentions of the breath in Scripture, it belonged to God as His possession, “And the Spirit [rûaḥ 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2), “And the LORD said, My spirit [rûaḥ 7307] shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). And many, many more times in Scripture the breath is said to belong to God: “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit [breath] of God is?” (Gen 41:38); “And I have filled him with the spirit [breath] of God” (Exo 31:3); “And he hath filled him with the spirit [breath] of God” (Exo 35:31); “would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit [breath] upon them!” (Num 11:29); “and the spirit [breath] of God came upon him” (Num 24:2); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon him” (Jdg 3:10); “But the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon Gideon” (Jdg 6:34); “Then the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon Jephthah” (Jdg 11:29); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD began to move him at times” (Jdg 13:25); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came mightily upon him” (Jdg 14:6); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon him” (Jdg 14:19); “and the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came mightily upon him” (Jdg 15:14); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD will come upon thee” (1Sa 10:6); “and the Spirit [breath] of God came upon him” (1Sa 10:10); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Saul” (1Sa 11:6); “and the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1Sa 16:13); “But the Spirit [breath] of the LORD departed from Saul” (1Sa 16:14); “the Spirit [breath] of God was upon the messengers of Saul” (1Sa 19:20); “and the Spirit [breath] of God was upon him also” (1Sa 19:23); “The Spirit [breath] of the LORD spake by me” (2Sa 23:2); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not” (1Ki 18:12); “Which way went the Spirit [breath] of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?” (1Ki 22:24); “lest peradventure the Spirit [breath] of the LORD hath taken him up” (2Ki 2:16); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded” (2Ch 15:1); “Which way went the Spirit [breath] of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?” (2Ch 18:23); “came the Spirit [breath] of the LORD in the midst of the congregation” (2Ch 20:14); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest” (2Ch 24:20); “By his spirit [breath] he hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13); “and the spirit [breath] of God is in my nostrils” (Job 27:3); “The Spirit [breath] of God hath made me” (Job 33:4); “Because they provoked his spirit [breath]” (Psa 106:33); “And the spirit [breath] of the LORD shall rest upon him” (Isa 11:2); “because the spirit [breath] of the LORD bloweth upon it” (Isa 40:7); “Who hath directed the Spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Isa 40:13); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isa 59:19); “The Spirit [breath] of the Lord GOD is upon me” (Isa 61:1); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD caused him to rest” (Isa 63:14); “and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit [breath], hath sent me” (Isa 48:16); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD fell upon me” (Eze 11:5); “Afterwards the spirit [breath] took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit [breath] of God into Chaldea” (Eze 11:24); “and carried me out in the spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Eze 37:1); “is the spirit [breath] of the LORD straitened?” (Mic 2:7); “But truly I am full of power by the spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Mic 3:8); “and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit [breath] by the former prophets” (Zec 7:12); “and he saw the Spirit [breath] of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” (Mat 3:16); “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit [breath] of your Father which speaketh in you” (Mat 10:20); “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit [breath] of God” (Mat 12:28); “The Spirit [breath] of the Lord is upon me” (Luk 4:18); “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit [breath] of the Lord?” (Act 5:9); “the Spirit [breath] of the Lord caught away Philip” (Act 8:39); “if so be that the Spirit [breath] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9); “But if the Spirit [breath] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit [breath] that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11); “For as many as are led by the Spirit [breath] of God” (Rom 8:14); “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit [breath] of God” (Rom 15:19); “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit [breath]” (1Co 2:10); “even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 2:11); “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 2:14); “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit [breath] of God dwelleth in you?” (1Co 3:16); “and I think also that I have the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 7:40); “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit [breath] of God calleth Jesus accursed” (1Co 12:3); “and where the Spirit [breath] of the Lord is, there is liberty … are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit [breath] of the Lord” (2Co 3:17,18); “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit [breath] in the inner man” (Eph 3:16); “And grieve not the holy Spirit [breath] of God” (Eph 4:30); “Hereby know ye the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Jo 4:2); “and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit [breath]” (1Jo 4:13).

Since clearly the breath of God belongs to God as His possession, it’s not some other personal autonomous being. Moreover, it can’t be a co-equal person in a Trinitarian Godhead because then it wouldn’t belong to God. It’s simply God’s own breath from His mouth.

The reason God’s breath is holy

The Hebrew adjective qāḏôš is translated throughout the Old Testament primarily as “holy” but sometimes as “saint.” It means “separated,” “divided,” or “set apart.” God chose His people Israel and separated them from all other people: “For thou art an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deu 7:6); “For thou art an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deu 14:2); “for thou art an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God” (Deu 14:21); “And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken” (Deu 26:19); “The LORD shall establish thee an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee” (Deu 28:9).

In the New Testament, the equivalent of the Hebrew adjective qāḏôš is the Greek adjective hagios also translated consistently as either “holy” or “saint.” Peter quoted from Moses and used hagios for qāḏôš, “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy [qāḏôš 6918]; for I am holy [qāḏôš 6918]” (Lev 11:44), “Because it is written, Be ye holy [hagios 40]; for I am holy [hagios 40]” (1Pe 1:15-16).

When speaking of God’s people in the New Testament, the translators rendered hagios as “saints” rather than “separated” which obscures the identity of the subjects. The saints are simply God’s people, separated or set apart from all other people in the world. Here are just some of the many times hagios is used for God’s people:  “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints [hagios 40] which slept arose” (Mat 27:52); “thy saints [hagios 40] at Jerusalem” (Act 9:13); “the saints [hagios 40] which dwelt at Lydda” (Act 9:32); “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints [hagios 40]” (Rom 1:7); “Distributing to the necessity of saints [hagios 40]” (Rom 12:13); “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [hagios 40]” (1Co 1:2); “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints [hagios 40] which are in all Achaia” (2Co 1:1); “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints [hagios 40] which are at Ephesus” (Eph 1:1); “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints [hagios 40] in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi” (Phl 1:1); “All the saints [hagios 40] salute you” (Phl 4:22); “To the saints [hagios 40] and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse” (Col 1:2).

The distinction of God’s people is that they have God’s breath dwelling in their hearts: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [breath], if so be that the Spirit [breath] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9); “But if the Spirit [breath] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit [breath] that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11); “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [breath] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1Co 6:19); “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit [breath] in our hearts” (2Co 1:22); “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit [breath] of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6); “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost [breath] which dwelleth in us” (2Ti 1:14); “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit [breath] which he hath given us” (1Jo 3:24).

Since hagios means “separated,” then hagios pneuma translated consistently as “Holy Spirit” is more accurately “separated breath.” It’s not a holy being or a reverent person as “Holy Spirit” implies. It’s God’s breath in the hearts of His people that separates or sets them apart from all other people. Only God’s people have the hope of eternal life by His breath dwelling in their hearts.

Conclusion

The Hebrew rûaḥ and Greek pneuma mistranslated throughout Scripture as “spirit” isn’t a personal being but simply air, wind, or breath. When used as a possession of God, it’s God’s breath or the breath of God from His mouth. Jesus Christ even illustrated this to His disciples by breathing from His mouth onto them. But the time He had spoken to them about the breath as if a personal being, He stipulated His own words as figurative. He had been speaking of Himself as our forthcoming Advocate, Intercessor, or Mediator at God’s right hand in heaven. As our Advocate, God gave Him full agency and proxy over His breath so that He decides who will have the breath in their hearts and access to God the Father. It’s in this sense that Christ is the breath. He is literally a human being, but metaphorically God’s breath. And the reason the breath is called hagios for “separated” many times in the New Testament is because its presence in the hearts of God’s people is what separates them from all other people.

Since rûaḥ and pneuma is air, wind, or breath and not a personal being, then there is no Trinity of three persons in the Godhead. How then can highly intelligent and educated ministers, pastors, and theologians be wrong about this? People are trusting their souls to these men. If they truly love their flocks, they will take every precaution to get this right for their sakes.

The Son of God in the Old Testament

Jesus Christ claimed to have been begotten of God, “his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18). And that He had “proceeded forth” and “came out from” God, “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42), “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” (Jhn 16:27-28). He was begotten, not created. His beginning was His begetting.

Having been begotten of God as the same kind of divine being, He had the ability to create all things: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Jhn 1:3), “the world was made by him” (Jhn 1:10); “God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9); “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col 1:16); “by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb 1:2).

Throughout the six days of creation and seventh day of rest, it was said to be ĕlōhîm or God that created, “In the beginning God [ĕlōhîm 430] created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1), “And on the seventh day God [ĕlōhîm 430] ended his work which he had made” (Gen 2:2). But starting in the second chapter which details the creation of the man and woman, it was Yᵊhōvâ ĕlōhîm or Jehovah God, “And the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God [ĕlōhîm 430] formed man of the dust of the ground” (2:7), “And the rib, which the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God [ĕlōhîm 430] had taken from man, made he a woman” (2:22). The Son of God created all things under God’s direction as His Agent. They both are said to have created the man and woman, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … male and female created he them” (Gen 1:26,27), but it was the Son that did the work.

It was the Son of God that called to Adam after he sinned, “And the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God [ĕlōhîm 430] called unto Adam” (3:9), spoke to the woman, “And the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God [ĕlōhîm 430] said unto the woman” (3:13), and to the serpent, “And the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God [ĕlōhîm 430] said unto the serpent” (3:14). When Jehovah God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, they weren’t seeing God but the Son of God. The Hebrew word for God is ĕlōhîm but Yᵊhōvâ is His name as He later revealed to Moses, “The LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] God … this is my name for ever” (Exo 3:15).

The Son of God declared that nobody but Himself had seen God the Father, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (Jhn 6:46). And John wrote twice, “No man hath seen God at any time” (Jhn 1:18; 1Jo 4:12). All the times in the Old Testament that people were said to have seen God, they actually saw the Son of God: “And the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] appeared unto Abram” (Gen 12:7); “I have seen God [ĕlōhîm 430] face to face” (Gen 32:30); “And they saw the God [ĕlōhîm 430] of Israel … they saw God [ĕlōhîm 430]” (Exo 24:10,11); “we have seen God [ĕlōhîm 430]” (Jdg 13:22); “I saw the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] sitting on his throne” (1Ki 22:19); “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068]” (Eze 1:28).

When Christ said “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Jhn 8:56), it was the day that as mal’āḵ Yᵊhōvâ or Messenger of Jehovah, He stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and made the promise to him, “And the angel [mal’āḵ 4397] of the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] called unto him out of heaven” (Gen 22:11), “And the angel [mal’āḵ 4397] of the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068] called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time … By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD [Yᵊhōvâ 3068]” (Gen 22:15,16). Christ claimed to be the Messenger of Jehovah, the Messenger that spoke to Hagar, Abraham, Moses, Balaam, Gideon, Manoah, David, Elijah, and Zechariah. Therefore, Jehovah interacting with His people throughout the Old Testament, wasn’t God Himself but His Messenger, His Son.

The Son of God was the Messenger of Jehovah as His agent, emissary, delegate, or representative. When people saw Jehovah, they saw God’s Son in the place, or in the stead of God. Thus, it could be said that they saw God. This doesn’t make God’s Son, God Himself. When John said, “the Word was God” (Jhn 1:1), it was simply a metaphor. As the Son isn’t literally the Word or Message, He isn’t literally God either. He said Himself, “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me” (Jhn 12:45), “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jhn 14:9). When people saw Him and heard Him, they saw and heard God the Father vicariously, not literally.

The issue in Hebrews chapter one, “And of the angels he saith … But unto the Son he saith” (vs. 7,8), was that many Jews claimed mal’āḵYᵊhōvâ was only an angel while the writer was proving from the Scriptures it was God’s Son. He wasn’t God Himself but His representative, “the express image of his person” (v. 3), “the exact representation of his being” (NIV), “the representation of his essence” (NET).

The Whole Armor of God

Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul laid the groundwork to later teach about the whole armor of God. He used the Greek epouranios for Christ seated in heaven with authority over all principalities and powers, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly [epouranios 2032] places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph 1:20-21). He then qualified this as our salvation, “hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly [epouranios 2032] places in Christ Jesus … For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:5,6,8). We’re saved by sitting with Christ at God’s right hand—Him representing us before God as if we’re seated there.

Toward the end of his letter, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [epouranios 2032] places.” (Eph 6:11-12). We put on the armor by “putting on” Christ, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14), “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27), “put on the new man” (Eph 4:24). We “put on” Him when we live after His example, commandments, and teaching. When submitting to His Son, God defends us against the devil as if wearing armor.

God’s defense likened to armor was also depicted in the Old Testament. With Abraham, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield” (Gen 15:1), and also with David, “The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield” (2Sa 22:3), “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me” (Psa 3:3), “The LORD is my strength and my shield” (Psa 28:7).

The individual pieces of armor that Paul lists are holistic—we must practice the sum of the parts to “put on” the whole armor and be successfully defended. And Paul had already taught about the parts in his letter leading up to this synopsis. Having “your loins girt about with truth” (v. 14), is learning the truth from Christ’s teaching, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (4:20-21). If we won’t hear and submit to the truth Christ taught, we lack this one piece and therefore don’t have the whole.

Having on “the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14), is living righteously after the image of God in which we were created, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:24). God’s Son created us to live morally righteous after His image—His example and teaching.

To have “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15), is to keep the peace between Jews and Gentiles, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). Christ is the peace between both, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one” (2:14). The “gospel of peace” is what He preached to both, “preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (2:17).

The “shield of faith [faithfulness]” (v. 16), is being faithful to Christ as He was to His Father, “because of Christ’s faithfulness” (3:12 NET). When the “fiery darts” of false accusations were hurled against Him, He simply trusted His Father to defend Him as a shield, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe 2:23).

The “helmet of salvation” (v. 17), is our hope of salvation when the Lord returns, “others which have no hope … unto the coming of the Lord” (1Th 4:13,15), “for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Th 5:8). It’s “the hope of his calling” (1:18), “one hope of your calling” (4:4). The serpent’s head and his children’s will be bruised, “thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). The hope of the Lord’s return is our helmet that protects our head.

The “sword of the Spirit [breath], which is the word [rhēma 4487] of God” (v. 17), is “the washing of water by the word [rhēma 4487]” (5:26). It was when Christ “poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (Jhn 13:5), then gave them the rhēma, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (Jhn 13:34). The sword in the armor is serving. We “fight” our enemies by serving them as Jesus washed Judas’ feet.

Of course “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [breath]” (v. 18), as Christ taught us “After this manner therefore pray ye” (Mat 6:9), and as Paul voiced two prayers earlier in this letter 1:16-23, 3:14-21. Salvation isn’t simply about believing some facts are true. We must be actively clothed with the whole armor of God to be defended against the devil and ultimately be saved.

Don’t Mistake Christ for Destroying the Law

Christ warned us to not mistake Him as destroying the law or the prophets, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets” (Mat 5:17). And that we must live to God’s moral righteous standard to enter the kingdom, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). He then proceeded to teach the moral righteousness of the law, “Thou shalt not kill” (v. 21), “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (v. 27), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour” (v. 43). Finally, He concluded by stating He will deny knowing those breaking God’s laws, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (7:23), “you lawbreakers!” (NET) “you who practice lawlessness” (NKJV), “you who break God’s laws” (NLT).

Although Christ upheld the moral standard of righteousness in the law, He did, however, set us free from the non-moral actions decreed by the law upon the circumcised Jews. And the foremost action was abstinence from unclean meats: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man” (Mat 15:11), “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him” (Mar 7:15), “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Act 10:15), “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal 5:1).

This became the primary issue in the early church, “That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Act 15:5), “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (v. 24). By “keep the law” in this context, it’s not the law’s moral righteousness but its non-moral actions. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and dealt with this issue extensively: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself … All things indeed are pure” (Rom 14:14,20); “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats” (1Co 6:13); “he did eat with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12); “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days” (Col 2:16); “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1Ti 4:4); “Unto the pure all things are pure” (Tit 1:15).

These statements of Paul’s about the law, “Therefore by the deeds [actions] of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20), “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works [actions] of the law … for by the works [actions] of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16), were about the actions of circumcision under the law, not the moral righteousness required by God. But today these statements about circumcision and its non-moral actions are being used to destroy the moral righteousness of the law—the very thing Christ warned us not to do!

We’re being taught today that God’s people under the law could never keep its moral righteousness and neither can we. That we were born with a depraved sinful nature that prevents us from living righteously. That the law is legalism and we don’t want to be legalistic! This faulty view of the law is then the basis for the false view of salvation by faith. Paul taught the Gentiles in Rome and Galatia “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11). Salvation is not by keeping the non-moral actions of the law, “Therefore by the deeds [actions] of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20), “a man is not justified by the works [actions] of the law … for by the works [actions] of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16), but by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to His Father to accomplish what He was sent to do, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ … because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (Rom 3:22,26 NET), “I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God” (Gal 2:20 NET). This is also what he taught the Gentiles in Ephesus, “For by grace are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works [actions], lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9), “because of Christ’s faithfulness” (3:12 NET).

The issue in the beginning was that man broke God’s commandment, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Gen 2:16-17). Therefore, he was banned from the tree of life, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden” (Gen 3:22-23). And in the end, it will be those keeping God’s commandments that regain access to the tree of life, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev 22:14).

We’ve been sold a false narrative that salvation isn’t by living right but by believing right. The masses of people today read their Bibles through that tainted lens. But Christ warned us to not mistake Him for destroying the law.

What Would You Do?

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:7-8). Because it’s very difficult for us to grasp the magnitude of God’s love, Paul illustrates it from a human perspective to which we can more easily relate. It’s uncommon for someone to die for a righteous person, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die.” And rarer that someone would die for a good person, “yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” But who would give their life for an evil person? Can we imagine ourselves taking the place of someone facing execution for horrific crimes? Would we willingly die for someone guilty of horrible abuse, torture, and murder? Yet this still doesn’t depict the true depth of God’s unfathomable love toward us.

Taking it a step further, how much more difficult to give our own child and only child? Any good parent that loves their children dearly couldn’t imagine giving one of them to die for someone else, even if they’re good or righteous. How much more unimaginable to give our only child so that an evil convicted criminal can go free! Yet God gave His only begotten Son for us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jhn 3:16). God watched as His Son was horribly mistreated, publicly shamed, and executed as a convicted criminal while doing nothing to spare Him or ease His suffering in the least. Now, He simply demands us to submit entirely to His Son—obeying His commandments, living by His teaching, and standing for the glory of His name. But what if we only submit to His Son partially? Will He still save us? Imagine yourself in His place. You painfully gave your only son to save a criminal with the simple condition that they submit entirely to him. But they won’t do it, yet still want you to save them. What would you do?

Try to imagine ourselves from God’s perspective. We so loved the very people that had been committing all kinds of evil against us, that we gave our only son to endure such horrible mistreatment to save them. We gave them the greatest gift of our own son, and now our only term is that they submit to him fully. Yet they now want that salvation but on their own terms. Rather than being utmost grateful and submitting to our son entirely as we require, they want to pick and choose from his commandments and teaching. What would you do?

If you sent your son to teach people about you and die for what he taught, yet people won’t listen to him entirely, how would you take it? It isn’t that you just sent prophets to teach them about you, but that you sent your own son and did nothing to ease his suffering for what he taught. Would it grieve you that people won’t listen to him but still want you to save them? What would you do?

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (Jhn 4:23). Your son boldly taught the truth about you, yet people are unwilling to affirm and confess what your son taught. Your son was unashamed you. Will you allow them to be ashamed of your son? “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luk 9:26). Your son was unashamed of the truth. Will you allow them to be ashamed of the truth? What would you do?

This is quite the picture of Trinitarianism today. God’s Son never called Himself “God” but called His Father “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called His Father “My God” while on the cross (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), after His resurrection (Jhn 20:17), and after His seating next to Him in heaven (Rev 3:12). Yet Trinitarianism says differently—that the Son is God, and that the Father and Son are co-equal. Why get this wrong? Did God’s Son fail to teach clearly? If your son taught about you so that people would get it right, would you overlook their getting it wrong? If they have no excuse, would you excuse them? What would you do?

I’m no longer a Trinitarian and I won’t affirm Trinitarians as saved. And the same goes for all other aberrant views of God: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Oneness, and Unitarians. To affirm them would be to deny what Christ taught about God and about Himself, thereby forfeiting my own salvation. If you’re a Trinitarian and think you can remain one and still be saved, that’s certainly your prerogative. But I would simply ask you to imagine yourself from God’s perspective. You sent your only begotten son to teach the truth about you to people that committed horrible crimes against you, then watched as your son suffered and died for them and for the truth he taught. You gave them the greatest gift of all. Would you now be willing to “fudge” on what your son taught and save them anyway? What would you do?

Who is the Father? Who is the Son?

God’s Son never called Himself “God” and God never called His Son “God.” He called Himself the Son of God, and God called Him “My beloved Son” at His baptism and transfiguration. Furthermore, the Son called His Father “God” and “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called Him “My God” while on the cross (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), after His resurrection (Jhn 20:17), and after His seating next to Him in heaven (Rev 3:12). The Father and the Son are in complete agreement and unity about each other. What they said is the final word. Who dare say otherwise?

Christ’s apostles taught that the Father is Jesus Christ’s God: “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6); “Christ is God’s” (1Co 3:23); “the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3); “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 1:3); “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 11:31; Eph 1:3; Col 1:3; 1Pe 1:3); “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17). They never called Christ “God.” The “Word was God” (Jhn 1:1) is simply a metaphor—Christ visibly represented the invisible God, “Christ, who is the image of God” (2Co 4:4), “Who is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). When Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God” (Jhn 20:28), he was affirming Christ as his Lord and Christ’s God as his God just as he was told, “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17). And “God our Saviour” (1Ti 1:1,2:3; Tit 1:3,2:10,3:4) is the Father, not the Son, “God our Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ … God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Ti 1:1,2). Finally, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God … therefore God, even thy God” (Heb 1:9), is what the Son’s God on the throne said to the Son.

The Greek theos for “god” is a position, role, or title of authority, not a kind of being. The Father is God because of His status as the highest authority over all, including over His Son Jesus Christ. That theos isn’t a type of being is inferred by Christ using it for both human beings and for God Himself, “I said, Ye are gods [theos 2316]? If he called them gods [theos 2316], unto whom the word of God [theos 2316] came” (Jhn 10:34-35). Paul also used this word for angels, humans, and the Father, “that are called gods [theos 2316], whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods [theos 2316] many, and lords [kyrios 2962] many,) But to us there is but one God [theos 2316], the Father” (1Co 8:5-6). It’s simply a title of the being.

That the Son is not God doesn’t deny His divinity as a being, just like the President’s son is not President doesn’t deny his humanity as a being. Christ claimed to have been begotten of God, “his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18). He was begotten the same kind of divine being as His Father with the ability to create the entire universe. In the incarnation, He relinquished His divine being to become a human being, dependent upon His Father to work miracles.

After His death, burial, and resurrection, His Father gave Him authority over heaven and earth: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18); “As thou hast given him power over all flesh” (Jhn 17:2); “For he hath put all things under his feet” (1Co 15:27); “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22). However, the Father didn’t put Himself under His Son—He is the exception, “he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1Co 15:27,28).

Furthermore, there is no third person. The first occurrence of the Hebrew ruwach, “And the Spirit [ruwach 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2), wasn’t a person flying over the water like superman! God was blowing His breath across the surface of the waters. The second, “in the cool [ruwach 7307] of the day” (Gen 3:8), “breezes were blowing” (NLT), “the evening breeze” (CSB), “the breezy time of the day” (NET), “at the breeze of the day” (YLT). The Greek equivalent of ruwach is pneuma, where our English “pneumonia,” “pneumology,” and “pneumatics” are derived—all involving air. Its verb form pneo means “to blow” as Jesus Himself used it, “The wind [pneuma 4151] bloweth [pneo 4154]” (Jhn 3:8). And Jesus illustrated pneuma as breath by breathing, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22). Finally, when Christ spoke of the holy breath as though a person, He said He was speaking figuratively, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (Jhn 16:25), “figures of speech” (NET), “speaking figuratively” (NIV), “figurative language” (NKJV).

Nobody but the Son has seen God, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jhn 1:18). He declared the truth about God. And who knows God better than His Son? How can highly educated ministers be wrong about the most important subject of all? And if they’re wrong about what’s most important, why listen to them?

Understanding Baptism

Romans chapter 6 gives the most detailed explanation of baptism in all of Scripture. Baptism is figurative of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (vs. 3-4). It’s the turning point of our lives from living sinfully to righteously as servants of the Lord.

We’re to reckon sin as forever in our past, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (v. 11). And to consider ourselves as a new person—that our former sinful person went under the water, and our current righteous person came up: “Knowing this, that our old man [person] is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (v. 6); “That ye put off concerning the former conversation [lifestyle] the old man [person] … And that ye put on the new man [person]” (Eph 4:22,24); “Buried with him in baptism” (Col 2:12), “that ye have put off the old man [person] with his deeds; And have put on the new man [person]” (Col 3:9-10). Baptism is the new birth from being a child of the devil to a child of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ stated, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (Jhn 8:34), and Paul taught this about baptism, “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (v. 16). We’re servants of whom we obey. If we commit sin, we’re not servants of Christ but servants of sin. John said, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not … He that committeth sin is of the devil … Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1Jo 3:6,8,9). Those still serving sin, however, redefine “sinneth not,” “doth not commit sin,” and “cannot sin” as “doesn’t habitually sin” or “doesn’t practice sin.” But those living righteously, that we don’t commit sin.

God’s children can’t sin and remain servants of Christ, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1Jo 3:9). God’s seed is what He has planted, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Mat 15:13), which is through baptism, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (v. 5). In baptism, we’re committing ourselves to die in the likeness of Christ’s death, to have eternal life in the likeness of His resurrection. As seeds produce after their own kind, we must be “planted” in the ground after His death, to be raised from the ground after His life.

This is what Paul taught about the resurrection, “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die … All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (1Co 15:36,39). As seeds and flesh always produce after their own kind, so it is with the resurrection. Christ taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit [breath], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit [breath] is spirit [breath].” (Jhn 3:5-6). What’s born of the flesh is flesh, after the same kind—humans of humans, beasts of beasts, fishes of fishes, and birds of birds. And what’s born of God’s breath must be after the same “kind” as Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

The flood was figurative of baptism, “in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 3:20-21). Before the water of baptism, the thoughts of our hearts in God’s sight were only evil continually, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). But now we live with good conscience toward God after Christ’s example, “if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully … Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin … Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (1Pe 2:19,21,24). As He “did no sin” we must also do no sin, but live righteously.

Being immersed in water doesn’t free us from sin, having God’s breath in our hearts does, “through the Spirit [breath] do mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom 8:13). It’s only when we begin obeying Christ’s doctrine from our hearts that God gives us His breath to free us from sin and live righteously, “ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (vs. 17,18).

Romans Chapter Four

Overview

Each chapter of Romans builds upon the points Paul concluded in the previous chapters. Paul had been talking about the actions of animal sacrifices in the previous chapter, “deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (3:20), “By what law? of works [ergon 2041]?” (3:27), “without the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (3:28). And the actions of sacrificing animals were Abraham’s actions in this chapter, “For if Abraham were justified by works [ergon 2041]” (v. 2). Paul will now use Abraham as his prime example of justification, not by trusting in his actions of animal sacrifices, but by trusting in God’s action of sacrificing His Son.

Abraham’s life is recorded in Genesis chapters 12 through 25. And his walk with God for about 100 of his 175 years isn’t characterized by simply believing or having faith. The statement, “And he believed [ʿāman 539] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6), is misleading because of the Hebrew verb ʿāman translated as “believed” rather than “committed,” “confirmed,” or “entrusted.” Certainly commitment includes belief, but belief by itself excludes commitment and limits what’s truly being said about Abraham as our example. Nevertheless, Bible translations and preachers have turned Abraham into a great man of belief or faith that we’re to emulate for salvation. This isn’t the gospel message Jesus Christ preached, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [commits]” (1:16). He preached commitment to His name, “He that believeth [commits] on [eis 1519] him is not condemned: but he that believeth [commits] not is condemned already, because he hath not believed [committed] in [eis 1519] the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:18). It makes no sense to simply believe in someone’s name. What makes sense is to commit to someone’s name—to everything invested in their name. Salvation is by bowing our knee to the name of Jesus, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phl 2:10), committing ourselves and submitting ourselves to the honor of everything He lived and died for.

It’s only when we have the correct context concerning Abraham that we can fully understand Paul’s teaching in this chapter about him. As long as we incorrectly take him for being simply a great man of faith, the thrust of Paul’s message evades our comprehension and understanding. But once we recognize that he was committed to God, “Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (v. 3), it’s only then that we begin to get a better grasp on “the gospel of Christ” (1:16).

Furthermore, the plethora of modern preaching about belief and faith has marred our understanding of how God counts or deems us righteous before Him, “Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (v. 3). It wasn’t Abraham’s belief but his strong commitment that God deemed him righteous before Him. We learn this not only from Abraham but also from his descendants, God’s chosen people. They weren’t commanded to believe but to obey, “And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.” (Deu 6:24-25). God gave them an attainable standard of righteousness by which they were to live before Him. And they acknowledged “it shall be our righteousness … before the LORD our God.” If they feared God and kept His commandments, it would be righteousness to them—He would consider, count, deem, impute, or reckon them righteous before Him. For His people, righteousness before Him wasn’t by faith or belief but by commitment to Him as their God.

Righteousness before God remains the same today. Although God’s people now live under the New Covenant, being deemed righteous before Him by commitment hasn’t changed. It’s still the same as it was with Abraham before either the Old or New Covenants had even been made.

What shall we say then?

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (v. 1). By beginning his next points with “What shall we say then,” Paul indicated that he was building upon what he had just taught. He’s now going to show in the life of Abraham, the principles he had just taught in chapter three. Since the actions of animal sacrifices never justified anyone, then this must include Abraham himself, the father of the Jewish people after the flesh. By showing that the actions of offering animal sacrifices didn’t justify their father Abraham, then it’s proven that those same actions never justified anyone descended from him either. Furthermore, if those actions didn’t justify them descended from Abraham, then they certainly won’t justify anyone else either. Abraham now becomes the apex and crucible of Paul’s entire argument that justification is by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, and not by the actions of the law.

Our father as pertaining to the flesh

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (v. 1). In a confrontation between Christ and the Pharisees, the Pharisees declared of themselves, “We be Abraham’s seed” (Jhn 8:33), and Christ agreed, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed” (Jhn 8:37). However, when claiming Abraham as their father, “Abraham is our father” (Jhn 8:39), He stated that Abraham’s children act as he acted, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works [actions] of Abraham” (Jhn 8:39). Finally, they claimed God as their Father, “we have one Father, even God” (Jhn 8:41), to which He set the record straight, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (Jhn 8:44). From what Jesus Christ Himself taught, just being physical descendants of Abraham as the Pharisees were, didn’t make them children of God. Children of God do as Abraham did, while children of the devil do the lusts of their father.

Later in his letter, Paul will speak of his biological brethren descended physically from Abraham, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:3). But then taught that being “the seed of Abraham” doesn’t make anyone children of God, “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children … They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God” (9:7,8). As Christ Himself taught, those that do the lusts of the flesh are children of their father the devil.

In specifying “as pertaining to the flesh” when beginning to teach about “Abraham our father,” Paul is identifying the subjects of his teaching in this chapter as the physical descendants of Abraham while not affirming them as children of God. What he will prove here about Abraham will be the basis for many things he will teach later in his letter, particularly that Abraham’s children aren’t necessarily children of God, “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God” (9:8), and aren’t necessarily saved, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (10:1).

What did Abraham find?

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (v. 1). That Abraham found something implies he had been doing something wrong but then learned to do it right. After being called out of his home country into the land he would be given, he continued to walk in his former pagan ways of building altars and offering animal sacrifices. He was trying to worship the true God in a way He wouldn’t accept: “there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:7-8); “Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD” (Gen 13:3-4); “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD” (Gen 13:18).

Jesus Christ taught, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit [breath] and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit [breath]: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit [breath] and in truth.” (Jhn 4:23-24). And Paul wrote, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit [breath], and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phl 3:3). The true worshippers, worship God the Father in a broken and contrite breath, and rejoice in the commandments and teaching of His Son Jesus Christ. He taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit [breath]: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:3). A certain scribe said to Him, “And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mar 12:33), to which He affirmed, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mar 12:34). To love God with all the heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves in brokenness of breath is truly worshipping the true God.

David wrote, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit [breath]” (Psa 34:18), “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit [breath]: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psa 51:16-17). And Isaiah wrote, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit [breath], to revive the spirit [breath] of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa 57:15), “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit [breath], and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2).

Abraham’s actions

“For if Abraham were justified by works [ergon 2041], he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (v. 2). The first time we’re told of the Lord ever speaking to Abraham was, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen 12:1). And the first time we’re told of the Lord ever appearing to Abraham was, “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (Gen 12:7). Abraham responded to that first appearance of the Lord by building an altar to Him at that very place. His actions were that of building an altar and offering a sacrifice to the Lord.

He would then continue building altars to offer sacrifices and call upon the name of the Lord, “And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:7-8); “And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD” (Gen 13:3-4); “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD” (Gen 13:18).

Abraham’s actions, however, invoked no response from the Lord that we’re told of. Not one time did the Lord appear to him in response to his actions. Paul’s conclusion was that he wasn’t “justified by works [actions].” Had he been justified by his actions of building altars, the Lord would have appeared before him in response to calling upon His name. That “he hath whereof to glory; but not before God,” is that he would have gloried in his actions had he been before God. But he couldn’t glory before Him because He wasn’t there before him.

After his own “priestly” actions of building altars and calling upon the name of the Lord were to no avail, Abraham was then met by God’s priest, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen 14:18). This bread and wine foretold of the sacrifice God would one day make for Abraham, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mat 26:26-28). Abraham came to learn that it wasn’t his actions of sacrificing that justified him, but God’s action of sacrificing for him that would.

After having met with Melchizedek, we’re not told of Abraham ever building another altar until the one he built to offer his own son in obedience to what he was told, “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (Gen 22:9). This time, Abraham’s actions of building an altar invoked a response from God. Rather than him calling upon the name of the Lord, the Messenger of the Lord called upon his name, “And the angel [Messenger] of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham” (Gen 22:11)!

Abraham committed himself to God

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [pisteuō 4100] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (v. 3). The Greek verb pisteuō appears almost 250 times in the New Testament. And in the King James Version, all but eight times it’s translated as some form of the word “believe.” But the biased manner in which this word was handled by the translators is exposed by those eight exceptions, because in those exceptions, the actions being performed aren’t by people but by either God Himself or His Son.

The word “believe” sounds quite natural when it’s the actions of people directed toward either God or the Son of God. However, when it’s the actions of God Himself or His Son directed toward people, then “believe” doesn’t work because it can’t be God or His Son believing people. And this is precisely the dilemma caused by the eight exceptions. God’s actions or the Son of God’s actions force the true meaning of pisteuō as “commit unto” or “entrust with.” Since God doesn’t believe us or have faith in us, then this word doesn’t mean that we believe Him or have faith in Him.

Here are the eight occurrences: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luk 16:11); “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men” (Jhn 2:24); “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2); “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter” (Gal 2:7); “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1Co 9:17); “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1Th 2:4); “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1Ti 1:11); “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” (Tit 1:3).

Now, simply for the sake of illustration, here’s the nonsense that results when the bolded phrases in those eight occurrences are replaced with “believe” instead: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will believe in you the true riches?” (Luk 16:11); “But Jesus did not believe on them, because he knew all men” (Jhn 2:24); “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were believed the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2); “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was believed in me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter” (Gal 2:7); “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is believed in me” (1Co 9:17); “But as we were allowed of God to be believed with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1Th 2:4); “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was believed in me” (1Ti 1:11); “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is believed in me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” (Tit 1:3).

In the KJV, the Greek verb pisteuō and its noun form pistis are always translated as “believe” and “faith” respectively when the contexts allow, but not when the contexts force otherwise. And although these words certainly include an element of believing and having faith, but they’re more correctly “commit unto,” “entrust with,” and “commitment,” “faithfulness.” That’s not my personal opinion but indicated by how those words are used consistently in the Scriptures. Words derive their meaning by how they’re used, not by how they’re defined in dictionaries. Every day English words are being used as slang to absorb new meanings they didn’t carry before. Eventually, dictionaries have to be revised to include those new meanings.

When it comes to the translation of the Scriptures into English, rather than being objective and unbiased, translators are being more loyal to a system of theology and therefore render words so that the message of Scripture conforms to that system. The unfortunate result is that the readers of the translation are swayed toward that theological system. The correct way is to glean the meaning of words by how they’re used throughout Scripture, then render them accordingly so that the message of Scripture speaks for itself.

The English language doesn’t have a verb and a noun that correspond fully with the Greek pisteuō and pistis. The best we can do is use “commit unto” or “entrust unto” for pisteuō, and “commitment” or “faithfulness” for pistis. And it’s only when these words are rendered correctly that the understanding of Paul’s message about Abraham in Romans chapter four is truly understood.

That “Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” is that he stopped trying to justify himself before God and committed unto God his justification. Essentially, he declared spiritual bankruptcy and threw himself at God’s mercy. Therefore, God considered or recognized his commitment to Him as righteousness. So long as Abraham stayed committed to Him as the God of his life through dependence, faithfulness, humbleness, obedience, submission, trust, and unity, God considered him His friend rather than His enemy, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (Jas 2:23).

Abraham lifted his hand to the Lord

Genesis chapter 15 begins with “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying” (Gen 15:1). And “these things” are the events recorded at the end of the previous chapter when “Melchizedek king of Salem” (Gen 14:18), and also “the king of Sodom” (Gen 14:21), met Abraham. We’re not told how long it was after those events that this vision came to him—it could even have been later the same day. But the intrusive chapter break causes us to mentally sever and dissociate these events that followed from those events that preceded. The context indicates that Abraham committed himself to the Lord, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD” (Gen 15:6), when he had lifted his hand to the Lord before Melchizedek, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:22).

This action of “lifting up the hand” is found other places in the Scriptures for a commitment or a pledge from one party to another, particularly when God committed Himself to His people in the Exodus, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God; In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands” (Eze 20:5-6). However, when His people were proven uncommitted to Him, He turned His commitment against them, “Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands … I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries” (Eze 20:15,23).

This expression is also used of those committing or pledging enmity against another, “Blessed be the LORD thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king” (2Sa 18:28); “Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David” (2Sa 20:21); “And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon’s servant, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king … And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king” (1Ki 11:26,27).

Abraham committed himself to the Lord when he lifted his hand to the Lord before God’s priest and king Melchizedek. Now, whether Melchizedek was literally the pre-incarnate Christ or simply a man that served as a type is quite irrelevant and distracting from the main point. As a side note, I take him simply as an ordinary man that served as a type because the writer of Hebrews called him a man, “Now consider how great this man was” (Heb 7:4). And that he was “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Heb 7:3), doesn’t mean he literally had no father and mother, or that he had no beginning and ending of life. The writer was simply pointing out that nothing at all was said about Melchizedek’s beginning or ending, therefore the “order” or succession of his priesthood was unlike that of the Levitical priesthood, “another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron” (Heb 7:11). Melchizedek was simply a type of the true High Priest to come. And the bread and the wine that Melchizedek set before Abraham, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine” (Gen 14:18), foretold of Christ’s broken body and shed blood on the cross for our sins:

Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29)

Christ’s shed blood didn’t simply cover our sins but was for “the remission of sins,” remitting them entirely to be forever forgiven. The Lord’s Supper is His pledge to drink with us in His Father’s kingdom, and it’s our pledge to serve Him as our Lord for the rest of our lives. That Abraham understood the significance of the bread and wine of which he partook with Melchizedek, is evident by him no longer building altars and offering sacrifices. Eating and drinking with God’s priest was his submission to God for his justification. Of course Abraham didn’t know how God would ultimately do it, only that He would. And many years later, his answer to his son’s question, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? … My son, God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:7,8), foretold of God’s answer to that question, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jhn 1:29,36). As though finally answering Isaac’s question “Behold … where is the lamb?” John exclaimed “Behold the Lamb!”

After having ate and drank with God’s priest, Abraham told the king of Sodom, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen 14:22-23). He refused to enrich himself by making any compromise to the commitment he made. He was now committed to God.

It was “After these things” that God spoke to him, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). A shield and a reward is protection and provision. But God didn’t say that He would simply protect and provide but that He is “thy shield … thy exceeding great reward.” He was now Abraham’s God. Paul was beginning to explain what it was that “Abraham … hath found” (v. 1), to expound upon his conclusion a few verses earlier, “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (3:29). Abraham committed himself to God for his justification, defense, and reward, “Abraham believed [committed unto] God.” And God accepted his commitment, and considered him right before Himself, “it was counted [deemed] unto him for righteousness.”

Jesus taught us to trust God our Father

Jesus Christ taught: “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4); “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:6); “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:18). That our Father “shall reward thee openly” is that we now look to Him for our reward as Abraham learned to do, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). We no longer care that anyone sees the good things we do, but only that God sees.

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? … Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? [oligopistos 3640]” (Mat 6:25,30). The Greek noun oligopistos translated as “little faith” was used only by Christ Himself, here in His Sermon on the Mount, and in these other places: “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith [oligopistos 3640]?” (Mat 8:26); “O thou of little faith [oligopistos 3640], wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Mat 14:31); “O ye of little faith [oligopistos 3640], why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” (Mat 16:8); “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith [oligopistos 3640]?” (Luk 12:28). This word consists of the adjective oligos for “few,” “little,” or “small,” and the noun pistos for “commitment,” “faithfulness,” or “trust.” It’s not little belief but little commitment or trust.

The context is about committing ourselves to God our Father, trusting Him to see and reward our good actions. This was also Abraham’s commitment to God, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). And the context is trusting God to provide for our essential daily needs, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? … Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Mat 6:31,34). Taking no thought for tomorrow isn’t about worrying but about trusting. We’re to not be thinking about what we can do to ensure our provision for tomorrow, but simply trusting God for what we need today.

“O ye of little faith [commitment, faithfulness]” is to have little committed to God in trusting Him each and every day. It’s when we look to people for reward—their acceptance, approval, praise, and recognition. It’s when we defend ourselves before people—justify our actions, make excuses, brag on ourselves, and get even. And it’s when we take control of our daily provision—store up for the future, set financial goals, plan our retirement, and compromise for our own gain. Certainly faith is involved with trust and commitment because we can’t have a trusting and committed relationship with someone yet never believing a word they say! The issue is that the message of faith alone being preached today excludes commitment and trust, whereas the true gospel message of commitment and trust that Jesus Christ Himself preached includes faith.

God’s people weren’t committed to Him

God committed Himself to His people when He chose them and delivered them from Egypt, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God; In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them” (Eze 20:5-6). However, they weren’t committed to Him, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed [apeitheō 544] not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief [apistia 570].” (Heb 3:18-19), “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed [pisteuō 4100] not” (Jde 1:5).

The root of the noun apistia is the adjective pistos which means “committed,” “faithful,” or “trusty.” Christ Himself used this word many times for faithful servants: “Who then is a faithful [pistos 4103] and wise servant” (Mat 24:45); “Well done, thou good and faithful [pistos 4103] servant: thou hast been faithful [pistos 4103] over a few things” (Mat 25:21); “Who then is that faithful [pistos 4103] and wise steward” (Luk 12:42); “He that is faithful [pistos 4103] in that which is least is faithful [pistos 4103] also in much” (Luk 16:10); “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful [pistos 4103] in a very little” (Luk 19:17).

When writing to the Galatians, Paul used this word pistos for Abraham, “So then they which be of faith [commitment, faithfulness] are blessed with faithful [pistos 4103] Abraham” (Gal 3:9, KJV, WEB, YLT). But because translators are more committed to what they’ve been taught rather than to what Scripture is actually teaching, they “fudge” their translation: “believing Abraham” (DBY, NKJV), “Abraham received because of his faith” (NLT), “Abraham, the man of faith” (NIV), “Abraham the believer” (NET). Peter wrote of what will happen to those not submitting to what the Scriptures actually say but forcing them to say something else, “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16).

Unlike their committed and faithful father Abraham, God’s people weren’t committed and faithful to God, “they could not enter in because of unbelief [unfaithfulness]” (Heb 3:19), “destroyed them that believed [committed, faithful] not” (Jde 1:5). Many times they provoked God’s anger by complaining against Him and sinning against His commandments. Finally, when they reached the point of entering the land, the very purpose for having been delivered from Egypt, they wouldn’t trust God. Their hearts had become hardened by sin so that they feared man more than God. This wasn’t about unbelief or lack of faith, but being uncommitted and unfaithful.

David trusted God

Because of false teaching about faith and the mistranslation of pisteuō and pistis as “believe” and “faith” respectively, Abraham is upheld today as our example of a great man of faith. However, nobody ever talks about David that way. Why? Because in David’s own writings about himself, he said nothing of belief or faith but much about trust in God. Here’s an abbreviated list from the first 20 Psalms alone: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psa 2:12); “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD” (Psa 4:5); “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice” (Psa 5:11); “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust” (Psa 7:1); “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee” (Psa 9:10); “In the LORD put I my trust” (Psa 11:1); “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psa 16:1); “O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee” (Psa 17:7); “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust” (Psa 18:2); “he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Psa 18:30); “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psa 20:7).

What God Himself said about Abraham, wasn’t that he believed Him but that he obeyed Him, “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18), “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice” (Gen 26:5). Obedience comes from being committed and faithful. It’s because Abraham was committed to God, “Even as Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6), that Paul said he was faithful to God, “So then they which be of faith [commitment, faithfulness] are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:9). He was committed and faithful to obeying whatever God told him to do.

God deemed Abraham right with Himself

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (v. 3). Of course Paul was quoting from, “And he believed [committed unto] in the LORD; and he counted [ḥāšab 2803] it to him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” (Gen 15:6). The Hebrew verb ḥāšab and its Greek counterpart logizomai mean “to conclude about,” “to count as,” “to deem as,” “to number among,” or “to reckon.” To better understand what was meant here about Abraham, a similar statement was made about the Levitical priest Phinehas, “Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted [ḥāšab 2803] unto him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” (Psa 106:30-31). What Phinehas did was he “took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly” (Num 25:7-8). This event had nothing to do with believing or faith. God simply concluded or deemed Phinehas’ actions as right in that immoral circumstance—that he did the right thing. Likewise, that “he believed [committed unto] in the LORD; and he counted [ḥāšab 2803] it to him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” is that God deemed Abraham’s commitment of himself as the right actions.

The Greek logizomai is used around 40 times in the New Testament, and about half concern concluding or thinking something: “And they reasoned [logizomai 3049] with themselves” (Mar 11:31); “And thinkest [logizomai 3049] thou this, O man” (Rom 2:3); “Therefore we conclude [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 3:28); “Likewise reckon [logizomai 3049] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin” (Rom 6:11); “For I reckon [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 8:18); “to him that esteemeth [logizomai 3049] any thing to be” (Rom 14:14); “Let a man so account [logizomai 3049] of us” (1Co 4:1); “thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil” (1Co 13:5); “I thought [logizomai 3049] as a child” (1Co 13:11); “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think [logizomai 3049] any thing” (2Co 3:5); “wherewith I think [logizomai 3049] to be bold against some, which think [logizomai 3049] of us” (2Co 10:2); “let him of himself think [logizomai 3049] this again” (2Co 10:7); “Let such an one think [logizomai 3049] this” (2Co 10:11); “For I suppose [logizomai 3049]” (2Co 11:5); “lest any man should think [logizomai 3049] of me” (2Co 12:6); “Brethren, I count [logizomai 3049] not myself to have apprehended” (Phl 3:13); “think [logizomai 3049] on these things” (Phl 4:8); “I pray God that it may not be laid [logizomai 3049] to their charge” (2Ti 4:16); “Accounting [logizomai 3049] that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19); “I suppose [logizomai 3049], I have written briefly” (1Pe 5:12).

The other half of its occurrences are about Abraham here in Romans or in a couple of other places, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted [logizomai 3049] to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6), “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:23). While its remaining occurrences are: “And he was numbered [logizomai 3049] with the transgressors” (Mar 15:28); “And he was reckoned [logizomai 3049] among the transgressors” (Luk 22:37); “So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised [logizomai 3049]” (Act 19:27); “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted [logizomai 3049] for circumcision?” (Rom 2:26); “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted [logizomai 3049] as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom 8:36); “the children of the promise are counted [logizomai 3049] for the seed” (Rom 9:8); “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [logizomai 3049] their trespasses unto them” (2Co 5:19).

That Paul meant “to conclude about” or “to think something” when using logizomai for Abraham here in Romans chapter four, is apparent by how he used it earlier in his letter, “And thinkest thou [logizomai 3049] this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (2:3), “Therefore we conclude [logizomai 3049] that a man is justified by faith [commitment, faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (3:28). It’s to reach a conclusion about something, then to consider it as such. In the first example, it’s about God’s people wrongly concluding that, although they were doing the same evil as Gentiles, they would be exempt from God’s judgment. And in the second example, it’s about Paul reaching the logical conclusion from the Scriptures that people are justified by the Son of God’s faithfulness to sacrifice Himself, apart from any actions of sacrificing animals prescribed by the law.

The point is that the Hebrew ḥāšab and Greek logizomai simply mean “to conclude about” someone or something, and to deem or regard it as so. However, in “Christian” teaching today about Abraham in Romans, it’s defined as one thing is the equivalent of another thing, one thing takes the place of another thing, or one thing substitutes for another thing. It’s being taught that Abraham was a man of faith, and God substituted his faith for righteous living. And like Abraham, although we’re not living righteously because we supposedly can’t, but because we’re believers we’re righteous. Therefore, although we continue to live in sin yet we’re righteous before God because our faith is counted in its place. That’s not what Paul was teaching about Abraham!

The King James Version uses “count,” “impute,” and “reckon” for logizomai concerning Abraham, which masks the underlying sense of what’s being said. The words “consider,” “deem,” or “regard” convey the intended idea more clearly. Abraham committed himself to God, therefore God deemed Abraham right with Himself.

Favor or debt?

“Now to him that worketh is the reward [misthos 3408] not reckoned [deemed] of grace [favor], but of debt [opheilēma 3783]” (v. 4). To bolster his argument that Abraham wasn’t justified by building altars and offering animal sacrifices, Paul raises the question of whether the remittance from God to Abraham—that He deemed him righteous—was reward out of favor, or payment out of hire. The Greek misthos can mean either because it was used by Christ Himself for both, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward [misthos 3408] in heaven” (Mat 5:12), “Call the labourers, and give them their hire [misthos 3408], beginning from the last unto the first” (Mat 20:8). Our English “remittance” is a good equivalent for misthos because it also can be either.

Paul now gives an example of a laborer whose remittance is payment of the debt owed to him for his work. And he used the Greek neuter noun opheilēma for “debt” which was used only one other time in Scripture, by Christ Himself, “And forgive us our debts [opheilēma 3783], as we forgive our debtors [opheiletēs 3781]” (Mat 6:12). It conveys the meaning of our debts to God, and of debts owed to us by others. So then, was God indebted to Abraham? Of course not! Therefore, Abraham couldn’t have been justified by his labor of building altars and offering animal sacrifices.

The passage of Scripture from which Paul quoted, “And he believed [committed unto] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6), also states, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward [śāḵār 7939]” (Gen 15:1). The Hebrew śāḵār is also used in Scripture for both “reward” and for “hire.” So, which is it here? If the remittance from God was for Abraham’s labor of building altars and offering sacrifices, then it was payment for a debt and it makes God indebted to Abraham. God forbid! But the passage itself states that it was Abraham’s commitment that God deemed as the basis for the remittance. Therefore, the remittance wasn’t of Abraham’s labor but of God’s favor.

Paul is going to conclude the end purpose for Abraham’s remittance a little later, “Therefore it is of faith [commitment, faithfulness], that it might be by grace [favor]; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith [commitment, faithfulness] of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (v. 16). The Levitical priesthood with its offerings and sacrifices under the law belonged only to Israel. And if justification before God came that way, then only they could be justified and none others. But since Abraham’s justification was a remittance based upon his commitment to God, then anyone making that same commitment is remitted in the same way. Thus, Paul will conclude that the remittance was of Abraham’s commitment for the end purpose of justification being by God’s favor to all that make the same commitment.

God deems those committed to Him

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth [commits unto] on him that justifieth the ungodly [asebēs 765], his faith [commitment, faithfulness] is counted [deemed] for righteousness” (v. 5). The Greek adjective asebēs is a presumed derivative of the negative participle alpha and verb sebō which means “to worship.” Christ used sebō, “But in vain they do worship [sebō 4576] me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat 15:9), “Howbeit in vain do they worship [sebō 4576] me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mar 7:7). Therefore, the adjective asebēs with the negative particle prefix alpha carries the idea of the “not-worshippers” or “vain-worshippers” of God. In context concerning Abraham, it speaks of his vain worship through his old pagan ways of building altars and offering animal sacrifices. But what he came to learn, “Abraham … hath found” (v. 1), was that worshipping the true God is only through the way He accepts. He learned that justification wasn’t by the labor of his hands, but by putting it into God’s hands so to speak. Rather than laboring with his hand, he lifted up his hand, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:22).

A little later, Paul will repeat the statement “his faith [commitment, faithfulness] is counted [deemed] for righteousness” (v. 5), “faith [commitment, faithfulness] was reckoned [deemed] to Abraham for righteousness” (v. 9). Abraham learned that worshipping the true God was by committing himself to Him and His way—not only making the commitment but keeping the commitment, or remaining committed. Strong commitment endures regardless of difficulties and trials along the way. When things are going well and as planned, it’s easy to stay committed. But as Paul is going to teach, Abraham’s commitment to “the righteousness of God” (1:17, 3:5,21,22), “his righteousness” (3:25,26), was tested. And his strong commitment and faithfulness serves as the example to God’s people of remaining strongly committed and faithful to Him.

What David said (or didn’t say!) about actions

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth [deems] righteousness without works [actions], Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute [deem] sin.” (vs. 6-8). Paul was quoting from Psalm 32 where David wrote that he was forgiven by acknowledging and confessing his sins, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psa 32:5), and said nothing about offering any animal sacrifice. That entire Psalm says nothing about any such actions. And this is what Paul meant by “God imputeth righteousness without works [actions].” David said that God forgives our sins when we acknowledge and confess them, without saying anything about animal sacrifices also being needed.

Furthermore, when David acknowledged his sin in the matter of Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba, he even said that he didn’t give any sacrifice, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psa 51:2-3,16-17). David understood that animal sacrifices never truly remitted sins. And Paul certainly had Psalm 51 in mind as well because he quoted from it a little earlier, “that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psa 51:4), “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (3:4).

How was Abraham when it was deemed to him?

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith [commitment, faithfulness] was reckoned [deemed] to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned [deemed]? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.” (vs. 9-10). This blessedness was what David wrote about, “the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth [deems] righteousness without works [actions] … Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute [deem] sin.” It’s the blessing of being deemed righteous by God while not deeming our sins against us.

Of course David was circumcised his entire life. Therefore, Paul’s adversaries would argue that since it was David who wrote of this blessedness, then it must only apply to the circumcised. But Paul appeals to Abraham for even greater precedence than David. He asks how Abraham was at the time it was deemed to him—circumcised or uncircumcised? When it was said “And he believed [committed unto] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6), God hadn’t given him circumcision. Furthermore, David wouldn’t have had that same blessedness deemed to him had it not first been deemed to Abraham while uncircumcised.

The sign of circumcision

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith [commitment, faithfulness] which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe [commit], though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed [deemed] unto them also” (v. 11). Circumcision in the flesh is simply a sign or a token, “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen 17:11). A token doesn’t establish a fact but only indicates or represents an existing fact. Abraham’s righteous standing before God had been deemed to him many years earlier by his commitment. Circumcision in his flesh at this point was only a badge, sign, or symbol of that already established fact. It served as a seal of authentication.

A badge indicates identity. For example, because someone has passed the training to become a police officer, and made the commitment to uphold the duty of a police officer, they’re given a badge to indicate their identity as such. But someone that’s not a police officer doesn’t become one by simply displaying a badge. That’s impersonating a police officer. It’s the person that fulfills the commitment of a police officer that’s truly a police officer. And anyone not fulfilling the duty of that commitment is at danger of losing their standing and the badge that identifies them.

The Jewish people made the error of confusing their “badge” of circumcision with fulfilling the commitment it represented. They deemed themselves righteous before God simply because they were circumcised. But Paul was proving that it’s fulfilling the commitment that God deems for righteousness. Those committed to God, although without any “badge,” are deemed righteous by Him, while those uncommitted with a “badge” aren’t.

The father of circumcision

“And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith [commitment, faithfulness] of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (v. 12). That Abraham was “the father of circumcision” is that he was its progenitor—the first to have it and for his children to also have it. However, it was never intended that his children would simply be of the “circumcision only,” but that they would “also walk in the steps of that faith [commitment, faithfulness].” And just what were the steps of Abraham’s commitment in his walk with God? The main “step” was when he forsook Ishmael as his heir for Isaac instead.

What Paul will mention later in his letter, “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (9:7-8), he gave a more detailed explanation in his letter to the Galatians, “But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise” (Gal 4:23). By “hear the law” (Gal 4:21), Paul meant understanding the message God was speaking through the law. And His message wasn’t always apparent but sometimes hidden in a mystery. The events in Abraham’s life served allegorically and prophetically of what God would do later, “Which things are an allegory” (Gal 4:24). Abraham’s two sons by two different women represented figuratively the Old and New Covenants to come, “Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman … Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants” (Gal 4:22,24). Hagar corresponds figuratively to the law given from Mount Sinai, “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia” (Gal 4:25), while Sarah to Christ’s law given in His Sermon on the Mount.

The Jewish people didn’t want to turn from the Old Covenant to the New, but this was necessary if they were to “walk in the steps of that faith [commitment, faithfulness]” of their father Abraham. God had promised Abraham, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen 15:4), and Abraham committed himself to that promise, “And he believed [committed unto] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). A short time later, Abraham had a son from his own bowels through Hagar, “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael” (Gen 16:15). Promise fulfilled! Well, not exactly. For over ten years while Ismael was growing up, Abraham wrongly supposed that he was his heir. But the events of one day recorded in Genesis 17, concluding with Abraham becoming circumcised, “In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son” (Gen 17:26), tested Abraham’s commitment to God.

After hearing that he would have a son from his wife Sarah and doubting it could ever happen, he tried to argue his case for Ishmael instead, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:18). But God was doing things His way, “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” (Gen 17:21). This son would be the fulfillment of the promise God had intended all along, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen 15:4). Sarah and Isaac weren’t a change in God’s plan but the fulfillment of it. Thus, Hagar and Ishmael, Sarah and Isaac were allegorical of the two covenants to come. God’s plan from the beginning was His Son Jesus Christ. And as Abraham was rudely awakened with the realization that continuing with God meant forsaking Ishmael and pursuing Isaac, so it was with Israel—they had to forsake the Old Covenant for the New. Staying committed to God meant Abraham had to keep following Him even when He veered in an unexpected direction he really didn’t want to go. This was a huge step in Abraham’s commitment, and a similar “step” his children must take to remain committed.

The promise of all promises

“For the promise, that he should be the heir [klēronomos 2818] of the world [kosmos 2889], was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (v. 13). God made several promises to Abraham. He promised to make a great nation from him, to make his name great, and to bless all ethnic people of the earth through him, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:2-3).

Later, He promised him a begotten son from whom he would have children as numerous as the stars in heaven, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir … tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:4,5). He also promised to give to him and his children the land in which he was sojourning, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen 15:18), “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:8). He promised to make him a father of many nations, “thou shalt be a father of many nationsa father of many nations have I made thee” (Gen 17:4,5). He promised that his wife Sarah would bear him a son at a set time the following year, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed … Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” (Gen 17:19,21), “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a sonAt the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Gen 18:10,14). And He promised that his children would be through Isaac, and not Ishmael, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen 21:12). Although God made several promises to Abraham over a span of many years, this final one was the promise of all promises.

And the angel [messenger] of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:15-18)

This was the specific promise of which Paul was referring, “the promise, that he should be the heir of the world” (v. 13), “the promise made of none effect” (v. 14), “to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (v. 16). Therefore, the event of Abraham giving his son to God as a sacrifice on a mountain in Moriah is the required context for understanding what Paul was teaching here. This was also the specific promise Paul meant when teaching the Galatians, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit [breath] through faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (Gal 3:14). The “blessing of Abraham” is the blessing contained within the promise, “That in blessing I will bless thee” (Gen 22:17). And this was also the specific promise the writer of Hebrews was teaching about, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb 3:1), “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee” (Heb 6:13-14). Along with the Jewish people, all ethnic people can partake of this promise to Abraham given by heavenly calling from the Messenger of the Lord, “And the angel [messenger] of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven” (Gen 22:15).

The heir of the world

“For the promise, that he should be the heir [klēronomos 2818] of the world [kosmos 2889], was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (v. 13). Abraham becoming “the heir of the world” would be through the promise which included all the nations of the world, “And in thy seed shall all the nations [gôy 1471] of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18). And although this was promised in Genesis 22, God had already stated His intention during Abraham’s very first encounter with Him back in Genesis 12, “And I will make of thee a great nation [gôy 1471], and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families [mišpāḥȃ 4940] of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:2-3). The Hebrew noun gôy means “nation,” and noun mišpāḥȃ means “ethnicity” or “family,” as they are both used in this statement after the flood, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles [gôy 1471] divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families [mišpāḥȃ 4940], in their nations [gôy 1471]” (Gen 10:5).

Writing to the Galatians, Paul quoted from Abraham’s first encounter with the Lord, “in thee shall all families [mišpāḥȃ 4940] of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3), “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen [ethnos 1484] through faith [commitment, faithfulness], preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations [ethnos 1484] be blessed” (Gal 3:8). That God “preached before the gospel unto Abraham,” isn’t that God literally preached a sermon to him, but is simply an expression of Paul’s to indicate that the saving gospel message Jesus Christ preached had been foreseen all the way back then. Before promising and swearing by Himself, God had already “preached before the gospel unto Abraham,” that all ethnicities and nations of the world, not just the ethnic Hebrew or Jewish people, would be blessed in Abraham.

God sent His only begotten Son into this world to save the world: “Go ye into all the world [kosmos 2889], and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mar 16:15); “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world [kosmos 2889]” (Jhn 1:29); “For God so loved the world [kosmos 2889], that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jhn 3:16); “this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [kosmos 2889]” (Jhn 4:42); “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world [kosmos 2889]” (Jhn 6:33); “I am the light of the world [kosmos 2889]” (Jhn 8:12); “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world [kosmos 2889]” (Jhn 12:47); “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world [kosmos 2889] unto himself” (2Co 5:19); “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world [kosmos 2889]” (1Jo 2:2); “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world [kosmos 2889]” (1Jo 4:14).

Singular “Seed,” not plural

“For the promise, that he should be the heir [klēronomos 2818] of the world [kosmos 2889], was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (v. 13). The specific promise in question is the promise God made to Abraham that day on the mountain in Moriah, and that promise wasn’t actually made to Abraham but to “his seed.” By “to Abraham, or to his seed,” he was saying “to Abraham” or really “to his seed.” He taught the same to the Galatians about the same promise, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16). The Jewish people misunderstood “thy seed” in the promise to be the many descendants of Abraham. Therefore, they considered the promise to them exclusively, and not to any other people unless also becoming circumcised along with them.

However, when God gave to Abraham the covenant of circumcision, He used the plural pronoun “their” in place of “thy seed,” “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations … Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.” (Gen 17:7,9-10). But when God promised the blessing to Abraham, He used the singular pronoun “his” in place of “thy seed,” “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:17-18). Circumcision was given to Abraham’s many descendants, but the promise was to just one Descendant—God’s Son Jesus Christ.

The promise “that he should be the heir [klēronomos 2818] of the world,” wasn’t that Abraham himself would be the heir of the world, but that his Seed would be, “to Abraham, or to his seed,” (v. 13) “And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16). Paul taught elsewhere: “And if children, then heirs [klēronomos 2818]; heirs [klēronomos 2818] of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (8:17); “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ … And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs [klēronomos 2818] according to the promise” (Gal 3:27,29); “if a son, then an heir [klēronomos 2818] of God through Christ” (Gal 4:7). Jesus Christ is the Heir of the world, and it’s those that have been baptized into Him that partake with Him.

The promise came through Abraham’s commitment

“For the promise, that he should be the heir [klēronomos 2818] of the world [kosmos 2889], was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (v. 13). When God made the promise to Abraham and swore by Himself, twice He said, “because thou hast done this thing … because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:16,18). Therefore, the promise was because of Abraham’s commitment and faithfulness to God. It’s because Abraham remained committed and faithful to God, even in this final great test of his obedience, that he obtained the promise, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb 6:15).

The law would make the promise of none effect

“For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith [commitment, faithfulness] is made void, and the promise made of none effect” (v. 14). Paul’s Jewish adversaries would contend that the fulfillment of this promise and the receiving of God’s blessing comes through circumcision and the keeping of all aspects of the law, including the non-moral actions of the law. After all, Abraham was circumcised when this promise was given. However, since God made His promise and extended His blessing because of Abraham’s commitment and faithfulness to Him, and since God swore the promise by Himself that He would be committed and faithful to Abraham in keeping it, then receiving the fulfillment of this promise

Since Abraham was faithful to give his only begotten son to God, his only son he had begotten from his wife Sarah and his only son he had any hope of being his heir, then God would be faithful to give His only begotten Son to Abraham, “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son” (Gen 22:16). Abraham had lifted his hand to the highest of all, swearing by God Himself that he would be faithful to Him, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:22), “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). But since there is no greater than God Himself, God swore His faithfulness to Abraham by Himself, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Heb 6:13).

God’s promise was that He would give His only begotten Son, the singular Seed or Descendant of Abraham, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:17-18). And his Descendant would be sacrificed and raised from the dead as foreseen that day in Isaac.

Abraham being multiplied would come through his Seed, “in multiplying I will multiply thy seed.” Abraham’s children, therefore, are all of those and only those that are in his Seed, “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” And the only way to be in his Seed is to be baptized into Him, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ … And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27,29). Through the preaching of the apostle Peter, both Jews and Gentiles were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Act 2:38-39); “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Act 10:47-48).

That “thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” is what Abraham’s Seed Himself told Peter, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [ekklēsia 1577]; and the gates of hell [hadēs 86] shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys [kleis 2807] of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 16:18-19). The Greek noun hadēs is used 11 times in the New Testament, and in the KJV it’s translated as “hell” 10 of those times. The one exception is where the context—the resurrection of the body from the grave—forced the correct translation, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hadēs 86], where is thy victory?” (1Co 15:55). It isn’t a place of fire where disembodied spirits are burned, but simply a grave or a tomb where a dead body is buried. David’s prophecy about Christ, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hadēs 86], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption … He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [hadēs 86], neither his flesh did see corruption” (Act 2:27,31), was that before His body began to decay, He would be resurrected. And all Jewish men in Jerusalem hearing Peter preach that day could attest that David’s body was still in his sealed tomb, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day” (Act 2:29), but Christ’s tomb was still empty since the Passover.

The “gates of hell [hadēs 86]” is simply the entrance to the grave. The entrance to the grave by death wouldn’t prevail over Christ’s church—the assembling or congregating of His people—because it didn’t prevail over Him, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys [kleis 2807] of hell [hadēs 86] and of death” (Rev 1:18). Abraham’s Seed would “possess the gate of his enemies,” and death itself is the last enemy that will be destroyed, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1Co 15:26). The promise to Abraham of victory over death and the grave in resurrection, is only by baptism into Abraham’s Seed.

To reject God’s only begotten Son is to reject the promise God made to Abraham and exclude oneself from the blessing. God’s Son freed His people from the requirement of circumcision and everything that pertains to it. Anyone commanding circumcision with its actions—abstaining from certain meats, keeping holy days including the Sabbath, and offering animal sacrifices—is voiding God’s promise and making it of none effect.

The outcome of the law was God’s wrath

“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (v. 15). Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For as many as are of the works [actions] of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal 3:10). Just before he died, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy to the second generation of Israel that God had brought out of Egypt. They affirmed that the Lord would be their God, and God affirmed them as His special people, “Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments” (Deu 26:17-18). Moses then instructed them that after Joshua had brought them into the land, representatives from half the tribes must stand on mount Gerizim to pronounce blessings, and the other half on mount Ebal to pronounce curses, “These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin: And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.” (Deu 27:12-13). And the list of curses was concluded with the statement Paul quoted to the Galatians, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deu 27:26). When they came into the land, they indeed carried out what Moses instructed.

And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them. (Joshua 8:33-35)

Paul’s point was that when Israel came into the land God promised to Abraham, they committed themselves to keeping all He commanded through Moses, while acknowledging the curses that would come upon them if they didn’t. Of course, they didn’t. Throughout the ages of the Judges and the Kings, they repeatedly sinned against God’s commandments, provoking His wrath. Eventually, the full force of God’s curse came upon them and they were carried away captive to Babylon. Daniel affirmed it, “Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him” (Dan 9:11), and Paul concluded it, “For as many as are of the works [actions] of the law are under the curse” (Gal 3:10).

Paul then quoted from Habakkuk, “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (Gal 3:11). Before carrying away His people to Babylon, God already declared through the prophet Habakkuk, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (Hab 2:4), “the person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (NIV). He affirmed that the just or righteous person would live, have eternal life, by His faithfulness to the promise He swore to Abraham. His faithfulness to that promise would be fulfilled in Abraham’s Seed—sending His only begotten Son into this world.

“And the law is not of faith [commitment, faithfulness]: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal 3:12). That “the law is not of faith [commitment, faithfulness]” is that law of Moses wasn’t included in God’s promise of commitment and faithfulness He swore to Abraham. God’s people that lived under the law before Christ came, lived or had the hope of eternal life, by doing God’s judgments, ordinances, and statutes, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” (Lev 18:4-5). Such actions included abstinence from certain meats, “These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth … Nevertheless these shall ye not eat” (Lev 11:2,4), and keeping the Sabbaths, “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God” (Lev 19:3), “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:30). Living in the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Ezekiel affirmed this: “And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them” (Eze 20:11); “they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted” (Eze 20:13); “they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths” (Eze 20:21).

Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and redeemed His people from that curse, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit [breath] through faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (Gal 3:13-14). Therefore, “the blessing of Abraham,” “That in blessing I will bless thee” (Gen 22:17), comes also to the Gentiles, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:18), that all nations would partake of “the promise of the Spirit [breath],” resurrection to eternal life by God’s breath, “through faith [commitment, faithfulness],” through God’s faithfulness to the commitment He swore to Abraham.

The promise was to all the seed of Abraham

“Therefore it is of faith [commitment, faithfulness], that it might be by grace [favor]; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith [commitment, faithfulness] of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (v. 16). Paul now draws the conclusion from the points he had been proving, that righteousness before God is by commitment, so that it can be by God’s favor, for the end purpose that the promise would be to all Abraham’s seed. And he stated his conclusion as somewhat of a “chain” of logical inferences in which one depends upon another or leads to another. He will use this similar approach or method a few more times later in his letter: “tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed” (5:3-5); “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (8:30); “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed [committed]? and how shall they believe [committed] in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (10:14-15). If all of the prerequisites are met, then the logical conclusion is established. Therefore, Paul proves at length all of the prerequisites to reach the conclusion.

That it’s “of faith [commitment, faithfulness], that it might be by grace [favor],” he explained early in this passage that a worker’s remittance is out of debt, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace [favor], but of debt” (v. 4), while the one that commits to God is remitted out of favor, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth [commits upon] on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [commitment, faithfulness] is counted for righteousness” (v. 5). God never remitted Abraham or His people on account of their animal sacrifices because that would have made Him a debtor to them. Rather, His remittance to is by His favor based on commitment to Him. No other people had been given the blessing of knowing Him and being committed to Him as their God to be favored by Him above all other people. And since the promise was given through commitment—Abraham keeping his commitment to God in doing and obeying what he was told, “because thou hast done this thing … because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:16,18)—then God can favor anyone likewise committed to Him.

The end purpose or final goal of God’s righteousness being by commitment is so that the fulfillment of His promise would be to all Abraham’s children—not only to the circumcised committed to God in the same steps as Abraham, but also to the uncircumcised committed to God after the example of Abraham. By “all the seed,” Paul meant that there are two “streams” or issues of Abraham’s children: (1) those circumcised in the flesh under the law, mainly his biological descendants from Isaac and Jacob, and also all non-biological proselytes; (2) those baptized into his one Descendant Jesus Christ, committing themselves to God as Abraham did.

Because the promise was made to only one Descendant of Abraham, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:17-18), then partaking of the fulfillment of this promise is only through this one Descendant of Abraham. Since the promise wasn’t made to all Abraham’s descendants but to only one Descendant, then all Abraham’s descendants must be baptized in the name of this one Descendant to partake of the promise, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [breath]” (Act 2:38). And since the promise was to this one Descendant, then it’s the prerogative of this one Descendant to allow every nation of people to also partake of the promise through Him: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Act 10:15), “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Act 10:28), “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Act 10:35), “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Act 10:48). Therefore, all baptized into Christ are deemed by God as Abraham’s children and partakers of the promise, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27-29). Although circumcision is possible only with males, baptism is for all—Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.

A father of many nations

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed [committed unto], even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (v. 17). This passage in verses 17-22 mainly concerns the event recorded in Genesis chapter 17, but also includes Abraham’s walk with God through Genesis chapter 22. Genesis 17 recounts the day God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, gave him circumcision in his flesh, changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah, and changed his hope of an heir to the son that would be miraculously born from her. It was a very busy day!

The Hebrew proper masculine noun ‘aḇrām first appearing in “And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram [‘aḇrām 87], Nahor, and Haran” (Gen 11:26), is a contraction of the proper masculine noun ‘ăḇîrām, the name of one of the men allied with Korah in the rebellion against Moses, “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram [‘ăḇîrām 48], the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben” (Num 16:1). This name ‘ăḇîrām is derived from the Hebrew common noun ‘āḇ for “father” first used in, “Therefore shall a man leave his father [‘āḇ 1] and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24), and the Hebrew verb rûm used by Abram himself in, “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up [rûm 7311] mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:22). The name ‘ăḇîrām means literally “my father is exalted” or “my father is lifted up.” Thus, the name Abram means “exalted father.”

Abram’s native land was Chaldea, “Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram [‘aḇrām 87], Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees [kaśdîmâ 3778].” (Gen 11:27-28). This was the same land Ezekiel, Daniel, and God’s people were sent to captivity, “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans [kaśdîmâ 3778]” (Eze 1:3), “whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans [kaśdîmâ 3778]” (Dan 1:4). It’s no coincidence that God brought Abram out of Chaldea into the promised land, but then brought His people out of the promised land back into Chaldea for punishment.

The “tongue of the Chaldeans [kaśdîmâ 3778]” (Dan 1:4), was Aramaic. And the equivalent of the Hebrew ‘āḇ for “father” is the Aramaic ‘aḇ used by both Ezra and Daniel in the Chaldean captivity, “That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers [‘aḇ 2]” (Ezr 4:15), “I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers [‘aḇ 2]” (Dan 2:23). Christ Himself used this Aramaic word for God His Father when praying in the garden before going to the cross, “And he said, Abba [abba 5], Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mar 14:36). The Greek abba is a transliteration of the Aramaic.

God changed Abram’s name to “Abraham” in Genesis 17, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father [‘āḇ 1] of many [hāmôn 1995] nations [gôy 1471]. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram [‘aḇrām 87], but thy name shall be Abraham [‘aḇrāhām 85]; for a father [‘āḇ 1] of many [hāmôn 1995] nations [gôy 1471] have I made thee.” (Gen 17:4-5). The Hebrew noun hāmôn first appears here and means “an abundance,” “a crowd,” or “a multitude” with the sense of a roar, sound, or tumult. It’s verb form hāmâ means “to growl,” “to murmur,” or “to roar.” And the Hebrew noun gôy means “nations” of people, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles [gôy 1471] divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations [gôy 1471]” (Gen 10:5), “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations [gôy 1471]: and by these were the nations [gôy 1471] divided in the earth after the flood” (Gen 10:32). Thus, ‘aḇrāhām is “a father [‘āḇ 1] of many [hāmôn 1995] nations [gôy 1471],” a father of a roar of nations—a father of many nations.

God called what was not, as though it were

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed [committed unto], even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (v. 17). When God changed Abram’s name, Abraham wasn’t yet what he would be—a father of many nations. The fulfillment of this promise wouldn’t happen in his lifetime but God went ahead and changed his name and declared it as though it was already so, “thou shalt be a father of many nations … for a father of many nations have I made thee” (Gen 17:5).

The message Paul was now revealing from this event is that although God’s people were only one nation, His intent all along was that He would be the God of many nations. And although God became the Father of this one nation, “Ye are the children of the LORD your God” (Deu 14:1), He would become the Father of many. Although He was not yet, He would be the Father of many nations. Thus, Abraham, “a father of many nations” was figurative of God—the Father of many nations.

Abraham was figurative of God

God intended Abraham and his son Isaac to be figurative of Himself and His Son Jesus Christ. Paul revealed this truth in detail to the Galatians, “Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman … Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants” (Gal 4:22,24). Unbeknownst to Abraham, his life was playing out by God allegorically of Himself and the two covenants He would later establish—the Old Covenant through Moses, and the New Covenant through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Hagar, Sarah’s servant, was figurative of the Old Covenant law given from mount Sinai, “the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar” (Gal 4:24). This corresponds to all the events that transpired leading up to David ruling as Messiah in Jerusalem, “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth [corresponds] to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” (Gal 4:25).

Sarah, the freewoman, on the other hand, was a type of the New Covenant and Christ’s law. He is the Messiah that will rule from the Jerusalem which will come down from heaven to earth, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” (Rev 21:2), “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal 4:25-26). That Sarah is “the mother of us all” is that she corresponds to everything embodied within the New Covenant. Abraham and Sarah are figuratively the father and mother of God’s children through the New Covenant, while Abraham and Hagar of those trusting in the Old. Although the Jewish people descended from Abraham and Sarah through Isaac, so long as they reject the Son of God and the New Covenant, God deems them children of Abraham and Hagar through Ishmael! It’s only those that submit to His Son that God deems His children by Abraham and Sarah through Isaac.

As Abraham’s son would come out from him, “This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen 15:4), Jesus Christ came out from God: “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth” (Pro 8:24-25); “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace [favor] and truth … No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jhn 1:14,18); “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … he hath not believed [trusted] in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” (Jhn 16:27-28); “God sent his only begotten Son into the world” (1Jo 4:19).

Abraham being told to sacrifice his only begotten son from Sarah, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen 22:2), foretold of God one day sacrificing His only begotten Son. Of course Isaac didn’t actually die that day but his deliverance from death served as a type of resurrection. The writer of Hebrews stated, “By faith [faithfulness] Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb 11:17-19). That Abraham “received him in a figure” correlates with God the Father receiving His Son at His right hand.

Abraham serving figuratively as a type of God diminishes the plausibility of him being an example of belief or faith. Paul even stated earlier, “shall their unbelief [unfaithfulness] make the faith [faithfulness] of God without effect?” (3:3), “Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?” (NIV). Since he was teaching about God’s faithfulness to Abraham, then as a type of God, he was teaching about Abraham’s faithfulness as well. Furthermore, Paul’s teaching about Abraham to the Galatians was also about his faithfulness, “So then they which be of faith [faithfulness] are blessed with faithful [pistos 4103] Abraham” (Gal 3:9). The Greek pistos is an adjective describing Abraham as faithful. Other Bible versions, however, render it incorrectly as a noun or a verb, “Abraham the believer” (NET), “Abraham, the man of faith” (NIV), “believing Abraham” (NKJV). Paul wasn’t talking about him as a man of faith or a believer, but as “faithful Abraham.”

Abraham walked before Him whom he was committed

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed [committed], even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (v. 17). By “before him whom he believed [committed]” (v. 17), Paul was referring to God’s commandment to Abraham at the beginning of Genesis chapter 17, “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1). And Abraham kept this commandment faithfully, “The LORD, before whom I walk” (Gen 24:40), “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk” (Gen 48:15).

Of course “walk” is simply an expression for how Abraham lived before God, and was likely derived from his literal walking through the land, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (Gen 13:17). In faithful obedience to God, he left his home country without knowing his destination, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen 12:1), “And he went on his journeys” (Gen 13:3), “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Heb 11:8). We can only guess what he left behind—comfort, prominence, power, and wealth—to become a nomad roaming from one place to another in tents, “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb 11:8-9). Jacob would later recount his difficult life being short in comparison with his fathers, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:9). For a hundred years in the land, Abraham never owned any of it or even had a house but just lived in tents.

This expression “walk,” Paul will apply to our walk before God later in his letter: “we also should walk [peripateō 4043] in newness of life” (6:4); “who walk [peripateō 4043] not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [breath]” (8:1,4); “Let us walk [peripateō 4043] honestly, as in the day” (13:13); “now walkest [peripateō 4043] thou not charitably” (14:15). It’s also used many more times in the New Testament. The following are just some of many: “For we walk [peripateō 4043] by faith [faithfulness], not by sight” (2Co 5:7); “Walk [peripateō 4043] in the Spirit [breath], and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16); “And walk [peripateō 4043] in love” (Eph 5:2); “That ye might walk [peripateō 4043] worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col 1:10); “That ye would walk [peripateō 4043] worthy of God” (1Th 2:12); “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk [peripateō 4043], even as he walked [peripateō 4043]” (1Jo 2:6); “And this is love, that we walk [peripateō 4043] after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk [peripateō 4043] in it” (2Jo 1:6); “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk [peripateō 4043] in truth” (3Jo 1:4).

The day that was recorded in Genesis chapter 17 was a turning point in Abraham’s life. God told him to “walk before me” (Gen 17:1), because he had been walking before people. His heart hadn’t been right in God’s sight. We know this because a little later when God revealed that his wife Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed at God in his heart, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart” (Gen 17:17). To laugh inside at God while talking with him shows Abraham wasn’t consciously aware of Him knowing his every thought, motive, and imagination. We’ve all been guilty of laughing in our heart at someone while talking with them, yet keeping a straight face to hide it. Of course we can get away with this before people but not before God. This is the difference between walking before people and walking before God, and this is what Paul was teaching in his letter, “whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:29).

Abraham learned that day how he must live to keep the commitment he had made to God, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). To remain committed to God’s way of being right before Him, Abraham would now have to walk before Him with a pure heart. And this is the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8); “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28); “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21); “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Mat 15:19).

To walk “before him whom he believed [committed]” (v. 17), is to be genuine, sincere, and true. Jesus taught that “the hypocrites” (Mat 6:2,5,16) walk before people—they do good things such as giving, praying, and fasting to be seen by them: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them” (Mat 6:1), “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Mat 6:5), “they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast” (Mat 6:16). But those genuinely, sincerely, and truly walking before God, don’t care that people see what they do but only that God sees, “thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4,6,18).

Walking before Him with a pure heart has always been God’s message to us in the Scriptures. Here are just a few of the many statements: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5); “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1Sa 16:7); “whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)” (1Ki 8:39); “serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1Ch 28:9); “I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (Isa 38:3); “But have walked after the imagination of their own heart” (Jer 9:14); “but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart” (Jer 11:8); “which walk in the imagination of their heart” (Jer 13:10); “ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart” (Jer 16:12); “every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart” (Jer 23:17).

Abraham also learned that to “walk before me” (Gen 17:1), he would have to be in unity and agreement with God about everything, including His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. When praying for his nephew Lot’s deliverance, he distinguished the righteous from the wicked, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? … That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge [šāpaṭ 8199] of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:23,25). He agreed with God that the lifestyle of the men in Sodom and Gomorrah was wicked.

The men of Sodom tried to justify their sinful lifestyle by accusing Lot, “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge [šāpaṭ 8199]” (Gen 19:9). But those were simply blame-shifting tactics they wouldn’t have to admit their sinful lifestyle. These men were claiming that their way of life was simply the custom of the land while Lot was a sojourner among them trying to push his own personal convictions and values on them. Furthermore, they accused him of judging them. But this was simply a false accusation and another means of shifting the blame. Lot wasn’t their judge. As Abraham had said, “Shall not the Judge [šāpaṭ 8199] of all the earth do right?” God was their judge and ruled their actions as sinful against Him. Lot simply agreed with God and was delivered from His judgment on those cities.

Nowadays when people say “Don’t judge me” it’s a false accusation and means of deflecting the issue away from themselves and their sin. The truth is that God is our Judge, and we’re either with Him or against Him. We’re not judging anyone but simply agreeing with God’s judgment. Another tactic is that people portray themselves as loving others, while those against sinful actions are supposedly hating others. But it’s just another false accusation to shift blame away from themselves. It’s not loving others to approve of the sinful actions that are tearing apart families, hurting children, and demoralizing the very fabric of humanity God established. It’s those standing for the truth that are truly loving others.

This all goes back to Paul’s earlier point, “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (1:32 NKJV). Paul said that those approving of sinful practices—even though they don’t practice such things themselves—are just as deserving of God’s judgment as those practicing them. They’re not part of the solution but part of the problem. Why do they approve of their practices? Paul will teach later in his letter, “present your bodies a living sacrifice … be not conformed to this world” (12:1,2). People aren’t willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. They agree with sin out of self-preservation, thereby contribute to the spread of depravity in the world. They’re not separate from the world but conformed to it.

Abraham had to become complete

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed [committed unto], even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (v. 17). Abraham’s walk before God included being perfect, “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1). Now, being perfect has nothing to do with absolute perfection like God Himself. Our English word “perfect” isn’t the best means of expressing the intended message. The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached in His Sermon on the Mount is, “Be ye therefore perfect [teleios 5046], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [teleios 5046]” (Mat 5:48). The Greek adjective teleios and its verb form teleioō mean “complete,” “finished,” or “mature.” Jesus used this same word when telling a man how to be complete in what he lacked, “The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect [teleios 5046], go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Mat 19:20-21). And He used it for Himself finishing the work He was sent to do, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish [teleioō 5048] his work” (Jhn 4:34). It carries the idea of completing what’s lacking, or finishing what’s remaining.

When Jesus said “Be ye therefore perfect [teleios 5046], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [teleios 5046]” (Mat 5:48), it was in context of what “the scribes and Pharisees” (Mat 5:20) had been telling God’s people, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (Mat 5:43). But Christ was now telling them, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mat 5:44). What the scribes and Pharisees had been saying about God’s commandment of love wasn’t perfect or complete because it didn’t include loving our enemies. But Jesus defined “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” in its completeness—it’s showing love to everyone the same regardless. It’s complete “even as” God’s love is complete, “Be ye therefore perfect [teleios 5046], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [teleios 5046]” (Mat 5:48). In what way is God’s love complete? He gives the sun and rain to everyone without discrimination, “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat 5:45).

This is what James meant by “Every good gift and every perfect [teleios 5046] gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas 1:17). The Father’s love is complete and without variableness in shining the sun. He doesn’t turn sunlight away from the evil and unjust, leaving their crops in the shadows to wither and die. James calls this the “complete” law, “the perfect [teleios 5046] law of liberty” (Jas 1:25), which he later defines as “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Jas 2:8), The law of “love thy neighbor as thyself” is complete by showing the same love to enemies as with friends like God is shining the sun on the evil and the good.

John taught the same, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected [teleioō 5048]” (1Jo 2:5), “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected [teleioō 5048] in us” (1Jo 4:12), “Herein is our love made perfect [teleioō 5048], that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect [teleios 5046] love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect [teleioō 5048] in love.” (1Jo 4:17-18). Twice John said “God is love” (1Jo 4:8,16), then drew the correspondence “as he is, so are we in this world” (1Jo 4:17). And this is what Jesus taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” We’re going to be judged by the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ’s teaching is so that “our love is made perfect” or complete “that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.” Therefore, if we’re showing the same love to everyone without discrimination or favoritism, we won’t fear the day of judgment, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.”

After he was told to “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1), Abraham became complete in his love by serving strangers passing by, “three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant” (Gen 18:2-3). The great patriarch Abraham didn’t call his own servants to serve them, but served them himself, “Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.” (Gen 18:4-5). He then ran to do these things with help from Sarah and a young man, “And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” (Gen 18:7-8). While these strangers were resting and eating under a shade tree, Abraham stood by as their servant.

Now, some might argue that Abraham knew all along that these three men were angels and therefore gave them this special treatment. However, the writer of Hebrews reminded us to “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). Of course this isn’t necessarily referring to that event with Abraham, yet isn’t ruling it out either. That Abraham didn’t know these three men were angels is evident by Lot not knowing it either. Two of the three came to Sodom later, “And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom” (Gen 18:22), “And there came two angels to Sodom at even” (Gen 19:1). The men of Sodom thought they were men, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night?” (Gen 19:5), and so did Lot, “only unto these men do nothing” (Gen 19:8).

God raises the dead

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed [committed unto], even God, who quickeneth [zōopoieō 2227] the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (v. 17). The Greek verb zōopoieō means “to give life,” “to make alive,” or “to restore to life.” The statement “God, who quickeneth the dead,” refers to two events: giving life to the dead reproductive systems of Abraham and Sarah, “his own body now dead … the deadness of Sara’s womb” (v. 19), and giving life to Isaac, “as good as dead” (Heb 11:12), “raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19).

Abraham had committed himself to God, and these two events in particular tested his commitment. It’s easy to remain committed when everything is under control and going as planned. Abraham wanted an heir, “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (Gen 15:3), and Ishmael fulfilled his hope. Abraham was satisfied and content at that point. However, his hope was now being redirected which required him to trust God, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5). God created all life and all reproductive systems. Therefore, God and only God can restore reproductive systems and raise the dead back to life. For Abraham to continue being deemed right before God and to have the heir he desired, he would now have to trust God to do what only God could do.

Against his hope of Ishmael, he committed his hope to Isaac

“Who against hope believed [committed] in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (v. 18). God promised to Abraham, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir … So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:4,5), and Abraham committed himself to what God promised, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Of course he then considered this promise to have been fulfilled in Ishmael coming from out of his own bowels through Hagar, “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael” (Gen 16:15). But God’s promise “So shall thy seed be,” was intended all along to be fulfilled in a son coming from out of his own bowels through his wife Sarah, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her” (Gen 17:16).

Turning his hope of an heir away from Ishmael to a son he would have from Sarah wasn’t going to be easy. It’s easy to stay committed when everything is going well, but true commitment is tested when the going gets rough. Being committed to this new hope couldn’t be done secretly but had to be openly before the world. Abraham and all the men of his house had to be circumcised as a sign or token of his commitment before God, “And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him” (Gen 17:27). No doubt Abraham became the laughingstock of the land wherever he went. Everyone knew he was now committed to the impossibility of having a son from Sarah—being 100 himself and her 90 having never bore a child even when she was young. It took humility for him to become the object of ridicule.

Abraham and Sarah both had to learn to change what they had been saying to themselves in their hearts, “Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart” (Gen 17:17), “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying” (Gen 18:12). And this is the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached. In just one chapter of Scripture from Luke, Christ said several times, “take ye no thought” (Luk 12:11), “he thought within himself, saying … And I will say to my soul” (Luk 12:17,19), “Take no thought for your life … which of you with taking thought” (Luk 12:22,25), “But and if that servant say in his heart” (Luk 12:45). We all talk to ourselves in our hearts, and of course God hears every bit of it. To “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5), we must change what we’ve been saying to ourselves in our hearts. We can’t be planning our financial future, trying to figure out solutions to our petty problems, or thinking evil thoughts to ourselves about others.

Paul will state later in his letter, “Say not in thine heart” (10:6), then quote from Deuteronomy 30:12-14. Moses’ last words to Israel in Deuteronomy, “These be the words” (Deu 1:1), can be summarized in the First and Great Commandment, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deu 6:4-5). And loving God with all our hearts consists of what we’re saying to ourselves in our hearts: “If thou shalt say in thine heart” (Deu 7:17); “And thou say in thine heart” (Deu 8:17); “Speak not thou in thine heart” (Deu 9:4); “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying” (Deu 15:9); “he bless himself in his heart, saying” (Deu 29:19).

Abraham had a rude awakening when after secretly laughing at God in his heart, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart” (Gen 17:17), found out that it wasn’t secret to God at all. This was just one of many things he found, “Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (v. 1). God’s response, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac [yiṣḥāq 3327]” (Gen 17:19), startled Abraham with the reality that God knew he didn’t trust His ability to do what He had just said. God’s reply assured Abraham that he truly would have a son from Sarah, and that he must name him after his own action of laughter. The Hebrew word yiṣḥāq means “he laughs.” Therefore, him becoming “a father of many nations,” could only come through “he laughs,” the name of his son in fulfillment of God’s promise. Every night for many years he had been looking toward heaven and telling the stars that his heir would be like them, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:5). And once his heir finally came, every time he called him by name, he would be calling him after his own action of laughter.

Like Abraham, God’s people must change their hope

“Who against hope believed [committed] in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (v. 18). Abraham’s two sons were figurative of the Old and New Covenants to come, “But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants” (Gal 4:23-24). That Abraham “against hope believed [committed] in hope,” is that he turned away his hope of Ishmael being his heir, and committed his hope of an heir from Sarah. And the message to God’s people is contained in these events allegorically—they must turn their hope away from the Old Covenant, and to the New Covenant through God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Moses prophesied of a particular unfaithful generation of God’s people, “They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation” (Deu 32:5), “I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith [faithfulness]” (Deu 32:20). It was the generation that personally witnessed and rejected God’s own Son, “O faithless [unfaithful] and perverse generation” (Mat 17:17; Luk 9:41), “O faithless [unfaithful] generation” (Mar 9:19). Had they been committed and faithful to God as Abraham was, upon hearing the Son of God Himself and witnessing His miracles, they would have turned their hope away from Ishmael (the Old Covenant) and to Isaac (the New Covenant).

Many times Jesus Christ derided that generation: “But whereunto shall I liken this generation?” (Mat 11:16); “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Mat 12:39); “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it … The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it” (Mat 12:41,42); “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Mat 16:4); “All these things shall come upon this generation” (Mat 23:36); “Why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mar 8:12); “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mar 8:38); “Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation?” (Luk 7:31); “This is an evil generation: they seek a sign” (Luk 11:29); “For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation” (Luk 11:30); “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation … The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation” (Luk 11:31,32); “That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation … It shall be required of this generation” (Luk 11:50,51); “But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation” (Luk 17:25).

It was because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people that Jesus couldn’t do miraculous works in some places, “And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief [ufaithfulness]” (Mar 6:5-6). But when Jesus did heal people, it was in response to their faithfulness: “I have not found so great faith [faithfulness], no, not in Israel” (Mat 8:10); “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith [faithfulness] said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mat 9:2); “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith [faithfulness] hath made thee whole” (Mat 9:22); “Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith [faithfulness] be it unto you” (Mat 9:29); “O woman, great is thy faith [faithfulness]: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Mat 15:28).

Abraham wasn’t weak but strong in his commitment

“And being not weak in faith [commitment, faithfulness], he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered [diakrinō 1252] not at the promise of God through unbelief [unfaithfulness]; but was strong in faith [commitment, faithfulness], giving glory to God” (vs. 19-20). Paul now teaches that Abraham wasn’t weak in his commitment to God but was strongly committed to Him. It’s strong commitment that glorifies God—being committed and submitted to Him as the God of our lives.

God told Abraham that He would be his God, and the God of His seed that would come after him, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:7-8). He said to Abraham, “to be a God unto thee” (Gen 17:7); to Isaac, “I am the God of Abraham thy father” (Gen 26:24); to Jacob, “I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac” (Gen 28:13); to Moses, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exo 3:6); to His people, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exo 20:2).

As the God of Abraham’s seed, “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee … I will be their God” (Gen 17:7,8), they could have no other gods before Him: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3; Deu 5:7); “make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth” (Exo 23:13); “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish” (Deu 8:19); “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them” (Deu 11:16); “And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (Deu 28:14); “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish” (Deu 30:17-18).

The only gospel message by which we’re saved is the message God preached to Abraham, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen [ethnos 1484] through faith [commitment, faithfulness], preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations [ethnos 1484] be blessed” (Gal 3:8). It’s the message that the God of Abraham’s seed, “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee … I will be their God” (Gen 17:7,8), would be the God of all people through Christ, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed” (Gal 3:29). Salvation is ultimately about the one true God being the God of our lives, which was true of God’s people under the Old Covenant and also of His people under the New.: “I will be their God” (Gen 17:8; Jer 24:7, 31:33, 32:38; Eze 11:20, 36:28, 37:23,27; Zec 8:8); “I will be their God” (2Co 6:16); “I will be to them a God” (Heb 8:10); “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16); “they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3); “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev 21:7).

Now that the New Covenant has come, it’s only those submitted to God’s Son that are His people. If we’re obeying the commandments of His Son Jesus Christ and living by the truth He taught, then we can trust God to provide, protect, defend, and save us from sin and death. The Jewish people want to submit to the true God as their God but don’t want His Son as their Savior. Gentiles, on the other hand, want God’s Son as their Savior but don’t want to submit to the true God as their God. However, God is only our God when we submit to His Son, and His Son is our Savior only when His God is our God. It’s because “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3) is Jesus Christ’s God, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17), that submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord doesn’t break God’s commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3; Deu 5:7). For God to be our God, His Son’s God must be our God, and God’s Son must be our Lord.

Faithfulness pleases God

The writer of Hebrews taught, “But without faith [commitment, faithfulness] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe [commit] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6). What pleases God is being committed and faithful to Him—this is what Hebrews chapter 11 is all about, “Now faith [commitment, faithfulness] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report [martyreō 3140]” (Heb 11:1-2). The Greek verb martyreō is “to bear record,” “to report,” “to testify,” or “to witness” something. It’s by faithfulness to God that the elders or forefathers obtained a good report, testimony, or witness from God Himself that they pleased Him: “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness [martyreō 3140] that he was righteous, God testifying [martyreō 3140] of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb 11:4), “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony [martyreō 3140], that he pleased God” (Heb 11:5). By recording these events in the Scriptures, God bore witnessed that what pleased Him was their faithfulness to Him.

It wasn’t just Abel and Enoch that pleased God by their faithfulness, but everyone listed in this chapter: “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Noah” (Heb 11:7); “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abraham” (Heb 11:8); “Through faith [commitment, faithfulness] also Sarah” (Heb 11:11); “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Isaac” (Heb 11:20); “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Jacob” (Heb 11:21); “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Joseph” (Heb 11:22); “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Moses” (Heb 11:23). “And these all, having obtained a good report [martyreō 3140] through faith [commitment, faithfulness]” (Heb 11:39).

When he said “for he that cometh to God must believe [commit] that he is” (Heb 11:6), it’s that we must commit to Him as our God. When we’re not ashamed of Him as our God, upholding our commitment in faithfulness to Him, then He is not ashamed to be called our God, “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16). This is what Abraham did, “Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (v. 3), “And being not weak in faith [commitment, faithfulness], … but was strong in faith [commitment, faithfulness], giving glory to God” (vs. 19,20), “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith [commitment, faithfulness] he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Heb 11:8-9).

“But without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe [commit] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6). Abraham lifted up his hand to the Lord in commitment to Him, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen 14:22), “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). And the Lord declared that He would be his protector and provider, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). Abraham was now committed to seeking reward from God by faithfulness to Him, “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6), “By faith [faithfulness] Abraham” (Heb 11:8).

This is the gospel message Paul preached, and what he taught to the Romans, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (2:6-7), “In the day when God shall judge the secrets [kryptos 2927] of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (2:16), “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly [kryptos 2927]; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:29). That “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” is that He “will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]; To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek.” Those that diligently seek reward from Him, He will render to them. And this is the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself taught: “That thine alms may be in secret [kryptos 2927]: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4); “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret [kryptos 2927]; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:6); “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret [kryptos 2927]: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:18).

When the true God is truly our God, we diligently seek reward from Him only. We sincerely don’t care if anyone but God sees the good actions we’re doing because we don’t want reward from people but from God. This is what Abraham found, “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (v. 1). He learned that God was glorified and pleased by him remaining strongly committed to Him as his God, “And being not weak in faith [commitment, faithfulness] … but was strong in faith [commitment, faithfulness], giving glory to God.”

Abraham didn’t contend with God

“He staggered [diakrinō 1252] not at the promise of God through unbelief [unfaithfulness]; but was strong in faith [commitment, faithfulness], giving glory to God” (v. 20). The Greek verb diakrinō means “to argue with” or “to contend with” as in, “And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [diakrinō 1252] with him” (Act 11:2), “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending [diakrinō 1252] with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses” (Jde 1:9). Paul was recounting Abraham’s response to hearing God’s promise that his wife Sarah would have a son, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her” (Gen 17:16), that initially he did contend with God, “And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:18). He didn’t want to forsake his comfortable and convenient hope in Ishmael to begin hoping for something he didn’t even think was possible, plus bring him public ridicule in the process. However, he stopped contending and quickly submitted by being circumcised later that same day, “In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son” (Gen 17:26).

James taught that those contending with God are like a wave of the sea, driven up and down, and one way or another, by the wind, “But let him ask in faith [faithfulness], nothing wavering [diakrinō 1252]. For he that wavereth [diakrinō 1252] is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded [dipsychos 1374] man is unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:6-8). They’re not strongly committed to God but unstable, vacillating, and wavering.

James depicted them as “double minded” because their minds aren’t fully committed to God in agreement with Him. The Greek adjective dipsychos is derived from the adverb dis for “two” and noun psychē for “life” or “soul.” It’s literally someone living a double-life, a hypocrite! They’re pretenders—appearing to be in unity with God while actually disagreeing with Him.

This word is found only one other place in Scripture and it’s later in James’ letter, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded [dipsychos 1374]” (Jas 4:8). Their hearts aren’t pure. Jesus Christ Himself taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8). And He described hypocrites: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites” (Mat 6:2); “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites” (Mat 6:5); “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites” (Mat 6:16). Hypocrites have impure motives in their hearts for the good things they do. They do good, not because they truly love God and people, but because they want some form of glory for themselves.

Those living a double-life, hypocrites, appear to be right with God—agreeing with Him, obeying Him, and submitting to Him. However, they’re actually uncommitted, unstable, and wavering. They’re contentious. They have a divisive spirit about them and argue with others because they argue with God! They’re not broken in breath, fearing God and what He said: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit [breath]” (Psa 34:18); “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit [breath]: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:17); “Better it is to be of an humble spirit [breath] with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Pro 16:19); “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit [breath]” (Pro 29:23); “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit [breath], to revive the spirit [breath] of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa 57:15); “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit [breath], and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2); “Blessed are the poor in spirit [breath]: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:3).

The Son of God on this earth was in complete and perfect unity with His Father. Contending with God’s Son is tantamount to contending with God Himself because everything His Son said is what He had been sent by His Father to say. His words are God’s words. Therefore, anyone contending with anything the Son of God taught, doesn’t have God, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2Jo 1:9). Trinitarian ministers teaching co-equality between the Father and the Son, are contending with what the Son of God taught about God and about Himself. And John said that anyone transgressing the teaching of Christ doesn’t have God.

To be right with God like Abraham was, we must be strongly committed to God like Abraham was, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). We can’t contend or argue with God and still be right with Him. And Abraham didn’t just come to agreement with God about his heir but about everything God told him, including His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham didn’t contend with God about sin but agreed with Him. He acknowledged that his nephew Lot was living righteously while the homosexuals among whom he dwelt were living wickedly, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23), “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). Peter said the same, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)” (2Pe 2:7-8). And Abraham wasn’t their judge, God is, “the Judge of all the earth.” To be right with God, we must be in unity with His judgment upon the wicked.

Laying with the same-sex and cross-dressing are abominations to God: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Lev 18:22); “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev 20:13); “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deu 22:5). Since these things are “abomination unto the LORD thy God,” then to be our God, these things must also be an abomination to us.

It’s because Abraham was living righteously before God in faithfulness and agreement with Him, that God answered his prayers, “So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children” (Gen 20:17). This is what Jesus Christ Himself taught, “If ye have faith [commitment, faithfulness], and doubt [diakrinō 1252] not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing [committing], ye shall receive.” (Mat 21:21-22). And this is what James taught, “But let him ask in faith [commitment, faithfulness], nothing wavering [diakrinō 1252]. For he that wavereth [diakrinō 1252] is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (Jas 1:6-7). Like Abraham, “He staggered [diakrinō 1252] not at the promise of God through unbelief [unfaithfulness]; but was strong in faith [commitment, faithfulness], giving glory to God” (v. 20), when we’re committed and faithful to God, not contending with Him about anything but agreeing with Him about everything, we’re glorifying Him, and He will hear and answer our prayers.

Sarah became committed

Abraham’s wife Sarah was very beautiful, “Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon … the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair” (Gen 12:11,14). It was because of her beauty that Abraham felt compelled to pose as brother and sister wherever they went, “Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.” (Gen 12:12-13). And this was ultimately for her sake not his because if he was killed, she would be taken by someone else.

It wasn’t just her own natural beauty that was causing them problems but also that she was doing them no favors by adorning herself outwardly, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel … Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1Pe 3:3,6). She liked getting attention for her beauty, therefore she focused on her outward appearance before people. But things began to turn after she was caught laughing in her heart at God then lying about it, “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? … Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh” (Gen 18:12,15). This was the beginning of learning her priority—that it shouldn’t be her outward appearance before people but her heart inwardly before God, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit [breath], which is in the sight of God of great price” (1Pe 3:3-4).

Sarah finally listened to Abimelech, King of Gerar. When Abraham and Sarah came to Gerar, they once again posed as brother and sister, “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah” (Gen 20:2). But God told Abimelech the truth, “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife” (Gen 20:3). Abimelech later exhorted Sarah, “Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved” (Gen 20:16). That Abraham “is to thee a covering of the eyes” is that since he is her husband, other men shouldn’t be looking at her. She wasn’t to be adorned in any way that tempted other men’s eyes but to be properly covered. She repented and committed her priority to “adorning” her heart before God’s eyes. And soon after that, she became pregnant with Isaac.

Abraham deemed God as able

“And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able [dynatos 1415] also to perform” (v. 21). Abraham initially laughed at the promise because he didn’t think God was able to give him a son from his wife Sarah, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart” (Gen 17:17). And Sarah later laughed as well, “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Gen 18:12). But God reprimanded them, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Gen 18:14).

Abraham eventually deemed God as able to open Sarah’s womb and give them a son in their old age, “he was able [dynatos 1415] also to perform.” Likely one thing that helped convince him was that God demonstrated His ability to close and open the wombs of every young lady in Abimelech’s house, “So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.” (Gen 20:17-18). Furthermore, years later Abraham also deemed God as able to save his son Isaac from death, “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abraham … Accounting [logizomai 3049] that God was able [dynatos 1415] to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Heb 11:19).

God continued to deem Abraham as righteous

“And therefore it was imputed [deemed] to him for righteousness” (v. 22). At this point late in the chapter, Paul draws his conclusion from the Scripture he quoted toward the beginning of the chapter, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was counted [deemed] unto him for righteousness” (v. 3). Although this statement about Abraham being deemed was recorded in Genesis 15 when God promised him an heir from his own bowels, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir … And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:4,6), Paul concluded his deeming based on his committed actions recorded after Genesis 17. It was in Genesis 17 that Abraham was told Sarah would bear his heir, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her … Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed” (Gen 17:16,19). And Paul concluded his deeming based on his committed trust in God’s ability to fulfill it, “he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb … And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed [deemed] to him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:19,21-22). Therefore, Abraham being deemed righteous by God wasn’t a “one-and-done” event but continued—God continued to deem Abraham righteous as he continued in his commitment.

James concluded similarly as Paul. He cited the event of Abraham offering his son Isaac in Genesis 22, and declared it as the fulfillment of the Scripture recorded back in Genesis 15, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works [actions], when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? … And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was imputed [deemed] unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:21,23). That “the scripture was fulfilled” isn’t in the sense of a prophecy being fulfilled. It’s that Abraham’s actions in Genesis 22 was the fruit of the commitment he made to God back in Genesis 15. Because he made that commitment to God back then, he remained faithful to God in obeying whatever he was told, “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18). That he was “justified by works [actions]” is that his continued committed actions justified what had been said of him, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6).

God had promised Abraham, “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir … Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:4-5). And it was with the purpose of realizing this promise that Abraham committed himself to God, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). But keeping his commitment wouldn’t be easy. He had to patiently endure for many years until the greatest and final test of his commitment, “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [test] Abraham” (Gen 22:1). Therefore, Abraham’s commitment to the promise of his seed being innumerable like the stars, “the stars, if thou be able to number them … So shall thy seed be,” was proven in this final test, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:17-18).

God’s promise “So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:5), depended upon Abraham keeping his commitment to God, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD” (Gen 15:6). And because he stayed faithful to his commitment through this greatest test, God’s promise from this point forward would depend upon His commitment to Abraham, “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only sonbecause thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:16,18). Because Abraham remained faithful to God, God now swore His faithfulness to Abraham. And as Abraham didn’t withhold his son but gave him to God, God wouldn’t withhold His Son but would give Him to Abraham.

Abraham being deemed righteous by God wasn’t one-time event. He wasn’t deemed righteous simply by declaring his commitment but by continuing to keep his commitment he had declared. As long as he continued to be faithful to God, God continued to deem him righteous. Hypothetically, what would have happened had Abraham failed the greatest test of his commitment in Genesis 22? Should we suppose God would have told him, “That’s okay, it was only a test. No big deal!” Of course not! It’s understood that at any point had Abraham ceased from his commitment to God, God would have ceased from deeming Abraham as righteous before Him.

God giving His Son, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jhn 3:16), depended upon Abraham’s obedience in giving his son, “because thou hast done this thing … because thou hast obeyed my voice.”. Had Abraham disobeyed, then nobody including Abraham would be saved. Abraham’s salvation depended upon staying committed, faithful, and obedient to God, and so does ours.

It was written for us also

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed [deemed] to him” (v. 23). What was written about Abraham, “And he believed [committed] in the LORD; and he counted [deemed] it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6), wasn’t so that we could say, “What a lucky guy!” It was written to teach us about how he was deemed righteous so we can follow his example and also be deemed righteous. Paul will state later in his letter, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (15:4).

Abraham being deemed righteous by God certainly involved him having faith and believing. But what was written about him for our learning was his commitment, faithfulness, fear of God, obedience, submission, and trust. And his commitment and faithfulness to God was proved and tested, “God did tempt [nāsâ 5254] Abraham” (Gen 22:1). God’s people, Abraham’s seed, were deemed righteous in the same way and were also proved or tested many times: “And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved [nāsâ 5254] them” (Exo 15:25); “Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove [nāsâ 5254] them, whether they will walk in my law, or no” (Exo 16:4); “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove [nāsâ 5254] you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exo 20:20); “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove [nāsâ 5254] thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deu 8:2); “Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove [nāsâ 5254] thee, to do thee good at thy latter end” (Deu 8:16).

James taught that our actions show our commitment and faithfulness to God, “Thou hast faith [commitment, faithfulness], and I have works [actions]: shew me thy faith [commitment, faithfulness] without thy works [actions], and I will shew thee my faith [commitment, faithfulness] by my works [actions]” (Jas 2:18). We have a saying nowadays along this same principle, “What you’re doing speaks so loudly that I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” It’s our actions—what we do and how we live—that show whether or not we’re truly committed to someone or something.

James’ prime example of actions are Abraham’s actions that day when God tested his commitment and faithfulness to Him, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works [actions], when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (Jas 2:21). Having passed the test by obeying what God told him to do, the Messenger of the Lord said, “for now I know that thou fearest God” (Gen 22:12), “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18). His obedient actions showed that he truly feared God.

This is what “justified by works [actions]” means. That “the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was imputed [deemed] unto him for righteousness” (Jas 2:23), is that what had been said of Abraham in Genesis 15 was justified in having been proved by Abraham’s actions in Genesis 22. It’s not that it was a fulfilled prophecy of what would happen in the future, but that it was justified in having been said of him because his later actions proved it out. He was “justified by works [actions]” in that his actions justified God deeming him righteous.

Although James’ prime example of actions was the great father of God’s people Abraham, his other example was the lowly Gentile prostitute Rahab, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works [actions], when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (Jas 2:25).

I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:9-11)

Abraham’s actions proved that he feared God, “for now I know that thou fearest God” (Gen 22:12), and so did Rahab’s. Although everyone in the land fainted in terror 40 years earlier upon hearing what God did for His people, but only Rahab acted upon that fear to save herself and her household. She feared God more than the King of Jericho, therefore allied herself with God’s people.

Like Abraham, Rahab was also “justified by works [actions]” because she feared God and acted accordingly. But unlike Abraham, nothing was said about her committing herself to God and therefore being deemed righteous by Him. This indicates that it’s committed actions that justifies. It’s not the pledge of commitment but the act of commitment.

Both Abraham and Rahab are also commended in Hebrews for their commitment and faithfulness to God, “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb 11:17), “By faith [commitment, faithfulness] the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed [committed] not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb 11:31). It was because of their committed and faithful actions that they received a good report from God recorded in the Scriptures, “Now faith [commitment, faithfulness] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report” (Heb 11:1-2). Their actions gave substance or reality to what they hoped for. Abraham hoped for an heir, and his hope was realized by trusting God to “raise from the dead” his heir—raise Isaac to life from their dead reproductive systems, raise Isaac to life from the altar of sacrifice. Rahab hoped she wouldn’t perish with everyone else in Jericho, and her hope was also realized by trusting God through helping His people conquer Jericho.

Our commitment and faithfulness will also be tested

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed [deemed] to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed [deemed], if we believe [commit, trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 23-24). God deemed Abraham righteous because he committed himself to Him. His commitment, however, had to be proved, “God did tempt [nāsâ 5254] Abraham” (Gen 22:1). And the same was true with God’s people: “there he proved [nāsâ 5254] them” (Exo 15:25); “that I may prove [nāsâ 5254] them” (Exo 16:4); “God is come to prove [nāsâ 5254] you” (Exo 20:20); “to prove [nāsâ 5254] thee” (Deu 8:2); “that he might prove [nāsâ 5254] thee” (Deu 8:16). And the same will be proved of us, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith [commitment, faithfulness] worketh patience” (Jas 1:2-3), “That the trial of your faith [commitment, faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (1Pe 1:6-7). God will prove, test, and try our commitment and faithfulness to Him.

God proving His people and recording those events in the Scriptures are examples for our learning and warning, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted … Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition” (1Co 10:6,11). But Paul assured us that God won’t allow us to be tempted or tested beyond what we can handle, but will also provide a way out of it, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1Co 10:13). The Worldwide English version presents an interesting paraphrase, “No testing has come to you that other people do not have. But God will not fail you. He will not allow the testing to be too hard for you. No. When the testing comes, God will make a way out for you, so that you can go through the testing.” (Taken from THE JESUS BOOK – The Bible in Worldwide English. Copyright SOON Educational Publications, Derby DE65 6BN, UK.).

Job lived around the same time as Abraham, and we get a glimpse into God’s protection of him, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (Job 1:12), “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life” (Job 2:6). God doesn’t tempt anyone, “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (Jas 1:13). Satan is the tempter. God allows but limits Satan’s evil activity in our lives to what we can bear. In Job’s case, God limited what was brought upon him, “only upon himself,” “but save his life.” In allowing but limiting temptations, it proves our commitment and faithfulness to Him, and also leaves us without excuse. We can never legitimately claim that we sinned because we just couldn’t handle the temptation. We’re always able to bear because God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.”

The great test of Abraham’s commitment and faithfulness to God recorded in Genesis 22 came after many years of walking with God. Abraham wouldn’t have been able to endure such a great test years earlier. Likewise, when we pass smaller tests, God will allow greater tests. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luk 16:10). It’s by proving ourselves faithful in lesser things that we’re trusted with being faithful in greater things.

The promise God swore by Himself came after Abraham had patiently endured for about 25 years, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (Heb 6:13-15). And we must follow his example of patient endurance, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith [commitment, faithfulness] and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). Jacob declared that his life on this earth had been a pilgrimage full of evil, “And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:9). And the years of his patient endurance through this life weren’t as many as his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. They all patiently endured.

To be deemed righteous by God as Abraham was, our commitment and faithfulness to God must be proved and tested like his was. Are we going to stay committed to God even when we’re all alone, things are going all wrong, and it seems He isn’t there and doesn’t even care? Are we going to try and do things ourselves as god of our own lives, or trust Him to be the God of our lives? Are we going to keep enduring day after day through the evil, and when it seems we’re not accomplishing anything? It can get wearisome through continually doing good and seemingly getting no reward for it. But this is the constricted and afflicted way to eternal life, “Because strait [constricted] is the gate, and narrow [afflicted] is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat 7:14), “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (2:7).

Abraham was called the friend of God

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [committed unto] God, and it was imputed [deemed] unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend [philos 5384] of God” (Jas 2:23). Abraham “was called the Friend [philos 5384] of God” by God Himself, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend” (Isa 41:8). It ultimately matters not that we call ourselves God’s friend but that He calls us His friend. The adjective philos means “friend” as with the adjective philadelphos for “friendly brother” or “loving brother” used only this once in Scripture, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren [philadelphos 5361], be pitiful, be courteous” (1Pe 3:8). To be “of one mind” as a “loving brother” is to be in agreement and unity. Therefore, to be God’s friend we must be in agreement and unity with Him, and not in contention with Him about anything.

James used philos and its noun form philia later in his letter, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship [philia 5373] of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend [philos 5384] of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). He made the clear distinction with no gray area whatsoever that if we’re a friend of the world, then we’re God’s enemy. And he used the Greek verb epithymeō for the actions of those that are friends of the world, “Ye lust [epithymeō 1937], and have not” (Jas 4:2). Christ used this word when commanding against immoral lust in the heart, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after [epithymeō 1937] her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28), and Paul used it when quoting the Tenth Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet [epithymeō 1937]” (Rom 7:7,13:9).

To be called “My friend” by God as Abraham was, we must not be friends with the world. We must not covet or lust after anything that belongs to others, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exo 20:17). Paul taught that this is accomplished by walking in the breath, “Walk in the Spirit [breath], and ye shall not fulfil the lust [epithymia 1939] of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth [epithymeō 1937] against the Spirit [breath], and the Spirit [breath] against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:16-17). The breath of God and the flesh are diametrically opposed. And the only way to overcome the flesh is by walking in the breath. When we focus on being a friend of God by always doing what pleases Him, we won’t be lusting after the things of this world and won’t be His enemy.

Commit to Him that raised Jesus from the dead

“But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed [deemed], if we believe [commit, trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (v. 24). Paul will later write, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [commit, trust] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (10:9). The gospel message being preached today, on the other hand, is that if we’ll simply believe Christ’s resurrection happened as an actual event in history, we’ll be saved. And because of that message, innumerable numbers of sermons, books, and debates have been directed at giving solid evidence for Christ’s resurrection as the basis for faith and belief. Now, all of that evidence is certainly a good thing! But Paul wasn’t teaching that we’re saved by simply believing Christ is alive, but by committing ourselves to God that raised Him to life. Just believing some facts are true doesn’t save us—committing ourselves to God does.

Peter said, “Who by him do believe [commit, trust] in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith [commitment, faithfulness] and hope might be in God” (1Pe 1:21). We must commit our trust in God to raise us from the dead as Christ Himself trusted God to raise Him from the dead. Paul quoted a prophecy from the Psalms, “I believed [committed, trusted], therefore have I spoken” (Psa 116:10), “We having the same spirit [breath] of faith [commitment, faithfulness], according as it is written, I believed [committed, trusted], and therefore have I spoken; we also believe [commit, trust], and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2Co 4:13-14). Christ committed Himself to His Father, trusting His Father to raise Him from the dead. Therefore, He spoke in His dying words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit [breath]: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost [exhaled]” (Luk 23:46). As Christ spoke, committing His breath to His Father, we also speak, committing our breath to God’s Son, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit [breath]” (Act 7:59).

Christ never tried to defend Himself but stayed quiet, committing His defense to God, “Who, when he was reviled, revlied not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe 2:23). To be raised from the dead unto eternal life, we must commit ourselves to God as Christ committed Himself to God. It’s not just believing Christ was raised but committing our trust in God to raise us as He was raised, “if we believe [commit, trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

He was delivered for our offences

“Who was delivered [paradidōmi 3860] for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (v. 25). The Greek verb paradidōmi means “to deliver” or “to give over into.” Judas Iscariot delivered Christ to the chief priests, “And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray [paradidōmi 3860] him unto them” (Mar 14:10). The chief priests delivered Christ to Pilate, “And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered [paradidōmi 3860] him to Pilate” (Mar 15:1). Pilate then delivered Christ to the soldiers to crucify Him, “And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered [paradidōmi 3860] Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (Mar 15:15). But Christ actually delivered Himself to them, “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave [paradidōmi 3860] himself for me” (Gal 2:20), “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given [paradidōmi 3860] himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). Ultimately, God delivered Him, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up [paradidōmi 3860] for us all” (8:32).

That Christ was delivered implies a sacrifice. Nobody took His life from Him but He laid it down willingly of Himself, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (Jhn 10:17,18). He sacrificed Himself for our sins: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5); “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6); “for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isa 53:8); “for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11); “he bare the sin of many” (Isa 53:12); “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28); “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mat 26:28); “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jhn 1:29); “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb 9:28); “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pe 2:24); “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust” (1Pe 3:18); “he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (1Jo 3:5).

Raised for our justification

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (v. 25). Christ went to His death on the cross as the Lamb of God for our sins. His resurrection, however, was “for our justification.” Paul will write later, “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again” (8:33-34). He was alluding to Isaiah’s prophecy, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting … He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.” (Isa 50:6,8). Christ trusted God to justify Him from the miscarriage of justice He endured. As Peter also wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps … Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe 2:21,23). He committed Himself to God for justification from the false accusations railed against Him that condemned Him to death.

The stripes on His back, the plucking of His beard, the hitting and spitting on His face, was an example to us, “leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” That He was “raised again for our justification” (v. 25), is that His resurrection is the prototype of ours. We must also commit our trust in Him to raise us from the dead, “believe [commit, trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” After Christ’s example, we must allow ourselves to be falsely accused, mocked, and even physically harmed while not trying to defend ourselves but loving our persecutors—forgiving them as Christ did, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luk 23:34). We must trust our Father to justify us by submitting to His Son.

Commit on the Name of the Son of God

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe [commit] on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1Jo 3:22-23). To commit on the name of Jesus Christ is to be committed to everything invested in His name—all He commanded, all He taught, and all He lived and died for. And to “love one another, as he gave us commandment” is to love by the standard He defined, “Love your enemies” (Mat 5:44), “But love ye your enemies” (Luk 6:35).

Let’s try to imagine ourselves from God’s perspective for a moment. Your only begotten Son is most loved of You far above all else. But You also love the world so much that You willingly gave Your Son for their sins. You watched as He was horribly mistreated, shamed, and crucified. But You raised Him from the dead and seated Him next to You on Your throne. You gave Him all authority in heaven and in earth, and the name above all names. All You now demand of the world is commitment to Your Son—obey Him, be unashamed of Him and his words, and willingly suffer for His glory. However, people snub Him, disobey Him, and won’t stand for the things He lived and died for yet still expect You to save them! After shunning Your great love for them, they now want Your help but on their terms. How would you feel?

I watched a documentary recently about a Jewish woman who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War 2. She was 13 years old at the time and one of six children along with her father and mother. On the train to the camp she said her father prayed, and prayed, and prayed. But shortly after arrival her entire family had been executed except for her and her younger sister. Why wouldn’t God answer her father’s prayers? Could it be that he had snubbed God’s Son all his life yet now was crying to Him for help? The suffering of the precious people in those camps was absolutely horrible. Why wouldn’t God hear them crying to Him? In the Old Testament, when God’s people wouldn’t listen to Him, He wouldn’t listen to them: “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day” (1Sa 8:18); “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jer 11:14); “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Eze 8:18); “Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings” (Mic 3:4).

Jesus declared, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luk 9:26). And His words on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34). Trinitarians, however, confess that the Son is co-equal with His Father, denying His own words that God is His God. They deny His very words while dying for their sins! I was a Trinitarian for about 30 years, and have visited with many of them since, yet every one so far rejects His words on the cross. They want His cross but not His words.

John said, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him,” but only when we’re committed to His Son’s name and when we’re loving each other in the manner He commanded. If we’ll listen to God’s Son, He will listen to us. But if we won’t listen to Him, why should He listen to us? He subjected His Son to terrible shame, pain, and suffering for us. When we reject the greatest gift He could give, why should He give any more? How can He give any more?

People ask God why it is He is nowhere to be found through all their difficulties, and why He seems to not care. But maybe a better question is to ask ourselves why we won’t listen to His Son? We listen when it’s convenient, comfortable, and beneficial, but when we must be shamed for Him, it seems we become ashamed of Him.

If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. Just reflect for a moment on all the horrible evil, abuse, pain, misery, and suffering in the world right now. If we’re not committed to the name of the Son of God in agreement, obedience, and submission to everything He said, then we’re not part of the solution but part of the problem. We’re ultimately contributing to the evil in this world and helping make things worse! And if we’re making things worse by working against His Son rather than with Him, why should God help us when we’re in trouble? Why should He listen to us when we wouldn’t listen to Him? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth [commits] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jhn 3:16).