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.

Romans Chapter Three

Overview

In “Romans Chapter One” I showed how that the Greek pistis doesn’t mean “faith” but “faithfulness” which is proven by Paul’s quote from Habakkuk, “The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102]” (1:17), “the just shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4), “live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “live by his faithfulness” (NIV). Therefore, “the righteousness of God which is by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ,” isn’t about our faith at all, but about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (NET).

In “Romans Chapter Two” I defined the two main distinctions within the law of Moses as the moral righteousness of the law, and the non-moral actions of the law. The non-moral actions of the law are the special ordinances God imposed upon His people by circumcision: abstinence from unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath and other holy days, observing the annual feasts, tithing to the priests, and offering animal sacrifices. Because these two main distinctions aren’t being distinguished but are being conflated as simply the moral righteousness of the law, therefore it’s being taught today that God’s righteousness isn’t by morally righteous living, but simply by believing or having faith! Therefore, all of the Scriptures about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness have been translated to sound like it’s our faith rather than His faithfulness.

Here in “Romans Chapter Three” Paul is going to explain the purpose of the law and its place in God’s overall purpose of His Son Jesus Christ. Specifically, he is going to contrast the actions of the Levitical priests in sacrificing animals with the faithfulness of God’s Son in sacrificing Himself. But this message, however, is obscured by the mistranslation of his statement, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [hilastērion 2435] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood” (v. 25). The Greek hilastērion appears only one other time in the New Testament, “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat [hilastērion 2435]” (Heb 9:5). It’s the mercy seat in the holiest place of the Tabernacle where the high priest would enter only once per year on Yôm [H3117] Kāpār [H3722] or Atonement Day, “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb 9:7), “the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others” (Heb 9:25). The mercy seat is the necessary context by which Paul’s intended message is understood. Since we can’t make the intended connection with the annual Atonement Day performed by the high priest under the Old Covenant, we don’t have the necessary context in our thinking to understand properly.

Making matters even worse, the Greek nouns ergon for “actions” and pistis for “faithfulness” are mistranslated in this chapter as “deeds” or “works” and “faith” or “believe” respectively: “Therefore by the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (v. 20); “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith [pistis 4102] of Jesus Christ” (v. 22); “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith [pistis 4102] in his blood” (v. 25); “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth [pistis 4102] in Jesus” (v. 26); “By what law? of works [ergon 2041]? Nay: but by the law of faith [pistis 4102]” (v. 27); “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [pistis 4102] without the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (v. 28); “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith [pistis 4102], and uncircumcision through faith [pistis 4102]” (v. 30).

By those two errors imposed upon this passage—the missing context of the annual Atonement Day, and the mistranslation of those two key words—Paul’s message has been corrupted into a different “gospel” message entirely. His own conclusion of what he taught in this passage, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [pistis 4102] without the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (v. 28), is being misrepresented into a divergent conclusion—that salvation is by believing rather than working. It’s now being taught falsely that the deeds or works of the law was attempting to live morally righteous under the Old Covenant law but that under the New Covenant we’re saved simply by having faith or believing. People are being deceived into misunderstanding that they just can’t live morally righteous before God and don’t need to anyway because salvation is by faith alone. Furthermore, they’re even being discouraged from living morally righteous through fear that they might be trusting in their own righteousness and therefore not saved by faith alone. This error then leads into the next chapter teaching that Abraham was supposedly a great man of faith, “For if Abraham were justified by works [ergon 2041]Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness: (4:2,3).

The truth is that Paul wasn’t teaching an antithesis between working and believing, but an antithesis between the actions of the priests and the faithfulness of Christ—the priests’ actions of shedding the blood of animals under the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ’s faithfulness in shedding His blood under the New. The ergon or “actions” were the high priest’s actions on Atonement Day of sprinkling the blood of bulls and goats on the mercy seat, while the pistis or “faithfulness” was Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to His Father in shedding His own blood upon the true mercy seat, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood” (v. 25). There’s no such issue in Scripture of faith versus works, or believing versus meriting. The true antithesis is Christ’s faithfulness to give Himself as the Sacrifice for our sins versus the actions of the high priests under the law of offering animal sacrifices for sins.

Paul’s concluding point that we’re justified by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness in sacrificing Himself without the actions of the priests sacrificing animals, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28), has been changed to something else entirely—that we’re justified by faith and not by living right. In fact, as it’s being taught today, living morally righteously is an attempt at saving ourselves apart from Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Thus, not only is morally righteous living unnecessary for salvation, it’s even detrimental! Protestants everywhere are falsely assured of salvation by simply being a believer. Consequently, the standard of moral righteousness by which they’re taught to live isn’t the standard which Jesus Christ Himself upheld for entering 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” (Mat 5:20).

What advantage did the Jews have?

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?” (v. 1). Paul just taught at the end of the previous chapter that if the circumcised don’t keep the law, their circumcision isn’t even counted, “but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision” (2:25), but if the uncircumcised keep the law they’re counted as circumcised, “shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” (2:26), and that true circumcision before God isn’t a cutting in the body but a condition of the heart, “neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh … circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit” (2:28,29). Since that’s true about circumcision, it could be wrongly concluded that circumcision doesn’t even profit. Why then was Abraham and his descendants given circumcision? What advantage did circumcision give to the Jewish people over all other people?

The Jews heard first

“Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (v. 2). The main advantage the circumcised Jews had over everyone else was the privilege of hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ first, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ … to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). The oral reading of the Scriptures, “the oracles of God,” was restricted to the circumcised in the synagogues and in the Temple. To them was committed “the oracles of God,” therefore they were given the privilege of hearing Jesus Christ’s preaching first: “And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue” (Mat 13:54); “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching” (Mat 21:23); “I sat daily with you teaching in the temple” (Mat 26:55); “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught” (Mar 1:21); “And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue” (Mar 6:2); “And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple” (Mar 12:35); “I was daily with you in the temple teaching” (Mar 14:49); “as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luk 4:16); “And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught” (Luk 6:6); “These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum” (Jhn 6:59); “And he taught daily in the temple” (Luk 19:47); “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel” (Luk 20:1); “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple” (Luk 21:37); “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught” (Jhn 7:14); “And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them” (Jhn 8:2); “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple” (Jhn 18:20).

The Jews were given this advantage of hearing the gospel first, not only in their own land from Jesus Christ Himself, but also in distant lands from the apostle Paul: “they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets” (Act 13:14-15); “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed [trusted]” (Act 14:1); “they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Act 17:1-2); “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews” (Act 17:10); “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (Act 17:17); “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Act 18:4); “And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews” (Act 18:19); “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Act 19:8).

Circumcision along with the keeping of the Sabbath day ensured that the Jews would be the first to hear the gospel in every city because the reading of the law was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And because the religious leaders in every city were the Jews, it would have been wrong for Paul to begin preaching and teaching the gospel to the Gentiles first. Therefore, Paul always gave the Jews first opportunity to hear with the hope of receiving then teaching it to the people themselves. But when they refused the message, they couldn’t legitimately argue against Paul turning his attention from them and reaching the people himself. This same principle is true in households. Nobody should enter a house and begin reaching a family without going to the head of that household first. If the head hears first and listens, then they will teach their own family. But if they won’t listen, then they can be bypassed to reach their family.

Speaking of my own personal experience, I wrote a paper titled “True Theology” in which I presented from the Scriptures the true view of God and His Son Jesus Christ. I presented this paper to the pastors of my Baptist church with the hope they would repent of their false Trinitarian view and worship the true God. However, when they rejected the message and the messenger, I was then free to reach anyone in that church with the message. Of course, they could certainly ban the messenger from their building but they couldn’t bar the message from their people. This was the conflict Paul experienced everywhere he preached—although he was bound, his message couldn’t be, “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (2Ti 2:9).

God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

“For what if some did not believe [apisteō 569]? shall their unbelief [apistia 570] make the faith [pistis 4102] of God without effect?” (v. 3). The Greek apisteō is the verb form of the adjective apistos which is simply the negation of the adjective pistos for “faithful,” “loyal,” or “trustworthy.” Its noun form is apistia which is “unfaithfulness.” Paul’s question is rendered more correctly as “What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?” (NIV). His Jewish brethren would argue that Jesus of Nazareth must not be who He claimed to be since He was rejected by all the synagogues without exception. But Paul’s reply is that the Son of God doesn’t need a seal of approval from the Jews in the synagogues. His approval was from His Father by the miracles He did through Him: “the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (Jhn 5:36); “him hath God the Father sealed” (Jhn 6:27); “If I do not the works of my Father, believe [trust] me not” (Jhn 10:37).

Christ preached His gospel in their synagogues for their benefit, so they would hear first and receive Him as their Messiah sent from God. However, they were unfaithful to God in not receiving the one He sent: “And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue … And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief [apistia 570]” (Mat 13:54,58); “And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue … And he marvelled because of their unbelief [apistia 570]” (Mar 6:2,6); “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read … And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath” (Luk 4:16,28).

Paul asks, “shall their unbelief [unfaithfulness] make the faith [faithfulness] of God without effect?” What does their unfaithfulness matter to God? Is their unfaithfulness in rejecting His Son going to abrogate His faithfulness to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Of course not! He simply fulfilled His faithfulness to their fathers through Gentiles instead.

Let God be true

“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (v. 4). Because Paul’s enemies—his fellow Jewish brethren opposed to the gospel message he preached—were desperate for anything to malign him, they falsely accused him of promoting evil for a greater good, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (v. 8). That “our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God” (v. 5), is that his message supposedly was for us to actually live in unrighteousness so that God’s righteousness would be magnified.

By “let God be true, but every man a liar,” Paul was stating that God is simply shown to be true when judging men as liars. God isn’t judging sin to get glory for Himself. Paul will say a little later “if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory” (v. 7), to clarify that in no way is God getting more glory by men lying even more! Rather, that God is proven to be true, “let God be true,” when exposing men as liars.

Justified in His sayings

“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (v. 4). Paul is now going to bolster his earlier point, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]” (2:6). It’s the actions of good or evil that God will judge without showing any respect of the person committing the actions, “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God” (2:9-11). He now quotes from David, arguably the greatest Jewish man in Israel’s history, to substantiate that God is no respecter of persons in judgment. If God was shown to be true by exposing even the greatest of all Jews as a liar, then the same follows for all other men, “every man a liar.” David committed adultery with Bathsheba, committed murder by having her husband Uriah killed in battle, then lied about it all to cover it up.

It was when David finally repented of his sin that he exclaimed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psa 51:4). Second Samuel chapter 12 records God sending the prophet Nathan to tell David a parable about a rich man that took the only lamb of a poor man, then killed that lamb to feed one of his guests. And David reacted in anger upon hearing it, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die” (2Sa 12:5). But, of course, he hadn’t been made privy to the fact that he was the subject of the story, “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man” (2Sa 12:7). This parable brought out from David’s own mouth the truth he had been hiding in his heart, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psa 51:6). In hearing a story supposedly about another man, it compelled David to judge evil actions objectively without respect of persons—without respect of the person being himself!

This goes back to what Paul stated earlier, “Which shew the work [action] of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (2:15). The law was written in David’s heart—he knew in his heart that his actions had been evil as defined by the law. And in accusing this “other” man, he accused himself.

God’s wisdom in using Nathan’s parable to expose David’s heart, “in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psa 51:6), was demonstrative and prophetic of the parables Jesus Christ would one day use to uncover the corrupt hearts of the Jewish leaders in His day. Jesus told the chief priests, elders, and Pharisees a parable about a man who sent his two sons to work in his vineyard, “Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Mat 21:31). Out of their own mouths they judged themselves unworthy. Therefore, Christ’s saying caused them to justify God in turning to the Gentiles. He then told them another parable of a householder that planted a vineyard, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (Mat 21:40-41). They judged themselves worthy of death while justifying God in giving His “vineyard” to Gentiles. Christ’s parables or sayings caused these wicked men to unwittingly justify Him, “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings.”

David’s sin being exposed caused him to recognize that circumcision in his flesh made him no better than any other man. Nathan’s parable about the two men said nothing of their flesh, whether they were circumcised or uncircumcised, “There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor” (2Sa 12:1). It was just a rich man and a poor man and their actions toward one another.

With Uriah out in battle and his wife now expecting, it would eventually be known that the baby wasn’t his. Therefore, David brought him home so that he would sleep with his wife and make it appear that it was. But Uriah’s righteous actions proved to be David’s undoing. In honor for the Ark, the Israelites, the Jews, his commander, and his fellow servants, he wouldn’t sleep with his wife while they were sleeping in the open fields, “The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.” (2Sa 11:11). His actions were honorable but David’s sinful. And all the while he had been sleeping in the open fields, David had been sleeping with his wife! The next night, David stooped even lower that “he made him drunk” (2Sa 11:13), yet Uriah still wouldn’t go home to his wife. Of course, David finally resolved to just have Uriah killed in battle so it would appear the baby was his—that while he had been home for a few days that he had slept with his wife.

David’s statement “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa 51:5), along with Paul’s teaching later in Romans, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (5:12), are used to claim we’re conceived with some kind of sin nature inherited from Adam. David, however, wasn’t talking about an innate sin nature but simply the natural state of all men, “uncircumcision which is by nature” (2:27). He came to recognize that while in the womb, there was no difference between him and Uriah the Hittite, and that circumcision in his flesh eight days after birth made him no better. Uriah’s actions proved more righteous than David’s. But David spoke other words to describe himself in the womb, “thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa 139:13,14). He certainly wouldn’t have been “wonderfully made” if he had been made with a sin nature! Are we actually created sinful? God forbid!

David committed murder to cover his adultery, then lied to try and cover it all. What did it ultimately matter that he had been circumcised on the eight day while Uriah hadn’t been? It’s ironic that the actions of a Hittite—which God’s people were supposed to have destroyed when they conquered the land—proved to be more righteous than the actions of the greatest Jewish man in the land. And if David didn’t get away with lying, nobody else will either, “let God be true, but every man a liar.”

The context of Paul’s quote from David, “For he is not a Jew [praise], which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew [praise], which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [breath], and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:28-29). Circumcised David wasn’t “a praise” in his actions, but uncircumcised Uriah was.

Our unrighteousness

“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” (vs. 5-6). Paul wasn’t preaching, as falsely accused, that our unrighteousness commends or glorifies God’s righteousness. That message makes no sense. It would make God righteous in allowing sin and unrighteous in judging it! How would He even judge the world of sin if that were the case?

The truth of God

“For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” (vs. 7-8). Because Paul’s enemies accused him of false doctrine and sin, he proceeds to take their accusation to the logical conclusion to prove its absurdity. If he truly is a liar as they say, and lying glorifies God, then he’s glorifying God through his lying and therefore shouldn’t be judged as a sinner. The very thing his enemies accused him of, taken to its logical conclusion, actually vindicates him of their accusations. If lying ultimately glorifies God, and he’s a liar, then he’s glorifying God!

That his enemies had nothing legitimately against him was supported by the judicial trials he endured. All of his imprisonments and hearings before various judges and rulers that consummated at the highest court in Rome, proved that nothing could be found against him. Therefore, since their accusations against him were groundless, then his gospel message was exonerated. Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Mat 5:11). And Peter likewise, “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1Pe 3:16).

By “whose damnation is just,” Paul wasn’t saying that damnation is just for those slanderously reporting him of saying something he didn’t say, but for those doing what Paul was slanderously reported of saying. He was making it clear that not only he wasn’t saying such things as accused, but that damnation is just for anyone doing such things—doing evil so that some kind of greater good would come from it.

Are the Jews better than the Greeks?

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles [hellēn 1672], that they are all under sin” (v. 9). Although translated here as “Gentiles,” it’s the word hellēn for the Greek people specifically. And Paul compared the Jews with the Greeks other times in his letter: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [hellēn 1672]” (1:16); “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile [hellēn 1672]; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile [hellēn 1672]” (2:9-10); “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [hellēn 1672]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (10:12).

The Jews had many advantages over the Greeks, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way” (vs. 1,2). Their primary advantage was that they were given the first opportunity to hear Christ’s gospel message of salvation, “the gospel of Christ … to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). But did their many advantages make them better than the Greeks, “What then? are we better than they?” Paul concludes that in no way were they better because “they are all under sin.”

All under sin

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles [hellēn 1672], that they are all under sin” (v. 9). That “all under sin” is what Paul also stated to the Galatians, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin” (Gal 3:22). It’s the Scriptures—which Paul is going to quote extensively in verses 10-18—that concluded all are under sin, “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,)” (1Ki 8:46; 2Ch 6:36), “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecc 7:20).

God’s people knew that they all had sinned because Moses commanded various sacrifices for sins: “But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it is a sin offering” (Exo 29:14); “And he brought the bullock for the sin offering” (Lev 8:14); “And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people” (Lev 9:7); “And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering” (Lev 16:6); “And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins” (Lev 16:16); “And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year” (Lev 16:34); “And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins” (Heb 5:3); “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s” (Heb 7:27); “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb 9:7).

However, God said nothing to His people about offering sacrifices when He brought them out from Egypt, but simply that they must obey His voice and walk in His ways, “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jer 7:22-23). But because they were sinning, He added the requirement of sacrifices, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions” (Gal 3:19). Animal sacrifices was God’s mercy upon them when they sinned, otherwise it would have been “one strike and you’re out” so to speak. He allowed those sins to be covered so that they could continue living righteously before Him without sinning.

The teaching today that we’re saved by faith is bolstered by the claim that righteousness under the law meant keeping it perfectly without ever sinning even once—one strike and you’re out! Supposedly the law was given only to prove that nobody could live righteously, therefore concluding that righteousness is by faith. And James’ statement, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas 2:10), is one of the main proof-texts for that teaching.

James, however, wasn’t nullifying the righteousness of the law but upholding it. This is apparent by his injunction for keeping it all by simply keeping just one, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well” (Jas 2:8). Fulfilling all the righteousness the law required is accomplished by keeping just one law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom 13:9-10), “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14). James wasn’t saying that all the law just couldn’t be kept, but was reprimanding those that weren’t keeping it all. Keeping only some of it, and even keeping nearly all of it, still falls short of God’s requirement for keeping all of it. To “keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” is that keeping all but one is as if keeping none at all. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it, but that they weren’t doing it.

There is none righteous

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (v. 10). Paul now begins quoting repeatedly from the Scriptures a long list of Israel’s sins against God. But this first quote is a little difficult to place. Most likely it’s this statement from Isaiah, “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.” (Isa 41:26).

The Scriptures make the distinction between righteousness in an absolute sense and righteousness in a relative sense. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely righteous before God because He never sinned even once: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (Jhn 8:46); “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2Co 5:21); “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15); “Who did no sin” (1Pe 2:22); “in him is no sin” (1Jo 3:5). And He is the only one absolutely righteous: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:6); “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more” (Jhn 16:10); “Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1Co 1:30); “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21); “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust” (1Pe 3:18); “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jo 2:1).

That “There is none righteous, no, not one” is that until the Son of God came into this world, there wasn’t even one person absolutely righteous before God because all have sinned. But there were, however, those that were righteous before God in a relative sense. In the next chapter, Paul will use Abraham as our example of being counted or considered righteous by God, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3). This righteousness by which Abraham was blessed, was also true of God’s people under the Old Covenant, “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 6:25). None of them were absolutely righteous, but when they walked with Him and kept His commandments, God considered it or counted it righteousness before Him.

God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD … Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (Eze 14:14,20). God had told Noah, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen 7:1). Noah wasn’t absolutely righteous, but he was “seen righteous” before God, or considered to be righteous and treated like he was. Of Job and Daniel it was said, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8; 2:3); “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” (Dan 10:11). Noah, Job, and Daniel weren’t without sin, but were seen or considered righteous by trusting and obeying God.

Jesus Christ Himself and His apostles attested to people that were considered righteous before God: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man” (Mat 1:19); “That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see” (Mat 13:17); “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias” (Mat 23:35); “a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luk 1:5,6); “By faith [faithfulness] Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous” (Heb 11:4); “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them” (2Pe 2:7-8).

Peter made this conclusion about God’s righteousness concerning all people, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Act 10:35). To “work righteousness” isn’t being absolutely righteous without having ever sinned. Christ stated, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20). By “your righteousness,” He meant living to the standard of righteousness He taught in that very Sermon on the Mount. His expression “your righteousness” is equivalent to that used of God’s people, “our righteousness” (Deu 6:25), and of Noah, Daniel, and Job, “their righteousness” (Eze 14:14,20).

David’s writings

“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (vs. 11-18).

Paul now quotes a laundry list of sins from the Scriptures to prove “both Jews and Gentiles [Greeks], that they are all under sin” (v. 9). It’s no coincidence that he quoted David earlier, “that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psa 51:4), and that almost all of these quotes are also from David: “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psa 14:2-3); “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psa 53:2-3); “their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue” (Psa 5:9); “adders’ poison is under their lips” (Psa 140:3); “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud” (Psa 10:7); “For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood” (Pro 1:16); “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not” (Isa 59:7-8); “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psa 36:1).

There’s a significance in David being the one who wrote these concluding statements in the Scriptures that all are under sin. Of course part of the reason is that he was proven of having sinned greatly in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba. But there’s another compelling reason—he proved through his writings that God’s intent of fulfilling His promise to Abraham hadn’t changed regardless of the law having been added some 430 years later. Paul’s Jewish adversaries that rejected Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah argued that the law itself was the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. But what David said about 500 years after the law was given, set the record straight. God brought His people out of Egypt to live righteously in the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But now that they were settled in the land centuries later, they weren’t living righteously but sinfully. David’s writings indicted not only all of them but also himself!

The writer of Hebrews, quoted from the promise God made to Abraham, “By myself have I sworn … That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed” (Gen 22:16,17), “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). He then proceeded to explain that God hadn’t changed His original intent of fulfilling that promise, “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability [ametathetos 276] of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable [ametathetos 276] things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:17-18). The Greek adjective ametathetos means “changeless” or “unalterable.” There were two things God did to give us assurance or “a strong consolation” that He would fulfil His promise to Abraham in exactly the way He said—initially swearing by Himself to keep that promise, and later confirming it by an oath.

Paul’s last words written to Timothy, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospelIt is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe [trust] not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2Ti 2:8,11-13). If we deny that Jesus is the Christ, He absolutely will deny us and we will perish. Since He swore to Abraham by Himself, He would have to deny Himself to save anyone in any other way than what He promised to Abraham. He was faithful to keep what He promised, “he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself.” Therefore, He won’t be denied, we will be.

In addition to swearing by Himself to Abraham, God also later confirmed an oath to David, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4), “For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent [metamelomai 3338], Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 7:21). The Greek verb metamelomai means “to change” or “to alter.” It’s equivalent to the negative adjective ametathetos for “immutable” which is “changeless” or “unalterable.” The oath spoken through David is the second of the “two immutable [ametathetos 276] things.” He was saying that He swore the promise by Himself to Abraham about a thousand years earlier “By myself have I sworn” (Gen 22:16), and the fulfillment of what He had sworn hadn’t at all changed, “The Lord sware and will not repent.” The law being interjected about halfway between the promise and the oath had no bearing whatsoever upon what God had promised. David’s writings after the law proved that the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham before the law hadn’t changed—it wasn’t by the law, but by His Son to come.

The oath, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4; Heb 7:17,21), is “after the order,” in the sense of “arrangement,” “design,” or “pattern” of Melchizedek, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen 14:18). This foretold of what Jesus would bring forth, “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). Symbolically, the bread is His body and the wine is His blood. And only His blood can actually remit sins. Therefore, the Sacrifice for our sins isn’t the blood of animals given hundreds of years later through Moses, but the body and blood of Christ shown figuratively by Abraham partaking of the Lord’s Supper with Melchizedek!

The tongue is a little member

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (vs. 13-14). It’s noteworthy that in this list of sins quoted from David, there are several statements about one particular part of the body—the tongue! James used the example of horses and ships to teach about the tongue, “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.” (Jas 3:3-4). Horses and ships were the main modes of travel in that day. And as their final destination is determined by relatively small devices—bits and helms—as compared with what was being steered, so it is with our final destination, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell [geenna 1067]” (Jas 3:5-6). The tongue is a relatively small member of our body yet leads the whole body on a straight course to geenna or the lake of fire, “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luk 16:24).

The Scripture has concluded all under sin

This list of sins from David’s writings is what Paul meant when writing to the Galatians, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin” (Gal 3:22). And there’s a reason the Scriptures concluded all have sinned, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [trust],” “because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (NET). God concluded all under sin so that the promise He made to Abraham, fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, might be given to those that trust Him. But this isn’t what’s being taught today.

The “gospel” message today is essentially informing people that they have sinned, “all under sin” (v. 9), “For all have sinned” (v. 23), then instructing them to be saved by believing, “The just shall live by faith” (1:17), “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (10:9). But this isn’t what Paul taught in Romans. His gospel message was that God concluded all under sin so that all can be saved by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, and Jesus Christ’s faithfulness was the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham. There is no other gospel than the gospel that was preached to Abraham, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith [faithfulness], preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal 3:8). It’s not about our faith, but Jesus Christ’s faithfulness.

All the world became guilty

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (v. 19). It goes without saying that the Scriptures are speaking directly to God’s people, “them who are under the law.” But through indicting every one of His people with the guilt of sin, by transmission God relegated all the world guilty of sin. Paul will give more explanation about this later, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (5:12-13). Nobody questions that Adam was guilty of sin and worthy of death being sentenced upon him, but how is God just in passing that same judgment upon everyone else? It’s because “for that all have sinned” (5:12), which Paul was simply quoting his own conclusion here, “all under sin” (v. 9), “all have sinned” (v. 23). Since God would later prove through the law that all are guilty of sin, He was therefore just in passing judgment upon all in the beginning. Although “sin is not imputed when there is no law” and most people who’ve lived never lived under the law, yet all people die because God’s people were proven worthy of death, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death” (1:32).

The sense is that if given the same blessings and favor as His own people had been given, all other people would have also sinned. God’s people were somewhat of a case group to prove that all people would have done likewise. If they came up short even with every advantage to succeed, then all others with less advantage come short of God’s glory as well.

The actions of the law

“Therefore by the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law there shall no flesh [sarx 4561] be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 20). Because there are two main distinctions within the law of Moses—the moral righteousness of the law, and the non-moral actions of the law—in this chapter the actions of the law, “the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (v. 20), “By what law? of works [ergon 2041]?” (v. 27), “without the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (v. 28), are simply the actions of the Levitical priests offering animal sacrifices.

In the letter to the Hebrews, “dead actions” were the actions of the high priest on Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Atonement. This is what is meant by, “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041], and of faith [faithfulness] toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms [baptismos 909], and of laying on of hands” (Heb 6:1-2). The high priest would “wash his flesh in water” (Lev 16:4), “wash his flesh with water” (Lev 16:24), both before and after the ritual on that day. This is the “baptisms [baptismos 909]” or washings. He would then sprinkle the blood of the goat for the sin offering upon the mercy seat in the most holy place, “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat” (Lev 16:15). After that he would lay his hands on the head of the other goat, confessing the sins of the people over him before sending him out into the desert, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness” (Lev 16:21). This is the “laying on of hands.”

This annual Day of Atonement is described later in Hebrews in more detail, “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year” (Heb 9:7), “the high priest entereth into the holy place every year” (Heb 9:25). The “dead actions” on that day are the meats, drinks, washings, sacrifices, and laying on of hands, “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings [baptismos 909] … For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit [breath] offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041] to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:10,13-14). These actions are “dead” because they can never take away sins, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb 10:4), “offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb 10:11). Christ’s actions, on the other hand, in offering Himself to God as our Sacrifice, “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit [breath] offered himself without spot to God,” remits or takes away our sins.

The Hebrew verb kāpar means literally “to cover” or “to conceal,” and figuratively “to appease” or “to pacify.” It’s used both ways in its first two appearances in the Old Testament. The first time it’s the literal covering over the wood of the ark with pitch, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch [kāpar 3722] it within and without with pitch” (Gen 6:14). And the second time it’s figurative for the appeasing of Esau’s anger with a gift before Jacob met him face to face, “Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease [kāpar 3722] him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me” (Gen 32:20).

This word appears approximately 100 times in the Old Testament and is translated in the KJV as “atonement” around 70 of those times. In Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers particularly, it speaks of the blood of animals covering sins. Therefore, the law itself attested that animal sacrifices didn’t “take away sins” (Heb 10:4,11), but only covered them, like Noah covering the wood of the ark with pitch! The blood of animals was simply a means of appeasing or pacifying God’s anger until the blood of His Son would completely satisfy Him.

When God’s people were truly repentant of their sins and striving to live righteously before Him with a pure heart, the blood of animals appeased and pacified His wrath. However, when they were living sinfully and offering sacrifices ritualistically, their sacrifices meant nothing to Him: “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1Sa 15:22); “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Pro 15:8); “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination” (Pro 21:27); “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isa 1:11); “your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (Jer 6:20); “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies” (Amo 5:21).

No flesh justified in His sight

“Therefore by the deeds [actions] of the law there shall no flesh [sarx 4561] be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 20). Paul used sarx for “flesh” in Romans several different ways: the outward physical body, “outward in the flesh [sarx 4561]” (2:28), “the infirmity of your flesh [sarx 4561]” (6:19), “weak through the flesh [sarx 4561]” (8:3); an expression for those living under the law but without God’s breath in their hearts, “in the flesh [sarx 4561]” (7:5,8:8,9), “with the flesh [sarx 4561]” (7:25), “after the flesh [sarx 4561]” (8:1,4,5,13); the biological, cultural, and ethnic distinctions between God’s people and all other people, “according to the flesh [sarx 4561]” (1:3), “my kinsmen according to the flesh [sarx 4561] … concerning the flesh [sarx 4561]” (9:3,5), “them which are my flesh [sarx 4561]” (11:14).

That “no flesh [sarx 4561]” shall be justified in God’s sight emphasizes God’s own people among all biological, cultural, and ethnic people groups. The non-moral “deeds [actions] of the law” are what were required by circumcision which concerned meats, drinks, holy days, feasts, tithing, and animal sacrifices. But if God’s own people aren’t justified by the actions of the law given to them by God Himself, then no other people are justified by those actions either.

Paul declared to the Galatians, “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal 5:2). As if to say “Look at who’s talking to you!” “If I myself—a biological descendant of Israel, circumcised the eighth day, and keeping the actions of the law my entire life—couldn’t be justified by those actions, do you really think that you—Gentiles becoming circumcised as adults—can be justified by such actions going forward?” Whereas “I Paul” began “by the flesh” and was made complete “in the breath,” how can you accomplish it the other way around, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit [breath], are ye now made perfect [complete] by the flesh [sarx 4561]?” (Gal 3:3)?

To be “justified in his sight” is what Paul meant by “the righteousness of God” (1:17, 3:5,21,22, 10:3), “his righteousness” (3:25,26), “God’s righteousness” (10:3). It’s not the things we consider right: “every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes” (Deu 12:8); “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 17:6,21:25); “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Pro 12:15); “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Pro 21:2); “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (Pro 16:2). It’s the things God considers right: “to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God” (Deu 13:18); “to do that which is right in mine eyes” (1Ki 11:33); “to do that only which was right in mine eyes” (1Ki 14:8); “David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD” (1Ki 15:5); “Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD” (1Ki 15:11); “doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD” (1Ki 22:43); “executing that which is right in mine eyes” (2Ki 10:30); “Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (2Ch 14:2).

David did what was right in God’s sight: “walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did” (1Ki 11:38); “my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes” (1Ki 14:8); “David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1Ki 15:5). Except for his sin in the matter of Uriah, David did what was right before God. However, he didn’t always keep the actions of the law. On one occasion he ate hallowed bread, “How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? (Mat 12:4). And even when he repented of his sin against Uriah, he didn’t offer an animal sacrifice, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Psa 51:16).

When confronted by the Pharisees for having eaten with Gentiles and for instructing His disciples to work on the Sabbath, Christ responded both times by quoting from Hosea: “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Mat 9:11), “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mat 9:13); “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day” (Mat 12:2), “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mat 12:7). The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is that showing mercy to people, not keeping the actions of the law, is what God desires, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6).

By the law is the knowledge of sin

“Therefore by the deeds [actions] of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 20). The law, as Paul states here and several times later in his letter that the law gave God’s people the knowledge of sin: “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (v. 20); “where no law is, there is no transgression” (4:15); “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (5:13); “the law entered, that the offence might abound” (5:20); “I had not known sin, but by the law” (7:7).

Since “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” then by the law “there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” That the actions of the law won’t justify any flesh in God’s sight was proven by those actions not justifying His own people. Since centuries after the law was given none were righteous before God according to David, then their actions of offering animal sacrifices didn’t take away their sins.

The righteousness of God without the law

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (v. 21). Toward the beginning of his letter Paul had stated “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ … For therein is the righteousness of God revealed” (1:16,17). The gospel Jesus Christ Himself preached revealed God’s righteousness. And Paul is now going to teach about the righteousness of God in detail through these next few verses, “the righteousness of God” (vs. 21,22), “his righteousness” (vs. 25,26). Israel hadn’t submitted themselves to God’s righteousness as Paul will state later, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (10:3). They were trying to establish their own way of being right with God rather than submitting themselves to the way God Himself established and accepts. They needed to learn His way—the way His Son preached—then submit to it to be saved, “that they might be saved” (10:1).

The “righteousness of God without the law” is God’s righteousness without the animal sacrifices commanded under the law. However, because the two main distinctions of the law—the moral righteousness of the law, and the non-moral actions of the law—aren’t being distinguished but conflated as simply the moral righteousness of the law, therefore “the righteousness of God without the law” is being taught today that God’s righteousness is without morally righteous living but simply believing. But the context is clearly “the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 20), the actions of the Levitical priests offering sacrifices for their own sins and for the sins of the people. That God’s righteousness is “without the law” is that it’s not by animal sacrifices prescribed by the law but by the Sacrifice of God’s own Son.

Being witnessed by the law

“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (v. 21). God’s righteousness “being witnessed by the law and the prophets” is that the law and the prophets testified that animal sacrifices never pleased God. “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Psa 51:16); “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Pro 15:8); “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination” (Pro 21:27); “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isa 1:11); “your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (Jer 6:20); “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” (Mic 6:7).

Also, God’s righteousness “being witnessed by the law and the prophets” is that the law and the prophets foretold of the coming sacrifice of God’s own Son. Moses’ first writing of the law alone contains many undeniable prophecies. God said in the beginning that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Abraham’s two sons by two women foretold figuratively of the Old and New Covenants that would come from Abraham, “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). Also, Abraham’s “sacrifice” of his son prefigured God’s sacrifice of His, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 22:8). And Joseph’s life recorded in Genesis chapters 37-45 was allegorical and prophetic of Jesus Christ’s life.

Within the Levitical sacrificial system of the law, there were many types of the true Sacrifice of God’s Son to come, particularly the mercy seat upon which the blood of animals was sprinkled, “And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times … do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat” (Lev 16:14,15). This was simply a type based upon God’s instructions for Moses to make everything pertaining to that sacrificial system after the pattern He showed to him: “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exo 25:40); “according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exo 26:30); “according unto the pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses” (Num 8:4); “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Heb 8:5). Now, although the Old Covenant came chronologically before the New Covenant, the New wasn’t patterned after the Old but the Old after the New. The Old owed its existence to the New and not the other way around. Without the New there wouldn’t have been the Old.

The prophets also wrote many specific prophecies about Jesus Christ—His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [the grave]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psa 16:10); “they pierced my hands and my feet … They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Psa 22:16,18); “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men” (Psa 68:18); “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa 110:1); “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa 9:1-2); “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” (Isa 50:6); “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:4-5); “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic 5:2).

The faithfulness of Jesus Christ

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith [pistis 4102] of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe [pisteuō 4100]: for there is no difference” (v. 22). The Greek pistis isn’t “faith” but “faithfulness.” Therefore the “faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ,” isn’t about our faith in Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to God, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (NET). But because the faithfulness of Jesus Christ is being obscured in most all translations by rendering pistis as “faith,” nearly everyone has bought into the falsehood that salvation is by faith or believing.

Paul’s letter to the Romans isn’t about the righteousness of God by faith, but the righteousness of God by the faithfulness of God and His Son Jesus Christ, “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (Hab 2:4 NIV), “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (1:17). In chapter three, however, the faithfulness of Jesus Christ is mistranslated in almost all Bible versions except for the New English Translation, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ … the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (vs. 22,26 NET).

That Christ’s “faithfulness” is what Paul was emphasizing, indicates that everything Christ did and said was His Father’s will and not His own. To be faithful, loyal, or trustworthy, is simply to do exactly what one was sent to do. The Son of God was absolutely faithful to His Father as John recorded in his Gospel: “the Word was God” (1:1); “I and my Father are one” (10:30); “the Father is in me, and I in him” (10:38); “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father … I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (14:9,10); “thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee … we are one” (17:21,22). He always did the will of His Father: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (4:34); “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (5:30); “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (6:38); “I do always those things that please him” (8:29). And He always spoke what His Father had sent Him to speak: “he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God” (3:34); “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (7:16); “as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (8:28); “I speak that which I have seen with my Father” (8:38); “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (12:49); “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself” (14:10); “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (17:8).

This is the understanding of John’s famous introductory statement to his Gospel, “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). The “word” is the gospel message of salvation God hid in a mystery by figurative language within the literal events of the creation narrative. The Son of God came into this world and performed that “word” or message that was from the beginning so perfectly that He can be called metaphorically “the Word.” That “the Word was God” simply speaks of Him representing God perfectly. John wasn’t saying that the Son of God is literally God Himself, but that He was the equivalent of God on this earth by way of faithfully doing and saying everything God willed.

God the Father sent His Son into this world to do and speak as He had been sent. Therefore, to be right with God we must fully submit to His Son—obey what He commanded and agree with what He taught. Our only hope is listening to God’s Son. But if we won’t listen to Him, we’re completely hopeless.

The promise through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe [trust]: for there is no difference: For all have sinned” (3:22-23). Paul wrote a parallel statement in his letter to the Galatians, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [trust]” (Gal 3:22). Both are about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, “through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (Rom 3:22 NET), “because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (Gal 3:22 NET). And it’s interesting to note, although purely coincidental, that not only both say the same thing but also both are 3:22!

The context of both statements is Abraham’s trust in God’s faithfulness to keep the promise He made to him and to his Seed: “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3); “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed” (4:13); “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6); “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).

Paul was teaching that God’s righteousness comes by the promise He made to Abraham, and He was faithful to keep that promise by His Son’s Sacrifice for our sins. But before sending His Son, God testified in the Scriptures that all—Jews, Greeks, and everyone else—had sinned, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” He did this, not to condemn everyone but to save everyone, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Jhn 3:17). Therefore, in both letters, “by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe [trust]: for there is no difference: For all have sinned” (vs. 22,23), “all under sin, that the promise by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [trust]” (Gal 3:22), since all have sinned, then all can trust God for salvation through His Son’s faithfulness to die for their sins. And the only way of salvation is by knowing and submitting to His righteousness—the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham through the faithfulness of Him and His Son. That as “Abraham believed [trusted] God” (4:3; Gal 3:6), we also can trust God. And as God counted Abraham right with Him because he submitted to His way of righteousness, so it is with us.

There is no difference

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe [pisteuō 4100]: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory [doxa 1391] of God” (vs. 22-23). Paul’s statement “for there is no difference,” in context, is that there’s no difference between Jews and Greeks, “No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles [hellēn 1672], that they are all under sin” (v. 9). He even quoted his own statement “for there is no difference” later in his letter and stated clearly that it’s between the Jews and the Greeks, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek [hellēn 1672]: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (10:12). And he also compared the two earlier in his letter, “to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [hellēn 1672]” (1:16), “upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile [hellēn 1672] … to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile [hellēn 1672]” (2:9-10). By proving all have sinned, God provided all with salvation. Since there’s no difference in the sinfulness of all, then there’s no difference in the salvation of all.

Come short of the glory of God

The statement “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory [doxa 1391] of God” (v. 23), could mean either coming short of giving to God glory, or coming short of receiving glory from God. We tend to default to the former because wanting to give glory to God makes us look humble before others, while wanting to get glory from God sounds selfish. However, if we’re concerned about our image before people, we’re actually accomplishing neither—we’re neither giving glory to God nor receiving glory from God. But the correct understanding of what Paul wrote, is the one Paul meant.

The gospel Jesus Christ preached, “How can ye believe, which receive honour [doxa 1391] one of another, and seek not the honour [doxa 1391] that cometh from God only?” (Jhn 5:44), is that we should seek glory, honor, and praise from God, and not from people. John stated the same, “For they loved the praise [doxa 1391] of men more than the praise [doxa 1391] of God” (Jhn 12:43). And this was also Paul’s gospel. The context leading up to his statement “come short of the glory [doxa 1391] of God,” is that of seeking glory and praise from God: “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory [doxa 1391] and honour and immortality, eternal life … But glory [doxa 1391], honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (2:7,10), “But he is a Jew [praise], which is one inwardly [secretly]; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [breath], and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:29). However, Paul also used Abraham as our example of giving glory to God, “was strong in faith [faithfulness], giving glory [doxa 1391] to God” (4:20), but then concluded that we “rejoice in hope of the glory [doxa 1391] of God” (5:2), that we hope in anticipation of the glory we’ll receive from God.

Whether Paul meant giving glory to God or receiving glory from God by “come short of the glory [doxa 1391] of God,” is debatable. In fact, he might have even meant both. But if it is one or the other, the weight of the context and the conclusion favors the latter. It’s that since we all have sinned, then we all come short of receiving any glory, honor, and praise from God. And this also makes the most sense leading into Paul’s next point, “Being justified freely by his grace [favor] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 24). It’s by God’s favor toward His people the Jews that they were given the means of receiving praise from God, “he is a Jew [praise] … whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:29).

God’s favor toward His people

“Being justified freely by his grace [charis 5485] through the redemption [apolytrōsis 629] that is in Christ Jesus” (v. 24). As learned back in chapter one, “By whom we have received grace [charis 5485]” (1:5), “Grace [charis 5485] to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7), the Greek charis means “favor.” It’s God’s favor toward His people above all other people as the word was used in the Greek Old Testament, “And how shall it surely be known, that both I and this people have found favour [charis 5485] with thee, except only if thou go with us? So both I and thy people shall be glorified beyond all the nations, as many as are upon the earth.” (Exo 33:16-17 LXX Brenton).

The Greek noun apolytrōsis is “a release” or “a liberation” from a bondage, particularly that of a debt. It’s essentially the payment of a debt. Paul used this word in a parallel statement made to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae, “In whom we have redemption [apolytrōsis 629] through his blood, the forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). The Greek noun aphesis is “a taking away” as in forgiveness. And the writer of Hebrews used this word when contrasting the blood of Jesus Christ with the blood of animals, “Now where remission [aphesis 859] of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:18-19), “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins … offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Heb 10:4,11). Only Christ’s blood “takes away” and forgive sins.

The sense of “the redemption [apolytrōsis 629] that is in Christ Jesus” is that His blood paid for the sins of God’s people that had never been “taken away” by the blood of animals, but had always remained before God as an unpaid debt. And the writer of Hebrews even stated this explicitly, “for the redemption [apolytrōsis 629] of the transgressions that were under the first testament [covenant]” (Heb 9:15). His blood redeemed the sins of God’s people under the Old Covenant that had transgressed or broke His commandments. This redemption in Christ Jesus is what Paul is going to explain shortly about God having “passed over” those unresolved transgressions that were left unpaid.

God’s mercy seat

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [hilastērion 2435] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v. 25). The Greek hilastērion appears only one other time in the New Testament, “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat [hilastērion 2435]” (Heb 9:5). It’s the mercy seat in the holiest place of the Tabernacle where the high priest would enter only once per year on Yôm [H3117] Kāpār [H3722] or Atonement Day, “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb 9:7), “the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others” (Heb 9:25).

Most Bible versions render hilastērion here as “atonement,” “expiation,” or “propitiation” although a few state it correctly: “God presented him as the mercy seat by his blood” (CSB); “Whom God has sent forth a mercy-seat” (DARBY); “as a sacrifice of atonement; or as the mercy seat” (EXB); “whom God made publicly available as the mercy seat” (LEB); “God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat” (NET); “Him God has made a seat of mercy” (NMB); “whom God did set forth a mercy seat” (YLT). By translating hilastērion as “propitiation,” “atonement,” or “expiation,” the understanding of what Paul was communicating in this passage is lost.

That Paul was teaching the true mercy seat of which Christ is the true High Priest is evident by what he will state later in his letter, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (8:3). What “the law could not do” was remit our sins because “it was weak through the flesh.” It was weak because the high priests themselves were powerless to overcome death, “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof … And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death” (Heb 7:18,23). And it was weak because the high priests were sinful themselves, “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself” (Heb 9:7). The “likeness of sinful flesh” is the sinfulness of those high priests. God sent His Son “for sin” or for the purpose of condemning “sin in the flesh” as a flesh and blood human being without sin.

Christ’s faithfulness to shed His blood

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v. 25). That “through faith [faithfulness] in his blood” is about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness and not our faith, is attested by the context, “through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (v. 22 NET), “because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (v. 26 NET). But almost every Bible version has some form of “faith in his blood,” “faith in Christ,” “faith in him,” “through faith,” “received by faith” “those who have faith” or “believe in him.” However, the Common English Bible, the Complete Jewish Bible, and the New Testament for Everyone—which I can’t quote any of them because of copyright restrictions—have it correctly as “faithfulness.”

This verse isn’t about us having faith or belief in His blood, but about Him being faithful to His Father in shedding His blood. Paul is going to explain this in more detail later in his letter, that hidden in a mystery within Moses’ last words before his death was a prophecy about the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and the gospel message His apostles would preach, “But the righteousness which is of faith [faithfulness] speaketh on this wise … that is, to bring Christ down from abovethat is, to bring up Christ again from the dead … that is, the word [rhēma 4487] of faith [faithfulness], which we preach” (10:6,7,8). The three times Paul says “that is” indicates a correlation—that Moses’ statement corresponds to its fulfillment in Christ and to the preaching of the gospel by His apostles. In other words, Moses asking “Who shall ascend into heaven?” is “bring Christ down from above,” and “Who shall descend into the deep?” is “bring up Christ again from the dead,” and the statement “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart” is the gospel message of Christ’s faithfulness His apostles were now preaching, “the word [rhēma 4487] of faith [faithfulness], which we preach.”

The Greek noun rhēma is “a speech,” “a discourse,” or “an utterance.” Here, it’s a speech about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness that Paul was preaching. Therefore, when he concluded, “So then faith [faithfulness] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhēma 4487] of God” (10:17), it was about hearing this discourse about Christ’s faithfulness from a preacher, “how shall they hear without a preacher?” (10:14). Hearing of Christ’s faithfulness comes by the preacher preaching about His faithfulness, “the word [rhēma 4487] of faith [faithfulness], which we preach.”

God “passed over” the sins of His people

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission [paresis 3929] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v. 25). Animal sacrifices could never take sins away, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away [aphaireō 851] sins” (Heb 10:4), “offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away [periaireō 4014] sins” (Heb 10:11). The Greek noun paresis is mistranslated here as “remission.” It actually means “a passing over,” “a disregarding,” or “a letting go.” The English paresis which is “a paralysis” or “an impairment” is derived from it. The Passover during the Exodus taught this principle to God’s people: “when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exo 12:23), “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses” (Exo 12:27). This was just one of many ways that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal 3:24). Its types and figures taught God’s people about the true Sacrifice to come.

Now, Paul’s adversaries would argue that if animal sacrifices didn’t actually pay for sins then it would make God unrighteous because He would have left sins unpunished yet saved people anyway. But Paul was arguing that in God’s forbearance, He “passed over” the sins of His people, anticipating His Son’s sacrifice would pay for those sins later. Therefore, God vindicated Himself as righteous for having “passed over” those sins because He didn’t leave them unpaid entirely but simply paid for them later.

The writer of Hebrews quoted Jeremiah’s prophecy about the New Covenant, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts … I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:33,34), “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 10:16-17). And he followed that quote stating, “Now where remission [aphesis 859] of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Heb 10:18). The Greek noun aphesis means “remission,” “discharge,” or “release.” Therefore, sins that have been remitted need no more offerings made. And Jesus Himself used this word for His blood remitting our sins under the New Covenant, “For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission [aphesis 859] of sins” (Mat 26:28), “And that repentance and remission [aphesis 859] of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luk 24:47).

Peter and Paul both used this word in their preaching and teaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [aphesis 859] of sins” (Act 2:38); “for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Act 5:31); “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth [trusts] in him shall receive remission [aphesis 859] of sins” (Act 10:43); “that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Act 13:38); “that they may receive forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Act 26:18); “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Eph 1:7); “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness [aphesis 859] of sins” (Col 1:14).

Sins that are past

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission [passing over] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v. 25). Under the Old Covenant, only one day of the year the high priest sprinkled the blood of a bull and a goat on the mercy seat in the holiest place of the Tabernacle, “the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat … kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat” (Lev 16:14,15). Atonement Day was a ceremonial atonement for the sins of God’s people that had been committed over the entire previous year, “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD … to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year” (Lev 16:30,34). Of course, this was only a type of the true, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb 9:24). But as with the true, the type indicated a redeeming of past sins—the sins of God’s people over the past year. Atonement Day included a “passing over” of sins, God “passing over” the sins of the previous year to “atone” for them on this one day.

“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal [aiōnios 166] inheritance” (Heb 9:15). The Greek adjective aiōnios in this statement from Hebrews doesn’t mean “eternal” as in “without end” or “never ceasing.” Most of the 70 times this word is used in the New Testament it’s incorrectly translated as “eternal,” “everlasting,” or “forever.” That it doesn’t mean “without end” is shown by a few times where it can’t mean that: “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began [aiōnios 166]” (16:25); “In hope of eternal [aiōnios 166] life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world [aiōnios 166] began” (Tit 1:2); “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever [aiōnios 166]” (Phm 1:15).

It’s noun form aiōn appears almost 130 times and is usually translated as “forever” and even many times as “world.” But it’s simply “an age” as in “a period of time” or “an era” as it’s translated a couple of times, “That in the ages [aiōn 165] to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7), “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages [aiōn 165] and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col 1:26). But the undisputable proof that it can’t mean “without end” is that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself used it with an end! He used this word for the current age in which we live that most certainly will come to an end: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world [aiōn 165]; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world [aiōn 165] … So shall it be at the end of the world [aiōn 165]” (Mat 13:39-40,49); “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [aiōn 165]” (Mat 28:20).

Now, the purpose in correctly defining aiōnios is to state that “the promise of eternal [aiōnios 166] inheritance” (Heb 9:15) isn’t about an inheritance that has no end, but an inheritance that has been enduring throughout the ages. And the promise is what the writer referred to earlier, “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). It’s the promise of the inheritance God made to Abraham that has endured throughout the ages, “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal 3:18).

Romans and Hebrews are teaching the same message about Jesus Christ’s faithfulness: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [hilastērion 2435] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission [passing over] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (v. 25); “the mercyseat [hilastērion 2435]” (Heb 9:5), “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament [covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament [covenant], they which are called might receive the promise of eternal [age enduring] inheritance” (Heb 9:15). For God’s people to receive the promise of inheritance He made to Abraham, God “passed over” their sins while the fulfillment of His promise endured the ages until His Son finally came and remitted their sins.

That He might be just

To declare [endeixis 1732], I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth [pistis 4102] in Jesus” (v. 26). Paul now repeats what he said in the previous verse, “to declare [endeixis 1732] his righteousness” (v. 25). The Greek noun endeixis is translated here as a verb “to declare,” but it’s actually “a proof” or “an evidence” as rendered the other two times this word is used, “Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof [endeixis 1732] of your love” (2Co 8:24), “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token [endeixis 1732] of perdition” (Phl 1:28). Many other Bible versions, on the other hand, have “to demonstrate” or “to prove.” It’s about God giving proof or evidence of His righteousness for having done what appeared to have been unrighteous, “To declare [prove], I say, at this time his righteousness … to declare [prove] his righteousness.”

God’s people had wrongly assumed that the blood of animals took away sins for them to die forgiven. Because if the blood of animals didn’t take away sins, then everyone dies in their sins and perishes. But the writer of Hebrews stated plainly, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Since that’s true, that God’s people all died without their sins being taken away, then how could any of them be saved? Therefore, that “he might be just” is the question Paul is addressing. Since the blood of animals never took away sins, how was God just in passing over those past sins, “for the remission [passing over] of sins that are past” (v. 25)? In justifying us, God had to do it justly. And He would have been unjust had He forgave sins on the basis of the blood of animals. Since the blood of animals never took away sins, God would have been unjust in taking them away.

It’s now “at this time” that God gave proof of His righteousness, of His justness in passing over those past sins. And His proof was the Sacrifice of His Son, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8), “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1Jo 4:9). Although past sins had never been taken away, they were taken away now. Therefore, God was just in passing over them, forbearing and refraining His wrath, “through the forbearance of God” (v. 25), to be unleashed upon His Son instead: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him” (Isa 53:10); “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34); “For he hath made him to be sin for us” (2Co 5:21); “being made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13); given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph 5:2).

Jesus’ faithfulness

“To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth [pistis 4102] in Jesus” (v. 26). The Greek noun pistis is mistranslated here as a verb “believe.” But it isn’t at all about us believing in Jesus but about “Jesus’ faithfulness” (NET). This is mistranslated in over 50 English Bible versions to indicate having faith, believing, or trusting in Jesus: “those who have faith in Jesus” (NIV); “the one who has faith in Jesus” (NKJV); “when they believe in Jesus” (NLT); “who puts his trust in Jesus (NLV). But there are, however, a few English versions that render it more accurately: “who has faith in Jesus [or on the basis of Jesus’ faithfulness]” (EXB); “because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (NET); “everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus” (NTE); and the Complete Jewish Bible which I can’t quote here because of copyright restrictions. It’s not about God justifying us on the basis of our faith but “on the basis of Jesus’ faithfulness” (EXB).

Where is boasting then?

Where is boasting [kauchēsis 2746] then? It is excluded. By what law? of works [actions]? Nay: but by the law of faith [faithfulness].” (v. 27). Earlier Paul stated that the Jews “makest thy boast [kauchaomai 2744] of God” (2:17), “makest thy boast [kauchaomai 2744] of the law” (2:23). The Greek noun for “boasting” is kauchēsis and verb is kauchaomai. They boasted of being superior to all other people because God had revealed Himself only to them: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship” (Jhn 4:22); “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship” (Act 17:23); “in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God” (1Co 1:21); “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). “Where is boasting then?” hearkens back to what Paul asked earlier, “What then? are we better than they? “No, in no wise” (v. 9). The Jews can’t boast of being better than the Gentiles because their own Scriptures indicted “that they are all under sin” (v. 9), “For all have sinned” (v. 23).

By what law?

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works [actions]? Nay: but by the law of faith [faithfulness]” (v. 27). “By what law?” isn’t asking “By which law?” but “By what purpose of the law?” Is it by the purpose the Jews supposed that the law was an end in itself, or the purpose Paul declared later in his letter, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth [trusts]” (10:4)? Christ is the end purpose for the law. Without His faithfulness to fulfill it, the law would have served no purpose. That it wasn’t “of actions” but “of faithfulness” is that the law wasn’t given for people to be justified by their actions of abstinence from unclean meats, keeping of holy days, and sacrificing animals, but to be justified by Christ’s faithfulness in giving Himself as the one and only Sacrifice for our sins.

Not by actions of righteousness which we have done

When Paul wrote to Titus, “Not by works [actions] of righteousness [dikaiosynē 1343] which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost [breath]” (Tit 3:5), it wasn’t about moral righteous living because he had just stated earlier that we must live righteously, “For the grace [favor] of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously [dikaiōs 1346], and godly, in this present world” (Tit 2:11-12). The “works [actions] of righteousness which we have done” are the actions of righteousness commanded under the law— abstaining from unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath, observing the feasts, and offering animal sacrifices. That these are the actions in question is supported by the context of the letter, “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [distrusting] is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Tit 1:14-15). Jewish men were commanding Gentiles to eat a diet pure from meats restricted by the law. But “Unto the pure all things are pure” is that all meats are pure to those that have a pure heart. However, to those with defiled minds and consciences, eating a diet pure from unclean meats accomplishes nothing. With God, what counts are pure hearts, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8).

Paul was reminding Titus—a Gentile himself ministering to Gentiles in Crete—about the outpouring from Jesus Christ upon the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, “renewing of the Holy Ghost [breath]; Which he shed [ekcheō 1632] on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3:5-6), “poured out on us” (NET). Christ had shown Peter a vision of impure and unclean animals, then declared them pure and clean, “Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.” (Act 10:12-13), “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Act 10:15). Peter then preached to the Gentiles as he had to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, and consequently witnessed the same gift of tongues poured out, “And they of the circumcision which believed [trusted] were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out [ekcheō 1632] the gift of the Holy Ghost [breath]. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.” (Act 10:45-46).

Paul’s point to Titus was that God poured out the same gift upon the Gentiles as He did on the Jews yet “Not by works [actions] of righteousness which we have done.” The Gentiles at Cornelius’ house hadn’t been keeping the actions of eating a pure diet but were given the same gift as the Jews regardless. Therefore, “Not by works [actions] of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” isn’t dismissing morally righteous living, but the “actions” of righteousness required for the Jews under the law. Paul wasn’t at all nullifying morally righteous living.

Paul’s conclusion

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28). Paul now draws his conclusion from this passage that we’re justified by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness in sacrificing Himself, and without the priests’ actions of sacrificing animals. However, “justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28), has been changed to something else entirely—that we’re justified by our believing and not by righteous living. In fact, it’s being taught that living morally righteous is even an affront to Christ in an attempt to save ourselves apart from His Sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Thus, we’re taught that not only is morally righteous living unnecessary for salvation, but that it’s even detrimental to it! Protestant “Christians” everywhere are falsely assured of salvation because they simply believe some facts are true. As a dire consequence, the standard of moral righteousness by which they’re taught to live is lower than what Jesus Christ Himself commanded in His Sermon on the Mount. And because of this, according to Christ, they won’t be entering into the Kingdom, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20).

Believing is essentially that God isn’t lying! Vast multitudes of Protestants assume they’re saved because they simply consider what God said is true. But that the Greek pistis in the New Testament isn’t “faith” but “faithfulness” is supported by the fact that nowhere in the Old Testament was anyone ever required to believe anything. If salvation is truly by faith, and nobody before Christ was ever required to have faith, then everyone before Christ perished! Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, all perished.

Saved by faith or by faithfulness?

This popular statement Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace [favor] 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), has been corrupted into a different message entirely. We’re taught it means salvation by our faith and not by our meritorious works of living morally righteously. However, the overall context of the letter is God’s plan of salvation from the beginning to have a chosen people saved by His favor in Christ that all other people would be made partakers.

God purposed from the beginning to choose a people to Himself, “According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation [casting down] of the world” (Eph 1:4). These people were redeemed through the blood of His Son according to the favor He bestowed upon them above all other people, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace [favor]” (Eph 1:7). They were given first opportunity to trust in the Messiah, then the Gentiles were also given opportunity, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted” (Eph 1:13).

Therefore, the phrase “For by grace [favor] are ye saved” is specifically the favor bestowed upon God’s chosen people above all other people.  And “through faith [faithfulness]” is Christ’s faithfulness as Paul will state later, “This was according to the eternal [age enduring] purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” (Eph 3:11-12 NET). God’s purpose from the beginning was His Son’s faithfulness to shed His blood for His favored people, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace [favor]” (Eph 1:7). And God’s purpose endured the ages until finally being consummated on the cross.

The statement “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” has been debated ad nauseam about exactly what “the gift of God” is, whether it’s our faith or salvation itself. But neither is the correct answer. The gift is God’s own Son as He said of Himself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jhn 3:16); “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink” (Jhn 4:10); “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (Jhn 6:32).

When Paul said “Not of works [actions], lest any man should boast,” it’s the actions of the priests in sacrificing animals for the sins of God’s people, giving them place to boast of themselves above all other people. Gentiles were uncircumcised and therefore alienated from Israel, leaving them without any hope of salvation, “ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision … being aliens from the commonwealth of Israelhaving no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). But Christ’s death on the cross made both Jews and Gentiles into one corporate body of God’s people, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph 2:14-15). The “middle wall of partition” is the vail of the Temple that was torn when Christ died on the cross, “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mat 27:51; Mar 15:38), “the veil of the temple was rent in the midst” (Luk 23:45). Therefore, the High Priest’s actions on the annual Day of Atonement in sprinkling the blood of bulls and goats on the mercy seat, were ended. And that the “law of commandments contained in ordinances” was abolished are the ordinances commanded by circumcision, mainly abstinence from unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath, observing the feasts, and sacrificing animals. Therefore, “Not of works [actions], lest any man should boast,” is that the Jews can no longer boast in their actions because all people are saved by the faithfulness of God’s Son.

In his letters to the churches, Paul distinguished and contrasted the faithfulness of Jesus Christ from the actions of the law: “a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28); “no one is justified by the works [actions] of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe [trust] in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works [actions] of the law, because by the works [actions] of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16 NET); “For by grace [favor] 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); “not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness” (Phl 3:9 NET). Unfortunately, his statements are being turned to a different message entirely just as Peter said, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16).

A simple paraphrase of “For by grace [favor] 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” is that “For it’s by His favor toward you as His people that you’re saved through the faithfulness of His Son, and not of yourselves: it’s the gift of God, and not your actions so that none of you can boast over other people.” Satan’s ministers, however, fight the understanding of the true context of Ephesians so they can continue deceiving and damning people with their false message of faith from this popular “faith” verse. And the main way they keep the true context shrouded is by their false context of Calvinism, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world … Having predestinated us” (Eph 1:4,5). The doctrine of Calvinism isn’t an honest misinterpretation of statements about election, foreknowledge, and predestination, but a doctrine of devils concocted to confuse, deceive, and simply waste our precious time disputing over nothing and continuing down the broad way leading to destruction.

The God of both the Jews and the Gentiles

Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles [ethnos 1484]? Yes, of the Gentiles [ethnos 1484] also” (v. 29). In proving that all people have sinned, Paul spoke about both the Jews and the Greeks, “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles [hellēn 1672], that they are all under sin” (v. 9), “For all have sinned” (v. 23). And in declaring that God is the God of all people, he now speaks of the Jews and all ethnic people in general. No longer is He the God of the Jews only, but He is now also the God of all ethnic people. Paul will later quote from Hosea a prophecy that God would call all ethnicities His people and not only the Jews, “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles [ethnos 1484]? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.” (9:24-25).

Salvation is ultimately about the one true God being the God of our lives: “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). 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 ultimately save us. God will be our God. Many want Him as their Savior, but not as their God. But He is only our Savior when He is our God.

Of course the first of the Ten Commandments to God’s people was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3; Deu 5:7). Repeatedly God warned them to not put other gods before Him: “And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and 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).

Several times in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus directed His disciples to God their Father in heaven: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (5:16); “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (6:4); “pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (6:6); “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (6:14); “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” (6:18); “how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (7:11); “doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (7:21).

Christ told a Samaritan woman that although only the Jews had the knowledge of the true God, soon the true worshippers would worship God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 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.” (Jhn 4:22-23). And after His resurrection, He said that His Father is our Father, and His God is our God, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but 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).

The same God

“Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith [faithfulness], and uncircumcision through faith [faithfulness]” (v. 30). Paul makes it clear that the Gentiles now serve the same God as the Jews. Understandably, it’s very difficult for the Jewish people to unlearn what has been instilled into them going all the way back to the Exodus. They have always viewed themselves as the people of God, the only people of God. The one true God revealed Himself to them through Moses and gave them commandments and ordinances under the mark of circumcision, and they supposed this to be the consummation of salvation. It’s hard for them to accept that this was only one piece, albeit a very large piece, in God’s plan of salvation from the beginning. That His overarching plan was for His Son to come into this world and die for the sins of the world so that all people would be saved, can be difficult for them to accept.

Sadly, the tables have been turned so that whereas it was the Jews that boasted of themselves over the Gentiles, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God” (2:17), Gentiles now boast of themselves over the Jews. Some “Christian” groups even teach that Gentiles replaced the Jews as God’s people! But Paul warned us to “Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee” (11:18). The “root” is Jesus Christ bearing the entire tree, and the “branches” are the Jewish people among whom Gentiles are grafted. Our mindset toward the Jewish people shouldn’t be of boasting, but of mercy, “Even so have these also now not believed [trusted], that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy” (11:31). Our love, mercy, and peace toward them is what will help lead them to the truth and be saved.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit [breath] in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit [breath], even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph 4:3-6). All of these “one” statements aren’t about singularity but unity. In other words, he wasn’t teaching that there’s only one body as opposed to two or more, but that both Jews and Gentiles belong to the same body. This is substantiated a few verses later by the one body, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:16). The words “There is” are italicized indicated they’re not in the Greek text but were added by the translators. But “There is” leaves the wrong impression that Paul was in fact teaching singularity with all of these “one” statements.

Paul was teaching that both Jews and Gentiles are members of the same body working together in unity, have the same indwelling breath from God, share the same hope of God’s calling, serve the same Lord Jesus Christ, partake in the same faithfulness of Christ, have been baptized into the same name, and have the same God and Father. This is what “the gospel of peace” means, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace” (10:15), “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit [breath] in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). It’s both Jews and Gentiles being at peace with each other by virtue of being saved by the preaching of the same gospel message. The same God that justifies the circumcised by His Son’s faithfulness, also justifies the uncircumcised through His Son’s faithfulness, “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith [faithfulness], and uncircumcision through faith [faithfulness]” (v. 30).

The law is established by Christ’s faithfulness

“Do we then make void the law through faith [faithfulness]? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (v. 31). Christ’s own words to His disciples, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17). And after He was resurrected, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luk 24:44). He didn’t destroy the law but was the fulfillment of its very purpose as Paul will state later, “Christ is the end of the law” (10:4). He is the law’s very end purpose or fulfillment. Without Him it would have served no purpose, but with Him it served its purpose.

Now, the question naturally arises that since God has a Son and His purpose from the very beginning was His Son, then why not make that clear to His people all along? Why allow them to keep thinking that the law was His end purpose only to later spring upon them the truth, even knowing it would cause much perplexity and outright opposition? It’s because had God made known to us how He was going to save us, we wouldn’t have cooperated, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Act 3:17), “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Co 2:7-8). God kept His plan of salvation hidden and secret from us, because we would have messed it up! Therefore, He allowed His own people to wrongly accept the law as His way of righteousness so they would unwittingly fulfill His true way of righteousness for all people to be saved.

Paul will state at the end of his letter, “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest” (16:25-26). Christ revealed to Paul’s understanding the mystery that had been kept secret since the beginning, and Paul now divulged it here in this letter. Does Christ’s faithfulness to His Father’s plan from the beginning void or nullify the purpose of the law? Never! It establishes the very purpose of the law—to prove all are under sin so that all could be saved, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe [trust]” (Gal 3:22).

Romans Chapter Two

Overview

The letter to the Romans is a detailed explanation of the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached, which Paul was unashamed to preach also, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [hellēn 1672]” (Rom 1:16). The gospel is God’s power to save everyone that trusts, whether Jew or Greek. And Paul was the apostle sent to the Greeks, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” (Act 16:9-10). Therefore, “my gospel” (v. 16) as he will call it here in chapter two, is the gospel he was sent to preach specifically to the Hellenes, “the Gentile [hellēn 1672]” (vs. 9,10), and generally to all ethnicities, “the Gentiles [ethnos 1484]” (vs. 14,24).

Paul endeavored to substantiate two main truths by his teaching in this chapter: (1) that although the Jews were given privilege over all other people, God is no respecter of persons in judgment and will render to everyone according to their actions; (2) that the gospel he was sent by Christ to preach to the Gentiles is that they can fulfill the righteous requirements of the law without circumcision and all that pertains to it.

Furthermore, he affirmed that “the gospel of Christ” which is “the power of God unto salvation” is by hearing and doing the righteousness of the law, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (v. 13). The gospel of Christ and the gospel Paul preached isn’t hearing and believing, but hearing and doing, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26).

Moses and the prophets said, “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Lev 18:5), “which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Neh 9:29), “which if a man do, he shall even live in them” (Eze 20:11,13,21). And in answering a lawyer’s question, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luk 10:25), Jesus affirmed his understanding of the law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luk 10:27-28). To live or to inherit eternal life, we must keep the moral righteousness embodied in the two great commandments of loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This was true under the Old Covenant and is still true under the New. God’s standard of moral righteousness hasn’t changed.

The gospel Paul explained in this chapter is doing, keeping, and fulfilling the righteousness of the law, “the doers of the law shall be justified” (v. 13), “do by nature the things contained in the law” (v. 14), “keep the righteousness of the law” (v. 26), “if it fulfil the law” (v. 27). Therefore, his message later in chapter four concerning “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3), isn’t about simply believing as it’s being taught today. Christ’s gospel and his gospel was hearing and doing the righteousness of the law.

Thou art inexcusable, O man

This chapter begins with Paul concluding what he had just stated at the end of the previous chapter, “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (1:32 NKJV), “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man [anthrōpos 444], whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (v. 1). God’s own people “are without excuse” (1:20), “thou art inexcusable,” because they know what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen 19:24). And they know what He said about homosexuality, “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).

When Paul said “thou that judgest doest the same things,” he wasn’t saying that they actually were doing the same things but that they were just as guilty before God when they “approve of those who practice them” (1:32 NKJV). When they approved of others doing evil, they judged that evil as good and became just as guilty as if doing those evil things themselves. Those that know God’s judgment, “Who knowing the judgment of God” (1:32), yet “approve of those who practice them” (1:32 NKJV), make themselves judges.

People today cry out “Don’t judge me!” But it’s nothing new—it’s what the men of Sodom said to Lot, “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge” (Gen 19:9). The “Don’t judge me!” exclamation is simply a false accusation. Those that agree with God’s judgment aren’t the ones judging, it’s those that disagree with His judgment that are. Those that falsely accuse us of judging are actually the ones judging because they’re judging their evil actions of homosexuality and lesbianism as good. We’re not the ones judging because we’re simply agreeing with God’s judgment that their evil actions are evil.

When Paul called them “O man [anthrōpos 444]” (vs. 1,3), it was a subtle jab at the pride of God’s own people to remind them that they’re just as human as all other people. They viewed Gentiles as worthy of God’s judgment because of doing such things, yet they were just as guilty of doing the same things. In fact, since they had been made God’s priority over all other people, then their judgment will also be made His priority, “of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (v. 9). And His judgment upon all will be completely equitable and just without discrimination, “For there is no respect of persons with God” (v. 11).

According to truth

“But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man [anthrōpos 444], that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 2-3). Paul now states that God’s judgment is “according to truth,” “in accordance with truth” (NET), “based on truth” (NIV). This is what the law and the prophets said: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25); “And he shall judge the world in righteousness” (Psa 9:8); “he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth” (Psa 96:13); “with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Psa 98:9); “O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” (Eze 18:25); “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?” (Eze 18:29).

Since God’s own people are human beings just like all other people, then the truth by which God will judge the world applies to them the same. What makes them think they won’t be judged by the truth, or that they won’t even be judged at all but escape judgment completely? Again, “O man” is a reminder to them that all men will be judged by the same standard.

The longsuffering of the Lord

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (v. 4). We hear people sometimes say, “Well, I sinned and God didn’t strike me with lightning!” But that’s simply a way of claiming that there really isn’t a God, or that He doesn’t judge sin. But Paul explained that “his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering … leadeth thee to repentance.” God doesn’t judge our sin immediately because He is giving us time to repent.

God’s own people knew His judgment upon the world when He rained the flood from heaven, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (1:18). However, He didn’t bring the flood immediately. He warned Noah first and instructed him to build an ark, “By faith [faithfulness] Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb 11:7). Then He waited patiently while the ark was being built, “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1Pe 3:20). And Noah was likely preaching to the people during this time, giving them opportunity to be saved as well, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2Pe 2:5). His longsuffering in not bringing judgment immediately was so that the godly would be saved and that the ungodly would have time to repent.

The same is true today with the return of the Lord, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9), “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2Pe 3:15). This is the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mat 24:37), “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luk 17:26). The last days will be like the flood in that the ungodly won’t believe God’s judgment is coming and therefore won’t be prepared. They’ll be carrying on with their daily activities until the very day it comes, “they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark” (Mat 24:38), “They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark” (Luk 17:27). But it will be too late for them. The godly will be prepared and will be saved.

This was the point of Christ’s parable of the Ten Virgins. Five of them didn’t prepare for the bridegroom’s coming, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Mat 25:5). And once he came it was too late to prepare. On the other hand, the five that were prepared, “they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Mat 25:10). Like the door of the ark, “the door was shut.” It’s God’s “goodness and forbearance and longsuffering” that He hasn’t judged the world yet. He is giving us time to repent and be saved.

Hardness of heart

“But after thy hardness [sklērotēs 4643] and impenitent [ametanoētos 279] heart treasurest up [thēsaurizō 2343] unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (v. 5). The Greek noun sklērotēs and its adjective form sklēros are where our English sclerosis is derived. Merriam-Webster defines sclerosis as a “pathological hardening of tissue,” and its History and Etymology as “Middle English sclirosis tumor, from Medieval Latin, from Greek sklērōsis hardening, from sklēroun to harden, from sklēros.” When used for our hearts, it’s a metaphorical hardening.

God ordained in the beginning that men’s hearts would be like a garden that must be continually cultivated and nurtured, “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed … to dress it and to keep it” (Gen 2:8,15). Man being placed in a literal garden “to dress it and to keep it” was figurative of how it is in our daily lives.

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is that the heart of man is like different types of soil—wayside, stony, thorny, and good. The wayside is those that hear the gospel message Jesus and His apostles preached but won’t listen, “then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart” (Mat 13:19). They don’t have ears to hear, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mat 13:9). We have a saying, “It went in one ear and out the other!” These are people that won’t listen.

Stony soil is those that listen but don’t last, “when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Mat 13:21). Planted in soil filled with rocks, the garden of their heart tries to grow but just can’t bring forth fruit from it. These people begin compromising the truth to avoid suffering. When conflicts of interest come, they start doing what’s in their own best interest rather than in their Lord’s interest. Therefore, their hearts become hardened so that they don’t finish what they started.

The thorny soil is those that are overgrown by temptations for the things this world has to offer, “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word” (Mat 13:22). Rather keeping it their first priority to enter God’s Kingdom, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Mat 6:33), other things in this life begin taking priority. Rather than loving God first, “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6), “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deu 6:5), they begin loving other things, “thou hast left thy first love” (Rev 2:4).

The good soil, on the other hand, “heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit” (Mat 13:23). They listen to the Lord and understand His message. That they “beareth fruit” is that they overcome all things to bear fruit in the “garden” of their heart. They endure whatever tribulation or persecution comes against them, and don’t succumb to the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.

Jesus Himself addressed seven churches in Asia and punctuated each message to them the same: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches … To him that overcometh” (Rev 2:7); “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches … He that overcometh” (Rev 2:11); “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches … To him that overcometh” (Rev 2:17); “And he that overcometh … He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:26,29); “He that overcometh … He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:5,6); “Him that overcometh … He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:12,13); “To him that overcometh … He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 3:21,22). We must listen to Him to overcome all that the enemy throws against us.

The Greek adjective ametanoētos in “But after thy hardness and impenitent [ametanoētos 279] heart,”

is a compound of the negative particle alpha and verb metanoēo which means “to change” or “to turn.” It’s translated in some Bible Versions as “unrepentant” (HNV, NET, NIV). The “hardness and impenitent heart” is a heart that has hardened and refuses to repent. These are people that don’t want to change, they don’t want to turn from a life of sin.

The Greek verb thēsaurizō in “treasurest up [thēsaurizō 2343] unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” and its noun form thēsauros, Jesus used in His Sermon on the Mount, “Lay not up [thēsaurizō 2343] for yourselves treasures [thēsauros 2344] upon earth … But lay up [thēsaurizō 2343] for yourselves treasures [thēsauros 2344] in heaven” (Mat 6:19,20). It means “to lay up,” “to store up,” or “to accumulate” something. Paul used it here for the ungodly “storing up” judgment against themselves. Just because God hasn’t judged sin, doesn’t mean that He won’t. Unrepentant sin is being stored up for judgment later.

Judged according to our actions

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds [ergon 2041]” (v. 6). Paul was quoting from the book of Job, “For the work of a man shall he render unto him” (Job 34:11). The Greek noun ergon simply means “actions,” whatever actions are imposed by the context. Here, it’s either good or evil actions as indicated by the next two verses, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing [ergon 2041]” (v. 7), “every soul of man that doeth [katergazomai 2716] evil … every man that worketh [ergazomai 2038] good” (vs. 9,10). The verbs katergazomai and ergazomai are both from the root ergon.

Jesus told all seven churches in Asia, “I know thy works [ergon 2041]” (Rev 2:2,9,13,19, 3:1,8,15). He didn’t say, “I know which of you truly believe and don’t believe!” He also said, “I will give unto every one of you according to your works [ergon 2041]” (Rev 2:23), “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work [ergon 2041] shall be” (Rev 22:12).

At the end of Revelation, we’re told that the dead will be judged according to their actions written in the books, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works [ergon 2041]” (Rev 20:12). Both “small and great” indicates there won’t be respect of persons in God’s judgment. It won’t matter how rich, famous, or powerful anyone was in this life. Everyone will be judged by the same objective standard—their actions recorded in the books.

In addition to the books with actions recorded, the book of life was opened with names recorded: “whose names are in the book of life” (Phl 4:3); “his name out of the book of life” (Rev 3:5); “whose names are not written in the book of life” (Rev 13:8); “whose names were not written in the book of life” (Rev 17:8); “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27). It seems the actions written in the books will justify the names being written or not written in the book of life, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

Jesus told the church in Sardis, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5). He had told His disciples, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 10:32-33), “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). Our names being written and remaining written in the book of life is only through being unashamed of Christ and His words before men.

“And the angel [messenger] of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Gen 22:11-12). The Messenger of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Son of God, saw Abraham’s actions and concluded that he feared God. Abraham then named that place accordingly, “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh [Yᵊhōvȃ 3068] [rā’ȃ 7200]: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD [Yᵊhōvȃ 3068] it shall be seen [rā’ȃ 7200]” (Gen 22:14). The Hebrew verb rā’ȃ means “to see” or “to look at.” The Son of God saw his actions and confessed his name from heaven. And James used Abraham as our example, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works [ergon 2041], when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (Jas 2:21). His obedient actions of doing what God told him, “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18), justified him before the Son of God, “for now I know that thou fearest God.”

James also used Rahab as an example of actions, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works [ergon 2041], when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (Jas 2:25). Everyone in Jericho feared the God of Israel, “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 … 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” (Jos 2:9,11). However, Rahab was the only person in Jericho that took action. By harboring and helping the two spies, she joined herself with God’s people and justified her fear God more than the king of Jericho.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith [faithfulness], and have not works [ergon 2041]? can faith [faithfulness] save him?” (Jas 2:14). James’ point was that it accomplishes nothing to simply say we’re faithful servants of the Lord yet we’re not being faithful to the Lord. It’s not what we say but what we do that counts. It’s our actions that justify our faithfulness, “shew me thy faith [faithfulness] without thy works [ergon 2041], and I will shew thee my faith [faithfulness] by my works [ergon 2041]” (Jas 2:18). Abraham’s faithfulness was shown by his actions, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works [ergon 2041]” (Jas 2:21), because his actions are what was seen, “now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me … In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Gen 22:12,14).

Patient continuance in good actions

“To them who by patient continuance in well [agathos 18] doing [ergon 2041] seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (v. 7). Paul wasn’t teaching eternal life by faith but by “patient continuance in well doing,” “persistence in doing good” (NIV). The doctrine today that “The just shall live by faith” (1:17) means salvation by faith or believing, can’t be reconciled with Paul’s teaching in this chapter about actions. This is why we almost never hear sermons on these next two verses that eternal life is by “patient continuance in well doing” (v. 7), and wrath is to those that “do not obey the truth” (v. 8). It’s a huge red flag that something is seriously wrong with the teaching of salvation by faith.

Now, Paul certainly didn’t mean that we can do good on our own without Christ because he will teach later, “if so be that the Spirit [breath] of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit [breath] of Christ, he is none of his” (8:9), “if ye through the Spirit [breath] do mortify the deeds [praxis 4234] of the body, ye shall live” (8:13). That “ye shall live” is that we will have eternal life when we mortify or “put to death” (NET, NKJV, NIV, NLT) the praxis or practices of the body by God’s indwelling breath in Christ Jesus. We must belong to Christ to have God’s indwelling breath and be able to persistently do good thereby putting to death the practices of the body. He listed such practices when writing to the Colossians, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry … anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds [praxis 4234]” (Col 3:5,8,9).

He repeatedly told Timothy and Titus to remind God’s people to continue in good actions: “with good works [ergon 2041]” (1Ti 2:10); “Well reported of for good works [ergon 2041]” (1Ti 5:10); “that they be rich in good works [ergon 2041]” (1Ti 6:18); “prepared unto every good work [ergon 2041]” (2Ti 2:21); “thoroughly furnished unto all good works [ergon 2041]” (2Ti 3:17); “unto every good work” (Tit 1:16); “shewing thyself a pattern of good works [ergon 2041]” (Tit 2:7); “zealous of good works [ergon 2041]” (Tit 2:14); “to be ready to every good work [ergon 2041]” (Tit 3:1); “might be careful to maintain good works [ergon 2041]” (Tit 3:8); “learn to maintain good works [ergon 2041]” (Tit 3:14).

That eternal life is “by patient continuance in well doing [ergon 2041],” is that the focus isn’t on what we don’t do but on what we do. Eternal life isn’t simply by not doing evil but by doing good. When writing to the Galatians, Paul contrasted the actions of the flesh with the fruit of the breath, “Now the works [ergon 2041] of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Gal 5:19-21), “But the fruit of the Spirit [breath] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith [faithfulness], Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). The law of Moses included commandments against all such actions of the flesh. But against the fruit of the breath, there are no commandments because these are things we do, not things we don’t do. Like fruit produced from good soil, they’re the effect, outcome, or result of God’s breath in our hearts.

The contentious, stubborn, and unyielding

Paul now describes the actions of those that perish, “But unto them that are contentious [eritheia 2052], and do not obey [apeitheō 544] the truth, but obey [peithō 3982] unrighteousness, indignation and wrath” (v. 8). The Greek noun eritheia means “contention,” “dispute,” or “strife.” It’s used six other times in the New Testament: “lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes [eritheia 2052], backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2Co 12:20); “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife [eritheia 2052]” (Gal 5:20); “The one preach Christ of contention [eritheia 2052], not sincerely” (Phl 1:16); “Let nothing be done through strife [eritheia 2052] or vainglory” (Phl 2:3); “But if ye have bitter envying and strife [eritheia 2052] in your hearts … For where envying and strife [eritheia 2052] is” (Jas 3:14,16).

The Greek verb apeitheō is the negative form of the verb peithō which means “to listen to,” “to yield to,” or “to comply with.” It appears 16 times in the New Testament. In the King James Version, it’s rendered nine times as either “believe not” or “unbelieving” but seven times as either “obey not” or “disobedient.” It’s adjective form apeithēs appears six times and is always translated as “disobedient,” “the disobedient [apeithēs 545] to the wisdom of the just” (Luk 1:17); “I was not disobedient [apeithēs 545] unto the heavenly vision: (Act 26:19); “disobedient [apeithēs 545] to parents” (Rom 1:30; 2Ti 3:2); “being abominable, and disobedient [apeithēs 545]” (Tit 1:16); “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient [apeithēs 545]” (Tit 3:3). The point is that this word isn’t about unbelief but about disobedience.

God’s “indignation and wrath” will be to those “contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” (v. 8). Jesus Christ taught the truth: “grace [favor] 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 [trust] 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). Those contending with Him, and not obeying Him, will face God’s wrath.

We must ask ourselves this simple question, “Can anyone contend with the Savior and still be saved by Him?” The answer is obvious. To contend with Him is tantamount to saying that He taught falsehood, that He’s wrong and we’re right, that we know better than Him! Those that contend with the Savior, and that won’t obey Him, won’t be saved by Him. 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” (2Jn 1:9). To belong to God, we must abide by what His Son taught. Those that transgress or don’t abide by His teaching don’t have God.

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached 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); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father” (Jhn 16:27,28). It’s His own words “begotten,” “proceeded forth,” and “came out from God” about Himself that attest to His begetting and His beginning as a person. Many times He called Himself the Son of God but never once called Himself “God.” Rather, He called His Father “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called His Father, His God 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).

Moses said, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deu 18:18-19). God put His words in His Son’s mouth, and He commanded, preached, and taught only what His Father sent Him to speak. To not listen to God’s Son is to not listen to God Himself. Once we come to know and understand what God’s Son taught, God requires it of us, “I will require it of him.”

As a Trinitarian myself for almost 30 years, I was wrong about God and His Son Jesus Christ because I had been deceived by false teaching. But once I came to the knowledge and understanding of what Christ taught about God and about Himself, I was no longer deceived and God required it of me. God is longsuffering toward us when we’re sincerely ignorant, confused, and deceived. He gives us time to come to the knowledge of the truth. But once we’ve come to know the truth, He requires us to not be ashamed of it but publicly confess it before men. Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel Jesus Christ Himself preached, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]” (1:16). We must be unashamed of the gospel message preached by Jesus Christ to be saved by Him.

No respect of persons with God

“Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God” (vs. 9-11). That “Tribulation and anguish” is to “the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” is that since the Jews were blessed and entrusted with more, then more is required of them. And that “glory, honour, and peace” is to “the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,” is that salvation was first preached to the Jews but then later to the Gentiles. It’s not about belief or unbelief but about “worketh good” or “doeth evil.” Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were never required to believe anything, but required to obey everything. The same is still true for God’s people under the New Covenant whether Jew or Gentile.

God is no respecter of persons: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward” (Deu 10:17); “for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts” (2Ch 19:7); “How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor” (Job 34:19); “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Act 10:34); “God accepteth no man’s person” (Gal 2:6); “your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Eph 6:9); “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work” (1Pe 1:17).

Peter taught that God’s judgment will be without respect of persons but according to every person’s actions, “without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work [actions]” (1Pe 1:17). And the actions by which everyone will be judged are actions of either obedience or disobedience to the gospel, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:17-18). Other versions render it, “if the righteous is difficultly saved” (DBY), “if the righteous are barely saved” (NET, NLT), “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved” (NIV). Jesus taught that most will perish while only few will be saved, “broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat … narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat 7:13,14). The righteous are few, and even they just barely make it in.

With or without law

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (v. 12). Paul will later reveal, “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses” (5:13-14). Everyone has sinned whether they lived under the law of Moses or not. However, God doesn’t impute or count sin against those who didn’t live under the law. When they died, they perished and will never live again. Paul taught the Gentiles at Ephesus that when they were separated from Israel, they were without God and without hope, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). There was no hope of salvation apart from Israel.

The Jewish people, on the other hand, had been given the knowledge of the true God: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3); “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deu 6:4); “we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (Jhn 4:22). And only they had been given the hope of eternal life by keeping God’s commandments: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD” (Lev 18:5); “which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Neh 9:29); “which if a man do, he shall even live in them” (Eze 20:11,13,21). Jesus Christ Himself affirmed that eternal life was by keeping the commandments, “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mat 19:17), “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luk 10:27-28).

Along with the hope of eternal life through keeping the law, came also God’s judgment upon those not keeping it, “as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” That they shall be “judged by the law” is that they will be resurrected, not to eternal life, but to judgment for having not kept it. However, since “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (5:13), then everyone else that were without law will “perish without law” (v. 12).

The doers of the law

The gospel Paul preached, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (v. 13). And this is the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26).

Moses stated just before his death, “Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? … Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deu 30:12,13-14). Paul later quoted this, “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith [faithfulness], which we preach” (10:8), and summarized his understanding of it as, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [trust] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (10:9). Therefore, salvation is by hearing and doing what Christ said, “heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Mat 7:24).

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people had to be doers of Moses’ law. Under the New, God’s people must be doers of Christ’s law. And Paul had already laid this groundwork of the gospel before teaching about Abraham in chapter four. The point is that he wasn’t teaching later that Abraham was saved by faith.

Uncircumcised Gentiles keep the law

“For when the Gentiles [ethnos 1484], which have not the law, do by nature [physis 5449] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves” (v. 14). The Greek ethnos translated here as “Gentiles” is the same as “nations” at the beginning of his letter, “for obedience to the faith [faithfulness] among all nations [ethnos 1484], for his name” (1:5). It’s all ethnic people outside the ethnic Jewish people. Paul’s purpose in introducing Gentiles at this juncture was to prove, “For there is no respect of persons with God” (v. 11). God saves and judges all ethnic people by the same standard.

Paul is continuing to substantiate his earlier premise, “the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16), and is using Gentiles as his example. The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is God’s power to save, not just Jews, but also Gentiles. Paul’s argument will be that if uncircumcised Gentiles are keeping the moral righteous requirements of the law but circumcised Jews aren’t, then those Gentiles will be saved while those Jews won’t be.

That Gentiles “do by nature [physis 5449] the things contained in the law” has nothing to do with some kind of innate quality or essence. Paul told us a little later exactly what it is, “uncircumcision which is by nature [physis 5449]” (v. 27). The natural born state of every man is uncircumcised. Therefore, to “do by nature” is to do what the law requires but in the natural born state of uncircumcision.

The law written in our hearts

“Which shew the work [actions] of the law written in their hearts” (v. 15). Jeremiah prophesied that God would make a New Covenant with His people in which He would “write” His law in their hearts, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33). And this was quoted in the New Testament, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb 8:10).

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “written not with ink, but with the Spirit [breath] of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2Co 3:3), it was that the same moral standard of righteousness embodied within the law on stone tablets is within the hearts of God’s people by His breath. Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets and his face shining, “And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments … Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him” (Exo 34:28,29), “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” (2Co 3:15-16). That “vail” was taken away on the Day of Pentecost when thousands of Jewish men turned to the Lord, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Act 2:41). Those men acknowledged that justification before God is by calling upon the name of the Lord and keeping the moral righteousness He commanded.

The “work [actions] of the law written in their hearts,” is doing the good actions taught by Christ embodied within the law, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). When James taught “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill” (Jas 2:11), it wasn’t about what Moses said but what Jesus Christ said, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause” (Mat 5:21-22), “Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:27-28). The gospel Jesus Christ preached is that hatred in the heart and lust in the heart are equivalent to the actions of murder and adultery. And He taught, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man” (Mat 15:19-20), “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mar 7:21-23). Therefore, fulfilling the righteousness of the law begins with a pure heart, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8).

Their conscience bearing witness

“Which shew the work [actions] of the law written in their hearts, their conscience [syneidēsis 4893] also bearing witness [symmartyreo 4828], and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (v. 15). The Greek syneidēsis translated “conscience” is literally “with knowledge.” To do something with conscience is to do it with knowledge, awareness, or regard, “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one … Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience [syneidesis 4893] of the idol” (1Co 8:4,7). Although Paul and many of the Corinthians knew there was “none other God but one,” but because the people in Macedonia had grown up in gross idolatry, even after coming to the knowledge of the true God and His Son Jesus Christ, many still regarded idols as other lesser gods that actually existed. Therefore, meat from animals that had been sacrificed to these “gods” carried a worship significance in their regard that compelled them to avoid.

Paul continued later in his letter, “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] sake” (1Co 10:25), “If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] sake” (1Co 10:27), “But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] sake” (1Co 10:28). His instruction was that if the Corinthians didn’t know the meat they were buying or eating came from a sacrificed animal, they wouldn’t be culpable for knowledge they didn’t have—therefore, they shouldn’t even ask. But if they were to come to that knowledge without having asked, then they shouldn’t eat it for the sake of how others might regard it.

The point is that “conscience” is our knowledge, awareness, or regard. None of us lives in a vacuum. Our actions, including what we say, how we look, what we eat and drink, where we go, our attitude and demeanor, affects people around us. Being conscious of others means that our actions are always with knowledge, awareness, and regard for them. That “their conscience also bearing witness” is that our awareness and regard for others in everything we say and do bears witness of God’s law written in our hearts.

Later in Romans when speaking of submitting to authorities, Paul instructed, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] sake” (13:5). We’re to obey the government and civil authorities, “not only for wrath,” not just because we don’t want to get fined or arrested, “but also for conscience,” with knowledge, awareness, and regard for God. It’s because we’re aware that government was established by God and that resisting the government is tantamount to resisting Him, we obey with conscience toward Him. Our model citizenship bears witness of God’s law written in our hearts.

Furthermore, we obey laws, not only with conscience toward God but toward others as well. When driving, for example, we obey speed limits with awareness and regard for everyone’s benefit—our own safety and the sake of our family that depend upon us, and for the safety of others around us and their families. Another example is substance abuse. People who abuse substances sometimes claim that they’re only hurting themselves. But that’s not true. They’re hurting their family and burdening society. Substance abuse affects their productivity on the job, turns many to criminal activities, and causes unnecessary health issues that burden the health system.

In context of the COVID pandemic, that “their conscience also bearing witness” is that we should always do what’s in the best interest of others—with knowledge, awareness, and regard for them. We should get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash our hands regularly, and social distance. We do these things not just for ourselves and the sake of our families but with conscience toward others. Our actions of love toward others bear witness of God’s law written in our hearts.

That “their conscience also bearing witness” can also be understood by Samuel’s challenge to God’s people: “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.” (1Sa 12:3-4). Samuel always walked with knowledge, awareness, or regard toward God and man so that nobody could bear witness of any wrongdoing on his part. The people were his witnesses because he always lived with conscience toward them.

Paul appealed the same of himself to his churches: “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” (Act 20:33-34); “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience [syneidēsis 4893] void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Act 24:16); “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience [syneidēsis 4893] that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace [favor] of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward” (2Co 1:12); “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe [trust]” (1Th 2:10).

Peter said, “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 [syneidēsis 4893] toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 3:21). The flood of Noah was figurative and prophetic of baptism, “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). Baptism into the name of Christ is putting away the evil imaginations and thoughts of our hearts to begin living with a good conscience toward God. Peter had taught earlier: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully … For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1Pe 2:19-21), “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake … Having a good conscience [syneidēsis 4893]” (1Pe 3:14,16). It’s not getting wet that saves us but what we do after getting dried off—following Christ’s example of suffering wrongfully with conscience toward God in all we do.

Accusing or else defending

“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts [logismos 3053] the mean while accusing [katēgoreō 2723] or else excusing [apologeomai 626] one another” (v. 15). The noun logismos is a counting, reckoning, or concluding. Its verb form logizomai is later used in “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (4:3). It’s about what we count, reckon, or conclude about others. God’s judgment will be against those falsely accusing the good of doing evil, or defending the evil of doing good.

Many times Jesus Christ’s enemies tried to find accusations against Him: “And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Mat 12:10); “And when he was accused [katēgoreō 2723] of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing” (Mat 27:12); “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Mar 3:2); “And the chief priests accused [katēgoreō 2723] him of many things: but he answered nothing” (Mar 15:3); “Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Luk 11:54); “And they began to accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Luk 23:2); “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Luk 23:10); “I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Luk 23:14); “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Jhn 8:6).

The last few chapters of Acts record the false accusations brought against Paul from his own Jewish brethren along with his defense. What’s the purpose of these events if not to serve as a validation of the gospel message he preached? That nobody could find any legitimate accusations against him, it bolstered the validity of his motives for what he preached: “wherefore he was accused [katēgoreō 2723] of the Jews” (Act 22:30); “Tertullus began to accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Act 24:2); “whereof we accuse [katēgoreō 2723] him” (Act 24:8); “I do the more cheerfully answer [apologeomai 626] for myself” (Act 24:10); “Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse [katēgoreō 2723] me” (Act 24:13); “Who ought to have been here before thee, and object [katēgoreō 2723], if they had ought against me” (Act 24:19); “go down with me, and accuse [katēgoreō 2723] this man, if there be any wickedness in him” (Act 25:5); “While he answered [apologeomai 626] for himself” (Act 25:8); “but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse [katēgoreō 2723] me” (Act 25:11); “before that he which is accused [katēgoreō 2723] have the accusers face to face” (Act 25:16); “Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself [apologeomai 626]” (Act 26:1); “I shall answer for myself [apologeomai 626]” (Act 26:2); “And as he thus spake for himself [apologeomai 626]” (Act 26:24).

The secrets of men

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets [kryptos 2927] of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (v. 16). The Greek adjective kryptos is something that’s “secret,” “hidden,” or “concealed.” Jesus Christ used the good actions of giving alms, praying, and fasting as examples for how these actions should and shouldn’t be done. He taught that the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees did these things for the wrong reason: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Mat 6:2), “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Mat 6:5), “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Mat 6:16). They did these actions openly to be noticed, recognized, and seen by people so that they would get glory and praise from them. That was their intent, motive, or reason for doing those things and that was the reward they receive for doing them, “They have their reward.”

The gospel message Christ preached is, “That thine alms may be in secret [kryptos 2927]: and thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] 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 [kryptos 2927] 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 [kryptos 2927], shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:18). Those that aren’t hypocrites but true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, do those same good actions but for the right reason—they give to truly help people, and pray to sincerely talk with God, and fast to discipline themselves before God. They don’t do these things to receive any advantage, benefit, or glory from people. They patiently continue to do these good actions, seeking glory from God and eternal life, “To them who by patient continuance in well [good] doing [actions] seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (v. 7). Rather than getting reward now, they patiently continue day after day getting apparently nothing for their labors.

Although they grow wearisome in continually doing good without getting rewarded, they trust they’ll be rewarded by God in due season: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mat 10:42); “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Mat 24:45); “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mar 9:41); “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” (Luk 12:42); “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9); “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1Co 15:58); “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2Th 3:13); “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).

At the end of this chapter, Paul used the same Greek word again, “inwardly [kryptos 2927]whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:29). But rather than “secretly,” it’s mistranslated as “inwardly,” “inside,” or “within” in virtually every English version except for just a few: “but the Jew in the hidden thing is a Jew” (DLNT); “The ‘Jew’ is the one in secret” (NTE); “The true Yehudi is so in [Hashem’s] hidden way” (OJB); “but he that is a Jew in hid” (WYC). It concerns the intent, motive, or reason for our actions, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]” (v. 6), whether our good actions are done openly to receive praise from men, or in secret to receive praise from God.

Called a Jew

“Behold, thou art called a Jew [ioudaios 2453]” (v. 17). The name “Jew” is an abbreviation for the name “Judah” which means “praise,” “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah [yᵊhûḏȃ 3063]” (Gen 29:35), “Judah [yᵊhûḏȃ 3063], thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise” (Gen 49:8). Because all 12 tribes of Israel submitted to King David from the tribe of Judah, and to Jesus of Nazareth from Judah as the King, Christ, or Messiah ruling forever on David’s throne, therefore God’s people are called by that name. And being called by the name “praise” meant living up to that name by which they were called.

The Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exo 20:7), wasn’t commanding against God’s name being used in profanity, although that certainly should never be done. It was commanding God’s people to live up to God’s name by which they were called. Being called by His name—as belonging to Him and representing Him—carried the duty of conducting themselves worthy of that distinction. That “the LORD will not hold him guiltless” is that unlike all other people, God’s people bore a responsibility for which they will be held accountable. Being true to His name would bring great reward, but taking His name in vain would incur severe judgment.

This principle also applies to them being “called a Jew” or “praise.” God’s people didn’t acquire that name by chance. God purposed they would be called by the name “Jew” and would walk worthy of that name. Jesus Christ of the tribe of Judah certainly did in every way.

Paul will conclude his point at the end of this chapter, “For he is not a Jew [ioudaios 2453] … But he is a Jew [ioudaios 2453] … whose praise [epainos 1868] is not of men, but of God” (vs. 28,29). Although “called a Jew” or “a praise,” God’s people weren’t walking worthy of that name when their praise came from men. It’s only when God Himself was praising them that they were truly “a Jew” or “a praise.” Paul wrote to the Gentiles in Ephesus, “That we [Jews] should be to the praise [epainos 1868] of his glory [doxa 1391], who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye [Gentiles] also trusted” (Eph 1:12-13), “we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ … And now you Gentiles” (NLT). The Jews, not only in Jerusalem but all over the Roman Empire, were given the first opportunity to trust in Christ, “to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). And they could only be “to the praise of his glory” by trusting in Christ, the Son of God. Nobody receives praise from God that rejects His Son.

When questioned about Jesus, the parents of the man born blind that was healed, deflected the issue back to their son because they didn’t want to be put out from the synagogue, “the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (Jhn 9:22). Their son, however, did confess Him and consequently was removed, “And they cast him out” (Jhn 9:34). The synagogue had become the determining factor of one’s salvation with Jesus Christ Himself being the conflict. Although many recognized Jesus as the Christ, they remained silent to remain in the synagogue, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed [trusted] on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise [doxa 1391] of men more than the praise [doxa 1391] of God” (Jhn 12:42-43).

This same conflict is true today among Trinitarian groups. Roman Catholics trust that their salvation is within the Church, and that they’ll be anathematized if ever removed. Likewise, Protestants are instilled with the Trinitarian view of God as essential for salvation. And although many of them doubt and even disbelieve in the Trinity, they stay silent about it because they don’t want their membership removed and to lose fellowship with everyone.

As with the Jews back then, so it is with “Christians” today, “they did not confess him … they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” We can’t be ashamed of the gospel Christ preached and still be saved, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [trusts]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). We can’t be trusting Him for salvation while also seeking honor from people rather than from God, “How can ye believe [trust], which receive honour [doxa 1391] one of another, and seek not the honour [doxa 1391] that cometh from God only?” (Jhn 5:44).

Boasting of God

“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast [kauchaomai 2744] of God” (v. 17). The Greek verb kauchaomai means “to boast” or “to brag.” Paul used this same word just a few verses later, “Thou that makest thy boast [kauchaomai 2744] of the law” (v. 23). Bragging about ourselves indicates a lack of trust in God that He will reward us for being faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ. We brag because we want reward now—praise, admiration, and respect from people—rather than from God in due season, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Mat 24:45), “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” (Luk 12:42).

Bragging can be very subtle and almost undetectable. Anytime we’re talking about ourselves to make ourselves look good in some way, we’re bragging. Some are skilled at bragging about their “humility” which is actually just pride. Being viewed by others as humble is a good thing, so people say things that will cause others to view them that way.

The gospel message Jesus Christ preached is, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works [actions], and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:16). Rather than bragging about ourselves to look good, we’re to let our “light so shine” to others simply by our continued actions of faithfulness to the Lord. And we understand this principle in daily life. It has been said, “What you’re doing speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying!” James wrote about a man that “say he hath faith [faithfulness], and have not works [actions]” (Jas 2:14). It’s a man that boasts and brags about his faithfulness to the Lord but his actions say otherwise. James went on to say, “Thou hast faith [faithfulness], and I have works [actions]: shew me thy faith [faithfulness] without thy works [actions], and I will shew thee my faith [faithfulness] by my works [actions]” (Jas 2:18). Rather than talking about our faithfulness, we should simply be faithful to the Lord and let our actions speak for themselves. This is letting our light shine.

The Jews of whom Paul was speaking “makest thy boast of God” and “makest thy boast of the law.” They boasted and bragged of knowing God and keeping the law but their actions disagreed, “They profess [declare] that they know God; but in works [actions] they deny him” (Tit 1:16). It’s not our boasting or bragging but our actions that are going to be judged, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]” (v. 6), “the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works [actions] … they were judged every man according to their works [actions]” (Rev 20:12,13).

Approving the things that are excellent

“And knowest his will, and approvest [dokimazō 1381] the things that are more excellent [diapherō 1308], being instructed out of the law” (v. 18). Paul made this same statement to the church at Philippi, “That ye may approve [dokimazō 1381] things that are excellent [diapherō 1308]” (Phl 1:10), “decide what is best” (NET), “discern what is best” (NIV), “understand what really matters” (NLT). The Greek verb dokimazō as “approve” isn’t an accurate translation in these two places. It’s better rendered as “prove” or “try” as in: “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove [dokimazō 1381] them” (Luk 14:19); “that ye may prove [dokimazō 1381] what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:2); “the fire shall try [dokimazō 1381] every man’s work of what sort it is” (1Co 3:13); “to prove [dokimazō 1381] the sincerity of your love” (2Co 8:8); “And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved [dokimazō 1381] diligent in many things” (2Co 8:22); “But let every man prove [dokimazō 1381] his own work” (Gal 6:4); “Proving [dokimazō 1381] what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph 5:10); “Prove [dokimazō 1381] all things; hold fast that which is good” (1Th 5:21); “And let these also first be proved [dokimazō 1381]” (1Ti 3:10); “When your fathers tempted me, proved [dokimazō 1381] me” (Heb 3:9); “though it be tried [dokimazō 1381] with fire” (1Pe 1:7); “but try [dokimazō 1381] the spirits whether they are of God” (1Jo 4:1).

Also, the Greek diapherō for “excellent” is a verb but translated in these two statements as an adjective. It conveys the meaning of value or worth as Christ Himself used it: “Are ye not much better than [diapherō 1308] they?” (Mat 6:26); “ye are of more value [diapherō 1308] than many sparrows” (Mat 10:31); “How much then is a man better than [diapherō 1308] a sheep?” (Mat 12:12); “ye are of more value [diapherō 1308] than many sparrows” (Luk 12:7); “how much more are ye better than [diapherō 1308] the fowls?” (Luk 12:24).

To “approvest the things that are more excellent” is to prove what’s most valuable or matters most through “being instructed out of the law.” God gave His people the law—commandments, judgments, ordinances, statutes, and testimonies—that were righteous and true above all the other surrounding nations: “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deu 4:8); “He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Psa 147:20); “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments” (Neh 9:13).

God’s law is faithful, perfect, pure, righteous, sure, and true: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psa 19:7-9); “when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments” (Psa 119:7); “because of thy righteous judgments” (Psa 119:62,164); “All thy commandments are faithful” (Psa 119:86); “I will keep thy righteous judgments” (Psa 119:106); “Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful” (Psa 119:138).

Because God’s people had been instructed by His law, they learned the things that mattered most, particularly the two greatest commandments: “thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deu 6:5), “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev 19:18). Loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves are “the things that are more excellent.” No other nation had been blessed by God in this way.

The understanding of “approvest the things that are more excellent” is brought out more clearly by the context of Paul’s parallel statement to the Philippians, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment [aisthēsis 144]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence [aproskopos 677] till the day of Christ” (Phl 1:9-10). The Greek noun aisthēsis is “judgment,” “perception,” or “understanding” as used in its verb form, “But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived [aisthanomai 143] it not” (Luk 9:45). And aproskopos is to be without offense: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence [aproskopos 677] toward God, and toward men” (Act 24:16), “Give none offence [aproskopos 677], neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1Co 10:32). Paul wanted the Philippians to mature in their judgment or perception of what’s most important or most valuable so that they would increase in their love toward others without causing offences, until the day Christ returns.

Guiding the blind

“And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness” (v. 19). It’s a very simple but powerful analogy—the blind must be led by someone else that can see, “they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mat 15:14), “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luk 6:39), “Woe unto you, ye blind guides” (Mat 23:16). As there’s no possibility the blind can successfully lead the blind, those breaking God’s commandments can never teach others how to keep them, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so” (Mat 5:19). It’s only the doers that can teach others to do, “but whosoever shall do and teach them” (Mat 5:19), “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20), “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12).

The Jewish men of whom Paul spoke didn’t consider themselves blind. Rather, they were confident of “seeing” and serving as guides to the blind. But the only way anyone can “see” is by first learning the truth from the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart … 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” (Eph 4:18,20-21)

The form of knowledge

“An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [morphōsis 3446] of knowledge and of the truth in the law” (v. 20). The Greek noun morphōsis is used only one other time in Scripture, “Having a form [morphōsis 3446] of godliness” (2Ti 3:5). Paul was speaking of an outward appearance, display, façade, or pretense. The Jewish teachers of the law were confident that they were wise instructors of the foolish and mature teachers of babies. And they appeared to be the ones with the knowledge of the truth from the law. But it only appeared that way.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ taught His disciples about God’s righteousness as contrasted with the “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Mat 5:20). His disciples’ actions must be different from the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, “as the hypocrites” (Mat 6:2,5,16), whose actions were done “before men, to be seen of them … that they may be seen of men … that they may appear unto men” (Mat 6:1,5,16).

Christ later confronted the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites in their actions: “But all their works [actions] they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi” (Mat 23:5-7), “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mat 23:13,14,15,23,25,27,29); “Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts” (Mar 12:38-39); “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets” (Luk 11:43); “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts” (Luk 20:46).

Hypocrites are actors, imposters, and pretenders. They have a form or appearance of knowledge and godliness but their actions say otherwise. John said, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1Jo 2:3-4). It’s only those keeping Christ’s commandments that truly know God. Those that say they know Him but don’t keep His commandments, don’t know Him.

False teachers convey many things that are true yet the truth isn’t in them, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” What they teach sounds good but ultimately damns. There’s no possibility that others can know God through them because they don’t know God themselves. It’s only those that are keeping His commandments that know Him and can teach others to know Him too. Therefore, those that teach others must first teach themselves.

Teach ourselves first

“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?” (vs. 21-22). Jesus Christ spoke of the scribes and Pharisees, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Mat 5:20), that they were teaching others yet were breaking God’s commandments themselves, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so” (Mat 5:19), “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill” (Mat 5:21), “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mat 5:27).

The scribes and Pharisees taught “Thou shalt not kill,” yet were breaking this commandment because they hated others and taught others to hate, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate [miseō 3404] thine enemy” (Mat 5:43), “Whosoever hateth [miseō 3404] his brother is a murderer” (1Jo 3:15). They also taught “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but were breaking this commandment in two ways: they were looking lustfully at women, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28), and they were divorcing and remarrying without a cause, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Mat 5:31-32). Through divorce and remarriage, they were effectively wife-swapping amongst themselves to fulfil their lust.

Those that break God’s commandments shouldn’t be teachers, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:19). It’s only the doers that should be teachers. If we can’t even teach ourselves, we have no business teaching others.

Dishonoring God

“Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” (v. 23). False teachers of the law boasted and bragged about keeping the law but were actually breaking it and thereby dishonoring God. Though outwardly they appeared to be keeping “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exo 20:13-14), and were teaching others to keep them, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill” (Mat 5:21), “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mat 5:27), but their hearts weren’t pure, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Mat 5:22), “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:28). Christ always kept God’s commandments. Therefore, what He said about His commandments is the truth. To honor God, we must honor His Son—submitting to Him and His teaching.

Blasphemy against the breath

“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (v. 24). Paul was quoting from Isaiah chapter 52, “my name continually every day is blasphemed” (Isa 52:5). And that chapter contains two prophecies about Paul’s ministry that he also quoted in this letter. It was his feet that trekked across the mountains of Asia and Macedonia to bring the gospel: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isa 52:7), “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (10:15). And he strived to preach the gospel to those that never heard: “that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider” (Isa 52:15), “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand” (15:20-21). That God’s name was “blasphemed among the Gentiles,” Isaiah was prophesying what would happen in Paul’s ministry.

In his ministry and travels throughout the Roman Empire, Paul always began preaching Christ’s gospel to the Jews first, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). His repeated pattern in every city he entered was to preach in the synagogue first: “they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down” (Act 13:14); “in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews” (Act 14:1); “they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Act 17:1-2); “Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews” (Act 17:10); “And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens … Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews” (Act 17:17); “Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth … And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Act 18:1,4); “And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews” (Act 18:19).

In Antioch of Pisidia, after having preached to the Jews first in the synagogue, he then warned them, “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe [trust], though a man declare it unto you” (Act 13:40-41). This was yet another prophecy about his ministry, “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you” (Hab 1:5). And Paul’s gospel itself had been prophesied by Habakkuk, “but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (Hab 2:4 NIV), “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (1:17). The gospel he preached to the Jews in Antioch was God’s faithfulness to keep the promise He made to their fathers in raising up Jesus Christ from the dead, “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Act 13:32-33). This was Paul’s gospel, “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness].”

Those Jewish leaders in Antioch, however, spoke against the gospel Paul preached, “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against [antilegō 483] those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting [antilegō 483] and blaspheming [blasphemō 987]. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Act 13:45-46). The Greek verb antilegō means “to speak against” or “to gainsay” as it’s used in its nine other occurrences:  “a sign which shall be spoken against [antilegō 483]” (Luk 2:34); “the Sadducees, which deny [antilegō 483] that there is any resurrection” (Luk 20:27); “whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against [antilegō 483] Caesar” (Jhn 19:12); “But when the Jews spake against [antilegō 483] it” (Act 28:19); “we know that every where it is spoken against [antilegō 483]” (Act 28:22); “a disobedient and gainsaying [antilegō 483] people” (Rom 10:21); “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers [antilegō 483]” (Tit 1:9); “to please them well in all things; not answering again [antilegō 483]” (Tit 2:9).

The verb blasphemō, noun blasphēmia, and adjective blasphēmos are translated “rail,” “revile,” or “speak evil” in many places: “And they that passed by reviled [blasphemō 987] him” (Mat 27:39); “And they that passed by railed [blasphemō 987] on him” (Mar 15:29); “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed [blasphemō 987] on him” (Luk 23:39); “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported [blasphemō 987]” (Rom 3:8); “Let not then your good be evil spoken of [blasphemō 987]” (Rom 14:16); “Being defamed [blasphemō 987], we intreat” (1Co 4:13); “For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of [blasphemō 987]” (1Co 10:30); “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking [blasphēmia 988]” (Eph 4:31); “envy, strife, railings [blasphēmia 988], evil surmisings” (1Ti 6:4); “To speak evil of [blasphemō 987] no man” (Tit 3:2); “speaking evil of [blasphemō 987] you” (1Pe 4:4); “on their part he is evil spoken of [blasphemō 987]” (1Pe 4:14); “the way of truth shall be evil spoken of [blasphemō 987]” (2Pe 2:2); “they are not afraid to speak evil [blasphemō 987] of dignities” (2Pe 2:10); “bring not railing [blasphēmos 989] accusation against them before the Lord” (2Pe 2:11); “speak evil [blasphemō 987] of the things that they understand not” (2Pe 2:12); “despise dominion, and speak evil [blasphemō 987] of dignities” (Jde 1:8); “durst not bring against him a railing [blasphēmia 988] accusation” (Jde 1:9); “But these speak evil [blasphemō 987] of those things which they know not” (Jde 1:10).

This Greek word in its various forms transliterated into English as “blaspheme,” “blasphemy,” and “blasphemous” is simply a common word that means “to speak against” or “to speak evil of” either someone or something. Christ Himself used this word that way: “All manner of sin and blasphemy [blasphēmia 988] shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy [blasphēmia 988] against the Holy Ghost [breath] shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost [breath], it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Mat 12:31-32); “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies [blasphēmia 988] wherewith soever they shall blaspheme [blasphemō 987]: But he that shall blaspheme [blasphemō 987] against the Holy Ghost [breath] hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mar 3:28-29); “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth [blasphemō 987] against the Holy Ghost [breath] it shall not be forgiven” (Luk 12:10).

Christ made a distinction between “speaketh a word against the Son of man” which “shall be forgiven him,” and “speaketh against the Holy Ghost [breath]” which “shall not be forgiven him.” The difference isn’t about two different persons but two different aspects of the same person. The holy breath isn’t a conscious personal being but simply God’s breath from His mouth as Christ Himself demonstrated to His disciples, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [breath]” (Jhn 20:22).

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, the rûaḥ of God belongs to God as His possession. It’s “the breath of God” or His breath. It wasn’t a person flying over the water like superman! It was simply God blowing His breath from His mouth across the surface of the water, “And the Spirit [breath] of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

In several places this word is used of God’s breath from His mouth or nose: “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); “with the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4). Its Greek counterpart pneuma was defined by Christ as breath by literally breathing from His mouth, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22).

Prior to His death, Christ spoke of His coming advocacy at the right hand of His Father: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [paraklētos 3875] … But the Advocate [paraklētos 3875], the Holy Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 14:16,26 NIV), “When the Advocate [paraklētos 3875] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of truth who goes out from the Father” (15:26 NIV), “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father” (Jhn 16:10 NIV). But He wasn’t speaking of another person entirely. He was speaking of Himself figuratively, “Though I have been speaking figuratively” (Jhn 16:25 NIV). John was present when He spoke those words and later affirmed his understanding to be about Himself, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate [paraklētos 3875] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jo 2:1). He was speaking about Himself as our Advocate, but figuratively as if someone else.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted a prophecy from Joel, “I will pour out of my Spirit [pneuma 4151] upon all flesh … I will pour out in those days of my Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Act 2:17,18). It’s not that God would “pour out” His breath but “pour out of” His breath. It was a prophecy of God’s Son seated next to Him at His right hand pouring out the gifts upon the 120 that day, “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit [pneuma 4151] and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Act 2:33 NIV). Through Joel, God called His Son “my breath” figuratively. His Son seated next to Him is our Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator before the Father.

It’s because Jesus Christ was given full agency and proxy over God’s breath that God called Him figuratively “my breath.” And after having been seated at His Father’s right hand, He even called Himself “the breath” at the conclusion of each message to the seven churches in Asia, “hear what the Spirit [pneuma 4151] saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7,11,17,29, 3:6,13,22). Paul also, later in his letter to the Romans, will call Him “the breath” at God’s right hand advocating or interceding for us, “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] 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” (8:26,34).

Speaking against the breath

At Jesus Christ’s trial, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (Jhn 19:10-11). Pilate’s power to either crucify or release Jesus Christ had been given to him by God, which Paul taught later in Romans, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (13:1). Pilate was simply acting in the position of authority which he had been given. Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, had the greater sin because he had delivered Jesus Christ to Pilate.

On the cross when Jesus asked His Father, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luk 23:34), His prayer included Pilate but not Judas and the evil men he conspired with. Peter would later declare, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Act 3:17). Pilate had nothing against Jesus Christ and was truly ignorant of what he was doing. Now, this doesn’t mean necessarily that he repented later and was forgiven but simply that he had that hope. Judas, however, delivered Christ willfully and deliberately, therefore had relinquished all hope of ever being forgiven.

Paul himself used to be a blasphemer against Jesus but was forgiven because he had been ignorant, “Who was before a blasphemer [blasphēmos 989], and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief [unfaithfulness]” (1Ti 1:13). When Christ said, “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost [breath], it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Mat 12:32), it wasn’t a distinction between two different persons but between two different aspects of the same person. Speaking against Him as a man in our ignorance can be forgiven. But speaking against Him as the breath seated at God’s right hand, with full knowledge of what we’re speaking, will never be forgiven.

In every city he entered, Paul preached to the Jews first the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating of Christ at God’s right hand. And once they were no longer ignorant of God’s breath but spoke against Him, they forfeited all hope of forgiveness and eternal life: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming [blasphemō 987] … but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Act 13:45,46), “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed [blasphemō 987], he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads” (Act 18:6).

Those that contend with the truth and speak against it, “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath” (v. 8), face God’s indignation and wrath. Those that don’t love the truth but contend with it and speak against it, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Th 2:10), will sadly perish.

On the other hand, when we’re sincerely ignorant of the truth Jesus Christ and His apostles preached, when we’re confused and deceived about the truth, we still have hope of forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus Christ at God’s right hand is our Advocate, Interceder, and Mediator, and as long as He asks God to forgive us, God always will. But if we ever come to a point where we’re blatantly speaking against Him and the truth He preached, we’re in danger of severing ourselves from Him and His intercession for us before God. Without Him interceding for our forgiveness, God never will forgive us.

Keeping God’s commandments is what matters

“For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision” (v. 25). God is going to “render to every man according to his deeds [actions]” (v. 6), and circumcision isn’t a man’s own actions but the actions done to him on the eighth day. Circumcision only has significance for “the doers of the law” (v. 13). As Paul taught the Corinthians, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (1Co 7:19), “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (NIV).

Paul taught the Galatians, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith [faithfulness] which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6). This “faithfulness” he stated earlier is “the faithfulness of the Son of God” in giving Himself on the cross for us, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20 NET). And this “love” he stated a few verses later is Christ’s law, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14), “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 19:19,22:39; Mar 12:31). Paul’s point is that “in Jesus Christ,” in accord with the gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached, it doesn’t matter if we’re circumcised or not. What matters is His faithfulness to die for our sins, and our keeping of His commandment of love.

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached, He spoke to a Samaritan woman: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe [trust] me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father … 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” (Jhn 4:21,23). And Paul understood Him to be saying that circumcision isn’t what counts, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit [breath], and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Phl 3:3-5).

It would have been easy to dismiss anything an uncircumcised Gentile said about circumcision as spoken out of self-interest. However, nobody could legitimately speak against anything Jesus Christ Himself or His apostle Paul said because they both had been circumcised on the eighth day, “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS” (Luk 2:21), “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh … Circumcised the eighth day.” As Paul emphasized to the Galatians, “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal 5:2). He was essentially saying, “Look who’s talking to you. I Paul, could have even more confidence in the flesh than any of those false teachers trying to have you circumcised.” Paul’s own circumcision defended the message he preached so that nobody in good conscience could accuse him, “their conscience also beareth witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing [defending] one another” (v. 15).

Christ’s encounter with that Samaritan woman wasn’t by chance—He was doing the will of His Father in passing through Samaria, “And he must needs go through Samaria” (Jhn 4:4). And His words to her were a crucial part of His gospel message because He wasn’t speaking to a circumcised Jewish man, but to a Samaritan woman! By telling her, “Woman, believe [trust] me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem,” He was nullifying the requirement for men to observe the feasts in Jerusalem three times a year, “Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel” (Exo 34:23). Therefore, to be “baptized into Christ” is to submit to those things He taught, “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.” (Gal 3:27-28). That “the Father seeketh such to worship him” is that God the Father seeks anyone and everyone—including a Samaritan woman having had multiple husbands and relegated to the lowly duty of fetching water—to worship Him.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new [renewed] creature [creation]” (Gal 6:15). The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is that His words won’t pass away: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mat 5:18); “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mat 24:35); “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luk 16:17); “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luk 21:33). And the prophets declared: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (Psa 102:25-26); “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isa 65:17); “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain” (Isa 66:22).

Paul’s point to the Galatians is that those trusting Christ’s words and keeping His commandments will be partakers of the renewed creation. As he told the Corinthians, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new [renewed] creature [creation]” (2Co 5:16-17). Those that partake in the renewed creation are no longer known after the flesh—circumcised or uncircumcised. Although Christ was known as a circumcised Jew, “yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh,” but we no longer know Him that way, “henceforth know we him no more.” As Peter concluded after having been sent to the Gentiles, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all)” (Act 10:34-36). Christ isn’t just the Lord of the circumcised but “he is Lord of all,” “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (10:12). Therefore, “if any man,” circumcised or uncircumcised is “in Christ,” submitting to Him and His words, he partakes in the renewed creation. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

The two main distinctions of the law

“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” (v. 26). There are two main distinctions with the law of Moses: (1) the moral righteousness of the law, “the righteousness of the law” (2:26, 8:4); (2) the non-moral actions of the law, “the deeds [actions] of the law” (3:20,28), “the works [actions] of the law” (9:32, Gal 2:6,3:2,5,10). The moral righteousness of the law is expressed in the commandments “Thou shalt not commit adultery … Thou shalt not kill … Thou shalt not steal … Thou shalt not bear false witness … Thou shalt not covet” (13:9). Such morality is inherent and binding upon all people made after the image of God. But the non-moral actions of the law are special ordinances God imposed upon His people by circumcision: abstinence from unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath and other holy days, observing the annual feasts, tithing to the priests, and offering animal sacrifices.

In His Sermon on the Mount in particular, Jesus Christ affirmed and upheld the moral righteousness of the law: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20); “Thou shalt not kill” (Mat 5:21); “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Mat 5:27); “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Mat 6:33). And He stated that those breaking the law will not enter into the Kingdom, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven … I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [anomia 458]” (Mat 7:21,23), “workers of lawlessness” (DBY), “you lawbreakers” (NET), “you who practice lawlessness” (NKJV), “you who break God’s laws” (NLT). The Greek noun anomia is the negation of the noun nomos for “law.” It’s because He set us free from the actions of the law that many falsely conclude that He destroyed the righteousness of the law, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law [nomos 3551], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17), “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law [nomos 3551] and the prophets” (Mat 7:12).

God commanded His people against eating certain animals for the purpose of keeping them separate from all other people: “Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof” (Lev 11:4); “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify [qāḏaš 6942] yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev 11:44); “I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.” (Lev 20:24-26); “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation” (Act 10:28). The Hebrew verb qāḏaš means “to consecrate,” “to separate,” or “to set apart.” Abstinence from certain meats is a non-moral action of the law.

God also commanded the Sabbath Day upon His people to keep them separate, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy [qāḏaš 6942]. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Exo 20:8-10). As circumcision was simply a sign or token, “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token [ôṯ 226] of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen 17:11), “And he received the sign of circumcision” (4:11), so was the Sabbath Day, “Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign [ôṯ 226] between me and you throughout your generations … Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign [ôṯ 226] between me and the children of Israel for ever” (Exo 31:13,16,17). The Sabbath Day is a non-moral action of the law.

Many times Jesus Christ Himself ate with Gentiles: “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Mat 9:11); “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Mat 11:19); “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luk 7:34); “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luk 15:2); “That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luk 19:7).

Also, many times Jesus Christ Himself worked on the Sabbath Day and gave permission to others as well: “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day” (Mat 12:2); “Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (Mar 2:24); “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him” (Mar 3:2); “Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” (Luk 6:9); “And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day” (Luk 13:14); “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” (Luk 14:3); “The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.” (Jhn 5:10-11); “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day” (Jhn 9:16).

According to the commandment of Moses, “And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Lev 12:3), Jesus Christ was circumcised on the eighth day, “And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child” (Luk 1:59), “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child” (Luk 2:21), “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal 4:4). Circumcision in His flesh bound Him to keep all the law. And although He ate with Gentiles and worked on the Sabbath Day, yet He was received up to glory and seated at the right hand of God. This was indisputable proof to the Jews that justification before God isn’t by the actions of the law required in circumcision. Christ never sinned. Therefore, it’s not a sin to eat all meats or to work on the Sabbath day.

All the apostles along with the elders of the church in Jerusalem addressed and settled the issue of circumcision, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Act 15:1), “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, 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” (Act 15:24). The issue was about being circumcised with the intent of keeping the actions of the law as necessary for salvation, “ye cannot be saved,” “That it was needful,” “circumcised, and keep the law.” That the issue wasn’t about circumcision itself is indicated by Paul having Timothy circumcised immediately after that Jerusalem council, “Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek” (Act 16:3). Timothy’s circumcision had nothing to do with his salvation but was simply giving him access into Jewish areas while traveling with Paul.

Peter and the other Jews acknowledged that they were saved in the same way as Gentiles, “But we believe [trust] that through the grace [favor] of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jews] shall be saved, even as they [Gentiles]” (Act 15:11), “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles … even we [Jews] have believed [trusted] in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith [faithfulness] of Christ, and not by the works [actions] of the law” (Gal 2:15,16). “Jews by nature” (DBY, KJV, NKJV) or “Jews by birth” (NET, NIV, NLT) refers to the eighth day from birth, “And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Lev 12:3). Peter and Paul were both circumcised on the eighth day yet knew that by the actions of the law, specifically that Peter “did eat with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12), nobody would be justified before God. They knew that Gentiles aren’t saved like Jews but that Jews are saved like Gentiles. Therefore, Gentiles don’t need to live like Jews.

Jesus declared, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30). He freed us from the yoke and heavy burden required by circumcision, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Act 15:10), “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1).

The Gentiles in Galatia had been deceived by false teachers of circumcision after Paul had left. But he revealed to them the hidden message in the law, “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” (Gal 4:21). Abraham’s two sons by two women contained a hidden figurative message of what would come later, “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants” (Gal 4:24). Like Ishmael born from a bondmaid, God’s people would be born into bondage to the actions of the law, “the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar … is in bondage with her children” (Gal 4:24,25). And like Isaac born of a free woman, those trusting in Christ would be free from the yoke of the actions of the law, “we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Gal 4:31). Paul then urges them, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1). Christ set us free from the bondage of the actions of the law.

The two distinctions of the law—the moral righteousness and the non-moral actions—however, are being conflated today by many “Christian” teachers. They misuse Paul’s teaching about the actions of the law to nullify his teaching about the righteousness of the law: “Therefore by the deeds [actions] of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (3:20), “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (3:28), “Because they sought it not by faith [faithfulness], but as it were by the works [actions] of the law” (9:32); “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works [actions] of the law, but by the faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ, even we have believed [trusted] in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith [faithfulness] of Christ, and not by the works [actions] of the law: for by the works [actions] of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16).

That we’re not saved by “the works [actions] of the law,” is being misconstrued that we’re not saved by living morally righteous. Therefore, it’s claimed that we’re saved by faith alone and that morally righteous living has nothing to do with it. But that’s not the gospel message Jesus Christ and His apostles taught: “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20); “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Mat 25:46); “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law” (2:26); “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (8:4); “that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (1Pe 2:24); “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:18).

Whether under the Old Covenant or under the New, nothing has changed in God’s requirement for morally righteous living. What has changed is that the actions of the law are no binding as they once were. In fact, now that Christ has come, requiring the actions of the law guarantees we won’t be justified by Christ’s favor before God, “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothingChrist is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace [favor]” (Gal 5:2,4). Whether binding the non-moral actions of the law or loosening the moral righteousness of the law, either error ensures we won’t be saved.

Keeping the righteousness of the law

“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” (v. 26). That “the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law” isn’t just in theory. Paul wasn’t speaking hypothetically of something that isn’t even achievable—that Gentiles can’t actually keep the moral righteousness the law requires, but what if they could? Rather, he was making a point by what was already being attained and practiced among Gentiles. Through the gospel he had been preaching, Gentiles were keeping the righteous moral standard required by the law. And if less advantaged Gentiles were keeping it, where does that leave the more advantaged Jews that weren’t keeping it?

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17); “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12); “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40). And Paul will write later in his letter, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (8:4), “for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the lawThou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:8,9-10).

When Paul said “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law,” he was speaking of Gentiles fulfilling the moral righteousness the law requires by keeping the one commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” And it’s not necessary to abstain from certain meats or to observe certain days in loving our neighbor.

Considered circumcised

“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted [logizomai 3049] for circumcision?” (v. 26). The Greek verb logizomai means “to consider,” “to esteem,” “to suppose,” or “to think” 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 6:11); “For I reckon [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 8:18); “to him that esteemeth [logizomai 3049] any thing to be” (Rom 14:14); “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 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); “think [logizomai 3049] on these things” (Phl 4:8); “I suppose [logizomai 3049], I have written briefly” (1Pe 5:12). When uncircumcised Gentiles “keep the righteousness of the law” by loving their neighbor as themselves, God considers them circumcised even though they’re not. He treats them with the same favor as His own people.

Paul wrote to the Gentile Christians in Colossae, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:10-11), “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). That they were “complete in him” is that “in Christ” they weren’t lacking anything needed to be right before God. They didn’t need to adhere to the requirements of circumcision, mainly the ordinances concerning meats and drinks, keeping of feast days, and the Sabbath day. To be “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands” is simply a figure of speech. Men’s hands literally cut the flesh of Jewish baby boys the eighth day from birth, imposing upon them the ordinances of meats, drinks, holy days, and the Sabbath day their entire lives. But “the circumcision of Christ” is that He freed us from that yoke of bondage so that God considers us along with those circumcised even though we’re not.

However, as Gentiles can be considered by God as circumcised even though they’re not, Jews can be considered uncircumcised even though they are. Speaking of his own Jewish people just a couple of verses later, “For he is not a Jew … But he is a Jew … and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [breath]” (vs. 28,29), Paul taught that the benefits of circumcision is a matter of the heart. God had told this to His people through the law and the prophets: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deu 10:16); “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deu 30:6); “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (Jer 4:4).

If our hearts aren’t right before God, circumcision and everything that pertains to it doesn’t matter. What does it matter that someone has never eaten anything unclean and has always kept the feast days and the Sabbath Day, yet they’re not loving God with all their heart and loving their neighbor as themselves? Circumcision of the heart is having the heart right first, “circumcise thine heart … to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart,” then circumcision and everything pertaining to it becomes relevant.

God’s Son freed us from circumcision and its accompanying bondages. For the circumcised to reject the uncircumcised as their brethren, or to require the uncircumcised to become circumcised, is to reject the teaching of God’s Son. Anyone rejecting what God’s Son taught certainly isn’t loving God with all their heart.

The writing on stone tablets

“And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter [gramma 1121] and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (v. 27). The Greek noun gramma means “a writing.” In context with the law of Moses, it’s God’s own writing of the Ten Commandments on stone tablets: “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written” (Exo 24:12); “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exo 31:18); “And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (Exo 32:16); “And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Exo 34:28); “not in tables of stone … for the letter [gramma 1121] killeth, but the spirit [breath] giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written [gramma 1121] and engraven in stones” (2Co 3:3,6-7).

Paul said that the writing on stone tablets was done away or abolished: “written [gramma 1121] and engraven in stones … was to be done away … which is done away … which is abolished” (2Co 3:7,11,13); “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15); “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances” (Col 2:14); “A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13).

Of course the writing included “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exo 20:8), and since the writing has been abolished, this commandment has been abolished along with it. Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that the moral righteousness codified in writing on the stone tablets such as “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3), “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exo 20:12), and “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exo 20:13-14), has been abolished. The two great commandments Jesus Christ enforced upon us embodies all the moral righteousness God required in the writing: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40); “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mar 12:29-31).

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross … 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 2:14,16). The writing on stone tablets along with other ordinances was against the uncircumcised and contrary to them because it severed and cut them off from the circumcised: “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exo 31:14), “I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean … have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (Lev 20:24-26).

He is a “praise” which is one secretly

“For he is not a Jew [ioudaios 2453], which is one outwardly [phaneros 5318]; neither is that circumcision, which is outward [phaneros 5318] in the flesh: But he is a Jew [ioudaios 2453], which is one inwardly [kryptos 2927]; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [breath], and not in the letter [gramma 1121]; whose praise [epainos 1868] is not of men, but of God” (vs. 28-29). Some mistake Paul’s statement “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly” to mean that Gentiles become some kind of “spiritual” Jews. But he was simply concluding his earlier point, “Behold, thou art called a Jew [ioudaios 2453]” (v. 17). The name “Jew” means “praise.” And it’s not those only called “Jew” or called “praise” that receive praise from God, but those that “keep the righteousness of the law” (v. 26). He wasn’t teaching that Gentiles become Jews, but rather identifying which Jews are and aren’t truly Jews, “For he is not a Jew … But he is a Jew.” That is, which Jews actually live up to their name, “praise.”

Paul was also vindicating that his gospel, “my gospel” (v. 16), that he had been preaching is indeed the gospel Jesus Christ Himself preached. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught that the actions of “the hypocrites” (Mat 6:2,5,16), are done “before men, to be seen of them … that they may be seen of men … that they may appear unto men” (Mat 6:1,5,16). But the actions of God’s children are done secretly for only God to see, “thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] himself shall reward thee openly [phaneros 5318] … thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] shall reward thee openly [phaneros 5318] … thy Father, which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927], shall reward thee openly [phaneros 5318]” (Mat 6:4,6,18).

The specific actions, “when thou doest thine alms … when thou prayest … when thou fastest” (Mat 6:2,6,17), were simply three examples Christ used to convey the principle that applies to any and all good actions—that when our actions are done kryptos or “in secret” now, we’ll be rewarded phaneros or “openly” by God later. It’s about from whom we’re seeking to receive praise. Hypocrites do their good actions openly to receive praise from men now, “But all their works [actions] they do for to be seen of men” (Mat 23:5), but God’s children do their good actions secretly to receive praise from God later, “whose praise [epainos 1868] is not of men, but of God” (v. 29).

The Greek phaneros and kryptos rendered as “outwardly” and “inwardly” in “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly [phaneros 5318] … But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly [kryptos 2927],” are mistranslations. They are better understood as “openly” and “secretly” as in “thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] himself shall reward thee openly [phaneros 5318]” (Mat 6:4). Christ and Paul both preached the same gospel, that the actions of Jews living up to their name aren’t done openly to be seen by men, but secretly to be seen only by their Father.

Christ’s statement “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21), cuts to the very root of the problem. Since our hearts will be wherever our treasure is, our hearts are changed only by changing our treasure. When we treasure the glory—approval, praise, and recognition—from people, “that they may have glory of men … that they may be seen of men … that they may appear unto men” (Mat 6:2,5,16), our hearts will be impure. Our motives for doing good things will be getting glory from people. The solution for this wrong condition of heart is changing our treasure. When we begin fearing God rather than people, treasuring approval, praise, and recognition from Him rather than people, our hearts will become pure. This is because the motives for our actions will be pure, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8).

Of the heart, in the breath

Circumcision is “of the heart, in the spirit [breath], and not in the letter [gramma 1121]” (v. 29). As explained earlier, “the letter [gramma 1121]” (v. 27) is simply “a writing.” In this context it’s God’s writing of the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. Commandments Four, Five, Six, and Seven in particular, “Remember the sabbath day,” “Honour thy father and thy mother,” “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exo 20:8,12-14), had been corrupted by the religious leaders through their teaching and traditions.

They rigidly enforced the Fourth Commandment at the expense of being unmerciful to people, “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day … But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mat 12:2,7). They also transgressed the Fifth Commandment by their tradition, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother … Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Mat 15:3-4,6). And what they said about the Sixth and Seventh Commandments pertained only to their actions before men, and was not with their hearts before God: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Mat 5:21-22), “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat 5:27-28).

In the sight of each other, they were keeping God’s commandments—remembering the Sabbath day, honoring their father and mother, not killing, and not committing adultery. But in God’s sight, however, they weren’t. Christ preached the gospel and revealed God’s standard of righteousness, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ … For therein is the righteousness of God revealed” (Rom 1:16,17). And God’s righteousness is attained through keeping His commandments from the heart by His indwelling breath.

True circumcision before God isn’t a cutting in the body but a condition of the heart. Circumcision of the heart is seeking praise from God, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart” (Deu 10:16), “He is thy praise, and he is thy God” (Deu 10:21). He is our praise, our protector, and our rewarder, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1).

Circumcision in the flesh or in the breath?

Both literal circumcision in the flesh and figurative circumcision of the heart by God’s breath, “neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh … circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [breath],” Paul abbreviates simply as “the flesh” and “the breath” later in his letter: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [breath]” (8:1,4); “For they that are after the flesh … but they that are after the Spirit [breath]” (8:5); “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [breath]” (8:9); “For if ye live after the flesh … but if ye through the Spirit [breath]” (8:13). Therefore, to walk “not after the flesh” but “after the Spirit [breath]” (8:1,4), is to not seek praise from men emanating from all that pertains to circumcision, but to seek praise from God with a pure heart indwelt by His breath.

Paul employed this same “flesh” and “breath” contrast when writing to the Gentiles in Galatia: “having begun in the Spirit [breath], are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3); “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit [breath]” (Gal 4:29); “Walk in the Spirit [breath], and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16); “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit [breath], and the Spirit [breath] against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). Again, “the flesh” and “the breath” are simply abbreviations for the issues involving and contrasting circumcision and God’s breath. False teachers of the law had deceived the Galatians into becoming circumcised. But it wasn’t out of love for them but seeking glory from men for themselves, “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.” (Gal 6:12-13).

The Just Shall Live by His Faithfulness

The Hebrew noun ĕmûnȃ in Habakkuk’s famous statement “but the just shall live by his faith [ĕmûnȃ 530]” (2:4), means “faithfulness” as a few translations render it correctly, “live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “live by his faithfulness” (NIV). This word appears about 50 times in the Old Testament and consistently carries the meaning of faithfulness within its contexts. Of course Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament, “The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38). The Greek noun pistis is used almost 250 times in the NT and is always translated as “faith” except just three places where the context forces otherwise, “the faithfulness [pistis 4102] of God” (Rom 3:3 NKJV), “kindness, goodness, faithfulness [pistis 4102]” (Gal 5:22 NKJV), “showing all good fidelity [pistis 4102]” (Tit 2:10 NKJV). This word pistis also appears about 30 times in the Greek Septuagint, and all but three are rendered into English as “faithfully,” “faithfulness,” “truth,” “trust,” “loyalty,” “reliable,” “steadfast,” or “assuredly.”

Furthermore, Habakkuk wasn’t talking about our faith or faithfulness but God’s, “his faithfulness” (Hab 2:4 NET, NIV). In all three letters he was quoted, “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), it was about God’s faithfulness to the promise He made to Abraham: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed” (Rom 4:13); “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made … that it should make the promise of none effect … God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal 3:16,17,18); “For when God made promise to Abraham” (Heb 6:13). About 1,500 years after making a promise to Abraham, God told Habakkuk that He was being faithful to that promise.

Because Abraham didn’t withhold his son from God, “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (Gen 22:10), God promised to not withhold His Son from 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: 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 22:16-18). That “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8), God was faithful to keep that promise, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jhn 1:29,36).

God had told His people that His love for them was because of the promise He swore to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt” (Deu 4:37); “But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deu 7:8); “that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deu 9:5); “Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day” (Deu 10:15). God’s purpose in them was to fulfill the promise He made to their fathers.

Therefore, when Paul wrote, “What advantage then hath the Jew? … shall their unbelief [unfaithfulness] make the faith [faithfulness] of God without effect [katargeō 2673]? (Rom 3:1,3), “Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?” (NIV), is that God’s people being unfaithful to Him wouldn’t cause Him to be unfaithful to Abraham. If the law of Moses was the intended end, then God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to Abraham is made without effect or unfulfilled, “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith [faithfulness] is made void, and the promise made of none effect [katargeō 2673]” (Rom 4:14), “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect [katargeō 2673]. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Gal 3:17-18).

Finally, the Greek verb zaō in “The just shall live [zaō 2198] by faith [faithfulness],” isn’t our manner of living but eternal life itself. The English “live” when used with an object conveys “manner of living” or “way of living,” but without an object it’s “to remain alive” or “to continue to have life.” Paul used both forms in this one statement, “For if ye live [zaō 2198] after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit [breath] do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live [zaō 2198]” (Rom 8:13). The first is with the object “after the flesh,” expressing a way of living. But the second is without an object indicating “to have life.” Therefore, “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” is that the just or righteous obtain eternal life by God’s faithfulness—His faithfulness to Abraham in providing His Son for our sacrifice.

Myths that Turn from the Truth

There are two main distinctions to recognize with the law of Moses: (1) the moral righteousness of the law; (2) the non-moral actions of the law. The righteousness of the law is expressed in the moral commandments, “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness … Thou shalt not covet” (Exo 20:13-17). Such morality is inherent and binding upon all people made after the image of God. But the actions of the law are the non-moral ordinances God imposed upon His people by circumcision: abstaining from meats, keeping the Sabbath day, observing annual feasts, and offering sacrifices.

Because Christ set us free from those actions of the law, He warned us to not misunderstand Him as destroying the righteousness of the law, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law [nomos 3551], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17), “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law [nomos 3551] and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). He will deny entrance into the Kingdom those that didn’t keep the righteousness of the law, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [anomia 458]” (Mat 7:23), “workers of lawlessness” (DBY), “you lawbreakers” (NET), “you who practice lawlessness” (NKJV), “you who break God’s laws” (NLT). The Greek noun anomia is the negation of the noun nomos for “law.”

The issue with the Gentiles in Galatia was that false teachers of the law had deceived them into circumcision with the intent of keeping the actions of the law. The Greek noun ergon means “actions,” whatever actions the context requires. In Galatians, it’s Peter’s actions that “he did eat with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12), “We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works [ergon 2041] of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works [ergon 2041] of the law, because by the works [ergon 2041] of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:15-16 NET). Nobody is justified by the actions of the law—abstaining from unclean meats—but by Christ’s faithfulness to His Father in giving Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20 NET).

This was also the issue Paul addressed with the Romans—Christ’s faithfulness versus the actions of the law, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ … because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (Rom 3:22.26 NET), “a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (Rom 3:28).

Rather than the actions of the law versus the faithfulness of Christ, false teaching today makes it an issue of the righteousness of the law versus our faith or beliefs. The righteousness of the law is being destroyed by faith.

In the apostles’ days, the false teachers were “specially they of the circumcisionJewish fables [mythos 3454], and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure” (Tit 1:10,14-15). The myth they used to turn people from the truth was that some meats weren’t pure. But these were simply actions of righteousness which don’t save, “Not by works [ergon 2041] 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]” (Tit 3:5). In our days, true to what Paul prophesied, it’s a different myth altogether that’s turning people away from the truth, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables [mythos 3454]” (2Ti 4:3-4). The myth is that we’re saved by faith, not by keeping the moral righteousness of the law.

The truth Christ and His apostles taught is that we must live righteously: “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20); “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law” (Rom 2:26); “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:4); “that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (1Pe 2:24); “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:18); “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous … whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (1Jo 3:7,10).

In Christ’s last words to us, “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). It’s not about believing but about doing God’s commandments.

God’s Faithfulness, Not Abraham’s Faith

The Greek noun pistis translated as “faith” throughout the New Testament actually means “faithfulness.” Here in Romans, “For what if some did not believe [trust]? shall their unbelief [distrust] make the faith [pistis 4102] of God without effect?” (Rom 3:3), “the faithfulness of God” (ASV, NET, NKJV), “God’s faithfulness” (CSB, NIV), Paul was talking about God’s faithfulness to keep His promise to Abraham: “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD … 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” (Gen 22:16-17). That “his enemies” is singular indicates “thy seed” isn’t many people but only one person, “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16). It’s God’s faithfulness to send His Son as promised.

Paul went on to teach, “his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom 3:25). Because God would be faithful to keep His promise of sending His Son as the Lamb, “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8), therefore He forbore the sins of the past which would later be remitted by the sacrifice of His Son. What Paul taught here in chapter 3 about God’s faithfulness laid the groundwork for what he taught in chapter 4 about Abraham.

The Greek verb logizomai in “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), means “to conclude,” “to esteem,” or “to think,” as it’s typically rendered throughout the NT. But when concerning Abraham in Romans 4, it’s always translated “counted,” “imputed,” or “reckoned,” with the meaning of equivalence. It’s that God counted Abraham’s faith as equivalent to righteousness, and likewise if we simply have faith or believe!

However, the same statement about Abraham, “And he believed [trusted] in the LORD; and he counted [ḥāšab 2803] it to him for righteousness [șᵊḏāqȃ 6666]” (Gen 15:6), was also made of 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 “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 had nothing to do with faith. God simply concluded or esteemed Phinehas’ actions as right in that immoral circumstance. Likewise, that “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted [logizomai 3049] unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3), is that God esteemed Abraham’s actions as right. Since Abraham trusted God to be faithful to His promise, therefore God forgave him based upon the sacrifice His Son would one day make.

The Greek ergon simply means “actions,” whatever actions the context requires. In “For if Abraham were justified by works [ergon 2041]” (Rom 4:2), it’s his actions of building altars to offer sacrifices and call upon the name of the Lord: “there builded he an altar unto the LORD … 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 13:4), “built there an altar unto the LORD” (Gen 13:18). But he abruptly stopped building altars and began trusting God to provide the sacrifice for his sins, “And he believed [trusted] in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). This is what Abraham found or discovered, “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” (Rom 4:1).

David found the same, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth [logizomai 3049] righteousness without works [ergon 2041], Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute [logizomai 3049] sin.” (Rom 4:6-8). In Psalm 32, “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,” David was forgiven by confessing his sins and said nothing about the actions of offering a sacrifice. And in Psalm 51, he even said that he didn’t offer a sacrifice, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it.

That “his faith [faithfulness] is counted [logizomai 3049] for righteousness” (v. 5), “faith [faithfulness] was reckoned [logizomai 3049] to Abraham for righteousness” (v. 9), “it was imputed [logizomai 3049] to him for righteousness” (v. 22), is that God’s faithfulness was considered to Abraham for righteousness. This had nothing to do with Abraham’s faith. The issue was how sins could be forgiven prior to Christ’s sacrifice, “the remission of sins that are past. The answer is that “through the forbearance of God,” God considered His faithfulness to provide His Son’s sacrifice as good as done. Therefore, His faithfulness was considered righteousness.

Trust in God

Paul’s famous statement, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [pisteuō 4100] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9), is misunderstood to mean that we’re saved by simply believing that the resurrection of Jesus Christ happened as an historical fact. Thus, countless sermons have been preached and books written lending evidence to the resurrection for us to have firm belief. But that this wasn’t what Paul meant is apparent by his quote from Isaiah, “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth [pisteuō 4100] on him shall not be ashamed” (v. 11), and by what he had written earlier, “if we believe [pisteuō 4100] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (4:24). The Greek verb pisteuō appears about 250 times in the New Testament and usually rendered “believe” but actually means “trust.” It’s not believing Jesus was raised but trusting in Him that raised Jesus.

Peter quoted the same from Isaiah, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth [pisteuō 4100] on him shall not be confounded [ashamed]” (1Pe 2:6. And he had already said earlier, “Who by him do believe [pisteuō 4100] in God, that raised him up from the dead” (1Pe 1:21). It’s trusting in Him that raised Jesus from the dead.

That “Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed” is that we won’t be put to shame, let down, or disappointed when we trust in Him. David said: “they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psa 22:5); “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me” (Psa 25:2); “let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee” (Psa 25:20).

To “believe [trust] in thine heart” is to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Pro 3:5). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said nothing about believing. He taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:20,21). This treasure is trusting in our hearts our “Father which is in heaven” (v. 1). We must live with no thought about our life or tomorrow, “Take no thought for your life … Take therefore no thought for the morrow” (vs. 25,34). We’re not to try and understand, figure out, and plan out everything but simply trust in God.

“The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:10; Heb 10:38), is mistranslated. The Greek pistis doesn’t mean “faith” but “faithfulness” which is proven by Habakkuk’s statement, “the just shall live by his faith [‘ĕmûnȃ 530]” (Hab 2:4). The Hebrew ‘ĕmûnȃ appears about 50 times in the Old Testament and always indicates faithfulness in every context. Rendered more clearly in other translations, “live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “live by his faithfulness” (NIV), Habakkuk wasn’t speaking of our faith but His faithfulness! Abraham foretold of God providing the Lamb, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen 22:8), and God swore His faithfulness to do it, “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD” (v. 16). Isaiah later wrote of the Lamb to come, “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7), and John announced the Lamb had come, “Behold the Lamb of God” (Jhn 1:29,36). Therefore, the just will live—have eternal life—by trusting in God’s faithfulness.

The German Reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) is the man that gave us the misunderstanding that “The shall live by faith” means we’re saved by faith. And he’s also the man that wrote the scathing antisemitic book “The Jews and Their Lies” which was used about 400 years later by another antisemitic German leader Adolph Hitler to fuel hatred for the Jews in the Holocaust. Yet ministers, pastors, scholars, and theologians sing the praises of Luther! Why keep his dark side a secret? Maybe because revealing it would hinder his doctrine of salvation by faith?

There are many places in Scripture where God’s people were called or called themselves “servants” or “faithful.” But there’s nowhere in Scripture where they ever called themselves “believers” as they do today. There are two places in the KJV where statements were mistranslated to sound that way, “And believers [pisteuō 4100] were the more added to the Lord” (Act 5:14), “be thou an example of the believers [pistos 4103]” (1Ti 4:12). The verb pisteuo and adjective pistos were both erroneously rendered as the noun “believers.” And the problem is far more pervasive in modern Bible Versions. The ASV has 4 places calling them “believers,” the ESV 15, the NET about 25, the NIV about 50, and the NLT about 175! Why such vast inconsistencies?

Salvation isn’t about simply believing the resurrection happened but trusting God that made it happen. Our salvation is victory over death in resurrection. But if we can’t even trust God in our life, “Take no thought for your life,” how can we trust God in our death?

Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord?

“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home [endēmeō 1736] in the body, we are absent [ekdēmeō 1553] from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent [ekdēmeō 1553] from the body, and to be present [endēmeō 1736] with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present [endēmeō 1736] or absent [ekdēmeō 1553], we may be accepted of him.” (2Co 5:6-9).

First, we should concede that this passage isn’t about what happens when we die but what happens when we’re resurrected. The statement “that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (v. 4), corresponds to what Paul had already taught the Corinthians in his first letter, “and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1Co 15:54). Also, there’s nothing in this passage about an intermittent state where disembodied beings go prior to resurrection and nothing about heaven. But since it’s being approached with the assumption that disembodied beings go to heaven after death, then translations are biased to read that way. But Paul was simply comparing our current bodily state with that of our future bodily state.

This passage is being used to teach that we’re presently living inside our bodies like living in a tent or a house, but at death we’ll be living outside our bodies. Likewise, that our bodies are like clothing we’re wearing, but at death we’ll be unclothed when we leave our bodies. However, these were simply figures of speech—a tent as opposed to a house, and naked or unclothed as opposed to clothed upon. In context, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (4:18), our current temporary state is like a tent while our future eternal state is like a house. Also, “being clothed we shall not be found naked” (v. 3), alludes back to “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked” (Gen 3:10). The message is that we don’t want to be found naked when the Lord returns. This has nothing to do with our bodies covering us like clothing.

The Greek words endēmeō and ekdēmeō aren’t prepositions denoting location of either inside or outside the body because if we adopt those meanings and apply them consistently across the passage, it results in nonsense. The same word endēmeō in “at home in the body” is used in “present with the Lord,” and ekdēmeō in “absent from the body” is used in “absent from the Lord.” Thus, inside or outside our bodies correlates with inside or outside the Lord. Therefore, if Paul was saying we’re living inside our bodies, then he was also saying that after leaving our bodies we’ll be living inside the Lord’s body! Furthermore, it’s obvious that the parallel statements “at home in the body” and “present with the Lord” had to be mistranslated to avoid absurdity because “at home in the body” and “at home in the Lord,” or “present with the body” and “present with the Lord” don’t work.

Endēmeō and ekdēmeō are verbs denoting action with no English equivalents with which to be translated. Their root dēmos means “people.” They carry the idea of residing with or away from people. In this temporary state of our body, we’re residing with people away from the Lord, but when He returns our bodies will be in a permanent state residing with Him. The conclusion is “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present [endēmeō 1736] or absent [ekdēmeō 1553], we may be accepted of him” (v. 9). It’s all about being accepted by Him in this life and in the next.

Sandwiched between all of these endēmeō and ekdēmeō parallel statements, Paul interjected “For we walk by faith [pistis 4102], not by sight [eidos 1491]” (v. 7). It’s being taught that he was saying we walk by what we believe and not by what we see. However, the Greek nouns are mistranslated—pistis means “faithfulness” or “loyalty” while eidos means “appearance” or “form.” He meant that we walk by faithfulness to the Lord and not by appearance to people which also agrees with what he said just a few verses later, “them which glory in appearance, and not in heart” (5:12), as also to the Romans, “of the heart, in the spirit [breath], and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom 2:29). His point is that although we’re residing with people away from the Lord, and we’re being seen by them daily, we’re not walking in such a way to be seen by them. Jesus Christ taught against this, “that they may have glory of men,” “that they may be seen of men,” “that they may appear unto men” (Mat 6:2,5,16).

The bottom line is that this passage doesn’t teach disembodiment to live in heaven. Jesus Christ lives in heaven but not disembodied! This passage is about how we live right now in our current bodily state in preparation for the judgment, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Co 5:10). It’s to live in the presence of the Lord in a permanent bodily state.

Examining Sola Fide

Habakkuk’s famous statement “but the just shall live by his faith [ĕmûnȃ 530]” (Hab 2:4), isn’t about faith but faithfulness as rendered correctly in some versions, “but the person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness” (NET), “but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (NIV). The Hebrew noun ĕmûnȃ appears about 50 times in the Old Testament and without exception, expresses faithfulness. The Greek noun pistis in “The just shall live by faith [pistis 4102]” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38) is wrongly translated as “faith” in accordance with the Reformer Martin Luther’s false salvation message of sola fide or faith alone.

The absurdity of sola fide becomes apparent when introduced into the context of everyday life. Take the workplace as somewhat of an example of our walk with God. Our time belongs to our employer. We abide by the company rules. We do the work we’re told to do while being dependable, honest, and faithful. We don’t always know why our employer wants us to do specific things but we trust that they know the bigger picture and how it will positively affect the overall health of the company and the community. We also know that since we’re simply doing what we’re told, we trust that our employer has our back if we were to experience any repercussions from doing an assignment. If we’re doing a good job we’ll be rewarded but if we’re doing poorly, then it can result in disciplinary action and possible termination. All of that makes perfect sense.

Now, let’s interject “faith” or “belief” as the sole requisite for employment. Employees get hired because they express belief in their employer. After getting hired many of them argue among themselves about whether they were hired because they believe the employer, or if they believe the employer because they were hired. Some even dare to claim that their employer gave them the belief they needed to get hired. They also squabble about whether they do a good job because they believe the employer, or if they believe the employer because they do a good job. Of course some claim that performance has a direct bearing on their job security but others claim Once Employed Always Employed. Therefore, when someone quits or gets let go, those that embrace OEAE have to say, “Well, I guess they never really were employed, because if they had been they would have continued to be employed. Therefore, they never truly believed the employer!”

In his letter to the Romans, Paul was expounding the gospel Jesus Christ Himself preached, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16), “the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom 16:25). And the gospel Christ preached is faithful service to Him as Lord: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant” (Mat 24:45); “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Mat 25:21); “Who then is that faithful and wise steward” (Luk 12:42); “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luk 16:10); “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little” (Luk 19:17); “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luk 6:46).

Paul’s statement, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe [trust] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9), has been turned into a salvation formula—just call Him “Lord” from our mouths. However, Paul had already taught earlier, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey” (Rom 6:16). We’re servants of whom we obey as Lord, not just call “Lord.”

Furthermore, Romans 10:9 must be understood within the context of its preceding quotation: “Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” (Deu 30:12-14). Moses was prophesying about Christ’s coming as Lord, “heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth themheareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26). Confessing Him as Lord is a commitment or pledge to do what He said. The pledge itself doesn’t save, faithfully keeping the pledge does.

The apostles and early church called themselves “servants,” “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:1); “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas 1:1); “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (2Pe 1:1); “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ” (Jde 1:1). They never once called themselves “believers” but translations have been doctored to read as though they did.

We’ve been sold the lie of sola fide. And to discourage us even further from obeying the Lord, we’re told that anything we do is our own meritorious works and not faith. It’s a devious and absurd “gospel” message that assures we won’t be saved.

The God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What God and gospel do Trinitarian ministers preach? Is it the God that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself preached? Is it the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself preached? If it’s not, then what does that say about them? Jesus preached the truth, and anyone preaching different is wrong. Since no subjects are more important than God and the gospel, if Trinitarian ministers are wrong about what’s most important, why listen to them about anything else?

Several times 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, “thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent” (Jhn 17:3). Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that the Father is the only true God but preach that Christ is also God.

Christ taught 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); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father” (Jhn 16:27,28). It’s His own words “begotten,” “proceeded forth,” and “came out from God” about Himself that attest to His begetting and His beginning. Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that the Son had a beginning but preach that He has always existed as God Himself.

Christ called His Father “my God” 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). Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that the Father is the Son’s God but preach that the Son is co-equal with the Father.

Christ stated that His miracles were not of Himself: “I cast out devils by the Spirit [breath] of God” (Mat 12:28); “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (Jhn 5:19); “I can of mine own self do nothing” (Jhn 5:30); “the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (Jhn 14:10). Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that Christ was given the power to work miracles but preach that His miracles were by His own power as God Himself.

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He said nothing of believing but everything of obeying. He began the main portion by declaring, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20). He said that if we don’t live righteously according to the standard He taught in this Sermon, then in no case, without exception, will we enter His Kingdom. We must live righteously to be saved. And He ended His Sermon, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26). It’s simple—we’re saved by doing what He said but perish if we don’t. Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that we can live righteously but preach that we must only believe.

Christ preached faithfulness to Him as Lord: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant” (Mat 24:45); “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things” (Mat 25:21); “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little” (Luk 19:17); “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luk 16:10). Trinitarian ministers, however, deny that we’re saved by faithful service to Christ as Lord, and translate the Greek noun [pistis 4102] throughout the New Testament as “faith” rather than “faithfulness” to preach salvation by faith alone.

Trinitarian ministers transgress what the Son of God Himself taught about God, and what the Savior Himself taught about salvation. 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” (2Jn 1:9). The view of God and the gospel preached by Trinitarian ministers transgresses the doctrine of Christ—He didn’t teach them. And according to John, whoever transgresses what Jesus Christ taught doesn’t have God.

The litmus test of any minister is if they preach the same God and gospel that Jesus Christ Himself preached. Trinitarian ministers, however, preach a different God and gospel, and therefore don’t have God. If they don’t have God, why listen to them?