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).

How to Know We Know God

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1Jo 2:3). “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him” (1Jo 3:24). John didn’t say that we know God when we’re believers but when we’re keeping His commandments. That we must keep His commandments to know Him, then when we keep His commandments we know that we know Him.

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 moral righteousness of the law is expressed in the second half of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet” (Exo 20:13-17). Such morality is true of all people made after the image of God. But the non-moral actions of the law, “the deeds [actions] of the law” (Rom 3:20,28), “the works [actions] of the law” (Gal 2:6,3:2,5,10), are the ordinances God imposed upon His people by circumcision, mainly abstinence from unclean meats, keeping the Sabbath day, observing the annual feasts, and animal sacrifices.

Jesus Christ upheld the moral righteousness of the law: “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). Paul and James agreed: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (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); “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well” (Jas 2:8).

However, Christ set us free from the actions of the law: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man” (Mat 15:11); “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him” (Mar 7:15); “all things are clean unto you” (Luk 11:41); “the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father” (Jhn 4:21); “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself” (Rom 14:14); “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal 5:1).

That Peter “did eat with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12), was when the Lord sent him to Cornelius’ house, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Act 10:13-14). These were the actions of the law Paul was addressing with the Galatians, “no one is justified by the works [actions] 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 [actions] of the law, because by the works [actions] of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16 NET).

False teachers were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised, “they constrain you to be circumcised” (Gal 6:12). But this was a different message than what Christ and His apostles preached, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). Circumcision requires doing all the law, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal 5:2-3), not just the moral righteousness but also the non-moral actions. Paul’s message was that keeping one commandment fulfills all that’s required, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:13-14).

The false message of salvation by faith being preached today is given credibility by conflating the moral righteousness of the law with its non-moral actions. Therefore, when Paul stated, “a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (Rom 3:28), “a man is not justified by the works [actions] of the law, but by the faith [faithfulness] of Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16), rather than justification by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness and not the non-moral actions of the law, it’s supposedly justification by our believing and not by morally righteous living. It’s a different “gospel” message than what Jesus Christ and His apostles preached.

Christ bound the moral righteousness of the law upon us while also freeing us from its non-moral actions. We know God by keeping His commandments, therefore we know that we know Him when we’re keeping His commandments, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1Jo 2:3).

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.

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.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Mat 7:15-20).

We think we can spot wolves. We say to ourselves, “Well, if I ever come across one, I’ll be sure to stay away.” But Jesus said that the only way they can be known is “by their fruits.” This indicates just how incredibly covert they truly are. They’re so extremely convincing as sheep that we CANNOT know them by any other way. And we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can. A “corrupt tree” can only be known in that it cannot “bring forth good fruit.” Therefore, we’ll know wolves by their fruits.

Christ later applied this same analogy of trees and fruit to the Pharisees, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mat 12:33-34). The mouth is to the heart what fruit is to a tree. As a tree is known by its fruit, the heart is known by the mouth. As Christ said of the Pharisees, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Mat 12:30). Anyone not with Christ—saying what He said, preaching what He preached, and teaching what He taught—is against Him.

What Jesus Christ taught about His Father God and about Himself is the truth, and anyone teaching different is wrong. Trinitarian ministers teach different. Therefore, they’re wrong. Now, all they need to do is repent and begin teaching what Jesus taught. But if they won’t, then they’re not with Him but against Him. They’re known by their fruits. Their fruits betray them as wolves.

Trinitarian ministers are warm, funny, and down-to-earth. They’re family men that love their wives and children. They invest in the lives of others and shed tears of joy and sorrow with them. They labor and serve in the church and in the community. They sing praise music and know their Bible well. They foster and adopt children. They enjoy visiting over a cup of coffee and having cookouts and gatherings. But there’s just one glaring problem—they disagree with Jesus! Wolves can seem just like sheep and in some ways even more so. They can only be known by their fruits.

Paul taught that as the serpent was in the beginning, his ministers are now, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit [breath], which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2Co 11:3-4), “Satan himself is transformed into an angel [messenger] of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2Co 11:14-15). His ministers pose as messengers of truth. They’re extremely subtle and convincing.

Trinitarian ministers preach “another Jesus,” a “Jesus” that is God Himself. They deny His literal begetting by preaching that He has always existed as God. They deny that He is now 100% human by preaching the illogical claim that He is both 100% God and 100% human at the same time. They deny that His miracles were of God Himself by preaching they were of Himself as God.

Trinitarian ministers preach “another gospel,” a “gospel” of sola fide or faith alone. They deny that we can live righteously to the standard Christ commanded by preaching we’re born with an innate sin nature that prevents it. They deny faithful service to Jesus as Lord by preaching a faith confession. They deny eternal life and annihilation by preaching that man is an eternal spirit being that will always exist either in heaven or in hell.

I was a Trinitarian for almost 30 years and had plenty of amiable disagreements with them along the way. However, the dynamics changed completely once I began agreeing with Christ in contradistinction with them. And I was shocked to hear some of the things that began coming out of their mouths. If you want to put them to the test yourself—and I’m not suggesting you should—just keep pressing them to agree with Christ that His Father is His God (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34; Jhn 20:17; Rom 15:6; 1Co 3:23,11:3; 2Co 11:31; Eph 1:3,1:17; Col 1:3; Heb 1:9; 1Pe 1:3; Rev 3:12). You’ll find out if they’re with Him or against Him. They’re known by their fruits.

The Tactics of Trinitarian Ministers

By the time of Christ and His apostles, most of God’s people had become religious to the point they wouldn’t listen but the common people would: “thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Mat 11:25); “the common people heard him gladly” (Mar 12:37); “all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luk 19:48); “all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him” (Luk 21:38); “the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Act 13:42); “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Act 28:28). We’re living in the day Paul said would come, “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 tactics of Trinitarian ministers keep us trusting their religious myths, away from the truth.

Because of their education, eloquence, experience, position, and prominence, the simple and trusting listen to them, “by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:18). They boast of themselves by belittling those that aren’t degreed by a seminary, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (Jhn 7:15), “Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men” (Act 4:13). They gain renown by endorsements from prominent ministers, “need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (2Co 3:1).

They discourage us from understanding the Scriptures on our own. They prescribe systematic theological resources and “Christian” books that supposedly keep us heading in the right direction. They’ll say it’s great to study the Bible on our own but we need to stay within a Bible study group—a group of Trinitarians of course!

One of their favorite sayings to hamper us from learning the truth in the Scriptures is, “If it’s new it’s not true, and if it’s true it’s not new.” However, it’s only “new” because they haven’t been teaching it! Everything Jesus Christ taught is the truth: “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jhn 1:17); “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jhn 8:32); “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (Jhn 8:46); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jhn 14:6); “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37); “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21). If He taught it, then it’s true and it’s not new. What’s new is what they’ve been teaching, and if it’s new it’s not true!

They instill the fear of damnation to keep us loyal to them. They claim that the Trinitarian view of God is essential for salvation to essentially keep us from salvation. And because they don’t want it exposed for what it truly is, they declare that Trinitarianism isn’t open for discussion. Anyone even beginning to question it is in danger of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which they will never be forgiven.

They teach all kinds of false doctrines that confuse, distract, and waste our precious time from doing anything fruitful for God. They concocted the doctrines of “faith alone” and “total depravity” to hinder us from living righteously according to the standard Jesus Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount. They fabricated the false disputes of Protestantism vs. Catholicism and Arminianism vs. Calvinism that have squandered unfathomable amounts of time and resources over hundreds of years.

They portray themselves as champions of the truth by disparaging all others as blatantly false. The Council of Nicaea used Arias’ views as obviously false to tout the Trinity as apparently true. Similarly, they love denouncing Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons to bolster a pristine impression of themselves. By contrasting with what’s glaringly false, they magnify themselves as supposedly true.

They intimidate us from ever leaving Trinitarianism. They claim “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us” (1Jo 2:19) is that those who left their local church never were truly saved, when it’s actually about false teachers that went out from the Jerusalem church, “certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls” (Act 15:24). Those that reject Trinitarianism are said to be going out to start a cult, or else joining with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Oneness, or Unitarians. Sadly, rather than allowing themselves to be maligned for the name of Christ, many choose to stay and protect their own.

These are just a few of the many tactics used by Trinitarian ministers to keep us loyal to them and on the broad way leading to destruction. Let’s not be taken by them and their tactics. Let’s trust in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This Gospel of the Kingdom

When asked by His disciples, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Mat 24:3), Christ’s first response was “Take heed that no man deceive you” (v. 4). His coming and the end of the world would be preceded by a vast amount of deception. But since He gave fair warning to “take heed,” therefore if we’re deceived and perish, it will be on us. And the deceivers will be many, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (v. 5). They’ll be the predominant voices teaching the Scriptures. That they’re saying “I am Christ” isn’t that they’ll be claiming to be the Christ themselves. Rather, they’ll be coming in His name, confessing that He is the Christ and epitomizing sheep completely, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat 7:15). There will be many and they will be extremely effective. We’ve been warned.

The Protestant message of sola fide or “faith alone” being preached in the world today isn’t the message Jesus Christ preached: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Mat 4:23); “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Mat 9:35); “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mar 1:14); “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also” (Luk 4:43). And it’s being taught that when Jesus foretold “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Mat 24:14), that this is being fulfilled by all the missionaries going out preaching sola fide to all people groups. But that’s not true. It’s “this gospel of the kingdom” that must be preached in all the world—the gospel of the kingdom Christ preached.

Christ’s gospel that “shall be preached in all the world for a witness [martyrion 3142] unto all nations,” will be fulfilled by His two witnesses, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses [martys 3144], and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (Rev 11:3). They’ll be prophets of God, “these two prophets” (v. 10), with miraculous power reminiscent of Elijah and Moses, “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (v. 6). And it will take miracles of this caliber to get people to listen to the true gospel message of the kingdom.

The miracles, signs, and wonders worked by Jesus Christ and His apostles confirmed they were speaking for God and preaching the true gospel message: “the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (Jhn 5:36); “the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (Jhn 10:25); “believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (Jhn 10:38); “believe me for the very works’ sake” (Jhn 14:11); “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you” (Act 2:22); “preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mar 16:20); “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2Co 12:12); “confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost” (Heb 2:3-4). It was the working of miracles that enabled the apostles to evangelize the world with the true gospel message.

Paul foretold of a time when people would be deceived to such an extent that they wouldn’t listen to 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). We’re now living in that time. People won’t listen to sound doctrine because they’re in bondage to the myths that God is three Persons, salvation is by faith, and that their hope is heaven.

Just before the end, however, two prophets of God will preach the true gospel to all the world, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.” They’ll preach that we must live righteously to enter the kingdom, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20), that we must do what we’ve heard Christ command, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26), “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom 2:13), “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22). They will preach “this gospel of the kingdom.”

Blessed are They that Do His Commandments

From the very beginning, God has required man to keep His commandments, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17). But because he disobeyed, God banned him from the tree of life, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen 3:22-23). And at the very end of Scripture we read that it’s those keeping His commandments that regain access to the tree of life, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life” (Rev 22:14). From beginning to end, eternal life has always been about keeping God’s commandments.

The false gospel of sola fide or “faith alone” concocted about 500 years ago by Martin Luther asserts that we’re saved by faith and nothing but faith. In fact, if there’s anything other than faith, including obedience to God’s commandments, then we’re not saved. Furthermore, it’s claimed that salvation under the law of Moses was by keeping God’s commandments perfectly without ever sinning. But since nobody could do it, then salvation under the law was also by faith. This is not true. There was never a requirement of utter perfection under the Old Covenant.

The animal sacrifices offered under the law by the high priest were for the people’s sins and for his own: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house … and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel” (Lev 16:11,17); “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” (7:27); “the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (9:7).

God’s mercy isn’t for those breaking His commandments but for those keeping them, “And shewing mercy [ḥese 2617] unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10), “the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy [ḥese 2617] with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deu 7:9).

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were saved by living righteously in obedience to His commandments. But when they did sin, they would repent and offer an animal sacrifice that would cover it. And this is the same model under the New—as God’s people today, we must live righteously in obedience to His Son’s commandments and confess when we sin, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jo 1:9).

Since sola fide claims that Abraham is our example of faith or believing, therefore “faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:9 KJV, WEB, YLT) is mistranslated as “Abraham the believer” (NET), “Abraham, the man of faith” (NIV), “believing Abraham” (NKJV). But Abraham is our example of faithfulness to God in obeying His commandments, “thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18), “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:5).

Paul taught, “For if Abraham were justified by works [actions], he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:2-3). Abraham’s “actions” were that of building altars to offer sacrifices: “there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:8), “Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD” (13:4), “built there an altar unto the LORD” (13:18). That he “trusted God” is that he trusted God would one day provide the sacrifice for his sins, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8).

God’s people under the law of the Old Covenant were saved by loving God and keeping His commandments, “them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10), “them that love him and keep his commandments” (Deu 7:9). Jesus said the same, “If ye love me, keep my commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me … If a man love me, he will keep my words … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (Jhn 14:15,21,23,24). And John as well, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1Jo 2:3), “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1Jo 5:3), “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments” (2Jo 1:6). Eternal life comes not to believers but to the obedient, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life” (Rev 22:14).

The False Antithesis of Faith Versus Works

Introduction

Jesus Christ warned us to not be deceived, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mat 24:5). Jesus is our Savior and what He said about salvation is the truth while anyone saying something different is wrong. We must be very careful to not allow ourselves to be deceived.

By a corrupt theological system and skewed Bible translations, many have been deceived into embracing the message of salvation by sola fide or faith alone. For about 500 years it has been an extremely successful false narrative from our enemy imposed upon the New Covenant to delude many and lead them to destruction. Its effectiveness has been bolstered by another false narrative forced upon the Old Covenant, that justification under the law was about trying to merit righteousness by keeping the commandments perfectly without ever sinning. Being sold the bill of goods that God’s people just couldn’t keep His commandments, the message of salvation became that God’s people today only need to believe some facts are true. In short, it’s a false antithesis of faith versus works intended to hinder us from keeping God’s commandments so that we won’t be saved.

Jesus Christ stated that we must live according to the righteous standard He taught in His Sermon on the Mount or we won’t enter His 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). And He ended His Sermon with only two options—either doing or not doing what He said: “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). According to our Savior Jesus Christ, salvation isn’t about believing but about obeying.

He also stated several times: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jhn 14:15); “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jhn 14:21); “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (Jhn 14:23); “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jhn 15:14); “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20). Our Savior said that we must keep His commandments. Let us take heed and be sober about being deceived by those that say something different.

The righteous requirements of the law

Jesus Christ said at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount that His teaching doesn’t overturn what was stated in the law and by prophets but fulfills it, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mat 5:17-18). He later encapsulated His teaching on the law in one commandment, “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). He didn’t invalidate or nullify the law but even restated and reinforced its two greatest commandments, “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).

Toward the beginning of His Sermon He said, “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 then stated what the scribes and Pharisees had been teaching about the law, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time” (v. 21), followed by what He was now saying, “But I say unto you” (v. 22). And this is the repeated pattern throughout the rest of the chapter—what they said and what He was saying (vs. 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44). Christ’s law isn’t a new code of ethics superseding the Old Covenant law but the proper interpretation—as opposed to what the scribes and Pharisees taught—of its moral righteous requirements. Righteousness under the New Covenant is the same as under the Old Covenant—we must live according to the same moral standard. Christ didn’t absolve us from any of the moral righteousness embodied in the Old Covenant law. It was the scribes and Pharisees that were trying to do that.

The proper perspective of the law

Probably the biggest hindrance with our understanding of how the Old Covenant and New Covenant relate to each other is our backwards perspective of the two. Since the Old came first chronologically, we think in terms of the Old having the preeminence and that the New must be understood in conformity to it. But the New was the end goal and purpose from the very beginning. Prior to either covenant, God had already shown both prophetically in an allegory of Abraham’s two sons by two different women, “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). Although Ishmael came first, Isaac was God’s purpose all along.

That Christ’s law under the New Covenant has always been God’s will and purpose is witnessed by Moses and the prophets: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deu 18:15); “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); “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me” (Jhn 5:46); “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you” (Act 3:22); “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Act 10:43); “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Rom 3:21); “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom 3:31); “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4).

Christ’s sacrifice of Himself and current High Priestly ministry at the right hand of God wasn’t patterned after the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood with its animal sacrifices but the other way around: “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exo 25:40); “And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exo 26:30); “And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick” (Num 8:4); “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen” (Act 7:44); “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 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 8:4-5), “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Heb 9:23).

The law of the Old Covenant didn’t establish morality but codified it. It didn’t become morally evil to murder when Moses commanded “Thou shalt not kill” (Exo 20:13). It has been evil since the beginning, “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1Jo 3:12). It’s not so much an issue of the New enforcing the morality of the Old because both the Old and the New enforce the morality that has always been binding.

When Jesus taught, “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: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Mat 5:21-22), He was defining the intent of the Sixth Commandment that has always been true since the beginning—hatred in the heart is murder, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1Jo 3:15).

Mankind’s morality comes from having been made in the image of God, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:27). It’s morally evil for us to lie because “God, that cannot lie” (Tit 1:2), and we’re made after His image. Our morality issues from Him, not from what was carved on stone tablets.

The Ten Commandments or Decalogue of the Old Covenant didn’t establish morality but codified it. But we no longer live under the Old Covenant and its laws including the Ten Commandments. We live under Christ’s law of the New Covenant which upholds and enforces all the same morality that the Old Covenant laws upheld and enforced.

The dead actions of the law

The Greek ergon means “actions,” any kind of actions defined by the context in which it’s used. Referring to the high priestly duties on Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, the writer of Hebrews calls them nekros ergon or “dead actions” because they were ritualistic actions that never atoned for sins: “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year” (Heb 9:7), “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings [baptismos 909]” (v. 10), “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 offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041] to serve the living God?” (vs. 13-14).

The high priest’s dead actions are what the writer of Hebrews meant earlier, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead [nekros 3498] works [ergon 2041], and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms [baptismos 909], and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Heb 6:1-2). Washing himself and laying his hands on the scapegoat were just two of the high priestly dead actions on Yom Kippur, “therefore shall he wash his flesh in water” (Lev 16:4), “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat” (v. 21), “And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place” (v. 24).

Dead actions prescribed by the law include such things as “baptisms [washings], and of laying on of hands” (Heb 6:2), “meats and drinks, and divers washings” (Heb 9:10), “the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer” (Heb 9:13). They’re also comprised of dietary requirements and observance of holy days including all of the various Sabbaths, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him” (Rom 14:3), “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom 14:5), “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).

The liberty by which Christ set us free

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 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; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:21-26)

Paul revealed to the Galatians the allegory God had hid in a mystery within the life of Abraham. His two sons Ishmael and Isaac symbolized prophetically what would come later in the two covenants—the Old Covenant under Moses and the New Covenant under Jesus Christ. The Old with all of its bondages of dead works—sacrificing animals, washing in water, eating a kosher diet, keeping the feast days, keeping the Sabbaths—centered in Jerusalem with the temple sacrifices and most holy place. But Jesus freed God’s people from the requirement of traveling to Jerusalem three times a year for the feasts, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father” (Jhn 4:21).

The Jerusalem currently in heaven will one day come down to the renewed earth, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22), “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” (Rev 21:2). Since “the Jerusalem which is above is free,” God’s people whose home is that city are free from the dead actions of the law.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” (Gal 5:1-3). Christ freed us from the bondages of dead actions under the law. When Paul said “I testify again … he is a debtor to do the whole law,” he was referring back to earlier when he testified of Moses’ own words about the law, “The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal 3:12), “Ye shall do my judgments [mishpat 4941], and keep mine ordinances [chuqqah 2708], to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes [chuqqah 2708], and my judgments [mishpat 4941]: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD” (Lev 18:5).

Ordinances and statutes under the law consisted of such dead actions as the Passover, consecration of priests, abstinence from ingesting fat and blood, and the Day of Atonement: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance [chuqqah 2708] for ever” (Exo 12:14); “And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute [chuqqah 2708]: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons” (Exo 29:9); “It shall be a perpetual statute [chuqqah 2708] for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood” (Lev 3:17); “And this shall be an everlasting statute [chuqqah 2708] unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year” (Lev 16:34).

Many of the judgments were stated in Exodus 21 after the giving of the Ten Commandments, “Now these are the judgments [mishpat 4941] which thou shalt set before them” (Exo 21:1). The judgments included the treatment and handling of: Hebrew servants (vs. 2-6), giving of a daughter in marriage (vs. 7-11), murder and manslaughter (vs. 21-15), kidnapping (v. 16), cursing father or mother (v. 17), injuries sustained from a fight (vs. 18-19), the beating of a servant (vs. 20-21), injuring a pregnant woman (vs. 22-25), injuring a servant (vs. 26-27), an ox or an open pit causing damage (vs. 28-36).

Eternal life under the law meant doing all of its requirements including the dead actions, “The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal 3:12). And the promise was that if a man did all of its requirements, not perfectly but faithfully, he would live again in resurrection. There were, however, times when God made exceptions, not to the moral requirements of the law but to its dead actions, to meet a greater pressing need.

Jesus Himself recounted the time when God allowed David and his men to eat consecrated bread to meet the need of their urgent hunger, “But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 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 12:3-4). He also pointed out that the priests routinely broke the Sabbath by circumcising on that day, “Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man” (Jhn 7:22). If the eighth day from birth happened to fall on the Sabbath day, the priests broke one dead action to keep another. There was also a time when God hearkened to the prayer of Hezekiah to allow some people to partake of the Passover though they weren’t cleansed according to the requirement of the law:

For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD. For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:17-20)

Although God required adherence to the dead actions under the law, when His people were living in moral unrighteousness, He hated their dead actions: “And Samuel said, 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); “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Psa 51:16); “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Pro 21:3); “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6); “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” (Isa 1:13-14); “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.” (Amo 5:21-22).

Several times we’re told that Jesus Himself “broke” the dietary restrictions under the law: “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Mat 9:11); “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); “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luk 15:2); “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luk 19:7).

Likewise, several times He “broke” the Sabbath day under the law: “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other” (Mat 12:12-13); “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); “And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go” (Luk 14:2-4); “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (Jhn 5:16); “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them” (Jhn 9:16).

Of course Christ never sinned. That He “broke” the dietary laws and the Sabbath day of the Old Covenant in order to uphold a greater moral good indicates that neither of these laws were moral in essence. He freed us from any dietary requirements, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man” (Mat 15:11), “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him” (Mar 7:15). And He said “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mar 2:27). Man was made on the sixth day, then the seventh day was made. Therefore, the Sabbath day was made to serve man’s needs, not that man’s needs must be neglected to serve the Sabbath. Since we’re no longer under the Ten Commandments, we’re no longer under the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exo 20:8).

Christ’s law

Jesus summarized the entire law in one commandment, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12), “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luk 6:31), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 19:19, 22:39; Mar 12:31). Paul also stated “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14), and later called it “the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Keeping this one law fulfills all the moral righteous requirements of the Old Covenant law, “for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12).

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Since keeping the one law “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” fulfills everything Christ requires of us, then we’re not required to also abstain from certain meats, keep any of the Sabbaths, observe the annual feasts, or even tithe. It’s not “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” plus keep the Sabbath day. All the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in one word not in two, three, or more.

Faithfulness to God

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, 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 [diakrino 1252] not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (Romans 4:17-22)

In this passage, Paul was extrapolating upon Genesis 17 where God redirected Abraham’s hope of an heir from Ishmael to Isaac. His promise to him years before was that “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir … So shall thy seed be” (Gen 15:4-5). Abraham, therefore, considered all along that Ishmael was the fulfillment of that promise. But he would learn later that his hope in this promise would be fulfilled in another biological son but through his own wife.

The Greek diakrino means “to contend with” as shown “when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [diakrino 1252] with him” (Act 11:2). Although Abraham didn’t contend with God about the fulfillment of His promise “He staggered [diakrino]1252] not at the promise of God,” initially he did: “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:17-18). He contended with God for Ishmael to be his heir. The intended message Paul was revealing is that this event in Abraham’s life foretold of the conflict that God’s people in the early church would experience with remaining faithful to Him, “repentance from dead works [actions], and of faith [faithfulness] toward God” (Heb 6:1). Would they contend with God to keep “Ishmael”—the dead actions of the Old Covenant law? Or, would they remain faithful to Him by turning to “Isaac”—Christ’s shed blood of the New Covenant?

Abraham is the father of all those that follow the steps of his example of faithfulness, “And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith [faithfulness] of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom 4:11-12). His faithfulness to God was shown in turning his hope from Ishmael to Isaac while still uncircumcised earlier that same day, “And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him … In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son” (Gen 17:23, 26). Circumcision was the sign in his flesh that he wasn’t contending with God but submitting to the true hope of fulfilling His promise—Isaac and not Ishmael. This correlates to God’s people being faithful to Him in turning their hope of eternal life from the law to His Son, their promised Messiah.

Looking at just a few of Christ’s healings from the Gospel of Matthew: “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith [faithfulness], no, not in Israel … And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (8:10, 13); “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” (9:2); “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith [faithfulness] hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (9:22); “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us … Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith [faithfulness] be it unto you” (9:27, 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” (15:28).

Did Christ mean that these people were healed by their faith or belief? Notice that the two blind men were crying out “Thou son of David.” Jesus healed those that were faithful to God in receiving Him as their promised Messiah. This is what Christ taught, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance [metanoia 3341] from dead works [actions], and of faith [faithfulness] toward God” (Heb 6:1). Once Christ came, God required His people’s faithfulness in repenting or turning away from the dead actions of the law and turning their hope to Christ.

When Peter preached the first evangelistic message to his fellow Jewish brethren, he concluded it with the directive to “Repent [metanoeo 3340], 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” (Act 2:38). The blood of animals never remitted sins. They were to turn away from the dead actions of the law for righteousness and turn to the Lord for remission or forgiveness of their sins. The Greek verb metanoeo means “to turn away from” and epistrepho means “to turn unto,” and this was the continued message to them, “Repent [metanoeo 3340] ye therefore, and be converted [epistrepho 1994], that your sins may be blotted out” (Act 3:19), “turned [epistrepho 1994] unto the Lord” (Act 9:35, 11:21).

Righteousness under the law

Although everyone sins, there were righteous people living under the law: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man” (Mat 1:19); “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); “Simeon; and the same man was just and devout” (Luk 2:25); “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just” (Luk 23:50). And Jesus Himself said there have been righteous people since the beginning: “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat 5:45); “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).

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:8-11).

Many use this passage from James to teach that righteousness under the law was only possible by keeping the law absolutely perfectly without ever sinning even once—meriting righteousness. But James was simply making the same point Paul made but from a different angle, “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Rom 13:9). Paul said that keeping one law keeps all the laws, while James said that breaking one of the laws breaks all the laws. It’s the same conclusion reached two different ways. Since all the laws are one whole, then one broken is the whole broken. James wasn’t teaching that righteousness under the law meant keeping it perfectly without ever sinning. That line of teaching discourages righteous living so that we’ll quit, “Well, we can’t do it anyway, so why even try? Besides, we’re saved by faith alone!”

The man that doeth them shall live in them

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 19:16-19)

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, 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. (Luke 10:25-28)

On these two occasions Jesus affirmed that those under the law would have eternal life by keeping the commandments. Now, many take what He said as only hypothetical—that He wasn’t really telling these men that they could have eternal life by keeping the commandments. But that’s simply not the case. The wise way to take what He said is that He said what He meant and meant what He said. He wasn’t speaking theoretically. He meant that they not only could but must keep God’s commandments to have eternal life. This has always been true and still is. After having been seated at God’s right hand, Christ gave His Revelation to John, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1), and stated three times: “the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 12:17); “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev 14:12); “Blessed are they that do his commandments” (Rev 22:14).

Moses said that eternal life under the law was by doing it, “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). The prophets and apostles affirmed this as well: “And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;)” (Neh 9:29); “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); “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Rom 10:5); “The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal 3:12).

Paul taught, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Rom 2:7), “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom 2:13). Therefore, since he had already said here that “the doers of the law shall be justified,” he certainly wasn’t contradicting himself a little later by stating, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20), “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28). He truly meant that we must do, fulfill, or keep the moral righteous requirements of the law to be justified—not only under the Old Covenant but also under the New. That “the doers of the law shall be justified,” includes even the uncircumcised keeping the righteous requirements of the law, “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law” (Rom 2:26), “And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law” (Rom 2:27).

Paul cited David’s sin and repentance as his support, “That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Rom 3:4), “I have sinned against the LORD” (2Sa 12:13), “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. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa 51:4-5). Although arguably the greatest Jew in Israel’s history, David concluded that he was conceived and shaped by God in the womb uncircumcised. Therefore, in breaking God’s commandments, he was no better than the uncircumcised. His circumcision profited him nothing as Paul declared, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision” (Rom 2:25).

In fact, Uriah’s righteous actions were an indictment against David, “And Uriah said unto David, 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). This uncircumcised Hittite was keeping the righteous requirements of the law while the greatest of the Jews was not, “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.” (2Sa 12:9).

What Paul taught in chapter three of Romans, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20), “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28), is that the actions of the high priest in offering animal sacrifices won’t justify any flesh in God’s sight. This is what David learned, “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 … For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering” (Psa 51:4, 16). The “deeds of the law” in chapter three are different from “the doers of the law” back in chapter two. One is dead actions while the other is the moral righteous requirements.

Faith versus works

The Greek ergon means “actions” but was translated as either “deeds” or “works” in “the deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (Rom 3:20, 28), “the works [ergon 2041] of the law” (Rom 9:32; Gal 2:16, 3:2, 5, 10), to intentionally impose a false understanding of righteousness under the law. Romans chapter three is about God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ’s faithfulness, “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (Rom 3:22 NET), “the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness” (Rom 3:26 NET). The Greek hilasterion means “mercy seat” where the high priest under the law would sprinkle the blood of animals once a year, “And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat [hilasterion 2435] … 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 9:5, 7). Therefore, when Paul said, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [hilasterion 2435] through faith [faithfulness] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom 3:25), it was about Christ’s faithfulness to shed His blood upon the true mercy seat as opposed to the actions of the high priest shedding the blood of animals.

Although “the deeds [actions] of the law” (Rom 3:20, 28) are specifically the high priest’s dead actions, it’s being taught that “deeds” or “works” are actions of trying to merit righteousness by obeying God’s commandments perfectly. By altering our understanding of what Paul said about the law, the message of salvation was corrupted to simply believing some facts are true without obeying God’s commandments, “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28). However, it’s actually “justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law,” because we’re justified by Christ’s faithfulness to shed His blood without the actions of shedding the blood of animals prescribed by the law.

Under the Old Covenant law, there was no such concept of meriting righteousness by perfect living without sin. Everyone, including the high priest himself, was conscious of sin and therefore submitted to the ordinances of animal sacrifices: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself” (Lev 16:11), “made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel” (Lev 16:17), “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). It was never about keeping God’s commandments perfectly but keeping them faithfully. Paul was teaching that it’s now about hearing of Christ’s faithfulness to God in shedding His precious blood for our sins.

The hearing of faithfulness

Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to His Father was to do the work His Father sent Him to do, consummated with dying on the cross for the sins of the world: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jhn 4:34); “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (Jhn 5:30); “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Jhn 6:38); “I do always those things that please him” (Jhn 8:29); “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (Jhn 10:18); “I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (Jhn 14:31); “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Jhn 17:4); “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mat 26:39); “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phl 2:8); “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb 5:8); “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7).

Paul taught the Galatians that we’re not justified by the actions of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, “yet we know that no one is justified by the works [actions] 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 [actions] of the law, because by the works [actions] of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16 NET). We’re justified by His faithfulness to His Father in giving Himself for us on the cross, “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. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” (Gal 2:20-21 NET). He then continued this thought into the next chapter:

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works [actions] of the law, or by the hearing of faith [faithfulness]? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works [actions] of the law, or by the hearing of faith [faithfulness]? (Galatians 3:1-5).

This “hearing of faithfulness” is the Galatians initially hearing from Paul the true gospel message about Christ’s faithfulness as stated at the beginning of his letter, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-8), “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11-12).

This true antithesis of “the actions of the law” versus “the hearing of faithfulness” concerns which we trust for salvation—the dead actions of the law, or Jesus Christ’s faithfulness to His Father? Paul challenged the Galatians, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works [actions] of the law, or by the hearing of faith [faithfulness]?” Which of the two messages they heard was confirmed with miracles, signs, and wonders that Jesus Christ said would follow?

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth [trusts] and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth [trusts] not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe [trust] … And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:15-17, 20).

Prior to their evangelization by the apostle Paul, the Galatians had been serving false gods through various means involving the material elements of this earth, “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” (Gal 4:8-10). His point was that turning to the dead actions of the law for justification—including the keeping of the feasts and Sabbaths—is essentially going right back to idolatry. It’s the same thing he warned the Colossians about, “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: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:16-17). Under the Old Covenant, God allowed Himself to be worshipped through these dead actions that He prescribed for His people to keep. But once His only begotten Son came and consummated His plan of salvation, He requires His people to turn from these dead actions and to His Son for justification under the New Covenant.

The law was like a school teacher that taught God’s people about their Messiah to come, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [faithfulness]. But after that faith [faithfulness] is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal 3:24-25). The dead actions of the law foreshadowed as types and figures the true redemption that would come in Christ. But once He came, God’s people are no longer under the dead actions.

The gospel message Paul preached to the Galatians which was confirmed by miracles from the Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t at all against the moral righteousness of the law. In fact, his message affirmed the morality of the law entirely, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:14), which is what Jesus Christ Himself preached, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 19:19, 22:39; Mar 12:31). And this one commandment summarized everything Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount and everything in 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).

Writing to the Romans, Paul stated that Christ ended the law’s requirements, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” (Rom 10:4-5). He ended the requirement of keeping the dead actions of statutes and judgments, “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). Paul then quoted again from Moses:

It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, 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. (Deuteronomy 30:12-14)

But the righteousness which is of faith [faithfulness] speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above🙂 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 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; 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. (Romans 10:6-9)

The righteousness which is by Christ’s faithfulness “speaketh on this wise.” In God’s wisdom, He hid in a mystery within the writings of Moses what He would later accomplish through His Son Jesus Christ. His Son would come and teach the moral righteousness of the law very clearly for us to hear and do it, “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). And baptism is the point we declare from our mouths that we’ve heard and will do all that He commanded, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20). Therefore, we can’t make excuses for our disobedience “that thou shouldest say.” We can’t say that we hadn’t heard or didn’t know because we already affirmed from our mouths that we heard and understood. This is salvation. It’s not believing some facts are true and we’re good to go. It’s confessing the Lord Jesus Christ—affirming from our mouths we have heard and will obey from the heart our resurrected Lord seated in heaven.

Paul then reached the logical conclusion, “So then faith [faithfulness] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). This popular verse isn’t saying that the more we hear, the more we believe! That’s false doctrine intended to keep people hearing, and hearing, and hearing ad nauseam but not doing to be saved. Paul was saying that Christ’s faithfulness to His Father to come down from heaven into this world “that is, to bring Christ down from above,” and His faithfulness to go to the cross in trust that His Father would raise Him from the dead “that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead,” is the message he was preaching, “that is, the word of faith [faithfulness], which we preach.”

“So then faith [faithfulness] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” is simply the logical conclusion of the previous statements. To be saved we must call on the name of the Lord, to call on His name we must first trust Him, to trust Him we have to hear about Him, to hear about Him there must be a preacher sent—a preacher sent from God with His words. Thus, the beautiful feet that trekked over the mountains of Asia and Macedonia are Paul’s, “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!” (Rom 10:15). “So then faith [faithfulness] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing about Christ’s faithfulness comes by the preacher sent from God.

Reformation or Rebranding?

The Protestant Reformation about 500 years ago led by Martin Luther was a counterfeit. It was instigated by the Roman Catholic Church itself as a means by which the Scriptures could be released to the world while still maintaining strict control over the truth. The truth being communicated through the Scriptures was corrupted through skewed translations and false teaching of Protestant Trinitarian churches. Protestant churches are essentially their mother Church rebranded under a new name with a new gospel message. Their core beliefs are still the same Roman Catholic false views of God, Jesus, and man: that God is a Trinity of persons, that Christ is an eternal spirit clothed with flesh, and that man is an eternal spirit that goes to either heaven or hell after death.

Not only did Luther continue to embrace these false views, but he was also horribly anti-Semitic. In the last couple years of his life he wrote the book “On The Jews and their Lies” which was even used by Hitler to help foment hatred for the Jews and justify the holocaust. Yet Luther is honored and praised by Protestant ministers! He held a blasphemous view of God, a false view of Jesus Christ, a wrong view of man and the destiny of man, and admittedly hated people. How could any such person possibly have attained and taught the right gospel message? Yet his “enlightenment” of sola fide or faith alone is hailed as a return to the true gospel preached by the apostles.

Luther’s wrong understanding of “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), is that we simply believe some facts are true. But it was all a devious deception to damn countless multitudes of souls. It was designed to keep people from obeying Christ’s commandments under the guise that they need only believe. This wrong understanding of “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17) laid the groundwork for taking such statements as “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28) to mean justified by believing without our meritorious deeds. But it’s simply “doctored” translations fueled by false doctrine.

The just shall live by faithfulness

Habakkuk’s famous statement “but the just shall live by his faith [emuwnah 530]” (Hab 2:4), isn’t about faith but about faithfulness as it’s correctly translated 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 emuwnah appears around 50 times in the Old Testament and always indicates faithfulness in every context without exception. It’s rather fishy that in the King James Version, Habakkuk 2:4 is the only occurrence in 50 where emuwnah is translated as “faith.” The Greek 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 Luther’s false salvation message, then imposed back upon what Habakkuk said.

The Greek noun pistis appears almost 250 times in the New Testament and most all of its contexts allow it to be translated as either “faith” or “faithfulness.” There are, however, three places where the contexts require “faithfulness” as its meaning: “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith [faithfulness] of God without effect? (Rom 3:3); “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith [faithfulness], Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23); “Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity [faithfulness]; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Tit 2:10). And although there aren’t any places where the contexts require “faith” for the meaning of pistis, this didn’t stop the translators from rending it consistently as “faith” rather than “faithfulness.”

This word also appears about 30 times in the Septuagint (Deu 32:20; 1Sa 21:12, 26:23; 2Ki 12:15, 22:7; 1Ch 9:22,26,31; 2Ch 31:12,15,18, 34:12; Neh 9:38; Psa 33:4; Pro 3:3, 12:17,22, 14:22, 15:28; Sng 4:8; Jer 5:1,3, 9:3, 15:18, 28:9, 32:41, 33:6; Hos 2:20; Hab 2:4), and all but two are rendered as “faithfully,” “faithfulness,” “truth,” “trust,” “loyalty,” “reliable,” “steadfast,” “assuredly,” and on one occasion the proper name “Amana.” And the contexts of the two exceptions (Deu 32:20; Hab 2:4) don’t force the meaning of “faith” but only allow it. In fact, the majority of its occurrences require “faithfulness” with only a couple of exceptions allowing “faith.” In short, the Septuagint translators understood pistis as “faithfulness” and used it consistently with this meaning.

“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. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith [faithfulness] to faith [faithfulness]: as it is written, The just shall live by faith [faithfulness].” (Rom 1:16-17). The gospel of Christ that Paul wasn’t ashamed to preach is the message Jesus Christ Himself preached, “the gospel of his Son” (Rom 1:9), “my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom 16:25). And He preached faithfulness.

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is faithfulness to Him as Lord: “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); “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mat 25:21); “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luk 16:12-13); “And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luk 19:17).

Jesus Christ healed those that were faithful to God in receiving Him as their Messiah: “Verily I say unto you, 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. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Mat 9:22); “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us … Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith [faithfulness] be it unto you” (Mat 9:27, 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).

The statement “Now the just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Heb 10:38), is understood clearly by the entire chapter that follows it. Hebrews chapter 11 is all about those that were justified by their faithfulness to God: “By faith [faithfulness] Abel” (v. 4); “By faith [faithfulness] Enoch” (v. 5); “By faith [faithfulness] Noah” (v. 7); “By faith [faithfulness] Abraham” (v. 8); “Through faith [faithfulness] also Sarah” (v. 11); “By faith [faithfulness] Isaac” (v. 20); “By faith [faithfulness] Jacob” (v. 21); “By faith [faithfulness] Joseph” (v. 22); “By faith [faithfulness] Moses” (v. 23); “By faith [faithfulness] the harlot Rahab” (v. 31); “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: (v. 32). Because they went to their deaths in faithfulness to God, “These all died in faith [faithfulness]” (v. 13), therefore they will live in resurrection and never die again, “Now the just shall live by faith [faithfulness].” They diligently sought the reward of eternal life from God and remained faithful to Him unto death, “But without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (v. 6).

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [faithfulness]; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Had the Son of God not come into this world and sacrificed Himself on the cross for the sins of the world, the faithfulness of all those men and women in the past would have been in vain. Their hope of eternal life would have been put to shame and they would never live again.

The pronoun “our” in “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [faithfulness]” is italicized indicating that it’s not in the underlying Greek text. But a definite article, however, is in the text. In other words, it should be rendered “the faithfulness.” Jesus Christ is the “author” or Orchestrator of the faithfulness of all those Old Testament saints, “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). He is the Word or Messenger of the Lord that spoke to them. And He is the “finisher” or Consummator of their faithfulness by His own faithfulness in dying on the cross, “Now the just shall live by faith [faithfulness]” (Heb 10:38).

The false antithesis of faith versus works

Faith or belief is best understood as simply one component of faithfulness. All good relationships, particularly marriage relationships, require faithfulness from both sides. And faithfulness includes faith because a couple can’t have a good marriage while not believing a word the other says! Good relationships, however, aren’t limited to only faith or belief but also include love, trust, obedience, unity, sacrifice, understanding, sincerity, and humility. But the doctrine of sola fide conceived by Luther claims that we’re in a right relationship with God by only one component of faithfulness—faith alone!

Justification by faith alone is a false narrative being pushed throughout the New Testament by a corrupt theological system and tainted Bible translations to keep people from being faithful to God and ultimately from living eternally, “The just shall live by faith [faithfulness].” By restricting justification to a single component of faith, people become apathetic toward faithfulness. After all, if we’re saved by faith alone, nothing else is even necessary. In fact, if we’re saved by faith alone, anything else is even detrimental. Obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ’s commandments is deemed our works that indicate lack of faith in His finished work. Obedience to Christ actually becomes a bad thing! It’s a horribly twisted logic that’s damning multitudes.

The “deeds [ergon 2041] of the law” (Rom 3:20, 28) are the high priest’s actions of shedding the blood of animals and sprinkling it on the mercy seat. And “the works [ergon 2041] of the law” (Gal 2:16) are Peter’s actions of breaking his kosher diet when “he did eat with the Gentiles” (Gal 2:12). But by translating ergon as “deeds” or “works” and teaching that it is attempting to merit righteousness by obeying God’s commandments perfectly, then “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom 3:28), and “justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law” (Gal 2:16), becomes faith alone without meritorious works. There is no such antithesis of faith versus works in Scripture. It’s simply a false antithesis intended to limit faithfulness to only faith so that ultimately we’ll be unfaithful to God and perish.

Conclusion

Jesus Christ is our Savior and stated that we must live righteously according to the standard He taught in His Sermon on the Mount or we won’t be saved, “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). And He concluded His Sermon by contrasting two different people, illustrated by two different houses:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

The person that hears what Christ commanded and obeys is like a house built on a foundation that stands through the storm. But the person that hears what Christ commanded and doesn’t obey is like a house built upon sand that falls in the storm. The only difference between the two is either doing or not doing, obeying or not obeying. And He said nothing here of faith alone or even of faith at all!

The narrow way that leads to eternal life is keeping His one commandment of love, “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. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat 7:12-14). Our Savior taught us that obedience to His one commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mat 19:19, 22:39; Mar 12:31), is the narrow way that leads to life.

Our Savior told us to obey Him: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20); “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jhn 14:15); “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jhn 14:21); “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (Jhn 14:23); “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jhn 15:14); “which keep the commandments of God” (Rev 12:17); “they that keep the commandments of God” (Rev 14:12); “Blessed are they that do his commandments” (Rev 22:14).

Finally, our Savior warned us against being deceived, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mat 24:5). Faith alone is a false narrative interwoven through the New Testament by corrupt Protestant theology and skewed Bible translations. And faith versus works is simply a false antithesis intended to inhibit obedience to Christ and promote unfaithfulness. It’s a false gospel message deceiving and damning many.

Seated Together with Him

Introduction

Trinitarian ministers teach and preach extensively about Christ’s death on the Cross, burial in the tomb, and resurrection from the dead but hardly utter a peep about His ascension to heaven and current position as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator at the right hand of God. They push the doctrine of Sola Fide or “faith alone”—that salvation consists only of believing the historical facts of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. What they apparently don’t want us to know, however, is that salvation is contingent upon faithfully serving the living Lord seated at God’s right hand.

That salvation isn’t dependent upon believing some facts are true is easily debunked by what Jesus taught about forgiveness, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mat 6:14-15). Regardless of our beliefs, if we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven by God. Jesus illustrated this by a parable about a king that forgave one of his servants, “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt” (Mat 18:27). However, the king later un-forgave him because he was found to be unforgiving, “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” (Mat 18:32-34). This man was forgiven but later unforgiven. So much for Once-Saved, Always-Saved!

We can believe some facts are true until the cows come home so to speak but will perish if we’re not obeying what Jesus Christ commanded and taught. We must faithfully serve and obey Him as Lord because He is the Lord seated at the right hand of God in heaven. Salvation is about pleasing God the Father in heaven, and the only way to please the Father is to faithfully serve His Son.

In heavenly

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:14-18).

In the beginning, even before having created the first man, God showed figuratively in the heavens that His Son would be the Greater Ruler at His right hand. That He would “rule over the day” speaks of His Lordship over those called “Day” by God, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Gen 1:3-5). As foreseen by Him speaking “Let there be light” in the beginning, His Son came into the world and preached the truth to deceived humanity as if light was shining into the darkness, “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. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (Jhn 1:1-5).

Profoundly, a staggering amount of matter is being prophesied and foretold in the concise statement “the greater light to rule the day.” The 4,000 years of human history that would follow had to have transpired essentially as it did for this statement to have been fulfilled and accomplished. The geographical, political, religious, and social state of humanity had to be precisely as it was for the Son of God to become human and consummate God’s plan from the beginning—His birth, life, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at His Father’s right hand as the Greater Ruler! He is now the Lord, Master, and Ruler over the “Day”—God’s people that agree with the truth He taught and preached, publicly repent and confess Him as their Lord, and faithfully obey Him seated at God’s right hand in heaven.

This prophecy from the beginning is what Paul meant in the opening statement of his letter to the church at Ephesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). Since the Greek adjective epouranios rendered “heavenly” doesn’t include a noun for it to modify, the translators dutifully supplied “places” in its place. However, a different noun that helps our understanding of Paul’s intended message isn’t a place but a thing—the heavenly body of the sun, “There are also celestial [epouranios] bodies [soma], and bodies [soma] terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [epouranios] is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” (1Co 15:40-41).

The subject of First Corinthians chapter 15, of course, is the resurrection of the human soma or body. But Paul ascribed the glory of bodily resurrection to that of the sun’s heavenly body—it rises and “rules” over the day by shining its light into the darkness. This lends to our understanding that the Son of God’s resurrected flesh and bone body now seated at God’s right hand in heaven is what is heavenly. The realm of the firmament of the heavens where the sun rules the day figuratively portrays the place of heaven itself where the Son rules from God’s throne at His right hand. Paul carried this thought on through his letter to the Ephesians:

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly [epouranios] places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:16-23)

He had been praying earnestly that the Ephesians would come to understand these truths from the Scriptures, particularly from the creation account. The “revelation in the knowledge of him” is that Jesus Christ personally revealed to Paul the message about Himself that had been hidden within the creation narrative—that the Greater Light is Him ruling in the heavenly at God’s right hand over “all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named.” At God’s right hand, His enemies are “under his feet” as David prophesied, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa 110:1).

Seated together with Him

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace [favor] ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace [favor] in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace [favor] are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

Twice in this passage, Paul said “by grace [favor] ye are saved” (v. 5), “For by grace [favor] are ye saved” (v. 8). This is the favor God bestowed on His chosen people over all other people, “According as he hath chosen us in him” (1:4). He favored them by sending His Son to shed His precious blood for their sins, “To the praise of the glory of his grace [favor], wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace [favor]” (1:6-7). Therefore, when he said, “For by grace [favor] are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]” (2:8), it’s not about our faith or belief but about Christ’s faithfulness to shed His blood, “This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access [prosagoge] to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” (3:11-12 NET). We were dead in our sins “Even when we were dead in sins” (2:5), but were saved by Christ’s faithfulness to His Father to come into this world and shed His precious blood for our sins, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace [favor]” (1:7).

Although salvation was accomplished for God’s favored people from which Gentiles were alienated, “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph 2:12), but now Gentiles can be joined with them, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). Both now have access to God the Father, “For through him we both have access [prosagoge] by one Spirit [Breath] unto the Father” (Eph 2:18), “access [prosagoge] to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” (Eph 3:12 NET).

This access to God is by His Son seated at His right hand advocating, mediating, and interceding for us. Because we have access to God by His Son seated “in heavenly” as our Representative, Paul spoke of this as though we’re seated there ourselves together with Him, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace [favor] ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6).

Principalities and powers

In the beginning, however, God made not just one but two great lights that depict two rulers, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also” (Gen 1:16). The first three times Paul used epouranios in his letter to the Ephesians, he was teaching about “the greater light” (Gen 1:16) seated at God’s right hand: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ” (1:3); “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly [epouranios] places” (1:20); “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). Christ seated on God’s throne was given authority over all principalities and powers in heaven and in earth, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18), “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (Eph 1:20-21), “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22).

However, the last two times he used epouranios in this same letter, Paul was teaching about “the lesser light” (Gen 1:16) of principalities and powers: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [epouranios] places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (3:10); “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [epouranios] places” (6:12).

Principalities and powers are evil spirits operating through flesh and blood human beings primarily in positions of political and religious power: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities [arche], against powers [exousia]” (Eph 6:12); “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates [arche], and powers [exousia], take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say” (Luk 12:11); “And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power [arche] and authority [exousia] of the governor” (Luk 20:20); “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities [arche] and powers [exousia], to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Tit 3:1).

It was the corrupt religious leaders that conspired together and persuaded the political powers to have Jesus Christ falsely sentenced to death. But His empty tomb and the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost publicly exposed and shamed their miscarriage of justice, “And having spoiled principalities [arche] and powers [exousia], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15). Also, the prophets in the Old Testament and apostles in the New suffered frequently at the hands of religious and political leaders on account of the truth they preached.

As we march headlong toward the end times, all over the world evil is escalating and heightening by principalities and powers working through religious and political authorities. What God has been withholding, He has increasingly been allowing, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2Th 2:6-7). God limits and sets bounds for what the devil and his cohorts are able to do. We see this illustrated with His handling of Satan in Job’s case, “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 allows us to suffer to a limited extent at the hand of the enemy to test our faithfulness to Him. During the end times, in particular, we will suffer for not taking the mark of the beast. However, as with Job we’re guaranteed a happy ending, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Jas 5:11). Although we will suffer, we don’t have to fear principalities and powers when we’re faithfully submitted to the Greater Light seated at God’s right hand.

The whole armor of God

Of course, the “two great lights” (Gen 1:16) created in the firmament of the heavens by the Son of God are the literal sun and moon by which the temporal life-cycle on this earth is sustained and perpetuated. But He created them to also represent figuratively His message of eternal life, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). This woman is the corporate body of God’s people consisting of Jews joined by Gentiles—all nationalities and ethnic people groups. And it’s only because she’s clothed with the sun that the moon is under her feet. At God’s right hand, Christ has been given absolute power and authority over all principalities and powers, and the expression “under his feet” conveys that message: “thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psa 8:6); “For he hath put all things under his feet” (1Co 15:27); “And hath put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22); “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb 2:8).

Although the principalities and powers are under Christ’s feet, they’re said to be under the woman’s feet as well by virtue of her being “clothed with” or “putting on” Christ: “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet” (Rev 12:1), “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom 13:12-14). What she is “clothed with” or has “put on” is the armor of God:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [epouranios] places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Paul had already laid the groundwork for teaching about this armor earlier in his letter, “And hath put all things under his feet” (1:22), “and made us sit together in heavenly [epouranios] places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). Christ seated at God’s right hand has all principalities and powers under His feet, and the woman—the collective body of God’s people—when clothed with His armor, also has all principalities and powers under her feet as if seated together with Him. This is the essence of what it means for Christ to be our Advocate, Interceder, and Mediator.

Now obviously, this armor is only metaphorical and was intended by Paul to simply help our understanding of salvation, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (1:18). He was equating Christ’s advocacy in our defense to that of a protective suit of armor and even correlating specific spiritual truths to individual pieces of the whole: “having your loins girt about with truth … the breastplate of righteousness … your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace … the shield of faith [faithfulness] … the helmet of salvation … the sword of the Spirit [Breath] … Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [Breath]” (6:14-18).

These pieces of armor toward the end of his letter are the aggregate of Paul’s teaching permeating throughout it. For example, he had already instructed, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (4:20-21), which is the sense of the first piece of armor, “having your loins girt about with truth” (6:14). The only way we are “able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (6:11) and overcome his deceptions, is by learning the truth Jesus Christ taught. If we don’t hear the truth from Jesus and live by it in faithful service to Him, we will be deceived and perish.

Our Advocate

Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:42-46)

And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly. (Mark 12:35-37)

En route to the Cross, Jesus silenced the religious leaders with a conundrum from David’s writings, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa 110:1). He was making it known beforehand that this was a prophecy about Himself that would be fulfilled in Him. His ensuing death would be consummated by resurrection, ascension, and seating at God’s right hand.

John chapters 14-16 records Him teaching His disciples about His coming advocacy at the Father’s right hand: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [parakletos] to help you and be with you forever” (Jhn 14:16 NIV); “But the Advocate [parakletos], the Holy Spirit [breath], whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jhn 14:26 NIV); “When the Advocate [parakletos] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit [breath] of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (Jhn 15:26 NIV); “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate [parakletos] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jhn 16:7 NIV).

The Greek parakletos for “advocate” was used only these four times by Christ and once many years later by John, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate [parakletos] with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1Jo 2:1 NIV). An advocate is one that speaks in favor, support, or defense of another—similar to armor! Christ’s advocacy for us at God’s right hand means that we’re favored, supported, and defended by God when falsely accused or maligned. He is our Representative before God.

Of course, since Christ used the personal pronouns “he” and “him” for the Holy Breath in His discourse, it’s the favorite passage of Trinitarian ministers to support their claim of a literal third person. But Christ was only speaking figuratively as He said so Himself: “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (Jhn 16:25), “I have told you these things in obscure figures of speech” (Jhn 16:25 NET), “Though I have been speaking figuratively” (Jhn 16:25 NIV), “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language” (Jhn 16:25 NKJV). He was talking about His advocacy in the third person, not of a third person! It was only a figure of speech.

Regardless of what He said about His own words, Trinitarian ministers take Him literally, making Him say something else. The doctrine of the Trinity not only misrepresents the correct view of God but also the correct view of salvation. By turning Christ’s words about the parakletos into a teaching about another person rather than about Himself, His intended message of His position as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator at the right hand of God is cloaked. This leaves a vacuum for the message of salvation by faith or simply believing some facts are true to be taught.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11 NIV)

The apostle John, present when Christ taught about the Advocate, later identified Him as the Advocate, “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate [parakletos] with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1Jo 2:1 NIV). When Jesus said “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father,” He was indicating that the only means of righteousness before the Father is through His advocacy at His right hand. The outpouring of God’s Breath on the Day of Pentecost proved to the world His righteousness—it vindicated His unjust execution as a criminal by publicly displaying that He did indeed go to the Father and was now seated as the Righteous One at His right hand.

The Day of Pentecost

The main thrust of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost was the reality of Christ now seated at the right hand of God, “For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved” (Act 2:25), “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost [Breath], he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Act 2:33-35).

These statements Christ made before His death, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate” (Jhn 14:16 NIV), “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father” (Jhn 15:26 NIV), “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jhn 16:7 NIV), He fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost by sending the Holy Breath from the right hand of the Father. The Breath is called “the Advocate” because the Breath was sent from the Advocate. It isn’t literally another person but denoted as such by virtue of the person from whom it was sent. Since we have God’s Breath in our hearts by Christ’s advocacy before God, the Breath itself is equated metaphorically with the Advocate Himself. The presence of God’s Breath can be regarded as Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul taught about those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Breath]” (Rom 8:1, 4). This flesh versus breath antithesis isn’t material versus non-material but rather two distinct classes or categories of people differentiated by the indwelling Breath of God, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [Breath], if so be that the Spirit [Breath] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9). Those that have God’s Breath in their hearts belong to God as one of His favored people. However, the Breath of God comes only through Christ, “Now if any man have not the Spirit [Breath] of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom 8:9). And the Breath of God can be called “the Breath of Christ” because it was sent by Christ from God’s right hand, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate,” “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father,” “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you,” “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost [Breath], he hath shed forth this.” Therefore, those that belong to God affirm and follow the message Peter preached on the day that Christ sent God’s Breath from His right hand.

The Day of Pentecost with the accompanying sign of tongues, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isa 28:11), is the foundation of Christianity, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa 28:16). Jerusalem is Zion—the city of David. Around 50 days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, while Christ’s empty tomb itself was still preaching loudly just outside Jerusalem and while David’s tomb was still occupied with his remains, Peter preached the gospel message of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at God’s right hand. This was also the message of his first letter: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost [Breath] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1Pe 1:12); “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1Pe 2:6); “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22).

The saving gospel message is the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, seating, and current advocacy of Christ at God’s right hand. This is the “sure foundation” that was laid on the Day of Pentecost. Trinitarian ministers, on the other hand, preach only part of this saving message. By delivering a message that stops short at the resurrection and proof-texted with various Scriptures, “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), they make a convincing case that we need only to believe in His resurrection to be saved.

Christ our High Priest

That Paul didn’t mean we need only to believe in Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact by his statement “believe [trust] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead” (10:9), is evident by his references to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Day of Pentecost preceding and following his statement, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed” (9:33), “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him shall not be ashamed” (10:11). The “Whosoever believeth [trusts] on him,” are those trusting on God that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand as Lord, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe [trust] on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (4:24). We must publicly confess Him as our Lord and from that point forward faithfully obey Him as Lord in a trusting relationship with God. That Paul didn’t mean to simply believe in Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact is also evident by what he taught earlier in his letter about Christ’s intercession for us at the right hand of God:

Likewise the Spirit [Breath] also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit [Breath] itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit [Breath], because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. … Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It 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. (Romans 8:26-27, 33-34)

Christ’s intercession at the right hand of God is His current role as High Priest. This message of Him as High Priest at God’s right hand was interwoven throughout the letter to the Hebrews: “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3); “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” (1:13); “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (2:8); “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb 3:1); “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace” (4:16); “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 5:6); Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 5:10); “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 6:20); “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 7:17, 21); “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (7:25); “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1); “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament” (9:15); “but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (9:24); “sat down on the right hand of God” (10:12); “From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool” (10:13); “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19); “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2); “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (12:24); “if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (12:25).

This statement in particular, “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:23-25), correlates with what Paul taught the Romans, “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: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Breath].” (Rom 8:3-4). The Law of Moses, with its endless stream of animal sacrifices and priests sinful themselves that were continually replaced due to death, is what was “weak through the flesh.” However, “God sending his own Son” in the flesh to be the one and only perfect sacrifice for our sins, then seating Him at His right hand as our sinless High Priest that “ever liveth to make intercession” for us, is what is meant by “the Spirit [Breath] itself maketh intercession for us.”

Those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Breath],” are God’s people that no longer live under the Law that was “weak through the flesh” but have turned to the Lord with God’s Breath in their hearts, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit [Breath] of God dwell in you” (8:9). Since the Breath of God was sent from God by Christ at His right hand, it can be called “the Spirit [Breath] of Christ” (8:9). Therefore, “if Christ be in you” (8:10) by God’s Breath being in us, then “the Spirit [Breath] itself maketh intercession for us” (8:26), “at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (8:34). This is also what Paul taught the Ephesians, “For through him we both have access by one Spirit [Breath] unto the Father” (Eph 2:18), “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit [Breath] in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith [faithfulness]” (Eph 3:16-17).

Faithful unto death

The messages to the seven churches in Asia recorded in Revelation chapters 2-3 are from Christ in His position of authority at the right hand of God. Speaking as our Advocate, Interceder, and Mediator, He called Himself “the Breath” seven times, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [Breath] saith unto the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). And Paul had also called Christ “the Breath” in His intercession for us at the right hand of God, “the Spirit [Breath] itself maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26), “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34).

As Advocate at the right hand of God, Jesus demanded five of the seven churches in Asia to repent: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (2:5); “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (2:16); “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds” (2:22); “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (3:3); “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (3:19). It’s because He is our Advocate before the Father that we can be forgiven of our sin when we repent, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jo 2:1).

When we disobey the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re being unfaithful to Him in our sin. But so long as He allows us to repent and continues to advocate for us before the Father, we remain in faithful service to Him as Lord and in a standing of righteousness before God. He said that eternal life is to those faithful to Him unto death, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev 2:10). He also commended one of His servants by name that had given his life in faithfulness to Him, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith [faithfulness], even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth” (Rev 2:13). And Paul’s last words before his death were that he had remained faithful, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith [faithfulness]” (2Ti 4:6-7), “I have remained faithful” (NLT).

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews warned them against being unfaithful, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief [unfaithfulness], in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” (Heb 3:12-14). Later in chapter 11, he cited many examples of Old Testament saints that were faithful unto death, “By faith [faithfulness] Abel” (v. 4), “By faith [faithfulness] Enoch” (v. 5), “By faith [faithfulness] Noah” (v. 7),

“By faith [faithfulness] Abraham” (v. 8), “These all died in faith [faithfulness]” (v. 13). All of these examples of faithfulness culminate with Jesus Christ’s faithfulness unto death, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [faithfulness]; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).

The reason we all need to be exhorted and warned to stay faithful to the Lord unto death is because it’s difficult to do. If it was easy there would be no need for warning. And if faithfulness to the Lord is unnecessary for salvation then the warnings themselves are also unnecessary. Why would anyone nullify these very warning passages in Hebrews given to help us remain faithful to the end? Yet that’s what many ministers do.

Since salvation is by faithfully serving the Lord and trusting God from our hearts, “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), therefore the Lord searches and examines our hearts, “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” (Rev 2:23). Anyone can say they’re trusting God and can appear to be trusting God, but truly trusting God comes from the heart and is discerned through overcoming trials, “that ye may be tried” (Rev 2:10), “to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10). James and Peter both said the same, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith [faithfulness] worketh patience” (Jas 1:3), “That the trial of your faith [faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (1Pe 1:7).

The greatest assurance of salvation is when our faithfulness to the Lord is tested and we pass the tests. Tried and proven faithfulness is more precious and valuable than any amount of gold and riches on this earth. On the other hand, if salvation is simply by believing some facts are true, then suffering doesn’t make much sense and serves no apparent purpose. But when we begin to understand that our willingness to suffer in obedience to the Lord demonstrates what’s truly in our hearts, then suffering takes on a whole new perspective. And Jesus is our preeminent example by willingly suffering faithfully unto death, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (Jhn 10:17-18).

Furthermore, Christ said to each of the seven churches: “To him that overcometh” (2:7); “He that overcometh” (2:11); “To him that overcometh” (2:17); “And he that overcometh” (2:26); “He that overcometh” (3:5); “Him that overcometh” (3:12); “To him that overcometh” (3:21). And at the end of His seven messages, He defined what it means to overcome, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [Breath] saith unto the churches.” (3:21-22). Salvation isn’t about simply believing some facts are true but about overcoming in a similar manner that Jesus Christ Himself overcame—to willingly suffer as He did, No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (Jhn 10:18). We look to Him as our example of faithfulness unto death, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [faithfulness]” (Heb 12:2).

Conclusion

Trinitarian ministers don’t teach much, if at all, about Christ’s current position as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator at the right hand of God. Instead, they fill that void with the message that salvation is by simply believing some facts are true. It seems they don’t want us to know that salvation is contingent upon faithfully serving the living Lord seated at God’s right hand.

It was foretold in the very beginning, through the creation itself that the Lord Jesus Christ would be seated at the right hand of the Father as “the Greater Light” ruling over His people “the Day.” Human history was later orchestrated and caused to unfold the way it did to consummate the fulfillment of that prophecy. The salvation of mankind was accomplished by “the Greater Light” at God’s right hand and procured by our submission and faithfulness to Him.

The Day of Pentecost became the underlying foundation of Christianity. From His position at the right hand of God, the Lord Jesus Christ sent God’s Breath from heaven for those that repent and are baptized into His name, “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” (Act 2:38). Those with God’s Breath in their hearts have turned from their former way of life unto faithfulness to His name until death.

When we live in faithful obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, it’s as though we’re shod with a suit of armor in defense against our enemy the devil. And the very first piece of this metaphorical armor is the truth Jesus Christ taught. Without the truth from Him, we will be deceived and we will perish. Our salvation depends upon hearing the truth from Jesus and doing it, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Mat 7:24), “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:26). It’s because Jesus is seated at the right hand of God as our Advocate that we’re said to be seated together with Him, “And hath raised us up together, and made ussit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). We overcome the deceptions and temptations of this world only by sitting with Him on His throne, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21). And when we’re seated together with Him, all things under His feet are also under ours.