Romans Chapter Three

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s concluding point that we’re justified by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness in sacrificing Himself without the actions of the priests sacrificing animals, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28), has been changed to something else entirely—that we’re justified by faith and not by living right. In fact, as it’s being taught today, living morally righteously is an attempt at saving ourselves apart from Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Thus, not only is morally righteous living unnecessary for salvation, it’s even detrimental! Protestants everywhere are falsely assured of salvation by simply being a believer. Consequently, the standard of moral righteousness by which they’re taught to live isn’t the standard which Jesus Christ Himself upheld for entering the Kingdom, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20).

What advantage did the Jews have?

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

The Jews heard first

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

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

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

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

God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

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

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

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

Let God be true

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

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

Justified in His sayings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our unrighteousness

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

The truth of God

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

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

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

Are the Jews better than the Greeks?

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

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

All under sin

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

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

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

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

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

There is none righteous

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

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

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

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

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

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

David’s writings

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

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

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

The writer of Hebrews, quoted from the promise God made to Abraham, “By myself have I sworn … That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed” (Gen 22:16,17), “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee” (Heb 6:13-14). He then proceeded to explain that God hadn’t changed His original intent of fulfilling that promise, “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability [ametathetos 276] of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable [ametathetos 276] things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:17-18). The Greek adjective ametathetos means “changeless” or “unalterable.” There were two things God did to give us assurance or “a strong consolation” that He would fulfil His promise to Abraham in exactly the way He said—initially swearing by Himself to keep that promise, and later confirming it by an oath.

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

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

The oath, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4; Heb 7:17,21), is “after the order,” in the sense of “arrangement,” “design,” or “pattern” of Melchizedek, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen 14:18). This foretold of what Jesus would bring forth, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mat 26:26-28). Symbolically, the bread is His body and the wine is His blood. And only His blood can actually remit sins. Therefore, the Sacrifice for our sins isn’t the blood of animals given hundreds of years later through Moses, but the body and blood of Christ shown figuratively by Abraham partaking of the Lord’s Supper with Melchizedek!

The tongue is a little member

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

The Scripture has concluded all under sin

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

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

All the world became guilty

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

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

The actions of the law

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

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

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

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

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

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

No flesh justified in His sight

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the law is the knowledge of sin

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

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

The righteousness of God without the law

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

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

Being witnessed by the law

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

Also, God’s righteousness “being witnessed by the law and the prophets” is that the law and the prophets foretold of the coming sacrifice of God’s own Son. Moses’ first writing of the law alone contains many undeniable prophecies. God said in the beginning that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Abraham’s two sons by two women foretold figuratively of the Old and New Covenants that would come from Abraham, “Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman … Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants” (Gal 4:22,24). Also, Abraham’s “sacrifice” of his son prefigured God’s sacrifice of His, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 22:8). And Joseph’s life recorded in Genesis chapters 37-45 was allegorical and prophetic of Jesus Christ’s life.

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

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

The faithfulness of Jesus Christ

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

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

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

This is the understanding of John’s famous introductory statement to his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (Jhn 1:1-2). The “word” is the gospel message of salvation God hid in a mystery by figurative language within the literal events of the creation narrative. The Son of God came into this world and performed that “word” or message that was from the beginning so perfectly that He can be called metaphorically “the Word.” That “the Word was God” simply speaks of Him representing God perfectly. John wasn’t saying that the Son of God is literally God Himself, but that He was the equivalent of God on this earth by way of faithfully doing and saying everything God willed.

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

The promise through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ

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

The context of both statements is Abraham’s trust in God’s faithfulness to keep the promise He made to him and to his Seed: “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3); “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed” (4:13); “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal 3:6); “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16).

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

There is no difference

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

Come short of the glory of God

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

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

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

God’s favor toward His people

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

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

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

God’s mercy seat

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

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

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

Christ’s faithfulness to shed His blood

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

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

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

God “passed over” the sins of His people

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

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

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

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

Sins that are past

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

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

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

Now, the purpose in correctly defining aiōnios is to state that “the promise of eternal [aiōnios 166] inheritance” (Heb 9:15) isn’t about an inheritance that has no end, but an inheritance that has been enduring throughout the ages. And the promise is what the writer referred to earlier, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee” (Heb 6:13-14). It’s the promise of the inheritance God made to Abraham that has endured throughout the ages, “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal 3:18).

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

That He might be just

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

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

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

Jesus’ faithfulness

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

Where is boasting then?

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

By what law?

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

Not by actions of righteousness which we have done

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

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

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

Paul’s conclusion

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

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

Saved by faith or by faithfulness?

This popular statement Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace [favor] are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works [actions], lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9), has been corrupted into a different message entirely. We’re taught it means salvation by our faith and not by our meritorious works of living morally righteously. However, the overall context of the letter is God’s plan of salvation from the beginning to have a chosen people saved by His favor in Christ that all other people would be made partakers.

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

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

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

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

In his letters to the churches, Paul distinguished and contrasted the faithfulness of Jesus Christ from the actions of the law: “a man is justified by faith [faithfulness] without the deeds [actions] of the law” (v. 28); “no one is justified by the works [actions] of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe [trust] in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works [actions] of the law, because by the works [actions] of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16 NET); “For by grace [favor] are ye saved through faith [faithfulness]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works [actions], lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9); “not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness” (Phl 3:9 NET). Unfortunately, his statements are being turned to a different message entirely just as Peter said, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16).

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

The God of both the Jews and the Gentiles

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

Salvation is ultimately about the one true God being the God of our lives: “I will be their God” (Gen 17:8; Jer 24:7,31:33,32:38; Eze 11:20,36:28,37:23,27; Zec 8:8); “I will be their God” (2Co 6:16); “I will be to them a God” (Heb 8:10); “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb 11:16); “they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3); “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev 21:7). If we’re obeying the commandments of His Son Jesus Christ and living by the truth He taught, then we can trust God to provide, protect, defend, and ultimately save us. God will be our God. Many want Him as their Savior, but not as their God. But He is only our Savior when He is our God.

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

Several times in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus directed His disciples to God their Father in heaven: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (5:16); “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (6:4); “pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (6:6); “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (6:14); “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (6:18); “how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (7:11); “doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (7:21).

Christ told a Samaritan woman that although only the Jews had the knowledge of the true God, soon the true worshippers would worship God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit [breath] and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (Jhn 4:22-23). And after His resurrection, He said that His Father is our Father, and His God is our God, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17).

The same God

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

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

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

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

The law is established by Christ’s faithfulness

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

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

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

God Doesn’t See the Future, He Makes the Future

Introduction

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8), “But ye have not so learned Christ” (Eph 4:20). Theologians teach much philosophy as “Christian” doctrine. Rather than gleaning the truth from the Scriptures and submitting to it, they use the Scriptures to proof-text their philosophy which is “not after Christ.”

By philosophical reasoning, theologians have created for themselves a “God” that is an impossible being: He sees the past, present, and future concurrently and simultaneously just the same; He has always known and always will know everything there is to know; He knows every possible outcome of every contingency of everything that never even happens; He “can’t not know anything” or ever come to the knowledge of anything He didn’t already know; He never changes, never learns anything, and never has a new thought He never had before. But this is only the philosophical definition of God from theologians, not the Scriptural definition. God revealed Himself through the Scriptures and it’s what He told us about Himself that is the correct view.

Philosophers embellish God to the ‘nth degree so that any other view—including the true view of Him—pales in comparison. Therefore, any “lesser” view of God is a deficient God, therefore a wrong view. And a “lesser” view also disappoints because we want God to be as impossible as He possibly can be! We aren’t too excited to hear that God can’t see the future. But sadly, we don’t want sound doctrine but what satisfies our wants and desires, “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” (2Ti 4:3).

The view of God that glorifies Him, however, is the truth about Him—the truth He revealed to us through the Scriptures and through His Son Jesus Christ. It matters not that this view measures up to the teaching of philosophers, and it matters not that this view caters to our selfish desires. If we’re truly following God, then we’ll eagerly follow the truth about Him.

Impossibilities

Because of the natural limitations we were created with, there are many things that are impossible for us but not for God. For example, we can’t know each other’s thoughts but God certainly can and does because He created our minds. We can’t instantly heal someone or raise someone from the dead but God can. The gifts of the breath in the early church were supernatural abilities from God to do what wasn’t naturally possible for human beings. The things that are impossible for humans are possible with God: “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen 18:14); “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2); “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jer 32:17); “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jer 32:27); “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luk 1:37); “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luk 18:27).

Besides natural impossibilities, there are also logical impossibilities that even God Himself can’t do. For example, it’s been asked by some, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” or “Can God make a square, circle?” These are logical impossibilities that even God can’t do. Another logical impossibility is the doctrine of the Trinity—that one God consists of three co-equal persons. And the Trinitarian doctrine of hypostatic union—that Christ is a 100% divine being and a 100% human being at the same time yet still jus. one person.

When we read “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luk 1:37), this was not a blanket statement that absolutely nothing is ever impossible with God. This particular quote concerned the virgin birth which certainly is impossible with human beings but not with God. These types of statements in Scripture are about things that are impossible for us but not for Him, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luk 18:27). However, truly impossible things are also truly impossible with God.

The future doesn’t exist

When it comes to knowing or seeing the future, we’re dealing with another realm of impossibility—not just for human beings but even for God Himself! Since the future hasn’t happened, there is nothing to know about it. There’s nothing to know about it because there’s no such thing as the future. It doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened, and once it’s happening then it isn’t the future but the present. There is no knowledge of the future. It can’t be known because there is nothing to know. There’s no such knowledge. Likewise, seeing the future assumes there is something to see but there’s nothing to see because nothing is happening.

Also, the past doesn’t exist either because it’s not happening but has already happened. We have memories about the past, we have historical documents about it, we have audios, photos, and videos of what happened, but all of these things are only records of what happened. Actions and events only happen in the present.

All that happens—actions, activities, events, motions, processes, and situations—only happens in the present. Therefore, only the present exists. What was going to happen tomorrow while it was yesterday is what is happening today. Today was tomorrow yesterday. This very moment was the next just a moment ago.

The future is simply a concept of our minds that we think about and imagine. Jesus said “Take therefore no thought for the morrow” (Mat 6:34). It’s a very real action to think about the future but the thinking is still in the present. The main reason we should “Take therefore no thought for the morrow” is because what we do today greatly affects what’s going to happen tomorrow, while thinking about tomorrow accomplishes virtually nothing. Therefore, rather than squandering our precious time today thinking about tomorrow, we should spend it productively making a better tomorrow. Also, taking thought for tomorrow expresses a lack of trust in God. Furthermore, we have no guarantee of even being here tomorrow anyway. All we have is today because the present is all that exists.

God only knows what can be known, and doesn’t know what can’t be known. Knowledge that doesn’t exist can’t be known even by God. Since the future doesn’t exist, then there is no such knowledge. And since there’s no knowledge of the future, then even God doesn’t know the future. If there was something to know or see in the future, then certainly God could know and see it. But since there is nothing to know or see, then even God can’t know or see it.

The passing of time

God can’t see the future because there is no future. Well, there is a future as long as the present continues.

But the next thing to happen in the continuation of the present isn’t the future but just more of the present. We never reach the future because there is no such thing. It’s simply a concept of our minds. The passage of time is just the present continuous, and the present is continuing with God the same as it is with us. The difference is our perspective of time because with God the present has always continued and always will.

The philosophy of theologians is that God somehow lives outside the passing of time so that eternity past and eternity future is exactly like the present to Him. They claim that somehow the past, present, and future are all just the same to Him. But this isn’t what Scripture teaches, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psa 90:4). Time passes the same for Him as it does with us because “in thy sight” time passed is in the past “when it is past.” He lives in the present just like we do. The present is all there is and the present is the same for all, including God.

On the other hand, God’s perspective of time is unique compared with ours, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday” (Psa 90:4), “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2Pe 3:8). Because God has always existed and always will exist, with Him the passing of a thousand years doesn’t seem very long at all. But since our life expectancy is only seventy or eighty years, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (Psa 90:10), a thousand years is an extremely long time period to us. Similarly, every moment is valued and treasured by someone who knows that today is their last day to live, whereas the rest of us tend to take the moments of our days for granted because we assume there will be many more days ahead. It’s a similar phenomenon with the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Time elapses at the same rate regardless, it just seems like it passes by more quickly at times.

The actual passage of time is consistent and unchanging but the perspective of time is relative to its subjects. Take for example the perspective of time with death. When we die, we’re not still alive in heaven but truly dead until we’re resurrected back to life. But our perspective of the passage of the time after we are resurrected will be the same regardless of how long we were dead—death will have seemed like just a moment whether we were dead for only one day or for thousands of years. This is why sleep is used many times in Scripture as an analogy for death because it seems like just a moment or a blink of the eye whether we slept for eight hours or just one, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1Co 15:51-52).

Fulfilled prophecies

Of course the reason we just assume God knows and sees the future is because of all the fulfilled prophecies in Scripture. When taking into account specific prophecies including types, figures, and shadows, there aren’t just hundreds but thousands of prophecies in Scripture. And the Old Testament records multitudes of already fulfilled Messianic prophecies, particularly in the writings of Moses, David, and Isaiah. If there’s nothing to know or see in the future, then just how has God known and seen the future to accurately foretell so many events in advance?

The issue is that we suppose the only way the future can be accurately foretold is for it to exist and therefore be seen in the present. But there’s another way the future can be accurately foretold—make it happen the way it was foretold! Putting this in human terms, I could say “I’m going to pick up the pencil on my desk five seconds from now,” then in five seconds I pick up the pencil on my desk. It has nothing to do with me being able to see five seconds into the future. It’s only that I did what I said I was going to do and also nobody stopped me from doing it. Putting this in God’s perspective, He can bring to pass everything He says because He is powerful enough to do it and nobody is powerful enough to stop Him.

After Adam sinned, God didn’t look 4,000 years into the future and see that His Son was going to become human and die on the cross, and therefore told us what He saw was going to happen, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Rather, in the beginning God set His plan of salvation into motion through which He later sent His Son to become human and die on the cross. This wasn’t about seeing the future but rather causing the future to be seen. And if this is true about the greatest events of all—Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at God’s right hand—then why think differently about any other even foretold?

There’s no such thing as God knowing or seeing the future. He has always foretold future events by causing those events to happen the way He foretold them. He simply causes the present to happen the way He said it would in the past. He declares what will happen, then makes it happen.

God brings to pass

Here are some Scriptures stating that God does, works, and brings to pass what He declared, spoke, and purposed: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num 23:19); “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isa 46:10-11); “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:28); “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Act 15:17-18); “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11).

God does what He says, “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1Ki 12:15), “Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah” (2Ki 10:10).

John wrote that when Jesus said, “I thirst” it was to fulfill the Scripture, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psa 69:21), “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.” (Jhn 19:28-29). It’s not that God had seen this event would happen then spoke this prophecy through David. It’s that He spoke this prophecy through David and Jesus caused it to be fulfilled by saying “I thirst.”

Prophecy isn’t foreseeing but foretelling. Fulfilled prophecies are the result of God’s word being accomplished, standing, and taking effect: “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:9); “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa 40:8); “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (Isa 45:23); “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11); “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mat 24:35); “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom 9:6); “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1Pe 1:25).

God accurately foretells the future because He is powerful enough to do it and nobody is powerful enough to stop Him: “Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?” (Job 9:12); “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13), “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Ecc 3:14); “For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isa 14:27); “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isa 43:13); “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan 4:35); “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Act 5:39); “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Act 9:5); “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Act 11:17); “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1Co 10:22).

Knowing previously or beforehand

Statements in Scripture using the Greek verb proginosko or its noun form prognosis such as, “For whom he did foreknow [proginosko 4267]” (Rom 8:29), “Elect according to the foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God the Father” (1Pe 1:2), are cited by theologians to teach that God foreknows the future because He can see the future. However, both Paul and Peter used this word simply for people knowing someone previously, or knowing something beforehand, “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew [proginosko 4267] me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Act 26:4-5), “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before [proginosko 4267], beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2Pe 3:17). People certainly can’t see into the future and this isn’t how the apostles used it with people knowing someone or something beforehand.

There are also five places where Paul and Peter used proginosko or prognosis with God knowing something beforehand: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23); “For whom he did foreknow [proginosko 4267], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29); “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew [proginosko 4267]” (Rom 11:2); “Elect according to the foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1Pe 1:2); “Who verily was foreordained [proginosko 4267] before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1Pe 1:20).

These statements have nothing to do with God seeing into the future. Take the first of the five statements for example: “Him, being delivered by the determinate [horizo 3724] counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23). His “determinate [horizo 3724] counsel” is about God determining Christ’s crucifixion, not about seeing into the future that it was going to happen then acclimating His plan of salvation to it. And the determining of something to happen is how the Greek horizo is used in all other places of Scripture (Luke 22:22; Act 10:42, 11:29, 17:26, 31; Rom 1:4; Heb 4:7). Thus, the “foreknowledge of God” of which Peter spoke is God knowing something because He determined something. He knew beforehand that His people would deliver their Messiah over to death because He determined this to happen. It’s not about seeing or knowing the future.

God hardens hearts and turns hearts

God hardens people’s hearts: “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said” (Exo 7:13); “And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand” (Exo 14:8); “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day” (Deu 2:30); “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Jos 11:20); “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom 9:18).

The main example of God hardening hearts is the controversial hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The reason this is such an issue is because we have a problem with God hardening people’s hearts against their wills—except, of course, when it’s in our interest for Him to do so. The Israelites had no problem with God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart so they could escape slavery. But do they have a problem with God hardening their own hearts? If God hadn’t hardened the hearts of His people, the crucifixion of His Son wouldn’t have taken place and the world would have perished. It’s not that we necessarily mind Him hardening other people’s hearts, just not ours!

Why keep hardening Pharaoh’s heart and sending round after round of plagues when God could have easily destroyed Egypt in one fell swoop? But had He destroyed Egypt entirely, the events of the Exodus that followed wouldn’t have happened. All ten plagues were necessary for the final plague of the Passover. Therefore, as with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to bring about the Passover type, God hardened His people’s hearts to bring about the true Passover.

And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho … And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish … And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein … And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king … And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining … And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire … And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. (Joshua 10:30, 35, 37, 39, 11:8, 11, 14)

How could a loving God command the genocide of every man, woman, and child in the Promised Land? Not only that, we’re even told that He hardened the hearts of those people so that they wouldn’t seek peace but be utterly destroyed, “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Jos 11:19-20). But we need only consider that had God not done this, the world would have perished. The establishment of the Davidic Kingdom in the land was necessary for the Son of God to come into the world and be anointed as the Messiah and die on the cross for our sins. It’s because God so loved the world that He had to order this to save the world, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jhn 3:16).

Not only does God harden hearts but He also turns hearts and puts desires into hearts: “He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants” (Psa 105:25); “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Pro 21:1); “And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel” (Ezr 6:22); “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem” (Ezr 7:27); “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon” (Neh 2:12); “And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein” (Neh 7:5); “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you” (2Co 8:16); “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (Rev 17:17).

God spoke through Jeremiah about His people returning from the 70-year Babylonian captivity, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jer 29:10). He didn’t say that He looked into the future and saw what would happen but rather that He would perform what would happen, “I will visit you, and perform my good word.” And true to what He said, we read in Ezra that He performed His word, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit [breath] of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying” (Ezr 1:1). God “stirred up the spirit [breath] of Cyrus king of Persia” in order “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” This was not seeing what would happen but causing what would happen.

Why does God harden people’s hearts at times? To cause events to happen the way He foretold they would. It’s for the very reason that the future can’t be seen that God hardens and turns people’s hearts to make the future seen.

Joseph’s life

Most Christians recognize that Joseph’s life is allegorical and prophetic of the life of Jesus Christ—that his life was a microcosm of God’s plan of salvation to come. God demonstrated through Joseph’s life that He could bring to pass what He planned and stated beforehand. If He could orchestrate this one man’s life as a type of His Son to come, He certainly could orchestrate His Son’s life as well.

He caused the sons of Jacob to envy and hate their younger brother Joseph by giving him dreams that he would one day rule over them, “And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Gen 37:8). They tried to thwart God’s will by conspiring to kill Joseph but ended up selling him into slavery instead, “Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams … Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt” (Gen 37:20, 28).

In slavery, Joseph prospered because God was with him, “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” (Gen 39:2). As an image of the sinless and suffering Savior to come, Joseph was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into the dungeon. But God later gave dreams to Pharaoh and the interpretation of those dreams to Joseph so that he would be delivered from the dungeon and placed in authority over the people, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou” (Gen 41:40).

God then brought seven years of plenty and seven years of famine just as He had foretold through Pharaoh’s dreams, “And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread” (Gen 41:53-54). Again, it wasn’t that God saw this would happen and adjusted His plan accordingly, but that He caused this to happen in conformity to His plan, “Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread” (Psa 105:16). The prosperity in Egypt and worldwide famine then became the catalyst for bringing Joseph’s brothers to him and fulfilling the dreams they had tried to prevent. Right after their father Jacob died, they all bowed and served him, “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants” (Gen 50:18). But Joseph recognized that all of this had been accomplished by God, “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (Gen 50:19).

God showed that He could use the evil intents of Joseph’s brothers against themselves to unwittingly carry out and bring to pass exactly what He intended, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen 50:20). If God could work through people to bring to pass these events in the life of Joseph, then He certainly could do the same in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. This had nothing to do with seeing the future but rather causing the future. And if this was true in the events of Joseph’s life and Christ’s life, then why would it be different in any other events He prophesied or foretold? God brings to pass what He foretells.

God’s purpose

Paul also taught the Ephesians that God predetermined and purposed from the beginning to choose a people to Himself, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world … being predestinated [proorizo 4309] according to the purpose [prothesis 4286] of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:4, 11). These chosen people would be how He would bring His Son Jesus Christ into the world to save the world, “According to the eternal purpose [prothesis 4286] which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). All of this was “after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11).

God’s counsel is His purpose and will. His pleasure is what will happen in the future and what will ultimately stand: “Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters” (Job 33:13); “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2); “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psa 33:11); “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psa 115:3); “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psa 135:6); “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” (Pro 19:21); “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isa 14:24); “This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isa 28:29); “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14); “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11); “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23); “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:28); “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Act 15:18); “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Heb 6:17).

And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose [prothesis 4286] of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:10-13)

Before Abraham had any sons, God told him beforehand about the Exodus of his descendants from slavery, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (Gen 15:13-14). While Jacob was in the womb, God told his mother, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).

The people that descended from Jacob indeed were stronger and mightier than the Egyptian people, “And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we” (Exo 1:9). This became the catalyst for them being forced into slavery as had been told to Abraham, “shall serve them; and they shall afflict them” (Gen 15:13), “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens … And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour” (Exo 1:11, 13).

God brought to pass “the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23; Rom 9:12) by bringing Joseph’s elder brothers to Egypt to serve him, “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants” (Gen 50:18). In doing so, this prepared the Exodus to happen later, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand.” God’s purpose in choosing a people to Himself was brought about by foretelling and bringing to pass “The elder shall serve the younger.”

God’s last words to His people about 400 years before bringing His Son into the world, “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau” (Mal 1:2-3). Paul’s point with “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” is that what God foretold Rebecca about Jacob and Esau was coming to pass just as He said. God’s purpose in choosing His people, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand,” was for His Son to come into the world and for the world to be saved through Him.

God is not a victim of circumstances

Although God can’t see the future because there’s nothing to see, He is far more powerful than that. He can declare the future thousands of years beforehand, then cause it to happen just as He declared. If prophecy is simply seeing into the future and declaring it beforehand, then wouldn’t that make God a victim of circumstance? He would just have to go with the flow and plan everything around what He sees is going to happen.

Philosophical theologians, however, wrangle about all kinds of crazy concepts such as God foreseeing what will happen then changing what He saw would happen by making something else happen. But what’s the purpose in that? If He is always going to make happen what He wants to happen, then what good is it to be able to foresee what would have happened? What would have happened doesn’t even matter because it didn’t happen. If what would have happened didn’t happen then it isn’t what would have happened. There’s no such thing as what would have happened. The only thing that matters is what does happen which is what is happening right now—the present.

It’s wrong to suppose that the greater ability is seeing the future. The greater ability is causing the present. God is more powerful than being able to see what is going to happen because He causes what is going to happen. He created this universe and has full control over every aspect of it. This doesn’t mean necessarily that He controls exactly what will happen with every molecule that exists. But He governs an unfathomably complex creation in which He orchestrates events to ultimately come to pass as He purposed—all the while allowing us to function with free wills yet can use us as He pleases at any time.

In human relationships, we recognize that true power isn’t absolute strict control over every decision and action. A good husband trusts his wife and gives her freedom and flexibility to make decisions within certain contexts. They both sometimes make wrong decisions but they’re confident they’ll work together through whatever problems and consequences arise. The same is true at a place of employment. A good boss isn’t a controlling micromanager. Rather, they trust their employees within reason and allow them a degree of freedom to make decisions. Good leaders know how to use the gifts, talents, skills, and abilities of those they lead to bring about the desired outcome for the organization as a whole.

This is similarly how it is with God. True power isn’t utter dominance and absolute strict control: it’s love and mercy; it’s trust and faithfulness; it’s discipline and judgment; it’s laboring together toward the same purpose and goal. Our 6,000 years of human history has been fluid in which God has constantly adjusted circumstances to happen the way He purposed from the beginning and worked through people to do it. That’s true power! God’s wisdom and power is to thwart the plans of the evil and use them to accomplish His plans. He allows evil men to think they’re doing what’s in their own best interest all the while doing what’s in His.

God thwarts the plans of the wicked

God sees every thought in our minds and intent in our hearts: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2); “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psa 44:21); “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psa 139:2); “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10); “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Rev 2:23).

Because He knows everything we’re thinking and everything we’re planning or intending to do, God can easily prevent us from doing something we intended if He so chooses. He can “change the future” so to speak, not because He sees the future and changes it from happening the way it would have, but because He causes the present to happen the way He wants. Much of the time what we do in the present depends upon what we were thinking, planning, and intending in the past. And God can easily thwart our plans to prevent us from doing what we intended.

The people in Babel were endeavoring to build a tower to make a name for themselves, “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). And they likely would have accomplished this had God not stopped them by confusing their language and scattering them abroad, “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.” (Gen 11:7-8). God didn’t change the future but frustrated the people’s plans and intents for the future.

And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran. (Genesis 27:41).

Because God saw the pre-meditated murder Esau had in his heart, He set into motion Jacob’s rescue. He warned their mother Rebecca so Jacob would be warned and would flee. This had nothing to do with God seeing Jacob being murdered in the future then changing the future from happening that way. It was simply that He thwarted Esau’s plans for the future.

The wicked plot and conspire against the righteous but God overthrows their plans: “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him” (Gen 37:18); “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us”  (Psa 2:2-3); “For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life” (Psa 31:13); “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.” (Psa 37:12-13); “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity” (Psa 64:2); “For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together” (Psa 71:10); “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones” (Psa 83:3); “Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings” (Psa 140:4); “Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord” (Pro 6:14); “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mar 3:6); “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (Jhn 11:53); “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (Act 5:33); “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him” (Act 9:23).

God is infinitely wiser than the wise people in this world. His wisdom is to allow people to think they’re accomplishing their will when in fact they’re being used by Him to accomplish His: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen 50:20); “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” (Job 5:12-13); “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards” (Isa 19:3); “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa 19:3); “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer 8:9); “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1Co 1:19); “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1Co 3:19).

God has regrets and changes His mind

By the time of the flood, God regretted that He had even created mankind, “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. And it repented [regretted] the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Gen 6:5-6). This is a genuine statement from God Himself about His inner feelings and indicates that had He been able to see the future before creating mankind, He wouldn’t have created mankind. By this time, seeing all of the horrible wicked and evil things people were doing, He sincerely grieved and regretted the whole thing. Many people accuse God of not caring about the suffering of people but this isn’t true at all. Even He hadn’t realized just how wicked people would become yet had to faithfully finish what He started. After all, He had already foretold that His Son would come, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). And godly people such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah still needed to be saved by His Son’s death on the cross. He couldn’t just destroy the entire creation and pretend it never happened!

Philosophers teach that God never has a new thought or changes His mind—that He could never intend to do one thing but end up doing something else. However, at various times through Israel’s history, God relented, held back, or changed His mind about what He was going to do: “And the LORD repented [relented] of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exo 32:14); “And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented [relented] him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand” (2 Sa 24:16); “And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented [relented] according to the multitude of his mercies” (Psa 106:45); “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent [relented] of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jer 18:8); “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented [relented] of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jon 3:10).

In response to these examples of God relenting, philosophers have to fabricate a convoluted explanation of this. They’ll say that since God can see the future and therefore already knew what He would do, He only said He was going to do something different, then make it appear that He changed His mind to do what He was going to do all along. But that isn’t genuine and sincere. If God is truly that way, then He can’t be trusted. He just plays mind games with us but always does what He was going to do anyway.

God does relent and change His mind at times about what He intended to do. He is merciful and pitiful toward us, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psa 103:13-14). Since mankind was created after the image of God, the relationship we have with our children helps us understand how God relates to us as our Father. There are times when we’re upset with our children for something they did but then remind ourselves that they’re just kids. They don’t have the maturity to do things the way we would have done them. Similarly, this is how it is with God toward us. He remembers that we’re dust—finite and limited, weak and frail. His anger toward us is pacified by our fear of Him and remembrance of our weaknesses and all the evil and suffering we’re struggling with. In other words, there are times He changes His mind for our benefit because He truly loves us.

God is compassionate and merciful when we repent. Therefore, He doesn’t do to us what He would have done had we not repented. This is about the changing of outcomes—causing things to turn out differently than they would have turned out. It has nothing to do with changing the future because since the future doesn’t exist, there’s nothing to change! Only the present can be “changed” so to speak. Although the present can’t be changed because what happens is what happened but the present can be changed in the sense that what would have happened can be altered so that something different happens. It’s simply the changing of outcomes.

God spoke through Jeremiah that the evil things His people committed had never came into His heart or mind that they would ever do: “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” (Jer 7:31); “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind” (Jer 19:5); “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jer 32:35).

That something never even came into God’s mind certainly doesn’t jive with the philosophy of theologians claiming that He has always known everything, can never not know anything, and has never had a new thought. But since He told us Himself that these evil doings never came into His mind, He couldn’t have been able to see the future otherwise these things would have come into His mind.

God proves our faithfulness

Although God certainly knows our hearts, but because He can’t see the future He doesn’t know what we’ll do until we do it. Therefore, He submits us to various tests and trials so that our fear of Him and faithfulness to Him will be proved: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [test] Abraham … 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 22:1, 12). If He had already known what Abraham was going to do then why did He declare “for now I know that thou fearest God”? The Messenger of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Son of God. He knew Abraham’s heart because earlier He told him to name his son Isaac after having laughed at Him in his heart, “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 God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac [laughter]” (Gen 17:17, 19). Although He knew every thought in his mind and intent in his heart, yet He still didn’t know what Abraham would do until put to the test.

God proves and tests His children: “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exo 20:20); “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deu 8:2); “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deu 13:3); “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, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:7).

Paul said that servants must be found faithful, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (1Co 4:1-2). And Paul himself had been trusted by God with the preaching of the gospel because he had been counted faithful, “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” (1Ti 1:11-12). Paul didn’t immediately become an apostle after his Damascus road conversion. He spent many years preaching the gospel before being sent by Jesus Christ on his missionary journeys. As we prove ourselves faithful in smaller tasks, God will trust us to be faithful in larger, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luk 16:10).

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen 18:19). After walking with God for many years in a faithful relationship, not only had Abraham come to know God but God had also come to know Abraham. Because of all the philosophical rubbish from modern “theologians” that God has always known everything and never can come to know anything, we think God can’t come to know us any better than He already does. But this isn’t true. Relationships take time to get to know each other better and to build trust.

God uses people to carry out His plans and purposes for this creation. He did this throughout history to bring His Son into the world to save the world and is doing this right now to bring the end times to consummation as He foretold in the book of Revelation. However, He doesn’t trust all of His children equally—He trusts some more than others because some have proven themselves trustworthy more than others. God gains trust in us by testing us. He knows what we intend to do but not what we will do. Therefore, He tests and proves us first before trusting us in critical situations. Because God can’t allow failure in critical situations, He tests us first in non-critical situations. He proves His children in scenarios that don’t matter to know which ones He can use when it does matter.

Conclusion

Philosophy about God adversely affects our walk with Him and our assurance of salvation. Calvinism is a prime example of “philosophy and vain deceit … not after Christ” (Col 2:8). It’s not after the teaching of Jesus Christ but is a confusing ideology that leaves many Christians confused about their salvation. Of course there are variations of beliefs within Calvinism but essentially it posits that God already knew in eternity past every person and their final eternal destiny—even choosing which ones would be saved. Therefore, what is going to happen with every person is what is going to happen anyway. Those that will be saved will, and those that won’t be saved won’t. Many Christians then live in fear that although they consider themselves to be one of the chosen, it could turn out that they’re not and will fall away someday with no hope of salvation. On the other hand, if they truly are one of the chosen then they’ll be saved no matter what they do or don’t do—their lifestyle ultimately doesn’t matter. Of course most won’t admit that their lifestyle doesn’t matter but counting that their salvation is forever settled certainly skews it.

Learning the truth about God helps to advance our walk with Him. Since there is no future to know, then God doesn’t know beforehand who will be saved and who won’t. Our salvation is in the present. We must walk with Him now by trusting Him and obeying His Son Jesus Christ as our Lord.

When it comes to our daily walk with Him, if we suppose that He already knows what we’re going to do then whatever we do is what we were going to do anyway. If I play rather than pray, God already knew it and expected it. Why try to do differently? It’s a convoluted thinking that what I do is what I was going to do. But the truth is that since He doesn’t know the future, He doesn’t know what we’re going to do This motivates us to live up to His expectations and walk worthy of Him, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10), “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1Th 2:12).

They Went Out from Us

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: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1Jo 2:19). Proponents of “Once Saved Always Saved” (OSAS) use this verse as a proof-text that people leaving their local church never were truly saved to begin with, otherwise they would have stayed. But in context, it isn’t about churchgoers at all but false teachers: “even now are there many antichrists” (2:18), “them that seduce you” (2:26), “ye need not that any man teach you” (2:27), “let no man deceive you” (3:7), “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (4:1).

When John said “They went out from us,” he meant the main church in Jerusalem, “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (Act 15:24). False teachers went out from the Jerusalem church, deceiving people into being circumcised with the intent of keeping the non-moral actions of the law, particularly abstinence from certain meats and observing certain days.

At first, Peter objected when told by the Lord to eat with Gentiles, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Act 10:14). But he quickly submitted, then concluded that acceptance before God doesn’t consist of meats but fearing Him and working righteousness, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Act 10:35). And this is what John meant by, “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (2:29), “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (3:7). Since Christ Himself was righteous, even though He ate with Gentiles many times, then everyone doing or working righteousness is also righteous regardless of what they eat or don’t eat.

Therefore, “They went out from us” were false teachers from the Jerusalem church commanding circumcision and the actions of the law that pertain to it. This had nothing to do with churchgoers leaving their local church. In fact, with so called “churches” today, as it was with synagogues in Christ’s day, the real issue isn’t with those leaving but with those staying!

The parents of a man born blind wouldn’t confess Christ because they didn’t want to be put out of the synagogue, “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for 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). And it was the same with many of the rulers of the synagogue, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (Jhn 12:42). It wasn’t those leaving or those being made to leave, but those staying that perished.

Not at all giving the devil any credit but simply being realistic—he is far more deceptive and subtle than we ever thought. He is a master at turning things around. He convinces the seeing that they’re blind but can see by listening to him, “then your eyes shall be opened” (Gen 3:5). Then once they’re blind, he convinces them they can now see, “And the eyes of them both were opened” (Gen 3:7). And as he did with synagogues, he has done with churches. Pastors are men of God, making their flocks lie down in green pastures and leading them beside still waters. They’re highly educated and with our best interest at heart, not wanting us to fall into error by trying to understand the Bible for ourselves. Therefore, we should trust these warm and caring men. It seems safe to stay and dangerous to leave. But it’s all been turned around.

I left church over two years ago because I trembled at God’s word, “but to this man will I look,even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2). I feared what Jesus Christ taught about God and about Himself, not what Trinitarian pastors taught. And how I was treated through it all convinced me even more of having made the right decision, “But the fruit of the Spirit [breath] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Gal 5:22-23), “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men” (2Ti 2:24). Their lack of gentleness indicated they didn’t have God’s breath and weren’t serving the Lord. I came to learn that the real issue isn’t with those that go out but with those that stay.

Romans Chapter Two

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Thou art inexcusable, O man

This chapter begins with Paul concluding what he had just stated at the end of the previous chapter, “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (1:32 NKJV), “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man [anthrōpos 444], whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (v. 1). God’s own people “are without excuse” (1:20), “thou art inexcusable,” because they know what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen 19:24). And they know what He said about homosexuality, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Lev 18:22), “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev 20:13).

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

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

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

According to truth

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

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

The longsuffering of the Lord

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

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

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

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

Hardness of heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judged according to our actions

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

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

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

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

Jesus told the church in Sardis, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5). He had told His disciples, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 10:32-33), “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luk 9:26). Our names being written and remaining written in the book of life is only through being unashamed of Christ and His words before men.

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

James also used Rahab as an example of actions, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works [ergon 2041], when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (Jas 2:25). Everyone in Jericho feared the God of Israel, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you … And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Jos 2:9,11). However, Rahab was the only person in Jericho that took action. By harboring and helping the two spies, she joined herself with God’s people and justified her fear God more than the king of Jericho.

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

Patient continuance in good actions

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

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

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

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

The contentious, stubborn, and unyielding

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

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

God’s “indignation and wrath” will be to those “contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” (v. 8). Jesus Christ taught the truth: “grace [favor] and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jhn 1:17); “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jhn 8:32); “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe [trust] me?” (Jhn 8:46); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jhn 14:6); “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37); “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21). Those contending with Him, and not obeying Him, will face God’s wrath.

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

The gospel message Jesus Christ Himself preached is that He was begotten of God: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father” (Jhn 16:27,28). It’s His own words “begotten,” “proceeded forth,” and “came out from God” about Himself that attest to His begetting and His beginning as a person. Many times He called Himself the Son of God but never once called Himself “God.” Rather, He called His Father “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called His Father, His God before He died, after He was resurrected, and after He was seated next to Him: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34); “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17); “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God” (Rev 3:12).

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

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

No respect of persons with God

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

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

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

With or without law

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

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

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

The doers of the law

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

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

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

Uncircumcised Gentiles keep the law

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

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

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

The law written in our hearts

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

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

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

Their conscience bearing witness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience [syneidēsis 4893] toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 3:21). The flood of Noah was figurative and prophetic of baptism, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). Baptism into the name of Christ is putting away the evil imaginations and thoughts of our hearts to begin living with a good conscience toward God. Peter had taught earlier: “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience [syneidēsis 4893] toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully … For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1Pe 2:19-21), “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake … Having a good conscience [syneidēsis 4893]” (1Pe 3:14,16). It’s not getting wet that saves us but what we do after getting dried off—following Christ’s example of suffering wrongfully with conscience toward God in all we do.

Accusing or else defending

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

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

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

The secrets of men

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

The gospel message Christ preached is, “That thine alms may be in secret [kryptos 2927]: and thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4), “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret [kryptos 2927]; and thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927] shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:6), “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret [kryptos 2927]: and thy Father, which seeth in secret [kryptos 2927], shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:18). Those that aren’t hypocrites but true servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, do those same good actions but for the right reason—they give to truly help people, and pray to sincerely talk with God, and fast to discipline themselves before God. They don’t do these things to receive any advantage, benefit, or glory from people. They patiently continue to do these good actions, seeking glory from God and eternal life, “To them who by patient continuance in well [good] doing [actions] seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (v. 7). Rather than getting reward now, they patiently continue day after day getting apparently nothing for their labors.

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

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

Called a Jew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boasting of God

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

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

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

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

Approving the things that are excellent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guiding the blind

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

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

The form of knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

Teach ourselves first

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

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

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

Dishonoring God

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

Blasphemy against the breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s breath

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

In several places this word is used of God’s breath from His mouth or nose: “And with the blast [rûaḥ 7307] of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together” (Exo 15:8); “at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils” (2Sa 22:16); “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4:9); “by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth shall he go away” (Job 15:30); “all the host of them by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth” (Psa 33:6); “with the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4). Its Greek counterpart pneuma was defined by Christ as breath by literally breathing from His mouth, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22).

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

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

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

Speaking against the breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping God’s commandments is what matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two main distinctions of the law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the apostles along with the elders of the church in Jerusalem addressed and settled the issue of circumcision, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Act 15:1), “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Act 15:5), “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law” (Act 15:24). The issue was about being circumcised with the intent of keeping the actions of the law as necessary for salvation, “ye cannot be saved,” “That it was needful,” “circumcised, and keep the law.” That the issue wasn’t about circumcision itself is indicated by Paul having Timothy circumcised immediately after that Jerusalem council, “Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek” (Act 16:3). Timothy’s circumcision had nothing to do with his salvation but was simply giving him access into Jewish areas while traveling with Paul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping the righteousness of the law

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

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

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

Considered circumcised

“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted [logizomai 3049] for circumcision?” (v. 26). The Greek verb logizomai means “to consider,” “to esteem,” “to suppose,” or “to think” something: “And they reasoned [logizomai 3049] with themselves” (Mar 11:31); “And thinkest [logizomai 3049] thou this, O man” (Rom 2:3); “Therefore we conclude [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 6:11); “For I reckon [logizomai 3049]” (Rom 8:18); “to him that esteemeth [logizomai 3049] any thing to be” (Rom 14:14); “thinketh [logizomai 3049] no evil” (1Co 13:5); “I thought [logizomai 3049] as a child” (1Co 13:11); “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think [logizomai 3049] any thing” (2Co 3:5); “wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think [logizomai 3049] of us” (2Co 10:2); “let him of himself think [logizomai 3049] this again” (2Co 10:7); “Let such an one think [logizomai 3049] this” (2Co 10:11); “For I suppose [logizomai 3049]” (2Co 11:5); “lest any man should think [logizomai 3049] of me” (2Co 12:6); “think [logizomai 3049] on these things” (Phl 4:8); “I suppose [logizomai 3049], I have written briefly” (1Pe 5:12). When uncircumcised Gentiles “keep the righteousness of the law” by loving their neighbor as themselves, God considers them circumcised even though they’re not. He treats them with the same favor as His own people.

Paul wrote to the Gentile Christians in Colossae, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:10-11), “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days” (Col 2:16). That they were “complete in him” is that “in Christ” they weren’t lacking anything needed to be right before God. They didn’t need to adhere to the requirements of circumcision, mainly the ordinances concerning meats and drinks, keeping of feast days, and the Sabbath day. To be “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands” is simply a figure of speech. Men’s hands literally cut the flesh of Jewish baby boys the eighth day from birth, imposing upon them the ordinances of meats, drinks, holy days, and the Sabbath day their entire lives. But “the circumcision of Christ” is that He freed us from that yoke of bondage so that God considers us along with those circumcised even though we’re not.

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

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

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

The writing on stone tablets

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

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

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

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross … Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days” (Col 2:14,16). The writing on stone tablets along with other ordinances was against the uncircumcised and contrary to them because it severed and cut them off from the circumcised: “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exo 31:14), “I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean … have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (Lev 20:24-26).

He is a “praise” which is one secretly

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

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

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

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

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

Of the heart, in the breath

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

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

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

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

Circumcision in the flesh or in the breath?

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

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

The Mindset of a Slave

Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all identified themselves as doulos, “a servant” or “a slave” of Jesus Christ: “Paul, a servant [doulos 1401] of Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:1); “James, a servant [doulos 1401] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas 1:1); “Simon Peter, a servant [doulos 1401] and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (2Pe 1:1); “Jude, the servant [doulos 1401] of Jesus Christ” (Jde 1:1).

Hidden by figurative language within the creation narrative is the true gospel message—that there would be two divisions of people called either “Day” or “Night,” “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Gen 1:5). And there would be two lords ruling over one or the other, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night … And to rule over the day and over the night” (Gen 1:16,18). The Lord Jesus Christ at God’s right hand is the Greater Light—greater than all: “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa 110:1); “at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph 1:20-21); “on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22).

There are only two alternatives—anyone not being ruled by the Greater Light, is being ruled by the lesser light. John said, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1Jo 4:4). Either the Greater Light is in us, or the lesser light is. It’s a sobering and humbling truth that if Christ isn’t in us, the devil is.

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants [doulos 1401] ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom 6:16). Notice, Paul didn’t say we’re slaves of whom we confess to obey but of whom we actually obey. And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luk 6:46). If we’re not obeying Him as Lord, then calling Him Lord is vain. Salvation isn’t about being a believer but an obeyer. The gospel message from the beginning is that Christ would “rule the day … rule over the day.” Therefore, to be “Day” and not “Night,” Christ must rule over us by obeying everything He commanded.

Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form [morphē 3444] of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form [morphē 3444] of a servant [doulos 1401], and was made in the likeness of men” (Phl 2:5-7). Christ was in the morphē of God but took upon the morphē of a doulos or a slave. He went from His position with God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (Jhn 1:1-2), to the position of a slave, obeying everything His Father commanded. And that’s the mindset we must have to be saved. Whatever position we might have occupied as free, we must take the lowly position of a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we truly have the mindset of a slave, it won’t bother us when we get treated like one! Getting rattled by how we’re treated indicates we don’t have the mindset of a slave. As slaves, others are free to treat us how they want but we’re slaves to treating them how we would want to be treated, “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). That might sound unfair but it’s simply a matter of perspective. What’s unfair is the fleeting and temporary satisfaction others receive now, compared with the far surpassing and eternal reward we’ll receive later. The mindset of a slave is to take no thought of any reward now, but patiently wait for it in due season.

The gospel Jesus Christ preached is that slaves get their “meat” in due season—they work now and get rewarded later, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant [doulos 1401], whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Mat 24:45). And that slaves don’t seek to profit themselves, but obey out of duty to their lord, “We are unprofitable servants [doulos 1401]: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luk 17:10). This is the mindset of a slave.

The gospel message from the beginning is that we must become slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the gospel the Lord Himself preached, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 10:39). “Well done, thou good and faithful servantThou wicked and slothful servant” (Mat 25:21,26). Others are free to live their lives. But we must be slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved—have the same mind He had, the mindset of a slave.

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.

Hedge Apple Trees, Known by Their Fruits

Hedge apple trees (Maclura pomifera), in contrast with apple trees, bear fruit that’s unpalatable and useless for food by either people or animals. But consistent with apple trees, the seeds from its fruit produce more of the same kind of trees, “the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself … the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind” (Gen 1:11,12).

Christ warned, “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.” (Mat 7:15-16). As there were false prophets among God’s people, false teachers are the equivalent today, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (2Pe 2:1). And Christ wasn’t just teaching us how to identify them, but urging us to identify them. He commended the church at Ephesus for doing so, “thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev 2:2).

Concerning the Pharisees, He said, “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). What the fruit is to the tree, the mouth is to the heart. God first created trees whose seeds are from its fruit, then created humans whose words are from their hearts. And as good fruit comes from good trees and corrupt fruit from corrupt trees, so it is with true and false teachers. The seeds from their fruit produces more trees just like them.

Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus the requirements for ordaining bishops, deacons, and elders over churches, “A bishop then must be blameless” (1Ti 3:2), “ordain elders in every city … If any be blameless … For a bishop must be blameless” (Tit 1:5,6,7). To “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1Ti 5:22), is to give time for men to be proven first before ordaining them, “And let these also first be proved” (1Ti 3:10). All of this was to ensure that “apple trees” were in fact being planted because the same principle is true with hedge apple trees.

Hedge apple trees only plant other hedge apple trees. They’re not going to ordain and place apple trees—men truly leading people to salvation—over churches. They only plant hedge apple trees which, in turn, plant more hedge apple trees. This is why all “Christian” churches over the entire world today are simply a vast forest of hedge apple trees. And anyone within these churches sincerely seeking the truth objectively, questioning from the Scriptures what’s being taught, are kept in check or pressured to leave if not conforming. This ensures entire churches continue to be hedge apple trees on their way to destruction.

Hedge apple trees placed over churches aren’t passive either. It isn’t that they’re just not helping people get saved but that they’re preventing it. They’re not simply neglecting to gather with Christ, but working to scatter from Him, “he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Mat 12:30; Luk 11:23).

False teachers will never agree with Christ’s claims about God and about Himself any more than a hedge apple tree can grow apples from its branches. Time and again I’ve spoken with Trinitarian “ministers” who deny Christ’s own claim that His Father is the one true God and His God. But when they become irate and contentious, it’s not against my words but against His.

When I was a Trinitarian, there was one minister in particular I was very close with. He was the utmost example of how I wanted to be one day in my walk with God. And over the years we had many, many good times together in study, prayer, small group discussions, co-teaching, home visitations, retreats, and just talking with each other. He always had time for me, and I consistently sensed warmth and care from him. There were a few times, however, when sharing with him in private the truths I was learning from the Scriptures, that I experienced conflict. It bothered me that he not only wasn’t excited about discovering the truth like I was, but was actually resisting it. But I didn’t know then what I know now.

Wolves can’t be known by their lifestyles because their “clothing” is virtually that of sheep. In fact, they’re usually better “sheep” than true sheep! They can be known only by their fruits, just as Jesus said. It’s because they’re all on the same side—in agreement, fellowship, endorsement, and support of each other—that they’re all hedge apple trees. They keep us listening to their sermons, reading their books, and using their study resources because they don’t want us understanding the Scriptures for ourselves and becoming apple trees. After all, if we become apple trees ourselves, we’ll be a threat to their agenda by planting apple trees.

Blinded by the “Light”

Protestant Trinitarians—what I was for almost 30 years—are difficult to reach with the truth because they’ve been instilled with the fear of falling into error if they were to ever question the Trinity. But what they really should fear is the error in which they’ve already fallen. They’re already at, where they fear to be.

God didn’t create Adam and Eve “blind,” i.e. ignorant of the truth, but had given them all they needed to know. The serpent, however, convinced the woman she was blind but would see by listening to him, “then your eyes shall be opened” (Gen 3:5). Once both were blind, he then convinced them they could now see, “And the eyes of them both were opened” (Gen 3:7). And his tactics haven’t changed, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2Co 2:11), “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).

The serpent’s deceptions are diabolical. After getting people to the very place they don’t want to be, he makes them want to stay! He blinds people from the truth then convinces them they can see. Thinking they already have the light, when the light really does come, they reject it as darkness. Thinking they’re already saved, they fight against salvation itself.

Paul said, “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” (2Co 11:3), “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel [messenger] of light” (v. 14). The serpent deceived Eve by seeming to be a messenger of light for her blindness, when actually he was the blinder. Paul went on to say that the serpent’s ministers employ those same tactics, “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (v. 15). They feign helping people get right with God only to get them even farther away. And they keep people listening to them under the guise that they don’t want them falling into error, when in reality they don’t want them learning the truth.

We all have been blinded by sin. But religious people are in worse shape than before because now they’re not only blind but also think they can see. Jesus warned, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mat 6:23). It’s bad enough to be blind and know it, but far worse to be blind but think we can see. If the “light” we’re seeing isn’t truly light but darkness, then how great of darkness we’re truly in. Thus, religious people think they’re the ones that can see while everyone else is blind.

Religious people have two main problems: (1) they’ve been blinded but think they can see; (2) they’re in bondage to the praises and privileges of the organization to which they belong. Even when they can be shown the error into which they’ve fallen, it’s very difficult for them to forsake everything they’ve invested their lives into. They crave the approval of people and dread their rejection. And they’ve become dependent upon the benefits received from their religious group: access, accreditation, belonging, endorsement, image, influence, positions, prominence, recognition, resources, support, titles, validation and much more. They don’t want to lose these things, therefore they forfeit Christ instead, “whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:33). If we’re unwilling to stand alone, even from those closest to us, we’re not worthy of Christ.

Peace with God must be more important to us than peace even in our own home, “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mat 10:36-37), “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:26). We should do all we can to nourish peace in our home without compromising the truth.

Religious people just can’t fathom that Satan’s deceptions have been so pervasive and successful to the point that over 2 billion people in the world identifying as Trinitarian Christians are on the broad way that leads to destruction. It just can’t be that every single local church in cities across America and all over the world are false. And if they were to leave, where can they go?

Personally, I’m just unwilling to consider for a moment that Trinitarian ministers are right while Christ is wrong. In my humble opinion, the safest place is standing alone on His side with everyone else standing on the other. I would rather do my best to serve Christ on my own and understand the truth from the Scriptures for myself than to trust men that are teaching differently than He taught.

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.

He that Hath an Ear, Let Him Hear

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

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

Jesus Christ concluded His Sermon on the Mount with an analogy of two men that both built houses. One house stood because its builder was wise and started with a foundation while the other collapsed because its builder was foolish and didn’t. The correlation of this story is that “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24-27). His message is clear—salvation is by obedience to Him. If we’ll obey what He taught in His Sermon we’ll be saved, but if we won’t obey Him we’ll perish. Paul and James both reiterated this, “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, deceiving your own selves” (Jas 1:22). We must listen to the Son of God and do what He said to be saved.

The Son taught this about the worship of God His Father, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jhn 4:23-24). Because God sought true worshippers, He sent His Son to teach the truth about Him. Since His Son lived and suffered and died for the truth He was sent to teach, do we suppose God will accept anything otherwise? Why subject His Son to horrible suffering and death for that end purpose only to later fudge on it? That the Son said we MUST worship His Father in the truth He taught, then we MUST. If we can be saved with a false view of God such as the Trinity, then Christ lived and died in vain.

In the Son of God’s parable of the Sower, He is the Sower preaching the truth to people’s hearts. And He declared, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mat 13:9), “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mar 4:9; Luk 8:8). Obviously, “to hear” doesn’t mean to have sound waves vibrate over the ear drums. It’s to heed, mind, and take to heart what is heard; to submit, succumb, and surrender to it. The Son later said to all seven churches in Asia, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7,11,17,29, 3:6,13,22). Essentially, He was saying, “If you hear anything, you had better listen to what I’m telling you!”

The Son of God stated before His death, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37), “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (NIV). And John later wrote, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth [breath], and the spirit [breath] of error” (1Jo 4:6). How do we know if we’re “of God” or not, if we belong to Him or not? It’s simple. Do we listen to His Son and His apostles or not? Those on the other side of the truth, speak against it: “spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Act 13:45); “they opposed themselves, and blasphemed” (Act 18:6); “spake evil of that way before the multitude” (Act 19:9); “them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Th 2:10); “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2Ti 3:8); “he hath greatly withstood our words” (2Ti 4:15); “the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2Pe 2:2). We MUST listen to the Son of God for any hope of salvation. If we won’t listen to Him, we’re completely hopeless.