The apostle John wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2Jo 1:9). The Trinitarian view of God transgresses the doctrine of Christ—it’s not what He taught. And according to John, whoever transgresses what Jesus Christ taught doesn’t have God.
The Greek theos for “god” is simply a position of authority, not a kind or type of being. The Father is God, not because of what He is as a being but because of His status as the highest authority over all, including over His Son Jesus Christ. That theos is a position of authority is evident by the Son of God Himself using this word for both men and God within the same statement, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods [theos]? If he called them gods [theos], unto whom the word of God [theos] came” (Jhn 10:34-35). Furthermore, theos is grammatically singular or plural depending on the number of persons as Christ used it here. A plurality of persons is multiple gods—three persons can’t be one God either grammatically or logically. And Jesus affirmed what Moses said about God, “The Lord [kyrios] our God is one Lord [kyrios]” (Mar 12:29). The Greek kyrios is a “lord,” “master,” or “ruler.” Since God is one Lord or Ruler, then God is not three co-equal Rulers.
The doctrine of Christ is that He was begotten of God, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18). Since theos isn’t a kind of being but a position of authority, then the Son was begotten as the same kind of divine being but always under the authority of His Father God. In the incarnation, He came down from heaven and transitioned to a human kind of being through the virgin birth while continuing to be the Son of God.
Jesus claimed of Himself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten [monogenes] Son” (Jhn 3:16); “he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten [monogenes] Son of God” (Jhn 3:18); “I proceeded forth and came from God” (Jhn 8:42); “I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” (Jhn 16:27-28). It’s His own words “begotten,” “proceeded forth,” and “came out from God” that attest to His begetting and His beginning. But since God has no beginning, Trinitarianism can’t embrace His literal begetting, therefore make the nonsensical claim that He is eternally begotten or generated. Many modern Bible versions take this a step further in obscuring the concept of begetting entirely by rendering the Greek monogenes as “only” or “one and only,” making Him say something different than what He said.
Several times Jesus Christ called Himself “the Son of God,” and twice from heaven His Father called Him “My Beloved Son.” The Son never called Himself “God” and the Father never called His Son “God.” The Son did, however, call His Father “God” and called Him the only true God, “You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jhn 17:3). And the apostle Paul affirmed the same, “But to us there is butone God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1Co 8:6).
The doctrine of Christ is that His Father is His God as He called Him before He died, after He was resurrected, and after He was seated next to Him: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and tomy God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17); “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God,which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God” (Rev 3:12).
Many times the apostles called the Father, Jesus Christ’s God: “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6); “And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1Co 3:23); “the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3); “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 11:31); “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3); “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17); “God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 1:3); “therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Heb 1:9); “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:3). The statement “God the Father” appears several times in the Scriptures but the Trinitarian statements “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” aren’t found even once. There are over 50 verses that identify the Father as God: Jhn 1:18, 5:18, 6:27,46, 13:3, 16:27, 20:17; Act 2:33; Rom 1:7, 15:6; 1Co 1:3, 8:6, 15:24; 2Co 1:2-3, 11:31; Gal 1:1,3-4, 4:6; Eph 1:2-3,17, 4:6, 5:20, 6:23; Phl 1:2, 2:11, 4:20; Col 1:2-3, 3:17; 1Th 1:1,3, 3:11,13; 2Th 1:1-2, 2:16; 1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phm 1:3; Heb 12:7; Jas 1:27, 3:9; 1Pe 1:2-3; 2Pe 1:17; 2Jo 1:3; Jde 1:1; Rev 1:6.
The belief and confession of the apostles and early church was that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat 16:16); “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jhn 20:31); “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Act 8:37); “he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Act 9:20); “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us” (2Co 1:19); “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God” (1Jo 4:15); “he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (1Jo 5:5). The Trinitarian confession “God the Son,” however, denies that He is the Son of God because He can’t be both. If He is God’s Son, He can’t be God. But if He is God, He can’t be God’s Son. Defining Him as “God the Son” denies Him as the Son of God—the very confession of salvation.
John wrote repeatedly that eternal life is through the Son of God: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life” (Jhn 3:36); “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (Jhn 17:1-3); “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jhn 20:31); “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life;and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1Jo 5:11-12); “even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1Jo 5:20).
Jesus said that the throne on which He sits is His Father’s and that He is sitting with Him, “set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21). When speaking of Him sitting with God, He is always said to be seated at God’s right hand and never that God is seated at His left: “Sit thou at my right hand” (Psa 110:1); “the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power” (Mat 26:64); “by the right hand of God exalted” (Act 2:33); “even at the right hand of God” (Rom 8:34); “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1); “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3); “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb 8:1); “sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12); “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2); “on the right hand of God” (1Pe 3:22).
The main statement used to claim that Jesus Himself is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” (Jhn 1:1-2). But twice John said He was “with God.” How can He be with Him and also be Him? Since John later wrote, “the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father” (1Jo 1:1-2), then “with God” corresponds to “with the Father.” The context of “the Word was God” includes several figures of speech or metaphors. The Son of God isn’t literally “the Word” (v. 1) or “the Light” (v. 7). These are figures of speech. And just as “the light was the life” (v. 4) is a metaphor, so is “the Word was God.” The Word Himself later stated “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (14:9), and Paul said He was “the image of God” (2Co 4:4), “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). He represented God so perfectly that John could say He “was God” in metaphorical equivalence.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jhn 1:18); “Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape” (Jhn 5:37); “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (Jhn 6:46); “whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1Ti 6:16); “No man hath seen God at any time” (1Jo 4:12). Nobody but the Son of God has seen God because He was with God. And who knows God better than His only begotten Son? Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the arbiter of the truth: “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jhn 1:17); “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jhn 8:32); “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (Jhn 8:46); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jhn 14:6); “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37); “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21). What He said about God and about Himself is the final word.
Trinitarian ministers, on the other hand, disagree with the Son of God about God! Disagreeing with Him about anything is alarming enough but our view of God is most important. If they’re wrong about what’s greatest, what about everything else? How can these highly educated ministers with Masters and even Doctorate degrees be wrong about the most crucial subject of all? Could it just be an honest mistake, or is something else going on? If they’re sincerely wrong, then all they need to do is start teaching it right. But if they’re knowingly transgressing the doctrine of Christ, then according to John they don’t have God. And if they won’t listen to Him, why listen to them?
In his book “God the Trinity” (Malcolm B. Yarnell III, B&H Academic, 2016), Yarnell conceded on the opening page of his Prologue that according to a recent survey of evangelical Christians “more than half claimed the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.” And this has proven to be the case in my own experience when hearing people’s view of the Holy Spirit. Most don’t believe it’s a personal being. Albeit they don’t know what it really is, just that they’re sure what it really is not.
These same people, however, worship in Trinitarian churches. Likely many of them never thinking through the implications that if the Holy Spirit isn’t a person then there is no Trinity and their worship is problematic. It was the study of the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit that convinced me it’s not a person, therefore calling into question the entire doctrine of the Trinity. Learning the truth about the Holy Spirit became the springboard for me also learning the truth about the Father and the Son.
I was a Trinitarian for almost 30 years. But fearing God, I had to follow the Scriptural evidence where it leads and it led me out of Trinitarianism. I can assure you it wasn’t an easy journey and it still isn’t. I endured much resistance by my pastors and other “Christians” that I had been very close with for many years. But I had to decide who it is that I love the most. Loving God and His Son Jesus Christ the most, I had to painfully part fellowship from those that wouldn’t follow the truth.
The question “What is the Holy Spirit?” isn’t simply an academic matter just to get all of our doctrinal beliefs correct. It’s about the God we worship. Jesus Christ told the woman at the well, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jhn 4:23-24). Because the Father seeks those that will worship Him in spirit and in truth, He sent His Son to teach us the truth about Him. It’s not optional. We “must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We must get it right about the Holy Spirit because it’s a matter of worship.
Introducing God’s breath
The first mention of God’s breath in the Scriptures is within the very first words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit [rûaḥ 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:1-2). In its initial introduction by God’s revelation through Moses, the rûaḥ of God is identified as something belonging to Him as His possession. It’s “the breath of God” or His breath. In the beginning, there wasn’t a person flying over the water like superman! God was blowing from His mouth, His breath across the surface of the water.
The next occurrence of rûaḥ in Scripture, it’s the wind, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [rûaḥ 7307] of the day” (Gen 3:8). Other Bible versions render it, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing” (NLT), “at the time of the evening breeze” (CSB), “at the breezy time of the day” (NET), “at the breeze of the day” (YLT). There’s no question that rûaḥ is simply air, breath, or wind.
The third time rûaḥ appears, God Himself is speaking about His breath, “And the LORD said, My spirit [rûaḥ 7307] shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). In its introduction it was “the breath of God” and now it’s “My breath.” Therefore, rûaḥ is of Himself and from Himself as His possession.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth occurrences of rûaḥ are about the breath of life from God in the nostrils of all living beings, “wherein isthe breath [rûaḥ 7307] of life” (Gen 6:17,7:15), “All in whose nostrils was the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of life” (Gen 7:22). This is referring back to the creation of man to life by God breathing into his nostrils, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). We’re even told later in Scripture that the rûaḥ into man’s nostrils was God’s breath from His mouth, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth” (Psa 33:6). It’s not a person—it’s God’s breath from His mouth.
In the Old Testament, the translators rendered rûaḥ as “breath,” “blast,” or “wind” when the immediate contexts forced it: “And with the blast [rûaḥ 7307] of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together” (Exo 15:8); “at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils” (2Sa 22:16); “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4:9); “by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth shall he go away” (Job 15:30); “all the host of them by the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his mouth” (Psa 33:6); “he causeth his wind [rûaḥ 7307] to blow” (Psa 147:18); “with the breath [rûaḥ 7307] of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa 11:4). However, when various contexts allowed the translators a degree of freedom to render rûaḥ as something else, they always took that liberty in translating it as “spirit” to imply a personal being. It’s simply a matter of translator bias—rendering statements to comport with their belief that rûaḥ is a person.
The pneuma of God
The New Testament equivalent of rûaḥ is the Greek pneuma. Although translated consistently as “spirit,” it’s simply the noun form of the verb pneo which means “to blow.” The contexts of all seven occurrences of pneo agree: “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew [pneō 4154] … And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew [pneō 4154]” (Mat 7:25,27); “And when ye see the south wind blow [pneō 4154]” (Luk 12:55); “The wind bloweth [pneō 4154] where it listeth” (Jhn 3:8); “And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew [pneō 4154]” (Jhn 6:18); “and hoised up the mainsail to the wind [pneō 4154]” (Act 27:40); “that the wind should not blow [pneō 4154] on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree” (Rev 7:1). There’s nothing inherent with the word pneuma that implies a conscious living personal being. It’s simply breath or wind as its verb counterpart attests. Also, pneuma is neuter in gender, not masculine or feminine which is required if referring to a person.
Furthermore, the Greek pneuma is where our English “pneumonia”—a respiratory infection in the air sacs of the lungs that causes difficulty in breathing and can be life-threatening—is derived. Also, “pneumology” which is the medical study of the lungs and respiratory organs, and “pneumatics” which is a branch of engineering using systems of compressed air.
Lastly, Jesus Christ Himself is the highest authority with the final word and He defined pneuma as breath by literally blowing from His mouth onto His disciples, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22). He also likened the new birth, “that which is born of the Spirit [pneuma 4151] is spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 3:6), to the wind blowing, “The wind [pneuma 4151] bloweth [pneō 4154] where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 3:8). Jesus Christ Himself defined pneuma as breath or wind.
Christ is the breath
God the Father, the Son of God, and the apostle Paul all affirmed that Christ is the breath. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy about the event being witnessed that day, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out [ekcheō 1632] of my Spirit [breath] upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out [ekcheō 1632] in those days of my Spirit [breath]; and they shall prophesy” (Act 2:17-18). And Peter concluded his preaching, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth [ekcheō 1632] this, which ye now see and hear” (Act 2:33). The Greek ekcheō means “to pour out” or “shed forth.” Other versions have it more correctly as “poured out” (DBY, NET, NIV, NKJV). Joel’s prophecy wasn’t that God would “pour out” His breath but “pour out of” His breath. God was calling His Son seated at His right hand, “my breath.” To “pour out of my breath” is to “pour out of” His Son. Now, of course, His Son as “my breath” is only figurative.
Referring to the Day of Pentecost, Paul also said that it was God that did the pouring out through Jesus Christ, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost [breath]; Which he shed [ekcheō 1632] on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3:4-6), “he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (NIV). That God “poured out … through Jesus Christ” indicates that Jesus Christ is the breath.
Furthermore, God said prior to the flood, “My spirit [breath] shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Gen 6:3). His breath is His only begotten Son. That His breath wouldn’t always strive with man was in His Son becoming flesh as a man.
The Son of God even called Himself “the breath” seven times in His concluding statements to each of the seven churches in Asia, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [breath] saith unto the churches” (Rev 2:7,11,17,29, 3:6,13,22). And this was after He had been seated at His Father’s right hand in heaven.
Finally, Paul interchanged the breath with Christ, “the Spirit [breath] itself maketh intercession for us … It isChrist that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26,34). That the breath makes intercession is actually Christ at God’s right hand making intercession. And Paul also told the Corinthians, “Now the Lord is that Spirit [breath]” (2Co 3:17).
In what way is Christ the breath?
In His incarnation, the Son of God became fully human in every way just as we are. And in His bodily resurrection from the dead and ascension to be seated in heaven at God’s right hand, He remains fully human both now and forever. The term “the Son of man” which Christ used for Himself many times as recorded in the four Gospels, was also used for Him after having been seated at God’s right hand in heaven: “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Act 7:56); “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man” (Rev 1:13); “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man” (Rev 14:14). Also, Paul called Christ a man in His mediation for us before God, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti 2:5). The Son of God is fully human. But He is the breath in metaphorical equivalence.
God gave all things to His Son: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father” (Mat 11:27), “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18); “All things are delivered to me of my Father” (Luk 10:22); “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (Jhn 3:35); “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (Jhn 5:22); “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” (Jhn 13:3); “As thou hast given him power over all flesh” (Jhn 17:2); “For he hath put all things under his feet” (1Co 15:27); “And hath put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22); “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phl 2:10); “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb 2:8); “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22).
In giving His Son all things, God gave His Son full agency and proxy over His breath so that it’s His decision and prerogative for the breath to dwell in our hearts. This is why God’s breath in our hearts is equated with Christ Himself: “Now if any man have not the Spirit [breath] of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you” (Rom 8:9-10); “Now the Lord is that Spirit [breath]: and where the Spirit [breath] of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17); “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20); “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit [breath] of his Son into your hearts” (Gal 4:6); “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit [breath] in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17); “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). That Christ is God’s breath isn’t literal but simply metaphorical.
Jesus was speaking figuratively
John chapters 14-16 is the famous passage where Jesus foretold His disciples about the coming of “the Spirit [breath] of truth” (14:17,15:26,16:13), “the Holy Ghost [breath]” (14:26). And many times He used personal pronouns for the breath in this passage indicating personhood: “that he may abide with you for ever” (14:16); “it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you” (14:17); “he shall teach you all things” (14:26); “he shall testify of me” (15:26); “I will send him to you” (16:7); “And when he is come, he will reprove the world” (16:8); “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (Jhn 16:13); “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine” (Jhn 16:14); “he shall take of mine” (16:15).
There’s a stipulation, however, to what He said. At the conclusion of the passage He said He had been speaking figuratively, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father” (Jhn 16:25). Other Bible versions render it, “in allegories” (DBY), “speaking figuratively” (NIV), “in figurative language” (NKJV), “in figures of speech” (NLT), “in similitudes” (YLT). That’s what He said about His own words. But regardless, many use those personal pronouns as “proof” that the breath is an actual person. But those same people taking Him literally here certainly don’t take Him literally when He spoke earlier about the breath as “rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit [breath]” (Jhn 7:38-39). They take Him figuratively there, but literally here in spite of Him qualifying His own words as figurative.
Within the passage itself, Jesus even indicated He was speaking of Himself as the breath, “but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you” (Jhn 14:17). His disciples knew the breath because He had been living with them the past three years as they had traveled and ministered together. And that the coming breath would be Himself coming, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (14:18), “I go away, and come again unto you” (14:28).
Also, Jesus told His disciples that He still had many things to teach them, including about things to come, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit [breath] of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (Jhn 16:13). These “things to come” were the things contained in the final writing of the Scriptures, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1). True to His words, Revelation isn’t just telling but showing through visions the events that are to come. And “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” is what “God gave unto him” as He had told His disciples, “whatsoever he shall hear,that shall he speak.” Christ is the breath and what He heard from God is what He spoke.
Finally, although Christ used masculine pronouns for the breath several times in this passage, in this one statement leading into the passage, He used a neuter pronoun for the breath three times, “Eventhe Spirit [breath] of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him [autos 846, neuter] not, neither knoweth him [autos 846, neuter]: but ye know him [autos 846, neuter]” (Jhn 14:17). But this verse is incorrectly translated with masculine pronouns. Paul used the same neuter pronoun for the breath which was translated correctly, “The Spirit [breath] itself [autos 846, neuter] beareth witness with our spirit [breath]” (Rom 8:16), “the Spirit [breath] itself [autos 846, neuter] maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26). Christ’s use of a neuter pronoun for the breath indicates that it’s truly not a person but that He had simply been speaking figuratively as He said.
Jesus Christ is our Advocate before the Father
An advocate is one that intercedes and pleads on behalf of another. Jesus Christ is our Advocate, Interceder, or Mediator before the Father at His right hand: “Sit thou at my right hand” (Psa 110:1); “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luk 22:69); “being by the right hand of God exalted” (Act 2:33); “who is even at the right hand of God” (Rom 8:34); “set him at his own right hand” (Eph 1:20); “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1); “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3); “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb 8:1); “sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12); “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2); “is on the right hand of God” (1Pe 3:22); “am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21).
It was His advocacy at the Father’s right hand that Jesus was foretelling His disciples in John 14-16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [paraklētos 3875] to help you and be with you forever” (Jhn 14:16 NIV); “But the Advocate [paraklētos 3875], the Holy Spirit [breath], whom the Father will send in my name” (Jhn 14:26 NIV); “When the Advocate [paraklētos 3875] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit [breath] of truth who goes out from the Father” (Jhn 15:26 NIV); “Unless I go away, the Advocate [paraklētos 3875] will not come to you” (Jhn 16:7 NIV). As their Advocate, His disciples wouldn’t ask Him but ask the Father in His name, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jhn 16:23-24). Up to this point He had always gone to the Father for them, “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you” (Jhn 16:26). But after being seated at God’s right hand advocating, interceding, and mediating for them, they would go to the Father directly in prayer.
Although Christ spoke to His disciples figuratively about the Advocate, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (Jhn 16:25), John later understood plainly that He had been speaking of Himself, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate [paraklētos 3875] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1Jo 2:1). He is our Advocate, Interceder, or Mediator before God: “the Spirit [breath] itself maketh intercession for us … who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:26,34); “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Ti 2:5); “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25); “he is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb 8:6); “he is the mediator of the new testament” (Heb 9:15); “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Heb 12:24).
The breath of God is His possession
The first two mentions of the breath in Scripture, it belonged to God as His possession, “And the Spirit [rûaḥ 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2), “And the LORD said, My spirit [rûaḥ 7307] shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). And many, many more times in Scripture the breath is said to belong to God: “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit [breath] of Godis?” (Gen 41:38); “And I have filled him with the spirit [breath] of God” (Exo 31:3); “And he hath filled him with the spirit [breath] of God” (Exo 35:31); “would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit [breath] upon them!” (Num 11:29); “and the spirit [breath] of God came upon him” (Num 24:2); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon him” (Jdg 3:10); “But the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon Gideon” (Jdg 6:34); “Then the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon Jephthah” (Jdg 11:29); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD began to move him at times” (Jdg 13:25); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came mightily upon him” (Jdg 14:6); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon him” (Jdg 14:19); “and the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came mightily upon him” (Jdg 15:14); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD will come upon thee” (1Sa 10:6); “and the Spirit [breath] of God came upon him” (1Sa 10:10); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Saul” (1Sa 11:6); “and the Spirit [breath] of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1Sa 16:13); “But the Spirit [breath] of the LORD departed from Saul” (1Sa 16:14); “the Spirit [breath] of God was upon the messengers of Saul” (1Sa 19:20); “and the Spirit [breath] of God was upon him also” (1Sa 19:23); “The Spirit [breath] of the LORD spake by me” (2Sa 23:2); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not” (1Ki 18:12); “Which way went the Spirit [breath] of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?” (1Ki 22:24); “lest peradventure the Spirit [breath] of the LORD hath taken him up” (2Ki 2:16); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded” (2Ch 15:1); “Which way went the Spirit [breath] of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?” (2Ch 18:23); “came the Spirit [breath] of the LORD in the midst of the congregation” (2Ch 20:14); “And the Spirit [breath] of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest” (2Ch 24:20); “By his spirit [breath] he hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13); “and the spirit [breath] of Godis in my nostrils” (Job 27:3); “The Spirit [breath] of God hath made me” (Job 33:4); “Because they provoked his spirit [breath]” (Psa 106:33); “And the spirit [breath] of the LORD shall rest upon him” (Isa 11:2); “because the spirit [breath] of the LORD bloweth upon it” (Isa 40:7); “Who hath directed the Spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Isa 40:13); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isa 59:19); “The Spirit [breath] of the Lord GODis upon me” (Isa 61:1); “the Spirit [breath] of the LORD caused him to rest” (Isa 63:14); “and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit [breath], hath sent me” (Isa 48:16); “And the Spirit [breath] of the LORD fell upon me” (Eze 11:5); “Afterwards the spirit [breath] took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit [breath] of God into Chaldea” (Eze 11:24); “and carried me out in the spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Eze 37:1); “is the spirit [breath] of the LORD straitened?” (Mic 2:7); “But truly I am full of power by the spirit [breath] of the LORD” (Mic 3:8); “and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit [breath] by the former prophets” (Zec 7:12); “and he saw the Spirit [breath] of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” (Mat 3:16); “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit [breath] of your Father which speaketh in you” (Mat 10:20); “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit [breath] of God” (Mat 12:28); “The Spirit [breath] of the Lordis upon me” (Luk 4:18); “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit [breath] of the Lord?” (Act 5:9); “the Spirit [breath] of the Lord caught away Philip” (Act 8:39); “if so be that the Spirit [breath] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9); “But if the Spirit [breath] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit [breath] that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11); “For as many as are led by the Spirit [breath] of God” (Rom 8:14); “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit [breath] of God” (Rom 15:19); “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit [breath]” (1Co 2:10); “even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 2:11); “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 2:14); “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and thatthe Spirit [breath] of God dwelleth in you?” (1Co 3:16); “and I think also that I have the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Co 7:40); “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit [breath] of God calleth Jesus accursed” (1Co 12:3); “and where the Spirit [breath] of the Lordis, there is liberty … are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit [breath] of the Lord” (2Co 3:17,18); “to be strengthened with might by his Spirit [breath] in the inner man” (Eph 3:16); “And grieve not the holy Spirit [breath] of God” (Eph 4:30); “Hereby know ye the Spirit [breath] of God” (1Jo 4:2); “and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit [breath]” (1Jo 4:13).
Since clearly the breath of God belongs to God as His possession, it’s not some other personal autonomous being. Moreover, it can’t be a co-equal person in a Trinitarian Godhead because then it wouldn’t belong to God. It’s simply God’s own breath from His mouth.
The reason God’s breath is holy
The Hebrew adjective qāḏôš is translated throughout the Old Testament primarily as “holy” but sometimes as “saint.” It means “separated,” “divided,” or “set apart.” God chose His people Israel and separated them from all other people: “For thou artan holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deu 7:6); “For thou artan holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deu 14:2); “for thou artan holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God” (Deu 14:21); “And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken” (Deu 26:19); “The LORD shall establish thee an holy [qāḏôš 6918] people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee” (Deu 28:9).
In the New Testament, the equivalent of the Hebrew adjective qāḏôš is the Greek adjective hagios also translated consistently as either “holy” or “saint.” Peter quoted from Moses and used hagios for qāḏôš, “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy [qāḏôš 6918]; for I am holy [qāḏôš 6918]” (Lev 11:44), “Because it is written, Be ye holy [hagios 40]; for I am holy [hagios 40]” (1Pe 1:15-16).
When speaking of God’s people in the New Testament, the translators rendered hagios as “saints” rather than “separated” which obscures the identity of the subjects. The saints are simply God’s people, separated or set apart from all other people in the world. Here are just some of the many times hagios is used for God’s people: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints [hagios 40] which slept arose” (Mat 27:52); “thy saints [hagios 40] at Jerusalem” (Act 9:13); “the saints [hagios 40] which dwelt at Lydda” (Act 9:32); “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to besaints [hagios 40]” (Rom 1:7); “Distributing to the necessity of saints [hagios 40]” (Rom 12:13); “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to besaints [hagios 40]” (1Co 1:2); “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints [hagios 40] which are in all Achaia” (2Co 1:1); “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints [hagios 40] which are at Ephesus” (Eph 1:1); “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints [hagios 40] in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi” (Phl 1:1); “All the saints [hagios 40] salute you” (Phl 4:22); “To the saints [hagios 40] and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse” (Col 1:2).
The distinction of God’s people is that they have God’s breath dwelling in their hearts: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [breath], if so be that the Spirit [breath] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9); “But if the Spirit [breath] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit [breath] that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11); “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [breath] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1Co 6:19); “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit [breath] in our hearts” (2Co 1:22); “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit [breath] of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6); “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost [breath] which dwelleth in us” (2Ti 1:14); “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit [breath] which he hath given us” (1Jo 3:24).
Since hagios means “separated,” then hagios pneuma translated consistently as “Holy Spirit” is more accurately “separated breath.” It’s not a holy being or a reverent person as “Holy Spirit” implies. It’s God’s breath in the hearts of His people that separates or sets them apart from all other people. Only God’s people have the hope of eternal life by His breath dwelling in their hearts.
The Hebrew rûaḥ and Greek pneuma mistranslated throughout Scripture as “spirit” isn’t a personal being but simply air, wind, or breath. When used as a possession of God, it’s God’s breath or the breath of God from His mouth. Jesus Christ even illustrated this to His disciples by breathing from His mouth onto them. But the time He had spoken to them about the breath as if a personal being, He stipulated His own words as figurative. He had been speaking of Himself as our forthcoming Advocate, Intercessor, or Mediator at God’s right hand in heaven. As our Advocate, God gave Him full agency and proxy over His breath so that He decides who will have the breath in their hearts and access to God the Father. It’s in this sense that Christ is the breath. He is literally a human being, but metaphorically God’s breath. And the reason the breath is called hagios for “separated” many times in the New Testament is because its presence in the hearts of God’s people is what separates them from all other people.
Since rûaḥ and pneuma is air, wind, or breath and not a personal being, then there is no Trinity of three persons in the Godhead. How then can highly intelligent and educated ministers, pastors, and theologians be wrong about this? People are trusting their souls to these men. If they truly love their flocks, they will take every precaution to get this right for their sakes.
Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul laid the groundwork to later teach about the whole armor of God. He used the Greek epouranios for Christ seated in heaven with authority over all principalities and powers, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set himat his own right hand in the heavenly [epouranios 2032]places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph 1:20-21). He then qualified this as our salvation, “hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made ussit together in heavenly [epouranios 2032]places in Christ Jesus … For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:5,6,8). We’re saved by sitting with Christ at God’s right hand—Him representing us before God as if we’re seated there.
Toward the end of his letter, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [epouranios 2032]places.” (Eph 6:11-12). We put on the armor by “putting on” Christ, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14), “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27), “put on the new man” (Eph 4:24). We “put on” Him when we live after His example, commandments, and teaching. When submitting to His Son, God defends us against the devil as if wearing armor.
God’s defense likened to armor was also depicted in the Old Testament. With Abraham, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield” (Gen 15:1), and also with David, “The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he ismy shield” (2Sa 22:3), “But thou, O LORD, arta shield for me” (Psa 3:3), “The LORD is my strength and my shield” (Psa 28:7).
The individual pieces of armor that Paul lists are holistic—we must practice the sum of the parts to “put on” the whole armor and be successfully defended. And Paul had already taught about the parts in his letter leading up to this synopsis. Having “your loins girt about with truth” (v. 14), is learning the truth from Christ’s teaching, “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (4:20-21). If we won’t hear and submit to the truth Christ taught, we lack this one piece and therefore don’t have the whole.
Having on “the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14), is living righteously after the image of God in which we were created, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:24). God’s Son created us to live morally righteous after His image—His example and teaching.
To have “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15), is to keep the peace between Jews and Gentiles, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). Christ is the peace between both, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one” (2:14). The “gospel of peace” is what He preached to both, “preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (2:17).
The “shield of faith [faithfulness]” (v. 16), is being faithful to Christ as He was to His Father, “because of Christ’s faithfulness” (3:12 NET). When the “fiery darts” of false accusations were hurled against Him, He simply trusted His Father to defend Him as a shield, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1Pe 2:23).
The “helmet of salvation” (v. 17), is our hope of salvation when the Lord returns, “others which have no hope … unto the coming of the Lord” (1Th 4:13,15), “for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Th 5:8). It’s “the hope of his calling” (1:18), “one hope of your calling” (4:4). The serpent’s head and his children’s will be bruised, “thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). The hope of the Lord’s return is our helmet that protects our head.
The “sword of the Spirit [breath], which is the word [rhēma 4487] of God” (v. 17), is “the washing of water by the word [rhēma 4487]” (5:26). It was when Christ “poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (Jhn 13:5), then gave them the rhēma, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (Jhn 13:34). The sword in the armor is serving. We “fight” our enemies by serving them as Jesus washed Judas’ feet.
Of course “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [breath]” (v. 18), as Christ taught us “After this manner therefore pray ye” (Mat 6:9), and as Paul voiced two prayers earlier in this letter 1:16-23, 3:14-21. Salvation isn’t simply about believing some facts are true. We must be actively clothed with the whole armor of God to be defended against the devil and ultimately be saved.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:7-8). Because it’s very difficult for us to grasp the magnitude of God’s love, Paul illustrates it from a human perspective to which we can more easily relate. It’s uncommon for someone to die for a righteous person, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die.” And rarer that someone would die for a good person, “yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” But who would give their life for an evil person? Can we imagine ourselves taking the place of someone facing execution for horrific crimes? Would we willingly die for someone guilty of horrible abuse, torture, and murder? Yet this still doesn’t depict the true depth of God’s unfathomable love toward us.
Taking it a step further, how much more difficult to give our own child and only child? Any good parent that loves their children dearly couldn’t imagine giving one of them to die for someone else, even if they’re good or righteous. How much more unimaginable to give our only child so that an evil convicted criminal can go free! Yet God gave His only begotten Son for us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jhn 3:16). God watched as His Son was horribly mistreated, publicly shamed, and executed as a convicted criminal while doing nothing to spare Him or ease His suffering in the least. Now, He simply demands us to submit entirely to His Son—obeying His commandments, living by His teaching, and standing for the glory of His name. But what if we only submit to His Son partially? Will He still save us? Imagine yourself in His place. You painfully gave your only son to save a criminal with the simple condition that they submit entirely to him. But they won’t do it, yet still want you to save them. What would you do?
Try to imagine ourselves from God’s perspective. We so loved the very people that had been committing all kinds of evil against us, that we gave our only son to endure such horrible mistreatment to save them. We gave them the greatest gift of our own son, and now our only term is that they submit to him fully. Yet they now want that salvation but on their own terms. Rather than being utmost grateful and submitting to our son entirely as we require, they want to pick and choose from his commandments and teaching. What would you do?
If you sent your son to teach people about you and die for what he taught, yet people won’t listen to him entirely, how would you take it? It isn’t that you just sent prophets to teach them about you, but that you sent your own son and did nothing to ease his suffering for what he taught. Would it grieve you that people won’t listen to him but still want you to save them? What would you do?
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (Jhn 4:23). Your son boldly taught the truth about you, yet people are unwilling to affirm and confess what your son taught. Your son was unashamed you. Will you allow them to be ashamed of your son? “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luk 9:26). Your son was unashamed of the truth. Will you allow them to be ashamed of the truth? What would you do?
This is quite the picture of Trinitarianism today. God’s Son never called Himself “God” but called His Father “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called His Father “My God” while on the cross (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), after His resurrection (Jhn 20:17), and after His seating next to Him in heaven (Rev 3:12). Yet Trinitarianism says differently—that the Son is God, and that the Father and Son are co-equal. Why get this wrong? Did God’s Son fail to teach clearly? If your son taught about you so that people would get it right, would you overlook their getting it wrong? If they have no excuse, would you excuse them? What would you do?
I’m no longer a Trinitarian and I won’t affirm Trinitarians as saved. And the same goes for all other aberrant views of God: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Oneness, and Unitarians. To affirm them would be to deny what Christ taught about God and about Himself, thereby forfeiting my own salvation. If you’re a Trinitarian and think you can remain one and still be saved, that’s certainly your prerogative. But I would simply ask you to imagine yourself from God’s perspective. You sent your only begotten son to teach the truth about you to people that committed horrible crimes against you, then watched as your son suffered and died for them and for the truth he taught. You gave them the greatest gift of all. Would you now be willing to “fudge” on what your son taught and save them anyway? What would you do?
God’s Son never called Himself “God” and God never called His Son “God.” He called Himself the Son of God, and God called Him “My beloved Son” at His baptism and transfiguration. Furthermore, the Son called His Father “God” and “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3). He also called Him “My God” while on the cross (Mat 27:46; Mar 15:34), after His resurrection (Jhn 20:17), and after His seating next to Him in heaven (Rev 3:12). The Father and the Son are in complete agreement and unity about each other. What they said is the final word. Who dare say otherwise?
Christ’s apostles taught that the Father is Jesus Christ’s God: “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6); “Christ is God’s” (1Co 3:23); “the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3); “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 1:3); “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 11:31; Eph 1:3; Col 1:3; 1Pe 1:3); “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph 1:17). They never called Christ “God.” The “Word was God” (Jhn 1:1) is simply a metaphor—Christ visibly represented the invisible God, “Christ, who is the image of God” (2Co 4:4), “Who is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). When Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God” (Jhn 20:28), he was affirming Christ as his Lord and Christ’s God as his God just as he was told, “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and tomy God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17). And “God our Saviour” (1Ti 1:1,2:3; Tit 1:3,2:10,3:4) is the Father, not the Son, “God our Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ … God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Ti 1:1,2). Finally, “But unto the Sonhe saith, Thy throne, O God … therefore God,eventhy God” (Heb 1:9), is what the Son’s God on the throne said to the Son.
The Greek theos for “god” is a position, role, or title of authority, not a kind of being. The Father is God because of His status as the highest authority over all, including over His Son Jesus Christ. That theos isn’t a type of being is inferred by Christ using it for both human beings and for God Himself, “I said, Ye are gods [theos 2316]? If he called them gods [theos 2316], unto whom the word of God [theos 2316] came” (Jhn 10:34-35). Paul also used this word for angels, humans, and the Father, “that are called gods [theos 2316], whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods [theos 2316] many, and lords [kyrios 2962] many,) But to us there is but one God [theos 2316], the Father” (1Co 8:5-6). It’s simply a title of the being.
That the Son is not God doesn’t deny His divinity as a being, just like the President’s son is not President doesn’t deny his humanity as a being. Christ claimed to have been begotten of God, “his only begotten Son … the only begotten Son of God” (Jhn 3:16,18). He was begotten the same kind of divine being as His Father with the ability to create the entire universe. In the incarnation, He relinquished His divine being to become a human being, dependent upon His Father to work miracles.
After His death, burial, and resurrection, His Father gave Him authority over heaven and earth: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18); “As thou hast given him power over all flesh” (Jhn 17:2); “For he hath put all things under his feet” (1Co 15:27); “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1Pe 3:22). However, the Father didn’t put Himself under His Son—He is the exception, “he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (1Co 15:27,28).
Furthermore, there is no third person. The first occurrence of the Hebrew ruwach, “And the Spirit [ruwach 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2), wasn’t a person flying over the water like superman! God was blowing His breath across the surface of the waters. The second, “in the cool [ruwach 7307] of the day” (Gen 3:8), “breezes were blowing” (NLT), “the evening breeze” (CSB), “the breezy time of the day” (NET), “at the breeze of the day” (YLT). The Greek equivalent of ruwach is pneuma, where our English “pneumonia,” “pneumology,” and “pneumatics” are derived—all involving air. Its verb form pneo means “to blow” as Jesus Himself used it, “The wind [pneuma 4151] bloweth [pneo 4154]” (Jhn 3:8). And Jesus illustrated pneuma as breath by breathing, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22). Finally, when Christ spoke of the holy breath as though a person, He said He was speaking figuratively, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (Jhn 16:25), “figures of speech” (NET), “speaking figuratively” (NIV), “figurative language” (NKJV).
Nobody but the Son has seen God, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jhn 1:18). He declared the truth about God. And who knows God better than His Son? How can highly educated ministers be wrong about the most important subject of all? And if they’re wrong about what’s most important, why listen to them?
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (Jhn 8:44). I followed a certain minister on the internet for many years, “riding the coattails” of his journey in seeking the truth objectively. And as long as it was simply becoming more doctrinally correct, he always moved in that direction. However, when it came to the truth of submitting to the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, he just wouldn’t do it. It seems his desire for being the leader, always winning every debate, and receiving praise from men, had too strong of a hold on him to repent and submit to Christ. When we serve the Lord Jesus Christ, it truly doesn’t matter who the leader is, who it is that’s right, or who receives the praise and recognition. It only matters that the truth prevails and people are helped. Servants of the Lord work together unselfishly like unique members of a body toward a unified purpose.
Many, and quite possibly most, Trinitarians are troubled by the inconsistencies and logical impossibilities of Trinitarianism yet remain quite content with remaining one. Why? Because their lusts keep them bound to it. They’re convinced that their view of God isn’t a salvation issue, therefore they can stay silent and still be saved. It’s because they’ve been deceived by the false gospel of salvation by faith that they think they’re saved while continuing to remain bound to the lusts of their father.
God spoke in a mystery from the very beginning that there would be two “classes” of people He would call either Day or Night, “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Gen 1:5). And they would be “ruled” by either the Greater Light or the lesser light, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” (Gen 1:16). The message is clear, simple, and powerful—if we’re not being ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ, then we’re being ruled by the devil. There’s no gray area whatsoever.
John stated how we distinguish God’s children from the devil’s, “He that committeth sin is of the devil … Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin … In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1Jo 3:8,9,10). Those that commit sin aren’t serving the Lord, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (Jhn 8:34). But those that belong to God live righteously, loving their enemies as Abel loved his brother Cain, “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1Jo 3:12-13).
Jesus Christ said, “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (Jhn 8:47). Those that belong to God, listen to Him, “him that is poor and of a contrite spirit [breath], and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2). Those that don’t belong to God, will only listen to the point that it confronts the lusts of their hearts. John said, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit [breath] of truth, and the spirit [breath] of error” (1Jo 4:4,6). Everyone has one or the other breath in them—the Greater or the lesser, “the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night” (Gen 1:16), “greater is he that is in you.” Those belonging to God have His breath in them, and listen to His Son and His apostles.
This isn’t simply an intellectual battle where people become convinced by reasoning with them more. It’s because the lusts of their hearts are so strong that the most intelligent people embrace some of the most foolish ideas. It’s because they love sin and don’t want to be free from it, therefore rather than being sincerely objective and following the evidence wherever it leads, they hide behind a façade of education, intelligence, and science. They portray themselves as people of love, while defaming those living righteously as haters. And they resort to arguing, mocking, and ridiculing because they have nothing legitimate.
The only way to be free from sin and the lordship of the devil is by falling on our faces in absolute brokenness before the Lord Jesus Christ. He is greater and only He can free us. But it isn’t just committing ourselves to Him as Lord but obeying Him as Lord, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom 6:16). It’s only when we live in obedience to the Lord that we experience God’s breath down within our bellies, continually flowing like a river, “He that believeth [commits] on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit [breath], which they that believe [commit] on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost [breath] was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (Jhn 7:38-39).
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat 7:15). Peter understood Christ as correlating false prophets that were among God’s people with false teachers among us now, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (2Pe 2:1). The question is sometimes asked, and I’ve also pondered many times, is if false teachers know they are false teachers. We could ask “Do wolves know they are wolves?” Of course they do! But that’s pushing Christ’s analogy too far. The sheep/wolf analogy is simply warning us about men that seem to be leading us to salvation but actually to destruction.
Christ warned His disciples, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (Jhn 16:2). This is precisely how the apostle Paul used to be: “And Saul was consenting unto his death” (Act 8:1); “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Act 9:1); “And I persecuted this way unto the death” (Act 22:4); when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Act 26:10). He would later tell Timothy that he was sincerely ignorant at the time, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1Ti 1:13). Paul considered those persecuting him to be zealous for God as he also had been, “was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Act 22:3); “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2); “They zealously affect you,but not well” (Gal 4:17); “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church” (Phl 3:6). But how could anyone truly think they’re doing God service by persecuting others even unto death?
I still remember over 30 years ago in church when I first heard the teaching about God as three persons. It just didn’t sound right but I knew very little at that time and those teaching me knew much more. Therefore, I trusted them that they must be right, and I found ways to explain away any Scriptures that spoke otherwise. This began my downward spiral of trusting men over the Scriptures. And what I experienced over those decades was a hardening of my heart and a warping of my thinking. I taught classes, small groups, main services, and even on television false doctrine while sincerely thinking I was helping people.
Do wolves know they are wolves? Each individual and situation is different. We can’t make a blanket statement that covers everyone and everything. However, the conservative and loving approach is to consider false teachers to be zealous of God in sincere ignorance. This is what Paul did, “zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Act 22:3), “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2); “They zealously affect you,but not well” (Gal 4:17).
Evil breaths/spirits operate through people to spread false doctrines, while not allowing them to know they’re even being used. It’s through years of compromising the truth of the Scriptures and yielding to sin that people become hardened and insensitive to the point that they can do evil and justify it to themselves as good. And since nobody’s strong enough to overcome evil breaths, the only hope is casting oneself at the mercy of Jesus Christ. He is greater and gives God’s breath.
John said that many false prophets/teachers had gone into the world, “Beloved, believe [trust] not every spirit [breath], but try the spirits [breaths] whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1Jo 4:1). And if God’s breath isn’t in them, then another breath is, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1Jo 4:4). How can we know the breaths of teachers, whether they’re of God or not? It’s if they listen to Christ and His apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit [breath] of truth, and the spirit [breath] of error” (1Jo 4:6). If they won’t listen to them, then they don’t have God’s breath but an evil breath. Certainly some things are hard to understand as Peter even admitted, “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16). But what Christ and His apostles taught about God is clear, simple, and of utmost importance. If teachers have clever ways of “twisting” or explaining away what they taught, then they’re not of God. Those that handle the Scriptures as such, do so “unto their own destruction” as Peter said.
Do wolves know they are wolves? Not likely. Even many hardened criminals really don’t think they’re bad—they’re full of excuses to justify themselves. False teachers are zealous of God. They labor, study, pray, fast, give, sacrifice, and serve. But it’s only sheep’s clothing. How can we know the breath in them? It’s if they submit to the clear teaching of Christ and His apostles, or if they find ways to explain it away.
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 bea 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, evenunto 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 thatcircumcision, 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.
“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 isa 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 wasElisabeth. 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).
“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 gospel … It 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, yethe 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 mouthis 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 tongueis 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 isnot 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 isright 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 wasright in mine eyes” (1Ki 14:8); “David did that which wasright 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 themafter 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 isby 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 isno 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 wentthe 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 above … that 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 isnot 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 bethe 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 isthe 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 isno 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 arethe 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 inheritancebe 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 bea 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).
“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] isnothing 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.
“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 exceedthe 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 Israel … having 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 partitionbetween us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, eventhe 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 isone 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 isone 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 hiddenwisdom, 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).
“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.
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, andthere 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 sightare 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 sightare but as yesterday” (Psa 90:4), “one day iswith 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 arethreescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they befourscore 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).
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.
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; butGod 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.
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 thatno 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, andto 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.
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, 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.