Matthew 26:26-28: “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.’”

 

In the NT, there are two Sacraments (or Ordinances), water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both are signs and seals of the covenant of grace. Both are holy and biblically mandated for the church.[1] Jesus Christ first initiated the Lord’s Supper, and in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul provides some important details and instructions. Unfortunately and sadly, in far too many churches, the theological significance and spiritual value of these perpetual and sanctified ordinances have been radically cheapened and biblically mottled. Because of inaccurate teachings, the Lord’s Supper is practiced in a dishonorable and unworthy fashion before God eliciting unfavorable judgments, as we will see.

 

Fundamentally, the Lord’s Supper is (in brief)

  1. A Corporate Church Event. Paul’s instructions for partaking in the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 presupposes that the Lord’s Supper is taken in the church—not in private: “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church. . . .” (1 Cor. 11:18). This, and other reasons, also shows that the Lord’s Supper is clearly restricted to believers who share in Jesus’ atonement as heirs of the “election of grace” (Rom. 11:5).

“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread, which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

 

  1. A Memorial Ceremony. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul describes the Sacrament as a time to remember the glorious and substitutionary atoning cross work: “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me. . . . This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (vv. 24-25). The elements (bread and wine) “are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits” (WCF, 27:1).[2] They signify Christ and His benefits—especially in sharing in His body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16).

As seen, the NT church tradition of the Lord’s Supper begins in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Note in verses 24 and 25 that Paul uses the term “remembrance” twice. First, referring to the remembrance of Jesus’ body, and then, the memorial of His blood in the new covenant. This Holy Supper is a memorial of His great and glorious sacrificial cross work. As we will see in the following passages, partaking in the memorial celebration without devotion and solidarity of His atoning sacrifice is partaking in an unworthy manner—“guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. . . . For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number asleep” (vv. 27, 30).

  1. A Proclamation Event. After Paul cites the Lord Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul indicates that the Lord’s Supper is a declaration of the sacrificial death of Christ: For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). 
  1. A Perpetual Event. As cited above, Paul instructs that the Lord’s Supper is to be continuously declared “until He comes.”

 

“Unworthy” Behavior

 There are many Christians today who take the Lord’s Supper in a disrespectful and “unworthy manner.” Similarly to those in the first century, 1 Corinthians 11:18 states: “When you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it” and continuing in the following verses:

 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

Some Corinthians were actually coming for the purpose of merely eating the food and/or drinking the wine to get drunk turning this holy Sacrament into a secular and unholy activity. No wonder Paul equates this kind of disrespect with despising the church.

Earlier, Paul had just expressed the holiness of the Lord’s Supper for the church saying: “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16).

 

As stated, in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-30, Paul warns of the severe judgment that results from partaking in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way. Note that the first word in verse 27 is a Greek conjunction hōste (“therefore”) indicating that Paul is referring to his previous statements beginning in verse 18 regarding the inappropriate behavior at the Lord’s Supper. So, the reference of partaking in the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” in verse 27 contextually refers back to verses 18-22, where Paul provides a description of what an unworthy Lord’s Supper looks like:

  1. There were divisions and factions existing among them (vv. 18-19),  
  2. They were not waiting for one another, which impeded some from partaking (v. 21), and  
  1. Some were coming to get drunk (v. 21).

Paul sees anyone that takes the Lord’s Supper inappropriately as despising the church (v. 22). They were not partaking in the Lord’s Supper in a reverent and earnest way, that is, in remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice. In verses 27-28, Paul clearly warns the church, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Again, partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” is a sin “guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (v. 27).

Since Paul’s command in verse 28 (“But a man must examine himself”) prior to participating. This command is contextually linked to Paul’s definition of taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Therefore, the self-examination involves the participant’s intention and mindset. In other words, is the intention and motivation of the person preparing to take the Lord’s Supper on the memorialization and proclamation of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus? Any other view of Paul’s commandment of self-examination would be a pretext.

 

This point must be stressed to many Christians (and esp. pastors) who misdefine the “unworthy manner” of taking the holy Sacrament as some other unspecified (out of context) sin such as unconfessed sin or a defect in one’s Christian behavior. These actions are sinful, but they are not the particular sins that Paul pointed to with regard to the Lord’s Supper and taking it in an “unworthy manner.” The result of this improper unworthy behavior is divine judgment:

 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

Paul then concludes in verse 33-44: “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.”

In conclusion, foreseeing His substitutionary death on the cross, Jesus Christ initiated the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the Gospels. As with baptism, this Supper is a high and holy Sacrament, not to be degraded and despised by inappropriate/unworthy behavior at this memorial. This Supper represents a “holy “sign and seal” of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits” (WCF, 27.1).

The Lord’s Supper is for us to remember and proclaim the Lord’s death. It is not a mere Sunday morning activity with no understandable devotion and remembrance of the vicarious cross work of the Lord on behalf of sinners, as many practice today. It is a holy and divine Sacrament surrounding the broken body and spilled blood of Christ. Too many pastors treat the Lord’s Supper in a cavalier fashion, rushing through it, providing no meaningful definition or warning of the judgment for partaking in an unworthy way—even going so far as to allow non-believers to partake. If pastors allow their church members to do exactly what Paul rebuked the Corinthians for doing – is that not highly sinful?!

 Proper participation in the Lord’s Supper should move us to a deep and genuine thanksgiving for the proclamation of the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. It should bring us to a constant and devout worship of the triune God in spirit and biblical maturity and truth. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our eternal life. It reminds us that Christ incarnated Himself becoming obedient to death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8) providing a real propitiation (1 John 2:2) on our behalf (Rom. 8:32; Eph. 5:25).

The Lord’s Supper reminds us that-

“While we were still helpless …  Christ died for the ungodly.”

“While we were yet sinners … Christ died for us.”

“While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son….” (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10).

Jesus Christ, and what He infallibly accomplished, is worthy to be remembered. His cross work is worthy to be proclaimed. He is our Savior in which we remember at the Lord’s Supper.

 

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. . . . ” (1 Cor. 10:31).

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Notes

[1] The Roman Catholic Church distorts the biblical teachings of these two Sacraments both in substance (arguing Transubstantiation and baptismal regeneration) and, in effect (making them a necessity for salvation).      

[2] Westminster Confession of Faith.

Hebrews 1:6 (last clause):

 

  • NASB: “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

 

  • New World Translation[1] (NWT): “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

 

  • Greek NT (all eds.): Kai proskunēsatwsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (lit., “And worship Him all [the] angels of God”).

 

  • LXX[2] (Deut. 32:43, the author’s OT source [also cf. Ps. 96:7]): Kai proskunēsatōsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (Brenton’s ed., same rendering as Greek NT).

 

Last week, in our weekly First Love Radio Show, Pastor James Tippins (Grace Truth Church, Claxton, GA) and I had a fantastic discussion regarding some of the specific places in which “worship” (proskuneō and latreuō)[3] was applied to the person of the Son in a “religious” context[4] (esp. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 3:38; Heb. 1:6 and Rev. 5:13-14).

 

Hebrews 1:6 – a few noteworthy points:

 

  1. The Father’s command to all the angels to worship the Son was in the aorist imperative (proskunēsatōsan). Linguistically, this was the strongest and most “urgent” way to issue a command in biblical Greek—appearing in both the Greek NT (all eds.) and in the LXX (see above).

 

  1. The NWT. As most of us know, that the JWs’ unique and distorted translation, the NWT, replaced the word “worship” (as in virtually all recognized Bible translations) with “obeisance” (honor, respect, etc.).

 

  1. Lexically. The verb proskuneō is from pros (“toward”) and kuneō (lit., “to kiss”). Thus, “prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet. . . . to express … submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance … do reverence to, welcome respectfully” (BDAG).

 

  1. Context. The verb could mean either religious “worship” (reserved for God alone, cf. John 4:24) or “obeisance” with no connotation of religious worship at all. But as we know: Context always governs!—thus it determines the verb’s meaning.

    The defining and surrounding context of Hebrews 1:6 is clearly in the heavenlies (it does not get more “religious” and holier than that!) and the affirmation of the eternal Son. Moreover, in the prologue of Hebrews (viz. chap. 1), the author presents a vivid contrast between all things created (angels, heavens, and the earth) and the eternal Son, Creator of all things (vv. 2, 3, 10-12[5]). It is this defining context, therefore, that indicates the meaning of proskuneō in verse 6—namely, divine religious “worship.”        

 

The JWs argue in a theological circle, which starts with unitarianism and ends with a denial of the deity of Christ. Hence, the NWT arbitrarily removes “worship” at the places applied to Christ (e.g., Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:8-9; John 9:38; and of course, Heb. 1:6). Interestingly, from 1950 to 1970, in Hebrews 1:6, the NWT read, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” Consequently, for over twenty years, the JWs actually taught that “all the angels” worshiped Jesus (who they identify as Michael, the “created” archangel)—a frustrating fact they cannot deny. It was not until the 1971 ed. that “worship” was finally removed being replaced with “obeisance” in Hebrews 1:6.

 

Furthermore, from 1898 to 1964, the Watchtower (the JWs leadership), has taught that “worship” is properly given to Jesus—it’s a matter of (accessible) record. Note these examples: 

 

 “Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father and his agent in the creation of all things, including man” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898, July 15, p. 216).

 

“Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father, Jehovah….”  (Watchtower, 1939, Nov 15, p. 339).

“[W]hosoever should worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus….” (Watchtower, 1945, p. 313).

 

In the 1945 Yearbook, it clearly defines the purpose of the Watchtower Society (in part):

“The purposes of this Society are…. to go forth to all the world publicly and from house to house to preach and teach Bible truths. … and send out to various parts of the world Christian missionaries, teachers and instructors in the Bible and Bible literature and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus.”

 

In 1964, they finally changed their view and taught that worshiping Christ was idolatrous: “It is unscriptural … to render worship to the Son of God” (Watchtower, 1964 Nov 1, p. 671). The inconsistencies of the Watchtower are and have been astounding! 

 

Jesus Worshiped as God

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[6] on several occasions. These are some of the clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels:

 DANIEL 7:14: “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might SERVE Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.” The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God.

The same term (pelach) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.” Further, the LXX translate pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; see also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14). Even though some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), but in a religious context (which vv. 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).[7]

 

MATTHEW 14:33: “And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][8] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is remarkable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His repeated “I am” claims and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000. In verse 26, we read that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition”). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (v. 27).

 

Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid? In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. However, we read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.”

The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming He was God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-63; John 5:17-18; 10:30-36; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:1, 3); the author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and the OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al). 

 

JOHN 9:35-38: “[Jesus] said [to the blind man that He healed], “’Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’ 38 And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.” As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and “Lord”—thus, a religious context (cf. Dan. 7:9-14).

 

REVELATION 5:13-14: “And every created thing … I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].” Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:6 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; Heb. 1:3).

 

In spite of the NWT’s devaluation of the Son, the denial of His cross work and a denial of the triune nature of the only true God, both the OT and NT affirm that Jesus Christ was properly worshiped as God. The Son is “the great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); “the only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4); the Theos-Christos (“God-Christ”) who saved a people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 1:5) whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification.

 

Let us, along with all the angels, worship Jesus Christ, “the Lord of glory,” unceasingly.


NOTES

[1] The NWT is the Bible translation of the JWs—published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (i.e., the corporate name for the JWs).

[2] LXX is the abbreviation of the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek OT).

[3] These terms are the primary terms denoting worship or reverence, honor depending on the context (e.g., John 4:24; Rom. 12:1). 

 [4] A religious context is any such context where spirituality, holiness, and/or divinity exists.  

[5] Verses 10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX). Thus, the Father directly addresses the Son (cf. v. 8) as the Yahweh (LORD) of that Psalm—the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

[6]  See note 4 above. 

[7] Many modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage. However, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Furthermore, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7:9ff. with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

[8] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as with Matt. 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. In Hebrews 1:6, the setting is in the heavenlies—hence, the Father commands “all the angels” to give religious worship to the divine Son.

 

When we speak of the Holy Spirit – we are speaking of the Third Person of the Trinity – God the Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit in the NT is the same person as the Spirit in the Old Testamentdifferent only in scope, not person or nature. Let’s review some of the important activities of the Spirit in the life of the believer:

 

The Spirit Indwells all Believers

JOHN 14:17: “That is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be “in you”(cf. Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:16), In John 14:23. As the Spirit dwells with/in us, the Father and the Son dwells with/in us (cf. John 14:23; 1 John 1:3).

 

The Necessity and Benefits of the Holy Spirit


Dwelling Within Us

  1. That the Spirit indwells us shows that we are children of God, heirs of Him, and “fellow-heirs with Christ”—Romans 8:16–17: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

 

  1. The indwelling Spirit gives us the wisdom and knowledge of the testimony of God and the crucifixion of the Son—1 Corinthians 2:12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.”

 

  1. The indwelling Spirit leads and guides us—Romans 8:14: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”; 1 John 4:4: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

 

The Holy Spirit accomplishes regeneration in the hearts of sinners—John 6:63: It is the “Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace – we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Observe the emphasis of all three persons of the Trinity here. The same combination of words are found in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Isaiah 44:3.

 

The Holy Spirit Sanctifies us at Conversion

1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 6:11).

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13: “But we should [imperative mood] always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1-2).

 

1 Peter 1:1-2: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those . . . who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

 

He is our Paraklētos (“Advocate”)

 John 14:16: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [paraklētos, lit., “advocate”], that He may be with you forever.”[1]

 

The Holy Spirit Intercedes on Our Behalf

 Romans 8:26-27: “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

 

The Holy Spirit installs Pastors

Acts 20:28: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

 

The Holy Spirit Provides the Opportunities and the Results

Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (cf. Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit also hinders evangelism (cf. Acts 16:6).

 

We Fellowship with the Holy Spirit in the context of the Triune God 

  2 Corinthians 13:14: “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

 

The Holy Spirit Gives Love to the Elect

 Romans 15:30: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

 

The Spirit enables us to carry out the Fruit of the Spirit in our Christian life
(cf. Gal. 5:22-23)

 First note the starting context in the verse 16 (syntactical literal reading): “walk [‘behave, live’] by means of the Spirit [pneumati] and the lust of the flesh, never never, not even a possibility shall you gratify [‘fulfill, complete’].” The Spirit here in verse 16 is the Holy Spirit—the same Spirit that is spoken of in verses 18 and 22, thus, not the “spiritual” part of our nature, nor our spirit in union with the Spirit.

 

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Interestingly, the term “fruit” (karpos) is singular, although there are nine characteristics. Grammatically, the term “love” (agapē) could have the semantic idea of the affixed English colon (“love:”). If this is the intended meaning, Paul would be indicating that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and the eight following characteristics is how Paul defines love. Thus, the fruit of love consists of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 

The Filling and Baptism of the Spirit

As seen, the indwelling of the Spirit refers to the eternal relationship (“in you”) we have with the Triune God at conversion—permanent and perpetual. Whereas “being filled,” as in Acts and Paul’s literature, was not permanent (and spontaneous in Acts). This particular phenomenon only occurred in special circumstances, usually producing boldness in the proclamation of the gospel—namely, as in Acts, the resurrection of Christ: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31) and rarely did it result in tongues.

 

Further, being filled with/by the Spirit in Acts is not the same as the command to be filled with the Spirit in, for example, Ephesians 5:18. Notice that the verbal actions are present tense, in contrast to the single isolated accounts in Acts (which Paul could have achieved by using past tenses): “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [present imperative] en pneumati [lit., “by means of the Spirit”]. Syntactically, the preposition en (in, by, with) followed by the dative pneumati (“Spirit”) indicates instrument (means), not “content.”[2] The two imperatives (commands), which are in the middle/passive voice, are, do not “get drunk” and “be filled” by means of the Spirit.

 

Thus, believers are to be filled (perhaps a reference to God’s moral attributes, or joy) by Christ (who is the agent) by means of the Spirit.[3] Moreover, note the five participles in verses 19-21, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing,” “making melody,” “always giving thanks,” and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” These are semantically participles of result—indicating the result of being filled by the Spirit. This filling is not connected with speaking in tongues. Further, Spirit filling in Acts was never commanded as in here in verse 18. In Acts, it was special inoculation or saturation of the Spirit for a particular work of service (similar to the Spirit’s activity of filling in the OT). Thus, Paul says that we must be continually filled with the Spirit, not just once or twice.

 

Spirit Baptism

It was John the Baptist who first prophesied Spirit baptism: “I baptized you with water; but He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). This prophecy was reiterated in Acts 1:4-5. Notice also that Mark 1:8 and Acts 1:5 contain the same syntactical construction– “baptized, en pneumati hagiō (lit., “with [the] Spirit Holy”). As seen in Ephesians 5:18, en (in, by, with) followed by a noun in the dative case (here, pneumati) can denote “means”—thus, “by means of the Spirit.” So according to this prophecy, Christ is the agent of the baptism (i.e., the one doing the action) and the Spirit is the instrument (i.e., the means, which Christ uses to perform the action)

 

When was this prophecy fulfilled? First, no exact time stamp is provided, but the first occurrences are in Acts. However, 1 Corinthians 12:13, does express a fulfilled action among all Christians: “For en heni pneumati [“by means of one Spirit”] we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” As in Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; and Ephesians 5:18, we find en + dative indicating that the baptism was “by means of” the one Spirit (Christ being the agent). And note the double usage of pan (“all”) indicting that ALL Christians were baptized by the Spirit (at conversion), not merely a special class of so-called “anointed” or mature believers.

Spirit baptism is a gift promised by the Father – given first in Acts, which happens at conversion to ALL believers.

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The Holy Spirit is active in our lives – He is our paraklētos, that is, He is called to be alongside of us. He regenerated us and caused us to be born again having sealed us for the day of redemption (cf. Eph. 1:13). And the same Spirit that hovered over the face of the waters (cf. Gen. 1:2), dwelled with David, came upon Samson and other judges and prophets, led Jesus into the wilderness, poured out upon all of His people at Pentecost, and filled Peter – lives with us and fills us—and helps us in our weaknesses. He provides us “fruit” to edify and move us to a life of love, relationship, and works of service – ultimately to glorify the Triune God.

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Notes 

[1] Paraklētos appears five times in the NT – John 14:16, 26, 15:26; 16:7 and once in 1 John 2:1 with in reference to the Son.

[2] See exegetical discussion of this passages in Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 93,374-75,375 

[3] Ibid.

Complete in Christ

 

Key Text: Col. 2:3: “In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

 

2:1 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea.”

Laodicea was a great center of banking and finance (cf. Rev. 3:14-21). It was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world! When Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, they refused aid from the Roman empire and rebuilt the city from their own resources (cf. Tacitus, Annals, 14:27).

 

2:2 “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”

 Here Paul points to the unification in love that believers should have (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). “Attaining to all the wealth” is having a “true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”

 

2:3 “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

 Without Christ – we have neither godly (true) wisdom nor godly knowledge,—which are the treasures. Only through Christ Himself do we have true understanding.

 

2:4 “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.”

“Delude.” From the compound Greek word, paralogizomai, meaning, deceive, beguile, reason falsely, mislead. The prefix is from para (alongside or contrary) and the second term is logizomai (logic, logical, take into account, come to a bottom-line, i.e. reason to a logical conclusion (decision) (cf. Thayer). Thus, paralogizomai—to reason contrary to truth, in a misleading (erroneous) way, to miscalculate, to reason falsely. The same word is used in James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Paul’s point; even though the arguments seem to make sense or are reasonable, they are in the end, false. We should not be frustrated or surprised that our proclamation of a carpenter is God in the flesh, the Creator of all things, resurrected Savior, and that only in Him are hidden the all treasures of wisdom and knowledge; will be rejected by the unregenerate. They “love darkness” (John 3:19). “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Co. 1:18; cf. John 8:43, 47).

 

2:5-6 “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

Paul is affirming that the fixed tradition that was delivered to the Colossians by Epaphras was indeed Christ-centered, which was focused on Jesus Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9-13).

2:7 “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

The three participles, “having being rooted,” “being built up,” and “established” belong together and reflect three different symbols:

  • Having being rooted: The first participle “rooted” (perfect tense) indicates a solid condition on the part of the Colossian believers and refers “metaphorically” to horticulture.
  • Being built up: The second participle “built up” (present passive) comes from the world of Architecture.
  • Established: The third participle “established” (present passive) comes from the law courts.

 

With these three metaphors (as well as the following comment on “thankfulness”), Paul seems to be expressing his command to them: continue to live their lives in Christ. The passive tenses seems to indicate God’s active role in His working in them—“having been firmly rooted” them, having built them up, and having established their faith in Him.”

 Similar to Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 theos gar estin ho energōn en humin [lit., ‘for God is the one energizing you’], both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

 

2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Here Paul is not arguing against the study of philosophy or critical thinking, but rather, the acceptance (or tolerance) of a philosophy that is in opposition of a proper view of Christ Jesus and the ethics of the Christian life.

“Through philosophy” – dia tēs philosophias (lit., “through the philosophy”). Note the article “the” (tēs) precedes “philosophy.” Paul speaks of a particular philosophy, the philosophy of the Gnostics—which rejects the idea of God becoming flesh. Additionally, this false philosophy is connected with “empty deceit.”

“Captive”- sulagōgōn, a compound word from sulōn, “a prey, victim” and agō, “carry off” – lexically, “to carry off like a predator with its prey,” “to make a victim by fraud.” Paul is warning the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive [or, carry off like a predator with its prey] through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

 “According to the traditions of men.” Paul defines the kind of philosophy to which he is condemning.

 

2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” – hoti en autō katoikei pan to plērōma tēs theotētos sōmatikōs.

The Greek verb katoikei (“dwells”) is a present active indicative form of katoikeō.” The present tense indicates that the fullness of absolute Deity (theotētos) permanently and continuously dwells in “bodily form” (sōmatikōs)—thus contradicting further any idea of a cessation of the Son. Jesus created all things, in fact, all the fullness of the supreme Deity presently, continuously, and permanently dwells in bodily form.

Due to a prior theological comment, the lexical semantic (viz. the meaning in its original significance) of the Greek term theotētos (“Deity”) is denied by unitarians (esp. Muslims and JWs). However, note some academic sources defining the meaning of the term in this passage:

Joseph B. Lightfoot: “The totality of the divine powers and attributes.”

Richard C. Trench: “All the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God.”

John A. Bengal: “Not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself.”

 C. G. Moule: “As strong as possible; Deity, not only Divinity”;

Robert Reymond: “The being of the very essence of deity”

Benjamin B. Warfield: “The very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.”

The syntactical meaning cannot be denied. The deity of Christ was a constant theme in the Pauline corpus. The Christ that Paul preached was fully and absolutely God and fully and absolutely man—the two natured person.

He was so fixed on the deity of Christ that he implicitly and explicitly asserted it in virtually every one of his epistles (cf. Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8 [see 1 Sam. 15:29; and Acts 7:1-2]; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13.

Paul also applies OT passages referring to YHWH yet applies them to Christ. For example, Paul cites Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13 seeing Christ as the Lord (viz., the YHWH of Joel 2:32) whose “name” (i.e., power/authority) one must call upon to be saved. Same with his reference of Isaiah 45:23 in Philippians 2:10-11 where Paul sees Christ as the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23, before whose name (authority/power) every knee will bow and every tongue confess.

2:10 “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority…”

Only in Christ, our peace, our God, our Savior, and our Lord are we complete. All that is necessary for our salvation is found in Him. The grace of Christ, sustains us and strengthens us through the trials of life (cf. Rom. 8:18, 39). 

Paul’s purpose in his letter to the Colossians was to present a sharp refutation to the very heart of the Gnostic idea by clearly presenting that: (a) Jesus Christ provided redemption, (the forgiveness of sins), by His substitutionary infallible cross work—“having made peace through the blood of His cross” (cf. 1:14–22), (b) He was the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17), (c) He was God in the flesh (cf. 2:9), and (d) only in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). He is the “Lord of Glory” through whom we have spiritual completion and life everlasting (cf. Rom 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 3: 20-21).

 

 

HEBREWS 2:9: “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (huper pantos geusētai thanatou, lit., “on behalf of all, might taste death”).

As with other biblical adjectives and nouns, which left hanging, could denote universality (viz. “all/every,” “whole,” “world,” etc.), the latter phrase “He might taste death for everyone” is also naturally pretexted as a “proof text” by those who hold to a universal propitiation/atonement.

But does not this text read plainly: “He might taste death for everyone”? Yes, it does. However, the extent of huper pantos (“on behalf of all, everyone”), for which Christ tasted death, is indicted by the defining context. Hence, the “everyone” according to the author are  

*All those who are “sons to glory” (v. 10).

*All those “who are sanctified . . . from one Father” (v. 11; cf. John 6:37).

*All those who the “children whom God has given” to the Son” (v. 13; cf. John 6:37, 39)

*All those whom Christ set “free . . . who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (v. 15).

*All those who are descendants of Abraham (v. 16), and

*On behalf of all those for whom the Son made propitiation (v. 17).

So, Yes, Christ “tasted death for everyone” inclusively, that is, He made propitiation on behalf of “all” the ones the Father gave to Him, who the author of Hebrews calls, “sons to glory.”      

 

Anti-Trinitarian groups such as Muslims, Oneness Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently launch the assertion that doctrine of the Trinity was conceived in the 4th century (viz. at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325). Utterly, controlled by their unitarian assumption that God is one person, not revealed in three persons, they reject the notion that God is triune, however there are two major flaws to their uniformed assertions:

 

  1. In that era, historically, there was no “supreme” popish Roman Catholic Church as it appears from the 13th century onwards. Thus, back in the 4th century, there was only a church in Rome as there was a church in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Smyrna, Philippi, etc. In fact, all the early churches were “catholic” in the sense of belonging to the “universal church”.

 

  1. The Trinity was not the issue at Nicaea. Rather, due to the assertions of the heretic Arius (around A.D. 318) that the Son was not God by nature, the council addressed the issue of the Son’s ontological (nature) relationship to the Father. Basically was the Son homoousios (of the “same substance” as God) or heteroousios (of a “different substance,” created). Years before, the church had already proclaimed and established the concept of the Trinity. Again, that was not the issue at Nicaea. In point of fact, none of the written documents that came out of Nicaea by men that were there, contained either the word “Trinity” or even a direct reference to it.

 

The Concept of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity did not originate from the early church, rather it was established in the content of divine revelation of both the OT and NT.

For example, in the OT, we find plural words being applied to the one God (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Eccl. 12:1; Isa. 6:3, 8; 54:5 et al.). In Isa. 9:6, the Messiah is identified as El gibbor (“mighty God”).[1] In Dan. 7:9-14, we find two objects of divine worship is presented—the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Further, there are many Angel of the Lord appearances (preincarnate Christ), such as to Hager (cf. Gen. 16:11-13); Abraham (cf. Gen. chaps. 18-19); Moses (cf. Exod. 3:1ff.); Gideon (cf. Judg. 6:11-24); Manoah (cf. Judg. 13:16, 21) et al. The angel of the Lord was not a created, indefinite angel. He was identified as God/YHWH and claimed He was the “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6)—YHWH, yet a distinct person from another YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24). For more information on the angel of the Lord see The Preincarnate Christ as the Angel of the Lord

 

The NT contains many passages that clearly present the concept of the Trinity—cf. Matt. 28:19; John 1:1, 3, 18; 5:17-18; 14:23; 17:5; 20:28; Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:14; 4:4-6; Eph. 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 1:2-3; 1 John 1:1-3; Rev. 5:13-14 and many more could be cited.

 

Debunking the Unitarian Belief

 

The concept of the Trinity has been well established by the early church immediately following the apostolic age and certainly not an invention of the non-existent Roman Catholic Church. The concept starts in Genesis and is fully revealed in the NT. Patristic and early church authority J. D. Kelly observes:

The reader should notice how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted in the apostolic tradition and the popular faith. Though as yet uncanonized, the New Testament was already exerting a powerful influence; it is a commonplace that the outlines of a dyadic and a triadic pattern are clearly visible in its pages.[2]

Below is a very partial list of early pre-fourth century examples of a variety of early church Fathers expressing the concept of the Trinity. Also see The Trinity and the Early Church: Debunking the Oneness Unitarian Mythfor a fuller list of citations.  

 

Didachē (viz. “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”; c. A.D. 70): “After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (7.1).

 

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107): “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos, “unoriginate, eternal”]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord (Letter to the Ephesians, 7).

“Jesus Christ, who was with the Father [para patri] before the beginning of time [pro aiōnōn], and in the end was revealed…. He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever….” (Letter to the Magnesians, 6). Note the linguistic parallel with John 17:5—where the same preposition denoting the Son’s eternality is used (here- pro aiōnōn, “before time,” John 17:5- pro tou ton kosmon einai, “before the world was”) and the same preposition followed by dative case expressing a distinction between persons (here- para patri, “with the Father,” John 17:5- para seautō, “together with Yourself,” para soi, “with You.”

“For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness (Letter to the Romans, 3).

 

Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna (c. A.D. 130-150): [in his last prayer before his martyrdom] “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ…. I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen” (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14).

 

Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160): “’Let Us make,’ –I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being….” (Dialogue with Trypho, 62).

 

Athenagoras of Athens (c. A.D. 175): “Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?…. For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence, – the Father, the Son, the Spirit….” (A Plea for Christians, 10, 24).

 

Theophilus Bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 180): “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity of God, and His Word, and His wisdom” (To Autolycus, 2.15).

 

Irenaeus Bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; c. A.D. 180): “For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, even the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness…. that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation….” (Against Heresies, 4.20.1, 3).

“[the church believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth … and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit….” (ibid., 1.10.1).

 

Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 190): “I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father” (Stromata, Book V, Ch. 14)

 

Hippolytus (c. A.D. 205): “Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality (Against Noetus, 10; Gk. monos ōn polus ēn, lit., “alone existing [yet] plurality/many was.”

 

Tertullian (c. A.D. 213): “He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names” (Against Praxeas, 26).

 

Novatian the Roman Presbyter (c. A.D. 256): “it is declared [Gen. 19:24]: ‘Then the Lord [YHWH] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord [YHWH] out of heaven.’ But although the Father, being invisible.… But this the Son of God, “The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son…. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God (“De Trinitate,” in Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, 18).

 

Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (c. A.D. 262): “The Son alone, always co-existing with the Father…. For on this account after the Unity there is also the most divine Trinity….” (Works of Dionysius, Extant Fragments).

 

Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonder-worker (c. A.D. 260): “There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity….  And thus, neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever (A Declaration of Faith).

 

Methodius of Olympus (c. A.D. 305): “For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one…. we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor…. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty (Oration on the Psalms, 5).

“but also the glory to be adored by all of that one of the sacred Trinity…. They say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For we believe that, together with the Son, who was made man for our sakes, according to the good pleasure of His will, was also present the Father, who is inseparable from Him as to His divine nature, and also the Spirit, who is of one and the same essence with Him (Oration concerning Simon and Anna on the Day that they met in the Temple, 2).

 

Many more citations can be presented that undeniably show within the proper context of the writers aforementioned, that the early church prior to Nicaea (325) unitedly embraced the concept of the Trinity and rejected Oneness-unitarianism in all forms. They saw and taught that the one true God was triune—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three distinct coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons, which was the Faith of the OT believers and the NT church.

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[1] In Isaiah 10:21, the same description (El gibbor) is applied to YHWH (cf. also Deut. 10:17).

[2] J. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1978, 88.

 

The Church at Philippi: During Paul’s second missionary journey (c. A.D. 49-52), Paul and his traveling companions (Timothy and Silas) were making their way across Asia Minor when Paul received a vision at Troas. Acts 16:6-12: “In the vision, a man of Macedonia pleaded, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Perceiving that the Lord was calling them to go to Macedonia, they sailed from Troas (Luke having joined them) and eventually arrived at Philippi.”

An interesting note about the church of Philippi was a lack of a “synagogue” indicating that this church was primarily Gentile. It seems that they were the only church that supported Paul (cf. 4:15); and we find no heresy that Paul addresses (although, humility was an issue (esp. 2:1-13). It is important to note from the outset, Paul’s imprisonment was due to his persistent apologetics, that is, defending and affirming the gospel (cf. 1:7, 16).

An appropriate key text is Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.” For in this letter, Paul uses the term “joy” fourteen times (NA28), five times as a noun (chara) and nine times as a verb (chairw), while the cognate term charis (“grace”) is used three times. For this reason, the epistle to the Philippians has often been called Paul’s “Hymn of Joy.”

 

Philippians 3:1-14

 

Verses 1-2 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.”  

“Dogs” is a figurative reference to false teachers whom Paul regards just as filthy as dogs.

 

Verses 3-5 “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. 4 Although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee.”

 

Here Paul parades his illustrious accreditations. As a Pharisee, he was a member of one of the most significant religious as well as political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. According to Josephus (cf. Ant. 17. 2.4; 17.42) there were more Pharisees than Sadducees (it is estimated that there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at this time).  Some doctrines and behavior patterns differed between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were stringent and zealous devotees to the OT laws and to the vast amount of extra traditions (e.g., Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, denied the existence of angels/spirits and the notion of a bodily resurrection).

 

Verse 6 “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Pre-conversion, Paul was a popular persecutor of the church (cf. Acts 7:58-8:3). However, note the next passage.  

Verse 7 “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”

 

  • When Paul became a Christian, he gave up his brilliant prospects in regards to this life, and everything he planned for in his early life.  

 

  • He was no doubt excommunicated by the Jews at his conversion and gave up his dearest friends and those whom he loved.

 

  • He might have risen to the highest point of life and honor in his native land, which any ambitious young man desires.

 

Such a great loss by the world’s standards, but Paul sacrificed all things in order that he might gain Christ Jesus, his Lord and Savior.

 

Verse 8 “more than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish [dung] so that I may gain Christ,”

 

“Surpassing value.” From huperechw (from huper, “above” and echw, have, possess), thus literally, “to above possess, hold above, have beyond.” Paul’s loss of all things did not compare to the “surpassing value” of knowing Christ (cf. Mark 8:36; Col. 3:2-3).

“Dung” (skubala) was often used in Greek as an uncouth term for fecal matter; thus, it would most likely present a certain jolt to Paul’s readers. This may be the intended meaning here since contextually Paul is speaking of what the flesh produces.

 

Verse 9 “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from [ek] the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness, which comes from [ek] God on the basis [epi] of faith,

First, Paul speaks here (and v. 6) of His pre-conversion self-righteous haughtiness, that is, his own “so-called” righteousness ek nomou (“from [the] Law”) contrary to the righteousness now as a Christian epi tē pistei (“upon the basis of faith”).

Note the Greek particle of negation, (“not”): “Not having righteousness of my own derived from [lit., “out of”] the Law.” Consider also, how the same preposition (ek, “out from”) expresses the two radically contrasting ideas regarding righteousness ek nomou, “from Law” vs. ek theou, “from God.”

Further, it is best (semantically) to see both genitives in the prepositional phrases (ek nomou, “from Law”], ek theou [“from God”]) as genitives of sourcehence, the very source of Paul’s own righteousness was from the Law in contradistinction to the true righteousness, which is imputed from God alone. In Paul’s mind, his former self-righteousness is generated and is derived from (as the source) one’s self,—which is false. This idea is perpetuated by Roman Catholics and other non-Christian religions. However, as a Christian, Paul understands that “the righteousness, which is from God, is on the basis (instrumentally) of faith”—Sola Fide!     

 

Verse 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“To Know” is from the verb, ginōskw meaning, “to experientially know.” It can carry the idea of intimacy in distinction to mere cognition (cf. Matt. 7:22-23; John 17:3; Rom. 8:29; 2 Tim. 2:19). The term is related to the Hebrew verb yada (“to know, perceive”) and often translated as ginwskw by the LXX[1] (e.g., Gen. 4:1, 17, 25; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2).

 

Verses 11-13 “in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect [teleiow, or “complete”], but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”

 

The apostle understood the call in his life as an apostle, evangelist, and apologist living and soon dying for sake of Christ— “forgetting . . .  and reaching forward.” As he wrote a few years before:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

  

Verse 14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Even from house arrest, Paul writes in 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s Christian life is well defined by his affirmation of hope in the first chapter: “For me, to live is Christ to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

The Apostle Paul lived out the rest of his life as a slave of Christ. He counted everything he had previously, his goals, high Jewish status, reputation, friends, family, and his so-called righteousness from his bondage to the Law as dung, worthless compared to his now relationship with Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, we read of his last words on earth, you might say, his last will and testimony:    

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

In verse 7, we have three perfect indicatives: ēgwnismai, “I have fought,” teteleka, “I have finished,” and tetērēka, “I have kept.” Linguistically, the perfect tense denotes a past completed action with continuous results. So, the literal rendering would be: “The good fight, I have fought, the course, I have finished, and the faith, I have kept”summarizing Paul’s life from his conversion to his martyrdom in a Roman prison (c. A.D. 66).   

As Christians, we are “slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18), “enslaved to God” (Rom. 6:22). Therefore, as Paul instructs us in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”          

 

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[1] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (“seventy,” i.e., the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Hebrew into Greek around 300-200 B.C.). Most citations of the OT contained in the NT were from the LXX.   

 

The same proper exegesis that establishes important Christian doctrines such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, justification through faith alone, etc. establishes definite atonement (along with all the doctrines of grace).     

Yet ironically, I continue to see far too many ‘Calvinists’ use the same practices as that of the followers of Arminius at Dort when addressing Arminianism—namely, providing bucket loads of refutations, but then being absent (and/or very sloppy) in presenting positive exegetical affirmations from the text of Scripture.

Even worst is when misguided “Calvinistic” apologists rely on and employ philosophical apologetics and erroneously use Matthew 23 as a hermeneutic to evangelize and thunderbolt their typical myopic agenda in refuting the false system of Arminian autosoteric.

In fact, Arminianism promotes several unbiblical views including universal atonement, conditional election, and, with some, partial depravity. However, we as Christians, who correctly understand and embrace the doctrines of grace should (as mandated) confront these errors appropriately and out of love using the exegesis of Scripture to both affirm important biblical doctrines and refute any false doctrines whether essential or tangential.

                                          

             Scripture is sufficient to affirm and refute false doctrines.    

 

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (NASB).

 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement.  However, I will say at the onset, one cannot set passages against other passages. For definitive atonement is taught clearly throughout Scripture (e.g., Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; John 1:13; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9; 11:5; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al.). In opposition to the Arminian understanding of this passage, in brief,            

 

  1. The context of chapter 3 is the second coming of Christ, not This point is very important as to a correct interpretation of v. 9.

 

  1. In vv. 1-2, Peter addresses his specific audience to whom he is writing (, the elect, cf. vv. 1:1ff.): “beloved, the second letter I am writing to YOU [ὑμῖν, SECOND person plural pronoun]. . . . 2 that YOU should remember the words spoken beforehand. . . .”

 

  1. However, in vv. 3ff., Peter uses THIRD person plural pronouns and verbal references to refer to a different group —namely, the “scoffing mockers”: “Mockers will come [ἐλεύσονται] with THEIR mocking following after THEIR [αὐτῶν] own lusts” (v. 3), “it escapes THEIR [αὐτοὺς] notice” (v. 5).  

 

  1. Then in v. 8, Peter refers back to his own reading audience (the elect) using second person plural references: “But do not let this onefact escape YOUR [ὑμᾶς] notice, beloved,”—contra the third person reference group—“them,” the unsaved scoffers.  

 

Therefore, in light of Peter’s own defining context (second coming of Christ) and the clear differentiation he makes between the two groups (scoffers and the elect), we now can simply and appropriately interpret v. 9:

 

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as SOME [third person plural—the scoffers] count slowness, but is patient toward YOU [ὑμᾶς—second person plural—his audience, the elect], not wishing [βούλομαι, lit., “purposing, intending”] for ANY to perish [“any” of “YOU”], but for ALL [i.e., All of “YOU”] to come to repentance.” Hence, God does not purpose or intend any of His elect to perish, but all come to repentance and life in His Son: “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me. . . . 39 [and I will] raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37, 39).    

 

One more note, there is a variant of the pronoun in v. 9 in which the TR contains—ἡμᾶς (“us”), “but is longsuffering to us-ward. . . .” (KJV). However, both variants (“you” or “us”) affirm the same thing.   

 

John 3:16

Universal Invitation or Promise to the Elect?

 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Problem: Although John 3:16 is arguably one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible, it is one of the most misapplied and misinterpreted passages in the NT. Basically, the problem is two-fold: 1- Coming to the text with the presupposition of universal atonement (i.e., Jesus’ atoning cross work was for every single person, but for no one in particular). Thus, many “traditionally” quote the KJV mistranslation of the Greek adjective pas (“all/every,” which the KJV renders as “whosoever”). 2- Along with pas, a universal meaning is also imposed on the term kosmos (“world”).

 

The following are some main features of John 3:16 and the surrounding context, which are key in attaining a correct understanding of the passage.     

 

  • Greek rendering. Houtōs gar ēgapēsen ho theos ton kosmon hōste ton huion ton monogenē edōken, hina pas ho pisteuōn eis auton mē apolētai all’ echē zōēn aiōnion – literal rendering: “To this extent, indeed, loved the God the world, that the Son, the one and only, He gave, in order that every one believing in Him not should perish, but shall have life eternal.”

 

  • The context actually starts in vv. 14-15 dealing with the snake in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:6-9) with which Nicodemus would have been familiar. The particularities of the event are contextually interrelated with John 3:15-16. Note a few contextual facts: I, the bronze serpent was the only means of healing/deliverance for “only” God’s people (the Israelites), which relates to trusting in the Son as the only means of salvation, II, verses 14-15 read, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” Verse 15 contains the Greek conjunction hina (“that”) signifying a purpose and result clause. Thus, the purpose of the Son’s cross work (being “lifted up”) was for the result of every one believing in Him will have eternal life.

 

  • The affirmation of God’s redemptive love to everyone believing. The extent of God’s love is shown by His sending His Son into the world, to the ones believing, and give them eternal life.

 

  • Houtōs. Although most translations translate the Greek adverb as “so,” a literal and more accurate translation would be, “in this way, in this manner, in such a condition, to this extent”—to express the actual result. Hence, the love of God is demonstrated in the giving of His Son in order to bring about the eternal life of believers.

 

  • Kosmos (“world”). Due to the presupposition of autosoterism (self-salvation), chiefly promoted by Arminians, kosmos is presumed to mean every single person, thus embracing the “traditional” (not exegetical) view of a universal atonement.However, many who misinterpret kosmos are unaware that in the NT, kosmos has over a half of dozen clearly defined meanings. It can denote every single person (cf. Rom. 3:19); non-believers (cf. John 1:10; 15:18); believers (cf. John 1:29; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9); Gentiles, in contrast from Jews (cf. Rom. 11:12); the world system (cf. John 12:31); the earth (cf. John 13:1; Eph. 1:4); the universe as a whole (cf. Acts 17:24); the known world (i.e., not everyone inclusively [cf. John 12:9; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:5-6])—the point is this: only context determines the meaning of kosmos.

    Although kosmos can have various meanings, rarely does it carry an all-inclusive “every single person” meaning. For example, we know that the “world” in verse 16 is not the same “world” that Jesus does not pray for in John 17:9; nor is it the “world” that John speaks of in 1 John 2:15, which we are not to love. In first century vernacular, the normal meaning of “world” was the “world” of Jews and Gentiles—as John’s audience would have understood (cf. John 12:17, 19). Contextually, then, in verses 16 and 17, kosmos (and the adjective pas, “all/every” as discussed below) is clearly comprised of all or every one believing, both Jews and Gentiles (same as John 1:29; 12:47; etc.).

 

Again, the Arminian universal understanding of “world” and “all” in verse 16 would make verse 17 endorse universalism (i.e., all of humanity [world] will be saved). It is true that God intends to save the “world” through His Son, but it is the “world” of the believing ones that He saves—namely, “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks” (1 Cor. 1:24; cf. Eph. 1:4-5); men “from every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9); “all that the Father gives” to the Son (John 6:37-40, 44); it is the world for whom the Son dies and “gives life” (John 6:33) and “takes away” their sin (John 1:29)—as the surrounding context (vv. 14-15 and vv. 17-19) indicates. It would be biblically untrue to read into kosmos a universal (all of humanity) meaning.

 

  • Pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing”). As mentioned, many use the mistranslation of the KJV (“whosoever”) to assert the view of a universal non-definite atonement. However, the phrase in Greek teaches no such thing. Rather, it is a promise of eternal life to all the ones doing the action of the present active participle, pisteuōn, “believing”—“Everyone now believing” has eternal life.

 

  • The Greek adjective pas (as in pas ho pisteuōn) means “all/every.” First, there is no idea here that indicates a universal undefined invitation to salvation, as many assume. Second, it is incorrect to translate pas as equaling “whosoever”— as in “whosoever will believe,” rather than what is stated in the original: “all, everyone who/whoever is now believing.” In fact, most modern translations accurately render the phrase pas ho pisteuōn as “whoever believes” (NKJV, NASB, NIV); “everyone who believes” (NLT, Holman, NET); or, and most literal, “every one who is believing” (Young’s lit.).

 

  • Pisteuōn (lit., “believing”). The verb here is a present active participle—denoting a present ongoing action—“believing.” In John’s literature, present active participles (on-going actions) are normally used in soteriological (salvation) contexts to denote the life of a true Christian (e.g., John 5:24; 6:35, 47, 54; 1 John 5:1, 5). Grammatically, the adjective pas (“all/every”) modifies the participial phrase ho pisteuōn (“the one believing”). As noted, both verses 15 and 16 contain the same participial phrase: pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing” or “all the believing ones”).

 

Verse 17- Hina- (“that”). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” If one were to stay consistent in maintaining the notion that “world” in verse 16 refers to a universal “all” without exception, then he would have to accept a notion of universal salvation in verse 17.

 

Syntactically, the sentence starts with the postpositive conjunction (gar, “for”- “For God so loved the world”), which carries an explicative force to the continuation in the previous verse (hina, “so that”). The postpositive carries the meaning of “truly therefore, the fact is, indeed.” It is a “particle of affirmation and conclusion” (Thayer). Next, notice the adversative conjunction (alla, “but”) and a purpose and result conjunction (hina, “that”). The adversative conjunction demonstrates a contrast (“but, rather”) or an opposing idea. The postpositive clearly conjoins the contextual meaning of “world” in verses 16 and 17—it cannot be semantically divided.

In fact, the postpositive (“for”), the adversative conjunction (“but”), and the purpose and result conjunction (hina, “that”- lit., “in order that”) appear in verse 16.[1] Hence, the literal rendering would be, “Therefore, the fact is, God did not send the Son into the world for the purpose of judgment (condemnation), rather, for the result of saving the world.”  

 

In 1 John 4:7-10, John himself provides an excellent commentary of John 3:16:

 Both (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7-10) speak of God’s love, the sending of His Son, and how the sending of His Son is a manifestation of God’s love, specifically in verse 9:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us.”

 

  • John 3:16: “He gave His only begotten Son.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.”

 

  • John 3:16: “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10: “so that we might live through Him. . . . but that He loved us and sent His Son to bethe propitiation for our sins.”

As mentioned, the term “world” in 3:16 (meaning the world of Jews and Gentiles) is not a universal statement. 1 John 4:9 clearly affirms this meaning: “The love of God was manifested in us.” The “us” to John is identified in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another” – (Christians, both Jews and Gentiles).

 Summary:  

  1. The meaning of kosmos (“world”) in verses 16 and 17 is defined by the context: “all the ones” doing the action of the verb (“believing”)—i.e., both Jews and Gentiles. To suggest that “world” in verse 16 carries the meaning of “every single person,” would necessarily imply universalism or inclusivism in verse 17.  

 

  1. The KJV rendering, “whosoever” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek phrase, pas ho pisteuōn (lit., every one believing”).

 

  1. The adjective pas (“all/every”) grammatically modifies the verb (“believing”), all, without limit, the ones believing. Thus, in biblical contrast to the Arminian traditional understanding of verse 16 (viz. a universal atonement), verses 15-17 is God’s infallible promise, through the cross work of His Son—to provide eternal life to all the ones believing in Him. To them alone, He manifests His love by saving them.

 

  1. The Arminian interpretation of John 3:16 is generally based on a traditional understanding and not an exegetical one.Notes 

[1] “For [gar] God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that [hina] whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but [alla] have eternal life.”