Biblically speaking, the gospel (good news) is the substitutionary and sacrificial work of Christ—not the work of man in his response, faith, repentance, good behavior, etc. Besides passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which we will deal with shortly, Paul makes this point clear in Romans 1:1, 3, “The gospel of God . . . concerning His Son.” So, the gospel in and of itself has nothing to do with man, but everything to do with the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God the Son. We must not confuse the work of Christ, which is the gospel—the good news of Jesus’ cross work—with the response of faith in Christ, repentance, obedience, etc. Salvation is solus Christus (through Christ alone), thus, Hs work being the very ground or cause of justification, and faith being the very alone instrument.

The gospel then is comprised of all essential theology of the Christian faith since it involves the person, nature, and finish work of Christ. Simply, the gospel is the atoning work of God the Son, in incarnation, death, and resurrection. And trusting Him alone for salvation (Rom. 10:9, 13; 1 Cor. 15:3-4 [see discussion below on this passage]; 2 Tim. 2:8).      

 

In expanded detail, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith include:      

 

  • The person of the Son is truly God and truly man, the two natured person—being distinct from the Father who sent Him (John 1:1, 14, 18; 5:17-18; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 4:2-3; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8).  

 

  • The sending of the Son to earth from the Father out of heaven (John 3:13, 16-18; 6:38; 16:28).

 

  • A literal descendant of David, born of a virgin (2 Tim. 2:8[1]; Matt. 1:18; Rom. 9:5; Gal. 4:4).

 

  • The perpetual (ongoing, permanent) incarnation of the Son—the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14; 2 Tim. 2:8; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7).

 

  • The Son’s substitutionary (vicarious) atoning sinless life (preceptive obedience) and cross work (penal obedience) as the very ground of justification, which removed the sin-guilt and God’s wrath due to us for our sins (Gen. 15:6; Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; John 6:37-39; Rom. 5:6, 8, esp. v. 10; 8:32; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

 

  • Salvation (justification), then, is through faith alone “apart from works” (Acts 10:36, 43; Rom. 4:4:4-8; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9).

 

  • Jesus’ real death and physical resurrection (John 2:19-21; 19:30; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Titus 2:13).

 

  • His accession to the Father (John 6:62; 16:10, 28; 20:17; Acts 1:10-11; Heb. 10:12-13).

 

  • His (physical) second coming (Acts 1:10-11; Titus 2:13-14; 1 John 2:28).

 

  • The concept of the Trinity—namely, one true eternal God revealed in three distinct persons (see chap. 3 above).   

The person (unipersonal, i.e., distinct from the Father, and Holy Spirit), nature (truly God truly man) and finished completed work (justification through faith alone) are necessary and indispensable to the Christian faith. They also imply other important doctrines such “total inability,” that is, in man’s unconverted spiritual state he cannot (no ability) please or come to Christ (John 6:44; 8:43-44, 47; Rom. 3:10-18) due to the inherent sin-guilt (imputed sin) of all men resulting from the first sin in the Garden. These doctrines constitute the key ultimate test in which distinguishes genuine Christianity from false non-Christian (atheistic) religious cults and world religions.

All must be affirmed in a basic sense, and none can be denied. Further, one cannot affirm some of these, but not the others. For example, Roman Catholicism (as discussed below) officially embraces the Trinity, deity of Christ, the incarnation, virgin birth, and Jesus’ resurrection. However, because Roman Catholic doctrine rejects that the alone work of Christ is the absolute and sufficient means and ground of justification, Rome falls outside of Christian orthodoxy (cf. Gal. 1:6, 8)—hence, non-Christian.

Thus, it is not the Jesus of biblical revelation that Rome embraces, rather a different Jesus and a “different gospel.” Therefore, all things pertaining to the gospel are “essential” theology. Whereas secondary theology is any doctrine that is not essential to one’s salvation—namely, any doctrine that does not fundamentally deny or distort the nature and/or finished work of Christ (e.g., the OT Law, spiritual, gifts, method of water baptism, eschatology [i.e., end-time teachings], etc.). Again, the sufficiency of the gospel is the work of the Christ. and justification through faith alone is the only recognized gospel.    

[1] “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant [spermatos] of David, according to my gospel.” 

The mission of John the Baptist was to proclaim the need for spiritual repentance and the coming Messiah. John the Baptist was the one about which Isaiah prophesied in Isa. 40:3: “A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for LORD [YHWH]; construct in the desert a road for our God.…” (cf. John 1:23). According to Christ, John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to come prophesied in Mal. 4:5-6 (cf. Matt. 11:14).[1] And John the one who baptized Jesus as recorded in John 1:29-34; Matt. 3:13-17: Mark 1:9-11; and Luke 3:21, 22.

John’s gospel account provides some theological details not found in the synoptics. In John 1:29, we read that Jesus came to John to baptized: “On the next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”

 Using a “lamb” for sacrifice was very familiar to the Jews:

  1. Used as a sacrifice at the Passover (Exod. 12:12:1-36).
  2. Lamb was “led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7).
  3. A Lamb was used in daily sacrifices (Lev. 14:12-21).

 

Thus, John sees Christ as the Lamb signifying the final and sole infallible “ultimate sacrifice,” which takes away the sin of the world. This concept is found throughout the Apostle John’s writing. This is especially seen in Rev. 5:6-14:  

6  “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slaughtered. . . . 8 When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. . . . 9 And they *sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. . . . 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders. . . . 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing.’ 13 And I heard every created thing which is in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, or on the sea, and all the things in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.’ 14 . . . And the elders fell down and worshiped.

A symbolic “Lamb” is frequently used in reference to Christ in two primary ways: As a suffering servant and as a sacrifice.   

  1. The Lamb as the suffering servant. As mentioned, the symbolism is seen and derived from Isa. 53:7: “He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers. So He did not open His mouth.” Note, this text (Isa. 53:7) is specifically applied to Jesus in Acts 8:32. Also, all the servant-songs occur in the latter section of Isaiah (40-55). The NT links John the Baptist (John 1:23) with the first part of this section of Isaiah (40:3). Jesus is related to the suffering servant in other places in John’s Gospel (John 12:38 and Isa. 53:1).

 

  1. The Lamb as the Passover sacrificial lamb. In the OT, the Passover lamb is actually a real animal. John uses the Passover symbolism of Christ repeatedly in his literature, especially in relationship to the sacrificial death of Christ. Note the following:

I. Jesus was condemned at noon on the Day of Preparation, which was the day before Passover (John 19:14). Thus, Jesus was going to die at the very time the priests would be slaying the lambs in the Temple.

II. Exod. 12:22 indicates that hyssop was used to smear blood on the doorposts in the Passover procedure. Whereas in John 19:29, hyssop was used to give Jesus the wine on a sponge.

III. Exod. 12:46 indicates that the bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken. Whereas in John 19:36, Jesus’ bones were not broken, which was a fulfillment of Scripture (Ps. 22:16-17).

 

So, in John’s gospel we see both, the Lamb as the suffering servant and as a sacrifice. We see this same reference in Heb. 10:10-14:

10 “By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ephapax [‘once for all time’]. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES ARE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”—

Thus, His work was perfectly completed, that is, finished for all time (Tetelestai, John 19:30). As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 5:7: “… For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

 

Back to our text, John 1:29: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” It is in this context that Christ – “Removes, takes away the sin of the world.” 

The term “takes away” (NASB) is from the Greek verb, airō, which carries the basic meaning of “to raise from the ground, take up, lift up.” Note the following exegetical points:

  1. Grammatical. The verb here is a present tense participle and it’s articular (i.e., has the article, “the”)— ho airōn, literally, “the One taking away.” The present tense action, indicates a literal non-figurative taking away, raising up, removal of sin by the atoning sacrifice of Christ—not He will take away the sin, but rather He is the one taking away the sin—which is then applied to the sinner at faith. The atonement and thus, the removal of sin and the wrath due to us because of sin is a definite action completed at the cross.

 

  1. Lexical. The first century Koinē Greek meaning of the verb in this passage is “to bear away what has been raised, carry off; to move from its place. . . . to remove the guilt and punishment of sin by expiation, or to cause that sin be neither imputed nor punished” (Thayer)[2]; to “carry away, remove (to move from one place to another)” (BDAG).[3] Additionally, the verb appears ninety-seven times in the Greek NT (NA28). In every single place, the verb denotes a literal removing or taking something away. Only in one place (1 Cor. 6:15) is it used figuratively.

 

Therefore, due to the meaning and tense of the verb, one cannot legitimately impose a universal meaning upon the term “world” (kosmos). The present tense action of the verb (an actual “taking away”), and John’s own soteriology (cf. John 1:13; 3:15-17; 6:37-39, 10:15; 1 John 2:1-2) would prevent this pretext.   

Universalists and Inclusivists. Because of the semantic import and tense of the verb, Universalists and Inclusivists will appeal John 1:29 to teach that all men in “the world” will be saved regardless if they believe in Christ or not. They will interpret the verb airō (“takes away”) here properly (i.e., a literal, not hypothetical, removal of sin); yet improperly interpret the term “world” to mean “all men” inclusively, without exception. Thus, the Universalistic/Inclusivistic depends on an unbiblical pretext assuming that the term “world” carries a universal meaning here—namely, every single person universally will have their sin taken away.                                 

However, note the hermeneutical (interpretative technique) error they make: Both Universalists and Inclusivists do not consider the various meanings of the term kosmos (“world”) how it was normally used in a first century significance. Many times, it was used to denote the world of the Jews and Gentiles. For example, many first century Jews assumed that salvation was for them alone—God’s “chosen” people. So, in John 3:16, Jesus used “world” as a “corrective” to this false notion to Nicodemus, thus, in this sense, ‘For God so loved the Jews, and even the Gentles.’

In the NT, kosmos (“world”) carries a wide range of meanings, depending on the context. Similarly, the Greek adjective pas (“all, every”), can mean “all” or “every” inclusively (e.g., Rom. 3:23; Col. 1:17-17), but others times, it can also mean all kinds, or as many as (Matt. 4:24; or Acts 22:25: “[Ananias to Paul] ‘For you will be a witness for Him to ALL [pas] people of what you have seen and heard.”

Thus, “all” in the sense of all in the region, or “all” kinds of people (kings, rulers, Jews, Gentiles, men women, slaves, free etc.), and not every single person in the world. Kosmos is also similar. In the NT, kosmos has at least eight clearly defined separate meanings defined by its surrounding context: 

  1. Used to signify every single person, Rom. 3:19. 
  1. Used to signify non-believers, John 1:10; 15:18; Rom. 3:6. 
  1. Used signify only believers, John 1:29; 3:17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. 
  1. Used to signify Gentiles in contrast to Jews, Rom. 11:12. 
  1. 5. Used to signify the world system, John 12:31. 
  1. Used to signify the earth, John 13:1; Eph. 1:4. 
  1. Used to signify the universe as a whole, Acts 17:24: “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.”
  2. Used to signify the known world (not everyone inclusively)—Jews and Gentiles, Rom. 1:8: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” 

So here in John 1:29, in light of the verb’s meaning as a literal non-figurative sin being “taking away,” removed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the verb being in the present, not future tense, the “world” would be the world of believers. By the blood of Christ, He purchased and removed the sin of men from “every tribe, language, people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The world of believers is shown love through the giving of the Son so that they will have eternal life through faith in Him.

Thus, John’s statement here defines the efficacy and intent of the Son’s atoning cross work. “Behold, the Lamb of God, the One taking away the sin of the world,..” both Jews and Gentles—the good news of the gospel!


Notes

[1] Also cf. Matt. 17:11-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:16-17.

[2] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

[3] Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. by Frederick W. Danker (BDAG).

 

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“I and the Father are one.”

Ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν (Egō kia ho Patēr hen esmen), lit., “I and the Father one we are”).     

Both historically and currently, Christians have pointed to this passage to show that Jesus indeed claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be equal with and truly God (Matt. 12:6; John 5:17-18; 8:58-59 et al; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” This passage also provides a clear refutation to the Oneness view, which erroneously asserts that Jesus is the Father (i.e., the same person). Ironically, Oneness advocates actually use it as a so-called proof text. Aside from the fact that throughout chapter 10, Jesus and the Father are clearly differentiated as two persons (vv. 15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 30, 36, 37, 38). But note the following points regarding verse 30 that refutes Oneness theology:      

No agreement in conservative recognized Christian scholarship with a Oneness interpretation. Neither historically nor contemporaneously has any Christian writer interpreted John 10:30 in a modalistic (Oneness) way. Rather, all standard scholarly sources (patristics, commentaries, grammars, lexicons et al), interprets the passage in the plain intended way within the defining context: The person of the Son claiming equality with the distinct person of the Father.

Plain reading. Jesus simply says, “I and the Father ARE one.” Only by pretexting can one read something into this text beyond the simple plain reading.                              

The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is used—contextually indicating a unity of essence, not personal identity. If Jesus wanted to identify Himself as the Father (same person), He certainly could have used the masculine heis to indicate this (e.g., John 12:4; Rom. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al.). In this passage, the Father and the Son are the subjects of the sentence (egō, “I,” Patēr, “Father”—both in the nominative case). The neuter adjective hen (“one”) is the predicate nominative and it precedes the plural verb esmen (“are”). The predicate nominative is describing the essential unity of Jesus and the Father.[1] In others words, Jesus is explaining that the Father and Son are—one thing, not one person. In the context of unity, not identity of person, the same neuter adjective is used in John 17:21, where Jesus prays that His disciples “may be one [hen]” even as Jesus and the Father are one.  

The plural verb esmen (“are”). Again, in sharp contrast to the false Oneness interpretation (Jesus is the Father), the Greek contains the plural verb esmen (“I and the Father are one”), and not a singular verb such as eimi (“am”) or estin (“is”) in which case, the passage would read: “I and the Father am/is one.” Furthermore, Jesus’ claim to deity is not merely found in verse 30. Rather, the passages leading up to verse 30 undeniably prove His claim. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd that gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His nor His Father’s hand (same words of YHWH in the LXX of Deut. 32:39[2]).


NOTES

[1] Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature” (Robertson, Word Pictures).

[2] Note the same phrases used in both in Deuteronomy (LXX) and John: Deuteronomy 32:39: “And there is no one who can deliver ek tōn cheirōn mou [‘out of the hands of Me’].” John 10:28: “they will never perish; and no one will snatch them ek tēs cheiros mou  [‘out of the hand of Me’].” Verse 10:29: “no one is able to snatch them ek tēs cheiros tou Patros [‘out of the hand of the Father’].”  

 

 

 

“But of that day or hour NO ONE KNOWS, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone”

Unitarians, esp. Muslims and JWs use this passage (among others) to show Jesus is not God. 

First, throughout the OT and NT, Christ is presented as ontologically truly God and truly man (Exod. 3:6, 14; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:13-14; John 1:1, 18; 5:17-18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; Phil. 2:6-11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:6, 10-12; 2 Pet 1:1; Rev. 1:7-8; 22:13). His claim to be God were unambiguous (Mark. 14:61-64; John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58 et al.; 10:30; Rev. 1:7-8; 22:13; etc.).       

 

So was Jesus ignorant of His Return?  

The simple response has to do with the verb oiden (“knows”). Instead of ignorance (Jesus not “knowing”), we see the verb oiden (perfect form of eidō) in a “preeminent sense” in that, the verb oiden takes the force of the Hebrew stem hiphil. Verbs with the hiphil has a causative or declarative sense. Thus as here: “I make known, cause, promulgate, declare.”  

 

In 1 Cor. 2:2, the same verb is used in this sense, where Paul states: “I determined ‘to know’ (eidenai from eidō) nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified,” that is, I cause or determined to make known, nothing among you, but Jesus Christ.

So in light of the verb oiden (“to know”) taking the force of the Hebrew stem hiphil (as in 1 Cor. 2:2), the literal sense would be: “But of that day and that hour none can cause or declare to you to KNOW (that is, none has authority) to cause to make known— not the angels, neither the Son, but, preeminently, the Father alone—He will reveal or declare it.

Therefore, in Mark 13:32, the verb takes the force of the Hebrew hiphil stem (causative or declarative sense)—i.e., in a “preeminent sense” (as in 1 Cor. 2:2). Thus, the Son “knows” the day and hour of His return, but the one who will make known, cause, promulgate, or declare is the Father alone. A proper exegesis erases any notion of the Son being ignorant of His return. 

“To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen” (Rom. 9:5, NET).

 

 

 

 

The biblical mandate of every believer (esp. to those in Christian ministry positions, viz. pastors, teachers, evangelists) is to grow theologically (2 Pet. 3:18), contend for and defend the faith (1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 1:3), and to evangelize (Rom. 1:16; 10:15, 17)—in obedience to the Lord.  

 

Apologetics Defined

The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek noun[1]apologia (in all case forms), which appears eight times in the Greek NT. The term apologia is a compound word from apo (“from”) and logos (logic/intelligent reasoning”), thus, to provide an answer or logical and coherent response to an objection raised. It is an intelligent verbal defense, or speech. The term was used in an ancient court for making a legal defense.    

 

Biblical Application

1 Pet. 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologian] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” As with the book of James, 1-3 John, and Jude, Peter’s Epistles are “catholic” Epistles, meaning general or universal letters. Unlike the narrative books (Gospels, Acts), the NT catholic Epistles were not written to particular churches or persons; rather, they were to the general population of Christians thus, Peter mandates every Christian to be ready to:

  1. Make a defense (apologia). All Christians are called to defend the faith not by philosophy, but rather by Scripture.

 

  1. Give a reason (logos) for that defense, with gentleness and respect. Apologetics then is a “reasonable defense” of essential biblical theology in which the entire Christian faith rests. In an age where apologetics and essential doctrine become a mere sidebar in the Christian church, it was a primary theme in the Scriptures.

 

The Apostle Paul, for example, devotes enormous space in his letters to the defense and proclamation of the gospel. In fact, virtually all of the NT Epistles were written to undeceive the church and refute (i.e. provide a defense) a particular false doctrine and affirm essential truths of the gospel (esp. that Jesus was God-man, the triune concept of God, and justification through faith alone apart from works).      

 

Acts 17:16-17—Paul in Athens: 16 “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.”

The term “provoked” (paroxunō) carries the meaning to incite or jab someone or something. Thayer defines the meaning as “to irritate, provoke, rouse to anger; to stimulate their emotions.” The verb here is an imperfect indicative denoting a repeated action. Paul’s provocation against the idolatry he saw was persistent and ongoing. The term reasoning is from the Greek word dialegomai. This term is a compound word from dia (“through”) and legō (“to reason, speak”). 17 “So [as a result] he was reasoning [dialegomai] in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.” So what was Paul arguing? Note verses 2-3 of Acts 17:

2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”

Phil. 1:7, 16. Writing from prison (house arrest), Paul explained to the church of Philippi that “it was because of “apologetics” that he was in chains: “Since both in my imprisonment and in the defense [fr. apologia] and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. . . . 16 I am appointed for the defense [from apologia] of the gospel.”  

Acts 18:28 “For he [Apollos] powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (cf. vv. 24-27).

Jude 1:3: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” As with 1 Peter 3:15, Jude, through the Holy Spirit, instructs all Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all [hapax] handed down [delivered] to the saints” (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Titus 2:13).

 

The Glory of God in Apologetics: The Church of Ephesus

While Paul was meeting with the Ephesian pastors (elders), he gave then pointed instructions of their divine calling as pastors of the church (Acts 20:17:31). Note verses 26-31:    

26 “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 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. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

Note: Paul’s main admonishments to the overseers (syn. with elders, pastors) of the church: Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock (v. 28); against the “false teachers”(savage wolves) within the church (vv. 29-30); “Therefore be on the alert” (v. 31). Question: Did the Ephesian overseers listen? Yes they did! Look at Jesus’ message to them in Rev. 2:2-3:

2 “I know your deeds and your toil [kopon] and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”

 

Jesus says He “knows” (oida) their deeds/works. Jesus sees all in the church and each member, in and out. The term “toil” is from the Greek noun kopos meaning, “toil of labor,” intense laborious work, involving fatigue – from the verb koptō, to hit, denoting deep fatigue; “to cut, by means of a sharp-edged instrument (BDAG)[2]. Thayer indicates that the kopos is equivalent to koptein in Jer. 51:33 (LXX): A beating of the breast in grief or sorrow; intense labor. In the NT, kopos is synonymous with ponos, which carries the meaning of “pain” as in Rev. 21:4.

Jesus commended the church of Ephesus for their intense painful labor (kopos) and perseverance in 1) not tolerating evil men (false teachers), 2) testing those who call themselves apostles, who were not, 3) finding them false, and 4) enduring for Jesus’ name sake and not growing weary. They glorified God in their deeds of continuous and laborious apologetics adhering to Paul’s warning of the wolves “from among your own selves” (i.e., in the church). The Apostle Paul’s entire Christian life was defending and affirming the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (the gospel). 

 

Apologetic Duty for Christians

What is our biblical obligation when we encounter false teachings or teachers? See Matt. 7:15: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 1:3).

 

Firm Foundation of Faith

Accurately defending and affirming the truth requires that one is familiar with the truth.  If one is not familiar with the basic truth of the gospel, how is he or she going to be familiar with teachings that oppose biblical truth? In 2 Tim. 2:15, Paul stresses directly to the pastors: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling [orthotomeō, lit., “cut straight”!] the word of truth.”

 

Although written directly to pastors, all Christians should make every effort to handle God’s Word accurately and precisely ensuring with great diligence that their interpretation is correct before they apply it to themselves and others.

The first phrase, “Be diligent” is from the verb, spoudason, which is in the aorist imperative. The tense here stresses urgency. The verb carries the meaning of being swift or fast, “to exert oneself” (Thayer). “Endeavor, earnestly strive” (Mounce). Pastors and church leaders have a higher responsibility to defend and refute false teachers and doctrines (Titus 1:9, 13).

After Paul affirms the sufficiency of Scripture alone for the task of teaching, rebuking, correcting, “training in righteousness” and the equipping the man of God for pan ergon agathon (“every good work,” 2 Tim. 3:16-17), he furthers instructs pastors to: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Note the five aorist imperatives (stressing urgency): “Preach,” “be ready,” “reprove/refute,” “rebuke,” and “exhort/encourage.” Why is Paul stressing such urgency of these commandments? Note in the next verses, 3-4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Engaging in affirming and defending the faith, was commanded and addressed by Jesus (Matt. 7:15); Paul (Acts 20:17-31; Gal. 1:6, 8; Col. 2:3-4, 8-9; Titus 2:13); Peter (1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 2:1ff.); Jude (Jude 1:3); and John (1 and 2 John).

As said, virtually every NT epistle was written for the express purpose of refuting false doctrines and providing a positive affirmation of essential truth. In John 20:31, the Apostle John provides a two-fold reason (apologetic and evangelistic) as to why he wrote his Gospel: “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [apologetic], and that believing you may have life in His name” (evangelistic). Thus, we as Christians are called to always be ready to provide a biblical defense and a reason for our faith.

The church of Ephesus was commended by Christ Himself for engaging in continuous apologetics—in actively testing and finding false teachings and teachers: 2 “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance. . . . 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:2-3).

 

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15).


 

Notes

[1] The verbal form appears in the NT ten times.

[2] Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed.   

 

I always say at the onset to those who make the incorrect uninformed assertion regarding the triquetra symbol being derived from Wicca, paganism, etc. that that calendar in your office and/or house and/or in the rooms of your children, — are filled with symbols of pagan gods (all days and names of months were named after pagan gods). Thus, any objection to the triquetra as use by Christians would be inconsistent and historically ignorant lacking any meaningful basic research on the triquetra and its origins in religious and non-religious usage.  

In terms of the triquetra (Trinitarian symbol), you should not base an argument on ignorance, and unaccredited internet articles. Primarily, KJV Onlyists and anti-Trinitarian groups (esp. JWs, and unstudied Oneness advocates) chiefly utilize the pagan-triquetra arguments against it. So Christians should strive to do the objective research, in order that they not provide bad untruthful arguments and appear unread. In point of fact, The triquetra is a very old symbol and dates back perhaps to around 500 BC. But its actual origins are unknown. Some scholars believe it to be Celtic in origin, and it is sometimes called the Irish Trinity Knot.

The triquetra symbol is also found in Norse Viking artifacts such as combs and saddles; found on a Norwegian coin from around the 11th cent.; and there is a Japanese form, again with no religious significance. Further, the triquetra has been found on Indian heritage sites that are over 5,000 years old; found on carved stones in Northern Europe dating from A.D. 8th cent. as well as found on early Germanic coins-with no religious significance at all. It is certainly possible that various cultures developed the basic design arrangement independently. But in spite of where or when it first appeared, it has been associated to a vast number of meanings through time.

However, to early Christians (and many today), the triquetra symbolized the Trinity (one God, three persons). For example in the late 8th cent. Book of Kells was an exemplified manuscript book in Latin containing all four Gospels together with various prefatory texts contained also figures of triquetras. The triquetra symbol has been found in Norwegian churches dating to the 11th century.

In conclusion, the triquetra has been used historically by all kinds of groups to mean different things. As with other Christian symbols and Christian holidays (e.g., Christmas, Easter, cross, etc.), we embrace the Christian significance—not its origin. In spite of the (unclear) origins, the triquetra has a rich meaning that has been used by the early church to signify the Trinity. No Christian used it as a pagan symbol, in the same way no Christian uses a calendar today on their wall to exalt the pagan gods of the days and months it represents—thus, calendars were factually derived from pagan in origins.

Historically, for Christians, the Triquetra represents the Trinity, not its supposedly pagan origins. And those who object (due to a mass of misinformation) to this Trinitarian symbol, since they do not have a problem with pagan-origins calendars in their homes, do they have a problem with the Apostle Paul’s quotations of pagans writers to make a biblical point, viz., Epimenides of Crete in Titus 1:12 and Acts 17:28 (referring to Zeus); Aratus of Cilicia in Acts 17:28 (also referring to Zeus); and Menander in 1 Cor. 15:33?  

In point of fact, for hundreds of years Christians have been using the triquetra a symbol that proclaims the doctrine of the Trinity.

       

 

 

 

If a Jehovah’s Witness were to come to your door and emphatically state that they alone are the only true religion, which alone, honors “Jehovah” as the only true God. Similarly, if two rosy-cheek LDS (Mormon) missionaries sincerely tell you that that Book of Mormon is the Word of God, and the LDS Church is the only true Church on earth today, how are you going to respond? How are you going to respond to their advice for you to “pray about it?” Will you think about joining one of these groups due to their relentless love bombing? The fact is, only by having an accurate understanding of the truth of Scripture and the gospel will you be able to answer correctly. Biblical truth not only guards you, but it enables you to faithfully affirm the basic truths of who God is, and the gospel of the Son.

Truth both saves us and protects us. Paul directly tells the pastors in Ephesus through Timothy: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:6).

In Ephesian 6:10-17, Paul’s places TRUTH first in his list of pieces of the armor of God—Truth, is foundational to the subsequent pieces. Without a biblically true understanding of the following pieces of armor —namely, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, we will not “be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). It would be a plastic armor and a sword of straw, which cannot defend against anything nor can it properly affirm the gospel; leaving one wide open for “all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16).[1]

Although there are many biblically false views of demonic warfare posited in both charismatic and conservative circles—from a denial of demonic warfare altogether, to the notion that there is a demon under every rock and in every computer. Not surprising, some even see the devil as the sole cause of any moral failure one may have removing any personal accountability!

Paul starts the context of spiritual warfare in verse 10: “Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power”. Then Paul provides the means of accomplishing this—by putting on the armor of God. In verses 10-18, Paul’s idea of the full armor of God consists of six pieces in the armor. All but one, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” are defensive pieces.

Eph. 6:11 “Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The word translated “put on” is from the Greek verb, enduō, which denotes clothing oneself with or sinking into a garment.

Same word is used in Colossians 3:12: “Put on [enduō],” that is, sink into “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NASB). The particular tense of the verb, aorist imperative, denotes urgency, literally, “Put on right now! the full armor of God.”[2] The “full armor” is from panoplia—a compound word from the Greek adjective pas (“all, every”) and hoplon (“weapon”). Thus, the term signifies every piece, or a complete set of defensive and offensive armor or weapons. Same term in 2 Cor. 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.”

12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” The term “struggle” is palē, carries the meaning of a “hand-to-hand fight.”

13 “For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.” The phrase, “take up” is also in the aorist imperative—namely, an urgent commandment: Do it now!

14 “Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness.” Paul commands his readers to “stand firm.” Again, to express the gravity of this situation, Paul uses the same tense of urgency (aorist imperative): Stand firm Now! In the following verses, he instructs his readers as to how to do this in the midst of spiritual conflict. Note the three aorist imperative verbs: “Clothe yourselves” (v. 11), “take Up” (v. 13), and here, “stand firm” (v. 14). Why such urgency? Verse 11 contains the Greek conjunction, hina (“in order that, so that”). This is a “purpose and result” clause. Hence, the purpose of putting on the full armor of God is for the result of being “able to stand firm against the methods or schemes of the devil.”

Secondly, note the four participles in Paul’s list (vv. 14-17), which are semantically, “participles of means,” indicating the very means that God has provided to stand firm against the devil’s methods or schemes against believers: “by fastening,” “by putting on,” by fitting on,” and “by taking up”:

Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news [gospel] of peace, 16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In verse 17, the aorist imperative (again) “take” expresses an additional means by which to accomplish the standing firm—namely, by the word of God. Peter also speaks of our warfare against devil in 1 Peter 5:8-9. Notice the repetition of the aorist imperative commandments:

Be sober and alert [aorist imperative]. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking [zētōn, present participle, ‘always actively looking or seeking’] for someone to devour [katapinō, lit., ‘drink down’]. 9 Resist [aorist imperative]. him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering (cf. James 4:7).

God has provided six pieces of armor that equip the believer for spiritual battle:

  • Belt of truth
  • Breastplate of righteousness
  • Gospel of peace
  • Shield of faith
  • Helmet of salvation
  • Sword of the Spirit, the word of God

As mentioned, of the six pieces, Paul provides truth as the first foundational piece: “By fastening the belt of truth around your waist.” As with justification, truth is objective—and sometimes it is in opposition to our feelings. So Solomon says, “The one who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).

 

Biblical truth is foundational to our faith, salvation, and our sanctification.

 Biblical truth:

  • Guards and protects us against false teachings. 
  • Reveals that God is triune and Jesus is God in the flesh. 
  • Reveals the gospel of the Son. 
  • Teaches us that we are saved, justified through faith alone, not by works. 
  • Transforms our life. 
  • Resides in us and encourages us. 
  • Ensures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

In fact, truth is predicated of each person in the Trinity. The Father (John 7:28; 17:3), the Son (John 1:14 14:6; 1 John 5:20), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). 

Paul stresses to the pastors in Ephesus through Timothy to “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately” (1 Tim. 2:15). The term translated “accurately,” is from orthotomeō, which compound word is from orthos (“straight”) and temnō, (“to cut”), literally, “to cut straight.” Thus, it carries the meaning of precision. An accurate truthful hermeneutic will protect the true intended meaning of the biblical text (2 Pet. 3:16).

Thus, truth starts with the veracity of Scripture (Sola Scriptura). In the Temptation narrative (Matt. 4:1-11), Jesus combated the devil and his false words with Scripture. Paul states that, “all Scripture is theopneustos [‘God breathed out’].” Truth seekers bow and submit to Scripture as their sole infallible authority. Unlike those who only see parts of Scripture they like as “truth,” while the ones they do not like, they see as false. They do not believe in Scripture, but in themselves (Augustine). We worship a God who calls Himself Truth (John 14:6), so we have a higher obligation to be truthful in our life and our handling the word of truth. Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). In light of this, Christians should exhort one another as “fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 1:18).

Without this biblical truth, we have no protection against the schemes of the devil. So Jesus says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). According to Jesus, Satan “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Since Satan uses falsities to attack Christians, biblically unread Christians are easy targets for him. So it is vital, therefore, for the believer, “Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist.” 

  • Error and falsehood (ignorance or purposeful) will not extinguish temptation.
  • Untruth will not bring God’s favor in your life.
  • Falsities do not glorify God—it dishonors Him, no matter how many “good works” one performs (Prov. 15:8).
  • The devil has been using false doctrine since the beginning of time (Gen. 3:1-7; 2 Cor. 11:3).

Therefore, “Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. . . . 13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. . . . 14Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist” (Eph. 6:11, 13-14).

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Notes

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical citations in this article are taken from the NET.

[2] Prominent Greek scholar Dan Wallace defines the tense as a “Do it now” verb (cf. GGBB).

 

Simply: The defining context and semantic of the Blind Man’s statement of “I am” is unmistakably different than the unpredicated egō eimi (“I am”) claims which Jesus made in Matt. 14:27; Mark. 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24, 28. 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and verse 8).    

JWs (as well as other unitarian groups) [1] deny that Jesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι (egō eimi, “I am”)[2] were claims of being equal with God. Typically JWs appeal to John 9:9: “Some were saying: ‘This is he.’ others were saying: ‘No, but he looks like him.’ The man kept saying: ‘I am he’” (egō eimi, “I am”). In other words, because the syntactically (not contextually) unpredicated Greek phrase egō eimi was used of the blind man, JWs argue that Jesus’ claim of being the egō eimi, that is, the “I am,” cannot be a claim of deity.  

What quickly refutes this blank argument is simply the CONTEXT. Meanings of words (and phrases) are determined by context, not merely by lexical meaning. If this vital point is not considered, then, meanings become a mere pretext.     

In the Septuagint (LXX), the unpredicated egō eimi was an exclusive title for YHWH (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4, translated from the Hebrew, ani hu). In these places, the title clearly indicates YHWH’s claim of eternal existence. Further, in Isa. 41:4, YHWH’s claim of being the “I am” is joined with the claim, “I am the first, and with the last,” and “I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last.” In the NT, only Jesus Christ claimed to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17, 2:8; 22:13). So incontrovertibly, the unpredicated “I am” in the OT (LXX) was a clear claim of deity, that is, eternal existence, exclusively used of YHWH.- 

SeeJesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”) Declarations- John 8:58for an expanded treatment on the title egō eimi used of Christ in the NT and YHWH in the OT LXX.    

Hence, when Jesus claimed to be the “I am,” esp. sandwiched between other divine implications and syntactical features [3], the Jews, against the backdrop of the LXX, clearly recognized the semantic force of what Christ was claiming: “They picked up stones to kill Him” (John 8:59). This was a legal stoning according to Jewish law (Lev. 24:16). In fact, the Jews understood and responded in the same way (wanting to kill Christ), when Jesus made other unique claims of deity. For example, Mark 14:61-64- claim: Son of God and Son of Man, “coming with the clouds of heaven”; John 5:17-18- claim: Son of God, “making Himself equal with God”; John 10:30-33- claim: giving eternal life to the His sheep, being essentially one (hen) with the Father, and being the Son of God.

Christ’s claims of being the “I am” were not isolated. In John 8, in which most of Jesus’ “I am” claims were recorded, are many additional claims of Christ as to His preexistence and deity (cf. 8:12, 19 [esp. the “I am” clams in vv. 24, 28, 58], 40, 51), which led up to His crowning claim of being the absolute, “I am,” that is, I am the Eternal One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush.[4]Thus, contextually, Jesus’ “I am” claims were unpredicated and unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, the YHWH of Deut. 32:39; Isaiah 43:10 et al. And the Jews knew this—for they wanted to kill Him for blasphemy (John 8:59)!

What about the blind man’s statement, “I am” in John 9:9?  

The contextual dissimilarity between Jesus’ “I am” claims and the blind man’s statement, cannot be missed. When Jesus stated, “I am,” it was a startling claim to be God incarnate, whereas when the blind man stated, “I am,” it was in mere response to the question of who it was that Christ healed. Note verses 8-9:

 So the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” The man himself kept saying, “I am the one [egō eimi].” 

The blind man simply explained, Yes, “I am” the man who Christ healed! Clearly, the “I am” has an implied predicate. Note the significantly different responses of the Jews to Jesus’ absolute “I am” statements in John 8:58; 18:5, 6, and verse 8 compared to the blind man’s “I am” statement in John 9:9:    

  1. John 9:9, when the blind said, “I am,” the Jews did not attempt to stone him, as they attempted to do to Christ in response to His claim of being “I am” (John 8:58-59).

 

  1. There was no adverse reaction by the Jews to the blind man saying “I am,” nor did one person fall back, contra the guards in response to Jesus’ “I am” claims in John 18. 

 

  1. In the entire content of John 9, there were no divine implications made by the blind man. Whereas, Christ made abounding divine implications all throughout John 8 leading up to verse 58, as pointed out above. 

 

  1. As also mentioned above, John 8:58 contains a verbal contrast between Abraham’s beginning (denoted by the aorist genesthai, “was”) and Jesus’ eternality, that is, being the eternal One (denoted by the present eimi, “am”): “Before Abraham was born” vs. “I am.”   

 

Therefore, there is absolutely no contextual similarity between Jesus’ multiple unambiguous claims to be the unpredicated “I am,” God incarnate, and the blind man’s response of being the man that Jesus healed.


NOTES

[1] A distinction, though, needs to be made between religious groups that are theologically “unitarian” (or unipersonal, i.e., seeing God as one person, thus rejecting the Trinity) and the official Unitarian religion itself. The former would include such religious systems as post-first century Judaism, Islam, Oneness Pentecostals, JWs, etc., while the latter is applied exclusively to the Unitarian Church as a religious denomination. Thus, “unitarian” refers to the unipersonal theology of the JWs as well as all other theological unitarian groups. Technically, a unitarian belief of God is synonymous with a unipersonal belief of God.

[2] Appearing mostly in, but not limited to, the Gospel of John (Matt. 14:27; Mark. 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24, 28. 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and v. 8).

[3] To laser light His eternal existence as God, in John 8:58 for example, Jesus asserted a sharp verbal contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning denoted by the aorist verb, genesthai (“was born.” from ginomai, “to come to be”), and His eternal existence denoted by the present indicative verb, eimi (“am,” as in egō eimi, “I am”). Thus, a “came to be” vs. “I am always being” contrast.

[4]. In Exod. 3:13, in response to Moses’s question regarding His “name,” the LXX records the angel of the LORD declaring, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (egō eimi ho ōn, “I am the One”). Although the phrase is not an exact syntactical parallel to the unpredicated egō eimi in John 8:58 et al., the semantic consequence is the same—namely, expressing eternal existence. Note the articular (or adjectival) participle ho ōn following egō eimi. This present tense participle ōn is from eimi (“I am, exist”)—linguistically, existing, being, subsisting (context and grammatical features determine its durational aspect). In particular contexts, the articular participle can denote timeless, eternal existence. It is used of God the Father in Revelation 1:4 and either Father or Son in 1:8 and 4:8. However, in the articular participle is applied to Christ at John 1:18 (ho ōn, “the One who is always, timelessly existing, in the bosom of the Farther”); 3:13 (M, TR); 6:46; and Romans 9:5 (Rev. 1:8). In these passages, the articular participle denotes the Son’s timeless existence. Therefore, although the LXX of Exodus 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn) is not an exact syntactical parallel to John 8:58 et al., it is a semantic equivalent of eternal preexistence and thus, deity. Whereas the exact syntactical parallel (i.e., the unpredicated egō eimi) would be found in in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; and 48:12—, which are exclusively applied to YHWH.

SeeJesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”) Declarations- John 8:58for an expanded treatment on the Exod. phrase and the articular participle, ho ōn.   

 

“In Him”

1 Cor. 1:30: “But it is due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”  

Rom. 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Cor. 5:17, 21: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Eph. 1:4: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

 

The ἐν (“in”) + the dative construction was a favorite linguistic formula of the Apostle Paul. For example (NA28th), ἐν αὐτῷ (“in Him”) appears 23 times and ἐν Χριστῷ (“in Christ”) appears 73 times in his literature.[1]

As with all prepositions, the meaning of preposition ἐν is determined by its object, which in Paul’s formula is either singular dative nouns such as Ἀδὰμ (“Adam”), σαρκὶ (“flesh”), νόμῳ (“law”), πνεύματι (“Spirit”), Κυρίῳ (“Lord”), or the singular dative pronoun, αὐτῷ (“Him”). Note that when Christ is the object of ἐν (“in Him,” “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” etc.),[2] a few views have been suggested among standard scholarship as to the semantic of the dative in the prepositional phrase.   

For example, dative of sphere (i.e., locative, “in the realm/sphere of”); instrumental dative (i.e., dative of means/instrument, “by means [instrumentally] of”), and a couple other semantic views have also been posited. Wallace (GGBB) points out, that the dative expressing sphere is a frequent usage especially with ἐν + the dative, as in Eph. 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him [ἐν Κυρίῳ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.”

However, it seems that the predominant meaning (i.e., of scholarly opinion, e.g., Lightfoot, TDNT, NIGTC et al.) of Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula, when referring to Christ (or other persons in the Trinity) denotes “in union with Christ,” that is, being identified and unified with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. Consistent to Paul’s Adam-Christ antithesis, which is well exampled in such passages as 1 Cor. 15:22, where Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula denotes “in union with”: “For as in [union with] ADAM [ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ] all die, so also in [union with] CHRIST [ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ] all will be made alive.” Turner sees that “Adam is a representative man ‘in’ whom all mankind was viewed. . . . But the instances with en are predicated of Christ or the Gospel and mean ‘in the sphere of’” (cf. Matt. 3:11; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 12:13). 

Many other passages in Paul’s literature, which involve the ἐν + the dative formula, denote union or identification with Christ in contrast to condemnation, sin, law, flesh, etc. For example, Romans 6:11: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God IN CHRIST [ἐν Χριστῷ]; 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST [ἐν Χριστῷ] Jesus.”

In this sense, men walk to two territories, either “in Christ” or “in Adam, in the flesh.” Union and identification with one or the other. Being “in Christ,” therefore, is tantamount to being in union with Him. So Lightfoot observes, “ἐν Χριστῷ, i.e. ‘by virtue of our incorporation in, our union with, Christ.’” It is in that sense, then, that as the old man is ἐν ‘Αδάμ and the Jew ἐν νόμῳ, the believer are ἐν Χριστῷ. So Eadie rightly says, “Believers were looked upon as being in Christ their federal Head, when they were elected.”

Further, note the contrast of being ἐν σαρκὶ (“in [the] flesh”) and being “in Christ/“in the Spirit” with emphasis on the indwelling of the Spirit in Rom. 8:9: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Thus, being ἐν Χριστῷ is set in contrast to being ἐν ‘Αδάμ (“in Adam”) in 1 Cor. 15:22 and being found ἐν Χριστῷ is set in contrast to being ἐν νόμῳ (“in the Law”) in Phil. 3:6-9.

 Conclusion

The ἐν + the dative formula (esp. Paul’s near exclusive use of ἐν Χριστῷ) undeniably expresses the love that God the Father has for believers, which is shown by His electing them to the adoption of sons placing them in union with His Son (Eph. 1:4-5). Paul’s ἐν + the dative formula linguistically denotes “in union with Christ,” that is, being identified and unified with Him in His life, death, and resurrection. Hence, Paul can say, “Therefore I, the prisoner ἐν κυρίῳ [‘in the Lord,’ not, ‘of the Lord’]” (Eph. 4:1). Paul also uses this signifying formula to denote the unbreakable union believers have with the Father and the Spirit—viz. union and identification with the triune God.    

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-Notes 

[1] Aside for three places in Peter, ἐν Χριστῷ appears only in Paul.

[2] Ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν Χριστῷ, ἐν Κυρίῳ.