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 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.   

 

A Biblical Perspective of Justification

Key issue: as noted below, the Greek verb dikaioō (“to justify”) does not have the lexical meaning of, “to make righteous,” as if the sinner is subjectively made righteousness (as in Catholicism). On the contrary, it denotes a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent (cf. note 4 below).

The Apostle Paul’s epistle to the church at Galatia was specifically an anti-Judaizer polemic. Paul was very concerned as to the pervading heresy of the Judaizers. The Judaizers taught that “faith in Christ” was not enough. Hence, one had to add the Old Testament ordinances, especially circumcision, and the keeping of the ethical and ceremonial laws, to the finished work of Christ:

Some men came from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom [Law] of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1; cf. Gal. 2:1ff.).

This kind of teaching, in the apostles’ mind, was not a doctrinal on the rim issue. By teaching that man must co-operate with God’s grace by adding works (any works) to his faith, the Judaizers stripped Jesus’ atonement of its efficacy. So toxic was the works/salvation doctrine of the Judaizers that the apostle wasted no time (from his opening statement) in sharply anathematizing (i.e., pronouncing a divine curse) men and even angels from heaven who might promulgate it:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed [anathema]! As we have said, before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:6-9; emphasis added).

Paul never gets tired impressing to the Galatians: justification is through faith alone; i.e., faith apart from, without, modifications or additions of works:

knowing the a man is not justified by the works [ex ergōn, lit. “from works”] of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Gal. 2:16; emphasis added).

You foolish Galatians, who as bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? . . . Even Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Gal. 3:1-3, 6; emphasis added).Paul further declares that it is dia tēs pisteōs (lit. “through the faith”) alone that enables one to be adopted as a son of God.

For you are all sons of God through faith [dia tēs pisteōs] in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized [i.e., unified, see above] into Christ have clothed yourself with [eis] Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; emphasis added).

Romans 4:4-8

It becomes increasingly clear as one works through the Pauline corpus that salvation by grace alone through faith alone is clearly the theological starting point for the apostle. Scripture is clear: the righteousness of Christ is the sole ground of justification (man excluded), and the sole means is faith alone apart from works. There is no shortage of passages that that clearly define this divine truth. Since a detailed analysis of each passage is beyond the scope of this work, it is enough to highlight a few where this grand them of justification by faith is presented. For example, in Romans 4:4-8, we read

Now to the one who works, his wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessings on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT” (NASB).

Consider the following:

1. In verse 4, Paul explains that wages from works are not credited as a gift or a favor; but “what is due.” The literal rendering is even clearer: “Now the working one, the reward is not reckoned [or “imputed,” logizetai] according to grace [charin, Paul’s normal word for “grace”], but according to debt [misthos].” In other words, if an employer, after giving a paycheck to the employee, says, “Thanks a lot, here is your gift,” the employee would object stating that he or she “earned” (worked for) those wages! Exactly the argument Paul makes here: wages are the result or reward from works (viz. “what is due.”). In verse 5, he contrasts “wages” that one earns by works, with being “credited” or imputed as righteousness by faith (or “belief”) alone—apart from additions or modifications. This contrast cannot be missed: works vs. faith.

2. Paul presents a contrast between the working man as seen above and the man who does not work, but has faith: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him . . . his faith is credited as righteousness.” The same participle is used for both verses 4 and 5. But Paul inserts a negation in verse 5:

v. 4: tō de ergazomenō (lit. “but the one working”).

v. 5: tō de mē ergazomenō (lit. “but the not working one”).

It is God, Paul says, “who justifies the ungodly.” The righteousness of Christ was imputed to the sinner’s account when they were justified and the sinner’s sins were imputed to Christ in His sacrificial death upon the cross over 2,000 years ago (cf. Rom. 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21).

3. In verse 6, Paul now shows that David understood that “God credits righteousness apart from works [chōris ergōn; emphasis added].” Thus, verse 6 literally reads: “Blessed is the man to whom God imputes or credits righteousness without works [theos logizetai dikaiosunen choris ergon].” Again, Paul does not here limit works only to “works of the Law” (a Catholic assertion). Please note once again, Paul does not even here the phrase ho nomos (“the law”), but ergōn (“works”)—any works (cf. Rom. 5:1; Eph.2:8; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-7).

To avoid the plain and straightforwardness of Romans 4:4ff., some would appeal to Ephesians 2:10 (“created . . . for good works”). However, in the Ephesians passage Paul is simply teaching that salvation is chariti, (“by grace”), and dia pisteōs (“through faith”), and ouk ex ergōn (lit. “not from works”; 2:9). Hence, works are the result (not the cause) of genuine faith (as pointed out above). The Apostle James draws the same point: genuine faith does not result in a deedless life.

4. Then Paul quotes David (Psalm 32:1-2) in verses 7 and 8: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” When the sinner is justified through faith, he or she is legally declared: not guilty![1] Justification is a one-time declarative act in which God pronounces the sinner just or righteous. God does not count their trespasses against them (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19). Note the strong and specific language that Paul uses in verse 8. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (emphasis added).

Many times the full import of particular passages is lost in translations, which is the case here. In first century Greek, there were several ways to negate (i.e., to say “no”) something. Each way had its own, to some extent, nuance. The strongest possible way, however, to deny or negate a future possibility was to use the double negative (ou mē) followed by an aorist subjunctive verb (i.e., generally, a verb of possibility). This construction was only used about eighty–five times in the New Testament. In verse 8, Paul uses this construction: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account [ou mē logisētai; emphasis added].” The NIV reads, “whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Paul is denying that there is even a possibility (due to the aorist subjunctive verb logisētai [“take into account” or “count”]) that the Lord will count sins against the one justified. This same construction (i.e., double negative + the aorist subjunctive) is used in John 10:28:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow me and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish [ou mē apolōntai]; and no one can snatch them out of my hand (vv. 27-28; emphasis added; cf. Deut. 32:39).[2]

There is not, Jesus says emphatically, even a possibility, of His sheep ever perishing. Jesus uses the double negative construction to emphasize that the eternal life that He gives is not dependent on man’s self-determination, for man can fail. But rather, eternal life is the promise to those who He has justified, to those whose sins will never be counted against them, to those who have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ to their account. They are declared righteous and they, by no means, will ever perish—not even a possibility!

To be sure, the Apostle Paul saw justification as an essential and fundamental to true biblical Christianity. To deny justification through faith alone (viz. without additions or modifications) was the same as denying the deity of Christ! This is clearly seen in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As we have seen above, the main purpose of Paul’s letter was to pointedly refute the heresy of the Judaizers (cf. Acts 15:1ff.; Gal. 1:6ff.). To add to God’s work—is to add to Scripture. “Who,” Paul rhetorically asks, “will bring a charge against God’s elect? . . . who is the one who condemns? . .” (Rom. 8:33-34).[3] Therefore, how can anyone undo the work of God? It is God alone, who declares the sinner eternally righteous, and hence justified.

 

Romans 5:1

Therefore having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Paul constantly taught that justification comes not by works, formulas, or laws, but rather, a man is declared rightness before God through faith alone. Paul was theologically precise as to how the sinner is justified before the presence of God. Notice first that the sinner having been justified has peace with God. The participle dikaiōthentes, translated “having been justified,” is the aorist passive of dikaioō.[4] Grammatically, the aorist here tells us that the action of the participle dikaiōthentes (“having been justified”) was a past action (as rendered in most translations). Furthermore, the participle is in the passive voice. This indicates that the action of being justified was not by the sinner in any way (otherwise the verb would be in the active voice), but rather the justification was done to the sinner, in the past, which was solely a divine act of God (cf. Rom. 8:33). Thus, the ones having been justified now “have [echomen][5] peace [eirēnēn][6] with God [pros ton theon]” (emphasis added).

It is not the action or work of the sinner, which then results in justification, rather, Paul, simply affirms it is ek pisteōs (“through faith”). This is important to realize, that if Paul thought that “water baptism” or “works” were an aspect or a requirement of justification, he could have easily modified the clause to say, “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, baptism, and works, then let us have peace with God” (as in UPCI soteriology). Hence, “faith alone” is simply faith without additions or modifications. Justification is never deemed as a reward for meritorious works or performance, rather it is said to be a gift,[7] which cannot be earned. Paul was clear and consistent in all of his letters: justification is through faith alone, “apart from” works, any works. This is wonderful news. By faith alone the one God regenerated (“made alive”) has been legally declared righteous (justified) in the sight of God, whereby has present active and continuous peace, that is, final and permanent reconciliation and fellowship with God. In his solid exegesis of Romans, Wuest can say of this beautiful passage:

The word “therefore” reaches back to the contents of chapter four—therefore being justified, not by works (1-8), not by ordinances (9-12), not by obedience (13-25), but by faith, we have peace. The first three never give peace to the soul. Faith does . . . The context is didactic. It contains definite statements of fact. It is highly doctrinal in nature. It has to do with a sinner’s standing before God in point of law, not his experience. As Denney [James Denney, D. D.] says; “The justified have peace with God, . . . His wrath (1:18) no longer threatens them; they are accepted in Christ. It is not a change in their feelings which is indicated, but a change in God’s relation to them.[8]

Paul announces to the Christians at Ephesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8; emphasis added). “If it is by grace,” Paul says, “it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). Contrary to a faith + works = salvation soteriology, which groups such as the ICC, UPCI, LDS, JWs, Catholic Church, etc. hold to, Scripture presents that justification is through faith alone without any mention of additions or modifications such as the necessity of water baptism: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” the jailer asked, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). 

How are sins forgiven? Scripture is clear:

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes on Him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43; emphasis added).

Let us pause and think; why is it that over and over the New Testament teaches that eternal salvation is explicitly tied to faith or belief alone with no mention of water baptism if, in fact, water baptism was essential to one’s salvation?[9] Paul’s own statement refutes the notion that water baptism was an indispensable means of salvation: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . .” (1 Cor. 1:17).

Water Baptism: a Deed of Righteousness

In Scripture, water baptism is defined as an “act” or deed “to fulfill [not to receive] righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Yet, Paul clearly refutes this idea:

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, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6; emphasis added).

Again, the question to a Mormon or Roman Catholic (or any baptismal regenerationist whose church denies justification by faith alone) is this: “Can one walk in your church and be saved by faith/belief in Christ Jesus alone, without being water baptized in the name of Jesus?”[10] For these groups mention above, the answer is categorically: No. The most important issue that every man must deal with can be summed up in this question: “How is a man justified before God?” Is that not the question of the ages, from the first man to the present? How can man be reconciled to God? How can man be declared not guilty in the sight of a perfect God? I think we would do well to allow Jesus Christ, the authority on the matter, to answer:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

Before leaving this verse, it would be wise to breathe in the grammatical significance of the words of Christ. Starting with the first clause: “He who hears [akouōn] My word, and believes [pisteuōn] Him who sent Me. . . .” The participle akouōn (“who hears”) is in the present tense, and the active voice. The participle pisteuōn (“believes”) is a present active participle. Note that both participles verbs are in the present tense, literally: “the one hearing and the one believing.”

Then the phrase: “has eternal life.” The verb echei (“has”) is the singular present active indicative of echō. The indicative mood of the verb indicates a clear presentation of certainty that the event will happen (i.e., “eternal life”). And because echei is in the present tense, it indicates that the one believing (apart from any works) possesses de facto eternal life presently and continuously. For this reason, those (the believing ones) will never come into God’s wrath and judgment (see John 10:28).

We now come to the last clause of the passage: “but has passed out of death into life.” The Greek verb metabebēken (“has passed”) is a perfect tense.[11] The perfect tense indicates a completed action that normally occurred in the past, which has continuous results into the present.[12] Hence, the reason as to why the one believing “does not come into judgment” is because he “has passed out” of perfectly, completely spiritual death. Therefore, the full force of what Jesus was literally saying can be translated:

He who presently and continuously hears My word and believes Me (who I am), I promise that he will presently and continuously possess, without end, eternal life, that is, salvation. And he will never come into condemnation. He has, in times past, been called to be declared righteous (justified) and then to be glorified, whereby passing out of death into life.[13]

Christian water baptism is never even a subject of discussion in John’s gospel. The main theme of the apostle was (a) the full deity of Jesus Christ (e.g., 1:1; 18, 8:24, 58; 20:28; etc.) and (b) eternal life/salvation (e.g., 1:12; 3:16; 6:37-40, 47; 10:27-29; etc.). Never once in John’s gospel is salvation connected to Christian water baptism. Salvation is exclusively by faith/belief alone. If water baptism were in fact an indispensable means of salvation as baptismal regenerationists teaches, you would think that John or Jesus would have taught it—at least once. That water baptism, circumcision, ordinances, rituals, ceremonial or ethical old covenant laws, or any works for that matter, adds (or is a part of) to one’s justification places one firmly under the anathema of the apostle: cursed by God. In the end, looking at all the non-Christian cults and world religions we do find doctrinal harmony on at least two points. The first, of course, is that they all reject Jesus Christ as eternal God, that is, they deny the doctrine of the Trinity in some way or other. And second, they all attack and deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Hence, they add some kind of creaturely work to their system of salvation.

Yes indeed, it is difficult for mere man to comprehend that through faith alone God freely justifies the sinner. However, we cannot rely on our faulty emotions to test truth. For, in spite of, our limited, finite, conventional wisdom and understanding, the Apostle Paul, who wrote as the Holy Spirit enabled him, declares:

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. . . . (Rom. 4:4-6; emphasis added; cf. John 6:47; 10:28-29; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; Eph. 2:8).

The Final Question

How is a man justified before God whereby his sins are forgiven? The baptismal regenerationists’ response is clear: repentance, water baptism (and for the UPCI: baptized in the name of Jesus” with the evidence of speaking in tongues),[14] and living by strict biblical obedience, and only to those is salvation achieved. In sharp contrast, Scripture does tell us clearly how a man is justified before God: “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes on Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43; emphasis added).

Therefore having been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1; emphasis added).

NOTES

[1] In Romans 8:28ff., Paul employs legal terms to underscore the status of the justified: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33); “Who is the one who will condemn?” (v. 34); “who [Jesus] also intercedes for us” (v. 34). These terms (“charge,” “condemn,” and “intercedes”) were used in court proceedings in the first century. Hence, Paul’s Roman audience would have understood clearly, as to what he was communicating.

[2] Jesus also uses the same construction in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out [ou mē ekbalō; emphasis added].”

[3] Cf. n. 35 above.

[4] The term “righteous” and “just” are translated form the same Greek word: dikaios (adj.), dikaiosunē (noun), and the dikaioō (verb). The noun dikaiosunē simply means the “quality or state of judicial correctness with focus on redemptive action, righteousness” (Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. by Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000], 247). Commenting on forensic nature of the term in the OT, Protestant apologist James R. White notes:

In the Old Testament, the term “to justify” is often used in the judicial sense, that is, in the context of the court of law [e.g., Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; Isa. 5:23]. . . . Because the doctrine of justification by faith says justification is something God does based upon the work of Christ: it is a forensic declaration, not something that involves a subjective change of the believer (James R. White, The God who Justifies [Bethany House, 2001], 77, 79).

It should also be noted that the verb dikaioō does not mean, “to make” righteous as if the sinner is subjectively made righteousness (as in Catholicism). On the contrary, it denotes a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent. As Lutheran scholar Leon Morris rightly explains:

How can the death of Christ change the verdict on sinners from “Guilty” to Innocent”? Some have said in effect, “It is by changing the guilty, by transforming them so that they are no longer bad people, but good ones. No one will want to minimize the transformation that takes place in a true conversion or to obscure the fact that this is an important part of being a Christian. However, such a transformation does not fit the justification terminology. It is sometimes argued that the verb normally translated “to justify” (dikiaoō) means “to make righteous” rather than “to declare righteous.” But this agrees neither with the word’s formation nor with its usage. Verbs ending in–oō and referring to moral qualities have a declarative sense; they do not mean “to make—.” And the usage is never for the transformation of the accused; it always refers to a declaration of his innocence (Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986], 70).

[5] The verb echomen (“have”) is the present active indicative of echō. However, there is a textual variant concerning echomen (omicron [echomen] or omega [echōmen]?). Note that the majority rendering is the hortatory subjunctive echōmen (“let us have peace”). Even though the subjunctive is possible, I do not see it as contextually probable. Moreover, all the evidence considered suggests the present indicative as the greater witness (cf. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, [New York: United Bible Societies, 1994], 169-70; James R. White, The God who Justifies [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 237, n. 8). Greek exegete Kenneth Wuest explains further:

The context is didactic. It contains definite statements of facts. It is highly doctrinal in nature. It has to do with the sinners standing before God in point of law, not his experience. . . . Furthermore, there is a difference between having peace with God and having the peace of God in the heart. The first has to do with justification and the second with sanctification. The first is the result of a legal standing, the second, the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The first is static, never fluctuates, the second changes from hour to hour. The first, every Christian has, the second, every Christian may have. The first, every Christian has as a result of justification. What sense would there be in exhorting Christians to have peace when they already possess it? The entire context is one of justification. Paul does not reach the subject of sanctification until 5:12-21 where he speaks of positional sanctification and 6:1-8:27 where he deals with progressive sanctification (Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, 76-77).

[6] The peace is the present possession of all who have been justified. The peace is the blessed result of what true justification is: abiding shalom with God Himself. No more enmity, no more hostility!

[7] Eternal life is never classified in the NT as misthon (“a reward” to the elect; cf. Rom. 4:4), but always as charisma (“a gift”).

[8] Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament, 75-76.

[9] E.g., John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Acts 10:43; 16:30-31; Romans 4:4-11; 5:1; 10:9-13; Galatians 3:2-3; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5-7; and 1 John 5:1, 11-13.

[10] Note, other than water baptism, “in the name of Jesus,” the UPCI teaches its followers that unless they speak in tongues they do not have the Holy Spirit and hence NO salvation. Their assertion is usually derived solely from the narrative accounts in Acts. It should be noted however that there are only three explicit references of the tongues phenomena in Acts: 2:1-4; 10:44-48; and 19:6. It is a hermeneutical error to take a narrative and force it to become a teaching. This violates the hermeneutical principle of the priority of didactic as defined in this chapter above. In point of fact, we read in the Acts account of many converts who were water baptized or said to have been “filled” with the Spirit and yet no mention of tongues (e.g., 2:37-41; 4:31; 6:3-6; 11:24). In fact, there are at least forty times that the Bible mentioned people as being “filled with,” “baptized in,” “fallen upon by,” “come upon by”, “poured upon by” the Spirit, and only three verses explicitly mention tongues (cf. Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 64).In Ephesians 5:18 the Apostle Paul commands to “be filled with the Spirit” (en pneumati). However, grammatically en (“with”) followed by the dative case pneumati (“Spirit”) does not indicate content, but rather means (cf. Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 162, 372-75).

Hence: “be filled by means of the Spirit.” Further, Paul then characterizes the results of being filled: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks . . . subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Grammatically, these characteristics above are participles of result. Hence, they indicate the results of being filled by means of the Spirit—wherein tongues are not mentioned. The point is that Scripture knows nothing of the idea that the sole evidence of being filled, baptized, indwelled, empowered, etc. with/by the Holy Spirit is the gift of speaking in tongues. If tongues were the sole evidence, then Paul would not have taught that the gift of tongues is not bestowed on all (cf. 1 Cor. 12:30; note here the negation mē: “all do not [] speak in tongues” (emphasis added). The negation expects a negative answer: “No.” Hence, this passage is of no comfort for those who insist that Paul there was speaking of a different tongue, not the “gift.” Paul nowhere in his letters makes this distinction. Further, Paul taught that “all” Christians were baptized (by Christ) by means of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; note the double usage of pantes [“all”]).

[11] Specifically, metabebēken is the perfect active indicative of metabainō.

[12] The perfect tense “indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the present. The action normally occurred in the past” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 218-19). It denotes a “present state resulting from a past action” (Harold J. Greenly, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986], 50). The import of the perfect tense can be seen in 1 John 4:2: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come [elēluthota] in the flesh is from God.” Thus, verb translated “has come” (elēluthota) is in the perfect tense; literally: “has come and remains in the flesh.” John’s letters (1 and 2), as with Paul’s letter to the Colossians, were a pointed refutation against the Docetic Gnostics (cf. chap. 2, n. 27) who denied that Jesus became flesh. Hence, John’s main refutation was made clear: Jesus has come and even remains (utilizing the perfect tense, elēluthota) in the flesh forever more (cf. 2 John 7).

[13] See also John 6:47; 1 John 5:12 where the present active indicative echei is utilized to indicate the certainty of one’s salvation.

[14] Ibid.

NASB: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am.’” 

NWT: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.’”

Greek:eipen autois Iēsous: amēn amēn legō humin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi.

It is no surprise that most non-Christian cults and religious groups reject that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, claimed to be God or equal to God.[1] Even though passages such as John 5:17-18; 8:58-59; 10:30-33; Rev. 22:13 show this clearly (esp. in light of the response of the Jews in John 5:59; 8:59; and 10:33.

Jesus declared in John 8:24: “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.).[2] Although many translations add the pronoun “he” after “I am” (e.g., NKJ, NASB) or bracketed clause[3], the fact is there is no pronoun (i.e., no supplied predicate) contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscript of John 8:24 or after Jesus’ other affirmations of being the “I am” as in John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8.[4] See also Mark 6:50: “Take courage; I am [egō eimi], do not be afraid” (lit.; also cf. John 6:19).

Hence, these seven particular occurrences (in John) of Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” are not the same as statements such as, for example, “I am the door” or “I am the shepherd.” These all have clear predicates (“door,” “shepherd”) following “I am,” whereas the seven “I am” statements in John seem to have no supplied predicate, but rather the “I am” stands alone. Clearly, this was an absolute claim to deity.

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi, the OT background must first be considered. The Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for Yahweh alone (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4)—which the Jews clearly understood (cf. John 8:59).[5] Again, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim.

When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6, and 8, we read that the “fearless” Romans soldiers “fell to the ground.” What would cause Roman soldiers to fall to the ground? So powerful were Jesus’ divine pronouncements that it caused His enemies to shudder to the ground. Even when Jesus was being arrested at perhaps one of the lowest points of His life on earth, He still retained total sovereignty over His enemies.

So strong was Jesus’ affirmation of deity in John 8:58 that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible (the (NWT) had to mistranslate the present active indicative verb, eimi (“am”) turning it into a past tense: “I have been” (see above NWT trans.). From this, the JW’s argue that Jesus was not claiming to be deity (“I am”), but rather He was claiming to be “older” than Abraham was (as Michael the archangel), which incited the Jews to want to kill Him. However, what immediately refutes this false notion is:

1) Simply, the Greek text contains the PRESENT indicative verb eimi (“am”) and not any kind of past tense. In 1969, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society[6] (WT) published a Greek Interlinear called, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT) and a revised ed. in 1985. The KIT is a Greek NT with English equivalents under each Greek word and the NWT on the side margins. What is interesting is that the Greek is unchanged, only the NWT is altered from the Greek.

For example, notice the photocopy of John 8:58-59 from the KIT in which you can see the unaltered Greek phrase egw eimi (“I am”) and the NWT’s altered reading “I have been,” on the side:

This clearly shows that the NWT purposely altered the Greek NT text, from the present “I am” (viz. the Eternal One) to a past “I have been” (as if Jesus was merely saying that He is older than Abraham)[7] to fit the distinctive theology of the WT.

2) Even more, throughout the years, the WT has offered at least three reasons as to why the present tense verb (eimi, “am”) should be translated as a past action (“have been”). First, in the 1950 ed. of the NWT, there is a footnote referring to the “I have been” rendering, which states: “I have been— egw eimi . . . properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. . . .” (p. 312).

This sounds legitimate to one who is not familiar with Greek, however, there is no such tense as a “perfect indefinite” in biblical Greek. The WT made up a phony tense. Some have defended the WT’s explanation saying that “perfect indefinite” refers to the English, not the Greek. But we are not aware of a single official WT source that states this.

Then, the WT argued that the verb eimi was a “perfect indicative.”[8] Now, there is a perfect indicative in Greek, however, the verb eimi takes no such form. And currently, the WT asserts that eimi is a “historical present”[9] explaining that “The verb ei·mi’, at John 8:58, is evidently in the historical present, as Jesus was speaking about himself in relation to Abraham’s past” (emphasis added).[10]

Thus, the JWs see Jesus as merely claiming that He pre-existed Abraham, which, according to the JWs, enraged the Jews to the point of wanting to kill Him (cf. v. 59). This assertion, however, is flawed both grammatically and contextually. First, a historical present tense occurs primarily in narrative literature and only in third person. In this context, Jesus was arguing with the Jews—He was not narrating. Secondly, the equative verb eimi is not used as a historical present. As the recognized Greek scholar, Daniel Wallace, points out:

“If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that uses the equative verb eimi. The burden of proof, therefore, lies with the one who sees eimi as ever being used as a historical present. . . If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that is in other than third person.[11]

The weight against the historical present view is massive. The reason for these various assertions of eimi postulated by the WT throughout the years (viz. the phony perfect indefinite; perfect indicative, and historical present) is, of course, obvious. If Jesus’ divine statements of being the “I am,” stand unmodified, then, Jesus made some astonishing and unambiguous claims of being the eternal God (as with John 5:17 and 10:27-30), which clearly show the WT to be a false religion in need of salvation.

NOTES

[1] Although Roman Catholicism holds to the deity of Christ, they reject His work as being sufficient, the very ground of justification (esp. seen in Rome’s view of Purgatory). Since Paul states that it is “His [God’s] doing” that we are in Christ, who became to us “righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), Rome clearly embraces a “different” Jesus than that of holy Scripture, a Jesus, that did not, alone, become the believers’ righteousness.

[2] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn.

[3] For example, the pre-2011 NIV has a bracketed clause after “I am” that reads: “the one I claim to be.”

[4] Although John 8:58 is accepted universally in biblical scholarship as a non-predicated divine declaration, “I am,” not all scholars hold to 8:24 in the same light as reflected in many translations. However, some translations (e.g., ISV [2008]; NAB) do see the phrase at 8:24 as unpredicted: “I am.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) reads: “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins” (caps theirs). Also see Vincent’s Word Studies, where 8:24, 28, 58 and 13:19 are seen as a “solemn expression” of Jesus’ “absolute divine being.”

[5] Some connect Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58. However, the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalence: Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). Though there is a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 (both provide same meaning: I am the Eternal one), the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative should be linked to the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was rendered by the LXX as egō eimi. Again, the unpredicted egō eimi was a divine title used exclusively by Yahweh (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Unlike Elohim (“God”), the title egō eimi was never applied to men or angels, but to Yahweh alone: “See now that I am [egō eimi], and there is no god except Me” (Deut. 32:29, LXX).

[6] The WT is the organization to which the JWs belong and submit.

[7] The Watchtower, 1 September 1974, 526-27

[8] Cf. KIT, 1985 ed. 451.

[9] “The historical present is used fairly frequently in narrative literature to describe a past event” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 526).

[10] Reasoning from the Scriptures, 418.

[11] Ibid., 530.

John 4:46—5:16 represents the first recorded occurrences of Jesus’ healing ministry. The first would be the Nobleman’s son (the second of His miracles). In John 5:1ff., we read of the second healing miracle of the sick man at the pool of Bethesda. It was a tradition for the sick to come together and lay in the pool with their infirmities. Some early manuscripts attest that the pool was actually red with potent minerals that had healings properties.

Verse 3b-4: “waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.” However, verses 3b and 4 lack canonical verification. Some manuscripts include both (e.g., A C3 K Q Y W 063 078vid f1 13 565 579 Byz vgcl). While others only include 3b and others only verse 4. Only a few textual scholars today would accept the genuineness of any portion of verses 3b-4—for they are not found in the earliest and best NT manuscripts such as P66 75 א B C* D T Ws 33 f 1 q vgst syc co. Further, the manuscripts that do include the readings were incongruent to that of the vocabulary and syntax of John’s literature. And several manuscripts that include the verses are marked with “spurious” symbols (e.g., asterisk, obelisk). As a result, a number of modern translations (e.g., NIV, NET, ESV) follow the NA28 in omitting the verse number all together.

Verse 8: “Rise up and walk.” The power of Jesus’ sovereign words had the power to heal (and raise the dead, cf. John 11:43-44). God is in infallible control over life, death, sickness, and health (cf. Deut. 32:39); for He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (cf. Eph. 1:11).

Verse 9 “Immediately the man became well. . . .” This indicates the totality or completeness of the healing—not like some of today’s faith healers in which the so-called healing wears off.

Verse 10: “So the Jewish leaders/authorities.” In NT, the term Ioudaios (“Jews”) can refer to all the Jewish people, the citizens of Jerusalem and surrounding region, the authorities in Jerusalem, or, in a generic sense, to those who were hostile to Jesus. Here though, it seems that the author refers to the Jewish authorities or officials in Jerusalem, for they stated, “It is not permissible for you to carry your pallet” (v. 10).

The OT taught that “work” was prohibited on the Sabbath, but did not precisely define as to what “work” was (cf. Exod. 20-8-11), although, it seems to refer to normal employment. However, in the Rabbinical “oral” tradition (produced in the Mishna), the definition of “work” went beyond the actual “written” OT prohibition. The act of caring one’s bed from one place to another is one such “work,” which was prohibited. Thus, he did not break any OT “written” Law regarding “work” on the Sabbath, but he merely broke one of the so-called oral traditions that was created by the Jews.

Verse 16: “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” The plural pronoun, tauta (“these things”) indicates that Jesus healed on the Sabbath more than once (cf. John 20:30), however, the author chose this incident to be the example. The verb ediōkon (“persecuting”) is in the imperfect tense (from diōkō). The force of an imperfect tense is a continuous or repeated action occurring in the past. Thus, the persecution was a repeated action—for they kept persecuting Jesus.

Jesus Claims Equality with God the Father

Especially in verses 17-24, Jesus makes striking and undeniable claims of His deity, that is, His equality with God the Father. They also supply an unambiguous proof that Jesus’ unique claim of being the Son of God was an undistinguishable claim of being God the Son—namely, God Himself (cf. John 1:18).

Verses 17: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Here Jesus responds to the charges brought against Him: Although the Father’s creative activities stopped after six days, His work in justifying, rewarding, punishing, and upholding and governing the universe, etc. never stops or rests. As the Father “works,” the Son works too in such things as answering prayers, raising the dead, advocating, healing, and even works on Sabbath days. Hence, God’s work in doing good does not rest. In Mark 2:27, Jesus points out that the Sabbath is a blessing, not a burden—it was made for man. He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8) as such, He is higher and greater than the Sabbath being equal to God the Father and thus, His work will not be interrupted by a Sabbath day.

Verse 18: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” Here, Jesus makes a most astonishing claim of being equal to God. Hence, it establishes a very important point of apologetics. As seen above, Jesus’ unique claim of being the Son of God was tantamount to a claim of being “God the Son,” God Himself. The speedy response of the Jews shows this to be true: “For this reason . . . the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him.” Jesus’ explicit claims to be God also in John 8:58 and 10:27-30 incited the same response by the Jews.

Furthermore, the term translated, “breaking” (eluen, lit., “relaxing,” “loosing”) and “calling” (elegen) as in “calling God His Father” are both in the imperfect tense. As mentioned, the imperfect tense indicates a continuous or repeated action occurring in the past. Hence, evidently this was not the first time that Jesus “loosed” the Sabbath and claimed God was His Father in the sense of essence/nature—it was a repeated claim.

Also, note the pronoun heauton (“Himself”): “[He] was [repeatedly] calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The pronoun is “reflexive.” In Greek, a reflexive pronoun is where the subject (in this clause, the Son) is also the object receiving the action of the verb (“making”). Thus, He Himself was making Himself equal with God.

Lastly, the complaint that the Jews made in John 19:7 should remove any doubt that Jesus’ unique claim to be God’s Son was an unequivocal claim to be God (which they saw as blasphemy): “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” The fact that Jews appealed to the Law regarding blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:16) shows clearly that along with John 8:58-59 and 10:30-33, they responded to how they understood Jesus’ claim: A claim of deity.

Verse 19: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” This text says that the Son has ou dunatai (“no ability”) to do things apart from the Father. Why?—because He is God. As God, the Son not only “choses” to do the will of the Father, but He is not able to do anything other. In contrast, we can do things apart from God, like sin—due to our inability not to sin (because of the Fall). But as God, the Son “cannot” do anything apart from God. So, instead of this passage denying the deity of the Son (as Muslims and JWs use it), it actually affirms it.

Verse 20: The “greater than these” (i.e., works of healing) is a reference to the works that the Son shares with the Father as indicated in the following verses: The Son gives life; resurrects the dead; judges, determines the destiny of man, etc.

Verse 21: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes/wills.” Here we have an amazing claim of the Son establishing yet again His ontological equality with God the Father: The Son raises the dead and gives life to them—according to His sovereignty: “To whom He wishes/wills.” Raising the dead and giving them life is the Son’s absolute prerogative as God (cf. Luke 10:21-22; see also Deut. 32:39). Here, the raising of the dead and giving them life may refer to the OT saints, the physically dead, the spiritually dead, or incorporating all forms of resurrections (both physical and spiritual) as verses 24-29 indicate.

Verse 22-23: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that [hina] all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

Here we have a “purpose and result clause” signified by the conjunction hina (“so that/in order that”). Thus, the PURPOSE of the Father giving all judgment to the Son was for the RESULT that all would honor the Son just as (kathōs, “in the same way”) they honor the Father. That means in the same way we honor, worship, and glorify the Father, we should honor, worship, and glorify the Lord Jesus. In Scripture, the Son was worshiped in the same sense (i.e., religious worship) as that of the Father (cf. Dan, 7:14; Matt. 14:33; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14; 22:3).

Verse 24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” This passage strongly and exegetically affirms the perseverance and preservation of the genuine Christian. Jesus provides the ultimate promise of peace with God and thus, eternal life to those He redeemed. Consider the following details:

1. Note the two active present tense participles, pisteuōn (“believing”) and akouōn (“hearing”), which grammatically signify the ongoing actions of the “hearing” Jesus’ word, and “believing” Him who sent Him. In the NT, especially in John’s literature, we frequently find these kinds of participles in contexts of sanctification. A true Christian’s life will be characterized by ongoing actions such as “believing” in Christ (3:16; 6:47); “honoring” Him (5:23); “hearing” His words (5:24); “eating” His flesh and “drinking” His blood[1] (6:54); “coming” to Him (6:35, 37); “living” in Him (11:26); etc. (cf. also Matt. 7:7-8).

2. Grammatically, the two participles (“hearing,” “believing”) denote an action that is simultaneous to the time of the leading present active indicative verb, echei (“has”). Thus, eternal life for the believer is not a future prospect or possibility; rather, it is an absolute certainty. The same grammatical relationship (pisteuōn with echei) is found in John 6:47.

3. Because the one believing “has” (possesses) eternal life, he will never come into God’s wrath and judgment (cf. John 3:36; Rom. 5:8-10; 1 John 5:12).

4. After affirming the permanency of eternal life, Jesus then affirms His redemptive guarantee for the believer: he “has passed out of death into life.” The verb metabebēken (“has passed”) is a perfect tense denoting a completed past action with continuous results into the present (as with the verb tetelestai in John 19:30: “It is finished”—for all time!). Hence, the reason as to why the one hearing and believing “does not come into judgment” is because he “has passed out of” perfectly and completely, spiritual death (cf. John 6:37-40; 10:28; 11:25-26; Rom. 4:8).

[1] In opposition to the heretical teachings of Rome (viz. Transubstantiation), in John 6:35 Jesus defines clearly what He means by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. “I am the bread of life; he who comes [lit., “the one coming”] to Me will not hunger, and he who believes [lit., “the one believing”] in Me will never thirst.” So, as the “bread of life,” coming to Him is symbolic of eating His flesh (for he “will not hunger”), and believing in Him is symbolic of drinking His blood (for he “will never thirst”).

 

In Exodus 20:16, the Lord commands: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This commandment clearly extends to the NT teachings dealing with honesty and love. Even worst is to bear false witness against God by falsely misinterpreting what He said in His Word—namely, saying things of God that God never said and/or proclaiming promises that God never promised. Embracing and asserting erroneous meanings of a text is typically due to one’s personal experience and/or a traditional interpretation, which was never properly (exegetically) confirmed.

Whether one adds to or subtracts from the canon of Scripture[1], or misapplies/misinterprets the intended meaning of the author, he or she is promulgating a false testimony of God, the ultimate Author. In 2 Peter 3:16, the Apostle Peter indicates that the “untaught/unstudied [amatheis] and unstable” distort the Scriptures. Biblical accuracy is utterly important to God—for faulty interpretations both controvert Scripture and destructively affect Christians who embrace them. So in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says to Timothy, “be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” In which Paul explains how: “As a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Two important points here 1) Do not be ashamed of any part of Scripture whether they are tough to accept by the unstudied and liberal or offensive and 2) accurately handle[2] (interpret) the word of God.

 

Passages Most Frequently Misinterpreted

Although there are countless passages that can be offered, we have selected (in order of usage) John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 18:20; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 3:20; 1 Timothy 3:16; 3 John 1:2; 1 John 2:27; and 1 Corinthians 2:9:

JOHN 3:16: “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 edōkenhina 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 uslove 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.”

 


 

2 PETER 3:9: “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.”

Problem: Along with John 3:16, Arminians especially use this to support the notion that God’s desire is to save all of humanity (a universal atonement); however, because men supposedly have “free will,” many “choose” not to come whereby frustrating God’s desire to save all men. What does it actually mean? First, Peter’s letters were written to Christians (cf. 1 Pet. 1-2; 2 Pet. 1-2). Second, the main context of 2 Peter 3, is not salvation, but rather the second coming of the Lord. Third, from vv. 3-7, Peter is addressing (in 3rd person references) the “mockers” who deny the Lord’s coming (“mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” (vv. 3-4). It is not until v. 8 that Peter now turns to his Christian audience: “But do not let this one fact escape your [2nd person pronoun] notice, beloved.” The switch from 3rd person references (“scoffers”) to 2nd person references (his Christian audience) is key to correctly understand v. 9.

Also, note the term “wishing” (“not wishing for any to perish”) is from boulomai (boulē), not thēlō (“to will”). The term underscores God’s counsel or purpose, His predetermined decree or plan (see Luke 10:22; Acts 2:23; Eph. 1:11). Whereas thēlō merely indicates a desire, which can be resisted (depending on the context). Hence, following the context: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some [the mockers] count slowness, but is patient toward you [Peter’s Christian audience], not wishing [purposing/decreeing] for any [i.e., any of you] to perish, but for all [all of Peter’s Christian audience] to come to repentance.” Thus, God’s definitive decree (boulomai) is that no one perishes, and all (“who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God,” 1 Pet. 1:1-2) come to repentance and faith in His Son. (cf. John 6:37-39, 44; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30; 9:16ff; 2 Thess. 2:13).

JEREMIAH 29:11: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Problem: This passage has been cited constantly to encourage disheartened Christians that God’s promise to faithful believers is prosperity, protection from calamity, and a future hope. Who would not want that, right? However, after a simple examination, no Christian can or would want these things applied to them in the defining context of Jeremiah 29. What does it actually mean? It is utterly amazing to me the misconceptions Christians have about their life here on earth—mainly due to bad teachings that promise that earth is their “Best life Now” and teach worldly discontentment resulting in an overly zealous need for financial prosperity, and being impressed with those who have it. Thus, a concentrated pursuant for earthly things is exactly what Scripture opposes: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15ff.). Similarly, Paul teaches us to set our “mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2; cf. v. 3).

Second, the key point of understanding this passage is to recognize the specific group to whom the particular promise in v. 11 was given. The answer is found in v. 1: “Now these are the words of the letter . . . to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile. . . .” This starts the context—the promises in v. 11 are specifically given to the “elders [and others] of the exile” (still in captivity!), not to anyone else (esp. the Christian church).

Note v. 10: “When seventy years have been completed for [at] Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you”—and it is in this context that the Lord declares His promises in v. 11 to them.

So, in light of the context and the specific recipients to whom the prophecy was given (those in captivity), it is incorrect to apply the promises of v. 11 to Christians—vv. 1-10 cannot be disconnected from the prophecy of v. 11. Now, here are many NT promises that are indeed applied to Christians—promises of peace/reconciliation with God, justification, glorification, prayer being answered according to His sovereignty, all things working out together for good, nothing being able to separate the believer from God’s love, etc. but Jeremiah 29:11 is not one of them. In fact, God never promised believers financial prosperity, happiness, or an exemption from calamity in this life (cf. Rom. 8:18; Phil. 1:29; Heb. 11). Rather, our absolute joy and happiness is reserved in heaven.

MATTHEW 18:20: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Problem: Many use this passage to teach the idea that prayer is more powerful and efficacious when two or three (or more) are praying together. What does it actually mean? To say at the onset, there is great emotional and psychological benefit to corporate prayer. The early church did just that (esp. shown in Acts). God designed the church to function corporately—Christians encouraging and edifying each other (cf. Ps. 133:1; 1 Cor. 12:12ff.; Eph. 2:19-20; Heb. 10:25). However, this passage is not expressing the power in numbers regarding prayer, as if a lone prayer is weak and unproductive.

Simply, v. 15 starts the context surrounding v. 20: “If your brother sins.” Jesus then in the following passages provides the process of disciplinary actions among believers (ekklēsia). In v. 16, Jesus cites Deuteronomy 17:6 (as He did in John 8:17) regarding “the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses.” In the accusation of elders, Paul too uses the same law (cf. 1 Tim. 5:19; and cf. 2 Cor. 13:1; Heb. 10:28 where this rule is recognized). Thus, the context here are matters of accusation and discipline. So in these particular matters, when the church obeys this frequently utilized biblical rule of “two or three witnesses,” Jesus shows His approval: “Again, I say to you . . . where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (vv. 19-20).

1 PETER 2:24: “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

Problem: People abuse this passage by isolating, “by His wounds/stripes you were healed” making it a routine prayer or guarantee for physical healing. What does it actually mean? The context again provides the intended meaning. First, when a NT author cites an OT passage(s) as Peter is doing here, it is the authority of the NT author that provides the interpretation of the OT reference. This is a basic rule of biblical interpretation. Second, in the Greek text we find a purpose and result” clause denoted by the conjunction hina (“so that/in order that”). Hence, as Peter explains, the PURPOSE of Christ bearing our sins was for the RESULT of us dying to sin and living to righteousness. The context is clear: Through the passion (suffering) of Christ on the cross (i.e., “by His wounds”), we are healed of sin (“die to sin”) and now we can “live to righteousness.” Thus, Peter is speaking of a spiritual and not physical healing.

REVELATION 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

Problem: This passage is used frequently in revivals and other evangelistic events to present to an unsaved crowed that Jesus is knocking at their heart and all they have to do is open it and let Jesus in. What does it actually mean? Plainly, Jesus addressed these words, not to the unregenerate, but rather to Christians—the church at Laodicea. Jesus is constantly knocking at our door desiring more of us in our holy living, obedience, devotion, and in our continuous worship. That Jesus is constantly knocking on the door of all unbelievers begging them to open the door, yet many of them reject His offer, gives the impression that Jesus is a persistent failure that just can’t overcome the mighty will of man.

1 TIMOTHY 3:16: “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

Problem: Because the English term “mystery” stands at the introduction of this high Christological hymn, many Christians (and even non-Christians) apply it to the Trinity. As a result, in response to questions and passing conversations about the Trinity, they obliviously say things like, “No one really understands it, it’s a great mystery”; or even worse, doctrinally apathetic pastors confine the entire doctrine to a “mystery” avoiding the responsibility and diligence of their calling. What does it actually mean? First, a plain reading of the context reveals that the hymn is specifically speaking of the incarnation (“He who was revealed in the flesh”), not the Trinity.

Second, the term translated “mystery” is from the Greek, mustērion. The term denotes something that was secret, previously hidden, but now revealed, made known (cf. Rom 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:7; 4:1; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-9; 6:19; Col 1:26-27). As with the “mystery” of God effectually calling the Gentiles to salvation through faith alone by Christ alone (cf. Eph. 3:3-9), the “mystery” here is the incarnational work of the Son, which is now plainly revealed to us in Scripture, which is not a “mystery”—“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

3 JOHN 1:2: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

Problem: Many eager Charismatic preachers and their followers take this passage to teach the idea that “faithful” Christians can/should have flourishing wealth and unrestricted physical heath. What does it actually mean? First, the content of this letter erases any such notion.

Consider this: 1) the letter was written to a man named Gaius, who, if John were teaching him how to get rich and healthy, would have had no idea what John was talking about given the content of the letter, 2) the term “prosper” is euodoō from eu (“well, good”) and hodos (“a journey, journey, path”). Hence, prosperous in a journey, to have a good journey, as exampled in LXX (cf. Gen. 24:21). We are not saying that the term cannot mean financial prosperity, but the content here opposes that meaning, 3) the phrase “Be in health” is from hugiainō. In Paul’s letters, this word always means sound teaching (e.g., 1 Titus 1:9, 13), but here and in Luke-Acts it is used of bodily health, and 4), mostly importantly, John wrote his letter in the typical format of the culture of the day. As with most the NT letters, there is an opening salutation, which includes the sender’s and/or recipient’s name. Thus, John’s is sending a normal greeting to beloved Gaius that he may prosper and be in good health, as his soul prospers. John is not promising Gaius (or any Christian) ultimate health and wealth. We send greetings in the same way wishing our friends or family well, or wishing them a safe trip, etc., but we do not send these greetings as a guarantee or prediction.

The fact is, contra to biblically thoughtless preachers who teach that riches and health God’s promise to faithful Christians, many of God’s faithful people were and are sick and financially deprived. For example, Paul told the Galatians that “it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you” (Gal. 4:13-14). Faithfull Timothy had stomach problems and frequent illnesses (cf. 1 Tim. 5:23[3]). Paul was hardly a rich man when he explained: “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless” (1 Cor. 4:11)—this was at least twenty years into his ministry.

1 JOHN 2:27: “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things. . . .”

Problem: This passage is often cited to support the idea that one’s own interpretation of a passage (or God’s will) is determined by a subjective so-called “anointing” in which biblical confirmation becomes secondary and/or unneeded. What does it actually mean? As with Colossians, 1 & 2 John was written as an anti-gnostic polemic. The gnostic philosophy was a spirit (good) vs. matter (evil or non-existent) dualistic system—thus denying that Jesus became “flesh.” Gnosticism also taught that only those who possessed the so-called “Christ mind” received “special revelation/knowledge” (similar to Christian Science). Hence, contextually the Apostle declares to his readers that they do not need a “teacher” (i.e., gnostic philosophy), for they are born of God (cf. 1 John 5:1) having the ability and desire to hear the words of God (cf. John 8:43, 47; 1 Cor. 4:6).

1 CORINTHIANS 2:9: “but just as it is written, ‘things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” Problem: Many misapply this passage by limiting its application to the heavenly afterlife, thus suppressing God’s gifts and benefits regarding spiritual discernment given to Christians in this life!

What does it actually mean? Simply, the next and following verse provide the proper application: “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit” (v. 10). Hence, in this life God has prepared for us (“those who love Him”) these things. In vv. 8-16, we see a contrast between the ignorance of the unregenerate (“nature man,” vv. 8, 14) and the wisdom of the regenerate Christian (“he who is spiritual,” v. 15) regarding the Messiah’s Kingdom. God grants grace, mercy, wisdom and discernment to His people here on earth (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Col. 2:2-3).

Without one taking basic steps to warrant an accurate interpretation, misinterpretation or misapplication is unavoidable. We as Christians must have a high view of Scripture. We must resist the temptation to read in our own presuppositions or particular “pet theologies” into the text, which infers we have more authority than that of the intended meaning of the biblical author!

“Every word of God is tested; he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 6 Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).

NOTES

1] Canon addition is the process of adding to Scripture by way postulating a “new revelation” supposedly from God or by adding to the intended meaning of the biblical author (e.g., Catholics, JWs, and LDS). Further, many (not all) Charismatics are also guilty of this every time one presents a “new revelation” for the church. Whereas Canon reduction is the process of removing (or denying) sections or important biblical teachings (e.g., liberal Christians remove/deny in various ways the biblical prohibitions against homosexuality).

[2] The phrase “accurately handing” comes from the Greek verb orthotomeō, from temnō (“to cut”) and orthos (“straight”) literally, “to cut straight,” thus, denoting the idea of exactness or precision. In addition, the verb here is a present active participle (orthotomounta), thus denoting the continuous action of handing the Scripture with precision.

[3] See Galatians 4:13-14; 1 Corinthians 4:11

Since the reliability of the NT is constantly attacked (due to its main theme: Jesus as the only means of salvation), Christians should be aware of the nature and formation of the NT. Thus, the following is a concise summation of this important topic. First, it must be understood that the erroneous notion that the first-century church was without a functioning NT canon[1] because no formal ecclesiastical (church) pronouncement was made, is historically untrue. Note the following:

In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter establishes the letters of Paul as graphē, “Scripture.” This confirms that Paul’s epistles (most of them) were circulating (probably as a set) before the death of Peter around A.D. 64-66. In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul establishes the book of Luke (10:7) also as graphē, “Scripture.” Note that here both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 are preceded by the phrase, legei gar hē graphē, “For Scripture says.” Further, in reference to the Apostle Peter, Jude remembers what “was spoken beforehand by the apostles” (v. 17). Then, in verse 18, Jude quotes from Peter (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3). The contextual correspondence between 2 Peter 2:1ff. and Jude 6ff. unquestionably substantiates that either Jude quoted from Peter or the converse showing that these books were also circulated, collected, and read by Christians in the first century.

As the NT record shows, immediately after the NT letters were written, they were collected (cf. Rev. 1:11), circulated (cf. Col. 4:16;[2] 2 Pet. 3:15-16), and read (cf. 1 Thess. 5:27; Rev. 1:3) in the original churches. Hence, the first century church enjoyed and recognized the apostolic teachings contained in the letters of the original apostles. They indeed had a functioning canon that was sufficient for the proclamation of truth.

Canon Criteria

Since the NT church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20) the chief test or norm of canonicity was “apostolicity.” That is, each book of the NT has either apostolic authorship or apostolic teaching. Canonization starts with the identification of what was theopneustos, “God breathed out” (2 Tim. 3:16).

First, there were several reasons as to why the early church progressively collected and codified (i.e., canonized) the NT books: 1) Books were prophetic, 2) Demands of the early church: Because they contained the words and actions of Jesus Christ and the apostolic teachings, these books provided theological and ethical instructions, edification, and encouragement for the church “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Thus, it was necessary to have a full collection of the NT books that could provide the authoritative norm for faith and practice, 3) Heretical challenges: When heresies began to surface, the church quickly and sharply refuted them by way of ecclesiastical (i.e., church) councils and definitive creeds. When the writings of apostles were purposely misrepresented and/or forged (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas, Judas, etc.), the church found it necessary to establish what belonged in the canon, 4) Missionary purposes: Because of the rapid spread of Christianity throughout other countries, there was a need to translate the Bible into other languages, and 5) Persecution: In times of persecution, it was important for church officials to preserve authoritative (canonical) books which might be handed over to the police and be destroyed.

Determining Canon Criteria

It is incorrect to assert that the church created the canon, for the church did not create the canon, but rather she discovered what was already recognized. As seen, immediately after NT books were written, they were collected, circulated, quoted, and read in the original churches. It was this process of canonization that shaped the post-apostolic church’s idea of canonization. The basis of canonicity, then, was inspiration: “God breathed out.” The NT authors wrote as God the Holy Spirit moved them. Hence, the instrument of canonicity in which God employed was the apostles—or those with apostolic authority: The absolute canonical test, then, was apostolicity. The central principles utilized by the church to determine canonicity were as follows:

1. APOSTOLICITY: Since the NT church was (aorist participle). “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), the indispensable test for NT canonicity was apostolicity. Thus, every NT book was written by a “foundational” apostle (or one with apostolic authority). Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107) says: “I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul. They were apostles: I am [not]” (Rom. 4:3).

2. ANTIQUITY: Simply, if a writing was the work of an apostle (or an authoritative associate), it had to belong to the apostolic age. Writings after this could not be apostolic, and hence canonical. For example, even though the highly regarded Shepherd of Hermas (c. A.D. 120) was found in the Muratorian Fragment and some early codices, its late date of composition, precluded it from canonical status. Furthermore, most of the pseudepigrapha (i.e., “false writings”) were rejected for that reason.

3. ORTHODOXY: Genuine apostolic writings would be doctrinally consistent (i.e., orthodox) with the apostolic faith (regula fidei). For example, the so-called Gospel of Peter and Thomas are filled with silly stories and Gnostic teachings, which the apostles (and the early church) sharply refuted (e.g., Col., and 1 and 2 John were written specifically against the Gnostic heresy).

4. CATHOLICITY: The universal church collectively recognized genuine apostolic writings. If a book had only local recognition, it was not likely to be accepted as canonical. Naturally, the NT books that were first collected, circulated, quoted, and read by the original churches became universally recognized.

5. TRADITIONAL USE: Similar to the principle of Catholicity, books that were collected, circulated, quoted, and read by the original churches were, of course, well known among the churches. This criterion examines the church’s habitual (i.e., traditional) use of writings. It inquires as to what NT books were accepted as apostolic. For example, prior to Nicea (A.D. 325), the NT quotations from early church Fathers were so abundant that almost the entire NT could be restructured, based on these writings. The books of the NT were traditionally treated as Scripture. If a church leader in the third or fourth century submitted a book claiming its apostolicity and it was previously unknown, he would have great difficulty in gaining acceptance for it.

6. INSPIRATION: The church believed that only books that were theopneustos, “God breathed out,” were canonical. Thus, inspiration was the means by which the revelation of God was brought to the written record. The vocabulary belonged to the NT authors, but the message was God’s. “Paul wrote,” says Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 90), “with true inspiration” (Corinthians, 47.3). Inspiration, therefore, was a criterion of verification as to what books were apostolic and hence, canonical.

Categorizing the Canon

The early church Father, Origen, first grappled with the problem of the church not having an “official demarcation” between canonical and non-canonical books. Then, about a century later, the church historian Eusebius defined and modified Origen’s classification in the following four categories:

Ø Homologoumena (“to speak the same,” i.e., books that were accepted by all): The Four Gospels, Acts, the Epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, and 1 John, and Revelation (although he went back and forth as to the category of Rev).

Ø Antilegomena (“spoken against,” i.e., books that were disputed by some): James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Ø Notha (“spurious” or apocrypha, i.e., books that were accepted by some): The alleged Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 70); Clement’s first Epistle to the Corinthians (c. A.D. 96); Teaching of the Apostles (i.e., Didache, A.D. 100-120); Hermas’s The Shepherd (c. A.D. 120); Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians (c. A.D. 110); etc.

Ø Pseudepigrapha: (“false writings,” i.e., books that were disputed/rejected by all): “Writings published by heretics,” Eusebius declares, “under the names of the apostles, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, Matthias, Judas, etc. or the Acts of Andrew, John, etc. The point here is that no early church Father ever accepted them; they saw them as “false writings,” for most of these books were written by Gnostics.

The Earliest Lists

During the next two centuries, the controversy and doubts over the antilegomena books gradually faded away and there was a final and official recognition of all twenty-seven books of the NT by the universal church. Aside from the early partial NT lists of books, the first known writer to list all twenty-seven books of the NT was Athanasius in his 39th Easter Letter (A.D. 367). Later, in A.D. 393, the twenty-seven books of the NT were laid down as canonical at the regional Council of Hippo under Augustine’s See. Then, four years later, at the third Council of Carthage, the twenty-seven books of the NT were reaffirmed as belonging to the canon. Thus, these twenty-seven books that were universally confirmed at these councils, agree with the present-day canon of the NT that we have in our hands.

What is paramount in accurately understanding NT canonicity is that at these official councils, the early church did not invent or create the NT canon nor did they accept or reject books based on “church authority,” but rather, at these councils, the early church codified and confirmed what was already recognized and established by the people of God starting in the first century (as seen above).

The Canon is closed

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (Eph.2:19-20).

The foundation of the NT was laid once and for all. It was built on the apostle and prophets. The text does not say that the church was built on Christ, but rather on the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone that holds the whole church together. Paul does not envisage a succession of new apostles (as Rome teaches today). This is clear due to the fact that Paul uses the aorist passive participle form of epoikodomeō of (epoikodomēthentes, lit., “having been built”). Hence, the action of the verb indicates that the foundation that was laid once and thus never needs to be repeated.

The notion of ‘successive apostles’ as taught by groups such as Roman Catholics and LDS do not consider (a) logically, if there is a need for new foundational apostles, then, the foundation was never really laid to begin with. Hence, something foundational by definition never needs additional foundations, and (b) the idea that we need new apostles or even secondary ones who will add to the fundamental work of the first century are really implying that we need new foundations in addition to or regardless of the foundation that was already laid: viz. the NT “apostles and prophets.” Thus, each new foundation would logically require a new cornerstone.

In direct contrast to the Protestant concept of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) is sola Ecclesia (i.e., “Church alone”), which is clearly the marrow of groups such as Catholicism. Hence, it is not that the Catholic apologist does not have the ability to exegete, but he has no need, for the Church has done the job for him. For the Catholic sees his Church, not Scripture, as the final sole authority in all areas of life and theology (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 84-85, 113).

The Canon is closed theologically and historically.

1) Theologically (cf. Heb. 1:1): Every NT book was written by an apostle (or one with apostolic authorship). The apostolic age ended with the death of the apostles (cf. Acts 1:22). In Ephesians 2:20, Paul states that the foundation of the church has been built (never to be repeated) by these foundational apostles. Thus, there cannot be any “new revelation” for the church (contrary to what Mormons and Catholics believe), and

2) Historically: There is no historical evidence that any new foundational apostle has ever existed. Virtually every non-Christian cult has a new prophet or apostle(s) carrying new a message, which rejects and/or redefines the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. Hence, they all have some reason as to why sola scriptura (Scripture alone) does not work.

NOTES

[1] The term “canon” refers to a set or list of authoritative biblical books that are regarded as Scripture (i.e., theopneustos, “God breathed out”; 2 Tim. 3:16).

[2] Colossians 4:16 reads, “When this letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” The letter to the Laodiceans to which Paul is referring was probably the letter to the Ephesians for the following reason: 1) Paul does not say that it is a letter to the or of the Laodiceans, but rather ek Laodikeias, “from Laodicea,” 2) Paul wrote Ephesians around the same time as Colossians and sent it to another church in the same area, 3) the earliest MSS of Ephesians lack the phrase en Ephesō, “at Ephesus.” Note that Paul spent three years ministering to the Ephesians (cf. Acts 20:31), thus, it would be quite inconsistent for him not to mention the name of the people (or church) to which he wrote, and 4) there is no historical evidence that a “genuine” letter to the Laodiceans was known.

As mentioned in other articles, KJV Onlyism is a view that asserts the KJV as the only “correct” (and, in many instances, the only “infallible”) biblical translation in which all others (esp. modern versions) have been corrupted and thus untrustworthy. There are many issues surrounding this topic from the origins and textual defects of the Greek text(s) from which the KJV was translated (viz. the so-called, TR [Textus Receptus] to the many translational errors of the KJV.[1]

But even in spite of the numerous textual and translational errors (mainly on secondary doctrine), the KJV does indeed communicate essential Christian doctrine, and thus, the gospel of Jesus Christ, as with all other “recognized” biblical translations. Unfortunately, KJV Only advocates are blind-sided by intoxicating and inflexible anti-intellectual arguments derived from unchecked traditions, which result in high emotion and low facts. Hence, for them, all biblical readings (including readings from the original language)[2] are tested upon the KJV and not upon objective and recognized scholarship. So, for the KJV Only advocate, there can be no higher standard with which to test God’s Word.

Though, we must make a distinction between the KJV Only position and the KJV. In other words, undeniably the KJV is a beautiful literary work that has been used for centuries to accurately proclaim the gospel of the risen Savior. However, the KJV Only position goes far beyond a simple translational preference. It is not only a relatively “new” philosophy, but a “cultic” and very misinformed position, which causes division among Christians. In many cases, KJV Onlyism obstructs a proper and simple evangelistic presentation—redefining evangelism as the “good news” of 1611 KJV translators!

Here below, we will briefly examine the textual deficiencies of the TR and translational deficiencies of the KJV regarding the deity of Jesus Christ at significant passages. It is important to note here that we are not suggesting in any way that the men that produced the various editions of the TR[3] (viz. the Roman Catholic, Desiderius Erasmus et al) had a low view of the deity of Christ—for they did not. They were firm in their affirmation as were the KJV translators.

 

TEXTUAL

The problems exampled below are not translational issues, but rather, examples of the textual inadequacies or deficiencies contained in the late Greek MSS of the TR at significant passages where the deity of Christ is omitted (viz. John 1:18; 14:14; 1 Peter 3:15; and Jude 1:4).

JOHN 1:18 (the only begotten “God” or “Son”?). The NASB reads: “No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God [or, “the only God,” ESV] who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). The definitiveness and clarity of the full deity of the Son is completely lost in the TR/KJV reading. For the KJV reads: “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”  The TR contains the phrase: ho monogenēs huios (“the one and only/begotten Son”), whereas the earliest MSS of John 1:18 (e.g., P66 P75 א* B C* L) contains the phrase: monogenēs theos (“one and only/begotten God”). Hence, it is the modern translations that unambiguously assert the deity of Christ as the “one and only/begotten God.” 

Further, monogenēs theos is supported by the earliest versions of the NT (including the Peshitta) and is supported by many important early church Fathers (e.g., Clement of Alex., Origen, Didymus, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Serapion, Cyril et al.).

Lastly, consider the context of the prologue of John (vv. 1-18). In the previous passages leading up to verse 18, John presents Jesus as God the eternal Word, the Creator of all things, which is wholly consistent with John’s high Christology seen throughout his literature. However, the TR/KJV rendering of verse 18 removes the explicit affirmation of the Word as the monogenēs theos—the “only/unique God.”

JOHN 14:14 (“Ask Me”). In this passage, Jesus is the direct object of prayer: “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (NASB/ESV). Here is an excellent example Jesus asserting His deity. He commands believers to pray to Him directly whereby demonstrating His omnipresence—a divine attribute, which only God can accomplish. That is, He hears the prayers of His people simultaneously at all times, in all places (cf. Ps. 25:11; 31:3). Yet the TR omits the Greek pronoun me (“Me”) in which the KJV reads: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name I will do it.” The TR/KJV makes no mention of praying to Jesus directly; only that one should pray in His name. Not only is the Greek pronoun me found in one of the earliest copies of John (P66), but also found in P75vid א B W D Q P f13 28 33 579 700 892 1006 1342 et al.

1 PETER 3:14-15 (“sanctify Christ as Lord”). A clear and simple way of affirming the deity of Christ is to show where NT authors cite OT passages referring to Yahweh and apply them to Christ (e.g., compare Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13; etc.). In 1 Peter 3:14-15, the apostle cites Isaiah 8:12-13 (which is a reference to Yahweh) and applies these passages to Christ. Following the reading of the earliest NT MSS, modern translations have “Christ” as the one to be sanctified: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense” (NASB). This is a great way to show that Christ is the Yahweh of Isaiah 8. But not if one uses the KJV. For the late MSS of the TR do not identify Christ with the Yahweh of Isaiah 8. The TR omits Christos (“Christ”) from the passage and provides a generic statement about the “Lord God” (i.e., the Father). Thus, following the TR, the KJV reads at verse 15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” Again, KJV Only advocates constantly allege that the modern translations have “taken out” or “removed,” many portions and words from the Bible, but yet the KJV does the very thing they accuse others of doing!

JUDE 1:4 (Jesus as the “only Master and Lord”). The issue here centers on the last part of verse 4 where Jude says that ungodly persons “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (NASB/ESV). This passage is devastating for Jehovah’s Witnesses.[4] The reading ton monon despotēn kai kurion hēmōn Iēsoun Christon (lit., “The only Master/Sovereign and Lord of us Jesus Christ”) is found in these early MSS of Jude—א A B C 33. 81. 307. 436. 442. 642. 1243. 1739. 2344. vg. And the very earliest MSS of Jude (viz., P72 P78) also have Jesus as “the only Master and Lord.”

However, as with the above examples, if one uses a KJV, this passage cannot be used to affirm the deity of Christ. For as we will see with Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, the TR/KJV reading introduces two Persons into the passage, the Father and Jesus. Note the KJV reading of the clause: “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”[5] As shown above, in these examples of many, the late and inferior MSS of the TR omit significant readings that clearly affirm the deity of Christ compared to that of the current critical Greek text (NA28/USB5) and thus, modern translations.

TRANSLATIONAL

Now we move to the translational deficiencies and defects contained in the KJV regarding the deity of Christ. Note that translational issues are not issues with the Greek text of the TR; rather they are deficiencies and defects in the translational process of the KJV. Here we will look at two very significant passages that clearly and grammatically refer to Jesus Christ as ho theos (“the God”), Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

TITUS 2:13 – 2 PETER 1:1. Regarding Titus 2:13, the last clause reads the same in all standard Greek editions including the NA28/UBS5, TR, Majority Text, and the Westcott and Hort: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Iēsou Christou (lit., “The great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ”). Likewise, in all these Greek editions, 2 Peter 1:1 reads the same: tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou (lit., “The God of us and Savior, Jesus Christ”). For that reason, in modern translations, both passages contain the clause, “God and Savior, Christ Jesus”—affirming that Jesus is both “God and Savior.” However, the KJV mistranslates the clause in both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 to read: “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).

At first glance, the difference seems minor. Grammatically, however, it is not. The KJV’s inclusion of “our” after the conjunction “and” (before “Saviour”) changes the entire meaning and makes the passage refer to two persons—the Father, who is “God,” and Jesus Christ who is “our Savior”—thus, omitting any reference of Jesus Christ being “God,” as the Greek text (in all eds.) indicates. As with Jude 1:4, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are Sharp constructions, as explicated below in note 3. Hence, in the Greek text, the two nouns, “God and Savior” refer explicitly to “Jesus Christ.” Recognized Greek grammarians (e.g., Robertson; Greenly; Wallace et al), lexicographers, and biblical commentators see this rule as invariably valid, distinctly showing the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ. Since many grammatical rules of biblical Greek had not been discovered back in 1611, as with Sharp’s, the KJV omits these significant affirmations of the deity of Christ, which all editions of the Greek NT (including the TR) as well as modern translations unequivocally provide.

Interesting, 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; and 3:18 contain the same phrase as that of 1:1 (except “Lord” is used instead of “God”). And all are Granville Sharp constructions (i.e., TSKS). Although the KJV translates the phrase in 1:11; 2:20; and 3:18 correctly, it mistranslates the phrase in 1:1 by adding “our” after “and,” which grammatically removes the deity of Jesus Christ. Note the KJV rendering of these passages:

1:1: “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (KJV)

1:11: “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (KJV)

2:20: “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (KJV)

3:18: “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (KJV)

The KJV is inconsistent. This is similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, the NWT, where 1:11, 2:20; and 3:18 are rendered correctly. But 1:1 is rendered in a similar way as that of the KJV–,which results in a removal of Peter’s clear teaching that Jesus Christ is God. The NWT renders the phrase in 1:1 as “our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.” Altering the Greek text, the NWT adds the article (“the”) before “Savior” making the phrase refer to two Persons, as the KJV does–of course, for different reasons. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, whereas the KJV translators affirm the deity of Christ. Hence, it is the difference between purposeful deception (NWT) and translational/textual ignorance (KJV)..

CONCLUSION

The KJV Only position is illogical and inaccurate—persistent in its anti-intellectualism. As shown, the TR is based upon late inferior MSS (mostly after 12th cent.), which have gone through many generations of transcriptions containing numerous textual and scribal errors. The numerous errors and inferior renderings of the TR as well as the countless translational errors of the KJV are denied and/or ignored by KJV Only supporters. As clearly shown, the KJV Only position is openly based on a perpetual a priori assumption: the KJV is the ultimate standard by which all translations of the Bible are judged. As a result, modern translations and textual scholars are irrationally and uncritically attacked.

There are many other translation and textual inaccuracies of the TR/KJV that can be mentioned such as the KJV rendering of Rev. 1:6, which the LDS use to teach that God has a Father; translating pascha (“Passover”) as “Easter” in Acts 12:4; adding works to justification in Rom. 8:1; adding “blood” in Col. 1:14 (not even the M text contain the phrase, dia tou haimatos, “through the “blood”); omitting “Jesus Christ our Lord” from Jude 1:25; numerous harmonizations; conjectural emendations; Latinisms; etc.

Regarding the deity of Jesus Christ, as briefly observed in the few cited examples above, the KJV is simply less accurate in its representation of the original writings of Scripture than that of modern translations. The reason for this is mainly due to 1) the inferiority and lack of quantity[6] of the late Greek MSS of the TR and 2) a great lack of linguistic/grammatical discoveries and research of biblical languages since the seventeenth century, which have greatly enriched our knowledge of the original texts. As we have indicated, we are not against the KJV, but rather, we are against the cultic position of the crass and defective KJV Onlyism that mottles and deviates from the gospel by placing a radical priority on an English translation. As R. C. Sproul rightfully observes:

[the KJV] is simply less accurate in its representation of the original writings of Scripture than most modern translations. . . . The Greek text from which the King James Version was translated (the Textus Receptus) is clearly inferior to more modern reconstructed Greek texts (Knowing Scripture, 117).

For an expanded treatment of the KJV Only position, we offer short booklet entitled: The King James Version: The New Testament Textual and Translational Disputations, Available Here.

Notes

[1] The TR is based on late (mostly after 12th cent.) and a limited group of MSS (manuscripts). The TR follows the late Byzantine/Majority (M) text-type, but not exactly, for there are over 1,800 differences between the TR and M. Further, according to Dr. James White, there are only about 6,600 differences between the TR and the Critical Text. That means they agree at least 95 % of the time (see White vs. Ehrman debate, “Can the New Testament Be Inspired in Light of Textual Variation?” Jan. 21, 2009).

[2] Especially with passages such as Matthew 16:18 and Revelation 16:5, many KJV Only promoters will actually test the accuracy of the Greek rendering of a passage by the KJV. This not only shows the utter disconnect from rational and proper biblical-textual study, but shows how KJV Onlyism is cult of ignorance.

[3] From Erasmus’ 1st edition in 1516 to the Elzevir’s last edition of the TR in 1678 there has been over 30 editions, which prompts the question to KJV Only advocates: “Which TR is the correct one?” This same question can be asked of the KJV since there had been so many revisions of the KJV since 1611. Moreover, what most KJV Only supporters utilize today is not the 1611 KJV, but rather the 1769 Blayney edition, which differs (mostly on minor points) from the 1611 KJV in at least 24, 000 places. Hence, it is meaningless for KJV Only advocates to argue for the impeccability of the 1611 KJV when most do not use it (which, by the way, contained the Apocrypha and thousands of marginal notes).

[4] How can Jesus be “the only Lord” in Watchtower theology? Interestingly, the NWT has not, as of yet, changed its rendering of Jude 1:4: “our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ” (NWT).

[5]It is rule #1 that pertains to Jude 1:4 (and Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1, as addressed above). Briefly, the rule states: when the copulative conjunction kai (“and”) connects two nouns of the same case/number and the first noun has the article (“the”), but the second noun does not, both nouns refer to the first named person. Thus, according to the rule, both nouns here (“Master” and “Lord”) refer to the first named person—“Jesus Christ.” Conversely, the TR does not read this way: ton monon despotēn theon kai kurion hēmōn Iēsoun Christon (lit., “the only Master God and Lord of us Jesus Christ”). Hence, the KJV omits this clear affirmation of the deity of Christ—as being the “The only Master and Lord.”

[6] Erasmus’ first edition (1516) was based upon about six Greek MSS.

[7] The Final Authority, (Schererville, 1993), 72.

  • New World Translation:“and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

  • King James Version: “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

  • Greek Text (literal rendering):“and the Word was [ēnwith [prosthe God [ton theon], and God [theos] was the Word.”

In 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WT), the corporate name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), published their own translation of the Bible entitled: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).[1] The WT’s prior theological commitments are quite obvious when the NWT is examined and compared to the Hebrew and Greek biblical manuscripts particularly at places where Jesus Christ is clearly presented as God (esp. John 1:1; 8:58; Phil. 2:9; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; and Heb. 1:8). In other words, the WT had to make major alterations to their NWT from the original text in order to make their theology seem biblically consistent.. Accordingly, it is rejected by biblical scholarship as a legitimate translation. The above chart is a comparison of (1) the NWT’s rendering of the last two clauses of John 1:1 (1:1b and 1:1c), (2) the literal rendering of the Greek[2] (in Eng.), and (3) the KJV.[3]

“a god”?

One of the main reasons as to why the NWT renders John 1:1c as “and the Word was a god” is that in the Greek (see above), the first occurrence of “God” (theon, 1:1b) has the article “the” (ton), but the second occurrence of “God” (theos, 1:1c) does not (note: nouns without the article are called anarthrous). So, the JWs are taught that “THE God” refers to the “definite” almighty God, Jehovah (the Father) and the anarthrous theos (i.e., “God” without the article) refers to the “mighty god,” Michael the “created” archangel who they believe is Jesus.

In brief refutation to the NWT’s rendering of John 1:1c (“a god”), which is based on their chief theological starting point: Jesus is not God, consider the following:[4]

1. Two Gods? If the Word was a “true god” (for surely the JWs do not see the Word as a false “god”), then, two “true” Gods is clearly being asserted: the almighty God (Jehovah) and a mighty god (Jesus). That the Word was an indefinite god implies that He was merely one of a class of other gods, thus, the meaning of an indefinite noun. Here the JWs introduce polytheism (the belief in many true gods/Gods) into John’s Gospel. Not that it is impossible grammatically to be renders as “a god,” however, this idea would not only challenge John’s own *monotheistic* (one true God) theology, but clearly contradict his presentation of the full deity of Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:23; 8:24, 58; 18:5, 6, 8; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:12-14; 22:12-13).

2. “The God”? In biblical Greek, “God” with the article (“the”) and “God” without the article (i.e., the anarthrous theos) as in John 1:1c (lit., “and God was the Word”) can both refer to the one true God—context dictates the meaning. Further, many JWs incorrectly think that the two terms translated “God” (theon and theos) in 1:1 mean two different things: ton theon (“the God”) being the almighty God (Jehovah) and the anarthrous theos (“God”) being a mighty god (Jesus). However, the difference in spelling is due to their function in the sentence—not their meaning![5]

3. By asserting that the anarthrous theos should be rendered indefinite (“a god”), the JWs impose their own translational rule: anarthrous nouns = an indefinite meaning. But in fact, the anarthrous theos appears 282 times in the NT! Only at sixteen places does the NWT translate these 282 anarthrous occurrences of theos as indefinite.[6] Hence, the NWT was faithful to its translational rule only six-percent of the time![7] For example, the anarthrous theos appears in John 1:6, 12, 13, and 18, but yet the NWT did not follow its so-called translational rule at those passages. Only at John 1:1c did it do so—for obvious reasons. But why then (as JWs and many Christians will ask) does theos in John 1:1c not have the article? (kai theos ēn ho logos, lit., “and God was the Word” not “the God was the Word”). Answer: Simply put, if John had written: ho theos ēn ho logos (lit., “the God was the Word” making theos definite), he would have been teaching Oneness doctrine (or Modalism)! In other words, the passage would have indicated that “God” in 1:1b (the Father) and “God” in 1:1c (the Word) were the same Person! But semantically, theos is *qualitative,* not definite (and surely not indefinite—one of many).

Definite nouns point to the specific identification of someone or something (thus, in 1:1b “the God” identifies the Father) while qualitative nouns point to the essence or nature of someone or something.[8] The anarthrous theos indicates exactly as to what John was communicating: As to the Word’s nature (quality), He was fully God, but as to His Person (or specific identity), He was not identified as the Father, but personally distinct from Him: “The Word was with [pros] God.”[9]

To summarize:

  • To say that Jesus is a true God (“a god”) and Jehovah is also a true God forces polytheism (more than one true God) into John’s Gospel.
  • In Scripture, “God” with the article (“the God”) and “God” without the article does not necessitate a different meaning (see note 7).
  • The NWT is not consistent to its self-imposed translational rule (viz. “God” without the article should be rendered indefinite—“a god”). See John 1:6, 12, 13, 18.
  • That the Word was with God is consistent with Trinitarian theology, which states that there are three *distinct* Persons that share the nature of the one God. Only when one starts with the conclusion that God is unitarian (one Person), will he or she misunderstand John 1:1.

NOTES

[1] The NWT was revised in 1961, 1970, 1971, and a fourth revision in 1984.

[2] Interestingly, the WT has produced their own Greek interlinear (i.e., a Gk. text with the corresponding Eng. words under each Gk. word with the NWT written in the margin). It is called: Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures [KIT], which is a fairly accurate Greek text based on Westcott and Hort’s so-called, “Neutral Text” (pub. in 1881). Thus, I found it very effective to ask JWs to reference the KIT at passages such as John 1:1c; 8:58; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; etc. where the purposeful modifications contained in the NWT can be clearly seen compared to the Greek text of the KIT. Also, at passages such as John 20:28, the KIT correctly records Thomas directly addressing Jesus as ho theos (“the God”), lit., “the Lord of me, and the God of me” (one of many places where Jesus is called ho theos as in Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; and 1 John 5:20).

The biblical evidence of the pre-existence of the Son irrefutably proves the Oneness position false. Just as the present active participle huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 communicates the perpetual existence of the divine Son, more than a few passages contain the present active participle ōn (from eimi), which also  denotes the Son’s eternal existence (cf. Harris, 1992: 157-58). In explicit reference to the Son’s eternality, the present active participle is used both articularly (ho ōn) and anarthrously (ōn). Two such examples of the articular form of the participle are John 1:18 and Romans 9:5.

John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added).

Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (emphasis added).

Note the defining context of both passages: the Son’s absolute deity. They even call the Son theos, which intensifies further the affirmation of the Son’s deity and His pre-existence. Referring to John 1:18, Reymond (1998: 303) remarks in the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn … indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father.’” In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular present participle to denote Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Also note the egō eimi phrase preceding the participle here (cf. John 8:24, 58; cf. Chapter 2, 2.4.5).

We also find the use of the anarthrous present active participle ōn, in contexts where the deity of the Son is clearly in view. In Hebrews 1:3, the present active participle (i.e., hos ōn) “marks the Son’s continuous action of being, which denotes total and full deity” (Robertson, 1932: 5:17-18; cf. Tenny, 1981: 34).[7] It “refers to the absolute and timeless existence” (Rodgers and Rodgers, 1998: 516). The participle ōn in Hebrews 1:3 is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 4. This is similar to the use of ēn, in John 1:1, which is set in contrast with egeneto, in 1:14, and of huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9), which is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 7. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal pre-incarnate Son and all things created.