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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

 

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According to the NT (esp. in Paul) and OT, the gospel is simply the incarnational and atoning work of the Son. The work of man in his faith-act, repentance, obedience, etc. is the “result” and not the substance of the gospel. In other words, the gospel has nothing to do with man, rather, all to do with the Son.

The gospel is not limited to one doctrine, such as election (as many overly zealous, yet unripe, Christians assume), rather, the gospel is the work of the Son consisting of both His Humiliation (incarnational work, life, suffering, death, being buried) and His Exaltation (resurrection, ascension, seated at the right hand of God, second coming).

Paul clearly summarizes his gospel of the Son definition in esp. in such places as Rom. 1:1, 3; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; and 2 Tim. 2:8 (see below). However, in many other places, the apostle provides a positive detailed delineation of the gospel—namely, the Son’s incarnational and cross work, even without using the term “gospel” (cf., Rom. 5:1, 10; 8:32; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 2:6-11; Titus 3:5-7 et al.).  

 

The Gospel is the work of God the Son 

 

Rom. 1:1, 3: “the gospel of God. . . . regarding His Son”

1 Cor. 15:1-4 (A.D. 54):

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel [euaggelion] which I preached [euēggelisamēn- aorist ind. of euaggelizō], which also you received in which also you stand, 2 By which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached [euēggelisamēn– aorist ind.] to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as first importance [prōtos] what I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

2 Tim. 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” 

 

So Rom. 10:15: “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written [Isa. 52:7], ‘How beautiful [hwraios, ‘timely’] [are] the feet of those gospelizing [euaggelizomenwn] good things.”

 

 

                                                                                                       

“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). 

Let’s first note verses 1 through 9 and all the verbs expressing God’s blessing, electing/choosing, predestining, freely giving, lavishing the “riches of His grace,” “making know the mystery of His will,” obtaining an inheritance, etc. have God as the subject of the verbs (doing the actions) and man as the direct object (e.g., hēmas, “us”- receiving the actions).

 

Second, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “God has chosen you [humas] from the beginning for salvation….”). We have been claimed as God’s own possession within the context of our being chosen “in Him,” as seen in Ephesians 1:4-5. The phrase, “obtained an inheritance” is from the Greek term, klēroō. Used here, the term literally denotes receiving or giving a heritage or inheritance, or “the idea to allot, to assign in the sense of a privilege.” The TDNT[1] defines the term as, “an ‘appointment’ or ‘determination,’ which affects men in their being. It is also the goal, which is assigned to them in their calling. The term is exemplified in the OT signifying Israel as God’s klēros—namely, His heritage.

 

“Having been predestined according to His purpose.” The verb “predestined” also appears in verse 5. The term “purpose” is from the noun, prothesis—from pro (“before”) and tithēmi (“to place or set”). Thus, lexically, “to set or place before, for a particular purpose, predestined purpose” (see also in Rom. 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). Additionally, the term is used to denote the setting forth of the consecrated bread in the temple before the Lord (Mark 2:26; Heb. 9:2).

“Who works all things after the counsel of His will.” The verb translated, “accomplishes” is energountosfrom the verb energeō, which is a compound word from ergon (“work”) and the preposition en (“in, by”), which intensifies the verb. The literal translation of the participle would be, “working, energizing, operating” (see the usage of the same verb at 1 Cor. 12:6; Eph. 2:2; and Phil. 2:13 [twice]). Hence, God is energizing all things after the council of His own will.

“All things.” The Greek reads, ta panta, “the all things.” Note that the article (ta, “the”) and adjective (panta, “all”) are in the neuter gender, thus denoting “the all things” inclusively. The same neuter phrase is used in Colossians 1:16-17: 16 “For by Him all things [ta panta] were created – all things [ta panta] have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things [ta panta] hold together.” Along with these passages, John 1:3, 10; Hebrews 1:10-12; and 2:10, robustly present, as Paul did, the Son as the agent of creation—namely, the Creator of all things. God is the ultimate cause of all things. There is nothing that exists outside of the category of ta panta, “the all things,” which God causes, ordains, decrees, and energizes after the council of His own will.

 

“After the counsel of His will.” The term “counsel” is translated from boulē. Here the term expresses the divine plan, purpose, and intention of God—namely, “according” to His sovereign counsel and predetermined purpose. Note Acts 2:23, which contains the same term (boulē), “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined PLAN [boulē] and foreknowledge of God.”

The one article (“the”) before the first noun (“plan”) and not the second (“foreknowledge”) grammatically shows that God’s “foreknowledge” is established in His hōrismenē boulē (“predetermined plan/decree”). In other words, “God’s decrees are not based on Him simply foreknowing what human beings will do; rather, humanity’s actions are based on God’s foreknowledge and predetermined plan” [2] (esp. Rom. 8:29-30). In fact, the same noun (boulē), with the same force, is used in Acts 4:27-28:

 

27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your PURPOSE [boulē] predestined to occur.

 

 Totally Sovereign Over All Things

What does sovereignty mean? Sovereignty simply means absolute control. Scripture presents that everything that happens, or that has happened, or that is going to happen is independently ordained and determined by God in that He has absolute control of all things. He doesn’t need to consult or ask permission from anyone, nor is He limited to anything outside of Himself. He acts to bring about His plan and nothing will, nor is able to, thwart it (Isa. 46:10-11).

 

So, because God “works [energizes] all things after the counsel of His will,” both good and evil then is likewise controlled by God, since evil is under the category of “all things” (Gen. 50:20; Isa. 53:4; Lam. 3:38; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28). As we saw with the crucifixion, many things God ordains does involve sin, but always for a higher good (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom. 8:28).

 

For example, God is Sovereign over,

 

  • All creation (Isa. 54:5; Dan. 4:17, 25; John 1:13, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12; 2:10).

 

  • All calamities (Isa. 45:5-7; Amos 3:6).

 

  • All earthly authorities (Deut. 4:35, 39; Isa. 37:16; Dan. 5:18, 21; Hag. 2:22).

 

  • Man’s life, death, sickness, and disease (Deut. 32:39; Exod. 4:11 [cf. also John 9:1, 12:39-41]; 1 Sam. 2:6-7; Job 13:15; 14:5; 42:11; Ps. 139:16).

 

  • Evil (Prov. 16:4; Lam. 3:38-39).

 

  • The slavery of Joseph (Gen. 45:7; 50:20).

 

  • Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman from Timnah (Judges 14:1-4).

 

  • Eli’s wicked sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25).

 

  • Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Matt. 26:23–25; 27:9-10; Luke 22:21–22; Acts 1:16, 20).

 

  • Our eternal destiny (John 6:37-39; 10:15; Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:6-23; 2 Thess. 2:13).

 

It is God who puts men to death, gives them life—on His own prerogative (Deut. 32:39; Luke 10:20-22; John 5:21—[note in this passage that raising the dead and giving life to them are accomplished by both the Father and the Son]; 12:39-41; Rom. 9:16-24; etc.).

 

Arthur Pink rightly observes:

“It is strange, yet it is true, that many who acknowledge the sovereign rule of God over material things will cavil and quibble when we insist that God is also sovereign in the spiritual realm. But their quarrel is with God and not with us. We have given Scripture in support of everything advanced in these pages, and if that will not satisfy our readers, it is idle for us to seek to convince them.”[3]

 

How do Christians who do not embrace the full sovereignty of God pray for their lost loved ones? A prayer for the lost that is not based on God’s immutable, irresistible grace and power in salvation would be an impotent and ineffectual prayer, which would set man as the ultimate cause of one’s eternal destiny and not God.

 

The notion that God leaves the final decision of salvation in the hands of sinners is solidly against the biblical teachings both on the nature of man and on the doctrines of grace (Jonah 2:9; Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 6:37-40; 10:15, 25-28; Acts 13:48; Rom. 3:10-18; 8:7-8, 29-30; 9:16-23; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13 et al).

 

God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” YHWH speaks of His absolute sovereignty in Isaiah 46:8-11:

 

“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

 

Again, Godworks all things after the counsel of His will.” What an assuring passage! “All things”- means just that. All things are in the control and hand of God, the unchangeable Creator, and not in the hand of His creatures. Therefore, we are comforted in knowing that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Only because God is undeniably sovereign can the commands in Philippians 4:6-7 be so encouraging:

 

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.”

 

  • Psalm 34:8-10: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

 

  • Romans 8:37, 39: “But in all these things [viz. referring back to vv. 29-30] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us!

 

  • Hebrews 13:5-6: 5 “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’”

 

Whether pandemics, personal calamity, victories, losses, or any other thing, – let us never lose sight of the sovereignty of God over “all things”— so Paul glorifies God in saying, nothing in all creation “will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord!” (Rom. 8:39).

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Notes

[1] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel et al.).

[2] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.

[3] Arthur Pink, Sovereignty of God, “Difficulties and Objections.”

 

In a previous article, we briefly discussed the Lord’s Supper, in substance, importance, and instruction, which is outlined in 1 Corinthians 11. We also examined Paul’s definition of what an unworthy practice of the Lord’s Supper is. Here we will examine the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which in a general sense they refer to as the Eucharist (Greek, “thanksgiving”—thus, the action of thanksgiving to God).

 

The action of receiving the elements (i.e., the actual eating and drinking of the bread and wine) of the sacrament of the Eucharist is called the “Holy Communion”. However, as you will see, the Roman practice of the so-called Holy Communion is anything but a “Holy” Eucharist to God. It is a blasphemous practice that

1) rejects the biblical view that the “once for all time” atoning sacrifice of Christ alone was sufficient for salvation and was the very ground of justification (apart from man-works) and

2) the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation, as explicated hereafter, deforms and dismembers the incarnation of Christ.

 

Transubstantiation

Rome holds to a distinctive doctrine called, Transubstantiation. In short, this Roman Catholic  theological position is where the  priests who preside at the Eucharist (or Lord’s Supper”), “consecrate the bread and the wine so [that these elements actually] become the Body and Blood of the Lord…. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereafter, CCC], 1411, 13).

 

So according to Catholicism, when Jesus said, “This is My body” (Matt. 26:26), and “This is My blood” (v. 28), and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), He instituted the so-called Mass,[1] and gave the apostles, and thus, all future Catholic priests, the power to change ontologically (transubstantiate) the bread and wine into Jesus’ literal Flesh and Blood and Divinity of Christ (New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism  [hereafter, BC], vol. 2, Q. 354, cf. also Q. 355; CCC Article 3, para 1413; Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651). [2] But note, this so-called changing of the bread and wine into the actual and literal flesh and blood and deity of Jesus did not, Rome argues, involve a change in appearance or taste. The BC (Q. 348) states: “After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood, they remained only the appearances of bread and wine.”

 
Theological Heresies of the Transubstantial Eucharist

 Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist, a) presents a perpetual re-sacrificing of Christ, and b) it deforms and confuses the incarnation of Christ.  

First, the notion of the Eucharist as an ongoing sacrifice clearly,   

 

  • Rejects any idea of a “once for all time” or “finished” atoning sacrifice accomplished by His perfect life and cross work.

 

  • Rejects the sufficiency of the glorious cross work of Christ for both the forgiveness of sins and the averting of wrath due to us because of our sin.

 

  • Rejects the notion that sinners are justified though the death of the Son and not according to works.  

 

Note for example, the repetitious way Rome uses the terms such as “sacrifice,” “re-presents,” “propitiation” defining the effects of the Eucharist:    

“The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ” (BC, vol. 2, Q. 360).

“The Eucharist is also a sacrifice” (CCC, 1365).

“The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (CCC, 1366).

“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice,” (CCC, 1367).

 

The Eucharist, according to Rome, is propitiatory (i.e., forgiving sins and removing the wrath of God): “This sacrifice [Eucharist] is truly propitiatory” (CCC, 1367). “The Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a ‘true and proper sacrifice’” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Sacrifice of the Mass”; emphasis added).

Clearly, Rome sees the Eucharist as a “sacrifice,” which is offered through the hands of the priests: “The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands” (CCC, 1369, also cf. 1414).

The Roman system of the transubstantial Eucharist is an insufficient sacrifice that is offered continuously by sinful Roman priests. This, clearly controverts and attacks the biblical presentation of the once for all time atoning accomplishment of Christ, as He Himself affirmed—“It is finished.” The Roman “Christ” is not able to save a sinner in and of Himself by grace alone through faith alone—apart from human efforts. Nor is the redemptive work of Christ in Romanism the very ground of the believer’s justification.

Biblically, a sinner is “declared” righteous before God not through works such as water baptism, nor through the sinful hands of the Roman priests in their representing the sacrifice of Christ at the Mass; rather it is through faith alone. Paul rightly says: “just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) “Through the [one time] obedience [atoning work] of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Neither the church, Mary, Roman priests, nor anything or anyone can mediate between God and man. Only the two-natured person (God-man), Jesus Christ is able to be the Mediator:

“For there is one God, and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).   

 

To emphasize the infinitely completed redemptive propitiatory work of the Christ, the author of Hebrews uses the Greek term ephapax (ἐφάπαξ) which means “once for all” (from epi, “upon” + hapax, “once, one”). Thus (lexically), “Taking place once and to the exclusion of any further occurrence, once for all, once and never again (BDAG), or “upon one occasion only” (Thayer).

The author of Hebrews (and Paul in Rom. 6:10) teaches that the sacrifice of Christ as the eternal priest was ephapax (“once for all time”)—for all other OT priestly systems (Aaronic and Levitical) were lesser, imperfect, and obsolete (Heb. 7:11, 23-28). Note the following passages:   

“who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did ephapax [‘once for all time’] when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:27).

“and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place ephapax [‘once for all time’] having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12).

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

The ephapax [“once for all time”] and Paul’s doctrine of justification through faith alone, shows in and of itself that the Roman Mass where the Eucharist is a repetitive propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ is an offensive attack on Christ and His one-time finished atoning work.        

   

Reject the biblical teaching of the incarnation of the Son. The second theological heresy of Rome’s doctrine of Transubstantiation is the deformation of the incarnation of Christ. The Roman Church happily agrees that Jesus became flesh. However, in Romanism, the “flesh” that Jesus became is anything, but normal human flesh and likeness. Because, as Rome teaches, the elements in the Eucharist (bread and wine) actually transubstantiates (viz. changes into the non-figurative literal flesh and blood of Christ). Hence, wherever in the world Catholics are receiving the Eucharist (“Holy Communion”) at the Mass, the literal body and blood is being sacrificed at the hand of the priests. This clearly implies that Jesus’ physical body is ubiquitous—namely, its able to be in multiple places simultaneously!

A ubiquitous anomalous human nature sharply counters the biblical teaching that the eternal Word became the perfect representation of man—not a “hyper-flesh” ubiquitous fleshly body: “The Word became flesh…. being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man” (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7-8).

Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist is an idolatrous practice that mocks and rejects both the substitutionary work of Christ as the alone means of justification and manipulates the biblical view of the incarnation of the Son—who “emptied Himself, taking the form [real nature] of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [not in the likeness of a unusual ubiquitous man]. Being found in appearance as a [normal] man” (Phil. 2:7-8).          

Those who partake in the Roman Eucharist are

1) proclaiming the Jesus of Rome who did not take the nature of normal humanity, and

2) proclaiming the impotent Jesus of Rome whose atoning work was neither sufficient nor perfectly completed. Thus, they would be celebrating that which Paul condemned as anathema (cursed) in Galatians 1:8, 9 (viz. the faith + works system of the Judaizers).

Christians, in stark contrast, proclaim the Jesus of the NT: “Through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19); “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God”! (Heb. 10:12; cf. Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).      

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria

 

See Matthew 16:18: The Plastic Rock of Rome   

 

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NOTES

[1] In Catholicism, the Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist, where Catholics participate together in “Holy Communion.”     

[2] Cf. CCC Article 3, para 1413: “his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.”

 In support of their erroneous doctrine of Transubstantiation, Catholics appeal to John 6:53-54. However, Jesus had already defined what He meant here back in verse 35, where Jesus refers to Himself as the “Bread of Life” – “he who comes to Me will not hunger [thus, coming to Him is equivalent to ‘eating His flesh’], and he who believes in Me will never thirst [thus, believing in Him is equivalent to ‘drinking His blood’].” Further, unlike the Synoptics, the Gospel John never even records Jesus’ institution of the Last Supper. Further, the historical time frame of the institution of the Lord’s Super would have been not until John 13, which was a different context than that of chapter 6, and at least a year later! In his Commentary on John, Calvin pointed out, “Indeed, it would have been inept and unreasonable to preach about the Lord’s Supper before He had instituted it.”               

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

“Unworthy” Behavior

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord’s Supper reminds us that-

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Notes

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

[2] Westminster Confession of Faith.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Philippians 3:1-14

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

                                          

             Scripture is sufficient to affirm and refute false doctrines.    

 

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

 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement. 

2 Peter 3:9 is one of the top Arminian default passages to support a universal atonement. First, definitive atonement is taught clearly throughout Scripture (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.), and biblical passages cannot be set against other passages.

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 one fact 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).    

 

Also 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.   

 

Lastly, although I see this as a valid interpretation consistent to biblical affirmation of particular redemption, there is another interpretation within the Reformed tradition. It draws emphasis on the two wills of God. In this view, various Scriptures sees God’s desire for the lost would repent and come to Him in order for salvation (cf. Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Jonah 4:11; etc.); and the call to repentance is given to all men (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 17:30-31). 

Thus, in one sense (preferential will) God loves all of humanity, not wanting any to perish, but all come to repentance. But in another sense (decretive will), He sovereignly elects all whom He intends to save. Calvin speaks of this view regarding 2 Peter 3:9: “So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost” (Calvin Commentaries, 419). 

Although, this view certainly has merit, I find stronger contextual reasons for the former. However, note, of the two views, non carry the Arminian notion of a universal self-determination ability of the unregenerate.