Writings of W. E. Best

I - *** A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF ROMANS

A COMPREHENSIVE
VIEW OF ROMANS

Volume I

by
W. E. Best

Copyright © 1992
W. E. Best

Scripture quotations in this book designated “NASB” are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1977 by the Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission. Those designated “translation” are by the author and taken from the Greek Text. All others are from the King James Bible.

This book is distributed by the
W. E. Best Book Missionary Trust
P. O. Box 34904
Houston, Texas 77234-4904 USA

I - 0005 CONTENTS

CONTENTS

Best I - 001 Introduction 

Best I - 002 Panoramic View of Romans

SECTION I

PAUL’S PRELUDE TO THE EPISTLE
Ro 1:1-17

Best I - 1A AUTHENTICATION AND SALUTATION - Romans 1:1-7 - Romans 1:1-7   

Best I - 1B COMMENDATION, ASPIRATION, AND OBLIGATION - Romans 1:8-16 - Romans 1:8-16

Best I - 1C THE THEME OF ROMANS - Romans 1:17  

SECTION II

Best I - 2 CONDEMNATION
Ro 1:18-3:20

Best I - 2A PRECURSORY 

Best I - 2B CORRUPTION AND CONDEMNATION OF THE GENTILES - Romans 1:18-32 - Romans 1:18-32 

Best I - 2C GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF THE JEWS - Romans 2 - Romans 2 

Best I - 2D GOD’S JUST JUDGMENT ON DEPRAVED JEWS AND GENTILES - Romans 3:1-18 - Romans 3:1-18

I - 001 Introduction

INTRODUCTION

Every person in whom the Spirit of life dwells is expected to have an extensive mental grasp of the principle of life which comes from God the Father, through Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit. The Father chose certain ones in Christ and gave His Son as an offering for sin to pay the  debt for those He chose out from among mankind. The Son died for them, and the Holy Spirit applies that which the Father planned and the Son purchased. Hence, God has come to us through the Son and by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:3-14). Then, we in turn go to the Father by the Holy Spirit of regeneration, made possible through and by Jesus Christ at Calvary.

Having heard about the Ephesian saints’ faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul prayed that God might give them a spirit of wisdom and disclosure of truth in the sphere of a full knowledge of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:17). The noun epignosis means coming to a definite spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ. Paul was  praying in God’s will, because he knew that God had permanently enlightened (perfect passive participle of photidzo) their mental and spiritual understanding that they might have a permanent knowledge (perfect active infinitive of oida) of what is the hope of God’s calling (Eph 1:18). This calling is by the sovereign God (2Ti 1:9), in Christ (Php 3:14), according to God’s purpose (Ro 8:28), irrevocable (Ro 11:29), personal (Lu 19:5), by means of the gospel (2Th 2:14), and those called are commanded to spare no effort to make our calling sure (2Pe 1:10).

There is absolutely no excuse for Christians to say they have neither time nor opportunity for an extensive and exhaustive study of so great a deliverance by Christ’s redemptive  work at Calvary. Our salvation comes out of eternity, travels through time, and goes back to eternity. This “so great salvation” (Heb 2:3) covers God’s purpose from eternal election to the eternal kingdom. Romans has been called Paul’s Body of Divinity, signifying that the Epistle is the most systematic of all his writings. It’s systematic content should be known by rote for the purpose of meditation. The far-reaching effects of a thorough study of Romans will be evident in the lives of Christians.

Since God has set everlasting existence (olam, eternity, everlasting, or forever) in the heart of man (Ec 3:11), the things of time can never satisfy the human heart. As Proverbs, which records the laws of heaven for life on earth, sets forth the sufficiency of Divine wisdom, Ecclesiastes reveals the insufficiency of human wisdom. In Ecclesiastes, the heart is described as being too large for the object, the things of time. Solomon, the author of both books, was dissatisfied with the things of time, because he tried everything he considered important “under the sun,” an expression used 29 times in Ecclesiastes. Although the book presents the world at its best, Solomon did not find satisfaction in science (Ec 1:4-11), wisdom under the sun (Ec 1:12-18), pleasure (Ec 2:1-11), materialism (Ec 2:12-26), fatalism—the impersonal character of events (Ec 3:1-15), deism—belief in the existence of God on the evidence of human reason alone (Ec 3:16-4:16), religion (Ec 5:1-8), wealth (Ec 5:9-6:12), and morality (Ec 7:1-12:12). None of these things satisfy, for the reason that God has set everlasting existence in man’s heart. The things of time, which are transitory, can never satisfy. God is referred to only as Creator, not as the covenant God, until Ec 12:13-14. These two final verses in Ecclesiastes give the conclusion to the problem of Ec 1:1-3, and all the experiences of man “under the sun” (Ec 1:4-12:12).

Please notice the word “duty” (Ec 12:13) of the KJB and “applied” in the NASB are in italics (supplied words by the translators, but not for emphasis as some foolishly think). Ec 12:13 may read, “Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man.” Reverential fear is the whole man. This signifies the man who God alone satisfies. The New Testament proclaims the same principle. Christ said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (Joh 14:15 NASB). In The Song of Solomon, the infinite object is too large for the finite heart, and this is why Jesus Christ alone can satisfy. The book of Proverbs portrays the sufficiency of Divine wisdom. Ecclesiastes reveals the insufficiency of human wisdom. The Song of Solomon describes the love of God for His people. Thus, an infinite object is necessary to give full contentment to finite everlasting existence in man’s heart.

The Christian is always hungering and thirsting for righteousness because the everlasting life, which he has as the product of Christ’s redemption, is not infinite. The righteousness for which we hunger and thirst is infinite; but the righteousness wrought by Christ in death, which was first imputed to the elect before it is imparted in us, is not the infinite righteous character of God. Our righteousness which is from God is the righteousness which God’s justice demanded. This righteousness was provided in Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and His perfect sacrifice for sin on behalf of the elect. As God cannot create God, the righteousness He provided for the elect cannot be His inherent righteousness. Therefore, the basic principle of this fact is that every effect must have a cause; and the effect will always be inferior to the cause, since God, the first cause by necessity, is greater than His creatures, even His redeemed people. Christians are new creations in Christ, but God made us new creations (2Co 5:17).

With these facts before us, we understand why Christians hunger and thirst for righteousness and why God shall display in the coming ages the excelling wealth of His grace in the sphere of kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Mt 5:6; 1Pe 2:2; Eph 2:7). The redeemed finite people of God shall forever take their places at the feet of the infinite Savior and Lord. To suggest that believers become “gods” either in time or eternity is heretical. No Christian accepts the doctrine that all who obey the gospel can enter the celestial kingdom and eventually become gods and goddesses.

Paul used the noun righteousness (dikaiosune) 36 times in his Epistle to the Romans. It is a legal term which denotes the character of being right. Therefore, no accusation can be brought against a righteous person, whether he is one of the Persons in the Godhead who is inherently righteous, or God’s people who have been made righteous by Christ’s redemptive work at Calvary. Distinction must be made between the righteous God and those He makes righteous in Christ. As there is a distinction between the Creator and man He created, there is a difference between Redeemer and redeemed, Justifier and justified, Sanctifier and sanctified, Begetter and begotten, and Caller and called.

I - 002 Panoramic View of Romans

PANORAMIC VIEW OF ROMANS

The Epistle to the Romans is the most systematic of all Paul’s writings. This is not to say there is not an ordered system in his other Epistles, exemplified in Ephesians, but Romans covers a more detailed plan than any of his other Epistles. Let us first get a panoramic view of this great body of divinity. Between the INTRODUCTION, Ro 1:1-17, and the CONCLUSION, Ro 15:14-16:27, there are three major divisions:

l. Ro 1:18-8:39 
Paul gave a doctrinal treatise on condemnation, justification through a God-provided righteousness, practical sanctification, and glorification.

2. Ro 9-11
Paul presented an interpretative essay on God’s choice, rejection, and restoration of national Israel.

3. Ro 12:1-15:13
Paul emphasized the practical application of his doctrinal teaching in our duty to God (Ro 12:1), ourselves (Ro 12:2-3), the assembly (Ro 12:4-8), the relative duties to others (Ro 12:9-21), civil authority (Ro 13:1-7), claims made on us by others with proper motivation in view of a consummated salvation (Ro 13:8-14), weak Christians (Ro 14:1-15:7), and common courtesy (Ro 15:8-13).

The following major truths are taught in this Epistle:

1. Justice requires righteousness (Ro 1:18-3:20).

2. Righteousness is revealed (Ro 3:21-5:11).

3. Righteousness is realized (Ro 5:12-8:13).

4. Righteousness preserves (Ro 8:14-39).

5. Righteousness is reflected (Ro 12-16).

Without Biblical teaching one cannot expect Biblical living. This means that without a Biblical foundation there will never be a Biblical superstructure. Furthermore, both the foundation and superstructure have a vital connection with Israel. Jesus Christ came through the Davidic line. Salvation is of the Jews. Through God’s rejection of Israel, the elect Gentiles have been grafted in. But God is not through with Israel. She shall be restored. Without Israel, we could not enter the kingdom.

The introduction (Ro 1:1-17) and conclusion (Ro 15:14-16:27) contain much more than salutations. In the introduction, Paul went from authentication and salutation (Ro 1:1-7) to his prayer for the saints (Ro 1:8-9), to his desire to personally visit them (Ro 1:10-13), to his ministry in Rome (Ro 1:14-17). In his conclusion, Paul began where he left off in his introduction. He went from his ministry (Ro 15:14-21), to his journey to them (Ro 15:22-29), to urging them to strive with him in prayers on his behalf (Ro 15:30-33), and to the salutations (Ro 16:1-24). The last three verses record the apostle’s benediction (Ro 16:25-27).

In the salutations, Ro 16:1-24, sixteen of the twenty-one times in which the Greek verb aspadzomai—meaning to greet, salute, or bid farewell—is used, the inflected form is aorist middle imperative. (The verb is also used five times as a present middle indicative.) An imperative is a command. The point is that Jesus Christ gave us a command not only to love one another (Joh 13:34; 14:15; 1Jo 4:11) but also to be courteous. Christianity is more than doctrine and ordinances; it is a manifestation of love, not sentiment. May we never forget that our loving Christians is our loving those Christ loves.

I - 1 Paul's Prelude to the Epistle

SECTION I

PAUL’S PRELUDE TO THE EPISTLE
Ro 1:1-17

Paul’s introduction to his Roman Epistle has three major subdivisions:

1. Authentication and salutation - Ro 1:1-7 Best I - IA AUTHENTICATION AND SALUTATION - Romans 1:1-7

2. Commendation, aspiration, and obligation - Ro 1:8-16 Best I - IB COMMENDATION, ASPIRATION, AND OBLIGATION - Romans 1:8-16

3. Theme of the Epistle—the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel -Ro 1:17 Best I - IC THE THEME OF ROMANS

I - 1A AUTHENTICATION AND SALUTATION - Romans 1:1-7

AUTHENTICATION AND SALUTATION - Ro 1:1-7

Authentication

Paul was establishing the genuineness of his position in Christ. His authentication includes his name—Paul, his being a slave of Jesus Christ, his call by God as an apostle, and his permanent separation for the gospel which was not hidden in the Old Testament. Confirmation begins with the name, Paul. Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul; but Saul was also known by the Gentile name, Paul, which was revealed shortly after his commission to the Gentiles (Ac 13:9). Therefore, the gospel was ordained by God to go by the personal agency of a Jew to non-Jews.

The term doulos (slave or servant) means Paul was a slave of Jesus Christ. Some say doulos should not be rendered “slave,” because that translation excludes the element of free will. Did Paul have any choice concerning his call to the apostleship? He had no more to do with his call to the ministry than with his regeneration. There were no volunteers among the apostles, and there is no surrendering to the ministry subsequent to the apostles because all God-called men have been drafted. Others think Paul used the noun doulos in the sense of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, etc., who are called Jehovah’s servants. There is nothing in Scripture to contradict the idea of slavery in Paul’s acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Master. Hidden in the noun doulos is a great truth concerning the nature of true liberty, and that liberty is enslavement to Jesus Christ to whom he belonged by creation and redemption. Such slavery is Christianity.

The word doulos expresses the condition of one who is not absolutely free. Paul applied the term to himself (Ro 1:1; Ga 1:10; Php 1:1; Tit 1:1). The four masters in the world are sin, self, Satan, and the Savior. In Jesus Christ, Paul was no longer a slave to the other three. He was more than a servant. He was a bondslave, bound by love, to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first relationship with God was that of son (regeneration). On the day of his conversion experience, the fruit of regeneration, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Ac 9:6). A son does nothing to be saved, but a bondslave must do all to please Him who saved him. While the unregenerate person is compelled to do nothing to be regenerated, after his regeneration, he is impelled to do everything to please his heavenly Father.

The word bondslave involves the idea of belonging to a master and serving him as a slave. The first Christian idea of a bondslave is that the believer is a purchased possession (1Co 6:20; 1Pe 1:18-21). This is illustrated by the slave becoming the property of his creditor (De 15:12). However, the slavery had a termination. But if the slave, because of his love for his master, refused to go free, he remained the servant of his master forever (De 15:16-17). This illustrates the second Christian idea of a bondslave, which is the believer’s self-surrender. Spiritual service must always be the product of choice and never that of coercion. Hence, the believer’s surrender is not forced; it is the expression of self-surrender. The new life purchased by Jesus Christ and applied by the Holy Spirit develops in every recipient of grace the sense of eternal debt to Jesus Christ, a personal debt that can never be forgotten and an infinite debt that can never be fully discharged.

Paul was called an apostle. The adjective “called” (kletos, called or summoned) must not be translated like a verb. Since the adjective is without an article, it means a definite call at an indefinite time. Hence, Paul’s call to the apostleship originated in God’s purpose; but God’s purpose became a reality by His sending Jesus Christ to personally purchase Paul and also to summon him to the office (Ac 26:12-18). Paul’s call to apostleship, unlike that of the twelve, followed the days of Christ’s ministry. But he did not consider himself to have fallen short of the superapostles (1Co 15:8; 2Co 11:5).

The apostle Paul had been permanently separated (perfect passive participle of aphoridzo, to separate or to set apart) for the gospel of God. The perfect tense denotes that God’s action was completed in past time with continuing results. Paul was not only separated to the message of the gospel itself, along with all who have been regenerated, but he was also separated for its proclamation.

The following are seven things said about the gospel of God in the introduction—Ro 1:1-17.

l. The gospel’s source is God (Ro 1:1).

2. The gospel was promised beforehand by the agency of the prophets (Ro 1:2).

3. The gospel concerns the Person and Work of Jesus Christ (Ro 1:3-4,9).

4. The gospel must be preached (Ro 1:9,14-15). (Also see 1Co 9:16.)

5. The gospel is the power of God which results in salvation (Ro 1:16a).

6. The gospel is to the Jew first and then to the Gentile (Ro 1:16b).

7. The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness (Ro 1:17).

The gospel, by the power of the Spirit of regeneration, forcefully enters the prepared soil of the regenerated heart in a salvation experience (1Th 1:5-10). The gospel of God was not hidden in the Old Testament, since it was promised beforehand by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Ro 1:2; 3:2; Ex 12; Is. 53; etc.). God’s gospel has many facets, but there has not been and never will be another gospel (Ga 1:6-9). The following are some of the major features of the gospel for consideration:

l. God is the Author of the gospel.

2. Jesus Christ is the subject of the gospel.

3. Grace is the character of the gospel.

4. The elect are the recipients of the gospel.

5. The kingdom will be the consummation of the gospel.

While the gospel means “good news,” Paul emphatically declared that the term does not mean that which is “new” (Ro 1:2). Some are saying “the gospel of God” is not to be confused with Paul’s gospel—“...the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that has been kept silent in times eternal” (Ro 16:25—translation). Did Paul preach a different gospel from the gospel that was promised by the prophets? The answer is found in the words of Paul himself in Ac 26:13-23. The “mystery” of Ro 16:25 is not a different gospel from that proclaimed before him, but it was how the Gentiles (non-Jews) could be introduced on the ground of “fellowship” with Old Testament saints (Eph 2:11-3:12).

The gospel of God is (1) prophesied in the Old Testament, (2) personified in Jesus Christ, and (3) personalized in the saints—God’s elect. God’s gospel of Ro 1:1 was not God’s afterthought but His forethought. In fact, God cannot have an afterthought; in His infinite wisdom, He knows everything simultaneously. The “holy scriptures” of Ro 1:2 identify the gospel with the promised Son of Ro 1:3-4. Therefore, the gospel is personified in the Son of God. The promise became a Person, and the Person became the good news. This good news is described in Ro 1:3-4. The following are the major points of the good news:

l. The word “made” (genomenou, aorist middle participle of ginomai, to be born, or to come) should be compared with “declared” (horisthentos, aorist passive participle of horidzo, to declare, designate, or determine). The son who was born of the seed of David has been declared the Son of God. Although Jesus Christ was born the unique man, He was unlike the sons of men. Christ’s being the descendant of David proves He is the man approved of God. His being the only begotten Son of the Father proves He is God.

2. The “seed of David” is to be compared with “the Son of God.” The first reveals Jesus Christ as a member of the human race; the second proves He has a nature superior to the human race. Because of His human nature, He can reach the elect; and because of His Divine nature, He can save them. Thus, due to Christ’s hypostatic union, He is our Kinsman Redeemer.

3. “According to the flesh” should be compared with “according to the Spirit.” The first refers to Christ’s incarnation and humiliation; the second applies to His resurrection and exaltation.

In these verses, the three Persons in the Godhead are seen within one context. The simple rule of mathematics that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other may be applied to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being one. The declaration is by the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection is the proof of the declaration.

Paul concluded the validity of his position and apostleship by saying, “through whom we received grace and apostleship for obedience on behalf of His name...” (Ro 1:5 — translation). Grace and apostleship is the proper order, and this order also demonstrates the fact that blessing comes with responsibility “for obedience to the faith.” In the light of the context, the “faith” (pistis) is objective genitive, not subjective genitive.

Salutation

Following his authentication, Paul greeted the subjects of his Epistle in whom the gospel was personalized (Ro 1:6-7). “Called of Jesus Christ” denotes the source of their calling (Ro 1:6). The genitive case in the Greek is a mark of ownership; therefore, they belonged to Jesus Christ: “and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1Co 3:23 NASB). “Called saints” (dative masculine plural of the adjectivehagios, holy, righteous, or God’s people) refers to position because of imparted righteousness (Ro 1:7). God’s “calling” is sovereign, in Christ, according to God’s eternal purpose, irrevocable, personal, by means of the gospel, and no effort must be spared to make it sure.

Regeneration and calling differ; however, they have a vital connection. Regeneration is the work of the sovereign Godhead; God makes a person who is spiritually dead in his trespasses alive with Christ by the Spirit. (See Eph 2:5.) The gracious work of the Spirit in regeneration causes the recipient to respond to the gospel call. Calling, therefore, is the Divine summons which appeals to the principle of life already in the individual’s heart that causes his understanding and will to act. While regeneration takes place independent of the understanding and will, calling is made effectual by the understanding and will. Therefore, calling is the bringing forth by the call of the gospel the Divinely given life into light (2Ti 1:9-10). Failure to make this distinction is as foolish as a young married woman calling a baby she pre-names and hopes to have when she is not even pregnant.

I - 1B COMMENDATION, ASPIRATION, AND OBLIGATION - Romans 1:8-16

COMMENDATION, ASPIRATION, AND OBLIGATION - Ro 1:8-16

Commendation

Paul’s commendation began with his prayerful thanksgiving for the “faith” of the Roman saints (Ro 1:8). “Above all else [proton, an adverb meaning in the first place or above all else—men is a particle which can be used for emphasis or continuation], I am thanking my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is being proclaimed in all the world” (translation). The position of the word “faith” before the pronoun in the Greek places the emphasis on faith rather than on the person whose faith it is. The Romans were famous, but their God-given faith must be preeminent. How different this is from what we hear today! What about the praise that is given to some “believers” by religionists? The Biblical understanding of Christianity destroys all human accolades.

Aspiration

The apostle Paul spoke of “my God” (Ro 1:8), “who is my witness” (Ro 1:9), “my spirit” (Ro 1:9), and “my prayers” (Ro 1:9). His God was the sovereign God of the universe; his spirit was his renewed spirit; his prayers were his strong desire for the Roman saints who he had never seen. Hence, we see in this God-called man the zeal of the apostle, the mind of the teacher, and the heart of the pastor (Php 1:3-7). One must not overlook the order of Paul’s God, his spirit, and his prayers. Apart from one’s recognition of God’s absolute sovereignty and a renewed spirit, he can never pray effectually. There are prerequisites to one’s ability to pray. Prayer is vain unless it is within the rules of Scripture. Prayer was not designed to move God to formulate new purposes, but to conform the believer to God’s purpose. Since prayer is in and of the Spirit, it is the Spirit making intercession for us, with us, and in us according to God’s will (Ro 8:26-27; 1Jo 5:14). Prayer always leads to unselfishness, and this was demonstrated in Paul’s life (Ro 1:9-10; Ac 20:24).

The spirit of all true service is expressed in Ro 1:11-12—“For I long to see you, in order that I may impart to you some spiritual benefit that you may be established, and that is to share in mutual encouragement through the faith in each of us, both yours and mine” (translation). Spiritual gifts are imparted to God’s spiritual leaders for the purpose of their imparting spiritual benefits to assembly members (Eph 4:11-16). The ministry of pastors/teachers is not exactly mutual with saints in general, but it leads to that which is mutual. Paul’s longing was the beginning of his purpose to go to Rome, and his love led him to make definite plans to pursue and fulfill that purpose.

The statement, “through the faith in each of us” (dia tes en allelois pisteos), needs careful study in the light of its context. Since the noun pistis can mean trust or belief, the system of truth that is believed, or faithfulness which results from faith, we need to translate the verse in the light of what the apostle was emphasizing. Was he talking about his faith in the Roman Christians, or was he speaking of his faithfulness in imparting some spiritual benefit to them? Did they joyfully receive Paul’s teaching, and were they strengthened by their faith in Paul or by their faithful reciprocation (allelon, a reciprocal noun)?

Paul had commended “the faith” of the saints and expressed his desire to be with them for fellowship; now he spoke of having some “fruit” among them (Ro 1:13). Once again we see an important order: (1) faith, (2) fellowship, and (3) fruit. Without faithfulness, there is no basis for fellowship. The basic meaning of koinonia, the word for fellowship, is close mutual relationship, sharing, or intimacy. The statement that there is only one fellowship in Scripture into which all believers are brought on accepting Christ as Savior is absolute nonsense. The particular kind of fellowship implied in any passage where the word “fellowship” occurs must be interpreted in the light of its context. Philippians gives some interesting examples of various fellowships: (1) fellowship in the gospel (Php 1:5), (2) fellowship of the Spirit (Php 2:1), (3) fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Php 3:10), and (4) fellowship of giving (Php 4:15). Other examples of fellowship are recorded in Scripture: (1) fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1Jo 1:3), (2) fellowship with fellow believers (1Jo 1:3), (3) fellowship with the assembly (Ac 2:42), etc. Faith leads to fellowship; and in turn, it brings strength and encouragement which results in fruit.

Fruit is the Christian’s life, not his deeds. We must not confuse fruitbearing with works. Christ’s life in us produces fruit through us. A fruit tree does not struggle to bear fruit, but it bears fruit silently for its owner. Fruit speaks of what we are, and it also represents character.

Obligation

Paul understood what his obligation involved, and he approached his responsibility with a thrice repeated “I am”: (1) “I am obligated to both Greeks and to Barbarians, to both wise and to foolish” (Ro 1:14—translation); (2) “So as much as is in me I am ready [prothumos, pro, before; and thumos, intense feeling—ready in mind, prepared, willing] to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Ro 1:15—translation); (3) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, since it is the power of God which results in salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first and to Greek” (Ro 1:16—translation). The apostle was effective in these because he was united to the great “I Am,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Christ, Paul knew nothing (1Co 2:2; 4:4; Php 3:10); he could do nothing (Joh 15:5; Ga 2:20; Php 4:13); he was nothing (2Co 12:11); and he had nothing (Php 3:7-9). What did Paul have that he had not received from God? (1Co 4:7). This question must be made personal.

Paul declared his indebtedness to people without respect to degree of culture or intellect. The wisdom of the cultured will not save, and the ignorant are not excused. God shall destroy the wisdom of the wise, and He shall set aside the understanding of the intelligent (1Co 1:19). The apostle’s obligation grew out of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ. From the day he began his earthly sojourn, his debt increased; until on the road to Damascus, he was enabled by the Spirit of regeneration to see that a Daysman had come between the righteous Judge and the unrighteous Saul and that He had paid his debt of sin (Ro 8:1,18-34). Although the forgiven Paul was clear of the sin debt, he now had a debt of gratitude to Jesus Christ that he could never pay. There is no “statute of limitations” that could ever cancel such a debt of gratitude; therefore, all Paul could do was to give himself wholly to the proclamation of the good news of which he was unashamed.

Paul affirmed his readiness to preach the gospel. The adjective prothumos (Ro 1:15) reveals the heavy breathing of a runner, or of a parent when his child is endangered. This expresses Paul’s passion to preach (1Co 9:16). He was ready not only for service but also to suffer (Ac 21:13), and later he was ready to die (2Ti 4:6). Preparation is a relative word. We may be prepared for some things but not for others. Paul was ready to preach, and the infinitive “to preach” (euaggelisasthai) is in the aorist tense, the tense of finality and absoluteness. He had a definite message that was absolute in its realm and final in its revelation. At that time, he could not say he was ready to die; that statement came after much preparation and at the close of his ministry. This is a valuable lesson for all Christians to learn.

The apostle asserted his boldness when he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” The conjunction gar is used three times in Ro 1:16-17—“For [gar] I am not ashamed of the gospel; since [gar] it is the power of God which results in salvation to [eis, accusative of result] everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek. For [gar] in it a righteousness of God is being revealed out of faith to faith, as it has been written: the just one shall live by faith” (translation). Each time the conjunction is used it confirms the preceding clause. Paul was unashamed of the gospel because it results in salvation to everyone believing. In the gospel, a God-kind of righteousness is being revealed.

The word of God has an emotional effect on every child of God. He cannot remain stoical in the presence of God’s word. Paul’s emotions are revealed in his going from his position as an apostle before the Lord, which would have been impossible without his first being positionally in Christ, to the moving of his heart in his obligation to Christ for what the Lord Jesus Christ had done for him.

Paul was not ashamed of his message, whether he was in religious Jerusalem, philosophical Athens, commercial Ephesus, immoral Corinth, or powerful Rome. No, Paul was not ashamed of his message though it had a Carpenter for its subject, fishermen for its advocates, and commoners for its supporters. The following are persons who are ashamed of the gospel: (1) the worldly wise, because God makes foolish the wisdom of the wise (1Co 1:18-21); (2) the great and powerful of the world, because it brings all men to the same level (Jude 3); (3) the rich, because salvation is without money and without price (Is. 55:1, 2); (4) the pleasure lovers, because they fear it will destroy their mirth (2Ti 3:2-4); and (5) the religionists, because they hate any message that dethrones man (Joh 6:58-66).

I - 1C THE THEME OF ROMANS

THE THEME OF ROMANS - Ro 1:17

Paul’s theme is the righteousness of God which the gospel reveals (Ro 1:17). An unobstructed view of righteousness is an absolute necessity for every Christian. The righteousness of Ro 1:17 is a God-kind of righteousness which no one can receive except by the Spirit of regeneration. It is a provision that is righteous because it has been brought into being by the righteous character of God. A perfect analogy to this God-kind of righteousness is 2Pe 1:4—“...partakers of a God-like nature...” (translation). No one has either the same Divine nature or the same righteous character as God.

Erroneous views of righteousness in Ro 1:17 are taught: (1) One view is that it is God’s attribute of justice. However, justice of itself would have sealed our damnation. (2) Another view is that it is God’s goodness that He reveals. But this is a departure from Paul’s argument. Why did Paul use the word righteousness if that was true?

Paul was unashamed of the gospel because in it a righteousness for the elect is revealed. Justice requires it (Ro 1:18-3:20). This righteousness is revealed (Ro 3:21-5:11). It is realized (Ro 5:12-8:13). This righteousness is reserved (Ro 8:14-39). It is reflected (Ro 12-16).

The following are some points concerning the righteousness of God which give a systematic view of this great subject:

l. The inherently righteous God is the source of this revealed righteousness.

2. The inherently righteous Son of God is the Person in the Godhead who, by His righteous life and death as the God-man, provided a righteousness for the elect.

3. The inherently righteous Spirit is the third Person in the Godhead who imparted the provided righteousness in the elect in regeneration, thus making them finitely righteous in Jesus Christ.

4. Righteous men are those who have had the Christ-provided righteousness imparted in them, because it was first imputed to them in their justification before the inherently righteous Father.

5. The righteousness that is imparted in the elect in salvation is not the mere attribute of justice that effects deliverance from sin; but it is something provided by the obedience of One, Jesus Christ.

6. The provided righteousness is revealed in the gospel, and this message is God’s power resulting in salvation.

7. The righteousness of God in the gospel is being revealed out of faith resulting in the operation of faith, because the righteous person by means of a God-given faith will exercise the functions of life. The soul is the life of the body; faith is the life of the soul; Christ is the life of faith.

8. Having had God’s provided righteousness imputed and imparted, recipients of provided righteousness are continually performing righteousness, because they have been born out of God.

9. Those who are constantly performing righteousness are also constantly hungering and thirsting for righteousness, because their finite righteousness finds satisfaction only in God’s infinite righteousness.

10. The righteous in Christ never tire of magnifying the good news of the inherently righteous character of God the Father who provided a finite righteousness, by the life and death of His Son for the unrighteous elect, without marring God’s inherently righteous character.

Various erroneous interpretations of “from faith to faith” have been given:

l. From faith to faith means from one act of faith to another.

2. It means from faith that justifies to faith that sanctifies.

3. It means from the faithfulness of Christ, the source of righteousness, to obtaining this righteousness by faith in Christ.

4. It means from first to last by faith.

5. It means from a lower to a higher degree of faith.

6. It means from the faith God has provided to the faith of man as the receiver.

7. It means out of the faith of one heart into the faith of another.

8. The statement “from faith to faith” is designed to express the idea that God’s plan of justifying men is revealed in the gospel, which plan is by faith, and the benefits of this plan shall extend to all who believe.

9. Out of faith unto faith denotes a growing faith.

10. It means from the faith of the Old Testament to the faith of the New Testament.

11. It means from the faithfulness of God revealing to the faith of man receiving.

Let us consider another view. To whom is this God-kind of righteousness—the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary—being revealed? Is it not to the one who has been invaded by the gospel? Paul was now giving further explanation of verse 16. The God-kind of righteousness is being revealed to all the powerful gospel has invaded. The gospel is powerful. It invades with force, giving a true conversion experience: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you have known what kind of men we were among you for your sake” (1Th 1:5—translation). The gospel does not come to men in general to inform them of a better objective state of affairs. It invades the elect who have been regenerated, calling them to a life of faith and obedience. God never starts anything He does not bring to completion (Php 1:6).

A calling to a life of faith and obedience comes from the faithfulness of the One who “became [aorist passive indicative of ginomai] wisdom to us from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Co 1:30—translation). The verb is an aorist passive, point action past time, of ginomai. Therefore, it is the work of Jesus Christ, what God has done for His own. This righteousness is being revealed from the faithfulness of the One who became righteousness to us. It was first imputed before it was imparted. Imputation is a legal term. It was imparted when we were born of God by the Holy Spirit. Imputed and imparted righteousness being revealed (present passive indicative of apokalupto) is by the faithfulness of the One who became righteousness to us (Ro 1:17). It results in our coming to Christ in faith and subsequently living a life of faith. Hence, we go from the initial act of faith in Christ in a true conversion experience, which Paul explained by the gospel invading with power to give the person who has been quickened a true conversion experience, to the individual living the life of faith; he walks by faith and not by sight.

Believers are in Christ three ways: (1) We are in Him representatively (Ro 5:16-19). We were crucified with Christ before we existed. (2) We are in Him vitally. This pertains to eternal life (Joh 15:1-7; Col 1:27). (3) We are in Him consciously. We were in Christ vitally before we were conscious of it. We are in Him consciously by faith which is the fruit of regeneration and conversion. For this reason, we have the assurance of our salvation (2Ti 1:12; 1Jo 5:1-13).

I - 2 CONDEMNATION

SECTION II

CONDEMNATION
Ro 1:18-3:20

Best I - 2A PRECURSORY

Best I - 2B CORRUPTION AND CONDEMNATION OF THE GENTILES - Romans 1:18-32

Best I - 2C GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF THE JEWS - Romans 2

Best I - 2D GOD’S JUST JUDGMENT ON DEPRAVED JEWS AND GENTILES - Romans 3:1-18

I - 2A PRECURSORY

PRECURSORY

The division of Ro 1:18-3:20 is characterized by sin. “All unrighteousness is sin” (1Jo 5:17). Sin is lawlessness (1Jo 3:4). This does not indicate that laws made by men that are not substantiated by Biblical truth must be obeyed. Disobedience to those laws is not sin in the sight of God. Everything which is not out of faith is sin (Ro 14:23). In his use of the word “faith” in this verse, Paul had reference to Biblical principles. In reference to the ability to believe, it designates God-given faith. In connection with Paul’s belief, it signifies Biblical principles. By the law is the full knowledge of sin (Ro 3:20). The full knowledge of sin comes from the word of God, not by laws made by men.

This division of Romans records God’s indictment of man on two accounts: (1) Man forsook the glory of God, thus manifesting the nature of sin. (2) Man has corrupted his ways, which is the inevitable fruit of sin’s nature. The doctrine of sin is the foundation of the Christian message. Since the gospel is God’s power resulting in salvation, we must understand from what we have been delivered. That is why Paul began his doctrinal treatise by showing that the whole world of mankind stands condemned before God. Therefore, this section entitled “Condemnation” is given to prove that man has no righteousness acceptable to the righteous God.

Paul began his proof of depravity by dealing first with the corruption and condemnation of the Gentiles. He went from the Gentiles in Ro 1:18-32 to the guilt and condemnation of the Jews in Ro 2:1-3:8. Finally, in Ro 3:9-20, the apostle showed that the whole world is in a sinful condition and therefore guilty before God. In addition to having no righteousness to stand before God, man is condemned because of his own sin; and he is not only under the wrath of God, but he is also deserving of death. God x-rayed the human heart, and Paul revealed the findings. The entire picture is comprehended in two verses: (1) “For the punishment of God is being revealed from heaven against every kind of ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth in the sphere of unrighteousness” (Ro 1:18—translation). (2) “Who knowing completely the judgment of God, that the ones practicing such things are deserving of death, not only are doing them, but are giving approval with the ones practicing them” (Ro 1:32—translation).

The reality of sin has many witnesses, but all we know about its origin can be stated in few words. Sin entered the angelic realm through Lucifer and the human race through Adam, the first man. The penetration of sin into the angelic realm was different from that of the human race. The sin of Lucifer was internal dissatisfaction with his subordinate position (Is. 14; Eze 28; 2Pe 2:4). There is no reference to external influence on him in the form of temptation. Furthermore, there is no representative feature about sin’s coming into the angelic realm; hence, there was no cooperation by the angels with Lucifer in his sin. Had there been solidarity in the angelic host with Lucifer, all the angels would have fallen with him. Since the chosen angels did not fall with Lucifer, they need no redemption.

Sin entered the human race through Satan’s deception (Ge 3:1-6; Re 12:9) and man’s disobedience (Ro 5:12,19; 1Ti 2:14). The following are distinguishing features of sin’s entrance into the angelic realm and into the human race: (1) Unlike the angels, there was representative solidarity of all mankind with Adam. (2) Unlike Lucifer, Adam was externally tempted. (3) Unlike the chosen angels, there is redemption for the chosen from among mankind.

The general attitude of people in these apostate days is that religious leaders should dwell on the attractive virtues of life and leave the monster called sin to wander unnoticed in the absence of its exposure. Sin is what God says it is; therefore, human opinion must bend to the testimony of Scripture. The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, which means to miss the mark. It is the most comprehensive term for moral and mental obliquity. Sin is divergence from either moral or mental rightness of principle or practice. The word hamartia is used of sin as (1) a principle of action (Ro 5:12-13), (2) a governing principle (Ro 5:21; 6:12,14; 7:8), or (3) a sinful act (Jas 1:15). Hence, hamartia is a principle which has power to produce an act or acts of sin.

There are three major demonstrations of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The first is the sin which caused the fall of Lucifer, “You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created, Until unrighteousness was found in you” (Eze 28:15 NASB). This is the only verse in Scripture that states the exact origin of sin. All the other references only describe its heinousness. Ezekiel said, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor...” (Eze 28:17 NASB). Pride, which led to insubordination, was the form of Lucifer’s sin. Lucifer was given a place of leadership, but his position led him to thoughts of independence. The quality of eternity is the fact that there is only one will, the will of God. At the beginning of God’s created order, sin began in the highest of His created beings. In addition to the voice of God, there was now a second voice; and it expressed rebellion against the first voice. When Lucifer became unwilling to rule as a subordinate, he became a traitor; when he exalted himself above God, he became Satan (adversary); when he accused God, he became the Devil (accuser).

A kind of successfulness that eliminates any thought about either the providence or grace of God generates the reprehensible sin of pride. An example of the former is the rich farmer of Lu 12:16-21. This parable was given by our Lord in answer to His refusal to arbitrate between two covetous brothers concerning an inheritance. Covetousness is an inordinate desire for gain with roots in the depraved nature. Its philosophy is, “what you have is mine if I can get it.” Furthermore, one who demands his dues may be as covetous as the one withholding them. Christ, knowing both were at fault, refused to take sides for the reason that He had a higher mission than the social-liberal concept of religion. In the final analysis, according to the parable Christ spoke, the person who says I will build greater barns, I will store all my fruits and goods, and I will say to my soul, eat, drink, and be merry is a fool. The farmer was a fool because he was not rich toward God; and in all his success as a farmer, he eliminated the God of providence who gives the climate to produce crops. So far as the farmer was concerned, his will alone had produced his wealth. Two wills shall continue in the sphere of mankind until time shall be no more.

Paul gave a warning concerning pride in the realm of grace. In giving qualifications for the bishop—one who has oversight in a local assembly—he said, “Not a new convert, in order that not having been puffed up he may fall into the judgment of the Devil” (1Ti 3:6—translation). Apart from study and experience, one can easily become conceited with his position. In 1Ti 3:6, the passive voice of the verb tuphoo proves Satan uses the lack of knowledge and experience as his target; and through that hole in one’s armor, he causes pride to manifest itself. Another good example of this pride is found in the seventy who returned from their mission and related their success (Lu 10:17-20). They were taken up with their accomplishments rather than rejoicing in the One who had enabled them. While the seventy disciples were away, Christ saw in prophetic anticipation the completion of both His work and the work to which He commissioned His disciples: “And He said to them: I was observing Satan who has fallen [aorist active participle of pipto, to fall to one’s ruin or destruction] from heaven as lightning” (Lu 10:18—translation). Unless we can look on what success we may experience from a heart that is above it, we are sure to be lifted with pride. Christ gave the reason for rejoicing when He said to the seventy, “...you rejoice that your names have been permanently recorded [perfect passive indicative of eggrapho, to write or record] in the heavens” (Lu 10:20—translation). The chief joy of Christians must be that our names are recorded in the heavens, seeing that “our citizenship is in the heavens; from where we also are waiting expectantly for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php 3:20—translation).

The second major demonstration of the exceeding sinfulness of sin was when Adam fell. Sin came not from creation but from the fall. Although God is not the author of sin, one cannot deny that sin is included in His eternal purpose. The order in God’s eternal purpose is as follows: (1) God decreed to manifest His glory. (2) God decreed to create mankind. (3) God decreed to permit the fall. (4) God decreed to elect some from among the fallen. (5) God decreed to provide redemption for the elect. (6) God decreed to apply redemption to the elect. (7) God decreed the perseverance of the elect through their preservation by Him. (8) God decreed the glorification of the elect and the destruction of the nonelect. Therefore, God’s purpose to order things so that sin should come to pass for the sake of His decree is not an argument against God’s hating sin as sin. Sin had no actual existence before it was committed by the creatures God created without sin—Lucifer, the angelic being, and Adam, the first man who was also the representative man. Sin became a reality only when Lucifer and Adam rebelled against the will of God. That which comes from God’s creatures is a secondary consideration; therefore, sin is a secondary rather than a primary consideration.

The question is often asked, why did God create man capable of falling? Since God cannot create God, whatever God creates is by nature inferior to the Creator. Therefore, the image of God in which man was created does not imply a perfect representation of God (Ge 1:27). Jesus Christ alone is the very image of the invisible God (Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). Since holiness is God’s chief attribute, uprightness must of necessity be the chief attribute of man. Adam was a being created in uprightness (Ec 7:29), but his uprightness was unconfirmed. Man’s original state consisted of personality and uprightness. Personality distinguishes man from the animals. It is the ability to know self as related to God and the world and to make decisions concerning moral issues. Adam’s uprightness was mutable. He could not be unchangeably upright, because immutability is proper to God alone and cannot be attributed to any of His creatures. Since Adam’s uprightness was created, it was finite and therefore capable of sinning. It had to be finite because God who is infinite cannot create infinity.

Adam’s sin included the whole human race (Ro 5:12-19). This greatly disturbs the natural mind, because it cannot understand how people subsequent to Adam can be guilty of his sin which was committed 6,000 years ago. Before one gets too “worked up” over the representative nature of Adam’s sin, he must stop and consider the representative nature of Christ’s redemption. However, one must be able to recognize the difference between the participation of all mankind in Adam’s sin and the inclusion of only the elect in Christ’s redemption. In redemption, there is no race unity, but there was in Adam. Depravity includes the entire human race; redemption includes the chosen ones from within the human race. All men fell in Adam, but some men are redeemed by Christ. Union in Adam is universal, but union in Christ is particular because it is by election (Eph 1:4), redemption (Mr 10:45), and regeneration (Joh 3:8) based on the eternal covenant of grace (Heb 13:20-21; Joh 17).

The third major demonstration of sin’s exceeding sinfulness is Calvary. Having seen that sin involves every human being who has entered and shall enter the stream of time, we must consider not only its beginning and development, but also its judgement on behalf of the elect. The death of Jesus Christ supposes an offending man and the offended God. Furthermore, it implies that the Offended holds the offender justly bound to suffer penal consequences that are merited by the offense. These facts before us made the death of Jesus Christ an absolute necessity in order for God to forgive the offenders. He chose some out from among depraved mankind. These chosen offenders in themselves cannot satisfy Divine justice.

Transgression against God is a capital offense punishable by death. People who oppose capital punishment for a capital crime also take issue with God’s capital punishment on sinners who die in their sins. Justice demands punishment proportionate to the crime. Hence, transgression against God demands no less than death; and since sin against God is a boundless crime, it demands everlasting punishment. To order punishment greater than the crime is an unrestrained exercise of power, and to order punishment less than the crime is a weakness of authority. Worst of all, unrighteousness is revealed in both. The vileness of the sinner is reflected in the elevated rank of the sovereign God he has offended; therefore, sin against God is everlasting.

Persons who believe Christ died for all mankind get themselves in an embarrassing doctrinal situation. As God was not obligated to prevent the fall, He was not bound by necessity to redeem man after the fall. In order to redeem man, Christ must die, but not by an antecedent necessity. Salvation of lost mankind was not an absolute necessity in itself; but because God sovereignly chose some from among lost mankind to be saved according to His good pleasure, He was under the necessity to accomplish this deliverance from depravity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is why Christ said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to be believing in all the things which the prophets spoke: Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer and to enter into His glory?” (Lu 24:25-26—translation). As the Father was not compelled to redeem man after the fall, Christ was under no obligation to die except to redeem those included in the covenant of grace which was made by the Godhead (Heb 13:20-21).

Jesus Christ alone as the incarnate Savior could satisfy Divine justice. The sinner is incapable of effecting Divine satisfaction for the following reasons: (1) Sons of disobedience cannot be obedient, since they do not possess grace. (2) Human suffering cannot make satisfaction because it is finite. (3) Human suffering is as incapable as the Old Testament sacrifices of Divine satisfaction. However, Divine justice was satisfied through the death of Jesus Christ for the following reasons: (1) There is such elevation of character in the righteous Godhead—“...Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3)—that all that is done is infinite in its merit. (2) When the Father condescended to give His Son for the elect, the Son condescended to suffer for the elect for the purpose of paying their debt of sin; and the Holy Spirit condescended to regenerate the elect and dwell in them. (3) Justice itself prevents mercy from operating; but when justice is satisfied, the requirement of more would cause it to become injustice.

A reply to those who say the price of redemption is for the whole human family, since they claim it was a necessity for Christ to die for all, is that they must admit that it is also necessary for Him to regenerate all for whom He died. But their claim is contrary to Scripture.

I - 2B CORRUPTION AND CONDEMNATION OF THE GENTILES - Romans 1:18-32

CORRUPTION AND CONDEMNATION OF THE GENTILES - Ro 1:18-32 

Ro 1:18-32 teaches that the punishment by God is being revealed against those who deny God’s character and His righteous standard. Sin falls into two divisions: (1) ungodliness (asebeia, godlessness or impiety), and (2) unrighteousness (adikia, unrighteousness or injustice). Ungodliness refers to the want of reverence toward the sovereign God; unrighteousness applies to the absence of morality. “For the punishment [orge, wrath or punishment] of God is being revealed [present passive indicative of apokalupto, to reveal, uncover, or disclose] from heaven against [epi, dative of disadvantage] every kind of ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing [present active participle of katecho, to restrain or suppress] the truth in the sphere of unrighteousness” (Ro 1:18—translation). The order is significant, since it goes from impiety to immorality. Thus, both the first and second laws are broken by men. When men disregard God, they have no regard for mankind.

The following are persons against whom God’s punishment is being revealed: (1) It is being revealed against the rejecters of general revelation (Ro 1:18-21). (2) God’s punishment is being disclosed against those who exchange God’s incorruptible glory for a likeness of God’s creatures (Ro 1:22-23). (3) It is being manifested against those who degrade their bodies to satisfy their hearts’ evil passions, and they are given over to their unrestrained desires as their punishment (Ro 1:24-27). (4) God is manifesting His wrath against those who do not think it worthwhile to have a true knowledge of God. They are given over to a worthless mind as their punishment; and their corrupted, unrestrained minds are filled with all unrighteousness described by a list of horrible sins (Ro 1:28-31). (5) He is revealing wrath against sinners because they have known completely the punishment by God that the ones practicing such things are deserving of death (Ro 1:32).

Rejecters Of General Revelation Punished

God’s punishment is being revealed against the rejecters of general revelation (Ro 1:18-21). General revelation is a creational revelation in which God is objectively knowable. However, that does not mean that the natural man is capable of receiving this revelation and developing a natural theology by which man can know God in a redemptive sense. Being able to know God apart from revelation in Christ is possible, because creation in itself is a revelation of God’s existence. Hence, there is a revelation of God which precedes the revelation of God in Christ; but faith in the Creator through general revelation is not the same as God-given faith in the Redeemer through the special revelation of God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit through the gospel.

There is no competition between God’s general and special revelations, because the first is God’s work in creation, and the second is the work of redemption in His only begotten Son. The major difference in these two revelations is the distinction between the universality of creation’s revelation and the particularity of redemption’s revelation. Furthermore, every human being stands inexcusable before the Creator on the basis of reason. But only the elect of God stand before Him on the basis of the special revelation of God in Jesus Christ made sure by Christ’s substitutionary death. This knowledge, unlike knowledge from creation, concerns grace and truth which exceeds the capacity of human reason.

The insufficiency of natural revelation for supernatural understanding of the sovereign God can be understood by considering Adam before his fall. If reason based merely on natural revelation was sufficient for Adam’s rule of life, why did he need further instruction from God pertinent to what he should and should not do? (See Ge 1:29-31; 2:16-17.) Since our parents, whose reason was more complete before the fall, needed further instruction, we, whose reason is based on general revelation subsequent to the fall, must have special revelation in order to understand God’s will for our lives on earth.

General revelation is both subjective and objective: “Because that which is known [gnoston, an adjective used as a pronoun which is understood by its being in the nominative case—subject of description—ofgnostos, which can be either known or capable of being known] of God is evident in them; for God manifested [ephanerosen, aorist active infinitive of phaneroo, manifest or bring to light] it to them” (Ro 1:19—translation). There are two views of this knowledge. Some say the context would indicate that God’s knowledge is knowable because of what God has made visible among them, thus making the preposition en mean the locative of location——“in them.” The evidence of the immediate context of Ro 1:18-21 and the overall context of verses Ro 1:18-32 proves the idea of the subjective, “in them,” rather than the location, “among them.” If the latter were true, the translation would have to read, “Because that which is knowable of God is possible among them.” However, verses Ro 1:18-20, the immediate context, and Ro 1:32—“Who knowing completely the requirement of God”—prove beyond a shadow of doubt that “Because that which is known of God is evident in them” is the correct translation.

Man through general revelation is given a subjective knowledge concerning God which renders him inexcusable: “For the invisible things of Him since [apo, dative of time, when something begins, since] the creation of the world are being clearly seen [kathoratai, present passive indicative of kathorao, to see thoroughly or to perceive clearly], being understood [nooumena, present passive participle of noeo, understand or gain an insight into] by the things made, both His eternal power and deity, with the result [eis, accusative of result] that they are without excuse” (Rom. l:20—translation). The effect on man is not that he is left without sin, but he is without excuse pertaining to his primitive knowledge of God. Hence, man’s history proves his deterioration, not his advancement. He has regressed from a higher to a lower elevation. The present world of mankind began with the knowledge of God, in that the whole world population stood around Noah’s altar after the flood (Ge 8:20).

General revelation is limited in purpose. The right of revelation must be considered. Since God has all power and wisdom, He has the right to reveal or hide Himself according to His will. God is known in His power and deity by the things which are made, but He has the right to hide His mercy and grace and reveal them to the elect in special revelation. (See Mt 11:25-27.) The law of manifestation presupposes a hidden power capable of producing the manifestation. If men question the invisible Person behind the visible creation, they are only pretending blindness to God’s power and deity (Ro 1:32). The purpose of general revelation is to render every human being without excuse concerning the existence of God.

General revelation is sufficient to accomplish the following things: (1) Nature reveals the fact of God. (2) The invisible God is the Creator and Governor of the visible world. (3) God must be glorified by man. (4) By reason of His eternal power and deity, God demands homage and gratitude. (5) By right of authority, God commands all men to repent. (6) God is obligated on account of His righteousness and justice to punish every unrighteous deed.

General revelation is manifested to the mind of man. Nature proclaims the existence of God, but nature is altogether silent concerning what God is to man. Man is responsible to bow before nature’s revelation and desire God’s further disclosure. This was Paul’s message in his address before the philosophers of Athens (Ac 17:16-31). Paul commenced where the philosophers concluded, with “AN UNKNOWN GOD.” He started with the philosophers’ belief in immanence—that which takes place in the mind without any external effect. He then directed their thinking to the transcendent God, the Creator who is able and independent of His creation (Ac 17:24-27). About this transcendent God, Paul said, “To seek God, if perhaps they might grope for [pselapheseian, aorist active optative of pselaphao—the possible but doubtful mood—which means to touch, feel, or grope for as in the dark or search blindly] Him and find Him, though being not far [omnipresent] from each one of us” (Ac 17:27—translation). The apostle closed his message by showing the overwhelming transcendence of God in His commanding all men to repent, because God has set a day in which He is destined to be judging the inhabited earth in righteousness by a Man He appointed, giving a guarantee to all, having raised Him from the dead (Ac 17:30-31). Since human responsibility is the cause of guilt, and punishment is the consequence of it, God’s justice demands judgment.

The Existence Of God Revealed

The reason the universe is what it is can be understood by the Christian. It has been created by the triune God. Anyone who reads, studies, and believes Ro 1:18-32 cannot believe there is a person who, even though he denies it, does not believe in the existence of God. Hence, there is no genuine atheist. This has been proved by people who would debate the subject. In their statements, they deny what they claim to believe. According to Ro 1:32, every person coming into this world believes God exists and that His judgment is just: “Who knowing completely the requirement of God, that the ones practicing such things [the things described in Ro 1:18-32] are deserving of death, not only are doing them, but are giving approval to the ones practicing them” (Ro 1:32—translation).

Subjective And Objective Knowledge

Subjective and objective knowledge are taught in Ro 1:18-20—“For the punishment of God is being revealed from heaven against every kind of ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth in the sphere of unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is evident in them, for God manifested it to them. For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are being clearly seen being understood by the things made, both His eternal power and deity, with the result that they are without excuse” (translation).

Concerning God’s existence, it has been said that God is more truly thought than He is described and exists more truly than He is thought. The subjective idea of God is less real than the objective fact that God exists. This means God has more of existence than the thought of Him has. An unregenerate person thinks about God, but his thinking about God cannot compare with the objective revelation of God in creation, because his thinking is limited. The invisible things of God from the creation of the world are evident. Since they are evident in every person, every individual is inexcusable before God (Ro 1:20).

One whose intellect is enlightened by the Spirit of God will be receptive to the truth of God’s existence, and his emotions will be affected. Since the only necessity known to logic is the negative law of contradictions, the definition of “necessary being” in the logical sense of the term is a being the denial of whose existence would be a self-contradiction. The existence of God cannot be based on abstract laws of logic. Abstract logic cannot establish the existence of any substantive entity. The person who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). God is righteous; God is holy; God is love; God is just; God is omnipotent; God is omniscient; etc. God’s existence is necessary. In ordinary speech, necessary means necessary for something. (1) God’s existence is necessary for our being here. We would not be here if God had not chosen, planned, decreed, and purposed that we be here. (2) God’s existence is necessary for our salvation. (3) God’s existence is necessary for our understanding. (4) God’s existence is necessary for our sustenance: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being...” (Ac 17:28). We are created by God, saved by God, sustained by God, have understanding as a result of His gift, persevere as Christians because God preserves us, and have hope in the future because God shall glorify us. Whatever God begins, He brings to a successful conclusion.

The fact of God’s existence is not causally grounded on the abstract laws of logic, and it is not causally determined by any other fact. Our finite minds are not geared to conceive of an uncaused eternal Being. We apprehend Him because we are the children of God, and we lay hold of this understanding and make it ours because of grace within us. The soul of man answers to the objective reality of God. The things that are made fully manifest to the mind of man show that a cause brought those things into existence. Anything pertaining to God is infinite. We have finite minds, but He enables us to understand to an extent. The order in the world and in man reflects God’s existence. God is methodical. He does nothing haphazardly or without purpose. Some question, If the world was brought into existence by God, where did God come from? Existence itself does not demand a cause. The coming into existence of the nonexistent demands a cause, but God’s existence is eternal.

The principle by which an endless series of causes is avoided is in the difference between the Creator and the created. That principle may be arranged by formulating the objective, and then the subjective is better understood. God is so inaccessible that we cannot perfectly know Him. However, God is so greatly manifested by the things He has created that man is without excuse. God’s essence cannot be comprehended, but His existence cannot be denied. The heathen, wherever they are, understand that there is a supreme Being. This may be explained by the shining sun. Before the sun rises, the beauty of creation cannot be seen; but in the light of the sun these things are visible. While the sun reveals these things, it is also revealing itself. Darkness in one’s home is eliminated when a light is turned on. The light reveals the things in the room. At the same time, it also reveals itself. The sovereign God of the universe could not do other than create, because He lives. The first component in God’s decree was to manifest His glory, and that He has done and is doing. The Psalmist portrayed this by calling attention to general and special revelations and the result of both in Ps 19. General revelation is referred to in Ps 19:1-6—“THE heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” Special revelation is taught in verses Ps 19:7-11—“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” The result of general and special revelation is expressed in verses Ps 19:12-14—“Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” No child of God can face the word of God without relating with the Psalmist.

God makes Himself known to all in general revelation, and He makes Himself known to His people in special revelation. As every effect must have a cause, revelation always implies a Revealer. Since God is the Revealer, invisible things are made evident. Neither the world nor any creature could make itself or himself. If man made himself, he would be the cause before he could be the effect. This may be applied in two areas: (1) Approaching the Lord is the effect of having been chosen; the cause is God’s choice: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts...” (Ps 65:4). Coming to Christ is the effect; the cause is The Father’s giving: “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me, and the one coming to me I will in no wise cast out” (Joh 6:37—translation). There is first an eternal gift of all that God chose, and then there is a continual giving. (2) If the first man had made himself, he would not have limited himself. If he had given himself being, why did he not give himself perfection of being? (3) If the first man had made himself, he could have preserved himself; preservation is not more difficult than creation. (4) If the first man had made himself, he would have been able to support himself; but no one supports himself. The need of others is a fact of life.

God cannot be found out by our senses. We cannot see gravitation steady the mountains or the principle of life in a seed planted in the ground. We see only the mountains in their places and the plant that springs from the seed. God cannot be found by physical analysis. Love is required to find love. The pure in heart shall see God. Love cannot be found by the use of a microscope; neither can we sweep up music with a broom. Men cannot find God when they use the wrong instruments. By faith we understand that the ages were framed by the word of God. Grounds for belief in God’s existence are “clearly seen, being understood by the things made, both His eternal power and deity, with the result that they are without excuse” (Ro 1:20—translation). There is universal belief in the existence of God, and it has the force of a natural law. The moral nature of man attests the existence of God. Therefore, man is conscious of responsibility.

A frequently repeated question is, can the existence of God be proved by argument? Many philosophers deny that His existence can be proved by argument. Liberals among religionists see no need to prove God’s existence. They believe it is assumed throughout the system. According to this system, the assumption is that no man can prove the existence of God; thus, no man can say that God is. Their opinion is that when we try to prove God exists, we are guilty of making God the object. They assert that when He says He exists, God is the subject and not the object; and God is wholly the subject and not the object. Contrary to the religious liberals, Paul stated that there is a subjective knowledge of God in every man (Ro 1:19). Since the subjective knowledge of God’s existence is an objective fact, it must be revealed and established by evidence.

Men do not have the knowledge of God’s holiness, justice, mercy, and love by intuition. They have knowledge of only His power, ability to create, and His wisdom in creation. This is all that is revealed in general revelation. His grace, love, and mercy cannot be known without special revelation. These attributes are revealed only by the Spirit of God in regeneration through the Scriptures He has committed to us. Objection to the atmosphere that sustains man illustrates that one assumes that God exists while arguing that He does not. As a person acknowledges his own existence by doubting it, he admits the existence of God by questioning it.

A rationalist may be defined as one who substitutes human reason for Divine revelation. Hence, to be classified as a rationalist, one must have received and rejected some revelation from God. Such men are described in Ro 1:18-32. Paul was talking about the heathen, not Christians. “Therefore, having known God they did not glorify or give thanks to Him as God, but they became vain in their reasonings, and the undiscerning heart of them was darkened. Asserting themselves to be wise they were made foolish, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for a likeness of corruptible man and of birds and of four-footed beasts and of creeping things; for this reason God gave them over because of the lusts of their hearts” (Ro 1:21-24a—translation). “And since they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a worthless mind...” (Ro 1:28—translation). Many today in the field of academic training have been given over to worthless minds.

Consider four arguments with their basic meanings. Each comes from a Greek word. (1) The cosmological argument—The word cosmological comes from kosmos, which means world or order of arrangement. The basic principle of this argument is that every effect must have a cause. (2) The teleological argument—The word teleological comes from telos, which means end or design. Its basic meaning is that the eternal being is intelligent. This argument more properly concerns the relation of the intelligent Being to the world than to His existence. (3) The anthropological argument—Anthropological comes from the word anthropos, the word for man. Its basic principle is that man’s mind cannot evolve from matter nor his spirit from flesh. He is an intelligent creature who can think and reason. (4) The ontological argument—This is an argument for the existence of God. It is based on the Greek participle of the verb eimi, to be or exist—being or existing—on, present active participle nominative masculine singular ofeimi (Heb 11:6). Its basic principle denotes that God is the absolute Being in distinction from an imperfect being.

God Revealed In Creation

God is made known in His creation. Religionists are enraged when someone says that God has revealed Himself in Christ and no one can come to God the Father except through Christ by the Spirit. They assert that intolerance and bigotry are greater curses to mankind than ignorance and error. Religionists—none of whom can tell who God is—make up a great portion of religious denominations, nondenominationalists, and fraternal organizations, such as Freemasonry, Odd Fellows, etc. Scripture teaches that no one can believe “God is,” in the sense of Heb 11:6, without bringing his own personal comprehension of the Divine Trinity into harmony with the delineations of Holy Scripture. (See Joh 5:23; Eph 2:18; 1Pe 1:21; 1Jo 2:23.)

There is no contradiction between “having known God” of Ro 1:21 and “the ones who have not known God [perfect active participle of oida, which means they are in a present state of not knowing God]” (translation) of 2Th 1:8. Ro 1:19-21 does not sacrifice anything of the radical antithesis between knowing and not knowing taught throughout Scripture. The knowledge of the heathen in Ro 1 is not contradictory to the ignorance of the heathen about whom Paul spoke in other Epistles. There is no halfway stop between the darkness of depravity and the light of the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. One can go from the first to the second only by the way of regeneration. Ro 1 points to an inescapable confrontation with the revelation of God in creation, and 2Th 1 shows that Christ’s punishment will come on those who are rejecters of the special revelation of God in Christ. Only by distinguishing between general and special revelations can one do justice to the message of Scripture.

Scripture teaches both general and particular revelations. There is no competition between God’s general revelation in creation and His particular revelation in Jesus Christ. There is a natural knowledge of God apart from the God-given revelation of Himself in His Son. The natural light of reason receives this knowledge apart from the special revelation in Scripture. There are two kinds of knowledge: (1) Many things can be known by natural reason in the realms of the universe and man. People can even have a natural knowledge of spiritual things. However, reason in itself is not sufficient to be man’s guide. Since Adam before the fall needed special directions from God, how much more does man in a state of depravity after the fall. (2) Some things can be known only by faith, and those things are in the realm of the supernatural. Knowing things by faith is by God-given, not natural, faith. Subjective faith can be either natural or God-given; therefore, faith must be identified. Most people have made a god out of their human faith. Only subjective faith, which is the fruit of regeneration, is the channel through which objective faith (truth of the gospel) flows with a salvation experience. (See Heb 11:3; Joh 6:69.)

Paul showed that a subjective knowledge of God through general revelation alone will not bring a person to know God in Jesus Christ, but it does make everyone inexcusable before God. Furthermore, since this subjective knowledge is an objective fact in general revelation, the objective fact is established by evidence. There will be a twofold effect on those who hear the established evidence of the revelation of God in His creation. Although the unregenerate will be exposed to a greater witness of God’s existence, it will not be the means of their conversion because they do not possess the gift of life, which enables people to understand spiritual things. This is not to say they cannot have a human understanding of some spiritual truths. On the other hand, the regenerate, with limited spiritual understanding of the Divine Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will have a clearer understanding of general revelation.

The Christian approach to the subject “God and His creation” must begin the way Scripture begins: “IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Ge 1:1 NASB). “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion....So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Ge 1:26-27). The Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Its plural ending when used of God is described as a plural of majesty rather than a true plural. The plural Elohim is consistently used with singular verbs, adjectives, and nouns. Both the unity of one God and the plurality of Persons are displayed in Ge 1:26. Going from “God” to “us” and “our” proves the plurality of Persons in the Godhead. This can be illustrated by Ge 1:27—“So God created man in his own image....” Notice that God goes from “our” in Ge 1:26 to “his” in Ge 1:27. Further testimony to the plurality in unity is seen in God’s creation: “...in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Ge 1:27). Here, God goes from the singular pronoun “him” (Adam) to the plural pronoun “them” (Adam and Eve). The name LORD (Jehovah, yahweh) God is used in Ge 2 beginning with Ge 2:4. This became the national name used by the Jewish people. He is their God by covenant. God’s name identifies His nature.

The Divine Trinity does not assert that there are three Persons united in one Person, or that three Gods are united in one God. Furthermore, the Trinity does not affirm that God merely manifests Himself in three different ways. It cannot be said that the first manifestation sent the second manifestation into the world to die for those chosen by the first manifestation. Neither can it be said that the third manifestation regenerates all of those chosen by the first manifestation and redeemed by the second manifestation. Christians do maintain that another way of saying “God” is that there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the one true and living God, and yet each Person is God. Each has a distinguishing quality of His own, but one Person is not God separate from the others. This means that each Person with the other two is God, but each of the Persons in the Godhead cannot be either of the others. If this were not true, there could be no distinctions.

The terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not express different relations of God to His creatures. They are not analogous to the terms Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor. The Son is of the Father, but the Father is never of the Son. The Spirit is of the Father and of the Son. The Father sent the Son, and the Father and the Son sent the Spirit. The Father operates through the Son, and the Father and the Son operate through the Spirit. Although there are some things attributed to all three Persons, certain acts are predicated to one Person which are never predicated to the other two Persons. In the light of these Biblical facts, anyone who denies the Divine Trinity is not a Christian. All three Persons are eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. They are together in creation, incarnation, salvation of the elect, and access of the elect to God, as well as in giving strength, comfort in life, and perfection in glory.

As there is order in the Godhead, there is order in God’s creation. Both the cosmos and man demand a cause and explanation. There is a common method used in research that must not be ignored by either theologians or scientists: (1) One must gather and correlate facts, but prejudiced people form their opinions without going to the trouble and time involved in gathering facts. To them prejudice is a great time-saver. (2) One must seek an explanation of the facts that have been correlated, but the lazy who are filled with prejudices or customs need no explanation because they have already formed an opinion. (3) The Christian has advantage over the non-Christian in his searching for an explanation of the facts. While the nonbeliever is seeking to find a hypothesis which seems to fit and explain the data which he has been able to gather and correlate from general revelation, the Christian begins with the Creator who has also given a special revelation in Scripture.

The child of God knows the cosmos and man are what they are because they were created by the Divine Trinity. Since the universe is vast beyond man’s comprehension, the believer knows that the cause must be greater than the effect. Knowing that planet earth was populated with creatures for sea, air, and land after their kind before God created man to have dominion over them, the Christian understands that God is the only One who can answer the puzzling questions concerning the cosmos and man. Hence, the more one knows about the nature, character, and order of God, the easier those puzzling questions are answered. But God’s nature, character, and order can never be learned apart from His special revelation, the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, Christians go by grace from general to special revelation for answers which can never be found in general revelation.

Those who rely on God’s special revelation recognize that both “revelation” and “mystery” exist concerning God and His creation. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (De 29:29 NASB). The fact that man has always quarrelled with God over secret things can be traced back to the one prohibition in the garden of Eden. Man associates secrecy with selfishness, but all nature proves that in Divine administration secrecy and revelation co-exist. For example, God keeps to Himself the secret of germination, but He gives the revelation in the harvest. God does not reveal the life principle, but the fact of life is manifested in the plant, the creature, and man.

Ignorance of many things does not indicate that man can be sure of none. Man may be able to have a working knowledge of a particular subject without knowing much about it. For example, one may avail himself of the power of electricity without knowing anything about electrochemistry. Furthermore, a person can be a Christian without being able to give a discourse on theology, anthropology, and soteriology. The man born blind could not answer all the interrogations by the Pharisees, but he could say, “...one thing I have known [perfect active indicative of eido, completed action in past time with a resulting state of knowing], that being blind now I am seeing [present active indicative of blepo, which means to see]” (Joh 9:25—translation). Although the healed man was ignorant of many things, he possessed permanent knowledge of his being able to see. Even in his state of being a novice, the healed man knew more than the Jewish doctors of law who interrogated him. He gave an unanswerable argument which completely silenced his interrogators: “The man answered and said to them: Indeed in this is a wonderful thing, that you have not known [perfect active indicative of oida, which means you—second person plural—not only did not know but you are in a state of not knowing] where He [Jesus Christ] is from, and He opened my eyes” (Joh 9:30—translation). Following this, the healed man was driven out of the synagogue because of his faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Christ was also driven outside by His own people (Heb 13:12-13); and worse than that, Jesus Christ is outside of the Laodicean assemblies today (Re 3:20). The healed man worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ after he was driven out (Joh 9:30).

Ignorance is never justifiable in any realm of endeavor. A person working with electricity is obligated to know something about it. Furthermore, a new Christian is warned by Scripture not to be ignorant concerning that which may be a mystery to him. (See Ro 1:13; 11:25; 1Co 10:1; 12:1; 1Th 4:13.) When one ponders any problem, he can ask questions for which he may not have a reply. A wise person in this situation will express a humility of mind rather than the stubborn pride of human reason that is without foundation. There is a boldness of speculation which will acknowledge no mystery, but no honest man of theology or any other science will profess to have universal acquaintance with either the universe or man. No one should ever be ambitious of that knowledge which the condition of his nature makes impossible for him to obtain. Finite man is limited in his pursuit; therefore, true wisdom must be content with the knowledge which God has been pleased to reveal of Himself and His creation. However, everything now unknown should not be considered as belonging to the secret things of God, and thus unfathomable by either the man of God or the man of science. This would destroy the Biblical teaching that the man of God should grow in knowledge (2Pe 3:18), and it would cause the man of science to be indifferent to research.

Knowledge, but not a perfect knowledge, of God is necessary, because He is incomprehensible pertaining to His perfection, purpose, works, and providence. Searching after God is a righteous, useful, and endless occupation: “...Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7b). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (Ps 25:14). The secret of the Lord refers to that which cannot be known unless He sees fit to reveal it. This secret involves the secret of the new birth; therefore, when the heart has been sanctified (set apart) by grace, the mind is enlightened. Three great truths are given in Ps 25:14—(1) The origin of fear is God. This fear is the beginning of knowledge (Pr 1:7). God puts this fear in the heart so that the recipient shall not depart from Him (Jer 32:40). (2) A secret has been communicated in every heart where reverential fear has been placed by God. (3) The promise is that God will show His people the eternal covenant of grace (Heb 13:20-21). The knowledge will not be merely intellectual but also experiential. Like Daniel, the recipient will seek to make Divine wisdom known to others (Da 2:16-17).

During the time one is exploring some of the trinities of the cosmos and man, he must never lose sight that apart from the Divine Trinity, the Creator of the cosmos and man, he can never have a true perspective of either. The existence of both is the result of God’s creative work. How could the innumerable particles of matter in space rendezvous themselves into a cosmos? Since the cosmos is a reality, it is not coming into existence. How could each creature created “after his kind” evolve into something of a different kind? God did not begin a process without first bringing creatures into existence, each after its kind. Whatever He commanded came by that command to be after “his kind.” The theory of evolution is that of transmutation (a change from one kind to another kind), a constant becoming something different from what it was, thus a change from one species to a different species. Does this mean that man is the product of the amoeba, the one-celled animal that through the process of puckeration (agitation) twisted itself to become two cells? If that were the case, it would be logical to say that the original dodad by its own process of puckeration puckered itself to become two dodads. Ever since then each dodad is wondering which is the dad to the other dodad. That makes as much sense as evolution. Scripture teaches existence and mutation (change within the species). It has been said that dinosaurs are the direct lineal progenitors of fowls. That would mean a ninety foot, eight ton reptile slowly evolved into a ten pound chicken. Is this going from the simple to the complex?

The trinity of God is revealed by the universe and man. God is a trinity, and the universe is full of trinities. Man himself is a triune being. Everything we see is made by God and reflects His Being. In God’s decree, the aspect of natural law is necessary to hold His physical creation together: “Because all things were created by Him in the heavens and on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things have been created [perfect passive indicative of ktidzo] by Him and for Him; and He is before all things and in Him all things have held together [perfect active indicative of sunistemi]” (Col 1:16-17—translation). Hence, a person can learn even from natural revelation, whether or not he knows anything about the Scriptures, that all things are being held together in their places by the sovereign God.

God exists in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is represented as the source. The Son is eternally begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Holy Spirit is seen in Christ’s promise to the disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name, and Jesus Christ would send the Holy Spirit from the Father (Joh 14:26; 16:7). The characteristics of the Son and the Spirit differ in their work: (1) All outgoing seems to be the work of Christ. All return to God seems to be the work of the Holy Spirit. (2) Christ is the organ of external revelation. The Holy Spirit is the organ of internal revelation. (3) Christ is our Intercessor at the present time in heaven. The Holy Spirit is presently the Intercessor within us. (4) In the work of Christ, the sinner is passive. In the work of the Spirit in the sinner, the sinner is active because he has been made alive.

The Father is represented as the source. The Son is eternally begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Holy Spirit is seen in Christ’s promise to the disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in Christ’s name, and Jesus Christ would send the Holy Spirit from the Father (Joh 14:26; 16:7).

In the unique Trinity, the Father is Deity invisible. He reveals Himself in the Son (Joh 1:18). The Son has declared the Father. Deity cannot be manifested without the Father’s being manifested because the Father is Divine. Christ is the express image of the Father (Heb 1:3). Hence, Jesus Christ could say, “...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...” (Joh 14:9), because in Him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9). The Son assumed a human nature, died, rose from the dead, and works among men through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, like the Father, is invisible. He reveals the Father in the Son; therefore, He works unseen.

There is order in this Divine Triunity. This does not indicate that One Person is first in deity, because all are represented as being God. But the natural order is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The natural order in a home where there is recognition of the Divine order is husband, wife, and children. Since God is the God of order, absence of order in the Godhead would be unthinkable. Order in the Godhead can only mean that one is first, another second, and the other third. The order falls naturally in the revelation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), But to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things [source], and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him” (1Co 8:5-6). Paul distinguished heathen monotheism from polytheism, the heathen concept of gods.

The term unity is not easily explained. Unity may mean the numerical basis of calculation. It may mean the contrast between one thing and two other things of the same kind. It is also used in the sense of unit. Every one thing is made up of many parts, possesses many qualities, stands in various relations, and, although in itself it is only one thing, is also a part of many other things. Unity often indicates more than the antithesis of many. Although the unity of God means there is one God in opposition to the claims that there are many gods and lords, the phrase implies whatever internal distinctions may be in the essence of God. That essence is one, a whole, a unity in itself. Hence, when we say the Father is God, He is one essence. When we say the Son is God, He is one essence. When we say the Holy Spirit is God, He is one essence. There are three, and yet at the same time one.

The Divine Trinity explains the universe, consisting of many trinities in both the cosmos and man. We must understand that God is a Trinity in order to explain the trinities of the universe. The Bible begins with God: “IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Ge 1:1 NASB). Since the Divine Trinity is the Creator and Sustainer of both cosmos and man, both reflect the Trinity. Although both cosmos and man demand the Divine Trinity, they do not explain Him. Conversely, the Divine Trinity explains other trinities. We must go from God who is, to the universe which He created, to what the universe is, to what man is. The infinite Trinity has brought the trinity of the universe and the trinity of man into existence. God alone is infinite, and He cannot create infinity. The Divine trinity is not understood by other trinities, but they are understood by a limited comprehension of the Divine Trinity.

Since God’s thoughts are not man’s, the Holy Scriptures must never be brought down to the level of the natural sciences of geology, archeology, biology, physics, etc., in order to discover how the cosmos or man came into being. All the different ages, with all the occurrences of each, have been set by God’s word, and all the succeeding ages continue according to God’s eternal decree: “By faith we are understanding the ages to have been set in order by the word of God, so the things being seen [general revelation] have not come into existence out of things existing” (Heb 11:3—translation).

There is no human philosophy of the Divine Trinity. All we know is what God has been pleased to reveal. God’s thoughts are not ours, and His ways are not ours (Is. 55:8, 9). No man has the right to make a philosophy of the Divine Trinity out of his knowledge of either the trinities of the cosmos or man. In view of increasing knowledge in the various sciences related to the cosmos and man, there is great danger unless one sees the universe and man’s relation to it in the light of the Triune God. With all this knowledge, men are incapable of coming to the knowledge of the truth of God, because they have been given a worthless mind pertaining to spiritual things. God’s punishment is being revealed in that very area. If one cannot comprehend the proton, an elementary particle that is a fundamental constituent of the atomic nuclei, what about the electron which moves in its orbit around the proton in the atom a quadrillion times a second? If creation staggers the mind, what about the God who created it?

Can we have some understanding of the universe and its origin, structure, unity, laws, energies, etc., apart from the complicated terminologies of the sciences? What is the purpose of the universe? It is for those God chose in Christ before the world began. The earth was created for man. Why is the earth situated where it is in the vast amount of space? We are totally dependent on God who created all things and put all things in their places for the purpose of those He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world. “O the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God; how unfathomable are His judgments and His ways untraceable. For who ever knew the mind of the Lord? or who became His counselor? or who first gave to Him, and it shall be repaid Him? Because out from Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to whom be the glory forever: Amen” (Ro 11:33-36—translation). “Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they exist and were created” (Re 4:11—translation).

The universe consists of space, matter, and time. Space times matter times time equals universe. Length times width times height equals space. Energy times motion times phenomena equals matter. Future times present times past equals time. It is possible to see their existence only in the light of the Divine Triunity—Father times Son times Holy Spirit equals God.

Man is a vital part of the universe. From the scientific point of view, man consists of nature, person, and personality. Nature times person times personality equals man. Nature is intellect times heart times will. Person is “I who know” times “self who I know” times “I who recognize by myself.” Personality is the visible aspect where the nature and character are revealed. These things are beyond comprehension apart from what the Bible says about man.

Man from a Biblical perspective has a higher relation to God than the creation. The universe was created for the purpose of man. Man consists of body, soul, and spirit (1Th 5:23). Body times soul times spirit equals man, a trichotomous person. Man’s body enables him to be universe conscious. Soul gives man the ability to be self-conscious. The spirit, which is the highest part of man, attains God-consciousness. Since natural law in God’s decree is necessary to hold our physical creation together, is not the aspect of spiritual law in God’s decree equally necessary to hold our spiritual creation in a fixed purpose and progress until it shall reach its consummation in the image of His Son?

The triune God created man after His own image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Ge 1:27). The word creation (bara) is used three times in the creation of man. Hence, the Scripture celebrates the creation of trichotomous man through a threefold “God created.” The God-resemblance in created man was lost in the fall, but it was regained for the elect in redemption and regeneration. The spirit of man is where the holy God dwells by faith because the Christian believes what he neither sees nor feels.

The three parts of the tabernacle of Exodus portray the trinity of man. The external part of the tabernacle, which is typical of man’s body, was the only visible part to one approaching the tabernacle. The body is where the spirit and soul dwell. Inside the first room of the tabernacle, called the holy place, was light from the seven lamps of the lampstand. The soul is the holy place where the seven lamps of the lampstand portray our knowledge, perception, understanding, discernment, etc. After passing the veil between the holy place and the holy of holies, there was darkness. By faith the spirit of man is where the holy God dwells, because the Christian believes what he neither sees nor feels. This is the part of man enabled to be God-conscious. Conclusively, the Christian is God-conscious—spirit, self-conscious—soul, and world-conscious—body.

Man is an important part of God’s creation. He was the capstone. God gave man authority over His creation, but man forfeited it. Only Christians believe the Divine triunity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Anyone who does not embrace the Divine triunity is not Christian. Each Person in the Godhead is not a part of God. Each is God. The Father is God; The Lord Jesus Christ is God; The Holy Spirit is God. Since God is indivisible, each Person is the whole of God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three ways God acts, but they are three Persons who God is. In this unique Trinity, the Father is unseen. The only manifestation of God has been in Jesus Christ. The second Person in the Godhead is the One who acts. He was born of the virgin, died, arose, ascended, intercedes, will come again, judge, and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christ presently works among men by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals the Son. The Holy Spirit is invisible. No one has ever seen Him.

Paul had been conscious of the world, whether religious or civil, in his unregenerate days. He was conscious of self in his deep conviction and conversion (Ro 7). The apostle was made conscious of his riches in Christ Jesus in the great doctrinal section of Romans, especially chapter 8. There is nothing but world-consciousness in the unregenerate. Paul was made self-conscious by the law to which he was exposed, the result of which was that he saw what he was in the light of God’s holy and righteous law. He had a conversion experience that led him to embrace all the riches of God’s grace displayed in the great doctrinal section, and he was God-conscious. His self-consciousness and God-consciousness were the result of the work of grace in his heart.

Ro 8 has been called the greatest chapter in the Bible because of its doctrinal content. It is filled with trinities. The following outline portrays various trinities, most of which are taken from this chapter:

I. There is a threefold relation of redemption.

    A. It is to the elect (Ro 8:1-17).

    B. It is to the creation (Ro 8:18-25).

    C. It is to the Creator who is also the covenant God (Ro 8:26-30).

II. Redemption is threefold.

    A. It is external (Ro 8:1-4).

    B. It is internal (Ro 8:5-27).

    C. It is eternal (Ro 8:28-39).

III. There is a threefold groaning for full redemption.

    A. Creation groans for liberty (Ro 8:22).

    B. The Christian groans for likeness (Ro 8:23).

    C. The Holy Spirit within us groans for our enlightenment (Ro 8:26-27).

IV. Redemption is by the three Persons in the Godhead.

    A. The Father planned it (Eph 1:3-6).

    B. The Son purchased it (Eph 1:7-12).

    C. The Holy Spirit applies it (Eph 1:13-14; Joh 3:8).

V. The righteousness of God is by the Divine Trinity.

    A. It is provided by God (Ro 3:21-31).

    B. It is imputed through the cross (Ro 4:1-8).

    C. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9).

VI. Three major doctrinal truths are taught in the doctrinal section of Romans.

    A. Justification is taught (Ro 3:24-26).

    B. Sanctification is taught (Ro 6:1-13).

    C. Glorification is taught (Ro 8:23-24).

VII. The deliverance by God is threefold.

    A. Justification is from the penalty of sin (past tense).

        1. The Savior is seen on the cross in justification.

        2. The elect are sons through justification.

    B. Sanctification is from the power of sin (present tense).

        1.The elect are saints through sanctification.

        2. Self is on the cross in sanctification.

    C. Glorification will be from the presence of sin (future tense).

        1. The saints will be with Christ on His throne in glorification.

        2. The elect will share Christ’s eternal inheritance in glorification.

VIII. There is a threefold power of the Holy Spirit.

    A. He has power over sin (Ro 8:2).

    B. He has power over the flesh (Ro 8:4).

    C. He has power over the body (Ro 8:11-13).

IX. The Spirit’s power is manifested three ways.

    A. He saves (Ro 8:2).

    B. He sanctifies (Ro 8:4-17).

    C. He sustains (Ro 8:26-27).

X. There is a threefold death of the elect.

    A. We are dead to sin but alive to God (Ro 6:11).

    B. We are dead to the law and married to Christ (Ro 7:4).

    C. We are dead to the flesh and led by the Spirit (Ro 8:13-14).

XI. There is a threefold aspect to salvation.

    A. Christ fulfilled the law “for” us in the law aspect (Ro 5:19).

    B. Christ made the love of God available “to” us in the love aspect (Ro 5:5).

    C. Christ by the Spirit implants the life aspect provided at Calvary “in” us (Ro 8:9).

XII. There is a threefold restoration of all things.

    A. The soul is restored by regeneration (Joh 3:8).

    B. The body is restored by resurrection (1Co 15).

    C. The heavens and the earth are restored by re-genesis (2Pe 3:12-13).

XIII. Access to God may be regarded in a threefold way.

    A. Access is “to” the Father (Ro 5:1).

    B. Access is “through” the Son (Ro 5:2).

    C. Access is “by” the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:26-27; Eph 2:18).

XIV. Worship of God may be regarded in a threefold way.

    A. Worship includes singing.

        1. Singing includes sound theology.

        2. Singing includes true experience.

        3. Singing includes good poetry exemplified in the Psalms.

    B. Worship includes praying.

        1. Praying includes the Spirit of adoption, which enables one to cry, “Abba, Father.”

        2. Praying must be in the name of Jesus Christ.

        3. Praying is by the Holy Spirit.

    C. Worship includes studying the Scriptures.

        1. Studying the Scriptures requires the ability to hear.

        2. Studying the Scriptures requires a consideration of the message which is heard.

        3. Studying the Scriptures requires appropriation of that which is heard.

XV. Living for God is threefold.

    A. Union with Jesus Christ is necessary.

    B. Pruning is necessary.

    C. Service is necessary.

In closing the first part (Ro 1:18-21) of Ro 1:18-32, Paul portrayed the unregenerate Gentiles as beginning with a knowledge of God, which proves what we previously said about Ro 1:19. Nevertheless, they did not glorify God or give Him thanks: “Therefore, having known [gnontes, aorist active participle of ginosko, to know or have knowledge of] God they did not glorify or give thanks to Him as God, but they became vain in their reasonings, and the undiscerning heart of them was darkened” (Ro 1:21—translation). Although the Gentiles knew God, they were without God. They knew God’s existence and some of His attributes, but natural understanding of spiritual things neither begets humility nor motivates gratitude. Both doxadzo, praise or glorify, and eucharisteo, give thanks or be grateful, are aorist active indicative verbs which have been negated by the adverb ouch. The indicative mood states the reality of the appalling fact. The aorist tense expresses the final decisiveness with which praise and gratitude were refused with determination. No line of argument more than man’s lack of reverence for God and his ingratitude for God can be adduced to show the inexcusableness of sin. Such rejection of the fact of God incapacitated the non-Jews concerning moral judgments, which explains the awful crimes we are witnessing in our time.

Punishment On Exchangers Of God’s Glory

God’s punishment is being revealed against those who exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for a likeness of His creatures (Ro 1:22-23). God made man in His image; but man sought to make God in his image; and he sank lower by bowing to creatures lower than himself. Man seeks to satisfy his depraved instincts on his own humanistic level; and when that level does not satisfy, he becomes animalistic in his thinking. God’s description of man forever nailed shut the coffin of the theory of evolution. Evolution is a dead issue to every Christian; therefore, believers who are continually discussing the subject are in no way redeeming the time (Eph 5:16).

The connection between the rejecters of general revelation (Ro 1:18-21) and their exchanging God’s glory for a likeness of His creatures is another step lower in man’s degradation. Although they were “asserting (present active participle of phasko) themselves to be wise, they were made foolish” (Ro 1:22). The verbs mataioo—“made worthless” (Ro 1:21), skotidzo—“was darkened” (Ro 1:21), and moraino—“made foolish” (Ro 1:21), are aorist passive indicative verbs. The passive voice is used to indicate that the subjects were acted on; therefore, they were neither acting (active voice) nor participating in the action (middle voice). Since men have become darkened in their understanding, they are anxious to exchange (ellaxan, aorist active indicative of allasso, can be either change or exchange—the context determines) (Ro 1:23) God’s glory on their depraved level. Does this mean that God made them worthless in their reasoning, darkened their understanding, and made them foolish? No! But in  Ro 1:24,26, and Ro 1:28, we are told that God “gave them over” (aorist active indicative of paradidomi, which means to give over, abandon, or deliver up), signifying that He removed all restraints thus allowing Satan, to whom they had been obedient, to make them more worthless, give them greater darkness of understanding, and influence them to commit greater foolish acts of sin.

There are people who pride themselves in their culture and pay slavish tribute to decorum and diplomatic formality, but they utterly fail to acknowledge God for who He is and all that He is doing in providence. Such failure is prevalent in the intellectual, social, and religious realms. This kind of degradation describes men who put light not “under a bushel” but under a “dunghill.” Although men who abuse the light of nature will experience a great punishment in their own sins, those who are exposed to God’s special revelation but reject it will experience a much heavier punishment.

No image can ever be made of the invisible God; therefore, God said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Ex 20:3-4). Jesus Christ alone is the exact image of the invisible God, and only by a God-given faith can He be seen and understood (Heb 1:3; Joh 1:18).

The transition from theology to anthropology is natural. Scripture does not present an abstract revelation of God but a disclosure of God in relation to man. Therefore, the knowledge of man in relation to God is essential to properly understand anthropology. In the consideration of anthropology, the Biblical principle of going from God to man (Ge 1:1-2,6,27) and not from man to God must not be ignored, because it supposes God to account for man and not man for God. It never leaves us with the task of proving God’s existence from man’s existence. Understanding this basic principle eliminates the idea that God can be found by physical analysis. Since love finds love, the “pure in heart...shall see [opsontai, future middle indicative of horao, to see, understand, or experience] God” (Mt 5:8). As love cannot be found by the use of a microscope or music be collected with a magnet, scientists cannot find God with their incorrect instruments for the search.

Man did not come into existence by his own initiative. If he had, he would have been both the cause and the effect. Moreover, if man first made himself, why did he limit himself? If the first man made himself, he would have been able to support himself; and it could not be said, “For in Him [God] we are living [present active indicative of dzao, to live or remain alive] and being moved [present passive indicative ofkineo, to move], and are having our existence [present active indicative of eimi, to be]” (Ac 17:28—translation). Some say the verb kinoumetha is middle voice (we move ourselves) and others say it is passive voice (we are being moved). Surely those who oppose the use of the passive voice have overlooked some passages of Scripture, such as Ps 119:116-117; Pr 16:l, Pr 20:24, and Jer 10:23-24.

The idea of man’s being either above God or equal with Him is excluded by the terms “image” and “likeness” in which man was created (Ge 1:26-27). A theological fact is that man in his original state was the most excellent of all God’s earthly creatures; but man in his fallen and depraved state is most miserable and despicable. In the study of man created in God’s image, distinction must be made between the wonderful organism called human nature and the direction in which that nature moved in original uprightness. Adam’s original uprightness was finite; therefore, apart from redemptive grace he moved in the power of finite uprightness; and he sinned by the freedom of his will. Hence, Adam lost his original uprightness in the fall, and this loss resulted in the reversal of his nature. His nature remained an instrument of being which now worked against rather than for God. Having fallen in Adam, every person outside of Jesus Christ works against God.

Punishment On Degraders Of Their Bodies

God’s punishment is being revealed against those who degrade their bodies to satisfy their hearts’ evil passions; and as their punishment, they are given over to their unrestrained desires (Rom. l:24-27). Sins are the fruit of sin; evil acts come from the source, man’s evil nature. The heart, its thoughts, and the imaginations of the thoughts are evil (Jer 17:9; Ge 6:5; 8:21). Contrary to modern day psychology, corrupted man defiles society rather than a polluted society corrupting man. One cannot deny that either reacts powerfully on the other, but the corruption in both man and society has the same common source—solidarity with Adam in original sin.

Sin is not an evil monster (anything unnatural or monstrous) that creeps on man from without; it is the manifestation of a monstrous nature which comes from within man. There is in every person a degenerate propensity to everything that is evil, but that does not mean there is an equal tendency for every kind of sin. Therefore, the noncommittal of a particular sin is not for the want of a depraved principle, but it is because of either God’s restraining providence from without or His restraining grace from within. At whatever stage we contemplate the sin nature, from the womb to the coffin, it wears the stamp of depravity. Hence, man’s depraved nature must be viewed in a threefold way: (1) in its connection with Adam (Ro 5:12), (2) in its formation in us (Ge 5:3), and (3) in its fruit in our lives (Ga 5:19-21).

Man by nature can do nothing but sin. If there were no Satan to tempt or evil example to imitate, there is an innate principle in man so that he cannot cease sinning. Depraved man must do what his depraved nature wills, because he not only has the love of sin to motivate him but also the law of sin to constrain him. (See Jer 9:5; Joh 3:19; Ro 8:2; 2Pe 2:14.) Every person coming into the world of mankind is a transgressor from the womb. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Ps 58:3). Not only is every person alienated from God as he comes into the world, but his mother conceived him in sin (Ps 51:5). That means as soon as one begins to exist, he is a child of wrath corrupted by original sin. Hence, he has the guilt of the first sin which has been imputed to him, and he has the nature of sin imparted in him.

The subject of depravity is hated by the unregenerate, including the religious unregenerate. Those who oppose the truth of the depravity of infants born into the world make statements based on human reason: (1) They say that infants are simply in the same state as Adam before the fall. (2) They declare that Adam’s sin is no reason why God should impute it to infants. (3) They assert that it is absurd to think that by one man’s disobedience many should be made disobedient. (4) They question, since sin is voluntary and birth is involuntary, how can an infant be a sinner? (5) They argue that an infant being accounted guilty of a sin he did not commit is against all sense of justice. (6) They say that a just God would never appoint a person to hell for original sin. (7) They believe that children are safe until they reach the age of accountability. Such statements satisfy human reason, but one must not lose sight of the fact that human wisdom and Divine wisdom are on a continual collision course. The outcome has always been and always will be that those who assert themselves to be wise shall be made foolish by Divine wisdom (Ro 1:22).

Deliberately committed sin (Ro 1:22-23) becomes debasing and disgusting (Ro 1:24-27). Having turned their backs on the continual witness of God in nature, the Gentiles could travel only one direction—down. Their downward course has brought them to the lowest stage of depravity in which they not only practice the worst sins described in Scripture, but they also approve those who practice them. Now, we can understand the meaning of the depraved, undiscerning heart being darkened (Ro 1:21). The witness of God in nature never deviates. It is as though one day took up where the preceding one left it. The Psalmist said, “THE heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (Ps 19:1-2). The silent witness of nature creates no heterodoxy. On the other hand, language is different; because in the realm of human responsibility, man creates heterodoxies while saying they are only a matter of semantics. It would be wonderful if men were as consistent in their witness of God’s objective message in Scripture as nature is in its renewal every day and night in its universal proclamation of its message.

Ro 1:24 begins with dio, a conjunction which may be translated “therefore,” “for this reason,” or “on account of.” Hence, God gave the Gentiles over for these reasons: (1) their apostasy from God’s punishment being revealed from heaven against every kind of ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and (2) nature’s consistent revelation of God’s power and deity, which was evident in them. The Gentiles had both an objective and a subjective witness which rendered them inexcusable before the God of creation.

God’s punishment is never operative except in His retribution for sin. Here it is against a life of uncleanness, which presupposes the existence of uncleanness, and the penalty consists in the fact that God “gave them over” (paredoken, aorist active indicative of paradidomi, which means to give over, abandon, or deliver up) to a life of uncleanness because of the lusts of their hearts (Ro 1:24). The two prepositions enand eis in the Greek text must be carefully studied in order to properly understand and translate Ro 1:24. “For this reason God gave them over because of [en, the instrumental of cause] the lusts [epithumias, instrumental feminine plural of epithumia, a noun which means lust, desire, or passion] of their hearts [kardion, ablative feminine plural of kardia, the source of their corrupt passions] for the purpose of [eis, accusative of purpose, which denotes action] immoralities [akatharsian, accusative feminine plural of akatharsia, impurity or immorality] to be degrading [atimadzesthai, present passive infinitive ofatimadzo, dishonor, treat shamefully, or degrade] their bodies among [en, instrumental of association] themselves” (Ro 1:24—translation).

The degrading lifestyle of the Gentiles did not originate with God’s abandonment; however, God was not completely passive in the terrible development of human degradation. God positively withdrew His restraint, as He did with Pharaoh. (See the book entitled, THE MOST NEGLECTED CHAPTER IN THE BIBLE.) Furthermore, God’s abandonment cannot mean a mere permission; it was not a single abstention (neither for nor against), seeing that He positively withdrew all restraint. Having been left to themselves, the corrupt stream that carried them further into degradation was not from without, but it came from within their depraved hearts. As a result, that which was in their hearts by the power of Satan ran wild when God’s restraint was removed.

The attitude and action of God in relation to guilt must be contemplated in order to understand punishment. God’s attitude is expressed in His wrath (Ro 1:18). Wrath is God’s antagonism to everything that is evil. The present tense and passive voice of apokalupto, “is being revealed,” pertaining to punishment, proves that God continually brings man’s sin to light. God’s action, which is a manifestation of His attitude, is stated in the expression, “God gave them over.” The Divine verdict on such apostates from general revelation is that the ones practicing such things are deserving of death (Ro 1:32). If men do not retain just thoughts of the glory of God, they will not retain a just idea of the natural honor of man. As a result, they will dishonor themselves as they have dishonored God.

Persons given over by God for the purpose of immoralities exchange the truth of God for the lie (Ro 1:25). This is evidenced by their worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. Having declared themselves independent of God, God gave them over to passions of dishonor, evidenced among both women and men. The Bible represents homosexuality as the lowest form of human life. Scripture in the Old Testament portrays it as abomination: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Le 18:22). “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death...” (Le 20:13). Although any kind of sexual perversion is an abomination to God, the unnaturalness of homosexuality makes it the lowest form of life. Surely we have not forgotten Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 18; 19).

Either practicing or excusing homosexuality is sin. Sodomy is the rejection of God’s design for this world, another illustration of the abandoned ones exchanging God’s truth for the lie. Religious idolatry is expressed in terms of sexual perversion (Eze 16). The heterosexual relationship of marriage was designed for the propagation of the human race, and it is given as the nearest human illustration of the intimacy which God provides for man with Himself in the covenant of grace (Eph 5:22-33). Therefore, whoredom is the concept applied to worshipping other gods; but sodomy is the rejection of any concept of a god to whom man is accountable.

Operating from a Biblical foundation, it is imperative that Christians speak definitively about a number of questions being asked today:

l. Is anyone born a homosexual? The answer is “no”. Adoption of a perverted life-style manifests God’s having given that one up to the evil passions of his heart and his exchanging the truth of God for the lie. Medical reports of research concerning homosexuality can never make the eternal word invalid.

2. How should Christians deal with homosexuality? Sins must be called by Biblical names. Euphemisms, such as “gay” and “another life-style,” do not offend Sodomites. Religionists with their sweet nothings give nothing the Holy Spirit can use; furthermore, their thinking they are more caring and loving than God benefits no one.

3. How should assemblies deal with homosexuals? They must excommunicate any member practicing sodomy. No one is of value who does not value God and His truth.

4. What should the attitude of Christians be toward the judicial decisions regarding sodomy? No law passed by men that establishes sodomy as an acceptable, alternate life-style can be honored by Christians.

5. What should the attitude of Christians be concerning sexual diseases? The answer is given in Ro 1:26-27—“For this reason God gave them over to passions of disgrace; for even their females exchanged the natural function for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males having left the natural use of the female they were inflamed in their desire toward one another, males with males committing shameless acts and receiving in return [present active participle of apolambano, to receive in return] the punishment [antimisthian, accusative feminine singular of antimisthia, punishment] in themselves required by their error which was being proper [edei, imperfect active indicative of deo, necessary, right and proper, or necessity brought on by either circumstances or conduct]” (translation). Venereal diseases, including AIDS, are a manifestation of God’s punishment brought about by immoral conduct (Ro 1:27). God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness as a warning to the living, but that does not indicate that their punishment stops with death.

6. Is there a contradiction between Ro 1 and 1Co 6:9-10? The latter passage states: “Or have you not known that unrighteous ones shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor effeminate men [malakoi, nominative masculine plural of malakos, an adjective used as a pronoun describing persons who are perverted by allowing themselves to be misused homosexually] nor homosexuals [arsenokoitai, nominative masculine plural noun of arsenokoites, a male who practices homosexuality]...shall inherit the kingdom of God” (translation). Paul described some of the Corinthians’ former position in those verses: “And some were these things; but you cleansed yourselves, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Co 6:11—translation). According to 1Co 1:18-31, God saves whom He pleases, such as Rahab the whore, Paul the religious murderer, etc., but those He saves do not continue in the sins from which they have been delivered. The saved are separated from their sins: “...he [Jesus Christ] shall save his people from [apo, dative of separation] their sins” (Mt 1:21). Therefore, receiving homosexuals into assemblies, ordaining them to the ministry, condoning their life-style, etc., is nothing short of blasphemy.

Punishment On Assumers That Knowledge Of God Is Worthless

God is manifesting His punishment against those who do not think it worthwhile to have Him in their knowledge: “And since they did not think it worthwhile [edokimasan, aorist active indicative of dokimadzo, to approve, deem worthy, test, or examine] to have God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a worthless [adokimon, accusative masculine singular of adokimos, not standing the test, unqualified, worthless, vain, or base] mind, to be practicing the things not being proper” (Ro 1:28—translation). The blindness of the heathen is the same in every age, because it comes from depraved hearts. There is a generic likeness of depravity in all men regardless of the time period. Satan is wise enough to give his slaves substitute gods that will please the various peoples of pagan countries and the races of so-called civilized nations. Whether they are gods of an unrefined nature, such as planets or creatures lower than man, gods of a more refined nature, or the various philosophies of men, they are all false gods. Although the civilized criticize the uncivilized concerning their unscientific knowledge, the civilized are worshipping the gods of their own inventions. Uncivilized or civilized, all unregenerate people are pagans who worship false gods. The civilized trying to improve the uncivilized when they themselves are uncivilized is sad because they themselves are worshipping their own false gods. In Biblical language, the blind are leading the blind, and both shall fall into the pit (Mt 15:14; Lu 6:39).

Although the so-called civilized people of the world outnumber the uncivilized, one cannot escape what the Scripture says about increasing knowledge: “...many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Da 12:4). Natural knowledge has vastly increased. It has been said that the first doubling of knowledge took place about 1750. It doubled again by 1900, again by 1950, and again by 1960. Since then it has been developing so fast that no one has calculated the number of times.

The inspired word correctly describes man’s knowledge and self-esteem as, “Always learning and never being able to come to a full knowledge of the truth” (2Ti 3:7—translation). With all the addition of knowledge, there has been no advance in knowledge concerning the truth of God; on the contrary, with every expansion of natural knowledge, there has been a multiplication of sin. “And because lawlessness [accusative singular of anomia, wickedness, lawlessness, or sin] is to be increased [aorist passive infinitive of plethuno, used transitively—without a direct object; in the passive voice, it means be multiplied or increased] the love of many shall become cold” (Mt 24:12—translation). With an advance of sin, there is an increase in the revelation of God’s present wrath, and wrath is also being stored up by the ungodly for themselves awaiting the day of wrath and the revelation of God’s righteous judgment (Ro 2:5).

Paul did not expect things in this world of human depravity and corruption to change for the better. All the promises made by so-called civilized politicians and statesmen about building a better society or world of mankind is empty propaganda. The current of the river of unregenerate people can travel in only one direction—down. How can the so-called civilized people be honest in their attitude in the light of the teaching of Holy Scripture? They can be optimistic only by discounting the truth of God, considering it unworthy of any civilized person; and that is exactly what they are doing. Hence, the stream of unregenerate people is headed for the great fall that goes instantly into the pit of everlasting destruction from the presence of the One they deem unworthy of their consideration.

Interpretation should never be more or less than what Divine revelation has recorded. One of the great temptations of assembly members and preachers in our day of “the cover-up” is their withholding some things for fear of offending people. Their excuse is that they must be tactful in order to influence people. Scripture does not teach that Christians can influence unregenerate people to become Christians, but it does teach that sheep recognize and rejoice in God’s truth. The fact that the gospel is God’s power resulting in a salvation experience in the heart which has been prepared by the Spirit of regeneration gives boldness and confidence to God-called servants of Jesus Christ. Bondslaves of Christ are more concerned about pleasing the Captain of our salvation than trying to influence the unregenerate to become believers by “their faith.”

God gives people over to a worthless mind when they do not consider the knowledge of God worthwhile. They do improper things and become filled with all unrighteousness. Paul used the perfect passive participial form of the verb pleroo, which means to become filled or full (Ro 1:29). The perfect tense points to a time in the past when God gave them over to a worthless mind; furthermore, they remain in a continuous state of being full of unrighteousness. The passive voice signifies that when God gave them over to Satan by removing all restraint, their being filled was accomplished by Satan himself (Eph 2:1-3). Hence, those given over to Satan by God become passive dupes, easily deceived by the Devil.

The following four things are infused by the Devil into worthless minds:

1. He indoctrinates them in unrighteousness (adikia, injustice or unrighteousness) (Ro 1:29). Persons filled with no sense of what is right, do only what is right in their own eyes; and they have pleasure in unrighteousness. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes...” (Pr 12:15). “And for this cause God is sending to them a working of error for them to believe the lie, in order that the ones not having believed but having had pleasure in unrighteousness may be judged” (2Th 2:11-12—translation).

2. He instills wickedness (poneria, the baseness and depravity of the heart and mind) in them (Ro 1:29), which reveals the depth of depravity (Lu 11:39; Eph 6:12). This evil cancer unconsciously spreads through every fiber of the person who has been given over to a worthless mind.

3. His enduement of covetousness (pleonexia, an inordinate desire for riches, extortion, or overreaching) (Ro 1:29) is the sphere in which the worthless mind works, because it has been trained in its crafty ways: “Having eyes full of an adulteress and unceasing from sin, alluring unstable souls, having a heart which has been trained [perfect passive participle of gumnadzo, to train or exercise vigorously] in covetousness, children of a curse” (2Pe 2:14—translation). Please observe the perfect passive form of the verb gumnadzo, signifying that the training of the mind in crafty ways was a finished transaction in past time with a continuing result.

4. Evil (kakia) (Ro 1:29) inserted by Satan is the desire to injure because the mind-set is against everything that is right and just.

Following the portrayal of worthless minds which have been filled with the general characteristics of depravity, Paul moved on to describe five specific ways in which depravity manifests itself (Ro 1:29b). Those specific ways are preceded by the adjective mestous, accusative masculine plural of mestos, which means each of the following sins is full: (1) The sin of envy (genitive singular of phthonos, envy, jealousy, or spite) is full. The unregenerate live in a state of envy, jealousy, and spite. (2) The sin of murder (genitive singular of phonos, murder or killing) is full, indicating that depraved men are homicidal. (3) The sin of strife (genitive singular of eris, strife, fighting, or quarreling) is full. (4) The sin of deceit (genitive singular of dolos, deceit, treachery, craft, or trickery) is full. (5) The sin of malignity (genitive singular ofkakoetheia, is made up of kakos, evil, bad, wrong, or troublesome, and ethos, a customary abode, dwelling place, or customary state) is full. In this case, it would be a malicious state of mind.

In concluding the list of characteristics and specific ways in which depravity works, Paul described the persons with worthless minds who commit specific sins (Ro 1:29-31).

l. He called them whisperers (accusative plural of the noun psithuristes, one who bears secret slander against another). This noun is used only in this verse. Another noun is used in 2Co 12:20.

2. He identified them as slanderers (accusative plural of the pronominal adjective katalalos, one who speaks evil of another).

3. He classified them as God-haters (accusative plural of the adjective theostuges, haters of God).

4. He called them insulters (accusative plural of the noun hubris, insult or outrage). Hatred for God is the essence of sin, as the love of God is the essence of holiness.

5. He described them as arrogant (accusative plural of the pronominal adjective huperephanos, arrogant or proud).

6. He characterized them as boasters (accusative plural of the noun aladzon, a boaster or self-exalter).

7. He called them inventors (accusative plural of the noun epheuretes, one who schemes, plans, invents, or contrives) of evil things (genitive plural of the pronominal adjective kakos, bad, evil, or worthless).

8. He analyzed them as disobedient to parents (dative masculine plural of the noun goneus, which means parent, and accusative masculine plural of the adjective apeithes, disobedient or rebellious).

9. He identified them as being without understanding (accusative plural of the adjective asunetos, without understanding or senseless).

10. He called them faithless (accusative plural of the adjective asunthetos, faithless or disloyal in keeping promises).

11. He signified that they are without natural affection (accusative plural of the adjective astorgos, inhuman or lacking normal human affection). (See 2Ti 3:3.)

12. He identified them as unmerciful (accusative plural of the adjective aneleemon, unmerciful). Such persons are cruel and unmerciful.

Punishment On Those Completely Knowing God’s Requirement

God is revealing His requirement against sinners because they have known completely that they are deserving of death: “Who knowing completely the requirement of God, that the ones practicing such things are deserving of death, not only are doing them, but are giving approval to the ones practicing them” (Ro 1:32—translation). This verse is a summary of Ro 1:18-31. When God’s restraint is removed, all depraved humanity has left is debased instincts. They value corruption more than God, and they give approval with those who think and practice what they think and practice. What can be worse than wicked people admiring themselves in other wicked people?

One of the three important things about sinners in Ro 1:32 is that they know completely God’s requirement. What about those who say they do not believe in God? The light of reason that God gives to men to understand other things enables them to understand the existence of God (Joh 1:9). There is a subjective knowledge of God in every man (Ro 1:21). Existence itself does not demand a cause, but the coming into existence of that which was nonexistent demands a cause. Therefore, the universe owes its existence to a cause outside of itself. A man once began his argument against the existence of God by saying, “I am an atheist, God knows.” One who denies the existence of God is like a man who walks outside his home and declares no one lives there because he cannot see anyone inside. Furthermore, as there is no true atheist, there is a complete knowledge of God’s requirement in every person.

The second of the three important things about sinners in Ro 1:32 is that every sinner knows that the ones practicing the things mentioned in Ro 1:21-31 are deserving of death. The relative pronominal adjective “who” (hoitines, nominative masculine plural of hostis, a combination of the pronouns hos, who, which, or what and tis, a certain one or someone) indicates that Paul was speaking of certain ones who had this general witness of God in them (1:19, 20) and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man and the creatures lower than man. Their rejection of God caused Him to give them over to the lusts of their hearts and a worthless mind (Ro 1:24-28). Consider the testimony of the repentant criminal who was hanged: “And one of the hanged criminals was blaspheming Him saying, If you are the Christ, save yourself and us. But answering, the other rebuking him said, Do you not fear God, since you are in the same judgment? And we indeed justly, for we receive things deserving of what we did; but this one did nothing wrong” (Lu 23:39-41—translation). The testimony of everyone who stands before the white throne judgment of God will be “guilty as charged.”

The last of the three important things about sinners in Ro 1:32 is that the ones sinning by giving approval to others practicing the same sins is the same as the wicked admiring themselves in other wicked people. The unregenerate love those who love them. Christ said to His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own...” (Joh 15:19 NASB). As none look with as much interest and pleasure at the works of art as artists, no one approves with so much pleasure the sins of others as the practicer of sin. The great concern of sinners is that evil may continue. It is said that Tiberius, the Roman emperor from 14 A.D. through 37 A.D., took particular pleasure in his old age in seeing other men do evil things.

I - 2C GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF THE JEWS - Romans 2

GUILT AND CONDEMNATION OF THE JEWS - Ro 2

The non-Jews, whether civilized or uncivilized, were under the wrath of God which is being continually revealed from heaven (Ro 1:18-32). The religious hypocrites (Jews) judging the heathen were also under God’s wrath inasmuch as they could not defend their own evil practices (Ro 2). Unlike the irreligious heathen, the religious Jews were under greater condemnation because they had more than general revelation; they also had special revelation given to them in the law of Moses.

Paul’s expression, “O man,” in his address of Ro 2:1 and Ro 2:3 is used generically. “Therefore [dio comes from the preposition dia and the pronoun ho; it means for this reason, on which account, or therefore] O man [ho is an interjection used in a direct address to express emotion, and anthrope, vocative case of address, is masculine singular of the noun anthropos, man], you are without excuse, everyone who is judging; for that in which you are judging another, you are passing judgment on yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.... And consider this, O man, the one judging those who practice such things and doing the same, that you shall escape the judgment of God?” (translation). The hypocrisy of one man represents every human being who is a Pharisee. Paul did not identify the man in his personal address until Ro 2:17—“Since you call yourself a Jew and rest in the law and boast in God” (translation). Judgment by the religious Pharisee was blind and arrogant, because he supposed he was free from condemnation as a result of possessing the oracles of God and enjoying national privileges. He has his representatives among professing Christians who belong to denominational institutions, have Bibles in their homes, and occasionally attend religious services.

“O man” is a deathblow to the Woman’s Liberation Movement and all its religious sympathizers. Religious leaders and others are exchanging the masculine gender in the Bible for general terms which deny that man is the head of the woman (1Co 11:1-16; 1Ti 2:10-13).

The only true judgment in this world is that permitted to those who uphold God’s revealed standard and faithfully describe sin. All other judgments are prejudicial, blind to the Divine standard, and arrogant because of unwarrantable claims to superior rights. Therefore, contrasts between God’s and man’s judgments must be considered.

God’s judgment is according to truth; man’s judgment apart from grace is hypocritical. God personified truth in Jesus Christ: “...I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (Joh 14:6). Christians are sanctified in the sphere of the truth (Joh 17:17). The truth men hear shall judge them in the last day (Joh 12:48). God’s judgment is according to truth (Ro 2:2). Conversely, man perverts truth (Ga 1:6-9). Man’s judgment draws a veil over his own evil deeds while he condemns the same sins in others. The religious Jews said, “...We have a law, and according to our law He is obligated to die, because He claimed Himself Son of God” (Joh 19:7—translation). They were blind but zealous to have Jesus Christ, the One in whom the law was fulfilled, put to death.

God’s judgment is certain; man’s judgment may be evaded. There is a future in every past; therefore, none can escape the judgment of God. An evil past futurizes itself in the righteous judgment of God. An evil past, which is common to all by nature, is canceled by redemption for the elect alone. No sinner can have a good future unless Jesus Christ became his substitute at Calvary. All who die outside of Jesus Christ will have their sinful past futurized in everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (Ac 17:31; 2Th 1:8-9; Heb 9:27). Men often escape lawful human judgment in time by lying about their guilt and hiring lawyers to lie for them. Although they may escape lawful human judgment, they cannot escape God’s appointed judgment added to their present punishment being revealed from heaven.

The following are principles of God’s judgment recorded in Ro 2:1-3:8. (1) His judgment is according to truth (Ro 2:1-2). (2) It is certain (Ro 2:3). (3) It is righteous (Ro 2:4-5). (4) It is according to works (Ro 2:6-10). (5) It is without respect of persons (Ro 2:11-13). (6) It unveils all secrets (Ro 2:14-16). (7) God’s judgment is the just condemnation of hypocrisy (Ro 2:17-24), religious rites (Ro 2:25-29), and unbelief of the Jews (Ro 3:1-8).

Judged According To Truth

God’s judgment is according to truth revealed in Holy Scripture (Ro 2:1-2). “But we have known [oidamen, perfect active indicative of oida, to know, understand, or perceive] that the judgment of God is according to truth on the ones practicing such things” (Ro 2:2—translation). The perfect verb oidamen, “we have known,” is used in the intensive sense, thus emphasizing the results of knowing in the present, not the point of action of knowing in the past. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth—truth personified (Joh 1:14; 14:6); and He is the One to whom all judgment has been committed (Joh 5:22). Persons who have no interest in Divine truth also have no interest in justice. Jesus Christ is incarnate truth, and He has given us the word of truth (Eph 1:13; Jas 1:18). Truth endures not only to all generations (Ps 100:5) but also forever (Ps 117:2).

Paul was not condemning judgment of others, but he was disapproving of those who do not first judge themselves. Christ’s statement “Judge not” of Mt 7:1 is not an absolute prohibition. If that were true, the whole world would be given into the hands of the wicked; unrighteousness would flourish; and heresy would abound. Scripture teaches that civil authority includes judges and magistrates (Ro 13:1-7), and the assemblies have the authority to judge false teaching (2Pe 2:1), false spirits (1Jo 4:1-3), false ways (Pr 14:12), false professors of faith (Mt 7:21-23; Lu 8:13; Joh 2:23-25), and false living by assembly members (Mt 18:15-18; 1Co 5:12). All judgment must be in harmony with the principles of Holy Scripture.

The Certainty Of God’s Judgment

God’s judgment is certain (Ro 2:3). No one practicing the evils of Ro 1:18-31 “...shall escape the wrath of God” (Ro 2:3). Punishment in time does not prevent eternal punishment. God has appointed a day in which He shall judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by Jesus Christ (Ac 17:31; Heb 9:27). The appointed time for judgment does not mean there will be one combined judgment of sinners and saints, which many call “a general judgment.” There is a difference between “a great white throne [thronos]” of Re 20:11 and “the tribunal [bema, judgment seat] of Christ” (Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10). The idea of a general judgment makes no distinction between sinners and saints, the degree of crimes, and the different times when the judgments are executed. There will be neither common punishment in hell nor common rewards in heaven.

The Righteousness Of God’s Judgment

God’s judgment is righteous: “Or are you treating with contempt the kindness and the forbearance and the longsuffering of His wealth, not knowing that the kindness of God is leading you to repentance? But on the basis of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up for yourself punishment in a day of punishment and revelation of a righteous judgment of God” (Ro 2:4-5—translation). “...Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Ge 18:25). “...for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Ps 98:9).

The Greek verb for “treating with contempt” (kataphroneis) in Ro 2:4 is a present active indicative of kataphroneo, a compound verb made up of the preposition kata, meaning down, and the verbphroneo, meaning to think or judge. To think down means to have low or degrading thoughts about God. The Psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, vividly described Christ’s second advent in Ps 50. The mighty covenant God shall cease to be silent at His time. Between the introduction (Ps 50:1-6) and the conclusion (Ps 50:22-23), God is disclosed as judging His people (Ps 50:7-15) and condemning the wicked (Ps 50:16-21). God’s judgment always begins with His people, whether they are from national Israel under the old covenant or from professing Christendom in the age of the assembly. God’s people are given credit for what they do (Ps 50:8), but they shall be blamed for the way they do (Ps 50:9-13) what should be done (Ps 50:14-15). How horrendous that those in whose midst Christ’s miracles were performed were the very people who crucified the Son of God as an imposter. Furthermore, they challenged Christ to work miracles in support of His claim, but he refused. (See Mt 12:38-39; 16:1-4). The wicked are described in Ps 50:16-21, and the climax of the wicked religionists is given in Ps 50:21—“These things you have done, and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you...” (NASB). This is a Divine commentary on Ro 2:4—“Or are you treating with contempt the kindness and the forbearance and the longsuffering of His wealth...” (translation). Religionists today who look down on God are those who say God was a man, Christ was peccable, and God cannot do anything for man until man first exercises his will. All these have degrading thoughts about the sovereign God of Holy Scripture, and they shall not escape God’s punishment.

Three Greek nouns were used by Paul to define characteristics of God about which the hypocrites were having degrading thoughts: (l) He used the noun chrestotes, which means kindness or that which is right, six times in reference to God (Ro 2:4; 11:22 —3 times; Eph 2:7; Tit 3:4). In all these references “kindness” seems to be the better translation. (2) The noun anoche, which means forbearance or toleration, comes from the verb anechomai, made up of the preposition ana, up or above, and echomai, to hold back or delay (Ro 2:4; 3:26). (3) The noun makrothumia means patience, patient enduring of evil, or longsuffering. It comes from the verb makrothumeo, which is derived from makros, distant or far off, and thumos, a strong passion or emotion of the mind, anger, or wrath. Although God is slow to become angry, His punishment is sure. Paul understood God’s longsuffering from personal experience, “But because of this [chief of sinners—1Ti 1:15] I was shown mercy, in order that in me as chief Jesus Christ may demonstrate all longsuffering [makrothumia], for an example of the ones destined to believe on Him because of eternal life” (1Ti 1:16—translation). Every Christian can relate with Paul in his recognition of God’s longsuffering to the elect.

Subsequent to discussing the hypocrite’s intelligence, reasoning, and understanding in his degrading thoughts about God, Paul showed that God’s judgment grows out of what man by nature is and does (Ro 2:5). Man’s depraved nature is actively engaged in evil. The depravity of the heart is described by the noun “hardness” (skleroteta, accusative feminine singular of sklerotes, hardness or stubbornness). Ezekiel described the unregenerate person as having “a heart of stone” (Eze 36:26). Such a heart is cold, impenetrable, and unyielding to spiritual things. Although the religious hypocrite may not be wallowing in the mire of some of the sins of Ro 1:24-27, he is twice dead: “These men are hidden rocks in your love feasts, feasting together with you feeding themselves without fear, waterless clouds being carried by winds, fruitless autumn trees having died twice who have been uprooted, wild waves of the sea foaming up their shames, wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13—translation). The statement “having died twice” refers first to what man is naturally in Adam and then to what he is by vain profession. Therefore, the Pharisees “encircle sea and land to make one convert, and when he may become one, you make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves” (Mt 23:15—translation). The natural knowledge of spiritual things increases blindness; hence, there is a double measure of punishment for those who die this double death.

Paul not only gave the Bible’s description of the hardness of the heart, but he also showed by using the adjective ametanoeton that the heart is unrepentant. This adjective is accusative feminine singular ofametanoetos, which means unrepentant, obstinate, or admitting no change of mind. It is derived from the Greek words a, which negates repentance, the preposition meta, which means with, and the verbnoeo, which means to think, consider, or think on. This adjective is used to describe the fact of human depravity. Hence, man is not depraved because he is hardened or impenitent, but he is hardened and impenitent because he is depraved. Therefore, man is condemned because of his depraved nature. In the light of this, man is not condemned for the lack of remedy but in consideration of his innate sinful nature. Man began with a sinful nature when he began to be: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5 NASB). The truth of the inborn sinful nature destroys the frequently repeated religious theory, “It is not the sin question but the Son question.”

The heart of depraved man is not only hard and impenitent, but it also treasures up wrath—punishment—by its activity in evil. The heart is more than the center of one’s nature; it is the whole of his personality: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). As the natural consequence of the cultivation of moral excellence is moral excellence, the natural consequence of indulgence in sin is sin. This is a warning to sinners. These are common expressions: “Sin and enjoy it because you live only once”; “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die”; “get all the gusto you can because you go around only once.” However, Scripture teaches that the greater degree to which one sins, the greater his punishment will be in eternity. “...you are storing up for yourself punishment in a day of punishment and revelation of a righteous judgment of God” (Ro 2:5—translation). The verb “store up” is thesauridzo, and it means to store up, treasure up, or accumulate.

Christ used both the verb (thesauridzo) and the noun (thesauros) forms for “store up” in Mt 6:19-21—“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves dig through and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (translation). Peter used the verb in 2Pe 3:7—“But the present heavens and earth have been stored with fire are being kept for a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (translation). The correct attitude toward a precious deposit (thesauros) can come only from a new heart. A new heart means there has been a change in the whole inner nature of man. Thus, the intelligence, darkened by depravity, has been enlightened. The affections, cold, insensitive, and unyielding to spiritual things, are made tender, sensitive, and yielding to spiritual things. The will which was selfish has been changed from self-will to the desire for God’s will.

Every Christian can relate with the statement, “No one will ever go to heaven whose heart has not been there before,” because his citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20). The only true investment for one who has everlasting existence in his heart must be in the eternal kingdom. Conversely, all who live for themselves and the pleasure of sin are not only accumulating a greater degree of punishment, but the present heavens and earth have also been permanently stored with the fire of judgment for their punishment.

Judged According To Works

God’s judgment corresponds with man’s works: “Who will give to everyone according to his deeds: On one hand eternal life to the ones who because of perseverance in good work are seeking glory and honor and incorruptibility eternal life; on the other hand anger and wrath on the ones who out of selfish ambition are disobeying the truth, but who are being obedient to unrighteousness, wrath and anger. Tribulation and distress, on every soul of man desiring evil, of the Jew first and also of a Gentile; but glory and honor and peace to everyone doing good, to the Jew first and also to a Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God” (Ro 2:6-11—translation).

The two terms “according to truth” (Ro 2:2) and “according to deeds” (Ro 2:6) harmonize in the unity of their meaning. “According to truth” is the subjective reality; “according to deeds” is the objective manifestation. What a person is determines what he does, but what he does never makes him what he is in character. Since fruit reveals the nature of a tree, judgment “according to truth” and judgment “according to deeds” indicate the inward and outward reality of the same person or persons.

As God’s judgment and man’s judgment are contrasted in Ro 2:1-5, good work and evil work are contrasted in Ro 2:6-10. Negatively, good work is not merely knowing what is good or promising to do what is good. Positively, “good work” (ergou agathou, singular) in Ro 2:7 is the lifelong work that begins with salvation and continues until the Lord calls the Christian home. “Being persuaded of this very thing, that the One who began a good work [ergon agathon, singular] in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6—translation). A good work is according to God’s will: “For God is the One operating in you both to be willing and to be working for His good pleasure” (Php 2:13—translation).

The good work of the Christian must have the following ingredients: (1) The proper “motive” must be the glory of God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, and not to grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit: “...whatever you are doing, be doing for the purpose of [eis, accusative of purpose] God’s glory” (1Co 10:31—translation). “For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves slaves for the sake of [dia, accusative of relationship] Jesus” (2Co 4:5—translation). “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by [en, instrumental of agency] whom you were sealed for [eis, accusative of purpose] the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30 NASB). (2) The “manner” must be with great concern of heart: “The word is faithful, and concerning these things I am desiring you to speak confidently, in order that the ones having believed God may be concerned to be engaging themselves in good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Tit 3:8—translation). (3) Its “essential element” is the love of God: “For the love of Christ is controlling [present active indicative of sunecho, which means to urge on, impel, or control] us...” (2Co 5:14—translation). The love of God “has been poured out [perfect passive indicative of ekchunno, which means we have been permanently endowed with God’s love] in our hearts through [dia, ablative of agency] the Holy Spirit who has been given [aorist passive participle of didomi, to give] to us” (Ro 5:5—translation). The perfect passive and the aorist passive of the verb for poured out prove that the Holy Spirit and God’s love are permanent possessions of God’s elect; therefore, our hope does not disappoint (present active indicative of kataischuno, to disappoint, put to shame, or disgrace—Ro 5:5a).

Perseverance in good work shall be rewarded. Patience in good work is not the feverish ambition which must see itself in the news and be congratulated in public meetings. Such ambition exhausts itself before the day of God’s righteous judgment; therefore, it receives its reward on earth. Concerning the Pharisees, Christ said, “...I am telling you, they have their reward” (Mt 6:16—translation). Spasmodic effort wins no lasting honor in either time or eternity. The Christian life is the lifework of a willing mind and loving heart. That life has the mind of Christ and a heart overflowing with the love of God which has been shed abroad within by the Holy Spirit (Ro 5:5). Such a life motivated Paul to say, “Therefore I am enduring all things on account of the chosen ones, in order that they also may obtain the deliverance in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2Ti 2:10—translation).

The recipients of God’s grace are given a holy zeal for good works: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself on behalf of us in order that He might set us free from all sin and cleanse for Himself a special people, zealous for good works” (Tit 2:13-14—translation). Is the Christian as zealous for righteousness as he was for unrighteousness before God regenerated him? As a Pharisee, Saul was zealous for his own righteousness in his persecution of the assembly and for his ancestral traditions. (See Ro 10:2; Php 3:6; Ga 1:14.) As a Christian, Paul did not lose any of his zeal, but his zeal had been sanctified by grace. Thus, with zeal burning on the altar of his heart, Paul knew that his zeal was kindled, sustained, and attracted by the grace of the sovereign God. Since zeal is acknowledged as good in the natural realm, is it to become less in the spiritual realm? Since zeal is right in any case, it is more justifiable in the realm of grace.

There are three classes of people who resist genuine Christian zeal:

1. THE UNGODLY—Festus said to Paul, “you are out of your mind [maine, present middle indicative of mainomai, to be out of one’s mind, insane or mad, or have no control over oneself]; your much learning is driving you [peritrepei, present active indicative of peritrepo to drive or bring around—made up of peri, around in the accusative case and trepo, to turn, alter, or change] to insanity [accusative singular of mania, meaning madness or insanity]” (Ac 26:24—translation). Truth stirs people in one of two ways—either for or against it, exemplified in their reaction to Christ (Mr 3:21), the apostles (Ac 2:13), and Christians in general (1Pe 4:1-5).

2. THE RELIGIOUS HYPOCRITES—Hypocrites (hupokrites, an actor on the stage of life who is playing the role of what he is not in real life) are people pretending one thing while living something entirely different. Christ’s last words in the temple were condemnatory against the hypocrites (Mt 23:13). The more moral and religious persons are without grace, the more ignorant they are of God, and the more they oppose God’s truth. Hypocrisy originates when obedience is not the outcome of the principle of grace. The further religionists are removed from the teaching of Scripture the more pharisaical they become. Furthermore, the more pharisaical people become the greater their hatred for truth and those who expose them by proclaiming it. Who crucified Jesus Christ? (See Ac 2:22-23.)

3. ASSEMBLY MEMBERS WHO ARE LIVING OUT OF FELLOWSHIP—The Corinthians deserved Paul’s rebukes and corrections in his two Epistles to them. Unless the human element in the assembly is restrained, the spiritual life of the assembly will be greatly affected. Paul vindicated himself by distinguishing his impugners by making a distinction between the deceivers and the deceived. The weapons of deceivers are carnal, even though they mix in a little Scripture with their human eloquence, clever propaganda, charming personality, and personal attention. The deceived are gullible because they are lazy, untutored, and possessed with self-interest. Although in most cases the deceivers are false teachers, the Devil knows there are a great number of weak believers who will be easy prey for deception by his representatives. Many of the Corinthians became a serious burden to the apostle Paul. He said to them, “...I seek not your’s, but you....and I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2Co 12:14-15). (Study 2Co 9-12.)

The good worker has a future crown, because good work describes a life of character, which is the fruit of grace. “On one hand eternal life to the ones who because of perseverance in good work are seeking glory and honor and incorruptibility.... but glory and honor and peace to everyone doing good, to the Jew first and also to a Gentile” (Ro 2:7,10—translation). The future crown consists of glory, honor, and incorruptibility. The present active participle of dzeteo, “seeking,” of Ro 2:7 is the key to the proper understanding of the passage. The one seeking is the person who has been sought and found by the sovereign God; because in man’s natural condition, he does not seek God (Ro 3:11). The Christian seeks glory (doxa, splendor, glory, or revealed presence of God) because it is a distinguishing characteristic of the eternal state. Although the grace of God in the believer is glorious, the sphere in which he lives in time is anything but glorious. He seeks honor (time, honor, recognition, or place of honor—Ro 2:10) which will be given by Christ rather than what is considered exaltation among men. The believer seeks incorruptibility (accusative singular of aphtharsia, imperishability—Ro 2:7), which contrasts the perseverance of the eternal with that which is terminal.

After Paul’s description of the Christian and his reward, he contrasted the evil worker and his reward: “On the other hand anger and wrath on the ones who out of selfish ambition are disobeying the truth but who are being obedient to unrighteousness, wrath and anger. Tribulation and distress on every soul of man desiring evil, of the Jew first and also of a Gentile” (Ro 2:8-9—translation). The Greek nouneritheias (selfish ambition) in Ro 2:8 means selfishness, selfish ambition, or strife (2Co 12:20; Ga 5:20; Php 1:16; 2:3; Jas 3:14,16). The verb form is eritheuomai, which means to serve for hire, to serve a party, have a party spirit, wrangle, engage in strife, or oppose single-mindedness. But Christians are exhorted to have the mind of Christ (Php 2:5); however, religionists who are possessed with selfish ambition oppose single-mindedness. The expression, “...anger and wrath on the ones who out of selfish ambition are disobeying the truth...” (Ro 2:8—translation) is parallel with those who are of the circumcision. Persons possessed with selfish ambition are guilty of the heinous crime of disobedience to truth.

Those who are accomplishing evil shall be punished (Ro 2:8-9). Although God’s wrath (punishment) is being revealed, there shall be an outburst of the execution of God’s wrath. Since wrath is being stored up (Ro 2:5), a sudden outburst of judgment shall come on the wicked, like a huge dam that has been allowing water to be stored until the appointed time for the dam to open and allow the stored water to descend on those below.

No Respect Of Persons In God’s Judgment

God’s judgment is without respect of persons: “For there is no respect of persons [prosopolempsia, a noun derived from the noun prosopon, meaning face, countenance, or appearance, and the verblambano, meaning to receive; the compound word means respect of persons or partiality] with God. For as many as without law sinned, shall also without law perish; and as many as sinned in the sphere of the law shall be judged by means of the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before [in the sight of] God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Ro 2:11-13—translation). The nounprosopolempsia, used for respect of persons, is described in God’s instruction to Samuel, a compassionate man, who was concerned about King Saul: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1Sa 16:7).

In Ro 2:11, the noun prosopolempsia (respect of persons or partiality) is negated by the adverb ou, signifying that God’s judgment is the same whether persons sin without law or in the sphere of the law. The expression “without law” applies to non-Jews who are without a written code of law; however, they are condemned because they do not live according to the general revelation in creation. On the other hand, the expression “in the sphere of the law” refers to the Jews who were given the law of Moses. None have ever been given license to sin. The Jews are judged because the holy law is God’s definite standard. Therefore, God’s judgment, which is without respect of persons, will be a verdict of guilty on sinning mankind, whether non-Jews or Jews. Paul was not discussing how men are saved, but how they will be judged according to the light to which they have been exposed.

The statements “no respect of persons with God” (Ro 2:11) and “God is no respecter of persons” (Ac 10:34) are taken out of context by persons who hate the Biblical doctrine of Divine election and God’s providential government. Their defense against these Biblical facts is the quotation of the previously mentioned verses. They say if these subjects are true, God would be guilty of arbitrariness in election and would fail to treat people equally in His providential government. Pertaining to the doctrine of election, if God did not choose some, all would be lost because all are depraved. Concerning God’s providential government, none can determine which rank or station of life supersedes the others, because all without exception enter this world in the same state of depravity.

FIRST—Election does not make God a respecter of persons. This is contrary to the false concept that the doctrine of election makes God guilty of injustice in that He gives to equal persons unequal things. One must understand that God is not bound to save any person, considering that He alone has absolute freedom. No one can go to law with God. He is His own law; therefore, there is no law above Himself. Since God is absolutely sovereign and free, man must view His choice of some as being for God’s own pleasure. Therefore, election originated with God: “Having known [perfect active participle of oida], brethren, that you have been loved [perfect passive participle of agapao], by [hupo, ablative of agency] God, the choosing [eklogen, accusative feminine singular of ekloge, selection, election, or choosing] of you” (1Th 1:4—translation). This verse records the “act,” the “Agent,” and the “object.” The moving cause of God’s election is found only in “the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:5), and it is called the “election of grace” (Ro 11:5). God’s decree of election is an act of sovereignty, not an act of justice.

God is not a respecter of persons in election because He did not choose men according to their character and works. Will any attempt to say God is unjust to choose some from the pit of depravity, when He would have been just had He destroyed all? God saw all people alike, and nothing but the good pleasure of His will balanced His choice. Justice always presupposes debt, but God could not be a debtor to man since man is dependent on God. Therefore, the decree of election is not a matter of right and wrong; it is God’s free and undeserved favor to the unfavorable bound by a sinful nature. No person can ever understand the meaning of the grace of election until he is able by grace to see that he deserves God’s eternal wrath. The worldly ambitious person says, “Blessed is the man who rises to great heights in the eyes of men.” The sensualist says, “Blessed is the man who walks according to his own sensuous desires.” But the Christian says, “How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, To dwell in Thy courts...” (Ps 65:4 NASB). The Greek verb for “chosen” in Eph 1:4 is in the aorist tense (completed action in past time), middle voice (sovereignly selected for Himself), and indicative mood (the mood of reality, which makes the choice an established fact). The compound verb eklegomai (or eklego) is derived from the preposition ek, out of, and the verb lego, to speak, say, or gather. In its inflected form, it means “chose once for all for Himself.”

SECOND—Providence does not make God a respecter of persons. Concerning God’s providential government, no person is in a position to say which rank or station of life is superior to others. What appears to be partiality in providence, such as circumstances, condition of health, natural abilities, and external advantages cannot be justly determined in the light of the present. Man’s future alone can determine him happy or unhappy. Unhappiness evidences dependence on happenings to make one happy. Since man’s present condition is perpetually changing, even temporal happiness depends on more than externals. Such things as pain, persecution, disappointment, and hardship are often used to discipline God’s people. To the unsaved, they may constitute God’s punishment that is being constantly revealed from heaven (Ro 1:18).

Everything done in time was purposed in eternity. Therefore, the time for the execution of that purpose is brought about by the providence of God, signifying that providence is purpose in execution. The noun form for the word providence (pronoia) means provision, foresight, or care (Ac 24:2; Ro 13:14). The verb form (pronoeo) means to have in mind, care for, or take care of (Ro 12:17; 2Co 8:21; 1Ti 5:8). Providence (Divine care or direction) may be considered in three major ways: (1) It may be without means or with means. (2) It may be extraordinary or ordinary, which means either by miraculous operations or by the common course of means. (3) It may be general or particular, which may concern the whole world in general or some in a particular way. For example, some things belong to men in general, such as, “He [God] is giving to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, appointing seasons and the boundaries of their dwelling having been designated.... For in Him we are living and being moved and are having our existence...” (Ac 17:25b, Ac 17:26,28—translation). On the other hand, other things belong to the elect in particular: “For to this purpose we are working hard and are contending with dangers, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Preserver of all men, above all of believers” (1Ti 4:10—translation).

The sovereign God has power over everything He has created. He did not bring something into existence that He cannot control. Living in a day when God is humanized, blessings are materialized, and the gospel is socialized, Christians are a very small minority who appear to have the impossible goal of accomplishing what they preach. Christians, not religionists, encounter the same opposition as Nehemiah and the remnant of Jews when they undertook to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Ne 4). God’s purpose was not obstructed in the case of Nehemiah, neither will it be hindered in His purpose for the “little flock” (Lu 12:32). Nehemiah’s opposition went from Sanballat’s grief (displeasure) to his anger, and then to his conspiracy (Ne 2:10; 4:1-8).

God is ruling in the affairs of men. The greatest example of the controlling power of God is seen in the death of Jesus Christ. From all eternity God predestined every detail of that event. (See Ac 2:23; 4:28.) Christians espouse the truth and proclaim it for the purpose of reaching the elect. Although there are many devices in the hearts of men, the counsel of God shall stand; and His purpose shall be accomplished (Pr 19:21; Isa 46:10). Those who oppose this Biblical fact argue, “If decrees do something to the event, freedom of action in producing the event is impossible.” The Lord does not change the quality but the current of the stream. It continues running according to its natural tendency, but it runs under God’s guidance and subservient to His pleasure. Kings follow their own natural inclinations, but they are guided by God to fulfill His purpose.

Regarding Christ’s death, one cannot deny that the time of His death was purposed in eternity (Re 13:8), and the execution of that purpose was brought about by the providence of God. No one laid hands on Jesus Christ as He taught in the temple for the reason that His hour had not come (Joh 8:20). There was an hour for each aspect of His life. In Joh 12:23, Christ said, “The hour has come [perfect active indicative of erchomai, to come] that the Son of man may be glorified” (translation). (See Joh 13:1; 17:1.) A Divine providence by which all things are held together (Col 1:17), governed (Pr 21:1), and directed is proved by the Being of God, His creation, and perfection.

Man has great difficulty explaining that God’s providence cannot be excluded from man’s sinful acts. Two things must be considered as undeniable facts, whether or not we are capable of reconciling them to our own satisfaction: (1) God is not the author of sin (Jas 1:13). (2) The providence of God has some concern with sinful acts. None can deny that God supports men in their being while they are sinning (Ac 17:28). He did not kill Ananias and Sapphira before they sinned (Ac 5:1-11). He kept Abimelech from committing adultery with Abraham’s wife, Sarah, by appearing to him in a dream and saying, “Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife....for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her” (Ge 20:3b, 6b). However, in the case of David, God did not prevent him from committing adultery with Bathsheba, which was a sin against God (2Sa 11:1-5; 12:13-14; Ps 51:4). God did not allow Laban to hurt Jacob (Ge 31:7), but He did allow Shimei to curse David (2Sa 16:5-14). Although David had nothing to do with the fall of King Saul, he did have something to do with the fall of Uriah; therefore, he knew his chastening was from God. He said, “...let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David...” (2Sa 16:10).

Every Christian has a Shimei who is such a trial to him that he wishes him removed. Nevertheless, he must not overlook the fact that God has a purpose in the Shimei in his life. While Shimei was David’s offender, Alexander the coppersmith was Paul’s offender (2Ti 4:14). What is true of evil men is equally true of all our ominous surroundings and adverse circumstances, as we like to call them. These are not only appointed by God, but they are also kept and made to operate for the good of God’s people. They are beyond our ability to understand, especially while experiencing trials. But having passed through them, we can look back with the assurance that the God of providence arranged them for our good. No Christian knows just what another believer needs, particularly his trying, searching, sifting, and sanctifying circumstances. God’s providence is designed for Christian humility, submissiveness, contentment, detachment, denial of self, unearthliness, and conformity to Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should say with David, “Let Shimei curse because it is for my good.”

If natural sense (the collective faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching of man by which he perceives, discerns, realizes, or recognizes) alone were considered in reference to God’s providential government, one would not give the Sovereign His rightful place in trying circumstances. Believing that God created man and subsequently assumed the position of a mere observer is a deistic concept of God. Such a person would not proceed beyond Shimei’s cursing David (2Sa 16:5-14), Joseph’s envying brothers afflicting him (Ge 37:17-28; 45:1-15; 50:14-21), or the Jew’s hatred manifested in the death of Jesus Christ (Ac 2:23). Rising above the natural sense of discernment is necessary but impossible apart from grace. The spiritual discernment of God-given faith says, “the LORD hath said unto him [Shimei], Curse David” (2Sa 16:10); “But as for you, ye thought evil against me [Joseph]; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Ge 50:20); and “This man [Christ] was delivered according to the fixed purpose and prearrangement of God...” (Ac 2:23—translation). This manifests the difference between the natural man and the Christian.

God as governor of the universe and man sometimes punishes one sin with another sin. As it has been shown, Ro 1 teaches that the removal of God’s restraint in time is a fearful punishment of sin. Plato made the statement that a license to sin is the greatest punishment of sin. He was correct when it comes to sin being punished by greater sins, but he was incorrect when he said it is the greatest punishment. As horrible as the description of sin is (Ro 1:24,26,28; 2Th 2:11), the eternal punishment of hell is the greatest. Sometimes God overrules sin for good, as in the case of Adam’s fall for his perfection in grace, Joseph’s being sold into Egypt for the saving of many persons alive, and Christ’s death for the salvation of the elect. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps 145:17).

People who are unable to distinguish between the perfection of the Creator and the weakness of the creature, or the chief Agent and the instrument, adhere to the visible action without ascending to God who presides over all. “The King’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Pr 21:1). Kings are ruled and overruled by God who is “higher than the highest” (Ec 5:8). Both politicians and religionists think God’s heart is in their hands. Authorities of human government are not viewed in Scripture as having intelligence of a spiritual order. Scripture represents them as “beasts.” Both Old and New Testaments use this word literally and symbolically. Daniel described governmental authorities as lions, bears, leopards, and the fourth beast as being so terrible that he had no name for him (Da 7). John reversed the order in Re 13. He called the fourth beast, too wicked to describe, dragon. All the beasts—governmental authorities—will give their authority to one government under the antichrist (Re 13). Nevertheless, this power will be controlled by God: “For God put [edoken, aorist active indicative of didomi, to put] it into their hearts to accomplish [poiesai, aorist active infinitive of poieo, to do, bring about, or accomplish] His purpose [gnomen, accusative feminine singular of gnome, purpose, intention, or decision], and to bring about [aorist active infinitive ofpoieo] one decision and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled [future passive indicative of teleo, to finish, complete, or fulfill]” (Re 17:17—translation). God works unseen in all the political and social changes of mankind. Therefore, instead of kings, presidents, and politicians preventing the accomplishment of God’s purpose, they are unknowingly fulfilling it. Furthermore, religionists who say God can do nothing for them in a spiritual way until they choose to let Him, deny His sovereignty. Does the depraved will of man control God concerning man’s physical life and sustenance? One who would say “I will live a long time” does not recognize that his breath is in God’s hands.

In order to escape the dilemma of making God the cause of sin, one must have some understanding of depravity, grace, and confession. No Christian would ever say, “I did that sinful act because God worked in me to do that which is sinful.” The Christian knows that apart from God’s grace he is nothing and deserves nothing. Therefore, rather than trying to resolve the problem which the natural person has with providence and sin by way of concurrence, he respects the boundaries God has established for his thinking. (See De 29:29.) Scripture never presents providence in its relation to sin by way of argument, but always in a historical setting of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. God-given faith does not flee from responsibility; furthermore, it explains sin as coming from man’s depraved heart.

God’s providential government can be trusted, because it is executed according to His eternal purpose. As important as prayer is in the life of a Christian, it can never derange the economy of providence. Prayer must come through the discipline of learning. An informed person who prays seeks strength to meet and not change facts. Much so-called prayer seeks to drag God on man’s side; thus, it is man-centered rather than God-centered. Prayer is power to submit our lives to the will of God. Prayer will not change God’s purpose concerning who shall be saved or when they will be saved. God’s providence does assure us that the elect will be preserved until they are regenerated. (See Jude 1.)

Although the elect fell in time in our representative human head, Adam, we did not fall in eternity out of our covenant Head, Jesus Christ. Therefore, having been permanently loved and kept by the sovereign God, all the elect are assured of being effectually called at God’s appointed time. The same God who permanently loved and kept the elect for salvation is able to keep the effectually called elect from falling and to make us stand in the presence of Him without blemish in the sphere of eternal joy. This is the good side of providence, and it is wonderfully portrayed against the apostate condition which is also under the control of providence (Jude 24-25).

God’s providence is not appointed as a guide for one’s life. It should drive us to the word of God. Christians must not murmur against providence. We discover the will of God and our duty under dark and doubtful providence by going to the word of God. Providence in itself is no standard for duty. It may present occasion for sinning, as in the case of Jonah. Any testimony of providence contrary to God’s revealed will must not be accepted. Providence does not justify moral evil. Every sinner loves the good providence of God, but Christians love the God of providence. As mercies are fuel to a sinner’s lust, they are fuel to maintain a Christian’s love and fidelity to God.

THIRD—God’s righteousness in judgment proves He is not a respecter of persons. Neither Divine election nor providential government makes God guilty of partiality, as He is charged by the enemies of these two Biblical doctrines. God’s judgment is without respect of persons. Ro 2:11 is connected with its preceding and succeeding verses. The conjunction “For” (gar) shows that “no respect of persons with God” is associated with the preceding verses. The noun prosopolempsia of Ro 2:11, which means respect of persons or partiality, is negated by the adverb ou; therefore, no one can accuse God of being unjust in view of the fact that He is righteous in His judgments: “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe” (De 10:17 NASB).

God, whose understanding is infinite (Ps 147:5), cannot be bribed because everything past, present, and future is eternally known to Him. There is no succession in His knowledge. The correct way to speak of the God of gods and Lord of lords is, “He is.” One might speak of created man as having been, is, and shall be; he is not now what he was; and he shall not be what he is at the present. However, God is the same now that He was, and He shall be the same as He is now (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17).

Eternity has been defined as duration without beginning or ending and present without past or future. However, “duration” is not a good term on account of it signifies the length of time something continues to exist. Constance, which means perpetual, ceaseless, permanent, or uninterrupted, is the better word. Eternity is not duration; it is ceaseless. Furthermore, eternal signifies more than pretemporal. The terms pretemporal, cotemporal, and posttemporal are expressions used to describe past, present, and future with reference to time. Such expressions are necessary for creatures of time, but they cannot be used with reference to God. That which is temporal to us, whether past, present, or future, is a present fact to the eternal God. All things with respect to God have a known and a real existence; however, since there is no time with God, both are simultaneous to Him. Although future things in time do not coexist with God, He coexists with them: “...I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Isa 41:4).

The eternal God with infinite understanding knows man’s thoughts before their existence. David said, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off [a Hebrew adjective meaning far or remote]” (Ps 139:1-2). The Lord said to Moses concerning Israel, “...I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware” (De 31:21). Greatness must be ascribed to the God of gods and Lord of lords because He eternally knows every man through and through: “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Ps 145:3). Conclusively, God who knows man through and through cannot be bribed.

The Hebrew word shohad means bribe, gratuity, or inducement. Prohibitions concerning the reception of bribes are found in the Pentateuch: “And you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just” (Ex 23:8 NASB). Under the old economy, the Jewish judges had a duty as serious as that of the priests. Since the judges must make judgment on the basis of God’s standard, their judgment would be God’s judgment. Judges must be (1) impartial—“You shall not pervert the justice...” (Ex 23:6 NASB), (2) judicious—“Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous [capital punishment]...” (Ex 23:7 NASB), and (3) incorrupt—“And you shall not take a bribe...” (Ex 23:8 NASB).

A bribe is something given or promised as illicit payment for information that would be advantageous to the person offering the payment. People on Wall Street could give many examples of bribes in the Stock Market business. No doubt bribes are common today, but the commonality of a crime does not make it right. The same portion of Scripture (Ex 23:1-9) warns against following the multitudes, whether irreligious or religious: “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice” (Ex 23:2 NASB). This verse assumes that the multitude practices evil. The honest person, because of his own innate tendencies to evil, knows this is factual. Listen to Isaiah, “Your rulers are rebels, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe, and chases after rewards...” (Isa 1:23 NASB). “Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right” (Isa 5:23 NASB). Listen to Micah: “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price, And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD saying, Is not the LORD in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us” (Mic 3:11 NASB).

Disregard for Biblical principles leads to fraud and violence, thus indicating that if the price is right a bribe can lead to violence. “Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person...” (De 27:25 NASB). David said, “O LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, And the place where Thy glory dwells. Do not take my soul away along with sinners, Nor my life with men of bloodshed, In whose hands is a wicked scheme, And whose right hand is full of bribes” (Ps 26:8-10 NASB). Ezekiel said to Jerusalem, “In you they [rulers of Israel] have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me, declares the Lord God” (Eze 22:12 NASB). (See 1Sa 8:3; 1Ki 15:19; 2Ki 16:8.)

As Saul bribed others to seek the life of David, the Jews of the greater David’s time bribed one of His own disciples to betray the Son of God into their hands. Those who have no knowledge of depravity think it strange that personified goodness (Jesus Christ) could be treated by men in such a manner. Religionists who understand neither depravity nor personified goodness think that virtue needs only to be presented in its true colors in order to be loved by all at once. The thought that all men would love embodied righteousness is false. Virtue was embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ; but all men did not, do not, and will not love Him. The Son of God was despised and rejected by men. Following His rejection, wicked men led Embodied Godliness to Calvary, where they crucified the Son of God between two thieves.

The absolutely righteous Lord “spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, For I the LORD your God am holy.... You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly” (Le 19:1-2,15 NASB). When it comes to judging others, Christians must never consider what others have done or are doing in similar conditions. We must begin with serious self-judgment, and from there judge on the basis of Scripture, regardless of our closeness to or distance from the ones being judged. Furthermore, we must not be swayed by rank, wealth, influence, or the opinions of others. The power of the court of Areopagus at Athens was great. The custom of the court was to make its judgments only at night without light. The reason given for this practice was that the members of the court might not be prejudiced for or against the accused by seeing his countenance and gestures. Truth alone was to be regarded, and no attempt to distort it so as to lose truth or objectivity must be allowed. Since that was the practice in the court of Areopagus, what about the civil, self, and assembly courts of our day?

“Respect of persons” [prosopolempsia, partiality or favoritism] means to look with favor on some with regard to their external privileges without any concern for their internal character. This is vividly demonstrated in the realms of society, politics, and religion. Immoral and heretical things are overlooked in the lives of many for personal, political, and religious advantage. Jude warned against this, “These are murmurers complainers, conducting themselves according to their own lusts, and their mouth is speaking boastful things, having men’s persons in admiration for the sake of advantage” (Jude 16—translation). James condemned looking with favor on some with respect to their external privileges (Jas 2:1-9). The wealthy man must not be given attention above the poor man, but this does not mean that the indolent person is to be regarded the same way as the industrious person. Solomon mentioned the sluggard (atsel, sluggard, slothful, or indolent) six times in the book of Proverbs (Pr 6:6,9; 10:26; 13:4; 20:4; 26:16). “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise” (Pr 6:6 NASB). The ant could be called a little preacher with a great message of foresight, diligence, and industry. The ant’s foresight motivates its diligence in providing food for the coming winter. “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Pr 6:9 NASB). Was not man created with more understanding than the lower creatures? “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing. But the soul of the diligent is made fat” (Pr 13:4 NASB).

All respect of persons is not sinful. If it were, there would be no place for authority in either civil government or the assemblies of Christ. The following are some ways in which respect of persons is not sinful: (1) There is holy respect of persons with God: “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect [shaa, the basic idea is to look with interest, gaze at, inspect, or have respect or regard for] unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect...” (Ge 4:4-5). Abel’s person was accepted prior to his offering, thus teaching that the person must be regarded before his service. Consequently, salvation does not result from works, but good works are the fruit of the one having been created in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10). (2) There is a justifiable respect of persons due to their age (1Ti 5:1). (3) Respect is due to those in a God-appointed office in civil government (Ro 13:1-7). While one may bow to the office of king, president, etc., he is not obligated to bow to the person in that office who acts contrary to God’s Biblical principles. (4) Respect is due men of God for their God-appointed office in the local assemblies of Christ (1Ti 3; 4). However, Christians are obligated to follow God-appointed leaders only as they follow the Lord. (See 1Co 11:1; 2Th 3:7.) Although salvation is common to all believers (Jude 3), we are not equal in gifts and calling (1Co 12:4-11,27-30). The inequality in gifts and calling must be respected because God Himself makes one to differ from another.

All Secrets Revealed In God’s Judgment

God’s judgment reveals all secrets: “For as many as without law sinned, shall also without law perish; and as many as sinned in the sphere of the law shall be judged by means of the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For whenever non-Jews who do not have law do by nature things of the law, these having not the law are a law to themselves; who are showing the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness with their reasonings accusing or even excusing among themselves, on the day when God judges the hidden things of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Ro 2:12-16—translation).

The truth that God’s sovereignty does not eliminate man’s responsibility is taught in Ro 2:12-14. Our studies in Ro 1 have proved that to be true. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have been called one of the antinomies of Scripture. This word is frequently used, especially when a person comes face to face with two things that are difficult to harmonize. Theologians of the past used it with reference to many passages of Scripture. In theology, it is applied to apparently conflicting doctrines concerning the same subject. There is no Greek word for antinomy. It is an English word that has been incorporated to try to explain some things that human beings do not have the ability to comprehend. Since the limitations of the human mind render it impossible to approach the truth of two apparently contradictory ideas, some say the truth of both is capable of equal demonstration. However, two diametrically opposed opinions cannot be equally demonstrated. Man does not have a free will. His will is enslaved. Therefore, free will and free grace cannot be equally demonstrated.

Antinomy is described in a dictionary as a contradiction between two equally logical conclusions. It is defined in another dictionary as opposition between one law, principle, rule, etc., and another law, principle, or rule. In philosophy, it is said to be a contradiction between two statements, both attained by seemingly correct reasoning. Antinomy and paradox are distinct. Antinomy is incomprehensible, whereas paradox is comprehensible. The following are some so-called contradictions appearing in Scripture: (1) God is absolutely sovereign, and man is a responsible being. (2) The Divine and the human are in both the living Word and the written word. In the Divine logos, the Son of God, are the human and Divine natures; and in the giving of Scripture, are the human element and Divine inspiration. (3) Fallible men were inspired to write the infallible word. (4) There is the regular function of natural laws, the laws of nature, and the occasional occurrence of miraculous events in nature’s ordered system. (5) Temporal sin committed in time will result in eternal punishment. (6) Election is Divine, and elected sinners exercise individual faith.

The difference between centrifugal and centripetal forces, two opposing things, illustrates an antinomy as far as our understanding is concerned. They appear contradictory. Centrifugal force directs power from the center, but centripetal force directs power toward the center. The supposed contradiction between them keeps the planets, including the earth, in space in their proper orbits. Therefore, the forces are complimentary and contribute to harmonious operation of the universe itself. This is God’s doing. Who will argue about so-called contrarieties? Only our lack of understanding would cause us to call them antinomies. Laziness in the study of God’s word prompts some Christians to label certain truths as antinomies as an alibi. They claim some subjects are so deep they cannot understand them, and they do not consider what God has said. One who desires to know truth will search to find the truth. An unsaved person does not seek to know more about God. The only person who seeks God is one who has been sought and found by God and given grace. We must not learn the term antinomy as an excuse for lack of studying God’s word and doing His will.

There is an element of truth in the statement that antinomies of Scripture enable children of God to guard against disturbance over our inability to reconcile all the doctrines of Holy Scripture with one another. But we need to use it with caution. There is no disharmony between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility; but in order to understand them, we must realize that God is in control of everything. We must also know that God created man upright, but man fell; nevertheless, God is not responsible for his fall. Furthermore, God has the right to command man to do what he is unable to do. Hence, there is no contradiction.

The Creator is not restricted to limitations. God does not answer all questions that curious minds might raise. We are limited in our ability to fully comprehend God’s infinite mind, but we can understand what He wants us to know. Perhaps He never intended that we understand the things we do not understand, but we lay hold of or apprehend what we do not comprehend. Christians are taught to humbly trust God’s veracity. If we could explain everything, we would not trust God’s veracity. We understand by faith things that cannot be understood apart from God-given faith.

The Creator is unrestricted by the creatures’ limitations. Creatures must wait for the solution to many mysteries in Scripture and providence. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (De 29:29). God has revealed all to which He intends that we be subjected. If He revealed more, we could not know anything about it. The things of His will that are revealed belong to us. If you say the assembly is local and it is also universal, you speak of two hemispheres of the sphere. Man should avoid philosophical system’s explanation of the things of God. They cannot be explained by carnal minds. Therefore, one must rely on the Spirit of God to interpret Scripture.

A consideration of God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s responsibility leads Christians to vital interest in God’s eternal purpose—singular. Technically, God has a purpose, a decree; but there are many facets to God’s decree. God has a plan for the ages, and He causes all things to move toward one goal. He governs the actions of men and they subserve His purpose in that goal. Therefore, God is sovereign. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Although the Lord’s temporary dispensations are sometimes altered, His eternal purpose never changes. It is fulfilled according to His design. God alone has the right to determine individuals and nations (Ac 17:26). God’s right to impose law on mankind rises from His absolute sovereignty. Man’s duty to observe that law flows from his responsibility as a creature created by the sovereign God. Creatures owe their allegiance and honor to God. Every knee shall bow in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ to acknowledge His Lordship (Php 2:5-11).

With God’s purpose in view, adversity and prosperity, which are apparently contradictory, exist side by side. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider...” (Ec 7:14). Both are required. God also has set the one over against the other to the end that man should find nothing after him. God’s purpose is executed in all adverse and prosperous things. Spiritual minds alone can comprehend God’s turning men’s sin to His glory. Men sin; but God overrules sin, even the sins of men, for His own glory. He makes the wrath of man to praise Him. God overruled Joseph’s brethren’s intended evil for their own personal good. He overruled in the death of Jesus Christ for the good of His people. Man’s wrongdoing is not allowed to hinder God’s purpose. God overrules the wickedness of men. God’s temporary dispensations, many of which are recorded in Scripture, are sometimes altered. His promised blessings or punishments are withheld suitable to the attitude of those with whom He deals in His providence. The people of Ninevah repented (Jon 3:10). God gives the spirit of penitence, which is godly sorrow, and man repents. Repentance is the gift of God. The word for repentance in the Old Testament is return. God first turns us, and then we return. In God’s act of saving us, we are passive. God acts and we react.

Old Testament history demonstrates God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The heart of Pharaoh, who held the children of Israel in Egyptian bondage, was hardened. God hardened his heart, and he hardened his own heart. God hardened his heart by exposing him to the truth and forcing him to an issue. God did not infuse hardness in Pharaoh’s heart. He only lifted His restraint and allowed him do what his hard heart desired. Therefore, he hardened his own heart. God hardens men’s hearts today by providentially subjecting them to the word of God. As men hear and fail to obey, they harden their own hearts. God does not infuse the hardness. He simply leaves men to the depravity of their own human hearts. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are revealed in the introduction of sin into the human race. God is not the author of sin, but one cannot possibly imagine sin out of all relation to God. God could have prevented sin’s appearance had He chosen to do so, but He did not purpose to do so.

Great controversy exists over free will and free grace, which is another so-called antinomy. Free will, as it is believed by the majority, will drive people to methods. For this reason most so-called worship services are designed to affect the emotional part of man. Religionists go from one method to another. Denominationally trained men today are concerned about what they can use and what they can do to get the most people. They believe salvation is dependent on the free will of man, so they must do something to persuade him to exercise his will. If one gimmick does not work, they try another. In contrast to free will, which drives people from one method to another, free grace drives people to the word of God; and they are satisfied, knowing that God has the answer. The Divine order has always been and always will be the mind, the emotions, and then the will. Anyone who tries to reach only the will or only the emotional nature is in error. The true method is to give an exposition of Scripture to reach through the declaration of truth the people God has regenerated.

God is always the overflowing fountain. Man is always needy and must wait to drink of God’s fountain. Between man’s natural ability and his spiritual inability rests his responsibility. That is a good statement, but it deserves explanation. Man’s natural ability is that with which he comes into the world. As a result of the fall, man is spiritually unable to do anything of a spiritual nature. Therefore, between his natural ability and his spiritual inability, he is still a responsible individual. A man chained in a prison cell is physically unable to walk. However, his inability is attributable to the one who chained him. Nevertheless, his will is not changed. The body but not the will may be chained. His will, as far as he is concerned, remains free. Hence, man is spiritually incapable of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. He has neither ability nor will to exercise faith in Christ. He does not have the will to believe because he does not have grace. Since his will is depraved, he acts according to his corrupt nature. He cannot naturally obey the gospel, which is required for salvation. He does not naturally act from foreign but from inward influence. Man still has his faculties, but they are depraved. They are motivated by iniquitous things. Only the grace of God can change that motivation. He is natural and has natural ability, but he has no spiritual ability to do spiritual things. Nevertheless, he is responsible because God is the author of neither his fall nor his sin. God created man upright (Ec 7:29).

There is no contradiction between the first and last parts of Joh 6:63, which many claim is another antinomy: “The Spirit is the one making alive, the flesh profits nothing; the words [hrema, which refers more to the spoken message than just to the written message] which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (translation). Those who believe this is an antinomy say the spoken word is spirit and life. Does the word itself give life? Those who believe in gospel regeneration answer in the affirmative. When Jesus Christ was here, He spoke. Was everyone who heard Him speak made alive? Only the ones who understand Christ’s words in a spiritual sense will find them living in operation. This was demonstrated by the Thessalonian Christians. When the gospel came to them, it did not come in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, which is a living operation (1Th 1:5). Efficacious grace is taught in Joh 6:63. The first part of the text affirms that the Spirit is the One making alive. In giving us life, He gives us ability to hear the words given. Hence, the Holy Spirit having made one alive in Jesus Christ also makes him sensitive to the living and continuing word of God (1Pe 1:18-23). The latter part of the text in Joh 6:63 is not discussing regeneration. This word becomes the instrument of the assurance of salvation; it does not quicken.

There is a realm of truth beyond the comprehension of man’s natural powers. We could not understand these things apart from the Holy Spirit. But this reality is never at the expense of the grammatical, historical account of Holy Scripture. As the artist can see and the musician can hear things many could never see or hear, Christians understand things that non-Christians can never see or understand. The Spirit of God does more than work through the sanctified eye and ear gate. He operates through the gift of faith.

God’s judgment reveals all hidden things: “...all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). God knows the thoughts of every person, not only of the Jews but also of humanity in general. He will bring to light all things of saints and sinners among Jews and Gentiles. Both saved and lost will be judged, but not at the same time. In Ro 2:12-16, the apostle divided mankind into two classes—Jews and non-Jews. In 1Co 10:32, He divided them into three classes—Jews, non-Jews, and the assembly Jesus Christ is continuing to build in the world today.

Neither the law within nor the law without was given for the purpose of justification. However, both do condemn men. That is the purpose of the law. The law was given that men might measure themselves thereby. It measures men but never provides the means of justification before God. God’s judgment, which is without partiality (Ro 2:11), pronounces the verdict of guilty: “For as many as without law sinned, shall also without law perish; and as many as sinned in the sphere of the law shall be judged by means of the law” (Ro 2:12—translation). Those without law who do not heed their internal witness shall perish. Those within the sphere of the law who do not respect the external witness of the written law shall be condemned. This verse teaches the way men shall be judged, not the way they shall be saved. Paul was not discussing deliverance by the grace of God in this portion of Scripture. Gentiles who are without an external standard shall perish without law, and Jews who have the external standard of the law shall be condemned by that standard. But all are condemned. All men will be judged according to the light to which they have been exposed, whether they sin within or without the sphere of the law: “For this reason through one man sin entered into the world [world of mankind], and death by sin, so also death passed on all men, inasmuch as all sinned; for until law sin was in the world, but sin is not charged to one’s account when there is no law; but death reigned from Adam to Moses even on the ones not having sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a type of the One coming” (Ro 5:12-14—translation).

Although men lived, sinned, and died before Moses, their dying proved they were responsible individuals. The inner law judged every man from Adam to Moses. Although non-Jews are without the written form of the law, they are responsible for their sins: “Because that which is known of God is evident in them; for God manifested it to them. For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are being clearly seen being understood by the things made, both his eternal power and deity, with the result that they are without excuse” (Ro 1:19-20—translation). Law within acquaints men with the knowledge that there is a Creator. Since the Godhead of God is revealed in creation, every man is without excuse before God.

“In the sphere of the law” (Ro 2:12) refers to the Jews who had the external law. They heard it read but made no application of it: “for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Ro 2:13—translation). The law’s function is to judge, not justify. It was given for the purpose of judging. Since the Jews were subjected to the reading of the law but failed to practice what they heard, they were condemned by the law. The law was given to expose us and show us what we must have in order to pass out of death into everlasting life. It reveals to us our need of deliverance by grace. Regeneration alone can impart the principle of life to an individual.

Neither possession of the law nor having heard it read or taught will give safety in the day of God’s judgment. There are three kinds of hearers: (1) Some hear the word but do not understand it. The law is spiritual, holy, and good (Ro 7:12). It is the expression of the holy character of God. That is why we are condemned when we look at ourselves in the light of God’s law which cannot deliver. Men cannot understand the law when it is heard because it is spiritual and must be spiritually discerned (1Co 2:14). (2) Some hear but do not put into practice what they hear. (3) Others hear and do the things they hear. Hence, there are three types of people.

The law shows the need of salvation but does not provide it. The law was never given as a means of the new birth. It is the means by which man must measure himself before God. It condemns and shows man that his need is deliverance by God’s grace. The Jews were measured by law and were taught enough to know their need, but they were saved by sacrifice. Their salvation by sacrifice was before the law was given to them. This Biblical order is revealed in the book of Exodus. Although Jesus Christ had not yet offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, His sacrifice was typified by all the Old Testament sacrifices on the altar. The Jews were not saved by those sacrifices but by the anticipated sacrifice—singular—of Jesus Christ to which all the sacrifices pointed (Heb 10:1-14). Hence, they were saved by faith in the coming Christ, the one perfect sacrifice for sin.

Since the theme of Romans is grace-righteousness, not law- righteousness, the statement, “for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Ro 2:13), should not be confusing. The thesis of Romans is righteousness provided by God. It is first imputed and then imparted. Imputation is legal. Impartation is when the imputed righteousness is actually imparted in the individual. Paul distinguished grace-righteousness from law-righteousness. The Jews professed righteousness but did not possess righteousness. They misconstrued the purpose of the law (Ga 3). Grace- righteousness was imparted in Paul by the Lord; and in grace-righteousness, he counted all he had gained under law for righteousness as nothing but refuse that he might stand in Christ, not having his own righteousness but the righteousness that was first imputed to him and then imparted in him by God’s grace in time (Php 3:4-10). Grace-righteousness produces practical holiness—faith, love, obedience, and all dispositions of the nature of grace. Law demands obedience, but no one can obey until he has the life by which he can obey.

The non-Jews “are showing the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness with their reasonings accusing or even excusing among themselves” (Ro 2:15—translation). The Greek word for conscience (Ro 2:15) is a present active participle of the compound word summartureo. It refers to moral consciousness. The noun for conscience, suneidesis, comes from the compound verbsunoido. The prefix means with or together; and oida means to see, be sure, or understand. In Ro 2:15, the verb martureo, which means to testify or bear witness, is prefixed by sun (which is sum, in this instance) and means with. Hence, the noun “conscience” and the verb “bear witness” show that both bear a joint witness. The indwelling work of the law and conscience bear the same testimony, whether it is a written or an unwritten law. The reciprocal pronoun “their,” allelon (Ro 2:15), meaning one another or each other, reveals the interaction of two witnesses—the law written in the heart, or the external law, and the conscience—that either accuse or defend. Their reasonings (logismon, genitive plural of logismos, reasoning or argument) accuse (present active participle of kategoreo, made up of kata, down, andgoreo, a verbal attack; it means to speak against) or defend (present middle participle of apologeomai, made up of apo, from, and logos, defend oneself against a charge or make a defense) each other (Ro 2:15).

Conscience performs partnership action with the instruction an individual has received. No man discerns rightness and wrongness by conscience alone. His intellect sees agreement or disagreement of conduct with the rule of life either written or unwritten. Information fed into the computer of the mind is processed, and the process either accuses or defends. Conscience experiences pain or pleasure in itself disagreeably or agreeably. Agreement of conscience with the mind produces pleasure. Disagreement of conscience with the mind causes pain, unless the conscience is seared.

Before an act is committed, conscience serves as a tutor to advise and teach according to the light that is possessed. This is the reason Paul lived in good conscience before God even before he was regenerated. He was living according to the light he possessed. Properly instructed conscience leads one to consider before he acts. Subsequent to the act, conscience is a judge. There is no escape from it. A fundamentally dishonest man might make a mistake about the truth or falsity of a statement made several years before, but a fundamentally honest man would not make such a mistake. A dishonest man distorts facts and shapes them to his own purpose. He has nothing but memory on which to rely, and his memory is faulty. Dishonest persons distort and pervert things for personal advantage. However, an honest man relies on truth which is always the same. The Christian loves truth. He seeks to live and speak truth. Although he may tell a lie, an indelible impression is made on his conscience so that he cannot forget. His memory will remind him of it as long as he lives. The memory of one who dies in his sins will go with him throughout eternity. People in heathen countries where they have never been exposed to the written law of God intuitively know that murder, adultery, theft, etc., are evil. After an act of sin is committed, the conscience that tutored and advised becomes the source of condemnation to the one without a seared conscience. Conscience becomes one’s judge, and one cannot perjure his conscience.

Human conscience is not a member of the body which will return with the members of the body to the dust of the earth. It is a member of the soul which will never return to dust. As the conscience is now an accuser or a defender within, so it will be throughout eternity. Cain killed Abel, and his conscience was affected so that he never forgot that he murdered his brother. Abel’s blood cried out to him. Judas’ guilty conscience caused him to hang himself. Felix’s guilty conscience caused him to tremble before Paul’s preaching. The Bible abounds with such illustrations. Man’s condemning conscience will condemn him throughout eternity if he dies in his sins.

All secrets shall be revealed: “For nothing is hidden, except that it may be revealed; nor became concealed, but that it may come into light” (Mr 4:22—translation). Men may hide things from one another, but nothing is hidden from God. The time in which men sin is the hour of darkness. When the chief priests, captains of the temple, and elders came to take Jesus Christ for crucifixion, He said, “this is your hour [hora], and the power of darkness” (Lu 22:53b). The word hora in this verse means the time when something took place, is taking place, or shall take place. As there is an hour for sinning, there shall be a day for judging (Ro 2:16). “I am telling you that it shall be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Mt 10:15—translation). As heinous as the sin of sodomy is, it is not as heinous as the rejection of the word of the living God. Homosexuality is a sin against God’s moral law. Rejection of God’s message is commensurate with rejection of the Person of Jesus Christ Himself, and there is nothing worse.

Since the best have the worst of it now in this world, there will be a judgment that will set things right in order that the best may enjoy the best throughout eternity. This judgment does not presently take place because God is longsuffering, not willing that any of His own should perish but that they come to repentance (2Pe 3:9).

Hidden things are the best evidences of what man is either positionally or conditionally. What we are publicly is not what we are, but what we are when we are alone evidences what we are. God’s knowing what we are thinking is the best evidence of what we really are. That is true of the Christian conditionally, and it is true of the nonbeliever positionally. What we cannot be absolutely sure about is our thoughts, but God knows. Should someone ask you to give a brief history of your life, would you give a true history, or would it be one that would manifest two different persons. Would you tell it like it is, or would you embellish it to sound like you want to be heard. We are what we are before God, and we should want to be before others what we are before God.

God’s Just Judgment On Hypocrisy

God’s judgment is just (Ro 2:17-3:8). His judgment of hypocrisy is just (Ro 2:17-24). The religious Jews were hypocrites judging others, but they were not judging themselves: “Therefore O man, you are without excuse, everyone who is judging; for that in which you are judging another, you are passing judgment on yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Ro 2:1—translation).

One is hypocritical to judge another prior to judging himself. Although the word “Jew” in Ro 2:17 is singular, Paul was addressing all Jews. The word is used generically. The hypocritical Jews called themselves Jews, comforted themselves in the sphere of the law, and bragged for themselves in God. Their boasting was national assent. Theirs was mechanical reliance in God. Their boasting may be compared with someone boasting of his denominational ties. People hide behind names, creeds, etc., and call themselves this or that when there is no reality.

These hypocritical Jews had permanently convinced themselves to be guides of the blind, a light of the ones in darkness (Ro 2:19). But they based their conviction on what they themselves had done and not on what God had done for them. Such persons are unteachable. They were instructors of foolish ones, teachers of babies, having the form of knowledge and of the truth in the sphere of the law (Ro 2:20). The word for “form” in this verse is from morphosis. It is used only twice in the New Testament. The other place is 2Ti 3:5—“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof....” Hence, their knowledge of the truth in the sphere of the law was in appearance only. In contrast, the regenerated person is not satisfied without hearing the revealed truth that causes him to become established in the faith.

This religious nation tried to get others not to do as they did but to do what they said. They taught others but did not teach themselves. They preached that others should not steal but did not know they were stealing in many ways. The same was true of adultery and idolatry (Ro 2:21-22). They should have abhorred the violation of anything sacred. Paul then returned to the way he began his condemnation of these pietists in verse 17. While they were boasting in the sphere of the law, they were dishonoring God through the transgression of the law, because the name of God was blasphemed among the non-Jews through them, as it has been written (Ro 2:23-24).

God’s Just Judgment On Religious Rites

God’s judgment against religious rites is just (Ro 2:25-29). The religious rite of circumcision availed the Jews nothing because they were transgressors of the law (Ro 2:25). Circumcision was a seal: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised...” (Ro 4:11). However, a seal or sign is of no consequence when it has been removed from that which it certifies. The Jews were clinging to the symbol of circumcision in the flesh while knowing nothing about what circumcision symbolized. Likewise, many assembly members claim they have been baptized, are members of a certain denomination, were raised in a certain faith, etc. However, all these things are worthless without one’s having first died with Christ and having been made to walk in newness of life.

Paul spoke hypothetically of the non-Jews by using a subjunctive verb, “may keep” (phulasse, present active subjunctive of phulasso), with a third class condition conjunction, “if” (ean): “Therefore if the uncircumcision may keep the requirements of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be regarded for circumcision?” (Ro 2:26—translation). The answer to Ro 2:25-26 pertaining to judgment of those practicing religious rites without having been regenerated is recorded in Ro 2:27—“And shall not the uncircumcision by nature, the one carrying out the law, judge you, the one who through the letter and circumcision is a transgressor of the law?” (translation).

The real Jew is described in Ro 2:28-29—“For the Jew is not one in outward appearance, neither is circumcision outward in the flesh; but the Jew is one in his inmost being, and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter, whose praise is not out of men but out of God” (translation). He is one who has been circumcised in his heart and not merely in his flesh. Paul gave a Divine commentary on this in Ga 6:12-15—“As many as are desiring to make good showing in the flesh, they are insisting you to be circumcised, only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For the ones being circumcised are not keeping the law themselves, but they are desiring you to be being circumcised in order that they may glory in your flesh. But may it not happen for me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (translation). As the real Jew was not one who was merely outwardly circumcised, the real Christian is not the one who has been baptized as an outward sign; but he is the one who has been quickened by the Holy Spirit of God, thus having been made a new creation in Christ Jesus. The real Jew is described in Ro 9:4-8. There are Jews according to the flesh, and there are Jews according to the Spirit—those who have been regenerated (Ro 11).

I - 2D GOD’S JUST JUDGMENT ON DEPRAVED JEWS AND GENTILES - Romans 3:1-18

GOD’S JUST JUDGMENT ON DEPRAVED JEWS AND GENTILES - Ro 3:1-18

Beginning with Ro 3, Paul asked two questions but discussed one of them: “What then is the advantage of the Jew? Or what is the profit of the circumcision? Much in every way. For in the first place because they were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Ro 3:1-2—translation). God has given us His written revelation through the Jews, for which we shall be eternally grateful. The incarnate Word is the Christian’s power. The written word is the believer’s authority. To question Scripture as being God’s word is a denial of authority. The incarnate Word has declared the Father in His word (Joh 1:18). He told the mind of God. The incarnate Word declared the power of God in His works, the love of God in His compassion, the grace of God in His actions, the holiness of God in His character, the righteousness of God in His death, and the energy of God in His resurrection. The altitude of Scripture shows its Divine origin. Who can scale the heights of this mountain? The blessings show its Divine bounty. Its claims speak of Divine authority. Its diction declares its Divine Speaker. Its freshness tells out its Divine Author. Its order speaks of a Divine plan. Its questions speak of the Divine Convictor. Its wisdom displays the Divine Teacher.

Every time the expression “it is written” is found, it is perfect active indicative of grapho, signifying that it stands permanently written. Pertaining to sin, it stands permanently written that none is righteous (Ro 3:10). Pertaining to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it stands permanently written that He came to do the Father’s will (Heb 10:7). Pertaining to salvation, it stands permanently written that those bringing the gospel of peace are blessed (Ro 10:15). Pertaining to sanctification, it stands permanently written that Christians should be holy (1Pe 1:16). Pertaining to judgment, it stands permanently written that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent (1Co 1:19).

The attitude of both the Jews and the believers toward the word of God should be to view it with meekness (Jas 1:21), let it dwell in us richly (Col 3:16), keep it tenaciously by guarding it with our lives (Joh 17:6), continue in it untiringly (Joh 8:31), live it out faithfully (2Co 3:2-3), hold it forth boldly (Php 2:16), and meditate on it prayerfully (Ps 1:2). What advantage the Jews had in the word of God having been committed to them!

God’s Just Judgment On Jewish Unbelief

God’s judgment against the unbelief of the Jews is just (Ro 3:1-8). Three questions are raised and answered in these verses. All the questions are actually answered in the answer to the first question. Anticipating the questions, as was Paul’s manner, he answered them before they were raised. In his answer to the third question, “But if our unrighteousness is giving approval to the righteousness of God, what shall we say? is God unjust, the One who inflicts punishment? I am speaking according to man” (Ro 3:5—translation), Paul’s speaking according to man was his apology for discussing something so contrary to truth. This insertion in the last part of this verse was for Paul’s protection against false accusations that were being brought against him. The apostle answered the question: “Absolutely not; otherwise how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God by my lie abounded to His glory, why am I also being judged as a sinner? and not as we are being blasphemed and as some report us to say, Let us do evil, that good may come? whose judgment is just” (Ro 3:6-8—translation).

Paul had been condemning the Jews in Ro 2, especially Ro 2:17. He called them hypocrites. They were religionists, but they were not saved. Their circumcision was of the flesh, but their hearts had never been circumcised by the grace of God. Paul proved his accusations in the last verses of Ro 2. Knowing the Jews would, in the light of his condemnation, question the advantage of being a member of the chosen nation, Paul answered it: “Much in every way. For in the first place because they were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Ro 3:2—translation). Stephen, who Paul before his conversion experience had seen martyred, gave a brief historical account of the people of Israel. In his account, he reminded the Jews to whom he spoke that Moses had received from God the living oracles to give to the Jewish people (Ac 7:38). Stephen quoted the historical account and made application of it. The oracles were living to Moses, but they were not living to the Jews to whom Stephen spoke.

The whole Levitical system, consisting of the tabernacle, priesthood, and offerings, given to Moses to give to the children of Israel typifies what Jesus Christ would accomplish and what He would be to His people when He came. The whole system was living, because it typified Jesus Christ the living Savior. To Moses, who had the Spirit of God and with whom God spoke face to face (Ex 33:11), the oracles of God were living. Living oracles were given to a living man—Moses; and Moses was to give those words to the people to whom he ministered.

The Lord Jesus had spoken to the same hypocritical religionists within the same nation about Divine election and efficacious grace; but they rejected His words as being offensive to them, murmured among themselves, and turned and followed Him no more (Joh 6:57-66). Circumstances have not changed in the presence of the proclamation of the written word. The living Father sent the living Savior who spoke these living words to spiritually dead people. Anyone offended by God’s word is spiritually dead. Every person outside of Jesus Christ is ignorant about the most important things in life. Paul’s desire was that the brethren not be ignorant of the exemplary things recorded of Israel. “For I do not desire you to be ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized to Moses in the sphere of the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they were drinking of the same spiritual Rock following, and the Rock was Christ. But with the majority of them God was not well-pleased; for they were killed in the desert. Now these things were made examples, so that we should not be cravers for evil things, as those also lusted. Neither be idolaters, as some of them; as it has been written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither may we be committing fornication, as some of them committed and fell in one day 23,000. Neither may we be trying the Lord, as some of them also tried Him and were destroyed by the serpents. Neither be complaining, as some of them complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things were happening to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, to whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Co 10:1-11—translation). The Israelites represented a local assembly made up of saved and lost, and Paul was writing to the local assembly at Corinth, made up of saved and lost, using the Israelites as an example.

The Spirit is the One making alive; the body profits nothing (Joh 6:63). The words that Christ spoke are spiritual and living oracles. The only ones who understand Christ’s words in a spiritual sense, whether they are those who listened to Him in Person or those who listen to the proclamation of the word by others, will find them living in operation. The hearing ear, seeing eye, and receptive heart are possible because God has already made that one alive, thus giving him by grace the ability to hear, see, and receive the word. Nothing in the Christian life is greater than God’s word speaking to our hearts and then their becoming operative as a result of God’s having given us the ability to understand them.

The gospel comes to a quickened person not in word only but also in power: “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power [operative] and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you have known what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having welcomed the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1Th 1:5-6—translation). Paul thanked the Lord that this was true of the Thessalonian Christians: “And because of this we give thanks to God unceasingly, because having received the word of God which you heard from us you welcomed it not as a word from men but as it is in truth the word from God, which continually operates also in the ones believing” (1Th 2:13—translation). Hence, the word of God becomes the instrument not only of a person’s initial conversion experience, but it also becomes operative in his life in progressive sanctification. We learn these things from the word of God. Therefore, there is a realm of reality of truth beyond the comprehension of natural powers.

Jeremiah described the word of God as being like wheat, fire, and a hammer: “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jer 23:28-29). The purpose of wheat is to feed. Fire is felt. A living person cannot read and study the living word without feeling it. The result of feasting on the word is that the affectional nature is affected. An illustration of the word of God being like fire is the words of Jesus Christ burning in the hearts of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said to each other: Was not our heart burning in us while He talked with us in the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Lu 24:31-32—translation). The word is also like a hammer that breaks.

The woman of Samaria went to Jacob’s well for literal water, but Christ told her that when she drank of that water she would thirst again. But if she drank of the living water, the water He would give her, she would never thirst again (Joh 4:13-14). Blessings will flow to others through the one who has been made by the grace of God to drink of the living water (Joh 7:38). The living word operates in living people. Living persons are in union with the living God the Father by means of the living Son’s redemption accomplished at Calvary. That redemption is applied by the living Holy Spirit in regeneration. Then as living stones, we experience the living word in operation by presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. This is our reasonable service as we are motivated by the living hope of the coming of the living King who shall reign forever.

God’s Just Judgment On Universal Depravity

Human depravity is described (Ro 3:9-18), demonstrated (Ro 3:20), and condemned (Ro 3:19). All people enter this world depraved. We are rotten from head to toe: “...the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa 1:5-6). The depraved sinner is passive in regeneration. The Greek word for being born from above (gennao) is always in the passive voice. Since it is not in the middle voice, we do not participate in our deliverance. Regeneration is by God alone. Like the leper, we are totally at God’s mercy. We realize that no sin has been committed that we might not have committed, and whatever we blame in others can be found in our own hearts. We know things about ourselves that we would not tell anyone. We recognize Ro 3:10-18 as the true portrait of our own hearts.

Fourteen horrible indictments against man are recorded in Ro 3:9-18. The following three things are developed in the indictments: (1) the fact of depravity (Ro 3:9-12), (2) the practice of the depraved heart (Ro 3:13-17), and (3) the cause of sinning (Ro 3:18). The apostle did not exaggerate the account that he gave concerning the depravity of those who were under the law of conscience, the law of Moses, or even under the purer morality of Jesus Christ.

FIRST—The fact of depravity is taught in Ro 3:9-12. All without exception are under sin (Ro 3:9).

1. In the first of the fourteen indictments, God described man by saying there is not one righteous (Ro 3:10). This verse summarizes all that follows.

2. In the second of His fourteen indictments, God said that there is not one who understands (Ro 3:11a). Everyone can talk about religion and give his opinion, even though he has never read the Bible. This is not true in any other science. Sin has incapacitated mankind for making spiritual and good moral judgments. The same thing can be said of mankind that was stated of the people of Nineveh during Jonah’s time: “...Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand...” (Jon 4:11). A person may be an accomplished scientist or a profound scholar, but without the Spirit of wisdom that comes with regeneration, he cannot spiritually discern the things of God (1Co 2:14). Many local assembly members are destitute of moral and spiritual understanding. People who see no harm in this or that which they desire to do have no sense of guilt, and that is the symptom of an evil conscience. We must avoid the appearance of evil. Many try to see how close to the line of sin they may go. Where is the borderline? One might as well ask how close he can get to the fire without being burned. No true husband would ask how he might give the minimum of love and fidelity to his wife and how he may have the maximum of license. That is not the language of a Christian. Christians cannot serve the Lord and be continually hunting the borderline. No one can understand Biblical things and make Biblical judgments apart from grace and a knowledge of Holy Scripture.

3. The third indictment is that there is not one who seeks after God (Ro 3:11b). The claim that wherever one goes people are seeking the Lord is erroneous. One in earnest about seeking the Lord has already been given the desire to seek Him. We seek Him because we have first been sought and found by God.

4. The fourth indictment is that all turned away (Ro 3:12a) This is quoted from Ps 14:1—“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” The Hebrew word translated fool means the withered one, like flowers, leaves, or fruit. Since the understanding is withered by sin, man has no affinity for God. Everyone has turned from God’s way to his own way: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 14:12). The way to destruction is broad, and many are going down that path (Mt 7:13). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes...” (Pr 12:15). He hugs his own brain until he strangles it. He thinks his own wit is better than God’s wisdom. Sin comes with a show of reason; it “seemeth right.” Some doctrinal truths are more important than others, but everything is important in its place. There is a way that seems right, but the ways of death are many, such as willful ignorance, formality, doing one’s best, self-righteousness, etc. But these are not products of grace. He who makes a bridge of his own shadow shall surely drown.

5. The fifth indictment is that together they became worthless (Ro 3:12). This reminds us of Ro 1. God gives people over to a worthless mind. All homosexuals have been given over to a worthless mind.

6. The sixth indictment is that there is no one who does good (Ro 3:12). Depravity prevents all people from doing anything pleasing to God apart from grace. In the Greek text, the translation of these words is “no not so much as one” in order to emphasize what he had said. Hence, it reads, “There is not one doing good, not so much as one” (translation).

SECOND—The practice of depravity is taught in Ro 3:13-17.

7. The seventh indictment is included in the practice of depravity—their throat is an open grave (Ro 3:13). This is taken from Ps 5:9—“For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.” Such persons are corrupt in themselves and infectious to others. Unlike diseases, good health is not contagious. Likewise, grace is not contagious. Spiritual health is God-given. The nature and character of persons without grace are described by the open grave. The perfect Greek participle used here denotes a permanent and not a frequent character.

8. The eighth indictment is the second of those included in the practice of depravity—with their tongues they keep deceiving (Ro 3:13). We use such expressions as smooth talkers and slick talkers. They speak flattery and deceit with hypocritical lips. Their speech is contrary to their nature. Their words invent, invite, and entice, so that their listeners are disarmed by compliments. Flattery is their means; hypocrisy is the motive behind the method. The water is sweet only that it might be bitter. It has been said that they are vilest when they are best; they are bitterest when they are sweetest; they are basest when they are noblest; they are most satanic when their ill garb is manifested in the spirit in which they manifest themselves.

9. The ninth indictment is the third of those included in the practice of depravity—the poison of snakes is under their lips (Ro 3:13). Some think the comparison is to the Egyptian cobra. This denotes a poisonous form of speech used for the injection of deadly corruption. The serpent signifies the crookedness of life and the readiness to inject his poison.

10. The tenth indictment is the fourth included in the practice of depravity—their mouth is full of profanity and hatred (Ro 3:14). Vulgarity is the most obnoxious form of speech. Slander is the most deadly, but profanity is inexcusable.

11. The eleventh indictment is the fifth included in the practice of depravity—their feet are swift to shed blood (Ro 3:15). That takes in the whole person. It begins with the head and goes down to the feet. Crime is the fruit of bitterness. Jesus Christ alone can solve the crime problem when He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords.

12. The twelfth indictment is the sixth included in the practice of depravity—destruction and misery are in their ways (Ro 3:16). Destruction is objective. Misery is subjective.

13. The thirteenth indictment is the seventh included in the practice of depravity—a road of peace they did not know (Ro 3:17). There is no peace apart from Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace. God alone has the answer. We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but we know who controls tomorrow. This is the reason the children of God have peace.

THIRD—The cause of all that is included in Ro 3:10-17 is recorded in Ro 3:18.

14. The fourteenth indictment is that the cause of sin is the absence of reverential fear before their eyes (Ro 3:18). We have already discussed slavish and reverential fear in a previous chapter.

The whole world of mankind is charged with depravity (Ro 3:9-20). The following court scene will summarize these verses: (1) The accused are all under sin. (2) The judge is God. (3) The jury is the deeds of the law. (4) The charge is fourteen violations that we have considered (vv. 10-18). (5) The prosecuting attorney is the righteous, holy law of God. (6) The defense is that every mouth is stopped. (7) The verdict is that the accused are guilty before God.

In the sphere of the law, every mouth is silenced: “But we have known that whatever things the law says it says to the ones in the sphere of the law, in order that every mouth may be silenced and all the world may become guilty before God; for by reason of the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before Him; for through law is the full knowledge [epignosis] of sin. But now apart from law God’s righteousness has been manifested [perfect passive indicative of phaneroo], being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even a righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, to all the ones believing; for there is no distinction; for all sinned and are coming short of the glory of the God” (Ro 3:19-23—translation). This concludes the dark and bleak description of mankind. Preachers must tell people what they are before God whether or not they like to hear it. Since Ro 1:18, we have viewed sinners as helpless and hopeless apart from the grace of God. Against this dark background, God declared the remedy beginning with Ro 3:24.

II *** Christ Could Not Be Tempted

II 001 Index

CONTENTS

Best II 002 Author's Remarks

Best II 01 INTRODUCTION

Best II 02 CHRIST WAS NEVER TEMPTED TO SIN

Best II 03 THE DOCTRINE THAT CHRIST WAS PECCABLE IS HERESY

Best II 04 CHRIST WAS TESTED APART FROM SIN

Best II 05 TEACHERS OF PECCABILITY PROCLAIM ANOTHER JESUS

Best II 06 JESUS CHRIST IS THE UNIQUE PERSON

Best II 07 CHRIST ASSUMED A HUMAN NATURE

Best II 08 THE GOD-MAN LACKED KNOWLEDGE

Best II 09 TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART 1)

Best II 10 TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART II)

Best II 11 EXEGESIS OF SCRIPTURE PROVES IMPECCABILITY

Best II 12 CHRIST AFFIRMED HIS IMPECCABILITY

Best II 13 THERE WAS NO SIN IN THE INCARNATE CHRIST

Best II 14 CHRIST DID NOT SIN DURING THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH

Best II 15 CHRIST WHO KNEW NO SIN WAS MADE SIN

Best II 16 OPPOSITE IMPUTATIONS ARE INSEPARABLE

Best II 17 SINS ARE FORGIVEN AND SIN IS CONDEMNED

Best II 18 CHRIST WAS BOTH PRIEST AND SACRIFICE

Best II 19 JESUS CHRIST IS HIGH PRIEST FOREVER

II 002 Author's Remarks

AUTHOR’S REMARKS

The title to this book may startle the reader. However, the evidence for Christ’s untemptability should be considered before one closes his mind. The author has never believed that Christ was peccable; but like many others, he has taught that the incarnate Son of God was tempted but due to His two holy natures He never yielded. The reason for the incorrect usage of the verb “tempted” was the incorrect translation of the Greek verb peiradzo when considering Christ. This verb can mean to test, try, or tempt. However, a study of the noun peirasmos and the verb peiradzo will prove there is no justification for translating these words as “temptation” or “to tempt” when they are used in reference to Jesus Christ.

The idea that Jesus Christ could be tempted is unfounded in the Biblical concept of Christ’s Person. Since Christ did not have a sin nature, solicitation to do something contrary to God’s will could not be entertained in His holy thought. Therefore, He could not be tempted. A study of Jas 1:2-15 proves that temptation has no power over a perfect Person, but it does over a depraved person.

Unless the reader is willing to consider the Biblical evidence for Christ’s untemptability presented in this book, he need not read any further than this paragraph. The Bible says, “He who gives an  answer  before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Pr 18:13 NASB). False principles and false rules of interpretation lie at the foundation of false doctrine. Therefore, Biblical evidence and not human reason must be considered as the foundation of every Biblical question. Hence, everyone who gives his opinion before he hears or reads the Biblical evidence is foolish. The Christian desires to know the truth and abide by its teaching.

This book will demonstrate the author’s growth in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18). More than twenty years ago he wrote his first book entitled STUDIES IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. That book, which is in  print, dealt with Christ’s impeccability; but this second work, dealing with Christology, is an improvement over the first. The Lord willing, if the writer adds a later work on the same subject, he hopes by God’s grace that it will be an improvement over the two preceding ones.

II 01 INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

The very heart of Christianity is the Person of Christ. Moreover, the Scriptures focus not only on the Person of Jesus Christ but also on His Work. However, we must ever keep in mind that Christ’s Person preceded His Work, for He is the eternal Son of God.

Salvation, the redemptive Work of Jesus Christ, is vitally connected with His Person. His Person and not His Work gives value to His Work. If Jesus Christ is not who the Bible represents Him to be, then His Work as Redeemer and Savior would be invalid. Thus, those who affirm His peccability invalidate His Work. There is such an inseparability between Christ’s Person and Work that any separation would cause one to go astray with respect to both. Thus, the slightest abstract notion of His Person would take from the real essence of His Work. Moreover, an isolated consideration of His Work is impossible because it can only be known in connection with His Person. His Person cannot be isolated from His Work, and His Work cannot be isolated from His Person.

The elect understand not only what Jesus Christ does but who He is—the One sent by the Father for their salvation. Without this knowledge, one can only be puzzled by His Work and ask “...Whence hath this man...these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son?...” (Mt 13:54-57). Failure to know Jesus Christ is failure to understand His Work. Furthermore, failure to see His Work in its correct perspective is failure to understand His Person. The starting point of Christology must be the entire witness of Holy Scripture concerning both Christ’s Person and His Work.

The confusion today is not objective but subjective. In other words, the real problem lies in the subjective condition of man’s heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...” (Jer 17:9). Our only safeguard is the objective revelation of Scripture, for there is nothing wrong with the objective revelation of Jesus Christ. Man-made concepts of Jesus Christ are easily turned into opposite concepts. For example, “Hail” and then “Crucify”.

The Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily humbled Himself (Php 2:5-8). To speak of Christ’s humiliation is permissible, but the better term in the light of the context is self-humbleness. This passage of Scripture does not actually teach humiliation, the act of humiliating, or the state of being humiliated or dishonored — all of which are true. It teaches Christ’s voluntary act of coming into the world. In this, His self-humbleness is displayed.

The three different states of Jesus Christ revealed in Php 2:5-11 are glory, self-humbleness, and exaltation. If Christ’s natural—essential—state of glory were removed, there could be no self-humbleness. He was in a state of glory before He entered a state of self-humbleness. He was in the form of God before He was made into the likeness of man. He experienced a state of self-humbleness before He entered into a state of exaltation. Jesus Christ spoke of entering into the glory which He had with the Father before the world began after He had finished the work the Father sent Him to perform (Joh 17:4-5). He manifested His moral glory during His self-humbleness. But His essential glory was necessary to that moral glory, and His state of self-humbleness preceded His entering into the state of exaltation.

There are seven points in our Lord’s vast condescension when He left the glory He had with the Father and came into this world in self-humbleness:

1. He was in the form of God.

2. He emptied Himself.

3. He took the form of a servant or bond slave.

4. He was made in the likeness of men.

5. He humbled Himself.

6. He became obedient unto death.

7. He experienced the death of the Cross.

The glory of Jesus Christ is revealed in the fact that He is in the form of God. The form of God is to be understood as the nature and essence of God. This is the only way the Greek word for “form” can be understood in Php 2:6. It describes the Lord Jesus Christ as He was from all eternity. “The form of a servant” of verse 7 signifies that He was really a servant. “In fashion as a man” means that He was really the God-Man. Therefore, His being in the form of God reveals that He is really and truly God, that He shares the same nature with the Father and was possessed with the same glory. He possessed all the attributes of deity. The Holy Spirit revealed, through the apostle Paul, the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord in heaven and on earth in relation to the Father and in relation to man. “Who being in the form of God” or “subsisting in the form of God” reveals Christ’s essential deity, which once having had, can never be diminished. This glory or honor of Jesus Christ could never be given up, but it was veiled by being made into the likeness of men.

The self-humbleness of the Lord Jesus Christ is seen in the fact that He emptied Himself. This is a fathomless statement. Eternity alone will suffice to plumb the depths of its meaning. He did not empty Himself of deity. That was essential to His being. He did not become less God by being made in the likeness of men. He veiled the essential glory of His deity, which was His from eternity, to accomplish His redemptive purpose in obedience to God the Father who sent Him into the world. He was not emptied of that fullness of grace which was in Him from everlasting. He appeared with this when He was made flesh and dwelt among men. He was not emptied of the perfections of His divine nature, which were not in the least diminished by the assumption of the human nature. All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily (Col 2:9). Although the Lord Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, took that which He did not have before, He lost nothing of what He had from eternity. The glory of His divine nature was covered; this is what took place when He emptied Himself. It was out of sight, but some rays and beams of it broke out through His works and miracles, which He performed during the thirty-three and one-half years that He walked among the sons of men. His glory as of the only begotten of the Father was beheld by only a few. The minds of the greater number were blinded and their hearts were hardened by not only the miracles they saw Him perform but the words they heard Him speak. They saw no form nor comeliness in Him to desire Him (Is. 53:2). The form of God in which He is eternally was hidden from them. They reputed Him as a mere man, as the despised Man, even as a worm (Ps 22:6).

“Being found in fashion as a man” indicates a permanent union of the two natures. Thus, we have the hypostatic union. This hypostatic union is not to be confused with the theophanies, the preincarnate manifestations of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament. The theophanies were temporary; whereas, this hypostatic union is permanent. The key to the whole subject of the kenosis (Christ emptied Himself) is in the word “likeness.” It is a window through which floods the light of His redemptive purpose in the incarnation. God was sending His only begotten Son “...in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Ro 8:3 NASB). “In the likeness of men” of Php 2:7 conveys the full reality of Christ’s human nature. He who had said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Ge 1:26) is now made in man’s likeness. What condescension for sinful man to hold in contemplation. The extent of His self-humbleness is manifested in His death. He was obedient unto death. The obedience of the first man, Adam, would have been unto life, but he disobeyed. The obedience of the God-Man was unto death. Adam’s disobedience brought his posterity, and that includes all mankind, a harvest of death. Jesus Christ’s obedience brought His posterity, His sheep, out of death into life. He voluntarily subjected Himself to this self-humbleness. He was not thrust down into it by force. He voluntarily came to do the will of His Father.

The exaltation of Jesus Christ far out-distanced His self-humbleness. His exaltation consists of three stages:

1.  In the past, God has highly exalted Him (Php 2:9; Eph 1:20-23).

2.  In the present, He has been given a name which is above every name (Php 2:9).

3.  In the future, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Php 2:10-11).

We must never permit ourselves to conceive of Him in the kenosis as any Person other than God who changes not (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). In His self-humbleness, He was God manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16).

In what sense did Jesus Christ empty Himself?

1.  He took upon Himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.

2.  He humbled Himself and became obedient.

This is the sense in which He emptied Himself. However, there was no change in His essential being. He did two things He had never done before, and this helps us to better understand the meaning of “He emptied Himself”:

1.  He became dependent. The Son can do nothing of Himself (Joh 5:19,30; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10). The very essence of a man and a servant is that He is dependent. This, then, was the grace of the Son in that He willingly submitted Himself in all things to depend on the Father. Therefore, He said, “...I live by the Father...” (Joh 6:57).

2.  He became obedient. He whom all principalities and powers obeyed learned in a new experience the grace of obedience (Heb 5:8). His was the open ear. He was the instructed One of Isa 50:4. This, however, does not mean He divested Himself of the powers He possessed as God.

Liberals conclude the following statements:

1.  Because Jesus Christ said “I can of mine own self do nothing” (Joh 5:30), He was not omnipotent.

2.  Because He said “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there” (Joh 11:15), He was not omnipresent.

3.  Because He knew not the hour (Mr 13:32), He was not omniscient.

4.  Because the Bible says He “was in all points tempted like as we are” (Heb 4:15), He had the capacity to sin. The liberal might as well go all the way and say that because Jesus Christ was man He was not God, and deny the great mystery of godliness — “...Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh...” (1Ti 3:16).

What is the meaning of Jesus Christ emptying Himself? Did He divest Himself of His essential glory, or did He veil His essential glory by being made in the likeness of sinful men? He did not become less God because of the incarnation. God manifest in the flesh is the foundation of Christianity. That one should be the God-Man is the great mystery of our faith.

When Christianity expresses what she knows of the Lord Jesus Christ, she calls Him the God-Man. Christ’s inner nature and His eternal, historical reality in His appearance before men were not contradictory. The Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, walked among the sons of men, shed His precious blood on Calvary, and arose from the dead. The contrast between what appeared to be and what the Lord Jesus Christ was essentially became sharper and sharper even to the point of His death at Calvary. The Lord Jesus, who is eternal life, sank in death in order to give life to the elect of God (Joh 10:11,15). The apostle Peter rebuked the Lord Jesus Christ in Mt 16:22-23 because the disciples were unable to understand His death. The disciples were ignorant of many truths concerning Christ’s Person. The contrasts in Christ’s life were not reconciled in His death but in His resurrection (Ro 1:3-4). After His resurrection, the disciples saw what Jesus Christ is eternally in nature. He was then proved to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection out from among the dead (Ro 1:4).

The Lord Jesus declared, “I and my Father are one” (Joh 10:30). “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (Joh 10:31). The Jews told Him they did not stone Him for a good work but for blasphemy. Anyone who does not believe Jesus Christ is the God-Man, one Person possessing two natures, has no mediator. To be mistaken about the Person of Jesus Christ is indeed tragic. One would do better not to touch the study of the Person of Jesus Christ than go outside the circle of Biblical revelation. The Person of Jesus Christ is absolutely beyond our comprehension.

The distinctive characteristic of the incarnation is the hypostatic union, the union of two natures in one person. He was not two persons but one Person with two natures. Proper distinction must be made between a trinitarian Person (whether it be the Father, Son or Holy Spirit), a human person, and a theanthropic Person.

A trinitarian Person possesses only one nature. Three Persons are in the Godhead. They are one essence, one substance. They have one nature, which is divine. Before the incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ possessed only one nature, the divine nature.

The human person possesses two natures—material and immaterial. His material nature alone is visible. The material body came into existence when God made man from the dust of the earth. The immaterial part of man came into existence when God breathed into that body, and man became a living soul (Ge 2:7). Man’s immaterial nature is of utmost importance. His material nature will return to the dust of the earth, but his immaterial nature will go to be with the Lord.

A theanthropic Person has three natures. Jesus Christ alone is the Theanthropic Person. He has the divine essence, a human body, and a human soul. His human body was assumed, never to be laid aside. He sits today at the right hand of the Father in the same body in which He was glorified.

“Nature” denotes the sum total of all essential qualities of a thing—that which makes it what it really is. The nature of the Godhead pertains to all the essential qualities of the Godhead. “Person” denotes a complete substance endowed with reason. Therefore, it is a nature with something added; that added thing is individuality. Nature is invisible and natures are indistinguishable, but persons are distinguishable. Nature is visible only as it is reflected in one’s person. Each Person of the Godhead is God, having the same nature. Nevertheless, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Jesus Christ assumed a nature that was not personalized. It did not exist by itself.

The distinction between human nature and person is illustrated in Ro 9:21. The potter’s power over the clay denotes the absolute sovereignty of God. A lump of clay consists in one nature. So He took part of that one lump and made a vessel of honor, and He took another part and made a vessel of dishonor. Both vessels came from the same lump. However, when the Creator fashions the lump into vessels, they become personalized in particular vessels.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Theanthropic Person, the God-Man. He existed in the form of God before He came into the world. He did not cease from that form when He took upon Himself the form of a servant. The form of God was veiled with the form of a servant. Therefore, He was in the likeness of sinful flesh with emphasis on the word “likeness.” Many looked upon Him during His life when He walked among the sons of men; and they said, “Behold the man” (Joh 19:5). One must have grace to penetrate the human nature of Jesus Christ and see the divine nature; and grace enables him to see in Him the Theanthropic Person, the God-Man.

The conception of Jesus Christ was unlike that of men. His birth was no different from any other. The virgin Mary signified that He was miraculously conceived in her womb. His entire life differed from the lives of mere men. Therefore, the expressions “Son of Man,” “Son of God,” “Man approved of God,” and “Behold the man” denote One who is not just a mere man. They indicate the Theanthropic Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared in the form of a servant. The theanthropic personality of Jesus Christ began with the incarnation. He did not exist eternally as the God-Man. There was no modification nor alteration of the Holy Trinity when Jesus Christ came into the world and assumed a human nature. A fourth person was not added to the divine Triunity. There is still just a holy Triunity. The one God condescended to reveal Himself. While there is only one God, there are in the one divine essence three distinct Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

II 02 CHRIST WAS NEVER TEMPTED TO SIN

CHRIST WAS NEVER TEMPTED TO SIN

Temptation has no power over a perfect Person, but it does over a depraved person. Jesus Christ, during His days in the flesh, was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Heb 7:26). To suggest that He had a nature subject to sin is nothing short of blasphemy. On the other hand, depraved men are capable of sin because each one has a mind that is ready to receive an evil suggestion. Man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust (Jas 1:14). The Greek word for “lust” is epithumia. It means lust, desire, craving, or longing. A person is tempted when he is enticed by his own craving for that which is forbidden or unlawful. No one who understands the Biblical teaching concerning the Person of Jesus Christ could entertain a thought that He could desire the unlawful or forbidden. That is why James said, “God cannot be tempted with evil” (Jas 1:13).

The word “temptation” does not always carry the same connotation in every passage where it is used. It comes from the Greek word peirasmos, which means trial, proof, or temptation. The noun is related to the verb peiradzo, which means to test, to try, or to tempt. Both words may be used in either a good or a bad sense. For example, the noun is used in Jas 1:2,12; and the verb is used four times in Jas 1:13-14. In Jas 1:2,12, the noun would be better translated “trial.” The Christian “endures” an outward trial, but he should “resist” an inward temptation to evil. Hence, the distinction must be made between remaining steadfast under trial and being ensnared by one’s own sinful nature. The former is outward, and the latter is inward. God tried Abraham (Heb 11:17; Ge 22:1), but He did not tempt Abraham. The word “tempt” of Ge 22:1 should be “tried” or “tested,” because “...God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (Jas 1:13). This means that God is incapable not only of being solicited to sin but of soliciting any man to sin. On the other hand, God does try or test man to prove to him what he really is (1Pe 1:6; 4:12; Re 2:2,10; 3:10). Outward trials are from God, but inward temptations are from the evil passion of depraved man.

God decreed sin, but He neither solicits nor forces anyone to sin. If God had not ordained sin, Christ would never have been crucified by the hands of wicked men (Ac 2:23). Satan solicits people to sin, but God overrules and makes the evil acts of men work for man’s good and God’s glory. It is interesting to observe the attributes of God that are advanced by sin. God’s mercy pardons sin; His justice punishes sin; His wisdom orders sin; and His power overrules sin. The source of sin is man’s depravity, but God is not the author of that depravity.

Those who claim that Jesus Christ had the capacity to sin are forced to admit that He became less than God in the incarnation. Such thinking is in direct opposition to Scripture which states: “...God cannot be tempted [apeirastos, an adjective which means inexperienced in temptation; incapable of being tempted] with evil [kakon, genitive plural of kakos —of evils]...” (Jas 1:13). God can never be induced to act inconsistently with any attribute of His character. The human nature of the Son of God in His incarnation did not exist apart from the Divine Person. If Jesus Christ had the capacity to sin, the Divine Person had the capacity to sin. His holy, human nature united to His Divine nature eliminates any concept of peccability (Lu 1:35). There can never be any conflict between two absolutely holy natures. The Bible says Christ was made in the “likeness of men” (Php 2:7), but it never says He possessed a “sinful nature” or was nothing more than a mere man.

The “lust” (desire, craving, or longing) by which man is tempted is not of God. It is his own lust, which is the fruit of the fall. Evil that is in man is his own. Within man’s heart are evil desires. They are there by nature. The Devil does not introduce them. All Satan does is find out where man is most vulnerable and bombard him with things he craves. The evil suggestion admitted into one’s mind will grow in strength because of the evil desire already resident in man unless it is resisted by grace.

This is the question: Did Satan ever find a weak spot in Jesus Christ? Since there was no weakness in Him, He could never be solicited to do anything contrary to His holy character. Therefore, Jesus Christ could not be tempted with evil (Jas 1:13). It must be understood that evil exists in man before it comes forth from him in action. On the other hand, there was no evil in Christ. He could not be tempted by any suggestion or solicitation from without.

To say that Christ could have sinned as to His human nature but not as to His Divine nature forces one to conclude that there was a conflict between His two natures. This was impossible because His human nature was united to His Divine Person. Thus, there was never any conflict in Christ as there is in the Christian (Ro 7:15-25).

There are several things to consider in the solicitation to sin. First, there is the attraction by the suggestion of something that is desirable. That which is desired is forbidden. In order for the tempted to have what has been suggested, he must ignore a Biblical precept. However, having been intellectually enlightened as to the advantages to oneself personally, he now begins to rationalize the suggestion. The suggestion and the desire become so strongly united that the person soon is made to feel justified in doing what all along he desired to do. The more the suggestion is rationalized the more desirable it becomes. There is nothing left for the tempted person to do but succumb to what was already in his heart.

One cannot deny that the Devil made some offers to Christ in the wilderness. Neither can one deny that the eternal Son was eternally aware of every detail of the offers made by the Devil. But it is nothing short of blasphemy to entertain the thought that the Son of God wanted anything offered by the Devil. Some religious leaders are so full of iniquity that they maintain that the human nature of Jesus Christ was as fallen and rebellious as their own. The Bible teaches that the human nature is corrupt from head to foot (Isa 1:6), but it is a sign of spiritual blindness to imagine that Christ’s human nature was tainted with depravity. Christ’s human nature is called “that holy thing” (Lu 1:35).

Jesus Christ experienced only the suffering part of peirasmos; whereas, man experiences both the suffering and the sinning parts of temptation. Suggestion can do nothing without lust (desire). Christ had no lust; therefore, He did not suffer the sinning part of temptation. That which inwardly tempts the heart must come from within oneself: “...man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas 1:14). Lust and enticement work together. The Greek word for “enticed” of Jas 1:14 is deleadzo, which means to entrap, to catch with a bait, to allure, or entice. Hence, it can be said that one is enticed to sin when he is entrapped by his own craving. This means there is something in depraved man that is drawn (exelko, to draw out; metaphorically to hurry away—leap) to the lure of something within the temptation. Both “drawn” (exelkomenos) and “enticed” (deleadzomenos) are present passive participles. The passive voice means the subject was acted upon. But in Jas 1:15, the apostle went on to say, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” The Greek word for “conceived” is sullabousa, second aorist active participle of sullambano, which means to seize, to apprehend, to conceive, or to become pregnant. This means that when the suggestion is embraced by the assent of the will, sin is brought forth. James is using the language of pregnancy and childbirth. As a child is alive before the actual moment of birth, sin does not begin to be sinful only when it is manifested in a visible action. Jesus Christ did not have a depraved will to give assent to any evil suggestion. Therefore, there could never be any conception, which proves Christ was not peccable.

When one understands the Biblical use of temptation, he will have no problem with the so-called “temptation of Christ.” Jesus Christ was not tempted, but He was “tried” to prove to mankind who He is—God incarnate. Temptation, in the English language, is the act of tempting. It is something that tempts, entices, or allures. It is the fact or state of being tempted, especially to evil. On the other hand, the word “test” is the means by which the quality or genuineness of anything is determined, a means of trial. It is the trial of the quality of something. Jesus Christ asserted His own impeccability when He said, “...the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (Joh 14:30). Satan had nothing in the incarnate Word because Jesus Christ “...knew no sin...” (2Co 5:21) and “...in him is no sin” (1Jo 3:5). Therefore, He “...did no sin...” (1Pe 2:22).

II 03 THE DOCTRINE THAT CHRIST WAS PECCABLE IS HERESY

THE DOCTRINE THAT CHRIST WAS PECCABLE IS HERESY

Religious institutions that embrace the doctrine that Christ was peccable (capable of sinning) are Laodicean organizations. Like the Laodicean Church of Re 3:14-22, they may be rich, increased with goods, and feel they have need of nothing. But they are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They are Laodicean because they have closed the door to the impeccable Christ of Holy Scripture. Hence, the impeccable Christ of the Bible is standing at the door of those religious institutions knocking for entrance. Christ’s knocking is not at the door of unregenerate hearts but upon the door of regenerate hearts to repent and come out as witnesses against the apostates—those who have turned their backs on the Biblical truth of Christ’s impeccability. It is absolutely unthinkable to imagine that the Holy Spirit who regenerates the elect would lead the regenerated to embrace a peccable Christ. No one can have a true conversion experience by believing in a peccable savior. Jesus Christ comes into and has fellowship with only those who embrace Him as the impeccable Savior.

The teaching that Christ was peccable has become a popular doctrine among religionists. The following list briefly states the beliefs of some who teach that Christ could sin:

1.  One believes that depravity was imparted to Christ in birth making it possible for Him to sin and to suffer for sin. Thus, He was more sympathetic to us in our depravity.

2.  Another believes that Christ, as man, could have sinned but did not and was tempted but did not yield. The so-called temptation of Christ is regarded as real with a genuine appeal to Him as a man.

3.  Still another believes that it was in God’s plan to give Satan occasion to try to cause Christ to sin. Passing this test would prove that Christ is the qualified God-Man.

4.  This person says that Christ, being human, found Satan’s offers attractive; and although He did not, He could have chosen to sin.

5.  This final view is more subtle. Although He did not experience sin, He was subjected to the temptation. Thus, His intercession for us is with greater understanding. His power of feeling for our needs is greater because He has experienced the strength of the temptation to sin. How can one feel what he has not experienced?

The Person of Christ must be distinguished from the person of man. Unlike man’s creation, Christ’s Person was uncreated. Christ did not assume a sinful person any more than God made man deity. Jesus Christ is God’s Man by incarnation, but Adam was God’s man by creation. Jesus Christ is God’s “only begotten” — the unique or only one of His kind — Son; man is not the only one of his kind. The essential Divine nature in Jesus Christ cannot grow; but the God-like nature in the believer does grow (2Pe 1:4 ff.). Jesus Christ was not born of the virgin with an ego turned away from God; man is born with an ego turned away from God. There was only one ego in Christ, and that one ego always pleased the Father. On the other hand, man’s depraved ego never pleases God. It is incapable of doing so.

Christ is the firstborn (Lu 2:7; Col 1:15; Re 1:5). Firstborn has no reference to the origin of Christ’s existence. He is the One who has brought forth everything. Therefore, He is the firstborn who created man (Joh 1:1-3). Jesus Christ is the firstfruits (1Co 15:23). The Greek word aparche primarily denotes an offering of firstfruits. Although the word is plural in the Kings James Bible, it is singular in the Greek text. Jesus Christ is the first in order of dignity, causality, resurrection, and influence. Believers, on the other hand, are a kind of firstfruits of God’s creatures (Jas 1:18). The Greek word tina (tis) is an indefinite pronoun which means a certain one, some one, or a kind of.

While it is true that Christ was “made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:7), it is also true that He is very much unlike men. Demands for a complete parallel between Christ and man can never be met. In Christ’s conception and birth, there was a union of the eternal Son with human nature (Joh 1:1,14). This was very much unlike man’s conception and birth. Man is the created creature of God; therefore, he is not eternal. Furthermore, since Adam, man is the product of procreation. Christ’s conception was without a human father. His human nature was from God the Father, by the Holy Spirit, and in the womb of the virgin (Heb 10:5; Mt 1:18-21; Lu 1:35). Man is the product of a man and a woman who conceived man in sin (Ps 51:5). Human initiation was completely excluded in Christ’s conception, which enables us to understand the total absence of any capability to sin in the Person and Life of Christ. He stood outside of Adam and ordinary generation. Contrarily, man owes his existence to human initiation in the providence of God. He is a sinner by nature.

Christ’s earthly life and ministry were never identified with the degradation of sinful men. He identified Himself with the titles and designations which prove His identification was with the elect as the subjects of Divine grace. To suggest that Jesus Christ was identified with fallen mankind, except in His redemptive work, would be blasphemous. Hence, the Son of God never identified Himself with fallen human nature until He did so sacrificially at Calvary. Only at Calvary did “the Holy One” come into personal identification with sin. There, on the cross, Christ identified Himself vicariously and sacrificially with sin.

The inspired writer of Hebrews spoke of the incarnation: “...in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren...” (Heb 2:17). “In all things” (kata panta) should be taken with “made like.” While Jesus Christ shared in some experiences of men, one must not overlook the truth that there were some things in which He did not share. The same Greek construction is used in Heb 4:15 — “...but was in all points [kata panta] tempted [pepeirasmenon — having been tried] like as we are, yet without sin.” Hence, neither “made like” nor “in all things” can be understood to mean in an absolute sense. Both are qualified, if not in the immediate context, in the overall context of Scripture. Christ’s conception and birth were different from His brethren because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. Furthermore, His life was different, because, unlike His brethren, He was impeccable. Finally, His death was different because He died for the sins of His brethren—the elect.

If Jesus Christ was made in the incarnation like unto His brethren “in all things” without qualification, His brethren were without a standard above themselves. When one examines the text (Heb 2:17) closely, he will observe orderly points in his devotion to Christ. First, “it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren.” The Greek word homoiothenai is first aorist passive infinitive of homoioo, which means to make like, cause to be like; passively, to be made like, to become like, or resemble. Who was made like His brethren? He was the “only begotten God [theos]” (Joh 1:18 NASB). Here, we see His Divine nature, a trinitarian Person. Second, we see His human nature. He had a human spirit, a human soul, and a human body. Third, the union of the two natures is expressed in the passive infinitive “to be made.” This points to the union of both natures in one Person. Christ’s likeness unto His brethren is not what mortal man might imagine. His essential form did not take the form of a servant from Him, nor did this union alter His equality with the Father. Finally, the purpose of the union of the two natures is expressed in the words “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” There is a difference between the Sanctifier and the sanctified, even though the sanctified are made one with the Sanctifier by grace (Heb 2:9-11).

It behoved Christ to be made like unto His brethren. The Greek word for “behoved” is opheilen, the imperfect active indicative of opheilo, which means to owe money, service, or love; duty or obligation. It has been said that to give a gift and call it a debt is not our usual language, but it is the language of heaven. The word implies a necessity. The Son of God was obligated by an eternal decree. He must be about His Father’s business. Since the Sanctifier was obligated to be made like unto us, His brethren, the brethren are obligated to be like unto the Sanctifier. Conclusively, if the Sanctifier was made like unto the brethren “in all things” without qualification, the elect could never have been sanctified because the Sanctifier would have needed sanctification.

II 04 CHRIST WAS TESTED APART FROM SIN

CHRIST WAS TESTED APART FROM SIN

During the Arian controversy of the fourth century, two Greek words were brought before the religious world. They were homoousion, the same in substance, and homoiousion, of a similar substance. The only difference between the two words was one Greek character, “i” (iota), but what a great difference it made in the Biblical concept of the Person of Jesus Christ. Arianism, a heretical doctrine taught by Arius, was the doctrine that Jesus Christ was not of the same substance, essence, or nature with God the Father. Athanasius, on the other hand, declared that Jesus Christ was of the same substance with the Father.

Athanasius declared for 47 years Christ’s homoousion. He was driven into exile five times. His enemies slandered him, and death threatened him. But he continued to declare Christ’s homoousion, “the same in substance, equal in power and glory,” at the expense of having his pulpit undermined. Constantine the Great was so moved by the controversy that he authorized a council to consider the question of Christ’s Person. Hence, a Synod convened in Alexandria for the examination of Arianism. Arius was condemned and expelled by nearly 100 pastors and bishops.

There is another controversy over the Person of Christ in the twentieth century. It, too, involves two words, impeccability and peccability. Impeccability means Christ could not sin, and peccability means He could sin. Some uninformed “church members” (religionists) may not feel that the controversy is serious enough to cause divisions. However, God’s elect who have been led by the Spirit of regeneration to embrace the impeccable Savior in a true conversion experience are responsible to cry out against the heresy of peccability. In fact, they, like Athanasius of old, cannot keep quiet when the Person of their Savior is being questioned.

Peccability is related to temptability. This means that man is tempted to outward sin by inward sin. Inward sin is the fruit of depravity. The aim of temptation is to persuade man to outwardly manifest inward sin and to bring him to the guilt of his inward and outward sin before others. No person can be tempted to sin without a sinful propensity. Thus, the difference between sin and temptation is revealed.

The Bible defines sin as transgression of the law (1Jo 3:4). Man is subject to certain desires which are essential to human nature. However, these desires are to be gratified in God’s appointed ways. Adam failed to do this. Therefore, he fell and all his posterity fell in him. Temptation is outward allurement. It suggests to inward depravity the advantage of succumbing to the outward attraction. Thus, man’s inward weakness is influenced to some object of natural desire. Without the restraint of the fear of God (Jer 32:40), a man will submit to fulfilling his inward evil desire.

Those who embrace the doctrine of peccability say the impossibility for Christ to sin would destroy the whole meaning of temptation in the life of Christ. Their opinion is that although Christ was without sin, He was not without the susceptibility to temptation. Furthermore, they claim that the area of testing and the potential for falling were in His humanity. They conclude that since He was fully human, He could have made the wrong choice.

Peccability teachers have sought to explain Christ’s temptation of Heb 4:15 — “...was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” — in the following way: Imagine a father in days of great poverty who has the opportunity to take some money belonging to another person. He was not guilty of stealing the money, but the thought of a starving family made him feel the temptation. Furthermore, imagine a Christian sentenced to die if he does not renounce Jesus Christ. The love of life would make the Christian feel the temptation. It is therefore conceivable that although Christ was without sin, He was not without susceptibility to temptation.

The preceding explanation is false and the truth of Heb 4:15 should be considered. The infirmities (astheneiais, dative plural of astheneia, weakness) did not refer to sin. They cover the frailties of human nature. Christ’s human nature was subject to limitations and trials with the one exception that He could have no experimental knowledge of sin. He did not possess a sinful human nature. His human nature was only made in the likeness of sinful nature (Ro 8:3). Christ’s conception and birth protect His human nature from defilement with depravity. “Like as we are” is the translation of kath homoioteta, ablative singular of homoiotes, which means in a similar way, not in the identical way that we are tempted. This form of the Greek word for “likeness” is used only here and in Heb 7:15. There, it is translated “after the similitude [likeness] of Melchisedec.”

There is a more profound truth than “yet without sin” or “without committing sin.” The Greek word choris is an adjective which means apart from, without, on a distinct footing from, or independently of. The most common interpretation of choris hamartias is “without yielding to sin,” but it has a stronger meaning. In Christ’s statement, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Joh 8:7), the Greek word for “without sin” is anamartatos (used only here), which means without sin or guiltless. In this case, it means he who has committed no sin. However, choris is stronger in meaning thananamartatos. The Greek word choris is used as an adjective with the ablative of separation in every place with the exception of Joh 20:7. There, it is used as an adverb. Christ was completely separated from sin because there was no sin in Him to be aroused by temptation. The Lord Jesus did not sin because He could not sin. He was impeccable. Therefore, He remained undefiled in a world of sin.

Impeccability is united to holiness. This is in direct opposition to peccability which is related to temptability. While no human being is beyond the possibility of temptation because of inward depravity, Christ had no inward depravity with which to struggle. His human will was always subservient to His divine will. He always pleased the Father (Joh 8:29). Christ’s holiness was one of equality with the Father. Holiness, which is God’s chief attribute, is spoken of more frequently than any other of His attributes.

In conclusion, the following are arguments against the heresy of peccability. If Christ could have sinned, He would have been able to sin only by a completely free opposition of His will to the divine. However, that was impossible. The managing possessor of the human will was the Divine Logos. Hence, God would have had to apostatize from Himself, which is ludicrous. To argue that Christ’s human will must be free to choose or He could not have won the moral victory is to make His will mutable. A perfectly free will is determined to act according to its character. Christ’s will could not act contrary to His character: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26). On the other hand, the sinner cannot act contrary to his character: “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children” (2Pe 2:14). Now, who will be bold enough to say Christ was peccable? The inner incapacity for sin in Jesus Christ resulted from the fact that the “I” of the human nature is the Divine Logos. Thus, it is not a human but a Divine self who is responsible for the deeds performed through the Divine will.

II 05 TEACHERS OF PECCABILITY PROCLAIM ANOTHER JESUS

TEACHERS OF PECCABILITY PROCLAIM ANOTHER JESUS

When Christians read the Bible under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they do not dissect Christ’s personality like physiologists dissect the human body. They recognize their discipleship and worship God in spirit and in truth. The incarnation did not make Jesus Christ a dual personality—Divine and human. He was one Divine personality in equal relation to His two natures. Thus, the statement “The Word became flesh” (Joh 1:14 NASB) implies more than a Divine Person taking a human body, which could have meant no more than a theophany of the Old Testament. The second Person in the Godhead assumed a human body with all that perfect unfallen human nature implies by being born of a virgin. The effect of this fact on regenerate hearts will not be a philosophical statement that “Christ is such an one as ourselves.” Like Thomas, the regenerate will say, “My Lord and my God” (Joh 20:28).

One is correct to say Jesus Christ is “very God of very God” when defending the two natures of Jesus Christ. But the frequently heard statement “very man of very man” ignores the work of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Christ’s human nature in the womb of the virgin. The true humanity of Christ is accepted by Christians without attempting to describe how it was produced.

All that Scripture records on the subject of the incarnation should be considered; but one must not go beyond Scripture and let his imagination run wild. There are some “secret things” about the incarnation which God has not decreed to make known. Thus, believers apprehend the fact of the incarnation without comprehending how the conception by the Holy Spirit took place. Those to whom the Son has revealed the Father will believe its validity where human reason doubts.

Whether people like it or not, the truth of Christ’s impeccability, like other truths, is a revelation restricted to the elect. Where human reason dominates the thinking of religionists concerning the Person of Christ, the elect to whom Christ has revealed the Father rest in a God-given faith in the Savior’s impeccability. Christ said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father...” (Mt 11:27). The verb “delivered” is paredothe, first aorist passive indicative of paradidomi, which means to give into the hands of another or to deliver to one something to keep or use. Hence, God the Father turned over to God the Son the execution of His will. Therefore, only those to whom Christ chooses to reveal the Father will ever come to know Him through the impeccable Christ (Joh 1:18).

Many in Paul’s day and many today have a false view of Jesus Christ. Paul looked forward to the time when he would have the privilege of presenting his converts as chaste virgins to Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom:

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (2Co 11:2-4).

His jealousy for them was the product of an exclusive loyalty. To be espoused (hermosamen, aorist middle indicative of harmodzo, to betroth) to one husband demands loyalty. God will endure no rival. They had been betrothed to Christ. Paul was fearful that they might be turned from exclusive loyalty to Him.

The servant of Abraham illustrates ministers of God entrusted with the work of espousing the elect to the impeccable Savior (Ge 24). Christ’s ministers, like Eliezer, are properly instructed (Ge 24:1-9), are zealous for their work (Ge 24:10-14), are given spiritual discernment (Ge 24:15-23), declare the things of Christ, typified by Isaac (Ge 24:53), are faithful to the elect, typified by Rebekah (Ge 24:56-57), and present the regenerated as chaste virgins to Christ, represented by Rebekah’s being presented to Isaac (Ge 24:61).

Eliezer disallowed anticipated compromise. During the course of instruction, he said:

Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.... And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again (Ge 24:5-6,8).

Likewise, ministers of God must not compromise the message concerning the Person of Jesus Christ. If people do not rise to the truth of Christ’s impeccability, the message must not be diluted to a heretical message of peccability. The message must be relevant to Christ’s impeccability in order for God’s message of the Person of Christ to be relevant.

As the servant of Abraham loved Rebekah for Isaac’s sake, ministers of God love the elect for Christ’s sake. Rebekah’s attachment to the servant for a season was for her spiritual adornment during her pilgrimage to meet Isaac. The same is true with the elect of God and their ministers. Rebekah’s desire was to know more about Isaac, her future bridegroom. The desire of the elect is to know more about the Person of Jesus Christ, their future Bridegroom.

Like Eliezer and Paul, faithful ministers look upon the sheep under their care as the bride of the impeccable Savior, not as their own bride. On the other hand, the sheep receive their undershepherds, unite themselves to them, obey them, and honor them for their work’s sake (1Th 5:12-13; Heb 13:7).

Paul’s great concern was that the thoughts (noemata, plural of noema — thought) of some might be corrupted (phthare, second aorist passive subjunctive of phtheiro, which means to spoil, ruin, or corrupt) from the simplicity (haplotetos, genitive of haplotes, which means sincerity, or purity of mind—singlehearted loyalty) and purity (hagnotatos, genitive of hagnotes, which means purity of life) in Christ. He warned the Corinthian Christians of one coming and preaching another person as Jesus whom he did not proclaim. Paul did not say another Christ, but “another Jesus.” Hence, the false apostles taught a purely human Jesus. Therefore, one can expect what follows. Another spirit other than the Holy Spirit empowers those who preach another Jesus. Furthermore, another Jesus is the message of another gospel, which is not another (Ga 1:6-9).

Promoters of peccability are preaching “another Jesus” by the power of “another spirit” which results in “another gospel.” As Paul did not preach the same “Jesus” as the false teachers, the preachers of impeccability do not preach the same “Jesus” as the peccability teachers.

Unlike the teachers of peccability, demons recognize the absolute holiness of Jesus Christ. There are religious demons:

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him (Mr 1:21-27).

Demons are usually spoken of as persons being possessed by demons of drunkenness, lust, drugs, dishonesty, etc. They are seldom thought of as religious demons. Mark told of a man in the synagogue who had an unclean spirit. Such a person will not listen to truth. Although the man had come to the synagogue, he had no desire to hear what Jesus Christ had to say. Acknowledging that this Jesus of Nazareth was “the Holy One of God,” he said, “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?” The mere external proclamation of the gospel will never find lodgement in the unsanctified ears of man, a man possessed with an unclean spirit. The Holy Spirit of regeneration alone can make a person desire the company of “the Holy One of God.”

To say “I know Jesus Christ” is insufficient. Unlike the promoters of peccability, the man with an unclean spirit said, “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” There was no doubt in his mind that Jesus of Nazareth was absolutely holy, impeccable, not peccable. The Greek word for “know” is oida, second perfect active indicative of oida, which suggests fullness of knowledge. The difference betweenginosko and oida is interesting. The word ginosko often suggests progress in knowledge; whereas, oida suggests fullness of knowledge. For example, when Christ said to the Jews, “...ye have not known him,” i.e., the Father, He used the word ginosko. He told them that they had not begun to know the Father. On the other hand, Christ said, “...if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him and keep his saying” (Joh 8:55). Christ used the word oida, which means perfect knowledge, when speaking of His knowledge of the Father. The point is, the man with an unclean spirit had no problem with Christ’s impeccability. What a difference between his confession, “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God,” and that of one who said that Jesus Christ must be born again to see the Kingdom of God.

II 06 JESUS CHRIST IS THE UNIQUE PERSON

JESUS CHRIST IS THE UNIQUE PERSON

The truth concerning Jesus Christ is infinite. This unique Person was conceived in the womb of Mary thirty years before Peter’s confession: “...Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Hence, He was conceived in the womb of the virgin before He was conceived in the mind of Peter. His conception in the mind, however, is as necessary to salvation as His conception in the virgin. The Holy Spirit is the Author of both conceptions, in the womb and in the mind.

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Lu 1:35).

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (Mt 1:18-20).

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Mt 16:17).

Since the Holy Spirit could not conceive a peccable Person in the womb of the virgin, He cannot conceive a peccable Christ in the mind of a person whom He regenerates. Everything God does is perfect. Therefore, peccability is out of the question in God’s work. Those who believe in peccability are forced to deny the miraculous conception in the womb of Mary, the virgin. Furthermore, they are forced to deny that salvation is wholly of God. They must acknowledge that man had not only something to do with Christ’s human nature but he has something to do with the conception in the human mind.

Objections to the impeccability of the unique Christ will be answered. Opponents of the impeccability of Jesus Christ say the humanity of Jesus was no different from the humanity of Adam before the fall. They claim that the difference came only by the fall of the first Adam and the victory of the second Adam.

The humanity of both Adam and Jesus Christ cannot be apprehended apart from their persons. Adam was a mutable person; Christ is the immutable Person. Adam was a peccable person; Christ is the impeccable Person. Adam’s peccability gave him the capacity to sin; therefore, he fell. Christ’s impeccability made it impossible for Him to sin; therefore, He was never tempted to sin. There is no capacity to sin in infinite perfection. Hence, there was a definite difference between the natures of Adam and Christ.

The eternal Son of God was responsible for all that would be done through the instrumentality of the assumed human nature. Thus, everything done through the instrumentality of the assumed nature is attributable to the one Person of the God-Man. Since the Divine nature is the foundation of Christ’s Person, anyone who says Christ could sin says God could sin. Guilt could not be confined to the human nature but would encompass the whole theanthropic Person. To say that Christ’s human nature could have sinned without involving the God-Man is senseless. There is no such thing as a fallen nature. The word “fallen” is applied not to nature but to the Person. Christ’s human nature is undefiled, but that His nature was fallen must ever be disputed.

An unusual view of impeccability is that Christ’s Divine nature controlled His human nature. Therefore, Christ had a peccable human nature, but He was an impeccable Person. Although this view affirms the impeccability of Christ, the statements about Christ’s human nature are unscriptural.

Christ’s holy human nature was not peccable. How could it be peccable since it was wholly the work of God? One may argue that Adam was solely the work of God, but he fell. This has already been answered by showing that the humanity of both Adam and Christ cannot be apprehended apart from their persons. Adam was created upright (Ec 7:29) but mutable. One must never think of Adam’s human nature apart from the mutability of his person. On the other hand, the human nature of Christ — “that holy thing” — was immutable. Thus, we have the mutability of Adam versus the immutability of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we have the difference between “man” and the “God-Man.”

One theologian has denied the impeccability of the God-Man, although he believes in the sinlessness of Christ. He says this does not add up to absolute impeccability because if Christ was truly human, He had to be capable of sinning. The possibility was there. If it was not there, then His sympathy with His people is rendered impossible.

The hypothesis that Jesus could have sinned had He chosen is based on mere supposition. It comes from a false understanding of the Person of Christ. To say that Adam fell even though he was perfect as he came from God and had no weakness for sin is a misunderstanding of Adam’s perfection. Adam’s perfection cannot be equated with Christ’s. One is finite and the other is infinite. Infinite perfection is untemptable. The Lord Jesus never felt temptation because He could never be induced to evil. He was tried apart from sin.

Building an argument on a supposition is like trying to build a skyscraper without a foundation. To suppose Christ could have sinned is to be suppositious without any Biblical foundation.

Another argument against the impeccability of Christ states that if it were impossible for Jesus to yield to temptation, there would be an excuse for Adam. The question is raised, Why did not God make Adam so that he too could not sin? It is far more wonderful for Jesus to resist temptation than to be immune from its power. Amazingly, many fail to distinguish the difference between the finite and the Infinite. The finite has the capacity to sin, but the Infinite does not. How could it be more wonderful to trust a Savior who could sin but did not than one who could not? If Christ could sin but did not, what about His being the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8)? Trusting an airplane that cannot fall makes more sense than trusting one that can but does not.

At this point, it is appropriate to investigate some of Christ’s attributes in their relationship to His impeccability. Christ’s holiness is established (Ac 3:14; Mr 1:24; Heb 7:26-27). Holiness is positive virtue which has neither room for nor interest in sin. Moreover, holiness is not only an active attribute which has no interest in sin, but it must take retributive action against sin. Holiness, therefore, is not just a passive freedom from iniquity.

Christ is not only holy but He is immutable (Heb 13:8). An immutable person is one who “cannot” not “does not” change. Jesus Christ cannot move from one good to another because all good eternally resides in Him. He cannot change from good to better since that would imply improvement. He cannot change from good to bad because of absolute holiness. Therefore, Jesus Christ is not one who was able not to sin, but He could not sin. According to the teaching of those who embrace peccability, if Christ could have sinned during His first advent, He had to change from who He was eternally. But that cannot be. “For I am the LORD, I change not...” (Mal 3:6).

Christ is omnipotent. “All things were made by Him...” (Joh 1:3). Paul spoke of “Christ the power of God” (1Co 1:24). “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col 1:16-17). Christ not only created all things but “by him all things consist.” The word “consist” is sunesteken, perfect active indicative of sunistemi, which means to place together or to hold together. Hence, Christ is the controlling and unifying power in the universe. Providence is under His control. To say that Christ could have sinned is to admit that a finite power is capable of overcoming infinite power.

Christ is omniscient. He said to the scribes whose thoughts He knew: “...Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (Mt 9:4). Again, when the Pharisees said, “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts...” (Mt 12:24-25). God has infinite knowledge (Ps 147:5). It has been said that omniscience is infinite awareness. God cannot learn because He knows. Therefore, God’s eternal awareness could not be caught off-guard.

Another argument against Christ’s impeccability states that there is not a Scripture which says that Jesus could not sin, but many state that He did not sin. Those who believe in peccability say the human Jesus, not His deity, was involved in temptation. They believe Jesus chose to overcome temptation as a man. This argument presents a serious view concerning the Person of Christ. He is not two persons, but one Person with two natures. Jesus Christ possessed only one purpose. Thus, the Divine nature, which is immutable, determines and controls the human nature. This means the human nature never acts independently of the Divine.

Many regard Christ’s inability to sin as a threat to His humanity. They say that His temptation cannot be viewed as real if the proposition that Christ cannot sin is true. They fail to understand that the subject of Christ’s impeccability must proceed from His holiness. The negative aspect of holiness is taught (2Co 5:21; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5). The positive aspect of Christ’s holiness is taught (Ac 3:14; 4:27,30; Lu 1:35; Joh 6:69). Therefore, Christ asked, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (Joh 8:46).

Peccability advocates say the power of sympathy does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. They say temptation implies the possibility of sin. They further state that if it were impossible for Him to sin, He could not sympathize with His people. Their so-called proof text is Heb 2:18 and Heb 4:15.

Christ’s testing has some help in it for the elect: “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb 2:18). The verb “suffered” is peponthen, perfect active indicative of pascho, which means to suffer or to be afflicted. “Being tempted” is peirastheis, first aorist passive participle of peiradzo, to test, try, or tempt. Hence, the text could read, “For in that he suffered, having been tested.” The Greek word for “succour” is boethasai, first aorist active infinitive of boetheo, which means to run to the aid of those who cry for help. Those who are being tested have someone who can bring them help.

Temptation in all points like His people was not necessary for Christ to sympathize with them. “In all points” is a restricted statement, as has already been shown. The unrestricted idea of peccability advocates carried to its logical conclusion would mean that Jesus Christ felt the sin of concupiscence. That would be blasphemy.

The fullness of the Godhead (theotetos means the totality of all that enters into the conception of Godhood) dwells bodily in Christ (Col 2:9). Such fullness (pleroma, those perfections and qualities which fill up the Divine nature) cannot dwell in mere human nature. Christ’s two natures have the same subsistence. In Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Therefore, He can represent to Himself how sin affects His people without having been tempted by sin. Christ who was separated from sinners could not be tempted by sensual lust, pride, envy, gluttony, drunkenness, etc. Such temptations would be too wicked to imagine.

II 07 CHRIST ASSUMED A HUMAN NATURE

CHRIST ASSUMED A HUMAN NATURE

A very important point in our study of Christ’s human nature must be considered. Did the Son of God assume “the holy thing” (Lu 1:35) at the time of conception or when Mary gave birth to “the holy thing”? Some believe that the Son of God became the Son of Man when Mary delivered the fully developed embryo. They rely on the double meaning of the verb gennao, which means to either conceive or bring forth. Thus, the verb in Heb 1:5 (NASB) — “..Today I have begotten [gegenneka, perfect active indicative of gennao] thee,” — is taught to mean “to bring forth” rather than “to conceive.” They base this view on the next verse: “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6). Connected with this verse, Lu 2:9-14, they say, proves that the angels worshipped Jesus Christ not at His conception but at His birth. Those who embrace this view say the conception was a secret matter lest Satan might interrupt the Divine program. On the surface, this may seem to be irrefutable, but a close examination of the text and the context will refute the argument.

Recognizing the controversy over Heb 1:5-6, let us neither shirk our duty to study this passage nor be frightened by so-called scholarly works. Heb 1:5 consists of two Old Testament quotations: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” is a quotation from Ps 2:7; and “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son” is quoted from 2Sa 7:14.

The word “begotten” of Ps 2:7 has caused much controversy. The Hebrew word for “begotten” can mean to beget as a father or to bring forth as a mother. Our concern in this study is the way the word is used in Heb 1:5. The context indicates that it refers to the Son’s being “brought into the world” by means of the incarnation because reference is made in Heb 1:6 to the “firstbegotten” being brought into the inhabited earth again. The Greek word for “begotten” is gegenneka, perfect active indicative of gennao, which means to beget or to bring forth. The word for “firstbegotten” is prototokos, which means “firstborn.” The word for “again” is palin, an adverb which means back, again, or back again. The Father brought forth His Son into the inhabited earth by way of the virgin’s womb, and He will bring the “firstborn” back again—the second coming.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom (Heb 1:8).

“The angels worshipping God” of Heb 1:6, therefore, will be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming rather than having been fulfilled at His first advent.

The reference to “the heavenly host praising God” of Lu 2:9-14 is not the fulfillment of Heb 1:6. The former refers to Christ’s first advent and the latter to His second.

Instead of the conception being kept a secret from the angels, the very opposite is true. An angel told Joseph about the conception (Mt 1:20). Furthermore, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive (Lu 1:26,31). The Biblical truth of God’s absolute sovereignty is completely ignored when one says the conception was kept secret lest Satan interrupt God’s purpose. God “is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth” (Job 23:13). As the purpose of God was not thwarted by the fall, Satan cannot interrupt God’s program because God said, “..My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure...I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isa 46:10-11).

The time the fetus became personalized is important to consider. If the human nature of Christ was not personalized until Mary brought forth the nature in birth, its personalization differs from others mentioned in Scripture.

Nature and person are not the same. One nature cannot be distinguished from another, but one person can be distinguished from another. Nature denotes the sum total of all the essential qualities of a thing. Person is a nature with something added. The added properties are independent subsistence and individuality. Christ’s human nature was not impersonal. It was personalized in the Son of God. It can be said that human nature is not actually personal, and that is the reason for the neuter participle being used in the statement “that holy thing which shall be born of thee” (Lu 1:35). The Greek reads to gennomenon hagion. It could be translated “the holy thing being begotten.”

An illustration of the differentness between nature and person may be seen in a lump of clay differing from the vessel (Ro 9:20-23). The potter must intervene by taking a piece of clay from the lump and molding it into a particular vessel, having its own peculiar shape and figure. Likewise, human nature, as a whole existing in Adam, possessed all the properties that are requisite to personality, although it was not yet personalized. The difference, then, between nature and person is virtually between nature and form—substance and personality.

The title “God-Man” means the second Person in the Godhead took not the person of a man but the nature of man into subsistence with Himself. The human nature of Christ previous to His assumption thereof was not a person. The Son of God did not unite Himself with the depraved human nature of Adam but only with “part of the same.” In reference to the incarnation, the writer of Hebrews said:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14).

This text states plainly that the Son of God shared with the children “in like manner [paraplesios, adverb meaning in like manner and is used only in this text] the same things” (translation). Sharing (meteschen, second aorist active indicative of metecho, which means to share in or partake of) flesh and blood, He did not share in or partake of Adam’s depravity—original sin. The text restricts His sharing to “flesh and blood.” Human nature, therefore, may signify what it is as it exists in the descendants of fallen Adam or in its unfallen condition in the God-Man. The terms “Son of God,” “the man Christ Jesus,” and “a man approved of God” do not express the personality of a mere man. They express the personality of the God-Man. The Spirit of regeneration is necessary to see something more than a mere man in the theanthropic Person.

The personalization of human nature takes place at conception:

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished... (Ex 21:22).

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Ps 51:5).

...thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child... (Ec 11:5).

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet... (Jer 1:5).

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb....the babe leaped in my womb for joy (Lu 1:41,44).

Those who believe the personalization of Christ’s human nature took place at birth are saying that His birth and His begetting were different from all others. However, as it has already been shown, the begetting was miraculous, but the conception, gestation, and birth were like others. Mary was passive in the begetting, but she was active in the conception, gestation, and birth.

There are some who say that the leaping of John the Baptist in Elisabeth’s womb did not indicate life. They call it fetal movement in the sphere of the mother’s emotions. Those who favor abortion are glad to hear “theologians” talk in this manner.

Scripture does teach that the Son of God was twice begotten of the Father. He was eternally begotten by the Father, and He was begotten as He entered into the inhabited earth (Ps 2:7; Mt 1:20). In His eternality, the second Person in the Godhead received not Deity but Sonship from the Father. In His incarnation, the Son of God received a body prepared for His earthly sojourn as Redeemer of the elect by the Father through the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:5; Lu 1:35).

II 08 THE GOD-MAN LACKED KNOWLEDGE

THE GOD-MAN LACKED KNOWLEDGE

Many say Christ’s ignorance and temptability are important issues in the study of Christology. Having dealt with the so-called “temptability” of the God-Man, a study of His “ignorance” is now in order. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mr 13:32). Many theologians have said this verse has always presented serious difficulties. Some say there was a real ignorance in Christ during His humiliation, and others advocate a holy unwillingness to know.

The following are various views of Jesus Christ’s not knowing the day of the Lord: (1) As Man, Jesus Christ knew not the time of His coming; as God He knew that men did not know. (2) Christ knew not because He had no instruction to declare that day. (3) In the incarnation, Christ voluntarily accepted human limitations, including His not knowing the day and hour of the “day of the Lord.” (4) The fact that even the Son, according to His human nature, did not know is in harmony with “He emptied Himself” (Php 2:7). (5) Christ as the Son of Man did not know, but as the Son of God He knew all things. What knowledge He had of future things in His humanity He had from His Deity. (6) The word “knoweth” is sometimes used in the sense of to make known or reveal. Thus, in that sense, Christ did not make known or reveal the day and the hour. (7) Christ’s not knowing the day and the hour is to be understood in the same sense as Christ’s sleeping, fearing, obeying, learning, etc.

There are some serious pitfalls that must be avoided in the proper interpretation of Mr 13:32, which states that the God-Man did not know the day and the hour of the day of the Lord. One pitfall is dualism. Jesus Christ is not both a human and a Divine Person. He is a Divine Person who assumed a human nature. The Infinite did not become the finite, but the Infinite did assume the finite. God’s eternal Son did not divest Himself of eternity, but He assumed a nature adapted for time. God is invisible in His Divine nature, but He is made visible in human nature. The Son of God did not empty Himself of the form of God, but He assumed the form of a servant. Furthermore, He did not strip Himself of His Divine attributes. He put them under restriction as the Son of Man. In His human nature, Christ accommodated Himself to the feebleness, growth, and development of that nature. Thus, dualism is proved to be false.

The great question has been how the “Word became flesh” and remains the Word (Joh 1:14). Scripture is clear concerning the fact that the Son of God became the Son of Man while remaining the Son of God. Both titles “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are used throughout the New Testament to speak of Jesus Christ. The title “Son of God” is associated with the Divine nature, and the title “Son of Man” is united to His human nature. The Lord Jesus said:

I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God (Joh 10:30-33).

The Jews thought that Jesus Christ was a mere man who was trying to convince the people that He was God. Their depraved minds blinded them to the Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of “a child being born” and “a son being given” who shall be called “The mighty God” (Is. 9:6), the One who “shall grow up before him as a tender plant,” and God’s righteous servant who shall “justify many” (Isa 53:2,11). The Jews were blind to the Biblical fact that the One they accused of blasphemy was “God... manifest in the flesh” (1Ti 3:16), not a mere man claiming to be God.

The Bible answers the question of how God can become the God-Man. Man had communion with God when God originally made him. Adam was capable of existing in harmony with God before the fall because he was made in God’s image, after His likeness (Ge 1:26). However, that harmony was broken by the fall. The fall made the incarnation necessary for the redemption of the elect out from among the depraved posterity of Adam. Hence, the Son of God was made in the “likeness of sinful flesh” (Ro 8:3). At the same time, He retained the image of the Father:

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:3).

A seemingly contradictory coexistence in one Person of a human nature—subject to birth, growth, and development—with a Divine nature—not subject to the same development—is to Christians the God-Man. The developing child “filled with wisdom” (Lu 2:40) coexists with “increased in wisdom” (Lu 2:52). The mature God-Man is the One “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Coexisting with Him is the one who said He knew not the day and the hour of the day of the Lord (Mr 13:32). The natural mind looks upon these facts as intellectual dualism. They are thought to be inconsistent with any conception one can form of a simple personality. However, these Biblical facts furnish the foundation for the Christian’s hope in the God-appointed God-Man.

The one personality in the God-Man has two spheres of existence. The Divine nature is omnipresent, but the human nature is restricted. The Son of Man told Nicodemus that “...no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (Joh 3:13). This statement refutes not only the denial of Jesus Christ’s preexistence but the affirmation of a duality of persons. The human nature the Son of God assumed enabled the God-Man to speak of either nature under whatever name He chose. In His discourse with Nicodemus, He chose to use the name “Son of Man” when speaking of what is proper to the Son of God. He who was invisible in heaven became visible upon earth. He who was restricted in His human nature was unrestricted in His Divine nature; therefore, He spoke of being in heaven while He was upon earth.

The omnipresence of the Divine nature and the restriction of the human nature of the God-Man are not more comprehensible than His omniscience in the Divine nature and the limitation of knowledge in the human nature. The following are some Biblical examples of the two spheres of the God-Man: (1) In the God-Man’s infancy, He was “filled with wisdom”; and “Jesus increased in wisdom” (Lu 2:40,52). Thus, wisdom was restricted in only one sphere. (2) Christ said to Nathanael, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee” (Joh 1:48). The omniscience of the Divine nature enabled the God-Man to see Nathanael; whereas, His human nature separated the two by the distance of several miles. (3) Before He reached the grave of Lazarus, Jesus Christ told Martha and Mary that their brother, Lazarus, was dead: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (Joh 11:14). Later, when Christ “was not yet come into the town,” Mary came to Him, fell down at His feet, and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” The Lord Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (Joh 11:30-34). The Divine nature of the God-Man knew Lazarus was dead; however, His human nature did not know where Lazarus was buried. (4) Christ hungered in His human nature (Mt 4:2). In His Divine nature, He said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever...” (Joh 6:51). (5) Christ thirsted in His human nature (Joh 19:28); but in His Divine nature, He said, “...whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst...” (Joh 4:14).

Coming now to the God-Man’s lack of knowledge concerning the day of the Lord, the question is often asked, Is not Christ’s lack of knowledge equivalent with His capability to sin? To affirm that they are equivalent is heresy. The capability to sin, but not lack of knowledge, would indicate corruption of His human nature. The imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity cannot apply to Jesus Christ because He is not a human person. He is the Son of God. His human nature is not from fallen Adam; therefore, His Person cannot be counted in Adam. Since guilt is imputed to the person rather than the nature, guilt could never be reckoned to the Divine Person of the Son of God. Having assumed a holy human nature, Christ was not subject to the sentence of death. On the other hand, the God-Man’s lack of knowledge does not indicate any corruption in His human nature. Christ’s conception, birth, and growth were not the fruit of corruption in the human nature.

Infallibility does not imply omniscience. According to the Scriptures, infallibility was conferred on the apostles who possessed limited knowledge:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1Co 13:9-10).

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2Pe 1:21).

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2Ti 3:16).

If Paul, who possessed a fallen nature, spoke infallibly when inspired to give us the Holy Scriptures, although he spoke from a limited knowledge, what about the Son of God who did not possess a fallen nature? Christ spoke nothing but truth, although His human nature possessed limited knowledge. Limitation of knowledge and capability of error are not the same. In the sphere of Christ’s human nature, there was a lack of knowledge, but there was no capability of error. His human nature was subject to His Divine nature.

We know that two natures were united in the one Person of Jesus Christ. But to what extent the Divine nature did not overshadow the human is impossible to either know or explain. This is why the incarnation is called a mystery (1Ti 3:16). Some things remain a mystery after the incarnation. We do know the human nature was not the residential subject of omniscience. We also know Christ’s first advent was not for the purpose of making known either the day or the hour of the day of the Lord. He was not commissioned as Prophet to make known the time. Christ’s manhood is spoken of as a condition of His prophetical office (De 18:15-22).

Christ’s “not knowing the day and hour” of the day of the Lord is better understood if we view the subject in its proper context. The kingdom is covenanted to David’s Son, the Son of Man. The time of the kingdom’s establishment and its consequences are in the Father’s hand (Ac 1:6-7). Therefore, Christ spoke of His lack of knowledge in connection with His messianic relationship to the covenant. The Father had reserved to Himself the times and seasons as a revelation unsuitable for the Son of Man to make known during the time of His first advent. Revelation of the day and hour of the kingdom’s establishment would have prevented the expectation of Christ’s second coming. Faith and hope, with their practical results, are the fruits of the uncertainty of that time.

On the other hand, one cannot deny that Jesus Christ had knowledge of the kingdom and its establishment. Predictions are given concerning the Jewish nation and Gentile domination (Mt 24; 25; Lu 21). These predictions were also given during the days of His humiliation. Moreover, after His ascension, these same prophecies were verified by the apostles and finally by Jesus Christ in the revelation of Himself.

There is an absolute interpenetration of knowledge of the Son with the Father. The knowledge of each was so infinite that each knew the other to perfection: “...no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:27). In the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God, the Divine and human consciousness stand side by side without either suppressing or qualifying the other. The God-Man, therefore, could speak out of either consciousness without any confusion or conflict.

Whatever was either said or done by the human nature of the God-Man never had to be stopped or corrected by His Divine nature. Furthermore, whatever was either said or done by the Divine nature was never questioned or resisted by the human nature. Moreover, the Divine nature did not provide some necessary skill to enhance the human nature because it was perfect in its sphere.

II 09 TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART 1)

TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART 1)

Jesus Christ was not able to sin during the days of His first advent on the earth. Many professing believers say that all the references to Christ’s temptations prove that He was able not to sin. Thus, the issue is between the often heard and read statement of whether Christ “was able not to sin” or “not able to sin.” To some this may seem to make little difference, but the difference is between heresy and truth. The issue could be stated differently. Was there a superior incapacity for sin in Jesus Christ, or did His overcoming of constant temptation prove Him to be the holy One of God?

The major point in the life of Christ was the fact that He could not sin. There is unanimity among various denominational creeds concerning the fact that Jesus Christ did not sin, but the Biblical fact that He could not sin is controversial. Diligent students will find great differences of opinion expressed in theological works. Those differences are also found in Reformed works. The fact that Christ could not sin must be approached from Christ’s Person rather than from His human nature.

Approaching a study of the Person of Christ by beginning with His human nature is a manifestation of humanism. Does the Bible begin with creation or with the Creator? The Bible begins with God: “IN the beginning God created...” (Ge 1:1). This statement is neither history nor invention. It is not history because no one was present to record the events for posterity. Furthermore, it was not the work of man’s imagination. Therefore, it had to be a revelation. Humanism starts with a question, but the Bible begins with an assumption. Moreover, the deduction from the assumption is that all truth is a revelation from God, and God does not prove Divine principles to depraved minds.

The Person of Christ is a Divine revelation. As the fact of God’s existence is not causally grounded upon the abstract laws of human logic, the impeccability of Christ is not grounded upon humanism. Thus, the subjective idea of God is less a reality than the objective fact. To put it simply, God has more of existence than the thought of Him has existence. As a perfect and infinite Creator cannot be derived from imperfect and finite minds, the absolutely perfect and impeccable Savior cannot be understood by depraved subjectivism. Hence, the heresy of those who argue from what they call the reality of temptation to the ability to sin is evident. They conclude by saying the sinless One associated Himself with the sins of the world.

Those who believe Jesus Christ was peccable accuse all who believe He was impeccable of Docetism. There are different forms of Docetism. These forms range from believing Christ had only a phantom body to speaking of Christ’s human nature in such a way as to discredit it from being truly human. Promoters of peccability accuse promoters of impeccability of teaching the latter. The accusation by persons who think Jesus Christ was altogether one as themselves is not difficult to understand.

Man’s humanistic concept of God is nothing new. The Psalmist was inspired to testify against Israel:

Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God....thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes (Ps 50:7,21).

Since the fall of Adam, man has been impersonating God by saying, “Let us make God in our image, after our likeness.” While those who say Jesus Christ was prone to sin accuse us of speaking incorrectly about Christ’s humanity, the fact is they speak incorrectly about Christ’s Person. The Scriptures will settle the issue.

Scripture clearly teaches the following:

...Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God... (1Jo 4:2-3).

Christ’s “flesh” (human nature) was not a phantom—an appearance without material substance. Christ was not a ghost walking among the sons of men for more than thirty years. His birth, development, hunger, thirst, and death were not ghostly appearances or apparitions. John spoke not only of seeing but handling the Word of life (1Jo 1:1). Christ was seen as the Word in His oneness with the eternal Father. He was not only seen but handled in His human form as the revealer of the Father (Joh 1:18).

Christ’s human nature was in the “likeness of sinful flesh” (Ro 8:3) because the form of a servant which He assumed “was made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:7). The Greek word for “likeness” in both verses is homoioma, which means likeness or resemblance. This noun is used in other Scriptures (Ro 1:23; 5:14; 6:5; 8:3; Php 2:7; Re 9:7). Does this word mean that Christ’s human nature was exactly like man’s fallen human nature, or did it have the resemblance of fallen human nature? Opponents to Christ’s impeccability argue that if His human nature was only similar, it was not a true human nature. One might as well argue that fallen man is not truly man since the fall because fallen human nature is not exactly what it was before that fall. Human nature does not have to be fallen to be real. Furthermore, Christ’s human nature, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin, was real even though it was not brought into existence the same way as that of Adam.

Jesus Christ shared the flesh and blood of human nature in the incarnation, but He did not share human nature’s depravity. Christ’s sharing nature’s “flesh” was that He might be “put to death in the flesh” (1Pe 3:18). His sharing nature’s “blood” was for the purpose of redemption (Ro 3:24-26; 5:9; Heb 9:22; 10:10-14; Re 1:5). On the other hand, if Christ had shared nature’s depravity, He would have been disqualified as the redeemer of the elect. There is a great difference between the descendants of Adam coming into the world “in sinful flesh” and the eternal Son of God coming into the world “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” One must know the difference between words with the prefixes homo (same) and homoi (like). This reminds us of the truth proclaimed by Athanasius and the heresy by Arius.

Docetism is the proclamation of a Christ that was incapable of being the Mediator between God and men because He would not be the “man Christ Jesus [anthropos Christos Hiesous]” (1Ti 2:5). Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost was “Jesus of Nazareth, a man [andra] approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs...” (Ac 2:22). Unlike those who embrace Docetism, those who embrace the heresy that Jesus Christ was peccable proclaim a “Jesus” who is incapable of being Savior because he himself was in need of salvation. Hence, both views are heretical because they fail to proclaim the Biblical view of the one Mediator between God and men. The true Mediator must possess two absolutely holy natures in order to represent both God and man. Those who teach Docetism deny the incarnation, and those who teach peccability deny Christ’s holy human nature.

Opponents to the impeccability of Christ can get no comfort from quoting Heb 4:15 — “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are....” The Greek word for “tempted” is a perfect passive participle of the verb peiradzo, which means to test, try, or tempt. Since Jesus Christ cannot be tempted, because the word has an evil connotation, the perfect passive participle can be translated “having been tested or tried.” The word that must not be overlooked is the Greek word homoiotes, which means “likeness.” Hence, Christ was tested in the “likeness” (in a similar manner) but not in exactly the same way we are. Proof of this is seen in the fact that we have been “planted together in the likeness [homoioma]” of Christ’s death. This means that our death “to” sin is not identical with Christ’s death “for” sin. Furthermore, the statement that it was necessary for Christ “to be made like [homoioo] unto his brethren” of Heb 2:17 does not mean that He was made exactly like His brethren.

Those who believe Christ was susceptible to sin teach that He was “made like unto His brethren” when it comes to a nature capable of sinning. Furthermore, they say He was tempted in the same way that fallen men are tempted. To say Jesus Christ was made a sinner like depraved men is blasphemy. Furthermore, to say that Christ could not sympathize with us unless He was tempted as we are is also blasphemy.

Jesus Christ must partake of flesh and blood in order to die. Moreover, He must be the “seed of the woman” to be our kinsman Redeemer (Ge 3:15; Ga 4:4), the “seed of Abraham” to inherit the promises (Ga 3:16), and the “seed of David” to claim the theocratic throne (1Ch 22:10; Lu 1:30-35). Does this sound like Docetism?

II 10 TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART II)

TEACHERS OF IMPECCABILITY ARE NOT GUILTY OF DOCETISM (PART II)

Docetism can never yield to the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. Scripture is clear concerning the importance of the incarnation. Thus, the human nature of Jesus Christ cannot be considered as something unimportant in God’s purpose of redemption. Humanism is nowhere so strongly condemned as it is in the Biblical facts of the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Two holy things were united in the incarnation. Clearly, two unholy things cannot make a holy thing. Furthermore, one holy thing and one unholy thing cannot make a holy thing. This brings us to consider two important verses in the study of the incarnation:

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (Mt 1:20).

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Lu 1:35).

Both participles in “conceived in her” of Mt 1:20 and “born of thee” of Lu 1:35 are from the verb gennao, which means to beget or to generate. The Greek word gennethen of Mt 1:20 is a first aorist passive participle which means “having been begotten.” The Greek word gennomenon of Lu 1:35 is a present passive participle, which means “being begotten.” The passive voice means the subject is acted upon rather than acting or participating in the action.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son: “...behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS” (Lu 1:31). The verb “conceive” is future middle indicative of sullambano, which means to conceive or become pregnant. The middle voice means that Mary participated in the conception. There is no contradiction between this verse and Mt 1:20. Matthew used the word for “begotten” and Luke used the word for “becoming pregnant.” Mary would not only conceive a Son but carry Him during the period of gestation and give Him birth. The Greek word for “bring forth” is future middle indicative of tikto, which means to bear or bring forth. Furthermore, when Mary would give birth to her unique Son, she should call His name Jesus. The Greek word for “call” is future active indicative of kaleo, which means to call. Hence, Mary would call His name Jesus.

The conception by Mary did not violate biological law. The Holy Spirit begat, and Mary conceived. The same Greek verb (sullambano) is used when speaking of not only Mary but her cousin, Elisabeth, who “...conceived a son in her old age...” (Lu 1:36). The angel could not tell Mary that the “holy thing” would be “begotten” by her, but he could tell her that the “holy thing” would be “conceived” by her.

In the biological sense, the impregnation of Mary was miraculous. The begetting by the Holy Spirit and the conception in Mary’s womb produced “that holy thing.” In biological conception, the male sperm is received by the female ovum. There is no question as to the holiness of the sperm provided by the Holy Spirit. But what about the ovum provided by Mary, who spoke of Jesus Christ as her Savior? (Lu 1:46-47). God brought the first man into the world without either a male sperm or a female ovum. Therefore, it is not unbelievable that God could bring the God-Man into existence without a human male sperm. (See Ro 5:15-19; 1Co 15:47.) In order for two holy things to be united in conception, Mary’s ovum had to be made holy by the Holy Spirit. This was accomplished by the Holy Spirit coming upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowing her. The verb for “overshadow” is the future active indicative of episkiadzo, which means to overshadow or shed influence upon. This verb is used in connection with not only the impregnation of Mary but the “overshadowing cloud” on the mount of transfiguration (Mt 17:5). The sperm and the ovum were both holy before they came together in conception. Hence, God united what the Holy Spirit produced with what Mary produced by her sanctified reproductive organs thus forming the God-Man. From this point, faith must venture no further, but God-given faith rests its case with the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit upon the virgin, Mary.

Without His incarnation, there could have been no crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God, for the sins of the elect (Ac 2:22-23). God with man in the Person of the God-Man condemns humanism. He will be “with us,” the elect, until the end of the age because He was with us in His sacrifice on the cross. Thus, He reconciled us to God by His satisfaction of Divine justice. This Biblical view of the incarnation and crucifixion is as far removed from Docetism as light from darkness.

Job asked a question and immediately answered it: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). Job had a sense of the need to be clean, but he also knew that neither he nor any other man could make him clean. Bildad asked the same question with a more direct reference to the subject of the incarnation: “...how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4). Bildad was concerned about how man could be justified with God. He asked, “How then can man be justified with God?” No doubt Bildad knew that man might be justified with man but not with God. He knew the importance of man being justified with God. When man is justified with God, no man can condemn him (Ro 8:33-34). God’s justification of man is on the basis of the impeccable Savior’s word (Ro 3:24-26).

The important question is not what man can do to be justified with God but what the eternal Son had to become and do in order for man to be justified with God. We know that a Divine Person had to be united to a human nature (Heb 2:11-14; 1Ti 3:16; Ga 4:4; Ro 1:3-4; 8:3; 9:5). That human nature is called “that holy thing” (Lu 1:35). The question is often asked, why is the participle gennomenon(being begotten) neuter? The only answer that can be given is that it refers to the nature. Thus, to gennomenon hagion is translated “the holy thing which is being begotten” shall be called the Son of God. The eternal Son was not “being begotten,” but the nature He was assuming was. Jesus Christ was the “only begotten Son” (Joh 3:16) before His human nature was begotten for the “only begotten God” (Joh 1:18 NASB) to assume.

The Person of Jesus Christ is one, but His Divine and human natures are distinct. This is not difficult to understand. For example, man has material and immaterial natures. The material is not the immaterial and vice versa. Therefore, the God-Man has two natures, but the natures are preserved without disorder, and His Person is complete without division. Hence, the God-Man may be designated by either Divine or human titles—Son of God or Son of Man. Furthermore, attributes of one nature are attributed to Jesus Christ while His Person is designated by a title applying to the other nature. Divine titles and human actions are attributed to Him:

...feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Ac 20:28); ...they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1Co 2:8); God...gave his only begotten Son (Joh 3:16); He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all... (Ro 8:32); And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest...(Lu 1:31-32).

On the other hand, Divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ who is designated by human titles:

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven (Joh 3:13); What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? (Joh 6:62); Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen (Ro 9:5); ...Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (Re 5:12).

Jesus Christ was no less God-Man when He died, and He was no more than God-Man when He performed His miracles. There was never any conflict between His two natures. The attributes of both natures were accredited to the one Person, but it must be emphasized that what was peculiar to one nature was never attributed to the other. For example, hunger, weariness, sleep, and death could never be assigned to the Divine nature. Furthermore, walking on water, stilling the storm, and raising the dead could never be ascribed to the human nature. These are actions of the one Mediator between God and men performing acts that pertain to both natures. This is not dualism.

Christ’s actions as Mediator are in both His Divine and human natures. Some actions involve the attributes of the Divine nature and some the human nature. Whatever actions He performed in either nature could never conflict with His essential nature as the Holy One of God. Therefore, the actions involving the Divine nature are performed in conformity to the inherent principle and power of His Divine nature. Moreover, His actions involving the human nature were performed in conformity to the inherent principle and power of His human nature. Thus, the one Person of the God-Man performed the actions of both natures. Understanding this Biblical fact, one sees the heresy of both Docetism and the belief that Jesus Christ was peccable.

II 11 EXEGESIS OF SCRIPTURE PROVES IMPECCABILITY

EXEGESIS OF SCRIPTURE PROVES IMPECCABILITY

Anyone who gives a correct exegesis of any passage of Scripture will find that his interpretation will agree in principle with everyone else who does the same. An exegete is one who disregards subjectivism and relies on the objective truth in the passage according to its grammatical construction. The grammatical construction of the Biblical text never changes. But ideas formed subjectively change with every “gut feeling,” an expression often heard in our generation. On the other hand, when anyone reads into a passage a meaning which the text will not grammatically allow, it is called eisigesis. An eisigete is one who is either filled with prejudice or follows his “gut feeling.” This is subjectivism.

Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1Th 5:21). The word for “prove” is present active imperative of the verb dokimadzo, which means to prove by trial, to examine or scrutinize, or to approve after trial by discernment. The Greek word was derived from the testing of metals. Thus, it not only means to test but also carries the idea of approving as a result of the test. However, testing is insufficient unless that which is approved is embraced and maintained.

There is only one effective way to arrive at the truth. David said that God will teach the “meek.” “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps 25:9). The word “meek” carries the idea of humility. The meek or humble prefer suffering wrong to doing wrong. There are two Hebrew words for meekness, one applying to those who patiently suffer without resistance and the other to those who willingly endure with submission what they might escape. Meekness is not weakness. It comes with the knowledge of one’s total dependence upon God. The elect have something to learn, and God has something to teach them. Therefore, the humble person alone is teachable. Christians need to know the difference between passive and meek church members. Those who are merely passive are passive not only to Biblical principles but to putting into practice those to which they have been subjected.

Realization that God is the Teacher eliminates pride. Man’s intelligence has assumed a superb confidence in itself, thinking it can solve all problems and surmount all obstacles. Manifesting humility is not in the power of such ignorance because true humility is the fruit of Divine grace. In fact, such ignorance nourishes pride. One who possesses grace has no problem understanding that pride is a manifestation of lack of knowledge. The degree of pride is determined by the degree of destitution of knowledge. The ignorance under discussion is not academic but spiritual. The meek person recognizes that truth is both personal and purposeful. It is not only for us but will have an effect on us. This is the reason the Christian goes from faith to faith, strength to strength, and glory to glory. Thus, “...the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Pr 4:18).

Temptation is not a synonym for trial, although both come from the same Greek word. A synonym is a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another. Although the Greek verb peiradzo means, according to Greek lexicons, to test, to try, or to tempt, to test cannot be used as a synonym for to tempt in certain cases. The difference between the two is too great, as Jas 1:2,12-14 prove. Some may think this writer is laboring to prove a point, but before this discourse is completed the student of Scripture will see the value of such scrutiny.

A diligent study of the noun peirasmos and the verb peiradzo is needed because of the way they are used in their translations. Even those who believe and teach that Christ could not sin use the terms “temptation” and “trial” indiscriminately. In many works on Christology, one will find such statements as “Christ could not be tempted because God cannot be tempted.” The same writer may discuss the purpose of Jesus Christ being subjected to the “testings” of Satan. Following this, one may come to reasons why Christ was “tempted.” Such reasons as the incarnation, humiliation, and being able to sympathize with His own who are being tempted are discussed.

The writer can sympathize with those who use the terms of “temptation” and “trial” indiscriminately. He, too, has done the same thing. However, after a diligent study of Jas 1:2-15, the writer saw the need for making a study of the Greek noun peirasmos and the verb peiradzo in every passage where they are used in the New Testament. After such a study, one cannot help seeing the difference between the terms “temptation” and “trial.” Although the writer has never believed Christ was peccable, he has taught that Christ’s temptability does not imply susceptibility. A deeper study into the subject shows one that Christ was not tempted.

The verb peiradzo is used in the sense of either to try or test or to solicit someone to do wrong. This verb is used 39 times in the New Testament. In 31 of the 39 times, it is translated “tempted,” “to be tempted,” “tempting,” and “tempt.” In the other eight references, it is translated “prove” (Joh 6:6), “assayed” (Ac 16:7), “hath gone about” (Ac 24:6), “examine” (2Co 13:5), “tried” (Heb 11:17; Re 2:2,10), and “to try” (Re 3:10). In sixteen of the references where the verb is used, Jesus Christ is involved, and two speak of God (Ac 15:10; Heb 3:9).

The noun peirasmos is used 21 times in the New Testament. It is translated “temptation” in all but one place. It is translated “trial” in 1Pe 4:12. There are only two verses where the word is used in reference to Jesus Christ (Lu 4:13; 22:28).

Since James said, “...God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (Jas 1:13), what is the meaning of the statement “lead us not into temptation” of Mt 6:13 in the model prayer Christ taught His disciples? The verb “lead” is eisenegkes, first aorist active subjunctive of eisphero, which means “to bring in or into.” The active subjunctive means “do not bring us into.” Would God, who does not solicit men to do evil, teach His disciples to pray “do not lead us into solicitation to do evil”?

Since it is contrary to Scripture for God to bring His people into temptation, the noun peirasmos can also mean trial. Is one incorrect to pray that he may be saved from trial? Trial is the common lot of God’s people (Jas 1:2,12; 1Pe 1:6-7; 4:12). The verb “bring” (eisenegkes) of Mt 6:13 is active. Thus, it represents God as the active Agent who subjects His people to trials but not to solicitation to evil. When this verse is seen in its proper context with the coming kingdom, it is proper to say the Jews will pray to be spared “the hour of trial” (horas tou peirasmou) (Re 3:10). That “trial” is not the same as the “common trial” of all saints for all time, Old and New Testament believers alike. This proves that a correct concept of eschatology is necessary for the interpretation of many Scriptures.

Since all Scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos), the Spirit of God would not direct inspired penmen to use words that would not apply to either the Son of God or His people. Like many English words, Greek words also can be used in more than one way. The context determines their usage.

In all of Christ’s “trials” or “testings,” He had to deal only with that which came from without. Hence, His trials or testings in the wilderness were Divine attestations. The challenge came from God. This is the reason we are told, “Then was Jesus led up by [hupo] the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by [hupo] the devil” (Mt 4:1). The verb “led up” is aorist passive indicative of anago, which means to lead up or convey up from a lower to a higher place. The verb in Mr 1:12 is present active indicative of ekballo, which means to thrust forth or to send forth. The verb in Lu 4:1 is imperfect passive of ago, which means to lead or to bring. When a country is united, its only thought is to oppose the enemy without and prove the unity of the country. However, if the country is divided, the first thing is to look for traitors within.

There are two natures within Christians. They are described as “...the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Ga 5:17). (See Ro 7:14-25.) Christians, therefore, have a divided house. There is an inward conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. There is a traitor within as well as without.

Jesus Christ had two natures, but both were holy; therefore, there was no conflict within. God’s challenge to Satan, or those working under his direction, was a Divine testimony that nothing but absolute unity of the two holy natures would be found. Wood tested by fire turns to ash. Water tested by fire evaporates. But pure gold tested by fire remains gold. Pure gold has nothing to be eliminated. Christians lose their dross when they are tested, but who will be guilty of blasphemy by saying there was any dross in the God-Man that had to be eliminated by a “fiery trial” (purosis, a fiery test of trying circumstances) (1Pe 4:12)? There are two laws within Christians (Ro 7:22-23), but there is only one law, the law of God, in Jesus Christ.

II 12 CHRIST AFFIRMED HIS IMPECCABILITY

CHRIST AFFIRMED HIS IMPECCABILITY

The first lesson on the exegesis of Scripture was an introduction to a number of key passages dealing with Christ’s impeccability. Scriptures concerning Christ’s personal claims and claims by the inspired penmen concerning Christ’s impeccability will be exegeted.

No apology is in order for disputing with those who believe and teach that Jesus Christ was peccable during the days of His humiliation. The Greek verb dialegomai means to discourse, argue, reason, dispute, or contend. It is translated “reasoned” (Ac 17:2; 18:4; 24:25), “disputed” (Mr 9:34; Ac 17:17; Jude 9), “disputing” (Ac 19:8-9; 24:12), “preached” (Ac 20:7), “preaching” (Ac 20:9), and “speaketh” (Heb 12:5). Although controversy is often heated and one-sided, it is not an unhealthy sign. Some of the greatest books ever written or sermons ever preached were the result of controversy. Furthermore, some of the greatest experiences in life are the products of controversy. This, however, is no justification for confusion and turmoil in the local assembly. (See Eph 4.)

There is no way to avoid controversy in the Christian life. If ordinary life is made up of endless controversy, how much more the Christian life. The believer has controversy in the natural and the spiritual life. However, without a self-evident principle to determine on which side lies the burden of proof, controversy could be endless. This brings us to the importance of semantics.

Semantics is the study of signification, classification, and changes in meaning. A good semanticist will be diligent in his research of meaning. Therefore, a study of words is most important in polemics, the art of controversy. False principles and false rules of interpretation lie at the foundation of false doctrine. However, the most important issue in regard to religious questions is not whether they are useful or injurious but whether they are founded on Scripture. Therefore, so-called religious tradition or success is unimportant. Everything which claims validity must submit its exegetical evidence before it can be rationally received. Furthermore, everything believed must rest on Biblical evidence; otherwise, it cannot be rationally retained. The Bible is our only standard; therefore, anything not found in the Scriptures cannot be proved by the Scriptures.

Jesus Christ proved His impeccability in His debate with the religious Jews when He said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (Joh 8:46). The Jews brought ten accusations against the Son of God in Joh 8 — (1) “thy record is not true” (Joh 8:13); (2) “Where is thy Father?” (Joh 8:19); (3) “Will he kill himself?” (Joh 8:22); (4) “Who art thou?” (Joh 8:25); (5) “how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (Joh 8:33); (6) “Abraham is our father” (Joh 8:39); (7) “We be not born of fornication” (Joh 8:41); (8) “thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (Joh 8:48); (9) “Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?” (Joh 8:53); and (10) “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (Joh 8:57). The Jews had no indignation against adultery, nor any love for the law, but they had intense hatred for the Son of God.

During the running debate with the Jews, Christ said, “Which [who] of you convinceth me of sin?” (Joh 8:46). The Greek verb for “convinceth” is elegchei, present active indicative of elegko, which means to put to test; to convict; to refute; to detect, lay bare, or expose; to experience conviction. Hence, the word means more than the accusation of sin. Sin was never experienced by Jesus Christ in all of His trials. Moreover, sin never penetrated His holy conscience. The Jews must go beyond their accusation to prove their charge against the Son of God. The fact that Christ could not be convicted of sin proves His impeccability.

The case of Christ’s impeccability is made stronger by the use of a noun rather than a verb in Joh 8:46. It is not who of you convicts me of “sinning,” but “Who [tis] of you convicts me of sin?” Christ made it plain not only by the verb elegcho but the noun hamartia that sin had never entered His holy conscience. He gave the reason why sin did not enter. The Jews were also challenged to detect or expose any corruption in His holy nature.

One of the main points in the debate between Christ and the Jews was with respect to Christ’s human nature. The Jews did not know that Christ was the Son of God and that God was His Father. They asked Him: “Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (Joh 8:19). The Jews boasted of God, but they did not know Him. The knowledge of the Son and of the Father go together. Ignorance of Christ and of God go together. The climax of what the Jews thought of Christ’s human nature is in their seventh accusation: “We be not born of fornication” (Joh 8:41). This was their way of saying Christ’s conception was illegitimate. Their next accusation is understandable: “...thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (Joh 8:48). Unable to answer Christ, the Jews, like all enemies of truth today, resorted to ridicule and blasphemy.

One does not fully state the truth of Christ’s glorious Person by saying, “He was able not to sin.” Such a statement is based on the concept that since temptation and sin are distinct, to be tempted is not to sin. The conclusion of this concept is that temptability does not imply depravity. However, the fallacy of this theory simply makes Jesus Christ sinless. One must affirm that Christ was not sinless because He refused to sin but He refused to sin because He was incapable of being tempted. Furthermore, He was incapable of being tempted because He was absolutely holy.

No one is lured, enticed, inveigled, or tempted unless he has a weakness within. The aforementioned verbs describe a person whose right way is questioned by suggesting a wrong way. Lure implies the action of an irresistible influence, like the fishing lure used by sportsmen. Entice adds to lure a strong suggestion of artfulness. Inveigle implies the use of deceit and flattery. Tempt means to entice into evil through hope of pleasure or gain. Satan is the master tempter, but to suggest that the Person of Christ could be lured, enticed, inveigled, or tempted “inwardly” is a denial of His absolute holiness. To say that temptation is not sin is failure to distinguish between outward enticement and inward desire. Inward desire is sinful before the outward act is committed. Since there was no inward desire, due to absolute holiness in Christ, everything suggested by Satan was so repugnant He could not entertain such an idea. The holiness of God is opposed to sin in every form and degree: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity...” (Hab 1:13). Jesus Christ could not be convicted of sin; therefore, no outward evil suggestion could penetrate the holy Person of Christ.

Christ’s statement to the Jews who questioned His nature is applicable to all who do the same today:

He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God (Joh 8:47).

The Lord Jesus had already told the Jews that they could not understand His speech because they could not hear His word (v. 43). Now, He stated the reason: “because ye are not of God.” Hence, the word of God must never be watered down to satisfy depraved minds. Hearing God’s word implies the attention of the body, intention of the mind, and retention of the memory, all of which are the fruit of grace.

The fourteenth chapter of John is one of the favorite chapters of Christians. After comforting the disciples concerning His second coming, Christ promised them the Holy Spirit who would be their Comforter between His first and second advents. The Holy Spirit comes not only to regenerate the elect but to promote our hearts in affections, which were formed in us by the communication of God’s love in regeneration. As the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ is leading the elect unto glory (Heb 2:10). What greater assurance could the Captain of the elect’s salvation give to His own than “...for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”? (Joh 14:30).

The Savior of the elect knew that Satan was already gathering his forces to apprehend the Son of God as though He were a common criminal. Judas was at hand, and in him Satan was beginning to make his move. Satan’s one purpose was to thwart God’s redemptive act. The appearance of victory for Satan turned out to be his defeat:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14).

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Col 2:15).

Christ’s assertion, “Satan has nothing in me,” is another proof of His impeccability. The Greek text reads, kai en emoi ouk echei ouden — “And in me he has nothing.” In all men, even Christians, there is corruption with which Satan may fasten his suggestions and inflame their corrupt desires. Contrarily, there is nothing in Christ upon which he may fasten his evil suggestions. This verse is not talking about Christ resisting temptation but the fact that Satan has nothing in Christ’s Person that could receive any solicitation to do something wrong. This is impeccability.

II 13 THERE WAS NO SIN IN THE INCARNATE CHRIST

THERE WAS NO SIN IN THE INCARNATE CHRIST

Exegesis of Scripture relating to Christ’s impeccability given by His disciples has a significant order. John spoke of Christ’s impeccability in relation to the incarnation: “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin” (1Jo 3:5). He had no sin nature. Peter spoke of Christ’s impeccability in relation to His earthly life: “...Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1Pe 2:21-22). He did no sin. Paul spoke of Christ’s impeccability in association with His death: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21). He knew no sin. This order will be followed in the remaining lessons on Christ’s impeccability.

The apostle John placed great importance on the correct concept of the incarnation:

...Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God... (1Jo 4:2-3).

The Greek word eleluthota is a perfect participle of the verb erchomai which means to come. Thus, the perfect participle means “having come” in the flesh, a past completed act with continuing results. The force of the perfect denotes the oneness of His Divine-human Person as an abiding certainty. To confess Jesus Christ “having come in the flesh” is to confess the Godhead dwelling “bodily” in the second Person in the divine Triunity. The word “flesh” is sarki, locative singular of sarx, which refers to Christ’s human nature. The negative clause in the Greek does not use the name “Christ.” John used “Jesus” with the definite article to stress that it was “the Jesus” whom the apostles preached that the spirit of antichrist rejected.

Confessing that Jesus Christ has come to the inhabited earth in human nature involves a very important subject. Was Christ’s human nature peccable or impeccable? The verb “confesseth” is homologei, present active indicative of the verb homologeo, which means to confess, speak in accordance with, or adopt the same terms of language. One who believes that Christ’s human nature was impeccable speaks in accordance with Scripture which says: “...he was manifested [ephanerothe, first aorist passive indicative of phaneroo, which means to be personally manifested, Col 3:4; 1Pe 1:20; 1Jo 3:5] to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (1Jo 3:5). The word “sin” is a noun, and it means that Jesus Christ was not personally manifested in a sinful nature.

Persons who teach that Christ was peccable do not speak in accordance with or adopt the language of Scripture. They believe He could sin; therefore, they are not of God. The Holy Spirit does not apply the work of a “peccable christ” to the hearts of men. Furthermore, He does not lead unregenerate men to embrace a peccable savior in what religionists call “a salvation experience.”

Truth never appears without its counterfeits. Tares are found mixed with wheat; hypocrites are found among Christians; false teachers are found working among true ones; and the antichrist will mimic Jesus Christ. Many false prophets had gone out into the world in the days of John’s ministry. Therefore, he was led by the Holy Spirit in his general Epistle to warn believers: “BELOVED, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1Jo 4:1). He said the church in Ephesus had tried them who said they were apostles and found them to be liars (Re 2:2). There were many false prophets in John’s day, but their number has increased since that time.

Apart from the Biblical assurance that God’s sheep hear the voice of the true Shepherd and will not listen to the voice of strangers (Joh 10:1-7), a novice would not know what course to take, which one to adopt, or with which congregation to associate. However, this does not mean that warning is unnecessary. “Beloved,” John interjects, “don’t be believing every spirit [”believe" is a present active imperative ofpisteuo, to believe], but test [present active imperative of dokimadzo, to prove, try, test, examine] the spirits." Hence, God has given His people a formula whereby they may test the reality of the Christian message, the Christian messenger, and the Christian life. John was saying that we should try before we trust.

“Don’t be believing every spirit.” There is the spirit of time and the Spirit of eternity. The spirit of time speaks boastfully of man, the world, and life. The Spirit of eternity speaks of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The spirit of the age applauds, flatters, and pleases men. The Spirit of God reproves, rebukes, and convicts. The spirit of the age talks of the greatness of man, the sufficiency of temporal things, and of a reckless life without responsibility. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit speaks of God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity, and free grace provided for the elect in the Person and work of Jesus Christ who has come in impeccable flesh.

There are false philosophies taught by false teachers. The spirit of error falls under the following heads: (1) religious traditions, whether Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Protestant; (2) subjectivism, whether new revelations or personal opinions unsubstantiated by Scripture; (3) neglect of the whole counsel of God by majoring on fragments of Scripture used out of context. Every philosophy must bear the test of Scripture. The Bureau of Standards in Washington is important for our physical lives. God’s bureau of standards for our spiritual lives is much more important.

All ministers must be tested. One should “try the spirits” to see if they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. The persons themselves must be tested, not their skill, talent, or conduct. False teachers transform themselves into the apostles of Christ (2Co 11:13). They masquerade as Christ’s apostles. The Greek word for “transforming” of 2Co 11:13 ismetaskematidzomenoi, present middle participle of metaskematidzo, which means to change the figure of or to transform. This compound verb is made up of meta, which means “with” in the genitive case or “after” in the accusative case, and skematidzo, which means to fashion or transfigure (1Co 4:6; 2Co 11:13-15; Php 3:21). The noun skema is used in 1Co 7:31 and Php 2:8. Satan was an angel of light before his fall into a position of eternal darkness. He is now directing his servants to transform themselves into angels of light to prepare the world for his own transformation as an angel of light again when he appears as the false messiah. His servants become mighty preachers of philosophy, morality, expediency, rites, ceremonies, humanism, etc.

Those who deny that Jesus Christ has come in impeccable flesh are not of God, and this is the spirit of antichrist. Three things are stated about such teachers: (1) “They are of the world...”; (2) “...therefore speak they of the world...”; and (3) “...the world heareth them” (1Jo 4:5).

1. False teachers are of the world. The preposition “of” (ek) proves that they are out of the world as a source. This is not the world for which Christ died, the world that is being reconciled to God. The source of false teachers is the world that is lying in the evil one (1Jo 5:19). This is the world that believers are admonished not to love (1Jo 2:15). The world’s system is hostile to God, because its arrangement, adornment, and order have been made evil by depraved men.

2. False teachers speak of the world. They speak of the wisdom that is suitable to depraved minds. It is said that water does not rise above its source. Therefore, false teachers, whose standard is the world’s system, can have nothing to give but a worldly viewpoint. Peccability is a humanistic concept of Jesus Christ that originated in the world. Every unscriptural doctrine is man-made. The Bible speaks of the “doctrines of men” (Col 2:22; Mr 7:7). The “doctrines of men” have no place in them for the “doctrine of Christ” — “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God...” (2Jo 9). The Greek word for “doctrine” is didache, which denotes either that which is taught or the act of teaching. The doctrine of Christ in this verse refers to Christ as the standard of teaching given by inspired penmen of God.

John did not condemn theological progress in the use of “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ” (2Jo 9). The Greek word for “transgresseth” is proagon, present active participle of proago, which means that everyone who goes beyond the teaching of Christ is not of God. He goes beyond the limits of sound doctrine. Is teaching the doctrine of peccability going beyond the doctrine of Christ? Jesus Christ said, “Which one of you convicts Me of sin...?” (Joh 8:46 NASB). Since there is always more in Christ than we have experienced, there is progress in our understanding of the doctrine of Christ. Progress in understanding, however, does not mean that one ceases to “abide” (menon, present active participle of meno, to stay, continue, or dwell), but it means the one who remains not in the aforementioned teaching of Christ can make no claim of knowing God.

3. The world hears false teachers. Unregenerate men of the world listen to their ministry, approve what they hear, and receive it with pleasure. The quality of those who teach and those who listen is expressed. False teachers teach with the approval of false listeners, and they give false listeners what they want to hear. False listeners refuse what they need, because it is not compatible with their nature. They receive what they like, because it is in harmony with their depraved natures. Moreover, they give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (1Ti 4:1).

Christians have the responsibility of testing every person who poses as a representative of God: “...mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Ro 16:17). The two words that stand out in this text are (1) “mark” and (2) “avoid.” The word “mark” (skopein) is a present active infinitive of the verb skopeo, which means to look at, observe, or beware; to mark. The word “avoid” (ekkliete) is a present active indicative of the verb ekklino, which means to turn away from or avoid. False teachers are to be avoided, because they have leprosy of the head. Head leprosy is worse than bad morals. Such a leper is unfit for either communion or companionship. Under the Levitical system, this leper was pronounced “utterly unclean,” and he was to dwell alone outside the camp (Le 13:44,46).

II 14 CHRIST DID NOT SIN DURING THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH

CHRIST DID NOT SIN DURING THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH

Jesus Christ was “...a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pe 1:19). The Greek word for “without blemish” is amomou, genitive masculine of amomos, which means blameless. It is used seven times and is translated “without blame” (Eph 1:4), “without blemish” (Eph 5:27; 1Pe 1:19), “unblameable” (Col 1:22), “without spot” (Heb 9:14), “faultless” (Jude 24), and “without fault” (Re 14:5). The word refers to Christ’s complete sinlessness in the two places it is used in connection with Him. Peter used another word for amplification in speaking of Christ’s sinlessness. Hence, the word aspilou, genitive ofaspilos, means spotless, unblemished, or pure (1Ti 6:14; Jas 1:27; 1Pe 1:19; 2Pe 3:14). It is translated “without spot” and “unspotted.” Metaphorically, the word means free from censure (1Ti 6:14) or free from vice (2Pe 3:14).

Christ did not sin in word or deed during the days of His flesh on the earth. Furthermore, not having a sinful nature, He could not entertain a sinful thought. Sinful thoughts always precede either a sinful word or deed. A person is solicited to sin when he is “being drawn out” (exelkomenos, present passive participle of exelko, which means to draw out, away; to lure forth) and “being enticed” (deleadzomenos, present passive participle of deleadzo, which means to bait, catch by a bait; to beguile, allure, entice, or deceive) by his own craving (Jas 1:14). Jesus Christ in His absolutely holy nature could never crave anything evil in His holy thoughts. Therefore, the sinless life of Christ in the flesh proves He had no sin nature. Hence, He did not sin because in Him was no sin (1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:5).

No guile (dolos, which means craft, deceit, or guilt) (1Pe 2:22) was ever found in the mouth of Christ because sin was never conceived in His holy human nature. An internal craving for an external solicitation to some evil is necessary for sin to come into external existence. 1Pe 2:23 states that when Christ was reviled, He reviled not in return. The Greek word for “reviled” is loidoroumenos, present passive participle of loidoreo, which means to reproach, rail at, or heap abuse upon. When Jesus Christ was made the object of abuse and ridicule, He never retaliated (anteloidorei, imperfect active indicative ofantiloidoreo, which means to reproach or revile in return). This compound verb is used only in this verse. The imperfect tense used by Peter denotes the continuous negative reaction of Jesus Christ to all the reproach and abuse heaped upon Him by wicked men during the days of His earthly sojourn.

An unholy world hates the holy Savior. Christ said to His disciples:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (Joh 15:18-19).

There are two different worlds and loves. One is from heaven, and the other is from hell. The world that lies in darkness loves darkness rather than light:

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved [elegchthe, first aorist passive subjunctive of elegcho, to show one his fault, rebuke, lay bare, or expose] (Joh 3:19-20).

The light of Christ has a twofold effect on all those on whom it shines. The night birds flee from the morning light, while the birds of the day welcome the light with singing. Thus, while the child of darkness flees from Christ, the recipient of light “cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Joh 3:21).

The world’s hatred for Jesus Christ resulted in His suffering by the world. The climax of His suffering was Calvary. Christ said, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he...” (Joh 8:28). “Then shall ye know” is a phrase which denotes recognition of the true character of the holy One of God. His holy character was convincingly manifested in the time of His suffering on the cross. Peter spoke of the impeccable life by showing that He did not sin in 1Pe 2:22-23. There was no deceit in His mouth. He did not retaliate when He was abused; and when He suffered He threatened (epeilei, imperfect active indicative of apeileo, to threaten—used only here and in Ac 4:17) not, but delivered Himself to the One judging righteously.

Suffering is the key word of Peter’s epistle. Christ’s suffering is mentioned in every chapter of I Peter. Suffering preceded His glory (1Pe 1:11). Christ did not retaliate when He was abused (1Pe 2:23). A puritan preacher said, “To return good for evil is God-like, good for good is man-like, evil for evil is beast-like, and evil for good is devil-like.” The suffering of Christ was substitutionary (1Pe 3:18). The just One suffered for the unjust. Christ’s suffering has a practical character for Christians (1Pe 4:1). The death of Christ for sin applied by the Holy Spirit to the elect results in a practical death of Christians to sin. Finally, the sufferings of Christ have a ministerial character for all ministers of God (1Pe 5:1). Ministerial suffering is the result not of a general proclamation of some subjects but of the whole counsel of God.

In 1Pe 2:21, Peter states that the impeccable Christ has left His people an example: “...Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example [hupogrammos, a copy to write after. It is from the verbhupographo, to trace letters for copying. Metaphorically, the word is used only in this verse as an example for imitation]....” If Christ had been a peccable person, as many believe, His example would have been no different from anyone with a depraved nature. One might as well pattern his life after a mere man. Jesus Christ is more than a mere man. He is the God-Man, our perfect example. The goal of the Christian life is absolute perfection—not mere human imperfection:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Php 3:12-14).

Paul desired an experimental knowledge not only of the power of Christ’s resurrection but His sufferings (Php 3:10). Paul entered the Christian race by the righteousness of Christ, after which he sought to run the race successfully by knowing experientially the power of Christ’s resurrection, the joint participation in His sufferings, and the life that would radiate a likeness to His death. Paul spoke three times in Ro 6 of knowing the experimental value of union with Christ. The power of that experiential knowledge always results in one’s counting himself dead indeed to sin and alive unto God. Therefore, he yields his members unto God (Ro 6:1-13).

Every regenerated person is given a perfect position in Christ. Although his condition is imperfect, he has as his goal the example of the impeccable Christ. Throughout his Christian life attainment falls short of the goal, but immaturity does not lessen his responsibility to keep his eyes on the goal. Paul discussed the completion of the Christian race:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Php 3:20-21).

Paul at the outset expressed his confidence that Christ would complete what He had begun (Php 1:6). Some never give any thought to the completion of their salvation until death strikes someone close to them. Others remain in a state of uncertainty. Scripture, however, has commanded us to give diligence to make our calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10). The Greek word for “diligence” is an aorist imperative of speudo, which is a command to urge on or to hasten to make our calling and election sure. The Greek word for “sure” is bebaios, which means firm, steadfast, sure, or certain. (See Ro 4:16; 2Co 1:7; Heb 2:2; 3:6,14; 6:19; 2Pe 1:10,19.) Being confident of what God has begun, Paul led us to its glorious consummation.

Since the present is not the believer’s principle state, it should never be viewed separate from the future. The present bears the same relation to the future as incompletion does to completion. Three things are emphasized in Php 3:20-21 — (1) Believers possess a precious fact. Our citizenship is in heaven. The word for “citizenship” is politeuma. It is from politeuo, which means to be a citizen. Here it means to be a citizen in heaven. Hence, our citizenship on earth is in the form of pilgrims and strangers. Therefore, our lives on earth are those of suffering for the cause of Christ, because we cannot conform to this world system (Ro 12:2; 2Ti 2:12; 3:12). (2) Believers have a present continuous hope: “We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). Dissatisfaction with this world causes us to eagerly wait for the coming of our Savior, the perfect example for believers. In His character as “Savior,” saints wait for Him. The “blessed hope” of the saints is the coming of Christ (Tit 2:13). This hope has purifying qualities (1Jo 3:2-3). (3) Believers have a prospective glory. It will be the consummation of our salvation, which is the redemption of our bodies and being like our perfect example, Jesus Christ our Savior, Surety, and Priest.

II 15 CHRIST WHO KNEW NO SIN WAS MADE SIN

CHRIST WHO KNEW NO SIN WAS MADE SIN

Every Christian is constantly reminded just how little he knows concerning the Bible. On the other hand, he is amazed that he knows even a little. The only “smart” Christians this writer has ever known, over a period of nearly 50 years in the Lord’s service, have been those who only thought they were. To put knowledge of Divine things in its proper perspective, consider what Paul said to the Ephesian saints: “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge...” (Eph 3:19). Paul’s statement that Christians know the unknowable is not contradictory. Christians know by grace what they could not know by nature. They know by faith what they could not know by reason. Furthermore, believers know increasingly what they cannot know perfectly.

Having considered some key verses in which Jesus Christ affirmed His own impeccability, let us now study some passages given by inspired penmen.

Paul declared that Christ’s impeccability and sacrificial work are inseparable. The first gives validity to the second: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21). Christ’s holiness and His being made sin are inseparably connected. In order for the apostle to protect himself against saying that God is the author of sin in any form, he affirmed that Christ was without sin. If Christ could have sinned, He would not have been absolutely holy. Furthermore, if He had not been absolutely holy, He could not have provided the redemption necessary for the elect to be reconciled to God.

The inseparability of impeccability and redemption is associated with the inseparability of the messenger and his message:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2Co 5:18-21).

The messenger of God loves truth for truth’s sake. He always seeks to have a better understanding of truth in order to be a more effective witness for his Lord and Master.

The messenger is called an ambassador for Christ. The Greek word for ambassador is the verb presbeuo. It means to be an elder or an ambassador. It is used only twice in the New Testament, and it is translated ambassador in both 2Co 5:20 and Eph 6:20. The office of ambassador is one of not only distinguishing honor but importance. This office takes precedence over everything else in one’s life. The ambassador’s message is a trumpet that does not give an uncertain sound: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1Co 14:8). His message gives a certain sound because God has not only “given” to him the “ministry of reconciliation” but He has also “committed” to him the “word of reconciliation.”

The verbs “given” and “committed” differ. The verb “given” is second aorist active participle of didomi, which means to give or bestow. The ambassadors of whom Paul spoke had been reconciled by God through Christ; furthermore, God had given them the ministry (diakonia, work or office) of proclaiming the message of reconciliation. The verb “committed” is second aorist middle participle of tithemi, which means to assign, appoint, or commit as a matter of charge. God had given them the office, and now they were to participate in the word of reconciliation that had been assigned them. Hence, they were to perform the duties of ambassadors.

God’s grace and peace are discovered by the regenerate in hearing the message of one occupying the office of preaching. Satan knows this, and he opposes that office. He succeeds by persuading religionists to substitute flesh-tingling and ear-pleasing activities for the office of preaching. However, recipients of grace know the importance of the office and will submit to no substitute. They rely on what Christ said to the seventy: “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Lu 10:16). In Christ’s prayer to the Father, He said, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (Joh 17:18). Although everyone does not occupy the office of ambassador, all Christians should be witnesses on behalf of Christ. Hence, those who have been reconciled to God do not speak theoretically. They speak from lives of experience.

There is a difference between objective and subjective reconciliation. Distinction must be made between what Jesus Christ did for the elect on the cross and what takes place within them. The former is objective reconciliation, and the latter is subjective reconciliation. Paul spoke of objective reconciliation when he said, “...God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2Co 5:19). Objective reconciliation was finished when Jesus Christ died. Therefore, reconciliation began with the offended God rather than the offenders. Objective reconciliation presupposes alienation which has been satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ, thus enabling God to look with favor upon the elect. Objective reconciliation was also the subject of Paul’s statement to the Roman Christians: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Ro 5:10).

Objective and subjective reconciliation are both of God. The objective is through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the subjective is by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Since there is a difference between the two, how can reconciliation be compatible with universal redemption? Jesus Christ did not die for all men without distinction. Persons who deny distinctive redemption believe there is a reconciliation which of itself reconciles no one but is the basis for the reconciliation of all who will believe. The word of reconciliation, however, teaches that all who were objectively reconciled at the cross will be subjectively reconciled in the time of God’s love by the Holy Spirit (Eze 16:8; Joh 3:8). The Son of God who became the Son of Man accomplished His legal work, making it possible for the Father to look upon the elect with favor. Moreover, the Holy Spirit works in the elect, regenerating, maintaining, and completing salvation which is of God. Therefore, all who have been objectively reconciled to God have been or will be subjectively reconciled by the Holy Spirit. Their sins will not be imputed to them, and they shall be made righteous (2Co 5:19,21).

The exhortation by ambassadors, “be ye reconciled to God,” was not an invitation for the unregenerate to cooperate in their subjective reconciliation. God is the Reconciler both objectively and subjectively. Like the correlation between faith and justification, it was an exhortation for God-given faith to acknowledge the act of the sovereign God in their reconciliation.

This brings us to the very heart of God’s reconciling work. The foundation of reconciliation is the One not knowing sin made sin. “Not knowing sin” of 2Co 5:21 in the Greek text reads me gnonta hamartian. The word “knowing” is second aorist active participle of ginosko, which means “to know.” The word for “sin” is hamartian, accusative of the noun hamartia. Christ was not personally acquainted with sin because He could not know it experientially. The indication is not that He does not know what sin is because God knows all things. Paul was inspired to amplify Christ’s question: “Which [who] of you convinceth [convicts] me of sin?” (Joh 8:46). He said Christ had not a personal acquaintance with sin. The reason is that He did not have a nature that could relate with sin. Adam knew Eve intimately, but Jesus Christ knew not sin intimately.

Two focal points stand out in 2Co 5:21 — (1) the incarnation and (2) the crucifixion. Because of Christ’s unnatural begetting, He did not possess man’s natural depravity caused by the fall. The virgin birth explains His impeccable human nature and life, which qualified the Son of Man to be the representative of the elect at Calvary. Thus, the sinless Christ became identified with the sinfulness of the elect as their Substitute. That identification was retroactive because it affected all the elect who came before the incarnation and substitutionary death of the Savior. Furthermore, that identification was prospective because it affects all the elect who come after the incarnation and death of Christ. (See Ro 3:24-26.) Therefore, the purpose of the incarnation and crucifixion was that the elect might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.

The verbs for “made sin” and “made righteous” differ. The verb for “made sin” is epoiesen, first aorist active indicative of poieo, which means to make, form, create, declare, or appoint. Jesus Christ was “appointed” by the Father to be the representative at the cross for the elect. The same inflected form of the verb is used in Ac 2:36 — “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made [epoiesen] that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The Son of God was not only “appointed” to be our substitute, but He was “declared” both Lord and Christ.

The Father did not make Jesus Christ sinful, but He made Him sin. It would be blasphemous to say Christ was made a sinner, because He knew no sin. He was not guilty because He was not a transgressor. However, the Son of God was treated as though He were a sinner because sin was imputed to Him.

Since the reconciling work of Christ accomplished at Calvary was objective, the imputed sins which He carried up in His body to the cross were also objective. Sin always involves guilt, but objective guilt must not be confused with subjective depravity. Christ’s human nature was not subjectively depraved, but by imputation He could bear the objective guilt of the elect upon the cross. As Christ had imputed guilt without depravity, Christians have depravity without guilt.

One must demand an interpretation of “Christ made sin” by those who embrace peccability. 2Co 5:21 is a favorite verse used by followers of modern Pentecostalism, who have so much to say about “divine healing.” One man said as Christ was made sin for us who knew no sin (of His own); likewise, He was made sick for us who knew no sickness (of His own). Another said he will maintain until death that the flesh of Christ was as rebellious and fallen as ours. He said human nature which is corrupt to the core and black as hell is the human nature the Son of God took upon Himself. Others—not Pentecostals—name a catalog of evil things connected with the word “sin.” Such statements are repugnant to Christians. They know from the text and context that “Christ made sin” refers to His redemptive work on the cross and not to the human nature He assumed in the incarnation. Moreover, His human nature was not made sick or corrupted with evil at the cross. The writer of Hebrews used the word “sin” when speaking of judgment:

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb 9:28).

The two words “without sin” (choris hamartias) mean without any reference to His personal judgment upon sin. This took place at His first advent, when He stood in the place of the elect of God and was judged for their sins. There will be a judgment upon nonelect sinners for their sin at Christ’s second coming. This advent will not be related to a sin offering.

The verb for “made righteous” is genometha, second aorist subjunctive of ginomai, which means to come into existence, to become, to be changed or converted. Christ was “appointed” to be judged for us at Calvary that we might “become” righteous in that righteousness provided in His death. As the payment of our debt was imputed to Christ who became our debtor, His righteousness was imputed to us for whom the debt was paid. As Christ did not deserve the punishment, we do not deserve the glory.

II 16 OPPOSITE IMPUTATIONS ARE INSEPARABLE

OPPOSITE IMPUTATIONS ARE INSEPARABLE

The inseparability of both Christ’s impeccability and His vicarious work on the cross and His holiness and His being made sin have been studied. A deeper study of these truths plus the added inseparability of the opposite imputations of sins of the elect to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the elect will now be made.

The spiritual horizon of most Christians is very small. Hence, the limit of their perception is due to a lack of growth in grace and knowledge of Christ (2Pe 3:18). Peter was a striking example of his own inspired statement. A long time expired before Simon grew into Peter. The Lord Jesus Christ said to Peter, “...Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone” (Joh 1:42). Life is the best visible commentary upon the effect of the truths of the gospel. Grace and spiritual knowledge grow side by side—the practical and the theoretical. Progress is God’s ordained preventive against falling from steadfastness (2Pe 3:17).

When Peter said, “...grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” he placed grace before knowledge because it is the means of knowledge. The way to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11) and to “withstand [to resist] in the evil day” (Eph 6:13) is to “grow” (audzanete, present active imperative of audzano, which means to grow or increase) in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. There is neither standing nor resisting apart from progression. The imperative mood is not only a command. It is the furtherest mood from reality. Growth is possible because of grace; however, Peter contrasted this with one’s fall from his own steadfastness. A person can never be too far advanced in knowledge to live the Christian life without the necessity for being on guard. Peter knew this by experience.

There is a sense in which no one can grow in grace. Grace considered as God’s free favor toward the elect in regeneration cannot grow. The regenerated person can never be in grace more tomorrow than he is today. Consequently, there is neither progression nor retrogression in one’s position in grace. On the other hand, there is a sense in which the Christian grows “in” but not “into” grace. Progressive sanctification is growth in grace. The Divine principle within is grace, which enables one to grow. There are degrees in the development of grace in those positionally sanctified by grace. There is no place in the Christian life where one reaches a spiritual plateau from which there is no further progress. Since Jesus Christ is the object of the Christian’s knowledge, one should have no problem understanding that the infinite Savior can never be comprehended, although by grace He is apprehended.

Some have the heretical view that Christ was made guilty by being made sin. Two things are associated with guilt: (1) The guilty person has merited his guilt. (2) The guilty person is guilty because of his depraved condition. To say that Christ is connected in a personal way with either is heretical.

The sinless Christ was made sin. It was impossible for the sins of the elect to have been transferred to Christ in such a way as to make Him either subjectively sinful or guilty. He was not involved with depravity. First, Christ could not be made either “sin” as such or “a sinner.” Sin is a personal act which affects oneself and others. Christ “who knew no sin” (2Co 5:21), “who did no sin” (1Pe 2:22), and in whom “is no sin” (1Jo 3:5) could not be made a sinner. Second, guilt is personal and is incapable of being transferred to Christ. No one is truly guilty who is not personally a transgressor. If Christ was in any sense guilty, He deserved to die and His death could have no merit. He was not guilty and could not be made guilty. However, He was treated as though He were, because He was willing to stand in the place of guilty sinners.

A view held by others is that the Greek word hamartia cannot be translated “sin offering.” According to them, it can only be translated “sin.” They do not deny that Jesus Christ was made a sin offering, or a sacrifice for sin; but to them, that is not the same as Christ’s being made sin of 2Co 5:21. They believe Paul’s statement goes deeper into the problem of human sin; hence, human sin is the reason for Christ’s being made a sacrifice for sin. Christ’s being made sin justifies His being made a sin offering.

Another view is that the Greek word for “sin” and the corresponding Hebrew word denote both “sin” and “sin offering.” Hence, “They eat up the sin [sin offering] of my people...” (Ho 4:8). Those who hold this view conclude that Christ was made a sin offering: (1) by imputation, for our sins were made to meet upon Christ — “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6); and (2) by reputation, for He was reckoned among malefactors — “...he was numbered with the transgressors...” (Isa 53:12).

There is a threefold reason why God’s judgement must come upon sinners: (1) God’s judgment must come upon sinful men because of what they are by nature: “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men...” (Ro 5:18 NASB). Men are sinful before they sin. Therefore, their antecedent sinfulness is not misfortune but real guilt. They sinned in Adam (Ro 5:12). (2) God’s judgment must come upon sinful men because of what they have done. Men are judged according to their works (Re 20:12). Like the thief on the cross, all men will recognize that they receive the due reward of their deeds (Lu 23:40-41). (3) God’s judgment must come upon sinful men because of what they have not done:

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Mt 7:26-27).

Sin, therefore, is more than failure to do right. Both omission and commission are because of what men are by nature—sinful.

There is also a threefold judgment upon sinful men because of what they are, what they have done, and what they have not done. Jesus Christ, having never sinned (1Pe 2:22), was qualified to stand in the place of the elect who have sinned. Moreover, He in whom there was no sin (1Jo 3:5) was able to stand in the place of the elect for what they have not done.

Now comes the real test of one’s Biblical concept of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. If Jesus Christ was peccable, which means He had a nature capable of sinning, He would not have been competent to stand in the place of the elect who are sinners by nature. Therefore, those who believe in peccability do not have a Savior who can stand in their place because their savior needs one to stand in his place. What a horrible concept of Jesus Christ. Those who believe Jesus Christ was impeccable have a Representative who stood for them at Calvary. In His holy human nature, He was the Substitute for us who have depraved natures. “...He was manifested to take away our sins...” (1Jo 3:5). His sacrifice was perfect because He “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Heb 10:12). He was our Substitute because He suffered on our behalf — “the just for the unjust” (1Pe 3:18). He was also identified with us because He “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1Pe 2:24). Jesus Christ, who needed no reconciliation, objectively reconciled the elect to God at Calvary.

Finite man cannot make satisfaction to the infinite God who has been injured by his sin. Sin against the infinite God merits infinite punishment. When one speaks of the Infinite becoming finite in the incarnation, he should consider the effect such a theory has on the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross.The infinite Son of God did not become finite in the incarnation. He assumed a finite human nature. Therefore, the infinity of His Person qualified Jesus Christ to compensate for the eternity of retribution which the sin of finite man against the infinite God demands. If Christ had become finite in the incarnation, He could not have made infinite retribution. Hence, the man-made doctrine of peccability has no one who can satisfy Divine justice for sinful men. On the contrary, the Biblical truth of Christ’s impeccability represents Him as the infinite Savior who by one offering for sin made infinite retribution which suffices for the eternality of punishment. The extent of any crime depends on the relation between the offender and the offended. No crime can be greater than sin against God, against whom all sin is committed.

As the representative of God’s people, Jesus Christ stood in the place of the elect at Calvary. He was imputatively appointed sin. The sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, and He was made to bear the penalty in their place. The elect who were as lacking of righteousness as Christ was of sin had the righteousness provided by Christ imputed to them. Christ who knew no sin was appointed sin that the elect who knew no righteousness might become righteous in Him. Imputed righteousness becomes the judicial ground for the bestowal of grace. Christ’s obedience provided a righteousness, thus qualifying the recipients for eternal fellowship with God.

The righteousness the elect receive through grace is not God’s inherent righteousness. God’s inherent righteousness refers to His unalterable character. The imputed righteousness of Christ to the elect is the grace righteousness provided by Christ in His work at Calvary. The statement “made sin” cannot mean that Christ became inherently sinful. Furthermore, to be made righteous does not mean the reception of God’s inherent righteousness.

II 17 SINS ARE FORGIVEN AND SIN IS CONDEMNED

SINS ARE FORGIVEN AND SIN IS CONDEMNED

Proper distinction must be made between “sin” and “sins.” Sin is the root of which sins are the fruit. The sinful heart is the source of all kinds of evil:

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man... (Mt 15:19-20).

Sin is condemned but never forgiven; whereas, sins of the elect are forgiven but the elect are never condemned:

THERE is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (Ro 8:1-3).

God remembers the sins of the reconciled no more; but sin, being a constant companion of the reconciled, can never be forgotten until it is removed in death. One of seven things God promised to do for Israel was this: “I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34). On the other hand, Paul spoke of the law of sin in his members which constantly opposes the law of his mind (Ro 7:23). The law of sin which constantly opposes the law of the mind in the Christian is continually known by God.

One must not regard the “old nature” or the “new nature” as the man himself. An informed Christian would not regard either Christ’s “Divine nature” or His “human nature” as the God-Man. Nature and person are different terms: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Joh 3:6). The unbelieving ego is identified with the old nature — “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

The person united to the “new nature” by regeneration is responsible to mortify the deeds of the “old nature” (Col 3:5) — “that which is born of the flesh.” The man who was born of the flesh (unregenerate) is the same man who was born of the Spirit (regenerated).

The Spirit of regeneration dwelling in the Christian does not make any change or improvement in the flesh. The regenerated person is associated with conditions brought about by grace. Furthermore, the Spirit never leads him to regard himself in the flesh:

...ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Ro 8:9).

He is not in the flesh, but the flesh is in him. Moreover, the Spirit does maintain the Christian in self-judgment and personal cleansing:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.... For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1Co 11:28,31).

HAVING therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Co 7:1).

“Perfecting holiness in the fear of God” touches all of the Christian life until Christ’s return. How can one perfect that which is holy? The goal of this perfection must be viewed eschatologically. Absolute perfection in the Christian life will never take place until the great consummation of all things by the King of kings. Therefore, neither the “perfecting” nor the “fear of God” may be neglected in this life. God has chosen us “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph 1:4). Christians are to be established in order that they may be “...unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1Th 3:13). They can never slacken their vigilance, in view of the return of Christ. For this reason the Bible never speaks of antecedent absolute perfection apart from the return of Christ.

The fluctuating course of the Christian life is not easy to explain. We observe a fluctuating condition of life in Peter; whereas, there was in Paul, for the most part, an unwavering condition of life. The same Holy Spirit possessed both men, but one was more steadfast than the other. Scripture is reticent on why one was more vacillating than the other. However, we must beware of a reckless logic that would make God responsible for sin. True faith does not reason in a manner to blame God for one’s vacillating condition of life but ever presses toward the goal:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus (Php 3:12).

Throughout Scripture, we run into the idiom of struggle. Hence, a confession of guilt by men in grace who have mountaintop experiences with God is common:

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? (Ps 130:3).

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.... I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 40:4; 42:5-6).

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts (Isa 6:5).

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1Ti 1:15).

Guilt reveals itself before the throne of grace. Therefore, believers who understand their justification and view their lives against the backdrop of grace are those who have a deeper consciousness of their own sinfulness. Observe the difference in Peter when, after his obedience to Christ following a night of toiling in the energy of the flesh, he said, “...Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lu 5:8); and his boastful statement, “...Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Mt 26:33). Peter, like many today, wanted the Lord to bathe in his glory, rather than Peter bathe in Christ’s glory. Too many want to encompass the Lord Jesus Christ with their fidelity and love. However, when believers are enveloped with Christ’s love and faithfulness for His own, they will, like Peter as an obedient saint, say, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Job came to a new understanding of God. True self-abhorrence does not come from self-examination but from looking away from self to the God of all grace. Job was satisfied with himself until he, through the mystery of suffering and his complaining against God, was silenced by the sovereign God. God asked Job, “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2). Job, silenced by God, said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee...” (Job 40:4). The patriarch acknowledged God’s greatness and was well-pleased that God was justified when He spoke and overcame when He was judged (Ro 3:4).

The root of all sin, of both saved and unsaved, is the old sin nature — “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (Joh 3:6). The old nature with which every person is born will never be anything but flesh. Although the old nature is capable of doing good things, it is not capable of being good. There is no difference between the old nature of a regenerate and an unregenerate person. The impartation of the new nature makes the distinction. Regenerate man has the restraint of grace; whereas, the unregenerate man is without grace. The old nature of the unregenerate may be restrained by culture, but it remains the old nature.

Since “freedom” is a favorite topic today, it should be viewed from four perspectives. First, Adam was free to do either good or evil. In his peccable nature, he chose to do evil. Second, the descendants of Adam are free to do only evil. All the religious talk about man’s free will is a misnomer. Free will can be applied only to God; therefore, to apply free will to man is a misapplied designation. Free will is a Divine term which signifies Divine power. There is no law to restrain God because He is His own law. Moreover, there is no power to overcome Him because He is omnipotent. If God acted by any will other than His own, it would cease to be God’s will. If God’s will were determined by man’s will, God’s will would not be free. Those who ascribe salvation to man’s free will know nothing of grace. The first principle the recipient of grace learns is that he has neither will nor power, but God gives both. Hence, the descendants of Adam are free to do according to their fallen nature which is only evil. Third, Christians are free to do good, but they also have freedom to do some evil. If the latter were not true, Christians would not be constantly warned by Scripture. They would not have their own experiences and Bible examples of believers’ sinning. Fourth, consummation of redemption when the old nature is put off in death will render saints free to do only good in heaven.

Sins of the elect are forgiven, but sin is condemned. Man is a material and an immaterial creature—body and soul. His fall resulted in spiritual and physical death. Therefore, man’s redemption includes his soul and body. Man’s sins prove to be the fruit of his sin nature. On the other hand, Christ’s being made an offering for sins and sin proves the impeccability of His human nature. Christ did no sin because in Him was no sinful nature. As the God-Man, Jesus Christ was the sacrifice and the priest who offered the sacrifice. He died spiritually and physically for the elect.

Christ passively atoned for sins the elect actively committed by being made an offering for sins. The verbs “stricken,” “smitten,” “afflicted,” “wounded,” and “bruised” of Isa 53 signify that Christ was passive. On the contrary, men are passive but Christ was active in death. The verb Paul used when he said he was “ready to be offered” of 2Ti 4:6 was the present passive indicative of the Greek verbspendo, which means to be in the act of being sacrificed in the cause of Christ. Jesus Christ used an active verb to speak of His death (Joh 10:17-18; Heb 7:26). How do we reconcile the use of passivity and activity in Christ’s being made an offering for sins and for sin?

The two aspects of Christ’s sacrifice are seen in His passivity when the Father “made him sin” (2Co 5:21), and in His activity when He laid down His own life (Joh 10:18). There is no contradiction between Christ’s passivity and His activity. The debt of sins was paid by His three hours of suffering in total darkness. At the end of the darkness, Christ cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mr 15:34). Following this, Christ received the vinegar and said, “It is finished” (tetelestai, perfect passive indicative of teleo, which means “it has been finished”) (Joh 19:30). Some students of Greek say it means “paid in full.” One more redemptive act remained for Christ to accomplish. This act would reflect His activity. “And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit” (Joh 19:30 NASB). The verb “gave up” is paredoken, first aorist active indicative of paradidomi, which means to give over, deliver up, commit, yield, or dismiss. The sinful nature resident in every Christian results in physical death, but death has been conquered for Christ’s people by His own death. Hence, the sin nature that has been condemned but not forgiven has been actively conquered in the “death of death in the death of Christ,” as stated by John Owen.

Paul manifested a holy boldness when he said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1 NASB). Legal condemnation is behind Christians, but it is before those who die in their sins. Christ’s substitutionary work at Calvary for the elect has positionally placed Christians outside the range of legal condemnation. Hence, according to Ro 8:2, “...the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free [first aorist active indicative of eleutheroo, which means liberated once for all] from the law of sin and of death” (NASB). This verse is to be understood in the sense of a power that is operating in believers, thus delivering them from the power of indwelling sin rather than the guilt of sin. The freedom from condemnation of verse 1 embraces more than freedom from guilt. Furthermore, since sin is not destroyed but condemned in Christians, condemnation of sin in the flesh embodies more than legal judgment in the flesh (Ro 8:3). All who are engaged in the conflict between the spirit and the flesh know the ruling power in them is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Knowing that past sins are forgiven and will never be remembered is wonderful. Furthermore, to know that the sins which we commit in the Christian life, because of the power of the sin nature that resides in us, are not imputed to us is amazing (Ro 4:8). Knowledge that the power of indwelling sin, as well as the penalty of sin, has been once for all judged is awesome.

II 18 CHRIST WAS BOTH PRIEST AND SACRIFICE

CHRIST WAS BOTH PRIEST AND SACRIFICE

The expression “Christ’s passive and active obedience” has been a source of much controversy. There are extreme views of the passive and active obedience of Christ. With proper explanations, nothing is wrong with the phrase. Some have said if there is anything in Christ’s intervention for man’s salvation that may be called “passive,” it must be His death. This is the very opposite to the clearness of Scripture that Christ did not die until He gave Himself in death:

He poured out himself to death (Isa 53:12 NASB).

I lay down My life for the sheep.... I lay down My life that I may take it again.... I lay it down on My own initiative (Joh 10:15,17-18 NASB).

And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit (Joh 19:30 NASB). Christ...loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph 5:25 NASB).

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:3 NASB).

He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb 9:26 NASB).

The body Jesus Christ assumed in the incarnation was completely under His control not only in His death but after His death. For that reason Christ said, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (Joh 10:18 NASB). Jesus Christ was both Priest and Sacrifice.

Christ was seen in a variety of types in the Old Testament. For example, the sacrificial lamb, as it was offered by the priest, was a type of the sin-bearer. But, as it has been said, types are the best interpreters of New Testament truths only if one bears in mind that the antitype is always of a higher order and superior nature to what prefigured it, as the substance must excel the shadow. Hence, the Christian has no problem recognizing the superior nature of the God-Man Priest, who offered Himself, over the Aaronic priests, who offered up unblemished lambs. The antithesis is between the priests “standing” daily offering their imperfect sacrifices and Christ “sitting” after having offered one perfect sacrifice (Heb 10:1-18).

The prayers of Christ during the days of His flesh must be viewed in connection with His priestly office (Heb 5:1-10). Many take for granted that Heb 5:7 teaches that Christ prayed to be saved from death:

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared (Heb 5:7).

Heb 5:7-9 must never be read or studied apart from other verses included in Heb 5:1-10. Verses Heb 5:7-9 are closed between two affirmations of Christ’s priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. Therefore, His prayers must be recognized as the discharge of His priestly function. The passage does not affirm that Christ prayed to be saved from death but that He offered up prayers “unto him that was able to save him from death.” He prayed for that which God was able to give—salvation from death. What Christ actually prayed for is not stated in Hebrews; but the writer, in stating the substance of the prayer, says the prayer was “heard because of His piety” (NASB). The Greek word translated “feared” in the King James Bible is eulabeias, which means reverence to God. The God-Man did not pray to be saved from “dying,” but He prayed to God who was able to raise Him out from the state of death.

Matthew records two prayers by Christ in the garden of Gethsemane: (1) “...O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Mt 26:39). (2) ”...O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" (Mt 26:42). The first prayer was spoken out of His sinless human consciousness. The language was that of His sinless fear of separation from the Father; but at the same time, it was the submission of His human will to the Divine will. Christ learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Heb 5:8). To say He learned to be obedient is to admit He was a sinner. Obedience is learned in the school of experience. Hence, Christ learned experientially the meaning of obedience. “Being made perfect” of Heb 5:9 was not moral perfection because that was always His. However, this perfection was the appointed end of His human experience in the work to which He was ordained. Christ’s second prayer shows that beyond the submission of the human will to the Divine will lies the silencing of the human will.

We learn from Lu 22:42 that Christ’s prayer was one of submission to the Father’s will. Shortly after the Lord Jesus prayed, He said, “...the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it” (Joh 18:11). Isaiah foretold of Him, “I was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (Isa 50:5). Christ’s human will was revealed in the garden of Gethsemane, as His human soul was revealed many times during the days of His flesh. The High Priest, who was also the Sacrifice, was resigned to the will of God, which was known to Him before the foundation of the world. He had already begun to taste of the bitter cup in the garden and had accepted this bestowment from the Father’s hand. The sins He would bear were those of the elect by commission, but they would become His by imputation.

Jesus Christ’s intense suffering began as He entered the garden of Gethsemane, and it did not cease until He dismissed His spirit and left the body for the tomb. Christ invited the disciples to watch with Him, but He did not ask them to pray with Him. He never besought the prayers of men for Himself. Why? There is a different approach for them to God. The sinner must come as a penitent, but Christ was impeccable. There was an essential difference in nature between Christ and men. Christ could go directly to the Father, but men can approach the Father only through Christ and by the Spirit of regeneration.

The evidence of Christ’s Deity was greatly manifested when He went into the agony of Gethsemane alone, without fellowship with men in prayer. He had on one occasion asked certain disciples if they were able to be baptized with the baptism with which He was baptized (Mt 20:22-23; Mr 10:38-39; Lu 12:50). The folly of the disciples’ affirmative answer, “We are able,” can only be comprehended in the light of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane. He had a baptism to be baptized with, and His soul was “straitened [sunechomai, to be hard pressed from every side] till it be accomplished” (Lu 12:50). Christ’s prayer in the garden was to the Father for the benefit of the elect.

Some say Christ’s prayers in the garden of Gethsemane reveal the tension between His human and Divine natures. Was there a strained relationship between them? Admittedly, Christ speaking out of His human consciousness desired life, but one must not overlook the truth that His human will was controlled by His Divine will. This shows that although His human will was different from His Divine will, it was not contrary to it. There was no tension between them. Jesus Christ was like man and at the same time very much unlike man. Submission of the human will silenced it. Conclusively, there was no conflict between the human and Divine wills of the unique Person, the God-Man.

Since Christ was both the Sacrifice and the Sacrificer in the office of Priest, as the Sacrificer, He wanted no interruption of His office in death. Hence, “having been made perfect [teleiotheis, first aorist passive participle of teleioo, to reach the end of; to advance to final completeness; to reach the end of one’s course]” (Heb 5:9 NASB) as Priest, He reached the completion of His experiential training and actively became the Author of eternal salvation. Jesus Christ’s doing the will of His Father by being subjected to death was not passive endurance. In the volume of the book it was written of Christ, “...Lo, I come...to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7). Christ not only offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for the elect but, in the offering, He offered the elect with Himself. Hence, it can be said the elect died with Christ when He died. The aorist tenses used in Ro 6:1-11 denote a single and completed past act of Christ’s substitutionary work and the identification of the elect with Him in that work.

Some teach that Christ could not be a Priest on earth. They say He was saluted as the Son of God at His incarnation (Ps 2), and He was saluted as a Priest forever at His ascension (Ps 110). Their proof text is Heb 8:4 — “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.” One must note, however, that Scripture does not say that when Christ was on earth He was not a Priest (Heb 2:17; 5:7-10), but had He remained on earth He could not have discharged His priestly functions. He was not a priest after the order of Aaron. The first tabernacle was not false, but it was incomplete. It was a shadow of the reality.

The perfection of the sacrifice is derived from the Person of Christ, the Divine Son of God. He was “obedient unto death” (Php 2:8). The word for “unto” is mechri (mechris before a vowel), an adverb meaning unto, even to, until, or till. It has the force of a preposition with the genitive case of thanatou (death). Does this mean that Christ was obedient up to the point of His death but not in His death? Such belief would be synonymous with Christ’s exhortation to the church in Smyrna to be “faithful unto death” — achri thanatou (Re 2:10). Jesus Christ, unlike men, was actively obedient up to the point of death, and as the Conqueror of death, He “cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost [edzepneusen, first aorist active indicative of ekpneo, to breath out, to expire, or to die]" (Mr 15:37). If Christ’s active obedience had stopped short of going through death, He would have failed to bring His righteousness through death for the benefit of the elect. Christ who offered Himself not only satisfied Divine justice by bearing the sins of the elect but He also brought His righteousness through death for the benefit of those for whom He died.

II 19 JESUS CHRIST IS HIGH PRIEST FOREVER

JESUS CHRIST IS HIGH PRIEST FOREVER

The Hebrew priesthood was instituted because the people were not qualified to draw near to God in person. Although the priests were ordained to dwell in God’s habitation, their personal consciousness of sin made them afraid. The erection of a special place of worship carried with it the necessity for setting up an order of service. Any deviation from that order resulted in God’s judgment upon them. Hence, the failure of Nadab and Abihu represents the public failure of the priesthood as committed to man’s responsibility. Notwithstanding such public failure, God would have a priesthood maintained by two younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (Le 10). Outside failure never destroys inward maintenance of all that is truly of God. Therefore, Paul’s key word to Timothy, “nevertheless” of 2Ti 2:19, came after his description of public failure:

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity (2Ti 2:19).

As the remaining sons of Aaron show how the priesthood was to be maintained in a remnant, Timothy and all remaining faithful servants of God in every age are to earnestly contend for the faith in the midst of public failure.

The name “priest” denotes the idea of a familiar friend of God. The distinctive function of the office was to receive and present to God that which belonged to Him. Before Aaron there was no separate order of priesthood. Every father was the priest of his family. For example, Job is believed to be the most ancient book of the Bible. This patriarch acted as high priest of his family, which was not allowed after the exodus.

Aaron was the first high priest of the nation of Israel. As the first, he did not have in himself the proper qualifications for shadowing forth the Lord Jesus Christ, the great High Priest. Therefore, the requisite beauty and glory were placed on him symbolically (Ex 28). Arrayed in those beautiful, costly, and Divinely appointed garments, he was symbolically what Jesus Christ is in reality. Thus, Aaron could minister about the tabernacle as a type of Him who is the true High Priest made after the order of Melchisedec, not after the order of Aaron.

Jesus Christ is greater than Aaron. His priesthood was after a higher order than the Aaronic. It was after the order of Melchisedec (Heb 5:6). The order of Melchisedec is an everlasting one (Heb 7:16-17). Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God. Aaron was sinful. He had to offer a sacrifice for himself before he could offer one for the people (Le 16:6,11). If Jesus Christ had been peccable, as many religionists advocate, He would have been no greater than Aaron. Thus, the “better things” of Hebrews would be meaningless, and the author could not have been inspired. Jesus Christ is the forerunner of His sheep (Heb 6:20). He was made a High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. Conversely, Aaron was not a priest after the order of Melchisedec. Therefore, he could not be a forerunner of Israel. He was only a type of Christ. Jesus Christ was the Surety of the new covenant (Heb 7:22), but Aaron was not the surety of the old covenant. Christ served the realities (Heb 8:1-5); whereas, Aaron served the shadows. Lastly, Jesus Christ offered a better sacrifice than those offered by Aaron. He offered Himself (Heb 10:1-14).

Every high priest under the old economy was (1) called by God, (2) taken from among men, (3) appointed in things pertaining to God, (4) to function in behalf of men, (5) to offer gifts and sacrifices, (6) to be compassionate toward the ignorant and those who were out of the way, (7) to offer a sacrifice for personal sins, and (8) not to take the honor of the office unto himself. The great High Priest met every element required in the new covenant. Unlike Aaron under the old covenant, there was no personal weakness in Jesus Christ that required a personal sacrifice. Therefore, Christ was the Surety of the elect not only of the new covenant but also under the old covenant.

The covenant God made with Israel made nothing perfect, “but the bringing in of a better hope did” (Heb 7:19). This is not difficult to understand, since types were never meant to accomplish that which only the antitype—Jesus Christ—could perform. The legal side of suretyship is even stronger when the Surety becomes the Substitute for the original debtor by having the debt charged to the Surety and the debtor released. For example, Onesimus was legally released before the debt was actually paid to the creditor. This was made possible by Paul assuming the debt. In this way, only, could the Old Testament saints be forgiven before the death of the Testator (Heb 9:15-17).

In order to understand the greatness of Jesus Christ over Aaron, the following facts must be considered: Jesus Christ was not an accessory with His people for the payment of their debt. Payment of the debt was not conditioned on the idea that His people pay, but that He would pay in case they failed. The Surety must be capable of fulfilling all the obligations of the covenant. The covenant must be kept and the debt paid. Since the Creditor demands payment, the Surety is bound by the covenant and the debtor goes free. Hence, Christ gives assurance that all for whom He is Surety are acquitted. The greatness of Christ’s Person, the sufficiency of His sacrifice, the authority behind His resurrection, the superiority of His priesthood, and His ascension to the Father are a complete pledge of the validity of the better covenant.

Jesus Christ was not self-elected but God-appointed as High Priest. He did not take the honor unto Himself. No man has a right to take such an office without God’s appointment. Korah sought the priesthood, but he was not ordained by God (Nu 16:10). Advantage to oneself is no justification for that which is unlawful. Grasping for unlawful authority is setting aside Divine authority. Every man in his appointed place was important for Israel. It is also important for the church.

God is orderly in all His works. Therefore, God called Aaron to be Israel’s first high priest (Ex 28:1). Concerning His incarnate Son, He also said: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 5:6). It is in direct opposition to anyone taking this honor unto himself — “...but he that is called [alla kaloumenos, present passive participle of kaleo, to call; means ”but being called"] of God as was Aaron" (Heb 5:4). As all lawful priests descended from Aaron, the common priesthood of believers descend from Jesus Christ. The glory of the High Priest was conferred on Christ by God the Father. It was a glory which He did not have before His incarnation. Hence, we see that the purpose in the Word becoming flesh was for the High Priest of the elect to be taken out of men. Jesus Christ possessed a human nature — partook of flesh and blood (Heb 2:14) — which enabled Him to “be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).

Jesus Christ prayed, feared, learned obedience, and was made perfect “in the days of his flesh.” Christians would be indignant at anyone who would diminish the glory of Christ’s Godhead, but we should manifest the same disapproval toward anyone who would take away from His impeccable human nature. The term “the days of his flesh” (Heb 5:7) is used to distinguish His life on earth from His former state in glory. Christ’s human nature is represented by the term “flesh” (Joh 1:14; Ro 1:3-4; 8:3; 1Ti 3:16). The word “days” demonstrates the brevity of His relationship to time, but it in no way means the conclusion of His “days” would terminate His union with the flesh He assumed. The Son of God began His relationship with time by being “made flesh,” but the flesh He assumed enabled Him to be not only the sacrifice for sins of the elect but the Priest who sacrificed Himself. His priesthood did not cease at Calvary because He is a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.

Jesus Christ prayed as the High Priest. Since the High Priest was taken from men, Christ prayed as the God-Man; because as God absolutely considered, He could not pray. He is presenting Himself before the Father in the office of High Priest. In Heb 5:7, the word “prayers” comes from the Greek word deeseis, the plural of deesis, a derivative of the verb deomai, which means to need. The noun is used 19 times and is translated prayer, supplication, and request. The verb is used 22 times and is translated prayed, I beseech, and I besought. The word “supplication” is hiketerias, plural of hiketeria, which means supplication and is used only in this verse. The text says Christ offered up prayers “unto him that was able to save him from [ek] death.” Some say the preposition ek can be translated either “out of” or “from.” This is true, but the context enables us to know which is the correct translation. It is not a question of the Father’s ability but a question of His purpose. If God the Father were to save Christ from the death of the cross, He was able to save the elect without the cross. However, since the Father had given the elect grace in Jesus Christ before the world began (2Ti 1:9), that grace was given on the basis of Christ’s death. Therefore, Christ prayed unto Him who was able to raise Him out from the state of death (Heb 5:7). He did not pray that He would keep Him from dying.

Christ was heard on account of His eulabeias, genitive singular of eulabeia, which means reverence or piety. Hence, Christ’s prayers were never in vain. The word translated “heard” is a compound verbeisakoustheis, first aorist passive participle of eisakouo, which means to accept one’s petition. When Christ raised Lazarus, He said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (Joh 11:41-42). Christ was not only heard but His petition was granted. He was not saved from dying, but He was saved out of the state of death.

Christ as High Priest learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Heb 5:8). The Greek word for “learned” is emathe, second aorist active indicative of manthano, which means to learn or to be taught; to learn by experience. Hence, there are two ways one may learn something: (1) learn something he did not know before, or (2) learn experientially what he knew before. Christ learned experientially what priesthood, suretyship, death, etc., were.

Christ as High Priest was made perfect (Heb 5:9). “Being made perfect” is one word in the Greek. It is teleiotheis, first aorist passive participle of teleioo, which means to advance to final completeness in preparation for the office of Savior. Therefore, having been brought to the place of completeness, Christ became the Author of eternal salvation.

III - *** Christ Emptied Himself

III - 001 Index

CONTENTS

Best III - 01 CHRIST’S TWO SONSHIPS

Best III - 02 CHRIST’S TWO BEGETTINGS

Best III - 03 CHRIST’S TWO ADVENTS

Best III - 04 CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part I)

Best III - 05 CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part II)

Best III - 06 CHRIST IN THE FORM OF GOD

Best III - 07 EQUAL WITH GOD

Best III - 08 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part I)

Best III - 09 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part II)

Best III - 10 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part III)

Best III - 11 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part IV)

Best III - 12 THE FORM OF A SERVANT (Part I)

Best III - 13 THE FORM OF A SERVANT (Part II)

III - 01 CHRIST’S TWO SONSHIPS

CHRIST’S TWO SONSHIPS

The Lord  Jesus Christ is one Person with two Sonships. He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. The Son of God in the bosom of the Father was pleased to condescend to become the Son of Man. He willingly assumed human nature in order to reveal the Father, redeem the elect, and communicate the knowledge of God to His people.

God alone can reveal God. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Joh 1:18). The Fatherhood of God is not known apart from Sonship: “...No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father,  save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:27). Christ’s eternal Sonship is an unoriginated relationship to the Father. Eternal Fatherhood demands eternal Sonship. For example, no human father is older as a father than his son. He became a father at the same time his son became a son. The terms “Father” and “Son,” when speaking of the Godhead, imply co-eternality and co-equality. Christ’s incarnation did not affect the unoriginated relationship. He continued in the bosom of the Father. The “only begotten God,” monogenes theos, remains “with God” in the full sense of Joh 1:1 — “...the Word was with God....” “With God” signifies distinction in the Godhead. The preposition pros (with) reveals not merely existence alongside of but Person with Person eternally. Only such a Divine Person can reveal the Father. The popular belief that men by nature know the Father is in direct opposition to Scripture (Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22; Joh 14:10). Christ is a mighty Teacher. He gives discernment where He finds none.

Beginning with the title “Son of God” is the correct approach to this  study. Whatever subject one is considering, the approach should always begin with God absolutely considered. In the study of creation, it is “In the beginning God created...” (Ge 1:1). The study of salvation begins with God, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Ti 1:9). Christian living also begins with God: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Php 2:13).

Glorying in the Son of Man may be compared with the high priest of Israel passing the outer veil of the tabernacle. He enjoyed the first enclosure reserved for the feet of the covenant people. The holy placewas for those anointed of God. However, when the high priest went through the second veil, he gloried not only in the Son of Man but in the Son of God. He penetrated the veil which symbolized the human nature of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:19-20). He beheld the mercyseat which foreshadowed the Son of God whom the Father sent to be his propitiation (Ro 3:25). As we stand before the Son of Man, it is as though we stood before the second veil of the tabernacle which shrouds the mysteries of the Son of God. Let us not ascend from the Son of Man to the Son of God but descend from the Son of God to the Son of Man. With this approach, we can say with Paul, “...without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1Ti 3:16).

The gospel of John is unique in that it carries us back into eternity. It presents the Son of God in His eternal Deity and leaves us with a view of Him who has offered Himself on the cross as the Son of Man (Joh 1:1,49; 3:14-16). The Son of God came into the world with those who had been purposed to be His by electing love, but He did not leave the world until He had redeemed them (Joh 10:11,15; 17:1-24). The Father had given them to Him by covenant relationship. John looks deeper into the Person of Jesus Christ than the other gospel writers.

In the study of Christian evidences, we study not only the prophecies, birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Son of Man, but we go deeper and touch the heart of Christianity—the Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we conclude, “Truly this is the Son of God.” Hence, my hope of eternity is not built upon some little etymological technicality. It is not founded upon the construction of a phrase or the mood, voice, and tense of a verb, as important as these things are in their places. The revelation of God’s glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ by the Spirit of regeneration gives the recipient the ability to say, “...whereas I was blind, now I see” (Joh 9:25). As I look upon the sun shining, I do not need some person to tell me it is 93 million miles from the earth, and according to his logarithmic calculation, its light is sufficient to enlighten a hemisphere at a time. Why? I see its light and feel its heat. Hence, having been regenerated by the Spirit, the call of the gospel does not come by the understanding of all the parts of English and Greek grammar. If it did none would be converted. Those things are for the students who have been converted.

The Son of God is the eternal Son. Micah’s prophecy concerning Him states, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic 5:2). The son of God, therefore, is no creature limited by time. He is from eternity. Solomon’s description of the Wisdom of God has great similarity to John’s description of the Divine Logos (Pr 8:22-36; Joh 1:1-5). The book of Proverbs represents the Son of God as the Wisdom of God, but not yet manifested. The gospel of John reveals Him as the Word of God, but He is now manifested. Wisdom may be unrevealed, but the Word spoken is revealed. One may be unusually wise without anyone knowing it, but when he speaks his wisdom is revealed. The Son of God was Wisdom incarnate. As soon as the Word made flesh began to speak, men said, “...Never man spake like this man” (Joh 7:46). The two metaphors “Word” and “Son” supplement and protect each other. “Word” might suggest an impersonal quality in God, while “Son” might limit one’s conception of a personal yet created being without properly understanding it. Combining the two metaphors gives us the full truth and guards against error. Jesus Christ is the Son, but the Son also being the Word cannot be a created being.

Solomon gives several proofs of the Son’s eternality: (1) He was one with the Father — “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old” (Pr 8:22). (2) He was in the beginning — “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (Pr 8:23). (3) He was before creation — “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth” (Pr 8:24-27). (4) He was God’s fellow and delight — “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Pr 8:30). (5) He delights in men — “...my delights were with the sons of men” (Pr 8:31). (6) He calls men to hear — “...hearken unto me, 0 ye children...” (Pr 8:32). (7) There is danger in rejecting Christ — “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Pr 8:36).

The eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ is an absolute necessity in the Christian faith: (1) Eternal Sonship and eternal election stand or fall together (Eph 1:4; 2Ti 1:9). If the Son of God is not eternal, our election is not eternal. (2) Eternal Sonship and God’s purpose of redemption stand or fall together (1Pe 1:18-20; Ac 2:23; Joh 3:16). (3) Eternal Sonship and regeneration stand or fall together (Joh 5:26). The Son quickens whom He will. (4) Eternal Sonship and preservation stand or fall together (Ro 8:32-39).

Mary did not call Jesus Christ “Son of Man.” The angel said to Mary, “...The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lu 1:35). This verse has been tortured by depraved men trying to prove that Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God. The verb “shall be called” is from the Greek future tense of kaleo—to call. There is a wide difference between “began to be” and “will be called.” The statement “began to be” means that he was not before, but the statement “will be called” means that He who formerly existed is manifested among men as the Person who had been promised as the “seed of the woman.” “That holy thing” comes from the Greek to gennomenon hagion, the holy child or offspring, the subject of the verb “will be called.” The neuter gender has confused some, but the Holy Agency producing the Holy Embryo seems appropriate, since the Son of God was assuming a holy nature. The “Highest Son” — huios hupsistou, the genitive form of hupsistos, highest, loftiest, most elevated, the most high (“What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” — Mr 5:7) —of Lu 1:32 would be called “the Son of God” when He was born of the virgin Mary in Lu 1:35. The virgin could not be told by the angel that the Son of God would be begotten by her, because He was eternally begotten by the Father (Joh 1:1,14). Neither could the angel tell Mary her child would be called the Son of Man, because He was never addressed as Son of Man. “Son of Man” was not man’s title for Jesus Christ but His own title for Himself.

There is one important thing to observe about the title “Son of Man.” It was never found upon the lips of any but Jesus Christ during His public ministry, with the exception of Joh 12:34. Christ’s enemies did not understand how the Son of Man could be equated with the Messiah. They could not reconcile how the Son of Man was to be crucified and the Messiah was to be with them forever. The title “Son of Man” is applied to Christ only three times in all the rest of Scripture. Stephen used the title when he saw the Lord Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Ac 7:55-56). The two passages in Revelation are quotations from the Old Testament (Re 1:13; 14:14; Eze 1:26; Da 7:13). The Old Testament sheds more light than the New Testament on the manner in which the title “Son of Man” was established. On the other hand, the New Testament is clearer than the Old Testament in its description of the manner in which Christ achieved the title “Son of God.” Such prophecies as 2Sa 7:12-14 and 1Ch 17:12-14 predict the time when God would be the Father of Jesus Christ and Christ would be His Son. Both passages are spoken futuristically. A Sonship would be established, and that Sonship was as the “Son of Man.” The New Testament speaks of the “only begotten Son” (Joh 1:14,18; 3:16,18). Hence, there are two titles for the same Person. “Son of God” is by reason of Christ’s eternal generation, which is never futuristic. “Son of Man” is established by Christ’s incarnation, which is in time.

The Greek word for “Son,” in the title “Son of Man,” is not always used to designate the thought of being born of man. The word “son” is often used to carry the thought of “being identified with.” The wordhuioi is used in Mt 13:38 — “...children of the kingdom...” (huioi tes basileias); Mr 2:19 — “children of the bridechamber...” (huioi tou numphonos); Mr 3:17 — “...sons of thunder” (huioi brontes); Lu 16:8 —  “...children of this world...” (huioi tou aionos); “...the children of light” (tous huious tou photos); Eph 2:2 — “...the children of disobedience” (tois huiois tes apeitheias); 1Th 5:5 — “...children of light...” (huioi photos), and “...children of the day...” (huioi hemeras). In these verses, “sons” does not mean they were born of the kingdom, of the bridechamber, of thunder, etc.; but it does mean they were identified with the kingdom, the bridechamber, thunder, etc. Therefore, the expression “Son of Man” does not mean that Jesus Christ was born of Joseph.

The identification of the Son of God with the sons of men validated the title “Son of Man.” This was due to the hypostatic union of the two natures in one Person. Christologists cannot deny the reality and perfection of the Divine and human natures in the unique Person, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they cannot confound the two natures or deny the unity of the Person. The Son of Man is the bond between heaven and earth. He is the God-Man, Son to both. He is the Mediator through whom God reaches man and man reaches God. The Lord Jesus affirmed that He possessed human nature, and He also affirmed His preexistence. Other persons are sons of individual men, but Jesus Christ was no man’s son. He is the unique Son of Man. He belongs to no particular people but to His people among all nations and kindreds. The title “Son of Man” is associated with Divine undertakings. Therefore, what is proper to either nature is ascribed unto the Person under whatsoever name He chose to call Himself.

The New Testament never states that the eternal Son became a man. It does affirm that the Word became flesh, the Son was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, Christ was made in the likeness of men, and He was found in fashion as a man (Joh 1:14; Ro 8:3; Php 2:7-8). Some claim that to deny personality to Christ’s human nature is to deny redemption for mankind. They reason that what Christ did not take He did not redeem. The fact is, however, if Christ’s human nature is also personal, not only does He have two natures but He is two distinct persons. The Son of Man was a Person, but where did His personality lie? The Lord Jesus Christ possessed personality with the other Persons of the Godhead, but no one can say Jesus Christ is the Father or the Holy Spirit. Christ’s human nature does not possess a distinct personality over against His Divine nature. It has subsistence only in the second Person of the Godhead. If the human nature of Christ has a distinct subsistence apart from the Divine nature, the Deity of Christ is denied. Our blessed Lord is one Person with two perfect natures—Divine and human. Hence, the Son of Man was in heaven while on earth: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (Joh 3:13). The words “which is in heaven” are omitted in some manuscripts, but they have strong support in the ancient versions. The text refutes the denial of the preexistence and Deity of Christ. It also disproves that the “Son of Man” surrendered His attributes during the days of His flesh on earth.

The title “Son of Man” became a reality when the “Son of God” became flesh. Until the incarnation, “Son of Man” was predictive. The eternally begotten “Son of God” was begotten in time. The first begetting was not like a human begetting. It is referred to by many theologians as “eternal generation.” The term does not express the inexpressible, but for want of a better term it is acceptable. The statement “only begotten” comes from the Greek word monogenes. It means only, unique, or single of its kind. The word comes from monos which means single, alone, or only. Hence, Christ’s eternal Sonship is unique, one of its kind.

The unique Son of God was sent into the world at God’s appointed time as the sole representative of the being and character of the One who sent Him. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman...” (Ga 4:4). The word translated “sent” — the aorist tense of exapostello — means to send out or forth, to send away, or to dispatch on a service. This interesting word has two prepositions as prefixes. The stem stello means “to dispatch,” apo means “from,” and ex (from ek) means “out of.” This compound word means the eternal Son was sent out from heaven to execute a commission on earth. It refers to the act of one who sends another with a commission to perform a particular work. The word “apostle” comes from apostello. The prefixed preposition apo means the Person sent is to represent the Sender. The second prefixed preposition ex signifies the only begotten Son of God was sent out of the Father’s presence in heaven. Nowhere is it indicated in the Scriptures that God sent forth His Son into the world and anxiously awaited His reaction to the work of the cross. The word for “made” is genomenon, an aorist participle of ginomai — to be subject to or to be born.

When the Son of God came into the world, He did not assume a nature which could be laid aside after He had completed His mission. The assumption of Human nature made it possible for the Son of God to experience both suffering and glory as the God-Man. Christ experienced suffering throughout the days of His flesh on earth — “...the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mr 8:31). As God absolutely considered, the Son of God could not experience these things; but as the God-Man, the Lord Jesus did suffer these things. God, who demanded the Lamb, not only provided the Lamb but became the Lamb that He demanded.

The Son of Man not only experienced suffering, but as the coming Messiah, He shall experience the glory of the kingdom. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory....Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:31,34). The truth that God absolutely considered could never experience the glory of the kingdom in the manner in which the Son of Man shall experience its glory must be repeated. When the Son of Man assumes the kingdom at the time appointed, it will be in view of His being the predicted seed of David (Lu 1:31-33). The Divine nature must not be exalted to the exclusion of the human nature. Christ’s suffering and reigning are both viewed in relation to the God-Man. God absolutely considered is represented in Scripture as reigning, but that reign is not the reign of promise. The kingdom is promised to the Son of David.

Jesus Christ is both David’s Son and David’s Lord: “...I am the root and the offspring of David...” (Re 22:16). This duality is understandable in terms of the mystery of Christ’s Person. Blind Bartimaeus appealed to the Son of God as the Son of David (Mr 10:46-52). If the Son of Man is not Divine, there is no hope for mankind.

III - 02 CHRIST’S TWO BEGETTINGS

CHRIST’S TWO BEGETTINGS

The incarnation of Jesus Christ was a change of state but not a change of nature. He was veiled in human flesh. Personal and official glories of the Son of God were both hidden, except where the faith of the elect discovered them. John said, “...we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father...” (Joh 1:14). The glory of the tabernacle was God tabernacling in its midst. The glory of the church is the only begotten Son of God dwelling in her midst (Mt 18:20). Only God’s gift of faith sees that glory. The faith of the disciples penetrated Christ’s human nature and beheld the glory of the eternal Son who is full of grace and truth. The Lord Jesus walked through the land unrecognized as the Divine Son except where the light of the Spirit of regeneration enabled one to behold the Light of the world concealed by human nature. Christ’s moral glory, however, could not be hidden. He could not conceal a perfect life which was manifested by His words and works. God is absolute purity, uncontaminated even by the shadow of sin: “...God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1Jo 1:5).

Christ’s twofold begetting is the foundation of the elect of God being begotten again unto a living hope (1Pe 1:3). The eternal God comes to the elect in time that the elect in time can go to God eternally. This has been made possible by the eternally begotten Son being born in time thus providing the means whereby the elect born in time can be born again for eternity. The twice begotten Son—once in eternity and once in time—obtained eternal redemption for the elect who must be begotten twice in time to spend eternity with God (Heb 9:12; Joh 3:1-8). Unlike the begetting of the elect in time, Christ’s twofold begetting is divided between eternity and time. His eternal begetting is without beginning. The Lord Jesus is the only accepted once-begotten Person in time. God’s elect, however, are twice born in time. They are born physically, and then, born from above.

The eternally begotten Son of the eternal Father must be begotten in time to be the Mediator between the holy Father and the elect given to Him in the covenant of redemption. The mystery of the first begetting is a vital part of the mystery of the Son’s second begetting, and both are the foundation of the mystery of the begetting again of the elect. Paul said, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from the ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:25-27).

The Father vindicated the Son’s declaration that He and the Father are equal: “...He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (Joh 5:23). The title “Son of God” permeates the first epistle of John. The blood of the Son cleanses (1Jo 1:7). The Son is the Advocate with the Father (1Jo 2:1-2). The unction causes believers to abide in the Son (1Jo 2:20). Faith in the Son gives victory over the world (1Jo 5:4-5). God’s record testifies of the Son (1Jo 5:9-13). We have life in the Son (1Jo 5:12). The Son came to give understanding (1Jo 5:20). The Son is the true God and eternal life (1Jo 5:20).

The title “only begotten Son” has been the source of controversy since the third century after Christ’s death. Origen of Alexandria taught that Christ is from God and not God in Himself; He was generated not in time but in eternity. In the fourth century, Arius taught that God has not always been Father. He believed there was a time He was alone; but the eternal God made the Son a creature before all creatures; and He adopted Him for His Son. This teaching brought about great controversy. The church fathers concluded that the word “begotten” meant an inexplicable relationship and not an event.

There is a new theory about Sonship taught today. Some say to apply “begotten” to Jesus Christ in His eternal Deity in the past is a traditional error. Those who embrace this view say “begotten” refers to Christ as born of the virgin in time. They believe the Reformers, in trying to escape Arianism, invented the phrase “eternal generation.” While this view is incorrect, one must understand this revolutionary idea does not deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ.

Some boldly proclaim that the Bible says nothing about “begetting” as an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. They advocate dropping the statement “eternal generation” from the vocabulary of theology. The following are some arguments against the term “eternal generation.” (1) Theologians, trying to escape the difficulty of Arianism, invented the phrase “eternal generation.” (2) “Begotten” refers to Christ’s birth of the virgin in time. (3) God was not known to any man as Father until the Man was here who is called the Son of God (Lu 1:35). (4) The Person spoken of in Heb 1:5 is represented as Son. He is called Son because Sonship is related to His Manhood. (5) The assumption that prophetic statements of what Christ would be could be taken as setting forth facts subsisting as actualities at the time they were written would make the Scriptures nonsensical. Heb 1:5 is a quotation of Ps 2:7. The Sonship of Christ does not go back into eternity. (6) Scripture does not speak of “eternal Father” or “eternal Son.” Father and Son are names which could be known only through the incarnation. (7) The one who is eternally God has come into the place and relationship of Son. This involved obedience to the Father.

“Eternal generation” is a human term designed to explain, as well as one can, the inexplicable. Explaining the inexplicable can be likened to knowing the unknowable (Eph 3:18-19). “Trinity” is a human term used to explain the mystery of the Godhead. Objectors to the use of “eternal generation” use the human term “Trinity.” Hence, they are not consistent. If one human term should be dropped, consistency would demand dropping all human terms. If this is done, interpretation is impossible. Human interpretation falls short of perfection, but all Christians are responsible to interpret. The task of the interpreter is to use materials provided and make them as understandable as possible. Christ existed as Son from all eternity. What is this but eternal generation? God does not generate as man because there is a difference in nature. In human generation, the father exists before the son. However, in the Godhead, the Father and Son coexist. As there is a distinction of the Persons in the Godhead in time, there must be a distinction of Persons by name in eternity. God’s knowledge is infinite (Ps 147:5). There is no new thought with Him. God knows all things simultaneously. Eternal generation is an anomalous (inconsistent with the accepted or expected) expression to declare the inexpressible. It is acceptable for the want of a better term. It is not objectionable when one considers such Biblical truths as eternal election and eternal justification.

The Lord Jesus is eternally the only One of His kind. The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenes. It comes from two words: (1) monos, which means sole, single, alone, only; and (2) genos, which means kind, class, family, offspring. “Only begotten,” therefore, means the only one of its kind, unique. Everything in the Divine nature is eternal; therefore, the “only begotten” is eternal. The incarnation, baptism, and resurrection were manifestations of Sonship: “Concerning his Son ,Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Ro 1:3-4).

Some hold firmly to the eternal Sonship of Christ, but they refuse the term “only begotten” and substitute “well-beloved.” We have two sources of information for our understanding of “only begotten.” The Hebrew yahidt occurs twelve times in the Old Testament. It is translated “my darling” (Ps 22:20; 35:17), “desolate” (Ps 25:16), “solitary” (Ps 68:6), “only beloved” (Pr 4:3), “only son” (Ge 22:2,12,16; Jer 6:26; Am 8:10; Zec 12:10), and “only child” (Jg 11:34). In the New Testament the word monogenes occurs nine times. Three times the word is used of an “only child” (Lu 7:12; 8:42; 9:38), once of Isaac (Heb 11:17), and five times of the Son of God (Joh 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1Jo 4:9). Some have been confused about the passage in Heb 11:17. They say Isaac was not the only son. Ishmael was also Abraham’s son. However, the principle of Ro 9:7 clears up the confusion: “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” The word monogenes is not the ordinary word for “beloved” when applied to Jesus Christ. It is the word agapetos which is used in such passages as Mt 3:17 and Mt 17:5. If monogenesreferred to Christ’s incarnation, such passages as Mt 3:17 and Mt 17:5 would have been appropriate places to have used them. The fact is that monogenes speaks of the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ.

All Persons of the Godhead are equal, but they must be distinguished. How are they distinguished? How does one conclude who is number one? Who is number two? Who is number three?

There are many references in the New Testament which state the Father sent the Son: “...He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (Joh 5:23). “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (Joh 6:57). “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Ga 4:4). There are three different Greek words used for “sending” in these passages. They are pempo (Joh 5:23), apostello (Joh 6:57), and exapostello (Ga 4:4). These words are not used for the sake of variety. Pempo means to send, commission, or appoint. Apostello means to send out or away. Exapostello means to send away from oneself. The Father who sends is greater than the Son who is sent. Christ said, “...I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I” (Joh 14:28). Joh 10:30 proves the Lord Jesus spoke of priority of position, not inferiority of nature: “I and my Father are one.” Paul also confirmed the priority of the Father’s position: “...the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3).

The Father sent the Son, and both Father and Son are said to have sent the Holy Spirit: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Ga 4:6). Christ said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (Joh 15:26). Since the Father and the Son both sent the Spirit, they are greater in priority but not superior in nature.

Each Person of the Godhead has a distinguishing quality of His own, yet the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. The Son is of the Father, but the Father is never of the Son. The Spirit is of the Father and the Son. The Father operates through the Son, and the Father and the Son operate through the Holy Spirit. Some things are attributed to all three Persons; but, on the other hand, certain acts are predicated of one Person which are never predicated of the other two Persons. Neither Person is God without the others, but each with the others is God. The Father elects. The Son redeems. The Holy Spirit regenerates.

The title “Son” cannot be restricted to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. “Son” is a term that would not apply to the second Person of the Godhead if He were the Son only in an official or ethical sense. Jesus Christ sustains a relation to God which can be compared only with that which a son among men sustains to his father. The title refers to equality in nature. Therefore, the One who was eternally Son was manifested as Son in time.

Three references in the New Testament where the word “begotten” is used to speak of Christ do not mean “only begotten.” The word for “begotten” of Ac 13:33; Heb 1:5, and Heb 5:5 is gegenneka, the perfect tense of gennao, which means to be the father of, to cause to be born, or to cause to arise, engender, excite. In Ac 13:33, Paul quoted Ps 2:7 in defense of Christ’s resurrection. Hence, Christ was manifested with power when He rose from the dead. “Begotten” (gegenneka), therefore, means “Thou art my Son, this day have I brought thee forth or delivered thee up from the dead.” In Heb 1:5, Jesus Christ is revealed to be greater than the angels. Angels are called sons (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), but they are not manifested as the Son of God is. The writer to the Hebrews quoted not only a portion of Ps 2:7 but a part of 2Sa 7:14 — “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” This statement could never be used to speak of the eternal relationship of Father and Son. 2Sa 7:14 referred to Solomon in the immediate sense but to the Son of God in the ultimate sense. Solomon was king, but Jesus Christ would be the theocratic King. Finally, in Heb 5:5, the validity of Christ’s priesthood is proved. The same Person who said “Thou art my son...,” also said “...Thou art a priest for ever...” (Heb 5:6). Christ’s qualification for the office is revealed in the first statement, and the proof of His appointment is manifested by God’s oath in the latter. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is greater than the Aaronic priesthood.

Being the Son of God eternally and being manifested the Son of God in time are two different things. The “only begotten” (monogenes) is never used in connection with Christ’s human nature, but the words gennao (to be born, to cause to arise) and prototokos (firstborn) are associated with the incarnation. Having considered the references where “begotten,” gegenneka, is used, let us now investigate the word prototokos. It is used seven times in connection with the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:25; Lu 2:7; Ro 8:29; Col 1:15,18; Heb 1:6; Re 1:5). The word prototokos comes from protos which means foremost, whether in time, place, order, or importance. The birth of Jesus Christ is superior and therefore has priority over all births, creatures, and events. Christ is said to be the firstborn Son of Mary, firstborn among many brethren, firstborn of every creature, firstborn from the dead, firstborn who shall be brought into the world, and firstborn of the dead. The adjective “superior” and the noun “priority” fit each verse where prototokos is used in connection with Jesus Christ.

The human nature of Christ was not eternally in the bosom of the Father. However, the “only begotten” was and is in the bosom of the Father. This destroys the theory that Sonship is related only to Christ’s Manhood. Since the Father gave His only begotten Son, He was the only begotten Son before He was given (Joh 1:18; 3:16). Christ said the person who has not believed in the “name” of the only begotten Son is already condemned (Joh 3:18). The word “name” speaks of Christ’s very being and nature—His Person and Work as revealed to men. Does the word “name” include Christ’s Sonship? We must not forget that God sees future, present, and past all at once. God is one mind. He has a fixed and settled purpose. All history is but one. There is no succession in God’s knowledge, but there is in the revelation of that knowledge to men. Since God’s knowledge is infinite, Sonship was not a revelation to Him who knows everything as present. If one says that Christ is God’s Son by virtue of the everlasting covenant, how can he say a covenant begat Him? Begetting implies a Person, not a compact. A covenant implies the existence of covenant parties. If one says that Christ is the Son of God by virtue of the union of the Divine and human natures, how does he answer the fact that the “only begotten” is never associated with Christ’s human nature? “That holy thing” was not called the Son of God, but the Person clothed in that was (Lu 1:35). If Jesus Christ is the Son of God merely by virtue of the hypostatic union, where is the blessedness of the declaration, “...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17)? Finally, if Jesus Christ is Son of God merely by the incarnation, the Holy Spirit would be His Father, “declared the Son of God” would be meaningless, and there would be no uniqueness about His Sonship. That uniqueness is the Son of God becoming the Son of Man while remaining the Son of God.

There seems to be some confusion about the title “Son of Man.” Some teach that the human birth of Christ did not make Him the Son of Man. They cite Joh 3:13 and Joh 6:62 in defense of their view that the Son of Man descended out of heaven and He ascended up where He was before. The answer to this is not difficult when one realizes that all things have, with respect to God, a known and a real existence. Both are eternally known to God. However, the God-Man did not coexist with the Father, but the Father coexisted with the God-Man. There is no time with God. He is the first and last simultaneously (Isa 41:4). Christ’s human nature was neither from heaven nor omnipresent, but the Son of God who assumed the human nature in time was omnipresent. Therefore, the Son of God who became the Son of Man in time did not cease to be the omnipresent Son of God. That is the answer to both Joh 3:13 and Joh 6:62.

Jesus Christ is not said to be begotten of the Father in any sense except as the Father bore testimony to Him as being His unique Son. Ps 2:7 has been a verse of much controversy among Bible students. Some feel the controversy is unprofitable. It has been said that the dispute reveals presumptuous curiosity rather than reverent faith. Personally, I believe this is an excuse for lack of study to learn as much as possible about the infinite God. The Psalmist boldly described God’s victory over His enemies. Functions of government are centered in the Son of God. Therefore, God said, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Ps 2:6). The kingdom predicted is not soteriological but eschatological. The appointed King expressed who He is and what He is able to do by virtue of the Divine decree: “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Ps 2:7). Five things must be observed in the text: (1) Jesus Christ is Son. (2) He is My Son, i.e., the Son of God. (3) He is the Son of God begotten. “Begotten” comes from the Hebrew word yalad, which means to bear and bring forth as a mother (Ge 4:1); to beget as a father (Ge 4:18). With the second Person of the Godhead, a relation would exist which could be compared with that of a father and a son. The word “generation” is not inconsistent with equality. The Reformers used the word in the sense of individuals having equal status at the same time, not in the sense of procreation. (4) The Son of God is begotten this day. “This day” refers to the time the decree was revealed. Since this was a Divine act, it was eternal. This proves the eternal Sonship which the decree (law or statute) declares. There is no succession, yesterday, or tomorrow but one continuous day in eternity (Isa 43:13). The Psalmist is the seer, and the Psalm is a picture of what he saw and heard. (5) The begotten was by saying. Hence, the eternal Son was begotten by the eternal Father in the sense of the Father’s testimony: “...the LORD said...Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

The argument that “eternal Father” and “eternal Son” are not Scriptural expressions is illogical. It is a fact that both are eternal. Furthermore, it is a fact that God’s knowledge is infinite (Ps 147:5). Since God understands our thoughts afar off, to say the terms “Father” and “Son” were not understood by God until they were revealed in the incarnation would be against all logic. The Psalmist said, “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Ps 139:2). This means before a thought becomes my own it is eternally comprehended by God. The incarnation would give a complete account of both Sonship and Fatherhood (Joh 1:18; Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22). God alone can declare God. The Greek word for “declare” of Joh 1:18 is exegesato. It comes from two words — ek, out of, and hegeomai, to take the lead; to think, consider, esteem, regard; to be chief, to preside, govern. Hence, the full account of Fatherhood and Sonship is necessary for the elect’s salvation. Therefore, Fatherhood had to be there in order to be brought out. Fatherhood cannot exist apart from Sonship. Hence, the “Son” was given (Isa 9:6). The Son is equal with the Father (Joh 5:17-47; 10:30). He is the image of God (Heb 1:3). The word “image” involves two things—representation and manifestation. The Son of God, therefore, is not simply the revealer of God, but He Himself is God revealed. In order to reveal the Father, the Son condescended to take the place of subjection to the Father. The place of subjection as the God-Man was to reveal the Father and redeem the elect.

Two Persons are revealed in Ps 2:7 —the Father and the Son. The Son’s begetting by the Father’s testimony is a declaration of an eternal fact in the Divine nature. Lancelot Andrewes shows there is a resemblance between begetting and speaking. Both result in bringing forth. When one speaks, he does it either within himself or without to others. What one speaks comes from what he thought. The thought is a form of generation known only to oneself until the thought is declared. When the thought is expressed, it takes on a form of expression called the second begetting. Let it be fully understood that the day of Christ’s begetting is for the elect. He was eternally begotten in the purpose of the Father to be begotten of the virgin Mary in time. Both result in bringing forth. The purpose (decree) was brought forth: “...when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman...” (Ga 4:4). Therefore, the Word which was eternally with God and known only to God was revealed by the Spirit to the seer in prophecy. This is what is taught in Ps 2:7. But there is more to come. The prophecy of the eternally begotten Son became a reality when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among men (Joh 1:1,14). Hence, the eternally begotten was begotten in time.

III - 03 CHRIST’S TWO ADVENTS

CHRIST’S TWO ADVENTS

The prophecy of Isa 9:6-7 came at a time when King Ahaz and the people of Judah had forsaken God. Ahaz had refused the sign of deliverance and was seeking alliance with Assyria to fight off his enemies. The people were turning to mediums and spiritists instead of God for guidance. Isaiah shows in the last verse of chapter eight that many prefer any source of assumed intelligence, even though it is diabolical. In this setting, the prophet said, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa 8:20). The fact that man possesses a spirit causes him to seek support for that spirit in the day of mental strain and distress. Therefore, the unsaved person is an open target for “familiar spirits” (Isa 8:19). Satan does not allow the vacuum to go without filling it in his own way and for his own purpose. Familiar spirits will tell their clients just what they want to hear. They have no regard for the law of God, because it is their enemy. However, there is one thing for sure, the word which they despise will judge them in the last day. Christ said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Joh 12:48).

In the midst of the darkness, Isaiah saw the sunrise behind the clouds. There was a brighter day, a day without clouds. It is interesting to observe that the clearest promises of the Messiah have been given in the darkest hours of history. In the dark hour of Adam’s fallen state, God gave the promise of sin’s remedy in the seed of the woman (Ge 3:15). In the dark hour of Israel’s bondage in Egypt, Israel saw the promised Messiah in the paschal lamb (Ex 12:3-10). When the foundation of society in Israel was crumbling with iniquity, God gave the promise of a sure foundation for believers (Isa 28:16). When false teachers were overthrowing the faith of some in Paul’s day, the Holy Spirit gave a message through the apostle to Timothy: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2Ti 2:19). As we see the dark clouds gathering in these days of great wickedness and apostasy, our Lord is saying to us through Luke: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lu 21:28). This redemption is not that of the soul but of the body (Ro 8:23; 13:11).

Prophecy is to the Christian what a light is in a dark room. Peter said, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2Pe 1:19). Both the dawning of the day and the rising of the morning star refer to the parousia. The dawning of the day speaks of the anticipation in believers’ hearts caused by the signs of the approaching day of our Lord. Such anticipation produces a great transformation in the hearts of God’s people (1Jo 3:2-3). Hence, the unfulfilled prophecy of Scripture is a light that God has provided for the church in her hour of suffering and darkness. Prophecy not only proves the faithfulness of God in the past by prophecies that have been fulfilled, but the unfulfilled prophecies give direction and comfort to His people in the present. Hope is strengthened and sustained by what God has promised for the future. David was living in dark times when God’s message came to him: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (2Sa 23:2-5). Although David’s house (his family) was not right with God, he knew that God’s covenant was unconditional and everlasting. “A morning without clouds” is a prophecy of the coming kingdom. The darkness before dawn appropriately describes the period preceding the kingdom: “...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5). “The night is far spent, the day is at hand...” (Ro 13:12).

Isaiah’s prophecy is in the present tense. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given....” Future things are often expressed in the Hebrew as past, present, or both. To God there is neither past nor future. He is the “I Am.” God “...calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Ro 4:17). The prophecy in Isa 9:6-7 should be viewed as though the Messiah was just born to national Israel, and that nation was also born again to welcome Him (Isa 66:7). “Unto us” refers to the only nation ever elected as a nation.

The kingdom is the subject of Old Testament prophecy. Isa 9:6-7 has had only a partial fulfillment. A Child has been born, a Son has been given, but the government is not upon Christ’s shoulders. The government is not soteriological but eschatological. During Christ’s personal ministry on earth, He paid tribute to Caesar (Mt 17:24-27). Caesar was not forced by the righteous rule of Christ over men to pay homage. The Lord Jesus did not rule in “peace” at His first advent (Mt 10:34). He did not sit on His throne — the throne of David (Lu 1:32; Re 3:21). A world-wide, righteous government and universal peace are inseparable. The prophecy of Jer 23:5-8 prophesies a reigning King. The terms of this prophecy were not fulfilled at Christ’s first advent. The Jews rejected Him at His first advent. They said, “We have no king but Caesar” (Joh 19:15). This prophecy, therefore, has been partially fulfilled. Like other Old Testament prophecies, the coming of the Son of God into the world is announced without distinguishing the first from the second advent.

Included in the entire message of Isaiah to King Ahaz are both the first and second advents of Jesus Christ. Isaiah declared that Jehovah had spoken to him. The prophecy is better understood if the word for “confederacy” of Isa 8:12 is translated “conspiracy.” Isaiah and his associates were accused of a conspiracy against Ahaz and Judah, because the prophet had condemned the alliance of Ahaz with Assyria. This kind of slander is always expected when God’s true servants oppose professed followers of God who appeal to the heathen for help. When Amos prophesied that Jeroboam would die by the sword and the people would be led into captivity, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, saying, “Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel...” (Am 7:10-11). When Paul’s message of truth cut the hearts of the religionists, more than forty conspired that they would eat nothing until they had killed the apostle (Ac 23:12-14). However, Paul was protected from the conspiracy. Condemnation of fleshly activities in professing Christendom will result in conspiracies against God’s men today. Religious flesh is the same in every age. Furthermore, when God’s ministers warn people of the impending judgment of God on an ungodly society before the second advent, religious scoffers say, “...Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2Pe 3:4).

Both the first and second advents of Jesus Christ are predicted in Isa 9:6-7, without any distinction between the two. This is not unusual from the perspective of Old Testament prophets. Both advents are absolutely necessary for completed redemption with respect to redemption’s application. The Old Testament prophets saw salvation of men in its completion—soul and body. Redemption’s application to the soul takes place when one is regenerated by the Spirit (Joh 3:8), but its application to the body will not take place until Christ’s second advent (Ro 8:23). Christ’s first advent was in humiliation to purchase redemption for the elect; His second advent will be in power to finalize its application to the elect and to establish the kingdom for them. Each has its appropriate place in God’s eternal purpose. The glory of the second is the reward subsequent to the suffering and application of the first.

The first advent of Christ is given in the first part of Isa 9:6 — “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given....” The incarnation was an absolute necessity. Man can suffer, but he cannot satisfy God by his suffering. God absolutely considered can satisfy, but He cannot suffer. Jesus Christ is both a child born and a Son given. As the “child born,” we have the human nature in which the Son of God could suffer; and as the “Son given,” we have the Divine nature of the Person who alone could satisfy God. Hence, the God-Man is able to suffer the penalty of sin for man and make satisfaction unto God at the same time. As the Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ—the God-Man—reconciles God to the elect and the elect sinners to God. Jesus Christ restores God’s favor manward in propitiation. He removes our enmity Godward in reconciliation. Reconciliation is objective before it is subjective: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Ro 5:10). Christ’s death on the cross removed the alienation objectively before it is removed subjectively by regeneration.

The “child born” and the “Son given” are two statements that predict the hypostatic union—two natures in one Person. Three great areas of study are opened to us in this prophecy of Christ’s first advent: (1) “Child” and “Son” speak of Christ’s two natures. “Child” is a term used among men. No one would ever speak of God absolutely considered as a “child.” There are references to Jesus Christ as a “babe” (brephos Lu 2:12), a “child” (paidion Lu 2:27), a “boy” (pais Lu 2:43), and a “man” (anthropos Joh 19:5; andra Ac 2:22); but these apply to Him as the One in whom both the Divine and human natures are united. Hence, the “child” is from the earth, but the “Son” is from heaven. (2) “Child” and “Son” tell us what had a beginning and Who is without beginning. That which was born of the virgin had a beginning, but the Son who assumed that which was born has no beginning. The virgin brought forth the child that was born, but the Father gave the Son who was without human birth. (3) At the birth of Jesus Christ, there was a “manger” for the child, but there was a “star” for the Son (Mt 2:2). The shepherds came to view the child, but a choir of angels celebrated the Son (Lu 2:7-14). When Jesus Christ said, “I thirst,” He was emphasizing His human nature (Joh 19:28). God does not thirst. When He said, “I and my Father are one,” Christ was stressing His Divine nature (Joh 10:30). Moreover, when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” the Lord Jesus was manifesting Himself as the God-Man (Mt 11:28). The Lord Jesus Christ is equal with the Father but different because He possesses a human nature. He is the incarnate Son. Christ is equal with His brethren but different because He possesses a Divine nature (Heb 2:11-18). “Child” and “Son” do not constitute two persons. There is one Person with two natures. Both “child” and “Son” have but one name — “...His name shall be called...,” and upon the shoulders of this Person shall rest the righteous government.

Unto whom is the unique Person of Jesus Christ given? The text says “unto us.” The promise, therefore, was made to Israel through the prophet; but the promise includes the unconditional Abrahamic covenant. By the death of the “seed” (Ga 3:16), provision was made for the blessings promised in the Abrahamic covenant to come on both Jews and Gentiles (Ga 3:13-14; Heb 2:16). “Unto us” includes all the elect given to Jesus Christ (Joh 17:2,6,9,11-12,24). The Son is given to the elect because the elect were given to the Son before the foundation of the world. His name is half Hebrew—Jesus—and half Greek—Christ. Of all the gifts that have come down from the Father of lights, the gift of His Son is the greatest (Jas 1:17). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2Co 9:15). Precious gifts always come wrapped in something less precious, and the gift of God’s Son is not different. The Son of God was wrapped in human nature. His human nature, however, was not something unclean or peccable. The human nature, although infinitely below the dignity of the Divine nature, was holy (Lu 1:35).

The second advent of Jesus Christ receives greater emphasis in Isa 9:6-7 than the first advent. The first advent is stressed in Isa 7:14. Connecting the government of this prophecy with the church will not withstand the test of Scripture. The church cannot be equated with the kingdom of Old Testament prophecy. At the center of Jewish tradition was the belief in a Divine kingdom. The prophet pointed to a King of whose government and peace there shall be no end. To equate the missionary work of the church with the increase of Christ’s government and peace of which there will be no end is exegetical fraud. All missionary work will come to an end when the church has completed her mission on the earth. Some have gone so far as to say the increase of Christ’s government is by the distribution of Bibles and tracts, by building hospitals and schools, and by preaching the gospel under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Conversely, the kingdom will be established by the coming King after the church has been completed and her mission fulfilled.

Christ’s kingdom will be different from His control of the church as her Head and His providential rule over the universe. If Christ were reigning in the kingdom now, all the peoples of the world would recognize His reign. His reign in the kingdom will be visible. Neither His Headship in the church nor His sovereign rule in providence is visible. People in the world at large know nothing about Christ’s present rule. There is a great difference between the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in the kingdom and his rule in the church. He will rule immediately in the kingdom; whereas, He rules mediately in the church.

Isaiah’s prophecy states: “...the government shall be upon his [Son’s] shoulder [shoulders NASB].” Many expositors write and talk about the supreme, executive power given to Jesus Christ (Joh 5:22-23), such as forgiveness of sin and punishment of the ungodly. They make a threefold division of the kingdom: (1) the kingdom of grace, (2) the kingdom of providence, and (3) the kingdom of glory. By kingdom of grace, they mean the government of the church is laid upon the shoulders of Christ with a threefold solemnity: (1) an unalterable decree (Ps 2:6-8), (2) a covenant transaction between the Father and the Son (Joh 17), and (3) an oath, ratifying the determination of a council of peace (Ps 89:3-4,35). Those who hold this view compare the kingdom and the church. They state that as the kingdom has laws to govern, officers under the king, armies to train, enemies to fight, and fortification to protect, so has the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, to them the church or kingdom during the Old Testament dispensation was confined to the posterity of Abraham, with the exception of a few proselytes; but now, since the first advent of Christ, the church or kingdom has been extended also to the Gentile nations. But is this the meaning of the government upon Christ’s shoulders in this text?

The prophet enlarged upon the meaning of the government of Christ in Isa 9:7 — “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” A correct exegesis of this verse should dispel all confusion on the entire passage under consideration. That which will be given is not the last word on this passage; but it shall be an honest effort, in the light of all Scripture, to arrive at the truth apart from any denominational bias.

The exalted and reigning King shall have a name above every name. Following the condescension and humiliation of the eternal Son, Paul said: “...God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:9-11). “To bend or bow” and “to profess openly” are aspects of the acknowledgement of God’s greatness based on Isa 45:23 — “...That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” There will be a universal acclamation in which angels (“of things in heaven”), men (“and things in earth”), and devils (“and things under the earth”) shall confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

By the subjects of the righteous government of the King, His name shall be called: (1) Wonderful: He is wonderful in His eternal generation, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and coming kingdom. He is no ninety day wonder, but an eternal Wonder—the Wonder of all wonders. Our Savior and King is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, the first syllable of His name reveals that whatever we may know of the Son’s excellencies, there is still more that is unknown. He is not a miracle-worker, but He Himself is a miracle. As God-Man in one Person, He is a miraculous Personage. (2) Counsellor: This syllable of His name refers to Christ’s singular capacity for management. Every man, regardless of his position, needs counsellors; but the God-Man is the Wisdom of the Father (Pr 8). In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). The Lord Jesus never went to college, belonged to any of the sects of His day, or counselled any by human methods. Christ is called Counsellor because He is the Counsellor with God. Before the world was, there was a solemn conclave between Father, Son, and Spirit of their working out the eternal purpose. Christ has preeminence as Counsellor. (3) Mighty God: In the hypostatic union, the Divine nature is not humanized and the human nature is not deified. The two natures are so united in the one Person that what is peculiar to one nature is often ascribed to the other (Joh 3:13; Ac 20:28). As the God-Man, Jesus Christ is the Mighty God who has power over all flesh (Joh 17:2), is able to save to the uttermost (Heb 7:25), holds all things together (Col 1:17), and shall destroy the wicked one with the brightness of His coming (2Th 2:8). (4) Everlasting Father (Father of eternity): Christ is not called Father in respect to the eternal three. He is the Son in that point of view. How complex is the Person of Jesus Christ! The prophet called Him “child,” “Son,” “Counsellor,” and now “Eternal Father” (Father of eternity). A look at Jesus Christ will save the soul (Isa 45:22), but diligent study and patient meditation alone by the child of God can fill the mind with the knowledge of Him who passes knowledge. In what sense is Jesus Christ Father? Is the Son His own Father? The Hebrews had a tradition of calling a person the father of something for which he was responsible for its existence. For example, Jubal is called the father of such as handled the harp and organ; and Jabal was the father of such as dwelt in tents and raised cattle (Ge 4:20-21). These two men were the inventors of their occupations. Furthermore, according to Jewish custom, the elder brother was the father of the family in the absence of his father. The firstborn took precedence over all and took upon him his father’s position. In this light, since the Lord Jesus will be the only visible Person of the Godhead in the kingdom, He will exercise the Father’s office to His own. (5) Prince of peace: The Lord Jesus gives individual peace to the elect as they are justified by faith (Ro 5:1). This peace was made by the blood of His cross (Col 1:20). When peace has been disturbed, Christ restores it (Isa 57:18-19). This peace which we have in a world of disturbance will be perfected in the kingdom.

There will be no end to the increase of Christ’s government and peace. The government shall never have an interregnum. There will never be another king to reign when the Lord Jesus sits on David’s throne. There will never be an end to the government and peace of His kingdom: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lu 1:32-33). The subject of the kingdom clearly illuminates the past and present. It dispels the darkness of the immediate future for Christians. An explanation of neither the past nor the present can be given unless we consider the ultimate result displayed in the coming kingdom. Salvation is perfected in the kingdom, not in the church. Reigning is in the kingdom, but suffering is in the church.

The prophet closed his prophecy by saying, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isa 9:7). No person can handle the Scripture properly without the correct concept of the kingdom. The establishment of the kingdom will not take place until the Son of Man openly exercises His power and visibly brings all things into subjection to His righteous reign on the earth. He alone will perform this when He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords.

III - 04 CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part I)

CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part I)

The nature of the Son of God was not changed, and He did not surrender His attributes in the incarnation. Jesus Christ did not cease to be God, but He veiled His Deity in human flesh. The Son of God did not take upon Himself all that we are, but He did share flesh and blood that through death He might save His people. He who created all things and upholds all things condescended to become the “seed of Abraham,” “the seed of David,” and “the seed of the woman.” The eternal Son of God shared our nature but not our sin. He could not have atoned for our sins if He had shared our guilt. He could not have cleansed our hearts if He had Himself been unclean. Priests of the Levitical system first offered sacrifices for their own sins and then for the sins of the people whom they represented, but the Son of God was the spotless Lamb who offered Himself. He who is all purity came to an impure people to make them pure. He who is absolute holiness came in a holy body that we might be partakers of His holiness. He made of one blood all nations of men so that in the sin of one all sinned. He then came in flesh and blood that we might be washed from our sins in His blood. He who was in the form of God took upon Himself the form of a servant to cleanse us by His blood.

Christ took on Him the seed of Abraham (Heb 2:16). The Greek verb is the present middle form of epilambano, which means to lay hold of, seize, to assume a portion of, to assume the nature of, or to attach oneself to. This is not the language that describes the ordinary birth of a person. No human being could say, with respect to his birth, that he was pleased to take on him such a body. Most people I know would have taken on them different bodies than they have. It seems that everyone is dissatisfied to some extent with his body. Our text describes voluntary action. It was an act contemplated beforehand. The middle of the verb epilambano means that He Himself assumed the seed, sperma (seed, offspring, children, posterity, nature), of Abraham. Preexistence, power, and condescension are implied in Heb 2:16 — “...He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” The Lord Jesus is greater than either angels or men. He who voluntarily took on Him the seed of Abraham was not less God because He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Joh 8:58).

The Lord Jesus was determined to save those the Father gave Him. Our Savior’s birth in the flesh was the assurance of our birth in the Spirit. His birth in time is the pledge of our new birth. He is the Son of God by nature, and we are sons of God by grace. The prospect of death causes fear which results in mental bondage. Christ delivers His people from bondage: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14-15). Because of Christ’s death in the place of our death, Satan no longer has power over the elect to keep them in bondage to fear. As soon as the sovereign Spirit regenerates sinners, they are delivered experientially from the fear of death which has subjected them to slavery. The fear of death is twofold: (1) There is an instinctive fear that is shared by all, even the strongest Christians. The psychological nature of man is such that the first conscious reality of impending death causes fear. This fear is normal. The stark reality of dying hides from even the believer the blessedness of dying with the Lord, until he collects his thoughts (Re 14:13). After he gains his composure, the grace of God made available through his knowledge of Scripture will give calmness in the hour of dissolution. Hence, he can say, “...though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps 23:4). The believer not only passes through death, but to him it is only a shadow. The shadow is a shade cast by an object, and the object is the death of Christ. Therefore, the sting of death has been removed by the death of Christ, leaving death but a shadow because it is stingless. The sting of death is sin, but the sin question has been settled for the Christian. The glorious light of the resurrection is behind the shadow (1Co 15:51-57). It is wonderful to know that death belongs to the Christian rather than the believer belonging to death. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1Co 3:21-23). (2) The sting of death has not been removed for the unbeliever. He will not walk through death’s shadow, but he will walk into the second death which is eternal. He dreads death’s mystery. Heb 2:14-16 cannot give comfort to the nonchristian, because he is not included among the “sons” (Heb 2:10), “brethren” (Heb 2:11), “children” (Heb 2:14), and “his brethren” (Heb 2:17). There is a threefold division of Heb 2:14 that suggests a great truth — “the children,” “he also,” and “the devil.” There should be no fear to the Christian because the Lord Jesus comes between him and the devil. This is the secret of the believer’s safety, but the unbeliever does not have Christ to stand between him and the devil. Hence, there is no hope to the person who dies in his sin.

The condescension of the Son of God is seen in His high priestly prayer: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them...” (Joh 17:22). Christ’s essential glory is something that can be neither received nor given. As the second Person of the Godhead, Christ possesses the glory which is essentially His from eternity. He never relinquished this glory of the Son of God. As the incarnate Son, there was a personal glory given which was ever peculiar to the God-Man and therefore incommunicable (Joh 1:14). However, there was a glory given to our Savior for the special object and purpose that He should give it to His believing people, until out of His fulness we receive grace upon grace. Christ’s reception of anything from the Father presupposes condescension. He who received this glory was none the richer, but it was for our enrichment. In fact, Christ receiving glory refers to His poverty; but His poverty was in order that we might be made rich: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Co 8:9). Our enrichment is not separate from Jesus Christ. The glory Christ received, which was for the benefit of His people, was the glory of His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. As the Prophet, He is our Divine Messenger. He is the Teacher who has come from God to reveal the Father and to unfold the truth for the everlasting good of His people. He is our Divine Priest who has satisfied God by His atonement and has reconciled us to Himself. He is our King for whom we look to complete our salvation and establish His kingdom. This threefold office is the glory which has been communicated to us. It is not some perishable wealth or worldly honor. As the recipients of this glory, we are the messengers of God reflecting the light of Him who is the Light of the world. We are the sons of God by the redemptive work of Christ. Finally, we are motivated by the hope of Christ’s second coming and the new heavens and the new earth. Men seek glory for themselves in material wealth, worldly honor, and political power; but all such glory has no lasting portion for the soul. The glory which Christ gives will not only be remembered, but it will shine forth as the manifestation of the sons of God.

Christ was rich, but He became poor: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Co 8:9). Persons who have been born and nurtured in the lap of poverty feel less woes of their condition. However, there are others whose poverty we pity. They were once rich but now they know the meaning of poverty. We pity them because they have known something better. Since Christ neither was born rich nor acquired earthly wealth, His riches must be attributed to His preincarnate state. He was rich in the possession of the inexpressible glory which He had with the Father before the foundation of the world (Joh 17:5,24; Heb 2:14-16). Christ was rich not only in glory but in virtue. His inherent righteousness could not be laid aside, yet His relative position to the law was altered. He was regarded by the law as a debtor, and His life was forfeited for your moral poverty. Although Christ could not become poor in the sense of being a sinner, He did become poor in the sense of being treated as one: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Ga 3:13). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21). There is no degree of wealth to compare with the riches of Christ Jesus before His incarnation. Furthermore, there is no degree of poverty to compare with the poverty of Christ in His incarnation. Since He was so steeped in poverty, what must He be in riches? Since He made us rich in His poverty, what will He do for us now that He is glorified? Since the dying Savior wrought salvation from sin for us, should not the living and interceding Savior abundantly secure it? “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Ro 5:10).

Christ’s poverty was for our sake. The true test of any action lies in its nature. Many deeds seem to be noble when in reality they are ignoble. They have been performed with an inglorious motive. Conversely, other actions appear to be inglorious, but they are full of the glory of a noble purpose. The less of self in any deed, the more noble it is. This brings us to Paul’s purpose in the message of Php 2:1-11. Both doctrine and duty are closely united. The “therefore” of Php 2:1 connects the passage with the manner of life worthy of the gospel in Php 1:27-30. Positively, there are qualities to be cultivated (Php 2:1-2); and negatively, there are things to be avoided (Php 2:3-4). Php 2:5 has been considered transitional, linking the duty of Php 2:1-4 with the great doctrinal section of Php 2:6-11. The mind which was in Christ Jesus should be in the Philippian saints. They were followers of Christ. The inculcation of personal virtue based on moral example is not implied in the words “in you” (Php 2:5). Contrarily, they signify that the same mind as Christ’s should be exercised in church fellowship at Philippi. Humility is the only attitude for those in Christ, because He is the one supreme example to His people (1Pe 2:21). Christ’s humiliation consists in three stages: (1) The nature of Christ’s humiliation was self-renunciation (Php 2:6-7a). The apostle had just appealed to the saints to “Look not every man on his own things...” (Php 2:4). (2) The manner of Christ’s humiliation was the incarnation (Php 2:7b). Paul would remind the saints of his statement, “Look...every man also on the things of others” (Php 2:4). (3) The extent of Christ’s humiliation was His death (Php 2:8). The apostle would call the believer’s attention to his statement in Php 2:3, “...let each esteem other better than themselves (let each of you regard one another as more important than himself—NASB).”

As Jesus Christ who was rich became poor and suffered for “our sake,” let us not forget that Paul said, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Php 1:29). “For His sake” includes “...for righteousness’ sake...” (Mt 5:10), “...for the gospel’s sake...” (1Co 9:23), “...for his body’s sake, which is the church...” (Col 1:24), “For the elect’s sakes...” (2Ti 2:10), and “...for the kingdom of God’s sake” (Lu 18:29).

The norm for Christology is given by the Holy Spirit through Paul in Php 2:5-11. Paul named the Person who was in the form of God and took upon Himself the form of a servant. His name is Jesus Christ (Php 2:5). This passage proves not only Christ’s condescension but His preexistence. Hence, the same statements that prove His human nature also prove His Divine nature. The Divine Person did not become a mere man. He did not lay aside His Deity but assumed a human nature. This is called the hypostatic union—two natures united in one Person. The Divine nature never has a human attribute, and the human nature never has a Divine attribute. However, the God-Man may be spoken of as having both Divine and human attributes.

Christ’s preexistent nature is strikingly described in Php 2:6 — “Who, being in the form of God....” The Greek text reads hos en morphe theou huparchon. The word huparchon is a present active participle of huparcho which means to exist, to subsist. The present tense, active voice makes it read: “Who is existing in the form of God.” Furthermore, the word morphe speaks of who Christ is essentially. This word is used three times in the New Testament (Mr 16:12; Php 2:6-7). The word in its original meaning carried the idea of reality that does not change regardless of how it might be manifested. Now, we see the importance of the word. He who was in the form of God does not cease to be God, even though He chose to manifest Himself in the form of a servant. The mystery of God was manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16). The mode of manifestation is not identical with the essence itself. He who was with God was God (Joh 1:1). Paul used an expression which indicates the relation of the second Person to the first Person of the Godhead. There is an eternal subordination without inferiority of nature. There cannot be a Father without a Son. The eternal Being must have an image. Christ Jesus is both the form of God and the express image of God (Php 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). We must not think of Christ Jesus apart from both His Divine and human natures. Since the incarnation, He is the God-Man forever.

The reality of Christ’s human nature is set forth by three expressions in Php 2:7-8 — (1) “Form of a servant” is used to describe Christ’s human nature. The same word is used to describe both His human and Divine natures. Therefore, morphe proves the reality of the human nature, as it does the Divine. Christ took the human nature that He might serve and die in it. (2) “Likeness of men” indicates that Christ Jesus is different from all other men. He who was eternally begotten was begotten in time by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s definition leaves room for all that range of difference between Christ and us. (3) “Found in fashion as a man” completes the description of the incarnation. It has been suggested that “form” describes who He was, and “fashion” describes what He looked like. The word “fashion” comes from schema — fashion, form; fashion, external show (1Co 7:31); guise, appearance (Php 2:8). Some give morphe as a synonym for schema. In certain cases, they may be used interchangeably; but here, Paul gave a contrast between what Jesus Christ was in Himself and what He appeared to be before men.

Christ Jesus existing in “the form of God” and taking “the form of a servant” in time are two different things. Thinking of God absolutely devours one’s thoughts, but thinking of God manifested in the flesh is a comforting reflection. The form of God denotes the dignity of His being, and the form of a servant indicates His humiliation. The dignity of the preincarnate Christ refers to what He is essentially. He is essentially one with the Father (Joh 10:30). Therefore, morphe is properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract but as actually subsisting in the individual and retained as long as the individual Himself exists. Since Jesus Christ is eternal, the word includes His whole nature and essence. Christ did not change one form of being for another in the incarnation. He changed His appearance by assuming another nature—the form of a servant. He did not cease being God, because He is immutable (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17). But the Lord Jesus did assume the form of a servant, thus becoming what He was not before, the God-Man. He veiled Himself in flesh for the elect’s sake. Moreover, He condescended to notice our misery and agree to be our Savior; but much more did He condescend to associate with that misery by becoming our Kinsman-Redeemer by taking the form of a servant. In the form of God, He commanded. In the form of a servant, He subjected Himself to His own commands. In the form of God, Christ was the lawmaker. In the form of a servant, He subjected Himself to the law He had made (Ga 4:4). He was born, lived, and died under His own holy law. Furthermore, He satisfied every requirement of that Divine law. The real difference between the “form of God” and the “form of a servant” is revealed in the tenses of the participles (verbal adjectives) used. The participle huparchon is the present active of the verb huparcho and means “who is existing in the form of God.” In the three expressions to describe Christ’s human nature, there are the participles: (1) labon, the second aorist active of lambano which means “taking the form of a servant”; (2) genomenos, the second aorist middle of ginomai which means “being made in the likeness of men”; and (3) heuretheis, first aorist passive of heurisko which means “recognized in fashion as a man.” Hence, He who ever exists in the form of God did not cease being God when He assumed the form of a servant.

The union of the “form of God” with the “form of a servant” has made Jesus Christ the complex Person. John tells us that the Word who was with God and was God became flesh (Joh 1:14). The same verb is used in Joh 1:3 — “All things were made [became] by him....” The Word became that which first became by Him. The Word did not cease to be what He eternally was by becoming flesh. He only entered into a new mode of being, but He did not become a new being. (See Lu 1:35; Ro 1:3-4; 9:5; 1Ti 2:5). The Godhead did not become flesh, but the second Person of the Godhead did. The names of the Persons of the Godhead remained unchanged in the incarnation. Hence, it was fitting that the Father commissioned the Son to become flesh instead of the Son commissioning the Father. It has been suggested that it was proper for the middle Person of the Divine Triunity to become the Mediator between God and man, since man occupies the middle position between angels and beasts in the scale of creatures.

The eternal Word made flesh must be distinguished from transubstantiation. In the incarnation, the phrase “And the word was made [became] flesh” does not mean that the Word that was God ceased to be God. That would be transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is the change of an entire substance in which one substance is entirely destroyed and an entirely new one takes its place, without any change of appearance. This is one of the chief doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Their catechism states: “The priests of the Church continue to exercise this power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by repeating the words of Christ: ‘This is my body...this is my blood,’ at the moment of consecration (the time when the sacred change takes place) in the mass.... The change of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is Transubstantiation” (The New Baltimore Catechism #2). Roman Catholics make a god out of the mass and then become cannibals and devour him.

There are some who believe that Christ who existed in the form of God emptied Himself and became something less than He was originally. Liberal theologians press the sense of “emptied” until nothing of the form of God remains. They insist that the Son of God emptied out of Himself the attributes of Deity. This would be transmutation, the change from one nature to another. This is the opposite of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Transmutation is heresy regardless of which way it goes —from God to man or from bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The eternal Word made flesh must be distinguished from consubstantiation. Some believe there was a mixture of the Divine and human natures in the incarnation. In the fifth century A. D., Eutyches taught there was a mixture of the two natures in the incarnation, thus making a third person which is different from both. Eutychianism is mentioned to show that the Lutheran church has partially revived the heresy of Eutyches. The Christology of Luther was clear on some points but indefinite on others. His favorite illustration on the union of the two natures was derived from heated iron. Two substances are united. The one interpenetrates the other. The iron receives the attributes of the heat, making it glow. Where the iron is, there the heat is; but the iron remains iron and the heat remains heat. This ingenious illustration, however, does not explain how Divine attributes are transferred to the human nature, and human attributes are transferred to the Divine nature. Divine attributes are not attributed to the human nature, and human attributes are not attributed to the Divine nature. They are ever distinct but performed by the God-Man. Therefore, the properties of the Divine essence never became the properties of the human. The Divine never becomes human, and the finite never becomes infinite. Lutheran Christology is reflected in their doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. In their doctrine of consubstantiation, they believe the substance of the body and blood of Christ coexist in and with the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Luther affirmed that not only the accidents (the outward appearance of the elements) but the reality of bread and wine remained in the sacrament of the altar. He further stated that the bread and wine are really bread and wine and the true flesh and blood of Christ are in them in the same fashion and the same degree as the Roman Catholics hold them to be beneath their accidents.

Failure to see the difference between Person and nature has led to mixing the natures in Christ. Nature denotes the sum total of all the essential qualities of a thing—that which makes it what it is. Person denotes a complete substance endowed with reason. It is nature with something added, namely, independent subsistence. Christ assumed a nature that was not personalized, one that did not exist by itself. However, it is incorrect to speak of Christ’s human nature as impersonal. It is in-personal, because it has personal existence in the Person of Christ.

The Word made flesh means Christ Jesus came to possess characteristics in addition to His Divine attributes. Assuming a human nature gave the Son of God a human form of consciousness as well as the Divine cognizance. Christ had only one form of consciousness in His preexistent state; but now, in His human awareness, He was “a man of sorrows,” “acquainted with grief,” “smitten of God, and afflicted,” “wounded,” “bruised,” “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isa 53), and “wearied with his journey” (Joh 4:6). He “wept” (Joh 11:35), “hungered” (Mt 4:2), and “slept” (Mt 8:24). The Son of God could not have any of these human experiences before the incarnation. But He was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15), and as our High Priest He sympathizes with us in His incarnate state. He became subject to all the trials of human nature, except one. He had no experimental knowledge with sin. When the eternal Son assumed “the form of a servant,” He did not cease being the “form of God.” The Lord Jesus was capable of a twofold mode of existence, consciousness, and agency as the incarnate Word.

III - 05 CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part II)

CHRIST’S TWO FORMS (Part II)

The “form of God” refers to who Jesus Christ is essentially, and the “form of a servant” points to His assumption of the human nature in the incarnation. Assumption of the human nature may be illustrated by man’s contact with the sun. Should the sun descend to earth absolutely, none could bear its light and heat. Men’s eyes would not be enlightened but blinded by its glory. Furthermore, they would be consumed by the greatness of its heat. God is not only the Light of the world, but He is a consuming fire (1Jo 1:5; Joh 8:12; Heb 12:29). If Jesus Christ had not veiled Himself with human nature, man would have been both blinded and consumed by God’s essential glory. However, since He veiled Himself with human nature, man can withstand and benefit from the rays proceeding from the Son of Man’s official and moral glory. What condescension to associate with the misery of the elect by becoming their Kinsman-Redeemer in the form of a servant!

We are not living in a time of orthodoxy but heterodoxy. There are more persons propagating unorthodox than orthodox views about the Person of Christ. The church has never been without conflict concerning the most important principle of the Christian faith, namely, the Person of Jesus Christ. It seems that, in the last of the last days, believers are bombarded not only with a revival of old heresies but also some new ones.

Some of the heresies concerning the Person of Jesus Christ in the first five centuries have been exposed. (1) The Ebionites (A.D. 107?) denied the reality of Christ’s Divine nature. They believed Jesus Christ was nothing more than a man, and their history can be traced back before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. The Ebionites could not be classified as Judaic Christians but simply Judaizers within the Christian church. (2) Docetism (A. D. 70-170) denied the reality of Christ’s human body. This was a pagan philosophy introduced into the church. Docetism comes from the Greek word dokeo which means “to appear, to seem.” (3) Monarchianism (second and third centuries A. D.) denied the Trinity. It was a form of Unitarianism which emphasized the unity of God by maintaining that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three manifestations or aspects of God. There were two schools of Monarchianism. First, the Dynamic school was represented by Theodetus who denied the incarnation of the Logos and said that Jesus Christ was a mere man. Divine power and wisdom were bestowed upon Christ at His baptism and operated in Him as in no other man. Second, the Modalistic school was represented by Sabellius who accepted the divinity of Christ but denied His independent and preexistent personality. The life of Christ was only a theophany to this school. To this school God was one, and the names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit signified no more than different manifestations of the Divine essence. Both schools were condemned by the Synod of Antioch in A. D. 268. (4) Arianism was a reaction from Sabellianism in the fourth century. Arius denied the Deity of Christ. He taught that Jesus Christ was not consubstantial with the Father. This heresy was condemned in 325 A. D. at Nicea. (5) In the same century, at Constantinople in 381 A. D., the heresy of Appollinaris was condemned. Appollinarianism denied the completeness of Christ’s human nature. He taught that Christ had no human spirit; He had only a human body and soul. Hence, he taught the Divine Logos assumed not a complete human nature, but was only an irrational human animal. (6) In the fifth century, Nestorius denied the real union between the Divine and human natures in Christ. He separated the two natures into two persons. He was removed from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 431 A. D. (7) Eutychianism was condemned at Chalcedon in 451 A. D. Eutyches denied the distinction and coexistence of Christ’s two natures. He mingled both into one which constituted a third nature different from the original natures.

The fourth and fifth centuries revealed the Christological conflict that has not subsided. To summarize the heresies of that period, it may be said Arianism denied the true Godhead of Christ, Apollinarianism denied the true humanity of Christ, Nestorianism denied the unity of the two natures of Christ, and Eutychianism denied the distinction of the two natures of Christ. The heresies of our time are just as blatant, but it must be acknowledged that they are more subtly stated.

During the first five centuries of the Christian church, Christology was a subject of great conflict; but out of that period of controversy came the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A. D. The four Chalcedonian adverbs point out how essential it is to the Person of Christ that one must believe that He possesses both Divine and human natures “without mixture,” “without change,” “without division,” and “without separation.” This formula has dominated the orthodox exegetes to the present day. Hence, Chalcedon has been called the terminal point of Christology. For Christians, however, there is but one terminal point in the study of Christology, and it is given in the words of Christ Himself: “...no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:27). God manifest in the flesh is both a mystery and a manifestation (1Ti 3:16). We must not become so occupied with its mystery that we overlook its manifestation. On the other hand, we must not become so enamored with the manifestation that we fail to understand that it remains a mystery. The Person of Christ is a mystery to the elect. Although they know Him to some degree, they do not know Christ as the Father knows Him. Christ said, “...no man knoweth the Son, but the Father....”

Reaction to the Chalcedonian Christology has been varied. At the end of the eighth century, some Spanish theologians contended there were two modes of sonship in Christ, one natural and the other adoptive. As the Son of Mary, Christ was the adopted son of God; as the second Person in the Trinity, He was the only begotten of the Father. Hence, they believed that Christ as the adopted Son was subordinate, and as the only begotten He was equal with the Father. Adoptionism was a reaction to various monophysite tendencies. A monophysite was one who maintained that Christ has one nature, partly divine and partly human. Scripture does not represent Jesus Christ being adopted as the Son of God as a reward for His faithfully performing a task. The Divine quality of Christ’s work is seen in the fact that He who is David’s Son is also David’s Lord (Mt 22:41-46; Lu 20:41-44). Adoptionism was condemned at Regensburg in 792 A. D., Frankfort in 794 A. D., and Aachen in 799 A. D.

History was quiet in her Christological conflict until the sixteenth century. There were two interesting developments in this century. First, there was Martin Luther and his new development of Christology. In his teaching on the two natures, he believed they interpenetrated one another in such a way that the attributes of the Divine nature were communicated to the human. During His earthly ministry, Christ veiled the Divine perfections of His human nature, but they are now manifested in His exaltation. This was a natural corollary that the physical body was considered omnipresent, and the real presence of Christ’s body and blood are in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Secondly, during this same period, Socinus, an Italian Protestant Reformer (1539-1604), denied the Trinity. He taught that Christ was only a man with no existence before His birth. He taught that Christ was miraculously conceived by the virgin Mary, and He was peccable but sinless. He was baptized by the Spirit and caught up into heaven to be taught of God before He began His public ministry. At His exaltation, Christ was given power and is now worshipped as God. Socinians flourished in Poland until 1658. Socinianism led to the modern Unitarianism.

During the Reformation, great emphasis was placed on the Person and Work of Christ. Some have criticized the reformers for lack of emphasis concerning Christ’s humanity, but such criticism is without foundation. Many strong confessions on the Divine and human natures united in the Person of Christ were made during this period. The spirit of Chalcedon is reflected in the Christological confessions. The Westminster Confession is a good example. It states: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, and all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”

The eighteenth century was marked by Rationalism. Emmanuel Kant was a rationalistic philosopher. He believed God was inscrutable, and the historical Christ was an ideal set before the mind as the perfect man. Therefore, when the mind had formed the ideal He represented, then He ceased to be the object of veneration. To Kant, Christ was the inward idea of a perfect man. Hence, Christ’s mission was to awaken the dormant God-consciousness in men; and redemption meant the awakening of the God-consciousness, thus elevating them to the level of Christ, the ideal man.

In the nineteenth century, there was the emergence of what is called the Kenosis-Christology. Thomasius said, “Kenosis is the exchange of one form of existence for another.” He appealed to Php 2:7 for his Biblical support, and the Kenosis became the point of departure for a new Christological formula. Those who were dissatisfied with dualism went for the view of Thomasius. For the Word to become flesh meant to them that the Godhead was transmuted into humanity. They believed the Kenosis refuted the dualism of the Chalcedon formula. A transition from the form of God to the form of a servant by self-emptying replaced the union of the two natures. The Kenosis theory continues to be taught in the present century, but there are some modified versions.

The twentieth century is marked by the rise of Neo-orthodoxy. It is religious liberalism whose defenders accept nothing as truth but what is acceptable to human reason. This is the age of existentialism. Existentialism is a humanistic philosophy that makes human experience the norm for judging reality. This philosophy denies that Scripture provides the norm for belief or action. To the existentialist, theology must rely on existentialism rather than on Biblical supernaturalism. Man, therefore, is severed from any objective, supernatural support. Theology is turned into anthropology. To the existentialist, God is known in the Word, but he has only a subjective standard for the Word. He talks about demythologization. All mythological attributes must be removed in order to accurately appraise the Word. Thus, he looks through naturalistic eyes as though they would give him Biblical truths. This, however, is in direct contradiction to Scripture: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14). There is no inner light or revelation given above that which is written. Subjective revelation is without a standard: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is. 8:20).

In closing this lesson, a limited list of heresies concerning the Person of Christ are given to show what the Christian has to battle in these last of the last days:

FIRST—Roman Catholics advocate the Deity of Christ, but they deny His humanity by their doctrine of Mariolatry and the saints. If Christ assumed a human nature, why do they appeal to Mary and to the saints for understanding our infirmities? (See Heb 4:15). Furthermore, the Mass completely undermines the work of Calvary (Heb 10:10-14).

SECOND—Unitarians deny the Deity of Christ. They believe in the divinity of mankind. They say their differences with the Orthodox Church is not that it made Jesus God but that it stopped there.

THIRD—Christian Scientists teach that “Jesus is the human, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus Christ....Jesus was the offspring of Mary’s conscious communion with God” (Mary Baker Eddy).

FOURTH—Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ existed as a spirit being before He was made flesh, and was properly known as “a god” —a mighty one. As chief of the angels and next to the Father, He was known as the Archangel—the highest messenger. They teach that Jesus was not a combination of two natures, human and spiritual; that the blending of the two natures produces neither the one nor the other but an imperfect, hybrid thing, which is obnoxious to the divine arrangement.

FIFTH—Mormons believe the Persons of the Trinity are not three Persons in one Being but three separate beings. They believe in a plurality of gods. Furthermore, they believe God was a man and He became god; so men may become gods. They also believe Christ was a polygamist whose wives were Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, and the sisters of Lazarus; and the feast in Canaan was the occasion of one of His marriages.

SIXTH—The World Wide Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrong) teaches that Jesus was, in the human flesh, a descendant of David; but in His resurrection He was born again. Armstrong says that Jesus alone of all humans has, so far, been saved. He does not say He was saved from sin, but he does say Jesus was the first to achieve it—to be perfected, finished as a perfect character. Armstrong asserts that no Scripture says that Jesus Christ could not sin.

SEVENTH—The Kenosis-Christology (Christ emptying Himself) has four different views: (1) The absolute dualistic concept teaches a twofold division of attributes. Christ’s eminent attributes are related to Deity, and His relative attributes are related to humanity. The former are essential to the Godhead and the latter to the physical. (2) The absolute metamorphic theory believes Christ emptied Himself of all Divine attributes. His eternal consciousness ceased and was gradually regained until He attained again the completeness of Divine life. (3) The semimetamorphic concept contends the eternal Son in becoming a man underwent not a loss but a disguise of His Deity. He exchanged the eternal manner of being for the temporal manner of being. (4) The real and relative view teaches the Divine Logos retained His Deity, but He did so within the restricted confines of His human consciousness. The properties of the Divine nature were not present in their infinitude but were changed into properties of human nature.

EIGHTH—The doctrine of peccability has been embraced by many in a large number of religious denominations. This man-made doctrine states that the historical Christ had the capacity to sin.

III - 06 CHRIST IN THE FORM OF GOD

CHRIST IN THE FORM OF GOD

As we begin an in-depth study of the great Christological passage of Php 2:5-11, let us not forget that Jesus Christ is known absolutely only by the Father. Christ said: “...no man knoweth the Son, but the Father...” (Mt 11:27). There is an eternal Father and Son relationship, and it is revealed as never before in the incarnation. Unlike ordinary father and son relationships, this unique Father and Son relationship was absolutely perfect. This perfect relationship is the foundation of Christology. He who ever exists in the bosom of the Father did not change one form of being for another in the incarnation. Even in the incarnate state of the Son, the fulness of God dwelt bodily in Him (Col 2:9). The word “fulness” cannot be reduced to something less than being filled. Paul used the word pleroma which means fulness, completeness. The eternal Son who assumed human nature is filled with the essence of God, even though at the time of Paul’s writing He was in His glorified humanity. Who can know the infinite Son but the infinite Father? Not even glorified saints shall know the Son as He is. As a vessel cast into the ocean can receive only according to its capacity, the effort of the finite saint to understand Christ is like a thimble trying to hold all the waters of the oceans.

Paul’s statement “Who being in the form of God” is foundational for a true perspective of Christology. The apostle used a verb which does not convey the idea of who Jesus Christ was before the incarnation, but who He is essentially. We have the present active participle of the verb huparcho, and it means “Who is existing in the form of God.” This destroys any idea of Christ being anything less than God in the incarnation. It was the Father’s good pleasure that all the fulness of Deity, theotes, should dwell bodily in Jesus Christ (Col 1:19; 2:9). The Son of God is declared to be God “manifest in the flesh” (1Ti 3:16). God “...is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2Ti 1:10). “...We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1Jo 5:20). When Paul penned the words of Php 2:6, the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension were historical facts. However, the one about whom he wrote was the ever living God.

B. B. Warfield has suggested the phrase “Who being in the form of God” is not describing a past mode of existence of our Lord, but what in His intrinsic nature He is. This is correct according to the tense of the verb used. Others say the phrase “Who being in the form of God” presents two aspects of Christ’s preexistence: (1) its fact, and (2) its form. Although His preexistence is true, that is not the subject of this passage. When the intrinsic nature of God is apprehended, there is no problem with either preexistence or condescension. It is not a contrast between what God was and what He now is, but Who He is. Jesus Christ is the “I AM.”

God’s proper name is “I AM.” The tense of this description manifests that God’s essence knows no past or future. God, therefore, is distinguished from all creatures. No created being can say in truth, “I am.” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14 NASB). This name signifies unchanging essence and eternality. It denotes personality — “I”; self-existence — “I AM”; and mystery — “I AM WHO I AM.” This name includes all past, present, and future existence and constancy. Therefore, God could not speak of Himself as “I was.” That would indicate that He is not now what He once was. Furthermore, God could not speak of Himself as “I will be.” That would intimate that He is not now what He shall be. Hence, the eternality of God is sometimes fragmentarily expressed for the benefit of man’s finite capacity: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Re 1:8). It cannot be said of any created being that he always was and shall always be what he is. The eternal “I AM,” however, is who He was and shall ever be who He is. The distinction between the Creator and created beings is that God is and created beings become. Created creatures are continually becoming something different, but God never changes (2Co 4:16,18) or becomes anything different from what He eternally is (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17; Ps 102:27).

“I AM WHO I AM” proves the unity of God to the exclusion of many gods, the unchangeableness of God who lives in the eternal present, and the self-sufficiency of God who is His own equivalent. This is the eternal name that is equivalent with Jehovah. Jesus Christ is the great “I AM.” In the gospel of John, Christ said of Himself: “I am the bread of life” (Joh 6:35,41,48,51); “I am the light of the world” (Joh 8:12); “Before Abraham was, I am” (Joh 8:58); “I am the door” (Joh 10:7,9); “I am the good shepherd” (Joh 10:11); “I am the resurrection, and the life” (Joh 11:25); “I am the way” (Joh 14:6); and “I am the true vine” (Joh 15:1). The interesting thing about all of these is the use of the two Greek words ego and eimi. In each instance, the text reads ego eimi which means “I myself am.” Ego is the personal pronoun “I,” and eimi is the verb “I am.” When ego precedes eimi, it is used for emphasis — “I myself am.”

The distinction between Christ and His creatures is remarkably illustrated in Joh 8:58 — “Before Abraham was, I am.” The verb applied to Abraham should be contrasted with the one Christ applied to Himself. The verb applied to Abraham is genesthai. Here we have a second aorist middle infinitive of ginomai which means to come into existence or to be born. But when Christ spoke of Himself, He used the verb eimi which speaks of an existence without origin. There is no implied beginning in the verb eimi. Our Lord spoke of His eternal existence when He said, “I AM.” It has been said that age is a relative term. It implies beginning, but God is eternal. It implies change, but God is unchangeable. It implies the measure of created existence, but God is eternal. This proves that all thoughts of God which apply time and succession to His existence are erroneous.

The word “form” (morphe) is used three times in the New Testament (Mr 16:12; Php 2:6-7). In Mr 16:12, we are told that Christ appeared “in another form” — en hetera morphe. The different form does not mean the intrinsic nature of Christ is different in His glorified body from what it was while He was in the “form of a servant” in His unglorified body. There were changes, however, in the presentment of Christ to His people between His resurrection and ascension. For example, when Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden, she supposed Him to be the gardener (Joh 20:15). Again, when He appeared to the two men on the road to Emmaus, He appeared as a scribe who expounded the Scriptures (Lu 24:27). Another example is that Christ stood in the midst of the disciples after the two men had returned to Jerusalem saying, “The Lord is risen indeed”; yet, when He said, “Peace be unto you,” they were terrified and supposed they had seen a spirit (Lu 24:34,36-37).

Whether it be the “pre” or “post” resurrection period, the intrinsic nature of Christ was unchanged, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). However, there were changes in presenting Himself to His own. This is not only true of Christ during His public ministry on earth, but it is also true of the revelation and works of God in the Old Testament: “GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...” (Heb 1:1-2). Biblical references to God repenting do not mean that God changes His will which is immutable and eternal, but they refer to a change in His work. It seems probable that the appearance of Christ changed from time to time during the forty days after His resurrection to meet the several cases of the disciples, but there was no change in God Himself.

The word “form” in Php 2:6 has had varied interpretations by theologians and writers. The general consensus of these interpretations of the phrase “form of God” conveys the idea that Jesus Christ is God. The following is a summary of some of those views of “form”:

1.  It denotes majesty.

2.  It is identified with the essence of a person, not shape.

3.  It refers to those qualities which constitute God.

4.  It refers to the essential attributes in the form.

5.  “Form,” morphe, and the term doxa have a connection, attesting to Paul’s seeing in the preexisting and glorified Christ the form and glory of God.

6.  It does not mean mere outward appearance.

7.  It refers to the inner, essential, and abiding nature of a person or thing.

There are three words in Scripture to denote the interrelation of the Father and the Son: (1) image (eikon), “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15); (2) express image (charakter), “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3); and (3) form (morphe), “Who, being in the form of God” (Php 2:6).

1. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). The Greek word eikon means image, figure, likeness; the image of one; one in whom the likeness of one is seen. Since this word is used to speak of Christ, man, and things, the question is often asked, how can image be used when speaking of Christ who is equal with the father? Is not an image inferior to that of which it is a figure? Image is not the thing of which it is the figure. Adam was created in God’s image and after His likeness, but he was not God of whom he was the image and likeness (Ge 1:26-27; 1Co 11:7). Men make images of God, but such images deface the glory of the incorruptible God (Ro 1:23). The phrase “the image of God” does not always carry out the idea of perfection. The context must determine its use. Christ, however, is the only perfect representation of God. He is God manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16).

Adam being the image of God and Christ being the image of God are not the same. Adam was a type of Christ as the incarnate Son (Ro 5:14). Christ is the express image of His Father (Heb 1:3). The things in Adam which constituted the image and likeness of God were of a created substance. Conversely, the things in Jesus Christ were of the same Divine and eternal substance with the Father. The God-like nature is not perfectly represented in man because man is finite. On the other hand, God’s nature is perfectly represented in Jesus Christ because the Son of God is infinite.

An image is something looked upon, thus something else is seen. The word eikon means one in whom the likeness of one is seen. The Person and Work of Christ manifested the perfection and glory of the Father. Christ said, “...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (Joh 14:9). Christ meant that in His Person, as well as His doctrine and works, God is manifested as far as He can be to man. Wisdom, power, holiness, compassion, love, meekness, patience, longsuffering, justice, etc., are all revealed in Jesus Christ. Christ, therefore, is the image of the invisible God. No man has seen God at any time, yet to see God is a vital necessity for man’s salvation (Joh 1:18). Christ is seen only by faith: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2Co 4:3-4). Jesus Christ, the second Person in the Godhead, is as invisible as the Father; but Christ clothed with human nature is the perfect representation of the excellency of the Father. Therefore, the invisible God has been manifested through the God-Man to the elect. It is by the agency of the Holy Spirit in regeneration that faith removes the veil and floods the soul with the “...light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Co 4:6).

2. Jesus Christ is the “express image” (charakter) of God (Heb 1:3). The Greek word charakter means an exact likeness or full expression of God. It comes from charagma, an engraving tool, and then something engraved—a character, as a letter, mark, or sign. Our word “character” comes from charakter. This word is used only in this text, but charagma is used eight times and is translated “graven” (Ac 17:29) and “mark” (Re 13:16-17; 14:9,11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). The essential being of God has come into full expression in the incarnate Son who bears the exact likeness of the Divine essence. The Father and the Son are coexistent and coeternal. Jesus Christ not only delivered God’s message, but He is God’s message. He is not only the exact likeness of God’s essence hupostasis (which means a substructure; subsistence, essence), but He is of the same essence. He came not only to provide a remedy for sinners, but He is the remedy. Therefore, if the sinner is to know God, it must be through Christ who knows the Father. Christ said, “...neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:27).

Christ as the “express image” (exact representation) of God does not stand alone in Heb 1:1-3. He is the “Son” who has revealed the Father, and He is also the “brightness” of God’s glory.

The Son is contrasted with the prophets of the Old Testament. The prophetic revelations of the prophets were fragmentary and progressive, but the Son is the complete and final revelation of the Father. The prophets were “holy men,” but they were men (2Pe 1:21); whereas, the Son of God is the God-Man. The incomplete revelations from the prophets caused the people to desire more revelations; but when the completed revelation of the Son comes into the hearts of the elect, there is no desire for new revelations. Believers know that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). Their desire is to know more about the completed revelation. The Bible is more than a book written by men. It is the mind of God.

Christ is the “brightness” (apaugasma) —an effulgence of God’s glory. The Greek work apaugasmas is a compound word— apo, from; and auge, brightness. The verb augazo means to be bright, to shine forth (2Co 4:4). The word for “brightness” is used only here. It is used in the sense of radiance rather than reflection. The brightness issuing from the sun is of the same nature as the sun. It comes naturally and voluntarily. This brightness comes from the sun and not the sun from the brightness. Each is distinct from the other, but each is inseparable from the other. Finally, the light which the sun gives to the world is by this brightness. Hence, the metaphor of the sun and its brightness sets forth the co-eternalness, distinction of Persons, and the incomprehensible glory of the Father shining forth in the Son who is equal with the Father.

The following is a summary of some truths by Lancelot Andrewes on Heb 1:1-3 in 1612: This passage of Scripture includes Christ’s consubstantiality as the Son, coeternality as the effulgence, and coequality as the character (the true stamp of His substance). As the Son, Christ is contrasted with the prophets. As the effulgence, He is contrasted with the many parts (sparks) of Old Testament prophecy. As the character (essence), He is contrasted with the vanishing shadows of the law (old economy).

3. Jesus Christ exists in the form of God (Php 2:6). Paul began his subject of Christology by showing who Jesus Christ is in His incarnate state. He is the one who ever exists in the form of God. The great concern of the apostle was to show who Jesus Christ essentially is. When this is understood, one will not be thinking about what He was before the incarnation and what He became during the incarnation. With many religionists, Christ became something less in the incarnation than He was before. The eternal Son of God has the Divine nature in which there can never be a change. Therefore, one is never correct to speak of the eternal God as to who He was and who He now is. That kind of terminology implies a change. Past and future, with respect to God, are terms that the defects of our finite capacity force us to use. The essence of God is eternally the same. God not only remains but is constant. “But thou art the same...” (Ps 102:27). Both the nature and perfections of God are immutable as well as eternal. That which remains the same is not changed, and what is changed cannot remain the same. Jesus Christ is eternally existing “in the form of God” which cannot change but ever remains the same.

III - 07 EQUAL WITH GOD

EQUAL WITH GOD

The phrase “Who...thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Php 2:6) has been interpreted many different ways. Before getting into what we believe the passage teaches in the light of the context, it will stimulate our thinking to mention some interpretations of this statement: (1) Christ had no need to grasp at Divine equality because He had already possessed it as the eternal Son of God. (2) Christ did not consider equality with God a thing to be tenaciously retained. (3) Christ did not consider the honor of being equal with God as something to be retained at the expense of robbing the universe of the glory of redemption. (4) Although Jesus Christ was God, He cared less for His equality with God and His own things than He did for His own people. (5) Christ did not hold fast and bring down to earth the visible demonstrations of His Deity. (6) Christ did not falsely seize upon a title not rightly His. He did not regard His claims to equality with the Father as something stolen. (7) Christ did not count His existence in a manner equal to God something to cling to. (8) Christ did not hold fast and bring down to earth the visible demonstration of His Deity. (9) Had Christ come into the world emphasizing His equality with God, the world would have been amazed but not saved. He did not grasp at this. (10) Christ did not consider His God-equal existence a warrant for grasping (active) to Himself the glory afterward required.

Christ’s equality with God is a subject of great importance. Like Christ existing in the form of God, equality with God is foundational. Some say “equality with God” declares Christ’s Being and “form of God” expresses the manifestation of that Being. Others say “form of God” has reference to nature and “equal with God” denotes relation. There is one thing for sure, the two words “form” and “equal” complement each other. You cannot have one without the other.

One of the great passages on Christ’s equality with the Father is Joh 5:19-47. The Lord Jesus was so perfectly one with the Father that He could do nothing contrary to Him. As they are one in nature, they are also undivided in their working. As all is of the Father, all is by the Son. Christ had performed an act of mercy on the Sabbath. The man who had been healed was told to take up his bed and walk. Because of this act of mercy on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Jesus Christ and sought to slay Him. God’s providence does not stop on the Sabbath. Furthermore, He is above all law which He ascribed for His creatures. He is His own law. Christ’s equality with the Father was declared when Christ said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (Joh 5:17). The clear declaration of truth does not satisfy wicked men; therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill Christ. They said, “...he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (Joh 5:18). The Jews thought this was sufficient evidence for capital punishment.

Christ gave examples of His equality with the Father (Joh 5:19-29). He is equal with the Father in works, quickening, judgment, honor, giving eternal life, authority, and resurrection of the dead. He is so perfectly one with the Father that He can do nothing contrary to Him. As it is impossible for the Son to do anything of Himself, it is impossible for the Father to do anything without the Son. Christ receives the same honor as the Father. There is an honor due to God only, and not to be given to any other. If the incarnate Christ is nothing more than man, how could He receive the same honor? Christ’s condescension took nothing from the “form of God.” No one can honor the Father who dishonors the Son.

The equality of Christ with the Father is supported by witnesses (Joh 5:30-47). The first witness was Christ Himself. It is commonly stated that a man makes a poor witness in his own case. But it must be understood that Jesus Christ is no ordinary man; He is the God-Man. The reason a man is a poor witness in his own case is very simple. He is prejudiced, filled with self-love, and is subject to error. Christ is, however, “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Re 3:14). Christ’s statement “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” of Joh 5:31 does not contradict “...Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true...” of Joh 8:14. In Joh 5, the Savior meant His witness was in itself insufficient as a matter of legal evidence. A testimony must be validated by two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16). Therefore, Christ gave a fivefold witness. In Joh 8, the Jews were judging after the flesh. Their judgment was according to their corrupt hearts which could not understand the things of God (1Co 2:14). The other witnesses Christ mentioned were John the Baptist (Joh 5:32-35), His own works (Joh 5:36), the Father (Joh 5:37-38), and the Scriptures (Joh 5:39-47). According to Jewish law, the additional witnesses validated Christ’s testimony.

There are two major views of Php 2:6b — “Who...thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (hos...ouch harpagmon hegesato to einai isa theo). They are (1) equality was not something to retain in possession, and (2) equality was not something to be seized in the future. With regard to the first view, the essential equality with God is not something that could be surrendered. The incarnation did not rob the Godhead of any virtue or honor. Christ remains equal with the Father in His position as Mediator, the God-Man. Concerning the second view, Christ considered not His future honor to be given Him by the Father something to be seized. The future equality would be connected with Christ’s exaltation as He appears to men on an equality with God.

Christ “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” The Greek word for “thought” is the aorist tense of the verb hegeomai, which means to think, count, consider, esteem, or regard. Paul used the word in Php 2:3 — “...let each esteem other better than themselves”; Php 3:7 — “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ”; and Php 3:8 — “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord....” The context of this passage indicates a choice was made by the preincarnate Son and that choice was carried out by the immutable Christ in His state of humiliation.

The word “robbery” comes from the Greek word harpagmon, accusative singular of harpagmos, which means something to grasp after; something to hold to; a thing seized or to be seized. This word is used only in Php 2:6, but the verb harpazo is used several times in the New Testament (Mt 11:12; 13:19; Joh 6:15; 10:12,28-29; Ac 8:39; 23:10; 2Co 12:2,4; 1Th 4:17; Jude 23; Re 12:5). The verb harpazo means to take by force, to claim for oneself, or to snatch out or away. In every case where the verb is used, there is no indication of something being “retained in possession,” but rather something seized or claimed for oneself.

The context of Php 2 does not justify the idea of Jesus Christ possessing a position of equality which He had and gave up in the incarnation. It does, however, justify the idea of a choice made by the eternal Son in His preincarnate state that He would not grasp after equality with God, because the future equality was to be God’s gift following the incarnation, death, and exaltation (Php 2:9-11). The future equality would include the names “Jesus” and “Lord.” In these two names, both Saviorhood and Lordship are revealed. “Jesus” was His God-given name: “...thou shalt call His name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). To this “name” every knee must bow either in grace or in judgment. Every tongue must confess His “Lordship” either in grace or in judgment (Php 2:11). The equality of Saviorhood and Lordship is recognized by men in grace now, but it will not be recognized by Christ’s enemies until the judgment. The future equality promised Christ by the Father has to do with His offices, not with His essential personality. In Christ’s essential personality, He is existing in the form of God which includes equality with God. Consummation of Lordship will be the kingdom. Sovereignty is vested in Christ as the eternal Son of God, but the coming kingdom belongs to Him as the Son of David (Lu 1:31-33).

A comparison of Adam and Christ has been suggested by some to clarify the idea which appears to be the correct interpretation in the light of the context. Adam asserted himself to be equal with God by an act of seizure (robbery). He was a son of God by creation (Lu 3:38). Satan told Eve if she would eat the forbidden fruit, she would “be as gods” (Ge 3:5). Adam, as the head of the woman, deliberately ate of the forbidden fruit in an attempt “to be as god.” He sought to be lord independently of God his Creator, but he failed in his pursuit. Conversely, the Son of God by eternal generation, chose not to seize equality with God independently of His Father. The future honor of equality was not something to be grasped, but it was a gift to follow His humiliation.

III - 08 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part I)

CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part I)

The entrance of the eternal Son of God into the world in the form of a servant cannot be compared with man’s entrance. Man’s entrance is not as difficult to describe. Man has a beginning and an entrance. In the case of Adam, man came into existence by an act of creation; but in the case of each man since Adam, he has come into existence by procreation and creation. His body came by procreation and his soul by creation. Christ’s entrance into the stream of mankind is more difficult to explain. With the Son of God, there was no coming into existence. He is eternal. Therefore, His entrance took the choicest of words to reveal the incarnation of Him who is without beginning: “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:7).

Paul’s words “But made himself of no reputation” shall occupy our attention in this lesson. This phrase comes from three Greek words, alla heauton ekenosen, which mean “But emptied himself.” Alla means “but” and is a stronger word than de. Heauton is the accusative singular masculine of heautou, a reflexive pronoun meaning “himself.” Ekenosen, is the aorist form of kenoo, which means to empty, to deprive of power, or make of no effect. The Kenotic theory of the incarnation is based on the Greek word ekenosen, emptied. This word has been the occasion for various interpretations, many of which are heretical.

The following list is a summary of some of the interpretations of the phrase “But made himself of no reputation”:

1.  It means to give up one’s rights or privileges.

2.  Christ laid aside equality with the form of God.

3.  This is the emptying of Deity in order to take up humanity.

4.  The Divine form was shed to avoid having mankind give Him His rightful honor. Instead He took on the form of a servant.

5.  Christ gave up His proper and peculiar position. However, His Divine nature was not given up. He exchanged the form of God for the form of a servant. The change He experienced did not rob Him of the consciousness of Deity. Although He retained equality with God, He did not assert this equality.

6.  Christ did not give up His Divine nature. The thing most probably relinquished was the surroundings of glory.

7.  He removed His supreme authority.

8.  Christ concealed His Divinity for a time. Only in His humanity was there emptying. Christ’s humbling Himself was a covering for his Divine majesty.

9.  Christ took a servant’s form and limited His glory. He laid His glory aside in order to be born in the likeness of men.

10.  This emptying can never be understood fully outside eternity. He emptied Himself not of Deity but the glory of Deity in order to accomplish redemption for mankind.

11.  His form of being was traded for another form.

12.  He voluntarily relinquished His rights.

13.  Outward manifestations of His Deity were given up.

14.  The emptying was related to His being God, and the humbling was related to His being man.

15.  He laid aside His glory and became a sinner by imputation and by reputation.

This listing will give one some idea of the controversy that has originated over one Greek word, ekenosen. In thinking of the Kenosis, one must never permit himself to think of Jesus Christ as anyone other than God who changes not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). Christ is God manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16). The immutability of God disproves any idea of Jesus Christ becoming something different from what He eternally is with the Father. It would not only be subversive to the immutability of Jesus Christ, but it would destroy the Divine Trinity, humanize the eternal Son, and make Jesus Christ neither God nor man.

The only way to arrive at the truth of the statement “But emptied Himself” is to study the Greek verb kenoo and see how it is used in the New Testament. It was by this method that we were able to have a better understanding of harpagmon in verse 6. The Greek verb kenoo is used five times: (1) “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void [perfect passive form of kenoo], and the promise made of none effect” (Ro 4:14). If legalists are heirs of God’s promise, faith is emptied of all meaning or rendered useless. (2) “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect [the aorist passive subjunctive form of kenoo]” (1Co 1:17). Paul did not fall into the trap of magnifying a church ordinance at the expense of the message of the cross. Had he done this, the cross would have been emptied of its meaning or rendered powerless and inoperative. (3) “But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void” [aorist active subjunctive form of keno] (1Co 9:15). Paul did not want to be deprived of his ground for boasting. His self-denial gave him confidence in the presence of his enemies. (4) “Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain [aorist passive subjunctive form of kenoo] in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready” (2Co 9:3). The apostle did not want anything to hinder the collection of the money they had promised to give. He did not want his boasting of them to be empty. (5) This brings us to the final place where kenoo is used, and that is Php 2:7. The adjective kenos is used eighteen times and is translated by two words — “vain” and “empty.”

Christ “emptied Himself” must be understood in one of two ways: (1) If it is connected with Christ’s Divine nature (essential equality or form of God), of what did He empty Himself? (2) If it is connected with Christ’s human nature, of what did He empty Himself?

The verb for “emptied” has been explained in the sense of removing something from a container until it is empty. Was the eternal Son of God emptied of Deity until He was empty? Did Jesus Christ exchange the Divine form of existence for a human form of existence? There is no Biblical evidence of Jesus Christ renouncing His Divine nature. It is blasphemy to even suggest such a thing. There are those who think they have toned down such strong language by suggesting the Son of God divested Himself of all Divine functions, attributes, and consciousness, and restricted Himself to the limitations of man. They mean by this that the Son passed from one mode of being to another. The fact is, if Jesus Christ did not act in both natures during His condescension, how could He have been the Mediator? Furthermore, if the Son of God either emptied Himself of Deity or divested Himself of His attributes, what happened to providence during this time? The further we go with this view the worse it gets. However, I must not stop until I mention that the heretical doctrine of peccability (the teaching that Christ could sin) is one of the fruits of this heresy.

There is a modified form of the Kenotic theory that does not deny Christ’s Deity, but it falls short of giving any sensible interpretation of the passage in the light of its context. Those who hold this modified view say there is no reference to abandoning Deity or attributes, but Christ merely took something, namely, “the form of a servant.” During His humiliation, the Son of God laid aside certain rights as the eternal One; but Deity or attributes, He could never lay aside. He did not insist upon being served but became a servant. Christ emptied Himself of all the outward glory of the form of God and revealed Himself to the world in the form of a slave. He surrendered the independent exercise of His Divine attributes. This theory may be summarized by the use of four statements: (1) “Form of God” refers to Christ’s preexistence. (2) “Equal with God” denotes Christ’s Person. (3) “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God” refers to the posture of His mind. (4) “Emptied Himself” points to the fact of His assuming “the form of a servant.” Since, equality with God" was not something to retain, this modified view will not fit the context.

Christ “emptied Himself” is used in association with His human nature. It is something connected with Christ’s humiliation. Paul does not specifically state of what the self-emptying consists, but a study of the immediate context in the light of the overall context of Scripture will give us the answer.

III - 09 CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part II)

CHRIST EMPTIED HIMSELF (Part II)

I categorically deny that Jesus Christ divested Himself of Deity either absolutely or relatively in the incarnation. Such language as “Christ emptied Himself of His Deity to take upon Himself His humanity” is blasphemous. It is reprehensible for anyone to suggest that He surrendered His attributes. Jesus Christ did not cease to be God in the incarnation, but He veiled His Deity in the form of a servant. The Son of God did not take upon Himself all that we are, but He did take upon Himself the nature of man minus its depravity. Here is a combination heretofore supposed to be contradictory and impossible. God is infinite; space cannot contain Him. Man is finite, fenced in by definite bounds. How can the unlimited and limited unite? This is the mystery of the incarnation.

There is a difference between mystery and mist. One stands in awe before the impenetrable mystery of the incarnation, but he may by grace penetrate the mist. False conceptions, or half-truths, make a mystery needlessly greater. Furthermore, whether one sees the human or Divine-human will depend on the direction from which the subject is approached and the point of view he occupies. For example, if a person with only one nature approaches the subject of the incarnation, he looks at it strictly from the human point of view. Spiritual things are foolish to him: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14). The person with one nature has only natural understanding of spiritual things. Therefore, he does not have grace to penetrate the mist, and stand in holy awe before the God-Man. Conversely, the person with two natures has a spiritual mind. Hence, he knows spiritual things are (1) revealed by the Spirit (1Co 2:10), (2) known by the Spirit (1Co 2:12), (3) communicated by the Spirit (1Co 2:13), and (4) discerned by the Spirit (1Co 2:14b). Having grace, the believer views the incarnation from God’s point of view and not man’s. He penetrates the mist, and stands in awe before his Mediator, the God-Man.

The condescension of the Godhead is one of the amazing truths of the Bible. Condescension means to stoop or descend from a higher, or superior, position. God is described in Scripture as “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Is. 6:1). (See Ps 113:4-8). This is a revelation of majesty, power, and wisdom. They are all unequaled. Everything is under the control of the Sovereign. The Father greatly condescended to purpose to save some from among depraved mankind (Eph 1:4-6). The eternal Son condescended to take upon Himself the form of a servant in the incarnation that He might purchase those the Father condescended to elect to salvation in the Son. This is the message of Php 2:6-8. As the Father was no less the sovereign God when He condescended to purpose to save sinners, the Son was no less God when He condescended to be born of the virgin, live, and die for those the Father elected. Paul associated the blood of Christ’s human nature with a Divine title when he charged the Ephesian elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Ac 20:28). This proves that Jesus Christ was God even when He was nailed to the cross. Finally, the Holy Spirit condescends to regenerate each person the Father elected and the Son redeemed. Condescension’s greatest wonder is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the regenerate sinner. The Holy Spirit who resides in the believer is no less God than the Father who elected and the Son who redeemed. How humbling it is to the believer when he realizes that the Father condescended to choose him, the Son condescended to redeem him, and the Holy Spirit condescended to regenerate and reside in him. The Christian alone recognizes and calls the Son of God “Emmanuel” — God with us (Mt 1:23).

The Person of Jesus Christ is not understood as the sciences of the world. To understand the sciences of the world, men must give themselves to laborious research and much learning. Human sciences are attained by study, but the knowledge of the Person of Christ comes to the elect by revelation. Many had observed Christ as He walked among them, but they did not know Him. When Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Christ replied, “...flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Mt 16:16-17). By this revelation, Peter penetrated through mere observation and apprehended the Lord Jesus whom he could not comprehend. God’s gift of faith enables the elect to penetrate the mist of the Divine mystery of the incarnation and stand in awe before the impenetrable mystery of the infinite Savior. He who contents himself with the human nature of Christ and does not grasp the meaning of Emmanuel—God with us—does not have saving faith. The death of Jesus Christ is more than the death of a mere man. It was God’s satisfaction for sin. In regard to Christ’s resurrection, one must see more than the resurrection of Lazarus or some other man. His resurrection was for the justification of the elect.

“Knowing the unknowable” is the language of the Christian: “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge...” (Eph 3:19). The apostle used a word between the verb and its object which on the surface seems to contradict the verb. The verbal noun gnonai, second aorist active infinitive of ginosko, which means to know, is used. Agape, the strongest word for love in the Greek, is the object of the knowledge. Between the verbal noun and its object, the word huperballousan is used. It is the present participle (verbal adjective) of huperballo, which means to surpass, excell, or transcend. This compound verb is used five times and is translated “excelleth” (2Co 3:10), “exceeding” (2Co 9:14; Eph 1:19; 2:7), and “which passeth” (Eph 3:19). The choice of words by the Holy Spirit proves that the love of Christ transcends the knowledge of the Christian. It is superior not only to human understanding, but it surpasses spiritual understanding. However, it does mean the Christian knows by grace what he could not know by natural understanding; he knows by faith what he could not know by reason. Hence, the knowledge of the saint is experiential and not merely academic.

Experiential knowledge is not static. Paul began his explanation of this knowledge by using an active infinitive to show that one’s knowledge is not static. Too many church members have an erroneous view of Divine wisdom. They think that when they “make a decision” or have a “change in mental attitude” they have arrived. After years of “church membership,” there is no change in their knowledge of Christ. However, the knowledge of the Lord of Glory given by the Holy Spirit is not static. It is a knowledge that increases (Mt 11:25-27; 1Jo 2:20,27; 1Co 1:21,30; Eph 1:15-23; 2:6-7; 1Pe 2:2; 2Pe 3:18). Between knowledge and the object of that knowledge, Paul used a present participle to describe the object of knowledge that transcends knowledge. Although Divine knowledge is not static but progressive, it can never comprehend the infinite. This does not discourage the believer. As natural life is one of growth and development, the same is true in the spiritual life, with one important exception. In natural life, years of aging and deteriorating come after years of growth and development. Conversely, no deterioration is experienced in the spiritual life. There is a continual renewing day by day while in a deteriorating body, and there will be an increasing growth in the knowledge of God (2Co 4:16-18; Eph 2:6-7).

It is noticeable that when Jesus Christ affirms that “...neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son...,” He at once adds, “...and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt 11:27). Why did He not continue His affirmation with “and he to whomsoever the Father will reveal him” instead of “he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him”? The statement is absent because there are mysteries in the union of the two perfect natures, Divine and human, in the one Person of Christ which the Father nowhere in Scripture promises to fully reveal. The infinite is too deep for the finite mind of man. It is impossible to fully comprehend the complex Person of the God-Man.

The complex Person of Jesus Christ can be known by grace, but He cannot be fully known. God the Father hides things from the wise and prudent (Mt 11:25). The wise and prudent are not those who are truly wise and truly prudent, but those who are wise and prudent in their own eyes (Is. 5:21). Such persons are blind, proud, covetous, and prejudiced. Their problem is something that no preacher can cure. If the sovereign God does not give sight and change their proud hearts, they will never know Jesus Christ. Wise men of the world by their wisdom know not God (1Co 1:21).

Knowledge that springs solely from the mind of man is not adequate. A mere speculative knowledge of God does not embrace the complex Person of Jesus Christ. The man possessed with a religious demon cried, “...I know thee who thou art, the Holy one of God” (Mr 1:24). That knowledge was unattended by any sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. He knew who Jesus Christ was, but he wanted to be left alone. He knew Christ was holy but hated His holiness. There are two distinct types of knowledge: (1) natural knowledge apart from grace (Ro 1:21-24) and (2) spiritual knowledge which is the fruit of grace (Col 1:6).

Most religionists talk about their blessings rather than their Blesser. A regard for those things which benefit oneself personally to the neglect of the Person of Christ is concern for the benefits rather than the Lord of glory. A manifestation of the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the greatest evidence of salvation. This knowledge consists in the glory of His Divine nature and the immeasurable fulness of His human nature.

Scripture enables one to know if his knowledge of Jesus Christ is the revelation of God or the revelation of a false spirit. A person without the correct concept of the Person of Christ has never had the Holy Spirit to shine in his heart, giving him the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Co 4:6). The Holy Spirit within the regenerated person leads him outside of himself to the Person of Christ as the object of faith. No mistake can be made because it is the revelation of God, not the mere influence of man as the instrument of Satan. Where the Spirit of regeneration has been made to shine, the recipient knows that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16).