Saturday, March 17, 2007

Exegesis - Then and Now

One kind reader of this blog recently asked me to discuss the style of exegesis used by the Apostles. I must admit I'm a bit puzzled by the request.

The only recorded teachings of the Apostles are found in Scripture itself. Occassionally, in Scripture, the Apostles provide some exegesis of (other) Scripture. Example:

Hebrews 4:1-10
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

And the same with Paul:

Romans 3:9-20
9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: 18There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

And Jesus himself opened the Scripture to the disciples:

Luke 24:25-27
25Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

So, we can say that the Apostles and Jesus cared what the Scriptures said and explained doctrine to people from an analysis of Scripture. Nevertheless, there some important differences between the Apostles and us. The Apostles were inspired to write Scripture: thus it was not just them, but the Holy Spirit speaking. Furthermore, the Apostles apparently knew the original languages, thus they probably did not have to work with translations.

After all, exegesis is, simply, trying to discover through careful analysis what the text is saying. It is what we do when we get a letter from a friend, or read a newspaper article.

The Word of God should be our study, as Jesus said:

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Praise be to our God of Truth!


P.S. The kind reader followed up by pointing out that it has been alleged that the Apostles practiced a form of exegesis in which they just siezed on any verse that supported their view and ignored the context. The reader also suggested that it has been alleged that the Apostles followed the "thirteen principles" of interpretation.

As for the the thirteen principles of interpretation, it seems that this is a reference to a Rabbinical tradition, but the Rabbinical tradition only appears much later (think the second millenium of our Lord's incarnation) . There are certain modern Judaizers who seek to impose an apostate Jewish mindset as a context to the writing of Scripture. We reject this, because we know that Jesus was constantly rebuking the Jewish leaders, and returning the congregation to Sola Scriptura.

As for the alleged technique, this is no new charge. For example, it is charged that Paul took "Esau have I hated" out of context in his quotation of it in Romans 9. Even if that were so, we know that Paul was inspired to do so. Because we are not similarly inspired, we cannot provide additional revelation, we can only learn from the revelation we are given.

Here's a link to useful discussion of Calvin's exegetical method:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tomb Controversy Concluded

This research has laid to rest the last remaining thread upon which the tomb hung.

The tomb is doomed:

The point of the article is to show that the inscription on the ossuary is not "Mariamne", as asserted in the blasphemous tomb movie, but "Mariame kai Mara" (Mary and Martha).

This kills the Tomb story at least two ways:

  • it is fairly conclusive evidence that at least two women's bones were placed in the ossuary. Why would someone go to the trouble of carving, in a second hand, as we can see from the shape of the writing, a second woman's name? It cannot be to foil DNA proof regarding the first body Mirame, since DNA was not understood when the names were inscribed. Nevertheless, it does foil the proof, because there is now no way to determine whether the DNA evaluated was Mary's or Martha's.

  • it destroys the alleged literary connection to the Acts of Philip, upon which the connection between Mariamne and Mary Magdelene was originally claimed.

Let's see if any official retractions follow.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dialogue with EC on John 14:6 and Ephesians 1:4

Answered regarding
John 14:6 and Ephesians 1:4

An Internet poster by the handle, ExaminingCalvinism wrote:
In terms of the giving, consider John 14:6 which teaches that no one comes to the Father, but by Jesus.

John 14:6 should be viewed in light of John 14:2, which shows us that John 14:2-6 is speaking about coming to the Father in heaven. (recall as well Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. and Luke 11:2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.) Thus, Jesus is saying that no one gets to heaven but by Jesus.

ExaminingCalvinism continued:
Eph 1:4 teaches that we are chosen in Christ. Notice that it doesn't say that we are chosen INTO Christ, or that we are chosen TO BE in Christ, or chosen TO BECOME in Christ. Rather, we are chosen IN Christ. In other words, we hav an election with the Father on the basis of our position in His Son, and that's the point of Adrian Rogers that you will find on my website.

I note that EC dismisses:
- INTO Christ, or
- TO BE in Christ, or
- TO BECOME in Christ,
But then, after noting that verse says only "in Christ" EC adds:
which, using the same in haec verba reasoning, is also not what the verse says.

The verse plainly says, in context:

Ephesians 1:3-7
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

In this context, we can see that "in Christ" is the way in which God's blessings are implemented, not the position or location of believers at the time of the choice.

  • 3: Blessed us (with all spiritual blessings) in Christ
  • 4: Chosen us in him ... to be holy and blameless.
  • 5: Predestinated us unto adoption ... by Jesus Christ
  • 6: Made us accepted in the beloved
  • 7: In Him we have redemption and forgiveness

The sense of "in" here is instrumental. Notice the pattern: God acting (blessed, chosen, predestinated, made, [give/provide/supply ... not directly stated in verse 7]), we are the beneficiary (us with, us to be, us unto, us, we have), of a benefit (all spiritual blessings, holy and blameless, adoption, accepted, redemption and forgiveness), by the agency and work of Christ (in Chirst, in Him, By Jesus Christ, in the Beloved, in Him).

In other words, verse 6 is not saying that "at the time we are chosen we are located at the corner of Christ and fifth avenue," but that we are chosen to be blameless by the agency of Christ.

ExaminingCalvinism continued:
So here's what I am driving at... I believe that Calvinistic Election is first and foremost, IN THE FATHER, such that those whom God the Father has chosen in Himself, He deems "the elect" of the eternal flock of the Father, and it is these that He has chosen INTO Christ and given TO BECOME in Christ, at the appointed time. So have I accurately reflected the views of Calvinistic Election?

No. Although I apppreciate EC's interest in accurately reflecting the view EC is critiquing. Too many non-Calvinists are not so interested.

He has chosen us to be blameless through the instrumentality of the Son.

When we were chosen, we did not exist. We were nowhere. We were chosen before the foundation of the world. We did not yet exist then. Election is not just prior to individual existence but to the collective existence of creation. All that existed when God chose us was God.

Praise be to God for His Sovereign choice,


EC responded:

I've responded in three posts, because I wanted to isolate John 14:6, from Eph 1:4 and the 3rd post was a set of quotes from John Calvin and James White that I wanted you to consider from the perspective of an "in the Father" election.

I appreciate EC's willingness to dialogue.

The First Post

The first post aims to address my comments on John 14:6 and includes two main points and a conclusion:

EC begins (first main point):

1) While you may link John 14:2, in terms of heaven, you should also consider linking John 14:10-11, where it speaks of having access to the Father, not just when we get to heaven, but also right now. Notice how John 14:11 very closely relates to 1st John 2:24, which states that if you abide in the Son, then you abide in the Father, also. By the principle of mutual inclusion, when you become in Christ, you become in the Father, also, because the Father is in the Son. That’s why when Jesus
makes His abode in you, as per Rev 3:20, it’s simultaneously a matter of BOTH the Father and Son abiding in you, as per John 14:23.

I respond:
The reason that I don't view John 14:10-11 as the immediate context (for interpretation) of John 14:6 is that it is separated from John 14:6 by Philip's request in John 14:8:

John 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

John 14:9-11 is a response to Philip's request, and conveys the sense that if you want to see the Father look at Jesus for they are one in their acts and words. Thus, Jesus acts by the power and authority of the Father, and the Father speaks by the mouth of the Son.

John 14:9-11

9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

The point is that the works show the Father's power.

Likewise, when we get down to verse 23,

John 14:19-26

19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. 25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26But the
Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Jesus is, as anyone can see, responding to Judas' (not Iscariot) question regarding how God will manifest himself to them and not the world. Contrary to EC's suggestion above, John 14:23 does not speak of us being located in the Father and Christ. Instead, it suggests that if we love God and obey His commandments, the Father and Christ will be near to us. Notice "abide with." "with" here is the Greek preposition para, which suggests proximity.

Recall the weeping prophet's words:
Lamentations 3:55-57

55I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. 56Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 57Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.

EC also mentions I John 2:24, that verse is shown below, in context.

1 John 2:20-28

20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 24Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. 25And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 26These things have I written unto you concerning them
that seduce you. 27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 28And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

The point of the passage is that they have received an annointing (unction) of the Holy Spirit and therefore they know "all" (vs. 20) meaning specifically that they know that the truth (vs. 21) that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Father (vs. 22) and that He and the Father are one (vs. 23). Verse 24 provides a blessing/command (depending how you look at it) that what they have heard stay in them - and the promise that if what they have heard stays with them, they will also stay "in the Father and the Son." This is a quasi-positional analogy - which should point us to John 15:3-4. The idea is that we stay in the Son, much like branch stay in the vine, receiving their life from Him. This has to do with the Christian life: for note that these are not pre-believers, but believers. This passage is talking about the relationship of dependence that we have on Christ and the Father, not about election and predestination before we were born.

EC continued (second main point):

2) The phrase “comes to,” found at John 14:6, is also found at John 6:35, where it is linked with “believes in.” The “comes to” phrase is also found at John 6:37, John 6:44 and John 6:45.

I respond:
I'm glad we can agree that we come to the Father and Son by faith.

EC concluded:

All of this adds up to one thing, that when you are sealed in Christ, you have access, and come to the Father, not just when you get to heaven, but right now, and I think that is the jist of John 14:10-11. I feel that when you restrict John 14:6 to heaven, you lose this vital meaning.

With due respect, John 14:10-11 can talk about one thing and John 14:6 can talk about another thing (after all, they are separated by a question from Pilip). If that's what the text indicates, we should accept it, and not try to add meanings that the text does not.

Praise be to our Glorious Savior!


The Second Post

In the Second post, EC wrote: "Here is the Ephesians 1:4 post."

I had written: “In this context, we can see that ‘in Christ’ is the way in which God's blessings are implemented, not the position or location of believers at the time of the choice.”

EC replied:

However, “in Christ” is also where God’s blessings are housed. Recall Eph 1:6 which states that God has freely bestowed these things upon us, in the storehouse of "in the Beloved." (Eph 1:6) In other words, the place of God’s grace is ‘in His Son.’ Your access to the Father’s blessings are found in the ‘place’ of His Son, in the Beloved. When you come to the Son, there you find the storehouse of God’s blessings. Whoever believes in Him, has eternal life, as per God the Father. In Christ, is the place where you find God’s grace. That’s what I’m trying to get at. However, I feel that Calvinism has set up another place for God’s grace, and that is ‘in the Father,’ with the end result, that these become appointed *to become* in Christ, such as grace flowing down-river to the Son, which in contrast, Arminianism states that the *source* of the river of God’s grace, ‘begins’ in Christ. The accusation against Calvinism is that it teaches that certain people were eternally plugged in to the Father, and eternally reconciled in the secret counsel of God, before they were ever in the Beloved, that is, in Christ. Arminianism, on the other hand, teaches that your election by the Father as God’s people, is on the basis of being in Christ, i.e. chosen in Christ (Eph 1:4), such that when you are sealed in Christ, as per Eph 1:13, you are joined into the body of Christ, as a holy and elect body. That’s Arminian election and it seems to be very glorifying of Jesus. Now some may say, no, because faith in Christ gives us reason to boast before God, but that view does not seem to sit well with Romans 3:27.

I respond:

EC is mistaken regarding the sense of Ephesians 1:6. The context of Ephesians 1:6 can be seen above in the discussion of Ephesians 1:4. Ephesians 1:6 itself says:

Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

As I pointed out in my exegesis of Ephesians 1:4, the "in Christ" is not a description of location or position: it is a description of the agency and instrumentality. God made us accepted by the agency of Christ: by his work - his sacrifice.

It is a fulfilling of the shadow in the Old Testament:

Ezekiel 43:27 And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

If Christ was sacrificed upon our behalf, if He is our peace offering, then God will accept us. That is the way that we are made accepted in Christ (i.e. by the agency or instrumentality of Christ).
Ec's view, if I have understood it correctly, is that Christ's sacrifice did not make us accepted. Instead, Christ's sacrifice established a resevoir of potential salvation. Man taps into that potential and "gets saved." It's not a Biblical metaphor, and its not a Scriptural concept.
EC seems to be imagining that Arminianism locates that resevoir of potential salvation at the location "Christ" and that Calvinism places the resevoir of potential salvation at the location "Father." That is not an accurate description of Calvinism or Scriptural theology.

Calvinism rejects the idea of Christ's work being potential. Christ's work, as described in Scripture, is actual not potential. He is names is Jesus, because His mission is to save: not to make salvation possible. As the first part of the verse clearly states: "He hath made us accepted" (past tense in English, aorist in Greek).

Now, the reader should know that "made accepted" is the English translation of the Greek word charitoo. The only other example of this verb is in Luke 1:28:

Luke 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

The verb is used there in a participle construction, the details of which don't particularly matter. The point is that the "favoured" in that verse is the translation of the same word. And Paul is saying in this verse (Ephesians 1:6) that God has charito-ed us by the agency and instrumentality of Christ. We have been brought into favor with God by Christ. That is the sense in which "in Christ" is meant here.

But EC seems to be very lodged on the idea of a potential salvation. I think the electricity example that EC provided is an excellent example of the Arminian (I'm using the term loosely, because there are few actual Arminians out there today) mindset. The Arminian views the result of the cross as the creation of a battery with all this voltage (electric potential) sitting it. Man - by his sovereign free will - plugs into the battery and closes the circuit, becoming saved (the lightbulb goes on). As noted above, this is nothing like the Calvinistic view of salvation. The Calvinistic view of salvation is like the Old Testament ceremonies:

Leviticus 4:20 And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

Christ, the perfect high priest and the perfect sacrifice, makes an atonement for His people: the elect, the called. In consequence of this sacrifice God forgives the sins of those for whom the atonement is made. That's how the sacrificial system works. The priest doesn't create a laver of blood from which people who choose to be atoned-for approach and accept by free-will. There were lavers, but they were not for blood:

Exodus 30:18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.

This was upped to a sea and accompanied by ten lavers in the temple:
1 Kings 7:23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. (The mathematically and scientifically inclined may be interested to note Pi implicitly expressed to a single significant digit.)

1 Kings 7:38 Then made he ten lavers of brass: one laver contained forty baths: and every laver was four cubits: and upon every one of the ten bases one laver.

2 Chronicles 4:6 He made also ten lavers, and put five on the right hand, and five on the left, to wash in them: such things as they offered for the burnt offering they washed in them; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.

That sea must have been quite a sight in the days of Solomon:

1 Kings 7:25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.

Although Ahaz made some quite literal cutbacks:

2 Kings 16:17 And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones.

And finally the Chaldeans removed the sea from the temple:

2 Kings 25:16 The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD; the brass of all these vessels was without weight.

And, in any event, the laver and sea were for the priests and the sacrifice: not for the people.

Exodus 30:18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.

Exodus 40:30 And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash withal.

2 Chronicles 4:6 He made also ten lavers, and put five on the right hand, and five on the left, to wash in them: such things as they offered for the burnt offering they washed in them; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.

Thus, whether they point to the Baptism of John, we do not need to decide now.

But I digress. The point is that the lavers and sea were full of water, not blood. There is no shadow or type of a potential salvation: the concept is foreign both to the Old Testament shadows and types and the New Testament reality.

One final remark on this segment of the second post:

EC concludes with a comment, "That’s Arminian election and it seems to be very glorifying of Jesus."

It's not a particularly relevant remark because we have seen that the underlying premise (that Calvinism moves the potential from Jesus to the Father) is fundamentally flawed. Nevertheless, I would like to point out one thing: it appears that the argument is that Arminian theology glorifies Jesus RATHER THAN the Father. Perhaps that was not was intended. If it was intended, we should point out that Jesus would not approve, for Jesus believes that our salvation glorifies the Father in the eyes of everyone:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

And Jesus viewed His own work as the way to glorify the Father:

John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

And again:
John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Which naturally leads us to recall as well:

John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Now, notice that "in the Son" here again is the instrumental "in." It is not positional: the Father is not located in the Son positionally: the Father is omnipresent and a Spirit: He is everywhere but does not have the quality of extension.In case anyone is wondering, Paul spoke the same thing:

Romans 15:5-7

5Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Notice that Paul is ascribing their holiness to the Father, and claim that their holiness and spiritual union glorify the Father.

EC continued, noting that I wrote: “we are chosen to be blameless by the agency of Christ” and “He has chosen us to be blameless through the instrumentality of the Son.”

EC responded:

4 more times you go on to mention “chosen” and in each case, disconnect “in Christ.” Eph 1:4 teaches that we are chosen *in Christ* “to be holy and blameless before Him.” The Arminian argument is that when you detach Christ, you undermine the basis for God’s election. Arminians explain the eternal nature of election in Christ from the perspective of Romans 8:29, and I have a write-up for that verse.(link to the writeup of Romans 8 omitted, see EC's website for that writeup)

Here, I must respectfully disagree. I did not "disconnect" "in Christ" I supplied the sense of "in Christ" when I wrote "by the agency of Christ" and "through the instrumentality of the Son." I reject the "positional" and "locational" ideas as:

a) bizarre: how can non-existent things have a position or location?

b) unnecessary: there is an evident, reasonable alternative: agency and instrumentality.

c) unprecedented: there is no corresponding Old Testament type of potential salvation.

d) anthropocentric: the position appears to be motivated by an emphasis on man's "free-will" as opposed to God's sovereignty.

e) Counter-Scriptural

For Scripture tells that Christ is the author (agent) of our salvation:

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

May the author (agent) of our Salvation be praised!


The Third Post

In the third post, EC posted a set of quotations from John Calvin and Dr. James White.

I respond, with EC's quotation in block quotes:

EC provide eight quotations (two from Dr. White, six from Calvin)

First quotation:

James White writes: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because *the Father*, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, *gave me to the Son in eternity past*.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)

I did not check the accuracy of this quotation. If I have more time later, I will come back to check the accuracy of the quotation.

The emphasized portion is that "the Father ... gave me to the Son in eternity past." This does not refer to Dr. White's location or position. It has to do with possession. Dr. White can come to Christ because He belongs to Christ. Dr. White is Christ's because the Father gave Dr. White to Christ.

Second Quotation:

James White writes: “God elects a specific people *unto Himself* without reference to anything they do. This means the basis of God’s choice of the elect is solely *within Himself*: His grace, His mercy, His will.” (The Potter’s Freedom, p.39, emphasis mine)

I did not check the accuracy of this quotation. If I have more time later, I will come back to check the accuracy of the quotation.

The emphasized portion is that "God elects ... unto Himself [upon a basis that is] solely within Himself." This does not refer to position or location of the people. The "unto Himself" refers to connection and relationship, and the "within Himself" does not refer to the people at all. In fact that latter distinction is the very point that Dr. White is trying to make: God chooses us NOT based on us, but on HIM. It does not speak about a location or position of the elect people.

Third Quotation:

John Calvin writes: “Paul further confirms this, declaring that God was moved by no external cause; He Himself and *in Himself* was author and cause of our being elected while yet we were not created, and of His afterwards conferring faith upon us.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)

My version has this selection on p. 46. The full quotation reads:

"Paul then proceeds to declare that " God abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence, according to the riches of His grace, having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself." Thou hearest in these words, reader, the grace of illumination, flowing like a river from the fountain of that eternal counsel which had been before hidden. Far, very far, is this removed from the idea that God had any respect to our faith in choosing us, which faith could not possibly have existed except that God had then appointed it for us by the free grace of His adoption of us. And Paul further confirms all this by declaring that God was moved by no external cause--by no cause out of Himself in the choice of us; but that He Himself, in Himself, was the cause and the author of choosing His people, not yet created or born, as those on whom He would afterwards confer faith: " According to the purpose of Him (saith the apostle) who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. i. 11)."

The emphasized portion is saying that God's decision was internal, not based on us, but upon God (much like Dr. White's second quotation, above). It does not speak about a location or position of the elect people.

Fourth Quotation:

Calvin writes: “Then, when Paul lays down as the unique cause of election the good pleasure of God which He has *in Himself*, he excludes all other causes.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)

In my version, this selection is found at pp. 45-46, and the full quotation reads:

"Again, 'God did not (says he) choose us because we believed, but in order that we might believe, lest we should appear to have first chosen Him. Paul loudly declares that our very beginning to be holy is the fruit and effect of election. They act most preposterously, therefore, who put election after faith.' He further observes, 'When Paul lays down, as the sole cause of election, that good pleasure of God which He had in Himself, he excludes all other causes whatsoever.' Augustine, therefore, rightly admonishes us ever to go back to that first great cause of election, lest we should be inclined to boast of the good pleasure of our own will!"

Thus, for proper attribution it should be clear that Calvin is quoting Augustine in the portion you quoted.

The emphasized portion is saying the same thing as the Second and Third Quotations above: God's decision was internal, not based on us, but upon God. It does not speak about a location or position of the elect people.

Fifth Quotation:

Calvin writes: “Christ therefore is for us the bright mirror of the eternal and hidden election of God, and also the earnest and pledge. ... We see here that *God begins with Himself* when He sees fit to elect us....” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.127, emphasis mine)

In my copy the pagination is pp. 132-33, and the quotation is:

"Christ, therefore, is the clear glass in which we are called upon to behold the eternal and hidden election of God; and of that election He is also the earnest. But the eye, by which we behold that eternal life which God sets before us in this glass, is faith. And the hand by which we lay hold of this earnest and pledge is faith. If any will have the matter more plainly stated, let them take it thus: election precedes faith as to its Divine order, but it is seen and understood by faith. What I here just touch upon, however, readers will find more fully explained in my 'Institutes.' Hence Christ, when dwelling on the eternal election of His own in the counsel of the Father, points out, at the same time, the ground on which their confidence may safely rest; where He says, 'I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word' ( John xvii. 6). We see here that God begins with Himself, when He condescends to choose us and give us to Christ. But He will have us begin with Christ, if we would know that we are numbered among His 'peculiar people.' God the Father is said to have given us to His Son, to the end that each one of His chosen might enjoy the knowledge that he is an heir of His heavenly kingdom as long as he abides in Christ, out of whom death and destruction beset us on every side. Christ is therefore said to 'manifest the name' of the Father unto us, because He seals on our hearts by His Spirit, the knowledge of our election by the Father, which is openly declared unto us by the voice of the Gospel of the Son.'

The emphasized portion is saying the same thing as the last few quotations: God's decision was internal, not based on us, but upon God. It does not speak about a location or position of the elect people.

Sixth Quotation:

Calvin adds: “The calling is therefore a certain and specific calling, which seals and ratifies the eternal election of God so as to make manifest what was before *hidden in God*.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.70, emphasis mine)

In my copy the pagination is p. 48, not 70. The entire quotation, in my version, is:

"The calling of God, therefore, is a certain special calling, which so seals and ratifies His eternal election, as to manifest openly what was before hidden in God concerning each one so called."

Nevertheless, the emphasized portion is saying that calling makes known God's secret plan. When God acts, He reveals what He planned to do. Prior to that those details of His plan are secret. Thus, what is "hidden in God" is the plan. It does not speak about a location or position of the elect people.

Seventh Quotation:

Calvin writes: “First he points out the eternity of election, and then how we should think of it. Christ says that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, nor by any merit, but by pure grace; for *while they are far away from him*, he regards them *in secret as his own*.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393, emphasis mine)

I did not check the accuracy of this quotation. If I have more time later, I will come back to check the accuracy of the quotation.

The unemphasized context here is discussing possession ("belonged to God"). In the emphasized portion, Calvin is making the point that God views us as His special possession (secretly) even when we are positionally distant from Him. Thus, outwardly we were His enemy, but secretly we were the elect.

Eighth Quotation:

Calvin writes: “*God has chosen His own* to be holy and without blame (Eph 1:4).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.134, emphasis mine)

In my copy, the pagination is p. 143 (not 134). And, at least in my version, Calvin includes a quotation around "holy and without blame" and does not include the parenthetical "(Eph. 1:4)." Perhaps we may suggest that the editor of your version was sloppy. I do not have a copy of the original Latin to check to see.

In my version, the quotation reads:

"But God has chosen His own for the very end that they might be 'holy and without blame.'"

In view of the correct quotation, it should be clear that Calvin is saying God has chosen the elect (his special possession in the discussion of the quotations above) with the goal of making them holy. How God does this (in Christ) is not discussed by Calvin. Neither is any position or location of the elect.

Possession, not position, dear EC!

May our Redeemer be Praised!


EC Responded to the Third post thus (pleasantries omitted):

In terms of possession vs. position, let me ask you about 1st John 2:24 which states: "If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father."As Christians, we frequently talk about being "in Christ." (Romans 8:1; 2nd Cor 5:17, ect) Paul often invoked this phrase.
However, here at 1st John 2:24, we have mention of being "in the Father."Quetion: What does being "in the Father" mean to you, and when do you think that you were "in the Father" in the sense that 1st John 2:24 conveys? In other words, do you believe that you were "in the Father" in the sense that 1st John 2:24 conveys, from before the foundation of the world? In other words, do you believe that you were eternally "in the Father", with God having chosen you in Himself, with the result that He "gave" you to the Son from eternity past, as per James White?

I respond:

As to 1st John 2:24, I refer EC to my comments above with regard to the first post.

In addition:

The sense in which we are "in the Father and the Son" as per I John 2:24 is one of communion with Him. Some might like to view the analogy as being "in the sun." If you are in the sun, you will be warm, but if you are in the shade, you will be cold. It is a quasi-positional sense. It does not mean that we are on the surface of the sun, but it means that we are receiving light from the sun. It's something analogous:

Psalm 89:15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.

Proverbs 16:15 In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.

Isaiah 2:5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

I disagree, however, with EC's characterization of Dr. White's view. Christians walk in the light ("with God" or "in the Father and Son") during their lives, after regeneration. Christians do not exist before conception, and it is before all time (in eternity past) that Father gave us (the elect) to the Son and predestined us to glory.

Praise be to our sovereign Lord,


EC responded:

In terms of what you’ve characterized as the Arminian “potentiality” interpretation of the nature & scope of the atonement, let’s come back to that later, so as not get to overly sidetracked.

I respond:

The door is open, of course, for EC to come back and discuss that aspect.

EC continued:

In terms of your characterization of “RATHER THAN,” recall that due to the principle of Mutual Inclusion, such a premise is logically impossible. I infer that we are in agreement on that point, and can proceed.

I respond:

I'm aware that EC promotes an idea called "Mutual Inclusion," and I recognize that it would be inconsistent to make the accusation that Calvinists glorify the Father RATHER THAN the Son. I guess what remains is for EC to clarify what was originally intended by the comment, as opposed to simply noting that it would be inconsistent to hold both positions.

EC continued:

You wrote: “We have been brought into favor with God by Christ. That is the
sense in which ‘in Christ’ is meant here.” I feel that this view, truly
loses much of what the Scriptures teach us on the nature of "in Christ."

I respond:

That is an unsurprising reaction, considering that I perceive EC's position as unscriptural - i.e. that EC's position is not found in Scripture. Furthermore, my allegation is that EC's position denies the power (agency and instrumentality) of Christ.

EC presented EC's position this:

Therefore, here is the case that I lay out: Ephesians 1:13 states that upon hearing & believing in the Gospel, we are “sealed” in Christ with the pledge of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, 1st Corinthians 6:16-17 additionally describes the believer in Christ as having become made “one spirit” with God, analogous to a husband & wife becoming “one flesh” with one another in physical union. The passage also touches on the Indwelling, as well as at 1st Corinthians 3:16. In summary, this gives me an overall picture of “in Christ” that I believe is far deeper than what you are letting on. In other words, we are not merely talking about “agency” and “instrumentality,” but also about spiritual union, which union, is with the Father also. (John 14:23) You may argue that that’s merely an abode “with,” but with respect to the Indwelling, as per 1st Corinthians 3:16, I see it as an abode “in,” having been made the temple of God. For instance, Paul explains in Romans chapter 8 that if Christ is NOT “in” you, then you have no part with Him. Paul adds that we are to examine ourselves, to see if Christ is truly “in” us. (2Cor 13:5) Through these verses, I see a spiritual union in terms of the Indwelling, via the sealing of Ephesians 1:13, that runs far deeper than what you let on, concerning "in Christ." Does my allegation stand?

I respond:

First of all, this is not a positive case. The essence of the allegation is, paraphrased, "there is more to being "in Christ" then you admit."

Dealing with the Scripture cited, let us begin with Ephesians 1:13, in the context it is found:

Ephesians 1:1-14

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Please note that what I've done above is underline all the prepositional phrases employing the Greek word en.

The sense of the passage is:
Paul is writing to holy people at Ephesus, whom he identifies as those who are the ones who trust en Christ Jesus (vs. 1). It is a simple statement of justification by faith. Those who trust in Jesus are considered holy. It does that they are trusting from within the location Jesus, but that the object of their trust is Jesus. It is on his strength, power, and instrumentality that they trust.

Paul continues by greeting them with blessings of grace and peace, which Paul says come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 2) It is a simple statement of God's role, grace and peace proceed from God.

Paul calls the Our God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ blessed, ascribing to him that he blessed us en all spiritual blessings en the heavenly places en Christ (vs. 3). Now Paul gets more explicit, expounding on the thought in the previous verse, and amplifying it. God did not just bless us with grace and peace in general, but with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ. The triple use of en here should make it clear that en is flexible, not rigid. God (that is, the Father) is considered blessed because He blessed us in the form of spiritual blessings, with end of heaven, and by the work of Christ.

Paul next connects this blessing by the work of Christ to a choice of God's: a choice of us, a choice in him (whether this means in himself, i.e. secretly [a first possible sense], or in Christ, i.e. by Christ's power [a second possible sense], we don't have to decide yet, and perhaps the ambiguity is intentional in order to convey both senses by a form of double entendre), a choice before the foundation of the world, a choice that we should be holy and blameless before him en love - on the basis of special love of us (vs. 4).

Paul explains the connection between this choice and the work of Christ by stating that we were predestined to be adopted as children by Jesus Christ (that is, by his power and work) to God (vs. 5). Paul is saying that the eternal plan of God is implemented by Christ's work.

Paul further comments that this work is to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which grace he has made us accepted en the beloved (i.e. by his power and work, which would support the second sense in verse 4, above) (vs. 6). The glory is God's because God does the work.

Paul explains that we are made accepted en him by redemption through his blood, which is the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace (vs. 7). Thus, Paul ties the blood and forgiveness - the blood of Christ produces the forgiveness of sins, and this forgiveness shows the riches of God's grace.

Paul also praises the wisdom and prudence of this grace saying that he abounded en wisdom and prudence (vs. 8). In other words, God's plan is a good, wise, and prudent plan. It was based on and founded on wisdom and prudence. It was not made in prudence-land or wisdom-ville.

Paul explains that God has revealed his plan (which be made according to what pleased himself and which he made within himself - which supports the first sense of verse 4, above) (vs. 9). How does God reveal the plan? By justifying in time.

Paul explains that God's plan is, at the appropriate time, to gather-together-into-one all en Christ (i.e. to make "all" the object of gathering-together-into-one by the power and instrumentality of Christ) - the "all" including both those en heaven (the Old Testament saints) and on earth (vs. 10).

Paul continues by stating that this is en him, en whom (i.e. by the agency and work of whom) we have obtained an inheritance, and Paul explains that this is the result of being predestined to according the purposes of God who works all things after the his own internal decision-making process (which supports the first sense of verse 4, above) (vs. 11). In other words, Paul is saying that we obtained the inheritance, because God makes sure that His plan succeeds.

Paul explains that God's object in this predistination and working out the predetermined plan is so that we will be to His glory (vs. 12).

Paul continues by noting that this gathering-into-one is not all at once, but first the apostles believed en Christ (not in Christ-ville, but relied on the work and promise of Christ), and then later the Ephesians also so trusted en him, and were sealed/stamped/imprinted with the Holy Spirit of promise (vs. 13).

Paul concludes by describing the Holy Spirit in the act of sealing/stamping/imprinting us as being the earnest of our inheritance (i.e. a token of that which is to come) until we are finally redeemed in heaven, which is the ultimate praise of His glory (vs. 14).

Thus, the overall sense of the passage is that we are saved as God has planned by the instrumentality of Christ. Imagining some kind of "in Christ-land" positional sense to the phrase is not a richer meaning, but a bizarre and nonsensical meaning. Thus, in short, the allegation that ascribing our salvation to the Father's plan by means of Christ robs us of the sense of the text does not stand.

EC continued:

I had asked if you believed that you were eternally “in the Father,” and that on such a hypothetical basis, “given” to the Son from eternity past, as per James White’s quote and interpretation of John 6:37, and you rejected my inference of White's interpretation, and rejected my premise of being "in Christ" and "in the Father" by the principle of Mutual Inclusion.

I respond:

My analysis of the quotations above mostly speaks for itself. I reject EC's "positional" view as foreign both to White and Calvin (and Reformed theology in general) and contrary to reason.

EC continued:

In terms of James White’s view of John 6:37, recall that Calvin explained that those of the alleged, eternal flock of the Father, existed in the hidden counsel of God, and were first loved on that account. Though they did not “physically” yet exist, Calvin explains that they existed in God’s mind (eternal hidden counsel), and as such, were loved from eternity past. I find it amazing that we could be at such an impasse concerning of the nature of being “in Christ” and "in the Father."

I respond:

No, neither Calvin nor White suggest that people existed before the foundation of the world. We were loved BEFORE we existed (as Scripture confirms): hence, as Ephesians 1 suggests, we were pre-destined to adoption as children of God and to the blessing of the inheritance etc.

One solution to the impasse is for EC to accept that I know Reformed Theology from the standpoint of someone who accepts it as being an explanation of the truth of Scripture, and that I can answer EC's questions regarding Calvinism. Furthermore, EC could accept that Reformed theology does not impose the "positional" sense that you describe either on the Greek "en" or the English "in."

EC continued:

You are no doubt, convinced of your opinion, but I offer the aforementioned verses in defense.

I repond:

In defense of what, exactly? There is no positive presentation here. The most one can divine is that EC believes that "in Christ" is locative (like "at Ephesus"), which is a grammatical possibility (that is to say, the word en can convey a locative sense in certain instances) but not a rational one (any more than "at love" or "at wisdom and prudence" would be).

In defense of EC's conception of Reformed Theology? I think it has been adequately demonstrated above that EC has fundamentally misunderstood what Calvin and White are saying.

If the goal is to understand Calvinism, it is important to know what Calvinism actually claims as opposed to reading quasi-Arminian ideas like a "positional" view of Christ's work into Reformed authors like White or Calvin.

EC concluded:

Nevertheless, if we are, in fact, at such an impasse concerning the meaning of “in Christ” and the meaning of “in the Father,” then my next question will relate to the meaning of the “sealing” of Ephesians 1:13. You are welcome to review Calvin’s interpretation in my writeup for that verse. [See EC's website for complete write-up.]

I respond:

I suppose it is important to distinguish between the meaning in the text, the meaning that Calvin, White, and other Reformed authors assert is the meaning in the text, and the meaning that EC assigns to the text.

I have reviewed EC's write-up, but it seems to mostly repeat the same mistaken/distorted perceptions of Calvinism presented above, and exposed in the discussion of the various quotations. Of course what EC perceives as Calvinism does not make sense to EC; but that is because EC is reading the Reformed authors EC has been reading through quasi-Arminian lenses. When EC sees "in Christ" or "in the Father" in the Reformed authors, EC seems to assume they mean what EC thinks that Scripture means by that term, instead of realizing that they mean what THEY think Scripture means by that term.

May God's blessing rest on all who pass by,


EC added:

I respond:

I agree that Romans 8:1-17 reads thus:

Romans 8:1-17

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For 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: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But 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. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

I don't know - because EC hasn't said - what sense EC gives EC's term "indwelling" and I am hesistant to simply say "yes" (though that would be accurate) because I suspect that EC would take that to mean that I agree with EC's understanding of that term, which I cannot promise, since I don't know what EC's view of that term is.

Perhaps EC would care to explain what sense EC means?


EC replied:

You asked what I meant by the term, The Indwelling, and the answer is that I refer to Romans 8:9 where it is said that the Holy Spirit "dwells" in us, where v.10 adds that Christ is "in you." 1Cor 3:16 adds that "you are a temple of God" on account of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. And here is the main kicker, 1Cor 6:16-17 states: "Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, 'The two shall become one flesh.' But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." Therefore, do you accept that "in the Son" and "in the Father" can carry the meaning of being sealed in Christ as "one spirit" with God, whereby the Spirit of God dwells in you? (Yes/No?)

I respond:

I do not agree on the precise forumla proposed.

I do agree that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and that the two passages from I Corinthians and Romans 8:9 provided by EC confirm that. I also agree with the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus, if the Spirit is in you, then Christ is in you, and that verse 10 confirms that. I don't agree that "in Christ" is the same as "in us."

If that's agreement enough, then let's proceed. If further explanation regarding the apparentl leap from "if Christ be in you" to "in Christ" is forthcoming, I ould be delighted to hear it.

Praise be to Him who works our salvation in us,


EC requested that I identify the relationship between "sealed with that holy Spirit" and "in Christ" in the context of Ephesians 1:13

I respond:

Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

The relationship between "in whom" and "sealed with that holy Spirit" is that the seal is made by Christ's power and instrumentality. The Spirit, after all, eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. And the verse is confirming the unity of the Trinity - particularly of the persons of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Praise be to our triune God!


Colosians 1:20-21

A Brief Exegetical Defense
of another oft-abused passage:
Colossians 1:20-21

One Anti-Calvinist poster recently commented: "God does not appraoch [sic] a man today and say, 'I'm against you. You are a sinner and I am forced to punish you.'"

This poster was right in one regard. God is not "forced" to do anything. Nevertheless, Paul refers to his ministry as "warning" (Colossians 1:28). Warning of what? The answer is that he is warning of the wrath of God against sin.


Ezekiel 3:18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

So, the Anti-Calvinist's statement is technically correct (in that those are not God's words), but only because it is too soft. God does not say "I am forced to punish you," he says "you shall surely die!" Or as Jesus put it "Repent!"

But until God gives them ears to hear, they will not hear the warning and be saved:

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.

But lets look at Colossians 1:20-21 in even more depth:
Colossians 1:12-29
12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For 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: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To 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: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

Look at verse 12. It says that the Father "made" us meet to be partakers. Not just that he made us partakers, but that he made us meet for that. If there were conditions, he fulfilled them. That is what it means to make someone "meet" for something. It's a little archaic, but "meet" essentially means something like "fit" or "suitable."

Verse 13 continues by going further and saying that he actually delivered us from darkness and translated us into the kingdom of Jesus.

Verse 14 explains that it is in Jesus that we have redemption through his blood, and that this redemption is the forgiveness of sins.

Verses 15-17 praise Jesus indicating his primacy on account of his role as Creator - both first week creator (ex nihilo creation) and provider-creator (providence).

Verse 18 extends this primacy to the church - the body of all believers. The next verses parallel verses 15-17 in that they explain the basis for his primacy of the church.

Verse 19 begins the explanation by stating that it was the will of the Father. And more specifically, that it was the Father's will that in Christ all the fullness (of the church vs. 18) should dwell.

Verse 20 further expounds on this same will of the Father, namely that this fullness dwelling in Christ is accomplished by Chirst making peace on the cross (reconciliation = peace), thereby reconciling "all things" to himself (all things in heaven or on earth) - that is to say both the church living and to live, as well as the choir invisible.

Verse 21 continues by applying this to the believing Colossians - he tells them that they too - who were enemies having wicked minds and works - were reconciled.

Verse 22 explains how he did it: by bearing their sins in his flesh on the cross, and explains the purpose of his doing so: to present them holy, unblameable, and unreprovable. That is to say, to sanctify and justify them.

Verse 23 mentions that this is the case if they remain upon the foundation of faith in the hope of the gospel. It continues by stating that this is the gospel Paul preached to them.

Verse 24 explains that Paul rejoices in this ministry, because it gives him the chance to share in the sufferings of Christ, suffering for Christ's body - the church.

Verse 25 explains that Paul was given this ministry by God for their benefit "to fulfil the word of God."

Verse 26 indicates that this word of God was a mystery but is now revealed to the saints (those who are set apart by the Spirit):

Verse 27 explains that it is God who makes it know to those whom he chooses ("To whom God would make known"). And explains that what it is that is revealed is revealed even among the Gentiles and is the riches of glory, namely Christ in you, the hope of glory; that is to say, salvation by unity with Christ.

Verse 28 continues the explanation by stating that it is this gospel that Paul preaches to everyone, warning everyone and instructing everyone in wisdom, in an attempt to present everyone perfect in Christ. The "everyone" here, of course, being the church - for no one besides the church is in Christ.

Verse 29 makes this particular to Paul (before he was generalizing about all preachers), and indicates that it is not just him working, but God working in him.

And if you doubt my take on verse 28, just read the next few verses of Colossians:

Colossians 2:1-7
1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

May Christ Jesus the Lord, our root and foundation, be magnified!


Monday, March 12, 2007

Tomb Blasphemy Addendum

Reviewing some clips from the blasphemous movie, I notice that:

  • the film additionally cites, as support, the apocryphal and heretical "Gospel of Mary [Magdalene]." It is important to recognize that this writing does not identify Mary as Mary Magdalene, and does not associate the Mary in question with Philip, as in the "Acts of Philip." If any family relationship is suggested in the so-called Gospel of Mary, it is that Mary is Peter's (not Philip's) sister. Furthermore, it does not call Mary "Mariamne" as in the alleged inscription on the ossuary.

  • the film claims that the Acts of the Philip say that Mariamne dies in Jerusalem. It does not. Instead, it states in the Syriac account: "On board was a Jew, Ananias, who blasphemed and said: May Adonai recompense thee, and the Christ on whom thou callest, who is become dust and lies in Jerusalem, while thou livest and leadest ignorant men astray by his name. " Similarly, in the main account: "15 Ananias' address: how Jesus destroyed the law and allowed all meats -was crucified, the disciples stole his body, and did many wonders, and were cast out of Jerusalem, and now go all about the world deceiving every one, like this Philip. But I will take him to Jerusalem, for the king Archelaus seeketh him to kill him." Likewise it states in the main account: "137 And the Lord said: Since you have been unforgiving and wrathful, you shall indeed die in glory and be taken by angels to paradise, but shall remain outside it forty days, in fear of the flaming sword, and then I will send Michael and he shall let you in. And Bartholomew shall go to Lycaonia and be crucified there, and Mariamne's body shall be laid up in the river Jordan. And I shall bring back those who have been swallowed up." Thus the Syriac account calls Ananias' tomb claim blasphemy, and the main account attributes the traditional "stolen body" blasphemy to the Jews, in accordance with the Gospel. Furthermore, the main acocunt places Mariamne in the Jordan river, not in Jerusalem.

Praise be to our Risen Lord!