1 John 1:1-5 Commentary

The following are my thoughts on 1 John 1 in the New Testament. God-willing this commentary may aid your study of scripture.

“That which was from the beginning,”

This introduction is similar to the prologue found in the Gospel of John, in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word”. The introductions to the Gospel of John and 1 John are both meant to remind us of the introduction of the book of Genesis. John 1:1 uses the same Greek words as Genesis 1:1 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament translated in 200 BC):

ἐν ἀρχῇ (In the beginning) – Genesis 1:1

Ἐν ἀρχῇ (In the beginning) – John 1:1

Both say “In the beginning”, which is a reference to the beginning of creation. In the same way that God was present at the beginning of creation in Genesis, John’s Logos was in the beginning as well. This Logos described in John 1 is Jesus Christ, and therefore John’s Gospel ascribes deity to Jesus Christ. Just as God was in the beginning and created all things, the Logos, who is Jesus Christ, was in the beginning, and created all things, for “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Jesus is “from the beginning” because Jesus was present at creation.

Coming back to 1 John 1, Jesus is the one being described here. Jesus is “That which was from the beginning”. Jesus is from the beginning because he is the true God (1 John 5:20) who existed “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2) the Father.

“which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,”

This part of the verse appears to emphasize the reality of the incarnation and also the personal encounter people have had with Jesus. Jesus is the final and full revelation of God, because he is God himself. Through Jesus, God the Father is revealed to us. This is why Jesus said:

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

We are shown God the Father through Jesus Christ, his character, and his doctrine, so that all who know him likewise know the Father. He is the image of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus was not a ghost, a feeling, a phantom, or an impersonal principle, but the eternal God who took upon himself human flesh and dwelt among us. He was physically incarnated (John 1:14) and was physically raised from the dead (John 20:27-28).

“concerning the word of life – “

The word “word” here is the Greek word “Logos“, which can be translated as wisdom, rationality, logic, argument, doctrine, teaching, instruction, debate, intelligibility, etc. It is the same Greek word that is found in John 1:1 when it says, “In the beginning was the Word”. It is better to translate “Logos” as “Wisdom” when Jesus is being spoken of, so that we can recognize its intellectual emphasis.

This life that is mentioned relates to the intellect also. Jesus defines eternal life in terms of knowledge in John 17:3 when he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Although the New Testament does speak of physical life and physical resurrection, it also talks about spiritual life. This spiritual life is defined in terms of knowledge.

The words spirit, mind, and heart are all used in scripture to denote the same thing. Christian and cultural myth-makers have helped to define “spirit” and “spiritual” as mysticism or non rational emotionalism. We must not pay attention to how our culture defines these terms, but how the Bible defines them. To give an example of where scripture defines one’s spirit as their mind, 1 Corinthian 2:11 says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” The mind is the only human faculty that thinks and intellectually comprehends. Since Paul says that the spirit of a person is what thinks and comprehends, that means that the spirit is identical to the mind. To give an example in scripture of where the heart is equated to the mind, Jesus says in Mark 7:21-22, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…foolishness.” Once again, since foolishness and evil thoughts come from the heart, it is identical to the mind, since it is the mind that thinks. All dichotomies between mind and heart, or mind and spirit, are completely invalid according to scripture. Because of all this, spiritual life cannot mean anything other than intellectual life.

What it means for Jesus to be the “word of life” is that he is the principle and authority over all life, both physical and intellectual. Peter also calls Jesus “the Author of life” in Acts 3:15, further proving that all life originates in him. Jesus gives physical life to whom he wills, and also gives spiritual life to whom he wills, having “authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom [the Father has] given him” (John 17:2).

Jesus is the “Logos of life” because it is through belief in his logos (i.e. his teaching, doctrine, or word) that gives life. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word [logos] and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). We have life through knowing God and believing him. This was John’s whole purpose for writing his Gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). John throughout his writings has an overwhelmingly intellectual emphasis.

It is also worthy to note here that Jesus’ person and Jesus’ doctrine are identical. To accept his person is to accept his doctrine, and to accept his doctrine is to accept his person. They cannot be divided. Not only are Jesus’ doctrines that are found in scripture “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), but Jesus is himself “the word of life”.

“the life was made manifest,”

Jesus is the life by his own confession in John 11:25, “the life” having a connotation of knowledge and doctrine. He was made manifest through his incarnation in history and his earthly ministry. During this ministry he preached his doctrine, revealed the nature of the Father, and accomplished atonement for his people, to mention a few.

“and we have seen it,”

A repetition of the previous verse, emphasizing that John and others have personally encountered the word of life. He is not an impersonal principle or a ghost, but was a tangible human being in the days of his flesh.

“and testify to it”

Just as a person testifies in a court of law about the truth or falsehood of something, all believers testify to the truth of Jesus and his Gospel. It means to solemnly declare something to be the case. As a point of interest, the Greek word for testify is marturéo. The English word “martyr” comes from this word. The early Christians who testified to the truth of the Gospel became martyrs for the faith.

“and proclaim to you the eternal life,”

Jesus is eternal life and the word of life. Through belief in his word (logos) we have eternal life (John 5:24). He is again identified with his knowledge and doctrine, for eternal life is knowing the Father and Son (John 17:3).

“which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – “

John notes the distinction between the Father and the Son. The Son was with the Father, just as John 1:1 says that “the Word was with God” and Jesus had glory with the Father before creation in John 17:5.

Modalists believe that Jesus is the Father, that he became the Son in his incarnation, and now he is known as the Holy Spirit; God is like a single person who wears three different masks. Therefore, they deny the eternal Son of God, because they believe that the Father became the Son in the incarnation. Modalism, also known as sabellianism, is heresy.

The New Testament never says that the Son is the Father, but that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, coeternal persons who each possess the fullness of deity. Each person is fully God, and these three persons make up the one being of God. For some reason, this is an incredibly hard concept for people to grasp, but it is not so hard as they make it. 1+1+1 does not equal 1. We must define what we are talking about. 1 person + 1 person + 1 person = 3 persons, and these 3 persons make up the one being of God. Being and person are two different categories.

When we distinguish between the categories of God’s persons and his being, we do not run into the confusion that people so often run into. It is true that it is difficult to understand how we will experience the Trinity in glory, but we certainly know its scriptural definition. The Trinity is not contradictory or a difficult concept to understand, but is the rational and logical conclusion of the teaching of scripture.

“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us;”

John repeats the fact that they have seen and experienced Jesus personally while he was with them. He proclaims Jesus’ doctrine to them, which includes human depravity, the atonement, grace, repentance, and resurrection; in short, he proclaims the Gospel to them. He does this so that the one who hears the proclamation of the Gospel will believe it, and through this belief, those who were once unbelievers enter into Christian fellowship.

This fellowship that John mentions is absolutely exclusive to believers, so the only way those who hear the Gospel can enter into fellowship with Christians is through faith and repentance. Faith means to intellectually assent to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and repentance literally means a change of mind, to turn away from former beliefs and actions and turn towards God. In both cases, this acceptance into Christian fellowship is based upon one’s intellectual acceptance of God’s doctrine and rejection of the world’s doctrine. The prerequisite to fellowship is not based upon earthly wealth, personality, or other trivialities, but upon belief.

Christians have absolutely no fellowship with unbelievers. Christians are light and unbelievers are darkness. As Paul rhetorically asks in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “what fellowship has light with darkness?” The obvious answer is none. The duty of Christians is to proclaim Jesus and his teaching so that others may believe, and through this belief, people enter into the Christian fellowship.

“and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

When we believe Jesus’ logos (doctrine), we have eternal life and enter back into right relationship to him. We are no longer God’s enemies, but have been reconciled to the Father through the work of the Son. We are justified by faith alone, and through this faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Thus, we have fellowship with God.

As a point of clarity, we do not choose to believe God by our free will. Free will is a lie. Rather, God controls everything including our actions. God has predestined his elect for salvation from eternity past. Not one of them will be lost, and not a single person will enter into fellowship with God that God has chosen not to save. As 1 Corinthians 1:9 states, “you were called into the fellowship of his Son”. Divine calling is where God compels or summons his chosen people to come out from the world to have faith in Jesus. It is intricately related to predestination: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). God’s decree of predestination happened in eternity past, and the divine call happens in time to accomplish God’s decree of predestination.

All who are called into fellowship with God are those who have been predestined from eternity to believe in Jesus.

“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

The theme of joy is found in other parts of John’s writings. For instance, John quotes Jesus as saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy is related to proper teaching and love. Love (agape) is defined by John as obeying God in 1 John 5:3 and 2 John 6. Jesus also says that if we love him, we will keep his commandments.

This joy is not a fleeting emotion or an internal feeling of elation, but is long lasting and based upon the knowledge we have of God. We are commanded to count it joy when we suffer for righteous’ sake, because this suffering makes our faith stronger (James 1:2). The joy is found in the knowledge of God, and knowing that we have been reconciled to him, evidenced by our faith and obedience. We may approach God through Jesus Christ, and as David said, “in your presence there is fullness of joyat your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Here John specifies the message that he is proclaiming to them. In verse 3, I commented that John was proclaiming the Gospel to them, and through belief in the Gospel some of the recipients of the letter who still do not believe may be incorporated into Christian fellowship. In this verse, John says that the message that he proclaims is that God is light and has no darkness in him. This message is intricately related to the Gospel, so there is no incongruity between the two.

Light is often depicted in scripture as a metaphor for knowledge. For instance, 2 Corinthians 4:6 says “the light of the knowledge…” Also Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Scripture is depicted as light because it makes wise the simple (Psalm 19:7) and is profitable for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, scripture conveys the mind and knowledge of God. God is light because God is truth, his doctrine is true, and in him are hidden are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

It is because of these things that explains why “God is light” relates to the Gospel. Since the Gospel is God’s doctrine, and God’s doctrine is light, the Gospel is light also. When a person accepts that God is light, they accept and believe what God says. Therefore, by saying that God is light, John says that God’s doctrine is true, and God commands it to be believed and obeyed.

Another point that can be made is that this verse proves that God cannot change or lie. James 1:17 uses this same metaphor of light and darkness when it says, “…the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” There is no deceitfulness or ignorance in God. God determines reality and owns the monopoly on knowledge. Since God is himself light, everything he says is ipso facto true because he is the standard of truth; he is truth.

For more on what it means for God to be light, see my posts Light of the World and Light of Men.

Light of Men

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

In Light of the World I discuss how scripture often uses light as an analogy for knowledge. The church is the light of the world because of the knowledge that it has received from God, and Jesus is the light of the world because he is knowledge itself. In this article I will explain what it means for Jesus to be the light of men.

In the same way that “light of the world” relates to knowledge, Jesus being “the light of men” relates to knowledge also. The prologue of John’s Gospel teaches a certain type of epistemology (or theory of knowledge) that connects man’s intelligence to Jesus, who is the divine Logos. Since the Bible presents the only true epistemology, any epistemology that excludes Jesus Christ will inevitably fail to give a true and coherent justification of knowledge. Knowledge is possible not upon the basis of sensation, nor upon the basis of autonomous human reason, but because Jesus Christ is the cause of our understanding.

Commenting on John 1:4, Gordon Clark states:

“under the figure of speech that ‘this life is the light of men,’ intellectual life must be meant…That the life referred to is rational life is supported by both verse 5 and verse 9…as well as by the previous main thought that Reason, Wisdom, or Logic is God” (Clark 24-25).

The whole prologue of John’s Gospel, especially verses 5 and 9, has an overwhelmingly intellectual emphasis. Unfortunately, the ESV and other translations do not accurately translate either verse 5 or 9. Whereas the ESV Bible translates verse 5 as, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”, it should have been translated as “the darkness has not grasped it,” or “has not comprehended it.” The reason for this is because the word translated as “overcome” in the ESV is the word katalambanó. In it’s physical sense, the word means to seize or capture, but in the figurative sense, it means to intellectually comprehend or understand. We know this because the English words “grasp” or to “take ahold of” also have this dual meaning; they can be either physical or intellectual. Given the context of John 1, it is best to understand that katalambanó is not speaking of a physical confrontation between light and darkness – as the ESV word “overcome” suggests – but rather, the interaction between the light and darkness must be intellectual .

The darkness referred to in John 1:5 are people who refuse to believe and submit to Jesus. This interpretation is justified by appealing to other texts like John 12:46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” Hence, believers of Jesus are sons of light, while unbelievers are darkness and remain in darkness. Jesus revealed his light (i.e. his doctrines), but the unbeliever cannot accept them, “for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Verse 11 describes this same phenomenon in more literal words: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” By rejecting Jesus’ teaching, the unbelievers of his day (like the Pharisees) rejected Jesus himself, and proved themselves to be darkness. Unbelievers cannot accept Jesus’ teaching because it reveals how evil and foolish they are (John 3:19-20), because God actively darkens their understanding (John 12:40), and because they are naturally predisposed to reject him. Therefore, Jesus has proclaimed his doctrine, but unbelievers cannot grasp it.

As for John 1:9, the ESV translates the verse as, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Like verse 5, this is also a confused translation. Clark comments:

“A very literal translation is, ‘It was the true light, which enlightens every man, coming into the world.’…The simplest grammatical construction is to connect the phrase [coming into the world] with the noun man” (Clark 26).

Clark argues that verse 9 is not referring to Jesus coming into the world, his incarnation, but rather the verse refers to every man or person who comes into the world. Therefore, a better way of rendering the verse is, “The true light gives light to every person who comes into the world.”

Given all of this information, a paraphrase of a portion of John’s prologue looks like this:

In the beginning was the Wisdom, and the Wisdom was with God, and the Wisdom was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through the Wisdom, and nothing was made without him. In him was knowledge, and this knowledge was the source and cause of human understanding. True doctrine was revealed to unbelievers, but unbelievers cannot grasp this doctrine… The true understanding gives understanding to every person who comes into the world.”

I translated “Logos” into “Wisdom” to emphasize its intellectual nature. Whereas the connotation of the word “Word” is an aspect of language, the word “Wisdom” better explains that its real meaning relates to understanding, teaching, and doctrine. When “logos” is translated into English as “word” in the New Testament, “word” often means doctrine, teaching, or message. For example, when Jesus says to the Pharisees in John 8:37, “my word finds no place in you”, Jesus was explaining that the Pharisees refused to believe Jesus’ teaching (see also John 1:5, 10-11!). Although scripture is replete with these examples, “Word” in John 1 often does not sufficiently convey this intellectual emphasis. This is why “Wisdom” is a better translation, since through this translation we immediately realize that this Logos is not a literal word, or a sound in the air, but has to do with knowledge.

I paraphrased the word “life” as “knowledge” in verse 4 not only because it was the opinion of Gordon Clark, but also because Jesus makes this same connection in John 17:3 when he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is to know the true God, and therefore life is defined in terms of knowledge. In Jesus was life, indeed, Jesus proclaims that he is “the life” (John 11:25); Jesus is also “the eternal life, which was with the Father” (1 John 1:2). Jesus not only possesses knowledge, but Jesus is his knowledge because God is identical to his attributes (see God’s Attributes as a Tautology). Jesus Christ is knowledge itself. Verse 4 teaches that Jesus’ knowledge is “the light of men,” or the principle by which human understanding is possible.

Since unbelievers reject Christ’s doctrine, though they possess a measure of understanding, they are nonetheless “darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18). Unbelievers are darkness and refuse to come to Jesus because they do not want their wickedness and foolishness to be exposed. However, verse 9 clarifies that although their understanding is darkened, they nonetheless do have some capacity to think. All people, regenerate or not, retain innate knowledge of God and his law (Romans 1:19, 2:15). In fact, this is what it means to be made in the image of God. To be made in the image of God is to be endowed with the capacity for rationality.

Genesis 1:26-27 teaches that humanity was made in God’s image. To be made in his image means that there must be some point of similarity between God and humanity, since to bear another’s image is to possess a likeness or similar qualities to another. 1 Corinthians 11:7 and Genesis 9:6 teach that although we have been cursed since Adam’s Fall, nonetheless, we retain the image of God, even if this image has been marred through the corrupting effects of sin. This point of similarity between us and God cannot be physical because God is spirit (John 4:24). Therefore, the similarity we have with God must be spiritual in nature.

“Mind,” “heart,” and “spirit” are all words used in the New Testament to denote the same thing. Scripture often speaks of a person using their mind, heart, or spirit in order to understand or think. One of the definitions of the word pneuma – the Greek word for “spirit” – is a thing “possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting.” This clearly describes the functions of a mind, and so it is clear that an individual’s “spirit” is their mind. A specific example of this usage of pneuma can be found in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?…” Hence, the spirit is the rational mind that knows and comprehends the thoughts of an individual.

The point of similarity between God and humanity is therefore rationality. Humans are created in the image of God by merit of our ability to understand complex and abstract concepts, to understand language, etc. Because of this, our minds are naturally endowed with an intellectual capacity far beyond animals, who are “irrational…creatures of instinct” (2 Peter 2:12).

When God regenerates an individual and causes them to believe, he begins to restore his image in them through knowledge and belief in the truth. Since the image of God in humanity is a reflection of God’s rationality, it is no wonder then, that his image is restored through knowledge, just like Paul describes. God’s people are “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10) because God’s image is linked to knowledge. Paul likewise commands us “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). Our new identity in Christ is due to the fact that, through regeneration, God causes us to think new thoughts, believe the truth, and as a result, obey his commandments (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Through the renewing of our minds, our new selves are created according to the likeness or image of God, once again proving that the image of God in us is being restored through knowledge. By giving us a new spirit, he gives us a new mind, which Paul calls “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Regenerate believers are granted a new intellectual orientation, and consequently we repent of our old beliefs and behaviors, for repentance is a change of mind.

Although unbelievers have not been regenerated, they are still made in the image of God. This means that they still retain some rationality, and also innate, or a priori knowledge. As cited before, Romans 2:15 specifically mentions this a priori knowledge: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” Only believers have the law of God written on their hearts at regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33), but all people, believing and unbelieving, have the work of the law written on our hearts. This means that the very structure of our minds causes us to know that moral good and evil exist. We do not derive this belief from culture or experience, but rather this prior knowledge is brought to awareness on the occasion of our experiences. In other words, a priori knowledge like this is the framework through which we interpret our experiences. Another a priori truth that composes the very structure of our minds is a knowledge of God: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19). As John Calvin famously asserted:

“There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity…God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty” (McNeil 43).

Romans 1 does not teach that we can derive the knowledge of God from observation itself, but rather that our observations and experiences remind us of our innate “awareness of divinity”. Our knowledge of God and the existence of right and wrong stem from this a priori knowledge that God has given us. God has endowed us with a priori categories of thought, like these, which function as the necessary framework of intelligibility. To steal John Calvin’s analogy, the divine Logos, being “the light of men”, gives us intellectual spectacles that shape our interpretation of the world. In a similar way to how the sun physically illuminates the earth so that we can see, Jesus is the light of our minds that illuminates our understanding.

These conclusions entail a complete and unequivocal denial of empiricism. Empiricism is an epistemology which claims that all of our knowledge is derived from sense experience. The philosopher John Locke claimed that people are born into the world as tabula rasas or blank slates, possessing no innate knowledge. People only begin to develop ideas when their sensations impress information upon their minds. Not only is this theory in blatant opposition to John 1:9, which teaches that Jesus enlightens every person that comes into the world, and not that every person is born a tabula rasa, but empiricism is also impossible in its own rite.

Empiricism provides no framework through which we can rationally interpret our sensations. When I observe a tree, I do not know what a tree is merely through sensations. When we reflect upon our concept of a tree, or whatever else it may be, we find that we think of it as an object. But what is an object? An object may be tentatively defined as the sum total of constituent parts, that is, a unity. But what is a unity? How do we sense a unity? This may seem tiresome, but we have not even scratched the surface. We also think in terms of identity, “That unity is a tree”. We think in terms of the law of non contradiction, “That object cannot be a tree and not a tree at the same time in the same sense”. We also think in terms of the law of the excluded middle, “That object is either a tree or it is not a tree”.

Not only do we need these categories of thought prior to forming concepts, but we also need a method of distinguishing between our sensations. If all knowledge comes through sensation, we have no way of knowing which sensation applies to which concept. Clark explains:

“When Locke furnished his blank mind with a variety of simple impressions, he had to combine some of them before he could have the perception of a thing. As Berkeley also said, an apple is the combination of sensations of sight, taste, and touch. But why should a mind totally unfurnished with preconceived notions make one combination rather than another? Let Berkeley on one occasion combine the ruddy color and the juicy taste to make an apple, if he wishes; but may he not on another occasion combine that color with the smell of hydrogen sulfide and the sound of B-flat to make a boogum?” (Thales to Dewey 307-308)

In other words, our sensations as such do not allow us to delineate which sensation applies to which concept. Currently, I am staring at a computer screen, I hear the Giants game in the background, I feel the dried sweat on my body from being outside today. How do I know that my sensation of listening to the Giants game and my sensation of needing to take a shower are not part of the object “computer screen?” Through sensation, I cannot know any of this. Through sensation alone, I am not able to make any distinctions between objects or concepts whatsoever. Although more could be said on the problems of empiricism, this introduction will have to be sufficient.

The doctrine that God controls people’s minds is found throughout scripture. God is at liberty to reveal knowledge and to hide it, to make people wise and to make people foolish:

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)

But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4)

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:29-30)

He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.” (Job 12:24-25)

“Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.'” (Jeremiah 13:13)

“For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes,  and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:40)

“The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28)

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.'” (Romans 11:7-8)

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

Since God is the cause of our understanding or lack thereof, it makes all the more sense that James would command believers to pray for wisdom, since God is the direct cause of our increase in wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

Because it is God that gives the direct increase of our knowledge, not only do our senses not teach us, but words themselves do not teach us either. In St. Augustine’s De Magistro, that is exactly what he set out to prove. Augustine argues that in order to learn what a word or phrase means, we have to already know what the word signifies. But since we already know the thing signified when we learn the definition of a word, we are never taught concepts through words themselves:

“If I am given a sign [or a word] and I do not know the thing of which it is the sign, it can teach me nothing. If I know the thing, what do I learn from the sign?” (Burleigh 93)

The answer to his rhetorical question is that he learns nothing from the word or sign at all, as he later explains:

“if my hearer sees these things himself [the concepts words signify] with his inward eye, he comes to know what I say, not as a result of my words but as a result of his own contemplation” (Burleigh 96).

And as already mentioned, this inward contemplation is itself controlled by Christ, the divine Logos, who is God:

“He is taught not by my words but by the things themselves which inwardly God has made manifest to him” (Burleigh 96-97).

Therefore, all of our knowledge is a priori. Some of our knowledge is implanted in the very structure of our minds, like the knowledge of God, and we recall this innate knowledge on the occasion that we experience the world. Other knowledge, like knowledge of special revelation and the Gospel, is not a part of the structure of our minds, but is revealed directly by God in the minds of his elect on the occasion that they hear the Gospel, though God sometimes waits until they hear the Gospel many times. For all of God’s elect, their comes a time when “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), and causes them to believe. Indeed, “…we know that the Son of God…has given us understanding” (1 John 5:20).

Because of all of this, some theologians and philosophers like Gordon Clark have recognized our complete epistemological reliance upon God. Not only is there an inward illumination of the mind, but this inward understanding can be supplemented and corrected with the teaching of scripture. God’s revelation is true and sufficient, and therefore “all things necessary for [God’s] own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”, in the words of the Westminster Confession. We cannot discover truth through autonomous human reason, science, or empiricism, but rather, we find it in the Word of God. Hence, the Bible is the axiom or the first principle of the Christian system. Clark called this position scripturalism, and it has attracted many people, including myself, ever since. It is the most consistent philosophy of Christianity I know, and I assert that scripture itself teaches it.

In closing, I just want to reiterate the conclusions of this article. For Jesus to be “the light of men” is for him to be the principle and cause of our understanding. He illuminates our minds to understand concepts and the words that signify those concepts. He teaches believers his doctrines, and also implants innate knowledge within the very structure of our minds. We do not derive knowledge from experience itself, but rather it is Christ who gives us the tools and a priori categories of thought that function as the framework by which we interpret our experiences in the first place. Believers believe the light and are sons of light; unbelievers reject Christ, they reject the very principle of their understanding, and are therefore darkness. Until the Lord returns, we must strive to believe the light, repent of our old ways of thinking through the renewing of our minds, and submit in love and adoration to him. As the Lord Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Works Cited

Burleigh, J. H. S, ed. Augustine: Earlier Writings. Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1953. Print.

Clark, Gordon H. The Johannine Logos. 2nd ed. Jefferson: Trinity Foundation,
1989. Print.

Clark, Gordon H. Thales to Dewey. 3rd ed. Unicoi: Trinity Foundation, 1997. Print.

McNeil, John T., ed. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 1. N.p.:
Westminster John Knox, 1960. Print.

Light of the World

In order to understand all of scripture, we must translate biblical idioms into literal language. If we do not, then we will misunderstand many biblical passages and needlessly confuse ourselves. By idiom I mean figurative language that is supposed to convey a meaning beyond its literal definition. Some well-known American idioms are:

Starting on the wrong foot.

Bite your tongue.

You’re pulling my leg.

We know without explanation that starting on the wrong foot is to be introduced to someone in a way or at a time that is unfavorable. To bite one’s tongue is to remain silent. Pulling one’s leg means to lead someone to believe something untrue. None of these phrases are talking about feet, legs, or biting.

All cultures and languages have these figures of speech, and so it is not surprising that we find figures of speech in the Bible. One of these common idioms found in scripture is its figurative use of the word light. The figurative use of this word is commonly found in both Old and New Testaments, for example:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke‬ ‭2:29-32‬)

When scripture uses the word light in this way, the majority of the time it is referring to wisdom, understanding, or proper doctrine. In a word, light means knowledge. We see this interpretation specifically stated in 2 Corinthians 4:6 where Paul says:

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

‭‭Paul says that God has given us knowledge about himself supremely in Jesus Christ. This knowledge is spoken of as being light when he says “the light of the knowledge…” Light is used as a metaphor for knowledge, and therefore, in scripture, light is knowledge and knowledge is light.

Since the Bible overwhelmingly speaks of light as knowledge, let’s apply this meaning to other scriptures:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”‭‭ (Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬)

Jesus in Matthew is speaking to believers, calling believers “the light of the world.” In verse 16, Jesus equates light to good works, since “let your light shine before others” is the same as having others see our good works. At this point, it may seem that there is a difficulty in applying the definition of knowledge to light in this passage, since light means good works and not knowledge. However, good works are intricately connected to proper doctrine, and therefore related to knowledge. In fact, Paul even speaks of our works in terms of good and bad doctrine when he says:

“the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10),

and,

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10).

Sins such as lying and homosexuality are examples of bad doctrine, while servants being submissive to their masters is an example of good doctrine. Therefore, the light spoken of in Matthew 5 relates to sound doctrine, teaching, wisdom, and knowledge. Good works cannot be separated from doctrine and knowledge, since sound Biblical doctrine is what defines actions as good or bad in the first place.

There is a direct correlation between knowledge and obedience, and thus there is a direct correlation between knowledge and good works, as Colossians says:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work…” (Colossians 1:9-10).

One of the reasons given for why Paul wanted the Colossian believers to increase in knowledge is so that they would increasingly walk in obedience to God’s commands and increase in good works. It is impossible to increase in good works without knowledge. In fact it is impossible to do any good works at all without knowledge of scripture.

When we let our light shine before other people, we not only perform good actions but also reveal to others the knowledge and wisdom of God. We communicate information through our words. The only way that people will be able to give glory to God as a result of our good works is if we tell others about the doctrine of God, who the Father is, the Trinity, the doctrine of revelation, what God demands of us, etc. We communicate divine knowledge through words, and only after we have verbally communicated who God is and what the Gospel is will others glorify the Father in heaven. We are the light of the world because we possess wisdom, revelation, and knowledge of God. We are a light to the world because God has given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Not only does scripture say that believers are the light of the world, but also that Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world:

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (‭‭John‬ ‭8:12‬)

I used to view this phrase, “I am the light of the world,” as being a general sentiment that Jesus is the hope of the world. However, hope is only hope if it is attached to an intelligible message that can be known and explained. Jesus is the light of the world not because he inspires unintelligible feelings of excitement and yearning within us, but because Jesus is the source of truth, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. It is no wonder then, that Jesus is himself the truth (John 14:6), is himself wisdom (John 1:1), and “in [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Jesus is light (1 John 1:15), and therefore, Jesus is knowledge. He is the source and very definition of it. Believers are light (Ephesians 5:8) insofar as we believe and propagate the truth. We are the light of the world insofar as we reflect the mind of Christ. Believers are sons and daughter of light only when we believe the light (John 12:36), that is, when we believe Christ and his doctrine. Therefore those that disparage doctrine, theology and the intellect are sons of darkness, enemies of God, enemies of the church, and are incredibly stupid people.

Emotions Are Irrelevant

The famous German idealist philosopher, Georg W. F. Hegel, in his long essay, Folk-Religion and Christianity, gives a brief account of the distinction between objective and subjective religion: “objective religion suffers itself to be arranged in one’s mind, organized into a system, set forth in a book, and expounded to others in a discourse; subjective religion expresses itself only in feelings and actions” (77).1 The difference between these two lies in the intellectual nature of objective religion, and the experiential, emotional, and pragmatic nature of subjective religion. Given this distinction, Hegel believes that “Objective religion…is dead. Subjective religion is alive” (78).¹

This sentiment has become more and more popularized in western culture since the 19th century. Philosophers and theologians for the past two centuries have made it their purpose to undermine Christianity by supplanting it with a message of subjective experience. Besides Hegel, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Schleiermacher have also advocated this type of subjectivity in religion:

“For Kierkegaard Christian faith is not a matter of regurgitating church dogma. It is a matter of individual subjective passion.”

“In Schleiermacher the emphasis shifts from the objective to the subjective, from revelation to religion, and that without any distinction between natural and revealed religion” (Berkhof 40).

The sentiments expressed by these three philosophers now permeate western culture. Spirituality or religion is regarded as an indescribable sensuous experience, or merely a tool used to accomplish pragmatic goals. We are lead to believe that subjective religion is living, organic, and active, while objective, intellectual religion is cold, worthless, and dead.

Obviously these ideas are anti-Christian. Any Bible believing Christian can see that attacking “objective religion” is tantamount to denying necessary Christian doctrines, resulting in heresy and God’s condemnation. Clearly objective religion is a necessary component of Christianity, without which, Christianity would degenerate into meaningless relativism. Since this objective component of Christianity is necessary, many would say that we ought to find a balance between the objective and the subjective. Christianity teaches the importance of both objective truth and subjective experience. Right? Wrong. Contrary to popular conception, emotion and subjective experience are irrelevant to the Christian life.

Humans have emotions, however, Christians must never base any of their beliefs upon these emotional experiences. Our common experience has no bearing upon Christian doctrine, and Scripture never makes emotion the prerequisite for salvation or for the Christian life. Some might object that scripture speaks of emotion in positive terms, and that even Jonathan Edwards has formulated a well-known doctrine of “religious affections.” However, the affections spoken of by Edwards are rooted in the intellect, which then influences the will. The affections spoken of by Edwards are not based upon fleeting emotions, as Sam Storm explains:

“Emotions can often be no more than physiologically heightened states of either euphoria or fear that are unrelated to what the mind perceives as true. Affections, on the other hand, are always the fruit or effect of what the mind understands and knows. The will or inclination is moved either toward or away from something that is perceived by the mind.”

Jonathan Edwards cannot be cited as an advocate of subjective emotionalism within the Reformed tradition. Just as Edwards’ doctrine of religious affections is not founded upon mere experience and sensations, but based upon the intellect, when scripture speaks of joy, delight, love, etc., these are rooted in the intellect as well. Consider the following verses:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

“Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” (James 4:9)

Rejoicing, weeping, and words like these seem to be talking about what people normally refer to as emotions. However, Romans 12 is not commanding believers to inspire involuntary feelings within themselves, but is a command to sympathize with others. This sympathy may be to help one another financially, to bear one another’s burdens, and to also encourage one another to praise the Lord for his blessings. God through Paul is not commanding us to cry.

For Philippians, this type of rejoicing is also similar to the affections spoken of by Edwards. We are commanded to always rejoice. This rejoicing is due to the intellectual nature of our faith. We must praise the Lord through prayer, and remember his faithfulness and goodness shown towards us. This rejoicing is not a fleeting feeling, but a long-lasting and deep-rooted response to the knowledge that God has blessed us with.

As for James, James is calling the people he is speaking to to repent. He is not commanding them to cry, but to repent, and repentance means a change of mind. This change of mind is depicted by James through weeping, though physical tears is not the point of his command. These are a few of the examples in the New Testament. When scripture commands us to rejoice, weep, love, etc., the internal feeling is not what is required, but what is required is to live according to the knowledge and doctrine given to us by God. (For more on this, read Love Is Not An Emotion)

Gordon Clark notice this tendency in the theologians and philosophers of his day, which is why he states the following in his book What is the Christian Life?:

“Experience teaches us nothing! The Bible does. If we base our religion on divine revelation instead of experience, we will have the Trinity, the Atonement, the Resurrection, a great deal of intellectual theology…Christianity is based on the Bible, on divine revelation, not on emotion” (174-175).²

Subjective experience is unable to teach us the most basic aspects of the Christian faith; scripture is what teaches us. Christianity is purely intellectual and purely objective. It is not authenticated through internal passions, emotions, or arbitrary whims. It has been through the sentiments of those like Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Schleiermacher that has plunged many souls into useless superstition, all the while pretending to be Christian. For John Calvin, those who base Christianity on emotion oppose God and exalt stupidity:

“vanity joined with pride can be detected in the fact that, in seeking God, miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity…They do not apprehend God as he offers himself, but imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption” (47).³

Once more, Calvin perfectly describes those similar to Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Schleiermacher:

“they think that any zeal for religion, however preposterous, is sufficient…all who set up their own false rites to God worship and adore their own ravings” (49).³

Whether it’s labeled emotion, feelings, natural theology, or a burning of the bosom, those who place their confidence in these things are in rebellion against God and “adore their own ravings.” In contrast to this irrationalism, the Christian faith is utterly rational and utterly intellectual. Though we still experience emotions, these experiences neither authenticate, nor are they the basis of our Christian faith. They are irrelevant, and we must stop placing such a huge emphasis upon them. We must strip ourselves of the vestiges of the heretical stupidity of these types of philosophers and pseudo theologians. We must recover the message of the apostles of the first century, and the Reformers who recovered their message in the sixteenth century. As Christians we must do this so that we may “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13), that we “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10), knowing that God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The reason that Paul gives for attaining unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:13), is “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Essentially this is what Paul commands the Christian: “Arm yourself with the true and objective doctrine of Christ so that you will not be deceived by the flippant, subjectivist doctrines of deceitful, evil men.” It is our duty as Christian men and women to once more emphasize the supremacy of the intellect in the Christian life, and to oppose false spirituality in the form of emotionalism.

Works Cited

1. Kedourie, Elie. Hegel & Marx. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1995. Print.

2. Clark, Gordon H. What Is the Christian Life? Unicoi: Trinity Foundation, 2012. Print.

3. McNeil, John T., ed. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011. Print.

40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality – Answered

The following is a series of questions asked by Matthew Vines in response to a series of question asked by the Gospel Coalition on the disputed issue of homosexuality. From what I gather, rather than actually answering the challenges of the Gospel Coalition, Matthew Vines is content to not answer a single one of their questions, but has instead fired back 40 random questions of his own. Matthew Vines represents the new movement to validate homosexuality within Christianity, while the Gospel Coalition represents the orthodox Christian perspective that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that homosexuality is sin. Since I am sure the Gospel Coalition has better things to do than to respond to Vines, I will do so instead. The following is a series of questions asked by Vines to Christians who oppose homosexuality in favor of sexual holiness. His questions will be in bold and italics, while my responses will be in regular text.

(I have already interacted with Matthew Vines’ arguments in this video)

1. Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?

This is irrelevant. God commands against sin and if he defines certain sexualities as sinful, then we must obey. We have no choice in the fact that we are all born sinners under the wrath of God according to Adam’s fall, but the fact that we have no choice in the matter does not make us any less accountable to God. As a species created in God’s image, in light of Adam’s fall, all of us are sin oriented. Our own corruption and condemnation was never our personal choice. However, God in his mercy gives us Jesus Christ as a ransom for sin, so that through faith in Jesus we can become justified and no longer condemned. None of us chose our corrupt nature, and none of us choose which sins trip us up the most, but that does not validate our actions or give us license to continue in our disobedience to God.

2. Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?

Romans 7 says that we are highly resistant when it comes to changing our sin orientation:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

Paul says that in our own power we have absolutely no ability to repent and turn to God. However, through the regenerating and resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit, God causes us to obey him more and more. If it is difficult for an individual to overcome their perverse sexual desires, they are in good company. It is difficult to live in holiness and it is difficult to put to death what is earthly in us (Col. 3:5). However, just because repenting of sin is difficult does not justify sin. Vines’ implied argument is the following:

“Since it is hard to change one’s sexual orientation, we might as well indulge this orientation.”

If this were the case, then why repent of any sin at all? Any action can be substituted for this reasoning:

“Since it is hard to tell the truth, I might as well lie. Since it is hard to be faithful to my wife, I might as well cheat on her, etc.”

All of our orientations have become corrupted as a result of the fall and through personal choice. We all possess corrupted hearts full of “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). This shows that our intellectual and volitional orientations are corrupted. Our understanding has become darkened and hostile to God, but God in his mercy gives us the gift of the Gospel and also the gift of faith to his people. God is the one who reorients every part of our lives. Not only is it difficult to change our various orientations and predispositions, but it is impossible to. Until God spiritually raises you from the dead, you will not seek to change. Until God writes his law on your mind and causes you to obey him, no one will ever change.

However, once again this is an irrelevant question. God commands against sexual perversity and homosexuality is one of the sexual acts that he commands against. It does not matter if it is difficult to obey it or not. We are commanded to strive for sexual holiness rather than licentiousness. Therefore, we ought not commit these sexual acts, and we certainly ought not glorify them.

3. How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?

I have had two friends who have had lesbian tendencies because of their bad relationships with their fathers. This is irrelevant to scripture and what God commands. I do not need a Muslim friend to know what the five pillars of Islam are, nor do I need to have a relationship with a thief to know that they are in sin.

4. How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?

None. Irrelevant.

5. How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?

No one knows. If by “LGBT Christians” is meant individuals who proudly support aberrant sexualities while displaying no desire to repent, then LGBT Christians do not exist. However, once again, this is irrelevant.

6. Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?

If they are not attracted to the opposite sex then I cannot see why they would get married.

7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?

Yes:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

None. Irrelevant. I do not need to personally counsel individuals to be sexually pure in order to know that scripture teaches it.

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

What’s your answer to adulterers who struggled for years to live out marital faithfulness but were driven to suicidal despair? Anything can be inserted into that question. The answer is never to allow the individual to indulge in their sinful passions. Suicidal despair does not justify disobeying God. If this justifies disobeying God, then all of God’s commands may be ignored, since there has most likely been someone in the history of the world who has been driven to this despair over obeying a commandment that was particularly difficult for them. Scripture teaches self denial, self deprecation, and self sacrifice:

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

Suicidal despair, though difficult and a terrible thing to go through, is not what defines sin. God defines sin in scripture, and homosexuality is one of the many sins that he has defined.

10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

Here is where Vines distorts the meaning of the word “fruit.” His argument is that all of these negative feelings produced in homosexuals who are exhorted to repent is bad fruit. However, bad fruit as it is used in scripture is related to false doctrine (Matt. 7:16-19). Good fruit in scripture is related to repentance (Matt. 3:8). Vines often twists the definition of this biblical word in order to encourage same sex relationships. If individuals who struggle with sexual perversity (like homosexuality) want to bear good fruit, then they must repent and submit to proper teaching. A full response of this can be found at the beginning of my YouTube video that was in response to Matthew Vines’ argument on this point, called Christian Response To: 7 BIBLE QUOTES SUPPORTING GAY RELATIONSHIPS.

11. How many married same-sex couples do you know?

None. Irrelevant.

12. Do you believe that same-sex couples’ relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

They clearly do not show self-control if they are in a perverse sexual relationship. Clearly if they are not convicted for their sin, then the Holy Spirit does not dwell within them. The “fruit of the Spirit” is the same as saying that these qualities are evidences of the Spirit’s work in a person’s life. If an individual is in a perpetual state of rebellion against God and exhorts others to sin, then they demonstrate that any of their positive character qualities, like patience, are not produced by the Spirit. These people do not exercise self-control, neither are they faithful nor strive to be faithful to God. Since love is related to keeping God’s commandments (2 John 6), these individuals do not display love for God or other people but their contempt. Homosexual couples by definition cannot show evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives if they continually support that which God forbids.

13. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church?

No.

14. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?

Here begins a series of questions about slavery. Vines does not define what he means by slavery so it’s difficult to answer his question. Indentured servitude is perfectly fine and scripture allows it. Clearly the New Testament does not command Christians to commit revolution by freeing all servants and slaves. The apostle Paul allows the type of slavery that was in parts of the Roman empire:

“Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants [slaves] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

Notice how Paul in the second verse states the phrase “believing masters,” which is precedent for Christians to have bondservants and slaves. However, as Americans we always read back into history our understanding of slavery. For us, slavery became a racist enterprise that alienated an entire people group, caused families to be ripped apart, sometimes included whipping, chains, and rape, and all of these other horrors. Clearly this form of slavery, the dehumanization and rape of a people group, is horrible.

In fact, the same letter that Paul wrote to Timothy speaks against enslaving other people:

understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine”

Paul calls those who kidnap and enslave other people as an action that “is contrary to sound doctrine.” The African slave trade was sinful because this is exactly what fellow Africans and Europeans did to the slaves that came to the United States; they kidnapped and forcibly enslaved other people. The Old Testament likewise commanded against this:

“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)

Under the law of Moses, the death penalty was given for those who kidnap others in order to sell them into slavery. This is why it is so necessary to define our terms, since “slavery” is a word that possesses many connotations and can mean different things in different contexts.

15. If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?

If they met the proper guidelines, these individuals are justified for owning slaves, since Paul saying in 1 Timothy 6:2 that it is possible to be a “believing master.” See the answer the the previous question.

16. Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?

In the 1 Timothy 1:9-11 passage previously cited, enslavers and men who practice homosexuality are listed side by side as “contrary to sound doctrine.” If by slavery he means andrapodistés, then they are both contrary to sound doctrine and must be opposed. If by slavery Vines mean indentured servitude or something similar to this servitude, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with slavery.

Furthermore, same-sex marriage does not exist. It is a label imposed upon perverse relationships by the government.

17. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?

Since he does not define what he means by slavery, Vines is not able to enter in to a discussion on the nuances of this issue. Some slavery is bad and other types of slavery a perfectly fine. But notice Vines’ distraction tactics. Slavery is irrelevant to the fact that homosexuality is wrong and scripture explicitly states that it is wrong. This is a red herring.

As for his question, scripture as God’s word defines what is wrong, not our feelings, intuitions, or rationalizations.

18. Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?

About slavery? Given that he doesn’t define what he means by slavery, these comments can be wholly disregarded. He is assuming my complete opposition to slavery while failing to define slavery, all for the purpose of distracting us from the subject at hand. Even if it were the case that we got slavery wrong in the past, there is no analogy to homosexuality. I could make this same argument for any sin. “The church got slavery wrong and therefore don’t you think you could be wrong about lying?” The argument does not hold up. Nowhere does this reasoning validate homosexual conduct.

19. Did you know that, for most of church history, Christians believed that the Bible taught the earth stood still at the center of the universe?

Heck it might. Have you done the research? No? Then that means you rely on the scientific authorities to tell you truth. But how do you know that what they say is true when their conclusions constantly change? Even if the Earth moves around the sun, there is no analogy to homosexuality which validates homosexual conduct. See comment above.

20. Does it cause you any concern that you disagree with their interpretation of the Bible?

No. And do not assume that I am a heliocentric. I am agnostic on that position.

21. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s verses on the topic before you felt comfortable believing that the earth revolves around the sun?

The Earth might not revolve around the sun. I haven’t done the research and neither have most people. Most people blindly accept these positions because that is what they are told. I am agnostic on this issue. Also modern geocentrists exists; here’s a cheap website. Then again, flat earthers also exist. All of this highlights the problems of empiricism.

22. Do you know of any Christian writers before the 20th century who acknowledged that gay people must be celibate for life due to the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships?

No. It used to be shameful to even speak of homosexuality. My knowledge of Christian writers says nothing about what scripture commands.

23. If not, might it be fair to say that mandating celibacy for gay Christians is not a traditional position?

“Gay Christian” was not a thought in the minds of men and women in the 1800’s and previous. However, the Biblical position for all people is that all people ought to be celibate unless they get married, and the definition of marriage is repeatedly defined as one man and one woman. I already quoted 1 Thessalonians 4 and Colossians 3:5. Vines argues that since previous generations have not specifically talked about homosexuals in the church, that therefore men can have sex with other men as long as we call it marriage. This is utterly absurd. Christianity’s positions on celibacy is that everyone must be pure unless they marry, and if they marry, then they may have sex. By necessary implication, this includes homosexuals, fornicators, lesbians, and every other type of person. Of course mandating celibacy for all non married Christians is the traditional position.

24. Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?

No, they can get married if they like. If they do not want to get married (according to the Biblical definition of marriage), then the Bible explicitly teaches Christians to be sexually pure.

25. If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?

Matthew Vines does not understand what logical and necessary implication is. If I make the statement, “Everyone must be celibate unless they are married,” who does everyone include? “Everyone” includes those who have homosexual tendencies. Vines says that since the Bible does not make the explicit statement, “All who are attracted to the same sex must be celibate,” that the Bible is not explicit on the matter. This is illogical. If I say “That woman is my mother,” by logical implication I am stating that I am her son, even though I did not explicitly state the words “I am her son.” Scripture mandates universal sexual purity except for those who are married. This universal imperative includes homosexuals. Thus, the Bible does explicitly command homosexuals and everyone to be sexually pure.

Muslims use this same argument when arguing against the deity of Christ. They demand that Jesus says “I am God worship me” before they believe that Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus does not say these exact words that they arbitrarily demand, but rather he repeatedly makes claims that only God can truthfully make.

Muslims and Vines alike are content to confuse the issues in order to support their position. This confusion is the mark of a bad argument.

26. Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?

“LGBT” relationships are only lust and never love. Love is related to obeying God (2 John 6), and so individuals that purposefully oppose and disobey God’s commandments by having same-sex sexual relationships show their hatred for God and one another, not love. The only proper sexual conduct is marriage which is one man and one woman.

27. Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?

They are not loving relationships. This is a modern and vacuous distinction that Matthew Vine makes up. Same-sex sexual relationships are only lustful and sinful since it is not marriage.

28. Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?

Obviously.

29. Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?

Look, Matthew Vines keeps on referencing scriptures and topics that most people are not readily aware of in order to confuse people. Apparently Vines thinks we must question everything that Paul ever commanded until we understand what he means in 1 Corinthians 11:14! Notice how in the same chapter, Paul is describing normative marital relationships in terms of husband and wife, man and woman. The same chapter that Vines uses to confuse people is the same chapter that affirms marriage as one man and one woman. Whether or not this long hair passage is applicable to all future generations or whether it is only applicable to to Corinth in the first century is irrelevant to the fact that scripture everywhere affirms marriage as one man and one woman, and anything that is outside of marriage is lustful sin.

30. Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?

It’s normal and good for procreation to happen, but there are valid marriages where one or both of the individuals are infertile and sterile.

31. If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?

Refer to previous comment.

32. How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?

They are not Christians and if their level of argumentation is anything like Matthe Vines’ argumentation, reading them would be a glorious waste of my time. I have interacted with Vines’ argument in a YouTube video which I provided at the top.

33. What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?

None. They are engaged in a perverse and sinful sexual relationships and must repent.

34. What are you doing to advocate for those rights?

I do not advocate for them. Also, the concept of “rights” is based upon the rights that God gives us, so if God forbids us from doing something, then we have no right to do it. I talk about the concept of rights in a previous blog post.

35. Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?

I have only heard of Leelah Alcorn. His name was not Leelah. It was Joshua if I remember correctly. He was a troubled teen who had psychological problems and who selfishly and immaturely took his own life. Undergoing sex change operations does not solve these people’s psychological problems. But I would like to ask you Matthew Vines, did you oppose people like Dan Savage who advocated for the arrest of Alcorn’s parents because they refused to chop off their child’s penis? I discuss Alcorn and issues like this in a previous blog post.

36. Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?

Since Vines mentioned Alcorn, did you know that transgender surgery significant;y increases the likelihood of suicide?

“Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.”

But once again, practical results never justify sin. Something is morally right or wrong because God says so, not because the results are practical or impractical.

37. Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?

No, why would I? They are all perverse and all against God’s commands.

38. How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?

Absolutely sure.

39. What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?

Marriage is not rebellion against God so that would be absurd. But Vines operates under a different definition of marriage which the Bible never teaches. Here Vines once again draws a false analogy.

40. Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?

No, this and many other topics demonstrates one’s apostasy and unbelief. If you actively support sin even though scripture explicitly commands against it, them I oppose you and call you to repentance.

Romans 11:1-15 Commentary

This commentary is not scholarly. I do not know Greek and I will not cite many other people. The following commentary was written for the primary purpose of organizing my personal thoughts on Romans 11 and not for the primary purpose of educating other people. However, if what I say benefits you in any way, then I am grateful. Be sure to study for yourself, to read the text yourself, and to supplement your understanding of this chapter by reading other commentaries as well. I apologize for any mistakes.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people?

Paul gives a rhetorical question in order to provoke an answer, as he does this throughout the book of Romans (e.g. 3:29, 6:1, 7:7, 9:14). In the context of verse 1, Paul had just concluded chapter 10 by saying that the nation of Israel, for the most part, rejects the Gospel, while the Gentiles are accepting it. Paul indicates how the Gentiles have a heart to accept the Gospel by quoting Isaiah 65:1:

“I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Romans 10:20)

Those who did not previously seek the Lord are the Gentiles, neither were the Gentiles initially called by God to be his people. In contrast to the readiness of the Gentiles to accept the Gospel, Israel is in a state of rebellion:

 “But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” (Romans 10:21)

This leads us to Paul’s rhetorical question. Since the Gentiles are the ones who are repenting and believing in the Messiah, and the Jews are rejecting him, is this evidence that the Lord has rejected his people Israel?

The New Testament mentions this phenomenon (Israel’s rejection and the Gentile’s acceptance) elsewhere. Jesus speaks of this in Luke 11:29-32. In this passage he explains how Nineveh, a Gentile nation, repented at the preaching of Jonah, yet Israel will not repent at the preaching of the Christ himself. Israel’s hard heart is mentioned throughout Matthew 23, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Acts 7:51-53, 17:5, 13, 18:5-6, etc. Once again, this ought to cause us to wonder if God has rejected his people Israel. Since the Jews are often more hostile than the pagan Gentiles, does this mean that God has rejected Israel? The answer is found in the proceeding verse.

By no means!

Even though it may appear this way on the surface, God has not rejected Israel.

For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

As evidence to support the fact that God has not rejected Israel, Paul reminds his readers that he is Jewish. If God had rejected all descendants of Jacob then not even Paul would believe the Gospel. Indeed, Paul and the rest of the 11 apostles are all of Jewish descent. If God had rejected the Jews, then none of them would believe the Gospel, and none of them would be saved. So what is this distinction? Why are there some Jews who believe, like Paul and the apostles, but most others Jews do not believe?

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

The distinction between the Jews who believe the Gospel and those who do not believe the Gospel is the fact that God foreknows the individuals who will believe, and God rejects those whom he does not foreknow. It is first necessary to clarify what the word foreknew means. This word is not referring to God’s passive foreknowledge of events, but refers to the loving relationship that God has with his people:

“[The word does] not denote simple intellectual foresight or prescience, the mere taking knowledge of something beforehand, but rather a selective knowledge which regards one with favor and makes one an object of love” (Berkhof 121).

For God to foreknow an individual is for God to be in a loving, covenantal relationship with an individual beforehand. Amos 3:2 provides a cross reference that will clarify the meaning of this type of knowledge:

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

God obviously knows about all of the nations on Earth, and all of the nations that existed at the time of Amos. God throughout scripture speaks of the nation of Edom, the Egyptians, Philistines, and any number of other nations, or “families”. God is not saying that he is only cognizant of Israel’s existence and not the existence of these other nations, but God is saying that he had entered into a loving covenant with Israel alone. Just as a husband knows his wife, God knows his people.

Therefore, when Paul says God has not rejected those whom he foreknew, Paul is referring to God’s people, God’s elect, those whom God has previously chosen to love and glorify. Hence, verse 2 teaches the doctrine of election, that God has chosen a fixed number of individuals to save through belief in the Gospel. Election is intricately related to the doctrine of predestination, as Paul explains earlier in Romans 8:29-30:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

God has chosen to love a specific group of individuals, and these individuals whom he loves he causes to believe the Gospel, gives them a new heart in order that they will be conformed to Christ’s likeness. To be conformed to Christ’s image is to grow more and more in obedience to God, and to become more and more like Jesus in his perfect obedience to God’s law and his perfect submission to the Father. All of this is according to God’s eternal decree of predestination, whereby God controls and determines all things according to his own will and glory.

What distinguishes believing Jews like Paul from unbelieving Jews is divine election. God did not reject all of Israel, but rather God rejected the non elect Jews. These non elect Jews were never truly God’s people, and so it is evident that God has not rejected his people. Paul explains this very point in Romans 9:6:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.'”

Just because someone is a descendent of Abraham or Jacob does not make them one of God’s people, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” It is not the case that the Gospel has failed to convert God’s people, and neither is it the case that God has rejected his people. Those who do not believe are not God’s people. Those who are descendants of Jacob are either elect or reprobate. God does not choose or reject based upon physical descent, but based upon his own will:

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:8)

No Jew is one of God’s people merely by merit of the fact that they are physical descendants of Jacob. This is the confusion that Paul addresses in this chapter, and he proves it in the following verse.

Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Paul cites an Old Testament example found in 1 Kings 19 in order to prove his point. At the time of Elijah nearly all of the nation of Israel became apostate idolaters of Baal. However, God had chosen a remnant of Israel to be his people. Thus, Paul proves that not everyone who is a physical descendant of Israel is one of God’s people, and also, we see the reason for the distinction between the believing Jews and the unbelieving Jews. This distinction is due to God’s grace, which Paul explains next.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 

This proves beyond all doubt that the reason for God’s acceptance of some people and his rejection of other people is not according to their works. This means that God did not peer into the future to see who would be the most obedient, who would have the most faith, or who would be the most intellectually gifted individuals, and then choose them based upon these good qualities. Rather, God is the one who produces good works in his elect in the first place as evidence of their salvation (Rom. 8:29, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13, 1 Jn. 2:29, 3:9). The reason for the distinction between the believing and the unbelieving is solely the will of God. This is another reason why foreknew cannot mean “passive cognizance” in verse 2. If verse 2 taught that God did not reject his people whom he foreknew, meaning that God chose some people based upon his passive foreknowledge of their faith and good works, then Paul would be contradicting himself, since here in verse 6 Paul clarifies that God chooses his people based upon grace, and since God’s choice is based upon grace, God’s choice is not based upon people’s good works.

This verse once and for all destroys all legalism and works salvation. Christians are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Grace cannot be mixed with human merit. To say that “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23) as the Book of Mormon teaches, is false by definition. To say that both grace and human merit are necessary for salvation is to essentially say, “We are saved by grace and not by our own works, but we are also saved by our own works.” Therefore, to say that grace and human merit are necessary for salvation is contradictory nonsense. Papists, Pelagians, Arminians, Mormons, and all other religious groups on earth deny this definition of grace, and therefore exclude themselves from Christianity, deny the Gospel, and reject salvation.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking.

From the context, it is best understood that Paul is referring to God’s favor generally, and God’s salvation specifically.

The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

Paul continues the theme of election and God’s sovereign choice. The elect obtain faith, God’s favor, and salvation, while the non elect receive wrath and destruction. Since God has chosen to save some, and not all are saved, this means that God has chosen to reject a specific number of individuals. God’s rejection of these individuals is called reprobation; reprobation is the inevitable conclusion of election.

In verse 8, Paul seems to paraphrase texts such as Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 6:10 and 29:10. At any rate, Paul teaches that God hardens the hearts of reprobates to take away their understanding so that they persist in their sin. God makes unbelievers stupid and sinful. Many people, even self-professed Calvinists, would object to this conclusion, but they do so from unbelief and ignorance. Many Calvinists submit to the theory that God passively hardens heart as opposed to actively hardens hearts. James White, for instance, often describes God as removing his hand of restraint. Louis Berkhof in his systematic theology describes God’s control over people and their sin as passive as well:

“The decree respecting sin is not an efficient but a permissive decree, or a decree to permit, in distinction from a decree to produce, sin by divine efficiency” [italics mine] (Berkhof 116).

This popular tradition within Reformed theology pictures God as being analogous to a man holding the leash of a violent dog. The one who is holding the leash does not have to directly make the dog violent, but can allow the dog to become more and more self-destructive by letting out the leash. Thus, the man passively causes the dog to harm itself, just as God passively hardens people’s hearts in order to leave them in their sin. These theologians believe that this passive theory protects God’s character. If God directly caused these individuals to be stupid and sinful, then they believe God would be unjust. R.C. Sproul is another one of these theologians that gives similar sentiments in his article Double Predestination:

“The distortion of double predestination looks like this:…God WORKS in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate…That is to say…from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative…This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine.”

Sproul says that “Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God,” yet such a view is exactly what the Bible teaches. Active reprobation may not be the popular Reformed view, but it certainly is the Biblical view. This “positive-positive” position described by Sproul is also known as equal ultimacy. Just as God actively causes his elect to believe and be holy, Paul teaches that God actively causes the reprobate to sin and be damned. Notice how verse 8 states that God gives the non elect a spirit of stupor. God does not merely leave them to themselves, but actively gives them this spirit, this mindset, that is described. This is taught throughout scripture:

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.'” (John 12:39-40)

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:21)

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

There is nothing in any of these verses that indicates that God is passive. All of them indicate that God actively blinds eyes, deafens ears, and hardens hearts. How does God passively blind eyes? How does God passively send strong delusions? How does God passively form a vessel of wrath? How does God passively give them a spirit of stupor? The answer is that he does not do it passively. He does all of these things actively.

R.C. Sproul objects to a God “who punishes a person for doing what [he] monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do,” but this is exactly what Paul taught in Romans 9:

“You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?'” (Romans 9:19)

Sproul obliviously makes this same objection, though in different words. Essentially, Sproul demands, “How is God just for punishing individuals for what he monergistically and irresistibly coerces them to do? Why does God punish individuals for what they could not avoid doing?” This is Arminianism, and it is horrifying to see a self-professed Calvinist make the same objections that are made by enemies of the faith. The answer is that God is justified in doing so:

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:21)

God has the right to actively harden hearts if he wants to. God, by definition, is justified in all that he does. I write about this elsewhere in my blog articles Theodicy Solved and Arbitrary and Unjust.

As for verses 9-10, Paul quotes Psalms 69 to describe the dreadful state of the non elect. John Calvin describes it best:

“The Prophet prays, that whatever is desirable and happy in life might turn out to the ruin and destruction of the ungodly…He then gives them up to blindness of spirit and weakening of strength; the one of which he expresses by the darkening of the eyes, and the other by the incurvation of the back…Seeing then that this imprecation remains for all the adversaries of Christ…let us embrace with humility and trembling the grace of God.”

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

It is apparent that here he is speaking of Israel collectively, since many individuals did fall, as Paul later describes in verse 19 “Branches were broken off,” referring to a portion of Israel that had fallen away. It seems then that Paul is reiterating that God has not wholly rejected the Jews. Later on, Paul will describe Israel as an olive tree and the Gentiles as a wild olive tree grafted in. If Israel had been completely rejected, or rather, if they stumbled “in order that they might fall,” then the analogy would portray the olive tree as being completely uprooted. However, Israel was not wholly rejected, but only some of the branches.

Paul begins to explain the purpose of the Jews’ rebellion and unbelief. Israel’s unbelief gives a greater opportunity for the Gospel to spread among the Gentiles. Luke gives a specific account of Paul where this was the case:

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'” (Acts 18:5-6)

As these verses clearly indicate, Israel’s rejection of the Gospel provides greater opportunity to spread the Gospel among the Gentiles. Eventually, this will reciprocate, by making Israel jealous of the believing Gentiles, encouraging them to have faith in Christ and the Gospel. This relates back to Paul’s quotation of Deuteronomy 32:21 in Romans 10:19:

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

This is provided as evidence for God’s plan to make Israel jealous of Gentiles. Israel will eventually gravitate towards Christian doctrine through the influence of the Gentles in order that they may be once again included into the faith of God. God’s purpose is not to reject Israel, but for most of Israel to reject the Gospel in order that the Gospel will spread among the Gentiles, which in turn will cause Israel to repent and believe.

12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 

 Again, “their trespass” refers to the Jews’ unbelief and “riches for the world” is in reference to the Gentiles. The riches here referred to are salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. The second half of the verse is talking about how once Israel is included back into the faith, there will be riches and salvation for everybody. Their disobedience lead many more to salvation, and so when Israel is reintroduced back into the faith as God’s people, even more will be saved. It will be a salvation party.

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

The apostle Paul is writing to the Roman Gentiles. In a few places Paul emphasizes the fact that that his ministry is oriented towards the Gentiles, while in contrast, Peter’s ministry is oriented towards the Jews:

“for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8)

Paul founded the churches at Philippi, Corinth, Athens, Thessalonica, and many other cities. Most of these churches were composed of Gentile believers. These factors contributed to Paul referring to himself as “an apostle to the Gentiles.”

The word for magnify in this verse is doxazó. This word means to “glorify, honor, bestow glory on.” It’s root relates to the Greek word “doxa” which we get our English word “doxology” from. Doxology means to praise, worship, and glorify God. One of the traditional doxologies of American churches is the following:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

A doxology is an eruption of praise and adoration to God which often proceeds the articulation of God’s doctrine. Doxology is a response of praise to the knowledge of the great things God has done, and how amazing God is. An example of doxology in the New Testament is at the end of this chapter, in Ephesians 1, and Revelation 5:9-14.

When we come back to the verse, we see that Paul desires to bestow honor upon his ministry. Paul is not worshiping his ministry, but rather, he intends to make much of his ministry, similar to how we make much of God when we praise him. Another English word for “making much of” is “magnify,” and therefore “doxazo” is translated as “magnify.”

The reason given for why Paul magnifies his ministry is for the purpose of making the Jews jealous, just as Deuteronomy 32:21 and Romans 10:19 says. By showing how awesome his ministry is and how awesome the doctrine of the Gospel is, he will make the Jews jealous. The reason for making them jealous is “to save some of them.”

15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world,

If Israel’s rejection of the Gospel means the reconciliation of individuals from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation…

what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Paul pictures Israel’s return to God as being analogous to a resurrection. Even though much of Israel at that time was spiritually dead and rejected Christ, when Israel is subsequently provoked to jealousy, they will return to God. This also happens to remind me of Ezekiel 37 in the valley of dry bones. Israel is initially pictured there as a collection of dry skeletons, but soon after, the bones are given flesh and raised to life.

Respect

There are people who seem to think that there exists a moral obligation for all people to respect opinions that they disagree with. Unfortunately, many professing Christians have also bought into this cultural mindset. Not only must you have respect for opinions that you disagree with, but if you do not respect them, you are being unloving. The truth is that Christians have a moral obligation to not only disrespect certain opinions but to abhor them. First I will give some general reasons why respecting all opinions is impossible, and then I will cite relevant Biblical passages.

Evil Opinions

Those who advocate the general statement “People should respect other opinions” usually do not qualify their assertion. This means that everyone ought to respect opinions that they think are evil as well. However, if one honors and respects these evil opinions, how does this individual simultaneously believe that they are evil? In reality, to say that an opinion is evil, bad, or wrong, is the same thing as to have no respect for it.

Do these same people respect, say, female genital mutilation in the Middle East? Do they respect the ideology of Muslim terrorists? Do they respect the idea that pedophilia is good? Assuming that they claim to be Christians, do they respect blasphemy?

If an individual disagrees with all of these opinions and regards them as evil, then it is a contradiction to say that they ought to simultaneously respect them. To respect all opinions is to respect those opinions which you find evil, but if you find these opinions to be evil, by definition you do not and cannot respect them.

Self-Contradiction

Those who assert that all opinions must be respected are often horrified and indignant to discover that you do not respect their opinion. They whine that you are being mean and unloving for disrespecting their opinion. They disrespect your disrespect of their opinion. But then, since they disrespect your opinion to disrespect their opinion, they are hypocrites who do not follow their own principle. If we should respect all of these opinions, then they ought to respect my opinion that their opinion is evil, but they do not.

Sometimes this person applies this standard of respect to Christians but not to themselves, since they believe that blind acceptance of other opinions is a Christian imperative. They hold the Christian to this standard because they are too stupid to realize that Matthew 7:1 is not a command against making judgements, but is a command against hypocrisy. They say “Don’t judge!” to either silence the Christian or to cause the Christian to uncritically accept their anti-Christian position. Obviously they misapply the verse. Jesus goes on to say that believers must pluck the speck out of other people’s eyes, which necessitates that believers must regard certain actions and the ideas behind those actions as worthy of criticism, worthy to oppose, worthy of correction, and worthy of disrespect.

By exhorting other people to have respect for other opinions, these people have no respect for any other position than their own. But since they only respect their own position, they are oblivious hypocrites for criticizing others who do the same.

Arbitrary

If we do not have to respect all opinions as my previous two points demonstrate, then there arises the problem of distinguishing which opinions are worthy of respect. This itself must be rooted in a person’s perspective. When respect for other people’s opinion ceases to be universally applicable, we must then establish a criterion to distinguish between which ideas are worthy of respect and which are not. But then, if somebody says “You ought to respect my opinion because it is worthy of respect!” they are begging the question, since I may not find their opinion worthy of respect. So then, these people who demand that you respect their opinion no longer appeal to a universal moral imperative, but they appeal to their arbitrary opinion, which you disagree with in the first place.

What The Bible Says

The Bible opposes the idea that we ought to have respect for most people’s perspectives. In many passages, scripture exhorts the believer to not only disagree with certain propositions, but to hate them. Consider the following:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9)

In order for a Christian to be truly loving, they must not only love what is good but to hate what is evil. Since the Biblical definition of love is walking according to God’s commands (2 John 6), and since God through the apostle Paul tells us to abhor what is evil, Christians show genuine love by hating evil actions, evil opinions, and false doctrine. We are commanded to oppose each of these things:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Paul also exhorts us in 2 Corinthians to refute, in fact we ought to destroy, rebellious opinions in order to be obedient to Christ. However, we must do this in a proper manner:

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2‬:‭24-25‬)

Though 2 Timothy 2 does not restrict the use of open rebuke, insults, and mockery in the proper context:

“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭2‬)

“But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (‭Acts‬ ‭13‬:‭9-10‬)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭15, 27)

“And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’” (‭1 Kings‬ ‭18‬:‭27‬)

The above verses are only a sample of what scripture commands us in dealing with people with ungodly opinions. Never are we encouraged to respect false doctrine or evil opinions, but to hate them, rebuke them, and mock them in the correct context. The following verses likewise help to indicate the mind of God:

“I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭26‬:‭5‬)

“I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬)

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭139‬:‭21-22‬)

Far from extending respect to certain opinions, scripture also indicates that believers ought not respect wicked idolaters either. The Psalms are a treasure trove of verses which speak about the wicked, unbelieving, and idolaters in the utmost disdain. More information on these types of Psalms can be found here. Clearly scripture teaches believers to hate both evil opinions, and, in the proper context, to hate evil people as well.

Conclusion

This post has been an introduction to the teaching of scripture on the subject of respect for other people’s beliefs. Whereas some people tiptoe around the issues and pretend to honor all other perspectives, scripture commands Christian against this. In order for love to be genuine, not only must we cling to good, but we must also abhor what is contrary to God and scripture. I hope this helped you, and I hope that it will help inspire you to look into these theological matters more and more yourself.

Examining Biblical “If” Statements as Proof for Alternate Possibilities

The Principle Of Alternate Possibilities

The principle of alternate possibilities is the philosophical concept that alternate events are actually possible. For instance, if you are reading this right now, that most likely means that I have posted this to my blog. The principle of alternate possibilities (PAP) states that it was an actual, real possibility that this blog would never have been posted. It could have been otherwise. In order to clarify this concept, we must view it metaphysically in light of free will and determinism.

When I say possibility in this context, I mean this from a metaphysical perspective. In other words, we commonly accept all types of ideas as being possible in that these supposed possibilities are not self-contradictory, external circumstances appear to permit an event, etc., but the PAP must be viewed as a direct repudiation of determinism. Within the scope of absolute determinism, events happen by necessity, meaning that within this perspective, events could not have occurred any differently than how they did. Theistic determinists will readily speak of so-called “possibilities” outside of the scope of determinism, since we do not know what will happen in the near future, etc., but this idea of possibilities relates to our subjective experience and does not relate to a metaphysical perspective where God controls everything. It is possible that I will or will not eat bread tomorrow, meaning that it is not a logical contradiction to have one event happen rather than another, and from my individual experience it appears that either may happen, yet from a divine perspective, it is not actually possible that I do anything outside of what God has determined me to do. So, regarding the existence of possibilities, possibilities exist outside of the scope of the metaphysical perspective of determinism such as my subjective experience, but within the scope of divine determinism where God controls everything, actual possibilities where events could have occurred differently than what God has determined, do not exist. The former is an arbitrary form of possibility that is outside the framework of this discussion; the latter description is what I will be addressing.

As I just mentioned, PAP is a repudiation of determinism in favor of free will. Biblical determinism explains that God controls and predestines everything in such a way that events happen by necessity; they had to take place, and thus no other event was possible. Free will explains that the individual human is free from God’s control, that the individual is the sole cause of their own actions, and that events that occur in time could have happened differently. When the philosophical position of PAP is applied to Biblical theology, it is in support of (libertarian) free will, and in opposition to determinism:

“freedom (in the Libertarian sense) roughly means to be the first un-caused cause of one’s own activities (agent causation) and by implication to be free and able to choose from a range of several alternatives (principle of alternative possibilities, or PAP)” (lordsdisciple)

Thus, PAP theory (as Brendan calls it above) is believed by Pelagian heretics, and by extremely confused Arminians and Wesleyans, since all of them confess belief in libertarian free will to some degree. They often attempt to justify their free will doctrine by arguing that the Bible teaches the existence of real possibilities. If they can prove that the Bible teaches real and actual alternate possibilities, then Calvinistic determinism is refuted, and free will is thus established. If a person could have chosen differently, then their choices are not determined and controlled by God, but rather the individual would be the sole cause of their actions, and therefore their actions would be free. Hence, the conclusion is that libertarian free will must be true. I will first explain some basic problems with this reasoning and conclusion, and then give a specific Biblical example which disproves these PAP assumptions.

1. Not All Types Of Determinism Are Disproven

At most, what the proponent of alternate possibilities would prove (if indeed the Bible gives a single instance where the PAP is true), is that absolute determinism is false, meaning that not all things are determined at all times. If indeed the free will advocate can find a single place in scripture where it teaches that an event really could have happened differently, one could not universalize this single occurrence to mean that therefore all events and human actions are uncontrolled. If there is a place in scripture that teaches that a single, specific event was undetermined, we cannot conclude that all other events are likewise undetermined. This is the fallacy of universalizing particulars. Just because I see a thousand red flowers does not mean that all flowers are red. Likewise, just because God did not control one event, does not mean that he does not control all other events. At most, only absolute determinism/predestination is disproved; not all forms of determinism are disproved.

2. Libertarian Free Will Is Not Proven

This point follows the reasoning above. Even if the free will advocate can find a single occurrence in the Bible where one individual was free from God to choose between two or more actual possibilities, this does not prove that everyone’s wills are free from God’s control and determination. At most, what would be proven is that this particular individual in this particular instance was free to choose between these two or more particular possibilities. It is very possible, given the reasoning, that this is the only time in the history of the world where a person’s will was free from God’s control. Therefore, since these hypothetical Biblical examples cannot prove that everyone’s wills are free, but only prove that a single person’s will was free at a particular point in time, the general doctrine of libertarian free will cannot be established; we cannot conclude that therefore everyone has libertarian free will at every point in time.

3. Naturalistic Determinism

Even if PAP examples can be found in the Bible which prove that all people everywhere are free from God’s control, people are never free from the influence of our own bodies and other objects upon our actions. That is, even if libertarian free will can be proven (where our actions are free from God’s control), this does not demonstrate that our wills are free from everything else. Even if libertarian free will can be established, where God never controls people, this does not disprove naturalistic determinism. Free will advocates can never substantiate the concept that any particular hypothetical Biblical PAP example proves that our wills are not determined or influenced by other objects. What I mean is that Pelagians, Arminians, and others claim that in order for people to be able to be justly held accountable for our actions, they must be free. However, these people usually never specify what they mean by free. If God does not cause anything and if natural causation is true, then this means that other objects can still impact my will, and therefore my will is not free, or at least not all of the time. I tend to be more irritable when I have not eaten, and this is due to the biological reality that my body needs food, and my body provokes me to feel certain ways which impacts my behavior. If free will is necessary for moral accountability, then moral accountability is impossible, since it is undeniable that my will and choices are affected by my bodily constitution and other factors. Free will advocates will have to demonstrate that all of our decisions happen in causal vacuums, and that we are conscious of all of our decisions, in order to support their radical theory. Causal vacuums and other absurd extra biblical theories need to be proven in order to support the free will theory, not just a few Biblical examples which supposedly teach the PAP.

Warning To Zedekiah

Here, I want to give a typical example of how a free will advocate would go about trying to prove that real alternative possibilities exist. Keep in mind that their goal is to establish that God does not predestine and control all events, so if they can show that any given event was not causally determined by God, but that the event was completely random, free, unnecessary, and uncontrolled, then Calvinistic determinism is refuted by the Bible, and all of us Calvinists should repent and believe in free will. How the individual usually goes about demonstrating the PAP is by finding a random place in the Bible where two options are given: “If such and such, then such and such. If not such and such, then such and such.” Let me give an example:

“Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.'” (Jeremiah 38:17-18)

Here, king Zedekiah is presented with two options. Basically Zedekiah can either surrender and live, or he can rebel and die. The free will advocate finds this as proof positive that these two events were actually possible, since they are two alternatives that Zedekiah could have chosen. At this point the free will advocate is merely begging the question, since the text says nothing about the metaphysical reality of free will and true alternate possibilities. One has to first assume that Zedekiah had free will and assume that his choices were not determined by God in order to support the idea that it was truly possible for Zedekiah to have surrendered instead of rebel (Zedekiah didn’t surrender). All the text says is that IF he chose one or the other, then these would be the outcomes, but they do not say whether or not either “if” indicates a true alternative that could have happened.

Conditionals like the verses above are never self justifying examples of actual possibilities. Consider the following, “If I buy a trillion dollar car, then I will drive fast. If I do not buy a trillion dollar car, then I will go to college.” The first option is emphatically NOT possible, since I do not have a trillion dollars, no company would sell me this trillion dollar car, and trillion dollar cars do not exist. The second option is the only possible option. Therefore, whenever a verse in the Bible presents an either/or scenario, these scenarios themselves do not prove that true alternate possibilities exist.

Jeremiah 38:17-18 says nothing about the metaphysical cause of Zedekiah’s actions, nothing about Zedekiah’s freedom or lack thereof, and absolutely nothing about whether or not both events were equally possible. All speculations of this kind are invalid in the context of this verse, determinism and freedom alike, since these verses do not even begin to enter into that discussion. If the above comments are not enough to convince the reader, consider the fact that God, through the prophet Ezekiel, had already pronounced judgement upon Zedekiah at the time when Jeremiah said the things that he said to Zedekiah.

Ezekiel

The timeline of Ezekiel starts out with Ezekiel 1:2, “On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin)…” The order of the kings of Judah at this time can be found in 2 Kings 23-25, and they are Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, then Zedekiah. 2 Kings 24:10-16 gives an account of one of the Babylonian exiles, where Jehoiachin was exiled, and Zedekiah replaced Jehoiachin as king of Israel. Therefore, we know that “the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin” means that it was the fifth year of the reign of Zedekiah over Judah, and Zedekiah reigned for 11 years (2 Kings 24:18). When Ezekiel began to prophesy, Zedekiah was five years into his reign, with six years left to go.

Why I give all of this background information is because at approximately the same time as when Jeremiah was telling Zedekiah that he could either surrender and live or not surrender and die, God had already irrevocably pronounced judgement against Zedekiah through the prophet Ezekiel:

“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die. Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war,when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape. Therefore thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken” (Ezekiel 17:16-21)

Ezekiel 8:1 and 20:1 prove that the Lord spoke the above passage between the sixth and seventh year of Zedekiah’s reign. The ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign is when Jerusalem came under siege (2 Kings 25:1), and Jerusalem was finally captured and laid waste in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign (2 Kings 25:2). Why I say all of this is because Jeremiah told Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar or not to surrender to him before the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign. This means that Jeremiah 38:17-18 took place around the same time that the Lord through Ezekiel pronounced irrevocable judgement upon Zedekiah in Ezekiel 17.

Let’s now look again at the two verses in Jeremiah:

“‘Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.'” (Jeremiah 38:17-18)

It is now clear that the first option, where Zedekiah surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar, was never an actual possibility. Ezekiel 17 plainly states that Zedekiah would be taken, that he would die in Babylon, and that Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed. Therefore, since we have specific Biblical testimony that the former option was never possible, free will advocates both logically and Biblically cannot validly infer the reality of actual possibilities in the Bible, when the text merely gives two conditionals. Every place in scripture where it says IF is logically irrelevant to the issue of determinism, free will, and the PAP.

Conclusion

No one seems to know what they are talking about when talking about free will. Inferring free will or alternate possibilities from texts that merely give an either/or is absolutely fallacious, yet it is immediately accepted as being a valid form of argumentation by many. The above example from Ezekiel and Jeremiah is one of the many examples where the PAP cannot be demonstrated through “if” statements. These “if” statements are a grammatical tool used to speak about hypothetical situations and the outcomes of hypothetical situations, but they say nothing about whether or not alternate possibilities actually exist or the metaphysical reality of free will or determinism. Jeremiah gave Zedekiah two options and the outcomes of both of those options at the same time the Lord through Ezekiel declared which option Zedekiah would choose. There are so many other examples that could be given, but the purpose of this blog post is not to give an exhaustive account of these examples. That being said, I wrote this post for fun because I am reading through Ezekiel, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Ministry Of Condemnation

“For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory” – 2 Corinthians 3:9.

In the context of 2 Corinthians 3, Paul is discussing how God has made Paul and others to be ministers of the new covenant, and then contrasts the new covenant with the old covenant. The reason for this contrast is because Paul wanted to highlight all of the merits, benefits, and the blatant superiority of the new covenant Gospel founded by Christ, to the uselessness and dreary nature of the old. The old covenant is said to be less glorious, and is debased by Paul in this context. This brings me to my main point: why was the old covenant, which was given at Mount Sinai by Moses to the people of Israel, called “the ministry of condemnation?” What was it about the previous covenant that brought death and condemnation? Let us find out.

The Old Covenant Law

Moses gave the people of Israel the law of God at Mount Sinai which included the famous ten commandments, but also the commands regarding the Levitical priesthood, laws concerning sacrifices, laws concerning feasts, sexual conduct, tithes, general morality, property, and many other issues. These laws can be read in Exodus, Leviticus, and especially in Deuteronomy, since Deuteronomy is commonly referred to as “the book of the law.” The structure of the old covenant was that if Israel would obey the Lord, then they would live in the land and be blessed, but if they disobeyed the Lord, then Israel would die and be cursed, as it is written:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)

God heaped upon them moral and ceremonial precepts, demonstrating his righteousness and holiness, commanding what it is that he required of Israel. Deuteronomy 30 reiterates the covenant first given in Exodus, so the passage from Exodus is relevant as well:

Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'” (Exodus 24:3-8)

The old covenant, the agreement that God made with Israel, was that Israel would obey all that God had commanded them. This covenant was formally inaugurated with blood; God was to give them punishment for disobedience, and reward for obedience.

The Purpose Of The Law

The reason that the old covenant was called “the ministry of condemnation” by Paul is because its only purpose is to reveal people’s sin and to condemn them. Every command that God gave to Israel, every ceremonial law, every moral law, every instruction, was meant to reveal the holy character of God, and to reveal the sin of the people of Israel, and by implication, the law reveals the sin of the whole world as well. The old covenant methodically causes people to sin due to the fact that no one can obey all of God’s law, and leaves individuals destitute with nothing left except the fear of judgement and punishment. The law is a measuring line which reveals the complete holiness of God and the utter ruin and depravity of mankind. This truth is demonstrated in the following texts:

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20)

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20)

“The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me…Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” (Romans 7:10, 13)

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56)

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse…Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin…” (Galatians 3:10, 19, 21-22)

Romans 3:20

Since justification is to be declared righteous, justification is the opposite of condemnation, which is to be declared guilty. The reason the law has no ability to justify a sinner is because, just as the verse states, the knowledge of sin comes through the law, and therefore knowledge of one’s guilt is realized. The law gives God’s standard of righteousness, and just as it says in the context of Romans 3, the law demonstrates that all are wicked and deserving of judgement. The law can only condemn.

Romans 5:20

The law increases the trespass by clearly revealing our disobedience to God. Obviously no one can keep the law if all the law can do is make your sinful actions even more sinful.

Romans 7:10, 13

What’s there to even comment on? The law makes sin sinful beyond all measure since it shows sin to be sin.

1 Corinthians 15:56

“The power of sin is the law” gives further evidence to the concept that the law gives sin a bigger bite. All the law can do is condemn, as John Gill has said:

“…the strength of sin, its evil nature, and all the dreadful aggravations of it, and sad consequences upon it, are discovered and made known by the law; and also the strength of it is drawn out by it, through the corruption of human nature; which is irritated and provoked the more to sin, through the law’s prohibition of it.”

Galatians 3:10, 19, 21-22

The law was added, not for our immediate benefit, not for our salvation, not so that we would merely have a general set of principles for how to live with one another, but it was added because of transgression. Through the means of the law and the revelation of God’s law through scripture, humanity is imprisoned under sin, and has only judgement to look forward to.

The Purpose Of Condemnation

Now that it has been established that the purpose of the law is to reveal sin, to increase the trespass, and to condemn those who are under the law, we ought to find out what God’s purpose is for doing these things. There are several components to answering this question:

1. Reprobation

One of the reasons that God wanted to condemn humanity is for the condemnation and punishment of the reprobate. This is arguably the most severe implication of God’s purpose for condemnation. The law condemns everyone, and God has chosen a portion of humanity to be condemned in order to reveal his wrath and make his power known:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22)

It is evident that God raises some individuals up for the purpose of killing them in order to glorify himself:

“And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:17-18)

God makes the wicked fall to ruin:

Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!” (Psalm 73:18-19)

God sends some people strong delusions so that they believe a lie in order that they will be condemned:

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

God has clearly revealed his purpose of reprobation in scripture in a variety of places, Romans 9 is arguably the most pronounced. One of the reasons that God purposed his law to condemn everyone is so that the reprobate with come under judgement, and that he would punish them in order to glorify himself in the revealing of his justice. The law is the tool through which God accomplishes reprobation.

2. Redemption

By contrast, another reason that God gave the law to increase the trespass is for the purpose of redemption. God from eternity past has predestined to save his elect and to enjoy fellowship with them forever. God gave his elect heaven, himself, newness of life, and fellowship before the world began:

“who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9)

God has eternally predestined a specific set of individuals to be adopted as his own children and receive an inheritance:

“he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

By eternally purposing to redeem the elect, God has eternally purposed to reveal his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and Fatherly kindness to some individuals, all for his own glory.

3. The Glory Of Christ

This third answer to the question of why God has further condemned all individuals through the law relates heavily to the previous answer, redemption. The reason that this third option is distinct from election is because, in a sense, this is a further clarification of the second. The main reason that God gave the law, in order that the trespass would increase, and that sin may be sinful beyond measure, is not only so that God would be able to redeem a people for himself, but likewise so that humanity would have absolutely no hope of justification apart from Jesus Christ. One of the main reasons that God gave the law is not only to glorify himself in the punishment of the reprobate and the salvation of the elect, but also so that the eternal Son of God would be the sole, exclusive way of salvation:

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:21-22)

Scripture imprisoned all under sin so that Christ would be the savior and judge. The work of Christ, his life, submission to the Father, atonement, resurrection, ascension, and glorification at the right hand of the Father came about as a result of our hopeless situation. Through Christ’s work of redemption and his exaltation, Jesus is glorified, and now all of God’s people look exclusively to him for salvation. The law prevents us from seeking redemption in anything or anyone else. There is no redemption in ourselves, in our actions, in superstitious rituals, in meditation, in free will, in the law – there is redemption found nowhere else except in the sinless Son of God:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6)

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

To him we look and upon him we depend utterly.

What about Deuteronomy 30?

There are those who wish to dispute about the purpose of the law. Many wish to demonstrate that the law is a reflection of humanity’s ability, and that we can fulfill the law through our free will. People like these not only overthrow the purpose of the law, which is to condemn all those who attempt to obey it (Galatians 3:10) so that Christ becomes our only hope of salvation (Galatians 3:22), but also wish to overthrow the glory of Christ and his work, and to deny the complete inability of the old covenant to save sinners. The contrast between the old and new covenants is hardly noticeable at all for people like these, since they think that man’s ability and their stupid conception of “free will” has something to do with salvation and God’s eternal plan. One of the passages that they would appeal to as evidence that people possess the innate ability to fulfill God’s law is found in a chapter that I quoted above:

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

“See you stupid Calvinist?? The command is not to hard! It says that we can do it! Therefore free will and we can fulfill the law hurp derp”

There are a few things wrong with this straw man objection above:

1. “Not Too Hard”

Verse 11 where it says that the command is not too hard is a reference to its understandability, not in reference to how hard the command is to fulfill. This is evident in the proceeding verses since ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ is in reference to the need for interpretation. God here is saying that the command is perspicuous; it can be comprehended. The real issue of whether or not God’s law is easy to fulfill is found in verse 14.

2. Word Of Faith

Paul in Romans 10 applies aspects of this text in Deuteronomy to the new covenant:

“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says,”Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:3-9)

This passage demonstrates that when Moses says, “But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it,” that he is not making a careless statement that the law can be fulfilled through humanity’s imaginary free will. The word is equated to the word of faith that is in the hearts of believers, and Paul just got through saying that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. In stark contrast to righteousness based upon obedience to the law, Paul speaks of the righteousness of faith. Only those who possess the word in their heart can obey God, and even then, only imperfectly. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 refers only to the regenerate.

If indeed the word of God is within a person’s heart, then they desire to obey God, since saying “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” is the same as speaking of the law being written on the heart. Those whom God regenerates and have the law of God written on their hearts, and those who possess faith, have the capacity to obey God to some extent. The promise of the circumcision of the heart, which is regeneration, is spoken of in the same context as Deuteronomy 30:11-14:

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

The circumcision of the heart, the writing of God’s law on the heart, the removing of the heart of stone and the giving of a heart of flesh, and the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God into the hearts of his people are all indications of the same reality of being born again, the spiritual birth of all of God’s people:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33)

“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3)

These are all pictures of God causing his people to obey his commandments. The law is utterly unprofitable unless God writes it upon a human heart:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Those who obey God’s commands are those whom God gives an ear to hear (Proverbs 20:12, Isaiah 6:9, Matthew 11:25), those whom God causes to be born again (Ezekiel 36:27, John 1:13, 3:8, 5:21, 6:63), those who have the word of God at work in them (1 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 John 2:27). Since Moses speaks of the word of faith being within the hearts of individuals, he refers to the regenerate who have the law of God within them; the ones who God causes to obey him. The external written law has no capacity to change a heart; the only way that any obey God is when God causes an individual to obey through regeneration, which is when God places his law within an individual. If the word is within a person’s heart, then they are God’s people, and God is actively conforming that individual to the image of Christ and causing them to obey him. None of Deuteronomy 30 has anything to do with the stupid conception of free will, for in the same chapter in verse 6, and in the New Testament commentary found in Romans 10, scripture teaches that it is God who controls the human will in the first place.

I will summarize this section with a lengthy quotation from John Calvin’s commentary:

“The Sophists improperly and ignorantly wrest this passage to prove the freedom of the will. (They allege) that Moses here declares the precepts of the Law not to be above our reach. What? Does he state that the keeping of them is within the compass of our strength? Surely the words convey nothing of the sort; neither can this sense be elicited from them, if his intention be duly weighed. For he merely encouraged the Jews and commands them to be diligent disciples of the Law, because they will easily understand whatever is enjoined by God therein. But the power of performance is a different thing from understanding. Besides, Paul, with very good reason, accommodates this passage to the Gospel, (Romans 10:8;) because it would profit nothing to comprehend the doctrine itself in the mind, unless reverence and a serious disposition to be obeyed superadded. But he takes it for granted, that to have a good will is so far from being in our own power, that we are not even competent to think aright. Hence it follows, that what is here stated falls to the ground as frivolous, and spoken to no purpose, if it be applied simply to the Law. Paul also considers another thing, viz. that because the Law requires a perfect righteousness, it cannot be received by any mortals fruitfully; for however any one may study to obey God, yet he will still be far from perfection; and, therefore, it is necessary to come to the Gospel, wherein that rigorous requirement is relaxed. because, through the interposition of pardon, the will to obey is pleasing to God instead of perfect obedience, For Paul insists on the latter verse, ‘The word is nigh in the mouth, and in the heart, that the people may do it.’ Now, it is clear that men’s hearts are strongly and obstinately opposed to the Law; and that in the Law itself is contained only a dead and deadly letter; how then could the literal doctrine have a place in the heart? But if God, by the Spirit of regeneration, corrects the depravity of the heart and softens its hardness, this is not the property of the Law, but of the Gospel. Again, because in the children of God, even after they are regenerated, there always abide the remainders of carnal desires, no mortal will be found who can perform the Law. But in the Gospel God receives, with fatherly indulgence, what is not absolutely perfect. The word of God, therefore, does not begin to penetrate into the heart, and to produce its proper fruit in the lips, until Christ shines upon us with His Spirit and gratuitous pardon. Wherefore Paul most truly concludes that this is the word of faith which is preached in the Gospel; both because the Law does not efficaciously lead men to God, and because the keeping of it is impossible, on account of its extreme rigor. But this is the peculiar blessing of the new covenant, that the Law is written on men’s hearts, and engraven on their inward parts; whilst that severe requirement is relaxed, so that the vices under which believers still labor are no obstacle to their partial and imperfect obedience being pleasant to God.”

3. The Apostle Paul

Do free willers honestly think that they can get away with viewing Deuteronomy 30 in the way that they do in light of Paul’s writings in particular? Any individual that calls themselves a Christian who can ignore everything that Paul has ever said about the law in favor of a free will perspective of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is stupid, ignorant, mentally insane, or a heretic that denies the apostleship of Paul:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” (Galatians 3:10-11)

At the point in time where Paul says that none are justified through obedience to God’s commands, that all are cursed who are under the law, and that the old covenant is the MINISTRY OF CONDEMNATION and that none can obey the law, but that the law merely increases the trespass, we can bank on the fact that it is impossible to fulfill the law. Clearly we do not have the free will capacity to make ourselves right with God through external obedience.

Summary

Paul uses stark and dreadful language describing the purpose of the old covenant law. The law is nothing but the ministry of condemnation, and can do nothing but cause all people to be sinful beyond degree and reveal the holiness of God. Just as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches:

“3. Q. How do you come to know your misery? A. The Law of God tells me”

We ought not regard the commands merely as a standard which we ought to obey, but the tool through which God accomplishes his eternal goal of redemption and the glorification of Jesus Christ in his saints. We have no hope but Christ. We have no internal capacity, no internal power, no free will, no hope in the law, no personal righteousness; we have nothing, we are nothing, but we hope in Jesus Christ. He is our salvation, and he has given us a New Covenant, that through faith in his life, atonement, and resurrection, we may have peace with God, and eternal life. The law gives us the drastic contrast between punishment and forgiveness, wrath and grace, death and life. When we know our utter desperation, and when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgement, we run to Christ in complete abandonment, in adoration and worship – in praise of the one who paid our debt, and gave us life when all we deserved was death and destruction. To God be the glory, and may he alone be glorified before, now, and afterwards, for all time, forever and ever. Amen.

Love Is Not An Emotion

The Problem

Christians are often extremely confused about what love is. Sure, the term is thrown around often enough, and people pretend to be profound whenever they use it, but the word “love” is just about the most abused and ill-defined words in the Christian’s vocabulary. Most professing Christians possess terrible doctrine and fail to properly define terms in their biblical context. Therefore, the ambiguity of the definition of “love” causes people to engage in sinful actions, validate stupid arguments and objections by non believers, and submit to false doctrine.

To some degree, the common so-called “Christian” understanding of love is identical with unbelieving definitions. People seem to think that love has something to do with lack of judgement, non-confrontation, and respect for evil opinions (ironically all those who think these are positive qualities rebuke those who do not, and thus everyone who supports these three are just as judgmental, confrontational, and intolerant of other opinions as anyone else. I discuss these inherent contradictions in modern popular thought in another blog). Amidst all of these stupid definitions/descriptions of love, there is one that I especially detest. Popular opinion holds that love is a type of emotion. The Bible says otherwise.

Love Is Not An Emotion But A Volition

In their attempt to define love (“agape” in the Greek), professing Christians usually turn to 1 Corinthians 13 for answers. The relevant text is found in verses 4-5:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”

Beyond this, people throw up their hands and ascribe the rest to mystery, glorying in the fact that they do not know the definition of a word that is used repeatedly in the New Testament. What professing Christians do not realize is that leaving the term “love” undefined or misdefined does not add to its profundity, but trivializes it. We should not hold ignorance as a virtue, but thats exactly what I see brothers and sisters in Christ doing.

Notice that in the text Paul does not say love is patience or kindness, or humility. These other words are not equivalent definitions, but descriptors of what love ought to look like. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 13 does not give us a definition but a picture. Paul’s purpose was not to give us a definition here. However! The New Testament does give us a definition of love. This is the Christian definition of love:

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (‭1 John‬ ‭5‬:‭3‬)

“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” (‭2 John‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬)

Love (the Greek word “agape”) is defined as walking in accordance with God’s commands; to obey God. Love is not connected to a mindless emotional state of feeling affection, but is intricately connected with the law of God and obeying it. Therefore, love is not a type of emotion, or based upon subjective internal feelings, but is a type of volition, something we do.

Applying This Definition To Other Texts

When we see that the New Testament’s definition of love (agape) is “walking according to God’s commandments,” a myriad of other texts become clear. All of the New Testament is scripture inspired by the same God, so every place where the Greek word for love is found, we may infer John’s definition, “Walking according to his commands.” Here are some examples:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭14‬)

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” (‭Matthew‬ ‭22‬:‭37-40‬)

Both of these sections have the same Greek root word as 1 John 5:3 and 2 John 6. The reason why the law is fulfilled through love is because love is obeying God’s law, so through obedience to God’s law, the law is fulfilled. The law is not fulfilled through a subjective feeling that we have toward other people and to God, but through obedience. To think that that law is fulfilled through a general, subjective feeling of benevolence is absurd.

Here is another example:

“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭5)

Paul is not saying that the main function of the Holy Spirit is to give people touchy feely emotions that hinder our ability to think properly. Since love is related to the law, by saying that the Holy Spirit pours his “love” into our hearts is the same thing as saying the Holy Spirit writes the law of God onto the hearts of his elect. In fact, the Bible elsewhere speaks of the writing of God’s law upon a person’s heart:

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30‬:‭6‬)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭31‬:‭33‬)

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36‬:‭26-27‬)

The pouring of the love of God into people’s hearts is the same thing as the writing of the law upon human hearts. This is a picture of the New Covenant reality of regeneration a.k.a. the new birth, being born again. God causes those who are dead in sin to become spiritual alive, spiritually resurrected. God gives his people the gift of faith, adopts them as his children, justifies them, forgives them of their sin, and causes them to obey him. God gives his elect new spiritual life and the ability to obey him (Ezekiel 36:27). Also, this is why John teaches:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (‭1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭7‬)

Whoever loves God (i.e. obeys God) has been born again/regenerated. In order to love God, God must write his law upon a person’s heart, causing them to obey his commandments and increasingly conform to the likeness of Christ. In order to obey God, one must first be born again (contrary to Arminianism).

Other Texts That Teach This

Love is not an emotion, love is not mystery, love is not the ability to be non-confrontational, love is not an ethereal concept beyond our ability to comprehend, and love certainly has nothing to do with The Beatles’ lyrics. Not only do 1 John 5:3 and 2 John 6 explicitly state that love (agape) is obeying God, but many other texts imply this.

In the same context in 1 Corinthians 13 cited earlier, Paul adds another description of love in verse 6:

“[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

Paul asserts that true love does not rejoice or accept wrongdoing. Obviously this has implications in a world that is obsessed with homosexual fornication. The unbelieving world, or more specifically, Americans who possess liberal social views, often demand conservative Christians to be more loving by not only tolerating, but accepting and celebrating destructive sexual behaviors which God forbids.

(Granted, there are professing Christians who hypocritically maintain their position against homosexuality through mindless bigotry or cultural influence and not from the teaching of the Bible and may actually be Biblically unloving also, yet unbelieving objections against Christians being “unloving” really amount to liberals whining that we disagree with them. I could say that they are being unloving for petitioning to ban Christian TV shows, bullying private conservative organizations to compromise their ethical standards and values, and for hunting down anyone who has the audacity to disagree with their megalomaniacal opinions, but I digress…and maliciously cutting off little boy’s penises, but I digress.)

Pastor Danny Cortez is another example of one who has accepted the rhetoric of apostates and unbelievers regarding the definition of love. Cortez believes that he is being loving by accepting homosexual sin and fornication. In other words, Cortez thinks that he is being loving by rejoicing at wrongdoing. However, the apostle Paul, in perfect agreement with 1 John 5:3 and 2 John 6, says that it is impossible to simultaneously be loving and openly encourage sin and abomination.

Other texts that indicate the correlation between love and obeying God can be found in Christ’s words. Love produces obedience, whereas lawlessness stems from a lack of love.:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” (John 14:21)

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word….Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:23-24)

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

God Is Love

Not only is a faulty understanding of love disastrous to the Christian’s personal life, but also in one’s understanding of God. Professing Christians and unbelievers who have the most basic knowledge of the Bible know that 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love.” This verse is then applied to mean that God overflows with benevolence, affection, and, well, “love” for everyone. However, this verse does not teach that God is an abstract fountainhead of benevolence.

1 John 4:8 cannot teach that God loves everyone because the Bible says God hates certain individuals:

“And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.” (Leviticus 20:23)

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:5-6)

“As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” (Romans 9:13)

Although I will not list a bunch of random verses, obviously the Bible is full of instances of God’s judgement, punishment, and wrath again certain individuals. Many people have thought that their is some type of inconsistency between the concept of God being love, and God simultaneously sending people to Hell as punishment for their sins. This discrepancy, however, is based once again upon a misunderstanding of the definition of love. If we would let John himself define what he means by love, we will see what he meant, and will see that this verse is often misused.

All we have to do is follow the same principles that I have already stated. Since John defines love in this way: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…” (1 John 5:3), we can apply this definition to 1 John 4:8 where it says “God is love.” If we substitute the definition for the word, 1 John 4:8 would read like this: “God is his commandments.” At first glance this seems incoherent, but let me explain what I think. Since love is inseparable from God’s law, by saying “God is love,” John makes the law of God inseparable from the being of God. God is his law, meaning that the very basis of righteousness, goodness, and morality, is defined by God himself. God is the standard of righteousness, and righteousness is defined by God’s being.

John repudiates other ideas of morality. Some think that God makes moral commands based upon an abstract idea of goodness that is separate from him. If this were true, then God would not be God. God’s being is what defines righteousness. God’s being is what defines morality. Everything that God chooses to do is holy by definition.

Since the phrase “God is love” means that God is the standard of righteousness since it is inseparable from his being, all objections that say God’s wrath does not burn against the sinner, all objections that say that God must be an abstract concept of general benevolence to all people since “God is love,” fall by the wayside. Since God’s being is the standard of righteousness and his commands, by definition, God punishes those who disobey him. In other words, God punishes sinners because he is love. God’s wrath burns against sinners because he is love. God sends people to Hell because he is love.

Why This Is Important

Professing Christians need to stop propagating stupid, unbiblical traditions. Basing love in emotion glorifies strange behavior, repudiates knowledge as unspiritual, and ends up perverting Biblical doctrine. The charismatic movement in particular has done great harm to Christianity by placing the emotions as necessary to the Christian life. Instead of placing the objectivity of the Word of God as being the definer of our faith, Christianity beginning especially in the 20th century has been characterized by the subjectivity of personal experience. Hate what the Bible says? Then pretend you receive revelation directly from God and validate your evil opinions by “prophesying!” Do you wish you had an excuse for ignoring other Christians’ objections to your baseless theology? No need to worry! Knowledge is unspiritual and anyone who claims to know what the Bible teaches is a Pharisee who puts God in a box. In reality you glorify God by constantly appealing to mystery when you run across hard questions, even when God has already given us the answer…

I used to feel a tension between knowledge and faith, and now I realize that the only reason I used to have this impression was because I was constantly surrounded by people who think that emotional vomiting and stupidity is spiritual. I constantly felt alienated and constrained to act in the same emotional manner as my peers. Sometimes I genuinely thought that I was missing out on something because I was not “feeling” the Spirit. Was I missing something? Whenever we take an hour of spiritual silence and introspection am I doing it wrong by not being able to manufacture these religious feelings that I keep hearing about? No. Love is not emotional. Love is not subjective. Love is not disregarding knowledge. Love is not acceptance of stupidity and evil opinions. Love is not mysterious. Love is not even general benevolence. Love is obeying God, and in order to obey him we must study his Word to know who he is and what he has commanded concerning us.

I will close with a quote by J Gresham Machen in his book Christianity and Liberalism:

“Love, in the Christian sense, is not a mere emotion, but a very practical and a very comprehensive thing. It involves nothing less than the keeping of the whole law of God” (132).