FALSE APOSTLES

A quote from 2 Corinthians 11:13 concerning false apostles and false teachers

12  What I am doing I must continue to do, so that I may eliminate the opportunity for (such men) to be regarded just as we (apostles) are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their deeds. (2Cor11:12-15)

Re chapters 8-10

My previous post concerned 2Cor7. I have skipped through to chapter 11 for the intervening chapters contained little pure theological content. Applied theology for sure; they provided insights into Paul’s pastoral oversight of the fledgling churches. The apostle was pleased at hearing the report from Titus; in particular that the Corinthian church had repented in response to his letter of rebuke. He also urged the church to follow through their commitment to contribute to a collection for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. Chapter ten continues the pattern of Paul’s letter, as he deals with various matters. He also tackles a personal charge against himself; that he is too unimpressive in person to be a true apostle of Christ. But he was a true apostle, unlike some who should follow him.

Chapter 11

Coming to chapter 11 it is evident that Paul still has concerns about the Church at Corinth.

I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if one should come and preach another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you would tolerate it very well!” (vv2-4) 

Paul warns of false apostles

Two things concerned Paul; firstly, that false teachers would come along and preach a false gospel; secondly, that the Corinthian Church would fall for it. Consequently, they would be “led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ”. Regrettably, history proved Paul to be right on both counts regarding the Church at Corinth. That is affirmed by the letter of Clement, Bishop of Rome to the Corinthians, thought to be penned around 96AD. That re-iterated some of Paul’s concerns and referred to sedition against the established Church leaders.

The letter is almost certainly authentic and offers valuable evidence about the state of the ministry in the early church. But it also provides insights into matters theological. So on a personal note, in spite of its somewhat admonishing tone, Clement’s  letter  fills me with delight. For it is further reassurance that the understanding I have come to regarding faith, salvation and providence is the truth from God. That is not least because the Augustinian-derived “theology of sovereign grace”  built on and reinforced by the Protestant Reformers is nowhere to be found. Indeed I propose that it is barely detectable in  any of the writings of the pre-Nicene Church Fathers. That is all the more significant given that the likes of Irenaeus and Eusebius testified to the unity of doctrine in the churches of the second century.

Seeming servants of righteousness

In terms of the 2Cor passage, Christians of all traditions are likely to agree with Paul’s statement concerning “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ”. The issues of course are who they are, when they arrived (or shall arrive) and how they should be identified (v13). It is certainly not by their outward manner or seemingly pious teaching. “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light so it is hardly surprising if his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end shall be according to their deeds” (vv14,15). In terms of historical figures, for “deeds” read “legacy”; i.e. their impact on the Faith, the Church and the world. As for possible current and future candidates, one should consider motives, manner and above all what is likely to be their impact should they succeed in their endeavours.

What of “yours truly”?

So, should someone writing as I do fall under suspicion?  Absolutely, without a doubt, no question about it, especially if he or she begins to receive more attention. So, I had better briefly restate my motives and intentions. It is to reveal the thoroughly intelligible nature of God’s goodness and justice; also the magnanimity of His providence towards humanity as a whole. Regrettably, that involves revisiting and deconstructing some established biblical interpretations and doctrines. I have concluded that especially applies to those distinctive doctrines of Augustine that were built upon and reinforced by the Protestant Reformers. The resulting biblical synopsis has been set out in “The Little Book of Providence”.

Related to that task is a quest to heal and re-unite the Church. Surely a worthy end in itself but it is also the only way that a coherent gospel could be presented to the World (Mt24:14). Such will not be achieved by a particular tradition being able to say “Told you so”. There needs to be an acknowledgement of error from all sides, more especially on the western front. No doubt that is because Eastern Orthodoxy has been less influenced by Augustine whilst her own theology is less systematized, less dogmatic and more accepting of mystery.

Errors fatal to the gospel

Some errors have been fatal to the gospel and so frankly are unsustainable. For example, Christian unity and coherent gospel evangelism cannot possibly be achieved whilst there are such fundamentally divergent perspectives on the Eucharist. Are the closely related Roman Catholic Mass and Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church divinely ordained pure re-presentations of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice at Calvary or are they age-enduring ceremonies of blasphemy? Are the bread and wine merely symbolic or do they actually become for the believer the body and blood of the Lord, essential for ongoing forgiveness and eternal Life?

Reasons to be hopeful

Biblical interpretation alone has not and will not resolve that matter – we have also to examine Church history. I am well aware that the potential implications of doing so will be too drastic for some even to contemplate. Yet I believe a resolution will occur, especially in view of Mt24:14 and Mal4:5-6. In terms of the broader benign providence I have been outlining, Rev10:9-10 and (more speculatively) Enoch93:8-10 and 104:11-13 suggest it is appropriate to expect such a joyous disclosure.

 My involvement came about as a result of what I am clear were (two) encounters with the Holy Spirit. So like Paul I must say “What I am doing I must continue to do” (v12). Thanks to the internet, verifying (or disproving) unexpected new perspectives becomes a practical option for the many. But as the end of the age approaches, the false apostles and deceitful workers Paul warns us about are all the more likely to abound. Again, thanks to the internet, devious “servants of the devil” or more likely the simply deluded will struggle to make much headway. But neither shall intransigent traditionists be able to defend the indefensible for very much longer.

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UNEQUALLY YOKED?

Two animals unequally yoked - Paul is referring to Christian and non-Christian marriage partners

 

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. FOR WHAT DO RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LAWLESSNESS SHARE TOGETHER, or what does light have in common with darkness? 15 Or what harmony does Christ have with Belial, or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement does the temple of God have with idols?

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell among them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 And I will be a father to you. You shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. 7 1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, LET US CLEANSE OURSELVES FROM ALL DEFILEMENT OF FLESH AND SPIRIT perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Cor6:14-7:1).

Righteousness unequally yoked with lawlessness

Returning to 2Cor it is interesting in the context of my recent posts that when warning Christians against being “unequally yoked” [Greek: ἑτεροζυγοῦντες] , i.e. partnered with non-believers, the first contrast Paul highlights is between righteousness and lawlessness [Greek: ἀνομίᾳ] (v14). For as recently considered regarding Luther’s Heidelberg theses, the Christian must actually fulfil the spirit of God’s Law. “The requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit”(Rom8:4). And unlike many later bible translators, the early scribes who penned the Textus Receptus knew Paul to be referring to the human spirit not the Holy Spirit, hence  πνεῦμα, not Πνεύμα [Rom8:4 Greek – note#1].

Flesh versus spirit

It goes back to Romans chapter 7 where Paul contrasted the instincts of the flesh and the human spirit. For Christians, who Paul reminds us here have collectively become the temple of the living God (v16), there is also a conflict between the flesh and the Holy Spirit.

But that is not what Paul was referring to in Romans 7. For he wrote: “I find a principle that evil is in me, the one who wants to do good  I joyfully agree with God’s law in the inner person  but see a different law in my body.  It wages war against the law of my mind. It makes me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts” (vv21-23).  Clearly, Paul cannot have been referring to the Holy Spirit but his true inner self when he wrote “I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person”.

 The problem for the non-believer with whom Paul is saying the Christian should not be partnered is that they have not been provided with the spiritual resources to overcome the instincts of their procreated intellectual vessel (1Thes4:4). That is why Paul in that same passage wrote “Who can deliver me from the body of this death? – I thank God it is through Jesus Christ”. How does Christ deliver (i.e. save) Paul and other true disciples from being “a prisoner to the law of sin that is in the body”? It is by participating in Christ’s life: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by Christ’s death, now being reconciled we shall be saved by His life”. (Rom5:10). As to what such participation with Christ is saving us from it is indeed that “body of this death” and the lawlessness that results from it.

Working out one’s own salvation

All of which brings us back to the opening verse. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness”? (v14). Rather, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit; perfecting holiness in the fear of God (concluding verse). Or as Paul says elsewhere: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil2:12).

The course that those who are to be the saints of God has been set is an arduous one. And although dependent on grace it requires personal cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit as well as self-discipline. We have to cleanse ourselves of all defilements of the flesh and spirit; perfecting holiness in the fear of God (closing verse).  That latter phrase makes it clear Paul is not speaking merely of an act of faith but a personal engagement in the process of sanctification.

No “easy believism” with Paul

Luther had been renowned for saying “Let your sins be strong [or sin boldly] but let your trust in Christ be stronger still”. That is about as valid a piece of advice for the Christian as his redefinition of faith: “A living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it”.

 If saving faith were merely the possession of the state of mind of being sure of God’s favour; or indeed anything along the lines of “looking to the finished work of Christ and appropriating it to myself”, or “believing in my heart that Jesus had died for me, much of Christ’s own teaching becomes irrelevant and Paul would not have gone on to write what he did. In particular, “I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1Cor9:27). Similarly, “Brothers, I do not regard myself as having attained to it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi3:13-15).

And what a prize it is for those who complete the course! (2Tim4:7). To be joint heirs with Christ, destined for honours concerning which I hardly dare speak (Rev3:21 &19:7). But then did you not know that those who run in a race all run but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win! (cf. 1Cor9:24).

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Notes

Note#1 The Biblehub I use to verify the Greek text utilizes the highly regarded “Nestle 1904” version of the Textus Receptus. The Protestant Reformers generally followed this when translating the English Authorized Version of the Bible. However in the case of Paul’s epistles they often overturned the casing of Spirit/spirit (Πνεύμα/ πνεῦμα). That was in accordance with their all-of-grace theological perspective. Neither would most have accepted the biblical teaching that man consists of body, soul and spirit (1Thes5:23; Heb4:1).

The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a seven-part synopsis of the bible

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Related post: Luther law and gospel   &  The theology of sovereign grace   &   Paul's theology of glory   &    Limited atonement?

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE

A chapter by chapter description of my book: The Little Book of Providence

CHAPTER 1 – GOD’S SECRET PLAN

A plan which the apostle Paul alludes to but few have comprehended; the fact that salvation as we understand it was not originally intended for the Gentile nations in the current epoch but resulted from the failure of the Jews (cf. Rom11:11-15), the providential implications of which have been quite eluded.  The chapter examines the extraordinary influence of Augustine of Hippo (AD354-430) on the development of Western theology. It shows how his innovative interpretation of the Pauline epistles shaped by over-reactions to the Pelagian and Manichean heresies resulted in doctrines that deformed both divine and human nature.

These infected the Catholic Church of his day whilst the Protestant Reformers built upon and reinforced them a thousand years later. I outline how the latter’s doctrinal position in particular contrasts with that of the 2nd and 3rd century Church. As a result, the Ancient Church’s perspectives on grace, free will and natural law are much closer to my own. Although disruptive and disturbing for many, such a deconstruction is necessary if the munificent providence being outlined in this document is to be affirmed. I have no choice in the matter, for as I explain in the book it is what I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me and it cannot be for my benefit alone.

CHAPTER 2 – THE LOST COVENANT

Most will be familiar with the theological significance of Adam and Eve, less will be so with Cain and Abel. Yet Cain was the firstborn human and “type” of the reprobate. That is why as the first humans to be born of woman Cain and Abel were players within an inclusive Universal Covenant (cf. Gen4:7KJV). Again, that appears to have eluded virtually everyone . Also adduced in this chapter – the fact that the contagion of sin resulting from the Fall pertains to the procreated intellectual vessel (Paul’s “body of this death”), not the God-given soul as a whole – another longstanding misconception with radical and wondrous providential implications.

CHAPTER 3 – FAITH AND JUSTIFICATION

What the Bible means by “faith” and “justification”. What will be a new interpretation to many resolves numerous biblical and doctrinal tensions. That is by showing that the blessings of the Atonement apply at two levels: forensic and participatory. The chapter also outlines how such a bi-fold economy of grace and faith was testified to by the earliest (pre-Augustinian) Church fathers. Far from diminishing God’s grace these particular aspects of natural law have a direct link with Christ’s Passion. Consequently they benefit the many, not just the proportional few destined to be the bride of Christ. This therefore forms a central tenet of The Little Book of Providence.

CHAPTER 4 – THE UNIVERSAL RESTORATION

A short chapter examining what little the Bible tells us about the Parousia. At which point Christ “shall be glorified in His saints and admired by those that believe on that day”. I affirm with Paul that Christian salvation’s apotheosis is not the repose of the soul in heaven but the redemption of the body within a restored universe (Rom8:19-23).

CHAPTER 5 – PROGRESSIVE REVELATION

God’s chosen method of enlightenment for the Church and world. In terms of the Church, the chapter considers how the gospel was disseminated by the apostles and their immediate successors, observing with second century Irenaeus that the churches at that time were remarkably united in their interpretation of the gospel – an interpretation that many Christians today would scarcely recognize.

CHAPTER 6 – CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL

The mystery of evil and the role and ignominious destiny of human defaulters from the eluded Universal Covenant. These are individuals that Jesus, Paul and John refer to as “children of the devil”. They may be defined as those devoid of love, truth or conscience.

CHAPTER 7 – THE THEODICY

Why a God Scripture defines as Love personified permits the continuance of evil and the suffering that results from it; a key to the solution being Christ’s earthly experience (Heb2:10). It was a prelude to His glorious inheritance – and that of His faithful followers.

A reference to THE Little Book of revelation which I believe pertains to the same subject matter as my own

Obtain FREE PDF of the Little Book of Providence HERE

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THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

Paul writing about the righteousness of God

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might BECOME the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor5:21)

I have highlighted “become” (Greek: γίνομαι) because it is one of several indicators that Paul does not mean what many understand him to mean – that the Christian receives God’s own righteousness in Christ in exchange for His act of atonement for human sin. If Paul meant that, he is more likely to  express the matter in terms of possessing God’s righteousness. As a first step, observe how the phrase δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ is utilized elsewhere in the New Testament, especially by Paul:

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Rom1:17 For in (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from Faith to faith; as it is written: “But the righteous one will live by faith.”

Rom3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?

Rom3:21,22 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed, witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. 22  It is the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction

Rom10:3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God

James1:20 A man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.

2Pet1:1 To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ

[The above translations can be affirmed HERE (NASB) except Rom3:22 where NASB has “faith in Jesus Christ” whereas the Greek reads “faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ”

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Is there a particular phrase or meaning to “righteousness of God” that works in each case? Here is one: “the righteousness of which God approves” except where the righteousness referred to is unambiguously subjective (i.e. pertaining to God rather than the believer) such as Rom3:5 and 2Pet1:1. In these cases it can pertain to God’s righteous judgement (Romans) or His saving activity in Christ (2Pet). In our featured text (2Cor5:21) where the believer becomes the righteousness of God, the Christian certainly possesses a righteousness of which God approves (through their faith in Christ). But there is also the subjective sense in which the Christian becomes God’s righteousness by acting out His saving purposes in the world. That includes what Paul has just been writing about in the previous verse regarding becoming ambassadors for Christ, seeking on Christ’s behalf to reconcile the world to God.

Different contexts – different meanings

So the term can mean different things in different contexts, but what I am saying that it can never mean is that the believer (or anybody) comes to possess God or Christ’s personal justice. That would make a nonsense of much of the rest of the New Testament teaching especially that of Christ Himself. But also that of Paul and his emphasis on the essentiality (not merely the desirability) of moral rectitude. In particular “putting to death the deeds of the body” in order to obtain eternal life (Rom8:13). He also describes God’s thoroughly intelligible justice in Romans chapter 2 where he writes:

God will render to every man according to his works:To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath.Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that does what is evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that does what is good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile  (Rom2:6-10).

This is Paul’s definitive passage on final judgement and it indicates people are to be judged on the basis of what they have done, not what Christ has done on their behalf (likewise Jesus in Mt25:31-46). However, as  considered in a recent post, because of what Christ has done on their behalf, no one (Christian or otherwise) is to be judged against the perfect standards of God’s Law, which itself has been nailed to the Cross along with human sin (Col2:14). Nevertheless (indeed one might say consequentially), all who shall finally be accepted by God must have fulfilled God’s Law (Rom2:13-15), the heart and summary of which is love for neighbour (Gal5:14). Why? – because they can, not to the letter of the law but in accordance with its spirit/heart/intention. Neither is such a fulfilment of God’s law required to be perfect in execution (nor can it be), simply that their actions are motivated by faith. As explained in the previous post, that is either faith towards Christ Himself (in the case of those to whom the Father has revealed Him – Jn6:44), or it is a response to the Light He has provided to every man’s conscience (cf. Jn1:9KJV; Rom2:15). For as I also demonstrated from Paul’s teaching, a positive response to conscience is itself an act of faith (Rom14:23 – the lack of faith in this case pertaining to defying the dictates of conscience concerning what is eaten, not to religious faith).

The objective righteousness of God

This principle is more clearly demonstrated in the M25 passage (where religious faith is neither mentioned nor implied). Indeed, no other interpretation works if Jesus’ teaching is to be reconciled with Paul’s on a matter that could hardly be more important – the basis upon which a person is justified before God. If Jesus and Paul’s teaching on that subject cannot be reconciled, we are in dire trouble – but it can be and has been. Indeed, the understanding of faith I am presenting, defined in an earlier post as a God-given “virtuous quality that furnishes a guiding principle resulting in endeavour”, works (i.e. functions coherently) throughout the Bible. And it applies not just to those within the Covenant of Promise (Gal4:28) but all who respond positively to the light of Christ in the conscience. For it is that innate spiritual faculty which will have motivated the Mt25 “sheep” to act compassionately towards their fellows, unwittingly serving the Son of Man Himself in the process (v40).

As for the Christian, God wishes to have a relationship with them – or rather the people they become through their relationship with Christ. That is not to “receive His righteousness” in any forensic sense, rather Christ’s righteousness is imparted as a person becomes ever more conformed to His Master’s image through progressive sanctification (Rom8:29). Likewise, Christ’s wisdom could only ever be imparted not imputed, yet those advocating “alien righteousness” try to utilize 1Cor1:30 for that purpose where it states that Christ has become for us righteousness and wisdom. The whole concept is absurd when one thinks carefully about it, for our righteousness or lack of it is ultimately what we are. God already relates to His Son – He wishes in due course to relate more intimately to us, albeit in a glorified body, just as Jesus did with His disciples whilst both were in mortal flesh. As Jesus had to remind Philip, even whilst in human flesh the Saviour perfectly reflected His Father’s nature and attitudes (Jn14:9). [It is worth thinking through the implications of this in terms of future divine-human relationships].

Personal righteousness through the aeons

In terms of eternity, the problem will be resolved by the aforementioned glorified body replacing that which had been the source of our problem with sin. That was Paul’s “body of this death” – the consequence of the Fall. In the meantime, as Jesus told His disciples, “You are clean through the word I have spoken to you” (Jn15:3). Communing with Christ, encountering Him in sacrament (Jn6:56) and paying heed to His teaching is what fits the believer for a relationship with God even whilst in mortal flesh – with the prospect of almost unspeakable glories to follow, once Christian salvation has achieved its apotheosis – not the repose of the soul in heaven but the redemption of the body (Rom8:23; Rev3:21 & 19:7).

The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a seven-part synopsis of the bible

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A NEW CREATION (2Cor5)

The Christian - a new creation in Christ

 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might BECOME the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor5:17-21)

A key observation from my last post was that whenever Paul refers to Christ’s death on the cross, he speaks of Christ dying for sin, in fact that He became sin. Clearly it is for the benefit of sinners, but Christ is not presented as a representative sinner (which might more lend itself to the idea of substitutionary or limited atonement), rather He represented sin itself: He “became sin” (2Cor5:21) and “gave Himself for our sin” (Gal1:4).

Likewise, Peter: “He suffered once for sins (1Pet3:18)” or as foretold in Isaiah: the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him (Is53:6). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (v19), not just the people whom God had chosen for Christ (“those whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me – Jn17:6). The atonement was for the sin of the world, not a particular party of sinners, albeit a particular party of sinners benefit from it in ways that others do not – by participating in Christ’s resurrected Life by which they can “be saved” (Rom5:10).

So, everything is hunky-dory for everyone then? By no means – “As Christ’s ambassadors, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (v20). Why? – because those who are outside Christ are currently alienated from the Life of God. They may have been excused for falling short of what as a result of the Fall becomes the impossible demand to keep God’s Law to the letter, but they will have not been cleansed from their sin. The unsaved are not empowered by the Holy Spirit and an indwelling Christ to live the kind of life that is pleasing to God; rather His anger against their sinful activity has been propitiated (1Jn2:2). They do not have access to the means of grace required to be holy so as to “inherit the blessings of those who are being sanctified” (Acts26:18). Neither shall they be delivered (raptured) prior to the approaching awesome Day of the Lord when those the bible defines as the children of the devil are to be ignominiously removed (Mt24:40-41; Mt13:49; 1Jn3:10). [Note from the Matthew references that it is only God’s elect who are to be raptured, for Christ shall be coming with His saints to judge the rest of world and sort the wheat from the chaff / the sheep from the goats (1Thes3:13)].

As I have also been explaining (Paul had already had done so but no one appears to have listened), human sin derives from the procreated intellectual vessel temporarily inhabited by the God-given soul, not the soul itself, being the spiritual essence of our true, eternal self (Rom7:20-23; cf. 1Thes4:4). The sinful vessel the soul inhabits can nevertheless damage the soul (1Pet2:11: Rom7:24; Eccles12:7) and such damage can potentially be irreparable (Mt16:26). So whilst Paul’s “body of this death” can and will be replaced by a resurrection body, repairing or purging the soul (being the person we truly are or have become at the end of our life) cannot be an entirely forensic matter. Pardon for sin is one thing, cleansing and rectifying its effects quite another.  Potentially more drastic post-mortem action shall be required for some, and in the worst cases shall be of no avail, merely acting as retributional punishment. “For everyone is to be salted with fire, whilst every sacrifice shall be salted with salt [note 1]. Salt is good, but if the salt has entirely lost its saltiness, how shall it then be seasoned? Be sure you have salt in yourselves” (Mk9:49-50).

Thanks to the Atonement, where not only universal sin but the “the handwriting of the ordinances that were against us and were hostile to us” were nailed to the cross (Col2:14), no one is to be punished for what is innately impossible for them to achieve – perfectly keeping the letter of God’s Law or responding to a gospel that has either been misrepresented or in the case of many has not been heard at all. Yet everyone is required to keep the spirit of God’s law by faith, a law which Paul summarizes in one word: “to LOVE your neighbour as yourself” (Gal5:14). As just indicated, even that cannot be achieved with anything like perfection so that is where “faith” comes in. For truly, anyone who loves at all has demonstrated a measure of faith and fulfilled the spirit of the Law (Rom13:8&10).

The one cannot exist without the other. Love is the efflux of faith, faith must be present for that love to flow out from it; love and faith being quite inseparable, faith being the agent of love and love being the product of faith. That is why there are three human qualities that shall endure: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love (1Cor13:13). As Paul also wrote – in Christ, what matters is not circumcision and the like (works of the Law) but faith working through love (πίστις δι’ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη – Gal5:6).

Did I say a human quality? Correction: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God for God is love” (1Jn4:7). Is it any surprise that God delights in and rewards the practice of human love? Jesus’ teaching on final judgement in Mt25 confirms what love (Greek: ἀγάπη) really is – in this context it has nothing to do with romance or the act of delighting in something or someone (a devil can do that) but is compassion and empathy for the needs of one’s fellows. The “sheep” who practiced it were justified and accepted into God’s Kingdom – but not by the actions themselves. That would have been justification by works, which many reluctantly conclude that passage to be teaching. That is because they don’t understand the nature of justifying faith. The “sheep” were justified by the faith that had motivated their acts of kindness.

Faith is digital – it is either demonstrably present or entirely absent whereas “works” are analogue, so worryingly uncertain. Are they good enough, pure enough, consistent enough, frequent enough?  In Paul’s language, works are a wage, faith is a gift of God – all we have to do is exercise it. I described faith in an earlier post as “a virtuous quality that furnishes a guiding principle resulting in endeavour”. If you prefer to stick with biblical definitions, refer to Hebrews chapter 11.

Faith is derived from God and provided by God so can be nothing to boast about. On the contrary, the reason God condescends to justify us by faith is because our standard and consistency of good works simply wouldn’t hack it – in other words it is an act of grace on God’s part to justify us simply for being rightly motivated. I know it appears absurdly generous but that is what God is like towards everyone, and the point is it demonstrates that someone is of God and not a child of the devil (1Jn3:10-12). Defined in such way, faith can never be apart from works: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jam2:26).

Paul would wholeheartedly agree with James; not so Luther, who defined faith as “a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it”. That is simply a lie (read carefully through the evangelism in Acts; that identifies what is required for salvation and what is not). Irksome as it is for many, it is necessary (in view of Mt24:14) to show that every distinctive feature of Luther’s theology was in error. That largely stemmed from his understanding of the nature of justifying faith. For “justification by faith” was not an innovation of Paul’s. It has applied throughout the ages: “For as it is written, “the just shall live by faith” (Rom1:17; Hab2:4).

The Christian – a new creation in Christ

The object of faith in terms of gospel salvation is not in question – it is Christ and Him crucified. But saving faith is assuredly not an act of “trusting that God has favoured you with his grace” or anything like it; it is obedience to the Faith (Acts15:9 strictly Greek – note 2). As can be demonstrated by examining every sermon in  Acts, it starts with baptism, being “that which saves you, not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the appeal of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pet3:21). It is again necessary to be wary of the translations, for some such as the NASB try to make it out to be an appeal for a good conscience rather than the appeal of a good conscience, which is quite different: (συνειδήσεως (Genitive) ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα).

Christ’s death pardons whilst participation in His Life saves (Rom5:10). Note also how the spiritual faculty of conscience has a role in Christian conversion. And it is  paramount in the forensic justification of those outside the covenant of promise, determining who is of God and who is not (1Jn3:12; Gen4:7KJV). For everything that is not of faith is sin (Rom14:23). But as previously explained, the “faith” in that context did not pertain to believing in Christ or ascertaining the truth but the dictates of conscience, being a sufficient object of faith for justification within the universal covenant. However, salvation requires that one be a new creation in Christ (v17) such that one becomes the righteousness of God in Him (final verse/next post).

NOTE 1 – The latter phrase omitted from some manuscripts/bible versions – the “sacrifices” to be salted with salt must be referring to the elect – they have already gone through the sanctifying “fire” (Rom8:17) as have the many who (like Lazarus) have suffered in this life (Lk16:25). This necessary process (which Christ Himself endured, mainly for us but also for His own perfection – Heb2:10) will be better understood and accepted when the wondrous vista of what lies ahead in the ages to come is further revealed (1Cor2:9). It should also be evident from another passage in which Jesus refers to hell that he could hardly be referring to eternal punishment: “But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with their brother without a cause will be liable to judgement; and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca! [vain fellow] shall be in danger of the Sanhedrin; but whoever shall say Moros! [idiot or moron] shall be in DANGER OF HELL FIRE” [Mt5:22]. The idea that calling one’s brother vain, a Jew may still go on to enjoy eternal bliss after a hearing with the Sanhedrin, whereas calling one’s brother stupid or foolish may result in eternal torment is clearly absurd. Given the gradation of insults outlined in the passage and the fact that Jesus is adamant about the reality of punitive fire, it is indicating the need for final purification for those who grossly insult and belittle a fellow Jew. Even where hell or punishment is specified to be eternal in the Latin Vulgate or English translations, the Greek text reads “aionian”, referring to an age – and there are to be numerous ages.

NOTE 2 – Acts15:9: what was written was not “He purified their hearts by faith” but “their hearts having been purified by the Faith” [τῇ πίστει καθαρίσας τὰς καρδίας αὐτῶν]. If you check through Acts and also Paul’s epistles you will see that whenever the definite article precedes “faith”, it is always referring to “the Faith”, i.e. the Christian or Jewish Faith rather than faith as a quality or possession. What Peter was reported as saying in Acts 15 is that as a result of believing Gentiles being given the Holy Spirit, God made no distinction between their hearts and those of believing Jews – both had been purified through the spiritual provisions of the Faith (cf. 1Pet3:21; Jn6:53-57)

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The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a seven-part synopsis of the bible

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LIMITED ATONEMENT?

Scripture affirms Christ died FOR SIN which does not fit the idea of limited atonement
The iniquity OF US ALL was laid upon Him

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade people, but we are well known to God; and I hope that we are also well known in your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in the heart13 For if we have lost our minds, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 AND HE DIED FOR ALL SO THAT THOSE WHO LIVE WOULD NO LONGER LIVE FOR THEMSELVES but for Him who died and rose on their behalf (2Cor5:11-15)

Limited empowerment

Paul does not teach limited atonement (aka particular redemption) as such, albeit its benefits do not apply equally to all. But in terms of scope, Paul is insistent and consistent: all were dead so the One died for all and atoned for all (v14). However, “He died for all… that those which live…”. He died for all but not all shall “live”. For what is limited is those who will be delivered from the guilt AND POWER of sin by coming to participate in Christ’s resurrected LIFE (Rom5:10; Jn6:53).

Note also from these verses that “those that live should no longer live for themselves but for Christ”. It is and always has been a minority who no longer harbour worldly ambitions for themselves and their families but have given their lives over to Christ: “For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Mt16:25). However, the Cross of Christ has a vastly broader, indeed universal significance:  “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Christ, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself whether things on earth or things in the heavens, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col1:19-20). Such a statement cannot possibly be expounded in a single post, pertaining as it does to the raison d’être for the universe!

The Cross of Christ – the central event of history

Paul’s statement does affirm that those such as Luther who regard the cross of Christ as the central event within the history of the universe are right to do so. The issue is how the fruits of Christ’s Passion avail for the individual, given that Paul and the bible as a whole make it clear that no one is to be exempted from final rebuke, potential punishment as well as rewards for how they have lived their lives (cf. recent post on the Judgement Seat of Christ together with Rom2:6-10; Mt13:49; Mt16:27 Mt25:31-46; Heb6:4-8 and the like). So, restricting ourselves within this post to the scope of the atonement:

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Christ gave Himself as a ransom FOR ALL; (a fact) to be testified in due time” (1Tim2:6)

For He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for THOSE OF THE WHOLE WORLD (1Jn2:2).

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This is supported by the passage under consideration where Paul writes that Christ was MADE sin for us [Greek: ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν – v21]. If Christ was made or became sin, it must be human sin in its totality. It cannot be an act of substitutionary atonement for select individuals or groupings.

The letter of God’s Law disannulled at Calvary

For there is something else that was nailed to the cross apart from our sin in Christ. “Having blotted out the handwriting of the ordinancies that were against us, that were hostile to us; taking it out of the way and nailing it to the cross” (Col2:14). The letter of God’s laws and decrees set out in Torah, which as fallen human beings we invariably fail to keep, have themselves been nailed to the cross – the benefit of which cannot meaningfully be applied to a specific grouping for their requirements no longer apply for anyone (in letter I say, not in spirit – earlier post).

Think about this also – Col2:14 challenges the starting point of many a sermon; namely that natural man is condemned by his inability to keep the letter of God’s Law. On the contrary, it is the latter (legal requirement) that has been condemned. It has been nailed to the cross with Christ and the sin of the world. So whether I currently know, hope or firmly believe that “Jesus has died for me” is of itself an irrelevance. For universal sin and the legal requirements of God’s Law have both been annulled whether I know it or not.

What is needed for salvation

What does matter is that I am cleansed from sin and empowered to live a holy life. That starts with baptism (Rom6:4); thereafter it is a case of “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have communion one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1Jn1:7; cf. Jn6:54-57; Heb1:3 Greek – see note 1). Clearly, none will pursue such a course unless they believe that Jesus is Christ and has atoned for their sin. But an easy believism counts for nothing and the evangelism that advocates it is worse than useless.

As for sin per se, this is how Scripture presents the matter: He became sin for us (2Cor5:21); He gave Himself for our sin (Gal1:4); Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1Pet2:24); He suffered once for sins (1Pet3:18); the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him (Is53:6). Jesus had come in the likeness of sinful flesh so that all sin in the flesh should be condemned (Rom8:3). Not your sin, not my sin, not His chosen people’s sin – SIN! However, only His chosen people will be set free from the domination and bondage of sin whilst in mortal flesh.

The sense in which Christ’s atonement is limited

For only God’s elect shall share in Christ’s life (Rom5:10). It is by such means of grace that they overcome the encumbrances of Paul’s body of this death (Rom7:24-25). “If the Son shall make you free then you shall be free indeed” (Jn8:36). So for the many, including those living before its historical occurrence (Rom3:25) the benefit of the atonement is expiatory; for the few (proportionately speaking) it is both expiatory and cathartic through sacramental participation. It cleanses from sin’s guilt and power by purifying the soul and uniting it with the life of Christ.

The purpose of the Church

Reflecting on the Heidelberg theses and their supporting statements recently examined, it is not evident to me that Luther understood or at least acknowledged any of the scriptural truths I am briefly outlining in the current paragraph. They pertain to the immediate purpose of salvation and the role of the Church in the world. Namely, that Jesus came to save His own people from their sins, not merely from the punishment for sinning (Mt1:21). I.e. they are to be cleansed from sin, not just the guilt of sin. Christ offered Himself “to ransom us from our faults and purify a people to be His very own, eager to do good works” (Tit2:14).

Through such good works, the Church as the mystical Body of Christ on earth and  God’s instrument of salvation declares His saving intentions for the whole world. That is through its message and personal witness, “abounding in love towards each other and all men (1Thes3:12). Thereby the Church fulfils its commission to “announce the Good News to every creature under heaven” (Col1:23); for when men and women acknowledge the rule of Christ (i.e. obey the gospel) they themselves become faithful stewards; caring for the welfare of all that is set under them, being, for the present, the natural world.

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Notes

Note 1Heb1:3 is mistranslated in many versions, implying that the sins of the believer were purged at Calvary. “Katharismon” (purification or cleansing) is a noun, not a verb. The New International Version more accurately translates the verse as “(Christ) provided purification for sins”. More strictly it is “Christ made a purification for sin”. We must avail ourselves of it – the blood must be applied.

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The LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE: a seven-part synopsis of the bible.

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Related post: A new creation  & The reason Christ gives for His death                          

BOOK OF ENOCH PROPHECY OF DIGITAL PRINTING

The Book of Enoch anticipates 20th century technology

INTRODUCTION

I have reworked and re-issued this blog as the more I think about the prophecies of Enoch, the more they stagger me. Ex-canonical for the reasons stated below yet there is little argument that the Book of Enoch was penned at least 2000 years ago. Yet it effectively envisages digital printing (a 1990s invention), for how else could “books be freely distributed to the righteous” other than via free e-book / pdf downloads? It makes you think – so does Enoch93:8-10 when related to the Church rather than the Temple, keeping in mind my previous few posts and the process in hand.

The Book of Enoch prophecy

The Book of Enoch is ex-canonical scripture that was nevertheless regarded as inspired and a genuine work of the Patriarch by a number of the early Church Fathers such as Clement, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine and Tertullian. This is hardly surprising since it is directly quoted in the New Testament (Jude14,15). Tertullian specifically regarded Enoch as falling within the remit of 2Tim3:16 concerning “all scripture” being inspired and useful. It was excluded from the Old Testament cannon (apart from that formulated by the Coptic Orthodox Church) and for valid reasons; perhaps most significantly there was an unacceptable degree of variation in the manuscript copies available to the early Church councils that determined the composition of the Biblical Canon. Apart from being directly quoted in the Bible, this scripture clarifies some otherwise obscure verses which themselves are quite important and cannot be properly understood by comparing canonical scripture with scripture. None more so than Genesis 6; explaining in great detail the context of vv1-3, necessary for a rounded understanding of God’s nature and modus operandi, together with the respective culpability of the human and celestial agencies that contributed to the Fall and the Flood. The latter was another reason The Book of Enoch was more conclusively rejected by the later Fathers who believed it did not place sufficient emphasis on man’s culpability for those particular cosmic disasters, especially having endorsed Augustine’s austere take on the matter. This extra-biblical literature also clarifies less important but nevertheless intriguing issues such as “the blood that speaks better things than Abel” (Heb12:24), Enoch’s walk with God (in great detail) and the ethnicity of Adam, Eve and their offspring (hinted at in Genesis5:3).

With the aforementioned early fathers, I have no doubt the Book of Enoch is inspired and needs to be consulted in order to aid completion of the biblical jigsaw. In the context of “The Little Book of Providence” it also contains certain prophecies regarding God’s final providential mystery (cf. Rev10:4-7) that might not have remained a mystery had Enoch1 been received within the canon and historically focused upon within the churches.  But there is another reason to believe the Book of Enoch was not intended for the Church throughout its history yet is relevant for today as profitable reading – that is the very opening verse:

 “The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and the righteous who will be living in the day of tribulation when all the wicked and godless are to be removed” (Enoch1 ch1 v1)

And at the end of the Book of Enoch there is a prophecy concerning the book itself and other books:

But when they write down truthfully all my words in their languages, and do not change or diminish anything from my words but write them all down truthfully – all that I first testified concerning them; then I know ANOTHER MYSTERY, that books WILL BE GIVEN to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom. and to them shall the BOOKS BE GIVEN, and they shall believe in them and rejoice over them, and then shall all the righteous who have learnt therefrom all the paths of uprightness be recompensed” (Enoch104:11-13).

The idea of books or scrolls being made widely available for distribution is a concept nowhere to be found in the canon of Scripture and was beyond human envisaging before the invention of the printing press. The Book of Enoch prophecy cannot be referring to the propagation of the Protestant Bible in the Middle Ages, for the Reformers like the Catholic Church did not regard Enoch as canonical, apart from which Enoch’s prophecy pertains to the generation living at the time “when the wicked are  to be removed from the earth” (opening verse) – i.e. the generation that lives to see Christ come again. And as referred to in the introduction the concept of books being freely distributed would practically require digital printing, not available until the 1990s!

“The Little Book of Providence” – a prophetically inspired synopsis of the Bible

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Related post: Enoch explains Gen6

BACK TO 2CORINTHIANS

The Apostle Paul writing

Transitional Statement

The “transition” simply refers to the fact that I am moving back to the main purpose of this website: to go chapter by chapter through the New Testament drawing out evidence to support what has been set out in “The Little Book of Providence”. For the last month or so I have been delving into Luther’s theses that formed the basis of what became known as the Heidelberg Disputation. I believe that self-imposed side-tracking  was itself providential, for a lot of the issues covered in the previous posts were pivotal to the matters raised by Luther. A quarter of the way through that process (thesis#7 of 28) I gave up through exasperation – but not I trust before a point was made. Luther’s insights were often irrational and unsupported by Scripture, especially once the references he cited were examined in context. Also, his repeated appeal in his supporting evidence to the teaching of 5th century Catholic Bishop Augustine was also a pointer to where a number of doctrinal distortions in the Western Church originated. Indeed the mystery of lawlessness goes back further still (2Thes2:7 – Greek) and misinterpreting Paul’s writing was always the catalyst (2Pet3:15-16).

So now I return to the relative rationality of the Apostle Paul. I say “relative”,  for during my 28 years as an Evangelical I was far from alone in making little sense of what the apostle appeared to be writing in Rom2 (vv6-16), Rom7 (vv14-25), Rom8 (vv12-13 and vv19-23), Rom11 (vv11,12,15 &30) – and that’s just Romans! Having converted to Catholicism in 2000, Rom2 may have been resolved but mysteries remained concerning the rest. It was not until the extraordinary spiritual experience I encountered in 2013  resulting in the writing of “The Fellowship of the Secret” – revised and systematized last year to form The Little Book of Providence** that Paul’s writings and Scripture as a whole came to make perfect sense. How that revelation impacts upon scriptural interpretation and the wondrous implications of the new interpretations to divine providence is what this website and posts are all about.

My lack of engagement

It will be evident from my post settings that I presently don’t engage with others. I simply do not have the time and above all the mental resilience to cope with doing so, knowing that what I write will unavoidably disturb many, especially those of my former ilk. Nevertheless, I thank those who “like” or “follow” my Facebook Page (currently 48k+) albeit it is the followers that are the key. For it is the response of those who currently least like what I write that shall collectively determine whether Christ’s prayer for unity can be fulfilled before His return (Jn17:11). Only if such a reaffiliation occurs will it be possible for a coherent witness to be provided to the nations before we all face that awesome event (Mt24:14).

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WORKS OF RIGHTEOUS MORTAL SINS

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The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

 [Luther – Heidelberg Thesis #7 of 28] 

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LUTHER’S SUPPORTING STATEMENT

This is clear from Thesis 4. To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and to adore oneself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear he would not be self-confident, and for this reason he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God. In the second place, it is clear from the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 143:2), “Enter not into judgment with thy servant”, and Ps. 32:5, “I said: I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” etc. But that these are not venial sins is clear because these passages state that confession and repentance are not necessary for venial sins. If, therefore, they are mortal sins and “all the saints intercede for them”, as it is stated in the same place, then the works of the saints are mortal sins. But the works of the saints are good works, wherefore they are meritorious for them only through the fear of their humble confession. In the third place, it is clear from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses” (Matt. 6:12). This is a prayer of the saints, therefore those trespasses are good works for which they pray. But that these are mortal sins is clear from the following verse, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). Note that these trespasses are such that, if unforgiven, they would condemn them, unless they pray this prayer sincerely and forgive others. In the fourth place, it is clear from Rev. 21:27, “Nothing unclean shall enter into it” (the kingdom of heaven). But everything that hinders entrance into the kingdom of heaven is mortal sin (or it would be necessary to interpret the concept of “mortal sin” in another way). Venial sin, however, hinders because it makes the soul unclean and has no place in the kingdom of heaven.

MY COMMENTS on “Works of the righteous mortal sins unless feared as such”

🤷‍♂️ I think it’s time to get back to Corinthians.

The context of these Heidelberg posts – The Little Book of Providence

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THE RIGHTEOUS SIN IN DOING GOOD

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 The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless. [Luther – Heidelberg Thesis #6 of 28] 

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LUTHER’S SUPPORTING STATEMENT (my highlighting)

In Eccles. 7:20, we read, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” In this connection, however, SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS MAN INDEED SINS, BUT NOT WHEN HE DOES GOOD. THEY MAY BE REFUTED in the following manner: If that is what this verse wants to say, why waste so many words? Or does the Holy Spirit like to indulge in loquacious and foolish babble? For this meaning would then be adequately expressed by the following: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does not sin.” Why does he add “who does good,” as if another person were righteous who did evil? For no one except a righteous man does good. Where, however, he speaks of sins outside the realm of good works he speaks thus (Prov. 24:16), “The righteous man falls seven times a day.” Here he does not say: A righteous man falls seven times a day when he does good. This is a comparison: If someone cuts with a rusty and rough hatchet, even though the worker is a good craftsman, the hatchet leaves bad, jagged, and ugly gashes. So it is when God works through us.

MY COMMENTS ON THE RIGHTEOUS SIN IN DOING GOOD

Luther has had to resort to Ecclesiastes for his main supporting narrative here, a book concerning the vanity of life. A few verses earlier its writer (probably Solomon) advised: “Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? (v17 God’s Word Translation). Yet it is true that those God regards as righteous are never entirely free of sin. What is not the case is that when the righteous do what is right, God regards them as sinning. For as demonstrated in the previous posts, it is everything that is not of faith that is sin (Rom14:14-23) – the context of that passage not being religious faith but whether one is being faithful to the dictates of conscience. And when the righteous do good, they do so in accordance with the promptings of conscience; delighting in their inner man (i.e. their spirit) in fulfilling God’s Law focussed as it is on love for neighbour. If religious they also seek to be faithful in their service to God -though Paul doesn’t mention that here, just love for neighbour (Rom7:22; Gal5:14).

One of the more emphatic examples of the latter in the New Testament are John the Baptist’s parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth. Luke reported that “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly (Lk1:6). In terms of the unconverted, we have the example of Centurion Cornelius. He and his household were described as devout, God-fearing, generous and prayerful.  This Gentile non-Christian’s good works and prayers had been acknowledged by God (Acts10:4). The case of Cornelius is the clearest example in the New Testament of a non-Christian who feared God, acted virtuously, and was accepted in God’s sight (Acts10:35).

If you have been following these posts it should be obvious by now that Luther’s paradoxical theses oppose sound reason and the teaching of Christ. The Latter sometimes went beyond reason (e.g. love your enemies) but never against it. For, after all, He is the incarnate Logos – the Word of God and principle of divine reason. But I am in the process of showing that Luther also seriously misunderstood Paul, as to a lesser extent did Augustine. Especially so in the areas of God’s Law, natural law (innate spiritual faculties), free will and the economy of grace. Both those theological collossi failed to distinguish between spirit (as a component of man), the spirit as opposed to letter of the Law and the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul. Most crucially for Luther and his followers is their failure to recognize that the Holy Spirit is the Prompter and Facilitator but not the direct Agent in a vital component of Christian salvation – mortifying the deeds of the body so as to fulfil the spirit of God’s Law and be raised to eternal Life (Rom8 vv4&13). That requires the cooperation and self-discipline of believers themselves.

Both in this example and throughout Paul’s writings, my interpretation of this key issue of whether the apostle is referring to “spirit” (i.e. the human’s spirit referred to in Rom1:9; Rom8:16; 1Thes5:23; Heb4:12) or “Spirit” (Holy Spirit) always agrees with the casing of πνεῦμα/Πνεῦμα as it appears in the Textus Receptus [note 1], whereas that is rarely the case in Protestant translations. This can be verified in “Biblehub” Greek interlinear text – ignore the English translation “Spirit” or “spirit”, observe the Greek, whether it is πνεῦμα or Πνεῦμα. Romans chapters 7 and 8 are two key chapters. This can be summarized in two consecutive verses (Rom8:13-14). Again, ignore the Protestant translator’s English, observe the Textus Receptus Greek: The Holy Spirit leads (Πνεύματι v14); but it is our spirit that is actively involved in putting to death the deeds of the body (πνεύματι v13).

Note 1: It should be pointed out that the original New Testament text was written entirely in capital letters with no spaces or punctuation. So, whether the Greek word for spirit was a capital or lower case Pi is a scribe-based rather than genuinely textually based issue. But the point is that in all cases my interpretation is in line with the original Greek of the Received Text relied upon by the Protestant Reformers in their vernacular translations with regard to whether Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit, the human spirit or in some cases the spirit in the sense of fulfilling an aim or purpose (i.e. the spirit of the law).

THE LITTLE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE:

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A book exploring the mystery of divine providence