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Note of the Day – November 22

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This is the second of three notes on 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; yesterday’s note covered verses 1-6, today will focus on vv. 7-11, with special attention paid to verse 11.

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 [verse 11]

In this section, Paul takes a midrashic interpretive approach to Exodus 34:29-35, which describes Moses’ return from Mount Sinai carrying the two tablets of the Covenant. In v. 29-30 it is narrated that the skin of Moses’ face shone with an aura, indicating that he had been in the presence of God and that YHWH had spoken with him. Once Moses communicated to the people what had been revealed to him, he put a veil or curtain/covering (hw#s=m^, LXX ka/lumma) over his face (v. 33); this was repeated each time Moses received communication in the presence of YHWH (vv. 34-35). Paul draws upon this narrative and uses it as a way to compare and contrast the old and new covenants, centered on the idea of “glory” (do/ca). In Greek, the word do/ca has the basic meaning of “what one thinks” about something, how it is considered or regarded, often in the (positive) sense of “reputation, renown, honor, esteem, dignity”, etc. It can also carry the more objective meaning “appearance”, including various visual phenomena, especially involving light, brightness, and so forth. It can be applied to God in both primary senses—(1) as the esteem and honor which is (to be) accorded to him, and (2) the brightness and visual phenomena which is manifested by his presence. Do/ca is frequently used to render dobK* (lit. “weight”) in Hebrew, a word which has a similar semantic range, especially when associated with YHWH.

In 2 Cor 3:7-11, Paul makes use of a series of qal wa-homer arguments—a traditional (Jewish) principle of interpretation, which argues from the lesser to the greater: if something is true in this (lesser) case, then how much more is it to be so regarded in the (greater) case. According to this mode of argument (a fortiori), Paul is working from the basic assumption that the new covenant is superior to the old covenant which God established with Israel at Sinai. The first two arguments (in vv. 7-9) involve the diakoni/a (“service, ministry”), that is, the administration of the covenant—in the case of the old covenant this began with Moses (and Aaron) and continued through the established priesthood and ritual apparatus (Temple, sacrificial offerings, purity regulations, etc), as well as through teaching and tradition. Note the contrast:

  • Vv. 7-8: service/ministry of death [h( diakoni/a tou= qana/tou]
    • service/ministry of the Spirit [h( diakoni/a tou= pneu/mato$]
  • Vers. 9: service/ministry of judgment against [h( diakoni/a th=$ katakri/sew$]
    • service/ministry of justice/righteousness [h( diakoni/a th=$ dikaiosu/nh$]

The characterization of the old covenant as “the ministry of death” is striking; for the uniquely Pauline view on the relationship between the Law, sin and death, read carefully Romans 5-7 (cf. the articles on 5:12-21 and 7:7-25), and note also in Gal 3:10-14, 19-22; 1 Cor 15:56.

In vv. 7-8, the qal wa-homer argument is:

“If the ministry of death came to be in (such) esteem [do/ca]… how will the ministry of the Spirit not (even) more be in esteem?”

Similarly, in verse 9:

“If (there was) esteem in the ministry of judgment against (us), how (much) more is the ministry of justice/righteousness over (and above this) in esteem?”

I have translated do/ca here as “esteem” (i.e. honor, dignity, grandeur, etc); more commonly it is rendered “glory” (cf. above).

As indicated above, the “glory” of the old covenant was marked by the shining of Moses’ face, as Paul describes in v. 7, mentioning both: (a) the stone tablets on which the commands of the Law had been written, and (b) that the Israelites were not able to gaze directly at the glory in Moses’ face. This last detail is implied as the reason that the veil (ka/lumma) was introduced. The superiority of the new covenant is marked by use of the comparative/superlative adverb ma=llon (“more, greater”) and the verb perisseu/w (“to have [in excess] over [and above]”). This is specified even more precisely in verse 10:

“For (indeed) the (thing) having come to be esteemed (now) has been made of no esteem, in this part [i.e. in this respect]—because of the overcasting glory/esteem”

The old covenant came to have glory/esteem (perf. of the verb doca/zw), but now it has come to have no glory/esteem (again, with the perfect of doca/zw). It is hard to imagine a more antinomian statement by Paul—the old covenant, with its written Law, now has no glory. However, he makes clear that this is true only in one respect: because the glory of the new covenant goes so far beyond it (the verb u(perba/llw means to throw or cast something over/beyond, i.e. past a particular distance or measure). This is an important principle for understanding Paul’s apparently negative statements regarding the Law—its binding force has come to an end because of Christ. He says much the same thing, in a more personalized context, in Philippians 3:7-11: all that was of value in his prior religious life (under the Law and the old covenant) he now regards as mere rubbish in comparison with Christ. To neglect or ignore this overwhelming Christocentric emphasis leaves the commentator with no hope of properly understanding Paul’s thought.

If there was any doubt that, in his mind, the old covenant has come to an end, he makes this clear in verse 11:

“For if the (thing) being made inactive/ineffective (was) through glory, how (much) more (is) the (thing) remaining in glory?”

The first verb is katarge/w, literally to “make (something) cease working”, i.e. render inactive, ineffective, often in the technical (legal) sense of “nullify, invalidate, make void”, etc. This word appears already at the end of verse 7 (and will be used again in vv. 13-14); for its use by Paul elsewhere (with regard to the Law), see Rom 3:31; 4:14; 7:2, 6; Gal 3:17; 5:4, 11; and also Eph 2:15. The second verb is me/nw, “remain (in place), abide”. The contrast is clear enough: the old covenant ceases to be in effect, the new covenant remains and lasts; one is temporary, the other permanent. There is also an interesting distinction in the use of prepositions:

  • the old covenant was (or came) through glory [dia\ do/ch$]
  • the new covenant is (and remains) in glory [e)n do/ch|]

The precise meaning of dia/ is uncertain; it could be instrumental (“by means of glory, accompanied by glory”), or could indicate purpose (“because of glory”). Both are possible, but the context of verse 10 suggests the latter—if so, then the idea might be that the glory of the old covenant is ultimately fulfilled in the glory of the new. This will be discussed further when we turn to examine verses 12-18 in the next note.

NoteOfDay_August30

Note of the Day – November 21

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This is the first of three notes on 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, which I am dividing into three portions:

  • 2 Cor 3:1-6, focusing on verse 6
  • 2 Cor 3:7-11, focusing primarily on verse 11, and
  • 2 Cor 3:12-18, with emphasis on the saying in verse 17

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 [verse 6]

Throughout chapters 1-7, Paul is dealing primarily with his role as an apostle and, in particular, with his relationship to the believers in Corinth. At various points there are suggestions of opposition to Paul, including the situation referenced in 2:1-11, regarding which he had sent an earlier “painful letter” (vv. 5, 9). Specific (but unidentified) opponents are addressed far more directly (and harshly) in chapters 10-13. The context of chs. 10-13 suggests that at least some of these opponents are Jewish Christians (11:21ff), as in Galatians (cf. also Phil 3:2ff and Col 2:11ff, 16-18), and this may inform the rhetorical approach in 2 Cor 3 as well.

The theme in verse 1-6 involves “letters of commendation”; the word sustatiko/$ is derived from suni/sthmi/sunista/w (“stand [together] with”), in the sense of placing things together (and presenting them) in front of someone. As a technical term, it came to be applied to letters a person carried, introducing him/her to another group or in a place where he/she was not known. In the ancient world, which lacked modern-day high-speed communication, such practice was necessary to establish a person’s identity and credentials; it also could serve as a source of authority and legitimacy. Naturally enough, the more impressive or prestigious the letter of recommendation, the more influence it provided; even today, the right letter of recommendation still carries tremendous weight for prospective employers, and so forth. It is possible that Paul’s opponents included visiting “apostles” who possessed such letters and credentials. In vv. 1-6, he argues that neither he nor his colleagues require written letters recommending them to the believers of Corinth, since they are already well known—that is to say, this written authentication is already there in the hearts of the believers, having been written by the very Spirit of God (v. 4). He is referring primarily to the work of preaching the Gospel, which the Corinthian believers accepted; as a result they themselves become “the epistle of Christ”, under the service/ministry of Paul and his fellow missionaries.

It is interesting the way that this image leads Paul so readily to the dualistic juxtaposition contrasting the old and new covenants, in terms of “the written (word/letter) [to\ gra/mma]” and “the Spirit [to\ pneu=ma]”. See how this contrast in made, twice, in vv. 1-3 and 4-6:

  • Commendatory letters for apostles—believers under their ministry
    • written in the heart
      • contrast with being written in tablets of stone (v. 3)
  • Confidence for apostles before God—ministers of a new covenant
    • of the Spirit
      • contrast with the written word (v. 6)

When examining verses 7-11, it will be necessary to consider just why Paul makes this connection here between his apostolic ministry and the old covenant established with Israel. For the time being, we should focus upon the formulation in verse 6, where, after identifying himself (and his colleagues) as “servants/ministers of a new covenant“, Paul adds:

“…not of (the) written (word), but of (the) Spirit; for the written (word) kills off, but the Spirit makes alive”

To someone unfamiliar with Galatians and Romans, this would be a striking declaration, especially his statement that the “written (word) kills”—that is, the Law, specifically in its written form, brings death. Paul explains and expounds this idea in Romans 5-7 (note, in particular, Rom 7:7ff); even so, it must have been rather shocking to believers at the time—as it still is for many today. For the particular identification of the Law with the written word (gra/mma), see Rom 2:27, 29; 7:6, and note also Col 2:14. In Rom 2:27-29 and 7:6 there is the same contrast between the Spirit and the written word.

How are we to understand this stark distinction between the written word and the Spirit? On the surface, it would seem to raise question as to the authority and role of Scripture itself. But one must be cautious about proceeding in this direction; Paul is referring primarily to the written record of the Law (in the Pentateuch), which is also, secondarily, expounded and declared in the Prophets (and Psalms)—this accords squarely with Jewish and early Christian tradition. It is noteworthy how rarely Paul cites the Old Testament Scriptures for the purpose of instruction; his usage is limited mainly to (prophetic) support of the Gospel—and his particular exposition and application of the Gospel. To this must be added his remarkable teaching regarding the fundamental purpose of the Law—which is to bring knowledge and awareness of sin (Rom 3:20), that is to say, it makes fully manifest the reality that human beings are enslaved under the power of sin (Gal 3:19ff, also Rom 7:7ff). Without a recognition of God’s saving work in Christ, even those scrupulously observing the commands of the Law (and studying Scripture) remain fully in bondage under sin. In this sense, the Law leads to death, not life (Rom 7:9-11ff). This Paul will explain again in more detail, continuing with verses 7-11, which I will discuss in the next daily note.

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Note of the Day – November 15

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Romans 10:4

In the previous daily note, I discussed the immediate context of verses 1-3 (cf. also the article on Rom 9-11); today it remains to examine verse 4 in detail.

“For (the) Anointed {Christ} (is the) te/lo$ of (the) Law unto justice/righteousness for every (one) th(at is) trusting.”

Let us look at each element of this verse:

te/lo$ (“end”)—this word, which I left untranslated above, is in the first (emphatic) position; it has the fundamental meaning “completion, finish”, more commonly translated simply as “end”. The problem with rendering it as “end” is that this can be understood at least two ways: (1) as a termination, or (temporally) as the limit of a term, and (2) as a goal or purpose. Before discussing how Paul intends it to be understood in context here, I will proceed with the remainder of the verse.

ga\r (“for”)—this is a coordinating particle, connecting with what has come before (vv. 1-3) and serving to explain it.

no/mou (“of the Law”)—Paul normally uses no/mo$ (“law”) in reference to the Old Testament Law (Torah), though occasionally, particularly in Romans, he uses it in the wider sense of the “Law of God”; here, however, he specifically means the Old Testament Law.

Xristo/$ (“[the] Anointed”)—the regular shorthand title for Jesus (Christ), serving virtually as a proper name already in early Christian usage. A verb has to be supplied in English—”Christ (is) the end of the Law”—to fill out the predication. For the sense in which Christ is “the end of the Law”, see below.

ei)$ dikaiosu/nhn (“unto justice/righteousness”)—the preposition here (ei)$, “into/unto”) indicates purpose or end result; in English, it is typically translated “for justice/righteousness”. The noun dikaiosu/nh, used frequently by Paul in Romans, along with the verb dikaio/w, the adjective di/kaio$ and the related noun dikai/wma, indicates fundamentally the “just-ness” and “right-ness” of God, which is expressed both in the Law, and, more importantly, manifest in the person and work of Christ. For more on the meaning and translation of the dik-/dikaio- word-group, see the article on Justification and throughout the series on Paul’s View of the Law (in Galatians and Romans).

panti/ (“for all/every [one]”)—Paul often gives special significance to pa=$ (“all, every”), as a key word for the universal scope of the Gospel message—it is for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. The dative case here could be rendered “for all” or “to all”.

tw=| pisteu/onti (“the [one] trusting”)—the participle (of the verb pisteu/w, “trust”) is a regular way for Paul to refer to believers in Christ. In Romans and Galatians, Paul regularly contrasts trust (pi/sti$) in Christ with observance of the Torah (no/mo$, “the Law”, or “works [e&rga] of the Law”). While the full force and significance of this contrast is largely lost today, it is vital to an understanding of Paul’s thought, especially in Galatians and Romans. For more on this, see below.

Two essential interpretive questions remain to be addressed:

  1. What does Paul mean by te/lo$ (“end”) in this verse?
  2. What exactly does it mean to say that Christ is the “end of the Law”?

1. As indicated above, there are two main possibilities for te/lo$ here:

  • as a termination—emphasizing that the Law has ceased to be in force and is no longer binding
  • as a goal or purpose—emphasizing that the Law ultimately points and leads to Christ, whether or not one considers the Law in any way to be still in force

These, of course, are hardly incompatible, since, to use Paul’s regular metaphor of the race, upon reaching the goal, the race comes to an end. However, there are several factors which do need to be considered:

  • In 1 Cor 1:8; 10:12; 15:24, and (probably) also 1 Thess 2:16, Paul uses it in the sense of termination, of a cessation for the current Age; while in Rom 6:21-22; 2 Cor 11:15 and Phil 3:19, it similarly relates to a person’s fate at the end of the Age. In 2 Cor 1:13, the expression e%w$ te/lou$ (“until completion”) probably means “completely, fully”. Overall, he does not seem to use te/lo$ in the sense of an end goal or purpose.
  • In the only instances where he may refer to te/lo$ as a goal or purpose—2 Cor 3:13 and (possibly) 2 Thess 2:16—Paul uses the preposition ei)$ (ei)$ to\ te/lo$, “unto the end/completion [of]”). Here in Rom 10:4, ei)$ (indicating purpose or end result) is used with dikaiosu/nh (“justice/righteousness”). There is a similar context between 2 Cor 3:13 and Rom 10:4, as both passages deal with the Law in relation to Christ (cf. below).
  • The immediate context of Rom 9:30-33 suggests the metaphor of a race (“pursuing [after]”)—Gentiles take hold (of the prize) through faith in Christ, while many Israelites fail to reach the goal as they should. In this respect, te/lo$ would likely refer to the goal (justice/righteousness), though, as indicated above, it might also mean the termination of the race.

When we consider the other metaphors and illustrations Paul uses, especially those in Galatians 3-4 and Romans 6-7, we see that he repeatedly expresses the idea that, with Christ, the period governed by the Law comes to an end. Believers are no longer under the authority of the Torah, bound to observe it (Rom 6:14); in this regard, the “end” (te/lo$), in Paul’s way of thinking, is also understood in terms of death—in Christ, believers die (and are dead) to the Law (Gal 2:19; Rom 7:4-6, etc), so it no longer has any binding force over us. However, he also expresses elsewhere something of the idea that the Law points the way and leads to Christ (cf. below).

2. As already indicated, there are two related ways that Christ can be understood as “the end of the Law”:

  • With the coming of Christ—and, in particular, with his sacrificial death and resurrection—the period of the Old Testament Law (Torah) is terminated.
  • The justice/righteousness of God as expressed in the Law points toward the justice/righteousness that is manifest in the person and work of Christ; these are not in conflict, but the latter supersedes the former entirely, so that the old covenant is replaced by the new and the old covenant is no longer in force.

Throughout Galatians and Romans (esp. in Gal 3-4 and Rom 6-7), Paul has emphasized (and clearly taught) the first of these views; however, the second view is, in many ways, complementary to the first, and seems to be closer to Paul’s emphasis in Romans 10:1-4. This is to be seen in the language used earlier in 9:31:

“but Israel, pursing (the) Law of justice/righteousness, did not reach/arrive (first) unto (this) Law”

Here, the goal of the “race” is the “Law of justice/righteousness” (no/mo$ dikaiosu/nh$), best understood as “the Law of God” (cf. Rom 7:22, 25; 1 Cor 9:21), as expressed in the Torah. Israel did not reach this goal, or, at least did not reach it first—i.e., many Gentiles reached it, grabbing hold of the prize, ahead of them. Since Paul has also expressed clearly that Jesus Christ is the embodiment and manifestation of God’s justice/righteousness (Rom 3:21ff, etc), it is natural and appropriate to refer to Christ himself as the true goal of Israel’s pursuit. Paul’s sorrow stems from the fact that many of his fellow Israelites and Jews have failed to recognize or acknowledge this, as he movingly and powerfully describes here in Romans 9-11. A similar line of argument and discussion is found in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; the illustrative, contrasting juxtaposition he employs is forceful and striking:

The Old Covenant

  • Ministered by Moses
  • Attended by a temporary glory (that comes to an end)
  • Governed by the written word (gra/mma), i.e. Scripture/Torah
  • Written on tablets of stone
  • Ultimately leads to death
  • For those who read/hear it, there is a covering over the mind and heart
  • It has ceased to be in effect, with the coming of Christ

The New Covenant

  • Ministered by missionaries and apostles of Christ
  • Attended by an eternal glory that will not go away
  • Governed by the Spirit (pneu=ma), i.e. the (Holy) Spirit of God
  • Written on the heart
  • Leads to (eternal) life
  • Through the Gospel and trust in Christ, the covering is removed
  • It is lasting and eternal

Note especially Paul’s repeated use of the verb katarge/w in vv. 7, 11, 13-14; this verb has the basic meaning “make (something) cease working”, i.e. render it ineffective, inactive—in a technical (legal) sense, it means “invalidate, nullify, make void,” etc. In 2 Cor 3:7-14, it is used four times, each in the present passive (“is [being] made inactive”):

  • In verse 7, it refers specifically to the glory over Moses’ face, cf. Exod 34:29-35
  • In verse 11, the reference seems to be the entire ministration of the Covenant
  • Verse 13 refers to the temporary status of the Covenant (and its glory)—its fate/end is to be made inactive
  • In verse 14, the emphasis is on the old Covenant being made inactive in Christ

We can see how this passage blends together both meanings of te/lo$ indicated above: (a) the Law is terminated and ceases to be in effect, and (b) it ceases to be in effect “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|), i.e. God’s work in Christ as the ultimate purpose and goal of the Law. Interestingly, from what Paul says elsewhere in Romans and Galatians, the immediate purpose of the Law has to do with the manifestation of sin, in particular, the enslaving power of sin at work over human beings in the world and “in the flesh”; but the ultimate purpose is that God should show mercy and favor over human beings through the person and work of Christ, rescuing and freeing them from the power of sin and death. In the process, according to Paul’s remarkable teaching, we are also freed from the Law—in this sense, Christ truly is the finish, completion and end of the Law.

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Note of the Day – November 14

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Romans 10:1-4

In today’s note, I will be looking at Romans 10:4, one of the key verses relating to Paul’s View of the Law. I have already discussed chapters 9-11 of Romans in a prior article, and here it is also necessary to set verse 4 in the immediate context of chapter 10. In verses 1-2, Paul delivers a personal address regarding his fellow Israelites and Jews, much as in 9:1-3ff (cf. also 11:1ff), expressing his heart’s desire and longing to God that “they might be saved”. Verse 2 is significant in this regard:

“For I witness concerning them that they hold a burning (desire) for God, but not according to (true) knowledge about (Him)…”

This lack of correct understanding Paul clarifies in the next verse:

“…for, lacking knowledge regarding the justice/righteousness of God, and (even) seeking to stand (up) th(eir) own justice/righteousness, they did not put themselves (in order) under the justice/righteousness of God”

There are three components to Israel’s failure, as Paul describes it:

  • they lacked knowledge regarding the justice/righteousness of God
  • they sought to establish their own justice/righteousness
  • they did not put themselves correctly under [i.e. did to submit to] His justice/righteousness

As the remainder of chapter 10 makes clear (vv. 8ff), Paul frames this entirely from the standpoint of the failure of many Israelites and Jews to accept the Gospel message and to trust in Jesus Christ. How does this relate to the three components outlined above? Based on the context of Romans, this can be explained as follows:

  • they are unaware of the justice/righteousness of God which has been manifest (in Christ) apart from the Old Testament Law (Rom 3:21ff); Paul refers to this lack of knowledge in terms of their mind being hardened (Rom 3:14-18; 11:7-10; 2 Cor 3:14, or of being covered/blinded (2 Cor 3:12-18)—even when they read the Scripture and observe the Torah, there is a veil over their hearts and they cannot see the truth (2 Cor 3:15-16)
  • they understood justice/righteousness (dikaiosu/nh)—i.e. being and doing right before God—in terms of their own actions (deeds) in observing and fulfilling the Law (Torah), not realizing that this is entirely contrary to the true way that people of made right in God’s eyes, namely by trusting in Christ and what God has done through him on behalf of humankind (cf. Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-11; 8:3-4; 9:30-33; Gal 2:16; 3:10-14, 21-22; Phil 3:9).
  • they did not submit in obedience to the justice/righteousness of God in that they did not accept the Gospel and trust in Christ (esp. Rom 10:8-21).

One might be inclined to view the phrase “seeking to establish their own justice/righteousness” in the sense of trying to earn acceptance before God through a person’s own efforts. However, this does not seem to be exactly what Paul means. Compare Philippians 3:9:

“…(that I might gain Christ) and be found in him, not holding my (own) justice/righteousness th(at is) out of the Law, but (rather) th(at which) (is) through trust of Christ—the justice/righteousness th(at is) out of God, upon th(is) trust.”

Paul clearly identifies “his (own) righteousness” with observance of the Law (Torah), using the expression “out of [i.e. from] the Law” (e)k no/mou); strikingly, “out of the Law” is contrasted precisely with “out of God”:

  • my (own) righteousness
    —out of the Law (e)k no/mou)
  • righteousness through Christ
    —out of God (e)k qeou=)

It is not so much that an observant Jew is trying to “earn” salvation, but simply that he/she is observing the Law without recognizing (or being unwilling to recognize) that fulfillment of the Law ultimately is found in Christ. With the manifestation of God’s justice/righteousness in Christ, the old covenant has passed, and a new covenant has come—one that is not based upon the Law, but upon the trust (e)pi\ th=| pi/stei) in Christ. This is the very point that Paul makes in Romans 10:4, which I will analyze in detail in the next daily note.

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Note of the Day – November 13

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Romans 9:30-33

Today’s note is on Romans 9:30-33, supplemental to the series on Paul’s View of the Law (in Romans). Verses 30-33 represent the last of three rhetorical questions in chapter 9 (vv. 14ff, 19ff, 30ff); it begins, as in v. 14: ti/ ou@n e)rou=men; “What then shall we declare (i.e. say about this?)” The answer to the first question in v. 14 was decisively negative: “there is not injustice alongside God (is there)?”—answer: “may it not come to be (so)!” (mh\ ge/noito). The question in vv. 30-31 has two parts:

  1. “that the nations, the (one)s not pursuing justice/righteousness, took down [i.e. took hold of] justice/righteousness?” (v. 30)
  2. “but (that) Israel, pursuing (the) Law of justice/righteousness, did not reach/arrive (first) unto (this) Law?” (v. 31)

Based on previous such questions, one might expect another negative response; however, Paul here responds with an implicit affirmation. The verbs used are worth considering:

  • diw/kw “set in motion”, especially in the sense of “set out after”, i.e. pursue after. It is often used in a negative sense—to pursue with hostile intent, sometimes translated as “persecute”. Here Paul means it in a positive sense, as in Rom 12:13; 14:19; 1 Cor 14:1; Phil 3:12, 14; 1 Thess 5:15—seeking after something (of value) with the hope of obtaining it.
  • katalamba/nw, lit. “take down”, generally meaning “take hold of”, “seize, grasp”, etc., but also “overtake”; it can also mean “apprehend” or “comprehend” in a metaphorical/intellectual sense. Elsewhere (1 Cor 9:24; Phil 3:12-13), Paul’s uses it in the context of a race, where the runner seeks to overtake his opponent and obtain the prize.
  • fqa/nw, “to be (or do) first”, i.e. to arrive at or reach a goal before someone else, again in the context of a race.

The idea seems to be that Israel, following the Law (Torah), should have reached the goal (that is, the end of the “race”) before the Gentiles. According to Paul, Christ is the end (te/lo$) of the race, and the goal to which the Law pointed, cf. Rom 10:4; and yet, Gentiles have reached (and taken hold) of the prize ahead of many Israelites. The goal was reached by responding to the Gospel that was proclaimed to them, and trusting in Christ. Paul discusses Israel’s response to the Gospel specifically in chapter 10. Many of the Gentiles who came to faith in Christ were “sinners” (1 Cor 6:11), and, as such, were not “pursuing justice and righteousness”—certainly not in the traditional religious or moral sense of the term. Through trust (faith), they obtained the justice/righteousness (of God) that is made manifest in Christ (cf. Rom 3:21ff; 1 Cor 1:30, etc). This Paul explains in vv. 32-33 (dia\ ti/ “through what [i.e. why]?”):

“…(in) that [i.e. because] (it was) not out of trust [e)k pi/stew$], but as out of works [e)c e&rgwn]”

Paul here, yet again, contrasts trust in Christ with observance of the Law (Torah), understood specifically as deeds, doing, i.e. “works”. The use of the particle w($ (“how, as, as if”) is interesting; he is perhaps emphasizing the mode or manner of pursuit. The (failed) result of Israel’s pursuit Paul expounds figuratively: “they struck against the stone of striking-against [i.e. the stone that one strikes against]”. The verb prosko/ptw means to strike [lit. cut] toward [i.e. against] something, often with the image of striking one’s foot against a rock (so as to fall); the noun pro/skomma is often used in sense of something which causes one to stumble and fall, either literally or figuratively. Paul’s use of these two words here anticipates his citation of Isa 28:16 (combined with Isa 8:14), a passage quoted also in 1 Peter 2:6-8 (and cf. Matt 21:42; Luke 20:17; Eph 2:20). This very application of Isa 28:16 says something significant about the early Christian view of the Law: the foundation or cornerstone of the Temple site is Jesus Christ and the Gospel message about him. This is one of several key examples in the New Testament where Jesus himself is seen as taking the place of the forms and elements of the old covenant.

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Note of the Day – November 10

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Today’s note is on Romans 8:10, supplemental to the discussion on Rom 8:1-39 in the series on “Paul’s View of the Law in Romans”.

Romans 8:10

Verse 10 cannot be separated from the context of verses 9-11, which form the culmination of the exhortation in 8:1-11, regarding the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. The announcement of freedom from the Law in vv. 1-4 means that the believer must rely upon the Spirit for guidance—Paul characterizes believers as “the ones walking about according to the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16, 25). Deliverance from sin also means that believers are no longer under its enslaving power, and now have the freedom and ability to follow the will of God; however, the flesh remains as a source of struggle and conflict. This is the emphasis in verses 5-11, which correspond in many ways to the exhortation in Gal 5:16-25. According to Paul’s anthropology, the flesh itself remains opposed to the “Law of God” (vv. 7-8). The main argument in verses 9-11 is that believers are, and should be, guided and influenced by the Spirit, and not the flesh:

“But you are not in (the) flesh [e)n sarki/] but in (the) Spirit [e)n pneu/mati]…”

The preposition e)n here has the specific sense of “in the power of”—in a manner similar to the expression “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|). However, this is only one aspect of union with Christ and the Spirit; in the rest of vv. 9-11, the focus shifts from believers “in the Spirit” to the Spirit “in believers”. In other words, the power which guides and controls believers is based on the presence of the Spirit in them. Living, thinking, and walking “according to the flesh” is not, and should not be, characteristic of believers. This is reflected in the conditional clause which follows in v. 9a:

“…if indeed [ei&per] the Spirit of God houses [i.e. dwells] in you [e)n u(mi=n]”

The particle ei&per is somewhat difficult to translate; literally, it would be something like “if (indeed) about (this)”, with the sense that “if (indeed) it is so that…”. It indicates a condition, but one that is generally assumed to be true: “if it is so (as indeed it is!)”, i.e. “since (it is so that)”. For true believers in Christ, the condition would be true: the Spirit dwells in them. A series of sentences follow in vv. 9b-11, each beginning with the conditional particle ei) (“if”) and the coordinating particle de/:

V. 9b: “But if [ei) de\] any (one) does not hold the Spirit of God, that (one) is not of him.”
V. 10: “But if [ei) de\] (the) Anointed is in you…”
V. 11: “But if [ei) de\] the Spirit of the (one) raising Yeshua out of the dead houses [i.e. dwells] in you…”

The first (9b) is a negative condition: “if any one does not have [lit. hold] the Spirit of God”. Most likely the genitive au)tou= (“of him”) means “of Christ”, belonging to Christ—i.e. a true Christian has the Spirit of God. The last two sentences have positive conditions, and the two are closely related, connecting Christ with the Spirit of God:

  • V. 10—”the Anointed is in you [e)n u(mi=n]”
  • V. 11—”the Spirit of (God)… dwells in you [e)n u(mi=n]”

In each instance, the apodosis, indicating the fulfillment or result of the condition (“then…”), involves the theme of life vs. death. I begin with the last verse (v. 11):

  • “If the Spirit of the (one) raising Yeshua out of the dead houses [i.e. dwells] in you, (then)…
    • …the (one) raising (the) Anointed out of the dead also will make alive your dying [i.e. mortal] bodies through his Spirit housing [i.e. dwelling] in you”

The reference here is to the bodily resurrection of the end-time, which represents the culmination and completion of salvation for believers, according to early Christian thought. Note the repetitive symmetry to this sentence:

the Spirit of the one raising Jesus from the dead dwells in you
——will make alive your dying bodies
the one raising Christ from the dead…through his Spirit dwelling in you

This brings us to verse 10:

  • “If (the) Anointed (is) in you, (then)…
    • …the body (is) dead through sin, but the Spirit is life through justice/righteousness”

Here the apodosis is expressed by way of a me\nde/ construction:

  • me\n (on the one hand)—the body is dead through sin
  • de\ (on the other hand)—the Spirit is life through justice/righteousness

If verse 11 referred to bodily resurrection at the end, verse 10 refers to a dynamic that is already realized in believers presently. It still involves life and death, but not one following the other (as in the resurrection); rather, the two exist at the same time, side by side—the body is dead, the Spirit is life. This anthropological dualism is typical of Paul’s thought; however, it is interesting to note that he has here shifted away slightly from the flesh/Spirit conflict emphasized in vv. 1-8. The “flesh” (sa/rc) relates to the impulse toward sin, the “body” (sw=ma) to death itself. It may be helpful to consider the anthropological terms Paul makes use of in Romans:

  • sw=ma (“body”)—that is, the physical (human) body, which is subject to death (“dying/mortal”, Rom 6:12; 8:11), according to the primeval judgment narrated in Gen 3:3-4, 19, 22-23. In Rom 7:24, Paul refers to it as “the body of death” (cf. also Rom 4:19). For believers, the redemption of the body, i.e. the loosing it from the bondage of death, is the final, culminating event of salvation—the resurrection (Rom 8:23).
  • ta\ me/lh (“the [bodily] parts”)—the different components (limbs, organs, etc) of the physical body, which should be understood two ways: (1) the sensory/sensual aspect of the body, which is affected and influenced by the impulse (e)piqumi/a) to sin, and (2) the means by which human beings act and work in the body. The first of these is expressed in Rom 7:5ff, 23—it is specifically in the bodily members that sin dwells and works. The second is indicated in Rom 6:13ff, as well perhaps by expression “the practices/deeds of the body” in Rom 8:13.
  • sa/rc (“flesh”)—a wide-ranging word and concept in Paul’s thought, it refers principally to the physical/material aspect of human nature (the body and its parts), but also within the specific context of sin. The “flesh” indicates human nature as enslaved under the power of sin (throughout Rom 7:7-25 and 8:1-11ff [cf. above]). Believers in Christ are freed from the enslaving power of sin, but can still be affected, in various ways, by the flesh and the impulse to sin which resides in it (Rom 8:1-11, and see esp. Gal 5:16-25).
  • nou=$ (“mind”)—according to Rom 7:13-25 (esp. vv. 23-25), the mind, representing intellectual, volitional and ethical aspects of human nature, is not enslaved by the power of sin the same way that the flesh is. Though it can come to be dominated entirely by wickedness (cf. Rom 1:28), in Rom 7 (where Paul likely is speaking for devout Jews and Gentiles), the mind is torn, wanting to obey the will (or Law) of God, but ultimately overcome by the power of sin in the flesh. For believers, the “mind” is to be renewed (Rom 12:2), through “walking in the Spirit” (not according to the flesh or the things of the world), so that we may be transformed more and more into the likeness of God in Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18).
  • o( e&sw a&nqrwpo$ (“the inner man”)—Paul uses this expression in Rom 7:22, contrasting it with the “(bodily) parts”; it is best, I think, to understand it as representing a human being in the exercise of the mind, as opposed to following the (sinful) impulse of the flesh. That it is largely synonymous with the “mind” (nou=$) for Paul is indicated by his use of the expression in 2 Cor 4:16, compared with Rom 12:2. For believers, it reflects that aspect of the person which recognizes the will of God and experiences the work of the Spirit (cf. Eph 3:16).
  • pneu=ma (“spirit”)—it should be noted that Paul rarely applies this word to ordinary human nature; it is reserved for believers in Christ, and there it refers, not to the human “spirit”, but to the Spirit (of God and Christ), i.e. the Holy Spirit. However, at the inmost “spiritual” level, believers are united with the Spirit (cf. above) and it becomes the guiding power and aspect of the person.

With regard to Rom 8:10, it is interesting to observe that, after the phrase “the body is dead”, Paul does not say “the Spirit is alive”, but rather, “the Spirit is life“, using the noun zw/h. This is because it is not a precise parallel—as indicated, above, pneu=ma is not the human “spirit” but the Spirit of God (and Christ); as such, it is not alive, it is Life itself. What then, does it mean that the Spirit is life “through justice/righteousness”? Here again, it is not an exact formal parallel:

  • dia\ a(marti/an (“through sin”)—the power and work of sin results in death for the body
  • dia\ dikaiosu/nh (“through justice/righteousness”)—the power and work of God’s justice/righteousness (in Christ) results in the believer experiencing the life that the Spirit brings

Some commentators would say that Paul does mean pneu=ma in v. 10 as the human “spirit”. I disagree completely. While this, admittedly, would allow for a more natural parallel, it contrasts entirely with Paul’s use of the word throughout Romans. The whole emphasis in 8:1ff is on the Spirit of God (and Christ), not the human “spirit”.

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Note of the Day – November 9

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This is the second of two notes on 2 Cor 5:21 and Rom 8:3-4; the passage in 2 Corinthians was discussed in the previous day’s note.

Romans 8:3-4

“For the powerless (thing) of the Law [i.e. what the Law lacked power to do], in which [i.e. in that] it was weak through the flesh, God (has done), sending his own Son in (the) likeness of flesh of sin [i.e. sinful flesh] and about [i.e. for the sake of] sin, judged against sin in the flesh, (so) that the just/right (thing) of the Law should be filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in us—the (one)s not walking about according to (the) flesh, but according to (the) Spirit.”

The relevant portion parallel to 2 Cor 5:21 is indicated by italics above; here it is extracted out, along with the Greek text:

“…sending his own Son in (the) likeness of flesh of sin [i.e. sinful flesh] and about [i.e. for the sake of] sin, judged against sin in the flesh, (so) that the just/right (thing) of the Law should be filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in us”
pe/mya$ e)n o(moiw/mati sarko\$ a(marti/a$ kai\ peri\ a(marti/a$ kate/krinen th\n a(marti/an e)n th=| sarki/, i%na to\ dikai/wma tou= no/mou plhrwqh=| e)n h(mi=n

Here are 2 Cor 5:21 and Rom 8:3b-4a in translation side-by-side:

2 Cor 5:21

“the (one) not knowing sin, He [i.e. God] made (to be) sin over us [i.e. for our sake], (so) that we might come to be (the) justice/righteousness of God in him”

Rom 8:3b-4a

“…sending his own Son in (the) likeness of flesh of sin [i.e. sinful flesh] and about [i.e. for the sake of] sin, … (so) that the just/right (thing) of the Law should be filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in us”

I feel it is best to proceed here by comparing the key words and phrases between the two passages:

“the one not knowing sin” (to\ mh\ gno/nta a(marti/an)

“his own Son” (to\n e(autou= ui(o/n)

It is interesting to consider these expressions as complementary: in Corinthians, the emphasis is on Jesus’ lack of familiarity with sin; in Romans, it is on Christ as the (beloved) son and heir (cf. Rom 4:13ff; 5:10; 8:12-17), highlighting the importance and preciousness of the sacrifice God makes. Based on Rom 4:13ff (cf. also throughout Gal 3-4), there is probably here an allusion to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, which may already have been present in Christian thought prior to Paul.

“He made (to be) sin” (a(marti/an e)poi/hsen)

“sending in the likeness of flesh of sin” (pe/mya$ e)n o(moiw/mati sarko\$ a(marti/a$)

Does Romans here explain the phrase in Corinthians? This is certainly possible, though it raises some interesting questions regarding the traditional view of Christ’s sinlessness. Was sin dwelling in his flesh just as it is for other human beings (cf. Rom 7:13-20)? In order for the expression to have its full significance, this would seem to be the case. It certainly could be affirmed without admitting that Christ committed any sin. On the other hand, the expression “in the likeness of flesh of sin” could be taken to mean that it was not actually “flesh of sin”; but, then, in what way was it like sinful human flesh? If all that Paul meant to say was that Jesus had a “human nature”, without sin, this is a curious way to state it. Needless to say, the entire matter is extremely sensitive from an orthodox Christological standpoint.

“over us” (u(pe\r h(mw=n)

“about sin” (peri\ a(marti/a$)

The preposition u(pe/r fundamentally means “over”, while peri/ means “around, about”; however, both can be understood as “on behalf of, for the sake of, because of”, depending on the context. In Corinthians, Paul uses traditional early Christian language for the atoning, sacrificial work of Christ, which takes place “over us”, that is, for our sake. In Romans, the focus is more what is done about (and to) sin—i.e. the power of Sin, especially that which dwells (“houses”) in the flesh (Rom 7:17-18, 20). This is clear from the clause which follows: “he (God, through Christ) judged against sin in the flesh”. Does this mean Christ himself took on sinful flesh—that sin dwelt in his flesh, in common with humankind? There would seem to be three main possibilities:

  • There was no sin in flesh; he was human, but it was not “flesh of sin”. To say that God “judged against sin in the flesh” means that it was judged through the suffering (and death) of the sinless flesh of Christ.
  • The “curse” or effect of sin was in his flesh, but not the power of sin itself. God judged against what sin had done to human beings in the flesh.
  • Sin did “dwell” in his flesh, and it was this that God judged against. Christ himself knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21) in the sense that: (a) he did not commit sin, and (b) was not enslaved by the power of sin; however God made him to be sin, in order to deal with sin.

The first of these accords with orthodox Christology, especially the blunt declaration in 1 John 3:5; however, the last of these, in my view, seems closer to Paul’s thought in Romans, though perhaps not without further qualification. Ultimately, the most important point is that the power of sin was destroyed and made inactive through the death (and resurrection) of Christ, allowing believers to be set free from bondage to sin and death (Rom 6:6-11).

“so that we…” (i%na h(mei=$)

“so that… in us” (i%nae)n h(mi=n)

Both passages conclude with a i%na purpose-/result-clause (“so that…”), indicating primarily the purpose, but also the result, of God’s work in Christ. The difference of focus or location in terms of the believer (“we/us”) is relatively slight, and complementary—in Corinthians, the emphasis is on what happens to us, in Romans, on what takes place in us.

“we might come to be” (genw/meqa)

“might be (ful)filled (in us)” (plhrwqh=|)

Both verbs are aorist subjunctive forms, indicating the possibility or potential of what God can (and) will accomplish in the person of the believer, based on what he has already done (past action). The aorist subjunctive often carries an imperitival force, i.e., “we should/shall become…” In Corinthians, indeed, it is a matter of what the believer will become; in Romans, on the other hand, something is completed or fulfilled (“filled [up]”) in (and among) believers.

“(the) justice/righteousness of God” (dikaiosu/nh qeou=)

“the just/right (thing) of the Law” (to\ dikai/wma tou= no/mou)

These expressions reflect what it is that we as believers will become, or what will be fulfilled in us, respectively. In 2 Corinthians, it is the “justice/righteousness (dikaiosu/nh) of God”, an expression which Paul uses in Romans (Rom 1:17; 3:5, 21-22; 10:3, cf. also 3:25-26; 6:13). It is best, I think, to consider this as an attribute of God Himself (subjective genitive), which he demonstrates primarily and fundamentally in the person and work of Jesus Christ. An important emphasis in Romans is that this justice/righteousness has been manifested in Christ altogether separate and apart from the Old Testament Law (cf.  Rom 3:21ff, etc), so it is interesting that the parallel passage in 2 Cor 5:21 specifically mentions the Law (no/mo$). The fact is, that Romans very much builds upon the idea, already discussed in Galatians, that Christ, by his sacrificial death, fulfills the Law for human beings. In Gal 3:10-13, this takes place by Jesus becoming the curse of the Law himself (par. to the idea of being “made sin”). The curse came into effect (pronounced as judgment) when the Law, representing the terms of the covenant between God and his people, was violated. According to Paul’s view, human beings, held in bondage under the power of sin, are incapable of fulfilling the Law (i.e. the Law of God, as expressed in the Torah). In Rom 8:3-4, God judges against sin itself in the flesh, removing its enslaving power over those who trust in Christ.

What about the specific expression in 2 Cor 5:21? how exactly do believers “become” or “come to be” the justice/righteousness of God. According to what Paul teaching and relates in his letters (especially in Galatians and Romans), I would suggest three aspects of this process:

  1. Justification—this is essentially what is described in Rom 8:3-4: (a) Christ is made sin and, through his death, becomes the curse, (b) this sacrificial acts fulfills and completes the requirement of the Law, (c) through Christ God judges sin itself, removing its enslaving power, (d) believers in Christ are thus made right before God, and (e) now have the freedom and ability to fulfill the Law, through the Spirit, no longer by observing the Torah itself.
  2. Union with Christ (“in Christ”)—believers are united with Christ, and thus participate in the very justice/righteousness of God which he himself manifests and embodies. It is communicated in the believer through the power of the Spirit, which is also the Spirit of Christ.
  3. Resurrection/Glorification—Experience of God’s justice/righteousness is also eschatological, with the completion of salvation in the end-time judgment. Ultimately it is the body (“flesh” in the strict sense) which remains to be redeemed and loosed from bondage. Paul never loses sight of this future aspect of salvation.
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Note of the Day – November 8

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In today’s note I will be looking at Romans 8:3-4 in comparison with 2 Corinthians 5:21. These two passages connect the incarnation of Christ with God’s work of salvation for humankind. From the beginning, Christians understood the sacrificial and salvific character of Jesus’ death, and that he was God’s unique representative; but here, in these two letters, perhaps for the first time, we find a developed doctrine blending soteriology with Christology. As 2 Corinthians was likely written before Romans, I will begin with 2 Cor 5:21.

2 Corinthians 5:21

“the (one) not knowing sin, He [i.e. God] made (to be) sin over us [i.e. for our sake], (so) that we might come to be (the) justice/righteousness of God in him”

The context of this passage (2 Cor 5:11-21) is similar to that of Phil 2:1-11—an appeal for peace and unity among believers is connected with the example of God’s sacrificial and saving work in Christ. Here in 2 Corinthians, the emphasis is on reconciliationkatallagh/, vb. katalla/ssw, to make things different, mutually, between two parties. In vv. 18-19, Paul makes two statements:

  • God is “the (One) making (things) different [katalla/canto$] (for) us with Himself through [dia/] (the) Anointed” (v. 18)
  • God “was [h@n] in [e)n] (the) Anointed, making (things) different [katalla/sswn] (for the) world with Himself” (v. 19)

In both instances, a participial form of the verb is used: the first in the aorist (indicating a past action), the second in the present. In verse 18, it is “us” (believers) for whom the situation has been changed with God; in verse 19, it is the entire world. This particular work of reconciliation is glossed and interpreted by Paul as “not counting for them (the instances of) their falling alongside [paraptw/mata]”, i.e., not reckoning their sins and failures, understood as violations/transgressions of the Law, especially in its moral/ethical aspect. We also see, in each statement regarding God’s work of reconciliation in/through Christ, a corresponding declaration of the work of reconciliation God intends for believers (focused primarily in the apostolic ministry):

  • “…and (also) giving to us the service [diakoni/a] of making (things) different [i.e. reconciliation, katallagh/]” (v. 18)
  • “…and (also) placing in us the word/account [lo/go$] of making (things) different [i.e. reconciliation]” (v. 19)

It may be helpful to examine each element of verse 21:

to\n mh\ gno/nta (“the [one] not knowing”)—i.e. Jesus Christ; here the verb know (ginw/skw) probably should be understood in the sense of familiarity.

a(marti/an (“sin”)—The expression mh\ gno/nta a(marti/an is sometimes translated as “knowing no sin“; but the negative particle relates primarily to the verb, and thus the emphasis is on “not knowing sin”. Paul doubtless would affirm something corresponding to the later orthodox belief regarding the sinlessness of Christ; however, when referring to specific sins or misdeeds, he typically uses the words para/ptwma (cf. in v. 19), para/basi$, or a(marti/a in the plural. The use of the singular here could indicate the idea of sin in the more general, abstract sense; or, as often in Romans especially, of sin as a power. To describe Jesus as “the one not knowing sin” probably means, for Paul, that he was the only person who was not enslaved under the power of sin, i.e. did not know Sin has his master. The word a(marti/a fundamentally means a failure—in the conventional Israelite/Jewish religious sense, this would be a failure to observe the commands and regulations of the Law (Torah), and, in particular, moral failure. In English, the word is normally rendered as “sin”; it is generally synonymous with the corresponding afj in Hebrew.

u(pe\r u(ma=$ (“over us”)—The preposition u(pe/r literally means “over”, but often in the metaphorical sense of “on behalf of, for the sake of”, etc. What God did through Christ was done “over us”, covering us, and it was done for our sake.

e)poi/hsen (“he made”)—God is the implied subject, with “the one not knowing sin” (Christ) as the object, i.e. God made Christ to be (like/as) sin. How should we understand this “making”? I have previously suggested three possibilities:

  • he was made into the form of (sinful) human “flesh” (Rom 8:3, cf. below); the idea of incarnation, cf. Gal 4:4; Phil 2:7
  • he was made like unto the (enslaving) power of sin, in order to conquer and destroy it (cf. Rom 8:2-3; Gal 3:13-14)
  • he was made into a sin-offering; note the similar double meaning of afj in Hebrew, which can be used both for sin and the offering made on behalf of sin

i%na (“that”)—the particle here introduces a final clause, indicating either purpose or result (or both), i.e. “so that…”

genw/meqa (“we might come to be”)—the common existential verb indicating becoming, i.e. the purpose and result of God’s work is that we (believers) will come to be something new. The aorist subjunctive form could here could also be rendered: “that we should come to be…”

dikaiosu/nh qeou= (“[the] justice/righteousness of God”)—Paul’s use of this expression is familiar from Romans, where it appears numerous times (Rom 1:17; 3:5, 21-22; 10:3, also 3:25-26; 6:13, etc). More than half of the instances of the noun dikaiosu/nh come from the undisputed Pauline letters (34 times in Romans). I have discussed dikaiosu/nh (and the dikaio- word-group) extensively in the articles on “Paul’s View of the Law” (note also the article on Justification). Where this particular expression is used in Romans, it should be taken fundamentally as a characteristic or attribute of God Himself, but which is expressed primarily in the person and work of Christ.

e)n au)tw=| (“in him”)—that is, “in Christ”, e)n Xristw=| being a favorite Pauline expression, indicating the union (and unity) of believers with Christ (and with God through Christ). Here it should also be understood as the focus of our becoming the “justice/righteousness of God”—it takes place in Christ. Elsewhere, Paul refers to Jesus as the very embodiment of justice/righteousness. The parallel in 1 Cor 1:30 is especially noteworthy:

1 Cor 1:30: he came to be the justice/righteousness from God for us
2 Cor 5:21: we come to be the justice/righteousness of God in him

The interplay reflected in these two verses is fascinating indeed!

What does it mean precisely, that believers should “become” or “come to be” the justice/righteousness of God? I will leave this question until I have discussed Romans 8:3-4, which I will do in the next daily note.

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Note of the Day – November 7

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Romans 6:14

Today’s note on Rom 6:14 is supplemental to the series on “Paul’s View of the Law” (cf. the article on Rom 6:1-7:25). Verse 14 is the concluding declaration of the sub-section Rom 6:1-14, which defines the believer’s freedom from sin in terms of death to sin. It will be useful to illustrate again how these three sections relate:

  • 6:1-14—believers die to sin through participation in the death (and resurrection) of Christ
  • 6:15-23—believers are freed from slavery, from bondage to sin (as a ruling power)
  • 7:1-6—believers are freed from the binding force of the Law, through death (as in 6:1-14)

The final verses of the first section (vv. 12-14) function as an exhortation to believers:

“Do not let sin rule as king in your dying [i.e. mortal] body (so as) to hear under [i.e. obey] its impulses…” (v. 12)

Verse 14a contains a parallel exhortation—

“For sin shall not rule as your lord…”

after which comes the concluding declaration in 14b:

“…for you are not under (the) Law but under (the) Favor (of God)”
ou) ga\r e)ste u(po\ no/mon a)lla\ u(po\ xa/rin

It will be helpful to look at each word and element of this statement in more detail.

ou) (“not”)—the negative particle ou) governs the statement. This is significant, since, throughout Galatians and Romans, Paul has been discussing the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah) in negative terms. Believers are made/declared just or right before God not by observing the Law (“works of the Law”), but by trust/faith in Christ (Gal 2:16; Rom 3:20-22, et al). Believers have also died to the Law (Gal 2:19; Rom 7:4, etc), and no longer are in bondage to it (Rom 7:6), and so forth.

ga/r (“for”)—the particle ga/r is conjunctive and coordinative, i.e. joining with what was just stated (“sin shall not rule…”), and serving to explain it further. In other words, this is the reason why sin shall not (and should not) rule over you any more.

e)ste (“you are”)—the verb is in the present indicative, which means that it reflects a situation for believers that is presently (currently) real and true. It need not wait for some future time, it may (and should) be realized now. The “you” implied in the verbal form represents all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

u(po\ no/mon (“under [the] Law”)—Paul uses this expression numerous times, in Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:19; 1 Cor 9:20; Rom 6:15, along with the parallel (and largely synonymous) phrases u(po\ [th\n] a(marti/an (“under sin”, Gal 3:22; Rom 3:9; 7:14), u(po\ kata/ran (“under the curse”, Gal 3:10), u(po\ ta\ stoixei=a tou= ko/smou (“under the elements of the world”, Gal 4:3), and the illustrative expressions in Gal 3:25; 4:2. The preposition u(po/ (“under”) here has the meaning “under the power/authority of”, “under the rule/domain of”, etc. The word no/mo$ (“law, custom”) for Paul usually has the specific sense of the Old Testament Law (Torah); however, through the arguments in Galatians, and especially in Romans, the word does seem to take on a somewhat wider meaning. It is clear that Gentiles, in their own way, are “under the Law”, and will be judged equally before God (cf. Gal 4:1-11; Rom 2:12-29). Note also his use of the qualified expression “the Law of God” in 1 Cor 9:21; 7:22, 25; Rom 8:7—in these verses he means something more than the Torah.

a)lla/ (“but”)—the conjunctive particle a)lla/ is adversative (“but, rather/instead…”), creating a clear contrast with the prior expression (“under the Law”).

u(po\ xa/rin (“under [the] Favor”)—this is a precise, but contrastive, parallel with u(po\ no/mon (“under the Law”), reflecting a completely opposite or separate situation (note Paul’s use of xwri\$ no/mou, “separate/apart from the Law” in Rom 3:21; 7:9, also 3:28; 4:6). The preposition u(po/ (“under”) has the same meaning here as in the prior expression. i.e., “under the power/authority/rule of”. Recall in Rom 5:12-21, how the Favor (of God) functions as a personified and active, ruling power, just like Sin—they both are lords over a particular domain, to which human beings become enslaved. The word xa/ri$ is typically translated “grace”, but “favor” better captures its essential meaning. One who takes pleasure/delight/joy in another person, shows favor to the person, often by bestowing benefits or gifts; the person, in turn, finds and experiences favor from the one bestowing the gifts, etc. God demonstrates His favor through the person and work of Christ—especially in his sacrificial, atoning death on behalf of sinful, enslaved humanity (Rom 3:24-25; 5:6-11, 15-17, 20-21; 7:25a, etc).

This powerful statement declares, in no uncertain terms, that believers in Christ are no longer under the ruling authority of the Law. He has already made this point numerous times throughout Galatians and Romans, but this is one of the most explicit statements. Some commentators would like to limit all such declarations regarding the Law to its role as a means of salvation; according to such an interpretive view, the Torah would continue to be in force (at least for Jewish believers) in other respects. However, Paul makes no such qualification, and certainly not here in Rom 6:14—believers in Christ are, simply, “not under the Law”.

NoteOfDay_August30

Note of the Day – October 28

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Romans 3:31

Today’s note is on Rom 3:31, which concludes the introductory section (3:21-31) of this main division (3:21-5:21) of the probatio of Romans (1:18-8:39). Rom 3:21-31 provides the main theme—an announcement of the justice/righteousness of God, apart from the Law. This is stated by way of a long opening declaration (vv. 21-26), followed by a re-affirmation of two key, related themes in vv. 27-30: (1) that human beings are made (or declared) just/right (“justified”) before God through faith/trust in Christ, and (2) that this applies equally to Jews and Gentiles. For more on verses 21-26, and the expression “the justice/righteousness of God”, see the two previous daily notes.

Paul adds, in verse 31, a pointed and significant rhetorical question, along with his response:

“Do we then make the Law inactive through th(is) trust? May it not come to be (so)! (but) rather, we make the Law stand!”

Up to this point in Romans (and all through Galatians) Paul has argued and asserted that human beings (believers) are made/declared just/right by God through trust (faith) in Christ, and not by observing the commands and regulations of the Old Testament Law (Torah). This teaching effectively undercuts the significance of the Law, from a traditional Israel/Jewish religious (and cultural) point of view. It may have begun with the question of whether Gentile converts ought to be circumcised and observe the Torah, but Paul’s line of argument ultimately goes far beyond this, to the fundamental question of Christian identity (for Jews and Gentiles alike) in relation to the Law. Paul not only declares believers in Christ to be free from the Law (an especially important theme in Galatians, cf. Gal 2:4-5, 19-20; 3:13-14, 23-26; 4:1-2, 21-31; 5:1ff, 13; 6:15), but goes so far as to declare that the primary function and purpose of the Law is to put (all) people in bondage under sin (Gal 3:19, 22-23). This point is clarified and developed in Romans—Rom 3:20, and further in 5:12-21; 7:7ff and 11:32—and must be regarded as one of the most remarkable and extraordinary early Christian teachings. It is a view of the Law (Torah) unlike anything in Jewish thought—I am not aware of any examples remotely similar prior to Paul, and few (if any) instances in later Judaism. Instead of the Law as a protective fence around Israel, preserving faith and ritual/moral purity, it functions more like a prison wall, holding people in bondage under sin.

It is understandable that devout Jews (and Jewish Christians) would object strongly to such a teaching. That many did oppose Paul’s view of the Law is clear enough from Galatians, as well as several key passages in the book of Acts (most notably, Acts 21:17-26); opposition continued in Jewish Christianity subsequently, as preserved in tradition and writings such as the (Pseudo-)Clementine literature. Paul anticipates the fundamental objection with the question (and answer) he gives in Rom 3:31 (and earlier in Gal 2:21, cf. also 1:17). The question is: “do we then, by this (teaching regarding) faith/trust in Christ, make the Law inactive/ineffective [katargou=men]?” His answer is definite, using the popular asseverative (negative) phrase “may it not come to be (so) [mh\ ge/noito]!”, sometimes rendered in English idiom as “God/heaven forbid!”, followed by the declaration: “but (rather) we make the Law stand [i(sta/nomen]!” It is important to examine the two relevant verbs used in this verse:

  • katarge/w—which means to make (or render) something inactive (or ineffective, useless, idle, etc), literally to make it cease working. As a technical legal term, it means to “invalidate, nullify, make void,” etc. Paul uses the verb frequently—25 of the 27 NT occurrences come from the Pauline letters, including 9 in Romans and Galatians. In Galatians, it serves an effective rhetorical purpose, with Paul’s claim that his opponents effectively would “make ineffective” Christ’s work (Gal 5:4, 11); earlier, he uses it in the technical legal sense, arguing that the Law (Torah) can not “invalidate” the promise God made to Abraham (cf. also in Rom 4:14). A similar legal usage is found in Rom 7:2, 6, which Paul connects with the idea of release from the Law through death, applied specifically to believers (in Christ) dying to the power of sin, and thus rendering it ineffective (Rom 6:6). In Rom 3:3, Paul uses the verb in a rhetorical question similar to that in v. 31: “if some did not trust, does their lack of trust make inactive/ineffective the trust(worthiness) of God? May it not come to be (so)! But God is true…”
  • i%sthmi—a fairly common verb (“stand [up]”); the transitive meaning (“make stand”) can be used in a technical legal sense, similar to that of katarge/w (above)—indeed, it indicates virtually the opposite, i.e., “uphold, establish, confirm, validate”, etc. It often applies to a (legal) agreement or “covenant”, either its establishment or confirmation, or both. Paul uses it somewhat less frequently than katarge/w, but it occurs six times in Romans (the same number as katarge/w). In Rom 14:4, it (twice) is used of an individual person’s status or fate; the meaning is somewhat similar in Rom 11:20, and also Rom 5:2, but there the perfect form relates to an abiding (permanent) condition, of believers standing in God’s favor (and in His presence). Rom 10:3 describes a dynamic virtually the opposite of what Paul asserts in 3:31—of human beings seeking to establish a justice/righteousness that is their own, and not God’s.

It is interesting to compare Romans 3:31 with Jesus’ saying in Matthew 5:17:

“Do not regard (as proper/customary) that I came to loose down [i.e. dissolve] the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to loose (it) down, but (rather) to fill (it) up [i.e. fulfill it]!”

Jesus appears to be dealing with a similar sort of objection to his teaching as does Paul; more properly, the reference may be to a (possible) false version of his saying, i.e. “do not think it proper that (I said) ‘I came to dissolve the Law…'” In its context within the so-called Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), we have a number of relatively clear examples of how Jesus (and his early followers) would have interpreted and expounded this saying. Jesus, through his teaching and personal example, shows his followers the way to an understanding and realization of the true meaning and intent of the Torah. For more on this, see my previous notes on Matt 5:17-20 and the articles on the Antitheses (Matt 5:21-48).

Paul’s opponents and critics might well have said that his teaching nullifying the Law in its traditional role as a way and path to life, and by removing its significance as a fulfillment of the (old) covenant God made with Israel (at Sinai, cf. Gal 4:21-31). Indeed, the verb katarge/w would seem very much to apply to Paul’s view of the Law if we compare his usage in Rom 7:1-3, for example, with the argument in Gal 3:19-29; 4:1-11. These passages clearly present the idea that the binding force of the Law terminates with the coming of Christ (cf. Rom 10:4). However, Paul may be using the verb in Rom 3:31 in the basic sense of “making ineffective”—i.e., the Law fulfills and accomplishes the purpose of God, though Paul’s understanding of this purpose (e.g. in Rom 11:32) is quite different from the traditional Jewish view. His claim that (the message of) trust in Christ “makes the Law stand”, i.e. confirms or establishes it, probably should be interpreted in a slightly different way—that Christ, in his person and work, fulfills (and completes) the Law. In this regard, Paul’s claim is indeed similar to Jesus’ saying in Matt 5:17 (above); what is unique in Paul’s teaching is the emphasis that Christ fulfills the Law on behalf of human beings (believers), and that those who trust in him share and participate—spiritually and symbolically—in the righteousness (of God) that Christ embodies.