Romans 8:5-8 – We “Mind” What We Are

Romans 8:5–8 (ESV) — 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

 

For Starters:

We need to be aware up front…

  • This is not a command, an imperative, to be “of the Spirit”.
  • He is declaring an accomplished fact.
  • Those in Christ areof the Spirit”.

 

Specifically…when Paul says “those who live”…

  • The word for “live” – eimi – means to already be and exist according to a specific reality.
  • In our text, this reality would be either “the flesh” or “the Spirit”.

 

Tom Schreiner says it this way:

“…those who ‘walk’ by the flesh or the Spirit do so because they ‘are’ of the flesh or the Spirit. In other words, [Paul’s] argument is that behavior stems from the being or nature of a person” – Schreiner.

 

This is hugely significant!

  • I will unpack why this is later.
  • First we need to unpack some phrases to understand our verses.

 

 

Flesh and Spirit Stuff:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” – Verse 5.

 

(1) What does Paul mean by “flesh” and “Spirit”?

 

Flesh” here does not refer to anything physical specifically, such as the body.

  • In keeping with Paul’s usage in previous passages…
  • Flesh” refers to humanity’s rebellious human nature.

 

Spirit” here is the Holy Spirit.

  • Paul’s use of the Spirit here signifies that the believer is no longer alienated from God.
  • And participates in the life of the Spirit.

 

 

(2) So what is “live according to” the flesh or Spirit?

  • This is more dominion or address language from Paul.

 

To “live according to the flesh” is…

  • To exist under the dominion or address of sin.
  • This is to be slaves to sin and under the sway of the rebellious human nature.

 

To “live according to the Spirit” is…

  • The believer’s life giving experience of the Holy Spirit…
  • Under the dominion of grace, freed from the condemnation of the law.

 

 

(3) What is the “set their minds on” the flesh or the Spirit?

 

First, it is important we get something here.

  • This phrase is simply one word, the verb “phroneō.
  • And as we saw with the word “eimi/live”, this is not a command.
  • It is an indicative – a done deal.

 

This means it is a description of how the person’s mind already operates…

  • By virtue of being of the flesh or Spirit.
  • It is not a method of thinking a person can “will”.

 

Given this, what does “phroneō” mean?

  • It relates to our desires, intentions and will as shaped by our address/dominion.

 

The DPL says, “phroneō denotes an attitude of mind which finds expression in the will” – DPL.

  • The BDAG says, it means, “to be intent on” – BDAG.
  • The EDNT says, it means, “single-minded commitment to something and the conditions for such commitment” – EDNT.

 

So to “phroneō” in the flesh…

  • Is to, by default, desire, intend or will the things that are sourced by the power and dominion of sin.
  • Those who “live according to the flesh” don’t try to “phroneo” this way…they just do.

 

Paul gives a list of some of the “things of the flesh” in Galatians.

  • Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21a envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

 

So to “phroneō” in the Spirit…

  • Is to, by default, desire, intend or will the things that are sourced by the Spirit – the dominion of grace address.
  • Those who “live according to the Spirit” don’t try to “phroneo” this way…they just do.

 

Paul also gives a list of some of the “things of the Spirit” in Galatians.

  • Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV) — 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

So let’s look at verse 5 again, and parse it out.

  • For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Given what we have just learned we can paraphrase it this way:

  • Those who live under the power and dominion of sin…
  • Dominated by the rebellious human nature…
  • Persist in a “will,” desire and intention towards its things.

 

Those who live under grace…

  • Dominated by the Spirit…
  • Persist in a “will,” desire and intention towards its things.

 

We can also put it this way:

  • To exist in the dominion of sin is to be orientated or inclined in its direction.
  • To exist in the dominion of the Spirit is to be orientated or inclined in its direction.

 

BTW – This doesn’t mean those in the Spirit can’t or don’t do the things of the flesh.

  • In fact, it doesn’t mean that we don’t continually struggle with the same sin.
  • But this means that our sinning doesn’t condemn us.

 

The persisting in sin that leads to condemnation, for Paul…

  • those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” – Gal. 5:21b.
  • Is to continually sin from the address that is “situated in” (resides in) the flesh – EDNT.

 

 

Paul’s Implications:

Paul doesn’t leave it there.

  • He tells us what the “phroneo-ing” in verse 5 means in verses 6-8.
  • For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

If you live according to, and thus “phroneo” the flesh…

  • You die the death of condemnation and alienation from God – eschatological death.
  • You live life hostile to God.
  • God’s law condemns you for your rebellion.
  • And you “cannot please God”.

 

BTW – What does it mean that a “flesher” cannot please God?

  • Does this mean they can do no good works?
  • Can a “flesher” persist in good works?

 

But if you live according to, and thus “phroneo” the Spirit…

  • You have life and peace.
  • You are free from “the law of sin and death” – Doug Moo.
  • You are no longer alienated from God.
  • And you do not suffer eschatological death of condemnation and alienation from God.
  • There is therefore now no condemnation.

 

Importantly, this life and peace aren’t something we do.

  • They aren’t feelings.
  • In other words, they are “an objective reality not a subjective state of mind” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Back to the Hugely Significant:

Earlier we saw that:

  • “…those who ‘walk’ by the flesh or the Spirit do so because they ‘are’ of the flesh or the Spirit….[and that] behavior stems from the being or nature of a person” – Schreiner.
  • In other words, it’s “being” before behavior – Robert Jewett.
  • Inside to outside.

 

I said that this was hugely significant!

  • Now I want to unpack why this is so.

 

The reason this is hugely significant is because…

  • This truth speaks volumes on how we mature as believers under grace.

 

What is the typical way we are taught to be better Christians – to be more Christ-like?

  • Usually we are given “to do” lists – imperatives.
  • Pray more, give more, love more, learn more, sin less, etc.

 

And, of course, our actions do matter.

  • So, we should strive to “do”.
  • Commonly known as “applying” God’s word.
    • Making God’s word about us by translating it into actions we can do.

 

But we sometimes operate under the illusion…

  • That spiritual growth and transformation…
  • Comes only from this type of application of God’s word.

 

In other words…we find value in God’s word…

  • Mostly when we can take home a “to do” list…
  • That we can add to the routines of our life.

 

 

The Problem:

Knowing God’s word for its own sake and on its own merits…

  • Gets short shrift.
  • It is characterized as just an intellectual exercise.

 

A false narrative is created that pits…

  • The heart against the mind.

 

So this is what we desperately need to realize.

  • If our behavior “stems from” what we are in Christ and the Spirit…
  • If we act because we are…a process that flows inside to out…
  • And not the other way around…
  • What should we spend more time understanding and comprehending…
  • What we are to do or what we are?

 

The answer is:

  • Valuing, Knowing, and Understanding…
  • For its own sake and on its own merits…
  • What we are in Christ and the Spirit…
  • And how God has secured what we are.

 

And how does this valuing, knowing, and understanding of what we are happen?

  • With a to do list?

 

Answer – by consuming the living and active word of God!

 

Here’s the thing:

  • What do you think happens when a person that “phroneo’s” in the Spirit…
    • That is to say, desires, intends or wills the things that are sourced by the Spirit…
  • Consumes God’s living and active word?

 

I can testify from years of doing so…

  • That it actually changes you!
  • No to do list required!

 

To say that knowing God’s word is a mere intellectual exercise?

  • Is to devalue and downplay both…
  • God’s word, your Union with Christ…
  • And the very thing Paul is teaching us today…the power and life of the Holy Spirit…from which we “phroneo”.

 

It is time for us to see that…

  • Consuming, Valuing, Knowing, and Understanding God’s word…
  • Is of utmost importance.
  • And it brings lasting application that to do lists and will power can’t.

 

 

Close with This:

Jeremiah and Ezekiel understand how powerful it is to consume God’s word:

  • Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” – Jeremiah 15:16
  • And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” – Ezekiel 3:3

 

We need to know that there is no Hebrew word for “mind” or “brain”.

  • They thought that the heart and mind stuff happened together in the bowels.
    • Which could be the heart, the stomach, etc.
  • So they did not pit the heart and mind against each other like we do.
  • It was all the same stuff.

 

So these texts mean exactly what we have been saying.

  • To eat God’s word and find it to be a joy, delight and taste of honey includes…
  • The valuing, knowing and understanding of God’s word for its own sake and own its own merits.
  • If there is something we need to “do” – it is this!

 

 

Romans 8:2-4 – According to the Spirit and Trinitarian Gospel

Romans 8:2–4 (ESV) — 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

 

Last week we looked at the “therefore” in verse 1.

  • We saw it contained history – the man Adam, and the man Jesus with His one act.
  • We saw that it also contained theology – the application of the history; the meat on the bones of history; the thing that gave the history meaning.
  • We also briefly explored union with Christ.

 

 

In our verses today, Paul gives us more theology.

  • Specifically, the “what” that the history, the theology and union with Christ do for the believer.
  • In effect, Paul describes some of the results of our union with Christ.

 

 

Verse 2:

He sets it up in verse 2.

  • For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

 

For those “in Christ Jesus”…

  • the law of the Spirit of life”…
  • Has set the believer free from “the law of sin and death”.

 

So what are these two “laws”?

 

I am with Douglas Moo on this one.

  • Paul isn’t talking about the Mosaic law in verse 2.
  • He is referring to law as a “binding authority” or “power”.

 

We have seen him do this before.

  • Romans 3:27 (ESV) — 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
  • Romans 7:23 (ESV) — 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

 

So the two laws are:

  • The power and authority of the Spirit of life…
  • The power and authority of sin and death.

 

This means what we have in Romans 8:2 is this:

  • The authority and power of the Spirit – found in Christ…
  • Has set the believer free from the authority and power of sin and death.

 

What does the power of sin and death bring?

  • Why would one want to be set free from it?

 

BTW – to tie this back to Paul’s dominion theology:

  • Where does the power and authority of the Spirit of life operate?
    • The domain of grace – “under grace”.
  • Where does the power and authority of sin and death operate?
    • The domain of sin – “under sin”.

 

 

Holy Spirit:

We have to take special notice of something hugely significant in verse 2.

  • Paul establishes the necessity of the work of the Spirit.

 

Doug Moo says Paul’s citation of the Spirit…

Introduces, “the Spirit as a key agent of liberation from the old realm of sin and death” – Doug Moo.

 

And importantly Paul also establishes cooperation between the person and work of Christ…

  • The “therefore” from 8:1…
  • And the liberating work of the Spirit…

 

“The Spirit’s liberating work takes place only within the situation created by Christ” – Doug Moo.

  • As Paul says, the power and authority of the Spirit sets us free in Christ.
  • The Spirit plays a role in the believer’s address change.

 

BTW – This should remind us of what we learned in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • There we saw how the Father and Son were coworkers in creation.
  • Here, Christ and the Spirit both work to provide freedom.

 

So, by virtue of union with Christ…

  • The power and authority of the Spirit has set us free from sin and death.

 

 

Verses 3-4:

In verses 3-4, Paul then tells us how it is the Spirit sets us free in Christ.

  • It is basically a play-by-play description of exactly how the history and theology set the believer free.
  • For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Before we unpack Paul’s play-by-play…

  • I want us to notice two things.

 

First, notice that it is all God!

  • God has done
  • Sending his own Son…He condemned sin
  • According to the Spirit

 

Second, notice that Paul’s play-by-play…

  • Highlights the work of all three persons of the Trinity in securing the believer’s freedom.
  • God, Son and Spirit.
  • So we see the Trinitarian Gospel.

 

Now, let’s unpack the details of how Father, Son and Spirit set the believer free.

  • Let’s unpack the Trinitarian Gospel.

 

 

The Father:

(1) “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh [“this-worldly orientation”], could not do.

  • As we have seen in previous lessons on the law (here the Mosaic law)…
  • It is “incapable of rescuing people from the domain of sin and death” – Doug Moo.

 

In fact, in the domain of “under sin” where all are “in Adam”…

  • The law actually “strengthens the power of sin” – Doug Moo.

 

Tom Schreiner puts it this way:

  • “Without the Spirit the law only produces death. But for those who have the Spirit the law plays a positive role” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Remember – the law was never the problem.

  • Paul never threw the law under the bus.
  • One’s address – under sin – and the power of sin and death is the problem.

 

BTW – this means that one of the many things the Gospel does is…

  • Provide the proper address, or context, for God’s law to work as intended.

 

So God, obviously knowing the problem that the law presents in the domain of sin…

  • Sends His Son.
  • John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

 

The Son:

(2) “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

 

When Paul says God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh, three verses really help us get at the meaning.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 3:13 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

 

These three verses hit on various dimensions of Paul’s words.

  • The sinless Son of God took our sin upon Himself.
  • As our substitute, He became a curse “for us”.
  • The Father could then condemn and bring His judging righteousness upon our sin without killing us.
    • Because, the history and theology of the Son’s and Spirit’s work separated us from our sin.

 

Tom Wright puts it this way:

  • In Christ, our sin was executed – Tom Wright.
  • Sin was condemned, not Jesus – Wright.

 

How was it that Jesus could do this for us?

 

If He were a mere human being – a divinely appointed human agent – there would be some problems.

  • He would be “in Adam”, born in Garden Exile (outside of God’s Garden blessing, presence and life) and be under sin and death.
  • He would be powerless before the authority of sin and death.
  • He would be a sinner Himself…in need of a remedy.

 

But wouldn’t the Virgin Birth have remedied this?

  • Perhaps, if one thought, as Augustine, that the sin nature was transmitted through the “seed”.
  • But as we know, this view of the Fall is virtually non-existent now.

 

So, how is it that Jesus could be a human but not be in Garden Exile – subject to the domain of sin?

  • He somehow had to be share in the divine nature of the Father…
  • While at the same time taking on humanity.
  • The God-Man who came in the “likeness of sinful flesh”.

 

What does this phrase mean?

  • “Total identity” with – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Mere similarity” with – Tom Schreiner.

 

Both Schreiner, Moo, and just about all of Christendom opt for the first.

  • So Paul intends us to know that Christ did not come in “superficial or outward similarity, but inward and real participation” in our sinful flesh.

 

What does it mean that Christ fully participated in our sinful flesh?

 

I really like how Tom Schreiner answers this question.

  • It means that Jesus’ “body was not immune to the powers of the old age: sickness and death”.
  • “His body was subject to the disease, death, and weakness of the old order, yet the Son himself was not sinful, nor did he ever sin” – Tom Schreiner.
    • As Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 5:21.

 

But isn’t being “subject to…death” an indication of being in Adam and in Garden Exile?

“Paul is walking a fine line here. On the one hand, he wants to insist that Christ fully entered into the human condition, became ‘in-fleshed’ (in-carnis), and, as such, exposed himself to the power of sin (cf. 6:8–10). On the other hand, he must avoid suggesting that Christ so participated in this realm that he became imprisoned ‘in the flesh’ (cf. the negative use of this phrase in 7:5 and 8:8, 9) and became, thus, so subject to sin that he could be personally guilty of it” – Doug Moo.

  • Bottom line – we don’t have all the answers.

 

One more very important thing to notice about this “likeness of sinful flesh” language:

  • Paul certainly understands Jesus to be a man…
  • But maintains a very strong distinction between Jesus’ humanity and everyone else’s humanity.

 

Jesus came from the Father – as in existed with and was sent from there to us.

  • And Jesus’ flesh was “in the likeness” of ours.

 

If Jesus were only human, why say this?

  • It would be very awkward indeed, for example…
  • To describe Moses, a divinely appointed human agent of God, as being “the likeness of sinful flesh”.

 

Couple this with the association that Paul makes…

  • Between the Father and the Son in 1 Corinthians 8:6…
  • And we see yet another piece of the Trinity puzzle.

 

So God sent…

  • And in Christ, the believer’s sin was condemned.
  • So what about the Spirit?

 

 

The Spirit:

(3) “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

In the interplay between God’s judging righteousness and His holiness…

  • There exists a righteous requirement…
  • One that must be met in order to enter back into His life, presence and blessing.
  • Specifically, the requirement is perfect love, obedience and righteousness – Moo.

 

This requirement is met in the believer – fulfilled in us – by Christ’s work on the cross.

  • And Paul links this fulfillment to the Holy Spirit.
  • This requirement is met in the context of walking not “according to the flesh”…
    • e., in rebellion to God.
  • But those who walk “according to the Spirit”.
    • Life in our new domain.

 

The transfer out of sin and into grace…

  • Is achieved by the work of Christ…
  • And applied by the Holy Spirit.

 

So why does the theology and history of the “therefore” from verse 1 bring no condemnation?

  • God’s sending…
  • And Jesus’ work on the cross…
  • Freed the sinner from the law of sin…
  • And put us under the life of the Spirit

 

We will dig deeper into the life of the Spirit next time.

 

Romans 8:1 – No Condemnation

 

Romans 8:1–4 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Given the “something” that Paul has taught thus far, he says…

  • There is therefore now no condemnation…”

 

We need to answer a couple of questions to begin to unpack our text.

  • (1) What does Paul mean by condemnation?
  • (2) What is the “therefore” – the something – that Paul is referring to?

 

(1) The answer to the first question is crucial in realizing the awesomeness of Paul’s words.

“No condemnation! This assurance can of course only carry its full force for someone who has pondered carefully the seriousness of sin and the reality of God’s judgment” – N.T. Wright.

 

The non-believer simply does not have the worldview to apprehend the enormity of Paul’s words.

  • And quite honestly, perhaps the average Christian doesn’t properly apprehend the enormity of Paul’s words.
  • Hopefully, having made it this far into Romans…this doesn’t apply to us!

 

In a nutshell, condemnation is a status or state of a person living “under sin”.

  • This includes being “in Adam” and all that goes with it.

 

It entails both death, and an “estrangement from God” – Doug Moo.

  • In other words, it is the result of being excluded from God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.

 

And some refer to it simply as suffering the curse and punishment of sin.

  • Something that is both now and not yet.

 

Condemnation, then, is not something that fundamentally results from bad behavior!

  • It is not something unfair that befalls a good person by a mean God.

 

(2) The answer to the second question is multi-faceted.

  • Romans 7:24 seems to be forecasting it.
  • Romans 7:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

 

And Doug Moo says Paul also has in mind Romans 5 – where he began his discussion on condemnation.

  • Romans 5:16–21 (ESV) — 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Now we need to tie this text back in to Romans 8:1.

  • But I want to do so in a peculiar way…so bear with me.

 

So…is Paul’s “therefore” referring to history or theology?

 

What is the history?

  • “one man” – Adam
  • “death”
  • “one man” – Jesus
  • “one act” – the cross

 

We have to notice something here.

  • What does the history tell us?
  • How is it that the history has any force?

 

If you engage yourself or another in conversation with merely:

  • “Adam died.”
  • “Jesus died on the cross.”
  • What meaning is conveyed?

 

So here is what we have to notice:

  • The real meaning…the real application…is the theology!

 

The historical facts of Adam and Christ have to be applied to humanity.

  • And they must be applied correctly.
  • It is the inspired theology of the Bible writers that does this work!

 

In fact, the theology attaches to the history.

  • And as a result, the theology actually becomes historical.

 

So let’s look at the theology of Paul’s “therefore” found in Romans 5:

  • “free gift”
  • “sin”
  • “judgment”
  • “through that one man”
  • “trespass”
  • “condemnation”
  • “justification”
  • “death reigned”
  • “grace”
  • “righteousness”
  • “through the one man”
  • “Christ”

 

The history is that one man, Adam, died.

  • The theology that fills this out and applies it is the “sin”, “judgment”, “through that one man”, “trespass”, “condemnation”, and the “death reigned”.

 

The history is that one man Christ died on the cross (and rose).

  • The theology that fills this out and applies it is the “free gift”, “justification”, “grace”, “righteousness”, “through the one man”, and the “Christ”.

 

These are the theological truths that…

  • Make sense of the death of the one man Adam…
  • And the one act of the one man Jesus.
  • And give them their “so what?”

 

Now we can see what Paul is doing in 8:1.

  • Because of the theology attached to the events in history concerning Adam and Jesus…
  • We see why we were under condemnation…
  • And why we are delivered from condemnation.

 

The theology is the meat on the bones of the history!

 

But how are we joined to this Gospel history and theology?

  • Paul says it is for “those who are in Christ Jesus”.

 

Here we go again!

  • Those” is the history.
  • who are in Christ Jesus” is the theology.

 

Who are the “those”?

  • They are the people who profess Christ – Christians.

 

But, again, we need the theology to apply this and fill out its power and meaning.

  • We need the “in Christ Jesus”!

 

Why?

  • Because, all kinds of people profess all kinds of people.
  • Muslims profess Allah.
  • Buddhists profess Buddha.

 

So we need the theology attached to “in Christ Jesus”…

  • Because it is the theological content that sets this apart from any competing claim.

 

So what does it mean…Tom Schreiner says:

  • “‘In Christ Jesus’ refers to those who died with Christ Jesus and will be raised with him, harking back to 6:1–11” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Well, lets look back at Romans 6:3-11.

  • Romans 6:3–11 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

So to be “in Christ Jesus” means:

  • He died…we died!
  • He was raised…we “were” raised, will be raised, and “live with him”.

 

As a result:

  • We have newness of life.
  • We are “no longer enslaved to sin”, “dead to sin”, and “alive to God in Christ Jesus”.

 

Think of it this way:

  • To be united to Christ is to be…
  • Joined to both Christ’s history…
    • Who He was and what He did historically
  • And the theology (the meaning) that resides in Christ and His history.

 

How does being “in Christ Jesus” do this?

  • We will answer that next week.

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 9 – Jesus Glory and Jesus Devotion

Jesus Glory:

John 12:37–43 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

 

 

In this text, John cites two passages from Isaiah.

  • Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10.
  • He does so to explain why so many of Jesus’ own people reject Him.
  • “A major burden informing John’s use of explicit OT quotations is to provide his readers with a biblical rationale for the rejection of Jesus as Messiah” – Andreas Kostenberger.

 

But, not surprisingly, there is much more going on with John’s use of Isaiah.

  • We will see that, based on John’s use of Isaiah, we have yet another implicit identification of Jesus with YHWH and/or the uniqueness of YHWH.

 

We have referred to these implicit identifications as the messaging of the NT writers.

  • Jonathan Lett calls this messaging a “field of symbols and metaphors” from which the NT writers draw from.
  • And this messaging about Jesus’ identity is every bit as explicit – in their eyes – as direct proclamations that Jesus is God.

 

 

Hermeneutics 101:

To begin, we need to get a quick grip on a hermeneutic in play with the NT usage of the OT.

  • Often, when NT writers quote a verse from an OT passage, they mean to invoke the entire passage.
  • So a reference to one text is a reference to the entire passage.
  • “No text is received in isolation from other texts” – Jonathan Lett.

 

Furthermore, the connections made to these OT passages are often shaped or directed by…

  • The “exegetical principle of gezera shawa” – Jonathan Lett.

 

The principle of gezera shawa simply means:

  • “Passages that contain identical or similar words should be interpreted with reference to one another” – Jonathan Lett.
  • Or, better yet, “passages including identical words or phrases may be used to interpret each other” – Richard Bauckham.

 

Using these principles, John connects Jesus with two significant passages and some significant words.

  • The Passages – Isaiah’s encounter with God (Isaiah 6), and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53).
  • The Words – Glorify and Exalt.

 

As we connect all these dots…

  • We will see how John identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH.
  • Yet another example of how the NT writers blur the lines between Jesus and YHWH.
  • Once again, something we think is best understood from a Trinitarian framework.
  • (The source for this is a recent article by Jonathan Lett in JBL).

 

 

The Connections:

(1) The first thing that connects John 12, Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53 is the display of God’s glory.

  • John 12:23 (ESV) — 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified [doxazo].
  • Isaiah 52:13 (LES) — 13 Look! My child will understand and be raised up and be magnified [doxazo] exceedingly.
  • Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) — 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! [doxa]”

 

John associates Jesus glorification with the upcoming Passion events.

  • Isaiah associates the glory of the Suffering Servant with his appearance, “marred, beyond human semblance” – Isa. 52:14.
  • And he associates the glory of YHWH with the nature of his appearance in the temple.

 

(2) The second thing that connects these passages is the idea of exaltation or being lifted up.

  • John 12:32 (ESV) — 32 And I, when I am lifted up [hypsoo] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
  • Isaiah 52:13 (LES) — 13 Look! My child will understand and be raised up [hypsoo] and be magnified [doxazo] exceedingly.
  • Isaiah 6:1 (ESV) — 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up [hypselos]; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

 

John links Jesus coming glorification with His exaltation to the cross – cross=glorification.

  • “…it is precisely through the Servant’s suffering and death that he comes to be glorified” – Kostenberger.
  • Isaiah links the Servants glorification with being raised up for all to see.
  • And he links YHWH’s glory to his exalted status on His throne.

 

(3) There is one more thing that connects the passages – the idea of rejection.

  • John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
    • John 1:11 (ESV) — 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
  • Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) — 3 He was despised and rejected by men…he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
  • Isaiah 6:9 (ESV) — 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

 

John links the exaltation and glorification themes with the reason for the rejection of Jesus.

  • Isaiah makes the same link in Isaiah 53 with the rejection of the Suffering Servant.
  • And in Isa. 6 he contrasts his reaction to the exalted YHWH with the Israelites who “do not perceive”.

 

From this we can see a correlation of events:

  • So, obviously, there is a connection between the three passages around the themes of “lifting up, glorification, [and] rejection” – Jonathan Lett.
  • And the subject of these actions is Jesus, Suffering Servant and YHWH.

 

 

The Meaning:

The question, for our purposes, is how does John connect the identities of these three?

  • From a Christian perspective, there is little debate that Jesus is the Suffering Servant.
  • Some argue that the Suffering Servant is Israel.
  • John’s use of the passage creates problem for this approach.

 

Given this, the real question for us would be:

  • Is the exaltation, glorification and rejection of Jesus/Suffering Servant…
  • Something He experienced as merely a DHA (divinely appointed human agent)…
  • Or are the connections between the passages meant to tell us Jesus/Suffering Servant is the Visible YHWH of Isaiah 6?

 

John has two things to say about this question.

 

(1) Firstly he says this:

  • John 12:38 (ESV) — 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

 

This is a quote from Isaiah 53:1:

  • Isaiah 53:1 (ESV) — 1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

 

Who is the arm of the YHWH?

  • It is the Suffering Servant.
  • It is Jesus.
  • This language is OT visible YHWH language.

 

 

(2) Secondly John says this:

  • John 12:41 (ESV) — 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

 

When did Isaiah see “his glory”?

  • Isaiah 6:1–3 (ESV) — 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord [Adonai] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord [YHWH] of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 

Whose glory did Isaiah see?

  • In Isaiah 6, Isaiah says he saw Adonai/YHWH’s glory.
  • And he saw it while Adonai/YHWH was sitting upon His throne.
  • This is the glory of the visible YHWH!

 

But John just said that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory.

  • So given all the connections we have discussed…
  • John is connecting Jesus, the Suffering Servant with the uniqueness of YHWH.
  • Jesus’ glory is YHWH’s glory.
  • YHWH’s glory is Jesus’ glory.

 

Craig Evans puts it this way:

“The glory which Isaiah saw, according to the evangelist, is that of the ‘exalted’ Christ, that is, the Christ who was ‘lifted up’ on the cross and crucified. This was the same glory which was seen when the ‘word became flesh and dwelt among us’” – Craig Evans.

 

(3) There is one more way John intimately connects Jesus with YHWH.

  • Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is despised and rejected.

 

Why?

  • He is not rejected as merely a DHA of God.

 

John makes it clear with his connections…

  • Jesus is rejected, like YHWH in Isaiah 6, as the exalted and glorified Lord.
  • John places the “rejection of Jesus onto the wider history of Israel’s inability to respond to God” – Jonathan Lett.

 

In other words:

  • To reject Jesus and His exalted glory on the violent and jarring cross…
  • Is to reject the exalted and splendid glory of YWHW the Lord on His throne (who John says was Jesus).

 

Jonathan Lett puts it this way:

“Isaiah’s visions of Jesus’s glory in the temple and in the figure of the servant force the reader to reconcile these seemingly disparate images of Jesus as a dishonored and disfigured servant and as the holy Lord enthroned on high in his heavenly temple.”

 

Conclusion:

I will let Lett conclude this section for us.

“With Isa 52:13–53:12 and Isa 6, John delivers the most startling news: the divine and holy Jesus sits on the temple throne because he also hangs on a cross—scorned, disfigured, steeped in shame—and because he hangs there forsaken, he also presides gloriously over all the earth in his heavenly temple…Israel simply cannot recognize the identity of their God, who is the kind of God that comes to them in the lowliness of Jesus” – Jonathan Lett.

 

 

Jesus Devotion:

There is one final element of the NT’s handling of Jesus that is better explained by a Trinitarian view.

  • The worship of Jesus – or cultic devotion of Jesus (Larry Hurtado).
  • (This section is based on the work of Larry Hurtado).

 

 

Christian Mutation:

The first thing to take note of is that the worship of Jesus represents a massive change in the Jewish tradition.

  • The “earliest Christian devotion constituted a significant mutation or innovation in Jewish monotheistic tradition” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Specifically, the Christian mutation was as follows:

It involved “making the exalted Jesus an object of devotion. More specifically, Christ came to be included as an object of the devotional attention characteristically reserved for God in other examples of Jewish tradition” – Larry Hurtado.

 

And significantly, this addition of Jesus was unprecedented!

  • “…this mutation in Jewish tradition may be seen as an unprecedented reshaping of monotheistic piety to include a second object of devotion alongside God…” – Larry Hurtado.
  • There is no other case in any Jewish tradition of such a thing taking place.

 

And importantly, this unprecedented mutation, as we saw last week…

  • Happened “among a group that continued to consider itself firmly committed to ‘one God’” – Larry Hurtado.

 

 

The Mutations:

Larry Hurtado says there were six specific mutations in Jewish monotheism to accommodate Jesus.

  • (1) Hymnic Practices
  • (2) Prayer Practices
  • (3) Use of Name of Christ
  • (4) Lord’s Supper
  • (5) Confessing Jesus
  • (6) Prophetic Pronouncements of Risen Christ

 

When we speak of worship as cultic devotion…

  • It is to these 6 mutations that we are referring.

 

 

(1) Hymic Practices

 

The hymns are “mainly devoted to celebrating the work and significance of Christ” – Larry Hurtado.

  • There are three major passages considered to be Christ hymns.
  • John 1:1-18
  • Colossians 1:15-20
  • Philippians 2:5-11

 

There are many more “fragments of hymns” throughout the NT (Hurtado).

  • Revelation has many hymns sung to the Lamb.
  • And, no doubt, many Psalms were sung in devotion to Jesus (Hurtado).
  • Most notably, Psalm 110, the most quoted OT passage in the NT.

 

The Philippians hymn is as follows:

  • Philippians 2:5b–11 (ESV) — 5b Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

 

(2) Prayer Practices

 

“Christ was regularly invoked and appealed to in prayer” – Larry Hurtado.

  • A practice usually reserved for YHWH.
  • But in the NT, prayer is now split between the Father and Jesus.

 

A couple of examples of prayer to Jesus:

  • Acts 7:59–60 (ESV) — 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:7–9 (ESV) — 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

 

(3) Name of Christ

 

Invoking the name of Christ was yet another way cultic devotion and worship of Christ were demonstrated.

  • (a) “The most familiar practice involving the name of Christ is the Christian initiatory rite of baptism” – Larry Hurtado.
  • (b) There are also instances of “calling upon the name of Jesus the Lord” – Hurtado.

 

Some examples of baptism in the name:

  • Acts 10:48 (ESV) — 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
  • Acts 19:5 (ESV) — 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

Some examples of calling on the name:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
  • Romans 10:13 (ESV) — 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

Interestingly, this calling on the name idea:

  • “…apparently derived originally from Old Testament passages that refer to calling ‘upon the Lord’” – Larry Hurtado.
  • Genesis 12:8 (ESV) — 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.
  • Joel 2:32 (ESV) — 32a And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
    • Does Romans 10:13 suggest that the name of YHWH in Joel is the name of Lord Jesus?
    • Yet another blurring of the lines with the name of YHWH and Jesus.

 

 

(4) Lord’s Supper:

 

The Lord’s Supper is one of the earliest glimpses “we have of the corporate gatherings of Jewish Christians” – Larry Hurtado.

  • Strikingly, it is centered around and shows, “the prominent place of the risen Christ in their devotional practice” – Larry Hurtado.
  • And as with the other mutations, there is no record found in “ancient Jewish devotion” of such a practice.

 

The obvious Lord’s Supper example comes from 1 Corinthians.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

 

(5) Confessing Jesus

 

Confessing in Jesus’ name simply meant:

  • “…owning up to one’s faith before others who did not share it and affirming one’s faith in gatherings of believers” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Matthew attributes it to Jesus Himself:

  • Matthew 10:32 (ESV) — 32 So everyone who acknowledges [homologeo] me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
  • ASV version rightly uses “confesses” instead of “acknowledges”.

 

The most popular example is found in Romans.

  • Romans 10:9 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess [homologeo] with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

 

It is also widely believed that the beginning of Romans has a homologeo of Christ.

  • Romans 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

 

And so given the practice of confessing Jesus:

  • “We have…yet another example of the distinctive shape of [Christian] religious life” – Larry Hurtado.
  • Distinctive, as we have been saying, from any previous Jewish practice.

 

 

(6) Prophesying Words of Risen Jesus

 

A final Christian mutation of early Jewish devotion that must be noted is:

  • “…prophecy uttered as the words of the heavenly Christ” – Larry Hurtado.

 

An example of this is found in Revelation.

  • Revelation 1:17–19 (ESV) — 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
  • So John was prophesying, not YHWH’s words, but Jesus’ words.

 

Why is the prophesying of Jesus’ words particularly significant?

 

The Context:

The context is a people committed to ancient Jewish monotheism “and its traditional concern about false prophecy” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Moses reveals why this context is so important.

  • Deuteronomy 13:1–3 (ESV) — 1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

Moses would go on to say that the prophet prophesying in the name of any god but YHWH should be put to death.

  • This is because prophesying the words of any one but YHWH was a sign of disloyalty and disobedience.
  • And it was a subversion of the authority of YHWH over His people.

 

And yet, we have ancient Jewish monotheists who confess loyalty to YHWH prophesying Jesus’ words.

So, “If a person was able to command the attention and acceptance of early Christian groups and be regarded as a true prophet by convincing them that he or she spoke the words of the risen Christ [instead of YHWH], this means that these groups gave to the words of this Lord the same sort of authority as they accorded to the prophetic address of God himself or of his ‘Spirit’’’ – Larry Hurtado.

 

The prophesy from Christ equaled the prophesy of YHWH.

  • It had to; otherwise Deut. 13 would be in play!
  • And those prophesying the words of Jesus would be going after “other gods”.

 

 

Conclusion:

I will let Larry Hurtado close this lesson out.

“Jewish Christians gathered in Jesus’ name for worship, prayed to him and sang hymns to him, regarded him as exalted to a position of heavenly rule above all angelic orders, appropriated to him titles and Old Testament passages originally referring to God, sought to bring fellow Jews as well as Gentiles to embrace him as the divinely appointed redeemer, and in general redefined their devotion to the God of their fathers so as to include the veneration of Jesus” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Therefore:

“The proper questions are whether Jesus was included uniquely in the sort of reverence that was otherwise reserved for God, and whether Jesus shared in the sort of reverence that in ancient Jewish and Christian circles was typically denied to any other figure (than God)…the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 8 – The Christianized Shema – Jesus, One God, and Polytheism

After setting up some foundations last week we left off with this question:

  • How is it that the ex-pagan can understand the worship of both the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?
  • We explored how the Unitarian might answer this question.
  • Now we need to explore how the Trinitarian might answer the question.

 

BTW – The same question can be posed about Paul’s Jewish monotheism.

  • Interestingly, the ex-pagan was “subtracting”, Paul was “adding” (Trent Rogers).

 

 

Pagan Polytheism:

There is one more piece of information we need.

  • It concerns the nature of pagan polytheism.

 

The pagan had no qualms with a fluid and varied pantheon of gods.

  • For the pagan, “a god need not always be a god, some gods are not complete gods, other gods are supercomplete gods, hence some gods are more god that others” – Henk Versnel (Coping with the Gods).
  • Thus the Father and Jesus could each have easily been added to the pantheon as being two more of one of the above gods.

 

So what would be required to bring a pagan from this polytheism into ancient Jewish monotheism?

 

Henk Versnel helps us here – the pagan’s pantheon of gods would need to be:

  • Relegated to a position, “beyond the political or cultic horizon of the community”.
    • The pagan would have to give exclusive worship to just one God – YHWH in our case.
  • Cast as being, “powerless, wicked or demonic…without any real significance”.
    • The pagan would need their gods be marginalized.

 

Given that this obviously occurred among the ex-pagans of the Corinthian church…

  • We can deduce from the above observations two things accomplished by Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 8:4-6.
  • (1) Distinguished Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) United Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.

 

BTW – And one would think that each of these would have to involve not just function (what they did), but also their nature (what they were – ontology).

  • Something we will briefly consider at the end of this lesson.

 

 

Paul’s Christology:

This brings us back to our text:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

The above text contains at least six truths that accomplished the two things just mentioned.

  • (1) Distinguished Jesus and Father from other gods.
  • (2) United Jesus and Father.
  • We will take the time to unpack all six (they come from Paul Rainbow).

 

 

(1) Divine Name:

The first thing Paul does is associate Jesus with the divine name of YHWH.

  • He does this using Deuteronomy 10:17.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 (ESV) — 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

 

We see that Moses told us something quite specific about YHWH in Deut. 10:17.

  • For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords
  • In other words, in Moses’ text (LXX), YHWH is both God (ho theos) and Lord (ho kyrios).

 

And then we see Paul tell us something rather peculiar in 1 Cor. 8:6

  • Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

Paul (or someone, and Paul endorsed it) split Moses’ declaration about YHWH into two.

  • He assigned the Father to Moses’ “God”.
  • He assigned Jesus Christ to his “Lord”.
  • Paul has “glossed ‘God’ with ‘the Father,’ and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ’” – N.T. Wright.

 

In other words:

  • The Father is identified with YHWH by filling the “ho theos” slot.
  • Jesus is identified with YHWH by filling the “ho kyrios” slot.
  • (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 does this with both Deut. 10:17 and Deut. 6:4).

 

Does our “Divine Name” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

It seems to do both and establishes Jesus’ identity in two directions.

  • (1) As it relates to the pagan lords and gods, Jesus is the incomparable “one Lord”.
  • (2) As it relates to the Father, Jesus is the YHWH “ho kyrios” to the Father’s YHWH “ho theos”.

 

Jesus is cast as the incomparable “ho kyrios” of Deut. 10:17.

  • A title that connotes Jesus’ participation in the unique “divine status” of YHWH – DPL.
  • Something that sets him soundly on the god-side of the “god” and “non-god” divide.

 

 

(2) Prepositions United:

In verse 6, Paul tells us that:

  • Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

 

In this verse, Paul distributes three prepositions between the Father and Jesus.

  • Father – “from” and “for”.
  • Jesus – “through” and “through”.

 

And, importantly, what comes “from”, “for” and “through” the one God and one Lord?

  • Creation – the creation of the universe.
  • Redemption – the “making/saving” of the body of believers.
    • What Fitzmeyer calls the “means through whom Christians attain the goal of their existence”.
    • This includes eschatology.

 

To elaborate just a bit:

“The universe comes from God through the Lord Jesus Christ and those whom he has redeemed return to God through the Lord Jesus Christ” – Paul Rainbow.

 

Creation and Redemption are two things attributed over and over throughout the OT to YHWH alone.

  • Something we saw so clearly in our survey of Isaiah 40-44 last week.

 

This means that Paul unites Father and Jesus in the OT YHWH functions of Creation and Redemption.

Paul …designates the unique functions of the one true Godhead within which God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are co-workers” – Andrey Romanov.

 

But wait, there is more!

 

Attributing Creation and Redemption “through” Jesus has huge implications for His identity.

Christ is an “indispensable participant in the act of creation and the co-worker of God the Father. And therefore not just through Jesus Christ did all things come into being from God but only through him” – Andrey Romanov.

  • So Christ is “a unique and indispensable participant” in creation and redemption – Andrey Romanov.

 

Why is this hugely significant?

“This makes I Cor. 8. 6 perhaps the earliest documentary evidence for the Christian belief in the personal pre-cosmic existence of Christ” – Paul Rainbow.

  • So the Son of God, “was present with the Father before the world came into being” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Jesus is “the pre-existent mediator of creation” (Fitzmeyer)!

 

The NT speaks of this elsewhere:

  • John 1:3 (ESV) — 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • Colossians 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
  • Hebrews 1:2 (ESV) — 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

 

This has an important implication for our pagans.

  • The Father and Jesus stand over and above all that has been made.
  • They have a transcendent or universal relation to all of creation – Paul Rainbow.

 

This is a huge contrast to the gods of pagan polytheism.

  • The pagan polytheist, “assigned to each lord [and god] a city, nation, sphere of human life, or part of nature” – Paul Rainbow.
  • But, “Paul sees his one Lord in relation to the whole” – Paul Rainbow.

 

So when the pagan gods are contrasted with Jesus, the “one Lord”:

  • We find that “they dwell ‘either in heaven or on earth’ (v 5), that is, inside the boundary of all things. As such they are from God through the Lord; they are created beings” – Paul Rainbow.
  • This, “makes God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ unique in comparison with other ‘gods’ and ‘lords’” – Andrey Romanov.

 

Does our “Prepositions United” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

The answer is both.

  • The pagan gods are cast as inferior by virtue of the fact that the One Lord and One God created them.
    • They are “able neither to create, nor to save” – Andrey Romanov.
  • Jesus and Father are united as the pre-existent Creators of creation and Redeemers of God’s people.

 

 

(3) One:

The textual parallel of 1 Corinthians 8:6 is a Pauline confession of unity.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father

     from whom are all things and for whom we exist,

and one Lord, Jesus Christ,

     through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

Buy virtue of the parallel, both the Father and Jesus Christ are given equal billing.

  • The parallel unites them in function against the “lords and gods”.
  • It sets them apart in status from the other “lords and gods”.

 

And, the textual parallel, along with their shared functions, unites them together as the “one” God and Lord:

  • “Each is confessed to be one” – Paul Rainbow.

 

The extent of their shared “one” is startling:

“Both bear titles of divinity, and the titles have equal dignity. Both were active in creation. Both are active in redemption. Thus they both participate in a unified way in uniquely divine titles and operations” – Paul Rainbow.

  • So both are “one” – one Lord and one God.

 

And in ancient Jewish monotheism what does one mean?

  • “unique, incomparable, wholly other” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

 

So Jesus and the Father share in the same functions of the one YHWH of Moses and Isaiah.

  • And each possesses what we might call the “one-characteristic”.
    • “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.
  • What makes more sense of this – Trinitarian or Unitarian approaches?

 

And even more interesting – is Paul raising the idea of a shared, divine nature?

  • Not directly, but Paul Rainbow thinks Paul does think in the category of ontology (nature).
  • Paul is clearly making a distinction between everything and the one God and one Lord.
  • “Implicit in the distinction is the insight that the creator is qualitatively superior to his work” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Again, we will hit this again at the end of this lesson.

 

Does our “One” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

 

(4) Identical Relations:

The simplest way to unpack this is to make some needed distinctions.

  • Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
  • Looking at verse 6 we can pull out the following distinctions.

 

In one corner “X” we have the following:

  • gods” and “lords” – the powers and principalities, whether of the supernatural or natural variety.
  • all things” – as in creation
  • we exist” – as in Christians and Christian redemption and hope.

 

In corner “Y” we have:

  • one God, the Father
  • one Lord, Jesus Christ

 

The corner “Y” observation is simple enough, but very important.

  • There aren’t three corners in this text – corner “X”, corner “Y” the Father and corner “Z” Jesus.
  • The textual parallel we discussed last week unites the Father and Jesus in the same corner.
    • Though Jesus is subordinate functionally to the Father as it pertains to the work described.
  • So, “Paul does not have two foci of divinity, but two foci of divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.

 

Now, as we saw in Prepositions United (point 2):

  • Everything in corner “X” is “from”, “for” and “through” either the Father or Jesus – the divine unity of corner “Y”.
  • “Neither…has unique responsibility for either creation or redemption. To each is assigned a phrase in v 6 having to do with cosmology and also a phrase having to do with soteriology” – Paul Rainbow.
  • They are co-workers (as we said earlier).

 

This means that the Father and Christ participate together on the same side of the divide.

  • They are united in their position as both superior to, and the source of everything in corner “X”.
  • This position is their “identical relations” vis-a-vis everything else.

 

Paul Rainbow sums this up for it:

“A comparison of the relations which God and the Lord each have to the many gods and lords, to the world, and to the people of God, shows that these two figures have identical relations. Even as God is exclusively divine over against the many gods of polytheistic belief, so also the Lord is exclusively divine over against the many lords. Even as God is uniquely transcendent to ‘all things’, so also the Lord is uniquely transcendent to ‘all things’. Both stand together on the side of the creator rather than the creation. Even as God is the unique object of Christian hope, so also is the Lord the unique object of Christian hope” – Paul Rainbow.

 

Does our “Shared Relation” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

 

(5) Jesus and “one God”:

We can start this point with an observation.

  • Remember, verse 4 affirms, “there is no God but one”.
    • One meaning “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.
  • So, “The basic structure of [verses 4-6] corresponds…to that of Jewish texts which contrast pagan polytheism with the Jewish belief in one God” – Paul Rainbow.

 

This means that:

“Paul the Jewish-Christian monotheist has no intention of setting over against pagan polytheism a belief in two Gods rather than one. He wishes to define Jewish-Christian faith, in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.

 

So how does Paul handle Jesus “in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity”?

  • Paul as already set Jesus in the same corner as the Father.
  • But now what to do with Jesus?

 

This is an especially pressing question given what we have seen thus far.

  • Jesus and the Father share identical relations to everything.
  • They are co-workers in creation and redemption.
  • Jesus pre-exists creation.
  • Each posses what we called the “one-characteristic”.
  • They both share in the divine name from Deut. 10:17.

 

To see how Paul answers our question, to see what he does with Jesus…

  • It will help us here to revisit the choices Paul has available to him.

 

It seems there are at least three choices.

  • (1) Jesus is a divine agent in the Jewish tradition.
  • (2) Jesus is an incomplete god or demigod in the pagan tradition – a “god” or “lord”.
  • (3) Jesus is a full participant in the uniqueness/unity of YHWH.

 

The pagan god explanation with Jesus as just a “god” or “lord” is ruled out straight away.

  • “Paul plainly means to affirm a divine unity in contrast to pagan polytheism”– Paul Rainbow.

 

The divine agent explanation has some explanatory power.

  • But, its drawbacks are that it doesn’t fully account for everything we have already learned.
  • Learned not only in our dealing with 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 but in our previous lessons as well.

 

Jesus is repeatedly explicitly or implicitly (through contextual messaging) called or cast as God.

  • He does what only the YHWH of the OT does – such as pre-exist creation.

 

Moreover, there was never a time when a divine agent received YHWH-like cultic devotion.

  • Jesus, in huge contrast, received the same cultic devotion as YHWH.
  • (More on this next week).

 

But even more devastating to the divine agent explanation is Corinth’s pagan context.

  • It is hard to see how the ex-pagan of Corinth would not see an exalted divine agent as just another incomplete god or demigod – a “god” or “lord”.
  • This possibility is too often overlooked.

 

Remember, Paul is dealing with nations here – not the Israelites.

  • And the pagan Corinthian does not have the category of Jewish divine agency.
  • They have the category of a pantheon of gods.
  • Gods that come in all shapes and flavors.

 

Travelers into Corinth, like Paul, would have immediately encountered statues of…

  • “…Artemis Ephesia, Dionysos, Poseidon, Apollo Klarios, Aphrodite, Hermes, Zeus, and Athena with some Muses [poetry, music, etc.]” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Not to mention, “in the agora [market] were temples dedicated to Tyche, All the Gods, and Octavia the sister of Julius Caesar, who re-founded the city” – Paul Rainbow.

 

If the sister of Julius Caesar was venerated as a kind of god, how much more would Jesus be so?

  • “Hey guys, lets slap up another temple to YHWH and make a statue to venerate His Son, Jesus.”

 

Paul Rainbow gets this when he says:

“The application of the language of monotheism to a man whom Paul did not suppose to be in some way united to God would be a departure from Jewish monotheism of the most radical kind, a virtual assimilation to the pagan environment which [ranked as god] heroes and ascribed titles of divinity to emperors” – Paul Rainbow.

 

So, the only way for Paul to handle Jesus “in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity”…

  • Is to assign Jesus to the divine unity and uniqueness of YHWH.

 

And this is exactly what 1 Corinthians 8:6 does.

In it, Paul “puts God and the Lord together in v 6 where the structure of traditional Jewish monotheistic statements would demand one deity” – Paul Rainbow.

  • “In Paul’s confession, God and the Lord together take the place which belongs to God alone in Jewish confessions. Paul is unconscious of anything in this Christian confession which might threaten or compromise the divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.

 

In other words, the Father and Jesus share in the “one deity”, the divine unity, and the uniqueness of YHWH.

  • Jesus is “regarded together” with the Father as demonstrating this unity without violating it – Paul Rainbow.

 

Paul Rainbow sums this section up for us:

“The juxtaposition of this one, divine Lord Jesus Christ with the one God on that side of the antithesis which stresses the divine unity is felt to be a further affirmation of God’s unity and not a surrender of it. How can this be, unless Paul presupposes that the Lord Jesus Christ is in some undefined sense what the one God is?” – Paul Rainbow.

 

Does our “Jesus and One God” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

 

6) Language of Jewish Monotheism:

It is important to know that Jewish “monotheism was for Paul…a primary tenet” – Paul Rainbow.

  • Romans 3:30 (ESV) — 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • Galatians 3:20 (ESV) — 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

 

And yet in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “Christ is included in a revised proclamation of God’s uniqueness [the Shema]” – DPL.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
  • Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

 

The revision stipulates that both the Father and Jesus share in the “one-characteristic”.

  • Both are one – “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.

 

Yet, how can two be unique, incomparable and wholly other in a Jewish monotheistic way?

“The exclusive language of monotheism is inherently bound to one referent. To distribute it to more than one referent would be by that very act to empty it of meaning… the two referents must be in some sense one” – Paul Rainbow.

 

Moreover, as we alluded to in our dealings with Isaiah 40-44 a few weeks ago…

  • There are some very specific attributions made about the one God of ancient Jewish monotheism.

 

Paul Rainbow sums these attributions up this way:

  • Ancient Jewish monotheism had, for its one God, a specific list of attributions: “a negative attitude towards idolatry and polytheism, the belief in one creator of all things, in one Lord of all the earth, whose will determines the course of history from beginning to end, and who stands in a special relationship to the one people of Israel with one temple in Jerusalem” – Paul Rainbow.

 

The mind-blowing thing about 1 Cor. 8:4-6 – the Christianized Shema – is that…

  • Every single one of these fundamental Jewish monotheistic attributions is applied to Jesus Christ.
  • Let’s look at each attribution and confirm this claim.

 

(1) “Negative attitude towards idolatry and polytheism”:

  • We have seen over and over, Jesus is on the side of the Father in opposition to Corinth’s “gods” and “lords” and their idols.
  • Jesus, like the Father, is on the positive side of the attitude expressed in 1 Cor. 8:4-6.

 

(2) “Belief in one creator of all things”:

  • We saw last week that 1 Cor. 8:4-6 tells us that “all things” – as in creation – came “through” Jesus.
  • He was a pre-existent co-worker with the Father in creation.

 

(3) “One Lord…determines the course of history…stands in a special relationship to the one people of Israel”:

  • Here as well we saw what Paul means when he says it is Jesus Christ “through whom we exist”.
  • This is salvation and redemption language – now and not yet.
  • Something that involves both God’s people and history.

 

In other words, the consummation of the Kingdom of God is wholly the domain of Jesus Christ.

  • It is Jesus’ return that will finally put all things right and usher in the new heaven and earth.
  • This is “the course of history”.

 

So Jesus Christ is firmly situated within ancient Jewish monotheistic attributions of the one God.

  • He is included in fundamental Jewish monotheistic language.
  • This is without precedent in ancient Judaism (Paul Rainbow).

 

And it leaves us with two possibilities:

“Either Paul is using monotheistic language with reference to a glorified human being in a way unacceptable to Judaism, or he presupposes that the Father and Jesus Christ share some point of identity” – Paul Rainbow.

 

And given the fact that:

  • Paul embraced ancient Jewish monotheism…
  • And that, “there is a complete absence in Paul’s letters of any controversy with Judaism or Jewish Christians over the matter of monotheism” – Paul Rainbow.
  • And that we have (today and in past lessons) uncovered many problems with the divine-agency-only approach…
  • We can say the best explanation for what Paul is doing with Jesus is to be found in a Trinitarian understanding of the NT.

 

Does our “Jesus and One God” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?

 

 

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that Paul sees “the gods of polytheism as deficient” as it relates to the Father and Jesus – Paul Rainbow.

  • There is no need to enumerate the reasons here – we have just seen a bunch.

 

Importantly, however, we do need to know that their deficiencies are functional in nature.

  • The gods can’t do the things Jesus does.
  • Jesus does things that the gods can’t do and that only YHWH is supposed to do.

 

But, is there anything about Paul’s handling of Jesus that indicates that Paul sees the gods as deficient in nature or essence?

 

To answer, we need to add a couple more observations of Paul found elsewhere.

  • Galatians 4:8 (ESV) — 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV) — 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

 

Paul Rainbow argues that in these two texts we see:

  • A distinction of nature or essence between the one true God and the gods.
  • This means that “[the gods] lack the divine essence [or nature] by virtue of which God alone can be and act as God” – Paul Rainbow.
  • So the gods are deficient by their very nature.
  • They do not possess the divine nature of God.

 

In contrast:

  • “The living and true God of monotheism, who alone is God…is uniquely divine by virtue of his essence [or nature]” – Paul Rainbow.

 

What’s the point?

“When we place the high Christology of 1 Cor. 8:4–6 alongside of the concept of the unique divine essence from Gal. 4:8 and I Thess. 1:9, we see that all the necessary elements are present for concluding that Paul’s Christ is ontologically divine” – Paul Rainbow.

  • In other words, Jesus possesses God’s divine nature in contrast to the gods and lords who do not.

 

The simplest way to put this is as follows:

  • The gods can’t do because they AREN’T.
  • Jesus can do because he IS.

 

We can get at this another way as well.

  • If the function is – just to make a point – flying…
  • Something the Bible says only YHWH can do…
  • And we are told that the gods and lords can’t fly…
  • We have to ask why the gods and lords can’t fly.

 

If we suggest that they could learn to fly, or be given the power to fly…

  • Then we could argue that they could function as YHWH.
  • But what Paul (and the OT and NT generally) implies is that gods and lords can’t fly because…
  • By their very nature, they aren’t birds – they don’t possess bird-essence.
  • They are something all together different – they have a different essence or nature.
  • The Father and Jesus, on the other hand, “have” or “are” the nature that flies – YHWH-nature.
  • (Not the best analogy, but it might bring some clarity.)

 

All of these essence implications are things the ex-pagan at Corinth would have understood.

  • And so this, in tandem with everything else we have discussed the past few weeks…
  • Explains why the ex-pagan could worship the Father and the Son, affirm the Shema, and yet…
  • Not see Jesus as a demigod or a “not complete” god.
  • Jesus was altogether something different.