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Paul the Apostle: Aspects of his Life and Ministry II

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Question #1:

I know you state the Apostle Paul being the 12th apostle and you make a convincing argument for why but I just read this in the Word which made sense to me: "And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve. After that, He was seen of above five hundred Brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present , but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the Apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also one born out of due time. For I am the lest of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God." (1 Cor 15 5-9) I know the Lord chooses His apostles. In these verses, Paul stated he was not one of the twelve apostles but an Apostle chosen by the Lord to minister and spread the gospel to the gentiles. The other 12 apostles, including Matthias, I presume, preached primarily to Jews.

Response #1:

As one of the ultimate twelve, Paul's name is on one of the foundation stones of New Jerusalem – not some man we never heard of before or after the events of Acts chapter one (Rev.21:14); that exercise in futility came from Peter – before he had been given the indwelling Spirit – and not from Jesus Christ who alone can appoint the twelve.

New Jerusalem has twelve gates named for the twelve tribes of Israel, and yet we gentile believers expect to be there too. And indeed we shall be, if we persevere. Because the Church is composed of Jews and gentiles both, and Israel is the ultimate organization of the Church, even though the majority of its members were gentiles in this life.

Whenever people draw sharp distinctions between Israel and the Church in terms of the Body of Christ, therefore, it is always a severe mistake leading to much false interpretation and false doctrine. The Jewish Age and the Church Age are different with the former operating under the Old Covenant of shadow and the latter under the New Covenant of the reality of the cross and the resurrected Christ – but the believers in both ages are both Jews and gentiles, and the Church comprises both ages – and the age of the gentiles before Israel too.

Drawing a false distinction between Jews and gentiles based upon race rather than dispensation is a serious problem in evangelicaldom today, especially in any group enamored of hyper-dispensationalism – of which there are many (e.g., all pro-rapture types). All of the apostles are Jewish, but John wrote Revelation to predominantly gentile churches; and Peter ended his ministry in Rome ministering to mostly gentiles and wrote his two epistles to gentiles; and Paul always went to the Jews first and had many Jewish as well as gentile converts; as our Lord says about him: "he is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15).

After Pentecost, the distinctions in the Law that separate the people of God for symbolic reasons no longer apply; though it is true that in the interim period detailed in Acts it took most people a while to figure this one out. But to address your main point of concern, 1st Corinthians 15:5-9, Paul says in that passage, as you quote it, "And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve".

When did this happen? It happened after Judas had betrayed and hung himself (so Judas is not one of "the Twelve"); and it happened before the events of Acts chapter one, because Christ's ascension is detailed in Acts 1:9-11, but the election (!) by lottery (!) of Matthias at Peter's insistence with no indication that he was directed to do this (!) takes place after that, at Acts 1:15-26.

So who was number twelve in your passage (1Cor.15:5-9) which takes place when Jesus appeared to them after Judas' death and before Matthias' "appointment"? The answer is that the apostles were considered a "college" and that the name of this college was "the twelve" even when there weren't twelve. Elsewhere they are called "the eleven", and that is telling too, because it makes clear that there is one missing who can only be replaced by the Lord. Luke is careful not to refer to "the twelve" at the end of chapter one or in the beginning of chapter two so as not to give the impression that Matthias was anything other than a humanly originated measure. This is important; because many would like to undermine Paul's authority so as not to have to pay attention to the scripture he was given to write (especially those who are trying to revive the Law); but he was the greatest of the twelve apostles, the ultimate twelve, the twelve whose names are forever enshrined on the foundations of the wall of New Jerusalem.

Here are some links on this:

Paul the Apostle: Aspects of his Ministry I

Is Romans 7:14 autobiographical?

Paul's Jerusalem Error

Paul and the Law

Paul is number twelve

Matthias and the Numbering of the Twelve Apostles

The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now

The "apostle" Matthias


Apostles and Evangelism

The Deaths of the 12 Disciples / Apostles of Christ.

Are there apostles in the Church today?

Question #2:

You wrote: This is also evident at Acts 2:14, where Luke mentions "the eleven" instead "the twelve" - not until the calling of Paul, the genuine twelfth apostle, was the full complement again reached. For it is Jesus who picked the apostles, not men, and He did so "through the Holy Spirit".

You use "the eleven" as an argument here, but the verse says "with the eleven" - so wouldn't that include Matthias here (Peter plus the eleven)? I agree with your interpretation that it was Paul who replaced Judas, I would just like to understand this argument.

Response #2:

The critical thing is the description of the college as "the eleven". It is common in Greek for the college to have a name that is significant beyond the number. So when our Lord responds to John's question about who will be betray Him, He says – to John – "one of the twelve" (Mk.14:12); but John was himself "one of the twelve", was he not? So with these words our Lord would seem to be saying that John was not one of the twelve not but merely an outside observer – unless we accept the fact that the twelve are a college and "the twelve" is its name.

Luke refers to "the eleven" as the name of the college after the death of Judas, and does not say "with the OTHER eleven" which we would cause us to take his meaning as that of a simple number and not the name of a college of individuals. So "the eleven" is highly significant here for a group that was elsewhere known throughout the gospels, including Luke's, as "the twelve". What it means is that Luke is deliberately discounting the unauthorized (and un-prompted by the Lord) selection of Matthias (he does that in Acts 1:26 when he says that Matthias was "voted down" or "condemned" with the others, though this verb is universally mistranslated in the versions). The college would only be complete once again to its full complement of twelve when Paul was selected by the only One who could make such a selection, our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9:15: "he is My chosen vessel").

1st Corinthians 15:5 is likewise a critical verse here because in it were are told that the Lord was seen in resurrection "by the twelve" – but this happened after Judas' betrayal and suicide and before Matthias "election". So "the twelve" can only be a college name in that verse and cannot represent twelve individuals because at that point there were only eleven by anyone's count.

Question #3:

Dear Robert,

Fabulous, for I am enjoying our discussion (being the minor) and I say this respectfully. I am reading your study subjects to further my own Biblical understanding.

I do believe that We are in the same envelope regarding being saved by our faith or through faith (alone); the grace gospel of God. My standing with you, adds our company to equal two. Therefore, Peter's statement in Acts 2:14 adds him with the eleven equaling twelve. I would not 'count' Paul as one of the twelve. Jesus addressed His disciples (Matthew 19:28) "...you who have followed Me will also sit on the thrones...". I read this as being current past tense in His time.

The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Kind regards,

Response #3:

I'm very happy to be of some small help. A couple of points from your most recent email:

Paul was/is the twelfth. Judas was replaced. Christ picked Paul personally (on the road to Damascus), and Paul affirms that choice in every epistle, claiming the title as a mark of his authority in the Church. The names of the twelve are on the foundations of the wall New Jerusalem, as we may be absolutely sure that Judas' name is not there (nor Matthias'; see the link). Matthew 19:28 is prophetic (and according to prophetic "rules" can anticipate everything that's going to happen before the fulfillment), but the grammar also is not in conflict with the changes that would happen: "followed" is actually an aorist participle and could equally be translated "those who shall have followed Me" (the antecedent action applying to the future situation not the present one); in any case, it's not a past tense indicative, and that is significant since that would have been the most likely thing to have said. This participle makes the time-anchor relative to the main verb.  I do understand that this a little "deep in the weeds" in Greek for those who don't know the language well, but please trust me on this (and feel free to write back if you'd like a more detailed grammatical explanation); here's a possible, legitimate translation of the phrase that makes it a bit clearer: "And you, whoever shall have [in the end] followed Me, will . . ."

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

I am excited about reading your detailed studies on these matters of discussion and find it meaningful in your style of interpretation.

Paul identifies himself "... as an apostle ... " chosen by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal. 1:1) and "... we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith ..." (Rom. 1:5). Only to mention two of his many reference to himself as an apostle uniquely taught by the risen Christ for a uniquely now revealed to Paul the "... mystery of the gospel ..." ( Eph. 6:19c). My personal deduction is that he was not to be included or commanded to form an alliance with the twelve; " ... who separated me ... preach Him among the Gentiles, ... nor did he go up to Jerusalem ... (Gal. 1:15 - 17). He does however identify himself as an apostle (sent one) with which I totally agree, but not as the twelve apostle. I do respect your view point and thank you that I could challenge my own stance on this matter.

Peace to you who are in Christ Jesus.

Response #4:

You're most welcome.

On Paul: There have to be twelve (there are twelve names on the foundations of the wall of New Jerusalem). Judas cannot be included (obviously). Who is number twelve? Paul as you acknowledge calls himself an apostle and also reports how that those still in Jerusalem accepted his equality with them (Gal.2:9). There is no other plausible candidate for replacing Judas other than Paul (see the link: Matthias). And perhaps most importantly, we know very well from multiple tellings of the event in Acts (Acts 9:1-18; 22:6-16; 26:12-18) that Christ Himself did appoint Paul to His mission – just as He personally chosen the original apostles. But there is no record of our Lord appointing anyone else personally and directly the way He did for the original disciples/apostles and for Paul.

It's true that Paul's ministry was more gentile-focused than the those of the other eleven, but on the one hand Paul also was eager to and did minister to all Jews who were willing to be saved, and took great pains to have gentile believers appreciate Jewish priority (Romans chapters 9-14 come to mind, e.g.; and the book of Hebrews is exclusively directed at Jewish believers); on the other hand church tradition has many of the remaining apostles ministering to gentiles far and wide; however that may be, we can certainly say that this was the case both for John (cf. the seven churches of Revelation which were in Asia minor) and for Peter (cf. the recipients of his two epistles who were gentiles).

Paul's presentation is unique in many ways (cf. 2Pet.3:15), but everything he says is entirely consonant with every other New Testament epistle and they with his letters (not to mention everything else in the Bible). Finding a critical distinction between gentiles and Jews which makes more of the issue that scripture actually makes is a somewhat dangerous approach – one that has damaged much doctrinal development both in traditional denominations and within evangelicaldom (see the link).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 NASB

Just as slaves and free men are different, and just as men and women are different – in this world – so Jews and gentiles are different in a worldly sense. But in the things that really count, how we are saved, the reception of the Spirit and our gifts, how we are to grow, progress and produce, when we will be resurrected, and how we are rewarded by the Lord, we are all the same. We are all one in Jesus Christ.

Thanks for all your good words, my friend!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Robert,

Paul as apostle with a capital A is clearly THE APOSTLE simply, being the only one chosen and taught by the risen Christ. His task was dichotomous, ministering to Jew at first and then to the Gentile finally ("... the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me,..." (Gal.2:7) and "... has been sent to the Gentiles, ..." (Acts 28:28). Paul claims that he has laid the foundation and no other foundation can anyone lay, 1 Cor.3:10-11 refers. His message was no different than the Gospels' message that Christ was the One. The means of or focal point of the proclamation was different.

Both Peter and James identifies the recipients of their letters as being "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad..." (Jam.1:1) and "To the pilgrims of the Dispersion.." (1 Pet.1:1) succinctly Jewish. Peters' ministry to Cornelius was a clear directive that he had a responsibility to the Gentile, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." (Acts 10:10). This was the command to go to all the world according to the Gospels, which he (disciples) failed to do, but this fulfillment is yet future ('It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (Acts1:7). A stubborn denial at first by Peter, "Not so, Lord!" (Acts 10:14). By God's omniscient grace Paul was chosen to further their cause "... to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts20:24c), to the end of the world. I do believe that the Jew has a specific God purposed responsibility to fulfill their calling as the chosen nation of God to the Gentile world.

It may seem that I am prolonging our conversation on a settled account regarding are different interpretations on these matters. Yet, I also want to keep my own interpretation as simplistic as possible. May the Holy Spirit teach us (1 Cor.2:13b), more than intellectual perceptions.

I trust that the non-salvic matters will remain subservient to He Himself our peace.

Be blessed and continue to stand for the Truth "..., as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Cor.4:1).

Response #5:

On Paul, he is certainly exceptional, and in my opinion absolutely the greatest of the apostles. Of course it is the Lord's opinion that counts. One thing on Peter, when you say, ""To the pilgrims of the Dispersion (1 Pet.1:1) succinctly Jewish", for some reason that is a mistake which is commonly made, possibly because of the word diaspora which today is used mostly of Jewish dispersion; here it goes closely with "outcasts" and refers to believers being in the world but not of it (see the link). Peter's epistles are written to gentiles primarily – the churches in the gentile lands enumerated in 1Pet.1:1, and so also in 2nd Peter inasmuch as that epistle is written to the same churches: "this is now my second letter to you" (2Pet.3:1 NIV). After all, these letters were written after Paul's were (cf. 2Pet.3:15-16), from Rome (1Pet.5:13) sometime in the early 60's, when the distinctions between Jews and gentiles in churches outside of Judea was getting progressively blurred (in 1Pet.5:1ff. churches are in view irrespective of national origin).

Paul was most likely with the Lord at this point (John Mark is now Peter's companion: 1Pet.5:13), and at the very least out of the loop in communicating with these Asian churches. So in between Paul's ministry to Asia and John's later we have Peter's, exemplified by these two letters so that this important cradle of early Christendom was never without apostolic supervision during the period of transition. While there are some things in the book of James (who was not an apostle so not under the mandate to preach the Word to all) which are tailored for a Jewish audience, there is nothing at all like that in Peter's two epistles: indeed, 1Pet.2:9 e.g., deliberately expands and applies Jewish rights to all believers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Robert,

The way that we come to know the person of Peter in the Gospels is much different in his character and message reflected of his person in his letters. I make this deduction because his focus is now faith in Christ and the blood of the Lamb. He now, after the resurrection, understands 'the revelation of Jesus Christ.' (1 Pe.1:7c,13c refers). He now reiterates Paul's message (1 Cor.15:1-5) with his own perception (1 Pe.1:18-23) as revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. Here his focus is on his astonishing AD51 Jerusalem Counsel statement that; "... that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear..." (Acts 15:7c - a reference to Cornelius) and "... that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." (Acts 15:11).

It seems as if Peter grappled to understand the full implication / purpose of the incarnate Christ and His sufferings, before he penned down his letters. He progressively moved towards full knowledge of the risen Christs' calling of Paul in the furtherance of a Jewish blessing to Gentiles to actually have preached Jesus Christ to the ends of the world.

Will it be correct to deduct a kingdom focus (establishment of the millennium reign of Christ, yet to come) vs a contemporary message (disciples' command as reflected in the Gospels) to be proclaim should the Jews believed in Him then? John the Baptist, as Elijah should also have been accepted for the kingdom to have been established? Their failure inaugurated the Paulinian 'mystery of the gospel' (Eph.6:19c) which is also known as 'the ministry of reconciliation' (2 Cor. 5:17-21)?

Paul was not commanded in the same way as were the disciples regarding the kingdom message, with Christ as King of the future 1000 year kingdom. This then, as for the Jew, being the 'Head Nation' to proclaim this commanded "Gospellillennium-message' of the Jew for the Gentile?

Nota bene: Salvation was all ways the same: "All Scripture is given..." (2 Tim.3:16) and "... concerning Me." (Luke 24:44) reflects on the centrality of Christ as Saviour.

Peace to you.

Response #6:

I don't find any biblical evidence for any theologically significant difference between apostolic commissions. The eleven were to take the gospel everywhere (Acts 1:8); and to some extent they did so (as discussed in the previous email), and Paul was not to omit the Jews (Acts 9:15); and he certainly did not omit them (cf. Rom.9:3).

Also, when you say, "Their failure inaugurated the Paulinian 'mystery of the gospel'", it is important to keep in mind that the plan of God has always been the plan of God. It has never reacted to anything in even the smallest way. It was decreed before creation was even initiated and it entails, as I sometimes like to say, "the least swerve of the smallest quark at the end of the universe at the end of time". And the foundation of that plan has always been the cross, the blood of Christ, His sacrifice in paying the price for every single human sin, past, present and future. By creating the world, Christ obligated Himself to die for us all, wedding God to elect mankind for all time (cf.2Pet.1:4).

The only difference between OT vs. NT is the presentation of the same truths, through the shadows of the old in anticipation vs. the revelation of the person of Christ in the new; but the cross is the focal point of everything old and new, and is thus the great dividing point in history, human and angelic (see the link: "Dispensations"):

(9) [God] has made known to us the mystery He has willed (according to His own benevolent purpose which He determined in [Christ]) (10) for administering this [present] fulfillment of the epochs: namely the incorporation of all things in Christ, things in heaven, and things on earth –
Ephesians 1:9-10

As it is, once and for all at the conjunction of the ages [Christ] has appeared to remove sin through the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 9:26b

So to be honest, my friend, I don't see things in either traditional or nouveau theological terms. This ministry is dedicated to finding the unifying truths behind all things, not to breaking things down into more and more discrete categories in the manner of form criticism et al. Not that I'm accusing you of that. It's just that I think, from your latest missal, that we've hit a point of vocabulary disconnect. I don't believe I can explain my thinking on these issues in the terms you have used to describe them, so at this point I'm afraid whatever I might say about this would not be particularly helpful.

Peter did undergo a learning curve – so do we all. What we have in the case of the gospels and in the case of Acts is information that lets us see some of that. But in terms of what is true, it is true regardless of phraseology or experience. In other words, where there is a case where we feel that Paul and Peter differ, either 1) one of them is wrong if we are right, or 2) we are wrong and they are saying the same thing exactly, just in different ways. #2 is where I come down, and completely so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Robert,

In Luke 24:44 the Lord announces the purpose of the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms as pointers to Him ("... concerning Me."). I believe that the New Testament continues to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ as Redeemer and the only way to salvation, which we agree upon. The substances and method of salvation has all ways been the same; it needs to be appropriated by faith.

I do believe that the apostolic commissions given to the eleven (Matthew 28:16) and to Paul (Acts 28:20) are the same regarding salvation (2Pet.1:4 & Heb.9:26b).

It is also my perception that the 'handing over' of traditional information/dogma from the church, superiors, academia etc. must at least be weighed according to the 'weight' of the Written Word. If I created the notion of a missal, I apologize for my wrong doing. Nouveau theological terms was not my intention.

Both Peter and Paul were commanded to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ; meaning the cross as the focal point (Eph.1:9-10), looking unto Jesus (Heb.12:2).

May our vocabulary disconnect not be a deterrent tool for failing to pursue the truth; I will honor our point of disconnect.

It was certainly a short but meaningful exchange of communication, which I enjoyed and hereby respectfully acknowledge your wisdom. I will continue to study your work and trust that I will be enriched.

Grace be with you,

Response #7:

I took no offense and I certainly hope I did not give any.

When you say, "It is also my perception that the 'handing over' of traditional information/dogma from the church, superiors, academia etc. must at least be weighed according to the 'weight' of the Written Word", I suspect this is the real root of any gap between perspectives and conclusions, because I couldn't possibly disagree more.

In the history of the church-visible, the "church" that makes it into the history books and the newspapers, generally speaking everything that has made it to the limelight, has been rotten to the core and not even really Christian (by which I mean persons who are saved through trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ). The decline set in immediately after the apostles were taken from the scene (see the link: "Ephesus"). The best that can be said about the earliest "Christian" works is that some small number of them are not entirely wrong about everything (e.g., Polycarp and Irenaeus), but that most of them are mostly wrong about most things and in some cases wrong in a devastating way because of their out-sized influence on general Christian beliefs (Augustine is top of the negative list here). That is how we got the Roman Catholic church, a group from whose doctrinal grasp few denominations today have entirely escaped. The fact that the truth of scripture is not being taught in any but a very places today – and the fact that much teaching is mistaken on very rudimentary points which would be cleared up if teachers bothered to pay attention to the text instead of to their creeds – merely proves that point.

In any case, I certainly don't blame you for any of the above! Your position merely reflects the almost universal view over the centuries. My point is only that placing tradition over the truth is a deadly wrong decision to make. The fact that you at least are willing to give the Word itself a hearing puts you far beyond the common state on this point. I think that if you made it your one and only touchstone, you would be happier and grow faster – actually, I know that for a fact.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Bob,

Your appropriate response as deducted from my writings is nerve-wracking (smile). The reason I write this, simply put - is not how I would class myself; as a traditionalist molded by a universal view. My point of view and my applied methodological approach to reach a decision by reasoning, surely should place me, I believe, as a conservative / fundamentalist (this position / perspective will also create its own unique challenges). The reason I would place this label around my believes is because I have much respect for the 'face-value' truth of Scripture. The following is said under quarantine, if there is such a safe place: I am more a 24/7 Bible reader than a 7/11 reader. However, if I created the idea of para-texting, then I should not be surprised to be defined to fit a specific 'class'. Your open, but frank communication is well received and I do not want to overstep the line of reasonable communication.

Bob, your resume regarding "Christian" works, has my full support. It is dressed with a philosophical para-text that serves the self. A rotten egg has all the visible camouflage of purity.

In His words, "... blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28). May you be blessed!

Response #8:

Thanks for this.

I have enjoyed and appreciated our dialogue. I certainly don't put you in the "camp" of the problem I addressed. I understand that you are seeking the truth. I was just making my own position crystal clear (which I have found over time is both helpful and necessary).

I'll be off email until the middle of next week (road trip for a family wedding).

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

New perspective on Paul: Can't find anything on Ichthys for this.

I know you have an opinion on it. It's disturbing that it seems to throw out justification by grace through faith in Christ unless I'm wrong on that.

Response #9:

Did you mean to attach a link or something?


Bob L.

Question #10:

Not really though there's a lot on it on Google. I was sure you have heard of 'The new perspective on Paul'

Response #10:

I wasn't aware that you were using this as a technical term; still, I've not heard of this as some sort of theological movement.

People have been misinterpreting Paul's epistles since the beginning:

And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
2nd Peter 3:15-16 NKJV

If this was true of contemporaries who knew Greek well, how much more should we not expect such ignorance from unbelieving "scholars" who don't . . . and from many individuals who don't like the fact that Paul spells out grace so clearly and dispenses with the Law as something Christians must follow so definitively. Better to find ways to diminish his authority, either by considering him "not an apostle" or by claiming that there is some "new interpretation" which essentially reduces his clear words to nonsense.

Happy to entertain any specific questions, but I will say in general terms that without accepting the Bible (including Paul's epistles) as the Word of God – seeing these letters instead merely as historical documents of a man with a point of view – it is impossible to come to an understanding of the truth. But maybe you can get published.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Bob,

The subject matter speaks loud and clear regarding the ‘known announcement’ of the coming Messiah (Prophetic Word) and the revelation of the ‘unknown announcement’ of the calling of Saul (Non-Prophetic Word) by the risen Christ. This Saulinian miracle ushers in a new movement which revealed the mysteries/secrets as taught by Christ to His new chosen vessel. A moment in history which is as monumental and instrumental as the choosing of Abram and Moses. The course of history is again changed by God to accomplish His predetermined will. The failure of Israel to accept her Messiah / Son of God, through their rejection, congregates with Paul in Jerusalem during 51AD. Peter then makes this reformative statement; “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Jew and Gentile is saved alike, through faith. Faith in the “... to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” ( Acts 20:24c KJV). A further proof of the unknown (secrets) is reflected in Luke 18:34; “But they understood non of these things: this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” Such would also be all of Paul’s mysteries, for none of the mysteries were reveal before Paul. References are made such as: a) Gen. 3:15c “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (NKJV), b) Gen. 22:14 “... The-Lord-Will-Provide,...” (NKJV), c) Exo. 12:11 “... It is the Lord’s Passover.” (NKJV), and the passage in Isa. 53. The full scope of the significance of these passages are therefor hidden.

I would conclude with the deduction that the Gospels and Acts 1-11 belong to Jewish history and forms part of the yet to be fullfilled prophesies for the Jewish Nation; the coming kingdom of God to be established; “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10NKJV).

Pre-cross faith and post-cross faith have Christ as substance and content for salvation. However, pre-cross faith as John 6:29 & 40 exhibits are the W’s of God’s sum gospel: The work and will of God. To believe in Him whom He has sent and to receive eternal life, added to it would be the specific commands given to the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. These clear commands are given at the conclusion (or near end) of the Gospels. “... The gospel for the circumcised was to Peter.” (Gal. 2:7b NKJV). At this point the cross must have been a mystery to the disciples (Romans 16:25 & Eph. 6:19) refers.

Post-cross faith is defined as 1 Cor. 15:1-4 stipulates. Paul’s definition of salvation is encapsulated in this Scripture, which is believe (have faith in the completed work of Christ through the Cross). “... the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me...” (Gal. 2:7a NKJV). Paul has been the extension gospel bearer to the Gentiles in place of the disciples: “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been send to the Gentiles, and they will hear it.” (Acts 28:28 NKJV).

In short, the Gospels and Acts 1-11, are kingdom of God oriented and Paul’s writings focusses on the body of Christ and Him as the Head.

Your comments will be appreciated.

In the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #11:

Good to hear from. Hope you and yours are doing well.

It may not be the standard position, but I see the gospel as exactly the same from the skins given to Adam and Eve to the last person saved during the Millennium: righteousness comes through faith in God's Substitute Sacrifice for our sins. The gospel is presented somewhat differently in the Old Testament of necessity because Christ had not yet come in the flesh, but the mechanics are the same and the result is the same: eternal life for all who trust God for life eternal based upon what He does for us in grace to take away sin.

As to "non-prophetic" and perceived differences in various parts of scripture, the whole Bible is the Word of God, inspired, and, thus, prophetic: it both forth-tells and fore tells the will of God and His truth (and there is plenty of what is traditionally considered "prophecy" in Paul's writings too, after all; e.g., 2Thes.2:1ff.).

Every piece of literature has a slightly different purpose and a slightly different audience (at least), and that is true of the books of the Bible taken individually as well. That accounts for differences in presentation and emphasis. But what I have found ever to be true in my many years of studying the Bible is that its message is absolutely consistent from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation. It is all the same truth, and entirely so.

Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Paul wrote the book of Hebrews? He boldly declared that he never was taught 'this' by anyone else but that he received direct revelation from the Lord, (gal 1:12) yet the writer of Hebrews says 'the message of salvation was confirmed to US by THOSE who heard him' (heb 2:3),this statement excludes Paul who was never taught anything by any man not even the apostles themselves as he claims the fact, how do you reconcile those verses?

Response #12:

Yes, Paul wrote Hebrews (see the links below). This is very clear from the Greek for anyone who has repeatedly read the NT over and over again. This is an anonymous letter which makes the attribution all the more solid since Paul is the only one we know of who would have had reasons not to flout his authorship (based on his "history" in Jerusalem).

I'm aware of the passage you mention being used as a supposed argument against Paul, but frankly I don't see the reasoning. The verse is clearly talking about our Lord's contemporaries who were part of the three and a half year ministry, particularly the other apostles. This is just Paul being humble – and accurate (he wasn't a part of that ministry, even though he became the greatest apostle).

Here are those links:

Paul wrote Hebrews III

Paul wrote Hebrews II

Paul wrote Hebrews I

Question #13:

Hello--Could you please read this and give me your opinion of what this guy is saying? He is a Mormon who seems to think that Paul's ministry was 99% to Jews and only incidentally to Gentiles, who happened to be around when Paul was witnessing to Jews. I have asked him to clarify, but I am not sure what he is saying. It sounds nutty to me--that "gentiles" are Jews by faith, not by birth or ethnicity, not pagan gentiles who converted to Christianity without becoming "Jews" first by circumcision.  He wrote:

But before we address you quoting of Pauls' mission to the Gentiles. It should be instructive to understand what a Gentile is. The term is often misused... even in LDS culture. Gentile is actually a English word derived from the Latin 'gentilis' which in turn is derived from 'gens' or greek 'genos'.. which means 'family' or 'People'.. A thinking individual might also notice the relationship between 'genos' and 'genome'. The Greek word is ethonos... which means 'nations' You might notice the relationship between.. 'ethonos' and ethnicity. In any case the point is the term has more to do with a persons ethnicity, nationality, or citizenship than any religious affiliation. And that's just how the word is used in the NT. Paul was sent to preach the word in lands that were not part of the nation of Israel.. Mostly these people were Jews living in lands outside of Israel. Paul (Saul) was specially suited for this in that he was both a Jew and a Roman Citizen, which allowed him special privilege when preaching in these lands outside of Palestine. And so we see this playing out in the narrative.. Paul goes from town to town preaching in Synagogues to Jews living in Gentile lands..yes, there are some non-Jews who convert as well, but the primary focus was preaching the Gospel in to Jews (By faith) living in non-Jewish lands, not necessarily to non-Jewish (by faith, not ethnicity) people. And it simply make perfect sense.. The primary basis for Paul's apologetic is an appeal to the Jewish Scriptures of which non-Jews would have little respect for and it would be fairly meaningless.. So when non-Jews convert it's usually following some miraculous event , like the jailer and the earthquake becasue if the Jailer wasn't Jewish .. What Jewish prophets said would not mean a whole lot to them. You see also a change in apologetic approach in Athens, where he was preaching in the Synagogue and then some pulled him out to the square to learn more.. and Paul appeals to the inscription of the 'unknown God' and makes reference to the Greek poets 'For we too are his offspring." but in the end this didn't bear much fruit ,some became believers, but we are led to believe most did not, some scoffed and Paul left town.

Anyway, could you please comment? Wouldn't a non-Jew by birth became a "Jew" by becoming circumcised? Doesn't the Bible say that Paul was sent to the uncircumcised?

Thanks for your help. This guy doesn't know the Bible as well as he thinks he does, and puts us Christians down for not knowing as much as Mormons. Hah!

God bless.

Response #13:

It has nothing to do with circumcision. Jews are Jews and gentiles are gentiles, not Jews, whatever language we are talking about – and the commonly understood distinction between the two is the one the NT always uses as well. Here are just a few verses where it's not possible to hide behind some supposed difference between Greek and English usage; these gentiles are all gentiles, non-Jews by any definition:

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David.
Acts 7:44-45 NKJV

While Peter was still speaking these words [to the gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and his gentile friends], the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
Acts 10:44-45 NKJV

But when the Jews saw the multitudes [i.e., the population of Antioch in Asia Minor, gentiles], they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:45-46 NKJV

So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,
Acts 15:17-18 NKJV

When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles [i.e., the Roman authorities].' ”
Acts 21:11 NKJV

". . . but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles [i.e., the nations of gentiles where these aforementioned Jews of the diaspora live] to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs."
Acts 21:21 NKJV

One could go on at length. Happy to provide more passages / analysis if desired, but this one is too obvious.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Thanks. I have used a couple of these as well. He might argue that Cornelius was a "Jew" by religion before he heard Peter proclaim the Gospel message, since he believed in the true God--just did not yet know about Jesus. But he was not circumcised and from what I have read, for a Gentile to be accepted as a Jew in the temple, he would have had to have been circumcised, if he wanted to go beyond the outer temple where the Gentiles could congregate.

I think his reasoning--such as it is--is nutty in the extreme. But he is also stubborn in the extreme and will never, ever admit when he has been wrong--even on minor issues. Case in point: he once told me I should use the NRSV instead of the ESV Bible, because the former is a more "modern" translation, meaning newer. I then pointed out that the NRSV came out in 1989 and the ESV in 2001. Did he admit to error? Nope. It's like pulling impacted wisdom teeth with a tweezer to get him to do so.

Another case in point--I wrote that the "virgin birth" of Jesus isn't called such in the Bible, but the concept is there. He said it wasn't--it was the "virgin conception" NOT the "virgin birth", that I was just reading my own prejudicial reading into the two Gospels. I told him he was splitting hairs, because they are about a VIRGIN who gives BIRTH--ergo, the VIRGIN Birth. Sheesh!

One more quibble--you know in the Isaiah verse, that Matthew quotes, about "the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son...."? Well, instead of the usual word for "virgin" here--I don't remember what it is--Isaiah uses "almah". Not sure why. He says it doesn't mean virgin ,but "young woman" and that Matthew was quoting the LXX, which does have "virgin" which I know in Greek is "parthenos." I told him he was wrong, that "almah" means "virgin, damsel, young woman". That is like the two English words we have for someone who has never had sex--maiden and virgin. The former could only exclusively be a young girl, while the latter now designates anyone who has never had sex, male or female. But am I correct about 'almah"? I wonder why he used that word and not the other Hebrew one for virgin? Unless Isaiah was emphasizing Mary's youth? Doesn't "almah" carry the meaning of a girl from infancy to adolescence? Or is that another word I am thinking of?

Thank again.

Response #14:

I don't see any argumentation in correspondent's email which would support a thesis that "gentile" means "Jew", and all of the passages provided previously are clear enough for anyone with a shred of academic honesty to have to admit that in them "gentile" is the opposite of "Jew". Also, a Jews is a Jew, circumcised or not. When the Israelites' second generation of the exodus was on the threshold of the land the men all had to be circumcised because that had not been done during the forty years of wandering (Joshua 5:2-8); they were still, however, Israelites, still Jews. On Cornelius, here is what Peter tells the assembled gentiles at Cornelius' house:

Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean."
Acts 10:28 NKJV

So these people were not Jews. They were, as we say, gentiles.

As to Isaiah vs. the NT, parthenos does mean "virgin" so that is what Mary was. It is legitimate, therefore, to translate the passage in Isaiah that way because we know from the sequel that being a "virgin" is the whole point – and also it's not much of a prophecy or "sign" for a young women to conceive and give birth. Why did Isaiah use 'almah instead of bethulah? They are synonyms, but if we want to push the explanation we can say that in Isaiah's case there was a double fulfillment, after all: both a contemporary birth wherein the child would not reach maturity before the two kings threatening Judah were destroyed AND the far future fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ. That is the truth of how prophecy works more often than not in the OT (see the link), but I don't use it as an argument because a person has to be open to hearing and learning the truth to accept it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

In Romans 9:3 Paul says that he would rather be anathema for the sake of his fellow Jews. I have read two commentaries on this verse from two different bibles, and their interpretations are different. I'm trying to get a better understanding of what Paul meant because one commentary states that Paul would never truly suffer eternal punishment for his fellow Jews, and that it's only an expression of how he felt. John MacArthur says that Paul truly meant what he said: that he would be eternally condemned for the sake of his fellow Jews. I take it to mean exactly what it says. I believe this because the Love of God dwelt in him; therefore he truly meant what he said. But also knew that it is only Jesus Christ who can truly die for the penalty of the sins of mankind. What is the correct exegesis for the Romans 9:3 verse? Thank you!

God Bless,

Response #15:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope you are OK. I have been thinking and praying about the situation you described in your last letter.

On Romans 9:3, I don't see any great distinction at all between any of the interpretations. Some times interpreters get het up about details that don't bother average Christians, even ones who are fired up about the Word – and which in my view would have seemed odd to the writers of scripture who wrote the passage in question. This is one of those times. For on the one hand, Paul wrote what he wrote – and it is put in scripture by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, it was clearly an impossibility for Paul to have been so cursed since only unbelievers are condemned; and it would have made no difference to the fate of his unbelieving countrymen even if it were possible since only personal faith in the blood of Christ, His death in being judged for sin, can avail to expiate sin. And all sin HAS been paid for by Jesus Christ. So the only thing that will save unbelievers of any stripe must come from their own heart: repenting of their dead works and turning to Christ. Jesus has already paid for their salvation in each and every case; all they have to do is accept it by faith.

Paul certainly was very emotional on this issue and very zealous for his countrymen to be saved, and that is what we are to take from the passage.

It's good to be zealous and emotional about the truth, but things can easily be pressed too far in both regards. After all, it was just this sort of imprudent and zealous disregard for the plan of God that prompted Paul to go up to Jerusalem the last time contrary to what the Spirit was explicitly telling him – and we know the ill results that followed (please see the link: "Paul's Jerusalem Error").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Does Paul blame the Jews here for killing Christ?

“For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone.”
(1 Thessalonians 2:14-15)

Response #16:

This letter was written to the believers in Thessalonica, and we need to remember that when Paul first came to that city his initial contact was through the Jewish synagogue as was often the case (Acts 17:1ff.). Therefore there were Jewish believers in that congregation. As Luke tells us, "some of them (the Jews in that synagogue to whom Paul first preached in Thessalonica) were persuaded [that Jesus is the Christ]" (Acts 17:4).

So it depends in large degree on what the word "Jew" means in this passage. In ethnic terms, a Jew is always a Jew and a gentile is always a gentile in the Bible. Ethnically of course Paul was also a Jew – and so were the believers Paul tells the Thessalonians to imitate in this epistle. But this word, Ioudaios, is also often used in the New Testament to refer very specifically to Jewish residents of Jerusalem and the environs of Judea who were part of the ruling class and religious establishment, along the lines of the "great" versus the "poor" in Jeremiah 5:4-5. Where the line is drawn and just how inclusive or exclusive this term is depends on the context. For John's similar usage see the link "for fear of the Jews". But I see Paul's use in the passage you mention as being restrictive in this special sense. After all, the crucifixion happened in Jerusalem and it was the ruling class who precipitated it, not Jews generally.

In Jesus Christ our Lord – the Son of David and King of the Jews.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Were the twelve apostles save Peter adolescents?

Response #17:

To serve as a Levite a man had to be at least twenty or twenty-five for some things; thirty for others (e.g., Num.4:3; 4:23; 4:30; 4:35; 4:39; 4:43; 4:47). Our Lord waited to begin His ministry until He was thirty for that very reason (Lk.3:23; see the discussion at "The Life of Christ" in SR 5 at the link); He sends out the disciples two by two to serve in His stead, so I can't imagine the age requirement would have been different for the rest of them who were ministering on His behalf.

Of course the disciples all do act like adolescents some times – Peter included. But then, none of us is perfect today either . . . and we have the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NASB):
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

What does Paul mean by “law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious”? We know that we are not under the law, but in what sense are those listed to be still under it?

Response #18:

Paul's point is entirely consistent with what he say elsewhere about the Law, e.g., Galatians 3:24 where he says that "the Law acts as a guardian to us [who leads us] to Christ", or in Romans 7:7 where he says "I did not come to know sin except through the Law". For "it is through the Law that we come to acknowledge [our] sin" (Rom.3:20). These are examples of particularly bad actions listed here in the passage you quote, of course, so that Paul is upbraiding the would be "teachers of the Law" by saying, in effect, "you are still sinners and therefore not righteous on account of your lack of faith": the Law is not meant for spiritual growth but to demonstrate the impossibility of being saved apart from grace; it is "for" sinners . . . who are meant to draw the right conclusions from it and so to flee to grace and be saved.

Question #19:

Understood and thank you for this explanation. It occurred to me now that the Decalogue to which Paul seems to be indirectly referring is actually that part of the Law which even most unbelievers will know. In any case, I understand the principle here - the clear prohibitions in the Law should help everyone realise their inability to live a sinless life and there are parts of the Law, such as the Decalogue, which are widely known even by those who haven't studied the scriptures - or who are falsely taught the scriptures, such as the Catholics, who do try to fulfil the Commandments.

Response #19:

You're most welcome.

Question #20:

1 Timothy 1:13-14 (NASB):
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

I'm not exactly sure how to understand Paul's words “Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief”. Paul made a free will choice not to accept the truth and it's hard for me to understand willing rejection of the gospel and following through on his pharisaical zeal to the point of putting believers to death as ignorance and then using this ignorance as a reason why he was shown mercy. I’m trying to understand the meaning of this statement.

Response #20:

This is a misunderstanding of the Greek with hoti meaning "that" and not "because"; see the link.

Question #21:

What a great and clear explanation of a problem that none of the commentators I browsed before writing to you has put forward.

Response #21:

My pleasure.

Question #22:

You wrote: This is essentially what Paul means when he tell us that "the wages of sin are death" (Rom.6:23): not that one personal sin will condemn us, but rather that the death of our faith is a sure result of giving ourselves over entirely to a life of sin, and that without faith in Christ, we no longer have a substitute to stand in for us on judgment day.

I have often applied this verse in an absolute sense, particularly when explaining salvation and God’s perfectly righteous character because of which He cannot accept any sin, which makes attaining salvation through our own works and without faith in Christ who paid for all our sins impossible – would such an application be correct? You explain the meaning of this verse slightly differently.

Response #22:

"Wages" suggests a result of action; we are born in need of salvation before we ever do anything, so, in the context, the way I've explained it here I do believe to be the essential interpretation of the verse. Because the opposite view cannot be not true unless we understand this as sin swamping faith, i.e., for an unbelievers, "ceasing to sin", if such a thing were even possible, would not put the person any closer to salvation or any farther from the lake of fire.

Question #23:

It is true that in chapter 6 Paul warns believers against using grace as a licence to sin, but I thought that verses such as Romans 6:20 refer to the pre-salvation state of those to whom he is writing:

Romans 6:20-23 (NASB)
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Slavery to sin would seem to refer to pre-salvation state and then in verse 21 Paul writes about outcome of "these things" being death, which I took as a direct parallel to Romans 6:23.

As for the wages, it is true that it is a result of an action. But since through Adam we all have sin nature and we all die and, if we only reach an age mature enough to do so, we all sin, I just thought that I could take all of us as essentially being "in sin" (cf. Psalm 51:5), even before we did anything.

Please correct me where needed and maybe I am misunderstanding you here.

Response #23:

(21) So what fruit were you bearing then? [Only] things of which you are now ashamed! And the end result of all those things is [spiritual] death. (22) But as it is now, having been liberated from sin and made subservient to God, the fruit [you bear] is in the service of sanctification, and the end result of this is eternal life. (23) For the salary paid by sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:21-23

The gist of this passage in context is an appeal to believers to live a sanctified life, turning their backs on their past modus vivendi. It is very typical of Paul that we can't pin him down to "chapter 5 teaches X, chapter 6 teaches Y, and chapter 7 teaches Z". His arguments move in and out of many doctrines more in the manner in which I teach my classes than in the manner of a systematic theology. It's also important to remember that New Testament chapters are a modern invention (late 17th century). Classical literature is replete with what is generally termed "ring composition", a technique (for want of a better word) whereby the author circles in and out and then back to theme. That is just to note that what Paul is doing may offend – or confuse – modern thinkers, but it was very typical of the best writing of antiquity. One does have to pay attention always to the immediate context to "get it", however, and not be mislead by the erroneous idea that "this chapter is talking about theme "Y" only".

In the context quoted above, "eternal life" is the end result in verse 22 and the end result in verse 23; according to Paul, it is achieved in verse 22 by bearing fruit while living in a sanctified way (or as I usually put it, playing good "defense" while moving forward spiritually on offense at the same time); according to Paul, it is achieved in verse 23 by God's gift of grace – said to remind us that all of our efforts in regard to sanctification (striving to lead a holy life: "defense") and bearing fruit (growing, progressing and ministering the truth: "offense") are provided to us by God as a grace gift:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 KJV

So while "the salary paid by sin is death" is a true statement regardless of how we choose to apply it, in the context it is being given to believers to remind us that while our present life is headed towards eternal life by God's grace, our past life led only to death – so we should be careful not to return to where we were before (only possible for believers through apostasy or the sin unto death – but giving into sinfulness makes us vulnerable to that process).

The above is consistent with the statement you originally asked about: This is essentially what Paul means when he tell us that "the wages of sin are death" (Rom.6:23): not that one personal sin will condemn us, but rather that the death of our faith is a sure result of giving ourselves over entirely to a life of sin, and that without faith in Christ, we no longer have a substitute to stand in for us on judgment day.

My comment to you about wages suggesting the result of some action was based on what I thought you were asking when you said: "I have often applied this verse in an absolute sense, particularly when explaining salvation and God’s perfectly righteous character because of which He cannot accept any sin, which makes attaining salvation through our own works and without faith in Christ who paid for all our sins impossible – would such an application be correct?"

No doubt this is a fine verse to use for evangelism along the lines you describe immediately above. But it's not the exactly the interpretation of the verse. The verse says "if you hire on to sin, death is the result" and "the other path, the better path, the grace path, leads to life, eternal life". The "wages" part is certainly true enough of unbelievers if we understand by this that to the extent that they choose to embrace this world and its sin instead of turning to the Lord, to that extent they have hired on to a losing proposition.

But I would be leery of pushing this too far because someone might get the mistaken impression that sin is what damns a person. In fact, it WOULD do so for us all – except that Christ has paid for all sin so that sin is not the issue; rather, how a person responds to that ultimate Gift of grace is the issue. For believers, however, it is absolutely true that giving oneself over to a life of sin after having "escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing (epignosis) our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things . . . . . then they have become worse off than they were before" (2Pet.2:20). This verse works whether we apply it to believers who fall back into a life of sin and refuse to relinquish faith (in which case the "death" is the sin unto death) or turn completely away from Jesus Christ as a result (in which case their apostasy leads to the second death), so I would stick with seeing believers as the ones addressed by Paul here. Unbelievers are "dead" even if they live a stellar life – because they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

In Jesus our dear Lord who has redeemed us forever from sin and death,

Bob L.


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