The Nine Declarations Versus Wilkins, part 2

We will start section 2 with Wilkins’s views on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. He argues that Paul’s use of the term here in verse 11 is not identical with the WS’s use of the term, since these same Christians are later warned against falling away and being condemned (he references 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). The verse which is important for our purposes (we will look carefully at the context) is verse 11:

 καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε: ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.

Translated, it reads this way: “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The context of this verse is one of those long lists of vices which Paul excoriates. In fact, even from verse 1, Paul is talking about activities (such as suing a brother) that are inconsistent with the Christian life. However, inconsistent as this behavior is, Paul still calls the litigants in verse 6 “brothers.” The behavior, though, is inconsistent with the claim. Then Paul lists the vices that are characteristic of the unrighteous (ἄδικοι: Fee notices the word-play with ἐδικαιώθητε, on pg. 246 of his commentary). Then Paul explicity tells them that they are no longer unrighteous (καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε). Then follows these three aorist verbs. Now, one must not over-read the aorist tense. Some prefer to say that the aorist means “point-like action,” a “once for all” aspect in the past. It can mean that. It meant that much more rigidly in Classical Greek than it did in Koine Greek. The aorist often becomes the simple narrative past tense in Koine Greek. However, here, it does seem that Paul is emphasizing the past “once-for-all-ness” of these three acts of God’s grace. We should not be fooled by the middle tense of “washed.” This verb almost never occurs in the passive, and so most scholars have argued that this is a functional passive.

The verb “washed” is not the normal verb used for baptism. Paul could easily have used the normal verb, if he had chosen. Of course, there is significant semantic overlap between the two verbs. However, it is not the same verb. Given the context of the list of vices, surely Paul is emphasizing the washing of regeneration. In other words, although reference to baptism need not be excluded from the passage, it is surely to the thing signified that Paul refers here. Almost all the commentators notice this, especially the ones who argue a reference to baptism. Fee does not accept a reference to baptism here (pp. 246-247 of his commentary). Fee recognizes the difficulty of the phrase ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, but he says that to see here a reference to the baptismal formula is “to read Paul through the eyes of Luke” (p. 246).  The name of a person is so closely connected to the person himself, that this just as easily refer to union with Christ. Indeed, the reference to three aspects of conversion makes this seem likely. What is important to notice here is that the thing signified is the only thing that will answer to being a good argument as to why the Corinthians should not engage in such evil practices. He is not telling them about their obligations (which would answer to mere water baptism), but about who they are. Only regeneration, definitive sanctification (I would argue that that is the reference here in ἡγιάσθητε), and justification answers to a change in the person’s character and status. “Washing” refers to the removal of the pollution of these former sins by the blood of Christ. “Sanctification” refers to the setting apart of the person from the world (and these sins). “Justification” refer to the removal of guilt by the declaration of the person being not guilty on the basis of Christ’s person and work. Each of these three actions are aimed at one of the various aspects of the sin being discussed.

The word ἐδικαιώθητε itself does not occur in the rest of the epistle (Thiselton, p. 455 of his commentary). Thiselton also argues that the term has its full theological sense. If the word does not occur in the rest of this epistle, then Wilkins is begging the question by saying that it has a different meaning here than in the other epistles. How could one know what Paul meant by it, except by referring to the other Pauline epistles?

Lastly, Wilkins’s hermeneutic is skewed by how he reads 1 Corinthians 10. He mentions the judgment of charity argument, only to dismiss it without the slightest argumentation as being “less likely.” I have argued here that the terms refer to real conversion, real justification. If that is true, then the judgment of charity is the only option. Therefore, Wilkins is incorrect.