Eschatology Outlines: No. 4 The Apostolic Writings

Posted by R. Fowler White

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Hebrews

The author’s expectations appear to be shaped by parallels with the days of Noah and Lot and with the Sinai theophany. He anticipates the day of redemptive wrath (10:26) in which God will shake the present heavens and earth in the fury of theophanic fire (12:26-29), after which emerges an unshakable new heavens and new earth. In that day, the adversaries of God, among whom will be apostates and persecutors, will be consumed in the fiery conflagration (10:27, 30-39), and the people of God will receive their eternal inheritance of rest (3:7–4:11) in the lasting city (13:14) of that unshakable kingdom-homeland (11:14) in the world to come (2:5). The macrocosmic scale of the judgment with fire matches the scale of Noah’s flood, and in both cases the delivered remnant enjoys rest from their toilsome labors in a new earth. Also, the deliverance of God’s people into a new Canaan-earth is explicitly compared to the deliverance of Israel into Canaan, while the destruction of God’s enemies in Hebrews is implicitly compared to the fiery destruction of Sodom.

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Paul
(1 Corinthians 15; 2 Thessalonians 1-2; Romans 8)

I. The defeat of the last enemy, death, will mark the culmination of a complex of events (1 Cor 15:22-28), the essentials of which mirror the days of judgment in previous generations. As in the days of Noah and Lot, apostasy from the faith and lawlessness will bring cultural decline, provoking the wrath of Christ (cf. 2 Thess 2:3, 8-12; 1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Tim 3:1-5 with Gen 4:17-24; 6:1-7, 11-12). Absent the restraint of God’s common grace (cf. 2 Thess 2:6-7 with Gen 6:3), the eschatological counterpart to Cainite Lamech (whether individual or corporate) will appear as a new abomination that brings defilement to and desolation upon the temple of God.

II. Special note on 2 Thess 2:4 and the expression temple of God

A. The phrase temple of God has multiple referents in Scripture: it is applied to the individual believer’s body, to the sanctuary structure in Jerusalem, to the church, and to the cosmos (heaven and earth). The question naturally arises, therefore: which temple, defiled as it is by the abomination of the man of lawlessness, does Paul have in mind in 2 Thess 2:3-12? We can reasonably exclude from consideration the individual temple of the believer’s body. Conceivably, the temple in view here, then, is either the temple at Jerusalem, or the church, or the cosmos. Though it is plausible that Paul, writing as he is before Jerusalem’s fall in AD 70, has that event in mind, the scale and finality of the phenomena mentioned in 2 Thess 1:5–2:12 fit most naturally with Christ’s second coming. Could the temple of God, then, be a reference to a future temple in Jerusalem? There is no basis in the Apostle’s writings for such an expectation. So, we are left to consider the church and the cosmos as the referent(s) of the phrase temple of God. Of these choices, it is reasonable to presume that the first referent in Paul’s mind is the church, that is, the visible church defiled by apostasy and by the man of lawlessness. Yet we are also able to discern a second referent when we consider that, once apostasy obliterates the boundary between the visible church and the unbelieving world, the defilement of the world fills the apostate church too. Furthermore, since it is clear in the context of 2 Thessalonians that the son of perdition fills the world with his lawlessness, we have to say that the cosmos-temple is defiled with lawlessness even as the church-temple is defiled with apostasy. It appears, therefore, best to see a twofold reference to the macrocosmic (world) and microcosmic (church) temples in the expression the temple of God in 2 Thess 2:4.

B. If the temple of God is interpreted as we suggest above, then, what Paul describes in 2 Thess 2:3-12 is a diabolical reprise of the idolatrous theocracy from the days of Noah and second temple Jerusalem, when the eschatological counterpart to Cainite Lamech will mock God as he assumes the posture of deity (cf. 2 Thess 2:3-4, 9-10 with Dan 9:26-27). To bring an end to his monstrous delusion, the Judge of Lot’s tormentors will again slay the wicked with fire and with His breath (2 Thess 1:8), sending His enemies to their everlasting destruction while rescuing His people (2 Thess 1:7) and bringing them into the glory of the new creation freed at last from the bondage of corruption and death (Rom 8:18-25).

Getting Our Bearings on the End from Peter and Jude
(2 Peter 2–3; Jude 7)

I. 2 Pet 1:19-2:9; Jude 7: Peter and Jude teach us to compare the coming of Christ in judgment with the judgment of the world of Noah (2 Pet 2:5) and the judgment of the city of Lot (2 Pet 2:6-9; Jude 7).

II. 2 Pet 3:1-7, 10-13: Peter teaches us to compare the coming of Christ to judge by fire with the coming of God to judge by flood.

III. Summary—Clearly, as Peter and Jude read the Bible, they teach us to see recurring patterns in God’s governance of history: the past is repeated in the future. It is remarkable to notice in these texts the traits of the days of Noah and of Lot: the decline of culture, the deliverance of a godly remnant, and the destruction of the ungodly.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5A Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation

Jesus, Judas, and Leaven in 1 Cor 5:6-13

Posted by R. Fowler White

While reading L. Michael Morales’s terrific new book, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (IVP, 2020), a few thoughts came to mind in reaction to his discussion of the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread in Exod 12 and of Paul’s linking of our Passover celebration with “leaven removal” by church discipline in 1 Cor 5:6-13. Specifically, I wondered if we could see in the NT how Jesus complied with the feast regulations given by Moses in Exod 12. In this light, I turned to the accounts of the celebrations of those feasts in the book of Exodus and in the Gospels and then back to 1 Cor 5.

Looking through the regulations for observing those feasts in Exod 12, the Passover feast and the Unleavened Bread feast were scheduled back to back, and they were usually regarded as one. To keep the Passover observance, the people of the OT church were called to remove all traces of leaven from their houses. Then, to keep the Unleavened Bread ordinance, they would eat only unleavened bread. Underlining the gravity of these ordinances, the OT church was also to remove from their midst those who did not remove leavened bread from their houses (12:15, 19). In the latter feast in particular, God signified the new life with Him that His people should live after their exodus from Egypt. As Ryken puts it, “In spiritual terms, the last thing He wanted them to do was to take a lump of dough from Egypt that would eventually fill them with the leaven of idolatry. … God wanted to do something more than get His people out of Egypt; He wanted to get Egypt out of His people.” Thus, they were not just to eat unleavened bread; they were to be an unleavened people.

Understandably, in the Apostle’s eyes, these conjoined feasts prefigured the church’s life: the Christian Passover (1 Cor 5:7) and its recurring celebrations (1 Cor 11:26) were to be matched by ongoing celebration of the new Unleavened Bread feast (1 Cor 5:7-8). In other words, in addition to dining at the Lord’s Table, the NT congregation was to be an unleavened people living an unleavened life of purity and integrity. And, significantly, for the NT church to keep the feasts faithfully, Paul points out that their duty is what the OT church’s duty was: as an unleavened people (5:7), they were to clean out the leaven from their midst (5:7), including those who neglected that duty in their own lives (5:11-13).

Formative as the OT was for the NT church’s life, it stands to reason that Jesus’ own (final) celebration of the Passover/Unleavened Bread feasts was an example for His church. From the Gospel accounts, we’re justified in concluding that the Evangelists wished to document not only the institution of the Lord’s Supper but also how Jesus complied with the feast regulations given by Moses. We’re told, for instance, that as Jesus was preparing for His own exodus (Luke 9:31) to go back to His Father (John 13:1, 3), He had sent Peter and John to prepare the feasts to be celebrated (Matt 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). Since we’re told nothing to the contrary, we rightly suppose that the meal and the house with the Upper Room were both prepared as required. In fact, two Evangelists say that they found the room furnished and ready (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12), and doubtless readiness would include the removal of all leaven and leavened bread. Yet, as Exod 12:15, 19 had alerted us, cleaning out the leaven for the feast would not and could not stop there, but would extend to the feast participants themselves.

Strikingly, as Jesus cleans the Twelve’s feet, He effectively fences the Table, announcing that one of them is unclean (John 13:6-11; cf. John 18:28). The identity of Judas the betrayer was hidden from all but Jesus. When Jesus disclosed the betrayer’s presence at the Table, none of them so much as looked at Judas, much less said, “Lord, is it Judas?” Like his father the devil, he was a deceiver and an accomplice to murder. Knowing His betrayer’s identity, however, Jesus has to comply with God’s requirements and clean out the leaven of hypocrisy, theft, and greed (Mark 8:15; John 12:4-5) from the house. Having exposed him as unfit for the feast, Jesus tells Judas to leave, and in a tragically ironic replay of the first Passover, he goes out quickly, even immediately (John 13:27, 30; cf. Exod 12:11, 33) into the night (John 13:30; cf. Exod 12:12, 31, 42). Exiting as he does, Judas self-identifies as one who walks by night and stumbles because the light is not in him (John 11:10); he is a child “of the night [and] darkness” (1 Thess 5:5). Be that as it may, what Jesus did at His own final feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread was what His Apostle instructs the church to do in 1 Cor 5:6-13. Having removed the leaven of Judas from the fellowship of His Table, Jesus had acted so as not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a person. Even on the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus acted so that those who ate at His Table would not just eat unleavened bread, but be an unleavened people.

Engaging with Aimee Byrd’s Recent Book: Selected Points (#4: Family/Church Analogy)

Posted by R. Fowler White

From our discussion of selected points in Aimee Byrd’s recent book in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our review, we are hopefully clarifying the points on which we can agree and disagree about the results that she sees coming from an equal investment in the discipleship of women and men. We have urged that Byrd’s book is strongest when she calls for a reemphasis on Christlikeness and the church’s historic doctrines and practices as the proper goal and focus of discipleship. We do differ with her, however, when she contends that discipleship will produce laywomen and laymen who serve God’s household in the same capacities. Alternatively, we see discipleship producing laywomen and laymen who are indeed coactive and reciprocal in some capacities that are the same, but in others that are different. In other words, we see discipleship producing women and men whose capacities to serve are correlated with the general and special offices and with the elements of worship. Of course, this correlation is precisely the point at which our visions of discipleship and its results may clash. It is also the point at which it was vital for Paul to elaborate on love of others (1 Cor 12:31–14:1) as the standard that should shape relationships and service in God’s household. To his elaboration of this standard we want to call attention in this post.

As we said in Part 3, according to 1 Cor 14:26-40, love of others requires that during the public ministry of God’s word in its various forms (14:26), those who give and receive that ministry must do all things in a fitting and orderly way, following “the Lord’s command” through the Apostle (14:36-38; 11:16). To get readers to feel the weight of those directives, Paul attaches them to two anchors. One of those anchors is the practices taught and instituted in all the churches (14:33b; 11:2, 16). This connection tells us that, beyond what Byrd and her sources suppose, there is more at stake here than a special rule for a special situation in a specific local church, namely, a rule to stop the disruptive chatting of distracted women during the public ministry of God’s word. No, what is at stake is a standing rule (cf. 7:17b) in all the churches (14:33b), a rule that, during the public ministry of God’s word to His household, the women should not speak but should subject themselves (like the laymen) to those men who aspire to and qualify for service in that special public ministry (14:34; cf. 14:37-38). This is not to say that discipleship between women and men should never be coactive and mutual; it is to say that the appropriate venue for that reciprocal coactivity is the home, not the church’s public meetings (14:35; cf. Acts 18:24-26). The point at stake, then, is that the love of others should constrain a local church not to put its men and women at odds (11:16) with the traditions delivered to all the churches (11:2) when it comes to the public ministry of God’s word.[1]

In addition to those universally binding practices, Paul also appeals in 1 Cor 14:34 to the Law as one of the anchors of his directions. To understand what he means by the Law, it is most helpful to use “the proper hermeneutical lens” through which Byrd, following her sources, wants us to view 1 Corinthians 11–14. With that lens, we see that those four chapters are an essay in which Paul addresses disorders that were occurring when the church came together. Therein, 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Cor 14:33b-40 are bookends that mirror one another, with the intervening sections also mirroring one another in reverse order as they lead to and from the essay’s center point in chapter 13.[2] For our purposes, it is most important to notice that if those bookends do indeed mirror each other, then it is more than reasonable to conclude that the Law in 1 Cor 14:34 is Paul’s shorthand for Genesis 1-3 to which he refers in 1 Cor 11:7-9, 11-12. Seeing, then, this connection between Genesis 1-3 and 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, the chain-link logic in his reasoning comes into view. And, of course, the significance of Genesis 1-3 is that there Paul finds not just the beginnings of man and woman and the family dynamics of their relationship, but also the analogy that those beginnings provide for the relationship between women and men in the church. Thus, we see that, like the apostolic traditions, the Law also forms an anchor for Paul’s explanation of how men and women are to relate and serve in love in God’s household.

Bringing the preceding points together, we see that in 1 Corinthians Paul gets readers to feel the weight of his directives about the public ministry of God’s word from two anchors: the universally binding apostolic traditions and the family-church analogy in Genesis 1-3. But 1 Corinthians is not the only place where the Apostle links his logic to the family-church analogy: we find it again in 1 Timothy. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11–14 and 1 Timothy 2–5, we have the earliest and latest uses of this reasoning (thus providing us an indication that Paul’s directions for the churches were consistent over the entire course of his ministry). In those chapters, it is really interesting to notice Paul’s recurring interests in the same issues: in gender-appropriate apparel for public worship (1 Cor 11:4-7; 1 Tim 2:9-10), in the elements of public worship (1 Cor 11:4-5; 11:23-26; 14:15-19, 26; 1 Tim 2:1–3:7; 4:13), and in the standards that define and govern relationships between women and men (1 Cor 11:8-9, 11-12, 16; 14:34-38; 1 Tim 2:13-15; 3:4-5, 15; 5:1-2). That Paul repeats himself in these chapters ought to make his reasoning all the more valuable to people struggling to sort out relationships between men and women.

Pointedly, in Paul’s presentation, church standards of relationship and service are a carryover from family standards. As a result, he would have church members, out of love for one another, take into account whether their fellow members are male or female, younger or older (1 Tim 5:1-2). In addition, lest we think that the analogy is only a matter of age and sex, Paul takes it beyond those criteria and applies it to spiritual growth and calling (cf. Eph 4:12-16; Rom 12:2; Eph 5:8-10; Col 1:9-10; see also 2 Pet 3:18; Heb 5:12-14). Thus, he would have men become examples of maturity (cf. 1 Tim 4:12; Titus 2:7), respected as “fathers” in God’s household (cf. 1 Cor 4:15; 11:1; Phlm 10), among whom are some whose calling is to teach and govern God’s household in the special office of elder (Jas 3:1; 1 Tim 3:1-7; cf. 1 Cor 4:15; 11:1; Phlm 10; cf. 1 Pet 5:3). Similarly, he would have women too become examples of maturity, honored as “mothers” in God’s household whose calling is to teach the younger women in God’s household as their “daughters” (Titus 2:3-5; 1 Tim 5:9-10, 14 [with 3:11?]; see also 1 Pet 3:6b; cf. 2 Tim 1:5 with 3:14-15). All things considered, the bottom line of Paul’s family-church analogy is that love of others requires us to oppose any suppositions that a local church is a homogeneous assemblage of interchangeable persons (even siblings) who are to be treated the same and to serve in the same capacities. Instead, Paul bids us to look in love on a local church as a heterogeneous household of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who are to be treated with the honor due to them on account of their differences in sex, age, maturity, and calling.[3]

To draw to a close this series of posts on selected points of Aimee Byrd’s new book, we will look in Part 5 at the adage that “a woman may do anything in church that an unordained man may do” in the light of Paul’s family-church analogy.

[i] Cf. A. C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 1155.

[ii] The structure of 1 Cor 11:2–14:40 would look approximately like this: A: gender-appropriate apparel in worship, 11:2-16; B: disorder in the ministry of the Lord’s Supper, 11:17-34; C: gifts and the unity of the body, 12:1-30; X: the standard of conduct (love), 12:31-13:13; C´: gifts and the priorities of the body, 14:1-25; B´: disorder in the ministry of God’s word, 14:26-33a; A´: gender-appropriate speech in worship, 14:33b-40.

[iii] The content of this paragraph paraphrases and reapplies observations found in V. S. Poythress, The Church as Family (1990) and in the report submitted by the Committee on Women in Church Office to the Fifty-fifth (1988) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Engaging with Aimee Byrd’s Recent Book: Selected Points (#3: Prophesying)

Posted by R. Fowler White

In Part 1 and Part 2 of our interaction with selected themes in Aimee Byrd’s new book, we reviewed 1 Tim 2:12 and Acts 18:24-28 and Col 3:16 (with others) as representative passages related to teaching in the special and general offices. From those texts we gleaned that laymen and laywomen were exhorted to be coactive in the general teaching office, but that the special teaching office was limited to qualified men. From our interaction with Byrd to this point, then, we gather that, since reciprocal coactivity in teaching was not a mark of the special office or of the public meetings of the church, the coactive teaching of those in the general office need not diminish or undermine those in the special office.

Along with texts related to teaching, however, there are also texts related to prophesying, and from them Byrd and many others (including denominational study committees) have argued that women were permitted to prophesy in the church’s public assemblies. As plausible and as widely accepted as this view is, it is pertinent to ask this question: how is it that, when the NT churches gathered in their public meetings, only men were teaching but both women and men were prophesying? To answer this question, it is worth asking if the premise of the question was true: were men and women in fact coactive in prophesying in church? Or was it the case that the same standards regulated teaching and prophesying? Before we comment further on the question of standards, let’s examine the observation that both women and men prophesied when the churches came together.

First, to the extent that Scripture speaks of the prophethood of all believers, we should grant that men and women both did prophesy in church. For instance, in Acts 2:17-18 Peter declares that, insofar as Christ pours out His Spirit on all believers, they all share the prophetic anointing and thus all “prophesy.” That being the case, they all occupy the general prophetic office (e.g., 1 Cor 12:13; 1 John 2:20-27). In this light, the focus of our attention has to shift. Now we must ask, what did the activity of the general prophetic office look like?[1] With Peter’s citation of Joel as an interpretive backdrop for his readers, Luke portrays general prophesying throughout his narrative in Acts as a coactivity of household members, regardless of their sex, age, class, or race. But his narrative pushes us to be more specific. Indeed, Luke describes that activity almost exactly as the Chronicler describes the liturgical prophesying of selected male and female Levites under David (e.g., 1 Chron 25:1-7). That is, those Levitical liturgists are said to have “prophesied” according to their assignments in certain (but not all) elements of public worship,[2] namely, as they offered intercession, thanks, or praise (1 Chron 6:31-48; 16:4-7). Interestingly, in Acts we see that under David’s greater Son, male and female believers are said to have “prophesied” as they offered prayer, thanks, or praise. Specifically, as we follow Luke’s narrative, we are struck by the fact that, wherever Christ poured out His Spirit (in Jerusalem [Acts 1:14; 2:11], in Caesarea [Acts 10:44-46], in Ephesus [Acts 19:6], in Corinth [1 Cor 12:13], and beyond), the coactivity of men and women in many acts of public worship bore witness to their fellowship in the prophethood of all believers that the Spirit of Christ was forming.

Second, in addition to the general prophetic anointing of all believers, Scripture describes the special prophetic ministry of some believers (1 Cor 12:28-30; Eph 4:11). Upon closer examination of the prophetic activity in 1 Corinthians 11–14, it becomes clearer that, as they prophesied, men and women were coactive in certain elements of public worship, but not in all elements. For example, remembering that the Chronicler and Luke tell us that men and women “prophesied” as they were offering intercession, thanks, or praise, we need not be surprised when Paul tells us in 1 Cor 11:4-5 and 14:15-19 that men and women “prophesied” in those very same acts of worship. Other elements of worship, however, come into view in 1 Cor 11:2–14:26 (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Tim 2:1-15; 3:14-15; 4:13). From this wider context, we realize that Paul’s overriding concern is to see all elements of public worship regulated by love of others (1 Cor 12:31–14:1). Strikingly, according to 1 Cor 14:26-40, love requires that during the public ministry of God’s word (14:26), anyone contributing to that ministry must follow the Apostle’s directives (14:36-38) on when to speak and when to be silent (14:27-35). In fact, in light of the question of whether prophesying was regulated by the same standards as teaching, it is critical to notice that the Apostle’s directives applied whether God’s word was brought in the form of “a psalm, … a teaching, … a revelation, … a tongue, … [or] an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26b NAS95). Clearly, insofar as teaching and prophesying contributed to the public ministry of God’s word, Paul regulated them both by the same standards. Thus, 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an awfully close parallel to 1 Tim 2:11-15 (we will have more to say about this parallel in Part 4). In that light, it is remarkable to notice that, consistent with the distinction we saw between the general and special teaching offices, we also see a distinction between the general prophetic anointing and the special prophetic ministry. By all appearances, when God’s household came together (1 Cor 14:26a), men and women were expected to be coactive in the general prophetic office (e.g., 1 Cor 11:4-5; 14:15-19), but the special prophetic ministry of God’s word, like the special teaching ministry of God’s word, was limited to men (1 Cor 14:34-35). In other words, contrary to what Byrd and many others have argued, the Apostle’s policy on prophesying was, in “all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor 14:33b), coordinated with the general prophetic anointing of all and the special prophetic ministry of some. That is, Paul limited the element of worship devoted to the special prophetic ministry of God’s word to men; and, consistent with the general prophetic anointing of all, he approved of women and men being coactive in prophesying during those other elements of worship not devoted the ministry of God’s word. In short, in all the congregations of Christ’s church, the principles that regulated teaching and prophesying were the same.

In what has preceded, we have sought to show how Paul correlates the coactivity of women and men in prophesying and in teaching with the general and special offices. We have also sought to highlight that the Apostle cites love as the standard that shapes his directives for participation in the elements of public worship. We can understand even better where Paul anchors his policy on women and men in teaching, however, by taking one more step. We’ll take that step in Part 4.

[1] The trajectory of the following comments was first suggested to me by Dr. R. Laird Harris. Recently, essentially the same trajectory has been suggested independently by Iain M. Duguid, “What Kind of Prophecy Continues? Defining the Differences between Continuationism and Cessationism,” in Redeeming the Life of the Mind: Essays in Honor of Vern Poythress, ed. John Frame, Wayne Grudem, and John Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 112–28.

[2] By “elements of worship” I mean reading and preaching God’s word, singing psalms and hymns, offering prayer, presenting offerings, confessing the faith, and administering Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Historical Novelty and Re-reading 1 Cor 14:34

Posted by R. Fowler White

‘Not all historical phenomena that manifest themselves as doctrinal are necessarily immediately doctrinal in cause or origin.’—Carl Trueman (citing a mentor of his)

The relevance of the quotation above came to mind as I was reading a post over at www.reformation21.org by William Castro, pastor of Emmanuel Upstate Church in Greenville, SC. He served as an advisory member of the Presbyterian Church in America’s Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry in the Church, and his essay, entitled 1 Corinthians 14:34: Did God Really Say … ? was highlighted as a Ref21 post from 2019 that “you may have missed” (and indeed I had). I’ll just summarize it here as a popular-level reflection on four interpretations of 1 Cor 14:34, the most recent of which is what Castro calls the “judging-of-prophecies” interpretation. (For those who don’t know, according to that exegesis, the apostle required women to be silent at the time when prophecies were evaluated in the churches’ worship services.) What struck me most about Castro’s discussion of the four views was not his criticisms of those opinions, but his identification of the “judging-of-prophecies” interpretation as not just “increasingly … more prevalent” and “more and more accepted and less and less questioned,” but also as “new” and “novel.” As it turns out, this view first showed up in “the literature” in the published work of W. C. Klein (1962) and of Margaret E. Thrall (1965). Today, it is arguably the most popular view of 1 Cor 14:34 among evangelical scholars, having been amplified by James Hurley (1973/1981), further elaborated by Wayne Grudem (1982), and embraced by others such as D. A. Carson (1991).

Speaking for myself, when I realized that this view is new and novel, it gave me pause. Though I no longer hold this view, I realized that, thirty-five years ago, I did hold it and teach it without ever considering its historical novelty. I could have and should have known better. I ought to have handled my adoption and presentation of the exegesis of that text with greater humility and respect toward the history of interpretation. In admitting this, I don’t mean at all to say that a new interpretation is necessarily wrong. Nor do I mean to exaggerate the importance of a novel exegesis of a single text on one’s overall doctrinal conclusions: the interpretation of relatively few individual texts has the power to alter the way we construe the broader teaching of Scripture. I only mean to point out that the historical newness of an exegetical conclusion requires that the evidence put forward in its favor must be weightier than usual. So I agree with Castro when he writes: “I certainly am not advocating for a rejection of all possible solutions to interpretive difficulties. I do, however, believe that we should follow the humble attitude of the divines of Westminster, who—before affirming an interpretation—considered the history of exegesis of the texts.”

One way to apply the concerns of Castro (and Trueman in the quotation above) is to reckon with the fact that exegesis is inevitably and decisively influenced by existing commitments and larger frameworks of understanding. Doubtless most who read this blog see themselves as familiar (and comfortable) with the controlling factors that influenced the adoption of the “judging-of-prophecies” interpretation by able scholars like Hurley, Grudem, and Carson. Yet the history of interpretation, at least as those scholars and we know it so far, tells us that that view of 1 Cor 14:34 is new and novel. In that light, I’m constrained to ask myself, what can I learn about the existing commitments and larger frameworks of understanding in the 1960s that influenced Klein and Thrall to put forward the “judging-of-prophecies” interpretation? To answer that question seems a sounder way to proceed than to hold it and teach it without ever considering its historical novelty.

Does God practice temporary forgiveness?

Posted by Bob Mattes

I read Dr. Rob Rayburn’s letter to the PCA Standing Judicial Committee with some interest. I was curious to see how a church officer defends someone who holds virtually identical views to a man who was a hair’s breath from indictment a short time ago before fleeing the denomination. I found the read, though, greatly disappointing and even disturbing. I found the theological arguments to be more like blind assertions, and support was entirely lacking when Rayburn seemed to be making assertions about particular Scriptural texts.

I found the assertion that God forgives temporarily particularly disturbing, and that will be the subject of this post. Rayburn:

Justification – whatever else it is – is the forgiveness of sins. It is perfectly obvious that there is such a thing as temporary forgiveness because the Bible says there is (cf. Num. 14:20 with 1 Cor. 10:5; Ezekiel 16:1-14; Matthew 18:32-34; etc.). Whether we are entirely satisfied with Dr. Leithart’s effort to incorporate this biblical material into the larger picture of the way of divine grace, the fact is, temporary forgiveness is a biblical datum.

I’ll deal with his view of justification in another post. The assertion above, made without support, is that temporary forgiveness is perfectly obvious in the Bible – a given. Really? I’ve never seen it, and neither did Calvin, the Westminster Divines, or any other orthodox Reformed scholar I can find.

Let’s look at the Scriptures cited, starting with the most challenging. Matthew 18:32-34 (ESV) says: Read the rest of this entry »

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.

1 Corinthians 10 and Paedo-Baptism

Here is the text (verses 1-4): “I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

The phrase I wish to examine is that phrase “baptized into Moses.” Obviously, all the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. Therefore, they were all baptized into Moses. It didn’t matter what age they were, they were baptized into Moses. Infants are included in this. What we have here is an indisputable example of “baptizo” being referred to infants. However, some of the details could use some elucidation.

Moses here is a type of Christ. This is proved by verse 6, which speaks of these things as “types” for us to follow. The Baptists might wish to argue here that the word only functions on a typological or figurative level. However, the question still remains, “Why did Paul use that word here?” By the way, this passage also forms part of the argument against “baptizo” always meaning “to immerse,” since the Israelites were not immersed. They went through on dry ground. It was the Egyptians who were immersed! However, this is a side issue, which could be dealt with in another post.

To be baptized into Moses surely functions on a typological level to point us to being baptized into Christ. If this is the case, then we have rock (vs. 4!)-solid evidence of paedo-baptism in the NT. We must be careful here in distinguishing and noting the sign and the thing signified. Remember that sacramental language sometimes ascribes the effects of the thing signified to the sign. Here we have the thing signified (escape from the Egyptians by the grace of God in the Red Sea), and a sign (the word “baptizo”) closely conjoined. They can be distinguished, though not violently separated. This is not to say that baptism saves, unless by that we mean that that to which baptism points saves us. The language must be extremely careful to not ascribe too much or too little to baptism. The fathers had their baptism in the sea. God was saving them. That is a type for us. Verse 6 absolutely and finally prohibits us from relegating verses 1-4 to the interesting but irrelevant solely typological level. These types are for our benefit. Therefore, the baptism of the fathers in verses 1-4 has reference to our baptism in Christ. Notice the parallel of baptism into Moses with baptism into Christ. Surely, Paul has the latter in mind in speaking about the former. In short, this passage is extremely strong in favor of paedo-baptism.

Paedo-Communion and 1 Corinthians 11:28

To my mind, almost the entirety of the issue hinges on the meaning of the word “dokimazo” in 1 Corinthians 11:28. This article (ht David McCrory) argues for paedo-communion on the basis of its understanding of the context and historical situation of the Corinthians when Paul wrote the letter. The specific section is about two-thirds of the way down the article under the title “Some specific objections; a. children cannot prove themselves.” I would suggest that the article does not do the word “dokmazo” justice at all. BDAG has this definition for the word, “to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine,” listing this passage under that definition. What is one to make a critical examination of? The answer is “heauton” (oneself). Quite simply, it is eisegesis to claim that zero subjective aspects are attached to this examination.

BOQ It is possible for a covenant child, when tested (cf. I Cor. 10:13), to demonstrate by his words and behavior that he is living a godly life which seeks the approval of God. Such faithfulness can be observed even in a young child by both parents, elders, and other members of the church. EOQ But even this would require that the child no longer be an infant. Don’t get my position wrong. I think that children of age 6 are capable in some instances of such examination. I think other children of age 15 are incapable of it. This is where the session of the church is so important. But the article does not do justice to the definition of “dokimazo” in BDAG. The best article I have ever read on the passage dealing with paedo-communion is by George Knight. It is available in the Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons volume, available here.