Archive | Exegesis RSS feed for this section

Does Matthew 5:48 Require Sinless Perfection?

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

This is often interpreted as a call to sinless perfection, something that Christians cannot attain prior to glorification. As such it’s used as a hermeneutical key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. In this view, Jesus is not laying out the way of life for his followers. Instead, he is setting the bar so far out of their reach that they must turn to him for mercy and find acceptance in his righteousness.

I fully embrace the theological conclusions of this position: Christians cannot live sinlessly in this life and can only be accepted by God on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus. However, I don’t think this text teaches that.

There are three reasons for understanding this verse as something that every Christian should and can obey.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 5 }

What Is the Righteousness Required to Enter the Kingdom?

When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament TheologyJesus said in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus here identifies a necessary condition for entering the kingdom, which is synonymous with gaining eternal life (cf. Mt 19:16, 23), so it’s important that we understand what “your righteousness” refers to.

Some believe that Jesus has in mind his own perfect righteousness, which is imputed to sinners by faith. It is often argued that no other righteousness could surpass the righteousness of the most religious people of that time. However, good reasons exist for understanding it a different way—as a reference to the internal, inherent righteousness of heart commenced at regeneration, continued in sanctification, and culminated in glorification.

Three points support the latter view:

  1. The immediately following context unpacks righteousness by contrasting false, external righteousness with true, internal righteousness.
  2. The other uses of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount are best understood as righteousness of life.
  3. The Gospels don’t use righteousness to refer to imputed righteousness.

This interpretation coheres with Jesus’ teaching on the conditional nature of entrance into the kingdom (e.g., Mat 7:21; 12:50; John 15:14) and is theologically consistent with other Scriptural statements about the necessity of regeneration (John 3:3, 5), sanctification (Heb 12:14), and perseverance (Heb 10:36) for entrance into the kingdom—all of which intersect conceptually with righteousness.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 2 }

Justification by Works and Faith in 1 Clement

Clement of RomeWhile reading through 1 Clement, I found a nice example of justify (δικαιόω) being used in two different senses (in very close proximity), which nicely parallels its use in the New Testament.

Justified by Works

In this first example, Clement is calling his readers to personal holiness and speaks of their being justified by works (ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι). He seems to have in view a demonstration rather than imputation of righteousness.

30 Seeing then that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all the things that pertain to holiness, forsaking slander, disgusting and impure embraces, drunkenness and rioting and detestable lusts, abominable adultery, detestable pride. (2) “For God,” he says, “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (3) Let us therefore join with those to whom grace is given by God. Let us clothe ourselves in concord, being humble and self-controlled, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being justified by works and not by words [ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι καὶ μὴ λόγοις]. (4) For he says: “He who speaks much shall hear much in reply. Or does the talkative person think that he is righteous? (5) Blessed is the one born of woman who has a short life. Do not be overly talkative.” (6) Let our praise be with God, and not from ourselves, for God hates those who praise themselves. (7) Let the testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was given to our fathers who were righteous. (8) Boldness and arrogance and audacity are for those who are cursed by God; but graciousness and humility and gentleness are with those who are blessed by God.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

The Fall Explains Homosexual Animals

Scientists and advocates of same-sex sexual and marital relationships are making much of recently observed homosexual behavior in animals, and some are suggesting that it proves that homosexuality is genetically rooted and natural (or at least not unnatural) for both animals and human beings. As Al Mohler explains,

The political implications of the issue are clear—those pushing for the normalization of homosexuality want to be able to point to research that would prove the normality of homosexuality in nature.

To draw this conclusion, however, would be a mistake. For it fails to evaluate this homosexual behavior in light of a biblical hamartiology. As Mohler reminds us, we can’t derive what’s natural—or more importantly, what God requires of us—from nature, for the simple reason that the effects of Adam’s sin extend beyond the human race.

The world we know is a world that shows all the effects of human sin and the curse of God’s judgment on that sin. Though the glory of God shines through even its fallen state, nature now imperfectly displays the glory of God. Because of the curse, the world around us now reveals and contains innumerable elements that are “natural,” but not normative. Illnesses and earthquakes are natural, but not normative.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 1 }

New Exegesis and Theology Blog

I just found out that a friend of mine, Brian Collins, has been blogging for a couple of weeks at Exegesis and Theology. Brian is a voracious reader and careful thinker. I’m sure his blog will be worth keeping tabs on.

HT: Andy Naselli

Comments { 0 }

“When I’m stumped . . . I go to Henry Alford.”

Dan Phillips, who blogs at Biblical Christianity and Pyromaniacs, emailed me about a month ago and asked me about making Henry Alford’s The Greek Testament: With a Critically Revised Text; a Digest of Various Readings; Marginal References to Verbal and Idiomatic Usage; Prolegomena; and a Critical and Exegetical Commentary available for Libronix. In that email he told me that “John Piper names it as the one he always consults.” Recently I asked him if he knew the source for Piper’s statement. He didn’t, but said he’d do some hunting. He asked his blog readers for help, and it was Pilgrim Mommy to the rescue.

I think it might be . . . during the Q&A at the end of Piper’s talk on John Owen.

I just listened to the end of Piper’s biographical lecture on Owen, and here’s what he says in the Q&A in response to a question about commentaries that he finds helpful:

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Moulton on 1 Corinthians 15:28

Moulton-Howard-Turner Greek Grammar CollectionI just installed the new Moulton-Howard-Turner Greek Grammar Collection from Logos.

It comes with the four volumes of A Grammar of New Testament Greek:

  • Vol. 1: Prolegomena by James H. Moulton
  • Vol. 2: Accidence and Word-Formation by James H. Moulton and Wilbert F. Howard
  • Vol. 3: Syntax by Nigel Turner
  • Vol. 4: Style by Nigel Turner

It also includes Turner’s volume Grammatical Insights into the New Testament.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 3 }

Is There Regret in Heaven?

Life As a VaporJohn Piper is one of my favorite living theologians. His writings and preaching have had a profound impact on my thinking, and he is regularly a means of great encouragement and motivation. I rarely find myself disagreeing with him.

I recently picked up the 24-volume John Piper Collection from Logos and have been enjoying working through Life As a Vapor. It’s composed of 31 chapters making it an ideal book to read for a month’s worth of devotional reading.

The second chapter is entitled “Suffering, Mercy, and Heavenly Regret,” in which Piper poses the question, “Is there regret in heaven?” He continues, “Can regret be part of the ever-increasing, unspeakable joy of the age to come, purchased by Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32)? My answer is yes” (19).

Continue Reading →

Comments { 15 }

“To Him Be Glory Forever”

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed in the Grammatical Relationships section of the Bible Word Study report for εὐχαριστέω an interesting pattern regarding the objects of εὐχαριστέω. I wrote this in a blog post at the Logos Bible Software blog:

Of the 23 complements or objects of the verb (i.e., who is being thanked), they are nearly all God. The only human objects are Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3). The rest of the references are God—and arguably, God the Father. (Jesus is the object one time [Lk 17:16].) I realize that God can refer to the Triune God, but the contexts and general pattern suggest that the Father is in view.

Here are the data:

Thanks is given to

  • the Father (Col 1:11–12; cf. Jn 11:41)
  • God the Father through Jesus (Rom 1:8; Col 3:17)
  • God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col 1:3–5)
  • God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20)
  • God [who is distinguished in the context from Christ] (Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 1:4, 14; Phil 1:3-6; 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 1:3; 2:13; Phm 4-5; Rev 11:17?; cf. Lk 18:11)
  • God [who is later identified as the Father] (1 Thes 1:2–4)
  • God [undefined in the immediate context] (Acts 27:35; 28:15; 1 Cor 14:18)

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

The Failed Strategy of “Trinity & Subordinationism”

trinity-and-subordinationism.jpgKevin Giles’s The Trinity & Subordinationism is easily one of the worst books I have ever read.1 I say that not because I disagree with the position he defends (i.e., the Son is not in any sense eternally subordinate to the Father); I’m still in the process of evaluating the evidence. Rather, I make that statement based primarily2 on what the book itself sets out to do.

Giles’s goal in T&S is to move beyond the exegetical impasse regarding eternal subordination in the Trinity by appealing to tradition.

Quoting biblical texts and giving one’s interpretation of them cannot resolve complex theological disputes. . . . I believe this approach [to “doing theology”] should . . . be abandoned today because it always leads to a “text-jam.” . . . What we have today is a bitter stalemate (3).

Continue Reading →

Footnotes

  1. I should clarify that I have read and am referring to only his section on the Trinity, which is its own distinct unit.
  2. I’ll probably follow up this post with the book’s other problems, such as (1) misunderstanding and misrepresenting complementarians, (2) selective reading of history, (3) eisegesis of historical texts, (4) category confusion, etc., etc. Here’s one example of misrepresentation to give you an idea of the way Giles interacts with complemenatarian Trinitarianism throughout the book: “Rather than working as one, the divine persons have been set in opposition—with the Father commanding and the Son obeying.” I wrote this in the margin, “Opposition?!!! What a massive misrepresentation!” I challenge Giles to show one complementarian who considers the Father and the Son to be in a relationship of opposition!
Comments { 7 }