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We now turn to the final part of this study. We take a look at the New Testament Usages of Porneia and Moicheia. Then we reach the conclusion of this study. (The other parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The whole paper can be found here.)

I know that this is a technical look at a small portion of this debate. There are many more arguments to be said from both sides about other texts which matter. But the final argument is only as strong as its parts. If the pillars are weak then the structure is weak. we have been looking at one of those pillars which is important for this debate. That pillar is the Permanence claim that Matthew has a special usage of Porneia and Moicheia which translates into Matthew not giving an exception to divorce. Permanence holders claim that there are signals which suggest that Matthew has that special usage. But we are putting those claims to the test by seeing if those signals correspond to what we see else where in the relevant literature.

Hopefully this has proven useful now or maybe in the future. I have played around with different ways to communicate what I write in larger papers.  Would you, the reader, find it more helpful if I gave summarizes of my finds with a link to the main paper? Or something else? Whatever way is most profitable to you is my aim so your suggestion is welcomed.


New Testament Usages. Now we turn to the New Testament. What about other authors? Did the way they use the words tell us anything?

When considering the linguistic rules the Permanence holders assert there is nothing that corresponds to it exactly. There is no example of the words happening in close proximity to one another outside the debated passages in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. There is only one place where Moicheia comes in a list with Porneia: Mark 7:22 which is a parallel passage with Matthew 15:19.

The claim is made, however, that the New Testament writers follow the a SM pattern in the use of Porneia and Moicheia as found in Matthew, “even outside the Gospels, pornos (fornicator, one who engages in porneia) is plainly distinguished from moichos (adulterer, one who engages in Moicheia) as two different categories of sinners (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4)”[1] Now we can put this claim to the test.

Porneia is used 25 times in the New Testament. But the question we are exploring is if the word encapsulates adultery in any of its usages? Or does it take a SM usage in every use?

Now for the SM understanding to make sense we have to see it used in every or most cases in the New Testament in an SM way to establish the claim.  This is because language is consistent in its usage. If an author wants to communicate his ideas (Matthew in our case) he will use the language how everybody else is using it. And so when coming to the New Testament are there usages of Porneia consistently pointing to a SM understanding, namely that it never includes adultery?

And since it is a claim about an absolute usage of a word (Matthew has to do it this way) the only thing that is needed to make the claim dubious is to find some examples where the claimed pattern does not work.

Here are several usages of Porneia where the SM understanding does not seem to work,

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality (πορνεία), impurity, sensuality,” (Gal 5:19)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality (πορνείαν), impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col3:5).

But sexual immorality (Πορνεία) and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral (πόρνος) or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph 5:3-5).

According to an SM understanding Paul does not have adultery encapsulated in any of these commands or lists. That seems like a very hard claim to understand. To see Porneia encapsulating adultery makes a lot more sense in reading these lists and commands.

A very interesting point can be made about the Ephesians 5 passage. There is a parallel saying from 1 Corinthians where Paul says close to the same thing,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdomof God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral (πόρνοι), nor idolaters, nor adulterers (μοιχοὶ), nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit thekingdom ofGod (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Paul uses a list of things which characterize those who will not inherit thekingdomofGod. If there is the SM between the sexually immoral person and the adultery why is there no mention of adultery in the Ephesians passage? Is Paul only talking to those who are not in any position to be tempted by adultery or see what adultery is? That does not seem to make sense. However, if Porneia and its different forms and relations can encapsulate adultery then there is no problem.

So what can be gathered from all this? A SM understanding of Porneia is very difficult to read in some usages of Paul and there is no evidence that would support the two linguistic patterns from Permanence holders. From an evidential stand point it seems much better to understand the usage of the word as it has appeared in the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and Apostolic writings.


This has not been a study of every usage of Porneia or Moicheia in the relevant literature. We are, instead, studying the claims made about usages of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew. The claims being that (1) since Matthew uses the terms in close proximity whenever he uses Porneia and (2) those words appear in the same list of vices in 15:19 that they have to take on “Separate Meanings.” We have taken these claims to the relevant literature to test them. Does the close proximal usage mean that Porneia cannot be used to refer to an adulterous act? Does the use of the word within lists mean that they have to take on SM in every other usage? Does an SM use of the words stand up with the other usages within the New Testament?

We have seen very clear usages of Porneia in the LXX, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers where the first claim is proved clearly false. Porneia can be used in the same verse at Moicheia and refer to an adulterous act. To the second point we have seen a few examples which cast high doubt upon this claim in two ways: first, with authors being able to use the terms both distinctly and synonymously within the same work then second, an author using the terms distinctly in a list and then synonymously earlier in his work. Thus, the claim that Matthew “has to” follow a SM is disproven. There are examples which prove that Matthew does not have to.

What does this mean for the discussion?

We do have to say that this does not confirm the traditional evangelical interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 as giving exceptions. It does give support to the idea that the usages of Porneia and Moicheia in the traditional evangelical interpretation are consistent with what we find elsewhere. But it does not give the final verdict. There might be a possibility that Matthew has a special usage of the words that do not correspond to what we find anywhere else. This would, however, require substantial evidence to validate from within the text itself.

It does, though, remove the only linguistic argument from the Permanence holders for their interpretation of Matthew. The two patterns presented as evidence for the special reading do not hold up under scrutiny. With the evidence presented here there is no linguistic reason to take the Permanence position on Matthew. Nothing with Matthew’s usages of Porneia, Moicheia and Moicheuō should suggest that he has to have a SM usage in mind. This means the argument that Matthew has to be speaking to the betrothal period in 5:32 and 19:9 in the exceptions has no support from the usages of Porneia and Moicheia.

[1] Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 43.

This is the third installment of my study on the Permanence’s reading of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew. In the first post I gave an introduction to the topic of divorce and remarriage. Then I launched into my paper where I stated the thesis and a short word about how to understand linguistic studies. In the second post I went over the Permanence view about how we should understand the Greek word “Porneia” and “Moicheia” in Matthew. I finished by saying that we are going to put their claims to the test. And this installment is just that. In this part I will be taking you through the relevant literature around the New Testament.

If you want to read the article in full you can here.


So we have a claim about how we should understand Matthew’s use of Porneia and Moicheia. Based upon how he uses the terms in other places we can come to conclude that he has a SM (Separate Meanings) for each of the words.

Now this is all interesting and good. There is no problem in observing trends and suggesting different theories about how we should translate things. But just because we observe a trend does not mean that was what the author intended to communicate. We have to look at the evidence to see if what they say is the most plausible and will fit with what we see in other places. Specifically we can look at the claims being made about how the language works.

  • First, that if Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to one another then it is evidence that the words have SM for the author.
  • Second, that if the words are used in a list together then it is conclusive evidence that the words have SM for the rest of the usages in the work.

So what we will be doing is testing the grid they construct. Does those two points in list above match what we see in other places in the relevant literature? Is that a consistent pattern as to see Matthew following it?

Going Through the Literature

So what we can do is go through the relevant literature to test these claims. What we will be looking at from first are examples with in the Old Testament Septuagint, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers that run contrary to the Permanence holders claims. Once again, if there are any examples that go contrary to their claims the credibility of the claims become very weak or disproven.

Now, it should be stated up front that the Permanence holders present no evidence for their view. Outside their claims about Matthew there is no reference to any work within or outside the bible where an author is treating Porneia and Moicheia in the same way they are claiming Matthew is using them. This means that they are in a hole to begin with. As stated before Greek is not a mysterious language where mystical things happen. Like any language things do happen consistently with how people use the language. People want to communicate with one another and being consistent with a language is an essential way of doing it. If there is no example of anyone else doing what the Permanence people do with Matthew then it does speak against the credibility of their claims. And it can make it a very easy task to disprove the claims. If there are any examples of the language being used in a way contrary to the claims the credibility of the claims becomes very weak or completely disproven.

The Septuagint. The first place we can go is the Old Testament. We would get the usages from the Septuagint (LXX) as the translators made decisions about which Greek words to use for the Hebrew words. Now word usage in the Old Testament is important. The LXX was the bible of the readers of the letters of the New Testament. Just think about how you can easily associate bible words and phrases that people may use in every day life with the meanings they have in the bible. The ancient readers would have the same ability. Also, the New Testament writers themselves quote and allude to the Old Testament Septuagint extensively. They expect their readers to be well acquainted with the Old Testament. Thus, the LXX would have been a strong influence upon how early Christians would have understood meanings of words and phrases.

For this discussion the question we are exploring is, “Did the translators of the LXX ever use Porneia to refer to adultery?” If they did then it would point very strongly to the fact that Porneia can encapsulate adultery in its meaning in the New Testament. And within this we are looking if the words are used in close proximity to one another and if they are used in lists. All in all Porneia is used 45 times in the Old Testament LXX and its verb form is used 18 times.

There are actually several places where Porneia speaks to acts of adultery while being used very closely with the words for adultery. The first example we will look at is Jeremiah 3:6-9 where Porneia (πορνεία) is used to speak of adulterous acts while being used right along side of Moicheia (μοιχεία) and Moicheuō (μοιχεύω).

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?( ἐπόρνευσαν) And I thought, ‘After she has done all this (in the LXX πορνεῦσαι is included here that the translators translate as “this” to smooth out the translation) she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries (ἐμοιχᾶτο) of that faithless one,Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sisterJudahdid not fear, but she too went and played the whore (ἐπόρνευσεν). Because she took her whoredom(πορνεία) lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery(ἐμοίχευσεν) with stone and tree. (Jer. 3:6-9)

What we have in this section is God condemningIsraelfor her unfaithfulness andJudahfollowing after such unfaithfulness. The unfaithfulness of these nations is spoken of in the terms of adultery. For our purposes it relevant to see that Porneia (and its verbal form πορνεύω) and Moicheia and Moicheuō, in different forms, are used in close proximity with one another (even in the same verse in 3:9) but refer to adultery. Porniea is used to refer toIsrael’s unfaithfulness at the end of verse 7 while the same unfaithfulness is described as Moicheia at the beginning of verse 8. Porneia clearly refers to adultery then second, both words are used in close proximity to each other. So close that both words are used in verse 9. The argument is made from the Permanence holders that the since in Matthew both Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to each other then they have to have SM meanings. However, to apply the same rule to Jer. 3:6-9 would not work. The words are clearly speaking of the same sinful act of adultery.

And what was displayed in the Jeremiah passage is a major theme throughout the Old Testament prophets where they speak ofIsrael’s unfaithfulness of their marital covenant to God as Porneia with Moicheia and Moicheuō being used in close proximity to refer to the same acts.

In the book of Ezekiel in chapter 16 God calls Israelout of the blood of its birth, grows her, and then enters into marital covenant with her (16:6-14). The next verse however has Israelplaying the whore (πορνείαν). “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings (πορνείαν) on any passerby; your beauty became his.” For 6 more verses (22, 25, 33, 34, 36, and 41) God, through Ezekiel, calls Israel’s adulterous acts Porneia (translated as “whore”). Then in verse 32 God calls Israel, after denouncing her whoring, an “adulterous wife” (ἡ γυνὴ ἡ μοιχωμένη).

Then in chapter 23 a similar denouncing happens upon Samaria and Jerusalem. Their unfaithfulness of the marital covenant they had with God in spoken of in terms of Porneia. In verse 7 God states through Ezekiel, “She bestowed her whoring(πορνείαν) upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted.” For 9 more verses Samaria and Jerusalem’s adulterous acts are labeled as Porneia. Then in verse 37 the these actions of Porneia are called adultery, “For they have committed adultery (ἐμοιχῶντο), and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery (ἐμοιχῶντο), and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me.

The next big section where we see the same thing happening is in Hosea. The prophet Hosea is called to take a wife of whoredom to represent Israel’s whoredom against God, “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom(πορνείας) and have children of whoredom(πορνείας), for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord’”(1:2). Israel’s unfaithfulness to their marriage to the Lord is a main theme of Hosea. Throughout the book their unfaithfulness is labeled with Porneia (2:4-6, 4:11-12, 4:11, 5:4, and 6:10). An important use for this discussion is found in 2:4, “Plead with your mother, plead—for she is not my wife,  and I am not her husband—that she put away her whoring(πορνείαν) from her face, and her adultery(μοιχείαν) from between her breasts.” Here is another example of Porneia and Moicheia being used to speak to the same act in the same verse.

There are other places where the Prophets use Porneia to speak of Israel’s marital unfaithfulness to God. In chapter 43 Ezekiel there are two usages of the word in verse 7 and 9.  It is also used in Jeremiah 2:20, 3:2, and 13:27 in the same fashion. And Jeremiah 13:27 in another example of not only Porneia and Moicheia being in the same verse but also in a list to refer to the same act, “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries (μοιχεία) and neighings, your lewd whorings (πορνείας), on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?

And to make a note about the verbal form of Porneia, it follows the same pattern of the noun form. It can be found in the very same major sections discussed in Ezekiel 16 and 23, Jeremiah 3:6-9, and Hosea.

Other usages in the Old Testament that follow this line are found in Numbers 14:33 and 2 Kings 9:22. In fact 31 of the 45 noun usages and 13 of the 18 verb usages of Porneia in the LXX follow this pattern.

What does this tell us? The LXX spoke ofIsrael’s acts of unfaithfulness to the marital covenant by saying they committed Porneia against Him. Thus, we see a situation where marriage is the context and an act of unfaithfulness to the marriage is called Porneia. What does this prove? There is no direct evidence that Jesus was drawing on this as the context of his statements. So these verses do not speak definitively as to what Jesus said. But they do give us look into the usage of Porneia and Moicheia in situation that is related to the one Jesus is speaking about (marital) and which is a major theme throughout the Old Testament. Thus from looking at the Old Testament, particularly the prophets, the SM meaning seems to be in complete contradiction to what we find. Porneia can be used for an act of adultery and is used right along side of Moicheia and Moicheuō to convey its meaning. And such a major theme in the Old Testament of Israel’s unfaithfulness would not have been foreign to the readers of Matthew.

The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Next we turn to usages of the word in Jewish works that predate the New Testament. These are works that come between the Testaments. They are important because they give us a picture of how Jews were using words before and right after we get to the New Testament times. For our purposes I believe Friedrich Hauck and Seigfried Schulz in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament do a good job in summing up what we find.

Later Judaism shows us how the use of πορνεία etc. gradually broadened as compared with the original usage. In the first instance πορνεία is mostly “harlotry,” “extra-marital intercourse,” Pirqe Abot 2, 8, often with adultery, The Greek-Slavic Apocalypse of Baruch 4:17; 8:5; 13:4; Ascension of Isaiah 2:5; Treasure Cave, 12 (Riessler, 956 f.). Materially, however, it often means “adultery,[1]

For examples of the final statement two works can be looked at

The first and most important is found Sirach 23:23 which states “For first, she hath disobeyed the law of the most High; and secondly, she hath trespassed against her own husband; and thirdly, she hath played the whore (πορνείᾳ) in adultery (ἐμοιχεύθη), and brought children by another man.” Here are the two words happening again in the same verse with the same action clearly in view. Also, in verse 17 of the same chapter Porneia is used to describe an adulterous man, “All bread is sweet to a whoremonger (ἄνθρωπος πόρνος), he will not leave off till he die.” The context makes clear that the verse is speaking about an adulterous man.

The next one comes from The Testament of Joseph found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs from the second century B. C. [2] The context of the verse is Joseph talking about Potipher’s wife about how she was trying to commit adultery with him, “and for a time she would embraced me as a son, but then I realized later that she was trying to lure me into a sexual relationship (πορνείαν)” (The Testament of Joseph 3:8-9). Here as well the author uses Porneia to refer to the act of adultery that the wife is trying to get Joseph to commit.

Post New Testament Literature. The last section we will look at is early Christian Writings. This would be works from the people that came after the New Testament. The one verse that is important for our question is in the Shepherd of Hermas written either at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second century.[3] In the Shepherd of Hermas we find once again Porneia referring to an adulterous act while Moicheia in the same proximity. “I said to him, ‘Sir, allow me to ask you a few more questions.’ ‘Speak,’ he replied. ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘if a man has a wife who believes in the Lord, and he finds in her some adulterous situation (μοιχείᾳ), does the man sin if he continues to live with her?‘As long as he is unaware of it,” he said, “he does not sin; But if the husband knows about her sin and the wife does not repent, but persists in her immorality (πορνείᾳ), and the husband continues to live with her, he becomes responsible for her sin and an accomplice in her adultery.”[4] Even after the writings of the Testaments a writer can use Porneia and Moicheia close to one another while referring to the same action.

Distinct Usages. Now, are there usages in all the categories we looked at where Porneia is distinct from Moicheia? Yes there is. Take for example this verse from the Shepherd of Hermas, “’Sir,’ I respond, ‘what are the kinds of evils over which it is necessary for us to exercise self-control?’ ‘Listen,’ he said: ‘adultery (μοιχείας) and fornication (πορνείας), lawless drunkenness, wicked luxury, many kinds of food and the extravagance of wealth…’[5]. However, far from adding the claims of Permanence holders these speak directly against the claims. For take a notice that the last two quotes are from the same work, The Shepherd of Hermas. The author can easily have Porneia refer to something other than adultery in one verse, yet have Porneia refer to an act of adultery earlier in the work. And another important example is in comes from Hosea 4:14 where the Lord says, “I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore (πορνεύωσιν), nor your brides when they commit adultery (μοιχεύωσιν);” We have already seen that Porneia and Moicheia can refer to the same action while in close proximity to one another in Hosea. And here Hosea can have the words take a distinct meaning for each word. Porneia refers to the sexual sin when the woman is unmarried and Moicheuō to speak of the sexual sin of the married woman. Within the same book the author can switch usages from a distinctive usage of the words to a synonymous usage of the words.

Summary of Relevant Literature. So what can we gather from all this. As stated above the Permanence holders assert that since Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to each other in Matthew then a SM understanding has to be used when translating them. So that Porneia cannot refer to what Moicheia is referring. However, we have seen by looking over the Old Testament and literature that surrounds the New Testament that the assertion does not work with the language. Porneia and Moicheia can easily be used in the same verse to refer to the same adulterous action. Then there is evidence that an author can switch usages of the words within the same book. This evidence add with the fact that they present no evidence to back up their claims, makes the claims of Permanence holders seem to loose all credibility. To claim that since Matthew uses the words in close proximity and in a list completely against the evidence shown here. A consistent use of the language would not demand that Porneia in Matthew has to refer to a sexual act other than adultery. A distinct and synonymous use of Porneia, Moicheia and Moicheuō can work quiet well within Matthew. Matthew can use Porneia to refer to adultery in 5:32 and 19:9 and to other sexual immoralities in 15:19 and be very consistent with the Greek language.  

[1]Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (6:587).Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans.

[2]Information and translation from H. C. Kee, “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: A New Translation and Introduction” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, vol. 1, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Doubleday: New York, NY, 1983) 820.

[3]Both date and translation taken from Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 442-685.

[4]Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment IV, I, 5.

[5]Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment VIII, I, 3.

Here is the second part of my paper. You can read the first part here.



With all that said let use dive into the discussion at hand. We are going to be looking into how we should interpret the word meanings of Porneia (πορνεία) and Moicheia (μοιχεία) in the book of Matthew. More specifically, we are going to be looking at claims made by the Permanence holders about consistence patterns which shape our understanding of how the words are used. So, by looking at the Greek language we can ask the question, “are there patterns to how we see the words used which gives us a picture of how Matthew used the words?”

Here is the information we have and how the Permanence holders understand it. We have four texts where Matthew uses μοιχεύω (5:27, 28, 23; 19:18), two times where he uses μοιχάω (5:32; 19:9), and once where he uses μοιχεία (15:19). Then there are three times Matthew uses πορνεία (5:32; 15:19; 19:9).

The Claim by Permanence Holders

When the Permanence holder work through the verses about divorce and remarriage in Matthew (5:32, 19:9) they come away saying that Matthew has a usage of the words which has Moicheia speaking to martial adultery only and Porneia is speaking to extra-marital sexual immorality only. Then the step is made that the extra-marital sexual immorality the word in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is speaking to is that of sexual immorality within the betrothal period of Jewish marriage customs.[1]

How do they get here? There are two linguistic points. First, they observe that each time Matthew uses Porneia it is used in close proximity to Moicheia, “Notice that each time Matthew uses Porneia (fornication), he also uses either moichiea (adultery) or a verb form.”[2] (None of them mention the issue that Matthew use two different words to refer to adultery). Second, the point is made that “in 15:19 he places the words, both in noun form right next to each other.”[3]

What they do is construct a grid about how we should see Matthew using these terms. To refer back to what we talk about before they are claiming we see a pattern of consistency by which we can interpret the words. They say that since it is the case that Porneia happens in close proximity to words that mean adultery (though they only acknowledge one) each time it is used then each word has to have separate, non-overlapping meanings. So this grid creates what I would call “separate meanings” (SM) category for how Matthew uses the words. Each word has a separate meaning that should not be blended on any occasion of use. An example of this in English would be “table” and “chair.” Even though they could be under the category of furniture one would never call a chair a table. They have separate meanings.

So this is what is being claimed by the Permanence holders. Like how one would not look at a table and say chair so Matthew would not look at an adulterous act and say Porneia. From here they say that Porneia in Matthew should be seen as referring to immorality before or in the betrothal period in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. That is the exception that Matthew is giving in those contexts.

So we have a claim about how we should understand Matthew’s use of Porneia and Moicheia. Based upon how he uses the terms in other places we can come to conclude that he has a SM for each of the words.

Now this is all interesting and good. There is no problem in observing trends and suggesting different theories about how we should translate things. But just because we observe a trend does not mean that was what the author intended to communicate. We have to look at the evidence to see if what they say is the most plausible and will fit with what we see in other places. Specifically we can look at the claims being made about how the language works.

  • First, that if Porneia and Moicheia are used in close proximity to one another then it is evidence that the words have SM for the author.
  • Second, that if the words are used in a list together then it is conclusive evidence that the words have SM for the rest of the usages in the work.

So what we will be doing is testing the grid they construct. Does those two points in list above match what we see in other places in the relevant literature? Is that a consistent pattern as to see Matthew following it?

Going Through the Literature

So what we can do is go through the relevant literature to test these claims. What we will be looking at from first are examples with in the Old Testament Septuagint, Apocrypha, and Apostolic Fathers that run contrary to the Permanence holders claims. Once again, if there are any examples that go contrary to their claims the credibility of the claims become very weak or disproven.

Now, it should be stated up front that the Permanence holders present no evidence for their view. Outside their claims about Matthew there is no reference to any work within or outside the bible where an author is treating Porneia and Moicheia in the same way they are claiming Matthew is using them. This means that they are in a hole to begin with. As stated before Greek is not a mysterious language where mystical things happen. Like any language things do happen consistently with how people use the language. People want to communicate with one another and being consistent with a language is an essential way of doing it. If there is no example of anyone else doing what the Permanence people do with Matthew then it does speak against the credibility of their claims. And it can make it a very easy task to disprove the claims. If there are any examples of the language being used in a way contrary to the claims the credibility of the claims becomes very weak or completely disproven.

Part three to follow,

[1]Full articulations of the Permenance readings of these verse can be found in, Daryl Wingerd, Jim Elliff, Jim Chrisman, and Steve Burchett, Divorce & Remarriage: a Permanence View (Kansas City, MO: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2009) 38-39.

[2]Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 39. Compare also John Piper, “The only other place besides Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 where Matthew uses the word porneiais in 15:19 where it is used alongside of moicheia. Therefore, the primary contextual evidence for Matthew’s usage is that he conceives of porneia as something different than adultery.” John Piper, Divorce & Remarriage: A Position Paper,

[3] Wingerd , Divorce & Remarriage, 39.

So here comes the fruit of my labors. For the next several weeks I will be posting sections from my study done Matthew’s usage of Porneia (sexual immorality) and Moicheia (adultery). I will break it up so that one does not have to read a +25,000 word blog post. But if you want to go ahead and read it in full you can go here.

Why go through all this work (and probably rework as people interact with it)? Primarily because this is an important issue in the church. Many people are not only asking, but living in the situation, of wanting to know what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. So I thought this would be a worth while topic to pursue. Especially, also, in light of the rising position of Permanence.

The Permanence position has really came into the discussion through John Piper, though it is has been held by others before him. Permanence, in essence teaches that there is no biblical exception to get a divorce and remarry. Once a person enters into a marriage it is for life, no matter what—literally. Nothing but death breaks the bond. If the other person is not dead then you cannot remarry no matter what.

Now, the only problem with this stance, thought it seems very good, are several biblical passages that at first glance don’t seem to carry this same resolve. 1 Corinthians 7:15, Matthew 5:32, and Matthew 19:9 seem to give allowances for divorce and remarriage.

Because of this Permanence holders have gone to work on trying to show how these verses fit into their reading of the biblical text. Particular to the paper I wrote, they have presented an interpretation of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 that does not have Jesus giving an exception for the consequences of divorcing a spouse. I will not go into detail here, you can read Piper’s article for that. But suffice to say that part of their arguments for why there are no exceptions in those verses is a linguistic argument. Meaning that Matthew is writing in a way which should cause us to not read exceptions. The argument is about Matthew’s usage of Porneia (normally translated in your bibles as “sexual immorality”) and Moicheia (normally translated “adultery”). The details are in my paper, but they argue that Porneia and Moicheia are not referring to the same sin, “adultery,” in those passages. Instead, they are referring to two separate sins. They then gives some arguments as to why this is the correct way to read these two words. My paper looks are those arguments and puts them to the test.

In light of the rising arguments from this position I believe that it is good for us to go back and test positions once held and see again what the Bible is saying. So this article  attempts to fulfill that endeavor. I define what I am doing in the paper itself in terms of the testing I am doing. This is in no way an exhaustive response to the Permanence position. Instead it is detailed look at an important part of the argument. Namely, what is the most probable way Matthew used the terms Porneia (sexual immorality) and Moicheia (adultery).  Arguments by the Permanence position are put to the test to see if they hold up under scrutiny. Hopefully what I have written will further the discussion as we strive for faithfulness to the Bible.


Permanence’s reading of Porneia and Moicheia in Matthew

By Charlie Albright


In this article I want to explore the claims made by Permanence holders about Matthew’s usage of Porneia and Moicheia. The reason for this is because this is a very important part of the discussion on divorce and remarriage. Is Matthew giving exceptions which allow divorce and remarriage or is he not? The answer has big ramifications about how Christians think and teach about this pertinent issue with real people in our churches.

Let me define the discussion which is going on. The traditional evangelical under standing of divorce and remarriage is that there is no legitimate divorce and remarriage except in two conditions. Number one, that the person committed adultery and number two, if the person wanting out of the marriage is an unbeliever. Outside of these there are no biblical reasons for a divorce. Now there is a more conservative take that is coming up into the discussion. What has been called the Permanence view holds to the belief that there are no reasons for divorce and one cannot get remarried—no exceptions.


This is not going to be a full on discussion about the two views. Instead this is going to be a focus on one particular part of the discussion. We are going to be focusing on Matthew’s usage of two Greek words Porneia (πορνεία) and Moicheia (μοιχεία). Even more specifically we are going to be looking at particular claims about how we are to understand these words in Matthew.

The full arguments are going to be given below but sufficient for now to say now that the possible exception clauses in Matthew are important verses in the discussion. Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 can seem to state that there are exceptions to the condemnation of divorce that allow situational divorces and remarriages. We translate the Greek word for Porneia as sexual immorality and the word Moicheia as adultery. So in these two verses the interpretation of those two words is important. If one finds that the words mean something different then it would affect how we read Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage. So there is a big discussion about those two verses.[1]

Greek Language

Before we get into that I do want to say a word about working in the Greek language for those that don’t really know a lot about linguistic studies. When we enter the world of Greek we should not think that we are entering into a mysterious world of enchantment. The language of Greek has consistent patterns just like we do in English. It is just that we don’t think how we use the English language most of the time. We just do what we have absorbed from the use of the language around us without thinking about it. But when we enter into the Greek world we have to think about why people did what they did with the language. That is the difference. Now they were consistent in the use of their language in different ways than we are consistent with ours. But the principle of needing to understand the consistency applies for both.

This is not, as I stated before, some grand adventure into the mystical world of the Greek language. It is looking at the language to find consistent uses of words and grammar so we can get the most probable meaning from the author we are studying. It is like in English where you may come across a word or phrase that you don’t understand. If you don’t have a dictionary to explain it to you, you can go through the author’s work and see how he uses it. And you can then think about how the word is used in other books you have read such far. If the word is used frequently in books written during the same time or around you can get a good guess at how the author probably uses it. This is what we are doing with the Greek language. We do not have a Greek dictionary to simply look up how people used words. We have to study other usages of it and use that information to get the most probable meaning.[2]


With all that said let use dive into the discussion at hand. We are going to be looking into how we should interpret the word meanings of Porneia (πορνεία) and Moicheia (μοιχεία) in the book of Matthew. More specifically, we are going to be looking at claims made by the Permanence holders about consistence patterns which shape our understanding of how the words are used. So, by looking at the Greek language we can ask the question, “are there patterns to how we see the words used which gives us a picture of how Matthew used the words?”

Part two to follow…

[1]It does need to be stated that these are not “unclear verses.” Just because people have written a lot about them doesn’t mean that the verses are confusing to understand like Paul’s mention the Corinthians baptizing for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29). Paul, here, mentions something in passing where there is no way to determine what exactly he meant. Unlike that, the verses in Matthew are clear in what they communicate. The problem comes is the difficultly in fitting them in one’s views. Thus the problem is in the interpreters, not the verse.

[2] This is not to deny that an author can have a special usage that goes against the consistent pattern of what we would find else where. But, for the most part people are consistent with the language.

This is the fourth and final section of my paper. You can find the other sections here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. You can read it in full here.


An astounding exchange of merits is granted by grace! When one is granted the faith to believe in Christ, the benefits of this work becomes theirs. As in the pattern of Abraham, their faith is counted as righteous (Rom 4:22). The obedience of Christ becomes theirs, His propitiation is done for them, and the satisfaction He accomplished is theirs. The sinner has transgressed the law; the Son did not. The sinner deserves the condemnation for disobedience; the Righteous Son did not. The sinner deserves the curse of death to fall upon him; the Son is only worthy of eternal life. Yet, the blessed Christ was condemned to die the death of one who transgressed the law. That was the divine transaction happening at the cross, which was an exchange of astounding magnitude! The very righteous obedience of the Son is given to the transgressing sinner. The same righteousness that will vindicate the Son to be resurrected is given to the sinner by faith.

Thus, with the resurrection the sinner receives the vindication of a righteous standing before God.[1] Christ “rose again as their head and representative, and was legally discharged, acquitted, and justified, and they in him.”[2] The sinner should be left in the grave in condemnation, but because he has been granted the righteousness of the Holy One, he receives the same vindication.[3] Because the believer is hidden in Christ by means of union, Christ’s resurrection is a declaration of his righteous standing in Christ. The resurrection announces that believers are justified.[4] The justification which was granted by the cross in the transfer of sin and righteousness is secured by the resurrection.[5] Our vindication is a “testification” of being counted righteous.[6] The Son was righteous and so was raised, and so we, being righteous in Him, were raised with Him in His resurrection. Thus, the confirmation of our justified standing in the sight of God is our state of being raised with Christ in His resurrection.[7]

True faith is believing in the God who rose His Son from the dead. In His resurrection Jesus justified those who believed in this God. He justified them because the Spirit united them to his justification by His resurrection. Thus, because of the resurrection of Christ those who believe in Jesus are secure in their redemption. Their justification is secured by the vindicating act of God in resurrecting Jesus.


We have seen 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 3:25 trace out how Christ’s justification by His resurrection becomes our justification. The Spirit justified Christ by overturning the unjust condemnation of men. Men wrongly condemned Him to death; the Spirit raised Him to life in righteousness. Now, by the mysterious work of union with Christ, Christ’s justification is the believer’s justification. Since the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer the righteous declaration of Christ becomes the believer’s. The believer’s possession of Christ’s righteousness is guaranteed by the reality that Christ rose again by the Spirit, for the believer has been justified through that resurrection.

[1]“Just as our sin brought Christ’s condemnation and death, so his resurrection announces our justification.” Seifrid, Christ, our Righteousness, 47

[2]John Gill, An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, in The Newport Commentary Series (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2002), 129. Also from Jonathan Edwards, “he was not acquitted as a private person, but as our head, and believers are acquitted in his acquittance; nor was he accepted to a reward for his obedience as a private person, but as our head, and we are accepted to a reward in his acceptance. The Scripture teaches us, that when Christ was raised from the dead, he was justified;” Jonathan Edwards, “Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738”, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. M. X. Lesser, vol. 19  (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 191.

[3]“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).” “The abolition of condemnation is the essence of legal justification, which issues from the believer’s new situation in Christ.” Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation, Foundations of Evangelical Theology ed. John S. Feinberg (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1997), 337.

[4]Seifrid, Christ, our Righteousness, 47.

[5]This is where Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God, 76-77 errors when he see no imputed righteousness given to believers. Bird sees the resurrection as the sole aspect of our justification. Yet, as Rom 5:9 clearly points out, the cross is part of out justification as well. The best way to understand how the two relate is that what was given at the cross is declared secured by the resurrection.

[6]Gill, Romans, 129.

[7]Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 167; Schreiner, Romans, 235.

This is part three of the paper. Here you can find Part 1 and Part 2.


Romans 4:25

We will now explore how Christ’s vindication or justification by the Spirit is the believers’ justification by God. Because of the believer’s union with Christ they are indentified with the risen one; all that is His becomes theirs; His was the vindication by the Spirit. Therefore, they are also vindicated or justified by the Spirit by being raised with Christ.

Romans 4:25 states that Jesus Christ was “delivered up for our trespasses (παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν) and raised for our justification (ἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν).”[1] The phrase is identified as a pre-Pauline statement[2] which is a christological interpretation of Isaiah 53:12.[3] The flow of the chapter is at the end of a discourse by Paul on the faith of Abraham.

Paul explores the quality of the faith of Abraham in verses 16-22.[4] He is building on the point that the promise made to Abraham came, not by the law, but by faith (v13). Thus, he is establishing the truth that the promise transcends ethnic boundaries.[5] It is by faith that the promise is granted; and this faith is not an abstract faith; it was a God-centered confidence.[6] Abraham’s faith was in God’s resurrecting power.[7] It was this faith which made him to be counted righteous (v22).[8] Then Paul turns to the readers and makes present-day application from Abraham’s faith. “Paul understands the work of God in Christ as an out working of the word of God to Abraham….the work of God in Christ brings the promise that created Abraham’s faith to fulfillment.”[9] Now, a child of Abraham puts faith, in likeness of Abraham, into Jesus Christ who was resurrected by the God of Abraham. Jesus, then, died for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Faith in the God who resurrects Christ grants the believer the righteousness obtained by the sacrifice of Christ. His resurrection becomes justifying to them because of the union they have with Jesus by faith. The righteousness which Christ possessed becomes theirs so that they, the unrighteous, partake in the righteous rendering of the resurrection of Christ.

Christ’s death procured for us the justifying righteousness of God (5:9).[10] We were under the just condemnation of the law of a holy God with no hope of justifying ourselves (Rom 3:19-20). In our stead, Christ offered himself as a propitiation of our sins. Christ, by His death on the cross, satisfied God’s holy demands (Rom 3:25). Christ was the holy one who perfectly fulfilled the laws demands and so offered Himself as the satisfaction in the sinners’ place (Rom 3:25, 5:18-19). However, on the third day true justice was established again. The Spirit vindicated the Righteous Son by raising Him from the dead (1 Tim 3:16). He was treated in the sinners’ place, but God did not let His Holy One see corruption (Ps. 16:10). God declared that indeed Jesus was just, that He was the Christ.

[1]There is debate on the usage of διὰ. It is used twice in the verse as the preposition to each phrase. There is nearly universal agreement that the first usage is causal meaning, “because of.” But such a usage is strange if understood in the clause we are looking at as pointed out by Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God, 76-77. Thus a “final” usage should be seen; he was raise “for our justification.” See Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 252; Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 289; Robertson, Epistles of Paul, 354; Morna D. Hooker, “Raised for our Acquittal (Rom 4,25)” in Resurrection in the New Testament, ed. R. Bieringer, V. Koperski, and B. Lataire (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2002), 323. Schreiner, Romans, 235, will say that the second usage of διὰ can be understood causally

[2]C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1975), 251. Also see Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 288, who makes the point that Paul “has fully integrated the elements of the tradition into his exposition.”

[3]W. Zimmerli and J. Jeremias, Servant of God (Naperville, Ill: Alec R. Allenson, 1957), 89.

[4]Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 235.

[5]“being ethnically Jewish is insufficient; one must follow Abraham’s faith. Conversely, Abraham is also the father of uncircumcised believers.” Mark A Seifrid, “Romans” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 626.

[6]Schreiner, Romans, 235.

[7]Ibid., 236. See also Seifrid, “Romans,” 627.

[8]Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 250. See also Schreiner, Romans, 239.

[9]Seifrid, “Romans,” 627

[10]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 310; Schreiner, Romans, 263.


This is part 2 of this paper. The first part can be read here.


1 Timothy 3:16

In 1 Timothy 3:16 we will see that the Holy Spirit vindicated Christ by raising Him from the dead. The nature of this vindication is forensic in its action. The forensic work was the act of raising Christ from the grave in light of his unjust condemnation.

1 Timothy 3:16 is in a hymn or creed[1] which was used by the early church. The focus of the hymn is Christ, the mystery of godliness (τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον) spoken of in verse 15. The hymn is a theological and salvation-historical explanation of Christ.[2]

There is much debate about the structure of the hymn.[3] Since we are not clear on how the readers of the letter would have understood the structure of the hymn, we do not have absolute certainty about its exact structure. The debated understandings of the structure, however, do not present any conflict with the interpretation proposed by this paper.[4] Thus, this discussion will be passed by and the interpretation of the verse will be discussed.

The single line which this paper wants to expound upon is the second one in the construction: “vindicated (or justified) by the Spirit” (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι). Let us look at the phrase “by the Spirit” (ἐν πνεύματι) first, then, we will see what is meant by the term “vindicated” (ἐδικαιώθη).

Debate ensues on the meaning of ἐν πνεύματι. Does it mean, “by the Spirit,”[5] or “in the spirit,”[6] or “in the Spirit”?[7] When it comes to the identity of πνεύματι (either being spirit, or of the Holy Spirit), Knight makes a good observation that the very next usage of πνεῦμα in 4:1 is without qualification and undoubtedly refers to the Holy Spirit.[8] Thus, it is best to see the identity of πνεύματι in 3:16 as being the Holy Spirit.[9]

With that being the case, should we read ἐν as expressing agency or location? Does vindication happen “by” or “in” the Spirit? Even though context would favor understanding it as locative (all other usages of ἐν in the verse are locative): it is best to see vindication has happening “by” the Spirit. The reason being is that it makes no sense to say that Christ was vindicated in the Holy Spirit in the same sense as all the other locations listed. What would that location be? How is there a location, as in the other sense of ἐν, in the Holy Spirit?[10] Thus, the best way to read this phrase is that Christ was vindicated by the Spirit.[11]

What was the act of this vindication which was done by the agency of the Holy Spirit? Parallels with Roman texts strongly point to the resurrection as being the means by which the Spirit vindicated Christ.[12] Romans 1:4 speaks of Jesus being “declared to be the Son of God…according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” Romans 8:11 testifies that Spirit raised Jesus from the dead: “The resurrection of Christ is the Spirit’s work…the Spirit raised Christ so that he would be exalted and glorified.”[13] Such parallels strongly attest to seeing the phrase in view as speaking to the same thing.[14]

The nature of the vindication needs to be discussed. The hymn uses an aorist passive rendering of the word δικαιόω, which is translated either “justified” or “vindicated” in all translations.[15] Christ was vindicated or shown to be right[16] by the Spirit through His resurrection. This vindication would most certainly be tied with Jesus’ claim of being the Messiah. “The resurrection ‘vindicated’…the claims that Christ had made during his lifetime.”[17] Also, “His claim to be Christ was demonstrated and validated by the resurrection.”[18] Thus, Christ’s witness concerning Himself was vindicated by the Spirit in resurrecting Him.

Yet, the vindication needed did not stop with Christ’s claims about Himself during His life. Christ’s life cannot be separated from His death. It was not only that the people ignored Christ’s claims to be the Messiah. The vindication needed is not only about dignity and correcting error. They heard the claims He was making and killed Him for them. It should be pointed out that the cross should not be forgotten in this vindication. Thus, along with Christ’s claims during his life being vindicated, one should also see a forensic aspect to the vindication.[19] Jesus was legally sentenced to a criminal’s death by means of crucifixion for his claims.

The reality of the crucifixion permeates the need for a forensic vindication, for the culminating point of Jesus’ ministry to the people of Israel was their crucifixion of Him. Man heard Christ’s claim of Messiahship—and killed Him;[20] that was their judicial rendering on the validity of His claims. However, the Spirit had a different rendering in light of the evidence! He overturned the unjust rulings of evil man by raising Jesus from the dead. A forensic dimension has to be understood in the usage of δικαιόω here. Thus, the Spirit vindicated or justified Christ by resurrecting Him.

According to what we read in 1 Timothy 3:16, Jesus Christ was vindicated and justified by the Holy Spirit by His resurrection. He was declared right in the sight of the Father because His testimony concerning Himself was true. The Spirit fulfilled one of His parts in redemptive history by making Jesus conquer the grave over against the unjust acts of man. In doing so, the Spirit proved to the world that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be.

[1]“One may debate whether the statement is more like a creed or more like a hymn, but absolute certainty seems elusive.” George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992), 183. For purposes of ease it will be referred to as a hymn from now on. Though, this does not mean that this paper is taking the position that it is a hymn.

[2]I. Howard Marshall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Pastoral Epistles, The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1999), 499.

[3]For a helpful overview see Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 183-184.

[4]Cf. William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary, vol 40. ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Waco, TX: Word Book, 2000), 216-18. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 183-184


[6]ASV, NRSV (they remove the article).


[8]Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 185.

[9]Contra Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 526 and A. T. Robertson, Epistles of Paul, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), 577.

[10]Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 766, would say that Christ was vindicated in the spirit. Meaning that, the location of the vindication is not in the Holy Spirit but in a spiritual realm of existence. This realm was entered into by Christ when He resurrected. But the verse does not say he was vindicated, “to enter into” but, “in” or “by.” His interpretation does not work with the words.

[11]See also Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 185.

[12]Ibid., 184-185.

[13]Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 487.

[14]See also Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 525.


[16]Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1996, c1989), S. 1:743.

[17]Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 227.

[18]Gerhard Kittel and Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), S. 2:214-215. Cf. also Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 525; Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, 184.

However, all the above authors stop with just saying that the vindication is about the life of Christ. No forensic aspect with the death of Christ as part of the vindication is stated.

[19]For good argument for the forensic aspect see Michael Bird, The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 53-54.

[20]“Paul identifies Christ with the revealed ‘righteousness of God’ to which Israel refused to submit.” Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification, vol. 9 in New Studies in Biblical Theology ed. D. A. Carson (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 2000), 47.

Here is part 1 of this paper. The rest will follow in the coming weeks. The paper can be read in full here.


Justified by the Resurrection of Christ:

Justification and Resurrection in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 4:25



The resurrection is the pivotal movement for Christianity. Without it our faith is foolishness and our merit is pity (1 Cor. 15:19), but because of it, our hope of final redemption and victory is sealed.

This paper will look into one of the glorious, salvific aspects of the resurrection. We will see that the Spirit’s justification of Christ by His resurrection becomes our justification by means of our union with Christ. We will do this by tracing this line of thought through 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 3:25. First, we will give a brief look into the nature of union with Christ to show how this paper understands the doctrine. Second we will look at the individual texts of 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 3:25 to see how they upholds this thesis.


This paper will argue the presented thesis by looking initially at what it means to be united to Christ, then at the interpretation of two main texts. First, the nature of union with Christ will be briefly explained to give an over-arching lens for the thesis. Second, 1 Timothy 3:16 will be looked at to see what it tells about Christ’s justification by the resurrection. Third and finally, Romans 4:25 will be looked at to see how Christ’s justification affects us

Union with Christ

Union with Christ is a term which embraces all aspects of soteriology into one act whereby the believer is united to Christ. John Murray observes, “Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union.”[1] Union with Christ can be defined as  having all the salvific works and benefits of Christ identified with the believers due to their identification with Christ. “To be ‘in Christ’ means to share in all that Christ has accomplished…those who are united to the risen Christ share in his justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification.”[2] John Calvin explains why this doctrine should have such preeminence: “As long as there is separation between Christ and us, all that he suffered and preformed for the salvation of mankind is useless and unavailing to us.”[3]

Biblical support for this understanding is in the “in Christ” terminology used by Paul as well as the biblical concept of fallen humanity being in Adam. “One cannot do something for or with Christ unless one is first en Christo.[4] Though Paul’s usage of the term, “en Christo,” is not monolithic[5], it does speak to our participation and identity in Christ;[6] the believer’s identity is now in Christ. This is in contrast to the next line of support where the Bible says fallen humanity is in Adam (Rom 5:12-22). Before one is in Christ he is in Adam. When one is “in Adam,” he receives all that was obtained by Adam’s representation of him in the Garden.[7] So, in contrast, to be in Christ is to obtain all that was won by Christ.

One of the facets of this union is our participation in Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the believer’s resurrection. The Apostle exclaims that we were raised with Christ (Col 3:1). What was won by His resurrection is now ours by this union. Thus, when Christ was justified by His resurrection so, too, were we justified. Through 1 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 4:25 we see the biblical tracing and explanation of this truth.

[1]John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 161.

[2]Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, in Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 106.

[3]John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. John Allen, vol 1, 6th ed.  (Philadelphia, PN: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1902),  III.i.484.

[4]B. Witherington III, “Christ,” “The En Christo formlua,’” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 624.

[5]For a thorough view of the different usages see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 840-847.

[6]Speaking of the phrase, “in Christ/in the Lord” Dunn states, “Paul’s perception of his whole life as a Christian, its source, its identity, and its responsibilities, could be summed up in these phrases.” James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 399. Also cf. Ridderbos comments on the phrase, “[being ‘in Christ’ speaks] of an abiding reality determinative for the whole of the Christian life, to which appeal can be made at all times…[it has to do] with the church’s ‘objective’ state of salvation.” Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 59. Cf. also Peter T. O’Brien, “Mysticism,” “Being ‘in Christ,’” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 624.

[7]Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 109.

This is the firth and final part of this paper. Hope that the has been a benefit to all you who have read it. The firsts though third sections can be read here(1), here(2), and here(3).



Summary. The reformed view of sanctification has its basis in the believer’s union with Christ and its means in the actions of the believer. The foundation and source of the believer’s progress in holiness is in union with Christ.[1] Any progress is a fruit of this union,[2] for the holiness of the progression is found in Christ and imparted to the believer.[3] The One who works the holiness of Christ into the believer is the Spirit.[4] Every action of holiness by the believer is energized by the Spirit.[5] Thus, the attainment of holiness cannot be attributed to the workings of the believer.[6] Yet, this process of sanctification requires our responsible participation.[7] We are to participate by doing the appointed means God has given for men to do.[8] By all of this, the Christian is moved into greater and greater conformity with the image of Christ.

Benefits of this View. The benefits of the Reformed view are in its God-centeredness and its call for human responsibility. From beginning to end salvation is of the Lord. No merits, no boasting, no glory can be give to any believer. All glory, honor, and majesty can only be attributed to the Lord. He and He only is center. From this, the believer can take absolute assurance in the completion of His salvation; victory has been attained! This victory has not been done by our own striving. Christ has come to be the champion of the believer’s salvation! It is in His gospel that the believer is to remain stable and steadfast in their faith (Col 1:23). Yet, all the while, Christ calls his disciples to engage in means by which the Spirit makes the image of Christ real in their lives. Our humanness in engaged by commands to follow; there is no passivity. For the Christian is called to make real steps after the way of Christ. It is inside this mysterious capatibalism of God’s work bring forth our real works by which we are sanctified.

Rebuttal of Arguments. Since every facet of sanctification flows from the finished work of Christ by the work of the Spirit there is absolutely no ground for human boasting in any progress in one’s sanctification. The Lutheran’s worry that if the law is present then moralism will follow is shown to be a wrong inference. The focal point of the Christian’s view is Christ. Christ perfectly fulfilled the law, imputing his merits to believers (Rom 5:19). He removed the curse of the law by becoming a curse himself (3:13). He secured justification by His resurrection (Rom 4:25). He has obtained salvation for His people and no power can separate His children from His salvific love (Rom 8:31-39).

It is by looking at this glory that the Spirit transforms the believer from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor 3:18). Being so encapsulated in the accomplished work of God the believer can then fight to live according to the Spirit (5:16-22). Thus, the believer is never to leave Christ. Instead, his sanctification is to be done at the foot of the cross.

The believer walks in a completed pilgrimage. There is no illusion of perfection. There is the truth that everything for the believer’s salvation has been completed by Christ.[9] At the same time, “The Christian…lives in the tension between the now of living ‘by faith’ and the not yet of knowing the full reality of the kingdom ‘by sight’.[10] Thus, victory is a reality for the Christian. The Christian has died, by Christ’s death, and thus able to put to death the sin that is in his earthly members (Col 3:3-5). Hope is to be the bountiful possession of the Christian since he keeps in view the redemption God has accomplished (Rom 15:8-13). We do not have to construct a goal of perfection here on earth. The Perfect One has already run the course and sits at the right hand of God to be the perfector of the believer’s faith (Heb 12:2).

Yet, the consummation of this reality has not been reached; it will be reached with the second coming of Christ.[11] So, for now the believer will stumble in many ways (James 3:2). The war to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh will be one of the characteristics of his life (Gal 5:16-23). Yet, though he sins, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for his sin (1 John 2:1-2). So God comes to us with the promise of victory by Christ while acknowledging our failures.

What the other two views say cannot be done are done in the Reformed view. We can rest fully in the sufficient work of Christ while progressing towards greater degrees of holiness. We can have the promise of victory while still living in the reality of our struggle with sin. The reformed view more adequately takes the full biblical scope on sanctification and presents it more faithfully than the rest.

Application to Ernie. Ernie would be directed to focus on what is his in Christ Jesus. He should have no doubts about his salvation. Yes, his sin is grievous before God. Yet God chose instead to put the wrath for Ernie upon His own Son—Jesus. Ernie must rest in this salvation! Part of this salvation is not only the truth that he has been forgiven but that he has been made anew! He is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); therefore, he does not live under the dominion of sin, and he can make progressive steps in defeating his lust. This will happen when he starts applying the means of grace to his life that the Spirit may transform him into the image of Christ in this area.


Having analyzed the Lutheran, Wesleyan, and Reformed views of sanctification we have concluded that the reformed model is the most biblically faithful one. The Lutheran, while having a commendable centrality on Christ, does not deal with all the biblical witness. The Wesleyan view, while having an inspirational view on victory of the Christian, cannot hold up to both the Bible and reality. Against both of these, however, the reformed view holds faithfully to the full scope of biblical teaching on sanctification.

[1]“It is by calling that we are united to Christ, and it is this union with Christ which binds the people of God to the efficacy and virtue by which they are sanctified.” John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 141.

[2]Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 3rd ed. rev. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1946), 532-533.

[3]“The holy frame and disposition whereby our souls are furnished and enabled for immediate practice of the law, must be obtained by receiving it out of Christ’s fullness, as a things already prepared and brought to an existence for us in Christ, treasured up in him; and that as we are justified by a righteousness wrought out in Christ, and imputed to us; so we are sanctified by such a holy frame and qualifications, as are first wrought out, and complete in Christ for us, and then imparted to us.” Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (London, England: Oliphants LTD, 1954), 27. See also

[4]Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 62.

[5]Murray, Redemption, 183.

[6]“men do not make themselves holy; their holiness, and their growth in grace, are not due to their own fidelity, or firmness of purpose, or watchfulness and diligence, although all of these are required, but to the divine influence by which they are rendered thus faithful, watchful, and diligent, and which produces in them the fruits of righteousness…The hand is not more dependent on the head for the continuance of its vitality, than is the believer on Christ for the continuance of spiritual life in the soul.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 218.

[7]Hoekema, Saved By Grace, 200.

[8] “several means are appointed of God for the begetting, maintaining and increasing faith,” Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, 184. Marshall gives a thorough explanation of the different means in chapter 13.

Yet, we are not to see the function of means as making man co-operating with God in sanctification. “All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us…The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.” Murray, Redemption, 185.

[9]“The gospel—the first coming of Christ—wins for the believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and his work are perfect…There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ.” Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Exeter, Australia: The Paternoster Press, 1981), 99.

[10]Ibid., 99.

[11]“For the believer the second coming of Christ will be the manifestation of his glory and of the glory of his kingdom, a glory which we already grasp by faith.” Ibid., 99.

This is the third part of my paper. The first part can be found here and the second part can be found here.



Summary. Wesleyans believe that Christians are to become what is theirs in Christ.[1] Thus, the Christian’s purpose is to be renewed into Christ’s own image.[2] This goal can be attained, and should be endeavored to be attained, in this life.[3] This is accomplished by a “second blessing” that comes upon the Christian after conversion.[4] This second blessing has been called “entire sanctification”[5], which is the removal of rebellion from a Christian’s heart.[6] This “entire sanctification” is not the removal of sin.[7] It is, instead, the removal of willful sin by this second work.[8] One receives this second blessing by having faith in the work of Christ[9] and expecting God to do what He had promised.[10] After this second blessing the Christian freely loves God and his neighbor with all his heart.[11] All his affections, heart, soul, and mind are directed toward the things of God and love for Him.[12]

Benefits of this View. One of the benefits of having this view is that one looks upon one’s sanctification with optimism. Robert Flew correctly points out that the doctrine of entire sanctification directs our minds to the wonders of what God can do in and with our lives.[13] Personal sin is not seen as an unconquerable foe, but one that can be subjugated to the love of Christ. The hope of victory can keep one pressing forward when frustrated with sin.

Another benefit is the zeal for the good life of holiness that comes with the Wesleyan doctrine. Holiness is to be pursued with zeal because holiness is beautiful to obtain. Holiness is not a cold lists of regulations. Instead, holiness is a blessing to partake in when we yearn for it enough. Such a view can bring needed heat to cold views of holiness.

Problems with this View. A major problem with the Wesleyan view arises when it comes to the definition of sin. Wesley’s definition of sin is that it is “a voluntary transgression of a known law.”[14] With this definition, “one may be blameless, even though far from being faultless.”[15] The problem with this is that it is making the existence of sin dependent on the existence of the law. Romans 5:12-14 demonstrates such an assertion to be false. The first section of verse 13 states, “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given.” Even though there was no law, “sin was present in mankind and men actually sinned.”[16] Thus, a Wesleyans view of sin is defective when viewed biblically. Death resides where there is no law. Ignorance about divine law does not remove the problem of death, and, since death is the produce of sin, sin must come about even where no law is found.

Because it moves from biblical definition, the Wesleyans hold a weakened understanding of sin. Sin is only a wrongdoing when the person recognizes it as such. Yet, experience, as it correlates with the bible, stands against such a claim. Any Christian can testify that they have walked in sin while not knowing it. “How easy it is not to recognize sin as sin! Often what is called ‘sinful anger’ in others we deem ‘righteous indignation’ in ourselves.”[17] Just keeping the definition of sin at the Wesleyan level has one pass over the vast amount of sins in a believer’s life.[18]

There are also several texts which are very problematic for the Wesleyan view. James 3:2 states that every believer stumbles in many ways[19] (πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες). Thus, the reality for the believer is that they will continue to sin.[20] In 1 Corinthians 4:4 Paul gives a decisive blow against the Wesleyan view of sin. He says, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” Paul’s lack of knowledge of his actions does not acquit him of it. Since his final judgments of his actions are fallible he must wait for God’s final verdict.[21] Then, in Philippians 3:12; Paul’s denial of his own perfection (Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι). Paul discounts the possibility that he had obtained the goal of gaining Christ and being made perfect.[22] If Paul cannot reach perfection, what Christian can? Such texts do not fit within the Wesleyan system.

The final problem is the contradictory meaning of sin that has to be crafted in thinking about confession. An example of this can be seen in regards to confession. The question of the need for the “perfect” believer’s confession was posed to him.[23] Wesley’s answer had the mistakes a “perfect” Christian committed needing the atoning blood of Christ since it was “a transgression of the perfect law.”[24] But how could it be a transgression if a transgression is only a known transgression? As was quoted before, Wesley clearly defined sin as a known transgression of the law of God. If one did not know about it, it was not sin. What we are faced with is a contradiction.[25] The Wesleyan view, however, has to hold this considering that the Apostle John clearly states that confessing one’s sin is a staple part of the Christian’s life (1 John 1:9). Wesley would have to hold that “perfect” Christians would not need the blood of Christ anymore. Thus, Wesley had to hold to a contradiction.[26]

Because of these problems, the Wesleyan system of sanctification should be rejected. Within the system, there is a strong push to have real victory in the believer’s life, but the biblical testimony speaks differently. There are too many problems spanning from wrong views of doctrines of sin to problems with individual texts. Finally, contradictions ensue when trying to live out the “perfect” life of a believer.

Application to Ernie. The Wesleyan’s counsel to Ernie would be for him to seek Christ and the second blessing that comes from Him. Ernie will never win the battle by doubting the love of Christ. Christ has completely forgiven him of all his sins and the Holy Spirit of God resides in him. It is not his portion to remain defeated in his sin. Instead, if he seeks after Christ and waits, the powerful second blessing will descend upon him. Ernie will find himself losing all interest in the sin that once ensnared him. He will find, instead, that his heart is devoted to pleasing the Lord and loving the people who surround him. Victory can be attained over his sin and new love for Christ can pour out of his heart.

[1]Laurence W. Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 96.

[2]Melvin E. Dieter, “The Wesleyan Perspective,” in Five Views on Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987),  15.

[3]R. Newton Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology: An Historical Study of the Christian Ideal for the Present Life (London, Great Britain: Oxford university Press, 1934), 397. Also compare, Dieter, “The Wesleyan Perspective,” 15.

[4]Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” 97. See also Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology, 317-323, who lists 6 characteristics of this second blessing.

[5]Other terms for this doctrine would include, “Perfectionism,” “Perfection,” “Perfect love,” or others.

[6]“Entire sanctification—a personal, definitive work of God’s sanctifying grace by which the war within oneself might cease and the heart be fully released from rebellion into whole hearted love for God and others.” Dieter, “The Wesleyan Perspective,” 17.

[7]“[Perfection] does not mean freedom from ignorance, nor from mistake. Christians may fall into a thousand nameless defects, either in conversation or behavior—such as impropriety of language, ungracefulness of pronunciation. They are not free from infirmities such as weakness of understanding, heaviness of imagination.”  Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology, 325. A fuller understanding of what perfectionism does not mean can be read from Wesley, John Wesley, “Christian Perfection,” in The Works of John Wesley, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 1-22.

[8]Dieter, “The Wesleyan Perspective,” 15.


[10]Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” 97

[11]John Wesley, “On Perfection,” in The Works of John Wesley, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 413.

[12]Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” 96. See also Wesley, “On Perfection,” 413. Since such is the case, what is being communicated by those that hold perfectionism is that the Christian who has been entirely sanctified cannot commit willful or voluntary sin. The heart is in total devotion to the things of God. All identifiable sins have been rejected. See Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology, 325-326. The issue with voluntary and involuntary sins will be discussed later.

[13]Ibid., 397.

[14]Wesley, “On Perfection,” 417.

[15]George Allen Turner, The More Excellent Way: The Scriptural Basis of the Wesleyan Message (Winona Lake, IN: Light and Life Press, 1952), 75.

[16]C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1975), 282. See also Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 277-279, who agrees with the over all conclusion of Cranfield and gives a good rebuttal to the idea that it is only the cooperate sin of Adam being identified here.

[17]Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved By Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 220.

[18]Stephen Neill makes this point beautifully when he writes, “In certain circles, perfection is interpreted as meaning no more than the avoidance of all known or conscious sin. This is by no means a contemptible ideal. But how far short it falls of an understanding of the depths and realities of our problems!…How often we find that we have done wrong, without at the time being aware that we were doing it!…To go one stage deeper yet, which of us will venture to claim that the motives which impel us to action are always free from an admixture of dross, perhaps unobserved at the time, but painfully evident to us when we have leisure to be completely honest with ourselves? Over nearly forty years there comes back to me a beautiful description of a preacher returning from the University Church at Oxford with a bulky manuscript under his arm, bursting with pride because he had just preached so excellent a sermon on humility.” Stephen Neill, Christian Holiness (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1960), 37-38.

[19]One could translate πολλὰ to speak to the amount of sins one commits as does the NKJV and the NRSV. But whether one translates it as speaking to amount or variety does not change the argument from the text.

[20]Wesley tries to explain the passage by saying that the subject of the verse is neither the Apostle or the Christians but false teachers. Wesley, “Christian Perfection,” 13-14.

However, verse two is clearly connected to verse one by the use of γὰρ. And the subject in verse one is plainly stated as the Christians (ἀδελφοί μου). Compare with Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 150-151.

[21]Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Commentary, ed. I Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 340-341.

Wood tries to do away with this text by saying that it refers to a psychological problem Paul is having. Apparently, Paul can repress psychological “complexities” which would have him act out of wrong motives and still not sin. Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” 98.

Such speculations have nothing to do with the text which is before us, presents a host of complexities for understanding the meaning of sin, and relies on unbiblical psychological theories. With such being the case, his argument can be discounted.

[22] O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, 420-423.

[23]John S. Simon, John Wesley: The Master Builder (London, England: The Epworth Press, 1927), 50.


[25]Wood tries to make the argument that there is a difference between an ethical and a legal transgression of the law. Wood, “The Wesleyan View,” 112-113. Yet, such a distinction is nowhere found in the biblical witness. Unethical actions always bring the just condemnation of God.

[26]Curtis, sympathetic to Wesley’s views, makes this statement about his research about contradictions of this nature in Wesley’s system, “I have found no way of harmonizing all of Wesley’s statements at this point; I am inclined to think that he never entirely cleared up his own thinking concerning the nature and scope of sin.” Olin Alfred Curtis, The Christian Faith: Personally Given in a System of Doctrine (New York, NY: The Methodist Book Concern, 1905), 378.

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