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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.

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.

This is the second section of my paper. The first can be found here.


The Lutheran View

Summary. The simplified way to communicate the Lutheran view is to say that sanctification is growing in understanding of how justified one is in Christ.[1] In this view, it is not as if sanctification is a process that takes place after one is justified. Instead, it is another aspect of our justification.[2] There are the ethical good works which a Christian will perform.[3] Yet, these good works are motivated by the faith which one has in work of God.[4] Faith frees a person to live a life of godly service and love.[5] Works, however, are not to be used as being a clear basis to establish the existence of true faith.[6] There is no linear progression in one’s ethical development.[7] It is not as if there is a goal which one is trying to attain in one’s ethical development.[8] This does not mean, however, that there are no advancements in ethical behavior.[9] There is the fruit of true faith which is spontaneous acts of good works;[10] but this advancement is not caused by attempts to attain it. The advancement the Lutherans would have us strive to obtain is grasping the immeasurable amount of grace we live in.[11] And it is by grasping this truth, how much we are sanctified in Christ, that our heart begins to love the things of God.[12]

Benefits of this View. The primary benefit is the centrality of Christ within this framework of sanctification. Everything is understood and lived within the finished salfivic work of Christ. There is no hope of meriting one’s salvation here. People can slip a merit theology in the back door when constructing a doctrine of sanctification, effectively saying, “Christ did justify me, but now I have to keep the ship afloat with my works.” Such a danger finds no place within the Lutheran view. From beginning to end the believer’s eyes are directed to Christ—His work and His accomplishments. The believer never should slip into despair when considering his own sinfulness and failures, for the believer’s salvation, from beginning to end, rests totally, finally, and sufficiently in the work of Christ on his behalf.

Problems with this View. The central objection to this view comes at the issue of motivation and action in dealing with sins. How does the bible instruct the believer to deal with sin in his life? From what the Lutherans would say, true obedience springs from the amazement of grace. As one grasps how justified they are in Christ, advancement in ethical living happens; the Christian does not aim at making a progress toward a more sanctified position.

Forde defends this by appealing to the texts which state that sanctification is a present possession for the Christian. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul tells the Corinthians that they are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” In verses 28-31 of the same chapter, Paul says that Christ is our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Hebrews 10:10 says that Christians “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”[13]

The question, however, cannot be settled just by referring to the biblical testimony about definitive sanctification. Theologians outside the Lutheran tradition have recognized a definitive aspect of sanctification.[14] Definitive sanctification can be adequately worked into other models of sanctification as well. So then, the evidence must move beyond the fact that believers are sanctified in Christ. Thus, we must ask, does the bible limit sanctification to the definitive understanding or should we see more to sanctification?

Many verses testify that there is a present striving to attain holiness for the believer. Philippians 2:12 states, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The verb for “work” (κατεργάζεσθε) clearly speaks of the believer making an effort in his sanctification.[15]

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul admonishes the believers that by cleansing themselves of all defilement they will bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God.”  The words, ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην, speak of “a process of sanctification.”[16] In Hebrews 12:14, the author plainly communicates a linear movement in regard to growth in holiness: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” The word the author uses for strive, διώκετε, “draws attention to an intensity and urgency that the community needs to display in order to heed the exhortation.”[17] The same verb is found in Romans 14:19 when it gives a similar imperative about love, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Once again the verse speaks to an action the believers must do.[18] Such verses clearly communicate that there is more than a definitive aspect. What they communicate is that Christians are commanded to make knowledgeable endeavors to be more Christ like in their lives.[19] “Everything [in the verses] points to a consistent and active endeavor.”[20] Merely letting faith produce fruit does not work with these verses.

Another question which can be raised is that if the Christian is only supposed to look upon their justification, not attainment of obedience, why don’t the Apostles teaching reflect such an emphasis? Paul, along with the rest of the Apostles, was a minister of the new covenant (2 Cor 3:1-18). Yet, Lutherans would have us believe that Paul would teach as if he was under the old covenant with regard to commands. In all of his epistles, however, there is not even a hint that when Paul gives commands that he considers himself as speaking as if the old covenant is still applicable for Christians. Namely, that the commands are only to drive people to trust in Christ. Instead, imperatives flow out in indicatives. Paul will tell the Christians to do something because of their present identity in Christ. There is no hint that Paul is solely driving Christians to trust in Christ’s work on the cross;[21] he knows that the Spirit is presently active in believers. Thus, he speaks about his boldness about the success of his ministry with the Corinthians (2 Cor 3:1-6). He speaks as if obedience is attainable. If the Lutheran view is true, then we must ask why Paul, along with the rest of the Apostles, speak this way. Why is there not clarity about the believer just needing to see his need for Christ? The most obvious answer would be that the Lutheran view is foreign to the teachings of the Apostles. They speak as if the commands can be obeyed by those indwelt by the Spirit.

Such is the central problem in the Lutheran view of sanctification. In an attempt to avoid legalism, the view has dismissed the biblical teaching about the Christian’s need to progress in holiness. Yet, the bible clearly speaks of a growth in holiness that is linear, a movement toward a goal.

Application to Ernie. The Lutheran’s counsel to Ernie would be to rest fundamentally in the grace of God given to him through the sacrificial death of Christ. Christ is his righteousness, thus, there is no fear as to whether or not he is accepted by God. He is justified before God because all his present sins were placed on the Lamb slained. What he must grow in is the knowledge of this grace, and as he grows in knowledge of it, he grows in love for the One who has given him such grace. This is where Ernie grows: in the knowledge of how justified he is in Christ. Will the lustful thoughts go away? Maybe, but Ernie will not be trusting in his adherence to the law any longer. His faith will be rooted in Christ and he will grow stronger and stronger in this faith. The Spirit may decrease the pattern of lustful thoughts in his life, but Ernie will be unaware of such a work. What he will be aware of is how justified he is because of Christ.

[1]Gerhard O. Forde, “The Lutheran View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 13.

[2]Oswald Bayer, Living By Faith: Justification and Sanctification, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 58-59.

[3]Ibid., 56. This is where the break in categories happens. Lutherans would not equate sanctification with ethical/godly living. “Now living morally is indeed an important, wise and good thing…But it should not be equated with sanctification.” Forde, “The Lutheran View,” 14.

[4]Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, Trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 283.

[5]Ibid., 289. Also compare Forde who uses the term, “spontaneous” to describe this. Forde, “The Lutheran View,” 14. The Christian accomplishes the work without a personal acknowledgment of the effort which accomplished the work. For instance, a Christian would just be generous when an opportunity arises. There would not be an internal effort in the person to push him to accomplish it.

[6] Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, 291. Also, “But this process of sanctification cannot be assigned grades. Believing means that one is removed from being in charge of oneself and responsible for one’s own judgment.”

[7]Bayer, Living By Faith, 62-65. Also, compare Forde, “It is not that we are somehow moving towards the goal, but rather that the goal is moving closer and closer to us…It is the coming of the kingdom upon us, not our coming closer to our building up the kingdom.” Forde, “The Lutheran View,” 29.

To contrast this view, other traditions would say that we are to attain to the image of Christ in our daily lives. So, let us say that that one is trying to be like Christ in regards to anger. Other traditions would say that you need to progress to the point where your use of anger matches the way Christ gets angry. There is a goal in this sanctification.

The Lutheran view, on the other hand, says that ethical living is not about the progression. There is no goal one obtains. One does not make an intentional effort to motivate themselves to not be angry.

[8]Ibid., 66. Also, compare Forde, “It is not that we are somehow moving towards the goal, but rather that the goal is moving closer and closer to us…It is the coming of the kingdom upon us, not our coming closer to our building up the kingdom.” Forde, “The Lutheran View,” 29.

To contrast this view, other traditions would say that we are to attain to the image of Christ in our daily lives. So, let us say that that one is trying to be like Christ in regards to anger. Other traditions would say that you need to progress to the point where your use of anger matches the way Christ gets angry. There is a goal in this sanctification.

The Lutheran view, on the other hand, says that ethical living is not about the progression. There is no goal one obtains. One does not make an intentional effort to motivate himself to not be angry.

[9]Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, 292.

[10]Forde, “The Lutheran View,” 29

[11]Ibid., 28.

[12]Ibid., 29.

[13]Ibid., 16-17. He would also point to 2 Thessalonians 2:13 as basis for the Lutheran view.

[14]“We are thus compelled to take account of the fact that the language of sanctification is used with reference to some decisive action that occurs at the inception of the Christian life, and one that characterizes the people of God in the identity as called effectually by God’s grace. It would be, therefore, a deflection from biblical patterns of language and conception to think of sanctification exclusively in terms of a progressive work.” John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: Volume II Select Lectures in Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PN: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 278.

[15]“ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε is an exhortation to common action, urging the Philippians to show forth the graces of Christ in their lives, to make their eternal salvation fruitful in the here and now as they fulfill their responsibilities to one another as well as to non-Christians.” Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Commentary, ed. by I Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 280.

See Moises Silva, Philippians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. By Robert Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), 118-123, for a defense on why σωτηρίαν should been seen as sanctification and not total salvation.

[16]Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Commentary, ed. by I Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 513.

[17]Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. by D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 472.

[18]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), 721.

[19]Other verse which speak of active endeavoring of holiness: Rom. 12:2, Gal 5:25, 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 5:15, 1 Cor. 14:1, 1 Tim. 6:11.

[20]G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), 101.

[21]Though, as will be brought out in the Reformed view, it is an aspect with every command.

So that I am not burdening anyone with posting my papers in one massive post I decided that I would break them up. So when I post my papers they will be given in sections which come out every week. This way one does not have to block out 45 mins of a day to read the paper. Instead, they will come in manageable sections.

If you want to read the paper in full you can go to the papers section of the blog. I have a link that will direct you to the paper in google documents.

Also, my requests and reasons for posting my papers are found there as well.

Hope these are a benefit to you.




Sanctification is a fundamental aspect of the Christian’s life. Sanctification is the doctrinal position which encompasses the believer’s life after initial justification. To talk about sanctification is to talk about how a Christian grows more and more obedient to the teachings of Jesus. But what does that look like? When one looks at the bible what picture is painted about what growth in obedience looks like?

In this paper three major views of sanctification will be analyzed, critiqued, and worked out practically, with one view being defended. This paper will look at the views of sanctification espoused by the following theological traditions: Reformed, Lutheran, and Wesleyan. Each view claims that it understands how the doctrine of sanctification is lived out. Yet, their biblical backing will be tested in this paper with one position coming out of the refining fire as the most biblically faithful position.


In the body of this paper, each view will be analyzed. There will be a summary of each view given at the beginning. The strengths of the view will be brought-up. Then the view will be critiqued in its faithfulness to the Biblical witness. One position will be shown as being the most faithful to the bible

The final outworking will be practically applying the view of sanctification to the life situation of a made up character called “Ernie.”[1] The situation with Ernie is that he has a habitual struggle with lustful thoughts. In light of this problem Ernie has prayed many times to God that he would be delivered from this sin. No answer to this prayer has been given. When he thinks of God, Ernie knows that God cannot look upon sin. Thus, Ernie is beginning to think that God can no longer forgive him of his sin. It is into this situation that each position will be brought to see how they would instruct Ernie.

More to come later…

[1]The character and the situation are taken from Donald L. Alexander, Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 7.

This is a paper that I wrote for my 2 Corinthians class. The reasons that I will post some of my own work for classes are two fold: 1. My writing needs to be critique and challenged. I will never become a better writer, arguer, and thinker if people don’t question my reasoning and point out my errors in writing. So please, if you read these let me know where you disagree with me with precision, not just a  general “I don’t like.” Let me know what you don’t like and why you don’t like it. This would be a help to me to interact with you and hopefully sharpen both of our thinking. 2. Because what things I do study need to be passed on to aid others. Not that I have a lot of deep, spiritual things to say. But I want to aid in pointing people to Christ in any way I can. So enjoy!


2 Corinthians 3:1-18


What gave Paul confidence in his sufficiency for ministry was the glorious nature of the new covenant. In the midst of being rejected by Jews and seeing the churches he founded weakened by false teachers, one could think that Paul would consider his ministry futile. But nothing could be further from the truth.

What we see in this chapter is Paul’s sufficiency found in the effectual nature of the new covenant. Paul could press forward in his ministry because the nature of the old covenant had been supplanted by the glory of the new. This new covenant would be the ministry of the Spirit who was the one who accomplished the work.


This paper will argue the thesis by looking at four main sections of the chapter. The first section will look at the context leading up to the chapter. The next section will look at verses 1-6 and the aspects of the new covenant found there. Then in verses 7-11 Paul’s contrasting of the old and new covenants will be explored. Finally, we will look at the contrast between Paul’s and Moses’ ministry in verses 12-18.


The beginning context of the passage is chapter 2 verses 14 through 17. In this section Paul sees himself as a thankful prisoner of God spreading the knowledge of God for either the life or death of the hearers. We will see that Paul considers himself being made sufficient for this commission because of the manner by which he performs it.

Paul begins by proclaiming thankfulness to God.[1] This thankfulness is given to God for what He is accomplishing through His apostles.[2] God is leading Paul as a thankful prisoner in a triumphal procession.

Paul sees himself as a conquered, yet thankful, prisoner in God victory procession. When Paul uses the word θριαμβεύω it pictures an “elaborate celebration of victory for the conquering Roman general parading through the streets of Rome.”[3] Part of the celebration was the general leading, “prisoners of war in a victory procession.”[4] Thus, Paul sees himself as prisoner of God’s conquest through Christ.[5]

Paul, also, sees Christ spreading the fragrance of the knowledge Himself everywhere through the apostle’s ministry. Paul builds on the fragrance metaphor to expound on the reception of the gospel message. Paul switches from Roman imagery to the sacrificial imagery used in the Old Testament.[6] Paul was the aroma of Christ being offered to God among the world. This aroma separates the world into two groups: Those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To those being saved it is a fragrance of life. But “Paul does not smell sweet to everyone.”[7] To those perishing it is a fragrance to death. Thus, its reception had eternal significance.

These truths act as the foundation for Paul’s ministerial actions. Paul is Christ’s trophy. Christ conquered Paul and uses him to spread the knowledge of God to everyone. The aroma of this message either saved or killed. Paul then asks the question about sufficiency. Who can be sufficient for such a calling that either brings death or life?

What is the answer to this question? On the one hand Paul could imply a negative answer and so deny self-sufficient for the ministry.[8] Yet, “the idea of ‘sufficiency,’ in and of itself, carries no such pejorative connotations.”[9] A person can say that he is capable of fulfilling a task without necessitating the denial of divine enablement. Paul will clarify why he is sufficient in verses 4 through 6 in chapter 3. Thus, Garland[10] and Harris[11] would see a “yes” and “no” tension. On the one hand, Paul is a qualified and capable messenger of this gospel and thus, his apostleship should not be rejected. Though, the reason he is capable is because God makes him sufficient (3:5).  Also, the logical flow between 16b and 17 implies a positive answer.[12] Finally, there is a connecting sufficiency theme running from these verses into chapter three.[13] Thus, a positive answer for the first usage fits the theme of the whole passage. Therefore, Paul is sufficient for the task of this life and death commission given to him. For Paul, unlike those who are peddlers of the word of God, was sincere in his task. His commission demands that he comes with openness.

Therefore, Paul is compelled to be a minister of Christ. The question raised against him was one of sufficiency. Thus, the following chapter answers the question, “How does the new covenant relate to the theme of Paul’s sufficiency for ministry?”[14]

Verses 1-6

In this section Paul will appeal to the Corinthians based on their inclusion into the new covenant. This new covenant is not like the old one which was ineffectual in what it produced. The new covenant supplies Paul’s sufficiency for ministry because of the effectual nature of the covenant. The old covenant could not provide salvation, the new covenant brings life and transformation by the power of the Spirit.

Paul asks about being commended about his ministry. Does his ministry need to be recommended to them again? If the Corinthians would look at themselves they would see the authenticity of Paul’s ministry. “The Corinthians need look only at themselves for proof that the new age of the new covenant has dawned.”[15] They are on Paul’s heart as well as being open for all to read. Their conversion and growth in Christ demonstrates the authenticity of Paul’s ministry. Then Paul begins to lay out truths of the new covenant of which the Corinthians are partakers in.

Paul gives four descriptions/aspects of the new covenant. First he shows the Pneumtalogical and Christological dimensions of the new covenant. Second, he describes the hearts of men which received God’s actions. Third, Paul shows the sufficiency he receives from the covenant. And forth, he demonstrates the contrast between the letter and Spirit.[16]

The first description of the new covenant in verse 3 displays the instrumentality of the Spirit through the person and work of Christ in the work of the new covenant. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are a letter from Christ. “Christ was the author of the letter, Paul was simply the amanuensis.”[17] Paul was the servant (διακονέω) of Christ who brought about the salvation of the Corinthians. The Corinthians “have their origin in Christ and belong to him.”[18] Paul highlights this truth to shed “light on the Christological newness of the new covenant.”[19] The Spirit’s work is never accomplished outside and contrary to but always in correlation and agreement to the purposes and workings of Christ. For the letter, which is the Corinthians, was written with the Spirit himself. As Fee states, “This, of course, is for Paul the key to everything.”[20] The Spirit takes an essential role in the salvation of the Corinthians in this new covenant. It is the Spirit who brings about their salvation.

The connection of the contrasts in this verse must be explored. What is the connection with the first contrast of ink with Spirit to tablets of stone and tablets of human hearts? Commentators have pointed out that it would be natural for Paul to speak in the second contrast about being written on papyrus.[21] Yet, “Paul’s imagery is fluid, as one image leads to another that leads to another.”[22] Thus, Paul makes the transition into this set of imagery. And the generally agreed upon understandings of “tablets of stone” has to do with the law and the old covenant. Some would see a denigration of the law taking place in this contrast. Thrall, for example, writes, “[it is contrasted] in such a way as to emphasise the superiority of Christian existence to life under the law of Moses.”[23] The context, however, does not favor such a speculation. Instead, the context supports Meyer’s assertion, “The contrast of ineffectualness and effectualness lies at the heart of this comparison.”[24] About the relation to law he writes,

We should not assume that Paul aims to denigrate the Mosaic law…Paul would affirm the divine origin of the law in that the very finger of God inscribed the Ten Words on those tablets of stone. Paul’s emphatic point lies elsewhere. The contrasting phrase highlights the different ways God acts under both covenants by focusing on the different objects of God’s inscribing action.[25]

For Paul, the nature of the contrast will be the foundation of his confidence in verse 4. Also, the contrast is in relation to the Corinthian’s salvation. Thus, Paul’s point in the contrast lies in the effectual nature of the new covenant to salvation.

The second main point of the new covenant expressed in this verse is the object of God’s action. God no longer writes on πλαξὶν λιθίναις but on πλαξὶν καρδίαις σαρκίναις. The tablets of stone have already been connected with the Law given to Moses. In Deuteronomy 9:10 God gave to Moses tablets of stone with His law written upon them.[26] The metaphor of the heart (καρδία) speaks as the “seat of physical, spiritual and mental life”[27] With these two different tablets, Paul is describing the two different objects which God acted upon: One was of stone, and the other was of the heart.

The tablets of stone, the law, was God’s action for his people in the old covenant which was ineffectual in bringing new life. “God granted a great gift to Israel when he intervened in human history and provided a written expression of His will.”[28] However, the problem with the law was that it did not grant the power upon one to conform to it.[29] The law was a written code as to how one should live, no more than that. No enablement was given as part of the covenant. Thus, no inward effect happened to the Israelites.

Now, in the new covenant, the Spirit writes on tablets of “fleshly hearts” (καρδίαις σαρκίναις) which produces an effect. Undoubtedly Paul is referring to the passages in Ezekiel about God giving the Israelites a heart of flesh. “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” [30] (Ezek. 11:19). and “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” [31] (36:26).[32] With both verses, the outcome of the new heart is a people who walk in obedience to the Lord. “That they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them” (11:20). Thus, on Paul’s mind is the promise that the fleshly hearts, which the Spirit inscribes on, will live after the Lord.

Thus, “For Paul, the old and the new are characterized by two different accounts of divine agency.”[33] With the old covenant God gave external demands to the people. Yet, these demands met hearts of stone, the πλαξὶν λιθίναις, which would not receive them. But with the new “there is creation.”[34] God turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, a heart which can be written on by the Spirit.

Paul then links these truths with another aspect of the new covenant, his confidence, through Christ to God, in verses 4-6.[35] The truth that the hearts of the Corinthians are fleshly hearts allows Paul to be confident in regards to his ministry. Paul’s confidence is then directed though the person of Christ to be grounded in God.[36] Paul can claim no part in this new creation of καρδίαις σαρκίναις. All the sufficiency and competency to be a minister comes from God.

The final aspectual nature of this new covenant is the letter and Spirit contrast. The new covenant, which is the foundation of Paul’s confidence, is not of γράμματος but of the πνεύματος. There are three classifications on different understandings of γράμματος. The first is to see a hermeneutical principal being conveyed.[37] In this understanding there is a spiritual and a literal way of reading scripture. The second is to see a misuse or distorted view of the law taking place.[38] Those under the law either misunderstood its purpose or used it in a legalistic way. The third does see γράμματος referring back to the law of Moses.[39] From there, however, the view can be subdivided into two smaller categories. First, some see the law being cast in a negative light.[40] Second, others would see negativity being place on the effectual nature of the law.[41]

The best of these positions would be to see γράμματος as referring back to the law to show the ineffectual nature of it. Meyers pinpoints the primary problem with the first two groups. In the following verse Paul uses the same word which conveys the meaning, “that which is inscribed.”[42] This clearly points to the words of Moses written in the law, rather than pointing to hermeneutics or hypothetical background situations. Thus, those in the new covenant are no longer under the ineffectual law.

Those in the new covenant are under the effectual power of the Spirit. The Spirit gives life, where as the “external work of the Law stands in contrast with the work of the Spirit, which is inward, effective and eschatological.”[43] Ζωοποιέω points to the eschatological life the Spirit brings.[44] The law can only stand to give condemnation to those under it since it cannot impart life[45], the Spirit “grants the physical and spiritual life of which he is the source.”[46] Thus, “The new covenant is marked preeminently by inward divine enablement to carry out God’s will.”[47]

Paul’ ministry is recommended to the Corinthians because of the effectual power of the new covenant. He does not need a written letter because the Spirit has already done His work in their lives. Paul is confident about this work because, where as the letter leads to death, the Spirit brings life.

Verses 7-11

Paul is going more in-depth into the sufficiency and confidence for His ministry by contrasting the covenants. To do this Paul discusses the supplanting of the new covenant in place of the old one. Two main contrasts of the covenants come out. The first is that the old one is defined by death and condemnation. While the new one is of the Spirit and defined by righteousness.  The second is that the old covenant, under the law of Moses, was temporal and now done away with. But the new covenant is permanent. As such, the new covenant is more glorious than the first.

The old covenant was a glorious temporal covenant which brought condemnation upon those under it. Paul calls the covenant a ἡ διακονία τοῦ θανάτου. Death was one of the attributes of the old covenant according to Paul. The law did not bring death with itself but allowed sin to produce death through the commandment (Rom 7:11-14). But even with sin understood, the old covenant was “death-dealing.”[48] For this ministry is also a τῇ διακονίᾳ τῆς κατακρίσεως. The old covenant only gave condemnation. Those under it could not live up to the demands of the law so they fell condemned.[49]

With the new covenant we have a ministry of the Spirit which brings righteousness. Once again Paul defines the new covenant as being of the Spirit. “Transformation of human beings did not occur in the old era under the Mosaic law, but it has been effected by the power of the Spirit in the new age.”[50] Thus, the workings of the Spirit in this ministry produce righteousness.

The primary issue regarding the nature of the covenants in this section is the temporal and permanent glories of each of the covenants. Paul uses the term for glory 10 times within these 5 verses.[51] Both covenants are attributed with glory.[52] Yet, the one carved in letters of stone was καταργουμένην.[53] There is debate to whether this participle should be rendered “to nullify” or “come to and end”[54] The best evidence suggests that the participle be rendered “to come to an end.”[55] Hence, the glory from the face of Moses was “fading.”[56] Thus, the old covenant, being symbolized by the face of Moses[57] was being brought to an end “from the moment of its inception in Exodus.”[58] Thus, the glories of the first covenant were temporal.[59]

Now, we are under the ministry of the Spirit which is permanent and more glorious. The first covenant was ineffectual in producing righteousness. The new one is the ministry of Spirit who, “grants life to human beings and produces righteousness. Those who have the freedom of the Spirit have the ability to keep God’s requirements.”[60] Because of the Israelites’ hardness of heart the commands of God where only carved letters on stone which pronounced judgment upon them. But now, those who are indwelt by the Spirit can produce righteousness. Thus, the old covenant is vastly inferior to the new age of the Spirit. The glory of the new covenant shines with more intensity to those that are in Jesus Christ.

It is on this truth that Paul is resting his sufficiency. He is a confident minister of the new covenant because of its permanent glory. The Spirit now works in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus to produce righteousness. The glory of the old covenant is now gone, what there is now is far better. Thus, Paul is a sufficient minister, for the very reason that he is not the ministry, but the Spirit is.

Verses 12-18

Paul grounds his boldness by contrasting his ministry with the ministry of Moses. Under Moses the people were unable to see the outcome of the covenant. They did not see the temporal nature and the fulfillment of it. This was because Moses put a veil over his eyes. Under the new covenantal ministry of Paul the veil is removed through Christ. And all those with unveiled faces become transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord. Thus, the covenantal realties undergird Paul’s boldness in ministry.

The contrast in these verses is one of κάλυμμα. Those under Moses were veiled and those who turn to Christ have the veil removed. Under the veil there is hardness; without the veil there is transformation. Paul switches in usage from the physical veil Moses used to the spiritual veil over people’s heart. To understand the contrast we will have to look at Paul’s usage and meaning of the veil.

To understand this section we must understand the veiling of Moses communicated here. This paper has already defended the position that by writing καταργουμένου Paul is referring to the old covenant.[61] So, Paul would have Moses putting on the veil so that the Israelites would not gaze at the end[62] of the fading old covenant. Several suggestions have been made to what is happening in this verse.[63] What is difficult is Paul saying that the purpose of Moses putting on the veil was to keep them from seeing the end. Is there deception coming from Moses actions? The answer is of course, “no.” The reason we can give this answer is from what is written in the next verse.

Paul writes that the Israelites minds were ἐπωρώθη. This is a passive form of πωρόω which when used in the New Testament[64] tells of “a situation of unbelief or misunderstanding…an obtuseness toward God’s revelation in Christ.”[65] In the gospel accounts the passages in Mark 8 and in John 12 can be connected with Isaiah 6:9-10.[66] And in Isaiah 6:9-10 Isaiah is given the charge to be a means of hardening Israel. Then in the passage in Romans 11:7-8 Paul says those who were not elect were ἐπωρώθησαν. Then to he uses Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4 to prove this. And in these passages we have a clear testament to divine hardening.[67]

Thus, Moses was a means of divine hardening upon Israel. No life was given with the old covenant. So “the Lord had not given spiritual perception and so Israel was hardened in unbelief.”[68] Thus, the putting on the veil of Moses was an act of judgment upon Israel. This judgment kept them from seeing the end of what was fading. They were kept from seeing the future ministry of the Spirit coming through the Christ.[69]

What happened with the veil physically with Moses happens spiritually upon those who still live under the old covenant. For the Jews in the Old Testament to the Jews that Paul interacted with, they both lived with veils over their eyes. “The spiritual veil over the hearts prevents the Israel of Paul’s day from perceiving the eclipse of that same covenant in the form of the new covenant.”[70] They could not see the end of the covenant they were living in. Thus, when Paul interacted with the Jews, “they did not accept Paul’s preaching of the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures.”[71]

This is contrasted, however, with the glorious nature of the new covenant. In the new covenant, when one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. This unveiling is a change in the heart.[72] The heart is no longer hard against the things of God. Through Christ the veil is gone and the one enjoys the freedom of the Spirit.[73] In this context it is best to see ἐλευθερία[74] as speaking to both the “freedom from the veil of hard-heartedness,”[75] and “freedom for beholding God’s glory.”[76] Understanding freedom in this way bridges the two subjects of the veiled hearts (v12-16) and transformation from beholding God’s glory (v18).[77] With this unveiled heart one is able to behold the glory of God.[78] And from this glory he is transformed into the same image of who he is beholding. No longer are people’s hearts hard. Their hearts are open to the things of God. This is the glory of the new covenant.

Thus, Paul is very bold. Unlike Moses who was a means of divine hardening, his ministry unveils the heart to the glories of God. Paul can believe that his ministry will be a success because the sufficiency for it does not rest in him. He cannot unharden hearts. But the covenant he is under is defined by the Spirit who unveils hearts to see and glory of God. Thus, Paul is bold and confident.


Paul was a sufficient minister of Christ because his sufficiency was not from himself. He was a minister of a new covenant. This is in contrast to the old covenant which has faded away. The old covenant was ineffectual in changing the hearts of those under it. Thus, it became a ministry of death and condemnation. In this new covenant, however, the Spirit effectually unveiled hearts to the glory of God. And this unveiling would produce righteousness in those who had turned to the Lord. Paul could then strive forward in his apostleship knowing that his ministry would prove effective because of the Spirit.


Who or what is our hope for success in ministry. Like Paul, we minister while being surrounded by discouragement. There are individuals who come into the church for a while but then abandon the faith. There are countless false gospels coming from the world and from those who claim to be Christians. The world is losing interest in orthodoxy Christianity. The desire is for something that will fit the modern mood of spirituality. Those who do join along with this modern mood become the objects of ridicule and scorn.

There are several ways we could answer these problems. We could answer by cultural accommodation. We could attempt to make the church look exactly like the world wants it to look. We could answer by toning the message down. If we never talk about the things which offend others then they will never be offended by us. Or we can make the standard of truth so low that practically everyone gets in.

The problem with these, however, is that they are the means were by the church no longer remains the church. Those actions are none other than spiritual adultery with the world. So where then are we to get our hope and confidence that church will not prove futile?

It is right where Paul found it, in the new covenantal realties brought by God. We exist in a ministry where the sovereign Lord unveils the eyes to His glory. In a world where there is nothing but rebellion the indwelling Spirit produces righteousness in those who have been given fleshly hearts. We do not minister under a covenant where the people look unto the glory of God with harden hearts. We minister under a covenant where people are transformed by the glory when the Lord unveils their hearts. We are not the sufficiency for this, the Spirit is. And so, like Paul, we can move out in confidence that God will give us the victory.

[1]Harris would classify this as a doxology since it is ascribing praise and glory to God. Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 141

[2]Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians, In The Anchor Bible, vol. 32a. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1984), 187.

[3]David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, vol 29. ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 140.

[4]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), LN. 39:59.

[5]Some would dispute the idea that Paul was seeing himself as being a prisoner in this procession. Barrett, Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 97-98. and Calvin,  John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX: I Corinthians and II Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 157-158. would see Paul being a soldier in Christ’s army and sharing in the victory. For a rebuttal of this see Scott J. Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit: Paul Defense of His Ministry in II Corinthians 2:14-3:3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 19-34.

Another question arises about the outcome of the prisoners. Hafemann would say that what awaited the prisoners s of the procession was death. Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit, 21-22. He looks at triumphal processions described from the first century B.C. to the end of the first century A.D. and concludes, “to be ‘led in triumph’ means, in fact, to be ‘lead to death.’” Ibid., 34. This could work considering that Paul was one who felt as if he “had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:9). Who was “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,” (2 Cor. 4:10) and who states that “death is at work” in him” (2 Cor. 4:12). Death was a constant possibility for Paul because of the sufferings he received.

Yet, Harris would point out, it does not fit the immediate context if Paul is seeing himself as being lead to death in verse 14. In verse 16 Paul speaks about death in such a connotation that Paul could not see himself as being a partaker in it. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 246. Harris also points out that there were times when the captives were not executed. Ibid., 246.

So it may be the wisest to not push the metaphor too far. We do know that Paul was highlighting God’s triumph over him. But beyond that, any theory should not play a major role in understanding the passage.

[6]Thus, ὀσμὴν, in verse 14, should be read with the same imagery in view. Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, in The NIV Application Commentary, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 110-111. Against this, however, Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 246, and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, International Critical Commentary (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915), 67-68, would say that ὀσμὴν in verse 14 is still displaying the Roman metaphor of the incense being burned during the procession. Yet, even Harris says that the sacrificial system is being referred to in verses 15 and 16. Thus it seems inconsistent to have ὀσμή in verse 14 picture something different than what is pictured in verse 16. For a thorough study of the linguistic reason for making the switch on metaphor with ὀσμὴν in verse 14 see Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit, 35-45.

Cf.  Peter Balla, “2 Corinthians” 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), 754. who says one does not have to chose one or the other. However, I believe the arguments made by Hafemann still stand.

[7]Garland, 2 Corinthians, 150.

[8]Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 102-103. See also Furnish, II Corinthians, 190-191.

[9]Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit, 90.

[10]Garland, 2 Corinthians, 150.

[11]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 253.

[12]Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit, 89-90. See also Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 253, and Plummer, Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 72-73.

[13]Jason C. Meyer, The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology, NAC Studies in Bible & Theology, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 65.

[14]Ibid., 65.

[15]Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 118.

[16]I am roughly following the four points Meyer lays out: (1) The Spirit is the instrument of writing in the new covenant, (2) the heart is the object of writing in the new covenant, and (3) the new covenant is the source of his ministerial sufficiency because (4) the Spirit is the intrinsic element of the new covenant that ensures its sufficiency for ministry. Meyer, The End of the Law, 67.

[17]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 263.

[18]Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 303.

[19]Meyer, The End of the Law, 69.

[20]Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 303.

[21]Plummer, Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 82. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 264.

[22]Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 303.

[23]Margaret E. Thrall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Second Epistle to the Corinthians Volume I (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994), 226.

[24]Meyer, The End of the Law, 69.

[25]Ibid., 69. See also Hafemann, “it is a contrast between the law as it usually functioned in the old covenant, in its impotency to change one’s heart, and the potency of the Spirit in its work in the heart within the new covenant.” Hafemann, Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit, 222.

[26]καὶ ἔδωκεν κύριος ἐμοὶ τὰς δύο πλάκας τὰς λιθίνας γεγραμμένας ἐν τῷ δακτύλῳ τοῦ θεοῦ

[27]Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. and trans. Frederick W. Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilber Gingrich [BDAG], 3rd Edition. (Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. “καρδία”

[28]Meyer, The End of the Law, 70.

[29]Ibid., 70.

[30]καὶ δώσω αὐτοῖς καρδίαν ἑτέραν καὶ πνεῦμα καινὸν δώσω ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐκσπάσω τὴν καρδίαν τὴν λιθίνην ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτῶν καὶ δώσω αὐτοῖς καρδίαν σαρκίνην

[31]καὶ δώσω ὑμῖν καρδίαν καινὴν καὶ πνεῦμα καινὸν δώσω ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ ἀφελῶ τὴν καρδίαν τὴν λιθίνην ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν καὶ δώσω ὑμῖν καρδίαν σαρκίνην.

[32]See Balla, “2 Corinthians”, 755, for the context of these verses.

[33]Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2004), 312.

[34]Ibid., 313.

[35]Jan Lambrecht, “Structure and Line of Thought in 2 Cor 2,14-4,6,” Biblica 64 (1983): 352. See also Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 111.

[36]One cannot help but notice the distinctive redemptive works of each member of the trinity being mentioned by Paul here. Paul’s confidence is grounded in the salvific workings of each member of the trinity. The Spirit is the life of the new creation, Christ is the means of salvation, and God the Father is the final grounds of salvation’s plan.

[37]Meyer footnotes present scholars who would accept variants of this view. Meyer, The End of the Law, 79 n. 61.

[38]Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 112-113. Furnish, II Corinthians, 201. James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of the Apostle Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 149.

[39]There is a debate to the extent of the reference. Is it to the whole law of Moses or to just the Decalogue? Such a debate does not affect the outcome of the thesis so it will be passed.

[40]For instance, the law was “a written code of duty so onerous as to kill hope and love.” Plummer, Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 87. See also Thrall, 235.

[41]Thus, “Again, the problem is not with the Law itself, but with the people whose hearts have remained hardened under the Sinai covenant.” Scott J. Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel (Tubingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1995), 161. See also Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 305-306, Garland, 2 Corinthians, 166.

[42]Meyer, The End of the Law, 80.

[43]Mark A. Seifrid, “Unrighteous by Faith: Apostolic Proclamation in Romans 1:18-3:20,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2-The Paradoxes of Paul, eds. by D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 134.

[44]Meyer, The End of the Law, 82.

[45]Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (London, England: Yale University Press, 1989), 131.

[46]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 273-274.

[47]Ibid., 274.

[48]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 282.

[49]This gives further proof that the old covenant was ineffectual. Meyer, The End of the Law, 86.

[50]Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 481.

[51]Meyer, The End of the Law, 87.

[52]This has caused problems for scholars. As Paul Duff states, “That problem has to do with Paul’s association of δόξα with a διακονία that is otherwise described in association with death and condemnation.”  Paul B. Duff, “Glory in the Ministry of Death: Gentile Condemnation and Letters of Recommendation in 2 Cor. 3:6-18,” Novum Testamentum 46 (2004): 318.

Sanders tries to bridge the association by saying that Paul held a tension. “Paul does not explain how it is that something which condemns and kills can be glorious. He is caught here as elsewhere between two convictions, but here there is no struggle to resolve them; he states them both as facts.” E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. 1983), 138.

Hafemann would say that the point of Paul’s argument in these passages in not in differences of the covenants. “Indeed, the foundation of the argument is the similarity between the δόξα of the ‘ministry of death’ and that of ‘the ministry of the Spirit.’” Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, 270-271. Cf. also Duff, “Glory in the Ministry of Death,” 319-320. Each one then takes this point to a different conclusion.

The position of this paper follows along the lines of Meyers who says, “Paul has no problem attributing glory to the old covenant as long as readers put the ‘old’ covenant in its proper eschatological place.” Meyer, The End of the Law, 87. n91.

[53]BDAG gives it four ranges of meanings: 1) to cause something to be unproductive; 2) to cause something to lose its power or effectiveness; 3) to cause something to come to an end or to be no longer in existence; 4) to cause the release of someone from an obligation. BDAG, s.v. “καταργέω.”

[54]Hafemann would render the meaning of the term, “to nullify.” Thus, Paul would be saying that the glory of the Lord shining off the face of Moses was nullified during that time to forestall judgment. “The glory on Moses’ face would have destroyed Israel due to their “stiff-necked” condition. Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, 301-309.

However, Meyer gives three reasons against this proposal. 1) In verse 11 the contrasts of the same word speaks of something coming to an end. 2) The parallels in verses 14 and 16 have the veil being removed, not being nullified. 3) The Israelites had encounters with the glory shining off Moses’ face when he did not have the veil on (Ex. 34:34-35). Meyer, The End of the Law, 91.

[55]BDAG, s.v. “καταργέω.” Gerhard Kittel and Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), S. 1:452-454.

[56]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 284-285.Meyer, The End of the Law, 91-92.

[57]Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 285.

[58]Meyer, The End of the Law, 92.

[59]There is a lot of discussion about how Paul uses the passage in Exodus 34. The text in Exodus never mentions that the glories of Moses were fading after Moses put the veil on. Balla’s words, however, suffice to give a good explanation of what is going on. “It is unnecessary to see in Paul’s words a reference to Moses actually hiding the fading of the glory, because it is Paul’s view of the character of the old dispensation that it is fading away. Thus Paul does not necessarily add to the OT text any content that was not there, but he refers to the OT and at the same time says that from a view point of the permanent new covenant, the old covenant is transitory. Balla, “2 Corinthians”, 760.

[60]Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 135.

[61]Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 257.

[62]There have been a good amount of arguments about the proper rendering of τέλος here. The arguments are whether it should be rendered in a temporal sense (end) or a telic sense (goal). Yet, either understanding does not affect the thesis of this paper or section.

[63]See Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 297-298. and Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 259-261. For thorough lists on the different positions.

[64]Mark 6:52, 8:17; John 12:40; Romans 11:7.

[65]Carol Kern Stockhausen, Moses’ Veil and the Glory of the New Covenant: The Exegetical Substructure of II Cor. 3,1-4,6, Analecta Biblica (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1989), 135.

[66]It is well understood that John referencing Isaiah 6:9-10. For the passage in Mark, Gregory Beale puts the passage in the context of the book. In Mark 4 the direct quote from Isaiah was used to condemn the nation of Israel. And in Mark 8 Jesus uses the same terms in asking the disciples “whether they are also fulfilling the Isaiah 6 prophecy like the rest of hardened Israel.” G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 271.

[67]Meyer, The End of the Law, 97-98.

[68]Ibid., 97.

[69]This is one of the great tensions in the Bible, God judging those whom He hardens. One of the best examples of this is Pharaoh in Exodus. Before Moses came into Egypt God told him that He, the Lord, would harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21).  Paul comments on this very passage in Romans and exclaims, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:18). This mystery will never be solved on this side of eternity. We must keep ourselves faithful to both sides of the revelation: we are responsible, and He controls our choices. He hardens and those hardened are responsible for their hardness of heart.

[70]Ibid., 98.

[71]Ibid., 99.

[72]Garland, 2 Corinthians, 194-195.

[73]The Christological and Pneumtalogical issues with the phrase, “the Lord is the Spirit” will be passed over. Sufficient to say that this author holds to the orthodoxy understanding of the Trinity.

[74]Meyer lists 4 main views about the meaning of ἐλευθερία found here. Meyer, The End of the Law, 103.

[75]Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, 401.

[76]Meyer, The End of the Law, 103.

[77]Ibid., 104-105.

[78]Plummer would want to render the participle κατοπτρίζω “to reflect.” Plummer, Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 105-106. Yet, as Jan Lambrecht points out, the πάντες to ἡμεῖς reveals that Paul has all Christians κατοπτριζόμενοι. Thus, “to reflect” would not make sense. To understand it as “to behold” if perfectly.  Jan Lambrecht, “Transformation in 2 Corinthians,” Biblica 64 (1983): 246-248. See Also Meyer, The End of the Law, 100-102.

This is a paper that I wrote for my 2 Corinthians class. The reasons that I will post some of my own work for classes are two fold: 1. My writing needs to be critique and challenged. I will never become a better writer, arguer, and thinker if people don’t question my reasoning and point out my errors in writing. So please, if you read these let me know where you disagree with me with precision, not just a  general “I don’t like.” Let me know what you don’t like and why you don’t like it. This would be a help to me to interact with you and hopefully sharpen both of our thinking. 2. Because what things I do study need to be passed on to aid others. Not that I have a lot of deep, spiritual things to say. But I want to aid in pointing people to Christ in any way I can. So enjoy!


2 Corinthians 5:1-10


The Apostle Paul’s aim was to be a faithful witness of the gospel among the Gentiles. Yet, he was not what the Greeks would consider an astounding speaker. One could even say that he was the opposite of a good Greek speaker. Yet, he was faithful in spreading the gospel amongst Gentile cities. One of which was Corinth. But after some time false teachers had crept in and were trying to turn the Corinthians’ hearts away from Paul by claiming that he was not a true Apostle. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in attempt to win their hearts back.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 we see one among many appeals Paul made to the Corinthians in the book. The appeal which Paul makes in theses verses is that his ministry, as an Apostle, is not discredited because of his weak appearance. Paul had a hope that even though his ministry had taken such a toll on his body, he had a future resurrection that he was going to partake of. And such a hope gave him courage to press on in faithful ministry.


This paper will argue that the above statement is communicated through 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. This will be done by looking at the context in which the section of 2 Corinthians is placed. Then it will be established by looking at individual aspects of the section. Verses 1-5 will show that Paul is talking about a resurrection which he is looking forward too. Verses 6-10 will communicate the courage for ministry which he received from the hope of the resurrection.


Let us look back at the surrounding context to get the full picture. In chapter 4 verse 7 Paul begins by contrasting the treasure of the message found in verses 4-6 of the same chapter to the frailty of the minister, “We have this treasure (the ministry) in jars of clay (the minister, i.e. himself)” (4:7). What follows in verses 8-15 are the afflictions which Paul experienced in his ministry. While the message that he carried was glorious, the trials that the ministry put him through were anything but glorious.[1] Yet in verses 13-15 Paul keeps proclaiming the message which he had believed in.

In verse 16 Paul starts off by referring back to something previous which he had said. There is disagreement about the reference for “Διὸ”. [2] I believe, however, that Paul is referring back to verse 14 where he states his hope in the future resurrection.[3] We should see Verse 15 as part of the resurrection hope expressed in verse 14.[4] For in this verse Paul expressed certainty that the Corinthians would be in the presence of God. For he had suffered the affliction listed in verses 8-12 so that the grace[5] of the Spirit’s work of unveiling eyes could be given to them. They then believed in this message of grace delivered to them. Thus, verse 16 goes back to the hope of the resurrection which Paul expressed in 14.

Yet a sharp distinction between the resurrection and the ministry at Corinth should not be made.[6] Paul’s sacrifice had given which made him look forward to the resurrection was the sufferings for the Corinthians. Even though Paul has gone through tribulations, the ministry was being accomplished. The Corinthians came to accept the gospel.  Paul had completed this ministry of unveiling eyes to the glory of the Lord (3:1-18) among the Corinthians. He had seen the gospel do its work in their very lives. He sold himself out for them. All the afflictions listed through this section was all for their sakes (15a). He poured himself out so that they could be recipients and benefactors of this veil removing ministry and He knows that they will be present with him at the resurrection of Christ.

Now Paul shifts from speaking about his ministry to his weakness of appearance. He had made this sacrifice of ministry even though it has taken a toll on His body.[7] The key to understanding what is going on in this context is found in 5:12. There Paul makes the comment about “those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.” “His deteriorating physical condition and shameful plight caused some in Corinth…to wonder out loud about his power as an apostle.”[8] The false teachers were attacking Paul on the grounds that He was weak in appearance[9] and “a minister of a covenant more glorious than Moses’ covenant could be expected to be a glorious figure.”[10] Garland points out another issue as well when he states, “Some in the ancient world interpreted affliction as a sign of god’s judgment and as something dishonorable.”[11] Whatever the specific reason was, the false apostles were attacking Paul about his appearance. Apparently the Corinthians were beginning let these charges get to them. Could they really trust a person that had such a weak appearance?

Paul, however, knew the truth about this world. Physical decay and abuse are not reasons to doubt one’s ministry. “On the contrary”, the abuse of his body in the present is in no comparison to the glory which he will receive. Paul says that he knows that the afflictions of this age are preparing him for a coming glory which cannot be compared to anything on this earth (4:17). So, Paul keeps his vision located on the future where eternal things reside (18).[12]

That is the context of 5:1-10. Paul is expounding to the Corinthians that his physical well being is not that important. He has given himself for their spiritual welling being. And the physical cost of it will be repaid when he dies. So, in 5:1-10 Paul is expounding on way the decay of his physical body is of little concern to him.

Verses 1-5

Verses 1-5 are about a future dwelling with the Lord when one dies. Paul expounds upon the statement that the gaze of the Christian should be on what is eternal. What is found in these verses is Paul looking ahead to the resurrection which he had talked about in his first letter to the Corinthians. Here he expounds on the future resurrection again but in somewhat different language. But the thoughts are the same. “The groaning and burden associated with the present body will give way to the stability and delight of being clothed with a new body.”[13]

To see this meaning we have to look at the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians. Then the text itself has to be studied. But, before we look at that; an issue regarding the eschatology of Paul needs to be considered.

Did Paul change his view of the time of his death and the coming of Christ? Harris would argue that Paul had an encounter with death while he was in Asia. And this encounter changed his understanding of his death and the coming of Christ. Before this, Paul would see himself living until the coming of Christ. But because of this brush with death Paul recognized that he was not going to survive until the coming of Christ. Paul is then expressing that change of belief in this passage.[14]

I believe an important general note can be brought up to help answer this question. Paul is not writing out a systematic theology on eschatology. He has a point to make to the Corinthians and against the false teachers. Penna is correct when he writes,

“The mistake of the commentators has perhaps been to try to be clearer than Paul himself…Paul does not offer dogmatic solutions but rather offers only certain suggestions, opens up certain ways of looking at the at it, confirms or excludes certain perspectives typical of the Christian faith.”[15]

We have to be careful that we are not trying to find more than what the Biblical writers were saying in what they wrote. Paul is not writing a dissertation on the end times but making a specific point by using some truths of the eschatos.

Since that is the case a strong point can be made against the idea that Paul is changing his mind about the coming of Christ. Schreiner articulates the point precisely, “This text [2 Cor. 5:1-10], however, is too ambiguous to signal such a change. Since Paul addresses the same church, he would have needed to make it much clearer that he was proposing a different time for the resurrection.”[16] So, there is not enough evidence presented in this text which should make us think that Paul is changing mind about the coming of Christ.

We have then established the fact that there is not enough to support the idea that Paul was changing his mind about the second coming of Christ in 2 Cor. 5:1-10. We can now study the individual aspects of the text to see that it, indeed, points to Paul’s hope in the future resurrection.

Let us look, first, at the parallel passage to this one in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. There Paul discusses the resurrection from the dead as well. Paul talks about “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Cor. 15:42b). Regarding the body Paul refers to it as dying in “weakness”, “natural”, and “from earth” from verse 42-47. Also, Garland points out the correlating use of clothing terminology, of the term “perishable”, and the endings between these two passages.[17] Both talk about being clothed when the believer dies. Both speak about the body as perishing. And both end the section alluding to the same very, Isaiah 25:8. “This parallel with [1 Corinthians 15] opens the way to a true understanding of the contrast in 5:1-4 between the present body and the future one.”[18] Therefore, since there is a parallel of themes and terms used between 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 we should understand the main topic to be the same—namely resurrection.

With that correlation in mind we can look at the language Paul is using to see that he is talking about a future resurrection. What we have now is a ἡ ἐπίγειος οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους, “an earthly tent-dwelling.”[19] The τοῦ σκήνους should be taken as an epexegetical genitive[20] which explains the meaning of the word it is attributed to. When our temporary structure will be torn down (καταλυθῇ) we have a οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ ἔχομεν,[21] οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, “a building from God, a dwelling not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens.” For this eternal dwelling we grown (στενάζομεν), longing to put it on.

Following the context of the pervious verse Paul is obviously talking about the eternal things which He looks to. And there is a clear contrast going on through these passages. But what is Paul talking about when he says we are in a ἡ ἐπίγειος οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους, and looking forward to a οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ ἔχομεν, οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς?

Looking at the terms Paul used we can see the resurrection being describe. The first term that he employs is a “tent” (οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους).  Our present bodies are like a tent. A tent “is a common picture of the earthly life and its setting in the body.”[22] Using the tent imagery, “describes only the instability, and thus the vulnerability, of one’s mortal existence.”[23] Most commentators would also point to the use of the term in Wisdom 9:15 as referring to a body. This view also fits the context from 4:16-18 where Paul has been giving a contrast of the earthly and the eternal. Understanding the term to denote a human body fits very well here.[24]

Then, opposed to this weak tent, the believer will receive an eternal dwelling. There have been many proposals to what the term οἰκοδομὴν means here. Thrall lists nine different understandings of this term: 1) An individual resurrection body. 2) A heavenly habitation in the sense of the dwelling mentioned in John 14:2. 3) An interim heavenly body, received immediately after death. 4) A kind of spiritual garment, received in baptism, worn beneath the ‘garment’ of the material body and preserved beyond the grave. 5) The body of Christ. 6) The heavenly temple. 7) The resurrection body of Christ. 8 ) An image of the glory of the eschatological age. 9) The heavenly dimension of present existence.[25] Yet, the most agreed upon immediate meaning would be the spiritual body one would receive at the resurrection.[26] Harris states the point clearly, “in view of 4:16a, it seems incontestable that the ἐπίγειος οἰκία of 5:1a alludes primarily, if not solely, to the physical body and that therefore it would destroy the parallelism and opposition of the two parts of 5:1,”[27] Thus, while the body that Paul possesses now will be destroyed, an eternal body is waiting for Him in the future. [28]

The final question we have to ask is concerning the meaning of the word “γυμνοὶ” in verse 3. The verse begins be stating that by putting on[29] this heavenly dwelling we may not be found “naked”. So the meaning of “naked” has direct influence on the understanding of the previous terms.

There are three main understandings of this term.[30] It is either understood as “homeless,” “garmentless,” or “bodiless.” The understanding of “homeless” is to use architectural language which matches the terms “tent” and “building” in verses 1-2. But this understanding can be dismissed due to the fact that the word does not carry such a meaning.[31]

The term “garment” would be used to covey a moral view. Meaning, Paul does not want to be found being guilty of sin before God.[32] Two problems become apparent with this suggestion,  however. The first is that moral judgment is not in the immediate context. We do not see judgment until verse 10. So, where it could be a possibility, it should not be our first choice since the theme of mortal judgment is not found in the immediate context. The second problem is that the correlating word used in verse 4, ἐκδύσασθαι, is unquestionably referring to resurrection.[33] Because when one is clothed, the mortal (τὸ θνητὸν) is swallowed up by life (τῆς ζωῆς). And such language conveys a resurrection, not a moral standing.

Thus, the “bodiless” understanding is the best.[34] It fits with the over all context of resurrection. It, also, fits with the specific terms Paul uses in this section. Thus Paul is saying that by putting on this heavenly dwelling he will not be found in a bodiless state. [35] So, Paul is looking forward to the day when he will receive his resurrection body.

So after looking through this section we see Paul, speaking in the language of buildings and clothing to describe the future resurrection that awaits him. When Paul says that he is presently living in a ἡ ἐπίγειος οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους we understand him saying that he lives in a fragile body. Yet he knows that when the tent is destroyed he will posses a οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ which is a future resurrected body. And because he knows he will posses it there is no fear that he will be γυμνοὶ, or bodiless.

Therefore, though some may consider a battered and bruised body something to be ashamed of, Paul sees it differently. A battered and bruised body is only temporal. What Paul looks forward is a heavenly dwelling that will clothe him for eternity.

Verse 6-10

Because of the future hope that is before him Paul can make it his aim to be pleasing to God. In verses 6-10 Paul expresses the courage which he has because of this promise and what he is working towards before he reaches that hope. In other words, he can give himself to gospel ministry because of this future hope. This section will argue that Paul sees the future hope as a base for the courage to do his ministry.

Paul has a courage to accomplish the ministry which streams from the faith on the guarantee of the Spirit. The οὖν of verse 1 looks back to the preceding guarantee of the future resurrection which is given by the Spirit.[36] The perfect participle εἰδότες is casual in its function.[37] The truth that Paul is still in this body and not with the Lord is another reason for the courage.  Thus, there is the promise that supplies the courage and the task that demands the courage. For in verse 7 Paul expresses having faith in the promises of God and not on what he sees. Then Paul illiterates again in verse 8 about the courage which he has while expressing his desire to be with the Lord.[38] Paul can face the afflictions upon his body by the ministry because he is “confident that God will supply a superior replacement for [his body].”[39] Thus, courage fills Paul as he performs his calling as an apostle.

Paul’s courage is directed at the single aim to be well pleasing to Christ so that he could stand confidently before the judgment seat of Christ. Whether Paul was ἐνδημοῦντες or ἐκδημοῦντες Paul sought to be pleasing in his actions. For him, “what is alone important is whether one’s service as an apostle is finally judged acceptable to the Lord.”[40] This is completely contrary to the critics who would try to discount him based on weak appearance. For Paul, what ultimately mattered was God’s view of his ministry, not man’s.[41] Because it would be before Christ’s judgment seat where the deeds done in the body would be judged as to whether they were good or bad.

One must ask about the nature of the judgment being described here. Every Christian will have to stand before this judgment seat. The verdict of this seat will render to everyone what they have done in the body. So, will salvation or rewards be rendered at this judgment? Harris argues that “the tribunal of Christ is concerned with the assessment of works not the determination of destiny.”[42] Thus, “not status but reward is determined”[43] by this judgment seat.

Yet, other would see the judgment seat determining more than the distribution of rewards or loss of rewards. “The reward in these texts is eternal life itself.”[44] Thus, when standing before the judgment seat of Christ, one’s eternal destiny is at stake.

Two factors tip the scales towards understanding the judgment seat as eternally significant. The first is that when Paul speaks of God’s coming judgment it has eternal significance. At God’s righteous judgment He will render to each man according to his work, and he renders eternal life or wrath and fury (Rom. 2 5-8). We cannot be fully judged by human courts, but the Lord judges us. The Lord will bring every thing to light and each one will receive his commendation from God (1 Cor. 4:3-5). The second reason is that Paul more than likely has the false teachers in view when he writes this verse. The false teachers “advertise themselves as people who do good works and claim to be ‘servants of righteousness’ (2 Cor. 11:15), but all of this is subterfuge. The good works are lacking, ‘and their end shall be according to their works.’”[45] Therefore, when believers stand before the judgment seat of Christ they approach for the determination of their destiny.

How is this reconciled with the Biblical truth of justification by faith alone? Schreiner helpfully explains,

“God’s judgment on that day will be according to works but not on the basis of works (Rom. 2:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:10)…These good works are the fruit of faith and a result of the Spirit’s works. They do not, in and of themselves, achieve salvation…Future justification, then, is the manifestation of present justification.”[46]

Thus, the declaration made at the judgment seat of Christ will correspond with the declaration made when a believer puts true faith in Jesus Christ, “justified!” For the works displayed at the judgment seat will be the manifestations of a true faith.

So in conclusion to this section we see that the future hope which Paul looks towards gives him courage to complete the ministry. And this hope presses him on in the glorious pursuit to be found well pleasing to God on the final judgment day.


Therefore, we have clearly seen that Paul’s hope was laid in the future resurrection which he would attain. Though his opponents claimed that the afflictions which he had gone through discredited him as a faithful apostle, Paul knew other wise. He willing let his body suffer affliction and bruising for the sake of taking the gospel to the Corinthians. Paul could do this because he had a hope of a future resurrection where the weak tent where he presently resided in would be replaced by a dwelling from God. This dwelling would be an eternal residence so that he would not have to exist in a bodiless state. Thus, he fulfilled the callings of his ministry with courage. Because he knew that he would have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of his faithfulness.


Safety, security, and peacefulness are words that can describe too much of American evangelicalism. Not only that, but when we think of preachers we think of preachers nicely dressed in the attire we deem appropriate. Whether it be a two piece suit of shorts with a T-shirt. We want them to look the way we want them to look. Given those reasons Paul would probably be an outcast in our churches. He was not safe, and he did not look the part.

Yet, that is how true gospel ministry is suppose to look like. By giving oneself for the glory of God and to love people by telling them the gospel message—and that is what Paul looked like. His eyes were centered on being well pleasing to God and his heart was poured out for the Corinthians. And he did this no matter if it took him to places where he abounded in material things or to places where death seemed imminent.

The encouragement that was set before His eyes in all of this was the hope of the resurrection. He knew that the suffering, caused by being faithful to God would be compensated in full by his Lord. Thus, he pressed on no matter how much it cost. May our eyes be opened to the inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus as Paul’s eyes were open to it!

[1] Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 338.

[2] Garland has it referring back to verses 7-10. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthains, The New American Commentary, vol 29. ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 239. Barnett would see the whole of 1-15 as being referred too. Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 250.

[3] C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, Haper’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henery Chadwick (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1973), 145. Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, Word Biblical Commentary, vol 40. ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Waco, TX: Word Book, 1986), 91. Margaret E. Thrall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Second Epistle to the Corinthians Volume I, (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994), 347.

[4] Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, International Critical Commentary (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915), 134.

[5] Furnish would say that the “ἡ χάρις” is possibly referring to “that grace by which apostles are commissioned to the service of the gospel.” Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians, In The Anchor Bible, vol. 32a.

(Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1984), 287. Yet, this makes no sense. For the ministry that Paul was talking about was “διʼ ὑμᾶς” (for your sake), as Thrall points out. Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 344-45. How was Paul’s apostleship suppose to spread through the Corinthians? Thus I agree with Thrall, as do Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 356. and Garland, 2 Corinthains, 237-238. that there is a salvific meaning in ἡ χάρις. So I take ἡ χάρις to be referring back to the grace which Paul was describing in 3:12-18.

[6] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 358.

[7] This “outer self” should not be understood to refer to the same concept as “the old man” Paul talks about in Romans. Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 350; Furnish, II Corinthians, 289. It is to be taken as speaking to “his life as a mere man.” Martin, 2 Corinthians, 91.

[8] Garland, 2 Corinthains, 240

[9] Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 348.

[10] Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 250.

[11] Garland, 2 Corinthains, 240

[12] Much discussion has occurred on the topic of anthropology because of Paul’s statements of the “inner man” and “outer man.” The debate centers on dualism and the nature of body and soul. Such a discussion does not affect the thesis of this paper so it will be passed by. Sufficient to conclude on this matter is Garland’s admonition no to divorce these verses from the resurrection theme coming in 5:1-10. Ibid., 245.

[13] Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 855.

[14] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 174-182.

[15] Romano Penna, Paul The Apostle: Jew and Greek Alike, vol. 1. trans. Thomas P. Wahl. (Collegeville, MI: Liturgical Press, 1996), 232.

[16] Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 855.

[17] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 245.

[18] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 367.

[19] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 370. See Also Furnish, II Corinthians, 292

[20] Barrett, , A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, 150. Plummer, The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 142. and Thrall The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 360. would see it as a genitive of apposition. The meaning of the phrase, however, is not changed by this.

[21] A issue is raised about meaning of  ἔχομεν being a present active. What does Paul mean when he says that we have this dwelling from God in the present? Garland would see the verb meaning that we receive a resurrection body immediately upon our death. Garland, 2 Corinthians, 251-252.

However it is best to take the present as a futuristic present. Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 64. Cf. also Plummer, The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 144 and Barrett, A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, 151. Also, understanding the verb in this way would not cause a problem with the word γυμνοὶ in verse 3. Cf. Ben Witherington III, Jesus, Paul and the End of the World (Downners Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 205-206.

[22] Barrett, A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, 151.

[23] Furnish, II Corinthians, 293

[24] For a good summary of the literary evidence behind this understanding of the term see Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 357-359.

[25] Ibid., 360-367.

[26] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 250-51, Plummer, The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 142. Martin, 2 Corinthians, 103. Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 367.

[27] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 372.

[28] Although, while the primary understanding of these terms should be a body. One should not throw out, all together, a temple conection being made by Paul here. Our bodies are presently the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19). And Beale points out that the phrase, “not made with hands,” is “virtually everywhere else a technical way of speaking about the new eschatological temple. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, New Studies in Biblical Theology, vol 17. ed. D. A. Carson (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 257. Also, one can make the association of the “tent” with the tabernacle. Thrall would even allow tabernacle imagery to remain while not making it the primary meaning, Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 361-362. Thus, the idea that Paul is making a temple connection here should not be dismissed entirely. One will have to hold that Paul is talking about the real resurrection and body and the eschatological temple at the same time.

[29] Nestle-Aland 27th edition chose to go with ἐκδυσάμενοι as the best reading, thus rendering the translation of the word “putting off.” However, the variant reading should be preferred in this instance and translated “putting on.” Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Streams, Ill: Tyndale House, 2008), 541. Cf. Also Margaret E. Thrall, “‘Putting on’ or ‘Stripping off’ in 2 Corinthians 5:3,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance of Exegesis, ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1981), 221-238.

[30] Taken from Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 385

[31] Gerhard Kittel and Geoffrey William Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), S. 1:773-774. 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. 2:53. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, ed. and trans. Frederick W. Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilber Gingrich [BDAG], 3rd Edition. (Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v. “γυμνός”

[32] And there can be different types of this “moral” belief. For example, Furnish would see “having once clothed ourselves” in verse 3 referring to baptism. Thus naked is denying one’s baptism and so being found alienated from Christ. Furnish, II Corinthians, 298.

[33] Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 66.

[34] Barrett, A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, 156. Martin, 2 Corinthians, 105-106. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 387-388. Garland, 2 Corinthians, 259-260. Plummer, The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 147. Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 379. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 66

[35] This should not be taken as if Paul does not believe in an intermediate state. See fn. 38 below for a fuller discussion on this issue.

[36] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 394

[37] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 631. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 395.

[38] There is a question about the intermediate state when looking at verse 8. Is Paul saying that there is a state of being bodiless which one enters into while they await the resurrection? Or should Paul’s desire not to be found bodiless in verse 3 deny such a belief?

Verses 3 and 4 should not be seen as denying the intermediate state. Two reasons can be given for this. The first is that the topic of an intermediate state is not a concern for Paul at this point. Just as it is with the argument against the “garment” understanding of clothing, an interjection about the intermediate state is out of context. What Paul is arguing for is the greatness of the future body that he will posses. We should not try to read too much about a particular question into one term when the context is not about the particular question. The second one is that just because Paul does not want to exist in a bodiless state does not mean that he would deny such state. He does clearly, though sparsely, speak of being with the Lord right after he would die (2 Cor 5:8, Phil 1:23). Paul’s focus on the intermediate state is lacking “precisely because it is intermediate and temporary.” Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 466. He does not look to the intermediate state but beyond it. He is not against the intermediate state and would rather be in it but, “His preference is for the final state.” Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 367.

For a defense that the intermediate state is being referred to in verse 8 see Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 400-401.

[39] Barrett, A Commentary on The Second Epistle to The Corinthians, 158.

[40] Furnish, II Corinthians, 304.

[41] Martin, 2 Corinthians, 114.

[42] Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 408-409

[43] Ibid., 409.

[44] Schreiner, Paul, 283.

[45] Ibid., 470.

[46] Schreiner, New Testament Theology, 852-853.

This is a paper that I wrote for my Acts class a few semesters ago. The reasons that I will post some of my own work for classes are two fold: 1. My writing needs to be critique and challenged. I will never become a better writer, arguer, and thinker if people don’t question my reasoning and point out my errors in writing. So please, if you read these let me know where you disagree with me with precision, not just a  general “I don’t like.” Let me know what you don’t like and why you don’t like it. This would be a help to me to interact with you and hopefully sharpen both of our thinking. 2. Because what things I do study need to be passed on to aid others. Not that I have a lot of deep, spiritual things to say. But I want to aid in pointing people to Christ in any way I can. So enjoy!



ACTS 17:16-34


The church had received the command by Jesus, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b). And in Acts 17:16-34 we see this commission working out it two categories. First, Paul confronts the paganism that flourished in Athens.  The reality of Christ was pitted against the falsehood of pagan idolatry.[1] The second category is that we see the gospel brought before the intellectuals. The gospel is not timid to critical thinking. It can stand up to the toughest intellectual scrutiny. But as the end of this passages demonstrates, no matter how realistic the gospel message is, mankind’s rebellion rejects the glories of the cross as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). But I believe that there is an overall sphere that encapsulates these two categories. The main thrust that drives these two things is a desire for God’s glory shown through the redemption of people. And it is people that come from different cultural backgrounds and have different presuppositions about reality. God glorious truth confronts their beliefs, shows the futility of those beliefs, and presents Christ as all in all. Therefore, in proclaiming the gospel we must know who we are proclaiming the gospel to[2] and present God’s one gospel in diverse ways to reach who we are speaking it to.[3]

Historical Background

To get the fullest sense of the meaning of this text I am going to look at some of the key historic places (Athens and the Areopagus), the philosophies that were present at Paul’s message (Epicureanism and Stoicism), and the context of this passage.


Athens was once a very important and wealthy city under the reign of Pericles in the 5th century B. C.[4] It was once the city of such prominent philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno.[5] By the time of Paul, however, that glory had faded.[6] Yet, the city still rode on its former glory.[7] Thus it was still a place where philosophical inquiry was pursued.


The Areopagus was “the chief judicial body of the city”[8] of Athens. It had the over arching power to decide cases on issues of city life, education, philosophical lectures, public morality, and foreign cults.[9] But one function of the Areopagus that corresponds to this discussion is brought out by Bruce Winter. In regards to new religions,

One of the long-established tasks of the Council of the Areopagites was to examine the proofs that a herald might offer in support of his claim that a new deity existed. That role continued into the Roman period. If the Council were so persuaded, then the god or goddess would be admitted to the Parthenon. A dedicated temple would be built to the divinity, an annual feast day endowed and included in the Athenians’ religious calendar…the approval or disapproval of a new god in Athens set the precedent for other Greek cities.[10]

So the Areopagus was a center of great importance for the city of Athens.


Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus who settled and opened up a school in Athens in 306 B.C.[11] Epicurus believed that everything came into existence when atoms traveling in infinite void collided with one another.[12] Thus, “Epicurus’s doctrine was completely materialist.”[13] The gods, also, came into existence by the atoms and lived in “perfect blessedness, undisturbed by concern for mankind or worldly affairs.”[14]

Their theory of purpose for life was one of pleasure, “Epicurus held that pleasure was the chief goal of life, with the pleasure most worth enjoying being a life of tranquility free from pain, disturbing passion, superstitious fears and anxiety about death.”[15] So Epicurus’ view does not mean that it is a rush into immediate sensuous pleasure. It was a search for “true peace of mind.”[16]


The history of the Stoics started with a man named Zeno. He held his philosophical gathers in the Stoa Poikile in the Athenian Market place. And it was from there they received their name Stoics.[17]

The Stoics were of a completely different nature than the Epicureans. Blending ideas from Socrates, Heracleitus, and himself he came to view everything as living in harmony.[18] They “argued for the unity of humanity and the kinship with the divine.”[19] His view of God was pantheistic and this god was part of everything and fated the lives of every man.[20] They had a high view of morality as one should act according to the divine nature that he is a part of.[21]

Contextual setting

This passage is during the second missionary journey of Paul. Paul decided that He wanted to visit the churches that they had planted (15:36). Yet, because of a disagreement Paul went with Silas instead of Barnabas (15:39). Together Paul and Silas “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (15:41). In Lystra they meet a young man named Timothy and included him in their missionary travels (16:1-3). While traveling the Spirit directed them to Troas where Paul received a vision to go to Macedonia where Lydia, a Jailer and his family are converted (16:11-39). From there they went to Thessalonica (17:1-9) and then to Berea (17:10-15). In both cases they were driven from the cities by jealous Jews (17:5-10, 13-14). Thus members of the church sent Paul away (17:14) and those conducted him took him to Athens where he waited for Silas and Timothy (17:15).

Here in Acts we see God using the evil purposes of men to accomplish His good purposes. Where evil is trying to stop the influence of God’s gospel it only makes it increase more. Now Paul stands among the intellectuals with a message that defies human reasoning. And we can witness the apostle glorifying God by bring this good news to these intellectuals.


This section is divided in three sections. In verse 16-21 we see the interaction of Paul with the people of Athens. And then in verses 22-31 see hear the speech Paul made in the Areopagus. And the final verses, 32-34, summarize the response of the speech.

Paul’s Interaction with the Athenians. Vs 16-21.

While waiting in the city for Timothy and Silas Paul saw that Athens was full of idols. Paul did not view these idols “dispassionately, remarking on the beautiful artistry.”[22] Instead Paul’s spirit provoked![23] He started preaching[24] the gospel in both the synagogue and the market place called the agora. This was in pattern of how Socrates shared his ideas.[25] This shows that “when Paul evangelized this city of Socrates, he used the method of Socrates.”[26] Paul witnessed to these different people in their own cultural practices of communication. And because of this gospel being preached in the market two different groups of philosophical thought became attentive to Paul’s preaching. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers begun conversing with Paul concerning the message he was preaching. Some completely discounted what he was saying and derided him as one who picked-up and used other people’s idea even though he did not understand those ideas himself.[27] Others recognized that he was teaching a new religion.[28] Because of these teachings coming from his mouth they took[29] Paul to the Areopagus. There Paul was summoned to openly declare the new teaching that he was bringing to the city.

Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus. Vs 22-31

Paul stands in the midst of the Areopagus and proclaims message of Christ to his listening hearers. He begins his message by saying that he recognizes their religious pursuits.[30] And because of these religious pursuits they had crafted an altar to an “unknown god” just in case they had missed one. This altar that stood as a witness to the polytheism in that city Paul uses as starting point in his declaration of the one true living God.[31] What was unknown to the Athenians was going to be made known this day.

Paul proceeds to disclose “their place in the panorama of God’s global, history-spanning redemptive agenda.”[32] Paul works Biblically and methodically against each of the present philosophical worldviews to present the glorious Christ that reigns supreme over the cosmos. Paul begins with a proper understanding of God’s place as creator and self-sufficient. Drawing from the revelation in the Old Testament[33] Paul combats the ideas of the Epicureans with their distant, uninvolved gods and the Stoics with their pantheistic god. He did all this while under the main heading of decrying the worship of spiritually dead idols.[34]

Paul next point starts by looking at the origin of mankind. He declares that from one man God has made every nation that existed.[35] And his rights of creator extend to his sovereign governance of size and locations of these nations. [36] And God excises this sovereign right for a reason. So that people will, out of thankfulness and reverence for this creator God[37], search and find this God.[38]

What we see next is Paul quoting some of the works[39] written by these pagan philosophers. In both of these quotes the truth that God is not encapsulated in idols is shown to be believed by Greek philosophers.[40] Because, if we are God’s offspring and are living then we should not think that God dwells in a lifeless object.[41]

Paul then reaches the conclusion of his speech warning of the judgment that is to come. The Athenians had been living in ignorance[42] to the actual reality of the person and works of God. But God has graciously overlooked that ignorance. Now, however, God holds men accountable and calls them to repent of their idolatry. For the fixed date of judgment is coming upon the world. And this judgment is going to be carried out none other than Jesus Christ.[43] And all people have been assured of this by God’s action in raising Jesus Christ from the dead.

The Response to Paul’s Message. Vs 32-34.

Paul would tell the Corinthians that the aroma of Christ is life to some and death to others (2 Cor. 2:14-16). And that truth is shown by the response of the Athenians. At the first mention of resurrection some began mocking Paul’s ideas.[44] Others responded by showing a further interest into what he was talking about and wanting him to speak about this matter again.[45] But to those that had be appointed to eternal life (Act 13:48), they believed in the message and joined Paul after he had left the Areopagus.


With boldness and clarity Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and proclaimed the gospel. He did not, however, share some mechanical, prepackaged gospel presentation. Instead with what could be compared to a surgeon’s skill he presented gospel truths directly in philosophical and theological areas where those people lived in darkness. Because, as the Christ came amongst humanity and brought the gospel to our direct need. So too, Christ’s gospel still is designed to meet people where they are at and confront the idolatry they are serving. Once they are met and the Holy Spirit opens their darkened minds to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6) they then find their lives defined by the universal purposes of God.  And part of God’s purposes is not just for the removal of evil but for the salvation of a bride that is part of the evil. This is His plan of redemption that is going to bring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit glory for out eternity. It is our commission and honor to be a part of this plan.



Beale, G. K. We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York, NY: Doubleday Galilee, 1969.

Dever , Mark. The Message of the New Testament: Promise Kept. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2005.

Eswine, Zack. Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with our Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.

Johnson, Dennis E. Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007.

Schreiner, Tom. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.


Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Acts of the Apostles. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1994

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. In the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Rev. ed. In The New international Commentary on the New Testament. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.

Fernando, Ajith. Acts. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Longenecker, Richard N. The Acts of the Apostles. in vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Garbelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1981

Marshall, I. Howard. The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998

Polhill, John B. ACTS. In The New American Commentary, vol. 26. Edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992

Language Resources

Mounce, William D., Smith, D. Matthew., Pelt, Miles V. Van., eds., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.

Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. vol 3. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1930.


Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2007

Newman, C. C. God III: Acts, Hebrews, General Epistles, Revelation. The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Daniel G. Reid. Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 2004.

Winter, Bruce W. “Introducing the Athenians to God: Paul’s Failed Apologetic in Acts 17?” Themelios 31:3 (2006)

Internet Sites

Carson, D. A. The Worldview Clash, accessed 2 April 2009, 140001117/ 140001117/docs/c2s%20THeWorldviewClash.pdf?sec_id=140001117; Internet.

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