Filioque, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son

Filioque, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son

By Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what theologians call the “filioque.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“Latin for “and from the Son, ” a term referring to a clause inserted into the Nicene Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the Father only but also from the Son. The controversy that arose over this doctrinal point contributed to the split between the Eastern and Western churches in A. D. 1054.” *


“The doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds equally from both the Father and the Son.” **

From Scripture:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1)

In Isaiah, we see the continuing possession of the Spirit in this Messianic prophecy. Also, consider how the Spirit is without measure upon Christ as seen in John 3:34. Moreover, God anointed Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit and with power as seen in (Acts 10:38). Also, ponder, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:28).

Jesus’ exercising the power of healing and casting out demons is proof that the Spirit does things at Christ’s command. Because of this possession and anointing of the Spirit “without measure,” it follows that Christ can send the Spirit to His disciples. In the next passage of Scripture, this conclusion is unequivocal.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)

Christ says that He will send the “Comforter,” (“whom I will send unto you”) therefore, the latter part of the passage, which says the Spirit proceedeth from the Father, does not preclude the procession or sending of the Spirit from the Son. This is because of what Christ has said in the first part of the passage about His sending of the Spirit. The first and last part of the passage does not contradict but in fact, supplement our understanding of the sending of the Spirit.

In the next passage of Scripture, the conclusion regarding Christ sending the Spirit is undisputable.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7)

This passage likewise does not preclude the Father sending the Spirit. The Father and Son are in unity.

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9 ESV)

Charles Hodge’s Commentary on Romans 8:9:

Romans 8:9 — that he does to the first person of the Trinity. This was one of the points of controversy between the Greek and Latin Churches; the latter insisting on inserting in that clause of the Creed which speaks of the procession of the Holy Ghost, the words “filioque,” (and from the Son.) For this, the gratitude of all Christians is due to the Latin Church, as it vindicates the full equality of the Son with the Father. No clearer assertion and no higher exhibition of the Godhead of the Son can be conceived. (1)

What Hodge says is correct about “the full equality of the Son with the Father.” If this were not so, there would be subordinationism within the Triune God. Implicit within subordinationism is the idea that the Son is inferior to the Father.

The next two passages also speak of the Spirit of Christ. What does this mean?

“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:19)

These two passages do not preclude the phrase the Spirit of the Father. “The Spirit of Jesus Christ” as Hodge has said earlier does “vindicates the full equality of the Son with the Father.”

“Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Peter 1:11)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on 1 Peter 1:11:

11. what—Greek, “In reference to what, or what manner of time.” What expresses the time absolutely: what was to be the era of Messiah’s coming; what manner of time; what events and features should characterize the time of His coming. The “or” implies that some of the prophets, if they could not as individuals discover the exact time, searched into its characteristic features and events. The Greek for “time” is the season, the epoch, the fit time in God’s purposes.

Spirit of Christ … in them—(Ac 16:7, in oldest manuscripts, “the Spirit of Jesus”; Re 19:10). So Justin Martyr says, “Jesus was He who appeared and communed with Moses, Abraham, and the other patriarchs.” “Clement of Alexandria calls Him “the Prophet of prophets, and Lord of all the prophetical spirit.”

did signify—“did give intimation.”

of—Greek, “the sufferers (appointed) unto Christ,” or foretold in regard to Christ. “Christ,” the anointed Mediator, whose sufferings are the price of our “salvation” (1Pe 1:9, 10), and who is the channel of “the grace that should come unto you.”

the glory—Greek, “glories,” namely, of His resurrection, of His ascension, of His judgment and coming kingdom, the necessary consequence of the sufferings.

that should follow—Greek, “after these (sufferings),” 1Pe 3:18-22; 5:1. Since “the Spirit of Christ” is the Spirit of God, Christ is God. It is only because the Son of God was to become our Christ that He manifested Himself and the Father through Him in the Old Testament, and by the Holy Spirit, eternally proceeding from the Father and Himself, spake in the prophets. (2)

In these two passages, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown demonstrates the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father and Himself (Jesus).

Revelation 22:1 provides more evidence of the procession of the Spirit from the Father and Son:

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1)

There is a double procession out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. This conclusion is inescapable. The following comments by Henry make this clear.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Revelation 22:1:

22:1-5 All streams of earthly comfort are muddy; but these are clear, and refreshing. They give life, and preserve life, to those who drink of them, and thus they will flow for evermore. These point to the quickening and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, as given to sinners through Christ. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, applies this salvation to our souls by his new-creating love and power. The trees of life are fed by the pure waters of the river that comes from the throne of God. The presence of God in heaven is the health and happiness of the saints. This tree was an emblem of Christ and of all the blessings of his salvation; and the leaves for the healing of the nations, mean that his favor and presence supply all good to the inhabitants of that blessed world. The devil has no power there; he cannot draw the saints from serving God, nor can he disturb them in the service of God. God and the Lamb are here spoken of as one. Service there shall be not only freedom, but also honour and dominion. There will be no night; no affliction or dejection, no pause in service or enjoyment: no diversions or pleasures or man’s inventing will there be wanted. How different all this from gross and merely human views of heavenly happiness, even those which refer to pleasures of the mind! (3)

The next article is one of the finest examinations of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son!

Christianity 101 The Theology of the Ancient Creeds Part 6: The Procession of the Spirit:

By Greg Uttinger

April 01, 2003


The Western form of the Nicene Creed differs from the Eastern in what it says about the Holy Spirit. The Eastern form, following that adopted at Constantinople, says that the Holy Ghost “proceedeth from the Father.” The Western form of the Creed adds the words, “and the Son” — in Latin, the single word Filioque. The Western Church confesses a double procession of the Holy Spirit, a procession from the Father and the Son. (1) The Eastern Church regards this as heresy.

The Filioque clause originated in Spain in the 6th Century. The Council of Toledo (589), in denouncing Arianism, issued twenty-three anathemas and, at the same time, inserted the Filioque into the Latin text of the Nicene Creed. (2) From Spain, use of the Filioque passed into Gaul. Charlemagne asked Pope Leo III to sanction the Filioque. Leo judged the doctrine orthodox, but objected to altering the ecumenical Creed. Nonetheless, use of the Filioque continued to spread in the West and eventually won approval in Rome.

In the middle of the 11th Century, the Filioque became a major point of contention between the East and West. The Eastern Church complained that the West had added the Filioque illegally — that is, without an ecumenical council (30 — and that the doctrine itself was fundamentally wrong and dangerous. This remains the position of the Eastern Church to this day.

The Testimony of the Fathers

The doctrine of the double procession was no novelty when the Council of Toledo used it in its attack on Arianism. Consider the testimony of these ancient writers, two of whom actually hailed from the East (4)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) wrote in his Ankyrotos:

The Father always existed and the Son always existed, and the Spirit breathes from the Father and the Son; and neither is the Son created nor is the Spirit created.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, the enemy of Nestorianism, wrote in his Thesaurus (c. 424):

Since the Holy Spirit when He is in us effects our being conformed to God, and He actually proceeds from Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that He is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it.

St. Hilary of Potiers (356-359) in his De Trinitate said the Holy Spirit “is of the Father and the Son, His Sources.” Pope St. Damasus I in the Acts of the Council of Rome (382) declared:

The Holy Spirit is not of the Father only, or the Spirit of the Son only, but He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. For it is written, “If anyone loves the world, the Spirit of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); and again it is written: “If anyone, however, does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9).

And Pope St. Leo I (d. 461) said (Sermon 75:30):

The Son is the Only-begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, not as any creature, which also is of the Father and of the Son, but as living and having power with both, and eternally subsisting of that which is the Father and the Son.

But it was St. Augustine of Hippo who did the most to develop the doctrine of the double procession. “St. Augustine taught that the Holy Spirit is the bond of love that exists between the Father and the Son.” (5) In On the Trinity (400-416) he wrote:

[ With the Father and the Son] the Holy Spirit, too, exists in this same unit of substance and equality. For whether He be the unity of the Father and the Son, or Their holiness, or Their love, or Their unity because He is Their love, or Their love because He is Their holiness, it is clear that He is not one of the Two, since it is by Him that the Two are joined, by Him that the Begotten is loved by the Begetter, and in turn loves Him who begot Him (XI, 5:7).

And yet it is not without reason that in this Trinity only the Word of God is called Son, only the Gift of God the Holy Spirit, and only He of whom the Word is begotten and from Whom principally the Holy Spirit proceeds is called God the Father. I have added the term “principally” because the Holy Spirit is found to proceed also from the Son. But this too the Father gave the Son, not as if the Son did not already exist and have it, but because whatever the Father gives the Son, He gives by begetting. He so begot Him, then, that the Gift might proceed jointly from Him, and so that the Holy Spirit would be the Spirit of both (XV, 17:29).

According to Scripture

The central verse in this whole debate is John 15:26:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.

The Council of Constantinople lifted the phrase “proceedeth from the Father” directly from Scripture and placed it in the Creed. The Spirit’s precise relationship to the Son was not a pressing question at the time, and the Council did not speak to it one way or the other. Yet the Eastern Church argues from the silence of the text and of the Creed: since both say “from the Father” and no more, it is wrong, the East insists, to add more. This is not necessarily true, however. “From the Father” need not exclude “and from the Son” if there is other Scriptural evidence to support the clause.

We read in Matthew of one angel at the tomb on Easter Day, and this does not contradict Luke’s statement that there were two angels. We read in Mark 10 and Luke 18 of a blind beggar healed by Jesus on the outskirts of Jericho, and this does not contradict the statement in Matthew that there were two blind beggars healed. Similarly, it is clear that the saying of Jesus, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, does not contradict the statement that the Spirit proceeds also from the Son. (6)

Though Scripture does not say explicitly that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, it does say what amounts to the same thing.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 17:7).

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost (John 20:22).

Jesus promised that He Himself would send the Spirit. After His resurrection, He bestowed the Spirit upon His disciples with a breath, His own breath. The Eastern Church argues that this was merely a sign or sacrament; yet God reveals Himself in His works as He is in truth. The sending or breathing or procession in time presupposes and reveals the procession from eternity. (7)

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6).

If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit (or Breath) of the Son, then He must be breathed (spirated) by the Son. And the word is Son, not Christ or Jesus: the reference is to the ontological Trinity, to something within the Godhead, and not to the Mediator’s sending the Spirit at Pentecost. The Son breathes the Spirit from eternity, and therefore He has breathed or sent Him in time.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shew it unto you (John 16:13-15).

That which the Spirit has, He has “from the Son no less than from the Father.”

…and as the Son is said to be from the Father because he does not speak of himself, but of the Father (from whom he receives all things), so the Spirit ought to be said to be and to proceed from the Son because he hears and speaks from him. (8)

There is more. If the Spirit does not proceed from the Son, we have some serious theological problems. First, we lose intimate fellowship that is the Trinity. For the Holy Spirit has no immediate relationship to the Son. The Father’s Breath has no destination, nor is that Breath ever returned to Him. “It is only if the Spirit proceeds from both that the inter-communion of the persons of the Trinity is eternally complete.” (9)

Second, we have no way to distinguish the Son and the Spirit within the Godhead. We cannot even say that the Son is the second Person of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit is the third. After all, isn’t it true that a man’s spirit is closer to that man than is his son? And yet the normal language of Scripture and the order of historical revelation give us Father, then Son, and then Spirit.

If We Abandon the Filioque…

Ideas have consequences. Ideas about God have profound consequences, especially given enough time. The Filioque is not a minor matter, and whether the Church accepts or rejects it will have extensive and long-term cultural effects. The Dutch theologians and those influenced by their writings seem to have clearer understanding of this than, say, those in the Presbyterian tradition. For example, Herman Bavinck writes:

The three persons [in the Eastern perspective] are not viewed as three relations within the one essence, the self-unfoldment of the Godhead, but the Father is viewed as the One who imparts his being to the Son and to the Spirit. As a result, the Son and the Spirit are so coördinated that both in the same manner have their “originating cause” in the Father. In both the Father reveals himself. The Son causes us to know God: the Spirit causes us to delight in him. The Son does not reveal the Father in and through the Spirit, neither does the Spirit lead us to the Father through the Son. The two are more or less independent of each other; each leads to the Father in his own peculiar way. Thus, orthodoxy and mysticism, mind and will, are placed in antithetic relation to one another. And this peculiar relation between orthodoxy and mysticism characterizes the religious attitude prevailing in the Eastern Church. Doctrine and life are separated: doctrine is for the mind only: it is a fit object of theological speculation. Next to it and apart from it there is another fountain of life, namely the mysticism of the Spirit. This fountain does not have knowledge as its source but has its own distinct origin and nourishes the heart. Thus, a false relation is established between mind and heart: ideas and emotions are separated, and the link that should bind the two in ethical union is lacking. (10)

Edwin Palmer summarizes Kuyper’s analysis:

Moreover, as Abraham Kuyper has incisively pointed out, a denial of the filioque leads to an unhealthy mysticism. It tends to isolate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives from the work of Jesus. Redemption by Christ is put in the background, while the sanctifying work of the Spirit is brought to the fore. The emphasis is more and more on the work of the Spirit in our lives, which tends to lead to an independence from Christ, the church, and the Bible. Sanctification can loom larger than justification, the subjective communion with the Spirit larger than the objective church life, and illumination by the Spirit larger than the Word. Kuyper believes that this has actually been the case to some extent in the Eastern Church, as a result of the denial that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father. (11)

The Spirit comes to glorify the Son (John 16:14). If we detach the work of the Spirit from the blood of Christ and the word of God, we distort Christianity in a most frightful manner, and any mysticism we create will be more akin to Eastern pantheism than to anything in the Bible — excepting, perhaps, the idolatry of ancient Israel. (12)

Jim Jordan, writing on the Second Commandment, has connected Eastern Orthodoxy’s rejection of the Filioque with its use of icons.

God meets man in language, in personal discourse. Music may glorify that conversation — and it should do so in worship — but God does not meet man in music. Nor does He meet man in visual art of any sort. He meets man in the Word of God, in language; and because God in incorporeal, He meets man in language alone.

Another way to put this is that God meets man only through the Son of God, the Word. The Spirit is the glory, the music, the visual display of God; but God does not meet man through the Spirit. By insisting that icons are a separate channel of non-verbal communication with God and the saints, the Orthodox separate the Spirit from the Son. Understandably, they deny that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Biblical religion, however, insists that the work of the Spirit is to enable us to understand the Word of the Son, not to be a separate way of approaching God. God’s “No!” [in the 2nd Commandment] is a rejection of any attempt on the part of man to approach God apart from His Son. (13)

There are other implications we need to consider. For if the Spirit comes to do the work of the Father, we must expect to find Him most clearly revealed, not in the Church, but in creation. “If the Spirit is understood as proceeding from the Father alone, it is then natural to think that Spirit reflects the spiritual energy of the created world.” Grace then takes a back seat to Nature.

Subordinationism gave primacy to nature, and hence to the natural ability of man. As a result, man becomes in effect his own savior, and grace is cooperating grace, not prevenient. If the Holy Ghost proceeds only from the Father, then the Holy Ghost, in a system, which accords primacy to nature, becomes absorbed into nature. (15)

Theologically, rejection of the Filioque opens the door to Pelagianism, man’s ability to save himself; politically, it leads directly to statism. “The sure voice of God was therefore the natural voice, the state.” (16) Eastern Orthodox nations are no strangers to totalitarianism and imperialism.

The filioque is vitally connected with the advance of the Western church towards a strong anthropology (in connection with the doctrine of sin and grace), while the Eastern stopped in a weak Pelagian and synergistic view, crude and undeveloped. The procession only de Patre per Filium would put the church at arm’s length, so to speak, from God; that is, beyond Christ, off at an extreme, or at one side of the kingdom of divine life, rather than in the center and bosom of that kingdom, where all things are hers. The filioque put the church, which is the temple and organ of the Holy Ghost in the work of redemption, rather between the Father and the Son, partaking of their own fellowship, according to the great intercessory prayer of Christ Himself. It places the church in the meeting point, or the living circuit of the interplay, of grace and nature, of the divine and the human; thus giving scope for s strong doctrine of both nature and grace, and to a strong doctrine also of the church itself. (17)

The Filioque means that the work of the Father and the work of the Son coincide in the operation of the Holy Spirit. Grace is not deification, but the redemption and restoration of God’s creation. The Church, as the temple of the Holy Ghost, lies at the very heart of this process and in the center of the covenant love that exists within the Triune God.

Summary and Conclusion

In 1984 ABC correspondent George Bailey, writing for a secular audience, traced the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, the modern incarnations of East and West, to the Filioque. He pointed to “the mystagogical, or spiritual, turning inward of the Greek Orthodox faith,” which he connected with “the withdrawn spirituality of the Russian orthodox tradition.” This he contrasted with “the dynamic involvement in worldly affairs characteristic of Catholicism and, to an even greater extent, of Protestantism (the lay minister in a business suit).”(18) Bailey may have exaggerated cause and effect, but at least he saw something of the theological and creedal roots of the greatest political conflict of the 20th Century. Not many Western theologians were as astute.

The mysticism, cultural stagnation, and imperialism typical of Eastern Orthodox nations are logical consequences of rejecting the Filioque. Sovereign grace and political liberty are logical consequences of embracing it. And yet few Western writers have devoted more than a page or two to the Filioque. This is sad. Eastern Orthodox theologians at least understand that the issue is important, and they are quick to contend for the sanctity of their position. (19) It is time for Western theologians to show a like zeal in defending their own theological inheritance.


1. William G. T. Shedd, one of the few American theologians to write at length on this issue, summarizes the doctrine with these words:

Again, the Spirit, though spirated by the Father and the Son, yet proceeds not from the Father and Son as persons but from the Divine essence. His procession is from one, namely, the essence; while his spiration is by two, namely, two persons. The Father and the Son are not two essences, and therefore do not spirate the Spirit from two essences. Yet they are two persons, and as two persons having one numerical essence spirate from it the third form or mode of the essence — the Holy Spirit: their two personal acts of spiration concurring in one single procession of the Spirit. There are two spirations, because the Father and the Son are two persons; but there is only one resulting procession.—Dogmatic Theology, 2nd ed., vol. I (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 290.

2. An earlier council at Toledo (447) had already declared: “If anyone does not believe that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and is coeternal with and like unto the Father and the Son, let him be anathema.” The 3rd Anathema, in Rousas J. Rushdoony, Foundations of Social Order (N. p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1972), 120.

3. Protestants have not worried much about this point, and I will leave the argument to others. Whether the Filioque is biblical or not is logically a distinct issue.

4. The quotations that follow have been collected by James Kiefer in Creeds, “The Filioque,” 5-7, available at ( This is a remarkable web site, the more so since it is sponsored by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.

5. Ibid., 8. Keifer writes: “From all eternity, independently of any created being, God is the Lover, the Loved, and the Love itself. And the bond of unity and love that exists between the Father and the Son proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

6. Ibid., 2.

7. Turretin, III, xxxi, v, 309. Cf. Palmer, The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit, The Traditional Calvinistic Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 16.

8. Turretin, 309.

9. Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (N. p.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1974), 226.

10. Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 317.

11. Palmer, 18.

12. The golden calves, both Aaron’s and Jeroboam’s, were supposed to represent and serve as means of contact to Jehovah (cf. Ex. 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28).

13. James Jordan, Rite Reasons, Studies in Worship, No. 59, September 1998.

14. Robert J. Sanders, “Violence and the Filioque” (, April 1995.

15. Rushdoony, 125.

16. Ibid., 123.

17. Yeoman, quoted by Rushdoony, 123. Unfortunately, Rushdoony mistakenly traces this quote through Schaff. If anyone knows where the quote actually comes from, please e-mail me the reference.

18. George Bailey, Armageddon in Prime Time (New York: Avon Books, 1984), 37-38.

19. Most web articles on the Filioque are Eastern Orthodox. (4)

Greg Uttinger teaches theology, history, and literature at Cornerstone Christian School in Roseville, California. He lives nearby in Sacramento County with his wife, Kate, and their three children. For one of the best theological websites, go to

The Athanasian Creed and the filioque, see number 22:

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

3. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance

4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.

5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.

6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.

7. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.

8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

10. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.

11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;

13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

17. And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.

18. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;

19. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.

20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

21. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

23. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

24. And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.

25. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.

26. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

27. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

28. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

29. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

30. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.

31. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

32. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

33. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

34. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.

35. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

36. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

37. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

38. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;

39. From thence, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

40. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

41. And shall give account of their own works.

42. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

43. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

This creed is named after Athanasius (A.D. 293-373), the defender of orthodoxy against Arian attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Protestant Reformed Churches in America Official Website on the Ecumenical Creeds:

A creed expresses what the church believes to be the truth of Sacred Scripture. An ecumenical creed expresses certain fundamental truths of Scripture which are held by most Christian churches throughout the world. Three of these ecumenical creeds—the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed—are cited in Article 9 of the Belgic Confession as statements of truth which “we do willingly receive.” These ancient creeds express basic truths regarding the doctrine of the Holy Trinity over against various errors, which surfaced in the early history of the New Testament church. To these three the Protestant Reformed Churches have added the Creed of Chalcedon (AD. 451), which sums the truth of the Person and Natures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though this creed is not mentioned by name in the Reformed confessions, it is included because the doctrine set forth in it is clearly embodied in Article 19 of the Belgic Confession.

“The Symbolum Quicunque [Athanasian Creed] is a remarkably clear and precise summary of the doctrinal decisions of the first four ecumenical Councils (from A.D. 325 to A.D. 451), and the Augustinian speculations on the Trinity and the Incarnation. Its brief sentences are artistically arranged and rhythmically expressed. It is a musical creed or dogmatic psalm. The first part (ver. 3–28) sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity, not in the less definite Athanasian or Niceno-Constantinopolitan, but in its strictest Augustinian form, to the exclusion of every kind of subordination of essence…The second part (ver. 29–44) contains a succinct statement of the orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Christ, as settled by the general Councils of Ephesus 431 and Chalcedon 451, and in this respect it is a valuable supplement to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. It asserts that Christ had a rational soul (νοῦς, πνεῦμα), in opposition to the Apollinarian heresy, which limited the extent of his humanity to a mere body with an animal soul inhabited by the divine Logos. It also teaches the proper relation between the divine and human nature of Christ, and excludes the Nestorian and Eutychian or Monophysite heresies, in essential agreement with the Chalcedonian Symbol. (5)

In Closing:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7) Who can dispute that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit?

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. Charles Hodge, Commentary on Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 258.

2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1467.

3. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Revelation, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.2126.

4. Greg Uttinger, Chalcedon Foundation, The Theology of the Ancient Creeds Part 6: The Procession of the Spirit, (Vallecito, CA, Chalcedon Foundation), Online article…/christianity-101-the-theology-of-th…

5. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878), 1.37, 39.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes

** CARM theological dictionary

*** Reformed answers


THE FILIOQUE © John S. Romanides…/rom.03.en.franks_romans_feudalism_and…


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Baptism for the Dead, what does it mean?

Baptism for the Dead, what does it mean? by Jack Kettler

Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1Corinthians 15:29)

It has been a common interpretation of this passage to believe Paul is referring to a heretical group practicing baptism for dead people by proxy.

This passage is a favorite Mormon proof-text for one of their unique doctrines. Mormons are generally proud to point out that they still practice baptism for the dead, where Christendom has abandoned this Old Testament practice. In Mormonism, baptism by water is a necessary ordinance for salvation. Baptisms for the dead can only be performed in Mormon temples. Baptism for the dead in Mormon temples supposedly gives those who have died without embracing Christ the opportunity to do so after death.

How do we understand 1Corinthians 15:29? In addition, to whom is Paul referring in this passage of Scripture?

The Bible teaches that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. Using this scriptural approach, there is an Old Testament text to which Paul is referencing in 1Corinthians 15:29. When Paul talks about “they,” he is referring to the Old Testament practice in Numbers 19:11-22. This part of the law taught that an Israelite who touched a dead body became unclean and consequently unable to approach the Lord resulting in being cut off from covenant community. Contact with a dead body by an Israelite polluted him. In redemptive history, such contact served to demonstrate that the individual was under the biblical condemnation of death, the result of sin. No one but Jesus because of His sinless perfection, could come into contact with death and not be contaminated. Only Christ is able to vanquish the power of uncleanness and death.

How do we understand this baptism and its mode? An accurate understanding of baptism is crucial for a proper understanding of the passage.

As a necessary excursus, in Hebrews 9:10 we read:

[ceremonies and offerings]

“which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” The writer of Hebrews is discussing how the ceremonies of the Old Testament pointed to the finished work of Christ. In Hebrews 9:10, the writer says that those Old Testament ordinances applied until the time of the New Covenant. Among those extraneous regulations of the Old Covenant, note how the writer refers to “divers washings.” In the Greek, this passage mentioning “divers washings” is accurately translated “various baptisms.” In addition to these First-Century Jewish “washings,” i.e. baptisms, there were Old Covenant baptisms.

Were these ceremonial baptisms done by immersion? The “washings” referenced in Hebrews cannot be understood as immersions because of availability of water considerations. The Jews would not immerse furniture; “and, coming from the market-place, if they do not baptize themselves, they do not eat; and many other things there are that they received to hold, baptisms of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, and couches” (Mark 7:4). If we understand that baptism can be done by sprinkling or pouring, then we find a satisfactory interpretation of Hebrews 9:10; Mark 7:4 and the Old Testament text to which Paul is referring to in Numbers 19 This sprinkling in Numbers 19:13 is equivalent to the washings, or “baptismois” (baptisms) in Hebrews 9:10 and is, therefore, a baptism..

Paul is revealing to us that the Israelite who had been contaminated by contact with the dead was not only unable to approach the Lord’s tabernacle in Numbers 19:13, he in fact, would also be cut off from Israel because of his defilement. What was the Old Testament solution for this contamination resulting from defilement in touching a dead body? The remedy found in the law was that the unclean individual must be sprinkled or baptized with the water of purification on the third day, as is seen in verses 13 and 17.

The unclean person would not be cleansed until the seventh day, as is seen in verse 19.

A Holy God could never have sin in His presence. The certainty of death exhibits that we are all spiritual rebels, debased and unclean in the sight of the Lord. Paul’s assertion in 1Corinthians 15:29 affirms that the water of purification in Numbers 19 is a ceremonially cleansing, which in reality is accomplished by Christ’s resurrection.

By following the prescription of the law (the water of purification in Numbers 19), the power of death was broken. The unclean person could be made clean and able to approach the Lord and be restored to the covenant people. The water of purification in Numbers 19 was a shadow or type, like the blood of bulls and goats that in reality could never uproot or take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). The water of purification in Numbers 19 also could never truly cleanse the pollution caused by sin. It was a type or shadow, which finds fulfillment in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.

The teaching of Paul in 1Corinthians 15:29 now becomes clear; “they,” or the Jewish practice based upon the law of God in Numbers 19, foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ. Today it would be wrong for Christians to practice the law of Numbers 19, and that is why Paul says “they” in Corinthians rather than “we.” This Old Testament Jewish practice foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection. To continue this Old Testament practice today would be to reproach the finished work of Christ by going back to a type or shadow of weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9).

Paul, in 1Corinthians 15:29 sets forth a splendid picture of the resurrection foreshadowed in Numbers 19. Paul was not referring to the practice of some unknown heretical group for proof of the resurrection; he was referring the Old Testament Jewish practice in Numbers 19, an incredible foreshadowing of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. When the apostle in 1Corinthians 15:29 says, “Else what shall they do” he is referring to the Jews, the Old Testament covenant people of God.

The interpretation argued for in this article is not only consistent with types and shadows finding fulfillment in Christ, but it also does not depend on the purely speculative and unsatisfactory explanation of Paul referring to some unknown heretical practice in defending a vital doctrine of the Christian Faith; namely, the resurrection of Christ. It refers to the Old Covenant Jewish practice now fulfilled in Christ.

An additional line of argumentation for this understanding of 1Corinthians 15:29 comes from contextual evidence within the book of 1Corinthians where Paul quotes the Old Testament in the book. In fact, Paul quotes the Old Testament in 1Corinthians 33 times.

To give a few examples:

1Corinthians 1:19 Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14
1Corinthians 1:31 Paul quotes Jeremiah 9:23- 24
1Corinthians 2:9 Paul quotes Isaiah 64:3
1Corinthians 5:13 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 13:5
1Corinthians 6:16, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24
1Corinthians 10:7 Paul quotes Exodus 32:6
1Corinthians 10:1-11 Paul is mentioning what happened to Israel in the wilderness
1Corinthians 14:21 Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11-12
1Corinthians 14:21 – Isaiah 28:11-12
1Corinthians 15:3 – Isaiah 53:8-10
1Corinthians 15:4 – Psalms 16:10
1Corinthians 15:25 – Psalms 110:1
1Corinthians 15:27 Paul quotes Psalm 8:6
1Corinthians 15:32 Paul quotes Isaiah 22:13
1Corinthians 15:45 Paul quotes Genesis 2:7
1Corinthians 15:55 Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14

Are we really to believe after Paul’s quotes from the Old Testament in 1Corinthians to prove his points that in 15:29 he inconsistently breaks his background context and refers to a practice by an unknown group of people engaged in a heretical practice? Especially after verse 27, in which Paul is quoting Psalm 8:6. Then in verse 32, Paul is quoting Isaiah 22:13. Paul quotes the Old Testament eight times in chapter 15. Contextually, it makes no sense for Paul right in between verse 27 and 32 to refer to a heretical practice by an unidentified group to defend the resurrection, a cardinal doctrine of the faith.

Contextually, we can add to the list:

1Corinthians 15:29 where Paul is referring to the Jewish practice in Numbers 19:13; 17; 19 regarding ceremonial baptisms.

I first heard of the connection between Corinthians and Numbers years ago from Rev. Steven M. Schlei from Loveland, CO.

What about the preposition “huper” in the translation of 1Corinthians 15:29?

In 1Corinthians 15:29, we find Greek preposition huper, which is translated in English as “for.” What will those do who are baptized for the dead and if the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Normally, huper means “for the benefit of,” or “on behalf of.”

This is why translators and commentators have always believed the passage in 1Corinthians 15:29 must be some vicarious baptism that some unknown esoteric aberrational group was practicing.

Can huper be translated differently?

In the New Testament, huper appears 160 times. Of these, huper is used a majority of times with words in the genitive case. Of particular interest for us is the text in question where it is translated “for” in 1 Corinthians 15:29, but it is also translated as “concerning” in Romans 9:27 and “because” in Philippians 1:7.

Consider what Joel R. White has written in his article titled: Baptized On Account Of The Dead:

“As for the preposition υπέρ, it is to be understood in its causal sense and is best translated “because of” or, more precisely, “on account of.” Standard grammars and lexicons give ample evidence for this usage in the NT usage in usage in the NT 63

63 See, in addition to BAGD, H. Riesenfeld, “υπέρ,” TDNT, 8.514; J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh: Clark, 1963) 270-71; H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927) 111. Υπέρ has an unambiguously causal sense when it describes the grounds for giving thanks or offering praise (Rom 15:9; 1Cor 10:30; Eph. 1:16; 5:20). It also seems to have a causal sense in many of the instances in which it is linked to suffering (Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26; 21:13; 2Cor 12:10; Eph. 3:13; 2Thess. 1:5). In Phil 1:29 this is undoubtedly so, for there we have two instances of υπέρ, the first, υπέρ Χριστού, giving the cause or ground of the Philippians’ suffering; the second, υπέρ αυτού, stating its purpose. Additionally, a causal sense is possible, if not likely, in Rom 1:5; 15:8; 2Cor 12:8;” (1)

James R. Rogers, in his article on Baptism for the Dead writes:

“Nevertheless, this is not the only way to take huper. Indeed, the Scriptures also use the word to mean “on account of” or “because of.” For example, huper appears in Romans 15:9, “the Gentiles…glorify God for His mercy.” Quite obviously Gentiles do not give glory to God for the benefit of mercy—mercy does not benefit from the glory we give God. Rather, we glorify God on account of or because of His mercy. So, too, in 1Corinthians 15:3, Paul writes that “Christ died for our sins.” Now, Christ did not die for the benefit of our sins. Rather, he died on account of or because of our sins. This use of huper occurs often (see, e.g., 2Cor. 12:8, Eph. 5:20, Heb. 5:1, 7:27, Acts 5:41, 15:26, and 21:13). I also consulted several of the best Greek lexicons, and pestered a couple of Greek scholars. All held that this is a permissible reading of the word. If so, then 1Corinthians 15:29 can be properly translated or read as the following:

Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized because of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized because of the dead?” (2)

If White and Rogers are correct in their examples of the alternative translation and usage of huper, then the above interpretation holds up.

Significantly, A.T. Robertson M.A. D.D., L.I.D., regarding υπέρ notes:

“A more general idea is that of ‘about’ or ‘concerning.’ Here υπέρ encroaches on the province of περί. Cf. 2Cor. 8:23, υπέρ Τίτου, 2Th. 2:1 ὑπὲρ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου. Perhaps 1Cor. 15:29 comes in here also. Moulton1 finds commercial accounts in the papyri, scores of them with ὑπὲρ in the sense of ‘to.'” (3)

In the Greek English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, we see other uses of ὑπὲρ under the heading:

“d. because of to denote moving cause or the reason because of, for the sake of… and under f. about, concerning (about equivalent to περί).” (4)

In conclusion, as noted, the Greek preposition translated “for” in 1Corinthians 15:29 is huper. It is possible to say that Paul is not writing about being baptized “in the place of,” or “on behalf of,” or “for” a dead person at all, as has been seen by the contrary evidence in how huper may be translated.

Since this is possible, then according to the context of 1Corinthians 15:29, huper could be translated “because of” or “on account of.” If huper can mean this, then the 1Corinthians 15:29 text can be properly translated: “Else what shall they do which are baptized because of the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized because of the dead?” or, “Else what shall they do which are baptized on account of the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized on account of the dead?”

In light of the above and considerations that follow, based on exceptions to a general grammatical rule involving the Greek preposition huper, we could translate Paul in 1Corinthians 15:29 to be saying: “else what do they, the Jews, mean by ceremonially washing or baptizing because of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why do the Jews ceremonially wash or baptize on account of the dead?”

In light of the different usage and the adaptability of the preposition “huper”, its use in 1Corinthians, 15:29 is by no means restricted to the translation conveying the idea of only proxy baptisms. In the matter of 1Corinthians 15:29 we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. The connection between 1Corinthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-22 is the most convincing interpretation.

To quote Joel R. White again in regards to 1Corinthians 15:29:

“Students of this passage have struggled to make sense of this curious reference, offering an astonishing number of diverse interpretations. In the past thirty years, however, interest in the subject has fallen off as scholars reached an impasse concerning its meaning. There has been only a trickle of new ideas, and curtailing close to a consensus on the proper interpretation has emerged. This has led to an exegetical agnosticism on the part of many scholars.” (5)

This conclusion of “exegetical agnosticism” is certainly unsatisfying for the Christian apologist. The solution argued for in the above article has the benefit of using Scripture as the best interpreter of Scripture. Moreover, it does not rip verse 29 out of context from verses 27, and 32 where Paul is quoting the Old Testament. The hesitancy of some to agree with this interpretation may be because of a prior commitment to a particular mode of baptism.

Have any theologians in church history seen the connection of 1Coringthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-13?

Consider the leading 19th Century Southern Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, and the connection between 1Corinthians 15:29 and Numbers 19:11-13:

Baptism for the Dead by Robert L. Dabney:

“The instructive and almost exhaustive treatise of Dr. Beattie upon 1 Cor. 15:29 suggests still another explanation which readers may compare with those recited by him. I first heard this from that devout, learned and judicious exegete, Rev. J. B. Ramsey, D. D., of Lynchburg, Va. He advocated it, not claiming originality for it. This explanation supposes that the holy apostle refers here to the Mosaic law of Num. 19:11-13, which required the Hebrew who had shared in the shrouding and burial of a human corpse to undergo a ceremonial uncleanness of seven days, and to deliver himself from it by two sprinklings with the water of purification containing the ashes of the burned heifer. This view is sustained by the following reasons:

I. We know from Mark 7:4, and Heb. 9:10 (“As the washing [baptisms] of cups and pots, brazen vessels and of tables.” “And divers washings [baptisms] and carnal ordinances”), that both the evangelist and the Apostle Paul called the water purifications of the Mosaic law by the name of baptisms. Thus it is made perfectly clear that if the apostle designed in 1Cor. 15:29 to refer to this purification of people recently engaged in a burial, he would use the word baptize.

II. This purification must have been well known, not only to all Jews and Jewish Christians, but to most gentile Christians in Corinth; because the converts from the Gentiles made in the apostles’ days in a place like Corinth were chiefly from such pagans as were somewhat acquainted with the resident Jews and their synagogue worship. This explanation then has this great advantage, that it supposes the apostle to cite for argument (as is his wont everywhere) a familiar and biblical instance, rather than any usage rare, or partial or heretical, and so unknown to his readers and lacking in authority with them.

III. This view follows faithfully the exact syntax of the sentence. The apostle puts the verb in the present tense: “Which are baptized for the dead.” For we suppose this law for purifying persons recently engaged in a burial was actually observed not only by Jews, but by Jewish Christians, and properly, at the time this epistle was written. We must remember that while the apostle firmly prohibited the imposition of the Mosaic ritual law upon gentile Christians according to the apostolic decree in Acts 15, he continued to observe it himself. He caused Timothy to be circumcised, while he sternly refused to impose circumcision upon gentile converts. He was at Jerusalem going through a Nazarite purification and preparing to keep the Jewish Passover, when he was captured by the Romans. His view of the substitution of the New Testament cultus in place of the Mosaic ritual seems to have been this: That, on the one hand, this ritual was no longer to be exacted of any Christian, Jew or Gentile, as necessary to righteousness, and that such exaction was a forfeiture of justification by grace; but on the other hand, it was proper and allowable for Jewish Christians to continue the observance of their fathers, such as the seventh day Sabbath, and the scriptural Mosaic ritual (not the mere rabbinical traditions) so long as the Temple was standing, provided their pious affections and associations inclined them to these observances.

IV. Dr. Ramsey’s explanation is faithful to the idiomatic usage of the Greek words in the text. He correctly supposes that the apostle’s term, “baptized,” describes a religious water purification by sprinkling, founded on biblical authority; and here, perhaps, is the reason why expositors with immersionist tendencies have been blind to this very natural explanation; their minds refused to see a true baptism in a sprinkling, where the Apostle Paul saw it so plainly. Then, Dr. Ramsey uses the word “the dead” (nekron) in its most common, strict meaning of dead men; and that in the plural; not in the singular, as of the one corpse of Jesus. He also employs the preposition “for” (huper) in a fairly grammatical sense for its regimen of the genitive case; “on account of the dead.”

V. Lastly, the meaning thus obtained for the apostle’s instance coheres well with the line of his logic. If there be no resurrection what shall they do who receive this purification by water and the ashes of the heifer from the ceremonial uncleanness incurred on account of the corpses of their dead brethren and neighbors which they have aided to shroud and bury? If there be no resurrection, would there be any sense or reason in this scriptural requirement of a baptism? Wherein would these human corpses differ from the bodies of goats, sheep, and bullocks, dressed for food, without ceremonial uncleanness? Had Moses, inspired of God, not believed in the resurrection, he would not have ordained such a baptism as necessarily following the funeral of a human being. His doctrine is, that the guilt of sin is what pollutes a human being, the soul spiritually, and even the material body ceremonially; that bodily death is the beginning of the divine penalty for that guilt: that hence where that penalty strikes it makes its victim a polluted thing {herein). Hence even the man who touches it is vicariously polluted, as he would not be by the handling of any other material clod, and so needs purification. For all this points directly to man’s immortality, with its future rewards and punishments; and these affecting not only the spirit but the body which is for a time laid away in the tomb, to be again reanimated and either to share the continued penalty of sin, or, through faith to be cleansed from it by the blood of Christ, and thus made to re-enter the New Jerusalem.” (6)

Robert Lewis Dabney (1829–1898) was one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 19th century. A Southern Presbyterian, he was a teacher, statesman, writer, and social critic, as well as theologian, and taught at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. In the American Civil War, he once served as Chief of Staff to the Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson. His work, especially his Systematic Theology, has been highly regarded by scholars from Benjamin Warfield to Karl Barth.


1.Joel R. White Baptized On Account Of The Dead: The Meaning Of 1 Corinthians 15:29 In Its Context. Biblische Ausbildung am Ort, Vienna, Austria Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL) 116/3 (1997) 487- 499.

2. Biblical Horizons Newsletter
No. 76: Baptism for the Dead
by James R. Rogers
http: //www.biblicalhorizons. com/biblical-horizons/no-76-baptism-for-the-dead/

3. A.T. Robertson M.A. D.D., L.I.D., A Grammar Of The Greek New Testament In The Light Of Historical Research, (Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee), p. 632.

4. Walter Bauer, Greek English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (The University of Chicago Press, Printed in the United States of American) p. 839.

5. Joel R. White Baptized On Account Of The Dead: The Meaning Of 1 Corinthians 15:29 In Its Context. Biblische Ausbildung am Ort, Vienna, Austria Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL) 116/3 (1997) 487- 499.

6. Robert L. Dabney Baptism for the Dead by (Appeared in the Christian Observer, February 3, 1897; vol. 84:5), pg. 10.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more research see:

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson Editors Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1 Corinthians by Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 695-752

Paul’s Use of The Old Testament in 1Corinthians by Davide Verlingieri online PDF

James W. Dale Vol. 1-4; Classic Baptism; Judaic baptism; Johannic Baptism; Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey

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Adiaphora, a Study in Liberty and its Boundaries

Adiaphora, a Study in Liberty and its Boundaries by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what is called “adiaphora.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!


“Actions or beliefs which are neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture, and thus left to the liberty of the conscience; issues of theology or morals to which scripture does not speak definitively.”*


“Teachings and practices that are neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture. An example might be whether or not to use a sound-board in a church, to meet in a tent or a building, to have two or more services or simply one on the day of worship.” **

From Wikipedia:

In Pyrrhonism, “adiaphora” indicates things, which cannot be logically differentiated. Unlike in Stoicism, the term has no specific connection to morality. In Stoicism, “adiaphora” indicates actions that morality neither mandates nor forbids. In the context of Stoicism, “adiaphora” is usually translated as “indifferents.”

When considering the above definitions, one might ask, how could there be disagreements on such seemingly trivial matters. Simply said, adiaphora it could be said is not majoring in minors. Unfortunately, what is obvious to some is not oblivious to others. When considering that a man has fallen sinful nature, majoring in minors can quickly become the norm when approaching seemingly matters of indifference.

From Scripture:

“But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” (1 Corinthians 8:8-13)

When looking at Scriptural evidence on the topic of adiaphora, you find 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 frequently referenced. The following commentary evidence will look at the issues involved. Paramount, to this to this issue will be the very real danger of causing a weaker believer to stumble, and at the same time in preserving real Christian liberty. This side of heaven, majoring in minors can become the cause of disagreements among brothers, and even leading to church conflicts. What is considered adiaphora to one may not be to another. This is why there are conflicts and offenses. The following commentary evidence is not a digression or going off topic; it is directly related to differences among brothers to seeming indifferent matters.

With that said, the commentators will set explain how the apostle Paul instructs believers on how to not offend their brethren in matters of dispute.

The New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:9-13:

4. Sin

8: 9–13

9. But beware that this right of yours not become a hindrance to those who are weak.

With an adversative, Paul indicates that although he agrees with the general sentiment of the quotation (v. 8), he rejects the context in which it is used. In preceding verses (vv. 1–2), he had told the Corinthians that knowledge and love must go hand in hand. Knowledge by itself results in arrogance, but when it is accompanied by love, it edifies. And Paul, discovering an absence of love in the conduct of some Corinthians (compare Rom. 14:15), now registers a pastoral objection.

Paul detects a dangerous attitude that will undermine the unity of the church. He commands the readers to beware of their own conduct. He drafts the phrase this right of yours, in which the pronoun this reflects a trace of his dislike for the apparent haughtiness of some Corinthians (see Luke 15:30). Moreover, this is the second time the word weak occurs in this chapter (see v. 7). If this expression comes not from Paul but from these spiritually strong Corinthians, a measure of arrogance seems obvious. They aggressively claim for themselves the right to Christian liberty.

However, just as knowledge without love produces pride, so freedom without love generates arrogance. The Corinthians have the right to assert their freedom to eat food, for Paul himself teaches that “no food is unclean in itself” (Rom. 14:14). Yet Christian liberty must always be observed in the context of love for one’s neighbor in general and the spiritually weak brother or sister in particular.

The right that a Christian legitimately exercises should never become a hindrance to a fellow believer. Paul uses the word stumbling block to describe a specific obstacle a Christian can place on someone’s pathway. And the hindrance here is eating sacrificial meat, which was an offense to others in the church.

The freedom which a Christian enjoys must always be asserted in the context of serving one another in love (Gal. 5:13). His attitude should not be a hindrance to the weaker members of the church. Paul is not saying that those who are weak take offense but rather that those who are strong give offense. The members who promote their right to be free are exerting undue pressure on those whose conscience restricts them from eating certain kinds of meat. Paul, therefore, alerts the freedom-loving Corinthians to demonstrate love by not offending their fellow church members.

10. For if someone sees you who have knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of someone who is weak be emboldened so that he will eat food offered to idols?

We make these observations:

a. Dining. Taking a situation from daily life, Paul envisions the possibility of a spiritually strong Corinthian who sits and eats in the temple of an idol. This believer might be asked to come to a celebration held in one of the many dining rooms of the temple. There the meat of an animal sacrificed to an idol would be consumed. He could reason that the idol was nothing more than a piece of hewn stone and the meat was ordinary food. His faith in God remained strong. Further, he would refuse to break bonds of family or friendship. He would feel obligated to attend a feast to which he was invited and would consider the meal an occasion for fellowship with relatives and friends. Because of his firm knowledge of the Christian faith, he would not see any harm in his presence at a festive meal in a temple dining room.

Although Paul provides an illustration by using the singular you, his intention is to portray the reality of a common occurrence. The possibility is not unreal that Erastus, for example, who was the city’s director of public works in Corinth (Rom. 16:23) and a member of the local church, might attend such functions.

Maintaining Christian liberty, Paul does not reprove a person who eats in a temple dining room. He correctly observes that a spiritually strong believer is not worshiping an idol but only enjoying the company of family and friends. By contrast, in a later passage (10:19–20) Paul comments on idolatry and there delineates the sin of worshiping an idol. Now he calls attention not to the eating in a dining room but to the effect this action may have on a weaker brother. This action has the potential of leading a weaker brother into idolatry.

b. Conscience. The weak brother is probably not a Jew, for a Jew would not think of entering a temple to eat meat that was sacrificed to an idol. Instead, the weak brother is likely a Gentile who recently converted to Christianity, whose spiritual knowledge is limited, and whose conscience is weak. Paul now asks the strong Christian a question that probably conveys a touch of irony: “Does the act of eating in a temple embolden the conscience of the weaker brother?”

By his conduct, the one who is strong is leading the weak one; but the fact is that he leads his brother astray. If a spiritually weak person enters the dining room and eats, his conscience is defiled instead of strengthened (see v. 7). Hence, not the weak brother but his weak conscience is emboldened. The inner voice of his conscience no longer keeps him in check. At the beginning of his discussion of this subject, Paul noted that knowledge leads to pride and love leads to edification (v. 1). Paul now reiterates the same thought in different words. Conduct without love and consideration can be disastrous, especially for the spiritually weak who follow the example of the strong person to lead the way. The full responsibility for the spiritual health of the brother rests on the shoulders of the person who has knowledge. His inconsiderate conduct constitutes a sin against Christ.

11. For the weak brother for whom Christ died is destroyed by your knowledge.

When the weak brother eats sacrificial meat in a pagan temple, he associates his act with idol worship. His confidence is destroyed because of his qualms of conscience. Instead of being built up he is torn down. Paul looks at the consequences of the conduct of the knowledgeable brother who intentionally overrides the objections that the weak brother raises. Paul knows that the insensitive conduct of the brother with knowledge destroys “the weak brother for whom Christ died.”

What the apostle is saying in this verse concerns the spiritual life of the weak Christians. Here is a threefold explanation of Paul’s point of view:

First, with the word order, Paul makes every word count in this text; he stresses especially the verbs to destroy and to die. These two verbs are key words. In this sentence, the verb to destroy is in the present tense to indicate that the action already is occurring. The weaker brother “is being destroyed.” With the present tense, he conveys progressive action but not the thought that the weak brother “has been lost.”

Next, the immediate context (v. 12) features the verb to injure, wound in the present tense. This verb is a synonym Paul uses to explain the meaning of “to destroy.”

And last, the parallel passage in Romans 14:15 and its context shed light on the present verse. “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” If Christ paid the supreme sacrifice by dying for this weak brother, then the least a strong brother can do is to demonstrate neighborly love to fellow Christians by not eating certain foods. The intent of this verse is to depict the contrast between the death of Christ and the callousness of the strong Corinthians.

Two additional observations on this passage. First, Paul is not teaching that a strong Christian can cause a spiritually weak brother to perish, for he writes “brother” instead of “sinner” or “man.” He implies that Christ continues to protect this person from harm and will enable him to stand (Rom. 14:4). In brief, loving this brother so much that he died for him, Christ will also make him withstand temptation. Second, some translators introduce the helping verb could () or would () to convey the probability of experiencing ruin but not the actuality of being lost eternally. The weak brother is stunted in his spiritual growth by the lack of love from fellow Christians. Nonetheless, Christ has redeemed and sanctified him (1:2) and regards him as his brother (compare Heb. 2:10–11).

Paul no longer speaks in generalities but addresses the strong Corinthians personally. He writes, “your knowledge,” and calls attention to the loveless attitude of these Corinthians who are puffed up by knowledge (v. 1). Also, the use of the personal pronoun you seems to reveal that the current problem involved a number of people. By contrasting Christ’s death—as an illustration of the greatest love imaginable—with the loveless knowledge of some Corinthians, Paul encourages his readers to express their love to the weaker members of the church.

12. Thus you sin against Christ by sinning against your brothers and by wounding their weak conscience.

Conclusively, the apostle comes to the heart of the matter. He writes the verb to sin twice in the same sentence. In the Greek, he accentuates this word by having the form sinning near the beginning of the sentence and the form sin at the very end.

13. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble into sin, I will never eat meat again that I may not cause my brother to stumble.

The conclusion to this part of the discussion is that Paul himself will provide leadership in the Corinthian church even while he is physically absent. If the spiritually strong Christians fail in their responsibility to strengthen the weak, Paul will set the example. This verse is a conditional sentence that expresses reality and certainty. The readers can be assured that Paul indeed will do that which he is telling them.

Paul writes the general word food instead of the term sacrificial meat, which was at the center of the discussion (see vv. 1, 4, 7, 10). The matter of eating food should not become a stumbling block to anyone in the church. Paul himself scolded both Peter and Barnabas for their refusal to eat with Gentile Christians in Antioch (Gal. 2:11–14). He and his associates delivered the letter of the Jerusalem Council to the Gentile Christians (Acts 15:29). Jewish Christians even refused to buy meat in a local Gentile market for fear of eating food that had been offered to an idol. They fully kept the law of Moses (compare Acts 21:20). Gentile Christians, too, were careful in dining with Gentile friends.

For the sake of his Christian brother, Paul says, “I will never eat meat again that I may not cause my brother to stumble.” In the next chapter of this epistle, he states unequivocally that “to those who are weak I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that at least I might save some” (9:22). Paul was willing to forego eating certain foods so that he might advance the cause of Christ, the spread of the gospel, and the growth of the church.

Did Paul suggest that every Christian should become a vegetarian? No, not at all. But Paul is willing to go to any extreme to avoid hurting the conscience of anyone for whom Christ died. And if that extreme means not to eat meat for some time, Paul readily adapts. He submits even his Christian liberty to the principle of love. What he is asking every believer to do is to show genuine Christian love to fulfill the summary of the Decalogue: to love God with heart, mind and soul, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:37–39). Indeed, Augustine expresses a comment to this effect: “As long as you love God and your neighbor, you may do whatever you wish and you will not fall into sin.”

Additional Note on 8:10

The Jerusalem Council stipulated that Gentile Christians were to abstain from food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29). But in Corinth, Paul allowed Christians to enter a temple and participate in feasts held in one of its dining rooms. Paul’s consent in this chapter appears to be contradictory, especially because he forbade the eating of sacrificial meat in 10:14–22.

Is Paul lax in the one chapter (8:10) and strict in the other (10:18–22)? Hardly. What Paul is trying to do is walk the thin line between allowing Christian liberty and strengthening the consciences of the weak. To put it differently, in chapter 8 Paul addresses the strong but in chapter 10 the weak.

Sacrificial meat in itself is not harmful. If Christians should attend a feast where this meat was served, they were free to partake provided they did not hurt the conscience of weaker Christians. But whenever the eating of meat was directly associated with idolatry, Paul condemned this practice (10:7, 14). When a Christian became a participant in idolatry (10:18, 20), he would forge a spiritual association with an idol and thus become an idolater. Whenever Gentiles were worshiping an idol, a Christian should have nothing to do with them. He ought to know that God is a jealous God (Exod. 20:4; Deut. 5:8). In the words of James, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Practical Considerations in 8:12

In today’s world, sin is taken lightly. Often it is considered something amusing, especially when it relates to sexual immorality. When the news media mention sexual escapades of prominent people, the expression used is not “sin” but rather “character weakness.” Indeed, the thinking seems to be that the term sin should not be applied to anyone because it might damage a person’s reputation. Although the consequence of sin is evident, people like to pretend that there is nothing wrong.

In many parts of the world, sin is an embarrassment for the offender when his deed becomes common knowledge. Disgrace can be removed by a restorative action of presenting the offended party an appropriate gift. If the offense remains undetected, the guilty person continues to act as though nothing has happened.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, sin was a matter of frustration. Sin was compared to an archer who misses the mark and thus experiences failure. Sin, therefore, was a lack of skill that continual training could overcome. It was not something that was taken seriously.

The Scriptures, however, teach that sin is a personal affront to God and a transgression of the laws he has established. Sin is stepping over the legal boundaries within which we should live and work. Sin is an insult to God because we choose no longer to serve him but an idol. And idolatry is nothing but spiritual adultery. God loves his people like a bridegroom loves his bride. Instead of loving him as our spouse, we turn to idols and commit adultery.

Sin can be forgiven only through the shedding of blood—in the Old Testament era the blood of animals foreshadowed that of Christ. In the New Testament era, the sinner is cleansed through Christ’s blood shed at Golgotha. As the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews aptly puts it: “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). (1)

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)

From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 14:1:

“14:1-6 Differences of opinion prevailed even among the immediate followers of Christ and their disciples. Nor did St. Paul attempt to end them. Compelled assent to any doctrine, or conformity to outward observances without being convinced, would be hypocritical and of no avail. Attempts for producing absolute oneness of mind among Christians would be useless. Let not Christian fellowship be disturbed with strifes of words. It will be good for us to ask ourselves, when tempted to disdain and blame our brethren; has not God owned them? And if he has, dare I disown them? Let not the Christian who uses his liberty, despise his weak brother as ignorant and superstitious. Let not the scrupulous believer find fault with his brother, for God accepted him, without regarding the distinctions of meats. We usurp the place of God, when we take upon us thus to judge the thoughts and intentions of others, which are out of our view. The case as to the observance of days was much the same. Those who knew that all these things were done away by Christ’s coming, took no notice of the festivals of the Jews. But it is not enough that our consciences consent to what we do; it is necessary that it be certified from the word of God. Take heed of acting against a doubting conscience. We are all apt to make our own views the standard of truth, to deem things certain which to others appear doubtful. Thus Christians often despise or condemn each other, about doubtful matters of no moment. A thankful regard to God, the Author and Giver of all our mercies, sanctifies and sweetens them.” (2)

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroys not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:17-21)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Romans 14:19-21:

Verses 19-21. – Let us therefore follow after the things that make for (literally, the things of) peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another (literally, the things of the edification of one another). For meat’s sake destroy not the work of God. “Destroy,” or rather, overthrow – the word is κατάλυε, not ἀππόλλυε as in ver. 15 – is connected in thought with the edification, or building up (οἰκοδομήν) before spoken cf. “The work of God” is that of his grace in the weak Christian’s soul, growing, it may be, to full assurance of faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9,” ye are God’s building”). Upset not the rising structure, which is God’s own, as ye may do by putting a stumbling-block in the weak brother’s way. All things indeed are pure (i.e. in themselves all God’s gifts given for man’s service are so); but it is evil to that man who eateth with offence (i.e. if the eating be to himself a stumbling-block. The idea is the same as in ver. 14). It is good (καλὸν, not of indispensable obligation, but a right and noble thing to do) neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. The concluding words in italics are of doubtful authority: they are not required for the sense. For St. Paul’s expression of his own readiness to deny himself lawful things, if he might so avoid offence to weak brethren, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13. (3)

From the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20:

II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith on worship.

Comments in closing:

To summarize, adiaphora, is understood as an unsettled or disputable topic or subjects that deal with non-essentials. To illustrate, these type of issues would fall under secular categories of going to movies, music performances, sporting events, amusement parks, reading adventure stories, vacation traveling or not going. Many have experienced arguments about not going to movies for example because there are bad movies.

A weaker brother may see my liberty and then go to a bad movie. Implicit in this reasoning would be not to cause a weaker brother to stumble as a result of my liberty. The issue is, are all movies bad? How is it the stronger brother’s fault if the weaker brother goes to a bad movie, he could have gone to a good movie too? Banning the going to movies is not a solution to the weaker brother’s sin. This type of argument has been applied to the other examples above. There are bad sports, bad music, and bad literature. By using a fallacious non-sequitur argument, it could be said since there are bad things; we should abstain from all manner of things. This type of thinking leads to a monkish life.

However, it is very real that exercising your liberty may cause your brother to stumble. This is a real concern. We should never pressure a weaker brother to conform to our standards of Christian liberty. However, there is also the phenomena known as the tyranny of the weaker brother. I get together with a group of brothers for a cigar night. Also, various beverages are brought to the event. Some brothers who do not smoke or drink. They enjoy the spiritual fellowship and no one is pressured to participate in any liberty other brothers enjoy. The spiritual fellowship and bonding among men of the church are remarkable.

How do we sort all of these issues out, not offending the weaker brother, and yet maintain Christian liberty of conscience? The best statement on how to proceed with disputable matters can be found in the following quotation from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Scripture is where we go for answers and what may be deduced by good and necessary consequence.

In theology, adiaphora would involve the time the Sunday service starts, how many times communion is celebrated, should there be a mid-week service. Can a church service be held in a storefront or a park? Beside, in the area of theology, there are areas of seemingly irresolvable disputes that are not essential for salvation, such as eschatology.

For example, there are differing views regarding the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Four common views are the historicist (a method of interpretation which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events), preterist (past fulfillment), futurist (future fulfillment), and the idealist (called the spiritual, allegorical, or non-literal approach) views. The book of Revelation belongs to a class of literature called “apocalyptic.”

The Bible uses many literary forms. For example, it uses genera’s such as; law, historical narrative, wisdom, poetical, gospel, didactic letters, or epistles, predictive, and apocalyptic literature. In addition, there are differences in millennial views, such as Pre-Millennial A-Millennial Post-Millennial and a subset of Pre-Millennialism is Dispensational Pre-Millennialism. To some eschatology would be considered under the area of adiaphora, to others it would not.

How do we sort out and resolve the disagreements? The instruction from the confessional standard is a good rule of thumb where it says, “common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.” Christian prudence and charity are called for in the area of adiaphora.

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Good & Necessary Consequence Chapter 1.6:

vi. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1993), pp. 269-278.

2. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Romans, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.1815.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Romans, Vol. 18, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.411.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes

** CARM theological dictionary

*** Reformed answers


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Did you that Trump hater Mitt Romney’s religion started in a Hat?

Learn how Mitt’s religion started:

A magic rock, a hat, Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.*

  • David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Missouri: 1887) p. 12.

Learn more about this very unusual religion at

God Bless,

Jack Kettler

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Ordo Salutis, a Study in Salvation

Ordo Salutis, a Study in Salvation by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding what theologians call the “ordo salutis.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!

Ordo salutis:

“An ordered list intended to describe the logical order of the saving benefits of Christ’s work which are given to those who are being saved in order to show the relationships between those benefits in the saved person’s experience of them; literally, the order of salvation.”*

Ordo salutis:

“Latin for “order of salvation.” Theologically it is the order of decrees by God in bringing about the salvation of individuals. In the Reformed camp, the ordo solutis Isaiah 1:1-31) election, 2) predestination, 3) calling, 4) regeneration, 5) faith, 6) repentance, 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. In the Arminian camp, the ordo solutis Isaiah 1:1-31) calling, 2) faith, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification. ” **

From Scripture:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? ” (Romans 8:28-31)

From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Romans 8:28-31:

“8:28-31 That is good for the saints which does their souls good. Every providence tends to the spiritual good of those that love God; in breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, and fitting them for heaven. When the saints act out of character, corrections will be employed to bring them back again. And here is the order of the causes of our salvation, a golden chain, one which cannot be broken. 1. Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. All that God designed for glory and happiness as the end, he decreed to grace and holiness as the way. The whole human race deserved destruction; but for reasons not perfectly known to us, God determined to recover some by regeneration and the power of his grace. He predestinated, or before decreed, that they should be conformed to the image of his Son. In this life they are in part renewed, and walk in his steps. 2. Whom he did predestinate, them he also called. It is an effectual call, from self and earth to God, and Christ, and heaven, as our end; from sin and vanity to grace and holiness, as our way. This is the gospel call. The love of God, ruling in the hearts of those who once were enemies to him, proves that they have been called according to his purpose. 3. Whom he called, them he also justified. None are thus justified but those that are effectually called. Those who stand out against the gospel call, abide under guilt and wrath. 4. Whom he justified, them he also glorified. The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin removed in justification, nothing can come between that soul and glory. This encourages our faith and hope; for, as for God, his way, his work, is perfect. The apostle speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness.” (1)

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on Romans 8:30:

“Moreover … – In this verse, in order to show to Christians the true consolation to be derived from the fact that they are predestinated, the apostle states the connection between that predestination and their certain salvation. The one implied the other.

Whom he did predestinate – All whom he did predestinate.

Them he also called – Called by his Spirit to become Christians. He called, not merely by an external invitation, but in such a way as that, they in fact were justified. This cannot refer simply to an external call of the gospel, since those who are here said to be called are said also to be justified and glorified. The meaning is, that there is a certain connection between the predestination and the call, which will be manifested in due time. The connection is so certain that the one infallibly secures the other.

He justified – See the note at Romans 3:24. Not that he justified them from eternity, for this was not true; and if it were, it would also follow that he glorified them from eternity, which would be an absurdity. It means that there is a regular sequence of events – the predestination precedes and secures the calling; and the calling precedes and secures the justification. The one is connected in the purpose of God with the other; and the one, in fact, does not take place without the other. The purpose was in eternity. The calling and justifying in time.

Them he also glorified – This refers probably to heaven. It means that there is a connection between justification and glory. The one does not exist without the other in its own proper time; as the calling does not subsist without the act of justification. This proves, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. There is a connection infallible and ever existing between the predestination and the final salvation. They who are subjects of the one are partakers of the other. That this is the sense is clear,

(1) Because it is the natural and obvious meaning of the passage.

(2) Because this only would meet the design of the argument of the apostle. For how would it be a source of consolation to say to them that whom God foreknew he predestinated, and whom he predestinated he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified “might fall away and be lost forever?” (2)

Picture From the Monergism website on Ordo Salutis:

The “Ordo salutis” is a Latin term, which means “the order of salvation”. It speaks of a way of organizing all the events of redemption in the consecutive order that they show up in an individual’s life (as revealed in the bible) when he is joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration, etc.) is the work of God in Christ and is by grace alone.

All the benefits of redemption such as conversion (faith & repentance), justification, sanctification and perseverance presuppose a renewed heart (the existence of spiritual life) which believes. The work of applying God’s grace is a unitary process given to the elect simultaneously in Christ. This is instantaneous, but there is definitely a causal order (regeneration giving rise to all the rest). Though these benefits cannot be separated, it is helpful to distinguish them. Therefore, instead of imposing a chronological order we should view these as a unitary work of God to bring us into union with Christ. We must always keep in mind that the orders expressed in the following articles occur together or happen simultaneously like heat and fire. All aspects of the work of God continue together throughout the life of a Christian.

Jesus Christ is the source of all redemptive blessings, including regeneration, justification, sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Election is the superstructure of our ordo salutis (a blueprint, so to speak, of what God intends to do for elect sinners in time), but not itself the application of redemption. Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit, which brings us into a living union with Christ, has a causal priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation.

· God opens our eyes, we see.

· God circumcises/ unplugs our ears, we hear.

· Jesus calls a dead and buried Lazarus out of the grave, he comes; (Ephesians 2:5)

· In the same way, the Holy Spirit applies regeneration, (opening our spiritual eyes and renewing our affections), immediately and infallibly resulting in faith. (John 6:63, 65)

Historically in the Church, there has been disagreement about the order of salvation, especially between those in the Reformed and Arminian camps. The following two perspectives of God’s order in carrying out His redemptive work reveals the stark contrast between these two main historic views. Keep in mind that both viewpoints are based on the redemptive work, which Christ accomplished for His people in history:

In the Reformed camp, the ordo salutis is 1) election/predestination (in Christ), 2) Atonement 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30)

In the Arminian camp, the ordo salutis is 1) outward call 2) faith/election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorification.

Notice the crucial difference in the orders of regeneration and faith. While the Reformed position believes spiritual life is a prerequisite for the existence of the other aspects of salvation, the Arminians believe that fallen, natural man retains the moral capacity to receive or reject the gospel of his own power. Even with the help of grace, he still must find it within himself to believe or reject Christ. This has broad implications and raises questions like why does one man believe and not another? You might also notice that, according to Arminians, election is dependent on faith, not the other way around. This is no small matter …understanding the biblical order, while keeping in mind its unitary process, is crucial and has a profound impact on how one views God, the gospel, and the Bible as a whole.

But how can regeneration (life) come before justification? Some might ask. This is because causes and effects usually happen at the same time. God creates the world and it exists. It did not hesitate 5 seconds but sprung into existence the same moment he called it into existence. When a pool ball hits another, they touch at the same time, but only ONE is the cause of the other moving. Likewise, God breathes new life into us and we breathe. God opens our eyes and we see, He gives us a new heart and we believe. No time delay takes place. They occur simultaneously, but one actually CAUSES the other. Faith is the fruit of grace and as such, we can only ascribe all glory to God. (3)

Picture from the monergism web site

The Unbreakable Golden Chain of Salvation According to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

III.6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation.

VIII.1. It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

X.1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ ….

XI.1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone ….

XII.1. All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption …, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.

XIII.1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them ….

XVII.1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

XVII.2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Comments in closing:

We see in Romans 8:28-30, the “golden chain” of salvation. In this passage, there is a point-by-point sequence where Paul declares the indissoluble order of how God saves us. Paul makes it clear that our salvation from beginning to end is the work of a sovereign God. Hence, this “golden chain” is unbreakable because of God’s grace that can never fail His elect people!

Consequently, the biblical understanding of ordo salutis allows us to see clearly that God is the author of our salvation from beginning to end. God graciously enables and causes sinners to believe, to repent, to become Disciples of Christ, and finally to be gloried. This theology prevents the sinner from trying to take any credit for his salvation. God deserves all the glory

Notable Quotes:

“We are initially united with Christ in regeneration.” “We appropriate and continue to live out of this union through faith.” Third, “We are justified in union with Christ. “Fourth, “We are sanctified through union with Christ. “Fifth, “We persevere in the life of faith in union with Christ. “Finally, “We shall be eternally glorified with Christ.” – Anthony Hoekema

“Regeneration, faith, conversion, renewal, and the like, often [in the Bible] do not point to successive steps in the way of salvation but rather summarize in a single word the entire change which takes place in a man.” – Herman Bavinck

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Romans, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p.1800.

2. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Romans, p.2205.

3. Monergism website on Ordo Salutis

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes

** CARM theological dictionary

*** Reformed answers


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Monergism, Defined and Defended

Monergism, Defined and Defended by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding “monergism.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence, and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. Glorify God always!

This study will focus on a positive presentation of “common grace.” In fairness, there are learned Christian teachers who deny that there is such a thing as “common grace.”


“The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration—that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”*


“The teaching that God alone is the one who saves. It is opposed to synergism, which teaches that God and man work together in salvation. Cults are synergistic. Christianity is monergistic.” **

From Scripture:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

John Calvin’s comments are profitable to read on the Ephesians text:

8. For by grace are ye saved. This is an inference from the former statements. Having treated of election and of effectual calling, he arrives at this general conclusion, that they had obtained salvation by faith alone. First, he asserts, that the salvation of the Ephesians was entirely the work, the gracious work of God. But then they had obtained this grace by faith. On one side, we must look at God; and, on the other, at man. God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from us.

Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished. When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ. And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation. (1)

Two more passages from Scripture make clear the monergistic nature of salvation:

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Romans 9:16 get right to the heart of the issue:

God’s election is not of Jacob’s, or of any other man’s, willing or running; i.e. it is not from his good desires or deeds, his good inclinations or actions, or from the foresight thereof; but it is of God’s mere mercy and good pleasure. This text wounds Pelagianism under the fifth rib. Nec volenti, nec volanti,* was the motto of a noble personage. * Translation: Nor is it who wishes it, nor a flying (2)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers agrees with Matthew Poole on the Romans text:

(16) Of him that runneth. – A metaphor taken from the foot-races as St. Paul may very possibly have seen them practiced at Corinth. (Comp. Romans 9:16; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:16.) The meaning is that the prize does not depend on human will or human effort, but on the grace of God. (3)

A Monergistic Testimony:

By the grace of God, confession is made to the truthfulness of what the apostle Paul teaches in the following passage of Scripture:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (l Corinthians” 15:1-4)

In another place, he declares the following concerning man’s condition “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…that every mouth may be stopped, and the entire world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:10, 19). This was my condition. Paul goes on to say, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23. I had earned the wages of death. God in his mercy gave me the gift of eternal life. The only thing that I earned and deserved was death. Eternal life came as a gift. I am certain of this; there was and is absolutely nothing in me that caused God to give me this gift. Jesus Christ gets all the glory and praise.

Being faithful to what the writer of Hebrews sets forth:

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Look to Jesus by giving him the glory. God gave me the gift of faith. Salvation is by grace and even my faith is a gift. Ephesians 2:8 says “and that not of yourselves.” What is not of yourselves? Faith! Did I choose Christ and exercise faith? If so, then why did this happen? Who gets the glory? Does Christ get the glory? Do I get the glory? Why did I choose to believe? The next passage supplies us the answer:

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Ephesians 1:4- 5)

Was this salvation in my hands to choose or reject? If this were the case, then could I not glory in and of myself? How can that be so? If so, I would have done something, others had not done.

The following verse tells us that predestination is according to the good pleasure of his will:

“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

The doctrine of election more than any other teaching of Scripture takes salvation out of man’s hands and places it under God’s control. Men do not like God’s control. The cause of God’s choosing is in Him. If we insist that we played a part in God’s choice, then human merit is a factor. Salvation then becomes synergistic rather than monergistic. Biblical salvation is monergistic. Christ alone, by his complete and finished work, saved me.

Within a synergistic scheme, salvation becomes a cooperative effort. My work takes away from the work of Christ. How? I contributed. I played a part in my salvation. If I was not willing, then God could not save me. A synergistic scheme of salvation not only steals Christ’s glory, it limits God’s power. God can only do what I allow him to do within this type of system.

Salvation comes by the grace of God, not works from a man:

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)

This is the close of my testimony:

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen”. Romans 16:27. Heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). Amen! (4)

Confessional support from The Canons of Dordt, the Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine:

Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God:

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.

Article 11: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Conversion:

Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work:

And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man’s power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Comments in closing:

In contrast to monergism as defined above, synergism’s definition is that two or more causes work in tandem to produce results not obtainable by any of the causes independently. If this definition is granted, then it would be irresponsible for a Christian to say that God as one of the causes cannot accomplish His will and needs the help of other causes.

Salvation is monergistic, God is not constrained by man’s will in applying His work of salvation, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously enables and causes sinners to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. How could a sinner try to take any credit for his salvation? God gets all the glory.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Ephesians, Volume XX1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), p. 227.

2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Romans, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 511.

3. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Romans, vol.2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.242.

4. Jack Kettler, The Religion that Started in a Hat, adapted from Chapter 21, “A Personal Confession of Faith,” (Maitland, Florida, MCP Books), pp.419-420.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca writes

** CARM theological dictionary

*** Reformed answers


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Common Grace: A Bible Study

Common Grace: A Bible Study by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching regarding “common grace.” What does this mean? As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!

In this study, I have very few comments. This study is an example of how I approach a topic for ongoing biblical research. I learned a long time ago that it is profitable to write down your personal Bible studies. Not only for your own future reference but also to pass them on to those whom are mentoring their friends.

This study will focus on a positive presentation of “common grace.” In fairness, there are learned Christian teachers who deny that there is such a thing as “common grace.”

For example, Herman Hoeksema, a leading Dutch Reformed theologian/pastor and Professor David Engelsma both from the Protestant Reformed Church deny there is such a thing as “common grace.” In fairness to these men of impeccable character, at the end of this study, there is a link to a debate on common grace that reflects their point of view.

Common grace:

“The grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.” “Those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man through His general or special revelation, that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted. Or, (b) those general blessings, such as rain and sunshine, food and drink, clothing and shelter, which God imparts to all men indiscriminately where and in what measure it seems good to Him.” *

Common grace:

“Common Grace is the grace God gives to creation as a whole, to all unbelievers. In this universal non-salvific form of grace, God allows the sun to shine upon both the righteous and the unrighteous. He does not judge unbelievers right away due to the work of Christ on the cross by which people are saved. God endures with them for the sake of those who would believe. Unbelievers can be doctors, engineers, parents, etc., and function within God’s domain and counsel. God shows his goodness to all people when He feeds them, allows them to work, experience beauty, learn and have joy. It is also common grace that “restrains” the wrath of God until a later time.” **

From Scripture:

“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:9)

The Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 145:9 captures the idea of “common grace” when seen that God does not the desire the death of the wicked:

Verse 9. – The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works. “The Lord is good to all;” he “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send-eth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He “wouldeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live,” And his “tender mercies,” or “compassions,” are not only over his human creatures, but “over all his works” – all that he has made – animals as well as men, “creeping things,” zoophytes, all that can feel. (1)

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Matthew 5:45 also picks up on this when seen that God’s gift is given to the just and unjust alike:

As your heavenly Father hath a common love, which he extendeth to all mankind, in supplying their necessities, with the light and warmth of the sun, and with the rain; as well as a special love and favour, which he exerciseth only toward those that are good, and members of Christ; so ought you to have: though you are not obliged to take your enemies into your bosom, yet you ought to love them in their order. And as your heavenly Father, though he will one day have a satisfaction from sinners, for the wrong done to his majesty, unless they repent; yet, to heap coals of fire on their heads, gives them good things of common providence, that he might not leave them without witness, yea, and affords them the outward means of grace for their souls: so, although you are bound to seek some satisfaction for God’s honour and glory from flagitious sinners, and though you may in an orderly course seek a moderate satisfaction for the wrong done to yourselves, yet you ought to love them with a love consistent with these things; that so you may imitate your heavenly Father, and approve yourselves to be his children. (2)

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30)

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)

Common Grace from the Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms:

gratia communis: common grace i.e., a non-saving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good. Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust and all men have the law engraved on their hearts. Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.). (3)

John Calvin on Common Grace from Psalm 145:9:

“Jehovah is good to all, etc. The truth here stated is of wider application than the former, for the declaration of David is to the effect, that not only does God, with fatherly indulgence and clemency, forgive sin, but is good to all without discrimination, as he makes his sun to rise upon the good and upon the wicked. Forgiveness of sin is a treasure from which the wicked are excluded, but their sin and depravity does not prevent God from showering down his goodness upon them, which they appropriate without being at all sensible of it. Meanwhile believers, and they only, know what it is to enjoy a reconciled God, as elsewhere it is said — “Come ye to him, and be ye enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed; taste and see that the Lord is good.”(Psalm 34:5, 8.) When it is added that the mercy of God extends to all his works, this ought not to be considered as contrary to reason, or obscure. Our sins having involved the whole world in the curse of God, there is everywhere an opportunity for the exercise of God’s mercy, even in helping the brute creation.” (4)

John Knox on Common Grace:

“After these common mercies, I say, whereof the reprobate are often partakers, he openeth the treasure of his rich mercies, which are kept in Christ Jesus for his Elect … Such as willingly delight not in blindness may clearly see that the Holy Ghost maketh a plain difference betwixt the graces and mercies which are common to all, and that sovereign mercy which is immutably reserved to the chosen children.” (5)

Louis Berkhof on Common Grace:

“The origin of the doctrine of common grace was occasioned by the fact that there is in the world, alongside of the course of the Christian life with all its blessings, a natural course of life, which is not redemptive and yet exhibits many traces of the true, the good, and the beautiful. The question arose, how can we explain the comparatively orderly life in the world, seeing that the whole world lies under the curse of sin? How is it that the earth yields precious fruit in rich abundance and does not simply bring forth thorns and thistles? How we can we account for it that sinful man still retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior? What explanation can be given for the special gifts and talents that with which the natural man is endowed, and of the development of science and art by those who are entirely devoid of the new life that is in Christ Jesus? How can we explain the religious aspirations of men everywhere, even of those who did not come in touch with the Christian religion? How can the unregenerate still speak truth, do good to others, and lead outwardly virtuous lives?” (6)

Charles Hodge on Common Grace:

“That there is a divine influence of the Spirit granted to all men, is plain both from Scripture and from experience… to the general influence of the Spirit (or to common grace) we owe, – 1. All the decorum, order, refinement, and virtue existing among men 2. To the same divine agent is due specially that general fear of God, and the religious feeling which prevail among men, 3. The Scriptures refer to this general influence of the Spirit those religious experiences, varied in character and degree, which so often occur where genuine conversion or regeneration does not attend or follow.” (7)

Common Grace from the Dictionary of Theological Terms:

A term use to describe the goodness of God to a sin-cursed world, not including salvation. By His common grace, God places a restraint upon sin and its natural results and upon the immediate execution of wrath against sinners.

It is not merely negative. It includes the bestowal of favour and blessing of a general nature, but not of that special kind which leads to salvation. Thus, Prof. John Murray defined common grace as “Every favour of whatsoever kind and degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God.” (8)

Chapter 10 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Section 4.) Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, (1) and may have some common operations of the Spirit, (2) yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: (3) much less can men, not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess; (4) and, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested. (5)

(1) Mt 22:14. (2) Mt 7:22; Mt 13:20, 21; Heb. 6:4 ,5. (3) John 6:64, 65, 66; John 8:24. (4) Ac 4:12; John 14:6; Eph. 2:12; John 4:22; John 17:3. (5) 2 John 9, 10, 11; 1Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:6, 7, 8

While not using the term “common grace,” the Confession of Faith uses the term, “common operations,” which is virtually synonymous.

Common Grace by James Montgomery Boice:

[How do] millions of men and women respond to the true and even greater benevolence of God? All are recipients of what theologians call “common grace,” the provision of God for all persons; yet they fail to acknowledge it or allow it to accomplish the ends for which God dispenses such benevolence. Romans 2:4 speaks of this: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his [that is, God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you are in the same position as Joseph’s brothers at this point in the story (see Genesis 43:15-34). You have sinned against your elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, by denying his claims and refusing his proper lordship over your life. He has used means to awaken you to your need and bring you to an open confession of sin. But you have gone only so far as God’s tactics have forced you to go; even though he has been most loving and gracious toward you, you have not acknowledged his hand in these benefits.

I want you to awaken to God’s goodness. I want you to see that all you are and all you have are a result of God’s common grace to you.

Let me explain it from God’s perspective. God does not owe you anything. He does not even owe you a chance at salvation. When Adam and Eve first sinned against him in Eden, God could have judged them harshly and have sent them to hell at once; and if he had done that, He would have been absolutely just in his actions. Adam and Eve would have received nothing more than their proper desserts. If, acting in a different fashion, God had instead allowed them to live and produce offspring until there were literally millions of their descendants spread out over the entire earth to occupy it and pollute it by their abundant acts of idolatry, theft, fornication, hatred, greed, and other forms of sin, and then had brushed them all into eternal torment, God would nevertheless still have been just. No one could fault him. The righteous angels in heaven would still be able to cry out, as they do even today, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

God owes us nothing. Yet, as we well know, God did not immediately banish Adam and Eve to hell, nor did he later suddenly consign the masses of mankind to torment. On the contrary, though there is a judgment to come, God has continually poured out his blessings on men and women.

You have received such blessings. Donald Grey Barnhouse writes correctly, “You are not a believer in Christ and yet you are still out of hell. That is the grace of God. You are not in hell, but you are on earth in good health and prosperity. That is the common grace of God. The vast majority of those who read these words are living in comfortable homes or apartments. That is common grace. You are not fleeing as refugees along the highways of a country desolated by war. That is common grace. You come home from your job and your child runs to meet you in good health and spirits. That is common grace. You are able to put your hand in your pocket and give the child a quarter or a half dollar for an allowance. It is common grace that you have such abundance. You go into your house and sit down to a good meal. That is common grace. On the day that you read these words there are more than a billion and a half members of the human race who will go to sleep without enough to satisfy their hunger, The fact that you have enough is common grace. You do not deserve it. And if you think that you do deserve anything at all from God beyond the wrath which you have so richly earned, you merely show your ignorance of spiritual principles.”

Romans 2:4 puts the matter of God’s common grace to you and others as a question: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience?” The answer is, of course, you do–unless you have repented of your sin and turned back toward God through faith in Jesus Christ. By nature human beings are ungrateful. By nature you show “contempt” for God’s kindness. Yet it is precisely this kindness that God is using to bring you to repentance.

I quote Barnhouse again: “To despise the riches of God’s grace is the blackest of all sins. It far outweighs the sins that are a violation of righteousness. Fallen man has a fallen nature. That is why the Lord seemed to overlook the outbreaks of the flesh, knowing man’s frame and remembering that he is but dust (Psalm 103:14). You who boast, perhaps, that you are not guilty of the great fleshly sins should realize that the despising of God’s goodness is a sin that far transcends an act that might be called a crime under human law.

“Why is God so good toward the lost? He declares that the purpose of the riches of his goodness, forbearance and longsuffering is to lead man to repentance; and he further declares that man does not know the object of God’s goodness. Is this not a further picture of the state of man by nature? Can it not be seen that the dark ignorance of unbelief has brought a further fruit of ignorance of the grace of God? You are in good health? Why does God permit it? The answer is that he wants you to turn to him and acknowledge his goodness and accept the riches that he has for you. You have other blessings that come from the common grace of God. The purpose of such riches is to cause you to turn about-face and come to Him for further blessing.” (Donald Grey Barnhouse, “God’s Wrath,” The Book of the Revelation, vol. 2 Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1953)

God’s Love Commended

I have spoken of “common grace” in the sense that God’s genuine affection has been poured out upon all persons regardless of who they are or what wrongs they may have done. As Jesus said, God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). Common grace? Yes! But in another sense, it is not at all common. It is most uncommon. It is extraordinary, and it leads us to the most uncommon or extraordinary love of all. We find it in Romans 5:6-8: “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It is “while we were still sinners” that God has done everything for us. Here is love at its fullest. It is while we were still sinners and, in fact, oblivious both to the extent of our sin and to the uncommon kindness of God toward us in all things that God sent his own son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us.

Moreover, God goes to the unheard of length of commending his love to us by this fact. The word commend (KJV; “demonstrate,” NIV) is used in two ways in the New Testament. It sometimes means “to establish, prove or make certain.” In this sense the death of Christ certainly “proves” God’s love for us, the meaning the NIV translators have favored. But “prove” is a cold word. It has the temperature of algebraic axioms and corollaries. It seems remote. The other use of “commend” is “to recommend or set forth in such a manner that the matter appeals to the heart.” This surely is the fullness of the meaning here. The death of Jesus Christ proves the reality and demonstrates the nature of God’s unfathomable love. But more than that, it commends it to us in such a manner that we will repent of our sin–which left unrepented of keeps us from God–and instead leads us to embrace Jesus Christ as our own personal Savior.

Have you done that? If not, notice that the word “commend” (“demonstrate”) is in the present tense (“commends” or “demonstrates”) rather than in the past tense (“commended” or “demonstrated”). That is, it is not merely a past happening that today may be forgotten. It is a present reality, as much a force today as it has ever been. It is today–right now–that God is commending his deep and genuine love to you by Jesus’ death.

Today you and I may look back at Joseph’s brothers and fault them for their ignorance of Joseph’s identity and their slowness to repudiate past sin. But if we try, we can find at least some partial excuses for them. Their sin was long past. There was nothing they could do to change its consequences. As far as their recognition of Joseph was concerned, how could they possibly guess that this powerful Egyptian was the despised brother they had last seen as he was led off as a teenager into slavery?

There are no such excuses for us. We know there is God; the Bible says that only fools deny it (Ps. 14:1). We know that all we are and have come from God’s hand; the Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). When we stop to think about it, we even know that God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to save us by giving his life in our place. But do we acknowledge this? We do not–unless God awakens our consciences and turns us from our manifest ingratitude.

That is what you must allow God to do for you–if you have not turned from sin previously. You must allow him to turn you to faith in your older brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has loved and continues to love you perfectly. (9)

Comments in closing:

Anything that God does in revealing His will to man can be called common grace. Revealing anything to man is gracious. Any providential action whereby blessings come to the just and unjust alike is common grace. The opposite of grace would be judgment and wrath. It is a blessing to the unjust that a famine ends, a nation is spared from war, murders and thieves are brought to judgment rather than rape and pillage. That the unjust are not immediately consumed, is God’s grace. Many sinners, rather than experience calamity, produce works of art, contribute to science in which both the just and unjust are blessed.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.371.

2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 26.

3. Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Academic, paperback 1995), p. 130.

4. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary, Psalms, vol. 6, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, reprinted 1979), p. 276.

5. Ed David Laing, The Works of John Knox, (vol. 5, Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1856), On Predestination, p. 87.

6. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), p. 432.

7. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), pp 670-671.

8. Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Emerald House Group, Ambassador Productions, LTD), p. 93.

9. James Montgomery Boice, (Quotation from Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1987)

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes

** CARM theological dictionary

*** Reformed answers


The Myth of Common Grace by Garrett P. Johnson

Transcription of A Debate on Common Grace 9/12/ 03 distributed by the Evangelism Society of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church Grand Rapids, Michigan

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