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Rahab an example of faith in Hebrews 11:31

Rahab an example of faith in Hebrews 11:31 By Jack Kettler

The goal of this study is to protect the integrity of God’s Word and find an apologetic answer to a difficult case that is highlighted in Scripture. The possible apologetic solution dealt with in this study is a hypothesis.

“By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:31)

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” (Joshua 2:4-5 ESV)

“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

Was Rahab warranted in lying when she said the spies had departed from her house? James tells us that Rahab’s actions justified her. Specifically, what actions, lying, or receiving the spies with peace? The ninth commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” It seems convoluted to limit Rahab’s faith to only receiving the spies and not also hiding them and giving them advice on escaping.

Is the Bible contradictory here? It seems that the Bible is saying that lying sometimes can be justified. First, Rahab lied; second, she is listed in Hebrews as an example of faith. How do we understand these texts from Joshua, Hebrews, and James? Because of what James tells in verse 25 about Rahab’s faith and her lying to protect the spies seemingly is inseparable.

The traditional viewpoint on Rahab is that she lied in violation of the ninth commandment. God forgave her for the lie and commended her as an example of faith despite her sin, much like David’s adultery with Bathsheba, which is recorded in 2Samuel chapter 11. Despite David’s sin, he was still a man after God’s heart.

What about the midwives in Egypt?

Another case of lying is in Exodus 1:15-22, there is the story of the Hebrew midwives. Pharaoh commanded the midwives to kill the newborn male Hebrews. The midwives disobeyed the command. The midwives lied when questioned concerning their actions. The midwives “feared God” (Exodus 1:17) “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives…” (Exodus 1:20) God approved of the midwives course of action.

In contemporary history, we have a similar example of lying to save lives:

For example, the Corrie ten Boom family’s activity in the Dutch resistance is relevant. They risked their lives harboring those hunted by the Gestapo. Some fugitives would stay only a few hours, while others would stay several days until another “safe house” could be located. Corrie ten Boom became a leader in the “Beje” movement, overseeing a network of “safe houses” in the country. Through these activities, it was estimated that 800 Jews’ lives were saved.

The ten Boom family lied to the Gestapo, and many lives were spared from certain death. In modern-day evangelicalism, Corrie ten Boom has always been viewed as a hero who acted on her faith.

What about Jacob’s lie?

“Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn; [a lie] I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.’ And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, because the LORD thy God brought it to me [a lie]… And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am [a lie].” (Genesis 27:19-20, 24 KJV)

In the bigger picture, Isaac was standing in the way of God’s sovereign election. God overruled Isaac’s will, and God’s will is fulfilled. (Romans 9:11–13)

David feigned himself mad:

“So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard.” (1Samuel 21:13 ESV)

A solution to the dilemma that the story of Rahab presents us:

Is there a biblical standard that can excuse men for lying in the time of war?

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Is the enemy in the time of war your neighbor? See John Gerstner’s answer to this question under the for more study section.

Are soldiers in captivity suppose, to tell the truth endangering other soldiers or be tortured as a result of not telling the captors the truth? Other situations that can be contemplated are just as horrific. Then there are cases of a whistleblower or undercover narcotics detectives. Both examples involve a level of deception against evildoers.

R.C. Sproul in dealing with the case of Rahab admits she unequivocally lied. Sproul’s solution, in essence, argues:

“There are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth.” (1)

Rahab’s lie:

Is Sproul correct? Is this a solution to the seeming contradiction in Scripture?

Consider Sam Storms’ answer to this dilemma:

“Falsehood vs. Lie

It appears, then, that there are occasions when deception is ethically permissible. But note: not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is an intentional falsehood that violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth. So the question is not whether it is ever morally permissible to lie, but “What is a lie?” A lie is the intentional declaration or communication of a falsehood designed to deceive someone who has a moral and legal right to know the truth. A lie is telling an untruth to someone to whom you are morally and legally obligated to speak the truth. There are, however, certain occasions in which you are not under obligation to tell someone the truth (e.g., in times of war, criminal assault, and so on.).

A lie is an intentional falsehood that violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth.

I want to be certain that no one responds to this article with anything less than a fervent commitment to truth-telling. In arguing, as I have, that there may be occasions when the communication of a falsehood is ethically permissible, I am not suggesting Christians that should become lax or casual in their treatment of the truth. The truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Our goal should never be to wiggle our way around the truth or search for an ethical loophole. When the psalmist describes the person who is privileged to “sojourn” in God’s tent and to “dwell” on his holy hill (Ps. 15:1–5), among the qualities cited is speaking “truth” in his heart, refusing to “slander with his tongue,” and being the sort of person “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” “He who does these things,” David insists, “shall never be moved.” (2)


The Bible seems to endorse the concept of a hierarchy of ethics, in which one rule may take precedence over another rule.

Example 1. The Scripture forbids working on the Sabbath. “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day, you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2 ESV) There does not seem to any wiggle room here.

However, Jesus made exceptions for healing and doing good.

Example 2. It is wrong to kill someone. “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13 KJV)

However, if an aggressor or thief breaks in and is killed in a struggle, there is no penalty. “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” (Exodus 22:2 NASB)

Example 3. “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20 ESV) “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.” (Proverbs 19:9 KJV)

Nevertheless, the Hebrew midwives were blessed by God Exodus 1:20. Jacob lied and yet God blessed him Genesis 27:19-20, 24.

In addition, the Old Testament case laws endorse this hierarchy of ethics when distinguishing between first-degree murder, manslaughter, and legitimate self-defense. It certainly seems that Scripture allows leeway for some level of deception against evildoers.

There are three ethical possibilities to resolve this dilemma as Sam Storms develops a possible solution to the case of Rahab:

“Typically, people align themselves with one of three possible positions:

(1) Conflicting absolutism or “the lesser of two evils” approach – According to this view, sometimes two or more absolute principles will conflict and there is simply no way to avoid sinning. One must choose the lesser of two evils. In this case, lying is a sin, but it is less evil than allowing the spies to be killed. So, Rahab was wrong to lie, but she would also have been wrong to tell the truth. It was impossible for her to avoid sinning so she simply chose the lesser of two evils and should throw herself on the mercy of God.

(2) Hierarchicalism or “graded absolutism” – On this view there is an ordered hierarchy of moral values in which some have priority over others. When one cannot avoid making a choice, one should choose the higher of the two. In doing so, the other choice is no longer regarded as sinful. Rahab was exempt from telling the truth in order to save the lives of the two Israeli spies. She communicated a series of falsehoods, but did not sin in doing so.

(3) Non-conflicting absolutism – This is the view which says that it only seems or appears to be the case that two moral absolutes conflict. In reality, they don’t. In such situations, there will always be a third way or another option that does not entail committing a sin. In Rahab’s case, she should not have lied but should have trusted God to provide for her a way to protect the spies that didn’t involve sinning. On this view, Rahab was right to have hidden the spies, but she should then have refused to respond to the king or to have answered the question concerning their whereabouts. She could have said, “Come in my house and look around,” all the while praying that God would conceal their location from those searching for them.

I tentatively embrace view (2).

We must remember that communication of truth or falsehood can also be non-verbal, through our conduct or actions. So, for example:

Is it ethical for a Christian to post a “Beware of the Dog” sign on your fence or door to deter a burglar, even when you don’t own a dog?

Is it ethical for a Christian to give the impression that one is at home by leaving on the lights, again to frighten off would-be intruders or thieves?

Is it ethical for a woman, when attacked by a rapist, to fake a heart attack or to pretend to faint or to call out to her husband as if he were close by when in fact he is not?

Were the Allies in WWII justified in deceiving Hitler concerning the location of the Normandy invasion?

Is it ethical for the police to operate radar in unmarked cars?

Is it ethical for the police to conduct undercover, plain-clothes investigations which by definition demand that they deceive people concerning their identity and intent?

Is it ethical for those in the military to wear camouflage uniforms in order to mislead their enemies concerning their location?

Let’s add to these examples the biblical case of the Hebrew midwives, who misled Pharaoh when he demanded that they kill any new born male babies:

“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families” (Exod. 1:17-21).

When it comes to Rahab, we must reckon with two references to her in the NT:

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31).

In James 2:25 the author cites Rahab as an example of someone whose works proved the reality of her faith, “when she received the messengers [the spies] and sent them out by another way.”

Rahab is praised for welcoming the spies into her home and for sending them out safely and away from the men who sought their lives. This was accomplished through verbal deceit. How could the NT authors speak of her in this way, praising her faith, if they believed her guilty of the sin of lying? How could they praise her for a goal she attained through illicit and unethical means?

My point is this: There are occasions when deception is morally permissible. Not all falsehoods are lies. A lie is an intentional falsehood which violates someone’s right to know the truth. But there are instances in which men forfeit their right to know the truth. A lie is the intentional declaration or communication of a falsehood designed to deceive someone who has a moral and legal right to know the truth. A lie is the telling of an untruth to someone to whom we are morally and legally obligated to speak the truth.

And there do appear to be instances when we are not under obligation to tell a person the truth: in times of war, on those occasions when someone has criminal intent, or when a person’s life is at stake. Because of his intent to break into my home and steal what does not belong to him, a thief has forfeited his right to know whether or not I’m in the house. By their unjustified aggression, enemies of the state forfeit the right to know the way in which our military forces intend to defeat them. Etc.” (3)

In the following abridgment of an article on lying, by author Jeffery A. Mirus who reaches a similar conclusion as Sproul and Storms.

Is Lying Ever Right? By Jeffery A. Mirus

“For convenience, let us put the case very precisely. Consider a man with a house guest whom a group of thugs wants to murder. The thugs come to the door. Because they don’t wish to create an outcry before they’re sure they’ve found their quarry (giving him time to escape, for example, from a neighboring house), they don’t force their way in to search. Instead, they knock on the door and simply ask whether their intended victim is within. Refusing to answer will almost certainly be interpreted as an affirmative response. So here is the dilemma: If you answer the door, and you don’t trust the thugs’ intentions, do you have to tell the truth? …

What Is a Lie?

Note that a solution to this conundrum could come in one of two forms. It may be that: (1) The immorality of lying admits of exceptions such that there is no objective evil, or at least no subjective evil (guilt), in lying to the thugs; or (2) a very careful definition of “lying” will show that speaking falsely to the thugs is not a lie at all. Great and holy thinkers have wrestled with both possibilities, but it is perhaps more logical to take up first the question of the definition of “lying.” By carefully defining our terms, will we find that there is a distinction between speaking falsely and lying, just as there is between killing and murder? Are some falsehoods not lies? What precisely does it mean to lie? …

Regardless of definition, many others have suggested that the immorality of lying admits of exceptions. These argue, for example, that one is not obligated to tell the truth to an enemy, or that political leaders may speak falsely for reasons of state. Such exceptions may be permitted by the principle of double effect: Just as one can morally kill to defend someone’s life, so one can morally lie for a similar reason. The deception (or killing) is a secondary effect of a legitimate action. But with killing there is more at work than double effect. It is not moral to kill anyone whose existence threatens our own lives (consider the case of abortion to save the life of the mother, or cannibalism in a life raft). Rather, the one killed must somehow have the character of an unjust aggressor. Thus we commonly define murder as the taking of an “innocent” life (that is, the right to life has not been forfeited) and we distinguish murder sharply from mere killing. If the same is true of lying, the solution is not so much a matter of exception as of definition.” (4)

In conclusion:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)

John Gerstner says:

“It is not a violation of the ninth commandment to lie to the enemy in time war.” (5)

The conclusion reached in this study contradicts the majority of many of the great men of the faith in their understanding of Rahab’s lying and still be included as an example of faith in the book of Hebrews.

In humble disagreement with the majority:

The Bible seems to endorse the concept of a hierarchy of ethics, in which one rule may take precedence over another rule. The hierarchy of ethics seems to be established by the three examples listed above where instead of being guilty of God’s law there is no penalty and in particular, the case of the midwives lying, there is a favor from God.

Moreover, the hierarchy of ethics, in reality, is how many Christians operate when it comes to examples set forth above as in times of war, law enforcement, and protection of innocent people from evildoers.

If a Christian must always tell the truth, then they could never be trusted in times of war if captured by the enemy to protect their fellow soldiers. A legitimate whistleblower could never trust a Christian.

Therefore, there are cases in which people forfeit their right to know the truth. Rahab was justified by her actions like the midwives in Egypt, and at the same time, she had true faith.


1. R.C. Sproul, Rahab’s lie,…/broad…/audio/rahabs-lie-july-2019/.

2. This article was adapted from Sam Storms’ book Tough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions (Christian Focus, 2015).

3. Sam Storms, Two Spies and a Shady Lady Joshua 2:1-24.…/two-spies-and-a-shady-lady-josh….

4. Jeffery A. Mirus, Is Lying Ever Right?…/print-edition/is-lying-ever-right.

5. John Gerstner, The Ten Commandments (pt. 9) Handout Theology.

“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. 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 study:

See John Gerstner on the ninth commandment…

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What is Apostasy?

What is Apostasy? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on apostasy. Can a true believer commit apostasy and lose his soul is a question that enviably comes up in a study of this nature. We will look at several of the most cited apostasy passages. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary, lexical, and confessional evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live.

A question to ask at the beginning, is it possible for a false believer to commit apostasy?


The abandonment or renunciation of a profession of the Christian faith. *


The falling away from the faith. It is a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer. It can also describe a group or church organization that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible. **

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on Apostasy:


a-pos’-ta-si, a-pos’-tat (he apostasia, “a standing away from”):

I.e. a falling away, a withdrawal, a defection. Not found in the English Versions of the Bible, but used twice in the New Testament, in the Greek original, to express abandonment of the faith. Paul was falsely accused of teaching the Jews apostasy from Moses (Acts 21:21); he predicted the great apostasy from Christianity, foretold by Jesus (Matthew 24:10-12) which would precede “the day of the Lord” (2Thessalonians 2:2). Apostasy, not in name but in fact, meets scathing rebuke in the Epistle of Jude, e.g. the apostasy of angels (Jude 1:6). Foretold, with warnings, as sure to abound in the latter days (1Timothy 4:1-3; 2Thessalonians 2:3; 2Peter 3:17). Causes of: persecution (Matthew 24:9, 10); false teachers (Matthew 24:11); temptation (Luke 8:13); worldliness (2 Timothy 4:4); defective knowledge of Christ (1John 2:19); moral lapse (Hebrews 6:4-6); forsaking worship and spiritual living (Hebrews 10:25-31); unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Biblical examples: Saul (1Samuel 15:11); Amaziah (2Chronicles 25:14, 27); many disciples (John 6:66); Hymeneus and Alexander (1Timothy 1:19, 20); Demas (2Timothy 4:10). For further illustration see Deuteronomy 13:13; Zec. 1:4-6; Galatians 5:4; 2 Peter 2:20, 21.

“Forsaking Yahweh” was the characteristic and oft-recurring sin of the chosen people, especially in their contact with idolatrous nations. It constituted their supreme national peril. The tendency appeared in their earliest history, as abundantly seen in the warnings and prohibitions of the laws of Moses (Exodus 20:3, 4, 23; Deuteronomy 6:14; 11:16). The fearful consequences of religious and moral apostasy appear in the curses pronounced against this sin, on Mount Ebal, by the representatives of six of the tribes of Israel, elected by Moses (Deuteronomy 27:13-26; 28:15-68). So wayward was the heart of Israel, even in the years immediately following the national emancipation, in the wilderness, that Joshua found it necessary to re-pledge the entire nation to a new fidelity to Yahweh and to their original covenant before they were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 24:1-28). Infidelity to this covenant blighted the nation’s prospects and growth during the time of the Judges (Judges 2:11-15; 10:6, 10, 13; 1Samuel 12:10). It was the cause of prolific and ever-increasing evil, civic and moral, from Solomon’s day to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Many of the kings of the divided kingdom apostatized, leading the people, as in the case of Rehoboam, into the grossest forms of idolatry and immorality (1Kings 14:22-24; 2Chronicles 12:1). Conspicuous examples of such royal apostasy are Jeroboam (1Kings 12:28-32); Ahab (1Kings 16:30-33); Ahaziah (1Kings 22:51-53); Jehoram (2Chronicles 21:6, 10, 12-15); Ahaz (2Chronicles 28:1-4); Manasseh (2Chronicles 33:1-9), Amen (2Chronicles 33:22). See IDOLATRY.

Prophecy originated as a Divine and imperative protest against this historic tendency to defection from the religion of Yahweh. In classical Greek, apostasy signified revolt from a military commander. In the Roman Catholic Church, it denotes abandonment of religious orders, renunciation of ecclesiastical authority, defection from the faith. The persecutions of the early Christian centuries forced many to deny Christian discipleship and to signify their apostasy by offering incense to a heathen deity or blaspheming the name of Christ. The emperor Julian, who probably never vitally embraced the Christian faith, is known in history as “the Apostate,” having renounced Christianity for paganism soon after his accession to the throne. An apostate’s defection from the faith may be intellectual, as in the case of Ernst Haeckel, who, because of his materialistic philosophy, publicly and formally renounced Christianity and the church; or it may be moral and spiritual, as with Judas, who for filthy lucre’s sake basely betrayed his Lord. See exhaustive articles on “Apostasy” in the Jewish Encyclopedia. Dwight M. Pratt (1)

Scripture Teaching:

“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)

From the Puritan commentary, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Luke 8:13 we learn:

“They on the rock are they, which when they hear … The seed that fell upon the rock, or stony ground, signify such sort of hearers,

Who receive the word with joy. The Ethiopic version reads, “with joy of heart”. But, this sort of hearers receive not the word into their hearts, or with their hearts believe it, and from their hearts obey it, only into their heads; and have only, an historical faith of it; nor with hearty, spiritual, solid joy, or joy in the Holy Ghost: for their hearts remain like a rock, unbroken by the word; but with a flash of natural affection, which quickly goes off.

And these have no root; neither “in themselves”, as the other evangelists say, they have no true grace in them; nor have they any root in Christ, nor in the love of God:

Which for a while believe: their faith is a temporary one, like that of Simon Magus; which shows it is not true faith; for that is an abiding grace, Christ, who is the author, is the finisher of it, and prays for it, that it fail not. The Persic version renders it, “in the time of hearing they have faith”; and such sort of hearers there are, who, whilst they are hearing, assent to what they hear, but when they are gone, either forget it, or, falling into bad company, are prevailed upon to doubt of it, and disbelieve it. The Arabic version renders it, “they believe for a small time”; their faith do not continue long, nor their profession of it, both are soon dropped:

And in the time of temptation fall away: “or go back”, as the Vulgate Latin version, they draw back unto perdition; or “forsake that”, as the Arabic version reads, the word, they have heard, and received, their faith in it, and profession of it: “and soon become apostates”, as the Persic version renders it. By “the time of temptation”, is not meant any particular and sore temptation of Satan, but a time of affliction and persecution, as appears from the other evangelists; which is a trying time to professors of religion, and when those who have not the root of the matter in them, fall away.” (2)

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (1Timothy 4:1)

Theologian William Hendriksen’s comments on this passage in Timothy are helpful:

“But the Spirit expressly says that in later seasons some will depart from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 (embodied) in (the) insincere utterance of those who speak lies, whose own conscience is seared, 3 forbidding (people) to marry, and (enjoining them) to abstain from foods which God created in order that those who believe and acknowledge the truth may partake of them with thanksgiving. 4 For, every creature of God is good, and nothing is fit to be thrown away if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Though the church be ever so glorious, reflecting the radiance of its precious Lord and Savior (1Tim. 3:15, 16), apostasy is just around the corner, for not all who belong outwardly to the church belong to it inwardly.

The present chapter deals with this apostasy.

1. But the Spirit expressly says that in later seasons some will depart from the faith.

“The Spirit says,” that is, “is now saying.” To whom was the Spirit speaking? Acts 20:29, 30 leads me to think that the apostle meant “to myself” (perhaps also to others). The Spirit, then, is saying that “in later seasons” — eras of this new dispensation, eras definitely marked out in God’s foreknowledge — some will depart or apostatize from the faith (objective sense), the body of redemptive truth, the Christian religion.

The Spirit was saying this expressly (“in stated terms”). There was neither doubt nor vagueness about it. A half dozen years ago Paul, addressing the elders of the churches located in the very region where Timothy was now laboring, had spoken as follows: “I know that after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” A few years after that speech recorded in Acts 20, the apostle, writing to the Colossians from his first Roman imprisonment, had warned them against accepting the error that faith in Christ’s atoning work has to be supplemented by ascetic beliefs and practices (Col. 2). And now, writing to Timothy from Macedonia, he is distinctly informed by the Holy Spirit that the error, already present in its incipient form, will grow and develop in the manner indicated in verse 3.

Men will depart from the faith by giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. As the context indicates (and see also 1John 4:6 where “the spirit of seduction” is contrasted with “the Spirit of truth”), these spirits are not men but demons. Like planets that seem to wander back and forth among the constellations, these spirits wander; moreover, they cause men to wander. They seduce, lead astray. By giving heed to them one is giving heed to doctrines of demons (cf. 2Cor. 4:4; Rev. 13:11, 14).” (3)

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)

Regarding the persons mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 the Puritan John Owens says:

“And it appears, yea is evident, —

1. That the persons here intended are not true and sincere believers, in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such; so that from hence nothing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final apostasy. For,

(1.) There is in their full and largo description no mention of faith, or believing, either expressly or in terms equivalent; and in no other place in the Scripture are such intended, but they are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And,

(2.) There is not anything ascribed to these persons that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial relation unto God in Christ, or any such property of their own as is not communicable unto others. For instance, they are not said to be called according to God’s purpose; to be born again, not of man, nor of the will of flesh, but of God; nor to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the sons of God by adoption; nor have they any other characteristical note of true believers ascribed to them.

(3.) They are in the following verses compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briers. But this is not so with true believers. For faith itself is an herb peculiar to the enclosed garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed.

(4.) The apostle afterwards discoursing of true believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as may be apostates; which is supposed of the persons here intended, as was before clared. For,

[1.] He ascribeth unto them in general “better things, and such as accompany salvation,” verse 9.

[2.] He ascribes a “work and labor of love,” as it is true faith alone which worketh by love, verse 10, whereof he speaks not one word concerning these.

[3.] He asserts their preservation; —

1st, On the account of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, verse 10;

2dly, Of the immutability of his counsel concerning them, verse 17, 18. In all these and sundry other instances doth he put a difference between these apostates and true believers. And whereas the apostle intends to declare the aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal privileges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word, in name or thing, of those which he expressly assigns to be the chief privileges of true believers, Romans 8:27-30.” (4)

The Puritan John Gill on Hebrews 6:4-6 writes:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.—Heb. 6:4-6.

This Scripture is often used to contradict the final perseverance of the saints: and it is said, that “The doctrine of the possibility of the final departure of true believers and penitents from the faith, is fully contained in these words; that it is evident they are spoken of such, from the word, enlightened, used by the same apostle, speaking to the same persons, in Heb. 10:32, who were so enlightened as to know they had an inheritance in heaven; and from the words, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, which imply, that they had once truly repented, and were once truly in that state to which they were to be renewed, and their loss of it; and that these must fall totally and finally, because the apostle doth pronounce it a thing impossible to renew them to repentance, and on this account, that they crucified to themselves afresh the Son of God, and put him to an open shame. But,

1. Admitting that these words are spoken of true believers, they will bear such a version and sense as will be so far from furnishing out an argument against the saints’ perseverance that they will conclude one for it; for they may be rendered thus; it is impossible that there should be any who have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, etc., and yet fall away, that is, it is impossible that such should fall away; agreeable to which is the Syriac version of the words; it is impossible, etc., that they should sin again; so as to die spiritually, or lose the grace of God, and stand in need of a new work of grace upon them; which would require the crucifying of Christ again, and a re-exposing him to public shame; which latter things are impossible: and therefore the former, namely, that they should sin in such a manner; for, according to this version, the several other things mentioned, are connected with the word impossible; as it is impossible that they should be renewed again to repentance; that they should again crucify the Son of God, and put him to shame. This sense of the words is also confirmed by the Arabic version. Moreover, should we read the words, if they fall away, they do but at most contain a supposition of the saints falling; & suppositio nil ponit in esse, a supposition puts nothing in being, proves no matter of fact; nor can it be concluded from hence, that any such have fallen away; and are, at most, only expressive of the danger they are in, and of the difficulty of restoring them when fallen even partially; a total and final falling away, being prevented by the grace and power of God.

2. It is not evident, from the characters of those persons, that they were true believers; they are said to be once enlightened, which some understand of their being once baptized; and it is certain, that illumination, were used by the ancients, for baptism; and, enlightened once, for baptized persons: accordingly, the Syriac version reads the words thus, who once, have descended into baptism; the Ethiopic, after they are baptized; and it will not be denied, that some such, as Simon Magus, may totally and finally fall away; but not to insist on this sense of the words. There are two sorts of enlightened persons; some who are savingly enlightened by the Spirit of God, to see their lost state and condition, their need of salvation by Christ, and their interest in it, who shall never perish: others are enlightened only into the doctrines of the Gospel, and some to such a degree, as to be able to preach them unto others, and yet entirely destitute of the grace of God; and when such fall away, they are no proofs, nor instances, of the apostasy of real saints. The enlightened persons in Heb. 10:32, are not the same with these here mentioned; for the believing Hebrews are manifestly distinguished from these, verse 9; But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; and therefore, though the Hebrews were so enlightened as to know that they had an inheritance in heaven, it does not follow, that these were enlightened in the same manner, and so sincere Christians and true believers. They are also said to have tasted of the heavenly gift; by which, whether we understand eternal life, or any of the blessings of grace, as a justifying righteousness, or with the Greek fathers, the remission of sins; the meaning is, that they had some speculative notions about these things, and some desires after them, arising from a natural principle of self love; or should Christ himself be intended by it, tasting of it, stands opposed to eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, which is proper to true believers, who feed upon him, internally receive him, and are nourished by him; while hypocrites, and formal professors, only taste of him, have a superficial knowledge of him, and gust for him. In the same sense are they said to have tasted the good word of God, the Gospel, in the bare form and notion of it, and the powers of the world to come; meaning either the state of the church, and the glorious things relating to it, after the first resurrection, which they might have some notional apprehensions of; or the joys and glories of heaven, on which they might be able to make some natural and pleasing reflections; or rather, the miracles and mighty works in the former part of the Gospel dispensation, or times of the Messiah, the Jews, world to come; which many, as Judas and others, were able to perform, who were not sincere Christians, nor true believers, and yet might be said to be partakers of the Holy Ghost; not of his person, nor his grace, but of his extraordinary gifts; in which sense not only Dr. Hammond, but Dr. Whitby himself, understand the phrase. Now it may be observed, that here is nothing said of these persons but what may be applied to hypocrites, nor any thing that is peculiar to true believers; these are not said to be regenerated, nor sanctified, nor justified, nor adopted, nor sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, all which are true of real saints. Besides, true believers are in the context, manifestly distinguished from them, and are compared to the fruitful earth, when others are only likened to the barren land, verse 8-9; their case is mentioned with a view to stir up the saints to industry and diligence, verse 11-12; and so be the means of their final perseverance; which they had reason to expect and believe, from the immutability of God’s counsel, the safe refuge in Christ, the nature of hope, the anchor sure and steadfast, and the entrance of Christ, their forerunner for them, into heaven, verse 17-20.

3. The phrase, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, does not imply that they had once truly repented, and their loss of true repentance; that cannot be lost, it is inseparably connected with life and salvation, and therefore is called repentance unto life, and unto salvation. The repentance of these persons, like that of Cain, Pharaoh, and Judas, was only a shew of one, a counterfeit one; and consequently, the renewing them again to repentance, designs a renovation of them to that which they only seemed to have, and to make pretensions to.

4. It will be granted, that these persons might, and such as these, may fall finally and totally; but inasmuch as it does not appear that they were true penitents and believers, they are not to be mentioned as, nor allowed to be, instances of the final departure of such from the faith.” (5)

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2Peter 2:20-22)

Simon J. Kistemaker is very helpful in understanding this passage from Peter:

Doctrine 2:20–22

In the last three verses of this chapter, Peter sums up the final destiny of the false teachers by stressing that they have returned to their former way of life. In effect, they affirm a proverbial truth: as a dog returns to its vomit and a pig to its mud so the apostates revert to their sinful lifestyle.


20. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

Who is the subject of this verse? Some writers say: “The false teachers.” Other commentators assert: “The new Christians who are led astray.” The arguments advanced to defend either position are cogent. For instance, the use of the conjunction for (omitted in the) as a first word in verse 20 forms a bridge to the immediately preceding verse (v. 19). Because the two texts form one unit, they have the same subject: the false teachers. On the other hand, the verb to escape appears in verses 18 and 20. The subject of this verb appears to be identical in both verses. But the argument on the use of a particular verb must be balanced by the observation that the verb to master, overcome in verses 19b and 20 refers to the false teachers. And last, in the light of the preceding verses that feature the apostates as the dominant subject, many commentators apply the last three verses to these teachers. Granted that convincing evidence has been presented by both sides, I am persuaded that in view of the flow of the entire chapter the subject is the false teachers.

a. “If they have escaped the corruption of the world.” This is a factual statement, even though it appears in a conditional sentence. The element of probability is missing and the experience of what has happened in the past becomes evident. In the Greek, the verb form indicates that the false teachers on one occasion departed from the corruption of the world. “They had once escaped the world’s defilements” (; also see). The difference in the verb form (in v. 18) is evident: “[They] have barely begun to escape” (). This variation in the use of the verb form shows that Peter was thinking of the new converts who were in the process of breaking with their past. Here in verse 20, however, he is describing the heretics who at one time forsook their world and its corruption. “There can be little doubt that the false teachers had once been orthodox Christians.” In the past, these people were members of the church and they became acquainted with the teachings of the Christian faith.

b. “By knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Did the false teachers at one time know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? The answer is yes. For example, when Jesus commissioned his disciples two by two, he sent out Judas and another disciple. “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:12–13). Obviously, Judas knew Jesus; in the name of Jesus he preached and performed miracles. Yet Judas betrayed his Master.

The apostates had a knowledge of Jesus Christ, but their knowledge lacked the intimacy that characterizes the relationship of the true believer with Christ. Observe Peter’s personal touch in the phrases our knowledge of him (1:3) and your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:8). These people had professed the name of Christ as their Lord and Savior but in time fully disclosed that their knowledge was merely intellectual knowledge (compare Matt. 13:20–21). Also note that Peter refrains from using the terms faith and believer in this context. The teachers never put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Because they lacked a personal relationship with Christ, they fell away.

c. “And are again entangled in it and overcome.” The Greek actually indicates that these teachers were again woven into the fabric of the world’s corruption. This matter is an accomplished fact: although they left the world momentarily, they returned and defiled themselves again with its sordid sin. The result is that they are no longer free; they are slaves of sin (v. 19). Any resistance to the corruption of the world is out of the question, for they are overcome by sin and serve as slaves.

d. “They are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” Here is the conclusive statement in Greek that Peter borrows almost verbatim from the teachings of Jesus. About casting out a demon who returns to a former demon-possessed person with seven other spirits, Jesus says, “And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45; Luke 11:26; and compare Matt. 27:64).

Peter writes descriptively about the destiny of the apostates. Yet his words contain an urgent warning to the believers not to follow the path of the heretics that leads to irrevocable and everlasting destruction.

Doctrinal Considerations in 2:20

Within the church of Jesus Christ are true believers and pseudobelievers. Scripture tells the church members to make a clear distinction between these two groups. They live alongside each other much the same as the wheat and weeds in the same field. When the pseudobelievers depart on their own accord, they demonstrate that they never belonged to the body of Christ. Writers of Scripture, therefore, distinguish between the two groups by using the pronouns we and us over against they and them.

Peter differentiates between the members of the church and the false teachers with the use of the personal pronouns. In verse 20, for instance, he refers to the teachers with the plural pronoun they. In the last three verses of this chapter (vv. 20–22), he speaks only of the teachers and not of the believers. The exception is that Peter uses the possessive pronoun our in the phrase “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

In these verses, then, Peter never calls these teachers believers or children of God. Throughout these verses he describes them as people who deliberately sin against God and his Word. He repeatedly declares that these people face God’s judgment and destruction (vv. 3, 9, 12, 17).

Did these false teachers ever know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? By listening to the words of Jesus we receive an answer. Jesus says that only the person who obeys his Father in heaven will enter the kingdom. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matt. 7:22–23).


21. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

a. Unfulfilled duty. What Peter communicates about the false teachers is the opposite of what was expected of them. If their faith had been genuine and their knowledge had been true, they would have developed spiritually to teach others the way of salvation. If they were true Christian teachers, they would have taught others the gospel of Christ. However, they refused to follow “the way of righteousness” and they denied Jesus Christ as sovereign Lord (v. 2; Jude 4). Their lives were contrary to fact.

b. Apostasy. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,” says Peter. But alas, although they were instructed in the Christian faith, they fell away from God and his Word. Because they deliberately have turned against God, they face eternal judgment. Scripture clearly and repeatedly warns against the danger of apostasy. Here are two passages:

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.… From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” [Luke 12:47–48]

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [Heb. 10:26; also see Heb. 6:4–6; Prov. 21:16]

At this point we must distinguish between intentional and unintentional sins. The person who deliberately sins against God expresses open rebellion that in Old Testament times resulted in capital punishment (Num. 15:30). The writer of Hebrews, commenting on the destiny of an apostate, says: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31).

c. Comparison. If they had not known the way of righteousness, the teachers would have been able to claim ignorance. Not now. They have known “the way of righteousness” that John the Baptist already revealed to the people of Israel in preparation for the coming of Jesus (Matt. 21:32). Moreover, the expression the Way served as a synonym for the Christian faith in the first half of the first century.

The false teachers not only have known the Way, but also have turned “their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” What is this “sacred command”? It is equivalent to the message of Christ’s gospel. In the parallel passage, Jude calls this commandment “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (v. 3, italics added). In other words, the command of Peter and the faith (Christian doctrine) of Jude are the same.

Peter writes that this commandment, namely, the gospel, was passed on to them. The expression passed on is a technical term that refers to receiving the gospel for the purpose of teaching it and thus handing it on to the hearers (see especially 1Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3; Jude 3). Peter calls this gospel tradition sacred, which means that it must be kept intact, obeyed, and taught. The false teachers, however, broke the chain of receiving and transmitting the gospel of Christ. They altered its content, rejected its teachings, and perverted its truth (compare vv. 1–3). By doing so they committed the unpardonable sin, that is, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32; 1John 5:16).


22. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Peter concludes his descriptive analysis of the false teachers with two proverbs. The first one he takes verbatim from the Old Testament. Proverbs 26:11 has this reading:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

The Jews treated dogs with contempt and not as man’s best friend. According to the Old and New Testaments, Jews treated dogs as unclean animals. A dog “lived on refuse of all kinds and thus was a potential carrier of many diseases.” As a scavenger, a dog would return to its own vomit and thus fulfill the proverb. Peter uses this proverb to compare the natural habit of a dog with the practice of false teachers who return to living in sin.

The second proverb seems to have been a common saying in the ancient world, for it appears in various manuscripts. The truth of this proverb is self-evident. A pig seeks relief from pesky insects and the heat of the sun by wallowing in the mud. Although the sow is washed, by nature the pig returns to the mud from which it has come. It rolls around in slime and grunts contentedly. Once again, the application to the apostates is graphic and descriptive. As the pig enjoys wallowing in the mire, so the heretics take pleasure in revelry and immorality.

Jesus mentions dogs and pigs in the same sentence when he says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matt. 7:6). He instructs his disciples to distinguish between people who are receptive to the message of the gospel and those persons who trample underfoot that which is sacred. Such people are similar to dogs and swine.

Here is a conclusive observation: By vomiting, the dog relieves itself of internal impurities; the sow, when it is washed, is cleansed from clinging external mud. Nevertheless, both animals return to the selfsame filth.

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 2:20–22

Verse 20

εἰ—the simple-fact condition with the indicative mood in both the protasis and apodosis clauses denotes reality.

ἀποφυγόντες—the aorist active (compare the present tense in v. 18) seems to indicate that Peter wants to designate a group of people different from those mentioned in verse 18.

τοῦ κυρίου—Peter employs one definite article for more than one noun: “Lord” and “Savior” (see 3:2).

ἐμπλακέντες—from ἐμπλέκω (I entangle, involve in), this participle is the aorist passive. The aorist signifies single occurrence of an action; the aorist also means that it precedes the action of the main verb in the clause. The passive implies an agent, namely, the devil.

ἡττῶνται—Peter uses the present passive form of the verb, which appears as the perfect passive in verse 19. The present serves as a perfect.

Verse 21

ῆ̓ν—the imperfect indicative is translated as a “potential imperfect.” It expresses the idea “of an obligation which comes over from the past and is not lived up to.” The particle ἄν is absent.

ἐπεγνωκέναι—as a perfect active infinitive from the verb ἐπιγινώσκω (I learn to know), this perfect tense shows lasting effect. The context of the infinitive reveals, however, that the apostates refused to teach the Christian gospel. The dative plural of the aorist active participle ἐπιγνοῦσιν relates to the pronoun αὐτοῖς (for them).

Verse 22

συμβέβηκεν—the perfect active tense of the compound verb συμβαίνω (I meet, happen, come about) stresses continuity.

κύων—this is an independent nominative featured in a proverbial expression. It is equivalent to a nominative absolute. The word κύων refers not to a house dog, but to a stray dog that is wild.

τό—without the accompanying noun, the definite article in the neuter singular has a substantival sense.

λουσαμένη—from λούω (I wash), this middle aorist participle has a passive meaning. (6)

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1John 2:19)

Again, we will utilize Simon J. Kistemaker’s insights into this passage from 1John:

Antichrists Went Out 2:19

19. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Five times in this verse, John uses the word us. In the original, John writes “from us” four times and “with us” once. He wants to make sure that the reader understands that those whom he calls antichrists have left the church because they really did not belong to the church. The antichrists leave but the members of the church remain. Not those who deny the Christ are important, but the believers. And for this reason, John stresses the pronoun us at the end of every clause.

a. “They went out from us.” John omits the details, but we assume that the original readers knew the situation and had vivid memories of the tension that eventually caused the departure of the unbelievers. The writer of Hebrews sketches the picture when he writes,

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. [6:4–6]

b. “But they did not really belong to us.” John says that these people were not from within the Christian circle. They were not true Christians because they did not belong to the source, namely, Christ. They attended the worship services for some time, but they were never in Christ (compare John 15:1–6).

c. “For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.” This is a conditional statement with a negative implication. Note that in the first clause John implies that the people he designates antichrists never really belonged to the church because they deny the Christ. In the second clause, John indicates that true believers remain, whereas the antichrists leave the fellowship of the church. Believers belong; deniers depart.

d. “But their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” The New International Version differs from a more literal translation by giving the intent of a Semitic idiom. Here is the verbatim text: “that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (). A literal translation of this idiom fails to convey the meaning John expresses. He is not saying that there are exceptions. On the contrary, the idiom means that “none of [the antichrists] belonged to us.”

Doctrinal Considerations in 2:19

This text teaches the doctrine of perseverance. The unbelievers who denied Jesus’ divinity or humanity were never part of the church because they did not belong to Christ. Their presence in the visible church was temporary, for they failed in their perseverance. If they had been members of the invisible church, they would have remained with the body of believers. As F. F. Bruce observes, “The perseverance of the saints is a biblical doctrine, but it is not doctrine designed to lull the indifferent into a sense of false security; it means that perseverance is an essential token of sanctity.”

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 2:19

ἐξῆλθαν—the aorist active of ἐξέρχομαι (I go out) shows that at one time these people were part of the church and then left. The tense indicates that the departure had taken place. They left, presumably, on their own accord.

εἰ—this is a contrary-to-fact conditional sentence. Instead of the aorist tense, the past perfect μεμενήκεισαν (from the verb μένω, I remain) appears. (7)

In Closing:

The Westminister Confession of Faith Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of the Saints:

Section I.–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.

Section II.–This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own freewill, 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.

Section III.–Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their perseverance, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalise others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.


The perseverance of the saints is one of the articles by which the creed of the followers of Calvin is distinguished from that of the followers of Arminius. The latter hold that true believers may fall into sins inconsistent with a state of grace, and may continue in apostasy to the end of life, and consequently may finally fall into perdition. The same doctrine is avowedly supported by the Church of Rome; for the Council of Trent has decreed “If any person shall say that a man who has been justified cannot lose grace, and that, therefore, he who falls and sins was never truly justified, he shall be accursed.” In opposition to this tenet, our Confession affirms, that true believers “can neither totally nor finally fall away from a state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” There may seem to be a redundancy of language in this statement, for, if believers cannot fall totally, it follows that they cannot fall finally. Both terms, however, are employed with the utmost propriety. “They are intended to oppose the doctrine of Arminians, who affirm, that although a saint may fall totally from grace, he may be restored by repentance; but that since this is uncertain, and does not always take place, he may also fall finally, and die in his sins. Now, we affirm, that the total apostasy of believers is impossible, not in the nature of things, but by the divine constitution; and, consequently, that no man who has been once received into the divine favour can be ultimately deprived of salvation.”

The value of the visible invisible church distinction is helpful in understanding why a seemingly true believer departs from the church and faith is seen in the next two passages:

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1John 2:19)

My comments on the 1John passage:

In the visible church, there are false believers and true believers. They both (tares and wheat) grow together until the end. The tares are part of the visible church. The wheat is part of the visible church plus the universal invisible church. Only God knows the true membership roll making up the invisible church. On a human level, we cannot read the hearts of professors of faith. That is why many are shocked when a seemingly strong member of the church departs and goes into unbelief as John explains in 1John 2:19. In other words, “they were not all of us.”

The next two passages provided supporting evidence that not everyone who names the name of Christ is truly a believer.

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2Timothy 3:5)

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you*: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23) (Underlining and bolding emphasis mine)

* ‘I never knew

ἔγνων (egnōn)

Verb – Aorist Indicative Active – 1st Person Singular

From the Strong’s Greek 1097

ginóskó: to come to know, recognize, perceive

Original Word: γινώσκω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: ginóskó

Phonetic Spelling: (ghin-oce’-ko)

Definition: to come to know, recognize, perceive

Usage: ginṓskō – properly, to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance).

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Matthew 7:23:

“23. And then will I profess unto them—or, openly proclaim—tearing off the mask.

I never knew you—what they claimed—intimacy with Christ—is just what He repudiates, and with a certain scornful dignity. “Our acquaintance was not broken off—there never was any.”

Depart from me—(Compare Mt 25:41). The connection here gives these words an awful significance. They claimed intimacy with Christ, and in the corresponding passage, Luke 13:26 are represented as having gone out and in with Him on familiar terms. “So much the worse for you,” He replies, “I bore with that long enough; but now—begone!”

Ye that work iniquity—not “that wrought iniquity”; for they are represented as fresh from the scenes and acts of it as they stand before the Judge. (See on the almost identical, but even more vivid and awful, description of the scene in Luke 13:24-27). That the apostle alludes to these very words in 2Ti 2:19 there can hardly be any doubt—“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Individuals, who make profession of faith that is later abandoned, commit apostasy. Individual churches and entire denominations and even nations can and have committed apostasy.” (8)

Christ’s declaration that He never knew certain professors of faith certainly establishes the view that false believers can commit apostasy without actually ever being in Christ.

As noted in the exposition of the Westminster Confession above, the apostasy of true believers is a doctrine promoted by the Roman Church. In contrast, the final perseverance of believers is a Reformation Protestant doctrine.


1. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 202.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Luke, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 226.

3. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 145-146.

4. John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. W. H. Goold, vol. 22, Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1855), p. 84. PDF of Chapter 6. p. 101-102.

5. John Gill, The Cause of God & Truth, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, reprint 1980), pp. 55-57.

6. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Peter and Jude, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 311-316.

7. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James and 1-111 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 276-278.

8. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 912.

“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. 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 study:


** CARM Theological Dictionary:


John Owen Exposition of Hebrews 6

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What is God’s wrath?

What is God’s wrath? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on God’s wrath. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary, lexical, and confessional evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live.


God’s perfection of righteous anger against sin; his “eternal detestation of all unrighteousness.” *


Biblically, it is the divine judgment upon sin and sinners. It does not merely mean that it is a casual response by God to ungodliness, but carries the meaning of hatred, revulsion, and indignation. God is by nature love (1John 4:16), however, in His justice He must punish sin. The punishment is called the wrath of God. It will occur on the final Day of Judgment when those who are unsaved will incur the wrath of God. It is, though, presently being released upon the ungodly (Romans 1:18-32) in the hardening of their hearts.

Wrath is described as God’s anger (Numbers 32:10-13), as stored up (Romans 2:5-8), and as great (Zechariah 7:12). The believer’s deliverance from God’s wrath is through the atonement (Romans 5:8-10). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thessalonians 5:9). **

Scripture Teaching:

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:12) (Underlining emphasis mine)

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” (Proverbs 11:4)

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on John 3:36:

“The wrath of God abideth on him. – Once only in the four Gospels does this term, so full of tremendous meaning, meet us, and that in the Gospel of fullest love, and in a context which speaks of the Father’s love to the Son, and of eternal life, which is the portion of all who believe on the Son. It must be so. This wrath (comp. Romans 2:8; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Revelation 19:15) is not the fierceness of passion, nor is it the expression of fixed hatred. It is the necessary aspect of love and holiness toward those who reject love, and willfully sin. It is not here spoken of as coming upon them, or as passing from them. It abideth, ever has and ever must; for the wrath of love must abide on hatred, the wrath of holiness must abide on sin. But none need hate, and none need live in willful sin. “He that believeth”—how vast the love and bright the hope of the all-including words—“hath eternal life”! (Comp. Note on John 6:56.)” (1)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Romans 1:18:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven,…. The apostle having hinted at the doctrine of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ; and which he designed more largely to insist upon in this epistle, and to prove that there can be no justification of a sinner in the sight of God by the deeds of the law, in order to set this matter in a clear light, from hence, to the end of the chapter, and in the following ones, represents the sad estate and condition of the Gentiles with the law of nature, and of the Jews with the law of Moses; by which it most clearly appears, that neither of them could be justified by their obedience to the respective laws under which they were, but that they both stood in need of the righteousness of God. By “the wrath of God” is meant the displicency and indignation of God at sin and sinners; his punitive justice, and awful vengeance; the judgments which he executes in this world; and that everlasting displeasure of his, and wrath to come in another world, which all through sin are deserving of, some are appointed to, God’s elect are delivered from, through Christ’s sustaining it, in their room and stead, and which comes and abides on all impenitent and unbelieving persons. This is said to be “revealed”, where? not in the Gospel, in which the righteousness of God is revealed; unless the Gospel be taken for the books of the four Evangelists, or for the Gospel dispensation, or for that part of the ministry of a Gospel preacher, which represents the wrath of God as the desert of sin, the dreadfulness of it, and the way to escape it; for the Gospel, strictly taken, is grace, good news, glad tidings, and not wrath and damnation; though indeed in Christ’s sufferings for the sins of his people, which the Gospel gives us an account of, there is a great display of the wrath of God, and of his indignation against sin: but this wrath of God is revealed in the law, it is known by the light of nature, and to be perceived in the law of Moses, and may be observed in the Scriptures, where are many instances and examples of divine wrath and displeasure; as in the total destruction of the old world by a world wide flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, the plagues of Egypt, and the several instances mentioned in this chapter. This wrath is said to be God’s wrath “from heaven”, by the awful blackness which covers the heavens, the storms and tempests raised in them, and by pouring down water or fire in a surprising manner, on the inhabitants of the world; or “from heaven”, that is, openly, manifestly, in the sight of all; or from God who is in heaven, and not from second causes; and more especially it will be revealed from heaven, when Christ shall descend from thence at the day of judgment: the subject matter or object of it,” (2)

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.” (Romans 2:5-8)

“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6)

Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians 5:6:

“Verse 6. – Let no man deceive you with empty words. No man, whether pagan or nominal Christian: the pagan defending a life of pleasure as the only thing to be had with even a smack of good in it; the Christian mitigating pleasant sins, saying that the young must have an outlet for their warm feelings, that men in business must put all their soul into it, and that life must be brightened by a little mirth and jollity. As opposed to what the apostle has laid down (ver. 5), such words are empty, destitute of all solidity or truth. For on account of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. The sophistry is swept away by an awful fact – the wrath cometh, is coming, and will come too in the future life. It comes in the form of natural punishment, Nature avenging her broken laws by deadly diseases; in the form, too, of disappointment, remorse, desolation of soul; and in the form of judgments, like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, or the sword which never departed from David’s house.” (3)

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:10)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words on wrath:


[1, G3709, orge]

See ANGER and Notes

(1) and


[2, G2372, thumos]

hot anger, passion, for which See ANGER, Notes

(1) and

(2), is translated “wrath” in Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28; Romans 2:8, RV; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 11:27; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 14:8, Revelation 14:10, Revelation 14:19; Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 18:3; “wraths” in 2 Corinthians 12:20; “fierceness” in Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15 (followed by No. 1).

[3, G3950, parorgismos]

occurs in Ephesians 4:26, See ANGER, A, Note


Note: For the verb parorgizo, “to provoke to wrath,” Ephesians 6:4, AV, See ANGER, B, No. 2. (4)

Short list of synonyms for wrath:

Extreme or hot anger, fury, hate, indignation, vengeance, passion, fierceness

Definition for WRATH, (ANGER), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


rath, roth, rath (‘aph, from ‘anaph, “to snort,” “to be angry”; orge, thumos, orgizomai): Designates various degrees of feeling, such as sadness (Ps 85:4), a frown or turning away of the face in grief or anger (2Ch. 26:19; Jer. 3:12), indignation (Ps 38:3), bitterness (Jdg. 18:25), fury (Est 1:12), full of anger (Gen 4:5; Jn. 7:23), snorting mad (Gen 27:45; Mt 2:16).

1. Divine Wrath:

Wrath is used with reference to both God and man. When used of God it is to be understood that there is the complete absence of that caprice and unethical quality so prominent in the anger attributed to the gods of the heathen and to man. The divine wrath is to be regarded as the natural expression of the divine nature, which is absolute holiness, manifesting itself against the willful, high-handed, deliberate, inexcusable sin and iniquity of mankind. God’s wrath is always regarded in the Scripture as the just, proper, and natural expression of His holiness and righteousness which must always, under all circumstances, and at all costs be maintained. It is therefore a righteous indignation and compatible with the holy and righteous nature of God (Nu 11:1-10; Dt. 29:27; 2 Sam 6:7; Isa 5:25; 42:25; Jer. 44:6; Ps 79:6). The element of love and compassion is always closely connected with God’s anger; if we rightly estimate the divine anger we must unhesitatingly pronounce it to be but the expression and measure of that love (compare Jer. 10:24; Ezek. 23; Am 3:2).

2. Human Wrath:

Wrath, when used of man, is the exhibition of an enraged sinful nature and is therefore always inexcusable (Gen 4:5, 6; 49:7; Prov. 19:19; Job 5:2; Lk 4:28; 2Cor. 12:10; Gal 5:20; Eph. 4:31; Col 3:8). It is for this reason that man is forbidden to allow anger to display itself in his life. He is not to “give place unto wrath” (Rom 12:19 margin), nor must he allow “the sun to go down upon his wrath” (Eph. 4:26). He must not be angry with his brother (Mt 5:22), but seek agreement with him lest the judgment that will necessarily fall upon the wrathful be meted out to him (Mt 5:25, 26). Particularly is the manifestation of an angry spirit prohibited in the training and bringing up of a family (Eph. 6:4; Col 3:19). Anger, at all times, is prohibited (Nu 18:5; Ps 37:8; Rom 12:19; Gal 5:19; Eph. 4:26; Jas 1:19, 20).

3. Divine Wrath Consistent with Love:

Wrath or anger, as pertaining to God, is very much more prominent in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. This is to be accounted for probably because the New Testament magnifies the grace and love of God as contrasted with His wrath; at least love is more prominent than wrath in the revelation and teaching of Christ and His apostles. Nevertheless, it must not be thought that the element of wrath, as a quality of the divine nature, is by any means overlooked in the New Testament because of the prominent place there given to love. On the contrary, the wrath of God is intensified because of the more wonderful manifestation of His grace, mercy and love in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. God is not love only: He is also righteous; yea, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29); “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). No effeminate, sentimental view of the Fatherhood of God or of His mercy and loving-kindness can exclude the manifestation of His just, righteous and holy anger against sin and the sinner because of his transgression (1Pet 1:17; Heb. 10:29). One thing only can save the sinner from the outpouring of God’s righteous anger against sin in the day of visitation, namely, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the divinely-appointed Redeemer of the world (Jn. 3:36; Rom 1:16-18; 5:9). Nor should the sinner think that the postponement or the omission (or seeming omission) of the visitation of God’s wrath against sin in the present means the total abolition of it in the future. Postponement is not abolition; indeed, the sinner, who continually rejects Jesus Christ and the salvation which God has provided in Him, is simply `treasuring up’ wrath for himself “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who (one day) will render to every man according to his works: …. to them that …. obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, …. wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil” (Rom 2:5-9; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 6:16,17; 16:19; 19:15).


God’s anger while slow, and not easily aroused (Ps 103:8; Isa 48:9; Jon 4:2; Nah 1:3), is to be dreaded (Ps 2:12; 76:7; 90:11; Mt 10:28); is not to be provoked (Jer. 7:19; 1Cor. 10:22); when visited, in the present life, should be borne with submission (2 Sam 24:17; Lam 3:39, 43; Mic 7:9); prayer should be earnestly made for deliverance from it (Ps 39:10; 80:4; Dan 9:16; Hab. 3:2); it should be the means of leading man to repentance (Isa 42:24, 25; Jer. 4:8).

Certain specific things are said especially to arouse God’s anger: continual provocation (Nu 32:14), unbelief (Ps 78:21, 22; Heb. 3:18,19), impenitence (Isa 9:13, 14; Rom 2:5), apostasy (Heb. 10:26, 27), idolatry (Dt 32:19, 20, 22; 2Ki 22:17; Jer. 44:3), sin in God’s people (Ps 89:30-32; Isa 47:6), and it is manifested especially against opponents of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ps 2:2, 3, 5; 1Thess 2:16).

4. Righteous and Unrighteous Anger:

There is a sense, however, in which anger is the duty of man; he is to “hate evil” (Ps 97:10). It is not enough that God’s people should love righteousness, they must also be angry with sin (not the sinner). A man who is incapable of being angry at sin is at the same time thereby adjudged to be incapable of having a real love for righteousness. So there is a sense in which a man may be said to “be …. angry, and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Anger at the sin and unrighteousness of men, and because their sin is grievous to God, may be called a “righteous indignation.” Such an indignation is attributed to Jesus when it is said that He “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart” (Mk 3:5). When anger arises because of this condition, it is sinless, but when anger arises because of wounded or aggrieved personality or feelings, it is sinful and punishable. Anger, while very likely to become sinful, is not really sinful in itself.

We have illustrations in the Scriptures of wrath or anger that is justifiable: Jesus (Mk 3:5), Jacob (Gen 31:36), Moses (Ex 11:8; 32:19; Lev 10:16; Nu 16:15), Nehemiah (Neh. 5:6; 13:17,25); of sinful anger: Cain (Gen 4:5,6), Esau (Gen 27:45), Moses (Nu 20:10,11), Balaam (Nu 22:27), Saul (1 Sam 20:30), Ahab (1 Ki 21:4), Naaman (2 Ki 5:11), Herod (Mt 2:16), the Jews (Lk 4:28), the high priest (Acts 5:17; 7:54). William Evans (5)

Chapter VI of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment thereof

I. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit.[1] This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.[2]

II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, [3] and so became dead in sin, [4] and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. [5]

III. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; [6] and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. [7]

IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good,[8] and wholly inclined to all evil,[9] do proceed all actual transgressions.[10]

V. This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; [11] and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. [12]

VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,[13] does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner,[14] whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God,[15] and curse of the law,[16] and so made subject to death,[17] with all miseries spiritual,[18] temporal,[19] and eternal.[20]

Scriptural proofs:

[1] GEN 3:13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 2CO 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

[2] ROM 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

[3] GEN 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. ECC 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. ROM 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

[4] GEN 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. EPH 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

[5] TIT 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. GEN 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. JER 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ROM 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

[6] GEN 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 2:16 AND THE LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. ACT 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation. ROM 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 1CO 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

[7] PSA 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. GEN 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth. JOB 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 15:14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

[8] ROM 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. ROM 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. ROM 7:18 For I know that in me(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. COL 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.

[9] GEN 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 8:21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. ROM 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

[10] JAM 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. EPH 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. MAT 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

[11] 1JO 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ROM 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. JAM 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. PRO 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? ECC 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

[12]ROM 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. GAL 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

[13] 1JO 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

[14] ROM 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. ROM 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

[15] EPH 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

[16] GAL 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

[17] ROM 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[18] EPH 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

[19] ROM 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. LAM 3:39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?

[20] MAT 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. 2TH 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

In closing:

The Wrath of God is transferred to Jesus on the cross. Christ’s sacrifice is called a propitiation or expiation, which is the act of appeasing God.

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Romans 3:25)

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17ESV)

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2:2)


“Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.” – John Murray


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, John, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 406.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 19.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ephesians, Vol. 20, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 208-209.

4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 1251.

5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 3113.

“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. 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 study:


** CARM Theological Dictionary:


Jonathan Edwards, SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD…/…/pdf/edwards_angry.pdf

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Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study

Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study by Jack Kettler

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching on Romans 8:28 regarding God’s promises. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. This promise in Scripture has always been a favorite.

Scripture Teaching:

“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.” (Romans 8:28)

When Paul says: “all things work together for good,” it does not exclude trials and tribulations. This promise gives great encouragement during times of trouble. In times of blessings, the promise gives way to praise and adoration. There are many great promises of God’s care for His people. There are three passages listed below.

Supporting Passages:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) Protecting

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Giving

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” (Ephesians 1:9) Revealing

Beyond the qualification of being one of God’s people, there are no conditions attached to these promises.

For the reader’s edification, Romans 8:28 is broken down word by word:

Digging Deeper from the Strong’s Lexicon:


δὲ (de)


Strong’s Greek 1161: A primary particle; but, etc.

we know

Οἴδαμεν (Oidamen)

Verb – Perfect Indicative Active – 1st Person Plural

Strong’s Greek 1492: To know, remember appreciate.


ὅτι (hoti)


Strong’s Greek 3754: Neuter of hostis as conjunction; demonstrative, that; causative, because.


θεὸς (theos)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.

works all things together

συνεργεῖ (synergei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 4903: To cooperate with, work together. From sunergos, to be a fellow-worker, i.e. Co-operate.

πάντα (panta)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 3956: All, the whole, every kind of. Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.


εἰς (eis)


Strong’s Greek 1519: A primary preposition; to or into, of place, time, or purpose; also in adverbial phrases.

[the] good

ἀγαθόν (agathon)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Singular

Strong’s Greek 18: A primary word; ‘good’.

of those who

τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.


ἀγαπῶσιν (agapōsin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 25: To love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem. Perhaps from again, to love.


Θεὸν (Theon)

Noun – Accusative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.


τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.


οὖσιν (ousin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 1510: I am, exist. The first person singular present indicative; a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb; I exist.


κλητοῖς (klētois)

Adjective – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 2822: From the same as klesis, invited, i.e. Appointed, or, a saint.

according to

κατὰ (kata)


Strong’s Greek 2596: A primary particle; down, in varied relations (genitive, dative or accusative) with which it is joined).

[His] purpose.

πρόθεσιν (prothesin)

Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4286: From protithemai, a setting forth, i.e. proposal; specially, the show-bread as exposed before God.

What exactly is a promise? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has an excellent entry:


prom’-is (most frequently in the Old Testament dabhar, “speaking,” “speech,” and dabhar, “to speak” also ‘amar, “to say,” once in Psalms 77:8, ‘omer, “speech”; in the New Testament epaggelia, and the verbs epaggellomai, and compounds):

Promise holds an important place in the Scriptures and in the development of the religion that culminated in Christ. The Bible is indeed full of “precious and exceeding great promises” (2Peter 1:4), although the word “promise” is not always used in connection with them. Of the more outstanding promises of the Old Testament may be mentioned:

(1) The proto-evangelium (Genesis 3:15);

(2) The promise to Noah no more to curse the ground, etc. (Genesis 8:21, 22; 9:1-17);

(3) most influential, the promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation in whom all families of the earth should be blessed, to give to him and his seed the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:2,7, etc.), often referred to in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:25; Deuteronomy 1:8,11; 6:3; 9:28, etc.);

(4) The promise to David to continue his house on the throne (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 18; 1Kings 2:24, etc.);

(5) the promise of restoration of Israel, of the Messiah, of the new and everlasting kingdom, of the new covenant and outpouring of the Spirit (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2; 55:5; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:37-42; 33:14; Ezekiel 36:22-31; 37:11; 39:25, etc.).

In the New Testament these promises are founded on, and regarded as having their true fulfillment in, Christ and those who are His (2Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 3:6). The promise of the Spirit is spoken of by Jesus as “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4), and this was regarded as fulfilled at Pentecost. The promise of a Saviour of the seed of David is regarded as fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:23, 32; 26:6; Romans 1:2; 4:13; 9:4). Paul argues that the promise to Abraham that he should be “heir of the world,” made to him before circumcision, is not confined to Israel, but is open to all who are children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:13-16; compare Galatians 3:16,19, 29). In like manner the writer to the Hebrews goes back to the original promises, giving them a spiritual and eternal significance (4:1; 6:17; 11:9, etc.). The New Testament promises include manifold blessings and hopes, among them “life,” “eternal life” (1Timothy 4:8; 6:19; 2Timothy 1:1; James 1:12), the “kingdom” (James 2:5), Christ’s “coming” (2Peter 3:9, etc.), “new heavens and a new earth” (2Peter 3:13), etc. For “promise” and “promised” in the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) has frequently other terms, as “word” (Psalms 105:42), “spake,” “spoken” (Deuteronomy 10:9; Joshua 9:21; 22:4; 23:5,15, etc.), “consented” (Luke 22:6), etc. References to the promises occur repeatedly in the Apocrypha (Baruch 2:34; 2 Macc. 2:18; The Wisdom of Solomon 12:21; compare 2Esdras 3:15; 5:29). W. L. Walker (1)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Roman’s 8:28 is most edifying:

“Another argument to comfort us under the cross, from the benefits of it;

We know that all things, &c. It is not matter of guess only and conjecture, but of certainty and assurance.

How is this known?

1. By the testimony of God, the Scripture tells us as much, Psalm 128:1, 2 Isa 3:10.

2. By our own experience; we are assured of it by the event and effects of all things, both upon ourselves and others.

All things, even sin itself, because from their falls, God’s children arise more humble and careful. Afflictions are chiefly intended; the worst and crossest providences, those things that are evil in themselves, they work for good to the children of God.

Work together; here is their operation, and their co-operation: First, they work together with God. What the apostle says of himself and others in the ministry, 2 Corinthians 6:1 that may be said of other things, especially of afflictions; they are workers together with God. Some read the words thus, God co-operates all to good. Again, they work together with us; we ourselves must concur, and be active herein; we must labour and endeavor to get good out of every providence. Once more, they work together amongst themselves, or one with another. Take this or that providence singly, or by itself, and you shall not see the good it doth; but take it in its conjunction and connexion with others, and then you may perceive it. One exemplifies it thus: As in matter of physic, if you take such and such simples alone, they may poison rather than cure; but then take them in their composition, as they are made up by the direction of a skillful physician, and so they prove an excellent medicine.

For good, sometimes for temporal good, Genesis 1:20, always for spiritual and eternal good, which is best of all. All occurrences of providence shall serve to bring them nearer to God here and to heaven hereafter.

According to his purpose: these words are added to show the ground and reason of God’s calling us; which is nothing else but his own purpose and good pleasure; it is not according to our worthiness, but his purpose: see 2 Timothy 1:9.” (2)

John Calvin on Romans 8:28 continues to illuminate us:

“28. And we know, etc. He now draws this conclusion from what had been said, that so far are the troubles of this life from hindering our salvation, that, on the contrary, they are helps to it. It is no objection that he sets down an illative particle, for it is no new thing with him to make somewhat an indiscriminate use of adverbs, and yet this conclusion includes what anticipates an objection. For the judgment of the flesh in this case exclaims, that it by no means appears that God hears our prayers, since our afflictions continue the same. Hence, the Apostle anticipates this and says, that though God does not immediately succour his people, he yet does not forsake them, for by a wonderful contrivance he turns those things, which seem to be evils in such a way as to promote their salvation. If anyone prefers to read this verse by itself, as though Paul proceeded to a new argument in order to show that adversities, which assist our salvation, ought not to be borne as hard and grievous things, I do not object. At the same time, the design of Paul is not doubtful: “Though the elect and the reprobate are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great, difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby promotes their salvation.”

But we must remember that Paul speaks here only of adversities, as though he had said, “All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God, that what the world regards as evil, the issue shows to be good.” For though what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of the saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation; yet this belongs not to this passage, the subject of which is the cross.

It must also be observed, that he includes the whole of true religion in the love of God, as on it depends the whole practice of righteousness.

Even to them who according to his purpose, etc. This clause seems to have been added as a modification, lest anyone should think that the faithful, because they love God, obtain by their own merit the advantage of deriving such fruit from their adversities. We indeed know that when salvation is the subject, men are disposed to begin with themselves, and to imagine certain preparations by which they would anticipate the favor of God. Hence, Paul teaches us, that those whom he had spoken of as loving God, had been previously chosen by him. For it is certain that the order is thus pointed out, that we may know that it proceeds from the gratuitous adoption of God, as from the first cause, that all things happen to the saints for their salvation. Nay, Paul shows that the faithful do not love God before they are called by him, as in another place he reminds us that the Galatians were known of God before they knew him. (Galatians 4:9.) It is indeed true what Paul intimates, that afflictions avail not to advance the salvation of any but of those who love God; but that saying of John is equally true, that then only he is begun to be loved by us, when he anticipates us by his gratuitous love.

But the calling of which Paul speaks here, has a wide meaning, for it is not to be confined to the manifestation of election, of which mention is presently made, but is to be set simply in opposition to the course pursued by men; as though Paul had said, – “The faithful attain not religion by their own efforts, but are, on the contrary led by the hand of God, inasmuch as he has chosen them to be a peculiar people to himself.” The word purpose distinctly excludes whatever is imagined to be adduced mutually by men; as though Paul had denied, that the causes of our election are to be sought anywhere else, except in the secret good pleasure of God; which subject is more fully handled in the first chapter to the Ephesians, and in the first of the Second Epistle to Timothy; where also the contrast between this purpose and human righteousness is more distinctly set forth. Paul, however, no doubt made here this express declaration, – that our salvation is based on the election of God, in order that he might make a transition to that which he immediately subjoined, namely, that by the same celestial decree, the afflictions, which conform us to Christ, have been appointed; and he did this for the purpose of connecting, as by a kind of necessary chain, our salvation with the bearing of the cross.” (3)

In closing:

Another relevant area when studying God’s promises is known as conditional and unconditional promises. Studying these distinctions of promises is beyond the scope of this present study.

In short, God’s promises fall into two categories, unconditional and conditional:

· An unconditional promise is one that God guarantees without any conditions attached (Genesis 15:18-21)

· A conditional covenant is an agreement between two or more parties that requires certain terms to be met (Isaiah 5:1-7)

“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. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘PROMISE,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 2459.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 506-507.

3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans, Volume XIX, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 314-316.

“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. 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 study:

The Saint’s Pocket Book of Promises by Joseph Alleine…/Alleine%20-%20The%20Saints%20Poc…

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A Comparison between the two Adams

A Comparison between the two Adams By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the biblical teaching on the two Adams. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. Most people are familiar with the first man Adam. Not everyone is familiar with the fact the Jesus is called the second or last Adam. In this study, we will look at differences and similarities between the two Adams of Scripture. We will start with a definition of the second or last Adam.

The Last Adam

A designation for Jesus found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. In bringing redemption, as the last (or second) Adam, Jesus represents those united to him, and thus becomes the inaugurator of the new humanity. In contrast, the first Adam represented all of humanity in the first sin and thus became the inaugurator of sinful humanity. *

The Last Adam

Question: What does it mean that Jesus is the second Adam?

Answer: The Apostle Paul tells us in his first letter to the church in Corinth, “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1Corinthians 15:45-49). **

Scripture Teaching:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they, which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)

The next entry is a comprehensive exposition of Romans 5:12-21 and a contrast between the two Adams. Other than the scriptural commentary, we will forgo a discussion of “original sin” in this study.

Adam—Christ Correspondence and Contrast by William Hendriksen:

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” 5:12–21

12 Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned— 13 for before the law (was given) sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from (the time of) Adam to (that of) Moses, even over those who did not sin by transgressing an express command, as did Adam, who is a type of him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if, by reason of the trespass of the one the many died, much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of this one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift (of God) is not like (the result of) one man’s sin. For the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the free gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through that one, much more will those who receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made righteous.

20 Moreover, the law came in besides, in order that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 in order that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

That there is a close connection between 5:1–11 and 5:12–21 is clear. In both of these sections the thought that is stressed is that salvation for time and eternity is through Jesus Christ. According to 5:1–11 it is through him that believers have been justified and have found peace, reconciliation with God. To this idea of certainty of salvation through Christ, Paul now, in verses 12–21, adds the thought that grace more than offsets sin. It not only nullifies the effects of sin, it also bestows everlasting life.

Paul’s reasoning may at first seem somewhat difficult to follow. He starts a sentence but does not complete it. He begins by saying, 12. Wherefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, since all sinned, and then, instead of completing this statement, he first of all enlarges on one of its elements, namely the universality of sin. Not until he reaches verse 18 does he return to the sentence he started to write. He reproduces its thought in a modified form: “Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all,” and then he finally, in substance, completes the sentence as follows, “… so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life.”

Now it should be admitted that such a break in grammatical structure is in line with Paul’s style and personality. See on Luke, p. 6. Yet it is not today, nor has it been in the past, an unusual style phenomenon.

For example, a minister, making an announcement to his congregation, regarding a picnic, might start out as follows:

“Since tomorrow we’ll all be attending the church picnic.…”

He wishes to continue with, “We urge all to come early and to bring along food enough for your own family and, if possible, even something extra for poor people who may wish to join us.”

But before he can even say this he notices that his words about a church picnic tomorrow are being greeted with skepticism. So, instead, he continues as follows:

“I notice that some of you are shaking your heads, thinking that there can be no picnic tomorrow. Let me therefore assure you that the early morning prediction about a storm heading our way has been canceled. A new forecast was conveyed to me just minutes before I ascended the pulpit. According to it, the storm has changed its course and beautiful weather is expected for tomorrow. So we urge all to come early, etc.”

With all this in mind, the various elements of verse 12, and also the verse viewed as a unit, may be interpreted as follows:

a. “Wherefore,” that is, in view of the fact that, through his sacrificial death and resurrection life, Jesus Christ has brought righteousness, reconciliation (peace), and life, etc. See 5:1–11.

b. “just as through one man sin entered the world …”

The one man is obviously Adam. See verse 14. Cf. Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1–6. In what sense is it to be understood that through Adam’s fall sin entered the world? Only in this sense that gradually, over the course of the years and centuries, those who were born inherited their sinful nature from Adam, and therefore committed sins? Without denying that this indeed happened, we must nevertheless affirm that there was a far more direct way in which “through one man sin entered the world.” On this same third missionary journey, not very long before Paul composed Romans, he wrote letters to the Corinthians. In one of them (1Cor. 15:22) he says, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Rom. 5:15, he writes, “By reason of the trespass of the one the many died.” He obviously means that the entire human race was included in Adam, so that when Adam sinned, all sinned; when the process of death began to ruin him, it immediately affected the entire race.

Scripture, in other words, in speaking about these matters, does not view people atomistically, as if each person were comparable to a grain of sand on the seashore. Especially in this present day and age, with its emphasis on the individual, it is well to be reminded of the truth expressed in the words, which in a former generation, were impressed even upon the minds of children:

In Adam’s Fall

We Sinned All

Moreover, when we bear in mind that this very chapter (5) teaches not only the inclusion of all those who belong to Adam—that is, of the entire human race—in Adam’s guilt, but also the inclusion of all who belong to Christ, in the salvation purchased by his blood (verses 18, 19; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:3–7; Phil. 3:9; Col. 3:1, 3), and that this salvation is God’s free gift to all who by faith are willing to accept it, we shall have nothing to complain about.

c. “and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind …”

Solidarity in guilt implies solidarity in death, here, as in 1Cor. 15:22, with emphasis on physical death. Sin and death cannot be separated, as is clear from Gen. 2:17; 3:17–19; Rom. 1:32; 1Cor. 15:22. In Adam all sinned; in Adam all died. The process of dying, and this not only for Adam but for the race, began the moment Adam sinned.

d. “since all sinned.”

In all probability this refers to sins all people have themselves committed after they were born. Such personal sinning has been going on throughout the centuries. Paul is, as it were, saying, “I know that one man, and in him all men, sinned, for if this were not true how can we account for all the sinning that has been going on afterward?”

This interpretation gives to the word sinned the meaning it has everywhere else in Paul’s epistles. Why should “all sinned” mean one thing (actual, personal sins) in Rom. 3:23, but something else in 5:12? Besides if here in 5:12 we explain the words all sinned to refer to the fact that all sinned in Adam, would we not be making the apostle guilty of needless repetition, for the sinning of all “in Adam” is already implied in this same verse; note “through one man sin entered the world.”

To these two reasons for believing that this interpretation of the words “since all sinned” is the right one, a third can be added: it now becomes clear why Paul did not, at this point, complete the sentence beginning with “Wherefore,” but went off on a tangent. The statement “since all sinned” could easily arouse disbelief, especially in the minds of those who attached great importance to the proclamation of the law at Sinai. The question might be asked, “If to sin means to transgress the law, how can Paul say that since the time of Adam all sinned? Until the giving of the law at Sinai there was no law, and therefore no transgression of the law, no sin.” The apostle considers this possible objection to be of sufficient importance to justify the break in grammatical structure to which reference was made in the beginning of the explanation of verse 12 (see p. 176). Paul answers as follows:

13, 14. … for before the law (was given) sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from (the time of) Adam to (that of) Moses, even over those who did not sin by transgressing an express command, as did Adam, who is a type of him who was to come.

In confirmation of the statement “all sinned,” including even those people who lived on earth during the period Adam to Moses, Paul reasons as follows:

Sin was indeed in the world even before Sinai’s law was given, as is shown by the fact that death, sin’s punishment, ruled supreme during the period Adam to Moses. The apostle may have been thinking, among other things, about the deluge, which destroyed almost the entire population of the world. Yes, death reigned even over those who did not sin by transgressing an expressed command, as did Adam. See Gen. 2:16, 17. So, it is clear that even during the period Adam to Moses sin was indeed taken into account. Though Sinai’s law, with its expressed commands, did not as yet exist, there was law. Here the apostle was undoubtedly thinking about what he had written earlier in this very epistle (2:14, 15). And this law, with death as punishment for wanton transgressors, was indeed applied (see Rom. 1:18–32). That there was law follows from the fact that there was sin. If there had been no law there would have been no sin.

In introducing Adam, the transgressor of an expressed command, the apostle states, “who is a type of him who was to come.”

Having said this, is Paul able now at last, to finish the sentence he began in verse 12? Not yet, for calling Adam a type of the One who was to come, that is, of Christ, could easily lead to misunderstanding. Adam, whose fall resulted in incalculable misery for the human race, and Christ, the world’s Savior (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; cf. 1 Tim. 4:10), how is it possible to mention these two in one breath? How can Adam be a type of Christ? This Paul must first explain.

How can there be any resemblance between Adam and Christ? Nevertheless, there is resemblance, for just as it is true that Adam imparted to those who were his that which belonged to him, so also Christ bestows on his beloved ones that which is his. It is in this respect that Adam foreshadows Christ. For the rest, however, the parallel is one of contrast, a fact which the apostle sets forth as follows:

15–17. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if, by reason of the trespass of the one the many died, much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of this one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift (of God) is not like (the result of) one man’s sin. For the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the free gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through that one, much more will those who receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

In these verses Paul shows that the parallel Adam-Christ is mainly one of contrast, in the sense that Christ’s influence for good far outweighs Adam’s effectiveness for evil: the free gift is “not like the trespass,” that is, is far more effective than the trespass.

By way of introduction to the further interpretation a few matters should be kept in mind:

a. The apostle uses the word many in a twofold sense. In its first use (“the many died”), it indicates all of Adam’s physical descendants. At the close of that same verse (“overflow to the many”), it indicates all those who belong to Christ. This reminds one of Isa. 53:11, 12; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45.

b. Verse 12 has shown that Adam was responsible for bringing into the world two evils: sin and death. The apostle deals with both of these in turn: with Adam’s sin or trespass (verses 15, 16), with death (verse 17). He conceives of them as being intimately related, and therefore at times mentions both in one breath.

It is understandable that Paul can say that by reason of Adam’s trespass the many died. These many are those designated in 5:12 as “all mankind” (literally all human beings, everybody). Cf. 1Cor. 15:22. But, in connection with the work of God in Christ, for God’s children this evil has been more than canceled out. For them God’s grace and his gift of salvation changed death into its very opposite. Death became a gain (Phil. 1:21)! Moreover, as to sin, when grace entered, it more than merely returned man to his former state of innocence. It bestowed on him righteousness (verse 17), and life (verse 18), that is, everlasting life (verse 21). For the glorious content of this term see above, on 2:7.

Again, in Adam’s case a single sin was involved, a sin that resulted in condemnation. But Christ, by his work of redemption, made provision for the forgiveness not only of that one sin but also of all those that followed from it. His sacrifice sufficed for them all, and in fact was efficacious for all the sins committed by those who, by sovereign grace, were to place their trust in him. For them condemnation was replaced by justification. See on 1:17; 3:24; 5:1.

Paul now turns more especially to the subject of death. This time, after repeating that death resulted from the trespass of the one, Adam, he mentions the reign of death, the powerful and destructive sway it exercises over the affairs of human beings. In harmony with his thoughts on the supremacy of grace (the “much more” doctrine), the apostle now points out that in the case of believers the reign of death is not merely replaced by the reign of life but by a reign so inexpressibly glorious that those who participate in it will themselves be kings and queens. All this is the result of “the overflowing fullness of grace and of a righteousness that is God’s gift to them through the One, Jesus Christ,” that is, through his person and work.

When the apostle has thus taken care of the difficulties that had to be cleared up before he was able to complete the thought begun in verse 12, he now, by means of somewhat varying phraseology, in verse 18a gives the gist of the earlier verse—so that essentially verse 18a amounts to verse 12, and then, in verse 18b brings this thought to a conclusion. In somewhat different wording the entire thought is repeated in verse 19.

18, 19. Consequently, as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all men, so also one act of righteousness resulted for all men in justification issuing in life. For just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made righteous.

As the word “consequently” indicates, not only is Paul now returning to the thought expressed in verse 12; he is summing up the argument of the entire paragraph (verses 12–17). The present passage places over against each other one trespass, namely, that of Adam (Gen. 3:6, 9–12, 17), a trespass here called “the disobedience of the one,” and one act or deed of righteousness, called “the obedience of the One,” that One being Jesus Christ. Cf. Phil. 2:8. Since in the preceding context Paul has no less than three times mentioned Christ’s death for his people (verses 6, 8, 10; cf. verses 7 and 9), it is certain that also here in verses 18, 19 the reference is to that supreme sacrifice. However, we should not interpret this concept too narrowly: Christ’s voluntary death represents his entire sacrificial earthly ministry of which that death was the climax.

We can understand that one trespass resulted for all men in condemnation, but what does the apostle mean when he states that also for all men one act of righteousness resulted in life-imparting justification? If in the first case “all men” means absolutely everybody, does not logic demand that in the second instance of its use it has the same meaning? The answer is:

a. The apostle has made very clear in previous passages that salvation is for believers, for them alone (1:16, 17; 3:21–25, etc.).

b. He has emphasized this also in this very context: those alone who “receive the overflowing fullness of grace and of the gift of righteousness” will reign in life (verse 17).

c. In a passage which is similar to 5:18, and to which reference has been made earlier, the apostle himself explains what he means by “all” or “all men” who are going to be saved and participate in a glorious resurrection. That passage is:

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first fruits; afterward those who are Christ’s, at his coming” (1Cor. 15:22, 23). Here it is clearly stated that the “all” who will be made alive are “those who are Christ’s,” that is, those who belong to him.

But though this answer proves that when Paul here uses the expression “all” or “all men” in connection with those who are or will be saved, this “all” or “all men” must not be interpreted in the absolute or unlimited sense, this still leaves another question unanswered, namely, “Why does Paul use this strong expression?” To answer this question one should carefully read the entire epistle. It will then become clear that, among other things, Paul is combating the ever-present tendency of Jews to regard themselves as being better than Gentiles. Over against that erroneous and sinful attitude he emphasizes that, as far as salvation is concerned, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. The reader should carefully study the following passages in order to see this for himself: 1:16, 17; 2:7–11; 3:21–24, 28–30; 4:3–16; 9:8, 22–33; 10:11–13; 11:32; 15:7–12; 16:25–27. As concerns salvation, says Paul, “There is no distinction. God shows no partiality.” All men are sinners before God. All are in need of salvation. For all the way to be saved is the same.

In a day and age in which, even in certain evangelical circles, the unbiblical distinction between Jew and Gentile is still being maintained and even emphasized, it is necessary that what God’s Word says about this, particularly also in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, be pointed out.

Note that in verse 18 we are told that the one trespass resulted in condemnation for all, but that the one act of righteousness resulted in justification issuing in life. This shows that justification not merely overturns the verdict of “guilty,” setting aside the sentence of doom, but also opens the gate to life. For this concept of life—cf. verses 17 and 21—see above on 2:7.

Also in verse 19 Paul does not say, “Just as through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One will the many be made innocent or sinless,” but “… will the many be made righteous.” To be sure, this basically means “to be declared righteous.” However, when God declares someone righteous, does that action ever stand all by itself? See the explanation of 5:5.

20. Moreover, the law came in besides. In order that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more …

Paul has been speaking about Adam and Christ, type and antitype. Adam transgressed a specific command, as has been shown. That happened long before the pomulgation of Sinai’s law. Now even before this there was law, as the explanation of 5:13 has shown. But at Sinai the Mosaic law came in besides “in order that the trespass might increase.” That was the divine intention in giving this law.

This cannot mean that God became the cause of sin’s increase. It means that it was God’s will and purpose that in light of his demand of perfect love (cf. Matt. 22:37–40; Mark 12:29–31; Luke 10:27) man’s consciousness of sin might become sharpened. A vague awareness of the fact that all is not well with him will not drive man to the Savior. So the law acts as a magnifying glass. Such an instrument does not actually increase the number of dirty spots on a garment. It makes them stand out more clearly and reveals many more of them than one can see with the naked eye. Similarly, the law causes sin to stand out in all its heinousness and ramifications. In connection with this see also Rom. 3:20; 7:7, 13; Gal. 3:19.

Moreover, this increase in the knowledge of sin is very necessary. It will prevent a person from imagining that in his own power he can overcome sin. The more he, in light of God’s law, begins to see his own sinfulness and weakness, the more also will he thank God for the manifestation of his grace in Jesus Christ. Result: where sin increases, grace increases also. Not as if these two forces, sin and grace, were equal. On the contrary, grace not only pardons; as verse 21 shows, it does far more: it brings “everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Truly, where sin increases, grace increases all the more!

Among the many hymns that bring out this glorious truth there are these two: (a) Charles Wesley’s “O For a Thousand Tongues,” containing the line, “He breaks the power of canceled sin”; what an incisive combination of two mighty products of God’s grace, namely, justification and sanctification; and (b) Julia H. Johnston’s “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.”

Since the apostle often makes mention of God’s law, as also in the present passage, it may be useful to give a brief summary of the functions of this law, as indicated in Paul’s epistles and elsewhere in Scripture. Undoubtedly one or more references can easily be added to each of the following:

a. to serve as a source of man’s knowledge of sin and to sharpen his consciousness of sin (Rom. 3:20, etc., as has been indicated).

b. to fix the sinner’s attention on the far greater power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and to lead him to the Savior (Rom. 5:20; Gal. 3:24).

c. to serve as a guide for the expression of the believer’s life of gratitude to God’s honor (Ps. 19:7, 8; 119:105; Rom. 7:22).

d. to function as a bridle, restraining sin (1 Tim. 1:9–11).

There is, of course, a very close connection between these various functions.

The purpose of “grace abounding” is expressed in the following unforgettable words: 21. … in order that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What a strikingly beautiful close to this chapter! There are seven concepts, as follows:

a. sin

This is, first of all, the sin of Adam, here viewed as our representative, whose guilt, due to the solidarity of the human race, is imputed to us all, a fact to which all the personal sins of human beings bear witness. See especially verses 12, 15, 17.

b. reigning

When Adam fell, it seemed as if sin was about to triumph completely. However, according to God’s plan, grace intervened, and in the case of all God’s children, triumphed over sin. See verses 12–14 for the reign of sin; verses 15–19 for the triumph of grace.

c. death

Sin brought condemnation and death; first of all physical death, but also spiritual and eternal death. Sin and Death are personified: Sin being, as it were, the Sovereign; Death, his Viceroy. For the moment (think of Adam’s fall), it seemed as if Sin would be able to claim the victory. See verses 12, 14. But note the next item:

d. grace

Grace meets sin head-on and defeats it. See verses 15–17, 20.

e. righteousness

Not a righteousness provided by man but a righteousness imputed by God. It was through this righteousness that grace triumphed over sin. See 1:17; 3:21–24; 5:17.

f. everlasting life

When the sinner is clothed with the righteousness provided by God, he is on his way to everlasting life (verse 18), the glorious life in the new heaven and earth; a life, which, in principle, is given to him even here and now. For this concept see on 2:7.

g. Jesus Christ our Lord

See verses 14, 15, 17, 19. It must not be forgotten that apart from the immeasurably marvelous sacrifice of “Jesus Christ our Lord,” a sacrifice revealing a love, which, in all its dimensions, surpasses all human understanding, grace would never have been able to conquer sin and death.

The unifying thought, as it were tying together all these seven concepts, is this, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” namely, the grace embodied in the supreme sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and revealed to us through him. (1)

Additional Scriptures relevant to the two Adams:

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1Corinthians 15:21-22)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on 1Corinthians 15:21-22 is excellent:

“For since by man came death,…. The first man, by sin, was the cause of death; of its coming into the world, and upon all men, by which corporeal death is here meant; though the first man also by sin brought a moral death, or a death in sin on all his posterity; and rendered them liable to an eternal death, which is the just wages of sin; but since the apostle is treating of the resurrection of the body, a bodily death seems only intended:

By man came also the resurrection of the dead; so God, in his great goodness and infinite wisdom has thought fit, and he has so ordered it, that it should be, that as the first man was the cause of, and brought death into the world, the second man should be the cause of the resurrection of life. Christ is the meritorious and procuring cause of the resurrection of his people; he by dying has abolished death; and by rising from the dead has opened the graves of the saints, and procured their resurrection for them, obtained for them a right unto it, and made way for it: and he is the pattern and exemplar, according to which they will be raised; their vile bodies will be fashioned, and made like to his glorious body; and whereas both in life and in death they bear the image of the first and earthly man, in the resurrection they will bear the image of the second and heavenly one: he also will be the efficient cause of the resurrection; all the dead will be raised by his power, and at the hearing of his voice; though the saints only will be raised by him, in virtue of their union to him, and interest in him, being members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For as in Adam all die,…. The apostle here shows who he meant in the former verse, by the one man the cause of death, and by the other the author of the resurrection of the dead, and that he intended Adam and Christ; all men were in Adam seminally, as the common parent of human nature, in such sense as Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him, and in him paid tithes unto him; and they were all in him representatively, he being the federal head of all his posterity, and so a type and figure of Christ that was to come; and being in him, they all sinned in him, and so died in him, the sentence of death passed on them in him; they became subject to a corporeal death, which has ever since reigned over mankind, even over infants, such who have not sinned after the similitude of his transgression; this was the doctrine of the Jewish church; See Gill on Romans 5:12, to which may be added one testimony more; says (g) one of their writers,

“By the means of the first Adam, “death was inflicted by way of punishment on all’”:

even so in Christ shall all be made alive: not made spiritually alive, for Christ quickens whom he will; not all in this sense, some die in their sins; nor are all entitled to an eternal life; for though Christ has a power to give it, yet only to those whom the Father has given to him; it is true indeed, that all that are in Christ, chosen in him and united to him, are made alive by him, and have the gift of eternal life through him; but the apostle is not speaking of such a life, but of a corporeal one: to be quickened or made alive, is with the Jews, and other eastern nations, a phrase of the same signification with being raised from the dead, and as the context here shows; and not to be understood of the resurrection of all men, for though there will be a resurrection of the just and unjust, yet the one will be the resurrection of life, and the other the resurrection of damnation; now it is of the former the apostle here speaks, and expresses by being made alive: and the sense is, that as all that were in Adam, all that belonged to him, all his natural seed and posterity, all to whom he was a federal head, died in him, became mortal, and subject to death through him; so all that are in Christ, that belong to him, who are his spiritual seed and offspring, to whom he is a covenant head, and representative, shall be raised to an immortal life by him; or as all the elect of God died in Adam, so shall they all be quickened, or raised to life in and by Christ.” (2)

The next passage also deals with the comparisons of the two Adams:

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1Corinthians 15:45-49)

The First and the Last Adam by S. Cox, D.D. on 1Corinthians 15:45-50 explains this passage perfectly:

1Corinthians 15:45-50

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.…

1. St. Paul bases his assertion that “if there is a psychical body, there is also a spiritual,” first, on the analogies of Nature; second, on the nature of Man as revealed in Holy Writ (see ver. 44), third, on the historical facts that Adam had the one and Christ the other.

2. Note, however, some interesting preliminaries. The opening clause of the text is almost an exact quotation from Genesis 2:7; that the second refers to Christ is proved by these two facts: that with the rabbis, at whose feet Paul sat, “the last Adam” was a common name for “the Messiah”; and that St. Paul never uses the designations the second Man, or “the last Adam,” of any one but Christ. Again the rabbis bid us note that Moses says, not “man was made, but became a living soul.” They hold that when God breathed the breath of life into Adam, He conferred on him the higher spiritual nature of man; but that, when Adam sinned, he fell, and became a man in whom the soul ruled rather than the spirit. And the rabbis have the Scriptures on their side. What was “the fall” but a fall from the higher life of the spirit into the lower life of the soul, into a life of mere intelligence and passion as distinguished from a life of righteousness, faith, love, joy, peace? Why was he debarred from “the tree of life” but because that it was no longer meet that his body should put on incorruption and immortality?


1. The psychical or soulish man is a man in whom the soul is supreme. Conscience, righteousness, faith, God, etc., do not stand first with him; but man, time, earth, the gratifications of sense and intellect. Was not Adam a man of this type? When the spiritual crisis came his faith failed him. God was not first with him, nor God’s will.

2. A soulish man he came to have a soulish body. Indications of this are seen in —

(1) Adam’s newborn shame of his nakedness.

(2) The passion, which made Cain a murderer.

(3) The infirmities, the special forms of death and corruption, to which Adam and his children became liable. Nevertheless, as our own experience proves, the body, even when thus changed and depraved, was nevertheless perfect in its adaptation to the faculties, functions, cravings, needs of the soul.


1. He was the true spiritual Man; for in Him all faculties and passions of the soul were in subjection to the spirit. To Him, living and walking in the spirit, all that is of earth and time and soul was as nothing when compared with the eternal realities. And therefore He could refuse all the kingdoms of this world, and could hasten to help any man, however lowly, however earthly, and seek to quicken in him, by help to the body, the life of the spirit. Of a charity so intense that He loved every man, of a faith so clear and strong that He looked through all the shows of time to the eternal substance, of a hope so lively that He despaired of no man, of a righteousness so pure that even the practiced eyes of incarnate evil could find nothing in Him, of a peace so perfect that even His unparalleled labour and conflict could not impair it; in heaven even while He was on earth; making His Father’s will His daily food, He stands before us the one true spiritual Man.

2. So also, the last Adam teaches us what the spiritual body is.

(1) He had a body like to ours, yet not altogether the same as ours. Conceived of a Virgin by the Holy Ghost, Christ took our flesh as Adam took it, from the hands of God, immaculate; receiving a physical body which might change and rise into “a spiritual body” without passing, as our bodies must, through the purifications of corruption. We die perforce. But He “laid down” His life. He saw no corruption. It was not possible that He should be holden of death.

(a) And therefore, we see signs of the spiritual body even in the body of His humiliation. Virtue went out of Him. He lived not by bread alone. He walked on the storm-tossed waves. On Mount Tabor He stood before the eyes of His amazed and dazzled disciples a spiritual man in a spiritual body.

(b) But all these signs of the spiritual m the physical region of His life were prompted by that which is of the spirit, not by that which is of the soul. It was at the touch of faith, of spiritual need and desire and trust that virtue went out of Him. It was that He might feed the hungry, succour the distressed, or deliver the imperilled, that He exerted a supernatural control over natural laws: and He fed, succoured, delivered men that they might come to know Him, and God in Him, and thus possess themselves of eternal life. When the weak physical frame was transfigured with an immortal strength and splendour, it was because His spirit was rapt in the ecstasies of redeeming love as He talked with Moses and Elias, because He saw that the work of His redemption would be triumphantly accomplished.

(2) After His death and resurrection, the signs that He inhabits a spiritual body grow more apparent. Though He can still eat and drink, etc., He glides through closed doors, passes as in an instant from place to place, vanishes from their sight as the disciples recognise Him. At His will, He is visible or invisible: He is here. He is there, the spiritual body being now as perfect a servant of the spirit in Him as the psychical body of the soul. He can eat, but He does not need to eat. His body is raised into higher conditions, endowed with loftier powers. It is heavenly, not earthly; it is spiritual rather than physical or psychical. Conclusion: Do any ask: “But what is all this to us? Adam and Christ were both exceptional men. If the first Adam was a psychical man and the last Adam a spiritual man, how does that bear on St. Paul’s argument?” It is much — nay, it is everything — to us; and that precisely because both Adam and Christ were exceptional men, who stand in an exceptional relation to the human race. For (ver. 22) both the Adam and the Christ are in us, and in all men; that they contend together in us for the mastery; that it is at our own option to side either with the one or with the other; and that, according as we espouse the first Adam or the last, we become earthly or heavenly, psychical or spiritual men. If we permit the Christ to reign in us, in our mortal members, our mortality will put on immortality — as His did, and be swallowed up of life — as His was. Like His, our spiritual manhood will demand and receive a spiritual body. And therefore St. Paul may fairly exhort us that, “as we bear the image of the earthly (man), so also we should bear the image of the heavenly.” (S. Cox, D.D.) (3)

The following entry from the Evangelical Dictionary is excellent.

Adam, the Second from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:

Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15). Like the first Adam, he is the “ruler of creation” (Rev 3:14). He is its author and perfecter (Heb. 12:2). Anyone in Christ is a “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17).

He existed in the form of God, yet did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:6). He did not desire to be more than man (2:7-8). He was “made like his brothers in every way” so that “by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death” and free those held in slavery by fear of death (Hebrews 2:14 Hebrews 2:17).

Christ was crowned with glory and honor over the world to come (Heb. 2:5-7). The first Adam lost his crown and gained death. The second Adam was crowned because he tasted death for every man (2:8-9). Sin and death upon all men entered the world through one man. By the obedience of the second Adam life abounds too many (Ro 5:12-19).

He was tempted in every way, as was Adam, yet was without sin (Matt 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15). Like the serpent he says, “Take and eat” (Matt 26:26), but this food brings life to the world (John 6:33). Christ and Adam are both sons of God (Matt 1:1; Luke 3:37). Both have their sonship by his power (Gen 2:7; Luke 1:35; Rom 1:4). God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1Co 15:22). Adam was a pattern of the one to come (Ro 5:14). One of the greatest things to be said for the first Adam was that he became “a living being.” Christ, however, became “a life-giving spirit” (1Co 15:45). This spiritual life force does not make us slaves again to fear but the spirit of the Son comes into our hearts crying “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6-7).

The first Adam came from the dust. The second Adam came from heaven (1Co 15:47). He came down from heaven not to do his own will but the will of him who sent him (John 6:38). God called the first man by name out of hiding (Gen 3:9). The second Adam calls his own by name and they hear his voice (John 10:3). One day the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. Those who hear will live (John 5:25).

We have borne the likeness of the earthly man, the first Adam. In the resurrection we will bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1Co 15:49). By the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, he will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. The last enemy placed under the feet of the second Adam is death (Psalm 110:1; 1Co 15:26). He will not reach out and try to grasp more but will turn everything over to God who will be all in all (15:28). Paul Ferguson (4)

In closing, a comparative summary of the two Adams:


· The first man Adam was made a living soul (1Corinthians 15:45)

· He was natural or non-spiritual (1Corinthians 15:46)

· His origin was earthly (1Corinthians 15:47)

· Fallen men reflect Adam’s image (1Corinthians 15:49)

· All die in Adam (1Corinthians 15:22)

Adam is the federal head of the old creation and fallen race:

· Adam was a representative of all mankind (Romans 5:12-21)

· Adam performed one act for his race this act was a sinful act (Romans 5:12, 15, 16, 17-18)

Adam’s sinful act produced:

· Death (Romans 5:12, 14, 15)

· Judgment (Romans 5:16, 18)

· Condemnation (Romans 5:16, 18)


· The last Adam (1Corinthians 15:45)

· The second Adam was made a quickening spirit (1Corinthians 15:45)

· Christ gives life and this life is spiritual (1Corinthians 15:46)

· Christ’s origin is from heaven (1Corinthians 15:47)

· Christ’s people bear His image (1Corinthians15:49

· Christ’s people are alive in Him (1Corinthians15:22)

Jesus is the federal Head of the new creation and redeemed race:

· Christ was a representative for His people and He acted on behalf of His people (Romans 5:12-21)

· Christ performed one act, which had even greater value than the first Adam (Romans 5:16)

· Christ‘s act was a righteous act (Romans 5:18)

· Christ’s act was an act of obedience, in dying on the cross (Romans 5:19)

Christ’s righteous act produced:

· Eternal Life (Romans 5:17, 18, 21)

· Justification (Romans 5:16, 18-19)

· No Condemnation (Romans 8:8)

“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. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 176-185.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 1Corinthians, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 365-366.

3. Samuel Cox, The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database, Bible Soft .com, Bible Hub.

4. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 10-12.

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

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Readings from Church History on the Trinity

Readings from Church History on the Trinity by Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand the Trinity through the statements of church fathers, and theologians throughout history. There will be numerous quotations along with recognized creedal and catechisms cited.

“The doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t invented – it was uncovered. The doctrine of the Trinity is not some arbitrary and outdated dictate handed down by some confused council – it is the inevitable result of wrestling with the richness and complexity of the Christian experience of God.” – Alister McGrath

“I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.” – Gregory of Nazianzus

“Trinity is the Christian name for God.” – Karl Barth

Modalism (i.e. Sabellianism, Noetianism, Patripassianism and Monarchianism)

Modalism                                                                                                                                    Teaches that the three persons of the Trinity as different “modes” of the Godhead. Adherents believed that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. A typical modalist approach is to regard God as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in sanctification. In other words, God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune. Stemming from Modalism, Patripassianism believed that the Father suffered as the Son.

Teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three independent divine beings; three separate gods who share the ‘same substance’. This is a common mistake because of misunderstanding of the use of the term ‘persons’ in defining the Trinity.Arianism
Teaches that the preexistent Christ was the first and greatest of God’s creatures but denied his fully divine status. The Arian controversy was of major importance in the development of Christology during the fourth century and was addressed definitely in the Nicene Creed.

Teaches that Jesus Christ as a purely divine being who only had the “appearance” of being human. Regarding his suffering, some versions taught that Jesus’ divinity abandoned or left him upon the cross while other claimed that he only appeared to suffer (much like he only appeared to be human).

Teaches that while Jesus was endowed with particular charismatic gifts, which distinguished him from other humans but nonetheless regarded Him as a purely human figure.

Teaches that that the Holy Spirit is a created being.

Teaches that Jesus was born completely human and only later was “adopted” – either at his baptism or at his resurrection – by God in a special (i.e. divine) way.

Teaches that Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are components of the one God. This led them to believe that each of the persons of the Trinity is only part God, only becoming fully God when they come together.

Teaches that the one true God exists as two Persons (the Father and the Son).

A short list of terms debated during the Trinitarian Church Counsels:

Hypostasis: Greek word is interpreted “person,” “substance,” “subsistence”

Ousia: essence/being/substance

Essence: Greek ousia, being; Latin substantia, substance

Perichoresis: members of the Trinity are mutually involved in personal and dynamic ways

Homoousios: Greek word is rendered “of one and the same substance or being”

Filioque: Latin word meaning “and from the Son”

Procession: Greek ekporeuomai, John 15:26; Latin processio, “to emanate from another”

Begotten: the eternal generation of the Son

Early Church leaders Eastern

Athanasius, AD 325 – 370
1. We believe in one Unbegotten God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible that hath His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced nor mental, nor an effluence of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue; but absolutely perfect Son, living and powerful (Heb. iv. 12), the true Image of the Father, equal in honour and glory. For this, he says, ‘is the will of the Father, that as they honour the Father, so they may honour the Son also’ (Joh. v. 23): very God of very God, as John says in his general Epistles, ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and everlasting life’ (1 John v. 20): Almighty of Almighty. For all things, which the Father rules and sways, the Son rules and sways likewise: wholly from the Whole, being like the Father as the Lord says, ‘he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’ (Joh. xiv. 9). But He was begotten ineffably and incomprehensibly, for ‘who shall declare his generation?’ (Isa. liii. 8), in other words, no one can. Who, when at the consummation of the ages (Heb. ix. 26), He had descended from the bosom of the Father, took from the undefiled Virgin Mary our humanity (anthropon), Christ Jesus, whom He delivered of His own will to suffer for us, as the Lord saith: ‘No man taketh My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and have power to take it again’ (Joh. x. 18). In which humanity He was crucified and died for us, and rose from the dead, and was taken up into the heavens, having been created as the beginning of ways for us (Prov. viii. 22), when on earth He shewed us light from out of darkness, salvation from error, life from the dead, an entrance to paradise, from which Adam was cast out, and into which he again entered by means of the thief, as the Lord said, ‘This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise’ (Luke xxiii. 43), into which Paul also once entered. [He shewed us] also a way up to the heavens, whither the humanity of the Lord, in which He will judge the quick and the dead, entered as precursor for us. We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1Cor. ii. 10), and we anathematise doctrines contrary to this.
2. For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we ascribe the passible body, which He bore for the salvation of the whole world to the Father. Neither can we imagine three Subsistences separated from each other, as results from their bodily nature in the case of men, lest we hold a plurality of gods like the heathen. But just as a river, produced from a well, is not separate, and yet there are in fact two visible objects and two names. For neither is the Father the Son, nor the Son the Father. For the Father is Father of the Son, and the Son, Son of the Father. For like as the well is not a river, nor the river a well, but both are one and the same water which is conveyed in a channel from the well to the river, so the Father’s deity passes into the Son without flow and without division. For the Lord says, ‘I came out from the Father and am come’ (Joh. xvi. 28). But He is ever with the Father, for He is in the bosom of the Father, nor was ever the bosom of the Father void of the deity of the Son. For He says, ‘I was by Him as one setting in order’ (Prov. viii. 30). But we do not regard God the Creator of all, the Son of God, as a creature, or thing made, or as made out of nothing, for He is truly existent from Him who exists, alone existing from Him who alone exists, in as much as the like glory and power was eternally and conjointly begotten of the Father. For ‘He that hath seen’ the Son ‘hath seen the Father (Joh. xiv. 9). All things to wit were made through the Son; but He Himself is not a creature, as Paul says of the Lord: ‘In Him were all things created, and He is before all’ (Col. i. 16). Now He says not, ‘was created’ before all things, but ‘is’ before all things. To be created, namely, is applicable to all things, but ‘is before all’ applies to the Son only.
3. He is then by nature an Offspring, perfect from the Perfect, begotten before all the hills (Prov. viii. 25), that is before every rational and intelligent essence, as Paul also in another place calls Him ‘first-born of all creation’ (Col. I. 15). But by calling Him First-born, He shews that He is not a Creature, but Offspring of the Father. For it would be inconsistent with His deity for Him to be called a creature. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son alone was eternally begotten from the Father, whence God the Word is ‘first-born of all creation,’ unchangeable from unchangeable. However, the body which He wore for our sakes is a creature: concerning which Jeremiah says, according to the edition of the seventy translators (Jer. xxxi. 22): ‘The Lord created for us for a planting a new salvation, in which salvation men shall go about:’ but according to Aquila the same text runs: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman.’ Now the salvation created for us for a planting, which is new, not old, and for us, not before us, is Jesus, Who in respect of the Saviour was made man, and whose name is translated in one place Salvation, in another Saviour. But salvation proceeds from the Saviour, just as illumination does from the light. The salvation, then, which was from the Saviour, being created new, did, as Jeremiah says, ‘create for us a new salvation,’ and as Aquila renders: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman,’ that is in Mary. For nothing new was created in woman, save the Lord’s body, born of the Virgin Mary without intercourse, as also it says in the Proverbs in the person of Jesus: ‘The Lord created me, a beginning of His ways for His works’ (Prov. viii. 22). Now He does not say, ‘created me before His works,’ lest any should take the text of the deity of the Word.
4. Each text then which refers to the creature is written with reference to Jesus in a bodily sense. For the Lord’s Humanity was created as ‘a beginning of ways,’ and He manifested it to us for our salvation. For by it we have our access to the Father. For He is the way (Joh. xiv. 6) which leads us back to the Father. And a way is a corporeal visible thing, such as is the Lord’s humanity. Well, then, the Word of God created all things, not being a creature, but an offspring. For He created none of the created things equal or like unto Himself. But it is the part of a Father to beget, while it is a workman’s part to create. Accordingly, that body is a thing made and created, which the Lord bore for us, which was begotten for us, as Paul says, ‘wisdom from God, and sanctification and righteousness, and redemption;’ while yet the Word was before us and before all Creation, and is, the Wisdom of the Father. But the Holy Spirit, being that which proceeds from the Father, is ever in the hands of the Father Who sends and of the Son Who conveys Him, by Whose means He filled all things. The Father, possessing His existence from Himself, begat the Son, as we said, and did not create Him, as a river from a well and as a branch from a root, and as brightness from a light, things which nature knows to be indivisible; through whom to the Father be glory and power and greatness before all ages, and unto all the ages of the ages. Amen. (1)

Saint Basil the Great AD 330 – 379
“The Godhead is common; the fatherhood particular. We must therefore combine the two and say, ‘I believe in God the Father.’
The like course must be pursued in the confession of the Son; we must combine the particular with the common and say ‘I believe in God the Son,’ so in the case of the Holy Ghost we must make our utterance conform to the appellation and say ‘in God the Holy Ghost.’
Hence it results that there is a satisfactory preservation of the unity by the confession of the one Godhead, while in the distinction of the individual properties regarded in each there is the confession of the peculiar properties of the Persons.” (2)

St. Gregory Nazianzus AD 329 – 390
“…we shall begin… by applying identical expressions to the Three. ‘He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world’ (Jn. 1:9) – yes, the Father. ‘He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world’ -yes, the Son. ‘He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world’ -yes, the Comforter. These are three subjects and three verbs – He was and He was and He was. But a single reality was. There are three predicates – light and light and light. But the light is one, God is one. This is the meaning of David’s prophetic vision: ‘In Your light we shall see light’ (Ps. 36:9). We receive the Son’s light from the Father’s light in the light of the Spirit: that is what we ourselves have seen and what we now proclaim – it is the plain and simple explanation of the Trinity.” (3)

“Aheism with its lack of a governing principle involves disorder. Polytheism, with a plurality of such principles, involves faction and hence the absence of a governing principle, and this involves disorder again. Both lead to an identical result – lack of order, which, in turn, leads to disintegration, disorder being the prelude to disintegration. Monotheism, with its single governing principle, is what we value – not monotheism defined as the sovereignty of a single person (after all, self-discordant unity can become a plurality) but the single rule produced by equality of nature, harmony of will, identity of action, and the convergence towards their source of what springs from unity – none of which is possible in the case of created nature. The result is that though there is numerical distinction, there is no division in the substance. For this reason, a one eternally changes to a two and stops at three – meaning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (4)

Early Church Leaders Western

Tertullian AD 160 – 220
“In the course of time, then, the Father forsooth was born, and the Father suffered, God Himself, the Lord Almighty, whom in their preaching they declare to be Jesus Christ. We, however, as we indeed always have done (and more especially since we have been better instructed by the Paraclete, who leads men indeed into all truth), believe that there is one only God, but under the following dispensation, or οἰκονομία, as it is called, that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. Him we believe to have been sent by the Father into the Virgin, and to have been born of her — being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and to have been called by the name of Jesus Christ; we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead; who sent also from heaven from the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost. That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever — that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date. But keeping this prescriptive rule inviolate, still some opportunity must be given for reviewing (the statements of heretics), with a view to the instruction and protection of various persons; were it only that it may not seem that each perversion of the truth is condemned without examination, and simply prejudged; especially in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.” (5)

Augustine of Hippo AD 354 – 430
“The true objects of enjoyment, then, are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are at the same time the Trinity, one Being, supreme above all, and common to all who enjoy Him, if He is an object, and not rather the cause of all objects, or indeed even if He is the cause of all. For it is not easy to find a name that will suitably express so great excellence, unless it is better to speak in this way: The Trinity, one God, of whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things. Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit.” (6)

Western Church Roman Middle Ages

Thomas Aquinas AD 1225 – 1274
Question 31. The unity or plurality in God (abridged):
I answer that, the name “Trinity” in God signifies the determinate number of persons. And so the plurality of persons in God requires that we should use the word trinity; because what is indeterminately signified by plurality, is signified by trinity in a determinate manner.
Reply to objection 1. In its etymological sense, this word “Trinity” seems to signify the one essence of the three persons, according as trinity may mean trine-unity. But in the strict meaning of the term it rather signifies the number of persons of one essence; and on this account we cannot say that the Father is the Trinity, as He is not three persons. Yet it does not mean the relations themselves of the Persons, but rather the number of persons related to each other; and hence it is that the word in itself does not express regard to another.
Reply to objection 2. Two things are implied in a collective term, plurality of the “supposita,” and a unity of some kind of order. For “people” is a multitude of men comprehended under a certain order. In the first sense, this word “trinity” is like other collective words; but in the second sense it differs from them, because in the divine Trinity not only is there unity of order, but also with this there is unity of essence.
Reply to objection 3. “Trinity” is taken in an absolute sense; for it signifies the threefold number of persons. “Triplicity” signifies a proportion of inequality; for it is a species of unequal proportion, according to Boethius (Arithm. i, 23). Therefore, in God there is not triplicity, but Trinity.
Reply to objection 4. In the divine Trinity is to be understood both number and the persons numbered. So when we say, “Trinity in Unity,” we do not place number in the unity of the essence, as if we meant three times one; but we place the Persons numbered in the unity of nature; as the “supposita” of a nature are said to exist in that nature. On the other hand, we say “Unity in Trinity”; meaning that the nature is in its “supposita.”
Reply to objection 5. When we say, “Trinity is trine,” by reason of the number implied, we signify the multiplication of that number by itself; since the word trine imports a distinction in the “supposita” of which it is spoken. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Trinity is trine; otherwise it follows that, if the Trinity be trine, there would be three “supposita” of the Trinity; as when we say, “God is trine,” it follows that there are three “supposita” of the Godhead. Article 2. Whether the Son is other than the Father?
I answer that, Since as Jerome remarks [In substance, Ep. lvii.], a heresy arises from words wrongly used, when we speak of the Trinity we must proceed with care and with befitting modesty; because, as Augustine says (De Trin. i, 3), “nowhere is error more harmful, the quest more toilsome, the finding more fruitful.” Now, in treating of the Trinity, we must beware of two opposite errors, and proceed cautiously between them—namely, the error of Arius, who placed a Trinity of substance with the Trinity of persons; and the error of Sabellius, who placed unity of person with the unity of essence.
Thus, to avoid the error of Arius we must shun the use of the terms diversity and difference in God, lest we take away the unity of essence: we may, however, use the term “distinction” on account of the relative opposition. Hence whenever we find terms of “diversity” or “difference” of Persons used in an authentic work, these terms of “diversity” or “difference” are taken to mean “distinction.” But lest the simplicity and singleness of the divine essence be taken away, the terms “separation” and “division,” which belong to the parts of a whole, are to be avoided: and lest quality be taken away, we avoid the use of the term “disparity”: and lest we remove similitude, we avoid the terms “alien” and “discrepant.” For Ambrose says (De Fide i) that “in the Father and the Son there is no discrepancy, but one Godhead”: and according to Hilary, as quoted above, “in God there is nothing alien, nothing separable.”
To avoid the heresy of Sabellius, we must shun the term “singularity,” lest we take away the communicability of the divine essence. Hence, Hilary says (De Trin. vii): “It is sacrilege to assert that the Father and the Son are separate in Godhead.” We must avoid the adjective “only” [unici] lest we take away the number of persons. Hence, Hilary says in the same book: “We exclude from God the idea of singularity or uniqueness.” Nevertheless, we say “the only Son,” for in God there is no plurality of Sons. Yet, we do not say “the only God,” for the Deity is common to several. We avoid the word “confused,” lest we take away from the Persons the order of their nature. Hence, Ambrose says (De Fide i): “What is one is not confused; and there is no multiplicity where there is no difference.” The word “solitary” is also to be avoided, lest we take away the society of the three persons; for, as Hilary says (De Trin. iv), “We confess neither a solitary nor a diverse God.”
This word “other” [alius], however, in the masculine sense, means only a distinction of “suppositum”; and hence we can properly say that “the Son is other than the Father,” because He is another “suppositum” of the divine nature, as He is another person and another hypostasis.
Article 4. Whether an exclusive diction can be joined to the personal term?
I answer that, When we say, “The Father alone is God,” such a proposition can be taken in several senses. If “alone” means solitude in the Father, it is false in a categorematical sense; but if taken in a syncategorematical sense it can again be understood in several ways. For if it exclude (all others) from the form of the subject, it is true, the sense being “the Father alone is God”—that is, “He who with no other is the Father, is God.” In this way, Augustine expounds when he says (De Trin. vi, 6): “We say the Father alone, not because He is separate from the Son, or from the Holy Ghost, but because they are not the Father together with Him.” This, however, is not the usual way of speaking, unless we understand another implication, as though we said “He who alone is called the Father is God.” But in the strict sense the exclusion affects the predicate. And thus the proposition is false if it excludes another in the masculine sense; but true if it excludes it in the neuter sense; because the Son is another person than the Father, but not another thing; and the same applies to the Holy Ghost. But because this diction “alone,” properly speaking, refers to the subject, it tends to exclude another Person rather than other things. Hence, such a way of speaking is not to be taken too literally, but it should be piously expounded, whenever we find it in an authentic work.
Reply to objection 1. When we say, “Thee the only true God,” we do not understand it as referring to the person of the Father, but to the whole Trinity, as Augustine expounds (De Trin. vi, 9). Or, if understood of the person of the Father, the other persons are not excluded by reason of the unity of essence; in so far as the word “only” excludes another thing, as above explained.
Reply to objection 2. For an essential term applied to the Father does not exclude the Son or the Holy Ghost, by reason of the unity of essence. Hence we must understand that in the text quoted the term “no one” [Nemo = non-homo, i.e. no man] is not the same as “no man,” which the word itself would seem to signify (for the person of the Father could not be excepted), but is taken according to the usual way of speaking in a distributive sense, to mean any rational nature.
Reply to objection 3. The exclusive diction does not exclude what enters into the concept of the term to which it is adjoined, if they do not differ in “suppositum,” as part and universal. But the Son differs in “suppositum” from the Father; and so there is no parity.
Reply to objection 4. We do not say absolutely that the Son alone is Most High, but that He alone is Most High “with the Holy Ghost, in the glory of God the Father.” (7)

Western Church Protestant Reformation Era

John Calvin AD 1509 – 1564 “When the Apostle calls the Son of God “the express image of his person,” (Heb. 1:3), he undoubtedly does assign to the Father some subsistence in which he differs from the Son. For to hold with some interpreters that the term is equivalent to essence (as if Christ represented thesubstance of the Father like the impression of a seal upon wax), were not only harsh but absurd.
For the essence of God being simple and undivided, and contained in himself entire, in full perfection, without partition or diminution, it is improper, nay, ridiculous, to call it his express image. But because the Father, though distinguished by his own peculiar properties, has expressed himself wholly in the Son, he is said with perfect reason to have rendered his person (hypostasis) manifest in him. And this aptly accords with what is immediately added—viz. that he is “the brightness of his glory.” The fair inference from the Apostle’s words is that there is a proper subsistence (hypostasis) of the Father, which shines refulgent in the Son. From this, again it is easy to infer that there is a subsistence (hypostasis) of the Son, which distinguishes him from the Father. The same holds in the case of the Holy Spirit; for we will immediately prove both that he is God, and that he has a separate subsistence from the Father. This, moreover, is not a distinction of essence, which it were impious to multiply. If credit, then, is given to the Apostle’s testimony, it follows that there are three persons (hypostases) in God. The Latins having used the word Persona to express the same thing as the Greek, it betrays excessive fastidiousness and even perverseness to quarrel with the term. The most literal translation would be subsistence. Many have used substance in the same sense. Nor, indeed, was the use of the term Person confined to the Latin Church. For the Greek Church in like manner, perhaps, for the purpose of testifying their consent, have taught that there are three (aspects) in God. All these, however, whether Greeks or Latins, though differing as to the word, are perfectly agreed in substance.” (8)

“He said, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ (Mt. 28:19), since this is the same thing as to baptized into the name of the one God, who has been fully manifested in the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Hence it plainly appears, that the three persons, in whom alone God is known, subsist in the Divine essence.” (9)

John Calvin on Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity:
“Again, Scripture sets forth a distinction of the Father from the Word and of the Word from the Spirit. Yet the greatness of the mystery warns us how much reverence and sobriety we ought to use in investigating this. And that passage in Gregory of Nazianzus vastly delights me:
‘I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.’”
“Let us not, then, be led to imagine a trinity of persons that keeps our thoughts distracted and does not at once lead them back to that unity. Indeed, the words “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” imply a real distinction – let no one think that these titles, whereby God is variously designated from his works, are empty – but a distinction, not a division, The passages that we have already cited [e.g., Zechariah 13:7] show that the Son has a character distinct from the Father, because the Word would not have been with God unless he were another than the Father, nor would he have had his glory with the Father were he not distinct from the Father. . . .” (10)

John Owen AD 1616 – 1683
“We produce divine revelations or testimonies, wherein faith may safely rest and acquiesce, that God is one; that this one God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost; so that the Father is God, so also is the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (11)
“There is nothing more fully expressed in the Scripture than this sacred truth, that there is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which are divine, distinct, intelligent, voluntary omnipotent principles of operation and working: which whosoever thinks himself obliged to believe the Scripture must believe.” (12)

Thomas Watson AD 1620 – 1686
A: Three persons, yet but one God.
‘There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.’ I John 5:5.
God is but one, yet are there three distinct persons subsisting in one Godhead. This is a sacred mystery, which the light within man could never have discovered. As the two natures in Christ, yet but one person, is a wonder; so three persons, yet but one Godhead. Here is a great deep, the Father God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God; yet not three Gods, but one God. The three persons in the blessed Trinity are distinguished, but not divided; three substances, but one essence. This is a divine riddle where one makes three, and three make one. Our narrow thoughts can no more comprehend the Trinity in Unity, than a nut-shell will hold all the water in the sea. Let me shadow it out by a similitude. In the body of the sun, there are the substance of the sun, the beams, and the heat; the beams are begotten of the sun, the heat proceeds both from the sun and the beams; but these three, though different, are not divided; they all three make but one sun: so in the blessed Trinity, the Son is begotten of the Father, the Holy Ghost proceeds from both; yet though they are three distinct persons, they are but one God. First, let me speak of the Unity in Trinity, then of the Trinity in Unity.” (13)

Recent Contemporary

Geerhardus Vos AD 1862 – 1949
“There is only one divine being. Scripture expresses itself decisively against all polytheism (Deut. 6:4; Isa 44:6; Jas 2:19).
In this one God are three modes of existence, which we refer to by the word “person” and which are, each one, this only true God. In Scripture these three persons are called, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
These three persons, although together the one true God, are nevertheless distinguished from each other insofar as they assume objective relations toward each other, address each other, love each other, and can interact with each other.
Although these three persons possess one and the same divine substance, Scripture nevertheless teaches us that, concerning their personal existence, the Father is the first, the Son the second, and the Holy Spirit the third, that the Son is of the Father, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Further, their workings outwardly reflect this order of personal existence, since the Father works through the Son, and the Father and Son work through the Spirit. There is, therefore, subordination as to personal manner of existence and manner of working, but no subordination regarding possession of the one divine substance.
The divine substance is not divided among the three persons as if each possesses one-third. Neither is it a new substance beside the three persons. Finally, neither is it an abstraction of our thinking in a nominalistic sense. But in a manner for which all further analogy is lacking, each of these persons possesses the entire divine substance.” (14)

St. John of Kronstadt AD 1829 – 1909
“As the word of the man reveals what is in his mind and heart (reveals the mind? unseen, dominating, creating), and as the breath proceeds from the man through the word, revealing the mind or the thought, so, somewhat similarly, the Word of God reveals to us the Father ? That great all-creating Mind? And, through the Word, the Holy Spirit, the life-giving Spirit, Who is the power of the Highest, eternally proceeds from the Father and is revealed to men. ‘The power of the Highest shall overshadow you’ (Lk. 1:35). Now the words of the Savior are comprehensible: ‘No man knows the Son but the Father; neither knows any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him’ (Mt. 11:27). That is, only the Son reveals the Father to men, as our word reveals our thought hidden in the soul. Such is the closeness of the union between the Father and the Son! And, every Person has His particular dominion and His own, so to say, work. And, therefore, the Lord said to His disciples: ‘If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart I will send Him to you’ (Jn. 16:7). Glory to You, Son of God, Who has revealed to us the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Your Word is truth; we live by all and each separate word of yours. They are our sweetness, peace, and life; especially the words concerning the Comforter.” (15)

Louis Berkhof AD 1873 – 1957
“The divine essence is not divided among the three persons, but is wholly with all its perfection in each one of the persons so that they have a numerical unity of essence.” (16)

Karl Barth AD 1886 – 1968
“The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian…” (17)
“Person” as used in the Church doctrine of the Trinity bears no direct relation to personality. The meaning of the doctrine is not, then, that there are three personalities in God. This would be the worst and most extreme expression of tritheism, against which we must be on guard at this stage. The doctrine of the personality of God is, of course, connected with that of the Trinity to the extent that, in a way yet to be shown, the trinitarian repetitions of the knowledge of the lordship of God radically prevent the divine He, or rather Thou, from becoming in any respect an It. But in it we are speaking not of three divine I’s, but thrice of the one divine I. The concept of equality of essence or substance (ofioovala, consubstantialitas) in the Father, Son and Spirit is thus at every point to be understood also and primarily in the sense of identity of substance. Identity of substance implies the equality of substance of “the persons.” (18)

“God is One, but not in such a way that as such He needs a Second and then a Third in order to be One, nor as though He were alone and had to do without a counterpart, and therefore again—this will be of clecisive significance in the doctrine of creation and man and also in the doctrine of reconciliation—not as though He could not exist without the world and man, as though there were between Him and the world and man a necessary relation of reciprocity. In Himself these limits of what we otherwise regard as unity are already set aside. In Himself His unity is neither singularity nor isolation. Herewith, i.e., with the doctrine of the Trinity, we step on to the soil of Christian monotheism.” (19)

“Trinity is the Christian name for God.” For many people God is a remote and inaccessible being – perhaps understood as the Creator or as a “life force,” yet in no way personal or intimate. The doctrine of the Trinity stresses that this “Creator” or “Father” has come near to us in human form in Jesus and “lives in us” in the Spirit. St. Paul, in Ephesians 2:15, was addressing Christians who had been converted from paganism: “You who were far off now in Christ Jesus have been brought near in the blood of Christ…through him we both have access in the Spirit to the Father.” (20)

Bishop Kallistos Ware
“This God who acts is not only a God of energies, but a personal God. When man participates in the divine energies, he is not overwhelmed by some vague and nameless power, but he is brought face to face with a person. Nor is this all: God is not simply a single person confined within his own being, but a Trinity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom ‘dwells’ in the other two, by virtue of a perpetual movement of love. God is not only a unity but a union.” (21)

Thomas F. Torrance AD 1913 – 2007
“The doctrine of the Trinity is the central dogma of Christian theology, the fundamental grammar of our knowledge of God.” (22)

From the Creeds:

The Athanasian Creed
Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.
Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.
The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.
And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.
Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.
Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.
Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.
So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.
Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.
But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now this is the true faith:
That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son,
is both God and human, equally.
He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.
Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God’s taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so to the one Christ is both God and human.
He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father’s right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For our salvation he came down from heaven, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Chalcedonian Creed
Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these “last days,” for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.
We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the “properties” of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one “person” and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us.

Harmony of the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms on the Trinity:

Westminster Confession of Faith 2.3
3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 8-11
Q. 8. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.
Q. 9. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.
Q. 10. What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?
A. It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.
Q. 11. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 5-6
Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.
Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 24-25
Into three parts: the first is of God the Father and our creation; the second, of God the Son and our redemption; the third, of God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification. [1]
[1] 1 Pt 1:2
Because God has so revealed Himself in His Word, [2] that these three distinct persons are the one, true, eternal God.
[1] Deut. 6:4; Isa 44:6, 45:5; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; [2] Gen 1:2-3; Ps 110:1; Isa 61:1, 63:8-10; Mt 3:16-17, 28:18-19; Lk 4:18; John 14:26, 15:26; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal 4:6; Tit 3:5-6

Belgic Confession Article 8-9
According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, 1 who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 2 The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible. 3 The Son is the Word, the wisdom, and the image of the Father. 4 The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might who proceeds from the Father and the Son. 5 Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has His personal existence, distinguished by Their properties; but in such a way that these three persons are but one only God.
It is therefore evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed our flesh and blood, neither has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son, 6 or without His Holy Spirit. For these three, in one and the same essence, are equal in eternity. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.
1. 1 Cor. 8:4-6. 2. Mat 3:16-17; Mat 28:19. 3. Eph. 3:14-15. 4. Prov. 8:22-31; John 1:14; John 5:17-26; 1Cor 1:24; Col 1:15-20; Heb. 1:3; Rev 19:13. 5. John 15:26. 6. Mic 5:2; John 1:1-2.
All this we know both from the testimonies of Holy Scripture 1 and from the respective works of the three Persons, and especially those we perceive in ourselves. The testimonies of Scripture, which lead us to believe this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament. It is not necessary to mention them all; it is sufficient to select some with discretion.
In the book of Genesis God says: Let Us make man in our image after our likeness …. So God created man in His own image…; male and female He created them (Gen 1:26-27). Also: Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Gen 3:22). From God’s saying, Let Us make man in Our image, it appears that there are more divine persons than one; and when He says, God created, He indicates that there is one God. It is true, He does not say how many persons there are, but what seems to be somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New Testament. For when our Lord was baptized in the river Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, who said, This is My beloved Son (Mat 3:17); the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form as a dove. 2 For the baptism of all believers, Christ prescribed this formula: Baptize all nations into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:19). In the gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Likewise, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2Cor. 13:14). In all these places, we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence.
Although this doctrine far surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless, in this life, we believe it on the ground of the Word of God, and we expect to enjoy its perfect knowledge and fruit hereafter in heaven.
Moreover, we must observe the distinct offices and works of these three Persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator by His power; the Son is our Saviour and Redeemer by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier by His dwelling in our hearts. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been maintained and preserved in the true church since the time of the apostles to this very day, over against Jews, Muslims, and against false Christians and heretics such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. In this doctrine, therefore, we willingly receive the three creeds, of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius; likewise that which in accordance with them is agreed upon by the early fathers.
1. John 14:16; John 15:26; Acts 2:32-33; Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Pet 1:2; 1 John 4:13-14; 1 John 5:1-12; Jude 1:20-21; Rev 1:4-5. 2. Mat 3:16.

Trinitarian Prayer Western
“Heavenly Father, I worship you as the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world.
Holy Spirit, I worship you, sanctifier of the people of God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy upon me. Amen.” – John Stott

Trinitarian Prayer Eastern
“The Trisagion Prayers:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.
O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3x)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3x)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy name: Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

In closing:

Of particular interest to Protestants:

“Whatever we may conclude about Calvin’s relationship to the tradition he inherited, his focus on the three persons rather than the one essence is more like the Eastern approach than the Western. In much of what he writes, Calvin combines elements of both East and West. His use of the baptismal formula is reminiscent of Basil. He insists that God is not truly known unless he is distinctly conceived as triune, and that the fruit of baptism is that God the Father adopts us in his Son and through the Spirit re-forms us into righteousness. Butin comments on the influence of the baptismal formula on both Calvin and Basil, and also notices the weakness of Warfield on the Eastern church, for, like the vast majority of Protestants until recently, Warfield took little or no notice of Eastern theology. This focus of Calvin on the three does not undermine the unity of God, for his being is one. The three persons imply a distinction, not a division.” (23)

As previously noted on what Calvin said showing an appreciation for the Eastern Churches emphasis on the three: “that passage in Gregory of Nazianzus vastly delights me:”

“I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one.” – Gregory of Nazianzus

Some may have questions regarding the next two quotations that confess a lack of human knowledge about our knowledge of God. They should not. Today many people do not understand how microwave ovens, cell phone, computers, televisions, and the internet works, and yet they have confidence in using these things.

“If Christianity were something we were making up, of course we would make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete in simplicity with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he doesn’t have any facts to bother about.” (24)

“A God understood, a God comprehended, is no God.” (25)

“Reformed theology holds that God can be known, but that it is impossible for man to have a knowledge of Him that is exhaustive and perfect in every way. To have such a knowledge of God would be equivalent to comprehending Him, and this is entirely out of the question: ‘finitum non possit capere infinitum.’ …true knowledge of God can be acquired only from the divine self-revelation, and only by the man who accepts this with childlike faith.” (26)

Some of the difficulty in defining and explaining the Trinity has to do with the limitations of human language itself. We are finite, and God is infinite. May the Triune God be ever glorified!

1. Athanasius, “Statement of Faith” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 83-85.
2. St. Basil, Church Fathers, “Letter to Amphilochius” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), Letter 236:6), p. 278.
3. St. Gregory Nazianzus, On God and Christ, Oration 31 sect. 3; (Yonkers, New York, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), p. 118.
4. St. Gregory Nazianzus, On God and Christ, Oration 29 sect. 2; (Yonkers, New York, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press), p. 70.
5. Tertullian, Church Fathers, “Against Praxeas” Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), Chapter 2, p. 598.
6. Augustine, Church Fathers, “On Christian Doctrine” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2 Michigan, Eerdmans), Book I. Chapter 5 p. 524.
7. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, Unabridged, 1Vol, (Stief Books, 2017), p. 59-60.
8. Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), Book I, Chapter 2, p. 122-123.
9. Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), Book I, Chapter 13, p. 140.
10. Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), Book 1 Chapter 17, p. 141-142.
11. John Owen, Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Fellowship and Consolation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library 1657), p. 380.
12. John Owen, Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Fellowship and Consolation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library 1657), p. 406.
13. Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Banner of Truth Trust), p. 81-82.
14. Geerhardus Vos, “The Trinity,” chapter 3 of Theology Proper, vol. 1 of Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 38-39.
15. St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ; (Jordanville, New York, Holy Trinity Monastery), p. 75.
16. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing), p. 40.
17. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. I/1 (T&T Clark, International), p. 301.
18. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1. The Doctrine of the Word of God, Study edition, (London, T&T Clark), p. 56.
19. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1. The Doctrine of the Word of God, Study edition, (London, T&T Clark), p. 60.
20. Karl Barth as quoted by Dick Tripp in Understanding the Trinity, (Onehunga, Auckland, Castle Publishing), p. 3.
21. Bishop Kallistos Ware, Faith of the Church: Trinity, St. Basil’s Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio, http://
22. Thomas F. Torrance, Trinitarian Perspectives (USA, New York, NY, T&T Clark, 1994), p. 1.
23. Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, (Philipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing), p. 254.
24. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York, New York, MacMillan, 1952), p. 129.
25. Gerhard Tersteegen, quoted in Ministry in the Image of God, by Stephen Seamands (Downers Grove, Illinois, IVP, 2005), p. 99.
26. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1996), p. 30.

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 study:

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves

The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham

Church Dogmatics I.1. The Doctrine of the Word of God by Karl Barth

John Owen on the Trinity

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What is a Saint?

What is a Saint? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand what the Bible says about saints. Is every believer a saint, or just an extraordinary group of super Christians? Should we pray to human saints?

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

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.



The body of Christ, all believers worldwide, both living and dead. *


Question: What are Christian saints according to the Bible?

Answer: The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” It is almost always used in the plural, “saints.” “…Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to your saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons” … (Acts 26:10). There is only one instance of the singular use, and that is “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:21). In Scripture, there are 67 uses of the plural “saints” compared to only one use of the singular word “saint.” Even in that one instance, a plurality of saints is in view: “…every saint…” (Philippians 4:21). Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christians are saints—and at the same time are called to be saints. **

From the Scriptures about Saints:

“And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.” (Deuteronomy 26:19) (Emphasis mine) God’s people are holy, i.e. “set a part,” saints.

“O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.” (Psalm 31:23)

“Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

“And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:2)

“And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1Corinthians 1:2)

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia.” (2Corinthians 1:1)

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1)

“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” (Ephesians 3:18)

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians 4:12:

“Verse 12. – In order to the perfecting of the saints. The ultimate end for which the gifts bestowed (comp. Hebrews 12:1). A work of completion is in hand, which must be fulfilled (see ver. 13): the saints, now compassed about with infirmity, have to be freed from all stain (Ephesians 5:26, 27), and as instruments towards this end, the ministers of the Church are given by Christ; they are not mere promoters of civilization, men of culture planted among the rude, but instruments for advancing men to complete holiness. For the work of the ministry. The preposition is changed from πρὸς to εἰς πρὸς denoting the ultimate end, εἰς the immediate object (comp. Romans 15:2); the office of the Church officers is not lords, but διακονοί, servants, as Christ himself was (Matthew 20:28). For the building up of the body of Christ. Bringing bone to its bone and sinew to its sinew, increasing the number of believers, and promoting the spiritual life of each; carrying on all their work as Christ’s servants and with a definite eye to the promotion of the great work which he undertook when he came to seek and to save the lost.” (1)


Since the saints in Ephesians, 4:12 need perfecting, we can conclude that are ordinary believers growing in the sanctification process and not a super-saint.

Additional Scriptures:

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 1:2)

“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren, which are with me, greet you.” (Philippians 4:21)

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10)

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1Peter 1:15–16) (Holy set apart, saints)

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Paul addressed his letters to the saints in the churches. The biblical ideas of saints is not the saints in heaven as the Roman Catholics say. In opposition to that, the Bible calls all the believers in Christ “saints.” “Saint” literally means “holy one,” or “set apart.” In Christ you are sanctified, which makes you a “holy one” or “set apart.” An individual becomes a saint by regeneration, i.e. born again in Christ.

A small list of synonyms for saints:

Disciples, angels, a good person, a loved one, a pietist, an evangelist, a devotee, a benefactor

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G40, hagios]

for the meaning and use of which See HOLY, B, No. 1, is used as a noun in the singular in Philippians 4:21, where pas, every, is used with it. In the plural, as used of believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of “saintliness.” See especially 2Thessalonians 1:10, where “His saints” are also described as “them that believed,” i.e., the whole number of the redeemed. They are called “holy ones” in Jude 1:14, RV. For the term as applied to the Holy Spirit See HOLY SPIRIT. See also SANCTIFY.


(1) In Rev 15:3 the RV follows those texts which have aionon, “ages,” and assigns the reading ethnon, “nations,” to the margin; the AV translates those which have the inferior reading hagion, “saints,” and puts “nations” and “ages” in the margin.

(2) In Rev 18:20, the best texts have hagioi and apostoloi, each with the article, each being preceded by kai, “and,” RV, “and ye saints, and ye apostles;” the AV, “and ye holy apostles” follows those mss. from which the 2nd kai and the article are absent.

(3) In Rev 22:21, the RV follows those mss. which have hagion, with the article, “(with) the saints;” the AV those which simply have panton, “all,” but adds “you” (RV, marg., “with all”). (2)

Saint from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

The word “saint” is derived from a Greek verb (hagiazo [aJgiavzw]) whose basic meaning is “to set apart,” “sanctify,” or “make holy.” In the history of the Old Testament religion, the idea of holiness or separateness was inherent in the concept of God. God was unapproachable in the tabernacle or temple by the ordinary individual, being accessible only to the priests and only under carefully specified conditions. His presence (the Shekinah) dwelled in the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place, the most remote and inaccessible place in the wilderness tabernacle and later in the Jerusalem temple. Only the high priest was allowed to stand in God’s presence in this area, and then only once a year at Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

This sacred place was further separated from the ordinary Jewish worshiper by another room called “the Holy Place,” which could be entered only by priests. The intent was to impress upon the people the utter holiness and sacredness of the God they worshiped, as well as the necessity of their being set apart or sanctified as saints in his service. This sense of Jehovah’s separateness from the sins of the people and from the pagan idols of the lands in which they dwelled was the heart of Jewish monotheism. Its eventual disregard led to the destruction of the temple and the exile of Israel.

This idea of the separateness of God and his people is carried forward in the New Testament, which was written by Jews (except possibly Luke-Acts) who interpreted God’s covenant with Israel through the teachings of Christ. Those who were dedicated to the teachings of Christ were frequently called saints by these writers (e.g., Matt 27:52; Acts 9:13; 26:10; Rev 14:12). Six of Paul’s letters to churches are addressed to saints (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians).

Saints, in the New Testament, are never deceased individuals who have been canonized by the church and given sainthood. They are living individuals who have dedicated themselves to the worship and service of the one true God as revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ. Even the children of such parents are called “sanctified” (1Cor. 7:14-15). That is, they are considered undefiled by paganism if at least one of their parents is a Christian. All saved are sanctified, but not all sanctified are saved.

On occasion, when discussing the atonement, Paul carefully differentiates between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, calling the former saints and the latter believers. It was the saints, the holy people of God in the Old Testament, who brought the Messiah and redemption into the world, eventually extending the blessings to the Gentiles.

This usage may be seen in 1Corinthians 1:2, which is addressed to “those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy [saints Jewish Christians], together with all those [Gentiles] everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ Lord and ours.” The same distinction is made in Ephesians 1:1: “to the saints [Jewish Christians] in Ephesus and the faithful [Gentiles] in Christ Jesus.” Colossians is also addressed to “the holy and faithful brothers” in Christ.

Paul addresses the letter to all the Christians in Rome as saints (Rom. 1:7, because Gentiles who, as wild olive branches have been grafted into the stem of Judaism, now share in the full relationship to that plant and are also saints), but the Jewish Christians in Rome, who are to be recipients of a special contribution Paul collected among Gentile churches, are called “the saints” in distinction (Rom. 15:25-33).

It is informative in this regard that Paul refers to this same collection in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 as a sharing by the Macedonian churches with “the saints,” not with the “other” saints. Paul’s apprehension over whether the Jerusalem saints would accept such a contribution was based on the fact that Jewish Christians were being asked to accept the offering from Gentile Christians. The entire discussion of the issue in Acts 21 when Paul arrived in Jerusalem makes this clear.

Thus, although Gentile Christians are saints, too, because they were given access to the faith of Abraham and the people of the Old Testament, when redemptive history is discussed the Jews are specially designated the “saints” while the Gentiles are considered believers who were later admitted into this “holy” Jewish nucleus. John McRay (3)

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXVI. Of Communion of Saints:

Section I.–All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as to conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Section II.–Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

In closing:

In this study, the question of prayers to saints has not been addressed thus far. We are to pray for our fellow saints but not to them. Why?

The Scriptures give us hope and confidence that God hears our prayers. For example, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

In addition:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 2:5)

In light of the two above passages, we can say; first, a saintly human intermediator is un-needed since the Bible only recognizes one mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, we are directed by the Hebrews passage to go directly to God.

Prayer from

Prayer is a noun

1. A devout petition to God or an object of worship.

2. A spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.

3. The act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. But he said to me, Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9)

If the angel refused John and his misguided attempt at worship, how much more should we reject the practice of prayer to human saints?


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ephesians, Vol. 20, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 149.

2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 986-987.

3. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 700-701.

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:

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