Christ died for Sinners, not Good People!

Christ died for Sinners, not Good People! by Jack Kettler
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Jesus is not saying there are people who are good and that do not need forgiveness. Jesus is calling out the religious leaders of his day, the Scribes and Pharisees, who viewed themselves as self-righteous, but in reality, were hypocrites.
The topic for this study is under the general heading of the atonement of Christ.
The Westminster Confession Chapter 11.3 is a theological paramount description of this:
“iii. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them; and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”
Christ died for us while we were in a state of unbelief, ungodliness, unrepentant and even the very enemies of Christ. In order to better understand the atoning work of Christ, the next passage from Romans will be our starting point.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
In order to grasp the significance of this passage in Romans, it will be helpful to see the extent of what the whole of Scriptures declare about mankind being in a state of spiritual death.
To start, the Scriptures declare that man is indeed dead in sin and he has a heart of stone.
“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.” (Genesis 2:17)
The Hebrew word that is used in this passage twice is muwth and the verse uses two different verb tenses, which translate “dying” and “die” and is for doctrinal emphasis. The last part of verse 2:17 can be translated literally as “dying you shall die.” Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was now broken. They died an immediate spiritual death and later physical death, which was passed on to all of their posterity.
“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.” (Genesis 6:5)
God declares that thoughts of man were nothing but evil continually. Adam’s posterity inherited his sin and death, yet it was still all of mankind’s very own sinful thoughts and deeds.
“Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:15, 16)
Man, in his corrupt, and unregenerate state is much filthier than the heavens and is said to lust or crave wickedness just as he would drink water when thirsty.
“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalms 14:2, 3)
Here we see God speaking through David, describing the degeneracy of man’s nature.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5)
David is speaking here of inherited sin.
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
When justice is delayed, man’s sin is un-curbed. He becomes brazen-faced and bold to sin all the more.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Every one of us have turned to evil ways. We have all gone astray.
“But we are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Our so-called righteous acts are nothing more than filthy rags or quite literally, a “menstruous rags” and because of our sins, the wind sweeps us away.
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)
In this passage the prophet speaks clearly of man’s inability to change himself by pointing out two impossible things that parallel man’s condition. If your nature is evil you cannot change.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Man’s heart is desperately wicked or it can be said, incurable, and even man does not comprehend the magnitude of his own deceitfulness and depravity.
“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright amongmen: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and thejudge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievousdesire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright issharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitationcometh; now shall be their perplexity.” (Micah 7:2-4)
This statement by Micah goes beyond the people of his day and is a general declaration that is in harmony with the apostle Paul when he says; that there is none righteous no not one in Romans 3:10-12.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and menloved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
Men loving darkness is the cause of the condemnation, or it can be said to be the reason why men are going to be punished. Man’s desires sin rather than the holiness of God. Men try and hide in the darkness because their deeds are evil.
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
Outside of Christ, there is no life in man.
“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there in none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
This is undoubtedly, is the most emphatic portion of Scripture when the apostle Paul declares man’s depravity. All mankind is indicted without exception.
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
Here the apostle says; “we had the sentence of death in ourselves.” The word rendered “sentence” means a judicial ruling, outcome, or verdict. It not only means that Paul knew that he was condemned to die, it also has broader implications for the rest of mankind and the just condemnation awaiting them short of participating in the resurrection to life in Christ.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:7-9)
These passages paint a bleak picture of fallen mankind. When Romans says we are sinners, it should be clear, the cause of Christ’s death for us was not based upon anything worthy in us.
Now back to Romans 5:8 and a look at some exegetical commentary evidence on this passage.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
But God commendeth … – God has exhibited or showed his love in this unusual and remarkable manner.
His love – His kind feeling; his beneficence; his willingness to submit to sacrifice to do good to others.
While we were yet sinners – And of course his enemies. In this, his love surpasses all that has ever been manifested among people.
Christ died for us – In our stead; to save us from death. He took our place; and by dying himself on the cross, saved us from dying eternally in hell. (1)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. But God commendeth—”setteth off,” “displayeth”—in glorious contrast with all that men will do for each other.
his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners—that is, in a state not of positive “goodness,” nor even of negative “righteousness,” but on the contrary, “sinners,” a state which His soul hateth.
Christ died for us—Now comes the overpowering inference, emphatically redoubled. (2)
Matthew Poole’s Commentary
God commendeth his love toward us; i.e. he declareth or confirmeth it by this, as a most certain sign, he makes it most conspicuous or illustrious: see John 3:16 1Jo 4:9,10.
In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; i.e. in a state of sin, and under the guilt and power of sin. Believers in some sense are still sinners, 1Jo 1:8, but their sins being pardoned and subdued, they go no longer under that denomination. Sinners in Scripture are said to be those in whom sin dwells and reigns; see John 9:31. Such we were by nature. Yea, we were not only sinners, but enemies to God, which further commendeth the love of Christ in dying for us: there is no greater love amongst men, than when one layeth down his life for his friends; but herein Christ’s love excelled, that he gave his life for his enemies. (3)
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
But God commendeth his love towards us,…. That is, he hath manifested it, which was before hid in his heart; he has given clear evidence of it, a full proof and demonstration of it; he has so confirmed it by this instance, that there is no room nor reason to doubt of it; he has illustrated and set it off with the greater lustre by this circumstance of it,
in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God’s elect were sinners in Adam, in whom they were naturally and federally, as all mankind were; hence polluted and guilty; and so they are in their own persons whilst unregenerate: they are dead in sin, and live in it, commit it, are slaves unto it, and are under the power and dominion of it; and many of them are the chief and vilest of sinners; and such they were considered when Christ died for them: but are not God’s people sinners after conversion? yes; but sin has not the dominion over them; their life is not a course of sinning, as before; and besides, they are openly justified and pardoned, as well as renewed, and sanctified, and live in newness of life; so that their characters now are taken, not from their worse, but better part. And that before conversion is particularly mentioned here, to illustrate the love of God to them, notwithstanding this their character and condition; and to show that the love of God to them was very early; it anteceded their conversion; it was before the death of Christ for them; yea, it was from everlasting: and also to express the freeness of it, and to make it appear, that it did not arise from any loveliness in them; or from any love in them to him; nor from any works of righteousness done by them, but from his own sovereign will and pleasure. (4)
William Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary
6–8. For while we were still powerless, at the appointed time Christ died for the ungodly. Now a man will scarcely die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
In this passage Paul states the reason for saying that God poured his love into the hearts of sinners. He tells us that he was justified in making this assertion because “while we were still powerless,” that is, helpless, totally unable to rescue ourselves from the effects of the fall, Christ, motivated by sovereign love and not by any human merit or accomplishment, died for us, the ungodly.
The unique character of this love becomes apparent when we consider the fact that while for a righteous person a man will scarcely die—though, by rare exception, it might after all happen that for such a good person someone would dare to die, God, on the other hand, demonstrates his own love in this remarkable way, namely, that while we were still in our helpless and sinful state Christ died for us.
In connection with this explanation note the following:
a. The “ungodly” people of verse 6 are the “sinners” of verse 8, namely, those sinners for whom Christ died, the “beloved of God, saints” of 1:7.
b. The distinction between “a righteous person” and “a good person” should not be pressed, as if the apostle were saying that for a person who is merely “righteous” it would be almost impossible to find someone who would die, but for a “good” person, or benefactor, it might under exceptional conditions be possible to find a substitute who would be willing to offer his life. This is over-interpretation. We should adhere to the one basic point Paul is making, and not obscure the thought by introducing unwarranted distinctions. Room should be left for stylistic variation.
c. What Paul is saying is that God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is both unprecedented and unparalleled. No merit from our side could have moved Christ to die for us, for he died for us “while we were still sinners.” Moreover, he died for us “at the appointed time,” that is, at the time appointed by God (cf. Mark 1:15; Gal. 4:4), not by us.
This death was unparalleled with respect to the marvel of the implied condescending and pardoning grace. Christ died for those who were bad, bad, bad! In them there was no goodness that could have attracted this love. In the death of Jesus for sinners God demonstrates “his own” sovereign love. See Isa. 1:18; 53:6; 57:15; Dan. 9:17–19; 1 John 4:10.
d. Note the word “demonstrates,” present tense. Although it is true that for Paul, at the time he wrote this letter, as well as for us today, the death of Christ was an event that had occurred in the past, its lesson remains an ever present and glorious reality.
e. Note “his own love for us.”
f. Though it is true that no less than four times in these three verses Paul uses a preposition (ὑπέρ) which has a very wide range of meaning, stretching all the way from about or concerning (cf. περί) to in the place of (cf. ἀντί), and which frequently means “for,” “in behalf of,” “for the sake of,” “in the interest of,” it would seem that here in Rom. 5:6–8 this little word, though not by itself meaning “in the place of” implies as much. Does not the context (see verses 9, 10) indicate that by means of the shedding of his blood Christ removed from us God’s wrath? See also on Galatians, p. 130; on Philippians, pp. 82, 83; and on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, pp. 375, 376. (5)
Closing Comments
Christ died for sinners! Let that sink in? We the redeemed of the Lord, were unrepentant sinners when Christ died for us. Surely, we must have done something to deserve this. No, we have not! In contrast, humanism holds to the concept of performing works to obtain grace. Grace is not “grace” within a system such as this. This is not unmerited favor, it is works. Grace is God’s unmerited favor.
God’s mercy is withholding from us what we justly deserve. And these Scriptures, Genesis 2:17; Genesis 6:5; Job 15:15, 16; Psalms 14:2, 3; Psalms 51:5; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Micah 7:2-4; John 3:19; John 6:53; Romans 3:10-12; 2 Corinthians 1:9 that we considered above make it clear that as sinners we did nothing to cause or deserve Christ dying for us. Christ died for unworthy sinners. Christ’s substitutionary death magnifies the glory of God so that we can agree with the apostle, “to the praise (ἔπαινον epainos) [1868] of his glory, (δόξης doxa) [1391] who first trusted in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:12)
Consider the great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s thoughts on the believer’s undeserved salvation:
Join with me in prayer at this moment, I entreat you. Join with me while I put words into your mouths, and speak them on your behalf: “Lord, I am guilty, I deserve thy wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord, I would have a new heart and a right spirit, but what can I do? Lord, I can do nothing, come and work in me to will and to do thy good pleasure.
Thou alone hast power, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither should I go
If I should run from thee?
But I now do from my very soul call upon thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son…Lord, save me tonight, for Jesus’ sake.” (6)
Agreeing with Spurgeon’s prayer and in closing we can say by the Grace of God:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Romans, p.2112.
2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1149.
3. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Romans, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 494.
4. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 106-107.
5. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 172-173.
6. From Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), p. 101.
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. Available at:
For addition study:
The Atonement by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield:
The Atonement by John Murray:
The Atonement by John Owen:
The Atonement by J. Gresham Machen:
Additional Bible Study Resources:

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The Virgin Birth of Christ, Isaiah 7:14

The Virgin Birth of Christ, Isaiah 7:14 by Jack Kettler

“Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

This study will seek a better understanding of the birth of Christ in order to increase and magnify our praise for God’s glory. There are those who question the virgin birth. They do this by quibbling about the translation of the word virgin. Ultimately this translation dispute comes down to presuppositions that are imposed upon Scripture rather than conclusive lexical evidence.

Those who question the virgin birth, do not believe in the miraculous. A naturalistic presupposition imposed upon Scripture will lead to the rejection of all miracles including the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. This dispute could also be described as a debate between those who hold to biblical inerrancy, a high view of Scripture and those who do not.

It will be helpful to look at cross references, exegetical biblical commentary and lexicon evidence. In regards to cross references, the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible. Additional passages of Scripture are helpful and provide more understanding of the Isaiah 7:14.

How is the Hebrew word “almah” is used in Isaiah? The Hebrew word “almah” can be translated both “young women” and “virgin.” Significantly, the Jewish translators in the Septuagint used the Greek word parthenos, which characteristically means “virgin.”

Strong’s Number: 3933 Original Word- παρθενος Transliterated Word Parthenos

Definition: a virgin, a woman who has never had sexual intercourse with a man, a marriageable maiden.

This study is an overview of the virgin birth of Christ rather than an exhaustive treatment of the subject. At the end of this study, the reader will be referred to the classic, The Virgin Birth of Christ by J. Gresham Machen for additional study.

Cross References:

“Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)

“To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:27)

“Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)

“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

“And the angel answered her, “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)

“Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck; And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” (Isaiah 8:8)

“Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; State a proposal, but it will not stand, For God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:10)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that He has spoken.” (Isaiah 38:7)

“In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:6)

When Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” in Luke 1:34 provides conclusive divine commentary on Christ’s birth and her virginity.


a virgin הָעַלְמָ֗ה ha·’al·mah 5959 a young woman, a virgin fem. of elem

Exegetical Commentary Evidence:

In this section, there will be some rather lengthy quotes. The diligent reader will surely be blessed to work through the material in this section.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

Therefore; because you despise me, and the sign which I now offer to you, God of his own free grace will send you a more honourable messenger, and give you a nobler sign, to try whether that will cure you of your infidelity. Or, nevertheless, as this particle seems to be understood, Isaiah 30:18 Jeremiah 16:14 30:16. Although you deserve no sign nor favour, yet, for the comfort of those few believers which are among you, and to leave you without excuse, I shall mind you or another and a greater sign, which God hath promised, and will in his due time perform; which also is a pledge of the certain accomplishment of all God’s promises. Or, surely, as this particle is sometimes used, as Genesis 4:15 Jeremiah 2:33 5:2 Zechariah 11:7.

A sign, to wit, of your deliverance.

Question: How was this birth of a virgin, which was not to come till many ages after, a sign of their deliverance from the present danger?


1. Because this was a clear demonstration of God’s infinite power, and goodness, and faithfulness, and consequently of the certain truth of all God’s promises from time to time, which can never fill so long as those attributes of God stand; and men’s faith is either strong or weak, as they believe them or doubt of them; of which see Psalm 77:8 78:19,20 Ro 4:20,21. And so this was a proper remedy for Ahaz’s disease, which was a secret suspicion that God either could not or would not deliver them.

2. Because that promise, I say not only the actual giving, which was long after, but even the promise, of the Messiah, which had been made long since, and oft renewed, and was universally believed by all the people, was the foundation of all God’s mercies and promises unto them, 2 Corinthians 1:20, and a pledge of the accomplishment of them.

3. Because this promised birth did suppose and require the preservation of that city, and nation, and tribe, in and of which the Messiah was to be born; and therefore there was no cause to fear that utter ruin which their enemies now threatened to bring upon them.

4. This is one, but not the only sign here given, as we shall see at Isaiah 7:16.

Behold; you who will not believe that God alone is able to deliver you from the united force of Syria and Israel, take notice, for your full satisfaction, that God is not only able to do this work, but to do far greater and harder things, which he hath promised, and therefore both can and will accomplish

A virgin; strictly and properly so called. The Jews, that they may obscure this plain text, and weaken this proof of the truth of Christian religion, pretend that this Hebrew word signifies a young woman, and not a virgin. But this corrupt translation is easily confuted,

1. Because this word constantly signifies a virgin in all other places of Scripture where it is used, which are Genesis 24:43, compared with Isaiah 7:16 Exodus 2:8 Psalm 68:25 Song of Solomon 1:3 6:8; to which may be added Proverbs 30:19, The way of a man with a maid, or a virgin: for though it be supposed that he did design and desire to corrupt her, and afterwards did so; yet she may well be called a virgin, partly because he found her a virgin, and partly because she seemed and pretended to others to be such, which made her more careful to use all possible arts to preserve her reputation, and so made the discovery of her impure conversation with the man more difficult, whereas the filthy practices of common harlots are easily and vulgarly known.

2. From the scope of this place, which is to confirm their faith by a strange and prodigious sign, which surely could not be not a young woman should conceive a child, but that a virgin should conceive, &c.

Bear a Son; or rather, bring forth, as it is rendered, Matthew 1:23, and as this Hebrew word is used, Genesis 16:11 17:19 Judges 13:5.

And shall call; the virgin, last mentioned, shall call; which is added as a further evidence of her virginity, and that this Son had no human father, because the right of naming the child (which, being a sign of dominion, is primarily in the husband, and in the wife only by his consent or permission, as is evident from Genesis 5:29 35:18 Luke 1:60,63, and many other places of Scripture) is wholly appropriated to her.

Immanuel; which signifies, God with us; God dwelling among us, in our nature, John 1:14, God and man meeting in one person, and being a Mediator between God and men. For the design of these words is not so much to relate the name by which Christ should commonly be called, as to describe his nature and office; as we read that his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, &c., Isaiah 9:6, and that this is said to be his (the Messiah’s) name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6, although he be never called by these names in any other place of the Old or New Testament; but the meaning of these places is, He shall be wonderful, and our Counsellor, &c., and our Righteousness; for to be called is oft put for to be, as Isaiah 1:26 4:3, &c. (1)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Whether they would ask one or not; a sign both in heaven and earth, namely, the promised Messiah; who being the Lord from heaven, would take flesh of a virgin on earth; and who as man, being buried in the heart of the earth, would be raised from thence, and ascend up into heaven; and whose birth, though it was to be many years after, was a sign of present deliverance to Judah from the confederacy of the two kings of Syria and Israel; and of future safety, since it was not possible that this kingdom should cease to be one until the Messiah was come, who was to spring from Judah, and be of the house of David; wherefore by how much the longer off was his birth, by so much the longer was their safety.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; this is not to be understood of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, by his wife, as some Jewish writers interpret it; which interpretation Jarchi refutes, by observing that Hezekiah was nine years old when his father began to reign, and this being, as he says, the fourth year of his reign, he must be at this time thirteen years of age; in like manner, Aben Ezra and Kimchi object to it; and besides, his mother could not be called a “virgin”: and for the same reason it cannot be understood of any other son of his either by his wife, as Kimchi thinks, or by some young woman; moreover, no other son of his was ever lord of Judea, as this Immanuel is represented to be, in Isaiah 8:8 nor can it be interpreted of Isaiah’s wife and son, as Aben Ezra and Jarchi think; since the prophet could never call her a “virgin”, who had bore him children, one of which was now with him; nor indeed a “young woman”, but rather “the prophetess”, as in Isaiah 8:3 nor was any son of his king of Judah, as this appears to be, in the place before cited: but the Messiah is here meant, who was to be born of a pure virgin; as the word here used signifies in all places where it is mentioned, as Genesis 24:43 and even in Proverbs 30:19 which is the instance the Jews give of the word being used of a woman corrupted; since it does not appear that the maid and the adulterous woman are one and the same person; and if they were, she might, though vitiated, be called a maid or virgin, from her own profession of herself, or as she appeared to others who knew her not, or as she was antecedent to her defilement; which is no unusual thing in Scripture, see Deuteronomy 22:28 to which may be added, that not only the Evangelist Matthew renders the word by “a virgin”; but the Septuagint interpreters, who were Jews, so rendered the word hundreds of years before him; and best agrees with the Hebrew word, which comes from the root which signifies to “hide” or “cover”; virgins being covered and unknown to men; and in the eastern country were usually kept recluse, and were shut up from the public company and conversation of men: and now this was the sign that was to be given, and a miraculous one it was, that the Messiah should be born of a pure and incorrupt virgin; and therefore a “behold” is prefixed to it, as a note of admiration; and what else could be this sign or wonder? not surely that a young married woman, either Ahaz’s or Isaiah’s wife, should be with child, which is nothing surprising, and of which there are repeated instances every day; nor was it that the young woman was unfit for conception at the time of the prophecy, which was the fancy of some, as Jarchi reports, since no such intimation is given either in the text or context; nor did it lie in this, that it was a male child, and not a female, which was predicted, as R. Saadiah Gaon, in Aben Ezra, would have it; for the sign or wonder does not lie in the truth of the prophet’s prediction, but in the greatness of the thing predicted; besides, the verification of this would not have given the prophet much credit, nor Ahaz and the house of David much comfort, since this might have been ascribed rather to a happy conjecture than to a spirit of prophecy; much less can the wonder be, that this child should eat butter and honey, as soon as it was born, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi suggest; since nothing is more natural to, and common with young children, than to take down any kind of liquids which are sweet and pleasant.

And shall call his name Immanuel; which is, by interpretation, “God with us”, Matthew 1:23 whence it appears that the Messiah is truly God, as well as truly man: the name is expressive of the union of the two natures, human and divine, in him; of his office as Mediator, who, being both God and man, is a middle person between both; of his converse with men on earth, and of his spiritual presence with his people. See John 1:14. (2)

Calvin’s Commentary:

14. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Ahaz had already refused the sign which the Lord offered to him, when the Prophet remonstrated against his rebellion and ingratitude; yet the Prophet declares that this will not prevent God from giving the sign which he had promised and appointed for the Jews. But what sign?

Behold, a virgin shall conceive. This passage is obscure; but the blame lies partly on the Jews, who, by much cavilling, have labored, as far as lay in their power, to pervert the true exposition. They are hard pressed by this passage; for it contains an illustrious prediction concerning the Messiah, who is here called Immanuel; and therefore they have labored, by all possible means, to torture the Prophet’s meaning to another sense. Some allege that the person here mentioned is Hezekiah; and others, that it is the son of Isaiah.

Those who apply this passage to Hezekiah are excessively impudent; for he must have been a full-grown man when Jerusalem was besieged. Thus they show that they are grossly ignorant of history. But it is a just reward of their malice, that God hath blinded them in such a manner as to be deprived of all judgment. This happens in the present day to the papists, who often expose themselves to ridicule by their mad eagerness to pervert the Scriptures.

As to those who think that it was Isaiah’s son, it is an utterly frivolous conjecture; for we do not read that a deliverer would be raised up from the seed of Isaiah, who should be called Immanuel; for this title is far too illustrious to admit of being applied to any man.

Others think, or, at least, (being unwilling to contend with the Jews more than was necessary,) admit that the Prophet spoke of some child who was born at that time, by whom, as by an obscure picture, Christ was foreshadowed. But they produce no strong arguments, and do not show who that child was, or bring forward any proofs. Now, it is certain, as we have already said, that this name Immanuel could not be literally applied to a mere man; and, therefore, there can be no doubt that the Prophet referred to Christ.

But all writers, both Greek and Latin, are too much at their ease in handling this passage; for, as if there were no difficulty in it, they merely assert that Christ is here promised from the Virgin Mary. Now, there is no small difficulty in the objection which the Jews bring against us, that Christ is here mentioned without any sufficient reason; for thus they argue, and demand that the scope of the passage be examined: “Jerusalem was besieged. The Prophet was about to give them a sign of deliverance. Why should he promise the Messiah, who was to be born five hundred years afterwards?” By this argument they think that they have gained the victory, because the promise concerning Christ had nothing to do with assuring Ahaz of the deliverance of Jerusalem. And then they boast as if they had gained the day, chiefly because scarcely any one replies to them. That is the reason why I said that commentators have been too much at their ease in this matter; for it is of no small importance to show why the Redeemer is here mentioned.

Now, the matter stands thus. King Ahaz having rejected the sign which God had offered to him, the Prophet reminds him of the foundation of the covenant, which even the ungodly did not venture openly to reject. The Messiah must be born; and this was expected by all, because the salvation of the whole nation depended on it. The Prophet, therefore, after having expressed his indignation against the king, again argues in this manner: “By rejecting the promise, thou wouldest endeavor to overturn the decree of God; but it shall remain inviolable, and thy treachery and ingratitude will not hinder God from being, continually the Deliverer of his people; for he will at length raise up his Messiah.”

To make these things more plain, we must attend to the custom of the Prophets, who, in establishing special promises, lay down this as the foundation, that God will send a Redeemer. On this general foundation God everywhere builds all the special promises which he makes to his people; and certainly every one who expects aid and assistance from him must be convinced of his fatherly love. And how could he be reconciled to us but through Christ, in whom he has freely adopted the elect, and continues to pardon them to the end? Hence comes that saying of Paul, that all the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen. (2 Corinthians 1:20.)

Whenever, therefore, God assisted his ancient people, he at the same time reconciled them to himself through Christ; and accordingly, whenever famine, pestilence, and war are mentioned, in order to hold out a hope of deliverance, he places the Messiah before their eyes. This being exceedingly clear, the Jews have no right to make a noise, as if the Prophet made an unseasonable transition to a very remote subject. For on what did the deliverance of Jerusalem depend, but on the manifestation of Christ? This was, indeed, the only foundation on which the salvation of the Church always rested.

Most appropriately, therefore, did Isaiah say, “True, thou dost not believe the promises of God, but yet God will fulfill them; for he will at length send his Christ, for whose sake he determines to preserve this city. Though thou art unworthy, yet God will have regard to his own honor.” King Ahaz is therefore deprived of that sign which he formerly rejected, and loses the benefit of which he proved himself to be unworthy; but still God’s inviolable promise is still held out to him. This is plainly enough intimated by the particle lkn, (lachen,) therefore; that is, because thou disdainest that particular sign which God offered to thee, hv’, (hu,) He, that is, God himself, who was so gracious as to offer it freely to thee, he whom thou weariest will not fail to hold out a sign. When I say that the coming of Christ is promised to Ahaz, I do not mean that God includes him among the chosen people, to whom he had appointed his Son to be the Author of salvation; but because the discourse is directed to the whole body of the people.

Will give you a sign. The word lkm, (lachem,) to you, is interpreted by some as meaning to your children; but this is forced. So far as relates to the persons addressed, the Prophet leaves the wicked king and looks to the nation, so far as it had been adopted by God. He will therefore give, not to thee a wicked king, and to those who are like thee, but to you whom he has adopted; for the covenant which he made with Abraham continues to be firm and inviolable. And the Lord always has some remnant to whom the advantage of the covenant belongs; though the rulers and governors of his people may be hypocrites.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive. The word Behold is used emphatically, to denote the greatness of the event; for this is the manner in which the Spirit usually speaks of great and remarkable events, in order to elevate the minds of men. The Prophet, therefore, enjoins his hearers to be attentive, and to consider this extraordinary work of God; as if he had said, “Be not slothful, but consider this singular grace of God, which ought of itself to have drawn your attention, but is concealed from you on account of your stupidity.”

Although the word lmh, (gnalmah,) a virgin, is derived from lm, (gnalam,) which signifies to hide, because the shame and modesty of virgins does not allow them to appear in public; yet as the Jews dispute much about that word, and assert that it does not signify virgin, because Solomon used it to denote a young woman who was betrothed, it is unnecessary to contend about the word. Though we should admit what they say, that lmh (gnalmah) sometimes denotes a young woman, and that the name refers, as they would have it, to the age, (yet it is frequently used in Scripture when the subject relates to a virgin,) the nature of the case sufficiently refutes all their slanders. For what wonderful thing did the Prophet say, if he spoke of a young woman who conceived through intercourse with a man? It would certainly have been absurd to hold out this as a sign or a miracle. Let us suppose that it denotes a young woman who should become pregnant in the ordinary course of nature; [109] everybody sees that it would have been silly and contemptible for the Prophet, after having said that he was about to speak of something strange and uncommon, to add, A young woman shall conceive. It is, therefore, plain enough that he speaks of a virgin who should conceive, not by the ordinary course of nature, but by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is the mystery which Paul extols in lofty terms, that

God was manifested in the flesh. (1 Timothy 3:16.)

And shall call. The Hebrew verb is in the feminine gender, She shall call; for as to those who read it in the masculine gender, I know not on what they found their opinion. The copies which we use certainly do not differ. If you apply it to the mother, it certainly expresses something different from the ordinary custom. We know that to the father is always assigned the right of giving a name to a child; for it is a sign of the power and authority of fathers over children; and the same authority does not belong to women. But here it is conveyed to the mother; and therefore it follows that he is conceived by the mother in such a manner as not to have a father on earth; otherwise the Prophet would pervert the ordinary custom of Scripture, which ascribes this office to men only. Yet it ought to be observed that the name was not given to Christ at the suggestion of his mother, and in such a case it would have had no weight; but the Prophet means that, in publishing the name, the virgin will occupy the place of a herald, because there will be no earthly father to perform that office.

Immanuel. This name was unquestionably bestowed on Christ on account of the actual fact; for the only-begotten Son of God clothed himself with our flesh, and united himself to us by partaking of our nature. He is, therefore, called God with us, or united to us; which cannot apply to a man who is not God. The Jews in their sophistry tell us that this name was given to Hezekiah; because by the hand of Hezekiah God delivered his people; and they add, “He who is the servant of God represents his person.” But neither Moses nor Joshua, who were deliverers of the nation, were so denominated; and therefore this Immanuel is preferred to Moses and Joshua, and all the others; for by this name he excels all that ever were before, and all that shall come after him; and it is a title expressive of some extraordinary excellence and authority which he possesses above others. It is therefore evident that it denotes not only the power of God, such as he usually displays by his servant, but a union of person, by which Christ became God-man. Hence it is also evident that Isaiah here relates no common event, but points out that unparalleled mystery which the Jews labor in vain to conceal. (3)

My Comments, in Summary:

The doctrine of the virgin birth is of paramount importance. Mary asks the angel Gabriel; “How shall this be?” in Luke 1:34. Gabriel tells Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Gabriel also reassures Joseph regarding his apprehension about espousing Mary with these expressions: “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Matthew states that; “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son” (Matthew 1:18). Consider the apostolic commentary, the virgin birth is taught by the apostle Paul: “God sent His Son, born of a virgin.” (Galatians 4:4)

If you want to have debate on the virgin birth of Christ, first demonstrate that you have read Machen’s book and then we can discuss the topic.

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


1. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 2., (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 310-311.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, 9 Volumes, Isaiah, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 113-115.

3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Isaiah, Vol. 7., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 244-249.

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

“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. Available at:

For more study:

J. Gresham Machen’s The Virgin Birth of Christ is considered one of the best books ever written on the subject of the virgin birth.

Praise for Machen’s The Virgin Birth of Christ:

“Professor Machen’s work is elaborate, learned and full. The writer possesses an acute mind and a competent knowledge of modern critical literature.” The Times

“The Author has thought all around his subject and has left no phase unconsidered. His earlier published studies show that he has been thinking about it for a quarter of a century. I am not aware of any important literature on either side of the subject that he has overlooked.” The Christian Century (USA)

“It is no doubt the most extensive book on the subject that has hitherto appeared, an impressive volume. But it is … also so earnest, so circumspect, so intelligent in its discussions, that it must be recognized unqualifiedly as an important achievement.” Theologische Studien und Kritiken

“Dr. Machen’s learning is so great and his reading exceedingly wide, so that his book will long be a repertory of information as to all angles of its subject.” The Churchman (USA)

“Professor Machen has written a book on the Virgin Birth which is certain to gain the attention of all, friends or foes, who have an interest in this perplexing subject. His work is genuinely learned; it displays a thorough mastery of relevant literature, even when rather out of the way, and is surrounded by a wider zone of scholarship than discussion of this special subject might seem to require, but one which testifies the more to the writer’s extreme carefulness.” Professor H.R. Mackintosh, in British Weekly

I recommend getting a hardcopy reprint of this book. However, you can get the complete book in PDF form at the link below.

The Virgin Birth of Christ by J. Gresham Machen

Machen’ Bio:

Dr. Machen’s reputation as not only one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars but as one of the ablest defenders of historic Christianity. His former books, ‘The Origin of Paul’s Religion’ (1921), ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ (1923) and ‘What is Faith?’ (1925), have so whetted the appetites of their thousands of readers that the announcement of a new book by Dr. Machen fills them with eager expectancy—whatever may be their theological position. It will be recalled that Mr. Walter Lippmann, whose theological position is about as far removed as possible from that of Dr. Machen’s, in his widely read book, ‘A Preface to Morals’, not only speaks of Dr. Machen as ‘both a scholar and a gentleman’ but says of his book, ‘Christianity and Liberalism’: ‘It is an admirable book. For its acumen, for its saliency, and for its wit, this cool and stringent defense of orthodox Protestantism is, I think, the best popular argument produced by either side in the current controversy. We shall do well to listen to Dr. Machen.’ Dr. Machen’s latest book, it is true, like ‘The Origin of Paul’s Religion’, moves throughout in the field of exact scholarship. It would be difficult to point to a book anywhere that is more thorough-going in its recital and examination of all that bears upon the subject with which it deals. But while this is the case, Dr. Machen writes so simply and lucidly that men and women of intelligence everywhere, whatever their standing as technical scholars, will be able to read it with understanding and profit. Certainly, no minister or Bible teacher of adults can afford to ignore this book. To the reviewer at least it is a source of much satisfaction to know that what is confessedly the most exhaustive and most scholarly book on the problem of the Virgin Birth of Christ ever published, at least in English, has been written by a man who after having acquainted himself with everything of importance that has been written on the subject since the first century, no matter in what language, holds to the historic belief of the Christian Church that its founder was born without human father, being conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary.” -Samuel Craig

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James 1:5, Wisdom and Knowledge, is there a difference?

James 1:5, Wisdom and Knowledge, is there a difference? By Jack Kettler

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)

James is talking about wisdom, not knowledge. Is there a difference? This study will seek to answer that question. The word knowledge does not even appear in this text. From the Greek, wisdom, σοφίας sophias [4678 Strong’s] is the root of the English terms, “sophistication “and “philosophy” – literally (respectively), “the art of using wisdom,” “affection for wisdom.”

As in a previous study, I mentioned talking with some nice young people from a Utah based religion. In one discussion, these young people told me their church’s leader was a living prophet just like the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament. I asked them why they believed that. I was told that they prayed about it and got a confirmation of a burning in the bosom that it was true. This struck me as a very subjective evaluation. I’ve heard of others who did not get an affirmative answer to this prayer. Who is correct? Is the methodology used by these young people, seeking this answer, flawed? Should we pray about the truthfulness of Mohammad’s religion, Hinduism, and any number of other religions?

In the case of the young people, they are putting forth an affirmative answer or testimony to this question. When asking about the legitimacy of this methodology, these young people referred me to James 1:5. This was the proof text for their claim that asking God for wisdom is the same as asking God for an answer to prayer. Without saying it, these young people seem to believe that wisdom was synonymous with knowledge in this passage of Scripture. It also may have been a case of word definition confusion. In any case, more familiarity with Scripture on their part would be prudent along with proper word definitions.

A short aside that is necessary to our study, regarding the methodology of seeking wisdom:

The burning in the bosom is clearly some type of experience. How do you authenticate experiences?

There are many that claim to have had spiritual experiences. It is seen under scrutiny that experiences have actually affected how certain individuals interpret Scripture. Scriptures are often reinterpreted in light of the experience. This approach is fraught with dangerous pitfalls. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 warns us of false workers who transform themselves into ministers of Christ. In Matthew 7:22, 23 we find that there are those who have even worked miracles, but in the end Christ says, “I never knew you”. Even miracle workers may be enemies of Christ. We are to be on guard against false doctrine. All organizations, whether secular or religious, offer testimonials.

How are experiential testimonials evaluated? Are there false testimonies? Many people do not grasp the potential for self-deception. Not only may we deceive ourselves, the apostle John tells us: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…” I John 4:1. False spirits may deceive us. Numerous people pray about all kinds of things and get all kinds of varying answers. Many alleged prayers are contradicted by other people’s answers to their prayers. I am not downplaying prayer, but in certain contexts God expects us to use other means to determine answers to questions. With the case of contradictory prayers, you are in the realm of he said, she said. Scripture must always interpret experiences, not the other way around.

These young people insisted that prayer was a legitimate way to determine if someone was a prophet. As in the case with other passages referenced by these young people, looking at the passage in James, I could see nothing that suggested praying to determine if someone was or is a prophet. The text clearly was about asking God for wisdom. To determine what James is saying, it is always important to look at similar passages. To determine if someone is a prophet, you are asking for an answer, which is knowledge. James is talking about wisdom. Again, is there a difference? This study will answer that question. If you have the wisdom that the scripture is speaking of, you will have a biblical methodology to determine the question if someone is a true or false prophet. We will see what that methodology is in this study.

Cross References:

“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

“For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.” (James 3:17)

The above list is not exhaustive, but what emerges is that there is a distinction between wisdom and knowledge. This is seen by way of contrast.

Many have heard that “knowledge without wisdom is folly.” Consider the following:

“Men can acquire knowledge, but not wisdom. Some of the greatest fools ever known were learned men.” – Spanish Proverb

“Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.” – Japanese Proverb

“Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.” – Guinean proverb

“Wisdom is the daughter of experience.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” C. H. Spurgeon

“A man may store his mind with facts, Till knowledge from it overflows, But lacking wisdom from Above, He’s still a “fool” till Christ he knows.” – Bosch

“Surely the essence of wisdom is that before we begin to act at all, or attempt to please God, we should discover what it is that God has to say about the matter.” – D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

It is rather apparent from the above quotations, there is a distinction between wisdom and knowledge.

Commentary Evidence:

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

(5) If any of you lack wisdom. —The Apostle passes on to the thought of heavenly wisdom; not the knowledge of the deep things of God, but that which is able to make us wise unto our latter end (Proverbs 19:20). Few may be able, save in self-conceit, to say with Isaiah (Isaiah 50:4), “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned;” and, on the other hand, the wisest and most gifted of men may truly be wanting in the wisdom descending from above.

Let him ask of God. —But whoever, learned or unlearned, feels in his heart the need of the knowledge of God, since to know Him “is eternal life” (John 17:3), “let him ask” for it in all purity of intention, simply, i.e., for His honour and service, “and it shall be given him.”

That giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. — “Liberally” had better, perhaps, be changed to simply—i.e., God gives fully and directly, and reproacheth (or, “upbraideth”) not the utterance of such a prayer, in no way detracting from the graciousness of His gifts. How wide the difference from any generosity of man I “Yea,” wrote Dante, in exile at Verona,

“. . . thou shalt learn how salt his food, who fares

Upon another’s bread. —how steep his path,

Who treadeth up and down another’s stairs.”

“The fool,” said the wise son of Sirach, “giveth little, and upbraideth much . . ., and is hated of God and man” (Ecclesiasticus 20:15). (1)

MacLaren’s Expositions

“What, then, does James mean by ‘wisdom’? He means the sum of practical religion. With him, as with the psalmist, sin and folly are two names for the same thing, and so are religion and wisdom. He, and only he, has wisdom who knows God with a living heart-knowledge which gives a just insight into the facts of life and the bounds of right and wrong, and which regulates conduct and shapes the whole man with power far beyond that of knowledge however wide and deep, illuminating intellect however powerful. ‘Knowledge’ is poor and superficial in comparison with this wisdom, which may roughly be said to be equivalent to practical religion.” (2)

Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James

2. Asking for Wisdom


Characteristically, James introduces a topic rather briefly and then returns to it later. In this particular section, he speaks about the need for wisdom; in chapter 3 he delineates two kinds of wisdom—one from heaven and the other from earth.

5. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James demonstrates the art of writing by linking key words and phrases. In verse 3 he stresses the word perseverance; he puts it last in the sentence to give it emphasis. In verse 4, “perseverance” is the first expression he uses. The last phrase in verse 4 is “not lacking anything”; the first clause of the next phrase repeats this verb, “If any of you lacks wisdom.” The writer knows how to communicate effectively in simple, direct prose.

Note these points:

a. Need

The clause if any of you lacks wisdom is the first part of a factual statement in a conditional sentence. The author is saying to the reader: “I know you will not admit it, but you need wisdom.” James tackles a delicate problem, for no person wants to hear that he is stupid, that he makes mistakes, and that he needs help. By nature man is independent. He wants to solve his own problems and make his own decisions. Eighteenth-century German theologian John Albert Bengel put it rather succinctly: “Patience is more in the power of a good man than wisdom; the former is to be exercised, the latter is to be asked for.” Man has to overcome pride to admit that he needs wisdom. But wisdom is not something he possesses. Wisdom belongs to God, for it is his divine virtue. Anyone who admits the need for wisdom must go to God and ask him. James appeals to the individual reader and hearer. He writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom” (italics added). This approach is tactful, for he could have said, “Everyone lacks wisdom.” But by saying “any of you,” James gives the reader a chance to examine himself, to come to the conclusion that he needs wisdom, and to follow James’s advice to ask God.

b. Request

The believer must ask God for wisdom. James implies that God is the source of wisdom. It belongs to him.

What is wisdom? Both the Old and the New Testaments seek to explain this term. Solomon expresses it in typical Hebraic parallelism. Says he, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). Solomon equates wisdom with knowledge and understanding.

Also, the New Testament states that the Christian receives wisdom and that knowledge comes from God (see, for instance, 1Cor. 1:30). True, we make a distinction between wisdom and knowledge when we say that knowledge devoid of wisdom is of little value. Observes Donald Guthrie, “If wisdom is the right use of knowledge, perfect wisdom presupposes perfect knowledge.” To become mature and complete, the believer must go to God for wisdom. God is willing to impart wisdom to anyone who asks humbly. God’s storehouse of wisdom is infinite, and he will give this gift “generously to all without finding fault.”

c. Gift

God is not partial. He gives to everyone, no matter who he is, because God wants to give. Giving is a characteristic of God. He keeps on giving. Every time someone comes to him with a request, he opens his treasury and freely distributes wisdom. Just as the sun continues to give light, so God keeps on giving wisdom. We cannot imagine a sun that fails to give light; much less can we think of God failing to give wisdom. God’s gift is free, without interest, and without the request to pay it back. It is gratis.

Moreover, God gives “without finding fault.” When we ask God for wisdom, we need not be afraid that he will express displeasure or will utter reproach. When we come to him in childlike faith, he will never send us away empty. We have the assurance that when we ask for wisdom, it “will be given” to us. God never fails the one who asks in faith. (3)

So far, consulting cross reverence passages, exegetical commentary evidence and the proverbs of men it is indisputable there is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. The two should not be confused.

At this point we will look in more detail how wisdom and knowledge are defined in the modern vernacular:


Wisdom: Wisdom is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of knowledge are true. Wisdom also refers to the accumulated knowledge. Those with wisdom have the ability to discern or judge what is true.

Knowledge: Knowledge is a noun that refers to the information. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and because of this, knowledge deals with facts. It can be said, knowledge is information gained through experience.

Consider the New Testament definitions from a respected and popular dictionary:


New Testament

Noun: σοφία (sophia), GK 5053 (S 4678), 51x. sophia is a word meaning “wisdom.” It denotes the capacity to not only understand something (Acts 7:22) but also to act accordingly (Col. 1:9; 4,5). It is the latter that separates wisdom from knowledge.


New Testament

Noun: γνῶσις (gnōsis), GK 1194 (S 1108), 29x. gnōsis means “knowledge,” and it has a rich meaning in the NT. All but six of its occurrences are in the letters of Paul (though see also ginōskō, “to know,” for more on the biblical message about this word group). (4)

We can agree with:

“Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. You can know all the facts and still not be able to act wisely. But without knowledge, it is harder to be wise –– even if what wisdom tells us is that knowledge is very often provisional and that we cannot wait to have certainty about every fact before we act.” – Dan Smith, The State of the World Atlas

Humility of Wisdom:

“I have heard of a young man who went to college; and, when he had been there one year, his parent said to him, “What do you know? Do you know more than when you went?” “Oh, yes!” said he; “I do.” Then he went the second year, and was asked the same question. “Do you know more than when you went?” “Oh, no!” said he; “I know a great deal less.” “Well,” said the father, “you are getting on.” Then he went the third year, and was asked the same question, “What do you know now?” “Oh!” said he, “I don’t think I know anything.” “That is right,” said the father; “you have now learned to profit, since you say you know nothing.” He who is convinced that he knows nothing of himself, as he ought to know, gives up steering his ship, and lets God put His hand on the rudder. He lays aside his own wisdom, and cries, “O God! my little wisdom is cast at Thy feet: my little judgment is given to Thee.” (5)


If you have wisdom, you would never pray to God to see if a man was a prophet. Determining if a man is a prophet is a case of seeking knowledge. Knowledge in a case like this would unjustifiably proceed wisdom.

As seen, James 1:5 is talking about wisdom and not knowledge. How would someone biblically determine if a man is a prophet?

Consider Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

The question from Deuteronomy is: “How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?” God does not say anything about praying for an answer. God does say; “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken…”

The answer is simple, examine the prophetic claims by checking the prophetic predictions of the individual making the claims. Did the prophetic claims prove to be true base on fulfilled prophesies? If not, you have the answer. You do not prayer about something when there are clear instructions in God’s Word on how to find the answer.

To illustrate this point further, I’ve asked a number of these young people from the Utah based religion is they would pray with me about robbing a bank so we could give the money away to poor people. I’ve also asked, if they would pray about committing adultery. In both cases, the young people said almost embarrassingly said no because both actions were wrong based upon God’s commandments in the Bible. The point is, you do not pray about things that are clearly defined in God’s Word. We have in the Ten Commandments that say; not to steal and not to commit adultery. God expects us to know His Word and then be obedient.

The Wisdom of Solomon:

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.” (1 Kings 3:9-12)

In conclusion:

We should handle the Word of God with great care, by not distorting or twisting it or by reading things into it. We should not substitute God’s methodology with man’s. The young people representing the Utah based religion’s citing of James 1:5 as a proof text for seeking wisdom as an equivalent to praying about determining if someone is a prophet has no merit. Why” Because it is coming to God’s Holy Word with a preconceived idea, and then trying to find a passage in the Bible to support the idea and excluding others. This is called “stacking the deck.” In this fallacy, the person “stacks the deck” in their favor by ignoring examples that disprove the point and listing only those examples that support their case. This flawed approach frequently involves outright ignorance of a biblical text in question.

God would never give a personal testimony to a person that contradicted Scripture? More importantly, Scriptures clearly delineate the difference between wisdom and knowledge. The proof text (James 1:5) used by the young people from the Utah based religion does not prove their point and their understanding of the passage is in error.

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


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, James, Vol.3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.356.

2. Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Volume 16, James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Publishing Group), p. 489.

3. Simon J. Kestemaker, New Testament Commentary, James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 36-38.

4. William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan Electronic Bible study app from Olive Tree), no page entry.

5. C. H. Spurgeon, Humility of Wisdom, The Teachers’ treasury and storehouse of material for working Sunday-school teachers, Volume 1, (England, Oxford University, 1876), p. 153.

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

“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. Available at:

For more Study:

The Holy Wisdom of God by Gordon H. Clark

Knowledge by Gordon H. Clark

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Platonism and Jeremiah 1:5

Platonism and Jeremiah 1:5 by Jack Kettler

In another study, I mentioned some nice young people from a Utah based religion. These same young people told me that they had lived in a prior or preexistent spirit life. Having explained to them I believe that the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments is complete and the authority for all of my life and beliefs. And if they wanted me to give up my beliefs and adopt theirs they will have to convince me from the Bible. On the topic of pre-existence, they referred me to the following passage from Jeremiah.

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

As in previous proof texts offered by these young people, I could see nothing in this verse about a pre-existent life. The verse is dealing with God’s foreknowledge, sanctification and Jeremiah’s prophetic calling. When doing a general search on the topic of pre-existence, you find Plato. Are these young people promoting a form of Platonism? This is fair question, since beliefs arise from somewhere.

On Platonism, from the New Dictionary of Theology, we find this:

“Platonism inspired the belief that souls enjoyed some higher existence prior to their entry into individual human bodies. This view often coexisted with notions of a pre-cosmic fall and the transmigration of the souls. Among Gnostics and others, it presented the soul as an emanation from the divine substance itself. Although championed by Origen, it was widely condemned in the 5th and 6th centuries.” (1)

In Plato’s Meno, Socrates reasons that our knowledge is not something learned, but recollected. For example, Plato uses a slave named Meno that has never learned the principles of mathematics to make his point about recollection. The geometric principles were revealed to the slave. Plato in the Socratic dialog, asked some probing questions to Meno. In conclusion of the matter, Socrates concludes that slave’s knowledge must be a priori or in-built into his soul and remembered throughout life. Thus, Plato is arguing for some type of pre-existence.

For the reader’s interest, Plato’s Socratic dialog with Meno is as follows:

Soc. And this spontaneous recovery of knowledge in him is recollection?

Men. True.

Soc. And this knowledge which he now has must he not either have acquired or always possessed?

Men. Yes.

Soc. But if he always possessed this knowledge he would always have known; or if he has acquired the knowledge he could not have acquired it in this life, unless he has been taught geometry; for he may be made to do the same with all geometry and every other branch of knowledge. Now, has any one ever taught him all this? You must know about him, if, as you say, he was born and bred in your house.

Men. And I am certain that no one ever did teach him.

Soc. And yet he has the knowledge?

Men. The fact, Socrates, is undeniable.

Soc. But if he did not acquire the knowledge in this life, then he must have had and learned it at some other time?

Men. Clearly he must.

Soc. Which must have been the time when he was not a man?

Men. Yes.

Soc. And if there have been always true thoughts in him, both at the time when he was and was not a man, which only need to be awakened into knowledge by putting questions to him, his soul must have always possessed this knowledge, for he always either was or was not a man?

Men. Obviously.

Soc. And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember. (2)

The idea that the soul is immortal and already knows things is one of Plato’s significant philosophical ideas. This was Plato’s solution to the problem of how we can find out about something we do not know. Thus, Socrates can advise Meno to; “recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember.” According to Socrates, this will work because: “the truth of all things has always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal.” This would imply preexistence. At this point we can reason that the young people for the Utah religion have a belief similar to Platonism.

Theological Definitions:

* Foreknowledge: The knowledge which God has because he knows his own plan for the world: his knowledge of what actually exists, what has existed, and what will exist; also called the knowledge of vision.

* Sanctification: An ongoing inner transformation in which the Holy Spirit works to make the believer more and more like Christ in every way, including desires, thoughts and actions; most frequently simply called sanctification. Note: In Jeremiah’s case his sanctification was being set apart and pre-pared for his prophetic calling.

Back to Jeremiah:

As mentioned earlier, this verse in Jeremiah 1:5 is dealing with God’s foreknowledge, sanctification and Jeremiah’s prophetic calling. What do commentators think?

From the reliable Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, we learn:

(5) I knew thee. —With the force which the word often has in Hebrew, as implying. not foreknowledge only, but choice and approval (Psalm 1:6; Psalm 37:18, Amos 3:2).

I sanctified thee. —i.e., consecrated thee, set thee apart as hallowed for this special use.

Ordained. —Better, I have appointed, without the conjunction, this verb referring to the manifestation in time of the eternal purpose.

Unto the nations. —i.e., to the outlying Gentile nations. This was the distinguishing characteristic of Jeremiah’s work. Other prophets were sent to Israel and Judah, with occasional parentheses of prophecies that affected the Gentiles. The horizon of Jeremiah was to extend more widely. In part his work was to make them drink of the cup of the Lord’s fury (Jeremiah 25:15-17); but in part also he was a witness to them of a brighter future (Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:39). It is as though he had drunk in the Spirit of Isaiah, and thought of the true prophet as one who was to be a light of the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6).

In this way, seemingly abrupt, yet probably following on a long process of divine education, was the youthful Jeremiah taught that he was to act a part specially appointed for him in the drama of his nation’s history. He could not see a chance in the guidance that had led him thus far. The call that now came to him so clearly was not the echo of his own thoughts. All his life from infancy had been as that of one consecrated to a special work. Could he stop there? Must he not, like St. Paul, think of the divine purpose as prior to the very germ of his existence? (Galatians 1:15.) (3)

Going to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

5. knew—approved of thee as My chosen instrument (Ex 33:12, 17; compare Isa 49:1, 5; Ro 8:29).

sanctified—rather, “separated.” The primary meaning is, “to set apart” from a common to a special use; hence arose the secondary sense, “to sanctify,” ceremonially and morally. It is not here meant that Jehovah cleansed Jeremiah from original sin or regenerated him by His Spirit; but separated him to his peculiar prophetical office, including in its range, not merely the Hebrews, but also the nations hostile to them (Jer 25:12-38; 27:1-21; 46:1-51:64), [Henderson]. Not the effect, but the predestination in Jehovah’s secret counsel, is meant by the sanctification here (compare Lu 1:15, 41; Ac 15:18; Ga 1:15; Eph 1:11). (4)

Concluding with Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

Before I formed thee in the belly, i.e. womb, Isaiah 46:3. Having spoken before of the time of his call, Jeremiah 1:4, he now speaks of the manner of it.

I knew thee, i.e. approved and appointed thee, as a fit minister for this work. Words of knowledge among the Hebrews note affection, as hath been formerly noted.

I sanctified thee, viz. not with saving grace, though that need not to be excluded; but accordingly I prepared and ordained thee for this public service; and thus with Paul, Galatians 1:15, where both are expressed. See the like use of the word Isaiah 13:3. He speaks thus to Jeremiah, not to the other prophets, because he stood in need of greater and more direct encouragement than they, both in respect of the tenderness of his years, and also of those insuperable difficulties which in those most degenerate and corrupt times he must unavoidably encounter with, which might cause him to decline the work, Jeremiah 1:6.

Unto the nations; either with reference to place, to other nations besides the Jews, as appears, Jeremiah 43 Jer 46 Jer 47, &c, taking the Jews in among them, as Jeremiah 25:17,18, and so

unto may be taken for against, as it is often expressed in those places and elsewhere; or with reference to time, to people of all times, who may be instructed by this book, or whose words are made use of, both by several prophets of the Old Testament, as Daniel, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, &c., and by our Saviour in the New; by Matthew 2:17,18; by Paul, 2 Corinthians 6:18; and by St. John, Revelation 2:23. (5)

Thoughts and Comments:

Are these recognized commentators who were competent to read the text of Scriptures in the original languages missing or overlooking something in the Jeremiah text? The task of the commentator and all readers of Scripture is to ascertain what the particular passage of Scripture is saying. This is known as exegesis, bringing out of the text, what is there. We should use the same tools of rational thought by God’s grace when examining Scripture as we would Plato. We must guard against reading into Scripture ideas or notions that are not there. This is an error called eisegesis, or reading into the text. It is a common mistake among people today to read into ancient texts, Twenty-First Century ideas. This is called an anachronism. It is a fallacy.

Over the years, I have met a number of these young people from the Utah religion. Not one of them when asked, said they could read Greek or Hebrew. Then the question has to be asked, where are they getting this unusual interpretation of the Jeremiah passage from? From what I can ascertain, they are getting this interpretation from their leaders who according them, are divinely inspired. Thus far, I have never been able to verify that any of these leaders are competent to work professionally in the ancient original languages of Scripture either.

In trying to interact with these aforenoted young people, it becomes problematic, since biblical scholarship is rejected, not on biblical scholarship grounds, but because the leaders in Utah have been given a divinely inspired interpretation that is supposedly superior. In discussing the Jeremiah text in under consideration, you reach an impasse, namely, that Scripture is not what is says according to the young people from the Utah religion.

What criteria do you use to verify if what the leaders have said it true? At this point the astute reader will understand we have left the authority of what Scripture has said, and are now in the realm of what a man has said. In asking what process do you use to verify the word of leaders, it seemingly all comes down to trust and feelings. There is really no objective way to verify if what the Utah leaders have said is true. I’ve been told that praying about this, is how one can know. This is arbitrary and subjective. In another study, we will examine if this praying approach is a God directed method to determine truth. Even if you thought that you received an answer to prayer, how could you prove it what God and not your own subjective feelings or mental confusion?

Back to Plato:

Pre-existence of souls and men. Plato taught this belief. In the work called Phaedrus we read:

“This soul shall at her first birth pass, not into any other animal, but only into a man….” (6)

It must be asked, is the Utah based religion dependent upon Plato for their idea of preexistence? If not, where did this idea come from? As seen in the Jeremiah text, there is nothing that would support such a notion. The young people from the Utah religion could not show me textually, they could only repeat things they were told. This is parroting things told them by their leaders. Where did the leaders from Utah get this notion? Ideas come from somewhere. Their short answer, is from God. Yet again, how does one know this? How do you overcome feelings that may be mistaken or possible mental confusion to know for sure?

Rather than answer the question of the possibility of Platonic influence, I’ve been told by professors at a college in Utah, the real problem is that Christianity has been influence by Platonism. I believe this is a dodge on the part of the professors, but is this so? As an aside, I will take some time to head of needless questions.

What about historic Christianity, has it been influenced by Platonism?

Philosophy professor Gordon Clark’s Thales To Dewey is helpful concerning Christianity and alleged pagan influence.

Clark makes the following summary on paganism and Christianity:

“For such reasons as these it may be concluded that paganism and Christianity are radically distinct. Any points of similarity are superficial and trivial. To speak of them as alike is no better than identifying Epicureanism and Platonism on the ground that both were founded by men. This conclusion is not weakened by two cautions that should be observed. First, since the New Testament was written in Greek, it uses words found in pagan writings. John even used the term Logos. But the point in question is not the use of words but the occurrence of ideas. Logos in John and hypostasis in Hebrews are not evidences of pagan ideas. Nor should one find Aristotle in the Nicene Creed because it says God is a substance or reality. One cannot forbid Christian writers to use common words on pain of becoming pagans. The second caution is that while Christianity and the Greek philosophies, as systems, have no element in common, the Christians, as people, often held pagan ideas. They had been converted from paganism and could not divest themselves of familiar modes of thought all at once. Therefore, when they came to expound and defend Christianity, they inconsistently made use of Platonism or Stoicism. By a long and arduous struggle these inconsistent elements were gradually removed from a few fundamental areas, and thus a purely Christian Nicene Creed came into being. But on other topics, and especially in cases of individual authorship, the struggle was not so successful. Then, too, as time went on, the attempts to escape pagan ideas and to preserve the purity of New Testament thought grew weaker, and one might say, almost ceased.” (7)

Back to the Scriptures:

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26)

Now someone may ask, am I not trusting in man by thinking I understand these above texts against trusting man and accepting the above listed commentator’s analysis of the Jeremiah passage? It is possible, but not necessarily. Am I not trusting in my feelings and my heart? It is possible but not necessarily. My answer to the possibility, I maintain, Christians have a coherent theory of knowledge. God is soverign, meaning He is able to preserve His Word from corruption. Because of God’s soverignty, we have confidence that we have the pure Word of God. God has us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. God speaks in human language that we can understand. There are some difficult passages in Scripture to be sure, but for the most part, Scripture is understandable. We believe this because of the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture

The Westminster Confession of Faith on perspicuity (1.7)

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” (Ps. 119:105, 130).

And furthermore, the meaning of scriptural words is the same for God and man. If you reject that God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us about Himself, where words have the same meaning for God and man, you are in an epistemological swamp of futility. If you reject a biblical epistemology, you are left with a trust in man-based epistemology. This is wholly unsatisfactory and indefensible!

If you take a man’s word over God’s Word you are in epistemological quicksand. This still holds true even if the man says he is speaking for God. It seems that the aforementioned young people’s leaders have a different epistemology, namely, that the words of God in Scripture do not mean the same for us as God. This may be denied, by asserting the language between God and man is same, the real problem is that the Bible by in large cannot be trusted because of alleged mistranslations. If biblical mistranslations are the case, then it is incumbent of those making this claim to get specific and point out where and how the passages of Scripture have been mistranslated. Mere assertions do not prove anything.

How does Christianity protect itself against the error of Greek philosophy infiltrating its doctrine?

In his book The Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought, Dr. Van Till says the following concerning Greek philosophy:

“The ultimate concern of the Reformers was to bring the fullness of grace in its purity to men. They therefore sought to set it free from the encrustations of Greek metaphysics which are the metaphysics of fallen man.” (8)

Van Til’s use of the word encrustation shows how pervasive he believed Greek philosophy to be. The philosophical positions advanced by the Greeks influenced to such a large extent the areas of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and teleology that the Greek argumentation is a sufficient cause for positions that have been adopted by western religions and philosophy.

Van Til’s solution and answer, is bringing “the fullness of grace in its purity to men” sets Christianity apart from all philosophies and man-made theologies. All of men’s attempts at spiritual advancement are inseparable man’s self-effort or works and are thusly doomed. Grace, biblically understood, sets Christianity apart from all man-made religions and philosophy.

For more research, see link below for Ronald Nash’s Was Christianity Influenced by Pagan Religions?

Only Christianity has been able to break free from Greek apostate thinking. This is true insofar as the Christian follows the Reformers in placing the fullness and purity of grace and the self-attesting Christ, speaking authoritatively in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as paramount in all thought.

The apostle Paul describes it this way:

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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

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


1. Editors, Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Inter-Varsity Press), p. 653.

2. Plato, Meno, Great Books of the Western World, (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), pp. 182-183.

3. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Jeremiah, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.10.

4. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p.596.

5. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p.491.

6. Plato, Phaedrus, The Works of Plato, Trans. by Benjamin Jowett, (New York: Random House, 1956), p. 289.

7. Clark, Gordon H. Thales To Dewey. Jefferson: Trinity, reprinted [1989]. First printing Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), p. 195.

8. Cornelius Van Til, The Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company), p. 171.

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. Available at:

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

Rebecca Writes:

See Ronald Nash’s Was Christianity Influenced by Pagan Religions?

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Are you a god now, or in the future? An analysis of John 10:34

Are you a god now, or in the future? An analysis of John 10:34 by Jack Kettler

In this study we will look at John 10:34, then consult cross references, interlinear and commentary evidence, followed with comments and interaction with various theologians.

“Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34)

The reader is exhorted to follow the pattern of Scripture:

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

Cross References:

“I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6)

“If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)

Related passages, dealing with the consequences of sin and pride:

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!’ “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:4-6)

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:21-24)

“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:14)

“I will be like the Most High,” said the Chaldean king. And God said to him: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)

“Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas’; Yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God.” (Ezekiel 28:2)

“Wicked men exalt themselves, thinking they are like God. God’s judgement against this pride is certain: Therefore, thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.” (Ezekiel 28:6-7)

John 10:34 Interlinear:
Jesus Ἰησοῦς iēsous 2424 Jesus or Joshua, the name of the Messiah, also three other Isr. of Hebrew origin Yehoshua
answered ἀπεκρίθη apekrithē 611 to answer from apo and krinó
them, “Has it not been 1510 I exist, I am a prol. form of a prim. and defective verb
written γεγραμμένον gegrammenon 1125 to write a prim. verb
in your Law, νόμῳ nomō 3551 that which is assigned, hence usage, law from nemó (to parcel out)
I SAID, 3004 to say a prim. verb
YOU ARE GODS’? Θεοί theoi 2316 God, a god of uncertain origin

Commentary Evidence:

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

(34) Is it not written in your law? —Comp. Note on John 8:17. The passage here quoted is in Psalm 82:6, but the term “Law” is here used in a wide sense for the whole of the Old Testament. There are other examples of this usage in John 7:49; John 12:34; John 15:25; Romans 3:19; 1Corinthians 14:21.

I said, Ye are gods? —In the Hebrew of the Psalm, as in the Greek here, the pronoun is emphatic. “I myself said, Ye are gods?” The words are probably to be understood in the Psalm as spoken by God, who sits in judgment on the judges whom He had appointed, and gives the name of “gods” (Elohim) as representing Himself. See Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1; Exodus 18:15; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:28; Deuteronomy 1:17; 1Samuel 28:13; Psalm 8:5; Psalm 45:6; and comp. Perowne’s Notes on Psalms 82, and article “God,” in Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopœdia, Ed. 3, vol. ii., p. 144 et seq. (1)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

Jesus answered them – The answer of Jesus consists of two parts. The first John 10:34-36 shows that they ought not to object to his use of the word God, even if he were no more than a man. The second John 10:37-38 repeats substantially what he had before said, left the same impression, and in proof of it he appealed to his works.
John 10:34
In your law – Psalm 82:6. The word “law” here, is used to include the Old Testament.

I said – The Psalmist said, or God said by the Psalmist.

Ye are gods – This was said of magistrates on account of the dignity and honor of their office, and it shows that the Hebrew word translated “god,” אלהים ̀elohiym, in that place might be applied to man. Such a use of the word is, however, rare. See instances in Exodus 7:1; Exodus 4:16. (2)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

“Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law. In the law which was given unto them, of which they boasted, and pretended to understand, and interpret, even in Psalm 82:6; for the law includes not only the Pentateuch, but all the books of the Old Testament: it is an observation of one of the Jewish doctors (t), that

“with the wise men of blessed memory, it is found in many places that the word law comprehends the Prophets and the Hagiographa.”’

Among which last stands the book of Psalms; and this may be confirmed by a passage out of the Talmud (u); it is asked,

“from whence does the resurrection of the dead appear, ‘out of the law?’”

It is answered,

“as it is said in Psalm 84:4, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will still praise thee, Selah; they do praise thee”, it is not said, but “they will praise thee”; from hence is a proof of the resurrection of the dead, “out of the law”.”’

The same question is again put, and then Isaiah 52:8 is cited, and the like observation made upon it. Moreover, this is a way of speaking used by the Jews, when they introduce another citing a passage of Scripture thus (w), “is it not written in your law”, Deuteronomy 4:9, “only take heed to thyself”, &c. so here the Scripture follows,

I said, ye are gods? which is spoken to civil magistrates, so called, because of their authority and power; and because they do, in some sort, represent the divine majesty, in the government of nations and kingdoms. Many of the Jewish writers, by “gods”, understand “the angels”. The Targum paraphrases the words thus:

“I said ye are accounted as angels, as the angels on high, all of you;”’

and to this sense some of their commentators interpret it. Jarchi’s gloss is, ye are gods; that is, angels; for when I gave the law to you, it was on this account, that the angel of death might not any more rule over you: the note of Aben Ezra is, “and the children of the Most High”: as angels; and the sense is, your soul is as the soul of angels: hence the (x) Jew charges Christ with seeking refuge in words, that will not profit, or be any help to him, when he cites these words, showing that magistrates are called gods, when the sense is only, that they are like to the angels in respect of their souls: but let it be observed, that it is not said, “ye are as gods”, as in Genesis 3:5, but “ye are gods”; not like unto them only, but are in some sense gods; and besides, to say that they are like to angels, with respect to their souls, which come from above, is to say no more of the judges of the earth, than what may be said of every man: to which may be added, that this objector himself owns, that judges are called “gods”, as in Exodus 22:9; the cause of both parties shall come before “the judges”; and that even the word is used in this sense in this very psalm, from whence these words are cited, Psalm 82:1, “he judgeth among” “the gods”; and both Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret this text itself in the same way, and observe, that judges are called gods, when they judge truly and aright: all which is sufficient to justify our Lord in the citation of this passage, and the use he makes of it.

(t) R. Azarias in Meor Enayim, c. 7. fol. 47. 1.((u) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 91. 2.((w) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 32. 2.((x) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 51. p. 440, 441. (3)

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

34. in your law] ‘Law’ is here used in its widest sense for the whole of the Old Testament; so also in John 12:34 and John 15:25; in all three places the passage referred to is in the Psalms. Comp. John 7:19, 1 Corinthians 14:21. The force of the pronoun is, ‘for which you profess to have such a regard:’ comp. John 8:17. On the Greek for ‘is it written’ see on John 2:17.

I said, Ye are gods] The argument is both à fortiori and ad hominem. In the Scriptures (Psalm 82:6) even unjust rulers are called ‘gods’ on the principle of the theocracy, that rulers are the delegates and representatives of God (comp. Exodus 22:28). If this is admissible without blasphemy, how much more may He call Himself ‘Son of God.’

34–38. Christ answers the formal charge of blasphemy by a formal argument on the other side. (4)

The issue at stake, can a man become a god?

I’ve ran into a number of nice young people over the years from a unique American religion based in Utah who have told me they hope to become a god someday like the god they worship, who they say rules over planet Earth. When asking what in the Bible would give them such an idea, I am referred to John 10:34 for proof of this. After researching the text, cross references, numerous commentaries and lexical evidence, I am perplexed on how the passage in John would give any support for such a notion.

Right on the surface of this passage you have a verb tense problem. The verb tense, “ye are” is present tense. If these young people are correct in citing this passage, it would seem to be saying that you are a god right now. None of these young people would admit that they were a god now. If the verb tense was “ye will be gods” (future tense) it would have a little more surface plausibility. However, when looking at the overall context involving human judges, this passage has nothing to say about becoming a god sometime in the future or now.

For example, Jesus in John 10:34 is quoting the Old Testament and the quotation is dealing with human judges. This passage is referring to Psalm 82:6-7, which speaks about human judges who would “die like men.” These judges are going to die like men, in other words, they are mere human men and not God. Whoever is teaching these young people that this passage in John could support such a notion as becoming a god in the future is woefully ignorant of the most basic knowledge of biblical hermeneutics, grammatical historical interpretation and knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages.

A Strong Warning!

Satan’s ploy to Eve in the garden of Eden was that she would be “like God.” This is a deceitfully false expectation, namely, that men can become like God.

Dr. James White, in his book Is the Mormon my Brother? shows the larger preceding context that will help in the understanding of John 10:34, when he writes:

John chapter ten is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture, for it speaks of the Lord Jesus’ relationship to His people in the terms of the Shepherd and His sheep. In the midst of talking about the glorious salvation that belongs to those who know and trust Christ, Jesus asserts that He and the Father are one in their bringing about the final and full salvation of all those who are given by the Father to the Son (vv. 28-30). When the Lord says, “I and the Father are one,” (5)

In agreeing with Dr. White, I will add that in these verses leading up to John 10:34, you see the working out of salvation for those people given to the Son by the Father. It would not follow contextually or logically that Jesus would then launch into some fragmented disconnected message telling people that people that they are going to become future gods in verse 34. Salvation is not becoming a god, it is from sin and death. Those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” will be before the throne of God singing eternal praises to God. (Revelation 7:9-10) The creator/creature distinction will be true in eternity.

Satan has always lied about men becoming like God. For example, Geerhardus Vos writes:

“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Vos goes on to show more of the Satan’s accusation: “God is one whose motives make His word unreliable. He lies from selfishness.” (6)

From Charles Hodge’s (part 2) Anthropology, CHAPTER VII. The Fall, we learn more:

The Nature of the Temptation.

“The first address of the tempter to Eve was designed to awaken distrust in the goodness of God, and doubt as to the truth of the prohibition. “Hath God indeed said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” or, rather, as the words probably mean, “Has God said, ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The next address was a direct assault upon her faith. “Ye shall not surely die;” but on the contrary, become as God himself in knowledge. To this temptation she yielded, and Adam joined in the transgression. From this account it appears that doubt, unbelief, and pride were the principles which led to this fatal act of disobedience. Eve doubted God’s goodness; she disbelieved his threatening; she aspired after forbidden knowledge.” (7)

From The Fall of Man by J. Gresham Machen we see the lie about becoming God:

“Then at last there comes a direct attack upon the truthfulness of God. “Thou shalt surely die,” said God: “Ye shall not surely die,” said the tempter. At last the battle is directly joined. God, said the tempter, has lied, and He has lied for the purpose of keeping something good from man. “Ye shall not surely die,” said the tempter: “for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).” (8)

In Conclusion:

John 10:34 quoting Psalm 82:6 does not suggest that men are Gods or will ever be God. It refers explicitly to the fact that God has appointed judges to act in an honorable Godly manner in the exercise of their God appointed duties.

Man, in his fallen nature has an evil desire to be like God. This is the pride of pride! We should desire as the Scripture instructs us in the next two texts.

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

God determines what is right or wrong, not man. In the beginning, God had Adam and Eve depend on Him for interpretation of creation. This includes every fact, which to be true, must be a God interpreted fact. In the fall man, became the would-be determiner or measure of all things, the essence of humanism. Man rebelled against his dependence on God and declared his independence or autonomy. When fallen man places his interpretation upon a fact, there is no certainty that it is true.

Satan offered to Adam and Eve the lie of self-determination. Satan’s deception was that man would appropriate God’s place, determining for himself what was right and what was wrong. In his rebellion, man rejected God’s standards for right and wrong. Instead of God and His Word being the standard, now man in his fallen sinful pride, claimed to be the standard.

Consistently throughout Scripture, the lie and seduction of wanting to be God is condemned throughout!

No, John 10:34 provides no hope for man to become God. We agree with the Psalmist whom Jesus quotes for the end of the matter.

“But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” (Psalm 82:7)

Trust God’s Word, not man’s word:

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” (Proverbs 28:26)

Food for Thought:

“The charge has been made that it is an a priori procedure to bring in God at the beginning of the process of knowledge. This too is a charge that acts as a boomerang. A priori reasoning is reasoning that does not start with the facts. Now antitheism has arbitrarily taken for granted that God is not a fact, and that if he is a fact that fact does not have any bearing upon the other facts. This we must hold to be an a priori procedure. We hold that the so-called “facts” are wholly unintelligible unless the supreme fact of God be brought into relation with them. We are willing to start with any fact as a proximate starting point, but refuse to admit before the investigation has begun that there can be no such fact as God.” Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, Chapter 15 The Method of Christian Theistic Epistemology

“The method of reasoning by presupposition may be said to be indirect rather than direct. The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to “facts” or “laws” whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the “facts” and “laws” intelligible. The question is as to what the “facts” and “laws” really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes that they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are?” Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics, Chapter 4 The Problem of Method

“The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.” – B. B. Warfield

“We cannot use our thoughts and feelings as a standard: only God’s Word is the test.” – R. J. Rushdoony

“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” – John Calvin

“The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom.” – Vishal Mangalwadi

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27). “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, John, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.475.

2. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, John, p.1229.

3. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John, 9 Volumes, John, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 370-371.

4. Contributors, John James Stewart Perowne, Joseph Armitage Robinson, Frederic Henry Chase, Reginald St. John Parry Cambridge, Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, John, (Harvard Depository) p. 222-223.

5. James R. White, Is the Mormon my Brother,?(Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers), pp. 155-158.

6. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 35.

7. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 128.

8. J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View Of Man, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Banner of Truth), p. 165.

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. Available at:

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Reasoning with the Mormons with special guest Jack Kettler

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Genesis 1:1; A Study of God’s Creation Work. How was it done?

Genesis 1:1; A Study of God’s Creation Work. How was it done?                                               by Jack Kettler

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Christians maintain that this verse in Genesis tells us that God created the universe out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo, Latin). In this study we will explore the word create (bara) in Genesis 1:1. Some of this study will be technical as we will consult lexical evidence. As an aside, some of the commentary evidence in this study will also deal with how we are to understand God (Elohim, Hebrew) in Genesis. The diligent should not pass over this material on Elohim.

Lexical Evidence

Let’s first breakdown this verse in Genesis chapter one from

bə-rê-šîṯ בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית          In the beginning    Noun

bā-rā בָּרָ֣א                                               created                                               Verb

’ĕ-lō-hîm; אֱלֹהִ֑ים          God                                                   Noun

’êṯ אֵ֥ת   –           Acc

haš-šā-ma-yim הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם  the heavens            Noun

wə-’êṯ וְאֵ֥ת        and      Acc

ā-’ā-reṣ. הָאָֽרֶץ׃                                       the earth                                             Noun

It is helpful to see the word create and its Hebrew rendering בָּרָ֣א and the transliteration bā-rā or bara.

From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance on bara:

choose, create creator, cut down, dispatch, do, make fat

A primitive root; (absolutely) to create; (qualified) to cut down (a wood), select, feed (as formative processes) — choose, create (creator), cut down, dispatch, do, make (fat). (1)

Some more helpful Strong’s references:

Hebrew Old Testament; Scriptures for ‘bara’ meaning ‘to create’ בָּרָא Strong’s 1254; from the Hebrew dictionary p. 23.

Greek New Testament; Scriptures for ‘ktizo’ meaning ‘to create’ κτίζω Strong’s 2936; from the Greek dictionary p. 44.

Regarding bara, we see from Brown-Driver-Briggs:

  1. בָּרָא53 verb shape, create (compare Arabic probably loan-word, form, fashion by cutting, shape out, pare a reed for writing, a stick for an arrow, but also , create; Phoenician הברא CISi. 347 incisor, a trade involving cutting; Assyrian barû, make, create, COTGloss & Hpt KAT2Gloss 1 but dubious; Sabean ברא found, build, DHMZMG 1883, 413, synonym בנה; BaZA. 1888, 58, compare Assyrian banû, create, beget, with change of liquid; Aramaic בְּרָא, , create) —

Qal Perfect Genesis 1:1 19t.; Imperfect יִבְרָא Genesis 1:21,27; Numbers 16:30; Infinitive בְּראֹ Genesis 5:1; Imperative בְּרָא Psalm 51:12; Participle בּוֺרֵא Isaiah 42:5 10t.; suffix בֹּרַאֲךָ Isaiah 43:1; בּוֺרְאֶיךָ Ecclesiastes 12:1; — shape, fashion, create, always of divine activity, with accusative of thing, seldom except in P and Isa2. (2)

Scriptural Evidence from the Old Testament:

Before God created the universe, nothing else existed except God Himself. He created the universe ex nihilo Genesis 1:1.

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth… For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6, 9)

The two verses from Psalm 33 seem straight forward enough. There is no indication of pre-existing matter in view textually.

A Scripture in Isaiah will shed light on the use of bara that we see in Genesis?

Isaiah 45:7 is important because of the Hebrew words bara, asah and yatsar appear in this passage which makes it important in interpreting other passages. As said, this verse provides important information to gain a correct understanding of bara in Genesis 1:1.

“I form (yatsar, formed) the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create (bara) evil: I the LORD do (asah, to accomplish) all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

God says that He creates (bara) evil in this verse. This may be a of shock to some readers. We will leave the exegesis of this passage for a future study. Right now, we are concerned with idea of God creating (bara) the physical world and if this implies pre-existent matter or not. Is evil material? Keep in mind, we are not talking about the physical manifestation of evil, but the idea and reality of evil. Did God use pre-existing material to create evil?

Why is it important that God created the entire universe out of nothing? This is important and means that there is no matter in the universe that is eternal. If so, the status of the matter would on equal footing with God since they would both share an attribute of eternality. In Mormon theology for example, matter is actually more eternal than the Mormon god who was at one time a boy before he became the Mormon god.

God alone inhabits eternity and is separate from the creation, which means He is transcendent. He is not to be confused with the creation. This is seen in:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

In Christ’s Church, the members have differing gifts. Some are pastors and teachers. Some teachers God has raised up who can read the original languages of the Bible and understand the syntax of the ancient languages. Consult the following passages regarding teaching and teachers; Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11.

A commentary is like an in-depth Bible study. We should not be afraid of commentaries. There are good commentaries and bad commentaries. We need to use discernment. We should be like the Bereans and search the scriptures to see what is in harmony with Scripture. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11 0

Commentary Evidence

It would be helpful now to survey some commentary evidence on Genesis 1:1 from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis:

“In the beginning. To expound the term “beginning,” of Christ, is altogether frivolous. For Moses simply intends to assert that the world was not perfected at its very commencement, in the manner in which it is now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His language therefore may be thus explained. When God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and waste. He moreover teaches by the word “created,” that what before did not exist was now made; for he has not used the term ytsr, (yatsar,) which signifies to frame or forms but vr’, (bara,) which signifies to create. Therefore his meaning is, that the world was made out of nothing. Hence the folly of those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity; and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it was before destitute. This indeed was formerly a common fable among heathens, who had received only an obscure report of the creation, and who, according to custom, adulterated the truth of God with strange figments; but for Christian men to labor (as Steuchus does) in maintaining this gross error is absurd and intolerable. Let this, then be maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal but was created by God. There is no doubt that Moses gives the name of heaven and earth to that confused mass which he, shortly afterwards, (Genesis 1:2.) denominates waters. The reason of which is, that this matter was to be the seed of the whole world. Besides, this is the generally recognized division of the world.

God. Moses has it Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted; but since, as a proof of so great a matter, it appears to me to have little solidity, will not insist upon the word; but rather caution readers to beware of violent glosses of this kind. They think that they have testimony against the Arians, to prove the Deity of the Son and of the Spirit, but in the meantime they involve themselves in the error of Sabellius, because Moses afterwards subjoins that the Elohim had spoken, and that the Spirit of the Elohim rested upon the waters. If we suppose three persons to be here denoted, there will be no distinction between them. For it will follow, both that the Son is begotten by himself, and that the Spirit is not of the Father, but of himself. For me it is sufficient that the plural number expresses those powers which God exercised in creating the world. Moreover I acknowledge that the Scripture, although it recites many powers of the Godhead, yet always recalls us to the Father, and his Word, and spirit, as we shall shortly see. But those absurdities, to which I have alluded, forbid us with subtlety to distort what Moses simply declares concerning God himself, by applying it to the separate Persons of the Godhead. This, however, I regard as beyond controversy, that from the peculiar circumstance of the passage itself, a title is here ascribed to God, expressive of that powers which was previously in some way included in his eternal essence.” (3)

Now we will look at Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary regarding Genesis:

“The Creation of the World – Genesis 1:1-2:3

The account of the creation, its commencement, progress, and completion, bears the marks, both in form and substance, of a historical document in which it is intended that we should accept as actual truth, not only the assertion that God created the heavens, and the earth, and all that lives and moves in the world, but also the description of the creation itself in all its several stages. If we look merely at the form of this document, its place at the beginning of the book of Genesis is sufficient to warrant the expectation that it will give us history, and not fiction, or human speculation. As the development of the human family has been from the first a historical fact, and as man really occupies that place in the world which this record assigns him, the creation of man, as well as that of the earth on which, and the heaven for which, he is to live, must also be a work of God, i.e., a fact of objective truth and reality. The grand simplicity of the account is in perfect harmony with the fact. “The whole narrative is sober, definite, clear, and concrete. The historical events described contain a rich treasury of speculative thoughts and poetical glory; but they themselves are free from the influence of human invention and human philosophizing” (Delitzsch)…. The biblical account of the creation can also vindicate its claim to be true and actual history, in the presence of the doctrines of philosophy and the established results of natural science. So long, indeed, as philosophy undertakes to construct the universe from general ideas, it will be utterly unable to comprehend the creation; but ideas will never explain the existence of things. Creation is an act of the personal God, not a process of nature, the development of which can be traced to the laws of birth and decay that prevail in the created world. But the work of God, as described in the history of creation, is in perfect harmony with the correct notions of divine omnipotence, wisdom and goodness.” (4)

From this above citation we learn that Genesis account of creation is sober history. Now Keil and Delitzsch will exegete this verse:

“’In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’ – Heaven and earth have not existed from all eternity, but had a beginning; nor did they arise by emanation from an absolute substance, but were created by God. This sentence, which stands at the head of the records of revelation, is not a mere heading, nor a summary of the history of the creation, but a declaration of the primeval act of God, by which the universe was called into being. That this verse is not a heading merely, is evident from the fact that the following account of the course of the creation commences with w (and), which connects the different acts of creation with the fact expressed in Genesis 1:1, as the primary foundation upon which they rest. בּרשׁיח (in the beginning) is used absolutely, like ἐν ἀρχῇ in John 1:1, and מראשׁיח in Isaiah 46:10. The following clause cannot be treated as subordinate, either by rendering it, “in the beginning when God created …, the earth was,” etc., or “in the beginning when God created…(but the earth was then a chaos, etc.), God said, Let there be light” (Ewald and Bunsen). The first is opposed to the grammar of the language, which would require Genesis 1:2 to commence with הארץ ותּהי; the second to the simplicity of style which pervades the whole chapter, and to which so involved a sentence would be intolerable, apart altogether from the fact that this construction is invented for the simple purpose of getting rid of the doctrine of a creatio ex nihilo, which is so repulsive to modern Pantheism. ראשׁיח in itself is a relative notion, indicating the commencement of a series of things or events; but here the context gives it the meaning of the very first beginning, the commencement of the world, when time itself began. The statement, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, not only precludes the idea of the eternity of the world a parte ante, but shows that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the actual beginning of all things. The verb בּרא, indeed, to judge from its use in Joshua 17:15, Joshua 17:18, where it occurs in the Piel (to hew out), means literally “to cut, or new,” but in Kal it always means to create, and is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before. It is never joined with an accusative of the material, although it does not exclude a pre-existent material unconditionally, but is used for the creation of man (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 5:1-2), and of everything new that God creates, whether in the kingdom of nature (Numbers 16:30) or of that of grace (Exodus 34:10; Psalm 51:10, etc.). In this verse, however, the existence of any primeval material is precluded by the object created: “the heaven and the earth.” This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole, and the distinction between heaven and earth being essentially connected with the notion of the world, the fundamental condition of its historical development (vid., Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22; Exodus 31:17). In the earthly creation this division is repeated in the distinction between spirit and nature; and in man, as the microcosm, in that between spirit and body. Through sin this distinction was changed into an actual opposition between heaven and earth, flesh and spirit; but with the complete removal of sin, this opposition will cease again, though the distinction between heaven and earth, spirit and body, will remain, in such a way, however, that the earthly and corporeal will be completely pervaded by the heavenly and spiritual, the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, and the earthly body being transfigured into a spiritual body (Revelation 21:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:35.). Hence, if in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, “there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning” (Delitzsch). This is also shown in the connection between our verse and the one which follows: “and the earth was without form and void,” not before, but when, or after God created it. From this it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning. At the same time it is obvious from the creative acts which follow (vv. 3-18), that the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; just as Euripides applies the expression οὐρανὸς καὶ γαῖα to the undivided mass (οπφὴμία), which was afterwards formed into heaven and earth.” (4)

Now we will look at the Pulpit Commentary in regards Genesis verse one. The reader will do well to work through this rather lengthy quote:

“Verse 1. – In the beginning, Bereshith, is neither “from eternity,” as in John 1:1; nor “in wisdom” (Chaldee paraphrase), as if parallel with Proverbs 3:19 and Psalm 104:24; nor “by Christ,” who, in Colossians 1:18, is denominated ἀρχὴ; but “at the commencement of time.” Without indicating when the beginning was, the expression intimates that the beginning was. Exodus 20:11 seems to imply that this was the initiation of the first day’s work. The formula, “And God said,” with which each day opens, rather points to ver. 3 as its proper terminus a quo, which the beginning absolute may have antedated by an indefinite period. God Elohim (either the highest Being to be feared, from alah, to fear, – Hengstenberg, Delitzsch, Keil, Oehler, &c., or, more probably, the strong and mighty One, from aul, to be strong – Gesenius, Lange, Tayler Lewis, Macdonald, Murphy, &c.) is the most frequent designation of the Supreme Being in the Old Testament, occurring upwards of 2000 times, and is exclusively employed in the present section. Its plural form is to be explained neither as a remnant of polytheism (Gesenius), nor as indicating a plurality of beings through whom the Deity reveals himself (Baumgarten, Lange), nor as a plural of majesty (Aben Ezra, Kalisch, Alford), like the royal “we” of earthly potentates, a usage which the best Hebraists affirm to have no existence in the Scriptures (Macdonald), nor as a cumulative plural, answering the same purpose as a repetition of the Divine name (Hengstenberg, Dreschler, and others); but either

(1) as a pluralis intensitatis, expressive of the fullness of the Divine nature, and the multiplicity of the Divine powers (Delitzsch, Murphy, Macdonald); or,

(2) notwithstanding Calvin s dread of Sabellianism, as a pluralis trinitatis, intended to foreshadow the threefold personality of the Godhead (Luther, Cocceius, Peter Lombard, Murphy, Candlish, &c.); or

(3) both. The suggestion of Tayler Lewis, that the term may be a contraction for El-Elohim, the God of all superhuman powers, is inconsistent with neither of the above interpretations That the Divine name should adjust itself without difficulty to all subsequent discoveries of the fullness of the Divine personality and nature is only what we should expect in a God-given revelation. Unless where it refers to the angels (Psalm 8:5), or to heathen deities (Genesis 31:32; Exodus 20:3; Jeremiah 16:20), or to earthly rulers (Exodus 22:8, 9), Elohim is conjoined with verbs and adjectives in the singular, an anomaly in language which has been explained as suggesting the unity of the Godhead. Created. Bara, one of three terms employed in this section, and in Scripture generally, to describe the Divine activity; the other two being yatzar, “formed,” and asah, “made” – both signifying to construct out of pre-existing materials (cf. for yatzar, Genesis 2:7; Genesis 8:19; Psalm 33:15; Isaiah 44:9; for asah, Genesis 8:6; Exodus 5:16; Deuteronomy 4:16), and predicable equally of God and man. Bara is used exclusively of God. Though not necessarily involved in its significance, the idea of creation ex nihilo is acknowledged by the best expositors to be here intended. Its employment in vers. 21, 26, though seem ugly against, is really in favor of a distinctively creative act; in both of these instances something that did not previously exist, i.e. animal life and the human spirit, having been called into being. In the sense of producing what is new it frequently occurs in Scripture (cf. Psalm 51:12; Jeremiah 31:12; Isaiah 65:18). Thus, according to the teaching of this venerable document, the visible universe neither existed from eternity, nor was fashioned out of pre-existing materials, nor proceeded forth as an emanation from the Absolute, but was summoned into being by an express creative fiat. The New Testament boldly claims this as a doctrine peculiar to revelation (Hebrews 11:3). Modern science explicitly disavows it as a discovery of reason. The continuity of force admits of neither creation nor annihilation, but demands an unseen universe, out of which the visible has been produced “by an intelligent agency residing in the unseen,” and into which it must eventually return (‘The Unseen Universe,’ pp. 167, 170). Whether the language of the writer to the Hebrews homologates the dogma of an “unseen universe” (μὴ φαινομένον), out of which τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι, the last result of science, as expressed by the authors of the above-named work, is practically an admission of the Biblical doctrine of creation. The heavens and the earth (i.e. mundus universus – Gesenius, Kalisch, &c. Cf. Genesis 2:1; Genesis 14:19, 22; Psalm 115:15; Jeremiah 23:24. The earth and the heavens always mean the terrestrial globe with its aerial firmament. Cf. Genesis 2:4; Psalm 148:13; Zechariah 5:9). The earth here alluded to is manifestly not the dry land (ver. 10), which was not separated from the waters till the third day, but the entire mass of which our planet is composed, including the superincumbent atmosphere, which was not uplifted from the chaotic deep until the second day. The heavens are the rest of the universe. The Hebrews were aware of other heavens than the “firmament” or gaseous expanse which over-arches the earth. “Tres regiones,” says Poole, “ubi ayes, ubi nubes, ubi sidera.” But, beyond these, the Shemitie mind conceived of the heaven where the angels dwell (1 Kings 22:19; Matthew 18:10), and where God specially resides (Deuteronomy 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 2:4), if, indeed, this latter was not distinguished as a more exalted region than that occupied by any creature – as “the heaven of heavens,” the pre-eminently sacred abode of the Supreme (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 105:16). The fundamental idea associated with the term was that of height (shamayim, literally, “the heights” – Gesenius, Furst). To the Greek mind heaven meant “the boundary” (οὑρανος, from ὁρος – Arist.), or, “the raised up” (from ὀρ – to be prominent – Liddell and Scott). The Latin spoke of “the con cavity” (coelum, allied to κοῖλος, hollow), or “the engraved” (from coelo, to engrave). The Saxon thought of “the heaved-up arch.” The Hebrew imagined great spaces rising tier upon tier above the earth (which, m contradistinction, was named “the flats”), just as with regard to time he spoke of olamim (Gr. αἰῶνες). Though not anticipating modern astronomical discovery, he had yet enlarged conceptions of the dimensions of the stellar world (Genesis 15:5; Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 31:37; Amos 9:6); and, though unacquainted with our present geographical ideas of the earth’s configuration, he was able to represent it as a globe, and as suspended upon nothing (Isaiah 40:11; Job 26:7-10; Proverbs 8:27). The connection of the present verse with those which follow has been much debated. The proposal of Aben Ezra, adopted by Calvin, to read, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was” is grammatically inadmissible. Equally objectionable on the ground of grammar is the suggestion of Bunsen and Ewald, to connect the first verse with the third, and make the second parenthetical; while it is opposed to that simplicity of construction which pervades the chapter. The device of Drs. Buckland and Chalmers, so favorably regarded by some harmonists of Scripture and geology, to read the first verse as a heading to the whole section, is exploded by the fact that no historical narration can begin with “and.” To this Exodus 1. It is no exception, the second book of Moses being in reality a continuation of the first. Honest exegesis requires that ver. I shall be viewed as descriptive of the first of the series of Divine acts detailed in the chapter, and that ver. 2, while admitting of an interval, shall be held as coming in immediate succession – an interpretation, it may be said, which is fatal to the theory which discovers the geologic ages between the creative beginning and primeval chaos.” (5)

New Testament Evidence

The New Testament is the ultimate Divine commentary on the Old Testament. In the New Testament there are verses that teach that God created the world out of nothing. This confirms the teaching in the Old Testament on creatio ex nihilo. For example, John 1:3 says that “all things were made by him (ἐγένετο, egeneto) and without him was not anything made that was made.”

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary has important information on this passage from John:

  1. All things, &c.—all things absolutely (as is evident from Joh 1:10; 1Co 8:6; Col 1:16, 17; but put beyond question by what follows).

without Him was not anything—not one thing.

made—brought into being.

that was made—This is a denial of the eternity and non-creation of matter, which was held by the whole thinking world outside of Judaism and Christianity: or rather, its proper creation was never so much as dreamt of save by the children of revealed religion.” (6)

Also, consider Barnes’ Notes on the Bible in dealing this passage:

“All things – The universe. The expression cannot be limited to any part of the universe. It appropriately expresses everything which exists – all the vast masses of material worlds, and all the animals and things, great or small, that compose those worlds. See Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:16.

Were made – The original word is from the verb “to be,” and signifies “were” by him; but it expresses the idea of creation here. It does not alter the sense whether it is said “‘were’ by him,” or “were ‘created’ by him.” The word is often used in the sense of “creating,” or forming from nothing. See James 3:9; and Genesis 2:4; Isaiah 48:7; in the Septuagint.” (7)

The next New Testament verse is from Colossians:

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

In Colossians 1:16 we read that all things were created by Him and for Him, which is to say, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, note, there is no indication of pre-existing matter in view in these texts we are surveying. A concept of pre-existing matter has to be smuggled or read into the text.

More on the Colossians passage from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

“16. For—Greek, “Because.” This gives the proof that He is not included in the things created, but is the “first-begotten” before “every creature” (Col 1:15), begotten as “the Son of God’s love” (Col 1:13), antecedently to all other emanations: “for” all these other emanations came from Him, and whatever was created, was created by Him.

by him—rather as Greek, “in Him”: as the conditional element, pre-existent and all-including: the creation of all things BY Him is expressed afterwards, and is a different fact from the present one, though implied in it [Alford]. God revealed Himself in the Son, the Word of the Father, before all created existence (Col 1:15). That Divine Word carries IN Himself the archetypes of all existences, so that “IN Him all things that are in heaven and earth have been created.” The “in Him” indicates that the Word is the ideal ground of all existence; the “by Him,” below, that He is the instrument of actually realizing the divine idea [Neander]. His essential nature as the Word of the Father is not a mere appendage of His incarnation, but is the ground of it. The original relation of the Eternal Word to men “made in His image” (Ge 1:27), is the source of the new relation to them by redemption, formed in His incarnation, whereby He restores them to His lost image. “In Him” implies something prior to “by” and “for Him” presently after: the three prepositions mark in succession the beginning, the progress, and the end [Bengel].

all things—Greek, “the universe of things.” That the new creation is not meant in this verse (as Socinians interpret), is plain; for angels, who are included in the catalogue, were not new created by Christ; and he does not speak of the new creation till Col 1:18. The creation “of the things that are in the heavens” (so Greek) includes the creation of the heavens themselves: the former are rather named, since the inhabitants are more noble than their dwellings. Heaven and earth and all that is m them (1Ch 29:11; Ne 9:6; Re 10:6).

invisible—the world of spirits.

thrones, or dominions—lordships: the thrones are the greater of the two.

principalities, or powers—rather, “rules, or authorities”: the former are stronger than the latter (compare Note, see on [2402] Eph 1:21). The latter pair refer to offices in respect to God’s creatures: “thrones and dominions” express exalted relation to God, they being the chariots on which He rides displaying His glory (Ps 68:17). The existence of various orders of angels is established by this passage.

all things—Greek, “the whole universe of things.”

were—rather, to distinguish the Greek aorist, which precedes from the perfect tense here, “have been created.” In the former case the creation was viewed as a past act at a point of time, or as done once for all; here it is viewed, not merely as one historic act of creation in the past, but as the permanent result now and eternally continuing.

by him—as the instrumental Agent (Joh 1:3).

for him—as the grand End of creation; containing in Himself the reason why creation is at all, and why it is as it is [Alford]. He is the final cause as well as the efficient cause. Lachmann’s punctuation of Col 1:15-18 is best, whereby “the first-born of every creature” (Col 1:15) answers to “the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18), the whole forming one sentence with the words (“All things were created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist, and He is the Head of the body, the Church”) intervening as a parenthesis. Thus Paul puts first, the origination by Him of the natural creation; secondly, of the new creation. The parenthesis falls into four clauses, two and two: the former two support the first assertion, “the first-born of every creature”; the latter two prepare us for “the first-born from the dead”‘; the former two correspond to the latter two in their form—”All things by Him … and He is,” and “By Him all things … and He is.” (8)

Another important New Testament passage is from Hebrews:

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary provides insight into this passage from Hebrews 11:3:

“This proves the second part of faith’s description, Hebrews 11:1, that it is the evidence of things not seen; for by it only we understand the creation, which no eye saw. It is the same Divine faith as described before, but as evidencing invisible truths, it communicates a marvellous light to the understanding, and leaves real impressions of it from the word of God, whereby it arriveth unto a most certain knowledge of what is above the power of natural reason to convey, and gives a divine assent to it, such its as is real, clear, sure, and fruitful, different from that of the Gentiles, Romans 1:19-23.

The worlds; touv aiwnav the word noteth sometimes ages, Luke 16:8; the garb and corrupt habit of men who live in them, Ephesians 2:2; eternity: but there, as Hebrews 1:2, it is a word of aggregation, signifying all kinds of creatures, with their several places, times, and periods; things celestial, terrestrial, and subterrestrial; angels, men, and all sorts of creatures, together with all the states and conditions in which they were made.

Were framed by the word of God; heaven, earth, and seas, with all their hosts of creatures, the visible creation and the invisible world, were put into being and existence, placed in their proper order, disposed and fitted to their end, by the mighty word of God: Trinity in Unity the Creator, his powerful fiat, without any pain, or trouble, or assisting causes, instantly effected this miraculous, glorious work; He spake, and it was done, Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14, &c.; Psalm 33:6,9.

So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear; the visible world, and all visible in it, were made all of nothing; this reason could never digest. All was produced of that formless, void, dark chaos which was invisible, Genesis 1:2; which void, formless, dark mass itself, was made of no pre-existent stuff, matter or atoms, but of nothing; which differenceth the operative power of God from that of all other agents. See Genesis 1:1 Psalm 89:11,12 Psa 148:5,6, &c.; Isaiah 42:5 45:12,18.” (9)

Unfriendly Christian critic, Bertrand Russell, in his A History of Western Philosophy, in the section dealing with Plato’s Cosmogony, (branch of metaphysics) has this to say:

“Thus, it appears that Plato’s God, unlike the Jewish and Christian God, did not create the world out of nothing, but rearranged preexisting material.” (10)

It appears that Russell, even though a declared enemy of Christianity has some honesty in dealing with Christian theological positions. Was Bertrand Russell was mistaken in his assessment of the Christian doctrine of creation being different from Platonism? It is important to note that Russell includes Judaism along with Christianity in being separate from Platonism regarding the creation of the world. This is an instance of citing a critic in defense of the biblical teaching that God creatio ex nihilo the world.

A Philosophical Analysis of Creation and What the Alternative is:

Rationalism and the Chain of Being

By R. J. Rushdoony

January 01, 1998

Very early, a deadly notion from Hellenic rationalism entered into the Christian church, namely, the transfer of the idea of the good from ethics to metaphysics. In terms of this, sin became a thinness of being. In the supposed Great Chain of Being, sin was at the bottom of the chain. Instead of being moral opposites, good and evil were metaphysical opposites. Gnosticism carried this notion to strange and fantastic conclusions. In scholastic philosophy, evil is seen as a thinness of being, and, for Dante, in The Divine Comedy in the last round of the ninth circle of hell, where Lucifer is, all are ice-bound.

There is a world of danger in this view, because the concept of the Great Chain of Being means a continuity of being; it means that both God and man share a common being and therefore are open in their rationality one to another. In terms of Biblical faith, there are two kinds of being, created and uncreated, creation and the God of creation. The mind of God is uncreated, man’s mind is created. Because man is a creature in all his being, he bears the stamp of the Creator, even to his image (Gen. 1:26-28). Man’s being is discontinuous with God’s while imaging it with respect to God’s communicable (but not incommunicable) attributes.

To return to the notion that sin and virtue are metaphysical facts, this means that sin leads a person into a thinness of being, and then into virtual or actual non-being. This idea is a useful one for those who wish to dispose of Hell: those in Hell are fading away in their being into non-being and are destined to disappear. But sin is not a slenderness of being but the willful transgression of the law of God. Sin is thus not the metaphysical wasting away of man but his moral rebellion against God and his law. It is a moral, not a metaphysical, declension.

This Hellenic view has important considerations for rationalism. The rationalist does not self-consciously accept all aspects of his Hellenic inheritance. Being non-historical in his approach, he assumes that his reason has all the attributes that philosophy in his day ascribes to it. It is, for example, a shock to read Aristotle after Aquinas and to realize that the Aristotle we know is a very different person from the ancient Greek, a somewhat distant relative, in fact.

In either an early or a later form, however, rationalism presupposes a continuity of being between God, or the ultimate ideas or forms, and the mind of man. It is this impersonal continuity of being that is the mainstay of rationalism and its source of truth. The rationalist does not posit a discontinuity, and, with the rare one who might, he does not see this human rationality as fallen. To do so would destroy his rationalism.

Now if there is a stream of continuity in all of history, that stream, will, in its pseudo-Christian forms, absorb the incarnation of Jesus Christ into its continuity. The results of this absorption are startling. The historical Jesus becomes less important than his continuity in some mystical form. This can take several forms. The sacrament of communion can outweigh the historical atonement. Salvation, instead of being from sin, becomes deification, theosis. The historical incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ is seen as continuing mystically in his church, and so on and on. In Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism, we have varying forms of these beliefs. They represent the transmutation of Christianity from a Hebraic to an alien form. The necessity of Scripture gives way to alien and rationalistic premises which insist on the necessity of the church.

In the Greek Chain of Being idea, human autonomy is possible in a way that it is not under the doctrine of creation. Creationism sees the creation of man and of all things else as declaring the total and absolute dependence of all things on God. Having been created out of nothing, and having brought nothing to their making, all creatures are totally dependent on God and totally subject to his sovereign predestinating will. In the Great Chain of Being, all creatures and beings share in God’s divinity and are aspects of a common being. Men can rise or fall on the Great Chain of Being, and man’s use of Reason determines his status. Man is thus essentially autonomous, and he can rise or fall in the chain as his Reason determines. The determining force is thus not the personal God but a common and impersonal Reason, available alike to God and to man.

The universe of the Great Chain of Being is open in that there is no absolute and determining God over all. Predestination then cannot be a seriously held idea if one is logical. It is an open universe in that man’s Reason can penetrate all things determinatively. The rational is the real in this kind of world. But it is a closed world to the God of Scripture, because he is excluded in the name of rationality from the spheres of philosophy and history. Rationalism can “prove” God but its god is always a dead one, a figment of man’s imagination and Reason. In the earlier years of modern philosophy, men sought to “prove” the existence of God. The logic of their thinking came into focus with Hegel and after Hegel, the philosopher in his thinking as the actual God of being. Nietzsche clearly saw himself as the new god but apparently did not like what he saw!

  1. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more at:

For more additional research that is relevant our study, the serious reader should download a copy of:

CREATION EX NIHILO OR EX MATERIA? A CRITIQUE OF THE MORMON DOCTRINE OF CREATION by Paul Copan                                                                                                                               Published in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 9/2 (Summer 2005): 32-54.

Copy and paste the next link into your browser to get the Paul Copan article:

In conclusion, the Westminster Confession of Faith on Creation:

Chapter 4 – Of Creation.

Section 1.) It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, (1) for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, (2) in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good. (3)

(1) Heb 1:2; Jn 1:2,3; Ge 1:2; Job 26:13; Job 33:4 (2) Ro 1:20; Jer 10:12; Ps 104:24; Ps 33:5,6 (3) Heb 11:3; Col 1:16; Ac 17:24


Section 2.) After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, (1) with reasonable and immortal souls, (2) endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image, (3) having the law of God written in their hearts, (4) and power to fulfill it; (5) and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. (6) Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; (7) which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures. (8)

(1) Ge 1:27 (2) Ge 2:7; Ecc 12:7; Lk 23:43; Mt 10:28 (3) Ge 1:26; Col 3:10; Eph 4:24 (4) Ro 2:14,15 (5) Ecc 7:29 (6) Ge 3:6; Ecc 7:29 (7) Ge 2:17; Ge 3:8,9,10,11,23 (8) Ge 1:26,28



  1. James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, (Nashville, Tennessee, Crusade Bible Publishers), p. 225.
  2. Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson), p.135.
  3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Genesis, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 69, 70.
  4. Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament Genesis, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), pp.37, 38; 46, 47.
  5. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Genesis, Vol. I., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 2-3.
  6. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, John (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1026.
  7. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, John, p. 1021.
  8. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, John (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1316.
  9. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 860.
  10. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, (New York, New York, Simon and Schuster), p. 144.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27). “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. Available at:

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