Not to Seethe a Kid in his mother’s milk, a study in Compassion

Not to Seethe a Kid in his mother’s milk, a study in Compassion by Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at the passage: “The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)

As will be seen, this passage and related passages will note, men exercising good stewardship are to care for animals.

As in previous studies, we will look at scriptures, and commentary evidence for the purpose to glorify God in how we live in response to God’s Word. May God be glorified always!

From Scripture:

“The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)

Commentary evidence from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Exodus 23:19:

This seems to be a general rule, extending to all the fruits which the earth first produced; in every kind of which the very first are here enjoined to be offered unto God, before they should presume to eat any of them. It may seem to be repeated here, where the year of rest is mentioned to leach them the first-fruits were to be given to God of all that the earth produced, not only by their labour and seed, as might be thought from Exodus 23:16, but also of its own accord, as is here implied.
He names one kind, under which he understands a lamb, or a calf, &c., according to the use of Scripture style. This law many understand literally, and that it is forbidden to them, because the idolaters had such a custom, whereof yet there seems to be no sufficient proof; nor, if there were, doth it seem to be a rite of that importance or probability to entice the Israelites to imitate it, that there needed a particular law against this, more than against a hundred such ridiculous usages which were among the heathen, and are not taken notice of in the book of God’s laws. The words may be rendered thus,
Thou shalt not seethe, or roast, (for the word bashal signifies to roast as well as to boil, as it is evident from Deuteronomy 16:7)
A kid, being, or whilst it is (which is to be understood, there being nothing more common than an ellipsis of the verb substantive)
In his mother’s milk; which it may be said to be, either,
1. Whilst it sucks its mother’s milk; and so it may admit of a twofold interpretation:
(1.) That this is to be understood of the passover, of which most conceive he had now spoken, Exodus 23:18, in which they used either a lamb or a kid, Exodus 12:5, and then the word bashal must be rendered roast.
(2.) That this speaks not of sacrifice to God, wherein sucking creatures were allowed, Exodus 22:30 Leviticus 22:27 1 Samuel 7:9, but of man’s use; and so God ordained this, partly because this was unwholesome food, and principally to restrain cruelty, even towards brute creatures, and luxury in the use of them. Or rather,
2. Whilst it is very tender and young, rather of a milky than of a fleshy substance, like that young kid of which Juvenal thus speaks, Qui plus lactis habet quam sanguinis, i.e. which hath more milk than blood in it. And it may he said to be in its mother’s milk, by a usual hypallage, when its mother’s milk is in it, i.e. whilst the milk it sucks as it were, remains in it undigested and unconverted into flesh, even as a man is oft said to be in the Spirit, when indeed the Spirit is in him. And what is here indefinitely prohibited, is elsewhere particularly explained, and the time defined, to wit, that it be not offered to God before it was eight days old. And this interpretation may receive light and strength from hence, that the law of the first fruits, which both here and Exodus 34:26 goes immediately before this law, doth in Exodus 22:30 immediately go before that law of not offering them before the eighth day, which implies, that both of them speak concerning the same thing, to wit, the first-fruits or first-born of the cattle, which were not to be offered to God while they were in their mother’s milk, saith this place, or till they were eight days old, saith that place. And consequently, if they might not be offered to God, they might not be used by men for food. (1)


“And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.” (Leviticus 22:28)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Leviticus 22:28:

And whether it be cow or ewe. Or “an ox or sheep” (f), for this law, as Aben Ezra says, respects both male and female, and neither the one nor the other with their young might be slain; though Jarchi says, the custom is concerning the female, for it is forbidden to slay the dam and its son, or daughter; but it is not the custom concerning males, wherefore it is lawful to slay the father and the son:
ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day; or, “it and its son” (g), the young, whether of a cow or ewe, and whether it be male or female; though Gersom observes, that this law takes place only in the dam and its female young, and not in the father and the son; for it is not manifest, in many animals, who is their father, wherefore he is not guilty of stripes, if the father and his son are slain in one day, even though it is known it is its father: the reason of the law seems to be, to encourage mercy and pity, and to discourage cruelty: hence the Targum of Jonathan is, “and my people, the children of Israel, as our Father is merciful in heaven, so be ye merciful on earth: a cow, or a sheep, &c.”’
(f) “bovem vel pecus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (g) “ipsum et filium ejus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (2)


“If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam [mother] with the young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:6:

Verses 6, 7. – (Cf. Leviticus 22:28; Exodus 23:19.) These precepts are designed to foster humane feeling towards the lower animals, and not less to preserve regard to that affectionate relation between parents and their young which God has established as a law in the animal world. That thou mayest prolong thy days (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12). (3)

A New Testament passage similar to what we have seen is in 1 Corinthians:

“For it is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9)

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says this regarding the Corinthians text:

9. Ox … treadeth … corn—(De 25:4). In the East to the present day they do not after reaping carry the sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area under the open air to be threshed by the oxen treading them with their feet, or else drawing a threshing instrument over them (compare Mic 4:13).
Doth God … care for oxen?—rather, “Is it for the oxen that God careth?” Is the animal the ultimate object for whose sake this law was given? No. God does care for the lower animal (Ps 36:6; Mt 10:29), but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head of animal creation. In the humane consideration shown for the lower animal, we are to learn that still more ought it to be exercised in the case of man, the ultimate object of the law; and that the human (spiritual as well as temporal) laborer is worthy of his hire. (4)

As the commentary noted: the Corinthian passage is quoting Deuteronomy 25:4, livestock were also allowed to eat as they worked. It would have been cruelty to the beast to deny it food as it labored in the field.

From the book, The Law of the Covenant. An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, consider:

This law is thrice stated in the Torah (Ex.23:19; 34:26; Dt.14:21). It is obviously quite important, yet its significance eludes us. There are many laws which prohibit the mixing of life and death, yet we wish to know the precise nuance of each. There is no example of the breaking of this law

In Scripture, unless we go to a metaphorical application, seeing the kid as a symbol for a human child. We notice that the kid is a young goat, a child. The word only occurs 16 times in the Old
Testament. In Genesis 27:9, 16, Rebekah put the skins of a kid upon Jacob when she sent him to
Masquerade as Esau before Isaac. Here the mother helps her child (though Jacob was in his 70s at the time). In Genesis 38:17, 20, 3, Judah pledged to send a kid to Tamar as payment for her services as a prostitute. In the providence of God, this was symbolic, because Judah had in fact failed to provide Tamar the kid to which she was entitled: Judah’s son Shelah. Judah gave his seal and cord, and his staff, as pledges that the kid would be sent, but Tamar departed, and never received the kid. When she was found pregnant, she produced the seal and cord and the staff, as evidence that Judah was the father. The children that she bore became her kids, given her by Judah in exchange for the return of his cord and seal and his staff. Finally, when Samson visited his wife, he took her a kid, signifying his intentions (Jud.15:1). These passages seem to indicate a symbolic connection between the kid and a human child, the son of a mother (Indeed, Job 10:10 compares the process of embryonic development to the coagulation of milk.) The kid is still nursing, still taking in its mother’s milk in some sense, Jacob and Rebekah being an example of this. The mother is the protectress of the child, of the seed. This is the whole point of the theology of Judges 4 and 5, the war of the two mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. Indeed, the passage calls attention to milk. The milk of the righteous woman was a tool used to crush the head of the serpent’s seed (Jud.4:19f. 5:24-27). How awful if the mother uses her own milk to destroy her own seed!

Victor P. Hamilton as written that “in the husbandry of Israel a young male kid was the most expendable of the animals, less valuable than, say, a young lamb. The young males were used for meat; the females kept for breeding. Thus, a kid served admirably as a meat dish: Gen. 27:9, 16; Jud.6:19; 13:15; 15:1; 1Sam.10:3; 16:20….” Accordingly, one of the most horrible things imaginable is for a mother to boil and eat her own child. This is precisely what happened during the siege of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah describes it in Lamentations 4:10, “The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they became food for them because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” The same thing happened during the siege of Samaria, as recorded in 2 Kings 6:28f.In both passages, the mother is said to boil her child.

We are now in a better position to understand this law, and its placement in passages having to do with offerings to God. The bride offers children to her husband. She bears, them, rears them on her milk, and presents them to her lord as her gift to him, Similarly, Israel is to present the fruits of her hands, including her children, to her Divine Husband. She is not to consume her children, her offerings, or her tithes, but present them to God. The command not to boil the kid in its own mother’s milk is a negative command; the positive injunction it implies is that we are to present our children and the works of our hands to God. Jerusalem is the mother of the seed CPs. 87:5; Gal. 4:26ff.). When Jerusalem crucified Jesus Christ, her Seed, she was boiling her kid in her own milk. In Revelation 17, the apostate Jerusalem has been devouring her faithful children: “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” Her punishment, under the Law of Equivalence, is to be devoured by the gentile kings who supported her (v.17). (5)

In summation:

Attempting to find applications for eternal principles in the Older Covenant, in a previous study we learned that a binding overarching principle is found in Mark’s gospel.

“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)

This command applies even to animals that a neighbor owns.

Wandering or lost animals must be returned to the owner:

“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3)

If a pit is left uncovered, and an animal falls into it, the owner of the pit shall pay the owner of the animal restitution:

“And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.” (Exodus 21:33-34)

If neighbor’s ass or an ox fall by the way, help shall be given him to lift the animal up again:

“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.” (Deuteronomy 22:4)

“And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11)

Loving the neighbor is the key. Is there a principle in the law that protects a neighbor? The actual law in the Old Covenant Israel is expired today. Digging a little deeper it may be possible to glean a modern-day application from a binding moral principle. From this study and looking at scriptural cross-references, we can see that God wants us to care for our neighbor and his property, including animals.

“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” (Psalm 36:6)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

God cares for the birds of the field and animals. Therefore we should take care of animals under our care.

“And he said unto him, my lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.” (Genesis 33:13-14)

‘Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

God’s Consideration for Animals by G.T. Coster on Jonah 4:11:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city…
The “much cattle” in Nineveh a plea with God for the preservation of the city. And still, be animals where they may:
1. God has made them.
2. He preserves them. “His full hand supplies their need.”
3. He dowers them with beauty, or swiftness, or strength, with sensibility and sagacity.
4. He makes them of varied serviceableness to man, and has given man authority over them. “Thou madest him to have dominion over all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field.”
5. “He regardeth the life of the beast;” complacently, in their “lower pleasures;” pitifully, in their “lower pains;” constantly and minutely, “not one falleth on the ground” without him.
6. He would have them preserved from cruelty and needless destruction (Exodus 9:19).
7. It is God-like to care for the lower animals.
“He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God, who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.” G.T.C. (6)

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:9)

“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)

“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6)

When looking for modern applications, use as the rule of thumb, protecting and loving a neighbor and his goods or property. Thankfully, we are not stumbling in the dark ethically. We have God’s wisdom from the Old Covenant case laws as a place to look for solutions.

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

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


1. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 169.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 349.
3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Deuteronomy, Vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.355.
4. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1205.
5. James B. Jordon, The Law Of The Covenant, An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, (Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas 1984). pp. 190-192.
6. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Jonah, Vol. 14, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 97-98.

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

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

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* For an excellent source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
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The Five Solas and how do we understand them?

The Five Solas and how do we understand them? by Jack Kettler

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

This study is an overview of what are known as the “Five Solas.” How are we saved, who is gets the glory, and what is the believer’s binding doctrinal authority? Prayerfully, these questions will be clarified and answered in this theological synopsis.

Definitions from two sources:

Five Solas
Literally, the “five alones,” the “five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and summarize the Reformers’ basic beliefs and emphasis in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of the day “consisting of sola scriptura (scripture alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). *

The five Solas are five Latin phrases popularized during the Protestant Reformation that emphasized the distinctions between the early Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. The word sola is the Latin word for “only” and was used in relation to five key teachings that defined the biblical pleas of Protestants. **

1. Sola Scriptura: “Scripture alone.”
2. Sola Fide: “faith alone.”
3. Sola Gratia: “grace alone.”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone.”
5. Soli Deo Gloria: “to the glory of God alone.”

From Scripture:

Sola Scriptura
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

“Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Sola Fide
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

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

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

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

“For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Soli Deo Gloria
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)

Comments; Sola Scriptura still at the Center of the Divide and Why:

Some Roman Catholics have alleged that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura. Some former Protestants, now Roman Catholic, apologists, have said that Sola Scriptura means “the Bible plus nothing else.” Alleging that the Protestant position is “the Bible plus nothing else” is a straw-man argument and is false. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the final court of appeal, not the only court of appeal. To the Roman Catholic, we ask, “Where does the Bible direct God’s people to an outside authority structure such as a ‘sacred oral’ tradition?” The force of this question should not be dismissed. We see that Sola Scriptura is taught all over the face of Scripture and that the traditions of men are condemned by Christ repeatedly. In essence, the critics of Sola Scriptura are saying that the Protestant must accept, as the final authority, whatever is stated by the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Church.

However, if the church is always correct, why did Christ attack the religious authorities of the Old Testament Church? Christ did this using the most forceful terminology, such as hypocrites and vipers. The fact is that sometimes even the church will err in its doctrine. If the Old Testament Church erred, why should anyone deny or be surprised at the fact that the church in the gospel age can and has fallen into error as well? What happens when the church misinterprets the Bible? Can the believer challenge the misinterpretation? As Protestants, we say yes to the last question, but this does not mean by doing so we are disregarding or repudiating the church. It means that we have to test all things in light of Scripture. Testing all things in light of Scripture includes even the rulings and doctrine of the church. If this is necessary, it should be done in humility. The faithful church sees that the Scriptures always stand as the final infallible authority above it. Christ is the head of the church. He speaks through the Scriptures. The faithful church should always be reforming and checking itself in light of Scripture.

How can error creep into the church? The leaders in the Old Testament covenant nation did not want the people to misinterpret and break God’s law. Trying to prevent misinterpretation of Scripture and the breaking God’s law is a worthy goal. Who would want that to happen? To prevent this, the elders of Israel built walls and fences created with man-made regulations to go around God’s law. These man-made laws are found in the Talmud. These additional laws would allegedly keep the people from even getting close to breaking one of God’s laws. Did this work? What were the consequences of this? These man-made laws produced ignorance in Israel regarding God’s law. The traditions of the elders became confused with the word of God. They, in fact, became a significant burden for God’s people. Not only were these traditions of men a burden, but they also made the commandments of God of no effect (Mark 7:13).

Likewise, the Roman Church did not want people to misinterpret Scripture because it is God’s Word. This ostensibly sounds good, since it is wrong and sinful to misinterpret God’s Word, and it would bring judgment upon those who did so. What was the Roman Church’s attempted solution to this possibility of misinterpretation? The Roman Church placed the Bible on its list of forbidden books! If the people did not have the Bible to read, then they would not be able to misinterpret it. The logic may be correct, but it is perverse. Eventually, the people in the Roman Churches were not able to recognize the difference between the church’s laws, traditions, superstitions, and heresies, and the pure Word of God. In fact, these strategies by ancient Jewish leaders and Romanists produced a greater ignorance of the law of God and the Scriptures. These strategies to keep the people of God from breaking God’s law or misinterpreting the Bible were noble on the surface, but in reality are evil, since they produce ignorance among the people of God.

Does the theory of “sacred oral tradition” invalidate the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura? How do we know if sacred traditions are true? Is it because the church says so? How do we know the word of the church regarding a particular sacred tradition is true? Is it because it is in agreement with sacred tradition? If this is the case, then we would seem to be going in a circle.

In Eastern Orthodoxy and Romanism, tradition is elevated on a par equal with Scripture. So it needs to be asked: Has God revealed all his revelation now? Otherwise, is the body of revelation, i.e., “sacred tradition” still expanding? If it is still expanding, how long will these alleged traditions continue to expand or grow? If the sacred oral traditions are written down, what becomes of them? Are they now considered to be equivalent to the Old and New Testament writings? If so, why not revise the Scriptures by adding them to the Bible? Is there a sacred book of traditions? Are there commentaries that explain these “sacred traditions”? If so, are these commentaries inspired? Can every-day men read them? Alternatively, do we need a special leader to decipher the meaning?

Does this expanding body of revelations or traditions ever contradict each other? It should be noted that Roman Catholic theology is still evolving because of the influence of these traditions. The development of Mariology is an example of this. One would have to be dishonest to deny that there are contradictions between the different traditions. For example, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholics have traditions that contradict each other at various points. The role of “feasts,” “fasts,” “festivals,” the “filoque,” “papal claims,” “original sin,” “purgatory,” the “immaculate conception” and the use of “icons” are examples of different, contradictory traditions. Moreover, there is much debate and disagreement upon precisely what some traditions mean in the first place.

The Eastern Orthodox Church first acted on a fundamental principle of Protestantism by breaking with the Roman Church in 1054 over the filoque controversy. The filoque controversy erupted when a Roman Catholic Pope, outside of a church council, changed the Nicene Creed. The fact is, there are serious theological differences between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, which include divisions or factions among themselves, as well as with new age mysticism, liberalism, and outright humanism, manifesting themselves in a variety of ways.

In defense of Protestantism, it needs to be explained how someone may look at the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide (by faith alone) and say this is not what the Bible teaches. They might say, “The Bible says we are saved by grace.” Yet the Latin phrase that highlights this Protestant doctrine does not even mention grace, it only speaks of faith. Such statements would reveal an appalling amount of ignorance. Sola Fide, or “by faith alone” must be understood in its historical context. The debate that was raging at the time concerned faith as the means through which a person was saved or justified. Both positions had the doctrine of salvation by grace in their formulas.

Although the Roman Church uses the word “grace” in its formulation of justification, their religious sacramental system has subverted the biblical doctrine of grace and turned it into a system of works. The Protestant battle cry was “by faith alone” in contrast to the Roman Church, which was essentially saying “faith plus works.” Understanding the historical circumstances of the debate clears up any misconception about the Protestant use of the formula “by faith alone,” which did not leave out grace at all. Soli Gratia or “by grace alone” went right along with Sola Fide.

The Romanist position essentially said that faith plus works produced justification, which placed a man in a tenuous state of grace. In the Romanist view, a man could fall from this state of grace. The Protestant position in contrast to this said that it was “faith alone” (the result of God’s imputing grace) that produced justification, thus saving a man. If Sola Fide is taken out of its historical context, it can be made to appear to conflict with Scripture. The Latin formula is a phrase drawing attention to the difference between the Protestant and Romanist positions on justification. The Protestant position did not reduce it to “faith only,” minus grace, as the surface meaning of the Latin might appear. An objection like this is nothing more than a clever ‘straw-man’ fallacy that capitalizes on the ignorance of modern readers.

Likewise, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, if taken out of its historical context, can be made to appear to be unconvincing. The debate surrounding Sola Scriptura was a debate over ultimate authority. The Roman Church claims that it, the church, was the infallible final court of appeal. If time is taken to study the debate during the Reformation, it is clearly seen that the Protestants were claiming that the Bible the only infallible rule of faith and is the final court of appeal. They were not saying, “The Bible plus nothing else.” An ignorant person in the twentieth century looking at the Latin formula just on the surface may get this impression. If they believe this is the Protestant position, it is the result of their ignorance. To correctly understand the Latin formula used by the men of the Reformation, one must understand the context of the debate at the time.

The Protestants were not claiming that a person was forbidden to use commentaries or to refer to church history, or to have church synods and assemblies to help settle disputes. To illustrate, John Calvin produced a commentary set on the Bible that is still the standard against which all others are measured. Philip Schaff, a noteworthy Protestant historian, wrote a valuable eight-volume church history, a three-volume work on the creeds of Christendom, and edited the thirty-eight-volume church fathers set.

It is beyond dispute that Protestantism has produced a rich tradition of scholarship. Does this violate its stated position? Of course not! The Protestant position is not some simplistic “the Bible plus nothing” theory. Those who allege this are dishonest or ignorant. Since the Scriptures are the Word of God, Protestants have always maintained that there could be no other authority to which they may appeal. It should be noted that Protestants are not against traditions. Reformation Protestants are merely against traditions that are contrary to Scripture. Protestants believe firmly in the church’s role in the interpretation of Scripture. The Regula Fidei or what is known as the ‘Rule of Faith’, guards against the danger of the individual setting himself up as the ultimate interpreter of Scripture.

Radical individualism in the area of interpretation of Scripture is akin to anarchy. It should be noted that the Reformation Protestants strongly condemned the radical individualism of the Anabaptists of their day, which sought to overthrow all authority. The Ecumenical Creeds serve an essential role in understanding the Rule of Faith. In Protestantism, debates on the meaning of Scripture take place in the church. In Reformed Churches, in particular, there are courts of appeal to guard against the possibility of error at any level of the debate. Protestants claim that the Bible is the infallible final court of appeal in settling debates. The Bible being the final court of appeal is the meaning of Sola Scriptura. ***

A Contemporary Restatement of the Solas:

The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Formulated April 20, 1996, by a group of conservative evangelical theologians and pastors, The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a call to recover the historic Christian faith. The Five Solas of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation form the outline of the declaration.
The text

Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.

In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.

Sola Scriptura: The Erosion of Authority

Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church’s life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.

Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s understanding, nurture and discipline.

Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliché’s, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God’s truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God’s provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher’s opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.

The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God’s grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.

Thesis One: Sola Scriptura

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith

As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus

We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.

We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.

Sola Gratia: The Erosion of the Gospel

Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world; from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.

God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.

Thesis Three: Sola Gratia

We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.

Sola Fide: The Erosion of the Chief Article

Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ’s imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.

Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ’s cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.

While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ’s substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God’s children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ’s saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.

Thesis Four: Sola Fide

We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion of God-Centered Worship

Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God’s and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God’s centrality in the life of today’s church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.

God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interests. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God’s kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.

Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria

We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self- fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

Call to Repentance and Reformation

The faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ’s kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.

We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the “gospels” of our secular culture, which are no gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure adequately to tell others about God’s saving work in Jesus Christ.

We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God’s Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church’s worship, ministry, policies, life and evangelism. For Christ’s sake. Amen.
ACE Council Members the ACE council members at the time of the declaration were:
See below ****

In closing:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason-I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other-my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” – Martin Luther

“Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform.” – John Wycliffe

“The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.” – Immanuel Kant

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

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

“Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Jesus.” – St. Jerome

“I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end and when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with His spiritual ointment.” – John Newton

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be: “A man of one book.” – John Wesley

“I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above.” – George Whitefield

“The Bible has always been regarded as part of the Common Law of England.” – Sir William Blackstone

“I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and….not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.” – George Müller

“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.” – Flavel

“The Bible as a book stands alone. There never was, nor ever will be, another like it. As there is but one sun to enlighten the world naturally, so there is but one Book to enlighten the world spiritually. May that Book become to each of us the man of our counsel, the guide of our journey, and our support and comfort in life and in death?”- A. Galloway

“The more you read the Bible, the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished by it.” – Charles Spurgeon

“The Bible is the light of my understanding, the joy of my heart, the fullness of my hope, the clarified of my affections, the mirror of my thoughts, the consoler of my sorrows, the guide of my soul through this gloomy labyrinth of time, the telescope went from heaven to reveal to the eye of man the amazing glories of the far distant world.” – Sir William Jones

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.” – Augustine of Hippo

“Let us therefore yield ourselves and bow to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, which can neither err nor deceive.” – Augustine of Hippo

“I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about such things, and inquire from the Holy Scriptures all these things.” – John Chrysostom

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” – Patrick Henry

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

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

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

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

For more study:

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

CARM theological dictionary
And at:

*** My comments adapted from the book: The Religion that started in a Hat.

CH Spurgeon and the Five Solas of the Reformation…/

The Five Solas of the Reformation by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.

**** The ACE council members as the time of the declaration were:

Dr. John Armstrong
Rev. Alistair Begg
Dr. James M. Boice
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
Dr. John D. Hannah
Dr. Michael S. Horton
Mrs. Rosemary Jensen
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Dr. Robert M. Norris
Dr. R. C. Sproul
Dr. G. Edward Veith
Dr. David Wells
Dr. Luder Whitlock
Dr. J. A. O. Preus, III

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The Creation or Cultural Mandate, what is it?

The Creation or Cultural Mandate, what is it? By Jack Kettler

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

In this study, what is known as the creation or the cultural mandate will be covered by way of an overview. This overview will be coming from a Protestant Reformed viewpoint. The word dominion will appear several times in this overview. Some readers coming from a dispensational approach may be alarmed at this word. They should not be, it is a biblical word right in the Genesis text.

Definitions from two sources:

Cultural mandate

God’s command for the human race to fill the earth and rule over it; also called creation mandate, dominion mandate, or stewardship mandate. *

Creation, cultural mandate

The terms creation mandate and cultural mandate can be used in various contexts with subtly different meanings. It’s important to clearly define which of these definitions is at hand in any particular discussion.

The term cultural mandate is far more flexible, implying a wider range of topics than the term creation mandate. There are three primary versions of the idea of a cultural mandate. The first is essentially the same as the creation mandate. The second connects God’s command in Genesis 1:28 with Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20), implying divine authority over all social and political matters. The third places the Great Commission within the creation mandate, requiring political and social matters to be forcibly brought under Christian control. **

From Scripture:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

Let us consider the following comments from Man’s Creation and Dominion by R. J. Rushdoony that are relevant to the Genesis text:

What was God’s purpose in creating man? David answers this question, but much earlier God, in Genesis 1:26, tell us that it is dominion, and David, in Psalm 8:6ff, restates this saying, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou has put all things under his feet.” What God and His Word state so emphatically should be basic to the church’s ministry, but it is not. In fact, one important observer has said that only Chalcedon holds to and teaches dominion theology. But David sees this dominion calling of man as a basic aspect of being “crowned with glory and honor” (v. 5).

The church in the main has lost its dominion mandate and calling. As a result, instead of being the source of the world’s culture, the church is a shallow reflection of humanistic culture, man-centered and not God-centered. As Psalm 8:2 makes clear, our calling and our purpose should be to “still the enemy and the avenger.”

God created man to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth under Him (Gen. 1:26). When man fell into sin, God chose a people and commissioned them to this same task (Jos. 1:1ff.). But Israel failed and was replaced by the church, which was commissioned to the same task (Mt. 28:19-20). The church now, instead of wanting victory and dominion in the face of tribulation, wants rather to be raptured out of it. Will not God give rather tribulation than rapture to such a people? Should they not tremble before God and change their ways?

A strong people of God are told that the Lord even ordains strength “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings” which “still the enemy and the avenger” (v. 2). Now the mouths of famous preachers ordain weakness and retreat.

The dominion God promises to His people is total: it applies to every sphere. The mark of God’s being is absolute dominion, and this is His promise to His people.

The Lord’s Prayer is, in essence, a prayer for dominion: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). For most churchmen, the use of the Lord’s Prayer is a “vain repetition” rather than marching orders. Too many churches need to pray, “God have mercy on us, for we have neither prayed nor lived as we should.”

We must seek God’s dominion over ourselves and our world with all our heart, mind, and being. We must recognize that no church is truly Bible-believing if it rejects God’s dominion and our calling in Him to bring all things under His dominion, beginning with ourselves. (1)

Bio Note: Rousas John Rushdoony was a Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian and is widely credited as being the father of Christian Reconstructionism and an inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement. Rushdoony extended Cornelius Van Til’s thinking from philosophy to all of life and thought. He wrote over fifty books.

Two more critical Scriptural passages:

“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)

“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:6-8)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Psalm 8:6 we read:

Verse 6. – Thou madest him [man] to have dominion over the works of thy hands. An evident reference to Genesis 1:28, “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” By these words man’s right of dominion was established. His actual dominion only came, and still comes, by degrees. Thou hast put all things under his feet (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Hebrews 2:8). In their fulness, the words are only true of the God-Man, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18). (2)

Another passage from Psalms speak of man’s ordained role by God in governing the earth:

“The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16)

Again, from the Pulpit Commentary:

Verse 16. – The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; literally, the heavens are heavens of Jehovah. They belong to him – he dwells there; but it is otherwise with the earth. But the earth hath he given to the children of men. For man God framed this fair world; to man’s use he adapted it with minutest care; and certainly not least for his own people, who are “the salt of the earth” – the human race by representation. (3)

Dutch Reformed theologians on the Cultural Mandate:

First, is Richard J. Mouw. He was Professor of Christian philosophy at Calvin College for seventeen years. He has also served as a visiting professor to the Free University of Amsterdam. He was appointed Professor of Christian Philosophy and Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1985. In 1993 he was elected president of Fuller Theological Seminary, retiring after 20 years of service.

Richard J. Mouw, explaining the cultural-mandate:

When we use the word “culture” to apply to human realities, we are referring to the ways in which we human beings cultivate patterns and processes that give meaning to our collective interactions, as well as the things that we “grow” as a result of those interactions. The Cultural Mandate for Kuyper, God cares deeply about culture and its development – so deeply that the divine desire that human beings engage in cultural activity was a central motive for God’s creating the world. In the narrative of Genesis 1, immediately after creating human beings in God’s own image, God gives them instructions about how to behave in the garden. In the three-part mandate of Genesis 1:28, the first thing God tells them is to “be fruitful and multiply.” That is about reproduction. He wants them to procreate, to have children. But when the Lord immediately goes on to tell them to “fill the earth,” that is a different assignment. This “filling” mandate, as viewed by Kuyper and others in the Reformed tradition, is a call to cultural activity – “the cultural mandate.” The first humans are placed in a garden – the raw nature of plants, animals, soil, and rocks – and they are instructed to introduce something new into that garden: the processes and products of human culture. When the Creator goes on to stipulate that they are to “have dominion” over the garden, that means they must manage – rule over – these patterns and processes of culture in obedience to God’s will. In the well-known formulation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, our “chief end” as created human beings “is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever” – and at the heart of this glorifying our Maker is our obedient service as God’s designated caretakers in the cultural aspects of created life. Our true “enjoyment” includes our flourishing in the kind of participation in created life that God intends for us. (4)

Second, is Abraham Kuyper. He was elected Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905. He was an influential Calvinist theologian and journalist. We will consider some of his significant insights into the cultural mandate.

Abraham Kuyper, on the all-encompassing nature of the cultural-mandate”:

God is present in all life, with the influence of His omnipresent and almighty power, and no sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labora shall be permeated with its ora in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God. Consequently, it is impossible for a Calvinist to confine religion to a single group, or to some circles among men. Religion concerns the whole of our human race. (5)

Kuyper, on how Calvinists and Anabaptists differ in relation to the cultural-mandate:

The avoidance of the world has never been the Calvinistic mark, but the shibboleth of the Anabaptist. The specific, anabaptistical dogma of “avoidance” proves this. According to this dogma, the Anabaptists, announcing themselves as “saints,” were severed from the world. They stood in opposition to it. They refused to take the oath; they abhorred all military service; they condemned the holding of public offices. Here already, they shaped a new world, in the midst of this world of sin, which however had nothing to do with this our present existence. They rejected all obligation and responsibility towards the old world, and they avoided it systematically, for fear of contamination, and contagion. But this is just what the Calvinist always disputed and denied. It is not true that there are two worlds, a bad one and a good, which are fitted into each other. It is one and the same person whom God created perfect and who afterwards fell, and became a sinner—and it is this same “ego” of the old sinner who is born again, and who enters into eternal life. So, also, it is one and the same world which once exhibited all the glory of Paradise, which was afterwards smitten with the curse, and which, since the Fall, is upheld by common grace; which has now been redeemed and saved by Christ, in its center, and which shall pass through the horror of the judgment into the state of glory. For this very reason the Calvinist cannot shut himself up in his church and abandon the world to its fate. He feels, rather, his high calling to push the development of this world to an even higher stage, and to do this in constant accordance with God’s ordinance, for the sake of God, upholding, in the midst of so much painful corruption, everything that is honorable, lovely, and of good report among men. (6)

Now we will consider mistakes that have been made by Christians in regards to culture and a biblical plan of action:

Ideas have consequences. If the ideas are false, the consequences can be disastrous. By repudiating some mistaken theologies and strategies, we can get back on track so that government excesses and abuses, the result of a large-scale Christian abandonment of culture can be corrected. Dropping out of the system or acting like an ostrich will make us culturally irrelevant. Besides, short-term solutions ultimately fail. We are in a war of ideas. We need to change peoples’ minds, their worldview. It will not be an easy task, but one that can be accomplished. Changing a person’s worldview will take dedication and preparation on our part for a long-term battle. If we remain unwavering, then our children’s children will again taste the freedom of our forefathers. Christ calls us to disciple the nations in Matthew 28:18-20. We are given a cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28, which is carried out by the Great Commission. We can accomplish the task of reclaiming our freedoms through teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. We must have patience and apply wisdom. A flash in the pan activism accomplishes nothing of lasting value. Short sited activists of this nature usually end up becoming apathetic beer drinkers. We must “think generationally.”

We must see that our fight to regain freedom is a long-term multi-generation battle. Our children will see positive change as a result of our allegiance to the cause of freedom. It is interesting to note that many who claim to be Christian have in many cases been led astray by a pessimistic, dispensational eschatology (a view of history, which accepts as accurate, the ultimate defeat of God’s people before the second coming of Christ). Fallacious belief systems have serious, culturally debilitating consequences. Our lives must be built upon the solid Rock that is Christ. The gospel will triumph in history (Daniel 2:34, 35; Matthew 13:31-33). The belief in materialistic evolutionary origins determines how we live is false. Likewise, those obsessed with the end times speculation can suffer a cultural paralysis, which prevents a meaningful contribution towards building a Christian society. Origins and eschatology can be either positive or negative. The Christian must carefully consider Scripture before taking action.

We must endeavor to see things from God’s perspective. Why? Because God is God and He is sovereign. Besides, God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. The Christian is obligated to do the will of God. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty does not mean that we resign ourselves to defeat. On the contrary, this doctrine gives us the theological basis for working all the harder for the cause of freedom, and if it pleases God, then perhaps He will grant us deliverance. The book of Judges tells of God’s chastisements and the subsequent deliverance of His people. The state is God’s creation for good and order in society, and therefore has the moral authority to do many things like bringing punishment on evil doers. Today, and at many times in history, the state has been an instrument of man’s self-imposed slavery. Men sell themselves into slavery for the illusion of security. The rebuilding of society happens through the preaching of the gospel. The work of discipleship for a nation begins by teaching God’s principles for all of life. The work of discipleship of the nations, alone will reverse the trend towards socialism or the complete takeover by the out of control state.

Christians must learn the biblical principles of freedom to have a basis for speaking out against oppressive government or wickedness in the public sphere. We must be actively engaged in fighting against the idolatry of statism and maintain a principled opposition against all forms of tyranny and wickedness. For those who believe in the continual advancement of Christ’s kingdom in history, there is hope. We must press the claims of Christ’s Lordship in every area of life including the state. Christ is indeed the Lord of the state. Many Reformed and Presbyterian churches have held to the position known as “sphere sovereignty.” As noted, this position was formally developed by Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian statesman.

Kuyper summarized sphere sovereignty as follows:

“In order that the influence of Calvinism on our political development may be felt, it must be shown for what fundamental political conceptions Calvinism has opened the door, and how these political conceptions sprang from its root principle. This dominating principle was not, soteriologically, justification by faith, but, in the widest sense cosmologically, the Sovereignty of the Triune God over the whole Cosmos, in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. A primordial Sovereignty which eradicates in mankind in a threefold deduced supremacy, viz., The Sovereignty in the State; The Sovereignty in Society; The Sovereignty in the Church.” (7)

This diagram illustrates Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty:

Kuyper’s influence is still with us today through the apologetics of the late Dr. Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Seminary. Several of Kuyper’s works are still in print. While he was one of the most powerful conservative pastor-theologians, he entered politics and became prime minister of the Netherlands. The Reformed churches in the Netherlands did not endorse Dr. Kuyper’s candidacy because of their adherence to the rudiments of the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. Sphere Sovereignty stated is that the state, church, and family are institutions created by and accountable to God. Each institution should not intrude into the sovereignty of the other institutions. For example, the state cannot pick candidates for church office. The elders of the church cannot tell a family that their children should not eat “Wheaties.” The church should not pick or endorse political candidates. There is little disagreement concerning the first two propositions, so why should Christians question the third? The genesis of sphere sovereignty existed in John Calvin (Protestant Reformer) and is continued in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), a distinguished Protestant confession.

Sphere sovereignty lies at the heart of and is fundamental to the Protestant doctrine of separation of powers. The spheres of sovereignty or authority must always be under God’s authority. This doctrine of the separation of powers is seen in Reformed church polity (government). For example, there are three layers of church courts: the first being the session of the local church, the second being the Presbytery or regional church court, and third the General Assembly, the highest court of appeal. This Protestant influence is also apparent in our American Constitutional Republic. For instance, we have three divisions or separations of powers, the Judiciary, Legislative, and Administrative.

KJV Dictionary Definition of dominion:

DOMINION, n. L. See Dominant.

1. Sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling.
The dominion of the Most High is an everlasting dominion. Daniel 4.

2. Power to direct, control, use and dispose of at pleasure; right of possession and use without being accountable; as the private dominion of individuals.

3. Territory under a government; region; country; district governed, or within the limits of the authority of a prince or state; as the British dominions.

4. Government; right of governing. Jamaica is under the dominion of Great Britain.

5. Predominance; ascendant.

6. An order of angels.
Whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. Colossians 1.

7. Persons governed.
Judah was his sanctuary; Israel his dominion. Psalm 114.

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


do-min’-yun: In Ephesians 1:21 Colossians 1:16 the word so translated (kuriotes) appears to denote a rank or order of angels. The same word is probably to be so interpreted in Jude 1:8 (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”), and in 2 Peter 2:10 (the King James Version “government,” the Revised Version (British and American) “dominion”). See ANGEL.

Strong’s Hebrew:

7985. sholtan — dominion

… 7984, 7985. sholtan. 7986. dominion. Transliteration: sholtan Phonetic

Spelling: (shol-tawn’) Short Definition: dominion. Word.

/hebrew/7985.htm – 6k

Seventy Two occurrences of the word Dominion or the concept in the following passages:

Matthew 20:25
Acts 26:18
Romans 6:9
Romans 6:14
Romans 7:1
1 Corinthians 15:24
2 Corinthians 1:24
Ephesians 1:21
Colossians 1:13
1 Timothy 2:12
1 Peter 4:11
1 Peter 5:11
2 Peter 2:10
Jude 1:8
Jude 1:25
Revelation 1:6
Revelation 5:13
Revelation 13:2
Revelation 13:4
Revelation 17:18
Genesis 1:26
Genesis 1:
Genesis 27:40
Genesis 37:8
Leviticus 26:17
Numbers 24:19
Judges 5:13
Judges 14:4
2 Samuel 8:3
1 Kings 4:24
1 Kings 9:19
2 Kings 20:13
1 Chronicles 4:22
1 Chronicles 18:3
1 Chronicles 29:11
2 Chronicles 21:8
Nehemiah 9:28
Nehemiah 9:37
Job 25:2
Job 38:33
Psalms 8:6
Psalms 19:13
Psalms 22:28
Psalms 49:14
Psalms 72:8
Psalms 103:22
Psalms 114:2
Psalms 119:133
Psalms 145:13
Isaiah 26:13
Isaiah 39:2
Isaiah 41:2
Jeremiah 2:31
Jeremiah 34:1
Jeremiah 51:28
Ezekiel 30:18
Daniel 2:37
Daniel 4:3
Daniel 4:22
Daniel 4:34
Daniel 6:26
Daniel 7:6
Daniel 7:12
Daniel 7:14
Daniel 7:26
Daniel 7:27
Daniel 11:3
Daniel 11:4
Daniel 11:5
Micah 4:8
Zechariah 9:10

Francis A. Schaeffer on a correct view of dominion:

“Fallen man has dominion over nature, but he uses it wrongly. The Christian is called upon to exhibit this dominion, but exhibit it rightly: treating the thing as having value itself, exercising dominion without being destructive.” (8)

This would be Godly dominion or faithful stewardship under God’s directions.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter IV.2 – Of Creation) states:

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, [4] with reasonable and immortal souls, [5] endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; [6] having the law of God written in their hearts, [7] and power to fulfill it: [8] and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. [9] Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, [10] and had dominion over the creatures. [11]

Scriptural proofs:

4. Gen 1:27

5. Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; Luke 23:43; Matt. 10:28

6. Gen. 1:26; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24

7. Rom. 2:14-15

8. Gen. 2:17; Eccl. 7:29

9. Gen. 3:6, 17

10. Gen. 2:17; 2:15-3:24

11. Gen. 1:28-30; Psa. 8:6-8

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!” – Abraham Kuyper

“The moral absolutes rest upon God’s character. The moral commands He has given to men are an expression of His character. Men as created in His image are to live by choice on the basis of what God is. The standards of morality are determined by what conforms to His character, while those things which do not conform are immoral.” – Francis A. Schaeffer

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

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


1. R. J. Rushdoony, Man’s Creation and Dominion, (, 2001).

2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 49.

3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 62.

4. Richard J. Mouw – Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction (2011).

5. Abraham Kuyper: The Stone Lectures (Princeton University 1898), Lectures on Calvinism, (Eerdmans publishing, Grand Rapids, MI reprinted 1981).

6. Abraham Kuyper: The Stone Lectures (Princeton University 1898), Lectures on Calvinism, (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI reprinted 1981).

7. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures On Calvinism (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1981), 79.

8. Francis A. Schaeffer, Pollution and the Death of Man, Complete Works of Francis A. Schaffer, A Christian Worldview Vol. 5, (Westchester, Illinois, Crossway Book), p. 42.

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

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

For more study:

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


CARM theological dictionary

And at



9 Abraham Kuyper Teachings on Christianity and Culture

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Church Dress Codes

Church Dress Codes by Jack Kettler

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

This study will look at dress codes for worship services. Is there a biblical basis for instituting a dress code for a worship service? The word definition in this study is about legalism. Normally legalism is used when talking about salvific issues. However, the term is broader than that.

A church could be legalistic by requiring members, for example, not to go to movies or watch television. Drinking or not drinking wine is another where a church could over step its bounds. There are biblical concerns about how you come to church worship. This area of a dress code is one which false piety can enter in, and needless offenses can occur.


The tendency to rely on self-effort—doing good deeds or following certain rules and regulations—as a way to gain God’s favor; the belief that a sinner can do some work to obtain salvation or fellowship with God; the inclination to regard things that Scripture has not commanded or prohibited as moral precepts. *

The sense that we want to gain form the above definition is one of, if the Scriptures has not prohibited something, neither should the church.

What can we learn from Scripture?

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)

The promoters of transgenderism will probably not like this passage.

“He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.” (Leviticus 16:4)

This was a dress code for priest, not for the common Israelite.

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:10)

Have mercy, gentleness and humility towards your fellow believers.

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

This passage has an application for the type of clothing one wears. Wearing clothing that had a satanic pentagram would not be appropriate.

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (1 Timothy 2:9)

Modest clothing and clothing that does not draw attention to oneself surely can be deduced from this passage.

“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” (James 2:1)

In humility, do not be a respecter of persons.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” (1 Peter 3:3

Again, modest clothing that does not draw attention to oneself.

“For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This passage from 1 Samuel perhaps gives the clearest standard that should govern our thinking on dress codes in the church.

Let’s consider Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on this passage:

But the Lord said to Samuel, by a secret impulse upon his mind, as if he had spoken with an articulate voice to him: look not on his countenance; which was comely and majestic:

or on the height of his stature; which was like that of Saul’s; and because the Lord had chosen him, who was superior to the people in this respect, Samuel thought he meant to have such an one now anointed king:

because I have refused him; or it is not my pleasure that he should be king; though Ben Gersom thinks this refers to Saul, that the Lord had rejected him, though of an high stature, and therefore Samuel should not look out for such a person to be king; and Abarbinel refers it to the height of stature itself, that God had rejected that, and laid it aside as a qualification of a king, or as a rule to judge of a proper person to be a king; but no doubt it respected Eliab:

for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; man only sees what is without, but the Lord sees what is within; only the outward visible form of the body is seen by man, but the inward qualifications and endowments of the mind are seen by the Lord:

for man looketh on the outward appearance; the comeliness of a man’s person, the majesty of his countenance, the height of his stature, and size of his body, things which recommended men to be kings among the nations of the world; See Gill on 1 Samuel 9:2, or “to the eyes” (a); the liveliness, and briskness, and sharpness of them, thereby to judge of the sagacity and penetration of the mind, as physiognomists do; who guess at the disposition of men by them, when they are small or great, watery or dry, of this or the other colour (b):

but the Lord looketh on the heart; and knows what is in that, what wisdom and prudence, justice and integrity, mercy and goodness, and other princely qualifications are in that. The Jewish writers conclude from hence that the heart of Eliab was not right; it may be, full of wrath, pride, envy, &c. which disqualified him for government.
(a) “ad oculos”, Montanus. (b) Vid. Schotti Thaumaturg. Physic. par. 4. l. 7. c. 8. (1)

Modesty of dress

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words:

1: κόσμιος
(Strong’s #2887 — Adjective — kosmios — kos’-mee-os)
“orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest” (akin to kosmos, in its primary sense as “harmonious arrangement, adornment;” cp. kosmikos, of the world, which is related to kosmos in its secondary sense as the world), is used in 1 Timothy 2:9 of the apparel with which Christian women are to adorn themselves; in 1 Timothy 3:2 (RV, “orderly;” AV, “of good behavior”), of one of the qualifications essential for a bishop or overseer. “The well-ordering is not of dress and demeanor only, but of the inner life, uttering indeed and expressing itself in the outward conversation” (Trench, Syn., xcii). In the Sept., Ecclesiastes 12:9. (2)

Suits and ties and “Sunday’s Best.” Where did the term “Sunday Best” come from?

THE “SUNDAY BEST” – The Origin of the Custom

There is a tendency among town people to dress quite simply for church. The woman of moderate circumstances in the small village saves her finery for church. To ber “best hat” is synonymous with “Sunday hat,” and by “Sunday” hat or frock tr shoes or wrap she means the things she wears to church.
“But the greatest contrast between Sunday and week-day clothes,” says an English wirier on dress, “is to be looked for in the country among agricultural laborers, as the cessation of labor gives an opportunity for discarding the rough and heavy garments oí the field in favor of something better.”
The whole question of Sunday clothes is an interesting one. Way back in the early history of the Christian Church we find that two venerable saints – St. Jerome and St. Clement-extorted the faithful to have, a special dress for worship. And the Jews put on a special vestment called a talith for their religious ceremonies. The idea of this special dress and the special dress of the Christians was to wear something that would detract from thoughts of every-day activities. Women wore veils that they might not show their charms too plainly lest others should be distracted.
Perhaps now the tendency not to wear elaborate or special dress in church is with the effort to gain lust the result that was once sought by having special clothes for worship.
Certainly it is not in good form to regard church as a place to display new and expensive clothes. Humble folk may be frightened from going to church if you are too gorgeously arrayed. Bright colors or striking fashions take the eye of the other worshippers and keep their thoughts from the service.
Sometimes you hear a man or woman say: “I cannot go to church. I have nothing fit to wear.” They should be reminded that the best form now a days requires that people should wear what ls simple, urobtrusive and quiet in church. (3)

A Dress code can be Legalistic:

Romans 14:5 says “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” This passage speaks about the observance of days and a man’s faith. It also has relevance to other issues in a church, like eating and drinking and church attire. There are weaker brethren and stronger brethren. The stronger may exercise more liberty than the weaker. Both should be careful not to falsely judge your brethren. Do not exhibit pride over a weaker brother.

James rebukes the church for giving seating priority to the rich, stylish and expensively-dressed:

1 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:1-13)

Commenting on James 2:2-4, Simon J. Kistemaker explains:

2. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4. have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
The term religion (1:26–27) immediately brings to mind anything that pertains to the church. Perhaps this was the reason that James resorts to an example taken from the setting of a Christian church. Actually, the Greek for “meeting” (v. 2) is the word synagogue. Even though James employs the expression church when he mentions “the elders of the church” (5:14), the term synagogue reveals something about the writer and the readers of his letter: they are of Jewish descent.
a. “Suppose a man comes into your meeting.” The author chooses the general term meeting that can mean either the worship service or a special gathering for official purposes. James does not specify the purpose of the meeting in question. Some scholars think that James portrays an assembly that meets for official, that is, judicial matters. Common opinion, however, favors the concept of a worship service. The point of the example is to show that in a gathering of believers snobbery prevailed.
b. “A man … wearing a gold ring and fine clothes.” Was the rich man a member of the church? Was he a visitor? Was he a government official or dignitary? We do not know. Perhaps he was a person with authority, and not a member of the local church. For instance, the centurion who built the synagogue in Capernaum presumably was a proselyte (Luke 7:2–5). The meetings of the church were open to the public, so that people of the community were given the opportunity to meet with Christians for worship and instruction (1 Cor. 14:23–24).
c. “And a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.” The contrast is deliberate, for the rich man wears bright, shiny clothes; the poor man’s clothes are dirty, shabby, and unsightly. He is poverty-stricken; the only clothes he has are the clothes he wears. Again, we do not know whether the man is a member of the church. Probably not. He also seems to be a visitor.
d. “If you show special attention.” The emphasis in this particular section is on the external appearance of these two visitors. Only the apparel of the two men is significant. Of course, dress also reflects the status of these two individuals: the one is rich and has influence; the other is poor and has nothing.
The immediate reaction of the church members is to pay deference to the rich man by showing him to a good seat. In the local synagogue of that day, scribes and Pharisees occupied the most important seats (Matt. 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43; 20:46). In the setting of the church that James depicts, the rich man receives a warm welcome and is ushered to a good seat, perhaps somewhat elevated. The poor man can either stand in the back section of the building or sit cross-legged on the floor. In fact, the text says, “Sit down by my footstool.”
e. “Have you not discriminated among yourselves?” To ask the question is to answer it. Certainly, they discriminate and have “become judges with evil thoughts.” Instead of looking at the incomparable glory of the Lord, they are staring at the splendor of a gold ring and fine clothes. Instead of honoring Jesus Christ, they are paying respect to a rich man and despising a poor man. And instead of accepting persons on the basis of faith in Christ, they are showing favoritism based on appearance and status.
James points not to officially appointed judges but to the members of the church. The congregation ought to realize the full extent of its sin of discrimination. It is not a sin that can be labeled insignificant. What is at stake, says James, is that justice is not being served because the believers’ hearts are filled with evil thoughts. A judge whose thoughts are evil can never be impartial; the justice that he administers is a farce. Since time immemorial, justice has been depicted as a blindfolded lady who holds scales in her hand. The blindfold prevents her from seeing anyone so that she is able to serve impartially the cause of justice. Within the context of the Christian faith, practicing discrimination is the exact opposite of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
Whether James cites an actual incident that occurred in the church of his day or constructs an example of something that may happen is immaterial. Of importance is that believers in Christ ought to shun the sin of discrimination. In short, “don’t show favoritism.”

Practical Considerations in 2:1–4
God loves the poor, watches over them, and provides for them. When the church of Jesus Christ proclaims the gospel and welcomes the poor into the communion of the believers, does it show love and concern for them? When the poor hear the gospel of Jesus’ love, the message of salvation, and the promise of God’s constant care, and then experience a cold indifference, a lack of interest and concern from the members of the church, they feel slighted.
Today many church sanctuaries are partially filled during the worship services. The pews in these sanctuaries are padded, the worshipers sit in comfort, but the poor are absent.
The gospel must be proclaimed in word and deed to the poor. The loving heart of the believer is shown when he extends a helping hand. The love of the Lord Jesus, when it is genuinely extended to those who hear the gospel, effectively builds the body of Christ. (4)

In Closing:

The Bible is silent about any dress code. There is no indication that Jesus and the disciples were required to use dress code before going to the synagogue. If the Bible is silent, we should not presume to add our own code or infer one.

Be on guard against false piety which may manifest itself as:

Tokenism, deceit, dishonesty, hypocrisy, insincerity, pomposity, pretense, pretentiousness, sanctimoniousness, sanctimony, show, hypocriticalness, lip service, pharisaicalness, pious platitudes, and sham holiness

What about the dress requirement for the priest in the Old Testament?

The clothing and decorations of the high priest can teach us about Christ’s perfection. The sacrificial law was of this nature. Blemished sacrifices were rejected. The high priest was to wash before priestly activities. Perfect law keeping was required. But to use the perfection required of the High Priest in Israel to require a “Victorian” dress code is completely unwarranted.

Clean and modest clothing that does not draw attention to yourself is all that can be required. It should be noted that men can wear lewd clothing in addition to women. The command of modesty applies to both sexes. And certainly, if a stranger comes into the church with old worn out dirty clothes they should never be driven away. Many conversions happen after a person reached rock bottom or the bottom of the barrel. In the First Century, many believers were slaves. They did not have “Sunday’s Best” to wear.

When talking about clothing in the church, there is a cultural aspect that may change and a biblical binding aspect. First, today, blue jeans are a cultural norm. Two hundred years ago it was different. Cultural dress codes within modesty may change. Second, the binding aspect is modesty and a prohibition of offensive wording on clothing. For example, consider a shirt with wording that endorsed John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” The song “Imagine” promoted atheism and communism. Under Christian liberty, it may okay to listen to the song, but in church worship where an offense may happen, promoting or endorsing the song is a different story.

I’ve been in churches where there is an unspoken dress code that is expected. The reader of this article probably has too. Does God respect a suit and tie more than a casual shirt and blue jeans? If so, why? Defend this code from Scripture and not just by appealing to “Sunday’s Best.” I am not arguing for dressing up or dressing down. I am asking, what do the Scriptures require.

“Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37 Berean Study Bible)

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

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


1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 1 Samuel, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 232-233.
2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 751.
3. Sunday Times (Perth, WA, Australia: Sun 15 Feb 19310, Page 19.
4. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1973), pp. 72-75.

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

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

For more study:

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

What Should We Wear to Church?…/what-should-we-wear-to-church

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A Riddle will be Solved, Psalm 49:4

A Riddle will be Solved, Psalm 49:4 by Jack Kettler
Psalm 49: To the Chief Musician, a Psalm for the sons of Korah.

“Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, Both low and high, Rich and poor together. My mouth shall speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart shall give understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will disclose my dark saying on the harp.” (Psalm 49:1-4)

From Scripture:

“I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.” (Psalm 49:4 KJV)

“I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.” (Psalm 49:4 ESV)

Related passages:

“But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.” (2 Kings 3:15)

“After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.” (1 Samuel 10:5)

“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” (1 Samuel 16:23)

“And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” (Revelation 14:2)

Introductory comments:

The Bible uses many literary forms. For example, the Bible uses genera’s such as; law, historical narrative, wisdom, poetical, gospel, didactic letters, or epistles, predictive, and apocalyptic literature.

To illustrate potential problems in interpretation:

When Jesus said “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Does He mean that He is a door and that we are going to live in a pasture?

When God says: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4) Does this mean God is a bird?

Our general approach is to take the Bible literally, and not fall into the error of hyper-literalism as could happen with the above passages. These introductory comments and questions along with the following section on hermeneutical guidelines will help when we get to the biblical text under consideration.

Interpretive hermeneutical guidelines for the book of Psalms:

Hebrew Poetry

Poetry in the Old Testament. At a very early date poetry became part of the written literature of the Hebrew people. Many scholars believe the song of Moses and the song of Miriam (Ex. 15: 1– 21), celebrating the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the sea, is the oldest existing Hebrew hymn or poetic work, dating perhaps from the twelfth century B.C. Three of the greatest poetic masterpieces of the Old Testament are the Song of Deborah (Judges 5); the Song of the Bow— David’s lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. 1: 17– 27) — and the Burden of Nineveh (Nah. 1: 10— 3: 19).

Approximately 40 percent of the Old Testament is written in poetry. This includes entire books (except for short prose sections) such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Large portions of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Minor Prophets are also poetic in form and content. Many scholars consider the Book of Job to be not only the greatest poem in the Old Testament but also one of the greatest poems in all literature.

The three main divisions of the Old Testament— the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings— contain poetry in successively greater amounts. Only seven Old Testament books— Leviticus, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, and Malachi— appear to have no poetic lines.

Poetic elements such as assonance, alliteration, meter, and rhyme— so common to poetry as we know it today— occur rarely in Hebrew poetry; these are not essential ingredients of Old Testament poetry. Instead, the essential formal characteristic of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. This is a construction in which the content of one line is repeated, contrasted, or advanced by the content of the next— a type of sense rhythm characterized by thought arrangement rather than by word arrangement or rhyme. The three main types of parallelism in biblical poetry are synonymous, antithetic, and synthetic.

Synonymous parallelism— A parallel segment repeats an idea found in the previous segment. With this technique a kind of paraphrase is involved; line two restates the same thought found in line one, by using equivalent expressions. Examples of synonymous parallelism are found in Genesis 4: 23: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; / Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!/ For I have killed a man for wounding me/ Even a young man for hurting me.” Another example is found in Psalm 2: 4: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; / The Lord shall hold them in derision.” Yet a third example is Psalm 51: 2– 3: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. / For I acknowledge my transgressions, / And my sin is always before me.” (Also see Ps. 24: 1– 3; 103: 3, 7– 10; Jer. 17: 10; Zech. 9: 9.)

Antithetic parallelism— By means of this poetic construction, the thought of the first line is made clearer by contrast— by the opposition expressed in the second line. Examples of antithetic parallelism may be found in Psalm 1: 6: “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, / But the way of the ungodly shall perish”; in Psalm 34: 10: “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; / But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing”; and in Proverbs 14: 20: “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor,/ But the rich has many friends.”

Synthetic parallelism— Also referred to as climactic or cumulative parallelism, this poetic construction expands the idea in line one by the idea in line two. In synthetic parallelism, therefore, there is an ascending (or descending) progression, a building up of thought, with each succeeding line adding to the first.

Here is one good example of this poetic technique: “He shall be like a tree/ Planted by the rivers of water, / That brings forth its fruit in its season, / Whose leaf also shall not wither; / And whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps. 1: 3).

Another poetic form found in the Old Testament is the alphabetical acrostic, a form used often in the Book of Psalms (Psalms 9– 10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145). In the alphabetical psalms the first line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the next with the second, and so on, until all the letters of the alphabet have been used. Thus, Psalm 119 consists of twenty-two groups of eight verses each. The number of groups equals the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter of each verse in a group is (in the original Hebrew text) that letter of the alphabet that corresponds to its position in the group.

Many of the subtleties of Hebrew poetry, such as puns and various plays on words, are virtually untranslatable into English and may be fully appreciated only by an accomplished Hebrew scholar. Fortunately, many good commentaries are available to explain to the layperson these riches of Hebrew thought.

The Bible is full of numerous figures of speech, such as metaphors and similes. For example, the psalmist metaphorically described God by saying, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18: 2).

Moses gave this remarkable simile describing God’s care of Israel in the wilderness: “As an eagle stirs up its nest, / Hovers over its young, / Spreading out its wings, taking them up, / Carrying them on its wings,/ So the Lord alone led him” (Deut. 32: 11– 12).

Such figures of speech are not to be interpreted literally but as poetic symbolism for God. He is the firm ground of life and a solid defense against evil. The worshiper sings for joy because of His protecting presence and the soaring power of His loving care. (1)

My comments:

This passage is somewhat mysterious. Is a riddle or dark saying literally solved by a Harp? Or is the Harp played while prophesying, counseling, preaching or teaching of parables, praise or when supplications are made? Or is there a type of poetic symbolism being used that connects the instrument to an opening and understanding of God’s Word? The Psalmist in verse three says: “My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.” The hearers are to grasp and understand something, wisdom.

What do the commentators say?

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

I will incline mine ear to a parable… In which way of speaking the doctrines of the Gospel were delivered out by Christ, Matthew 13:3. Wherefore the prophet, representing his apostles and disciples, signifies that he would listen thereunto, that he might attain to the knowledge thereof, and communicate it to others;

I will open my dark saying upon the harp; the enigmas, riddles, and mysteries of the Gospel, being understood by the ministers of it, are opened and explained in a very pleasant and delightful manner; they are made clear and evident, and are as a lovely song upon a harp; see Ezekiel 33:32. (2)

Gill draws a comparison between the parable and prophet: “Wherefore the prophet, representing his apostles and disciples, signifies that he would listen thereunto, that he might attain to the knowledge thereof, and communicate it to others.”

From the Treasury of David:

Verse 4. I will incline mine ear to a parable. He who would have others hear, begins by hearing himself. As the minstrel leans his ear to his harp, so must the preacher give his whole soul to his ministry. The truth came to the psalmist as a parable, and he endeavoured to unriddle it for popular use; he would not leave the truth in obscurity, but he listened to its voice till he so well understood it as to be able to interpret and translate it into the common language of the multitude. Still of necessity it would remain a problem, and a dark saying to the unenlightened many, but this would not be the songster’s fault, for, saith he, I will open my dark saying upon the harp. The writer was no mystic, delighting in deep and cloudy things, yet he was not afraid of the most profound topics; he tried to open the treasures of darkness, and to uplift pearls from the deep. To win attention he cast his proverbial philosophy into the form of song, and tuned his harp to the solemn tone of his subject. Let us gather round the minstrel of the King of kings, and hear the Psalm which first was led by the chief musician, as the chorus of the sons of Korah lifted up their voices in the temple. (3)

As Spurgeon notes: “As the minstrel leans his ear to his harp, so must the preacher give his whole soul to his ministry. The truth came to the psalmist as a parable, and he endeavored to unriddle it for popular use; he would not leave the truth in obscurity, but he listened to its voice till he so well understood it as to be able to interpret and translate it into the common language of the multitude.” It was the Psalmist’s job to unriddle the parable, not the Harp.

From the Pulpit Commentary:

Verse 4. – I will incline mine ear to a parable. The psalmist is “like a minstrel who has to play a piece of music put into his hands. The strain is none of his own devising; and as he proceeds, each note awakes in him a mysterious echo, which he would fain catch and retain in memory” (Kay). A “parable” in the Old Testament means any enigmatical or dark saying, into which much metaphor or imagery is introduced, so that it is only φωνᾶν συνετοῖσι. I will open my dark saying upon the harp; i.e. with a harp accompaniment. Music was a help to inspired persons in the delivery of messages which they were commissioned to deliver (see 1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Kings 3:15). (4)

It is good to note the connection between parable and dark saying.

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

I will incline mine ear to a parable – The phrase “I will incline mine ear” means that he would listen or attend to – as we incline our ear toward those whom we are anxious to hear, or in the direction from which a sound seems to come. Compare Psalm 5:1; Psalm 17:1; Psalm 39:12; Isaiah 1:2. On the word rendered “parable” here משׁל mâshâl – see the notes at Isaiah 14:4. Compare Job 13:12, note; Job 27:1, note. The word properly means similitude; then, a sentence, sententious saying, apophthegm; then, a proverb; then, a song or poem. There is usually found in the word some idea of “comparison,” and hence, usually something that is to be illustrated “by” a comparison or a story. The reference here would seem to be to some dark or obscure subject which needed to be illustrated; which it was not easy to understand; which had given the writer, as well as others, perplexity and difficulty. He proposed now, with a view to understand and explain it, to place his ear, as it were, “close to the matter,” that he might clearly comprehend it. The matter was difficult, but he felt assured he could explain it – as when one unfolds the meaning of an enigma. The “problem” – the “parable” – the difficult point – related to the right use, or the proper value, of wealth, or the estimate in which it should be held by those who possessed it, and by those who did not. It was very evident to the author of the psalm that the views of people were not right on the subject; he therefore proposed to examine the matter carefully, and to state the exact truth.
I will open – I will explain; I will communicate the result of my careful inquiries.

My dark saying – The word used here – חידה chı̂ydâh – is rendered “dark speeches” in Numbers 12:8; “riddle,” in Judges 14:12-19; Ezekiel 17:2; “hard questions” in 1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; “dark saying” (as here) in Psalm 78:2; Proverbs 1:6; “dark sentences,” in Daniel 8:23; and “proverb” in Habakkuk 2:6. It does not elsewhere occur. It means properly “something entangled, intricate;” then, a trick or stratagem; then art intricate speech, a riddle; then, a sententious saying, a maxim; then a parable, a poem, a song, a proverb. The idea here is, that the point was intricate or obscure; it was not well understood, and he purposed “to lay it open,” and to make it plain.

Upon the harp – On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. The idea here is, that he would accompany the explanation with music, or would so express it that it might be accompanied with music; that is, he would give it a poetic form – a form such that the sentiment might be used in public worship, and might be impressed upon the mind by all the force and power which music would impart. Sentiments of purity and truth, and sentiments of pollution and falsehood also, are always most deeply imbedded in the minds of people, and are made most enduring and effective, when they are connected with music. Thus the sentiments of patriotism are perpetuated and impressed in song; and thus sentiments of sensuality and pollution owe much of their permanence and power to the fact that they are expressed in corrupt verse, and that they are perpetuated in exquisite poetry, and are accompanied with song. Scenes of revelry, as well as acts of devotion, are kept up by song. Religion proposes to take advantage of this principle in our nature by connecting the sentiments of piety with the sweetness of verse, and by impressing and perpetuating those sentiments through associating them with all that is tender, pure, and inspiriting in music. Hence, music, both vocal and that which is produced by instruments, has always been found to be an invaluable auxiliary in securing the proper impression of truth on the minds of people, as well as in giving utterance to the sentiments of piety in devotion. (5)

Barnes seems to have a similar view as Spurgeon when he says: “It was very evident to the author of the psalm that the views of people were not right on the subject; he, therefore, proposed to examine the matter carefully and to state the exact truth. I will open – I will explain; I will communicate the result of my careful inquiries.”

Clarke’s Commentary on Psalms 49:4:

I will incline mine ear to a parable – This was the general method of conveying instruction among the Asiatics. They used much figure and metaphor to induce the reader to study deeply in order to find out the meaning. This had its use; it obliged men to think and reflect deeply; and thus in some measure taught them the use, government, and management of their minds. (6)

These commentators see a connection between explaining “dark sayings” sometimes known as “parables” with the prophet or preacher’s ability to explain God’s revelation. So there seems to be a type of poetic symbolism being used that connects the instrument with the opening of the mind and the understanding of God’s Word as expounded by the prophet, preacher teachers ordained by God to deliver and make known His Word.

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

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


1. Herbert Lockyer, Sr. General Editor, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers), pp. 858-859.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 539.
3. C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. I, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 370.
4. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 378.
5. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms, Vol. 5 p.861.
6. Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 4, (Nashville: Abingdom Press, 1956), p. 651.

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

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

For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:
** CARM theological dictionary
And at:

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Imputational Righteousness

Imputational Righteousness by Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at how our sins (the breaking of God’s law) and real guilt were imputed to Christ in that he experienced God’s judgment on our behalf, and because of this, Christ’s righteousness (keeping the law perfectly) is imputed or transferred to us.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose of glorifying God in how we live.
Note: These studies arise from my personal Bible studies. I learned long ago to write my studies down to share with others. Some of these studies have very little of my comments. These studies represent my approach to studying a text of Scripture or topic. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

A reckoning or crediting of something to a person. Used salvifically, it refers the crediting of the personal guilt or personal righteousness of another, as in the imputation of the sin of Adam to all his descendants, the imputation of the sins of human beings to Christ, or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to believers. *

Impute, Imputation:
To reckon to someone the blessing, curse, debt, etc. of another. Adam’s sin is imputed to all people (Romans 5:12-21), therefore, we are all guilty before God. Our sins were put upon, imputed, to Jesus on the cross where He became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21) and died with them (Isaiah 53:4-6). Therefore, our sins are forgiven. Understanding imputation is very important. Imputation is the means of our salvation. Our sins were put upon, imputed, to Jesus on the cross. Our sins were “given” to Jesus. When He died on the cross, our sins, in a sense, died with Him. The righteousness that was His through His perfect obedience to the Father in His complete obedience to the Law is imputed, given, to us. In short, our sins were given to Jesus. His righteousness was given to us. Technically speaking our sins were imputed to Jesus. His righteousness was imputed to us. **

From Scripture:

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

From the Pulpit Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21:

Verse 21. – He hath made him to be sin for us; rather, he made; he speaks with definite reference to the cross. The expression is closely analogous to that in Galatians 3:13, where it is said that Christ has been “made a curse for us.” He was, as St. Augustine says, “delictorum susceptor, non commissor.” He knew no sin; nay, he was the very righteousness, holiness itself (Jeremiah 23:6), and yet, for our benefit, God made him to be “sin” for us, in that he “sent him in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Romans 8:3). Many have understood the word “sin” in the sense of sin offering (Leviticus 5:9, LXX.); but that is a precarious application of the word, which is not justified by any other passage in the New Testament. We cannot, as Dean Plumptre says, get beyond the simple statement, which St. Paul is content to leave in its unexplicable mystery, “Christ identified with man’s sin; man identified with Christ’s righteousness.” And thus, in Christ, God becomes Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). That we might be made the righteousness of God in him; rather, that we might become. The best comment on the pregnant significance of this verse is Romans 1:16, 17, which is developed and explained in so large a section of that great Epistle (see 3:22-25; 4:5-8; 5:19, etc.). In him In his blood is a means of propitiation by which the righteousness of God becomes the righteousness of man (1 Corinthians 1:30), so that man is justified. The truth which St. Paul thus develops and expresses is stated by St. Peter and St. John in a simpler and less theological form (1 Peter 2:22-24; 1 John 3:5). (1)

Impute – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1,,G3049, logizomai ]
to reckon, “take into account,” or, metaphorically, “to put down to a person’s account,” is never rendered in the RV by the verb “to impute.” In the following, where the AV has that rendering, the RV uses the verb “to reckon,” which is far more suitable; Romans 4:6, Romans 4:8, Romans 4:11, Romans 4:22-Romans 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:19; James 2:23. See ACCOUNT, and especially, in the above respect, RECKON.
[2,,G1677, ellogao[-eo] ]
(the -ao termination is the one found in the Koine, the language covering the NT period), denotes “to charge to one’s account, to lay to one’s charge,” and is translated “imputed” in Romans 5:13, of sin as not being “imputed when there is no law.” This principle is there applied to the fact that between Adam’s trangression and the giving of the Law at Sinai, sin, though it was in the world, did not partake of the character of transgression; for there was no law. The law of conscience existed, but that is not in view in the passage, which deals with the fact of external commandments given by God. In Philemon 1:18 the verb is rendered “put (that) to (mine) account.” See ACCOUNT. (2)

My comments regarding covenantal considerations that help us understand the doctrine of imputation:

Of utmost importance is the question of how man is made righteous or justified before the Holy God of Scripture. Most misunderstandings in this area happen because of a confusion between justification and sanctification. Sanctification is a process that starts once a person becomes regenerate and lasts through the entirety of the Christian life. Justification, in contrast, is a judicial or forensic one-time act of God that involves the pardoning and forgiving of our sins and accepting us as righteous in His sight because of what Christ accomplished for us. Moreover, justification is unequivocal or absolute for eternity. Our sins (the breaking of God’s law) were imputed to Christ in that he experienced God’s judgment on our behalf, and because of this, Christ’s righteousness (keeping the law perfectly) is imputed to us. We are therefore pardoned and counted as righteous for His sake. It is not a legal fiction as some may say; it is a fact in the courts of heaven based upon Christ’s perfect propitiatory sacrifice and accomplishment at Golgotha. The thoughtful reader will notice that there is a double imputation.

In further consideration of a relation and necessary concept, biblical justification involves the Hebrew verb tsayke, to which both the Greek word dikaioun and the Latin justificare refer, and is used in Scripture when dealing with passages on forensic or declared judicial righteousness. As noted, the Hebrew verb is forensic and means to absolve someone in a trial, or to hold or to declare just, as opposed to the verb to condemn and to incriminate. See Exodus 23:7; Deuteronomy 25:1; Job 9:3; Psalms 143:2; Proverbs 17:15; Luke 18:14, Romans 4:3-5; and Acts 13:39. The Scriptures are unequivocal in establishing our justification because of how Christ bore the wrath of God for us (see Romans 4:1-7). Justification does not happen over and over again. Christ’s died once for all of our sins (not just some) and His death was accepted by the Father on our behalf. It is a finished fact!

Also, and of particular importance for this study, is the doctrine of God’s covenantal dealings with man in Scripture and how this explains God’s transactions with man. What is a covenant? In short, a covenant is an agreement or contract between two parties. The word “covenant” is translated from the Hebrew word berith. It means “to cut.” In the Scripture, there are covenants made between men, and there are covenants made between God and man, such as the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 15:9-18, 17:2.

It should be noted that there are two types of covenants: unconditional and conditional. A conditional covenant obligates both God and mankind to certain responsibilities. In the case of a conditional covenant, God’s promises are contingent upon a man meeting his part of the agreement such as the land promises made with Israel. Historically, Israel was removed from the Promised Land by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, for her unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. By way of contrast, in an unconditional covenant, God obliges Himself to certain expressed responsibilities for the fulfilling of the contract regardless of how man responds. An unconditional covenant is a promise made by God to man that is not contingent upon a man fulfilling any obligation or conditions. Genesis 15:9-18 is a perfect example of this, where we see the cutting of the animals into pieces and God alone walking between the pieces of animals in the form of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp in verse 17, thus guaranteeing the eternal covenant would be fulfilled because of His action. If God did not keep the covenant made with Abraham and ultimately his spiritual descendants in Christ, God is saying that He Himself would be cut in pieces, or bear the judgment for violation of the covenant, which is an impossibility.
Consequently, because of God himself at Calvary bearing the judgment, this makes imputation possible.

Now for a very helpful article on Imputation of Adam’s Sin from the Dictionary of Theological Terms:

First, it describes the transmission of the guilt of Adam’s first sin to his descendants. It is imputed, or reckoned, to them; i.e., it is laid to their account. Paul’s statement is unambiguous: “By one man’s disobedience many were made [constituted] sinners” (Rom. 5:19). Some Reformed theologians ground the imputation of Adam’s sin in the real involvement of all his posterity in his sin, because of the specific unity of the race in him. Shedd strongly advocates this view in his Dogmatic Theology. Others—e.g., Charles and A. A. Hodge, and Louis Berkhof—refer all to the federal headship of Adam. The Westminster Standards emphasize that Adam is both the federal head and the root of all his posterity. Both parties accept that this is so. Thus, the dispute is not whether Adam’s federal headship is the ground of the imputation of his first sin to us, but whether that federal headship rests solely on a divine constitution—i.e., because God appointed it—or on the fact that God made him the actual root of the race and gave the race a real specific unity in him.

The theory of mediate imputation* has never gained acceptance in orthodox expressions of the Reformed Faith.* It is subversive to the entire concept of the imputation of Adam’s sin upon which Paul grounds his exposition of justification by virtue of union with Christ our righteousness (Rom. 5:12–19; 1 Cor. 15:22).

Paul’s statement of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity is stark: “By [through] one man sin entered into the world, and death by [through] sin; so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). In the AV the clause “for all have sinned” may give the impression that Paul’s argument is that all die like Adam because all, like him, have sinned. But this is not the case. His statement is, “Death passed upon all humanity inasmuch as all sinned.” He teaches that all participated in Adam’s sin and that both the guilt and the penally of that sin were transmitted to them. However we explain the mode of that participation—whether on purely federal or on traducianist-federal grounds—the fact of it stands as a fundamental of the Christian revelation. As the Shorter Catechism says, “The covenant [of works] being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression” (Question 16, emphasis added.)

Imputation of our Sin to Christ and of His Righteousness to Us

Second, imputation has a second major use in Scripture. It describes the act of God in visiting the guilt of believers on Christ and of conferring the righteousness of Christ upon believers. In this sense “imputation is an act of God as sovereign judge, at once judicial and sovereign, whereby He—(1). Makes the guilt, legal responsibility of our sins, really Christ’s, and punishes them in Him, Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; and (2). Makes the merit, legal rights of Christ’s righteousness, ours, and then treats us as persons legally invested with all those rights, Rom. 4:6; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9. As Christ is not made a sinner by the imputation to Him of our sins, so we are not made holy by the imputation to us of His righteousness. The transfer is only of guilt from us to Him, and of merit from Him to us. He justly suffered the punishment due to our sins, and we justly receive the rewards due to His right-eousness, 1 John 1:8, 9” (A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, chap. 30, Q. 15).

The fact of this imputation is inescapable: “By the obedience of one [Christ] shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). The ground of it is the real, vital, personal, spiritual and federal union of Christ with His people. It is indispensable to the biblical doctrine of justification.* Without it, we fail to do justice to Paul’s teaching, and we cannot lead believers into the comfort that the gospel holds out to them. That comfort is of a perfect legal release from guilt and of a perfect legal righteousness that establishes a secure standing before God and His law on the basis of a perfect obedience outside of their own subjective experience.

The double imputation of our sin to Christ and of His righteousness to us is clearly laid down in 2 Cor. 5:21: “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Hugh Martin’s paraphrase catches the meaning precisely: “God made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, who knew no righteousness, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” That Paul means us to understand a judicial act of imputation is clear. God did not make Christ personally a sinner. The reference is not to Christ’s subjective experience. He was as personally sinless and impeccable when He was bearing our sins on the cross as He had ever been. What Paul is describing is God’s act of reckoning our sin to Christ so as to make Him legally liable for it and all its consequences. Similarly, while believers are not by any means righteous in their subjective experience, God reckons to them the full merit of Christ’s obedience in life and death (Rom. 5:18, 19). That righteousness, not any attained virtue, is the ground of a believer’s acceptance with God.

Denials of Imputation

Various groups have vehemently denied the doctrine of imputation in one or both of the senses given above.

Pelagian Denials

Pelagianism* is based on the supposition that Adam’s sin was not transmitted either as to its guilt or its corruption. It holds to the error that at birth every one of Adam’s posterity is born with the same sinlessness that he received at his creation.

“Reformed” Denials

The Neonomian* school of Richard Baxter adopted a novel view of justifying faith and of the righteousness by which a believer stands acceptable to God. That view is that faith is obedience to a new law of works and that on the ground of this obedience, God graciously accepts the believer as righteous. Thus, the only reckoning God does in our justification is to look on imperfect obedience as perfect righteousness. What this does for the doctrine of the absolute truth and holiness of God is unimaginable.

Another defection from within the Reformed camp came from the teachings of Jonathan Edwards’ pupil, Samuel Hopkins. Hopkins looked on sin and righteousness in men as nothing more than acts of their own will. He therefore rejected the imputation of Adam’s sin as a ground of condemnation and of Christ’s righteousness as the ground of justification.

A Modernist Denial

According to J. E. Davey, late Principal of Assembly’s College, Belfast, the doctrine of imputation is just “another Form of Transubstantiation.” In his book, The Changing Vesture of the Faith, Davey wrote, “Protestantism has unwittingly done exactly the same thing [as Romanism]. The centre of the orthodox system is a doctrine of atonement resting upon a theory of imputation which is only another form of transubstantiation. Guilt and righteousness are relative terms, which refer to the personal will, and cannot be disassociated from it by any mental jugglery.… These words simply represent states of the consciousness, and are in no sense transferable.”

Davey’s views, propounding a way of salvation almost divorced from what Christ did and attained by a “simple process of change,” are based upon unscriptural notions of guilt and righteousness. He denies any objective reality to them. They are to him mere forms of consciousness. They are to be forgotten, not atoned for. Thus, according to Davey, salvation is accomplished without any imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer, without any satisfaction made to divine justice, and without any legal ground for its being established. This is a typical “liberal” gospel, which is not a gospel at all, and can be arrived at only by a wholesale wresting, or ignoring, of Scripture. No more telling commentary on just how vital the doctrine of imputation is to the scriptural scheme of salvation could be given.

Arminian,* Lutheran, and Dispensationalist* Denials. Objections against the orthodox statement of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers come also from various evangelicals, including Arminians, some Lutherans, and dispensationalists. Reflecting aspects of the Neonomian view, their argument is usually that “faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, 5). That is, faith is regarded as righteousness. However, that is something the text quoted does not say. Faith is counted for or unto righteousness, not as righteousness. Paul is not teaching that God regarded faith as something it was not. Rather he shows that faith is the instrument by which this righteousness is received.

Proof of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness

Faith is counted unto believers for righteousness. The question is, “Whose righteousness?” It certainly is not our own. The Bible makes it clear that it is Christ’s (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Two Kinds of Words in Romans 5:18, 19. The Bible also makes it clear what it means by Christ’s righteousness. The terms Paul employs in Rom. 5:18, 19 are exact. R. C. H. Lenski draws attention to the -ma and the -is endings in this text: “Therefore as by the offence (paraptoma) of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness (dikaioma) of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification (dikaiosis) of life. For as by one man’s disobedience (parakoe) many were made [constituted] sinners, so by the obedience (hupakoe) of one shall many be made [constituted] righteous” (The Interpretation of Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans).

The significance of the -ma and the -is endings should not be overlooked. Paul has been piling up nouns with the -ma ending, six of them in verse 16 (dorema, “gift,” krima, “judgment,” katakrima, “condemnation,” charisma, “free gift,” paraptomata, “offences,” dikaioma, “justification”). In every case the -ma ending indicates not only the action but its effect: dorema is the gift with its effect; krima is the judgment result or verdict; katakrima is the adverse judgment result or verdict; charisma is the gift of grace and its effect; paraptomata means many falls with their results; dikaioma is righteousness with its result, namely a verdict of acquittal or justification on the ground of righteousness.

In contrast, the -is ending emphasizes the thought of action. Additionally, parakoe and hupakoe denote respectively the action of disobeying and obeying. With all this in mind, we are in a position to grasp the full significance of Paul’s statement. Adam’s paraptoma (v. 18) means his offence and its effects leading to katakrima, a verdict of judgment on all men. Even so by the dikaioma of Christ, or His justification because of His righteous actions, the charisma, or gracious gift, brought for all men a dikaiosis, an action declaring them righteous. The ground of these verdicts is stated in verse 19. By Adam’s act of disobedience, many were constituted sinners. By Christ’s action of obedience, many are constituted righteous.

Christ’s Personal Righteousness Imputed. The point Paul makes about our justification is vitally important: God declared Jesus Christ righteous on the basis of His personal righteousness. He declares believers righteous, not on the ground of any personal righteousness, but on the ground of the righteous action of Christ in His obedience. The entire action of Christ in obeying God, including what theologians term His active obedience as well as His passive obedience (i.e. , His obedience both in His life and in His death), is the ground of God’s verdict of justification on the believer. The claim that the Bible does not teach that Christ’s active obedience was vicarious, or that His personal obedience is imputed to us to constitute us legally righteous before God, is patently groundless. In the one place where the NT formally and extensively deals with the ground of our justification (Rom. 5:12–19), these truths are carefully expounded.

Further Textual Proof. Other texts carry the same message. As God “made him [Christ] to be sin for us,” so He made us “the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This signifies a legal imputation, not a moral infusion, of righteousness. The “righteousness of God in him” is the righteousness God has provided. And where may we find it? “In him,” not in our works, or even in our faith. By faith we receive Christ as our righteousness, but we must never locate the merit of our justification in our act of faith. No action of ours, even our believing, is perfect. Thus no action of ours, even our believing, can be the ground of our justification, which demands a perfect righteousness. It is Christ who “is made unto us righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). Thus with Jeremiah we properly call Him Jehovah Tsidkenu, “the Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).
Consequences of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness

The truth of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness has important consequences for the believer’s assurance and serenity. The latter is discussed in contrast with a psychological counterfeit of it under Self-esteem.*

Understanding Imputation Yields Assurance. As long as Christians keep dissecting their own faith to see if they “really” believed, felt enough penitent emotion, prayed the right prayer, or have performed to a sufficiently high standard, they will destroy assurance. There is no perfection in the best we have done or can do. And yet assurance demands a perfect foundation on which to rest. We have that foundation in the perfect righteousness of Christ, which God has made over to the account of every believer. He who believes in Christ stands before God’s judgment bar as if he personally had rendered the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus. We are in Him; He is the head and we are the body. The head suffered for the body’s sin; the body receives all the reward of the head’s righteousness.

This doctrine will have far-reaching effects in the life of the believer. It will set him free to serve the Lord in love. This is the essence of Christian liberty. As J. Gresham Machen long ago pointed out, this is the liberty from having to establish our own righteousness before God, or having to do something to gain His acceptance. Christ has done all that. Now we serve, not to be justified, but because we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Understanding Imputation Leads to Holiness. Some imagine that the doctrine of free justification and imputed righteousness takes away the motive for holiness and leaves a believer free to sin. Paul answers that objection with a simple question: “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2)—rather, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer therein?” That is, we died in Christ and rose again in Him (v. 4), and that is the strongest motive for holiness we can have. (3)

Westminster Catechism on justification and how this explains the doctrine on imputation:

Question 33 – What is justification?

Answer 33.) Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins,(1) and accepteth us as righteous in his sight,(2) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us,(3) and received by faith alone.(4)
(1) Romans 3:24-25, 4:6-8;
(2) 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21;
(3) Romans 5:17-19;
(4) Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9;

In closing, a summation of imputation from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

Imputation is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our “law-place,” undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Romans 5:12-19; Compare Philemon 1:18 Philemon 1:19). ***

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

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


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 2 Corinthians, Vol. 19, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 126.
2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 583-583.
3. Cairns, Alan, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), pp. 187-190.

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

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

For more study:

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

** CARM theological dictionary
And at:

*** M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

Imputation by B B Warfield

Justification by an Imputed Righteousness by John Bunyan…/Justification.Im…/Entire.Book.html

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Christ Our Prophet, Priest and King

Christ Our Prophet, Priest and King                                        by Jack Kettler

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

When we talk about Christ holding the office of prophet, priest, and king in the New Covenant administration, we inevitably have to look back to the Old Covenant administration to see how the God’s people in the past looked forward to the Messianic hope that was developing along three lines, which ultimately was completed with the Son of David, the Messiah holing all three prophetic offices.

Believers in the Old Covenant looked forward to a prophet like Moses, a perfect high priest, and a coming king to rule over Israel forever.

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

Definitions from two sources:

Threefold offices of Christ:

Christ’s mediatorial work through which he accomplishes salvation seen as his fulfilling the duties of the offices of prophet, priest and king. *

Offices of Christ:

Jesus also occupies three main offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. In other words, Jesus functions and/or has functioned in these offices. **

These Messianic offices were anticipated in the Old Covenant:

The Messianic Prophet is seen in: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)

The Messianic Priest is seen in: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)

The Messianic King is seen in: “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6)

Scriptural passages that support the Threefold offices of Christ:

From Scripture, Christ as a Prophet:

“A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22-23)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Acts 3:22-23:

Verse 22. – Moses indeed said for Moses truly said unto the fathers, A.V. and T.R.; the Lord God for the Lord your God, A.V. and T.R.; from among for of, A.V.; to him shall ye hearken for him shall ye hear, A V.; speak for say, A.V. Moses indeed said. Peter now verifies his assertion about the prophets in the previous verse by quoting from Moses, and referring to Samuel and those that came after. A prophet, etc. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 18:15-18. That this was understood by the Jews to relate to some one great prophet who had not yet come, appears from the question “Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21), and from the saying of the Jews after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14; John 7:40). St. Peter here teaches that that prophet was none other than Christ himself, who was like unto Moses in the fullness of the revelation given unto him, in his being a Mediator between God and the people, in being the Author of a new law – the law of faith and love, in building a new tabernacle for God to inhabit, even the Church in which he will dwell for ever and ever (see Hebrews 1:1, 2).

Verse 23. – Shall be for come to pass, A.V.; shall not hearken to for will not hear, A.V.; utterly destroyed for destroyed, A.V. Utterly destroyed. The Greek ἐξολοθρεύω οξξυρσ frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew phrase,” cut off from his people” (Genesis 17:14); but in Deuteronomy 18:19, the phrase is quite different, “I will require it of him.” St. Peter here gives the sense, not the ipsissima verba, and thereby marks the extreme gravity of the sin of unbelief (see John 3:18). (1)

From Scripture, Christ as a Priest:

“Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:13)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Zechariah 6:13:

Even he shall build: the promise is repeated to settle the Jews in the assured expectation of the thing.

The temple of the Lord; your material temple as type, and the spiritual temple as antitype.

He shall bear the glory of both kingly office and priestly, the glory of both those crowns shall abide on him, the only person worthy of it.

He shall sit; which speaks both his royal magnificence and the perpetuity of it.

And rule; though he shall have many attendants and officers, yet he shall rule, give laws, distribute rewards, and punish offenders.

Upon his throne; his by birth, by donation, by purchase, and by conquest, his most undoubtedly by best right.

He shall be a priest; the great High Priest, to offer the great sacrifice to God, to make reconciliation, to intercede for his people: this is that meant by the crowns set on thy head, O Joshua.

The counsel of peace shall be between them both; the peace made for God’s people shall rest upon these two, the kingly and priestly office of Christ: by his priestly office he shall make their peace with God, by his kingly office he shall deliver them from spiritual enemies; by priestly operation he shall expiate our sin, by the power of his kingly office he shall extirpate sin; as Priest he makes, as King maintains, peace; purchase as a Priest, protect as a King. (2)

“Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 6:20)

From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Hebrews 6:20:

  1. The absence of the Greek article requires Alford’s translation, “Where. As forerunner for us (that is, in our behalf), entered Jesus” [and is now: this last clause is implied in the ‘where’ of the Greek, which implies being IN a place: ‘whither’ is understood to ‘entered,’ taken out of ‘where’; whither Jesus entered, and where He is now]. The “for us” implies that it was not for Himself, as God, He needed to enter there, but as our High Priest, representing and introducing us, His followers, opening the way to us, by His intercession with the Father, as the Aaronic high priest entered the Holiest Place once a year to make propitiation for the people. The first-fruits of our nature are ascended, and so the rest is sanctified. Christ’s ascension is our promotion: and whither the glory of the Head has preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called. We ought to keep festal day, since Christ has taken up and set in the heavens the first-fruit of our lump, that is, the human flesh [Chrysostom]. As John Baptist was Christ’s forerunner on earth, so Christ is ours in heaven. (3)

From Scripture, Christ as a King:

“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:6)

“Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.” (John 12:15)

“Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15)

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on 1 Timothy 6:15:

Which in his times he shall show – Which God will reveal at such times as he shall deem best. It is implied here that the time is unknown to people; see the notes on Acts 1:7.

Who is the blessed and only Potentate – God, who is the ruler over all. The word used here – δυνάστης dunastēs – means one who is “mighty” Luke 1:22, then a prince or ruler; compare Acts 8:27. It is applied here to God as the mighty ruler over the universe.

The King of kings – Who claims dominion over all the kings of the earth. In Revelation 7:14, the same appellation is applied to the Lord Jesus, ascribing to him universal dominion.

Lord of lords – The idea here is, that all the sovereigns of the earth are under his sway; that none of them can prevent the accomplishment of his purposes; and that he can direct the winding up of human affairs when he pleases. (4)

The next entry is a good survey on the topic of the threefold offices of Christ.

From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge:

JESUS CHRIST, THREEFOLD OFFICE OF: A phrase connoting the functions of Christ as prophet, priest, and king.

Historical Survey.

From the earliest times Jesus has been recognized as the representative of a twofold and yet unitary theocratic function, as king and priest. The spiritual kingdom of the Messiah has its foundation in the sacrifice of his life (Matt. xvi. 16-25, xx. 25-28). This thought may be traced from the second century to the time of the Reformation. But as early as Eusebius a threefold office is ascribed to Christ that of prophet, priest, and king, and this is traceable to Jewish sources. The view of a threefold office, however, did not suppress the tradition of a twofold office, although the three designations of Christ were always used separately. Among the medieval theologians, Thomas Aquinas approaches closely the conception of Eusebius since he speaks of legislator, sacerdos, and rex, but with him this is merely a mechanical division, and Thomas makes no further use of the threefold scheme. The Evangelical doctrine followed in the beginning the tradition of a twofold office (cf. the works of Luther and the older Evangelical catechisms). Calvin added the prophetic office as a third function, and his conception of the doctrine of Christ’s work became the basis for its treatment in Reformed theology and soon also in Lutheran theology. As prophet the Messiah brings the full light of intelligence and thus becomes the fulness and consummation of all revelations. As king of a spiritual and eternal kingdom he not only brings his people external and passing aid, but equips them especially with the gifts for eternal life and guards them against their enemies. As priest Christ secures to his people by his atonement and vicarious suffering the blessing that God deals with them not as judge, but as gracious father. In accordance with these principles Calvin emphasized the truth that communion with God is found in Christ’s living personality and in life communion with that personality. In the Heidelberg Catechism (Questions 31 and 32) the thought of Calvin received a finished form and found a large circulation. The orthodox followers of Calvin, however, attempted both to explain the full content of the Messianic person from three points of view, and to analyze the act of salvation in its historical development according to the threefold scheme, thus not easily escaping the mistaken assumption that Christ had become first prophet, then priest, and finally king. It became the custom to deprive Christ of his royal function in the state of humiliation and of the prophetical function in the state of exaltation. Against this mechanical tendency, Cocceius opened new and fruitful points of view by returning to the living material of the Bible. The usual order of the offices of Christ seemed to him justified in so far as the dignity of Christ rose in the growing mind of the people, from the state of a prophet to that of a king. But in reality, be states, Christ’s priesthood must be put in the first place, since even before time he mediated between his Father and the people; then follow the royal and prophetic offices. The first office is that through which Christ acquires his people; the second that through which he keeps them; and the third that through which he leads them to the knowledge and love of the king. This double consideration would have resulted in an organic and simultaneous union of the offices in the living personality, even if Cocceius had not expressly added that the entire mediatorial act lasted until the end of days.

The Roman catechism also teaches the threefold office of Christ.

In Lutheran Theology.

In Lutheran theology the doctrine was adopted only at a late period. Melanchthon had not left to the school of theology which followed him a uniform system as Calvin had left for Reformed orthodoxy. The interest in the individual reception of justification drew attention from an all-sided objective observation of Christ and his gifts. There was even a tendency to reduce the twofold office of Christ to a single function. According to Melanchthon and Hesshusen, Christ is before everything priest; even as king he exercises essentially priestly functions. Selnecker seems to have been the first who used the formula of a threefold office, but his exposition is governed also by the priesthood of Christ, to which the two other offices are related like introduction and conclusion. Others again, like Gerhard, tried to identify the priestly and prophetical offices. Hemming and Nicohlus Hunnius taught that the office of the king was supreme and that it comprehended the other two functions. Everywhere the same concentration upon one point is found. In the meantime, however, Hafenreffer and especially Gerhard had directed their attention to the idea of a threefold office as advocated by Eusebius and Calvin. Gerhard not only used the new expression, but tried to prove that only the sum of the three offices offers the fulness of Christ’s benevolent gifts. In the regnum potentiae he found a specific function for the royal office. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, after the old Melanchthonian scheme of dogmatics had been replaced by an objective and historical arrangement of the material, there was room for a coherent representation of the work of Christ, which was systematized according to the threefold office. There was a reaction of the old Lutheran sentiment in 1773 when Ernesti criticized the reigning doctrine because he could not see why the clear and sufficient designation of the work of Christ as satisfaction should be obscured by metaphorical phrases. Moreover, he was of the opinion that the different offices were not clearly separated from each other, so that one title might justly cover all of them. Other dogmaticians after him raised similar objections on the ground that neither the prophetical nor the royal office stands upon equal footing with the priestly office, but that both point to the atonement which is included in it. But the majority of recent dogmaticians adhere to the scheme of a threefold office. Schleiermacher took the lead in this tendency by attempting the successful proof that the three offices in their indissoluble union completely define and circumscribe the character of redemption as accomplished by Christ. With the exclusion of the prophetic office, he holds, the clear consciousness of the believer would be superseded by a magical mediation of salvation. Without the royal office, there would be lacking the relation of the individual believer to a community. Finally, the absence of the priestly office would rob foundation of Christ of its religious content.

Interpretation and Significance of the Doctrine.

The doctrine of Christ’s threefold office represents the redeemer as the fulfiller of all Old-Testament prophecies and thus of all needs of the human being. Everything that Israel expected of its future salvation had concentrated itself more and more in the hope of the Messiah, “the anointed of God” (John i. 41, iv. 25). He was thought of as the king who was to restore the glory of David’s kingdom. In the course of time the prophet, who as successor of Moses was never to be wanting among God’s people (Deut. xviii. 15), became identical with the Messiah (John vi.14-15). The third office is reflected in the picture of the Mesaiah in Isa. liii. God’s people can feel themselves secure only when all conflict of the theocratic offices is excluded by unity and every blessing of salvation is to be found in one single person (Heb. vii. 23 sqq.). There was a longing especially for the solution of the frequent historical conflict between kingdom and priesthood (I Sam. ii. 35; Zech. vi. 12 sqq.). A priest-king after the manner of Melchizedek was hoped for (Ps. cx. 4). All these elements were combined in the idea of the Messiah who was to possess the spirit of God in many-sided fulness and as the power of a comprehensive redeeming activity (Isa. xi. 1 sqq., lxi. 1 sqq.; cf. Luke iv. 18 sqq.; John iii. 34). The anointing with the spirit mentioned in these passages has the significance of the anointing of kings, priests, and to a certain extent also of prophets in so far as they were endowed with the charismata. By confessing Jesus as Christ, the Christian congregation expresses that it finds in him the performer of all activities which secure salvation to the people of God. Jesus is king (Matt. xxi. 5, xxvii. 11), prophet (Matt. xxi. 11; Luke vii. 16), and high priest (Heb. ii. 17, iii. 1). The scheme of the threefold office permits of arranging the Biblical material in its original connection, as it belongs to a complete representation of the person of Christ. Its systematic value becomes evident only from the proof that for the fulfilment of the Messianic activity there is necessary nothing more and nothing less than the functions designated by it. The three offices of prophet, priest, and king correspond to the needs of the moral education of man and of his connection with human society and the surrounding world. If the activity of Christ on earth were restricted to atonement, it would not be possible to speak of the perfection of the human being in connection with Christ. It is a matter of course that in every moment of his earthly and heavenly activity Christ exercises at one and the same time all his offices. Socinianism claims for the entire activity of Christ on earth only the prophetical office in order to reserve the other functions as faint ornaments’ for the state of exaltation (Racovian Catechism, 191 sqq., 456 sqq.). The permanent union and simultaneous exercise of the three functions do not exclude, however, a fixed aim, namely, the kingdom. To this as the organizing purpose of the whole points before everything the Biblical basis of the formula, the starting-point and essential content of the Messianic office is royal dominion over and for God’s people, the peculiar modification of which is described by the other titles.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: For history of the doctrine consult: H. L. J. Heppe, Dogmatik des deutschen Protestantismus im 16. Jahrhundert, pp, 209 sQq. 222 sqq. Gotha 1857 idem, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, Elberfeld, 1861; A. Schweizer, Glaubenslehre der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, vol, ii., Zurich, 1847 H. Schmid, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, Frankfort, 1876: A.

Ritsehl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Vershnung, i. 520 sqq. iii. 394 sq., Bonn, 1882-83, Eng. transl., of vol. i., Edinburgh, 1872. For exposition of the doctrine consult the literature under DOGMA, DOGMATICS; WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY. (5)

 The value of this next section utilizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism along with scriptural proofs will be seen immediately. The Shorter Catechism is designed for teenagers and young adults in Reformed Churches. The catechism teaching method uses questions and answers. The questions and answers function as a powerful memorization technique.

 Westminster Shorter Catechism Of Christ’s Offices:

Question 23 – What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?

Answer 23.) Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation. (1)

(1) Acts 3:21-22; Hebrews 12:25; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Hebrews 5:5-7, 7:25; Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 21:5; Psalm 2:8-11;

Question 24 – How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

Answer 24.) Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (1)

(1) John 1:18; 1 Peter 1:10-12; John 15:15, 20:31;

Question 25 – How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

Answer 25.) Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice,(1) and reconcile us to God,(2) and in making continual intercession for us.(3)

(1) Hebrews 9:14, 28;

(2) Hebrews 2:17;

(3) Hebrews 7:24-25;

Question 26 – How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

Answer 26.) Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (1) in ruling (2) and defending us, (3) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (4)

(1) Acts 15:14-16;

(2) Isaiah 33:22;

(3) Isaiah 32:1-2;

(4) 1 Corinthians 15:25; Psalm 110:1-7;

In closing:

The Threefold Office of Christ by R. C. Sproul:

“One of the great contributions to a Christian understanding of the work of Christ is John Calvin’s exposition of the threefold office of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.1 As the prophet of God par excellence, Jesus was both the object and subject of prophecy. His person and His work are the focal point of Old Testament prophecy, yet He Himself was a prophet. In Jesus’ own prophetic statements, the kingdom of God and His role within the coming kingdom are major themes. A principal activity of a prophet was to declare the Word of God. Jesus not only declared the Word of God, He is Himself the Word of God. Jesus was the supreme Prophet of God, being God’s Word in the flesh.

The Old Testament prophet was a kind of mediator between God and the people of Israel. He spoke to the people on behalf of God. The priest spoke to God on behalf of the people. Jesus also fulfilled the role of the great High Priest. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices regularly, but Jesus offered a sacrifice of everlasting value once for all time. Jesus’ offering to the Father was the sacrifice of Himself. He was both the offering and the offerer.

Whereas in the Old Testament the mediating offices of prophet, priest, and king were held by separate individuals, all three offices are held supremely in the one person of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecy of Psalm 110. He is the one who is both David’s descendant and David’s Lord. He is the Priest who is also the King. The Lamb who is slain is also the Lion of Judah. To gain a full understanding of the work of Christ we must not

  1. Calvin, Institutes, bk. II, 1:425-429.

View Him merely as a prophet, or as a priest, or as a king. All three offices are perfectly fulfilled in Him.


  1. Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and was Himself a prophet.
  2. Jesus was both Priest and sacrifice. As Priest, He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
  3. Jesus is the anointed King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

Biblical passages for reflection:

Psalm 110

Isaiah 42:1-4

Luke 1:26-38

Acts 3:17-26

Hebrews 5:5-6” (6)

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

In this passage from Revelation, we see all three offices of Christ. Let’s consider John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on this passage:

“And from Jesus Christ, Who, though the second Person in the Trinity, is mentioned last, because many things were to be said of him; and who is described in all his offices: in his prophetic office,

the faithful witness; as he is of his Father, of his mind and will, with respect to doctrine and worship; of his truth and faithfulness in his promises; and of his love, grace, and mercy, to his chosen; and of himself, of his true deity, proper sonship, and perfect equality with the Father; of his Messiahship, and of salvation through his obedience, sufferings, and death; and of all truth in general, to which he has bore a faithful testimony [prophetic office] several ways, in his ministry, by his miracles, at his death, and by the shedding of his blood to seal it; by his Spirit since, and by the ministers of his word: he is described in his priestly office be

the first begotten of the dead: being the first that rose from the dead by his own power, and to an immortal life; for though some few were raised before him, yet not by themselves, nor to live for ever, but to die again. Moreover, he is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the pledge and earnest of it, as well as the efficient cause and exemplar of it. This character supposes that he died, as he did, for the sins of his people; and that he rose again from the dead, as he did, for their justification; and that he rose first as their head and representative, and opened the way of life for them. And he is described in his kingly office, for it follows,

and the Prince of the kings of the earth: which is not to be understood figuratively of the saints, who have power over sin, Satan, and the world, through the efficacious grace of Christ, and of whom he is Prince or King; but literally of the kings and princes of this world, over whom Christ is King and Lord, who receive their crowns and kingdoms from him, and rule by him, and are accountable to him, as they one day must be. Next follows a doxology, or an ascription of glory to him,

unto him that hath loved us; his own, his people, his church, his chosen, and who are given him by his Father; these he has loved with an everlasting and unchangeable love, with a love of complacency and delight, which passes knowledge, and will never end: and which he has shown in espousing their persons, undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, and in nothing more than in giving himself for them as a propitiatory sacrifice, or in dying and shedding his precious blood for them, as is next expressed:

and washed us from our sins in his own blood; [priestly office] which shows that these persons were loved before washed; they were not first washed, and then loved, but first loved, and then washed. Love was the cause of washing, and not washing the cause of love; hence it appears that they were in themselves filthy, and unclean through sin; and that they could not cleanse themselves by anything they could do; and that such was the love of Christ to them, that he shed his precious blood for them, which is a fountain opened, to wash in for sin, and which cleanses from all sin. This is to be understood, not of the sanctification of their natures, which is the work of the Spirit, but of atonement for their sins, and justification from them by the blood of Christ, whereby they are so removed, that they are all fair, and without spot. It is afterwards said, that these same persons are made priests; and it may be observed, that the priests were always washed, before they performed their service, as such (n). The Alexandrian copy and the Syriac and Arabic versions read, “and hath loosed us from our sins in”, or “by his blood”; that is, from the guilt of them, which was bound upon them.” (7)

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14)

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

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


  1. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts, Vol. 18, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 95.
  2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), pp. 999-1000.
  3. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1413.
  4. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1 Timothy, p. 3942.
  5. Philip Schaff, Editor, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI: (Christian Classic Ethereal Library PDF), pp. 174-176.
  6. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christians Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), p. 85-86.
  7. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Revelation, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, pp. 10-11.

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

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

For more study:

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

** CARM theological dictionary

And at:


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