c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: May 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014


A viable Charismatic theology must place the person and work of the Holy Spirit at the center of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ.  The Trinitarian formula tells us that the Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son.  But unless we can discern its essential role in saving us the Spirit will forever remain on the periphery of Christian consciousness.

The Lord Jesus himself helps us to elevate the Spirit by a profound statement as follows:


Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-30 and Luke 12:10)

Why would Jesus say such a thing, for it might indicate that the Spirit is more important than Jesus, who died for us, or the Father, who sent him?

The answer to that question lies within the immediate context of the passage.  Jesus went around casting out demons.  The effects of that and other miracles were astounding to the people, who began to follow the Lord in great numbers.  The religious establishment was jealous of his popularity.  What they did next, though, was truly outrageous.  They attributed the miraculous power of Jesus to the devil, calling good evil and evil good.

The greatest evidence of Jesus’ divinity, then, was maligned in order to cut people off from Jesus.  But it also cut them off from the saving power of God.


Jesus and the Father are one and two steps removed from the salvation experience of the people.  Jesus was another person, so once removed.  The Father was in heaven, an infinite distance away.  But the Spirit was doing the work by actually touching the folk, entering in to clean out the house of the soul and to heal the dis-eased body.  The Spirit is the most immediate and intimate of persons of the Trinity.  Disrupt the work of the Spirit and saving grace does not occur.

To our knowledge Jesus never used the word grace.

The first to use it in the Biblical narrative was Peter, to whom was given the keys of the kingdom.  He used the word grace at the council in Jerusalem when the apostolic leaders decided what to do about Paul’s Gentile converts.  Should they become proselyte Jews by circumcision or are they already incorporated?  Peter concluded deliberations by saying God saves the Gentiles by grace just like the Jewish converts to Christ are saved.

What was Peter describing when he said they were saved by grace?  The answer is clear:


“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:8-11 ESV)


The assembly understood exactly what Peter meant:

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12 ESV)


Paul began to use grace in his polemical arguments against his Jewish detractors, who apparently continued to resist the Spirit’s work.  When they had some success in Galatia Paul wrote to them:


Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:2-6 ESV)


Beginning by the Spirit, being supplied with the Spirit, and the miraculous operation of the Spirit is what Paul called in 1:6 the grace of the Lord Jesus, which he contrasts with another or false gospel based on proselyte Jewish circumcision.


And then in order to refute the circumcision party Paul provides an interpretation of an Old Testament passage that depends on the work of the Holy Spirit:


Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:11-14 ESV)


Notice that the promise of Abraham given to Christians is not land or riches or children or protection from enemy nations.  It is the Spirit given to Christians that fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.  That phenomenon of changing Old Testament temporal blessings to the work of the Holy Spirit is called spiritualization.  It is confirmed in two passages to follow:


“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 ESV)


One could easily conclude from this passage that the Holy Spirit is all a Christian needs.  But further, this passage sums up the entire religious practice of a Christian:


“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)


The woman at the well had been arguing with Jesus about the proper place for temple worship, whether in Samaria or Jerusalem.  Though Jesus defended Judaism, he predicted a new way to worship God.


What did it look like?


We have two clues in the books of the New Testament, both of which testify to a central role for the Holy Spirit.


They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43 ESV)


If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:23-25 ESV)


Paul continues to describe in the chapter cited just above that a Christian church service is a place for people to exercise their spiritual gifts.  In that, again, we see the presence of God meeting people’s personal needs in a miraculous way because of the activity of the Holy Spirit.


But notice the goal of a Spirit-filled church service above.  The effect is that an unbeliever will be convicted and called to account.  What he knows about God’s holiness will be confirmed because in the moral assessment he will find the true presence of God.


At the Jerusalem council Peter indicated the same thing, noting that when God poured out the Spirit on Cornelius’ household it was a cleansing of the heart by faith.  This speaks to the sanctifying work of the Spirit, washing away sin and setting us on the path to Christian perfection in love.


These categories bring us back to the law, for it is law that defines what is sin and righteousness.  What is the law of God in the spiritualized religion of Christianity?

It is not outward circumcision of the flesh, as the Jerusalem council determined, but a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Notice a reference, again, to the Spirit:


For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 ESV; see also 2 Corinthians 3)


In Romans 7 Paul explains that the law makes sense to our rational minds.  We know that the law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual.  We want to keep it but find another law at work in our physical flesh, in which dwells no good thing.  We are profoundly frustrated by our inability to keep the law.

But there is hope!  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).



A fully-functioning Charismatic theology will teach people to accept what the law envisions; the requirement of spiritualized righteousness can be fulfilled by those that walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17 ESV)


In conclusion, there is further hope not unrelated to the one just expressed.  Saving grace is a personal, direct, and life-changing encounter with God in Christ through his Spirit.  But personal righteousness, infused and inspired by the Spirit, can lead to ecclesiastical integrity, that is, the Spirit of unity and bond of peace.  Traditional, Evangelical, Holiness, and Pentecostal people do not always see eye-to-eye.  Each appropriates what they want of belief in the Spirit.  But even those that have a robust doctrine of the Spirit hesitate to bring the Third Person of the Trinity fully into the center of the circle.  A true appreciation for the Spirit can tear down walls and bring us into Christian unity, for the Spirit does all the good that the various groups say.

Let us unite, for there is “one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


To answer that question we must understand the basic principles of theodicy.  Theodicy is the theory of suffering or more precisely, the justification of God, who purports to be good and all-powerful, yet allows so much suffering in the world.

First, God is good but he cannot do what is contrary to his own nature, nor can he do what is contrary to his previous acts or word.  So, God is self-constrained by his goodness to do only certain things, not all things or anything that we might want or imagine.

Second, the most important thing that God cannot do is violate human free will.  He is known to bless those that choose good and curse those that do evil.  But he does not force us to do either one or the other.  We are each ultimately morally accountable for the actions that we take.

Therefore, pain exists in the world for the simple fact of God’s having cursed the evil that men do.

Why then do people suffer that either do no harm or have quit doing bad things?

That is where the doctrine of original sin comes in to explain the human condition.

Original sin tells us that all mankind shares a common fault, malady, and weakness.  And it comes right at the intersection of our desire for healing and the judgment of God upon our bodies.

Let me explain.

In the Garden of Eden God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”  He ate and God cursed him, according to his word.

The nature of the curse is such that the whole of creation, including our physical bodies, was “subjected to futility” and has been kept in “bondage to decay” since the fall (Romans 8:20-21).

So, God’s dilemma in granting healing is how it meshes with his previous act of passing the sentence of death upon our bodies.  If God continually healed us or healed everyone, if human suffering was cured in an instant, then how would his judgment of death upon sinful flesh be executed?

Yet, God does heal some.  In his goodness he suffered with us in the body of his Son.  God does not delight in the death of any man, sympathizes with our weaknesses, and offers to remove curses in the name of Jesus, even mitigating the curse of original sin.  To wit, Christians are redeemed and so not subject to the full effects of the fall or God’s judgment against sin, provided that we have forsaken that lifestyle.

A key passage in this analysis is Romans 8:9-11, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Notice that it is our “mortal bodies,” bodies made mortal (subject to death) by the judgment of God, that receives life by the indwelling Spirit to counter-act, so to speak, the natural effects of the fall.  It is and should be the ordinary, everyday experience that God’s redeemed people receive healings just as we see Jesus perform in the Gospels and the apostolic men do in the Book of Acts.

Does that mean God works against himself in healing those that he previously cursed?

Absolutely not!  We are all subject to death.  “It is appointed for man once to die and after that the judgment.”  So, we must all die in the sense of being separated from this physical body, which is condemned.  But we do not need to suffer needlessly nor is there a set time-frame for when a man should die.  Both time and degrees of suffering are relative terms.  So, Christians do and should experience improvements in health and longevity because of our prayers.  But to die in the Faith is our ultimate healing because then we are free of this earthly tent with all its physical challenges.

How then are healings distributed?  The short answer is as the Spirit wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 ESV).

Here is a longer answer.  The suffering that mankind endures is randomly distributed.  There is no favoritism on God’s part.  But the same cannot be said of healings.  They seem to follow a pattern.

In the broadest possible terms the miraculous manifestations of God seem to accompany his mighty acts in salvation history, clustering around the Exodus, which is the basis of the Old Testament and Judaism, and then the Christ Event, when God sent his Son to redeem the whole of humanity.  As Jesus said, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).  His healing miracles were a testimony to his divinity; they were signs, to convince the people to turn to God.  That evidence continued into the apostolic times and early Church history, the scholars tell us, for nearly 400 years, which is why the Western world was transformed so profoundly.

Then the miraculous gifts seemed to fade.  Why?

Though there have always been miracles in and through the Church, we largely traded supernatural power for political power and became an institution involved with official state religion.  This happened in both Catholic and Protestant countries.  Against that institutional model of ministry the renewal of gifts, and healing and deliverance ministries, seemed to track with movement conservatism rather than institutional forms of the faith.  Therefore, the rebirth of spiritual gifts in the last decades was called the Charismatic Movement.  Our task today is to keep the movement going, while allowing God to mature it, that is, to give it a better theological basis, more effective protocols, and, yes, institutional legitimacy.

Two parts of improving the movement, on the level of the parish and our individual experience, are a commitment to live in righteousness and to find our own personal roles in serving the kingdom purposes of God.  Healing in all its forms is means of grace in spiritual formation, for instance.  As we improve ourselves by spiritual disciplines and contribute to his Cause, God will pour out his Spirit in greater measure and with greater manifestations “and the Earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

Solving the Sovereignty/Free Will Dilemma

Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” … so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:8 and 14 ESV)

These verses solve the sovereignty/free will dilemma.

The last reference to faith above is not mere faith but is modified in the original Greek by the definite article.  It should read, “so that we might receive the promised Spirit through the Faith.”

The Faith of Jesus Christ was foreseen.  All election and pre-destination passages in Paul, including security verses, refer to the broad strokes of salvation history (Peter first and then Paul preaching to Gentiles) in which God changed his religion from Judaism to Christianity, replacing the old covenant with a new one in Jesus’ blood.  Verses that seem to teach special election or double pre-destination do not refer to individuals.  Each of us must choose to become and live as a Christian of our own free will and out of rational, healthy self-interest.

And what does God promise to those that trust and obey?  He gives the Holy Spirit, which by conviction, regeneration, sanctification, and empowerment transforms us from sinners to saints.  Only we must not grieve, quench, or outrage the Spirit, but rather cooperate with God in the means of grace that he has ordained through one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

In other words, the means of grace is pre-destined but not who may or may not be saved.  That is entirely up to us, given God’s generous offer in Christ.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Though our religion has official doctrine, it is not a belief system only.  Though we have rituals instituted by Christ himself, it is not a mere formality of worship.  Though it commands love and good works, we are not moralists alone.  Christianity is all those things but more – it is walking with Jesus day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.  To know him is to love him, and knowing him requires that we live with him and become like him in the life that he lived.

How did he live?  What was his life-style, so to speak?

In short, it is called the way of the cross.

One might rightly be concerned that the cross is a dark and painful message, but no, it is a victorious way of living, which is why we begin the lesson with this verse:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

The mind thinks by a process of free association, one thought leading to the next natural thought in a sequence of ideas that reveals the way a man thinks.  We can know how Jesus thinks!  In the following passage from Matthew, which has parallels in the other Synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke, we find a series of sayings that speak to the nature of our faith:

  • Peter rightly confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God
  • From that time Jesus begins to tell them that he must die and be raised
  • With the immediate implication that they, too, must go the way of the cross 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

                From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

                Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:13-28 ESV, Cf. Mark 8:27-38 and Luke 9:18-27 (also 17:33))

Notice above how Jesus rebuked Peter.  At first Peter got it right and won from Jesus both praise and power.  But then Peter’s thinking went wrong.  Notice the reference to Peter’s “mind.”

The way of the cross is so central to Christianity that to think otherwise is Satanic.


John treats the way of the cross differently.  In his Gospel it’s implied that some Greeks understand who Jesus might be and want to meet him.  Jesus sees great hope in this for the spread of Christianity and so concedes that it is time for him to die.  His next thought sequence is exactly the same one that we saw above in the Synoptics, that is, the core saying about losing one’s life to keep it.

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:20-26 ESV)

We find in the Pauline corpus exactly the same call to be like Jesus and follow him in the way of the cross.

About living out our baptism/confirmation he writes, For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 ESV)

This passage contains a PROVISO, meaning a condition (underlined) for inheriting eternal life.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God … and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-14 & 17 ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)

The following two passages reveal an interesting parallel between them.  In the first Paul tells us how we ought to think about things.  He writes in terms of Jesus being obedient unto death and therefore God raised him up.  In the second we see how Paul thinks of himself and the hope that he has for his own salvation, hoping to be raised by the same process that Jesus engaged.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on (the) faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:2-11)

Finally, we have this passage, a fitting end to the lesson.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Finding the Faith -- the Problem of the Missing Word

The most conservative approach to Biblical interpretation is to begin with grammatical-historical exegesis of the Text in its original languages, as affirmed by the Chicago Declaration on Biblical Inerrancy. 


This method, first, assumes the logic of linguistic analysis.  In the case of Pauline theology, for instance, the pastoral epistles refer to the Faith and so we can logically assume the local epistles would refer to the Faith, too, because the same man, Paul, out of his singular mind, wrote both kinds of letters.  Yet, there are several key places where the definite article describing the Faith is missing in English translations, though it can be inferred from the original Greek.  Given that there is a chance that faith would sometimes need the definite article and sometimes not, in the logical form of x or not x, we must exercise judgment about when to include the definite article in translation and when to exclude it.  That dilemma introduces the second conservative principle of grammatico-historical exegesis, which is the larger salvation-historical context that Paul is interpreting to his readers.  He is contrasting the rise of Christianity superseding Judaism, not individuals finding salvation on their own in easy-believe-ism.

In other words, it is not conservative to follow a dogmatic system based on a few misunderstood proof texts.  It is conservative to follow what the Bible actually says.


According to this conservative approach Romans 3:22 is a place where the use of the article needs attention.  Paul refers to the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (RSV).  Notice that there are two references to faith in the same verse, faith and believe.  Both are translated from the Greek root word for faith, which is pistis.  But why does pistis occur twice in the same sentence?  Here and in three other places Paul seems to be redundant, saying that salvation is by faith in Christ—for those that believe in Christ:


We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. –Galatians 2:15-16


The scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. –Galatians 3:22 RSV

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. –Philippians 3:8-9

If salvation is by faith in Christ can it not be assumed that one would have to believe in him?  So, why did Paul repeat himself?  In the Galatians 2 passage above one might argue that Paul emphasizes that we ourselves believed, even we to make the point about who believed rather than the faith act itself.  But in that passage, again, he refers three times to pistis, which seems gratuitously redundant.  One might apply to the emphasis on who believes but that leaves two to explain.


In all four passages above from the local epistles of Paul we have seemingly redundant references to faith/believing.


But it isn’t repetition.  It’s poor translation that makes it seem wordy, following a bad interpretive tradition that comes through the Latin Vulgate.  Latin does not have definite articles at all.  Therefore, versions that follow the Vulgate sometimes clumsily drop definite articles in the translation and sometimes insert them, willy nilly, where they do not occur in the original.


In Romans 3:22, for instance, righteousness of God is not accompanied by the article in the original Greek text.  From the perspective of linguistic analysis that makes sense.  Paul would not have included the article because he had in mind the transition in salvation history between two forms of righteousness that God ordained: the old covenant inaugurated through Moses and the new one in Christ.  In Paul’s mind there are two dispensations, the old and the new, which is why the Bible is divided between Old and New Testaments.  The old is made old by the appearance of the new, which is now the righteousness that God requires.  But in contrasting the two, Paul must think of two and so would not involve the article.  Romans 3:22 should read, therefore, a righteousness of God through the Faith of Jesus Christ for those that believe it.


Likewise, Galatians 2:15-16 is more accurately translated, reflecting the article that appears in the original text, We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by the Works of the Law but through the Faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by the Faith of Christ, and not by the Works of the Law, because by Works of the Law shall no one be justified.


Galatians 3:22 should say, that what was promised through the Faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe it, repeating the exact thought pattern in linguistic analysis that we find in Romans 3:22.


Philippians 3:9 should be translated, one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God based on the Faith.


The Geneva Bible of 1560 accurately translates these verses by using the definite article as the Apostle originally intended.


In the historical, grammatical, and literary context in which Paul spoke, wrote, and ministered, then, all taken together in conservative rendition, and confirmed by linguistic analysis, his meaning becomes clear and should be reflected in our soteriology:  we are saved by the Faith of Jesus Christ, Christianity, the religious system Jesus instituted, the new covenant in his blood, if and when we believe it, obey it, and practice it.