February 12: Galatians 4:4-7

Galatians 4:4-7

Paul’s argument in Gal 4:1-7 builds on the illustration made in 3:23-25ff, comparing believers in Christ with the son who is an heir. This illustration, which draws upon Roman legal custom and practice, here involves the “guardianship of a minor” (tutela impuberis). The father (or head of the family, paterfamilias) appoints a guardian (one or more) over the child who is to inherit the property. During the time while he is a minor, even though the son may have legal status as the heir, he does not yet have access to the property; rather, the inheritance is entrusted to adult ‘guardians’, who will oversee and administer it until the child comes of age. For more on this background, cf. Betz, pp. 202-5.

Here is how Paul describes the situation, utilizing this illustration:

“upon as (much) time as the (one) receiving the lot is a speechless (child), (in) nothing does he carry through (differently) than a slave, (even while) being (the) lord of all; but he is under (those to whom it has been) turned over, and house-managers, until the (time) set before(hand) by the father.” (vv. 1-2)

A nh/pio$ denotes a “speechless” child, or infans (“infant”), but here the word is used figuratively for a minor (underage) child; in English idiom, we might approximate the sense with the expression “he does not yet have a say in the matter”. He is virtually like a household slave (dou=lo$) in this regard, even though he may be heir to all his father’s property (“being lord of all”). Indeed, the child himself is under the tutelage of household slaves and servants, like the paidagwgo/$ (“leader/guide of a child”) of the illustration in 3:23-25. The inheritance is “turned over” (e)pitre/pw, noun e)pi/tropo$) to the control of servants who act as administrators, and to “house-managers” (oi)kono/moi) who conduct business and make distributions as needed. The noun oi)kono/mo$ can actually designate a supervisor of the household slaves (Betz, p. 204), which gives added resonance to the comparison of the minor child with a slave.

As in 3:23-25, the upshot of this illustration is that the believer, before coming to faith in Christ, is like the minor child who is under the guiding control of household servants. In the earlier illustration, the servant (or slave) fulfilling this role was the Torah (or “law”, no/mo$, cp. oi)kono/mo$, which could be rendered “household law”). Paul still has the Torah regulations in mind here in 4:1-7, however the scope of its significance has broadened:

“So also we, when we were speechless (children) [nh/pioi], we were (one)s enslaved under the arrangements [stoixei=a] of the world;” (v. 3)

The noun stoi=xo$ essentially means a row or line of items, while the related stoixei=on, used here, refers to the specific items that are so arranged. In more abstract terms, we might render the plural of stoixei=on as “elements” or “(guiding) points”. Similarly, the noun no/mo$ essentially means something that is laid out (as an allotment). Believers were subject to the various ‘guiding principles’ of the world, including the regulations of the Torah; the latter specifically applies to Israelites and Jews (before they became believers), while the broader terminology of stoixei=a applies to all people. The noun stoixei=on is used in much the same way (by Paul) in Col 2:8, 20; by contrast, in 2 Peter (3:10, 12), stoixei=a refers to the material “elements” of the cosmos.

The chief point of the illustration is that, with the coming of Jesus Christ, the period of guardianship is over. Believers in Christ are no longer under the “guiding points/principles” of the world, which means that we are also no longer under the authority of the Torah regulations. For more on this point, see the articles in the series “Paul’s View of the Law” (esp. the various articles on Galatians).

Here in verse 4, there is special focus on the continuing theme of the sonship of believers (from chap. 3, cf. the previous note), which continues to be understood in relation to the unique Sonship of Jesus:

“but, when the fullness of the time had come, God sent out from (Him) His Son, (hav)ing come to be (born) out of a woman, (hav)ing come to be under (the) Law”

The ability of human beings to become the “sons” of God is dependent upon God’s own Son becoming a human being. Much the same point is made, though more indirectly, in the Johannine Prologue (see vv. 12-13 [previously discussed] in connection with verse 14 [discussed at length in a recent series]). The humanity and earthly life of Jesus is here described according to two aspects, given by way of parallel expressions:

    • “(hav)ing come to be out of a woman”
    • “(hav)ing come to be under (the) law”

In the first expression (and aspect), the verb of becoming (gi/nomai) means “come to be born”, referring to the birth of Jesus. This may refer to the “stoixei=a of the world” in the same physical/material sense of the term stoixei=a used in 2 Pet 3:10, 12 (cf. above). In the second expression (and aspect), the ethical-religious sense of stoixei=a is in view—viz., specifically, the guiding/ruling principles of the Torah. Jesus came to be “under” the control and influence of these stoixei=a, just like all other human beings, but for the purpose of freeing us from the stoixei=a:

“…(so) that he might purchase out (from bondage) the (one)s under the Law, that we might receive from (God) the placement as a son [ui(oqesi/a].” (v. 5)

The verb a)gora/zw denotes buying something (from the marketplace, a)gora/), while the compound e)kagora/zw is used specifically for the idea purchasing someone “out of” (e)k) a particular condition (of slavery/servitude). Having been “enslaved” under the Law, we are now freed from that bondage; there is no longer any need for the Torah (no/mo$) as a “household supervisor” (oi)kono/mo$) or “guide for the child” (paidagwgo/$). The believer has come of age, and can now inherit, as the Father’s son, what belongs to the Father. Paul states this unequivocally in verse 6:

“And, (in) that you are sons, God has sent out from (Him) the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!'”

It must be pointed out that, fundamentally, there is only one son—Jesus, the Son. This was true in chapter 3, where the reference was to Jesus as the son and heir of the promises to Abraham, and is equally so here in chapter 4, where the emphasis is on Divine sonship. Believers become the “sons” (or children) of God in a special way, which Paul describes, however briefly, here in verses 5-6. There are two stages to this dynamic of becoming the sons of God:

    • Verse 5—Having been freed from the period of enslavement, we are given the legal status as sons. Paul uses the term ui(oqesi/a (“placement as a son”), taken from the practice of adoption in the Greco-Roman world. This usage of the term may be unique to Paul, as ui(oqesi/a occurs in the New Testament only in the Pauline letters (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph 1:5).
    • Verse 6—Having been given the legal status of sonship, we are then truly made the sons of God by receiving the Spirit of God’s own Son within us.

Verse 6 makes clear that we are dealing with something more than ‘adoption’ in a strictly legal sense. Rather, there is a fundamental transformation of identity that takes place, from within. Paul’s wording here is sometimes overlooked in this regard. It is worth considering each phrase in sequence:

    • “in that you are sons” —that is, already possessing the legal status of sons through ‘adoption’ (ui(oqesi/a)
    • “God has sent out from (Himself)” —the same wording used in v. 4 (cf. below), indicating a Divine source and power
    • “the Spirit of His Son” —that is, the presence and power of His own Son, realized through the Spirit
    • “into our hearts” —i.e., within us, into our very being, so that there is both an essential identification and a transformative effect
      Note that some textual witnesses read “your hearts” instead of “our hearts”, but this is almost certainly a correction made to agree with the use of the second person earlier in the verse; Paul includes himself and other ministers (“our”) along with the Galatians (“you”) as believers
    • “crying ‘Abba, Father!'” —the essential (new) identity (of believers as God’s sons) is confirmed by the Spirit’s own declaration within us

There is a precise formal parallel of expression, between verses 4 and 6, which is important to note, as it relates to the idea that believers are truly God’s sons, just as Jesus Christ is His Son:

    • “God sent out from (Him) His Son”
      e)cape/steilen o( qeo/$ to\n ui(o\n au)tou=
    • “God sent out from (Him) the Spirit of His Son”
      e)cape/steilen o( qeo/$ to\ pneu=ma tou= ui(ou= au)tou=

The point should be emphasized: believers are not merely God’s sons in the legal sense of being ‘adopted’, and thus obtaining the status of sonship; rather, they/we are also transformed, by receiving the Spirit of His Son, to become truly His sons. This is an essential identity, though one which is dependent upon our union with Christ. And, with Jesus Christ himself, we also are heirs who inherit (and receive) that which belongs to the Father:

“So then, no longer are you a slave, but a son; and if a son, (then) also (one) who receives the lot [i.e. an heir] through God.” (v. 7)

This sonship occurs “through God” (dia\ qeou=) being entirely the work of God and a gift from Him.

Most likely Paul understands the second phase of the believer’s sonship—becoming truly God’s son through receiving the Spirit—as occurring in association with the baptism ritual. This would be in accordance with early Christian tradition (as evidenced in the New Testament), and seems to be confirmed by the earlier reference to baptism in 3:26-29. Note how the baptism reference (v. 27f) is bracketed by two declarations regarding the sonship of believers:

    • “sons of God” / through trust in Christ Jesus (v. 26, the theme of chap. 4)
    • “the seed of Abraham (and heirs to the promise)” / belonging to Christ Jesus (v. 29, the theme of chap. 3)

In the next note, we will look ahead to examine how Paul develops this sonship-of-believers theme in the final argument of the Galatians probatio, the allegorical illustration from Scripture in 4:21-31.

References above marked “Betz” are to Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 1979).

November 13: John 15:15

John 15:15

“No longer do I say you (are) dou=loi, (in) that a dou=lo$ has not seen [i.e. does not know] what his lord does; but I have said (that) you (are) fi/loi, (in) that, all the (thing)s that I (have) heard (from) alongside my Father, I (have) made known to you.”

The final statement in this unit of the Vine-exposition further expounds the declaration in verse 14 (discussed in the previous note), in which Jesus identifies his disciples as those dear to him (“his dear [one]s”). The noun used to express this is fi/lo$ (plur. fi/loi), related to the verb file/w (“have/show affection”)—a verb that is largely synonymous (and interchangeable) with a)gapa/w (“[show] love”) in the Gospel of John. Thus the term fi/lo$ relates to the theme of love, and to the duty (e)ntolh/) of disciples/believers to love each other, that is so prominent in the Last Discourse. For more on the use and significance of fi/lo$, cf. the previous notes on vv. 13 and 14.

Here, in verse 15, fi/lo$ is juxtaposed with the noun dou=lo$, which properly denotes a slave. This creates a stark contrast: a dear friend or loved one vs. a slave. Unfortunately, the term “slave” in English brings to mind certain aspects of slavery that would have been somewhat out of place in the first-century Greco-Roman world. For this reason, many commentators prefer the translation “servant”, but this can be misleading as well, and too general a term, lacking the characteristic of a state of bondage or servitude. In Greco-Roman society, a household slave was not necessarily treated harshly, and could even hold a relatively prominent position in the administration of the house. Cf. the use of the term in 4:51; 18:10, 18, 26.

There are two occurrences of dou=lo$ elsewhere in the sayings/teachings of Jesus that are worth noting. The first occurs in the Sukkot Discourse of chaps. 7-8, within the Discourse-unit of 8:31-47, which deals with the theme of freedom and bondage. The central statement by Jesus (in vv. 31-32) ties this theme to a person’s identity as a disciple:

“If you would remain in my word, (then) truly you are my learners [i.e. disciples], and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

In addition to the principal theme of being a true disciple of Jesus, the use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”), along with an emphasis on Jesus’ word (lo/go$), makes for a clear connection between this statement and the Vine-exposition (vv. 4-11). In particular, the expression “remain in my word” is precisely parallel with those in the Vine-exposition (“remain in me,” vv. 4ff; “remain in my love”, vv. 9-10); cf. also v. 7: “if you should remain in me, and my words [r(h/mata] should remain in you…”.

Some of the people respond to Jesus’ statement by basing their freedom not on being his disciple (i.e., trusting in him), but on their ethnic-religious identity as ‘children of Abraham,’ along with what that implies—God’s chosen people (Israel), in covenant-bond with Him:

“…we have been enslaved [vb douleu/w] to no one ever, (so) how can you say that ‘you will come to be free’?” (v. 33)

In answer to them, Jesus expounds his statement in two ways. First, he defines freedom and slavery in terms of sin:

“every (one) doing the sin is a slave [dou=lo$] of the sin” (v. 34)

Second, he explains its meaning specifically in Christological terms—that is, in terms of his identity as the Son (of God):

“the slave [dou=lo$] does not remain in the house into the Age, (but) the Son remains into the Age.” (v. 35)

On the surface, Jesus is simply making a distinction between a household slave and a (human) son of the house; however, on a deeper level there can be no doubt that he is also referring to his identity as the Son—one who remains in God’s house forever. In this regard, the two aspects of vv. 34-35 are unquestionably related, since, in the Johannine theology (and the Gospel), sin (a(marti/a, vb a(marta/nw) refers principally to the great sin of unbelief—of failing or refusing to trust in Jesus as the Son of God (see esp. 16:9).

The second occurrence of dou=lo$ is the saying by Jesus in 13:16 (alluded to also in 15:20):

“a slave [dou=lo$] is not greater than his lord, nor is (one) sent forth [a)po/stolo$] greater that the (one hav)ing sent [vb pe/mpw] him”

This saying comes from the Last Supper scene, in the context of the foot-washing episode (13:4-15), and serves as its culmination. It emphasizes the need for the disciple to follow the example (and command) of his/her master. But there is also, in this saying, a strong Christological emphasis, as in 8:34-35 (cf. above). In the Johannine Gospel, the verbs a)poste/llw / pe/mpw (“send [forth]”) refer primarily to Jesus’ identity as the Son who was sent (to earth from heaven) by God the Father. This implies that a disciple is one who trusts in Jesus as the Son.

In the narrative context of the Last Discourse, the disciples do not yet truly understand the nature of who Jesus is. They have trust, but not yet a true awareness or understanding. Therefore, it is still possible for Jesus to refer to them as “slaves/servants” (dou=loi), as is implied in 13:16. However, with the Vine-illustration, which lies at the center of the Last Discourse, this situation begins to change. Now Jesus says to them, “I no longer [ou)ke/ti] say you (are) slave/servants [dou=loi]…”. The characteristic of the household slave is that, while he is obedient, he does not fully know (or understand) what his master is doing. That has been the disciples’ position up to this point. Now, however, it has changed:

“but (now) I have called you dear (one)s [fi/loi]”

The basis for this change is that now they are beginning to know and understand “what their lord does” —implying a growing awareness in his identity as the Son sent by God the Father. This Christological point is clear from the wording:

“…(in) that all the (thing)s that I (have) heard (from) alongside my Father, I (have) made known to you.”

This has been a key emphasis throughout the Gospel—viz., that the Son’s words come from the Father, that Jesus speaks to believers what he has heard from the Father. He has been doing this all along, but now, during the Last Discourse, it has been revealed to his disciples in a new and more complete way. It begins a process of revelation that will continue, through the presence of the Spirit (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15).

The disciples are to remain in both his word (8:31; 15:7) and his love (15:4ff, 9-10ff), even before the coming of the Spirit (cf. the context of 14:15-21). Ultimately the true disciple (believer) remains in him, in this same way, through the presence of the Spirit.


Saturday Series: John 8:31-47

John 8:31-47

The next sin-reference in the Gospel of John comes in the next section (8:31-47) of the Sukkot Discourse of chapters 7-8 (see last week’s study on 8:21-30). As I have previously mentioned, the Sukkot Discourse (excluding 7:53-8:11) actually is comprised of a series of interrelated discourses—or, we may say, discourse-units. Each of these follows the basic pattern of the Johannine Discourses of Jesus:

    • Saying/statement by Jesus
    • Response by his hearers (often in the form of a question), indicating that they have misunderstood the true/deeper meaning of his words
    • Exposition by Jesus
    • [Sometimes the Question/Exposition pattern is repeated, forming a longer exchange between Jesus and his hearers]

Here, in this section (and discourse-unit) we are examining, the principal statement by Jesus is:

“If you remain in my word, (then) truly you are my learners [i.e. disciples], and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (vv. 31-32)

This declaration emphasizes the theme of freedom, and of being set/made free (vb eleutheróœ); however, this idea of freedom represents the climax of a chain of relation and causality:

    • “If you remain in my word, (then) =>
      • you will know the truth, and (then) =>
        • the truth will set you free.”

Remaining in Jesus’ “word” (lógos) is a fundamental characteristic demonstrating that one is a true disciple of Jesus (i.e., a believer in Christ). The common verb ménœ (“remain”) is an important Johannine keyword; in the Gospel and Letters, where it occurs with great frequency, it is almost always used in a special theological sense—that is, of the believer abiding in God, and God in the believer. One abides/remains in God (the Father) through Jesus (the Son), and one abides/remains in the Son through the presence of the Spirit. This is the essence of the Johannine theology.

The idea of remaining (or abiding) in Jesus’ word also has special theological (and Christological) meaning, related to the specific use of the noun lógos (see especially the Prologue, 1:1ff, and compare 1 John 1:1ff). Since Jesus the Son is the incarnate Word (Logos) of God, to abide in this Word means abiding in the Son (i.e., the person of Christ) himself. At the same time, lógos also refers to the words spoken by Jesus—that is, his teaching and proclamation. In the Johannine writings, these two aspects of the word lógos cannot be separated.

Clearly, the Jews hearing Jesus at the time could not possibly have understood the true meaning of his statement, with all its theological implications. Naturally, and in the pattern of the Discourses, his audience would respond with a question or statement indicating their misunderstanding. Interestingly, what they latch onto is the freedom-motif. They understand well enough the implications of this motif in context: those who are Jesus’ disciples will be set free; and, since most of the Jews in the audience were not his disciples, they therefore were not free (meaning they were in some kind of slavery or bondage). There is clearly a measure of resentment in their response:

“We are (the) seed of Abraham, and not to any one have we been enslaved at any time; how (then) can you say that ‘You shall be made free’?” (v. 33)

Though the people misunderstand the full meaning of Jesus’ words, they do recognize that he is talking about freedom (eleuthería) in something of a religious sense. This is the only way to explain their appeal to being the descendants (lit. “seed”) of Abraham. Much as Paul, in Galatians and Romans, also utilizes the figure of Abraham, the Jews responding to Jesus seem to use Abraham as a shorthand way of referring to their position as God’s chosen people, entailing a unique relationship to God the Father (YHWH) sealed by a covenant bond; this bond ultimately goes back to YHWH’s promise(s) to Abraham (cf. my earlier studies on the Covenant in the series “The People of God”).

In Jesus’ own response that follows, he explains further what he means when he speaks of freedom and slavery, defining those concepts in terms of sin (hamartía):

“Every (one) doing sin is a slave of sin.” (v. 34)

The implication is that the people (i.e., Jesus’ hearers) are slaves to sin, and the indication of this state of slavery is the fact that they are doing (poiœ¡n) sin. The Johannine writings frequently make use of a substantive verbal noun (participle) as a way of referencing the fundamental (and defining) characteristic of a person—i.e., “the one doing {such}”; distinctly Johannine is the use of the adjective pás (“all, every”) to amplify this attribution, giving it a universal scope: “every one doing {such}”. This idiom, with its syntax, is made to apply particularly to the contrast between those belonging to God (i.e., believers) and those belonging to the world.

Thus, in Johannine theological terms, the phrase “every one doing sin” should be taken as characteristic of non-believers or unbelievers—those who refuse (or are unable) to trust in Jesus. But how is the term “sin” (hamartía) to be understood here? In last week’s study, I proposed that the concept of sin in the Johannine writings has two aspects or levels of meaning: (1) sin in the general or conventional sense of ethical-religious wrongs and misdeeds; and (2) sin in specific (theological) sense of unbelief (i.e., failing to trust in Jesus as the Son of God). Here, in verse 34, Jesus seems, on the surface, to be speaking of sin in the former aspect, i.e., the general sense of moral wrongs and misdeeds, etc; however, the latter (theological) aspect suddenly comes into view if we translate the verse literally, rendering precisely the singular noun with the definite article:

“Every (one) doing the sin is a slave of the sin.”

On a practical level, there must have been a number of Jews in Jesus’ audience who generally lived and acted in a moral and upright way, so that one could not have realistically referred to them as being “slaves of sin”. However, in at least one respect, they were unquestionably enslaved—with regard to the great sin of unbelief. By doing this sin, i.e., rejecting Jesus and failing/refusing to trust in him, these people show themselves to be slaves to their unbelief, to the point that they would even act with violence against Jesus. The hostility of Jesus’ audience toward him throughout most of the Sukkot Discourse is clear enough; the discourse-units all contain some mention of the desire of people to arrest and/or kill him (7:19-20, 30, 44ff; 8:20, 40, 59). While some did respond with trust to Jesus’ teaching (8:30, and the statement in v. 31 is directed to them), the overall reaction of the crowd was hostility and rejection.

The Christological orientation of the concept of sin, suggested above, would seem to be confirmed by Jesus’ words as he continues his exposition:

“And the slave does not remain in the house into the Age, (but) the Son (does) remain into the Age.” (v. 35)

On the surface, Jesus is simply making an illustration based on the distinction between a household slave/servant and a son (compare Paul’s illustration in Gal 4:1-7). However, according to the true/deeper meaning of his words, Jesus is making a theological point: “the Son (of God) remains into the Age”. It is a Christological declaration of the Son’s (i.e., Jesus’ own) Divine and eternal status. The Son (and those who “remain” in him, v. 31; i.e., believers) are contrasted with the “slave” (i.e., unbelievers). The “slave” does not trust in the Son, and thus is enslaved to sin. Consider how Jesus expresses this in the statement that follows:

“Therefore, if the Son should make you free, (then) being free you shall be” (v. 36)

I have translated this verse quite literally, as a careful rendering of the words being used is particularly important here. The verb eleutheróœ (“make/set free”) is used in the first clause, as it is in verse 31 (see above). It is the Son (Jesus) who makes a person free. Given the sin-context in v. 34, we are perhaps justified in reading this statement in light of the “Lamb of God” declaration in 1:29 (see the earlier study). Through trust in Jesus as the Son, which includes trust in his sacrificial death (as the slain Lamb) with its life-giving power, a person’s sin is “taken away”, and the person is thus set free.

The second clause of v. 36 describes the condition of the believer who has been set free (from sin). There are three components to this clause, the first two of which should be taken together:

    • being [óntœs] free [eleútheroi]”
    • you shall be [ésesthe]”

The first word is a participle of the verb of being. At many points in the Gospel of John, the verb of being has a distinctly theological significance, reflecting the very being and essential attributes, etc, of God. Its use here suggests that the freedom (adjective eleútheros) possessed by the believer has a Divine character; its Divine source was already indicated in the first clause (see above). It also connotes the reality of the believer’s freedom; this is a true and complete freedom from sin (and the effects of sin), but its reality is also rooted in the believer’s abiding union with God (see above on the Johannine use of the verb ménœ, “remain”).

The verb of being also occurs, in the future tense (“you shall be”), as the third component of the second clause. The future tense here may be explained in terms of the Johannine eschatology. The promise of true freedom for the believer has two eschatological aspects: (1) the believer will be free from the end-time Judgment and the death it brings; but also (2) this freedom is also realized now, in the present, through the presence of the Spirit (compare the association of the Spirit with freedom in 2 Cor 3:17). The power of sin is undone and removed (1:29) by trust in Jesus (the Son); trust itself eliminates the great sin of unbelief, and the life-giving power of Jesus’ death cleanses us from (i.e., removes) all other sin.

Next week, we will continue this study, looking at the remainder of the Discourse-unit, including the further sin-reference in verse 46.

May 3: Romans 8:21-23

Romans 8:21-23

Towards the end of chapter 8 (cf. the previous note on Rom 8:10-11), Paul brings in a strong eschatological emphasis. Many Christians today do not fully appreciate the importance of eschatology in early Christian thought. I have discussed the subject at length in the earlier series “Prophecy and Eschatology in the New Testament” (cf. the Part 2 of the article on Romans). For first-century Christians, their eschatology was imminent, expecting  that the end would come very soon, probably within the lifetime of most believers. Salvation was understood primarily in terms of being saved from the coming Judgment.

Following the Judgment, a New Age would be inaugurated for humankind; the eschatological expectation of many Jews and Christians of the time included the idea of a complete transformation of all creation—drawing upon the prophetic tradition of a “new heavens and new earth” (Isa 65:17ff; 66:22; cf. Revelation 21:1-2; 2 Peter 3:13). Paul is expressing a similar idea here in Rom 8:18-23, working from the premise, shared by most Christians at the time, that the New Age had already been ushered in, but was only realized (in the present) for believers. This way of thinking is typically referred to as “realized eschatology” —the promise of salvation, eternal life, the resurrection of the body, and so forth—all of this is experienced by believers in Christ, in a preliminary way, through the presence of the Spirit.

Thus, as Paul expounds the matter in vv. 18-23, believers represent the ‘first-fruits’, a)parxh/, literally the beginning (of the ingathering) from (the harvest)—the harvest being a natural motif for the end of the Age. The good grain/fruit is brought in, while the bad/useless chaff is discarded (and burnt up)—cf. Mark 4:29; Matt 3:12 par; 13:30, 38ff; Rev 14:15-20; also Matt 9:37-38 par; John 4:35; cp. Jer 51:33; Joel 3:13, etc). From an eschatological standpoint, this signifies a temporal priority—i.e., the initial transformation of believers, through our possession of the Spirit, marks the beginning of the New Age.

For believers in Christ, the end time, in spite of the suffering (like that of a woman in labor) that takes place, ultimately provides a reason for great hope. Indeed, Paul declares that the present (eschatological) suffering cannot compare to the honor/splendor (do/ca) which we are about to experience (v. 18). In his words, the sufferings of “the time (right) now” are not comparable to the do/ca “being about to be uncovered [i.e. revealed] unto us” (note the imminence of this expectation). The prepositional expression ei)$ h(ma=$ could also be translated “in us”.

This hope for believers also gives hope to the rest of creation (as a whole). Paul refers to this in verse 19 as the “a)pokaradoki/a of the foundation”. The compound noun a)pokaradoki/a is almost impossible to translate; it essentially refers to the act of stretching out one’s head (and neck) with the hopes of seeing/perceiving something. The noun kti/si$, which I translate as “foundation,” properly refers to something that is founded or formed (vb kti/zw), cf. Rom 1:25. It is best understood here in a comprehensive/collective sense, referring to all of creation (cp. the use in Rom 1:20). Creation is looking out, hoping to receive (i.e. experience) the end-time manifestation of “the sons of God” (i.e. believers). Currently, this identity of believers is hidden, realized only internally, through the presence of the Spirit; eventually, the honor/splendor (do/ca) of this status will shine forth for all to see.

In verses 20-22, Paul strikingly attributes to all of creation, the same bondage (doulei/a, lit. slavery) which human beings suffered, prior to the coming of Christ. Just as all of humankind was in bondage to the power of sin and death, so all of creation is similarly enslaved. The primary manifestation of this is the fact that all of creation is subject to death and decay (fqora/). Creation has been put in (submissive) order under the authority of sin/death; this idea is expressed by the verb u(pota/ssw. However, the subject of the participle u(pota/canta in v. 20, referring to the person who put creation under this bondage, is not entirely clear. The best explanation is that Paul identifies God as the ultimate cause—He subjected creation to this bondage, allowing it to be so enslaved, with the final hope in mind: that eventually all of creation would be set free from this bondage.

Currently, this freedom is only experienced by believers in Christ, and only through the internal presence of the Spirit. But the time will (soon) come when the same freedom will be realized by all of creation:

“…even the foundation [i.e. creation] itself will be set free from the slavery of th(is) decay, into the freedom of the honor/splendor [do/ca] of the offspring of God.” (v. 21)

All of creation collectively suffers (v. 22), groaning and being in pain (like a woman in labor), but this suffering will lead to a new birth—the manifestation of the sons/children of God. Here in chap. 8, Paul utilizes both the noun ui(o/$ (ui(oi/, “sons”), and the more generic te/knon (pl. te/kna), “offspring”, with no real difference in meaning. By contrast, in the Johannine writings, believers are always referred to as “offspring [te/kna] of God”, with the noun ui(o/$ (“son”) reserved for Jesus. Paul’s use of ui(oi/ in vv. 14, 19 is perhaps influenced by the adoption motif in chapter 8 (esp. verses 14-17). The noun ui(oqesi/a literally means “placement as a son” (cf. also Gal 4:5 in context). Paul does, however, share with the Johannine writings the belief that Divine sonship is realized exclusively through our relationship to Jesus, the unique Son (vv. 29ff).

The climax of this exposition comes in verse 23, where Paul (finally) makes reference again to the Spirit. He makes clear that the transformation of creation will occur just as it does for believers—through the life-giving power of the Spirit:

“And not only (this), but (we our)selves, holding the beginning from (the harvest) of the Spirit, we also groan in ourselves, (look)ing out to receive placement as son(s), the loosing from (bondage) of our bodies.”

The occurrence of the noun ui(oqesi/a again here in v. 23 (indicated in light gray text) is problematic, and some commentators would omit it. Indeed, it is not present in a number of manuscripts (Ë46 D F G 614). Its inclusion would imply that believers do not already have “placement as (God’s) sons,” quite contrary to what Paul indicated earlier in vv. 14-17. By contrast, what we are currently still awaiting is the full realization of this identity—which will take place at the end-time resurrection, when our bodies will at last be set free from bondage to death. In this regard, we have the same groaning expectation as the rest of creation, even though we have already been set free from bondage within, through the presence of the Spirit.

Though Paul does not state this here, the transforming power of the Spirit, communicating the live-giving power of God (over death), is specifically related to our participation in the death of Jesus. This is to be inferred based on what was said earlier in vv. 10-11 (as also in 6:1-11)—on which, cf. the discussion in the previous note.

April 28: Romans 7:6

Romans 7:6

The emphasis in Romans 6 was on the believer’s freedom from the power of sin. This freedom is obtained by being “in Christ” —as expressed by the idea, drawn from the symbolism of the baptism-rite, of our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here in chapter 7 (vv. 1-6), Paul introduces a second, related, aspect of our freedom in Christ—namely, that we are also freed from the binding authority of the Torah regulations (i.e., the Law). This is Paul’s focus throughout his letter to the Galatians, and is also the aspect of freedom that he emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 3 (cf. my recent study on this passage). The focus on the Torah is introduced here in vv. 1-6, and then the relationship between the Law and sin is expounded in the remainder of the chapter (vv. 7-25).

Paul begins his discussion in chap. 7 with an illustration involving the binding force of the marriage bond (vv. 1-3). When a woman’s husband dies, she is no longer bound to him by law, and she is free to give herself to another. This illustration is comparable to several that Paul utilizes in Galatians (e.g., 3:23-26ff; 4:1-7), as a way of explaining how the binding authority of the Torah only applied for a certain period of time—when that time is over, a person is no longer under its authority. According to Paul, the period of time when the Torah regulations were in force, has come to an end with Jesus (Rom 10:4, etc). Here is how he states the matter in 7:4:

“So then, my brothers, you also (have) become dead to the Law, through the body of the Anointed, unto your coming to be(long) [i.e so that you might belong] to another—to the (one hav)ing been raised out of (the) dead—(so) that we might bear fruit to God.”

Notice the way that Paul weaves in the ‘dying/rising with Christ’ theme (from chap. 6) into his application of the illustration. Jesus is identified with the ‘husband’ who died, thus voiding the force of the law for the woman (i.e., the believer); then Jesus is identified further with the new husband (“another” man), under an entirely new and different kind of marriage bond—one which has the purpose of “bearing fruit” to God.

The old husband (Jesus under the law) died and the woman (the believer) marries a new husband (the resurrected/exalted Jesus). This transfer is achieved through the believer’s participation in both Jesus’ death (“through the body of the Anointed”) and resurrection (“to the one having been raised out of the dead”).

Following this explanation, Paul again mentions (in v. 5) how this participation has set us free from the binding power of sin:

“For, when we were in the flesh, (the thing)s (being) suffered of sins, which (were realized) through the Law, worked in our members [i.e. body parts], unto the bearing of fruit to sin;”

The rather complex language here, describing the relationship between sin and the Law, is expounded by Paul in vv. 7ff. The syntax reflects a certain chain of logic:

    • “in the flesh” (i.e. prior to our coming to faith)
      • “the things suffered [paqh/mata] of [i.e. involving] sins”
        “that [were realized] through the Law”
    • “worked in our members”
      • “for bearing fruit to sin”

Stated more conventionally: there were passions and impulses “in our flesh” tending toward sin; these were active and at work in our “body parts”, spurring us on to sinful action (“bearing fruit to sin”). The same verb (karpofore/w, “bear fruit”) was used in v. 4 (cf. above), emphasizing the contrast between serving sin and serving God. Regarding this motif of bearing “fruit” (karpo/$), one is immediately reminded of Paul’s contrast between the “fruit of the Spirit” and the “works [‘fruit’ in a negative sense] of the flesh” in Gal 5:19-22.

As in Gal 5:24 (cf. also 2:19-21), the main point is that believers in Christ, who have died with him, have died to these sinful impulses: we are no longer in bondage to them. By participating in Jesus’ sacrificial death, we have been set free from their enslaving power. This also applies to the binding power of the Torah regulations, as is made clear in the continuation of Paul’s thought in v. 6:

“but now, we (have) been made to cease working from (under) the Law, (hav)ing died away in that by which we were held down, so that we (are now) to be a slave in (the) newness of (the) Spirit, and not in (the) oldness of (the) letter.”

Much of this language is repeated from 2 Corinthians 3—especially the use of the key verb katarge/w (vv. 7, 11, 13-14), the contrast between the Spirit and the “letter” (gra/mma, vv. 6-7), and the implicit contrast between the “old” and “new” covenants. On the last point, the expression “newness [kaino/th$] of the Spirit” certainly corresponds with the new (kaino/$) covenant in 2 Cor 3:6, just as “oldness [palaio/th$] of the letter” corresponds with the old (palaio/$) covenant in v. 14. For more on this, cf. the recent article in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”, along with the associated set of exegetical notes.

The same noun, kaino/th$, was used in 6:4 (cf. the earlier note); it is used in precisely parallel expressions, which also have comparable meaning:

    • “in newness of life” (e)n kaino/thti zwh=$)
    • “in newness of (the) Spirit” (e)n kaino/thti pneu/mato$)

This makes explicit what was only implied in the earlier passage—namely, that our participation in the death and life (resurrection) of Jesus is realized through the presence of the Spirit. While the Spirit tends to be associated with the life, it must be understood as equally associated with the death of Jesus. This also was indicated earlier, in 5:5, where Paul describes God’s love, present in us through the Spirit, specifically in terms of sacrificial death of Jesus (His Son), vv. 6-11. Thus, the reality and power of both Jesus’ death and his resurrection are communicated to us through the Spirit.

In the next daily note, we will turn to Paul’s discussion in chapter 8, where this role of the Spirit is given special emphasis.

March 21: Romans 8:15

Romans 8:15

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again, unto fear; but (rather), you received (the) Spirit of placement as sons, in which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!'”

This verse builds upon the statement in v. 14 (discussed in the previous note), emphasizing that all believers, led and guided by the Spirit, are sons (ui(oi/) of God. Two key points of Paul’s thought are brought together here: (1) the association of the Spirit with freedom, and (2) the contrast between sonship and slavery. This means, of course, that there is also a close connection between sonship and the Spirit.

Paul dealt with both points extensively in Galatians, and treats them again in the probatio of Romans (esp. chapters 58). The sonship/slavery contrast—whereby the son is understood as the heir of a free person—is central to the illustrations Paul uses in Galatians 4. The Spirit/freedom association is more general, and fundamental, to Christian identity. The Spirit characterizes the new covenant in Christ, and is set in stark contrast with the bondage experienced by humankind under the old covenant. The bondage is, first, to the power of sin (and death); and then, secondly, to the binding authority of the Torah regulations. The believer in Christ is freed from both kinds of bondage, which Paul combines in the expression “the law of sin and of death” in Rom 8:2, to which is contrasted “the law of the Spirit of life”.

The association of the Law (Torah) with sin and death is a complex (and controversial) aspect of Paul’s theology. He deals with it in Galatians 3-4 (esp. chapter 3), but more extensively here in Romans 5-8 (esp. chapter 7). In Galatians (and also in 2 Corinthians 3) Paul emphasizes freedom from the Law, while in Romans his focus is on freedom from bondage to the power of sin. The Spirit-freedom connection features prominently in 2 Corinthians 3 (cf. the earlier article), especially the climactic declarations in vv. 17-18.

Let us see how Paul utilizes these themes here. The first statement in v. 15 is:

“You did not receive a spirit of slavery again”
ou) e)la/bete pneu=ma doulei/a$ pa/lin

The expression “spirit of slavery” (pneu=ma doulei/a$) seems something of an oxymoron, since, as noted above, the Spirit is associated with freedom (e)leuqeri/a), the exact opposite of slavery. Paul is, of course, here referring to a very different kind of “spirit”, one which is altogether opposite of the freedom believers have in the Spirit. The use of the expression “spirit of slavery” was doubtless intended to strike the reader’s attention in this regard, much like the different ways he makes use of the term “law” (no/mo$) in verse 2. The qualifying expression “unto fear” (ei)$ fo/bon), emphasizes the effect of being a slave: it leads to a pervasive sense of fear. The person who is free does not live under this fear.

The verb lamba/nw (“receive”) alludes to the fact that believers received the Spirit, upon coming to trust in Jesus (symbolized by the baptism rite). It is the Spirit of freedom, and shows that believers have been set free from bondage, both to the power of sin and to the Law (cf. above). The implication is that we, as believers, ought not to think and act as though we are still in bondage, nor allow ourselves, in any way, to come under such bondage again. The latter point, in particular, is emphasized here by Paul, with his use of the qualifying adverb pa/lin (“again”).

As mentioned above, Paul is focusing primarily in Romans on bondage to the power of sin, and this is the principal context here. In this regard, verse 15 echoes his exhortation in vv. 12-13, which is worth examining again briefly:

“So then, brothers, we are not (one)s owing [i.e. debtors] to the flesh, (so as) to live according to the flesh” (v. 12)

Here bondage is defined in terms of debt, of something one owes (vb o)fei/lw) to another. Paul uses the noun o)feile/th$, “one who owes, debtor”, which would characterize the condition of believers prior to faith in Jesus—i.e., as ones in bondage to the power of sin. The debt-motif suggests, in some respects, a softer form of bondage, and this may be intentional. For Paul is referring, not to bondage under sin, but to believer’s relationship to the flesh (sa/rc).

The “flesh” concept in Paul’s thought is multifaceted and complex. Even though believers are set free from bondage to sin, we are not entirely freed from the negative influence of the flesh. We still must grapple with the flesh, as a source of temptation, of an impulse toward sin. It is as though the “flesh” of a person retains the ‘muscle memory’ of what it was like to be in bondage to sin, of being compelled to serve it (as a slave). In verse 12, Paul makes clear that we, as believers, do not owe anything to the “flesh”, and are not obligated to follow its impulses toward sin. However, it is only by being “in the Spirit,” of ‘walking’ by it, and allowing the Spirit to lead us (v. 15), that the “flesh” ceases to have any effective influence on us. Paul emphasizes the volitional side of this dynamic, of the need for believers to be willing to follow the Spirit, rather than the flesh, in v. 13:

“If you live according to (the) flesh, you are about to [i.e. you will] die away; but if, in (the) Spirit, you put to death the deeds of body, you will live.”

The inflected noun pneu/mati (dative case), being without a governing preposition, could also be translated “by the Spirit”, or even “through the Spirit”. Paul says very much the same thing in Gal 5:16:

“Walk about in the Spirit [pneu/mati], and (the) impulse [e)piqumi/a] of (the) flesh you shall not complete”

The noun e)piqumi/a essentially means an impulse (qu/mo$) toward something; in English idiom, we would describe this in terms of setting our heart/mind “upon” (e)pi/) something. Here, in this religious-ethical context, it clearly refers to an impulse toward sin. The expression “deeds of the body” in Rom 8:13 is more or less synonymous with “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:19ff.

However, in Galatians, Paul also warns his readers specifically against allowing themselves to be put under bondage to the Law (i.e., the Torah regulations of the old covenant). He states this most clearly in Gal 5:1, and the wording “yoke of slavery again” (pa/lin zugo/$ doulei/a$) is similar enough to Rom 8:15, that we can assume that Paul would include the idea of bondage to the Law as part of the “slavery” (doulei/a) referenced there. This is also confirmed by the entire line of argument in chapter 8.

In the next daily note, we will discuss the second part of verse 15.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: Paul: Romans 8:1-17ff

Romans 8:1-17ff

Romans 8 represents Paul’s most extensive and concentrated teaching on the Spirit. It is thus central to a proper understanding of his spiritualism. In this chapter, Paul touches upon many of the themes and ideas expressed in the earlier passages we have studied, bringing them together in a more systematic way. This article will focus on verses 1-11, while vv. 12-17, though included in the discussion below, will be dealt with in more detail in a set of supplemental daily notes.

Chapter 8 is the fourth, and final, major section of the probatio of Romans (Rom 1:18-8:39). The first three sections were:

    • Rom 1:18-3:20: Announcement of God’s (impending) judgment, according to the Law (of God)
    • Rom 3:21-5:21: Announcement of God’s justice/righteousness (in Christ), apart from the Law (Torah)
    • Rom 6:1-7:25: Announcement of Freedom from the Law and Sin

This last section (chapter 8) I would divide as follows:

    • Rom 8:1-30: Announcement of Life in the Spirit (Exhortation)
      8:1-11: The conflict (for believers) between the Spirit and the Flesh
      8:12-17: Believers are sons (of God) and heirs (with Christ) through the Spirit
      8:18-25: Believers have the hope of future glory (new creation) through the Spirit
      8:26-30: Believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit
    • Rom 8:31-39: Doxology: The Love of God (in Christ)

Having just worked intensively through the relation between Law and Sin (see the article on Rom 7:7-25 in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”), with the emphasis on the believer’s freedom (in Christ) from both, Paul now proceeds to discuss the life of the believer in the Spirit (of God and Christ). This thematic emphasis is, in some ways, parallel to the exhortation in Galatians 5:16-25 (discussed in the previous article in the current series)—believers who are freed from the binding force of the Law (and Sin), now live according to the power and guidance of the Spirit.

Two main themes are present in the discussion on the Spirit here in Rom 8:1-11:

    • The presence of the Spirit marks the New Covenant for God’s people (believers), taking the place of the Old Covenant Law (Torah) as the guiding and governing principle
    • The Spirit is tied to believers’ union with Jesus Christ, as symbolized in the baptism ritual
Verses 1-11

The theme of this section is the conflict for believers between the Spirit and the Flesh, introduced by Paul in Rom 7:14, but which is more familiar from the famous discussion in Gal 5:16ff. In Rom 7:7-25, human beings were dramatized as struggling with the flesh, but under the enslaving power of sin and the Law; now, having been delivered from the Law and sin, the struggle with the “flesh” (sa/rc) remains. This deliverance is defined according to two principal declarations in vv. 1-2:

“(So) then, now (there is) not any judgment against the (one)s in (the) Anointed Yeshua. For the law of the Spirit of life in (the) Anointed Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (vv. 1-2)

    1. “Now there is not any [ou)de/n] judgment against [kata/krima] the (one)s (who are) in (the) Anointed Yeshua” (v. 1)—addressed collectively to all believers, this describes the elimination of judgment (by God) against human beings (announced in Rom 1:18ff); this judgment was the result of violation of the Law by human beings, under the power of sin. This removal of judgment is the product of “justification”, of God “making (things) right” again for humankind, and, in particular, of making believers right and just in His eyes.
    2. “For the Law of the Spirit of life, in (the) Anointed Yeshua, has set you free from the Law of Sin and of Death” (v. 2)—the majority text reads “set me free”, by which Paul would be personalizing the matter, much as he does in 7:7-25—either way, the personal pronoun is representative of all believers.

The entirety of the old order of things—bondage of humankind under the power of sin, and the corresponding bondage under the power of the Torah (with its regulations regarding sin)—has been swept away for believers in Christ. We are truly set free from both—sin and the Torah. Paul plays on the word no/mo$, which typically in his letters refers to the Old Testment Law (Torah), though occasionally he uses the expression “the law [no/mo$] of God”, which has a wider meaning—i.e., the will of God for His people, as expressed (specifically) in the Torah. Paul uses the word in both of these ways here in vv. 1-11, but also in two specialized expressions:

    • the law [o( no/mo$] of the Spirit [tou= pneu/mato$] of life [th=$ zwh=$]
    • the law [o( no/mo$] of sin [th=$ a(marti/a$] and of death [kai\ tou= qana/tou]

Here we find also a new use of the word no/mo$ (“law”) in the expression o( no/mo$ tou= pneu/mato$ th=$ zwh=$ (“the Law of the Spirit of Life”)—pneu=ma here certainly referring to the (Holy) Spirit. In Galatians, the Spirit is seen as taking the place of the Law for believers (cf. Gal 5:16ff), and should be understood in this way here, but with the added emphasis on its sanctifying and life-bestowing power—Life contrasted with Death. The expression “the Law of Sin and Death” is an expansion of “the Law of Sin” in Rom 7:23-25; it reflects the dynamic of Sin and the Law at work, both against each other, and also working together according to God’s purpose (see esp. Rom 11:32). The expression should not be reduced simply to the “principle of sin”.

The formal parallelism shows that here “the Spirit” is parallel with “sin”, and is meant as an absolute contrast; in light of the overall discussion in Romans, this would be defined as “bondage under sin” vs. “freedom in the Spirit”. Thus, in addition to the Torah itself, there is a “law of the Spirit” and a “law of sin” —two great guiding principles for all of humankind. Believers in Christ follow the law of the Spirit, while all other people are bound to continue following the law of sin. The Torah, which previously played a kind of intermediary role between these two principles, no longer applies for believers. Since it is sin that leads to a sentence of judgment (kri=ma) from God, and believers are freed from the power of sin (and all its effects), there is no longer occasion for any such sentence to be brought down (kata/) against us. Life is the opposite of death, which would be the ultimate punishment (judgment) for sin.

In verses 3 and 4, this deliverance is described in terms of Christ’s sacrificial death:

“For the powerless (thing) of the Law [i.e. what the Law lacked power to do], in which [i.e. in that] it was weak through the flesh, God (has done), sending his own Son in (the) likeness of flesh of sin [i.e. sinful flesh] and about [i.e. for the sake of] sin, judged against sin in the flesh, (so) that the just/right (thing) of the Law should be filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in us—the (one)s not walking about according to (the) flesh, but according to (the) Spirit.” (vv. 3-4)

These powerful verses are dense with key elements of Pauline theology, expressed in language that can be difficult to translate (as the glosses in brackets above indicate). There are two especially important ideas that define Paul’s line of thought:

    • it is in the “flesh” (sa/rc) that the power of sin is localized and manifest in human beings, evident by a universal impulse toward sinful thoughts and actions; even for believers, this impulse to sin remains in the flesh (to varying degrees), though we are no longer enslaved by its power—i.e. we have the ability not to respond to the impulse
    • it was the sacrificial death of Jesus that enables believers to be free from the power of sin (and the judgment of God against sin)

Paul uses the verb katakri/nw (“judge against, bring down judgment [against]”), which is cognate to the noun kata/krima in verse 1 (cf. above), to make the point that the judgment against sin was realized in the death of Jesus—not against the human beings who sinned, but against sin itself, stripping it of its death-yielding power over humankind. The matter of the relationship of Jesus’ death to sin is highly complex, and cannot be discussed in detail here (cf. my earlier note on these verses [along with 2 Cor 5:19-21]). The main point of emphasis here, in term of Paul’s view of the role of the Spirit, is twofold:

    • Christ’s death freed humankind (believers) from the power of sin, located in the “flesh”
    • Believers are likewise freed from the Law—and we effectively fulfill the Law completely (and automatically) insofar as we “walk according to the Spirit” (cf. the previous article on Gal 5:16-25)

The remainder of this section, vv. 5-11, follows very much in line with Galatians 5:16-25, contrasting the Spirit with the flesh.

“For the (one)s being [i.e. who are] according to the flesh give mind (to) the (thing)s of the flesh, but the (one)s (who are) according to (the) Spirit (give mind to) the (thing)s of the Spirit. For the mindset of the flesh (leads to) death, but the mindset of the Spirit (leads to) life and peace, through (the fact) that the mindset of the flesh (means) hostility to God, for it is not put in order under the law of God, and (indeed) it is not able to be; and the (one)s being [i.e. who are] in (the) flesh are not able to please God.” (vv. 5-8)

These verses essentially expound the contrast between “walking according to the flesh” and “walking according to the Spirit”, the ethical and religious aspect being broadened to cover the anthropological (and ontological) dimension of humankind. We are dealing with two kinds of people: (1) faithful believers in Christ, and (2) all other human beings. The first group is guided by the Spirit, the second by the flesh (and the impulse to sin that resides in the flesh). This shows how deep the flesh vs. Spirit dichotomy (and dualism) was for Paul.

Paul’s use of the word translated “flesh” (sa/rc) is complex and highly nuanced; it primarily refers to the human body, and its parts, but especially in the sense that it is affected and influenced by the impulse (e)piqumi/a) to sin. Paul clearly believed that this impulse to sin still remained in the “flesh”, even for Christians (Gal 5:17), but the enslaving power of sin had been removed—believers now have the freedom and ability to choose to follow God’s will. This choosing is expressed by use of the word fro/nhma (vv. 6-7, also in v. 27), rather difficult to translate, but which indicates the exercise of the mind, both in terms of understanding and the will. In typically dualistic fashion, Paul contrasts the fro/nhma th=$ sarko/$ (“mind[edness] of the flesh”) with the fro/nhma tou= pneu/mato$ (“mind[edness] of the Spirit”).

“And (yet) you are not in (the) flesh, but in (the) Spirit, if indeed (it is that the) Spirit of God houses [i.e. dwells] in you. And if any (one) does not hold (the) Spirit of (the) Anointed, that (person) is not his [i.e. does not belong to Christ].” (v. 9)

The condition of being and “walking” (i.e. living/acting) in the Spirit depends on the Spirit being in the believer. The reciprocity of this relationship is stressed by Paul no less than in the Johannine writings. What is striking is the way that this is expressed by the dual identification of the Spirit as both “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ“. The latter expression is rare in Paul’s letters, but, as this verse indicates, “Spirit of Christ” is used interchangeably with “Spirit of God”, as though both refer equally to the same Spirit. For more on this point, see the supplemental notes on vv. 12-17 (and cf. also the earlier note on 1 Cor 6:17ff; 15:44-46).

In verses 9-11, Paul gives a threefold qualification of the Spirit:

    • the “Spirit of God” (pneu=ma Qeou=) which dwells (“houses”) in [e)n] believers (v. 9a)
    • the “Spirit of [the] Anointed {Christ}” (pneu=ma Xristou=), which likewise is in [e)n] believers (v. 10), but believers are also said to “hold” it (v. 9b)
    • the “Spirit of the (one) raising Yeshua from the dead” (i.e. of God), which also dwells in [e)n] believers, and gives life to our mortal (lit. “dying”) bodies just as Christ was raised from the dead (v. 11)

Verse 10 is discussed further in a separate daily note; but here we may consider briefly vv. 10-11 as a unit:

“And if (the) Anointed (One is) in you, (then on one hand) the body (is) dead through sin, but (on the other hand) the Spirit is life through justice/righteousness. And if the Spirit of the (One hav)ing raised Yeshua out of (the) dead houses [i.e. dwells] in you, (then) the (One hav)ing raised (the) Anointed out of (the) dead will also make alive your dying bodies, through His Spirit housing [i.e. dwelling] (with)in you.” (vv. 10-11)

Again, the Spirit dwelling in the believer means Christ dwells in the believer, since the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ. This means that, when we are united with the exalted Jesus through faith (and symbolized by baptism), and his Spirit unites with our spirit, we are also united with the Spirit of God.

The baptismal symbolism involves our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul only alludes to this here, having addressed the point earlier in 6:1-11; indeed, it is one of the most distinctive aspects of his theology. The power of Christ’s death and resurrection is communicated to us through our union with his divine Spirit. The power of his death puts to death the sin in our “flesh”, while the power of his resurrection transforms our entire being with divine life, so that even our decaying bodies will be raised to new life—just as his own body was raised by the power of God’s Spirit. The Spirit is literally to be understood as the very life of God.

Verses 12-17

Verses 12-13 are transitional to vv. 14-17ff, but they also serve to bring the discussion on the Spirit in vv. 1-11 to a close. Paul’s statement in v. 13 could not be more direct or to the point:

“for if you live according to the flesh, you are about to die away, but if, in (the) Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live.”

The contrast between the Spirit and the flesh continues in these verses, which likewise have strong parallels with Galatians:

    • V. 12: An exhortation not to live “according to the flesh” (kata\ sa/rka)—cf. Gal 5:16-17
    • V. 13: A reminder that living/acting according to the flesh leads to death, while the opposite leads to life—cf. Gal 6:7-8; for the idea of “putting to death the deeds of the body”, see Gal 5:24 (also 6:14)
    • V. 14-16: Declaration that through the Spirit believers are made sons/offspring of God—cf. Gal 3:26; 4:1-6 —in particular, verse 15 is extremely close to Gal 4:5-6
    • V. 17: The declaration follows that, if we are sons of God, then we are also his heirs—cf. Gal 3:29; 4:1ff (esp. verse 7); Paul adds here the detail that we are co-heirs (“ones receiving the lot together”) with Christ (see Rom 8:29)

These verses will be given a more detailed exegetical treatment in a set of supplemental notes.

Verses 18-25ff

The theme of believers as sons (and heirs) of God continues in this section with the hope (and promise) of future glory (new creation) that we have through the Spirit. In a truly beautiful, if somewhat enigmatic, passage, Paul describes all of creation as currently in the process of giving birth to something new— “the glory of the offspring of God” (v. 21). Believers are the “firstfruits” of this new creation, a process of our being realized as sons/children of God which will only be completed with our final resurrection and glorification— “the loosing of our bodies from (the bondage of death)” (v. 23). This also is ultimately the realization of salvation (“by [this] hope we are saved”, v. 24).

Verses 26-30

This section emphasizes that believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit, which Paul describes in two ways:

    • Vv. 26-27—The Spirit works on our behalf before God, described according to two richly detailed, compound verbs:
      sunantilamba/netai, “he takes (hold) together opposite (us)”, i.e. he helps and assists us “in our lack of strength”
      u(perentugxa/nei, “he reaches in (and) over (us)”, i.e. he meets us and intercedes on our behalf, specifically in the context of prayer, of “speaking out toward” God
    • Vv. 29-30—God works on our behalf; here Paul presents a schematic or chain of what could be called an “order of salvation”:
      proe/gnw, “he knew before(hand)”
      prow/risen, “he marked out before(hand)”
      e)ka/lesen, “he called”
      e)dikai/wsen, “he made right”, or “he made/declared just”
      e)do/casen, “he esteemed/honored [i.e. granted honor/glory]”

For more on description of the Spirit’s role in vv. 26-27, cf. my recent discussion in the “Notes on Prayer” feature (along with an earlier study); on the parallels with 1 Cor 2:10-16, cf. the article on that passage in the current series.

March 16: Galatians 5:18, 23b

In the last two daily notes, I discussed the first two pairs of statements which bracket vv. 16-25 (see the chiastic outline in the earlier notes). As previously indicated, these pairs may be summarized:

    • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25) [note 1]
    • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24) [note 2]
    • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Today’s note will examine the third and final pair.

Affirmation for believers (regarding Freedom)—Gal 5:18, 23b

Here, again, Paul makes specific reference to freedom from the Law, which is the primary theme running throughout the letter. The two verses, looked at in tandem, are:

V. 18: “But if you are (being) led in the Spirit, you are not under (the) Law
V. 23b: “…(but) against these (thing)s [i.e. the fruit of the Spirit] there is no Law

A casual reading of vv. 16-25 might easily miss the connection between these statements, the parallel being as much conceptual as it is formal. A close examination, however, demonstrates that Paul is making very similar claims; we can best see this by dividing each verse into two parts—the first presenting a conditional clause or phrase involving the Spirit, and the second being a conclusive affirmation regarding believers and the Law.

Part 1: Conditional

V. 18: ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe (“{but} if you are led in the Spirit…”)
V. 23: kata\ tw=n toiou/twn (“against these things…”)

Technically, only verse 18 properly contains a conditional clause, as indicated by the particle ei), “if” (I have left out the coordinating particle de/ [“but”] to better show the condition). The expression pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”) has been discussed in the prior two notes. The verb a&gw essentially means “lead”, but often specifically in the sense of “lead away, carry off, ” etc. Some commentators have thought that Paul’s use here may indicate a charismatic or “mantic” experience, i.e. being “carried away” by the Spirit. This is possible, but the overall context of Galatians strongly suggests that the basic sense of being led (i.e. directed/guided) better applies here. If so, then it fits with the similar language and symbolism Paul uses throughout regarding believers and the Spirit:

    • walk about in the Spirit” (v. 16)
    • walk in line in the Spirit” (v. 25)
    • “sow (seed) into the Spirit” (6:8)

Believers act in (and by) the power of the Spirit, being guided (willingly) by the Spirit; note in this regard:

    • Believers, through faith in Christ, receive the Spirit from God and begin “in the Spirit” (3:2-3, 14; 4:6)
    • God works in believers through the Spirit (3:5; 4:6)
    • We live in the Spirit (5:25)

There is a close formal parallel between v. 18a and 25a:

ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe, “if we are led in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 18a)
ei) zw=men pneu/mati, “if we live in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 25a)

Both, I believe, represent actual conditions, reflecting the reality of the Spirit in the lives of believers. In this regard, let us turn to verse 23, which, as I indicated, is not precisely a conditional clause. In fact, it is dependent upon vv. 22-23a, the list of “fruit of the Spirit” (karpo\$ tou= pneu/mato$)—the demonstrative pronoun toiou=to$, “these (thing)s”, refers to the nine items representing the “fruit”. Effectively, Paul is establishing a condition—i.e., if you exhibit the “fruit” of the Spirit, if the Spirit is working and you allow yourself to be led and guided by it, then know that “against these things…” The use of the preposition kata (“against”) is significant, as it reflects the conflict for believers described in vv. 17 and 24. Throughout Galatians, Paul has mentioned three related forces related to this conflict: (1) the flesh, (2) the Law,  and (3) the power of sin.

Part 2: Affirmation

V. 18: ou)k e)ste\ u(po\ no/mon (“…you are not under Law”)
V. 23: ou)k e)stin no/mo$ (“…there is no Law”)

This is, for Paul, perhaps the fundamental message he wishes to deliver to the Galatians, an affirmation of Christian identity, stated simply, and by way of negation. In verse 18, this relates back to the condition, “if you are led in the Spirit…”, and indicates the result: “…(then) you are not under the Law”. It is hard to imagine a simpler, more definite statement that believers are no longer bound and obligated to observe the commands of the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah). This is especially so when one considers the normal view of Torah precisely as (authoritative) instruction, a set of rules and precepts by which one is led and guided in the way of truth and to fulfill the will of God. For believers, it is rather the Spirit which provides the guidance traditionally ascribed to the Torah.

The statement in verse 23 is especially interesting by comparison, as it has to be understood in the context of vv. 22-23, providing a conclusion to the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” — “against these things [i.e. the fruit] there is no Law”. At first glance, it is not entirely clear what Paul means by this statement. Contextually, and upon examination, one may consider it according to the following aspects:

    1. There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit since they are all good and holy and, practically speaking, there is no law against doing good.
    2. The Law is principally about doing, i.e. “works” (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10-13), but the fruit of the Spirit are not works (as contrasted with “works of the flesh”).
    3. For believers the conflict is now between the Spirit and the flesh (cf. throughout Gal 5:1-6:10)—we are dead to the Law (2:19-20) and freed from its commands (2:4; 3:13, 23-25; 4:1-7, 21-31; 5:1ff), so it no longer applies.
    4. The guidance believers receive (from the Spirit) in governing or regulating attitudes and behavior in ethical (and religious) matters is not “Law” in the sense that the Torah commands are considered “Law”

Arguments can be made in favor of each of these viewpoints, however, I would say that the last two best capture Paul’s meaning and intent. While the context of vv. 22-23 is primary, I believe it is also appropriate, in this instance, to take the clause ‘out of context’, as a separate, independent statement (as I have essentially done above). This yields an especially clear and decisive statement that, for believers (those who are in Christ and in the Spirit), there is no Law. While such a conclusion, in one respect, accurately represents (and punctuates) Paul’s teaching about believers and the Torah, it is not the end of the story. Further on, in Gal 6:2, Paul does refer to a “Law” for believers: “the Law of Christ” (o( no/mo$ tou= Xristou=); I discuss this expression in an earlier note (part of the series “Paul’s View of the Law”).

Spiritualism and the New Testament: Paul: Galatians 5:16-25

Galatians 5:16-25

In the previous article (on Gal 4:21-31), we saw how Paul’s understanding of the Law is framed by a Flesh-Spirit dualism. This is part of a broader contrast between the old covenant (of the Torah regulations) and the new covenant (in Christ). The old covenant belongs to the flesh (despite what Paul says in Rom 7:14), while the new covenant is characterized by the Spirit (cf. Rom 7:6; 8:2ff). This same contrast is central to the discourse in 2 Cor 3:7-18 (discussed at length in a prior article and set of notes), though with the dualistic contrast defined there as Letter-vs-Spirit (cf. Rom 2:29).

Another point of contact between 2 Cor 3:7-18 and Gal 4:21-31 is the theme of freedom (e)leuqeri/a), which characterizes the new covenant, and is closely connected with the presence of the Spirit. In being set free (from bondage to the power of sin), believers in Christ are also freed from the binding authority of the old covenant (and its Torah). This is the sense of the freedom Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, while in Romans the emphasis is on freedom from the power of sin.

But this freedom creates a difficulty for believers. Without the Torah regulations, what guide is there for how one should think and act? What ethical and moral standards are believers to live by? Paul addresses this in the next section of Galatians (5:1-6:10), referred to (in rhetorical terms) as the exhortatio—that is, the section where the author/speaker exhorts his audience to action or to a decision; in a religious or philosophical context, as here, this may be accompanied by ethical-moral instruction (parenesis).

I divide and outline the exhortatio into three main sections, prefaced by a primary exhortation:

    • 5:1—Exhortation regarding freedom vs. slavery
    • 5:2-12—Exhortation/warning regarding the Law (circumcision)
      —vv. 2-6: The Law vs. Christ
      —vv. 7-12: Those who are influencing the Galatians to observe the Law
    • 5:13-25—Exhortation/warning regarding freedom in Christ, which specifically includes:
      —vv. 16-21: The works of the flesh
      —vv. 22-25: The fruit of the Spirit
    • 5:26-6:10—Instruction related to Christian freedom (“walking in the Spirit”)
      5:26-6:6: Dealing with fellow believers—the “law of Christ”
      6:7-10: Harvest illustration and concluding warning

Before proceeding to a discussion of the portion most relevant to Paul’s spiritualism, let us consider the main exhortation in verse 1, as it picks up with the previous freedom vs. slavery theme used throughout the arguments in chapter 4:

“To freedom (the) Anointed has set us free; therefore stand (firm) and do not again have held (down) on you a yoke of slavery”

The dative of th=| e)leuqeri/a| is best understood as a dative of goal or purpose, i.e. “to freedom” , “for freedom”, parallel to the expression e)p’ e)leuqeri/a| in verse 13. For Paul, there is a fundamental connection between freedom and the Spirit (as we saw in 2 Cor 3:17). The exhortation is expressed according to two verbs:

The first is active, exhorting the Galatians to action (or continuation of action); the second is passive, implying something which is done to them by others, but which the Galatians may be allowing to happen. The image related to slavery is especially vivid—that of someone holding a yoke down upon their shoulders. This expression (“yoke of slavery”) is found in 1 Tim 6:1; a burdensome “yoke” is related to the Law in Acts 15:10 (Peter speaking), which may be contrasted with ‘yoke of Christ’ (Matt 11:29f)—cf. a possible parallel in the “Law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Again, the question must be asked: what guidance is there for the believer without the Torah regulations? Paul gives us an initial answer in verse 5:

“For we, in/through (the) Spirit [pneu/mati], out of trust [e)k pi/stew$], look to receive from (God) (the) hope of justice/righteousness [e)lpi/da dikaiosu/nh$]”

This is another powerful declaration of Christian identity, bringing together in compact form several of the key terms and expression Paul has been using in Galatians. In particular, it is another clear statement of the fundamental premise that righteousness comes only through the Spirit and faith (in Christ), and not by observing the Law (indeed, quite the opposite!). And, more to the point, righteousness is defined, not by the Torah regulations, but by the guiding presence of the Spirit (“in/by the Spirit”). 

In verse 13, Paul goes on to warn the Galatians that freedom in the Spirit does not mean that believers can behave immorally. In fact, the ethical injunctions of the Torah are still valid, even if the injunctions themselves are no longer binding. Paul follows early Christian tradition (and Jesus’ own teaching) in summarizing all of the Torah instruction under a single command (or duty)—that of showing love to one another (the ‘love command’), vv. 14-15. Yet, even in this, believers are not bound by a command or law per se, for the simple reason that fulfilling our duty to love is achieved through the guiding presence of the Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5; 15:30; Col 1:8).

This brings us to Paul’s key teaching in verses 16-25, where he ties Christian ethics and morality specifically to the presence of the Spirit. The injunction (and declaration) in verse 16 comes straight to the point:

“Walk about in/by (the) Spirit, and you shall not complete (the) impulse of (the) flesh.”

We could fill out the literal meaning of the noun e)piqumi/a, in context, by saying “…the impulse [qu/mo$] of the flesh over [e)pi/] sin.” That is to say, the “flesh” (sa/rc) leads a person toward sin. Here Paul embeds within his exhortation and basic teaching (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) what is often described as a list (or catalog) of “vices and virtues” (vv. 19-23a). Such lists were traditional and basic to Christian instruction; Paul did not create these, but rather adapted them, drawing upon the traditional language and terminology, in his letters (lists of “vices” being much more common)—cf. Rom 1:19-31; 13:13; 1 Cor 5:10-11; 6:9-10; 2 Cor 12:20-21; Col 3:5, 8; also Eph 4:31; 5:3-4; 1 Tim 1:9-10; 2 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 3:3.

For other examples in the New Testament and early Christian literature, see Mark 7:21-22f par; 1 Pet 2:1; 4:3, 15; Rev 21:8; 22:14; Didache 2:1-5:2; Barnabas 18-20; the letter of Polycarp 2:2; 4:3; Hermas, Commandments 5.2.4, 6.2, 8.3-5; Similitudes 6; 9.15, etc. Of the many examples in Greco-Roman literature and philosophy, one of the earliest is in Plato’s Gorgias 524-525. Instances can also be cited from Hellenistic Judaism (works of Philo, etc) and the texts of the Qumran community, most famously the treatise of the “Two Spirits” in the Community Rule (1QS 4:3-11). For more on the subject, see the excursus in Betz, Galatians, pp. 281-3.

The list of ‘vices’ (vv. 19-21) are referred to specifically as “works of (the) flesh” (e&rga th=$ sarko/$), an expression clearly intended as parallel to “works of (the) Law” (e&rga tou= no/mou), Gal 2:16; 3:3, 5, 10. These are all generally actions, reflecting sinful, selfish and immoral behavior; and, even though the Law would appear to guard and regulate against such things, according to Paul it actually serves to make manifest and increase the very sinfulness expressed by this list. This is not to be taken as an exhaustive catalog (or checklist), but one that fairly comprehensively represents human wickedness.

Paul does not use the corresponding term “works of the Spirit” for the opposite list in vv. 22-23, but rather “fruit [karpo/$] of the Spirit” —for it is the Spirit that does the working (vv. 5-6), and, indeed, the items in the list are not actions, but rather personal characteristics, attitudes, and (one might say) modes of behavior, generally corresponding to the term virtue (a)reth/) in Greek philosophical and ethical thought.

Commentators have noted a formal difference in the lists—the “works of the flesh” show little clear order, perhaps intentionally reflecting the inherent disorder of carnal behavior and lifestyle; the “fruit of the Spirit”, on the other hand, can be grouped neatly into three sets of three (cf. the similar famous triad in 1 Cor 13:4-6). To see how these two lists fit in the overall structure of this section, I would suggest the following (chiastic) outline:

    • Exhortation: “walk [peripate/w] in the Spirit” (v. 16)
      • Conflict for believers: “flesh against the Spirit” and “Spirit against flesh” (v. 17)
        • Affirmation for believers: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law” (v. 18)
          • Works of the flesh (vv. 19-21)
          • Fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23a)
        • Affirmation for believers: If the fruit of the Spirit is present, “there is no Law” (v. 23b)
      • Resolution of conflict: the flesh has been crucified (with Christ) (v. 24)
    • Exhortation: “walk [stoixe/w] in the Spirit” (v. 25)

Because of the importance of verses 16-18 and 23b-25, these will be discussed in more detail in separate notes.

References marked “Betz, Galatians” are to: Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, in the Hermeneia series (Fortress Press [1979]).

February 15: 2 Corinthians 3:18

[These notes are part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”; the previous note discussed verse 17; for an overview of the passage, cf. the main article.]

2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we all, with uncovered face, the splendor of (the) Lord (behold)ing in a looking-glass, are transformed (into) the same image, from splendor to splendor, even as from (the) Lord (the) Spirit.”

This concluding verse (of the discourse in vv. 7-18) is so rich and profoundly splendid, as a statement on its own, that it is easy to read it out of context. It is important to understand it thoroughly from the standpoint of Paul’s entire line of thought and argument here in chapter 3. This is best done, I believe, by looking closely at each specific word and phrase. Because of the level of detail required by such an approach, it will be necessary for our exegesis of verse 18 to take place over several daily notes.

“And we all”
(h(mei=$ de\ pa/nte$)

The force and scope of the adverb pa=$ (“all”) here could be disputed. Given the focus in chapter 3 on Paul’s role as a minister (of the new covenant), one might be inclined to limit the sense of pa=$ here to “all of us who are ministers.” This, however, would be incorrect, ignoring, among other factors, the central theme in chaps. 1-7 of the relationship between Paul (as apostle) and the Corinthian congregations. The bond of unity between missionary and church is the Spirit—which is the same unifying bond of the new covenant itself.

Thus, when Paul says “all of us,” he means “all of us who are believers, who are united in Christ (through the Spirit)”. Paul tends to use the adverb pa=$ in such a universal, comprehensive sense. In the immediate context of 2 Corinthians, cf. 1:1; 2:3, 5, where he is referring to all believers in Corinth, or to all believers everywhere (3:2).

In terms of the discourse in vv. 7-18, there is also the important parallel between the Israelite people and believers, established in vv. 14-16; this is complementary to the similar parallel between the believer and Moses in vv. 13 and 17. The relationship between Moses and Israel (in the old covenant) is fundamentally different from the relationship between the apostolic minister (e.g., Paul) and the community of believers. It was only Moses who had a direct encounter with God, in a place from which the rest of the people were cut off. The Israelites could only experience the revelatory word and accompanying glory of God through the personal mediation of Moses. By contrast, in the new covenant, apostle and community are united and experience the word and glory of God the same way, through the Spirit, without any distinction.

“with uncovered face”
(a)nakekalumme/nw| prosw/pw|)

This is essentially a prepositional phrase, but with an absent preposition (e)n, cp. 2:10; 4:6; 5:2) implied by the use of the dative case. It is a qualifying phrase, preceding and anticipating the main clause later in the verse. The word translated “uncovered” is a verbal adjective, a passive participle of the verb a)nakalu/ptw (“uncover”), which occurs only here (and earlier in v. 14) in the New Testament. It literally means “take up the cover”, but has virtually the same sense as the more common a)pokalu/ptw (“take the cover [away] from”); both verbs essentially mean “uncover” (rel. to the base verb kalu/ptw, “cover”).

Paul’s use of the verb in verse 14 provides the key point of contrast (cf. the discussion in the earlier note): Israelites and Jews, as a whole, have a “covering” (ka/lumma) over them, since they continue to operate under the old covenant (palaia/ diaqh/kh), not realizing that in Christ the old covenant has ceased to be operative (vb katarge/w), replaced by a new covenant (kainh/ diaqh/kh, v. 6). We should pay attention to Paul’s exact wording:

“…the same covering…[of the old covenant] remains, not being uncovered, that in (the) Anointed {Christ} is made inactive”

The expression “the same covering” is a way for Paul to apply the tradition of the veil over Moses’ face to the Israel/Jewish people as a whole. He places them in a congregational setting, implying worship in the synagogue, when the Torah (= the Scriptures) of the old covenant is read out. The parallel with Christian congregations (of the new covenant) is obvious.

Paul uses the same participle, but the use of the negative particle (mh/) emphasizes the point of contrast between the old and new covenant:

    • “not being uncovered” (mh\ a)nakalupto/menon) [v. 14]
    • “having been uncovered” (a)nakekalumme/nw|) [v. 18]

There are other subtle differences in how Paul uses the verb. Both participles are neuter, but they have different subjects, with distinct points of reference. In verse 14, the subject is the covering (ka/lumma) itself, and the participle has true verbal force. When the covering is taken away, then the person realizes that the old covenant is no longer in effect, and no longer feels compelled to live under its restrictions.

This is the condition that is described in verse 18, where the subject of the participle is the face (pro/swpon) of the believer. The believer now lives in the new covenant of the Spirit and has complete freedom (e)leuqeri/a, v. 17), being freed from the restrictions and limitations of the old covenant. In verse 14, the participle is in the present tense, indicating a situation (the covering remaining) that currently prevails for people (Israelites and Jews); in v. 18, by contrast, the perfect tense is used, indicated an action (removal of the covering) that has already taken place, with the effects of it (i.e., the freedom in the Spirit) continuing for believers in present.

It is the face of believers that is uncovered, referring to the Moses tradition (Exod 34:29-35) that Paul expounds in the discourse (cf. the prior notes, and the recent Saturday Series study on the Exodus passage). Believers—that is, the people as a whole (“all of us,” cf. above)—now fulfill in the new covenant the comparable role that Moses alone held in the old covenant. There are thus two points of difference: (1) there is no longer any covering, and (2) all the people now experience the revelation and glory of God’s presence.

What this means specifically for believers will be considered in the next daily note, as we continue through verse 18.