Salvation 2.0: Part 3.16: David Bentley Hart’s “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 9

grace5Pre-resurrection Gentiles, again

If I’m right that the sinned-against deserve justice from God, then we have to admit that, so far as the scriptures reveal, there is no justice pre-Jesus. If the evil people of the pre-Jesus Gentile world simply died and ceased to exist, then their victims receive neither eternal bliss nor justice.

I don’t know the answer because, the best I can find, it’s not revealed. I can think of two possibilities —

  1. The damned pre-Jesus receive no justice, no vindication, but neither must they suffer for their own sins. The trade is a painless afterlife in exchange for no vindication.
  2. In fact, pre-Jesus God punishes evil in the afterlife. There is just no hope of redemption except for those in covenant relationship. And before Jesus, the covenant was solely for Abraham and his physical descendants. Hence, justice was perfectly served, the victims were perfectly vindicated, and all were punished (or not) with whatever God’s perfect justice required.

While I find 2 logically attractive, it seems to be contradicted by —

(Rom 3:21-26 ESV)  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it —  22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

But it’s possible that C. K. Barnett read this incorrectly. It could be that Paul is speaking of God’s failure to punish the faithful Jews. After all, if we take “God’s righteousness” as meaning “God’s covenant faithfulness,” well, God’s covenanting has nothing to do with pre-Jesus Gentiles. Rather, Paul is possibly answering the question of how God let Elijah and Moses go to heaven even though Jesus had not yet died.

N. T. Wright is uncharacteristically unsure —

In particular, God had passed over, that is, left unpunished, acts of sin committed in former times. God, it seems (Paul here takes this for granted), had been forbearing, patient, unwilling to foreclose on the human race in general or Israel in particular. Paul had emphasized this in 2:3–6, where the same word is used, and he now refers back to that point. The first question at issue, then–the aspect of God’s righteousness that might seem to have been called into question and is now demonstrated after all–is God’s proper dealing with sins–i.e., punishment. Whatever Paul is saying in the first half of v. 25, it must be such as to lead to the conclusion that now, at last, God has punished sins as they deserved.

N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 472-3.

So it could be that Paul is not saying that God’s forbearance protected the pre-Jesus Gentiles from God’s punishment. He could be saying that they were protected from punishment by the sacrifice of Jesus — reaching back through time — not to grant them possession of the new heavens and new earth, but to protect them from punishment. That is, the pre-Jesus Gentiles suffered no punishment in the afterlife because of God’s grace through the cross.

Or it could be that Paul is speaking only of the faithful Jews, who suffered no punishment solely by the power of the cross, as the Hebrews writer also says.

Fortunately, we have other texts —

(Act 17:30-31 ESV)  30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

So is Paul saying that punishment will continue as it always has but now there’s a chance to escape? Or that God used to be more generous than he had to be, and now he’s going to be truly just — exacting just punishment — unless the Gentiles repent?

“Overlooked” is hyperorao, meaning to overlook or disregard. That God overlooked the ignorance of the ancients does not say “did not offer eternal bliss” to the ancients. Rather, this is what a parent does when he pretends not to see his two-year daughter drop food on the floor because he doesn’t have the heart to spank her little hand yet again. God chose not to punish the Gentiles pre-resurrection because they were unaware of his Law.

This then leaves us with sins unvindicated — and we’re back to option 1. The uncertainly is resolved, I think, in Rom 5 —

(Rom 5:12-14 ESV)  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 

V. 13 says that “sin is not counted where there is no law.” That is, we are only held accountable by God for violating so much of his will as we know.

I take “death” to refer to spiritual death, that is, death for all eternity as opposed to eternal life, that is, life for all eternity. We can argue over whether Adam and Eve would have lived forever had they never sinned — that is, whether physical death entered their lives because of their sin. But as we’ll soon see in 5:17 and :21, Paul is speaking of the death common to all, even the saved. Even Christians die, and so the death from which we are rescued has to eternal death.

(Rom 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

“Reigned in death” in v. 21 is past tense, and yet we still die. But we no longer die eternally. Not Christians.

I take v. 20 to mean that the Torah brought greater knowledge of God’s will and so greater accountability.  But because God saved the Jews under the covenant with Abraham — by faith — grace “abounded all the more.”

Hence, Paul seems to plainly say that the pre-Jesus Gentiles suffered spiritual death for their sins — they ceased to exist when they died. But on Mars Hill, he seems to plainly say that they were now at risk of far greater punishment. The cross brings both grace and justice.

(Rom 3:26 ESV)  26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God was, in fact, not just. Not yet. Rather, in order to bring about justice and fairly punish the damned, he had to reveal himself more fully, to demonstrate true goodness to the world and so hold the world accountable for its sins.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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43 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 3.16: David Bentley Hart’s “God, Creation, and Evil,” Part 9

  1. Chris says:

    Jay, in the process of sorting all of this out, what is the proper view of Romans 1:20-23? Thanks!

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    (Rom. 1:20-23 ESV) 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    Not sure I can provide THE proper view. In fact, this is a text that covers a lot of territory in very few words — typical of Paul.

    V. 20 tells us that God can be found through his Creation. The Creation is just as much a revelation of the Creator as the Bible. I teach this verse when I do lessons on Christian evidences and apologetics. When we look at the Creation — whether through a telescope or the Cern Collider, we are seeing the handiwork of God and learning about him.

    Verses 21-23 seem to be speaking of the Gentiles. Even though they’d once known God (long ago) and could have known God through his Creation, they chose to worship idols. Aristotle had taught centuries earlier about the Prime Mover – a single god who created it all. Other ancients had come close to finding God. But the Gentiles gave up God and chose to instead worship idols.

    This is the history of the world as seen through the lens of Torah. At one time, all humanity knew about God. Some chose to worship other gods. But the Creation itself shouts the glory of the Creator. Even today, physicists run into the hands of God when they consider the Big Bang and the incredible odds against this Creation existing, much less supporting life, much less supporting life capable of knowing God.

    And so Paul charges the Gentiles with being accountable for their sins. He’s not through. But he’s building a case to demonstrate God’s justice is holding both Jews and Gentiles to account.

  3. Richard constant says:

    Jay…you can’t deal with it through sin and death,
    you have to deal with it from God’s good,
    to God’s grace (Abraham)
    to God’s righteous act’s of faithfulness, because he is good,
    through his son on the cross. Fulfilling the words of the prophets for the purpose of a new creation where there is no evil.
    Unto all them that believe.
    beginning with Adam and ending at atonement.
    And making Us ( at this present time God has been the just and the justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus) one and known by God through his spirit which he gave to each of us that are obedient to faith.
    Prior to atonement. Faith is accounted as righteousness.
    To Jew and Gentile alike.
    As expressed by Paul in the fourth chapter of Romans .
    Abraham was circumcised after…
    So the Trinities statement from 21-31 is inclusive of all that lived from Adam to Christ ,chapter 5. that God . To demonstrate His righteousness passed over the sins previously committed express his righteousness regarding , that Sin is not imputed where there is no law. The penalty remains the same for all, “until Atonement” death …except for for those that believe.
    Thus we have a law of faith .
    to be judged by how all do God’s good second chapter of Romans. By the one who made atonement for us God’s Son crucified.

  4. Richard constant says:

    3:22 States that mankind Adam and Eve knew good from evil as God knew good from evil.
    mankind deviated from God’s good,
    now it’s about how God fixes it His creation.
    Without compromising His righteous goodness.
    simple a principle of faithfulness.
    When you’re working with Genesis 3:22 I think

  5. Richard constant says:

    By the way hey I just thought I’d add this.
    As my dad always used to say…
    wait for it…
    wait for it….
    Richard,
    there is more than one way to skin a cat…
    you don’t always start from the butt hole and work your way up
    that would be flatlander theology I thought that was kind of funny too..

  6. Richard constant says:

    A pS that would be flatworlder….

  7. Richard constant says:

    Randi RandY introduce me to some Greek text in Romans 3 that says law and not The law.
    that way it goes back to good and evil as God knows good and evil and deviates from that and no Law is adequate to sAve any flesh.
    although these scripture or principles of righteous faith hold true all throughout God’s narrative bringing us to the Trinity’s work faithfulness ( as I expressed above) in Romans 3:2O-31 for all those that believe from Adam to me…
    blessings J wait for your reply if you don’t understand

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Richard C,

    Some commentators press the distinction between “the law” and “law” in the Greek. The distinction is often not reflected in the English because the Greek definite article is not used quite the same way as in English. We don’t use “the” the same. http://inthesaltshaker.com/drills/article.htm As the article explains, it’s complicated.

    More to the point, we often make a mistake in reading Paul as creating a dichotomy: everything is either “faith” or “works.” But Paul’s point isn’t to divide the world into faith and works. It’s to declare that only faith in Jesus saves. Nothing else does. Therefore, it’s not really that works damn, but works aren’t faith.

    That is, everything is either faith in Jesus or not faith in Jesus. Works (be they works of the Law of Moses or some other kind of work) are not faith. Therefore, they do not save.

    Seeing things this way greatly simplifies the discussion.

    Also helpful is to realize (and I wrote a post on this some time ago) that on Paul’s lips, “law” pretty much always means Torah — but to him Torah includes the commands found in Torah even if revealed by other means. When I realize that stealing is wrong because it violates my conscience or the rules of my society, I’m still obeying Torah when I don’t steal even though I’ve never heard of the Torah. That is, Paul abstracts Torah as God’s will for how we should live.

    We often miss this because we stereotype Torah as being about animal sacrifice and other obsolete commands, but Paul see Torah as reflective of God’s will — although it may be his will for a prior age. Therefore, anytime we do God’s will, we obey Torah.

    That’s why NT Wright translates “the law of the Spirit of life” in Rom 8:2 as “the Torah of the Spirit of life.” I did a series on this, too. If you read Deu 30:6 through the lenses of Jer 31:31 ff and the several Ezekiel passages on the Spirit and Joel 2, then the point of the Spirit is to give life by God changing our hearts and minds to obey the Torah — God’s will, but God’s will as communicated to us through the Spirit’s indwelling — a changed heart and reformed mind.

    Hence, “law” = Torah = God’s will for how we should live. And the solution is faith, not in lieu of law, but as a pathway into a better kind of obedience to a better understood law through the Spirit — with salvation not based on obedience but obedience being a product of faith by the Spirit.

    Sorry. It’s late and I’m digressing.

    That’s not to disagree with your reading of Rom 3:20-31. I’ve not sorted through the Greek articles in quite a long time.

  9. Richard constant says:

    It’s just that Randy brought it up in light of law and then referred back if I’m Mistaken to the knowledge of good and evil as God knew and at that point digression beginS into evil.
    it’s easy enough to put it it’s easy enough to be to put it in because I Alluded to it anyway.
    . which is not my point although I included it in case.
    although thank you J that’s pretty much what I told Randy but he didn’t agree and showed me the Greek

  10. Richard constant says:

    Although I understand what you’re saying.

    before atonement it’s about believing in God.
    Hebrew 11.. it is impossible to believe and Jesus until the gospel is completed Messiah being resurrected.
    Jew and Gentile are the same acceptable what the law does to the Jew Romans 7. and because of what. Online is the lAw bad. no
    think about the things that I said about the Trinities righteous faithfulNess.
    think about Moses killing somebody.
    sin is not imputed where there is no law chapter 7 Romans.
    what is the righteous faith that Abraham. at the time of that covenant. what was the learning curve of Abraham’s Faith till he became 99 years old.
    how many Sin’s are passed over process I would not have known him except the law had said thou shalt not covet.
    Then he found a law that was meant to be lIfe to him caused his death whoa wait a minute here.
    that sure iSn’t physical death now is it.

  11. Richard constant says:

    . and by the way that’s just a great little article on articles.
    Hehehe
    that MIght keep Randy busy for a day or two.
    I mean it might take Randy A day or two to process that.
    then again he might know it.
    any way I coverEd my bases…
    which I don’t like to do that way.
    although I don’t think it messes with rightEous Faith
    Thanks jay

  12. Richard constant says:

    I’m done I started to Ramble, too much coffee too late been up since 5 o’clock this morning.
    .

  13. Randy says:

    Where I pointed to the presence of the article as important is in Romans 3:20. Here we find Paul concluding that “no flesh” will be justified by works of law. so, Romans 3:21ff goes on to say that this righteousness is apart from law but testified to in THE Law.

    While The Law is commonly in view as the source of the problems Paul is facing from judaisers, I believe Paul purposely broadens the concept to include any and all law-keeping attempts at being right with God.

  14. Randy says:

    My brain is jello.

    To clarify:

    Since Paul had shown that humanity in general (Gentiles) were condemned in Rom. 1 and then did the same for the Jews specifically in Rom. 2 – 3:19, it should not escape us that he is declaring that “no flesh” (obviously meaning circumcised or uncircumcised) will be justified in his sight by “works of law.”

    I don’t mind thinking in terms of Torah meaning ALL law even if not understood by the Gentiles. That seems reasonable.

    But I have heard too many of my brothers try to LIMIT Paul’s warnings about the failure of merit or performance based attempts at being right with God. So, this is why I point to the missing article in 3:20 and insist it means any “works of law.”

    I see no inconsistency with the article you have written on articles, Jay.

  15. Randy says:

    One additional occurrence of importance is Galatians 5:4 “you who are trying to be justified “by law” have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

    How can these Gentiles “be burdened “again by a yoke of slavery”? They were not under the law of Moses in the first place. And circumcision predates the Law. Clearly it is the case that it is reliance on complying with circumcision to be right with God that is in view.

    So, the point is that reliance on any “human effort,” like circumcision, to merit justification is to fail to accept the grace of God, without which one cannot be righteous.

    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randy wrote,

    While The Law is commonly in view as the source of the problems Paul is facing from judaisers, I believe Paul purposely broadens the concept to include any and all law-keeping attempts at being right with God.

    In principle, I don’t disagree in the least. Absolutely.

    You are right that there is no definite article in 3:20. There is a “the law” in 3:19.

    (Rom. 3:19-20 ESV) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    Interesting …

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randy wrote,

    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    Very well worded.

  18. Randy says:

    Yes, Jay, “The Law” of 3:19 is the summation of the indictment against the Jews. THE LAW speaks to those under it.

    But 3:20 summarizes the indictment on all flesh and declares that “no flesh” will be justified by “works of law.”

  19. buckeyechuck says:

    Jay, if I am understanding you correctly and please correct me if I misunderstand, you suggest no possible way in which non-Jewish people born before the Cross can have eternal life since they did not receive the promise of Abraham. Gentiles were never made subject to the Law of Moses, however, Romans tells us they were still responsible for having faith in God. It seems very problematic to me to think that God created millions of people without any hope whatsoever for redemption. IF such is the case, why would any “Gentile” pre-Jesus ever want to acknowledge God or obey the moral law they had as stated in Romans 2: 12-16? Wouldn’t they have been better off if they had never been born, seeing that they were born with no chance of eternal life?

    “12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

    And from Jonah 3:5-7 following Jonah’s message which God had initiated:

    ” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.”

    What purpose would it serve for God to send Jonah to Nineveh if repentance and belief had no value before God?

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Buckeye Chuck wrote,

    if I am understanding you correctly and please correct me if I misunderstand, you suggest no possible way in which non-Jewish people born before the Cross can have eternal life since they did not receive the promise of Abraham. Gentiles were never made subject to the Law of Moses, however, Romans tells us they were still responsible for having faith in God.

    It seems to be beyond reasonable dispute that God’s covenant with Abraham was not extended to the Gentiles until the new covenant. It’s also pretty clearly true that Gentiles did not have the Law of Moses or the equivalent. This is the problem Paul wrestles with in Rom 5.

    But you then say, “Romans tells us they were still responsible for having faith in God.” Not exactly. Paul begins his discourse with —

    (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV) 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    But Paul, in context, is not talking about faith. He doesn’t charge Gentiles with a lack of faith but with sin — for violating the will of God revealed in nature, in culture, and in their own hearts. They are condemned not for lack of faith but for sinning contrary to what they know to be right.

    (Rom. 1:32 ESV) 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    They may not have known God, but they knew that these sins are contrary to the will of whoever the Creator is.

    You next ask,

    It seems very problematic to me to think that God created millions of people without any hope whatsoever for redemption. IF such is the case, why would any “Gentile” pre-Jesus ever want to acknowledge God or obey the moral law they had as stated in Romans 2: 12-16? Wouldn’t they have been better off if they had never been born, seeing that they were born with no chance of eternal life?

    The ancient Jews, pre-David, show little if any awareness of an afterlife. God’s covenant promises do not speak in terms of an afterlife until David and later. The Torah speaks in terms of fertile lands, healthy children, and protection from their enemies on earth.

    The ancients saw their god/God as providing blessings in today’s world, in this age, in this life. God is Israel’s “Savior” in Exodus, not because he’s going to take them to heaven, but because he freed them from Egyptian slavery, protected them from the Amalekites, and brought them to the Promised Land.

    Jesus tells the Sadducees that the Torah speaks of an afterlife because God declares himself God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God is the God of the Living — a far from obvious inference. (Obviously true, in that Jesus said it, but not exactly obvious to most students of the Torah.)

    A promise of the afterlife is not essential to a moral system — and plenty of people who deny the afterlife find ample reason to attempt to live morally and to judge others for not so doing. It’s in our bones. It’s God’s image in us.

    Mere Christianity makes the point very well — built on Rom 2. We all have a moral sense in us, and we all seek to obey it and impose it on others. We just know in our bones that some things are wrong, even if we are Post-moderns and deny any reason to be good or bad. The ancients thought very differently, and largely did “right” for reasons of honor and culture and custom and clan.

    Nonetheless, I just don’t see how the ancient Gentiles were better off having never been born as, in my view, they suffer no punishment in the afterlife. They received no afterlife — nor did many expect an afterlife. Few would wish to have never been born.

    I should add that a very few Gentiles were incorporated into Abraham’s lineage. Rahab and Ruth married into Israel. Jethro seems to have become a servant of YHWH. There is no formal process for becoming a proselyte in the Torah, but the Torah does give rules for “sojourners” who wish to take Passover otherwise participate in Jewish worship. Generally, circumcision is required.

    Judaism wasn’t very evangelistic, but they did consider it possible for Gentiles to “convert” by serving YHWH and being circumcised and otherwise following Torah. But certain intermarriages (with the 7 Gentile nations, for example) were banned. The proselyte didn’t become a Jew, just a worshiper of YHWH.

    But, of course, the influence of the Jews was only felt in the Ancient Near East. Millions of Gentiles never heard of the Jews, much less God. The odds of converting were extremely low. It was so rare that Paul doesn’t bother to deal with that possibility in his theology. He is dealing with the big picture, not the occasional exception.

    Election is the same word often translated “chosen.” The Jews were God’s chosen/elect people. And just the Jews. Only they had the promise of God’s covenant with Abraham. A handful of others saw the blessings found in Abraham and joined the Jews in serving YHWH, but the general rule stands — God did not elect the Irish, the Cherokee, the Assyrians, or the Polynesians. And so death reigned — but God does not punish where there is no law. Hence, death but no punishment — but eternal life is found only in Jesus.

    I’m no Calvinist, but if we understand “election” in the sense of God’s chosen people (which is how Paul really uses the word, esp. in Eph 1), the whole point of Eph 1 – 3 is that, in Christ, the Gentiles are finally, surprisingly, amazingly invited to enter the Kingdom through the gospel.

    (Eph. 3:1-9 ESV) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

    Ponder on that passage for a while.

    You next ask,

    What purpose would it serve for God to send Jonah to Nineveh if repentance and belief had no value before God?

    God had threatened the military overthrow of Assyria if they did not repent (see my comments from last night) — and so they repented. Remember that the ancients largely believed that each nation had its own god, and they believed in the other gods; they just didn’t serve the other gods because their own god(s) would protect them. So for Assyria to believe in YHWH just means they considered the God of the Jews to be powerful and fearsome (and doubted their own god’s ability to defend them against YHWH) — not that they were good servants of YHWH saying the Shema daily. That they repented to avoid God’s threat hardly means that they chose to serve YHWH from then on, nor does the record suggest any such thing.

  21. buckeyechuck says:

    Jay, I appreciate your scholarship and I’m with you about 98% of the time. You have helped me gain a better understanding of many issues. However… the belief that only Jews could have eternal life and that all Gentiles were created as “toys” or “props” or something as such, meaning they weren’t also created in the image of God, to be without merit. It seems to me to violate everything the Scriptures say about man being created in the image of God, not just some men, but all men. What does it actually mean to be created in the image of God if not that all mankind have the opportunity to be His children through faith?

    Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

    You said, “Millions of Gentiles never heard of the Jews, much less God. The odds of converting were extremely low. It was so rare that Paul doesn’t bother to deal with that possibility in his theology.” While I agree that many Gentiles had not ever heard of the Jews. But, why does Paul say in Romans 2:14 that the Gentiles were a law unto themselves? Doesn’t that statement indicate the Gentiles actually did the things in the law (faith) while the Jews, who were given the law, did not?

    Did Gentile proselytes have any hope of eternal life? Wouldn’t this demonstration of faith resulting in righteousness apply as it did to Abraham?

    You also said, “God had threatened the military overthrow of Assyria if they did not repent (see my comments from last night) — and so they repented. Remember that the ancients largely believed that each nation had its own god, and they believed in the other gods; they just didn’t serve the other gods because their own god(s) would protect them. So for Assyria to believe in YHWH just means they considered the God of the Jews to be powerful and fearsome (and doubted their own god’s ability to defend them against YHWH) — not that they were good servants of YHWH saying the Shema daily. That they repented to avoid God’s threat hardly means that they chose to serve YHWH from then on, nor does the record suggest any such thing.”

    You reached a very definitive system of theology regarding OT salvation for the Gentiles which seems a lot to me like a necessary inference-like conclusion. Did God send Jonah to Nineveh to manipulate the Ninevites just for the benefit of Israel? Such a claim is never one time mentioned in the Jonah text. Jonah 3:10 says “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” It seems the Ninevites didn’t remain in that repentance for very long, but that isn’t much difference from many of the Jews. But, at that moment of repentance, how did God view them?

    Romans 3:28-30: “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” – Hasn’t God always judged ALL men on the basis of their faith?

    Jonah 4:10-11: “10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Were these people created in God’s image and worthy of His love and forgiveness?

    I don’t know if you are reading John Mark Hicks’ series on Jonah this week, but it’s uncanny he is addressing this prophecy at the same time we are discussing it here. From his first post titled “Reading Jonah,” JMH writes: “These movements provide a way of reading the story, which highlights God’s mercy, both to Jonah and the nations represented in the book. God pursues Jonah rather than abandoning him, God heals the nations rather than abandoning them, and God comforts Jonah despite his resentments.”

  22. Christopher says:

    “Millions of Gentiles never heard of the Jews, much less God…”

    I do not see how we can know the truth of this premise. It is merely an assumption, as far as I know. Recall what Rahab says to the spies:

    “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:9-11, NIV)

    I think it likely that most all the kings and peoples of the world knew about God and the Israelites. Why would one think otherwise? What scriptural evidence supports that view?

    Regarding the passage above, it is interesting to me that while God commanded Joshua to utterly destroy Jericho and its inhabitants (similar to his command to Saul), Israel did not completely obey this command – leaving Rahab and her family alive. Why? Because she not only knew of God but believed in Him and acted (courageously) on that faith. Remember, she was a prostitute. That has always implied to me that all of Jericho could have been saved if only they had acted like Rahab. They knew of God:

    “Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.” (Joshua 5:1, NIV)

    but were apparently unwilling to surrender to His army. They did not seek terms of peace as Jesus speaks about in one of His parables.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Buckeye Chuck wrote,

    Jay, I appreciate your scholarship and I’m with you about 98% of the time. You have helped me gain a better understanding of many issues. However… the belief that only Jews could have eternal life and that all Gentiles were created as “toys” or “props” or something as such, meaning they weren’t also created in the image of God, to be without merit. It seems to me to violate everything the Scriptures say about man being created in the image of God, not just some men, but all men. What does it actually mean to be created in the image of God if not that all mankind have the opportunity to be His children through faith?

    Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

    I’m pretty sure I never said anything about Gentiles being toys or props. You put them in quotation marks as though you’re quoting me. You’re not.

    I have further not said that only Jews could have eternal life. You need to read my comment at http://oneinjesus.info/2015/10/salvation-2-0-part-3-19-the-principalities-and-powers/#comment-159135 and Christopher’s kind reply at http://oneinjesus.info/2015/10/salvation-2-0-part-3-19-the-principalities-and-powers/#comment-159137.

    What I said is that, in the OT, only Israel was God’s chosen or elect people. And the scriptures very plainly say so. But I’m not a Calvinist and being “elect” is not the same as being saved in the OT. The referenced comments will explain.

    I’ve never heard it argued that being created in God’s image guarantees someone the opportunity to be God’s child. Where is this in the scriptures? In fact, in the NT, Christians, who are already God’s children by adoption, are in the process of being tranformed into God’s image. The order is adoption and then restoration into God’s image, not being in God’s image and therefore entitled to have a chance to be saved.

    You said, “Millions of Gentiles never heard of the Jews, much less God. The odds of converting were extremely low. It was so rare that Paul doesn’t bother to deal with that possibility in his theology.” While I agree that many Gentiles had not ever heard of the Jews. But, why does Paul say in Romans 2:14 that the Gentiles were a law unto themselves? Doesn’t that statement indicate the Gentiles actually did the things in the law (faith) while the Jews, who were given the law, did not?

    No, quite the opposite. Paul’s ultimate conclusion is that all need salvation by faith —

    (Rom. 3:21-25 ESV) 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

    Paul is saying that both Gentiles and Jews need grace, not that the Gentiles have managed to earn their salvation while the Jews have not. Everyone needs Jesus. Any reading of chapter 2 that leads to a different conclusion must be mistaken. (Sometimes it helps to know the conclusion in advance.)

    (Rom. 2:11-12 ESV) 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

    V. 12 would seem to pick up every single Gentile who stands out of grace through faith. Who hasn’t sinned? The test Paul applies isn’t whether the Gentile is a good person or believes in something bigger than himself. He just asks whether the Gentile has sinned — and if he has, he will “perish,” Paul’s word for eternal death. After all, everyone dies. But sinner die eternally.

    As to Jews, those who violate the law will be judged by the law — and so deserve damnation. The Law does not save; it only condemns.

    Now Paul considers these same questions further in chapter 5. This is not his final word by any means. But his foundational teaching is —

    * Everyone is accountable for sin because everyone knows that some of what they do is wrong.
    * Everyone therefore is justly judged as damned, Jew and Gentile.

    (Rom. 2:13 ESV) 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

    Paul’s point is that it’s obedience that saves (in a works-based religion), not being Abraham’s descendant. He will discuss faith later. Therefore, the Jews cannot claim to deserve salvation purely because they have the Torah. They don’t obey it (as he’ll show later in ch. 2 and ch. 3)

    (Rom. 2:14-16 ESV) 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

    Commentators disagree on this one, but NT Wright points out that “the law is written on their hearts” comes from the new covenant promise of Jer 31:31 —

    (Jer. 31:31-34 ESV) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    I cannot overstate the importance of this passage to NT understanding. Paul assumes we know it well. Therefore, 2:14-16 is looking ahead to Gentiles who’ve been saved and received the Spirit. They don’t have Torah but they have the Spirit, and demonstrate by their faith, hope, and love the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) is written on their hearts.

    Hence, “their conscience also bears witness” parallels 8:16 —

    (Rom. 8:16 ESV) 6 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

    In short, Paul is saying that while all — Jew and Gentile alike — deserve damnation, it’s better to be a Gentile who has the Spirit and no Torah than a Jew without the Spirit who has the Law. The Law condemns, whereas the Spirit saves (he’ll return to the subject).

    Did Gentile proselytes have any hope of eternal life? Wouldn’t this demonstration of faith resulting in righteousness apply as it did to Abraham?

    Since I’ve not said all OT Gentiles are damned, the question doesn’t really apply. However, there is no system for becoming a proselyte in the OT. There are rules for how sojourners (resident aliens) may participate in Passover (requires circumcision) and the like. The possibility that Gentiles might want to worship God is anticipated, but there is no formal system for making proselytes.

    The Talmud describes the practice of baptizing and making a sacrifice, but this system cannot be traced any earlier than late First Century.

    Thus, while I would readily admit that Naaman appears to be saved by faith, he was not circumcised, made no sacrifice, and never traveled to Jerusalem so far as we know. It’s an amazing story — which shows that God never rejects anyone who approaches him with faith and penitence — but “faith” means faith in the biblical sense of the word, not “being religious” or “worshiping a deity.”

    You also said, “God had threatened the military overthrow of Assyria if they did not repent (see my comments from last night) — and so they repented. Remember that the ancients largely believed that each nation had its own god, and they believed in the other gods; they just didn’t serve the other gods because their own god(s) would protect them. So for Assyria to believe in YHWH just means they considered the God of the Jews to be powerful and fearsome (and doubted their own god’s ability to defend them against YHWH) — not that they were good servants of YHWH saying the Shema daily. That they repented to avoid God’s threat hardly means that they chose to serve YHWH from then on, nor does the record suggest any such thing.”

    What does the text say?

    (Jon. 1:1-2 ESV) Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

    The problem to be solved is the evil of Nineveh? Why? Well, the Assyrians were an empire that brutalized their subjects.

    Nahum is a prophecy against the wickedness of Assyria —

    (Nah. 2:8-3:7 ESV) 8 Nineveh is like a pool whose waters run away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry, but none turns back. 9 Plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no end of the treasure or of the wealth of all precious things. 10 Desolate! Desolation and ruin! Hearts melt and knees tremble; anguish is in all loins; all faces grow pale! 11 Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion and lioness went, where his cubs were, with none to disturb? 12 The lion tore enough for his cubs and strangled prey for his lionesses; he filled his caves with prey and his dens with torn flesh. 13 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard. ESV Nahum 3:1 Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder– no end to the prey! 2 The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! 3 Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end– they stumble over the bodies! 4 And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms. 5 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. 6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. 7 And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, “Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?” Where shall I seek comforters for you?

    Hence, God threatened to overthrow Nineveh —

    (Jon. 3:1-4 ESV) Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

    He didn’t threaten them with damnation or eternal judgment. The penalty was “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

    The NET Bible translation notes say,

    Heb “be overturned.” The Niphal ‌נֶהְפָּכֶת‎‏‎ (nehpakhet, “be overturned”) refers to a city being overthrown and destroyed (BDB 246 s.v. ‌הָפַךְ‎‏‎ 2.d). The related Qal form refers to the destruction of a city by military conquest (Jdg 7:3; 2Sa 10:3; 2Ki 21:13; Amo 4:11) or divine intervention as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:21, Gen 19:25, Gen 19:29; Deu 29:22; Jer 20:16; Lam 4:6; BDB 245 s.v. 1.b). The participle form used here depicts an imminent future action (see IBHS 627–28 §37.6f) which is specified as only “forty days” away.

    Why should we take God’s threat of real-world destruction in the then present age and spiritualize it? God said repent or I’ll see that you suffer a military overthrow.

    (Jon. 3:5-10 ESV) 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

    The people of Nineveh believed God. To a Christian, this sounds like “believed in God” — came to saving faith. But the words simply mean that they believed God to mean his threats — not that they became converts to Judaism or began to worship God as the one true God. The text suggests no such thing.

    The result of their believing is stated in v. 10: “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” He didn’t adopt them as sons of God, given them his Spirit, make them his treasured possession or chosen people. They did not become elect or chosen. Rather, they were not destroyed.

    You reached a very definitive system of theology regarding OT salvation for the Gentiles which seems a lot to me like a necessary inference-like conclusion. Did God send Jonah to Nineveh to manipulate the Ninevites just for the benefit of Israel? Such a claim is never one time mentioned in the Jonah text. Jonah 3:10 says “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” It seems the Ninevites didn’t remain in that repentance for very long, but that isn’t much difference from many of the Jews. But, at that moment of repentance, how did God view them?

    God’s motives are his to reveal. He does not say why he chose to require Nineveh to repent other than the fact that their evil was before him. Jonah 1:2. The NET Bible translator notes says,

    Heb “has come up before me.” The term ‌לְפָנָי‎‏‎ (lefanay, “before me”) often connotes “in the full cognitive knowledge of” or “in the full mental view” of someone (BDB 817 s.v. ‌פָּנֶה‎‏‎ II.4.a.(c); e.g., Gen 6:13; Isa 65:6; Jer 2:22; Lam 1:22). The use of the verb ‌עָלָה‎‏‎ (‘alah, “to ascend”) complements this idea; it is sometimes used to describe actions or situations on earth that have “come up” into heaven to God’s attention, so to speak (e.g., Exo 2:23; 1Sa 5:12; 2Ki 19:28; Psa 74:23; Isa 37:29; Jer 14:2; see BDB 749 s.v. ‌עָלָה‎‏‎ 8). The point is that God was fully aware of the evil of the Ninevites.

    It may be that God chooses to intervene worldwide against evil in general (although obviously not always) or he may have been protecting Israel. The text doesn’t say, and dating of Jonah is uncertain enough that historical conclusions would be hard to draw.

    Romans 3:28-30: “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” – Hasn’t God always judged ALL men on the basis of their faith?

    Well, no. What says that?

    He made a covenant with Abraham to do that, and the Gentiles were not included in the covenant until Jesus. This is exactly what Paul says in Eph 3 (which I’ve quoted in the comments twice now). Paul says the fact that God was going to bring the Gentiles in was a mystery hidden until the gospel came — and that the church — as a union of Jews and Gentiles — makes God’s plan manifest to God’s spiritual enemies.

    Therefore, things changed with the gospel. Pre-gospel, the Gentiles were not elect.

    But as shown by Melchizedek, Rahab, Ruth, and Naaman, God accepted all who came to him with faith (real faith, not faith in Zeus or goodness or something bigger than me), regardless of whether they were Jew or Gentile. But the scriptures plainly paint a picture of Israel having unique advantages not enjoyed by the Gentiles. For example, Paul writes,

    (Rom. 9:4-5 ESV) 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

    No one else is adopted (until Jesus) as children of God. No one else possesses God’s glory in its temple. No one else is in covenant relationship with God. No one else has worship according to God’s instructions. No one else has the promises God made to the Patriarchs.

    The Jews had these advantages, and as a result, the Bible records that many Jews had faith and were servants of God and doubtlessly saved, whereas only a handful of Gentiles came to knowledge of God to have faith — and those that did after Abraham did so by virtue of God’s relationship with Israel.

    Jonah 4:10-11: “10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Were these people created in God’s image and worthy of His love and forgiveness?

    No, no, no, no. They are broken images. “Cracked eikons,” as Scot McKnight puts it. And like everyone else on this planet (save Jesus) are worthy of destruction and eternal death. Just like me and you.

    There simply is no biblical doctrine that everyone is worthy of God’s forgiveness. No one is. Not a single one.

    (Rom. 3:9-20 ESV) 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    “All, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.”

    We do not deserve forgiveness. We haven’t earned it. What makes us think we’re entitled to something we cannot earn?

    I don’t know if you are reading John Mark Hicks’ series on Jonah this week, but it’s uncanny he is addressing this prophecy at the same time we are discussing it here. From his first post titled “Reading Jonah,” JMH writes: “These movements provide a way of reading the story, which highlights God’s mercy, both to Jonah and the nations represented in the book. God pursues Jonah rather than abandoning him, God heals the nations rather than abandoning them, and God comforts Jonah despite his resentments.”

    I make a point to read as much of JMH as possible. I think I’ve read his latest Jonah post three times. He doesn’t say anything I disagree with. He will doubtless draw conclusions from it I don’t mention, because I’m responding to comments suggesting that Nineveh was saved and all went to heaven when they died. The text just plain doesn’t say that. Nor is such a conclusion necessary for the plot of the account.

    We assume that we should serve God so we can go to heaven when we die. But this concept did not exist in the Israel of Moses. The Torah speaks of God’s blessings in the here and now and his blessing and cursing of future generations. It does not speak of the afterlife.

    The late prophets revealed the afterlife — esp. Daniel, with hints in the Psalms and elsewhere. NT Wright goes through the evidence in his The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3) — an excellent although lengthy and technical read. But the point is not controversial among OT scholars.

    But in light of what we know, the Ninevites would have had little concern for going to hell or failing to reach heaven. They were more worried about being protected from the military might of their neighbors and whether the harvest would be plentiful — because famine meant dead children and farm animals — not UN relief. Hence, they prayed to fertility and weather gods for a good crop. And a military defeat meant being treated as they had treated their conquests — cruelly, as subhuman.

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t powerful, spiritual lessons to draw from Jonah. But we shouldn’t turn it into a lesson on how to get saved and go to heaven when we die, just because Nineveh responds with contrition. Their reward is specifically stated: God doesn’t destroy them.

    And, believe it or not, that’s the language Paul tends to use. He doesn’t speak about “hell” ever. He speaks of God’s destruction and perishing at the hands of God. It’s OT language but redefined in light of the resurrection.

    God was Israel’s Savior in the OT for saving Israel from Egypt, the Amalekites, and other enemies. The NT reveals that our Savior will even defeat death — all the principalities and powers — the spiritual demons behind all that’s wrong with this world. Same concept not so much changed as broadened.

    Just so, our inheritance is no longer Palestine but the entire world — to be renewed as the new heavens and new earth.

    But we should not, as theologians or historians, read the NT revelations and changes backwards into the OT as though these things were always known and revealed. They were not.

    (Eph. 3:1-10 ESV) or this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

    V. 3: the mystery was made known by revelation. What “mystery”?

    V. 5. It was not made known to humans (sons of men) in other generations. Only in Paul’s generation was the mystery revealed.

    V. 6. The “mystery” is that “Gentiles are fellow heirs.” Well, then, how can we argue that it was obvious in the OT that the Gentiles were then fellow heirs with the Jews? It can’t be! Rather, the Gentiles were grafted in (Rom 11) through Jesus.

    So this brings us back to “elect.” In the OT, the Jews are God’s chosen (or elect) people. This did not guaranty them salvation. In fact, most of those freed from Egypt died in the desert despite being elect. And some non-elect Gentiles found and followed God.

    Hence, “elect” means recipients of the blessings Paul lists in Rom 9. They enjoyed a privileged relationship no one else enjoyed. And this is offensive, it’s offensive, but it’s true. God did not choose the Cherokee, the Gauls, the Irish, or the Japanese. Just Israel.

    As Paul explains in Rom 5, this made Israel more accountable — because they had the Law and so knew more of God’s will than others (with rare exceptions). Therefore, they were accountable for GREATER sin than the Gentiles.

    (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    But God overwhelmed the greater sin with even greater grace. Grace abounded! Hence, as is clear from chapters 3-4, the Jews were saved by their faith, not their works.

    (Rom. 5:12-13 ESV) 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned– 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

    “Death” refers to eternal death. Many commentators think Paul is speaking of physical death, but this is contradicted by verses 20 -21 (quoted above) where “death” is contrasted with “eternal life.” Eternal life is the opposite of eternal death — not physical death. After all, we expect that when we physically die we’ll nonetheless receive eternal life.

    So all men suffered eternal death until the law was given. When the law was given, “sin is not counted.” So we have no punishment for sin but eternal death — which sounds to me like ceasing to exist. It doesn’t sound like eternal life, because Paul specifically declares that it is NOT eternal life.

    So that’s my thinking. And, yes, I’m figuring this out as I go along — because good, challenging questions make me do that.

  24. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Buckeye Chuck,

    I should briefly (right) address “elect” in its NT sense. It refers to the Kingdom, as those who are now God’s chosen people. The Kingdom now enjoys the relationship with God once enjoyed by natural Israel. But unlike Israel, the Kingdom is now bounded by faith in Jesus, not human ancestry or borders drawn on the ground. Therefore, “elect” in the NT takes on the meaning of “saved”-ish. Paul in Rom and Gal pushes against old categories — Jewish ancestry, circumcision — in favor of new, better, truer boundaries — faith in Jesus, baptism, the Spirit.

    Just so, John the Baptist begins it all by declaring that his listeners should not defend themselves as children of Abraham. No longer will ancestry define God’s chosen people. The new definition is Jesus.

    (Rom. 8:32-33 ESV) 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

    But in the OT, “elect” did not mean “saved.” It meant “Jew” as a member of God’s chosen people. Many Jews were not saved. Some Gentiles were. Hence, ‘elect” carries no OT implication of perseverance to the end. Far from it. It does refer to being privileged to enjoy a special relationship with God — which can be lost.

    The difference I see between OT election and NT election is that in the NT, because the boundary is faith in Jesus, there is no such thing as a saved person who is not elect and vice versa. If I fall away, I am no longer among the chosen people.

    (1 Pet. 2:9 ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

    The Kingdom/church is now the chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, etc. — all terms the OT applies to Israel.

    We are therefore predestined in the sense that God has always planned to bring the Gentiles into the Kingdom through Jesus. But that terminology simply doesn’t speak to individual predestination — in the OT, these concepts were applied at the national level. God’s predestination required that a remnant of Abraham’s descendants be saved — some Jews had to believe in Jesus for God’s promises to be fulfilled. How that ties to free will and such like is beyond human knowing. But God did not have to predestine you or me — just enough Jews for a remnant — for example.

    So when we read these terms that we accuse Calvin of slipping into our Bibles (/sardonic font) through an OT lens, we see that they’re not speaking of free will so much as God’s covenanting relationship and his plans for mankind.

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Buckeye Chuck (part 3),

    This is not say that there aren’t real, difficult questions regarding how God’s choosing and hardening and softening of hearts fits into free will, but the solution will be found (if even comprehensible by humans) in working through the OT meanings of the terms before we try to sort out the NT meanings. Calvin’s mistake was trying to define all these concepts while ignoring the covenant theology behind them.

    For modern man, the problem is reconciling a God who chooses with the Post-modern ideal of a God who doesn’t discriminate. It bothers our sensibilities to imagine that God might blessings to some and not to others — but this is repeatedly taught in the OT and in Rom 9 – 11. Only the Jews received the Torah. Only the Jews experienced God on Mt. Sinai.

    Does that mean the Jews were somehow favored over the Gentiles? YES!

    Is that fair?

    Are you the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? The one who complains that someone received a free gift he didn’t receive? The day laborer who worked a full day and angry that the workers who worked a part day received full pay?

    Jesus’ point is that God can be more than fair all he wants to be with whomever he wishes, whyever he wishes, and those who receive mere fairness have no complaint. Justice is what we deserve, and we get justice, we have no quarrel with God — except in a world being rebuilt on entitlement. There is no entitlement to grace.

    If that seems wrong, I don’t know how to fix it.

    Even today, I was raised in a Christian home by Christian parents in a Christian church — giving me huge spiritual advantages over someone who never heard of Jesus. Is it fair? No, but God isn’t required to be fair. He is required by his own self-description to be just — or better. And I’ve received better.

    Do I feel some survivor’s guilt over that fact. Yes. And so I do what I can to spread the good news of God’s grace.

    And I would just love to be able to say that people who never heard of Jesus go to heaven when they die — but I find no such teaching in the Bible. And the arguments I’ve studied — and I’ve read a lot of them — don’t hold up under close scrutiny. The verses just don’t hold up.

    Frankly, universalism holds up better than available light — and yet universalism is so utterly contrary to the story of Acts and the words of Jesus and of Paul that I find it hard to have the patience to deal with it when it comes up.

  26. Christopher says:

    Jay,

    I think the problem Chuck may be having with your theology as explained above, particularly with respect to Ninevah, is this:

    In the passage you quote from Jonah detailing the Ninevites response to Jonah’s message, they are said to a) believe God b) fast in sackcloth and ashes and c) turn from their evil ways. It is hard to see why you don’t regard that as a) faith and b) repentance. The Scriptures do not indicate what this generation of Ninevites did in the years following their reprieve, but neither does it tell what Naaman (who you have conceded is a man of faith) did after his healing (and he is not listed in the so-called “hall of faith” as is Rahab). Just because the Scriptures do not affirm something does not mean they therefore deny it. In short, it seems that your judgment of the Ninevites fate is a deduction from a doctrinal position more than anything else.

    Regarding God’s sovereignty, you say:

    “For modern man, the problem is reconciling a God who chooses with the Post-modern ideal of a God who doesn’t discriminate. It bothers our sensibilities to imagine that God might blessings to some and not to others — but this is repeatedly taught in the OT and in Rom 9 – 11.”

    Admittedly, Romans 9-11 is one of the most difficult passages in all of the Bible (it is not hard to see how Calvin read what he did from it). And, indeed, it illustrates one of the great difficulties in interpreting the Scriptures: that of resolving seemingly contradictory verses. Many skeptics, for example, cite the three varying accounts of women going to Jesus’ tomb as a logical contradiction (one account mentions one woman, another two and the third three women). But, as we know, it is not. To some extent, Paul unashamedly seems to make God out to be a kind of Divine potter and humans simply objects for his use. And, seeing that God is our creator, no one could have any objection to that were it not for His claims to be love, to want all men to be saved, to have bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all, and to show no favoritism.
    Consequently, there has to be more to this then meets our eyes (as with the account of women going to the Lord’s tomb). God cannot claim to want all men to be saved if it were not possible. That would be absurd. So we can be sure He does not arbitrarily will for some men to not be saved. God cannot claim to not show favoritism if he, in fact, favors one human being (or group of human beings) over another. He cannot claim to wish to have mercy on all if He only desires to have mercy on some. Maybe, besides providing all human beings that have ever lived with proof of His existence, power and attributes (Romans 1) and with a representative group of His people to make everyone know of His interest in humanity (through military might and miracles with Israel and through loving evangelism and miracles with the Church), it all comes down to this: if we – whoever we are – draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.

  27. Richard constant says:

    yeah you’re going to have to deal with 2nd Peter 2
    Blessings there big kid.
    rich

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    Thanks for your thoughtful note. Let’s first deal with “God is not respecter of persons,” because I’ve been wrestling with that one myself. Let’s see what the text says.

    Deu 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

    2Ch 19:7 Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”

    Rom 2:11 For God shows no partiality.

    Gal 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

    Eph 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

    Job 34:19 who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?

    Col 3:25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

    (Jas. 2:1 ESV) My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

    1Pe 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,

    The “no respecter of persons” language from the KJV is translated by the ESV as “impartial.” The roots of the concepts are a description of God as judge. In the ancient world, the king was also a judge — the supreme court of the land. Paul appealed his case to Caesar himself, not to Caesar’s court. God as the true King of Israel served as the final judge. And one prominent feature of Torah is its insistence that judges not take bribes, not favor the rich and the powerful, and to give equal justice to masters and slaves, Jews and Gentiles, etc.

    And yet it’s plainly true that God gave special advantages to the Jews not received by the Gentiles. They are his chosen people, and the scriptures very nearly shout this fact. So we need to avoid the temptation to pick the verses we like the best and use them to overrule the verses we don’t like the best. Rather, we need to try to find Paul’s actual point — because Paul surely saw no contradiction.

    Now, it’s particularly paradoxical for Paul to declare God impartial in Rom 2:11 when he keeps saying, over and over, to “the Jews first and also to the Greeks.” Paul makes a point of recognizing the advantages received by the Jews.

    Or to be more precise, certainly post-gospel we can see that God is no respecter of persons, because Jews and Gentiles are alike included or excluded based on faith — although as a matter of history, the Jews had the gospel preached first to them.

    But pre-gospel, there’s an obvious discrimination. The Jews were chosen; no one else was. Even if we declare the Ninevites saved and going to heaven, that’s just one of thousands of nations and city-states. What about the Eskimos? The Vikings? The Pygmies?

    Now, there are all sorts of theories about how to deal with his challenge —

    * Everyone goes to heaven, perhaps after a period of purging of sin (universalism with purgatory).

    * Good people go to heaven, perhaps after a period of purging of sin (works salvation for those not in Christ — which the Bible very plainly rejects as possible).

    * People with faith (very broadly defined) go to heaven, perhaps after a period of purging (but how to have faith in a deity you’ve never heard of? There is not the least evidence of faith in something other than YHWH himself having any salvific effect. Most of the ancients believed in a god or gods, and they are condemned for idolatry.)

    * With the advent of the gospel, God is no respecter of persons. All are judged based on works, except that those who enter the Kingdom through faith in Jesus are saved by grace.

    * Pre-gospel, God chose Israel as light of the world, to show the world the blessings of serving God as Lord. The offer was open to all, but largely failed as to Gentiles — and didn’t go all that well with the Jews. In fact, despite their blessings, the northern tribes were defeated by Assyria and ceased to exist as a part of God’s chosen people. The southern tribes continued in covenant relationship with God until the Babylonian captivity — and the exile that this instituted continued until Jesus.

    God’s solution to Judah’s hardheartedness was to return to the Temple himself, as Jesus, and to die for his people — and to define his people as all people with faith in Jesus.

    So while God dealt differently with the Jews, it’s not as though the Jews were all that pleasing to God —

    (Lk. 4:24-27 ESV) 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

    Jesus is making the point that, at times, God has rejected Israel in preference to Gentiles, based on faith. This is a defense to the “no respecter of persons” accusation — except that, of course, God moves in history and so he influences how things turn out.

    Obviously, I think the last two bullets are what the Bible teaches. But under this interpretation, the fact remains that most people on this planet have no knowledge of Jesus — which is not God’s fault nearly so much as the fault of the church.

    (Rom. 10:12-15 ESV) 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

    Paul sees mission work as essential to salvation. God will save all who call on the name of the LORD (Joel 2:32), but only those to whom the good news has been preached may do so. And that fact remains true today.

    But God could have called the Zulus rather than the Jews, and perhaps if he’d done so, I’d never have heard of the gospel. He sent Paul to Asia Minor, not Persia. That obviously impacted who was saved and who was not, for thousands of years. God makes choices that affect the salvation of entire nations and certainly many individuals.

    Paul confronts this question head on in Rom 9 —

    (Rom. 9:6-12 ESV) 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad– in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls– 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

    God chose Abraham and not anyone else.

    God chose Isaac, not Ishmael or any of their later siblings.

    God chose Jacob over Esau.

    This is not about electing to salvation but about being favored with a special relationship with God. After all, not all Jews are saved.

    (Rom. 9:13-16 ESV) 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    V. 13 quotes Malachi and is speaking of Israel (Judah) and Edom (descendants of Esau). And the point is that, while God will always be at least just, he may choose to grant unmerited favor as he pleases. Now, this is the beginning, not the end, of Paul argument — but his foundational point is that God, being God, may grant undeserved mercy on some but not all. After all, God healed Naaman while leaving countless other lepers in Israel diseased.

    (Rom. 9:17-18 ESV) 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    Paul takes his logic a step further. Exodus records that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart — so that God might demonstrate his power by defeating Egypt for the sake of the Jews. This is NOT about Christian salvation or Calvinism. It’s about the hand of God moving in history to move things in the direction he wishes — even bringing down entire nations.

    Of course, individuals are impacted, but Paul is thinking in terms of the national history of Israel, not individual predestination. And God moved in history to create Israel, to protect Israel from its earthly enemies, etc. The Jews are with us today, and yet how many other nations have fallen and disappeared over the millennia?

    (Rom. 9:19-21 ESV) 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

    Paul asks exactly the same question that we ask: If God makes these choices, then does our free will even matter? Are we just clay in his hands?

    And the answer isn’t “yes” but “Yes, but …” Yes, obviously God has the right to do with us as he pleases. We are his creations. He can make us for whatever purpose suits him.

    On the other hand, we tend to read this assuming that the only possible outcomes are eternal torture and eternal life, and when viewed though this lens, the idea of making people with no chance of eternal life is monstrous. And this is the most serious problem with Calvinism — it insists that not only MAY God create people to stoke the fires of hell, but he DOES. But Paul is presently speaking abstractly, and Paul believes no such thing. Rather, he’s just saying that God MAY do as he pleases — while writing from an eschatology that says that God only gives immortality to the saved. He does NOT monstrously damn the unsaved to an eternity of torture. That’s Greek thought, not Christian — and it colors our ability to read what Paul says so much that we find it unbearable.

    (Rom. 9:22-24 ESV) 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    Now, “destruction” means destruction, not perpetual conscious torment. Those whom he has called are people of faith in Jesus — both Jews and Gentiles. In fact, Paul says, God’s treatment of the unsaved is “much patience.” We want to say that God damns them to an eternity of everlasting agony — but Paul says they receive God’s patience.

    This is likely a reference back to —

    (Rom. 2:3-6 ESV) 3 Do you suppose, O man– you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself– that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works:

    There was a time when God did not punish the sins Paul describes in Rom 1:20 – 2:3. God could have justly punished Gentiles and Jews alike, but he showed them patience/forbearance. Hence, no punishment. God’s patience expired. Judgement according to works is coming. The King is on his throne, the court is in session, and justice will finally be served.

    (Rom. 2:9-11 ESV) 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

    So on a looking-forward basis, the standard is the same for all — Jews and Greeks.

    But looking back, while the Gentiles were not punished for their sins — other than suffering eternal death — God then, as God does now, save all with faith. But then, as it true now, this is not everyone and not even most people. In fact, most people never heard of God in the ancient times — and this remains true today. So while the standard is the same, the opportunities are not.

    So what we find so disconcerting is the fact that God has not moved in history to make certain that everyone at least had the chance to learn about God (pre-Jesus) or Jesus.

    The Calvinists blame this on God (they wouldn’t put it this way, but they say it’s God’s election). And they teach perpetual conscious torment for those who’ve never even heard of Jesus. I can’t go there, nor do I find that in the Bible.

    The Arminians blame this on the church, which is much more fair. We’ve not been nearly the missionaries we should have been, nor have we lived to glorify Jesus as we should have. That’s on us. But still God makes choices that impact the flow of history.

    So how do we resolve this? Well, there are theories —

    * Pascal argued that God is doing the best he can with the hand he’s been dealt. That if God made other choices, things would turn out even worse. And it’s entirely unprovable and may even be true at the macro level – God’s choice of Abraham and not Leif Erikson. But I don’t agree with this at the individual level. I don’t think everyone who gets cancer does so because it’s God’s will. I think the world is broken, and God’s solution is not magic but Jesus and the cross and the Kingdom — and that this is indeed the best possible solution or he surely would have chosen another.

    * Some Calvinists argue that it’s all God’s will and part of his great master plan. That denies the brokenness of the world — and its rebellion against God.

    * Some argue that God just makes whatever choices he wills and we have no right to challenge him. That’s kind of the lesson of Job — and it’s partly true. It’s untrue to the extent that God claims to be just and no respecter of persons. Those are testable claims. Either God speaks truthfully of himself or he does not. And I think Conditionalism solves the question of justness. I think “no respecter of persons” is largely about justice and not equality — and so it’s resolved by Conditionalism, too. More precisely, God does not favor the rich or the powerful. No one can buy or even earn God’s favor. It comes solely by faith.

    But I believe there is a huge problem with the fact that after 2000 years most the world does not know Jesus. Christianity reached Japan by 1000 AD — and then began to decline in the East to the point of near disappearance — largely due to getting mixed up in politics and wars and such like. We bungled our mission.

    I don’t like the fact that God’s plan would have worked but for our screw ups — but that’s part of it.

    Also, God’s choice of the Jews proved largely ineffective. The slaves freed from Egypt died in the desert. It wasn’t long before the rest were carried off into captivity, with the Temple destroyed. God’s election of Israel is very unlike Calvinistic election. It’s no free ticket to heaven. He undeniably treated the Jews differently from the Gentiles — but better?? I could argue the opposite POV. After all, Jews that rebelled against God presumably were punished for their sins. They were accountable for the Law. Gentiles who were in rebellion were not punished. They just died eternally. Jews of faith were saved, but Gentiles (with very few exceptions) had no knowledge of God in order to come to faith. They also ceased to exist. But the Jews were so incredibly rebellious, God’s election of Israel probably sent more Jews to gehenna than to Abraham’s bosom.

    (Rom. 2:12 ESV) 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish [die eternally] without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged [be justly punished] by the law.

    So maybe it kind of balances out in the end.

    God needed a chosen people to prepare the world for Jesus. Being chosen was an unspeakable blessing — but a mixed one. With greater knowledge of God comes greater accountability. God covered this with grace abounding (Rom 5:20-21). But rebellion doesn’t receive grace — and the Jews, on the whole, rebelled against God. Their election damned them to just punishment in gehenna, while their Gentile neighbors simply died. Which would you prefer?

    (Acts 2:40 ESV) 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

    (Rom. 10:15-21 ESV) 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

    So God treated the Jews differently. I’m not sure that he treated them better.

  29. Christopher says:

    Jay,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Let me respond to some of them, countering them with not a formal argument but with thoughts that occur to me – and see if that doesn’t help us both to some extent.

    “Or to be more precise, certainly post-gospel we can see that God is no respecter of persons, because Jews and Gentiles are alike included or excluded based on faith — although as a matter of history, the Jews had the gospel preached first to them. But pre-gospel, there’s an obvious discrimination. The Jews were chosen; no one else was. Even if we declare the Ninevites saved and going to heaven, that’s just one of thousands of nations and city-states. What about the Eskimos? The Vikings? The Pygmies?”

    It seems to me that one of the presuppositions underlying what you say here and below (in other quoted passages) is that the history provided in the Old Testament is comprehensive. First, correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall there being books alluded to in the Old Testament that are not in the canon (this is also true of the New Testament, I think). There are missing books, in other words. Secondly, as I pointed in a post elsewhere, John ends his gospel by saying there are many other things Jesus did that are not recorded and if they had been, the whole world could not contain the books it would require to do this. Could it not be that the two testaments we have are but a “brief history” of God’s dealing with mankind? And, if so, might that change the conclusions we draw?

    “On the other hand, we tend to read this assuming that the only possible outcomes are eternal torture and eternal life, and when viewed though this lens, the idea of making people with no chance of eternal life is monstrous. And this is the most serious problem with Calvinism — it insists that not only MAY God create people to stoke the fires of hell, but he DOES. But Paul is presently speaking abstractly, and Paul believes no such thing. Rather, he’s just saying that God MAY do as he pleases — while writing from an eschatology that says that God only gives immortality to the saved. He does NOT monstrously damn the unsaved to an eternity of torture. That’s Greek thought, not Christian — and it colors our ability to read what Paul says so much that we find it unbearable.”

    I agree with what you say here and the pernicious doctrine of people being consciously tormented forever may have done more to turn people away from God than any other thing. It is very hard if not impossible to defend to honest seekers of truth. It’s a wonder anyone has turned to God in past centuries. I suspect this devilish doctrine came from the Catholic Church, which in my opinion has twisted the Scriptures to everyone’s harm in the same way the Supreme Court has twisted the Constitution.

    “So what we find so disconcerting is the fact that God has not moved in history to make certain that everyone at least had the chance to learn about God (pre-Jesus) or Jesus. But I believe there is a huge problem with the fact that after 2000 years most the world does not know Jesus. Christianity reached Japan by 1000 AD — and then began to decline in the East to the point of near disappearance — largely due to getting mixed up in politics and wars and such like. We bungled our mission. I don’t like the fact that God’s plan would have worked but for our screw ups — but that’s part of it. Also, God’s choice of the Jews proved largely ineffective. The slaves freed from Egypt died in the desert. It wasn’t long before the rest were carried off into captivity, with the Temple destroyed. God’s election of Israel is very unlike Calvinistic election. It’s no free ticket to heaven. He undeniably treated the Jews differently from the Gentiles — but better?? I could argue the opposite POV. After all, Jews that rebelled against God presumably were punished for their sins. They were accountable for the Law. Gentiles who were in rebellion were not punished. They just died eternally. Jews of faith were saved, but Gentiles (with very few exceptions) had no knowledge of God in order to come to faith. They also ceased to exist. But the Jews were so incredibly rebellious, God’s election of Israel probably sent more Jews to gehenna than to Abraham’s bosom.”

    Besides what I say above, I guess I would first point you to both Psalm 19 and Romans 1, which make clear that everyone should know about God. Indeed, I think the argument from design for God’s existence is extremely compelling. It is sad to see atheists concede that the odds of such an orderly and complex universe coming about by chance is virtually nil, yet refuse to believe the alternate and 99.999999999999999999999% (or so) likely explanation. Secondly, I would remind you of what Paul says to the Athenians:

    “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-7, NIV)

    It seems clear from this passage that 1) God did indeed (as I said in my preceding post) want all men to find Him and be saved and 2) He is or has not been far from anyone who has ever lived.

    I also, in a post elsewhere, point out that from the book of Joshua we learn (from Rahab and the author) that the peoples of Jericho and the other cities doomed to destruction had heard about the Jews and how God had wrought miracles for them. Is it too much to suppose that peoples of other lands could not have also heard or known of the Israelites and their God? With respect to Jesus, in Paul’s time certainly many people had not heard of Jesus. But that is hardly true today. And I don’t know how true it has been after Rome was “Christianized” in the 4th century. With the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 11th and 15th centuries respectively, it may have been even less true. Now, with the Internet and mass media, I cannot imagine anyone not having heard of Jesus. The problem now (I think) is not ignorance but confusion (with all of the false doctrines floating around).

    Perhaps God had giving everyone sufficient knowledge of Him all covered by Himself and has has used Israel and the Church mainly as full illustrations of God caring about and interacting with His spiritual “offspring”.

  30. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    Thanks for your note. I’ll respond by quoting from your comment and answering the best I can. I’m breaking this up into smaller comments to ease the reading.

    It seems to me that one of the presuppositions underlying what you say here and below (in other quoted passages) is that the history provided in the Old Testament is comprehensive. First, correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall there being books alluded to in the Old Testament that are not in the canon (this is also true of the New Testament, I think). There are missing books, in other words. Secondly, as I pointed in a post elsewhere, John ends his gospel by saying there are many other things Jesus did that are not recorded and if they had been, the whole world could not contain the books it would require to do this. Could it not be that the two testaments we have are but a “brief history” of God’s dealing with mankind? And, if so, might that change the conclusions we draw?

    Years ago, I actually made a list of the books referenced in the Bible that we don’t have. There are several. But they are largely either lost chronicles of ancient Israelite kings or epistles of Paul that the Spirit didn’t see fit to preserve for us. Much more importantly to my own thinking, we have history, and the history of the world doesn’t reveal that God chose another people besides Israel. There are plenty of ancient nations that considered themselves chosen by their particular deity, but none that claim to have the same God as the God of the Jews. In fact, as the West explored the world, one thing many looked for was the lost tribes of Israel — being the northern kingdom taken by Assyria. It was the stuff of legend, and explorers kept hoping to stumble across them — but they did not. They did stumble across some pockets of Christianity — such as a region of India that had been Christianized by, according to the Indians, the apostle Thomas. And there were pockets of Jews who had scattered here and there, such as the Elephantine colony in the upper Nile. But if God had chosen all peoples as he chose the Jews, history would be very different.

    The Latter Day Saints famously believe that American Indian tribes are descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. There was once a teaching that the British were. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Israelism All sorts of theories circulated (and none have been confirmed by DNA testing).

    Now, is it possible, even likely, that God’s hand has moved among mankind throughout the world in ways not mentioned in the Bible? Of course. But the question at issue is election, not Providence. Yes, God has always been present worldwide and as active he cared to be. But history seems to be clear that the Jews were unique in how they were chosen by God, and the Bible says this —

    (Exod. 19:5-6 ESV) 5 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

    (Deut. 7:6 ESV) 6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

    (Deut. 26:18-19 ESV) 18 “And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

    The Torah repeatedly emphasizes not only that the Jews were God’s chosen or elect, but that they were uniquely so — above all other nations.

  31. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (part 2) wrote,

    Besides what I say above, I guess I would first point you to both Psalm 19 and Romans 1, which make clear that everyone should know about God. Indeed, I think the argument from design for God’s existence is extremely compelling. It is sad to see atheists concede that the odds of such an orderly and complex universe coming about by chance is virtually nil, yet refuse to believe the alternate and 99.999999999999999999999% (or so) likely explanation.

    I entirely agree with the power of modern physics to reject an atheistic source for the universes. I covered this in a series of posts on Apologetics last summer. And the odds are even more compelling than you say. But the odds only tell us that physics and mathematics are not the origin of the universe. They don’t tell us who made it. That can’t come from science by itself.

    Secondly, I would remind you of what Paul says to the Athenians:

    “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-7, NIV)

    It seems clear from this passage that 1) God did indeed (as I said in my preceding post) want all men to find Him and be saved and 2) He is or has not been far from anyone who has ever lived.

    I agree that God is never far away. I agree that he wants to be found. But history and observation tell me that most people on the planet have not found him — and the percentages were far lower in Paul’s day. I mean, if all these non-Jews found God — the true God — who are they? Where are they?

    Among the Greeks, Aristotle taught a Prime Mover — a deity that set the universe in motion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmoved_mover. Aristotle was essentially a monotheist, but his deity was impersonal and unknowable. The Stoics taught that everything proceeds from the Logos. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos#Stoics The Stoics sometimes spoke of the Logos as a god or the god. (Which is part of what John 1 such a remarkable piece of literature.)

    The American Indians teach a Great Spirit, http://are.as.wvu.edu/ruvolo.htm. It’s not exactly monotheistic because the Iroquois, for example, taught that the Great Spirit had little concern with humans and dealt with humans through lesser deities.

    So we can see in history that people did at times come close to finding God through natural revelation, but they never quite got there. Monotheism, or something very close to it, was achievable by mortals without special revelation. But none of these peoples considered themselves chosen or to have anything like the Abrahamic covenant or the Torah.

    So I struggle with the notion that people might find God without special revelation. I think they can find out much about God from his Creation. I think the Creation shouts God’s praise. But history tells us that very few humans have found God solely through observing nature — although some have come very close.

    Now, would God accept the faith of an Aristotelian who believed in a single Prime Mover who was without love or mercy? Would God accept the faith of an Iroquois who believes in a chief god, the Great Spirit, who was too great to be bothered with human concerns — and ultimately therefore unknowable?

    I don’t know that I have standing to make such a judgment. But “God” is not merely “monotheism.” Surely saving faith requires more than believing that there is but one god. It’s faith in YHWH that saves, not faith in monotheism.

    On the other hand, if Paul’s point is that we can learn enough about God to damn ourselves — to see that we are all sinners – that is doubtlessly true.

    The last clause of v. 20, “so that they are without excuse,” states a key element in our interpretation of vv. 19–20. For Paul here makes clear that “natural revelation,” in and of itself, leads to a negative result. That Paul teaches the reality of a revelation of God in nature to all people, this text makes clear. But it is equally obvious that this revelation is universally rejected, as people turn from knowledge of God to gods of their own making (cf. vv. 22ff.). Why this is so, Paul will explain elsewhere (cf. Rom. 5:12–21). But it is vital if we are to understand Paul’s gospel and his urgency in preaching it to realize that natural revelation leads not to salvation but to the demonstration that God’s condemnation is just: people are “without excuse.” That verdict stands over the people we meet every day just as much as over the people Paul rubbed shoulders with in the first century, and our urgency in communicating the gospel should be as great as Paul’s

    .

    Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 105–106.

    Nevertheless, however brief the statement, Paul clearly does believe that when humans look at creation they are aware, at some level, of the power and divinity of the creator. The problem, of course, is that this knowledge does not save those who possess it, but only renders them guilty. Paul does not say that saving knowledge of God may be had through observing the creation; nor, however, does he say that there is nothing that can be known of God that way. Indeed, granted his belief in the renewal of the human mind by grace, we must assume that in his view the Christian can indeed discern the truth of God by observing creation. But that is not his point here. In fact, like several of his Jewish contemporaries, he believes–consonant with the Jewish belief that the world was made by a good creator–that signs of the creator are visible within this world (see, e.g., Wis 13:5).48 But these never permit humans to gain over the creator the kind of power that comes with knowledge. On the contrary, they are simply enough to ensure that when humans rebel–as they do–they are manifestly guilty.

    N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), n.p.

  32. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (part 3) wrote,

    I also, in a post elsewhere, point out that from the book of Joshua we learn (from Rahab and the author) that the peoples of Jericho and the other cities doomed to destruction had heard about the Jews and how God had wrought miracles for them. Is it too much to suppose that peoples of other lands could not have also heard or known of the Israelites and their God? With respect to Jesus, in Paul’s time certainly many people had not heard of Jesus. But that is hardly true today. And I don’t know how true it has been after Rome was “Christianized” in the 4th century. With the invention of movable type and the printing press in the 11th and 15th centuries respectively, it may have been even less true. Now, with the Internet and mass media, I cannot imagine anyone not having heard of Jesus. The problem now (I think) is not ignorance but confusion (with all of the false doctrines floating around).

    It is without doubt true that Gentiles learned about YHWH from his dealings with Israel. Your references are entirely correct. Some nations feared God in the sense of trembling before such a mighty being. A few individuals chose to join with Israel as “proselytes.” While there was no formal mechanism for becoming a proselyte before late First Century (insofar as history records), clearly some Gentiles became God fearers. Paul is often recorded as speaking to God-fearing Gentiles. These are likely believers who had not been circumcised — and so could not take Passover or participate in many other Jewish rituals.

    The records are contradictory, as some rabbis seem to have treated a proselyte as a full Jew, whereas other rabbis treated them as just as worthless as the ordinary Gentile. (Bigotry is not a modern invention.) But the Bible clearly shows some Gentiles joining the Israelite community. It’s entirely possible that some Gentile communities near Israel chose to venerate YHWH — either as the One True God or the greatest of the gods.

    The Babylonians and Philistines stole Jewish cult objects from the Temple in order to draw the blessings of God to themselves. They believed that YHWH was a real god, just not the Lord of Hosts but only one among many. But Cornelius and many other Romans were believers in YHWH as the One True God.

    But history contradicts any notion that knowledge of God had made it far away from where Jews might be found. Of course, as communications and travel expanded, Christianity expanded its influence just as fast. Even so, the odds that your next-door neighbor knows Jesus are not good. Plenty of Americans know Jesus only from public school text books and TV news. The knowledge is more available than ever, but there are so many false Jesuses being taught that the real one gets lost in the clutter.

    So I agree with you on the confusion idea.

    On the other hand, there are stories coming out of the Islamic world of Moslems having dreams and visions of Jesus and seeking out a Christian missionary to teach them.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/christ-called-me-off-minaret.html?start=3
    https://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/24501

    So God can reveal and does reveal himself, but Paul also speaks the truth when he says the word must be preached. The Muslims receiving visions and dreams go looking for a preacher — a Christian — to answer their questions and point them in the right direction. Pray that someone is there prepared to answer their questions.

  33. Christopher says:

    Jay,

    Just a few more thoughts to clarify my earlier posts. Thanks for the exchange. I very much enjoy wrestling with the Scripures with others. 😉

    “Much more importantly to my own thinking, we have history, and the history of the world doesn’t reveal that God chose another people besides Israel.”

    I am no longer arguing election as I agree with you that only one group of people (Israel) were elect before Christ and only one (the Church) since. But I am talking about 1) every person’s abilty to understand that God exists and is the One who created us along with everything else 2) man’s responsibility to take that knowledge and (as Paul says) grope for Him and perhaps find Him (since He is not far from each of us) and 3) the non-elect before and after Christ who find God and about whom we have no knowledge.

    “I agree that God is never far away. I agree that he wants to be found. But history and observation tell me that most people on the planet have not found him — and the percentages were far lower in Paul’s day. I mean, if all these non-Jews found God — the true God — who are they? Where are they?”

    All I am suggesting is that it is quite possible (in my mind) that there are more “Ninevites” out there that we don’t know about. I see no reason to think biblical history is comprehensive. By John’s own admission, his gospel is not. So why think that is otherwise true of the Bible in sum? Indeed, as far as I know, it tells us next to nothing about many peoples of the world living contemporaneously with those written about in the Scriptures. And I don’t think early secular history is going to tell us much about God’s dealing with mankind.

    So it seemed to me you were blotting out most of the world’s population from the Book of Life simply because you had not read of other non-Jews being saved besides Naaman and a few others (and possibly the Ninevites). What if God choose not to tell us about those other people, recounting what happened with the Ninevites only as a representative account of His interaction with and mercy for non-Jews? I am NOT saying most everyone is going to be saved, only that more are going to be saved than a lot of CoC authors I have read imagine (in my view at this time, of course).

    “So I struggle with the notion that people might find God without special revelation. I think they can find out much about God from his Creation. I think the Creation shouts God’s praise. But history tells us that very few humans have found God solely through observing nature — although some have come very close. Now, would God accept the faith of an Aristotelian who believed in a single Prime Mover who was without love or mercy? Would God accept the faith of an Iroquois who believes in a chief god, the Great Spirit, who was too great to be bothered with human concerns — and ultimately therefore unknowable? I don’t know that I have standing to make such a judgment. But “God” is not merely “monotheism.” Surely saving faith requires more than believing that there is but one god. It’s faith in YHWH that saves, not faith in monotheism.”

    I wasn’t suggesting that knowledge of and belief in the existence of the one true God is sufficient to be saved, since (as I have argued) everyone has that (even if they deny it in their minds and hearts) – according to Psalm 19 and Romans 1. It is the groping and then finding of Him that leads to saving faith. And it is that which proves God truly has wanted all men to be saved (from Adam on) and that mankind is culpable for not bothering to seek Him when they knew He was there. I suspect God has provided the “revelation” needed for each person earnestly seeking Him throughout history, whether we know about it or not. Does He not have that ability and is He not (as Jesus says) always at His work? Think about the Ethiopian eunuch – how the Spirit directed Philip to go up to Him as he was returning from Jerusalem and trying to make sense of an Old Testament prophesy. Think about the Queen of Sheba and how she sought wisdom from the wisest man on earth and what she must have learned from Solomon – something Jesus thought important enough to make mention of. Why would she have done that if she did not believe in God and was somehow seeking Him?

  34. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (part 4),

    By John’s own admission, his gospel is not. So why think that is otherwise true of the Bible in sum? Indeed, as far as I know, it tells us next to nothing about many peoples of the world living contemporaneously with those written about in the Scriptures. And I don’t think early secular history is going to tell us much about God’s dealing with mankind.

    It is surely true that the scriptures and secular history don’t tell us the sum of all God’s work among men. That’s easy.

    But if God had brought an entire nation to belief in God by whatever means, it likely would have left its mark on history — in that nation’s language, art, literature, architecture, music, philosophy — even how it did commerce. A nation under submission to God, if it leaves artifacts at all, will leave behind indications of its worldview and belief system.

    Obviously, some nations have been so destroyed that we have no record of them — and there are probably nations that are so destroyed that we don’t even know to go looking for them. But there’s a lot that we do know about a lot of different nations and ethnic groups in the last 4 or 5 thousand years — and there’s just not much to show that people outside the influence of Israel found God.

    God chose Israel to be his means of self-revelation — and so it’s not surprising that knowledge of God was, for 1500 years, found only through Israel. Obviously, pre-Israel there was some pre-existent knowledge of God, as shown by Melchizedek and Abram’s homeland. There’s not a lot of archaeological evidence that goes back that far. But from 1500 BC (Moses) to Jesus, there’s quite a lot more — and the evidence of God-worship is found in and around Israel only.

    But the prophets in the OT did specifically address neighboring countries — and some not exactly next door. And it’s possible, even likely, that these words were heard and heeded by these other nations. I doubt that many became worshipers of God, but some may have. It’s the sort of thing the Jewish historians would have wanted to record, because it would have been a source of honor and pride for another nation to follow God because of the Jewish example.

    Consider in Daniel the stories of Nebuchadnezzar choosing to worship God —

    (Dan. 4:34-5:1 ESV) reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

    So I’ll not deny that non-Jews were led to follow God by God’s revelation of himself through Israel. I just don’t think it happened very often.

    The Queen of Sheba said this when she visited Solomon —

    (1 Ki. 10:4-10 ESV) 4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her. 6 And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, 7 but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. 8 Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 10 Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices and precious stones. Never again came such an abundance of spices as these that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

    In a sense, this is a declaration of faith. But there is no indication that she submitted to God as Lord. She likely thought of God as the God of the Jews who blessed Solomon. Consider —

    Praise be to the LORD implies recognition of Israel’s national God and need not necessarily be an expression of personal faith. A parting gift was usually given by the host (as v. 13) but the large donation of gold (v. 10) implies the conclusion of a commercial or even vassal treaty.

    Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 9; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), n.p.

    So as in the case of Nineveh, I’m not sure that the scriptures justify a conclusion that the Queen of Sheba or the Ninevites came to any real faith in God. It’s possible. Can’t be ruled out. But the authors would have said so more clearly, in my opinion.

    But did they have a chance to respond to God’s revelation through Israel and her prophets with saving faith? Absolutely.

    The Ethiopian eunuch is an entirely different case, because he very specifically came to saving faith — and God sent someone to tell him about Jesus. But this is Christianity — after things had changed in many ways.

    Why did the QOS visit Solomon? It doesn’t have to be a religious excursion. In fact, as the Tyndale commentary points out, her giving of lavish gifts is suggestive of a vassal relationship, and she visited on behalf of her nation to obtain the good will of a superior military might to which she paid tribute. That doesn’t make her praise of Solomon and his God less sincere, but her trip does not need to be a religious pilgrimage. It could have been good politics on behalf of her people. Jesus said she made the trip to experience the wisdom of Solomon. Why disagree?

    Jesus’ point is not that the QOS was saved and went to heaven, but that she at least at the good sense to recognize the work of God’s hands when she saw it — unlike most of the Jews.

    (Matt. 12:42 ESV) 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

    (Lk. 11:31 ESV) 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

    Jesus only credits her with wanting to meet with Solomon — not his God. If the QOS will travel great distances to see Solomon, then surely the Jews of Israel should surely take the trouble to see Jesus — who is far greater than Solomon and a much shorter journey.

    I think Jesus is shaming the Jews by showing that even the inadequate faith of these Gentiles is better than the faith of the Jews he was encountering. God himself was among the Jews, and they couldn’t muster as much faith as these Gentiles!

  35. buckeyechuck says:

    Jay, I feel the need to hoist a white flag here. It seems that the discussion has moved in a direction I did not intend. However, hopefully some good will result. I am certain that you read into some of what I said that I never intended to say, or otherwise I said rather poorly. Guilty as charged. On some matters we just disagree.

    Please accept my apologies for thoughts I said that were perhaps badly crafted. While I find these comment forums extremely valuable, direct verbal conversations might be better in some instances and would allow the possibility to intercept and avoid major misunderstandings.

    One thing I would like to clarify is that it was never my intent to suggest you used the words “toys” or “props.” Placing these words in quotes was only to indicate my emphasis. Perhaps my shortcoming, but I wanted to place an emphasis on those words and didn’t know a better way to do so. I can now conclude it was a bad idea as you took offense to it. It was not intended.

    Another is that a better reflection of my thoughts would be that all mankind is ELIGIBLE for rather than Worthy of God’s forgiveness. You may still disagree with OT Gentiles even being eligible since only Israel as a nation was elect. My position can be clarified by saying I do not believe God owes any man anything when it comes to salvation and certainly not because of any good works including the Ninevites.

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you said in a previous post:

    “Again we see the rare Gentile saved in the OT-but they were not elect until they came to God with faith and penitence…”

    The central basis for all mankind’s relationship with God throughout both the OT and the NT as presented in Gen 15:6 and in Romans 4:3,

    “…Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    I believe there is a solution to all these problems men are developing about God’s interaction with the men of the world. The mission of Jesus cannot be broken down in these segments. Jesus mission was to save the world, stated that exact way many times in scriptures OT and NT. That message does not imply that every man will be saved, there is a division drawn by man between who will be saved and who will not. but, that message is not one which will ever be defined through these piecemeal eyeglasses. Jay, you experienced the exact problem I am speaking of as you encountered Edward Fudges book on Hell. This book had to unravel multiple piecemeal concepts throughout the study before the light began shining through. There are tidbits (small in mans sight) bits of information about God and his relationship with man throughout scripture which have been covered up by so many writers that have clouded a clear vision of God’s World. Satan guiding many writers has done a marvelous work, he is a master at performing deceptions. Its going to take a book similar to The Book about Hell to bring the light back to the surface. I really do not believe that I can provide that high quality of communication. Now, saying that, I really had trouble putting that last sentence into text, my typing skills really lack a lot, but the typing was not what was bothering me. What was bothering me is do I really have faith that God will guide as we do his work? Maybe, I can find an Aaron to be a helper. I could use a lot of prayers about this matter.
    Thanks in advance.

  37. John Grant says:

    To put it bluntly, those teaching love God and your neighbor as yourself are growing and those teaching law are dying.
    Bottom line the teaching that all others in the world not following law as we see it are lost to eternal hell fire including the other 330 or so COC plus the rest of the world, past present and future are lost is just too hard to swallow if you believe in a loving God.
    Who could love a God like that? I sure couldn’t and cannot be expected to teach anyone else to love that God.
    First question asked is what about my parents, kin folks, friends? No one wants to be in heaven alone. Crossing that river and having those on the other side running through the shallow water reaching for your hand is far more appealing and much closer to the truth about our loving God.
    To answer all those we are trying to bring to Jesus God that ask by saying sorry, they went to hell just doesn’t fertilize growth, but that answer smells much like that discouraging item to most people of yesterday and today.
    I just wish the COC dying would hurry up as seeing the growth of new converts from law to love, teachings of our children by the teaching of love and looking forward to heaven and meeting God in person is growing and the happy faces instead of sorrowful faces is refreshing.

  38. Christopher says:

    Jay,

    From your lengthy responses above, I would conclude we are not that far apart. I suspect there will be more people in heaven than you do, but that we will both be surprised. And I like your argument that those non-Jews who didn’t come to a saving faith in God will simply be annihilated. They had a fair chance to seek and find God (as I believe all people do), even if it wasn’t as great as the Jews had. But then, as Jesus said, to him who has been given little, little is expected and to him who has been given much, much is expected.

    Good discussion.

  39. Christopher says:

    John,

    We all come into this world alone and leave it alone. And we all we be judged by God alone. God simply will and can not dwell with those who want to do things their way – any more than we can tolerate living with a relative who lies to and steals from us, get drunk all of the time, doesn’t work or help maintain the house and so on. We may love that relative, but at some point we will choose to no longer live with him. Now, if that persons changes his mind (repents) and stops doing those bad things and starts doing good things, that’s different. But what if he never wants to change? Well, then we’ll never live with him. Jesus said that unless we repent, we will all perish. Now you know the reason.

  40. John Grant says:

    Christopher,
    It could just be that those loving God and their neighbor are doing it Gods way. Jesus said so
    Many worship God with all their hearts and do not do bad things as you put it. They pray and ask for forgiveness when they sin just as you and I do, but, because COC is not above their door of their church building and even that is not enough, since most of those COC up and down the road that differ from our congregation in understanding of the law are also going to hell.
    We are still so exclusionary its become a joke even among ourselves and is running our thinking young folks off and not converting many at all but the young of our own congregation below age 13.
    One reason more are not going out seeking the lost is they do not believe the teaching they hear every Sunday themselves anymore but stay out of family tradition and comradeship. Older have seen too many changes from so many experts with big college degrees on what will send you to hell or gain heaven that are not practiced or taught anymore.
    Stop and write down what we are really teaching in the COC about our God. Is it love, justice, understanding, or fear?
    No wonder seeing how we can screw things up that the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in His heart.
    Thank God there are some stepping out like Jay and Al Maxey, even though as a highly trained and taught lawyer Jay is still law mind bound more than free wheeling Al. Can’t help himself!!!

    .

  41. Christopher says:

    John,

    Well, I certainly don’t think that the church of Christ is comprised only of those on the membership roles of the CoC – not by a longshot. However, it should be readily apparent that when most Americans say they are Christians and we see all of the godlessness we do, something is not adding up.

  42. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    I’ve enjoyed our exchanges. It’s always good to be pushed deeper into the word.

  43. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Buckeye Chuck,

    First, for an Alabama fan and an Ohio State fan to speak at all is a testament to the grace of God and power of his Spirit.

    You wrote,

    Another is that a better reflection of my thoughts would be that all mankind is ELIGIBLE for rather than Worthy of God’s forgiveness. You may still disagree with OT Gentiles even being eligible since only Israel as a nation was elect. My position can be clarified by saying I do not believe God owes any man anything when it comes to salvation and certainly not because of any good works including the Ninevites.

    I agree entirely. I reject Calvinist double predestination. I do not use biblical words in a Calvinistic sense, because I’m no Calvinist. That can be confusing, I’m learning, because so many have only heard these words used in a Calvinistic sense. When I say Israel was “elect” and no one else was, the word translated “elect” in the LXX is often translated as “chosen” in English translation — which means NT readers don’t realize that Paul also uses “elect” to mean “chosen” in the sense that Israel was chosen — but redefined through Jesus. When he declares the saved “elect,” he means the saved now stand in relationship with God where Israel once stood — as the new, spiritual Israel, as the Kingdom. And it’s hardly controversial to call Israel’s God’s chosen people. But when I talk about “elect people,” so that the language matches up to the NT use of the very same words, Calvin gets in the way. Readers can’t help but hear double predestination, unconditional election, etc. And I should have been more clear.

    So I think we aren’t far apart at all. Except when it comes to college football – and there is a great gulf that separates us.

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