Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Law is Good if Used Lawfully

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV).  

The section of 1 Timothy chap. 1 marked at vv. 8-17 is an explanatory digression, as the discussion of vv. 3-7 resumes at vv. 18-20. In contrast to the mishandling of the law by certain ones just noted, Paul explains its rightful purpose and proper use.1 While the word law” [nómosis applied with some flexibility in the NT, it normally relates to the old-covenant law of Moses. Notwithstanding the occasional exception to this general observation (e.g. Rom. 2:13, 14; Gal. 3:21b), the context normally clarifies the usage.

The Goodness of the Law

Since the term “law” in v. 9 is without the article in the Greek text (cf. ASV, NASB, NET), it has been suggested that the reference here may be to law in general, not strictly the Mosaic law. However, the article is appended in v. 8 (“the law”), and God’s law, as law, is generally true of all just laws. It is “good” [kalós] but only if used “lawfully” [nomímōs]. Its goodness is “because it truly does reflect God’s will…. related to its being used properly, that is, treated as law (intended for the lawless, v. 9) and not used ‘illegitimately’ as a source for myths and endless genealogies, or for ascetic practices.”2

During the fifteen centuries the Mosaic law was in force, provisions were made for atonement and forgiveness (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:13, 16, 18), salvation was attainable (1 Sam. 2:1; 2 Sam. 22:51; 1 Chron. 16:23; Psa. 3:8; etc.), and one could even be counted “blameless” (Luke 1:6; Phil. 3:6). Faith, love, and mercy were essential components (Deut. 6:4-9; 10:12-21; Mic. 6:8; Hab. 2:4; Matt. 23:23; etc.), and it was beneficial to all who submitted to it (Deut. 6:24; 10:13; cf. Psa. 78:1-7; etc.).3

Foreshadowing the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26; Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 9:15, 26), persons were saved under the old Jewish covenantal law by God’s grace through faith (Rom. 4:3-16; cf. 3:25; 9:31-32), i.e., a faith that submitted to the divine will in humble obedience. Despite the fact that a number of 1st-century legalistic Jews misconstrued the law’s intended purpose (Luke 11:37-42; Rom. 2:23; 10:3), it was never meant to be a cold-hearted structure of meritorious works. While the old-covenant system was not faultless (Heb. 8:7), it successfully functioned as a temporary measure to keep faith alive until the advent of the promised Messiah and the establishment of his superior new-covenant system (cf. Gal. 3:16–4:7; Heb. 8:6-13).

The Necessity of the Law

The necessity of the law is explained with three pairs of descriptors. While they could be regarded as synonymous, the expression “lawless” [ánomos], lit. “without law,” applies here to “those who know the laws of right and wrong and break them open-eyed.”4 The “disobedient” [anupótaktos], more precisely “undisciplined,” “insubordinate,” or “rebellious,” refers to “those who will not come into subjection.”5 The word “ungodly” [asebēs] describes one who is “destitute of reverential awe towards God, impious,”6 while “sinners” [adj. hamartōlós], i.e., not free from sin or preeminently sinful, basically applies to “one who deviates from the path of virtue”;7 cp. vv. 6, 19. The ungodly are inwardly irreverent, whereas the sinful are outwardly disobedient. The terms “unholy” [anósios, cf. 2 Tim. 3:2], or “wicked” (BAGD 72), and “profane” [bébēlos, cf. 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16], “godless” or “irreligious” (BAGD 138), are descriptive of persons who reject sacred things. All these generically portray human rebellion against God.

The Prohibitions of the Law

More specifically, the designated sins that follow correspond to the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments of the Decalogue (Ex. 20:12-16). God did not give his law for frivolous conjecture and pointless dialogue, but as “law” it prohibits the types of transgressions now listed. Such a vice list is not uncommon and stands in stark contrast to the virtue lists of 3:1-13; 5:9-10. Similar vice lists occur in Rom. 1:26-31; 1 Cor. 5:10-11; 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:2-4, none of which is intended to be exhaustive.

Regarding “those who strike their fathers and mothers,” two descriptive terms are employed here, patrolōas (“patricide,” or “father killer”) and mētralōas (“matricide,” or “mother killer”). Seeing that the literal sense would be included in the next expression, “murderers” (androphónos, lit. “manslayer”), parallel to the Decalogue’s sixth commandment (Ex. 20:13), it seems allusion to the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12) is intended here, thus the unnatural treatment of mothers and fathers, applicable to those “who refuse all reverence, even all kindly treatment, to their parents”8 (cf. 5:3-16). “The words describe sons or daughters who are lost to gratitude, lost to respect and lost to shame. And it must ever be remembered that this most cruel of blows can be one, not upon the body, but upon the heart.”9 See also Prov. 28:24; Mark 7:10-13; Rom. 1:30; Eph. 6:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:2.

The “sexually immoral,” from the Greek pórnos (lit. a male prostitute), refers to anyone engaging in illicit sexual intercourse, i.e., a fornicator. The noun porneía applies to any type of illicit sexual intercourse or fornication, namely sex that is not within the context of a divinely approved marriage (cf. 1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4). More particularly, “men who practice homosexuality.” The expression here is arsenokoítai (see also 1 Cor. 6:9), a combination of arsēn (“male”) and koitē (“bed”).9 This is a sexual term descriptive of homosexual behavior (ASV, ESV, ERV, HCSB, ISB, NASB, NIV, N/KJV, NRSV, etc.), pertaining to women as well (Rom. 1:26-27).

Next is “enslavers” [andrapodistēs]. Christianity entered a world where slavery was already an established element of society and regarded as an economic necessity, though not necessarily comparable to harsher forms in other times and societies (cf. 6:1-2). The condition of slavery was typically the result of prisoners of war, criminal conviction, debt, abandoned children, or birth to a slave mother. What Paul mentions here is a more sinister means, i.e., slave-dealers, kidnappers, or those who steal and sell another’s slaves. In principle this would include all who exploit fellow humans for selfish gain. 

The itemizing concludes with “liars” (from pseústēs) and “perjurers” (from epíorkos), those who intentionally twist the truth and affirm falsehoods for their own perceived advantage (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 1:6; 2:4, 22; 4:20; Rom. 1:25; Col. 3:9; Rev. 3:9). Although a comprehensive list is not necessary to make the point, the concluding statement is all encompassing: “and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (cf. Rom. 1:32; Gal. 5:21; 6:1; 2 Tim. 3:5). 

The Divine Standard

The divine standard is “doctrine” (didaskalía, “teaching,” “instruction”) being “sound” [hugiaínō], a verbal for being in good health (Luke 5:31; 7:10; 3 John 2) or safe and sound (Luke 15:27), used by Paul only in his letters to Timothy and Titus with reference to what is taught and the accompanying faith (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2). In contrast to “the law” (vv. 7-9), misappropriated and misunderstood by the disruptors, the message advanced by the apostle and his associates is “the gospel” [tó euaggélion], lit. “the good news” or “the glad tidings.” Anything different is unsound and spiritually unhealthy (v. 3; 6:3; 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7). 

The gospel message with which Paul has been “entrusted” (verbal pisteúō, cf. vv. 1, 12; 1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1 Thess. 2:4) reflects God’s “glory” [dóxa], a revelation of himself in which recipients of the message are invited to share (Rom. 5:2; 9:23; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6). “Both the Law and the gospel are against sin. Both reveal the glory of God. The gospel does not tolerate sin any more than the Law.”11 The difference is, the law condemns but cannot save, while the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16-17; 7:1–8:8; Gal. 2:16; 3:10-29).

--Kevin L. Moore


     1 Contrary to what is commonly assumed, Paul was not anti-law. He concedes faith’s reinforcement of the law (Rom. 3:31), the holiness and righteousness of the law (Rom. 7:7, 12), the spirituality of the law (Rom. 7:14), and the advantages of Judaism (Rom. 3:1-2; 9:4). Paul does not contradict himself in passages like Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16 and 3:11. His emphasis is consistently on the importance of understanding the law in terms of faith rather than dependence on meritorious observances (cf. Rom. 3:27-31; 9:30-32).

     2 Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus NIBC (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988): 45.

     3 Paul continued to be in favor of the law and its precepts with respect to those for whom it was an important part of their cultural heritage (i.e., within the context of ethnic Judaism), as long as it was not at variance with the Christian faith (cf. Acts 16:1-3; 18:18; 21:20-26; 1 Cor. 9:20; also Rom. 15:4). On the other hand, he was vehemently opposed to the enforcement of the law’s ritualistic ordinances on those for whom these practices had no relevance (i.e., non-Jewish Christians), especially if the imposition of such created division in the church and supplanted the “faith of Christ.”

     4 William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians DBSS (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1975): 37.

     5 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the NT (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985): 4:207.

     6 Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies: The Pastoral Epistles in the Greek NT for the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980): 31.

     7 Harold K. Moulton, ed. The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised (Grand Rapids: Regency, 1978): 17.

     8 H. D. M. Spence, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in NT Commentary for English Readers, ed. C. J. Ellicott (London: Cassell Petter and Galpin, 1884): 3:180.

     9 W. Barclay, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon 38.

     10 The words arsēn (“male”) and koitē (“bed”) appear together six times in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT), four times referring to men lying with women (Num. 31:17, 18; Judg. 21:11, 12) and twice in reference to men lying with men (Lev. 18:22; 20:13).

     11 W. E. Vine, Exposition of the Epistles to Timothy (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1925): 14.


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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

What’s in a Name?

Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, ‘I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but I did not reveal My name Yahweh to them’” (Exodus 6:2-3, HCSB).

Appreciating the great magnitude of God, rather than revealing himself all at once to his finite human creation, he has done so incrementally through the centuries. In the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God made himself known as El Shaddai, identified according to his power. Having indisputably established this aspect of his nature, the special significance of Yahweh was then revealed in the days of Moses in view of God’s ever-presence among his people (Exodus 6:2-8).

Later, in looking beyond the Patriarchal and Mosaic systems to a new arrangement, Yahweh declares, “I will be their God, and they will be My people … for they will all know Me …” (Jeremiah 31:31-34), indicative of a more personal relationship. This prophecy is fulfilled in the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus the Christ (Hebrews 8:6-13), who is known prophetically as “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). He is our only access to the heavenly throne, and to know him is to know the one we now call Father (John 14:6-7). Now that God has highly exalted him and given him the name above every name, it is “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

What’s in a name? When the name identifies, describes, and represents the one who wears it, whether El ShaddaiYahweh, Father, or the Lord Jesus Christ, it is immeasurably significant.

--Kevin L. Moore


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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

An Evil Spirit from the Lord?

In 1 Samuel 16:14, 16; 18:10; 19:9, the LORD’s Spirit departed from Saul, and an “evil spirit from the LORD” troubled him (KJV, NASB, NIV, N/RSV). The Hebrew word translated “evil” in these English versions is rah, used in a variety of ways in the OT. Sometimes it describes moral evil but is also used in the sense of “distressing” (NKJV) or “harmful” (ESV) or “unpleasant” or “bad” or “miserable” (e.g., Gen. 47:9; Num. 14:37; Josh. 23:15; 1 Sam. 29:7; Psa. 112:7; Prov. 15:10; Eccl. 1:13; 4:8). In Judges 9:23, “God sent an evil [rah] spirit” between Abimelech and Shechem (CSB, ESV, NASB, N/KJV), i.e., he “stirred up animosity” between them (NIV). In Isa. 45:7 God does not create moral evil but takes responsibility for calamity or misfortune (circumstantial evil?) as a consequence of human sin. At the very least he has established the law of cause and effect. 

If God is sovereign and in control and allows certain things to happen (even bad things), in scripture he accepts accountability (cf. Isa. 53:4; Matt. 6:13; Rom. 1:20-28) but also holds human beings responsible for their own thoughts and actions (cf. Jas. 1:12-16). While the sovereign Lord is never completely uninvolved, it is not the case he is always the direct cause. 

In 1 Samuel, King Saul defiantly disregarded the law of God (13:13; 15:20-24; 18:8-9). As a result the Lord withdrew his favor and protection, leaving Saul susceptible to his own mental torment, fear, jealousy, rage, paranoia, and insanity. Whether the troubling spirit was actively sent by God as a punishment or merely allowed by God as the inevitable consequence of Saul’s actions, Saul was ultimately to blame.

--Kevin L. Moore

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Image credit: from Ernst Josephson’s painting “Saul och David,”

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

What happens when we die?

In Ecclesiastes the phrases “under the sun” (29x), “under heaven” (3x), and “on earth” (5x) describe the human perspective apart from God, i.e., human wisdom vs. divine wisdom. From a human (earthly) point of view, all is vanity or futile (37x). From this vantage point, “the dead know nothing … no more reward” (9:5) “in the grave” (9:10). This passage does not provide theological insight into the afterlife but the limited human perception apart from God and apart from divine revelation. 

The word “sleep” is a common metaphor (or euphemism) in scripture for death. Deceased persons are often depicted in the OT as “sleeping” or “resting” with their forefathers (Deut. 31:16; 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kgs. 1:21; 2:10; et al.). Jesus, in anticipation of “awakening” the dead, frequently used this reassuring expression (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; John 11:11-14), which continued to be employed by writers of the NT (Matt. 27:52; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 2 Pet. 3:4). While the description has nothing to do with whether or not there is consciousness beyond the grave (cf. Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11), it does serve as a comforting allusion to death’s transitory nature for Christians in view of the future resurrection. The “sleep” metaphor softens the harsh reality of earthly life’s cessation, and some would suggest it also implies the temporary nature of physical death in view of the future awakening (cf. John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).

The typical word for “hell” in the Greek NT is gehenna (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; etc.). Another term, hades, is sometimes translated “hell” (KJV) or “grave” (NIV) but seems to refer to another place. When Jesus died his soul went to hades (Acts 2:27, 31), which before his death he called “paradise” (Luke 23:43). After his death and resurrection he said he had not yet been to heaven (John 20:17), therefore “paradise” must be a different place. 

In Luke 16:19-31 the deceased rich man was in hades (not gehenna), in torment, while Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom, and a great chasm or gulf separated the two. If there is to be a future day of judgment to pronounce the everlasting fate of the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 17:31), there must be a waiting place for departed spirits in the meantime. That place is hades (a.k.a. the Hadean realm) divided into two sections: paradise (comfort) and torment. 

When it is time for the day of judgment, the dead in Christ will rise first, followed by those alive in Christ (1 Thess. 4:15-17), then everyone else, including the other souls in hades (Rev. 20:11-15); all will stand before the Lord in judgment to receive an everlasting reward or punishment (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; 2 Cor. 5:10). 

--Kevin L. Moore


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