Biblical commentary

A man is “justified” by works?? — James 2:21–25

Forms of δικαιοσύνη or δικαιόω (dikaiosunē, dikaioō; the respective noun and verb forms) occur eight times in James’ letter. The area debated primarily is 2:21–25. It is not uncommon for Roman Catholic apologists, for example, to argue against Protestantism that the only area of the Bible in which “faith alone” appears is in v. 24: “You see that by works a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”[1] Yet, Paul states in Romans 3:20 that “by works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” Theologically, we might define justification as a “declaration that the person has been restored to a state of righteousness through belief and trust in the work of Christ rather than on the basis of one’s own accomplishment.”[2] In short, James and Paul, by using forms of δικαιοσύνη, are not referring to the same concept and thus should not be seen as conflicting with each other. Continue reading

Biblical commentary

Understanding the “Falling Away” of Hebrews 6:4–6

Adapted from a seminary paper.

It is probably apparent for even the newest Bible readers that Hebrews 6:4–6 is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret. A plain reading of the passage may cause one suddenly to question the precious doctrine of eternal security. Worse yet, one may conclude — with eternal security out of the way — that one who once made a profession of Christ but later strayed from the faith can no longer repent. The stakes get higher when we remind ourselves that we are talking about real people. For many people who were raised in the church, the eternal destination of family members who have strayed from their profession comes into serious question.

Hodges does well to summarize four prevalent interpretations of the passage.

1) that the danger of a Christian losing his salvation is described, a view rejected because of biblical assurances that salvation is a work of God which cannot be reversed; (2) that the warning is against mere profession of faith short of salvation, or tasting but not really partaking of salvation (The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1315); (3) that hypothetically if a Christian could lose his salvation, there is no provision for repentance (The Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1843); (4) that a warning is given of the danger of a Christian moving from a position of true faith and life to the extent of becoming disqualified for further service (1 Cor. 9:27) and for inheriting millennial glory.[1]

This essay will examine the text as best as possible given space limitations and finds that the second option above is that which the author of Hebrews intends in the text. Continue reading

Biblical commentary

Hebrews 9:16–17 — “Covenant” or “Will”?

Adapted from a seminary assignment.

David Allen calls the issue of Hebrews 9:16–17 “one of the thorniest interpretative issues in the epistle,” as “[c]onsiderable debate exists over whether the translation of diathēkē in 9:16–17 should be rendered as “will/testament” or “covenant.”[1] Consensus exists for the nineteen instances of the term outside of vv. 16–17, as they clearly refer to “covenant” in the Old Testament sense. The four instances inside of these verses are an issue requiring validation. Continue reading