Moo and James

About: this paper was delivered to Dr. Lynn Wallmark at Simpson University during my senior year for a class on the General Epistles.

 

Douglas J. Moo’s commentary on the book of James (James, The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, edited by Leon Morris, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985) serves the Church as a fundamental aid to understanding this portion of Scripture. As a practical book, James is packed full with all sorts of universally relevant material for Christians, and Moo helps to unpack it all in his commentary. The book of James is a book on Christian maturity and is quite practical, and as such I will focus on four of the practical portions from the book regarding partiality (2:1-7), the misuse of wealth (5:1-6), oaths (5:12), and prayer (5:13-16).

THE FOUR FOCI

THE FIRST FOCI: PARTIALITY (2:1-7)

James focuses on partiality in chapter two. In this chapter he refers to the way believers were giving special treatment to the rich people and humiliating the poor, both actions being based on their appearances and economic statuses. James identifies that special treatment was being given to those bearing gold rings and fine clothes while the poor person is identified as the one wearing dirty clothes (v. 2). Furthermore, the one wearing such fine apparal was given a seat, while the one wearing dirty, raggedy clothes was told to “sit at my feet” or else to stand (v. 3). The believers were making a judgment against the people according to their appearance. As such, they showed partiality. James uses a series of questions, which the answer to all of them is in fact, “Yes,” in order to make a point that partiality should not be shown to the poor or the rich, especially the rich, because the rich are the ones who oppress, sue, and blaspheme (vv. 6-7). The point is clear: partiality should not be shown on the basis of appearance or of economic status. Moo unpacks this in his treatment of 2:1-7 very nicely.

Moo addresses James’ use of the Greek word for “partiality,” meaning, “receiving the face” (87). This word denotes judging a person and treating them according to their external conditions (87). Additionally, Moo does well to bring up the context of Leviticus 19:18 with 19:15: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great” (88, 90). Moo shows that the Old Testament background provides necessary context for understanding what it means to show partiality. In sum, Moo’s statement that the believers had appointed themselves as judges and were judging according to standards that were opposed to God accentuates the seriousness of partiality in the book of James because it makes them to be unlike God, thus defying their purpose as believers (90).

THE SECOND FOCUS: THE MISUSE OF WEALTH (5:1-6)

James warns regarding wealth, specifically the misuse of wealth in 5:1-6. Moo helps break this passage down and shows the development of the passage in its individual parts. Moo shows that James makes four indictments against those who are wealthy and misuse their wealth. First, James accuses them of accumulating worthless, worldly goods (vv. 2-3). Second, James accuses them of swindling their workers’ pay (v. 4). Third, he accuses them of having a self-indulgent and apathetic attitude (v. 5). Last, he accuses them of killing the righteous man (v. 6). Moo helps clarify these four indictments in his commentary.

Moo shows that the rich accumulated goods that have no heavenly value because they were perishable (161). It is clear that the rich have set their ambitions on the accumulation of earthly wealth without desire for amassing heavenly treasure that lasts, thus clearly identifying where their heart lies (161). Additionally, their hoard was never used to aid the poor (162). James’ indictment of the rich is clearly understood in the light of Moo’s words: the evidence of the misuse of wealth will stand against them as a witness (162).

Moo shows that the rich swindled the pay from those who worked for them (163). His argument rests in the fact that two of the earliest, best manuscripts have the Greek word for “defraud” as opposed to the other word used in some of the less reliable manuscripts, “withdrew” (163). Those who worked for the rich were to receive what was due to them.

Moo shows that the rich lived self-indulgent and apathetic lives (164). The rich have an “uncaring self-indulgence” to luxury: they want to accomodate a life that rests on a bed of roses and live care-free for those of less fortune (165). Indeed, Moo’s words are powerful regarding this sin: “They are like cattle being fattened for the kill” (166).

Moo shows that the rich are the one’s who killed the righteous man (166). Moo notes that this fourth indictment may be the result of the other three, for it is the “failure of the rich to share their possessions and to pay the wages of their workers” (166). Moo notes Ecclesiasticus 34:22 and its relation to the fourth indictment, for it seems to be on the mind of the author: “to take away a neighbour’s living is to murder him; to deprive an employ of his wages is to shed blood” (166). Certainly, those refusing to share their wealth, being uncaring to the poor, and withhold wages kill the poor, righteous person.

Moo tactfully addresses the difficulties of the misuse of wealth and this passage in James. In doing so, Moo reveals the seriousness of the sin of disusing wealth: accumulating riches while forsaking the poor in their need; embezling money; living self-indulgent lifestyles; and being apathetic towards the poor.

THE THIRD FOCI: OATHS (5:12)

James addresses the use of oaths and swearing in this verse. Many times have many people referred to many passages dealing with swearing to label cussing as a sin. Jesus said, “Do not swear.” Likewise, James said, “Do not swear.” Such passages as these refer to swearing in the sense of oaths, not cuss words. This is different than what I have heard, been taught, and have actually referred to in the past. When I was young, in elementary school, I thought this passage meant I cannot say certain four-letter words. However, Moo points out that this is not the topic of Jesus’ words, nor of James’ (173). Swearing does not refer to dirty cuss words, but language that appeals to the name of God or other things guarantee the truth of spoken words (173). It is not that oaths were not permitted according to the Law, because they were, but the Law required that all oaths be fulfilled. Moo notes, however, that neither James or Jesus probited all oaths, for whether Jesus or James were intending to address the type of oaths which responsible authorities ask us to take is questionable, because they both seem to have in mind voluntary oaths, ones that are intended to avoid absolute truths, and for these caution is required (174). This passage, then, is prohibiting making oaths in order to make words good as truth, and it is not against using four-letter cuss words. Moo’s treatment of oaths is invaluable, and all those who want to argue against cussing and use James in support of their argument ought to read this treatment to see for themselves that James is not concerned with that. To hold James as an authority against cussing is Scripture-twisting, and Moo’s commentary serves as an aid to keep believers from making such an error.

THE FOURTH FOCI: PRAYER (5:13-16)

It seems that prayer is the theme of the tail-end of the book of James. This is not to say that it is less important than the other topics and issues that precede it in the book, but it seems to be the appropriate place for letters of that day to address this particular issue (175). Prayer is seen here in conjunction with healing. Those who are suffering should pray (v. 13). Those are are sick should be prayed over (v. 14). Prayer is powerful, for when offered in faith it can save the sick (v. 15). Believers ought to pray for one another for healing, and the righteous person’s prayers are powerful and effective (v. 16). Moo gives some valuable information in his commentary regarding prayer in this passage in his commentary. First he addresses two facets of prayer for healing— suffering and illness—and second, the power of prayer.

Prayer for suffering is prayer dealing with all kinds of trials and afflictions (175). This prayer is not to request relief from the tribulations, but for the necessary strength to persevere through it in faith (175). Moo makes a very wonderful observation regarding those who are cheerful and singing songs of praise. Moo notes that the word for praise is the same word used for “psalm,” signifying that psalms or songs of praise are to be regarded as a form of prayer (176). This gives a whole new meaning to singing hymns, praise and worship songs, or songs from the heart, because such songs are musical prayers.

Prayer for illness is prayer offered up by elders, or leaders, over the sick person with the illness (176). Those who are the spiritually mature with the responsibility for the spiritual well-being should gather together to pray for those who are sick (176). But their prayers are more than justs words, but they are strong, persistent petitions in faith to the Lord made on the ill person’s behalf (181). Existing in this prayer of faith is the understanding that God is sovereign in the situation, and that it is only by His will that anyone might be made well (182). Not only is this prayer to be offered up on the behalf of elders, but also by each other (182).

Prayer is powerful. This is why believers ought to pray, because it has the power to heal, and this power rests in the believer, not just a super Christian (187). The believer is the righteous man, for it is he or she that is completely committed to God and sincerely seeks to do His will from the bottom of the heart (187). Moo makes a good observation regarding the source of power in prayer by noting that the participle, “effective,” could be translated passively, thus rendering “prayer is very powerful when it is energized (by God or the Spirit)” (187). Therefore, the power and effectiveness of prayer rests in the will of God (187). But if the participle is to be translated as middle, it simply refers to the effect of prayer: “prayer is very powerful in its working, or in its effect” (187).

CONCLUSION

THE SATISFACTION

Moo’s commentary was very informative, shedding light on difficult passages and bringing whole new meaning to familiar ones. He addressed some passages that cause much debate, for example, healing and anointing in James 5, and helped the reader come to a better understanding of how the biblical audience, the original audience, might have understood the letter and the particular issue. His commentary was particularly useful to understand partiality, the disuse of wealth, oaths, and prayer in James, giving good, fundamental bases for exegesis. However, at times, there was one weakness to the commentary.

THE DISSATISFACTION

Further support should have been given, although still kept at a minimum, regarding Scripture outside the scope of James. In his treatment on James and Paul regarding works and faith, for example, Moo neglects to mention relevant passages that support for Paul’s view that works are a necessary reality for the believer. Instead, he shows that the contexts and situation for writing are different for the two authors regarding particular texts. Moo should have also demonstrated Paul’s calling for works from the believers to show further that they do not contradict, for Paul is not negating works and James upholding it—they both afirm works ought to be abundantly existant in the life of the believer. We already know this to be true in James, and Galatians, Romans 6, Ephesians 2:8-10, and the Pastoral letters demonstrate it in Paul. James says we ought to demonstrate our faith by our works, and Paul says we were created by God to do them. It is important to understand their respective contexts, yes, but it is also important to know the entire spectrum, which in this case is the fact that Paul also calls for the necessary abundant existance of good works in believers, and I am surprised that Moo did not pick up on this and make mention of it in his treatment of works in Paul and James (101-2).

THE FOCI IN REVIEW

Moo’s commentary is outstanding. The content’s quality of exegesis outweighs my dissatisfaction by far. The illumination of such texts in James, such as 2:1-7, 5:1-6, 5:12, and 5:13-16 are quite valuable. It is important to know what it means to show partiality, the problems and consequences of misusing wealth, what oaths are all about and why they are no readily permitted, and the importance of prayer for believers.

I chose these four foci because they were areas of James that were less familiar to me, and I wanted to strengthen my understandings in those area with the aid of Moo’s commentary. Partiality was particularly beneficial because it demonstrates the practical call against segregation and discrimination, which are modern forms of partiality. Moo helped show that indirectly by demonstrating the Greek for “partiality” as stated above. The misuse of wealth was particularly beneficial because although I am poor, financially speaking, though rich in Spirit, I wonder what will happen some day if I write a book and happen to become well-off financially. The commentary shows me that it is ok to have money, but it is not acceptable to pursue money and forsake caring for the poor. Those with money have a greater responsibility to take care of the poor and needy, and failure to do so is a sin, for God cares for the poor and wants those He has granted to be stewards of His money to aid the poor. Oaths and swearing were quite interesting as I have always been raised that oaths and swearing is equal to cuss words, but the commentary says otherwise, and upon review I agree. Oaths and swearing do not necessarily deal with cuss words, rather it deals with vows. Vows are binding, and James is urging alongside of Jesus not to make oaths so that sin might not result from the lack of fulfillment of the vow. Moo helped to shed new light on this familiar issue, thus enabling me to come to a new and fresh understanding. Moo’s treatment of prayer was very powerful. This is only fitting since James says that “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16). Prayer is essential for believers. They are to pray when stressed and when they are happy. They are to fervently request for healing in prayer on behalf of others. Prayer is both individual and corporate in concept as James has it.

Moo helps provide essential understanding in his commentary for understanding these concepts in the book of James. This book proves to be a great resource for anyone who wants to study James at a deeper level, and it is particularly invaluable, although not exclusively, for understanding partiality, wealth, swearing, and prayer in James.

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Guthrie and Hebrews

About: this paper was delivered to Dr. Lynn Wallmark at Simpson University during my senior year in a class on the General Epistles.

 

Donald Guthrie wrote a commentary on the book of Hebrews (Hebrews, The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, edited by Leon Morris, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983) that serves to help give some rudimentary explanations of the biblical text without giving any relation or direct application for today’s generation. Although the material covered in his book was very good, I found myself frustrated with the lack of Guthrie’s ability to make the commentary pertinent for today. Despite this vexation, Guthrie does give some foundational material, such as, but not limited to, the difficulties of the authorship of the book of Hebrews, the date and provenance of the book, the superiority of Christ in several areas of Jewish religion, the many examples of faith, and the effects of Christ’s eternal sacrifice. I am going to focus on, however, Guthrie’s exploration of four sections of Hebrews that are universally pertinent to every Christian: drifting (2:1, 3); confidence in Christ (3:14); partaking and falling away (6:4-6); and deliberate sin (10:26). By looking at these four foci we may be able to draw up our own applications for today.

THE FOUR FOCI

THE FIRST FOCUS: DRIFTING (2:1, 3)

Guthrie identifies Hebrews 2:1, 3 as an exhortation against drifting (80). The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to pay close attention to what they have heard, in order that they might not drift away. Guthrie ties in “Lest we drift away” with the mental picture of driftwood in a river (81). He understands that the author is not referring to an active, deliberate and purposeful refusal to adhere to the words they have heard, but of a passive and helpless sliding away (81). In comparison the Greek word for “drift away,” παραρρέω, means “to be washed away, drift away,” with a mental imagery of flowing water (BDAG). Guthrie mentions not what would wash them away, nor does he give the cause. His description is good, but seemingly incomplete, for a reader should understand what is trying to wash them away and carry them off, because one must know who or what they are fighting in order to be victorious. But Guthrie does not stop here, for he goes on to talk about neglecting salvation, which is tied into drifting away.

Guthrie pays attention to the author’s purpose in verse three. The author of Hebrews is noting the existing danger of neglect with his readers, and it is possible that the readers were in jeopardy of diverging from the Christian gospel entirely (81). Guthrie notes the use of a rhetorical question (How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?), a question that implies that there is no such escape from neglecting salvation (81). Guthrie identifies that in the New Testament when the idea of escape is linked with salvation it invariably denotes deliverance from the power or grip of the devil (81). And so, Guthrie does in fact implicitly identify the force against his readers. To drift away, then, is not one’s own doing but the devil’s who is actively trying to sweep us away to the point that we neglect our salvation and turn our backs to it—a complete overturning—causing us to be placed under the bondage of the devil from which there is no escape. It is not addressed here by Guthrie as to whether or not the author is saying that salvation can be lost, if this is a hypothetical situation, or if this is referring to non-Christians who were on the cusp of believing but were kept from actually entering into the grip of grace. This leaves Guthrie’s readers somewhat dissatisfied with an incomplete treatment of drifting and neglect in Hebrews 2:1, 3. But what of his treatment? What can we learn from it?

Every Christian in every culture throughout time ought to be aware that salvation is valuable, so valuable that it ought to be fought for. Christians have a constant battle to hold on to their faith against the devil. It is not enough to merely possess faith. One must actively hold on to it so as to never let it go. This is done by heeding the words of the Lord and paying attention to what He tells us through His servants and especially through His Word, which demands a mental perseverance and a conscious effort to grasp and cling to faith. In doing so Christians will bear confidence in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

THE SECOND FOCUS: CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST (3:14)

Guthrie notes the author’s contrast to the hardening of the heart to the position of those who are established in Christ, that is those who actively cling to their faith (107). He notes that those who “share in Christ” are those who have a firm and steady foundation (107). Guthrie identifies “partakers with Christ,” as the best suited translation for the context and links it to sharing in the participation of the heavenly kingdom (107). The problem here is that we do not know the manner by which we share in the participation of the heavenly kingdom, but this is due to the fact that the author of Hebrews is not so much concerned with the manner of sharing as he is the terms (107). Here we find a conditional statement that expresses these terms.

The author of Hebrews uses a third-class conditional statement that might be true in the future or could be generally true at all times. But which is it? It is unfortunate that Guthrie makes no mention of the conditional statement and its value in this way or of the possible implications that it has for us today much less for the original audience. Guthrie notes that as ones who share in the participation of the heavenly kingdom, Christians are assumed to take special concern to continue in fellowship with Christ (108). However, this treatment of the third class condition is not satisfactory because it does not identify whether or not this statement is generally true at all times for the Christian or if it is probably true for the future, assuming that the condition is fulfilled. Guthrie is not concerned with this issue, rather he is focused on the author’s idea of confidence in Christ.

Guthrie notes that confidence is here relating to a legally guaranteed security, thus identifying the need for the believer to hold securely to his or her “share” in Christ (108). This ties into the third class conditional meaning, for it assumes that the sharing of the participation of the heavenly kingdom will be true in the future if the Christian presently securely fastens himself to his fellowship with Christ (108). So, although Guthrie does not bluntly state how the conditional statement is to be understood, it can be inferred through his treatment of confidence in Christ. Furthermore, the confidence that Guthrie refers to is understood as an active and productive faith that yields assurance to the believer that his or her “share” cannot be taken away (108). And what shall we make of this?

Every Christian in every generation ought to know that they are expected to demonstrate a living faith that identifies them as securely fashioned in Christ. Such a demonstration of faith also guarantees their position in Christ because they have actively clung to their faith, and therefore they can have confidence that they will in fact share in the participation of the heavenly kingdom. Present demonstration of faith yields present security in partaking of the heavenly future. It is imperative for Christians to hold onto their faith and allow themselves to be swept away from it or to purposefully fall away from it.

THE THIRD FOCUS: PARTAKING AND FALLING AWAY (6:4-6)

The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to take action and be responsible in keeping their faith and to hold onto their faith in confidence unto the end. But here in 6:4-6 he addresses falling away from faith, only this time it is not passive but active. Guthrie painstakingly treats this passage with care, trying to present the material in depth though still concise. He explores four verbs individually: φωτίζω; γεύομαι; γίνομαι with μέτοχος; and γεύομαι with καλός. His treatment should be taken as a whole to best understand the impossibility of restoring someone to repentance if they fall away.

The first treatment deals with being enlightened. Guthrie notes that this is characteristic in the New Testament, relating to God’s message to man (141). Therefore, this is referring to someone who has been enlightened to God’s Word—His gospel. The Greek word for such enlightenment that is used here means “to make known in reference to the inner life or transcendent matters and thus enlighten,” bearing the idea of shedding light on or giving light to, with the imagery of the heavenly light that is granted to the enlightened one (BDAG). Guthrie takes this enlightenment to be some sort of an initial revelation of Jesus Christ, which he believes is strengthened in his treatment of the other three verbs. But within this treatment it should have been noted by Guthrie that this is an inward and spiritual enlightenment and is not merely head knowledge.

The second treatment deals with tasting. Guthrie notes that tasting the heavenly gift is the experience of the knowledge of the truth (141). The Greek word for tasting here means, “to experience something cognitively or emotionally, come to know something,” bearing the idea of obtaining the heavenly gift (BDAG). This word is fairly treated by Guthrie who notes that the heavenly gift is experienced and known (141). Although not said directly by Guthrie this treatment understands that the heavenly gift has been obtained. But the question arises, “What is the heavenly gift referring to?”

Guthrie identifies the heavenly gift with the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, he also notes that in the present context, the origin of this gift is uncertain, and we cannot be sure that it is referring to the Holy Spirit. At the least Guthrie does state that the gift is not one of human origin but of heaven. Guthrie satisfactorily treated this verb and its use, especially in combination with the question that comes forth from the text regarding the heavenly gift.

The third treatment deals with partaking or becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit. Guthrie suggests that this links to the gift the Spirit, which is the heavenly gift. This has the idea of sharing the Holy Spirit. Thus, as Guthrie notes, it distinguishes the person who only has head knowledge of Christianity from the person who has a share in Christ (142). At this point there is no question that the person who has fallen away is in fact referring to one who was a Christian, for this person would have been one who was at one point partners with the Holy Spirit (cf. BDAG for trans. of μέτοχος as “partners”), which is only possible if they had shared in the participation of the heavenly kingdom, thus being given the Holy Spirit, the gift of God.

The fourth treatment deals with tasting goodness. As the third verb tied in with the first, so also does the fourth tie in with the second. Tasting is now linking with goodness. What goodness? The goodness of the Word of God, which is the knowledge of the truth. Guthrie particularly notes that the person is not tasting God’s Word, rather its goodness (142). Guthrie states that it is possible to come to the Word of God with a sincere heart, yet without appreciation (143). Furthermore, Guthrie says that only those who are well immersed in experiencing Christianity could taste of the goodness of the Word of God (143). The cusp of Guthrie’s treatment of the kind of tasting is most satisfactory. He identifies the tasting is of an experience that will not reach its climax until the parousia (143). Therefore, those who forsake their faith will not see the fruition of their tasting experience when the Lord comes again.

In the text we now come to the idea that one who has completely fallen away from their enlightenment and tasting, which is to fall away from the Christian standard or path of faith, cannot come back to repentance (143). In doing so they are taking part in crucifying the Son of God once again (143). Guthrie relates this act as an attitude of unrelenting hostility towards Christ (144). The attitude of apostasy, then, does not allow for repentance as it hardens the heart from becoming repentant.

At this point Guthrie reviews four possible understandings of this controversial passage. First, he identifies Calvin’s understanding was that the tasting mentioned was only a partial experience that had no affect on the person, yet the enlightenment mentioned by the author is a complete one at that, so this understanding is not satisfactory (144). The second understanding is that the unpardonable sin of grieving the Holy Spirit is at hand (145). Third, Guthrie identifies that this passage has been understood to be hypothetical because there is no indication that any of the author’s readers had committed the aforementioned apostasy, but that this situation was a real possibility for his readers (145). Last, Guthrie makes note of another understanding regarding this Scripture as referring to the impossibility of restoring the apostates back to a condition of repentance (145). However, it is noted that there is uncertainty as to whether or not this is dealing with the initial act of repentance and if it could be performed a second time (145). Guthrie notes that in this case it is realized that there is a point of no return and restoration becomes impossible (145). And so, Guthrie deals with this troublesome passage very well, despite the ambiguity of the author’s intentions for the text. But what can we do with such a difficult portion of Scripture?

All Christians world wide at any time ought to know the severity of turning their back on their faith. To do so would be to hold Christ in contempt, crucifying him all over again and also being completely responsible for it. Christians are responsible for keeping their faith. They are to fight to keep it so as not to be swept away, but they are also to actively pursue not giving up their faith on their own accord. They are to actively demonstrate their faith and share in the participation of the heavenly kingdom lest they fall away. Firmly hold on to your faith; do not let it slip from your fingers and do not throw it away, rather protect it and invest in it. It does not matter what the intention was of the author, Christians regardless bear the responsibility of pursuing faith wholeheartedly. Indeed, those who intentionally give up their pursuit also deliberately sin, and this is not the calling of the Christian, the one who is securely fashioned in Christ.

THE FOURTH FOCUS: DELIBERATE SIN (10:26)

Guthrie addresses the severe warning in Hebrews 10:26, which deals with responsible or deliberate sin. Guthrie identifies deliberate sin as the sort of sin that people enter into with their eyes wide open (217). He also notes that the Levitical sacrifice does not allow for atonement of such deliberate sin (217). Again, the knowledge of the truth is mentioned, and it clearly identifies the fact that the truth is definitely known among all Christians (217). It is the entirety of the Christian revelation (217). Thus, it denotes sin that is done after a comprehension of the truth had been acquired, which is essentially a rejection of that truth (217). Such rejection goes against Christ’s eternal sacrifice for sins (217). However, this is the extent of Guthrie’s treatment regarding this verse. It leaves the reader hanging and in question of the scope of deliberate sin. Would not all sin done after receiving the truth be deliberate? Does that not mean that there would therefore be no atonement for sin after receiving the revelation of Jesus Christ? Guthrie’s treatment is very unsatisfactory. It does not help in identifying what it means to deliberately sin. Deliberate sin is understood to be sin done without compulsion (BDAG). This denotes that deliberate sin is a kind that is done consciously against one’s own conscience. It is the living without constraint, which is the same as living with a license to sin without restriction. Those who think they have a license to sin and use such license without restraint, these are the ones who deliberately sin. Guthrie left this treatment unfinished and should have given some clarification for understanding what the author had in mind when he was talking about sinning willfully. And what are we to do with this understanding of deliberate sin?

All Christians throughout all time should know that the grace given them does not give them a license to sin. They are to live lives of restraint, trying to tame themselves from wild living and rid themselves from sin, thus becoming holy—separated unto God. Christians bear the responsibility, then, to fervently hold onto their faith—not allowing themselves to be carried off and away from their faith or throwing in the towel and giving up their faith willfully—and to respect the eternal sacrifice that Christ made by living holy lives, lives of restraint and not of sinful license.

CONCLUSION

Guthrie’s treatment of Hebrews provides some invaluable information. However, it did not make any effort to apply to us today or universally—throughout all space and time—for that matter. The material within his commentary is satisfactory in the sense that it helps to explain the text and to shed light on things that might be missed in the English language. Most satisfactory was his treatment on the controversial passage in chapter six, since he not only presented helpful material but also did good word studies and wrestled with different popular conclusions regarding the text. Still, it was unsatisfactory in the sense that Guthrie did not explain some of the Greek conditional nuances that help to further explain the text, like the aforementioned third-class condition in chapter three. It was also unsatisfactory because it did not relate or directly apply the Scripture or commentary to us today. As I was reading it I could not help myself but ask, “Now what? What am I supposed to do with this?”

Yet, despite my irritation, I found the material helpful, and in many respects the four foci as well. I chose these foci because they are absolutely essential to all believers to grasp and understand. I found it amazing that Guthrie would not relate these foundational understandings to his readers. So, I decided to take it upon myself to review them as best as I could so that others might be able to make the connection from the Scripture into their own lives. It is absolutely important that Christians be aware of the possibilities of drifting, falling away, or deliberately sinning, as well as their effects, so that they might be encouraged to persevere and place their confidence in Christ and partake in the participation of the heavenly kingdom. These are four important issues to me that I thought were not treated as well as they should have, which is in fact why I chose to focus on them in this paper. Now that I have, I believe that myself and those who read it can better apply the material within Guthrie’s commentary to our lives and current settings today.

Green and 2 Peter, Jude

About: this paper was delivered to Dr. Lynn Wallmark at Simpson University during my senior year for a class on the General Epistles.

The Bible is clear about some things and unclear about others. The reason for this is the fact that the authors of the Bible had purposes for writing. They were seeking to clear up certain issues and trusted that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the other issues would be dealt with. However, the areas that the Bible does address ought to receive some special attention. The second epistle of Peter and the epistle of Jude are no exception. These epistles contain some very harsh words and exhortations, and although they do not cover every aspect of life, what they do should be noted. The second epistle of Peter and the epistle of Jude contain some very practical information regarding the spiritual life of believers, and therefore I am going to focus on four of the many important topics addressed in these letters dealing with virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7), false teachers (2 Peter 2:20-22), the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:8-10), and keeping the faith (Jude 20-22). Michael Green’s book in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series covering these epistles (2 Peter & Jude, edited by Leon Morris, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) proves to be a helpful resource to unpacking these four important topics.

THE FOUR FOCI

THE FIRST FOCUS: VIRTUES (2 PETER 1:5-7)

Second Peter gives us a good list of virtues to add on to faith. Peter exhorts his readers to add on goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (NIV). Peter is saying that it is not enough to simply know the Lord or have faith; being a Christian entails much more than just believing. This echoes the epistle of James (cf. Js. 2:18-19, 26). We ought to take an extra careful look, then, at to what precisely Peter is calling us to add to our faith.

Green does well to mention that Peter is urging believers to go to painstaking efforts to bring these virtues alongside faith, which are demonstrative of a healthy Christian life (75). He mentions that “add” in the English translation is a mental picture relating to the Athenian drama festivals, thus conveying the idea of generosity and expensive co-operation (76). Peter’s point, then, is that Christians must actively engage in a sort of co-operation with God to produce a Christian life that is worthy of their calling in Him (76). These virtues, it should be noted, are added onto faith for this very purpose.

Faith is the commencement into the love of God (76). It is the foundation upon which all other virtues build. The first virtue Peter lists to be added to faith is goodness. Peter uses a rare word here, meaning “excellence,” denoting proper fulfillment of anything (76). Green understands this to mean that humans or Christians are to reflect Christ in their lives (77). Thus, it is important to have faith and to also demonstrate Christ’s character in one’s life. Yet, Christianity is not simply about faith and goodness; Peter calls Christians to add on knowledge as well.

Christianity entails a certain academic virtue to add knowledge to good deeds. Christianity is intellectual and it ought not shrink back in the face of academic adversity: “The cure for false knowledge is not less knowledge, but more” (77). But in addition to knowledge, so also self-control should be added to faith and goodness. This word in the Greek means to control one’s passions and not to be mastered by them (77-78). Peter tells us that alongside of knowledge comes not freedom from self-control but freedom to self-control (78). But alongside of self-control also comes perseverance.

Perseverance, Green mentions, is the mind frame that is unmoved by difficulties or miseries, and is able to stand against the pressing desires of the world and the flesh (78). Perseverance is what enables Christians to not give up against temptation or persecution. Perseverance has this capability because it is what helps Christians deal with sorrows and to endure hardships (78). Peter says that along with perseverance, however, godliness must also be added. Green notes that the Greek word for “godliness” should be translated “reverence” instead (79). He understands that Peter is trying to convey an idea of proper behavior towards both God and men (79). Green writes, “Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God manifests itself in reverence towards him and respect towards men” (79). Still, brotherly kindness must come with godliness.

Brotherly kindness is essential for the believer as it is a distinguishing mark of Christ’s true disciples (79). Representing those who have partaken in the divine nature, brotherly kindness demonstrates believers’ new birth (79). Green notes that this is done by bearing one another’s burdens and by guarding the unity of the Holy Spirit (79). Indeed, it takes much work to fulfill the law of Christ and to put a stop to gossip, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness (79). But along with brotherly kindness must also come love. Love is the capstone to the virtues built on faith. We have a list of virtues given by Peter that is built on a foundation of faith, and a roof of love holds it together. The word for “love” denotes the attitude that God has shown towards us, and the attitude that He demands of us towards others as well as towards himself (80). Green defines this kind of love in a magnificent way: “This agapê might be defined as a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good” (80). We are called by Peter to put on this kind of love, and thus hold together all the other virtues built on faith.

And so we have it. Peter exhorts his readers (or listeners) to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to faith in an effort to actively engage in a faith that is demonstrative of a person who has been called according to God’s purpose.

THE SECOND FOCUS: FALSE TEACHERS (2 PETER 2:20-22)

Second Peter gives us some good information regarding false teachers. We know that the false teachers mentioned were once orthodox Christians (129; cf. v. 21). These false teachers were orthodox believers who had been polluted by the world (129). Green writes that “the world” is the society separated from God (129). These false teachers once escaped this isolated society but then became entangled in it once again and were overcome by its pollutions (129). Green notes that they became full of head knowledge and without practice; they did not follow the virtues Peter called them to add to faith, mainly goodness, knowledge and self-control in particular (130). The knowledge that they did possess was destructive.

The false teachers called darkness, “light,” and bondage, “liberty” (130). They were guilty, Green writes, of the unforgiveable sin—not because God would not forgive them, but because they persisted to refuse to accept God’s forgiveness to them (130). They had apparently tasted the faith, but then they turned away from the path of righteousness (131). Green says that the first stage to this apostasy was the false teachers’ rejection of law (131). He writes, “Rejection of God’s law is the first step to the rejection of God, for God is a moral being” (131). Clearly when one gives up ethics then doctrine will also fall; both are crucial in the life of the believer (132). The false teachers gave up both, and it is no wonder that they apostasized. Peter uses two proverbs to convey the peril of their apostasy.

The first proverb Peter quotes is, “A dog returns to its vomit.” The second proverb Peter quotes is, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” The former is biblical (Proverbs 26:11) while the latter is not (132). Green writes that the punishment for the false teachers is that they are “given over to the lot they have chosen” (132). God supports ones active and deliberate choice, whether it be for heaven or for hell, and therefore everyone will end up in the place of his or her choice (132). The dog that rids itself of its inward corruption by vomiting it up ends up sniffing it once again, and the pig which has rid itself of its outward corruption through washing cannot resist wallowing in the mud once again (132).

False teachers are guilty of knowing the way of the Lord but then rejecting it and pursuing a path of destruction instead. They are dogs and pigs that cannot resist their own filth. These animals are unclean to Jews, and to the Christian they represent those who are lost and out of touch with God (133). As believers we ought to be wary of people who claim to be Christians but seem to wallow in licentious, perverted, selfish and indulgent desires. Why should anyone want to follow them back to their vomit or mud?

THE THIRD FOCUS: THE DAY OF THE LORD (2 PETER 3:8-10)

Second Peter has some good information regarding the end times. For starters, Peter writes that time is not the same to the Lord as it is to man (146). Quoting Psalm 90:4, Peter writes, “a day is like a thousand years,” thus asserting God’s sovereignty over time (146). Green writes that God views the linear timeline with a perspective that we do not have (146). Thus, time is relative, and when concerning the return of Jesus Christ, we must bear this in mind (146). Green notes that the comparison being made is between God’s timing and the impatience of human speculations regarding the Lord’s return (146). Many people have become impatient; yet, God will come at the right time, and not when we should predict.

The Lord will come at the necessary time. That time is not delayed because God is slow to sending His Son, but because of his patience for repentant sinners to come into the fold (148). Indeed, God is patient in relation to judgment, for he does not want any man, woman or child to perish, but rather, he wants them all to live (148). This delay, then, gives God’s children ample opportunity to preach the gospel so that those who hear it might believe and be saved (149).

Peter echoes the words of Jesus in verse 10 regarding the Day of the Lord: it will come like a thief (149; cf. Mt. 24:43-44; Lk. 12:39-40). The coming of the Lord will be sudden and unexpected, and it will be a disastrous event to all those being unprepared in the same way that a burglary is at night (149). And so, despite the delay aforementioned, the Lord will indeed come (149). As Christians we are expected to leave the timing up to the Lord, yet still watch for His return (149). Green notes that Peter makes three points regarding the Day of the Lord here in verse 10.

Peter writes, “the heavens will disappear with a roar” (150). The Greek word for “roar” has the idea of an arrow swishing through the air, the rumble of thunder, crackling flames of fire, the crack of a whip, rushing white water rapids, or the hissing of a serpent (150). One author suggests, Green notes, that all of these are possibly to be understood in this one word as Peter’s intent (150). However, Peter is quite fond of “fire” (cf. v. 7) and thus it is more likely that he understands this word to mean “the crackling of flames” (150-51).

Peter writes next, “the elements will be destroyed by fire” (151). The word for “elements” mean the physical elements understood by the Greeks to compose all things—earth, air, fire and water (151). Green does well to note that it could also mean the heavenly bodies, such as the sun, moon and stars (151). Either way, the world as we know it will be coming to a close through the destruction of fire.

Finally, Peter writes, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed” (NRSV). Peter is anticipating that all the things of the earth will be disclosed—they will either disappear, be burned up, or be laid bare (151). To sum it up Green quotes Bo Reicke’s remarkable words: “The solar system and the great galaxies, even space-time relationships, will be abolished . . . All elements which make up the physical world will be dissolved by heat and utterly melt away. It is a picture which in an astonishing degree corresponds to what might actually happen according to modern theories of the physical universe” (151-52).

The important factor here, Green mentions, is not the actual fulfillment of these apocalyptical ideas but of the moral implications of the second coming of the Lord (152). The Day of the Lord will certainly come, and it will come like a thief; in the mean time, we have a calling to live lives that reflect Christ’s work in us and to patiently wait for his coming. When talking of the Day of the Lord, this moral implication ought not to be separated from the events that will ensue from the Day of the Lord.

THE FOURTH FOCUS: KEEPING THE FAITH (JUDE 20-21)

Jude contains some particularly good information on managing one’s faith. Jude exhorts his readers (or listeners) in vv. 20-21 on how to keep the faith; it’s a lesson on maintaining growth in faith. The passage contains one indicative verb (the key verb)—“keep yourselves in the love of God” (NRSV)—and three participles, which I take to be modal, thus indicating how one is to keep him or her in God’s love. Green indicates that these exhortations (the indicative and three participle verbs) help Jude’s readers to withstand the false teachers (he holds to the traditional view regarding Jude and false teachers). Before we look into the participles, perhaps we should know what it means to keep ourselves in the love of God and how it might relate to the alleged false teachers.

Green argues that in contrast to the false teachers, his readers should do everything in their power to remain in God’s love (200). He argues for them to cultivate their love relationship with God, which the false teachers did not do (200). Green sums up the false teachers’ position in this: “It was by flagrant disobedience that the false teachers had fallen out of love with him, and thus, inevitably, with men as well” (200). Therefore, to keep one in the love of God means to actively place one’s self in God’s love. And how exactly are Christians to carry out this exhortation? I am glad you asked; let me tell you!

Jude gives three modal participles (as I see it), which identify the mode by which we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. First, Christians are to build themselves up in the revelation that was handed down to them by the apostles—the most holy faith (199). This faith is “most holy” because it is distinct both in its content and in its result: “It is unique in the message it teaches and in the moral transformation it produces” (200).

Second, believers are to continually pray in the Holy Spirit. Green sees this exhortation as a weapon against false teaching (200). He suggests that the false teachers had given up prayer altogether, as have many in today’s day and age (200). The exhortation is in the present tense, thus indicating that it is a continual act or deed. It does not happen once, but it happens all the time.

Third, Christians are expected to wait for the mercy of the Lord unto eternal life. Green notes that they must fuel the fire of Christian hope (200). While they are doing this, however, they must not give too great attention to future hope, lest they become useless in this present world, nor must they not neglect it, lest they become “a mere religious adjunct to the social services” (200-01). Christians are to live and rejoice in this world (having a world-affirming attitude) while still recognizing that it will all come to an end when the Lord returns (having a world-denying attitude) (201). Green gives considerable attention to the idea of mercy here in verse 21, and we should briefly unpack it.

Christians are called to focus on God’s mercy on them on a daily basis (201). It is by this mercy that we are not destroyed and that we have been given eternal life (201). Yet, as Green rightly notes, this mercy that we are to focus on is that which Christ made possible for us by enduring the cross (201). This mercy yields eternal life, which Green says Jude uses it in reference to the unrealized part of the life of the new age which already began in the believers, which is the resurrection life of the parousia (201). Jude is calling believers, then, to keep themselves in the love of God, by building themselves up in the most unique faith, by continually praying in the Spirit of God, and by awaiting God’s eschatological mercy that will be realized in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to eternal life. Faith management is, or to keep the faith, means to build yourself up in the faith, to pray in the faith, and to wait in faith.

CONCLUSION

Michael Green’s commentary on 2 Peter and Jude was quite helpful. It worked through some very difficult material in both epistles. It was able to cogently and succinctly deliver some needed explanation of some texts of the epistles, and furthermore to shed new light in some familiar passages. I was particularly satisfied with the treatments on 2 Peter 1:5-7; 2:20-22; and 3:8-10. This is why I focused on these passages. I was somewhat pleased with Green’s treatment of Jude 20-21, but I think something must be said regarding his material.

Green mentions that four participles are given that equip Jude’s readers to live Christian lives in a context of false teaching (200). However, upon research I found that there are only three participles and one indicative verb. I wonder if Green was wrong or if he was using an older edition of the Greek New Testament. I doubt that a book of this quality would have a misinformed author, although it is possible, though not probably, and so I expect that the more likely of the two is that he had an older version. Therefore, a new edition of this commentary is in need, at least in part for Jude.

Michael’s Green proved helpful for looking at the practical information regarding virtues, false teachers, the Day of the Lord, and keeping the faith. Peter gives a fundamental list of virtues for all Christians to exhibit. Peter gives some very good information regarding false teachers and what to be weary of concerning them. Peter also gives good information regarding the outcome of this world in the Day of the Lord and the heart of the believer. Finally, Jude gives good information regarding managing one’s faith in the love of God. Green’s commentary helped to unpack all that is entailed in these four concepts and proved to be a helpful aid despite its need for an updated edition. With Green’s beneficial exegesis one can faithfully determine how to live by coming to an understanding of virtues, false teachers, the Day of the Lord, and keeping the faith in 2 Peter and Jude.

Grudem and 1 Peter

About: this paper was submitted to Dr. Lynn Wallmark at Simpson University during my senior year in a class on the General Epistles.

 

Some Christians among certain circles get very heated when debating particular issues. Whether it be about the divine election of the saints, the roles of women in the Church, or spiritual gifts and their applicability for today, Christians seemingly disagree all across the boards, and then make it known that this is so, even to the point that it causes schisms amongst the Bride of Christ. When it comes to First Peter, there is no exception. The first epistle of Peter contains some hot portions of Scripture with which much heated debate in some Christian circles comes forth, and so I am therefore going to focus on four of the more controversial areas of the book that address election (1:1, 2), slavery (2:18), roles in marriage (3:1-7), and retaliation (3:9). Wayne Grudem’s Tyndale New Testament commentary series on First Peter proves to be a helpful and useful aid to unpacking these four sizzling passages (1 Peter, edited by Leon Morris, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988).

THE FOUR FOCI

THE FIRST FOCUS: ELECTION (1:1, 2)

Much ink has been spilt on the issue of election. Many difficult questions have risen out from this issue. “Does God elect some to heaven and damn others to hell?” “How do you know if you are one of God’s elect?” “Did God not give his creation the will to choose?” These are all difficult questions, and all lead to very heated debates. First Peter contains some election language that is pertinent to this issue, and Grudem does a good job—a fantastic one, really—at demonstrating this topic in the first few verses of the epistle.

Grudem notes that Peter is writing to the chosen aliens dispersed throughout the world (48). He shows the uniqueness of Peter’s qualifying of “chosen” with “sojourners” (48). He notes very well that “chosen,” here, as in the rest of the New Testament, refers to the group of persons who are chosen by God out from a group of others who are not, and these ones are chosen for the purpose of inclusion into God’s people, and they are recipients of great blessing and privilege (48). Grudem does well by showing how the biblical audience would have heard the word “chosen” with the backdrop of Israel as the chosen people in their minds. It is true that the people of Israel were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Grudem concludes that Peter would have thought of the people he was writing to be of privileged status before God, at the very least as the chosen people of God whom he protected, preserved, and blessed throughout the Old Testament (48). In lieu of all of this, these aliens are the elect people whom the King of the cosmos has chosen to be his own, true people, who may benefit from his protection, and to dwell in his kingdom in heaven (49).

This issue of elect, or chosen, comes out in a communal or pluralistic sense here in the first few verses of First Peter. Many have argued election on an individualistic basis. However, the text of First Peter regarding the chosen ones is not only in the plural, thus indicating a communal sense and not an individual one, but it also draws upon communal parallelism. Now, by communal parallelism I mean a parallel between two communities—Israel and the Church. Israel was the chosen people of God in the Old Testament, while the Church is the chosen people of God in the New. Those who are Christians are the chosen sojourners because they belong to the Church, the chosen people of God in the New Testament. God would have elected an Israelite because he was part of the chosen people of God. Likewise, God elects a Christian because he is part of the chosen people of God. Election is based, at the least here in First Peter, in a communal sense, and is not to be looked at through an individualistic lens. Grudem does well to point this out in his conclusion that Peter understands that these chosen aliens are the ones who enjoy the position of being elected by God for protection, preservation, and blessing as compared to the chosen nation of Israel (48). Although many people get heated up while debating the election of the saints and the damning of all else, most of the time, at least in my experience, this is derived out of an individualistic understanding of election, and those who take this understanding would do well to look at Grudem’s treatment of 1 Pt. 1:1-2, for understanding election in a communal sense gives it a whole new meaning.

THE SECOND FOCUS: SLAVERY (2:18)

Slavery has been another hot topic in some Christian circles. In the past it has been debated if it is acceptable for Christians to own slaves or not. It has also been debated as to how a Christian, if he owns slaves, should treat them. Peter does not address masters, however, but slaves in their position as witnesses in 2:18. In this case Peter calls Christian slaves to humble obedience through submission to their masters even if they are evil. Grudem does quite well in unpacking the value of this verse.

The Greek word for servants, Grudem notes, is not doulos but oiketês, which is synonymous with the former though it bears a nuance of service within a household (123). This term is not to be associated with the terrible slavery period of the 19th century in the United States of America, as slavery in the Greco-Roman world was not nearly as bad as it was then in the more recent history (123). Despite the fact that slaves did own land and money, comprised the majority of the Roman Empire (working slaves plus freed slaves), and were very much indistinguishable from free citizens most of the time, slaves were still of a lower class in society, and thus, as Grudem notes, a word that is stronger than servant but less than slave is necessary, and perhaps it is fair to settle on an employee who is enslaved to his job (124).

These employees are to submit to their bosses with respect. What does it mean to submit? To respect? Grudem answers these questions in two well-written paragraphs. First, Grudem undertakes what it means to submit. He states that submission is a continuous mental attitude of acceptance of the legal, economic authorities over them, also encompassing a willing obedience to the commands from their masters (125). Second, Grudem tackles respect in 2:18. The Greek word, phobos, generally denotes fear. In this instance Peter is probably using the word in the sense of a healthy concern of the masters’ displeasure, and Grudem affirms that as such, respect is appropriate, thus warning against the careless disregard of, or scorning those in authority (125). But slaves are called to respectfully submit to the worst of masters—those that are crooked and perverse—with only one exception, when they command them to sin (126). Grudem sums it all up in a beautiful sentence: “Though the persons exercising authority in a fallen world are necessarily sinful, such lines of authority have been established by God and must be respected” (126).

Respectful obedience—submission—to masters, employers, or managers is imperative to the Christian slave, employee, or team member. The heated debate varies regarding these issues of slaves and masters, masters’ treatment of their slaves, and slaves’ obedience to their masters. Some difficult questions arise to which the answers are at times uncertain. “How must I treat my master?” “Is it okay for me to own slaves?” “How must I treat my slaves?” “Should I obey my master if he orders me to do something that I am unsure if it is legal?” At any rate, First Peter sets the standard at pleasing the master, no matter how crooked or how good he is, that is of course unless he asks you to do something that is contrary to what the Lord commands, and Grudem’s summary sentence succinctly brings this out.

THE THIRD FOCUS: ROLES IN MARRIAGE (3:1-7)

One of the more heated debates amongst many Christian circles is the issue of women in the Church and their role in relationships. Many have denied women a prominent leadership role in the Church because of their opinion that they are not to have a position over men. Others have not allowed their wives (to which the wives willingly subjected themselves) any hearsay in their relationship because they are not the “head.” First Peter gives some idea about the roles of both men and women in relationships, and although many debate how far to take this passage, it has a lot to offer, and even more so alongside of Grudem’s commentary.

Peter first addresses the role of wives in marriage. Grudem notes the relationship to submission in tandem with the role of wife. He writes, “it must be remembered that submission to authority is often consistent with equality in importance, dignity, and honour” (137). The command for women to subject themselves to their husbands ought not to ever be taken to imply the inferiority of either the person or the spirit, or to be of lesser importance (137). Indeed, Peter affirms that she is an equal to her husband since she is a co-heir of grace (cf. v. 7; 137). Furthermore, this submission relates to the husband’s authority or leadership and his, as Grudem puts it, “final responsibility” that affects the whole family (137). In her role as a wife the woman is called by Peter to be gentle. Grudem notes that gentle means here not insistent on one’s own rights, or it could also mean not pushy, not selfishly assertive, or not demanding one’s own way (140). The opposite of this attitude is summed up in this saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” This “my way; highway” attitude has no place in the woman’s role. As Grudem notes the gentle and quiet spirit that does not insist on one’s own rights or way is precious in God’s sight (140). It is furthermore demonstrated in the fact that Peter refers to Sarah who submitted to Abraham’s leadership. Grudem sums up her example in this: “it is her submission to her husband and her trust in God that Peter commends” (142). It is a combination of submission to the husband and trust in God to work in the circumstances that is desirable in the role of the wife.

Peter also addresses the role of the husband in verse seven. Grudem does a very good job in expounding the role of the husband in the marriage as seen in this passage of Scripture. Peter calls husbands to live considerately with their wives. Grudem mentions that this means that men are to live with considerate use of their authority over their wives (142). But there is more to it than that. The phrase that Peter wrote is literally, living together according to knowledge (142). Even more, the phrase, according to knowledge, refers more to the mode of how to live with their wives, and thus should be translated in an understanding way (143). Therefore, the husband ought to live with his wife in an understanding way, that is, by including all knowledge that might be beneficial to the marriage relationship, which includes knowledge of God’s purposes and principles for marriage, knowledge of the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations, knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms, and anything else that might do the relationship some good (143). Additionally, in the same way that God loves to bestow honor to those who are weaker or poorer in the world’s eyes, so also must the husband bestow honor to his wife through kind and affirming words, both in private or in public, and also by giving high priority in choices regarding the use of one’s time and money (143).

The idea of the weaker sex receives a good treatment by Grudem. He notes that there are at least three possibilities as to what exactly the weaker sex means. First, it could be that the husband is not to take advantage of the wife’s weaknesses, i.e., the woman is physically weaker than the husband, generally speaking (144). Second, it could be that women are merely weaker in authority in the marriage, thus Peter directs husbands to use their authority to give honor to their wives (144). The last option that Grudem gives for understanding the phrase, the weaker sex, is the possibility of simply the woman’s greater emotional sensitivity (144). At any rate, Grudem rightfully emphasizes that the husband is to be positive and affirming of his wife, both living in an understanding way with her and also by bestowing honor on her through his leadership (144).

Grudem makes a most noteworthy point at the end of his treatment of this passage in First Peter. He states, “To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight” (146). It is true that marriage can be an act of worship unto the Lord. The wife worships the Lord by submitting to her husband in a gentle and quiet spirit, and the husband by leading his wife in all honor and respect through knowledge. This is not usually understood. Marriage as worship? Yes! Women are not, however, even though it has been debated, slaves of their husbands. Furthermore, they are co-heirs or joint owners of the grace of life in Jesus Christ. As far as authority goes the husband demonstrates a loving, knowledgeable, honorable, caring leadership of his wife—not a dictatorship—despite what many have heatedly debated. Grudem’s treatment is absolutely marvelous and highlights the beauty of God’s inspired roles for women and men in relationships.

THE FOURTH FOCUS: RETALIATION (3:9)

Many have argued for total passivity. No retaliation is allowed, either verbal or physical, when harmed in any way. Some have taken it even further to mean that retaliation in the form of physical or self-defense is not permitted for the Christian, and I have personally heard some people refer to the first epistle of Peter in 3:9 to support their claims. Grudem does quite well in his commentary regarding this passage, and it proves to be a helpful aid in understanding Peter’s view of retaliation.

Grudem makes mention of the calling of the Christian to repay blessing for insult (cf. 3:9; 146). This is in relation to believers who are suffering, and they are not to return evil for evil, nor are they to repay insult for insult (146-7). This is a prohibition against personal verbal revenge (147). The Christian is to return a blessing instead of an insult for harm done because he has been called to receive God’s blessing (147).

The argument stands, then, at least from First Peter’s perspective, that retaliation is not allowed, either physically or verbally, but it says nothing of self-defense or protecting oneself from physical harm. Peter prohibits personal revenge in verbal form (147). Christians are to be a blessing by repaying blessing for insult, and thus God will bless them. They are to trust that God’s authorities will repay them for what they have done (147). Grudem mentions that alongside of Peter’s prohibition of personal revenge comes the endorsement of forceful retribution instituted by the government as seen in Romans 12:14, 17-21 and 13:1-5 (147). God has placed the government in authority so that such crimes will be punished, and it is not our place to institute such retribution.

When it all comes down to it retaliation is an issue of the heart. Grudem understands this when he begins the section that covers verse nine here with this: “Continuing with more actions which issue from a heart that is trusting in God to care for one’s needs” (146, italics mine). In verse eight Peter addresses some issues of the heart: to have unity of spirit; to be sympathetic; to have a love of the brethren; to have a tender heart; and to have a humble mind. Returning a blessing in the face of insult, suffering, and adversity speaks volumes about the person’s heart, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (cf. Matt. 12:34). It is to this form of retaliation that the Christian is called according to Peter. Grudem does a fantastic job of bringing this out, thus showing that retaliation in this instance is in relation to suffering.

CONCLUSION

First Peter provides some invaluable information regarding election, slavery, the roles of wives and husbands, and revenge. Grudem’s commentary is a great resource to help understand these issues within the first of Peter’s epistle. No matter how hot the debate may be, no matter how controversial, the text still demands to be understood in its own context, and Grudem proved himself to be faithful to the text, wading through these issues in their own settings and without bringing his own presuppositions to the table. Grudem did well by bringing up translational issues, by bringing forth absolutely essential Greek terms, and by bringing a fresh perspective to some of the more controversial passages in terms of debate in First Peter. I am thoroughly pleased with his commentary and have only but one objection—syntax. I would have liked to see more syntactical analysis than what was provided in his text, but this is merely a minor issue. Besides, to go beyond what he did would probably take his commentary above and beyond the scope of the series, and so with that in mind, the commentary stands solid as is, despite my desire for more.

The foci I have chosen have inspired some sizzling and controversial debates. Election has been understood to be of a communal sense, as Grudem showed through a wonderful parallelism between Israel and the Church, and should be understood from the perspective of First Peter in this sense. Slavery is understood to be less severe as many believe, at least in the Greco-Roman context, and Grudem shows the importance of slaves to submit to their masters with respect in an act to please the Lord. Roles in marriage, Grudem points out, are a beautifully God-created institution for marriage, where both the wife and the husband are equals in the grace of God, though they carry out different roles. And finally, retaliation is in First Peter prohibited in terms of personal revenge, and as Grudem puts it, it is left for the government to take care of. Grudem’s commentary, therefore, proves to be a great resource for all who want to study First Peter above and beyond the prima facie level, and it is highly invaluable, though not exclusively, for wading through some of its more controversial sections covering retaliation, roles in marriage, slavery, and election.