This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Tag: Thomas Schreiner

Completed by the Spirit: Download the original paper

By request, here’s the com­plete paper from July 2010 from which the Com­pleted by the Spirit blog series was adapted. You’re wel­come to down­load it and dis­trib­ute it freely as long as you do not mod­ify it:

Com­pleted by the Spirit: New Covenant Sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion in Paul (PDF, 240 kb)

Completed by the Spirit Part 19: Imperatives Rooted in the Indicative

This is the 19th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

We cer­tainly are given imper­a­tives — com­mands — in the New Tes­ta­ment. Indeed, many imper­a­tives are included in Paul’s epistles.

But it is vitally impor­tant to under­stand that Paul’s imper­a­tives are not in the form of laws, but are imper­a­tives that are depen­dent upon the indica­tive of the gospel.

Pro­fes­sor and the­olo­gian Thomas Schreiner explains:

Paul’s exhor­ta­tions do not fall prey to legal­ism, for they are rooted in his gospel and the promises of God. Another way of say­ing this is that the imper­a­tive (God’s com­mand) is rooted in the indica­tive (what God has done for believ­ers in Christ). Believ­ers are saved, redeemed, rec­on­ciled, and jus­ti­fied even now, and yet we have seen that each of these bless­ings is fun­da­men­tally esc­a­ha­to­log­i­cal. Believ­ers are already redeemed, and yet they await final redemp­tion. Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion belongs to believ­ers by faith, and yet they await the hope of right­eous­ness on the last day (). Believ­ers would not need any eth­i­cal exhor­ta­tions if they were already per­fected. But in the inter­val between the “already” and the “not yet,” eth­i­cal exhor­ta­tion is needed. If the pri­or­ity of the indica­tive is lost, then the grace of the Pauline gospel is under­mined. The imper­a­tive must always flow from the indica­tive. On the other hand, the indica­tive must must not swal­low up the imper­a­tive so that the lat­ter dis­ap­pears. The imper­a­tives do not com­pro­mise Paul’s gospel. They should not be con­strued as law opposed to gospel. The imper­a­tives are part and par­cel of the gospel as long as they are woven into the story line of the Pauline gospel and flow from the indica­tive of what God has accom­plished for us in Christ.[1]

Con­tinue reading


For through the Spirit, by faith, we our­selves eagerly wait for the hope of right­eous­ness. (ESV)

First Item on my 2011 Christmas list

Thomas Schreiner calls Gre­gory K. Beale’s forth­com­ing book,  A New Tes­ta­ment Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy: The Unfold­ing of the Old Tes­ta­ment in the New his “mag­num opus.”

Beale, author of two favorites of mine, We Become What We Wor­ship: A Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy of Idol­a­try and The Tem­ple and the Church’s Mis­sion: A Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy of the Dwelling Place of God – as well as co-editor with D. A. Car­son of Com­men­tary on the New Tes­ta­ment Use of the Old Tes­ta­ment — has this new work hit­ting on Decem­ber 1.

In his endorse­ment, Schreiner writes, “Cer­tainly Beale has writ­ten his mag­num opus, in which he deftly inte­grates the Scrip­tures via the new cre­ation theme. The use of the Old Tes­ta­ment in the New Tes­ta­ment forms the back­bone of this work so that read­ers grasp how the sto­ry­line of Scrip­ture coheres. We stand in debt to the author for his detailed and pro­found unfold­ing of New Tes­ta­ment theology.”

Dou­glas Moo’s endorse­ment: “The canon­i­cal scope and focus on the bib­li­cal story line give Beale’s New Tes­ta­ment Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy a unique place among the many New Tes­ta­ment the­olo­gies now avail­able. The book is vin­tage Beale, cre­atively mak­ing con­nec­tions between Old Tes­ta­ment and New Tes­ta­ment and pur­su­ing a def­i­nite vision of how the Bible hangs together.”

I can’t wait!

 

Completed by the Spirit Part 18: If We Have the Spirit, Why Do We Need Instruction?

This is the 18th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Why?If sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is the work of the Holy Spirit in us,  why do believ­ers — who have received the Spirit — still need instruc­tion and exhortation?

First, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that believ­ers are still imper­fect this side of glory. As we have seen, the incar­nate Christ as God-Man was the pro­to­type of the believer given the Holy Spirit.

But unlike us, the incar­nate Jesus’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Holy Spirit was perfect.

In Christ, the Spirit’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion was com­plete. Con­tinue reading

Completed by the Spirit Part 15: Producing Fruit, Not Inspecting Fruit

This is the 15th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

While we have seen that the law is inef­fec­tual against sin, and (as Paul argues) that the law pro­motes sin in sin­ful flesh, and while we have just seen that it is love that ful­fills the two tables of the law, we then must ask, “What, accord­ing to Paul, pro­duces growth in holi­ness?” And that brings us to the great antithe­sis between the Spirit and the flesh that Paul expounds in . Let’s empha­size once again that Paul is writ­ing to the church. He is not writ­ing a trea­tise solely on jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by faith. He reminds the Gala­tians, as we noted above, “You were run­ning well!” These are believ­ers that Paul is cau­tion­ing against turn­ing from the Spirit.

[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ()

While the strug­gling man of may or may not be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the unre­gen­er­ate man fac­ing despair in try­ing to obey the law, the man addressed by Paul is one who fights the Chris­t­ian fight, the war between the flesh and the Spirit.  Con­tinue reading


5:1 For free­dom Christ has set us free; stand firm there­fore, and do not sub­mit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept cir­cum­ci­sion, Christ will be of no advan­tage to you. I tes­tify again to every man who accepts cir­cum­ci­sion that he is oblig­ated to keep the whole law. You are sev­ered from Christ, you who would be jus­ti­fied by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we our­selves eagerly wait for the hope of right­eous­ness. For in Christ Jesus nei­ther cir­cum­ci­sion nor uncir­cum­ci­sion counts for any­thing, but only faith work­ing through love.

You were run­ning well. Who hin­dered you from obey­ing the truth? This per­sua­sion is not from him who calls you. A lit­tle leaven leav­ens the whole lump. 10 I have con­fi­dence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is trou­bling you will bear the penalty, who­ever he is. 11 But if I, broth­ers, still preach cir­cum­ci­sion, why am I still being per­se­cuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unset­tle you would emas­cu­late themselves!

13 For you were called to free­dom, broth­ers. Only do not use your free­dom as an oppor­tu­nity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is ful­filled in one word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not con­sumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evi­dent: sex­ual immoral­ity, impu­rity, sen­su­al­ity, 20 idol­a­try, sor­cery, enmity, strife, jeal­ousy, fits of anger, rival­ries, dis­sen­sions, divi­sions, 21 envy, drunk­en­ness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the king­dom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, 23 gen­tle­ness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have cru­ci­fied the flesh with its pas­sions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become con­ceited, pro­vok­ing one another, envy­ing one another. (ESV)


16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 9: ‘It Cannot Justify, It Cannot Sanctify’

This is the ninth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. D. Mar­tyn Lloyd-Jones

As we saw in our pre­vi­ous three install­ments, there are three ways the man of may be identified.

1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the pre­vi­ous installment.

2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law.

3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Christian.

But as we closed part 8, we asked, “Does it mat­ter to us as an appli­ca­tion of which of the three men Paul is describing?”

Whichever of the three views one might hold, two of the same con­clu­sions can be drawn from .

Con­tinue reading


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Cannot Cope With Sin

This is the third part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The first of the five propo­si­tions we intro­duced in Part 1 of this series is that the law can­not cope with sin.

The law can­not pre­vent sin; the law can’t curb sin; the law is pow­er­less against sin.

In fact, Paul tells us, the law pro­vokes sin.

Moses smashing the tablets of the lawAlthough what the law com­mands is holy, it was given to stiff-necked Israel to increase trans­gres­sions until the Mes­siah, the sin­gle seed of Abra­ham, was to come:

[19] Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. [20] Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

[21] Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. [22] But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

[23] Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. [24] So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. ()[1]

In his analy­sis of this pas­sage, Jason C. Meyer ref­er­ences Thomas Schreiner’s argu­ment that, “although the phrase ‘because of trans­gres­sions’ could refer to defin­ing or increas­ing trans­gres­sion, the lat­ter option is prefer­able.”[2] Schreiner gives three rea­sons for that inter­pre­ta­tion: first, that the con­text of the pas­sage is that sal­va­tion can­not be attained by the law; sec­ond, that the rela­tion­ship of “under law and under sin” reveals the law’s role in arous­ing sin; and third, that there is a par­al­lel with : “Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass. …”[3]

Con­tinue reading


19 Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. 20 Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were bap­tized into Christ have put on Christ. (ESV)


20 Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit, Part 1: Five Propositions

This is the first part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

For the apos­tle Paul, the Mosaic law – or any exter­nal com­mands not grounded in the indica­tive of the Spirit of God given to dwell in the believer – is anti­thet­i­cal to our growth in holi­ness; rather it is the Holy Spirit who is trans­form­ing the believer from “one degree of glory to another,” (). Paul’s teach­ing on the inabil­ity of the law to effec­tively com­bat sin in the life of the Chris­t­ian has been dis­torted by many, result­ing in an improper focus on law that con­tin­ues to enslave believ­ers in sin.[1] Per­haps Paul’s exas­per­ated excla­ma­tion and rhetor­i­cal ques­tions to the “fool­ish” Gala­tians is sum­mary enough of Paul’s view of the law:

[2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? [3] Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? [4] Did you suf­fer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? [5] Does he who sup­plies the Spirit to you and works mir­a­cles among you do so by works of the law, or by hear­ing with faith— [6] just as Abra­ham “believed God, and it was counted to him as right­eous­ness”? ()

Rembrandt's painting of the Apostle Paul, c. 1635

Rembrandt’s paint­ing of the Apos­tle Paul, c. 1635

“Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh?” That antithe­sis – the Spirit and the flesh – draws the bat­tle lines for Paul between those who would have believ­ers con­tin­u­ing as slaves to sin instead of liv­ing as slaves to Christ and reap­ing the fruit of the Spirit. It is, as Paul tells the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, the will of God that they – that we – be sanc­ti­fied, “because God chose you as the first­fruits to be saved, through sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (). God did not choose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by the law; God did not choose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by their own actions, behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion or self-help tech­niques; God chose believ­ers to be sanc­ti­fied by the Spirit of Christ via the gospel of Christ.

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18 And we all, with unveiled face, behold­ing the glory of the Lord, are being trans­formed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)


Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hear­ing with faith? Are you so fool­ish? Hav­ing begun by the Spirit, are you now being per­fected by the flesh? Did you suf­fer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who sup­plies the Spirit to you and works mir­a­cles among you do so by works of the law, or by hear­ing with faith— just as Abra­ham “believed God, and it was counted to him as right­eous­ness”? (ESV)


13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, broth­ers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first­fruits to be saved, through sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (ESV)

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