Book Plunge: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Romans 8

What do I think of Ron Fay’s book published by Fontes Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

You can find books on Paul’s Christology, his view of the Lord’s Supper, his view of justification by faith, his eschatology, his pneuamtology, his doctrine of the church, his doctrine of sin, his view of the resurrection, etc. I could go on down the list more if I wanted to. However, how often do you see a book on Paul’s view of the Trinity or at least his doctrine of God?

Fay seeks to change that with this interesting book. In it, Fay looks at Romans 8 and sees what Paul has to say there that indicates at least a proto-Trinitarian understanding of God and to see if the Romans would have seen it the same way. This is not to say that Paul was running around talking about the hypostatic union and quoting the Nicene Creed, but that Paul saw that there was one God and somehow saw the Father, Son, and Spirit as God and did not see them all as one person.

Before even getting to Romans 8 though, Fay looks at the Greco-Roman idea of god. This is not to say that Paul was borrowing from pagan religions, but that Paul spoke a language that would have had a certain meaning to those who came out of pagan religions and were familiar with the concepts, like the Roman Christians. All the while, he would be working with his own Jewish idea of God which Paul would have never abandoned, but would have integrated his new view of Jesus with.

From there, Fay goes on to touch about pretty much every subject in the chapter. He talks about God and creation and God and Law and God and adoption. Again, we could go on and on. Adoption is a key concept since we don’t know as much about Jewish views of adoption as we do about Roman views of adoption and considering a Caesar on the throne had been adopted, the Romans would have understood it.

Then once again, as we went through God and every topic in the chapter, we look at the Son and the Spirit in the same way looking at every topic. It is hard to imagine being even more thorough looking at a single chapter of Scripture. It’s also a great reminder that a look at the historical and social context of a chapter can provide great insight.

Finally, we look at if the Romans would have received this as a look at the Trinity as well and Fay concludes that they would have. Again, the doctrine was worked out over centuries in the church, but the seeds were there.

A caution I would have for every reader though is this is written by a scholar mainly for other scholars. There are many points the layman will not understand, such as Greek words and phrases used that are not translated. This is not to say the reader will get nothing out of it, but some things will be lost. I do not know if Fay is planning a version of this for the average man on the pew, but I certainly think it would be helpful.

Now if you are of the scholarly persuasion and you are reading this, then this will be a helpful book for you to read and one that I hope will spark debate. I would like to see more works on Paul and the Trinity from a scholarly perspective. I hope this is indeed not the end, but the beginning of the discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/11/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Trinity is one of those doctrines that Christians get out when they need to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they don’t pay much attention to elsewhere. It’s a shame because the Trinity is a birthright of Christians. It is a teaching that can change everything for us if we let it.

While Jehovah’s Witnesses will say it is a late development, it is all over the pages of the New Testament. One such place is in Romans. Paul moves back and forth from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit. Does a Trinitarian understanding help us in any way here? What difference does it make?

To discuss this, I have brought on a friend of mine who got in touch with me who recently wrote a book on this topic. He is a New Testament scholar and very well informed and also known as the Greek Geek. I can also assure listeners that if for some reason we cannot do the show, it will indeed be his fault. (Inside joke for those who understand it.) His name is Ron C. Fay.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ron C. Fay did his undergraduate work at Calvin College (now Calvin University), where he majored in Physics/Math and Classical Greek. He earned his M Div and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), where he was the New Testament Department Scholar. He has taught at both TEDS and Liberty University, at the School of Divinity, as part of the New Testament faculty. He has taught from Junior High to doctoral level courses. He spent 7 years in the pastorate as well. He currently teaches for both Liberty and the Stony Brook School. He has published on Paul, Greco-Roman Backgrounds, John, and Luke-Acts and is coediting the series Milstones in New Testament Scholarship with Stanley E. Porter. His book Father, Son, and Spirit in Romans 8: The Roman Reception of Paul’s Trinitarian Theology was just released. 

Romans is a great treasure for Christians and we will be diving into it. Prepare yourself to see the Trinity in the book through new eyes. We have also recently uploaded several episodes and are catching up on others so hopefully, we will be up to date soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Go To Romans 8 And Not Jeremiah 29

What passage can better deal with suffering in a Christian’s life? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times I hear a testimony about overcoming suffering in one’s life. Too many times, I hear them reference Jeremiah 29:11. This is the passage about how God has plans not to harm but to help and give a hope and a future. Now this does show something of the nature of God, but it is about the Jews going into the Babylonian captivity. Most of us haven’t been through that.

One could gather a principle from this passage that suffering that takes place in one’s life will be used for good, but there are better passages that can be used. Genesis 50:20, for example, can be used to show that what man intends for evil, God can use for good. The best passage I think to go to is Romans 8.

In this passage, Paul tells us about the life in the Spirit. I wish to start that point by saying that too often we go to Romans 7 and find our identity. We look at the whole thing about the things I don’t want to do, I do, and the things I want to do, I don’t do. We take that as describing our present Christian life. I don’t think this is so and this is Paul speaking in character as Adam in the garden. After all, there never was a time when Paul was not under the Law.

The great danger is if you identify yourself in Romans 7, you could miss your real identity in Romans 8. This is a passage about how we have life in the Spirit and we have no condemnation. Then we get about 2/3 through, Paul talks about how all things work for our good and then about how nothing can separate us from Jesus.

Starting with all things working for our good, notice that. If we could as Christians all come to believe this promise, we would not be as fearful and anxious as we often are. We have an idea that God will work things out for His glory, and we are correct, but we act like that is the only thing He’s working for and we don’t matter.

Yet this passage tells us that everything will work out for our good as well provided that we love the Lord. This means that if you are a Christian, whatever suffering takes place in your life will be used for good. This doesn’t mean that you have to like the suffering and you shouldn’t go out seeking suffering, but it does mean that suffering is not pointless in your life. Suffering will be used for your good.

If this is true, then in gamer language, you have the ultimate cheat code. Whatever happens, will happen for your good. Nothing can ultimately undermine that. All that needs to be done is to trust in God, which is the really hard part. To be suspicious though is to really doubt the love of God and doubt He is in control of this universe.

But if it is true, it is something staggering. God has worked out this whole universe so that every bit of suffering in a believer’s life will be redeemed for good. It might not all happen in this phase of reality, but it will happen. That is something explicitly about us and works a lot better than Jeremiah 29 for us. Go there instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Romans 7 About Paul?

Is Romans 7 about Paul’s struggle with sin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Romans 7 and briefly stated that it’s not autobiographical. To some readers, this was a bit of a surprise. They had always read it as Paul describing his struggle with sin and I have heard more than enough sermons describing it that way. Is it really the case that Paul is not describing himself?

First off, this isn’t a minority view. This is a common view found in scholarship. It was also the view of Origen just a couple of centuries or so after the writing of Romans. What has really got it going more is that we’ve come to realize that in the West, we are very introspective and we often read our culture into the Bible. The people in the Bible were not really introspective and they did not live in our culture.

So let’s start by looking at the passage itself.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment,deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Seems straight forward enough. In fact, one reason we go to it is that so many of us can relate. Many of us know about not doing something that we really know we should and doing something that we know we shouldn’t. It seems common so it’s not a shock that we read this passage and think that Paul is speaking about us and that he went through the same thing.

But let’s go somewhere else. How about Philippians 3. How does Paul describe himself there?

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

We often have this view of Jews wrestling under the Law like it was the Islamic system and just hoping that they were good enough to merit the favor of God. They weren’t. In fact, the larger question for them was not their faithfulness to the covenant, but God’s. After all, they had done what they were to do, and yet here they were in their land which is being dominated by these wicked Gentiles from Rome. It’s too easy to take a Reformation scenario and project it back onto Judaism.

Paul has no wrestling going on in Philippians 3. We don’t see any death when the law comes. In fact, how can we even speak of Paul having life apart from the Law? That would not make sense to a Jew. Your whole life was the Law.

In fact, there’s a great danger that if we identify so much with Romans 7, we will fail to identify with Romans 8, and Romans 8 is all about how we live by the Spirit instead of by the Law. If we are living by the Law, we are not living by the Spirit. If we are not living by the Spirit, then the great promises of Romans 8 won’t apply to us and we can miss out on the victory over sin.

I don’t want to scare anyone though into thinking that I am calling into question your salvation. Not at all. I am calling into question though your identification. Do you identify with Romans 7 or Romans 8, and Romans 8 indicates at the end that we still struggle, but who can bring a charge against us?

So what is going on in Romans 7 if it’s not autobiographical?

There are many ideas, but I think Paul is speaking as Adam who he has mentioned in Romans 5. Ben Witherington in What’s In The Word? points out that for the rabbis, coveting was also the sin in the garden. This would mean that Adam had life, and then came the law and through that he fell into sin and died. Now the question for Paul’s audience is if they identify with Adam or with Christ.

It’s also your question today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

All Things Work For Israel?

Who are we that love the Lord? Let’s talk about it tonight on Deeper Waters.

This is another one of those blogs where I’d just like to share my thoughts on a topic I’ve been pondering and get some feedback on it. One of my favorite passages in Scripture that is most assuring to me is when I get to Romans 8 where we are told that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.

As I thought about it one night, I started wondering just how it is that Paul knew this truth. It seems simple to us, but what was there behind it? I started asking the question about who those are who love the Lord and then remembered that if I was reading Romans, chapter 9 immediately starts off with talk about Israel.

What if all those who love the Lord are what Paul wishes to call Israel?

Let’s consider how the book begins. It starts with the first chapter about how the gospel is for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Keep in mind that in Rome at the time, it is quite likely that the Jews had just returned from being exiled out by the emperor and Paul was dealing with some who were thinking “We already have a church. We’re Gentiles. What about them?” There could have been some strong anti-Semitism going on here.

How does he begin? He begins by talking about how the Gentiles went away from God. Those Gentiles who are Christians should literally thank God because their past is not too pretty. Polytheism, idolatry, and homosexuality would have been abundant in the ancient world. The first was a theistic error. The second was a specifically religious sin. The final would tear apart the very family unit.

Okay. The Jews are liking this. Not so fast! Chapter 2 shows Paul doesn’t let them off the hook. They’re not exactly saints. In some ways, they’re worse because they have the Law and they have the covenant promise of circumcision and even while having the Law, sometimes the Gentiles are doing better than they are. Also, they have the commands straight from God and they still violate them!

Romans 3 begins then with what is the advantage in being a Jew? First, they have the very oracles of God. Notice that Paul says first. There is a second, but he never explicitly mentions it. Instead, he gets on his first point with the idea of “How does this help us with righteousness?” He shows that all are equally condemned and that salvation cannot come through the Law. Well how are we to be saved then?

For that, we bring in exhibit A, Abraham, the friend of God. If it worked for Abraham, it works for everyone. Paul makes a master argument establishing that the righteousness Abraham was credited with was granted to him before the covenant of circumcision was given! Thus, one can be righteous and be uncircumcised since Abraham was! Abraham was instead declared righteous by faith!

The next chapter is our response and how God reached out to us and why it was necessary. We have peace with God that Adam ruined for us. Christ was the perfect representative of the human race and he was what Adam had been meant to be. Adam had reached out for equality with God and lost it. Jesus willingly did not consider his equality something to be grasped, and thus it was truly declared of Him in His earthly life.

If this is all true, and we are all covered, why not sin anyway? We have grace! It has been said if you are ministering and people do not hear a message of antinomianism sometime, you really haven’t touched on grace. Of course, Christians are not anti-Law. Paul wasn’t. They are pro righteousness however and holy living exists apart from the Law. Romans 6 is about how we left a lifestyle behind that would have given us a death sentence. Let us not serve it any more!

Then comes Romans 7 where we hear about the futility of righteousness by the Law. Some have said in Romans 7 Paul is talking about himself. I’m skeptical of that claim. Others have said it is about Adam, but as I have thought about it, what if it was really Israel he had in mind? Now follow me with this to chapter 8.

Chapter 8 is about forgiveness, but also how all of this extends to the restoration of creation. He then gives us the verses this blog is about, but notice he speaks about those who God called. If Paul has been talking about the benefit of being a Jew throughout this, who would he have in mind? Who was it that was called in the Old Testament? It was Israel. Those who love the Lord are Israel!

Have I thought it through the rest of the way? No. That is still being pondered, but I do notice that Romans 9:1 is the first time in the book that Paul uses the word “Israel.” Until then, he has been just saying “Jews.” Could it be that Paul is not wanting to say that because someone is a Jew, they are automatically Israel? Could it be that Paul is wanting to widen the categories so that Gentiles can be truly Israel and this could help explain the “All Israel shall be saved” verse? Is it that those who truly love God and are the “remnant” are the true Israel and the Gentiles in Rome should in fact be friendly to the Jews because these Jewish believers are true Israel?

This is an exciting idea I think and I am going to be pondering it further, but for now I wanted to get the idea out there. All things work for us who love the Lord perhaps we are all now the Israel of God. The promises given to them apply to us and their past is ours. Keep in mind Paul does speak to a church with several Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 10 but at the same time says “Our forefathers passed through the Sea.” Has the gospel broken down the barrier between Jew and Gentile so much that a Gentile can be considered Israel?

Just something to think about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters