God in Flesh, Dwelling Among His People (Matt 1:23)

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Advent Day 3

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:22-23 KJV; cf. Isa 7:14).

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Immediately following the generation of Jesus (Matt 1:1-17), Scripture noted Mary “was with child of the Holy Ghost” (1:18b), begotten in her womb as both Son of God (Spirit conception; Luke 1:35) and Son of man (humanity). While Joseph “thought on these things,” meaning pondering on how to handle Mary’s pregnancy, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream as God’s messenger. Through the angel, the omnipresent God incarnated in the Son revealed five truths about that which Mary carried: (1) the Holy Ghost conceived it (1:20); she would bear a son (v.21a); (3) Joseph will call the son Jesus (v. 21b); (4) the Son will save His people from their sins (v. 21c); and this birth fulfills that which the prophet spoke about the forthcoming Emmanuel (vv. 22-23; cf. Isa 7:14). Thus, the Spirit-conceived Emmanuel in the expectant Mary, refers to the child in His humanity and the Son in His divinity (Isa 9:6a; Matt 1:23a,b)—God’s revelation to man, one and one and the same.

In 2 Chron 36:23b, Cyrus King of Persia said “Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD God be with him, and let him go up!” Emmanuel, God with us, identifies Jesus, the invisible God made visible in flesh to deliver His people from sin. Second Chronicles 36:23 previews Emmanuel dwelling among His people: Cyrus told the exiles from Judah they could return to Jerusalem and build a house there. Upon their journey back to Jerusalem, they built the second temple of which they did in 353 BCE under Ezra and Nehemiah’s leadership. However, the Spirit of God fulfilled a greater temple with the conception of a Son in a virgin called by the Lord to be with His people (2 Chron 36:23). Though not one of brick and mortar, rather the temple of the living God–God with us dwelling with His people and walking among them (2 Cor 6:16). Through conception from God’s Spirit, Emmanuel accomplished what Cyrus spoke through the Lord “May the Lord God be with him” (2 Chron 36:23c). Believers today, individually (1 Cor 6:19) and collectively, form the holy temple of which the Spirit dwells for “an habitation of God” (Eph 2:20-22).

Jan Paron, PhD

12.1.20

(Excerpt from The Incarnational Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew)

Emmanuel: New Testament Context Fulfilled

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Advent Day 2

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14 NKJV).

Mary, a virgin from the lineage of David, birthed Jesus through agency of the Holy Spirit. Procreation or (begetting) in Mary’s womb made Jesus the Son of God (v. 18), thus, fulfilling the prophecy that Christ would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:21-23; Cox, 2013). Jesus descended as a scion from the lineage of David–a Rod from the stem of Jesse (Isa 11:1), father of David (1 Sam 17:12). As the Son of David, it established Jesus’ human lineage born through the virgin, Mary. The Matthean Gospel portrayed Jesus as the King, the Seed as Son of David (cf. Matt 1:22-23: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet”).

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Emmanuel: Old Testament Context Foretold

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Advent Day 1

The Book of Isaiah first mentioned the New Testament Emmanuel as Immanuel in the prophecy from Isa 7:14, “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” In the context of Isa 7:14, Immanuel (Heb: אֵל; ‘El) means God with us; however, extended meanings of it include the everlasting God (Gen 21:33), Almighty God (Gen 35:11; 48:3; 49:25; Exod 6:3), the one God (Mal 2:10), the one, true God (Gen 31:35; Num 12:13–BDB Lexicon, p. 42). To the Hebrews it connotes a sense of extreme strength and power (BLB). Upon looking at Isa 9:6, the names Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace in the verse describe the very Child to be born, a Son to be given. All meanings not only reveal Jesus’ identity but also converge into the nature of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

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The Son from Matt 1:23, fulfills the son given in Isa 7:14. The kings of Israel and Syria converged to trouble Judah and dethrone Ahaz (Isa 7:6), a move the Lord said would not stand (7:7). Through Isaiah, the Lord conveyed three things to Ahaz, all based on faith and belief in Him: (1) Ahaz should “take heed and be quiet;” (3) “do not fear or be fainthearted;” and (3) the kings’ plots would not stand or come to pass.” Then, the Lord, Yahweh your God, offered King Ahaz a greater divine sign to reassure him of His power (v. 11) linked to God’s promise of deliverance (v. 7). The sign would foretell the lineage of David’s continuance for a future king through a seed according to the flesh: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Immanuel means “God with us,” Thus, the prophet Isaiah challenged Ahaz to trust God (cf. Josh 1:9). Like other Old Testament leaders before him, God remained with them. For example, Abijah, king of Judah, believed that God was with His people when the army of Jeroboam outnumbered them. The Lord honored his faith with victory (2 Chron 13:12-15).

Ahaz did not commit himself to faith in God by relying on Him, “Neither will I tempt Yahweh,” The king refused (Isa 7:12). Instead, King Ahaz appealed to the king of Assyria (Tiglath-Pieleser III) for help, and thus, experienced tragic results–the Assyrian king offered support by making Judah a tributary of Assyria. God’s word remains infallible. King Ahaz followed the pattern of other unbelieving Hebrews before him who did not heed the Lord Jehovah’s voice, only to face dire consequences. For example, even though Joshua and Caleb argued to trust God and take possession of Canaan (Num 13:29; 14:19), the people murmured and followed the opinion of men: “Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” Consequently, the Lord would not let them see the land He swore to their fathers with the exception of Joshua and Caleb (14:23). Though God held back a remnant of believing Jews, Ahaz’ rejection of the Lord foretells the same unbelief of His chosen to the arrived Messiah Emmanuel. Traditional Jews still await the foretold Messiah. They reject Jesus over three core tenets (1): He did not usher in world peace (Isa 2:4), bring about political sovereignty for the Jews (2 Sam 7:11), nor protect them from their enemies (Jer 33:16).

Jan Paron 11.29.20  

From the Incarnational Theology of Emmanuel in the Book of Matthew.  

(1) Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991.

Call to Laborers for the Harvest

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Matthew 9:35-37 segues between Jesus healing and restoring the multitudes and commissioning of His 12 apostles. The author recounted the narrative of the harvest saying:

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.(36) But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (37) Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

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Jesus couldn’t help but view the multitudes around Him through the lens of mission. He saw a great and plentiful spiritual harvest ready to reap, yet few laborers. The Lord of the Harvest, Jesus—God incarnated in flesh, was calling disciples to multiplication as missionary laborers in the field. That same call applies to us today. It’s a clarion call. In the Old Testament, it signaled impending danger or the arrival of a king. Leaders, the King will come again soon! The urgency of the hour requires the heralding of the trumpet message for the arrival of King Jesus for us to hear.

Jesus already made the call to His disciples to labor in the harvest. As His very disciples we too must go work in the harvest. Let me recount three key qualities we need as laborers from the model Jesus left us: zeal, compassion, and cost.

  1. Zeal. Jesus did not wait for the people to come to Him, He went into “all the cities and villages.” Even when not welcomed, He never overlooked even the slightest village. Everywhere He went in His earthly ministry, He taught, He preached, and He healed all kinds of sicknesses. Today is the day; we don’t know about tomorrow. In John 4:35 after Jesus ministered to the woman at the well He told His disciples, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Now is the time. We must metaphorically speak to the woman at the well and stay two days with the Samaritans who have not received the presence of the Word. Do we have the same zeal for others’ salvation?
  2. Compassion. Scripture says He was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes. Their needs touched His heart. The New Testament includes five different words for compassion, but of them only one describes a divine meaning recorded of Christ toward the multitudes and individual sufferers–Compassion in Greek transilterates to splagchnizomai, originating from the stem word for bowels or intestines. The Hebrews regarded inner parts as the seat of the tenderer affections with deep-felt emotions. In the context of the Gospels, whenever Jesus felt compassion for someone or a mass of people, it surged from within Him to meet the needs of people and He acted upon it, He provided food, raised the dead, delivered the demon-possessed, healed the sick, and taught those like sheep without a shepherd. Can we labor with a surge of compassion to the multitudes? The hungry, thirsty, impoverished, sick, and imprisoned?
  3. Cost. Laboring in the harvest field comes with a cost. Laborers help prepare for the harvest, souls brought to repentance and faith. Harvest has two meanings. Generally, In Matt 9:35-39, it referred to Israel’s regathering  The harvest also indicates the close of ages . We live in the closing age of the Church. The sickle will be put to the harvest. The second coming of the Son of Man as the Righteous Judge will come sooner rather than later. Laboring comes with a cost. The Bible and early church records indicated the apostles, to the exclusion of Judas, died because they refused to deny their faith in Christ. The current world climate has become increasingly more hostile to Christians. We too will face it. Can we stand against the cost of laboring in the field?  

Jesus said in John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” He has equipped us supernaturally with all power and authority in His name. Leaders, we comprise part of the sent Church–Sent to the harvest.

Jan Paron, PhD

September 10, 2020

Not After Man–Gal 1:10-12

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In Gal 1:10-12, Paul introduced his argument to redirect the Galatia ekklēsia away from the influence of the Judaizer’s false teaching resulting in the Galatians falling away to a Christian identity marked by Jewish rites and practices. In his letter, Paul refuted “a different gospel, which is not another” (1:6b-7a)–a false doctrine of works opposed to Christ’s gospel of grace (v.7b). Thus, in vv. 10-12, Paul began the process of building a case validating the gospel he preached and taught, which the Galatian believers originally accepted.

Not After Man.Gal1.11-12

Galatians 1:10–For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Paul laid the foundation for his apostolic authority in this verse posing two, pointed questions serving to validate his integrity as a servant of Christ (Grk: δοῦλος; doulos), and accordingly, the gospel he preached: “For do I now persuade men, or God” and Do I seek to please men?” (1:10a). He utilized questions as rhetorical practices in his various epistles to draw the audience’s attention, organize his thoughts, or function persuasively in rhetoric (Rom 2:3-4; 3:1-9; 1 Cor 9:1-13). Perhaps, he either purposed to bring attention to his opponents’ claims against him over circumcision and observance of Mosaic Law or announce his intentions for the argument that ensued.

Nevertheless, his self-acknowledged status as a servant (Grk: δοῦλος; doulos) of Christ bound him to the truth of the gospel he preached. He did not seek to please men, rather the one God and Father of all who assumed the likeness and limits of man, Jesus. Paron (2013) explained a “bondservant gives up self-interests and will to advance God’s mission as a slave for the sake of Christ…” Therefore, Paul could not assume authority without service as a slave of Christ. A servant gives up all self-interests in devotion and obedience to God.

Galatians 1:11–But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

“But I certify you brethren,” γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν ἀδελφοί, announced further thoughts from Paul’s preceding points in verse ten. Defending the authenticity of the gospel he preached, Paul informed the brethren of the Galatian community how he received it. The apostle identified the source as divine through Jesus’ revelation (1:12), rather than “after man,” κατὰ ἄνθρωπον (1:11).

Galatians 1:12–For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The apostle defined “not after man.” Unlike the Galatians who received the gospel Paul taught them, he did so through direct revelation knowledge from Jesus to himself by His personal divine action. Hence, that which he received had no human basis because its genesis originated from Jesus by His Spirit.–The apostle neither received it through man’s preaching nor imparted by teaching. This same true gospel he preached to the Galatians and they accepted—the gospel of Christ (1:7,9).

Paul described himself as a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to Torah, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” (Phil 3:5-6). He well understood Hebraic tradition. Judaizers, including Paul the former Saul prior to his conversion, learned religious instruction primarily from rabbinic tradition subject to human interpretations as to their religious authority and guide.[2] However, Jesus in Spirit rather than flesh revealed the gospel to Paul. The Greek word kai gives a fuller meaning to Gal 1:3 as God the Father, even (kai) our Lord Jesus Christ speaking to the union of the man Jesus with God as one being.

In whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9-10), the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ serves as God in activity to man, indistinguishable from Him with the same mind, purpose, and will. Resulting from Saul’s baptism in the Spirit, as part of his personal encounter with Jesus and subsequent conversion and a new name as Paul, he had access to God’s self-revelation from Jesus. Paul’s once blinded eyes opened to the truth of the gospel, of which he argued and defended in his letter to the Galatians

[1] Ken Schenck, Making Sense of God’s Word, (Indianapolis: Wesleyan House Publishing, 2009): 54. Schenck cited categorizes for flow thought as follows: Determine how big blocks of text connect to each other. –

  • Patterns, Cause to effect (What is taught in the first block, follows in the second half. i.e. Romans logical movement from cause to effect),
  • Background (First block prepares of lays foundation or provides introduction for second block),
  • Compare and contrast (Stories of David and Saul contrast to each other.),
  • General and particulars (Can go in either order–i.e. arguments in Romans go from general to particular),
  • Logical causation (One idea can follow other ideas to produce an argument),
  • Conclusion (Effect caused by what preceded it),
  • Problem to solution and Question to answer (Specialized cause and effect–Much of Romans is structured as questions and answers.),
  • Themes (Reoccurrences – i.e., unity and rejoicing in Philippians),
  • Patterns (Like recurrent contrasts between Christ and various OT figures) and
  • Relationship: How do the big blocks of materials in a book relate to each other. (i.e., do the introductory paragraphs of Romans relate to the rest of the letter?)

[2] MacArthur, J. (2019). Paul’s Revelation of Jesus Christ. Retrieved from https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqnas-library/QA0319/pauls-revelation-of-jesus-christ

References

Incarnational Hermeneutic of Pauline Salutations

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As a field of study, hermeneutics features “the science and the art of Biblical interpretation”[1] to determine understanding and meaning of Scriptural text. From the Greek hermeneuo, it purposes to explain and translate.[2] Hermeneutics bridges understanding from the reader to the intent of the original author, whom God inspired to write His Word.

To Know Jesus Is To Know God

To know Jesus is to know God. Further uncovering Scripture from an incarnational hermeneutic, Segraves expands this thought regarding the intertextuality of Old Testament foreshadowing to New Testament fulfilling Jesus as Yahweh:

By the inspired genius of its intertextuality, the Bible informs us that the God who created the heavens and the earth in the beginning is none other than the God we know in His manifestation in the flesh as Jesus… He is the Word, the Word of Life, the very life of the Father, manifested in genuine human existence[3]

Thus, if one reads Scripture from the perspective of an incarnational hermeneutic, the mystery explained becomes evident. The Pauline Epistles especially bring this understanding to bear. While readers may skip over the salutations, one can gain much with careful study. Galatians 1:1 illustrates the importance of scriptural truth through understanding and meaning by utilizing the incarnational hermeneutic. The passage reads, “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;).

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For example, in this epistle, Paul highlighted the Incarnation as he began his deliberative argument to the Galatian ekklēsia (Grk. ἐκκλησία) in the epistolary prescript. Jesus Christ and God the Father refer to the one God and Father of all who assumed the likeness and limits of man. Jesus is God. Therefore, Jesus was God the Father manifested in the flesh. Paul’s salutation goes beyond validating his own apostolic authority as the bearer of the Gospel as opposed to those who pervert it. He additionally defended Jesus Christ as the fullness of God incarnate–the true deliverer of the Galatian assemblies’ sins (1:1,4).

Incarnational Union

From an incarnational hermeneutic, Cox (2020) stated Paul validated his beleaguered apostleship before those who opposed his doctrinal position against circumcision.

Paul declared he was personally chosen by the risen Messiah Jesus and God, the Father who raised him to life again. Jesus Christ and the Father are an incarnational union. In light of the union, Jesus’ choice was God’s choice. God does not act or choose independent of the person of Christ but personally as the risen Jesus. Paul was chosen by God the Father in Christ to be an apostle giving his office divine authentication before his opponents. Galatians 1:1 gives us the unspoken union of God and Christ supported elsewhere in Scripture (John 10:30).[4]

Cox emphasized the incarnational union. It solidifies no separation, rather “To wit, that God was in Christ” (2 Cor 5:19).

Deity in the Son is the Father

Bernard also explained the opening identifier in Galatians through an incarnational lens:

The deity in the Son is the Father (John 14:10)…Since Jesus is the name of the Son of God, both as to His deity as Father and as to His humanity as Son, it is the name of both the Father and the Son.[5]

Bernard noted that since Father refers to deity and Son to deity as incarnated in humanity, the deity in the Son is the Father. John 14:10 explains the Father is in the Son. An incarnational hermeneutic, therefore, explains Jesus Christ as God the Father.

Scripture makes truth very clear. The incarnational hermeneutic uncovers and translates truth. It plainly makes known Jesus’ identity and purpose for humanity to anyone who wishes to know the truth of God.

Jan Paron, PhD

August 8, 2020

[1] Conner & Malmin, 1983, Interpreting the Scriptures, p.1

[2] Segraves, 2001, You can understand the Bible, p.11.

[3] Segraves, 2008, Reading between the lines, np.

[4] Cox, 2020, Text conversation.

[5] Bernard, 2001, The Oneness of God, p. 127.

Book of Galatians Overview

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Written around AD 51, the Book of Galatians represents one of the 13 letters or epistles the Apostle Paul authored to early churches in antiquity. In this book, he addressed the Galatian assemblies of whom membership predominantly comprised Gentile believers (Gal 1:16; 2:2-7-9).[1] Paul wrote the letter in deliberative rhetorical style as an argument to redirect the Galatian ekklēsia from living in the law of works to the law of the promised Holy Spirit (Gal 3:1, 5, 14).

Cultural Profile

Paul addressed his letter to “the churches of Galatia” (Gal 1:2). He did not specify North or South Galatia. The Galatians originated in central Europe. Later, they migrated into Switzerland, southern Germany, northern Italy, France, Britain, Balkans, and finally Asia Minor. At the time Paul wrote this book, the Greek-speaking Gauls inhabited Asia Minor (cf. Galatia).[2]

Witherington, a theologian, specializing in socio-rhetorical interpretation, believed the Galatian descendants retained their original Celtic culture through dialect, organization, politics, and religion well into the New Testament. The general populace revered and feared the Galatians for their standing as mercenaries and warriors, Celtic native language, physical stature, and wild appearance. [3] However, Witherington noted other peoples and tribes lived in Galatia besides Gaul descendants due to the establishing of Roman colonies. Additionally, Galatia had a heavy Roman military presence among its population.[4]

Internal evidence within the Book of Galatians does not explain the people Paul addressed. However, the Jewish Christian infiltrators brought up the issue of circumcision that specifically related to Gentiles. One finds additional evidence of the audience outside this book. Acts and Luke use the word Phrygian (Acts 16:6; Luke 3:1) to indicate a part of Galatia. Paul would have traveled through the Phrygian territory on the way to Ephesus.

Context

Broader Literary Context

The author sought to refute false teachings and claims from a counter group of Jewish Christians who infiltrated the church. Paul argued for the “truth of the Gospel (Gal 2:5,14; 3:2; 4:4) and identity found in Jesus Christ (3:28). The counter group of Judaizers not only presented false claims but also questioned Paul’s authority. They perverted the Gospel (1:7-9) by insisting all Gentiles must be circumcised (5:2; 6:12-13), adhere to the law (3:2-5; 5:4-6) and take on a Christian identity marked in Jewish rites and practices.

Immediate Literary Context

Paul opened the argument in Gal 3, reprimanding the ekklēsia for not obeying truth and calling them foolish and bewitched (3:1). He posed six pointed questions, like a father speaking to his errant children, related to their misguided beliefs over the Law (3:1, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5). The six questions provide background information that lays the foundation for the next text blocks.[5]

The last question, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (3:5 NKJV) transitions by means of logical causation to a contrasting portrait of faith-blessed (3:6-9) versus works of the law-cursed (3:10-13). Paul expounded on the blessings (3:14-18) with particulars about “Abraham and his Seed were the promises made” (3:16). Paul also presents six thesis statements in this block, found in Gal 3:6-14, of which preview the rest of the chapter.[6]

Paul immediately began the Gal 3:19-22 passage block with two questions-to-answer. He asked the first question, “What purpose then does the law serve?” (3:19a). Then, he subsequently responded to it in the following verse, “because of transgressions, but temporary until the Seed fulfilled the promise (3:19-20). He posed a secondary question to the answer in 3:21, Is the law then against the promises of God?” Again, he responded in 3:25 with a resounding no and explanation of why, ending with the Law served the Jews as a trainer to lead them to Christ to be justified “by faith” (v.24). After faith, they were no longer under the tutor” (v.25).

The author concluded his discussion on the law as he brought Jews and Gentiles together through faith in Christ.“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (v.28). He then circled back to Jesus as Abraham’s seed and heir to the promise. (v.29; cf. vv.16-18).

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Train of Thought: Gal 3:19-22

Purpose of the Law (3:19-20)

Verse 19: “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.

This verse adds relevance to the preceding verses from the chapter and propels the rest forward. Paul’s tone appears direct because he was making a point. Opening with a question, Paul explained it with logical causation in the first clause adding it (in passive aorist) because of transgressions, by means of  “till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” in the second clause. He then added manner/condition with “and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator” in the last clause.

Several words surface in this passage necessary to understanding original meaning: law, transgression, and mediator. The word law refers to the precepts of Mosaic Law explained in v.17. While it seems unusual that Paul would explain the law in Judeo terminology, Gentiles would have understood this reference. Keener explained that “Greco-Roman philosophers felt that the law was necessary for the masses, but that the wise were a law for themselves.”[7]

Another word in this passage is transgressions. Paul defined the meaning of transgression in Gal 2:18 with the word transgressor, “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”  Thus, transgression is a human act of resurrecting the law, for Paul said that “I through the law died to the law that I might live to God” (2:19). An example of a human act of transgression in Galatians is the occasion when Peter separated himself from the Gentiles in table fellowship (2:12), of which Paul later confronts Peter (v.14).

The Seed and mediator are one in the same, Christ, for God revealed in Christ has many attributes. Paul stated in Gal 3:16, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.” Though not in Galatians, Paul also said in 1 Tim 2:5, that “For [there is] one God and one Mediator between God and men, [the] Man Christ Jesus.” So, Jesus is both Seed and Mediator. The last word is mediator. Schneider explained that mediator commonly related to “breaches of the law in Greek culture of the time and also in the Septuagint.”[8] Accordingly, the term crossed two cultures.

Verse 20: “Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.”

The passage begins with the word now, signaling contrast the mediator from 3:19, followed by another contrast with “but God is one.” The first clause takes some reading, but if a person looks at it from a logical standpoint, one would see that two parties are necessary for mediation. Therefore, it follows that Christ mediates between more than one party. Since Christ is the sole mediator under the New Covenant who took the place of the high priests from Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, the two parties are God and His people and/or an individual believer.

Looking at verse 30 from a literary stance as a play on metaphors, perhaps Paul ties the word one from “does not mediate for one only” to “God is one” (the Shema) from v.20 with “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (v.28) to illustrate different levels of oneness. Each is separate, yet tied together through Christ as a unifier for all parties. Keener says that by Paul arguing with a oneness theme, he uses “an analogy that would be persuasive in his readers’ culture.”[9]

Another cultural aspect of the role of the mediator is that people from the early Mediterranean world often used brokers between patrons and clients as part of a patronage system in the social order.[10] In keeping with using language from the people during that time period, the word mediator would resonate a transferable meaning.

Promises of God through Faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-22)

Verse 21:”Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”

This next verse begins with a secondary question that extends the meaning of the first (v.19). The question follows with the answer as a logical causation with the response, “Certainly not” (v.21b), preceding to a solution or reason with, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. The sentence, “Certainly not” is key in understanding this passage because it shows the law of Moses (v.22a) does not contradict God’s promises to Abraham. Wuest said that “The law is a ministry of condemnation. The promises are the ministry of salvation.”[11] Each operates with a different function. The latter phrase “truly righteousness would have been by the law” cross-references to 2:20 5:16, 25, dealing with righteousness through the faith from the Son of God, walking in the Spirit rather than flesh.

Verse 22: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

Galatians 3:22 contrasts from the prior with as a causal explanation, “But the Scripture has confined us all under sin,” (v.22a) with the logical causation of “that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (v.22b).

Verse 22 comprises the beginning of a string of metaphors that Paul used to explain his position on the law.[12] Paul wrote Scripture in singular form, emanating from Gal 2:16 (Ps 143.2) and 3:10 (Deut 27:26). The verb confine comes from “sunkleio which means to shut up.” [13] Perhaps, Paul portrayed the image of one confined to a prison of the works of the law under sin. Jesus, fulfilling promise, frees the imprisoned through their faith in Him under grace (cf. 2:16; 3:10).

Conclusion

Aster explained Gal 3:19-22 in the context of this audience with, “the identity of the ingroup is superior to that of the outgroup.”[14] The in group reflects Christians, including Gentiles, while the outgroup comprises Jews and Judaizers. At the core lies the fact that the law confines a person and does not give them life; rather, one finds life through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s purpose in these passages was to sway the Gentiles away from the approaches of the outgroup (Judaizers) who wanted the ingroup, (Galatians) to conform to the law as a qualifier for righteousness. Paul clarified the purpose of the law and implied that Christian Galatians did not need a Jewish ethnic identity grounded in the law.

In full, Paul explained the meaning, purpose, and intent of the law in Gal 3:19-22. He focuses on the fact that the law was added after God’s promise to Abraham and because of the nation of Israel’s transgressions (3:19a). However, the law was not meant to be in place permanently, rather until the promise of the Seed was fulfilled (v.19b). The Seed did come, and serves as a Mediator (vv.19b, 20) The Seed and the Mediator are none other than Jesus (v.20) Jesus as the Mediator, mediates between God and all those who believe in Jesus Christ through the promise of faith as the offspring of the Seed (v.16). Further, the Seed does not contradict the promise God made to Israel. Jesus is the inheritor of that promise and sets His offspring free (v.22).

Footnotes

[1] William Baird, HarperCollins Commentary, p. 1105. Baird notes that the original kingdom of the Galatians was in the north-central area of Asia Minor; but in BC25, the Romans reorganized tis region to include the provinces of Galatia areas to the south. According to the sough Galatians’ theory, the churches addressed in Galatians come from the south region, which Paul established during his first missionary journey (Acts 15:4-14:28). On the other hand, the north Galatians’ theory espouses churches in the original territory of Galatia.

[2] Ben Witherington, Grace in Galatia, Eerdmans Publishing House, 1998), 3.

[3] Witherington, Grace in Galatia, pp. 870-72.

[4] Witherington, Grace in Galatia, pp. 3-4.

[5] The six questions Paul posed to the Galatians: 1. “Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (3:1 NKJV); 2. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (v.2b); 3. “Are you so foolish?” (v.3a); 4. “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (v.3b); 5.“Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” (v.4); 6. “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (v.5).

[6] The thesis statements are 1.“Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (3:6); 2.“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (3:7) & “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (3:9); 3.“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (3:10a); 4.“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God” (3:11a); 5.“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (3:13a) and 6. “That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (3:14).

[7] Craig S. Keener, The Bible Background Commentary New Testament, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 525.

[8] Aster, Galatians New Testament Reading. Loc 4221. From Schneider 1967.

[9] Keener, The Bible Background Commentary New Testament, 527.

[10] Jan Paron, “Reconciliation in Corinth, Pt. 2: Biblical History & Forces of Change,” PerSpectives 12, Cited: 9 October 2012, Online: https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/corinth-biblical-history-forces-of-change/

[11] Kenneth S. Wuest. Wuest’s Word Studies from te Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 107

[12] Phillip F. Ester, Galatians, (London: Taylor and Francis e-Library, 1998), 4339.

[13] Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from te Greek New Testament, 108.

[14] Ester, Galatians, Loc 4325.

Jan Paron, PhD — 8-2-2020

References

Archer, K. (2004). A Pentecostal hermeneutic for the twenty-first century: Spirit, Scripture and community. T & T Clark International.

Barton, J. & Muddiman, J. (Eds.). (2001). The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press.

Bernard, D. (2010). Essentials doctrines of the Bible. (Vol. 1). Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (2009). Essentials of new birth. (Vol. 2). Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (2007). Justification and the Holy Spirit. Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (1987). Message of Romans. Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (1984). Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (2010). Practical holiness: A second look. Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. & Johnston, R. (2011). On being Pentecostal. Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, L. & Bernard D. (2006). In search of holiness. Word Aflame Press.

Beall, J. L. (2006). Laying the foundation: Achieving Christian maturity. Bridge-Logos.

Beall, J. L. (1974). Rise to the newness of life. Detroit, MI: Evangel Press.

Blamires, H. (1978). The Christian mind. How should a Christian think? Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publication.

Carson, D. A. (1995). Possessed by God: A New Testament theology of sanctification and holiness. Downer Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Cox, D. (2013). “Genealogy of Jesus according to Luke.” PerSpectives12 Blog. Retrieved on August 1, 2020, from https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/genealogy-of-jesus-according-to-luke/

Cox, D. (2012). “The Generation of Jesus Christ according to Matthew.” PerSpectives12 Blog. Retrieved on August 1, 2020, from https://specs12.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/the-generation-of-jesus-christ-according-to-matthew/

Ester, P. (1998). Galatians. Taylor and Francis e-Library.

Hall, J. & Bernard, D. (Eds.).(1993). Doctrines of the Bible. Word Aflame Press.

Harper, S. (2003). The way to heaven. Zondervan.

Horton, S. (2007). Systematic theology. Logion Press.

Keener, C. (1993). The Bible background commentary New Testament. InterVarsity Press.

Keener, C. (2019). Galatians: A commentary. Baker Academic.

Longnecker, R. (1990). World Biblical Commentary: Galatians. Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Marshall, H. et al. (2002). New Bible Dictionary. Intervarsity Press.

Martyn, L. (1997). Galatians: The Yale Anchor Bible. Yale University Press.

Mays, J. (Ed.). (2000). HarperColllins Commentary. HarperCollins.

Menzies, W. and Horton, S. (1993). Bible doctrines: A Pentecostal perspective. Legion Press.

Menzies, W. and Menzies, R. P. (n.d.) Spirit and power: Foundations of Pentecostal experience. Zondervan.

Miller, K. (1973). The becomers. Word Books.

Paron, J. (2013). At a gate called Beautiful: Jesus is all that. (Sermon). Alsip, IL: Lighthouse Church of All Nation.

Ramirez, F. (2011). Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians Immersion Bible Studies. Abingdon Press.

Reed, D. (2003). In Jesus’ name: The history and beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals. Deo Publishing.

Ryle, J. C. (2003 ). Regeneration. Fearn, GB: Christian Focus Publications.

Sadiku, M. (2012). Romans: A Pentecostal commentary. Bloomington, IN: iuniverse.com

Schenck, K. (2009). Brief guide to biblical interpretation. Wesleyan Publishing House.

Schenck, K. (2009). Making sense of God’s Word. Wesleyan Publishing House.

Waltke, B. (2001). Genesis: A commentary. Zondervan.

Williams, J. R. (2011). Renewal theology: Systematic theology from a Charismatic perspective. Zondervan.

Witherington, B. (1993). Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Galatians. Eerdmans Publishing House, 1998.

Wuest. K. (2002). Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Spiritual Wisdom & Revelation Knowledge

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In the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints, he petitioned the Father of Glory—the Lord Jesus Christ—for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Eph 1:17). The Church only can know God (John 14:7) intimately through Jesus, God manifested in flesh (1 Tim 3:16). As the brightness of God’s glory and the impressed character of His substance, Jesus has the Father’s same nature of glory, its absolute perfection (Heb 1:3). The light of the gospel of Christ’s glory, the image of God, shines on those in Him, making the Gospel plain.

On the other hand, the god of this age rules over the perishing blinding their minds to the gospel with eyes unenlightened to His understanding (2 Cor 4:3-4). Without spiritual discernment, the enemies of faith view falsehood as truth and speak words of human wisdom (1 Cor 2:4). Both wisdom and revealed knowledge come from the power of God as the sole agent, not through the human intellect (2:5). The anointing of the Holy Spirit unveils meaning of the Word to His people enlightening them to see God’s truth with clarity and speak His wisdom (v.7).

Revelation defined pertains to the insight of eternal realities often hidden by life circumstances, while wisdom provides practical application of the revealed knowledge (BLB, 2017). The revealed knowledge of Christ signifies a deep, full knowledge—real and special. In Paul’s era, Gnostics believed only the perfect had access to knowledge (MacDonald, p. 149). Yet, Jesus gives spiritual knowledge of biblical truths to anyone sealed with His promised Spirit, and then His wisdom guides them in applying and communicating His truths to others. Spiritual wisdom and knowledge of Christ connect to enlightenment (Eph 1:17-18). Consequently, the Apostle Paul petitioned the Ephesus church have wisdom and knowledge, as well as enlightened eyes of understanding (v.18).

The Greek text of this passage reads, “having enlightened the eyes of your heart” (MacDonald, 2007, p. 217). The ancient Mediterranean world viewed the heart and eyes as the “zone of human capacity for thought, judgement, and emotion” (Malina, 1993, pp. 63-67). In this context, the Holy Spirit illuminates the eyes of the believer’s understanding. Moreover, when spoken to others, their spiritual understanding shows a demonstration “of the Spirit and of power,” rather than persuasive words of human wisdom.

Specifically, Paul prayed that Jesus would illuminate the eyes of Ephesians’ understanding to know three spiritual truths of Him: hope, riches, and power. Together, the truths equip the Church to function in the fullness of Jesus’ glory and demonstrate it to others. First, the hope of God’s calling distinguishes the Church as His people (v. 18b). Through His calling, it becomes partakers of the covenant of promise having God’s hope in this fallen world. Second, the riches of His glory come from the status as God’s own inheritance to the saints (v. 18c). Third, the incarnate Jesus makes available the exceeding greatness of His power to accomplish His purpose (v. 19).

So, for what purpose did Paul petition the Father of Glory to grant the Ephesian saints with the spirit of wisdom and revelation knowledge of Him? His intercessory prayer’s ultimate purpose sought to avail a means for others to access inner eyes enlightened with understanding from the Spirit’s leading; in this manner, to unveil the mystery of God speaking with His wisdom to others in mission. As a result, the Church can then model the reconciliation and peace of Jesus’ coming age in this present evil time. In the same way, the Spirit made known the mystery (3:4) to Paul to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (3:6). The Church can access it with confidence to share His reconciliation and bond of peace.

Reconciliation

Reconcile means to restore favor and right relationship with God (Rom 5:10-11); who reconciled humanity to Himself through the death of His Son (1 Tim 2:5). God loved the world so much, He manifested Himself in flesh as Jesus, the Son of God, and sacrificed His human life for the unrighteous (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). Jesus died for the unrighteous showing the glory of God’s unconditional love for all men (Rom 5:6-11). Second Corinthians 5:19 says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” The Creator and Father of glory became the Redeemer (Deut 32:6; Isa 63:16; Mal 2:10; Col 1:14-22). Through new birth from justification, the Redeemer gave the Church permanent reconciliation with God. Jesus’ saving blood provides blessings from reconciliation, which locates the Church in His heavenly places.

Even though the Church sits with Christ in heavenly places, it can fall prey to the ideology of the flesh—a false, self-reliant narrative. The world tries to entrap the Church as slaves to its former self, the old man (2 Cor 5:17). In a carnal state, the Church displays a mind governed by false wisdom and knowledge of the flesh and its failings (Rom 8:14). The flesh blocks spiritual wisdom, and subsequently, the revealed knowledge of Christ as an enmity against God.

The Church must maintain the message “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus is the one God incarnate—perfection in glory. Thus, the Church should faithfully wear the identity of His glory by the putting to death old practices from the flesh’s nature through the leading from the Spirit of God (Rom 8:13-14). Committed to His message of reconciliation having its trespasses imputed, the Church gives way to His Spirit to govern the mind with wisdom and revelation. Further, the Church imputed as a new creation expresses Jesus reconciling humanity to God as well one another as the Body—the hope of God’s glory.

In Cor 5:18-20, Paul explains that God has given the Body the ministry of reconciliation calling them Christ’s ambassadors. He gave the charge to share the message of reconciliation with others. Subsequently, the Church must live out a communal witness of reconciliation as Jesus’ ambassadors through His sanctifying power from His indwelt Spirit (Acts 1:8; Rom 8:3-4, 11; 2 Cor 5:19-20). Reconciliation leads to peace as its byproduct, giving the Church right standing in its purpose in Christ.

Peace

Through reconciliation, the Church subsequently demonstrates the fulness of Christ’s peace in the present age. In a state of peace, the Church offsets the balance of power in high places. However, the contemporary Church still faces the same lures, many of which Paul mentioned in the Book of Ephesians such as disunity (3:4-6), pagan mind (4:17-24), corrupt household code (5:3-33), and false sense of security (6:12). Today’s secular messages elevate the self to a divine status. The Church must not allow unbiblical messages to entrap it from its heavenly location in Christ’s peace.

Everything for the Body exists in Him. Keeping the liberty of the Spirit with the bond of peace enables a higher, corporate freedom found in Christ. Only His Spirit illuminates the inner self and guides the application of spiritual blessings (v.3), so the peace of God rules its hearts (Col 4:15). Christ’s spiritual peace disrupts demonic activity in high places for the glory of Him in this present evil time. Nevertheless, the Church’s self must limit freedom willingly to accept the bond of peace as a prisoner for the Lord (Eph 4:1).

The early church held the heart as central to motives and priorities influencing how “one thinks, feels, arbitrates, and evaluates” (MacDonald, p.141). Therefore, the wisdom and revealed knowledge of His peace will guide its hearts (4:3). Then, the Church will walk worthy to the hope of His calling with a heart in harmony with the Spirit’s bond of peace (4:4).

Proverbs 3:5-6 commands God’s people not to lean on their own understanding, rather trust and acknowledge him, then He’ll make their paths straight. Walking reconciliation requires trusting His Holy Spirit for direction to a straight path in mission as His ambassadors unified in peace.  In Christ, the Father of Glory, the Church finds its source of perfection, His glory, for reconciliation and peace.

Close

Paul asked for wisdom and knowledge for the hope of His calling (1:18a), riches of His glory, and surpassing greatness of His power (vv.18b-19). The triad illustrates Christ as exalted and enthroned as the “head over all things to the church” (v.22). He put all things under His feet, whether principalities, powers, might, or dominion by His divine superiority (vv. 21-22). In Christ, Jesus empowers the Church with authority in His Name over the power of the enemy for reconciliation and peace through His spiritual blessings (Luke 10:19; Eph 1:3-17).

The Church continually must keep itself in Christ to walk worthy of its call and stand against the enemy reconciled in His peace. The King James Version (KJV) of the New Testament mentions “in Christ” 75 times highlighting its importance that the Church as the Bride of Christ ready Herself for the Bridegroom excluding, any worldly influences or distractions. Preparation only comes from close intimacy with Jesus Christ through His indwelt Spirit for the impartation of His wisdom and revelation. While full reconciliation and peace comes to the Church in the future age, the Church’s walk in these attributes brings the coming Kingdom to the lost in the current age.

Jan Paron, PhD

Kingdom of Ahasuerus vs. Kingdom of Heaven

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Throughout the book of Esther, the narrative vividly described the power, riches, and politics of the Persian Empire during the reign of Ahasuerus (or Xerxes). Established by conquests and known for political unrest and unpredictable rule, the Persian kingdom offered an earthly monarchal government, temporal wealth, whimsical decisions, violent acts, and privileged class conditions.

Alongside the depiction of the king Ahasuerus’ worldly dominion and grandeur, the account illustrates the unwritten principles of God’s kingdom. What the book of Esther hides, it reveals by contrast without mention of the kingdom of heaven. Contrary to Ahasuerus’ rule, the kingdom of God presents a sovereign king with an immutable nature–the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15) characterized by His divine, providential rule “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:3). Having rich mercy and great love for all, He made His kingdom accessible to all people by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4-10).

Though hidden by name in Esther, the Book points out God’s divine natures: His providence in ordering His salvation plan and immutability in keeping to His promises for redemption by delivering the people of Israel. God is at work, even when He is silent. The God of Israel operated in the background through His providence to fulfill His unchangeable covenant promise (Gen 17:1-8). As a result, Esther reveals He Who is, He Who was, and He Who is to Come (Mal 3:6; cf. Isa 44:6); which in turn, the New Testament ascribes to Jesus with the same title and purpose as God Himself–Jesus, He Who sits on the heavenly throne (1 Tim 1:16; Rev 1:7-8; 4; 22:3-4).

Even though the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) never ceases, its hiddenness in the book of Esther brings to bear the same in the lives of many believers today. The illusion and self-aggrandizement of wealth, power, and grandeur present in the kingdom of Ahasuerus still can attracts contemporary believers. It tempts believers to change their citizenship from the kingdom of heaven (God) to the kingdom of Ahasuerus (world). Like the lukewarm church of Laodicea, some believers even may reside in two kingdoms with dual citizenship. Christ followers exclusively must inhabit the kingdom of the One who dwells within them.

King Ahasuerus–Jan Paron, 2019

Kingdom of Ahasuerus

Ahasuerus’ vast empire ranged from India to Cush (the Upper Nile Valley region), including 127 provinces. At the peak of his reign, approximately 50 million people lived in the Persian Empire in 480 BC or about 44% of the world’s population. He held the most power of any ruler in that period.

The king possessed abundant riches and prided himself on his acquisitions. Esther 1:1, 3-4 tells that King Ahasuerus displayed them in two feasts. One feast spanned 180 days to allow sufficient time for those of higher rank to view his wealth—military, nobles, and leader—from the 127 provinces in the empire. The other lasted seven days for those present in the palace, the more common people (1:5).

Feast guests at Ahasuerus’ Susa palace reclined on couches of gold and silver, resting on marble pavements with mother-of-pearl, porphyry, and precious stones in the courtyard. They drank from gold vessels, each unique from the other (v. 7). White, green, and blue wall hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings on marble pillars also adorned the area (v. 6).

The palace itself had walls of molded, glazed bricks depicting the spear bearers of the king’s bodyguard. Seated sphinxes and pacing lions lined it, while the splendid thirty six-columned audience hall featured a magnificent raised golden throne (see Esth 5:1). The royal builders brought cedar timbers from Lebanon and ivory of Ethiopia and India.

The riches of the kingdom did not offer wealth to its citizens. Kings of that day determined who would acquire citizenship. Jews lived an exiled life, aliens in a foreign land amid the Great Dispersion across the Persian Empire. Most did not return to decimated Jerusalem and sought opportunity elsewhere in the empire. Migratory streams moved in all directions, Jewish communities living in pagan territories. The fall of the temple causing a spiritual crisis among them, drawing them yet farther from God as the people of Israel floundered without His kingdom. The wealth and power of Ahasuerus (and his gods) tempted the Jews with their loss of faith. Paganized, they resided in an worldly kingdom with values contrary to God’s holiness.

Kingdom of Heaven

While the New Testament does not define the kingdom of heaven in a direct manner, Scripture explains who it is. John the Baptist announced the King would soon appear in the term’s first occurrence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). In Luke 17:21, Jesus confirmed His identity when the Pharisees asked Him when the kingdom of God would come, He answered, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” The kingdom of heaven was in their midst. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven.

The New Covenant offers a reestablished kingdom of heaven through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom in the fullness of time as the Messiah, Israel’s awaited King (Mark 1:15); redeemed the kingdom’s people through His death and resurrection (Col 2:14-15); and returns the kingdom to completion during His final, righteous reign (Dan 7:14; Rev 19:16). No earthly kingdom can compare in greatness to the heavenly kingdom; neither could the earthly match the heavenly grandeur. Preferences and prejudices do not exist in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, the express image of the invisible God, makes those who follow Him citizens of His kingdom with full benefits. He invites all people and gives equal privileges of citizenship to the riches of His grace (Luke 8:1).

The below table one compares the differences between the kingdom of Ahasuerus to the kingdom of God–one temporal, the other eternal. The kingdom at hand fulfills God’s design for redemption. The hope of Israel lives in Jesus Christ and extends to Gentiles as well.

Table 1. Comparison of the Kingdom of Ahasuerus to the Kingdom of God

Kingdom of Ahasuerus (World)Kingdom of God (Heaven)
Ahasuerus—King (Esth 1:1-2) Jesus—King of kings (1 Tim 6:15)
Ahasuerus—Man Jesus—God robed in flesh (both divine and human) with the full character, personality, and quality of the one God (John 10:30; 15:9-10)
Ahasuerus inherited the kingdom after King Darius’ death Jesus inaugurated His kingdom in the fullness of time as the Messiah, Israel’s awaited King (Mark 1:15); redeemed its people through His death and resurrection (Col 2:14-15); and returns the kingdom to completion during His final, righteous reign (Dan 7:14; Rev 19:16) 
Ahasuerus was king until assassination  Jesus as God existed from eternity, King before the earth began and King after it passes away (Isa 44:6; 48:12; Rev 21:6; 22:13)
Ahasuerus ruled from Ethiopia to India (Esth 1:1) Jesus has all authority over heaven and earth (Matt 28:18) Jesus is the kingdom (Luke 17:21)
Ahasuerus showed his and his kingdom’s greatness by displaying its wealth (Esth 1:4-7) No greater kingdom—God owns everything in all realms through His Word at creation  (Gen 1:2; 2:4; Isa 45:12)
Jews considered aliens, not citizens—the king determined who would be a citizen  Jesus makes those who follow Him citizens of His kingdom with full benefits, He invites all people (Luke 8:1; Phil 3:20-21)
Ahasuerus was the image of power and wealth (Esth 1:4, 8, 11, 22) Jesus is the express image of the invisible God (Phil 2:9-11: Col 1:15), while a servant in His human role “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:25)
Obedience brought temporal reward, disobedience resulted in punishment such as death  Obedience brings rewards in heaven, forgives sin (1 Cor 3:8; Eph 2:4-5; Rev 2:23; 22:12)
Concerned with outward, material beauty (Esth 1:1:4, 6,11; 2:2, 4, 17) Concerned with the heart of inward man (1 Sam 16:7; Matt 5:17-19)
Lived in a palace (Esth 1:2) Lives within those baptized in His Spirit and identified as the One on the throne in heaven (Rev 1:7-8, 11, 17-18; 4:2,8; 5:6; 7:17; 22:3-4)
Displayed his own wealth, power, comfort, and pleasure for the king’s benefit (Esth 1:17) Gives the riches of His grace to kingdom citizens for their benefit transforming His kingdom through redemption (John 18:26)
Ahasuerus acted impulsively and wavered in opinions and actions (Esth 1:22; 3:9; 7:5-6,9) Jesus as God remains unchanging yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Ps 86:15; 119:89; Mal 3:6; John 1:1, 14; 10:30, 38; 14:10-11; Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17)
Ahasuerus gave authority only to the highest ranking in the kingdom, Haman and then Mordecai (Esth 3:10) Jesus delegates His authority to all citizens of His kingdom to operate in His name as His ambassadors (Luke 10:9)
No one could go to Ahasuerus’ inner court and request anything of him unless the king first called for one’s presence and he held out the golden scepter (Esth 4:11) Citizens can place their petition directly to the King at anytime (1 John 5:14-15)

Queen Esther in a Pagan World

Despite the fact that the book of Esther hides God within its text, He very much remained visible through His providential actions. While a pagan land and customs surrounded Queen Esther, the hand of God directed the miracles of the narrative’s events. God always makes Himself available even when one does not seek Him. The contrast between the two kingdoms not only illustrates the sovereignty of God, but also the rich, continuous mercies He offers by grace through Jesus Christ.

Like Esther, the contemporary believer lives as an alien in a foreign and pagan land. The cup of iniquity fills rapidly there, while end-time prophecy comes to completion with each passing day. Queen Esther largely relied on herself and other people to address the events that unfolded in the book of her namesake even though God worked silently. However, just as God gave Esther free will to select the kingdom in which to reside, He does so with His elect. The urgent question in these Last Days for the believer is, which kingdom does one choose–the kingdom of Ahasuerus (world) or kingdom of God (heaven)?

Jan Paron, PhD

July 12, 2019

The Revealed, Providential God

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Though the name of God does not appear overtly in the book of Esther, the Almighty manifested His sovereignty and providence in the narrative’s background. The account makes evident Israel’s providential God. Jehovah, the covenantal name God showed to His people meaning He who will be (Exod 3:13-15; Heb 10:37; Rev 1:8), ordered all that concerned the Jews as a pledge to fulfill their final salvation. He acted in His silence—visible while invisible. How can the reader find the Invisible One’s evidence of providential actions? A close look at His providence reveals He manifested it in numerous manners from event reversals to the fulfillment of pledges.

Queen Esther and Queen Vashti
(Jan Paron, 2019)

Book of Esther: Deliverance of the Jewish People

At the forefront, the book of Esther revolves around the hidden hand of God working through ordinary people to accomplish His will and purpose for His chosen people. Most critically, He used the young Jewish woman Esther in the book bearing her name to shape governmental policy securing the safety of Jews in all 127 Persian provinces, which included the Yehud. God working through her delivered the Jews from Haman’s death edict (Esth 9:20-22) sparing thousands.

Esther narrates the story of God delivering the Jews from Haman’s “edict of death” (9: 20–22). God’s presence need not be overt to be effective. At times, the book feels worldly; however, opulence, kingly power, internal politics nonetheless advance the program of God! God also works from within.

The events in Esther took place 50 years after King Cyrus issued a decree in 538 BC allowing the Judeans’ return to Jerusalem after the fall of Babylon to Persia.[1] Not all exiles went back due to various reasons; rather, many Jewish Diasporas remained in exile as foreigners in the Persian Empire’s capital and its 127 provinces.

Esther did not make known its author. Theologians and historians hold different theories as to its writer ranging from multiple people to the exile Mordecai.[2] Perhaps, the book did not reveal its author since the story kept God hidden within the text. Of the books in the Bible, only Esther does not explicitly mention God by name or title. Instead, God’s hiding invites the reader to find Him in the passages. The name Esther itself may echo the notion of God hiding. The ‘ester (Esther) in the book’s central character seems similar to ‘astir (“I will hide;” Deut 31:18; cf. Ezek 39:23-24); while the Hebrew consonants ‘str appears identical. Jointly, they further reflect God’s hidden nature in the book.[3] Still, God maintains a strong presence in the narrative carrying out His will and purpose for His chosen people.

A canonized book of historical type[4] and post-exilic literature,[5] the writer had a close-up knowledge of Persian customs and culture together with palatial plots and subplots in addition to the Jewish nationalism distinctive. Upon reading the narrative, detailed descriptions emerge throughout Esther portraying a vivid image of the ruling king’s riches, authority, and court politics surrounding the Diaspora Jews’ living conditions. The dating, content, and tone each point to the post-exilic community as the primary audience. No prophets spoke, nor miracles occurred during this period. Thus, the victorious event of deliverance lent hope to the Jewish population and led to the celebration of the Feast of Purim in its commemoration.

The book emphasized several themes. Its focuses include God’s (1) sovereignty in the lives of His people to carry out His will (Ps 115:3; Isa 46:9-11; Dan 4:35; Rom 9:20); (2) providence behind the scenes to order redemptive history; and (3)  faithfulness in keeping His covenantal promises to raise up a deliverer (Moses: Exod 3:10; Joshua: Josh 4:14; Joseph: Gen 50:20, and Jesus: Isa 53:5).

Among these themes, the deliverance of the Jews resides centrally to the narrative. As God interacted with human will, His sovereignty and providence maintained His unchanging faithfulness for salvation. Esther, as one of the Old Testament mediators of deliverance, foreshadowed the Messiah of the New Testament as the ultimate Deliverer in His fulfilled First Coming and future Second Coming.

In reinforcing deliverance’s importance to God’s salvation plan for the Jewish people, Esther parallels other Old Testament exilic accounts. For example, Moses (Exod 3:10, 16-17) and Esther (Esth 5:2) both served as deliverance mediators. Other similarities between the two characters existed, also. Additionally, close family members assisted them: Aaron with Moses (Exod 4:14-15) and Mordecai to Esther (Esth 4:14). Further, both Moses (Exod 3:11) and Esther (Esth 4:11) hesitated to mediate deliverance. They both enjoyed favor as well, Moses from God (Exod 3:21; 11:3; 12:36) and Esther the king or other benefactors (Esth 2:9, 15, 17; 5:2; 8:5).[6]

God’s Providence

Resting on God’s sovereignty as the King over all, divine providence refers to the provisions for His creation He made beforehand. Killen explained providence preserves and purposefully directs what God created in that it excludes fate and chance.[7] While the Jews could not conceive deliverance while in captivity, the Lord had an end and expectation in mind to fulfill for Israel’s future. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). His thoughts concern our present and future conditions.

Now released by captivity in Assyria and Babylonia, the hand of God displayed itself numerous times in Esther absent of coincidence to complete His foreshadowed end and expectation. He placed His fingerprints in each chapter of the book. For every event, God had a ready provision. While the book does not mention God’s present directly, He promised peace and prosperity restored with a hope and future. He did not forget the Diaspora.

Overview of God’s Providence

Deposing Vashti and Replacing with Esther

          Ahasuerus deposed Vashti as queen because she refused to appear before him wearing her royal crown to show her beauty to the people at the royal banquet (1:11). Esther 1:19c goes on to say, “Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she” (NKJV). So, then arrived Esther on the scene. She was among the beautiful young virgins gathered from the empire (2:3, 8). Esther gained favor initially from Hegai the custodian of the women and all who saw her (vv. 8, 15) and finally, from Ahasuerus over the other virgins in the women’s quarters. He made Esther the queen to replace Vashti (v 17)—Esther, a concealed Jew from the house of Kish and tribe of Benjamin, the daughter of Abihail and niece of Mordecai.

Watching at the Gate and Overhearing the Assassination Plot 

Watching over his charge whom he raised as his daughter, Mordecai paced in front of the women’s quarter to keep an eye on Esther (v. 11). He continued to place himself strategically at the Gate a short distance from the main palace and court structures to monitor her safety even after crowned queen (vv. 19-23). The book referred to him as one of “those of the Gate” (2:2; 3:2). While there, Mordecai overheard assassins discuss plans to kill the king. He reported it to Esther, who in turn notified Ahasuerus. The scribes noted Mordecai’s deed in the book of chronicles in the king’s presence. Did his position at the gate constitute coincidence or fate? God placed him there. God had planted Esther inside the palace and Mordecai outside it.

  וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽי׃ כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃

“Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: ‘Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis’” (Esth 4:13-14 Tanakh).  

Coming to the Kingdom for Such a Time as This

Meanwhile, the events leading to the decree for Jewish destruction continued to unfold. Entwined in these affairs, Mordecai became more involved with court matters while keeping his daily watch over Esther at the gate. Now, it came to pass that Ahasuerus promoted Haman over the princes. The king then commanded those within the gate to bow to Haman as he passed through the gates (3:1). However, Mordecai would not bow (vv. 2-3). Being a Jew (and announcing it), the text implies that Mordecai only would worship Jehovah (v. 4). Bowing constituted idolatry. Mordecai’s refusal angered Haman, prompting him to seek the destruction of all Jews in Persia (vv. 5-6). Haman, from a lineage of enemies to the Jews, talked the king into approving a decree that threatened the Diaspora’s destruction (v. 10). Ahasuerus gave Haman his signet ring, and thus, broad power in governmental affairs. But, God! God who knows the end from the beginning already had intervention providentially prepared to counter Haman’s action.

In a pivotal moment, Queen Esther unaware of the decree entered the picture as Mordecai stands in front of the Gate clothed in sackcloth and ashes, mourning over the issuance. She learned of the reason through Hathach, her servant whom she sent to inquire of Mordecai. Esther also learned of her elder cousin’s request to mediate the dire affairs with a plea to Ahasuerus. Through a series of exchanges between Hathach, she hesitated since one only can enter the king’s inner court upon his calling (4:11). Finally, she heeded the request and acknowledged, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). She played an essential role in God’s plan for Israel. Take note that Mordecai highlights God’s sovereign and providential natures with his urging, “relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place“ (v. 14a). With or without Esther, victory over the enemy would arise from elsewhere. The Queen once again found favor with Ahasuerus within the inner court, but would not reveal her full request to the king.

Turning the Table

God’s intervention ensued, bringing insomnia upon the king. Ahasuerus could not sleep and had someone read the royal chronicles to him. (6:1). The portion reviewed highlighted Mordecai’s report that thwarted an assassination of the king. Ahasuerus learned that Mordecai’s deed went unrewarded (v. 3). About that same time, Haman visited Ahasuerus early to secure hanging Mordecai on gallows the Agagite constructed (6: 1–6). Calling Haman into the inner court, the king asked what he should do to honor a man. Haman responded, thinking Ahasuerus meant himself. In a reversal surely Haman did not anticipate, Ahasuerus had Haman carry out his very suggestions to honor Mordecai. Haman lead Mordecai in one of the king’s robes on a royal crested horse as he proclaimed, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” (6:10). So much for executing Mordecai! Little did Haman know the fate awaiting him—God’s underplot to squash Haman’s scheme to kill the Jews.

Thwarting the Adversary

When Queen Esther finally appealed to Ahasuerus for her life and the lives of her people at a banquet, the king indignantly asked who devised the horrible plot. She had found favor with the king once again. She revealed the adversary as Haman (7:6). Meanwhile, the king left the banquet in anger. A terrified Haman stood before Esther pleading for his life. However, Haman fell on the couch where Esther sat. Rabbinical commentary[8] surmised an angel pushed Haman. Nevertheless, Ahasuerus thought Haman was about to assault his queen in addition to his egregious acts against her people. The king hung Haman on the very gallows he earlier built for Mordecai.

Evidence of God’s Providence

Evidence 1: God Directs Reversals

The title God of Reversals well describes the attributes of the divine Unnamed One in the book of Esther. It serves to illustrate the revealed providential God hidden but active throughout the story. Each event that impeded God’s restoration for the Jews at the gathering of the Jews in Yehuda preceded with a reversal. Consider the following table that uncovers 15 reversed events, each turning the outcome towards God’s intended will and purpose for Israel (Table 1: Reversal Events in the book of Esther):

Table 1. Reversal events in the book of Esther

Event Event Reversed
Vashti refused to appear before the king (1:12)Esther appeared before the king (2:15)
Vashti angered the king (1:12; 2:4)Esther delighted the king (2:17-18; 5:2; 6; 7:2; 8:4; 9:14)
Vashti removed as queen (1:19; 2:4)Esther crowned queen (2:17); made policy (8:7; 9:13)
Vashti wronged the king, princes, and all those in the empire (1:16)Ahasuerus made a great feast for Esther called it the Feast of Esther (2:18)
Vashti lost the king’s favor (1:19)Esther gained the king and others’ favor (2:9, 15, 17)
Esther did not reveal her ethnicity (2:10)Esther revealed her nationality (7:3-4)
Mordecai placed himself in front of the courts of the women’s quarters within the king’s gate (2:11; 19)Mordecai because great among the Jews and received by the multitude of his brethren (10:3)
Esther waited to see the king until called by name (2:14)Esther went to see the king without his request and gained
favor (5:20)
Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite above the other princes (3:1)Ahasuerus promoted Mordecai,
the son of Jair of Kish to second to
the king (10:3)
Haman felt Mordecai disrespected him because he would not bowMordecai became the most
respected among Jews (3:10)
Haman sought to destroy all the
Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom (3:6)
Esther mediated deliverance of the Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom (5:2, 8; 7:3-4; 8:3, 5)
Haman cast pur (a lot) to destroy
the Jews on the 13 Adar (3:7,12)
Jews great warred against their
enemies on 13 Adar (9:1)
Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Haman (3:10)Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Mordecai (8:2a)
Haman thought the king would honor him (6:6-9),The king honored Mordecai (6:11-12)
Mordecai tore his clothes and wore sackcloth and ashes (8:15)Ahasuerus dressed Mordecai in his royal robe (6:10)
Haman built gallows to hang Mordecai (5:14)Ahasuerus hung Haman on his own gallows (7:9-10)

God providentially reversed several situations for other biblical figures as it relates to upholding His plan of redemption. He replaced King Saul with King David; changed misfortune to fortune for Ruth and Naomi; scattered and gathered the people of Israel (Jer 29:14); and brought death to life from the first Adam to the final Adam (Rom 5:14) to name a few.

Evidence 2: God Sees the End From the Beginning

God took on the dual roles of the main character and director of the story. Though not overtly mentioned in the story, the essence of His sovereignty played out in each chapter. The reader cannot help but anticipate what God will do next scene by scene. Isaiah 46:10 says “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: He sees the end from the beginning and controls every move towards that end.” God manifested as Jesus Himself has the nature of the beginning and end: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:14). He holds the Big Story in His hand.

Evidence 3: God Providentially Uses Various People for His Purposes

The narrative of Esther contained characters with continues moving parts within and outside the palace. God did not favor one class, gender, or ethnicity to accomplish His providence. Gate watchers, maids, eunuchs, princes, the queen, king, and more play a role in the deliverance of the Diaspora Jews in Persia.

Evidence 4: God Honors Defiant Faith

Esther stood in the face of uncertainty over God’s providence with defiant faith. While the text hides God’s presence in the story, the reader senses it when Esther asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan to fast for her for three days as well as she and her maids also would fast. Though going to the king without his approval went contrary to the kingdom’s law and thus warranted execution, Esther displayed an essential act of faith by fasting individually and corporately united in a cry for salvation to their heavenly King. She met the task with spiritual force. In Jer 19:13, the Lord said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (NKJV). God honored the actions of Esther’s heart when she appeared before the earthly king Ahasuerus.

Evidence 5: God Brings His Will to the Seemingly Impossible

The hand of God demonstrates His will in the face of challenging situations. In the passage for “such a time as this,” the Tanakh uses the word crisis instead of time. A crisis does not disturb God’s plan since He operates in the supernatural with an expected outcome to accomplish His plan.

Evidence 6: God Remembers His Enemies

In Deut 25:19, God said He would blot out the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:17-18). God commanded King Saul to wipe out the Amalek. He took the plunder of the Amalek but kept King Agag alive. Samuel later killed the Amalek king. Haman descended from the house of Agag (1 Chron 4:43), and Esther the house of Kish from Saul (Esth 2:5). Mordecai answered Esther, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth 4:14). He quite possibly referred Esther back to King Saul and Samuel. Esther had the duty to kill off the enemy of Israel (Exod 17:16) that Saul did not complete. Otherwise, God providentially had another agency available to complete His deliverance for the Jewish Diaspora community.

Conclusion

The turn of events God authoritatively controlled confirms a divine testimony of the covenant-keeping Yahweh with the Jewish people. Through inspired text, Esther demonstrates His preserving redemption for Israel and directing events to deliver His people from annihilation during the reign of Ahasuerus. Regardless of humanity’s actions, He remained faithful to His promises as a providential God.

Jan Paron, PhD,

June 16, 2019

References

Bible Gateway. “Cambyses.” Encyclopedia of the Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Cambyses

Goitein, S. D. Bible Studies. Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing,1957.

Killen, Allen R. “Providence.” Page 1421 in Wycliffe Bible Dictionary. Edited by C. F. Pfeiffer, H. F. Vos, and J. Rea. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Martin, James, C., Beck, John A., and Hansen, David G. A Visual Guide to Bible Events. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009.

Rydelnik, Michael and Vanlaningham, Michael eds. “Esther.” Moody Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 682.

Struse, William. “Queen of 127 Provinces.” The 13th Numeration.  http://www.the13thenumeration.com/Blog13/2016/03/19/queen-of-127-provinces/

White Crawford, Sidnie, “Esther,” Society for Biblical Literature, 680.


[1] Sidnie White Crawford, “Esther,” Society for Biblical Literature, 680. The events took place in the early Hellenistic period dated approximately the fourth century BC.

[2] S.D. Goitein, Bible Studies, (Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing,1957), 62. Goitein believed an exile wrote Esther while in exile with the intended audience of exiles. Mordecai, as a possible author generates from Jewish tradition based on Esther 9:20.

[3] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., “Esther,” in Moody Bible Commentary (Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2014), 682.

[4] In the Hebrew canon the Tanakh, the Writings or Ketûbîm contain Esther.

[5] Post-exilic literature comprises pieces written after the fall of Babylon.

[6] Esther. Moody Bible Commentary, 683.

[7] Allan R. Killen, “Providence,” Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, (eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard  F. Vos, and John Rea; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 1421.

[8] Rashi, “Commentary on Esther,” Sefaria. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) wrote his commentary on the Tanakh in Troyes, France approximately 1075-1105 CE. He quoted numerous Midrashim and Talmudic passages.