Skip to content

The Good Shepherd Series: Part Two

Immediate Context for John 10:11

Jn 10:11 – “I AM the Good Shepherd”

In the NT, the criteria required to designate an office are qualifications. John 10 is indeed an example of this designation. In Jn 10:11 the Lord Jesus Christ identified Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” With His claim as “the Good Shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ listed a series of qualifications that one must fulfill to occupy the office of “the Good Shepherd.” The purpose of this exposition of the symbolic picture portrayed in Jn 10 is to identify the features that qualify the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Good Shepherd” in contrast to the features that disqualify religious leaders who are only interested in claiming they occupy an office as a means of financial gain. This symbolic picture concerns the activity that exists within a fold of sheep, namely a metaphor for a gathering of people within an ecclesia context.[1]

Immediate Context of Jn 10:11

Contextually, Jesus’ words in Jn 10:1-18 is the explanation of the events John narrated in Jn 9. In other words, 10:1 does not start a new context but is a continuation of 9:41.  In our English bibles John 10:1 began with the words, “Truly, truly I say to you.” The word “truly” is from the Hebrew word אָמֵן rendered in Greek ἀμήν and transliterated into English “amen.” The phrase “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” is not starting a new section from the discourse of the blind man who Jesus healed in ch 9. Instead of introducing a new section, the phrase “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” connected the description of the events concerning the blind man that Jesus healed with the explanation of the events concerning the blind man that Jesus healed. Therefore, 10:1-18 is a continuation of ch 9.[2]

Pointedly, ch 9 is the historical narrative of what happened in the synagogue and ch 10 is the explanation metaphorically of what happened in the synagogue. To this effect, Jesus gave an explanation of what happened with the blind man He healed and the response of the religious leadership in the synagogue to the healing of the blind man in the form of a symbolic picture (cf. 10:21; e.g. reference to the situation with the blind man at the end of the context). All in all, this discourse of Jesus’ symbolic figure is the Lord’s evaluation on what was exposed concerning the spiritual nature, quality, ability and condition of Second Temple Judaism’s apostate religious leadership in the first century (see also 16:2-3).     

In Jn 9, the Pharisees persecuted the blind man that Jesus healed by removing him from any access to the religious community that the Pharisees controlled, hence the words, “So they put him out” (v. 34; also see v. 22). Jesus heard that the Pharisees had “put him out” so He comforted the blind man He healed. Jesus comforted him with the manifestation of His presence, the sound doctrine of His incarnation and the affirmation of His deity (cf. vv. 35-37). The blind man who was healed not only saw Jesus with his physical eyes but also saw who Jesus truly was with the eyes of his understanding – namely, that Jesus is the Messiah. He worshiped the Lord which revealed that the Lord Jesus Christ not only healed him physically but also spiritually (v. 38). Then the Lord Jesus Christ gave the following judgment publicly that concerned the conflict between those who He spiritually heals versus the religious leaders when He said, “. . . For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (v. 39; cf. 15:22-25). The Pharisees who were present listening imperiously questioned Jesus’ judgment. Their response revealed they understood He assessed their spiritual condition as one of spiritual blindness (v. 40). However, the Pharisees could not see that they were lost and blind. Then Jesus answered their question with remarkable clarity concerning their unbelief in Him as the Messiah and their criminal position before God when He said, “. . . If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (v.41; cf. 15:22-25).[3]  

The narration of these historical events segued into Jn 10 which symbolically explained the conflict between the blind man that was healed by Jesus versus the Pharisees’ cruelty to put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ (cf. v. 22; 12:42-43). In the symbolic picture portrayed by Jesus in Jn 10, He identified distinct characters that metaphorically represent real persons in the real world, that is, starting with the events concerning the religious activity of the Israelites during Christ’s first advent extending through all of church history until the time of Christ’s second advent at the end of the age of the Gentiles.  To this effect, it is imperative to define the characters inside Jesus’ symbolic picture corresponding to who they represent in the real world and to define them exactly the way Jesus intended because He is the Author. The reader does not have the license or liberty to interpret the identity of these characters in any other way other then what the Author/author intended. In summary, Jn 10 is the meaning to what happened in Jn 9, and to understand the identity to the various symbolic features of Jesus’ veiled shepherding scene, one must find the answers from the healing of the man born blind discourse. 

Historical Context of Shepherding in ANE during the First Century A.D.

In the ANE during the first century, the profession of shepherding sheep had a distinct protocol that would have been common knowledge to the Israelite as well as to the nations of the ANE. To understand shepherding in the ANE, there must first be a description of the sheepfold – namely, in a general sense the location where sheep would feed, rest and sleep.[4] Throughout the ANE there were many enclosures that were called sheep pens (sheepfolds) built for the protection of sheep as well as intended to keep them from wandering out from these enclosures and getting lost.[5] The ANE sheepfold was usually enclosed by stone walls.[6] What is more, the ANE sheepfold was roofless, but the walls were usually covered with hedges of thorn branches to keep robbers from scaling the walls to steal the sheep.[7] John 10:1-18 is a symbolic picture about the ANE sheepfold as a metaphor for those who gather to worship and follow the Lord Jesus Christ as their Shepherd. 

The daily routine concerning the duties of shepherds in the ANE during the first century can be outlined by three parts of a day – namely, morning, mid-day and evening. In many of the ANE towns and villages of the land of Palestine, shepherds would usually share a single sheep pen enclosure and as such there would usually be several flocks of sheep at night in a localized sheep pen.[8] When morning arrived, shepherds would separate and lead their sheep from the other folds out to the pasturage to feed.[9] To this effect, the Shepherd would call his sheep and as they would recognize his call they would in turn follow their shepherd. During the day, the shepherd would watch his fold. Sometimes sheep wandered away from the flock so the shepherd had to search for the lost sheep until he found it.[10] What is more, each day the shepherd would need to lead his fold of sheep to running streams of water or troughs attached to wells for the sheep to hydrate.[11] At evening, the shepherd brought his sheep back to the enclosed sheep pen. He made them individually pass through the gate of the enclosed sheep-pen to see if any sheep were missing – namely, an evening routine called “under the rod.”[12] Finally, the several shepherds that shared a sheep pen would individually take turns or utilize a porter (i.e. gatekeeper) to watch the entrance of the fold at night.[13] The entrances of ANE sheep pens did not have gates like doors to seal the entrance because the shepherd himself would lay [sic.] down in the entrance and guard the sheep with his body.[14]

Three Scenes of the Shepherding Metaphor

The daily routine of the duties of the shepherd during the first century in the ANE were used symbolically by Christ. To this effect, Jn 10:1-18 is outlined by three parts of the day. Respectively, the morning scene, the mid-day scene and the evening scene symbolically represent the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. The purpose of the three scenes is meant to symbolically represent the Lord Jesus Christ’s goal to gather into one flock both Israelite and Gentile elect persons (i.e. sheep) throughout human history. What is also portrayed in the symbolic picture are the obstacles designed by antagonists to attempt to prevent this gathering of sheep in human history. The literal duration of time that needs to be discerned from the three scene symbolic picture is the historical timeline from the Lord Jesus Christ’s first advent (i.e. the terminus a quo for the shepherding metaphor)[15] and continuing through history into His second advent (i.e. the terminus ad quem for the shepherding metaphor).[16]

[1] The phrases “the fold of the sheep” (v. 1) and “I have other sheep which are not from this (the) fold” (v. 16) are metaphors for gatherings of true believers who listen to and follow the Lord Jesus Christ as their Shepherd. The term “ecclesia” in the NT has the sense to mean “an assembly, gathering, Christian church congregation,” or in a general sense the visible church. “ἐκκλησία” BAG, 240. 

[2] The expression, “Verily, verily,” in the Gospel of John never occurs at the beginning of any discourse or at the beginning of a new context. “Verily, verily” was intended by the Author/author to show the reader that Jn 10 is a continuation of Jn 9, not a new context. “Never in the New Testament does truly, truly introduce a new section. This is something that is intended by John to follow along as a continuation of chapter 9. ‘Truly, truly,’ you are to think of now the blind man being thrown out of the synagogue, having been healed by the Lord Jesus both spiritually and physically” S. Lewis Johnson, “the Shepherd of the Sheep,”, 2008,, (accessed 12 December 2021).

[3] The Pharisees did not understand the meaning of the symbolic picture of the sheepfold in John 10 because they were spiritually blind (cf. 10:6; Matt 13:13-15).

[4] Merrill F. Unger, “Sheepcote or Sheepfold,” in Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 1009.

[5] J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, “Sheep pen, Sheepfold,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, revised by Moises Silva (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 1335.

[6] Ronald F. Youngblood, “Sheepfold,” in Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, consulting editors F. F. Bruce and R. K. Harrison (Nashville: Nelson, 1995), 1160.

[7] Douglas and Tenney, “Sheep pen, sheepfold,” 1335.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Unger, “Shepherd,” 1013.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Douglas and Tenney, “Gatekeeper (porter),” 1038.

[14] Youngblood, “Shepherd,” 1165.

[15] Terminus a quo is a Latin term that has the sense to mean the point at which something begins.

[16] Terminus ad quem is a Latin term that has the sense to mean the point at which something ends or finishes.

The Good Shepherd Series: Part One

Part One: Introduction

Johannine Texts (The Gospel of John)


From the Gospel of John there are three texts that elucidate the identity and exclusivity of the progenitor and sole proprietor of the offices shepherd and teacher in the NT – namely, John 10:11 “I AM the good shepherd,” John 13:13-14 where Jesus referred to Himself as “the Teacher”; and John 21:15-17 where Jesus said to Peter, “tend My lambs . . . shepherd My sheep . . . feed My sheep” (emphasis added).[1] Therefore, to answer the question, “is there any biblical warrant for the office of senior pastor for men to occupy in the church age?” these Johannine texts need to be examined in their original context by the Scripture’s self-attested principles of interpretation.  

The Purpose of the Gospel of John

The apostle John’s purpose statement for the entire book explained why the Gospel was written when he wrote, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31). There are three fundamental words from John’s purpose statement as the thread that extends through the entire book, namely “signs”, “believe”, and “life.” Concerning “signs,” out of the repertoire of signs Jesus performed, John was very selective in choosing to record specific signs in his gospel which he witnessed in person for his evangelistic purpose. What is more, John was selective in recording specific statements that he heard in person from Christ which affirmed His deity as well as what it truly means to believe in Him. Concerning the term “believe,” the Greek word πιστεύω (pisteuó) that was translated into the English words “believe, believed, believes, or “believing” is found no less than 98x’s in the Gospel of John and as a word occurs in John’s gospel more than any other NT writer. Believe has the sense to mean to trust in Christ for eternal life. Concerning the term “life,” the Greek word ζωή (zóé) that was translated in English “life” is found no less than 36x’s and has the sense of eternal life given to the one who trusts in Christ and therein knows God (cf. 17:3). Concerning these three features, John’s purpose statement is conclusive because he was an eyewitness of the events he recorded. To this effect, John’s memoirs of Christ harmonize along with many other credible witnesses who gave their lives to defend the facts with specific details concerning the person and work of Christ (cf. 1:14).

The Theme of the Gospel of John

The theme of the book is Jesus Christ Son of God. The significant theological emphasis taught from the Gospel of John is the deity of Christ. The Gospel of John presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God in human flesh, emphasized His deity, and was written to the world – that is, all of humanity (cf. 3:16). The theme of the Gospel of John is inseparably connected to the purpose statement (cf. 20:30-31). To this effect, there are seven signs that signify Jesus as the unique one and only begotten Son of God, that John recorded in this Gospel, namely, turning water into wine (cf. 2:1-11); healing the royal official’s son (cf. 4:46-54); healing the invalid man (5:1-17); feeding the five thousand (cf. 6:1-14); walking on water (6:16-21); giving sight to the blind man (cf. 9:1-12); raising Lazarus from the dead (cf. 11:45).

The purpose of the signs was to direct people to Jesus as the destination, not the other way around (i.e. where Jesus points people to the signs as the destination). In other words, unbelievers were only interested in the signs and did not truly believe in the One the signs where purpose to direct. Unbelievers had a reversed belief because they used Jesus to get to the signs instead of using the signs to get to Jesus (cf. 6:2). They only saw Him as the prophet who was to come into the world (cf. 6:14). They failed to see Him as the self-existent God in human flesh (cf. 8:58-59).  As the signs developed in John chronologically, unbelievers only increased in their hatred for Christ until they wanted to kill Him – for that is the end result of merely believing in the signs of Christ with a natural human faith and not believing in Christ with true genuine faith. They even wanted to kill those who were trophies of Jesus’ work and who helped other people truly believe (cf. 12:10-11).

One of the attributes that defines God is His self-existence, and because He is self-existent all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. All God’s attributes are supreme because He is the One and only Supreme Being whom eternally exists in three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (i.e. God is one in three distinct Persons, each Person is fully God and there is one God). God is one in being, essence/substance, co-equal and God is three distinct Persons (cf. Jn 10:30; 1 Cor 8:6; Matt 28:19). This is the being and unity of the divine essence in three Persons and in this one essence are three Persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the one essence of God divided. The sound doctrine of the Trinity teaches the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one”, He taught that He is one in essence, one in nature, one in being, yet distinct in Person. Therefore, in John 10:30 Jesus made a declaration of His deity. So, there are three distinct Persons in one essence, not three qualities in one and the same Person. One God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the substance.

The Apostle John recorded in John 14:9 how the self–existent infinite God is knowable when he recorded Jesus’ conversation with Philip; “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” What is more, in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ made specific claims to deity, identifying His divine nature with the “I AM” of Ex 3:14-15. For example, the “I AM” statements in John are as follows, namely, “I am the bread of life” (6:35); “I am the Light of the world” (8:12); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, cf. v 9); “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, cf. v 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine” (15:1a). Concerning Jesus Christ’s self–existence, grammatically, John 8:58 indicated Jesus’ aseity because the present tense ‘I am’ predicates absolute existence for the person of Jesus, with no point of beginning at all (cf. 1:1-3, 14-18). That is why Jesus did not use the imperfect ἤμην, ‘I was’; for this would mean only that the existence of the person of Jesus antedates the time of Abraham and would leave open the question whether the person of Jesus also has a beginning like that of Abraham (only earlier) or not. What Jesus declared was that, although His earthly life covers less than fifty years, His existence as a person (ἐγώ) is constant and independent of any beginning in time, just like He is during the time of Abraham. Thus with the simplest words Jesus testified to the divine, eternal pre-existence of His person.

In the prologue, the reader learns that Jesus is God (cf. 1:1). Also, John wrote that Jesus Christ is necessary being and the agent of creation (cf. 1:2-3). Jesus is the One who gave eternal life to those who believe in His name because of the regeneration that comes from God (cf. 1:4; 12-13). As a final point, Jesus Christ is God in human flesh and therefore has the resources to be the agent of creation and it’s redeemer (cf. 1:14-18).

The Occasion of the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God in human flesh, emphasized His deity, and was written to the world – that is, all of humanity (cf. 3:16). The occasion is the first advent of Christ as the light coming into the world (cf. 1:9) in which a distinction was made between those who would receive Christ as their Messiah versus those who would not receive Him as their Messiah (cf. 1:11-13).  In the context of 6:26-58 Jesus Christ explained that it is His penal-substitutionary cross work that is the means by which the believing sinner has eternal life. To eat His flesh and to drink His blood is a metaphor of having true union with Him and His cross work (i.e. the great exchange of the cross; satisfactory penal-substitution and imputation). Those who did not receive Him thought that Jesus was advocating cannibalism (cf. 6:52). Therefore, they did not truly believe because they did not accept or understand election (6:66) and they did not accept or understand vicarious satisfactory penal-substitutionary atonement (cf. 6:60). The will of God is a limited atonement, that is, a particular redemption for everyone who would believe in Christ for eternal life (6:39-40). Later in the gospel, one of His disciples betrayed Him and Jesus was arrested, sent to the priests and then delivered over to Pilate to be tried (18:1-19:16). During this encounter, Jesus told Pilate the occasion for Jesus’ first advent and the destiny for those He came to save when He said, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (18:37).  Jesus was crucified, died on a Roman cross, was buried, then bodily rose from the dead and appeared to many eyewitnesses (cf. 19:16-21:25).

Literary Genre of the Gospel of John

The literary genre of the Gospel of John is gospel narrative. Gospel narrative is the historically unique written genre that concentrated on the historical facts of the life, ministry, crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Christ with the purpose to proclaim this good news (εὐαγγέλιου).[2] Found within the confines of the overarching literary genre of narrative – in the Gospel of John during the first discourse of ch 10 is found what some have classified as a parable or symbolic picture.[3]  Subsets of narrative literary genre are the literary devices called parable, figure of speech or proverb.[4] The honest mind sees Scripture as literature written for a purpose (cf. 20:30-31). It is important for the reader to identify and share the features of the literary genre the Author/author chose within the context established by the Author/author. Likewise, it is important to identify these features so that the reader determines the same meaning that the Author/author intended to monolithically communicate to the reader.[5]  The reader needs to understand that the literary genre of the Gospel of John as a whole is gospel narrative and inside this gospel narrative the apostle John recorded a speech of Jesus in Jn 10 in which Jesus used a literary device in the nature of a symbolic picture or figurative speech (cf. 16:25; 29).[6]

E. V. Powers

To continue reading click the link for part two:

[1] The first-person pronoun “My” from the phrase “shepherd My sheep” is capitalized by the NASB to show grammatically reference to the Lord Jesus Christ as the modifier of the possessive personal pronoun.    

[2] Guthrie Donald, New Testament Introduction, third edition (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), 13-4.

[3] The Greek term used by the author is term παροιμία (paroimia) and has the sense to literally mean proverb – “παροιμία,” BAG, 634. The Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) is not the usual word for “parable” used in the synoptic gospels – namely, παραβολή (cf. Matt 13:3) which is a compound word (i.e. pará the Greek preposition which means “along side” together with bállō which has the sense to cast) – thus, “a teaching aid cast alongside the truth being taught” – “παραβολή,” BAG, 617. The Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) used in John 10:6 has been translated into English “allegory” (ABE, BLB, DBT, LSV). However, it is not accurate to translated παροιμία (paroimia) as “allegory” because the Greek term in the NT translated in English “allegory” is “ἀλληγορέω” (allégoreó) and is a hapax lagomena (cf. Gal 4:24) – “ἀλληγορέω,” BAG, 38. Other English translations render the term παροιμία (paroimia) as “parable” (ASV, KJV, ERV, GNT, NET, NHE, WEB) or “illustration” (BSB, NKJV, HCSB, GWT, ISV) or “figure of speech, figurative language” (NIV, ESV, NASB, AB, CSB, WNT). Some have even translated the term παροιμία (paroimia) as “similitude” (YLT) or “story” (CEV). In the end, it is more accurate to translate the Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) into the English term “figure of speech, figurative language, or proverb” to convey a symbolic picture. Hereafter, the author will use the Greek term as “symbolic picture.”

[4] A Parable is a story inside a story that makes a comparison between common experiences and reality to teach theological truth. Usually, parables include characters mentioned inside the parable that represent people in the real world. Parable is a literary subset of narrative. In the case of Jn 10 – the Apostle John divinely inspired by God the Holy Spirit to write the Gospel of John gave a historical account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and in that account, John recorded Jesus giving a story. In that sense, a parable is a story inside a story.

[5] John D. Grassmick, Principles and Practice of Greek Exegesis (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), 11-2.

[6] This writer will use the labels ‘symbolic picture’ and ‘figurative speech’ synonymously throughout this section (hereafter usually designated as ‘symbolic picture’ and sometimes ‘metaphor’).

Is Pastor an Office or Gift? Sneak Preview (Rough Draft)

Ephesians 4:7-13 – “According to the Measure of Christ’s Gift . . . He Gave Gifts . . . And Some as Pastors and Teachers”

There is a distinction in the NT between “offices” and “gifts” – specifically, in the Pauline epistles. However, many have attempted to conflate the terms “office” and “gift” together. One of the passages in the NT that has been used by commentators and others to conflate the terms “office” and “gift” is Eph 4:7-13 – specifically, verse 11. Therefore, to have the issue brought to light whether there is biblical warrant for pastor to be identified as an office in the NT – the intended meaning from the apostle Paul must be drawn out from the passage. The approach of this writer is the self-affirmational rule from Scripture called the literal grammatical-historical approach to draw out from the Scripture the author’s intended meaning. The literal grammatical-historical approach identifies “the laws of grammar and literary form, the facts of history, and the framework of context.”[1] Likewise, the book of Ephesians has a specific theme, purpose and occasion. Theme, purpose and occasion are all features that contribute to the framework of context and these features cannot be ignored. Likewise, the rules of Greek grammar must be examined to identify the author’s intended meaning. On the other hand, it is disingenuous to redact and revise the facts of history concerning the book of Ephesians. Therefore, it is imperative to employ Scripture’s self-affirmational rule – namely, the literal grammatical-historical approach to determine from the author if the term pastor found in Eph 4:11 is to be understood as an “office” or as a “gift.”  

The Theme of Ephesians

The theme of the book of Ephesians is the position and purpose of the church in/with Christ as the head.  There are two major theological themes from the book of Ephesians – namely, the Christian’s position “in Christ,” hence, the epistle to the Ephesians is Christological, as well as the manifold wisdom of God made known through the church, hence the epistle to the Ephesians is ecclesiological. Concerning the Christian’s position of union in Christ there is the sound doctrine of election (cf. 1:4); the sound doctrine of predestination (cf. 1:5, 11), the sound doctrine of divine sonship (cf. 1:5, 14), the sound doctrine of the atonement (cf. 1:7; 2:13; 5:25, 29-32), and the sound doctrine of the eternal security of the saints (cf. 1:13-14). Therefore, the epistle to the Ephesians is soteriological. The word “will” (θέλμα) was used no less than seven times in Ephesians [the doctrine of the will of God (cf. Eph 1:1; 1:5; 1:9; 1:11; 5:17; 6:6) contrariwise to the will of the flesh (cf. 2:3)]. The word “mystery” (μυστήριον) was used no less than six times in Ephesians (cf. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). The prepositional phrase “in the heavenly places” (ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις) was used no less than five times in Ephesians and as a prepositional phrase is only found in Ephesians (cf. 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). The “church” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians (cf. 1:22, 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32). The “body” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians referring to the church (cf. 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16 x 2; 5:23, 30). “Saints” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians (cf. 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18). Due to the frequency of the terms “church,” “body,” and “saints,” it can be honestly determined that the apostle Paul intended the epistle to the Ephesians to comprehensively reflect an ecclesiological theme.[2] 

The Purpose of Ephesians

The distinct purpose of Ephesians was explicitly indicated in 3:9-11.[3] The reason this was the purpose of Ephesians was because the author used the word πρόθεσις (prothesis). The English word “purpose” (e.g. thesis statement) is translated from the Greek word πρόθεσις (prothesis) in 3:11 which reads, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (cf. 1:11). God eternally purposed to save some (cf. 1:9, 11) in Christ, establish Christ as head of the church (cf. 1:22) and to reveal to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places (cf. 3:10; 6:12) the manifold wisdom of God (i.e. the manifold wisdom is the grammatical subject of 3:10-11). The purpose was to crush the rulers and authorities under Christ’s feet (cf. 1:22) thus providing victory for the church in Christ and access to the armor of God to stand firm against the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. In Christ, the church has victory over the enmity in the heavenly places (cf. 1:3; 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) as well as victory over the ethnic enmity of discrimination between Jews and Gentiles on the earth (cf. 2:11-19). It is the logical sequence and quantity of the author’s emphasis in Ephesians that one is to draw from in order to accurately determine the purpose of the book. The issue of God versus satan is found in 1:22– namely “and He put all things in subjection under His feet” (cf. Gen 3:15; Ps 110:1) and Eph 2:1-10– namely, God taking those He saved from walking “the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” and children of wrath as the rest (2:1-3) to a position of being raised up with Christ and seated in the heavenly places in Christ (cf. 2:6). Thus, saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, not works of the law (cf. 2:8-10).

The Occasion of Ephesians

The epistle to the Ephesians had a specific occasion – that was, the reconciliation of ethnic Israelites and ethnic gentiles together only by the means of the reconciliation of those ethnic Israelites and ethnic gentiles to God through the Person, cross work, death and resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, the internal evidence from Ephesians explicitly identified this occasion (cf. 2:11-19). The explicit context and means of the reconciliation to God through the Person and work of Christ was “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (2:16). God redeemed individual persons through Christ alone from distinct ethnic groups of people (cf. 1:7; 2:13). Individually redeemed persons make up the one church in Christ (cf. 1:22; 2:15-19; 5:23; 32). The church is the body of Christ (cf. 4:12), God’s household (cf. 2:19). Therefore, the occasion of the epistle to the Ephesians was that there was a dividing wall of hostility and enmity between Jews and Gentiles according to the flesh, but Christ had now broken down the dividing wall (i.e. ethnic discrimination and legalism) and God had established the headship of Christ over the church as both the church’s reconciliation to God and those in the church’s reconciliation to one another.

Immediate Context of Ephesians 4:1-16

Ephesians 4:1-16 contains the only two occurrences in the NT of one of the Greek words for unity – that is, ἑνότης (4:3, 13).[4] The unification of ethnic Israelites and ethnic Gentiles into “one new man”[5] is the body of Christ.[6] Because of the new position in Christ, unity must exist among believers in Christ and unity must be preserved not invented (4:3) – therefore, a church is a unified preserved body based on God’s purpose in the church age. God’s purpose in the unified preserved body of Christ is to bring all of the individual members of the body of Christ to the unity of the faith (4:12-16). Only God’s power accomplishes this through the ministry of gifted believers who Christ gives to the church.[7] That is the purpose in Christ distributing gifts to each believer (4:7). If it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined as an “office” it hinders true biblical unity. If it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it hinders true biblical ethnic reconciliation. Moreover, if it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it is an attempt to hinder God’s eternal purpose statement to the universe. Finally, if it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it is an attempt to hinder the fullness of the theological themes that Ephesians teaches from being accurately represented.

Immediate Context of Ephesians 4:7-13

Ephesians 4:7-13 is about the means of preserving the unity of faith by the use of various gifts to the church.[8] Eph 4:7-8 presents a description of the giving of gifts when the text reads, “But to each one of us the grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore, it says having ascended on high He led captive captivity gave gifts to men.” The text does not read here in Ephesians that He gave “offices” to men, but instead the text reads that He gave “gifts” to men. Therefore, the descriptive emphasis concerning the author’s intended meaning from 4:7-13 concerns “gifts” not “offices.” What is more, the Greek preposition κατα is found in 4:7 together with a noun in the accusative case, namely μέτρον (i.e. measure). When the Greek preposition κατα is together with a noun in the accusative case it has the sense to mean standard (i.e. according to).[9] The standard denotes that Christ gives each believer a gift but also determines the amount of the gift, hence the term measure.[10] Therefore, to redefine the emphasis that 4:7-13 (particularly 4:11) puts on “gifts” to put the emphasis on “offices” is a different standard than the measure of the gift of Christ (because an office is not measured in an amount of the office, one either has the qualifications for that office or they do not – the emphasis is the quality of the officer). In the NT offices are qualified by lists of qualifications (e.g. Acts 1:21-26; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). There is no list of qualifications for people to have to receive a gift from what is described from Eph 4:7-13. On the other hand, gift giving from the Lord is all of grace – “But to each one of us grace was given” (4:7a). What is more, instead of prerequisite qualifications that are attached to offices – concerning gifts, here in 4:7 there is mentioned a quantitative measure. The term μέτρον (measure) found from 4:7 has the sense to mean a quantity within a limit to which Christ has apportioned.[11] This is in continuity with Rom 12:3, which reads, “to each as God measured out the measure of faith” (see Rom 12:6).  

The standard from Ephesians 4:7-13 is the measure of the gift of Christ. The standard for the qualifications for “offices” is not in 4:7-13 but is found in other places in the NT (i.e. Acts 1:21-26; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Likewise, the emphasis found from Eph 4:7-13 is on the distribution of “gifts,” not the distribution of “offices.” There is no “thesis” versus “anti-thesis” that exists among Pauline literary corpus concerning these features. There is no need for the Tübigen historical critical “synthesis” model. In dealing with this dilemma, some commentators have inquired whether ministry is to be understood in terms of office or function.[12] On the other hand, the controversy occurs when one has conflated the terms “office” and “gift” into a synthesis to argue that such interchangeableness exists among terms when they are distinct in the NT. Not every believer is given an office but every believer in Christ is given a gift or gifts.[13] In this case, the interchangeable orientation position versus the position that argues a distinction between the term “office” and the term “gift” cannot be based on circumstantial evidence but must be determined from exegesis. Simply put, the term used in 4:7 is from the Greek term δωρεά which is translated into English “gift.”[14] What is more, from 4:8 the text reads “ἔδωκεν δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις” – literally, “gave gifts to men.” The term from 4:8 is from the Greek term δόμα, translated in English “gifts.” The term from 4:8, namely, “gifts” as a noun is plural and is related to δωρεά from 4:7 because both terms – that is, δωρεά and δόμα find their etymology from the Greek verb δίδωμι which has the sense “to give.”[15] The gifts that Christ gives to believers come from Christ because there are two genitives found in the phrase “the measure of the gift of Christ.” The second genitive is a genitive of source – namely, “gift of Christ” meaning that each believer has received from Christ (i.e. the source) a measure of a gift to be used in a particular function in the body.[16] However, the term “ἐπισκοπή” – namely, “office, position or overseership” (cf. Acts 1:20; 1 Tim 3:1) or the term “ἱερατεία” – that is, “office” are not used in Eph 4:7-13.  Concerning 4:8 “therefore, it says, having gone up on high He led captive captivity and gave gifts to men” Christ has the only right to give gifts to believers because He has proven His victory over the devil, sin and death (cf. Col 2:15). Therefore, Christ having gone up on high to the highest in victory gives gifts to those who He redeemed in His penal-substitutionary atonement. Believers are no longer in bondage but are associated with their victorious Redeemer who in turn gives them gifts to use in ministry to build the church (cf. Matt 16:18). Concerning the inception of the church, the church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (cf. Eph 2:20). In building up of the body of Christ as it is growing there certainly includes men occupying offices in the church age as defined by the NT (e.g. 1 Tim 3; Titus 1:5-9). In Eph 4:7-8 every believer is included in this building up of the body by using the gift or gifts given them by Christ for ministry, it is not only for those who occupy offices.  In summary, the emphasis on 4:7-13, particularly introduced in verses 7-8, is on the distribution of gifts not the distribution of offices.

The meaning of Christ giving the gifts because of His ascension was defined by Paul in Eph 4:9-10 through the description of the all encompassing dominion that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only did Christ ascend to the highest realm but He also had descended into the lower regions of the earth. His descent preceded His ascent. The phrase “the lower parts of the earth” describe the portion of the earth, namely the low-lying parts – that is, in the grave not Hades.[17] His ascent “above the heavens” (v. 10) is the location where Christ ministers at present during the church age, the duration of time between His ascension and His second coming. Christ is above all the heavens at the right hand of God the Father (cf. Acts 7:56; Eph 1:21; Phil 2:9; Heb 4:14; 7:26). Christ’s ministry during the church age at present includes the unmerited bestowal of grace gifts (cf. Eph 4:7 – 8, 11). Since Christ is above all the heavens and also sovereign over the universe (cf. Eph 1:22; Col 1:17-18), the phrase “in order that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10), revealed that Christ fills the universe and the proclamation of His truth and love fills the universe by the persons Christ has given gifts according to the measure of His gift (cf. 3:1-11; 4:7). This proclamation is according to God’s eternal purpose that the wisdom of God is made known through the church to angelic beings in the heavenly places (cf. 3:10-11). The purpose of gifted persons given to the church to use their Christ given gifts is to prepare believers for the work of the ministry for building up the body of Christ (cf. 4:12).[18] Because of what Christ has accomplished and His position as head over the church, only Christ has the authority to give gifts. Treason to the Lordship of Christ occurs when men or women misidentify or misapply that such and such a person has a gift (or conflate the terms “office” and “gift” together as one interchangeable entity outside the context of the Word of God) – when indeed such and such a person that they have misdiagnosed in fact is not the beneficiary of a gift or gifts given from Christ. Real God given gifts unify with one another in support because they recognize their heavenly pattern – contrariwise, faux gifts are designed to cause disunity and division among truly gifted men (cf. 1 Cor 7:7; 12:25).  The breadth to the seriousness of getting this right is an understatement. Any redefinition or misapplication of these features compromises the mission of the church and as such will result in deception and immaturity (cf. Eph 4:14-15). Nevertheless, because Christ fills all things in the sense of His sovereign relationship over the entire creation and His sovereign position to have the only right to give gifts – gifted persons in the church can use their gifts with success against the extinguishing efforts from the world and pseudo-gifted professors who are not possessors.          

Christ fills the church, and Christ is Sovereign over the world. This has to do with the power of what Christ accomplished on the cross and that power being bestowed to the church so that the church would fulfill its ministry. The Apostle Paul established from Eph 4:7 – 10 that only Christ has the authority to give gifts because the definition of Christ giving the gifts is inseparably constrained to the dominion of Christ over all authority.[19] Therefore, a person cannot have a gift or gifts unless Christ has authorized and given a gift or gifts to that person. But when a person does have a gift or gifts given them by the Lord Jesus Christ and when the gift or gifts are performed – the truth of the Gospel goes forth without being snuffed by the quenching attempts from the world to put out the fire.

Pastors and Teachers – One and the Same Spiritual Gift or Two Distinct Gifts?

In Ephesians 4:11 the subject is Christ who performed the action “gave” and what Christ gave is the direct objects – namely, the gifts. There is no copula “to be” or “is” verb governing the direct objects in 4:11. The gifts mentioned from 4:11 are the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (all these nouns are accusative in case, masculine in gender and plural in number). The text reads in wooden English (i.e. literally word for word translation from the Greek into English and in the same Greek order) the following–, “And He gave the indeed apostles the and prophets the and evangelists the and pastors and teachers.” The reason why it is helpful to look at this verse in the wooden English translation is to observe the word order of the exegetical features. For example, the first three nouns, namely, apostles, prophets, and evangelists have in Greek each a definite article preceding them. The last two nouns, namely pastors and teachers share one definite article together.[20] With pastors and teachers there is only one article with both plural nouns. Because of this, the major controversy with 4:11 in modern evangelicalism is whether “pastors and teachers” designate one spiritual gift or two.[21]

The exact same grammatical construction is found in Eph 2:20 where two plural nouns share one definite article, namely, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”[22] Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407) argued that apostles and prophets identified from 2:20 are distinct yet blended together to show the union in the body, like a building with all its parts in solidarity.[23]  John Calvin (c. 1509 – 1564) made a distinction between apostles and prophets but claimed that they share the article to show that they had the same goal and one and the same object was promoted by both.[24] The Pulpit Commentary contributor for Ephesians W. G. Blaikie (c. 1820 – 1899) argued a distinction between apostles and prophets as two distinct offices.[25] R. H. C. Lenski (c. 1864 – 1936) argued that the one article makes the apostles and prophets one class but not that the apostles and prophets are the same office or gift.[26] Harold Hoehner (c. 1935-2009) understood that the one article for both nouns in 2:20 does not identify the apostles and prophets as one and the same persons.[27] John MacArthur (b. 1939)  argued that apostles and prophets mentioned in 2:20 are distinct offices from one another when he wrote “these are New Testament prophets, as indicated by the facts that they are listed after the apostles and are part of the building of the church of Jesus Christ.”[28] However, even though he made a distinction between apostles and prophets as being distinct offices, MacArthur interpreted pastors and teachers as two functions of a single office of leadership in the church.[29]

Concerning the phrase “and the pastors and teachers” from Eph 4:11 – scholars have debated this for almost the entire church age.[30] One position argues the construction refers to pastors and teachers as one and the same gift and the other position argues that the construction refers to two distinct gifts.[31] Some scholars place the emphasis on the nouns being gifted persons and debate whether pastors and teachers represent two gifted persons or one person with a combination of two gifts.[32] Those who favor the “one and the same gift” position or the “one person with a combination of two gifts” position argue that the Greek conjunction “and” placed in-between pastors and teachers is explicative and has the sense to mean “pastors ‘that is’ teachers.”[33] On the other hand, some argue that the one article was used to designate these two gifts as functioning in a local church as distinguished from the “itinerate ministry” gifts listed earlier in the list.[34] Hoehner argued, just as seen in 2:20 where there is one article for apostles and prophets, that also in 4:11 one article used for both plural nouns does not mean the same identity but does indicate that they are distinct yet treated for a unified purpose. The following chart is a visual summary of the differing positions concerning the pastors and teachers from Eph 4:11:

Chart: Differing Positions concerning the Pastors and Teachers from Ephesians 4:11

Position 1 – One and the same gift. One gift because the two nouns share the same article; i.e. “pastor-teacher means “pastor, that is, teacher.”


Position 2 – Two distinct gifts. Granville Sharp TSKS Rule: In Eph 2:20 there is a TSKS construction where one article governs two plural nouns, namely “the apostles and prophets.” But those who hold position 1 above argue that 2:20 refers to two distinct offices. Eph 4:11 also reflects the Granville Sharp TSKS Rule where one article governs two plural nouns, namely “the pastors and teachers” in the context of gifts (cf. Eph 4:7-11).


Position 3 – One and the same office with two functions together to define a single office of leadership in the church. The interchangeable orientation position A. i.e. “pastor – teacher = pastor, that is, teacher” The Greek word kai (and) can mean “in particular (that is) cf. (1 Tim 5:17). MSB


Position 4 – Two distinct offices. The orientation position B. Problem with this view is that the context supports gifts, not offices.


However, the only position that works grammatically is that the construction refered to two distinct gifts or two different gifted persons.[35] Some who hold the position that “pastors and teachers” refer to one gift or one gifted person at least understand the context concerns the description of gifts where as others conclude that this has the sense of one office with two gifts – such a position does not make any sense grammatically by using the term office.  Calvin saw a distinction between the two but called them offices.[36]

Pastors and Teachers – Offices or Gifts?

Consequently, Eph 4:11 concerns the description of gifts that Christ has given, not the description of offices. The term ποιμήν (pastor) mentioned as a gift or to describe gifted men in 4:11 described a function with no hint of reference to an office.[37] The term διδάσκαλος (teacher) mentioned as a gift or to describe gifted persons in 4:11 described a function not an office. It is important to know that these are gifts and not offices.[38]


In conclusion, the immediate context to which Eph 4:11 belongs supports that pastors and teachers are gifts not offices. What is more, the grammar of 4:11 supports that pastors and teachers are two distinct gifts indicating two distinct gifted persons – although a person can have been given both of these gifts. Remarkably many in modern evangelicalism do not see this distinction from the text and therefore teach this text and apply this text wrongly not without disastrous implications.  The position a local church takes on this issue has significant implications on how ministry is conducted at that local church. For instance, if a local church takes the position that pastors and teachers are one and the same gift – let alone redefining them as an office when in fact the truth is that they are distinct gifts and not offices (or one and the same office), then ministry at that local church lacks the biblical designation of those gifts. If a local church lacks the biblical designation of those gifts then how will that local church represent and carry out the function of those gifts with clarity and be unified with the universal body (cf. 4:12-13). Different positions in competition results in disunity not unity. Therefore, it is imperative to hold the correct position. Grammatically the Author’s intended meaning reveals that pastors and teachers from 4:11 are two distinct gifts or two distinct gifted persons with the same purpose to equip the saints for ministry for building up the body, just as 2:20 grammatically shows that apostles and prophets are distinct from one another but had the same purpose concerning the foundation of the history and spread of Christianity.

[1] John D. Grassmick, Principles and Practice of Greek Exegesis (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), 11.

[2] This paragraph was slightly modified from its original content source. Eric V. Powers, “Is There Any Biblical Warrant for the Doctrinal Triage?” (M.Div. Thesis, The Master’s Seminary, 2016).

[3] “And to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:9-11).

[4] “ἑνότης,” BAG, 267.

[5] ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον “one new man” (Eph 2:15).

[6] “the hostility, in the flesh of Him, the law of the commandments in ordinances having annulled, so that the two He might create in Himself into one new man, making peace” (Eph 2:15).

[7] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 501.

[8] Hoenher rightly emphasized in his commentary that “within the body of believers, God has bestowed gifts” and the giving of these gifts were “the vital role in the maintenance of unity within this unique body,” Ibid, 521.

[9] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 377.

[10] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 523.

[11] “μέτρον,” BAG, 516.

[12] Fung argued that the function of a gift and the office that one holds in the church are fused together into a united whole and that the gift can find expression in the office, but that the office must not be severed from the gift in the relationship between function, gift and office, specifically office and function being the aspects of a person’s ministry (in the case of someone who holds office; for which he must have the appropriate gift). However, in a general sense, Fung took exception to the view of some scholars who argue that Eph 4:11 in particular refers to office holders in the church or at least having the sense of a double reference to offices as well as gifts. Fung argued that the terminology used in connection with charismata in 1 Cor 12:4-6, together with 12:28 and 12:18, together with the explicit reference to variety of functions preceding the Romans list (i.e. Rom 12:4), and the immediate following context of Eph 4:11 with its emphasis on harmonious functioning among the body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12-16) – all are factors that strongly favor the conclusion that the charismata (i.e. grace gifts) refer only to functions appropriate to gifts and not the office. Ronald Y. K. Fung, “Ministry in the New Testament,” 163-75.

[13]  “Now to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ” Eph 4:7. The phrase Ἑνὶ δὲ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν – “Now to each one of us” is in reference to each individual believer not only those holding offices. Hoehner argued based on the exegesis of 4:7 that gifts are given not only to people serving in leadership but to fellow Christians who are not in offices of leadership. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 521.

[14] “δωρεά,” BAG, 209.

[15] “δόμα,” New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Hebrew – Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, Robert L. Thomas, Th.D., General Editor (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1981), 1644.

[16] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 523.

[17] For a discussion on the location of Christ’s descent, see Doron Gladden, TBCRI “What does it mean that Christ ‘had descended into the lower parts of the earth?’” (accessed 1 August 2021).

[18] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 547.

[19] Ephesians 4:10, specifically the phrase “so that He might fill all things” is not about the omnipresence of Christ’s physical body in the universe. The Missouri Synod Lutherans are the major proponents of the omnipresence of Christ’s physical body in the universe. They argue this in 4:10 and call their view the ubiquity of Christ’s physical body. For a definition of the Lutheran doctrine called the ubiquity of Christ’s body, see R.C.H. Lenksi, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963), 524 – 25.

[20] The definite articles are in bold with the nouns they modify –  Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους. Only the last two nouns of 4:11 share the same definite article together. Moreover, there is a definite article + substantive (noun) in plural number + conjunction καί + substantive (noun) in plural number which grammarians call the TSKS construction in relationship to the Granville Sharp rule in Greek grammar [T = definite article; S = substantive (i.e. noun); K = conjunction καί (i.e. and); S = substantive (i.e. noun)]. For a discussion of the relationship between the TSKS construction in the Granville Sharp Rule and related constructions – namely, the article with multiple substantives connected by καί see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 270-90.

[21] Bill Mounce, “Pastor’s and Teachers – Ephesians 4:11,”, 13 October 2008,  (accessed 4 October 2021).

[22] “The use of a single article with multiple plural nouns indicates a single unit, but it does not necessarily mean the two nouns are identical. This same construction occurs earlier in 2:20 and joins “apostles” and “prophets,” but these are not identical gifts.” What is more, Mounce mentioned that this is the same rule that is shown in Robertson’s grammar when one article with multiple plural nouns can indicate “groups more or less distinct are treated as one for the purpose in hand.” Robertson, Grammar, 787; MHT 3:181; also see Wallace, “Semantic Range of the Article Noun-καί-Noun Plural Construction,” 82. Ibid.

[23] Philip Schaff, St. Chysostom Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. XIII (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 75.

[24] John Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thess., 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XXI (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 277-80.

[25] W. G. Blaikie, Galatians Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 46 (London and New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company), 67.

[26] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians 450.

[27] Hoehner argued that the genitives (apostles and prophets grammatically as substantives are in the genitive case) are appositional which grammatically has the sense to mean the apostles and prophets are the historical persons who first formed the universal church. This presupposes that the two are distinct but have one purpose in hand. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 397.

[28] John MacArthur, Ephesians, MacNTC (Chicago: Moody, 1988), 82.

[29] Even though 2:20 and 4:11 share the same Greek construction with two nouns sharing one definite article (e.g. “the apostles and prophets” 2:20 and “the pastors and teachers” 4:11) MacArthur interpreted each construction differently. MacArthur claimed that the phrase “pastors and teachers” is a single office of leadership in the church. He claimed that Greek conjunction “and” can mean “in particular” to argue that “pastors and teachers” are two functions together that define one office which he argued is synonymous with the NT office of Elder. However, if MacArthur’s claim is this is true wouldn’t that also apply to the same construction used in 2:20 for apostles and prophets as two functions together that define one office because the Greek conjunction “and” can mean “in particular?” MSB, 1763. 

[30] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 543.


[31] “One interpretation sees them as one gift and point to the use of the article. It is repeated before all the other gifts, but when it gets to the last two there is only one article that governs both nouns. Grammatically, this signals a change and expects us to see that “pastors and teachers” form a unit that is set off from the preceding series . . . . the second interpretation is that “pastor” and “teacher” are somewhat distinct gifts.” Bill Mounce, “Pastor’s and Teachers – Ephesians 4:11,”

[32] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 543.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] “According to the exegetical work provided by Wallace, Eph 4:11 concerns the gifted leaders that Christ has given to the church for the church’s maturity. More specifically, Wallace is concerned with whether one gift or two are mentioned with the phrase ‘some now pastors and teachers.’ Wallace is concerned that many commentators have seen only one gift here, which Wallace claimed is an erroneous and misapplication of the Granville Sharp rule applied to plural constructions. Wallace further argued that with the ‘one gift’ view of pastor-teacher instead of two distinct gifts presented (i.e. pastors and teachers), there are no clear examples of nouns being used in TSKS (article-substantive-καί-substantive) construction in the sense to specify one group in an interpretation of pastor-teacher. Wallace did point out that the uniting of these two gifts by one article distinguishes them in a different grammatical observation than the other gifts given with their own definite articles, however that gives the sense that they are similar functioning gifts (e.g. ‘since elders were to be teachers,’ those who are gifted with the gift of pastors usually have a teaching capacity). However, Wallace rightly observed that not all teachers were elders and not all teachers were pastors (cf. Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Heb 5:12; Jas 3:1; 2 Tim 2:2). But Wallace’s conclusion in the matter at hand was ‘Eph 4:11 seems to affirm that all pastors were to be teachers, though not all teachers were to be pastors.’ Nevertheless, Wallace exegetically proved that pastor and teacher are two distinct gifts instead of ‘one gift with two functions.’” Ibid.  

[36] Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thess., 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, 280.

[37] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 544.

[38] Hoehner concluded in his dictum notes on Eph 4:11 there presents a problem when people confuse the gift of pastor and teacher with the office of elder or deacon because they want to exert the authority of an elder or deacon. The NT does not mix gift and office. Ibid, 547.

What does it mean that Christ “had descended into the lower parts of the Earth?”

(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:9-10.

What does it mean that Christ “had descended into the lower parts of the earth?”

The following answer is an excerpt taken from a M.DIV exegetical paper on the meaning of Ephesians 4:

There have been multiple views proposed concerning Christ’s descent. Specifically, the main views are (1) He descended in Hades, (2) His descent at His incarnation and death, (3) the descent of the exalted Christ in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2). However, to answer this question objectively one must consider the exegesis of the Author’s intended meaning.

The Greek grammar construction that is rendered in English – “except that he also descended” shows that His descent preceded His ascent. Therefore, view (3) above cannot harmonize with the sense of Eph 4:9-10.

Next, when Paul used the verb κατεβη – that is, ‘He descended,’ the only sphere that Paul has mentioned with the verb, explicitly, is earth (v. 9). The only other sphere in the context is the heavens (v. 10).   

“. . . He descended into the lower regions of the earth . . .”

The gentive της γης ‘of the earth’ must be joined to its antecedent τα κατωτερα ‘the lower parts’ in order to determine locale. This genitive is partitive as Paul is describing a portion of the earth, namely the low-lying parts – that is, in the ground or the grave. The regions of the earth and the regions of the heavens are the regions that are mentioned in this context, therefore a descent is from heaven to earth, namely the lower regions of the earth in the sense with being buried but not from earth to Hades. Jesus did not ascend from Hades, but He did ascend from the earth (cf. John 8:21-23; 16:28). Therefore, view (1) above cannot harmonize with the sense of Eph 4:9-10.

The sense of the author’s intended meaning is that the descent has to do with the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ after His penal-substitutionary death on the cross. This fits better with v. 10, namely, “He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.” Thanks be to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has defeated the devil, sin and death and He has provided redemption to everyone who would ever trust in Christ to be saved from the coming wrath of God. Those whom Christ has redeemed are the recipients of gifts to build up the Church and these gifts all of grace (cf. Eph 4:7-8; 11-12).

Doron Gladden.


The most challenging question a person can be asked when they suffer is the question God asked Job in chapter 40, verse 8 – that is, “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” This question is at the heart of the book of Job, for reason that God is the main character of the book and as consequence Job is about Theodicy (i.e. justifying the existence of Benevolent God when there is suffering and evil in the world). This expositional synopsis is interested in giving an expositional summary of the book of Job. By no means is this expositional synopsis a substitute for the book of Job – neither is this expositional synopsis taking away or adding to the book of Job. Simply put, it is the intent of this writer to point out to the readers features from the book of Job to help the readers navigate through their own trials and sufferings in life, accurately represent God when they suffer, and remind the readers when they suffer to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (cf. 1 Peter 4:19).

To accomplish this task, the writer will offer introductory features to the book of Job – that is, elucidating its literary genre as well as where and when Job took place historically. Then, there will be an outline presented on the book of Job. Next, there will be a discussion of the contents of the book of Job with selective theological points made by the Author of Job. Finally, the continuity of the book of Job in relationship to the New Testament and the Christian’s responsibility in the church age on how to deal with personal suffering and comforting others when they suffer will be provided. 

Introduction to the Book of Job

To start, Job is found in the OT positioned canonically immediately after the book of Esther and directly before the book of Psalms. Some have called the literary genre of Job a lawsuit (for reason that it reads like scenes one would experience in cross examination in a court room). Others have categorized Job as dramatized lament. In fact, there have been many other views on the books literary form offered. On the other hand, because Job has been categorized with a collection of books in the OT called Wisdom Literature along with the book of Proverbs, the book of Ecclesiastes and the book called Song of Solomon – the literary genre of the book of Job is best to be understood as Wisdom Literature. This is the case, mainly due to the fact that Job presents the definition of wisdom in the middle of the book by the narrator – namely, “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding’” (28:28). The book of Job is extremely important because it objectively defines wisdom.

Likewise, the book of Job is such an important book of the Bible because it answers the age-old question, “why is there suffering in this world?” Suffering is the heart of the book of Job. When people suffer often the question is asked – “why me?” or “what have I done to deserve this?” If such is your experience, the book of Job is the best place to get the answers for why there is suffering. But there is even a deeper question. A deeper theological question that the book of Job provokes – namely, “Why do we exist in a universe that has been created by the all-powerful, all good (omni-benevolent) Sovereign God, and in this world, in this universe, which is forever ruled and Governed by God, the Being who is absolutely good, absolutely just, absolutely perfect – yet there is evil in this world? This world is full of imperfections and evil, and suffering and pain. Where is God in all of this suffering and pain?” Why do people suffer? Why do the righteous suffer?  The answers to these questions are the red thread – that is, the central point of the book of Job. The book of Job is deep. It is extremely complex and incredibly challenging. Yet the answer to these questions is clearly presented from the book of Job. Anyone who attempts to counsel and comfort others when they suffer should read the book of Job often – but especially before they try to counsel another who is suffering.

It is important to know when the historical events described in the book of Job took place to understand the book.It is very evident that the historical context of the book of Job took place during the Patriarchal Period of Human history – that is, during the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The historical man Job lived during the days of Abraham. The question is, did the events of Job occur pre-Abrahamic Covenant or post-Abrahamic Covenant. The following arguments have been offered for pre-Abrahamic Covenant:

  1.  Job offered sacrifices without the benefit of a priest (he was priest of his own household (1:5)). This is significant because after the Abrahamic Covenant was made between God and Abraham, the Covenant Community was narrowed down to one family in particular. So, Job is best understood as having lived before the Abrahamic Covenant.
  2. His life span is that of the people in Genesis immediately after the flood – (42:16).
  3. The Sabeans and the Chaldeans were nomadic bands and not organized in cities. On the other hand, by the time of Abraham, it appears perhaps the Chaldeans were organized in cities where Abraham lived in Genesis 11:31, Ur of the Chaldeans.

The following are the arguments that the events in Job occurred post-Abrahamic Covenant:

  1. The Land of Uz (Job 1:1) corresponds to Gen 22:21.
  2. Elihu was a Buzite (Job 32:2) and we learn from Gen 22:21 Buz was a nephew of Abraham.

However, given all these arguments, it is an undeniable conclusion that Job lived during the Patriarchal Period of human history sometime between the Noahic Covenant and around the time of the Abrahamic Covenant.

We need to understand that although the book of Job might appear as if it is laid out like a drama or a play with scenes and acts etc., that does not change the fact that Job was a real historical person. Job is not a fable. The book of Job is not a poetic metaphor for wisdom. Job truly existed and went through everything mentioned from the text. Likewise, Job is mentioned outside of the book of Job in the OT in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 (where God identified Job in the top three most righteous people in the days of the OT – namely, Noah, Daniel and Job)- as well as in the NT in the book of James 5:11 (James reminds the early Jerusalem church community of the endurance of Job when Job was suffering). What is more, it is important to know where the historical events in Job took place. Job lived in the land of Uz (1:1). Uz was somewhere in the east. The geographical location of Uz is in the area of Edom (Genesis 10:23; Lam 4:21).

Outline of the Book of Job

It is best to outline the book of Job by merely identifying the chapter to which each character speaks. For instance, the following outline is a very straight forward outline so that the reader can navigate through the book of Job:

Prologue (Narrator): 1-2

 Job: 3, 6-7, 9-10, 12-14, 16-17, 19, 21, 23-24, 26-27, 29-31, 40, 42

Eliphaz: 4-5, 15, 22

Bildad: 8, 18, 25

Zophar: 11, 20

Wisdom Defined (Narrator): 28

Elihu: 32-37

God: 38-41

Epilogue (Narrator): 42

Another outline is sometimes offered which presents the book of Job as a Chiastic Structure – that is, two or three main ideas together with counterpart variants creating a symmetrical pattern. The following has been proposed as a chiastic structural outline for the book of Job:

A.  Job’s Affliction (1-2)

     B.  Job’s 1st Response (3)

         C.  Three Cycles of Debate (4-27)

              D.  Wisdom Poem (28)

         C₁. Great Speeches (29-41)

     B₁.  Job’s 2nd Response (42:1-9)

A₁.  Job’s Prosperity (42:10-17)


Discussion about the Contents of the Book of Job

Many “teachers” have attempted to “explain” the book of Job, but in their “explanation” many “teachers” have made some serious mistakes. The major mistake they have made is to suggest that Job lacks any concrete doctrine and theological discussion. In fact, when it comes to the problem of evil many “teachers” have made distinctions between the theological academic form of suffering and the intimate personal form of suffering. The problem of many when they try to “teach” the book of Job is that they strike a dichotomy with the theological academic answers against the personal experience of suffering. They do this to try and avoid the problem either by de-personalizing the problem or desiring others to remain in ignorance (e.g. “ignorance is bliss,” “what I don’t know cannot hurt me,” and “I’m just going to get on with my life in ignorance because these theological words are too big for me, far beyond me and by choice I refuse to ask the question because it just causes too much confusion and pain” etc.).

However, what this writer is interested in is pointing out the sound doctrine from the book of Job. What is more, it is the intent of this writer to not strike a dichotomy between the academic theological form and the intimate personal form of suffering. To draw out sound doctrine from the book of Job must be the goal of the reader so that the reader does not existentially try to put themselves in Job’s shoes and think that they are Job when they suffer. The reason for this is because we learn from God that there was no one on the earth like Job (cf. 1:8; 2:3). If there was no one on earth like Job in Job’s day, then what makes us think that there is anyone like Job today – in our day. However, what the reader can do when suffering is to learn from Job’s endurance in suffering, cry to God in suffering and learn from Job’s example to hold to God’s Word. For example, Job confessed that one of his greatest comforts directly after he suffered all the tragedies described in the book was that Job held to God’s Word – “But it is still my comfort, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).    

From the first chapter of Job we learn where Job was from, namely, the land of Uz (1:1). What is more, we learn about Job’s character as a man – that is, Job was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (1:1). However, Job being without moral blemish does not mean Job was sinless. Contrariwise, Job confessed he was a sinner as well as being born with original sin (cf. 7:21; 13:26). Moreover, we learn from the first chapter that Job was “the greatest of all the men of the east” (1:3). He was the wealthiest man (cf. 1:3). In the days of Job, wealth was measured in livestock and we learn that Job had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants (cf. 1:3). But even though Job was the wealthiest man of his day and as such had many great possessions, Job’s possessions did not have him. Job’s wealth did not distract Job from pursuing godliness and being the most devout man to God in the land. To this effect, namely that Job was not owned by his material possessions, is evident when Job confessed that he did not brag about his wealth (cf. 31:25). The main issue is Job’s integrity, to such a degree that he was worried about the secret thoughts of his children – that is, that they would not curse God in their hearts. And even if they did, then Job would present sacrifices on their behalf to God. Job cared about God and His name. Consequently, Job was a righteous man.  So, the question is why do the righteous suffer? The answer to that question is found in the remaining verses from the first chapter – namely, 1:6-22 as well as the second chapter.  

In the remaining verses from the first chapter as well as the second chapter of Job, the reader is taken behind the scenes to see the invisible circumstances that occasioned Job’s suffering – namely, a contest between God versus Satan. Of this conflict – that is, contest that happened behind the scenes about him, Job is unaware. On the other hand, the reader is taken behind the scenes into the heavenly places to where God’s courts are found. And what the reader discovers from the narrator in the epilogue is that Job suffered as a test to his faithfulness to God (cf. 1:6-12). What is more, the reader is shown the relationship of God to fallen angelic activity and human evil. In Theology, there is a subset of discipline study in the area of the Providence of God called Concurrence. Concurrence is the juxtaposing actions and intents of more than one group that are presented side by side. For instance, the text reveals that God, Satan, the Sabeans, the Chaldeans, Job’s wife, and Job’s three miserable counselors were all involved in Job’s suffering (cf. 1:6-2:11; 4:12-21).  It was God who initiated the entire event, but it was the Devil who was accusing Job of maintaining his integrity because Job got something out of God – as if God were Job’s “paycheck” (cf. 1:8-10). But the Devil’s wicked plot was to get Job to suffer so that Job would curse God to His face (cf. 1:11). This is inseparably constrained to the frustration of the Devil with Job’s integrity, because Job was so concerned that his own children would not curse God in their secret thoughts of their hearts. God listened to Job, to which it can be implied that God protected Job’s children from the Devil putting thoughts in their hearts, hence the reason why the Devil brought up the issue. It is congruent with the Devil’s attack of trying to use Job’s greatest strength to sin against God (e.g. compare Gen 2:25 with Gen 3:7 and Gen 2:25 with Gen 3:1 – the Hebrew tri-literal root (arom) is found in “naked” in Gen 2:25 and is the origin of the word “crafty” in Gen 3:1 – the Devil used that which God had bestowed upon God’s creation against God). God allowed Satan and the human agency that Satan used to attack Job and cause Job to suffer. Instead of Job cursing God Job did the exact opposite, all the while ignorant of this cosmic contest in the invisible realm. These features teach us two major points – first, the Devil needs permission from God to do anything. Secondly, when it comes to human suffering and the problem of evil there is Concurrence.  Who is responsible for Job’s suffering? Is it God? Is it the Devil? Or is it Man? The answer is “all of the above.” But the real question is that of intent. The Sabeans and the Chaldeans are merely doing what was natural to them – that is evil. They could care less about Job. They just wanted Job’s material blessings. They are men who are jealous and lusting after the possessions of other men. As soon as the hedge was removed and they capitulated to the temptation from Satan, the raiders freely raided without hesitation or resistance. In judgement they would argue “the devil made me do it.” Likewise, the Devil is merely intent on making Job suffer to get Job to sin to make a slanderous argument against God and those who love God. The Devil could care less about Job’s pain and suffering. Therefore, man’s intent is wicked, and the Devil’s intent is wicked. But what about God? God’s intent is always good. This same issue was taught in the book of Genesis with the patriarch Joseph and his brothers. For instance, Joseph’s own brothers plotted to kill him, but he was sold into slavery, stealing him away from his family in an attempt to destroy his life (cf. Gen 37:18-36). Therefore, the brothers’ intent was wicked toward Joseph. But why did those terrible things happen to Joseph? God tells us why these terrible things happened to Joseph – that is, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50:20). Genesis 50:20, as well as Job, are clear examples of the doctrine of Concurrence. In the case of Joseph’s suffering, God meant it for good, whereas the brothers meant it for evil. God’s intent was only for Joseph’s good and the good of others. On the other hand, the brothers took exception to Joseph and committed evil against their own brother. God decreed the entire event before the foundation of the world. God brought the event to pass. Joseph suffered. Yet God’s intent was only for good, and God holds the human agency – that is, the brothers, responsible. Therefore, God is always justified. Moreover, God, Joseph and Job were all magnanimous toward those who caused them harm or in Job’s case those who were worthless counselors who added to Job insult to injury (cf. 42:7-10). This is the issue of Theodicy – that is, justifying the existence of the Omni-Benevolent Sovereign God when we suffer in a world in which evil is a reality of our daily experience.   

Job lost everything he once had. All the things that people chase after for happiness – namely, prosperity, wealth and health. Job had all these but lost it all. Job lost his possessions (cf. 1:13-17). Job lost his health (cf. 2:1-7). The text reveals that Job was attacked by Satan with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (cf. 2:7). There have been several opinions to what type of sickness Job received offered by commentators, such as, Smallpox, Elephantiasis, and Pemphigus Foliaceus. However, due to the immediate supernatural element to these boils it is highly likely that it was worse than the opinions diagnosed by commentators. No exact diagnosis can be given on the exact disease except that it resulted in terribly painful boils all over Job’s body which he tried to scrape off with broken pottery pieces (cf. 2:8). However, the most painfully devastating loss to Job over all was the death of Job’s ten children. No parent should have to bury their own child, let alone all ten children. The intense pain and suffering that Job had to go through was unsparing pain and tragedy (cf. 6:10). To add insult to injury, his own wife gave Job satanic advice to curse God and die (cf. 2:9). However, because Job still held fast his integrity, Job replied to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10). Job still would not sin with his lips. Job was concerned about the secret thought life of the heart as well as what came out of his mouth (cf. Luke 6:45).

For the next half of the book of Job, the reader is introduced to Job’s three friends who try to counsel Job in his suffering (cf. 2:11). Job’s three friends were Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (cf. 2:11). Job’s three friends start out well in their counseling efforts because the best thing they did for Job was to just weep and just sit with Job for seven days and seven nights, keeping their mouths shut (cf.2:12-13). However, as soon as they open their mouths, their efforts at counseling Job fall short, to say the least. In fact, their counseling turns into arguing with Job and later Job called them all worthless counselors (cf. 13:4 – NASB “physicians”) and said there is not a wise man among them (cf. 17:10).

The major problem with Job’s three friends is their attempts to indoctrinate Job with a presuppositional fallacious doctrine called Instant Retributive Justice or Retribution Doctrine (hereafter usually designated as IRJ or RD). IRJ teaches that there is always a one-to-one correlation between a person’s suffering and their individual guilt. Many people believe in RD and assert that always this side of the grave the wicked suffer in this world for the evil things they do and the righteous prosper in this world for the good things they do – hence, instant retribution. That is, you get out of life what you put into life. If you have done something wrong, you will always pay for it in this life. If you have done some good you will always be rewarded in this life for doing good. However, we learn from the book of Job that such is not always the case. What is more, we learn from the book of Job that the righteous can suffer in this world for doing what is right and the wicked can prosper in this world when they do wicked things.

The other extreme is to suggest that there is no relationship between suffering and sin. The Word of God teaches that because of sin there is suffering in the world, and when there is no more sin there will be no more suffering for the righteous (cf. Rev 21:4). Pain, suffering and death are all part of the consequences of living in a fallen world – a fallen world, by the way, that God is in complete control over and sovereign over. But you error when you always assume that there is a one-to-one correlation between a person’s suffering and their individual sin guilt. There are a lot of reasons why people can suffer.

Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar tried to counsel Job by using IRJ as their template. However, they got frustrated with Job because Job did not bow to their system. Job’s three friends argued throughout their speeches that the only reason why Job was suffering was an absolute correspondence to some sin in Job’s life for which Job was guilty. To add insult to injury, instead of comforting Job, Job’s three friends insisted that Job confess his sin. It got to the point where Job’s three friends were protecting their system of IRJ and arguing with Job so intensely because they had to be right about their world view of instant retributive justice. Everything was at stake for Job’s three friends to protect their wrong presuppositions, because if they were wrong their whole perception of reality would come crumbling down. Oftentimes people try to counsel others the way Job’s three friends tried to, and as a result end up doing more harm than good. There are many worthless counselors in the world today just as there were in Job’s day. It is part of the human condition to be a worthless counselor. Examples of IRJ from the speeches of Job’s three friends include the following:

Eliphaz – “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow wrongdoing and those who sow trouble harvest it” (4:7-8 also see 22:5-7, 9-10).

Bildad – “If you are pure and upright, Surely now He will stir Himself for you And restore your righteous estate” (8:6).

Zophar – “If you would direct your heart rightly And spread out your hands to Him, If wrongdoing is in your hand, put it far away, And do not let malice dwell in your tents” (11:13-14).

Moreover, the problem with the wisdom of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar and their IRJ was bad enough because they were ignorantly assuming Job had sinned to cause his calamity. And as such, it was bad enough that they held to IRJ as an absolute principle of retribution. But what made their advice even more valueless was that they added more pragmatism to their overarching IRJ scheme. For example, the first of Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, who was the oldest, and therefore the first to address Job, based his arguments on experience (in what he had seen in his lifetime) as the absolute standard because he was the oldest [i.e. “According to what I have seen” (4:8), “I have seen” (5:3), “What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that we do not? Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us, Older than you father” (15:9-10)]. Then the second of Job’s three friends, Bildad, based his arguments on tradition and the wisdom of the scientific method in the progress of observation and research over many generations [e.g., “Please inquire of past generations, And consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, Because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, And bring forth words from their minds?” (8:8-10)]. Finally, the third friend, Zophar, based his arguments on his rationalistic intelligence – namely, that there had to be some rationalistic explanation like Job sinned to account for his suffering and if Job would only think intelligently then he might discover which sin it was that Job committed [e.g., “An idiot will become intelligent When the foal of a wild donkey is born a man. If you would direct your heart right And spread out your hand to Him, If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, And do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; Then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral defect, And you would be steadfast and not fear” (11:12-15; see 12:3 for Job’s response to Zophar)].

The major disingenuous aspect to the arguments of Job’s three friends is that they were presenting their arguments as if they were rightly representing God to Job. However, at the end of the book we learn from God that such was not the case (cf. 42:7).

In the NT, Jesus’ disciples made a similar mistake as Job’s three friends in their IRJ. In the Gospel of John, there is recorded an encounter with Jesus, Jesus’ disciples, and a man born blind (cf. 9:1-41). At this encounter Jesus found a man suffering, being born with physical blindness from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus about the blind man, but their question reflected the IRJ presupposition – that is, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2). According to the disciples there had to be someone’s sin, someone’s fault to why this man was blind. According to the disciples, it was either him or his parent’s fault. However, Jesus did not respond the way they thought. Jesus did not answer them with the either-or condition they gave Jesus in their question. Instead, Jesus answered them like this, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Clearly the reader can see the similarities between IRJ of Job’s three friends and the IRJ of the disciples’ question – thinking that suffering and pain always is caused by the sufferer’s sin.

There are a lot of reasons why people can suffer. Sometimes people suffer for righteousness – that is, suffering for doing the right thing, not because of their sin but because of being faithful to God (cf. Matt 5:10; 2 Thess 1:4-5). Sometimes people suffer because God is sanctifying them. This is so that they would be conformed to the image of Christ. God also disciplines His children to reprove, correct and rescue them from themselves if they are going the wrong way in life. But it cannot be assumed that the suffering a person encounters is directly a consequence of that person’s sin. But it also cannot be assumed that the suffering a person encounters is not a consequence of that person’s sin. However, the problem is when IRJ is applied to each and every situation when there is suffering and it is argued “if you suffer, then you have sinned.” It can be true “if you sin, then you will suffer.” But it is not always true that “if you suffer, then you have sinned.” Job’s valuation of his three friends is that they were sorry comforters (cf. 16:1) and that there was not a wise man among them (cf. 17:10).      

From chapters 32-37, the reader is introduced to a man younger than Job’s three friends named Elihu (cf. 32:4). Elihu has a problem with Job’s three friends because they did not know why Job was suffering yet they condemned Job (cf. 32:3). However, Elihu was not a fan of Job’s rhetoric either and thought that Job was justifying himself before God (cf. 32:2).  Elihu does have a mild case of IRJ and insists as well that Job has sinned (e.g., 34:7-8, 11, 25-27). Elihu was right in much of what he said in his speeches, but the problem was that Elihu had some old world theological IRJ motifs. Many have been obsessed with Elihu and tried to portray Elihu as either a protagonist or an antagonist to Job. To this effect, some have argued that Elihu has no positive or negative contribution (e.g., Commentator Alden). The main view throughout church history was that Elihu was the spokesman for God. Some have suggested that Elihu was merely a further human counselor (e.g., Andersen). Others have argued that Elihu laid the foundation for the LORD’s words, a way to prepare Job for God to speak to him (e.g., Commentators Hartly; Atkinson). But instead of Elihu blasting Job as an attempt to heal the suffering man, Job needed to hear from God. Job wanted to hear from the LORD personally and would not be satisfied until he received some clarity to why and what occasioned his unsparing suffering. In fact, Job wanted to talk to God and not his three friends or Elihu. Job is an example of a man who is interested in what God says, not what man says.

God’s Response to Job

God never answered Job’s question why this happened to Job. Instead, God responded with the manifestation of Himself through the Theophany out of the whirlwind (cf. 38:1). And that was all that Job really needed – that is, to hear from God. That is all we need when we suffer – that is, to hear from God. Today we do not receive Theophanies like Job did and the ancients. But we have God’s Word and can read about Job and listen to what God has revealed for us from the book of Job to help us navigate through our suffering and respond correctly. God began His speech to answer Job’s questions by asking Job some questions – that is:

Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding (Job 38:2-4)

No one can honestly answer that question, because no one knows where we were when God laid the foundation of the earth except that we had yet to come into physical existence. The LORD is the Creator, and we are His creatures. God does what He pleases with His created order but always for His glory and for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (cf. Rom 8:28). Throughout His speech the LORD introduced many features to His Sovereign Providential care over the celestial bodies, geo-physical properties of the earth, flora and fauna etc. that overwhelmed Job to the point to respond this way: “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I say in response to You? I put my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not reply; Or twice, and I will add nothing more” (40:4-5). These features that the LORD presents to Job that the LORD performs could only be said of the LORD. No man nor angelic being has the wisdom or the ability to do the things that the LORD presents concerning Himself. Therefore, the wisdom that Job and the reader is encouraged in is to wait on the LORD in times of difficulty and suffering, persevere and have patient endurance, always fear the LORD, and always depart from evil (cf. 28:28).

There are two mysterious creatures mentioned in the LORD’s speech that the LORD created, named Behemoth (cf. 40:15-24) and Leviathan (cf. 41:1-34). There are many opinions to which animals in the animal kingdom God referred to concerning them. Some have suggested that Behemoth could be a reference to the hippopotamus or the elephant. However, the LORD said that Behemoth had a tail like a cedar. The hippopotamus does not have that impressive of a tail, neither does the elephant. What is described concerning Behemoth must be some sort of land sauropod dinosaur or maybe even a plesiosaurus. Moreover, the same mistake has been made when Leviathan is said to represent the crocodile. What is described in chapter 41 concerning the survey of all of Leviathan’s features is much more descriptive of some sort of marine-like reptile that has fire breathing capabilities (cf. 41:18-21). Many a-millennialists allegorize Leviathan and argue that the LORD is merely exaggerating and presenting a mystical creature that symbolizes evil, to which some have gone as far as arguing that this is support that God created evil. However, there is nothing in the text from the Author’s intended meaning to suggest that Leviathan is an allegorical beast symbolizing chaos. Instead, Leviathan was an ancient marine-like reptile that had fire breathing capabilities and in size dwarfing any know crocodilian species.

Other Theological Themes in the Book of Job

There are some other important theological themes in the book of Job that need to be identified by the reader and cannot be disregarded. In trying to make sense of his suffering, Job alluded to the doctrine of original sin when he said, “Have I covered my transgressions like Adam, By hiding my iniquity in my bosom, Because I feared the great multitude, And the contempt of families terrified me, And kept silent and did not go out of doors?” (31:33). Moreover, Job had a concrete grasp of final eternal punishment for the unrepentant when he said, “For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity; They will be led forth at the day of fury” (21:30). The need for justification by faith and not human merit is presented by Job’s questions and statements (9:2, 15). The tripartite constitution of man is taught in the book of Job (cf. 7:11; 10:12; 21:25; 32:8; see 1 Thess 5:23) The clear examples of the tripartite constitution of man in the book of Job are not poetical exaggerations of dichotomy. It would be wise for proponents of Jay Adams’ a-millennialistic “nouthetic counseling” (which is neither nouthetic nor biblical) to abandon their humanistic dichotomist view of the human constitution (which finds its origin in the Greek pagan religion creation account called Orphism, as well as the pagan Greek allegorical philosophy of Plato’s Cave). Unless the Adams’ family counseling tradition abandons dichotomy they will never be able to truly counsel anyone biblically. Finally, Job clearly understood the Protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15. He trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to atone for Job’s original sin and actual sins and to be Job’s advocate and representative through redemption and resurrection (cf. 16:19; 19:23-29).


Job’s final response to the LORD after the LORD’s speech is one of humility. For example, like book ends, just as Job responded to God correctly in the beginning of the book and did not sin with his lips after the most intense testing and temptation, likewise Job responded correctly to God at the end of the book in his final response:

Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (42:1-6)

When Job said, “I repent in dust and ashes” (42:6) Job did not mean repentance from a previous hidden sin, nor did he mean from any sin he committed in his suffering. The word used here translated “repent” in the NASB is the Hebrew word nacham and has the sense to mean to console oneself in one’s sorrow. It is the same word used for God in Genesis 6:6 “and it repented the LORD” (KJV) when the LORD was sorry He had made man. The word can have the sense to comfort oneself in the midst of disaster. Job did not sin in his suffering, but instead the context of his ‘repenting in dust and ashes’ was in the context of receiving God’s challenge and consolation. Case in point, God’s anger was not kindled against Job for anything Job had said about the LORD in Job’s speeches. Instead, God claimed that Job said what was right of Him (cf. 42:8). On the other hand, God’s wrath was kindled at Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar because they did not say what was right about God even though they tried to be comforters and spokesmen on behalf of God (cf. 42:7-8). The LORD instructed Eliphaz to lead the other two friends and make a burnt offering to the LORD and instructed Eliphaz to ask Job to pray on his behalf (cf. 42:7-8). It is most likely that God went to Eliphaz to organize this because Eliphaz thought he was wiser than all due to his age.

All the things that the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism wrongly chase after Job lost – that is, health, wealth and prosperity. In fact, the majority of people chase after health, wealth and prosperity for their happiness. Pentecostals wrongly teach that if you have faith like Job you will be rich, or if you have faith like Abraham you will be rich. They argue that God will reward you with health, wealth and prosperity if you merely have enough faith. However, God did not restore Job’s fortune until after Job prayed for his friends. Job had no idea that God would restore Job’s fortunes. He selflessly prayed for his friends first. Then God restored Job’s fortunes and gave Job more than Job had before his trial of suffering. This means that Job was not chasing after health, wealth and prosperity after God spoke to him. On the other hand, Job was trusting in God alone and God spoke to Job – that was all Job needed in his suffering – that is, to hear from God and to be comforted by God’s presence. Likewise, King Solomon prayed to God for wisdom to lead God’s people. King Solomon did not pray for health, wealth and prosperity. Because Solomon prayed for wisdom and not health, wealth and prosperity – God gave him all those things because Solomon did not ask for them (cf. 2 Chr 1:11-12). The point is this, the reader needs to seek after God and glory in the LORD, not health, wealth and prosperity. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians that the Christian will be relieved from all adversity in eternity – that is, the afterlife, not in this life.

The book of Job elevates the problem of suffering and pain and answers the problem of evil. Everyone has questions to why and how God is involved in some way with human suffering. Many want God to justify His actions when they suffer, but He eternally responds to all who question Him – “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? (40:8).

Job is a type of the ultimate righteous sufferer. This is what the book is about, and the meaning Job has for the Christian. The only One who truly suffered injustice – the only One who was treated as He did not deserve in the ultimate sense was the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the true innocent sufferer, the only One completely without sin and it was God who sent Jesus to the cross:

This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:23-24)

One can see the doctrine of Concurrence unmistakably in the passion and murder of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the book of Job calls to the Christian to look to the suffering Messiah. The reader must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. God entered the world of human suffering in order to redeem everyone who would ever trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved from the wrath of God. Unless you have faith in Him and His perfect life, vicarious satisfactory penal-substitutionary cross work and resurrection from the dead to be saved from the wrath of God – to be joined in substitution and imputation with Him – then you will not join in His exaltation.

Those who are Christians evidence their profession is true when they take up their own cross and follow Christ and are willing to suffer for Him. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, the apostle Paul likens the suffering of Christians to Christ and as a result the comfort of Christ. A true Christian church is a fellowship of suffering and comfort. The members of a true Christian church fellowship together to comfort each other with the comfort they have received from God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The reason we suffer is for God’s glory. God is glorified through the suffering of His faithful servants like Job. That is the continuity between Job and the Christian – to the glory of God. This is why Job is relevant to the Christian. The experience of suffering is universal to the Christian in this life. But if we suffer for righteousness, we are promised the kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matt 5:10). We are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone not our works, because just like Job the Christian can confidently proclaim, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God” (19:25-26). Amen.

E. V. Powers

Romans: Chapter 2

Please consider Romans chapter 2 in block sentences organized by Chris Williams. Click the link here below.

Romans: Chapter 1

Please click the link below to access chapter 1 from the book of Romans that Chris Williams put in block sentence form from the NASB.

Judges Brief Commentary

Judges recorded the recurring cycle of Israel’s sin and Yahweh’s subsequent response. In Judges, Israel did what was right in its own eyes (17:6; 21:25), failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and repeatedly fell into gross pagan idolatry. Moreover, each time Israel sinned it provoked God to raise up oppression against Israel. The oppression against Israel caused Israel to cry out to Yahweh. Then, Yahweh raised up judges to deliver Israel from their enemies. However, Israel returned to sin repeatedly after a judge would die, thus the cycle continued.

Israel’s sin cycle began in Judges when the sons of Israel inquired of Yahweh who would be first to go up and drive out the inhabitants from the land (1:1). Yahweh replied to Israel the following: “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand” (1:2). However, Judah asks Simeon his brother to help him (1:3-19). Yahweh only said Judah shall go up. At the end of the book the people inquire of Yahweh again but this time it is to go to battle against one of their own tribes. Again, Yahweh responds by designating Judah to go up to battle against Benjamin. Commentator Hamilton explained the connection between the beginning and ending of Judges when he writes,

A book that starts with a reference to an offensive war by a united nation against a common enemy ends with a reference to that same nation at war with itself. Benjaminites, part of the family of God, have become Canaanites.[1]   

In other words, the leaven (influence) of the Canaanites in the land caused the Israelites to become the enemy, a direct consequence of Israel not driving them out. Moreover, at the start of Judges the reader is informed of Benjamin’s failure to drive out the inhabitants when it reads, “But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day” (1:21). Lastly, Judges 1:22-36 listed the tribes of Israel’s deficiency to drive out the inhabitants of the land. Instead of driving out the Canaanites, Israel made covenants with them and forced them to do their labor.

Because Israel was not obedient to Yahweh He rebuked them and pronounced His judgment upon them: 

and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’ (2:2-3)

After Joshua and the faithful generation of Israel died, the next generation completely forgot Yahweh and His works. Israel then plummeted into gross pagan idolatry (2:6-11). Judges 2:11-23 summarized the entire book of Judges and best described Israel’s cycle of sin and Yahweh’s response. First, Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, forsaking Yahweh to follow the gods of the Canaanites (2:11-12). Second, Israel provoked Yahweh to anger and He delivered them into oppression (2:14-15). Next, Israel cried out and the LORD delivered Israel from their enemies by raising up judges (2:16-18). But when the judge died Israel returned to their gross pagan idolatry (2:19-23). Also, Yahweh’s response included leaving the inhabitants of the land to test Israel to see if they would obey Him or not (2:20-3:6). But Israel repeatedly failed the test and even intermarried with the inhabitants of the land.   

Likewise, the historical narrative concerning the first judge Othniel illustrated the cycle of Israel’s sin and Yahweh’s response. First, the text reads of Israel’s sin: “The Sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth” (3:7). Second, the text reads of Israel’s oppression: “Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8). Third, the texts reads of Israel’s repentant cry to Yahweh: “When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD” (3:9a). Fourth, the text reads of Israel’s deliverer (savior-judge) whom Yahweh raised up: “the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them” (3:9). However, as soon as Othniel (the first judge) died Israel returned and “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (3:12). Simply put, Israel’s sin cycle was five stages, namely, sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and return to sin. Furthermore, Yahweh was sovereign over the oppression (He raised up the oppression against Israel to test and discipline them), as well as raising up the deliverer to save them when they returned to Yahweh with repentance. For the next eighteen chapters of Judges this cycle repeats and results in a deeper moral decline for Israel until the nation is handed over to itself with complete moralistic relativism[2] and wickedness.

The end of Judges records pagan idolatry, theft, and a civil war between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin because of the rape and murder of a Levites’ concubine (17-21). The contents between the last five chapters begin and conclude with this identical statement, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25). The moral decline of Israel into moralistic relativism, namely everyone did what was right in his own eyes, is the heart of Israel’s sin. Yahweh made man in His image. However, post-fall man is set on personal autonomy, shaping gods (idols) in whatever image he feels like, in all out rebellion against God. It would make sense therein for Yahweh to respond to this rebellion in disciplining Israel. Lastly, Yahweh’s response in Judges is that of far-reaching patience. Yahweh could have utterly destroyed Israel many times or completely abandoned Israel, but He lovingly disciplined them by raising up oppression to test and humble them.     

In conclusion, Israel’s recurring cycle of sin and Yahweh’s subsequent response included Israel’s sin, Israel’s oppression (raised by Yahweh), Israel’s repentance, Israel’s deliverance (raised up by Yahweh), back to Israel’s sin. What is more, each judge mentioned in Judges was a sinner, died and failed to completely deliver Israel from their sins and oppression. The seed of the woman had not yet come to crush the serpent’s head which Yahweh had promised in Genesis 3:15. Therefore each judge was a type of the ultimate Savior who was to come, a savior without sin who completely delivered everyone who would ever believe in Him from their sins. The one and only savior is the Lord Jesus Christ.     

[1] Victor P. Hamilton. Handbook on the Historical Books. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 101.

[2] According to the American Heritage Dictionary relativism is “a theory that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.” The American Heritage College Dictionary: Third Edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), 1152. According to The New Dictionary of Theology, religious relativists view different religious beliefs and practices as legitimate. New Dictionary of Theology. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 575.

Joshua – Brief Commentary

The book of Joshua is about conquering and dividing the land of Canaan. To this effect, Joshua records the conquest of the land of Canaan by Israel. After the conquest, the land of Canaan was distributed as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes, thus fulfilling Yahweh’s covenant promise to Abraham. Joshua relates to the Abrahamic Covenant and the land because Yahweh made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15:18-21 to give Abram’s offspring the land of Canaan. In Joshua, God begins to fulfill the covenant he made with Abram as Joshua leads the sons of Israel into the military conquest of Canaan. However, Israel failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.   

Chronologically, God revealed His plan to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan by leading the sons of Israel to occupy the land in Gen. 12:1-5. In Gen 12:7 God told Abram that He will give Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan. In Gen. 15:14-16, God revealed to Abram His plan for the next four hundred years (and even extending into the Millennial Kingdom when the Seed of the woman, that is – Jesus Christ will establish His 1,000 year reign on earth in the land promised in the Abrahamic Covenant), to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan by leading the sons of Israel out of Egyptian bondage to occupy the land, when God entered into a covenant with Abram because the text reads,

God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.

One of the features of the Abrahamic Covenant included God’s promise to deliver the land of Canaan to Abram’s descendants. This is the main way Joshua relates to the Abrahamic Covenant, namely, the conquest of the land of Canaan. With regards to Joshua relating to the Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 15:18-21 reads as follows,

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,“To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Consequently, Joshua begins after the death of Moses with Yahweh commissioning Joshua to enter into Canaan and conquer the land. Under those circumstances, Joshua 1:2-4, 6 reads the following (with Yahweh speaking to Joshua),

Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory… Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

The “Fathers” from verse 6 is a reference starting with Abraham, thus, the connection between the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen. 15:18-21 and the commission of Joshua to begin the military conquest is undoubtedly correlated. This correlation is threefold. First, the recipients of the covenant that are given the land are the same in both passages, namely, the sons of Israel. Second, the geographic region described in Gen. 15:18-21 is repeated in Jos. 1:2-4 as the same territory. Lastly, the inhabitants to be conquered and driven out of the land are identical in both passages.

After Joshua took command of the sons of Israel under Yahweh’s commission of him, Joshua commanded the sons of Israel to prepare and cross the Jordan for military conquest. The inhabitants to be conquered in the military conquest were those mentioned by name in the Abrahamic Covenant, namely, the Ammorites (Gen. 15:16), and the nine other tribes mentioned in Gen. 15:19-21. Joshua’s command revealed how their conquest will begin to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant of the land when He said, “three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it” (Jos. 1:11). What is more, Rahab the prostitute reiterated Yahweh’s intentions to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant by conquering the inhabitants and driving them out in Joshua when she said in Jos. 2:2, …“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.” Likewise, the events concerning Rahab and the two spies further prove the beginning of the Abrahamic Covenant’s fulfillment of the land in Joshua when the two men confessed with the following confidence …“Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us” (Jos. 2:24).   

After the second generation of the sons of Israel that came out of Egypt was circumcised, Jos. 5:6 explains that the first generation would not see “…the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.” The reference to “their fathers” begins with Abraham, further proving it is the second generation out of Egypt of the sons of Israel who are Abraham’s descendants, the ones mentioned in Gen. 15 that will drive out the Canaanites.[1]     

In conclusion, the book of Joshua relates to the Abrahamic Covenant and the land as a partial fulfillment of possession. Chapters 1 – 12 of Joshua record Israel conquering the land. Chapters 13 through 24 record Israel dividing the land. Joshua began to advance in age before all the inhabitants of the land are driven out and the military conquest begins to regress (13:1-7). Joshua died at the close of this book at the age of 110 in 1390 BC. Joshua conquered the land but did not completely drive out all the inhabitance (cf. Judges 2:21-3:8). The sons of Israel only partially drove out the Canaanites. For example, in Joshua 13:1-6 God told Joshua that he is to begin dividing out the land distributed as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. However, concerning the rest of the Canaanites, Yahweh will have to drive them out. Repeatedly, Joshua referenced tribes that failed to ultimately drive out the Canaanites in their allotted territories. For example, according to the territory allotted to Judah they failed to drive out the Jebusites (15:63). Moreover, according to the territory allotted to Ephraim they failed to drive out Gezer (16:10). Lastly, there is specific reference to Manasseh failing to drive out Canaanites (perhaps Perizzites) living in the territory allotted to them (17:12-13). The name Joshua in Hebrew literally means “Yahweh is salvation.” The ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and the land will be when the seed of the woman who is Jesus Christ returns and establishes his 1,000 year reign of the land and into eternity.

[1] Israel had victory over Jericho, Ai and the five kings. However, Israel failed to drive out the inhabitants. Therefore Joshua is only the beginning of the fulfillment of the Palestinian covenant. The ultimate fulfillment is eschatological when Christ (the seed of the woman) returns and begins the millennial reign.

Deuteronomy – Brief Commentary

Deuteronomy reveals Yahweh and that which Yahweh required of Israel. There are specific attributes of Yahweh revealed in Deuteronomy, namely, Yahweh is unique and jealous, faithful, loving, gracious, and judging.[1] The overall main requirements that Yahweh required Israel are found in the interrogative statement made by Moses in Deut. 10:12-13 which reads,

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

What is more, on account of Yahweh’s sovereign decree and command to Israel, Israel is required to “go in” and “possess the land” of Canaan (cf. 1:8). Finally, Deuteronomy reveals the mystery of divine decree and human responsibility in the demesne of providence (cf. 29:29).      

Deuteronomy revealed Yahweh as unique and jealous. For example, revealing the uniqueness of Yahweh the text reads, “To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. . . . Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (4:35, 39). Commentator Thompson wrote that Yahweh’s uniqueness made known His sovereignty and demanded Israel to have a monotheistic orthopraxy, when he wrote,

The phrases Yahweh is God and there is no other besides him give expression to the simple fact that in Israel Yahweh alone was to be Sovereign (cf. verse 39). There was no other power in the universe which could determine the destinies of men on earth. If such a view is not fully-developed monotheism, it is certainly a practical monotheism. . . . The miraculous mercies of the past and the prospect of future blessing could be urged as a ground for serious reckoning with the claims of Yahweh’s ultimate sovereignty over the whole earth.[2]

Yahweh is revealed also to be jealous in Deuteronomy. The jealousy of Yahweh is righteous and directly related to His uniqueness because there were devastating consequences for Israel if they did not worship and serve Yahweh alone:

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. (5:8-9)   

Another attribute that Deuteronomy revealed about Yahweh is His faithfulness. Yahweh told Israel in 5:10 that He will show lovingkindness to thousands to those who love Him and keep His commandments. Yahweh promised that He keeps all His promises in Deut. 7:9 which reads, “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (7:9).

Another attribute of Yahweh revealed in Deuteronomy is Yahweh’s love. Yahweh’s love for Israel is unconditional because His love is solely based on who He is – not who Israel is. For example, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 revealed Yahweh’s unconditional love which reads, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you…” (7:7-8a, b).

Next, Deuteronomy revealed Yahweh to be gracious. Moses reminded Israel in chapter eight of Yahweh’s gracious acts toward them, from testing and humbling Israel to teach them to live by God’s words (8:1-3), disciplining them (8:4-6), bringing them into a good land to bless them (8:7-10), leading them through a terribly dangerous desert teaming with some of the most deadly arachnids[3] and serpents on planet earth (8:15), providing water to quench thirst (8:15-16), and to humble Israel and test them for their ultimate good in the end (8:16).  In other words, everything Yahweh had done to Israel was for their good even though it did not seem pleasant at the time. As a final point, Deut. 7:12-16 revealed Yahweh’s intentions to bestow upon Israel an overflow of blessing if they listen to Yahweh’s judgments.   

Deuteronomy revealed the righteous nature of Yahweh’s judging. For example, Yahweh’s judging includes higher than the highest judgment, no partiality, justice for orphans and widows, food and clothing for the aliens, and promise keeping (10:17-22).

Moses repeated Yahweh’s parameters for judgment in 1:16-18 to remind the Israelite the following (this served as a transition into what Yahweh required of Israel):

Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.[4]

Yahweh required Israel to possess the land of Canaan for themselves and dispossess the land of Canaan from its inhabitants. For example, Yahweh through Moses commanded Israel to possess the land when he ordered: “See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them” (1:8). Correspondingly, Yahweh through Moses commanded Israel to dispossess the land when he ordered: “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven” (Deut. 9:1; 11:23; 12:2, 29; 18:14; 19:1).

Also, Yahweh required Israel to listen to His words (18:18-19). Yahweh required Israel to keep their vows (23:21). Yahweh required Israel to love Him wholeheartedly and hold fast to Him (11:22). Yahweh required Israel to write His words on their hearts (11:18). Also, after Israel had possessed and dispossessed the land they were to institute the theocracy with all God’s statutes and ordinances (12:1-26:19).

Finally, Deuteronomy revealed the mystery of divine decree and human responsibility in the demesne of providence (Deut. 29:29). The New Dictionary of Theology defines Providence as follows:

Providence is the beneficent outworking of God’s sovereignty whereby all events are directed and disposed to bring about those purposes of glory and good for which the universe was made. These events include the actions of free agents, which while remaining free, personal and responsible are also the intended actions of those agents.[5]

To this effect, it is inescapable to see the compatibilism[6] of God’s sovereign decree and human decision in bringing about this providence of God, specifically in Deuteronomy 28:1-31:29. If one objectively reads the rest of the OT and is a student of history one will notice that all the curses mentioned in the text literally came upon Israel as well as all the blessings, virtually as if it were fixed, because it was fixed. Yet Yahweh holds Israel responsible and demands repentance, faith, and obedience to come from them. This is not a contradiction but demands eyes to see which only Yahweh can bestow.    

What Yahweh had done was beyond Israel’s comprehension because they did not have a heart to know it. For example, the text reads, “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deut. 29:4). However, God promises restoration in chapter 30 in a future time when He will change their hearts and they will repent and turn to Yahweh. Then Israel will have the ability to be obedient: “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (30:6).[7]

[1] All five attributes of Yahweh from Dr. Essex’s course outline. Keith Essex. Old Testament Studies I BI 501. (Unpublished course notes: The Master’s Seminary, 2013), 25-6.

[2] J. A. Thompson. Deuteronomy; TOTC. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1974), 109.

[3] According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, the term Arachnid is any of various arthropods of the class Arachnida, characterized by four pairs of segmented legs and a body divided into two regions (eight legs total). Derived from the Greek word ἀράχνη (aráchnē), meaning “spider” but includes scorpions and other creatures. The American Heritage College Dictionary: Third Edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), 69.

[4] Also, see Deut. 16:18-20, 17:6-13 and 19:15-21 for Yahweh’s parameters for judging.

[5] New Dictionary of Theology. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 541.

[6] According to Ronald H. Nash, compatibilism is “the theory that in ways that may be impossible to comprehend, determinism and human free will are compatible in the sense that both can exist in the case of human action. Major Christian thinkers like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards did not repudiate human freedom, as is sometimes thought. They defined the notion of human freedom so that it is compatible with determinism.” Ronald H. Nash. Life’s Ultimate Questions. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 327.

[7] At the same time, concerning human responsibility, Yahweh requires repentance and obedience (Deut. 30:10-14).

%d bloggers like this: