The Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is a short story located in the Hebrew scriptures. The author of the book is anonymous and some have proposed that it was written by a gifted woman who had mastery of literary art and access to the oral or written tradition of David’s family.[1]  The date of the writing has been debated with no overwhelming decisive evidence, but suffice it to say, most scholars agree that based on references to David in the book (4:17, 22) the earliest date would be ca. 1000 B.C. The latest date would be sometime prior to 164 B.C. based on its acceptance into the canon of the Hebrew scriptures.[2]

The book of Ruth focuses on three main characters: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. This warm and endearing story that has down-to-earth qualities in which readers can relate. In fact, some have classified its genre as an idyll due to the lack of villainous characters and its portrayal of simple, common people living a rustic life.[3]  The story engages several elements of the human life (i.e. tragedy, famine, grief, loneliness, despair, exile, loyalty, love, redemption).

The story is set in the day when the judges ruled (1:1) which is during the time after the death of Joshua and before the rise of Saul as king of Israel.  This time was defined by disorganization and many failures by the Israelites.  They ceased to remove the Canaanites from the land which resulted in continual interaction with Baal worshippers and their fertility rites. The Israelites were constantly tempted to forsake their God and worship Baal.[4] Thus, apostasy and covenant ignorance ran rampant leading to all types of sin, lawlessness, darkness and oppression among the people.[5] In the book of Judges there are two refrains that describe the period 1) “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2:11; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). 2) “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he saw fit” (17:6; 21:25).  This was the historical context in which the author of Ruth tells the story about a people who were loyal and faithful.

While God is referred to only a few times in the book, his presence and involvement is witnessed throughout the story as he moves and works in the ordinary and everyday events of his faithful people. God shows covenant loyalty and provides for the characters in the book of Ruth.  Through these individuals, David is eventually born and established as king, and this lineage ultimately brings forth Israel’s promised messiah.

 Outline of the Book of Ruth

The book begins by introducing a Bethlehem married couple (Elimelech and Naomi) and their two sons (Mahlon and Kilion) and due to the famine in Bethlehem the family moves to Moab (1:1-2). While in Moab, tragedy strikes the family with the deaths of Naomi’s husband and two sons (1:3-5). As a result, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and her loyal and committed daughter in-law, named Ruth, returns with her (1:6-21). At the beginning of chapter two, there is a brief introduction of a man named Boaz followed by a narration about Ruth gleaning for food in Boaz’s fields (2:1-7). When Boaz notices Ruth in his fields and hears about her character, he shows favor, blesses and protects her (2:8-17). Ruth returns home to Naomi with grain and gives a report about Boaz and her work (2:18-23). Chapter three begins with Naomi and Ruth discussing a plan to get Ruth married to Boaz (3:1-5). Thus, Ruth approaches Boaz at the threshing floor signaling her availability of marriage (3:6-9). Boaz responds to Ruth (3:10-15), and then Ruth returns to Naomi, and they debrief (3:16-18). Next, Boaz goes to the town gate presenting the kinsman-redeemer situation (4:1-8), which results in Boaz purchasing the property and claiming Ruth in order for her to become his wife (4:9-10). The elders and the people witness the purchase and bless Boaz and Ruth (4:11-12). Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son, named Obed (4:13), and Naomi is redeemed and blessed (4:14-17). The book concludes with a genealogy of David, highlighting Boaz and Obed in the lineage (4:18-22).

[1] Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, NICOT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989) EPUB edition, Introduction, “Authorship and Date.” [2]Hubbard, Ruth, Introduction, “Authorship and Date.” [3] Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 184. [4] J.P. Payne, “Judges, Book of” in NBD³, eds. D. G. W. Wood, I. Howard Marshall, J. D. Douglas, and N. Hillyer. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 627. [5] Hill and Walton, A Survey, 184.

Right Reason

The classical Protestant understanding of “right reason” goes beyond the typical modern meaning of reason and postulates that “it is a kind of rational and philosophic conscience which distinguishes man from the beasts and which links man with man and with God.”[1] “Right reason” involves the rational and moral faculties as an “act of the whole soul.”[2]  In fact, the concept infers that the total reality of the universe is rationally organized while containing truth that is both intellectual and moral.[3] Thus, according to Paul Kjoss Helseth, “right reason” in its classical and Christian expression “is a kind of theological aesthetic that affirms a rationally ordered, “theocratic universe”[4] while insisting that because truth is not only true but good, in order for human beings to know truth in a more or less true or right sense “they must themselves become good.”[5] [6]

Advocates of “right reason” submit that reason is a power that God has implanted in all humans guiding them to truth and moral conduct.[7] From this position, “right reason” enables humans to know objective truth. However, humans must undergo a transformation of the rational and moral faculties which can only occur through God’s regenerating work. Only those who have been regenerated know “rightly” and “are in a superior epistemic position.”[8] Through regeneration and by the work of the Holy Spirit, Christians are able to use their God given epistemic faculties to know and understand God’s objective truth, but this knowing does not occur without personal bias, subjective factors and the lingering effects of sin. Therefore, object truth cannot be known with perfect certainty. This is the crux of the issue—that object truth can be known, but it cannot be known objectively.

[1] Douglas Bush, Paradise Lost in Our Time (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1945), 37 quoted by Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 3. [2] S.L. Bethell, The Cultural Revolution of the Seventeenth Century (London: Dennis Dobson, 1951), 63 cited by Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 3. [3] Bethell, The Cultural, 57 quoted by Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 3. [4] Herschel Baker, The Wars of Truth: Studies in the Decay of Christian Humanism in the Earlier Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952), 5 quoted by Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 4. [5] Hoopes, Right Reason in the English Renaissance, 6 quoted by Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 4. [6] Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 4. [7] Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 5. [8] Helseth, “Christ-Centered,” 9.

God’s Truth and the Christian Theologian

The task of Christian theologians (basically all Christians are theologians) is to seek God’s truth in the sea of competing truth claims. As Christian theologians pursue truth, they must fix their “eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2 NIV). Christians have the mind of Christ, and so they should look to Jesus to guide their minds and align their thoughts with his thoughts. Christ is the one who will lead his people to the knowledge of truth. Without Christ, the pursuit of truth is ineffectual. All truth is in Christ and belongs to Christ. Christ is the truth (John 14:4). Therefore, Christians should abide in Christ because apart from him they can do nothing (John 15:5).

Furthermore, while pursuing truth, Christian theologians should be tethered to God’s story within the Holy Scriptures. Christians should view the world in the context of God’s story of salvation and redemption of humanity. His story is the ultimate story that presents universal truth. Thus, according to B.B. Warfield, “there is no source of knowledge which will rank with [the Christian] in authority above the written Word of God, or to which he can appeal with superior confidence.”[1] When Christians are introduced to extra biblical truth claims, they should filter them through the lens of the Scriptures—the final authority of truth. Warfield argued that to do otherwise would surrender authority to the opinions of modern scholarship and lead to the modification of universal truth and to heresy.[2]

If “all truth is God’s truth”, then extra biblical truth will align with the truth as presented in the Scriptures, and this should give confidence to theologians who hold to sola scriptura because the Scriptures remain as the authoritative rule for faith, practice and truth. Theologians can hold to sola scriptura while zealously investigating and pursuing truth in every corner of the universe.[3] Paul Kjoss Helseth writes, “They [believing academics] have the truth, they have the moral ability to discern the truth in all things, and they are confident that everything they encounter will be assimilated to the truth by sifting the good and rejecting the bad.”[4]

Works Cited

[1] B.B. Warfield, “Heresy and Concession,” in Benjamin B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, 2 vols., ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970, 1973), 2:674 quoted in Paul Kjoss Helseth, “Warfield on the Life of the Mind and the Apologetic Nature of Christian Scholarship” in B.B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought, ed. Gary L.W. Johnson (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 119. [2] Warfield, “Heresy,” 2:677,675 cited in Helseth, “Warfield,” 119. [3] Warfield, “Heresy,” 2:674 cited in Helseth, “Warfield,” 119. [4] Helseth, “Warfield,” 119.

Machen on Christianity and Culture

In his essay entitled, Christianity and Culture, Gresham Machen addresses the problematic, relational dissociation between Christianity and culture. He explains that the problem is due conflicting worldviews and to educational systems that have developed chasms between Christianity and culture. Religion has been set apart as a study focused on the emotions and the will, and secular studies have taken over the intellectual and scientific pursuits. Therefore, faith and science have become incompatible; piety and knowledge have been severed. Machen offers three possible Christian solutions to this problem.[1]

First, Christianity may submit or accommodate to culture. Machen explains that this option eliminates the supernatural and any correlating revelatory and authoritative elements. Christianity would surrender all of its gospel particulars and become merely a human ethic that is part of the culture. Christianity would be suffocated by the formidable force of culture and then anything that claims the traditional name would be counterfeit.[2]

Second, Christianity may be against culture or seek to destroy culture. This option demonstrates cultural indifferences by abandoning all intellectual activity in relation to culture and by never interacting in cultural pursuits such as art and science.[3] Christianity would not shrink from the faith tenets, but would take a lofty position “into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism.”[4] Culture would be viewed as a necessary evil that may at times be unavoidable, but in response, Christianity would exercise an unenthusiastic posture in any cultural engagement.[5]

Third, Christianity may consecrate or transform culture. Machen argues for this view by explaining that Christianity should not adapt the message to meet the cultural ideals nor should Christianity attempt to destroy or show indifference to the cultural arts and sciences, but rather Christianity should “cultivate them with all enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of God.”[6] Thus, the exhortation is to cling to the tenants of Christianity while applying the faith to the modern cultural and social conditions. Christianity must pervade all human thought and endeavor. The gospel must relate to culture so that its power will transform the hearts and minds of humanity.[7]

The problem of the relationship between Christianity and culture is tumultuous, but there is a viable solution for Christians. They must seek to impact the culture with boldness and dependence on God. Machen writes,

…if she [the Church] would descend into the secret place of meditation, if by the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer not merely to the questions of the hour but first of all to the eternal problems of the spiritual world, then perhaps by God’s grace, through His good spirit, in His good time, she might issue forth once more with power, and an age of doubt might be followed by the dawn of an era of faith.[8]

[1] Gresham Machen. “Christianity and Culture.” The Princeton Theological Review Vol. 11 No. 1 (1913), 1-3. [2] Machen, “Christianity,” 3-4. [3] Machen, “Christianity,” 4-5. [4] Machen, “Christianity,” 5. [5] Machen, “Christianity,” 4. [6] Machen, “Christianity,” 5. [7] Machen, “Christianity,” 6. [8] Machen, “Christianity,” 15.


Commentary on Revelation 12

Since this post will focus on Revelation 12, a few brief words are needed in order to view chapter twelve within the flow and context of the book. Before chapter twelve, the prior context is focused on the opening of the seven seals by the Lamb. These seven seals describe events that signify God’s wrath, God’s avenging and God’s salvation.  Following the seven seals, John observes the disasters that are brought about by each blowing of the trumpets by the angels. The seventh trumpet invokes hymns and praises to God for his victory and righteous judgments. It is here that chapter twelve begins with John’s visions concerning a series of significant signs, which focus on the conflict with evil before returning to the seven bowls of wrathful plagues in the chapters that follow.

Commentary on Revelation 12

1-6   John’s vision focuses on a wondrous sign in the sky in which a woman is depicted as royalty (crown of twelve stars) with dominion (moon under her feet) clothed with radiance and splendor (Sun).  While the woman gives birth to the messiah, she should not be viewed as Mary the mother of Jesus; but rather, this pregnant woman should be interpreted as the ideal and faithful Israel (and then the church postpartum v.17) with pre-messianic labor pain. The prophets portrayed righteous israel as the mother of the future restored remnant of Israel (i.e. Isa 54:1; 66:7-10; Mic 5:3) (Keener 793). Furthermore, this woman is contrasted with the scarlet prostitute (Babylon) in chapter 17 (Mounce 231-232).

The next sign that appears in the sky is an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. Dragon imagery was common in ancient world and several mesopotamian, canaanite, egyptian, and greek mythology stories included serpents and sea monsters (Keener 793).  Thus, this would have been a common imagine that ancient readers would have recognized, but this vision clearly depicts and names the dragon as the devil or satan (v.9).  The color red symbolizes his murderous character while the seven heads and seven horns depicts the universality of his enormous power. The seven crowns are bogus authoritative crowns in which Satan is attempting to claim royal power over the universe (Mounce 233). The dragon displays his power by hurling down stars, and he stands before the woman awaiting the birth of her child so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. Robert Mounce comments on the dragon before the woman by writing,

This explains the violent antagonism with which the child of the messianic community was met during the years of his life on earth. It began with the determination of King Herod to murder the Christ-child (Matt 2), continued throughout the dangers and temptations of his earthly, and culminated in the crucifixion. As Nebuchadnezzar devoured Israel (“he has swallowed us and filled his stomach with our delicacies,” Jer 51:34), so Satan has determined to devour the child.  He has taken his position and awaits his victim” (234)

The woman gives birth to a male child who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. The greek phrase ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ (rhabō sidēra) which may be translated as rod of iron appears also in 2:27 and 19:15, and in all these occurrences the phrase is syntactically connected to a form of the greek ποιμαίνω (poimainō) which has the meaning of “tend a flock” or “activity that protects, rules, governs, fosters” (Bauer 690).  In the Revelation passages the meaning is the activity as shepherd which has destructive results . Thus, the activity of the male child will be that of shepherding and the rod of iron may be referring to a shepherd’s rod that usually had an iron tip (Bauer 690). As a shepherd protected and defended the sheep from the wild prey, so the male child will strike those who attack and persecute his people (Mounce 234).  This image is certainly of Christ and the phrase, was snatched up to God and to his throne alludes to Christ’s ascension (cf. Acts 1:9-11; Phil 2:5-11). The woman flees to the wilderness for spiritual refuge with God for 1260 days. The days 1260 and “a time and times, and a half a time” in v. 14 are referring to a symbolic time period where evil would reign free, but the people of God would be protected (Mounce 215).  

7-12   According to Jude 9, Michael is classified as an archangel and so is the leader of angels. Daniel 12:1 states, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” This is archangel Michael who leads the the war against the dragon and his angels. The phrase that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray is a reference to Gen 3:1ff where the serpent appears in the garden of Eden. After losing the battle to Michael and his angels, this ancient serpent and his angels lost their access to heaven and were cast down to earth.  

The battle is followed by a loud voice in heaven declaring victory over the accuser. The voice declares the salvation, power, the kingdom of God and the authority of Christ. Not only was Satan defeated in the heavenly battle, but Christians have also overcome him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony. By Christ’s redeeming act of being crucified and by their witness in the face of pressure, Christians have certain salvation and security. However, the voice gives a caution about Satan further attacking with even greater fury on earth because he has been cast down, and he knows that the time is short.

13-17  After failing to devour the male child and being thrown down from heaven, the dragon attempts to attack the woman.  However, the woman was given two wings of a great eagle.  This is similar to the description of Israel’s escape from Egypt, Exodus 19:4 states, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Thus, the reference here may also suggest swift and powerful protection (Easley 269). But the dragon does not give up on his attack, but rather spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. There are a few passages in the Hebrew scriptures that use the flood image as metaphoric language for overwhelming evil and tribulation. “The floods of ungodliness” (Ps 18:4 NKJV) and “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa 43:2). Nevertheless, the woman has another ally in the earth because it opens its mouth and swallows the river. This image further describes the extensive means that God is willing to use in order to protect his people.  The protect of the woman further infuriates the dragon, and so he tries waging war against other christian believers (Easley 270).


In this passage John is teaching that there has been an age-long conflict between the people of God and Satan, and although Satan always attempts to make war against God’s people, God protects them by providing salvation. Satan is ultimately defeated, and Jesus Christ will forever shepherd with a rod of Iron. Therefore, those who are being persecuted or facing martyrdom should be encouraged and place their hope in Christ.

Works Cited

Bauer, Walter et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago, IL : University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Easley, Kendell. Revelation. Holman New Testament Commentary ed. Max Anders. Nashville,TN : Holman Reference, 1998.

Keener, Craig S. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.  

Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1977.


The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation is the last writing in the New Testament and was most likely written during the last years of Emperor Domitian’s reign ca. 95-96 (Carson et al. 474). This date has the support of the traditional view which is based on the internal evidence (i.e. historical conditions in Revelation) and the external witness (i.e. the early Christian writers Ireneus, Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria, Origen) (Carson et al. 474).

The book promises blessings for those who read it, hear it and take it to heart. Revelation 1:3 states, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” In view of this verse, Revelation is written in the genre of prophecy meaning that it uses the methods of forthtelling (announcements for the present readers concerning the present) and foretelling (messages presented as future predictions) (Klein et al. 371). Thus, the book has a specific historical context as well as an eschatological (end times) context.

Moreover, the first sentence of the book of Revelation uses the greek word ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis) which may be defined as “revelations of a particular kind, through visions, etc.” (Bauer et al. 91). Thus, the book of Revelation is apocalyptic in nature and uses symbolic and figurative language throughout. The book reveals Jesus Christ reigning as king in the future, heavenly, eternal kingdom of God (Kittel et al. 412). Pate et al. write, “The book of Revelation presents in colorful language and powerful imagery the final chapter in God’s story, where he reverses the curse of sin, restores his creation and lives among his people forever” (255).

The book of Revelation is written as an epistle to seven churches in Asia Minor (1:4) (i.e. the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea). Similar to other epistles in the New Testament, the book of Revelation identifies a particular people and addresses specific circumstances. Carson et al. summarize the genre of the book of Revelation by writing, “We may best view Revelation, then, as a prophecy cast in an apocalyptic mold and written down in a letter form” (479). The place of writing was at Patmos, a rocky and rugged island about six miles wide and ten miles long, some forty miles southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea [and] the island was used by Roman authorities as a place of exile” (Carson et al. 473). 

The traditional view of authorship is that the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation. This is due to the internal evidence where the writer is named “John” (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8) without any further details about himself which may affirm that he was a well known “John” in the community. The apostle John was the most well known and combined with the apostolic and prophetic focus of the writing, he seems to be the most likely author. Moreover, there is strong external evidence from writers during the middle to late second century attributing the book of Revelation to the apostle John. These writers include: Justin Martyr, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, Ireneus, the Muratorian Canon and possibly Papias. Also, third century writers Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen confirm the apostle John as the author, and they do this without any hint of controversy during that time (Carson et al. 468-469).

John is writing to Christians who are being persecuted and facing martyrdom because Emperor Domitian was demanding divinity status and allegiance from Christians, but the Christians would not assent because they believed that the risen Jesus is God and King. Thus, the author writes in order to encourage the Christians in their faith and to prepare them for spiritual battle with the anti-christian forces. The author emboldens them to continue to bear witness to the true God and king in the world─Jesus Christ (Beasley-Murray 1422). Pate et al. write, “Revelation constitutes a transforming vision, empowering those who embrace its heavenly perspective to live faithfully in this fallen world until the Lord returns” (255).

The outline and contents of the book of Revelation begins with a prologue (1:1-20) followed by series of messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor (2:1-3:22). John has a vision of heaven (4:1-5:14) and then he describes what he sees which involves the number seven throughout, the seven seals (6:1-8:5), the seven trumpets (8:6-11:19), the seven significant signs (12:1-14:20) and the seven bowls (15:1-16:21). Then John describes his visions of the triumph of God over evil (17:1-20:15) and concludes with a vision of the new heaven and the new earth (21:1-22:5) (Carson et al. 466-467).

In summary, the book of Revelation is about Jesus and his ultimate victory over evil. There has been an age-old battle going on between God and evil spiritual beings and this battle has entered into the earthly realm where God’s creation has been affected. Humanity has experienced the devastating and destructive consequences of evil and sin in the world, but the message of the book of Revelation is that through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, God wins the final battle. He will establish his eternal kingdom and restore humanity.

Works Cited

Bauer, Walter et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Beasley-Murray, George R. Revelation in New Bible Commentary. eds. Carson et al. InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Carson, D. A, et al.  An Introduction to the New Testament. Zondervan, 1992.

Kittel, Gerhard and Gerald Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Abridged In One Volume by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Eerdmans, 1985.

Klein, William, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Revised and Updated ed. Baker Academic, 2004.

Pate, C. Marvin et al. The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.


Apostle Peter on Suffering

Peter describes the recipients of his letters as “exiles scattered throughout the provinces” (1 Pet 1:1) and as “foreigners and exiles” (1 Pet 2:11). Thus, their situation was akin to a sense of homelessness, displacement and unbelonging, and so they were considered and treated as outcasts and riffraff. Since they lacked social status and security, they were ridiculed and persecuted by others. Their suffering was more due to social disenfranchisement than political persecution. It was the ongoing and daily pressure from the people in their everyday lives that was causing their suffering and wearing them down. They were vulnerable to this type of social oppression due to their radical lifestyle changes (i.e. withdrawing from pagan immorality (1 Pet 4:3-4) and “sinful lust” (1 Pet 2:11) while doing that which is “right” and “good” (1 Pet 2:12; 2:14-15) (Webb 1135).

In the midst of the people’s suffering, Peter proclaims that there is hope because the people have a new home (1 Pet 2:5) in the new community of God (1 Pet 2:9-10). They are part of new house and are compared to individual stones that make up the new house. The cornerstone (the primary foundation aligning stone) of this house is Jesus who like the people was rejected by others but chosen by God (1 Pet 2:4-10). Peter further explains that Christians will continue to be rejected just as Jesus was rejected, but although both are rejected, Jesus and his people extend shelter and stability to others who are dispossessed and need a home (1 Pet 2:4-10). In other words, even in the midst of their suffering, there are missionary and ministry opportunities for them to provide blessing and support to others. They must remember that Jesus is the ultimate example of a suffering servant and so must follow his servant-like response to suffering (1 Pet 2:18-25) (Webb 1135-1136).

Peter instructs them to entrust themselves to God and to not retaliate because a Christ-like “loving non retaliatory response to those inflicting the abuse (as well as the pursuit of what is good and commendable) should quiet, perplex, shame and possibly even bring about salvation of unbelievers” (Webb 1136). This is the type of response that Jesus taught in his sermon on the mount where he stated,

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:38-35).

Works Cited

Webb, W.J. “Suffering.” Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments, edited by Ralph Martin and Peter Davids. Inter-Varsity Press, 1997

James and Paul on Faith and Works

saint_james_the_justThe book of James is a compilation of wisdom sayings that relies heavily on Hebrew wisdom literature and Jesus’ teachings, especially Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Thus, there are several themes that are addressed in James, and one of these themes is the relationship of faith and works. James is writing to a Jewish-Christian audience concerning those who claim to be in a reconciled relationship with God but are neglecting works of charity and love. James is addressing some who are compartmentalizing their faith into a solely creedal expression. James states, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that, and shudder” (2:19 NIV). This is the “faith along” mentality that James is confronting─a faith apart from actions. James is attacking the bogus faith that has reared up─the faith that a person claims to have (2:14); the faith that is dead (2:17, 26); the faith that is useless (2:20). For James, true saving faith reveals itself in its good works (Davids 458).

James may have been responding to an early misunderstanding of Paul’s oral teaching. Paul’s phrase “justification by faith alone” may have been used and perverted by some as an excuse for a lack of christian charity and service to others (Moo 26). Thus, James seeks to defend Paul’s true teaching by confronting the “perverted Paulinism” (Moo 26). James states, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” (2:24). James’ focus is on the ultimate declaration of righteousness pronounced over people at the final judgement where their true faith relationship with God will be validated by their good works that true faith produces (Moo 141).

paul-iconPaul’s thoughts on faith and works are presented to different audiences than James. Paul writes to Jews and Gentiles, and so he is addressing different concerns relating to salvation. Thus, Paul needs to speak to the human condition of both Jews and Gentiles, and their relationship to the “works of the Law” and to good works in general. Paul quotes from the Psalmist in Romans 3:10-12, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” This is Paul’s perspective when teaching on justification by faith and not by works of the Law or by good works in general. Paul writes, “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16). Paul’s main argument is that Gentiles do not need to become Jews to enter the kingdom of God. Gentiles do not need to follow the Jewish rituals to be declared righteous, but rather it is through faith in Jesus that God declares them righteous (Davids 460).

Once people enter into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ, they become “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”(Eph 2:10). Paul explains that good works are the evidence of faith and the result of the grace of God in the life of believer. In fact, Paul encourages believers to express their faith with good works. He writes, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”(Gal 5:6). Thus, in view of Paul’s teaching on faith and works, James and Paul would agree on the relationship of faith and works in the Christian life (Davids 460).

Works Cited

Davids, P.H. “James and Paul.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald Hawthorne et al. Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.

Douglas Moo, The Letter of James (PNTC) Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.