Part 1 – The Sacrifice

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Genesis 22:2-3

When reading this text I have often wondered why Abraham did not respond to God the way he did when God revealed to him that he was about to destroy Sodom. “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just” (Gen 18:25). Why did not Abraham appeal to God for his son like he did for Lot? God is asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac—would not Abraham appeal to God’s righteousness or at least question that doing such a thing would be wicked. These questions arose because of my misunderstanding of God’s view of human sacrifice. When viewing human sacrifice through God’s will and word I came to the conclusion that it is not in any way wicked or immoral or wrong; rather it is a holy requirement of God. Not only is it a requirement for man, but it is something that God himself engages in (a sacrificial life). I now understand Abraham was acting in pure faith and obedience to the will and nature of God.

When looking at the whole of scripture we find that human sacrifice is an essential element. One reason we miss the essentialness of human sacrifice is that it is overshadowed by the abundant amount of emphasis given to animal sacrifice. The bible is full of animal sacrifice. I believe it is a peripheral reading of these texts on our part, and a peripheral understanding of the act itself on some bible characters part (except Abraham) that causes us to miss the human element in the sacrifice. God does not require nor take pleasure in the sacrifice of animals, in and of themselves, “I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.” (Isaiah 1:11) Why then is animal sacrifice (the blood of bulls, lambs, goats) such a major part of God’s law? When we look at the story of Abraham and God’s requiring human sacrifice we can see that it is not the sacrifice of the animal that God is requiring or desiring in his law—rather it is the sacrifice of the worshipper himself that God wants.

In the Abraham story we come to find out that God ultimately provided the sacrifice. The sacrifice of Isaac was required, but God allowed an animal to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. This act does not negate the initial requirement of human sacrifice. It is not meant to negate, but to show ultimately the sacrificial nature of God himself; which we see clearly in the Christ event. Not only does God require human sacrifice, but he shows himself to be sacrificial. He requires us to be that way because he is that way (but more on this latter). When the ram took Isaac’s place on the altar of sacrifice it was not because God desired the ram itself. The Ram was not somehow a better sacrifice then Isaac was. God already owned that ram. He gave the ram to Abraham—He provided the sacrifice–so why the ram and the pouring out of its blood rather than Isaac (especially if God does not take pleasure in the blood of rams)?

If we look into the practice of animal sacrifice I think we will come to find out that it was to be a representative sacrifice of the worshipper himself, and not the mere sacrifice of an animal. I believe it is easy for us to import pagan ideas of sacrifice back into the biblical text rather than draw out the meaning of the text itself. The pagans sacrificed animals, as well as humans, in order to appease their gods. The gods were not only ‘needy’, but they were also easily angered and thus men had to give/perform sacrifices to appease them. This is not the God of the bible. He is neither needy nor appeasable. Sacrifice was not about these things. And when Israel practiced their sacrifices in this way, like the pagans, God condemns them for it and responds to them harshly (“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings” Isaiah 11:11). God does not want the animal, he wants the worshipper, and this was supposed to be seen in the sacrifice of the animal. The animal was to be a real representative of the worshipper himself. Let’s look at the process and this should become clearer.

When we look at the multiple commandments in the Torah where man is required by God ‘to offer’ a sacrifice or to present an ‘offering’ to the Lord we need to keep in mind what is being asked. The worshipper is first and foremost being asked to ‘draw near’ into the presence of God. The Hebrew words for ‘offering’ and ‘to offer’ are ‘qorban’ and ‘qarab’ which mean “that which is brought near” and the related verb ‘qrb’  means “to cause to draw near”. The worshipper is being called to draw near to God, into his presence. This is what God desires, not the simple giving up of an animal. It is in and through the sacrifice that the worshipper is to fulfill the requirement. God is calling the worshipper to come into his presence, resulting in communion between God and the worshipper (This is radically different than sacrifices being offered to appease an angry pagan god). God states this desire nationally when he commands all the men in Israel to ‘appear’ before him when summarizing the ceremonial law in the feast celebrations (Exodus 23:17). Sacrifice is the means to an end—entering God’s presence.

Looking at a few details on how animal sacrifice was performed we will begin to see how human sacrifice is pictured and entrance into the presence of God is accomplished. The worshipper brings the animal to the priest and lays his hands upon the head of the animal. This is picturing the transfer of the life of the worshipper to that of the animal. Then, the obvious, the animal is killed. The animal’s blood is shed and the priest throws the blood against the sides of the altar. This, the blood being poured out, is being done to show that the animal has in fact been slain. The animal is completely passive; being slain now it cannot fight or strain, it is wholly given up to be used for a holy work.  At this point the animal is cut up into separate pieces which are then arranged on the wood of the altar. This ‘arrangement of the pieces’ is a holy use; the animal has gone from being ordinary (common) to being set apart and used in the divine service of God. It has become fit for use by God. The animal, being holy in use, then becomes a burnt offering. The smoke of the animal ascends up into the presence of God and is a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” The life of the worshipper, who laid his hands upon the animal to start, is tied into the whole process.

When the life of the worshipper is symbolically transferred to the life of the animal it is here that God’s requirement of human sacrifice takes place. Everything that happens to the animal happens to the life of the worshipper. The worshipper has been slain—now he can no longer struggle, strain, and selfishly fight against the will of God. He has died to selfish sin and is now passive and ready to be used for a holy use by God. The cutting up and arrangement of the animal pieces is symbolic of the holy use of the worshipper. He is fit to be used as a holly vessel for God. The arrangement of the pieces is the life of the worshipper in holy service to God. The pieces are then consumed and burned by the fire. At this point the life of the worshipper is entering the presence of God (Whose presence is a ‘consuming fire’). In the animals consumption by fire what is left is the ascending smoke. The life of the worshipper is now this ascending smoke. It enters up into the full presence of God and is a pleasing aroma to him. More than just a ‘human sacrifice’ of the life of the worshipper is taking place—a complete transformation has taken place. What is left for the ‘sacrificed’ transformed life? Communion with God is the result, and this is pictured when the worshipper and the priest together, in the presence of the lord, partake of a fellowship meal. This eating together, with God, is a perfect picture of communion—a complete fulfillment of God’s requirement/desire (communion with him).

From this quick look at sacrifice I believe we can see what God desires in his sacrificial institution. The biblical concept of human sacrifice is a beautiful and wonderful thing when we see the ‘communing’ ‘loving’ nature of the God who desires such. When we let ourselves be influenced by the pagan ideas of sacrifice, and introvert them back into the scriptures, we lose sight of the beauty of God’s will. We lose sight of what God is really wanting in his holy ordinances and we begin to question the validity of such institutions; just as I did when I questioned God’s request of Abraham for human sacrifice.

I have added part 2 of ‘the Romans 7 man’ into the original post.

The ‘Romans 7’ Man

The Romans 7 man is a man whom Paul refers to in the first person whose struggling with the law of God and with sin. Much debate has gone on throughout Christendom as to whether or not Paul in his example is referring to himself as a ‘saved’ man or as an ‘unsaved’ man. I believe most of these debates come from a sincere, but overly individualistic, comparison of one’s self with Paul. We force ourselves into this text because it is so easy to relate to Paul here. But the fact is that none of us can relate to Paul here except perhaps in a peripheral way.

First off Paul is not writing to us. Apart from the obvious that he was only writing to those who lived in 1st century Rome; he was specifically at this point in Romans writing to his fellow Jewish brothers. Paul states in Romans 7:1 “Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law.” Not only does Paul state to whom he is speaking, but he also draws his fellow brothers into the Romans 7 man when he references their second temple Judaist soteriology. Romans 7:10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” The promise of life through the Torah was in Paul’s day the teaching of the Rabbis.

Here is a quote that promotes an idea that Paul and his audience would familiar with.

Why are the words of Torah compared to a Prince? To tell you that just as a prince has the power to put to death and to grant life, so do the words of Torah have the power to put to death and to grant life. – Talmud Shabbat 88b

 Paul and his Jewish brothers were soaked in the idea of ‘life through the Law/Torah’. Not ‘life’ in the idea of simple biological existence, but life in its fullest sense–life in its COVENANTAL sense. Their mode of existence was a covenantal mode of existence where they related to the whole world, and especially to God, through the Torah. There was covenantal relationship and life only through the Torah. The Romans 7 man is a man who lives in this mode of existence. We Gentile Christians have no idea what is like to live in ‘this world’ where God’s righteousness is based on his keeping Covenant with man and man’s righteousness is based on keeping covenant with God through Torah observance.

Paul then establishes from the Romans 7 man the fault of that mode of existence. He does this while still upholding the holiness and goodness of the law (which is fitting considering his audience). Without going into a verse by verse exegesis of this portion of scripture we can clearly draw out of the text that it is not the Torah that is the problem, but the sinful nature of man. Though the law of God is good, man is sinful and even though there is a desire to keep the law, there is along with that desire the desire to do evil.  At this point we modern day gentiles will want to jump in and try to personally relate. Though we may relate to the desire to do evil, this is not Paul’s purpose in speaking to his Jewish brothers, i.e., simply stating mankind’s general inclination towards evil.

Paul’s desire to do ‘good’ under the Torah, while giving way to the evil he does not want to do statements are consistent with Judaist teachings. This is a concept that Paul would have understood from his youth, having been taught under the Rabbi Gamaliel. The Rabbis taught the people that along with Torah, there is a God ordained “evil inclination” (their term). Through the Torah is life, but the ‘evil inclination’ is a harasser of those who pursue this life.

“A man’s inclination attacks him every day and seeks to put him to death, as it is said, “the wicked watches for the righteous; seeking to put him to death” (Psalm 37:32), and if it were not for the Holy One who helps him, he could not withstand it” B.Suk. 52b

In this midrash, the “wicked” who is on the lookout for an opportunity to kill the righteous is not another person, rather, the “wicked” is a person’s own nature continually waging war against him (that is the Rabbis interpretation of the Psalm). The help that comes from the Holy One is the Torah, but the ‘evil inclination’ is not taken away rather it is just soothed as medicine soothes a soar, but the soar will always remain.

“Why is the Torah likened to life giving medicine? This can be compared to the case of a man who struck his son with a huge blow and put a compress on his wound. He said to him, “my son, so long as this compress is on your wound, eat whatever you like and drink, and bathe in hot or cold water, and you need not be afraid. But If you take it off, it will break into soars.” Thus the Holy One said to Israel, “My son, I created the evil inclination; I created Torah as its antidote. If you occupy yourselves with Torah, you will not be delivered into its power. . .”” b. Qidd. 30b

Now alongside this ‘evil inclination’ is also the ‘good inclination.’ Here is one more quote from the Rabbis.

“A person should always incite his Good Inclination against his Evil Inclination, as it is written, “So tremble and sin no more.” If he is victorious over it, well and good. If not, let him occupy himself with Torah.” B. Ber. 5a

Perhaps this Judaistic concept is precisely what Paul is referring to (which his audience would be familiar with) when he says “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18). Paul understands that he must ‘incite his Good inclination against his evil inclination’, but he just can’t do it. And even though he has the Torah as the antidote for the evil inclination, and even though he does occupy himself with Torah (delighting in it as he says), it is not working. In fact the Torah, which promises life, is proving to be death to him (Rom. 7:10). This is where Paul dramatically departs from the Rabbis. But Paul provides something much better in their place.

Part 2 –

From looking at Paul (within his Judaist worldview as the Romans 7 man), in part one, we may find ourselves asking the question “What sin or evil deed was Paul specifically struggling with?” The ‘evil inclination’ was clearly part of his life—he did not simply subdue it permanently with the Torah. So, what ‘evil inclinations’ under the life of the Torah did Paul struggle with, what was Paul’s sin(s)? Was he a habitual coveter, or perhaps he was once an adulterer or luster, maybe he was, as someone once suggested in a bible study I attended, a habitual ‘dog kicker’? One thing we do know is that Paul was not without sin, that he may have with his mind coveted his neighbor’s house, or possessions, but, as regards to the Law as covenant Paul was blameless. Paul was not a habitual Law breaker; in fact he had a righteousness of his own under the Law.

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. . . having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law. (Philippians 3:4-9)

Paul had reason to boast in the flesh (i.e., human will, power, and exertion). He, being blameless, had done everything right; sort of speak, under the Law. According to his own will and strength under the law he was righteous. This sounds a little different than the Romans 7 man on the surface, but I think if we get into it a little deeper we will see the connection. I believe the conduit for the connection is the ‘deceitfulness of sin.’ A surface reading of the Romans 7 text may lead us to believe that the law psychologically stimulates man to disobedience. There is in this the thought that the commandment which forbids a certain practice will actually stimulate a man’s desire to break that commandment. This though, which may in fact be true (especially as is seen in small children), is missing not only Paul’s point in Romans 7, but Paul’s entire gospel message as regarding the Law. Sin is much more deceitful than this.

I believe that the thrust of the problem here is not even the disobedience itself (though that should not be dismissed), but something much deeper as concerning Paul and his Jewish audience. At the heart of Paul’s gospel message is this statement “Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” (Romans 9:31). Disobedience is not the problem here, but rather Israel’s striving after righteousness by means of Law observance, i.e., ‘works’. This is the ‘deceitfulness of sin’ which had deceived the Romans 7 man, who is really in a way a picture of Israel. We have already seen in part 1 that Torah observance was the way in which a Jew was to pursue life according to the Rabbis interpretation(s). This pursuit of life by works was not only brought about because of sin, but was condemned as sinful itself. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. In this is revealed the sinfulness of sin, that even in the pursuit of Law observance they became guilty of sin.

Thus the question “what was Paul’s evil inclination?”  is answered–not in a personal way for him alone, but for all of Israel. The Rabbis teaching, that the cure for the ‘evil inclination’ of man is Torah observance, has itself become the problem—it is actually the most deceitful part of the ‘evil inclination’  and causes the ‘sore’ of which they spoke to become gangrened rather than soothed. Paul’s (and the Rabbis and the Jews) perverted use of the Law of God was the sinfulness of sin (the great ‘evil inclination’). Not only did healing not take place through their use of the law, as they expected, but rather death. The Torah slew Paul (Romans 7:11) because the deceitfulness of sin lured him into a perverted use of the law, i.e., pursuing life by means of law observance based on human power and performance. The Romans 7 man now finds himself in a very big dilemma. He cannot disobey Torah, because this is sin, but he cannot obey Torah either, because of sin. He has found himself within a corporate body of death (sin) in which there does not seem to be a way a way of escape (i.e., resurrection).

Part 3 to follow soon

I find it interesting that many accuse western Christianity (especially medieval Christianity and Lutheranism) of being anti-Semitic for accusing the Jews of killing Jesus. Many will say that it was the Romans deed for political purposes and that the Jews cannot be blamed because they lived under Roman rule. But what do  the scriptures say about these matters?


Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:22

Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?  The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. Acts 3:12

 And when they had brought them, they set them before the [Jewish] council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name. . .” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. Acts 5:28

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51

For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind. 1Thessalonians 2:14

Surely it is important to know that the Jews were guilty of murdering Jesus being the Scriptures clearly teach this, and surely it is not anti-Semitic to say so being it was fellow Jews that made that accusation in the first place, and fellow Jews that acknowledged their guilt (Acts 2). The second reason it is also important is because of covenant. The dominate soteriology in Palestinian Judaism was:

  1. God has graciously chosen Israel as his people
  2. He gave them the law, which implies …
  3. God’s promise to maintain the election, and …
  4. The requirement to obey
  5. God rewards obedience and punishes transgression
  6. The law provides for means of atonement, which results in …
  7. Maintain or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship
  8. All those who are kept in the covenant by God’s mercy, atonement, and [intended] obedience belong to the group which will be saved.

One of the problems with this soteriology is that it breaks down between 6-7. There are certain covenant sins that cannot be atoned for under the law to maintain covenantal relationship (eg. murder, idolatry, adultry, etc.). There was, for e.g., not a certain sacrifice that a murderer could follow in order to be atoned for; rather under the law the guilty party was to be put to death (cut off from his people—cut off from life/covenant). This shows the weakness of the law ‘as covenant’ for sinful Israel. A ‘new way’ had to be established. Jesus accused National Israel of murder (Matt 23:35). She was guilty, and there was no way of atonement under the law. She had to be ‘born anew’–to make the ‘Jews’ (i.e., national O.C. Israel) not guilty of murder is in a way to take away their need for the New Covenant and place them back under the contentment of the law (The very law that in fact witnesses to the nation that they are ‘cut off’ from life and the covenant).

In their own view of Soteriology proving their guilty sentence for murder shows them the inadequacy of their view (i.e., the salvific mode of Palestinian Judaism) and their need for a new covenant. This is precisely what happened in Acts 2 when 3000 repented of their sin of murder (in full view of the temple, when they asked ‘what can we do’ knowing full well that under the law they could do nothing but be cut off) and were baptized into the new covenant where there is everlasting atonement. Maintaining the accusation of the murder of Jesus by the Jews (i.e., Nationally Israel) is to be both consistent with the historicity of scripture and consistent with the distinction between the covenants.

Blog update

This blog was simply used to store some misc. writings of mine online (kind of an online back up). Thus, it is in serious need of an updating. I will try to reformat and organize this blog and will be posting on it more regulary (i.e., I will actually be using it as a blog). I will tbe moving my longer 20+ page papers to another web site being they do not fit well here and are burdensome to scroll through.

Pastor thanks for the reply and the response with Philippians.

This section of Philippians is a wonderful part of the scriptures. I will give you my take on it and perhaps that will give you an idea of why this “resurrection” debate is such an issue with me.

I find it interesting, but expected, that you said:

“Paul speaks so clearly about both Christ’s physical body and the fact that our lowly bodies will be transformed. . .”

You used the plural for “bodies” because of your view of the resurrection rather than using Paul’s word. The text reads:

Phil 3:21 who shall transform the body of our humiliation to its becoming conformed to the body of his glory (Young’s Literal Greek Translation)

Paul does not say that “bodies” i.e. a plurality of bodies, will be transformed but that The Body (singular) will be transformed. Now this may not seem like much of a big deal, but when you go beyond a surface reading of the text Paul’s use of the singular body becomes clearer. Paul uses the singular “the body” elsewhere in regards to the resurrection. What is the difference between a transformation of multiple “bodies” and the transformation of “the body”? One emphasizes an individualistic view and the other a corporate view. Paul over and over again throughout his writings always places an emphasis on the corporate condition of man, not the individual condition. In fact the whole bible and the gospel message itself stress a federal/corporate view. To deny this would be to deny the fact that Christ died for the sins of his people. Christ’s representative death is “corporate” otherwise each man would have to die and atone for his own sins…but God deals with man corporately. If it were not so then Christ could not be your representative before God.

It is the singular corporate body (one body) that is to be raised out of its state of humiliation.

A few verses earlier here in Philippians Paul was speaking about his life as a Jew under the Law and how in forsaking the Law way of life (pursuit of righteousness) he was pursuing a life (righteousness) not his own, but of Christ. He then says:

Phil 3:10 to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,11 if anyhow I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.

(Again….he says this in the context of his Jewishness, old covenant life, that he was just talking about)

Paul’s being conformed to Christ’s death was a death to the Law life (i.e., the Old Covenant law way of life) so as to attain to “Resurrection” a new mode of life in Christ. (note: As other scriptures teach that Christ was born under the old Covenant Law life but in his death he died to that).

Surely it is not a future physical resurrection of Paul’s dead decayed body that he has in mind, because speaking of the resurrection he says next in Philippians:

Phil 3:12 Not that I did already obtain [the resurrection], or have been already perfected; but I pursue it

Of course Paul had not yet attained the raising of his own dead decayed corpse from the grave (aka, the resurrection) so why would he even have to mention this? Because the resurrection that he was pursuing was a resurrection of transformation; from one mode of existence under the law covenant way of life, to a new mode of existence under the new covenant way of life (which he had not as of yet fully attained)

Speaking of the incarnation the scriptures teach that Christ was born into the old covenant world (born under the law) and into a state of humiliation (phil 2).

Gal 4:4-5 God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law , 5 to redeem those under law , that we might receive the full rights of sons

In Christ’s death and resurrection he died to the old mode of life (that all Israel was under) and rose to a new mode of life. He was born under the old covenant system and was born of a woman, born into the state of humiliation, but by his resurrection from the dead (old life) he was declared to be the Son of God (the state of exaltation).

Rom 1:3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Note the “the body of our humiliation” in philippians and compare to Christ’s body of humiliation. Both “humiliations” are being born under the law.

Back to the Philippians text that teaches “the resurrection”

Phil 3:21 who shall transform the body of our humiliation to its becoming conformed to the body of his glory

“The Body” is a single corporate body that is born under the law, born of the flesh (of woman), and born in a state of humiliation. The body needs to die a cross determined (Christ like) death. A death to the old Covenant mode of existence, and its transformation is a “rasing up” (aka, resurrection) from a lowly position to that of an exalted position (a body of glory). The new covenant mode of life is Life in its fullest sense. This is what Paul strived forward and pressed on towards. Dying to his former mode of life of the flesh (flesh means under the law) and pursuing a new mode of life in Christ. Now Paul, as he said, had not YET attained the resurrection, i.e., this new mode of life/existence in a state of covenantal perfection. Why not? Because the Old Covenant was still binding. In the first century it was in the process of passing away (Heb 8:13), but would not be completed until the Parousia (when Christ destroys the old covenant temple, which happened in 70ad). It is thus the complete destruction of the “administration of death” (2Cor 3:7) that consummates and completes the transformation, from death to life, from old covenant to new covenant. The administration of death, the strength of sin, the power of death, death itslef etc. Paul’s states several times is The Law (i.e., the Law as covenant, or the old covenant way of life). When the old covenant passes away, so does death. This speaks to the “resurrection” and the defeat of death, I.e., the destruction of the ministration of death, the old covenant.

The “Body of death” is a “body” under the Old Covenant way of life, as described in Romans 7. At the resurrection this body is delivered from death to life, from old covenant mode to new covenant mode.

I should probably clarify a little more the corporate aspect of “Body” and why Paul speaks of “the Body” in regards to transformation/resurrection rather than a change of “bodies.”

2 Cor 5:2 For in this [Body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is out of heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed

This “Tent” is singular. It is one “Tent” and one “body” not several tents or bodies. Those who are ‘clothed’ in this one Body/Tent desire to be further clothed with a better (i.e., heavenly) body/tent which is “out of” heaven or “from” heaven. Note: Scripture teaches that it is the New Jerusalem (habitation) which is out of heaven, or the Bride of Christ (one body) which is out of heaven, it is the Corpes Christi which is out of heaven, it is the New covenant which is out of heaven (Hebrews, Revelation, etc.). While it is Paul’s current “house” “tent” “body” which is earthly.

There is a lot more to this then I have time to go into right now. But to just jump right to the point. Paul, in his time frame, is in the “body” and is “clothed in that body” but desires to be further clothed in “the body” which is out of heaven rather than one which is of the earth. This is covenantal language. The earthly is essentially the ‘body of moses’ (the old covenant) and the heavenly is the ‘body of Christ’ (the new covenant) (See Hewbrews 9….the “body” made with hands is the old covenant…the body made without hands is the new covenant and it is this body that comes out of heaven) Both bodies are CLOTHED. Paul does not want to be found naked, i.e., without a covenant/relationship with God. God called Israel “naked” when she was in a state of sin and covenant breaking. Paul does not want to be naked, but further clothed with better clothing, i.e., a better covenant.

It does not take much digging in scripture to show that “clothing” and “nakedness” are covenantal terms.

Ezek 16:8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,”…I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk

When God founded Israel he “covered her nakedness” and “entered into a covenant” with her. This language is all over the OT scriptures. Ever wonder why Adam and Eve were in the garden and were ‘naked’ and not ashamed? They were not ashamed before God. They walked with God. They were without sin and had no need of clothing, i.e., a covenant in order to relate to God. But when they sinned they were ashamed before God and they saw their nakedness. God then clothed them with animal skins. By the shedding of blood their nakedness was covered. Thus, in covenant relationship with God Adam, and his offspring, related to God by animal sacrifice, the shedding of blood. Because of sin no longer could they be naked and not ashamed. The animal skin clothing (covenant) has its fullest meaning in the Old Covenant; relating to God, clothed, in and under the
law. But in the new covenant we are ‘further clothed’ with better clothes and a better covenant in Christ. We relate to (covenant with) God through Christ. The body of Moses is clothed in animal skins and the body of Christ is clothed in ‘white robes’ of righteousness. But in either case we can never go back to being “naked” and not ashamed like Adam and eve because we have all sinned….we have to relate to God in clothing (through a covenant). Adams sin affected all, it was corporate. The body is a single body, a corporate body. The single Tent or tabernacle is the earthly tabernacle and body of the Old Covenant, the Tent from out of heaven is the new body in Christ, the new Jerusalem, the new covenant (which during Pauls life had not yet been consumated….he was waiting for it still. The body of moses, the temple, the law, etc. was still fully functioning and had not yet “died”. In the book of Revelation, when the earthly temple is destroyed in 70ad, what appears from out of heaven? The
new jerusalem
, the bride and body of Christ. The destruct ion of the one brings in the manifestation of the other. The destruction of the earthly body (of moses) reveals that which is out of heaven (body of Christ).

In my opinion it is the comparing scripture with scripture that I come to an understanding that Resurrection is COVENANTAL TRANSFORMATION from one body to a new, better and heavenly body. As I said before, I in no way deny a ‘bodily’ resurrection…in fact my understanding is that “the body” is of upmost importance. But being scripturally minded we most see these things as scripture does, corporately and covenantally. It is a single corporate body. This is a quote from an article I wrote:

Scripture records redemptive history, not world history or profane/secular history. Scriptures terminology (e.g., “age,” “age to come,” “eternal”) must be defined within its context. From beginning to end scripture records the redemptive history of Israel. The Hebrew Moses begins the story and the Hebrew Apostle John ends the story. The bible contains a completed redemptive historical narrative. The narrative is set within a covenantal framework.”

Also, in my opinion seeing only the “fleshly” side of things limits the work of Christ. For example when Christ forgave a paralyzed man’s sins (which is a spiritual thing) the Pharisee’s said that that was not possible. To prove that the spiritual truth was in fact true, Jesus then healed the paralyzed man. But, it is the forgiveness of sins, the spiritual truth, that should be in the forefront. Also, I believe it is this way with Christ’s physical bodily resurrection. That was the one sign given; he calls it the sign of Jonah. But we can’t miss what the sign signifies…it is not just the resurrection of a corpse.

Let me quote a respected conservative bible scholar whose work “the theology of the New Testament” is used in a lot of seminaries and bible schools:

“The NT does not picture the resurrection of Jesus in terms of [only] the resuscitation of a corpse, but as the emergence within time and space of a [whole] new order [mode] of life”  G.E. Ladd 

 This is my understanding, thus far, of the Philippians passages you brought up and perhaps you can see why I don’t see dead decayed corpse(s) coming out of the ground in these passages. Upon further study maybe I will come to that conclusion. I am open and willing to learn.

You said:

I can’t help but think that you might be making this more difficult than it needs to be

Perhaps, but I hope you get an idea from what I wrote above that I am not “kicking against the goads” or simply being “hard headed” against the mainstream view of ‘resurrection’ but that I am sincerely trying to understand resurrection within the framework of the scriptures as a whole.


The Divine Dilemma








Athanasiun Thought on the Incarnation of the Word of God


Shawn Atkins



Part 1

Why is it that the word of God, so great and high, has become manifest in bodily form? He did not assume a body that was proper to his own nature, because as the word, very God of very God, he is wholly apart from the need of a physical body. As the word of God he is the creator, celestial and divine, eternal and everlasting, infinite in being and perfection, a most holy and pure spirit, and clearly distinct from his own creation; being without body, parts, or human passions. Surely he has chosen to have been manifested in a human body for one marvelous reason alone; that being his love, goodness, and desire for the salvation of man.

    This being the reason, we must begin with the creation of man and his world and of God his maker. And in view of man’s creation and salvation we shall begin to understand that: The renewal of creation has come about by the exact same Word who made it in the beginning. There is no inconsistency between creation and salvation, for the one Father has used the same person for both works, saving man (renewing creation) by the very one who made man.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . . . Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let him have dominion” . . . So God created man in his own image. Genesis 1:1, 26-27

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-4, 14

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-17, 19

God created all things (i.e., heaven and earth) “ex nihilo,” out of nothing, as the book of Genesis records it, “God said, let there be light, and there was light” and “God said, let the land produce living creatures and it was so.” God spoke and it was so. All things were created through the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was with God, the son of God in the beginning. And in his creation God reserved special grace and glory for one creature. Upon the human race God bestowed a grace which all other creatures lacked, namely, the impress of God’s own image. The race of Man was privileged in sharing in the reasonable being of God himself, not only reflecting him, but also becoming capable of expressing the mind of God.(1)(

Being man was created with a reasonable and immortal soul, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and freedom of will (which was subject to change); God secured this grace in man with two things, a place and a law. He set man in his own paradise (or sanctuary) and gave him kingship over the world, and he gave a law and prohibition to go with it. If man would guard the grace within this sanctuary, exercise his dominion over the world as king, and retain the beauty of his original innocence, then the life of incorruptible virtue in covenantal union with the glorious God would remain and be manifested throughout the whole world, without sorrow, pain, or spoil. But if man went astray and became depraved, disregarding his birthright, then he would by consequence come under a law of death and corruption, unable to dwell in the sanctuary of paradise, instead dying outside of it, stripped of his glory and kingdom.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

The woman saw that the [forbidden] tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. . . And [then] they heard the sound of the Lord God . . . and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God(2). Genesis 3:6, 8

And to Adam God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the earth because of you . . . you [shall] return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17, 19

Understanding the nature of man, his created graces and his subsequent fall, is beneficial towards grasping the reason (and mystery) for the incarnation. It is man’s miserable state that moved the Word to come down to us. It was man’s transgression that revealed what great love God has for us, so that he was pleased to hurry to our help. It is because of man that the Word would take human form, for man’s salvation the Word was both born and manifested in a human body. For God had made man in incorruption and had desired that he should remain that way. But Adam (representing mankind), having turned from the reflection of God to sin, had come indefinitely under the law and condemnation of death. Having willingly submitted himself to a new master, by heeding his voice,(3) man was completely under the dominion of death. Under this new slave master, this then was the predicament of man:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10-17

    God originally made man upright, perfect, and righteous, then man, turning from noble things to corruptible things, by the counsel of the Devil, had corrupted himself. Ultimately, Adam had failed to live under God’s grace, in faith, and willfully subjected himself under the law of sin and death. For “the righteous man shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17), and “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” (Rom. 14:23) and so it was with Adam. He willfully failed to live by faith and trust in the Word of God, he no longer desired that wonderful union and blessedness that God’s word obeyed brings. Adam, in transgressing God’s law, failed to believe and trust in God; rather, Adam believed and trusted in another, that is the Devil. Adam set aside his faith in the word of God and submitted himself to a new master.(4)

[The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

    The Word of God was to be sufficient for man (for how could it not be being all things are created by him), but man departed from that which is sufficient and beheld as desirable that which is by nature corruptible and wanton. When this happened, men began to die physically,(5) and corruption was rampant among them, having power over them because it was the penalty of which God had fore-warned them about. In fact, men in their sinning had surpassed all limits of what could ever have even been imagined at the beginning; having transgressed a single command at the start, they went from bad to worse. Men, not stopping at just one kind of evil, continually sinned, as with an insatiable appetite, devising new kinds of sin and evil. Adultery and theft everywhere, murder and rape filling the earth, law disregarded in place of corruption and injustice, nations warring with nations, the earth being filled with factions, while men attempt to outdo one another in wickedness. An even unimaginable crime contrary to nature, as Paul says:

“For their women even exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27


This then, God’s desire for man’s incorruption, glory, and kingship over the world, and man’s failure to do so because of his fall into gross sin (which corruption God had justly prescribed by law), is what constitutes a DIVINE DILLEMA.







From the last section one can see that, because death and corruption was gaining an increasingly violent hold on man, the whole human race was indefinitely in the process of complete destruction. Man, who was created in God’s image for the purpose of reflecting that image, became utterly depraved and the glorious image of God was disappearing as the work of God was seemingly becoming undone. The law of death, which followed from the transgression as just penalty, prevailed upon man and from it there was no escape. This thing that was happening (had happened) to man was both atrocious and unfitting, in view of God’s intended glory and image that was set upon him. But, despite God’s initial desire, it would have been unthinkable that he would go back against his law/word, and that man having transgressed it should not die. Equally unthinkable is that God’s desire (or will) should not be obtained, and that man, bearing God’s image, should ultimately corrupt himself and all of creation in spite of God’s intended purpose.

It would seem to be unworthy of the glory of God if the creature he made, in his own image, should be brought to ultimate corruption and the dominion given to it be taken through the deceit of the Devil. As the creature that God created, both reasonable and likened unto him, was in fact perishing, and such glorious work that God had originally done and intended, was fading, what then was God to do? Was he to let his desires be thwarted, and let corruption and death have their way with his special creature? If so, then what would have been the point in making man in the first place? Surely it would have been better to never of created man in God’s image in the first place than to have created him for corruption; and besides that, God, if so indifferent to the ruin of his own works taking place before his very presence, would seem to be weak and limited in glory and power (which would never be presumed, even by the heavenly host, had God simply not made man at all). It seems then that it would be ultimately impossible that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because, that would be unworthy of the glory God.(6)

As true as things may seem, these things are not sufficient to disclose the whole matter. Knowing that it is impossible for God to go against his own law/word regarding death, even in order to preserve his special creature, it still must be asked “what was God to do?” Perhaps; was he just to demand repentance from men for their transgression? Would man’s repentance be worthy of God? One might even argue that transgression brought corruption, in accordance with God’s law, therefore repentance may bring about incorruption (presumably through law as well). But repentance would not guarantee Divine consistency, because if death did not, in fact, ultimately corrupt man, then God’s word in the beginning would not have been true. If it had been that a trespass took place, a trespass that had no subsequent penalty of death and corruption, then repentance would be all that was needed. But Adam’s trespass contained the penalty of death and corruption, and once the trespass was committed so begun the power of corruption, stripping him of his original graces. Repentance could not satisfy justice in this case.(7)

What then was needed? Rather, who was it then that was needed to perform such a thing, making the divine dilemma seem as if it was nothing, restoring grace to man? Who, but the Word of God himself, who made all things in the beginning? It was his task then, his alone apart from the help of the creature; to not only bring corruption again to incorruption, but also to maintain the consistency of the glory and character of God the Father. It was the word of God alone, being the creator; he was able to recreate all things, enabling God to be both “just and the justifier.”

For this reason then the incorruptible, incorporeal, immaterial, Word of God entered the world. Actually, in one sense, he was not far from it before, because no part of creation had ever really been without him. But, in the incarnation, he entered the world in a new way, stooping to the creatures level in his self revelation to man. He saw the race of man, originally expressing the mind of God like himself, wasting away under corruption with death reigning over him. He saw too how unthinkable it would be that the law of God should be repealed, even the very law which sentenced man to this death and corruption. He saw how horrible it was that the very things of which he himself was the originator should be coming to corruption. He saw how the tyranny of Satan was reigning over them, and how liable man was to the evil one in death. All this he saw, and pitying man, moved with compassion towards him, knowing his limitations and bondage, the Word of God was not content that death should have mastery over his creatures. Nor was he content that his creatures should simply perish and the work of God should come to nothing.

So, the Word of God took to himself a body, a human body just like man’s body. He did not become embodied nor merely appear in human shape among men, for if that had been so, then surely he would have had an opportunity to appear in some better and nobler way. No, rather, he took man’s physical body as his own, and not only this, but he was born of a woman and even that in the lowest of conditions. Thus, taking the body of a man, because man was liable to corruption and death, he was able to surrender himself to death for man. This he did out of his love for us so that the justice of the law would be fulfilled in his body and we would be set free from the law of death. Also, turning man again from corruption to incorruption; making him alive, without setting aside the law/word or divine justice, through death, yet conquering death.

Destroying the law of death through death

The word of God perceived that the law of death could not be destroyed except through death, yet, he being of immortal substance could not die. For this reason then he assumed a body capable of death, in order that it might become in death a sufficient exchange for man in satisfaction of divine justice. Because the body assumed was incapable of corruption(8), via its union with the father and its indwelling deity, it was capable of triumphing over death and corruption. It was by willingly surrendering to death that the body which the word of God had taken was able to abolish death. For naturally, since the word of God was above all, when he offered his own incorruptible body as a substitute for his people he fulfilled all that was required; both satisfaction for divine justice (in his death) and perfect obedience to the law/word of God(10) (in his life).

Now man, in union with the word of God, is clothed with incorruption and is freed from the dominion of death and the tyranny of Satan.


Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33


Parts 3-4 forthcoming…


This is not to assume that the creature partook of the divine nature in any way, no more than a mirror may partake of man’s nature when reflecting the image of a man’s face.

2 Adam’s hearing the sound of the Lord was a terrifying experience that caused him to hide from the judgment of God. A romantic “stroll” of God in the garden in the evening, as many presume, is not an interpretation that is consistent with the rest of the “sound of the Lord” verses in scripture.

3 Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

4 It can be said that Satan stole, by way of deception, Adam’s birthright and all that was given to Adam (i.e., the earth) being Satan became his master, and Adam his slave. A slave does not own anything, but all things belong to his master.

5 Though physical death was delayed, at the moment of Adam’s sin he died spiritually, having broken God’s covenant, the source of true life.

6 As Christians we can only speak this way because of hindsight, already knowing what God has done.

7 Some may argue, perhaps rightly, that repentance can never satisfy justice in the case of a trespass, for by nature a trespass demands (or comes with) a penalty, and a penalty must be paid in full, aside from repentance. Repentance is a ceasing or turning away from sin only and is not the payment of debt or satisfaction of justice.

8 For you [God] will not . . . let your Holy One see corruption. Psalm 16:10

9 A corruptible body is given over to death already by nature. Only an incorruptible body could have an advantage over corruption. It is nothing extraordinary or special that a corruptible body should die.

10 The author at this point believes that it was not just a dry obedience to the law of God that is to be in view, but a perfect relationship, union, faithfulness, and walking with God (as Adam was to originally of done) that should be emphasized.