You are hereChristian Morals
by Samuel Frost
What makes one a Christian today? Jesus said, “by their fruits, you shall know them.” One of those fruits is “love.” Paul wrote, “the love of God has been poured out in the hearts of us through the Holy Spirit, which was given to us” (my translation, Ro 5.5). The word for “poured out” here is the same found in the LXX and Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit was “poured out.” What makes one a Christian today? Jesus said, “by their fruits, you shall know them.” One of those fruits is “love.” Paul wrote, “the love of God has been poured out in the hearts of us through the Holy Spirit, which was given to us” (my translation, Ro 5.5). The word for “poured out” here is the same found in the LXX and Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit was “poured out.” That the connection between the Holy Spirit and “poured out” here is in reference to the eschatological outpouring of the Spirit “in the last days” has the weight of many commentators. In short, when the Spirit was poured out, Paul equally saw in that act that the “love of God” was poured out.
Yet, in Greek, there is what is called a genitive. Genitives are descriptive sometimes (that is, they describe something by further demarcating the word not in the genitive). So, “Frank of Troy” means not just any Frank, but Frank of Troy. “Of Troy” is genitive. Yet, within this we have to choose, sometimes, whether or not the word in genitive is “objective” or “subjective.” The subjective genitive holds that the subject in the “of” part is, in fact, doing the action: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ.” “Of Christ” is the genitive, and it is clear that this genitive means, “who shall separate us from the love Christ has for us.” Now, the objective genitive could render this as, “who shall separate us from the love we have for Christ.” If this were the case, the word in the genitive becomes the object to which the first noun is directed towards. So, “love of Christ” by itself could mean Christ’s love for you (what he does towards you), or your love for Him (what you do toward him). The first is subjective, the latter objective. And here some of you thought Greek was not important!
In many cases, the difference between the obj. and subj. gen. is obvious, but in others, it is debatable. The text I quoted above, Ro 5.5, is just such a text. The love of God (genitive) has been poured out in our hearts.” Now, is that the love we have of God, or is that the love God has for us? In Ro. 5.8 says, “and God commends his own love for us” and this is certainly talking about the love God has for us, as the Greek makes clear. But, it is not so clear in 5.5.
One of the keys words here in this text is the word “heart.” Under the new covenant, a person receives a “new heart.” That is, he is changed “in a flash” from old to new; transformed covenantally, spiritually, actually, and really. The Torah is now “written in his heart.” We know that the Torah is summed up in love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Yet, Ezekiel 36,37 spoke of a time when God would give “new hearts,” and Jeremiah spoke of a time when God would personally write on the heart. What, then, was wrong with the heart to begin with? If no need for a new heart was important, then, to use the argument of Hebrews, why did God speak of a “new heart”?
Couple this with the fact that we read in the Hebrew Bible that the psalmist of 119, for example, “loved the Lord” and “loved the law.” If man was capable of loving God with “all his heart” before the time of the new covenant era/new heart era, then why was a new heart needed at all? The Bible wants us to raise these questions because they appear paradoxical, or contradictory, and no sense can be made from these disparaging statements. Certainly, the Jew, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, could make no sense of his arguments, and Nicodemus had a very hard time understanding it. For them, Paul’s theology was simply insane because there was no problem within Israel that repentance and law-abidance could not render atonement for. So, for Paul to come along and suggest to these law-abiding, zealous-for-God Jews that they were “stiffnecked” and “hard hearted” was simply the ravings of a lunatic.
Again, Paul, before his conversion, wrote, “as for the Torah, blameless!” Paul claimed the same “blamelessness” as did the author of Psalm 119. Paul loved the Torah, and kept it, taught it, promulgated it and wholeheartedly believed it. Then why was Saul in need of conversion? What was the problem with Saul? What his heart not right before God even though he loved Torah with all his might? Saul was chosen, I believe, to answer this dilemma I have raised precisely because he was who he was, a representative Jew/Pharisee who had zeal for Torah and covenant and who could recite Psalm 119 with no trouble whatsoever. Yet, it was precisely this type of person that stood in need of conversion: Saul needed a new heart.
What all of this means is quite profound. Saul, as a Jew, as one who did not have the outpoured Spirit, loved God. He loved Torah. He loved his people, Israel. He loved his city, Jerusalem. He loved his temple and the priesthood. In fact, Paul wrote, “in my inner man, I delighted in Torah” (Ro 7.22). Secondly, Paul admits, “I had a will to do good” (7.21). Thus, here we have an admission: man, apart from the outpoured Spirit can will good, and can delight in God’s Torah. So, what is the problem? Each of these statements comes with a counter-part: As for the delight in God’s Torah, another use of Torah waged war in Saul’s mind: a Torah of the sin. The Torah of Paul’s mind (Paul’s inner man) was God’s Torah, but that very Torah had become used by “the sin” (an active power independent of man that works in man) to deceive Paul and trap him by breaking Torah, deceiving him in thinking that by doing Torah he could escape the penalty of sin against Torah: death. Thus, the more he strived to do the good of Torah, the more the sin would increase its hold and deception over him, causing him to believe that if he just did enough, if he just did Torah to the letter, then everything would be fine between him and God. What this “blameless” lifestyle “according to the letter” promoted, however, was blindness to the light of the gospel of Jesus, Messiah, Redeemer and Savior by Grace for Israel, God’s sinful people. As Saul strove to walk the “blameless” life according to the letter of Torah, he was, in fact, producing death.
This is illustrated, again, powerfully in Saul’s life. Saul “nodded in approval” the death of Stephen, a dear lover of Christ. He did so in accordance with the letter of the Torah, in his zeal. To speak blasphemy was punishable by death, and to speak of Jesus as sitting at the right hand of the Father, as Stephen did, was to speak blasphemy according to the known interpretation of Torah. Since Saul so zealously loved Torah and his people Israel, the Christian sect must be forcefully done away with so that Judaism could continue to flourish until the real Messiah came and not some crucified, now dead, imposter named Yeshua. To have a Messiah that died at the hand of the Romans was sheer nonsense and made the Israelite religion look “foolish.” To preach the cross was stupid. God was going to save his people and raise them from the dead by killing off their Messiah? Hogwash!
Now, Saul nodded in approval Stephen’s death because he loved God and loved the Torah. But, he loved Torah while under the old covenant, and he loved the letter of Torah, but could not perceive the SPIRITUAL THINGS, for Saul was not a remade SPIRITUAL MAN. He was an “outward Jew” (Ro 2.28) who delighted in his inward man and willed to do the good of Torah. But he was not an inward man according to the Spirit, remade in the “knowledge of the image of the Son.” Rather, under the new covenant, Paul’s outward man needed to “waste away” while his new inward man needed daily renewal (Paul is hardly talking about his physical body wasting away while his souls was being renewed day by day – such is brute Platonism read into Paul). Therefore, it should be readily seen that Saul’s zeal for the Torah actually produced death: the murder of Stephen, a saint of God! Saul’s love for the Torah according to the letter and old covenant produced only human love and human effort for God, and a human will to do the things of God, but it could not ever produce the LOVE OF GOD that God required, the LOVE OF GOD that would truly be shown “by the SPIRIT” in the heart. For that kind of love DEMANDED A NEW HEART and a NEW COVENANT. Man’s love under Torah for God was simply INADEQUATE. It was a love that originated from man, but was not a love that originated from the Spirit. When Saul saw this, when he saw this point and the difference between the new covenant and the old covenant letter, his entire world exploded, collapsed and was crushed. All that he had worked for was now considered as “crap” (Philp. 3.8 – the Greek word skubala actually means just that).
Thus, Paul admits that he “willed to do the good, but the evil was right there with me.” He delighted in the Torah in his inward old covenant man, but this Torah was seized upon by “the sin” and put him to death. Israel was bound up “in a body of the death” and held as a “slave to the sin.” What Paul was asserting was this: The Jew, even though he delighted in God’s Torah, was zealous for God’s Torah, and had a love for God and Israel and covenant, did so while he was a slave to the sin, bound in a body of the death, a body of the sin, and did so while actually “dead” himself. The reason: because the Jews, like every man, was “in Adam” and Adam was placed in exile from God the day he ate and broke the commandment (Torah). All men were born in exile, separated from God, separated from the new heart God would offer in the Gospel.
Thus, while it is affirmed that man can indeed “love” his fellow man, and even “love” God, if he does so apart from the new covenant transformation of receiving the new heart, which results in the love we have for God expressed in Spirit and Truth, then his willing, his loving, his good deeds, his good will is actually the opposite: it breeds death. (The author of Psalm 119 was not raised into the holy of holies in heaven when he physically died, but went “into the ground” and “into sheol.” Surely the author of Psalm 119 had faith in God and this faith, like Abraham’s, was rooted in hope that God would one day redeem him). God must change the heart in order for us to love God in the way that God demands love. That love can only be expressed through the work of Jesus, through the work of the “outpoured Spirit” and cannot be done apart from these. This love expresses itself in confessing Jesus Christ as “Lord” and believing that God raised him from the dead. If these things are truly confessed, truly believed in the heart, then I know you by your fruit.
I must conclude here, for the sake of time. Confessing Christ as Lord and that God raised him from the dead was the one thing Saul did not confess but fought against, fighting against Christ himself by persecuting the body of Christ. It was this realization that Jesus was Lord and that, upon seeing him, God raised him from the dead, that brought Paul into “the love of God” through the Holy Spirit. Yes, Paul said, “I loved God, and yes, according to the old covenant, I did what it said. But, my spiritual condition in Adam was such that I did so while a slave to the Sin and the Death that came through Adam, and no matter how hard I loved God, my love was not enough to escape the clutches of the body the sin had created, the body of the death, the flesh. I loved God according to flesh and within the powers of human capability, and that was not enough to get behind the veil and into his glory. No, one who shared in his glory had to depart from that glory and become “flesh” and take upon himself our Adamic nature, yet without sin, for he is the eternal Son. When he died on that cross, those in him, like those in Adam, died with him, and when he rose again, those in him rose with him as well: the resurrection of the dead in Christ! Israel, as great as she was, must die according to the flesh so that she can share in the heavenly glory according to the Spirit. Therefore I preach Christ and him crucified for in his death, Israel receives her promised inheritance: glory with the Father and a new heart. Not only for Israel, but for all who have the faith of Abraham; these, too, are sons of Abraham and all shall be grafted into the One True Israel.”
For out present status today, God did not redeem every single man “in Adam” any more than he did away with being born “in Adam.” The picture is really quite simple: Adam was born IN THE GARDEN, but his children were born OUTSIDE the garden, in exile. In the age to come (our age), we are born OUTSIDE THE GARDEN/NEW JERUSALEM, but can now ENTER IN. Under the old covenant, THIS WAS IMPOSSIBLE. Since Christ has destroyed the death and the remedy and forgiveness of sins is available in the New Jerusalem, it is now possible that man can come BACK IN to the kingdom of God, as a CITIZEN and FRIEND. Clearly, then, not everyone is born in the New Jerusalem. They need new hearts. Sure, they have hearts capable of love and willing to do the good, but until they get a NEW HEART, then, like Saul, all that they will produce, in the end, is vanity.
Let me put it this way: Being in Adam means inheriting Adam’s condition which is OUTSIDE the Garden. It did not mean inheriting a nature that makes you as evil and bad as a human being can possibly be. What we all are born into is the “world” and in this world, one can be as good as they possibly can be, but, by that goodness cannot enter into the New Jerusalem apart from faith in Jesus as Risen Lord. We inherited this condition, and this is what all men are born into. No one is exempt because of age, color, gender or sexual orientation. What exempts us from this status is faith in God in Christ, and this faith is not “of yourselves, but is a gift.”
So then, what fruit do I look for in a Christian? Whether he homeschools? Whether he is a Baptist? Whether he is a Transmillennialist or a Catholic? No. “Who you say that I am?” If you confess this from your new heart, given to you by God through the Spirit, then you are a brother: Jesus is Lord, and God raised him from the dead. You may not understand anything else, but, like the thief on the cross, you know that “this man has done no wrong” and equally that when he comes in his kingdom, he will be remembered. When the thief mentioned the coming kingdom, he was confessing that Jesus’ death on the cross would not be the last time he saw Jesus. He confessed resurrection of the dead.